One and the same
[Lib dems and the orange book]
I am an ordinary member of the Labour
Party, but if I had been active in politics during the 1980s I would
undoubtedly have joined Roy Jenkins's breakaway Social Democratic
Party, and would by now be a Lib Dem.
In the end I was activated by the social democracy of New Labour, on
a prospectus that could easily have been written by Jenkins himself.
Consequently I have always seen the Lib Dems as political soulmates,
as indeed did the Labour leadership prior to the unexpected
landslide win in 1997.
However, since then it is ironic that many of the rank and file - in
both Labour and the Lib Dems - seem to be yearning for Utopia. The
Orange Book, a Lib Dem political makeover, generally well received
by the media, rediscovers a liberal belief in market mechanisms and
These are also New Labour beliefs (if we are to accept as true our
revised party constitution). And they are also Thatcherite beliefs -
as Jo Grimond declared in the 1980s (which David Laws, deputy Lib
Dem Treasury spokesman quotes in The Orange Book): "Much of
what Mrs Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph say and do is in the
mainstream of liberal philosophy."
It is reassuring for those who believe in a Left-of-centre consensus
that the modernisers within the Lib Dems are assuming greater
influence within the party. It is also reassuring that there is a
growing intellectual conscience around the centre of British
politics that will preserve the economic benefits of 1980s
liberalism, as part of a wider social reform.
So, what do the Lib Dems really stand for? Essentially the same as
New Labour - and not all that different to the (electable) wing of
the Conservatives. It's called the Thatcherite consensus.
Mike Allott, Eastleigh, Hants