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Lessons of Coalition (2): what do we Lib Dems need to learn?

August 4, 2013 2:36 PM
By Mark Valladares in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

CoalitiobLibDemVoice is running a daily feature, 'Lessons of Coalition', to assess the major do's and don'ts learned from our experience of the first 3 years in government. Reader contributions are welcome, either as comments or posts. The word limit is no more than 450 words, and please focus on just one lesson you think the party needs to learn. Simply email your submission to voice@libdemvoice.org and copy info@eastmidslibdems.org.uk.

Today Mark Valladares shares his thoughts …

Better party communications responding to the realities of governing

My lesson of coalition is the importance of building a Party communication system that can respond effectively to the external factors of government.

On policy, a strategy of forming policy working groups does not easily allow a Party response to emerging issues, be they driven by the media, by your Coalition partner or by unexpected world events. As a result, in the vacuum created, our Ministers are too often obliged to think on their feet or allowed to 'freelance'. Most of the major clashes between the Party in government and the Party at large have stemmed from such events, and whilst improved communication allows Ministers and senior Party figures to explain afterwards, unless they are perceived to have got it right first time, disillusionment amongst a dwindling activist and member base is certain. We need policy documents that express fundamental principles and goals whilst leaving the small print for background material - the how and the when, if you like.

We need to continue to find new ways of informing our members and, even more importantly, inviting ongoing participation from members and activists. There is an astonishing amount of knowledge, experience and expertise out there, and we will be stronger for tapping it - it will give our Ministers and spokespeople a clear, early steer on what we are thinking as a tribe. We do need to express our fundamental principles more clearly. We are Liberal Democrats, not Centre Democrats or Equidistant Democrats, and we are at our best when we espouse liberal values. At a time when the public are yearning for someone who speaks to them and for them, there is space in British politics for someone who believes in things, and we shouldn't be afraid to do so.

* Mark Valladares blogs at The View from Creeting St Peter.

Note from the Webmaster

All responses to this series of five articles will be posted on the website and forwarded to Phil.Kowles - Policy Officer for the East Midlands and Lucy Care our representative on Federal Policy Committee