Posted by: John | January 11, 2010

The Liberal Democrats grow up

I’ve been with this Party from its formation and I fondly remember helping out at the `Yes for unity` campaign at the Goodharts house in Kensington. It seemed a logical move that would help us win votes.

The two parties were merged in 1988 so we are now 21 years old and one can feel that we will have the keys of a few more constituency doors than we do now by the end of June.

I also remember the terrible time before that the ’87 election (I was nearly 21!) when we were very green about gaining votes and putting our message across. Naive inept canvassing and the `two davids` narrative created a complete lost opportunity. Enthusiastic campaigners didn’t understand targeting nor how to counter the huge pulls of the other two parties.

I remember the call in the Newham North West by-election centre from the Leyton Party – `fancy joining us for one final push?`. Reflecting back it would have made sense for us all to jump ship to that constituency.

The results:

Newham North West

Lab Tony Banks – 15,677 (+8.8%)

Con John Wylie –   7,181 (+3.5%)

SLD Richard Redden – 4,920 (-1.2%)

Greens                            – 497 (+1.8%)

Compare that to Leyton:

Lab Harry Cohen – 16,536 (-2.3%)

SLD Simon Banks – 11,895 (+4.2%)

Con D Gilmartin  – 11,692 (-2.5%)

I was at the Newham count and we were all scratching our heads saying `I don’t understand` as to how such a thing happened though (in the times of non-rolling registers) I voted in Leyton (I had moved to Newham after the October deadline) so mine was one of the 11,895. How I wish I was at the Leyton count instead. It seemed so unfair that we were competing with such crass parties as Kinnock Labour and Thatcher Tories and getting precisely nowhere.

Nowadays as we have aged we have also grown. We are in the process of asserting our authority to compete with Labour and the Tories through sheer hard work on policies and electioneering. Whether it’s complaining to the BBC or letting the `resources follow the energy` ie we look to a multiplicity of factors to target areas – ie local council representation (is it Lib Dem or is it very poor quality of another party!), demographics and most importantly whether the candidate has the Genghis instinct!

Gone are the `shopping list` policies of  ’05 that stuck with some people but got swayed by the `Don’t let the Tories in` message of new Labour.

Now we appear to be harnessing Hard Centre policies with Social Liberal instincts. Let other parties muddle aspirations with pledges. They got us into the mess – we need to ask why they should be the ones to get us out of the mess.

So, the glass is half-full – we’re half-way towards parity of airtime, half-way to psychologically punching the other guys down with killer facts.

We just have to keep our nerve and remember – it is our RIGHT to punch the other guys to the ground with killer questions and policy debating.

With the demise of CK’s leadership (I still have a high regard for him and thanks for pulling the Party to our present state) came the awakening of a `no more Mr nice guy` image. Rather like a teenager (we were about 18!) we wanted more out of life and to ensure we set ourselves up for a few wins.

Because at the end of it Politics is just modern warfare where people don’t get killed. It only pays to be  nice after the battle on election day.


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