Policies to the fore!
By Keith Melton
Jo Swinson now has to share the limelight with policies
For reasons which may become clear after the election, it is evident that the strategy adopted by our headquarters has somehow missed its target. Swinsonmania has apparently not shaken the ramparts of our FPTP system. Johnson has scooped up the dregs of the Brexit Party`s arrogance and niaivety (and vote!) and despite a widespread recognition that he is a lying toad, there is a fear amongst small `c` conservative voters that not to vote for Bojo may result in a government led by their nemesis, J Corbyn esquire.
So, people who hate Corbyn are voting against him and people who hate Johnson are voting against him. Net result - classic third party squeeze. Perfectly fine for those seats where we are running second - but they were severely reduced in number in both 2015 and 2017 by the backlash from the coalition - and Corbyn`s fraudulent claim that the labour Party in 2017 was a `remain` party!
The hubris of the Lib Dem leadership as little time ago as our September Bournemouth conference (shades of David Steel`s message to "go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government"!) is now coming back to haunt us. Johnson`s "oven-ready" Brexit deal (just a spun redrafting of May`s EU withdrawal agreement) is being sold to weary voters as "getting Brexit done" - even though it is no such thing. [Jo Swinson`s soundbite that it is merely "episode one of a ten-season box set" was the first soundbite that I have heard that might strike home - kudos to whomever it was who thought that one up!!]
The trouble is that a large proportion of the electorate actually believe that false message!
So - what do we do?
I think we saw a start of a new strategy on Sunday morning with Chuka Umunna appearing on the Andrew Marr show.
He was very good. He presented, very cogently, the opportunities for voters to vote tactically and cut the number of Tory seats - and our leafletting and community-centred campaigning will pay dividends in those seats where Lib Dems have been successful in local government terms and in highly remain-oriented areas like London. But is that enough?
No, I do not think it is. There is still the danger that our "process" message fades under the noise from red and blue corners. We also need to press the POLICY message, and this is where Green Lib Dems come into our own!
First. This election is, or should be, at least, about tackling the Climate emergency as being more damaging than whatever Brexit may throw our way. I am pleased to note that the Climate emergency gets a plug in the latest party-political advertisement - but it is still too much focused on Brexit (yes, I know they are linked, and we have said so quite often in GLD messaging!)
Ed Davey - Climate emergency, decarbonisation and our economic package
In particular, I would suggest we should now see Ed Davey more on our TV screens, talking up the renewable energy record we can rightfully claim from the coalition years and the continuing and enhanced message since then on our Climate change response, with our detailed climate change policy paper to the fore. Also we need to sell our decarbonisation programme harder.
Probably too late, now, to cry over spilt milk, but I shall do anyway! In the C4 Climate change debate the other evening, Jo Swinson was shaded into the background somewhat, by the Party`s 2045 zero-carbon target date. So, whatever went on in the Party`s backroom discussions, which prompted the Lib Dem "establishment" to come out so strongly against the GLD 2040 amendment in Bournemouth, both fists swinging, was seriously flawed. The Greens, Labour, the SNP and even Plaid Cymru, made Jo Swinson look too cautious, even when she correctly emphasised the early years argument the working group had placed in the policy paper.
Our second KEY message should now be that our manifesto has been verified by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) as being THE most potent weapon against poverty. It is demonstrably better than Labour`s "magic money tree" approach and far, far, better than the Tories meagre gruel. This is another tale best told by Ed Davey as our shadow Chancellor - also he does not wave his arms about anywhere near as much as Jo Swinson does.
Two Key messages
So, there we have it - two key messages we need to share and share until they ram home with the leadership strategy team for the home run of the election campaign.
This election is about the climate emergency - we have no Planet "B". And it is about eliminating poverty and the IFS recognition that our manifesto would actually deliver best in this regard.
If you agree with my analysis, then please share this article widely within the Party and send a copy to as many key decision makers as you know, wherever they may be! It is not (YET!) too late to influence the Lib Dem election strategy.
Keith M Melton
Vice Chair (Campaigns) GLD