Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Factional vision - A reply to Mark Littlewood

. Mark Littlewood has started something of a debate on Liberal Democrat Voice. He is writing as a representative of Liberal Vision which is, I feel, is a factional platform within the party. It has it's own independent organisational structure and a quick visit to the page where you can sign-up to be a supporter reveals you don't even have to be a member of the Liberal Democrats to support Liberal Vision. It's Chairman, Mark Littlewood is self-appointed as is it's Director Chandila Fernando who as we all know is running for Party president.

Liberal Vision has it's own membership and supporter structure as explained in it's website FAQ's. It also offers internships so is willing to run it's own independent staff.

It has it's own programmatic aims, it hopes to;

"encourage the Liberal Democrats to adopt lower taxation, a smaller state and more personal freedom as key principles in its policy agenda."

It says that it does not take policy positions "at this stage" but seeks to "promote these ideals by proposing and supporting policies consistent with these aims and assisting candidates within the party who share them." So, we have a completely independent organisational structure, independent programmatic aims or at least aims to make the program of the Liberal Democrat's it's program yet Mark Littlewood insists Liberal Vision is not a factional platform but a 'think-tank'. I am sorry but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it most defiantly is a duck.

Not once does Mark have anything to offer people who rely on public services; in fact, they do not even rate a mention in his entire article which speaks volumes about his program. Rather coyly he is focused on tax cuts even for those who are on "relatively sizeable incomes". We all know who his Liberal Democrat party would be champion of then don't we? It would not be people on low incomes who still pay more as a share of their income in tax than the higher income brackets do; this is what makes Liberal Vision's broad-brush call for tax cuts so wrong. What they really amount too is growing social inequality, declining opportunity, undernourished and badly performing public services etc etc.

'Tough choices' about spending cuts amount to a slashing of public spending and the removal of a meaningful safety net for people. Mark has a one-sided view of what liberty actually is, if you can smoke in public then apparently you are free. In reality, material deprivation starves freedom of any meaning; nobody who is poor is free and there is no room in Mark's narrative for these issues. He wants to end a 'nannying state' but seemingly doesn't want to do anything about the punitive taxation imposed on smokers, for example.

He thinks that Liberal Vision's policies will 'engage a more sizable proportion' of the electorate but he is unlikely to engage with anybody who instinctively knows they will lose out under a Liberal Vision inspired Liberal Democrat party. Rather than build on our strength as a broad church which can incorporate so many different strands of thought and bring them together under one roof he wants to end that by having the party implement his 'maximum program' and is willing to organise in a factional way to achieve that; something that means there can be no comparison with an individual blogger arguing their case.

In short, adopting Liberal Vision's wholesale agenda would damage the party probably beyond repair; it would alienate a section of the members from it and the electorate too. It is the road off the edge of a cliff into a political abyss.


wit and wisdom said...

Well said. Littleworld is about as LD as John Redwood

Barrie Wood said...

The challenge is this. How to respond ? The Beveridge Group could become that vehicle it it acquired a nationwide membership base and did more than post articles on it's website.

A small-ish number of people could have a baleful influence upon the party. Littlewood would have us do a 360 degree political turn, thereby destroying the progressive coalition of support garnerd over the last three elections.

Anonymous said...

Barrie, I think you meant 180 degrees rather than 360?

wit and wisdom said...

THe way to respond is in true English style - through ridicule.

'Liberal Vests-on' is ridiculous because it is jumping back about 20 years to the height of the Tories' attack on the state.

As someone has pointed out elsewhere, they are setting out their message as 'either you agree with us or you are a dangerous reactionary'. There is no merit in dialogue with such an approach.

Darrell G said...

Hiya everybody,

Sorry for the late reply was very poorly last night...


The was I propose that we respond is this; we expose Liberal Vision for what they actually are and we pressure the leadership to actually either force Liberal Vision to 'come clean' or cease functioning as a secret faction and actually become a think tank...

Barrie Wood said...

Ooops 180 degrees it is Anon.

Darrell, clearly you and I agree on what LV needs to do. The social liberal wing of the party need to firstly defend the history of our party and, more importantly, promote ideas of our own. To simply oppose LV is not enough however.

Can I also say how encouraged I am to see someone else blogging on here from a left-leaning perspective. It encouraged me to re-enter the blogging fray. Keep up the good work Darrell !!

Hope you are feeling better today.

Darrell G said...


I completly agree that it is not enough to oppose; we need to develop and defend our ideas. Develop our ideas both by defending the past and learning from it. I am a little better thank you...i was glad to see you returned to blogging...thanks for the warm words :), keep up the good work too :)