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Tuesday, July 26, 2005


That old chestnut

Anyone who thought the Liberal Democrats' president Simon Hughes was slightly barmy would have had their prejudices confirmed by a report in today's Guardian.

Let's leave aside Hughes's interesting suggestion for selecting parliamentary candidates, which I predict will be quietly forgotten once nurse has given him his medicine.

What interests me is that Hughes has chosen to repeat the lies about party policy that came out of the leader's office the weekend after the general election.

In a separate set of proposals, which he will present after the party's autumn conference, he will attempt to toughen up the policy making process.

"There's no willingness to let a few people get a wacky idea through [as policy]," he said.

Senior Lib Dems are adamant that the party must ensure a handful of grassroots activists do not approve measures that come back to haunt it, as has happened in the past.
As I explained at length in an earlier posting, almost all the Liberal Democrat policies attacked by opponents or the press during the election were drawn from policy papers drafted by working parties, approved by the Federal Policy Committee (chaired by the party leader) and only rubber stamped by the conference.

The story that "a few people" / "grassroots activists" / "party radicals" / "a loony element" / "radical factions" (take your pick) have hijacked the party's policy making is a complete myth. Despite being demonstrably untrue, this story is repeated ad nauseam because it is an attractive narrative for lazy journalists reared on ancient stories about the Militant Tendency.

Simon Hughes's promised "set of proposals" is, in any case, redundant. The party has already embarked on a thoroughgoing review of policy. Any attempt to railroad this review into accepting one person's half-baked ideas, even if they are the party president's, is unhelpful and unwelcome.

Is it possible even that some of the policy proposals that our opponents have attacked us most vigorously on were presented and supported by the Party's previous Home Affairs' Spokesperson, one Simon Hughes?
Now you come to mention it, I seem to recall that he was heavily involved with the Censorship policy working group, which proposed that much-maligned policy about porn and 16-year-olds. Indeed, he was the one who insisted the working group be set up in the first place.
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