EXCLUSIVE: What Lib Dem members say about the party’s direction and Nick Clegg’s leadership

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 500 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Big drop in satisfaction with party’s direction

LDV asked: Do you think, as a whole, the Liberal Democrats are on the right course or on the wrong track? (Comparison with December’s figures.)

    61% (-9%) – The right course
    31% (+10%) – The wrong track
    8% (-1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

This is a big turn-around from a month ago. In February, there was a net satisfaction rating with the party’s direction of +49% — this has now dropped to +30% in the last four weeks. It’s not hard to guess why: the unpopularity among many of the Coalition’s NHS Bill, and the inability of the leadership to persuade party members the reforms are necessary and right. It’s worth noting the +30% figure is lower even than it was in the immediate aftermath of the tuition fees debate (November 2010), when net satisfaction stood at +32%.

Nick Clegg’s personal ratings slump to lowest-ever level

What is your view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader?

    17% – Very satisfied
    40% – Satisfied
    Total satisfied = 57% (-11%)
    24% – Dissatisfied
    >17% – Very dissatisfied
    Total dissatisfied = 41% (+11%)
    1% – Don’t know / No opinion

Again, our survey shows a big drop in approval. A month ago, Nick Clegg was riding high at +38% net satisfaction, his best figure since the tuition fees U-turn. But now his approval rating stands at just +16%, the lowest figure Nick has recorded as leader since LibDemVoice began surveying party members. This may be just a blip; the fact that our survey questions focused heavily on just one issue, the NHS, may have skewed results a little. We shall see in time. But for now the results shows the Lib Dem leader has a real job of repair to do among party members to restore confidence in his leadership.

• Over 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 507 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 4th and 8th March.
• Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
• The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed here

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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42 Comments

  • Katie O'Keeffe 12th Mar '12 - 8:44am

    The news I hear this morning is that the party membership has rejected the NHS Bill, but Clegg will continue to support it. What happened to the “democratic” part of Liberal Democrat? Why would anybody want to belong to and support a party that is run in this way?

  • coldcomfort 12th Mar '12 - 9:50am

    Simon Kampfner’s article in the Feb 4th edition of the FT says “Mr Clegg still needs to answer the question: what are the Liberal Democrats for? A shopping list of specific policy achievements will not suffice. He is still in search of the compelling argument to persuade voters to back them again in May 2015, the almost certain date of the next [ General]Election. Making the Tories a ‘bit less nasty’ does not constitute a rallying cry.”. The absence of that argument is why so many activists are unhappy. We cannot position many of the actions that resonate so much against our instincts & beliefs – like NHS, Welfare to Work ,, failure to hold to account those whose greed & stupidity caused so much pain etc etc against a wider vision beyond cutting the deficit. What is the response? Nick, in his speech to Conference gets to list ‘Achievements’ and top of the list is: ” Before 2015, because of us, there will be the first gay marriage”. Oh WOW. It is not homophobic to point out that the vast majority of the electorate will not see this as the major breakthrough that the country & the party needs to restore its flagging support.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Mar '12 - 10:23am

    Will history look back on this period and wonder how it was that the UK went into one of it most challenging periods with three forty ‘somethings’ in charge of three of its most powerful positions: Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition?

    It could be argued that the three have talents, but in any other period of history they would be relatively junior Secretaries of State, still learning their chosen profession.

    I have argued here before that Clegg has not had to serve a political or a campaigning apprenticeship. There are in any party, many people who target leaders and want to be part of their advisory team – not the spads – the ones that come and go with hardly a knock at the Leader’s Conference Suite.

    Clegg’s choice of General Election Campaign Chair illustrated his vulnerability to a certain ‘type of individual’ that he would be comfortable having as an adviser. The rest of the real ‘leadership team’ fit a similar world view – more familiar with the going rate for a ‘nanny’ than the efficiency of a county council welfare rights service.

    Those who might have helped provide a different perspective and with experience were either alienated by his ambitions – Kennedy and Campbell – or were soon dismissed after their use had been exploited – Ashdown. Cable was effectively ‘excluded’ as soon as the Manchester PM Questions had given Clegg independence from Cable’s standing.

    Now Williams has been torched for the sake of a conference manoeuvre that any decent party manager would have said was destined to fail on many fronts.

