Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The future is bright, the future is Orange (Book)

Every time I hear a Labour party talking about the Lib Dems (including Dave Anderson MP during the election campaign), I hear us being split into the good Liberals, who are slightly deluded but well intentioned, and the Bad Thatcherite Economic "Orange Book" Liberals. The Orange Book liberals believe in a small state and want vicious cuts. They are virtual Tories except they are maybe a bit more in favour of civil liberties.

This Orange Book must be a very powerful book, I hear people say. Well not really. I bought a copy when it was launched in 2004. It's name is a sly reference to the Yellow Book (aka Britain's Industrial Future) of 1929, which outlined a firm shift in the Liberal Party towards a Keynesian agenda.

It's a book of disparate essays by a variety of Lib Dem parliamentarians who were seen as prominent at the time. Some like Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne (both then MEPs) and Vince Cable, have gone on to great things. Others such as Mark Oaten and Susan Kramer, have foundered politically (but for very differing reasons!). It is seen as marking out a more economic Liberal direction for the party (ie small state) but in reality is a bit of a mixed bag. What I think it marked was the party starting to  transform itself from one of protest to one that may be able to exercise power. It started a serious debate about our values. But there is no "Orange Book" wing in the party. We leave internal factions to the Labour and Conservative party.  We are too small to be able to fall out between ourselves. As long as there is a need for a Liberal agenda to be presented, we will be here.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Neil,

    "It is seen as marking out a more economic Liberal direction for the party (ie small state) but in reality is a bit of a mixed bag. What I think it marked was the party starting to transform itself from one of protest to one that may be able to exercise power."

    There appears to be a cross-party consensus that "ability to govern" = "accepts liberal economic policy," whether it's Orange Book or New Labour or the Tory dries. The most interesting part of this consensus is that the electorate accepts (or even demands) it - while at the same time striking out against its every implication, from light-touch regulation to low corporation tax to a shareholder interest model that gave way to wild risk-taking and huge bonuses. Not to mention the disastrous effects of highly liberal antitrust laws or housing/credit/labour markets.

    The Lib Dems have been particularly unfortunate and unwise to shift to economic liberalism at a moment when it's flaws have become so obvious.

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  2. Look at all parties at the money it's hard to tell one from the other. I've a pretty serious disablity, I fell from the top of a building at work, I broke everything that could break and had a tear to my spinal cord. It's called a partial lesion of the L5 causing paraplegia, when New labour took over in 1997 I decided to join the Liberals because of what was said, I did not think for a minute the Liberal had moved to some left area.

    But not to long ago I was informed that although I've a disablity this disablity was in my mind, I cannot pee without shoving a tube into my bladder, and for get about my bowel you not eat for a week if I told you how I deal with that.

    Three weeks ago i was informed I would be suitable for work, because I can move my wheelchair 50 mtrs.

    OK whats this got to do with your question, if I take what the Labour is standing on, the liberals, the Tories, the only party for me would be the BNP hell of a choice, but it does show how far the political pulse has changed.

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  3. Robert - I'm sorry about your predicament, politics aside. I'm sure you've looked into it before but if not please do consider going to your local CAB for advice at: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm

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  4. Adam - I hear your analysis and I see where you're coming from. I do agree with a capitalist liberal economy but really I do believe that for a good capitalist system to work, negative externalities need to be wiped out. That does mean regulation of the markets, fair taxes and equality of opportunity. Almost all the influence in government we have had so far is dragging the coalition in the opposite direction to what you suggest. It's our misfortune to join government at a time when the country has a massive structural deficit.

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