Sunday, September 10, 2006


Raising Your Voice

I’m waving sleepily this morning at Liberal Democrat Voice, Rob Fenwick’s new nearly-official-but-still-gossipy Lib Dem ‘place to talk’. Do pop over and have a look; I should warn you that, while neglecting here for a few days, I’ve been writing a piece for this new site. It’s Lib Dem Conference in a week, and I’d carefully read through key papers Fairer, Simpler, Greener and Trust in People: Make Britain Free, Fair and Green. My copies are now covered in red biro, from which I drafted an article in which you can read what I make of them, It’s About Money.

I don’t know what to make of Liberal Democrat Voice yet, but I hope it’ll take off. A place for us to debate without having to sign up to a particular service provider, an information digest, a source of gossip… Looks a handy bunch of things. The party’s main website is useful but, blimey, it’s dull (for Lib Dem news I normally just look at Colin Ross’ blog, as he takes most of the official press releases and converts them into something that doesn’t send me to sleep).

I suspect the big talking point to start with won’t be my policy analysis, but who’s to be the next Party President (or ‘Simon Hughes hit by lightning bolt!’ as the graphic suggests. Perhaps he should have listened to Lembit). Stephen Tall’s poll has already made it clear there’s not a lot of support for incumbent Simon Hughes should he stand for a second term (currently languishing in seventh place), and – as that job is effectively deputy leader of the party in the country – it could be a crucial fight if there’s a challenge for re-election for the first time since the early ’90s. But it’s not just gossip; there are PPC ads (ooh!), local by-elections (gosh!), Mark Pack’s Ming Campbell: the Movie (strewth!) and, to show how serious it is, Rob has abandoned his normal pouting portrait to pull a very serious face indeed on the front page.

Usually when I’m writing an article, I start off with a few notes, write through and then just read it through before posting to correct mistakes. The only attention I pay to word counts – you’ll probably have guessed – is the first 100 (hello, Lib Dem Blogs ‘trailer’). This time I started with over 8,000 words of notes and gradually worked out the article from them, then after a day off and some helpful feedback, rewrote the whole thing from top to bottom. Along the way I took out most of my analysis of the tax paper, then cut down what I had to say on the Meeting the Challenge paper to focus on my two big problems with it – a muddled message, and economic determinism. Yes, not only does this mean you have the chance to see what one of my pieces looks like if I’ve actually thought about it for a week rather than dashing it straight out (ooh, what a treat!), but it means it could have been at least three times as long (possibly over Mr Fenwick’s dead body).

Huge thanks to the fellow Lib Dem blogger who supplied detailed comments on wording, sentence structure and the bits that didn’t make a lot of sense, all at short notice; thanks also to Rob’s editorial suggestions on how to cut it down from well over three times his suggested length to a mere two and a half times what he’d asked for. Both were kinder than I was to a booklet by Paddy Ashdown on which I was once asked to give my youthful views; I helpfully supplied 20 pages of notes for a 32-page publication, starting with changing the title, and caused his then Head of Office to tell me “You were only asked to comment on it, not rewrite the whole f*****g thing!” My name was misspelt in the published version, which I suspect may have been getting their own back…

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"Simon Hughes hit by lightning bolt!"

That made me laugh so much I nearly choked on my bacon sandwich.

Your piece is packed to bursting point with juicy stuff, so I hope the presidential gossip doesn't drown it out :o)
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