What do you think of Lib Dem News?

For quite some time now I have been referring to Lib Dem News as “Pravda”. Did it coincide with the departure of Lord Greaves?

However this week it has excelled itself. I can cope with the consistently unfunny cartoons, tired rhetoric, pictures of people holding up placards and/or recanting their membership of other parties. Embarassing predictions of an election cancelled last Saturday only serve to tell us about ludicrously early print dates.

Perhaps the cartoon of Cameron lamenting his poll ratings is meant to be deeply ironic and there is a good article by Duncan Brack about John Stuart Mill’s over-inflated significance.

But am I the only one who finds the paper tribal, patronising, horribly on message in an unliberal way and above all – quite dull?

In current circumstance the party needs to do some serious soul searching and balanced stock taking and reflect the sceptical, mature rationalism that is so much part of Liberalism. I am not sure where Liberal Democrat News fits into that.

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37 Comments

  • Geoffrey Payne 15th Oct '07 - 9:45am

    Everything in the party would be better if we had double the current membership and more choice of people to get involved in things.
    It is not fair if you read a broadsheet to expect LDN to be of the same quality. They pay their staff more and have a better choice to people to employ.
    I think LDN is perfectly good for what it is meant to do, and I think if you are an activist in the party then you should definitely subscribe to it.
    If you want a more independent voice, then get Liberator (www.liberator.org.uk).

  • I like LDN and use it as a way of keeping abreast of the latest policies. It has a specific function and does that reasonably well.

    If you want more independent debate then use this website.

  • I agree with John – despite being involved with the party on a number of levels I’ve decided to let me sub go. The clincher was the editorial decision not to publish letters even mildly critical of anyone.

    Geoff makes a good point about Liberator which has published all the stories about what really goes on in the party. You can now subscribe online.

  • Peter Bancroft 15th Oct '07 - 9:56am

    I’ve always felt that Lib Dem News fairly accurately captures the party interests and approach – and here lies your problem.

    We do tend to be a lot more comfortable discussing results of by-elections than results in combatting poverty, and we seem to prefer discussing how many Focus leaflets are being delivered rather than how their messages are aligning people long-term to liberal beliefs.

    I think that the other people who have commented are right that Lib Dem News is probably not the right organ to lead an attempt at culture change in the Lib Dems, though it could perhaps do with being slightly less twee and internally focused.

  • John,

    Yes – perhaps they should have more cutting edge articles about licensing which is fast becoming a cultural rather than a quasi-legal issue.

    I’m referring to of course your little local issue that you’ve seem to gone on an emotional illiberal rant about.

  • It’s a free market – buy it if you like it – or not if you don’t.

    I also didn’t renew my subscription because there wasn’t anything in it that I needed to know that I couldn’t find out from the web.

    I also got fed up with the pictures of defecting councillors who had joined us because they didn’t get Chair of the Planning,Licensing, Twinning committee (Sorry I mean that they discovered that their values were ours)

  • A voice from Lothian 15th Oct '07 - 10:29am

    I’ve stopped subscribing. The comparison is best made with th new Grassroots Campaigner from ALDC. That publication is actually well written and interesting. You get a feel from it of what is going on. Not so from LDN.

  • Dave Hennigan 15th Oct '07 - 10:34am

    Having duly been named and shamed for running a competition to get the ‘daftest’ story on the back (Thanks Colin Eldridge) I find the Lib Dem News fine and gives me a lot of good ideas for campaigning in Rochdale. I think John Pugh is referring to Tom McNally’s piece in it about a possible GE. I found it to be quite tongue in cheek if I’m going to honest. I enjoy hearing what our MP’s have got to say. Especially when most of our members complain about them not getting into the media.

    I don’t think LDN is going to listen to any lectures from John Pugh – the worst team player in the Lib Dems*

    I enjoy Navnit’s columns and Simon Hughes amongst others. Whilst sometimes it can get a little bit heavy on policy – People like Cyril Smith love getting it. It keeps him and thousands of our members abreast of what’s going on it in the party. For those without the internet, it’s an eye into the world of Westminster. For those with the internet, it’s another piece of the jigsaw.

    For the record, we launched our daftest story competition to liven the back page up – It certainly worked!

  • Dave Hennigan 15th Oct '07 - 10:35am

    * That’s my opinion by the way – nobody elses!

  • Personally I always find it immensely impressive how professional a piece of work is produced every week, given the shoestring staff and budget (not even the editor is full time, AIUI). Of course it is on message. It is a publication produced by members of party staff based at party HQ. Attacking it for being tribal or on message is like attacking Friends of the Earth for not circulating articles by enviro-sceptics or CND for not including the case for Trident in its newsletters.

    That said, in the run up to policy votes at conference it often does run for and against articles.

    I actually think there is a place for defectors, news of council by-election victories, campaigning stories and so on. They are feel good stories basically. MPs and super-activists maybe don’t need them, but I remember when I first became active and first read Lib Dem News. It was a very positive thing to see all this evidence of a ‘family’ of campaigners across the country – some of them even being quite successful.

