Tuesday, 16 September 2008

on how liberal the Liberal Democrats are

According to Mark Littlewood, the most illiberal Lib Dem MP is John Leech MP with 22%, who signed an EDM calling for the reclassification of cannabis. Although as Malcolm Bruce explained at this afternoons conference fringe event How Liberal are the Liberal Democrats?


"reading EDM's is sometimes the biggest waste of all."


Vince Cable, man of the match at the moment, was scored as joint second as the most illiberal MP.


Mark, who yesterday became involved in an 'incident' following his publishing of another controversial list, which highlighted Lib Dem MP's vulnerable to a resurgent Conservative Party, stated that "Lib Dems struck too much of an illiberal nanny state approach to issues."


The most liberal MP was Lembit Öpik with 55%, a fact you can expect to find on a Presidential campaign button soon. Nick Clegg scored 38.9%


The list was compiled by looking at nine votes in Parliament. Three on the smoking ban, three on gambling and three on licensing. In addition, 11 Early Day Motions were looked at, nine which were seen as illiberal and two which were seen as liberal.


On the panel was Mark Littlewood, former Head of Media for the Lib Dems and now head of Liberal\Progressive Vision, Gavin Webb recently reinstated councillor of the party, who was removed from the party for his views on handguns, drugs and other issues. Malcolm Bruce MP former frontbench spokesperson, and a representative from the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Quizzed on how free a drug addict would be once addicted and whether or not the panel would advocate the nanny state setting up rehabilitation services, Gavin Webb stated that drug use should be commercialised and taxed, with this revenue then being used to pay for rehabilitation services, but not necessarily by the state.
Malcolm Bruce MP also seemed to confuse liberalism with Bentham's definition of Utilitarianism, 'the greatest benefit to the greatest number', when explaining his views on public smoking. The latter only being allowed once it has passed the harm principle test and depends on which side of the utilitarian camp you fall into.


Richard from the IEA, on the same issue explained that he thought it was an illiberal ban as public places were actually private owned places. When challenged by the crowd as to how he would square that with workers at pubs he stated,


'Evidence of passive smoking has been heavily exaggerated, we don't after all ban construction or motorcycle couriers, which are equally dangerous occupations.'


This response illicited jeers from the highly 'liberal' crowd.
The panel also seemed to give some support to top-ups for NHS treatment and medication.


It seems that the main problem is this:

To have Liberalism defined by individual, free thinking liberals, results in no definition at all. This is the annoying crunch for Liberal Democrats, as with each new leader we receive a new definition and within each local party we have our own definitions.
This is magnified as with each conference we vote down something previously agreed and with each conference we get tarnished with the brush of wishy-washy politics. This is not something we should shy away from, because as Keynes was quoted yesterday in the Make it Happen debate,

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

The full report can be found here.

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