Liberalism

I came across a graphic a few days ago that tries to define where Liberalism sits in the political landscape. Here it is, but you’ll have to enlarge it for reading:_

One issue which sticks out for me is the supposed positioning of Liberalism between Labour on the left and the Tories etc. on the right. Well, where to start? How about the definition of Labour as a party of the left – really? Labour is a party of the working-class so it encompasses a very wide range of political opinions indeed from right to left and that is of course why it’s in a state of almost continual internal warfare. Often referred to as a ‘broad church’, it’s like all religions together in one tent and the squabbling for which sect is the top dog is unstoppable.

So to look at Labour as a party of the left is very misleading and you only have to take their passive position over Brexit as a rather glaring example of the party in effect backing a policy of the right because their working-class right-wingers, who support Labour electorally, backed Brexit and Labour could do nothing about it. Labour has as a consequence lost some of its traditional supporters to the Tories as they thought Labour’s Brexit stance (on the fence but leaning towards Brexit) was not good enough. In fear of losing more supporters this way, Labour’s leadership has in effect hidden behind the sofa hoping no one will mention Brexit.

As a Social Liberal, my view is that the vast majority of Labour supporters are to the right of me politically but where you can place Labour on a left V right axis is problematic as that party has the potential to be left or right of centre. Conversely, until recent times, it would be possible to find Tory supporters who were all but centrists but of course, they’ve either been thrown out or have left that party. My own present political axis for England would look something like this:-

Liberals, Greens, Social Democrats ———–Centre———— Tories, UKIP
——————Labour———————-Labour————————Labour——

That Labour desperately wants its former right-wing voters back is a given, but presently many are in Johnson’s clutches. However, this very Labour problem kind of makes my point about where the Labour Party sits in the political spectrum because its white, working-class, right-wing voters can easily move to back the Tories. There may even be a few Tories left who can easily move to vote Labour too as they don’t see it as a left-wing party.

As an aside, I’ve never been particularly taken with the alternative view i.e. looking at political parties as Liberal V Illiberal as that is not how folks in the real world look at political parties in the UK.

I don’t consider myself to be ‘middle of the road’, ‘moderate’ or ‘centrist’ but of the left. As a Social Liberal and a life-long trade unionist I’ve never been tempted to join Labour as it mostly seems to be to the right of my politics.

Lord Peter Smith RIP

I’ve just picked up on the passing of Lord Peter Smith from the blogsite of Jim Hancock – This is what Jim had to say about him –

‘I was sad to hear of the passing of Lord Smith of Wigan. He was one of the most significant figures in local government in the North West in the last 40 years, although his profile was low. He led his local authority for 27 years and was leader of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) for 21 years.

His quiet ability to bring together ten competing local councils and make them see the wider picture provided the foundation for the Combined Authority we see today. He was a moderate in Labour Party terms and avoided open personality clashes. I confess that sometimes I found him frustrating when looking for a colourful quote, but I respected his wisdom, diplomacy and dignity.

My condolences to his friends and family.’

I too liked Peter Smith whom I met on a number of occasions during my time as Leader of Sefton Council – Back in March 2012 I blogged about his impressive leadership of Greater Manchester and compared it with politically dysfunctional Merseyside:-

Greater Manchester – It’s going places that Merseyside finds hard to reach!

As Jim Hancock notes Peter was a moderate, not a description I would personally like to be known by, yet he was hugely successful. In many ways, his approach to regional issues was just about the opposite you’d expect from a senior Labour politician. I never saw him angry, ranting or tribal in his approach to anyone, indeed he was very diplomatic. We have indeed lost a decent man.

Blair – Progressive but authoritarian

Tony Blair is a man much disliked particularly within Labour Party circles but, without doubt, he has been the most progressive PM the UK has had in many generations. Yes, I know that’s not saying a great deal because all the other PM’s who have won General Elections, have been Conservatives.

