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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New Blog Address / Final Prog Politics post

Can those who have followed my Lib Dem oriented blog please note that having left the party I shall now blog at

Lib Dems are welcome to subscribe, as will be radical social liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and Greens.

Thanks to those who've read my Progressive Politics blog. This will be deleted within the next seven days or so.

Kind Regards,

Barrie Wood


Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye to the Lib Dems and LD Blogs

Last week I tendered my resignation from the party and, ergo, this means I need to remove myself from LD blogs too. This doesn't necessarily mean being active in a party political sense elsewhere.

During the recent European elections I voted Green. In short their radical environmental and social justice agenda sat better with me than the Liberal alternative. I was, and remain, firmly left-of-centre in my political outlook. I am influenced by a mixture of red / green / liberal thought. What I am not, is an economical liberal.

Upon arriving in Torbay I initially voted LD to 'keep the Tories out' here, but this was helped by having an excellent Lib Dem MP (Adrian Sanders) and a party who have offered a range of policies attractive to someone tribally Labour leaning previously. These have included the Iraq war position, 1p on tax for education, supporting a 50p tax rate to help revitalise public services, support for constitutional reform, awareness of the importance of our environment and a passionate commitment to civil liberties. How prescient the latter has proven to be under an authoritarian NuLab regime. My past professional experience as a community development worker and with it the desire to diffuse power and disseminate knowledge, clearly means that the decentalist philosophy of Liberalism is an attractive creed.

I joined the Lib Dems about four to five years ago. I have been able to fit in mostly with the local party and there are many good people within it's activist / councillor base. I even stood disastrously for the party at the last local elections in 2005.

Lib Dems boast of their democratic conference. Well it's true to a point but don't kid yourselves Lib Dems ! I went as a representative from Torbay to the 2008 Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. Am I supposed to be impressed by the 'sofa chats' instead of debates, the COG discussion without members being given a vote (for example) ? Whilst I don't fetischise rebellion, the 'tax debate' and the wheeling out of the great and the good, especially of the likes of Farron and Hughes to support the leadership view, was reminiscent of NuLab style political fixing.

Many other debates saw the wannabe politicial class at the podium time after time. Councillors and PPC's by the score being 'showcased'. How different is that from the bigger two parties.

It is seems like quite some time since conformist conference actually voted down a leadership supported position. It's a long way from the vigorous debates of Liberal Assembly of yore. As it is, positions adopted in recent times such as the badly presented £20bn cuts in public spending, the removal of the policy on the 50% top tax rate, the putative part-privatisation of the PO, the bizzare position taken initially on Trident, as well as inching towards a more economically liberal tone, have all alienated me. The increasing presence of the (from my point of view) the loony libertarian fringe only heightens my disquiet. Tristan Mills of the Liberty Alone sums up this headbanging tendency, with his 'NHS is oppressive' line. Try that one out on Torbay doorsteps Tristan ! It could a contender for the shortest political suicide note in history.

Worse still. as evidenced from debates / online discussion of church schools and their character illustrated how illiberal some Liberals can be. The unpleasant invective and bile from Laurence Boyle typifying this. I suspect there will be another challenge to the status of church schools again in the coming years.

With regard to public services I don't support moves to a so-called 'choice' agenda. In schools and hospitals what people want is a well resourced public services as close to their locality as possible. In the provision of most everyday goods and services the market works well, but I baulk at the profit motive in delivering much of our public service provision.

Even where the market has demonstrably failed, such as the services provided by rail franchise holders, are the Lib Dems calling for public ownership ? Sadly no. The party of the environment ? Well, better than the big two, but Lib Dem policy pronouncements are marred by inconsistencies and they have a tendency to say one thing at national level and do something else at local level. The Green Party gives the following examples :

"For example, Norman Baker LibDem Transport Spokesman has been saying a LibDem government would stop spending on road building; but his colleagues in Lancashire are still supporting the Lancaster Northern bypass."

"The LibDems have spoken in favour of congestion charging nationally, but against it in Edinburgh, Manchester and York."

"They want a zero carbon economy by 2050 - in principle. But they have opposed windfarm proposals in Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon and Worcestershire."

"The LibDems have opposed the expansion of Heathrow, but have been happy to expand Birmingham, Carlisle, Exeter, Liverpool and Norwich airports. They were wildly enthusiastic about Manchester airport's second runway - except for the LibDems in Stockport, which lies under the flightpath.

Before anyone jumps in, yes I know the Greens in Ireland, in coalition with Fianna Fail, have agreed to things no Green party ever should. I'm sure in some local authorities, such as Leeds in the past, there may be some interestung tales to tell too. So, I'm not going easy on them either !

Locally, and this may not be typical, the LD party seems pragmatic and strangely largely unideological. As well as shoring up the long-established Liberal core vote, there is always a pitch to Labour supporters to 'lend their vote' and to 'keep the Tories' out in the bay. But I know in some northern seats the emphasis, when challenging in Labour held marginals, is somewhat different. Without a firmer ideological anchor the inconsistencies in Lib Dem approaches will continue to bedevil the party.

