Friday, May 22, 2015

Why I don't speak on behalf of the collective left

As a political writer, one of the things that I find really frustrating is the fact that so many people tend to simply dismiss my views by crudely labeling them as those of an enemy ideology.

By far the most common label that people tend to use to dismiss my work is "leftie" (usually combined with a smattering of crude insults, fallacious arguments and lazy assumptions) but many others have also tried to condemn me by labeling me as a "communist", "Marxist", "socialist" "anti-capitalist" and many other things, without ever having tried to justify their assertions with facts, evidence or analysis.

The idea that I somehow represent any of these political viewpoints is completely wrongheaded, and the tactic of labeling me as such and then attacking the label is an extremely weak debating strategy indeed.

I'm just a guy

The views that I express in my work are my own. I don't speak on behalf of any organisation or ideology whatever. People are free to agree with me or disagree with me as they please, in fact I actively encourage people to try to find something I've said that they disagree with, because I'm just a guy from Yorkshire, and nobody should be 100% agreeing with everything I say.

I'm not a member of any political party and I never have been, however there is obviously some overlap between my views and those of particular political groups. A few examples of this kind of overlap include Positive Money, The Green Party, Common Weal, Unlock Democracy, Basic Income Europe and Rethinking Economics, but I don't endorse everything that these groups say, and I certainly don't speak on their behalf.

I don't speak on anyone's behalf but my own. If people agree with what I've said, they're absolutely free to share my articles and infographics, to quote me or to borrow my arguments for their own use. They can do this without the act of borrowing a specific veiwpoint of mine being a blanket endorsement of everything I've ever said.


The tendency for human beings to put simple labels on things is perfectly natural. The world would be impossibly complicated if we had to consider the incredibly complex detail of everything we experience, rather than just labeling things "tree", "cloud", "person", "blogger", "left-winger" or whatever.

The act of putting simple labels on things is a normal and necessary part of human existence, but there's still a strong distinction to be made between people who understand concepts like heuristics and confirmation bias, and recognise within themselves that they often use simple labels to reduce the incredible complexity of things to a manageable level, and those of us who don't, and tend to think rigidly within the limits of the simplistic labels they've applied to things.

I'm not trying to be judgmental or anything, or to say that some people are more inherently aware than others, because as far as I'm concerned it's within almost anybodies grasp to understand stuff like confirmation bias and heuristics if they have the opportunity and inclination to learn about them.

Labeling things

I am always very hesitant to label my beliefs, especially because so many political and economic words have become so layered with meanings that go so far beyond the original intended senses, that in many people's minds they mean something completely different to the actual definition.

I'm pretty sure that most of the people who tend to use words like "leftie" and "socialist" as insults to hurl at people actually have very little idea of what the words actually mean. While someone who self-identifies as a socialist believes that the means of production should be owned socially and run cooperatively for the benefit of all sectors of society, the person who has only ever read about the perils of socialism in the Murdoch press or the Daily Mail is likely to be using some kind of simplistic short-hand platitude like "spending other people's money" or "jealous of success" as their definition of what socialism means. Thus, to self-identify as a socialist is to give many people a convenient label with which to immediately dismiss your views as ridiculous.

I'm not saying that socialism is right or wrong. There are so many different branches of it that any such simplification would be an exercise in lazy absolutism. What I will say is that I strongly agree with some socialists about some things, I strongly disagree with other socialists about other things, and that the vast majority of my views on socialism fall somewhere between the two extremes.

My reluctance to pigeonhole myself by labeling my views with specific words is summed up by one of my favourite (and most easily memorable) existentialist quotes:

"Once you label me, you negate me" - Søren Kierkegaard


One of the very few labels I have ever allowed myself to self-apply is left-libertarian because the term simply doesn't carry the layers upon layers of (often bizarrely warped) political baggage in the same way as so many other terms like socialist, capitalist, communist, anti-capitalist, anarchist etc.

