I haven’t seen anyone else comment on this article, ‘The Lib Dems: trying to do too much?‘, by former Charles Kennedy staffer Olly Kendall from Comment is free on Sunday. So I will.
Kendall argues that given current circumstances Nick Clegg and the Party have a difficult task ahead in balancing being seen as a radical voice on civil liberties with the need to appear serious and credible in terms of the economy. We need to reconcile what he calls the “radicalism-versus-responsibility agenda” and find ways to communicate it that do not put off potential voters. He says;
“Taking radical and distinctive policy positions and finding neat, edgy ways to communicate them should be applauded, but this is a time when the party desperately needs to be seen as responsible and competent on economic issues.”
I’m sorry, but in my view, he couldn’t be more wrong.
So often the outcome we get when those who call for the Liberal Democrats to “be responsible” get their way is that we end up saying nothing of any interest. In our two party system being responsible almost inevitably ends up with us being ignored.
We need to be as radical on the economy as we are on civil liberties, energy policy, environmentalism or anything else. As economic issues become more and more central to the concerns of voters we need to establish economic policies that are distinctive and contrast with the consensus held by the other two main parties. Yes, this means taking some risks and will result in us being called “irresponsible” by commentators and opponents, but it needs to be done if we are to set the agenda.
It wasn’t long ago that Vince Cable was being accused of irresponsibility for arguing for the nationalisation of Northern Rock. Do we think he should have listened and dropped that policy?
We don’t need to be “responsible” – we need to be liberal and we need to be right.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.