Solution Focused Politics is now closed: So long and thank you

I started this blog over 2 years ago now and in that time it has done better than I thought it would. The time has come for me to close the blog as I have other priorities that need to take precedence. But before I close I just wanted to say thank you to all who have read, commented and recommended this blog, it has been very much appreciated. I would like say a special thank you to ChrisB for his support and critical appraisal of my postings and I have enjoyed our conversations. I hope one day we will meet. I would like to say thank you to Helen Duffett who provided some great feedback which probably made me keep it going for longer than it would have. Thank you for your support and I hope things are going well for you in London; I’m sure we will meet again. And I would like to thank Neil Monnery, a friend I made through blogging and I wish your blog all the best and hope to see you at conference sometime.

Thank you.

Why I am more a Lib Dem now than I was when I joined (and why we keep on needing to say such things)

It has been over 2 years now that we have been in Government. We have been ridiculed, mocked, humiliated, and embarrassed by a seemingly never ending stream of attacks, u-turns, and broken promises. Our local power base has been decimated. Our members feel demoralised at best and ashamed at worst. The only person who seems to think this is going to bring electoral success is the leader of our party. But despite the mistakes, the challenges and the serious questioning of whether this is all worth it, there are reasons why I feel more aligned with the party today than when I joined in more prosperous times. To make this argument I will start and end on the same quote from Theodore Roosevelt, speaking at the Sorbonne in Paris, April 23, 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I have many issues with what has gone on in Government and in the party since we have been in Government, not least with Clegg, who I feel has too often been too slow to react with a Lib Dem instinct. But the majority of my frustration has been with the Tories and I understand the contempt that Labour supporters feel towards them. They champion the minority; they propose dangerous ideas; they do not understand modern society; and they do not represent the type of country I want to live in. It is hard being associated with a party that makes me feel disgusted. But we are in the arena giving blood, sweat and tears to make some semblance of a civilised government, despite the Tories, not because or with them.

Being in opposition is easy. You have no compromises to make and can pretend you don’t need to make any if you were in government. We have been used to this position for so long. But in government we have had the most effective Ministers in Cable, Huhne, and Webb with many measures we should be proud of. That is not to say I like everything the Lib Dems have done in government but we should remember that it is not the critic who counts but the man who is actually in the arena. They may come short again and again, but we can’t say that we haven’t tried to make a difference in these difficult times.

It is an unfortunate state of affairs that everything is biased. We have no natural media base and you only have to pick up a newspaper to read how awful the Lib Dems are. The TV channels are as bad in an attempt to make stories and attract viewers. In the face of it Lib Dem supporters are left to believe everything that is written or are left with their faith or defences and both are poor political bellwethers. When I post the positive parts of the news about the Lib Dems I get messages saying I am wearing rose coloured glasses or it is a ridiculous love-in. It is merely highlighting the fact that some positive news has been reported but because it doesn’t fit with mainstream media narrative it seems fictitious to some, even though it comes from the mainstream media. Within these positive news stories about the Lib Dems are the roots of who we are as a party: liberal, fair, internationalist, environmentally minded, distrustful of power bases, cooperative and many others.

We might experience a serious political setback in the 2015 general election. Some talk of it being a generation to rebuild the party. But this is a journey for us. We got what we got and we have tried to make the best of it. Mistakes have been made and we will pay for them. It does not mean the party is rotten, changed, or irrelevant. It means we made some mistakes. If we think we were going to go into government without making mistakes then we were kidding ourselves. This is real life.

The prize was always the triumph of high achievement and a liberal legacy. We may or may not achieve this. But we will have tried and tried with dignity. There are things I would have liked us to have done differently but I wish we didn’t have to be in a government with the Tories. We may fail in government, and perhaps it is a strong possibility, but we can at least say that we failed while daring greatly.

We cannot deny the influence of the Lib Dems in Government precisely because we are in the arena. We cannot deny some of the measures that are coming out are because of the Lib Dems or have been improved because of the Lib Dems. We cannot bank on the fact that anyone will notice or even care this is the case. But we can at least say we have done our damndest to make this work and that it is better than it would have been otherwise.

