On Being A Liberal Democrat 99

In my week without blogging, sorting out much personal detritus, I have been taking stock of the past and contemplating the future.

I have decided to rejoin the Liberal Democrats. I know that will disappoint some readers, but as I said after Norwich North, I was forced to conclude that it was impossible to make any worthwhile impact as an independent in British politics. No matter how good a candidate you are, and no matter how hard you and your supporters campaign, the combination of voter party loyalties and media exclusion are killing. Indeed, I find I get much more media exposure when I am not a candidate.

Politics is about the governance of society, and that entails people working together and collaborating their views. It is by definition a social pursuit, so to attempt to pursue it entirely alone to avoid compromising any of your opinions is not politics but futility. Why should I ever expect anybody to agree with me on absolutely every point? Probably nobody genuinely agrees with absolutely every word of the programme of any political party.

I was a member of the National Council of the Liberal Party when I was just sixteen years old. I was in student politics as a Liberal then a Lib Dem, and remained a party member right up until I stood against Jack Straw as an indpendent in Blackburn. I wanted to stand against Straw to highlight hs role in rendition and torture, and would have stood against him as a Lib Dem given the chance.

I am very sad that under Clegg the Lib Dems have not come out more strongly against the Afghan War and against replacing Trident. There is a disconnect here between the party leadership and the members. I spoke to a fringe meeting at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Dunfermline in November. We took a straw poll after my talk, and out of forty five only two were against immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan – which was less that the number of MPs and MSPs present.

I have never made any bones about my strong support for Scottish independence, and on this issue as well as on Trident and on Afghanistan it is my intention to try to influence Lib Dem policy. I am very attracted by the Lib Dem proposal of a £10,000 tax allowance, to be paid for by a tax on houses worth over £2 million and by raising the rate of Capital Gains Tax to equal the rate of income tax paid by the individual benefiting.

That is a far more radical and egalitarian proposal than anything New Labour have on offer, and would enormously benefit the less well off, make work more attractive against benefits and stimulate the domestic economy through consumer demand.

So I shall not be standing in the general election, but will be actively campaigning for the Lib Dems. That does not indicate any hostility at all towards the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru or Respect, all of whom I hope do well.

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99 thoughts on “On Being A Liberal Democrat

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  • Craig


    It is a proposal that would mean that the vast majority of people pay less tax. Economically liberal, in fact.


    Most beneficiaries will be full time workers. For a great many full time workers, £10,000 is still over 50% of their income.

  • David Grace

    Welcome back, Craig. The LibDems aren’t perfect but we are on the right track. As Chair of Lib Dems for Peace & Security, I can confirm that Nick Clegg has accepted our view on Trident and party policy has changed – we will not replace Trident. On Middle East people who think we are Zionist just haven’t read our policies. Yes we have a Friends of Israel group but we also have a Friends of Palestine Group. Like all parties we have too many public relations wunderkinder weakening our message but we are travelling in the right direction.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Yes, David, and apparently some prominent Liberal Democrats believe that Israel is selling Haitian body parts!

    Stay classy Liberal Democrats!

  • Duncan McFarlane

    After thinking about it more i’m not sure whether to congratulate you on your wisdom. foresight and lack of vanity in committing to a larger group on the one hand, or to call you a chicken-shit bastard for not ‘Conan the barbarian’-ing it more – One Man Against the Party Hordes – he will triumph (or maybe not) – the Voters will Decide, etc.

    I think it’s the first one though 😉

  • Duncan McFarlane

    As for the criticisms of the Lib Dems i have plenty too – but they’re not all ‘Friends of Israel’ by any means – and Larry the Lib Dem MP you refer to merely said that there should be an inquiry in order to establish the truth – she didn’t say Israeli forces had taken body parts (though the Israeli government have taken organs from both dead Israelis and dead Palestinians without the permission of either


  • Duncan McFarlane

    sorry last comment should have read “without the permission of the families of either” – doesnt make much sense to not get permission from dead people after they’re dead

  • David Allen

    I’m a Lib Dem who campaigned for Craig at Norwich North, partly over sleaze and expenses, partly because Clegg had shown too much enthusiasm for “savage cuts”. I’m sticking with the Lib Dems now because with all their faults, I think they’re still a lot better than the alternatives. So I’ll cheer Craig for his decision – though not all that loudly!

