That’s what the Liberal Democrats are risking. That, at least, is the view Jeremy Browne expressed on last night’s Radio 4 programme about Nick Clegg. Chris Huhne wasn’t much more complimentary about the current strategy of trying to situate the party between the two major parties. Huhne felt that defining the party negatively – at least we’re not as bad as Labour on the economy or the Conservatives on just about everything else – isn’t really a very appetizing message. A more positive case for what the party stands for needs to be made.
We could dismiss these views as sour grapes from the rejected and discarded. There might be something to that. But Browne and Huhne are hardly alone. While there are high profile defenders of what we might call the “non-specific centrism” strategy, there are plenty of activists who feel that just parroting “stronger economy, fairer society” all the time hardly adds up to a compelling political offer. And I’m not even thinking of those who would have preferred it to be “fairer economy, stronger society”.
The leadership’s non-specific centrism strategy is now seemingly accompanied by an attempted rapprochement with Labour, presumably in the expectation that a coalition with Labour is viewed as more likely than another coalition with the Conservatives.
It seems to me that pursuing the strategy of publicly courting Labour may make the coalition outcome less likely. [Read more...]