The Coalition has been a blessing and curse in equal measure for the Lib Dems. With few friends in the mainstream media the Party has struggled to gain traction on what it is doing in a positive light. There are frequent depressing and negative stories about the Lib Dems and what they are doing in Coalition and the opinion poll ratings have followed suit. However, there are at times some positive stories which highlight the strengths the Party has and the good that the Party is doing. I have charted these (not in any systematic manner) from the mainstream media and now present the strengths within the Party in 3 parts. Today we look at what has been said for the Liberal Democrats as a Party, then I will look at the strengths for Nick Clegg (Wednesday) and then Lib Dem Ministers (Friday).
This is a strengths based approach which looks at the strengths of the Party so that they can be used again, expanded and developed to increase the resources the Party can use in attempts to increase our electability. This is important considering we have no concentrated media power base and a significantly different situation than the Party has faced before i.e. having power. I present this information in the themes that have arisen: that coalition works, changes for the Lib Dems, achievements for the Lib Dems and putting a break on the Tories. The information is not highlighted in any chronological order as what is important is that it was worth mentioning by the mainstream media as a positive from the Party.
The Sunday Times believes that the party has prevailed on its coalition partner on many policies showing that coalition government works (see here).
The Financial Times has seen the Coalition as a successful project the Lib Dems are participating in believing that forging a coalition to deal with the country’s challenges was the responsible thing to do. They believe that the Lib Dems have made the two parties work together better than Labour did on its own and consider this a big achievement. They report that the record on several fundamental Lib Dem causes, such as civil liberties and engagement with Europe, is impeccable (see here).
Changes for the Lib Dems
The Guardian claim that Lib Dem members have proved themselves more resolute about the coalition than some expected (see here).
The News of the World comment that the Lib Dems, now they’re in government are being effective – but being hated for it (see here).
The Independent have started to prefer the grown-up Lib Dems to their student predecessors. They see the Party now as a more serious party, attuned to the complexities of government, and no longer just a populist party of protest. The believe the Lib Dems are genuinely trying to make the Coalition work and have earned the plaudits of their Tory ministerial colleagues. They also believe that the Lib Dems have succeeded in casting a liberal complexion over the Government having an influence in the Coalition disproportionate to the number of seats – or even the number of votes – they won at the election (see here).
The Independent also sees the benefits of being in power for the Lib Dems is that they are listened to and that the idea that the Lib Dems are a civilising force on those reactionary Tories will at least be part of the new mood music (see here).
The Observer see the Lib Dems finding a new constituency among centre-ground and swing voters, including some who have not taken them seriously in the past and have reluctantly voted Labour or Tory instead because they didn’t believe the Lib Dems had a chance (see here).
Lib Dem achievements
The Independent see some solid and distinctive Liberal Democrat achievements that the Party can accurately claim that, after many years of merely talking about Liberal Democrat reform, are now enacting (see here).
The Guardian believe that the Lib Dems can justifiably claim to have made a difference on civil liberties in contrast to the resistance from the Conservatives to social liberal reform (see here).
The Observer see the Lib Dems as a serious force in government with their influence as pervasive. They see that there is pressure to make allowances for the Lib Dems in every department and believe that this is a substantial shift in British politics and a healthy one. They see the Lib Dems as building a claim to have authored many other changes in policy and society (see here).
The Guardian remain of the view that, for all the mistakes, the Lib Dems have played a positive role and can continue to do so (see here).
Putting a break on the Tories
The Guardian see the Lib Dem presence in the government has quietly justified some of the faith that the newspaper placed in the party. They highlight the BBC avoiding full-blooded savagery and the Human Rights Act being spared as reasons. As well as on prisons and on drugs, they saw the Lib Dems helping liberal Tories prevail. They even believed that the squeeze on school funding will be less intense in poorer places, and the marketisation of higher education has been softened round the edges (see here).
The Daily Mail believe that quite a few of those who call themselves Tories are beginning to resemble Lib Dems (see here).
The Independent believe the influence of the Liberal Democrats on the Coalition has been growing, and exceeds what they might have expected on the basis of their relatively small number of seats. They see the Lib Dems as important and substantial partners, at times almost co-equals and the Lib Dem policy contribution as distinctive and significant. They believe that Clegg can credibly claim that in several areas his party has helped to make the Coalition more progressive and less reactionary than it might have been (see here).
The Independent believe the Lib Dems have added substance and softened edges to government policies in a way that goes beyond mere appearance (see here).
The Guardian believe that it is thanks to the coalition we now had a “pause” in NHS reforms and suggest that David Cameron should thank his lucky stars for Nick Clegg. The Guardian truly believe that this reflects the advantages of coalition government (see here).
Lord Ashcroft conducted an opinion poll to look at some of the changes in attitudes to the Lib Dems since the formation of the Coalition which I add here to compare with the news reports:
- A large amount of Liberal Democrat voters are pleasantly surprised that the coalition is going so well, at least in the sense that the parties appear to be working together so harmoniously.
- Nearly a third of those who seriously considered the Lib Dems in 2010 but decided not to now say that their opinion of the party has changed for the better.
- For many of those who considered but rejected the Lib Dems, the party’s brand remains positive, and has in some respects been enhanced by its presence in the coalition
- Large majorities agree that the party has shown it is “prepared to take real responsibility, not just oppose from the sidelines”, and that it is making “an important contribution to the government of Britain”.
- the Lib Dems still “behave more reasonably than most politicians” and spend less time attacking (see here).
See Wednesday and Thursday for 1 year of strengths in Nick Clegg and Lib Dem Ministers according to the mainstream media.