Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Snipers take aim at Lib Dem head

The Lib Dem snipers were out again, yesterday, and as usual its our own generals that are receiving a withering “friendly” crossfire.

As usual the man on the roof with a mail-order hunting rifle is Lib Dem Blogger of last year James Graham, with a grumpy one-line of support from Jonathan Calder.

According to James’s Comment Is Free column, he has “been struck by how many people [he has] spoken to over the past few weeks – candidates, councillors and activists alike – who appear to be either demoralised or disenchanted with Clegg's leadership.”

One source of this disaffection appears to be the recent survey of 12 candidates conducted by Lib Dem Voice. As a statistical aside, a “survey of 12 people” is not a robust sample of any group; not one containing hundreds (PPCs) of people and certainly not one containing thousands (activists) or tens of thousands (members) of people. Indeed, if it is that first post (of a series of four) about PPC's views on which James was basing his opinion, it should be borne in mind that the subject of that particular entry was The three worst things about being a Lib Dem PPC. One might refer James to the The three best things about being a Lib Dem PPC by way of contrast.

Strangely, James himself points out that:

The polls are looking OK…. Clegg's attempt at repositioning the party by pledging tax cuts for middle and low-income earners seems to be reaping rewards... Even his "summer message" seems to have gone down quite well.
Yet this does not stop him blaming Clegg for the Lib Dems alleged misery and drift. Rather than elaborate on the above counter-evidence, he fires a couple of shots at the Lisbon Treaty policy (that was a long time ago and ranks no. 18 in the electorate’s list of things they care about) and the proposed restructuring of the party machine (which is long overdue, though the proposals strike me as rather anaemic) and so paints a picture of failing leadership. More objective evidence would suggest otherwise.

I realise that all is not well in the camp at present, and it is certainly true that there is depression and lethergy in many localities. I also agree with James about the poor state of communication between the troops and the generals, though I would ask him "Was it not always thus" (at least in the days since we all fitted in a taxi)?

As I've pointed out to Jonathan Calder, the depression among Lib Dems has more to do with the sudden and seemingly inexorable rise of the New Conservatives than with Nick's leadership.

Our problem was not that Nick took over at all, but that he took over too late. Had we done all this 18 months earlier (without the unfortunate Ming interlude) we would have reaped enormous benefits from advocating polices that chimed with the feelings of a British public sick of having their money confiscated in ever greater quantities to pay for faceless government to regulate upon ever more minute areas of their lives.

Neither were we ever likely to make that break through that Nick speaks of by continuing with this "Anti-establishment party" nonsense. Either we are a serious party of Government or we are not; if we are not, what is the point of voting for us? You can give the other main parties a much more meaningful kick by voting for UKIP, Galloway or some other extreme form of what they used to stand for.

If there is a real sense of de-motivation and depression in the party - and there is no doubt that in many quarters there is - then the cause is closer to home. Frankly, we activists need to stop sitting around moaning over our organic, Fairtrade, decaf coffees and get on with selling our party to the electorate.

Nothing creates enthusiasm like activity; and nothing breeds success like success.


9 comments:

Oranjepan said...

It's a shame we've just completed delivering our constituency-wide tabloid and don't plan any more focusses until around conference, but maybe the blisters on my feet are reason why my feelings are more positive.

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

1) My source was not the survey of candidates, I merely noted that it concurs with a lot of the feedback I've had from people, some in surprising quarters.

2) I did not refer to "The three worst things about being a Lib Dem PPC". I referred to "The three best things about being a Lib Dem PPC." The fact that some of the candidates struggled to come up with three genuinely positive answers surprised me.

3) The reason I acknowledge that there have been positive things as well as negative things are that, um, there have been positive things as well as negative things. Is that so hard to understand?

4) Pardon me for pointing this out, but on the substantive, you appear to agree with pretty much all my criticisms. You'd just rather I didn't point them out to anyone.

5) "Frankly, we activists need to stop sitting around moaning over our organic, Fairtrade, decaf coffees and get on with selling our party to the electorate." Frankly, in the grand scheme of things, I can see a lot more point in writing about where improvements need to be made than in wasting an equal amount of space lecturing people on the dangers of scaring the horses. Why aren't you out delivering?

Jonathan said...

Grumpy, never. Bashful or Dopey, maybe.

Tom Papworth said...

James,

You can point whatever you like out to whomever you like.

Please don't accuse me of agreeing though. Communication is no worse than it's ever been (though I'll accept that that it remains pretty poor), the Lisbon issue was a storm in a tea cup, and the Bones Commission is replacing one pointless talking-shop with another. I don't share your concern that the pointless talking shop is no longer to be directly elected.

I'm not concerned with scaring the horses. I just think you're wrong.

And the Focus is at the printers. If you'd like to help deliver some do give me a call :o)

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

This holier than thou stunt is ridiculous. You're in politics and have Parliamentary ambitions. If you have a problem with "talking shops" what on Earth are you doing wasting everyone's time?

You're also a blogger, thus not really in a position to lecture people about writing when they should be out delivering. I have to admit, having spent the past three months being too busy (campaigning, but not admittedly for the Lib Dems) to do any serious blogging, I feel I've earned the right to spend a bit of time venting spleen.

And finally, if you really think there is no problem that delivering a few Focus leaflets can't fix, you really are lost to us. Do you really fancy yourself as the poster child of mindless activism? Good luck with that!

Hywel said...

"we would have reaped enormous benefits from advocating polices that chimed with the feelings of a British public sick of having their money confiscated in ever greater quantities to pay for faceless government to regulate upon ever more minute areas of their lives."

Fact: our policies currently involve us in "confiscating" exactly the same amount of money as is currently being taken. We we take it from different people but we have nothing beyond a broad aspiration to reduce the overall tax take.

Tom Papworth said...

Hywel,

That is true, lamentably. We should firm up those plans to reduce the overall tax burden as soon as possible.

Tom Papworth said...

And James. Really! "Holier than thou stunt"? "Poster child of mindless activism"? After six months away from the blogosphere I can't say I've missed that kind of ad hominem abuse much but I had learnt to expect it from anonymous blog-trolls rather than feted fellow bloggers.

Parliamentary ambitions? I don't see parliament as a pointless talking shop, which is more than can be said for the Lib Dems Federal Executive.

As regards blogging when we should be delivering, I don't think I did say that. I said that there were a correlation between disaffection and lack of activity, and I am not convinced that the causal arrow points in the same direction as you suggested. I think activists are demoralised and they are blaming it all on the leadership.

The Burbler said...

Well said Tom