It’s been like a pacily-scripted US medical drama round here today. I wake up not knowing a thing about the new Liberal Conspiracy website, all seems normal, opening credits, la-la-la, I turn on my computer, have a cup of coffee, frown a bit, look briefly worried, then clutch my throat and bam! I fall to the floor as James Graham posts this, then I check my Facebook inbox and bam! my white cell count plummets as I’ve been cc’d in on an email about it, then a few hours later and bam! I’m on respiratory support and Charlotte Gore posts this, then just when it’s calming down a bit and I’ve had a few tests run, bam! Jonathan Calder posts this, and suddenly people are running round yelling, she’s seizing!
Too bad for you guys I’ve been watching House for seven solid hours.
Ok, differential diagnosis, people.
First up, worst case scenario, the Liberal Conspiracy website is a plot to draw Liberal Democrats towards Labour. That would explain the symptoms of constant use of the term “left” and why there were almost no Lib Dems at the launch (and, per Jeremy Hargreaves, they weren’t at the Hackney Empire either). Charlotte’s diagnosis is heartfelt: it’s what she would do if she had that aim. Okay, start them on the antibiotics, if that doesn’t work we’ll do a CT scan.
But at the end of part one, complications develop. A plot that every Liberal Democrat can see through instantly is not a plot. By stating, as the site does on the FAQ page, that Labour “may be the best way” to pursuing a liberal leftish agenda since they’re in power, you’re crying out for a dozen Lib Dems to bellow ”Oh no they’re not!” An agenda that’s declared is not a hidden one. And if you were a Labour bacterium hoping to spread into the Lib Dems, would you send your only Lib Dem invite to the site of infection to the sharpest and most unsparing smartass in the blogosphere? Nah, no-one’s that stupid. Try again.
A bunch of conspiring lefties react to the news that James Graham has just arrived.
Okay, it’s not an infection, it’s a virus. Using the tired old right and left terminology closes down the alternative liberal/conservative axis, thus cutting off the flow of Liberal Democrats to the heart. Bingo, we’re compromised. Any rogue yellow cells who do struggle through will be neutralised by the red and blue antibodies and anything they say will be interpreted in leftist and rightist terms. This will be profoundly unhelpful to the party. Do a lumbar puncture, order an MRI scan. Then we’ll know it’s a left-right virus.
Part two: fine, the left-right virus explains all the symptoms. But it’s pointless to complain that perpetuating leftishness and rightishness in the public mind doesn’t help the Liberal Democrats. The public need no assistance whatsoever to perpetuate the cult of left and right. They do that all by themselves. And it’s the Liberal Democrats’ job to help the Liberal Democrats.
It’s a false symptom, it would be there anyway, with or without the website. The decision to be made by Lib Dems is whether to boycott the site on these grounds or run a simple test: broach the left-and-right objection on the site, and see whether the dye shows up a tumour or not. Boring. Next.
Could be lupus (what is lupus? it’s considered as a possibility in every episode of House I’ve ever watched and I don’t know what it is. How can that be right?) No, we’ve run the tests and it’s not lupus.
Okay, we’re missing something. We still haven’t explained the symptom of liberalism. A bunch of “discontented socialists”, as Jonathan Calder has it, didn’t have to use that word. The other parties’ current sniffing around half our name is just as likely to do us good as result in a wholesale transplant. But Jonathan’s diagnosis calls for precision: allowing ourselves to be sold into a wider definition of Liberalism that covers everything from Stalinist to moderate is a return to the bad old days when…
the most important thing was to prove that you were not a Tory
Uh-huh. This fits the symptoms all right. A post by Zohra Moosa on Liberal Conspiracy practically sets this out as a raison d’etre. Yes, it is a website which sets out to prove that the contributors aren’t Tories. Is this wrong or did somebody turn over the page when I wasn’t looking?
Okay, it’s sloppy use of language, but at least it’s sloppy use of our language - that’s not the problem. The Lib Dem immune system it reacting like its under attack, something’s STILL MISSING…
Part three: time for a consult and a bit of sub-plot. What causes a political organism to flood itself with antibodies just because some fairly prominent people set up a website promoting the idea of liberalism with some leftish/socialist tweaks? What’s the biggest threat there is to the coherence of a political body? Must be time to sit soulfully in an out-of-the-way spot and play with my baseball…
Answer, the big-C word: coalition. Our white count is reacting to the early stages of what it thinks is the early lumpen growth of a Lab-Lib government. Forging bonds with the self-defining Left is perceived not only as an admittal of defeat in itself; it’s a dangerous precedent. And in a month when we’re getting some of the best press we’ve had since, well, ever, it’s no wonder the very idea of collaboration sends our read-outs skyrocketing. We’re mainlining cleggpills by the handful – we don’t need anyone else to form a liberal conspiracy. We ARE a liberal conspiracy.
Is it that simple? The cleggpills set up the conditions for any donor material introduced into the Lib Dem body to be attacked as a foreign implant? Would Liberal Conspiracy have had a better reception if they’d caught us on a downer? Were they just horribly unlucky with such a small thing as timing?
Hey, you haven’t been watching House long enough. There is no right or wrong. It’s just the mysterious, miserable, miraculous circle of political life.