Tag Archives: culture wars

Are we ready to fight the Culture War?

Two op-eds in the Sunday Telegraph in recent weeks have hailed Ron de Santis, Governor of Florida and strongest alternative Republican candidate for the US Presidency in 2024 to Donald Trump, as showing the way forward for British Conservatives: to fight the culture war as vigorously as possible. It looks as if the Conservatives are already doing so.

The whole point of culture wars is to distract the attention of voters from economic difficulties and concerns about inequality by attacking ‘the liberal establishment’ which – it is claimed – is betraying the instincts and traditions of ordinary people. Migration, friendliness with foreigners, intellectual sophistication (instead of ‘common sense’ and ‘what you know in your gut’), concerns about diversity, gender, rewriting history and what used to be called political correctness and is now called ‘woke’ make up the mix.

De Santis is a graduate from Yale University, where he now claims that he was ‘taught that communism was superior’, and Harvard Law School, who is now attacking the autonomy of Floridan universities. He’s tightened state laws on abortion, thrown doubt on climate change, resisted the Covid lockdown and removed tax privileges for the ‘woke’ Disney Corporation. That’s the example that many Tory strategists want to follow.

Over the past week we have seen the political technologists of Tory political strategy take over from the reasonable face Rishi Sunak has been presenting. ‘Stop the boats’ is a three-word slogan borrowed from Australia rather than the Trump phrasebook. A ‘new’ deal has been launched which is much the same as last year’s anti-migrant initiative, with no clearer indication of how its targets can be reached or those who manage to reach the UK removed. At Prime Ministers’ Questions on March 8th a ‘red-wall’ Tory MP raised the threat of ‘graphic lessons on oral sex, how to choke your partner and 72 genders’ to children in English schools, and the Prime Minister promised an ‘urgent review’ into sex education. And the following day Conservative HQ circulated a digital message in Suella Braverman’s name blaming “an activist blob of leftwing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour party” for blocking her attempts to stop the flow of undocumented migrants across the Channel.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

Poll highlights need for Lib Dems to develop compelling narrative

A poll of “blue wall” seats this week should make senior Lib Dems charged with delivering our next election campaign pause for thought.

Field work carried out by Redfield and Wilton Strategies last weekend shows Labour 7 points ahead of the Tories in seats the Conservatives currently hold in the south of England, but the party of Government gaining 2% and us going down 2% since the last poll a couple of weeks before.

Of the 42 seats that Redfield and Wilton count as the Blue Wall, there are not that many that we are seriously targeting so our 17% polling figure should not alarm us too much. However, the Tories are fixing their attention and massive resources on defending those seats and will not miss the opportunity to persuade people that these seats are between them and Labour not them and us. We will obviously be countering that where we are strong with local messaging so that people are in no doubt that it’s a two horse race between us and the Conservatives. We’ve been building very strong foundations in those seats over the past few years. However, we don’t want even a few people in the likes of Winchester and Esher and Walton thinking that they should be voting Labour to get rid of the Tories. If they do, then we’ll have Tory MPs, and surely nobody wants the likes of Dominic Raab in Parliament for another five years.

As Lib Dems we know the importance of targeting our resources very carefully. This, however, shouldn’t come completely at the expense of our national poll rating. The national mood music is very important both in our target seats and beyond. We need to be thinking about the political landscape for the next election and the one after that. Only by getting ourselves into more second places can we hope to properly break through. There is no point in winning a handful of seats in 2024 and ending up with the north face of the electoral Eiger to climb everywhere else.

Our national poll rating remains stubbornly low. We haven’t recovered from our coalition lows, except for that brief period when we were actually saying things that excited people in the early part of 2019. Capturing the imagination with a strong message and giving people a reason to vote for us is a good thing and we shouldn’t shy away from it.

We seem to be so terrified of saying anything that might upset the voters in the blue wall that we end up not saying anything at all. And those progressive minded voters who we need to  back us need to hear us talk about the things that matter to them too. And in truth, the things that matter to them matter to us.

I sense a frustration amongst activists in Labour facing areas that the increasingly centralised national Lib Dem campaign machine is not bothered enough with them.

We need to recover our boldness, passion and sense of indignation at what the Tories have done to this country super quick. We need to start using the P word, the S word the B word and the C word to show how the country can be a much better and happier place to live. We need to talk about ending poverty. We need to sympathise with the aims of our public sector workers who are striking for a decent pay rise and less stressful working conditions. We need to be much more robust in talking about the failures of Brexit which are damaging virtually every aspect of our lives. And we need to win the culture wars, not stand cowed as people are marginalised and demonised by the right wing media.

As Liberal Democrats we care deeply and instinctively about inequality and tearing down the barriers that people face that suck opportunity from them. That everyone should have enough food, safe and warm shelter and the resources to participate in life to the full should not be as controversial as the right wing media makes out every day, yet we don’t challenge them enough. We should be riding a coach and horses through the  Conservative narrative which sets people against each other. We want people to have a decent share of the pie, not fight each other for an ever decreasing pile of stale crumbs. So we need to start talking about ending poverty and giving people a fair crack of the whip.

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