Tag Archives: Liberal Politics

Blog Stat’s – 2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Will the Greens leave behind their voters for Neos to scoop up?


Events in Germany have generated a few stories in the Austrian press in the last couple of days focusing on the position of the Greens in Austrian politics. The stimulus for these articles has been the election by the German Greens of two leaders, for next year’s federal elections, with a broad middle class appeal. The German Greens it seems are going after the CDU’s conservative voters rather than just seeking to secure left leaning support. (Reuters article)

This turn of events has lead to articles about the Austrian Greens and in particular this one caught my eye: Green: Vienna moves to the left, to the right Berlin. It an interesting idea, the Greens moving further to the left in Austrian politics and it might work for them, if that’s what they really intend.

The Austrian Greens, despite being the only party elected into the current Parliament that hasn’t faced one or more major scandals, have only increased their support to date by 4% and remain fourth in the polls. Last year they seemed to benefit from the decline in support for the conservative ÖVP but more recently their stronger poll ratings have coincided with a weakening of the SPÖ (Social Democrats). The latter are already in a longstanding battle with the far-Right FPÖ in their traditional working class areas and now face a further challenge from the new right-of-centre ‘Team Stronach’. With support dented by poorly handled scandal accusations and facing towards the challenge of Populists on the right, the SPÖ look vulnerable on their left flank. The temptation to push left and make real inroads may look highly tempting to the Greens in general and the more fundamentalist faction in particular.

But if the Greens did shift further to the left could they maintain their existing voter base while adding disillusioned traditional left-wing voters?

It is notable that the rise of the Green Party in general elections was mirrored by the decline of the LIF (Austrian Liberal Party). Many of these LIF voters switch to the Greens. I have already highlighted that the rise and fall in the opinion polls of the conservative ÖVP and the Greens last year often mirrored each other – liberal ÖVP voters switching. In short, the Greens are currently home to a mix of traditional Greens, left-Greens and social Liberal voters. A leftwards strategy that simply replaced these liberal & progressive voters with disillusioned leftists would be unlikely to reap dividends and I suspect would lead to a net loss of support.

Up until recently the Greens have had only the worry of losing liberal voters to the ‘not voting camp’. However, a new player has taken to the Austrian political field in the form of ‘Neos – the new Austria’. A party formed to provide a rallying point for homeless Liberals and other progressives, its founding members include former activists from the Greens, Liberals, and ÖVP. If it can overcome the challenges of not receiving the benefits of media access and state funding enjoyed by Parties already in the Parliament then Neos is likely to draw support away from the Greens – even more so if the latter really jumped further to the corporate left.

In an ideal world and looking at the alternatives on offer, seeing both the Greens and Neos well represented in the next Austrian parliament would creative a new dynamic to a system that many across the political spectrum think needs renewing.

Link:  http://neos.eu/

 

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

Today a new liberal party takes to the stage


With a conference here in Vienna today, at the Urania, Neos will be the latest addition to the growing list of political parties lining up to compete in next year’s General Election in Austria.

In the run-up to today’s launch here is what the papers have been highlighting about ‘Neos – the new Austria’:

oe24.at produced a succinct summary of the Party’s place in the political spectrum: Neos see themselves as a liberal party. There are suggestions of possible co-operation with the Liberal Forum (LIF) and the Young Liberals (JuLis). The Party is particularly hoping to attract support from liberal voters who currently find a home with the Greens or ÖVP (conservatives). The Party’s leading figure, Matthias Strolz, was formerly involved with the ÖVP.

Die Presse also highlighted the Party as a new liberal grouping and mentioned reports of possible connections with both the Liberal Forum (LIF) and the Young Liberals (Julis). It also flagged up that the Party unlikely to find common ground with the other recent arrival, Team Stronach, which has taken up a position on the conservative right. The paper also highlights that Neos see themselves as an alternative for those who feel the traditional parties are resistant to reform and view the (traditional alternative) FPÖ as too extreme to support.

The Die Presse article points out that the new Party has emerged from recent citizens movements calling for democratic reforms: It also flags up policy areas already adopted by the new Party – no conscription, no to new property tax, see ESM as a ‘tragedy’ but would have agreed.

