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April 22, 2010


James Z

I don't think there's anything wrong with voting Lib Dem.

After the last live debate he went up in the polls by a huge amount.

http://www.10downingtweets.co.uk/ - crazy.

Mike Woodhouse

Bermondsey 1983 was a Social Democrat win, pre Lib-Dem, although I suppose the alliance must have been up and running - I lived in Greenwich in the Rosie Barnes era and recall meeting Davids Owen & Steel outside Safeway during the first campaign.

I thought the attacks on Tatchell's sexuality were in fact largely from a group of Liberal gay activists, who were outraged by Labour's attempts to stuff him back into the closet, believing a gay candidate whose selection they'd tried and failed to block would be a vote-loser in blue-collar Bermondsey. As it transpired, they needn't have worried - he was a crap candidate in many other ways and Simon Hughes, despite subsequent revelations of his bisexuality, has been returned ever since.

Disclaimer - I have a historic tendency to vote LibDem, even though it's essentially meaningless (according to http://www.voterpower.org.uk/) in Old Bexley & Sidcup (Con, safe)

Still, two weeks and it'll all be over.

Luis Enrique

This reminds me of your post about how economic behaviour can be linked to experience in formative years.

Presumably voting behaviour is very persistent, so if one could keep track of the allegiances of generations as they enter and exist voting, you get a reasonable prediction of aggregate voting at any point in time. I wonder whether the Tories are doing worse than they might otherwise being because Tory voters are dying quicker than they are being created, right now. Would be interesting to see some research, I'd guess pol.sci has done lots.


As far as I can tell, you can't vote for anyone because you're an idealist, and it makes you more comfortable not to vote at all than to vote for any party not completely aligned with your beliefs. Given that there are only three major parties in this country and pretty well as many belief systems as there are people, your chances of finding a well aligned party were always extremely low. When given a difficult choice, it generally feels most acceptable to choose to do nothing, as we feel by choosing to do nothing, we have avoided making a choice.

Obviously, as a highly educated person, you realise rationally that not making a choice is in itself a choice. However, try communicating that with your emotional brain - your gut feelings - and it's a different matter. Gut feelings don't work like that.

You might like to remember this feeling next time you're asking questions about why so many people can't see your point of view about emotionally charged subjects. On the other hand, it would probably be more comfortable to rationalise this all away :)

James P

On core Lib Dem ideas check this out: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dictionary-Liberal-Thought-Duncan-Randall/dp/1842751670. J S Mill (your hero I thought) is a good starting point.
BTW Simon Hughes of Bermondsey was a Liberal not a Social Dem.

Paul Sagar

By coincidence I wrote a very similar blog today, which comes to pretty similar conclusions:



Male homosexual relations were decriminalised in 1967, admittedly under a Labour government... but only because there was a private member's bill introduced by a Labour politician, Leo Abse, who himself had (what are by 2010 standards of polite society) wildly homophobic views of his own. See for instance his Wikipedia entry.

And what about, for instance, the succession of Labour home secretaries prior to 1967 who cruelly declined to pardon those convicted of homosexual offences? Didn't that amount to a far more grievous antigay "campaign" over the years than an insignificant by-election fought between two opposition parties?

Or is there a line drawn for you personally somewhere in time between 1967 and 1983, antigay words and deeds from beyond which no longer count? Perhaps there is, and this is just another illustration of the importance of one's formative years for one's beliefs.

But my point is more that if one wants to find an excuse for not voting for a given party, one can find something to give oneself a nauseating gut feeling in the past history of any party whatsoever, if one just digs deep enough.


You wrote: "Also, I associate the Lib Dems with their nasty homophobic campaign against Peter Tatchell in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election. I could never vote for a party that behaved like that."

Well in that case, I hope you can forgive me for never voting for the Labour party, after their support for the Iraq invasion. It's more recent, and much more destructive.


So what are the core principals of new labour and the tories?
I'm not sure that they are any different to the lib dems in that regard, not these days. Certainly 10 or 20 years ago, but now?



I think you are one of the best bloggers, always interesting, always challenging.

But I genuinely believe you have swollowed the dodgy theoretical basis of your profession whole and undigested. The issue isn't why tribalism is bad - the issue is why you think 'rationalism' - in its specifically economic sense - is right, or is universally applicable. Because it is not.

It's a partial theory of human behaviour which applies to some economic transactions, sometimes, under certain limiting circumstances. It ain't a guide to politics.

