Monday, December 12, 2005
I was quite surprised today to be flicking around the LibDem website (fear not, I shall punish myself harshly later tonight) to see that they have a button on their homepage dedicated to their position on Iraq. It got me thinking about to what degree they really now have become a series of protest issues strung together into a political party. It’s like the anti-war movement meets the anti-fees students union. They made a big deal out of Blair’s war at the last election and there is some feeling within both the local and national LibDems that they will continue to do so in the future to continue their advance against Labour in the urban constituencies. I cannot really see this working. Firstly because they are fighting (maybe) Brown in (maybe) 2009 and Gordon very cleverly sidestepped blame for the war in a way that Hoon, Straw and Clarke never did. Secondly the issue will have passed, with 90% of troops being out by the time of the next poll. So why concentrate on it then? Well the LibDems seem to be struggling for a purpose at the moment. Poor Charlie Kennedy even had his resignation plans blow by old Brillo on “This Week” and had to deny his own resignation plans. Yet the whole buzz around the LibDem camp now is on positioning to be his successor. When, and if, the LibDems do that they still have to overcome the Cameron issue. The Times runs a good article today suggesting that Cameron is the heir to liberal Toryism. Maybe, and certainly not a head banging euro sceptic (copyright, Mr K Clarke). I think we are re-entering two party politics. I can’t see the LibDems falling to 11 seats, as has been mooted over on politicalbetting.com, but I can see them falling back slightly. The LibDems will struggle to define themselves – as a party to the left of Labour under a Hughes leadership or a party fighting for the liberal ground led by Laws? Or maybe a party fighting for survival under Campbell? I know it isn’t popular to knock old Ming, but I see him as a caretaker man for the job, in both leadership and ideological terms. A great guy and good media performer but he won’t advance the argument within the party. And then, without Iraq, what does the member for North East Fife have to offer? Anyway locally LibDems continue to spin themselves in circles. One leading light told me this week that they were struggling to hold onto people because of the Cameron effect. We’ve had 17 people join since Cameron became leader, and I’ll happily run a book on the first sitting or former LibDem Councillor to switch to us. Apparently a similar book is being run on the first parliamentary defection to the Tories.