What the Political Parties Stand For: 2015

I’ve seen quite a bit of traffic recently to a post I did before the last general election, setting out what the different parties stand for. As obviously some things have changed in the intervening time, here’s a rewritten version.

I’m going to try here to set out what all the major parties in the UK General Election believe, as simply as I can. I’m going to try to avoid words like ‘socialism’ or ‘capitalism’ because I want this to be useful to as many people as possible – I genuinely know quite a few people who don’t know even what the most basic ideas of what the parties stand for even at this late stage. It should also, though, help my foreign friends understand things a bit better. If you’re a member or supporter of one of the parties listed and you think I’m being unfair or inaccurate (within the very simplistic way I’m doing this) please leave a comment. Obviously I’m a Lib Dem, so might be overly kind to my own side, but I believe I’m being fairly accurate in all cases.

The Conservative Party
are the simplest party to explain. They believe that, more or less, the way things are is the best way they could be. They think that the people with power at the moment (not just politicians, but religious leaders, business leaders, banks and so on – ‘important’ people) are the people who should keep power. This also means that even though it’s not actually their policy, a lot of them think that middle-aged white straight men deserve more power than anyone who isn’t a middle-aged white straight male, though some individual Conservatives don’t think that. The Conservatives are also called the Tories, and over Britain’s history they have been in government most of the time. Their leader is David Cameron. For the last five years they have been the main party in government.

The Labour Party are the hardest to explain. They used to believe that working people deserved to get a better share of the money than they do, and that government should make sure of that, but that otherwise it would be better to give people more freedom. Labour governments brought in the National Health Service, created the Open University, ended capital punishment (hanging) and legalised homosexuality and abortion. (Many of these were Liberal ideas originally, but Labour brought them in). However, after the Conservatives were in power for eighteen years, the leaders of the party decided that people didn’t want a government like that any more, and Labour became more-or-less identical to the Conservatives. There are some slight differences – they brought in the minimum wage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples – but otherwise when in government from 1997 to 2010 they behaved almost exactly like the Conservatives (increasing the gap between rich and poor, supporting the Americans in illegal wars). Many Labour *members* though still hope the party will go back to the way it used to be. Labour have spent much of the last five years, while they’ve not been in government, attacking the government for doing things Labour said they were planning on doing. Their leader is Ed Miliband.

The Liberal Democrats believe in freedom – that the government should not interfere in you doing what you want with your life. We realise, though, that you can’t be free without enough food to eat or somewhere to live or medicine if you’re sick, so we think the government should do what it can to make sure everybody has those things, even if it means interfering a bit with rich people’s freedom (by taking some of their money away) to make sure poor people have them. We also think it’s worth making sure we have a better environment for everyone, because the freedoms not to choke on fumes or to have your home not be flooded by dangerous weather are also important. We also want a fairer voting system, to give everyone the freedom to have a say in how they’re governed.
We also want to make sure that *everyone* has more freedom, so we support gay people, and transsexual people, and disabled people, and other people who have a hard time at the moment, and we want to make sure they have the same rights as everyone else and can also do what *they* want to with their lives.
The Liberal Democrats have spent the last five years working with the Conservatives in the government, because the last election didn’t produce a clear winner. This has led to a lot of people who voted for the Liberal Democrats being very upset, because they don’t like the Conservatives and the Conservatives have got their own way most of the time because they have far more MPs. The Liberal Democrats argue that by doing so, they have made sure that the government has been less cruel to poor people than it otherwise would have (though it’s still been quite cruel to them), and they’ve got a lot of important changes, like allowing people to marry partners of the same sex (“gay marriage”), or scrapping ID cards, through, but some people argue that that’s not worth the things the Conservatives have got. The Liberal Democrats’ leader is Nick Clegg. The preamble to the Lib Dem constitution, which goes into slightly more detail, is here.

The Green Party want to protect the environment. Their main focus is the environment, but they also share some of the ideas that the Lib Dems have, and some that Labour used to have, about helping poor people, and they think the government should be more involved in people’s lives. Liberal Democrats think some of the ways they want to do things won’t work properly, while Greens think Lib Dems are too similar to the Conservatives and Labour and not radical enough. The Greens currently only have one MP, but are hoping to get more. Their leader is Natalie Bennett.

The Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru are nationalists – they believe that Scotland (for the SNP) and Wales (for Plaid Cymru) should become separate countries. As you would imagine, they don’t have many MPs (Scotland and Wales don’t have many people in compared to England), but they both have a lot of members of their respective assemblies (the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly). A lot of Scottish people have recently started supporting the SNP because they think that the other parties are too similar. Nicola Sturgeon leads the SNP, and Leanne Wood leads Plaid Cymru.