We may not feel good about it. We may not do well out of it. But for all those who doubt the party, we still have a future and the party will continue to evolve and learn from our experiences. What we need is people to keep the party in line with why we exist, which can be difficult when under pressure from different angles when in government. We may forget, lose faith, or become disillusioned with the party but all these are necessary for organisations to grow. But we should remember this:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

P.S. This is the penultimate post of this blog as it will be closing very shortly and I thought I’d give advanced warning to anyone who managed to get to the end of this post. Thanks for reading.

Solution Focused Politics Top 10 Posts – Year 2

Solution Focused Politics celebrated its second year last week and below are the top 10 posts in the last year. You can see the Top 10 of the first year here.
  1. Self-esteem is killing our country, time to end policies which promote it
  2. Do negative campaign ads work?
  3. Personality characteristics of ‘successful’ politicians
  4. A dangerous developing Tory narrative designed to make Lib Dems extinct: Lib Dems need to be aware and take action
  5. Schools kill creativity: A liberal education should prioritise it
  6. Improving local campaigning: Does canvassing increase voter turnout?
  7. Realistic predictions for Lib Dem performance for 2015 General Election
  8. Now people don’t even want to stand for the Lib Dems in elections! What we need to do to reverse this worrying trend
  9. Some data for anyone interested in this ridiculous story about a massive drop in student applications
  10. Building a successful political narrative

The Lib Dems need a big idea and it should be a transformation of society

This is an article that was printed in the April edition of the Liberator magazine that I wrote such a long time ago I forgot all about it!

In the UK it is culturally rude to ask how much someone earns, but it may be a more important question than we have previously realised. So how much do you earn? Does it afford you the things that you want to afford such as pay the bills, feed the family, go on holiday, or live in an area you want to live in? How do you feel about how much you earn and what are the effects of this on you and your family? Perhaps these questions seem a little strange but they are questions which give us a window in to the society we currently live in and the problems that we face as a result.

‘The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone’ is a book that has caused a great deal of excitement and controversy in equal measure and the idea that societies with less income inequality have better outcomes for their citizens is an important one for all political parties. The responses have been typical with many in the Labour Party pushing for greater state involvement to reduce inequality while many in the Tory Party deny the idea; there was a quick response from the political right with ‘The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-checking the Left’s New Theory of Everything’. But for the Lib Dems this is possibly an even bigger issue.

To Support the Spirit Level or Not?

The Social Liberal Forum was set up fairly quickly following The Spirit Level’s publication and endorses the ideas held within the book. They have had a growing influence within the party with senior Lib Dems attended the SLF’s first conference. Others in the party have felt that the influence of these ideas has come at the expense of other ideas and so more economically minded members have sought to form a new grouping. A united party agrees on the direction and vision of the party and internal groupings can bring valued ideas and policies to achieve this. However, internal groupings also have the potential for schisms and splits and so this is an important issue for the Lib Dems.

Due to the debates relating to the effects of income inequality the Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissioned an independent review by Karen Rowlingson of the University of Birmingham. She acknowledges that this is a highly complex area both theoretically and methodologically and there is still some disagreement among academics on many related issues, but the main conclusion is that there is some evidence that income inequality has negative effects and there is hardly any evidence that it has positive effects. The report states that the evidence suggests that there is a correlation between income inequality and health and social problems while there is very little evidence that income inequality promotes growth or that individual incomes at the top provide incentives to work.

The report has some interesting conclusions but one which is perhaps the most interesting is this: That “the most plausible explanation for income inequality’s apparent effect on health and social problems is ‘status anxiety’. This suggests that income inequality is harmful because it places people in a hierarchy that increases status competition and causes stress, which leads to poor health and other negative outcomes”.

Status Anxiety and the State of our Society

Status anxiety is an anxiety about what others think of us; about whether we’re judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser. The philosopher Alain De Botton claims that chronic anxiety about status is an inevitable side effect of any democratic egalitarian society. He suggests that the causes of status anxiety are lovelessness, expectation, meritocracy, snobbery, and dependence. So if we go back to our original questions about how you feel about how much you earn, this will depend upon what you can afford and how this compares to other people. The closer you are to the bottom of the income scale, the more you are considered a failure or a loser within society: Think of how you (or others) view different people in society – people like teachers earn an average wage and are seen as hard workers, the Tesco shelf-stacker is a low earner and the job is seen more negatively, while people not in work and in receipt of jobseekers allowance are often derided. So what is the effect of this?

