A Con-Lib alliance would push us further into neo-liberalism


5:45 pm - May 11th 2010

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contribution by Alex Andrews

Reading the papers it would seem that all Clegg needs to do is decide, yet the reality is he will face a far more difficult task, particularly with the majority of the party considerably to the left of the leadership.

It is this dischord between the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and the majority of the party which leads to a more natural alliance between the leaders and the Tories, whose interests are far more harmonious.

David Laws, former investment banker and chief negotiator with the Tories, was co-editor of the notorious Orange Book to which Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and Vincent Cable also contributed.

Here Laws and the other authors claimed that the Liberals must become more friendly to the economic liberal (ie neoliberal) elements of their legacy and avoid ‘soggy socialism’ that seem to have slipped in. The fact that Clegg is quite prepared to indulge in pro-Thatcherite union bashing and Michael Gove would step aside to allow Laws to implement his crazy free market educational proposals confirms, along with the fact that George Osborne asked Laws to join the shadow cabinet, that formally and ideologically the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaderships are closer than the base of both parties.

For this reason, it is a genuine fear that an alliance will result not in a tempering of the neoliberal strands of the Conservative party, but rather an amplification of the worse neoliberal elements in both parties.

Those elements which the Liberals and Tories agree on, even if restricted only to a ‘confidence arrangement’, will result only in savage cuts and a further extension of the unjust, unequal neoliberal nightmare.

With this in mind, it is necessary for progressives to begin lobbying the Liberal Democrat federal executive to let them know that allowing a Tory coalition is a very bad idea indeed.

For progressives, voting against the Tories would be a huge betrayal of the primary reason they cast their vote and their party need reminding of this, whatever the opinion of their leadership.

A Tory alliance will lead the Liberals shedding their progressive voters and will likely reduce them to a level lower than just their core support, considering how many in the party itself would desert them, as well as killing any sense of them being any alternative.

This tension between not wanting a Tory alliance and wanting something different must be an element to any progressive position in the coming weeks, particularly as leadership battles begin within Labour.

—————–
Alex Andrews is a writer and activist. He has written for Comment Is Free and blogs on politics, philosophy, religion and economics at the group blog An und für sich.

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Reader comments


A deal with the Tories or another General Election seem to be the only options left now. Do you really want another General Election? Wouldn’t you rather that Lib Dems and Tories take the blame for all the cuts that Labour has already planned first?

2. gwenhwyfaer

Are you sure this isn’t just an old Daily Mail piece with a couple of search and replaces done on it?

As a Lib Dem member, I’m fed up of left-wingers telling me how I think. I hate what Labour did in Iraq, with civil liberties, its tribal bullyboy sneering arrogance. I dislike the Tories even more, but I’m proud that the Lib Dems seem to have got them to ditch some of their right-wing policies, and now there’s a better chance than ever for some decent liberal, progressive input into Government and a referendum on AV, which will boost the ‘progressive majority’.
I think the Lib Dem leadership has done well considering the otherwise atrocious circumstances in which we found ourselves. Now’s a shot at some power – to get some liberal things done, which is why we’re in politics.

4. Thanks Sunny

Many thanks to Sunny Hundal for his endorsement of the Liberal Democrats in the runup to this election.

He has helped to de-contaminate the Tory brand and install David Cameron as Prime Minister.

Well done that man.

Well done.

Wow there’s some weird stuff at An und fur sich.

Green stalinism…hmmmm….

Anyway – yes, the Tories and the Orange Bookers – a true progressive alliance.
(If the weirdos on both sides don’t stop them…)

Brown toast and champagne for tea tonight I think.

“With this in mind, it is necessary for progressives to begin lobbying the Liberal Democrat federal executive to let them know that allowing a Tory coalition is a very bad idea indeed.”

Lobby your own party! You didn’t vote for the Fed Exec, I did. If you want to see a so-called “progressive alliance” at any future point then get your own house in order on civil liberties, the environment, international relations and electoral reform.

7. Luis Enrique

much as I admire everything Sunny has achieved with LC, I think you are exaggerating his impact by a factor of about a squillion (I trust you agree Sunny?)

meanwhile the quicker the phrase “neo-liberal” falls out of usage, the better. It is generally used in (attempts at) analysis populated by cartoon villains.

8. Matt Munro

@ 4 It was the Guardian wot done it, Cleggs ratings plummeted once they endorsed him.

