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It’s time to speak the unspeakable

By Angela Harbutt
November 1st, 2009 at 9:39 am | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Lord Heseltine has been the latest political figure to talk seriously about the distinct possibility of a hung Parliament (BBC Hard Talk). He may believe it. He may be attempting to guard against complacency from within his own party. Either way we can all see that the question of a hung parliament , far from going away, is getting increasing airtime.

Given that the Lib Dems have singularly failed to deliver a convincing narrative around which to hang its policies perhaps a different tack is required. One that harnesses the media’s growing fascination with the prospect of a hung parliament and enables us to reclaim our “honesty” crown.

Yes I am going to say it. Let’s stop wasting the electorate’s time – and risking their contempt – talking to them about how we can win the next election (which frankly no sane person believes). Nick Clegg talking about being Prime Minister sounds more like a small boy writing to Santa than a serious politician on the brink of power.

So why dont we start talking credibly about how we can have major influence in the formation of the government?

Let’s talk about what Lib Dems will do in the event of a hung parliament.

Tell the electorate what we will do – and why – and clearly establish on what grounds we will deal with any government and what is and what’s not negotiable. (PR is no longer and abstract notion amongst voters – its a tangible way for all of us to re-engage with the political system).

Of course this will be considered a brave step. Yes we’ve all seen the scars.

But – this option opens up a whole new avenue of debate – one that will enable us to remind the electorate of our fearlessness, our honesty, our foresight, and even our “niceness” (whatever that means). These are our strengths. Perhaps as importantly, the question of a hung parliament is one that our leader will be asked time and again – and there will come a point – if that point has not yet been reached – where he will look silly, dishonest or disengaged, if he can’t, or won’t, give a straightforward answer. Let’s go one better than that – and make it our issue.

In these changed times, with so many people genuinely tired of last century’s politics, on the back of the expenses row, and coming out of more than a decade of big majorities and impotent back benchers, this is surely too good an opportunity to miss. We know that the Tory lead in the polls is all about disaffection with Labour – not love for the Tories – they STILL don’t trust them and rightly so.  So I cant really see that there is much to lose – whereas there is so much to be gained.

If you have not yet had a chance – read the piece in The Times which is an extract from Lord Owen’s new biography. It makes you think.