Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nick Clegg, comfort blankets and very real forks

I awoke this morning to the news that Nick Clegg was to "take on his internal party critics" at the Lib Dem local government conference today and my heart sank.

Political activists now exist chiefly as a sort of stage army that can be brought on so their own leader can look tough by criticising them. It's no life for a grown up.

And how was Nick going to "take on" his critics? It was by saying that he wanted to be in power while they sought the "comfort blanket" of opposition or protest.

This is not good enough.

As Simon Titley pointed out on Liberator's blog last month:
The Liberal Democrats were never a ‘party of protest’. The party always had comprehensive policies and it ran many local councils, and took part in government in Scotland and Wales, long before Clegg even became an MP.
And as I have pointed out before, the fellow Liberal Democrats who are most likely to be critical of Nick's leadership are precisely those who have lost power under his leadership - councillors and group leaders in Northern cities who have seen the gains of years of hard work wiped out.

There was never any reason to think we would be immune to mid-term unpopularity when we were in government, but for Nick to suggest that those who are sceptical of his strategy are not interested in power is silly.

The Independent report also says:
Before 2010, the only way the Lib Dems could get a foothold against the two biggest parties was through targeted, street-by-street campaigns. But he will argue this will not be an option at the 2015 election now that his party has been in government and demand a disciplined central message about a “stronger economy and fairer society”.
This is too is strange. We have had central messages at every general election and the party has no option but to fight targeted, street-by-street campaigns because we do not have enough members or activists to do anything else.

At the height on Cleggmania during the last election campaign a television programme (I think it was Newsnight) went to one of the Bournemouth seats to look at the Liberal Democrat campaign. Though this was just the sort of constituency we were going to have to win if we were going to fulfill the polls' forecast of over a hundred Lib Dem MPs, they were unable to find it. We just did not have enough people on the ground.

Oh, and apparently we are at a "very real fork in the road". Not just a fork; not a false fork; but a real one and a very real one at that.

Nick needs to realise that his party is just as interested in power as he is - indeed, many were exercising it locally long before he came along. What many worry about is whether his strategy is likely to allow us to take and exercise power nationally and locally in the future.

What he should offer is an adult conversation about his members' worries, not this talk of comfort blankets and very real forks.


Anonymous said...

It is always interesting when Lib Dem bloggers create fantasies based on what they think they're going to hear from the Leader.

I listened very carefully to Nick Clegg's speech. What he said was that we cannot go back to where we were before 2010 but had to go forward from where we are now. He asked for help in creating a radical distinctly Liberal manifesto and he also said that we couldn't any more plan to run the General Election as a series of by-elections divorced from the overall campaign.

He's right. I do tire of listening to those who simply are unwilling to face up to the realities of being in government and who see every action or speech by Nick Clegg as a betrayal or a sure sign that he's taking our party down the road of merging with the Tories.

Anonymous said...

"I do tire of listening to those who simply are unwilling to face up to the realities of being in government ..."

Don't worry. Facing up to the realities of being in government won't be a problem for much longer.

David said...

We live in interesting tines (sic).

Left Lib said...

Maybe there is a fantasy going on compared with what Nick Clegg said as Mickft points out. However it is a fantasy that Nick Clegg's spin doctors want the media to report on.

James said...

"he also said that we couldn't any more plan to run the General Election as a series of by-elections divorced from the overall campaign."

Great. We'll run solely on his own incredible popularity with the electorate, presumably. Or our great achievements in government, including our super-popular reforms of the NHS, our booming economy, and our compassionate treatment of the poor and vulnerable.

It's pretty annoying to have Clegg, who is in no small part the author of our misfortunes, spouting platitudes; what's worse is when he asks us to fight the next General Election with one hand tied behind our back.

Anonymous said...

It was once said of Lloyd George that he didn't care which direction the bus was travelling as long as he was in the driving seat.

The problem with Clegg is that he doesn't realise that the direction of travel is off an electoral cliff. The 'left' has gone to Labour and the 'protest vote' to UKIP. With membership of less than 38,000 its difficult to see how the part will put on any sort of national campaign in 2015. All we will see is a highly targeting campaign focused on a few key seats.