Liberal Vision (Again) - Pressure Group ? Faction ? Entryists ?
Let's be clear, I have an inherent dislike of closing down debate and respect there are many libertarians who pose questions and raise issues that otherwise would go unheard in the Lib Dems. In that context, they firmly belong within the broad church that is, and should be, the Liberal Democrats.
Now my formative political years were spent (like Messrs Littlewood and Fernando) in, ahem, another political party. My time as a Labour member and councillor saw the rise of the 'Militant' faction within the party. Despite being on the 'left' the damage this group did to the wider left and to Labour in particular is now a matter of record. They had a separate agenda, a different ideological base and ran parallel to the party they resided within. They were not too keen on their own internal democracy either. To my mind Liberal Vision [LV] share some of these 'entryist' and factional tendencies.
Mark Littlewood argues that they are no different from any other organised group within the party (minus internal democratic elections of course), such as ALDTU, Women Lib Dems, DAGGER et al. But, there is a difference the SAO/SO groups all sign up to the preamble of the party, rather than the pick and mix approach of those who support the politics of LV.
As I said in a previous post, LV is I believe a subsidiary of Progressive Voice and has a remarkably similar narrative to the UK Libertarian Party. Just take a cursory glance at the policy proposals of the UK Libertarian Party and compare them to the proposals of Progressive Vision.
As for the policy thrust of LV, consider this currently unpopular truth. It has been a progressive centre and centre-left agenda influenced by liberal and social democratic thought that has delivered over the last three elections (1997 / 2001 / 2005) for this party the greatest number of parliamentarians for us since the 1920s.
Although critical of an over-bearing state the Lib Dems and it's predecessors have never been afraid to legislate and be 'interventionist'. The welfare state has a Liberal DNA running right through it. The LDs, since it's foundation, has been a progressive tax party to fund improved public services. Now it seeks to be the party that offers a quasi-Thatcherite helping of tax and spending cuts. This looks like an opportunist attempt to stem the Tory tide across a swathe of southern English seats.
The party, rightly, continues to be interventionist. Presently it has offered distinctive positions on policy debates relating to issues as diverse as 'nationalisation' of banks through to minimum prices for alcohol (although I strongly disagree with this very illiberal proposal - booze for the wealthy only - what a vote winner !!!).
LV has little to say to the poor, little to say on the environment. Further as Thomas Gilbert remarks on Lib Dem Voice many Lib Dems have fought against the small government, low tax agenda for years. Mr. Littlewood and others like him wants us to spin around 360 degrees and offer the electorate something totally inconsistent with what the Lib Dems have offered since the formation of the party, thereby putting at risk the coalition of support built up thus far.
Even so far, the mild shift in emphases doesn't appear to be working. But to suggest that’s because we’re not moving far or fast enough to the right, that we are not radical enough is nonesense to my mind. This line of argument reminds me of Tony Benn and others arguing that Thatcher's victories over Labour were because they were not sufficiently socialist enough ! He also saw the disasterous Labour performance of 1983 as several million votes for 'socialism' ! Pity those of us less well off who had a torrid time under Thatcher, at least we could console ourselves with the fact that an impotent Labour Party had turned to the left. Let's not allow the Lib Dems to repeat elements of that kind of experience through our own internal battles and striving for a vote-losing LV inspired narrative.
Luckily the shrill voices of many libertarians and classical liberals online may not match the reality in the constituencies. I know of no-one active within my local party (Torbay) that would subscribe to the ideas being promoted by LV and others. Is this the same for others ?
One of the things I've most enjoyed about the 4 years or so of LD membership, some of them active and some not, is the lack of organised factionalism. However, it might be necessary, and with some reluctance, for the 'left' of the party to come together, become organised and challenge the classical liberals / libertarians in the party. An open, democratic organisation, maybe modelled on the lines of the Compass grouping within Labour, might be a useful starting point. The Beveridge Group, if it opened out beyond the 'great and the good' might do this, but otherwise we need to do it for ourselves. What do people think