What's at stake in the party… "is whether we remain a party committed to greater equality and narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, or whether we become a party like some of the liberal parties in Europe - moving more to the right, seeing it more as a free-market party. But as it happens, the most extreme supporters of that view are not in the contest."
Being an old-fashioned Labour supporter whose core beliefs have never evolved beyond ‘public sector good, private sector bad’, Harris will no doubt approve of this sort of thing.
But I can’t help feeling that those who stress their ‘social liberalism’ and take sideswipes at the Orange Book need to put up or shut up. What exactly do they believe?
Nobody seriously argues these days that in a global economy we can go in for Keynesian demand management, let alone socialist planning, within tariff walls. We have to work within economic constraints. I am sure that even for Vince Cable and David Laws the question about higher taxes for higher earners is not whether it is in principle right, but whether it will actually do more harm than good.
I have never seen a decent explanation of what those who describe themselves as ‘social liberals’ actually advocate as a Lib Dem economic policy, other than dewy-eyed sentimentality about the public sector and nostalgia for the days when it was possible to believe that higher taxes automatically led to better services.
Or to put it another way – does support for ‘social liberalism’ and rejection of ‘economic liberalism’ amount to anything more than a refusal to accept the world as it is?