Thursday, 29 April 2010

Welcome back David Marquand

Welcome back David Marquand. The letter in today's Guardian has rightly been the cause of much comment. This may be a key moment when progressives/the left or what ever you want to call them decide that the Liberal democrats are the best vehicle for reform. As they say:

The MPs that assemble in Westminster next month could usher in one of the great reforming parliaments in British history, one to rank in the history books alongside 1831-32, 1865-67 or 1911-1914. The next parliament could see cherished progressive liberal aspirations realised: a proportional electoral system; wider and better-defended civil liberties; a new, internationalist approach to foreign affairs and immigration; reform of the tax system to share wealth and curb carbon emissions; and an assault on the vested interests of the financial sector.

The question for progressive liberals is what election result now offers the best chance of achieving these goals. Certainly not a Conservative majority. Despite some welcome commitments in areas such as civil liberties and localism, the Tories remain instinctively opposed to the deep democratic reforms the country needs.

Amongst the signatures is that of David Marquand. He was for many years the herald of the Prince across the water-the mouthpiece for Roy Jenkins when he was in Europe. Like many Liberals of the time I was more impressed with him than with some of the other Labour defectors. He struck me then a genuine constitutional radical. I met him first before the Gang of Four left the Labour Party along with Viv Bingham and Michael Steed in Manchester. An article he had written alerted many of us that hear we were dealing with someone open to fresh ideas and whose basic political instincts matched our own. He was not like so many of the dead beat failed Labour right wingers we encountered later on in the SDP who had little in common with us.

I fear that he may have not been as impressed with us as we were with him. I recall him turning up to one of the Radical Conferences that Liberator sponsored and squatting on the floor at the back of the hall. The truth of it was that many of us were frightened. We had worked long and hard to win local success and to make the Liberal Party credible. We were ignored or sneered at by the media when along came all these folk who the metropolitan in crowd knew and all of a sudden third party politics were fashionable. Many of the people we met were great, they became and remain our friends but there were too many 'conservative' old Labour hack who were as oppossed to radical change in the constitution as were Conservatives. That Saturday afternoon we must have sounded as tribal as the old Labour Party Marquand had left.

In 2008 he produced a major book on the history of the British Democracy and a series of article which showed that he was someone we should want to do business with, it is good that he is back

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