Perhaps “progessive” could also be dropped?

Or even “progressive”…the champagne is already having its effect.

11. Matt Munro

@ 9 I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked for a definition of “progressive” on this blog

12. Shatterface

Can we laugh in the face of those who have already bought ID cards yet?

Did anyone really buy one?

Always been confused by the “Orange” book thing. Surely to get Orange you add red to yellow… If the Orange book is Tory-lite then it should have been Green (blue+yellow).
Um.
This months Prospect has a good article on the nonsense of using the word “progessive” (extract here, have to subscribe to read it all…).

15. WhatNext!?

For those that have yet to understand the word “progressive” (Matt and cjcjc, do you not read what others write?), a brief summary:

“Progressive” = Centre-Left, Left, Far-Left etc
“Centre-Left (etc)” = the following main groups:

a) Labour, but not New Labour.
b) Lib-Dem, but not Orange Bookers.
c) Others that self-identify as Centre-Left.

It is known that those who voted Labour and Lib-Dem were definitely not voting for either New Labour or Orange Book elements. Labour’s electoral success during the period of New Labour leadership is baffling frankly, but that need not concern us here: it is sufficient to know that the voters were voting Old and not New.

Therefore, it is also known that most voters wanted a centre-left, progressive government. Finding that the big three were all dominated by neo-liberal, crypto-Thatcherites, they went for a hung parliament.

Simple really.

@ 9 I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked for a definition of “progressive” on this blog

In recent days it seems to mean anyone who didn’t vote Tory. And apparently they all wanted a Labour government.

I promise I didn’t see @15 before I posted @16.

“It is known that those who voted Labour and Lib-Dem were definitely not voting for either New Labour or Orange Book elements”

Hang on, let me just…adjust my…retrospective mind-reading device…

19. Spelling Opposition

Matt Munroe the Guardian led the calls to abandon Labour, but Sunny couldn’t wait to jump on the bandwagon. As the owner of this blog he deserves his share of the blame.

20. WhatNext!?

@18
Sorry, I was insufficiently clear, and rather long-winded. How about:

Commentators on Liberal Conspiracy who self-identify as “progressive” have confirmed that a majority of voters voted explicitly for a ‘progressive” government. Whatever that means.

21. Shatterface

‘Matt Munroe the Guardian led the calls to abandon Labour, but Sunny couldn’t wait to jump on the bandwagon. As the owner of this blog he deserves his share of the blame.’

If you think Sunny had any significant impact on the election results you are as deluded as he is.

22. Yurrzem!

If the Lib-Dems help form a government we may finally see their true colours. They’ve done well making careers out of doing nothing in particular. Do they believe in anything or are they, as so many schoolkids thought, just not quite one or the other?

I still think that if they form an alliance wiht the tories then they’re fucked. No more LDs after this term of office.

23. WhatNext!?

22: ouch, there goes the alliance. I think they put their beliefs and stuff in their manifesto.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Thank you Sunny for everything. We couldn’t have done it without you and the Guardian.

Sleep well!

25. Yurrzem!

@ 23 WhatNext?!

Sure, and its easy to come up with a manifesto if you’re never going to be in government. Its what they agree to in the implementation of the tory manifesto that would be the giveaway.

26. Charlie 2

11. Mat Munro . The belief in one’s moral superiority which entitles one to tell people what to think, feel, say and do. This superiority entitles one to pass large numbers of laws and rules which dictate the way people live their lives. The large number of laws requires vast number of well paid white collar workers with good holiday entitlements and pensions to be employed by the state which is considered progressive. Of course these large number of well paid white collar workers vote largely in self interest, like most voters for most of the time but convince themselves it is in the interest of the poor and the good of the nation. Progressives often believe they are morally superior to those who earn the wealth of the nation.

cjcjc

The title of that post was a joke and part of a larger discussion about any kind of non-market environmentalism, ie legislation against it, is taken as some kind of Stalinism, which is, of course, ridiculous.

WhatNext!?

About right on what I meant by progressive.

Adam

You are pretty deluded if you think the Liberals will temper and not amplify the neoliberalism of the Tories. Not to be rude, I like many Lib Dems, yet the only one I know well will likely be doing what many will be doing, respectfully returning his party card.

You make the mistake of thinking I didn’t actually read that post!

On the LD’s – was reading the Orange Book too difficult for them?
Did they not know what (I hope) their leaders believe?

