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
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
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
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
Also in Radical Bulletin 347:
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- 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