Five things the Lib Dems should do now that nobody else has suggested

There are lots of great posts floating round the Lib Dem blogosphere right now and being attentively read by Tim Farron about things the party needs to do to recover from the recent great disaster, henceforth to be known as Cockroach Thursday.

[This post will be updated as I reread and link to them:

Jennie Rigg]

There are many fantastic points in them that I agree with, sometimes vociferously. But I’ve been out of the whole commenting-on-our-navel game for a while now, and while there is definitely a real need for soul-searching, internal reform, reworking of the narrative, maybe thinking about a total rebrand and all that jazz, I think my position gives me a wider, and frankly sillier, perspective. But we’re all out of options, and probably out of cash and possibly even the basis for a viable national party machine, so I’m going with silly. Any better ideas?

First up, we should think about whether anyone needs to get sacked.

Mark Littlewood is a weapons-grade twat. It is known. But nonetheless he is the twatty author of a typically twatty tweet at Sal Brinton yesterday that made me think:

@SalBrinton Sal, the party has just been eviscerated. You’re the President. Fire some NAMED people. Don’t just do yet another group hug.

— Mark Littlewood(@MarkJLittlewood) May 8, 2015

Hm, yeah, maybe. I mean, this is a question for the high-ups. I genuinely have no idea whether there’s a case for it or whether he’s just mischief-making. It may be that we ran a flawless campaign in the air and on the ground and were wrong-footed by circumstance. But we should at least consider the possibility that someone’s ass in the officially-employed bit of the party organisation needs to get fired, or a whole group of asses need to get busted from some committee or something, for this mammoth failure. Ever been on a project with a high-up in your workplace who everybody on the inside knows is a fucking liability making all the wrong decisions, but who never gets called out because, the status quo, and they’ve got all the right mates, and it’s too hard, and they are too entrenched? Me too. But the status quo is now a festering heap of horseshit so it’s not like there’s anything to conserve, and potentially it’s time to do some calling out. This may be the asses of people I know and like, mind you, but I’m not in a mood to be nice if it comes at the cost of the death of liberalism in this country and you shouldn’t be either.

The eight nice middle class white dudes on whom all our hopes now rest should get themselves well-tailored black suits and skinny ties and swan around Westminster like the fucking X-Men.

I am only partly joking about this, and it’s a point about both style and substance. You are all we’ve got. You can afford an attitude of “we’re fucked” defiance. There will be a window in which the press will take a vulture-like interest in you, so do a bit of bloody swaggering. You’ve got unwanted outsider status again, embrace it. As a mystery interlocutor emailed to David Boyle, nobody joined the Lib Dems to keep things nice. Stability, decency, unity? Please. Those were the words Paddy emailed out to us on Thursday when we were in the darkest pit of failure, and while decency is a nice-to-have, and unity all very well where it’s unforced, neither are necessary in liberal politics, and frankly I think 70s Paddy would have gobbed in the face of stability. You’ve got nothing to lose by showy politics now, whether that comes in the form of how you tackle significant votes, PR stunts, eye-catching radical policies (imagine!) or wildly improbable private members bills. Whatever it is, do it. Eat insects in the jungle crying if you have to (not cockroaches though, please). Come the equivalent day to this one in 2020 and we might be dreaming about the chance to do showy politics. Don’t fuck up this opportunity.

Make planning reform and the housing crisis a major thing.

This is the nearest suggestion I have to a practical, policy-led idea, and yes, it’s also a long-standing interest of mine, but its suggestion here is pure pragmatism. If the press is largely a foghorn for the right wing, choose something that a few people who are generally considered right wing (rightly (ha!) or wrongly) are interested in. Well-known libertorian krazies the Adam Smith Institute have published something (authored by the estimable Tom Papworth of course) on this. These people know people who know people. It also happens to be a major factor in declining standards of living. Leave benefits, wages and even income tax alone, and go all out on this.

The ex-big beasts should band together and write a book exposing the Tories’ awfulness in government.

One of the luxuries of being wiped out after a spell in government – I am the Queen of the Bright Side – is that for the first time in thirty years we now actually have ex-big beasts. Some of them have already written books. They need to do it again. Vince, Danny, Norman, Lynne, Steve, if you’re not on a group email back-and-forth with Iain Dale right now you are not the gutsy survivors I thought you were. Break every promise, sever every pragmatically-formed friendship. Shop them. Shop everything.

Let’s go on a few protests!

It might be fun, and what with the almost complete annihilation of an actual voice in government frankly you have fuck-all else to do. Also, it probably has more impact than you think. Laurie Penny wrote the best piece I have read of hers in years about the parallels between depression and being – comprehensively – in opposition. Inevitably she makes a cheap shot at Clegg at the end, but we’ll let that pass. Her main point is that giving up and lying down is what the people who’ve defeated you want you to do, precisely because the alternative is actually alarming to them.

Recently, I heard David Graeber tell an anecdote about his part in a protest of whose provenance I am unsure. A meeting of the IMF, I think, outside their headquarters in Washington. Unlike Penny I’m not well-versed in protest lore. It doesn’t matter anyway. It was a small protest by the standards of the event taking place, about a thousand people were miserably and non-violently kettled in the rain for a few hours outside this monolithic, impregnable, cordoned building. And then we all went home and were depressed about how little difference we’d made, Graeber said. And then some time later he talked to someone who had actually attended that conference. It was one of the most miserable experiences they’d ever had. They had to go through umpteen security checks and have their bags searched every time they moved around, all the parties and jollies and fringe meetings associated with the event were cancelled, they were ever-conscious of the thousand (unbeknownst to them) miserable people sitting in the rain outside the window. It was lockdown, they couldn’t escape it. From within that scary-looking building, everything looked quite different. That’s one thing to remember about the all-powerful; the only way for them is down.

…And don’t agonise too much about the new leader.

This is a cheaty sixth point, because my main five points, and indeed the whole point of this post, are pretty outward-facing. But really guys, let’s not tear ourselves to bits over this, whatever encouragement our enemies might give us to do so. Hindsight is always going to laugh in someone’s face. I voted for Chris Huhne in the last leadership election because I thought his communication style was exactly what we needed at the time, and that ever-increasingly looked like it had been a great instinct on my part right up to the point where he got busted for speeding, and then Cleggmania happened, and then, and then… etc. I know many, many people who voted for Clegg have similarly swung through ups and downs of vindication and wild regret and continue to do so.

The fact is, you make the best choice you can with the facts in front of you, you don’t get an overview. Tim and Norman (assuming they are the front-runners in a field of precisely eight runners) are both good guys, they both have different strengths and weaknesses. Either one could lead us to triumph or (further) disaster given the right circumstances. So don’t overthink. Let’s just get it done.

So there you are. You won’t read that on Lib Dem Voice.


  1. At the moment I am planning to spoil my ballot by writing “Tessa Munt” & drawing a big X next to her name on it.

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