Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why are There No LibDem Columnists?

In this week's LibDem News, former World This Weekend presenter James Cox (who has now outed himself as a LibDem) interviews Observer columnist Jasper Gerrard, who stood for the LibDems in the local elections in Sevenoaks. It's quite an interesting piece, which largely concentrates on how the LibDems are, or aren't, getting their message across in the media. Cox complains that not a single national newspaper carries a regular column with a LibDem perspective. He has surely slightly undermined his point by conducting the interview with Gerard, although it is true that Gerard's column isn't really a political column in the normal sense and that he doesn't constantly push his LibDem politics in it. Gerard says...
For political columnists it is easy to be polemical in extreme ways, both
from right and left. They can display the prejucides of their own sides and both
right and left like to gang up on the LibDems as a shared joke. It's hard to be
a punchy opinion former if, as a LibDem tends to, one says 'on the one hand, on
the other hand - even if that it where the truth may lie ... If we have a fault
it is that we are not brave enough about making striking announcements. We don't
come up with enough to make journalists and other editors interested. I wish the
party had more people like Norman Baker who's very good at that. perhaps we are
too 'nice' or just too wary of the press. Our neglect is mainly the media's
fault, but we shouldn;t moan about it, we should be more pro-active.

Is he right? I think he makes some fair points but misses the main one. Newspapers employ columnists who will either provoke and be controversial or because they are supposed to give some insiht into a particular issue. They also fly with the political wind. It's no coincidence that many newspapers - even centre left papers like The Guardian and The Independent - are giving more space to right of centre polemicists and analysts because the Conservatives are doing relatively well and are beginning to look as if they could win the next election. The same thing happened to Labour in the mid 1990s. The LibDems don't get much of a look-in because they are not only not making political headway, they are regressing. Why, in those circumstances, would a newspaper take on a LibDem columnist?


But lets' imagine that you were a newspaper columnist. Who, from the LibDems (and I don't mean MPs or Peers) would you consider offering a column to?

30 comments:

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Iain, please don't flatter The Guardian and The Independent by calling them "centre left". They are both way out west. We must not allow the left to define the centre ground.

Ed said...

What is "The LibDem Perspective" though?

Is it "a penny on income tax" or is it "freedom" or "against the war" or "PR"?

There is no overarching philosophy to promote!

simon said...

The LibbyDem perspective is 'consitency' in politics as Nicol Stephen said in the Scots Parly on Thursday. Unfortuantly for him, the entire Parly erupted in laughter !

Anonymous said...

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

don't flatter The Guardian and The Independent by calling them "centre left".

The Guardian are trying to appear move towards the centre, but they will never achieve this as long as they give column space to Blair and Broon's champagne socialist apologist, Pollanna Toynbee.

Anonymous said...

zzzzzzzzzzz

Anonymous said...

"The LibbyDem perspective is 'consitency' in politics as Nicol Stephen said in the Scots Parly on Thursday."

Exactly. How can any commentator retain any credibility throwing themselves entirely behind the Fib Dems when their "perspective" is so myopic it can't get past lying to secure a vote depending on where and when they have the opportunity.

Their credibility was crumbling before the Scottish elections and has effectively collapsed as they're just seen as Labour's poodles in opposition now.

But that's what happens when what you campaign on is just a means to secure some votes and not an aim to achieve.

Anonymous said...

Gladstone

PJ said...

I agree with Ed. I can't think of a single distinctive LibDem policy. Scrapping ID cards, for instance, has been adopted by the Tories. But they'll never be elected, all they'll ever be is very junior partners in a coalition, so I'm not bothered.

TimberWolf said...

1. Newspapers sales are dropping
2. There are no Liberal Democrat columnists
3. Any connection?

Anonymous said...

"1. Newspapers sales are dropping
2. There are no Liberal Democrat columnists
3. Any connection?"

Fib Dems have delusions of grandeur?

Anonymous said...

The reason for the poor performance of the Lib-dems lies at the top - Ming the mouse. Charles Kennedy had a much better press, was personable, and all in all, two orders of magnitude better than his knife-wielding successor.

Gordo and Dave would have good reason to be worried if Charles were re-elected; as it stands they are laughing.

The Hitch said...

How about giving kennedy a column on Decanter magazine?

Ming could write for Saga magazine

Steve Horgan said...

