I haven’t yet written up a review of 2008 and being already eight days into 2009 it feels like I should be looking forward and not back. However, sticking to politics and not the personal, 2008 has for me been largely about four themes;
The first was watching Nick Clegg‘s first year as leader of the Liberal Democrats. While I am frustrated that the Party is not doing better, I don’t really blame Clegg for this. Although I have disagreements on specific issues, I am relaxed about the direction in which he is taking the Party, I can’t get myself worked up too much about his so called “gaffes”, and have been pleased by his clear advocacy of his liberalism. My biggest criticism is over poor communication, particularly on tax policy but on other areas too. Reflecting back I find it difficult to dissent from Stephen Tall’s view that his leadership is “a work in progress”, so I will say no more.
With Nick Clegg came a new impetus for reform of party organisation. A subject which during the year I became slightly obsessive about. At the beginning of the year I was concerned about our lack of organisational leadership and moves to change the role of the President of the Liberal Democrats removing responsibility for chairing the Federal Executive. On this issue I wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice asking “What’s the point of the Party President?” and spoke in the debate at Spring Conference. Then along came the Curate’s Egg of the Bone’s Report which introduced us to the COG amongst other delights. However, I was concerned to remind everyone that “The Liberal Democrats are not Microsoft“. In the background of all this was Ros Scott‘s successful campaign for the Presidency which I, eventually, announced my support for.
Outside of the Liberal Democrats the biggest and most fascinating story of the year was Barack Obama and the US election. I started the year somewhat sceptical of Obama. I was hoping for Hilary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. However, during the campaign proper he rather won me round. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one that applies to!
The election of Barack Obama is likely to have a significant impact on politics here in Britain. But something that has already totally changed the political landscape is the final one of my four themes, the credit crunch. While the Liberal Democrats have been seen to have had a “good recession” so far, we are struggling to adapt to the new circumstances just as much as the other political parties. My warning in September “not to make a fetish of Vince Cable” seems even more relevant than it was then.
Of the four themes two, the economy and Obama as President, are likely to carry over strongly to this year. For the sake of the health of the Liberal Democrats the reform of party organisation should carry on being a theme, but whether it will or not I don’t know. This will largely depend on how that other new President fulfils her role. I will certainly continue to bang on about it! I think Nick Clegg has done what he needed to do in 2008 to establish himself so the Party will face different strategic challenges in 2009. However, all this is for another post.
Good bye to 08 and Happy New Year for 2009!
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.