Saturday, 21 March 2015

Good advice from David Steel -belatedly getting in touch with the grass roots



BBC news are reporting former leader (who is seldom consulted by Clegg) as handing out some rather good advice. He asserts that the party should be listened to after the election and that there is no appetite for another coalition and that ' the party needs to recharge its values'

I agree with him both about the mood of the party and the need to recharge our values.. In an earlier interview on Radio 4 Steel hand branded this coalition as 'unnatural'

Alan Beith reviewed the latest book on Steel in the Autumn 2014 edition of the Liberal History Journal  and wrote about Steel's 'detachment from the grassroots workers of the party he led'. Beith goes on 'It was someone who was much more ready than the current generation of Liberal Democrat leadership to define himself as 'centre left' established so little rapport with those in the Party who defined themselves in the same way.'

You can say that again, but frankly better late than never and maybe this new empathy comes from experiencing being shut out and the fact that he shares the values and judgements of the party's activists. He will be a powerful voice in rebutting the attempts to rubbish supply and confidence arrangements.

Another Scots, Nigel Lindsay in the excellent book Unlocking Liberalism reminds us that we should be on the side of the governed not the government. In that he is echoing Jo Grimond in an essay the Young Liberal published during Steel's leadership.

1 comment:

  1. I think we need to look at Politicians in terms where they really are in the European political spectrum, rather than which UK party they might end up in.
    I always felt David Steel was really a Social Democrat, and Tony Blair a Christian Democrat.

    Tim Farron is right about the party needing to regro
    Liberal Democrat Leaders often start with a rapport with the grass roots which they lose over time, both Ashdown and Kennedy did this. I suppose being a Leader you create a 'bunker' around you and gradually lose contact with a wider circle that could help and advise. I felt Steel, like Clegg never really understood community politics, and how important it has been for the party's whole existence. Maybe in the 18 years since leaving the Westminster bubble. Steel has finally twigged what some of us were trying to tell him 30 years ago.

    Clegg never really had that much rapport with the activist base. This may be because he was the first Liberal Leader in the post war era who didn't have to fight to win his seat - being the inheritor of Richard Allen's work in Sheffield Hallam. Grimond, Thorpe, Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy and even Campbell had to fight to gain their seats from other parties.

    There will need to be a re-engagement with the party post-May, I hope David Steel continues to proffer good advice, and takes a role in that process. His experience as Presiding Officer in the Scottish Parliament could also come in useful.

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