Like I wrote earlier today, I love it when the same Labour supporters who have stuck with their party through thick and thin, war crimes, support for the most right wing US President in history, manifesto betrayals, massive clampdown on civil liberties and thirteen years of aggressively pro-City rhetoric and policies…the very same people now have the cheek to lecture the LibDems on “progressive values”.

Perhaps the author of this piece should have a go at “principled” people such as David Blunkett, Tom Harris and John Reid who today successfully thwarted any chance of a centre-left alliance.

30. Charlieman

@28 cjcjc: “On the LD’s – was reading the Orange Book too difficult for them?”

Hmm, a discussion book that encouraged a few Conservatives to approach a few of the contributors with an invitation to join them. If the invitees were Tory at heart or by opportunism, they would have accepted. But they didn’t, even though it would have been politically opportune according to the polls around that time. So we have to accept that they are liberals.

All parties need to debate and the Orange Book was one way to create an environment. Much of its content was closed off from serious discussion — it was a bit too difficult to talk about at the time, a smidge too radical. But if the Con/LibDem partnership delivers a £10,000 income tax threshold, it will be a liberal (Orange Book) achievement that all sensible people will welcome. My only concern is that the Conservatives will hijack it as their idea.

31. WhatNext!?

Don’t forget that Labour has good reasons not to be in the next government, not least because of its own performance.
Forget the added burden of the banking collapse for a moment, and remember government over-spending over the last nine years. Now that there is little or no scope for excess borrowing, the next government can’t match the largesse of the last.
Put very simply, the last government has already spent some of the money. Any resulting “cuts” can be blamed on the next government. Meanwhile, Labour can re-organise.

Stop using the word neoliberal!

Stop using the word progressive!

You’re making life difficult for people who want to do anything more than a superficial analysis.

If the liberals and the tories are neoliberal then so to are the modern labour party.

If Clegg is progressive then I assume so too is Douglas Carswell? If Tom Harris is a progressive what about David Davis too? Hell, Farage wants a referendum on the EU and so does Clegg, that means UKIP are progressive yes?

I agree with Left Outside. If Labour are progressive, then the word is meaningless

I don’t think my analysis is superficial and considering I study neoliberalism, I don’t think my analysis is particularly superficial. And yes, so are the modern Labour party, emphatically.

Okay, you may understand neoliberalism but it doesn’t sound like you do.

For example, there seems to be a shift away from the financialisation of capitalism that has gone hand in hand with neoliberalism since the 1970/80s.

I refer to the two international taxes proposed by the IMF recently, which will be the centre piece for upcoming G8 (G20?) talks. That is a huge shift and if negotiated will draw any UK Government away from a neoliberal course. So due to external pressures the Lib-Cons in the next 4 years could be far-less neoliberal than Labour have been in the last 13.

Neoliberal, thatcherite and libertarian aren’t really synonyms and there is a lot more variety in the Tory right than you credit them with, contrast Osborne, Tebbit and Carswell, they may look different to the outsider but there are real differences (all terms are approximations of course, and I don’t really like any of them but hey).

The cuts agenda isn’t neoliberal precisely, there’s a lot of room in neoliberalism for pragmatism, its more about the appropriation of wealth by the already wealthy, that’s why public sector cuts can coincide with a transfer of wealth from us to bankers. Sometime the market works towards that, other times the state is used. It is an anti-intervention ideology at times, and a pro-intervention one at others. That’s one reason I don’t find it particularly useful as a term. That and its been hijacked by people who use it as an antonym for progressive.

Resistance is key here. I suppose we do need a call to arms.

The Lib Dems want to institute a British version of Glass-Steagall. The repeal of Glass-Steagall is one of the most famous examples of neo-liberalism.

They also want a top rate of capital gains tax of 50%.

So yeah… the Lib Dems are clearly neo-liberal.

And, as LO points out, they support the IMF’s financial tax proposals – a pretty clear signal of the death of neo-liberalism from the IMF.

I don’t think my analysis is superficial and considering I study neoliberalism

Yes, the Theology and Religious Studies graduate has obvious expertise in political economy.

The cuts agenda isn’t neoliberal precisely

From the Tories it’s not neoliberalism, it’s just debt moralism.

But at some point the deficit does need to be cut, and that will require spending cuts. The idea that spending cuts are a priori neoliberal is delusional. Keynesian economics is countercyclical.

