Tuesday, 13 September 2011

"Liberal Democrats aren't especially Liberal- or democratic." - A response.

Is Asquith's party dead?
As always I'm a little behind the news and only read Graeme Archer's article this morning. I must admit I'm firstly stunned by the line of reasoning.

It is indeed true that the star of Liberalism was in decent since the collapse of the last Liberal-Conservative  coalition at the end of World War I but I think that by the fact that the party is still around is proof that Liberalism is needed in British politics and indeed a physical embodiment.

Mr Archer makes the comment that if he was a LibDem in the Coalition he would be;

be bending over backwards to demonstrate that not only is a Liberal instinct a useful one to bring to the art of government, but also makes sense to have that instinct embodied by my organisation.

What else have we been doing?

Every time the press have called Coalition or LibDem split it has usually been an internal debate about Liberalism and its application to the current policy discussion. A big recent example is the Dorries amendment where the nations of Liberalism and freedom of the individual to determine how they live over state enforced rules. Mr Archer sites the "Water(ed) down" health bill which he argues is a great step towards Liberalising health providers in the UK. Yes it did, and the ideas were very Liberal BUT there were still concerns about detail and whether the electorate would lose out in the long run. This isn't a case of Lib Dems being illiberal but being sensibly Liberal and protecting the electorate from the state!

The same is true for his comments on Nick Clegg's speech on Free schools last week, attacking NIck for straying away from the Liberal approach of the Government policy and stressing it wasn't about profit and that roles of the LEA and Councils in controlling access to schools. That is the Democratic part Mr Archer, the part where the people still get a say and the Council then sets the rules.  Also profit is bad in large scale when it comes to education. It is where some places have lost their way and focused more on making money than education. Is education not a noble enough aim in itself? The same is true for the NHS - the people would lose out to business as they have to rail franchises.

It is true that we are representing the "producers" and that is stereotypically Labour's job but - and here is the history lesson, We started it with many social reforms and Labour grew with in us as an extremist TUC party gradually replacing the Liberal party as the champion of the poor. Now though there is little to tell the Labour party and the Conservative party apart. This morning Ed Miliband was heckled for telling the TUC he would not back strikes - a move unheard of a century ago! The Libdems offer a third way.

Other issues that Mr Archer brings forward include the delay by the Libdems in the election of Police Commissioners. "Undemocratic" he says. Would it not be more of a crime to bring in legislation that was faulty? Better to look before you jump. Also the electorate are not sure they want Commissioners and we have to listen to their concerns? After all isn't that what good Government does?

Our support for the Human rights act "defies parody". Yes there are problems with the act and it urgently needs reform but the act itself protects the individual's freedom against the state - the central tenant of Liberalism and something the Conservatives and Labour seem keen to get out of their way so they can re enforce state power. Surely this is a good example of Liberalism.

As for the party being undemocratic. Mr Archer sites Dr Evan Harris and Baroness Shirley Williams obstruction and continuing resistance to the NHS bill. True on the surface it looks bad that a de-selected MP and an unelected peer refuse to pass a democratically passed bill by elected representatives. However as stated in my recent 'blog post [ http://gingerliberal.blogspot.com/2011/09/shadow-of-dr-evan-harris.html  ] Dr Harris is merely the mouth piece for a much wider group of Libdem activists who are concerned with the fear that the parliamentary party are co-signing a bill that could spell serious trouble for the NHS. Although neither are elected they are representing the concerns of the party. Also neither the Labour nor Conservative party can claim innocence when it comes to unelected peers taking an over active role in policy.

Other examples of us being involved in better democracy is the AV reform, the boundary commission, House of Lords reform, fixing the term of parliament... All of these measures are designed to make Britain more democratic.

Yes, there is a need for the Liberal Democrats in British politics and although not perfect, we do provide Liberal thinking and are democratic. If Mr Archer's comment that we don't make a "worthwhile party to be in coalition partner for the Conservatives." is serious then might I suggest that we do pack up and call it a day and let them form a minority government on their own. He claims that our claim to have influenced policy is not true and that the Conservatives would have implemented such change without our influence. Well lets see how that minority government does that.

The original article can be found here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/8753191/The-Liberal-Democrats-arent-especially-liberal-or-even-democratic.html

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