The non-existent Lib Dem message: What people will remember and forget about the Lib Dems in government

Come 2015 the question will not be what have the Lib Dems achieved in government, it will be what will people have remembered they did in government and will this be enough to make people vote for the party? The party fight an unfair battle with no media mouthpiece on their side and one response has been to keep our heads down and wait until ‘people are listening to us again’. This is a dangerous strategy that will fail.

Remembering is not the negative of forgetting, remembering is a form of forgetting – Milan Kundera

When Kundera wrote these words he did not realise that they would go on to become psychological fact. Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and Nobel laureate, has recently given a talk on the subject at TED in which he talks about the experiencing self and the remembering self. Many experiments have been conducted to conclude that there is a difference. What people experience at the time is not the same thing as what they remember but what they remember dictates how they feel about the experience. This is important for the Lib Dems for a number of reasons.

What people will remember of the Lib Dems in government will be more important that what they experienced during the time in government and that their remembering of what happened is influenced by many factors outside of their own experience. It is the reason why Labour continually misreport and print lies because they know that these tactics affect how people remember their experience. You hear Labour politicians talk about the pain people have experienced because of government policies but they were doing this even before a single cut had been made. This is a tactic to get people to believe something that is not true but when they come to remember they will be influenced by the rhetoric. Remembering is therefore not the opposite of forgetting, it is a form of forgetting; what people remember will not be an accurate and reasonable recall of events, it will be a haphazard, inaccurate recall based on limited information and large amount of feeling.

When it comes to influencing how someone will remember something Labour has an advantage to getting their message out, which is support through other institutions such as newspapers and unions who amplify the message. If you have read the Guardian since the general election you will know that it is a very depressing read because of how bleak the journalists seem to think this country is right now and how this is as a result of government policies. It is no wonder Clegg’s approval rating is so low.

The Lib Dems were slow to counter inaccurate information which meant that such inaccuracies can embed which then become part of the memory. Nick Clegg last year talked about no one listening to politicians at the moment but he believed they would again in the future and so the party could talk to people then. This will be too late. How people remember will have formed. This is the reason why the political narrative is so important because it influences how people remember. If we have a plot to link events over time, it is much easier to recall what happened than the reality, which is not so logical. Labour’s message is simple: this government made the wrong choices and so cannot be trusted with the narrative for the Lib Dems being that they sold their principles to go with the Tories, changed their opinion to gain ministerial seats, let people down and continue to let the Tories do nasty things. The Tory message is simple: they made the right decisions to fix Labour’s mess. Their narrative for the Lib Dems will be that they had to make us change our minds, they tried to work with us for the good of the country but the Lib Dems have held us back doing what is necessary. A different message to different target audiences, and we need to speak to both.

So when it comes to 2015, it won’t matter so much what we have done as it will what people can remember what we have done. When we champion our achievements people don’t hear it now because it does not chime with their remembering of what has happened, which makes us liars in their eyes. When we come to champion what we have done in government in 2015 our message needs to land on fertile soil. To do this we need a strong, clear message. We need to keep plugging this message at every moment we get. We need to find an angle that people will listen to. If we don’t we will end up where Kundera predicted:

We die without knowing what we have lived – Milan Kundera

Rethinking long term Lib Dem political strategy: Towards returning the Lib Dems to the largest party in the UK

“The dark does not destroy the light, it defines it” (Brene Brown) in the same way that the political right does not destroy the political left (or vice versa), they define each other. The Tories and Labour are inextricably linked to each other through a symbiotic relationship. Some people vote Labour not because they like Labour but because the hate the Tories. The problem for the Lib Dems is that we were defined not by left and right but by not being Labour or Tory. Now we are in Coalition with the Tories we are no longer defined by not being Tory and hence we have lost a significant part of our definition. While we are in Coalition with the Tories the risk is that the lack of definition erodes the party identity to a critical point.

