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Political Stepford Wives

21 September 2011

21 September 2011

At the beginning of the conference season I mused on Twitter that these occasions
were very tribal, but that I had never been able to work out what defined the Liberal Democrat tribe. I was bombarded by suggestions. Iain Martin bluntly wrote: “What is the Lib Dem tribe?
Answer: A lot smaller than it used to be.” Andrew Boff, the Tory London Assembly member said, naughtily: “It depends on who they are talking to.” Peter Beaumont drew on his
experience as a foreign correspondent to paint a horrifying picture: “all sandals and penis gourds”. And Max Wind-Cowie pointed out what Nick Clegg himself recognises as a problem:
“Perhaps surprisingly an almost exclusively white, male & middle class tribe. Unlike either the Tory tribe or the Labour.”

These tweets were all sent prior to the conference and as it draws to a close there is a general consensus that something has changed. It has certainly become more professional, to the extent that
almost nothing of interest was said or debated on the conference floor. The highlight for me was watching Lynne Featherstone (fast becoming the Lib Dems’ best asset) ticking off James Landale
for being a misery guts. But that was just showbiz. There were a few more black and Asian faces at conference this year but most debates and fringes were a symphony of pinky-greyishness.

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The machine had clearly instructed every minister to use the phrase: “Thanks to the Liberal Democrat influence in the coalition…”

Only a Liberal Democrat politician could utter the lines “I have a dream that one day all bus users will have executive lounges” as I heard during the debate on well-being. But it was a
relief to finally hear some dissent when a delegate pointed out that a debate on well-being isn’t a debate at all. "This is not a debate it is self-congratulation. We are fiddling while
Rome burns. We are political Stepford Wives," she said.

Ultimately though, despite the hard choices of government and their new professionalism, I get the feeling the Liberal Democrats still want to be liked. I tested the new Liberal Democrats at a
fringe meeting on the subject of violent extremism hosted by the Community Security Trust. I attack the iconic cuddly liberal Simon Hughes for his support of an anti-Zionist fringe group and
condemned the party for making common cause with Islamists in some parts of the country in the chase for votes. They clapped politely.

I realise the Lib Dems can be dirty street fighters in local politics but at conference they remain the Tribe of Nice.


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Show comments
  • Archibald

    Erica, after lunch and just before getting back to work, I had a quick look on Twitter and found the most innocuous ‘exchange’ between Bright and this chap Stephen Gash who you’ve decided is a right wing nutter as you disagree with him (I have no idea who he is other than he wants and English parliament, and I don’t care to delve further). To call it an exchange is quite frankly giving it more importance than it deserves, it was a very short polite response to a comment Gash made. Also, I or anyone else can see it on Twitter, so to call it a cosy chat is nothing short of very serious delusion. Erica, listen to me, you really need to get yourself some help, will you do that please? I know you can get into these things gradually and as you get more extreme slowly over time it gets harder and harder to distinguish between what you see and reality, but all is not lost. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Martin. Do it for yourself. And maybe Rhoda.

  • Martin Bright

    Rhoda — the invitation passed me by. I must have seemed very rude. Happy to meet any time.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Erica, if it is not OK for Martin to be communicating with those you deem to be of the far right (whatever you mean by that, and it can’t be nazis, for they loved Islam) then why are you here talking to me and the other evil and insane denizens of the CH?

  • Erica Blair

    Aren’t you interested in Martin Bright’s cosy chats with the far right?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Erica Blair : 8.04pm and 8.09pm

    Are these questions to which you expect an answer, or are they merely examples of the modern sixth-form mentality wherein posing an assertion as a question is seen as a devious and/or lazy way to give the assertion more substance than it deserves, in the absence of the corroboration which is required to make a naked assertion more than a naked assertion?

  • Erica Blair

    …or are you too busy exchanging cosy Tweets with far-right Islamophobes like Stephen Gash?

  • Erica Blair

    So Martin, how are you doing with your mission to ‘make the progressive case for Israel’? Is your comrade Avigdor Lieberman still planning to bomb the Aswan Dam and arm the PKK?

  • wrinkled weasel

    You never hear the words “so and so, leading Liberal Democrat intellectual”.

  • Fergus Pickering

    What on earth is a penis gourd? Which Lib Dem has one? Simon Hughes?

  • Noa.

    Rhoda

    “..I only hide my true id because my views are evil and insane..”

    Then I am not alone.

  • Archibald

    To be fair Martin, I had a few pops at you about not properly dissecting the EDL but I think they were legitimate enough points.

    David Lindsay has knocked the wind out of my sails a tad. I apologize if I’ve wrongly labelled you as Jewish. I will at this point add the classic Seinfeld disclaimer ‘not that there’s anything wrong with that.’

    It would appear I have got Nick Cohen wrong also, I don’t know, the name, the JC references – 2 plus 2 equals 5.

    God, you just don’t know who to hate any more… which is not a thought to be developed any further, as I think someone rather over-thought that one before.

  • David Lindsay

    I thought you weren’t Jewish? And Nick Cohen rather bizarrely claimed not to be in the run-up to the Iraq War, although I don’t know if he is still keeping that one up.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Yes, I use a pseudonym, but Pete knows who I am. I invited Martin to lunch once, to no reply, but I only hide my true id because my views are evil and insane.

  • Martin Bright

    Archibald — there would be something wrong with the world if I didn’t get it in the neck from Rhoda and “Erica”. But at least Rhoda doesn’t hide being a pseudonym… or does she?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    “It has certainly become more professional, to the extent that almost nothing of interest was said or debated on the conference floor.”

    Excellent observation, Martin.

  • Archibald

    Don’t worry Martin, she’s not just picking on you because you’re Jewish, she’s also laying in to Nick Cohen. Hang on, isn’t he..? Oh dear.

  • Martin Bright

    Rhoda,you make afair point. “Erica”, you don’t.

  • Erica Blair

    ‘I attack the iconic cuddly liberal Simon Hughes for his support of an anti-Zionist fringe group and condemned the party for making common cause with Islamists in some parts of the country in the chase for votes. ‘

    Pass the sick-bag Alice!

  • Rhoda Klapp

    “a symphony of pinky-greyishness.”

    Raaaaaaacist!

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