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Countdown to Conference #1

The Neo-Liberal Democrats

16th AUGUST 2010

As the Liberal Democrats prepare for their first conference since entering coalition, the influential magazine The Liberal offers an in-depth analysis of the party’s rapidly changing identity. Contributing editor Simon Kovar charts the rise of the ‘Orange Bookers’ and argues that the leadership has left behind not just the party’s membership and voting base but its political and philosophical traditions – a radical departure that has given birth to ‘The Neo-Liberal Democrats’.

In 2007, Kovar wrote: “It is possible that the party is heading for a split – one not along philosophical lines related to the project of 21st century Liberalism but over the choice, between Labour and Tory, that helped destroy the Liberal Party in the 1920s. There is only one sensible conclusion: that the Liberal Democrats should enter no coalition except in a Commons elected by PR and should use its votes in a hung parliament to oppose or support causes depending on a single ‘test’ – that of their liberalism”.

Meanwhile, the magazine’s editor, Benjamin Ramm, expressed unease at the coalition’s priorities. Responding to the growing disquiet among grassroots members over the climbdown on Capital Gains Tax, he urged the government to prioritise alleviating poverty over giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

Ramm pointed out that Capital Gains had been pegged to the top rate of tax until 1997, when Gordon Brown slashed it to 10% – a move described by Vince Cable as “an open invitation to tax avoidance”. But instead of assisting those who benefitted least from the private equity bubble, the new government made welfare reform the cornerstone of its emergency budget. Ramm asked: “Why has the coalition prioritised cutting half a million free school meals over reversing a tax cut for secondary property? Are the children of the poor less deserving than the portfolios of the rich?”.

For further comment, or to speak with the editor, call (020) 8444 1944 or 07812 650 399.

The Liberal is an independent publication dedicated to the revival of liberalism. It has no affiliation with the Liberal Democrats, although previous contributors include Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Simon Hughes, Menzies Campbell, Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown.


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