Ryan Coetzee switches from Clegg’s Director of Strategy to Lib Dems’ General Election Director of Strategy

Ryan+CoetzeeIt’s almost two years since Ryan Coetzee was appointed as Nick Clegg’s director of strategy, replacing Richard Reeves. His experience as a liberal politician and campaigner with South Africa’s Democratic Alliance meant that he was welcomed, even by many of those often sceptical of advisers and their worth.

One of his first actions was to start identifying the Lib Dem ‘market’, those voters who would consider voting for the party. His research, backed up by the party’s first major private polling operation about which I wrote here, has informed much of the national party’s campaigning since, including its “Stronger society, fairer economy” strapline.

However, his publicly funded special adviser role had started to attract some controversy. Labour, for instance, demanded an inquiry into his role (presumably forgetting/ignoring the fact that Alistair Campbell once served as the Government’s director of communications).

At the start of this month, therefore, Ryan switched roles, from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office to Lib Dem HQ in Great George Street as the party’s General Election Director of Strategy. Here’s how the role was advertised:

Purpose:
To develop and lead the delivery of a strategy that will allow the Liberal Democrats to maximise their success in the 2015 General Election and to come out of the election as a party of government for a historic second time.

Key Responsibilities:
1. To advise and work with the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to determine political strategy.
2. To lead the realisation of the agreed political strategy by providing active and inspirational leadership at every level of the party.

However, as Ryan enters Lib Dem HQ, one long-term staffer exits: as PR Week reported last month, after eight years working for Nick Clegg and the party, Lib Dem director of political comms Tim Snowball has replaced Jo Foster (a former deputy chief of staff to Nick) as head of PHA Media’s political strategy:

Snowball joined Clegg’s parliamentary office in 2006, managing his leadership bid and then heading the leader’s office in opposition. He led his general election tour, was involved in the coalition negotiations and transferred into the new Deputy Prime Minister’s office for the first year of the current Government.

In 2011 he became the first Liberal Democrat staffer in the Government to make a move back to party headquarters, where he was chief of staff and political secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, and more recently director of political comms.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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48 Comments

  • “His publicly funded special adviser role had started to attract some controversy. … At the start of this month, therefore, Ryan switched roles, from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office to Lib Dem HQ in Great George Street as the party’s General Election Director of Strategy.”

    Right, so the smart way to employ a party political campaign organiser is to let the taxpayer meet the great bulk of the salary cost, up until the last 9 months before the election. Then, for that final 15% of the electoral period, the party had better pick up the tab. Otherwise somebody might notice, and grumble.

    Groundbreaking reform project of the century to restore trust in British politics, anyone?

  • Joshua Dixon 13th Aug '14 - 12:48am

    “including its “Stronger society, fairer economy” strapline.” – It has obviously caught on well LOL

  • Paul in Wokingham 13th Aug '14 - 9:08am

    One of his first actions was to start identifying the Lib Dem ‘market’, those voters who would consider voting for the party.

    So how is that working out, then? Have we got the worried recycler vote sewn up now? Because I recall that the new recruits were supposed to be people whose biggest concerns included which colour recycling box the cardboard goes in.

    “Lead the realisation of the agreed political strategy by providing active and inspirational leadership at every level of the party.”

    We’re doomed.

  • Martin Pierce 13th Aug '14 - 9:26am

    Ooh, there’s a shock! Must have got the job on the back of the fabulously successful Lib Dem strategy over the last 2 years

  • Martin Pierce 13th Aug '14 - 9:29am

    Wonder who else applied and what the process was? Stephen’s article implies it was opposition criticism of funding arrangements that prompted it and ‘therefore’ that he has moved roles. Whole thing stinks – but worse is that despite initial high expectations he’s made no perceptible difference to the mess and therefore we know what the likely outcome next May will be (if we didn’t already)

  • Nick Barlow 13th Aug '14 - 9:37am

    I’m trying to work out if someone usually as on message as Stephen coming out with ‘stronger society, fairer economy’ is an example of the real impact Coetzee has had (rather than what they say he has) or if the slogan has been changed by HQ’s Ministry of Truth, and the fact it was ever anything else has been confined to the memory hole?

