by Stephen Tall on December 3, 2007
This was one of the questions asked by YouGov in the party members’ poll commissioned by Sky News. I suspect I wasn’t alone in finding it hard to answer, as none of the eight choices on offer included the word ‘liberal’, a striking omission when surveying members of the Liberal Democrats. Instead, answers ranged from ‘very left-wing’ to ‘very right-wing’. (Click on the image to see my screen-shot.)
It seems appropriate, then, to ask the question in a slightly more sophisticated way than YouGov attempted… So the options you can plump for in this poll – see the right-hand column – are:
* A socially liberal and economically liberal party
* A socially liberal and economically centrist party
* A socially liberal and economically left-of-centre party
* A socially conservative and economically liberal party
* A socially conservative and economically centrist party
* A socially conservative and economically left-of-centre party
Of course the terminology will mean different things to different people. I’m interpreting the definitions in a fairly conventional way: a social liberal thinks the state has no business interfering in citizens’ private lives; a social conservative thinks society will be stronger if it does.
An economic liberal will seek to minimise the role of the state in the delivery of public services; an economic centrist will favour more pragmatic case-by-case solutions; and an economic left-of-centre voter is likely to believe the state (whether by local or central means) is key to the delivery of public services.
Feel free to argue against those interpretations in the comments box. But I hope at least you’ll feel a bit more comfortable opting for one of those six definitions than I was when I looked at YouGov’s forced-choice question.
(For the record, in the end I opted for ‘Centre’ in the YouGov poll – not because I think that’s an accurate description of my liberal views, but because I reckoned the only point of the question was to try and manufacture an artificial ‘Lib Dem members are split between right and left’ story.)