Monday, 8 April 2019

A sad story of Liberalism

This blog post was first published on the Radix site...

I found myself in agreement with Norman Lamb last week that his party (and mine) was in danger of becoming an equally irresponsible version of the European Research Group on the Remainer side.

What I did find unexpected was how much agreement and symathy there was for his position in the comments below the line on Lib Dem Voice.

I also have huge sympathy with him because I feel what he must feel, this terrible sense of guilt and alienated disappointment that I find myself so out of kilter with the party I have been a member of for four decades.

I also feel a sense of huge frustration for another reason, looking back more than a century since the last time the ruling Conservatives fractured over trade policy. In the early years of the century, Joseph Chamberlain's ideas about 'imperial preference' - whether we should have as close a trading relationship with Europe as we did with the empire or not - split the Tories from top to bottom.

It was this dispute where one cabinet minister famously confided that he had nailed is colours "firmly to the fence".

What was different from today is that there was an effective Liberal opposition under Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was able to engineer the Liberal landslide of 1906 as a result - which gave us old age pensions and the People's Budget and much else besides.

This is what I find frustrating. That Campbell-Bannerman's successors could have developed the kind of rheortic that could speak for the nation as a whole, beyond the old labels of Remainer and Leaver and could provide people with just a glimmer of hope.

I fear it may now be too late.

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2 comments:

Blissex said...

Well, I occasionally read the comments on "Remainiac" papers "The Guardian" and the "Financial Times" and many of the "Remainiac" ones are as unthinking, bellowing, deranged as those of many "BeLeavers", especially of course when they mention Corbyn.

Anyhow not only the extremism some "Remainiacs" is disappointing, for the LibDem to expend their small political capital entirely on "Remain" is quite mad: the existential cause of the LibDems is Proportional Representation, and they should be pushing it at every opportunity, in every possible way. "Remain" should be mentioned only as in "Brexit is the fault of not having had PR", the second referendum should be mentioned as "Only PR can give us a working political system, so we now need a second referendum", and so on.

Greenfield said...

Liberal Democrats find a USP - in tune with 48% of those who voted in 2016 - also in tune with their policy & outlook ....the big thing everyone is talking about & have been for a couple of years & will continue to do so.....and then a few Lib Dems say/support the Lamb line. Good grief.... Brexit is bringing out the madness all round imo.