There are *lots* of smaller parties in Northern Ireland, where the major mainland parties don’t stand. Roughly speaking the Unionist parties (those that want Northern Ireland to stay part of the UK, mostly Protestants) will support the Conservatives in Parliament, while the Republican parties (those that want Northern Ireland to join with the Republic of Ireland, mostly Catholics) will support Labour, but some Republican parties (like Sinn Fein) won’t take their seats in Parliament because you have to swear allegiance to the Queen. The Alliance Party, which tries to work with both communities and bring them together, are formally linked to the Liberal Democrats.

The United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP, refuse to tell anyone what their policies will be until closer to the election. Last election, their policies were mostly centred around not liking foreigners, so they didn’t want to be part of the European Union and they wanted to stop any foreign people coming over here and get rid of some of the ones who already are. However, in the last few years they have had a lot of people join who think all the other parties are being too similar, and who wish the Tories were more like they used to be. Those people don’t care so much about disliking foreigners, but want everything to be like it was in the 1950s. Nigel Farage is the leader of UKIP.

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27 Responses to What the Political Parties Stand For: 2015

  1. Andrew Hickey says:

    A friend on Tumblr, becausegoodheroesdeservekidneys, posted the following as a response:

    “All largely true, but I think given the detail on some parties it’s a bit unfair to then devote so little time to the Celtic ones and reduce them entirely to the single issue of devolution. So here’s my quick guide to Plaid Cymru, attempting the same spirit of description.

    Plaid Cymru are a party who, yes, want to fully devolve Wales from the UK, but they want to do so remaining within the European Union. At present, they share a platform in Westminster (the UK government) with the SNP, with whom they collaborate closely – they are also a member of the European Free Alliance (along with the SNP and Mebyon Kernow of Cornwall), which is “a pan-European political party for regionalist, autonomist and pro-independence political parties across Europe”. Their other nationalist desires are to promote bilingual Wales by reviving Welsh, and to attain UN membership for Wales.

    Naturally, they’re not at all a single-issue party, though, and the rest of their politics revolve around their core beliefs and principles of equality and sustainability – equal measures social, economic, and environmental. This applies home and abroad. They say they are adamantly in support of social justice and equality, and it terms of voting records they largely vote in favour of health, welfare, education and the arts – for example, when the Bedroom Tax was still being debated, Plaid, along with the SNP and the Greens, were the only parties to challenge it on its second reading, when Labour abstained. Plaid also voted to not trade with or invest in Israel. 40% of their AMs are women.

    However, their nationalist leanings can conflict with their other philosophies from time to time, so they can be prone to ideological inconsistency.”

    I know very little about Plaid myself, because I’ve never lived in Wales so never had the option of voting for them, so this may be of use to some.

  2. Mike Taylor says:

    What are your thoughts on Al Murray’s campaign?

  3. Kevin Yates says:



    Spot the non middle aged Lib Dem white man… anywhere in the two links above.

  4. I’ve had a go at doing Labour (as a member of the Party)…but you may feel my rose-tinted glasses are on…

    Labour is a centralist party which aims to benefit all of society, fairly (in this sense, and in others historically it is socialist). It differs from the Conservatives in not agreeing that a free market system (alone) and the present structures and systems of government (unreformed) will produce an outcome that is functionally fair for the majority (or all) of the population, as opposed to favouring the richest. Historically (though not always) it has favoured state owned centralist solutions (and thus differs from the Liberals). With regard to health (the NHS) the media (the BBC) – this approach has resulted in systems which objectively are by cost / efficency checks among the best in the world. It has also supported less successful statist approaches whose success is arguable, but which had at least the virtue of consistancy in theory if weaknesses in practise (such as comprehensive schools). Historically, the Labour party is supported by the trade unions, in the same way that the Conservatives are supported by business at a ‘bosses’ level. While theoretically agreeing with the Liberals in many areas, in respect of personal freedoms, the Labour party is more inclined to impose solutions from above – nevertheless it has a number of notable achievements in the areas of personal liberty. The last long period of Labour government ended in a financial collapse that was the fault of no individual national government, but the failure of the world as a whole to successfully regular risk and fraud in the banking sector. This has been left essentially unaddressed by the Conservatives, who policies of austerity while arguably necessary, seem almost designed to hit the poorest and the least able to defend themselves (for example it is claimed that 2 out of every 3 households hit by the so-called bedroom tax, contain a disabled member to whom the additional room may be a necessary utility.) Like every 21st C Government of whatever political make-up it has supported the retention of nuclear weapons, the NATO alliance, the EU, and involved itself in wars in the middle east. When out of government it has sometimes concluded it ought to be against some or all of the above.

