So Many Plots, So Little Time
Politics is about power. Not just winning power and forming a Government - but the distribution of power within society. The essay I have written with Demos chair Philip Collins, The Liberal Republic, has been seen by Ben Brogan in the Telegraph as a 'milestone' towards turning Labour towards a liberal future; by Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy as evidence that Demos is drifting to the political right; by Tim Montgomerie on ConservativeHome as a sign that we are trying to liberalise the Conservative Party; by Allegra Stratton in the Guardian as a final break with Labour; and by the Evening Standard as part of a 'Blairite' challenge to Brown, in concert with another new advisor, Alan Milburn MP.
It is very exciting to be simultaneously involved in so many plots, of course. The slightly duller truth is that Liberal Republic is an expression of a political viewpoint which cuts across current party lines. And as Demos said 16 years ago today, at our founding. "We will draw on people from across the political spectrum, in the belief that the best ideas have no preordained political home." For republican liberals, institutions exist to serve individuals, not the other way round. The power to exit from, ignore or abolish institutions ultimately rests with individual people. Conservatives believe, by contrast, that power ought to inhere in the institutions themselves. Economic conservatives invest private sector corporations with power, even when they are acting arbitrarily and monopolistically. Social conservatives emphasise the family, church or community. Social democrat conservatives gather power to the state."
It is true that our brand of liberalism is deeply anti-conservative: but there are plenty of conservatives on the Labour benches. We do not want Labour, whatever its electoral prospects, retreating to a comforting, old world etatisme. If the Tories form the next government, we do not want them retreating to a socially conservative worship of marriage, or the economically conservative embrace of the free market.