10 key Lib Dem questions for 2009

by Stephen Tall on December 30, 2008

In what is fast becoming a pre-New Year tradition as eagerly anticipated as ‘the biggest ever DFS sale’, Lib Dem Voice is publishing its list of 10 key questions, the answers to which we think might well help shape 2009 for the party. You can read last year’s list here; and our answers to those questions here (Part I) and here (Part II).

Here below, then, for what it’s worth are my top 10 questions for the coming year in Lib Demmery.

1. Will there be a general election in 2009? (If yes, many of the rest of the questions will have very different answers).

2. How will the party respond in the coming year to the new recession politics? Will Nick Clegg’s call for “big, permanent and fair” tax cuts, combined with £12.5 billion of green public investment strike a chord, appear flawed, or be ignored?

3. Will the Lib Dems reverse the recent decline in our opinion poll ratings, and climb above 20%?

4. Will the Lib Dems finish at least third, and poll at or above 15%, in the European elections in June 2009?

5. Will June’s local election results show a Lib Dem advance or retreat?

6. Will Nick Clegg more fully establish himself as party leader, recognised both by the public and media as someone to be listened to?

7. Will the Lib Dem Spring 2009 conference decide to scrap the party’s current policy of abolishing university tuition fees?

8. Will Tavish Scott re-establish the Lib Dems as a major force in Scottish politics, vying with Labour and the SNP?

9. Will Kirsty Williams revitalise the Welsh Lib Dems, and establish herself and the party as the major opposition to Labour and Plaid?

10. Who will be crowned Lib Dem Blogger of the Year in 2009? And will we have to set up a new award for Twitterer of the Year?

Have I missed any out? And how do you anticipate we might be answering these 10 questions in a year’s time?

Oh, and finally, what will be the one unimaginable event, the ‘unknowable unknown’, which will dominate the headlines in 2009? The collapse, and subsequent nationalisation/recapitalisation, of the banking system in the UK and USA was an ‘unknowable unknown’ this time last year; yet it was that event which will likely exert the longest lasting legacy in the years to come. Will there be anything to compare with it in the next 12 months?

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The ‘unknown event’ will be the ousting of David Cameron by jittery Tories as the election looms and his replacement with Ken Clarke, who will then give us a lot more entertainment.

Also, when Ken Clarke takes the helm, we won’t see the 13th Baronet Osborne (that’s George to his friends) for dust.

We should direct all our fire on the Tories for the forseeable future.

by wit and wisdom on December 30, 2008 at 10:57 am. Reply #

I can’t see the Tories ousting Cameron. Much less for Ken Clarke.

As for tuition fees, a difficult one. I think that scrapping our existing policy would p*ss off quite a few activists – and no doubt some would leave the party because of it. I’m not sure a majority of conference reps would vote that way though, if they really think it needs to be changed, I think our front bench is going to have to do more to explain the reversal (certainly more than Centre Forum’s puff piece).

by Grammar Police on December 30, 2008 at 11:25 am. Reply #

Every time I talk to students about our policy on tuition fees, I must attract at least one or two to our Party.

To scrap the policy would be insane.

And one other reason for me to let my membership of this gradually more conservative party slip….

by Liam Pennington on December 30, 2008 at 12:36 pm. Reply #

If we know what the “unknowable unknown” is then it’s not unknowable and therefore known so can be predicted!

To answer the questions….

1. No. I don’t think that Labour will raise high enough in the polls to give GB comfort he’d win – and he’s pretty opposed to cooperation in politics (I live in Fife, I know) so he wouldn’t risk a coalition.

2. It’s starting to chime through. The Tories are moving in that direction so have obviously picked up something in their polling about it. We need to make the policy ours though before they snatch it.

3. No. Purely on the basis that it’s not an election year. 20% by December 2009 would put us in a very good position for the 2010 election, though.

4. Maybe, but only if we fight on European topics.

5. Don’t know.

6. It depends on what the main story is. If it continues to be the economy, then I can’t see the media going to anyone else other than Vince, purely because he’s been right so often.

7. I hope not, but I suspect it will – if the leadership want to ditch it, then conference will be too scared to go against them (just remember Brighton 1994, folks! Chin up!)