  • John Roffey 13th Aug '14 - 9:43am

    I suppose with this Purpose:

    “To develop and lead the delivery of a strategy that will allow the Liberal Democrats to maximise their success in the 2015 General Election and to come out of the election as a party of government for a historic second time.”

    Ryan Coetzee’s job was not to save or increase the number of councillors or MEPs, but to ensure it could remain in coalition with the Tories after the next GE. Which does explain what has happened since he took up his post.

    Apart from providing ‘active and inspirational leadership at every level of the party’ I suppose he is still on course [just] to keep NC as DPM – and he cannot yet be deemed to have failed.

    If enough fanciful stories can be invented, failure cannot be deemed absolute until the GE votes have been counted!

  • “However, as Ryan enters Lib Dem HQ, one long-term staffer exits: as PR Week reported last month, after eight years working for Nick Clegg and the party, Lib Dem director of political comms Tim Snowball has replaced Jo Foster (a former deputy chief of staff to Nick) as head of PHA Media’s political strategy”

    Being Lib Dem director of political communications was a tough job. Maybe he was just tired of being a Snowball in hell …

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '14 - 10:53am

    So, despite the fact that there have been huge failings in our party’s national image making and strategy, we have a sort of merry-go-round in which the people responsible for all that just swap positions with each other. It would have been a really good idea to have brought in someone new, who has long-term success in local campaigning for our party, and who doesn’t view it in the way the Westminster Bubble views it. Throughout my lifetime’s involvement with the party, the Westminster Bubble has always got it ludicrously wrong due to its complete lack of knowledge of how the party works at local level, and whenever the party has followed the path that the Bubble has urged on it, it has done badly.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Aug '14 - 10:53am

    Epps, Allen, Wilde, Dixon, Caractacus, Paul, Pierce, Barlow, Roffey, see me after class in Room 101.

    As Stephen says, the Cortzee slogan has always been “Stronger Society, Fairer Economy”.

    You are dangerously unpatriotic to Oceana if you think that anyone our heroes in the Ministry of Truth would have come up with a slogan such as “Stronger Economy, Fairer Economy”.

    What can you be thinking of?! Have you stopped taking the pills.

  • Paul In Wokingham 13th Aug '14 - 11:22am

    Carney has just announced that the BoE has reduced wage growth forcecasts for 2014 from 2.5% to 1.25%.

    There is an obvious issue of how wage increases are split between the burgeoning army of self-employed (up 10% in the last 12 months), those on zero-hour contracts and the rest who are in regular employment.

    But an increase of only 1.25% is below inflation and the headline is that the squeezed-middle phenomenon continues. Polls routinely report that people feel the economy is improving but their personal situation is not. That view might be changing: asset valuations continue to rise (suggesting their is strength somewhere) but real income is falling.

    The message about fairer/stronger economy/society is a hard sell when people see the rich getting richer and themselves getting poorer.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Aug '14 - 12:04pm

    And Paul, that MPC’s estimate of NAIRU is now down to 5.5% … that should now be the Party’s target – we should publish our own ‘forward guidance’ we should be saying we’d oppose interest rate rises until unemployment down to 5.5 or 6% –

    We should prepare to fight an election as the party determined to reduce unemployment to at least 5.5% !

    Remember how the Leadership savaged SLF last year for ‘daring’ to set target for unemployment at 6 or 6.5% rather than Carney’s (then) Forward Guidance of 7% given unemployment level then of 7.5% !!!!

    The poverty of ambition was striking

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '14 - 12:07pm


    One of his first actions was to start identifying the Lib Dem ‘market’, those voters who would consider voting for the party.

    That’s a strategy that might work if we had proportional representation, so a party stumbling along on about 10% of the vote could get somewhere. It appeals to people leading comfortable upper middle class lives, with a good steady income, well housed, and no big financial threats, well-educated and so appreciative of the more abstract and far away political issues that are “classical liberal” in the old sense of that phrase. There may be the odd constituency here and there where such people form the majority – under FPTP they’re the only ones which will elect us MPs if we stick to that strategy.