We have all had feelings of being judged, ridiculed, humiliated and shamed. The experiences that create these feelings vary from person to person but we all know what they feel like and the effects they have on us. The research by Brene Brown in the USA has found a common theme among all of us. We all have feelings of not being good enough, this may be that we don’t feel rich enough, safe enough, attractive enough, intelligent enough, perfect enough, extraordinary enough, whatever it is for us personally. The sad thing is that these experiences are all too common, just look in our schools, workplaces, families and friends. Just look at the most watched TV shows: X-factor, Big Brother, and other reality TV shows which shame people through humiliation, ridicule and judgement. A sad reflection of our society which breeds a need to be better than others, to be seen to be better and if we are not then we can put someone else down to make us look better. Nowhere is this seen more acutely than in Parliament. Ministers have been brought to tears following a debate in the commons. Politicians have given up or potential politicians have not wanted to go into politics for fear of being shamed by other politicians or the press.

These experiences leave us feeling disconnected from the world and we search for ways to deal with these feelings and perhaps it is telling that we are the most obese, in debt, medicated and intoxicated population our country has ever seen. And what is the pattern the further down the socio-economic grouping you go? The worse it gets.

The anxiety created by how you think others perceive you is really only the beginning of the problem. It lays the foundation for more difficult emotions. An example could be weight: Today society values people who are thin and so many people are trying to get thin. If someone who is overweight is called something derogatory, it can create devastating feelings of shame. The anxiety of being overweight, or more accurately how you are perceived by others, lays the foundation for feelings of shame when those anxieties are proved to be accurate. For someone who is at the bottom of society’s ladder i.e. not seen as a success in life, the number of potential shaming experiences is significantly greater than for someone who is seen as successful.

This phenomenon actually creates a barrier to social mobility as it does not give an incentive for people to move up the social ladder without certain emotional safeguards. There is a feeling of safety when with people who experience/have experienced similar things to you, as the anxiety of how you are perceived is reduced. But move up the social ladder and the anxiety is increased. Just think of a time you were in a social situation that you are not familiar with, there is a level of anxiety that is not there when in your usual social group. Ask someone from a disadvantaged area about going to University and see what they say about how they would feel being there. Moving up the social ladder creates more opportunities to be ridiculed, humiliated and shamed, which is what we all try to avoid in different ways.

So if status anxiety is a significant factor in creating health and social problems then surely the Lib Dem position to inequality should be to address the cause of the anxiety. If there was no status anxiety then perhaps there would be no health and social inequality in our society? Even if this were not true, would it not be a good thing for us to work towards a change in our society to one where fear is better managed, people have less shaming experiences, and people feel supported in doing what they want?

We Need to Move Away from ‘Self-Esteem’

A major factor in the creation of this fear and anxiety is the focus on self-esteem. Higher self-esteem is associated with less anxiety, and with greater happiness and life satisfaction and so we have given it prominence in our schooling of children and working with communities – particularly disadvantaged communities where the last government spent a lot on improving areas, which included working with communities to improve self esteem. However, the work of Kristin Neff, a US researcher, has shown that it is also associated with the need to feel superior to others in order to feel okay about oneself; a distorted self-view, self-centeredness, and a lack of concern for others; a maintenance of an unrealistically high view of ourselves in comparison to others. This has a particularly devastating effect when we face failure; and a dismissal of negative feedback, trivialisation of failures, and less accountability for their own harmful actions.

The whole concept of self-esteem is intrinsically linked to status anxiety and these negative aspects associated with it lay the foundations for greater social problems than they do creating community. Community politics should not be just about politics in the community, but about politics building community. Without such a focus on competition between people, a culture of envy of those with more, within a society of fear of being shamed, status anxiety would not be such a problem and would not cause the health and social inequality that we see today. There are many ways of doing this such as switching from a focus of self-esteem to one of self-compassion in education, which has the same benefits but none of the negative effects. It means supporting communities and networks, not just families. It means a change in the way Government is run, the way our institutions are run, they way they are regulated. It means educating differently, and it means a more caring, understanding society.

Seven out of 10 people believe the gap between those at the top and everyone else is too wide and bad for ordinary people (The Independent) and so tackling this would be a popular move. But it would not necessarily do anything for the underlying problems when it comes to health and social inequalities. While there has been a focus to improve public services and regenerate poorer areas, it has not resulted in an improvement in health and social inequalities. We should also focus on reforming that which potentially causes so much damage: status anxiety and shaming experiences. The focus on the personal and cultural as well as the structural will mean a different set of policies which will be very different to what is on offer from politics today. This would do more for social mobility than all the Coalition’s plans put together. Changing society may be a big idea, but it is one people join political parties for, not to tinker around the edges of the current system.

