I sing of arms and the man…

…who will be leader by the end of the day. Suddenly I wonder if the decision to make the announcement just before Christmas was cleverer than we all thought. The weather’s not too dreary, the newspapers are looking for think-piece material to fill their holiday editions, and the population is absurdly happy in a way only state-shackled, over-commercialised zombies about to spend two weeks eating their bodyweight in Quality Street can be.

So provided nothing dreadful happens anywhere (that is, any more dreadful than usual) and no cats do anything quite amusing, we can bask in a few days of decent media coverage. And how I would love it, how it would please my little heart, if we, blog-writers and blog-readers, could spin it out! It’s a commonplace in literary criticism that the reader takes part in a process as much as the writer. If you’re interested enough to read, I reckon you’re interested enough to write, so I have a project for your winter months. The leader already knows what he’s got to be getting on with – this is my version of a corresponding call to arms for all of us.

Once a week, or at some like suitable interval, I undertake to collect together and post a list of online media coverage. No doubt a whole team of keenies young enough to be my younger siblings already do this within Cowley Street, and any collaboration would be most welcome, but my focus will be slightly different.

I will be collecting pieces with comment threads that you, the gallant reader, can contribute to. I am continually struck by the energy, the intelligence and the conviction with which we shoot down trolls on Lib Dem Voice. But at least visiting trolls are engaging with us (except for the stupid ones, obviously, but they can just bugger off). There are people out there, probably not terribly committed politically, who are getting away with far worse calumnies every day than anything any activist opponent would consider realistic. I’ve blogged before about how a simple supply of information can really make a difference to someone’s perception of us. And doesn’t it sicken you to your by-definition decent soul, the number of comment threads that turn into a stream of abuse against the Lib Dems for lack of anyone to put up the opposite case? We just haven’t got the numbers out there in the political online mainstream, and we need them. We need us. If you see what I mean. If ever there was a concrete example of what the Cleggster is talking about when he says we must put an end to introspection, this is it.

I am mindful that it is not necessarily easy, if you’re not accustomed to mouthing off online, to expose yourself and your opinions to thousands of people (okay, hundreds). But please, dear reader, give it a try. You’ll be surprised, and slightly dismayed, at how quickly you acquire a taste for it. Try and spot each other, engage with each other in non-technical terms, and back each other up. Come and report back in my comments thread when you’ve had a discussion and tell everyone how it went. This is something we can all do, even when it’s too cold to go stuffing leaflets through letterboxes.

A taster call-to-arms this week:

Left for dead by New Labour, liberal Britain must urgently fight back – John Pilger, CiF, The Guardian. The first comment reads, “I can’t help but think the Lib Dems are to blame…”


  1. Shome mishtake shurely: a lib dem blogger talking about reading stuff that *isn’t* on Lib Dem voice?

    I think I might just die of shock!

    I am totally with you on this; the only way for Lib Demmers to get their message out into the public eye is to talk to people other than themselves. I would have thought that this would be obvious, but apparently it isn’t, so well done for saying it.

  2. Hmm..are you suggesting an internet based rapid rebuttal unit, run by volunteers with the objective of ensuring that Lib Dems are defended in non-Lib Dem forums?

    See, that sounds like a marvellous idea. I think some guidelines to prevent people getting pulled into flame wars and the like would be useful, and to ensure that people are all saying the similar things (if we contradict each other from site to site, comment to comment, that could be bad)

    But yes, this could really make a difference in terms of picking away at the attitudes of people reading political news/blogs on the net!

  3. Sounds like a good idea – the only caveat I’d put for when you start properly is to anonymise your links (Mat has a guide to how to do it on the LDV forum) so people don’t get tipped off by the sudden flood (or large trickle, depending on the size of your readership) of visitors from one location.

  4. Suddenly I wonder if the decision to make the announcement just before Christmas was cleverer than we all thought.

    I agree. The whole Christmas/Yule/New Year business is really about celebrating change and new beginnings (if you will forgive the sweeping compression of thousands of years of tradition into such a small description, and the implicit comparison with the new leader and the Son of Our Lord), and that’s hopefully what we’re getting. Out with the old: Brown, ‘New’ Labour and the like; in with the new: our new leader, and a refreshed sense of purpose. Let’s just hope that our party’s new year resolutions are more successful than my ‘go to the gym three times a week’ from last year.

  5. I seem to remember this has been suggested in the LDV forums, but then no one actually got up and did anything about it! In fairness, there are only so many hours in the day, and I choose to put my limited time for Lib Dem activities to other use – and I’d imagine many other people do the same, so I probably shouldn’t criticise too much.

    I’d be interested to know the number of people that read things like the BBC news etc “Have Your Say” sections. (Daily Mail often doesn’t publish vaguely supportive comments, I’ve noticed).

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