Clegg wins! Read responds:

Nick Clegg has beaten Chris Huhne, by just 511 votes, in the LibDem Leadership contest.

I knew and worked with Chris Huhne long ago, back as a student in Oxford in the 1980s, when we were both in the SDP there. He always impressed me, and he would have been a serious Leader for the LibDems.

But as I detail at , I left the LibDems 8 years ago, terminally dismayed at their (lack of) direction. The critically important thing, from my perspective as a Green, was that the LibDems, like New Labour and like Cameron’s ‘New Tories’, became thoroughgoingly committed to neo-liberalism and to globalisation. That is why it didn’t really much matter to us whether Clegg or Huhne triumphed today. The differences between them in terms of underlying political economy are negligible. Clegg is marginally more right-wing, marginally less green, and marginally more vacuous – but the key word here is “marginally”.

Similarly, that is why Cameron’s call at the weekend for a ‘progressive alliance’ between Tories, LibDems and Greens sounds so strange – so … laughable, really, to us. It is not just because of the Tories’ rampant non-progressiveness (On which, see,,2229111,00.html )! It is also because the three grey Parties now have so much in common, that it matters very little which of them governs. They might as well all ally together. The only real opposition is provided by the likes of us – only we question whether further economic growth will actually improve quality of life, or diminish it; only we stand for localisation as opposed to globalisation; and only we in the Green Party propose to protect the local, globally, rather than allow neo-liberalism to run riot and continue trashing our planetary life-support system – our atmosphere, our climate.

Now that Nick Clegg has won, albeit so narrowly, there will undoubtedly be a rash of newspaper articles suggesting that now we may see a LibDem resurgence. Now that New Labour has allegedly abandoned the ‘liberal tradition’ in British politics, the word ‘liberal’ is being spouted over and over by Clegg, and may have some mileage.

But the liberal tradition consists principally of two components. One, political and juridical liberty, has indeed been massively eroded by Labour. But a second, economic liberalism, they have massively embraced.

Both components are favoured by the LibDems. But an era in which the overriding political issue is the human race’s bursting through the ecological limits of the planet that sustains us is hardly an era well-suited to a liberal approach to economics and consumer choice. The LibDems’ staunch liberalism will stand directly in the way of their alleged commitment to taking green issues seriously.

The new LibDem Leader may energise their Party for a while. But there will be a leadership contest for the first time ever in Britain’s 4th political Party, the Green Party, next year, now that the Greens’ members have decided to adopt a formal Leadership structure (see my previous post on this, at ), so as to challenge the other Parties on more equal terms. The Green Party, not the LibDems, is best-suited to be the growing force in a decade which will see the climate crisis rightly trump many reactionary calls for individual liberty, such as Clegg majors on. In a nutshell, on a totemic issue: There is no ‘right’ to use high-energy lightbulbs; they and their ilk should simply be banned.

So long as Clegg’s LibDems go on about ‘liberty’ and being ‘liberal’, they will simply be missing the point.

4 thoughts on “Clegg wins! Read responds:”

  1. A very confused post here Rupert.
    You talk about the three main parties being very similar, but then show us exactly why the Greens have more in common with Labour and the Tories, you don’t really care about people’s individual choice or what they think. You believe the Government should just dictate how people should live their lives. of course there is a balance between individual liberty and damage to the planet. But there’s also a balance between individual liberty and the common good and individual liberty and harming others. It’s just that Liberal Democrats believe there’s a lot to be gained by promoting individual choice subject to certain limited constraints and engaging with people to make the best decisions. Being a Liberal Democrat is about trusting people, not thinking you know better than they do – like all the other parties, Greens included.

    As to “neo-liberalism” – there’s a poll currently on Lib Dem voice ( that shows that nearly 2/3 of those voting don’t necessarily support economic liberalism, at least not in all circumstances.

    On a last point, most Green voters I have come across are actually very conservative, mistakenly believing the Greens to be a non-progressive party. When you have a leader from Green Left, that will soon put paid to that.

  2. I am very happy to fight on the ground of the LibDems as ‘liberal’, to use Clegg’s favourite word. Nick Clegg has in fact made being ‘liberal’ the centrepiece of his — now-successful — campaign for the LibDem leadership. But an era in which the overriding political issue is the human race’s bursting through the ecological limits of the planet that sustains us is hardly an era well-suited to a liberal approach to economics and consumer choice. The LibDems’ staunch liberalism under Clegg will stand directly in the way of their alleged commitment to taking the most important issues of our time — in particular, the economic roots of dangerous manmade climate change — seriously.

    The LibDems’ commitment to neo-liberal political economy is why I left their Party and joined the Green Party. Nick Clegg’s election is exactly the kind of event that underlines for me why the decision I made was the right one.

  3. And as I pointed out in my original post, in a straw poll of about 600-700 Lib Dems, only about 1/3 could be classified as “neo-liberal” in any sense of the word, which rather underlines that your decision was based on what you *want to see* rather than the truth.

    I would suggest that all Liberal Democrats recognise the need to preserve the planet for future generations; it’s just an extended version of the harm principle, which is accepted by pretty much all liberals.

    It is clear to me that you made the right decision though, as you seem to have no real respect for individual liberty in any field and you’re so caught up in your opposition to economic liberalism that you’ve become dogmatic about it.

  4. I’ve seen your poll, and my reading of it is very different from your’s — I find it terrifying that at this moment in history so many LibDems fetishize ‘individual liberty’ as much as they do, and are prepared to give any time at all to the total disaster that is neo-liberalism.
    You guys have no hope at all of saving our species. You should step aside. You should move aside, for those of us who are actually serious about what needs to be done, if homo sapiens is to have a future.

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