Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

August 26, 2010

A Letter to E Miliband (with apologies to Abe Lincoln)

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 2:35 pm

Rt Hon Edward S Miliband
Dear Sir,

I am in receipt of yours of 23 August, in reference to my “vote” for one Nicholas William Peter Clegg on 6 May. In your letter’s premise, I find a number of concerns, not least the manner in which you obtained (or at any rate, seem to believe you have obtained) the particular details of my vote in the last General Election. I was led to understand it was undertaken by Secret Ballot. I suppose this is of little ultimate import, as I will generally disclose how my franchise was exercised to any reasonable correspondent.

What worries me slightly more is your assumption that I voted for Mr Clegg, a fact that does not obtain; I am not resident in the consituency of Sheffield Hallam, nor have I yet found myself in that vicinity, making such a ballot a practical impossibility!. I assume you meant to write “Jo Shaw”, though perhaps constraints of time did not afford your the opportunity to tailor your letter to every voter! Though it occurs that you could instead have written “your Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Candidate” or words to that effect and maintained an accuracy, if not economy, of expression.

It is, I suppose, no matter. You have correctly identified my party preference, and I ought respond to the substance of your correspondence. I understand that you are running for the Leadership position in your party. You also appear to have acquired the backing of The Guardian, a most Serious newspaper, so it is clear to me that your words are worth addressing.

Before I do so, I suppose I ought apologise for my recent unkind words in your direction. The heat of rhetoric often takes me, as I am certain you can understand. Though I do wonder, do you still propose to make the Liberal Democrat party “extinct”?

I am told that this turn of phrase taken out of context, but I am at a loss to infer in what other context it might be seen. Perhaps you assume that I, in taking your words out of context, believe you to wish a political pogrom on all who would exercise their votes for a third party. I assure you, I assumed no such thing; you are, above all it seems, a Reasonable Man, and I too, am a Reasonable Man!

I assume that you mean extinct in a political sense. Perhaps that there will be no Liberal Democrat members of Parliament in your grand political utopia. As to your remarks, this was my assumption. Is it false? I would not propose to school you in rhetoric, but the word “extinct” is one of the most unequivocal you could use. Especially following comments that you would first wish to make us an “endangered species” the very pre-requisite for extinction!

Perhaps I am being unfair. It would seem to be your notion that we all stop voting, or at any rate start supporting Labour. You cite the names of Keynes, Lloyd George and Beveridge. Luminaries of the Liberal party of years passed, to be certain, and key in implementing the modern conception of the welfare state. It is regrettable that, reaching into history as you do, you omit William Gladstone, the father of the very modern notion of Liberalism. Individuals all that one might credit for the eventual success of your own party.

But to be plain, you are dissatisfied with us about the Tories. Quite likely there is a difference between you and myself on the topic. I certainly wish that Liberal Democrat government could be formed without the need of our Tory partners, but that is a plain impossibility. Do you wish this also? I would think not. The most that can be said, if so much, is that we are political opponents. You correctly identify that our very history involves a split from your party into what become our own. You use this to invoke the logical of our return to the fold. But I would not resort to such reasoning any more than I would assume a divorce petition to be an indicator of affection. Would you subscribe to the latter logic?

Perhaps you believe the Liberal Democrats ought to have pursued a coalition with yourselves, rather than the Tories. I must say that I find this a surprising turn, given the party leadership’s affection for the idea previously, which was unkindly rebuffed in 1997. I suppose better times make for sharper distinctions!

But that notwithstanding, it does not occur to me you had very much to offer, even theoretically speaking. You cite the 1,500,000 people who have defected to our party since 1997, where we both reduced the Tories to a mere 30.7% of the popular vote. Perhaps there is a reason for that? After all they have specifically defected to the Liberal Democrats, and not clung to their previous affections. Very few have done so, it seems. I do not know if you are aware, but your party commanded only 29% of the popular vote at the last election. Yet some among you propose we would have returned it to power when your popularity is less than that of the Tories at their electoral nadir. I would have thought this fact a rather remarkable repudiation of your party. Do you believe otherwise?

Our presence may have been felt slightly more at the policy table (I congratulate you, for example, for your apparent conversion to electoral reform, long may it continue!) but it is not clear that the votes would have existed in the proposed “rainbow coalition” to enact the policies important to ourselves. I strongly suspect that a statistically significant portion of your members would have been as disatisfied with such an arrangement.

Our third option then, would seem to have been to forsake any notion of political influence. Is it to be thought that we would be any more popular in that instance than current opinion holds us now? Perhaps this is the path you would countenance assuming that yielding a Prime Minister is the only acceptable way of a party being in government. I wonder if this explains your conflation of the party leadership with the party itself? Perhaps when you say that the current leadership has “betrayed [our] traditions” you imply that we ought know our place, being as it is out of power. I am uncertain, but your citing of Ashdown, Campbell and Kennedy certainly dovetails with that notion.

 It is most heartening that you consider that the correct arguments on civil liberties are “being won” within your party. This is a most gratifying development, as it will perhaps guarantee that, should you find yourselves at the reigns of power, you do not seek to undo the improvements in that sphere that the Coalition government will accomplish.

To this end, I have a counter proposal. You obviously feel that the bonds of our affection are strong. I am not certain I agree. However, should you be sincere in your desire for a stronger programme of Liberalism, notwithstanding the foregoing, I would invite you and your Labour supporters not so enamoured by the clunking fist of the state to join the ranks of the Liberal Democrats, continuing the proud tradition of Liberalism of the Gang of Four you so rightly venerate.

I hope you will consider this offer as genuine in nature and intention as no doubt yours was. Until then I shall remain

Yours truly

P Start

Cross-posted at Something Quotable


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