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Radical Bulletin 347 – August 2011
25 July 2011 (00:51:32)

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

Liberal Democrat MPs recently had an awayday in Bingley to take stock of where the party stands – as well they might after the debacle of 5 May – but reached few conclusions.

Attendees report that there was also an elephant present in the room, but no-one referred to it. This shunned pachyderm’s name was ‘loss of trust’, something the party mislaid during the tuition fees fiasco last autumn and has yet to find again.

The awayday was preceded by MPs being invited to meet leader Nick Clegg’s adviser Richard Reeves, a man with no discernable experience in the party, to see polling data and ‘feed in’ to the process.

One MP who did so was therefore surprised to find when he arrived in Bingley that Reeves’s presentation appeared to be the same as the one he had already seen, unaltered by any MPs’ observations.

“The line was just ‘keep calm and carry on’,” the MP said. “There was nothing on loss of trust, just that the coalition shows we can govern and take tough decisions and that people wouldn’t vote for us before because they did not believe that we could do either.”

Oddly enough, more people voted Liberal Democrat before the party sought to show off its tough decision-taking skills.

One strong feeling that emerged from the awayday was that the Lib Dems should stop being the people who always bring bad news to the public about the coalition’s actions.

A constructive session on relations with the trade unions and how the party should approach the pensions issue concluded that it should not be confrontational, and that the Lib Dems should do their best to push the Tories into the limelight rather than be the face of these reforms.

Unfortunately, this was rather spoilt because, even as this discussion took place, the hapless Danny Alexander was on television calming down the pensions issue as only he can.

To be fair to Reeves, he is not the only one to have failed to grasp the loss of trust issue. Local government minister Andrew Stunell was given a hard time at the Liberal Democrat group meeting at the Local Government Association conference in late June.

The assembled group leaders and deputies are normally quite restrained but Stunell was heckled, not least for his inability to see that tuition fees was an issue of trust rather than one of higher education finance.

He also annoyed the councillors by seeming indifferent to the idea that having police commissioner elections on the same day as the local elections in 2012 could deliver another shattering blow to the party’s already damaged councillor base.

Also in Radical Bulletin 347:

  • SHOCK AND CONCERN
  • YOU CAN’T COME IN LOOKING LIKE THAT
  • MID-TERM BLUES
  • LATE STARTERS
  • THEM’S THE RULES
  • BATTLE OF NUMBERS
  • LINED FOREHEADS

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