The Negative Narrative: A Response to a Liberal Democrat

November 22, 2010

in Activism, Opinion

The Liberal Democrat blog Jazz Hands Serious Business recently published a fun article called “The Negative Narrative”, in which the author argued that the Liberal Democrats are currently being unfairly attacked. It seems that he and all his fellow Lib Dems who have kept the faith keep getting attacked by pretty much everyone they know, not because the Liberal Democrats have betrayed everything they previously stood for and allowed deadly policies to pass with resounding approval, but because of the prevailing media narrative that the Lib Dems are bad.

That naughty, naughty media, pointing out all those things the Lib Dems originally campaigned against, like tuition fee rises (advocated by Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Minister for Business), VAT rises (approved by Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister), building nuclear power stations (supported by Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy and Climate Change)… Why can’t the media go back to ignoring the Lib Dems completely between elections like they used to, so they can argue once again that their low poll ratings are due to that terrible media narrative which ignores them?

For heaven’s sake.

More nonsense from this article includes:

“The compromises inherent in coalition, which we understood and were prepared for intellectually, are emotionally a lot harder to swallow.”

All the more so for not being compromises so much as total capitulation, I imagine. Let’s follow the train of development for the big thing at the moment, tuition fees:

Nick Clegg, in a video to NUS Conference, April 2010: “To raise tuition fees is wrong. … We will resist, vote against, campaign against, any lifting of that cap.”

Self-justifying comment from Vince Cable, November 2010: “We didn’t break a promise. We made a commitment in our manifesto, we didn’t win the election. We then entered into a coalition agreement, and it’s the coalition agreement that is binding upon us and which I’m trying to honour,” he said.[1]

Coalition agreement Point 8: “…if the government’s response to Lord Browne’s report is one that the Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangement will be made to enable the Liberal Democrats to abstain.”2

Liberal Democrats official (still) Education Policy: “To get a degree, young people are saddled with thousands of pounds of debt when it is tough enough to get a job, get on the housing ladder and make ends meet. The Liberal Democrats are the only party which believes university education should be free and admissions based on ability not bank balance. We will scrap unfair tuition fees for all students taking their first degrees saving them nearly £10,000 each.”3

Self-destructive statement from Vince Cable to the House: “The Liberal Democrats consistently opposed graduate contributions.

But in this current economic climate that policy is simply no longer feasible. That is why I intend on behalf of the coalition to put specific proposals to the House to implement radical and progressive reforms to HE based on the Browne report.” “…we are considering a level of £7000.”4


“The sheer quantity of vitriol hurled at us, regardless of its low factual quality, is hard for us to deal with.”

…I’ll just leave that one there for you to think about the sheer amount of self-justification and self-pity contained within that sentence.

Ooh, a Youtube video pointing out that the Liberal Democrats are liars…

“It’s very tempting to just dismiss anybody “stupid” enough to abandon us because of the national tide, but I don’t think that’s fair.”

How very kind of JHSB to say so. But the uncomfortable fact, and I shall pull an exciting “fact” out here, is that 40,000 people have joined the Labour Party since May, and a third of them went over from the Lib Dems.[5]6 And I think to be even tempted to dismiss 13,000 people as “stupid” is just the teeniest bit arrogant, perhaps… I look forward to reading the next Focus newspaper dropping through my door about how I’m stupid and I just need to get my act together and vote Lib Dem again and everything will be alright, my friends won’t getting denied their care packages or finding themselves on mandatory litter-picking and school wall painting because they can’t get a job because George Osborne and Danny Alexander have just fired 500,000 people…

13,000 stupid voters just don't get it, see.

This entire post was originally a much shorter comment that I left in comments section of JHSB’s blogpost, but in a true liberal spirit, my comment has magically vanished for “moderation” and has not been seen again. I have therefore included it below instead.

“Personally, I’m sickened by people making political capital out of whipping up fear among poor, ill and disabled people when the details of the proposals haven’t even been published yet.”

“I don’t know if your Facebook feed is the same, but mine is currently filled with poor, sick and disabled friends who don’t need to know exactly where their services are going to be cut to know that they are going to suffer a poorer quality of life after the Lib Dems and the Tories are done. For many of them, the cuts are already coming: in York – the early intervention in psychosis team has lost 2 Community Psychiatric Nurses, 3 Health Care Assistants, and its only psychologist. It reduced hospital admissions by 80%. Those hospital admissions are not bed places being taken up by the fit and healthy, they are used by my friends with severe mental impairments. In Liverpool, a friend of a friend with chronic treatment-resistant schizophrenia has been told she must pay £70/week to use a day centre for 3 days a week (her only social contact). She’s been on benefits for years & has no way of paying.

