The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Leadership and Direction
by Peter

Lib Dems have been talking about these topics for a while. In the wake of recent posts and articles by Jonathan Calder, it is probably time to post something here.

Jonathan said

"I am not Charles Kennedy's greatest fan, but there seems to me no point in calling for his head. There is no obvious successor about whom I feel a much warmer, and it is not as though there is an agreed radical liberal programme that would sweep the country if only a Lib Dem would promise to implement it. Kennedy's muddling through reflects the party's thought processes only too well."


1. Leadership

I´m not Kennedy's greatest fan either (I voted for Malcolm Bruce), but I agree that there is no point in calling for his head. On balance it seems to me that Kennedy has done a relatively good job on policy. He made the right call on Iraq (thereby giving us a USP) and he has allowed the party to move in a liberal direction on economics. We haven´t got the sort of all round liberal platform that many of us would like - but conference must take a lot of the blame.

On presentation there are two schools of thought. One says that by seeming non-political we look refreshing and different to the electorate. The other school of thought is that Kennedy is not good at presentation. I have much sympathy for the first of these schools but am unable to dismiss the second out of hand.

Obvious successors? There isn´t one, and there are perhaps too many who would throw their hats into the ring. In the next parliament I think the choice would be between Clegg and Laws. If Charles were to stand down this parliament I should like the Party to coronate Ming for the next General Election.

2. Direction

Simon Mollan has used the phrase "policy masochism" to describe the weight of policies we Lib Dems burden ourselves with. And I have complained here about the "radical" fetish. (To save you the link I´m in favour of policies that get to the root of a problem (true radicalism) and unimpressed with policy tokenism (radical because different)).

What do we need to do? Become more liberal and more credible on the economy, a little more patriotic and realist on international issues. We need to redirect our offer away from grey voters and towards younger, more liberal, economically-active voters. And above all, we need to become opponents of the nanny state (all too often we have been proponents).

If we can regroup around a core liberal message, clearly-articulated, everything is possible next time around. Muddling through might get us through the next few months, but no more.

It is probably time to get organised...
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 2:49 pm  
  • At 03 December, 2005 18:30, Anonymous Mark said…

    The way the Tories are moving towards supporting Blair on health, education etc, things could open up very nicely for the Lib Dems with people seeing us ever more clearly as an alternative to the two old parties if they start agreeing on so much more.

    We'd need to be clear about how we differ from the other paries but, in that context, having a leader who is seen as a decent bloke who doesn't just try to score cheap political points would (paradoxically) be even more of a boon than it is at the moment - because it's easier for such a leader to draw the distinction whilst still seeming credible. A more "in your face" leader would just come over as trying to disagree for the sake of it.

  • At 05 December, 2005 17:07, Blogger TheStarFromAfar said…

    "The way the Tories are moving towards supporting Blair on health, education etc, things could open up very nicely for the Lib Dems with people seeing us ever more clearly as an alternative to the two old parties if they start agreeing on so much more"

    Of the course the danger is we look isolated and out of touch. I think ideally we have to put forward an entirely new model for healthcare and education to the part-privatisation and the development of internal markets that both Labour and the Tories support. What that is is one for Liberal intellectuals to pontificate upon.

  • At 06 December, 2005 20:08, Blogger Simon said…

    Leadership needs a little more than a good guy to have a pint with.

    I need to believe I am to be taken to the promised land. I want charisma. I want humour. I want glamour. I want intellectual weight and the common touch. I want the ticking heartbeat of my nation at the helm. I want to march towards the sound of gunfire.

    I am still looking.

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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