  5. Matthew says:

    It’s perhaps notable that the Green Party are the only anti-austerity UK party of the ones you list.

    • just passing says:

      Strictly speaking, the Green Party isn’t a UK-wide (or even a Great Britain-wide) party either; the Scottish Green Party is an entirely separate organisation to the Green Party of England and Wales.

  6. Mike Taylor says:

    It’s really interesting seeing how Plaid Cymru and Labour members describe themselves. I’d really like to see a Conservative member explain (at a similar level of detai) what they stand for. I can’t believe that Andrew’s portrayal (“The way things are is the best way they could be. … the people with power at the moment are the people who should keep power”) is how anyone on the inside would describe their position.

    • TAD says:

      A Conservative wouldn’t describe himself/herself that way, obviously. Here in America, a Conservative would say that they’re for lower taxes and shrinking the size of government, which puts more money back in your pocket and hence gives you more control over your life. To a Conservative, *they* are the party that is for freedom. “That government is best which governs least.”

  7. I think you can see, what a Conservative might say be inverting my Labour one, thus:

    The Conservatives are a party which aims to benefit all of society in accordance with their contribution to it. We believe that coupled with the free market the present structures and systems of government (reformed in some places to remove the penitious effects of nationalism and socialism) will produce an outcome that is functionally fair for the majority, while benefiting wealth-creators. We oppose ‘Government-Owed’ centralist solutions and would look (if we were free to do so) to disband the NHS and the BBC, as while they provide value for money they are in their present form a mechanism for stealing money from those who have made their own health-care provision or purchased private entertainment, to pay for the improvident, and to undercut private media companies. Government has no place in the meda, and it is unfair to private media outlets, and thus freedom of competition, to fund the BBC through what is in fact taxation under another name. We stand against ‘comprehensive’ theories of education which have failed the best of our children. Historically,we have been funded by wealth-creators, not by those seeking to be paid more than a fair days pay for less than a fair day’s work. We support personal freedom, in the context of traditional British values. We support austerity as the only approach – internationally – to reduce our deficit and eventually the national debt, and as a point of principle we believe Government spends to much on everything other than (possibly) the defense of the realm and the creation of law and order. We accept no criticisms on our economic policies from Labour who presided over the frittering away of our gold reserves and created the present crisis, nor from the Liberals who were happy in co-alition to vote for what they now profess to disagree with. We are proud to have supported an independant UK nuclear deterent, membership of NATO, and to have contributed to the cause of freedom in the Middle-East.

    Simon BJ

  8. just passing says:

    As a disabled (and trans) person, I’d have to say that much more of the Lib Dems’ “support” will leave me utterly destitute. So thanks for that.

    Also, your comment about Labour “attacking the government for things Labour said they were planning on doing” does seem to overlook the fact that Labour have made a notional attempt to break away from their recent past. I’m not going to judge the success – or genuineness – of it, but generally, if you realise you were about to screw up, it does seem polite to warn the person about to make the same mistakes as you did. Besides, I’m having trouble seeing the moral difference between that and the Lib Dems condemning Labour for initiating things that they then helped the Tories to exacerbate – compare Danny Alexander on ESA before 2010 with the Lib Dems’ record on it afterwards.

    Hypocrisy, it seems, is the modern political currency – so was this your tuppence worth?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Except, of course, that Labour have said they’re not going to reverse any of the cuts they’ve been attacking the government for, that they’re going to make more, worse, cuts themselves, and that they’re going to be “tougher on benefits” than this government has.

      You’ll notice that I also mentioned the current government’s cruelty to poor people, and the Lib Dems’ complicity in that, and that I *also* mentioned that many Labour members hope to see their party change.

      I don’t see any hypocrisy in anything I said (and nor, notably, do the Labour, Plaid, or Green members and supporters I know who’ve commented on this, here or elsewhere, using their actual names — even when they disagree with me). I very strongly suspect that you’re not actually interested in discussion, but just in hurling random epithets at someone you perceive to be the enemy, in which case kindly do so elsewhere.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        I don’t see any hypocrisy in anything I said (and nor, notably, do the Labour, Plaid, or Green members and supporters I know who’ve commented on this, here or elsewhere, using their actual names — even when they disagree with me).

