Is there anything more the party can do to turn the polls around?

Obsessing about any individual poll is a mug’s game, as we at Lib Dem Voice have long argued. However, we have also always said that polls – taken together and observed over a reasonable time period – are useful evidence of trends. And the trend for the party at the moment is, let’s be honest, not the happiest.

Three weeks ago, the Lib Dems benefited from a polling spike – two polls putting us at or above 20% – possibly as a result of increased publicity surrounding the party conference. Since then there have been seven polls (three from YouGov, two from ICM, and one each from Populus and ComRes) with the following party averages:

Tories 43%, Labour 31%, Lib Dems 16%

The polls at the moment are in a fair amount of flux. The last month has witnessed all three party conferences, together with the greatest traumas the global financial markets have known in decades; it’s going to take a little while for that to be maturely and fully reflected in the polls.

And yet Lib Dems may feel with some justice a little hard done by at the moment. After all, it was Vince Cable, the party’s shadow chancellor, who has been proven the most prescient politician of any of the parties, outshining to the nth degree his opposite numbers, Alastair Darling and George Osborne. Yet the political rewards have been scant (though Vince’s personal ratings are sky-high, and deservedly so).

And it’s hard to see how Nick Clegg could be doing more than he already is, with frequent radio and TV appearances, as well as articles in the serious press putting across the Lib Dem viewpoint, and stressing the party’s distinctive solutions. I got the impression during the Lib Dem conference that Nick was beginning to relax into the role, displaying a great deal more verve and confidence than he did during the leadership campaign. This week’s impressive appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions – an arena in which he has proved himself an accomplished performer – was simply the latest sign that Nick is hitting his stride.

So, simple question: is there anything more the party can be doing as we enter a deep recession to shore up our current poll ratings? Or are we largely captives of the current economic down-turn, during which little that we say or do is going to make much difference?

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102 Comments

  • Hywel Morgan 12th Oct '08 - 4:01pm

    There’s no shortage of coverage but what we are saying is pretty tepid. At some point the fire needs to be turned on the person who has presided over the regulation of the economy for the last decade rather than letting him slip his way out of blame by looking statesmanlike.

  • John Abrams 12th Oct '08 - 4:19pm

    Here here Hywel – we’re slipping into playing their games – i’m going to do a piece on my blog about it.

    From what i can see it’s a bipartisan view of things – so it’s not tripartisan? Why didn’t we jump up and down about it?

    The narrative should be we wouldn’t be in this mess if we’d followed Liberal regulations and sound economics on housing etc. Lab/Con more of the same – Lib Dems for change.

    With Vince ratings sky-high let’s CREATE the news and not follow it.

    We can start by proclaiming the new economics as Cable Liberal economics.

    Or are we too `pussy` for that sort of stuff?

  • I think we need to make sure that our national message is being heard at the grassroots. Are local parties running Focus leaflets pointing out how Happytown residents are paying more for their basics as a result of the Government’s incompetence, and how the Lib Dems will help them? Mine certainly isn’t.

    As mentioned elsewhere on LDV, making it easy for people to find out our policies is helpful too.

  • Thomas Hemsley 12th Oct '08 - 4:26pm

    With all due respect to Vince (as he has been a consistent and principled voice on the economic stage), one man does not make a party. Nor two, with Nick. Nor even three with Chris. No, we must put forward the wealth of talent on our frontbench, the young-bloods who don’t get much coverage at the best of times, but none at all now Parliament has only just started up again and we are going through an economic crisis.

    An appearance a week on Question Time or Any Questions, whilst nice, is not enough. When regular news programmes ask for a Lib Dem, let’s not send on Vince or Nick (keep them for the big stuff such as Paxman and Today) but send on a team of our most telegenic and articulate frontbenchers, the ‘young turks’ or the ‘young bloods’ – the people who are the future of the party. We cannot let the wealth of talent – much higher than the Tory frontbench and the Cabinet too – go to waste. We must use more Shadow Cabinet members to push our message. When journalists ask for our opinion, , put the opinion and then say how this all relates to the Lib Dem narrative.

    We also need to utilise Chris Huhne’s famously sharp elbows. I would suggest Communications be given to Chris, Justice given to David Howarth and Campaigns kept with Ed Davey for the moment, so he can galvanise the troops for the local and European elections.

  • John Abrams 12th Oct '08 - 4:47pm

    What ACTUAL swot analysis is done about the way we do our communicating? Let’s be honest now – do we make ANY inroads or ANY attempts to get our message heard in the Mail, Sun, Mirror, Woman’s weekly etc etc

    People that read the qualities use our views as an enforcer of their own views – people that read the tabloids are easier to turn round as they’ve never totally considered our message before.

    It doesn’t matter to me whether or not they ALLOW us in – if they don’t we just say that they don’t and here’s our message by using our army of members to put our fists on the table.

    Can we, hand on heart, say that our Press office etc feels passionately about whether or not our message goes out to those that WOULD NEVER VOTE FOR US – because unless we do that we won’t bring on board those that MIGHT vote for us. And if they don’t – well, they either need to be retrained or told to go elsewhere!

  • David Allen 12th Oct '08 - 4:50pm

    As Stephen Tall says, Nick has been “stressing the party’s distinctive solutions”. I think he should not have been. People just don’t want to hear that the Greens would give the bankers free bicycles, or that UKIP would pull up the drawbridge, or that we LDs have our own uniquely cunning plans about secondary aspects of the problem. They want serious leaders who – like Vince – are concentrating on sorting out the mess.

  • Has anyone noticed the Tories anywhere in all of this? Certainly not Squeaky George. When they have anything to say they wheel out Ken Clarke.

    Yet they’re sitting in the mid 40s in the polls, whilst we’re somewhere in the high teens. At least you can’t charge NC with being populist!

    When people think about things, they respond well to our messages. Think being the operative word. The problem being, that the sort of uncertainties we’re now facing play to the visceral, not the cerebral.

    Meanwhile, Dave creeps to victory simply by not being Gordon …

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 12th Oct '08 - 5:31pm

    I’d suggest stop trying to take the easy route of telling people what we think they want to hear, and taking a break from facile populism.

