Sometimes in life no matter how many excuses you can provide, you have to look yourself in the mirror and say that maybe it wasn’t everyone else’s fault, in fact it was quite the opposite.
You see as Lib Dems we often point at factors that didn’t help us during the past few years, some of them are very legitimate but at some point all the excuses start to pile up and they become implausible.
One excuses I would like to bring up that I believe is a significant factor in both the Lib Dems and Labour’s performance in the May 2015 General Election was the media. The media fucked up their election coverage woefully and whilst the commercial stations can duck a bit and shield themselves, the BBC is paid for by a tax that we are all forced to pay if we want to watch the idiot box in the corner of the room, they are meant therefore as part of that tax to bring a fair and balanced approach to their news and politics output. They didn’t and boy do they know that now. They let polling run the whole election campaign so this election in the media wasn’t fought on policy but instead fought on which coalition of parties people wanted to run the country.
The Lib Dems pleaded with James Harding, who is the BBC’s director of news to focus their output based on policy and not polling data but James sat back in his chair, stroked his cat and told the Lib Dems to do one as he was the most powerful man in the land and he could do whatever he wanted. As the Lib Dem representatives walked out of his office he threw his glass of wine at them, staining their clothing before laughing so hard that he did a hernia whilst looking over his shoulder at a signed photo of Lynton Crosby whose left eye had been replaced by a small spy camera to ensure that Harding stayed on course. I may have used a little bit of poetic license in that paragraph…
Still the point remains, the BBC fucked up and on reflection, they know it badly. The fact they kowtowed (which is one of my favourite words – rising fast but still not at meander levels) to David Cameron by not allowing Nick Clegg into their live TV debate, which they called ‘the challengers debate’ before saying that it wasn’t a challengers debate at all, it was just David Cameron and Nick Clegg had turned down the chance to appear, which was half-true, 50% truth isn’t bad for the BBC in this election, but the fact they allowed this and then gave Nigel Farage his own show after he put up a pissy that he wasn’t involved in the Question Time debate shows that they didn’t have a fucking clue what they were doing. It wasn’t even like they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, they couldn’t organise food in an all you can eat buffet.
So that excuse has more than a ring of truth to it, which hurt both the Lib Dems and Labour to some degree because of the obsession the media had over whether Alex Salmond would be propping up Ed Miliband. The people of this country shouldn’t have their news output affected by hypothetical situations, the news is there to report on what has happened and what is going to happen, not to ponder what might happen.
Yet that wasn’t the sole reason the Lib Dem vote collapsed. The party ran an ineffectual campaign and weren’t putting to the people of this country a plan for progressive liberal politics. The manifesto was a mish-mash of random ideas and a call that we would be a stabilising force with either Labour or the Tories in any potential coalition. On paper this might sound like a good position to be but in reality when the whole election was moulded by the media (with a large slice of help by the Tories – seriously they ran this campaign beautifully) about a potential coalition, then the electorate weren’t voting on policy but they were voting with emotion. Did people want Scotland running England and did people want the Lib Dems propping up the Tories were the two buzz topics that a lot of voters looked at when they went to the ballot boxes.
Now whether this is the sign of things to come I don’t know, but hopefully the media have learned their lesson about what their role is in society but also I hope the Lib Dems have remembered what is important. Yes if the media won’t report on policy then you try to get them to notice you through other means but when we brought out the idea of ‘Blukip’ then most of us knew things were a lot worse than we thought. No-one (well I say no-one, what I mean is no-one who wasn’t a UKIP voter) thought that UKIP were going to get anything more than the one MP that they got (and that was a lot closer than what people thought) so they were never going to be in a position to help prop up a Tory government. It was a Hail Mary pass but instead of all the Wide Receivers running down field into the end zone, they all stayed back in case the other team caught the ball and started running it back. It was total nonsense and bollocks and whilst it probably made no difference in the grand scheme of things, that was the moment where you knew that HQ wasn’t as confident as they had been trying to portray.
Many people have realised that by voting elsewhere and not going Lib Dem, they have helped to create the majority Conservative government that we now have and a not insignificant portion of them are now disappointed. They wanted to give the Lib Dems a slap for going into coalition with the Tories and they didn’t like that, but by doing this they gave the Tories more power, yeah that makes sense but again it goes to show that people were voting emotionally. The problem is that we as a party didn’t address these potential pitfalls and we weren’t offering much apart from, ‘we’ll make the next government a bit less unpalatable’ and that isn’t something that will motivate people to vote.
We all know that our performance within the coalition was mixed, some things we did well, some things we did badly but one thing we did woefully was communication. The communication between the party and the electorate was just abject. If you are the junior partner in a coalition then many people will automatically think you are the whipping boys and have gone against your principles but unless you challenge this notion head on and very loudly then you are creating resentment and the longer than lasts, the harder it is to get over. We have to understand that our communication was our responsibility and that is something whoever the new leader is will have to tackle head on.
You see most people want the party of the centre-ground not to be a moderating force but instead be a party of the radical centre. That is where the Lib Dems should live and breathe. Being a Lib Dem isn’t about curbing other parties but instead broadening the ideas of the radical centre-ground and campaigning on them.
Yes some things have conspired against us at times but we haven’t helped ourselves and it is time to stop blaming others for our downfall. We went down for a plethora of reasons and more of these were self-inflicted wounds than those dealt from elsewhere. Some of these wounds weren’t fair but when has life ever been fair people? It is time to snap out of our prolonged funk (which it does seem is happening) and start remembering the reason why we got popular (certainly at local level).
Blaming other people and the world around us is so uncouth and when you keep doing it people will just switch of and switching people off in politics is something you never want to do.
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