An Open Letter To The Labour Party

I am a left-winger. I went to an anti-poll tax protest, by myself, when I was (I think) eight (I had to go home early because it went past my bedtime). I think that the two greatest governments of the last seventy years were the Atlee government and the first Wilson government. I’ve been a Guardian reader since before primary school (albeit with occasional dalliances with the Independent). I’ve been hugged by Billy Bragg at anti-fascist rallies and devoured Tony Benn’s Arguments For Socialism when I was in school. I wanted to join Young Labour when I was in primary school. I’m a member of Amnesty and Greenpeace, I’ve played anti-fascist benefit gigs, delivered leaflets for Hope Not Hate. I’ve been on the dole, and I’ve worked in the NHS. I love Mark Thomas, Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy. A few years ago a few online friends and I had a detailed discussion about Margaret Thatcher – specifically trying to draw up a rota so that those who wished to dance on her grave would not be inconvenienced by those who wished to piss or shit on it. I’m a lefty.

I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, but the first two times I voted for them – in 1997 and 2001 – I did so with a sense of residual guilt because of having been raised all my life to believe that the reason Thatcher won in 83 and 87 was because the SDP split the left vote. It’s only over the last six or seven years that I’ve defined myself as a Liberal Democrat (and more recently as a liberal) rather than as a disaffected Labour supporter.

In short, working with the Tories is about as appealing to me as testicular cancer, and while I see the need for the coalition, I am very, very dubious about it. I am precisely the sort of person, in fact, that Labour should be trying to win over.

Now I’ll be frank – no matter what, I’m not going to vote Labour in the next election, because the last government was so outright evil. I simply won’t support mass-murdering torturers who, among other things, removed the right to a duty lawyer when arrested, brought in 28-day detention without trial, made it politically acceptable to blame immigrants for eveything, and destroyed huge swathes of the NHS ( in the first ten years of the Labour government, on average more than two psychiatric beds a day were lost – at one point when I was working at a hospital, we had ten more psychiatric patients on our ward than we had beds for).

But I might be persuaded to vote Labour in the election after that, if I happened to live in a Labour/Tory marginal. And if the next election is fought under a preferential system, as I sincerely hope, then you might well want me to give you my second preference. And even if neither of those is the case, it’s entirely possible we will have another hung parliament again relatively soon, in which you might want to work with the Liberal Democrats (and would need the support of the membership).

But rather than try to persuade me to look more favourably upon your party, most of what I’ve seen from both your Parliamentarians and your membership (with a few honourable exceptions among the members – if you’re a Labour member who I’m in any kind of regular contact with, I’m not talking about you here) has been designed to make me, and those like me, ever more determined to stick with the Lib Dems and stay as far away from Labour as possible.

Now, I’m not talking here about the normal politics – even though Labour would have made cuts were they in power, *of course* they’re going to attack the government for them now. That’s what opposition parties do. And I’m not talking about the normal dirty tricks, going back on manifesto commitments to get at the other side, accusations of gerrymandering and so on. That’s all par for the course, and while it’s not nice it’s something all parties are guilty of (I can’t actually think of any examples where the Lib Dems have done so, but I’m sure Labour can). I’m talking about a few main things. If you do these, you won’t have my support, but you’ll at least have my *respect*:

1) Admit you were wrong on civil liberties and the ‘war on terror’. These two things are areas where Labour got things so utterly, horribly, catastrophically wrong, both pragmatically and – what is worse – morally, that there can be no excuse. I *should not* be listening to Kenneth Clarke – a man whose last period in charge of justice and civil liberties I viewed at the time with horror – and thinking “It’s nice to have a moderate in this job after those horrific authoritarian Labour ministers”. No amount of apologies and meae culpae can make up for the horrors inflicted by the last government, but if delivered sincerely enough they might at least persuade us that you won’t do it again.

