Michael Meadowcroft, a once famous part of the leadership of the Liberal Democrats writes in a letter to the Guardian,

Having deliberately cut themselves off from the benefits of the identifiable tradition of political Liberalism, the Liberal Democrats now lack a solid base to advance electorally. And the almost ubiquitous abbreviation to “Lib Dem” diminishes still further any resonance with the past. It is high time the party accepted the harm done to Liberalism by its attachment to the SDP and rebuilt its Liberal base.

I think this misses a couple of points.

Firstly, I am unclear how much the ideology of Liberalism actually helped the Liberals electorally. To me they have always been, Tories with a bit of conscience, somewhere to vote if you don’t want the Tories and can’t support the workerism or socialism of the Labour Party.

Secondly the post-war high point for the Liberal Democrats was the 2004-2010 parliamentary party, where they were led by an ex-member of the SDP and presented themselves as to the left of “New Labour”. In an act of hubris, they replaced their then leader, Charles Kennedy.

This eventually led to a leadership election between Clegg and Huhne, both exponents of orange book liberalism, which prioritised macroeconomics, monetarism & austerity, and debt fetishism. This replacement of any solidarity with people be it, the social solidarity of the SDP aspirations or the individualism/do no harm of traditional liberalism together with the perennial claim to be able to moderate the extremism of the other two parties led them into the coalition, and proved the latter false. They prioritised macroeconomics, red boxes and government cars over their promises to the electorate, most obviously the promise on tuition fees which cemented their reputation for at least a decade. There are others who could learn from the failure that these priorities led to.

We should also note that the coalition led to a number of high profile left wing Liberal Democrats joining the Labour Party. I am suggesting that the social democrats added electoral appeal to the liberals and that the coalition and the faction that drove the Lib Dems into the coalition severely damaged it for at least a generation (or half a generation).

A return to liberal values is not enough, they need to jettison the orange book and require a better understanding of their own history.

On another point, the Libdems have a crude sectarianism; there’s rarely any campaigning with them on issues before they ask for political support, they rarely demonstrate a solidarity with co-campaigners and Jo Swinson’s role in the destruction of the 2017-2019 parliament for party gain which in a beautiful act of schadenfreude was not forthcoming, is another example of this.

The featured image is taken from the LibDem site, and stored and processed for the usual reasons.

What’s the point in the Liberal Democrats?
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