2nd year of Praise for the Lib Dems: Collected praise from the mainstream media for the Lib Dems

What are the Lib Dems doing well at? From one day to another we may have a different answer to that question because of what people say and what we read and hear. It is useful to review what we are doing well as a party, beyond the ‘achievements’. The papers write a fair amount about the Lib Dems these days but not all of it is good but when we look at what the party has been praised for over the last year we can see that there are some things which come out as themes: We are providing good government, we are having a significant influence in government, there needs to be a liberal voice and our party is an effective one:

Good government

The Daily Telegraph acknowledge that mistakes have been made since 2010 but state that this has still been the best government for a generation, led by men and women for the most part of decency and goodwill. They praise Clegg and Cameron’s skill and admirable personal forbearance that the project has lasted as long as it has.

The Independent praise the Lib Dems for improving the Government stating that the last Labour government would have been improved by coalition with the Lib Dems: no Iraq; no imprisonment without trial; civil liberties upheld.

The Guardian report that the government-watchers at UCL’s Constitution Unit say the Lib Dems have been better at organising backbench committees to monitor policies

University and College Union say that the government should be applauded for appearing to listen to the experts in the case.

Influence

The Independent believe that the Liberal Democrats have punched above their weight in the Coalition.

The Daily Mail believe that the Lib Dems have provided parts of the Government agenda which have an ‘unmistakable Liberal Democrat feel to them’. They state that ‘the Lib Dems, though representing only one sixth of the Government in terms of MPs, get their way over a very much larger proportion of Government measures’. But more importantly they acknowledge that they exercise their power by what policies they keep out as well as by what they get in.

The Daily Telegraph state that the Lib Dems are better at trading in public with the Tories.

The Guardian believe the Lib Dems have put their distinctive stamp on several progressive announcements and that there are many areas that bear the mark of Lib Dem pressure inside the coalition.

The Independent state that ‘there is no argument'; the Liberal Democrats and their leader, Nick Clegg, have played a political blinder this past 18 months. They praise the fact that the Lib Dems have kept a British coalition government in being against all odds, with no sign of it collapsing in the near future. They praise the fact that they are not just sustaining a regime but have had a restraining influence on it.

The Guardian praise Lib Dem ministers for being more assertive in government.

The Daily Telegraph state that Lib Dem influence is on the rise within government due to a change in strategy.

The Guardian praise changes in the Lib Dem strategy stating that they are ‘finally conducting themselves as an independent party’ and succeeding.

Liberal

The Independent praise the Lib Dems for insisting on a political agenda rooted in civil liberties, internationalism, human rights, political reform, responsible capitalism and fighting climate change and state that this is a powerful reminder of the Lib Dems’ uniqueness.

The Guardian praise the Lib Dem position on Europe saying they were right to fight their corner publicly.

The New Statesman praise the Lib Dems for being hawkish on the deficit, liberal on social policy and populist on bankers; thriftier than Labour but nicer than the Tories, the Lib Dems are squatting stubbornly, sometimes chaotically, in the middle of British politics.

Effective Party

The Independent state that the Liberal Democrats have either been the most maverick party in Britain or the most democratic.

The Guardian believe the Lib Dems have always been a more resilient party than people think and that they have proved extraordinarily disciplined and that this is one thing that people have consistently underestimated about the Lib Dems. They go on to praise Mr Clegg for becoming increasingly aggressive in an effort to reassert his differences with the Conservatives.

The Guardian praise the Liberal Democrats policy-making and democratic conference.

The Guardian state that the Lib Dems, both in government and more widely, are a more resilient and coherent party than their critics generally allow and that the Lib Dems exist for reasons that still make sense. They highlight that the Lib Dems stand for priorities that are distinctly different from those of their Conservative partners and that they are in the middle of proving that coalition governments can work. They praise this fact saying it is an underestimated achievement.

The Independent say the Lib Dems observed the hacking scandal from the comfort of the moral high ground and that the party went into conference in reasonably good shape.

The Guardian praise the fact that the Lib Dems were the only one of the three main parties that hasn’t spent the last two decades trying to curry favour with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. And praise them for being the only ones with the guts to try to halt its remorseless advance.