2) Stop dismissing the gains the Lib Dems got out of the coalition agreement. The *LAST* thing you want is for people to start thinking the Tories aren’t really so bad. All that will achieve is all those who avoided voting Tory last time because of scary folk-memories of Thatcher (a diminishing number anyway) thinking “Well, this government weren’t so bad, and since the Lib Dems had no real influence I’ll just vote Tory this time”. A HUGE amount of your support is predicated on “Ooh, Tories, scary!”, so it’s in your interest to give the Lib Dems credit for as many ‘nice’ things as you can from the coalition government – even (or perhaps especially?) when they weren’t Lib Dem ideas. That way those who like the current government will at least not vote Tory over Lib Dem next time (I assume everyone’s agreed that a Tory majority would be even worse) while those who don’t like it will turn away from the Lib Dems and towards Labour because they had so much influence and it stil turned out badly.

3) and this is the most important… STOP IT WITH THE HOMOPHOBIC SHIT, RIGHT NOW!. The constant ‘jokes’ about Cameron and Clegg being ‘in a civil partnership’ are, frankly, sickening. No true Liberal – no decent human being – will have the slightest respect for anyone making jokes like that. Anyone making that kind of joke is, firstly, showing themselves up as homophobic, and thus nobody any liberal (or any decent human being) could vote for, and secondly showing they have the mentality of a sniggering schoolboy, which doesn’t lead to a great deal of trust in their ability to run the country.

The coalition government presents Labour with a real opportunity to make themselves more attractive, both to future voters and to the Lib Dems as a future potential coalition partner. Instead, they appear to be sinking and trying to pull the Liberal Democrats down with them (and, it must be said, succeeding somewhat in the latter if opinion polls are to be believed).

Next election we *could* have a choice between the Tories, a Labour party who’ve admitted their mistakes and reformed, and a Lib Dem party with experience in government. Or we could have a choice between a still-unelectable New Labour, a Tory party who now appear like good guys because they can take credit for Lib Dem achievements, and a shattered Lib Dem party who the public at large see as a Tory appendage. The second option there does not sound like a good one for Labour *or* the Lib Dems – or for the left in general, or for the country.

I have a number of Labour friends who are convinced that the Labour party can be the party of Atlee and Bevan, the party that gave us the NHS and the Open University, the party that legalised homosexuality and ended the death penalty. That party is no longer my party, and I doubt it ever will be – too much of my political identity is now firmly Liberal, and that’s not going to change – but it was a good party, and a necessary voice in British politics. But at the moment, you’re the party of Iraq and torture, of ID cards and detaining people in psychiatric wards when they’re untreatable, of “British jobs for British workers” and homophobic jokes, of Hazel Blears and David Blunkett.

Take a look at yourselves in the mirror, and ask yourselves – “Is this really who I want to be?” You could be so much more…

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55 Responses to An Open Letter To The Labour Party

  1. yay, your post just reminds me of how boring regular politics is. yawn. and how limited the choice is for someone with progressive views.But aye, lets just keep talking, its getting better..

  2. scotty says:

    Err if Labour didn’t need you in 1997 and 2001 what makes you think they need you now? The Lib Dems are about to return to the electoral back waters from whence they came, they know it, Labour knows it and I susprct the Tories know it too.

    As for dirty tricks, the Lib Dems wrote the book-literally.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      “Err if Labour didn’t need you in 1997 and 2001 what makes you think they need you now?”

      Because in those years they had huge landslide majorities and the support and goodwill of almost everyone, and now they’re hated and despised…

  3. Matt says:

    It would have been polite of you to tell me that you were using the exact thoughts inside my head! I agree with every letter of this post. Labour have really lost their way, and it will take a lot for them to win people like us back. I can’t see any (except Diane Abbott) serious leadership candidates expressing anything anywhere near the right sentiments on these key issues. It’s all cheap plastic politics, nothing of substance at all.

  4. burkesworks says:

    Excellent article and reinforces why I won’t be going back to Labour in any haste.

    Whether I carry on supporting the LibDems, though, could be a moot point if the Coalition continues, ahead of that all-important spending review, to give jobs to the likes of tax dodger Philip Green and horrible Labour authoritarians like Field, Hutton, and now Alan Milburn (they only need Purnell for a complete set).