In answer to the question, I cannot think of a single Liberal Democrat thinker, never mind one that I would like to read over my morning OJ. As far as I can determine, their party has no actual principles, or research base, and hence no political view that is not directly connected to the winning of elections. If I want Liberal Democrat propaganda I'll wait until they stuff it through my letterbox. If I want developed political thought, I shall go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Polly Toynbee aside, all credit to the Guardian for their investigation of the Bandar scandal.

Laurence Boyce said...

James Graham – the most incisive and interesting Lib Dem I have come across so far.

simon said...

That's not exactly saying a lot!

Chris Paul said...

The Lib Dems don't have any politics, so how can they have a political commentator? I'd suggest Mr JG gave himeself away at first by being an altogther shoddy, confused and unlikeable Armando Lite (in the very same paper) but has settled down a bit. Clearly fairly right wing.

Adrian Yalland said...

The Lib Dems are an irrelevance in UK politics at the moment (at a national level at least) because they don;t actually have a philosophy which underpins them.

The Labour party have a mix of European style social democracy, and the Tories are developing their own post-Thatcherite social liberalism. Essentially, both require the support of the centre and therefore the centre ground is now swamped.

So unless Cameron moves to the right or Brown to the left (or both), half the Lib Dems should slink-off to the Tory Party, and the other half join Labour.

Then they would be able to spark discussion from within two parties which actually have a hope of achieving power.

Ming Campbell doesn't help!

Graeme said...

That should have been "let's imagine", of course. I certainly wouldn't choose a fat-faced loser like Gerard, who fills his column week after week with drivel that suggest he Knows Something about the editor who patronises him, or that the editor is crap.

There are no Lib Dem columnists for a more fundamental reason. There is no such thing as 'liberal democracy'. I don't understand (pace your Norfolk experience) why you even mention them so often. Chris Paul says it all. And he's some sort of socialist, no?

Lilith said...

Yes indeed, the Lib Dems have no policies...they are cosying up to John Reid over his new terror proposals...

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/craig_murray/2007/06/reids_new_best_friends.html

How "Liberal" of them

Lilith said...

Damn, the link is on my blog (taken from Hatfield Girl's blog if you prefer an intelligent read)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hmm.. I'm not sure anything Jasper Gerrard says is worth the paper it's written on. Don't you read Private Eye ??

bebopper said...

There may be a few Tory columnists here and there and thank God for the priceless Mathew Parris, but do we have, now, the support of a single national newspaper?
We know Dacre's infatuated with Brown (yuk), so goodbye Daily Mail, but have you seen the fawning two-page spread on the bogey-picker in the Telegraph this morning? Have Will Lewis and Patience Wheatcroft been got at?
I can only hope that their readership figures will go over a cliff.

Manfarang said...

Bring back the News Chronicle!

Anonymous said...

Are there that many columnists offering a Conservative/Labour party political perspective?

Most of the Conservative columnists spend most of their time attacking their own side!

Blog4Justice said...

Lembit Öpik used to have a column in Wales on Sunday. His strapline was: 'The MP with a personality'.

Siân Lloyd, BBC weathergirl and certified Welsh National Treasure, called him 'the most fascinating man I've ever met'. That was before he dumped her in favour of something cheekier.

(P.S. An ex-girlfriend of mine is a LibDem councillor in Swansea. When she was standing for election, in Summer 2004, I challenged her to outline the party's policy on any single major issue of the day. Needless to say, she couldn't.)

Norfolk Blogger said...

PJ's comments are plain daft. He states that because the Tories ahve adopted a Lib Dem policy, this means the Lib Dems stand for nothing anymore, Surely it works for the Tories too, The fact that they have to to adopt Lib Dem policy means that the Tories have no distinctive values of their own.

David Lindsay said...

Dr Vincent Cable MP, nominally the mere "Deputy" Leader of the Liberal Democrats, now seems to turn up whenever that party wishes to pass anything remotely resembling an authoritative comment on anything.

But then, he was a contributor to The Orange Book, which, along with The Henry Jackson Society and the Euston Manifesto, completes the circle that is Britain's neoconservative party within the parties, organising (very effectively) to impose its members as MPs for safe seats across the board.

So do not take your eye off him.

Anonymous said...

sandra gidley
mark oaten
jo swinson could have a column when she can do joined up.