Socialist Worker

The Lib Dems aren’t progressive - they’re opportunists on the side of the bosses

Issue No. 2552

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron (Pic: Dave Radcliffe/Flickr)


Lib Dem leader Tim Farron is trying hard to rebrand the party’s image after it jumped into bed with David Cameron.

He’s hoping to shake off the slaughter the Lib Dems suffered in 2015 after the party’s coalition of cuts with the Tories.

The Lib Dems are pitching themselves as a progressive alternative to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

Farron has recently hailed “an appetite for change in British politics”—and ludicrously claimed the “Lib Dems are the vehicle for that change”.

In reality, the Lib Dems have always ruled in favour of big business and shafted working class people.

They want a society where wages and services are left to the mercy of the market—and would go even further than Tony Blair’s rabid pro-business government.

Farron recently said his only criticisms of Blair are “what he didn’t do, rather than what he did do”.

The modern Lib Dems were born out of a merger between the old Liberal Party and a right wing split from Labour in the 1980s.

This dinner-set clique of MPs—the Social Democratic Party—complained of a “drift towards extremism in the Labour Party”. They meant the left.

They wanted a “moderate” party that dumped socialist policies, links to trade unions, and hailed the neoliberal European Union (EU). It included many of the same figures attacking Jeremy Corbyn for being too left wing today, such as Guardian newspaper columnist Polly Toynbee.

But their roots go back much further to the Liberal Party of the 19th century, which was the dominant party of the rising industrial capitalist class.

Free market

When they talk about liberalism, it isn’t about being “nice” or “progressive” compared to “nasty” conservatism. Their classical liberalism is based on a commitment to free market policies, which means they always come down on the bosses’ side.

The Lib Dems try to be all things to all people, but without upsetting the establishment too much.

Seeing a space to the left of Tony Blair’s New Labour, they opposed war on Iraq in 2003—until the war began.

A group of Lib Dem MPs around Nick Clegg and Vince Cable thought the party had drifted too much to the left during these years.

They produced the Orange Book, a right wing liberal manifesto that included replacing the NHS with private insurance.

Then to capture young people’s support they promised to abolish tuition fees, only to treble them to £9,000 a year in 2010.

After getting badly burned in coalition, Farron’s new pitch is that the Lib Dems are against Brexit. He hopes to win over bosses who supported the EU and appeal to some young people who voted Remain because they saw it as an anti-racist vote.

There’s nothing progressive about their pitch.

It plays into a patronising stereotype that most working class people who voted Leave are backward racists. In reality, the Lib Dems would happily dump migrants’ rights—as Cable has already indicated.

The real dividing line is between those fighting for workers and migrants’ rights and those who would attack them.

A vote for the Lib Dems isn’t a vote against the Tories—it’s a vote for opportunists who always come down on the side of the establishment.


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