Thursday, September 22, 2005

Liberals of the world, unite!

While browsing around the web, I discovered that there is a Liberal International. This is an alliance of the world's liberal parties in the same way that the Socialist International is an alliance of social democratic, socialist and labour parties (including our own, BTW).

There aren't any New Zealand members of the LI, but looking at their principles - which boil down to liberalism, human rights, and free trade and development - more than just ACT would qualify. They take a broad view of liberalism, rather than limiting it only to classical liberals, and in fact explicitly support a "social market economy" - meaning

a market that offers people real choices. This means that we want neither a market where freedom is limited by monopolies or an economy disassociated from the interests of the poor and of the community as a whole.

Which is sufficiently broad that most New Zealand political parties could sign up to it. Not that this is a problem - the LI expects a diversity of approaches on the scope of the market in each particular society. Their aim is to focus on the ideals that unite liberals rather than the details of how those ideals are implemented.


Well I have just recently been commenting on NZ on my personal blog and raised this lack of NZ presence in international Liberal activities...

I suspect we in Europe are a bit put off by the Australian Conservatives calling themselves Liberals and forget (as too often) that things may not quite be the same across the Tasman.

I would actually be quite interested to know where the UK Liberal Democrat Party would fit into NZ party ranks... the satement of principles is at

Posted by Anonymous : 9/22/2005 02:16:00 AM

The original New Zealand Liberal Party became the United Party. It was one of the parties which merged to form the National Party in 1936.

The Edwardian new Liberal tradition of British liberalism (sometimes called Social Liberalism) which was somewhat like pre First World War New Zealand liberalism does not appear to have had a prominent place in modern New Zealand politics.

We will have to see if any New Zealander wants to comment on what happened to liberalism in their country.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/22/2005 03:26:00 AM

Edis: that's where I picked it up from. Technorati sees all, Technorati knows all...

As for the LibDems, they'd certainly be "lefter" than Labour on human rights, much like our local Green party. Economically, it's difficult to tell. As I understand it, the LibDems are proposing tax increases on the wealthy to fund the abolition of student fees and better health care. In NZ, this would be a left-wing position; we had exactly that sort of tax increase when Labour took office in 1999, and our local center-right parties have been whining about it ever since. As for abolishing student fees, you need to go to the Greens or the Alliance to see that sort of policy; everyone else backs the idea of students paying significantly for their education (with the center-right wanting them to pay more, and Labour wanting to make it easier through a student loan scheme which isn't really a loan anymore). Things like reserve bank independence and a simpler tax system were done in the 80's, and pretty much the consensus in NZ now.

The problem is that the LibDem's policies are very much a reaction to the particular circumstances of British politics (how could they not be), and as we have rather different circumstances (chiefly through having done most of the economic and public sector reform stuff Blair wants to do and wanting to recover from it), their position on the spectrum doesn't really translate well. I suspect that a party with similar principles would be in the "center", but to the left of where Peter Dunne is (he's very soft on human rights, unfortunately).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/22/2005 10:00:00 AM

In 1984 the UK Liberals were firmly in the centre between a staunchly left-wing Labour party and a Tory party that stands roughly where it does now.

What has happened is that Labour have moved to the centre right leaving the Lib Dems (the Democrats bit came from the SDP) as a left-wing opposition.

One major driving factor is that a large number of Brits vote on tribal lines for either Labour (traditional working class) or Tory (traditional middle class). they aren't really swayed by policy, so Yorkshire (ex) miners still vote Labour even though they are to the right of the Heath government, which their parents would have regarded as diabolical. Hence, the Libs are the local opposition in a large percentage of seats.

It would be interesting if, should the UK adopt MMP, voting patterns would remain the same (delivering the Libs about 150 seats). They seem to have done so in Scotland, I think.

Posted by Rich : 9/22/2005 10:30:00 AM

Comparing Liberal Democrat performance in Scotland under FPP for Westminster elections and MMP for Scottish Parliament ones.

The Scottish version of MMP is not identical to the New Zealand one, as it is based on regional rather than national party lists. As the LibDems are strong is some rural areas (particularly in the Highlands and Islands region) there is less incentive for supporters in those areas to cast a regional list vote for the party, which may explain why the list vote is less than the constituency vote.

% vote LD Seats/Total
Year Const List Const List Elec
1997 12.99 - 10/72 - 10
1999 14.15 12.43 12/73 5/56 17
2001 16.34 - 10/72 - 10
2003 15.13 11.78 13/73 4/56 17
2005 22.6 - 11/59 - 11

Posted by Anonymous : 9/23/2005 10:12:00 PM