'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

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Good is the enemy of great...

The latest Lib Dem Voice survey poses a series of adjectives and ask us which we are happy to describe ourselves as.

To be honest I was blithely ticking loads of them when suddenly I got pulled up short by one in particular.


Now I've blogged on this before. In adland we say that good is the enemy of great. That you shouldn't just settle, you should always fight for the very best.

In politics we say something rather different.

Yes, we'd rather have PR - but we'll settle for AV if that's the best on offer

Yes, we want to abolish tuition fees - but we'll settle for a fairer way of paying for tertiary education

Yes, we'd like to abandon nuclear power - but we'll settle for a mix of options that reduces our overall carbon footprint.

Now, as a result of this pragmatism, we hope that the world is a better place after we have acted than before - even if it isn't quite as good a place as we'd like it to be.

But then something else happens.

Because we settle - we get criticised.

Why are you supporting a 'miserable little compromise'?
Why did you sign a pledge against fees?
Why did you say no to nuclear - and then allow new stations to be built.

This is the conundrum all politicians face.

Be radical, pure and principled - but get little done. Indeed, when I've advocated a principled approach I've been hammered on LDV as for being impractical.

Be pragmatic, cautious and (small c) conservative, and get hammered for being a hypocrite.

Yet it's a choice all of us in politics have to make. And I find it very tough.

Which is why I still don't know if I did the right thing around that box on the survey marked 'pragmatic'.

PS Of course, it would help if all politicians didn't try and make everything into a black and white issue all the time. 'An ethical foreign policy' is an example that readily springs to mind...

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