There is an assumption that the centre ground of British politics is where parties need to be to pick up the majority of votes and win elections. In terms of the left and right spectrum the current assumption would look like this:

But in actual fact the reality is that such a chart would look more like this:

When the results are generalised/averaged it looks like the majority of voters are in the centre because of the 2 peaks but the reality is that people are more divided than the generalisations appear. So Labour occupying the Left collect the majority on the extreme left, left and some in the centre while the Tories collect the majority on the extreme right, right and some in the centre. Historically, without the battle for centrist voters elections would be a dead heat. Tony Blair was very good at fighting for the centrist votes and paid little attention to his leftwing voters who ended up being very upset with him. David Cameron has emulated this approach and we see him in all kinds of trouble with his rightwing voters. Now we have the rise of other parties we see how the SNP has out flanked Labour to the left and UKIP out flanked the Tories to the right.

The Lib Dems were very upset that the General Election 2010 result was only 23% of the votes when the campaign had gone better than expected. If you assume most voters are centrist, such as in the first chart, then you will think there are more votes to be had in the centre but it may be that 23%ish is as high as the centrist voting block goes? Labour and the Tories can fight in the centre because they have the leftwing and rightwing parts of the party to anchor them. The Lib Dems have leftwing and rightwing factions and have the potential to not see eye to eye more than the factions in Labour and the Tories. This is because in the Lib Dems the factions span the left/right spectrum whereas the Labour and Tory factions span the left/extreme left or right/extreme right so still share a common framework of understanding.

Clegg has made it his mission to place the Lib Dems in the centre ground of British politics whereas Ming Campbell openly stated the party was a centre-left party while policy under Charles Kennedy placed the party as centre-left. Tony Blair has recently advised the Labour party on the fact that the Lib Dems have vacated the leftwing positions they took up in 2001 and 2005 to seek to collect these votes for Labour today. We can see the move Clegg has made in his comments that the Lib Dems are not a dumping ground for disaffected leftwing Labour voters, which makes some sense in the fact that we define ourselves as not being Labour (left) or Tory (right) but limits our electoral success in the fact that there are fewer people to target and the centre ground is a much harder place to fight in.

You could argue that the Alliance rode high in the polls in the early ’80s by sticking to the centre ground and indeed we were the highest polling party at one point. The context was that Labour had moved leftwards under Michael Foot and the Tories had moved rightwards under Margaret Thatcher leaving the centre ground unoccupied. However, many people who started saying they were going to vote for the Alliance were part of the left and right block of voters rather than the centre – the illusion was that they were all centrist voters. The result was Labour and the Tories moving towards the centre who regained their left and right voters.

John Bercow has recently said “It’s that people feel partly that the parties are still quite similar, and that perhaps there isn’t a huge choice, and partly they feel, well I said what I wanted and I voted accordingly but I haven’t got what I wanted or what I voted for two years ago” blaming low voter turnout on the fact that all 3 parties are fighting in the centre and so there is little definition of the parties. What many people wanted when they voted Lib Dem in 2010 was neither Labour nor Tory so the only way to have achieved that would have been to create a supply and demand agreement rather than go into a Coalition. Going in to the Coalition shocked many members and supporters because we were defined by not being Tory (or Labour) and the effect is still current.

Additionally, what has defined the Lib Dems in recent years in addition to not being Tory or Labour has been our Liberal stance which was well defined when Labour were displaying their authoritarian ideology. Now Labour are not in power, and we are governing with another party who wants to be perceived as liberal, there is less authoritarianism to define our Liberalism. So we have been hit with the double whammy of a lack of definition on the liberal front and the left/right spectrum leaving people to ask the question on the doorstep – what do you stand for? If we want to start winning back voters we need some definition. We need some darkness; some authoritarianism to demonstrate our liberalism.

We have never squared the circle of the Lib Dems being left/right economically. Our end game is the introduction of proportional representation and the creation of coalition governments as standard practice. This means we don’t necessarily need to define our left/right status and can work with either party in this new regime. As this is our end game (until we get it upon which things change) PR should be necessary in all Coalition negotiations/agreements. However, the chance of gaining PR has eluded the party for 100 years and while I hope we will get it in the next 100 years it might still be a long shot. A different strategy could be the one Labour performed on the Liberal party at the beginning of the 1900s and take over from Labour as a main party.

