Friday, 12 October 2012


This'll be a short post. WARNING: THIS POST HAS PARTY POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS. I have posted about what I understand it to mean to be a Liberal and explained that I'm an active member of the British Liberal Democrats, but most of the time I prefer to post about political and moral issues in the broad sense (or satirically) rather than talking party politics or indeed Christianity or Quakerism.


If you look at the history of dissidence and nonconformism, you'll find it often suggested that these strange and awkward people, by deliberately taking a route different to that taken by most of their countrymen and women, are unpatriotic. Of course, if they oppose what they say is an unjust war (or war in general) that leads to more accusations of disloyalty to country.

If while participating actively in a political party, you raise criticisms, that can also be seen as disloyal. Blairite Labour had a particularly insidious concept of being "on-message" or "off-message", implying that there was one necessary message and if you dissented from it in any way, you weren't suggesting a slightly different path, but dropping off the right path.

Of late the Liberal Democrats in Britain have faced a lot of criticism for sustaining and joining in a Conservative-led coalition making cuts to reduce the deficit at a time of recession. I don't want to get into arguments about what they or the government have done right or wrong except to say that in 2010 after the election there was really little choice. Labour plus Liberal Democrat added up to less than a majority and the markets were ready to panic at a weak government.

But I am critical of some aspects of the leadership. Nowe here's my central point. I see some activists who do a lot for the party raising criticisms - and others reply with comments like, "Stop wingeing and get out on the doorstep." Now this seems to me a bit like saying, "Stop polishing your shoes and learn Spanish." While it may be difficult to learn Spanish at the precise moment when you are polishing your shoes, there is actually no conflict between being devoted to polishing your shoes and successfuly learning Spanish. Similarly, Liberal Democrats who are critical of the direction of the party are in no way prevented from getting out on the doorstep - and in fact many who are critical are amongst the hardest workers with continuing local successes under their belts.

So they may be wrong in their criticisms, but to criticise is not to stand aside.

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