Opinion: An anti-Liberal Democrat press isn’t going to go any easier on any Liberal Democrat leader

Sun newspaper - License Some rights reserved by vapour trail Liberal Democrats 4 Change have a point about one thing. They are right to say that the Liberal Democrats do not get a fair hearing. However, they are mistaken to think that a leadership change would alter anything in this regard.

It is instructive to recall the moment Clegg began to get a bad rap from voters. At what point was this? The answer is not as obvious as you may think, It didn’t start with Secret Courts, Bedroom Tax or Tuition Fees. It didn’t even begin with the formation of the coalition. The flak began before the 2010 General Election – that electoral contest where we lost not gained seats.

To call Cleggmania a flash in the plan is an understatement. Clegg’s popularity after the leaders’ debate was far briefer than any flash. This was the result of a large scale mobilisation of the national press against the Liberal Democrats. Shortly after winning the first debate, Clegg was subject to a barrage of ridiculous stories in the tabloid press ranging from “Nazi slurs” to the shopping habits of Miriam. They barely stopped short of headlines that proclaimed “Clegg eats kittens for fun.” These stories were laughable to campaigners like ourselves but did impact on ordinary voters who began expressing their deep disdain and disgust for this “Nick Clegg fella”. I had this very reaction from voters who only a couple of days previous didn’t even know who the Lib Dem leader was!

So what lay behind the media’s anti-Clegg mobilisation? It wasn’t down to any personal animosity towards the man but borne out of concern that his new-found popularity may stop their man getting to No.10. They were partially successful in that the Liberal Democrats suffered a net loss on Polling Day.

After the election, the anti-Clegg agenda became permanent albeit with different objectives. It continues to this day;  the Tory press attacking the Liberal Democrats in government in order to look like they are fulfilling their journalistic obligation to be a check on power whilst at the same time leaving their buddies in the Conservatives largely untouched. The Labour-sympathetic press attacks the Liberal Democrats relentlessly even though it secretly welcomes much of what they achieve in government.

Given the motivations of a press that holds huge sway over public opinion, what reason is there to believe that the mainstream media would go easier on any successor to Clegg? There is none at all. They would lay into the new leader with gusto. There would be new “nazi slurs” about him or her to contend with. That would come on top of a leadership contest that would have taken precious time and resources away from the GE 2015 campaign and divided the party even further.

We cannot remove the media bias which does us so much harm. We can only work around it. As Andrew Grice writes in today’s ‘I’ (which along with its sister paper, The Independent, is the only national paper to give us fair hearing – it’s a shame barely anyone reads it):

The Liberal Democrats will need to shout even louder about what they have achieved in government…there is a good story to tell. Doing so requires discipline, not self-indulgence.

Uninspiring words to exhausted campaigners but if there is another way to work around the media bias, it’s been kept a secret from me.

The Liberal Democrats don’t get a fair hearing but a change in leadership wouldn’t alter that fact. It LD4C is more likely to damage us than help us. Everyone is disappointed with recent results and everyone wants the best possible result next year. I can understand the urge to do something but if we really care about the future of the party, we have to advocate a course of action that we can reasonably foresee doing us good and not harm.

 

Photo by simon bleasdale

* Nicholas Pentney is a member of the Liberal Democrats in Torbay and youngest son of Ruth Pentney

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103 Comments

  • Excellent article. Glad you picked up on the Grice piece. This needed saying.

  • Peter Hayes 31st May '14 - 4:54pm

    Not just the national press local papers can be just as biased against us, for which the only alternative is Focus and deliverers.

  • It is not the press who have influenced the public, in fact newspapers are a fast declining factor, circulations down and public more able to decide for themeselves. They have their own view of what we do, where we stand and ask are we just holding up a Conservative government. Your article does not understand how the voter sees things and is simply blaming others for our own total failure. Yet again we are refusing to face the truth and the reality of our position.
    I have to ask have you spoken to a group of ordianry voters and just listened to them. We need a change of image and perception by the public. The leader is so stained and tainted as to make that impossible.

  • Theakes – It’s worth saying that while print circulations are down, newspaper websites still get huge coverage, as do ‘non-print’ newspaper analogues like the Huffington Post. So beware overreliance on circulation figures alone.

    Talking to ordinary voters is very important; just because the article doesn’t address that doesn’t mean it’s being ignored.

  • If overcoming the influence of the right wing press was simply down to. “….. discipline, not self-indulgence….” the old Communist Party of Great Britain would have won most of the General Elections since 1945.

  • Bill le Breton 31st May '14 - 5:10pm

    OP: “Clegg’s popularity after the leaders’ debate was far briefer than any flash. This was the result of a large scale mobilisation of the national press against the Liberal Democrats. ”

    It was also as a result of the national campaign freezing under the pressure. A team of extremely inexperience political campaigners (more used to selling soap), an inexperienced leadership team (none of whom knew anything about such a fierce campaigning environment) ducked in the hope that the mud bombs would go over its heads; thinking that the second debate would reconfirm public support and that in the end the people would have their way in the ballot box, resulting in 120 seats.

    It would be fair to say that every subsequent piece of mud that stuck, stuck because of the cracks and cranny exposed at that time. But we also know that Nick Clegg applied plenty of his own glue.

    But this is politics. The leader bears responsibility for the inept way he and his campaign team handled the post-Manchester campaign. The rest is history. The jug is cracked, it can’t be repaired. The latest campaign with the leader once again overriding others and driving the campaign himself saw a further decline in our support.

    I am not advocating Vince Cable as a new leader, but he does demonstrate that being attacked in this way by the media does not affect everyone in the same way. Some are made in Teflon, others insist of using fly paper for protection.

  • Alex Sabine 31st May '14 - 5:28pm

    Bias is in the eye of the beholder. That said, it’s evident that most national nespapers, at least the popular ones, are hostile to the Lib Dems. I agree this is unlikely to change under a different leader, indeed it might intensify especially if there was a turbulent transition. In any case, for a political party to moan about media bias is like sailors complaining about the sea; it is unedifying and, above all, futile.

    I don’t necessarily agree that the press “holds huge sway over public opinion”. As far as I’m aware, most studies that have looked into this have found little evidence that newspapers have done much to shape or change their readers’ opinions or voting behaviour. Instead they are self-reinforcing – papers’ editorial coverage reflects their readers’ opinions/prejudices/interests, and people buy papers that conform to their worldview, if that is they pay attention to the editorial line at all.

    It will be interesting, for example, to see whether The Sun continues to slate UKIP given the support for Nigel Farage’s party among its readers. It was only after it detected the change in its readers’ opinions that it switched allegiances in the past, first to Thatcher in the late 1970s and then to Blair in the mid-1990s.

  • So basically it doesn’t matter how unpopular he who must not be replaced is.

  • Alex Sabine 31st May '14 - 5:31pm

    @ Chris – And yet more Lib Dem voters take the Daily Mail than any other paper. An interesting paradox, no…?