  5. Tim Footman says:

    Some very sound points, but hang on… are the bad civil partnership jokes really the most important bit? More than civil liberties? Really? Really? Labour governments decriminalised homosexuality, equalised the age of consent and brought in civil partnerships. Get some sense of proportion, for crying out loud.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      The civil liberties stuff is stuff that has been done and can’t now be undone. They can apologise for it and say they won’t do it again, but that’s all. The homophobia, on the other hand, is an ongoing thing.

      • Gavin Burrows says:

        “It’s worth noting that Labour did basically nothing on LGBT equality from 1997-2001.”

        As Mark Steel has pointed out, most leadership contenders have now backed down over the War now it’s safely over. So I can’t see why they can’t promise to repeal their own noxious anti-liberties legislation, even if they’re not actually in power to do it.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Ah, yes – what’s Steel’s phrase? “The long and glorious tradition of opposing unjust wars twenty years later”. Something like that.

          And I don’t see why they can’t do that either, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to…

          • Gavin Burrows says:

            Whoops! Wrong quote above! Still, looks like you followed me!

            When your best hope of civil liberties being restored is from the party who passed the Criminal Justice Act, things have indeed come to a pretty pass!

  6. Jae says:

    Excellent post. Sadly every time I’ve pointed out Labour homophobia I’ve been attacked for being “ungrateful” (as I’m gay and should accept all Labour members are not homophobic because of their “wonderful LGBT rights record”) or told not to be so hypersensitive.

    Of course if a Tory says such things they would jump on them in seconds as being a nasty, nasty homophobes.

    The double standards on this and other issues have turned me (I thought I’d be an easy target as, like you, I’m a left wing, anti-Tory liberal) very much against Labour. I would never be able to bring myself to vote for them whatever happens with the Coalition.

    • Dave Page says:

      Jae, yes, Labour are very defensive about their LGBT equality record. They even claim lifting the ban on LGBT people serving in the military as their idea, despite the Labour Government fighting to keep the ban.

      It’s worth noting that Labour did basically nothing on LGBT equality from 1997-2001. It wasn’t until their second term that they started doing things – and that was when cases were being brought under the Human Rights Act about discrimination. In the introductory speech to the Second Reading of the Gender Recognition Bill, Phil Woolas admitted that the legislation was being rushed in to avoid prosecution in EHCR.

      Now, I’m not going to claim that good things didn’t happen for LGBT people under a Labour Government, I’m just going to say that once the Human Rights Act was in place, they were pretty much inevitable even if Labour had lost the 2001 election…

      • Jae says:

        Oh I completely agree. Hence the quote marks around it. Sadly that sort of nuance just doesn’t seem to cut it with partisans. But it still needs to be said, thanks for putting it so diplomatically!

      • Gavin Burrows says:

        “It’s worth noting that Labour did basically nothing on LGBT equality from 1997-2001.”

        To be fair to them, they did make several attempts to repeal the notorious Section 28 during that period, despite opposition from the Lords and assorted right wing nuts.

        Not entirely sure why I’m trying to be fair to a bunch who stole away so many of our civil liberties, but even so…

        • Andrea Gill says:

          “Not entirely sure why I’m trying to be fair to a bunch who stole away so many of our civil liberties, but even so…”

          Because you are a better person than many of them?

  7. Graeme Hurst says:

    With your third point, and based off the comments on your Twitter, you seem to be referring to my JOKE asking if marriage would be legalised for Nick and Dave to be married.

    Somewhere, somehow, you’ve come to the absurd conclusion that is homophobic. Considering almost every newspaper, political commentator, and dare I say, politically aware member of the public was making the same association when the coalition was formed; I believe they and myself would not appreciate being called homophobic for a little humour. The whole idea they they should get married was formed after seeing they had such a good chemistry and responded well together. If such good chemistry had been shown between say a female Con leader and male Lib Dem leader, I and many others would still make the same association that they should be married.

