Friday, June 14, 2013

Where do the Liberal Democrats go from here?

I’m buggered if I know.

That’s not really enough, is it? No wonder this blog is slipping down the rankings. But let’s try to write the sort of post the punters want.

Earlier this week Stephen Tall wrote about the need for a distinctive Liberal Democrat narrative for the 2015 general election:
For sure we all know the on-message-in-volume-over-time mantra by now: “A stronger economy, a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.” But that’s not ... a narrative. It’s fine as a slogan and I’m not claiming I could better it. But I strongly suspect that if you blind-tested it with voters they would be unable to distinguish it from the Labour or Tory slogans.
The leadership's answer seems to be more of the same, in the shape of the A Million Jobs campaign.

It is good to see us engaging with such a central economic issue - our concerns can seem a little recherche to those outside the party. Indeed, when given the chance to argue for electoral reform in the AV referendum we seemed mystified as to how to argue for it.

But do we really expect voters to say in 2015: "I'm going to vote Liberal Democrat because, unlike the other parties, they believe in creating jobs"? That seems overoptimistic.

The Guardian quotes on of those unnamed, ubiquitous Liberal Democrat 'sources' as saying:
"The government as a whole has not told the jobs story. We as Liberal Democrats have been central to the growth of jobs through industrial strategy, regional growth policies and green jobs. This is a story that is going to take a year to build up."
That is true, but the Conservatives have an equal claim to this territory and it would be remarkable if they did not try to stake a claim there too. Besides, if you look into the detail of the 'Million Jobs" site you will find a lot that is about house building rather than industrial strategy or growth policies.

Today David Boyle wrote about an issue that is equally central to the economy but where there is a distinctively Liberal position to be expressed.

Writing of George Osborne's plans to return the Royal Bank of Scotland to the private sector, he said:
Britain is crying out for a small banking infrastructure like our competitors. The unbalanced state of the economy demands it. The coalition agreement promises to "foster diversity, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry". How can the coalition justify returning the RBS monolith to the market without making it a useful and effective supporter of business recovery again? ...
The Treasury can go ahead with a sell-off and ignore the Commission if it wants to, but it can't ignore the Lib Dem half of the coalition. It seems to me a clear cut case for the Lib Dems here: vetoing early privatisation until RBS can be returned to the market as a useful and effective lending infrastructure, which it manifestly isn't at the moment. 
That alone would justify the party's involvement in the coalition. The prize could not be more important: providing the UK with an effective lender to expanding business which is so urgently needs.
This campaign would be right, popular and help make us distinct from the Conservatives. By its own it would not be enough, and "we stopped the wicked Conservatives doing X" always invites a question as to why we went into coalition with them in the first place if they are so wicked.

But this just the sort of issue that should form part of that distinctive Liberal Democrat narrative for 2015.

1 comment:

J Moore said...

I'm not sure that an electoral strategy founded on building lots on homes on green field sites in LD heartlands is a recipe for success!

How about just being a Liberal party again? A Keynesian economic policy to reduce unemployment, an industrial strategy for growth, land taxes to stimulate towns and city centre investment, affordable green public transport, public control over monopoly utility profiteers, free university education...