If Winter comes

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When Shelley wrote ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ in his celebrated poem ‘Ode To The West Wind’ there are some who speculate that he wasn’t just talking about the seasons. The late Paul Foot attempted to claim Shelley for the left in one of his many books and there is little doubt the poet was a radical voice of his time.

So taking that theme to a political interpretation, it could be argued that those of us who stand opposed to the reactionary forces of Conservatism have been through some pretty heavy weather recently.

The important question now is what does Spring look like for us?

Well, as a liberal party we have been written off many times over the years but we have survived despite the prophets of doom and I would argue that we are in a pretty good shape right now in a time when we are needed more than ever. The recent General Election, although disappointing, did see our national vote go up and with it our number of potential target seats next time. I am positive about the local elections due in May this year and am confident our Lib Dem candidates will do well.

Looking forward we have to present to the wider electorate a policy programme and image that makes us relevant to their concerns.

Our community activism is key to this, winning council seats by being local champions can help make us viable challengers for parliamentary seats, as we strive to get back to the highs of the Ashdown/Kennedy era when over 40 MPs sat in the House of Commons.

However local activism will not be enough on its own; a headline policy will also be needed and I believe that policy has to be the environment. The Liberal Democrats simply have to be the party that advocates radical change to save our planet, not just because it could be popular, without a bold plan to tackle climate change we are in deep trouble. Green policies must be right up there as we campaign for a Sustainable Liberal nation.

The alternative is a future where the seasons Shelley wrote so eloquently about look very different and where life on our planet is doomed.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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16 Comments

  • Jack Graham 23rd Jan '20 - 5:07pm

    ” reactionary forces of Conservatism”

    Oh please!!

    You’ve got to be joking, you can barely put a fag paper between the Lib/Lab/Con on most issues. Will you be calling it the reactionary forces of Liberal Democracy when we leave the EU and your party continues to campaign to go back to the past and rejoin, because in 8 days time that is exactly what it will be .

  • Paul Barker 23rd Jan '20 - 5:15pm

    And alongside that focus on The Climate Emergency should go a renewed attempt to build a firm Alliance with The Green Party in England & Wales, we cant afford for the genuine Progressive Parties to fight each other.

  • David Warren 23rd Jan '20 - 5:44pm

    @PaulBarker

    Absolutely!

  • Not sure I would describe a party that advocated for an all female cabinet as progressive,, maybe radical and to my mind wrong.
    I would imagine that any party that can lead on arriving at an evidence based cross party approach to meeting net zero carbom target without trashing the economy will gain some traction, particularly if they can also come up with a planned integrated policy to address national flood defenses

  • David Warren 23rd Jan '20 - 6:26pm

    David

    I am not using MP numbers as the only measurement.

    We have a pretty high level of membership, loads of great activists, the local elections last year saw us recover some of the losses we suffered in coalition and in the General Election our national share of the vote increased.

    With more intelligent targeting we would have won quite a few more seats.

  • Build up the organisations in those 2ndplace seats .
    ‘Change the Planet’ would be a good headline for us
    Return (to EU) would be another if Brexit goes pear shape

  • As a one nation Tory in line with Hesseltine, Clarke and Heath, but also having some admiration for Thatcher,Tebbit and Portillo the Libdem leader most likely to turn my head would be in the vein of Dr Owen, Paddy Ashdown or Nick Clegg. No offence to Charles Kennedy, Tim Farren or Not sureo Swindon intended.

  • David Evans 23rd Jan '20 - 8:20pm

    David (Warren), It’s good to hear you are using some measures. I would like to know what others you use to lead you to your argument that “we are in a pretty good shape right now.”

    We may not like it, but the number of MPs is the key measure of every party’s shape in the UK national framework, and we are still in a pit of our own creation. Over the last 10 years we have had two leaders who have sacrificed our party’s two big chances – Coalition and Brexit – by failing to realise just how hard it is to be successful as a Lib Dem.

    It’s not just a couple of slogans and a rabble rousing speech to the faithful at party dinners and conference. It takes real hard work, quality planning and tactical execution, and most importantly of all – It takes the ability and honesty to realise when things are going wrong and a willingness to change things when they do. They totally failed to do that.

    What makes it even worse is that we were absolutely on the right side for both Coalition and Brexit. That is what led eventually to our increased membership, but how long will those new members stay, now our leaders (who have largely left) and their cheerleaders (who are now in positions of massive influence) have blown it? How many more times will “we are in a pretty good shape” followed by another series of debates on the policy for the rearrangement of the Deckchairs on the upper deck, inspire them to stay.

    What we need is to inspire people to get stuck in, to ‘Find something and Fix it’ for their community, and give them a sense of achievement. Then perhaps they will stay and work harder than they ever have done to build the party up again. That will help staunch the leaks below the waterline in the good ship Liberal Democracy.

    What we don’t need is ‘to present to the wider electorate a policy programme and image that makes us relevant to their concerns.’ We need deeds not words.

  • Doug Chisholm 24th Jan '20 - 8:47am

    A primary message should surely be that of political reform – we need to weave that into a narrative that encompasses individual aspiration, community cohesion, international relations and the environment. We should be the voice of reason and the champion of the individual against the state, corporations and society — are we not liberals?

  • Doug Chisholm 24th Jan '20 - 8:51am

    Oh – and can we point out just how biased the BBC are ? In their role of protector of teh status quo I have not seen or heard any comment on how biased our electoral system is – what about a documentary about how millions of people can vote and receive paltry representation in parliament. We – and the public – should be furious.

    And dont get me wrong I dont think PR is a vote winner – however it is pat of our raison d’etre – if I didnt believe PR would make our politics healthier I wouldnt donate so much time, nergy an money to the libdems. It is or should be part of our DNA.

  • @David Evans. If you were trying to cheer me up, you have failed. 1979 was the first election I could vote in, so during my political life we have fluctuated between 8 and 62 seats. It doesn’t fill me with great hope.
    So how do we break out of this cycle of relative failure ? @Tynan’s post offers one potential way. If we could attract one nation Tories (not sure what Tebbit’s name was doing on that list) we might make ground in those many Tory seats where we lie second, but we would alienate the left of our own party, including many valued activists.
    @Doug Chisholm – “Champion of the individual against the state”. What, exactly, is our collective view of the role of the state ? Are we “tax and spend, bigger the better” , or do we see a vital but clearly defined and limited state which provides defence, education, healthcare, and areas where there is clear evidence of market failure, but does not seek to restrict individuals unless absolutely necessary ? This is not an academic argument because the answer could help us to build an identity which resonates with millions of our fellow citizens.

  • Chris Cory – Indeed. If the purpose of posts on LDV is to cheer up the poor b*****y infantry as they get cut down in swathes, by giving them a series of never ending articles telling us we are in pretty good shape after our generals have just squandered another great chance, my post does not hit that mark.

    If, on the other hand, it is a forum for debate where people who care passionately about our party and its future, can try to change things by pointing out facts and engaging in debate with the writers of articles, which David (Warren) did, but only once, then if that change comes about – Then I hope it will cheer you up.

    As I said, and I hope you will agree with

    “What we need is to inspire people to get stuck in, to ‘Find something and Fix it’ for their community, and give them a sense of achievement. Then perhaps they will stay and work harder than they ever have done to build the party up again. That will help staunch the leaks below the waterline in the good ship Liberal Democracy.”

    After all – It worked on the IoW twice under Stephen Ross and Peter Brand, and you controlled the council until 2005. You know it works.

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