The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Saturday, January 28, 2006
A Question for the Contenders
by Steve Travis

I would urge anyone attending a leadership hustings to ask a variant on the following question:

"It is well known that any group that operates in a competitive environment (business, sports team, military force, political party even) has to constantly re-examine itself in order to remain competitive, or else it will "go out of business".

For a political party one part of this process is to examine how its current policies align with its core values, and from the evidence we've heard tonight that process is well underway.

The second, and often neglected point, is that it needs to examine its electoral strategy, not its tactics (the two are often confused), and the way it is organised to deliver that strategy.

Can the members of the panel assure us that when they are leader they will undertake a thorough review of party electoral strategy, and ensure that the party's headquarters organisation is changed to reflect the most effective way to deliver that strategy?"

I attended a constituency dinner last night where Nick Clegg MP made an excellent speech to party members. One of his key points was that the vast majority of the electorate vote not on specific policies, but on general impressions, or gut feel, of a party and its values. Polling evidence of the support that we attained at the last election tends to bear this out: the "grey vote", for whom many of our policies were designed, did not support us in the numbers we would have liked; yet amongst the 25 - 45 group, who might perhaps have been adversely affected by some of our proposals, we did very well.

This latter group was attracted by the open-minded, internationalist, caring, environmentally-concerned image of our party - an image we need to reinforce and develop further by adding financial and fiscal responsibility to our portfolio of values. We certainly have the talent as a party to do this.

Leaving aside the issue that those impressions will have been tested by the events of recent weeks, it is imperative that we recognise that the party has to spend the next three years ensuring it projects the right image of the it's core values and principles. This work needs to be undertaken now; we CANNOT afford to wait.

Getting the message across requires a constant drip-feed to the elctorate. Lets all work hard to make this happen.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:32 am  
  • At 28 January, 2006 15:57, Blogger Stephen Tall said…

    Quite agree, Steve. It comes back in essence to having the courage to be who we are. Which means staking out the liberal ground on asylum and immigration; rehabilitation over a simplistic "prison works" mantra; improving public services by recognising that one-size-fits-all can never work; promoting sensible environmental policies; devolving power; and, this is key, having a robust economic underpinning which will pay for our programme.

    What we can't continue to have is a pick'n'mix policy set, which seems opportunistic (however heartfelt), and contains no USP.

  • At 28 January, 2006 20:41, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…

    Excellent post, Steve (and Stephen!)

    On policy: we certainly need to avoid the pick and mix approach - it should be possible for the electorate to guess accurately what stance we would take on any issue.

    And we need to bear in mind that liberal values are often held by people with high aspirations.

  • At 29 January, 2006 15:05, Blogger Tristan said…

    Quite right. My own experience is that for about 8 years I did not know there was a political party which shared my core views (even if there are disagreements on particular policies).
    When I found that the LibDems are such a party I looked carefully, found that the party is much stronger in these views than it appeared at first and then joined.

    It took far too long to get this through to me though. I get too many people asking what LibDems stand for, they seem to think we are simply a protest party or have no philosophy when we have a far stronger philosophy than Labour or the Conservatives.

  • At 02 February, 2006 11:48, Blogger Valerie said…

    Tristan - that's exactly how it was when I joined in 2003. For long I had no idea that the Lib Dems' core views and philosophy were so close to mine, and it was only when I looked carefully (after my interest was piqued before the Iraq war) that I found they were.

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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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