måndag 17 september 2007

Liberal Democrat Conference

For the first time for years, I will be away from Brighton during the LibDem conference. I like the LibDems. They are nice people, generous, worthy and well-intentioned. They are not greedy, or envious or bitter or over- ambitious. They are polite, they will listen and they are generally open to new ideas. They are exactly the kind of people who ought to be running the country. And with the largest number of LibDems in parliament since the end of World War 2, they might have been expected to make a big impact on the British political stage. Sadly they do not. Why could this be?

It seems to me that the Liberal Party lost its soul when it joined with the Social Democratic Party.

Liberalism was once a coherent political philosophy. It did not stand at a half-way point between the Left and the Right but in a triangular relationship to them. This was a good place to be. If you believe both Left and Right to be wrong, then a judicious mixture of the two is unlikely to be right. But that is what the Liberals espoused when they amalgamated with the Social Democrats, although this merely confirmed a tendency which had been gathering force since the end of World War 2.

The best thing the Liberal Democrats could do, both for themselves and the country, would be to examine the philosophy of their late nineteenth century predecessors and reflect on its relevance to our present troubles. It is just 101 years ago when a genuinely reformist Liberal government introduced a package of radical measures, including land reform, which would began the transformation of the country into a fairer society. Sadly, the First World War destroyed those hopes.

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