8. There is a real chance of this. Salmond’s honeymoon is coming to a close, and Labour really still aren’t in a fit position to do anything. The SNP haven’t actually done anything in Government, and people are starting to see that – the so-called “historic concordat” for local government will unwind I think through 2009 as it becomes more apparent that the promises which the Govt foisted on Councils simply can’t be met without any more cash. A lot might depend though on two things – how we come out of the debate on Local Income Tax, and how we perform at a Council level.

9. I really hope so. I don’t understand why we have so few seats in Cardiff.

10. That remains to be seen…

by KL on December 30, 2008 at 12:39 pm. Reply #

Liam – you post on another site that I read/post on (vote-2007) – you’re also from Preston I think which is where I’m originally from – and I sometimes wonder if I’ll read a post one day where you say you’ve left us.

I don’t agree with the party line on everything, or the ideas on tuition fees that are being floated. I don’t think the party is becoming more conservative but I’m worried that a number of our activists think it is becoming so.

I think conference reps were willing to give Vince the benefit of the doubt on the economy and the tax cuts which were clearly angled towards those on lower pay (indeed, the disagreement was over the potential room to consider further tax cuts for the less well off on top of the 4p cut we’d agreed).

I’m not sure conference reps will feel the same over tuition fees – fair enough to completely reverse some minor bit of policy, but to do an about turn on something we’ve run General Election campaigns on doesn’t look good . . .

All I’ll say, is hold on in there, if we drop out we’re not helping the causes we champion. I’d still trust Nick Clegg et al above any Tory/Labour politician!!

by Grammar Police on December 30, 2008 at 1:23 pm. Reply #

Wit,

Well that would be entertaining indeed if it did happen but I dont think it is going to, sadly. I think it’s fair to say that Cameron is not as established as Blair was and still has a slight vulnerability in that sense but nonetheless I can’t see the Tories being that crazy unless Cameron trys to push through a policy they really don’t want….

On a more general note I have to agree that changing the party position on tuition fees would be an absolute disaster…

by Darrell on December 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm. Reply #

I think Obama’s response to the situation in Gaza and what happens next in Iraq could well be the unknown quantity this year. We pretty much know the economy is going to get worse and there’s going to be a lot of job losses in the new year. What the response to that will be is an unknown but I think less so than this time last year.

With regard to tuition fees, we need to change our policy. Students need to bear some of the cost of their tuition but I don’t think the balance is right at the moment. And the way the loans/grants system works is complex and unfair. There has also not been enough done to encourage outside benefactors to offer more and bigger grants to cover the increased costs to students.

We should also be campaigning a lot more strongly to reverse the unfair way that loans are paid back which results in graduates paying a lot more interest than they should.

by Letterman on December 30, 2008 at 3:06 pm. Reply #

Hey, I know any sensible Tories would not want Dave out but when have Tories ever been sensible when it came to their leaders?!

Also, I must declare an interest: I live in Dave’s constituency so national discomfort equals local opportunity. Its definitely on my New Year wish list – and if it comes about I’ll claim to be a soothsayer of rare talent.

If it doesn’t, who will care? Certainly not me!

by wit and wisdom on December 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm. Reply #

To Answer them in order.

1. No. The lagging indicators of unemployment, arrears and repossesions are starting to kick in now and will drown out the “save the world” media narrative that has dominated to date. It wouldn’t surprise me if Labour stayed close to the Tories in the polls for a few months as the stimulus kicks in ( the £60 cheques go out in January ) and tracker mortgage payments continue to fall. I’d also put a tenner on a second stimulus package in the March budget “justified” by the Obama 100 day blitz. But basically its too late. Brown should have gone in November/December.

2. the RealPolitik of the worst recession for 30 years will mean that the “Green Road” appraoch will win out over vague unfunded tax cuts for “ordinary” and ” low and middle income earners” however they are. Even if I’m wrong about that the Tories have begun to talk about tax cuts and they’ll always be more credible on the subejct.

3. No. We may well have a ICM or two at 20% plus levels but the feed back mechanisms on the national vote share have begun to kick in. reduced media coverage feeding lower polling which justifies reduced media coverage.

