Well now. I was sat in a cafe eating my lunch today, when I received a text message from Lord Rennard. Apparently, Nick Clegg won the leadership race (hurrah!). By 511 votes (gosh!).
I had to wait till later, when I got home, to discover that our beloved MSM has spun itself on a dime and is now peddling the line that we are a split party. Yes, the same people who until 2.30 today had been telling us that you couldn’t slip a cigarette paper between the two candidates and that consequently the race was boring, are now telling us that the two candidates coming in so close represents some kind of significant split down the middle of the party. The people who complained that the stifling of democracy in the Labour party represented by Gordon’s coronation are telling us that the fact that two very credible leaders had to compete to lead our party is a bad thing.
Meanwhile Paxman assaults Clegg with a collection of snidey comments that would sound ludicrous put to any other political leader (“Gordon Brown, tell us 10 interesting things about yourself, go on!”) and silly false dichotomies (you can be 100% passive or 100% didactic in talking to people about policy, there is not – contrary to the misapprehensions of many in politics – any middle ground where you debate and persuade people).
So has anything particularly interesting been said today? Here, since I can’t count on the MSM, are a few interesting things that have been said online:
The lovely Alix has come up with one good theme of Nick Clegg’s that we can all pick up and run with today:
I am continually struck by the energy, the intelligence and the conviction with which we shoot down trolls on Lib Dem Voice. But at least visiting trolls are engaging with us (except for the stupid ones, obviously, but they can just bugger off). There are people out there, probably not terribly committed politically, who are getting away with far worse calumnies every day than anything any activist opponent would consider realistic … doesn’t it sicken you to your by-definition decent soul, the number of comment threads that turn into a stream of abuse against the Lib Dems for lack of anyone to put up the opposite case? We just haven’t got the numbers out there in the political online mainstream, and we need them. We need us. If you see what I mean. If ever there was a concrete example of what the Cleggster is talking about when he says we must put an end to introspection, this is it.
I for one would like to echo this call. If we want to use the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator to talk to the party, fine. But if people are doing this to talk to the great unhosed, then you are much better off taking on some of the incredibly sloppy but widely read arguments that you get put forward in places like CiF. Alix posted one example of a thread where we were being discussed (this one), but I suspect that since then, a possibly better example has arrived.
So, here it is folks. The great leader has spoken of our need to speak to the unconverted. Hold your heads up high and go and convert them!
Charlotte Gore remarked on Clegg’s interesting sugestion of regular town hall meetings, which I hadn’t really picked up on until that point (I didn’t see the speeches at the time). I think it’s a great idea, but I would simply add that, should they play this right, there’s no reason why the MSM might not take an interest in this. After all, if they can make these meetings their own Question Time style question and answer discussions, and bring along not just Nick Clegg but a few other senior Lib Dem shadow cabinet stars, they could well be interesting. All the more so if they pick places most heavily affected by issues of the day, and take along the relevant shadow minister. It would make an interesting statement to the viewing public if the footage of Lib Dem soundbites they saw on the news was less often from the house of commons, and more often from public meetings. We don’t have to rely on the news media to turn up to these things; surely we can record them ourselves and supply them with interesting broadcast quality footage. Just a thought.
Duncan Borrowman was just as annoyed as I was at the treatment Paxman gave us on Newsnight tonight.
Coffee House blog has a post by James Forsyth daydreaming about the far future, and trying to paint Huhne as the kind of git who would split his party just to lead it. Weird.
… and that’s it, more or less. Today, much as people have rushed to comment on this result, we don’t know an awful lot. I will be more interested to see what happens over the next few days, and what Nick does to keep hold of the news agenda for a little longer. After all, as I pointed out when Ming resigned, when we do have a legitimate claim to the news agenda (ie. when the MSM’s bias against us would be painfully obvious even to the uninitiated if they let their usual standards apply), we do ourselves no favours by hurrying.