        Agreed, but I am still keen to see what a Conservative has to say about your characterisation. Does no-one here know one that they could invite to comment?

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          I know a couple, but I don’t tend to ask people to comment on my stuff — it feels needy.
          (Actually, I may only know one actual member of the Conservatives — I think the other one’s membership has lapsed…)

      • just passing says:

        Is there any way to actually disprove your assertion, without coming off as so defensive that I actually prove your point indirectly?

        First off – I’ve always been pseudonymous online; but I’ve also always used a consistent identity – because that, ultimately, is what’s important about identity, isn’t it? That confidence that the person you’re talking to is the same one it was last time, rather than the confidence that you know where to send the firebomb. Unfortunately, the last consistent identity I used (which I could tell you in confidence, but am not willing to disclose publicly) led to someone stalking me off the internet. After that experience (hell, even before that experience) I don’t think *anyone* should use their real name online – I certainly wouldn’t. But I’ve been commenting in various places as “just passing” for about 3 years now, and it’s always been me.

        Secondly. Do I regard you, or your party, as “the enemy”? Well, on bleak days, yeah, I do, but then I do regard all political parties more or less equally that way. But mostly, I’m terrified, because of an awareness of the vulnerability of my position – no support, no social network (in real life or online) because of my condition, no real hope that anything’s going to get anything but worse, and no feeling of safety in my own home right now. And, apparently, no ability to change that – because every time I try and reach out, with apparent total ineptitude, I meet a response like yours. (Which, incidentally, is why I don’t dare try in real life – that and a whole pile of other issues. Generally it takes about three meetings with a new person for me to convince myself of all the different ways in which they either despise me or will come to do so very soon.) And the fact is, if I didn’t think your heart was in the right place I wouldn’t try to tell you… well, anything, really.

        I guess you’re probably quite surprised to see that I define my last comment as “reaching out”, when you’ve already made it clear you regard it as the precise opposite. See above re ineptitude.

        So “I’m not interested in discussion”? The very opposite is the case. It’s just that, as it appears, I’m completely incapable of figuring out how to do it. (I’m better in real time. Not, you know, a lot better.) I keep reaching out online, but the only way I dare is in comment fields… and then I tend to run off when it gets too much for me (which I tend to define as “I spend a day shaking with anxiety”). Again, unfortunately, manifestations not readily distinguishable from the average troll. Which kind of sucks. I’m painfully aware of my limitations, but have no idea how to get past them.

        (And I confess that a love of word games and pithy phrasing, not to mention the tension between my basic human need for social contact and my abject terror of letting anyone get too close, tends to override my perception of how insulting I can be at times. Yeah, calling you a hypocrite – even a little bit of a hypocrite, a shade of meaning I don’t think came through; and even if I genuinely believed what I was saying, which, for what it’s worth, I did, and always do – was pretty horrible of me, and I’m sorry. I’m in your front room, and I ought to not pee in the fireplace at all, let alone as I’m begging for a little warmth.)

        If you still don’t want me around, then OK, that’s your right, and I won’t come back. But… generally the only time I actually comment on stuff is when I’m at my most desperate for any kind of human contact. And what is someone supposed to do when every time they knock on a door they find it slamming in their face, and they have no idea what to do differently to stop that from happening?

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Fair enough. If you didn’t intend to cause offence, then none is taken. I’m absolutely fine with persistent pseudonyms, and quite understand that not everyone can use their “real name” online (and that that goes tenfold for trans people). The combination of the name “just passing by” and the throwaway email address you used (which, don’t worry, will never get shared here) and the rather aggressive tone of your post made me think it was a drive-by attack.

          (In fact, I thought it may well be one of the people I’ve blocked in the past, under another identity. I’ve had a LOT of trolls over the last few years, including a number of actual death threats against me and my friends, because of my political positions. So I have something of an overactive immune system when it comes to the appearance of trolling on my political posts).

          And I am very sympathetic to the rest of your comments. Reading between the lines, I’m guessing you’re autistic, probably with social anxiety as a comorbid symptom? I am myself, and so I *completely* understand most of what you just said.

          As it happens, I’m probably about as angry as you at the current government’s cuts to disability benefits (and to the previous government’s, for that matter). Both I and my wife are, for these purposes, disabled (autism and various mental health things for me, and my wife is legally blind and also has mental health problems), and while we currently manage to cope without benefits (I am in a very well paid job, at the moment) we’ve needed them in the past, and negotiating all the various hurdles put in place for disability benefits was one of the most horrific experiences of my life.