Vote share by party from 1820 – 2010:

Labour wrestled the voters away from the Liberal Party who were disillusioned with the party, who many felt had were not representing them. The Lib Dems today need to do the same – wrestle the disillusioned voters away from Labour and/or the Tories. The problem is that in the centre there is plenty of choice (or many would say no choice as all parties say the same thing) and even if you gain all the centrist voters this is not enough for the Lib Dems to win an election. We need to start wrestling the left and/or right voters away from their traditional bases.

To unseat the Liberal Party as a main party Labour placed themselves firmly to the left, created a firm voting base to work from, and moved from the left to the centre squeezing the Liberals into a small 3rd party. We have struggled in the centre ground ever since. In more recent days the Lib Dems made good progress placing themselves to the left of Labour and gained control of councils all over the UK, particularly at the expense of Labour in the North. We pushed Labour into 3rd place a couple of times in local elections because we were to their left not because we were in the centre. Now we are in the centre we are losing the councils back to Labour. These are not centrist voters; these are leftwing voters choosing a leftwing party.

Labour did serious damage to themselves in the 13 years of being in government with many traditional voters deserting the party. We seem to believe that if we prove to people we are a better alternative than what is already there then people will vote for us, but this is only half the equation, people have to be disillusioned with their current party to want to change. There was, and still is, appetite for a party that is not Labour on the left, but we no longer occupy this space and so we are no longer a viable alternative for these voters – they have turned either back to Labour or ‘Others’ such as Respect. While Labour fight on the centre they leave their left flank vulnerable, just as the Tories are vulnerable to UKIP on the right. It took Labour less than 50 years to overtake the Liberals and there are many in Labour who are openly saying that the Lib Dems would be cleaning up in elections right now if they weren’t in Coalition.

A mistake we have made, or certainly the leadership has made, is that we think we are playing the same game as Labour or the Tories. We are a much smaller party and people treat us differently. The rules for us are different. If we stand in the middle we can hope to get perhaps 25%. If they stand in the middle they can hope to get up to 40%. We could get 40% if they moved to the extremes but this is not going to happen. As a smaller party we need to be more responsive to the political climate.

Perhaps we need to think about our end game and the strategy we are running. FPTP will change but how long will it take to bring in PR? How long will it take to make Britain a more Liberal place given the current system? How important do we think it is to make Britain a more Liberal place? Perhaps we would have more chance of fulfilling our aims by targeting the left block of voters, wrestling them away from Labour and making Labour the 3rd party. We won’t do this by staying in the centre, there just aren’t the votes there and every time we enter coalition we lose significant elements of our definition, hampering our progress.

Mr Clegg: Who are you making policy for, exactly?

I believe that party politics should work like this: people come together who share values and ideals. They formulate policy based on these values. These policies are implemented when in power. Compromises are always necessary and so these can be made providing they are based in the values of the members of the party. In practice this means that the leadership of the party will be persuading and arguing with whomever necessary to get these ideas into law. But what we have is the opposite: A leadership, who goes into government, speaks to whoever, comes out and then tries to convince and argue with the party that what is being implemented is the right thing or necessary. It is like the Government is devoid of the Lib Dem party that makes up a large part of the Government.

Take tuition fees. Clegg argued it was right and necessary despite it being the opposite of party policy. Take the Health and Social Care Bill. Clegg argued it was reasonable and necessary at the time despite it being against the party values. Take Cameron’s EU veto. Clegg came out to say why it was necessary the following day despite it being against the party values. Take the recent proposal to extend the intrusive powers of the state. Clegg came out the following day to say why this was reasonable and necessary, despite it being opposite of party policy and values. In all these instances, Clegg has the process the wrong way round. He is in Government facing the party trying to convince us that what the government is going to do it right. What he should be doing is standing in the party facing the Government convincing them that our policy is right. He has it the wrong way round. It is a telling sign that he has had to be kicked into line by the party on these issues.