In reality my political and economic views are too complex to be constrained by a term like left-libertarian, but I am prepared to wear the label because it should be reasonably self-evident that a left-libertarian is concerned with promoting social justice and maximising freedom, and even if it's not self-evident, people would either have to think a while about what it means or go and look it up (both of which are good outcomes). They certainly wouldn't be able to use it as a convenient label to dismiss my views as, and to hurl at me as an insult, because "you left-libertarian bastard" and other such potential insults just don't parse.
The divided left

When people try to dismiss my work by labeling it "leftie" they often make the mistake of talking about "the left" as if all left-wing people are some kind of hive mind, and as if generalistic criticism of anything that is claimed to be left-wing carries the same weight as actually reading what's been said and addressing any of the specific points that have been raised. It's easy to spot these kinds of collective criticisms because they often refer to "the left" as if everyone who is not as right-wing as they are is part of one homogeneous blob that can be generalised about and dismissed.

Anyone who knows anything about left-wing politics (or has seen The Life of Brian) must be familiar with the problem of factionalisation. One of the most bitterly frustrating things about left-wing people is that so many of them seem to have more determination to attack other left-wing people for promoting the wrong shade of left-wingness, than they have to actually criticise the real enemies of the left like powerful 
right-wing media barons, entrenched establishment interests, tax-dodging multinational corporations, the pushers of neoclassical pseudo-economic dogma and the crony capitalist political elites.

It is easily apparent that "the left" is so divided and factionised that anyone who makes sweeping generalisations about "the left" clearly doesn't actually know anything much about it at all.

Not all "lefties" agree with me

Some of the strongest and most heartfelt criticisms of my work come from other people on the left who think that I'm doing it wrong. Other strong criticisms come from the libertarian-right.

I think the reason that the strongest criticisms of my work tend to come from people with whom I have something in common is that they are capable of actually engaging with what I've said, rather than simply labeling it as "leftie bollocks" and hurling a sequence of insults and logical fallacies at me.

It's obviously a lot easier to build a coherent counter argument to something if you actually read what has been written and set out your specific objections to the parts you disagree with, as opposed to simply dismissing the whole thing as "leftie bollocks".

It does seem like a strange phenomenon, but my experience bears it out. The most coherent criticisms of my work almost always come from people who occupy the green and yellow segments (see diagram), whilst the vast majority of insult and logical fallacy laden "critiques" of my work see to come from supporters of political parties that occupy the red quadrant.

The idea that I somehow represent all "lefties", or all libertarians for that matter, is nonsense, especially given that the most coherent criticisms of my work almost invariably come from other "lefties" and other libertarians.

Why I don't speak on behalf of the collective left

I don't speak on behalf of the collective left because I'm just a bloke sharing my opinions. I don't represent any political parties or protest groups, and neither do I claim to speak on behalf of people who follow my Facebook page or share my work. I speak on my own behalf, and if other people choose to agree or disagree with any of the things I've said, that's entirely their own prerogative.

People who try to dismiss what I'm saying by making generalised criticisms of "the left" as if I'm some kind of spokesman for the "leftie" hive mind, or by hurling political words at me as if they are insults (rather than technical terms with specific definitions), are basically demeaning themselves by publicly demonstrating the fact that they don't actually have a meanigful argument against what I'm saying, and that they're incapable of even understanding that what they've said doesn't even remotely constitute a coherent counter argument.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Why I want you to question everything - even me
Don't read this article
The myth of right-wing patriotism
What is ... a Closed Ideology Echo Chamber?
Austerity is a con
The Tory ideological mission
Why are so many right-wingers still fighting the ideological battles of the past?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The utter Tory contempt for traditional British values

One of the most commonly used Tory propaganda narratives is that there is a big problem with people who don't respect traditional "British values". The Tories love to cast themselves as the protectors of British values, and propose all kinds of draconian measures such as the abolition of free speech, the scrapping of the concept of innocent unless proven guilty and indoctrination schemes to instill a very Tory version of British values in all of our school children.

In this article I'm going to consider the shocking hypocrisy of a political party that claims to support and defend British values but which is actually engaged in an ideological war against long-established British values such as freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and the right to be left alone by the state if you're a law abiding citizen.

The right to a fair trial

Not only is the right to a fair trial one of our most cherished British values, it's also one that has proven so popular that it has been adopted by liberal and democratic nations all across the world.

It should be a matter of pride to British people that our nation inspired the world in this way, but our ancient right to a fair trial has been severely eroded by the Tory party, and looks even more threatened by the Tory efforts to scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw the UK from the ECHR.

One of the most blatant Tory attacks on the ancient British right to a fair trial was when they introduced Secret Courts so that defendants could be tried in a courtroom they are not allowed to enter, on charges they are not allowed to know, based upon evidence they are not allowed to see.

