Tuesday, December 04, 2007

With the leadership election all over where next?

All the signs point to the fact that the lib dem leadership election is effectively over, thank goodness. For those Huhnistas still in denial lets look at the facts:

1) That yougov poll, putting Nick 12 points ahead with probably around 2/3rds of those who are going to vote having voted (if I recall turnout last time was around the 70% mark?). Yes with such a small sample it has a large margin of error, but that means its is just as likely that Nick is really significantly further in the lead than it actually being close.

2) The betting markets have seen Chris' price drift significantly in the last couple of days, now out to around 5 to 1 on betfair, very long odds for a two horse race. True the betting markets have got these things wrong before, they massively overestimated Chris' chances for much of the 2006 campaign for instance. But I would have thought that if they were at all confident Chris' people would have been piling on at those odds, it is not as if lib dem activists are backward in coming forward when it comes to betting.

3) Nick's campaign is hardly acting like one that thinks its in trouble. Whilst Chris has spent the last week trolling around the studios trying to get coverage, Nick seems to have been content to simply plant a story saying he is comfortably ahead. Now I don't find coasting to the finishing line a particularly attractive trait in a campaign (but then again neither is wasting police time, let the electoral commission do their job), but I can't help thinking that Nick's campaign team are such muppets that if it was close they would be taking such a laid back attitude.

But really the key question is not who's won but where do we go from here?

Well firstly at a time when we are still staring down the barrel of a gun electorally I think we collectively need to pull our head of our navels and actually start talking to the world again rather than each other. Vince has done a great favour in getting the party some positive press coverage what feels like for the first time in ages, but we need to be doing more than just making cheap jibes about the PMs metamorphosis into Mr Bean. We need to start setting out a vision for how Lib Dems in Government would make ordinary people's lives better, and more importantly we need to start to sell that vision.

That means talking to people in a language they understand, about issues that chime with them. That means talking less about the environment and more about how we will tackle the fear of crime; less about devolution of power to local government and more about how we are going to make it easier for them to get the help they need to look after Granny; less (actually lets take a vow of silence) about Trident and more about how we make sure our troops have better boots and body armour. It means standing up against ID cards not because we are the defenders of "civil liberties" but because they will be expensive and introduce needless hassle into people's everyday lives. In other words I think we need to talk less about systems and more about people.

Its obvious that unless, and perhaps even if, Labour manages to pull itself out of its current nose dive that the next election is going to be "time for a change". Now I'm pretty certain that the Great British public aren't sold on David Cameron as Prime Minister material just yet, and they sure as hell don't know what his vision is as I doubt he does, but unless they are given an alternative they will turn to him, and all that lurks in the shadows behind him. We need to be that alternative. We need to put forward an alternative vision that chimes with people outside of the party, and we probably need to be able to do it in ten words or less. Not much to ask for is it?


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