Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Problem(s) With The Liberal Democrat Party

It is easy to summise what has come from the Lib Dem conference, because as somebody who has had no inclination of following it, every incidental contact via the media has shown this particular conference has shown them to be the loony party that has no good ideas or innovative thinkers. They are the third rail of British Politics. They have not put forward one original proposal to capture the imagination, and their conference seems to have been arraigned to inflate the egos of its leaders rather than to set out a convincing alternative vision.

I don’t spend much time blogging on the Lib Dems, so I had better pack it in tight here as I might not again until the election.

The fact that they have not had a good conference at all, whilst the rest of us are battering Labour into an unprecedented oblivion is politically disgraceful; especially considering that they are not going to be picking up Tory seats at the next election, it is the Labour seats and voters that will head their way. But what have they done this week? Have they provided a channel in which to ease Labour voters across to their brand of left wing politics? No. Have they set out a convincing alternative to current Government overspending? No. Have they identified with the guy on the street, Mondeo Man and White Van Man? No. Have they abandoned their ridiculous context of being serious contenders for Government and offered a vision of a Liberal official opposition party to the Conservatives? No.

So what have they done? Cocked up their flagship tax plan, taken pot-shots at the party to their right, rather than the parties to their left, reversed announcements on cuts immediately after making them , been incoherent on many things including Child Tax Credits and convinced their best blogger (by their own estimation) that perhaps it is not worth carrying on after all. Their failure was punctuated by two other events. Firstly their chief economic spokesman spokesperson, Mr Cable and his economic record got thoroughly spanked by Andrew Neil on TV just before the conference and secondly all polls I have seen this week reveal that their leader Nick Clegg is not very popular at all.

Nick Clegg whenever he opens his mouth reveals himself to be more and more nasty. He strikes me, and I am sure I am not alone here, as an amateur politician who is unsure of his principles, and as such compensates by talking about making things fairer whilst not really understanding why our society and our laws are designed and were made the way they are. Victim politics. When Nick Clegg speaks, I feel like he dislikes the people he would purport to like to govern, including me.

His record is even poorer than his personality, his first act as Liberal Democrat leader was to reverse their only widely popular manifesto pledge from the last election, that of a holding a referendum on the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty; then he forced his parliamentary minions to see it through a safe passage. There is not one truly Liberal thing the Liberal Democrats stand for. They are definitely not the party of William Gladstone.

The party itself has no good ideas, because they have spent the last 12 years pretending that Tony Blair and New Labour were not rolling out plenty of “progressive” social policies of exactly the same ilk as they would have been. New Labour have socially engineered Britain into a crouching embryo position, quivering with fear that we are about to be branded racist, fascist, tory loving, criminal terrorists, who are also a big bunch of paedophiles, climate change deniers, dangerous, overtly ambitious, greedy, capitalist, baby-eating frog marching, fox hunting car driving despots who could not possibly function in the world without an ever extending over-reach of nanny government. If by some amazing fluke Paddy Ashdown had of won in 1997, he would have been talking to the same think tanks, lobbyists, journalists and money men that New Labour have been for the last 12 years, there would not be too much different today following 12 years of Liberal Democratic government as there has been of 12 Years of New labour ‘progressive’ government… And people not involved in politics do understand this. Worse still, people have now had many years and many experience of Liberal Democrats at local government, and seen exactly how fluidic the Liberal Democrat message is, depending on your postcode.

Efforts to consult and adopt a broad-church approach have led to incoherence, and inconsistent messages – even this week. The only week in the year when the Liberal Democrats have a hope of setting and controlling a news agenda is their conference week and they blew it, spectacularly.

I am not a fan of Vince Cable, but he is the only Senior Lib Dem left who can speak (occasionally) without condescending. Nobody votes for those kinds of politicians. The Liberal Democrats or at least their current leadership have turned their backs on any strain of Libertarianism and are nothing more now like Labour-lite… more EU, more statism, more taxes, more regulations, more politicians, more, more, more. This is the inescapable abode of the failed, disaffected and student politicians – the only place they can be heard.

