Tag Archives: future party strategy

Liberal Democrats must think big and long to thrive. Craving exit from Brexit does neither.

The Liberal Democrats are not in a good place. They haven’t been for some time, but there’s now a risk that recovery will never come. Since 2015, the party has failed to rebuild support. Tim Farron talked of a “Lib Dem Fightback” which proved to be anything but, now Vince Cable is declaring the Lib Dems a “well-kept secret” – not much of a boast.

The rise in membership has been a success story and the party had a very decent showing in May’s local elections. Yet the big picture is one of a rot left untreated. The local …

Posted in Op-eds | 89 Comments

Keep the faith: our party should not consider any merger

There is a lot of talk about a possible new centrist party forming, given the deep divisions in the two main parties and the lowly position of the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls.

People can’t seem to decide whether we are more pro-Tory, on the basis of our Coalition involvement, or more pro-Labour, on the basis of our commitment to social justice and community. We have some claim to be different from either of them.

But we lack a cutting edge to seize public imagination. Is that because we don’t have any passionate commitment to good causes? What do we care most about? What makes us tick?

In switching back from demanding action on poverty and inequality to a renewed focus on fighting Brexit, I wondered, why does that seem so natural to me? What links my fervour for Europe with my concern about the increasing hardships endured by fellow citizens today?

Perhaps strangely for a social liberal, I think it is pride in my country.

I am proud of Britain being still at the centre for world affairs: a member of the UN Security Council, able to intervene militarily in the Middle East struggles against evil movements, at the same time donating 0.7% of national income to UN development projects. I am also proud that we have had a place in European history that stretches from sharing Roman civilisation to running an Empire to taking a lead in defeating Nazism and Fascism, and that we are still one of the big players in Europe at a time when the Continent needs to stand up to the big powers of the USA, Russia and China.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 271 Comments

How can we be seen as relevant again?

We have to offer people what they need, and I don’t think we are doing that.

The Southport Conference earlier this month, besides passing many useful motions, agreed a Strategy, grandly entitled, ‘Ambitious for our party, ambitious for our country.’ We are good on noble ideas. ‘Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities’ – that’s a natural extension of our famous Preamble, ‘We seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community’.

But is anybody heeding us out there, even in the less than half of the population which takes some interest in politics?

Well, let’s be fair. Even in our diminished state, 7% in the national polls, we attract many more voters in Local Government elections. Our councillors are often known as work-horses who eat up local problems. Community Politics is still a big belief for us – ‘we will empower the individual in his or her community’. A current article here by Oliver Craven emphasises the point.

But I’ve come to believe that it is not enough for us to campaign locally to make a big impact. That’s because there’s precious little ‘community’ in our deeply divided country today for us to work with.

This week is what Christians call Holy Week, leading up to Good Friday, but fewer and fewer British people go to church to find a community. In the workplaces, ever fewer people join trade unions as more people take ill-paid non-unionised jobs. So the Conservatives win elections in formerly working-class areas, and Labour penetrates prosperous south-east towns.

Who feels part of a community in Britain today? Not, certainly, working families on the minimum wage who with curtailed benefits can’t afford even the basics and have to resort to Food Banks. Not people forced out of privately-rented homes into emergency accommodation, sometimes ending up living in another city. Not those trying to make ends meet through ill-paid temporary jobs or chancy self-employment.

There’s little sense of community either for sick folk obliged to stay in hospital for want of social care, or stuck caring for family members themselves at home, or for lonely old people sitting on park benches to talk to somebody. There’s no community for the depressed or for the oppressed.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 76 Comments

Opinion: No more casual flings

Mid-air DustyOne of our candidates, telling last Thursday, was told by his Green party counterpart that this particular ward, Clissold, was the Green Party’s one target in the whole of London. They had volunteers coming to Hackney from places as far flung as Orpington and Grimsby. So, how did they do? Well, they didn’t beat Labour, but they pushed us into third place. Clearly where they work, they win. Well, come second, anyway.

Only here’s the thing. Apart from the one ward, Cazenove, in which we kept all our councillors, the Green …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 28 Comments

Opinion: I’m fed up with process stories. Let’s work out how to win in 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADear Liberal Democrats on Twitter, Facebook and Liberal Democrat Voice,

I am tired of process stories.

I don’t need another analysis of Annette Brookes’ email, Nick saying where we work we win, Lib Dems 4 Change setting up a website on 22 May or Matthew Oakshotte’s self-indulgent polling.

The simple truth is this. In the euro elections we lost 10 out of 11 seats and got 6% of the vote, the same as in 1989 when we had all just discovered we were Democrats. In addition we lost a wealth of MEP …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 21 Comments
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