By Joshua Dixon
We often cite the miscommunication of our achievements in Government as the biggest reason as to why we are not regaining public support. Whilst I believe that is very much a part of the issue, there is a much bigger problem. That problem is that we are not trusted. I have been in many situations where I have done my best to convince many of my peers that the party is doing its best in Government to implement as many Liberal Democrat policies as possible and is doing so with a good deal of success. But as soon as I even suggest some form of new proposals I usually get the same response: “Well if Nick Clegg has said it then it probably won’t happen”.
But how do politicians and a whole political party regain the trust lost to so many voters? In a way we could solve the problem by getting rid of every Liberal Democrat who the public don’t “trust”, which of course is absurd but is sadly the sort of stuff I hear from people. So we need to accept that we cannot win every lost voter back. But what we can do, other than winning some back, is to seek out voters who have previously never voted Liberal Democrat. To achieve this we really need to show off what we truly believe and what we are achieving. We are traditionally seen as a party of the centre-left (which actually means very little) and a party that Labour voters would occasionally switch to when they feel the threat of the Tories rising. However, I believe we need to break out of this. The fact we are in coalition with the party many voters used to use us to stop from gaining power makes it very difficult for us to fit into our previous mould. Now, as I said, we need to break away from how people previously regarded our party. We need to show that we are not worth of protest and tactical votes, but of votes from people who actually believe we can govern and govern successfully.
Our first step to being that sort of party is complete as we are already showing that we are more than capable to be a party of Government. As I said above, we have managed to not just implement Lib Dem policy, but to also help safeguard many of the poorest in society in times of economic uncertainty (the income tax threshold raise, the pension rises and the pupil premium being examples of this). But we need to build on this momentum. We have recently seen a lot of praise from the media to Nick Clegg and his very forthright speeches on the need to pursue our income tax policy faster than previously. Nick is very successfully showing us as a party who are unwilling to forget those who struggle most in such an economic climate. But furthermore we need to be clearer of our objectives in coalition. The coalition agreement is necessary to go by, but we need to look what we know we can achieve and what we probably can’t. An example of what I am trying to say is with the mansion tax. We know it is party policy, but the prospects of us introducing it are unlikely. If we are less than certain of the likelihood of implementing such a policy then I truly believe we need to concentrate on what we can. I can’t imagine a more irritating situation than if in 2015 we are viewed as the party that tried to implement a number of policies, but failed, when what we should have spent our time doing is making sure we keep the promises we know we can; the income tax policy being a good place to start.
If it took us just a few months to lose trust because of tuition fees, VAT and other policy areas then I certainly do not see why we can’t regain vast support in 3 years by achieving what we know we can and achieving it with great success. As I said, we need to accept that some voters are lost forever. But just look at how unpopular Thatcher’s government was in the 80s yet they still managed to pull voters back (with 1992 being the highest vote share a party has received in history). Looking at history and looking at what we can achieve from here, I know the Liberal Democrats will not be sent to electoral demolition in 2015.