    If we want to win more than the odd well-off but liberal-minded constituency, however, we should be identifying what it is that causes people NOT consider voting Lib Dem and finding out what we can do to change their minds. Clearly there are some people who are fundamentally illiberal in viewpoint, and, yes, we should write them off. However, I think in most cases one would find they are people who have been turned off all politics, dismissing it all as “wealthy types obsessed with their own irrelevant policies who neither know nor care how people like us live, and the difficulties we experience getting by”. Such people would not necessarily be hostile to the classical liberal issues, but need to see how they can be linked with their own lives, and also need some indication that we are on their side against the powers-that-be. That was why the community politics strategy worked so well, as it started off with the issues that immediately concerned people and led outwards from that. Or, at least, the leading outwards was what it was meant to do – the problem was that the strategy was never fully worked through as for various reasons it tended to get stuck at the first stage.

    Community politics worked by deliberately not being “politics” as most people suppose it, that is, about a glossy centrally produced image and national leaders. In that way it got over the suspicions that cause people not even to go any further with a communication from any political party. It got them interested because it seemed to be about them, not about politicians. The next stage was to revive the idea of democracy, the power of the ballot box, as it being about making an active choice of representatives rather than passive selection of a national party image, and also as about democracy involving active campaigning and co-operation between people and representatives, and the political party as a mechanism for doing this rather than just a sales mechanism for what was decided nationally by the national leaders. In this way, many people who would not have initially considered themselves “liberals” came to see that they were.

    Westminster Bubble and big-business ad-men type just can’t see this, because their whole lives are all about selling a national product downwards, about treating ordinary people are passive consumers who are there to be persuaded to buy a branded product rather than as people who are to be helped to take power for themselves and throw off the controlling power of the establishment.

    We very desperately need NEW people at the top, people who are able to see things differently and to question the established model of politics and the assumptions about how it works.

    If professional public relations people really were doing what we are told we need them for, then politics and political parties in this country would be more popular than ever. But the opposite is true. All mainstream political parties have engaged slick professional PR people who are supposed to be experts in making things more popular, and the net result is that all mainstream political parties have lost popularity.

  • Clearly the Tory / Coalition slogan should be “We’ll pillage the economy, and to hell with society.”

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I think your analysis is sound – but I think UKIP has already grabbed the ‘disenchanted vote’ – it is why their appeal is so broad.

    Although Farage is accused of being shallow – the problem is that the numbers understanding the complexity of political thought are quite low – so any attempt to attract the disenchanted in any number has to have a direct and simple appeal [as Immigration has for UKIP].

    I think this can only be achieved by a few, or at least one, big and distinctive policy that is unique to the Party.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Aug '14 - 12:29pm

    Matthew, I think you will find that the original estimate was that 25% of the electorate (sorry ‘market’) would share the identified values. That the latest VI figures are circa 8% gives weight to your argument that this approach was and remains an incompetent ‘strategy’ for building support for the Liberal Democrats.

    Payment by results NOT.

  • @ Bill le Breton

    I think if you keep in mind the ‘purpose’ in Coetzee’s contract – you will see why the Party cannot stray far from Tory policy – certainly not any financial policy laid down by Osborne.

  • jedibeeftrix 13th Aug '14 - 1:13pm

    @ MH – with you on the first paragraph, and yes people of a fundamentally authoritarian bent are not a natural constituency.

    But success in a fptp country (adversarial people and system), will require more than the post-politics disenfranchised.

    It needs to talk across the spectrum of the soft left and soft right. The common ground, explicitly not the centre ground.

  • paul barker 13th Aug '14 - 1:26pm

    With 4 months to the official start of The Election Campaign isnt it time that people with nothing positive to say say nothing instead ? You can go back to relentless negativity after next May.

  • Peter Watson 13th Aug '14 - 1:52pm

    @paul barker
    So now’s your chance to say something positive about the fruits of Ryan Coetzee’s first two years, and the glorious outcome we can expect from the 2015 election …

  • David Evans 13th Aug '14 - 1:58pm

    I think it would be better if paul barker stopped complaining about the fact that some of us can see the disaster coming, because he certainly doesn’t like us pointing it out.

