According to recent research done by BMG, there are 10 distinct ‘clans’ of British voters based on the values that they hold. It was no surprise to me that I belong to the ‘Orange Booker’ clan, but many on social media appeared more confused.
So just what is an Orange Booker? According to BMG:
‘Orange Bookers combine centre ground views on the economy with liberal views on society and immigration… Orange Bookers are some of the most supportive clansmen of free trade, free movement and multiculturalism.’
Pretty spot on, but, there is plenty of room for expansion. Outside of this research, the term has floated about politics ever since the publication of The Orange Book in 2004, but in many respects has been misrepresented by its critics, particularly on the left (‘Free market fundamentalists’ and ‘yellow Tories’ being the sneers of choice). As Co-chair of Liberal Reform, the group that exist to promote Orange Book thinking within the Liberal Democrats, to me the term is a rich one that reflects the best of the British liberal tradition.
So, what does Orange Booker mean to me specifically?
- We like markets, so long as they’re competitive: Orange Bookers believe strongly in the power of the market as a method of organising the economy. This is due not only because markets deliver efficiency and effectiveness, but also because they are based on liberty. Freedom of choice is at the heart of everything Orange Bookers believe in, and where the market enhances that choice, we are entirely supportive. For this reason we take a dim view of monopoly power (more so than ‘neoliberals’ or ‘libertarians’, who, while strong on the inefficiencies of state monopoly, are less concerned when it comes to private monopoly). We also believe the state has a role to play in ensuring that markets remain competitive, like the great work done by Jo Swinson and Ed Davey during the Coalition to make getting a better utilities deal easier.
- We are internationalists: As stated by the BMG research, Orange Bookers are passionate believers in the power of free trade, free movement and multiculturalism. We are generally supportive of cross-border cooperation (but are inherently sceptical of the centralisation of political power that often comes with this), and find the idea of nationalism particularly objectionable. Our patriotism comes from pride in our nation’s’ advancement or completion of liberal goals, like ending the slave trade, votes for women and unlocking marriage for same sex couples. Orange Bookers are not definitively pro or anti-EU, but whichever side of this divide they fall on, they support a future UK/EU relationship that embraces their internationalist values.
- We are anti-paternalist: We take very seriously the idea of JS Mill’s ‘harm principle’, whereby the only justification for intervention in an individual’s actions is to prevent harm to others. For that reason, we reject any attempt by the government to limit individuals’ choices where they only affect themselves, whether that be the decision to smoke, to take drugs or to eat and drink unhealthily. We are however strong believers in the power of education, both in the pitfalls in unhealthy living and beyond. Education is one of the best ways to promote social mobility, hence the efforts of Orange Bookers like David Laws and Nick Clegg to introduce the pupil premium during the Coalition.
- We are social liberals too: The belief in an individual’s right to make their own choices as to how they conduct their lives without oppression make us natural supporters of socially liberal objectives, from LGBT+ rights to feminism. We believe this goes hand-in-hand with our support for economic liberalism, as a market can only be considered ‘free’ when all individuals are free to partake in it.
- We are passionately anti-poverty. We recognise that poverty inhibits personal freedom, and it is for this reason that, not only do we champion free trade and free markets, recognising how these mechanisms have lifted millions out of poverty over the past century, we are also supportive of the redistribution of wealth, so long as this is done in a fair manner. We also believe that combined with our internationalism, our desire to eradicate poverty means we are supportive of both international development and overseas aid spending, as long as this is done in a smart and hard-headed way.
I’m an Orange Booker, and maybe you are too. That’s why Liberal Reform are working hard to make Orange Book politics a reality. We are one of the fastest growing groups in the Liberal Democrats, and we’d love to have you on board. As the Labour and Tory parties turn increasingly towards socialism and nationalism, it’s time for Orange Bookers to return to their spiritual home, the Liberal Democrats.