Thursday, 19 February 2009

Thoughts on the SLF.....

. Another major change in my time away has been the launch of the Social Liberal Forum. Below, Oranjepan asks me for my thoughts so I thought I had better cobble some together. He mentions in his comments that Charlotte Gore is unimpressed; which it has to be said hardly drops my jaw in shocked amazement. It is reassuring in this topsy-turvy world that some things don't change; 6 ish weeks is a long time in life and politics but not that long. It's also nice to see that she hasn't lost a certain artistic flair and rhetorical flourish;

"So the day after I launch into a tirade of impotent lambasting against Lib Dem collectivism, the Lib Dem Collectivists decided to organise. Witness their hands tightening around the throat of liberty - whilst simultaneously cupping the balls of the Lib Dem party".

Now, let's go over to the blurb on the SLF site;

"The Social Liberal Forum exists to foster debate within and beyond the Liberal Democrats, with the aim of developing social liberal solutions and approaches which reflect these principles and which find popular support."

If ball-cupping is going on then it is alot more subtle than Charlotte suggests and in ascribing slightly conspiratorial tints to the project she is being disingenuous. In reality, what the SLF represents is a centre of gravity which people who are of a similar mind can orbit around; not an attempt at strangulation. Instead of organising as a membership club we see plans for;

  • a lecture series
  • a pamphlet series
  • speaker and discussion meetings around the country
  • campaign guides.
Hardly anything to give anybody sleepless nights. Charlotte, never one to stop torturing a point well-beyond it's provable worth, feels honour-bound to continue saluting the SLF's efforts compared to her "crappy effort to indoctrinate Lib Dems". She wonders what the point is, a question that could be easily switched round to 'what is the problem with an organisation so clearly orientated towards the promotion of debate'. Apparently the SLF is 'in control' of the Party in any case which suits her own and the libertarains self-stylisation as a band of noble rebels carrying the true flame.

However, as the SLF site itself makes clear liberalism is a complex historical beast and far from Charlotte's view that the Liberal Democrats are somehow unique in history as a two-headed hydra this has always been the case even before the fracturing and ideological split with socialism. Somewhere amid the confusion a coherent voice has to be found and the formation of the SLF is a welcome part of that process to my mind.


Charlotte Gore said...

I tend to think that efforts to increase pressure on the party from the left aren't helpful, from our party's point of view or the country's point of view.

I'm not impressed because it's all the same people that thought Make It Happen was disgracefully Thatcherite, that any attempt to have the Lib Dems anything other than a party dedicated to the needs and interests of 'the poor' and 'less fortunate' is heresy and treason.

So yes, some things never change, and it seems 'The Lib Dems' is one of them.

Darrell G said...


Yes but you would say that because you view the left as being intrinsically wrong so its kinda to be expected you feel anything they do would 'not be helpful'. Your attempts to portray this as a potential bloodless coup dont really fit the facts...

I think there is a total one-sidedness here because you assume; wrongly in my eyes, that a notion of social responsibility equates to a 'slavish dedication to the needs and interests of the poor' which, of course, it doesnt. Socialism chose that particular route because doctrainally it saw 'the poor' as the agents of social change but that does not mean social responsibility adds up to the same place.

Good to be back isnt it ;)

Charlotte Gore said...

Hmm, it's really more based on what they actually said. I don't see it as a coup, far from it - it's people who are losing their grip on the party trying to reinvigorate themselves.

God knows the left of the party needs to come up with some new ideas.

Darrell G said...


They cant both be in control and losing their grip....

However, on the wider issue of the left needing new ideas you know I agree but the left has needed new ideas for quite a long time, certainly in a general sense. To dismiss the SLF though is to dismiss the way new ideas get formed; usually in the heat of debate as well as practical politicking.....:)

Oranjepan said...

Aren't liberals about reconfiguring the terms of debate by setting our own boundaries and deciding our own priorities?

Left, right, left, right - sounds to me like marching to someone else's beat.

If you two represent the two opposing wings of the party I have no problem with that as it's quite easy to agree with either of you at any particular time.

In fact I enjoy listening to the resolute arguments from each direction as this helps me make up my own mind in any particular instance.