4. I think we may finish third because a chunk of the UKIP vote is going to go home to the Tories. However if we can only get 155 in the Iraq election of 2004 then I think we’ll see recent vote share decline reflected in the euros. We’ll fight it on a combination of Pot Holes and the IN/OUT referendum on Europe. It will look as cohesive as a pantomime horse and get no where.

5. Advance though a very small one in terms of seats. projected national vote share will be down a point or so. The counties were last fought on GE day in 2005. A much lower turn out and more local focus will help us.

6. No. I think the media has made its mind up and decided it should have been Vince. I’m not sure there is a lot Nick can do about it in fairness to him.

7. Genuinely don’t know. If the leadership decides its worth the blood and treasure then definately YES. Confernce won’t want to inflict a defeat on a federal leader months before a general election which is how it will be spun. can enough people communicate to the leadership that they don’t have enough blood and treasure left to get it through Confernce so don’t bother asking ? It’ll come down to double bluff and I just don’t know.

It won’t end well in either senario.

8. No. At least not in terms of polling/vote share thought the FPTP seats might be more resilient.

9. Yes. I’m very impressed with Kirsty. If she shines i think she’ll be federal leader one day.

10. Two people who won’t get it but probably should are Charlotte Gore ( Which I adore ) and Nich Starling ( I need hallucinagens to understand why i am in the same party). However thats the problem. they are both two polarising for the extremely high quality to be appreciated by a panel of judges.

they both deserve to win but won’t.

by David Morton on December 30, 2008 at 6:57 pm. Reply #

“We should also be campaigning a lot more strongly to reverse the unfair way that loans are paid back which results in graduates paying a lot more interest than they should.”

How does that happen?

by Hywel Morgan on December 30, 2008 at 11:17 pm. Reply #

@ Grammar Police

Thanks for your message.

I am sure you have picked up the same sort of feeling I have from ordinary members worried about the party moving into more conservative areas. This is clearly a consequence of elected Nick Clegg as leader, a mistake I believe should be sorted out sooner rather than later.

I used to feel confident, strong, and encouraged, by the Party, and can think of no-other I could join where I would have the same sense of good coming from the work done to help ordinary members of the public.

A life outside politics is the only thing I can think of if I have to leave the LibDems.

by Liam Pennington on December 31, 2008 at 9:05 am. Reply #

The impression that our party is moving towards the economic right is given, for example, in the Times coverage of Nick Clegg’s anniversary of leadership election. If it has not actually moved to the right, there seem to be people who want to spin that it has, and Clegg does not seem anxious to correct that. At the time of Clegg’s election, those keenest for him were those who wanted to give our party a hard shove to the right. The alleged overheard remarks on the plane are an indication that he has no gratitude to those more to the left who supported him, and no feeling that his narrow victory means he should try to balance all sides rather than push ahead with the agenda of his keenest backers.

I have spoken to a few people who have a long history of supporting us, and am surprised at some of the vehemence against Clegg I have heard. “Public school twit” or similar are the most common, but the general concern about the shift towards the economic right is also there.

Clegg needs to realise QUICKLY that he has not delivered what he and his keenest backers promised – an instant uplift in the polls and a continuing rise in support on the back of his eloquence and communication skills. His keenest backers need to realise that there just isn’t a big pool of floating voters just waiting for us to become clearly an “economic liberal” party.

If there is the real will to win and the man has some intelligence, Clegg will realise that even if incorrect, the impression that our party has shifted towards the right isn’t helping and will try and change that impression.

The political world has, of course, changed vastly in the past year, and those of us who were concerned that city financiers weren’t really “creating wealth” have been proved at least to have a point. Many of things that Clegg was saying when he was elected now seem so unimportant compared to the challenges this country faces right now. What this country needs is a politician who can capture the real anxiety leading to anger that many British people feel – the penny has dropped, they feel duped, they feel a small minority have profited and left them with the debt.

The signs that this was happening were there a year ago, and if you look back on what I wrote then you can see my fear that they just weren’t featuring as they should in the debates in the leadership election on where our party was going.

But if Clegg was the most able person to lead us, so much more intelligent than any other possible contender, a great communicator with a real grasp of the issues, as we were told by his keenest backers and all those elements of the press who told us we must elect him, he would be able to see what was happening now and turn things round.