    Case in point, to insinuate some slight humour is homophobic implies you would consider calling someone “black” be racist because people noticed their skin colour.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      It’s precisely because it’s something that’s been said by many people – rather than just yourself – that it’s annoying,

      It’s certainly not true that every politically aware member of the public was saying that – only those who find the idea of homosexuality risible.

      The comparison isn’t between this and calling a black person black, it’s between this and saying of a white person “hey, he likes watermelon and fried chicken, I bet he’s got a great sense of rhythm!”

      • Graeme Hurst says:

        Okay, hypothetical situation. If a female leader and male leader from both parties joined in a coalition and they both played up to the cameras in a friendly way, would you be offended if the media made comments saying they should be married?

        Because, that is all I and many over people using the gay marriage gag was implying. That they get on well together and they’d make a funny couple. Nothing else, nothing more, and certainly nothing homophobic.

        • MatGB says:

          certainly nothing homophobic [was intended]

          Corrected there for you. You didn’t mean for your joke to be offensive. Fine.

          Accept that it was offensive. It was offensive when Harman made it fromt he despatch box, it’s offensive when made on Twitter.

          And many many people would assert that referring to a notional coalition with one female leader was offensive if referring to it as a marriage, yes. Especially if the female leader was the junior partner in the coalition.

          Many many offensive jokes can also be funny. Doesn’t absolve them from also being offensive.

          Offense is never meant, but it can easily be taken. I don’t have the right to not be offended by a joke, I don’t have the right to censor someone from making an offensive joke.

          I do have the right to choose not to associate with such a person, especially if they continue to defend the joke and insist it’s not in any way offensive. Because who are you to judge what someone else is offended by? Especially if you’re not in the group that’s being joked about?

          Seriously, it may or may not have been a funny joke (I didn’t see it), but if somoen was offended by it (and I was certainly offended by Harman’s bullshit when she was doing it at PMQs), then you have to judge whether you want to be making jokes that offend people.

          And if you do, can you then seriously also say you’re trying to persuade those self same people they’re doing something wrong?

        • Andy Hinton says:

          “If a female leader and male leader from both parties joined in a coalition and they both played up to the cameras in a friendly way, would you be offended if the media made comments saying they should be married?”

          Offended, possibly not. I would almost certainly think it was pretty pathetic and childish as a form of political discourse, though. I mean stop and think about it for a second. It is quite literally that old 7-year old’s standby, “Well if you like [x] so much, why don’t you marry it?”

        • Pauline Ward says:

          It would be sexist; that is the point here actually and that is the parallel. It would show that a woman is not taken seriously in politics because some men cannot see a woman without thinking about sex. And furthermore those men consider sex (and by implication women) a bad thing in general, to be ridiculed and criticised. In just the same way, some people who consider homosexuality a bad thing in general, to be ridiculed and criticised, sadly choose to associate it with the coalition as a form of ridicule and criticism.

  8. Alison says:

    Seriously, that is the most feeble complaint about criticism of the Lib Dems I have ever heard. Comparing the coalition to a disfunctional relationship isn’t homophobic. Firstly parties aren’t gendered, secondly it is at best a loose metaphor, and thirdly to say ‘this is like an abusive partnership’ isn’t to imply that all partnerships are abusive. I’ve read some nonsense lately but this takes the cake.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      “That is the most feeble complaint about criticism of the Lib Dems I have ever heard.”

      I’m sure it is. I’m sure it’s also the most feeble song lyric, lecture in astrophysics and design for a motor vehicle you’ve ever read. Because it’s not intended to be any of those things, just as it’s not intended as a complaint about criticism of the Liberal Democrats.

      Had I wished to complain about criticism of the Liberal Democrats I should probably have started by naming some instances of criticism of the Liberal Democrats, and then followed it by saying why those instances were bad. I did neither. From this the attentive reader might deduce that I was not, in fact, complaining about criticism of the Liberal Democrats, but saying something else.

      “Comparing the coalition to a disfunctional relationship isn’t homophobic.”
      Nobody said it is. In fact nobody said anything about comparing the coalition to a ‘disfunctional relationship’. You can tell this by the way the words ‘disfunctional’ (or dysfunctional, the correct spelling – a cheap shot, I’m sorry, especially given the way I consistently misspelled Clement Attlee’s surname in the post) and ‘relationship’ don’t actually appear anywhere in the post I wrote.