          I must admit, however, that my own focuses when pushing for change within the party have been on other issues — within the party I’ve mostly pushed on digital rights (because as someone who’s worked in the industry for several years I can use my technical knowledge), mental health provision (as both a service user and a former worker on a psychiatric ward), immigration (because my wife’s an immigrant, so I know all too well how horrible the current system is) and LGBT issues (I’m a straight cis man, but pretty much all of my friends are at least two of bi/poly/kinky/trans) in approximately that order, while my outside-the-party campaigning has mostly been on democratic issues and the surveillance state.

          That said, if you have any suggestions for simple, practical things that a party activist with little influence (but not no influence) and less time can do to materially improve things for disabled people, I’d be very, very happy to hear any ideas. That’s not meant sarcastically — I would, genuinely, like some ideas as to what can be done by individuals. I’ve made suggestions in equalities consultations within the party before now, but they’ve mostly been things so far outside the Overton window that they get ignored (for example banning open-plan offices as a health hazard).

          Anyway, you’re welcome to stick around here. I don’t know how many of the posts will be of interest to you, given that I post on a wide variety of topics in the kind of detail that only I really care about, but as long as you’re willing to apologise when you accidentally cause offence (and you’re willing to try not to deliberately cause offence, but of course that’s a given), that’s all I ever really ask of commenters here. Please understand, though, that there are commenters here who support many different parties, and do so in good faith, in an attempt to make the world slightly better. In particular, while I have *huge* problems with much of what the current government, and the current Lib Dem leadership, have done, I still think they’re the best existing vessel for bringing about, to quote from the party constitution, “a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Not the best possible vehicle for that, possibly not even a good one on an objective measure. But the best we have. And I want to make it better.

          (Incidentally, if you *are* sticking round, what pronouns do you prefer? With a gender-neutral screen-name I wouldn’t want to presume, and since you’ve said you’re trans I imagine it’s important to you.

          • just passing says:

            Actually, the name is “just passing” – no “by”; and while I did originally choose it as something distinct from my primary screen name and thoroughly anonymous, it’s kind of fitting for someone who is, as I am, trans but not yet out. It works either way – only just passing as in only being able to pass as female online; and merely putting up the front of being male to the outside world, whilst being something else entirely internally. Pronouns are a thorny subject, though – complicated by the fact that I’m also multiple (and yes, also autistic with social anxiety and other interesting mental problems – you called that right… although given that you are married and I couldn’t handle being in any kind of relationship, I’m guessing there may be a smidge of a difference in severity), so they/their/them is probably the best bet (although I have no objection to she/her or sie/hir either). And my email address is anonymised, but it’s not throwaway – I’m kinda fond of it.

            Noted, on the question of political affiliations. It’s just that as someone who enthusiastically joined the Lib Dems in early 2010 and just as enthusiastically ripped up my membership card less than a year later, I can’t imagine any circumstances in which someone whose heart is as obviously in the right place as yours (or Jennie’s, which is how I came here) could still be hanging in there without at least a heavy dose of wishful thinking. I mean, obviously you *are* hanging in there, but… I really don’t grok it. On the other hand, that point of view may be influenced primarily by the limitations of my own abilities to persuade people – or at any rate, my complete lack of confidence in them (which may be what leads me to come across as aggressive… which, incidentally, is something I had no idea I was doing. So, er, sorry about that too.)

            It’s not just the dismantling of disability benefits that angers me – though no, I’ll never forgive Labour for doing that, nor forget the “scroungers on the sick” rhetoric they used to justify it – and I wasn’t surprised that the Tories pressed on with Labour’s plans for it, even once a few more enlightened New Labour MPs had begun to realise they’d screwed up. (I was, however, surprised and appalled that the Lib Dems pretty much washed their hands of those on benefits as part of the coalition agreement; frankly everything that has happened to poor and vulnerable people since then can be traced back to that initial betrayal. Which I took personally, given that the vehemence of the Lib Dem criticism of JSA/ESA was the deciding factor that caused me to throw my vote and money their way at all.) But the Kafka-esque cruelty of life on JSA or in the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA, which Labour started and the Coalition has made immeasurably worse, is what really scares me; if anything goes wrong and I were to find myself kicked out of the Support Group, I’d very quickly find myself utterly destitute, because there’s no way someone in the Jobcentre wouldn’t notice my vulnerabilities and sanction me. Repeatedly. And that’s assuming I could even meet the conditions for claiming JSA (or Universal Credit) in the first place; I likely wouldn’t. Coupled with the change to the appeals system, where anyone wishing to appeal a bad decision now faces an unbounded amount of time with no income at all while the DWP looks at the paperwork again to come to exactly the same conclusion as it did the first time… As bad as things were when you (and I) experienced that system, they seem to be getting worse every day. And now we have Cameron popping up and saying “I won’t let people be fat and sick” as though comorbidity isn’t a widely recognised thing… I’m terrified, and feel cornered, pretty much all the time.