    Just at the moment no one will be disposed to believe politicians offering miracle remedies and instant sunshine. This approach doesn’t seem to have done us any good even in the short term, and it certainly won’t in the long term.

    Specifically, stop banging on about tax cuts, because no one is going to believe they are possible in the current economic climate. Definitely stop banging on about spending cuts. And talking of climate, let’s not allow the environment to be squeezed out of the political debate by these short-term economic difficulties, no matter how severe they may appear.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 12th Oct '08 - 5:33pm

    “At least you can’t charge NC with being populist!”

    Oh, yes you can! He has no trouble being populist. It’s popular that he finds more difficult.

  • The Tories have been very savvy. While Vince has been on TV regularly he has been shown to contradict his comments from one week to the next. The Tories are just sitting back waiting to go for the kill rather than having to back track on what they have already said. Vince has done the party and himself no favours.

  • Grammar Police 12th Oct '08 - 6:28pm

    Mike – is that the TV you’ve watched, or the TV you’d like to have watched? Mr Osborne isn’t capable of going in for the kill.

  • passing tory 12th Oct '08 - 7:36pm

    GP, from what I gather Osbourne has been too busy working on the details of how to address the market meltdown to be trying to go in for the kill on anyone. And I really don’t think this is the time to be wondering how you could do better in the polls. There will be plenty of time for political games in the future, but now is not really the time, don’t you think?

  • Grammar Police 12th Oct '08 - 7:50pm

    Sadly, PT, I doubt that Osborne is capable of working on a plan to address the market meltdown, whether he’s working on one or not (and somehow, I doubt he is). The “latest news” on his website is about post offices. He has been silent on the economy, and all Cameron has to offer is cuts in business rates and tax breaks for married couples.

    My point was not that he *should* be going in for the kill, but that Mike is talking rubbish.

    To be honest, I doubt it makes any difference to the world if readers of LDV discuss whether we should be doing better in the polls. I did not start the topic, and I made no reference to it, but PT, do you really imagine that any of this kind of politics ever stops? I’m sure there are many in Tory HQ measuring how this affects your poll rating. Similarly I know there are Labour people doing the same – and I don’t doubt there are Lib Dems doing it too – as tasteless as you do or don’t find it.

  • Anthony Gibson 12th Oct '08 - 8:07pm

    This is for Thomas Hemsley who said this:

    ‘An appearance a week on Question Time or Any Questions, whilst nice, is not enough. When regular news programmes ask for a Lib Dem, let’s not send on Vince or Nick (keep them for the big stuff such as Paxman and Today) but send on a team of our most telegenic and articulate frontbenchers, the ‘young turks’ or the ‘young bloods’ – the people who are the future of the party.’

    Two points: firstly it’s not quite that easy, the flagship news programmes want a ‘big name’ – put up a more obscure politician and they will simply not be included in the package.

    Secondly, we need politicians that are known to everyone, I’d rather we focused on having a few recognised names rather than spreading ourselves too thinly.

  • Get some of our 60 odd MPs, plus the 6 Welsh AMs and 8 MSPs, out and about, spreading the word and knocking on doors, and not just in their own constituencies? We used to dream of the times when we could have so many salaried elected representatives (+ support staff) and what we might do if we ever got them … at the moment, I think that none are in government, nor even in the official opposition, anywhere?

  • Thomas Hemsley 12th Oct '08 - 10:26pm

    ‘Two points: firstly it’s not quite that easy, the flagship news programmes want a ‘big name’ – put up a more obscure politician and they will simply not be included in the package.

    Secondly, we need politicians that are known to everyone, I’d rather we focused on having a few recognised names rather than spreading ourselves too thinly.’

    Oh, I understand both points. Yes, the flagships want a big name – but we need to persuade them to accept people who could be made into bigger names.

    On your second point, I’m not talking about wheeling out the whole of the SC. Just four or five (plus Nick, Chris and Vince) young and telegenic MPs of ours.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 12th Oct '08 - 11:17pm

    “young and telegenic”

    Hmm. Are you sure that’s the right criterion?

    I don’t think Vince Cable would have got where he is if “telegenic” was the sine qua non!

  • I repeat what I said in the LDV survey –
    We move our people around too much. Chris Huhne was just getting known at environment then we moved him to shadow home office.
    Our people need to be in shadow posts 3+ times longer as they get 1/3 of the publicity.
    I bet even most LDV readers could not name all the LD front bench – what chance has the general public – most could not name NC as leader.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 12:36am

    “what chance has the general public – most could not name NC as leader”

    Funny you should say that:
    “Before we met Nick we showed a picture of him to 20 readers and asked them if they knew who he was. They all said he looked familiar and three people knew his name, but only one could tell us what he did for a living.

    One passer-by asked us if he was Declan Donnelly, of Ant and Dec fame.”
    http://www.sundaysun.co.uk/news/north-east-news/2008/10/05/the-lowdown-on-lib-dem-leader-nick-clegg-79310-21966619/

  • Cleggs Ardent Admirer 13th Oct '08 - 3:41am

    Well firstly congratulations to Stephen Tall for being prepared to talk about the elephant in the room. If you remove the predictable and immeadiatley reversed polling spike around conference season our national rating has been slowly eroding since March. Nick inherited in mid December 2007 an average national rating of 16%, increased up until March 2008 to 18% and it has been slowly eroding since.

    The fact that this period coincides with the most spectacular collapse of a sitting government in recent History is rather disturbing. As I have learned in Social Work the first, most painful step, in any cycle of change is recognising that you have a problem. While we are still stuck in blame the media mode or writing chippy articles about George Osbourne we are still in denial.

    By any reasonable measure the national polng has ust slipped into negative equity. We are about a percentage point lower than when nick took over in December and now at a similar level of support that we had when Ming was executed in October.

    We are also seeing a meltdown in the party’s media coverage. Discusions that would always have had 3 spokespeople are now ruotinely having two. Numerious references to the two partys. When we get coverage on BBC adio i sunds as if its on sufference because the producer has had to throw the press office a bone. We are being written out of the narritive and that becomes self fulfilling as media folk look at the polls and fel justified in doing it.