  • David Allen 13th Aug '14 - 3:36pm

    John Roffey, I agree with Matthew (on the “Vince” thread) that we won’t find salvation by grandstanding on foreign affairs. It’s true that we did gain votes on the Iraq issue in 2005, but in that case Britain was a key player and we had warned Blair at the right time that he was playing it wrongly. Whilst we have the right to speak out over Gaza, it doesn’t look as if we have a unique contrbution to make. So if we boast too strongly about our foreign affairs expertise, we will only look as if we are doing it to cover up for inadequacies in dealing with the bread-and-butter issues.

    However, I do think you’ve hit the nail in identifying the importance of Coetzee’s contract and its provision to insist on the key aim “to come out of the election as a party of government for a historic second time”. This is an aim which unites the pure careerists on one side and Orange Book ideologues on the other. Whilst this party pretends an interest in coalition with Labour, that is merely in order to assist in blaming Labour for the fact that it will not happen. Coetzee’s contract is to deliver a continuing Tory coalition, which is what our leadership has always wanted.

    Quite how Clegg has managed to conceal this aim from so many of his party’s own activists never ceases to amaze me. The total absence of a coherent campaign strategy over the last few months has, I suspect, been deliberate. In the face of a concerted challenge to the leadership from libdems4change and LibDem Fightback, the leadership response has been to keep its heads down, say nothing too concrete, and hope that it will all blow over.

    Meanwhile, Clegg knows very well what his strategy will be. It will be to defend our “record of action” as the Coalition, and to make “a promise of more” of the same. Reasons will be found to explain why Labour are beyond the pale. The Lib Dems will be positioned as the only real centrist counterbalance to a hard-right Tory party. They will be so keen to act as the constraint and counterbalance to the Tories, in fact, that they will unconditionally back a further five years of Tory-led government. It is a strategy which might succeed in maintaining a 10% vote and a rump of some 30 seats.

    None of this will achieve what Coetzee’s contract calls for without one final twist. Cameron must be love-bombed and seduced into renewing the Coalition, even if the electoral arithmetic does not demand it. Expect to see Cameron and Clegg on one side of this struggle, with Boris and UKIP on the other. Cameron can be persuaded that he needs Clegg to fend off his toughest challengers – who are not Ed and Ed, but Boris and Nigel. That how Clegg plans to get back into government for another five years. If we let him.

  • John Roffey 13th Aug '14 - 3:57pm

    @ David Allen

    Yes I agree and particularly with “Quite how Clegg has managed to conceal this aim from so many of his party’s own activists never ceases to amaze me. The total absence of a coherent campaign strategy over the last few months has, I suspect, been deliberate.”

    This is not the Westminster bubble – this is the Coalition Negotiators bubble.

  • Gary Fuller 13th Aug '14 - 4:04pm

    Nice work if you can get it (and can do the job well). I hope HQ got advice on compliance with the age discrimination aspects of equality legislation when they decided 10 years’ experience was essential.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '14 - 4:19pm

    John Roffey

    I think your analysis is sound – but I think UKIP has already grabbed the ‘disenchanted vote’ – it is why their appeal is so broad.

    Yes, and this illustrates what UKIP are really about, which is a distraction, a way of getting disaffected people to focus on something else instead of what is really causing their disaffection.

    The EU is not the cause of people’s disaffection. The EU is almost completely irrelevant to why so many people are unhappy with politics in this country. I say “almost completely” because there I think the political establishment just doesn’t get why so many people who aren’t part of the wealthy elite don’t regard continuing high immigration as a blessing, and UKIP have been able to exploit some genuine concerns there. However, membership of the EU is not the only factor pushing immigration, and immigration is not the only thing the EU is about.

    UKIP has no answers whatsoever to the bigger causes of disaffection, which are growing inequality and distancing of control of the economy. If anything, UKIP would make these things worse, not better. UKIP stands for even more extreme globalisation than the mainstream political parties, and its major funding stream is people who don’t like the EU because of the way the EU stands in the way of complete domination by the international super-rich.

    I appreciate that finding an imaginary enemy and getting people all worked up about that imaginary enemy is a common tactic used by elites who want to keep the plebs off their case. In the UK, from the 16th to the 19th century the Roman Catholic Church served this role. In many other places and other times, it was the Jews.

  • John Roffey 13th Aug '14 - 5:12pm

    Matthew

    Denigrate UKIP if you will, but it has served a very useful service to the public in that it has severely disrupted the comfortable arrangement between all three of the mainstream parties since 2010 – which sees the vast majority get poorer and the very richest get far richer.