Anyone who thinks that such a crude assault on the concept of open and fair justice is compatible with British values must have a very different interpretation of British values to my own, and to those of anyone who believes that justice needs to be seen to be done fairly, otherwise it's not justice at all.

It's no surprise at all that the Tories want to get rid of our human rights, since their secret courts legislation is so blatantly at odds with Article 6 of the ECHR which states that "everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law".

Freedom of expression

Another long-established British value is that people should be free to express their views, as long as those views are not incompatible with the law. Thus one person has the right to interpret British values in one way, while others may disagree very strongly indeed. What unifies the vast majority of versions of what British values are is that people should have the freedom to believe and express their own values, as long as they are not breaking the law by doing so.

The Tories are pushing forward with new measures to revoke this right to free speech. If Theresa May and David Cameron get their way, it will no longer matter whether the expressed opinion is lawful or not (or even if an opinion has been expressed at all) if the government or the security services take exception to the individual, they'll be able to ban them from freely expressing their views.

The Tories have used the age old "bogeyman tactic" to scare people into agreement, but a person would have to be completely ignorant of the concept of function creep to imagine that any such laws would only ever be used against suspected Islamist extremists. Once the state has awarded itself the ability to silence people with no evidence at all of any actual wrongdoing, who would be naive enough to imagine that such draconian restrictions on freedom of speech would never be used against other people too.

Another factor to consider is that once the right to free speech is abolished and these draconian new censorship laws are enforced, how would it even be possible for us to know that they weren't being used to censor law abiding citizens?

It's beyond obvious that the first thing the state would do if they were using these laws to censor people who aren't radical Islamists (political agitators, investigative journalists, environmentalists, people speaking out against high profile paedophile MPs, anti-corruption campaigners, whistleblowers etc) would be to prevent the targets from ever speaking out about the fact they are being censored by censoring them every time they try to complain about it.

Not only are these proposals to scrap the right to free expression at odds with traditional British values, they're also at odds with Article 10 of the ECHR which protects our "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority"

The presumption of innocence

Another traditional British value that the Tories are ever so keen to scrap is the idea that people should be considered innocent until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

Theresa May's draconian new proposals to revoke the right to free expression from people who have broken no law whatever is clearly at odds with the presumption of innocence.

What Theresa May want to replace the presumption of innocence with is a system where agents of the state only need express a "reasonable belief" that the target might do something bad, in order for draconian restrictions on their freedom of speech and their freedom of assembly to be imposed.

If the Tories get their way then agents of the state will no longer have to actually prove that someone has done anything wrong, or even that they are planning to do anything wrong. All they will have to do is claim that they suspect that the person may at some point do something wrong. Essentially the Tory party are legislating against the possibility of thought crime. In order to be a potential target for these censorship proposals the individual won't even have to be guilty of thought crime! - All that it will take is for somebody in power to claim that they suspect that the individual may be guilty of thought crime in order for their freedom of expression to be revoked.

The right to privacy

Yet another traditional value in Britain that is under Tory attack is the idea that law abiding people have the right to privacy.

When the Edward Snowden leaks revealed that the British surveillance state was mass trawling the private communications data of countless millions of innocent people, and doing so without the approval or oversight of parliament, the Tory reaction was to rush through some "emergency legislation" to allow the security services to continue mass trawling our private communications data with complete impunity.

The idea that agents of the state should be able to trawl through our emails, our social media postings, our webcam conversations, our online transactions and all of our other private communications data is not only completely at odds with the traditional British belief that law abiding people have a right to privacy from state snooping, it's also at odds with Article 8 of the ECHR which enshrines a right to "respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

Freedom from harassment by the state

There are few British people of any political persuasion who would support the idea that the state should routinely harass law abiding citizens.

In May 2015 David Cameron famously complained that the British state is too tolerant, and declared his intention to make sure the state interferes more in the lives of law abiding citizens. If you read his actual words it's impossible to infer any other meaning:

"For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'." - David Cameron, May 2015
It is interesting to note that this statement is about as clear an attack on an established British value as it is possible to make. Cameron clearly admits that freedom from state harassment is a long established British value, but one that he wants to see abolished and replaced with a system where law abiding citizens won't be left alone by the state.

