One of my readers said he read my post “Reasons to be cheerful” right through to the end, but “the reality of modern politics is that very few will get to the end, so having summed up your thoughts very nicely, how about summing them up in a pithy slogan? “ I wasn't sure about that, to be honest. I don't know about blog reading habits in general, but certainly, in terms of my own habits, I read my way through some hefty posts if they grab my attention. And I have many of the characteristics of the butterfly when it comes to concentrating. But I took his remark as a challenge. So here is a short version.
I haven't thought of a pithy slogan yet: "LibDems in grown up government action shocker" is the best I've come up with.*
I've also thought of "Still LibDem, still working for all the people, still sensible, now with long term vision".
But here is a summary:
- going into the coalition was a viable action politically
- going into the coalition was also morally right; the country needed stable government and no other option offered the possibility of such stable government
that disconcerted a certain proportion of LibDem voters, many of whom were actually “none of the others” voters
- but it left us with the opportunity to appeal long term to sensible, liberal minded voters
- the party leadership's strategy is a sensible long term plan to demonstrate that we can govern and that coalition works
- we are getting some new experiences – being kicked because we are in government is one of them
- we still get some familiar experiences – the media still heap s*** on us; they always did
- the left and the right, particularly the hard right, will continue to heap bile upon us; they always did
- we have a joint programme with the Conservatives to rescue the economy which will take time to work
- but we are different from the Tories and we claim success in moderating some of their destructive tendencies
- we will eventually get the credit for all of that
so, although now is squeaky bum time, we have to hold our nerve, and...
- to keep working, because where we work we win
Those who have short attention spans can stop here.
A couple of additional points. I know we've been stuffed by a couple of setbacks that may or may not have been our fault – student fees and the NHS cock up. We make mistakes. All parties do. Maybe student fees was one. I say “maybe” - it is becoming received wisdom that it was a big mistake for our MPs to sign that pledge. I'm not so sure – it is difficult to see what else we could have done, given our official policy. If all our MPs had refused to sign, great play would have been made of that by Labour and Tories, and we might have been distracted from the main task. I also think we didn't manage the fall out as well as we could. It's been stencilled into the public perception as a broken promise. It was not. You break a promise if you are in a position to keep it and decide not to. We were not in that position – never were. We might have worked more effectively to mould that perception.
Some things will go against us – the point I made in my first post, that we have one sixth of the seats the Conservatives have is a very important one. They bounced us, as well as the rest of the country, with their ill thought out and doctrinaire plans for the NHS, which were not in their manifesto, and in fact run contrary to David Cameron's pledge that there would be no further top down reorganisations of the NHS. Maybe we need to be more tactically astute over the NHS than we were over student fees, and make sure that if anybody gets blamed it is the Tories, whose idea it is, and not us.
*Daily Mail version "LibDems governing sensibly shock; cause cancer".