Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sound like humans, and explain as well as listen

Could there be any more dramatic illustration of what Lynne Featherstone complained about on Vote 2014 than the later reactions to the English local election results by other party speakers (mostly men with safer seats)? I inwardly cheered when she said early on in the proceedings that Farage was going down well with the voters because he sounded like a human being. Then I groaned when others robotically ground out the message that we needed to listen to what the voters were saying. (Labour speakers were also guilty of this.) The vox pop response was: you're listening, but you're not hearing.

Another line in the Great George Street script was: we need to get across what he have done in government. I believe that most voters do know that we are responsible for the raising of the personal allowance and state pension guarantee, but they weigh that against other coalition measures which have been unpopular.

Let us change tack. Let our MPs explain in their own words what moves them as Liberal Democrats. Let us not only listen, but respond to views which must be challenged. Certainly, simple messages, and especially those which affect people's pockets, are effective but people can get tired of them. They need to hear the backing as well as the solos.

They also need to hear what we would do in the future, rather than dwelling on the last four years. The Conservatives have been very good at this. Tories have increasingly moaned about how those perishing Liberals have held them back in government and proclaimed what they will do with an overall majority. We already have party policy which we have been forced to compromise over in coalition but needs restating: cancelling the Trident replacement, restoring fairness to benefits - especially housing benefit - and more fairness in taxation, for instance. One trusts that Glasgow 2014 will provide more ammunition, but we don't have to wait until October.

The Democratic Alliance in South Africa made progress in the May national and provincial elections on a liberal manifesto. Nick Clegg took a bold step in breaking with previous shamefaced campaigns by nailing our European Union colours to the mast. I would like to see him, Danny Alexander and Steve Webb doing the same with Liberal values on the domestic front.

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