Sunday, August 08, 2010

The "traditional Methodist wing" of the Lib Dems?

I am convinced that some political journalists know nowt about political parties and how they operate internally and on the ground. The latest evidence for this is in the Independent on Sunday. It contains yet another allegation that the Coalition is about to blow itself apart, this time because the Lib Dems will hold a conference debate on gay marriage. I have no problem about the press reporting this as something that brings us into conflict with the Tory right. It may well do. The Tebbits will be apoplectic with rage as they sip their G and Ts. But gay issues generally command cross party support now and I can't see the Tory mainstream melting with rage over this. The fact Cameron now supports civil partnerships indicates the direction in which the mainstream is moving.

What I found fascinating about the IoS article was the allegation the plans will cause a split with the "traditional Methodist" liberals. Quite where this mythical group has been conjured up from would be interesting to know. There is no longer a Methodist wing in the Liberals. Maybe 100 years ago the nonconformist religious element of the old Liberal party was something that wielded influence. But that was a century ago. Quite which planet the IoS was on when this article was written is not clear. The sound of barrel bottoms being scraped as the search continued for divisions must have been quite loud in the IoS newsroom when this drivel was written.

So what next from the history-challenged journalists of our national press? Perhaps calls to restore the pension link will upset militant Gladstonians. Or imposing a levy on banks could cause problems with the free trade wing of the party. Or scrapping Trident could create divisions with the Churchillians. All very silly but not as silly as that IoS article.

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Anonymous said...

Denis Healey said 'The Labour Party owes more to Methodism than Marx'.

I am a Methodist and a member of the Labour Party, three Methodists I know are Liberal Democrats.
I know three members of the Methodist Church who are also members of the Labour party.

You might find in some strong Methodist areas such as Wales that the Methodist wing does exist, but you will also find (I hope) that Methodists are open, respectful of other opinions and socially aware.

You are right this IOS story is a bit of a non story.

Jonathan Wallace said...

I agree. As an historian, I know just how important nonconformity was in the early history of the Labour party. It all goes to show what nonsense the IOS story was.