Media attacks are in full flow – what do we do now?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Lib Dems should get used to constant attacks and scrutiny. Everyone used to it now?

Enoch Powell may not have said a great deal I agree with, but he certainly had a point with his oft-repeated quote that:

For a politician to complain about the press is like a ship’s captain complaining about the sea

This is what the press do. We can point out the errors when they’re particularly egregious or complain to the rather-toothless PCC.

Parliament might even want to take one of its occasional looks at changing the law.  It may be possible to make it more difficult for the media to tell outright lies and invade people’s privacy just to boost sales; though achieving that whilst not harming the fourth estate’s ability to report legitimate news has never proven easy.

But when it comes down to it, the attacks are going to keep on coming and we’re just going to have to get used to it. As I wrote before, though:

it probably won’t make much difference. For better or worse, partisan attacks on Twitter and blogs from any side don’t tend to sway many voters; nor do attacks in the mainstream media. (Remember that Conservative support failed to rise in the months after the Sun switched from Labour and launched vicious daily assaults on Gordon Brown).

As surely as night follows day, the media will attack the Lib Dems and our political opponents will lap it up, deciding from the start that all the allegations are true .

I understand David Laws’ decision to resign, even though its still to be decided whether he even broke the rules at all (and, if he did, he’s done no worst than many others who are still in post). My impression is that his resignation has more to do with his need to readjust his life following his outing, and even a political enemy would have to be particulary devoid of human compassion to hold that against him.

But moving beyond Laws, we’re seeing much weaker attacks against Danny Alexander and Lynne Featherstone this weekend.

This is how things are going to be, and we need to adjust to it, rebut and move on.

In particular, we Lib Dem supporters need to make that mental switch that Tory and Labour activists have long-since made.

We’re used to Lib Dem stories in the media being rare, from the days when the party being ignored was the norm.  When a story did crop up, we paid attention.  It’s very rarity grabbed our interest and led to long discussion and debate.

Now they’re common, and most simply aren’t worth bothering about.  They come, they go, the world moves on and the journalists head after their next target.

To give an example: whilst the David Laws story – whatever the facts turn out to be – was significant, it seems clear that stories reported here about Lynne Featherstone and Danny Alexander aren’t.  Rebut and move on.  If our opponents want to impotently rage in whatever corner of the Internet takes their fancy, that’s their right, but it’s not a reason for anyone else to waste their time.

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41 Comments

  • Good advice in general.

    I think that our anger about the attacks on Danny Alexander are more because its so deliberately aimed at destabilising the government – undermining the economy off the back of Laws resignation and trying to divert government policy and action to address the CGT anomalies in the budget.

    It could have done more damage if supporters didn’t react. There’s probably enough wrong with the DT article for Danny to sue them – expect he won’t as he’ll be too busy and that’s probably their calculation too.

    The rest of the attacks aren’t worth the attention – just a nuisance to brush off.

    Okay so just because we’re paranoid it doesn’t mean that our enemies aren’t out to get us.. And as usual attack on another front and getting on with our own campaign are better lines of action.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 31st May '10 - 4:57pm

    Media attacks are in full flow – what do we do now?

    Stick to your principles – did whoever do the right thing? I actually find it easier to answer that question in the affirmative for Laws than Alexander.

  • Andy Martin 31st May '10 - 5:10pm

    Iain.

    While I largely agree, ‘we just have to learn to deal with it’ a tricky issue is the negative press and attacks. Negative campaigning and media antagonism rarely sway support – but rather they supress support. So the enthusiasm of ‘ours’ is slowly but surely depreciated. We must continue with the age old ‘direct approach’ of bypassing the mainstream media and ‘putting it on a piece of paper’ etc.

    I’ve no doubt our media team are working incredibly hard and frankly doing a creditable job too – we need to stick to promoting our agenda, our policies and learning how to campaign in office – ALDC lessons of huge value as ever.

  • So where was Nick Clegg when David Laws needed him? He was hiding away, he was frit.

  • Paul McKeown 31st May '10 - 5:27pm

    Yes, of course, we will have to get used to them.

    That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t put out the message that we are not an establishment stitch-up party, either. As we have few friends in the media anyway, we should make it quite clear that we are not afraid of grasping the thorny issue of media reform. We should make it clear that our philosophy is to break up concentrations of power. It is in our interest to level the political playing field and one part of that is the fourth estate.