      On the other hand, saying “hur hur the coalition are going to legalise gay marriage so Dave and Nick can get married” or “you can tell who’s the postman and who’s the letterbox in that relationship” and similar kinds of comments – which I have seen repeatedly for three months now – *is* homophobic, and that’s what I was talking about.

      “Firstly parties aren’t gendered”
      Again, you keep saying things which are unarguably true, but equally unarguably have nothing to do with the content of the post to which you are ostensibly responding. Parties aren’t gendered, no – that’s a ridiculous notion. Imputing anthropomorphic qualities to concepts and organisations is problematic at best. On the other hand, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are, as far as I am aware, gendered. They also both present as having the same gender (that gender being male). Therefore comments implying that a putative (and I suspect highly unlikely) sexual relationship between them would be a bad thing can easily be interpreted as being homophobic. I – and others – have chosen so to interpret those comments.

      “thirdly to say ‘this is like an abusive partnership’ isn’t to imply that all partnerships are abusive”
      Again, your ability to make incontrovertibly true statements about things that have nothing to do with the contents of the post is staggering. Nowhere in the post was the word ‘abusive’ mentioned, and the only mention of ‘partnership’ was in the context of the phrase ‘civil partnership’. The word ‘civil’, you will note, is almost an antonym of the word ‘abusive’, at least lexically, and one would certainly hope that in reality, also, civil partnerships were the opposite of abusive partnerships.

      “I’ve read some nonsense lately”
      I’m sure you have, as you seem to have an ability to read words that aren’t there. I prefer to read the words that other people write, rather than the imaginary ones in my own head. Perhaps you could try that?

  9. Alison says:

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg are, as far as I am aware, gendered… that gender being male. Therefore comments implying that a … sexual relationship between them would be a bad thing can easily be interpreted as being homophobic

    LOL. You are going to feel so embarrassed when you wake up in the morning and realise you wrote that.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I sincerely doubt it.

      • Alison says:

        Well, you know yourself best. I therefore think the best riposte is to read what you yourself have written and say: this, this is your best argument. That criticising the coalition is ‘homophobic’. That’s the best you got.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Again, I never said that criticising the coalition is homophobic. I have criticised the coalition myself, repeatedly, including some mild criticisms in the very post you are trying (and failing) to respond to. What I said was homophobic was, and I quote “The constant ‘jokes’ about Cameron and Clegg being ‘in a civil partnership’”.

          Please either start responding to things I actually said, or just go away. I have no problem at all with people disagreeing with what I’ve said, but your comments here are nothing to do with anything I or anyone else in the thread has said. As such they’re just adding noise. I don’t know if that’s deliberate on your part, or is down to stupidity or illiteracy, but whatever it is it needs to stop.

          If you wish to engage with anything I or anyone else here has actually said, please do so. However, if you post anything else which implies I or anyone else have made statements we haven’t, that post will be disemvowelled, along with your previous posts, and you will be blocked from commenting further.

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  11. Matthew Huntbach says:

    I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, but the first two times I voted for them – in 1997 and 2001 – I did so with a sense of residual guilt because of having been raised all my life to believe that the reason Thatcher won in 83 and 87 was because the SDP split the left vote

    Which is simply not true.

    Every opinion poll taken at the time showed that when asked what their second preference was, Liberal and SDP voters split evenly between Labour and Conservative. So, in every case where there was a Conservative or Labour MP, had there been no Liberal or SDP candidate, the same MP would have won the seat. Mrs Thatcher would still have been PM.

    I was a member of the Liberal Party then, and am a member of the Liberal Democrats now. PLEASE don’t let Labour get away with their propaganda by repeating the myth – which they still often use – that we “split the vote and let Thatcher in”.

