Tuesday, 26 May 2015

What's the point of the SLF?

OK, it's a spuriously provocative title. But if you can't be spuriously provocative on your blog, when can you be?

I joined the SLF shortly after they were formed, and have been a member ever since. At the time, they were a welcome voice standing up for the membership against a leadership that all too frequently ignored party policy in favour of 'tough decisions' that they never bothered to justify. When the party was dominated by the right (and by the Cleggbunker), they were a welcome counterbalance.

I was pretty turned off in the first days after the election. Their blogs, when they went up, were reasonable. But the tone in unofficial communication was too often gloating and sneery, and I don't like it. I get that everyone was tired, and it may be unfair to hold people to what they said and how they said it. But it made me wonder.

Thinking about it further, I think the reason for my discomfort is deeper - I'm not sure what they're for any more.

The SLF were founded to counterbalance the leadership. Then Liberal Reform founded to counterbalance the SLF... wondering how long it'll take for the Radical Liberal Movement to counterbalance Liberal Reform and for someone to shout 'splitters' at conference. They played a valuable role in the coalition era in doing that, in vocally standing up for party policy, for radical liberalism, and for the 'left' of the party.

But post-coalition, we all *agree* that centralist managerialism is dead, that we need to reflect party policy, and that we need to be radical in our liberalism. We're less at risk of forgetting our social liberal heritage than of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and renouncing the positives from our experience in government.

The likely leader, Tim Farron, is as SLF as they come - and is gathering significant endorsements from the party 'establishment'. Presumably, we're all SLF now.

If anything, as we react to coalition, Liberal Reform is likely to be the more important of the two. And now that we don't have one camp forced on us by Great George Street to react against, perhaps it's time to be less factionalist and stop dividing ourselves into 'left' and 'right', and concentrate on being 'liberal'.

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