Stephen Tall and I on the Westminster Hour

On Sunday night, Stephen Tall and I were on the Westminster Hour discussing the party’s prospects for the coming election and beyond. You can listen to the whole thing here. They also have a shorter clip of Stephen talking about the dilemma facing the party about portraying itself as a “split the difference” party. He rightly said that concern about it is something that unites activists on both sides of the party but on the other hand we aren’t going to win the election outright so we have to claim the centre ground between the other two.

In my contribution on this issue, I said that there was a place in our campaigning for showing what we’d stopped or would stop. We had done so very effectively in coalition with Labour in Scotland. However, we had to show our heart as a bold, radical liberal party.

Stephen’s clip is here:

You can also listen to the whole discussion here at around 35 minutes in. We also talked about prospects for the party, potential coalition partners and what might happen to Nick Clegg’s leadership after the election.

We’d had no end of problems getting me in at all. I’d done a Skype thing with BBC Radio Wales a couple of weeks ago and it sounded like I was actually in the studio. This time we couldn’t make it work at all. So, they decided to call my landline. I was sitting there waiting for it to ring and nothing happened. It turned out that the teenagers in my house (at that point 30 hours into a mammoth sleepover) had unplugged the house phone so that they could charge their phones, laptops and whatever.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I listened to this when it was broadcast on Sunday night.    The disparity between Stephen’s estimate of the number of LD MPs on 8th May (somewhere in the 30s) and Caron’s claim that we would hold ALL our 57 seats stuck out .  

     I guess Caron was trying to be loyal and encouraging to the troops at the front.    I do not think that she really believes we will hold on to all our 57 seats.   Do you, Caron?

    The other main impression I came away with was that with 70 or so days to go the BBC has already decided that the game is up for our party.   The BBC has decided that if we get more than 40 seats it will be a miracle on the scale of  Christ feeding everyone in The Etihad with a loaf and two meat pies.

    This reflects discussions on The Daily Politics, This Week etc etc.   As we approach the point when it really matters what myths the BBC Editors are weaving we should start worrying.   

     Is there a strategy at HQ for dealing with a media decision to repeatedly write off the Liberal Democrats?    If so – it would appear that neither Stephen nor Caron are in on this secret strategy.   

    Possibly there is no such strategy.  Possibly we are just drifting into this election as if it were an election side-show in The Western Cape.   Or maybe we are just leaving it all up to Paddy and Ollie to mount several dozen totally individual guerrilla campaigns in the knowledge that where we win it will be in spite of what is happening in the media.

  • Caron, the line sounded quite peculiar, as though from some far flung outback – did you use your mobile phone in the end?

    I think you made the assertion that we can win all our seats (rather than predict we will), but Stephen made the prediction that we would have 30 something seats and will remain a significant force. My problem is that significant or not, with a drop in support and seats, I cannot see how it would be expedient or practically possible to become involved in another coalition, nor what sort of deal the Party at large might be remotely tempted to accept.

    Having said that, I agree that the Party does need to go into the elections on the basis that all its current seats are in principle winnable.

    As for ‘the centre ground’ you are both right: without forsaking the centre ground we have to assert strong Liberal principles and translate these into distinctive policies. It is particularly important to present our distinctively Liberal outlook in order to clarify to the electorate why we are neither Conservative nor Labour. A strong anti centralising theme would be a good basis for exposing the differences; However, I can see that there may be a marked reluctance to do this since in very many constituencies we will actually be engaged in persuading voters to vote tactically for us: I think this has been the basis of the campaign so far.

  • paul barker 17th Feb '15 - 2:01pm

    When was this Golden Age when the BBC didnt write us off ? I must be too young to remember it.
    I am in the most optimistic 3% of the Party; this Election will be decided on Economic competence & Leadership & Labour have already given up on both. The Tories have3 benn stuck on 32% for 3 years now & the Greens & UKIP will be squeezed as voters really begin to think about the next Government. We have the potential to get many voters to listen to us once they begin to think seriously about what they want, they arent yet.

  • paul barker 17th Feb ’15 – 2:01pm
    When was this Golden Age when the BBC didnt write us off ? I must be too young to remember it.

    So you do not remember 2005 and 2010 ???

    Selective amnesia ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Feb '15 - 10:53am


    The other main impression I came away with was that with 70 or so days to go the BBC has already decided that the game is up for our party. The BBC has decided that if we get more than 40 seats it will be a miracle on the scale of Christ feeding everyone in The Etihad with a loaf and two meat pies.

    Oh, I certainly think we could get 40 or many more seats if we played our cards right. The problem is we have a leader who has played the cards wrong throughout, and I have seen no sign he won’t do the same right up to election day.

    It is quite clear there is a great deal of unhappiness with the main two parties. I think UKIP has now been rumbled, and won’t be seeing the big gains (in votes, seats were always unlikely) that at one time seemed a possibility. The Greens continue to be nice but clueless, both these aspects let them down when it comes to getting anywhere. The Liberal Democrats have been so written off that few people are even thinking of them as an option. So I think we could see “Cleggmania” again. But I don’t mean in the person of Clegg. I mean in the sense of an option that people had stopped even being conscious of suddenly being put in front of them and actually seeming not too bad and a burst of “well, I hadn’t thought of that way, but now I’ll at least look at it” ways of thinking. This is how Cleggmania worked – Clegg had made so little impact since his election as leader that hardly anyone even knew who he was, so when he appeared in front of them in the first leadership debate, he had the great advantage of a novelty factor.

    Now, in order for this to work, we would need to do something dramatic to make the impact. That, of course, would be to denounce the Coalition – not saying we were wrong to go into it, or apologising for doing so, or denying what we have achieved in it, but making it crystal clear that what came out of the Coalition was VERY far from our ideal, it reflected the balance of the two parties in Parliament (five times as many Tory MPs as LibDems), we had to support the government the people elected and endorsed by two-to-one a year later when they voted in favour of an electoral system whose defenders said the best thing about it was the way it propped up the Tories by giving them many more seats than their share of votes, we had to put on the guise of being happy about it because we didn’t want to wreck the stability of the country by playing political games, but actually we were deeply UNHAPPY about sop many of the horrible right-wing Tory policies that were coming out of it, even though, yes, we managed to stop even more horrible one that would have come out if the Tories had a full majority.

    OK, so imagine our leader stands up and makes a strong speech putting these points in this way at the start of the general election campaign. I think a lot of people who had written us off would start thinking about us again. The resultant big rise in the poll figure would need to be played competently, as it wasn’t in 2010. We would need to … oh, forget it, it isn’t going to happen is it? No, we’re going to get a cringing Clegg aiming at winning soft Tory votes, as it says in today’s Guardian, and failing at that because actually being like the Tories but a bit softer is NOT the way to do it (as I showed myself in the first council election I ever fought).

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