Newsletter summer 2010
HOW SHOULD POLITICAL PARTIES CAMPAIGN WHEN THEY ARE IN GOVERNMENT?
What is a political party for when it is in government? To campaign for the government, of course. But what if it only has a share in government?
That is a particular problem which Liberal Democrats are just beginning to come to terms with. What should be in the party newspaper? What campaigns will the campaigns department run? What will they say in by-elections?
The danger is that, if these questions are not answered satisfactorily, then the well-oiled campaign machinery will atrophy and the brilliant and tireless campaigners will go off and do something else with their time.
Because the Lib Dems are nothing if they are not campaigning for a still more Liberal world. Yet they can’t exactly campaign against their own government, can they?
I’ve been thinking about some of the complexities of this over the past few days. I am, after all, a member of the federal policy committee of the Liberal Democrats. What will we do?
That is the rub, as Shakespeare might have said. Because the concept pf Lib Dem policy will have to be kept alive as a separate animal from government policy. And that, it seems to me, is going to be the raw material from which campaigns will emerge.
So here is my contribution to the debate. We should campaign:
- For Liberal Democrat ideals at all levels of government.
- Against those forces which will undermine them – Labour and Tory councils, the European Commission, and, most of all it seems to me, naked corporate power.
- For, those policies which the coalition has signed up to put into practice, including breaking up the banks, localism and a greener economy.
- Against those forces in Parliament, including if necessary the Conservative back-benchers, who seek to undermine them.
This all requires a shift in target and probably a shift in our tone of voice. But this last category is especially important.
Liberal Democrats have parachuted ministers into government with a remit to put what are in effect Lib Dem policies into action. Two of them – Vince Cable and Chris Huhne – are particularly exposed.
They will face the combined wrath of the powerful banking and nuclear lobbies. They will face the deep disapproval on some points from the Conservative benches as well as the Labour ones. They will need serious political cheer-leading.
They will also need political protection from all the lobby groups which have become used to simply demanding things from ministers. They and we are now going to have to provide those ministers with the support they need to survive.
It isn’t going to be easy. It complicates politics, though in a way that is filled with possibilities. But the job is only partly done.
To follow through on these objectives, we need a whole range of elements of support that don’t currently exist – a Lib Dem political strategy unit in government, more Liberal think-tanks outside government, some explicitly Lib Dem columnists, and something that can explain to the outside world what Liberals are – why they are pushing one way, rather than another, what makes them tick?
We have real opportunities to shift the world in a greener, more Liberal direction, but we are only at the beginning of that process – and the party can’t rest now we have started the long climb.
A century ago, Dorothy and Toto set off down the Yellow Brick Road to encounter the Wizard. Or was it the money system, as some critics claim? This Wizard is a tale for our own times of beauty, love and courage – and small dogs. A modern Wizard of Oz for the days of derivatives, sub-prime mortgages and Goldman Sachs. This edition also includes a note about the meaning of the original Wizard of Oz and my speech at the launch of the Brixton Pound.
The second Nesta/nef report on co-production includes six tales from the front line in the UK, explaining what has been holding these ideas back and where they have succeeded magnificently.
That was the title of my lecture about money in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, home to the extraordinarily successful local currency, the berkshares.
The Huffington Post has urged people to move their money to small banks in the USA, and New Mexico is following suit. What is holding back a similar revolution in the UK?
Courtney Love commissioned me to write an article in the Guardian about music and time banks. This is it. Can time banks and mutual exchange help fuel the rise of a new participation in music?