Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Leading the way to oblivion?

On Saturday, I joined several thousand people on the climate change march from outside the US embassy to Parliament square.
It was a good humoured affair in spite of the seriousness of the issue, timed to coincide with talks in Potsdam.
The media found other things to focus on that day – football, Greek riots and Xmas shopping statistics.
What they missed was a curious political phenomenon.

Two leaders were present at the rally.
One came across well, projecting her voice. She was on familiar territory – this was after all a core party issue and even said so in her speech, complaining about how the same speeches and rallies had been done so often, but fallen on deaf ears in Parliament.
Caroline Lucas, the green party's recently elected leader, had "relaunched" the party with the Green New Deal. This mini manifesto was a populist document. In comparison to the other New Deals out there, it is still the best roadmap out there - though it is not clear how it sits with the real party manifesto.
Easy to understand, it is meant to allow GP activists to engage with re public on serous issues. And show the Party has a plan for jobs and the wider economy. It can be criticized for trying to revive Capitalism and its backdrop of Roosevelt and Churchill quotes from an imperial era.
Pre-Lehman Brothers it might have looked radical early in September. Now as even Cameron acknowledges, the world has changed.
Whatever its merits, the eager beavers expecting a media blitz with a New Green party will be chastened by the damp squib of a campaign since September.
It seems the media feel the environment can be discarded as we worry about the Great Recession 1.
The Greens face an uphill task to be heard in 2009. No change there, then.

The real story on Saturday was about the other leader.
Nick Clegg had sent out a clarion call to Lib Dem activists to turn out in large numbers
After a week of build up in the Independent, this was to be his bid for leadership of the green movement - at least the so-called Middle England voters. In a way, one could say he was suggesting there was no need to vote Green, when the Lib-Dems (a more ‘serious’ party!) was available.

What a fiasco for Clegg. In a sea of green, there was hardly a yellow banner or badge to be seen.
The Lib Dems snubbed Clegg and the grassroots probably now realize they have elected the wrong leader. He has moved the party to the right in one of the worst political blunders this decade. His timing was atrocious.
In reality, the cult of the leader might have been appropriate for the anodyne politics in the era of the credit boom. Politics was bunched up in the Right, though we called it the centre-ground. The only differentiation was presentation and ‘personality’.
The electorate is now polarizing - to Left and Right. Times are tough.
The last thing they want is another Blairite chief executive, focusing on marginal seats and searching for the holy grail of the Centre.
The world has indeed changed.
Will the courtiers to all leaders understand that fact quickly enough?

Farid Bakht


Charlie Marks said...

Oh dear. He's Calamity Clegg, just like his rival Huhne dubbed him.

His policy of tax cuts for low and middle income folk resonated well, as Frank Luntz's polling for Newsnight showed. But the massive cuts in expenditure? Woah, where's that gonna come from?

I'm saying nothing about that plane journey...

Phil BC said...

There were a few LibDems on 2007's march. I know because I had a face to face row with one! Still, no great loss. Let's hope they continue not turning up to this sort of thing in the future.