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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  • Larry from St. Louis

    “that most of us on this site are virulent anti-Semites.”

    … only those who complain about the “Mishpucka” and believe that the Jews did 911 and otherwise go out of their way to evidence their anti-Jewish hatred.

    You people are fucking hilarious. Such explicit hatred, yet if you’re called out on it you whine whine whine whine.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    “it’s possible that one or two people posting on Craig’s blog might fit the profile you describe”

    Ok, so quite possibly you’re only a partial loon, Duncan.

    Do you think I’m in a military bunker?

    Don’t you folks see how you’re self-discrediting? I don’t think the secret agent men need to bother.

  • alan campbell

    If arselan and suhayl think it’s a bad move,then it must be a good move. Well done.

    But steer clear of Respect. Bunch of racist extremists – the other side of the BNP coin.

  • Jason

    – “We will do everything we can to support our Armed Forces in Afghanistan and ensure they have all the equipment and support they need. We will spend over £5 billion to April next year ?” around half a million per year per soldier serving in Afghanistan and will ensure not a penny will be cut from the Defence Budget in 2010/11 ?” in fact the budget will rise above inflation.” – Labour Party website

    Craig, you’re desperate to be involved, fair enough, you feel you have a lot to offer.

    But how do you square supporting the Lib Dems as somehow the most palatable option of the three, when the positions on Afghanistan, from respective official websites, is:

    – “Under a Conservative government, the work being done in Afghanistan will be a priority for the entire government. Change is needed to bring about a whole government effort that will deliver results in Afghanistan.” – George Osborne, Conservative Shadow Chancellor

    – “We support the mission in Afghanistan.” – Lib Dem Pocket Guide to Policy

  • Anonymous

    Craig. You are wrong.

    You said: Politics is about the governance of society,

    The correction is thus:

    Politics -SHOULD- is about the governance of society.

    Party loyalty is bloody stupid. As most Brit voters do show party loyalty, therefore Brits are …!

  • CheebaCow

    As I am not a UK citizen, I can’t really offer an opinion the different parties. However I find the general question of whether ‘it is worth it/possible to join the mainstream parties and make a real difference’ fascinating. One of the things I find most frustrating about the ‘hard left’ (using the term only for simplicities sake) is the dedication to remaining outside the mainstream, which only ensures their position is never heard by most. I admire principled stands, but I also value pragmatism. A theory is only a pretty thought if it has no real life consequences.

    It seems that generally the mainstream has a neutralising effect on those wishing to change it, but not always. I do believe however that someone of Craig’s intellectual and moral calibre stands a better chance than most. I will just offer this word of warning: [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_garrett]

    One thing that I have always found curious about Craig’s story (which this post has just made me think of again), was how he was so surprised by his governments actions during his time as an ambassador. My understanding of history makes me think that such actions were standard operating procedure. Maybe it’s simply that I am unable to see from outside my own upbringing, where I was taught to never trust those in power. Some may be good, some are definitely bad, but it always stupid to put your trust in them.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Hey, Jives, that was a smashing, jiving post! And thanks for it! What do you play, btw?

    Ah, so Mr Alan Campbell also supports the Lib Dem move. How very interesting. Eddie (my old pal from ‘Iran’! How are you?), Larry (no answer yet to my simple, simple question), Alan Campbell (I was always a MacDonald), Abe Rene (Don’t Walk Away!). I respect Duncan McFarlane though and do see what he’s saying.

    Intriguing dynamics.

    Where is Mr John Cord, one wonders?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Absolutely, CheebaCow. The average woman on the ‘Clapham bus’ in the streets of Karachi/Mumbai/Dhaka knows exactly how the world works. Robin Ramsey of Lobster magazine also voiced a similar question in the current issue of the magazine.

    But you see, in the UK people tend to be brainwashed into believing in the benificence of the state. They’ve been read the fairytale, and they believe it.

    But yes, one would have thought that anyone who has experienced even the tiniest view of the very edge of the hard state would not surely still hold to such beliefs. One would have thought.

  • anno

    I think Craig is too instinctively Liberal to care about the realities, but it will end in tears. I am with Arsalan, sabretache and writerman, against your decision. I believe that Craig will end up out of politics and inside Islam, but he hasn’t realised yet that Islam is not even remotely represented by the idiots of Blackburn who opposed him in his challenge to Jack Straw. Of course, then the atheists of his readers would turn against him. You can’t please all the people all the time, and you have to make your own decision.

  • anno


    ‘..the tiniest view of the very edge of the hard state..’

    Today we are seeing the soft flaking of the symphony for spin, called New Labour, crumbling in front of us with senior politicians disgraced for paid lobbying.

    Underneath the surface is the phoenix of that hard state, freshly cast in glowing red alloy, the beak and claw of a new, Liberal and Conservative alliance.

    If we get a £10,000 tax-free allowance, that will only be restoring us to the level of allowance we had at the start of the New Labour government.

    Plus ca fucking change, n’est-ce pas, mon vieux, plus the omnibus has broken down and you have to wait around for the next bus to come along. I’d rather be waiting on the dusty roadside in Karachi than in Clapham.

