Monday, 22 February 2010

Neo-Liberal Laboratory

Transcript -

(Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have been discussing the implications of a hung parliament and the kind of coalition they might join.)

Nick: We really need to think ahead, Vince. We need a working title, a name. One that says: We'll be calling the shots.

Vince: Isn't it a bit early to worry about that kind of thing, Nick? The actual election should be our primary concern right now.

Nick: Bit early, Vince? Not really. This is crucial. A coalition is the only way we'll ever get our hands on power. That we know. I believe we must set the agenda for that coalition early on, before the election, by constructing some kind of a narrative, some kind of pitch... Before the other parties try to hijack it.

Vince: Hijack it?

Nick: Hijack the agenda. In the event of a hung Parliament, they'll be out there briefing and spinning, telling everyone what a coalition can achieve - whilst basically pushing their own agenda. We must get in there first. Give people our perspective - and this is the point - before the election's begun. Look it can't hurt at least to consider what that narrative should be? Can it? Prepare a vision?

Vince: I suppose, maybe not... You've obviously given this some thought. So what exactly have you come up with so far?

Nick: Okay, so it was actually the name that I considered first. I thought, how do we convey something positive, something that says this is a good thing for the country, not just some cobbled together deal. And I thought... how about calling it the 'Coalition of the Willing?'

Vince: (Uneasy) Not sure about that. Echoes of the Iraq war. Bit of a risky one, don't you think?

Nick: Ah, that's what you might think at first. But who is actually going to war? We're not, that's for sure. However, the name will remind people of an unpopular policy that we opposed. So that's good.

Vince: I see. Yes... well, perhaps it could work if you were to look at it like that... Its all down to the detail ultimately. Are you able to fill me in on that at all?

Nick: Yes, Vince. I was thinking, why not adopt the best of what the old Labour and the old Conservative parties had to offer. It would make us more attractive to the grass roots supporters of both parties - The guys who have felt let down over recent years and want someone to listen.

Vince: I see. In principle it sounds a smart move, but how would Liberals achieve that? Can you be more specific? What do you mean by the best?

Nick: Right, now here's the really important part, I reckon. What was it more than anything else that used to distinguish the two main parties, something you don't get nowadays?

Vince: (Chuckles) I suppose that they were actually different.

Nick: Precisely.

Vince: (Surprised). Oh, sorry, I was being facetious. I thought that was too obvious. (Composing himself) But, yes, it is a serious point too, I admit. And what are you saying? We would be offering something different?

Nick: Got it in one... But more than that: our 'Coalition of the Willing' will in fact be different precisely because everything is so similar nowadays. I know that sounds like sophistry but I am just trying to develop a strategy.

Vince: I see where you're coming from, Nick. But slight problem: This is the Liberal Democratic Party. This isn't what liberals, small or large L, do, surely? We'd effectively be adopting the New Labour and the New Conservative consensus approach to politics whilst, paradoxically, embracing the polarised politics that they'd abandoned.

Nick: Bit of a mouthful that, eh, Vince? Sure we can find something snappier. And don't worry, we will. But the point is, through our 'Coalition of the Willing' we can do what the other two parties cannot possibly do anymore.

Vince: And what's that, Nick?

Nick: Shift sideways. They have moved so much to the centre, that they cannot go any further.

Vince: I see, Nick. So we are shifting our political standpoint? That is what you're saying?

Nick: Well, we're going to have to anyway if we join a coalition. So let's start getting used to that fact right here.

Vince: What are you saying. Moving left? Right?

Nick: Doesn't have to be left or right. Could be left and right.

Vince: That sounds like political schizophrenia, Nick.

Nick: No, Vince. It is all about playing the two sides off against one another. Oldest game in the book.

Vince: Oh its a game, is it?

Nick: (Frowns) Where have you been? It is a game of sorts.

Vince: Is it a solution? That's what concerns me.

Nick: Of course. Left and Right have been invading our territory for years. But here, we will be able to play left and right off against each other because neither has anywhere to go, no more territory to invade.

Vince: Okay, Nick. All very sophisticated, at least in theory. And I am wondering where these ideas are coming from. Hours of reading? Smoke filled rooms?

Nick: (Shrugs) Nothing that new, you'll find.

Vince: But leaving all of that aside... I'm still not sure whether it is really liberal, be it small or large L.

Nick: Well ok then maybe it is time for a brand new name for the party as well.

Vince: What? A name to replace LibDems? I'm not sure that's worth embarking upon, Nick. Not now at least.

Nick: It is and I'll tell you why. We must show people that we are still liberal, but with a slight name change, we will also be offering this new narrative?

Vince: (Looking weary, the penny drops.) And so have you by any chance decided what that name might be, Nick?

Nick: I have indeed, Vince.

Vince: And will you enlighten me?

Nick: Of course, Vince. I'd love to. The new name will be... well, how about The New Liberal Party?

Vince: (Sighs) Yes, Nick. Funnily enough, I thought it might be something like that. And that will encapsulate everything that we have just been talking about, will it?

Nick: Indeed it will, Vince. Indeed it will.


  1. Lib-Lab pact? Worked in the past

  2. That's a matter of opinion, I would say.

  3. Lib-Con Pact? Doesn't sound right, does it?

  4. Shades of Blair in Clegg, agreed. But does not strike one as a man on a mission, or this kind of mission.

  5. I voted Labour all my life because I felt they occupied the moral high ground. But their systematic attack over the last twelve years on civil liberties has changed all that.

  6. And who would you prefer in a liberal backed coalition?
    Vince or Nick? I know who I would