This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Party positioning

So the Tories have elected an opportunist Blair clone as leader. Typically the Tories went for the Eton and Oxford boy whose never had a proper job over David Davis and his council house upbringing. One can hope that the Tory membership have got it badly wrong again. PMQ's yesterday was like watching Blair versus Blair. Plenty of smooth oratory but not a great deal of substance.

To be fair, there is a difference, the Tories would not have introduced a minimum wage (which has made a difference to many in Devon), invested in public services, supported the New Deal and tax credits helping many of the less priviledged. This is not to discount the authoritarian, centralising thrust of Labour. This is NOT signing up to the war in Iraq, anti-terror bill, tuition fees, ID cards, de-facto GM Schools and being softened up for a move to nuclear power energy 'solutions'. In short, I loathe everything the Tories stand for and would be likely to implement in government. Conversely, I regret the many regressive policies introduced by this less-than-Labour government, but do recognise it's achievements too. With Labour there is a debate to be had. The Tories unless they become more socially liberal and economically moderate any constructive engagement is near impossible in my view. If they move towards the one-nation 'civic conservatism' they may yet become a political force again, but the ghost of Thatcherite dogmatism refuses to go away.

Sadly there are those in the Lib Dems who want to drive the party in a more explicitly free market direction. How many times do politicians need to be told that people generally want locally available, good quality, accountable, public services ? What evidence is there so far that contracted out services are an improvement on in-house provision, be that provided by the council, in hospitals or schools ?

Open and competitive markets work well in the provision of consumer goods but I remain unconvinced that the marketisation of public services is either what the public wants or is likely to prove successful.

Will the Lib Dems hold to a social liberal agenda in keeping with the greater number of it's activists or will there be a New Labour-style takeover from the top by Cable, Oaten, Laws, Huhne and co ? Does no-one else see similarities between what is happening in the Lib Dems and what transpired in the incresingly activist free Labour party ?

The Lib Dems have prospered electorally through its progressive policies on tax, education, social care and wedded that to its [never more needed] traditional commitment to the environment and civil liberties. Voters increasingly like what they see and hear, so why become yet another centre-right party ?

This former Labour councillor joined the Liberal Democrats because of it's progressive credentials and its transparent commitment to fairness, liberty, the environment and social justice. These are my reasons for for being in politics. Whilst policies evolve, core principles and a clear ethos need to guide a party. May those that have built the party up, from the bottom upwards, continue to move it forward.


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