16 November 2013

David Laws at Kingston Lib Dem AGM

David Laws was the keynote speaker at Kingston Borough Lib Dems annual meeting on Friday and although warmly received I felt his speech and Q&A was somewhat off key.

David Laws is a gut liberal, with a commitment to promoting opportunity for those at the bottom of the heap and he is an articulate advocate for a number of policy positions - such as the pupil premium - designed to do that.

But that to me is also his main flaw - he is too much of a policy wonk.  He argued for the Lib Dem manifesto in 2015 to be consistent with policy achievements in government and that new measures proposed should be achievable as part of any new coalition agreement. 

The problem with this position is that it is essentially a policy insider's one - it excludes campaigns to corral public opinion behind a certain proposition or to win hearts and minds on an issue. 

The risk for the Lib Dems in providing an essentially timid manifesto that is acceptable to the political establishment and bureaucracy is that it leaves the large numbers of voters disillusioned in the political system to the mercy of UKIP and other parties advocating more radical constitutional settlements.

The party needs to start appealing to these voters - many of whom backed the party in 2010.  If it fails to do so crawling out of the 9-11% box the party is currently polling in becomes more and more difficult and the rise of UKIP will become inexorable.

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