So that is the key Liberal Democrat question – can he, will he?

by Matthew Huntbach on December 31, 2008 at 10:29 pm. Reply #

1. Will there be a general election in 2009? (If yes, many of the rest of the questions will have very different answers).

No

2. How will the party respond in the coming year to the new recession politics? Will Nick Clegg’s call for “big, permanent and fair” tax cuts, combined with £12.5 billion of green public investment strike a chord, appear flawed, or be ignored?

It will be changed as the situation unfolds…

3. Will the Lib Dems reverse the recent decline in our opinion poll ratings, and climb above 20%?

No, but we will in the 2010 GE and that’s all that really counts. So long as we hover between 16-19% in ICM, we are doing ‘as well as can be expected’.

4. Will the Lib Dems finish at least third, and poll at or above 15%, in the European elections in June 2009?

Who cares?

5. Will June’s local election results show a Lib Dem advance or retreat?

We SHOULD make a substantial advance. Incumbancy is a very bad thing to have at the moment and as the Tories are generally the County incumbants, we should be able to hit them very hard, as long as we don’t go overboard on Europe.

6. Will Nick Clegg more fully establish himself as party leader, recognised both by the public and media as someone to be listened to?

Yes, but the big opportunity will come with the GE in 2010.

7. Will the Lib Dem Spring 2009 conference decide to scrap the party’s current policy of abolishing university tuition fees?

If they have any sense.

8. Will Tavish Scott re-establish the Lib Dems as a major force in Scottish politics, vying with Labour and the SNP?

I hope so, but…

9. Will Kirsty Williams revitalise the Welsh Lib Dems, and establish herself and the party as the major opposition to Labour and Plaid?

More likely

10. Who will be crowned Lib Dem Blogger of the Year in 2009? And will we have to set up a new award for Twitterer of the Year?

Who cares.

by Martin Land on January 1, 2009 at 7:46 pm. Reply #

1. Will there be a general election in 2009?

I can’t see it.

But, I’m torn about whether I want one in 2009 or 2010 in terms of how it will affect the campaign locally.

We’ll come third in the constituency I live in whenever the election is held. A 2010 General Election will give our parliamentary candidate more time to establish herself and campaign, so she would probably get a better result then.

However, we have all-out local elections in 2010, and it would be great just to concentrate on those (where we stand a real chance of winning seats – ultimately enabling us to make more of a difference locally).

2. How will the party respond in the coming year to the new recession politics? Will Nick Clegg’s call for “big, permanent and fair” tax cuts, combined with £12.5 billion of green public investment strike a chord, appear flawed, or be ignored?

Once again, our message is subtle – and subtelty doesn’t necessarily do to well. Assisting the less well-off with targeted tax cuts, at the same time as investing in things that really need investing in will probably be seen as trying to have our cake and eating it. I also think Labour will try to claim that we are becoming a party of the right, and some of our members and supporters will agree, even though I don’t necessarily think it’s the case.

3. Will the Lib Dems reverse the recent decline in our opinion poll ratings, and climb above 20%?

Tempted to agree with Martin Land here. Looking at our poll results in the 1987-2001 parliaments, and straight after the 2001 election – I’d have been glad of regular polls showing us at 16-19%. It’s undeniable that there has been a slip in our standing since the latter part of the 2001-2005 parliament, but it’s not the end of the world – and indeed even if we lose a few seats at the next election I won’t be terribly disappointed.

4. Will the Lib Dems finish at least third, and poll at or above 15%, in the European elections in June 2009?

I hope so, as in pure electoral terms, it’s about building momentum and the way the media will present the result. However, I don’t think as a party we’re willing to learn all the lessons about how to fight more proportional elections. If we don’t lose too many MEPs and our liberal & reformist colleagues in the EU do okay, then we’ll remain an influencial block in the European Parliament.

5. Will June’s local election results show a Lib Dem advance or retreat?

The Tories will often be incumbents in these elections, but they have recently been getting their best local election results in years, and so I’m not sure. Also, there’s the fall-out over the unitaries. I think there’ll be a fair amount of churn, but we’ll end up broadly where we were before.

6. Will Nick Clegg more fully establish himself as party leader, recognised both by the public and media as someone to be listened to?

@ Martin “Yes, but the big opportunity will come with the GE in 2010”.

