Friday, 18 September 2009

A Moment of Definition

Nick Clegg has published a lengthy (92 pages) pamphlet setting out his stall to use the LibDem conference (starting this weekend) to define the party 'narrative' which will take the party into the general election next spring.

He called it 'The Liberal Moment'.

You can read it here.

There's been much comment on this from the main commentators in the LibDem blogosphere (James Graham, Charlotte Gore, Stephen Tall, Jonathan Calder, Stephen Glenn, Costigan Quist, Neil Fawcett, Caron's Musings), bringing with it a large sense of reserved optimism.

In the wider spectrum Sunny Hundal says it is 'music to his ears', while Anthony Barnett notes that LibDems consistently make the right calls on the issues which matter and the only sound of dischord is a matter of personal style.

The more ideological spokesman for the Fabians takes an analytical view. Sunder Katwala explains the historical context that liberalism was defeated through parliamentary carve-ups, but not philosophically, and ends by pointing out how the great hope for renewal on the 'progressive left' Jon Cruddas also recently talked about reclaiming their liberal heritage.

The Times has also published a lead editorial recording this as a significant shift, while in his supporting article and on his blog Nick Clegg sets out the framework even more clearly,
"The choice between a fading, exhausted Labour Government and the ideologically barren Conservatives... is not a good one."
In other words now is the time for the LibDems to step forward.


So here's where I slip into speechwriting mode to give my opinion:-

There's only one narrative that counts and that's honesty.

Only through honesty are we able to sort out our problems and make sure they don't return to haunt us.

I'll mention Charles Kennedy and Mark Oaten. We can be honest about their problems because there is no shame in admitting the truth; any embarrassment evaporates by being able to show the situation is being dealt with and mitigated.

I'll mention St Vincent of Cable and our argument on the economy.

I'll mention our resolute stance against the 'false prospectus' for war in Iraq.

I'll mention party funding and the expenses scandal.

I'll mention civil liberties and the database state (lately the ISA...).

I'll mention Jo Swinson's 'Real Women' campaign.

I could go on.

Each of these are cases where honesty about the problems and the causes of the problems are fundamental to what it means to be a LibDem and how we go about looking for solutions which provide positive and lasting solutions.

Even in the areas where the public is largely unconvinced with our stance we remain steadfastly honest in not playing to the braying crowd.

We are honest about the EU, about its weaknesses and limitations - in contrast to every other party. We are honest about calling for a referendum on the substantive issue of membership, rather than the technical issue of singular treaties.

We are honest about the need to balance competing concerns such as the environment and the economy - in contrast to every other party. We would not sacrifice one for the other, nor do we manoeuver for simple gain - we are honest about the need to reconcile opposites in a way which combines them for mutual benefit and that our electoral success is a product - not a prerequisite - of our achievements.

We are honest about the UK, about the need for constitutional renewal - in particular contrast to the SNP or Sinn Fein. We are honest about the fact we live in an interdependent world and borders between people are no more than a figment of administrative imagination.

We are honest about our place in the world and how we prepare and conduct ourselves in places where conflict exists. What is Trident for, after all?

And most of all we are honest about not playing to peoples prejudices. all we have to do is get more people to start noticing how this all amounts to a consistent theme and we'll be set fair.

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