    I move move onto positive prescriptions in a moment.

  • Clegg's Ardent Admirer 13th Oct '08 - 4:36am

    The first two steps in a recovery plan are

    1. Admit at least in private that publically executing two leaders in awful circumstances in a single parliament does long term damage to your brand. Too many in the party are in denial about this. There is of course nothing that we can do about it now but a bit of humility would go a long way. I find most activist opinion that no one mentions this on the door step is deluded. the partys greatest challenge is lack of credibility not having held national power since 1916/1922.

    The bloody removal of Kennedy and Campbell has not impresed and its no wonder that Clegg is strugling to be taken seriously.

    2. we need to recognise we have elected a tit as the new leader and play to his strengths. Of course most of this is not Nicks fault. he inherited a dogs breakfast, he was elected too early and not at a time of his choosing. Its one of the hardest jobs in politics.

    However he is a walking, talking incarnation of Pter Obornes “The Triumph of the Political Class.”. For a party with rural, non comformst roots reliant on anti stablishment and protest votes he is completely the wrong choice. Nothing we can do now but we need to recognise he doesn’t really fit our voter profile and work acordingly at least when it comes to national share of the vote.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 8:55am

    “we need to recognise we have elected a tit as the new leader”

    It’s worse than that, though – we have elected a blue tit as the leader …

    (I’m sorry, but I’m only human, and I just couldn’t resist.)

  • Clegg’s Ardent Admirer wrote:

    “we need to recognise we have elected a tit”

    The word “tit” is rather too strong. Nick Clegg is far from being an idiot. And he cannot really be blamed for failing to make an impact (he can hardly point a gun at newspaper editors and force them to take him seriously).

    But two facts remain:

    (1) Chris Huhne was a better choice by miles.

    (2) Nick’s wishy-washy, softly-softly style doesn’t work.

  • Alix Mortimer 13th Oct '08 - 10:28am

    “2. we need to recognise we have elected a tit as the new leader and play to his strengths.”

    Um, but the trouble is that according to our own LDV polls, 3/4 of the party like him and support what he’s doing and according to the Make It Happen vote (if we’re going to accord that the same status the press did of “victory” for Clegg) the proportion was about the same. So I suspect that any plan that starts by pushing on a locked door like that is making things unnecessarily difficult for itself.

    Generally, I’m suspicious of any plan which identifies the leader as the problem, especially as it can be shown that his rating within the party has only increased. The press know he’s secure – that’s why they’ve stopped talking about the leadership. Only the ever-deluded Coffee House blog makes the occasional stir attempt.

    Mind you, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liberally resisting the pull of the leader cult, which I gather is what you’re suggesting when you say “recognise he doesn’t really fit our voter profile and work acordingly”. NC doesn’t have to be plastered over every Focus (and isn’t, to the best of my knowledge). What else do you mean by “work accordingly”?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 11:29am

    “Um, but the trouble is that according to our own LDV polls, 3/4 of the party like him and support what he’s doing …”

    ‘Um’, that’s a terrifically positive spin to put on a finding that 16% (!) of respondents thought Clegg was “very effective” and 58% that he was “fairly effective”.

    Why not go the whole hog and say that most Lib Dems love Nick Clegg and want to have his babies?

  • It's All Pants 13th Oct '08 - 11:39am

    You could try telling the truth…

  • As a former LibDem (who voted for Clegg in that leadership election) let me give you a simple home truth: the LibDems will never be in power because the party stands for nothing. It is neither Liberal nor Democrat. It is an amalgamation of protest votes and special interests.

    As a recession looms, voters will dispense with luxuries and little indulgences. Voting LibDem is one such luxury. Fine in the good times to vote yellow if you want to stick two fingers up at Michael Howard and Tony Blair and because Charlie Kennedy seems like a nice bloke. But in the bad times, voters want a steady hand at the pump. Hence the high poll ratings for the natural party of government: the Tory party.

  • Alix Mortimer 13th Oct '08 - 12:06pm

    This is most interesting and concerning, TK. Could you tell us, so that we have an example to think about, exactly why you were a Lib Dem in the first place, why you voted for Clegg, why you have left in the ten months since and why you have apparently fallen in so strongly behind the Tory party during that ten months? I would be fascinated to know how an internal narrative like that runs.

  • During the Ferbruary 1974 economic crisis, nearly 20% of the voting public opted for Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberal Party. The “natural party of government” led by Ted Heath and Tony Barber was kicked out of office.

  • Hywel Morgan 13th Oct '08 - 12:36pm

    “The “natural party of government” led by Ted Heath and Tony Barber was kicked out of office.”

    Or as they won more votes denied by the vagaries of FPTP 🙂

  • neverapriest 13th Oct '08 - 12:37pm

    Some of the backward-looking stuff here is drivel.

    While there certainly is public annoyance at the ousting of Kennedy (or at least the way it happened), nobody outside a small group of Liberal Democrats has ever expressed any negative sentiment about the removal of the appalling and useless Campbell.

    The points about media coverage, however, are well-made. When oh when will we set up a press office composed entirely of pitbulls whose task is to get Vince and Nick on everything that moves about the credit crisis?

  • David Allen 13th Oct '08 - 1:30pm

    “The LibDems will never be in power because the party stands for nothing.”

    Well, we didn’t used to hear so much of that kind of commentary when we stood on our fundamental principles, for example our opposition to the Iraq war in 2005.

    Vince has spent years establishing that we are also the party of principle when it comes to financial affairs. While Gordon blathered about prudence, Vince pointed out the mountains of debt we were building up. What we ought to be doing, once the immediate crisis has passed, is pointing out that it was Gordon’s recklessness that helped to cause the problems, and that it is the Lib Dems who can be trusted with sound finance.

    Unfortunately, our recent actions have made this story pretty much untenable. We have abandoned principle and gone for gimmicks and giveaways, in the form of unaffordable tax cuts.

    That is the tragedy. Alix, if questioning our current leadership is deemed to be “pushing on a locked door”, what else would you suggest?