    British news media should be owned by tax residents, as otherwise the media has no interest in the agenda it pursues. Levels of concentration should be strictly limited, too.

    At the moment press reform is more a threat than a promise, but we should make it clear that a threat can be turned into a promise into reality quite easily if the game is not played fairly.

  • Best form of defence is attack. So if its not true – you call it a lie, an attempt to play their readers like impressionable children. “Well with they would say that – look who owns them”! “I don’t think their readers are that gullible to believe a made up story like that”! “they would say that wouldn’t they – it’s their point of view – but it doesn’t make it fact”! “Sorry – who elected them”?

    “Wait a minute was this the paper that warned us of the impending credit crunch – NO, they were too busy drinking from the same trough as those who caused it – no wonder their circulation is down”!

    Given a platform – make a noise!

  • Keith Browning 31st May '10 - 6:08pm

    As someone who has always followed politics and political debate closely but never previously taken part I have suddenly felt liberated ever since the first leaders debate.
    I emailed my local Liberal candidate immediately to offer support and was an almost daily correspondent to the BBC Daily Politics Show. I was encouraged to participate further by having my first ever contribution to their blog read out live on the show!!

    For the first time in 58 years I have a government I can relate to and a leader of the Lib Dems who seems to have copied most of his ‘raison d’etre’ from my own CV.

    Early opinion polls seem to show i am very much in a majority in the country with 60% plus wanting sensible middle of the road government, which relates to the way people live.

    Now in one weekend all the forces of evil have shown their heads. The Torygraph protecting all its greedy, rich friends. (Why do all rich people seem to be greedy – it doesn’t make sense. Why does anyone need more than £5 or even £10 million, whats the point).

    The Israeli’s backed by their rich friends in London and the US attack who they like when they like. (What would have been the reaction from the US or Downing Street if the death toll had been 19 dead Israelis.)

    So how do the quiet, sensible middle of the road majority, like me, get the benefit of the Coalition government they wanted and approved. A government that is looking after Britain and supporting the good guys around the world.

    Well our representatives have to stand up and be counted.

    1. In Parliament – Lib Dems must make speeches that take the initiative and tell it as it is. If the Coalition agreement is for five years then there is nothing to lose by holding back on issues that matter.

    2. Lib Dem spokes people in press interviews and on the various media chat shows must talk more openly about the paymasters behind the media, who are spreading disinformation, and expose them for what they are. There must also be more expose and discussion about the financial institutions that are represented by many of the right wing spokes people frequently given air time.
    The reason the rich are so worried is that they have many millions of pounds of ill gotten gains at stake if this Lib/Con agenda lasts for five years.

    3. Humour and ridicule. Lets see a little more satirical reposte of the media moguls and right wing extemists and all they stand for. Rich and powerful hate ridicule. Its the one weapon they just cant handle.

  • What we haven’t got to be, is afraid! And that’s how it seems a lot of the time. Cameron and Clegg hiding in Number 10. The BBC is always on the backfoot with the media and that constantly undermines it. We believe in a free press and that’s right but why should the media and press be beyond criticism. I am not saying we should stifle them, I am just saying that we should fight back. If we think there’s a vendetta or that it’s odd something’s been dug up when it has, then we should say so. And let the public decide whose right…And yes humour and ridicule is good too. But most importantly our leaders need to lead and stop being driven by a press agenda. We elected them not the press.

  • @ Charlie, I think Nick Clegg let David Laws resign because David wanted to in order to deal with the personal life fallout. If I am right, Clegg was actually being supportive of David’s wishes, not deserting him.

  • @Keith Absolutely agree about the value of humour – ridicule of the more absurd press attacks, especially. The big advantage of counter attack with humour is that it comes across as positive to the general public. Did I hear that Lembit is planning on making a new career in stand-up comedy?

  • Keith – it’s great to hear you’re getting involved. Please stick with us – it will be a hard five years and Lib Dems everywhere in this country will need all the help we can get!

