The Lib Dems just passed a very poor policy motion and paper on immigration. It has quite a lot of good policies, but overall the tone is one of moderate centrism rather than liberalism. It does very little to move the Overton Window back towards liberal democracy. The blizzard of five amendments passed with it only proved that it’s flawed far beyond what’s acceptable.
It gives me cause to resurrect this meme:
I had hoped to speak in the debate but unfortunately it was oversubscribed, and I was probably too late putting my card in. For the record, here’s what I would have said:
Conference, Ed Davey and others proudly claim the motion and paper are the products of a political environment in which we have the freedom to be radical. I’m afraid I can’t agree.
The paper and motion are examples of the much-vaunted moderate political language all these new centrist parties claim to speak. There is a blizzard of positive policies. We’ve already heard them summarised. But there are serious problems.
This motion unequivocally supports a paper that places far too much emphasis on spurious concerns whipped up by cynical ideologues in other parties and the gutter press.
It talks about rebuilding trust in a system that the kind of people who would vote for us don’t think is broken, because people who wouldn’t ever vote for us think it is.
Most oddly of all, it goes out of its way to praise the current Conservative government for working constructively with partners. (6.15)
The irony of this motion’s approach is that it is harmful not just to immigrants, but to the people who mistakenly blame immigrants for bad government.
And when it does criticise the government, it does it on the basis of incompetence rather than values, confusing the issue further. This isn’t just a question of getting the Home Office sorted – attacks on immigrants in recent years have been by design, not by accident.
It is an insult to voters to pander to their ignorance and to fail to correct misconceptions.
The political context doesn’t just demand a loud Liberal voice. It is conducive to it. If we can’t have the courage of our convictions on 10% in the polls, when will we?
We are still being offered a moderate short back and sides for the worst of other parties’ policies. Trimming and tucking isn’t what we stand for. Leave that to the Blairs and Corbyns of the world.
A grab bag of good policies hidden inside moderate political language is far too small a step forward. We can and must demand better. For the first and only time in my life, I am urging you to send something back where it came from. Please vote to reject the motion.