  • The media is hostile to all politicians. Thats not a reason for a political party to not periodically review and confirm that they have selected the best person for the job. Clegg is an elected leader, not a king annointed for life. He has had a good innings, time to grow, time to become experienced, but as a communicator he is ineffective about selling the vision. We need someone more enthusiastic, persuasive and more aligned to the soul of the party.

  • Andrew Whyte 31st May '14 - 6:11pm

    @Alex

    Papers may very well reinforce readers bias, but too often, as in the demon EU, that bias both on the part of papers and readers is based on lies, half truths or exaggeration.

    From metric martyrs to straight bananas, so many of these ” reports” are outright fabrications based on one person somewhere misreading the relevant legislation.

    And the fact that so many of these papers are in the hands of ex pat tax dodging non doms is just the icing on the cake.

  • daft ha'p'orth 31st May '14 - 6:23pm

    @Chris Abbott
    “[The Mail] should not abuse their own readers.”
    The fact that more Lib Dem voters take the Daily Mail than any other newspaper, if accurate (and it seems likely, since the Mail is by far the most popular of its type) does not mean that Lib Dem voters are a noticeable demographic from the Mail’s perspective. You are also assuming that the Lib Dem voters who buy the Mail would view criticism of the Lib Dems as abuse directed at themselves, and that, too, strikes me as an unsafe assumption.

  • There’s massive bias in the media against Labour, and a particularly nasty campaign against Ed Miliband so not sure why this writer expects anything different for the Lib Dems.

    Also, if you blame the press then there’s no reason to look at the real reason for the Lib Dem collapse – voters don’t like what you’ve done in government. Playing the ‘Tories would be horrible if it weren’t for us’ isn’t working.

    People do know what you’ve voted through – the bedroom tax, benefits mayhem leading to pain for many people, privatisation of things even Thatcher didn’t touch, NHS coalition ‘reforms’, regressive VAT rise.

    No amount of spin is going to rise above that for progressive voters, many who see Labour as the better option for fairness and compassion towards people in need.
    Secret courts and other sell outs mean the voters who fell for the ‘Labour are authoritarian and illiberal’ spin will be taking their votes to the Greens.

    It isn’t about getting the message through. To keep believing that it is is to ignore what the voters are saying when they switch their votes.

  • @theakes
    “you spoken to a group of ordianry voters”

    Why speak to ordinary voters? The key issue is predictive power. Talking has little.
    The polls have been wrong in the past and I believe the party will do well in Newark, no matter what the press intends.

  • Chris [email protected]

    You can’t expect to play in the major league and not get attacked by the right wing press.
    Labour have had to put up with it for years and still managed to win elections.

  • To backup what others have said about the declining influence of newspapers —
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_Kingdom_by_circulation#Circulations_2010_to_present

    A quick look at this chart from wiki shows just how few daily newspapers are sold. And how that figure continues to decine everyyear. The Sun and Mail together account for less than 4 million. The combined circulation of all daily newspapers added together is less than ten million.

    Which is not to say that they do not have influence beyond those numbers. BBC News is now heavily influenced by The Murdoch Empire having recruited two senior figures direct. Which might account for the rabid Eurosceptic line so common on the BBC nowadays and the shameless bigging up of Farage on the “impartial”, Royal Charter controlled organisation that Chris Patten (obviously as former chair of the Tory Party and Tory Peer has been completely impartial) whilst being Big Cheese in Chief at the state owned corporation. Patten has been just as impartial as Nick Robinson the BBC’s top political bloke who just happens to have been top Young Conservative in the days when Norman Tebbit threw them out of the Conservative party for being too extreme !!

    But for just one day back in April 2010 our leader was the darling of the media. His ineptitude in making the most of that is staggering. Was it his lack of experience in Westminster – only two years as an MP? Was it as Shirley Williams has said his failure to listen to anyone outside his own little group or any parliamentarian who is older than him? Was it the team which he personally appointed and since have been described as inexperienced, naive and incompetent? Or was it the inability to delegate, the lack of political noise and good old politicl instinct which evaded him before 2010 and certainly has done since?

    These thoughts have rumbled away in the heads of grassroots members and campaigners since April 2010. But the illusion and the spin which talks about “the first man to take us into the government since Asquith” has not helped. It is not just wrong it is a smokescreen to cover the tracks of those responsible for the failure to capitalise on that sudden burst of enthusiasm for that left of centre, community based, change the system, Liberal Democrat image that Clegg inherited butnhasmfrittered away.

    In the last week some chickens have come home to roost in the trees of Putney. The demands for conformity in the ranks, the belittling of party members, the use of government and party resources to campaign against those who are asking for a bit of democracy in the Party whose name includes the word Democrats says it all.

    And that is why, bit by bit, day after day, this story is not going away. It is not because of the right wing media. The Sun and The Mail are not convening constituency party meetings to enact the constitution of the party. Indeed it was a Sky TV News reporter who said in summing up this last week — Lord Oakshott might have gone, but Nick Clegg is not out of the woods yet — this feeling within the Liberal Demcorats is coming up from the grassroots — and the momentum is gathering.

  • Alex Sabine 31st May '14 - 6:32pm

    But the cuts weren’t at their height when the economy was flat-lining. There was no such neat symmetry or causal relationship. In fact the cuts are (slightly) greater now and the economy is growing at a fair clip.

  • Daniel Henry 31st May '14 - 6:35pm

    I agree with this piece in a number of ways, that the Lib Dems are facing a hostile press that have given the public the worst possible spin on us, that this started before the coalition, and that any new leader would face the same problems.

    I wouldn’t agree that our drop in popularity has just been due to the press though.
    I think the way we’ve handled coalition has given them easy ammunition to use against us.

  • David Evershed 31st May '14 - 6:50pm

    Only this last week we have seen the Guardian conspire with Oakeshott to give a front page anonymous splash to his flawed poll findings – followed by an editorial in Friday’s Guardian saying that Oakeshott’s anti Clegg campaign was never realistic and only served to damage theLib Dems.

    The Guardian journalists seem to hate Lib Dems because they are in coalition with the Conservatives, not because they disagree with Lib Dem policies.

    There was a time (more than 10 years ago) when the Guardian reported news objectively rather than Labour propaganda – no longer it seems.

  • Clegg’s approval ratings were at +53 the day after the 2010 election. The precipitous decline in his popularity didn’t occur because of some silly stories in the right wing press prior to the election but because he sold himself as a man of integrity and then broke his most visible commitment as soon as he got into power. The electorate has been telling you that Clegg is politically toxic for four years. Apparently it’s going to take five before you get the message.

  • David Evershed 31st May '14 - 7:01pm

    Bill le Breton says Vince Cable is non stick Teflon when it comes to media attacks.

    Well poor opinions about his management of the sale of the Royal Mail and his dealings with Oakeshott have stuck and destroyed any chance he has of a successful coup against Nick Clegg’s leadership, had he ever intended to launch a coup which I doubt.

  • Well, there’s a couple of weeks window of opportunity to replace him. If the 75 local parties threshold can’t be crossed by mid-June, any good the debate might do will be outweighed by the costs of continuing to fight amongst ourselves. If that is the case, the matter should be dropped until the 8th of May 2015, at which date I sincerely hope Mr Clegg will end the discussion by way of tendering his resignation.