    The issue back then was that though the SDP was founded by some leading Labour MPs, it did not attract the big shift in Labour support that was its first intention. Instead, it attracted much the same sort of person as voted Liberal. This became obvious within months of the SDP’s foundation when it began asking for a “fair share of winnable seats” i.e. for the Liberals to stand down their candidates and let the SDP run instead in seats which had a Liberal tradition or where the Liberals had built up a successful campaign. Had the SDP been what it had originally intended to be and what the “you split the vote and let Thatcher in” claims still suggest it was, it would have concentrated on seats with a Labour tradition.

    As a member of the Liberal Democrats now, I’m much less happy with the coalition than you seem to be. I have accepted and defended the formation of the coalition on the grounds that it was the only viable option following the 2010 election results. But I do not think the few civil liberties issues on which we may have made some impact due to the coalition are sufficient balance for what is emerging as a government which is extreme right-wing in economic terms.

    The Liberal Party I joined in the 1970s had as its aim written into its constitution that it would build a society where “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. We Liberals battled with the SDP to keep that in when the two parties merged, and it is there today in the statement of aims and objectives in the constitution of the Liberal Democrats.

    This is a clear indication that there is more to LIberalism than civil liberties (important though that is) and what has become known as “economic liberalism”. I am increasingly concerned that Clegg and his followers are trying to cut out from our party a lot of what we stood for when I first joined it and turn it into something which is just Thatcherism with the Clause 28 homophobia and the old Tory king-and-country or hanging-and-flogging taken out.

    Anyone who says they are still a “lefty” would be firm with me on this. All the things you mention in your “Letter to the Labour Party” are to the sort of person who traditionally voted Labour rather fringe issues compared to the basic one – fighting poverty. Indeed, one of the reason Labour lost a lot of its base working class support is that it seemed to become obsessed with these fringe issues.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh, I agree with every word of this. (I was actually talking on election night with a local councillor who said “I’ve voted Liberal or Lib Dem every election except 1983, when the Soggy Dims stood so we all voted Tory in protest”). I was talking about my perceptions, nearly a decade ago, not the reality – and trying to phrase things in a way that Labour voters would respond to. I *did* have a feeling of guilt about voting Lib Dem, and it *was* for those reasons, at the time. I know better now.

      The “enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” is one of the principal reasons I’m in the party.

      I’m also not *at all* happy with the coalition on economic matters. I’m going to give it a reasonable time to prove itself, but I came *very* close to leaving the party over it, before coming to the conclusion that it was the least worst of a series of bad options. Perhaps if I tell you that I’m a member of the Social Liberal Forum and a subscriber to Liberator, that might give you a better idea of where I stand, politically? I posted my thoughts on the coalition at

      I mostly talk about civil liberties on here, partly because those are battles i believe can be won and partly for reasons of pure coincidence – I live literally round the corner from, and am friendly with, Dave Page and Jen Yockney, so I tend to find out about activities for things like No2ID and DELGA. If I lived round the corner from, say, James Graham, I’m sure my activism would be more geared toward electoral reform and changing the tax system. (I used to shop in a supermarket where the bloke at the checkout was the local Green council candidate. I ended up going to a lot of ‘save this small patch of green land’ demos. I’m easily led ;) ).

      I also tend not to talk about economic matters so much because, frankly, I’m not sure enough of my own views there. I know the *results* I want – greater economic justice, an end to monopolies and landlordism, and the ability of every human being to live their life as they wish, to the greatest extent possible. What I *don’t* know is what means are the best to attain those ends – a return to the post-war social democratic consensus? The market socialism advocated by Mat Bowles and people like him? Land Value Tax and a Citizens’ Income? Something else? I’m simply not good enough at economics to be sure enough that I’d choose best there, so I leave arguments about means to those who do…

      • Matthew Huntbach says:

        Yes, but I find a lot of people who think like me in the Liberal Democrats (i.e. crudely “lefties”) say this sort of thing “I tend not to talk about economic matters so much because, frankly, I’m not sure enough of my own views there” or “because I don’t know much about it”. Those on the right economically, however, go on and on about it, they are obsessed with it, to them extreme free market economics is the solution to everything.

