Clegg calls for Lib Dem “narrative”

Speaking at a North London fundraising event, Nick Clegg has called for the party to develop a “narrative” to accompany its policies.

Duncan Borrowman and Jonathan Fryer have more.

One would presume the two logical places to start are Ming Campbell’s first major conference speech, in which he called for the Liberal Democrats to create a country that is “free, fair, and green” and the preamble to the constitution.

How you turn that in to a narrative though, I can’t say. How does one recognise a narrative when you see it?

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33 Comments

  • This goes back to the “What are the LibDems for” question from Mr Jenkins last week. Funnily, it seems, we are the party who has to answer this more than most.

  • Neil Stockley 14th May '07 - 10:02pm

    Oooh, this one has come around again. During last year’s Meeting the Challenge exercise, I became so frustrated with people confusing narratives with “key messages” and ideological standpoints that I wrote a long essay to explain my view of what a narrative is and how we might (re)construct one The bottom line, a narrarive is about marketing, branding through telling stories that resonate with existing cultural stories and archetypes – e.g., the proud island nation, “stopping the rot”. And yes, it’s about language and metaphors too.

  • As those of us on the Federal Executive will know, having a positive narrative was one of the conclusions drawn soon after the last general election. It was felt that we didn’t get across key messages as to how sections of society would benefit from our policies. More importantly, we didn’t take enough people with us along the way. I agree with whoever said this earlier, that we have a big positive message on what we stand for and what we believe in, and it means going back to the preamble of the constituion.
    As Neil has said, its important to use language that is accessible to all.
    it means not just talking amongst ourselves, and to our membership, but communicating with the disaffected, the disadvantaged, and those who have become alienated by 10 years of Blair. There are thousands out there who have pledged never to vote Labour again. Trouble is, they are not coming across to us as an alternative.
    A narrative? – yes, but coupled with key messages.

  • Not only a narrative, but one that seperates us from the others and makes sense in terms of being Liberal.
    I think what is lacking is that if we want to be fair, free and green,it would be helpful if we also had a critique of capitalism. Maybe that will hit a nerve with some, but the Stern report referred to global warming as a “the greatest market failure” and I think we can win back some of our supporters who now support the Greens if we were to make the link more explicit. And yes, in order to make sense this will have some policy implications as well.

  • Hywel Morgan 15th May '07 - 10:50am

    “As those of us on the Federal Executive will know, having a positive narrative was one of the conclusions drawn soon after the last general election.”

    If the Federal Executive drew that conclusion why, two years later and with our leader calling for an immediate general election, is our Home Affairs spokesman talking about as something we need rather than something which has been done.

    Has the FE been sleeping on the job?

  • Joe,
    You are completely over the top in your interpretation of my message, although I did expect a response such as yours.
    I suggested a “critique of capitalism”. That does not imply socialism. If I wanted socialism I would have said so. However we should not be naive about capitalism. Stern referred to global warming as the greatest market failure. Stern is a capitalist who nonetheless has a critique of capitalism. And justifiably so. In the US the main lobby groups opposed to supporting Kyoto are financed from the business sector. Ryan Air have launched a vitriolic campaign trying to absolve them from paying green taxes, even the Tories don’t agree with them.
    I have been in the Liberal Party and the Lib Dems for well over 20 years, and I do not remember them being so timid in their analysis of capitalism.

  • James Spackman 15th May '07 - 10:38pm

    Lot’s of umming and ahhing is the problem – leadership requires decisiveness.
    We know who we are and now we are telling people.
    The narrative has changed – we are no longer questioning our stomach for the fight, we are fighting our corner…the pendulum is swinging and the clock is now ticking.
    Do we spread the message that we are prepared for office and ready to take it on? Do we keep on keeping on? …well we’re not giving up!

    Do you want to talk spades and shovels, or do you want to dig for victory?

  • In the words of the song – “There’s only one way of life (and that’s your own)”

    (unless of course you’re ‘harming’ somone else)!

  • scottmrennie 17th May '07 - 11:49am

    This is my first time contributing. Be gentle! Following on from the Scottish elections, our experience north of the border resonates with this debate. We had a good manifesto with some great policies but no narrative, at least not in the public conscienceness. That is a big problem. People would ask me “what are the Liberals for?” In an even more crowded political market place than in England, identity is very important and asking this basic philosophical question – what is Liberalism today, in British Society – and framing the answer in a set of coherent policies that tell a story, must be the answer.

    Easier said than done I guess, but there must be more able minds than mine who are up to the task.

  • Just want to reassure James that there’s been no earthquake on FE. If there has, I haven’t felt it…

  • Hywel Morgan 17th May '07 - 1:51pm

    So the question is what purpose does the FE and those elected to it actually serve?

    Not wishing to shoot the good guys but if there’s been zero progress on a key issue after two years you’d usually start talking about no confidence.

    I’d email the President to complain but he only seems to reply to emails when he’s running for leader.

  • Too much narrative blurs the picture, just like too much focus on policy causes headaches by magnifying healthy debating positions into splits.
    Impatient calls for momentum will be answered if we hit a downward slope, better to emulate Sisyphous with continual effort upward.
    Good sense demands balance and perspective, let others carp and criticise.

  • Peter,

    Let’s be even glibber… February 1974 General Election…

    Take Power. Vote Liberal.

    You can change the face of Britain.

  • Hywel Morgan 18th May '07 - 12:00am

    James (G) – I share you view on the FE. Just think this is a particularly glaring illustration of how useless it is

  • dreamingspire 18th May '07 - 7:34am

    In my region a common characteristic of LDs taking local power is their poor ability to manage. It becomes a shooting themselves in the foot progress, but with some individuals who strive to deliver really good outcomes. The implication is that too many LD political hopefuls are muddlers. First develop and use the narrative internally, please – if there is a snap election, there isn’t time to develop and use the narrative in public, and if the election isn’t until 2010 there is time to sharpen up internally and then open up.

  • Hywel Morgan 18th May '07 - 11:36am

    “In my region a common characteristic of LDs taking local power is their poor ability to manage.”

    Maybe because they try to manage rather than change.

  • Hywel Morgan 30th May '07 - 8:14pm

    At the weekend one of the songs from the Liberator songbook popped into my head.

    I thought “Peace, Reform and Liberation” had rather a good ring… 🙂

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