Anyone who regularly reads my tweets will know that barely a day-and certainly not a week-goes by without me reminding my readers that those of us on the centre-left are the beating heart and soul of our party.
More often than not I get one person and often more than one reply to me saying that I’ve got it wrong, that I’m stuck in the past, that the party has changed, that we’re now a Party of the Orange Bookers and broadly on the centre-right.
I’ve never believed this was the case and the latest Lib Dem Voice survey of members show that I was right to reject that our Party has changed in such a way.
60% of the respondents said they saw themselves as Social Liberals, 72% said they’re progressive (up seven per cent from the last time this question was asked by LDV), 49% said they saw themselves as centre-left (up 4%) and 34% see themselves (ourselves) as social democrats.
In comparison to this just 10% said they saw themselves as centre-right and just
25% as centrist.
So, even despite many of our centre-left members having left the Party, outraged at some of what we’ve signed up to in Coalition, a vast majority of our members remain on the centre left and remain Social Liberals. We are the majority in our Party and we need to be proud and resolute in defence of that.
Of course I accept that all parties are broad churches and, in a first-past-the-post system, that’s always going to be the case. But I will not have it said that those of us on the centre-left in our party are somehow no longer the mainstream, no longer in vogue, no longer of relevance.
Just because a significant proportion of the current leadership identifies itself as classically liberal, doesn’t mean the party itself (re our members) have changed; we clearly have not. I, like most of our members, joined the Lib Dems because we felt it was a party of the centre-left. We joined a radical, progressive, social liberal, internationalist, green party and, to borrow from Tim Farron, that is the party we still belong to. I believe in the active, ambitious liberalism that our Party President set out at our Conference in Glasgow in what was the best political speech I’ve ever heard. A speech which had me in tears as I watched it being delivered in person, in the Conference Hall.
I’ve long advocated what I call an enabling state; not one which intrudes in every aspect of our lives, not one which invades our privacy, but certainly one which takes an active interest in helping to create a stronger society enabled by a fairer economy, in helping to create jobs, in properly funded public services which remain fully public and so on. This, for me and, clearly, many others too is the direction we need to be taking post next year’s General Election if not before. An active, ambitious liberalism is what this Country desperately needs.
The centre-left majority in this party must ensure that it happens!