Opinion: What should the new leader do in his first 100 days?

In a week or so’s time, the Lib Dems will have a new leader – either Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne will have succeeded Ming Campbell. Lib Dem Voice is inviting party members to tell us what you think should be his top priorities. First up, is noted Lib Dem blogger, Paul Walter…

Without doubt, the priority for the new leader is to have an almighty media blitz in the first 100 days: Visits, interviews, tours, articles….you name it, the new leader should suddenly appear everywhere 24 hours a day for 100 days.

Can’t be done? Oh all right then, but it should be done as much as possible. If the new leader appears invisible, even for a couple of days of the 100, or falters in any way shape or form, he will be pounced upon as “not as good as Vince Cable” and then that will be it. The new leader will be history. Toast.

I am particularly thinking along the lines of Paddy Ashdown’s ‘Listening to Britain’ tour…or whatever it was that he described in his book that I fell asleep in the middle of.

I am not proposing something exactly like Paddy’s tour, when he rolled up his sleeves and stayed or worked with normal people. But something like that which gives the new leader maximum ‘macho’ visibility for 100 days.

It has to be breathless and, by the way, forget about Christmas – the new leader has to be visible all over the holidays. In particular the new leader should be like a greyhound out of the trap to criticize the government about any events which occur. Shameless hijacking of events should be the order of the 100 days. And if it means the leader muscling in on some of the front bench briefs then so be it.

On PMQs, the new leader will have to be just as good, if not better than Vince Cable. A tough job, I know, but it’s got to be done. Plenty of humour, particularly.

Oh, and, cribbing an idea from Ming and James Graham, the new leader MUST have a web site which says where he is at any given time. A map of the country with ‘he is here’ on it and videos of what he’s up to. We cannot afford to have another leader who appears to have gone AWOL for large chunks of time.

Shadow cabinet changes? Who gives a monkeys’? I don’t, and I don’t think most voters do. We actually have a very talented front bench and I don’t think much change is necessary.

Policy – we’ve got it – but we need to insert it into the public’s mind via issues as they arise. In particular I would like every person in the country to have etched onto their grey matter the fact that we want to knock four pence off the basic rate of income tax.

Internal structures – most of all we need a proper media grid for each day to ensure that we are hitting the media virtually everyday. To do this we will have to break some sort of paradigm to pass the “so what?” test. If you don’t break a paradigm, for some reason the press aren’t interested.

Goodness knows what paradigm we are going to break… Perhaps the first 100 days of the new leader should be sub-titled ‘Search for a paradigm (to break)’. Except that the search for that paradigm will have to be over within about three seconds of the announcement of the new leader.

It’s a tough job, isn’t it?

* Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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21 Comments

  • Martin Land 10th Dec '07 - 2:05pm

    I said it, I’ll say it again… The first thing he must do is kick his colleagues out of the House and send them out into the constituencies to re-enthuse members, recruit more, get local press coverage – in other words start to help to rebuild our base.
    Secondly he should go into the Temple – sorry, Cowley Street – and overturn a few tables.

  • Geoffrey Payne 10th Dec '07 - 2:16pm

    I have managed to get his colleagues out into my constituency. This year we had Chris Huhne and Charles Kennedy, next year (February 25th) we get Steve Webb and maybe some others if we decide to invite them.
    To be fair being based in Hackney makes this relatively easy (central London constituencies take note).
    However another important part of the equation is that I wrote to them and asked them to come over.
    If you have done that with no luck, then you have a good point.

  • 1/ offer Charles Kennedy a real front bench post – maybe Foreign Affairs (sorry Michael) that would win a lot of praise together with not demoting the leadership runner up.
    2/ I want the new leader to talk of holistic liberalism: personal ambition, social justice, localism and eco-system survival and to coin a phrase like Live and Let Live.
    3/ I would like to see him (I presume it will be a him) establish a grass-roots revival of the party. I would also like to see an ideas “drop box” on the main Lib Dem web site for, well anything: ideas, slogans, questions, jokes because everyone comes up with a gem at some point.

  • A walking talking billboard for the party has got to lead by example, which means not only talking the talk, but walking the walk as well.

    All the cliches are true and all the criticisms have their grain of truth – there is no challenge bigger than politics, as there is no task nobler than to make the liberal argument and there is no victory greater than won by liberal mandate.

  • Andrew Duffield 10th Dec '07 - 3:37pm

    An early priority should be to initiate Tax Commission 3 so that we have something positive to offer the next generation – especially as lower paid workers are about to see their tax doubled.

  • Appoint a serious body (commission ?) into our armed forces – chaired by Sir Menzies Campbell.

    To assess and report on:

    Role – what ARE they expected to do?
    Procurement – are we buying the right tools, at the right price?
    Support – housing, health care and families
    Structure – does it still make sense to have three services?

    And do we really need more admirals than ships; more squadron leaders than planes; more colonels than regiments?

    Not a traditional cuddly wuddly Liberal subject, but one that is critically important to our nation’s role in the world, and – literally – a matter of life and death to many families.

  • I like crewegwyn’s idea about using Campbell for an Armed Forces Commission. Give him back some credibility to in a subject matter where he has particular interest and merit.

  • he needs to actually lead the party. As a member I feel left out. There is no communication and my local conference was as usual badly organised. I would hope that he gets better advicers to help him promote the party at a national level, using bold schemes, do more to attract new members at a local level whilst trying to keep on board current members. This can be done by more involvment, better communitcation and clearer messages about future agendas ect. Then we need clear, bold policies which are understandable and will appeal to the public

  • Cheltenham Robin 10th Dec '07 - 9:35pm

    3 things you can do today (where have I heard that before?)

    Expose Cameron for the sham he is!

    Expose the Tories for the nasty party they are!

    Demonstrate that the Lib Dems are a force for change!

  • Tell the Liberal Democrat team at the Welsh Assembly to sort themselves out.

  • Dan Falchikov 10th Dec '07 - 11:14pm

    I’d hope he spends the first 14 days or so doing not very much and try to enjoy probably his last Christmas and New Year without too much media intrusion while recharging his batteries.

    I’d then turn up at my office in Westminster/Cowley Street on 3rd January and do a thorough audit of activity, then talk to experts like Chris Rennard, Tony Greaves and Jon Oates and pull together a campaign and communication strategy.

    I’d then talk to my ‘shadow shadow’ cabinet colleagues and gently let about two thirds of them down by sacking them from Westminster and sending them out to smooch with regional and local journos…

    I’d then find a back of an envelope and write down three things I wanted to say, fold it up put it in my pocket and refer to it just before I opened my mouth in public every time for the next four years.

  • Mark – Good to have you posting here. Best wishes, Tim

  • In fact Vince has bounced us: he did not consult “the party” on what to do about the Saudi official dinner, and he did not consult the party about whether to nationalise Northern Rock. Indeed, over the last two years Vince has very much developed his own line on debt and the British economy. The lessons that I draw from this is that (1) sometimes you need to make policy quickly, and that means on your own or with advisors (MPs or other), (2) when you have expertise, as Vince does on the economy, you can and should use it.

    The party was clearly supportive of Vince on the Saudi issue. He was principled, and right. On Northern Rock most party members have no clue as to what should have been done as the crisis began, or what should be done now: it is a technical issue. Here it does make sense to trust someone who understands the issue, and for the rest of us (frankly) to shut up and let Vince get on with it.

    So yes, I think Vince has shown that leaders should have the power to lead, and that this model works well.

    [also posted to the Vince/Titley thread]

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