The Daily Telegraph state that the Lib Dems have remained largely loyal and united and believe that Clegg is using his new confidence to pull the Coalition towards the Left

2nd Year of Praise for Lib Dem Ministers: Strengths of Lib Dem Ministers in 2nd year of being in Government

Another year of following the papers looking for positive news stories about the Lib Dem ministers has produced more praise for Lib Dem ministers. So Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Steve Webb and Danny Alexander get praise for their efforts.

Vince Cable

The Guardian state that few politicians could manage contrition with Cable’s conviction as ‘he speaks human so well’.

The Guardian believed he speaks with authority on the economy and banking reform concluding ‘his prophet status has been restored’.

The Daily Telegraph believes that any serious and objective consideration of Mr Cable’s record in office shows that he has been a formidable Cabinet minister and an important ally of enterprise. They credit him for the recent small surge of inward investment into Britain and praise him for not grabbing all the credit. They see him as the moral centre of gravity for the Coalition and of British public life.

The Sun praise him for getting results in his job as Minister.

The Independent praise him for standing up to the Prime Minister over immigration, tax-cutting Tories, casino bankers, universities and Rupert Murdoch.

Chris Huhne

The Independent believe that Mr Huhne was regarded as an effective minister because of his “nerves of steel”, ability to “compartmentalise” and carry on as normal when the threat of prosecution hung over him.

The Independent highlighted that he earned useful headlines for a party whose presence in the Tory-led government is often forgotten.

The Guardian states that Huhne won plaudits for his performances abroad and that he had an indefinable big beast quality that put him on a par with Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, making him a voice on economics and Europe inside the cabinet to which people listened, even if they disagreed (see here).

The Guardian praised Huhne for being a strong minister who ran his department well, stood bravely for the green agenda, and fought his corner effectively. They also believe that he played an important role in the coalition cabinet as the voice of the more social democratic wing of the Lib Dem team.

The Observer said that he brought a passion for the green agenda combined with the intellect and the clout to increase the influence of a department often previously dismissed as a bit of a Whitehall lightweight.

The Independent admired Huhne for his work as Climate Change Secretary, but even more so as a staunch Cabinet defender of the ‘civilised values’

Even ConservativeHome praised Huhne for being one of the government’s most effective ministers

Steve Webb

The London Evening Standard praised Webb for being one of the best pensions minister we have had in a generation

Danny Alexander

The Daily Telegraph believe Alexander has become the Tories’ favourite Liberals, saying he has proved himself in combat.

The Guardian praised him for his ‘delicate negotiations’ with the trade unions over pension reform, saying ‘there is steel there, perhaps born of unselfconsciousness’.

2nd year of praise for Nick Clegg: His strengths in his 2nd year of being DPM

A key part of the solution focused approach is learning from what works but there is a significant difficulty in learning about what is working. Sometimes it is not obvious. Sometimes it works for a while and then it stops working. So when I started this blog I have scanned the papers pretty much every day for stories about the Lib Dems to see if there was anything that was being said about the party, or people in it, which has gained praise. This will highlight what the mainstream media believe the party is doing well with the hope that we can see what is working for us. Almost 1 year ago I posted the summary of the first year of this in the posts:

Another year has passed and I have continued to scan the papers. This isn’t a strict methodological approach, it depends on how much time I have had, which varies. But this gives a flavour of what has been seen as positive for Nick Clegg, the Lib Dems and Lib Dem Ministers. I will post the other 2 this week but this is the post for Nick Clegg.

The themes that came up this year were in relation to his skill as a politician, which has developed since he became DPM; his bravery in the positions he has taken; and his principled stances relating to being a liberal. I will give an analysis of what we can learn and what we can do differently in a week or so but here is the summary of the 2nd year of praise for Nick Clegg:

Skilled

The Independent believe Nick Clegg has the knowledge, the experience and the vocabulary to speak not just with conviction and sympathy, but in a way that can be readily understood. They say this makes him unique as a senior British politician.

The Guardian started to think that Nick Clegg was getting the hang of power-sharing saying he found found a more effective voice with which to articulate Lib Dem hopes, fears and achievements.

The Guardian praised Clegg for putting on a good show at Conference saying he tamed the party through his usual, smart three-step process of empathy-values-action and concluded with ‘is Clegg an improvement on Campbell? Immeasurably.’

