I mentioned the other day about Jennie Rigg’s plan to gather questions together for candidates in the Liberal Democrats’ internal elections. Unlike when I come up with a grand plan and then neglect to follow through, Jennie’s a woman of action, and not only has she collected together a list of eleven questions for candidates for both Federal Policy Committee and Federal Executive Committee, she’s managed to send it out to most of the candidates.
So, if you’re a candidate and you haven’t received any questions yet, now you can go and find them, and if you’re a party member wanting to know more about what people want to do if they’re elected, you can go and find out. The answers are being collated here as they come in, and they make for very interesting reading so far, giving you a much greater insight into what they stand for than a side of A5 in the manifesto booklet ever could. Indeed, it occurs to me that this sort of public forum, with the opportunity to question and debate the points made is something the party should be encouraging for a healthier internal democracy. I’ve noticed previously that Labour Party members are often debating their NEC and Policy Forum (I think that’s the right name) elections, and it seems odd that ours up to now have almost been conducted in secrecy.
There’s a few other thoughts I’ve had about internal party democracy from reading those responses, but I’ll save them for another post. Until then, get over to Jennie’s blog and read what they’ve got to say!
Just some ragged thoughts, some on the specifics, some general ones on political speeches.
I was speaking to someone who told me that they’re sick of unsourced anecdotes being used to make points. Cameron’s infamous for this, of course – ‘I met a black man’ – but it seems everyone has always recently met someone who’ll back up the point they want to make. In some cases, it’s not even someone they claim to have met, just an unsourced straw-man view of what ‘they’ think.
 Following on from that, how hard would it be for a clued-up party to actually release or point to the information that backed up a speech as it was being made. That would have been a useful way to deploy David Cameron’s new twitter account – as he made a point on stage, his account would post links to back up the points he was making, getting in before the fact checkers can. For instance, Cameron’s example of a company deciding to build a factory abroad because of council bureaucracy somewhere near Liverpool – who was this company? How long were the delays? Was it actually bureaucracy, or perhaps valid planning reasons that needed to be clarified before building could commence? We don’t know because there’s no data, and the anecdote will be presented as justification for all sorts of things that the facts behind it might not support.
We’re all in this together…unless you can afford to move to Geneva. As is common with Tory leaders, Cameron made an appeal to British patriotic values and nationalism. The Olympics showed what we could do if we work together as a country and other themes like that were part of his message. However, that message was completely undercut by him announcing that you can’t raise taxes on the wealthy because they’ll head off to live in Geneva and pay less tax if you do. So what’s the message here? Are we all in this together, or does that only apply to those of us who can’t leave the country and go somewhere else when things get tough? And yet again, how many people have left the country directly because of high taxation? I’m old enough to remember a whole line of Tory-supporting celebrities in the 90s promising to leave the country if Labour were elected, but none of them ever delivered on that promise, no matter how many voters they drove to Labour.
But who cares about leader’s speeches anyway? We all like to watch them and tweet about them, but how many leader’s speeches are remembered months, let alone years, after they’re made? Those that make a long term impact are pretty rare – Thatcher’s ‘the lady’s not for turning’ line and Kinnock’s assault on Militant in the 80s come to mind, but since then, what has there been? Ironically, Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘quiet man’ speech from 2003 might be the most memorable leader’s speech in years because it heralded his downfall rather than any of the ones that were seen as pivotal to someone’s leadership.