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On Lib Dem excuses…

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so hard that he did a hernia whilst looking over his shoulder at a signed photo of Lynton Crosby whose left eye had been replaced by a small spy camera to ensure that Harding stayed on course.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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  1. K K

    Nobody cares about manifestos. If they did they would read them.

  2. TonyJ TonyJ

    “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.”

    Spot-on Neil.

  3. neilmonnery neilmonnery

    Are you a writer or at least part of the production staff on Borgen? Considering I’ve not seen one second of it, the constant references are pretty pointless.

    I look forward to the next General Election campaign though with no manifestos and all the leaders compete in a live stand-up gig. The one with the most applause and laughs gets the job and then appoints the rest of the MPs. It will be a joy.

  4. K K

    People should be voting on policy and not personality because policy is what actually affects day-to-day lives

    No, people should be voting on personality (with policy as one of the factors involved in judging personality) because the future is uncertain, and the main job of any Prime Minster, and government, is to deal with ‘events, dear boy.’

    The fact is that what you are suggesting is a continental-style ‘consensus politics’ approach where people vote for policy slates, and then, depending on how much support each slate got, the resulting chamber comes up with a programme of government. Borgen, basically.

    That is not what the British people want from a democracy, as can be seen from the fact that any time they are asked if they would like to change the system they say, ‘No’.

    What the British people want is to know where, ultimately, the buck stops; who is responsible, and that they can get rid of them, and that if they do decide to get rid of them then they will be gone — not, as in the last series of Borgen, right back at the top just with a different set of coalition partners around them.

  5. neilmonnery neilmonnery

    Well that is how people should think because that is what they are voting for. Not every seat is a battleground involving a potential party of the Prime Minister. If we had a PR system or even a PR top-up system then people can vote for a party/PM or if we had a President system they clearly would be but the fact is we don’t.

    People should be voting on policy and not personality because policy is what actually affects day-to-day lives. Ever since Tony Blair, the media have played up the role of PM as more of a President and the same with all the party leaders, the Cleggmania and the wave of Sturgeon love that we saw this time around.

  6. K K

    I doubt many people are thinking about that when they cast their vote — how many people do you think can even name their MP, even a week after they voted for them?

    Most people, in this country, vote on the basis of who they want to be Prime Minister, so it’s quite right and proper for the media to inform them as to how best to use their vote to try to get the result they want.

    We do not have in this country a Borgen-style system of electing a bunch of parties based on their policy platforms who then thrash out a programme for government between them based on how much support each set of policies got, and any time any movement in that direction has been suggested the British public have rejected it.

    I suspect that this is because the British public are more interested in the ‘accountability’ aspect of democracy, the ability to throw out an administration when it becomes unpopular as was done to John Major and Gordon Brown, than they are in the ‘representation’ aspect. Under a continental-style system it is very difficult to be sure of completely removing an unpopular party from government; you can never be sure they won’t just sneak back in as part of a reshuffled coalition with different partners (as indeed Clegg admitted he was planning to do, if Labour became the larger party: I’m sure that that killed off a lot of what was left of his support).

    And ‘accountability’ is just as valid an interpretation as ‘representation’ (Tony Benn thought it was the main point of democracy, in fact; remember his main question to ask of anyone in power was ‘How can we get rid of you?’) so if that is what the British people value, then that is the system they have, and under that system it is quite right that policy takes a secondary place in reporting because people aren’t voting on policy: they’re voting on ‘Do I think Cameron is doing a good job, or do I wish to hold him to account by sacking him and putting Miliband in his place?’.

  7. K K

    this election in the media wasn’t fought on policy but instead fought on which coalition of parties people wanted to run the country

    Well… good. Isn’t choosing who you want to run the country what an election is supposed to be about?

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Not really in the FPTP system – you vote for the person you want to represent you in the House of Commons.

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