Letter No 11c by Mike Allott: back to directory


21 September 2004


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 consumer power.

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