Kurier article interestingly doesn’t mention the word liberal but does mention ÖVP a number of times. The paper highlights that Neos wants to reduce State funding of parties by 75%, schools should have full budget and staffing autonomy, tax and contribution rates should be reduced.

The newspaper also focuses upon Neos’s political reform agenda including more direct democracy.

Kleine Zeitung’s short article picks up on the point that the founding convention comprises people from all sectors of society and Austrian states, with about half of those attending being self-employed. It also highlights the Party’s desire to expand the use of referendum, as well as to abolition provincial and territorial tax for the states.

Wiener Zeitung’s coverage puts emphasis on the new Party’s policies, highlighting: administrative reform; health care reform; more autonomy for schools; changes to taxation; democratic reforms.

The article also talks about the Party’s approach to politics. In the spring the Party programme will be subject internet based debate. Elections for candidates will follow the example of the French Socialists with the Board, party members and the public through primaries equally involved in creating the Party List (Austria has a regional list system for national elections).

Like some of the other papers, the article also highlights the Party’s aim of achieving 10% of the vote in next year’s General Election.

Links

Website: http://neos.eu/

Twitter: @neos_eu @matstrolz

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Liberal Politics, Politics

How many Liberal Parties can you have?


A liberal faction has split from the Austrian Pirates Party and formed a new party the Real Democrats Austria (RDO) . The split comes at a time when the Pirates have fallen in the polls from the low teens at the beginning of summer down to 2% in the latest (Gallup) poll out this week.

This latest addition to the growing number of new parties joining the Austrian political scene – I count at least five this year – describes themselves as:

  • Our policy direction is clearly socially liberal, liberal civic and sustainable. Liberal, in the very word form.

Later this month the Österreich Spricht  (Austria Speaks) citizens’ initiative will be launching a political party which will:

  •  Target ‘homeless Liberals’
  • Be a ‘liberal political party’
  • New party drawing in support from those with formerly ‘green, black, red and Liberal‘ backgrounds.
  • Believes it can secure 10% of the popular vote at next general election in 2013

Austria ready has a Liberal party, Liberal Forum (LIF) who are members of the ELDR. Not currently represented in the national parliament the Party:

  •  Will stand in the 2013 election either as a single party or part of a likeminded platform
  • Their party leader in answer to the question, during an interview with neuwal.com, of where the LIF stands on the political spectrum where 0 (right) and 10 (left) replied that people probably see them as 7 (left) but they’d like to be seen as more 5 (middle).

On the Obama v Romney question (see my blog post) the response was Obama.

We also have a fourth Liberal party, JuLis. This group of Young Liberals broke away from LIF back in 2009. They are:

  •  An independent political party and faction Austrian Students Union
  • They concentrate their efforts on Student politics
  • Although their core principles are a broad Liberal statement their emphasis on the free market would probably align them more within the ‘Orange Book’ wing of the Lib Dem’s in the UK.

So that’s at least four overtly ‘Liberal’ groupings, of various shades, competing for Liberal and progressive votes and none of them in the current national parliament of Austria. Within that parliament ‘Liberal’ voters have primarily given their support and/or lent their vote to the Greens (social Liberals) & the conservative ÖVP (economic Liberals) and to a lesser extent the Social Democrats – SPÖ (social Liberals) & right-wing BZÖ (economic Liberals). Polling suggests many of these voters might be willing to switch but it’s going to be a noisy, crowded market place.

Finally there is of course one other potentially ‘liberal vote’ seeking party about to be launched, the yet to be named party of Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach. He will have the money and the platform. The question remains is his Party to be a Liberal or Conservative learning grouping?

The neuwal.com site is running a series of summer interviews with representatives of many of Austria’s smaller parties. Interesting further reading here.

 

 

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Lib Dem’s are…


Interesting piece on Lib Dem identity:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/notes/liberal-democrat-voice/how-lib-dem-members-describe-their-political-identity-liberal-progressive-and-so/10150172899962159

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Time to join the Liberal Democrats? (If you’re a liberal living in Great Britain that is)


Looking in from the outside these days, British and particularly Liberal politics is clearly going through a period of significant and dynamic change.

