A dose of sunshine for Lib Dems everywhere

by Stephen Tall on May 22, 2007

It’s a sunny day, and I’m nicely rested after a few days’ holiday – so let’s celebrate some positive stories.

First up – Ming Campbell’s challenge to Prime Minister-select Gordon Brown to a televised debate was a cute way of (i) giving the Lib Dems a fresh angle on a stale story at a time when our bipolar media traditionally eschews giving the party any air-time; and (ii) highlighting just how little we know (or expect) of the Labour Party’s newly-minted leader’s views across the whole gamut of national and international issues he will be leading this country on.

It was also a real advance on Ming’s previous attempt to grab a headline, when he rather lamentably called for a snap general election, having apparently confused the UK’s parliamentary system with a presidential system – as noted by Lib Dem blogger Jonny Wright here.

Secondly, it’s good to see the Lib Dems taking a lead in the campaign to stop the Labour/Tory alliance in the House of Commons from watering down Freedom of Information legislation, with a new petition today launched to defend the public’s right to know what our Parliamentarians are up to. James Oates’s Cicero’s Songs blog has the full roll-call of dishonour of those 96 Labour and Tory MPs who are happy to create one law for our legislators and another for the rest of us.

This rather squalid episode has cast a revealing light on the mindsets of those MPs who clearly feel they have something to hide, and that their affairs exist on a higher plane than everyone else’s. It’s times like this we can, and should, feel proud to be members of our party, the only one which truly understands how destructive sectional interests – whether of class, wealth, ethnicity or nationality – are to society.

Finally, last week saw a bit of negative publicity among some sections of the media about Ming Campbell’s leadership of the Lib Dems. Clearly now Gordon Brown has been acclaimed leader by his own party, the media is anxious to have another personality-fuelled tussle to fixate on – anything to avoid actually having to report the dull daily grind of politics. Sorry, but it bores me: it’s Heat-style journalism for Guardian readers.

But I did see some poll figures which did intrigue me. They were by Communicate Research for Newsnight – and clearly they did not fit the programme’s agenda at the time, or else were too complicated for them to feel able to report.

What they show is that the Lib Dems have become a much more credible political force in the eyes of the public since 2002 in virtually every regard. In particular, it is fascinating to see the Lib Dems are apparently the party most people see as being trustworthy on immigration. Which suggests there is a liberal vote out there into which the Lib Dems need to tap more loudly than we have in the past. It’s only fair to note that the party’s rises are paralleled by the Tories’ recovery – but forgive me for sticking to the good news for the Lib Dems on this blog.

What is also interesting is that the Labour Party’s figures, while dipping, have not collapsed. This appears to back up what has been found in the last few years’ local elections – each time a rout has been predicted for Labour, each time they have (just about) avoided imploding. Their support has proved – in the circumstances – to be pretty resilient.

So, there you have it – a dose of optimism for a Tuesday afternoon.