The Independent praises Clegg for regularly highlighting distinctive contributions from the Lib Dems, managing the balance between distinctiveness and Coalition unity, and more effectively than before. They state that he is in a stronger position as for the first time in decades the Lib Dems command attention and wield power.

The Daily Mail believe Clegg has Cameron under his control, preventing him from taking decisions that Conservatives think are necessary.

The Observer praise Clegg for being a cunning manipulator who has David Cameron wrapped around his little Lib Dem finger.

The Daily Telegraph state that Nick Clegg has worked out how to use the Government machine, which is bad news for the Right. They believe that the Lib Dem influence is on the rise within government because Nick Clegg is getting better at being Deputy Prime Minister. They say Clegg has now learnt the tricks of the Whitehall trade where parts of the Civil Service have come to see him as a useful ally, and are giving him the support and advice that he needs to block Tory ministers’ plans.

The Daily Telegraph believe that ‘Prime Minister David Cameron’s Liberal Democrat deputy has quietly emerged as the more successful Whitehall operator’. They state that he is ‘a very cool operator indeed’ where the Liberal Democrats’ achievements in the negotiations on the Coalition agreement were impressive and not in what the party gained but what he has blocked and state that ‘whatever happens, Clegg will be in the midst of it – polite, influential, under-scrutinised and enduring as ever, despite the opprobrium heaped on his head’.

The Guardian praised Nick Clegg for delivering a polished performance – more relaxed and less defensive or self-righteous than he has often been this past year of high office

Alistair Campbell even praised Clegg for having learnt the lessons of the early days of government.

Brave

The Daily Telegraph state that he is a better and braver politician than his poll ratings indicate

The Independent praise him for showing more boldness, with well-timed speeches which worked on many levels

The Guardian praised Clegg for ‘bravely’ opening budget negotiations in broad daylight, saying that at the very least he is developing the discourse in a positive way.

The Daily Telegraph praised Clegg for an impassioned and impressive defence of the Human Rights Act. They state that Mr Clegg’s dare-to-be-different approach, which may rescue his dented standing, is born out of conviction as well as expediency

The Guardian praised Clegg after the riots for being first back from holiday and that his instinct to go out and face voter anger was correct and may stand him in good stead when the boos are forgotten.

The Daily Express was impressed with ‘Clegg’s term’ alarm clock Britain.

Peter Mandelson even gave him some praise saying since May, Mr Clegg has succeeded in looking less meek and hard done-by. He has found a stronger voice and has benefited from this.

Liberal

The Daily Telegraph praise Clegg for speaking out on the economy when he said it is a “universal principle” that money is best left in the hands of the people who earned it. They went on to say that the Deputy Prime Minister is coming to define the Government’s economic narrative.

The Independent believes that Clegg is the purest liberal to lead his party since its formation and that Clegg’s form of liberalism with a focus on redistribution, social mobility, Europe, and radical constitutional reform shows that, contrary to a widespread perception a year ago, Clegg is not a Conservative.

The New Statesman praised Clegg for sounding distinctly and dissentingly liberal after the riots. They thought one of his articles was a thoughtful piece on human rights which was not populist.

The Daily Telegraph praised Clegg for his stance on crime when he suggested there should be a focus on restorative justice.

The Daily Telegraph praised Clegg for his stance on free speech saying ‘he understands that in essence, liberalism isn’t about outcomes but about process; what matters to him is not that people make particular choices, but that they have the freedom to choose’.

In Praise of the Guardian: Finding strengths in Vince Cable

The Guardian, or more precisely Polly Toynbee, wrote Now is the perfect time for Liberal Democrats to wield the knife in which she spouts a large amount of bile to the point that it is very difficult to read anything she writes these days, but I did persevere and she has some positive comments about Vince Cable which I thought was interesting and worth repeating:

Few politicians could manage contrition with Cable’s conviction – he speaks human so well.

A journey of a thousand miles, starts with the first step…

Tony Blair, ‘master of the dark arts’, has a point the Lib Dems could learn from

For all the pomp and circumstance that occurred around Tony Blair’s return to making the headlines, an awful lot of newspaper coverage has been given to not a lot. However, he did say some things which the Lib Dems could indeed learn from.

