Thursday, 21 January 2010

New Statesman reviews Liberal prospects

Anthony Howard writes of the Liberals:

'.............above all else the party itself was on exhibition. The time, after all,comes when pretensions have to be lived up to, claims vindicated, both justified.......From now on it will stand or fall on the showing that it makes in the big league, and it may well be that this week was its last chance before a General Election...

The article goes on to set a test for Liberals; whether it can live up to the Leaders claim 'that it is a serious political force now'

OK this is 1962 but has anything changed? The article goes on to review Liberal policy on key matters like Industrial Policy where the redoubtable Nancy Seear was arguing the case for different models of the ownership and control. That was serious. Half a century the Labour Party is groping toward the solution that she outlined to the Liberal Assembly in 1962. This is evidenced by their new found enthusiasm for John Lewis Partnership model and by the COMPASS pamphlet.

I am listening to the Government responding to the issues raised in the House of Lords last night about the Foreign Office funded activities in the border lands between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a serious matter. Many of you will have heard William Wallace on the Today programme this morning discussing this issue which the Lib Dems raised. Interestingly the BBC news item accompanying the live coverage of Parliament doesn't mention the Lib Dems or William, but instead carries a quote for William Hague.

At Prime Minister's questions this week Nick Clegg raised the issue of a nationalised bank -RBS-funding a US based multi national company to take over Cadbury's and the threat that brings to jobs and our manufacturing base in the UK. A serious matter. By today the media have pretty well written us out of the script.

For too long Liberals have believed-with Anthony Howard- that they have to prove their seriousness in order to play in the big league. Time and again we have proved that seriousness-whether it is Vince Cable on the Economy, Kennedy on Iraq, or issues like Europe, constitutional reform etc. It hasn't made a tad of difference to the media. They seem congenitally incapable of reporting 3 party politics (let alone multi party politics)

Anthony Howard's article goes on to indulge in a lot of 'unserious' knocking of the party. Regrettably that part of Howard's article has become the template for lazy journalists when forced to report the Lib Dems.

Nevertheless,even with the first past the post electoral system, the party has progressed. In those days I think Grimond was our only MP to win a three cornered fight in the 1959 General Election. (There were only a handful of second places, one of which was Southport where Sam Goldberg came 2nd) Today the people in many diverse places across Britain take us seriously. One wonders how long it will take the media to catch up with the people.

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