The left and particularly those who are within Labour’s fold seem to hate Blair with about as much passion as they hate Thatcher. This has long intrigued me not least because all the other elected PM’s, as I said, in recent times have been Conservative and therefore regressive of political nature.

Why does the left despise Tony Blair so much?

Readers of this blog site will know that I’m no supporter of Blair or indeed Labour as both are generally too right-wing and authoritarian for me. As a Social Liberal, I certainly don’t see myself as a centrist or a moderate, more as someone who is of the left but not a socialist. Having said that, I am happy to acknowledge that Blair is the nearest thing we have had to a progressive winning elections and sitting in No.10 because for me it’s a statement of fact. Yes, he was too moderate, too centrist, too authoritarian and not progressive enough for my political taste and of course he fouled up hugely over Iraq but having said all that he is still the most progressive PM to win general elections in many a year.

Listening to Labour folk talk about Blair over the years I think the reason they dislike him is due to his perceived middle-classness. With Labour very much a class-based party being working class is very important to them. And how many times have I mentioned the Labour Group on Sefton Council launching into a chorus of ‘we are old Labour’ whenever Blair or New Labour came up in a council meeting whilst TB was PM; it must have meant a lot to them to need to be seen to distancing themselves from their own party in government. The odd part of all this is I’ve rarely if ever heard Labour members chuntering about Blair because of Iraq. You see to those of us lefties who are not within the Labour fold that was his greatest foul-up.

I’m also guessing that being anti-Blair is something those within the Labour Party have to be for them to have credibility, so there’s probably a fashion in Blair-slagging even from those Labour members who have a sneaking but unspoken liking for him and his governments.

Do I like Blair? No, not really, he often comes across to me as rather superior and irritating to listen to. Having said that he sometimes has well thought out progressive things to say and at times I’ll say Blair is right. Trouble is most Labour folks cover their eyes and put their figures in their ears whenever Blair appears on the TV.

Blair’s Government called it both right and wrong over Sefton’s Council Housing

One of his government’s unnecessarily authoritarian moves affected the Borough of Sefton and in particular its council housing stock and it shows how Blair could be good and bad at the same time. He was spot on when it came to realising that council/social housing across the UK was not up to standard so his government devised a policy called Decent Homes Standard. Sefton Council was in the frame for a big chunk of his government’s money to bring its council housing up to this new standard BUT, in a typically Labour move, they took the view that the council was not the appropriate body to get the work done. They demanded, as my friend and former Borough Councillor Geoff Howe recently pointed out, that the Council transfer its council housing stock over to a housing association or there’d be no money provided to bring Sefton’s council housing up to the new Decent Homes Standard. It sounded to me like blackmail then and it still does now. It led to Sefton having to ballot its council house tenants over such a transfer, which on the first ballot they refused but then agreed to via a 2nd ballot.

I never quite got why the council would not be an appropriate body to get the work done; did Blair’s government think Sefton would take the money and use it unwisely? It certainly showed a lack of trust in the council in my view yet there’d been no previous fall-outs with them before they took what I saw as an unnecessarily authoritarian position; a position which led directly to a new housing association having to be set up to deliver the Decent Homes Standard with both land and housing needing to be transferred to it. I still think the whole saga was a waste of time and resources because it also meant that Sefton Council no longer had control over its social housing stock. It was a ‘we in Westminster know what’s best for Sefton and if you don’t agree there’s no money to do up your council houses’ position and it was ridiculous authoritarian micro-management. I don’t have a problem with housing associations, I might add, it’s just that in Sefton’s case it was simply an unnecessary requirement to have to create one in my view.

So yes I have big issues with Blair both nationally and locally but whichever way you cut it he is still the most progressive politician to win the PM’s seat in General Elections for far too many years. On that basis can I suggest that hounding Blair for his failures whilst not being willing to acknowledge his generally progressive position on a number of important social issues is counter-productive as the alternative has always been a Tory one!