Why nobody should be surprised by the Liberal Democrat showing in Witney

The main story of yesterday’s by-election for David Cameron’s former Parliamentary seat in Witney has been an apparent Liberal Democrat surge.  It was a good result, but it is one that should suprise nobody – because in recent months there has been a consistent pattern of strong Liberal Democrat results in areas where they are […]

Five Days in May: parties, coalitions and One Nation

I’ve just got round to reading Andrew Adonis’ account of the negotiations between Labour and Liberal Democrats following the inconclusive 2010 General Election result.  Written at the time, the account of the negotiations is far from dispassionate; it is a vivid read, although at times a curiously impersonal one.  The clear theme of Adonis’ account […]

Nothing strange about the death of English liberalism

Reading Nick Clegg’s New Year message was a sad and sobering affair (leaving aside any impatience at the growing habit of politicians great and small issuing such messages).  It read as really little more than excuse-mongering and post-hoc rationalisation in defence of policies that appear to rub against the natural grain of the Liberal tradition; […]

Nick Clegg and fantasy politics

Nick Clegg made a wide-ranging speech today to mark his five years as Liberal Democrat leader. It was very much a justification for his position in coalition and I don’t want (on this occasion) to examine his record on the NHS, on tuition fees or on removing universal benefits from the elderly – important though […]

Twilight of the idolaters

It seems curiously fitting that, on the same day that Nick Clegg vents his frustration at aspects of the coalition, the news should also carry the story of a man who incinerated his own underpants in a microwave.  Marx famously wrote that history repeated itself first as tragedy, then as farce; but the history of […]

Thirty years on – what is the legacy of the SDP?

Thirty-one years ago today, a new British political party was launched with a huge fanfare.  The Social Democratic Party, the SDP, founded by a Labour Party breakaway group, was, its founders claimed, destined to break the mould of British politics. Not a centre party – Shirley Williams declared that such a party would have no […]

50p tax rate and Tory triumphalism

Widely-circulated predictions that George Osborne is about to announce the end of the 50p top income tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 have attracted much comment.  The obvious one is fury at the naked unfairness – here is a handout to the wealthiest in society that comes at the same time that those […]