    I do agree that UKIP do not have the policies to tackle the very troubling issues that you highlight in your post, however, Farage has expressed an inclination to include a limited form of Direct Democracy in UKIP’s manifesto – which to my mind is the best hope to start the process of recovery. We will have to wait and see if this will materialize.

    The problems we have can be blamed very squarely on the fact that the electorate has little or no influence on the politicians they have elected apart from choosing whether to kick them out once every five years. The right form of Direct Democracy would change this dynamic and should prevent the government of the day from introducing legislation that is too far from the people’s wishes along with obliging them to enact measures they would like put in place.

    Although I can understand from a Liberal Democrats point of view that this is not the best solution – in truth it is far more reliable than any three party solution – and I believe we have got to a point where a reliable solution is desperately needed.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Aug '14 - 9:02am

    “One of his first actions was to start identifying the Lib Dem ‘market’, those voters who would consider voting for the party.”

    I totally dispute this claim.

    I live in a town where the Lib Dems have, in the last two years’ local elections, just gained their best elections results EVER, following a general election where we gained our best results ever. Unless he is one of those irritating ‘chuggers’ relentlessly mithering the shoppers on Chapel Street, we have not seen hide nor hair of Ryan Coetze. By ‘EVER’ btw I do mean since dinosaur ruled the earth, not merely since they were moved into Cowley Street and then Great George Street.

    The people in this town do not have two heads. They are demographically very little different to those up the road in two neighboring constituencies where we poll very poorly and do not even put up candidates in local elections. How is it, then, that three to four times as many people vote Lib Dem here compared to the same sort of people elsewhere? Ryan Coetze does not know.

    Faced with this lack of knowledge, it has not been surprising that there has been a total absence of strategy. Note that I do not say ‘bad strategy’ or ‘inadequate strategy’. There has been no strategy whatsoever. At best, Mr Coetze’s interesting input has generated the odd ‘tactical tweak’. Not, if you look at outputs, that you would notice.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 9:50am

    John Roffey

    Denigrate UKIP if you will, but it has served a very useful service to the public in that it has severely disrupted the comfortable arrangement between all three of the mainstream parties since 2010 – which sees the vast majority get poorer and the very richest get far richer.

    It has done nothing of the sort. It is doing nothing whatsoever to challenge the policies that are causing the vast majority to get poorer and the very rich to get richer. It is doing the opposite – it is in favour of those policies in an even more extreme form. It wants more of the sort of Thatcherite policies that have led to this. At the root of the anti-EU fervour that has been whipped up and it is exploiting is the very rich who don’t like the international co-operation of the EU standing in the way of the very rich getting even richer at the expense of the poor. Oh, they don’t put it quite that way in the stuff they put put to the plebs, but if you look at the real factual details of why the political right in this country is anti-EU, that’s what it actually comes down to. Most of UKIP’s funding comes from a very rich person who funds it because he thinks the Tories aren’t right-wing enough. The aim of UKIP is to make the UK some sort of tax haven, a playground for the global super-rich, with British people turned into servants for them, or if they get uppity replaced by indentured imported labour, which is more likely to do as it is told.

    I denigrate UKIP precisely because of this, the way that it is taking away people’s righteous anger at the way the vast majority get poorer and the very richest get far richer and focussing it on something other than what is causing that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 10:01am

    John Roffey

    Farage has expressed an inclination to include a limited form of Direct Democracy in UKIP’s manifesto – which to my mind is the best hope to start the process of recovery.

    Nope, “Direct Democracy” is often a tool of tyrants. Carefully pick the topics you want referendums on, and present a biased case so you get the result you want. Then shut down real discussion on the grounds “the people have spoken, how can you go against them?”.

    I saw this in the small example of the referendum for a directly elected mayor in the London Borough of Lewisham when I was Leader of the Opposition there. What a directly elected mayor actually means is abolition of voting rights for elected representatives and all power over the council put into the hands of one person. But obviously it was not put like that in the propaganda the New Labour group who ran the council put out about it. The penny only dropped with the people once the mayor was in place, and my answer to so many pieces of casework and queries people were putting to me was “Sorry, after the executive mayor system was introduced, councillors like me no longer get the information I would need to deal with your query, and we don’t get to vote on it either, so there’s no point in you coming to me about it”.