  • David Allen 13th Oct '08 - 1:36pm

    “Admit at least in private that publically executing two leaders in awful circumstances in a single parliament does long term damage to your brand.”

    Well, of course, that was the sort of thing they used to say about the Tories, as they whistled through Hague, Duncan-Smith and Howard in short order. But looking at the Tory leadership, the idea that a party should just keep on dumping its failures until it finds someone who turns out OK does, now, look a lot more sensible!

  • Neil Craig's candid friend 13th Oct '08 - 1:48pm

    “You are effectively saying vote LibDem only if you want economic collapse which not an attractive sales pitch.”

    Are you the Neil Craig who was chucked out of the Party? If so, you should presumably be glad it happened.

  • Rather than go into any ‘internal narrative’ let me offer what I think is friendly advice.

    I reiterate my point above: it cannot be stressed strongly enough that the party stands for nothing. Voters know this, but are prepared to put up with it in order to register a protest vote.

    Labour stands for fairness, equality, egalitarianism and the interests of the poor.

    Tories stand for personal liberty, social stability, free markets and trade, families and the British interest.

    Heck, we even know what Greens (environmental sustainability), UKIP (anti-EU) and the BNP (racist ‘Britishness’) stand for!

    Now somebody please tell me what LibDems stand for.

  • Hywel Morgan 13th Oct '08 - 2:04pm

    “the appalling and useless Campbell.”

    A shocking thing to say about a decent man, a good liberal and someone who spent a lot of his living working for the success of the party when he could easily have done other things.

  • TK wrote:

    “Tories stand for personal liberty,”

    Eh?

    Presumably that’s why they want to repeal the Humnan Right’s Act?

    I was going to say that it is the Liberal Democrats who stand for personal liberty, but that was before Julia Goldsworhty came along and gave her imprimatur to an illegal Police curfew directed at young poeple aged under 16 – and so-called Lib Dems defended her on this site!

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 2:30pm

    TK:
    “Labour stands for fairness, equality, egalitarianism and the interests of the poor.

    Tories stand for personal liberty, social stability, free markets and trade, families and the British interest.

    Now somebody please tell me what LibDems stand for.”

    I think it’s meant to be fairness, the interests of the poor, personal liberty, and free markets and trade. Or perm any four of eight.

  • Grammar Police 13th Oct '08 - 2:53pm

    The liberty to live your life to your full potential – which requires the state to support: “fairness”, equality of opportunity, decision-making at the most effective level possible, limitation on government power, openness and transparency, human rights, civil liberties, the protection of the environment, International law etc.

    Sadly for you TK, plenty of people know what the LDs stand for. It may not always be expressed as well as it could be, different individuals and groups in particular areas may emphasise different things – but don’t try to shoehorn a party and ideology into your ridiculously narrow-minded world view.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 2:57pm

    Unfortunately enough, the real answer is “tax cuts”.

  • Thomas Hemsley 13th Oct '08 - 3:23pm

    ““the appalling and useless Campbell.”

    A shocking thing to say about a decent man, a good liberal and someone who spent a lot of his living working for the success of the party when he could easily have done other things.”

    Hear hear. He turned down being a judge to help the Lib Dems – we owe him a lot.

    “I was going to say that it is the Liberal Democrats who stand for personal liberty, but that was before Julia Goldsworhty came along and gave her imprimatur to an illegal Police curfew directed at young poeple aged under 16 – and so-called Lib Dems defended her on this site!”

    It was legal, and our own beliefs are private and do not deserve to be ridiculed by libertarians.

  • Thomas Hendley wrote:

    “It was legal,”

    Have you read the judgment of the Court of Appeal to which I linked?

    I don’t give a stuff what Julia Goldsworthy’s private opinions are, as long as they remain private. It’s what she says in her capacity as a Lib Dem MP that bothers me.

  • Thomas Hemsley 13th Oct '08 - 4:32pm

    Julia is entitled to say what she likes. You don’t seem to realise that the curfew strategy was a better alternative to the undiscriminating dispersal order. You have to make compromise whilst still retaining liberal principles – which was done when you take other things into account. You can’t get things done by sticking fanatically to one ideology, which you seem (I may be wrong, indeed, I would be pleased if you could prove me wrong) to be doing.

  • Mr Hemsley, the dispersal order is NOT indiscriminate; it can only be applied to groups. The illegal curfew, on the other hand, WAS indiscriminate.

    Neither power should exist, of course. And the second one only does now in an emasculated form after the Court of Appeal removed its teeth. The Redruth Police made an express decision to defy the Court of Appeal.

    The Public Order Act, along with the crime of public nuisance, are quite sufficient to deal with disorder in public places.

    So Julia Goldsworthy can say exactly what she likes? Really?!

  • “Vince has spent years establishing that we are also the party of principle when it comes to financial affairs. While Gordon blathered about prudence, Vince pointed out the mountains of debt we were building up. What we ought to be doing, once the immediate crisis has passed, is pointing out that it was Gordon’s recklessness that helped to cause the problems, and that it is the Lib Dems who can be trusted with sound finance.

    Unfortunately, our recent actions have made this story pretty much untenable. We have abandoned principle and gone for gimmicks and giveaways, in the form of unaffordable tax cuts.”

    You can’t have it both ways.

    Fiscal prudence is about not spending what you don’t have, and spending what you do have wisely.

    In a recessionary economy the tax base shrinks and the burden falls on those companies and individuals still engaging in economic activity.

    If you increase taxes on those left, they have less discretionary income, they save and spend less, and you further exacerbate the economic depression.

    You can of course borrow, but the debt payments have to be serviced on top of spending on public services which again will force tax rises.

    Tax cuts, however, will permit more spending which helps to stem the recessionary flow.

  • The LibDems are adrift as flotsam on the sea of history. You have failed to grasp that the liberal values of Gladstone – perhaps we can agree on his being the greatest Liberal PM – are now core Tory values. It was Thatcher that transformed the Tory party from one of wealth and privilege to one of meritocracy.