David Cameron has clearly expressed the idea that the traditional British custom that law abiding people deserve to be left to get on with their own lives is somehow wrong and needs to be scrapped. To express such a thing is appalling enough in itself, but the fact that the person saying it loves to dress himself up as a protector of British values is even more repulsive.

Essentially what David Cameron is saying is that in order to "protect British values" we need to scrap British values.


I believe that stuff like the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy and freedom from harassment by the state are all long established British values, that are not only believed in by most British people, but also have very long historical precedents, some of them going back as far as the Magna Carta.

When David Cameron and Theresa May deliberately attack and destroy these concepts, they're actually guilty of attacking and destroying the British values they claim to be upholding.

The sad thing is that so many people are so easily fooled that all the Tories need to do is show them a picture of an Islamist extremist, then cast their plans to destroy long-established British values as the only alternative, and tabloid minded people will bleat for their own rights and values to be abolished.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Austerity is a con
Who are the real extremists?
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Who were the 51 MPs to oppose DRIP?
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy
Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
The Tory "Gagging Law" is passed
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Tory "economic recovery" mantra is a lie

The Tories are always harping on about their "economic recovery". Aside from all of the smears, fearmongering and divide and conquer tactics in the right-wing press, this endlessly repeated recovery narrative was the keystone of their re-election campaign.

I've detailed how they used distorted figures, revisionism and out-of-context big numbers to support this recovery narrative in a previous post, so I won't go into that too much in this one. This one is about something called per capita GDP.

I know a lot of people struggle with economics stuff, it's totally understandable given that the vast majority of our state schools do not teach economics to their students. This means that the 93% of us who go to state schools are very unlikely to get training in the economic basics, whilst the 7% of children with parents wealthy enough to send them to private school are almost certain to learn about economic issues. Whether you want to believe that this is a deliberate conspiracy to keep the general public in a state of economic ignorance is really up to you, all I'm saying is that I understand why so many people find economic stuff difficult to understand.

Per capita GDP is an economic indicator that tells us the wealth of a country divided by it's population, which gives us a measure of how much wealth there is per person in the economy.

What a lot of people fail to realise is that the the UK GDP per capita is still significantly lower than it was before the global financial sector insolvency crisis of 2008 (see graph). This means that if the wealth is divided equally among all of us, then our share is significantly smaller than it was back in 2008.

The reason that people fail to realise this is twofold. One is that the mainstream media abjectly fail to hold George Osborne and the Tories to account for the failure of their economic plans, for example, when the Tories completely failed to eliminate the budget deficit as they promised back in 2010, journalists didn't challenge them about this failure, they instead allowed the Tories to completely reframe this abject failure as a success by constantly repeating "we've cut the deficit by a third" rather than forcing them to admit that they'd missed their actual target by two thirds. Thus most economics journalists are very unlikely to confront the Tories with damning statistics like the per capita GDP figures.

The second failure is that of the Labour Party, which also failed to challenge the Tory recovery narrative with anything. No facts, no evidence, no appealing and easy to remember counter-narrative, nothing. All they offered their supporters was a desperately dispiriting prescription of austerity-lite, which makes the cardinal mistake of accepting the premise of the other party (that the austerity con is even necessary in the first place).

What Labour should have been pointing out is that even after five years of grueling Tory austerity, on average we are all still significantly poorer than we were before the reckless gambling of the banks crashed the economy, but they didn't say that, they essentially said that they want to do the same thing as the Tories, but just not be quite as mean about it!

Another factor to consider is the fact that the tiny super-rich minority massively increased their share of the national wealth, in fact the wealthiest 1,000 families actually doubled their wealth.

Now think about it this way, if there is still significantly less wealth per person than there was before the economic crisis, and the very richest people in society have massively increased their share of the wealth, what does that mean for the rest of us?

The fact is that the majority of us are worse off than we were before, not least due to the fact that the Tories oversaw the longest sustained period of falling wages since records began.

Millions of people voted Tory in 2015 because they imagined that they would get a bit richer, but the evidence is absolutely clear that for the last five years the Tories have been overseeing a prolonged economic stagnation (the slowest post-crisis recovery on record) in which the extremely rich got much richer and the rest of us got poorer.