  • anno

    p.s. I drove many celebrities in my short time as a chauffeur, but I never met anyone as pompous as Paddy Ashdown. Apart from Sooty, he was the only passenger who refused to engage in conversation.

  • sabretache

    Suhayl 9:55pm

    Got it! Though my memory of the precise phraseology was a little off.

    It appeared in the introduction to Gerald James’s 1995 book “In the Public Interest”, a play on the “Public Interest Immunity Certificates” wording that were used to deny defendants access to government material that proved their prosecutions over the ‘Arms to Iraq’ scandal to be corrupt and merely designed to cover Ministers’ backsides as usual.

    Gerald James was the Chief Executive of Astra Holding throughout the events that led to those prosecutions and that other toothless (but still largely suppressed – Saudi arms deal scandals anyone?) official Inquiry under Sir Richard Scott. Bearing in mind the date of publication, the passage containing the Paddy Ashdown snippet was indeed prophetic. In the context of Craig’s decision and this thread, it is worth quoting a some length:

    ” In the 1980’s the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s government brought the activities of the covert establishment closer to the surface (particularly wrt the arms industry) than at any time. Mine was a ‘privileged’ glimpse of their activities in action. But anyone who believes that with Margaret Thatcher’s passing they no longer have a forum; anyone who believes that the election of Mr Blair and his Party will make ANY difference to who runs this country, is indeed naive. Even the extremely unlikely success of of the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown (former MI6 Controller, Geneva Station) will not make the slightest difference. ‘Quis custodies custodiet?’ ”

    Gerald James was given a VERY hard time over his Chairmanship of Astra Holding, a position which in the final analysis was actually almost nominal since in large measure the company was controlled and manipulated by the spooks to their own hidden purposes. . Similarly over the book where he names many of them. He published it anyway. It has the ring of solid ‘screw-you you bastards’ truth to it and ought to be required reading for any aspiring politician.

    A few posters here ought to read my first comment and this book – not that they will change anything. As that old Paul Simon song has it “… still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

  • arsalan


    And I’m sure he didn’t even leave a tip.

    Stingy bastard.


    I think I know you, in the real world. I’m not going to write your name here for privacy reasons. But does your father in law

    own a Limousine company?

    I’m sure craig will become Muslim too. Sometimes you can see this from someones mannerisms. But sometimes it takes a while. a few years ago this Jamaican man

    Came in to a Mosque I was sleeping in to convert. He decided to convert when he was stationed in North Africa during WW2, but he kept putting it off until a couple of years ago.

  • Mattias

    I think it is great that you have decided to reenter politics. Your country certainly needs you. Good luck.

  • Vronsky

    There’s an interesting and relevant piece over at Juan Cole – excerpt:

    “Ottaway argues that during the Cold War, the opposition between authoritarian regimes and democratic ones was more stark and that hybrid forms falling in neither camp were rare. “Semi-Authoritarian regimes” have political parties and NGOs, hold elections, and look on paper as though they at least have some democratic attributes. But behind the scenes the power elite makes sure it remains in power and reduces the ‘democratic’ activities to a shadow play for the benefit of a restless domestic public and for that of international bureaucrats.”


  • Clark


    maybe I don’t know enought to make an informed comment, but I think I approve of your decision; it feels right, and I’m sure that you are much better qualified to judge than I.

    Immediately I would suggest that you campaign for coordination with the Green party and others, including reciprocal ‘standing aside’ arangements’ to field the strongest candidates with maximum support. The warped UK voting system is the strongest guardian of the corrupt status-quo.

    All in general,

    for heavens sakes chill out! Craig is only joining a political party, not selling his soul to Dick Cheney, and he can always leave again if he wishes.

    Suhayl Saadi,

    my approval moves your ‘pro / anti war’ statistic a little, I hope; I am opposed to both wars. You recommended Lobster magazine; the article linked on the front page, “As Denounced in the House of Commons”:


    suggests that the security services commit greater excesses under Labour, who don’t know how to control them. Do you think that someone like Craig (and possibly Ashdown?) could help to rectify this?

  • Stephen

    Hi Craig,

    I know you don’t read down this far, usually, but hey, what’s to lose.

    Why don’t you join Respect?



  • sabretache

    Clark – 10:48

    The prospect of Paddy Ashdown helping to ‘… control the SIS’s’ is vanishing to non-existent – IMHO. He allegedly ‘resigned’ from MI6 over his refusal to take part in the sabotage of the UNCTAD agreement on higher prices for third world commodities whilst first Secretary to the British UN Mission; a principled decision it seems. But you don’t resign from MI6, and ESPECIALLY not on a maverick issue of principle that puts a service operation at risk. Thereafter he was a marked man. Not too ‘out-in-the-cold’ dangerous (in spite of his irritating behaviour over the privatisations of Royal Ordnance and Trade Union rights at GCHQ) until it became clear he might become even more ‘damaging’ through his elevation to the LD leadership and Privy Council membership. His little ‘Paddy Pantsdown’ episode back in 1992 has the hallmark of a typical SIS reminder of just who calls the shots. He heeded the warning, came in from the cold, and was rewarded with Lord High this, that and the other.