            In terms of suggestions… the single most transformative change for someone in my position would be the suspension of conditionality in the benefits system. I’d prefer a Citizen’s Income, which is why I joined the Green Party (and if they were to drop that I’d leave again – however, I asked my local rep when the Guardian said they had, and in essence, he replied that the media’s wilful misinterpretation of leading members’ misstatements shouldn’t be taken as actual party policy, and the Greens remain committed to a CI – so I’m hanging in *for now*, pending publication of their manifesto); but to be honest, if it were announced tomorrow that given that the available evidence suggests that conditionality actually impedes progress towards employment, all conditionality for JSA and ESA(WRAG) claimants were immediately suspended until further notice – one of my major worries would evaporate immediately. It’d also be a Citizen’s Income in all but name and withdrawal rate (I’m not including means testing in conditionality here). So if you could press for that, I think a lot of people would worry a lot less. Besides, it does conform to the broader Lib Dem agenda (as I understand it) of pursuing evidence-driven policy. I just wish it were more politically palatable.

            As for things more specific to disabled people? Well, the obvious point is that at the moment, for both ESA and PIP, the presumption is that the government’s appointed pseudo-doctors should follow a tightly defined checklist in an artificial and highly stressful setting (the WCA, or the equivalent thing for PIP) unless there’s a preponderance of medical evidence presented before the fact. It should be restored to the other way around; the disabled person’s GP or specialist should be the first port of call – and to be honest, the *clarity* of the eligibility criteria for ESA or PIP is not necessarily a bad thing, in the hands of an expert with the discretion to interpret it in whatever way she thinks best (the *content* of those criteria is a whole other matter, though) – with a WCA-like process (though much more on the side of the claimant) offered only if the GP or specialist doesn’t reply in a timely manner or in the necessary degree of detail, or refuses to support the application. Aside from anything else, that would considerably reduce the workload required of whoever is drafted in to conduct the WCAs!

            I don’t expect miracles here – but as you say, you do have some small influence; these two changes are the ones I think you should press for given the opportunity, and the ones that would make the greatest difference to the largest number of people. On the other hand, if you don’t feel you can support them, then (a) I would actually be rather surprised; and (b) I’d be interested to know your reasoning.

            That said, the stuff you’ve already been doing is also important to people in my position; we’re at the sharp end of the surveillance state, too, for example, and I don’t particularly want the knowledge of my referral to a GIC, for example, to be shared with anyone who doesn’t need to know about it.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              Apologies for getting your name wrong.
              As for how I can cope with being in the Liberal Democrats… well, for a start, the *party* didn’t support those things, only the leadership did. In particular, the nearest Lib Dem MP to me (and the one I campaign for), John Leech, voted against all those things. That doesn’t mean that my conscience is clear about the actions of the current government, but I believe that any other possible government given the 2010 results would have been at least as bad in this respect, and worse in others. Better in my view to work within the party and push it to keep as many of its principles intact as possible.
              I don’t want to get into the whole high-functioning/low-functioning thing with regards to autism, because I don’t think those things are really helpful, but I’ll just say that my ability to be in a relationship has far, *far* more to do with my wife than it does with my own ability to function.
              As for the things you suggest, I am actually a huge supporter of basic income (I prefer “basic income” to “citizens’ income”, because I don’t think it should be conditional on citizenship, but rather on legal residency), and have been pushing for the party to readopt it (it was policy until the mid-90s, when it was dropped for being too “unrealistic” — I’ve never been a fan of centrist “realism”) for quite some time. I’d not considered the other suggestion, but it’s a good one at first sight…

              • just passing says:

                Damn it, I seem to have done it again.

                I don’t think the high/low functioning thing is helpful wrt autism either; by the tokens people seem to use, I’d be judged high functioning (I live alone and independently – though granted, that’s by necessity! – have been employed in the past, have no obvious difficulties with language at first glance, etc). It was clearer before I went back and edited that bit, but I intended only to suggest that we may differ in severity of social anxiety.

