Author Archives: Andy Cooke

The Golden Thread

The Lib Dems are for freedom: making everyone free to be whatever they can be.

That’s the golden thread running through all we do. You know that. I know that. Most electors don’t know that.

We’re flatlining in the polls at 7-8%. Last year, thanks to ruthless targeting, we held half of our existing eight seats and picked up a few others – but most of the country became a desert to us.

We can campaign in any given seat like no other party – but, by definition, we can’t run targeted campaigns over the entire country.

We need to lift the entire …

Posted in Op-eds | 31 Comments

The stitch-up – our dodgy electoral system

We have to plan for success. We can’t sow our crops the day before harvest. In 2010, our demand for PR was dropped because it would appear to the general public to be a quixotic ditch in which to die – simultaneously esoteric and self-serving.

So we have to prepare the ground well in advance. To take every opportunity to discredit the stitch-up that passes for an electoral system in this country. Make no mistake about it – it is a deliberate stitch up; that’s what we’ve got to ram home. It is literally a stitch-up designed to entrench establishment parties (specifically the Conservatives), conceded in exchange for allowing poorer people to vote. That’s not spin or distortion, but historical fact.

Posted in Op-eds | 75 Comments

How should we approach future coalitions?

If we do decide to take part in future Coalitions, one thing that does need to be resolved is how to approach them.  Make no bones about it – we were nearly annihilated.  Play it like that again, and we could be doomed to oblivion.  Yet if we choose never to go into Government again, we’re doomed to impotence.  Scylla and Charybdis had nothing on this.

Last time the voters viewed us as having “got into bed with the Conservatives” rather than partners in something different.  The Rose Garden set the image: a love-in rather than a business partnership. One with us seen as the weak partner: dominated rather than dominant.  This might elicit sympathy, but voters won’t flock to who they see as the victim.  They seek out strength in their leaders.  Consider how Labour portrayed Nick Clegg (unfairly) in “The Incredible Shrinking Man” in 2014’s European Elections.

We’ve had analyses on what went wrong.  Nick Harvey’s “After the Rose Garden” has detailed prescriptions and is well worth a read.  George Kendall posted ideas in the direction I was thinking, and Bill le Breton highlighted that a workable and successful approach already exists for hung Councils, hung Parliaments and hung Assemblies in “Life in the Balance”, by ALDC.

Things that come out again and again include making the transactional nature clear, exposing linkages with wins, losses and trade-offs.  Keeping your distance (an arrangement, not a marriage) makes it harder to portray you as weak and dominated.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 27 Comments

Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 92 Comments
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