Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Council thinks that Zionist conspirators broke into his house to steal a single shoe of his. Seriously. “ARE ZIONISTS TRYING TO INTIMIDATE ME?” read his rather bonkers Facebook post on the subject.
I start my article on growing Lib Dem factionalism with this snippet to demonstrate clearly the madness that partisanship can lead to. And because elements of Mr Bukhari’s explanation for losing a shoe down the back of one of his sofas remind me, sadly, of some of what we see happening within the Liberal Democrats at present.
Basically, you have the left of the party and you have the Orange Bookers. Even during the Coalition, the discussion between both sides was rather civil, at least most of the time. However, post-election, the battle between the two groups threatens to become genuinely nasty. I thought about citing examples, but that would probably just make things worse; if you really want to understand what I’m talking about, simply go to the comments section under almost any Lib Dem Voice article written after the election.
I became a Lib Dem for two main reasons. The chief one is because I’m a liberal and the Lib Dems are the only explicitly liberal party we have in Britain. There are liberals in the Conservative and Labour parties, but one of those organisations exists to further the cause of conservatism, the other to further democratic socialism. I’m not interested in doing either of those things. The second reason I’m a Lib Dem is because I’m not someone who really joins anything most of the time. I’m a real individualist and don’t enjoy being in large groups; mostly because I don’t like other people speaking on my behalf. Thus the idea of joining some faction of a political party holds little appeal.
More to the point, the factionalisation of the Liberal Democrats in earnest would be the final death sentence of said party. Because both sides would be fighting for eight percent of the electorate between them. Which is rather silly when you stop and think about it.
I would be characterised as being on the Orange Book side of the party, but I like the fact that the left is there and voicing their opinion; I feel comfortable with the terms which frame the debate within the party. I just don’t like being told it’s “not my party”. Perhaps in the end, I will end up leaving. Not by penning another entry in what has become an enervating series of self-aggrandising articles, all of them inevitably entitled “Why I’m Leaving the Lib Dems”. I’d just let my membership renewal slip quietly and leave it there.
But I hope it never comes to that. Liberalism is in too perilous a state for liberals to be at war with one another. For the future of us all, I hope we can get back to healthy debate and get away from the pointless internecine conflict. Otherwise, we could end up like Asghar, blaming each other for missing footwear.
‘rather than identifying either with the Left or the Right as the pre- and post- war generations did, and do, today’s young combine the social liberal views of the Left (secular, internationalist, concerned about the environment, relaxed about lifestyle choices and family structures) and the classical liberal views of the Right (in favour of balanced budgets, low taxation, conditional welfare, personal responsibility, individual choice and entrepreneurship) without seeing any contradiction between the two.’
The above words are just about how I feel and why I have kept them .
I felt the Lib Dems didn’t push the ‘social side’ in coalition (or the heart as some said), and too much of the ‘orange’ book (what ever that means )/classical (head??)- possibly viewed as ‘right wingish’ by many appeared to be allowed free reign.
IMO – the social side needs more highlighting……… That is what I will be pushing for as a re-joiner. I will work with others to push for this………..this doesn’t mean I or others start civil wars. I think you may underestimate liberals.
It is interesting how violent some of the sentiment within the party appears to be becoming, given how close the two putative leaders’ platforms and rhetoric appear to be.
My take is that this is because we have had very few leadership races since Kennedy resigned in which there was a straight left-right choice; the nearest was Huhne-Clegg — but all the contests we have had seem to me to have focused on personality, not politics.
Therefore, party members with strong (maybe unreasonably strong, I couldn’t comment) opinions are not finding that leadership candidates – who are usually seeking to unite the party and draw in supporters from all wings, often leading to a lot of ‘cross-dressing’ – voice what they are feeling. So they go guerilla to express their feelings because their own personal psychodrama of LibDem politics is not being acted out for themm by the candidates.
It is interesting how violent some of the sentiment within the party appears to be becoming, given how close the two putative leaders’ platforms and rhetoric appear to be
I think it’s classic rationalisation. Same as when you make a large purchase, you start to try to convince yourself why it was the right thing to do / it was better than the alternatives.
Liberal Democrats like to think of themselves as logical and rational. Therefore if they pick candidate A over candidate B, it must be for a logical, rational reason, right? So they have to find rationalisations for why candidate A is better than candidate B.
Now for Labour supporters this is fairly easy, as the candidates are (at least in style, in substance maybe not so much) very different, so it is easy to clearly say why you think your preferred candidate is the best, while still admitting the other candidates have good points too.
