It’s the Message Not the Man That Matters
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 2nd September, 2012
Today’s papers and the blogosphere are full of speculation about whether Nick Clegg will or will not face a leadership challenge from within the Liberal Democrats before the next General Election. This is a predictable topic in the run-up to the party’s conference due to be held in Brighton later this month, but the Deputy Prime Minister has been coming under heavier fire than might be expected, with some activists even calling for him to go now and to be replaced by Vince Cable. Now had Vince Cable stood in the last leadership election I would almost certainly have voted for him, and he would quite likely have won. But he was reluctant to put himself forward because of fears he would be considered too old, given the mauling poor Ming Campbell got in the Press on that score. I know Vince sometimes regrets his decision and were an opening to arise he might well put himself forward this time. But I can’t help feeling that people are misreading the situation when they try to analyse why the LibDems have slumped in the opinion polls and ponder what can be done to reverse that trend. It seems to be a classic case of wanting to shoot the messenger rather than critically examining the message. It’s not the man at the top who is the problem, though he is facing an extraordinary amount of flak. Rather, voters don’t really know what the Liberal Democrats stand for anymore, which is why only the core support of around 10 per cent of electors is standing by us. To build on that afresh we need not only differentiation from the Tories but also a clear statement of what Liberal Democrats believe, as well as an exposition of how those beliefs are being put it into practice at local, regional and national levels. So the top priority is to get the message right. Nick Clegg has the communication skills to put it across as long as he has the right script. But the script itself is what is important, whoever takes the Liberal Democrats into the general electon and beyond.