Having already set out my views as to Tim Farron’s victory as party leader I wasn’t expecting to write anything else about him this weekend.
The joys of being a Lib Dem member!
So I’ve assembled my thoughts below, as it saves tweeting them.
I did not vote for Tim but he’s our new leader now so there’s no point crying over spilt milk.
People and inside and outside the party who seek to divide us will use Tim’s recent Channel 4 interview to drive a wedge between Tim and Norman supporters.
If you support the Lib Dems: don’t let them.
I care little for our new leader’s religious beliefs as long as long as he doesn’t force me or others to abide by them, and he actively promotes tolerance in all the things he says and does as our leader. That is the essence of liberalism.
From the preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution :-
We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.
However, perceptions are important and Tim’s interview is not helpful in promoting the idea of respectiving individual freedoms.
And like it or not lots of people have been offended by Tim’s comments. Whether or not he intended them to be offended, or he did not is irrelevant.
The media will now revisit this question continually, smelling blood. So Tim will need to do better, much better, in future at articulating liberalism versus his religious beliefs.
The media and The Lib Dems
Cathy Newman and Channel 4 are at liberty to ask whatever questions they wish. Blaming some sort of anti-Lib Dem bias is ridiculous.
We’re a national party seeking to get into government – so we need to behave like one.
We can’t have it both ways: we don’t get to pick and choose the questions journalists ask us or the way they ask them.
I’m grateful to Cathy and her colleagues for shining a light on the serious problems of harassment experienced by a number of women in our party so many years.
Critically, this was an issue that was not dealt with properly by many senior party figures and may not have been had Channel 4 not highlighted it.
Harassment that was hushed up by senior Lib Dems for too long – so much for keeping our own house in order.
Media attention will be slim pickings for Lib Dems over the next five years. So, when we get it, we need to be on our game – from the leader down.
Aggressive questioning, as exemplified by Jeremy Paxman during the general election is here to stay. We may not approve of it or much like it, but it gets a reaction from politicians and the public and it is not going anywhere.
Some other related thoughts:-
- The media are not our friends and neither should they be.
- Being party leader means that it matters more when you mess up an interview now than when you did when you were party president.
- Tim’s team must have expected the Cathy Newman line of questioning. It was entirely predictable.
- The day after Tim’s victory was announced was the day he was always going to get the most interviews and be under maximum scrutiny.
- Given the above, and the fact he was the clear favourite from day one, why was Tim not ready with more convincing answers to the obvious questions?
- Nick Clegg and his team were often criticised for their media handling – not least by Tim’s supporters.
- All sides should work together to make sure that Tim is better prepared for these sorts of questions and interviews in future.
- If not, what was the point of five years in government learning about media the hard way?
I say this following an exchange I had on Twitter with Matt Hanney, senior adviser to Nick Clegg:-
— Matthew Hanney (@MatthewHanney) July 17, 2015
Tim has established a reputation of tweeting and Facebooking, so now is not the time to go quiet.
At the time of writing he hasn’t tweeted for 21 hours. Sounds trivial but it looks odd the day after his first round of major interviews as leader and risks damaging his reputation as an engaging politician.
Clearly, Tim won’t have the time to do so much online now as he did previously.
In reaponse to this from now on Tim’s team should make it clear when tweets come from them and when they are written by Tim himself.
This is what most political leaders do with Barack Obama signing off tweets ‘BO’ and in a Lib Dem example, Lynne Featherstone who identifies her own tweets as ‘LF’.
Transparency is everything and essential if we are going to rebuild trust in our party.
This applies to the way our leader communicates just as it applies to the way we develop our policies.
Now, please can we get on with #LibDemFightback, promoting Liberal Democrat ideas and scrutinising this Tory government?
In the last 24 hours alone the following diabolical measures have been announced by the Tories:
- Plans to dramatically restrict Freedom of Information legislation
- The abandonment of Lib Dem plans to cap the cost of social care
- News that green energy subsidies will be dramatically reduced
It makes you think, doesn’t it?