But when candidate A and candidate B are practically identical, rationalising a choice of the one over the other requires an obsessive focus on the most minute differences. And so it becomes impossible to see the other candidates’ good points, as any points of similarity are ignored in the quest to find a rationalisation for why, out of two to-all-intents-and-purposes identical candidates, you chose A and not B.
Hence the smaller the differences between candidates, the more vicious will be the fighting between their supporters, as each side tries harder and harder to find reasons to rationalise having picked that side rather than the other.
David Murray says
It is noticeable that there are a dozen or so people who feel the need to comment on every thread on LDV, many times off-topic, as they promote their own brand of ‘personal psychodrama’, to use Matt’s words. As the public face of LDV, it may give the impression that their views represent mainstream thinking on Lib Dem issues, so the thoughtful comments by Nick Tyrone are very welcome! Good luck to Centre Forum.
Taxi for New Member says
Agree with this whole-heartedly. And it isn’t just about the economic arguments where the ‘debate’ has become extremely aggressive.
There seem to be more than a few people who say they’re liberal, but then verbally assault those who hold different opinions, rather than debate those opinions. This stifles debate.
I joined the LibDems after the 2015 election. I’d hoped I’d joined a liberal party, one which could accommodate a wide range of views and which broadly reflected my political views. After just a few weeks reading LDV and monitoring some LD twitter stuff, I think I’ve made a mistake. Sadly, the LibDems just aren’t that liberal after all.
Please do not make the mistake of thinking that lib dem voice comment threads represent the mainstream of lib dem opinion; most of the regulars there are not even lib dem members and have driven the more thoughtful voices away. Sadly the management of lib dem voice prefers to let these people screech about free speech than have a sensible moderation policy.
Christine Brett says
Taxi for New Member – please don’t think that LDV reflects the views of Liberal Democrats generally. Sadly it seems increasingly to reflect the views of a few individuals who take every opportunity they can to rubbish Nick Clegg and all that the Liberal Democrats achieved. I didn’t vote for Nick as leader but I am appalled by most of the regular commentators on LDV – by their language, their intolerance and their bile. It’s a pity they cannot demonstrate even 100th of the grace shown by Nick Clegg. So I don’t comment and I suspect I represent a large number of readers but it’s really important to me that you don’t let LDV persuade you that you made the wrong decision in joining the Liberal Democrats. You might change your mind for other reasons but not for this. Perhaps it’s a measure of how Liberal we are that the majority of us tolerate these verbal tantrums. Perhaps we should speak out more but most of us have a life!
Steve Davenport says
Call me old-fashioned but back in the day proper political factional infighting consisted of Blairites and Brownites in a state of covert warfare and constant Machiavellian scheming against each other. Big political figures sniping at the other side through off the record media briefings whilst maintaining the smiles for the cameras.
Nowadays it seems a few members’ comments on Lib Dem Voice is evidence of a serious divide opening up within the Liberal Democrats. Sad indictment of the state of the affairs if that’s the best that can be offered by way of an inter-party civil war.
I’ve made the odd comment myself recently on LDV and I’d have to say the views I’ve expressed there are representative of exactly one person – moi – and absolutely nothing can be read into them about the state of the Liberal Democrat party.
Big fan of the blog Nick but on this occasion you’ll need to shed some insights into the “nasty” stuff tantalisingly alluded to to persuade me that a party already on the brink is about to properly implode out of existence.
Steve Davenport says
Seeing some of the unpleasant stuff now on social media so would have to amend previous comment and agree Lib Dem future is not rosy if this stuff continues after a new leader is elected.
Jonathan Pile says
Nick I think you are reflecting the alarm of many on the orange book side of the party who have been in the ascendancy for the last 5 years and really since the defenestration of Charles Kennedy. Coming from the other side as a social liberal I would to support your call for a pluralist and inclusive party. Sadly many social liberals have felt ignored and railroaded during the coalition and deeply conflicted and unhappy about decisions taken. We are frankly angry at the massacre of the party caused by broken promises and the failure of all those cunning plans. I along with 400+ people called a year ago for Nick Clegg to stand down to save the party and took some flak for it but of course now feel vindicated. I hope that in future both wings of the party will be able to contribute equally and we have a more balanced and united policy, which will be a rejection of the Tory Coalition policies foisted on the party via the coalition agreement. tuition fees and bedroom tax are two bad policies to ditch. A more Democratic Party which reflects the views of all members not join one lobby group.
Tony Harms says
Poor Asghar. He’ll be more upset when someone breaks in to return the shoe. At least now he has the chance to buy a new pair.