I hate to be such a nay-sayer all the time, but what a wasted opportunity Kennedy’s speech on climate change was today.
Don’t get me wrong; he’s absolutely right to criticise the Tories and Labour – we still have a stronger record on the environment than them. But it doesn’t appear to have moved us forward from a year ago. Worse, he appears to have gone quiet on Airport Departure Duty, which was his big thing in 2004.
What I wanted to hear was some idea about how we move forward, on both the national and global stage. It is good to see him emphasising contraction and convergence again, but while this may help get India and China on board, it leaves us with an even bigger headache with the US, Australia and Japan. His digression on green cities was bereft of detail. We need to hear about reduction measures, not simply more stuff about how all our problems will be solved by renewables, carbon capture and extremely limited initiatives such as biofuels. We need to hear about how our environmental aims relate to our localisation objectives.
In short, we need to start hearing some real policy in Lib Dem environmental speeches, especially ones where we attack our rivals for merely talking rhetoric on the subject.
But to be positive for a second, at least we’re talking about policy again.
Lord Tony has taken exception to Martin Kettle‘s article about the Lib Dems this Saturday. His beef is that the “modernist centrists” that Kettle is referring to are actually “Blairite rightwingers.”
As usual, I find myself half agreeing with the learned Lord. Martin Kettle’s writing about the radical centre leaves me scratching my head about what he’s on about – he’s certainly never explained it very well. But I think Tony has missed a point here, as pretty much everyone, with the exception of Paul Holmes and “Bingo” Bob Russell is being labled by Kettle as a moderniser. It is therefore nonsense on the part of Lord Greaves to, in turn, label them all as rightwing.
What Kettle seems to be saying is that anyone who is concerned about strategy is a moderniser, while everyone else is just wasting time. I agree with that last bit, and have been very disappointed by Paul Holmes who has done much to position himself as the party’s social-liberal-in-chief yet appears to think that means nothing more than simply attack the other side. This weakness, shared by Lord Greaves himself, gets us nowhere. But again, Tony is absolutely right to contend that it would be a major mistake for the Lib Dems to attempt to compete with Labour and the Tories for the centre ground. We need to be using the next few years to pull the debate onto our turf.
The one thing that will kill this is ceding the debate within the party to the self appointed economic and social liberals. It is an unhelpful dialectic when what we really need to be getting right are our approaches to localism, the environment and social justice. The best thing that Kennedy could do to assert his authority in the New Year is to put Holmes and Laws in a darkened room somewhere and hide the key.
Curious headline for a press release: Kennedy – “This is no time to be rolling over”
For some reason I have visions of Kennedy asking his shadow cabinet to remember to tie a knot in their respective pajamas. Come to think of it, that song is a pretty relevant metaphor for the current state of the party.
Interesting to note that, according to the Baxter calculator (via pb.c), MORI’s 9-point lead for the Tories yesterday still doesn’t guarantee David Cameron a majority. And that’s leaving aside MORI’s dodgy methodology which is dubious at the best of times, and even more so now. MORI only count people ‘certain to vote’, and the start of Cameron’s honeymoon period is bound to soften the Lib Dem and Labour support while hardening the Tory support even if none of that is transferable into votes.
And despite people such as myself doing our best to run around like headless chickens over the Lib Dem leadership debacle, our vote here is shown to have hardened. I suspect this has more to do with us previously vanishing from the media spotlight entirely than a vote of confidence in Kennedy however.
I am simply shocked – shocked – to learn that such barbarity still continues in this country and will henceforth only eat cheese made entirely from vegetables.