I’ve written a few times now about the strategic problem the Liberal Democrats currently face:
The message is basically this: look at the four polices on the front page of the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto and how they are now being implemented (along with many other Liberal Democrat policies). Then look at what the Conservatives said they would do if given an overall majority and look at the list of things they’ve had to drop. In other words – for a party with far fewer MPs than Labour or the Tories, the Liberal Democrats did a good job getting policies started or dropped in 2010. Then look to the future and admit it will be very tough sorting out the economy, financial system and deficit. Tim even went so far as to say, “The job for now is to stop the world getting worse”.
In itself each part of that is reasonable to say. But take a step back. That message is about talking up the past (look what we achieved in 2010) and taking down the future (it’ll be grim).
That turns conventional political messaging wisdom (talk down the past, talk up the future) on its head – and in this case conventional wisdom has it right and the party’s message is wrong.
However, I’m not alone is such thoughts, for as the excellent Ballot and Bullets blog points out:
In a confidential memo addressed to the Prime Minister, an adviser has argued that supporters of the government are ‘increasingly apathetic and disunited’ due to its failure to appeal to the ‘popular imagination’. Beyond tackling the consequences of the economic crisis, most people he argues do not have a clear idea of what the government stands for, what its principles are. It must, he asserts, ‘stand not only for good administration but for an ideal … the ideal of national unity’.
At this point, I should confess, I’ve been naughty – as was the Ballot and Bullets blog which then confessed:
Before I go on, I should admit that I am quoting from a memo written in 1934 by the soon-to-be Conservative MP Duncan Sandys and intended for the eyes of National Government Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald. A copy is to be found in the National Archives.
But it is quite an interesting pointer from history, so do go and read Steven Fielding’s post in full.