Politics is about power in a far wider sense than economics is. 'Rationalism' in politics is a combination of ethical argument and defence of groups with whom one identifies ('tribalism').


Sorry, Chris, but your perception of the Bermondsey by-election is skewed by reportage rather than historical fact. The Liberals didn't need to smear Peter T so they didn't; that task was performed by the O'Grady/Mellish campaign; however, it is shameful that Liberals stood aside when shit was thrown at Peter T.

The sexuality of Simon H was a really, really open secret for years. If you were a cute slim guy, Simon H would engage you in conversation for hours in the 1980s when I first met him. He is good company (and no, I don't know whether he is a good shag) but his politics are a bit too statist for me.

Roving Bandit

Perhaps we should give greater weight to younger voters, untarnished as they are by this tribalism? :)

chris y

The problem with the Libdems is that they are all over the shop. If everybody votes for Clegg, they won't get a Cleggy government, they'll get a motley crew of opportunists leavened by a few genuine liberal idealists and disaffected ex-Labour leftists. The track record of Libdem councils suggests that, once in office, they are completely inconsistent with their national 'positions' and entirely driven by the need to differentiate themselves from whoever is their main local challenger at any political cost. Why should anyone suppose they'd be different given national office?

John Terry's Mum

A major flaw with human democracy is not so much WHAT people believe, as HOW they get to believe it; most beliefs are created socially - imposed by family members, through media repetition and various forms of social pressure / groupthink.

I'd probably vote for Clegg (if I lived in England), but the reasons for this are fairly irrational, he SEEMS less arrogant/nuts than the other two.

he is younger, new and smoothly "a pretty straight type of guy" -- like Tony Blair was for example.


I get the logic, but not the analogy - all the parties have had episodes in their pasts that they would rather we forgot; take Militant's domination of Labour for example or Maggie's "poll" tax. You say you like the idea of a more egalitarian tax system and you're pro scrapping Trident. If you like the policies but don't vote Lib Dem, what incentive will there ever be for parties to listen to what the electorate thinks? I have visions of putting our names down for a political party at age 18 and then leaving them to it. And where's the fun in that? This is one of the most interesting and entertaining elections I can remember...


"Sure, they’re not a socialist party - but nor is Labour."

Is part of it, perhaps, that while Labour may not be a socialist party in the actions of its current leadership, it is a socialist party in theory (according to its constitution) and it does contain a fairly large swathe of people who are proud to call themselves socialist, such as the Campaign Group MPs? So with the Labour party you at least feel that, somewhere, there's a possibility of some real socialist action; with the Lib Dems you know they will always be a liberal, or at best social democratic, party.

Rob Spear

I'm not convinced that you can often pass as highly rational. Yes, you are good at applying logic to existing beliefs and coming up with fresh inspirations, but I haven't noticed much in the way of actual shifts of opinion over the years, which suggests you just consider such things as amusing diversions.

Nicholas Gruen

I'm always amused by lines like this:

"if this is true for someone like me who can often pass as highly rational, how true is it of others?"

Conceit with some faux modesty ("can often pass") tossed in by way of disguise.

Kevin Carson

I sure wish there was a major party like the LibDems in the United States. It would be nice to have a market-friendly party that thought outside the Reagan/Thatcher neoliberal box. The LibDems are less uncritically subservient to the Copyright Nazis (ahem, I mean "proprietary content industries"), have some interesting ideas about shifting taxation to land value, and might create some interesting synergy with the Red Tories on all the mutual stuff.

In American politics, our only choices seem to be the party that wants to turn the entire country into a giant dioxin-soaked sweatshop owned by Halliburton and Blackwater, and the party that wants to force everyone to hold hands with a social worker.


I think its a good choice still to vote for the lib dem in the upcoming election. They are taken to be the catalyst of change which will make the American suffer from the consequences of the Obama administration and the dems.


I've never understood why Trident is such a big issue with UK pinks. Surely it isn't difficult to understand that if you can't threaten to vaporise people you don't like the Yanks won't listen to a word you say. Observe Israel, and learn.

Craig Murray

Oh wake up! There are no war criminals in the Lib Dems. There are in New Labour.

I was supporting Simon in Bermondsey and some of what was done was wrong. But as wrong as launching illegal wars resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands?

You are normally very clear headed. Of course tribalism is strong. But don't let it make a fool of you.

Mark @ Israel

It is really your choice to vote or not to vote for the Lib Dems. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion of a certain party or group of people. No one can also say you are right or wrong. It all depends on your values and beliefs. Just stand firm for what you think is right.

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