The Liberal Democrats have had (and are still trying) to adjust to the realities of going from a party of protest to a party in power. To me, this process has also opened up the question (beyond the late night activist drinking debates and occasion think tank paper) as to the nature of the Party and what is the Liberal tradition.

For some Party members and the wider public this debate is bring to the fore, for the first time, just how much ideologue and principles underpin the Liberal Democrats (despite the odd, highly regrettable, pledge breaking trade off with the Tories for other policy gains). Even at a superficial level the newspapers have been talking about Orange book and Yellow book Liberals. Read the more in depth articles and the Liberal blogs and there you have the social Liberals arguing with the (left) radical Liberals, arguing with the (left) libertarian Liberals, hammering at the (right) libertarian Liberals, getting irritated by the classical Liberals, in turn being frustrated by the centrist Liberal democrats, while they for their part try to make sense of green Liberals. But each of these strands forms part of the ideological traditions which have shaped the Party. They have coexisted, intermingled and been sustained through members support for particular Party policies, Party groupings and approaches such as community politics.

For the Party and individual members committed to a rational and practical approach to politics the switch from opposition to government means having to address some painful realities about the contradictions and challenges within the different strands of Liberalism. But they are strands not separate ideologies and most individuals, as well as the Party, draw their personal programme from a range of these traditions. For instance, I tend to describe myself as a radical, social and green Liberal, but faced with looking at the Party not in opposition but in government I’m discovering how radical compared to social or social compared to green I am in this current economic climate.

The present debate around the Party’s identity has gone through the usual ‘is it or should it be’ on the centre left or in the centre (and occasionally even argued slightly to the ‘centre right’)? The press and opponents (and even Party members) like to simplify this first by phrasing the question as nearer Labour or the Tories. This was particularly the case in the early months of the coalition. Now the debate seems to be returning to the assertion that most Party members eventually make which is that they and the Party are Liberal, progressive (and concerned about poverty, fairness and individual freedom). Oddly, given the loss of distinctiveness in the early days of entering government, the real advantage now of being in government (even a coalition with the Tories) is that for the Party has the potential to be defined by its own core principles for the first time in post war Britain. The problem to overcome is that in many countries it’s the junior partner in a coalition that struggles to gain credit for its influence and can end up taking the blame for unpopular decisions.

The existence of such ideological Liberalism (rational & practical in all its forms) really has been a bit of a surprise to many in the outside world, who had always thought that the Lab/Tory accusation of ‘muddled middle with no roots’ had more than a grain of truth in it. However, unlike the other ‘big’ parties (who in most other political systems would have split into their separate and very different component parts long ago) the Lib Dems are in the main a coalition of Liberal traditions and community activism.

This mix of Liberal thinking is a strength and defining characteristic of the Lib Dems in Britain. This becomes very clear when you sit in a country in which these traditions are split and submerged within Parties across the political spectrum. In or out of government, whether for or against a particular policy, if you believe in progressive rational politics then a vibrant Liberal party encompassing the breadth of the Liberal tradition is something worth having and enriches the body politic.

With elections on the horizon, major policy arguments in the coalition, as well as the Party beginning to look outwards again, there has in recent weeks been a notably increase in discussion about the value of the Lib Dems, why you really should join (rejoin), and the positive impact the Party is having in government. Below is a cross section of such articles:

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/04/liberal-democrats-conservative

http://www.whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com/

http://richardkemp.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/i%e2%80%99m-proud-to-be-a-%e2%80%98cleggista%e2%80%99/

http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-why-labour-members-should-defect-to-the-liberal-democrats-23752.html

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/julianastle/100083736/reports-of-the-lib-dems’-death-have-been-greatly-exaggerated/

And Simon Hughes view on the coalition reported today:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coalition-is-practical-agreement-2267684.html

And finally an interesting observation on the direction of the Labour Party:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/14/gillian-duffy-labour-mascot

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Filed under Politics, UK Politics

Up early – a bit of politics, musing on life this week and then away to the match in Salzburg (20th March 2011)


Well for some reason, that my rather drowsy brain does not fully understand, my body decided that six o’clock was a good time to start the day on this bright and sunny Vienna morning. This never ending conflict between mental and physical processes was as ever resolved by the bubble and fizzing of the coffee machine. So settling down with my favourite Austrian coffee, Meinl’s ‘Jubilaum’, has given me the unexpected opportunity to catch up on the news, FB and Twitter, before I join other fans of Austria Wien on the train to Salzburg.