    I am not trying to ‘shoehorn’ anyone. But if you think that a mishmash of left-liberalism, occasional libertarianism, state intervention and the doctrines of anti-family, anti-British, pro-EU elitism are what the public wants, then please proceed. I warn you of the obvious fact that pursuing this muddled policy concoction in the past has not won you power.

  • Richard Whelan 13th Oct '08 - 5:56pm

    First things first the party as a whole needs to want to win. It worries me that there are many activists who are comfortable with third party status, in other words, as the loser. I say this not because I have a gripe to settle with anyone or anything but it seems to me, having observed the behaviour of some activists, that while nomially wanting success in terms of more votes and more seats, they still act as though the party has a total of 20 seats in Parliament.

    This has to change. If we want success in the future we have to come out fighting and tell the electorate where we see Britain in 5, 10 and 15 years time and most importantly of all the policies we will use to achieve this.

    Do this at all levels of the party (i.e. make a noise that the media cannot ignore) and I see no reason why we cannot get over 30% of the vote at the next election and with it over 100 seats. Achieve this and British Politics will never be the same again. But in the well coined phrase it is up to us to ‘Make it Happen’.

  • Grammar Police 13th Oct '08 - 6:10pm

    TK – you’re hilarious. A lesson for us all is to try to see the world as it is, not as you want it to be.

    “anti-family, anti-British, pro EU”

    I think you’d find plenty of people in the party who could disagree with the various aspects of that sentence ;op

  • Grammar Police 13th Oct '08 - 6:17pm

    Neil says “The LDs, as opposed to small l liberals being for decentralising power is not really compatible with either saying bar owners can’t let their customers smoke or membership of the EU.”

    I think you’re wrong on both those counts: the issue with smoking in bars is actually about protecting employees’ health (whether you believe that argument or not – largely revolving about whether people really “choose” where they work). I don’t think many people would think that protecting health where an individual has not accepted the risk is illiberal (and that may involve balancing theoretical risks against benefits).

    Similarly, you may notice I said that we believe in decision-making at the most appropriate, efficient level. We’re not uncritical friends of the EU, but I think most people would recognise that some decisions are best made at a supra-national level, this is not incompatible with the view that decisions are best made at as local a level as possible.

  • David Allen 13th Oct '08 - 6:36pm

    Tabman,

    Tax cuts would, as you suggest, promote a certain amount of personal spending which, on its own, would to some extent “help to stem the recessionary flow”. However, we are going to fund our tax cuts by reining back government spending. That will have the opposite effect!

    As you point out, if you borrow you incur debt payments, which tend to force tax rises. We have just decided to borrow massively to buy banks. To fund tax cuts, without compensating cutbacks in government spending, we would have to borrow even more. But, that would increase our debt payments, and so …. er, it’s not working, is it?

    The reality is that we must expect taxes to rise. If we oppose this, we will only make ourselves look like King Canute!

  • “TK – you’re hilarious.”

    Glad to have been of service.

    “A lesson for us all is to try to see the world as it is, not as you want it to be.”

    Wow. Do you think you could relay this message to LD HQ? They could do with a dose of your tell-it-like-it-is medicine.

    A glimpse of ‘the world as it is’ tells me your poll ratings are not fantastic. Frankly if all you can muster is anti-Tory, anti-Labour diatribes, it is all you deserve.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 6:48pm

    David Allen:
    “The reality is that we must expect taxes to rise. If we oppose this, we will only make ourselves look like King Canute!”

    The trouble is that we have just staked everything on making tax cuts our “unique selling proposition”. Which makes us look not so much like King Canute as someone trying to sell a tide repellent.

  • “However, we are going to fund our tax cuts by reining back government spending. That will have the opposite effect!

    As you point out, if you borrow you incur debt payments, which tend to force tax rises. We have just decided to borrow massively to buy banks. To fund tax cuts, without compensating cutbacks in government spending, we would have to borrow even more. But, that would increase our debt payments, and so …. er, it’s not working, is it?”

    So, instead, we raise taxes, which reduces profits and income, which means people spend less and companies invest less, which puts more people out of work, which means rises in benefits, which means rises in taxes, and so ….
    er, it’s not working is it?

  • “Can somebody please tell me what LibDems stand for.”

    I love this question – it makes the cockles at the bottom of my heart warm with pride to know that you are willing to ask what you don’t know.

    I think the interesting thing is that we all believe in things as individuals which we might disagree with collectively (I cite Senseco and Julia Goldsworthy).

    Real life has a habit of undermining dogmatic beliefs like that.

    So what do we stand for?

    We offer a real choice; we oppose the false choice between the lesser of two evils; we stand for something better, more balanced, more secure and more coherent.

  • Grammar Police 13th Oct '08 - 8:11pm

    Don’t worry TK, I know that the majority of people don’t see the world through your, er, blue-tinted glasses – and whatever our poll-ratings, that’s enough for me!

  • Julıan H from cafe ın Istanbul 13th Oct '08 - 8:43pm

    I just wanted to regıster my amusement at thıs:

    “Why not go the whole hog and say that most Lib Dems love Nick Clegg and want to have his babies?”

    I thought he’d already clarified his position on that one

    Gıve up the day job, Neıl!

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 13th Oct '08 - 11:38pm

    “We offer a real choice; we oppose the false choice between the lesser of two evils; we stand for something better, more balanced, more secure and more coherent.”

    What politician couldn’t claim that?

    I think the more of this kind of thing that’s posted, the more it underlines the problem.

    Which is that under Nick Clegg (and the seeds were sown under Ming Campbell, and perhaps even under Charles Kennedy) the party has pursued a strategy of pushing facile populist policies – preeminently pain-free tax cuts – and downplaying policies that are seen as unpopular – notably the catastrophic attempt to fudge a pro-European position into something that would appeal to the most xenophobic Little Englander – and policies that may get in the way of those precious tax cuts – such as the abolition of top-up fees.

    Sadly the logical consequence is to turn the Lib Dems into a Tory Party Mark 2 (or possibly 3), with no convincing answer to the question, “Why not just vote Conservative?”

  • CCF,
    no politician who doesn’t believe in pluralist politics would say that (well they might, but they couldn’t be saying so truthfully).

