Friday, February 10, 2012

Left Liberalism's intellectual cringe towards Labour

It always irritates me when fellow Lib Dems bang on about conspiracies by 'the right' of the party, or accuse colleagues of being crpyto-Tories. To be consistent I should apply similar standards when uncomradely sentiments are expressed by those I agree with. So it is a rather over the top, if typically er... forthright for Dan Falchikov to accuse the members of ginger group Liberal Left of 'seeking to work their passage into the Labour party'.

Yet on the substance of the issue, Dan is surely right (and Jonathan Calder makes a similar critique of Liberal Left here). What frustrates me about the Lib Dem left is that it seems to me guilty of an intellecual cringe towards socialism/the Labour party and their unquestioning belief in the benificence of state action. Rather than define a clear Liberal worldview, it effectively allows Labour to define our attitude to public spending - we have to support (or promise to exceed) Labour's spending commitments unless we want to be thought right-wing. We may disagree with Labour about constitutional reform, civil liberties or overseas wars, but apparently not on the core of government business.

Back in my dim distant youth, I joined the Lib Dems precisely because I held caring/compassionate/centre-left/Guardian reading Liberal values but doubted whether greater state intervention was always the best means of putting such beliefs into practice. In my years of party activism one of the things I have found most frustrating is that way that whenever anyone seeks to explore and define the differences between Labour/socialist and Liberal values and policies, there will always be someone on the left of the party ready to label this right-wing.

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