Sunday, 2 May 2010

Realighnment of the left and memories of the dead parrot

One of the fascinating things about the movement of the voters toward the Lib Dems is that it led by the member of the public. In the past -particularly in the 1980's- this was a process led from within parliament. When the gang of four and a host of other Labour bigwigs resigned and joined the SDP it was part of a parliamentary realignment. This time it is different. We have not had one high profile person parliamentarian 'crossing the floor'. This time it is a movement of people not the establishment.

Many of us we uncomfortable with the idea that the left would sort itself out 'top down'. It led to some bizarre nonsense not least of all was the policy document foisted on us by parliamentarians focusing on Westminster rather than being rooted in a national movement. Some always dreamed of a parliamentary realignment. Others of us believed that we had to build a national campaigning movement. Don't get me wrong some very excellent people joined us at the time and have stayed with us at all levels of the party. Obviously Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins spring to mind nationally and locally David Rimmer and Roy Connell.

Anyway to cheer us all up and keep us smiling for the final push I thought I would reproduce the dead parrot sketch below. Des Wilson effectively buried that daft policy statement by ridiculing it and asserting that it was as 'dead as a parrot'.

May 2010
It has come to my attention that some people have misunderstood my reference to the dead parrot sketch. I have written about this matter before back in March 2008 as well as on Gladstone's 200th birthday . It is well attested to in Des Wislon's diary and and the Liberal History Group even has an online article on it called 'Dead Parrot' document which begins:

The 'Dead Parrot' became the nickname of the policy document due to be issued, alongside the new party's constitution, at the successful culmination of merger negotiations between the SDP and the Liberals. In fact it proved a disaster, nearly upsetting the whole merger process, after its controversial contents were disowned by Liberal MPs and activists on the very day it was due to be released. 

 In addition it  has made it into the online encyclopedia wikipedia which I quote below:

It has been observed that the same lines from the sketch are frequently used to describe anything which the speaker wishes to describe as defunct or no longer viable. The term "Dead Parrot" is sometimes used in this context too, and also specifically applies to a controversial joint policy document which the Liberal Party and Social Democrats issued in 1988 in the process of their merger into the Social and Liberal Democratic Party. Shortly before her downfall as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher described this party in her deadpan 'comedy' voice, saying "this is a late parrot, it has ceased to be." The loss of the Eastbourne parliamentary seat at a by-election to the Liberal Democrats shortly afterward was cause for David Steel, its former leader, to say "it looks like this dead parrot gave her a good pecking!" The emblem of the Liberal Democrats is a flying yellow bird.

However, Thatcher's comment was not wholly original, as three years previously Spitting Image had run a take-off of the Dead Parrot Sketch with David Owen, then leader of the SDP, in the role of Mr. Praline, Owen's predecessor Roy Jenkins as the shopkeeper, and the SDP ("lovely policies") standing in for the parrot itself.

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