You are free to do as we tell you

Simon Titley’s got a lot of attention for the Liberator blog by posting the party’s latest ‘message script’ email. Obviously, as a mere councillor, I’m not important enough to have received that email – indeed, I seem to be missing a lot of emails from the party at present, which makes me wonder who I’ve offended – but it’s the sort of email that’s so swamped in marketing speak that I’d have likely just laughed at it and archived. Sentences like “This broadcast is the first full external use of our new Party message script – the product of Ryan Coetzee’s research into what works with our electoral market and also an extensive consultation with many Party stakeholders” sound more like an attempt to win a game of buzzword bingo than real human communication. As Simon says:

What we have here is an object lesson in how politics has been hollowed out and reduced to a matter of managerialism and public relations. It seems no-one at the top of the party has any intellectual grasp of the gravity of the situation. The global economy is in deep crisis and the problem cannot be reduced to facile slogans about “the mess left by Labour”.

It’s also worth noting Simon’s previous post on grassroots campaigning as well, because the link between them shows one of the problems we face as a party. The leadership have missed a simple point about the nature of the party: people don’t join the Liberal Democrats to be told how to think.

That’s not unique to this version of the party leadership, and there have been many times over the years when the leadership have been reduced to wringing their hands as the members assert their right to control the party. However, this isn’t the first attempt to impose central messaging upon members in the last couple of years, and it comes at a time when the leadership are continuing to ignore the membership. It’s the action of a leadership that sees the membership as little more than drones who should do as they’re told. People might join Labour or the Tories because they enjoy being told what to think and do, but that’s not what I believe the Liberal Democrats are about. (And anyone sending out that email to hundreds of party members and not expecting it to leak really doesn’t understand the party).

So no, my New Year’s resolution is not going to be “On Message, In Volume, Over Time” but to keep fighting for a party that’s open and democratic, run by the membership and fighting for liberalism, not one that’s just a hollow vehicle for marketing speak that battles for a vapid conception of the ‘centre ground’.