Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Liberal Democrats and the FDP

I have been thinking for a while that the Liberal Democrats are becoming like the FDP in Germany: centrist, technocratic, without ideology.

This may not be entirely fair on either party, but the collapse of the FDP vote in the recent German election did give me, like any other Lib Dems, pause for thought.

Generally, those who are most in favour of our party becoming more like the FDP were quickest to assure us that this collapse had no lessons for us.

In a post on Lib Dem Voice (" Nicht Schadenfreude, sondern Selbstverteidigung") Gareth Epps was more concerned at the parallels - and did at least display an impressive grasp of the language.

Now I have come across a post on the British Politics and Policy at LSE blog by Akash Paunand Robyn Munro in which they look at how smaller parties - the Lib Dems and the FDP - fare in coalition.

Based on their research, they come up with six conclusions:
  • smaller parties can only distance themselves from larger coalition partners to a limited extent;
  • smaller parties need to be able to demonstrate their distinct contribution to government to avoid what the former leader of the Irish Green Party called “the narrative of the lost moral compass”;
  • small parties’ success rests greatly upon the performance and profile of the party leader;
  • parties associated with the premature coalition breakdowns are rarely rewarded by voters;
  • smaller parties have a limited influence over whether they remain in government or not.
This last point is an important one, given the emphasis that Nick Clegg has put upon our becoming "a party of government".

It is a point I have made myself, and Raun and Munro go on to flesh it out:
A party may end up in coalition even after a poor election result (as did Democrats 66 in 2003) or may return to opposition even after performing relatively well (as for the German Greens in 2005 or the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2007).
Raun and Munro suggest the moral is that the Lib Dems should make the most of the rest of this parliament, and seek to achieve as much as possible before 2015.

I would also suggest that we conclude that becoming a party of government is not the result of our achieving some higher political plane but largely the result of an electoral fluke. We should therefore do all we can to maintain a distinct appeal to the electorate and an informed and active membership.


Anonymous said...

fine except for the last line. Maybe it would be better to say; don't try and change the things you can't (luck) but change the things you can (making the world a better place).

Left Lib said...

You could not be more wrong to say that the FDP and the Lib Dem party leadership do not have an ideology. As the Jeremy Browne article that you linked to recently shows, the ideology they both subscribe to is neoliberalism.

wolfi said...

As a German who used to vote for the FDP when they were the party that finished the reign of the CDU (conservatives) more than 40 years ago I agree with the last comments.

The FDP once stood for liberalism i e freedom and liberal economics - nowadays they just represent business interests. Very sad!