    He is quintessentially Establishment – and arrogant with it. The prospects of him exercising ANY control over the SIS’s are similar to the survival of a snowball in Hell – and the SIS’s KNOW it – which is precisely why I would not be at all surprised if one bright morning I read in the papers that he has been given precisely such a role. It is the way these things work you see.

  • selma


    Building a new political movement takes more than one election and many more than one failure. A real political movement for change can only be built by people taking the message out to others and talking and convincing people face to face. It will take time, there will be many defeats but thats just the way it has to be with the media being what it is (biased and also not a good medium of communication).

  • mary


    Amnesty accuses UK of ‘grave’ human rights violations

    ‘Credible evidence’ of UK government links to torture, unlawful detentions and rendition, says damning Amnesty report


    The British government is today accused of involvement in a catalogue of “grave human rights violations” since the September 2001 al-Qaida attacks, in a report published by Amnesty International.

    In the most damning Amnesty report on the UK’s human rights record for a generation, the organisation says there is “credible evidence” that the government is implicated in torture, unlawful detentions, rendition, the concealment of victims’ complaints and a failure to disclose evidence of torture.

    Its publication comes 24 hours after an alliance of human rights groups and MPs, including Amnesty, Liberty and the New York-based Human Rights Watch, wrote a joint letter to the British media demanding an independent inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition.

    In a sign of growing turmoil within government over the issue, last Thursday it was decided to shelve publication of a rewritten interrogation policy for MI5 and MI6 officers questioning suspects overseas ?” something Gordon Brown promised a year ago on the grounds that he believed “it is right that parliament and the public should know what those involved in interviewing detainees can and cannot do”.


  • anno

    Dick Cheney already crossed out Craig’s name. He wouldn’t buy him anyway, even if he was for sale. Belonging to any party, political, religious, or even social, is to transfer some of your independency of mind. I would prefer my conscience to remain under my own control.

    But for Craig, his allegiance to the Liberals will remove the stigma of maverick and I feel sure that, at some stage in the future, genuine independence of mind will required by government to sort out the problems left by the two main political parties, especially the ones highlighted by Mary. Also at some stage the madness of a world run for the exclusive benefit of bankers, will have to be challenged. It will be smacked bottoms all round, before we return to sanity.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Larry wrote “Do you think I’m in a military bunker?”

    No, i don’t think you are, i think you just have different views from Craig or me or most other people who comment on his blog. That’s my general assumption on anyone who disagrees with me, because it’s by far most likely.

    I’m not ruling out the possibility that some posters could be on government pay-rolls though – the Israeli government for instance has hired thousands of people to go on the internet and rubbish any criticism of Israel –


  • Jives

    @ Suhayl..

    Well i’m a guitarist who is currently playing bass.I have a home recording setup and write/record songs.I also play keyboards,to a degree,but unfortunately not as well as Donald Fagen,McCoy Tyner or Brian Eno…i wish…

    Acoustic Butterfly be the band.


  • Jives


    According to Hunter S Thompson politics is “the art of controlling one’s environment”

    Mind you he was horrified/transfixed by the Nixon monster at the time,which might explain this curiously telling statement..

    Food for thought though…

  • Anonymous

    the proposed “Freedom Bill” by the LibDems.


    The Freedom Bill contains twenty measures to restore the fundamental rights that have been stripped away in recent years. We would:

    Scrap ID cards for everyone, including foreign nationals.

    Ensure that there are no restrictions in the right to trial by jury for serious offences including fraud.

    Restore the right to protest in Parliament Square, at the heart of our democracy.

    Abolish the flawed control orders regime.

    Renegotiate the unfair extradition treaty with the United States.

    Restore the right to public assembly for more than two people.

    Scrap the ContactPoint database of all children in Britain.

    Strengthen freedom of information by giving greater powers to the Information Commissioner and reducing exemptions.

    Stop criminalising trespass.

    Restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers.

    Prevent allegations of ?bad character? from being used in court.

    Restore the right to silence when accused in court.

    Prevent bailiffs from using force.

    Restrict the use of surveillance powers to the investigation of serious crimes and stop councils snooping.

    Restore the principle of double jeopardy in UK law.

    Remove innocent people from the DNA database.

    Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days.

    Scrap the ministerial veto which allowed the Government to block the release of Cabinet minutes relating to the Iraq war.

    Require explicit parental consent for biometric information to be taken from children.

    Regulate CCTV following a Royal Commission on cameras.

  • MJ

    “Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days”

    What was wrong with 3 days?

  • Chris Dooley

    I will not be voting for Red or Blue. (After being a life long Labour voter)

    I currently feel that I should just wipe my arse on the ballot paper until politics is cleaned up and outside interests regulated properly.

    It will be up to the other parties to convince me to vote … but they seem to be pretty quiet on most issues.

    anon @ 3:48

    The proposed Lib-Dem Freedom Bill looks quite promising.

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