                On which topic: I’m sure I’m not the only person who experiences the same kind of social anxiety over online-only socialising as over the full-spectrum type. I just mention that because I’ve seen a number of autistic people describe online-only socialising as freeing, and that’s not been my experience at all.

                I also mention it because I’m feeling it with this conversation, too. It feels like I’m trying to follow a dance to which I don’t know the steps, in a hall whose only exit is marked “NO RE-ENTRY”. Still, I think it’s maybe time I made my excuses.

                (One day, I will learn my lesson, and stop initiating what I can’t follow through on. One day.)

                • Andrew Hickey says:

                  Don’t worry, you didn’t come off as aggressive or insulting at all that time, and I didn’t take any offence. I apologise if I’m seeming rather off-putting — I’m told that I come over rather cold and harsh online, as my writing doesn’t tend to convey the intended tone properly. You’ve done nothing wrong, and while I understand that social anxiety can make it *seem* like you have, I intend as far as possible for my comments section to be a safe space in that regard — I’m not going to try to pretend I can read your mind and impute intentions to you, and nor am I going to assume the worst possible interpretation of anything you say, and if I do seem to take the wrong interpretation of something, then you can correct me.
                  (For myself, I find communicating online *easier* than in real life, but by no means easy…)
                  You’re very welcome here. Seriously. I don’t know to what extent you will have the slightest interest in what my blog generally has to say, but please, *please* don’t let your anxiety put you off from commenting, and please don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, or let the implied tone (that comes from my own similar-but-distinct communications problems) make you more anxious in future.

  9. alexwilcock says:

    Trying to weigh in purely on the Conservatives (much as I’m tempted to critique Simon on Labour), as no Tory has yet posted, I’d say that the two biggest ideological strands within the Conservative Party are the free market and the nation state, more than institutional conservatism. Since the dawn of Thatcherism, though Tories still think some institutions are the best they can possibly be, they want to rip others up and start again, and it’s increasingly difficult to predict which is which. However, I’d say that in my lifetime (the last forty-odd years) the Tories have pretty consistently been committed to their idea of the free market – which isn’t my idea of the free market – and to nationalism, even though that’s also their biggest fault line. At the moment, they’re becoming more nationalist, fed by UKIP pressing them on their own ‘double racism’ policy of anti-Europe and anti-immigrants (both implicitly anti-market, which needs freedom of people rather than just money).

    I have a strong memory of being one of a group who interviewed a Tory minister in late 2010. This was at Lib Dem Conference, in the brief Coalition honeymoon when both parties still wanted to make it work and both were still reacting to the centralised authoritarianism of the previous Labour Government, when the Tories had sent Oliver Letwin – probably their most liberal figure – to speak at a love-in fringe meeting. Typically for me, I never got round to writing the interview up, though others did, but my main line of questioning (and some others’) was the opposite of his early Coalition mission: to examine what made Tories and Lib Dems different. Several of his answers still sound Lib Dem now but no longer sound at all Tory (they’ve dropped the environment, civil liberties, decentralisation…), but I did pin him down on two issues. One, interestingly, shows that Cameron was to make a decision which even his most liberal ambassador knew would split his party – the Lib Dems had voted that day to be the first party to back same-sex marriage, and though I suggested to Mr Letwin that this would be useful for his party to pick up to carry on its ‘detoxification’ (that was a long time ago), he was deeply unnerved by any sort of commitment to the idea and wobbled all over the place. The other was my question on Europe and internationalism, which was the only point where Mr Letwin openly said that, yes, the Tories were absolutely committed to the primacy of the British state at Westminster (against federalism inside Britain or increasing international co-operation outside it), and that was the one thing we’d come up with that was a definite ideological difference within the parties. So while I think the Tories can shift surprisingly on how the institutions might change – nicking our clothes while bathing on some occasions – it’s to preserve the nation state as top dog.

