Why are we not doing better?
Mark Thompson raises this question on his blog; he is quite right to ‘stick his neck out’ and say we should be doing better for all the reasons he cites on his blog. It is perhaps good to tackle the factors he cites in order and question why they are not benefitting us;
The Financial Crisis and Vince.
Mark is right that Vince is widely respected for predicting the current economic climate we find ourselves in; however, well I agree people do feel he talks sense I think the reason we accrue little political benefit from it is that he is in the minds of most people some kind of non-party sage. The act of prediction in and of itself has little obvious connection to the fact he is a Liberal Democrat so that explains why we are not ‘credited’ for that.
In term’s of the panacea’s offered I also think there is a disjuncture between what he advocates and Liberal Democrat policy in most peoples minds; something that is probably fostered by the media who either consciously or subconsciously encourage actively this disjuncture.
Government unpopular; opposition unloved.
Mark is again right to point to this. Government unpopularity is almost universal; I have blogged alot about what I feel our problems are in reaching Labour’s core vote but spoken less about the rest. To me it’s simple arithmetic; if people’s main desire is to get rid of the government (and I believe it is) then switching to the Conservatives make sense. Sure, they might not be quite sure about them but that is not their modus operendi; they want rid of the government and that is their primary motivation. It makes sense to me they act on that; sure, we can say your actually electing a government with policies and should vote positively on that basis but, sadly, that is not the way the world works.
The Conservatives are not well liked and as Mark rightly says there is no popular enthusiasm for them, however, in many ways there simply doesn’t have to be. In some Liberal Democrat seats the Conservative votes we ‘loaned’ will return because they were never ours in the first place, in other places, it’s simply the fact that the Conservatives are the best placed to beat Labour.
Politics in crisis.
Again Mark is right to cite this as a factor in our fortunes, at least it should be. However, I see this as merely a problem of positioning; the fact we are not profiting from this factor more than any other tells us (or it should) that we have outgrown the mantle of ‘protest party’. We are too far in the establishment to be seen as part of the solution to this; this is one thing that we have little choice but to weather without too much ado. It’s simply how things are; the reason that the Conservatives appear to have outflanked us, incindentally, are simple; their leader was relatively fleet of foot when it came to measures getting his own house in order.
We never recaptured the initiative even with Nick Clegg’s bold ‘100 days’ proposal; by the time it came out it looked like a stunt and although many of the proposals commanded support we got no credit from it because things had moved on. This relates to a point Mark makes which, in a variation, I have made before;
We of course do not deserve all of this to fall into our laps. We have to fight, tooth and nail for it. I have seen plenty of evidence that we have the wherewithal to do this, but all the battles seem short term and tactical rather than adding up to a grand strategy. A good example is Nick Clegg’s 100 days idea from the early summer. What happened to that? He announced it, the other parties ignored him and it disappeared.
This is actually an acute symptom of many of the issues I have talked about; lack of coherent narrative, trying to be all things to all people and in answer to the original question that Mark poses so well….