In recent weeks, both Ed Miliband and David Cameron have had a crack at ‘moral markets’, and yesterday Nick Clegg tried this season’s in vogue political issue on for size. The Lib Dem leader found it suited him the best.
Clegg, speaking in the City, offered both a “liberal diagnosis”, and, more importantly, a “liberal remedy”, to the problems currently facing our economy. A lot of this was based around the idea of a “John Lewis economy”, in which workers own shares and have a greater say in the running of the companies that employ them. Clegg hit all the right notes when he spoke of a “redistribution of power”, while rightly calling capitalism “one of history’s great success stories”.
Such language is welcome, and should chime well with the majority of party members. For every SDP-statist-sandal wearer that remains, there are increasing numbers of ‘real’ liberals, who believe in markets and the freedoms and responsibilities that those bring, making their voices heard within the Liberal Democrats.
One of the biggest criticisms from party activists is not that Nick Clegg and his fellow ministers have stopped believing in the right things, just that the bonds of collective responsibility often stop them expressing them in the manner some members would like. However, on the economy, while Cameron and Miliband continue to haggle over semantatics and detail, Clegg took the political zeitgeist and put his own distinctly liberal touch on it in a manner that should please vast swathes of his activist base.
A prime example of this is a friend of mine whom I met after the speech, and who had been at the event. He is definitely on the left of the party and hardly a classic Cleggite. However, he declared the speech one of the best he had seen Clegg deliver. Equally, I haven’t seen any discontent from my more orange friends, who are pleased Clegg continues to back the market economics that are a core component of liberalism.
More of this, and across the party and the country at large many more will find themselves agreeing with Nick once again.