Political

Nick Clegg’s straw man: 87% straw

I’ve commented before about Nick Clegg’s love of attacking unnamed Lib Dems who don’t want to be in government, such as when I wrote about his speech to the party’s local government conference:

The early part of Nick Clegg’s speech was baffling. He took a swing at people in the party who think the party should not be a party of government and are desperate for the party to reach the more relaxed waters of opposition after the 2015 general election. I’d be all for him taking a swing at such people, if it were not for one crucial point.

There are almost none of them in the party.

It’s notable how very flat this part of the speech fell in the hall – and no surprise, given that people’s reaction on this and other occasions to hearing Nick take the fight to a nearly wholly imaginary enemy is one of bafflement, boredom or irritation. That’s bad enough, but to lead with it in a speech? Poor choice indeed.

The latest Lib Dem Voice survey of party members (and unlike those similar surveys carried out by LabourList and ConHome, this is a survey that is restricted only to party members, not website visitors), has looked at this questions. The full results and Stephen’s analysis are well worth a look, but one point I’ll bring out here:

Only 13% picked an option involving “Liberal Democrats in opposition” for their preferred outcome after 2015.

So that straw man of Nick Clegg’s? It’s 87% straw. As it was when Lib Dem Voice asked a similar question a year ago.

There’s a different debate about the merits of confidence and supply versus coalition, but the overall message is clear and consistent: Liberal Democrat activists don’t want their party just to be sat in opposition in Westminster. If the party doesn’t win an overall majority on its own, they want the party to be making deals that give it influence over what happens in government.

8 responses to “Nick Clegg’s straw man: 87% straw”

  1. I’m afraid my experience of Nick’s responses to critical questioning is that he answers a different question, one that is easier to brush off  in the manner you mention above. Actually, if he listened and heard, he would find most people are on his side but wish to have the opportunity to help frame OUR party’s progress, rather than hand it to him and a few spads to mould in his image. It’s disappointing.

  2. It’s probably not even 13%, given that the poll is asking a different question.
    If the question was “do you think the Liberal Democrats should be a permanent party of opposition”, I doubt even a quarter that many would have voted yes.
    Being in government is not the same thing as capitulating to coalition partners on every major issue of public policy, which is how Nick Clegg appears to understand it (if he even considers it to be capitulation).

  3. How about if the question was “Do you think Lib Dem MPs should vote for things of which they approve and vote against things of which they disapprove”? My guess is you’d get more than 13%, but this is a policy that the party can consistently follow only when in Opposition.

  4. given that the latest message coming from the high and mighty of the libdems is that they are building a fairer society one can only imagine that Clegg and co have gone native and actually believe the rubbish the tory government peddle.

  5. Unconvinced by this analysis. You could argue that the fall in membership seen in 2010-2012 was an exodus of members who couldn’t stomach the compromises necessary for being in power in a coalition. You could also argue that it may not appear as you state to the leadership when a significant and vocal part of the party are chucking brickbats at the leadership almost incessantly.
    You could also suggest the data and subsequent analysis are somewhat flawed as they fail to account for the ‘it’s always greener on the other side’ factor, since the outcome suggests the majority of the party would prefer a coalition with Labour. I, for one, seriously doubt it’d be any less rocky than the last three years have been. Perhaps with a question that investigated that first, the result might have been very different.
    As someone who looks at way too many questionnaires for their own good, and is almost always critical of political questionnaires, I’d have to say I have serious doubts about whether this data is of sufficient quality to draw any conclusions as outlined above. Sorry Mark……

  6. Well, I don’t think that 13% is almost none. Unless our membership is only seven times almost none. A better argument might be that he should be attacking those who prefer opposition to the current coalition, but most of those have left the party, so perhaps he should be appealing to them, rather than attacking them.

  7. I could certainly name a number of local members who fit the description, but I dispute the validity of the survey in highlighting a lack of support for our internal party democracy – the question isn’t about what people say, but about what people do, and I suggest those surveyed are not significantly more reliable than average at judging their own consistency.

  8. I would be happier about this kind of debate if everyone in it had read Paul Ormerod’s book  ‘Why Most Things Fail’.
    Ormerod shows how people in power (in private industry or in government) can get into a besieged Laager mentality, believing more in the special information circulation within the Laager than in what happens outside. So for example they spend time rubbishing voices from outside the Laager as unrealistic or not interested in power…    
    The question however is not whether to be in power. It is whether to be in power successfully. 
    Ormerod’s last chapter suggest way that people in power can be successful. Strangely enough he describes something quite close (I think) to the core culture of the Liberal Democrats. 
    I am happy to be in another coalition provided (amongst other things) we go into it determined to play to our strengths. The straw man bashing is a retreat from our strengths. 
    Yes I really think Nick should read this book this summer .

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