Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I shan’t pretend I’m in the least bit bothered about the woes that the LibDems have found themselves in during the past 24 hours but two things do spring forth of note worthiness.

Firstly are the similarities to the IDS Tory debacle. I found myself musing this morning about who exactly is spreading the rumours about Kennedy, particularly to Neill of the BBC. Today Party bigwigs Matthew Taylor and Paul Holmes have strongly come out in Kennedy’s defence, as have senior LibDem frontbencher Lembit Opik. So just who is spreading the rumours? Well, with the Tories I naively thought that the media had got their wires crossed and a few private mumblings of a few obscure Tory MPs made it onto the front-page, but of course it wasn’t. The finger of suspicion has pointed at the swivel-eyed loon of the LibDems Party President Simon Hughes and also the statesmanlike Foreign Affairs Spokesman (not, not Shadow Cabinet as they like to claim) Sir Menzies Campbell. So will they use this chance to come out and back their man? Because Charlie can’t take many more PMQs like that.

My other thought is about where this leaves the LibDems as a party. I’m not joining in the Tory gleeful rubbing of hands over this because I think it could be a worrying sign. Not of a Kennedy departure, but that the LibDems have come to maturity as a political party. All the best parties are big-tents who bring in people of various political viewpoints who can agree an end product but not necessarily the same means to will it to happen. The Tory Party contains Bill Cash and Ken Clarke. Labour has Dennis Skinner and Peter Mandelson. Enough said. Whilst the LibDems sat on the sidelines being irrelevant – which to a degree they did rather well under Ashdown – then nobody bothered mentioning that they all fundamentally disagree over absolutely everything. Now there’s a wiff of something in the air – not power, don’t be silly, but a chance of a seat in a coalition government. After years of Tory-bashing the rather dapper Vince Cable has started mending bridges by saying he could work with the Conservatives – just in case Cameron has the largest number of seats in 2009. If not, they could always throw their lot in with Labour – under Brown or another Blairite Leader. With the next poll result in serious doubt the LibDems are players. If Cameron crashes and burns or if he takes a commanding lead then the LibDems may well slink away to the fringes again. If not, this argument is important because they are fighting for the soul of the party and maybe even the soul of the next government. If Laws and the Orange Book Liberals win it raises the prospect of a Con-Lib coalition working effectively. If Hughes or Davey win then a coalition is only likely with Labour. Either way the LibDems need this leadership crisis badly, because an attempt to go into coalition under Kennedy (or in my view under Campbell) would be a disaster. It may never happen, but this crisis is in many ways good for the party and a clear sign that they may well help form the next period of British politics.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

What do you think it would take for the Liberal Democrats to be considered seriously in parliament? Would it require a policy overhaul, personality change, serious money being invested or all three? Surely the only way is up?

Antony said...

I think the LibDems aren't taken seriously for three reasons. Firstly because of their campaign tactics (nasty ones, plus the bar chart theorists), because of their inconsistent policies and because of their lack of numbers.

The first two are easily solved - sort out the campaigning and sort out the policies. Now I think that the former SDP and the Orange Book Liberals need a year long fight and then settle down on policy. It may harm them in the short term but they need a long term strategy. Remember Cameron said he was happy for the Tories to fall to 25% in the polls as long as they got it right long term. I think the LibDems need to fall to 15% and then rise again. I also think they need a personality change - Kennedy does need to go, but not replaced by Campbell. Nice but old and too consensual. As I keep saying - what are they for? They need this arguement. And if they get that right then they might continue to go up, rather more at Labour's expense than the Tories I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I don't like them beause they seem to have a different policy for every street corner.

Antony said...

Absolutely. When I moved to Norwich I noticed how the LibDems were very different - in policy and tone - to the ones in London.

Sean O'Brien said...

Great to see you blogging again antony, im encouraging Nick Hurd to add one to his website. How exactly do the LibDems in Norwich differ from the ones in London? I have just started my drive to promote an active Political and Campaigning Union at my uni, of which I hope to be president. Just thought id let you know. School going well?

Antony said...

Hi Sean - hope uni is going well. School is fine but, as you know, not at all like Douay was! Good luck with the campaign and political society. If you need help, let me know. There is a big difference between Liberal parties. In Uxbridge I found them to be very middle-of-the-raod, almost Orange Bookish. In Norwich they seem to be very left of the SDP - except one LibDem Councillor I know who is certainly more right wing than I am! Best wishes.

sean o'brien said...

I'd imagine it to be very different from Douay. Suprised 'Red Brady' hasn't had a heart attack yet. I might call on your help in the new year once I have it all planned out, as Boris Johnson has agreed to come and have a chat with our students and some from the Uni of London about Tory Higher education policies. But we'll let him settle in first. I'm sure you'd want to pop down for that if you can. Anyway if i dont comment again before Christmas, sure i will, have a good one! PS: Ive now met DC twice now and found him to be suprisingly tall.