Friday, 29 April 2016
Part one of this two-part series can be read here.
Why the party has to work within the left rather right
If the Party’s much heralded ‘fight back’ slogan is to avoid fighting back against its former voters, working against the logic of the electoral system, or to not act as a mere rallying call aiming to distract the public from our recent mistakes, then the Party must accept the key dilemma of having to ‘pick a side’. Only then will it be a meaningful return that will lead to us getting more MPs elected. I believe that for strategic reasons alone the Party must choose the left. While special accommodation should be made for right-leaning Liberal Democrats, the case that the Party should again be allowed to operate on the left is so overwhelming that doing so is in the common interest.
In July 2015, Pack and Howarth set out their ‘How to rebuild a core vote’ strategy and argued that, as a values based Party, the Liberal Democrats should seek to build a core vote of people who hold a basic liberal outlook, e.g. tolerance and openness to others. They calculated this to comprise about 38% of the electorate. They similarly recognised that the major dynamic of British politics is however not liberal/ illiberal, but left/ right, observing that ‘… contrary to the repeated hopes of Liberal (and Liberal Democrat) politicians, much of politics has been fought out for many decades not in the field of openness, tolerance and internationalism but in the field of economics’. When they then looked at the economic views of these voters with a broadly liberal outlook, they found that the group was skewed towards the left, observing:
‘… about a fifth put themselves right of centre on whether the government should redistribute incomes, about a fifth are centrists and three fifths are left of centre, of whom one in three are very strongly in favour of redistribution and two out of three somewhat in favour. Similarly on questions about privatisation, nationalisation and tax and spend, the median tolerant and open voter is on the centre-left. YouGov’s profile of Liberal Democrat voters produces a similar result and what we know of the post-May 2015 new members is that many were motivated by left-of-centre issues such as proposed cuts in social security benefits and threats to employment protection.’ (p5)