Ask yourself this question: If 0 is the Lib Dems have no friends in the mainstream media and the worst possible light is portrayed about the party and people within it every time something is printed about them (if they are lucky enough to get anything printed about them in the first place), and 10 is the Lib Dems have as many friends in the media as possible and the party and people within it are shown in a favourable light; what number would you currently scale the situation today?

Of course we would have differences such as the Daily Mail may get a 0 and the Independent may get a 6, but overall my guess would be somewhere near 3. At the general election it was perhaps somewhere closer to 6 or 7 at times but not so right now. I have tried to scan the papers since I started this blog for positive news stories about the Lib Dems and I have found it increasingly difficult to find stories in the last 6 months. Many will argue that we shouldn’t focus on the mainstream media as more people don’t read papers than do. I think that they are important opinion formers and perhaps more importantly opinion embedders and obviously so did/does Tony Blair.

Tony Blair said that it was revolutionary for Labour to be given a fair hearing by the Sun when he became leader of the Labour Party and he sought to make sure that Labour’s case was given a fair hearing by the media.

‘My minimum objective was to try stop them tearing us to pieces. My maximum objective was to try get their support’ – Tony Blair

If we forget his politics and his record for a second and think about what he set out to do, this is a very reasonable thing for a leader of any party to want. The fact that the party went on to win 3 general elections, and one of those was following the Iraq war, says a lot. What would the Lib Dems give right now to be given a fair hearing by the mainstream media? I don’t believe in compromising principles for favours but I do believe we deserve a fairer hearing than we are currently getting. I don’t expect the Daily Mail will ever give us a fair hearing but I do think the Guardian should; both seem to be a mouthpiece of hate for the party right now.

“Personally my advice to any political leader today would be: you have got to have a very, very strong media operation.’ –Tony Blair

Perhaps we need to think about our media operation? Perhaps we need to think about the opinion formers and embedders. Would Clegg be hated as much if his case were given a fair hearing in the media? If we were to rank the papers in terms of Lib Dem voters the Daily Mail and the Sun are top of the list, but we are not going to start our recovery by pandering to them. We need to regain our appeal and we need mouthpieces to express our case. The Independent is pretty much the only paper to give the Lib Dems a reasonable hearing of late but we need to expand our appeal from the smallest of papers. We need to find some friends in the papers, we need to get party members to write in the mainstream papers (like Vince did in the Sun), we need to have a fair hearing. To do this we could perhaps learn a thing or two from Mr Blair – we just need to stay true to who we are in the process.

The Lib Dems lack of motivation: Finding the desire and the reasons to help the party

A lack of motivation is a serious problem. Once it has gone you end up with people being less willing to do the necessary things that will result in a successful election. Some people do less in the local party. Some give up doing anything at all. Some leave the party and some even join a different party. There is plenty of evidence that the Lib Dems are lacking motivation. We had less people knocking on doors since the general election, less people standing as councillors, and more people leaving the party. A lack of motivation makes the original problem worse. For the party to regroup and rebuild it will surely have to start with gaining some motivation.

An observable result of social rejection is a significant reduction in motivation. While the studies to demonstrate the link have focused on individual behaviour we can also see this in politics on a larger scale. The Lib Dems have been rejected in elections since the general election and this has been hard for many local activists. Many who have been councillors are no longer even campaigning. The rejection at the ballot box and in the constant opinion polls has had a significant impact on our collective sense of self worth.

Of course this is also due to the decisions that have been made by the party in government. When decisions that are made go against certain values, beliefs, or prior agreements this is obviously going to make people start to question these decisions and their position in relation to these decisions. When we seem to be promoting things that the party would be fighting against if we were in opposition, then our motivation to assist the party is seriously depleted.

Motivation can be seen as 1) the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way and 2) the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. So the national decisions have given people a reason not to help the party out and the social rejection has given people less desire to help out. Without reason and desire we have people who don’t want to do anything for the party.

If the party want to start being more successful in elections then members and helpers need to gain motivation (desire) before the party gains social acceptance, which can be a very difficult thing to do. This will be easier if members are given positive reasons from the national scene. Yes we have a list of achievements and in isolation these are excellent but in the context of the national picture these don’t always look like reasons to get excited by. Some solid performances from our MPs with some progress on core Lib Dem issues will help. A big fight against something important will also help. But the most important thing is for members to start helping, perhaps before the desire to do so, as this is more likely to lead to more social acceptance and then motivation may follow. That first step is the hardest.

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