Rafael Behr uses the ongoing Rennard imbroglio as a jumping off point for some broader points about the positioning of the Liberal Democrats in a post today at the New Statesman.
He argues that:
Clegg’s office has a clear enough sense of where they think he and the party can stand on the political spectrum … There is, in theory, a gap in the political market – a Blair-shaped hole – for third-way candidates who combine economic rigour with a social conscience.
But to fill that gap the Lib Dems must above all look like a serious political outfit. The pitch is non-ideological and pragmatic … They are offering themselves as the moderate technocrats who aren’t afraid of compromise and keep Westminster grounded and centred. You aren’t necessarily expected to like the Lib Dems anymore, but … you are supposed to think it worthwhile having them around in government.
The defining feature of this offer is professionalism and it is the absence of that very quality that stands out from the mess they are in over Lord Rennard. The charges themselves (unproven and denied, it must be said), the original handling of complaints five years ago and the sprawling case study in crisis mismanagement over the past week all conjure up the impression of an organisation staffed with chancers and over-promoted amateurs.
… Lib Dem plans for 2015 are based on the hope that eventually some voters will come to look at their record in office and judge them to have been decent and useful. Yet here they are in a colourful parade of shabby and useless.
Is this fair? [Read more…]