Sunday, October 15, 2006

Perceptions from the Front line...Pro Lib Dem but Anti Ming Campbell students...

I spent much of yesterday amongst starry eyed freshers at the University of York's annual freshers fair, trying to convince all comers to ignore the lure of many of the other more extravagant student socities and throw their lot in with the Lib Dems. As ever our stall was very well supported and generated a lot of interest, even if the odd client was more interested in getting their hands on one of the iconic 'homophobia is gay' badges, than actually joining the party. Although we appeared to attract as many supporters as in previous years, there was one recurrent theme amongst a significant proportion of the students that i spoke to; that of hostility towards Ming Campbell.

Comments ranged from the predictable 'politics is all about image now', to "David Cameron just seems a more approachable man", comments that would be music to the ears of the Tory PR machine. In a majority on instances, once one of us on the stall engaged the students on the relative merits of Liberal Democrat policy and steered the conversation away from Ming Campbell, the reception we received was far more positive. I do however believe that this hesitancy towards Ming Campbell amongst students is something that the party needs to actively look to combat. Ming's pledge upon becoming leader about surrounding himself with a young team needs to be fulfilled; as although we certainly have many young stars in key frontbench positions, the public profiles of the likes of Clegg, Goldsworthy etc is still very limited. Equally, i am not claiming that we should patronise our student voters by arguing that they only respond to youthful faces; alongside promoting our young stars, it is imperative that we continue to paint Cameron's Conservatives as being opportunist and wholly bereft of substance. The key being to engage young people not on the relative merits of Cameron vs Campbell (a battle i fear we would lose) to a battle between the party's relative positions on the major issues of the day. With a special focus on the the environment, foreign policy (particularly Iraq) and public services. Let battle commence!

Oh and if you happen to be reading this post on my York facebook account- then please come to our Lib Dem welcome event- &:30pm on Monday 16th oct- see



Anonymous said...

Hmmm... 'politics is all about image now' - that sounds like its not welcomed by people.
Isn't that part of what Ming is trying to combat?

I suppose at least Ming has profile, the problem is to change that to a more positive one.

Then again, we cannot simply pander to the students, although they should form a major part of our support (hence many arguments against the pandering to pensioners we do so much), but if had we let the Young Liberals dominate in the 60s and 70s we'd have Peter Hain as party leader and some sort of anarcho-syndicalist party - ie a dead one...

Ming needs to get across his intellect and gravitas without looking like being patronising.
The younger members of parliament are becoming prominent, which is good.

The other thing which is needed is greater visibility of councillors, MEPs, MSPs and AMs and I suppose PPCs. Especially at the local level, visible, principled, charismatic, liberal people with a strong local profile would be ideal...

Ryan Morrison said...

I thought it was fashionable to be mates with an old person (or did that go out of fashion as soon as it became fashionable? I'm 25 now so am starting to lose track lol).

Personally I think Ming is much more personable and approachable than the smarmy git faced chancer that David Cameron comes across as.

I think Liberal parties as a whole have always had a bit of a problem with image. We tend not to move the celebrity chancers to the top of the tree, favouring the elder statesman (or someone with policies) instead.

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