It is not often that I am moved to criticise a fellow Liberal Democrat blogger. Generally speaking, if I join in, you've probably stretched the envelope of acceptable behaviour or attacked someone I love. However, on this occasion, I'm making an exception.
In his 'interesting' posting on the ALDE Group's entanglement with the Five Star Movement, he describes the decision of the Parliamentary Group to reject the proposed entry of the Beppe Grillo led group as 'an epoch defining act of stupidity'. One might argue as to whether it was the right call or not, and there are arguments either way, but come now, Nick, epoch defining to reject a party that has no clear philosophical basis except whatever Beppe thinks when he gets up in the morning? Methinks one protests too much.
And whilst Nick claims to spent time around ALDE and other European liberal parties, and I have no reason to doubt that, he may not be talking to the people I talk to as a member of the ALDE Party Council. I am more than aware of the accusations of fake news generation that whirl around M5S, and of their views regarding the Euro and the future of NATO. Indeed, the proposed deal included a provision that their MEPs would be members of the ALDE Group but not bound by its whip, something which smacks of a 'marriage of convenience'.
Perhaps there was a prospect of a coming together of M5S and European liberal forces leading to an evolution of the former into a genuinely liberal party, and perhaps such an evolution will take place eventually. Personally, I've seen too many personality driven parties disintegrate once the key personality quits or implodes to be that confident, but one learns not to presume anything - something doubly true when considering Italian politics.
But there is no point admitting one dubiously liberal grouping only to lose a number of established ones in protest. ALDE is already a coming together of social liberal and economic liberal parties whose shared objectives outweigh the disagreements. Adding M5S to the mix would be one step too far for a number of them.
So, encourage M5S down a path towards a genuinely liberal grouping in Italy with an informal agreement to work together on issues where the agenda is a shared one by all means and, if they demonstrate that there is a potential place for them amongst the Liberal family, then fine, let's talk about some more formal relationship. But until then, the idea that you invite people to be the flag bearers for liberalism who oppose some of its core tenets for political advantage isn't an epoch defining act of stupidity, it's a demonstration that a political party has to maintain some core principles, lest it forget why it exists in the first place.
And finally, Nick suggests that, in his time spent around ALDE and other European liberal parties, the one thing he noticed again and again is a lack of understanding about how politics basically works. I disagree, obviously, because I'm one of those stupid European liberals he so disparagingly refers to. I might find myself wondering just how successful Nick's brand of politics is, given that there are seven ALDE Prime Ministers, and five Liberal Commissioners, and that the number of Nick Tyrones in government is how many exactly?
But he's entitled to his opinion and I'm entitled to mine. And I think that Nick needs, on some future occasion, to come to an ALDE Party Congress and meet some of the people I meet and talk to them. But as he loathes them - his words, not mine - I'm not sure that a meeting of minds is very likely. Perhaps becoming a member of the Five Star Movement and trying to influence them towards liberalism from the inside might be more palatable to him than spending time with his fellow liberals?