Monday, 5 January 2009

There are no taboos

Commentators have started up again (this time from Peter Oborne) discussing potential advice for our beleaguered PM.

James Graham gives a pretty good run down of the LibDem position towards coalition and cooperation, but I do have something to add.

The recent changes which have seen all the leader positions of the LibDems replaced (Nick Clegg, Tavish Scott, Kirstie Williams and Ros Scott as party leader, leader in Scotland, Wales and party president, respectively) have all been framed by a need to forge a new attitude towards questions of coalition.

Now that we have a taste for office we are no longer so desperate for it that we will take it at any cost. We have found to our cost that it is sometimes a poisoned chalice.

Practical experience has proved once again that we have fundamental differences with Labour and we are more aware of the need to be protective of our independent identity than ever. No longer is it being asked which side of the fence we would fall when the wind starts blowing because we will not merge with either Labour or tories.

But unless we are open about this any potential voters have a right to be suspicious about our motives. And only by being open about it can we demonstrate our feelings on the subject.

And just like in every other arena when flirting, make yourself available without appearing desperate and play hard-to-get without burning your bridges.

All four of our new representatives at federal level symbolise a new attitude in which any implicit suggestions have been eradicated.

This change of personnel represents a change of strategy at the highest level which is more in tune with the general membership (at least as far as I'm concerned, but I would say that). Whereas the lingering hangover from the 70's, 80's and 90's meant there was a tendency to favour Labour over the Conservatives, this started to be balanced out as we've become more mature as a party.

To some quarters it looked like this tendency had reversed, but now the top team appears to be active in preemptively scotching any favoritism.

Because it is the source of ongoing controversy disproportionate column inches are guaranteed to be spent on it, it is both a vital political tool to be used in getting across our message and a strategic method to use to extract concessions at the heart of the political machinery.

So let's use this tool to talk about what we want and why we want it.

We want a better world; and for that we think we need political reform: and that demands thoroughgoing and widespread reform - electoral reform, tax reform, regulatory reform, social reform, education reform, prison reform.

We want transparency, accountability and honesty. We want to be more ethical and more economic.

And we want it to protect our identity, our peace and our prosperity.

That is liberty.

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