Saturday, October 20, 2007

Choice, or lack of choice?

Defining core values can be a difficult task for a party, often recently the values are attached to the leader as opposed to the broad mass but not so perhaps for Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg, in declaring himself to be in the contest to be leader set out what the party stands for:
I want the Liberal Democrats to become the gathering point for everyone who wants a different type of politics in Britain. A politics that begins by giving power to people, their families and their communities... We are a nation with a strong sense of fair play and social justice. An instinct to protect the environment for future generations. We are suspicious of arbitrary power, impatient with bureaucracy and wary of government interference. We have always put our faith in the power of ordinary men and women to change our world.
The problem for Nick is that this maps pretty closely to statements by Conservative leader David Cameron, for example:
That's the political programme I will follow, based on my values of family, responsibility and opportunity, and driving forward our political agenda of giving people more freedom and control over their lives
An agenda that also includes the environment, reducing bureaucracy and giving power back does not offer a 'different type of politics', rather it is the same politics managed by a different party and leader. Whether there is space within the marketplace of ideas is questionable currently but it is clear that there is a lack of differentiation and this could be the greatest problem to face the Liberal Democrats. They will have a leader that is largely unknown and offer little that is fundamentally different, while not offering the opportunity for an anti-war protest vote, so on what basis can they steal votes from their opponents?

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