I repeat, that in my humble opinion the fact that the Liberal Democrats have not found a way around the Labour Party with such a discredited Government at the helm is very, very bad and should be sounding alarm bells and sirens sounding with Lib Dem grass roots. If you are truly content on Nick Clegg and Chris Hunhe’s visions then do nothing, vote Liberal Democrat, and get your 14 or 15% at the General Election.

But surely there are some people out there still, who want a centre-left party that will challenge the EU and statism? Where are the people that recognise that the smaller the state the smaller the infringement on freedom, and the people that want to stand up for people’s rights if only so that peoples freedoms are safe guarded if not enhanced. Where are the people on the left that will challenge corporate criminality without attacking capitalism in the same breath? Where are the people that will champion the plight of the poor for no other reason than to help them?

I don’t know where they are, but I know they are not heading for an application form to the Liberal Democrat party.

The best thing for the Conservatives, Labour, SNP and UKIP is if the Lib Dems stay the third party of UK politics after GE day. I should not care, and though I do, it is not much concern, but if I may be so bold as to offer some advice as Lib Dem people head home from the conference early. Advice from an outsider may be the best way to put it.

Firstly, as you are the Liberal Democrats, get the brightest young people in your party to come up with some policies that are Liberal and that if you were in Government would preserve, protect and/or enhance Liberty in the UK.

Secondly, as you are the Liberal Democrats, get the brightest young people in your party to come up with some policies that would preserve, protest and or enhance democracy in this country. PR voting doesn’t count, because that requires moving away from majority rule, and the strongest and most fair democracies that provide the greatest Liberties to their people are built upon the projection of majority rule.

Thirdly, after your election drubbing next year change your leadership. Not just Nick Clegg, I mean the whole lot… and keep Shirley off of question time, nobody outside of a BBC studio agrees with anything she has to say.

Whatever policies you come up with, make sure that they are realistic, achievable and aimed at doing something other than filling your time, and spending our money. Do not ever announce another policy that is designed solely at embarrassing the Conservatives or Labour. Be consistent with your messages and making policies that your grass root supporters can be consistent with in their newsletters and their conversations on the doorsteps.

Forget Governing and Tory bashing for at least one Parliament. Aim realistic – for second spot – from there you could potentially aim for Government. The Labour party will be reeling for some time – but are exceptional when on the up about being staunchly supportive and consistent with a message [even when it is the wrong message or a lie]. It will not take more than one Parliament for Labour begin to regaining some ground and find some consistency – so you will only have a small window to leapfrog them. Tell the kids you think the internet is cool and see if you can’t get a few more Charlotte Gore types blogging and see if your new ideas spread.

Sounds simple to me, but I have a feeling my ideas for the Liberal Democrats my ideas will not meet with their approval. Never mind, there are more important things going on than the Liberal Democrats. But then, isn’t there always?


Barking Spider said...

Top post, Daniel, sums them up perfectly!

subrosa said...

Well Dan, you've excelled yourself with this one and that's saying something.

Well done.

Tarquin said...

scathing, Daniel

I broadly agree with you - I don't like this shift to the left they're doing to catch labour votes, it scares off the people into liberty - but that's the prob with the libs, they're the middle, minority party, and Clegg has got his tactics all wrong

I have to say though all this has done is convince me further that NO party is sensible - you call them the third rail, but frankly I think labour are far more loony right now, and Cameron is yet to do anything but political manoeuvres - until now the libs were the only party with policies, and now Clegg is blowing it

independent I go..

Tarquin said...

forgot this: Also I have to disagree with the PR thing

'and the strongest and most fair democracies that provide the greatest Liberties to their people are built upon the projection of majority rule.'

That means the fairest democracies in the world are solely the UK, US and Canada - all the other developed nations involve some sort of proportional voting

Daniel1979 said...

Thanks guys.

Tarquin, I am sure I can make some time in the next few weeks to look at PR further... I have not looked but I am wondering if a correlation could be drawn between voting system type and some measure of the strength or perhaps length of a democracy - could be interesting !

Anonymous said...

The Lib Dems' biggest problem is the same one it's always been: The leader can't set policy, only the members can.

Result? Only people interested in the party's current policy agenda join, and they vote for more of the same.