Since joining the LibDems in July 2015, I’ve got involved in two distinct but very contrasting activities.
One activity I’ve posted quite a lot about is my helping to set up the Social Democrat Group, with George Kendall. This is really beginning to develop some momentum (a rather politically loaded word at the moment!), with a fringe meeting scheduled at the Spring Conference which has the possibility of some high-level speakers (although none are confirmed yet).
The second activity is my post as Social Media Officer for my local party in Newcastle, Staffs. This is exposing me to local politics, which is something new to me. In my Labour years I concentrated on national politics but took little notice of the local scene. That has all changed now, with the local council having to make difficult decisions, and local elections only three months away. I have a steep learning curve to climb. With the local print media and radio ignoring us, making an impact on Social Media is very important. Probably the most challenging part of the job is accessing the information in the first place! But our Twitter and Facebook followers are steadily increasing, so hopefully I’m doing something right!
When I joined the LibDems back in July, I hoped to find fellow members with an interest in reviving the social democrat tradition in the party. I signed up to LibDemVoice, which is a forum for wide-ranging discussions on all aspects of party activities, and was pleased to read a post there from George Kendall, on reviving the party’s social democrat heritage, and potentially attracting disaffected Labour Party members. Since I had already made the move from Labour (as discussed in previous posts), I was sure there were others who shared my views, and I supported the idea of setting up a Social Democrat Group within the party.
Having made contact with George, and had several discussions, I agreed to help with administration and social media for the new group, and between us we set up a Twitter account and a Facebook Page. George wrote a piece about our aims, which has been recently published on LibDemVoice, and we are attracting interest and comment.
Although it is early days for the group, we intend to have an information stand at the Spring Conference, and a launch event at some stage, possibly at or associated with the Autumn Conference. Full details will appear on our Facebook page and Twitter account in due course. There is also a sign-up form on our Facebook page where you can introduce yourself if you would like to get involved.
At a time when it seems likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be elected Labour leader, people like myself who position themselves on the centre-left of the political spectrum may find themselves asking two questions: (i) where will their views be represented in UK politics, and (ii) given the answer to (i), how can these views be aired in the future (with the hope of any impact)?
There is, of course, the ‘wait and see’ approach. How many Labour MPs and members will feel able to remain in a Corbyn-led party is open to question, and a split akin to the SDP split in 1981 might occur. Alternatively, with their new leader, Tim Farron, the LibDems offer some hope, and this is the approach I have taken, as discussed in my previous posts.
On the general subject of Corbyn’s appeal, there was an interesting piece by Tony Blair in today’s Observer (link here). Of course, there are some who are totally prejudiced against Tony, and refuse to read anything from him, but (as always) he makes some good points. One that particularly resonated with me was a general point about politics today: ‘There is a politics of parallel reality going on, in which reason is an irritation, evidence a distraction, emotional impact is king and the only thing that counts is feeling good about it all.’ In his piece, Tony also mentions political developments in Greece and France, showing that it’s not just something that’s happening in the UK. 10 days ago I asked this question of Corbyn supporters on Twitter: ‘Are you putting political ideology before future electability of Labour?’. I only got one reply, on the lines of ‘wait and see what he does’. Fair enough, but there’s a lot at stake here!
Having good opposition is essential, especially with Tories effectively running riot. How well a Corbyn-led Labour parliamentary party can achieve that remains to be seen, but it may not be as effective if it doesn’t give house room to centre-left as well as left wing policies. And I’ve said nothing about the likely contribution of the press!