Who says we lack a narrative?

by Stephen Tall on September 15, 2008

Two good, fair, balanced editorials on the Lib Dems from today’s Indy and Grauniad. In many ways, they mirror each other, reflecting that the party has had a troubled couple of years, but that its increasing self-confidence in liberal values will stand us in good stead come the next general election. We at LDV have been a tad critical of the press this week. Yet today’s editorials identify clearly and consistently what the Lib Dems stand for, and also show how what the party has to say distinguishes us from both Labour and the Tories.

Here’s the Indy:

Under the leadership of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats are close to meeting their first goal. In its scale and ambition, the sweeping package of tax and spending cuts being debated at the conference today is more daring than any programme being proposed by the other parties. The Liberal Democrats also stand out from the other parties in a range of policy areas. They are the most pro-European party and continue to put forward more radical green policies than either Labour or the Conservatives. The party is also the most committed to civil liberties. As ever, their plans for constitutional reform are the most radical.

This exposes the myth that the Conservatives have moved on to their terrain and stripped them of political purpose. In all these areas, David Cameron is in a different position, and even when the Conservatives appear to move close, it is with a degree of internal tension.

And from the Guardian:

Mr Clegg [is making a] serious attempt to assess what government is good at, and why it sometimes does not work. He believes that Labour’s effort to deploy a centralised state to deliver social justice has gone wrong, and that decentralisation, more individual freedom, and a hugely rebalanced tax system are the way to secure it. These ideas matter not because the Lib Dems stand any chance of winning national power on their own, but because they will help shape the mood of the times. The Lib Dems have decided Labour is finished. They may be wrong, but they should not be blamed for mapping out a progressive way forward of their own.

Is this optimism on my part borne of the group-think which conferences are designed to engender? Well, perhaps. But there is a noticeably more relaxed air in Bournemouth this year, and – in very un-liberal fashion – it’s coming from the top-down: Nick Clegg seems, genuinely, to be enjoying himself, putting in a confident, fluent, good-humoured performance in his Q&A session, getting his point across during TV interviews, and spending quality time with members in the conference bar.

His at-easeness – a sharp contrast with the more starched, buttoned-up Ming Campbell – is transmitting itself to the 5,000 Lib Dems gathered here. We know the next two years will be tough ones. But, hey, we’re Lib Dems and we wouldn’t want it any other way.