My own mother is a council worker who has been sent an email by the Chief Executive saying that they are going to get rid of 40% of their jobs *next year* – she says that pretty much all services except statutory functions will be scrapped. That includes parks, daycare, local small business investment schemes…

I ran into a lady yesterday on Oxford Road doing street surveys who told me that she used to work from home doing telemarketing but the floor has fallen out of the market because of the cuts and for the first time in 30 years she’s been forced back onto the streets in winter to get work. And then I receive emails from Simon Hughes telling me that the government cuts have a “progressive face”.

The socialist brain of a Liberal Democrat.

Where did these people go? Come back!

I’m not making much political capital out of this, but neither are the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are colluding in the destruction of the lives of thousands of people. Maybe the media narrative is being dominated by Tory newspapers who want to displace blame for the fact that their own readers are about to get screwed over. But the fact is, in a year’s time, when college students are having to drop out because they can’t get to school because their EMA has been removed, or hospital admissions double because social care for the elderly and disabled has been cut by 30% and people are unable to live independently, or the job market becomes even tougher because the 1.3 million people who are about to hit the dole are forced into 30 hour a week placements at £1.73/h that effectively do all the menial and filing jobs that they used to perform for pay (look, I has facts!), people aren’t going to be paying any attention whatsoever to the dominant media narrative, they’re going to be looking at their own lives and the lives of their friends and family and making a judgment on that.

And I don’t suppose that knowing that there’s going to be a referendum on AV, or people will be able to recall corrupt MPs, or that Royal Mail is going to be part-privatised (wtf, man?) is really going to make them cheerlead the Liberal Democrats much.

The Labour Party doesn’t have to whip up fear, people are *terrified* already. What policies would have to be announced before it was a compromise too far for you?”

As a closing point, in researching some of the facts contained in this article, I came across this sentiment from a Guardian reader:

“There’s no honour in voting through 10 Tory policies, to get 1 back in return.”

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Robson November 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm

A minor point that no body of the Labour party publishes official membership statistics, thus quoting Hattie Harman and the Indiescribably Broke is not really proof of “35000” new members. If the party had really gotten so many new members, then why was John Prescott so worried about Labour’s deficit?

The AGMs of various Lib Dem parties are reporting a generally static level of membership since the General Election. In Yorkshire membership is up 300 on last year. The level nationally is above Campbell’s leadership [1] but below Kennedy’s. This mirrors a long-term decline in party membership of all colours since the 1990s, as they move towards the centre ground and as NGOs and campaigners edge towards perfection rather than compromise.

You raise valid points about social care cuts & other cuts by councils thanks to Bradford’s worst, Eric Pickles. I am angry about a lot of things, but social care provided by the NHS has been in long-term decline as predominantly Tory-run councils have cut back on their provision. As a liberal I can impotently argue that there are many alternatives to state provision – people who actually care about the service they are providing, rather than the overworked and underpaid who do not have the time to form the connections needed for health and social care.

There are a huge number of these organisations who have been snubbed by bureaucrats and the arms of the state, but this is cold comfort to those who will suffer next year because the Government has been content to stoke the fears and terror of the uninformed rather than provide the clarity and advice that is needed. I expect the money for the latter has already been cut.


sarah December 19, 2010 at 11:10 am

Hi Robson,

the Labour Party membership fees are ridiculously low (students, for example, can join for a pound), so I can very much see 100,000 people joining the Labour party and their finances still being in dire straits.

A friend of mine pointed out last week that the ramifications of the General Election will not be clear until May 2011, because disgruntled members have “left” the party, but are actually just not renewing their membership. I have removed myself from all mailing lists and one angry tirade too many means they don’t call me anymore, but my membership will remain current until next March because I have forgotten my password. Every Lib Dem I know in Manchester who doesn’t hold office or hope to has quit, but I don’t think many of them have actively called up Cowley Street to cancel their membership formally. So the full pictures remains to be seen – but I really don’t think it is going to be pretty.


Myles October 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Once bitten twice shy.


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