    IMHO Clegg needs a quiet weekend on his own to take stock. Leave his existing advisers outside and talk to Ashdown and Kennedy about how to manage a party – because as Gladstone, Asquith and L-G would tell him, in a representative democracy – power comes from the party and not from office.

    It means he must stop being angry when he doesn’t get his way and start becoming an accomplished politician.

  • Bill le Briton: Agreed.

    Bare in mind that the popularity figure was before the “Shirley Williams motion” stunt. I dread to think what the figure whould have been on Saturday night.

    There is nothing Liberal nor Democratic in the way the leadership are leading. But it is “in the national interest” and “for the greater good” and all can be blamed on “being in coalition”.

    Sticking to your principles in such times is the true mark of both a Liberal and a Democrat. Shouldn’t it be the same for the senior Liberal Democrats?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar '12 - 12:10pm

    Agreed also. From the start Nick Clegg made the mistake of working mainly with people like himself and supposing grizzled old party members couldn’t tell him much. Some of the mistakes he’s made since becoming leader are due to him trying to force the party too far in the way he wants it to go, but others are just due to not taking advice where it would have helped. He would have avoided many mistakes, for example, had he turned to those with local government experience of awkward balance-of-power situations. He also needs to listen to those within the party who are not his ideological soul mates. This is basic good leadership – once you’re at the top, you don’t just talk to your mates, at least if it matters to you that the organisation you lead remains intact and functioning.

  • It might be useful to compare this survey with the one of labour members done by labour list. Most of their questions arent directly comparable but the one on the leader is close,
    40% of labour members think Milliband is doing a good job, thats much the same as last month but a big jump on the month before. That Clegg is doing so much better, even at his all-time low tells us how bad labour morale is & how well ours is holding up.
    The NHS business has been a mess, as tuition fees was but the main reason surely is the difficulty of running a two-party coalition in a country where no-one has any experience of such things . I often say that other parties & the media dont “get” coalition but actually I dont think we do either, not yet.

  • Paul Barker: “The NHS business has been a mess, as tuition fees was but the main reason surely is the difficulty of running a two-party coalition in a country where no-one has any experience of such things . I often say that other parties & the media dont “get” coalition but actually I dont think we do either, not yet.”

    For me, “the main reason” behind the mess in each case has been a failure to understand the public.

    Were the public angry with us for introducing a better fees system that costs graduates less per month? No. They were cross with us for claiming we were different, claiming we could be trusted, and then breaking one of the clearest promises any party has ever made going into an election. “Blame the coalition” doesn’t wash – the public expected this would be a “red line” for us. Pointing to the better system doesn’t wash. It was all about the promise.

    When we come to the NHS bill we start from a position of being distrusted by the public because of tuition fees. Why should they accept our claim that we are saving it? It is all a very complicated, technical situation and we are the ones who broke our word on tuition fees, so we are probably lying here as well. The public fear we will probably be doing the wrong thing.

    And when the party leadership have to pull stunts to stifle reasonable debate among the party membership on the subject….

  • Richard Shaw 12th Mar '12 - 2:17pm

    @Katie

    The emergency motion ballot on Saturday showed that a majority of delegates did not want to reject the bill. The selection result was close but I think even if the “drop the bill” [DTB] motion had been selected for debate that on Sunday then it would have been rejected – I spoke with several delegates who had given the DTB motion their first preference because they wanted it debated but intended to then vote against it. The “Shirly Williams Motion” [SWM] was selected, which i) called for further amendments and ii) for the Lords to support the bill provided those amendments went through. Point ii was removed by a relatively narrow margin and then the rest of the motion was endorsed by a considerable margin. This means that the party calls for further amendments but will leave how to vote on the Bill up to the Parliamentarians. Had DTB been selected and then defeated then it would have suggested we refuse to drop the bill and don’t want further amendments which I think would have been more damaging than calling for further amendments, which I think strengthens our negotiating position.

    I think, speaking as someone who gave first pref to DTB and intended to support it that on reflection this was the best outcome.

  • Katie – “The news I hear this morning is that the party membership has rejected the NHS Bill, but Clegg will continue to support it. What happened to the “democratic” part of Liberal Democrat? Why would anybody want to belong to and support a party that is run in this way?”

