Opinion: Hope and the desire for change is our ally, ‘politics as usual’ is the enemy

After a testing week for the party, I left the BIC on Wednesday feeling uplifted, hopeful and with an extra spring in my step.

I am in no doubt that Nick Clegg’s speech was his best to date. Always an impressive orator, the defining feature of this address was not his style or stage presence, but the fact that under the banner of a ‘A Fresh Start for Britain’, Clegg conveyed a positive vision of how a Liberal Democrat future would look. He did not get bogged down in broadsides against Labour or the Conservatives, but pitched a message of hope and change by selling our distinctive policies on fair taxation and education. Of course we all know that it will take a great deal more than a single speech to ‘break the mould’, but I do hope it signifies a crucial change in tone.

I am convinced that the only way that the Liberal Democrats can engage the public at the next election is by speaking the language of hope, aspiration and change. At present Labour and the Tories seem to be in a contest to talk up the gravity of the economic crisis and how bleak the nation’s prospects are. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we could or should ignore the need for austerity, but we must remember that the promise of a better future can be as strong a motivator to vote as fear.

In terms of policy specifics, I think Nick was absolutely right to hone in on education and fairer taxation. Add a renewed call for our political system to be changed following the expenses scandal and you have three issues that have the potential to galvanise voters under the ‘Real Change for Britain’ banner.

I want to air my concern that for all Nick’s good work yesterday, we risk undermining ourselves if we persist with the strategy being deployed by the much discussed Tory ‘attack unit’. Let’s be clear, we do need to take the Tories over task over policy, but I believe it is seriously misguided to engage in personal attacks or to seek to continue to portray them as the ‘nasty party’ of the past.

We must face up to the fact that Cameron has detoxified the Tory brand, the ‘nasty party’ line has long lost its potency and many floating voters view them as contenders again. In this new climate, we must devise a new way of dealing with the Conservatives and not rely on the techniques of the past.

Returning to the theme of cultivating a mood of optimism and hope, I believe that the best way to laud our credentials over the Conservatives is to contrast their determination to talk Britain down and our vision for a better, more progressive future. The ‘Broken Britain’ rhetoric of the Conservatives does nothing but pander to tabloid hysteria, but to date no party has challenged this or taken it on.

Let’s leave personal attacks behind, but ensure that one dividing line is clear; the Conservatives are determined to talk Britain down, whilst the Liberal Democrats are the only party capable of offering hope, fairness and progressive change.

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2 Comments

  • Bruce Wilson 27th Sep '09 - 7:43pm

    “We must face up to the fact that Cameron has detoxified the Tory brand, the ‘nasty party’ line has long lost its potency and many floating voters view them as contenders again.”

    This is worrying. In the same way as Tony Blair changed the Labour brand? We know how that turned out. The Tories must be taken to task on their failings. This may involve a bit of a history lesson. When, and if, they get into power I expect them to change back to their bad old ways. The leopard can not change its’ spots.

    On a hopeful note, it looks like the FDP in Germany are going to form part of the new government.

  • neutral observer 27th Sep '09 - 11:57pm

    Can’t say i agree. This blog looks like the work of a failed contestant on Goldenballs and a desperately poor Vanbrugh captain who scores slower than Boycott.

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