After the last miserable five years of press coverage for Lib Dems, the last five days of journalists acknowledging the positive influence of our party in government have been blissful.
Like the first warm and sunny spring day after a long cold winter articles praising Lib Dems for putting a brake on the Tories, promoting fairness and blunting Tory axes have come thick and fast.
Articles have appeared recently in The Economist, The Independent and Politics Home to name a few. The occasion has been the publication of ‘Coalition’ by David Laws coupled with the Tories abject failure to govern either fairly or effectively without the Lib Dems – something I’ve written about.
Andrew Grice writing in The Independent conceded
‘Mr Clegg was right, and the restraining hand of his party helped to blunt the Tory axe’
George Parker acknowledged in Politics Home the role played by Lib Dems in
‘providing stable government in unlikely circumstances over five years and – quite often..saving the Tories from saving themselves’
At last, we think to ourselves, the press are seeing the Tories for what they really are – nasty, welfare-cutters. Finally those misguided journos are giving us the credit we Lib Dems deserve – for stopping them!
Where were these articles a year ago?
Might they have stopped a Lib Dem wipeout?
Unlikely. Quite simply, politics doesn’t work like that.
How comforting, how seductive, above all how easy it is to sit at home retweeting articles between Lib Dem supporting friends comforting ourselves counting our blessings and polishing our halos.
I’ve done my fair-share of cheerleading of Coalition achievements and renouncing our achievements also does us no favours but we must be careful not to let celebrating our party’s past glories become a lifestyle choice.
We are a living, breathing political party not a historical society for the Preservation of Liberal Principles.
Like the lottery winner who finds his missing ticket in their jeans pocket the day after the eligibility period has expired, the last few days have been enough to make most of us want to run screaming to the nearest council offices and demand a recount.
However, we live in a winner takes all electoral system. We must avoid blaming the electorate. There are no prizes for second, third or fourth. We gambled and lost and in British politics there are no refunds.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate our achievements. We absolutely should and clear which ideas were ours and which definitely were not.
We’ve overcome the hurdle where voters didn’t take the Lib Dems seriously because we had never been in power. Now it is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party facing that credibility gap.
Without power, we are nothing
Power is for spending not hoarding, says David Laws in his new book.
I agree. However, we spent what political capital we accrued in government and in so doing we ran up a massive overdraft.
Now is the time to start paying in once again – to show British voters what voting Lib Dem will give to them: hard-working, community champions with an inbuilt suspicion of elites and entrenched establishment power.
We are in politics not to be something, but to do something. Not to be grand but to do grand things, said Tim Farron in York at our Spring Conference.
Having power in itself if not important if you squander the opportunity to make things better.
We are a political party and not a pressure group. We exist to change things or we are nothing.
Now we are in opposition we must use our time wisely: to develop new policy, support liberal causes and set out clearly what we would do differently in government next time.
As Westminster outsiders once again and we must use our new status to rebuild trust with the public and that way our electoral base.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” said Kierkegaard. Food for thought for Lib Dems.