    As luck would have it, my local councillor died the day after the Norwich result, presenting me with a golden opportunity to overdose on politics a second time, and contest the seat as a Lib Dem. Now, having just supported an independent candidate is not precisely “best behaviour”, if you belong to a political party! So my local Lib Dem colleagues gave me a right old grilling before they decided I could stand as a Lib Dem candidate. Fair enough. Any other party would have simply kicked me out and slammed the door. The Lib Dems were prepared to listen, think about my motives and arguments, and give me a chance. Good for them.

    (And the election? The good news – we gained a 19% swing from the Tories. The bad news – I needed a 20% swing to win!)

    So – Welcome to a party which is capable of listening to you, Craig. Please do what I do, visit http://www.libdemvoice.org/ and try to make some waves. You’ll find plenty of others besides yourself who don’t think it’s good enough that the Lib Dems are a bit less sleazy that the other two. You may also find a few Zionists, but they don’t run the party.

    Most of all, see what you can do to turn the party against the Afghan war. An outright anti-war stance would probably lose too many votes, but I’m very disappointed that we aren’t at least demanding a rigid 2011 deadline for a negotiated end to the war.

    That, I think, is mainly because of Paddy Ashdown’s influence. Paddy commands tremendous respect within the party from all sides – and that certainly includes me. Especially on military strategy, he generally knows what he’s talking about. On this one issue, I think he’s got it wrong. It will take someone with a similar level of experience and expertise to challenge Ashdown. Could that be your next big job Craig, once the election is over?

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Duncan McFarlane, are you so dumb that you don’t understand the blood libel?

    I heard you might have had sex with your father. I’m not saying you did, but it’s certainly worthy of investigation.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    When I spoke at a local meeting of LibDems some years ago on the crushing effect of the illegal Iraq war on Iraqi children, many strong members were in tears, many thanked me for probing deeply into the malnutrition, the trauma, the deaths from treatable diseases, the sadness and bewilderment of orphans and the cancers from DU on babies and the unborn.

    These emotions had a lasting effect on me and my reason for supporting Nick Clegg with all the energy I can muster.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    David – well done on getting a 19% swing from the Tories, good on your constituency party for taking you on as a candidate and i hope it’s a 20 plus % swing next time.

  • Alfred Burdett

    Sure, raise the basic personal exemption from tax, but not by raising taxes on capital.

    The idea of raising the capital gains tax to the same rate as the tax on income is particularly pernicious. Entrepreneurs create the most jobs, and they do it in the pursuit of profit. Mostly, their profit comes from selling a business and the resulting capital gains tax liability is, therefore, a major consideration when deciding where to launch a business, or where to transfer a business once it becomes profitable (not a difficult thing to do in many fields, e.g., biotech, software, finance). Capital gains taxes in Britain must, therefore, remain similar to those in the US if there is not to be a major drain of capital and entrepreneurial talent across the Atlantic or to Asia.

    If you want to do something sensible about capital taxes, abolish death duties, which fall in a haphazard and fundamentally unfair way according to whether or not family members die off in an orderly manner at 30 year intervals, have a good tax adviser, etc., and altogether eliminate the capital gains tax, which is equally unfair in that it applies whether you made a killing on the market on a day trade, or owned a painting for 50 years during which time the nominal value may have increased 32 times but the value of money has fallen by the same ratio, making a tax liability on a non-profit.

    Instead, it would be better to have an annual capital tax of 1 to 1.5% as in Switzerland. This is something that rich people could tolerate and would bring rich expatriates home, where they would, in retirement, contribute significantly to the national tax revenue. Applicable on all assets at home or abroad, including trust assets of which the beneficiaries are British domiciles, such a capital tax would discourage creation of offshore trusts and off-shoring of investment capital.

    In addition, cut the expense of government in the way William Gladstone went about it, combing through the government accounts asking what this person and that did, and failing a satisfactory answer, having them sacked. Then you could eliminate the corporation tax, providing a huge incentive for capital investment and hence job creation in Britain.

