Thursday, December 15, 2005

Will he, won't he?

If Kennedy goes will this be good news or bad news for local Lib Dems in Torbay?

A week is a long time in politics, it hardly seems possible that just a few weeks ago my party was leaderless and drifting while the Lib Dems confidently predicted replacing the Conservatives as the major opposition party.

One way ot another Kennedy looks like damaged goods having been apparently described by Ming Campbell -his own deputy- as 'holed below the waterline' it must only be a question of when he goes, not if he goes.

Could this be a lifeline for Bay Lib Dems? Famously Kennedy refused to take sides over the whole question of the councillors allowances leaving some in his local party stranded and causing a very great deal of bad feeling and concern amongst local Liberals.

Could a new leader represent a 'clean start' for the Bays Lib Dems and give them an opportunity to dump many of the councillors they now so revile?

On the other hand is there a danger that a leaderhip contest could cause a damaging split between those traditional Liberals who are to the right of the party who want to continue to challenge the Tories head-on, and the mainstream Lib Dems who are desperate to take up the vacant space to the left of Tony Blair and try to pick up support from disillusioned socialist and old-Labour supporters in seats like Torbay; but more importantly in dozens of Labour held seats where the Lib dems are now the main challengers?

It will be a make or break decision for the Lib Dems which those of us in the Conservative party will be watching very closely.


Anonymous said...

A divisive leaderhsip contest now is better than a drawn out slow death like John Major had.

The trouble is that the Lib dems are so bad at taking tough decisions that this could drag on for months, and that would be damaging especially as the Tories really do seem to be on the way back.

Barrie Wood said...


First point is that I don’t think the national picture will impact on local events that much. All parties value local autonomy and it is right that local parties and their politicians are judged locally. In that context, the Churston vote SHOULD matter more. As a philosophically decentralist party I think it is generally right for the national Lib Dem party to keep out of local affairs, but in keeping with the above I think this is true of the Tories and Labour too.

Why, and how on earth would CK going offer a “lifeline” for the Lib Dems in the bay ? FWIW I think there’s a lot of hot air coming from a minority of LD parliamentarians, none of whom will speak on record. Despite being far from an expert on internal Lib Dem thinking, I don’t get the feeling their membership are hankering for a change as yet. The parliamentarians are damaging the Lib Dems, just as a small number of ‘bastards’ created havoc for Major. But as you say a week really is a long time in politics.

As for party positioning, as CK himself said, this country doesn’t need 3 conservative parties. As a left-of-centre voter I’d be disappointed at the prospect of the Lib Dems too following Labour’s drift rightwards. But, as you know, all parties have cyclical ideological swings, for each of the main parties is a coalition, yours included. I’d like the Lib Dems nationally to continue to be a progressive party, generally clearly left-of-centre but not dogmatically so and still committed to progressive taxation, social justice, civil liberties and still be the most green of the major parties.

From your party I’d like the more socially liberal tone hinted at by Cameron to be realised in policy terms.
If he maintains the standard set thus far and shifts the Tories to a socially liberal modern conservatism then this will pose challenges and require new thinking from both Labour and Lib Dems.
This would be a good thing for our democracy.

From Labour I’d like them to rediscover their social-democratic roots and traditional values. If nothing else it’ll leave Mr Pedrick-Friend speechless once Bliar goes.

I would welcome the Tories potential return to ‘sensible’ and electorally more viable politics. However, once the current media swooning over Cameron subsides (and even the Guardian have joined in with this), once the polls turn against you will he seek to buttress the Tory vote on divisive issues like race and asylum, immigration, euroscepticism, law and order et al. Hague and Howard both made similar noises about moving to a centre ground position, but both tacked right when the going got tough and pretty soon too. The latter are both instinctively traditional right-wingers and the jury is out on whether this applies to Cameron too. Before you get too excited Marcus much of the fuss about Cameron is simply the fact your party is simply worth talking about again. At this stage that’s all it is !

The EPP saga shows you are still far from the mainstream centre-right politics. Only a week in and the fissure that is Europe bursts open - don’t crow too much yet, although I can well understand you feeling chipper at present.

