There has been much discussion about Matthew Parris’ Spectator article about the state of the Party. A lot of it rings very true. The broad thrust of the argument is that the Lib Dems have abandoned the tough issues of the day, instead preferring to portray an attitude that could facetiously be described as being in favour of the “good” things, and against the bad, with little more depth than that.
In truth, it can often be even worse than that. Sometimes it feels as though the Party is not even sure what is good and what is bad.
Housing – good or bad? Well, our manifesto champions building 300,000 homes a year as a path to solving the housing crisis, but let’s be honest, many a local Lib Dem campaign puts opposition to housebuilding at its heart. How many Lib Dem votes will be won next May on the back of opposition to development? You can be fairly certain it will be more than those won on the back of demanding more homes.
Free trade – Good or bad? Well, if it’s free trade with the EU, then it’s clearly good, and we rally against a no-deal Brexit that will see prices rise for consumers, but if that free trade is with anyone else (America in particular), then that’s apparently bad, as ,with no hint of irony, that will mean cheaper goods for consumers. Yes, there may be a slightly more complex argument to be made about standards, but all too often that’s skipped over for an argument about prices.
Personal liberties – good or bad? Well, if you want to smoke cannabis, great, go right ahead, it should be legal to do that, but if your chosen vice is to smoke tobacco instead, or, heaven forbid, enjoy any sort of sugary soft drink, well that’s yet again a different matter, apparently. Legalise weed! Ban ‘junk’ food adverts before 9pm!
Before the Party can even start thinking about its ideological trajectory (which, let’s be clear, it should), it could do with tackling the inconsistencies that exist within its current outlook. Building a liberalism for the post-Covid era will take time, but the Party would save itself some effort if it did some work on being coherent first.