What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

January 08, 2007

Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

At last, at long last - a balanced and fair comment piece in The Times from Tim Hames that takes a longer-term view of the Lib Dems’ prospects (in sharp contrast to the doom-mongering unsurprisingly favoured by our political opponents, and occasionally given credence by party members of a glass-half-full disposition).

His article starts off a tad dodgily - “Sir Menzies took to the airwaves last week to deny that there are MPs who want [an early end] to his leadership.” As Liberal Review has already noted, Ming was simply responding, with his customarily courteous brusqueness briskness, to a question posed by BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme in a wide-ranging interview. That it was the only aspect highlighted by the media is indicative of journalists’ (and readers’) preference for personality politics over issue of substance.

This newest bout of speculation is, in any case, based on this evidence (according to the BBC): “An unnamed Lib Dem MP [who] was last week said to have criticised his leadership.” Which leaves me staggeringly underwhelmed. Unattributable single sources have a pretty murky history, as The Today Programme knows only too well. Besides, it would be astonishing if not one of our 63 MPs had anything negative to say about Ming’s leadership - that’s a long way away from anyone preparing to mount a palace coup.

And it’s on just such a remote possibility that Mr Hames’ analysis is most shrewd, and should be carefully considered by any party member thinking the Lib Dems should make our opponents’ year, and be panicked into changing leaders. He gives three impeccably cogent reasons why such a move would be foolhardy:

1. “Of all the years in this decade when a change in the Liberal Democrat leadership would win scant attention, this is it. Compared with the arrival of a new prime minister and a wholesale turnover in the Cabinet and Downing Street staff, swapping a Campbell for a Clegg would be utterly inconsequential.”

2. “… the publicity obtained by the Liberal Democrats and their performance at the polls are not intimately related. The chances are that Sir Menzies will have much to smile about after the May elections. His party will do well in Scotland, better in Wales and should pick up council seats in urban England. If there is a parliamentary by-election almost anywhere this year, they will be in the running.”

And most importantly, and most positively:

3. “The Liberal Democrats, steered by Vince Cable, their Treasury spokesman, have framed a more coherent stance on tax and may well have settled on sizeable and credible cuts in central government spending by the time of their annual conference. If the Conservative policy exercise does not work well, the contrast could be striking. It will make it harder for their opponents to claim, as they invariably do, that Lib Dem sums “do not add up” or that if voters were to deliver a hung parliament they would risk placing into partial power a party that is the political equivalent of the Addams Family.

“In short, there is more to the Liberal Democrats than Mr Öpik’s libido. And despite the absence of Sir Menzies from television screens nightly, the party is in a more robust condition today than it was when Mr Kennedy fell so spectacularly 12 months ago.”

We should be careful not to assume the complacent assumption that ‘Steady as she goes’ is all the party needs to do. But we should be equally resistant to succumbing to the media-spun line that ‘We’re sinking’. 2006 was tough; but, given how it began, it could have been a lot worse for the Lib Dems. Our task now is to make 2007 a year to remember for all the right reasons.

3 comments:

Tabman said...

Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed
Why don't you get back into bed

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3

Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

18-wheeler Scammels, Domenecker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly, and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You're welcome, we can spare it - yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 - no electric shocks

The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret - anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain't spotty,
Sitting on the potty - curing smallpox

Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
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1 2 3

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Health service glasses
Gigolos and brasses
round or skinny bottoms

Take your mum to paris
lighting up the chalice
wee willy harris

Bantu Stephen Biko, listening to Rico
Harpo, Groucho, Chico

Cheddar cheese and pickle, the Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle
Woody Allen, Dali, Dimitri and Pasquale
balabalabala and Volare

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
Saying hokey-dokey, singalonga Smokey
Coming out of chokey

John Coltrane's soprano, Adi Celentano
Bonar Colleano

Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3

Yes yes
dear dear
perhaps next year
or maybe even never

in which case

Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3

Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3

repeat to fade

Anonymous said...

Where on earth does Hames get the idea that the party might do "better in Wales"?
Even the most optimistic Lib Dem accepts that the very best the party can hope for is a gain of two or three list seats leaving it still very much in fourth place. Mr. Hames should get out more.

Peter Black said...

If we gain two or three seats in Wales (and not all of them will be list seats) then I think it is unlikely that we will be the fourth party in the Assembly.