Posted by: John | December 15, 2007

Our REAL challenge: Identity (Lesbian and Gay lessons)

Viewing the leadership contest I have come to the conclusion that members largely voted on a hunch and gut instinct. There are some late stragglers who wrote down lists of pros and cons. Mostly though folk voted straight away or after hustings or simply in the last week.

Having pondered it all i’m pretty 50/50 about either candidate.

And as it’s virtually impossible to get your vote in now unless you pop down to North London or courier it in I’ll say what i have to say now.

First issue – Policies – we have them in bucketloads and not such a huge issue as the huhnie monsters think.

Second issue – Communication – i personally feel that Nick would do a better job – Chris though would do a good job too. Nick’s problem might be he’s too `nice` while Chris’s might be too much waffle.

Third issue – Vision – Chris seems to have so much that he finds it difficult to say it simply and misunderstands that you have to walk hand in hand with people from where they are NOW. Nick though sometimes seems to lack the far reaching vision that leads to long-term narrative.

The reason that I’m glad I voted for Nick is that the party is breaking out of an identity crisis – a psychology that has been defined by our enemies. We have ALLOWED it to happen a bit like a bullied person puts up with abuse.

We have allowed ourselves to be put into extreme boxes. Hands up who’s heard `oh we love the Lib Dems they are so nice and cuddly` code: Keep in the third party box darling where we can supress you and make you ineffectual thus unable to ever gain power.

The other one that has come of late `Oh the Lib Dems are just the plain nasty party` – usually done with a sneer – code: you are all too nasty to keep those nice liberal people voting for you – you’ll never win.

Both these positions are extreme characterisations and have been used to supress others.

As a Gay man I can only hark back to the conversations I’ve had with older Gay Men. Years ago if you wanted to have a relationship or be in the social/sexual marketplace you had to conform to certain stereotypes – either a camp queen or a butch type preferably in Leather.

In the past few years we’ve shown the camp side and we’ve shown the butch leather master side.

Who has managed to show the way to smash these stereotypes? Step forward Mr Vince Cable – the ballroom-dancing graceful masculine joker. His performance at PMQs has stated a lot more than policy or vision – he’s firmly stamped a new identity. What has annoyed Brown more than the put-downs is that he hasn’t been able to typecast the Lib Dems or as he likes to call us the `Liberals` as simply camp or indeed camp uniform nasty queens!

The `calamity Clegg` incident reminded me of of an incident when i was in my early 20s. I was in DELGA (Lib Dem LGBT group) London at a social event in a pub in Islington which had simultaneously a `uniform` night going on upstairs. One of the Uniform people obviously knew a friend of mine and said hello and proceeded talking about quiche recipes. I said `he looked butch but talked camp`. Oh my friend said `mutton dressed as lamb!`.

Of course this person didn’t lead a party and was just being himself. The moral of the story though for us as a party is `do your acting up in the right place and at the right time.` At the Calamity Clegg incident Chris came across to me as `falsely butch` it was also done at the wrong time and the wrong place ie on a tv show, on synthetic issues and to me seemed unconvincing. It reminded me of that man in uniform talking of his quiche recipes! A jarring of masculine and feminine that didn’t ring true. It was almost as if subconciously Chris knew of this identity crisis and tried to act up the butch stereotype for the activists. I gave a knowing eye when i watched the repeats and it looked very unconvincing.

The lesson for the future for Nick and Chris and the rest of us is to act ourselves – be like the rest of society and win more and more votes! Vince has shown us the way.

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