  10. Mike Taylor says:

    Hi, Andrew. Having finally, belatedly, watched the seven-way debate from last week, I’m left with the impression that the Greens are very much the most idealistic and small-l liberal of the five UK-wide parties. That being so, I wonder why you remain a Liberal Democrat? Do you think their goals are better than the Greens’ or is it a tactical choice?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Several reasons, combining a bit of both:
      Firstly, the Greens are not as liberal as they appear — there’s an authoritarian streak in there that crops up on occasion. A lot of them are, for example, very transphobic.
      Second, the Lib Dems aren’t really well represented by our leader, who seems remarkably lacking in knowledge of our basic principles. The party as a whole is FAR more liberal than Clegg, who’s a moderate centrist. Unlike the other parties, though, he doesn’t get to choose the policies, we do.
      Third, the local Manchester Lib Dems, in particular, are very good. John Leech is someone I would support regardless of party.
      Fourth, because the single most important political issue to me is electoral reform. The Greens want AMS, which is an inferior system to STV. That in itself is a deal-breaker for me.
      Fifth, because the Greens’ one MP is a wrecker who is more interested in self-publicity than in making a useful difference.
      Sixth, because on policy, I’m right between the two parties — if I go on all those “vote for policies” type websites, I get a straight 50/50 split (even allowing for the fact that they’re cherry-picked policies). However, all the ones where I agree with the Greens are the ones where I’m not especially knowledgeable, while the ones where I agree with the Lib Dems are central to my political beliefs.
      Seventh, because the Lib Dems are in far more of a position to make a difference than the Greens — we’ll be getting somewhere around 30 MPs, while they’ll have to fight to get one.
      Eighth, and most importantly, because Liberalism isn’t central to the Greens as a political party, and the UK *needs* a party that is an advocate for Liberalism as an ideology first and foremost (just as, indeed, it needs one that is an advocate for environmentalism).
      And ninth, and least importantly but it *is* a factor, because I have a ton of friends within the party and most of the best people I know are members, and it’s a fun excuse to hang out with them.

      Clegg may be the “leader”, but the MPs who represent most party members’ views are people like Lynne Featherstone, Adrian Sanders, Tim Farron, John Leech, Julian Huppert — these are people who have made a MASSIVE difference, both in government and without, in pushing for Liberal values, and are far more representative of the party as a whole than the man who appeared in the leaders’ debate.

      The Lib Dems’ values have been distorted in the media over the last few years by the fact that our leadership have been part of the government, and thus not allowed to argue against government policy (something that still stands at the moment, frustratingly), and in a media that focuses exclusively on what the leaders say, that means that the message the party has put out has been a profoundly conservative one. That’s not, however, what the party membership or policies say.

      The Greens have a few good ideas (like a basic income, which is an old Liberal policy I want to see us adopt again), and I’m pushing for them within the party. But I’d rather be within a Liberal party and pushing to adopt other people’s ideas that are compatible with liberalism, than in a party that has a few good ideas and pushing it to adopt a liberal ideology.

      If we had a decent voting system, the Greens would be my second or third preference (with the Pirates being the other), but as long as the Lib Dems remain the only truly liberal and democratic party in the UK, they’ll remain the first.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        Thank you, that is extremely helpful (and pretty persuasive).

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Glad to hear it — I’m not at my most articulate at the moment (I’ve spent so much time deleting sealioning comments about the Hugos that any innocent question causes a fight-or-flight response), so I’m not at all sure I expressed myself properly, but I hope it was some help.

          • gavinburrows says:

            ”the Greens’ one MP is a wrecker who is more interested in self-publicity than in making a useful difference.”

            Interesting that you’d say that, Andrew. Among – for want of a better term – my political gang here in Brighton, Lucas seems to me to have quite a good reputation. She’s thought of as being hardworking and supportive of campaigns, not just saying the right-on soundbites.

            My overall view of the Greens, though, (as a body of people rather than a set of manifeso commitments) is that they are only really unified by what they’re against. Not meaning to drag this discussion down to the South Coast, but when they became the biggest party in the Council here they seemed pretty much hopelessly divided over everything. The result has been that they’ve pretty much disappointed everybody.

            Ramdom electoral debate comment – the Guardian’s theory was that Cameron wanted a seven-way debate so that it would turn into a hubbub which he could rise above in some statesman-like way. I actually think it turned out the opposite. The differences between the three smaller parties weren’t really gone into, instead they all chorused a dislike of politics-as-usual. Leanne Wood saying “austerity is a political choice” may seem blindingly obvious to many of us, but its not really something said within the political consensus. And it suggests there’s other alternatives besides Farage and his endless array of made-up statistics about asylum seekers stopping children playing in the streets.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              She’s a very good campaigner, yes. But she’s not an effective politician. She’s repeatedly, both in Westminster and before that in Brussels, gone into committees and discussions and agreed workable compromises with her political opponents in private — only then to scream against those same compromises in public and deny she had anything to do with it. I’ve heard this from enough different people, in enough different contexts, that I think it’s the truth.
              Doing that is a very, *very* good way of seeming like a great, principled, campaigner to your base, while making the people you’re working with want nothing to do with you and be very unwilling to concede any ground whatsoever.

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