Labour v Libdem writers

3:19 pm - November 6th 2007

by Sunny Hundal    

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Jonathan Calder sounds a bit miffed we don’t have any explicitly Libdem bloggers on our roster. James Graham picked this up too yesterday. I’ll happily put up my hands and admit we aren’t representing them well enough, primarily because I approached people on the basis of their liberal-left outlook rather than political affiliations. Even Natalie Bennett, who is a Green Party candidate, was approached on that basis.

Unlike some of our more partisan contributors, this collective as a whole does not have an explicit policy to support Labour, the Libdems or even the Conservatives (you never know, classic purge might be in order *grin*). That said, more representation may be necessary though our editorial policy should focus more on ideals and policies than being too obsessed by parties or just Westminister generally.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

“our editorial policy should focus more on ideals and policies than being too obsessed by parties or just Westminister generally.”

Woah… You mean there’s actually going to be thinking outside the Westminster box? I could be interested in this! 😉

As Calder says:

“I am always in favour of the discussion of political ideas, but Liberal Conspiracy’s comments policy does not seem calculated to further it. It sounds more like a site where people will agree with each other – a site for agreement and mutual political grooming.”

Hope not!!

I don’t complain about representation, and I don’t think Jonathan Calder does really either. But it is a little odd to try to build a presence around a Labour Party centre of mass, and to call it liberal-left and ‘Liberal Consipiracy’. It looks like the sort of attempt at co-option one would expect from the SWP.

(apologies if this appears twice I’ve send it once and it hasn’t appeared)

Are you planning to have any SNP/PC bloggers? Or any from Northern Ireland (alliance/SDLP/SF)?

5. AlisdairCameron

“our editorial policy should focus more on ideals and policies than being too obsessed by parties…”
I should hope so too, because the rigidity of the current party system, with severe whipping to keep MPs ‘on message’, PPCs picked according to blind loyalty instead of talent or intelligence, and a diminution of representation of local constituents, as allegiance to the central party line is enforced all serve to diminsih the standard of UK politics. All parties are culpable, and their stranglehold on political discourse, fighting over the narrowest strip of ideological turf is profoundly depressing.

6. Paul Linford

I have no proof of this obviously, but while it may be the case that there are no explicit Lib Dem bloggers on our roster, I suspect a good few of us might have voted for them now and then on the quiet.

Never mind ‘on the quiet’, Paul. I’ve only voted Labour once in my life, and on current evidence can’t see ever doing so again.

I rather suspect Labour does not ‘represent the best vehicle for our political goals’. Authoritarians and managerialists to the core.

BTW, Jonathan Calder is also making the assumption that ‘LibDems’ and ‘liberals’ are one and the same thing. A rather too hasty leap, I’d say, certainly on any ‘left’ understanding of liberalism.

Absolutely, DonaldS. Apart from anything else, The Liberal party still (just) exists as a separate entity from the Lib Dems.

Ah, semantics. It could be argued forever.

10. left of centre ground

Comstock’s idea of other party bloggers from the SNP and PC getting involved is a good idea. Especially with the issues of the “West Lothian question” and Scottish independance.

I’m no stick in the mud Labour man either! Indeed I know for a fact that there are plenty of bloggers here with their own quixotic take on the world. I take it that internal labour party conversation is done at Labour Home anyway- this is a place for discussion of leftwing ideas of all schools of thought.

As another contributor, can I just chip in and also say that I’m no Labour supporter either. Like Donald I’ve only voted Labour once (’92) and would have to see something pretty big happen to the party for me to vote for them again.

Liberal Conspiracy is *not* a Labour astro-turfing outfit. I’m annoyed that the notion has been whipped up, largely I think out of malice rather than any desire to take a considered look at who we are and what we want to do.

If LC were a Labour propaganda unit many of us – myself included – would not be here. Just looking at the roster of writers should tell people that hardly anyone is politically affiliated or Labour supporters.

I’m here to talk about small ‘l’ liberal issues not make life easier for Labour or any other political party. I’m here to discover how they can make life easier for the rest of us.

Justin, I can see why you would be offended, but I don’t think that the notion has been ‘whipped up out of malice’.

Personally, my trajectory was something like this: the first thing I knew about the site was reading Sunny’s post about it on Pickled Politics. It sounded exciting, and I know that Sunny has been involved in a lot of good things, blogging-wise.

Then I took a look at the site. ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ sounds good, but… I know plenty of bloggers who have been banging on about ‘liberal’ issues for a long time, and I didn’t see any of them included. In fact, I probably felt a small shiver of resentment: plenty of us have been building up a ‘liberal’ conversation for a long time, and who are these newcomers using ‘our’ word (liberal)? It was a tribal response, nothing more. And, like most tribal instincts, it withers once real discussion begins.

I don’t think that the issue was raised out of negativity. I think it needed to be discussed, and now that it has I think we all have a clearer idea of what you’re about. That’s good, because it enables us to work together based on a clear understanding. Had the issue not been raised, this understanding would not have come about. For one, I’ve seen enough ‘but what does liberalism really mean?’ debates to last a lifetime, and I think this one has been handled far better than most.

I am in no doubt that Liberal Conspiracy doesn’t have a “Labour astroturfing” agenda either, but I do think you have a problem of perception.

