Saturday 18 September 2010

Not left wing? Read the original quote

I wrote yesterday (was it yesterday, it seems a long time ago?) about how the media was colluding to portray Nick Clegg as a hate figure on the left. They are also, of course, having a go at maximising trouble at the party conference today.  That's their job, after all.

But when I turned on the radio this morning, and heard the BBC announcing that Clegg was condemning the idea that the Lib Dems were “left wing rivals to Labour”, even I did a double take.

That is precisely how many of us would describe the party’s position, after all.

But I should have taken my own advice yesterday. I should have gone back to the original quote.

In fact, the Independent (where the interview is this morning) used a similar headline, so perhaps we can’t blame the BBC this time, but what he actually said was this: “The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.”

That is different, and absolutely right. There are many in the commentariat who would like to pigeon-hole Liberals in that category – existing entirely for our role as the conscience of the Labour Party, and helpfully fading away when not required.  But that’s not it and never was.

I don’t know if we are a party of the Left. Perhaps there are more accurate ways of portraying our radicalism.  We are certainly an alternative to Fabian utilitarianism.  But we are not a party of the Right, as conventionally understood and certainly not – heaven forfend – a party of the centre.

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