Locally you need to say more about what brand of conservatism you represent. Forget sulking over the GE, forget the Adrian Sanders bashing you’ve got to give people positive reasons to vote for you. ‘Sledging’ opponents is much easier as we both know. For instance ‘carpet bagging’ jibe against you hit you hard at the GE.

Marcus Wood said...

Barrie, great posting, thank you.

A couple of points in reply.

1) you say 'when the polls turn against you' but you assume that that will happen and I don't. I think the country have been crying out for an 'electable' opposition and see Cameron as providing it. The tide has turned much as it did when Labour got rid of Kinnock in 1992 and -first with Smith and then more strongly with Blair they went into the lead and stayed there.

2) You are right, if I do end up the PPC for Torbay I will have to explain why the Bay should vote for me, not just why they should not vote Lib Dem or UKIP and I will do that in the four years or so before that election arrives.

3) I don't believe the Lib Dems personal attacks (that I am a 'carpet-bagging' outsider) will count for anything when I will have been settled here for what will then have been 7 or 8 years. In fact I think that the kind of personal attacking technique they use against me and past MP's works only if the party you are attacking is generally unpopular. If, as I believe, our party fortunes are firmly on the up and up personal attacks can backfire very badly.

Anonymous said...

The best thing for both Conservatives and Labour is if he stays on as damaged goods.

Locally it makes no difference, as the previous person has already said, because I think it's all over for the Lib dems in Torbay no matter what they do in Westminster.

If you stick it out you will be the next MP. You couldn't do much worse or be more useless than Sanders even though personally I don't want the return of a Conservative government.

Tory Trooper said...

Kennedy will survive but only because the Lib dems couldn't make a decision if their lives depended on it.

Great news for us though, because the backstabbing in the Lib dems that we have grown to know and love locally is spreading nationally.

What Torbay does today, Britain does tomorrow...

Andrew W. said...

I am inclined to agree that the Lib dems have shot themselves in the foot today.

Why start all this if you can't finish it? What was the point in destabalising your leader and then backing off?

And Menzies Campbell has made himself look awful, undoing years of carefully constructed 'reasonable man' image he now looks conniving and dishonourable.

Barrie Wood said...

I think tory trooper writes off the Lib Dems too easily. Who would have predicted the roller-coaster ride of the last two weeks? I don't think Marcus is writing off the Lib Dems and Adrian Saners in particular !

Lets face it despite the vicious press coverage Nick Pannell wasn't that far behind Nick Bye in the recent mayoral poll. So across all-Torbay the Tories still have a fight on their hands. And, whilst unpopular with committed Tories, I believe Adrian to be held generally in high-esteem by the wider public across the Bay.

You have to also recognise that even if particular policies become popular, even if people like the untested Cameron, the Conservative 'brand name' is pretty tainted still.

The Tories can only ever become serious players once [and if you ever] make a comeback in urban areas and it is here that the Lib Dems are making progress (Manchester & Newcastle amongst others).

Of course it's been a terrible week for the Lib Dems but at least it is better to have such turbulence now in a party than nearer to an election.

Barrie Wood said...


Should have said **if** the polls turn against you !!

Thank you for your kind comments regarding my previous post and engaging in dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised, this is a good web site with plenty of *interesting* and mostly sensible debate about Torbay politics.

Shame it's hosted by a Tory.

(only joking, You can't help being a Conservative, Marcus!)

fwiw I agree with your comments about Kennedy, I think he is damaged beyond repair. If we get a good new leader like Hughes we will still give you all a run for your money; although as things stand I am less optimistic about Adrian staying in here next time.

Still four years is a long time in politics, there are a lot of Labour (and UKIP) voters still to squeeze!

Anonymous said...

You have no chance with UKIP voters , what did cameron say about the EU. Cant talk about that can we , we might just loose votes, instead of using the 4 years to inform the public about the evils of the EU. No cant do that , thats far too honest. Ah... thats where UKIP comes in , they say it how it is, I used to be a tory voter but sorry Marcus no more. UKIP gets my vote even if they dont win. Sometimes in life there is more to life than just winning there is making a stand for what you believe in.

Barrie Wood said...


If you want a centre-left perspective you can always try :

Shameless plug I know ! Sorry Marcus !