The vote on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (CJCB) on Monday 2nd December has received much comment for Liberal Democrat MPs failing to support amendments passed in the House of Lords and supported by Lib Dem Peers. Those amendments aimed to row back some of the Justice Secretary’s attempts to curtail the Judicial Review process – and with it, so the Government’s critics say, the Rule of Law and the right of citizens to challenge the decisions of public bodies in the Courts.Read more
Two nations divided by a common language. So goes the quip about the differences between the two sides of the Atlantic. So too, when it comes to elections, are there striking similarities and differences in the US and in Great Britain. Former New York Mayor Mario Cuomo once said that ‘you campaign in poetry and govern in prose’, and, equally, British political operatives tended to divide the art of campaigning from the science of governing. But US political campaigning has undergone an almost-Copernican revolution of exacting campaigning to the scientific method. The dark arts have been opened to peer review and campaigns are reaching new levels of sophistication. Those who don’t keep up with the changes will certainly fall behind. British campaigners not plugged in to the changes in the US might well become the equivalent of doctors treating patients with leeches and offering snake oil, rather than those who can truly claim to be operating in the best interests of those who depend on them. While statistics can’t replace compelling messages (although they can test them) or a convincing candidate (although they can test whether they are convincing anyone), they can and do yield insights into who your voters are, how to narrow the universe of which ones to target, and yield insight into the type of messages that might persuade them to vote, or change their partisan choice, or both. In May, after the inevitable drubbing of the General Election, the Lib Dems will need to borrow liberally from the lessons easily discernible from the US, if liberalism has any hope of a brighter future than a slow and steady extinction.Read more
At the heart of any political party must be big ideas and a strong message. The Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party before them have a long political history. In that time the party has had many messages and slogans. Perhaps one of the best was the one used by David Lloyd George in the general election of 1929. "We Can Conquer Unemployment" was the Liberal Party mission statement for their new Keynesian industrial policy. To sum up a difficult concept like liberal Keynesianism in four words is impressive. The Liberal Democrats today need to convey a similar sense of mission in the slogans that the party uses.
The current situation for the Liberal Democrats is utterly dire. In the recent Rochester and Strood by-election, the Lib Dem candidate received only 349 votes and 1% of the total votes cast. To put that in context the Green candidate polled four times as many votes. This has been described by the New Statesman as the "worst-ever by-election result for a main party." Clearly a lot of things will have to change in the Liberal Democrats between now and the general election in May 2015.Read more
Clacton-on-Sea is going nowhere… This is Britain on crutches. This is tracksuit-and-trainers Britain, tattoo-parlour Britain, all-our-yesterdays Britain
- Matthew Parris, The Times
Matthew Parris’s dismissal of poor, coastal Essex adorned thousands of UKIP leaflets in Clacton. It served only to justify UKIP’s rout of the Tory party.
Inadvertently, Parris came close to the truth: Britain as a political entity almost ceased to exist in September. Despite the eventual result in Scotland, the strength of the yes vote saw victory in Glasgow, quadrupled the membership of the SNP and caused Scottish Labour to implode. The high turnout alone belied the modern complaint of political apathy.
From Clacton to Dundee, Britain is discontented. Instead of demurring from hard politics, it’s time to look at the facts and act.Read more
Let's be honest things aren't exactly great for the Liberal Democrats at the moment. Only last week the party came fifth in an opinion poll scoring only 7% of the vote. Added to this the party is now the fifth biggest party in terms of membership following the steady rise of UKIP and the immense surge of the SNP after the Scottish referendum.
From what Liberal Democrats have seen the next manifesto is far from being radical, in fact it seems to be small-c conservative and reeks of the very status quo that the public at large have grown tired of. On Tuesday 21st October, Ryan Coetzee, the Lib Dem General Election Director of Strategy was "accidentally" photographed with what appears to be the front page of the party's next manifesto.Read more
Anyone who regularly reads my tweets will know that barely a day-and certainly not a week-goes by without me reminding my readers that those of us on the centre-left are the beating heart and soul of our party.
More often than not I get one person and often more than one reply to me saying that I’ve got it wrong, that I’m stuck in the past, that the party has changed, that we’re now a Party of the Orange Bookers and broadly on the centre-right.Read more
Join the Social Liberal Forum at Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Glasgow. We have a selection of three fringe events for you to choose from and have a stand staffed by volunteers for you to visit and get to know us better.Read more
Whatever we may think of it, the Yes camp in Scotland succeeded in building a powerful movement. Turnout in the Scottish Referendum was a staggering 84 percent, putting the typical General Election turnout of 60 percent very much in the shade. This is proof that when the electorate is offered real, meaningful choice, they will engage. It is however sobering, that Scotland’s biggest city – Glasgow, and 45 percent of Scots overall, voted to leave the United Kingdom.Read more
I’d like to raise a concern about something to be decided at Conference, especially as I can’t be there.
Conference in Glasgow will consider two proposals from the party establishment lumped together under the title of OMOV – one member, one vote – and both apparently aimed at bypassing those unreliable activists. The first of these, to throw open elections for key party committees to all members instead of conference voting reps, is the one that has generated most debate. I don’t have strong feelings on that: there is a real danger that the great and the good would be elected and have little time to give to Federal Policy Committee and so on, but it would be easy to require that the attendance record of candidates standing again be shared with all members and easy also to require brief statements from candidates of the sort union members will be familiar with. The change could make policy positions and voting record of candidates much more widely known.Read more
The last Autumn Conference before a General Election always looks a little different, perforce. Eager Parliamentary candidates queueing up to make a campaigning point to win a few votes, perhaps to save a local post office? Check. Debates more about nuances of strategy than big issues of policy? That too. An absence of major controversy from the agenda? Frequently.Read more