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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bankrupt media still don't get the Liberal Democrats

Before I embark on this rant I should make it clear that I am not deluded enough to ignore the fact that the Liberal Democrats are in trouble.

We have just eight MPs, one MEP, one GLAM, one AM and five MSPs. We are at 8% in the opinion polls and are apparently grounded at that level.

For all their splits, arguments and eccentricities (and they have more than most) UKIP remain ahead of us in the view of the public and are still being touted as a rising force. Whether that is proved right has yet to be seen.

Despite that the green shoots of recovery are evident. We have gained 16 council seats in by-elections this year, more than all the other parties put together. Is that a sign that people are starting to trust us again?

We are at record membership levels, having recruited nearly 20,000 since 23rd June and we are currently in the middle of the biggest conference we have ever staged in terms of member attendance, albeit that the number of outside exhibitors seem to be at a record low number.

There is a long way to go if we are to claw our way back, but we are far from dead and buried. Liberalism has a place in this post-Brexit society, not just because of our solo championing of the European cause, but because of our determination to stand against the erosion of civil liberties, our focus on education and health and because we continue to fight for the most disadvantaged in our society at a time when other politicians find it easier to go with the media flow of prejudice and sensationalism.

Of course we have to convince the British people of that and the media who feed them with their news. Which is why it is so frustrating to find journalists at this conference with the agenda of doing us down and so-called grandees who are keen to throw them morsels.

Thus, this Guardian piece talks about the party's death rattle echoing around an empty conference hall and focuses on Paddy Ashdown's latest obsession with a new on-line cross-party movement which appears to have the sole objective of ousting the Tories. His declaration that “Political parties are finished; the Liberal Democrats are intellectually dead,” and that from now on, all policy could be crowd-sourced and crowd-funded is not just unhelpful it is delusional.

People are always looking for something new, that is why UKIP have done so well. It is why the Alliance soared in the 1980s. It is when those phoenixes seek to add substance to their fire that they burn out. After the disaster of the Liberal Democrats election campaign, which he ran, one would have thought that a period of monastic silence might suit Paddy better.

This week's agenda has not exactly been packed. We are still, digesting the lessons of the 2015 election fiasco. But the debates we have had have been passionate, informed, relevant and substantial, the policy we have passed has been evidenced and radical. And during those key debates the hall has been full.

Despite the media rhetoric and the attention-seeking antics of one or two limelight-starved 'grandees' the Liberal Democrats are far from finished. It is a long way back, but we have identified the road we want to travel and we have taken the first steps on that journey.
The Prime Minister is chasing UKIP members and voters looking at the headlines now that Brexit has taken the limelite.We must be positive in front of the media, advertising our increase in membership, the increase in seats and with permission talk about key new recruits from business etc. As far as the Guardian comment just tell people to look at the internet to see that the hall was packed not empty. They are laying the path for Labours conference.
> UKIP remain ahead of us in the view of the public and are still being touted
>as a rising force.
Council by-elections show otherwise. UKIP peaked in 2013 and the last two years show net losses. Indeed, BBC is now touting the Green Party as *the* rising force.

As to the state of the Liberal Democrats, Liberals were in a worse condition when they went down below ten MPs. The LD national organisation is stronger - though I do worry about financial overstretch - and the mood throughout the country is better.

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