        The Liberal Democrats and Liberal Party before that when I first joined it never used to have that sort of person in its members – the home for that sort was the Conservative Party. Because people on the left are keeping quiet and not fighting back, these people are manging to push our party WAY to the right economically of where it used to be. We are letting it be stolen from us, WHY, WHY, WHY?

        I have limited time, and to be frank I am really fed up that I often seem to be spending huge amounts of time in LibDem bloggery fighting the economic extreme right wing and finding I’m doing it almost on my own. I get treated as if I’m some sort of extreme eccentric, whereas while I have always tended to be to the left economically in the party it’s not been extreme left and I always felt I was fairly much mainstream until recent years when I found, particularly in blogging circles, there is this concerted movement amongst many bloggers who claim allegiance to our party to turn “liberalism” into meaning “extreme right-wing economics”.

        • Gavin Burrows says:

          ” to them extreme free market economics is the solution to everything.”

          Anybody who’s still saying that now has lost even a nodding acquaintance with reality.

          • MatGB says:

            It’s a good job that they mostly (within the Lib Dems) only exist within Matthew’s fevered imagination.

            He accuses me of being such a person, and I’m a socialist FFS.

        • MatGB says:

          If by “extreme right wing economics” you mean “favouring liberalism” then yes.

          The greatest failure of the party under your generation’s stewardship was to fail to puncture Thatcher’s attempts to claim the mantel of “economic liberalism”, despite none of her reforms actually being liberal.

          Adam Smith said the state has to regulate the market. Michael Meadowcroft taught me the mantra of the party pre merger was “markets where possible, state where necessary”.

          “I tend not to talk about economic matters so much because, frankly, I’m not sure enough of my own views there” or “because I don’t know much about it”.

          I think you’ll find that the difference between yourself and

          Those on the right economically,

          is that we’ve bothered to teach ourselves economics, and want to use the principles that it espouses, the principles of liberalism back to the days of Mill, Smith and Ricardo, to improve the lot of the poorest at the expense fo the wealthiest, wealth accruing oligopolists that were encouraged under Thatcher.

          If you’d simply take off your crude blinkers and actually understand that “has read a book on economics” is not the same as “extremely right wing” then a constructive debate may be possible.

          As it is, given you’ve attacked me and others regularly for putting “extreme right wing views” then your complaints are becoming merely pointless noise.

          Seriously, the problem within our economy is the massive barriers of entry that cause market failures. Both “barrier to entry” and “market failure” are specific terms within economics, and analysing them is what a lot of economics is about.

          If you genuinely want to engage, I’d be happy to point you at a series of books worth reading, a series of blogs worth comprehending, and a series of basic principles to understand.

          But only if you genuinely want to engage, and stop calling avowed socialists who favour radically redistributionary measures “extreme right wingers” as it merely debases the discussion.

          • Gavin Burrows says:

            I would accept that adherence to a regulated market is, in principle, different to blind faith in a free market. And you could say that was nearer to Adam Smith’s position than anything the Adam Smith Institute have said lately.

            My question would be whether there’s any difference in practice. It seems to me that in practice markets tend towards oligarchies or monopolies which then become extremely powerful, and in effect become above regulation.

            (Incidentally the first quote you use was actually Matthew quoting Andrew, not his own words, and he was actually quoting critically.)

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              I don’t want to speak for Mat, but I believe in essence his argumant is that that’s a feature of *capitalist* markets, and that a socialist market system based on workers’ co-operatives wouldn’t have those faults. I actually think his position (as far as he’s outlined it and as far as I understand it) is quite close to yours – both wanting a socialist economic system that doesn’t involve state ownership. (Please either of you correct me if I’m wrong here).

              There *are* some right-wingers within the Lib Dems (Charloitte Gore, who quit this year, recently did a blog post complaining that in the US banks now had to wait a year before foreclosing on people’s houses, and that this was unfair on the banks), but they’re few and far between and Mat is *certainly* not one of them – he describes himself as an anarcho-syndicalist and says his views pretty much match those of Noam Chomsky.

