Monday, 20 June 2011

What a difference 3 years make

Back in 2008 the Lib Dem autumn conference was held in Bournemouth. One of the members of the media attending was the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts. At the time he wrote this charming article about the conference.

The most remarkable thing about it is the tone of the language used. For starters, it was headlined: In their trainspotter voices the LibDem activists discuss what to do in power.

And have a read of this extract:
"Opinion pollsters suggest that their share of the vote has shrivelled and that they are seen as the most Left-wing of the main parties. Many of their MPs could be facing oblivion. 
Are the activists worried? Don't seem it. Are they jittery? No. 
They puddle on, serene, earnest, discussing in their trainspotter voices what they intend to do when they win the general election. 
'We will gain seats!' squawked a turkey-necked MP called Richard Younger-Ross. With his head of curls he could be the singer Gilbert O'Sullivan. 
Gain seats? Yes dear, of course you are. Now how about a nice slice of fruitcake and something wet and warm in that cup before we take you back to the nursing home?"
See how patronising it is? How certain he was that the Lib Dems were a mildly curious and eccentric irrelevance that would never hold any significance?

Well, look at us now. A party of government with seats in the cabinet. A party implementing 75% of its manifesto. A unified party without the low level civil war currently rumbling merrily along in the Labour party or the constant outbursts of discontent from of the kind Cameron gets from the Conservative backbenchers.

People underestimated us in the past. Even now they blithely assure themselves that we will sink into irrelevance at the next general election, signalling a return to two party politics. But we succeeded. Decades of hard work carried us through the dark days of a parliamentary party with only five members to a party in government. We will probably suffer a setback in 2015, that is true, but we will survive and we will emerge stronger than ever. We are tenacious. Quentin Letts thought two years before the general election that we would lose seats. Now he's living under a government with Lib Dem ministers in it.

And that's the most important lesson of this coalition. The Lib Dems cannot be written off, we cannot be ignored and we cannot be dismissed as an irrelevance. People will try of course, but it will only make them more embarrassed when we succeed once again.

The Lib Dems have spent decades defying predictions of doom and surpassing expectations. It's in our blood. And in 2015, I'm certain we'll do it again.

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