    The point is that the party will be defending a record that is already set in stone, in the past.

    The party has to stand in the next election, and it has few options as to what kind of party it stands as. My view? It can either stand as a shambolic mess that’s trying to wriggle its way out of unpopularity by shuffling through leaders desperately in the runup, or it can stand as a battered, much-maligned party with too few wins to its record and too many defeats, but with a new understanding of the establishment and the radical steps needed to break it down and renew it.

    Neither option will deliver a cheering result in the short term.

    But I do believe that the best hope for recovery and reconstruction is to allow Mr Clegg and the market liberal, split the difference centre party idea to suffer a defeat its adherents can’t blame on other factors. Activists who oppose that direction of travel would I think do best to transfer their time and efforts to a candidate or incumbent whose views already sit in the social liberal ground, if not on the social democrat wing of the party – the result will be that the parliamentary party will change in composition to reflect that.

  • chris j smart 31st May '14 - 7:08pm

    So 50% of the membership have deserted ship just because the press were not nice to Nick and the party. When has the press ever been kind to the Liberal democrats?
    Please try to take a more objective view of the reasons why the mass of the electorate and half the party have lost faith since 2010. It’s not the Guardian that has changed and its not the Sun or the Mail that done it for the lib dems, it was the lib dems all by themselves.

  • Nicholas Pentney 31st May '14 - 7:30pm

    It’s not the purpose of this article to attribute everything that’s gone wrong for the party these past 4 years to a biased media. This article is to challenge LD4C’s belief that a successor to Clegg would get a fair hearing. The abscence of an unbiased media makes that extemely unlikely.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st May '14 - 7:35pm

    I don’t want to damage Nicholas’s reputation, but I agree with Nicholas!

  • Another scare-mongering post about what might happen if Clegg was binned.

    How about a positive post explaining what he will actually do to improve the situation if he stays in office? Or is there nothing to say…?

  • This is a prescient article. The media vultures have been circling for a long time. The only possible alternative figure who would not be scathingly dismissed on all sides is Vince Cable and he is certainly our best media performer in government, however if he were to take over, expect the ageism meted out on Ming Campbell to be quadrupled.

    The Press is still powerful; on the tube early yesterday on the way to City airport, I was struck by how many commuters had their heads in bought tabloids; moreover the BBC seems to measure its ‘neutrality’ against the Press.

    I see no good in pressing for leadership change now. I do think that Nick Clegg needs a lot of experienced advice and thorough training in how he handles himself from now on, being better than Ed Miliband is just nowhere near good enough. The UKIP debates need thorough analysis. Nick Clegg was better in the first than the second; a lot of well meant advice backfired, which shows that his advisers and observers (including voices on this site) need to be cautious and self-critical.

    The other consideration is that to be right does not necessarily translate into popularity: many from Labour are particularly venomous because our stance on the invasion of Iraq was right; we may well be proved to be right about the EU (particularly if there is a Brexit), but this may also make us unpopular.

    An opportunity to consider a new leader should also be an opportunity to reaffirm Liberal and Democratic principles, marking a clear direction of travel. This will only be possible after the next election.

  • Oh – so the press are to blame – they are always against the Lib Dems

    Let’s stop blaming the press for our ills – they are just seeing the blood and going for it

    Why don’t we have a new plan – the old plan certainly wasn’t working – and just shouting louder about it will not make it work any better. Our approach to coalition has not worked- let’s have a new approach to coalition.

    And so that people actually may listen to the new plan – lets have a new leader – because people certainly are not listening to the current one

  • Voter, what is “doing well at Newark”. Saving a deposit?

  • “Another scare-mongering post”

    Some threats are real. Can you imagine what would happen if the LibDems did a big U-turn?

  • Bill le Breton 31st May '14 - 8:13pm

    Straw man dressed as big U turn led across room by person in mask too frightened to show face to the people. We tremble.

    A couple of important and symbolic changes to the position would alter things dramatically without in anyway losing the chance to remain associated with and championing our part in the major benefits that our partnership in Government has brought about.

    We could spend this summer campaigning across the country to gain support for these ‘changes’ and publicly place these key items in Autumn Statement negotiations – which for the first time in four years would be conducted openly on College Green.

  • And make sure the important and symbolic changes are popular as well as principled – it is important to sometimes put forward principled positions that are also unpopular.

    But just for this final year can we find some popular ones too.

    For instance financial backing for the head of the NHS and his plea for elderly services being offered in local community hospitals. Popular especially in more rural and suburban areas – pro NHS – pro the elderly

  • Brenda Lana Smith 31st May '14 - 8:20pm

    For—much to this my former SDP-cum-Lib Dem North Cornwall party member’s surprise—”Nicholas Pentney is a member of the Liberal Democrats in Torbay…” aka “Nicholas Pentney Constituency Organiser for North Cornwall Liberal Democrats…” edification… this octogenarian LGBTQI activist subscribed to the Daily Mail for many a year—not for its political content but its television guide and LGBTQI articles… Nicholas’ one way communication modus operandi is seemingly typical of our party’s middle echelon with members, and another reason why I am a signatory supporter of LibDems4Change…

  • I think a 10% in the election would show that the sky is not falling and that Clegg is not as bad as some think.
    And tell me, Bill, who among the anti-Clegg MPs has been brave enough to show his face to the camera?
    Who is the standard bearer for the rebels?

  • 10%? oh bliss – I thought we only got 6.9%

  • “I think a 10% in the election would show that the sky is not falling and that Clegg is not as bad as some think.”

    But that’s twice what the Survation poll said.

  • Richard Dean 31st May '14 - 8:45pm

    I think the press won’t be anti-LibDem any more, they’ll just ignore LibDems.

    Just saw a piece on Sky News about the lady in Sudan. Interviews with a forgettable person and then … Nigel Farage, looking established, pushing the xenophobic message as if it was light.

    Didn’t see anything here on LDV about the story either.

  • Voter 31st May ’14 – 8:21pm
    I think a 10% in the election would show that the sky is not falling and that Clegg is not as bad as some think.

    And how many Liberal Democrat MPs would there be if the party achieved 10 % at the election?

  • Voter

    A possible clue to how many MPs come with just 10% of the vote ;
    – in 1964 the Liberal Party achieved 11.2 % which was three million votes and just 9 MPs.

    That was of course before UKIP and the Green Party and before the nationalist parties had significant numbers of seats.
    Difficult to believe that 9 MPs next year will be hailed as a great victory for Clegg and his unchanging plan.
    That’s why people at the grassroots are calling for change.

  • Dear, oh, dear..I wondered how long it would be before an “It’s all the fault of the nasty media” thread appeared….