As I wrote on my own blog, if you write “the Labour party may represent the best vehicle for our political goals as they are in power” it is reasonable for sceptical individuals to infer you mean “the Labour party does represent the best vehicle for our political goals as they are in power”. And if you put no emphasis on individual liberty, then it is reasonable for people who do call themselves liberal to wonder why. You don’t have to be a Lib Dem to be a liberal, just as (sadly) you don’t have to be a liberal to be a Lib Dem. But if you are a liberal, by definition liberty is your starting point,. Yet it isn’t the starting point of this site according to either its FAQ or About Us section: they are your shop window.

And while I’m sure that the people behind this site are welcoming of the Liberal Democrats, you don’t seem to want to acknowledge us explicitly in the way that you explicitly acknowledge the party of David Blunkett, John Reid and Hazel Blears. It is the difference between being allowed to pull up a chair and having the chair pulled out for you.

If you’re a Lib Dem and have ever been involved in student union or youth politics you will recognise that sensation of walking into a room full of leftish people to be greeted with a collective sharp intake of breath. You might even agree with them on 90% of the specific issue you are working together on but because you aren’t tigmoo, you’re anathema and thus it is made clear that you must at all times know your place. So when people on the left start using rhetoric about building a liberal movement, I’m afraid you can’t be surprised if Lib Dems react with a degree of suspicion. We’ve been here before.

I just want to tease out this left-right semantic problem a bit.

A number of Lib Dems, if you re-read their reactions to this site, have an underlying objection to the assumptions inherent in your use of “left”. Specifically, the way you marry it up with liberal. There is an inbuilt impatience of left and right in the Lib Dems because they do not give us the opportunity to give a full account of ourselves. Of course, our liberal starting point leads us to many conclusions that “proper” lefties would regard as leftish. So it is no wonder that the points we don’t agree on are treated as a sort of betrayal of the leftish principles we were presumed to be following.

This is not a problem we can solve overnight, particularly not by boycotting activity on any website we perceive to be guilty of perpetuating it, because, well, you can’t escape it. It’s accepted shorthand. The wider world is going to continue framing its debate in terms of left and right long after we’ve all abandoned it as redundant (which, I think, we will).

I actually like the fact that the FAQs in this site specifically declines to define “left-liberal”. Contributors just have to share your “basic aims”. Now, the basic aims lack some critical ingredients to a Lib Dem, but essentially I think your idea is to shut your eyes and shout:

“All good eggs HERE!”

Which is extremely unscientific, but I approve of it. I really don’t want such a worthwhile experiment to mire down in its own semantics, but it may be worth posting to clarify on this, and give the gist of your FAQs section a wider hearing?

all a bit LibDem for me – but I’ll keep reading

They do have better sandals.

18. LiberalHammer

Have to agree with the the concerns of the (L or l) liberal posters above. To say that the current Labour Party is the centre of gravity for anyone remotely Liberal is wide of the mark. Unless locking people up for 56 days is somehow ‘liberal’.

Unfortunately for many of us, it is a question of choosing the lesser evil between Labour and Tory.

And however ‘liberal’ Cameron may or may not be, there are some *very* illiberal people in his party (Edward Leigh and Winterton x2 for a start)

“you never know, classic purge might be in order”

Are you saying Cameron ought to take a leaf out of the socialist political handbook ?

I can’t see it (a purge) happenng, Ian, at least not before the next General Election.

You could try to get some left-leaning Lib Dem bloggers to participate to your project. They could include for instance Linda Jack, Barrie Wood, James Shaddock and John Dixon.

There are some Lib Dem bloggers who loathe the left, but for now I am not aware there are many such people in the Parliamentary party.

The balance of power in the party still probably favours the left, but that could change. Maybe LC should be concerned about this?

And of course there are some Lib Dem bloggers who are on the left, myself included.

I am interested to know what the LC thinks about the Lib Dem tax policies, referred to as the Green Tax Switch?

At the time the headlines were about the Lib Dems dropping their previous committment to taxing the higher earners a higher rate of tax. That was seen as evidence by some on the left that the Lib Dems were no longer progressive.

But the policy itself was promoted as being progressive, the rich will still pay more because of how the tax was targetted on the effects on the environment.

I have long wished to see a left critique of this policy, going into detail. But so far nothing, not even in the New Statesman.

I would not claim that the Liberal Democrats have a monopoly on Liberalism (and I have met some Lib Dems who are not Liberals at all) but surely there must be some overlap?

Oh Jonathan…… I agree with you!

Of course there are left wing liberals in the Labour party, aren’t there? Actually a little story demonstrates this beautifully for me. Just before the last general election Brian Sedgemoor defected to us. At the time I was standing against Kelvin Hopkins in Luton North. He is a man for whom I have an enormous respect, but a man who comes from a Communisty dynasty and would certainly not regard himself as liberal. Kelvin was fuming, he couldn’t understand Brian’s motivation, he was never going to speak to him again, but he recognised he was always a liberal. At the count when I made my losers speech I thanked my supporters for voting for me but reassured them that in Kelvin they had the second best thing, since he invariably went through the lobbies with the Lib Dems! He was not amused and my enduring memory of him will be hearing him shout back at me “I’m a socialist!”

I am not a socialist – it may be a noble ideal, but that is all socialism is. But I am a liberal and I do care passionately about social justice. I don’t approve of privatising public services for a number of reasons. Some of these are ideological, but mainly they are pragmatic. I can’t abide the creeping Stalinism of the erosion of our civil liberties and what I hate more than anything is the demonisation of our young people by this government. So, my question for those of you who find no conflict in being in an increasingly illiberal Labour Party…..why not?

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