Tag Archives: future strategy

Get clever, get brave and reform to win

As the Liberal Democrats are about to take on a new leader, one question looms large. Why, in its various incarnations, has this mainstream political party failed to win power for almost  a hundred years?

While we blame variously the right-wing press, the voting system and so on, the truth may lay closer to the party itself that needs structural modernization in three distinct areas – mission, message and management.

With the centre ground deserted, we have been handed an open goal, but have yet failed to score. Unless we act now with fast, brave and clever leadership, that goal will be scored by others.

First, the mission.

After the referendum, thousands of new members joined, believing the Liberal Democrats would design a new, big picture vision for Britain’s future and they wanted to be part of it. Instead, they were told to deliver leaflets on issues such as pot-holes and speed bumps because: “This is how we do things.”

Many began drifting away.

At September’s conference, I asked delegates how they thought we could win government.  “I don’t think we want that,” summed up a long-standing member. “It would be against our values.”

Posted in Op-eds | 93 Comments

In need of an identity

I remember, many years ago, attending party conferences – then seeing reports about them, and wondering whether the journalists were at the same conference I was.

And I also remember hearing frequent suggestions that the Liberal Democrats had “no policies” even though the party produced painstakingly detailed policy documents that were debated and, by and large, adopted as policy at those very same conferences.

Perhaps people were suggesting the party had no widely known policies, or none that resonated with the public. But whatever the precise meaning, the claim that the Liberal Democrats had “no policies” seemed very strange to me then.

That was the early 90s, and things have changed. The party has even been in government, implementing some of its policies. So why do I mention it now? Well, partly because the Liberal Democrats haven’t been doing so well since being in government.

I used to think there was a mismatch between people’s perception and the reality. You’ve probably had the same experience: of seeing or hearing things about the party in the media – or, these days, on social media – that were just wrong.

Posted in News | 21 Comments

Liberal Democrats need a distinctive message

When I was blown up in Iraq I knew I had to join the Liberal Democrats. The party needs to find its purpose again.

There was a brief silence after the bomb blast. Then shouting, nervous laughter. The Iraqi policeman I had been meeting pointed at the shattered window and stammered, “Shay aadi,” a normal thing. We were both uninjured, but I learned later that several guards had died outside the building. It was 2005 and I was in a Baghdad. Car bombs were normal. As I left the building I noticed a severed, charred hand on the ground.

I was working on a security assistance project. I had been an “on-balance” supporter of the 2003 invasion and felt that it could leave Iraq a better place. But after the realisation that the coalition had lost control, I knew that we had unleashed a terrible whirlwind. The existence of Islamic State now is a direct consequence of the 2003 invasion and its aftermath.

Later that day as the shock of the bombing began to fade, I went online and joined the Liberal Democrats. This was the only party that had taken the correct stance on Iraq. It had done so in the face of media hostility and accusations of a lack of patriotism. But it wasn’t just about Iraq: in 2005, after eight years in power, Labour had done little to tackle inequality and continued to promote international finance as the best engine of economic growth; Vince Cable had started to raise concerns over the unsustainable credit boom as early as 2003. And Labour continued to cling to an unfair electoral system and an appointed legislature stuffed with cronies.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 39 Comments

The party of “I told you so”

There’s a strange mood on Lib Dem Voice, and perhaps in the wider party, and a sense of treading water. There have been a host of explanations for why the fightback hasn’t quite materialised and you only have look through this website to find some of them. I’d like to offer here my own two-penneth and also to gently encourage members not to fall into the traps we’ve readily accused members of other parties of falling into.