  • ref Keith Browning
    yes Keith, humour is a good weapon too – certainly this past week we could have repeated (stuck in the middle with you) lyrics “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right” 🙂

  • Roger Shade 31st May '10 - 7:26pm

    A free press yes, but shouldn’t it also be responsible and objective. How can we have a truly ‘free press’ when it depends on advertising revenue and the overweening demands of its proprietors. It is quite obvious that the proprietors have agendas that are not necessarily in the best interests of the country and many of them do not even pay Tax here so why should they care. I have no solution to this dilemma so I guess we need accept the attacks just like Brown and many others, keep fighting back and certainly sue for libel Danny if you believe you are justified

  • Roger Shade 31st May '10 - 7:38pm

    Perhaps I should have mentioned Baldwin’s quote, “Power without responsibilty, the prerogative of the of the harlot throughout the ages”.Seems to fit the Torygraph at the moment.

  • Andrea Gill 31st May '10 - 9:58pm

    What we do now? The Telegraph has already shot itself in the foot with the Danny Alexander story, a lot of Tories have strongly spoken out for Laws, and even Mehdi Hasan was astonishingly sensible and constructive in his comments on Sky News with Iain Dale. We just wait for the Telegraph to fall…. well, one can dream, but Cameron’s comments on Wednesday about this government being an end to showmanship and spin etc are promising.

  • The Party should be on the front foot. It seems to take ages to make any statement on any issue that arises. And it does seem to me that we’re not doing much about keeping the Party profile high. It’s all reactive – we should be proactively out there reminding people what we stand for and which policies that are now being delivered are LibDem policies – not waiting to react to duff stories in the press.

  • I’m afraid you will just have to get used to it.You can neither ‘take on’ nor quell the media. N

  • Has there been a poll since the first one after the General Election? The press were nothing to do with that, the immediate response to the Coalition was.

  • Steve Comer 1st Jun '10 - 12:25am

    Lets be clear the right wing press,, especially those owned by US citizens or tax exiles, do not want the coalition to succeed. They want to bring it down in the hope that it will be replaced by a more Thatcherite Tory minority government. They have powerful allies on the Tory backbenches who are already threatening to rebel on constitutional issues like fixed term parliaments.. (Bill Cash was hardly seen on the TV for 13 years, now his pinstripe suit and malevolent presence is there to undermining his party leadership at every turn, just as he did in the mid-90s)..

    We need to keep out nerve, rebut when its needed and stop being so thin skinned. Some of us who are or have been on Lib Dem run Councils are used to getting our share of the flak, and everyone else will have to get used to it too.

  • Whoever posted, A right wing newspaper is naturally going to be sniping at the liberal half of the coalition.There are clear dangers in this coalition for the liberals to be decimated at the next elections. Just shoals and shoals of them. Right now I would think the right is testing the bounds of its prison. But they must still be positioning for a new election in a few months with the hope that with the liberals discredited and labour leaderlessand still in disaray, they might win outright. And if they dont, Cameron will get the blame. What the liberals need right now is a resurgent labour party to put the frighteners on the right. Cameron wants the coalition. I really think he might be happier with the situation now than if he had 60 more conservative MPs. Life would be easier for him at the moment, but theres five years of trouble ahead. The telegraph, on the other hand might prefer to be shot of both Cameron and Clegg. Or perhaps, it accepts cameron or someone like him because it has to have centre right appeal. It doesnt accept Cameron engineering a position where he can coerce the right to move the parties position centre by threatening them with the liberals.

  • I didnt answer the question! What you do now is stake a position in the sand and defend it. Theres no choice. Assuming the facts are all out now and things are as they seem to be, people could do a lot worse than start defending laws. I appreciate Laws chief difficulties may be other than political ones, but the problem is still the expenses system. What is the right pay rate for an MP, and why exactly should any MPs be getting personal expenses on top of salary? MPs are going to carry on being shot down by expenses scandals for just as long as they are still receiving expenses. There is always a new bananaskin just ahead. Expenses are pay in disguise and its going to keep biting all the way through this recession unless it gets sorted right now at the start of the parliament. It is unfortunate that MPs seem to have boxed themselves into an indefensible corner by trying to surrender responsibility for their pay to civil servants who just love expenses in lieu of pay, but dont have the downside risks from public scrutiny.

