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Where are the LibDems going?

The LibDems somehow managed to hold on to Eastleigh at the by-election, and the Spring Conference is on this week at Brighton, so where is the party going? It has certainly not distinguished itself by supporting this disastrous Coalition, nor has it made matters any better when leading figures like Vince Cable have been pushing ludicrous proposals such as the Mansion Tax. Cable has no excuse since he is, or ought to be, well aware of the LVT alternative.

The Liberals had lost their way by the 1960s, which is why it was possible for them to get into bed with the Social Democrats in the 1980s. But Liberalism is not Socialism Lite, nor is it a half-way house between the other two parties, but stands in a triangular relationship to them. In the early part of the last century, Liberalism was based on liberal principles of free trade and free land. In practice, this meant doing away with protectionist trade policies on the other hand, and with taxation on the other. The use of the rent of land as the main source of public revenue was part of the party’s constitution up to the time of the merger.

Until this is understood, the LibDems can only go round in ever-decreasing circles. Whether the genuine Liberal philosophy would make the party electable is another question, but it then becomes a question of whether politics should come before principles. Given that the English seem to have taken to rent-seeking as their primary economic goal, the prospects for genuine Liberalism are not good just now, but then things can change and the philosophy ought to be kept available for when, or if, the time comes.