Narratives….what are they good for?
Over on another post; myself and Oranjepan are having a debate about the Liberal Democrats narrative (or what I feel is a lack of one). One of the poorer aspects of our conference was I believe the lack of a coherent narrative and while I agree that open debate is totally a good thing and seeing it in public is good I do think there is so far that can be taken without appearing to lack a coherent narrative.
My contention is that Nick Clegg with his ‘savage cuts’ and Vince Cable with his mansion tax risked reviving the old perception of the Liberal Democrats; that they tack to the left against Labour and right against the Conservatives. Oranjepan doesnt see this as a problem;
“Being caught facing two ways is exactly what we DO want!
In the discussion over Clegg’s use of the word ’savage’ with regard to cuts, this has obvious appeal to the right-wing and shows we are sympathetic to their concerns, but in the rejection by Steve Webb and the wider party we show we are also sympathetic to the concerns of the left.”
I, on the other hand, do because to me it reinforces the prejudice that this is what Liberal Democrats do and that is the behaviour of a protest party not a party of potential or one that necessarily looks like it is seeking government. It reinforces the view that we are there to cater for every need of the protest voter whether they be of the left or right wing variety. If there was a stronger central narrative then it may well look as Oranjepan says it already does; that we are a party of strong diversity which is capable of healthy disagreement, however, given our position that is not how I feel it comes across.
Tensions over issues like tuition fees actually run deeper than the depth achieved by the singular issue themselves and actually speak to a wider tension within our narrative and the contending versions of what people want that to be; this will need to be resolved if we want to make a serious push to challenge Labour for the mantle of THE progressive party.