Monday, April 11, 2011

The Liberal Democrat future: Two contrasting strategies from Liverpool

Warren Bradley, the leader of Liverpool Liberal Democrats, won himself a lot of publicity today with his call for the Liberal Democrats to withdraw from its coalition with the Conservatives.

That call was made in an email to Nick Clegg and other Lib Dem MPs, which somehow found its way into the hands of the media.

What strikes me most about the email is its defensiveness:
“The Labour and Trade Union movement are saturating the streets of Liverpool, even in our heartlands.
Never before in 35+ years have I seen the streets of Wavertree snooing with Labour activists, never before have I seen Labour posters in a local election.
I am not sure what snooing is, but the implication seems to be that Liberal Democrat success in local government is only possible if we do not upset the Labour Party. Otherwise they may start canvassing and putting posters up and where will we be then?

Yes, we face a difficult set of council elections - parties in power often do - but Bradley's views sound like a counsel of despair to me.

Contrast this with the view of Richard Kemp. Writing on his own blog under the title "I'm proud to be a 'Cleggista'", he argues that we need to be far more aggressive in promoting two ideas:
  1. The type of success stories that I have mentioned above. Too few people know that pensioner’s standards of living will be protected for the first time since Thatcher abolished the earnings link. We need to be getting out there with all the good news stories that will affect people’s lives for good.
  2. We need again and again to nail the deceptions and distortions of The Labour Party. They twist and turn like a worm on the end of a fisherman’s hook. We are dealing with the financial mess that they have left us with. There is a total of £11 billion difference between their spending plans announced in November 2009 for the current tax year and that which the government is running with. Not such a big difference on a total budget of £750 billion. But you wouldn’t think that by listening to ‘Nelson’ Milliband would you?
This bold stuff: not just campaigning on a strong local record and waiting for the storm to blow over, but defending the Liberal Democrat role in government.

It more challenging approach - Sir Humphrey might call it "courageous" - but it is surely the right one.

Besides, if we did take Warren Bradley's advice and withdraw from government because the going had got hard, why should anyone vote for us at the resultant general election?

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Anonymous said...

Would this elections and campaigns guru be the same Warren Bradley who has led his group from being about 60 strong when he took charge, to about 34 today?

Gosh, Clegg must be hanging on his every word!

Hywel said...

"“Liberalism started in Liverpool (Church Ward) during the late 60's with Sir Trevor Jones and Cyril Carr being the driving force"

A slightly suspect claim - wasn't Gladstone MP for Liverpool?

Unknown said...

I hope to hold my ward in May, but it will be down to my local hard work and in spite of Clegg. I never mentioned national stuff in Focus leaflets before last May so gave a good reason for not doing so since May. But I bet I get a better result with my strategy than Richard Kemp does.

gawain said...

Right as ever, Jonathan. Yes, parties - usually governing parties - lose seats locally because of national trends. Unfair, maybe, but the same for all. It's our first time for a long time; that's all.

NorfolkB; aren't you effectively an Independent now?

Frank Little said...


Gladstone was MP for South Lancashire from 1865 to 1868 - but he had also represented Newark and Oxford, and went on to be MP for Greenwich and eventually Midlothian. He did hail from that part of the world and was said to have had a slight Lancashire accent to the end of his days.

Anonymous said...

Do the honourable thing and ditch your leader so he can join the party he realy belongs too and give us all a General election.
People voted for him to keep the tories out and are verry angry to now being subject to two of the cruelist in history.
Dump him now or you are history.

Anonymous said...

"Dump him now or you are history."

Umm, Clegg is already in history as the man who took the LibDems into government.

It is a different question whether similar success beckons in the future, but it doesn't reflect well on his opponents that they are asking the wrong questions - especially since their opposition is based on the assumption they would provide better answers to the political challenges facing the country.

Ask the wrong questions, get the wrong answers.