  • mike cobley

    Good ol’ Arsalan – just doesn’t take any notice of what people actually write in their posting, instead bibbles along in his own subreality. As for the Haitian/Iraeli body-parts imbroglio – the prime minister of Haiti publically stated in an interview that organs had been taken from the bodies of dead Haitians. Now, whether the Israelis were behind it he didnt say; to be frank, I think any military has people who are capable of such violations. I look forward to discovering more facts before coming to further conclusions.

    Or, I could look into Larry’s crystal ball and go woooo, woooo, conspiralooooons, everwherrrrrre!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Sabretache (315pm), I agree with you.

    While I respect Craig’s decision and of course, I hugely respect Craig himself, I think that figures like Craig are actually more effective in garnering opposition to the endemic war machine when they are outside (to extend the phrase) the ‘Las Vegas of the military-indsutrial complex’.

    I too wish Craig all the best.

    Btw, I note that the probing Norman Baker (Lib Dem, Lewes, Sussex) is under pressure as the Tories have poured tanker-loads of money into their campaign to get him unseated. He’s been a thorn in the side of the security state for some years, though I note from his website that he also supports the Tibet movement at high level, a movement which, I am certain, has strong and longstanding ties with the CIA/ SIS in their aim to destabilise China.

    Tell us more, please, about the ex-SIS Head of Station in Geneva – it’s not one I’ve heard of; this is not Norman Fulton, ex-Head of their Moscow station, fake Professor of Law at Glasgow University and at Camp Zeist, current board director of Hakluyt (arms dealer, scary SIS front company) and now also Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party. Is there another? Not surprising, really. Meta (Margaret)Ramsey (openly), Caroline Cox (allegedly), Paddy Ashdown (reportedly)… the list goes on.

  • eddie


    Sensible decision. No man is an island etc. Politics is about community, and like any community endeavour you have to compromise to get things done. The Lib Dems may end up with the balance of power so there may be more opportunities for influence than ever before. I met Matthew Taylor last week. Decent bloke. And Vince Cable is one of the best politicians in the House.

  • sabretache

    Suhayl 8:33pm

    Paddy Ashdown’s your man.

    There are now multiple internet sources for it – not least the Cryptome published list of MI6 officers allegedly leaked by Richard Tomlinson and which the British Authorities tried so hard to suppress – it’s still available there.

    I believe it was Chris Cowley’s book on the Iraq Supergun affair (Guns Lies and Spies) that I first saw the actual phrase “Head of Station – Geneva” but there’s no index so I can’t check easily. It was probably Stephen Dorril who first speculated openly about it back in 1985. He has this to say in his 1993 book “The Silent Conspiracy”:

    “Paddy Ashdown … then had a spell in Northern Ireland and was subsequently asked to join MI6. ‘the Halcyon days of may life’ as he described them, were during his posting to Geneva where he monitored the activities of Soviet Bloc intelligence officers and liaised with Swiss Intelligence on aspects of the Gladio stay-behind networks”.

    His posting was as ‘First Secretary’. Paddy has certainly never denied it and there is even some detail in the notes to his Wikipedia entry.

    I’m sure Craig will understand the set up intimately

  • Tony

    Makes sense to me,Craig. The only party with a decent record in foreign policy matters in the last 10 years. I don’t think anyone could call Ming Campbell a Zionist.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Interesting and fascinating, thanks as always, Sabretache. Stephen Dorril is indeed excellent on the whole subject.

    Ah! First Secretary! Or Second, or even Third, usually Second though! Or Counsellor! What spicy and hermeneutic jobs for the professionally mendacious boys and girls of Vauxhall!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “Accordingly, it is intruiging to develop the theory that he [Blair] is technically a sociopath, and that if he was not of the high-functioning kind he would have been receiving treatment by now.” Jon.


  • Suhayl Saadi

    Come on, Larry, tear off your veil, and tell us. Yes or no. Yes or no. Do you support the policies of Bush-Obama in the Middle East and Central Asia? Yes or no. Yes or no. Tonton macoute. Yes or no. Yes or no. Tonton macoute. Yes or no. Yes or no. Tonton macoute. Yes or no. Spill a chicken. Yes or no. Drink it’s blood. Yes or no. This is what Craig lost his job over and got pulmonary-embolised over: Bush-Obama policy in the Middle East and Central Asia nearly killed our Man of the Blog. It’s important. That’s why we’re here, in cyberland. Do you support it? Yes or no. Do you agree with it? Yes or no.

