FT editorial: Lib Dems' "ultimate selling point is they are not like the other parties"

by Stephen Tall on June 25, 2009

Following on from yesterday’s feature interview with Nick Clegg, today’s Financial Times carries a generous editorial on the Lib Dems and the party’s contribution to British politics:

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has said that it is “not beyond the realms of possibility” that his party could move into second place at the next election, ahead of Labour. His party might well receive more votes than Labour; they nearly managed that feat in 1983. …

Of the big national parties, only they opposed the war in Iraq and only they have consistently opposed Labour’s illiberalism. Thanks to Vince Cable, their economic spokesman, the Lib Dems have also been prominent in the debate on the financial crisis.

At the moment, they are also leading the debate on the country’s fiscal dilemma. Whereas the main parties continue to exchange bromides, the Lib Dems have made the bold, if contentious, decision not to support renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent.

Offering clarity when others prefer obfuscation is a valuable public service. Even if the Lib Dems do not win, they flush out the inconsistencies of their opponents. In their eagerness to become one of Britain’s governing parties, the Liberal Democrats must avoid becoming risk-averse. Their ultimate selling point is they are not like the other parties.

Okay, so the FT is not the Daily Mail. It’s read by a small number of potential Lib Dem voters. But, still, it’s noteworthy that (1) the paper felt it was worth devoting an editorial to the Lib Dems’ prospects, and (2) when it did so, it’s given the party a positive report.

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Good.

We should take what we can, beggars can’t be choosers.

And also, who cares if 2 percent of society reads the FT?? We need to think longterm, because that 2% have more cash or in a certain industry that makes more cash then a large proportion of this country and after this Brown debacle, we surely need to be getting better/legit funding to support the party…

So the more FT likes us, the more a loaded FT reader could see the possibility in investing within the party..

by rantersparadise on June 25, 2009 at 10:48 am. Reply #

I think the papers like the FT and the Economist credit their readers with knowing their own minds already, and so they don’t bother so much with the pissing contest of normal political coverage and feel freer to look soberly at the actual issues.

by Joe Otten on June 25, 2009 at 11:47 am. Reply #

The days that it was embarassing to be amongst successful people and being a Lib Dem supporter (banning goldfish, wanting all schools to just “get better” without reform, criminalising speeding in wheelchairs, etc) are feeling increasingly far away.

Whilst the Mail certainly has the potential to bring votes, support from the FT brings credibility, something we’ve really needed.

Credit to Nick Clegg and Vince Cable in particular – it feels like there’s a big lag before there is acknowledgement of their actions, but with any luck it’s catching up now.

by Peter Bancroft on June 25, 2009 at 11:49 am. Reply #

“The days that it was embarassing to be amongst successful people and being a Lib Dem supporter … are feeling increasingly far away.”

What makes me think you have in mind a rather narrow definition of “successful people”?

by Herbert Brown on June 25, 2009 at 11:56 am. Reply #

Your ultimate selling point is that you are not like Tories and Labour… so you are defined by what you are not, rather than by anything you actually are. Isn’t that a bit sad? I mean, what happens if either Tories or Labour are popular? That makes you pretty pointless.

by Denim Justice on June 25, 2009 at 1:42 pm. Reply #

Zzzzzzz Denim Justice.

And the point of Labour and the Tories is vote-chasing centrism with the occasional spill of their underlying prejudices.

by Julian H on June 25, 2009 at 1:47 pm. Reply #

Funnily, when I started off following politics, I assumed I was a lower-case liberal and voted LibDem. Then I started investigating the party, and found barkingness – e.g. banning goldfish – and venal opportunism – e.g. rural majority Councils taking a stridently anti-Gypsy line; Bristol, Bath? – and desisted.

Now I think I may be an upper-case Liberal, with a retained fondness for British Labour, and have drifted back to the LibDems. If the party does attain electoral success, I would hope influence goes to the staid and responsible inheritors of classical Liberalism such as Thurso, Cable and that nice Lord Bonkers, rather than drifters and political cranks who found solace in a party of permanent opposition.

>> Of the big national parties, only they opposed the war in Iraq […]

For what long-term relevance it was. Labour was voted back in in 2005, with the same man at the helm.

>> Thanks to Vince Cable, their economic spokesman, the Lib Dems have also been prominent in the debate on the financial crisis.

Now *that* – and expenses – is what has caught most people’s attention, rather than wars which has been over for anywhere between four and eight years.

by Efrafan Days on June 25, 2009 at 1:48 pm. Reply #

>> Your ultimate selling point is that you are not like Tories and Labour… so you are defined by what you are not, rather than by anything you actually are. Isn’t that a bit sad? I mean, what happens if either Tories or Labour are popular? That makes you pretty pointless.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha…

~*pauses to breathe*~

… hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

by Efrafan Days on June 25, 2009 at 1:50 pm. Reply #

I’m really looking forward to the next general election as the blase assumptions of the likes of Simon Jenkins that politics is, should be and will forever remain a two-party system is going to be overturned.

With the proliferation of web-based resources more and more people are becoming able to make our own voices heard to say that we are dissatisfied with the past century of the Labour-Conservative duopoly – democracy is fighting back against their institutionalised patsies and placemen and the tide cannot be held back!

by Oranjepan on June 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm. Reply #

Oranjepan

The trouble is:
(1) it seems to be the “Others” who are reaping the benefits of the unpopularity of the established parties, not the Lib Dems and
(2) under the present electoral system, in order to end up with more seats than Labour, it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough for the Lib Dems to be ahead of Labour in the popular vote – the Lib Dems would need to be well over 10 points ahead of Labour.

by Herbert Brown on June 25, 2009 at 5:38 pm. Reply #

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Another reason to switch to the Wall Street Journal.

by Old Hack on June 26, 2009 at 5:24 am. Reply #

A few years ago you would barely have realised that the Lib Dems existed through reading The Economist – but nowadays they get quite frequent mentions, and often positive ones.

From the FT editorial:
This leaves the Lib Dems in an awkward position. Their election campaigning will be dominated by questions of whether they would support Labour or Tory minority governments. But they must not be distracted by these matters.

First, it would be political suicide for them to be seen as proxies for either of the two other big parties. Second, by offering the electorate a distinctive platform, they play an important role in the UK’s policy debate. [my bold]

Precisely! At least some intelligent journalists realise that the eternal question of “who would you support?” is not the be-all and end-all of Lib Dem politics. We have our own ideas too!

by Niklas Smith on June 26, 2009 at 8:23 am. Reply #

“The days that it was embarassing to be amongst successful people and being a Lib Dem supporter” – those days never existed! In the 1980s we had people like Roy Jenkins, a very successful former home secretary and Des Wilson, a very successful environmental campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
As far as today is concerned, I agree with the FT editorial, but qualified with the observation that we have not been distinctive enough. We should have had a clear policy opposing Trident along ago, before the SNP stole our march in Scotland, and we should have had a stronger critique of capitalism before Vince Cable surprised a lot of people by advocating the nationalisation of Northern Rock as a necessary emergency measure.
The popularity of the Greens largely at our expense, whilst still far behind us, is a sign that the party has been treading water for too long.

by Geoffrey Payne on June 27, 2009 at 9:22 am. Reply #

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