Adolf Hitler once said that "if you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed", and as much of an unspeakably evil tyrant he was, he was right. Millions of people voted Tory because they believed the big lie that austerity is good for them and that the economy has recovered, when the actual economic evidence says that it's not and it hasn't.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Austerity is a con
Anti-austerity = Epic Win / Austerity-lite = Massive Fail
How austerity-lite ruined Labour's election chances
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
The "all in this together" fallacy
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy
David Cameron's "austerity to infinity" speech

So where do ideas come from?

I'm going to present another article to you in the form of a riposte to something someone said on my Facebook page. If this writing style annoys you I do apologise, but I do find that my ideas often flow much more freely when I'm replying to something, than if I'm building up something of my own from scratch.

I reckon that this reply contains some ideas (some of them my own, but most of them other people's) that might be worth sharing. I suppose it's up to you whether you consider them worth sharing or not. Anyhow, if you like any of them, you can share them, keep them, reuse them, even pass them off as your own for all I care.

The comment in question was one of the very many critical comments about Russell Brand that always appear whenever I mention him. Although it was, in my opinion, an unnecessarily harsh criticism, it was certainly a good deal more thought provoking that the "He's an utter cock who makes me so furious I can barely type a coherent sentence" type diatribes, that for some reason are written almost exclusively by men.

Whatever it is that makes so many people actually take the time and effort to type such vitriol about him, they come across as being so disproportionately angry that I can't help imagining that 
(for whatever reason) they have built some kind of totemic hate figure in their minds that has the face and mannerisms of Russell Brand.

This is the comment:
"When [Brand] stops pretending his ideas are actually his own I might give him a second thought."
This is my reply:
I wonder how many of your ideas are entirely your own? And how many you have taken from other sources such as your parents, your teachers when you were at school, books, television, magazines, right-wing propaganda sheets, or other people you've met? 
I know it takes me a lot of hard work to think of completely new ideas, and even then I often find that my 'brilliant new insight' has has actually been thought of and written down before (on many occasions by someone living on the other side of the planet!).

When I do have a really novel insight, that apparently nobody has thought of before, it almost always comes from the synthesis of two or more separate ideas that originated with other people. Are these synthetic ideas and concepts illegitimate? Can I claim them as my own, or would to do so be a fraud as heinous as the one for which you have mentally excommunicated Russell Brand?
If it is a sham for us to build our ideas upon the work of others, or to cumulatively develop new ideas through conversation and debate, where do we draw the line?
If the reuse or repetition of other people's ideas are excluded as being outrageously deceitful or dishonest, I reckon we'd have to row back quite far wouldn't we? I mean all of human knowledge is built upon the recycling of other people's ideas really isn't it?
If the reuse of other people's ideas is prohibited, I reckon we'd have to go back to something as fundamental as"I think therefore I am" in order to define our own existence without accepting other people's ideas and reusing them as our own. But then, if we're being proprietary about who ideas actually belong to, "I think therefore I am" must belong to Rene Descartes (unless someone else thought of it before him of course), so in order to avoid committing the deceitful and excommunicable offense of using ideas that originated with other people, we'd all each have to define our own unique philosophical foundation stone on which to build our wordviews from scratch upon, which sounds a tad time consuming and unrealistic to me.
I'm definitely not proprietary about my own ideas. That's why I give all my stuff away on the Pay as You Feel principle, and encourage others to share my work and quote me as freely as they like. The more people who see some use in my ideas and borrow them for themselves the better as far as I'm concerned. But I'm still not going to pretend that these ideas don't take time and effort to develop and refine into something that is actually worth sharing, or that all of them are uniquely my own.  
I know that I have to work really hard so that I can continue to provide alternative perspectives in my writing, but I'm never going to have the arrogance and lack of humility to pretend that all of these ideas are entirely my own work. My ideas are built upon a foundation of knowledge upon knowledge upon knowledge, all of which has been been acquired, modified, synthesised and shared by billions of other people throughout all of recorded history and backwards further through time into the depths of ancient pre-history, before it ever got to me.  
Maybe brilliant and unique insights flow like a never ending river through your mind? (I'm sure we'd all be very jealous, unlike you of course)
 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


What can we learn from Russell Brand's dalliance with the Labour Party?

