Home > Liberal Democrats > Not Left! Not Right! Just Liberal!

Not Left! Not Right! Just Liberal!


Over the last week a number of groups have been created in the Liberal Democrats, Liberal Left and Liberal Reform.

My take on groups or wings of the party is best summed up by what Nick Clegg said in a conference speech in Sheffield.

Liberal Left seem to be picking for a fight. They oppose the coalition and their stated ideology is social liberal/social democratic. They seem to want to pick a fight with what they call the Orange Book right-wing liberals leading the party.

I haven’t read the Orange Book so I don’t know if I’m an Orange Booker or not. What I do know though is that the Orange Book had contributions from many on the left of the party including Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Ed Davey. The Orange Book was intended to spark debate amongst the party, but all it did seemingly is spark factions.

Factions destroy parties, look at Labour, with their Blairites and their Brownites or even in the 80s when the gang of four broke away from Labour. Or look to our right, the Conservative’s are being torn apart over Europe.

Factions are bad because when people put themselves into a box of “I’m an Orange Booker” or “I’m a social liberal” or “I’m a Liberal Left” etc. it creates a sense of belonging and an idea that the rest of the party, the other factions aren’t good and need to be destroyed for the sake of the party. That destroys the pluralism which the Liberal Democrats stand for.

Liberal Reform, from what I’ve read, rather than creating a faction, is generally a place for Liberal Democrats of all persuasions to generate ideas for debate and to make sure the Liberal Democrats remain the party of radical ideas. They seem genuinely open to working with others within the Liberal Democrats, to change the ideas and policies within the party.

Liberal reform, seem to be the more pluralistic of the two new groups.

We have to remember what Nick Clegg said in Sheffield.

We are not on the left, we are not on the right, we have our own label Liberal!

If we remember that, in the face of adversity, we’ll keep our heads, and survive to fight another election.

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  1. Daniel Henry
    February 13, 2012 at 22:27

    Funny you should say that.
    Liberal Reform are actually the “Orange Book” faction. 🙂
    Their mission statement is based on David Law’s first chapter in the Orange Book. 🙂
    The idea is to be a grassroots group to promote economic liberalism amongst the LDs. (They promote a 4 point liberalism as described in the OB, but since all LDs including the Liberal Left are pretty much united on the other 3 points of liberalism it’ll be the economic liberalism that gets the most debate)

    Even so, their attitude is very positive.
    They see themselves as a sister group to the SLF and encourage members to be joining both (rather than an either/or) and are expecting a lot of overlap, and for disagreement to be amicable and rational rather than personal.

    Personally I welcome these different factions.
    They all represent different points of view within the party, will each appeal to different views within our broad church and will ensure that we have a diverse debate. The SLF and LR definitely believe in calm and rational debate and I expect there will be a lot of overlap between the two, the main differences being that of emphasis.

    The LL seem a bit more combatitive but they still have an important role to play. They will appeal to many of the voters we’ve lost since the coalition, and many others who feel disillusioned.

    • February 15, 2012 at 19:25

      Funny, you should mention the Orange Book, I’ve heard them been called that. I’ve heard or rather read that the founders of liberal reform never mentioned the Orange Book, in any of their meetings.

      I welcome different groups. I welcome ideas being thrown around. I dislike factionalism and division which this has the potential to do. I think Liberal Left is the most likely to start the factionalism off.

      • February 15, 2012 at 22:22

        They might not have mentioned the Orange Book itself, but the group did start out as some economic liberals looking to see if there were any like minded to find a grouping, and their mission statement with the 4 point liberalism is pretty much David Law’s first chapter in the Orange Book.

        I’m not saying that as a criticism. I largely liked the Orange Book and I think that the merits of economic liberalism are worth debating. Just thought you’d gotten the wrong idea in describing them as a blanket group for liberals of all types.

      • February 15, 2012 at 22:23

        Not saying they are a blanket group of all types but they are willing to work with anyone, including the Social Liberal Forum when they agree.

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