    Have those, who subscribe to this, thought it through? If this really is the reason then the LibDems are finished as a party. The media will not , between now and 2015, switch to being “nice to LibDems” so if media stories have cost the party 1700 counil seats and all but one MEP then things can only get worse as 2015 approaches…

    Still let’s blame the media…After all, we all know that theNHS, bedroom tax, Secret courts, etc were nothing to do with us…I’m just waiting to be told it wasn’t Danny Alexander who made umpteen media appearances supporting Osborne; it was, in fact, a ‘look-alike’ actor employed by the ‘Daily Mail’…

  • Thanks, Nicholas, for such a clear explanation of the problem we face: the vast array of hostile media interests ranged against us.

    We knew this already anyway. The problem is, how can we counteract the constant slamming stories and scapegoating, plus the determination to ignore the many things we’ve achieved in government?

    This is the fundamental obstacle to our recovery and you’re right in saying that removing Nick Clegg without any clear idea of who would replace him or how she or he would receive a different media treatment is not the way to overcome it. I’d love us to have a new leader right now (If we could change our constitution and he wanted the job, I’d love to have Paddy back) but in terms of candidates willing and able to take on the job of standing up to this onslaught from hostile media, there ARE NONE.

    We have to accept that we go into the next election virtually friendless in the media, with the enemy’s forces targeting us remorselessly. Pre-coalition, this “air war” was always difficult, since we were always sidelined, but given the level of hostile coverage of the Lib Dems nowadays, it has become even more of an uphill struggle. It is only on the doorsteps, talking directly one to one with the voters, that we can seek to turn this around. And turning round four years of virtually wall-to-wall negative coverage is going to require a gargantuan effort.

    We will need:

    – A leadership that is far, far more in touch both with (remaining) grassroots party activists. It will need them as never before;

    – A leader who starts to think again like the voters do. Please Nick, get out there on the doorstep and talk to people, feel their anger and disappointment at some of the things the party has allowed to happen in government and start LISTENING;

    – To produce a manifesto that that incorporates this listening and combines our fundamental Liberal Democrat values in a programme that is is achievable and affordable;

    – Nick, allow us to be proud of our party again. It has fantastic values and aspirations for the future of the UK. Help us to articulate what those are and say how we would put those into practice in the future.

  • “but in terms of candidates willing”

    good point, where are the willing?
    Martin Tod has asked for change but even he is not offering to lead and so the coup
    is at an end.
    To quote a certain movie, everything is proceeding as I have forseen.

  • Tim Shipman tweets that “Lib Den activists tell S.Times they have begun no confidence proceedings in 190 constituency parties. only 75 needed to trigger election”

  • Peter Chegwyn 31st May '14 - 11:08pm

    Meanwhile tomorrow’s Sunday Times carries a poll showing Nick Clegg’s popularity rating has now slumped to a new low of minus 65 per cent making him the most unpopular leader in modern political history (even worse than Gordon Brown at his lowest point).

    How low does Nick have to go before people accept it’s time for a change?

  • RC ” but in terms of candidates willing and able to take on the job of standing up to this onslaught from hostile media, there ARE NONE”

    You would be amazed by the sudden interest in being the leader if there was a leadership election.

  • John Broggio 31st May '14 - 11:13pm

    To counter the negative press attention, might I humbly suggest that you do the right thing, instead of the Right thing (that you’ve inflicted upon us since 2010 with apparent glee), having obtained votes from people like me by deception.

  • Peter Chegwyn
    Does the Sunday Times give odds on Joey Barton being elected instead of Nick Clegg? see –

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2014/may/30/joey-barton-ukip-is-the-best-of-four-really-ugly-girls-video

  • Not quite sure of your point, Brenda Lana Smith. Nick Pentney has every right to describe himself in these ways – he has had family in both Torbay – his mother, Ruth has for many years been organiser for Torbay, and his uncle has lived in Launceston (where the Lib Dems in N Cornwall have their HQ)also for a long time. As a former N Cornwall member myself, I wish him luck in his organiser job. As a family they are very political, and make a very active and positive contribution to their communities.

  • @RC I don’t think Clegg wants to listen. He seems to think if he keeps banging on about Lib Dem achievements in coalition then eventually people will realise what a brilliant leader he is and that we are a serious party of government etc. Not going to happen, people have made up their mind about you I’m afraid.

  • Peter Chegwyn 1st Jun '14 - 12:12am

    Nick’s all-time low poll rating of minus 65 per cent in today’s Sunday Times speaks for itself. People have indeed made up their minds. Nick may not want to listen but our MPs really MUST listen to what the voters are saying. ABC is what the voters are saying. Anyone But Clegg. If our MPs want to save their own skins next May, and those of the 1000+ Lib. Dem. Cllrs. who also face re-election in 2015, then there simply has to be a change of message and messenger before it’s too late. As a Party we can’t go on like this.

  • Nicholas Pentney 1st Jun '14 - 1:38am

    @Dan and Brenda. For your reference, I am not on the payroll of the federal party – my views are my own.

  • If you think the press is mean to your party then you were not around in the seventies and eighties when the Tory press savaged The Labour Party at any opportunity. It was a lot more vicious then than now. Nick Clegg hosts his own radio show for heaven’s sake where he can put across his views without having them savaged by right-wing columnists.

    Your party is now unpopular not because of ‘failing to get your message across’ but perhaps because the people have heard the message and simply don’t like it. They expected the Tories to be mean and and nasty to those on benefits but thought your party would be different. The people have seen the effects of the bedroom tax and the laughably named ‘welfare reforms’ and loathe them. Oh yes those at the top of the tree who aren’t affected by these changes back them but the people on the receiving end know that is really going on.

    It is your policies that have brought you low-Not the press or the personality of Nick Clegg.

  • richardheathcote 1st Jun '14 - 6:15am

    Before the last General Election there was an awful lot of nasty personal attacks on Gordon Brown, I think all party leaders get attacked by the media, to some extent, not just Nick Clegg. In many respects the backing of Murdoch seems to be a priority for all the party leaders in the run up to general elections.

    I don’t think it is the reason why Lib Dem vote is rock bottom now however, MP’s actions during the course of this parliament are more to blame for recent results.

  • @ Jenny

    “You would be amazed by the sudden interest in being the leader if there was a leadership election.”

    You’re right. I would be amazed, given the total, complete and utter silence from potential viable candidates so far.

  • I have just seen Paddy Ashdown interviewed by Andrew Marr, giving a demonstration of how to handle a political interview. Clegg still has a lot to learn. Although a change of leader is out of the question before the next election, this does not mean that the leader cannot and should not change. We may dream of going back to Paddy, but I do hope that Paddy’s primary objective up until the election will be to work on Nick Clegg’s ability to project himself.

  • I am writing here as one of the most derided groups of people on this site, an ex-LD voter fem the left. It has seemed over the last couple of years any attempts by us to explain why we are no longer prepared to vote for you has been subject to much vitriol – despite there being a lot of us?

    On the point of there media – there has been so much whinging on this site about the media. The media is right-wing, the owners are mainly right-wing! Those of us on the liberal left have seen our values subject to criticism for years. It has ever been thus. On a personal level this has been shown as well with politicians from Labour (mainly) and the LD being subject to vicious attack. Blair got away with it post-Iraq as he was as right-wing as the Tories and the media liked him. Clegg has actually been treated quite mildly if you compare him with Kinnock or Brown. In fact I did not see many LD come out in defence of the personal attack of Brown and his blindness by certain papers!

