'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Last night I found myself nodding sagely at Peter Mandelson. WHAT AM I DOING?

I'm reading Peter Mandelson's autobiography The Third Man. Yes, I know I'm late to it and you've all read it already. Please don't tell spoil the ending by telling me whodunnit.

While The Dark Lord is part of a very different political creed from us , I'm sure there's lots to learn from his experience. And indeed Chapter One has already revealed a very good insight for the Lib Dems.

When Gordon Brown invited Mandelson back into the fold, he asked him, as one of the few political strategists he knew, what he thought of the situation he found himself in. Mandelson's reply is revealing.

'Look, people have stopped listening to you. they have tuned out. They don't know what you believe. They don't know what your government is for. You have policies, but they don't seem joined up'.

This to me is exactly the problem we in the Lib Dems, and Nick Clegg in particular find themselves in. We are part of a coalition so our natural political and philosophical narrative is opaque at best. We have policies - but naturally they are not all joined up, as there are two parties at work here (and you don't build a political narrative in a few days coalition negotiations). Our reversals - especially on tuition fees - have meant that people really don't know what we stand for. So - as I blogged the other day - people have stopped listening.

Mandelson's advice was to form a new narrative, true to the Brown political philosophy. In summary , if people understand what you stand for, at least they'll listen to you - and you have a chance to persuade them that you are right. Currently they don't understand what we stand for so all the great things we are doing is lost to them as they are just not interested in hearing us.

Obviously this is harder for us to do than it was for Brown, as we are in a coalition. But if we are ever going to get back on people's radar, that's what we need to do.

Blimey. Taking advice from Peter Mandelson. It's really come to something, hasn't it...

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