The Lib Dems (and Labour) could learn from Russell T Davies

Christine Jardine wrote about the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination earlier this week. The day after, 23rd November, marked 60 years since the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast.

For me, ever since the very first episode I watched in 1974, it’s been a  constant source of joy, inspiration, curiosity and adrenaline rushes. There seems to be quite an affinity between Lib Dems and Doctor Who. We identify with a socially awkward eccentric travelling through time and space saving peoples and worlds and universes, a lot of the time from themselves.

Last night marked a new era for the show. Or, more accurately, a reboot of one of the most successful ones. Russell T Davies is back as head writer and has reunited much of the team who brought the show back so brilliantly in 2005. Much as I love the Doctor and all his companions, it simply hasn’t been as good since RTD left in 2009.

David Tennant, the first actor to return for a second stint as the Doctor is reunited with Catherine Tate who played his last regular companion, Donna Noble. The way her character developed over 13 episodes was outstanding, but then the Doctor, against her will, wiped her memory to save her life.

Russell T Davies really knows how to play with your emotions and not just in Doctor Who.  In the drama It’s a Sin, he just breaks you as he contrasts the  horrendous cruelty of discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS with the love and support of friends.

Last night’s Star Beast had plenty tugs on your heartstrings. Joy, apprehension, fear, optimism, love, the fierce, protective love of a mother for her daughter being just a few.  The one thing he is not is subtle. You are in no doubt about what he is saying, and those of us on the progressive side of politics could learn a lot from him.

Right wing politicians have been dividing and ruling us for too long now. They are not known for hiding their rhetoric under a bushel. Look at how Conservative politicians treat vulnerable asylum seekers, set about removing benefits from sick people who can’t work and demonise trans people because they think it is politically expedient to do so. And some of them, like Nigel Farage, do so while portraying themselves as the jokey bloke down the pub that everybody loves.

While we are on the subject of Farage, rumoured to be pocketing £1.5 million for going on I’m a Celebrity, I will never forgive Have I Got News For You for showing that clip of him naked. If you haven’t seen it, you have been warned.

Sadly, those of us who want to see a more liberal and equal society  too often shy from challenging the right wing. We murmur round the edges, too timid to take them on in case we scare people from voting for us and we shrink back when the right shout at us. Even when our policies are much better, and pretty much all the  time they are, we don’t use our creative skills to appeal to the better, more compassionate side of public opinion. It’s there, but it needs to be nurtured.

And every time the right go unchallenged, they pull the political agenda a little bit more over to their side. We all lose when that happens because the country becomes a nastier, unhappier place to live, particularly for those whose lives become a lot worse as a result but the toxicity affects us all.

And so back to last night’s Doctor Who. 5.1 million people saw it, the highest for the first episode of a drama this year.  It was woke as hell, and much the better for it. You see, woke, explained properly, is all about making sure everyone can take part in life. It’s about kindness, generosity and seeing the best in our fellow humans. No wonder the Daily Mail hates it.

I’m wary of too many spoilers, but the joys included a TARDIS that anyone could access and a  scientific adviser being given the perfect tool she needed to do her job.

It was clear from the get go that Donna Noble has a brilliant relationship with her daughter, Rose. We learn that Rose is trans, confirmed by boys from her school yelling transphobic abuse at her. Every parent will recognise the furious love Donna has for Rose in that moment. We all want to protect our children and Davies evoked that beautifully.

Russell T Davies manages to get you in the gut every time. And that’s what we need to get better at.

Imagine a world in which opposition parties scoffed at the government for their net migration “targets.” We shouldn’t be slating the Tories for missing them, we should be having a go at them for having them in the first place. We should be talking about how immigration is a good thing and how the whole net migration thing is ridiculous. We should rail against charging couples in love thousands for visas and putting them through hell before turning them down on spurious grounds. We should be talking up the benefits of people coming over here, working and paying taxes. We should be pointing out that sectors like social care, health and hospitality are on their knees because of the right’s xenophobic Brexit.

We are criticising the Government for their cruel plans to force sick and disabled people back into workplaces which can often be hostile for them, but we need to do more to win hearts. Actually, it would be great to have more disabled people in jobs, but the way to do that is to make the workplaces accessible and flexible enough for them. And we also have to accept that some people just won’t be able to work and that’s fine. The Government rhetoric is already demonising the “economically inactive” and we need to contrast that with our much more realistic and compassionate approach.

We are a liberal, compassionate party who wants to bring about an open and generous-spirited society where everyone can make the best of themselves. We should be painting a vision of that sort of society in glorious and bold primary colours, appealing to everyone’s best instincts. We’re about community, about building bridges. Yet too often we constrain ourselves.

We owe it to everyone to stand up with spirit to those who would divide us, to build on the sense of community we know people really want. Now is not the time for subtlety. We need to show off who we are.

 

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

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10 Comments

  • James Brough 26th Nov '23 - 10:26pm

    As the Doctor once said, “You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

    That dates from 1977 (The Face of Evil) and it only seems to have become truer since then.

  • *applause *

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Nov '23 - 12:39am

    Lovely conclusions, thank you Caron!

  • Jack Nicholls 27th Nov '23 - 7:00am

    I’ve always thought the Doctor was a radical liberal of the egalitarian, positive liberty variety ☺️ 🔶

    I also think Mary Poppins, Ford Prefect, Benjamin Sisko and Gandalf were timelords who didn’t know it. That may be less relevant here……

  • Thank you very much Caron for making links between the Lib Dems and Dr Who. This has never struck me before. I do not understand it now, but Caron has a persuasive way of writing. On the issue of people who are being forced to move from their countries my belief is that we have a moral obligation to find ways of helping people when they are still in those countries. We might also think about why people support the expulsion of migrants when they themselves are living in poverty. We have recently seen clear evidence of corruption in government. It is not difficult to find where resources should come from.

  • Elizabeth Pears 27th Nov '23 - 9:06pm

    Well said!

  • Please pardon this intrusion!

    Embarrassing or what? A warning to all LDs Do you read the “i” newspaper? Some may have read the letter on Saturday 26 November, making fun of the LDs. Funny, sure — but embarrassing too. Here’s the text: [most letters are short, like this one.]

    LIB DEMS FIRE A
    BLANK ON PLANS

    “I had a Lib Dem poster
    dropped through my mail
    box. It says that after 13
    years of Conservatives
    it’s time for a change.
    I totally agree. But their
    poster gives no clue as to
    what they would like to
    do if they were in power.
    Or is the empty poster a
    clue in itself? “

    (The writer from Devises gave his or her name,
    but I feel I ought not to reveal it, having no permission.)

    But what would your answer be . . . ?
    And what should it or could it be . . . ?

    from Roger Lake for LDV 29 Nov

  • Peter Wrigley 28th Nov '23 - 6:48pm

    Roger Lake,

    This paragraph form Caron’s article is your answer.

    Imagine a world in which opposition parties scoffed at the government for their net migration “targets.” We shouldn’t be slating the Tories for missing them, we should be having a go at them for having them in the first place. We should be talking about how immigration is a good thing and how the whole net migration thing is ridiculous. We should rail against charging couples in love thousands for visas and putting them through hell before turning them down on spurious grounds. We should be talking up the benefits of people coming over here, working and paying taxes. We should be pointing out that sectors like social care, health and hospitality are on their knees because of the right’s xenophobic Brexit.

  • Neil Fawcett 29th Nov '23 - 7:12pm

    @James Brough I rewatched that episode just the other day and spotted that wonderful line.

  • Nigel Quinton 30th Nov '23 - 11:53am

    Well said Caron

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