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Do the LibDems lack a distinct message – or even a purpose?

September 24th, 2009 Posted in UK Politics by

An interesting article by David Herdson on asks if the party now lacks a unique selling proposition.

I agree with him when he says “Third parties trying to sound like governments end up sounding deluded (because no-one expects them to win) and / or irrelevant (because the bigger parties are likely to be saying something similar).”

Our messages still amount to a policy shopping list – not an understandable narrative.

UPDATE: I agree with a lot of what Simon Jenkins says in his biting article on Tuesday. I missed this at Bournemouth. Thanks to those who have brought it to my attention.

11 Responses to “Do the LibDems lack a distinct message – or even a purpose?”

  1. plumbus Says:

    I have to say i didnt find Herdsons article interesting or open-minded; starting, as he does with such pathetically low ambitions for the LDs he was bound to end on a gloomy note. I left the Greens after more than a decade partly because I couldnt see the point of living in a ghetto of protest, anti-politics & localism. We cant go back to being a protest party, we can go forward to transform our politics.

  2. More Lib Dem Conference reactions « Freethinking Economist Says:

    […] And Liberal Vision/Mark seem to agree with a poster on the raucous (i.e. too comment-ful) Political Betting that the Lib […]

  3. Giles Says:

    There is a purpose: progressive aims by liberal means – but the messages are seriously blurred. I can’t see how they can be sharpened when they have this ludicrous business where quality policy thinkers like Nick, Vince and Chris can (potentially or actually) be mugged by the FPC. Representative, transparent democracy, yes: democracy gone mad, no.

  4. Stanley Theed Says:

    Many will take the opportunity to deride any attempt by the Liberal Democrats to portray the party as an alternative to a discredited Labour government, especially the Tories who expect to inherit office as their right. However, support for the Tories appears to be lukewarm and much of it simply anti-Labour. We have to challenge the electorate to vote positively on the basis of our policies and excellent ‘shadow’ team. I sense there is a thirst for REAL change and the public are less likely to believe they will get it from the Tories than the Liberal Democrats will form the next government. I believe that Nick’s speech at the end of conference was well targetted. With the right campaign many who have not voted in recent elections could be pursuaded to do so but they have to believe its worth their while.

  5. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Stanley. I admire your optimism, but I remain less upbeat than you.

    I’m not sure that the “real change” v “fake change” has much traction. I’m not even sure how true it is – outside of the area of constitutional reform. (e.g. “the time may come when we might have to consider calling for an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan”….yawn!)

    The phrase “progressive austerity” is – without doubt the worst slogan I have heard in any political speech in my lifetime. Truly dire.

  6. Giles Says:

    Also: who could really say the Tories are Fake change? The biggest fake about them is that they have changed at all since 1995. Saying “Conservatives – just like Labour” carries the implication that they are both too right wing, and with it the worrying corrolary that the Lib Dems’ job is to attack them both from the Left.

  7. RichardJ Says:

    I admire your determination to try and return the Lib Dems to their classical liberal roots yet I suspect there is more chance of classical liberalism/libertarianism emerging in the Tory Party than in the current Liberal Democrats with their left-leaning activist base.

  8. Stanley Theed Says:


    I am not sure if I made my point entirely clear. I am not suggesting that the electorate will return a Liberal Democrat government but that they would perceive this more likely than the Tories introducing significant reforms which might raise their regard for parliament and politicians generally. It is because politics and politicians are held in such low esteem (often unfairly) that I believe that turn-outs in recent elections has been so low. After the expenses scandal I hate to think how low the turn-out might be at the next election.

  9. Mark Littlewood Says:


    I’m afraid I remain unconvinced. There really isn’t any evidence that people are turning to the Liberal Democrats. We are down about 5% since 2005, the Tories are up 8%.

  10. Ziggy's Current Take On The Lib Dems Says:

    I wrote about this myself but as per usual my opinion was totally ignored but thank goodness for Simon Jenkins

  11. Bunny Smedley Says:

    Also, the only distinct policy idea most people will remember from the LibDem conference is the Mansion Tax – a remarkably badly thought out effort, even for those who quite like nasty yet ineffectual ‘politics of envy’ stuff (and I don’t, by the way).

    On a brighter note, though, it looks as if the Labour conference will be even worse.