I read with some interest the latest missive from Liberal Vision, another condemnation of the works, culture and morals of the Liberal Democrats, and find myself asking the question, "If you dislike us, and most of what we stand for, why do you bother?".
In posting after posting, Liberal Vision's contributors criticise our sense of compassion, our internal structures, our leading personalities, with nary a positive word. Is there nothing about the Liberal Democrats that is pleasing to their rather jaundiced eye? That said, I'm not one of those that suggests that, as an appalling group of neo-liberals with no comprehension of, or sympathy for, the underlying values of the Liberal Democrats, they should leave on the first helicopter out - they are within the spectrum of politics that is liberalism.
However, it is dispiriting to see a relentless stream of sarcasm, carping and disapproval, especially from a group whose activities are a lightning rod for those on the left who accuse us of being 'yellow Tories'. It is hard to stand up for a group who behave in such an unlovely manner.
From issuing a report claiming that swathes of Liberal Democrat seats would be lost unless the Party accepted their policy prescription, to promoting an anonymous witch hunt against prominent Party figures, their approach has appeared designed to alienate rather than persuade, to court publicity rather than seek debate. The sustained support of key Liberal Vision activists for the rehabilitation of Lembit Opik rather than someone whose credibility is more widely accepted is another indication of a divorce, or at least a trial separation, from mainstream Liberal Democrat thinking.
That is not to say that mainstream Liberal Democrat thinking is always right - the fiasco of tuition fees is a reminder that the majority view isn't always optimal. But to be so far from the mainstream so often is a lonely place to be and, if it were me, I might begin to wonder whether campaigning from beyond the constraints of a political party might be more inviting than attempting to do so from within.