    Why is it that when I ask this very simple and rather inportant question, the bloggers who tend to be extremely outspoken and who tend to attack anyone who critiques US power, either from a position assumed on ‘the Left’ (yes, yes, I know it’s the elite and left-right has no meaning, but still, let’s play for a moment) or one presumed on the Right, suddenly fall silent?

    An intriguing and telling observation in itself.

    Now for black-hole silence or a hail of insults, but still no answers. Tonton macoute. CIA.

  • Abe Rene

    Good stuff, you can now exert an influence in the Lib Dem party (which I voted for in 2005, mainly in protest against the Iraq war). Here’s a tip from a disillusioned former New Labour supporter (myself). When I campaigned for Tony Blair in 1997, and we were canvassing voters by telephone, we were told not to waste time if someone said that they were Conservative supporters. But we were to try to persuade Lib Dem supporters that their vote would be wasted. I am sure that New Labour will try the same tactic this time. Forewarned is forearmed. Go get ’em!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Interesting that all essentially the pro-war bloggers on this blog – as well as one or two others and of course Lib Dem members – support the Lib Dem move by Craig. Troubling.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    I wouldn’t say i support it – i can understand it though. I doubt i’d ever do it myself but i can’t deny i’ve thought about joining a party before – though i’d be more likely to join Solidarity than any of the big parties – the trouble being they come with an image that could put off a lot of people who’d vote for the same policies if they didn’t come with that image.

    If Craig does become a Lib Dem MP at some point he can have a big influence on Lib Dem policies – maybe he could even be leader one day. If that doesn’t work out and say he gets elected as a Lib Dem MP but then expelled from the party by the leadership over some issue he’ll have a high enough political profile to win elections as an independent.

    The down side is all the internal bickering and distrust and jealousies within parties, which are a waste of time, but sadly usually necessary for anyone who wants to be a party candidate.

  • Jives

    I’ll offer an humble answer to that Suhayl,if i may…

    It may be because they are simple bought and paid for provocateurs operating from within a military cyber-bunker and have to liase with their shift superivisor before they find an answer,any answer,to address your truthful raag,as contrast to their arcane bluster and thin posturing?

    Those types tend to riff on the predictable enough jaded retrouve formalism of pentatonic blues,if you will,far removed from the primal dignity of said source.

    I’m also a Glaswegian musician although i’m sure i’ve never met you.I do,however,play in and round these parts a coupla hundred times per year.

    Maybe you’ve seen us?

    Who knows?

    Regards to you.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Craig – i agree with taking the lowest earners out of tax altogether, but the ‘mansion tax’ is just going to result in the billionaires keeping their ‘mansions’ while anyone with a big house but no huge income will be forced to sell it to a billionaire or a hotel chain.

    The 50% rate on income over £150,000 that Clegg dropped made far more sense.

  • doug scorgie

    Craig, You’ve sold out. You have opted for: if I can’t beat them I’ll join them – for your own personal ambitions. If you really think that the Lib-Dems in government will be anti-war; anti-arms-industry; anti-MI5/MI6 torture; anti-corporate-corruption; anti-hedge-fund-gambling; you’re daft. Have a rethink. Join a small, but honest and ethical party, and give up ideas of grandeur.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Jives – it’s possible that one or two people posting on Craig’s blog might fit the profile you describe (i’m sure it happens), but all of them – i doubt it a lot.

    Some people are strongly pro-Iraq war and strongly pro-Israel. I disagree with them completely and suspect they’re ignorant of the full facts (or don’t want to admit to them because they identify too closely with their government), but not all of those people can be secret agents.

  • Jives

    @ Duncan McFarlane…

    You misunderstand my post Duncan..’twas referring to Larry in particular and his endlessly boring erroneous provocative guff that most of us on this site are virulent anti-Semites.

  • jives

    @ Duncan

    I was responding to Suhyal’s post two comments above the one you think i was was…

    Does that clarify the continuum?


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