    The Party Membership has not rejected the bill; the party activists at conference have narrowly voted against it. Party activists at conference are NOT the same as the membership. Party activists at conference will tend to come disproportionately from the “active” wings of the party (left and right), and disproportionately from those groups who are able to find the time and money to spend going to a party conferences – namely the young, the old and the wealthy. Experience from my own local party shows that there is never a quorum in place when these positions are “elected”; they are taken by those with an axe to grind. You can only claim such a decision is the democratic will of party members if you take a quorate ballot of party members – 50%, arguably 75% turnout.

    You may also have noticed that the Party is not the Government; the Government is a coalition of two separate parties. it is nonsensical to assume that the decisions taken by an unrepresentative conference grouping of the minor coalition party should bind the Government.

  • Richard Shaw 12th Mar '12 - 2:26pm

    @Katie

    p.s. I think the fact that ordinary members actually get to decide party policy rather than corporations, unions, newspaper opinion polls or special advisers is a pretty good argument for remaining in the party, even if you don’t like the results of that democracy, rather than jumping ship to e.g. Labour or the Conservatives where that kind of internal democracy is an alien concept. Plus the Federal Appeals Committee(?) has ruled Conference can’t mandate Parliamentarians (i.e. force them to vote a certain way) but being a democratic party where ordinary members select candidates, leaders, etc. we can ultimately hold them to account through other means.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Mar '12 - 2:41pm

    There was never any serious chance of “further amendments” to the Bill – this was just a smokescreen to try to bamboozle members who don’t follow the minutiae of the Lords. There will be amendments agreed tomorrow (Tuesday) but they have been agreed for the past week or more and will not need a vote.

    Tony Greaves

  • Daniel Henry 12th Mar '12 - 3:38pm

    I personally suspect that the Welfare Reforms have had a part to play as well. Nick’s refusal to address problems with the “workfare” programmes and the changes to disability benefits have been a big disappointment to me.

  • Tabman – If it is ‘ nonsensical to assume that the decisions taken by an unrepresentative conference grouping of the minor coalition party should bind the Government’, isn’t it also nonsensical that decisions made by a coalition government with no mandate to radically restructure the NHS should do just that?

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '12 - 5:12pm

    It is also nonsense to assume that MPs have or need mandates. MPs are not restricted in that way by any party or law, and there is no law that requires an MP or party to keep to its pre-election promises. After all, a new government may find that the actual situation left by the last one is quite different from what people were told, and may need to adjust.

    Voters are well aware of these things, and it makes us look bad to claim the opposite. By electing an MP, voters provide that person with a mandate only to exercise their judgment on how to proceed. It follows that a government does not need a specific mandate to change the NHS, under the present system of UK democracy.

  • Richard

    I think it is not unreasonable for the electorate to expect a party to vote for what they say they are going to do on their platform. The electorate don’t look favourably on politicians who stand on a platform and then radically change their postions on many major positions, 5 minutes afterwards.

    Jack T

  • David Allen 12th Mar '12 - 5:38pm

    Matthew Huntbach said:

    “Nick Clegg… also needs to listen to those within the party who are not his ideological soul mates. This is basic good leadership – once you’re at the top, you don’t just talk to your mates, at least if it matters to you that the organisation you lead remains intact and functioning.”

    That’s an interesting point. I think that there are basically two types of political leadership. Some leaders – Cameron, Ed Miliband, Ming Campbell – are mainly consensual. They tend to adapt their views to their parties, or else work diligently to persuade their parties to support any new policy departures they would like to promote. Others – Thatcher, Blair – are more dictatorial. They take a strong stand and challenge their parties to back them or sack them. This can, of course, work quite effectively when the party thinks the leader is something of a hero / heroine and deserving of such support.

    Clegg doesn’t really fit into either of these categories. His matey style tends to conceal the fact that he is not at all consensual, but rigidly aligned with a small group of key colleagues. On the other hand, he has not made a charismatic appeal for a massive change in political direction, as Thatcher and Blair both did. Instead, he has brought in change by the back door, using Coalition as a convenient rationale for changes he would in fact have favoured in any case.

    Matthew’s comments, and Bill le Breton’s, suggest that Clegg needs to improve his technical capability as a leader. I am not sure that technical incompetence is really the problem. I think that Clegg has always known very well what he is doing, and – as the election TV interviews showed us – can often be very effective in achieving something he has set out to do.

