'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 5 April 2011

We didn't say we were Charlie Sheen. We said we were Mother Teresa

There has been an interesting debate over at Lib Dem Voice as to the reason why we languish in the polls compared to our coalition partners (see the ‘comments’ section). The argument seems to be that that we poll badly currently as we are blamed for the cuts and age of austerity – whereas cuts and attacks on public services are just what you expect the Tories to do, so they don’t lose ‘credit’ from the electorate. They are, after all, the ‘nasty party’.

I think this is nonsense.

The reason we languish in the polls compared to the Tories, when we are just a junior member of the coalition, is because before the election we – quite rightly – set ourselves against a higher moral standard. As demonstrated ably by the video below.

However, the danger with this is, that having set the benchmark by which you wish everyone to be judged, you have to live up to the expectation you have established.

This is hard enough to do when you pick just one or two areas. Look at the trouble Labour had when it said it was going to pursue ‘an ethical foreign policy’. Or John Major had when he took the moral high ground with ‘back to basics’.

When you set everything you do on this higher plane, it only takes one slip up and you will be deemed to have failed. We effectively have had two – tuition fees, and a general (if mistaken) belief that we’ve acquiesced to the Tories cuts programme. And we remain unforgiven.

That’s why we languish in the polls. We had further to fall from the moral high ground. And we are yet to bounce.

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