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14 April 2010

Heirs of eternal Liberalism

Andrew Adonis is right about Labour and the Lib Dems.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

My colleague James Macintyre mentioned this morning a piece that the Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, wrote recently for the Independent, urging tactical voting and articulating what he called the “fundamental Labour-Lib Dem identity of interest”.

The key paragraph in Adonis’s piece was the following:

Philosophically it is a nonsense to pretend that the Lib Dems — or the “Social and Liberal Democrats”, to give the party its original name — are equidistant between left and right, or Labour and Tory. The Liberal Party of Gladstone, Asquith and Lloyd George fought the Tories relentlessly to introduce democracy and social rights. Keynes and Beveridge — Liberals both — produced the rationale and the blueprint for the modern welfare state enacted by Attlee’s Labour government after 1945.

Adonis is right. And he might also have mentioned the influence on British social democracy of “New Liberal” thinkers such as L T Hobhouse and J A Hobson. Indeed, his historical strictures apply as much to his own party as they do to the Lib Dems.

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As John Maynard Keynes wrote in an article in the New Statesman in 1939: “Why cannot the leaders of the Labour Party face the fact that they are not sectaries of an outworn creed, mumbling moss-grown demi-semi Fabian Marxism, but the heirs of eternal Liberalism?”