    From his accession to the leadership and his first big policy statement on “Big Permanent Tax Cuts” onwards, Clegg has always had a very clear idea of where he wanted to travel to. It has been a major change of direction. He has not exactly concealed his intentions, but he hasn’t shouted them from the housetops, as Blair and Thatcher did. Rather, he has relied on a drip-feed of argument and a steady change in the political temperature (and the oft-quoted analogy with boiling the frog comes readily to mind!)

    The other analogy I would make is with bankers like Bob Diamond and press barons like Murdoch. Remember when both of thse players were on their knees, humbled and contrite, full of semi-apologies, with all the commentators writing them off for dead? We can now see how expertly they rolled the punches, retreated to lick their wounds, and then came back fighting. Clegg, I am sure, will try to do the same.

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '12 - 7:27pm

    One thing the electorate are quite clear about – they want politicians and parties who have policies. “Yes but no but” is not just a Guardian joke, it’s an electoral disaster. Does anyone think that the electorate thinks that LibDems have an agreeed policy on the NHS? Is it possible for us to develop one, in time for it to do good?

  • @Growler. In my opinion you are describing the public’s view of the LibDems accurately. I believe, however, that there are very few LibDem members who can bring themselves to believe that things are as you describe.

  • “Does anyone think that the electorate thinks that LibDems have an agreeed policy on the NHS? Is it possible for us to develop one, in time for it to do good?”

    Surely the whole problem with this coalition is that the party has not worked out a way of having policies separate from those of the government, still less of making the electorate aware of those policies.

    The party is always being asked to support the policies of the coalition, despite the fact that in theory those policies are the result of a negotiation, which – logically speaking – it’s not necessary for either party to support fully, except as a compromise with the other party.

    Practically speaking, if the party can’t maintain a separate identity of its own there will be no reason for anyone to vote for it.

  • @Richard Dean. Would it not have been ‘good form’ for the LibDems to “have an agreeed policy on the NHS” before the general election. And surely democracy demands that the electorate should have been informed what that agreed policy was – before they were asked to vote.

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '12 - 8:51pm

    @Chris, @Godfrey. Why am I getting the feeling that LibDems prefer complaining that they don’t have a policy rather than actually doing the work needed to develop one?

  • Katie O'Keeffe 12th Mar '12 - 9:09pm

    The leadership’s comments before the conference show they know the party are against the NHS privatisation, but they will support it anyway. What good is it getting the party into government if this is the outcome?

  • Paul Barker writes: “That Clegg is doing so much better, even at his all-time low tells us how bad labour morale is & how well ours is holding up.”

    With respect, Paul, your stock response to many articles questioning the party leadership is to tell us what a mess Labour are in. Even if this were the case (and I think you exaggerate Labour’s problems) it doesn’t address the serious difficulties facing Clegg and the LibDems. Saying “you think we’re bad, the other lot are ten times worse!” might be comforting, but I doubt if it will impress the electorate.

  • While I like Nick personally, my research (for my ‘The Alternative View’ book ) suggests that he should remain as Deputy Prime Minister, while announcing a timetable to resign as leader by the end of 2013. Nick has a responsibility to fulfil his promise as DPM, and he can evidently do that quite effectively. However, all the data I’ve gathered suggests Nick will damage the party’s electoral performance in the next General Election should he hold on to the leadership role. For instance, left leaning voters won’t back a party led by him and it appears others have become disillusioned too. Nick’s promise of rewards in the General Election fails to face the fact that MP victories are broadly linked to local government advances or declines. Unless we make net gain of council seats in 2012 (in which case I will humbly and unpompously admit my analysis was flawed), the very base needed for MP wins continues to disintegrate. Nick asks us to do not what is easy, but what is right. Well, I know it’ s not easy to relinquish the leader’s role – but I also believe it’s right. Nick, if you do follow these disucssions, I invite you to annonce a timetable for a leadership transition by 2013, thereby establishing your credentials as someone truly committed to the collective best interest of the movement. I hope you will contemplate this request in the spirit of good faith in which it is intended.

  • “@Chris, @Godfrey. Why am I getting the feeling that LibDems prefer complaining that they don’t have a policy rather than actually doing the work needed to develop one?”

    First, I’m no longer a Lib Dem. Just trying to offer a bit of friendly (if rather obvious) advice.

