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Friday, September 22, 2023

Lib Dem leadership missing in action

It is the eve of the Liberal Democrats Federal Conference and I am just putting the final touches to packing my suitcase. It is also the first autumn conference we have held since 2019, which means that the annual interview with the leader is more important than ever. 

It is just a shame that Ed Davey has not used the opportunity to put forward a distinctive Liberal Democrat message focussing on our values of liberty, equality and community, married with clear internationalist principles.

In his interview with the BBC, Davey talks about the economy, the NHS and the environment as the issues which are most important to voters, and he is right. The problem is that we don't have policies on those issues which properly distinguishes from other parties in the minds of the electorate, nor will we have while the Liberal Democrats ignore the crucial issue of our relationship with Europe, and its impact on our future as a country.

On the plus side, in his interview with BBC Wales, Davey at least makes up for the invisible Welsh Lib Dem leadership, in arguing for a greater role for communities in deciding which roads should be exempt from the Welsh default 20mph limit, and cautioning us not to spend too much money on enlarging the Senedd. 

But his argument that 'most people on the doorstep just "aren't talking about Europe' and therefore we shouldn't either is what defines the poverty of ambition at the heart of Davey's leadership.

Yes, it is tricky appealing to both Leave supporting parts of the country and "middle-class Remainia", but that is what leadership is about. We have agreed positions that include rebuilding Britain's relationship with the EU, closer links on education, doing a deal on asylum seekers and deepening trade ties, but all that is being reflected in Labour's policy too.

I agree with Caroline Voaden, our PPC in Totnes that we need to make a bolder case about the impact of Brexit on the NHS, hospitality and the economy, and that we should be talking more about our belief that Brexit was a mistake and that we need to start finding our way back into the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Until we start doing that we will continue to struggle in the low double figures in the opinion polls, simply because people do not understand our values and can't distinguish us from the other parties.

Yes time for clarity and policy.I note a n 'arguement' between Starmer in Canada talking about contacts with the EU and Gove talking about not betraying Brexit.I sense the EU will become a campaigning issue at the next Election.Are we on the doorstep talking about the EU? If not we should.If we are we need to start doing regular surveys to monitor the voters feelings cos they do change.We could be missing a trick.
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