‘The LibDems are no longer Liberal’ and other stories…

This blog is from Kavya Kaushik, about debates within the party.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Being a Liberal Democrat means we’re in this beautiful place of free speech and democracy. The Lib Dems hold party democracy in high regard and members are fortunate enough to voice opinions directly to the party as and when we want.

Like the great British public, the Lib Dems love moaning. In the 21st century, we are lucky enough to have Twitter to voice every single grumble for other politicos to read. Yet, I’ve noticed a trend amongst Lib Dems. The following is a hypothetical scenario that I believe some of you may recognise.

Someone has decided that it is absolutely essential that the Liberal Democrats have a policy on an obscure subject that the rest of the country don’t really care about. The Conference Committee decides it’s a slow policy year so it’s gotten through to be debated at conference. Here’s an example: Zumba dance classes to be compulsory for all under-15s as a way to combat childhood obesity.

At this point, a third of the party will take to Twitter to voice their anger and frustration that the party is “losing its Liberal values”. The second third will also take to Twitter to voice their support for this exceptional policy that is “reiterating strong Liberal values”. The final third will be too busy knitting/beard grooming to care about this irrelevant policy.

The first group will then threaten to resign over the party’s plan to debate Zumba dance. ‘It is a terrible erosion of liberty etc etc’ and we will lose members. The second group will read these tweets and then threaten to resign because other members have a different interpretation of liberalism. The third group will continue to knit/twiddle their moustaches and sigh in exasperation because we’re not being liberal any more. They may skip their delivery round.

While all this Twitter drama unfolds: the Conservatives will release a populist policy; Labour will publicise a case study of the cuts hurting someone vulnerable; and Guido/Liberal Conspiracy will live blog “high profile defections” of people in the Lib Dems fighting about Zumba dancing. Nick Clegg will talk about income tax and no one will notice because absolutely every Lib Dem is fighting over “the definition of Liberalism” and Zumba dancing. No one will report our income tax policy.

My point is that, basically – liberalism is a broad church. A lot of stuff is defined as liberal and we should embrace that. We should embrace the diversity of opinion within our party as it echoes the diversity of the public’s opinion. We have enough of a battle as Lib Dems to get the public to see what we do in Government. Let’s spend some energy attacking other parties instead of ourselves all the time.

We’re lucky that we’re in a party where we have the freedom to threaten to resign once a week. But please be aware – we’re not always going to agree 100%. Let’s accept that, move on, and work together to make Britain liberal. Even if everyone has different interpretations for what “liberalism” means.

Kavya Kaushik likes cats and long walks on the beach. Talk to her on twitter @Kavya_Kaushik.

This article is solely the view of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Liberal Youth, the Liberal Democrats, not the editorship of the Libertine.

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7 thoughts on “‘The LibDems are no longer Liberal’ and other stories…

  1. Erchie says:

    This is kidding yourself and I will give ypu one piece of evidence as to why the Liberals are managerial despots like the Tories & Labour.

    During the Scottish Conference “Yes Scotland”, the cross-party campaign for a Yes vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum wished to take a stall at conference.

    They were refused. So committed to democratic and Liberal principles are the Party that not only did thy refuse a chance for the membership to engage directly with these people, they refused point blank to CONSIDER a coalition with the SNP if a Referendum Bill was on the cards.

    No. The Party in not Cinderella, it is just another Ugly Sister

  2. Euan Davidson says:

    @Erchie Can you tell me the last time the SNP allowed an organisation almost totally dominated by an opposition party at their conference? It is not illiberal to not allow your electoral opponenets platforms at your own events.

    • Erchie says:

      Given that the SNP allow the Press to their conferences then they are always letting the opposition in.

      So you do not think there are Liberals who wish o discuss the Independence referendum? Or who were not revolted by the illiberal positions of Tavish and Nicol?

      The last conversation I had about this was with a Green, a couple of Labour, a Tory and three Liberals. Only one of the Labour people was against Independence, and he was in favour of a more Federal UK.

      The Party Leadership has failed the membership

      • Did you consider that perhaps that the reason all the “Liberals” you were speaking to supported independence was because said “Liberals” were the only ones who can stand speaking to you?

        I always find it amusing when Cybernats claim that the SNP is given a raw deal by the media. I’m sorry, did you miss the part where your party got endorsed by The Sun then won the first ever majority in the Scottish Parliament?

  3. Katrina says:

    There are a number of errors in your piece.
    1. You don’t have to be a Lib Dem to enjoy free speech and democracy. Our political system allows that. If you mean to say that the party allows free speech and democracy then you are still wrong. At the Autumn conference the party leadership made it a point to make jokes on stage about the left of the party who disagreed with them.

    2. Your second sentence seems to suggest that party democracy is a privilege.

    3. Lib Dems are receiving a proper kicking by voters. There is “moaning” and then there is genuine dissent. If people like you confuse the two then UKIP will win the day.

    • In a political party, you do have to be in the Lib Dems in order to have free speech from within that party because the other parties tend not to take kindly to members being negative about current policy or leadership and actively try to suppress this kind of thing. Lib Dems on the other hand, tend to acknowledge the grievance and try to deal with it as legitimate criticism (for the large part) and seek to use it to improve policy.

      Kavya is right on this one.

  4. Andrew Martin says:

    Fantastic. Spot on. In these difficult times, we should focus on defending our party (but this doesn’t mean that we can’t have internal debate).

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