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
But as I detail at http://www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/voices/read.htm , 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 http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/comment/0,,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
So long as Clegg’s LibDems go on about ‘liberty’ and being ‘liberal’, they will simply be missing the point.