Over on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free site, chair of the Social Liberal Forum, David Hall-Matthews, has a piece urging Liberal Democrats – both members and the party’s leadership – to be a little more vocal in our trumpeting of Lib Dem successes in government; not just those things we are doing, such as raising income tax threshold, but also those things we are stopping the Tories doing.
The whole piece is well worth a read, but I thought this line was particularly good: “Losing protest votes – or those who thought the Lib Dems were to the left of Labour – cannot be regretted by a party with serious ambition (with the caveat that disliking authoritarianism or the Iraq war is not a leftwing position; it is a liberal one).”
Here’s a slightly longer extract from David’s piece:
Clegg’s desire to take responsibility and show discipline in government is understandable – and a Barnsley byelection is not a sensible way to measure the merits of that position. But that strategy has led the Liberal Democrats into a curious dilemma. How can any party expect to attract support if it does not advertise its successes – or even articulate its position?
Thousands of voters in Barnsley Central are benefiting from progressive Lib Dem policy, having been lifted out of income tax. No one believes the Tories would have done that on their own. Labour wouldn’t have done it either. In 13 years Labour did little to redistribute tax burdens away from the poor – indeed, the 10p rate debacle did quite the opposite. So here is an important good news story. The Lib Dems’ willingness to compromise has led to positive outcomes for the least advantaged. That is something that could be sold to voters.
Dominic Carman could have taken to the streets of Barnsley with a message that the Liberal Democrats are stopping the worst excesses of the Tories, while Labour sits idly by. Without Lib Dems, there’d have been fewer cuts to the defence budget and more to environment programmes. Again, this hasn’t just clipped Tory wings; it’s reversed Labour’s lame record too. A more bullish line would not have won Barnsley for Carman, but he’d have done better. Trying to defend the coalition’s handling of the economy in South Yorkshire was always inviting a lost deposit. The couple of thousand who believed it voted blue.
You can read the whole piece here.