What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

May 09, 2008

The perils of choosing a Lib Dem Voice poll

It’s an odd experience, sometimes, editing Lib Dem Voice. Last night, we were chided – quite rightly – for keeping up on the site an out-of-date poll. So, today, as I cycled into work I resolved to stick up a new poll for readers pretty damn smart.

The question was: what to ask? I toyed with ‘How long has Gordon Brown got?’, or ‘Who do you think will succeed him as Labour leader?’ But too many other folk are asking that. Besides, the truth is the Labour party is far too servile to sack their leader just because he’s not up to the job. They’ll hang on to Gordon simply because he’s there, and they hate to challenge authority.

So I settled on a more interesting (I thought) question: what do you think will be the result of the next general election? But what answers to offer? Obviously, the four most plausible choices – outright Labour/Tory victories, or minority Labour/Tory victories – and I briefly contemplated adding a ‘Lib Dems win’ choice, too.

And then I decided not. After all, the chances of a Lib Dem victory at the next general election are Posh Spice-slim, at best. It also occurred to me that loyal Lib Dem Voice readers, bless ‘em, might feel compelled to chose the ‘Lib Dem win’ option – which would render the poll pretty nonsensical, as I was more interested in finding out what fellow Lib Dems really think is the most likely eventuality, not what they dream of happening.

A couple of commenters on the thread have expressed their disgust at the exclusion of a ‘Lib Dem win’ option. Fair enough, they’re entitled to their opinion. But what intrigues me more is this question: would it actually be a good thing for the Lib Dems if we found ourselves the elected government in two years’ time?

My answer would be: absolutely not.

The idea that the Parliamentary party could grow overnight from 63 to 330 and provide a stable, sustainable liberal government is too far-fetched for me. Even if that quintupling in numbers were to occur, I find it hard to believe the party would be ready for the challenges of government. And that’s no criticism of the party, its prospective MPs or the leadership: simply the reality that gradual growth provides a stronger basis for future success than a meteoric rise without trace.

By all means be ambitious. But also let’s be realistic: for example, by doubling our number of MPs in the next seven years, as Nick Clegg has declared to be his aim. And let’s work for the party’s long-term success, not a short-term flash-in-the-pan.


Anonymous said...

Stable and sustainable are important watchwords, but more than that short-term gains of an electoral victory which sweeps into power are an indication of the old truth that the incumbent has lost, rather than that the new regime has won any intellectual or practical argument.

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