I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative?

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012

Jonathan Calder has a typically thought-provoking post on his blog — Education: When did Kenneth Baker become a Liberal hero? — responding to Michael Gove’s leaked proposals to abolish GCSEs and re-introduce O-levels. Here’s his conclusion:

I have seen little reasoned argument against Michael Gove from Liberal Democrats today. Most seem locked in a mind-set where the world can be divided into sensible people who agree with us and ludicrous people who want to turn the clock back.

Just as with health (and let us pause for a moment to observe how much more deft Gove has been at bringing in his reforms than Andrew Lansley), we Liberal Democrats give the impression that we have arrived in power after 90 years in the wilderness with no higher ambition that maintaining the status quo. We need to do better than that.

Knee-jerk oppositionalism is an inevitable consequence when far-reaching reforms are proposed without discussion out-of-the-blue. But Jonathan is right that the Lib Dems are not on the front foot on education policy — in fact, we haven’t been since Ed Davey’s (simplistic but effective) ‘1p on income tax’ proposal at the 2001 general election.

As a centre party we all too often end up rooted to the spot, standing half-way between ‘producer interests’ and ‘consumer interests’. We’re not quite in favour of academies… so we’d re-name them to show we’re different really. We’re against the public school-perpetuated two-tier education system… but we’ve no proposals to end it. We say we want to empower parents… but we oppose free schools. We argue against educational inequality… but we’re content to let the school catchment area housing market discriminate against poorer children.

If Lib Dems really want to know why Michael Gove is regarded as a success as Education secretary, the answer’s quite simple: he’s worked out what he believes, and he’s developed a narrative that resonates with many parents and the public. Shouting him down might make the party feel better, but it gets the Lib Dems no closer to developing our own solutions.

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34 comments

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012 at 10:55 am. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012 at 10:55 am. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Andy Emmerson on June 22, 2012 at 10:56 am. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Adam Bell on June 22, 2012 at 10:57 am. Reply #

I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? | http://t.co/svrr8gAg http://t.co/FudgPSju via @stephentall

by Andy Emmerson on June 22, 2012 at 10:58 am. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Zadok Day on June 22, 2012 at 11:01 am. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Mike Bird on June 22, 2012 at 11:16 am. Reply #

Great piece as per by @stephentall http://t.co/53Ruydx2 – Why are LDs so conservative?

by Mike Bird on June 22, 2012 at 11:16 am. Reply #

Great piece as per by @stephentall http://t.co/53Ruydx2 – Why are LDs so conservative?

by Louise Shaw on June 22, 2012 at 11:19 am. Reply #

Great piece as per by @stephentall http://t.co/53Ruydx2 – Why are LDs so conservative?

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012 at 11:20 am. Reply #

Great piece as per by @stephentall http://t.co/53Ruydx2 – Why are LDs so conservative?

by Andrew Tennant on June 22, 2012 at 11:25 am. Reply #

Great piece as per by @stephentall http://t.co/53Ruydx2 – Why are LDs so conservative?

by Nick Thornsby on June 22, 2012 at 11:28 am. Reply #

Great piece as per by @stephentall http://t.co/53Ruydx2 – Why are LDs so conservative?

by Andy Emmerson on June 22, 2012 at 11:35 am. Reply #

I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/PtoAN3fb

by BexhillBattleLibDems on June 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by Jonathan Calder on June 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/e7TCLg1n

by David Bertram on June 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm. Reply #

"@stephentall: New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/tOaLJXRL"fantastic stuff

by Lib Dem Life on June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/wU5Ri7Cv

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm. Reply #

[…] as Jonathan Calder makes clear in his brilliant blog post on the subject. I agree with Jonathan and Stephen Tall, who also agrees with Jonathan! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Leave a Comment by Greenwich […]

by Gove cat amongst Lib Dem pigeons « Greenwich Liberal on June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/HzSIq74Z

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm. Reply #

I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? | http://t.co/z7NpxFx5 http://t.co/Gbr7O5YJ via @stephentall

by Mark Thompson on June 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm. Reply #

I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? | http://t.co/3dv9zPRB http://t.co/qumBg3Wf – just saying no is not eno…

by Chris Richards on June 22, 2012 at 6:12 pm. Reply #

I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? | http://t.co/z7NpxFx5 http://t.co/Gbr7O5YJ via @stephentall

by Matt Lake on June 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm. Reply #

New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/A0nQnYu6

by Stephen Tall on June 22, 2012 at 6:26 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by Tim Montgomerie on June 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by Lucia Hamilton Jones on June 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by angelique on June 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by Mark Sutherland on June 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm. Reply #

RT @stephentall New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/dtqLPMGB

by HouseofTwitsLib on June 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm. Reply #

RT @stephentall New from me > I agree with Jonathan Calder: why are the Lib Dems so conservative? http://t.co/qINdFyIv

by House Of Twits on June 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by Mike Bird on June 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by Mike Jordan on June 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm. Reply #

More evidence of grassroots LDem concern at roadblock role that Clegg&Co are playing inside the Coalition against Gove http://t.co/lwRwOhEJ

by Jaikiranmaram on June 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm. Reply #

"we Lib Dems give the impression that we have arrived in power with no higher ambition than maintaining the status quo" http://t.co/7SfoIZYf

by tomdaylight on June 22, 2012 at 8:15 pm. Reply #

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