Monday, March 28, 2011

Telegraph gets it wrong on Liberal Democrat "rebrand"

Of all the silly stories that have been published about the Liberal Democrats recently, this from over the weekend has a higher bollocks per square inch (bsi) ratio than most.

Apparently, we are thinking about abandoning Libby, our "7 winged flying worm" as Ben Elton called it when  it was first introduced, and even re-naming the Party. Maybe adding in "social" to our title. Well, of course we are. That worked so well for us when we were the Social and Liberal Democrats, or"salads" and were coming within the margin of error of nothing in the polls. I'm proud to be a social liberal, but that name has bad memories for most of us who were around at the time. Not in a million years would I ever think the party would go back there. Liberal Democrats suits me fine.

They are even trying to stir up the notion of a challenge to Nick's leadership by Chris Huhne. That would be the same Chris Huhne who produced a minority report to Nick, when everyone else was saying we should go for no more than confidence and supply agreements in the event of a hung parliament, stating that we should go for full coalition with the Tories.  I'm as certain as I can be that Chris is not going to destabilise a government where so many Liberal Democrat policies are being put into practice.

The tiny grain of truth on which this story is based is that the party is appointing a Marketing Director at the moment. Up to a point that's a good thing, as long as they understand how to get across the good things we're doing in Government - which just isn't happening at the moment. Not entirely sure that's marketing, and have a small reservation that the money would be better spent on more press people, but that's beside the point. What the Telegraph seems to have done is germinated this tiny grain of truth with spin from the Tories - at the end a senior Conservative strategist is quoted as saying they're going to have to shore Nick up in the event of bad results in May.

I mean, what?

There is more likelihood of Alex Salmond saying the Act of Union was the best thing ever than the Tories ever lifting a finger to help the Liberal Democrats. We may be working in Government together and delivering some good things, but it's still in the Tories' interests to bash us out of existence.

This puts me in mind of a piece I wrote in January, about who really benefits from the stories of Lib Dem/Tory co-operation. I shall post the whole thing below partly so you can see what I mean and partly because I posted it on a Friday night and consequently not many of you read it. I reckon it's worth a second outing.
Today's Herald carries a report which states fairly categorically that a Conservative Cabinet Minister has confirmed that there will be some level of electoral pact between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives at the 2015 General Election.
What a load of complete and utter nonsense!
I suspect that every campaign in every seat, every by-election will be scrutinised in greater detail than ever before to see whether one party seems to be soft-pedalling. You would think by now that journalists would know that squeezing the vote of the party in third place is an essential part of winning any seat. The Party in third, particularly if they are a long way behind, are highly unlikely to throw the kitchen sink at their campaign. This is exactly why we need a fairer voting system, because most of our votes don't actually count. At least a yes vote in the Alternative Vote referendum in May this year would ensure that MPs had to secure the support of 50% of voters, and not be elected on barely a third of the votes cast, which is maybe only a fifth of the electorate as they are now.
If you subscribe to the notion that the Lib Dems and the Tories are heading for a bit of electoral footsie and flirtation, then you have to assume that the Tories have gone soft in the head. This is not a bunch of cuddly teddy bears we're dealing with. They will be going hell for leather to secure an overall majority in 2015, and will fight us, and we them, to the best of our abilities.
So why are Tory Cabinet ministers apparently briefing the press that there will be a pact? Well, it's quite mischievous, because it does us a lot more harm than it does them. By undermining our independence, they hope to scare off not just our voters, but our activists, leftie peace loving hippies like me. Just think about it. They want, they need to win some seats in the south west if they are going to secure a majority. They think that the AV referendum will be lost, so they'll be fighting under the current system. They want to put about the whiff of an electoral pact, and get it sort of accepted as fact, by 2015 to try to send some of our voters into the arms of Ed Miliband. A rising Labour vote in the South West under the current system will help nobody but......the Conservatives. And it's not going to do us much good where we are trying to gain seats from Labour either.
So, I think the Tories are just stirring it for their own electoral gain. You don't hear any of this sort of talk from Liberal Democrats and nor will you, for very good reason. The Tories know fine there will be no pact, but they think it's in their interests to inculcate the idea that there is into the national psyche.
Governing in the national interest with them for five years is one thing, but there won't be any turning the business arrangement into an office affair. We are likely to be offering very different ideas for the future in 2015 and each party will be trying to win as many seats as possible. The Herald might like to reflect on motive, rather than just excitedly print everything it's told as if it were Holy Writ
The Telegraph story seems to me to be more about advancing the Tory cause than a serious reporting of fact. There's a surprise.


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