  • Chris Rennard 15th Oct '07 - 12:06pm

    I read John Pugh’s original posting and subsequent comments with interest – of course. Thanks are due to those who gave credit to a tiny and part-time team that does what no other political party can do ie. produce a weekly newspaper. Both our main rivals used to do this, but gave up and said that it was not viable to continue production.
    Lib Dem News appears each week, without cost to the party and plays a valuable role in internal communications and debate amongst supporters.
    Its news stories and photographs obviously depend upon our national and local media output (which funnily enough tends to be pro-Lib Dem). More stories and better photographs would be welcome – but it does not have a budget for “stringers” or hiring photographers outside conference week. Critics should also note that it is also subscribed to by lobby journalists and our opponents. So I have always tended to advise editors that we should not be printing ammunition for our opponents’ leaflets.

    Well done Deirdre and team ! All of your long standing efforts on behalf of the party – of which producing Lib Dem News is only a part – are really appreciated.

  • Daniel Bowen 15th Oct '07 - 12:08pm

    Duncan – when the material from local parties never gets printed, is it a surprise that people don’t bother?

  • Duncan, as I don’t always agree with you, I do this with a certain amount of caution, because this time I do!

    The other parties probably envy the fact that we as a party have so many ways to communicate with each other; through LD News, effective Internet communication, Grassroots Campaigner, Liberator, etc. After all the Tories only have the Daily Mail.
    And, Duncan, of course you are right that a printed paper, however short the deadlines cannot match the speed of the Internet. However, it does have certain advantages. The Internet is all very well, but sometimes it’s like looking for a diamond in a rubbish tip.
    So my suggestion would be for someone to be given a half page each week, to give details of interesting LD stories or campaigns on the web, for example:
    “This week, bloggville LDs on http://www.bloggsvilleLDS.co,uk have launched an interesting campaign about XXXXX (details and perhaps a photo). See their website for more details or contact Cllr. XXXX on XXXX.”

    This would integrate the printed medium with the electronic and be a real help to all campaigners looking for ideas or just more local news. It could also direct people towards blogs and sites like this and flock together.

    With so many sites now run by Prater Raines it would not be too onerous a job for someone who can spare two or three hours and layout half a page! And it really would add relevance and a more immediate tone to LD News.

    What do people think?

  • Cheltenham Robin 15th Oct '07 - 1:07pm

    Ah ha

    More evidence that Iain Dale is
    about to defect.

    Because he agrees with our values of course (and not because he can’t find a safe seat)

  • I haven’t set eyes on LDN for ages, so have difficulty commenting.

    But I do agree that it is a throroughly good thing for the party to publish a weekly source of accurate information in print format.

    If that amounts to Pravda, then so be it.

    When partiality crept into LDN the results were not encouraging.

    Anyone recall the constant sniping against the SDP back in the 1980s?

    Or Paul Sample and his infamous exhortation to bring God back into politics? (Laurence Boyce would have loved that one!)

    The “Social Democrat”, the SDP equivalent, was indeed called Pravda, and rightly so. Its editor, the truly dreadful Val Taylor, was a 3rd rate journalist, an intensely partisan Owenite and avowed enemy of all things Liberal. Anyone vaguely critical of Owen got frozen out fast.

  • LDN reaches parts that other parties cannot reach!What other publication could one read on a rainy afternoon in Lak Song- the Manchester Guardian Weekly?
    Mr Pugh I would be more than happy to return to Old Blighty and refound The News Chronicle, I think that is what you are truely getting at-a national daily Liberal newspaper!

  • Tony Greaves 15th Oct '07 - 2:43pm

    I suppose with that intro I should comment. I have very clear ideas on what LD News should do and have put them forward at regular intervals (I suppose about 8-yearly!) over the past 35 years but no-one agrees with me and so…and for me it’s too late to bother any more.

    I do not blame the staff who do what they are employed to do.

    I gave up writing a column on the back page because I was fed up of being in the same slot as a load of boring House Magazine type stuff (which is what is in most of the rest of the paper nowadays). After Conrad died there was nothing else.

    The only person who made a really worthwhile job of Liberal News or LD News was the late great Charles Stainsby and it killed him.

    Tony Greaves

    PS Ask about the circulation and then ask is it worth the candle?

  • It needs updating. There is enough opinion and willingness within the party to do it so why not start with a nationwide focus on it…

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Oct '07 - 3:40pm

    Chris you say that LDN “appears each week, without cost to the party”

    Does that take into account the money raised from the obligation local parties are under to pay for PPC adverts in Lib Dem News. That revenue stream is really money that is circulating around the party rather than money coming in.

  • I have to say I disagree with Mr Greaves as I think the late great Mike Harskin did a great job of editing Lib Dem news as did Paul Sample

    I hope Mr Greaves will on reflection agree

    That said a lot of its purpose for me is served by web sites with election results however the back page is good

  • Amy Kitcher 15th Oct '07 - 8:48pm

    I don’t have my own subscription, but when I get a chance to read someone else’s copies I do love the ‘People’ column. It’s the best thing in LDN.

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