Dan Hodges has written about a fight going on for the heart of the Labour movement. He should try being in the Lib Dems.
There’s a battle going on in the party at the moment. It’s not as simple as left vs right, and it’s not a battle over the NHS, cuts, or tuition fees. It’s all of the above, and more. It’s a battle for what the Lib Dems stand for, believe in, and campaign on, in the political landscape in which the party finds itself.
You might think that this is negative, but that’s not the case.
Since their inception, the Lib Dems have simply been fighting to let people know they exist.
For years we have been stuck on a electoral treadmill, desperately trying to get people elected as best we can. That is no longer enough. It’s eight years since David Laws and Paul Marshall published their controversial Orange Book, and the debates going on within the Lib Dems are long overdue.
Groups have been set up within the party to reflect this change. The left-leaning Social Liberal Forum has seen a huge spike in membership since the formation of the coalition, and has run impressive conferences and campaigns.
Liberal Reform (of which I am a founding member,) is newer, and represents the centrist, Orange Book wing of the party. It has also attracted significant membership and support, bringing some balance to proceedings. In addition there is also the libertarian Liberal Vision, and the frankly bizarre Liberal Left.
There exists a serious risk that at the time when the party should be proving itself a valuable member of the government, and fighting to save Britain’s economy, we end up naval-gazing. However, it will be a lot easier to prove ourselves as part of the government now and in the future if we do so from solid internal foundations.
There’s also another, more uncomfortable, truth that Lib Dem activists and parliamentarians are preparing for.
Unfortunately, come 2015, it is likely that the party will have to choose a new leader. Those with influence are trying to plant their flag already, and jockey the right people into position.
Internal battles may be far more good-natured and friendly than those conducted by our colleagues in the Conservative and Labour parties, but have no doubt that they are as fraught.
The results of what is happening now will dictate the positioning of the Liberal Democrat party for years to come.