    The difference is that you have to offer a positive vision – you have to know how to exert influence and you have to know how you do it will determine the outcome.

    Which is why, CCF, I really take exception to your use of adjectives.

    While I think you make some interesting points you provide no real alternative options – on the Lisbon vote I would have abstained whether whipped or not on the principles of the question, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about and I don’t see you prescribing anything different.

    What our poll ratings really need is a general election campaign to establish Clegg in the public mind, this is more a question of publicity and profile than of anything else.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 14th Oct '08 - 12:35am

    “on the Lisbon vote I would have abstained whether whipped or not on the principles of the question, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about and I don’t see you prescribing anything different.”

    The Lib Dems were, supposedly, in favour of the treaty, but had advocated a referendum on it when it was going to be a constitution.

    I think the most honest course would have been to back a referendum, on the basis that the treaty was substantially the same as the constitution. If people genuinely thought that the fact it was no longer a referendum made a crucial difference, then a consistent argument could be made for voting against a referendum.

    What was nonsensical was to dodge making a decision, and to enforce abstention, behind the smokescreen of an “in/out” referendum – something that was never on the cards, and something that no one in his right mind would call for – except as a purely Machiavellian political ploy.

  • Again, CCF, you’re still not offering any alternatives.

    So please tell us what would you have done differently (I don’t mean what do you think of what the leadership has done)?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 14th Oct '08 - 12:56am

    “First things first the party as a whole needs to want to win. It worries me that there are many activists who are comfortable with third party status, in other words, as the loser. I say this not because I have a gripe to settle with anyone or anything but it seems to me, having observed the behaviour of some activists, that while nomially wanting success in terms of more votes and more seats, they still act as though the party has a total of 20 seats in Parliament.”

    Actually, I couldn’t disagree with this more. Whatever you may want, and whatever you may do, short of a political earthquake the Lib Dems are going to finish third in the next general election. As our electoral system is constituted, that’s the reality.

    The choice we have is whether to be a principled third party that, through its principles, can have some influence over what happens, or whether to abandon our principles, drawn by the will-o’-the-wisp of cabinet seats and junior ministries, and end up as an inferior copy of the other parties, with no real influence at all, whether in or out of government.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 14th Oct '08 - 12:58am

    Oranjepan:
    “So please tell us what would you have done differently”

    That was in the paragraph starting “I think the most honest course would have been to …”

  • CCF, erm, yes, that’s what we did do on the grounds that the treaty debate was malformed.

    Please answer the question.

  • David Allen 14th Oct '08 - 8:50am

    Tabman

    “So, instead, we raise taxes, which reduces profits and income, which means people spend less and companies invest less, which puts more people out of work, which means rises in benefits, which means rises in taxes, and so ….
    er, it’s not working is it?”

    I think what you’re making a case for here is Keynesian deficit financing. Thta is, if you want to stimulate the economy, you cut tax, AND also increase government spending, thus increasing the budget deficit. It is the increased borrwing that acts as the stimulus.

    Well, there is a case for (and a case against) doing that. But it’s not what Make It Happen calls for. MIH is going to cut tax and also cut state spending. This has little or no net effect on economic activity.

    It’s just an irrelevance to the credit crunch. It’s just as irrelevant as the policing of Redruth. It’s Nick Clegg talking about the wrong thing, while Brown and Cameron (and Cable!) grapple with the country’s real key problems, and are seen to be doing so.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 14th Oct '08 - 8:58am

    Oranjepan:
    “Please answer the question.”

    For heaven’s sake!

    How difficult is this to understand?
    “I think the most honest course would have been to back a referendum …”

    Got it now?

  • Grammar Police 14th Oct '08 - 9:07am

    David says: “This has little or no net effect on economic activity.”

    I think you’ll find there are a lot of people who’d disagree.

  • Neil Craig is wrong. Banning smoking in enclosed public spaces is a LIBERAL measure. It protects innocent people from the nuisance and health hazard of other people’s vile fag effluent. Let’s ban smoking in ALL public places, and resist devious attempts by the tobacco industry and their stooges to make smoking a civil liberties issue.

  • Alix,

    Your first paragraph this morning is a quote from me, but your fourth is a quote from someone else who obviously completely disagrees with me. I think your posting makes more sense if you just leave the fourth paragraph out!

    “Where is Cameron grappling with anything?” Well, his performance hasn’t been stellar, but, he did push the recapitalisation idea at the right time, and until Osborne’s recent outburst, we haven’t had too much petty partisanship from the Tories. That, I think, was wise in the circumstances.

    I did read the wonderful nine-point “Liberal Democrat Fairer Future Economic Recovery Plan” which came out a few weeks back. True to its horribly cumbersome title, it muddled together the LibDem partisan stuff with the cope-with-credit-crunch stuff. It included partisan stuff I like (e.g. affordable housing) as well as partisan stuff I don’t (it put tax cuts first). I just don’t think any of the partisan stuff should have been included in an “economic recovery plan”. It won’t have helped us gain a hearing.

    I do note though that yesterday’s Guardian interview with Clegg contains nothing at all about tax cuts as such, and plenty of sensible comment about the economic future. Perhaps he is listening at last!

  • Grammar Police 14th Oct '08 - 1:50pm

    Neil,
    You’re determined to see the EU and the smoking ban legislation as illiberal, and I’m sure nothing I can say will convince you otherwsie. However, my point is – that there are liberal arguments for supporting both, and your rather odd insistence that being in favour of both makes you undeniably illiberal is what’s “unusual” about this.

    Are you really saying that you can’t see that supra-national action on the environment could be more efficient than individual states acting alone? (I’m not saying it must be so, just that it can be). Or that the common market, free movement of people, goods, capital and freedom of establishment across a wider area might not be a good thing, even if there are things we would change?

    Are you really saying that an argument on the grounds of supporting a ban/restriction where the non-consensual risk outweighs the benefit is always illiberal?

    Can you really not see the difference between taking a job as a deep sea fisherman, being aware of the risks that go with that job as compared to the benefit to the individual and society as a whole – and getting a job working in a bar, but risking your long-term health for something that other people choose to inflict on you whether you want them to or not – the risk of which, actually, isn’t necessarily inherent in the work you’re doing?

