» liberal democrat voice ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Yesterday I discovered that I’d been nominated for Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year. It was a bit of a surprise – partly because I found out from the questions Lib Dem Voice – but an entirely welcome one.

Unfortunately, I can’t be in Glasgow for Conference this year, so I won’t be able to be at the awards ceremony which I’m sure will be as glittering as packed full of celebrities as it has been in previous years. I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone who nominated me, and encourage those of you who can and who haven’t done it yet to go and fill in the LDV survey. You can even vote for me if you like. (At this point, Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhattan’, specifically ‘you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win’ fades up on the soundtrack.)

Mark Pack has a list of all the previous nominees and winners, and it’s an impressive list with an important pedigree of people who’ve quite blogging and/or the party after winning the award. It also confirms what we’ve all suspected for many years – that Jonathan Calder is the Liberal Democrat Leonardo DiCaprio.

I hope you all enjoy the awards, and whoever wins it’s just good to know that someone is reading all this and appreciates it. Thank you, and please keep reading (unless I win and have to follow the tradition, of course).



As I’ve written enough about Eric Pickles here this week, I decided my next piece about him should go somewhere else, so you can find it on Liberal Democrat Voice.


About a month ago, I wrote this post about the question of the ‘national interest’ and whether the Liberal Democrats remaining in the coalition served it. A week after that, I wrote this post on how treating politics as just a game played between the parties isn’t benefiting anyone and is contributing to the public turning away from seeing politics as a way to solve problems and resolve issues.

I’m flagging up these as background because this morning Liberal Democrat Voice have posted this article by Stephen Tall on the future of the coalition. The problem for me is that while it looks at some of the questions I raised in the first post, it does it in terms of the behaviour I criticised in the second one. It’s looking at whether continuing in the coalition is purely a good thing for the Liberal Democrats, rather than whether it’s a good thing for the country as a whole.

(Though in the comments, someone tries to tell me that ‘what’s good for the party is good for the country’ which is a very strong candidate for 2012’s most illiberal statement by a supposed liberal)

The point here is that back in 2010, I don’t think anyone by the most wild-eyed optimist expected us joining the coalition to be wildly popular, but we did it because we thought it was better for the country than any of the alternatives. Any discussion on what we do now should be based on the same principles – what’s best for the country? Instead, we’re getting stuck in questions of party advantage, and it’s being suggested that we should stay in the coalition not because of what it might achieve in the next three years, but because we have to prove a point about ‘pluralist politics’. Yet again, we’re forgetting that political parties are meant to be tools for achieving political aims, not an end in themselves. There’s an odd notion running through Stephen Tall’s article that the voters will apparently be impressed by us digging in for the hell of it, regardless of what Liberal Democrats in goverment will actually achieve.

Yet again, we’re back to seeing politics as a big game, where the people are supposed to be impressed by the style and not the substance. Parties just become teams to support and you’re assumed to want your team to win regardless of how they do it or what they achieve with their victory. Actual policies and discussions about principles, looking at the reasons why we’re here, become something to be avoided at all costs. We’re here because we’re here, and we’re going to remain here to stop them being here.

The simple question we have to have the answer to is this: what is the coalition going to do over the next three years? If the answer’s nothing more than ‘continue existing’ or ‘not be Labour’ then just what are we doing in it?

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Like a true alarm clock, this one won’t be silenced easily. Yes, last week’s relentless pounding by just about everyone on the nonsense of ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ only seems to have engaged the snooze button, as the irritating beep of nonsense is back to disturb us from our happy places again.

I don’t have high expectations of posts on Lib Dem Voice, but when an article there starts by praising last week’s content-free marketing-speak brown-nosing nonsense as ‘excellent’ and ‘really interesting’, it’s a good indication that my low expectations are probably not going to be met.

And indeed, it’s more twaddle about ‘a capabilities approach to public policy’ and seeing the Government as a ‘capabilities guardian’, but beneath all the ‘Look at me! I’m embodying the zeitgeist and defining a new paradigm!’ there’s the usual cynicism about politics. Yes, it’s yet another round of only the middle class the squeezed middle hard-working families Mrs Mondeo from Worcester Alarm Clock Britain matters, so let’s spend all our time pandering to them and ‘raising their capabilities’ while ignoring everyone else. After all, a politics that saw everyone as worthy of consideration and pressing to improve the capabilities of all – you could call it, I don’t know, how about ‘liberalism’? – is obviously far too unwieldy in these days of new progressivism, when we must all be sliced, diced and labelled into our specially prepared and demographically accurate cluster, ready to join in with tonight’s round of capability building. But make sure you get to bed early, so you’re bright and alert in time for the first humiliation of the day!


The observant amongst you will have noticed that I’m not at Liberal Democrat Conference this year. I had originally intended to go, but then events (the Tour of Britain on Friday, the Free Festival yesterday and various meetings next week) got in the way and meant it wouldn’t really have been worth my while to go all the way up to Liverpool for just a day or two.

Or so I thought. When I heard I’d been nominated for a Blog of the Year award for co-creating the bizarre phenomenon that was #nickcleggsfault , I thought it was nice to be recognised but there was no way I’d win the award, and I assumed that was the general consensus from the lack of interest there was in volunteering to stand in for me at the awards. It was quite a big surprise, then, to turn my computer on this morning and discover that I’d won.

So, with thanks to Stephen Tall for standing in for me and providing a relevant excuse, here’s an approximation of what I might have said had I been there to accept the award last night:

First off, I’d like to thank Justin McKeating – while I used the phrase ‘Nick Clegg’s fault’, he was the person who put a hash in front of it while blaming Nick for stubbing his toe. However, I don’t think either of us expected it to become as explosively popular as it did.

I also feel somewhat guilty about winning this award as I did basically nothing compared to the hard work everyone else has done – I was one of the supporters of Bridget’s motion to get the Digital Economy Bill discussed at the last Conference, I’ve seen the amount of work candidates like Daisy and Tamora do even before they spend time doing digital campaigning on top of that and I’m still a member of Simon’s Vote Clegg, Get Clegg group and see how it’s continuing to generate interesting – and by the usual internet standards, fantastically polite – conversations months after the election. So, to get this award for typing 140 characters early one morning seems almost as absurd as some of the things Nick was being blamed for and so I’d also like to thank everyone out there who took part in #nickcleggsfault back in April and May – this is as much your award as it mine and Justin’s.

It’s still coming home with me and going on my mantelpiece, though.

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I’ve been nominated in the 2010 Liberal Democrat Voice Blog Of The Year Awards, which probably seems rather odd given how little blogging I’ve done in the last twelve months. And so it would be, if it was for blogging, but instead it’s for the early morning Twitter conversation with Justin that turned into a globe-spanning hashtag that even got mentioned on Newsnight.

Unaccountably, the offers to pay us large amounts of money as experts on the use of hashtags in social media have failed to materialise, and our attempts to persuade people to #SendUsMoney experienced the common Difficult Second Hashtag problem and failed to reach the same level of success. But even if I’m not going to be at the awards ceremony – I’ve too much on here to get up to Conference – I can at least display a meaningless graphic here for a while.

And remember that there’s an open vote for Best non-Liberal Democrat blog running on the LDV site now. I’d definitely urge you to vote for anyone but Tom Harris,

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