Storm in a Libdem teacup?

You might have thought we were currently in the eye of the storm. We’ve been through the pain of seeing more than 300 Libdem local councillors lose their seats. And today the results of the European Parliamentary elections will no doubt bring fresh horrors. So perhaps the intervening period was the time to take a moment to quietly steel ourselves for further bad news.

Not a bit of it. Person(s) unknown thought it a good idea to launch Libdems4change. My first reaction to that title was to think surely all Libdems are for change? They are very much for a fairer and more liberal society than the one we currently have, for a start.

But Libdems4change has a rather more specific agenda. The website sets out the argument that Nick Clegg needs to step aside as leader in order that the party can get a fair hearing in the run up to the General Election next year. Clegg is seen as so unpopular and so untrustworthy that the voters have simply stopped listening. So it’s time for a change. That way it might be possible to prevent electoral annihilation. [Read more…]

Clegg courts catastrophe

4432808605_43e7400304_nThe way the Liberal Democrat party leadership has handled the Justice and Security Bill seems little short of extraordinary.

To depart so dramatically from party policy is one thing. It isn’t the first time it has happened during this Coalition. I’m sure it won’t be the last. But to do so on civil liberties – a topic many see as close to the core of liberalism and a topic particularly dear to the hearts of many activists – is barely credible.

As Jonathan Calder pointed out at Liberal England yesterday, one of the biggest issues in this sorry saga has been the lack of communication. Nick Clegg took a very long time to agree to meet Jo Shaw, who has been leading the campaign against the Bill. There has been little attempt to explain why the majority of the party in the Commons decided to vote against the wishes of Conference.

Paddy Ashdown is undoubtedly right when he is quoted in one of today’s papers as saying that Parliamentarians are representatives rather than delegates. They therefore have the latitude to depart from party policy when it is deemed necessary. But when they do so it would be good to have an explanation as to why it was deemed necessary.

I witnessed a couple of attempted explanations yesterday at Conference, neither of which brought clarity to the situation nor calmed activists’ anger. [Read more…]

Politics for the chronically indecisive

In his Observer column on Sunday Andrew Rawnsley starts with an extract from a party leader’s speech and asks us to guess which leader made it:

“This government took power in difficult economic times. Our mettle has been tested. Though the challenge before us is daunting, I have confidence in our country.

“This summer, as we cheered our athletes to gold after gold, Britain remembered how it feels to win again. The Olympics put up a mirror to Britain and showed us the best of ourselves. United behind one goal. One Nation. We can do big things.

“Real achievement in the real world takes time, effort, perseverance, resilience. To come through the storm, to overcome the challenges we face, we must rediscover that spirit. The job of this party is to bring out the best in this country. To come together, to join together, to work together as a country. To unleash and unlock the promise in all our people. That’s the prize. A country for all, with everyone playing their part. So let’s get out there and do it.”

This is, of course, a mashup. It interleaves lines from each of the three party leaders’ speeches. But you could imagine any one of the leaders delivering it. They assemble their speeches from a selection of feel-good platitudes bolted together. Those platitudes are no doubt focus grouped to see how well they play with swing voters.

And that is, in many ways, the problem. [Read more…]

Libdem futures – Implosion or renewal?

We are witnessing a spate of exits from the Liberal Democrats announced online. While these have been happening intermittently for a while, we’ve had several in the last week or so. James Graham announced that he was leaving the party, and elaborated that the issue was party politics generally, rather than the Liberal Democrats specifically. Yesterday we had blog posts by Chris Ward and Daniel Furr announcing that they were resigning. No doubt there are many others deciding to leave the party less publicly. From the left and the right there is discontent, but for different reasons.

A focus for much of this discontent is the recent shenanigans around the Health and Social Care Bill. Those who were pleased – either for political or policy reasons – that Conference voted to amend the “Shirley Williams” motion are disgruntled, first, because of the way the leadership tried to manipulate the vote in the first place and, second, because almost immediately after Conference had voted Parliamentarians were indicating that they were going to ignore the vote and support the Bill. And so it came to pass in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

In contrast, those who supported the Health and Social Care Bill and believed the Libdem Lords had won significant amendments were frustrated by the whole Drop the Bill effort. Rather than an onward march towards the sunny uplands of a bright economic liberal future there was a feeling that the Drop the Bill grouping represents some form of backsliding towards soggy socialism – Libdems somehow succumbing en masse to delusion, under the spell of the Labour party.

So no one is very happy. [Read more…]