    There’s certainly an argument to be had. But it’s plain nonsense (not to mention fairly arrogant) to claim that anyone who disagrees with you on these points cannot claim to be a liberal.

  • passing tory 14th Oct '08 - 2:00pm

    GP “Can you really not see the difference between taking a job as a deep sea fisherman, being aware of the risks that go with that job as compared to the benefit to the individual and society as a whole – and getting a job working in a bar, but risking your long-term health for something that other people choose to inflict on you whether you want them to or not – the risk of which, actually, isn’t necessarily inherent in the work you’re doing?

    Not with you here. You would advise someone who really doesn’t like the dangers of fishing to find another job. Likewise, someone who doesn’t like smoke should either find another job (or a smoke-free pub). By all means allow (even encourage) pubs to be smoke free — but to FORCE them? That seems a bit like forcing your own belief system on others. Now, of course seasoned observers of Lib Dem will spot such pocket fascism as something of a familiar Lib Dem trait, so I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised that you support it. And before you have a go at me saying that barmen need the work and so don’t get to choose, the same could be said of your counter-example of fishermen.

  • Senseco, can you see the irony in your defence of the smoking ban whilst you remain the staunchest critic of youth curfews?

    A consistent grasp of conditionality would be a positive thing.

  • CCF, I could be wrong, but it was my understanding that we did promote the idea of a referendum at that time as part of the rationale for a forced abstention on the treaty vote.

    In which case your position would appear to be supporting the party’s action rather than suggesting anything new.

    FWIW I think we are in agreement on what good things we could do, but I don’t think we have added anything obviously new. Rereading your earlier point I think you may have stumbled over Ming’s message of the ‘cosy consensus’ (horrible phrasing, I know) by accident.

    Now if we could make the charge stick that Labour and Conservative parties are two sides of the same devalued coin and that their successive governments have combined in an inadvertent conspiracy to cause this financial mess, then I think we’re onto a winner.

    I think we can differentiate ourselves from Labour and Conservatives by showing how similar they are – the situation proves how wrong they both are.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 14th Oct '08 - 2:48pm

    Oranjepan:
    “CCF, I could be wrong, but it was my understanding that we did promote the idea of a referendum at that time as part of the rationale for a forced abstention on the treaty vote.”

    I apologise – I didn’t realise you thought that.

    But no, the leadership line was to abstain on the Tory amendment calling for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, though obviously there was a sizeable rebellion in the Commons, and the Lib Dem peers refused to accept the abstention line.

    The referendum we were calling for – as a diversionary tactic – was on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU. (Though again, I think Lib Dem peers refused to support a motion in the Lords in favour of such a referendum.)

  • Oranjepan wrote:

    “Senseco, can you see the irony in your defence of the smoking ban whilst you remain the staunchest critic of youth curfews?”

    No 1. Please be courteous enough to spell my name correctly.

    No 2. In answer to your question, NO.

    Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right which we have enjoyed without significant interference since the 17th century. Being in a public place after 9.00pm is neutral as regards its impact on 3rd parties.

    Smoking, by contrast, is an activity that is inevitably extremely negative as regards its impact on 3rd parties. I don’t object to people poisoning themselves in private. They can drink bleach as far as I’m concerned. What I object to is PUBLIC smoking.

    “A consistent grasp of conditionality would be a positive thing.”

    Translation?

  • Grammar Police 14th Oct '08 - 3:05pm

    Passing Tory, are you arguing against the harm principle here – or just its specific application in this instance? It almost sounds like the former . . .

    I don’t think it’s clear cut either way on a smoking ban – but I think it’s perfectly acceptable for a liberal to support the ban, without making them the raging authoritarian straw men you’d like them to be.

    The difference with the fisherman is that the dangers are inherent in the job; without the risk there wouldn’t be the benefit (ie the catch). The connection with smoking in workplaces (pubs or otherwise) is not exactly the same now, is it?

    Why should a patron is a pub or a fellow office worker be any more able to risk my health through smoking than to risk my health through juggling sharp knives at the bar/by my desk?

    They may be really good at juggling sharp knives (so the risk is minute) and really enjoy it (benefit to them), but there is no benefit to anyone else. Arguably same with smoking – it’s a classic example of the harm principle, which liberals of all types tend not to have a problem with.

  • CCF,
    I think it’s only partially accurate to call the referendum a ‘diversionary tactic’. We could, and perhaps we should, resurrect it (at the very least we would be strengthening our claim to be principled and not opportunistic, at best we would reignite Tory squabbling on the subject and irritate the hell out of Labour just as the financial crisis has shown how much we require greater institutional coordination around the globe).

    Sesenco,
    apols on the name thing. I happen to disagree with you on your fundamentalist stance, as I don’t believe freedom is unrestricted or absolute. So, yes, the conditions are determined by the balance of freedoms and where greater restrictions are required it is the result of systemic failure: address the failure and lift the restrictions.

  • Oranjepan, do you regard the absolute prohibition of torture as a “fundamentalist stance”? I don’t think you have grasped what a fundamental human right is.

  • Grammar Police 14th Oct '08 - 3:27pm

    Neil, I hate to tell you this, but people do have the right to try to stop pubs having loud music – try your council’s environmental health team.

    Neil says: “As regards the fisherman example all the difference seem to me to add up to fishing being more hazardous than working in a bar & fish being somewhat less of a staple than alcohol & thus err on my side of the argument.”

    I’m (a) not sure this sentence makes sense, and (b) not sure how it supports your position. Fishing is riskier than passive smoking and fishing is also more of a benefit to society than passive smoking; the risks in fishing are inherent in fishing (largely); the risks of passive smoking are not inherent in allowing people to drink in pubs. There is no link between smoking and drinking. Sorry.

    Some measure of control of even small risks to those who have not consented, especially ones unconnected with any wider societal benefit, is not in of itself illiberal. See above re sharp knives.

