LibLink: Mark Pack – We are now facing sobering reality of sharing power

For a brief few weeks during the election campaign, the Indy became quite a readable newspaper, offering some balanced coverage which was at least some relief from the right-wing papers’ slavish Cameron obeisance. The paper didn’t back the Lib Dems, but it did give the party a fair hearing. Well, normal service is now resumed, with the Indy today devoting its front page to some idle, cliched speculation (“growing pressure”, “jittery atmosphere”, “braced for a backlash”).

Compare and contrast these two assessments of Nick Clegg’s demeanour, by the way.

  • In the Indy: ‘One MP said last night: “Nick just does not look like he’s enjoying the job.”‘
  • And Jackie Ashley in today’s Guardian: ‘Clegg ought to look ashen-faced, shaky, uncertain and deeply worried. Instead, he seems ebullient, perky and as optimistic as ever. So why would that be? He has been using a magic facial elixir, rubbed on each morning after he shaves. It’s called Power. It’s the energising effect of being able to do things, make real choices and directly affect the country you live in.’

The paper does make room for some more informed coverage, though, courtesy my Voice Co-Editor, Mark Pack, who notes the double-edged nature of the party finding itself in power:

On the up side, it is no longer a matter of the Liberal Democrats making 101 proposals in Parliament and hoping that, one day, one of the other parties would take one up and claim it as their own. On the down side, as we did not win the election ourselves, we are in a government with many members from another party and many of whose policies are not our own.

Characterising the mood in the party as ‘pensive’, Mark concludes with some sage advice from a former North Cornwall Liberal party MP:

In the Seventies, the then Liberal MP John Pardoe wrote: “Without political power, Liberal principles and policies will remain in the wings… [but] we must never clutch the cloak of establishment too close around us.” There is much wisdom in those words. In the meantime, plenty of those principles are finally being implemented by the Government.

You can read Mark’s article in full here.

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10 Comments

  • The Independent needs to be very careful. It has a high proportion of Lib Dem supporters and is already in a precarious financial position. If they aleniate a large segment of their readership the future looks bleak. I suppose they take their editorial line from Aleaxander Ledbedev these days.

  • Peter Laubach 23rd Aug '10 - 1:44pm

    Despite this sort of thing, the Indy remains my paper of choice, as it has been pretty well since it was founded, though for how much longer remains to be seen. The Times is my second choice, as I regard the Gauniad as too predictably left-wing and trendy. There’s nothing else in terms of the national press that I would want to read or, indeed, to be seen reading, though someone recently on another thread suggested the FT, so maybe I should explore that.
    I guess we’re going to be getting a rough ride for some time, but hopefully by the time of the next election we will be benefitting from the successful implementation of the Coalition’s policies. In the meantime, whilst low poll findings are disconcerting, I do wonder in fact whether 14% or thereabouts isn’t actually our natural level of support, with anything above that purely the result of tactical voting – something that would not be necessary under a preferential/proportional system. Is it a “given” that we would benefit under these systems? Having said that, I suppose 14% of 600 would give us 84 MPs or thereabouts, which would still be an improvement!

  • My feeling is it’s more like 16-18% as a baseline, with tactical voting and publicity at election times taking us higher.
    Mind you, my feeling is if we don’t get out of this disastrous coalition with the party many of us joined the Liberals to fight against, I suspect our support could sink to single figures….

  • Peter, I would second the suggestion of the FT. It’s by far the least biased of all the UK papers – also, I’ve noticed that the quality of the broadsheets have been declining in the last few months, six months ago I could pick up the Times, the Indy or the Guardian and usually two of the three would be good on that day – but whenever I’ve bought a newspaper recently they seem to all be editorialising like mad in the news section. The FT, mercifully, has not done this.

  • Would that be the same FT that felt the need to blow David Davis’ trumpet for him by reporting the BROKEBACK COALITION stuff?

  • @LKD – I think you’re being childish and tribal with this attack on the FT …. 🙂

  • Felix – Maybe a little, but it was hardly mature journalism on their part.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Aug '10 - 8:11pm

    The coalition is not being well handled by the leadership. We need more honesty in making it clear it leaves us in a situation where our influence is limited. Instead, we’re getting smug triumphalism, which gives the impression the Tory policies it’s putting through against what was in our manifesto were secretly what we always wanted all along.

    Nick Clegg ought to have brought in some advisers with long-standing roots in the Liberal Democrats and with experiene of coalitions at local government level, to help make sure he keeps his party’s confidence, and for practical advice on how to deal with what is alays going to be a difficult situation. Instead, he seems to have surrounded himself with people who aren’t going to stand up to theTories because they’re on the right-wing of the LibDems and who have little experience of practical policy delivering – unlike many of our local government stalwarts.

    Most appallingly, he is letting media commentators get away with the idea that the coalition is a permanent merger. We went into the coalition because it happens the circumstances following the 2010 election left little alternative. Different circumstances might have led to a Labour-LibDem coalition. Did we build up our party for years just to merge it with whichever other happened to be the one circumstances made us join a coalition with when that happened. NO, NO, NO!

    When the coalition happened, nearly all party members gave Nick Clegg a vote of confidence by supporting it. There were not mass walkouts. Even those whose natural urges were very much against working with the Tories mostly accepted that there wasn’t another reasonable option this time. Doesn’t Nick Clegg think he owes us anything in return for that? He needs to remember that he is party leader as well as Deputy PM, and the job of the party leader is to reflect the views of all sides in the party and to stand up for that party. If he feels he can’t do that, he should drop the party leader job and concentrate on the Deputy PM one.

  • @Stephen Tail
    In your post, it seems as if you think that The Indie reporting ‘jitters’ in the party is more signs of its bad journalism, but Mark Pack writing of ‘pensiveness’ is an even-handed assessment. I think the distinction is mainly in the eye of the beholder.

    @Matthew Huntbach
    Amen to you brother. I just don’t understand why Clegg has to present the coalition as if it is a romantic gene-splicing of the two parties. Maybe he thought it was vital to present a strong, united front with the Tories, but surely we have reached a point where we also need to articulate what we, as parties, disagree on as well as what we have signed up to. I wonder if this is because Clegg, personally, is so comfortable with the Tory agenda that he doesn’t have the same discomfort that others of us, who don’t share his exact political philosophy, do.

  • Pardoe was a briliant MP
    but I think would never have gone in with the Tories
    he was far to radical

    A brilliant Cornish MP

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