So, James and Joe ask a very important question and raise some valid concerns; what is the campaign for. By defining it as purely against Labour, James is correct when he says:
If there is to be a “coalition of the willing” on civil liberties issues, then let it be for real civil liberties, not a handful that Conservatives have deemed electorally useful to cherry-pick. Let it concentrate on individual candidates and politicians, tactically opposing any candidate who doesn’t sign up to X, Y, Z rather than letting individuals off the hook and supporting “best fit” political parties who subsequently will be under no pressure whatsoever to carry out their reforms.We have to be careful to be in favour of something, not just against something. We need to be campaigning for liberty and reform, not just against the current government, we need to be a positive force, not a negative force.
So, as Bishop Hill observes here:
There are two strands we need to cover.And I agree completely. Consequently, the campaign needs to effectively have two, linked, branches, effectively operating semi-independently of each other. The first is a tactical voting campaign, starting with the forthcoming local elections and moving on from there. That campaign
1. Getting Labour out (campaigning methods and tactics)
2. Keeping the next lot in order (Constitutional stuff, what are we after?)
I suggest we start with broad areas of principle and move on to specific issues at a later date. It will be very easy to get bogged down in detail on "social rights" or the right to bear arms.
For issues like this it may well be better to leave doors open rather than to try to slam them shut and risk alienating potential supporters.
More on that later when details are finalised; I'm in contact, privately, with a number of people that are putting together nascent ideas. This is going very fast (there's a lot of frustration out there), but the worst thing to do is rush into something and make mistakes.
Vote Anyone But Labour Tactical Voting Campaign
Liberty CentralUnity already has this started, discussed further at Talk Politics - Where liberty is, there is my country, a nice little quoting of Franklin I believe. Nick Barlow has also suggested that a broad based Constitutional Convention, learning from the success of the Scottish experience, but also from other, older attempts; the US founding fathers have been mentioned.
Bishop Hill (Bishop Hill: British Constitution) and Chris (strange stuff: The new British Constitution) have already started a discussion about this, and there are others, specifically some of those involved in the Campaign for an English Parliament, amongst others, that are distinctly on the Right that have been arguing for a new constitutional settlement for some time.
It needn't, in my view, be a radical shift or a massive change in the structure of the country. I, personally, may favour radical changes, but I've read my Burke, I know that people don't like sudden, drastic changes. But I also know that
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothingI wouldn't, actually, go so far as to describe Blair/Brown et al as evil. But they are walking roughshod over both the traditional constitution and modern liberal values of liberty.
We need to establish a campaign for freedoms, liberties and a redrawn constitution. It can, and should, include such other, established campaigning groups with whom we can make common ground. Liberty Central. Bringing them all together. Cross party, non-partizan in favour of those fundamental beliefs that make a modern liberal country.
Joe's right though:
There are many decent people in the Conservative Party, but there are many nasties too. So I have no inclination to give them a hand up. I am rather enjoying their plight, grinning smugly at Cameron's desperate spinTo which I respond with two points. First, from my post when Kennedy resigned:
Cameron's apparent conversion of the old Tory party into a modern, forward looking liberal party is a welcome, and necessary, developement in British politics. Those of us who looked on in horror at the old Tory government can, it appears, approach Cameron's Tories with cautious optimism; they are no longer at the top right, enemies of the blood, but at the bottom mid-right, enemies merely of the head.I stand by my analysis in that post, although I'm not sure I fully agree with the conclusion now. For both Joe and James, and any other LibDems who share their, legitimate, concerns, both read that post and comment here; we need to make a breakthrough, the LibDems need to sweep up the Tory votes in those parts of the country where they are weak; what happened at Dunfermline? The Tory vote collapsed. Why? Because the LibDems were the challengers. Third party squeeze is something the LibDems are very familiar with in those seats where they are the thrid party.
It is esential, in the months to come, that the LibDems recognise the new shape of British politics, and look to a leader who can both work, constructively, with Cameron on areas, such as civil liberties and personal freedoms, where they agree. But that leader also needs to be able to strongly emphasise the differences, push that they're not both the same, that it's not a case of "vote LibDem, get Tory".
Now, the Conservatives are getting used to it in those areas where they are the third, or worse, party. We also need to ensure that in those seats where the Tories challenge Labour, that we (and, to an extent, UKIP) do not cost Tory victories; Cameron says he's going to ensure the candidates echo his "modern" values. Yes, I don't trust him fully either. But I do know that there are a number of Tories who do echo our need for liberal values. Specifically, I refer you to Gav, here:
the younger blood in the Conservatives would still have been uncomfortable with the party’s previous position on homosexuality, marriage and other illiberal policies.and here:
The Tories are realigning themselves as the party of the liberal economics (as it was already) and liberal social policy (which is a major and welcome change). Pragmatic Conservatives are more and more understanding that the “Back to Basics” policy of Major and the unenlightened social policies of Thatcher were off the markHe's a very vocal Tory blogger, but pretty sure there's a groundswell like him.
Yes, there will always be the headbangers, and I don't trust Dave to be more than saying the right thing and manouvering like Blair. Which is why I think we need Liberty Central. Let's commit him to things, and hold him to them.
I would like to think we can persuade the Conservative party to commit to electoral reform. It would be in their best interests given the way the electoral system is backed against them now. Maybe, possibly, it could happen (Gert has more). But we could at least get a cast iron promise to a commission and a referendum. And we can maximise the number of LibDem (and other) MPs to keep it on the agenda as well.
I cannot risk another Labour govt after this one. ID cards would become entrenched, the NIR would take hold, the basic principles many of us have been fighting for, campaigning for, dreaming of or writing about for years would be lost. Replaced by a centralised, authoritarian bureacracy that reserves to itself the right to censor and approve. Even Shirley Williams is buying into elements of authoritarianism.
I, we, cannot sit there and do nothing. Yes, this means being anti-Labour. Yes, this means campaigning against something. But we do it because it's an attack on everything we stand for.
So, what are we for Joe? We're for Liberty. We're for Democracy. We're for Parliamentary power over the executive, we're for decentralisation and freedoms.
We're for a Britain in which liberty is a central tenet. We're for those things we can all agree on.
Are you with us?