James Forsyth

The Lib Dem insurgency

The Lib Dem insurgency
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The Liberal Democrats are not like the other two parties. The acitvists still have real power and set the policy agenda of the party. This is what makes Richard Grayson’s intervention in The Observer today so important.

Grayson is one of the leading activists on the left of the party. After Nick Clegg's election as leader. he organised a concerted push by the beard and sandals brigade to take over the powerful party committees and thus check the more economic liberally instincts of the party leadership. So his call for Lib Dem members to start cooperating with Ed MIliband is far more than just a cry of pain. The Federal Policy Committee of the party, which has the power to dictate to the leader what party policies is, could even start drafting a policy agenda that is designed to find common ground with Labour.

There are people saying that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Liberal Democrats. I think that’s overblown. But what is possible is a split between the liberals and the social demorats.

This is, perhaps, an inevitable consequence of power. The Liberal Democrats have always been the most ideologically diverse of the three main parties. But in opposition, they could generally paper over these cracks. But in government, this is not possible. Afterall, to govern is to choose.