I’ve been following the posting on Vote Clegg, Get Clegg FB site about a rather nasty racist and the subject of freedom of speech. Personally, I have and will defend the freedom of speech of right or left wing loonies, religious fundamentalists or any other bunch of nutters in society, even if I detested their views. However, in this particular case (based upon the limited information I have) the concerns of those expressing worried about his freedom of speech seem to me misplaced. This individual was in the first instance using verbal aggression and physical presence to deny freedom of speech to the family he was abusing. Secondly, having some racist thug verbally abusing you and your children can (in particular situations) be as bad as actual assault. Many years ago, on separate occasions, I experience both violent abuse and physical assault from such thugs. I can’t say that I found either experience any less traumatic than the other and oddly both were as stress inducing.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/LibDemLife

Recently I added the word liberal to my TweetDeck search. An interesting by-product of my tracking of liberal tweets has been the reminder that in different parts of the world and for different groups of people the word indicates a position from far left to right wing, as well as a term indicating progressive or used as simple abuse. In the UK at present it has definitely become a term of abuse for some students who rightly complain about the broken pledge on Tuition Fees by the LD’s, but forget that Labour introduced them in the first place and would themselves had increased the fees had they stayed in power. The entry into a coalition with the Conservatives, by what the Daily Telegraph refers to as the most left wing of the main parties, has once again opened up the debate about where on the political spectrum the British Liberal Democrats sit.

At the Liberal Democrats spring conference Nick Clegg spoke about not being left or right but being Liberal. As a sound bite I rather liked it, along with his line ‘…we are a party of fairness, freedom, progress and reform’. Wasn’t so sure about his comments regarding the Party being the radical centre, when I googled this I found lots of references to Tony Blair’s third way (which is not what I think Nick was talking about or wanting to be associated with) and to a website/manifesto for ‘Centriods’ on the http://radicalcentrism.org/ website (again not quite what I think Nick was getting at). I’ll watch with interest Nick’s future statements but for now I’ll stick with the slightly clumsy Radical Liberal lefty/green for a description of myself.

With all the events unfolding in Japan I have found myself in some interesting discussions with H.  My liberal parenting skills have been put to the test as I seek to provide my eight year old with a balanced, factual, and understandable explanation of  nuclear disasters, nuclear power, climate change, tsunamis and earthquakes. The stimulus for this had been a discussion at school and I was rather impressed with the time and interest she put into researching and understanding the issues.

H has inherited my interest in history and is currently working her way through the BBC’s Horrible Histories series of books. At the moment we are reading the ‘Terrible Tudors’ which along with the Romans is one of H’s favourite periods and makes for interesting discussions. We have, however, just finished the books in the series relating to the First and Second World Wars which also had the additional dimension of addressing more sensitive periods in H’s Anglo-Austrian cultural heritage.

With natural disasters, wars and uprising changing the world and being brought instantly into our homes through 24hr news and the internet, day to day life can sometime feel a little surreal. Whilst people fight over race, religion and history (amongst many other ‘causes’), my daughter spends her days talking and playing happily in German and English with friends from a whole range of cultural backgrounds and faiths. She spends part of her evening on the internet talking with her old class mates back in England and living in a world where geographical boundaries have little meaning. I wonder what people in a hundred years will make of some of our issues and priorities today?

Some Austrian friends of mine sometimes complain that living in Austria feels like living on an island (or on top of a mountain), a backwater cut off from much of the excitement of the rest of the world. Selfish at it almost certainly is, given the horrors facing others,  I have to admit that in the last few weeks I have appreciated the ‘quietness’ of this backwater and am particularly grateful for the mundane which can be everyday life.

So now I will head off to the railway station and join other Austria Wien fans for the trip to Salzburg. We are currently top of the table and a win today will strengthen our chances of taking the league title in the clubs 100th year. It will also cheer me up after Leicester City lost their game yesterday in the English Championship. Small things and big issues make our live what they are….

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Filed under History, Liberal Politics, Politics, The odd thought or observation, Vienna Life