’nuff said.

7. Will the Lib Dem Spring 2009 conference decide to scrap the party’s current policy of abolishing university tuition fees?

Ignoring whether the policy is right or wrong (and I think it’s the former); is it a good thing to have a big bust up a year or so before a GE about reversing a headline policy that we campaigned on, that’s very easy to understand and one of the few policies of ours that the public are aware of – and replace it with one that’s likely to be extremely subtle and deliberately misrepresented by our opponents?

8. Will Tavish Scott re-establish the Lib Dems as a major force in Scottish politics, vying with Labour and the SNP?

Let’s call the SNP’s bluff. Let’s have their referendum and finish them once and for all. If not, we’ll just let Scotland go independent in accordance with their desire. Policy aside, lessons still need to be learned about fighting more proportional elections.

9. Will Kirsty Williams revitalise the Welsh Lib Dems, and establish herself and the party as the major opposition to Labour and Plaid?

I think she just about might, and it’s high time it happened. Policy aside, lessons still need to be learned about fighting more proportional elections.

10. Who will be crowned Lib Dem Blogger of the Year in 2009? And will we have to set up a new award for Twitterer of the Year?

The blogger of the year should be the blogger who gets as much value out of their blogging for the party, as the work they put in to maintaining it.

;o)

by Grammar Police on January 1, 2009 at 8:36 pm. Reply #

1. Will there be a general election in 2009? (If yes, many of the rest of the questions will have very different answers).

Nah, Brown’ll bottle it (again).

2. How will the party respond in the coming year to the new recession politics? Will Nick Clegg’s call for “big, permanent and fair” tax cuts, combined with £12.5 billion of green public investment strike a chord, appear flawed, or be ignored?

That’s in our own hands, the MSM won’t do anything to help us, as usual.

3. Will the Lib Dems reverse the recent decline in our opinion poll ratings, and climb above 20%?

Fingers crossed.

4. Will the Lib Dems finish at least third, and poll at or above 15%, in the European elections in June 2009?

As above!

5. Will June’s local election results show a Lib Dem advance or retreat?

Probably more steady progress, what’s left of Labour in the shires should be ripe to come to us, and I sense that the tories’ cameron peak has been hit. we should seek to expose the tories’ portrayal of themselves as a ‘green’ party with all the ruthlessness that that sham deserves though, it does cost us younger, and first-time, votes.

6. Will Nick Clegg more fully establish himself as party leader, recognised both by the public and media as someone to be listened to?

probably not, unless he gets a lot of coverage either through a GE or (eek) because we have a major bust-up that goes on and on and catches the media interest.

7. Will the Lib Dem Spring 2009 conference decide to scrap the party’s current policy of abolishing university tuition fees?

I really do hope not. Tax-cutting etc I can stand, even fees if they were put on a european sort of basis, but the £1000s that are charged even now is only serving to split society further, and create deeper stagnation on both sides.

8. Will Tavish Scott re-establish the Lib Dems as a major force in Scottish politics, vying with Labour and the SNP?

I can’t see how, for now. The SLDs are pretty close to political bankruptcy (what’s the point in a liberal party that supports self-determination for small nations other than scotland or wales?). Had they agreed to govern with the SNP they would have contributed much, as a party with experience of government, and also slain the myth that we are labour’s little brother. They could easily have worked to deliver the SNP referendum on independence without having to support it, and then stood firm to pick up the pieces after the nats fell apart afterwards …

9. Will Kirsty Williams revitalise the Welsh Lib Dems, and establish herself and the party as the major opposition to Labour and Plaid?

this is more hopeful, Wales is in a strange mood right now (remember that the misty ‘Independents’ did best in the local elections here this year), the Nat-Soc assembly govt pretty inept and there’s a psychological limit beyond which tories can’t go in Wales. The trick will be to dislodge Plaid finally, since they do pinch ‘our’ voters otherwise.

10. Who will be crowned Lib Dem Blogger of the Year in 2009? And will we have to set up a new award for Twitterer of the Year?

please no to twitterer of the year, too much detail! I suggest Peter Black for blogger of the year, if only because of his online longevity. his blog’s better than that though (and I’m not him in disguise!)

by john on January 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm. Reply #

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