Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Cautionary tales from the Emerald Isles; Progressive Democrats dissolve

. Hat-tip to Anonymous below for this one; I thought it was worth drawing to peoples attention. Starting from the top though I want to emphasise that things are defiantly not this bad for us but as somebody who has constantly warned of the danger of a squeeze I think it's a story we should be aware of;

"A special conference of the Progressive Democrats has voted for the party to go out of existence, after the leadership stated it was no longer politically viable."

Now, the Progressive Democrats even had a member in government; Mary Harney is Minister for Health;

"she said that people needed to be pragmatic in deciding the future of the organisation.

She said the party was failing to attract voters and was no longer viable."

I think there is a tendency to think in our party that some sort of hung-parliament or coalition opportunity would solve our problems. I am not sure this is true to be honest, looking at Scotland it certainly does not look stronger for having had the experience of government to my mind. Wales, similarly, doesn't necessarily seem to have overly benefited though I stand to be corrected.

It seems to me that the coming squeeze will present very serious challenges....some of which I have already expressed my views on so, once again, I thought I would throw this open to the floor and see what people think.

11 comments:

asquith said...

Wasn't Paul Staines a member? :)

Ed said...

I think you are drawing the wrong conclusions from PDs demise here.

It seems to me that it is more a lesson in how difficult it is to establish a new party (PD is a relatively recent creation) whose appeal is on the basis of ideology in competition with older, bigger parties that have established loyal support on the basis of more fundamental divisions in society. If the ideology is popular, the older parties have the resources to move on to the new party's territory and simply snuff it out.

On the point about coalition politics, what's the point of always being relatively popular and always being in opposition? Id rather be the German FDP and have 10% of the vote and 40 years in government than be the Italian Communists with 30%+ and 40 years in opposition, wouldnt you?

Darrell G said...

Ed,

Thanks for your reply. Firstly, yes they are but I think the point you make about the 'other two parties moving in on your turf' holds true here especially if you consider the 'tax cuts conundrum' which i posited below...we raised it, didn't get any benefit in the polls and now the other two parties are auctioning themselves off...

Of course, it would be better to be in power...i was rather pointing out that it's not a 'cure all' that's all....

Darrell G said...

Asquith,

I dont know to be perfectly honest with you :)

asquith said...

According to Wikipedia he was.

I won't be shedding any tears over their demise. Perhaps the LPUK can go the same way :)

Darrell G said...

Asquith,

Top marks for research and slap on the wrist for me for not looking...

Lol maybe...:)

Ed said...

From an outsiders point of view we seemed to do rather well out of the coalition in Scotland - being able to blame Labour for the bad stuff and take credit for the good stuff on the whole.

But our USP remained as being the 'anti party' and when the SNP gained more credibility that USP was gone. Which shows you that voters really dont pay that much attention to policy menus.

I think it boils down to what we think the party should be all about. Do we pitch for the middle in the hope of competing with the big parties or do we make ourselves distinctive by proposing radical things that we feel good about but the electorate might not feel the same way?

Personally, I think we have gone too far down the first route because we will be drowned out exactly as you suggest (and we blew our chance to supplant the Tories while they were on the lunatic fringe of politics in 2001 and 2005 by being precisely too cautious).

But the real problem comes with managing the party if you stay radical in opposition and then have to compromise to be in government. There are only two solutions to that - you refuse to co-operate with other parties and spend your life in opposition (and risk the departure of ambitious people who are prepared to compromise) or you accept that if you only get 20% of the vote you aint gonna get everything you want out of a deal, swallow hard, accept that you might lose some voters and activists and get as much as you can from being in govt.

PS - yes, Guido Fawkes was a big fan of the PD

Darrell G said...

Ed,

I think you might be right that it does boil down to that and I think one of the problems we are having in terms of decideing which way to orientate tactically.

For my money it is a question of balance but I think now a bit more radicalism would be called for in general. I think it would be rewarded in terms of electoral and an increased activist base.

I agree that this would present problems later (as Barack Obama will soon find out) but it would be nice to get into a position to have those kind of problems. I have no problems with compromise where I feel it's right or necessary to get things done. I wasn't saying we shouldn't enter coalitions...I was saying we shouldnt see them as the end game or the miracle cure for our problems....

Ed said...

No indeed. And the other point that many miss is that a balanced parliament doesnt automatically mean the Lib Dems will be offered a place in government. Its far more likely that Labour and the Tories will agree among themselves that the largest party should run a minority government.

Liberal Neil said...

I'm not convinced the experience of the PDs is very comparable with our own position.

The PDs got less than 3% of the vote last time, won 2 seats and came sixth amongst the national parties.

Maybe we can hold off discussing our demise until that point?

Darrell G said...

Liberal,

In my defence I did open by making it clear I didn't feel things were as bad for us.

Having said that I think it has raised some useful issues because we are getting badly squeezed.....