Tuesday, February 26, 2019

David Boyle: The Lib Dems should act decisively and join The Independent Group now

My old friend David Boyle has stirred things up with an article on the Guardian website this morning:
So this is what I believe Vince Cable should do. As soon as possible, the Lib Dems should join the Independent Group in parliament. I suggest this partly for the good of the independents. 
Joining the 11 Lib Dems (plus Stephen Lloyd, who resigned the whip recently, but who would surely then follow suit) would double their size and give them momentum. The new group would then be almost two-thirds of the way to becoming the third largest party (currently the SNP with 35 seats), and closer to the public funding attached for policymaking. 
I am not suggesting that there should cease to be a Lib Dem group. I see no reason why they should not be a party in their own right, as the Co-operative party manages to be within Labour.
Debate has been raging in the comments on a post on Liberal Democrat Voice ever since.

Last time I met David we reminisced about the sense of being a moral crusade that the Lib Dems had in the 1990s under Paddy Ashdown.

But I suspect that, like me, he fell in love with the Liberal Party and has always seen the Lib Dems as a something of a flag of convenience.

Certainly, for myself, I am surprised whenever someone replies to one of my regular complaints that the Lib Dems have no philosophy by quoting the preamble to our constitution as though it is a knockdown argument.

To me that preamble has always read like what it was: something put together in a hurry in an attempt to please two very different parties that were merging. How you apply it to an issue to find the principled Lib Dem view, I have no idea.

But wouldn't the distinctiveness of the Lib Dems be lost if we threw in out lot with The Independent Group?

David's reply to that is:
The truth is – though it breaks my heart to say so – the Lib Dems these days have no obvious distinctiveness to lose, and must face up to that.
If that sounds harsh, I find I wrote something similar the other day:
Commentators used to accuse the Liberal Party of living off the intellectual capital of the Grimond years. Sometimes I wonder if the Lib Dems have any intellectual capital at all.
But I won't be supporting David's call. In part because I am not sure the TIGgers will last: in part because I am not sure they will allow us to join. But mostly because I am far from convinced that they offer much of a way forward.

As I wrote in the same post:
Just for starters, we need to rebuild local democracy and our public services, reform our democracy and put the environment at the heart of our politics. 
Is this really the group do it?
You could, or course, ask the same thing of the Lib Dems.

It may be that the Lib Dems' position is so precarious that we will be forced into seeking such an arrangement if the TIGgers remain on the scene for a few years,
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
But there is a deal of ruin in a political party and the Lib Dems are not finished quite yet.


Phil Wainewright said...

Personally, I always keep an excerpt from the preamble in my pocket as a talisman against the siren voices of those of a different political stripe. If only Nick Clegg and some of his colleagues had done the same during the Coalition years, we might be in a different place today.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to discern any real passion or enthusiasm within the Party these days beyond the fervour for a second referendum. When taht is settled, one way or the other, what *will* they care about, given that our policy review and approval programme is so very random. The famous Preamble seems to be most energetically used by the omnipresent, few nut noisy, adherents of diverse substances and behaviours (separately or collectively) to compel the Party to act as a Trojan (and Hobby!) Horse to place themselves beyond any reasonable scrutiny or criticism.

I find it amusing, too, how tribalistic those on LibDem Voice who are normally so against tribalism in politics are being about TIG. #

A depressing time to be a longstanding member.

Phil Beesley said...

The word "if" does not appear in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution; "but" appears twice and "when" once. The preamble is more decisive or imperative about liberalism than anything in more practical documents. It helps people to understand how Lib Dems approach the world, before pragmatism is necessary, before the author writes "but" in a policy statement.

When the Council for Social Democracy was established, Liberals could look at the CSD and see an instinctive liberal who had helped implement Liberal Party policy (Jenkins), two prominent social democrats with liberal tendencies and that other bloke who has since made a contribution to liberalism.

The TIG outfit is nothing like the CSD. For a start the small L liberals, of the three MPs most displaced within their former parties, two are ex-Tories.
We can assume that the TIGs are badly informed or trying to avoid media attention. 15 years ago I attended a conference where one of the contributors was a company called "/net", which for multiple reasons is one of the dumbest names for a tech firm. You can't find it using a search engine. "The Independent Group" is almost invisible to search engines.