Monday 20 September 2010

A left-of-centre alternative to Labour

Nick Clegg is reported last week to have written that "there is no future for the Liberal Democrats as a left-of-centre alternative to Labour." If this is true, and I haven't actually read the alleged article, then I believe he is profoundly wrong.

My analysis of British politics assumes that there will always be a Conservative party, a party which believes it is born to rule, is happy that the already comfortably off should prosper, that those not comfortable may benefit from the "trickle-down" effect, and those with a bit of gumption at the bottom of the pile will be able to climb out of the mire, (or, as RH Tawney so brilliantly put it, like "intelligent tadpoles, reconcile themselves to the inconvenience of their position by reflecting that, though most of them will live and die as tadpoles and nothing more, the more fortunate of the species will one day shed their tails, distend their mouths and stomachs, hop nimbly on to dry land, and croak addresses to their former friends on the virtues by means of which tadpoles of character and capacity can rise to be frogs."* ) Or, these days, maybe win the lottery.

Against this, parties of the left will try to promote fairness and equality, the statist left, Labour, with a top-down, authoritarian approach, and the libertarian left, Liberals, with a decentralised bottom-up approach, committed to equality while at the same time giving priority to liberty.

So there'll always be Tories, Nick, but there are different ways of changing society for the better. Our job is to replace the failed statist approach with our own vision of Elysium.

* R H Tawney, Equality, Allen and Unwin edition, 1931, p142


  1. That isn't what he said.

    What he said was that there is no future for us as a depository for disgruntled left wing voters, which is quite different.

  2. Thanks for that correction. As I wrote, I haven 't actually read the article, just some reporting of it. As you rightly say, it makes a difference.
    Liberal Democracy is a cause it its own right: not just a refuge for the disillusioned from any other parties (though we wouldn't turn them away!)

  3. It was a poor headline for the article but it shows how we struggle with the traditional left/right agenda - but then so has Labour, and to some extent the Tories too. We are Liberals - we debate what matters without narrow dogma of economic models, patronage and privilege.