    But my point is not that the party doesn’t have policies. Technically, I’m sure it still has many policies (including, for example, the abolition of university tuition fees). It’s just that it hasn’t worked out how to have its own distinctive policies while participating in the coalition. It tends to act as though whatever the coalition is doing is its policy – in other words, as a cheerleader for a largely Tory agenda. Rather than saying at every opportunity “This isn’t my policy, it’s just the best deal I can get out of the bloody Tories. What I should really like to do instead is the following.”

  • Oranjepan – Nick is not a stop-motion plasticine figure?

  • Bill LeBreton has it spot on. Perhaps it is worth saying that, like entrepreneurrial ability, political judgement is not an intellectual skill

  • Adam Bernard 13th Mar '12 - 8:24am

    Rather than saying at every opportunity “This isn’t my policy, it’s just the best deal I can get out of the bloody Tories. What I should really like to do instead is the following.”

    I fear that our parliamentarians are working under an interpretation of Cabinet Collective Responsibility that they feel precludes them saying this. I would dearly like to see this situation change — and allow Tories to say the equivalent. The mechanisms for making coalitions have to pretend to be less of an amorphous block should be worked out urgently, and certainly before there’s another coalition of any two parties.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 13th Mar '12 - 8:52am

    Tony Greaves Mar 12 – 2:41 pm

    “There was never any serious chance of “further amendments” to the Bill – this was just a smokescreen to try to bamboozle members who don’t follow the minutiae of the Lords. There will be amendments agreed tomorrow (Tuesday) but they have been agreed for the past week or more and will not need a vote.

    Tony Greaves”

    So the motion put before the LibDem Conference on Sunday was fraudulent? So the LibDem leadership do not trust their own conference, and cannot be trusted to tell their members the truth? Why, then, should the electorate trust them or believe anything that they say?

  • Bill le Breton 13th Mar '12 - 8:52am

    David Allen: ‘I think that Clegg has always known very well what he is doing’. I agree with that, but my point is that his strategy has been wrong all along.

    I wouldn’t clump Thatcher and Blair together as closely as you suggest. Blair was far less of an ideologue. But he too was a great communicator and put together around him (to his credit as a leader) a great team: Gould for polling, Mandelson for campaigning, Brown for political savvy and knowledge of his Party, in a a wining strategy – namely the pursuit of the centre-left 1980s Alliance vote.

    Clegg’s strategy centred on the belief that tactical voters and courting tactical voters from the left was what was preventing big progress for the party. He effectively sacked Rennard as soon as he could because Rennard was associated with and wedded to the ‘old strategy’. He ignored the two or three excellent campaigners in the party and went outside into commercial campaigning.

    Starky was out of his depth in a political campaign. When Clegg to his great credit won hearts and minds at the Manchester PMQT, the campaign went into its shell under the inevitable counterattack and tried to hang on to the ‘gain’ when it was a time to sweep on through with confidence and attack. That failure of tactics and campaigning skill post-Manchester placed us in the difficult position of ‘trading’ with only one party.

    His polling analysis must have been made to fit his preferred strategy rather than the other way round. Where Mandelson and Blair had gone out to get a recognizable and winnable core of new voters, no such equivalent exists on the centre right for Clegg, though he built everything on that belief.

    Post the election, the strategy of looking for the new group of voters (and therefore jettisoning the tactical vote on the left) was just inept and saw our support evaporate without a ghost of a chance of finding new supporters in equivalent numbers.

    The lesson from history is that when the Liberal party moves to the right its support withers and those who have made that move keep on their journey by joining the Conservatives, leaving a much reduced Party to rebuild again, and again. Clegg wouldn’t know that and his lackies would want him to appreciate that.

    Clegg can avoid the old ‘destiny’ but only by rethinking his strategy and building a new team around him to put it into effect.

    I am not holding my breath!

  • Richard DeanMar 12 – 5:12 pm…………… there is no law that requires an MP or party to keep to its pre-election promises. After all, a new government may find that the actual situation left by the last one is quite different from what people were told, and may need to adjust………

    Didn’t Cameron state “No top down reorganisation”? Had Lansley spent years working on this without Cameron’s knowledge? The NHS bill was not, as you suggest, “a need to adjust” but a planned, secret, ideological move.

    ……….Voters are well aware of these things, and it makes us look bad to claim the opposite. By electing an MP, voters provide that person with a mandate only to exercise their judgment on how to proceed. It follows that a government does not need a specific mandate to change the NHS, under the present system of UK democracy…………..

