Ryan Coetzee: an excellent appointment

I’ll happily admit that Ryan Coetzee’s name is one I’ve have been hard-pressed to remember at the start of this week, and one which I still have to double-check the spelling of. Yet at a vague remove I’ve been impressed with his work with the Democratic Alliance in South Africa, for whom he has been at various times both an MP and their Chief Executive.

They’ve done some very impressive online campainging, pulled off some good election results, had a successful overhaul of their organisation and managed the politically very difficult task of taking a party rooted in white support and starting to win significant support from the black community too. Cross-community support in a country as polarised as South Africa is very hard to pull off.

Which is why I think his appointment as the new strategy advisor to Nick Clegg is really good news.

There is much more to him than online campaigning (as this piece on the nature of liberalism shows), but as that’s an area I have a particular interest in given my own past with the party, it’s particularly good to see someone appointed who has the sort of natural understanding of the power of social media evidenced in this article from 2011. Oh, and he’s already following me on Twitter 🙂

Of course, what really matters is not his past but how he does in the job. The early signs, however, are promising.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Tony Dawson 8th Sep '12 - 8:21am

    Ryan looks like an excellent appointment if Nick Clegg needs re-grounding in international Liberalism. I thought the largest perceived problem, however,was lack of communication with and understanding of the wider Party?

  • Bill le Breton 8th Sep '12 - 1:13pm

    I hope he has time and a chance to influence how the Party manages the Autumn Statement. It is the next big test and the next great opportunity. We should be publishing our positions now and campaigning for them. A few Whitehall pavement statements about progress, red lines and most importantly the strategic approach and vision for the country that we are trying to achieve as EQUAL members of the Coalition. It takes two in this dance to tango.

  • Simon Titley 8th Sep '12 - 11:34pm

    The bar for leader’s advisers was set exceptionally low by Richard Reeves, who (amongst other things) came up with the spectacularly naff idea of ‘Alarm Clcok Britain’. Ryan Coetzee would have a tough job doing any worse than that.

  • For the record, some of us remain Social Democrats and are less than impressed by mainland European Liberals.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Sep '12 - 10:05am


    For the record, some of us remain Social Democrats and are less than impressed by mainland European Liberals.

    Firstly, Mr Coetze’s ‘mainland’ of Liberalism is Africa, rather than Europe, where his antecedents are the ‘pink people’s progressive party’ of Helen Suzman et al. Not a bad place to start from.

    Secondly, most decent political analysis of the ‘Social Democrats’ who formed the original ‘alliance’ was that they were (in their leadership, at least) collectively far too ‘liberal’ for many of the then Liberal Party members with who they were patching up. In truth, both parties were broad coalitions. Nevertheless, the resultant coalition is significantly better having lost Owen, Finkelstein, Horam et al.

    Is there something ‘politically unfortunate’ about the surname Reeves? Rachel of that name is arguably the worst performer on the Labour front bench.

  • I agree with Tony. An internal appointment of someone with big grassroots and local government experience, and with a wider understanding of economic and ideological thought in the party would have been so much better.

    For someone who has lived and worked in Southern Africa (Swaziland, after independence and before the fall of apartheid next door) I am, however, glad to see influence from that part of the world. The liberal tradition is extremely strong, given the way that authoritarianism across the region has been and is still strong.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Sep '12 - 10:39am

    @BrianD: Well that’s OK, because Ryan Cotzee is a South African liberal. But addressing your comment, I would be quite happy to support most mainland European liberal parties. I think one must be very careful commenting on political parties in other countries where the political milieu is very different; if I were living in Germany, for example, I think I would favour significant deregulation. Our MEPs seem happy working alongside parties like the FDP, and I doubt we would really fit in with the S&D group, many of whom are unreconstructed socialists.
    @Geoffrey Payne: Indeed, once you read what people in the DA actually believe, and not ANC propaganda about the DA (which is what the international media tends to print), then of course it’s easy to accept that the DA is a liberal party.

  • Mark Smulian 9th Sep '12 - 11:57am

    This article, published in Liberator in 2008, may cast some light on the DA, a party whose liberal heritage is pretty impressive.
    It was adapted from its leader Helen Zille’s speech to that year’s Liberal International congress: http://www.liberator.org.uk/article.asp?id=141404062

  • Paul Holmes 9th Sep '12 - 12:52pm

    Having just got back from dropping my youngest daughter off to start her University life I was wallowing nostalgically and enviously in memories of how much I enjoyed my degree course back in the 1970’s. So I read the analysis of Liberalism in a South African context with great interest -it would have gone down well in my first term unit on the origins of Western Political Thought or my Third Year unit on Apartheid.

    I’m not convinced however that it will win us a single vote on UK doorsteps.

    Like Tony Dawson I would have been more reassured by the appointment of an advisor to Nick who for once was rooted in our Party rather than being an esoteric academic or Think Tank wonk. But at least Ryan has also had some down to earth political experience in the South African context and might be adaptable enough to quickly get to grips with the reality of our electoral position here.

    Nor did I think that the use or misuse of Twitter was the root cause of our current collapse in membership/activists/votes and political credibility.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Sep '12 - 2:25pm

    @Paul Holmes:

    “Nor did I think that the use or misuse of Twitter was the root cause of our current collapse in membership/activists/votes and political credibility.”

    Indeed, though the abundance of tweets running the AV ‘Yes’ campaign hardly did us much good. 🙁

  • Paul Pettinger 9th Sep '12 - 8:15pm

    Struggle to think how he can he be worse that his predecessor Richard ‘Social liberals should join Labour’ Reeves; http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/19/libdemconference.liberaldemocrats

  • Bill le Breton 11th Sep '12 - 9:46am

    Paul, how helpful to be reminded of this extraordinarily devisive piece or for Lib Dems like me who took our eyes off the ball in the mid-Noughties (trusting the collective wisdom of the Party) to be shown it for the first time.

    Peter Watson, if you are tuned in, I hope won’t have the misfortune to follow the link in the article to this further piece: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/sep/15/libdemconference.liberaldemocrats1

    In Sept 2008 when the leader was celebrating ‘getting through conference’ support for £20 billion tax cuts, the money measurement of GDP was falling at an annualized rate of 8% , tax revenues were falling off a cliff, firms and people were deleveraging and the only agent in the economy able to stop the economy falling into a very deep depression was Government spending.

    Anyone responsible for employing “smasher” Reeves or failing to see what was happening in the economy at that time should admit their failings and leave the field.

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