In all these cases and in many more we have a bizarre situation where we, as a party, seemingly propose policy that is not popular in our own party or with the public. So I ask who are we making policy for, exactly? We should not forget that politics is about popularity, if not for the majority of the public, then at the very least for the minority of those who support your party.

I don’t believe that it is a problem of values within Clegg. I have heard him as an MEP, shadow minister, in the leadership debates, in the election and I have spoken to him and he says all the things I would expect of a man of liberal persuasion. I think the problem lies with how he views his role in Government.

It must be difficult being in his position with so many people coming to you telling you what you should do. Senior civil servants coming with their pet projects, deeply held views and ideas which have been formed over many years under many different ministers. These people know how to handle new ministers. It must be difficult having senior military personnel telling you what they need. Senior secret service or intelligence community members coming with ideas they feel they need to protect the public. I can see how this position could mean you start to form a view that is different from those you may have had when talking within the political party. I can see how it could come about that you feel the need to go back to your party to tell them we need to do something different. But it is when in Government that it is more important to stand firm in where you came from. To say no to the establishment. To tell them what they need to do. This is what it means to be in power or it is not power, it is a nominal role.

So how do you stand firm? First thing is your mindset. We have to see ourselves as outsiders in Government or we start to believe the opinion of the establishment. Secondly you have to feel you have a right to tell the engines of Government to do things differently, even in the face of their well argued cases to continue what they were doing before or in their attempts to gain more control. Thirdly, you need a strong team of advisors who also have this mindset. This team need to not get caught up in the trappings of power and they need to have a strong affinity to the values of the party. This team should be made up of a variety of people who represent all sections of the party and there need to be people who disagree with you.

I think the party would love to hear Clegg come back to the party and say he has been fighting with the ‘powers that be’ to get our policy implemented, rather than coming to conference telling us how hard it is doing things we don’t agree with. We need less of the excuses for bad policy and more argument for why it is bad and why we don’t agree with it. Something Richard Morris stated so eloquently in the recent row between the party and Clegg over extending snooping powers.

Now people don’t even want to stand for the Lib Dems in elections! What we need to do to reverse this worrying trend

How many signs do we need that things aren’t right? With reports for the second year in a row of a reduction in the number of candidates standing for the Lib Dems as local councillors we have another piece of information which is perhaps more worrying than the reduction in poll ratings. So perhaps we need to consider this very carefully and what we need to do to start to reverse this trend.

Back in 2011 the Guardian ran a piece which stated that the Lib Dems were fielding the fewest number of candidates for the local elections than they had since 1999, which was 4.6% fewer than compared with the 2007 data. Fast forward a year and now in 2012 the Independent is running a story that the party is fielding fewer candidates than in recent memory. However, I haven’t been able to find matching data to make a true comparison so it may or may not be factually correct. Despite this, the sentiment is probably correct as the article states there is anecdotal evidence that some candidates are standing as independents, and this is certainly happening in my area.

This is more worrying than the poll ratings for a number of reasons. This is not least because it says that those who understand the party the most, those who believe in the values of the party, those who realise that compromise is necessary more than most are the ones who are disillusioned and that this is having a practical impact on the ground. If we are to go back to basic principles of politics we can make an assessment of where we are now. To be successful in politics we need to do the following:

  • To gain power
  • To keep power
  • To increase the number of people who vote for you
  • To increase the number of positions of power
  • For people to perceive the use of power as positive for the country and its citizens
  • For history to perceive the use of power as positive for the country and its citizens

We have no ability to influence the last point, for more on this see here. So if we take the facts we are looking at a reduction in poll ratings:

Poor performances in by elections e.g. March 2011 Barnsley 4.18% and March 2012 Bradford 4.59% (I acknowledge we got 31.9% in Oldham and Saddleworth in Jan 2011 but we still didn’t win), reductions in members and now reductions in people standing as councillors. Assessed by the criteria for success in politics you could say we aren’t doing very well. I would also go as far as saying that the public (or at least those who have voted for us) do not perceive the Lib Dems as using their power in a positive way for the country and its citizens.