            • pillock says:

              Stirring the pot’s not my aim, but I thought I might just say that I think it’s actually very difficult to get a good education in economics. The field’s history does not seem to be very well known to economists, and the philosophical isuues in play are treated a bit like skeletons in the closet. I think it’s a major problem.

          • Matthew Huntbach says:

            MatGB – “My generation’s stewardship”?

            Er, I don’t think I ever have had stewardship of the party. I always seem to have been railing against the leaders.

            MatGB, we’ve been through this enough times – my argument against your lot is that you talk the language big business uses to dominate us first, and the modifications to it which you say makes it truly liberal second. If you did it the other way round, I’d take you more seriously.

            Actually, I seem to remember doing quite a lot of arguing against Thatcher’s economics in her time and saying why it wasn’t liberal. And actually I have read quite a lot of the books you quote. I even very much like Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”.

            • MatGB says:

              I don’t think I ever have had stewardship of the party.

              For which we are thankful.

              You said that when you joined the party wasn’t like it is today. I therefore assert the problem is too many Actual liberals joining it.

              Or maybe the party always had a large number of actual liberals in it, you just didn’t notice or chose to ignore the party because it was too small and insignificant, and talking about things generally wasn’t possible.

              my argument against your lot

              There you go. Insultingly dismissive generalisations that bear n resemblance to objective reality.

              Look up “Othering” in a book on sociopolitical discourse. It’s what you’re trying (and failing) to do.

              is that you talk the language big business uses

              What, you mean English?

              Big businesses use (and abuse) the language of economics. Know your enemy.

              Or stick your head in the ground and pretend everyone that’s putting in effort to actually fight the corporations you rail against is in fact on their side because they’re trying to understand the world we live in.

              We’re done here.

    • Gavin Burrows says:

      “All the things you mention in your “Letter to the Labour Party” are to the sort of person who traditionally voted Labour rather fringe issues compared to the basic one – fighting poverty. “

      I note that you say “to the sort of person” rather than say that these are your own views, and that you don’t suggest that there’s some dichotomy between these two things.

      But even so I think it’s important to point out that this description of ‘fringe issues’ is flat-out wrong. It’s surely no coincidence that attacks on civil liberties have occured at exactly the same as an exponentially growing gap between the rich and median incomes. In fact one is entirely dependent upon the other.

      If government policy for the last thirty years has been redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich (which it surely has), they needed further measures to get away with it. In blunt terms, if someone wants to accumulate more loot at the expense of everybody else they’re going to need a bloody big club in order to keep it.

      Hence such measures as cops surrounding demonstrators, demanding all their names and addresses, assaulting and even killing them and getting away with it to do it again.

      NB If you are the Matthew Huntbach who was at Sussex Uni in the mid-80s (and you seem to talk like you are), I remember you! You even dragged me along to a couple of your Radical Liberal meetings!

      • Andrew Hickey says:

        Couldn’t agree more – I see civil liberties and economic justice as absolute prerequisites for each other. An increase in one will always lead to an increase in the other, and a decrease in one a decrease in the other. In my case I see civil liberties as the more easily achievable aim to work for short term, but both are necessary to each other…

      • Matthew Huntbach says:

        Ah yes, it was a long time ago, but somehow your name rung a bell – Sussex University, yes that was me.

        Yes, I’m not saying civil liberties are not important or that there’s a dichotomy. My point is that direct interest in these issues tends to be a fairly minority thing. That is, if we go on and on about these issues, but say nothing about fighting poverty, a LOT of people will switch off from us. In fact, that is just what has happened in recent years – the left in politics has lost its working class support and become very middle class because it has gone on and on about things which, while yes important, tend not to be the sort of things first on the mind of those who struggle to pay the bills, to get housed, to get jobs etc.

        • Gavin Burrows says:

          Of course what you say here is true but I find it problemmatic. To continue to reduce civil liberties to the crude but roughly accurate question of how you get treated by the cops, however political demonstrators and activists get treated (which is pretty bloody badly) the stick that estate kids get is ten times thicker.

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