Anyone attending this year's Lib Dem conference could be forgiven for thinking that the Lib Dems were still in opposition and running against some wildly rightwing Tory government. Perhaps when the likes of Vince Cable and Chris Huhne are addressing the party faithful they forget not only that they are in government but also who they share the reins of power with. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has urged David Cameron to resist the Tory 'Tea Party Tendency', to which one can only respond 'What Tea Party Tendency?' It's hardly as if George Osborne's policies are slavishly implementing the economic theories of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. Where is this militant rightwing of the Conservative party that Huhne seems to envisage wielding limitless amounts of influence over the Prime Minister? I don't see many Tory backbenchers with even so much as a passing resemblance to the likes of Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell.
Chris Huhne invoked an imagined version of events in America warning 'There the markets looked over the brink when the madcap Republican right in Congress would not compromise with the president'. Under David Cameron, the British Conservative party has been dragged so far to the centre ground that the party is now almost unrecognisable from the group of people who once stood for office under the same name. This was the price to be paid for becoming electable Conservatives were told and yet even this proved to be untrue, as the party discovered the day after election night, when it turned out they still had not secured enough seats to form a parliamentary majority.
If only today's Conservative party did posses elements that uncompromisingly stood for reducing the bloated size of state bureaucracy, lifting the tax burden on enterprise, empowering the individual and bolstering Britain's independence in the world. Perhaps then the Conservatives would not only find themselves invigorating the enthusiasm of a core of the electorate in the way that Thatcher once could but they would also be able to create a clear vision for Britain. Given the dire straits Greece and several other European economies find themselves in, it really shouldn't be that difficult to make the case for fiscal conservatism.
For Chris Huhne and Lib Dem party activists, associating their coalition partners with the much despised American right is just about the worst slur in the liberal book. British Liberals believe the Republican right to be a cohort of barely literate religious fanatics and in doing so, completely underestimate a political movement steeped in some pretty heavy going political philosophy stretching back to De Toqueville and the constitutionalism of Jefferson. Even Michele Bachmann grounds her worldview in a thoughtfully holistic approach to Western cultural history. If only the same could be said of Chris Huhne's Liberal Democrats.
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