    Clegg also has his LBC show which has worked out OK, and in many media appearances the LD are happy to join with the Tories in forming a joint front against Labour politicians .

    In terms of the paper media, the Guardian is firmly in the Coalition camp (Watt, Wintour and Sparrow) and the only other papers not rabidly pro-right wingers are the Mirror and the Independent. Again, it has been like this for a while. Just stop moaning and blaming everything on the media. Us on the left have known this for ages.

    Finally on the future of the party. You have two challenges in my view. Tactical and Strategic

    The tactical question is how to get through the 2015 GE without massive damage. Voters like me have gone under the current leadership and will not return. How you do that is up to you guys but it is not looking good (paulbarker are you still taking the 25%+ vote in 2015 line?)

    The strategic decisions for post 2015 party positioning need also to be addressed. Are you the party of Clegg, Alexander and Laws or one that is more facing to a more liberal left direction. My feeling is that you will go with the Clegg option, especially after seeing some of the comments this week

    While I am here, just watching Marr having a chat with Farage – Farage is all over the place, no coherence on policy and seeming very nervous but Marr letting him off. BBC has been contemptible in their challenging of UKIP

    Also, on Marr I found that Ashdown also cam across very badly about the leadership question. Pompous, arrogant, patronising and dismissive. I would keep him off tv if I was you

  • Nicholas Pentney
    “…., not on the payroll of the federal party…”

    – a denial of such a precise and particular wording casts more doubts than it dispels. Your intention was to say that you are independently minded. But I fear you may have done the opposite.

    Are we to assume that the word “federal” is there to mean that you are on some other Liberal Democrat payroll?
    Or maybe that you are employed directly by the Leader, as so many people seem to be nowadays?
    Or maybe you work for a lobby group that has a particular interest in propping up one element in the party.?

    I assume that if you were a self employed bricklayer or a hedge-fund millionaire you would have simply said so.

    I was on the payroll of HMG for 40 years, that did not make me any less independent in my views — except of course when I was acting in my official capacity.

  • Peter Chegwyn 1st Jun '14 - 10:21am

    I believe Paddy has already been trying to work on Nick Clegg but, as with the party’s message to the voters, when messages fall on deaf ears….

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jun '14 - 10:27am

    @Martin:

    ” Although a change of leader is out of the question before the next election, this does not mean that the leader cannot and should not change. ”

    Martin, you might not think the answer to the question is ‘Yes’ but it is clear that the change of Leader is very much a question which is being considered by many Lib Dems at the moment and perhaps should have been considered two years ago. It is also a lot more likely that the Leader will be changed (even if this is not very much) than that the leader will change. That is another reason why the leader should be changed.

  • Martin
    I too saw Paddy interviewed by Marr. I was amused by his reference to Iago. Paddy can be a very amusing bloke.

    Auden wrote about Iago as follows —
    “Iago’s treatment of Othello conforms to Bacon’s definition of scientific enquiry as putting Nature to the Question. If a member of the audience were to interrupt the play and ask him: “What are you doing? could not Iago answer with a boyish giggle, “Nothing. I’m only trying to find out what Othello is really like”?

    And we must admit that his experiment is highly successful. By the end of the play he does know the scientific truth about the object to which he has reduced Othello.
    That is what makes his parting shot, —- What you know, you know,—- so terrifying for, by then, Othello has become a thing, incapable of knowing anything.
    ― W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand

    So is Paddy telling us that he Paddy. Is Clegg’s own personal Iago ????

    This comment is being posted at 10.30 am on Sunday 1st June 2014

  • Bill le Breton 1st Jun '14 - 11:08am

    Paddy is still trying to suggest that all those calling for a new Leader are part of an organised and despicable plot. THat is not fair and an unwise accusation. Oakeshott was never a team player, Paddy makes that very point, so why should he have changed his solo habit of a lifetime and been at the centre of some web of undercover action. Who would have followed him????

    Also Paddy argues that all those calling for a new Leader want a radical change in strategy (inferring that they want out of the Coalition now) That is also incorrect and therefore an unwise accusation that may backfire. Six or seven potential leaders are in the wings and none of them would want to leave the coalition now or squander the chance to communicate the constructive role we have played over the last four years.

    As Keith House writes elsewhere today, https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-view-from-the-doorsteps-of-eastleigh-40521.html : the two major problems facing the party are a) mistrust – which falls squarely on Nick Clegg – and secondly our positioning as part of the Establishment, which is also Clegg’s choice from the Rose Garden onwards, every day.

    Both these aspects have become the Clegg Brand and sadly by association our own brand: opportunism and self satisfaction – for a party once characterised by a unique relationship of trust with the Bristsh public and an old fashioned Liberal, anti-Establishment, non-conformist tradition – (ironically recently well characterised by Paddy’s party leadership 1989 – 98).

    It is a dangerous (and divisive) form of defense of Nick Clegg. Today on Piennar Paddy spoke of young people perishing for old men’s dreams … THis is not wartime, but Britain does face enormous problems of inter-community strife and poverty. It needs an old fashioned form of anti-establishment and trusted Liberalism.

  • I have said this before – the only person who could replace Clegg as a leader – and improve our results – is Paddy Ashdown – the main problem for Clegg is the pledge on tuition fees and promise to do things differently – what ever the reasons – this is what has knocked him – and I doubt there is anything he can do. Its rather like getting a car stuck in a muddy field – you can try lots of different ways to get out – even give another driver a try – BUT youre still in the shit and more angry you get the more the shit flies everywhere.
    BUT – I still think Paddy commands a great deal of respect – bring him back for a year – like an interim manager

  • The press mostly represents the Tory Party. It’s very convenient for various tory writers to concentrate their attacks on the Lib Dems. It distracts from the failed reforms, a chancellor who has constructed a recovery from menos and the fact that they were drubbed in the local and euro elections. They’re just lashing out because they do not know what else to do.

  • I’m getting fed up of people such as Paddy Ashdown – who politically I respect – going on TV and suggesting that people like me who have signed the letter are in some way deliberately out to damage the party. I actually found his comment (quoted on the BBC website) that we are acting out of “deep malice” and causing a “distraction” verging on the offensive.

    What Oakeshott did was plotting and probably was malicious – but let’s be honest, he has a track record of this and it didn’t really take long for anyone to figure out who had conducted and leaked the poll, so if it was intended to be hidden then he didn’t make a good job of it. However, tarring those who have signed the LibDems4Change letter with the same brush is a mistake.

    Look at the people who have signed it. Current and past councillors, parliamentary candidates, long standing activists. People who owe their electoral success to the party and its leadership – including Ashdown and Clegg. The vast majority are not people who are trying to rock the boat for a bit of fun – we’re actually concerned about the direction of our party and the policies it is now being linked with. It’s not about the delicacies of coalition – in Scotland, we went through 8 years of coalition with Labour without this kind of problem, because we stuck to the coalition programme which both parties agreed to without deviating from it. In my view, Clegg has actually done a good job as a leader – he at first held together a party which could easily have torn itself apart over the coalition, he has provided a clear Liberal voice on things like human rights and overseas aid, and – when people are willing to listen – has shown a real knack of connecting with voters.