What this Coalition is not doing for the Lib Dems is demonstrating our values. What the Coalition is doing for the Tories is demonstrating their values. People are not going to vote Lib Dem for making compromises, small changes to Tory legislation, or being pragmatic in difficult circumstances.

People don’t vote for what you do, they vote for why you do it.

There is no ‘why’ for the Lib Dems right now, not in the eyes of the public anyway. It is even hard for us to explain some things to people. I was knocking on doors today and a student answered the door and said he wouldn’t vote Lib Dem again. I could have got into a discussion about the policy, but then the government policy isn’t the Lib Dem policy (which is the opposite) so we as a party don’t believe in the policy we implemented but stating party policy then seems ridiculous having just been responsible for implementing a policy. The Coalition at times is making us look ridiculous and if there is one thing that will lose you votes faster than anything else it is being made to look ridiculous.

Out of all this we can make at least one assumption, which is that what we are doing isn’t working and as Albert Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So the question we have to answer is this: What can we do which will demonstrate our values? What we have been trying hasn’t worked. Differentiation isn’t working.

Clegg could show some leadership in the cabinet reshuffle later this year by changing how we operate. We are currently spread very thinly over the government departments, hence our inability to demonstrate categorically our influence to the public. How about concentrating ourselves over fewer departments or even taking over 2 departments completely? We need to show who we are. I for one know that what we are not, are excuses for bad policies and bad politics, but this is how we are perceived. It needs to change if we want people to stand for us in local elections, join the party or vote for us.

Labour’s new strategy to attract Lib Dem voters and what we should do about it

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingd...

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Tony Blair seems to have made a bit of a return to British politics recently to give his opinion on how to steal the Lib Dem vote. He believes that the Lib Dem position is hopeless having run to the left of Labour in three successive elections, only to go into coalition with the Tories in 2010, they will be clobbered next time. He believes that Labour’s task is to ensure those Lib Dem voters who feel betrayed come Labour’s way and stay there.

Blair’s proposed method starts with a repeated insistence that this is nothing but a “Tory government”. Labour should constantly be reminding Lib Dems that they were once against tuition fees and for Europe – yet now sit in a government that has tripled the former and is hostile to the latter. Every day, runs the Blair advice, Labour should be asking Lib Dems: “What on earth are you doing in this government with these Tories?” The aim will be to put asunder the alliance of Liberals and Social Democrats that created the Lib Dems in the first place. (The Guardian)

Apparently Clegg has ordered Lib Dems to repeat the same line in all media appearances – “We’re doing the right thing” – so that we might win respect from voters. The question is whether this is enough to defend our votes and I suspect it is not. Being defensive usually results in people feeling they are not being listened to. Labour’s strategy is to exploit those who are disillusioned with the Lib Dems for being in Coalition with the Tories, and no matter how much you might think this is a ridiculous position to take, this is a reality we have to deal with. Blair is right in the fact that there are many things we can be attacked for so our question is what strategy can we take which will make people feel they are being listened to. Saying we are doing the right thing in the face of people saying we are not is not going to make people feel listened to.

There are a number of things we could do to make people feel listened to and the first is always the messenger. It does not matter what the message is if the messenger is not accepted. We have started to hear calls from inside and outside the party that Clegg is not the messenger and if this is the case then the party has 2 options – to accept this as the truth and that a) it can’t be changed and so get a new leader or b) ask what we can do to change it. As there aren’t many calls to get rid of Clegg right now I assume it is the latter. Which brings us onto the next point to get people to feel listened to which is to start accepting the criticism. Then make assurances of what we would do if Governing on our own (obvious I know but I don’t hear Lib Dem ministers saying this).

