Left or Right…? Bored now.

by Stephen Tall on November 27, 2005

I have slated the media before for their tired attempts to polarise British politics into sterile ‘left’ or ‘right’ cliches.

So it’s been with escalating exasperation that I’ve followed the letters pages of Liberal Democrat News, in which various correspondents – over several monotonous weeks – have been knocking seven shades of shite out of each other over the party’s future direction. Indeed, they’ve driven me to write in myself:

Dear Madam,

Enough already! Can Liberal Democrat News correspondents – whichever ‘wing’ of the party they have chosen noisily to represent – please call a truce to the increasingly petty tit-for-tat sniping in which they have been indulging via your letters pages?

I am bored with reading our party must either ‘drift left’ or ‘lurch right’ if we are to stand any chance of appealing to those who have voted Labour or Tory in the past. This is a false choice. As members of a party which rightly disdains the über-simplistic binary labels of ‘left’ and ‘right’ we really ought to know better.

Let us all have the self-confidence, please, to champion liberal policies that will appeal to liberal-minded voters. And leave worrying about their previous party allegiance to EARS.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Stephen Tall

It is of course vital that the party has a serious debate about its future direction. Not to do so will see us eclipsed either by Gordon Brown’s New-ish Labour or David Cameron’s Tory-lite brand. But the debate must be on our own terms.

At its heart must be how the Liberal Democrats would run the economy better. From this will flow how we can afford our priorities. What would a liberal health service look like? Surely not Labour’s centralised state-ist monolith? What would a liberal education system be? Surely not Labour’s prescriptive micro-managed curriculum? What would a liberal pensions policy be? Surely not Labour’s over-complex means-testing, or compulsory retirement age? And so on…

My point is simple: let’s work out our liberal response to the problems facing this country. Then we can worry about our targeting strategy confident that we have a manifesto which puts forward a liberal vision.