Charlotte Henry seems to have an axe to grind with every Liberal Democrat who doesn't agree with her. That doesn't seem to be very liberal nor democratic.
Now I don't mind discourse within our party, in fact that is what is so great about our party, we do have discourse and we come to a democratic consensus that we then rally behind. The one constant is all the 23 years I have been around this party has been fairness. Look at the preamble of our party's constitution, that is the yardstick against which I measure every policy that is brought before conference for my consideration and vote. I have actually voted against some amendments or policies laid before conference because although I agree with the general thrust parts of the methods that they aim to achieve them do not meet these criteria.
Whilst I somewhat agree with Charlotte that we are not a party that can be defines as left or right, and therefore do not see the need for a Liberal Left movement, I do notice that Charlotte decides to bracket up the Social Liberal Forum in her poison pen letter.
The Socialist [sic] Liberal Forum will no doubt try and claim that the emergence of such a group further proves they are the moderate mainstream of the party, but that would be patently untrue. The SLF continually try and push Lib Dem policy away from the centre ground, and towards higher levels of tax, spending, and state nannying. Liberal Left are likely to pursue such an agenda to the extreme. We can only hope that more sensible party members push back against this pincer movement.
Now many will take Charlotte misnaming of the SLF as Socialist as an error, were it not for her earlier piece as a "Lib Dem blogger" in Total Politics that talked of the "SDP-statist-sandal wearer", which showed a clearly mangled view of party history as James Graham pointed out.
However, let's take her points one by one and reference back to the preamble of the constitution.
- higher levels of taxation and spending - We promote....a sustainable economy which serves genuine need, public services of the highest quality.
We will foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a just distribution of the rewards of success.
We recognise that the independence of individuals is safeguarded by their personal ownership of property, but that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly. We support the widest possible distribution of wealth and promote the rights of all citizens to social provision and cultural activity. We seek to make public services responsive to the people they serve, to encourage variety and innovation within them and to make them available on equal terms to all.
- state nannying - We believe that people should be involved in running their communities. We are determined to strengthen the democratic process and ensure that there is a just and representative system of government with effective Parliamentary institutions, freedom of information, decisions taken at the lowest practicable level and a fair voting system for all elections. We will at all times defend the right to speak, write, worship, associate and vote freely, and we will protect the right of citizens to enjoy privacy in their own lives and homes. We believe that sovereignty rests with the people and that authority in a democracy derives from the people.
We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce within a competitive environment in which the state allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary.
Enshrined in our constitution is a social and liberal attitude. We recognise that the private sector alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of all individuals. When there is the need to make public services available to people they must be responsive to their need. Something that the Lords tried to bring in to the Welfare Reform Bill but was sadly turfed out by the commons. We need to be responsive to the needs to the people so that "nobody is enslaved by poverty".
If upholding the heart of our party as laid out by the constitution is somehow pushing the party away from policy, maybe Charlotte should revisit the policies that we have stood on over the last few elections and see that the Social Liberal Forum is actually trying to pull the party back towards what has been agreed before.
As for the talk of pincer movements Charlotte clearly misunderstands how the party works. There is not so much a them and us mentality. Of the 631 candidates that stood in 2010 there is a broad church, of the members who turn up to conference there is a similarly wide church. But what we put before the people come election time is what we all agree on. That is Liberal Democracy, talk of pincer movements either from the SLF, Liberal Left, the Orange Bookers, the Parliamentarians or anyone else is not the way that our party will ever work. Every one of the groups above will have failed to get policy accepted that was clearly put forward by them when the issue was put to a vote and no doubt that will continue to be the case.
Update: Before I wrote this I posted a comment that was a shorter form of this on Charlotte's blog that now at 09:30 the following day has yet to be moderated.