Repairing relationships is hard and it takes time to build up trust and trust is built up once people feel you will do what they think you will do. When asked why people don’t know what the Lib Dem message is Blair’s point is the same a Clegg’s – that subsequent leaders have said different things. The difference between Blair and Clegg’s points is that Blair sees it as a bad thing for the Lib Dems while Clegg sees it as a good thing to have moved the Lib Dems in the last few years. I suspect it won’t be a good thing anytime soon, people like to know where they stand and moving positions makes people feel uneasy (I realise that out movement may be more public perception than reality but that is what we are dealing with).

So we are under attack from the Tories and Labour and we need more than defensiveness. Perhaps we should get better at negative campaigning as the rule of thumb for this is that you should never use negative campaign tactics unless you have to because you simply cannot win by presenting positive information about yourself. These are legitimate negative campaigning techniques:

  • Highlighting someone talking one way and voting another
  • Highlighting someone not paying taxes
  • Highlighting someone accepting campaign contributions from special interests
  • Highlighting someone’s voting record as an elected official

The Tory strategy revealed: What the Lib Dems need to do to counter it

There is a lot of talk about the Lib Dem strategy and whether we have got it right. But equally important is the Tory strategy and how this impacts upon us. Here is the Tory strategy, which they call a ‘blended strategy’, which makes for interesting reading and has implications for a counter-strategy beyond differentiation – which the Tories consider to be a sign of weakness.

A blended strategy consists of appealing to aspirational working class Labour voters by focusing on their fears, for example by imposing caps on immigration and benefits. They then seek to attract Lib Dem voters and so use softer language that sounds pragmatic about Europe, reasonable on human rights and open minded on Lords reform.

This then works alongside pushing the Lib Dems aside when it comes to claiming credit for the Coalition’s record. This will be seen most prominently in them claiming credit for raising the tax threshold to £10,000, they say Mr Clegg can talk about it, but it will be the Chancellor who delivered it. This will be repeated in most policy areas. While the Lib Dems have made our strategy known i.e. differentiation, the Tories response will be to stick close to the Lib Dems on each issue, ‘like a persistent suitor chasing a rich widow around the dance floor’.

This strategy is of course mainly down to the Tories private polling. While many in the Tory party despise some of the positions Cameron has taken such as bashing the bankers, this isn’t because of an influence by Mr Clegg but because that is what they think the voters want. The Daily Telegraph quotes one Tory Cabinet member who said: “David would be doing all this even if Nick Clegg wasn’t. Differentiation is a sign of weakness. By embracing the Lib Dems, we place ourselves where the public is. And that is where we stand our best chance of winning in 2015.”

This makes sense from a Tory point of view. But what it doesn’t do is appeal to traditional Tory voters as the Daily Mail put it: Cameron must stop appeasing the Liberal Democrats and embrace real Conservatism. But as the Daily Telegraph says ‘he is prepared to suppress his inner Tory, in favour of a distinctly different kind of Conservative that his colleagues will not recognise’.

What this means for the Lib Dems is that no matter how much differentiation we make, they are prepared for this to continue to appeal to our voters. What we need to do is to produce a counter-strategy to this. We need to differentiate and we need to allow Cameron to follow us, but at the same time we need to tie this with the fact that his party won’t follow him. Show his party do not agree with Cameron, and therefore the Lib Dems, and we show the country a divided party with no authentic vision for the country. Show the Tories a leader out of step with his party and we increase the likelihood of a leadership challenge.

Cameron is probably right in that the public are probably more liberal and compassionate than his own party but his party do not believe this, which offers us an opportunity. ‘…but that wasn’t the core problem. The core problem was that voters looked at the Conservative Party and saw  people who didn’t understand what it was like to worry about running out of money before pay day arrived’ the Daily Mail write which is probably also true. But the important bit here is that the Tories do not believe in Cameron’s diagnosis of the problem.

