I've been reading the Party's Ad Lib magazine, the successor to Lib Dem News. Generally, I liked it. I do have some fairly major quibbles, but for a debut issue, looking for new subscribers, I thought it was a good effort. For all Liberator wants political analysis, that's not what Ad Lib is for. It's not going to be pulling the Party to bits and espousing all manner of conspiracy theories and if it tried, Liberator would be the first to complain that it wasn't doing it properly and was trying to throw us off the scent of the real conspiracies. Ad Lib is there to give insight into how the Party works and what's going on behind the scenes.
Some folk had expected the magazine to be A4 sized. That was never going to happen purely because of postal costs. A4 would be classed as large. What we do have is a glossy, A5 40 page production which, handily, fits in my handbag.
In terms of content, you are never going to top Shirley Williams. Ok, then, you might, with Paddy, but I am sure he will be using the pages of future editions to motivate us for the election campaigns ahead. The interview with Shirley saddens me only because the events of which she speaks took place nearly 32 years ago, which makes me very old. My 13 year old self was very excited by the launch of the SDP and their rolling conferences and interviews on trains seemed innovative and not just a way to save money. Shirley talks about the trauma in the Labour Party at that time. I think there is just about enough historical context there given that many people won't remember the events.
The interview with Nick Clegg has a clear agenda - to show how the Liberal Democrats are making the difference in Government. There's a handy little box showing you the ideas he's implemented and silly Tory ideas he has blocked. What annoys me about the feature is that in the 8 photos surrounding the article, none show any engagement with women and few have any women in them at all. The front cover of Ad Lib has two blokes in suits as its main photo. This is not the modern, vibrant image we want to project as a party.
I agree with Jennie's analysis of the content, too. Men tend to get to write about things like the EU Budget, the Obama campaign and to interview the important people. Women. on the other hand, get to write about Page 3 and women prisoners. Oh, and we get to do softer features like the very welcome profile of Nick Clegg's new special adviser. Shabnum Mustapha. The exception was Helen Duffett's interview with Julian Astle.I found the insight into the speechwriting process brilliant.I feel it suffered from being constrained by space. It would have been good to have had a bit about the actual content of the speech, to remind people. I would like to see what ended up on the cutting room floor. I'd quite happily publish Caron's Cut.
Going back to the Page 3 debate, I was annoyed that this was appallingly misrepresented as a campaign for a ban on the outdated and misogynist feature. The No More Page 3 campaign is about putting pressure on the Sun's editor to withdraw it voluntarily, a point that was not made at all. Using the word "ban" in any publication aimed at liberals is going to put people's backs up from the start. And please can we have "yes" and "no" in answer to the question and not "on the one hand" and "on the other" which sounds way too sappy.
I loved the report from the Obama campaign and the insight into the Dutch elections, too.
There has been some criticism of the recipe. All I'll say is this. Katy Riddle, in 10 years time, will probably have her own culinary empire. Her Feelgood Cookbook blog is jam packed full of enticing photographs, many of healthy food made to look like the opulent height of luxury and comfort. Ok, so the ham and coca cola is not every so healthy, but an army marches on its stomach and I could do with some ideas that are healthy and quick to prepare in future editions. Too many of us spend elections eating rubbish when we need to be fuelling ourselves properly. Anyway, in the future, when Katy's smiling face is beaming at us from the cookery shelves in bookshops, we'll remember fondly of the time she wrote for us. Of course, it is to be hoped that she'll be donating a good portion of her millions to the party....
In terms of layout, the size does mean that the font is not as large as some of our members might need, and the contrast could be greater, too. I wonder if it will be available for e-readers in the future.
I will definitely be subscribing to Ad Lib. I kept up my subscription to Lib Dem News right to the end even though I felt that it told me nothing I didn't already know. Ad Lib has the space for much more diverse content. The balance on style if not gender was just about right. I felt when I got to the end that I'd enjoyed it. There had been a little bit of humour and recreation as well as serious politics. I want to see more local Government, though. In fact, I want to see practical examples, from people affected, of lives being improved through the implementation of Lib Dem policies at local and national level.
A warning to Liberal Democrats though. Do be careful what you say on Twitter. Because you might end up on Page 37 without your knowledge. Ryan Coetzee, Nick Clegg's new head of strategy, was apparently blissfully unaware of his starring role until I told him last night on Twitter.
The team didn't have a long time to pull Ad Lib together but still managed to do an amazing job. Thanks to them.
And one more thing. I need a bird. It just doesn't feel right without our Liberal Democrat logo on the front cover...