    One wonders, therefore, why all parties campaign so vigourously in pointing out the ‘broken promises’ of those in office! Clearly, at the next election, there will be ‘no mileage’ in other parties claiming that we reneged on ‘tuition fees’, ‘child poverty’, etc.. I look forward to the most ‘refined ‘election campaign ever.

  • The LibDems suffer constant misrepresentation of the facts from the daily pres. That’s bad enough, but when members, above, repeatedly claim ‘we don’t have a policy’ I despair! The 2011 Manifesto carried almost 5 pages about the NHS, in which I count 19 ‘we will’ bullet points, plus several other statements of clear intent within the text. Go and read it, then you will see that what our leadership is actually doing, and achieving, is not far off what we voted for.
    In response to Lembit(good plug for the book by the way), I wonder who did you have in mind as Nick’s successor? Perhaps to lance this boil Nick could call a leadership election, and be one of the candidates.. given the satisfaction rating, surely he would get re-elected.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Mar '12 - 11:50am

    In response to David Allen and Bill le Breton, I have still not been able to make up my mind whether Clegg knows exactly what he is doing, or whether it’s his isolation from the party membership as someone who did not “come up through the ranks”, and close connections with the national elite (who always get our party very wrong) which has led him to think what he is doing is best for the party. I don’t like conspiracy theory thinking, so I’d like to think it is the latter. This is backed up by my impression of Clegg that he’s not a great thinker, almost everything he says is second-hand coming from a little bit of mugging up and from whatever those immediately around him are saying to him. As we know, Liberal leaders seem very quickly to become surrounded by a cloud of people who appear form nowhere and become “sources close to the leader” – and all of these are very far from your average party activist.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Mar '12 - 2:20pm

    Dan Falchikov – indeed.

    It was only a short time ago that Lembit was allying himself with the far economic right of the party, now he’s putting himself out as a leftist. The point he’s making here is a valid one – it’s possible the Clegg image is so damaged that the only way forward is without him at the top (and it’s not ALL Clegg’s fault that this is so). But Lembit has made so many poor choices in the past that who’s going to listen to him saying this?

    Seriously, one of the things that has come out of this coalition is that there is a conflict of interest between the position of national leader of the party and main Parliamentary spokesperson for it within a coalition. This is something the party may in future wish to consider.

  • “… when members, above, repeatedly claim ‘we don’t have a policy’ I despair!”

    Well, I did make it clear I was no longer a member, and I did make it clear that “I’m sure [the party] still has many policies”!

    So no need for despair – just a need for a bit more attention to what people have actually written before you reply …

  • @Lembit – I’m not your biggest fan, but I do think there’ s some sense in what you’re saying. It would be better for the Party to have a leader who can shout from the backbenches in the run-up to the election, but the problem is likely to be balancing that with staying in government – I know it’s been done elsewhere but would it work here?

    @ Bill – I understand that Nick has spoken to previous leaders, but from what I hear the message returned has begin with “well, you’ve made your bed….”

  • Richard Boyd 14th Mar '12 - 9:24am

    Bill Le Breton’s first comment hit lots of nails on their heads.

    The couple in the Tesco queue; the dog walkers in the park; the Mums outside the school gates; and Grandparents
    worrying about their future and that of their grandchildren need to be convinced that we are relevent. For decades
    we cried “unfair” because the party was ignored by the Media between elections. We said at every doorstep ” If you don’t give us a chance you will never know what we can do” and sought fairness through PR.

    The last election gave us that chance. The media watches us all the time so we canot complain if our weaknesses
    and mistakes are noted and trumpeted by our opponents.

    The leadership is in danger of forgetting the roots that support the current party. 50 years ago Orpington propelled the Liberals into the field of vision of the London media and triggered the slow growth from 5 to 50+ MP’s and hundreds, not dozens, of councillors. The activists of those decades since have moved from doorstep politics to the subcutaneous layer of society. Voluntary work; Public not political Office; and managing charities or social enterprises. They, like Bill points out, along with Ashdown, Campbell, and Kennedy have a wealth of street cred and good old fashioned “nose”.

    The dirt of life under the fingernails may look grubby, but it is a better indication of wisdom than 4 years of theory.

    Richard Boyd

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