Of course, the Euro elections have just concluded. The Lib Dem message of Europhilia is strange to understand. LD's call for democratisation at Westminster and decentralising of decision making to localities, yet conversely are hugely enthusiastic about an undemocratic institution that takes power further away from the people impacted by decisions made there. Worse still, in recent years, 'failed' UK politicians like Kinnock, Mandelson and Patten have had huge levels of power and influence, without any kind of electoral mandate. That institution is, of course, the European Union. I;m not a fervent withdrawalist. I'm internationalist minded. I can't, however, share Lib Dem enthusiasm for the illiberal EU. The EU 'critical' stance of the Greens has much greater resonance with me.

More recently, whilst approving of the shift on Trident made by Nick Clegg, is it for reasons of political and financial expediency, or a heartfelt change of opinion ? With a large minority of Green Liberal Democrats members in a survey last year (I think) stating that nuclear power may need to be utilised to meet our energy needs, it seems that to stay in the party might mean further 'trimming' and 'adapting' too many of my own views in order to support the party. When you start to notice these things more and more, then clearly there is a problem. I don't want to 'trim' any further !

Whilst in the Lib Dems I've put on the back burner ideas like actually challenging the limits of economic growth, looking at localising economies, the promotion of mutuals and co-ops, pushing for a strengthening of trade union rights, looking at radical changes to our work / life balance and areas like a universal Citizen's / Basic Income schemes. In a time of increasing unemployment and financial challenges, why am I not hearing more from the Lib Dems about LETS schemes, credit unions, time banks and local currencies ? If I've missed something please do tell me !

To conclude I now feel free to join the wider green left family. At present without being actively aligned to any party I have political freedom. That this is in tandem without any obligation to deliver any more inane Focus leaflets ia a major bonus !! Now also seems right to step aside as the candidate approvals panel will soon vet putative Torbay Council Lib Dem councillors. I was unsuccessful last time. In 2011, in the face of a much reviled local administration aqnd the prospect of probably being one year into a Tory government, the chances of Lib Dem electoral successes will be much higher. It is better to resign now with integrity than to seek personal political advancement under a banner I no longer feel so comfortable with. If only the libertarian fringe would do likewise, but that's another story. I shall follow the Lib Dems progress with interest. Under Clegg I fear you'll just tread water. With Labour having jettisoned progressive politics, there is a huge political space to fill. Modest centrism is not the answer. well not for me at least !


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Who do you admire in other parties ?

Often the tribal nature of party politics means one is blind to the talent that exists in other parties. Therefore I thought it might be interesting to consider who I admire in other parties. This is off the top of my head so I'll probably miss some obvious choices.

Labour :

Tony Benn - a great public speaker and debater. I loved his line upon leaving parliament when he said something akin to I'm leaving Westminster so he could get more involved in politics. A real democrat too.

Alan Simpson - one of the more thoughtful (and Green) figures on the Labour left.

Robin Cook RIP : a democrat, reformer, debater, a wit and committed to social justice. A pity he became too close to more conservative elements within his party like Kinnock and Smith and Blair at times.

The Greens :

Caroline Lucas : always comes across as reasoned and persuasive in the media.

Derek Wall : a slightly eccentric eco-Marxist. He's usually interesting even if you disagree profoundly with him.

I'm not too sure about their views / responses to 'overpopulation' though.

Liberal party :

Cllr Steve Radford :
although fantastically over-obsessed with the EU. What on earth he is doing on the illiberal left list that is the (non-elected) NO2EU Euro list is a complete mystery.To have held his seat for so long in Liverpool as a representative of a minor party is some achievement.

The Tories ? : Tribalism has to start somewhere and I still viscerally loathe the Tories, so will proffer no name. I will say though, that in areas beyond Torbay, I have met Tory councillors whose motivations and community commitment is as great as those from any other party. Years ago in the NW, I did have a sneaking regard for Peter Thurnham, who was to later to defect to the Lib Dems ! I like Ken Clarke's bloke-ism, his man of the people 'persona' and go a little easier on him as he's a fellow Nottingham Forest fan !!! See, I tried being nice about a impossible task !

UKIP / BNP et al : don't be silly. I'm not a mean-spirited, vengeful, scared-of-change right-winger ! Absolutely no-one at all, ever !

Any thoughts readers ?


Please help a disappointed Labour activist / councillor !

Recently I swapped emails with a first class Labour councillor, someone of integrity, values and purpose. In it I asked :

Can you tell me of ANY progressive achievement from the Government since the last election ?

The reply below is very revealing :

A few new nurseries have opened, a little more money has gone into schools and hospitals and, er.. that's about it. The PLP has shown no vision whatsoever (except, it seems, when submitting allowance claims...). It's been too often sidetracked into areas like Immigration and "welfare reform" instead of the radical policies which would have transformed many lives for the better. The recall of Mandelson was the day the next election was effectively conceded to Cameron. Things have only gone downhill ever since.

It is true the number of achievements at local council level have been rather better and that my friend is someone I could happily vote for, but is that all Labour have to show for 2005 onwards. Can others, in a non-tribal fashion, suggest ANY other positives. Of course, not being the Tories is one plus but....

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