miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
We had a discussion in the office Saturday morning. It was a wide-ranging and occasionally sweary discussion. It touched on Leveson, CCDP, access to justice, housing and many other areas. And at the end of it, we reached a conclusion. The conclusion was this:

The problem with Lib Dems in government* is that they don't listen to or trust the people who know what they are talking about.

For example, I am not a big economics geek, but I know enough about it to know it's important and to know who IS a big geek and which of them to trust ([personal profile] matgb is one, Richard Flowers another. Another example, on IT systems, I know a bit, but not as much as someone like Zoe O'Connell. On science, there's the magnificent Huppmeister. On digital rights, there's Dave Page. I could go on, but you get the idea.

When one is in power, the trick is NOT to try to become and expert on everything, because that isn't humanly possible. The trick is to surround yourself with people you can trust who are experts in the various fields you need to make decisions on.

Now theoretically, this should be easy in the Lib Dems. We have lots of experts, and lots of internal party committees that they can join or be elected to which would theoretically smooth their communication with the party leadership and the parliamentarians. Even better, our leader recognised before we went into coalition that going native when surrounded by civil servants might be an issue, and warned us to keep an eye on him (and the other parliamentarians) for it. And we have lots of councillors and council leaders who have experience of officers trying to control them and methods of avoiding it.

So if we have the people who can solve the problem, and a leadership which is alive to the problem, why is the problem still happening?

I think it boils down to trust. Somehow the leadership and MPs have lost trust in the people who know what they are doing within the party and started to listen to the siren call of those who have been embedded in the Westminster Bubble for decades. This is something that members of our party who are/have been in local government leadership positions predicted; those Westminster Bubble types have years of experience of persuading MPs that they need to listen to them and nobody else.

Communication between the leadership and the experts within the party has got more distant and one way, despite the best efforts of the experts, because the parliamentarians have started to believe that the civil service knows better. Emails from the leadership have become steadily more patronising and mansplainy as we get further from 2010. And this isn't going to change because I (or anyone else) has a moan about it.

To be honest, although I can see the problem, I don't have the first clue what to do about it. Any of yoou lot have any bright ideas?

* not all of them, and not all of the time, but enough of them enough of the time to make it systemic

Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (UKPolitics)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
When I was a member, between 2010 and 2011, I was appalled at how rapidly more patronising the communications from the leadership became, and how the e-mails I've continued to receive have prolonged this trend. They were essentially fan club communications of the old school, with no expectation that the reader was or wished to be capable of critical thought.

The problem with the present Liberal Democrat leadership seems less to be one relating to the Westminster bubble alone, but its attachment to a wider circle of thinkers about policy which see the party's future in terms of advocating an abstract liberalism which has little to do with practical everyday concerns. This may gain plaudits from newspaper columnists, particularly those on the right, but not from the activists on the ground, nor the voters in places like Rotherham.

Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] gwenhwyfaer
Defenestration is the only change that works, I fear. :(

my take on your suggestion

Date: Monday, December 10th, 2012 10:12 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bubbalou
When I encounter conflict I often try and understand the other person’s pressures/objectives to see what might be in conflict with my own.

From what you’ve said you’d like the leadership to form a committee of advisers from party members to advise them on issues. The idea seems superficially attractive, so we have to ask ourselves why they might not do it and ask ourselves what problems might arise from doing that? Just as a thought experiment, with our feet planted firmly in the leaderships shoes, rather than our own.

I would also argue that the FPC should be filling this role. What is it about FPC that is not working for the party – i.e. why aren’t FPC / conf decisions being adhered to by the leadership. Are FPC making bad decisions? Is the structure of FPC wrong?

Some initial ones I can think of (as a sort of devil’s advocate)

- Picking Lib Dems that agreed with each other. If they didn’t, how to select them? Elections? How to decide on the “group”’s view – a vote?
- What if the drug’s adviser (say) advice contradicted that of the comms adviser? What to do?
- Decision making by committee
- Other commitments like local party commitments, work, children interfering with commitment to the adviser post. How to get round this – have a deputy?
- Remuneration – or would they be volunteers ? If so then would have to be able to make allowances for the above, or some sort of rota system
- People with agendas for their own special interest groups
- Press / PR disasters if people didn’t get their own way and resigned from committee in a fit of pique

How would you counter / ameliorate those issues so as to make the idea more palatable for the leadership?

Re: my take on your suggestion

Date: Monday, December 10th, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bubbalou
OK, so how to decide on the experts then?

Also, have you asked them why they don't engage with you? If so, what was the reply if you got one?

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