    But something’s happened in the last couple of years. People have just stopped listening. It’s nothing to do with the media – they never paid us attention before, and when they did it was relentlessly negative. Even when that happened, though, voters were still prepared to listen to what Paddy, Charles and Ming had to say. This is something different. They don’t believe Nick, and as a result, don’t believe us when we talk to them. We traded on being the “party of trust” – but for whatever reason, that trust has gone and Nick is so closely linked to the actions which removed it that I don’t think he can come back from it. That’s why we need to get a new voice in place. Nick can stay as DPM, but we need a stronger voice outside the Cabinet, someone prepared to speak out when the Government does something which varies from party policy. Someone who can act as the “critical friend” without the bind of Cabinet responsibility. Someone who can lead us into the GE in 2015 unburdened by office and who will have the time to properly consider and address the party’s policy.

    That’s why I signed the letter. Not because of a strong dislike for Nick (I voted for him, after all.) Not because I think he’s a poor leader. It’s more like a football team, really. You can have Sir Alex Ferguson as your manager, but if it appears that he has lost the respect of the supporters and is starting to lose the dressing room, then it’s time to go.

  • David Evershed – “The Guardian journalists seem to hate Lib Dems because they are in coalition with the Conservatives, not because they disagree with Lib Dem policies.”

    How often do you read The Guardian? Ed Miliband gets a much rougher ride. The Wintour & Watt Clegg love-in may not be as strong as it once was, but it’s not like they’re waging war against the LibDems.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st Jun '14 - 11:37am

    Though I agree with the article about ‘any leader would have this problem’, I am not convinced that we, as a party, have the policies, emphases and determination to hold to them in government whatever way the wind blows. Cameron and the civil service have so many ways to cut us down unless we have the determination to remain solidly against their deceptions. Principles have to be cast in such concrete strength that they cannot be swatted like flies – to be lost in the dust of parliamentary debates.

    Better writers than me have pointed out, above, how intransigent our leaders should have been from the start of this government – in order to combat the public perceptions of our time in government, with or without newspaper shenanigans.

    p.s. Today, Sunday, I listened to the Farage on Marr, and heard that the intending emperor was now wearing our clothes. He’ll be taking time to consult widely and also listen to the public about going forward using well-tried LD tactics. We need to hold our policies with determintion better policies to combat

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st Jun '14 - 11:47am

    Though I agree with the article about ‘any leader would have this problem’, I am not convinced that we, as a party, have the policies, emphases and determination to hold to them in government whatever way the wind blows. Cameron and the civil service have so many ways to cut us down unless we have the determination to remain solidly against their political deceptions. Principles have to be cast in such concrete strength that they cannot be swatted like flies – to be lost in the dust of parliamentary debates.

    Better writers than me have pointed out, above, how intransigent our leaders should have been from the start of this government – in order to combat the public perceptions of our time in government, with or without newspaper shenanigans.

    p.s. Today, Sunday, I listened to the Farage on Marr, and heard how the intending emperor was now wearing our clothes. He’ll be taking time to consult widely and also listen to the public, then he’ll go forward using well-tried LD tactics. We got much right, but too much wrong, and need to hold to our principles and policies with more determination and need a superb ending to this period of government or we will not have the voters with us again. Let’s at least go out with a fight for the people who elected us in 2010.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st Jun '14 - 12:01pm

    Apologies about the double posting – a bit of ”farage grin” transferred to my click finger as beer time approached.

  • jedibeeftrix 1st Jun '14 - 1:20pm

    “The Daily Mail is loving this – the message is surely more important than changing the chief messenger?”

    You won’t get anywhere here on LDV spouting sense like that!

  • Nicholas Pentney – “So what lay behind the media’s anti-Clegg mobilisation? It wasn’t down to any personal animosity towards the man but borne out of concern that his new-found popularity may stop their man getting to No.10. They were partially successful in that the Liberal Democrats suffered a net loss on Polling Day.”
    The author of this piece answers his own question, namely that a pincer movement was formed by four Conservative supporting newspapers to help “their man” and at George Osborne’s behest to co-ordinate the damaging and deceitful stories about Nick Clegg which ultimately proved destructive enough to deflate his popularity.

    As John Tilley remarks,
    “But for just one day back in April 2010 our leader was the darling of the media. His ineptitude in making the most of that is staggering……..Was it as Shirley Williams has said his failure to listen to anyone outside his own little group or any parliamentarian who is older than him? Was it the team which he personally appointed and since have been described as inexperienced, naive and incompetent?”
    Yes to both those questions. Nick Clegg’s “own little group”, assembled specifically for their communications skills, proved themselves completely incompetent in limiting the damage of such a press onslaught. Anyone remotely competent in the field of political PR should have been fully alert to the dangers when The Sunday Times ran a near-baseless teaser to get a reaction to the fact that Clegg was ” apparently” more popular than Christ four days beforehand.
    Instead, Clegg’s team were left frozen in the headlights, refusing to rebut let alone to deny the rubbish that ultimately may have buried over twenty LibDem MPs and the potential either to form a different alliance or to greatly strengthen the party’s hand in negotiations with the Conservatives.

  • SIMON BANKS 1st Jun '14 - 6:32pm

    This post seems to confuse the media treatment of our leader and party with the popular view of them. They’ve often been out of sync in the past.

    I agree that whatever we do, most of the media will lambast us or subtly undermine us. Most, not all. We got some plaudits in the press for our Euro-campaign, but not many voters agreed.

    If changing a leader was all about how well it would run in the “Daily Mail”, I’d accelerate the process of finding interests outside politics to pursue. Neither can opinion polls do much to predict how the impact of a different type of leadership might change our performance for better or worse.

    There are of course the issues of policy and philosophy. Then there’s questions like how good the leader’s judgement is and whether (s)he can inspire the activists or at least some of the general public. A good leader on these points will do better for us in an election than one with poor judgement and incapable of inspiring. That is a general statement about the factors we should look at. For what it’s worth, I think Nick Clegg is severely weak on the second point and patchy on the first, but I’m not convinced about Vince or Tim on the judgement point either.

  • @ Simon Banks, “This post seems to confuse the media treatment of our leader and party with the popular view of them. They’ve often been out of sync in the past.”
    If you are referring to my post, there is convincing polling evidence (referred to after the 2010 election by Mark Pack) that Clegg’s popularity, which had soared after the first TV debate, began to decline after these media attacks even before his rather less successful subsequent performances.
    Nobody has suggested changing the party leader to suit the Daily Mail, but it wouldn’t do us any harm to remind voters of the inaccuracies and distortions which so shackle the LibDems’ ability to get their message across. A message distorted or simply unreported by a large section of the “free press” acts as a ball and chain when you go leafleting their readers.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jun '14 - 4:20pm

    Tony Rowan-Wicks

    Today, Sunday, I listened to the Farage on Marr, and heard how the intending emperor was now wearing our clothes. He’ll be taking time to consult widely and also listen to the public, then he’ll go forward using well-tried LD tactics.

