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.