Let me give a personal example of this; my mother is a longtime Liberal Democrat voter who voted for Brexit. She even toyed with the idea of joining the party at the last leadership election. I doubt very much, despite my best endeavours, that she will vote for us again. Why? Because clearly we don’t want her vote. Look about Lib Dem Voice and you’ll find people saying that we are the anti-Brexit party and that if only Theresa May hadn’t been so cunning as to call an election now. Conventional wisdom at the beginning of the year was that the Lib Dems would become the party of Remain and Labour would fall between two stools. In fact that is still conventional wisdom, only with the Labour split on the issue pushed into the future. But we should be cautious about how far we push this for four reasons:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 62 Comments

We need to go into the next election with a different strategy

The key issue for me in the leadership debate is our strategy for the next election. My take is based on feedback from electors.

On the whole, our manifesto is sound (although I can’t help adding a quick pitch for the addition of the term time attendance policy for tourism constituencies & to exemplify our trust in people over government/commitment to family life). There are just two huge, key exceptions.

  1. Ditch the referendum on the deal.

Nothing in recent history, from the AV referendum to Brexit to the Scottish Independence Reernedum, gives cause to trust referenda. The electorate had already learned that …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments

The future and practice of garage politics

Oh no! Here we go again – another year, another leader.  Still we cling, the drowning man, to a way of doing politics that is so very Noughties or perhaps even very Nineties – Eighteen Nineties even.

In response to the 2010/15 disaster we  devised a Board, which is frankly very ‘grown up’ but totally unimaginative in the light of the huge alteration to our reputation, status and standing, as well as being culturally inappropriate to Liberalism.

WANTED:  a politics for the 2020s or even the 2030s, shipped today.

We need to predict the future.   “Hey, if you want to predict the future, make it”?

Good advice. Who said that?

Steve Jobs.

You see, in 2015, I began to wonder how Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX would approach the problems we had.  Watch Musk on some wicked issues here.

People like Musk and Jobs disrupt entrenched thinking. That’s what we need.  

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Seizing the centre: the road ahead

Tim Farron’s unexpected resignation ends another chapter in a tumultuous period of politics. With the wave of populism that carried Jeremy Corbyn to a triumphant defeat and shook the Conservatives, how should the next chapter begin for the Liberal Democrats? The next leader should strike out for the centre ground, and it is the Liberal Democrats economic credentials that should take centre stage over our unimpeachable social liberalism.

To begin with another exit, the loss of Nick Clegg perhaps signals the chance to rehabilitate the Coalition government. In too many ways the contribution of the Liberal Democrats has gone unnoticed; the pupil premium has been a lifeline for many schools struggling with constrained budgets, whilst the British Business Bank is one of the most recognised achievements of the happily re-elected Vince Cable.

We ought to champion such successes, and link them to our future strategy. Between state-led nationalisation and short-term cuts lies our own path. Targeted investment, support and stimulation of local enterprise, and recognition of the changing nature of the British economy and its vibrant tech sector (albeit a sector beset by the authoritarian proclivities of the current government). Now more then ever, it is vital that all corners of the United Kingdom see that the government’s economic strategy works for them, and we have been too coy about the benefits that liberalism can bring.

Posted in Op-eds | 20 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 17th Nov - 6:59pm
    Hi, Peter, it seems to me that a majority of the British people probably doesn't want to join the Euro, and I understand (I think!)...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 17th Nov - 6:52pm
    Nice one, Katharine, lass !!! Tha's so sharp tha'll be bahn to cut thiself. One of the few redeeming features in the dark days at...
  • User AvatarNigel Hardy 17th Nov - 6:44pm
    Dave Orbison 29th Jun '17 - 6:24pm Much as I loathe the Tories, I was not upset to see LD's go into coalition with them....
  • User AvatarThe High Castle 17th Nov - 6:43pm
    The last thing it needs is a 'big gesture'. Whatever happens has to be measured, proportionate and most of all just (a lot to ask...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Nov - 6:17pm
    @ Katharine, I've always thought " that people voted to leave or remain for a variety of complex reasons". You and I aren't , perhaps,...
  • User AvatarNigel Hardy 17th Nov - 6:16pm
    frankie 30th Jun '17 - 7:31am That's absurd to say the LibDem Tory Coalition was a disaster. Far from it. The LibDem's tethered the Tories...