  • Media Attacks? I guess we should just put up with it as they are par for the course for any Party other than Tory (with some exceptions), the Labour Party has been doing exactly that for years, now it’s our turn.
    We can’t suddenly cry foul now we are the target when we looked on before.
    I know it’s a sad state of affairs and the PCC should be stronger but how would it look the the electorate if we suddenly had temper tantrums now

  • Mr. Roberts, you say that you should make the mental adjustment that Labour and Conservative activists have done, if only. Labour and Conservative activists were at the forefront of expressing the disatisfaction felt at expenses being abused. Many of their complaints were about the greed that allowed their MP’s to claim, within the rules, what they percieved as exorbitant amounts. Almost every case you and your activists attack as ‘having done much worse and still being in post’, claimed far less than Mr. Laws and did so within the rules. A key point being ‘within the rules’. Mr. Laws took £40,000 in rent, not factoring in his other expenses, that he was not entitled to claim, or ‘against the rules’. His reasons are for himself but surely you accept that against the rules is worse than within the rules? He, however accepts that he broke the rules and has resigned. Why on earth are you making such a big issue about technicalities that may absolve him when he doesn’t try to absolve himself and when the technicalities of others defence was dimissed as the ‘old discredited politics’?
    What you do need to learn from the activists of other parties is to show a little backbone and be prepared to condemn your leadership when it is obviously wrong. In other words show the same backbone as Mr. Laws, who for whatever reason has held himself accountable for his own wrongdoing when you activists are falling over backwards to explain that he should be above accountability.
    As one of your opponents raging in some corner of the internet I would have been much happier if you and your activists could have shown as much rage at the policies David Laws was about to enact along with his Orange Book as you have at the unjust attacks you claim to be suffering at the hands of the media and others. I have never met a Liberal Democrat who would agree with the Thatcherite economic libertarianism of Mr. Laws or one who would have voted for it, yet this is what you are now fighting for, where is the rage? I would also be happier if you could recognise in yourselves the hypocrisy of defending your politicians on the grounds that the evidence is from a vindictive media and opposition whilst continuing to use the same sources as the evidence for heaping vitriol on others. There were no greater critics of the Blair, Brown, Major or Thatcher governments than their respective backbenchers and activists. From your pages, comments and articles it seems to me that your memberships enchantment with power has rendered them entirely flexible in all matters of principle.

  • Paul McKeown 1st Jun '10 - 11:17am

    @JC

    “As one of your opponents raging in some corner of the internet I would have been much happier if you and your activists could have shown as much rage at the policies David Laws was about to enact along with his Orange Book as you have at the unjust attacks you claim to be suffering at the hands of the media and others. I have never met a Liberal Democrat who would agree with the Thatcherite economic libertarianism of Mr. Laws or one who would have voted for it, yet this is what you are now fighting for, where is the rage?”

    1. Laws is not Thatcherite, you obviously didn’t hear his response to Edward Leigh, when he said that Gladstonian liberalism should be tempered with social liberalism. I doubt that you have read the Orange Book, but feel free to attack it based not on study, but on Chinese whispers.
    2. I have no problem at all with the position that Laws took; bills need to be paid and even national economies need to cut their cloth to suit their needs. The previous (Labour) administration had for much of its 13 years used deficit spending to fund spending programs during times of almost unparalleled economic good fortune, with the consequence that when the period of prosperity ended, the national economy had no fat to carry it through lean times. Labour supporters are unwilling to admit this truth, preferring to attack the current government for carrying out the necessary – and painful – economic retrenchment. Strangely enough, when the Liberal Democrat leadership, offered Labour the opportunity to form a government, Labour ran away, demonstrating cowardice and an unwillingness to face up to the consequences of its economic mismanagement.
    3. Laws made a foolish but entirely understandable and (for me at least) forgivable mistake. There was no venal intention in the mistake, but a mistaken hope that he would be able to continue to hide his homosexual relationship from his friends and family. I hope to see him return to the government front bench as soon as he has managed to deal with his personal difficulties.

    Matters of principle are indeed a matter that Labour should concern itself with, under the motto of casting the mote from one’s own eye.

  • @Paul McKeown Here, here.

  • @Paul McKeown Hear, hear.