Austerity is a con
The myth of right-wing patriotism
A question about pizza
12 things you should know about Britain First
The Tory ideological mission
Don't read this article
Brave New Justice

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why the Lib-Dems have got to stop living in denial

In the aftermath of the catastrophic Liberal Democrat wipeout at the 2015 General Election (that everyone saw coming apart from them) I've seen many comments from shell-shocked Lib-Dem supporters and deposed Lib-Dem politicians. There are three recurring themes to these comments, all of which are wrongheaded, and if persisted with, a severe impediment to the recovery of the party that I'm sure that they all want to actually see happen.

In the wake of having the number of Liberal Democrat seats in Westminster reduced from 57 to just 8 out of the 650, the three main themes put forward by Lib-Dems are as follows.

1.  "I'm sticking by what we did. Going into government with the Tories was the right thing to do."
2.  "Just you wait and see. Things are going to get a whole lot worse now, then you'll miss us."
3.  "The 2015 General Election result was a terrible defeat for liberalism in the UK."
I'm going to run through these themes one at a time explaining what is so wrong about them.

"Going into government with the Tories was the right thing to do"

This thought is like a mantra that Lib-Dems keep endlessly repeating to themselves and to each other, even though it's completely obvious to everyone else outside the Lib-Dem bubble that it isn't true at all.

The evisceration of the Liberal Democrats in election after election since they signed their pact with the Tories in 2010 would tend to indicate that the general public think that they were wrong to do it. The fact that they've lost almost two in three of their voters since the last election indicates that even most of the people who are sympathetic to the Liberal Democrats think that they were wrong to do it.

The desertion of support from the party and the absolute hammerings they've taken in various elections indicate that what the Lib-Dems are saying when they repeat their mantra about having been unfairly punished for having done the right thing, is that "we are right and the public are wrong".

I'd suggest that taking a "we are right and the public are wrong" stance is hardly a great strategy for winning back public support, and neither is the playing the victim card when there is still an awful lot of public anger about what you've done.

I'd suggest that a "we're sorry, we made a big mistake and we want to atone for it" might play a lot better with the public than telling the public how wrong they are and playing the victim card. Maybe the next Lib-Dem leader will be smart enough to realise this and try to change the Lib-Dem message, but probably they won't and we'll have to listen to them talk themselves deeper and deeper into their political graves for the next five years.

"Just you wait and see"

One of the problems with this "just you wait and see" stance is that anyone who has actually been watching for the last five years will have seen plenty of Lib-Dem politicians voting for all kinds of rotten legislation (see next section), and is nowhere near as convinced that they did as much to constrain the Tories as the Lib-Dems are themselves.

Another huge problem with this "just you wait and see" stance is that it's very unlikely that the Tories would be in such a powerful position to impose their extremist ideology had the Liberal Democrats not been so strategically inept and enabled the Tories in the first place. I mean, where did all of the extra Tory seats that gave the Tories a majority in 2015 come from? Almost all of them were taken from the Liberal Democrats, that's where.

In order to understand the strategic ineptitude of the Liberal Democrats we have to look back to the situation in 2010. An unpopular Tory party had somehow failed to win a majority, even though they were standing against an unpopular government led by an unpopular man that had been in power during the worst financial sector meltdown in history. The Lib-Dems had done alright in terms of the vote share, and lots of progressive people still had the "I agree with Nick" factor clear in their minds.

The Lib-Dems made the awful mistake of going into the coalition negotiations from a weak debating position (we've got fewer seats than you so we'll agree to most of your terms) instead of taking a strong debating stance (you need us more than we need you) and drawing a number of red lines (some suggestions listed below), without which no coalition agreement would be signed. Some of these red lines should have included:

  1. Right of recall for corrupt MPs (a very popular policy when the expenses scandal was still fresh in people's minds)
  2. A proper referendum on voting reform (a referendum between two new voting systems, not one between a "miserable little compromise" and maintaining the status quo)
  3. Democratisation of the unelected House of Lords (featuring a public consultation on what is wanted instead)
  4. No increases in tuition fees (to do so after making a high profile pledge not to would be political suicide)
  5. Increasing the basic income tax threshold (a very popular policy evidenced by the way the Tories stole it and paraded it about as if it were their own)
  6. Establishment of the infrastructure investment bank detailed in the Lib Dem manifesto (this would have acted as a bulwark against George Osborne's ideological austerity agenda).
Had the Liberal Democrats held out on these red line issues, the Tories would have either have had to agree and we'd be looking at a completely different political landscape right now, or they would have had to refuse and opt to work as a weak minority government (which would also have been good for the Lib-Dems and good for the progressive agenda).

