Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More on liberties 

The elephant that must not be mentioned stirred in the interview of Chris Huhne on Westminster Hour. He was asked in effect if we had underperformed in terms of seats last time out and said not really. Well.. I can see why he is cautious about this because a contrary position otherwise invites tricky judgements on the performance of the immediate past and some continuing senior leadership and on that road might be more heat than light on why we have an election at all at this stage.

We can expect more probing on this over the next few weeks so the candidates need to get focussed. And we in the wider party need to beware of the common ailment of responsibility-free advice ‘if only the party had done so and so we would have triumphed’. We are not the ones who would personally have to face Paxman.

Having said that, I look back at the high spot for me in the 2005 campaign, our adoption meeting in Milton Keynes where Lord Dholakia raised the roof with an impassioned statement on protecting our freedoms. I know we recruited and mobilised key new activists (including potential councillors) just on the basis of the power of that speech.

This link shows what I said then, and you can see my hopes.

But despite the superb manifesto commitment (page 8 if you still have it to hand) nothing else in the campaign, not in our national literature actually going through doors, not in the Leadership statements from any source, approached the power and clarity of that moment.

I am not saying it would (necessarily) have swung us masses of seats, but if we had put out a national message of that power nobody could ever again ask what the Liberal Democrats are ‘for’. A key part of the answer would be clear and spoken heart to heart. Protecting our Freedoms from whatever threat emerges, foreign and domestic. If not us, who else?

I did actually feel an opportunity was lost in 2005. Sorry.

Currently we are seeing the domestic threat of what I called the Sovietisation or the ancien regime transformation of our justice system so we have work to do right now, not just in the leadership stakes.

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