Monday, 29 June 2009

Guido to join the LibDems?

A sizeable contingent of Britain's better known political geeks managed to wash, dress and leave their bedrooms to make it to tonight's rather swanky ippr 21st birthday party.

It will be no surprise that Next Left spotted the chief scribblers for LabourList, Liberal Conspiracy (with Mr Sunny Hundal a predictable exception on the shaving front) and LabourHome among others in the throng.

So too was Mr Paul Staines, better known as Britain's most read political blogger Guido Fawkes.

ippr co-directors Lisa Harker and Carey Oppenheim had spoken of the danger of disdain not just for politicians but for politics itself. So perhaps inviting Mr Anti-Politics himself to be among their guests was one example of their emphasis on a big tent willingness to forge any alliance which could take forward their cause.

In any event, it enables Next Left to bring you what I believe is a (v.minor) scoopette: Guido (or rather, I presume, Mr Staines) is giving serious consideration to joining the Liberal Democrats.

Since much of the blogosphere proved rather better at checking sources than most of the red faced nationals over MiliTwitGate, let me warn you that it this one is only single-sourced.

But it did come direct from a man who has a very good claim to know the mind of the blogger.

Fawkes/Staines says he is particularly attracted by the party's policies to take people out of tax at the bottom, along with their liberalism on most social issues.

He thinks the Orange Bookers and libertarian tendency in the party are alive and kicking, and might benefit from his advocacy and engagement.

Now I rather doubt that he will do it in the end. It would cut quite far across the 'plague on all your houses' branding. Unless, with anti-politics having become so mainstream, constructive political engagement is the new counter-culture since that may now be as rebellious as it gets. .

I fear that I may have put him off. I told him that Vince Cable will fund those changes with some redistribution at the top, considering changes to end the higher rate of pension tax relief and such like. Staines was rather less keen on that, though could probably live with closing loopholes.

If Staines did apply for a party card, it could be something of a home-coming. You could make an argument that he would be rejoining the party, as he was a prominent member of the Young Social Democrats and SDP some time before the creation of the merged Social and Liberal Democrats. (Staines may be rather more of a civic "joiner" than many think: he was reportedly also a member of the now defunct Irish Progressive Democrat party, whose economic and social liberalism had quite an impact on Irish society but proved harder to sustain politically).

Nor I am sure how many co-conspirators he would be able to persuade to join the yellow peril. But Staines does think that a small and energetic cohort of perhaps fifty or so could have a considerable impact in the party.

"Don't forget that, when I was on the SDP, I was on the national committee", he told me.

LibDems, you have been warned. And Nick Clegg, the ball may just be in your court ....


Jennie said...

Oh sweet Cthulhu I hope he does! I REALLY hope he does! He might find us not quite the sandal-wearing tree-hugging pushovers he expects...

Bloody entryists.

raincoatoptimism said...

Don't be so sure, it may well be a case of the punked doing the punking!

Guido Fawkes said...

I can reveal that Sunder also said that 15 Fabians took over the London LibDems some years ago.

He was drunkish mind you.

Sunder Katwala said...

Very sober. The London Liberal party in the 1890s in fact

Guido Fawkes said...

Exactly what I said.

societarian said...

To be honest its been a long time since they've influenced the Labour party so they might as well try the Lib Dems. Always presumed Sunder was a closet Liberal anyway and Guido would just be the typical Liberal that the public don’t see. Bring it on!

Sunder Katwala said...


Sure. I wasn't challenging the point, simply offering more information.

Anyway, I do hope I haven't blown one of Captain Ashdown's top secret special operations.

Mr Tristram Hunt could offer chapter-and-verse on this radical progressive alliance, if you think it may offer a useful entryist strategy. They did have quite an impact - the Newcastle programme of 1891 - by teaming up with the Liberal Radicals, but It didn't work out in the long-term, which is why they turned to the Labour Party.