    Today I read in the Guardian that Farage, who got lots of votes from poor people who think conventional politicians are only interested in the wealthy elite, wants to make his first policy priorities cutting tax on the rich and establishing special schools for the children of the elite (i.e. grammar schools).

  • peter tyzack 2nd Jun '14 - 5:16pm

    As Colin says we have one newspaper for us and another against us.. but tell me.. why are newspapers, with their influential powers, allowed to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ anything, especially a political grouping within a supposedly democratic system?
    The ‘right’ to be partisan should be removed from the Press Code, and the press required to report.. just that, REPORT, not interpret or foist their opinion upon us. The only solution that I can see is for us to set up our own media organisation… now there’s a thought.

  • I would take Nick Clegg over Tony Blaire any day of the week. Look at the good press Tony still gets for me he did more harm for the UK than many of his predesors and even after the facts began emerging about him and Brown he is still liked. I guess my point is Nick is the devil you know it’s far from clear that a change would bring better press coverage.

  • “why are newspapers, with their influential powers, allowed to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ anything”

    Essentially for the same reason that Peter Tyzack is allowed to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ anything.

  • Brenda Lana Smith 3rd Jun '14 - 11:31am

    To this former SDP member non-plotter signer of the LibDems4Change letter… Lord Paddy Ashdown’s bullyboy attitude on the 2014-06-01 Andrew Marr has not only undermined our party’s unity, but the cohesion well needed in advance for its electability by May 2015…

  • Brenda Lana Smith 3rd Jun '14 - 11:43am

    Apologies… I omitted “further” above and should read:

    To this former SDP member non-plotter signer of the LibDems4Change letter… Lord Paddy Ashdown’s bullyboy attitude on the 2014-06-01 Andrew Marr has not only further undermined our party’s unity, but the cohesion well needed in advance for its electability by May 2015…

  • It is not the Press it is the Party.

    No political party, since the advent of the 24 hour news cycle has had such unrelentingly negative media coverage as UKIP. Not a single newspaper supported the party, they were ALL hostile. So were all the broadcast stations TV and radio. So were the websites like the Huffington Post. The stories, fed by the Tory party were of individual Kippers being racist, or Nigel’s wife having the audacity to be German, of his alleged expense fiddling. (Never investigated by the EU because as everyone now knows that how the hopelessly corrupt EU parliamentary system works).

    Yet UKIP won the election.

    You don’t need the support of the media to be successful, you need to articulate a political message that inspires people to vote for you.

    You didn’t, despite Nick Clegg having two hours on prime time to do so. It is the rabidly pro EU, pro unlimited immigration, anti British way of life message that he promulgated that is the issue.

  • Matt (Bristol) 3rd Jun '14 - 3:20pm

    Oh yes, Simon, all we here are all anti- the British way of life. I hate it, me. The NHS? Hate it. Charities? Hate’em. Tolerance? Hate it. Welfare? Hate it. Fair play? hate it. Mutual respect? hate it. Agreeing to disagree? Hate it. Compromise? Hate it.

    That’s all we do in the Lib Dems, sit round plotting to overthrow normality and harass old ladies.

    Give it a rest.

  • @ Matt

    If you don’t hate the British way of life why do you support unlimited immigration?

    Oh, and while we are on the subject, exactly how many net immigrants do you want to see arriving in the UK every year?

    I understand that the more the merrier, but quite how many non British people will it take for the British “way of life” to really feel some love?

  • Matt (Bristol) 3rd Jun '14 - 5:08pm

    I am not for unlimited immigration, I am for the relatively free movement of people across Europe, within a system of regulation that has an element of respect for people’s reasons for wanting to move between nations and for the positive benefit they can make to an individual country. I do not think that is antithetical to the British way of life, and I do not think the Polish or Romanian or Nigerian or Russian people I meet with in church, or whose children go to school with my children are on a mission to drive out the British way of life. If anything they are often the people who are supporting and promoting the British way of life, volunteering, helping elderly people, getting involved in charities, helping heal divisions in our community.

    We do not have ‘unlimited’ immigration, but obviously we do not have immigration that is limited enough for you and for UKIP. That is different. You can argue for that, but don’t misrepresent me and those who think like me. I appreciate you have a fair point that your side of the argument may have been misrepresented too, so I say it again as I said it before the elections: UKIP does not have an explicitly racist agenda; it is rather isolationist. I oppose isoliationism.

  • “You can argue for that, but don’t misrepresent me and those who think like me. I appreciate you have a fair point that your side of the argument may have been misrepresented too”

    It is not that our views were misrepresented, although obviously, they were, it is that they were no allowed to be put.

    Until this election anyone who criticised immigration policy was smeared as a “racist.” Which we all know stops debate instantly. It was simply not comme il faut to hold my view, let alone express it, ,and the BBC for example had an explicit policy of not reporting stories that painted immigration in a negative light, because they thought that it promoted racial harmony so to do (It had the opposite effect, I argue). Nick Robinson admitted this recently, you may have noticed.

    This time the race card was played yet again, “UKIP posters are racist” (you may recall the furore) and it didn’t work any more. The dam broke and now we are at last talking about about immigration on empirical grounds.

  • ” I do not think that is antithetical to the British way of life”

    Let me ask you this question. Is there an ANY amount of immigration which WOULD be antithetical to the “British way of life”?

  • Matt (Bristol) 4th Jun '14 - 12:03pm

    This is naturally off-topic, and that is my fault; maybe it requires another thread. However, Simon, to answer your question:
    I feel there are WAYS in which I can see that immigration COULD potentially alter or ‘harm’ the ‘British Way of Life’ (originally your phrase), HOWEVER:
    1) we would need to be in agreement about what the ‘british way of life’ is; I suspect we are running with different definitions.
    2) IF immigration is affecting the ‘BWOL’ adversely, I feel it is likely to be by either the negative behaviour of individuals or by the numerical concentration of individuals in one small area beyond the measurable capacity of the local services and community groups to address their needs (‘swamping’, such as happended in the Sangatte area of France in the 90s, to be crude); I don’t see how simple numerical caps can of themsevles adress such a (hypothetical) situation – the only ways are (in the first instance) robust and fair law enforcement or (in the other instance) the sort of internal passports and monitoring of people movement that has not been seen within a European country since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and would be an infringement of everyone’s human rights.

    It seems too crude to me to say ‘the country is full up’ (how do you know? what measure are you using?) and ‘we’re not having any more poeple from X area to come here’ at a national level (how do you know where they will come?)

    THere you are, I’ve tried to be polite. I hope you will not think these are weasel words, but I fear you will.

    And by the by, before you misconstrue just how positive I am about UKIP, I still think your party is dangerously tempted to use racist insinuations in discussing immigration, I just don’t think your agenda is explicitly racist, so some of the media stories about UKIP were arguably jusitifed.

    And as to how hostlie the ‘entire’ media is to UKIP, I give you Peter Oborne.