We need to be more aggressive in distancing ourselves from parts of the Conservative Party and not just differentiation of the Conservative Party as a whole. Show the county they are divided. Show the country they do not believe in the positions they take to gain votes. Show the country they not liberal, compassionate, or in touch. This will make their ‘blended strategy’ much less likely to work and more likely soft Tory voters will vote Lib Dem.

Nick Clegg positioning the Lib Dems into oblivion unless we set up a new strand of strategy

The Lib Dem conference was notable for a few things, but not least for the differing tone that different speakers took on the Tories and Labour. The majority took to the stage to have a go at the Tories while Nick Clegg seemed to not only attack Labour but to give a clear signal we couldn’t work with them in Government. The political positioning poses a number of risks which will be seen as open goals in the not too distant future.

The Guardian reported that it had been a week of Tory-bashing in Birmingham with Tim Farron, Chris Huhne and Vince Cable taking turns to demonise the Conservatives. Yet when it came to Nick Cleggs speech we saw a very different picture:

Unlike the speeches of many of his cabinet colleagues this week, his remarks were devoid of explicit attacks on the Conservatives or their values (here)

He opened fire on Labour and seemed to enjoy it… Straight out of the Tory election script he went on to accuse Labour of being run by the unions… Effectively shutting the door to him ever being in alliance with Miliband (here)

The problem is, as he demonstrated today, he is at one with the Conservatives… It’s hard to see how he could ever form a coalition with Labour having said the party should never be trusted on the economy again (here)

Clegg’s aim was to move the Lib Dems from a party of protest, picking up the lost left votes from Labour, and into the centre ground. He wants to make the Lib Dems more electable and to ultimately to win more MPs. This shift in positioning of the Lib Dems is deliberate and many don’t like it. The question is – will it work?

So what does ‘work’ mean? I made an argument that success in politics means this:

  1. To gain power
  2. To keep power
  3. To increase the number of people who vote for you
  4. To increase the number of positions of power
  5. For people to perceive the use of power as positive for the country and its citizens
  6. For history to perceive the use of power as positive for the country and its citizens

It is quite plausible that asserting ourselves on the centre ground could bring electoral rewards. However, to do this we need to ensure that more people vote for us. Does bashing other parties mean other people are more likely to vote for us? There are many who doubt this. But what is even more strange is to attack another party so badly that it would be difficult to work with them in the future. For anyone on the centre left who may vote Lib Dem or Labour, saying you can’t work with Labour on the economy sounds very non-centrist, and more like someone of the political right.

For this strategy to work we need to do 2 things: Attract Labour voters and attract Tory voters. So attacking the Tories and Labour is a great way to put people off and reinforces the idea to those on the left that we are right and to those on the right that we are left i.e. that we are for no one.

But if we really want to progress electorally, we need to start attracting more people now. Cameron cottoned on to this a long time ago and started love bombing the Lib Dems and this continues to today. If we want to reassert ourselves in the centre then we need to love bomb the centrist voters who vote Tory and Labour. This means we should actively court this vote through a new strand of strategy:

To build the Lib Dem party and political parties do not build themselves through gaining more votes necessarily, they build themselves through co-opting and merging new aspects of the party. We need to split the Tories and Labour up and add the centrist parts to the Lib Dems. To do this we need to:

  • Denounce the Tory party as a united party and highlight that they are a party of many parts and that the one-nation toryism now belongs with us. We should denounce the right wing part of the party and anger them more. We should ask some in the Tory party to join us if they don’t agree with these right wing views that we have angered. This shows them as a divided party and that centrist votes don’t belong there. By actively courting these votes, they will be more likely to consider the Lib Dems then.
  • Denounce the Labour party as a united party and highlight the right wing aspect of the Labour party that runs very strong. But we should be actively courting Labour voters and Labour votes. If we want differentiation with the Tories then bashing Labour isn’t going to do that.

Aspects of this are happening in small amounts (e.g. Labour and Tory), we should just do more of it. Without this, perhaps the Guardian will be correct:

the Clegg era will surely be remembered as a brief, giddy interlude of power preceded – and followed – by decades of oblivion.


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