The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Monday, December 19, 2005
Unity (or Playing the Blame Game)
by Peter

Two pieces by Tony Greaves hit my desk today, his letter in the Guardian and his back page column in Lib Dem News (helpfully signposted "no backbiting says Tony Greaves").

OK I know that someone slagged Greaves off on this blog a few months ago. But it was not me, and I have got a lot of time for him on issues like the ID card. That said, I do not find this kind of name-calling very helpful.

Let's go through the letter:

Martin Kettle writes "centrist" when he really means "rightwing" (A botched putsch by people who yearn to be ministers, December 17). He writes "moderniser" (not a term Liberal Democrats use in internal debate), when he really means "Blairite".

If there is one term that Liberal Democrats tend to avoid in internal debate it is "rightwing/leftwing" (remember that fringe meeting with Adam Boulton in Blackpool). Modernisers, I hear all the time.

Of course we must stand on distinctive radical liberal ground

Indeed we must keep in sight the good old Radical tradition of Cobden - a stern free market man, who understood well how the State was liable to become a vehicle for the interests of the privileged.

Yet wait, apparently it is the other lot who are

Chasing Blair, Brown and the Tories back to the economic-liberal free market policies of the 19th century

At which point words seem to have lost all meaning. I cannot think of anyone in the Lib Dems who really wants to reinvent the nineteenth century. I can´t even think of a Tory who would like to do it. Drawing on that tradition, certainly. Going back to the Poor Law? I must have missed that fringe meeting...

I couldn´t help feeling that Greaves is outraged that someone else might be trying to unermine the leadership (and certainly one those who is is a recently departed member of our soi-disant radical wing). But I do not see any point in playing the blame game in public. And in internal party debate playing the ball (addressing the issues) rather than the man should be the rule.

Now if you would like to read something from a centrist, modernising Lib Dem, in touch with our radical traditions click here.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:18 pm  
  • At 20 December, 2005 09:43, Blogger James said…

    I defend Tony Greaves' right to say what he likes as much as I would defend my right to point out when he's talking balls. One thing you can say about Tony is that he is upfront about things - no anonymous backbiting, just a forthright punch on the nose.

    I also think it is fair to say that a lot of people in the party DO look wistfully to the 19th century. The Orange Book is full of paeans about Gladstone and classical liberalism, and I've heard this echoed by a lot of people. I do agree with you that his analysis is unhelpfully simplistic though.

  • At 20 December, 2005 11:00, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…


    I have been known to look back wistfully on the Victorian age myself. It was also - of course - and age of quite massive progress and peace.

    Gladstone was a great believer in economy. but also invented the "Parliamentary train"

    1844 Railway act(the "Parliamentary Trains" Act). This followed Gladstone's Committee of inquiry into railway policy.

    Government assumed the right to buy all railways constructed after 1841, after a period of 21 years, if it so wished. This clause was not implemented.
    Government assumed the absolute right to take control of all railways in times of national emergency.
    Government assumed the right to fix fares and freight charges.
    Railway companies had to provide a minimum service: one train each day each way, travelling at not less than 12 miles per hour and stopping at every passenger station, charging no more than 1d. per mile for third class passengers.

  • At 20 December, 2005 12:35, Blogger Simon said…

    Who is this Greaves clown? Because he is talking mince.

    I am beginning to think that some of these so called 'liberals' are little more than left-wing entryists who provide a helpful buffer for Labour by making the Liberal Democrats unelectable.

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