Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Why are Liberal Democrats dismissed so readily?

This blog post was originally published in December last year but my readership figures were low at that time and I thought I would give it another outing:

I have just read this post on the Coffee House Spectator blog by James Forsyth which is an interesting post about the possibility of David Davis returning to the shadow cabinet. I think this would be a good development as I have posted about earlier.

However there is an example in the article of something that I have noticed quite a lot of recently. That is to dismiss Lib Dems out of hand as being irrelecant or just not very good apparently by definition of them being Lib Dems. The particular bit is this:

Dominic Grieve was impressive in the Commons yesterday but he has failed to cut through in the media. He was outperformed on Newsnight the other night by Chris Huhne which is rather like being the second tallest mountain in Holland.

So Chris Huhne is dismissed out of hand as not being a worthy debating opponent. There is no attempt to define why this should be, it is just assumed that a Tory should be better than a Lib Dem and the fact that Grieve was "outperformed" is seen an an aberration. The truth is of course that Huhne is one of the best politicians of his generation and has huge experience both as an MP and MEP and also in business.

I have seen this attitude often on many of the more partisan blogs especially in the comments sections (e.g. Iain Dale, Guido etc.). Lib Dems are dismissed as an irrelevance or an annoyance.

This frustrates me hugely for a number of reasons:

  1. The Lib Dems in my opinion have a great many excellent MPs among their ranks. I would argue that they have most talent proportional to their size of the 3 major political parties in the Commons. People of the calibre of Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws, Evan Harris, Norman Lamb, Norman Baker, Susan Kramer and Ming Campbell. And I could go on. Frankly most of that list are better than much of the current cabinet and shadow cabinet. It is ridiculous to try and dismiss us with these levels of talent.
  2. We often lead the way in terms of policy formation with the other parties initially attacking us (or dismissing us - see any sort of a pattern here) and then a few months later our proposals get adopted and pretty soon they are in the mainstream. I am certain that if we did not exist as a political force then there would be a lot less pressure for these sorts of policies to be adopted by the other two parties. We are far from an irrelevance.
  3. Members and supporters of the other two parties act as if the status quo of power flipping between the two of them periodically is just the way it is. They often try to persuade voters to vote for them as a means of keeping the other one out. I recall Tony Blair doing this during the 2005 election warning that a vote for the Lib Dems could let the Tories in by "the back door". Well quite aside from the completely anti-democratic connotations associated with not voting for who you want to because the electoral system might hand the seat to someone you want less (which I have and will continue to post about), the status quo may not be there for ever. It is possible that after the next election, if Labour is defeated quite heavily that they start to implode and within another few years the Lib Dems could end up as the official opposition. It has happened in other countries. Labour and the Tories do not have a divine right to be in positions 1 and 2 in this respect and they and their supporters would do well to remember this. There is also of course the possiblity (quite likely judging by current polls) of there being a hung parliament after the next election. If that happens then all bets are off for how politics pans out over the next few years.


Jayce Kay said...

Just thought I'd drop by and post a response, if I may, in direct answer to the question.

I don't know why the Liberal Democrats are dismissed so easily, the other political parties could actually learn a lot from the Lib-Dem POV.

At the most recent exercise in democracy in the UK I voted Lib-Dem, why? Because my political and personal aspirations are closely aligned with there worldview? Hardly. Probably because they were the only group that wasn't selling a single issue reason to put the 'x' in the box and resorting to cheap personal or single issue campaigning tactics.

As for the Lib-Dems becoming the 2nd party after the next general election, should we choose to become a completely secular society, I think your in with a good chance.

I'll get off my soap box before my burly frame breaks it.

Anonymous said...

It's because no one believes the Lib Dems will ever be running the country and therefore they are a side-show and what they say is irrelevant. The best they can hope for is that one of the two major parties picks up their ideas and implements them - that is a measure of their success.

Voter said...

It is hard, as an individual, to put forward ideas that will address the
general perception of the Lib Dems.

There are certainly things I would like to see changed in the party but
that is just my perspective on things and one person is hardly representative
of the general population.