Monday, May 09, 2011

Problem No:1 A Vague Identity

The party is in a mess and it's going to take a lot of effort to get us out of it.

We don't have one big problem, we have four.

The first problem is that it's very hard to sum up our party's basic aims in a sentence or two. Ask most people and they might say that the Tories are in favour of free enterprise, low taxes and reducing the role of government. They'll say Labour are also more or less in favour of free enterprise, but want higher taxes and the state to do more. The Greens obviously are there for green issues, UKIP are anti EU. The SNP want independence for Scotland.

And the Lib Dems?

"The official view is “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” but that is pretty vague. Most of our voters would yawn before even finishing reading it.

On economic policy it was all a lot simpler for us in the ’80s when you had Thatcherism on one side and outright socialism on the other, it was easy for us to offer a middle path. Not so easy now – though I think we are doing a good job inside government holding back the extreme right of the Conservative Party who seem to hate the NHS, BBC , etc. But that’s not being seen by the public.

Also a lot of the “Liberal” battles over the last 40 of 50 years have been won. So what is our raison d'etre now? What do we say in 30 seconds on the doorstep?

If I was going out campaigning today I'd say : We support free enterprise – but the wealth should be shared, the lowest paid shouldn’t pay income tax and big corporations and super-rich shouldn’t get away with paying little. And we believe that that organisations like the NHS, the BBC and the armed forces should be properly funded and supported.

But other Lib Dems might say something completely different - and therein lies the problem.

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