  • @ Paul McKeown

    1. I am not quite sure what ‘social liberalism’ is. Could it mean that ‘there is no such thing as society’?Economically Mr. Laws has advocated the free market as the Liberal ideal. I think the orange books main thrust was for private sector innovation in all areas of the public sector including a privatised national health insurance scheme. This sounds like the case put forward by the Thatcher administration to me.
    2. You may have no problem with the emphasis of national economic policy being on debt reduction as quickly and painfully as possible but it was not in your parties manifesto or campaign, the closest was when Nick Clegg announced that he was coming after public sector pensions in order to cure the nations finances. Your assessment of Labour spending is largely correct apart from the soundbite at the end, ‘no fat to carry it through the lean times’ and the absence of an explanation of the alternative to ‘deficit spending’, unless you mean ‘no spending’. This ‘no fat’ was along with ‘failing to fix the roof whilst the sun shone’, a popular cry from Conservatives prior to the election but when analysed leads to the conclusion that many were actually calling for government to have taxed higher and then opened a savings account to put it in, not a policy many would be happy with, whilst at the same time calling for even more building of infrastructure presumably funded through even higher taxes as deficit spending is not allowed. If ‘no fat’ was an accusation that manufacturing and private sector jobs had become fewer then it is a fair comment. If by fat to carry it through lean times you mean provide jobs that will sustain the economy whilst times are hard then the accusation is false and your governments policy of fetishising debt reduction is rapidly dismantling those jobs. It is effectively the same policy as Keith Joseph’s desire to rid the economy of ‘hidden unemployment’. Long before this term was used to attack benefits culture, Mr. Joseph implored the state to rid itself of ‘hidden unemployment’, in other words, all of those ‘useless’ jobs that Labour’s deficit spending had been used for. Thereby keeping the unemployment figures down at around 700,000 before the Thatcherite shake-up gave us an out-in-the-open 3,500,000 (the level that the free market determined was necessary for a flexible workforce). All part of ridding us of the ‘nanny state’, another soundbite designed to attack progressive politics that I’m sure makes an appearance in the Orange Book, it certainly appeared in David Laws’ defence of it.
    I think accusing the Labour party of cowardice in not forming a coalition is a bit disingenuous. The leadership may well have gone along with it but the activists and backbenchers had a little more pride having just been roundly beaten in the election. Or maybe it was David Laws demand that the coalition should follow Conservative cuts policy and reduce the deficit by £6billion as a priority, even though he was elected to oppose such a policy, that broke the negotiations, who knows.
    3. It was not a mistake to break the rules, it was a decision.

    Your entreaty for Labour to cast the mote from its eyes may well be a good one but remember your belief of them as being unprincipled has come from the same right-wing press you now accuse of having unfairly come after your own. The one thing the article by Mr. Roberts gets right is that you should not let yourselves be bogged down in defence of Mr. Laws, who for whatever reason has admitted a clear breach of the rules, but get on with holding your own leaders and your coalition to account the best way you can. Labour activists fought long and hard against many of their leaderships policies over their time in government. In fact the strongest opposition came from within the party and the left wing of politics more generally The democratic deficit within the labour party made this a frustrating process and the leadership tried hard to quell dissent in order to provide a stable and united front. The response of many Liberal Democrats to this affair seems to be to blame everyone else and claim that David Laws is the best thing since sliced bread, no need for the leadership to fight dissent, the membership is rolling over to have its belly stroked. Most Liberal Democrats I know are egalitarian in their understanding of Liberalism. David Laws is not. His liberalism seem of the classical kind to me and like it or not so did Mrs. Thatcher’s.

  • Paul McKeown 1st Jun '10 - 7:25pm

    @JC

    I quailed when I saw that enormous screed, a bludgeoning form of argument, intended to dissuade by crushing weight of verbiage. Reductio ad council waste department.

    I will try to deal with the main ideas that you are attempting to put across.

    a) “I am not quite sure what ’social liberalism’ is.”
    That is either argumentative or ignorant and quite possibly disingenuous. It is certainly a foolish position from which to argue on a Liberal website.

    b) “There is no such thing as society” was a statement of Margaret Thatcher, which contrasts strongly with that of David Laws, who proclaimed himself a “social liberal” in parliament.

    c) “Economically Mr. Laws has advocated the free market as the Liberal ideal.”
    True, but should be placed in context.

    d) “I think the orange books main thrust was for private sector innovation in all areas of the public sector including a privatised national health insurance scheme. This sounds like the case put forward by the Thatcher administration to me.”

