Thursday, 12 May 2011

Liberal Democrats are not defined in terms of other parties

An excerpt from yesterday's speech by Nick Clegg, quoted on

“In terms of our own identity, I have always thought it a mistake to allow ourselves to be defined in relation to the other parties, or to use and adapt their labels.
"We are not an anti-Conservative party or an anti-Labour party. Or at least only to the extent that we are different to them both. We are a liberal, democratic party – and we judge the other parties by their liberalism, rather than judging ourselves according to their ideological fixings.
"Nor do I like Westminster village discussions of ‘realignment’ on either the ‘centre-left’ or the ‘centre-right’. There was a lot of ‘realignment’ talk by Labour in the run up to the 1997 election, when Tony Blair was afraid he might fall short of an overall majority. There are still those who dream of a so-called ‘progressive alliance’, forgetting that Labour had 13 years to make some moves in that direction and never quite seemed to get around to it until, in desperation, they tried to cling to power last year.
"There has also been some talk of a so-called ‘centre-right realignment’ since the formation of the current coalition. This is just nonsensical and naive. As I said earlier, this is a coalition of necessity, not of conviction.
"Realignment is a polite euphemism used by one party that wants to gang up on the other gang – with us as a temporary recruit.
"I didn’t come into politics to simply replicate the two-party system under the guise of realignment. That’s not my definition of pluralism.
"We must not define ourselves in relation to the other parties. We are defined by a century and a half of liberal politics. It is not left. It is not right. It is liberal.
"If it requires a position on a spectrum, it is the radical centre. We are camped on the liberal centre-ground of British politics. And we’re not moving.”

The only thing I object to is that "radical centre" is to me a contradiction in terms. In fact, "centre ground" is about as useless an expression as the old "left" and "right" labels.

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