    You don’t believe in man-made global warming; you don’t believe in dangers to health from passive smoking – but these are evidential arguments. What I’m saying is that this it’s a fairly poor argument that to say someone who does believe these things, and who does support specific ways of dealing with these things, is not a liberal.

    You say we shouldn’t talk about some theoretically perfect organisation – I’m not, but we’re talking about principle here. Whatever the existing flaws as you perceive them to be – support for supra-national bodies such as the EU is not in of itself illiberal.

  • Sesenco, did I mention torture?

    Anyway the argument that evidence gained from torture is unreliable is stronger than the one which says torture contravenes any idealised ‘fundamental’ right, therefore it is perfectly acceptable to abolish torture on practical grounds (NB not prohibit) – and probably more liberal as a result.

    I’m perfectly happy to take the pragmatic line to talk about the conditions by which we maximise our liberty and how that conditionality builds a means of understanding which can be applied across seemingly unrelated areas like curfews and torture. On the other hand it seems you are all too prepared to stray into dogma.

  • Oranjepan, perhaps you should familiarise yourself with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act.

    Torture is prohibited absolutely. In no circumstances whatsoever is it permitted.

    Freedom of movement (found in the First Protocol) may be restricted provided such restriction fulfils a pressing social need and is proportionate (no more than strictly necessary).

    Martial law for under 16s neither fulfils a pressing social need nor is it proportionate, as the Court of Appeal didn’t take long to find.

    After 300 years without martial law, why do we need it now?

    Your wishy-washy talk of “compromise”, and your smearing of those who defend fundamental human rights as “fundamentalist”, suggest that you agree with David Cameron that the HRA should be repealed.

  • Grammar Police 14th Oct '08 - 4:51pm

    “There is in pubs. Sorry.”

    Yeah Neil, because people are completely incapable of enjoying a pub without smoking.

    Also, of course we’re talking about “some measure of control” (oh, and nowhere did I say you could get music banned in all pubs – but if a pub was causing you particular probs you could call environmental health in) – I’m not even particularly defending the smoking ban (as opposed to some other form of restriction). I’m just saying you can make a reasonable liberal argument for it – which is apparently what you’re arguing.

  • Sesenco,
    torture may be “prohibited absolutely” but this doesn’t pervent it from occuring if only because the definition of “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” remains open to interpretation. Additionally, while any inspectors often find their access to territory and freedom to move on the ground limited by the conditions of war under which torture is more frequently likely it means enforcement is severely hampered in practice.

    The practice of extrodinary rendition highlights the major weakness of the convention even when undertaken by signitories that the convention simply doesn’t have the teeth to be fully effective.

    And no I don’t agree with the Conservative position that the HRA should be repealed, as this would be an even greater waste of time when our efforts would be better spent by making it fit for purpose backing it up with a solid practical rationale and an internationally-mandated inspectorate rather than the ad-hoc arrangements which currently exist.

    Operation Goodnight in Redruth can hardly be considered ‘martial law’ when it has been undertaken in response to a request from a residents association and the controversy over it has lead to wide consultation and debate on the subject.

    If anything it exposes the need for greater democratic participation of under-16s in the political process to ensure that Lord Justice Brooke’s ruling that the Antisocial Behavior Act of 2003 provided powers which are “permissive, not coercive” is upheld to be true.

    However I also agree that the ABA is largely irrelevant and curfews are socially damaging because the police already have sufficient powers to take appropriate and proportionate action.

    I think it is far more productive to know why something is wrong than to just know that it is illegal – the law is an ass if it doesn’t match with experience.

  • Right, so martial law isn’t martial law when it is supported by a residents association. Impeccable logic.

  • Wrong, martial law isn’t martial law just because you say so, and it definitely isn’t when parents, resident associations, elected representatives and judges all agree to that effect.

    If it makes you happy I’ll freely admit it sends the wrong signals and if you want to propose a campaign to repeal or reform the Anti-social Behaviour Act then I’ll enthusiastically second it.

  • David Allen 14th Oct '08 - 6:39pm

    Alix: Ok, re the Tories, you win. They have indeed been all over the shop. We’re not alone!

    Following your train of thought, let me offer two contrasting ways of playing the game, for contemplation and entertainment:

    1 – Act distinctive. Dress up like a chicken and go around squawking. Oppose the bail-out. Support financial meltdown. Date a Cheeky Girl. Propose unbelievable policies (and you can guess what I mean by that).

    2 – Act presidential. Try to look as if the world’s leaders hang on your every word. Behave like a sober-minded expert. Make helpful, practical suggestions. Don’t try to let off fireworks, there are enough going off all around you just now anyway.

    Which approach might we think is going to “resonate” best with all those scared people out there?

  • David Allen:

    > Behave like a sober-minded expert.

    This sounds like image handling rather than substantial action.

    I want an expert not just someone skilled at looking like an expert

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 18th Oct '08 - 12:20pm

    Going back to polls, it seems there’s a clutch of half a dozen or so due to be released over the next few days. There seems to be an expectation that they will show some further improvement in Labour’s position.

    Looking back at the last poll released – YouGov’s 43-33-14 last weekend – it’s interesting to speculate what this might mean in terms of seats in the House of Commons. Electoral Calculus (yes, I know – but see below) reckons it would produce a Tory majority of 48.

    BUT that’s based on no fewer than 45 Conservative gains from the Liberal Democrats. I think it’s generally agreed (and probably universally agreed here) that this is a substantial overestimate of Lib Dem losses, because of various factors that have been discussed endlessly here in the past.

    If we rather arbitrarily halved that number of losses (which would leave the Lib Dems with around 40 seats), that would virtually wipe out the predicted Conservative majority.

    The point I’m making is that even without any further Labour recovery, some of the polls would probably put us near hung Parliament territory. If the Tory lead in the polls fell by another few points, things might become much more interesting – not least within the Conservative party.

  • Hywel Morgan 18th Oct '08 - 1:19pm

    “it definitely isn’t [martial law] when parents, resident associations, elected representatives and judges all agree to that effect.”

    Plenty of examples of martial law being declared with the approval of those groups. Martial law in the Philippins under Marcos had the backing of elected representatives for example.

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