A tale of two liberal parties…and an important question for the Lib Dems!
January 19, 2011 § 4 Comments
I hope you’re sitting comfortably, dear reader, for this is a tale which has needed to be told for quite a while…a message that needs to be heeded by the British Liberal Democrats; a warning from history, if you will.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I support this Coalition Government and a overwheling majority of its polices; I’m glad that Liberal Democrats are a full part of this Government, serving in the National Interest.
But, our party leadership must be careful in how they plan our strategy beyond the likely next election in 2015.
Warnings come to us from another liberal policy in our own continent and from another down under.
Let’s start with the Australian Democrats; the Aussie’s own version of the Liberal Democrats.
Formed in 1977 as a centrist, socially liberal political party it found quite a bit of success, indeed during two successive Labor administrations the Democrats held the balance of power; helping legislation pass when they thought it was good the country, stopping it when they believed it was bad for the country.
However, by 2008, the party had lost all of its representatives in the country’s Parliament.
It is now a shadow of its former self, albeit a principled one, having to try to re-build itself…and, of course, we wish our Australian sister party well in that.
There are lessons for us to learn however from the Democrats fall from favour; they came under increasing attack for seeming to be-at one and same time-a party of the Right and of the Left and, though, we might see that as sensible (after all we Lib Dems accept the need for markets, in helping to create growth whilst also having very strong principles in terms of the need for a fair, green and decent society) but many Australians clearly wanted a more obvious store about what they were all about.
Of course, there were many other factors’ in the party’s downfall, but that was clearly a primary reason.
Now, let’s take a look at the fortunes of a liberal party a little closer to home.
The FDP in Germany is a party which supports human rights, civil liberties and internationalism but, over the years, has markedly become a centre-right political party.
It has been the junior partner in formal Coalition Governments for most of the past fifty plus years, on one occasion joining with the country’s main left-wing party, the SDP (1969-1982) but, mainly, with the country’s centre-right coalition, the CDU/CSU (1949–56, 1961–66, 1982–98, and since 2009.)
It surely must be seen as one of the most successful liberal parties in the World.
Now, of course, the peculiarities of each country means that direct comparisons are hard to make but we, as British Lib Dems, do need to be asking ourselves how we build on being in Government to ensure that we can deliver liberal policies for the people of Britain not just until 2015, but beyond.
Do we need to signify on which part of the political spectrum we fall (whilst being prepared to be in Coalition with either the main left-wing or right-wing parties), for example do we need to be more explicit in saying-for example-that we are on the centre-left in terms of social policy but on the centre-right in terms of economic policy?
Are we going to be like the Australian Democrats or the German FDP…or can we find our own third way?
I’d love to know your thoughts.