    See how we get this big push for referendums from the right-wing press and their super-rich owners on the issues that suit THEM, but not on the issues that don’t. So, for example, we are forever getting these calls for a referendum on EU membership. But why no referendum on the “reforms” of the NHS? Why no referendum on the selling off of the Royal Mail? Because the people who really run this country, i.e. the super-rich, don’t want them, so there’s no big campaign from them and the mouthpieces they fund to demand them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 10:23am

    John Roffey

    The problems we have can be blamed very squarely on the fact that the electorate has little or no influence on the politicians they have elected apart from choosing whether to kick them out once every five years

    But they elect those people, so they ought to put in place people they can trust to listen to them and respond to their concerns. The point of representative democracy is that we can all be involved, with the political parties mechanisms whereby those who don’t have power and wealth can get together and thereby challenge those who do. The whole idea of the political parties of the left, the Liberals and Labour, was to enable ordinary people to get together and chose some form their number as candidates for Parliament, and so to challenge the aristocratic control of the chamber of representatives.

    So why doesn’t it work like that, or at least people don’t think of the political parties in that way now? A big reason is the constant anti-politics message pumped out by the mouthpieces of the super-rich, telling people that politics and politicians are all bad, encouraging people to take a cynical attitude towards it, encouraging people not to get involved, and also supporting the top-down model of politics with its emphasis on leader-oriented politics, politics reported all in terms of the Westminster Bubble figures, keenness for things like the directly elected mayor system, and antipathy to political parties having open debate and being run by their members rather than their leaders.

    Another reason is the electoral system. The First-Past-the-Post system means people who are inclined to the political left feel forced to vote Labour to stop the Conservatives winning their seat, and people who are inclined to the political right feel forced to vote Conservative to stop Labour winning. New political forces and independents are severely hampered by people not being able to cast an experimental vote for them because of this fear of splitting the vote. If we had the Alternative Vote system, the people of this country would have much more power. Challengers to the established parties could stand, and people could feel free to vote for them, knowing that if the challenge did not succeed their vote would be transferred to the safety first option of whichever of the big parties they dislike least. But the people of this country rejected this in . Why? Because the mouthpieces of the rich and powerful collaborated to make sure it wasn’t put to them in this way. The people were swamped with very misleading material, and so voted against what, if they had been properly informed, I feel they would very much have been in favour of.

  • Matthew,

    Although the better political model that you portray would resolve many of our problems, in practical terms – how can it be achieved?

    I don’t think that the Party would attract many more votes even if it headlined its manifesto with AV – making this its primary policy – the general disenchantment with politicians has gone too far. Although I am prepared to accept that the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs enter politics with the intention of making things better for the people – I am not sure that is the case for many politicians.

    The existing system does encourage MPs to obey without question their leaders wishes, with little thought for the wishes of their constituents. Zac Goldsmith’s ‘True Recall’ bill is aimed at preventing MPs from becoming little more than lobby fodder. If MPs know that by supporting an unpopular measure they could be recalled by their electorate – this at least would encourage a better link between Parliament and the people.

    Presently there are a great many ambitious MPs who know that if they want promotion they have to be completely loyal to their leader. Since so many are concerned about their careers – above all else – they willingly become lobby fodder.

    This cycle must be broken before there can be any hope of improvement along the lines you would wish to see. True Recall is a part of direct democracy. As I said previously – I think this is the most reliable and practical solution – given the depths to which we have sunk.

    The Coalition, or at least the Tory element of it, is treating the people in a way that the administration of a victorious invading army might treat the vanquished!

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th Aug '14 - 11:51am

    Tony Dawson14th Aug ’14 – 9:02am

    I can only agree Tony. One would think that such constituencies would have been inundated by people from Clegg Towers. Still, if they did that, they would probably go away with another less welcome message sitting alongside their conclusions 🙂

  • Sorry Matthew I hadn’t realized you have written three replies.

    Regarding UKIP – whereas I cannot say that the picture you paint of their ‘ideal’ is wrong – I stand by my view that the party has done a service to the people by disrupting the cosy relationship between the main parties that has existed particularly since 2010.

