The last few months have been rather rocky for the Liberal Democrat policy-making process, with a succession of announcements from ministers pre-empting the party’s democratic decision making and presenting their own personal ideas as if they were official policy or jumping the gun on something not yet debated.
The excuse usually given for this is that the need to generate as much positive media coverage for the party as possible, and the media’s desire to see things simply rather than report the nuances of internal processes, means waiting for the two party conferences a year isn’t always practical.
There are occasions when I have some sympathy with this, but fundamentally I don’t – because it’s always possible to navigate around these issues rather than just trample all over the party’s democratic processes.
Steve Webb (aka the best pensions minister in a generation) has once again demonstrated how it is quite possible to get it right and to generate positive publicity for the party. Just as he floated his own policy ideas earlier in the year, making clear they weren’t yet party policy but also getting positive coverage for the party in the process, so again he’s respected the way the party works with his latest media push on the triple-lock for pensioners.
There are some things Steve does that it wouldn’t be helpful if all the other Lib Dem ministers did. But this is a case where copying him is right approach. And if Steve Webb can do it, so too can other ministers. Unless of course they’re just fessing up to not being as able as him…