“From the Tories it’s not neoliberalism, it’s just debt moralism.”

That is fucking brilliant!

Neoliberalism is at least at times fairly coherent, it recognises the link between saving and borrowing.

Of course moralisers over debt cannot do that.

i.e. we can’t leave this debt to our children!!! Without realising what we’re actually doing is leaving debt to some of our children and leaving savings to some of our other children. Its a different sort of unfairness but an absolutely imperative one to understand.

“Yes, the Theology and Religious Studies graduate has obvious expertise in political economy.”

Play nice!

Note the ‘religious studies’ element of that combination. Religious studies more than readily encompasses political economy. In particular, I study the influence of Christianity on early German neoliberalism, ordo-liberalism and the religious elements used in bringing neoliberalism to South America, in particular to Chile, where the Catholic university there played host to Friedman’s infamous ‘Chicago boys’. Regardless, its a bit of a low blow.

First, obviously there are various types in all parties, but I only had a few hundred words and obviously I can’t be that detailed.

Can’t go into this in immense amounts of details, because its late, but I’m not sure international bodies such as the IMF are moving away from neoliberalism as emphatically as you say. For example, the loan to Greece from the Europe zone was on the condition of what is basically classical structural readjustment movement of private services in. I will concede however that you are right that things such as the Tobin tax will push the global situation in far less neoliberal direction and if so, more power to them. Its complex and too early to know what the international scene will yeild.

As for the Lib Dems, they seem to have dumped most of the stuff that could be considered anti-neoliberal, ie Tobin Tax, breaking up casino elements from day to day elements of banks, as I predicted, to jump into bed with the Tories. This kind of stuff has lots of swing with the base, but very little with the leadership. In particular, the Liberals support for the Free Schools project is very neoliberal, considering this voucher scheme was first proposed by Friedman and briefly floated by Keith Joseph.

Never got Labour members defending undemocratic unions that went power mad. Unions are a good thing, but they way they were being run back then was insane. Much as I hate Thatcher, she did try to negotiate, and Scargill screwed it up for everyone, and Thatcher went mad herself.

Labour refused a deal, with enough senior Labour MPs saying no coalition was possible, that it was impossible to get a majority going with labour. What was left? A minority Tory government that would either get what it wanted, or would force a General Election, and probably return with an actual majority by itself?

What is the opposite of the “cuts agenda”?

The perpetual deficits agenda?

That’ll work.

43. Luis Enrique

for crying out loud, why is it “neoliberal” to require a government that’s spending far more than it’s collecting in taxes, to do something about that as a condition of lending to them? What would a non-neoliberal do, just give them billions and say, oh sure, don’t worry if you can’t pay it back?

“For this reason, it is a genuine fear that an alliance will result not in a tempering of the neoliberal strands of the Conservative party, but rather an amplification of the worse neoliberal elements in both parties.

Those elements which the Liberals and Tories agree on, even if restricted only to a ‘confidence arrangement’, will result only in savage cuts and a further extension of the unjust, unequal neoliberal nightmare.”

I still struggle to understand what’s so wrong with “neo-liberalism”. We’re just talking about economic liberty, after all.

I would assume that most here would think that the social democracies of the Nordics are the sort of desired society?

If so then there’s something you’ve really got to understand. They are much more “neo-liberal”, economic libertarian, than we are….with a dollop of redistribution on top, to be sure.

In fact, if you take off the redistribution part you find that Denmark is as economic libertarian as Hong Kong.

45. Luis Enrique

oh Friedman defines neoliberal does he? So presumably negative income tax is neoliberal is it? I

Yes, Friedman does define neoliberalism I’m afraid, most commentators tend to agree.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  2. Derek Bryant

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  4. Alex Gillespie

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  7. Stephen Newton

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  9. earwicga

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  10. Philip M

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  12. sdv_duras

    RT @libcon A Con-Lib alliance would push us further into neo-liberalism http://bit.ly/c6tTxX — True but how else are we going to get out ?

  13. House Of Twits

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  14. Mark Smithson

    RT @libcon A Con-Lib alliance would push us further into neo-liberalism http://bit.ly/c6tTxX
    And that would be catastrophic!

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  16. StopTheRight

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  17. Jock Coats

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  19. Alex

    My piece on Lib Dem and neoliberalism. http://bit.ly/9BLLj7 'Enjoy' #ukelection





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