    If they had not come to prominence – what possibility do you see of the vast majority not getting poorer and the very richest not getting far richer’ unless this cosy relationship had not been disrupted?

  • Matthew

    With regard to Direct Democracy – it is impossible to say that such a system could not be used by tyrants, however, limited DD is not usually considered as just referenda. Certainly True Recall, mentioned above, would go a long way to ensure that this was not the case and with the addition of petitions – that Parliament were obliged to debate and vote upon – even the greatest tyrant would struggle to use this to their own advantage.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 3:02pm

    John Roffey

    Although the better political model that you portray would resolve many of our problems, in practical terms – how can it be achieved?

    Get rid of Clegg and the Cleggies from the top of the party. Replace them by a leadership which knows where our party has come from, knows how it managed to build up to where it is, and has that clear vision of how politics could be that first inspired me to join the Liberal Party when I encountered it as the early and idealistic form of “community politics” (not the degraded mere election fighting strategy it degenerated into).

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 3:14pm

    John Roffey

    I don’t think that the Party would attract many more votes even if it headlined its manifesto with AV – making this its primary policy – the general disenchantment with politicians has gone too far

    I am not saying it should do. AV is not the solution to everything, but it would have been a helpful first step in breaking the way politics has gone in this country. STV would be much better.

    I appreciate that the arguments for these things are a little complex, and not at the forefront of most people’s minds, so I certainly would not advocate making them the major feature of the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto. However, I do think the party could do a lot to promote a different sort of politics. It could stop pushing a leader-oriented politics for a start. It could stop the glib ad-men’s type pushing of dubious propaganda which those at the top which we are talking about in this thread are all about. It could instead talk honestly about the difficult choices this country faces. It could base its appeal primarily on the Liberal Democrats as being a party based on its membership, giving a mechanism whereby ordinary people can become active in politics and change things. It could do this by having a leader who sees his or her job to be the servant of the party’s members, and to listen and act on what they say rather than to preach down to them and treat then as just unpaid salespeople for what he or she and those surrounding him or her dictate.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 3:24pm

    John Roffey

    If they had not come to prominence – what possibility do you see of the vast majority not getting poorer and the very richest not getting far richer’ unless this cosy relationship had not been disrupted?

    I repeat what I said. The rise of UKIP has done nothing whatsoever to counter the way the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Not just nothing whatsoever, it has made things worse by taking people’s attention away from the problem and pretending that the real problem this country faces is EU membership. What we need is a decent party of the left to challenge the assumptions that were originally called “Thatcherite”, but entered the Labour Party through “New Labour” and the Liberal Democrats through the “Orange Book”. UKIP is the OPPOSITE of this. UKIP believes in Thatcherism even more than the other parties. How can a party which worships Thatcher be part of dealing with the mess that has been made of this country due to the long term damaging effects of Thatcherism?

    In May 2010 the people of this country were fooled into thinking that the solution to the problems caused by New Labour’s Thatcherism was to elect the part which is the more direct heir of Thatcher’s into power. If they have been fooled by big money into thinking the solution to the problems that party has given us is to elect the EVEN MORE Thatcherite UKIP into power, well, I can only say I believe them to be wrong, wrong, wrongitty ,wrong. It does not matter how many votes UKIP gets, I still believe all its says to be wrong, and for its appeal to be based on a fundamental mistruth.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Aug '14 - 3:52pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach.
    Hear, hear.

    How about starting a decent party of the left to challenge Thatcherite assumptions, Matthew? You would have my vote.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 5:26pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    How about starting a decent party of the left to challenge Thatcherite assumptions, Matthew? You would have my vote.

    There used to be one. It was called the “Liberal Party”. I have spent so much of my time and energy and money helping build it up, and its successor (which I was less happy with because it was more right-wing thanks to merger with the SDP), the Liberal Democrats. Now I see all I did wrecked by Clegg and the Cleggies. My heart is broken, my energy exhausted, my dreams over. I can’t be bothered to start all again from the beginning. Sorry.

  • John Roffey 14th Aug '14 - 5:31pm

    Matthew

    We should not be in any great disagreement – as we want, broadly, the same thing. Although I do believe that some form of direct democracy, particularly True Recall, is required as a central plank firstly to take us to the point where ordinary people can be active in politics.- and secondly – keep us there.

