The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Liberals I knew and loved (shyeah!)


While we continue to call the Conservatives "Tories", it is rare to find anyone prepared to call the Liberal Democrats "Whigs". The textbook reason for this is that the Whigs were to the Liberals roughly what, in America, the Whigs were to the Republicans; two parties in two different times standing for rather different ideals (although the breakdown of Whiggery was far more abrupt in America). The Liberals further became supplanted as the anti-Tory party by union-fed Labour. Finally, the Liberals have failed to come up with a coherent theory of government since Lloyd George prior to the First World War.

When I was in the UK (1987-1992) I noticed two phases, which I will call their Confused Phase and their Stupid Phase.

During their Confused Phase (until 1989) they were calling themselves the "Social and Liberal Democrats". Any student of 19th century politics will tell you that Socialism and Liberalism are opposites, making their very name a joke. The SLD was transparently naught but a vehicle to get (literally) third- and fourth-rate politicians elected.

Their Stupid Phase was under Paddy Ashdown, whom the cartoonists of VIZ magazine ruthlessly mocked through Roger Mellie The Man On The Telly over his fake suntan and also his affair with Tricia Howard. Under him, as I remember, the Liberals' rallying cry was "proportional representation". PR is by some accounts a fair system of government. But all observers of the UK political scene can see that it could only benefit the least third of a three-party system; the other two parties, between them totalling well over 2/3 the population, were and remain united in seeking their shares at the Liberals' expense. Political wonks can further see that it would make Members of Parliament less responsive to local concerns; which was spectularly destructive given that the sole reason for Liberal survival up to the 1980s was that they had reinvented themselves as the "Local Concerns Party". Non-wonks never did care one way or the other; Labour's class warfare and the Tories' patriotism and traditionalism appeal at a more basic level.

The Liberals were wholly useless when I was a lad. I should've voted for the Tories.


posted by Zimri on 17:30 | link | 0 comments

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