Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Have I earned Brian Micklethwait's “particular ire”?

I don't know what I said in response to Brian Micklethwait’s condemnation of the unpredictable and inconsistent Liberal Democrats (though if you want to know what I said you can read it on his site or on mine), but whatever it was it has prompted him to reply:

All parties are coalitions, but some more than others.

I stand by my prejudice about the Lib Dems being more coalition and less coherence than the other two. If all we knew about someone was that he was Labour, or Conservative, or Lib Dem, and nothing else, we all make better guesses about what the Conservative or the Labourite thinks than the Lib Dem, and that includes if a Lib Dem is doing the guessing. Of course we’d often be wrong about the Conservatives and Labourites, and perhaps more wrong in recent years, but Conservative and Labour opinions do have a vague pattern to them. We’d only randomly be right about the Lib Dems.

What do I base this on? Well, a lot of talking and a lot of listening, in the flesh and on the telly and in the newspapers, and now the blogs. Is there any actual survery evidence on this? Maybe. My prejudice, of course, is that it would support me, and not Tom Papworth.

As for those libertarian noises emerging from the Lib Dems, that’s entirely consistent with the above. They echo everyone’s opinions, including mine. That’s why they arouse my “particular ire”, when I’m in the mood to be irate about politicians that is, which is not always.

I just have the strong sense that similar arguments to this one are happening all over the political spectrum, on diametrically opposed blogs and chat rooms to this one, all about how the Lib Dems are the “best bet” for . . . whatever it is, regardless of what it is. Which party is closer to the [fill in the blank] ideal? Always: the Lib Dems, but only in the sense that there’ll always be a Lib Dem making those noises. There’ll be a Lib Dem making any noise you care to imagine.

Nick M’s original Samizdata comment confirms this prejudice, which is why I copied and pasted it. Is he wrong? Was he imagining it? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Brian Micklethwait on 01/09 at 08:59 PM

Well, he admits it's a prejudice, which is a start!

I maintain that it isn’t so easy to predict who stands where based on party. In mid-2003, were Mr. Micklethwait - unencumbered with prior knowledge – to have met Labour Party MPs Anne Clewyd and George Galloway, he would have found their positions somewhat diverse. Both New Labour and Cameron's Conservatives bear little resemblance to their forebears. One might argue that the Liberal Democrats are neither the party of Gladstone nor of Jenkins, but that only proves that all parties are unpredictable.

I have met Tory libertarians, imperialists and isolationists. US Republicans have neo-cons, paleo-cons and religio-cons. Democrats include hawks, doves, free-traders and isolationists. New Labour is devoid of any recognisable ideology.

Perhaps some real survey evidence would be useful; I'm sure there are research companies capable of carrying out the necessary quantitative and qualitative analysis, if only somebody has the cash with which to finance such a project. I suspect - regrettably - that the desire to be elected would be the strongest force in all politicians.

In the end, just as Hayek dedicated The Road to Serfdom "to the socialists in all parties", perhaps Mr. Micklethwait should welcome the libertarians in all parties, no matter how much they differ from their colleagues. It is through them that a libertarian consensus will arise.


Tristan said...

*grins* what have I started? ;)

Perhaps he's responding to all of us...

I've been thinking about this, and I think the problem is, despite having a general broad theme, we don't articulate it, especially on the ground...
Also, as a party which until a few years ago was ignored or considered on the verge of extinction, we have a lot of ground to make up when it comes to branding.

Bishop Hill said...

The problem as I see it is that you just don't seem to have many liberal policies. Mind you, this could be seen as a step ahead of the Conservatives who don't seem to have policies at all.