    It does not matter that we disagree on the value of UKIP’s role in disrupting the status quo – what is important, if you do not intend to start a new party as Jayne suggests, how do you suggest NC and his band be dispensed with – because they are not going to go of their own accord unless and until the Party is destitute?

  • John Roffey 14th Aug '14 - 5:34pm

    Sorry Matthew – you posted whilst I was making my last post.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 9:48pm

    John Roffey

    It does not matter that we disagree on the value of UKIP’s role in disrupting the status quo – what is important, if you do not intend to start a new party as Jayne suggests, how do you suggest NC and his band be dispensed with – because they are not going to go of their own accord unless and until the Party is destitute?

    Writing here is the last thing I have left that I feel I can do. I have put the case against NC ever since the right-wing press pushed him on us as “obviously the best person to be the next leader”. I hope that others in the party will listen to me and he will be got rid of, if not before the next general election then afterwards.

    I have been mocked and attacked for what I have written about Clegg. But everything I have written about him, all my predictions about how it would go wrong and why it would go wrong have proved 100% correct. Check my record, go back to my postings right from the start when Clegg fought the leadership campaign.

  • Matthew

    I find what you say disappointing. The membership – who must be, in the main, against NC’s strategy – have the power to correct the situation but do not.

    Although, perhaps more disappointing, is the fact that 40 MPs – who also have the power to correct the situation – are prepared to sacrifice their seats on the alter of ‘party of government for a historic second time’ as their former councillor and MEP colleagues were obliged to do.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '14 - 9:49am

    John Roffey

    I find what you say disappointing. The membership – who must be, in the main, against NC’s strategy – have the power to correct the situation but do not

    I am disappointed, but I don’t see any alternative. There is no other party I have an interest in supporting. I despise the fringe parties of the left, with their authoritarian Leninist structure, and their obsession with striking an anti-American foreign policy pose rather than talking about the sort of things that ordinary people in this country care about – all this has led to what we now see, the revolting Trot-Islamist alliance which is causing such huge damage. I have no time for the Green Party, a soppy, irrationalist party, which lacks the deep scientific approach that would be needed to properly push through Green ideas. The Labour Party is an empty shell, devoid of any thinking power, its sole plan being to restore the two-party system so that power regularly swings between it and the Tories without it having to make much effort, and I am disgusted by its anti-pluralist tone, the way it insists all power must go it alone, third parties must be squeezed out of existence. As I have said elsewhere, UKIP is run by a City money man and paid for by a City money man, its job is to distract people’s attention from the real issues by raising this fake one about the EU, and it is running an utterly charlatan line of pretending to be on the side of the people against a politics dominated by the interests of the wealthy while having policies which are even more of that sort.

    I am sorry that what we are seeing is a drip-drip resignation of the sort of members of the Liberal Democrats who think like me politically and who would be needed to face up to Clegg and the Cleggies. That is why I speak out against the constant “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on ALL Liberal Democrats we face on this site, which accuse all of us of being keen Clegg fans and make no allowance for the diversity of opinions in the party, and the real difficulty the party did face due to the party balance in the 2010 Parliament. Sadly, all I see is these attacks causing a demoralisation and resignation of those on the left of the party. If those making them think they are strengthening us by issuing these insults so causing us to act, I can report they are having the opposite effect.

    However, what I do see is that there are many in the Liberal Democrats still who though not openly coming out against Clegg are very unhappy with his leadership. Many of them are using the line that it would not be a good idea to have a leadership election just before a general election, so we must wait until after to have one. So, let’s see.

  • I think Coetzee being paid for by the tax payer is questionable at best.

    As for his strategy: at first, I thought it may be an interesting policy exercise, if used properly, but I think Tony’s assessment has shown that I was wrong and that it has not even been that. It just does not work in constituency politics and our system – and is too much of a siege based approach (the sort of approach that was used at the death of the Liberal Party as a major force in British politics.)

    I also think Matthew once again sums up our problems and the problems of politics, perfectly. I think his comments on the Greens are interesting, as they are what stop me being able to actually support them, despite Climate Change being one of my key concepts.

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