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Jeremy_brier
Jeremy Brier, a Barrister and former World Debating Champion, says the Lib Dems need a purpose more than a new leader.

So,
Gordon Brown called off the election and another Lib Dem leader falls
victim to a bottle. The question now is in which direction does the Big
Yellow (Ugly) Bird wants to fly? Left or right? Orange Book or Velvet
Revolution? 18 points or (wait for it!) 22 points? Or rather: Who cares?

What the last two years have showed us is not that there is
some sort of interesting philosophical debate about the future of the
Liberal Democrats but that, rather, there is none. The Lib Dems have no
core ideology, no "theme". They cannot persuade people to vote for them
for any positive reason; resurrecting at election times largely out of
public protest or apathy, rarely out of public embrace. They are not,
like the Conservatives in 2005, in need of re-branding. They are in
need of re-banding. 

The first insurmountable problem which the Liberal Democrats
face is that their policies do not belong together for any discernible
reason. They are either hugely populist (opposition to war; tuition
fees) or hugely unpopular (European integration; proportional
representation). They are avowedly small state liberal when it comes to
civil liberties; but clearly big state federalist when it comes to the
European Union. Do they stand for or despise Middle Britain? Do they
support the family? Do they believe in low or high taxes?  The answer
appears to be that they all think differently. It’s fine to be a broad
church; but most people in the Labour or Conservative church at least
know why they’re in the congregation. 

Furthermore,
in testing times internationally, the Liberal Democrats will never
be trusted to handle international relations or diplomacy. As I wrote
on Conservative Home earlier this year,
the Liberal Democrat instinct is relativist and self-doubting. Its
tendencies are towards bureaucratic multilateralism, anti-American
gesture politics and the drawing of moral equivalence between terrorism
and the fight against terror. Such approaches offer no effective
answers to the major foreign policy challenges of the age. Iraq will
not achieve the stability it deserves (and which we owe it) if we pull
out our troops while its own institutions remain embryonic; Iran will
not be prevented from building up a nuclear arsenal by relying on
European Union diplomacy; and further African genocides will hardly be
prevented by more unresolved resolutions from the disparate
talking-shop of the United Nations.

I know the Liberal Democrats have some strong local footholds
but the reality is that, as a party, as an entity which presumably
exists to affect change, they have no influence internationally, and a
very limited amount domestically. It’s not about personalities; it’s
about politics. If you don’t exist for a compelling reason, and you
can’t tell the electorate why you exist, the (probably accurate)
suspicion develops that they are not there to promote a core set of
convictions; rather you are simply there for yourselves; or, worse
still, because you are there because you just are. A once promising
"middle way" party has become a now otiose hotchpotch.   

Two years, two leaders: one spent most his time completely
out of it; the other was an alcoholic. But it’s not the personalities
that need to wake up and smell the coffee, it’s the Liberal Democrat
Party as a whole. What do they want to be when they grow up? The
sensible Orange Book brigade should probably sign up to Cameron’s
Conservatives (sorry: it will make the conference bar more boring, but
we should try and make them welcome) and the dreary old sandal-wearers
should go off and join Gordon’s big tent just like their old socialist
heroine Shirley Williams. Then at least voters would know where
everyone stood. And we wouldn’t have to endure any more of these
tedious leadership elections.

9 comments for: Jeremy Brier: It’s not the leader that’s the problem, it’s the party

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