It's obvious that the progressive agenda would have benefited if the red lines had been agreed to, but even if they hadn't and the Tories had opted for minority rule (under some kind of confidence and supply deal with the Lib-Dems), the Lib-Dems could have gleefully shot down every rotten and unpopular piece of Tory legislation (such as Caroline Spelman's attempt to sell off our public forests) until the next election was called.

The Lib-Dem narrative at the next election (
whenever it would have been called) would have been a very strong one indeed, meaning they could conceivably have significantly increased their share of the vote at the next election rather than getting almost completely wiped out as they did in 2015.

Their stance should have been 
"we wanted to form a stable coalition with the Conservatives for the good of the country, but they refused our offer because they want corrupt MPs to remain untouchable, they want the House of Lords to remain undemocratic, and they want to keep the outdated and unrepresentative Westminster voting system because it works so heavily in their own favour ... We wanted to put the interests of the country first but the Tories refused to work with us because they wanted to defend corruption, the old establishment order, undemocratic practices and an apathy inducing voting system that is rigged in their favour" and so on ...

If the Lib-Dems hadn't been so strategically inept, the Tories wouldn't have been able to spend the last five years laying the groundwork for what is to come next, and it's by no means certain that they would even have been in power at all. Imagine if the Lib-Dems and Labour had called a vote of no confidence in the Tory government when the economy was flatlining as a result of harsh ideological austerity in 2012 (around the time George Osborne was being booed at the Paralympics). Anyone who imagines that the Tories would have won a majority government at that point must be living in a fantasy world.

The "just you wait and see" attitude is completely ridiculous because without the Lib-Dems' strategically inept decision to bind themselves into a five year government with the Tories, there's absolutely no guarantee that the Tories would even actually have a majority government now anyway.

"A terrible defeat for liberalism"

As someone with strong liberal principles I find this Lib-Dem attitude especially irksome.The reason being that after five years of propping up a right-wing authoritarian Tory government, I think the Lib-Dems have lost all right to even call themselves liberals, let alone speak as if they represent some kind of unique voice of liberalism in this country.

As a liberally minded person, each time I saw the introduction draconian right-wing authoritarian legislation by the coalition government, with the support of Lib-Dem votes, I saw it as a defeat for liberalism.

  • When Lib-Dem MPs voted in favour of the introduction of the "Gagging Law" (designed to prevent criticism of government policy by charities and voluntary organisations) I saw that as a defeat for liberalism.

The idea that after all of this, the Liberal Democrats are still self-righteously thinking of themselves some kind of unique "voice of liberalism in the UK" makes me absolutely furious. What right have they got to think of themselves as liberals after all of that? What right do they even have to include the word "Liberal" in the name of their party after all of that? No defenders of liberalism would ever have voted in favour of any of that, and to continue to sanctimoniously cast themselves as "the defenders of liberalism" is to spit in the eye of all genuine liberals.


I have established my objections to the delusional, self-pitying and sanctimonious narratives emanating from within the Lib-Dem bubble. I haven't pointed these things out because of a tribalistic hatred of the Lib-Dems. Far from it. I have a great deal of sympathy for the dozens of hard working Lib-Dem MPs, MSPs and MEPs to have paid with their political careers for Nick Clegg's strategic ineptitude, and for the thousands of Lib-Dem councilors up and down the country to have suffered the severe public backlash against it too.

I say these things because I sincerely believe that without a significant change of tone from the Liberal Democrats (to "we're sorry, we made lots of mistakes, we acknowledge them and we want to learn from them and make amends for them"), then they're only ever going to suffer even more severe backlashes from a public sick of being told that they were wrong and the Lib-Dems were right, how the Lib-Dems are actually the innocent victims in all of this, and a load of sanctimonious rubbish about how the Lib-Dems are the only legitimate voice of liberalism in this country.

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Austerity is a con
Labour vs the Lib-Dems in the strategic ineptitude stakes
Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
How Ed Balls' austerity-lite agenda ruined Labour's election chances
The Tory ideological mission
How the Lib-Dems were just as compassionless as the Tories
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies