LibLink..Christine Jardine: Lib Dems taking high-minded road

After her excellent performance and decent result as our candidate in the Aberdeen Donside by-election, Christine Jardine has been back writing for the Scotsman. She argues that voters are much more positive about the Liberal Democrats and are starting to respect what we are going in Government.

She started off by highlighting a problem that wouldn’t be resolved by independence – bias towards the Central Belt:

But for me the one disappointment is that so many of the Scottish political establishment still don’t understand that politics in Aberdeen is different from the central belt. And it’s not just Aberdeen. The Highlands, Borders, Northern and Western Isles all have different issues and a different political make-up.

Scotland’s political establishment – and many of its commentariat – see all contests through the prism of the central belt power struggle between the SNP and Labour. That just doesn’t cut it in Aberdeen. Voters in the Granite City are fed up being expected to accept a diet of central belt policies.

That and a quality campaign helped Christine achieve a  by-election result which was the best in Scotland since Willie Rennie’s victory in Dunfermline in 2006. She looked at the reasons for the improvement:

But it’s what created that swing which will be the important thing for Liberal Democrats going forward. Two years ago voters were confused, sometimes angry, about how we could join a UK coalition with the Conservatives – a party in which we have little politically in common.

Perhaps their opinion was also influenced by what seemed to be less than unequivocal support for the agreement from some sections of the party. Our policies for Scotland were drowned out by the argument over Westminster. Three years on from that coalition agreement the public is beginning to see that Liberal Democrats did what they believed to be the right thing for the country.

Perhaps it is after all better than the Tories in government on their own, and Lib Dems are succeeding in getting fundamental policies on creating a fairer society enshrined in legislation over raising the tax threshold for ordinary families and increasing the state pension.

And we are campaigning hard against independence. At least one senior Cabinet minister I know likes quoting the late Russell Johnston who used to say you should always do what you believe to be the right thing. If you do that the public will recognise it and respect your decision. On the doorsteps and streets of Aberdeen that’s the feeling that was beginning to emerge.

You can read the article in full here.  The thousands of doors knocked in Donside and in other elections across the country this year tell the same story. It’s better out there for us. And the more doors we knock on, the more conversations we have, the better the results we’ll get in the crucial elections over the next 3 years. And the sooner we have those conversations, the more productive again that they will be.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Whatever the merits of Jardine, it is patently absurd to describe the Donside byelection as an “excellent performance and decent result” when the Lib Dem share of the vote is still at half the level it was in 2007.

    You have made absolutely no recovery in Scotland, the best that can be said that at least the vote didn’t fall further.

    Scottish politics may now be about a power struggle between the SNP and Labour, and I agree that will entrench existing biases (although not sure about the central belt comment, SNP and Labour are the dominant forces in the North East too), but the Lib Dems are not currently in a position to challenge that.

    If you are serious about challenging the SNP and Labour then you will have to make the Liberal Democrats popular, rather than simply pretending they are.

    I suspect this may have to involve a change of strategy and leadership both north and south of the border.

  • Robin Bennett 5th Jul '13 - 12:01pm

    There will be sympathy with the voters in the North East, and Lib Dems deplore the centralising tendencies of the present government, such as with the police, fire service, and the courts. The “Ming Commission”, by contrast, rightly proposes more localism.

    The biggest problem, however, is Glasgow. If you take Glasgow out of the statistics, Scotland, and particularly the full-employment areas of the North East, is rated above average in comparison to the rest of Europe in terms of such matters as health and quality of life. I think Willie Rennie has expressed concern at the growing gulf between the West and the East. In terms of regional strategies, tackling the problems of Glasgow (and North Lanarkshire) has to be the top priority.

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