    Free markets can be efficient mechanisms to deliver social common goods. The social programs brought in by the Liberal government of 1906 – 1914 still underpin the thinking of Liberal Democracy in this country: state pension, social insurance for sickness and unemployment, progressive taxation to relieve poverty. The poor law was decisively rejected by that government and any ideological Thatcherite scheme to incentivise the unemployed by removing necessary social support is in fundamental opposition to Orange book liberalism.

    A national health service was envisaged by the Liberal, William Beveridge, and is still supported by your perceived Orange Book enemies. It is true that David Laws has favoured a social insurance scheme as a means of funding the health service, a system of universal health care provision which works very well in many European countries with better records of care for the populace than our own.

    It is also true that Liberal philosophy abhors monopolies where no natural reason exists for such. Health service provision is not a natural monopoly, nor is health service provided as such in dozens of first world countries with better provision than our own. What is important is that provision is universal. Orange Book thinking opposes statist solutions; unreconstructed Labour supports them; New Labour prefers PFI monopolies, which are even worse.

    That David Laws and some of his colleagues support ideas such as social insurance schemes and are sceptical of the efficiency of public service monopolies does not in any way make them Thatcherite.

    You attempt to deny the existence of social liberalism, a philosophy shared by each and every member and supporter of the Liberal Democrat party. That I find dishonest. I understand that the idea that some Liberal Democrats believe that universal social justice can best be provided using market mechanisms may well be abhorrent to Clause 4 fundamentalists, but frankly the idea that clunking fist five year plan government by ukaze achieves the highest possible provision of essential services for the British people is one that I find absurd. I suspect that I am in a growing majority within the British electorate.

    Thatcher was prepared to sacrifice whole communities to further her political agenda. Thatcher was a social conservative. Thatcher declared her admiration for Enoch Powell. Are you accusing David Laws of any of this?

    You would be wrong if you did.

    e) long diatribe about Conservative policies in opposition and Keith Joseph whilst simultaneously admitting that Labour engaged in unnecessary deficit spending whilst the economy was booming.

    Not sure what your point was. It has nothing to do with the stated policy positions of the Liberal Democrats from what I can see. It does apparently admit that Labour spending plans during the sunny days of the economic boom were reckless, but then it goes rather off the rails, by attacking any attempt to eliminate the deficit, and then rambling on about ‘hidden unemployment’, a bizarre non sequitur.

    f) David Laws personal position

    Dealt with quite adequately in other places, no point repeating the arguments here. David Laws admits that what he did was wrong, but not venal. I agree.

    g) “Most Liberal Democrats I know are egalitarian in their understanding of Liberalism.”
    Wrong. All are.

    h) “David Laws is not.”
    Wrong. He is just better equipped to promote equality that anyone else in British politics.

    i) “His liberalism seem of the classical kind to me and like it or not so did Mrs. Thatcher’s.”
    You clearly understand neither Margaret Thatcher’s political ideas or their concrete expression, nor do you understand David Laws political philosophy either. You might start by reading the Orange Book. I think then you might come to a better understanding of its synthesis of many strands of Liberal thinking.

  • @jc
    None of the political parties had a maifesto offering cuts anything like sufficient to deal with the budget deficit. Whenever this was pointed out to them they basically said, ‘we’ll cross our fingers and see how it goes’. this was economic junk. The hoping for the best bit probably was unanimous policy, but they were all guilty of knowingly not stating cuts which the situation will demand barring a miracle. In such a situation the kind of person needed to carry out the cuts is someone with a firm understanding of the problems and a conscience, but also with a determination that hard decisions have to be made. I do not believe the economy is going to recover spontaneously so as to deal with the deficit. Someone has got to cut spending not only to the level of balance which has existed for the last 10 years, but further to deal with the bill run up since the world financial crisis started. The situation calls for someone from the right, someone instinctively inclined to save not spend. Even if labour had been returned to power, there must be a question whether they would have had sufficient distance from the policies they have followed for 13 years to make necessary changes. In a lab-lib coalition it would definitely have been the libs job to be pushing for cuts, which might have sat rather worse with the party than being the left side of a coalition.

    three months ago I knew nothing about Laws, but in all the comment I have seen nothing criticising his competence to be at the centre of planning at the treasury. This is a coalition of a dispirate and somewhat individualist party mainly of the centre and left with one, also quite disparate, but ranging from centre to far right. It seems obvious to me that to bridge the gap between those parties you need someone who would be acceptable to either party. So second box tick for Laws coming from the right.