  • Of course the author is right to argue that the press will not be kind to liberals. But others posting here have pointed out that this is not new and indeed UKIP has flourished under a storm of abuse from just about every media organisation or established party. UKIP has flourished because they have a cause, and one man who is amiable and broadly respected by the public.

    I wholly disagree with UKIp’s raison d’etre, but Farage from time to time highlights truths about mismanagement and the behaviour of politicians. It isnt behaving like human beings which bothers me in politicians, but pretending to be above sin. Hypocrisy. All that stuff about expenses was fundamentally a con against the voter. Farage has revelled in getting every penny of expenses he can from the EU because he despises the system. UK MPs were the ones in charge who created the system they then set about milking.

    Clegg has gone native. He and the party he has drawn along have stopped being critical of the system and instead embraced it. That is not what I voted for. The one overarchingly important liberal policy was not being either labour or conservative. Sure, the parties plan was to hold the balance of power, but that has not been used effectively. Instead we have seen a coronation by liberals of the conservative party. It makes no difference whether or not libs achieved changes in government policy, because if they did I have no idea what these were. The compromise position seems to me to be a broadly conservative one, whereas the liberal one was woolly and muddled, but with sharp spikes of principle. These all got lost. Conservatives have been allowed to make outrageous claims about saving the nation, unchallenged by liberals.

    Conservative economic policy as enacted is not so very different from what labour had in mind, yet here are the libs saying how great it is and labours plans were rubbish. Meanwhile significant moves towards privatisation, dismantling of the welfare state, further distancing of the state away from responsibility for providing education, or housing,or care services. laissez-faire refusal to intervene when big business shafts the consumer, as of course it must if it is allowd to follow its own imperatives to make money. This just isnt what the party stood for at the election or what voters woted for.

    So blame it on the newspaprs for reporting this? Not really.

  • I feel there are WAYS in which I can see that immigration COULD potentially alter or ‘harm’ the ‘British Way of Life’ (originally your phrase),

    (Apologies for the delay in replying btw I have been offline). Coming to your response quoted:

    So do I. We clearly agree that immigration “could” damage the BWOL in my original phrase.

    Here’s my second question. What factors would influence that “could” you refer to? Would the amount of immigration over a very short period be a factor? Would ten million a year (for the sake of argument, not realistic I know) be more likely to than, say, ten thousand?

  • Matt (Bristol) 5th Jun '14 - 11:32pm

    Simon, I think I’ve already answered you as best I can there. See my point 2).

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jun '14 - 12:03am

    simon

    No political party, since the advent of the 24 hour news cycle has had such unrelentingly negative media coverage as UKIP. Not a single newspaper supported the party, they were ALL hostile.

    However, a great many newspapers have fervently supported the UKIP line, raising the EU as the great enemy, printing as much negative material on the EU as they could find, twisting anything the EU does or leading figures in the EU do or say out of context to make them look bad. The hostility after this seems rather unnatural, I suspect people will see it as just the establishment putting pressure on the newspapers, so they’ve felt forced to attack them.

    The equivalent would be if most of the major newspapers fervently supported the Liberal Democrat line on constitutional reform, were forever arguing its case, forever interpreting news item in a way that suggests problems we experience now are all due to the poor nature of the UK constitution. Those papers might revert to their normal Conservative or Labour line in the election, and and print some strange stuff attacking us which seemed to go against what they had previously said, but I think people would see it as just them caving in to the establishment, and continue to support us on the basis of really believing in this policy which is all ours.

  • If a party has a rapport of trust with its voters, then they are going to believe what the party says about itself and not what the press say about it.
    Those who have supported the Lib Dems in the past have not abandoned them because they believe the press are fair critics, but because they doubt that they can trust the Liberal Democrats to live up to their commitments. Getting those voters back won’t be accomplished by shouting louder, by “nerve,” or by more positive press. Regaining those voters and their votes must involve rebuilding trust: by admitting what’s been done wrong, and committing to do right in the future.
    Please let me know when there are signs that this is what the Party intends to do.

  • “However, a great many newspapers have fervently supported the UKIP line, raising the EU as the great enemy, printing as much negative material on the EU as they could find, twisting anything the EU does or leading figures in the EU do or say out of context to make them look bad.”

    Yes but that is to assume that the major animus to a UKIP vote is Europe. It energises the activists, but opinion polls show it is not crucial to voters, What motivates UKIP voters plus ultra is immigration.

    The Lib Dems are intellectually the most pro immigration party in the firmament. You allow the Tories to constantly portray you as stymieing any control they attempt to introduce (I suspect you do so in actuality but that is irrelevant, the perception of it makes it reality ) and even though we all know this is cynical posturing on their part it is terminally damaging to YOU.

    The Dear Leader’s performances on this subject in the two
    debates were particularly woeful. With quite stunning naivety he accusingly brandished (in both debates!) UKIP anti immigration posters, thinking he was at some Putney dinner party and this would be to condemn the party out of his own mouth. Farage merely disavowed the posters for immediate debating purposes, Meanwhile Clegg had ensured that the message they conveyed reached an audience of millions rather than the handful who had seen them before. Duh!

    It is not that Clegg made himself the champion of the European Union, he made the Lib Dems the champion of the establishment line on immigration. That is where you are now in public perception. And since this is your true position (as evidenced by my many attempts to debate this on here) I don’t see a way forward for you in policy terms. Europe makes this worse, and obviously the two subjects are linked, but your unqualified support for unlimited immigration is both disastrous in electoral terms and part of your DNA. As far as I can see it is a non negotiable core belief.

    Newark last night was just the latest example of the consequences of this. Everyone expected you to lose your deposit, but coming sixth!? You are a party of Government yet you achieved Raving Loony like voting numbers. Extraordinary.

    Now coming back to your point, you could argue that sections of the press are viciously anti mass immigration. That is true, but the reason the likes of the Mail and the Sun strike such a chord is that voters see their communities changed in front of their eyes, or are concerned that they will be next, or in the case of the target Essex constituencies they saw that a generation ago in the East End and are undergoing it second time around.

    British politics now is not Education, Education, Education. It is Immigration, Immigration, Immigration.

    You have nothing to say on this subject as a party. You aren’t even discussing it among yourselves on here. You know best and the voters are wrong.

  • Sorry to have to agree with your last couple of paragraphs, Simon. Restrictions on immigration are rarely discussed on here and obviously a problem for the party of “in”.
    Meanwhile, nobody around Clegg will listen to criticism of their media policy – in particular how to counter relentlessly negative headlines and vituperative opinion pieces in 70% of the press.
    Maintaining this coalition in a Tory-lite role after coming sixth in Newark, behind an independent and sandwiched between a Green and Nick the Flying Brick , will simply provide the LibDems with a smashing epitaph if the party doesn’t change course.

  • “Sorry to have to agree with your last couple of paragraphs, Simon.”

    You don’t need to apologise Sean. I am only articulating what a lot of decent people think. You can ignore them, you can despise them, you can insult them or you can reach out to them.

    The choice is yours as a party.

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