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Bring back the National Liberals

John Rentoul

Nick Boles Bring back the National LiberalsAn intriguing speech by Nick Boles, the Conservative moderniser, at Bright Blue today. He suggests that the Tories should revive a sister party called the National Liberal Party, which existed until 1968, as an explicit form of rebranding to appeal to the liberal centre ground. He distinguishes between genuine liberals, who believe in freedom, and the Liberal Democrats, who are “a statist party of the soft left”.

This takes further the idea proposed by Murdo Fraser in his bid for the leadership of the Scottish Conservatives in 2011, which I mentioned the other day. He wanted the Scottish party to be independent and to have a different name. I suggested that the Tories could set up a Progressive Party or Independent Party in Scotland or the north of England, as a way of overcoming customer resistance to the Conservative brand in those areas. Boles takes the plan to its logical conclusion: rebrand the party everywhere.

Two problems. One is that the model of the Co-operative Party is hardly inspiring. The Co-op Party does some good things, and some of its MPs are among the most promising (Boles mentions Stella Creasy, Luciana Berger and John Woodcock), but its endorsement hardly affects the brand image of the Labour Party.

The other is that setting up a separate party, even if it only a front organisation or a way of making a name change, would be an admission of defeat for David Cameron’s plan to detoxify the Tory brand.

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  • chrishaines47

    Now that we know Farron has the talent and temperament to lead just replace Clegg with him. A decent Liberal party would wipe the floor with ZaNuLabour “Blair Lite” (TM) Miliband.

  • porkfright

    Wouldn’t make a pennyworth of difference. The Tories will likely sink in two hundred fathoms at the next GE, the LibDems likewise.

  • Pacificweather

    Anyone who thinks that the Liberal Democrats are “a statist party of the soft left” is not really worth taking notice of.

  • Kippers

    “The other is that setting up a separate party, even if it only a front organisation or a way of making a name change, would be an admission of defeat for David Cameron’s plan to detoxify the Tory brand.”

    Yes, quite. And then this new, separate party would probably go into coalition with the Tories (with the same kind of tensions that we are seeing in the present Coalition).

    Given that schools in the UK have been run by local government bodies since 1870, it is odd that those whop worry about Gove’s uncontrolled experiments are denounced as “statist”.

  • reformist lickspittle

    “decent Liberal party” – oxymoron alert!

  • chrishaines47

    Decent Labour party – moron alert!


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