    We are not in normal times. The full extent of the financial damage to world economies has nothing like been realised yet. Everyone is running on borrowing and it is unsustainable. Some of the stuff about laws is probably PR, the coalition seems to have been in overdrive to claim his successor is just as good. They werent saying how brilliant Alexander was when appointed to the Scottish office, just that he was well placed to save the embarassment of the tories in not having a candidate of their own from Scotland. There are more than a few hints that despite being out of the job, Laws will be popping back to give advice anyway.

    I’m afraid I think that MPs expenses has always been a storm in a teacup. It has aroused enormous public anger, but the issue is trivial. Its just MPs fiddling their pay, and both sides in power have been doing it for decades. Cant say what the libs would have done, since they never had a majority in the house, but I dont see them now acting to get rid of MPs expenses and roll the money back into their pay where it always belonged. So thats all three parties still guilty of this same fraud against the electorate. They are still fiddling their pay to pretend its smaller than it really is, but right now it is not what matters here. The country is bankrupt and has a choice between financial severity and financial disaster. At such a time the man universally acclaimed best suited to be sitting in that office trying to fix this has instead been assaulted by a hail of insults and accusations about something which in the grand scheme utterly does not matter the tiniest bit. I simply cannot believe what insanity goes on in westminster. Its all ‘for want of a nail…. the kingdom was lost’ over £40,000. This country has been saved from disasters time and time again by the most appauling reprobates.

  • Paul,

    you’ve caught me out, I hold my hands up. I didn’t know that the phrase ‘social liberal’ refers to a strand of liberal thought. I just read the words. I stand convicted of entering the rarified atmosphere of the Lib Dem message board ill equipped with the requisite terminology.
    But when someone describes themselves as ‘a free marketeer and a social liberal’ I read ‘laissez faire economically (free market) and seeing society (social) as individual rational agents (liberal)’. Does that restating of what I read explain how I might have come to the understanding that it meant there is no such thing as society just a random collection of rational agents acting in the market place.
    As for the policies of market mechanisms being used to provide social goods my view is that the rationale used to justify free markets is incompatible with social justice as meaning equality. That is for another time. The desire to privatise provision of social goods is right in line with the Thatcherite agenda, don’t forget that it was not just her venality most of us objected to it was also her policies. The venality is certainly not there and nor is the social conservatism, but in terms of economic policy Mr. Laws would have fit right in. In fact his desire to privatise the funding as well as the provision would have made a good many Thatcherites baulk.

  • Paul McKeown 2nd Jun '10 - 12:19pm

    @JC

    I really don’t see the objection. The goal is universal service provision, ensuring that no one is denied health care, irrespective of their means to pay. Does it matter what the mechanism is? Would it not be sensible to copy the mechanism used in several countries who achieve the aim with less taxation and yet better quality of care with higher life expectancy than our own?

    I see objections based on fear, not on fact.

    I see objections based on distrust of a man’s motives, despite the man’s longstanding statement of his principles.

    I see no connection with Thatcherism, which was a failed (and cruel) creed based on supply-side economics, control of the money supply, etc., all of which were dropped by the Conservatives, even during their last 17 year period of government. Thatcherism failed: no one wants to repeat a failure. That you should attempt to tar Orange Book thinking with the same streak of cruelty as Thatcher displayed is unfair. Orange Book thinkers have never attempted to deny society and are keen to emphasis social justice for all as the goal of their economic thinking.

  • Paul McKeown 2nd Jun '10 - 8:03pm

    @JC

    And to be scrupulously fair, I should say that David Laws Orange Book ideas for NHS reform are not greeted with universal applause in the LD’s. An alternative idea is provided in Reinventing the State: Social Liberalism for the 21st Century. An introduction can be found here: http://socialliberal.net/2009/08/18/reforming-the-nhs-a-local-and-democratic-voice/

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