Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Liberalism For Short Attention Spans

How would you sum up what the Liberal Democrats stand for in, at most, 140 characters? That’s Darrell’s Twitter-inspired question today. Though I admit I read some people’s Tweets, regular readers will realise that extreme brevity isn’t really me – but, always up for a challenge, here are my first two bashes: What would you say? And, Darrell, what’s yours?

I’m sure I can come up with better, but those are just off the top of my head. I’m happier with 140 words, of course. Or 140 paragraphs. But that’s for another day.

Darrell got his idea originally from Conservative Home; I have to say, I like one of their entries, “Dislike of stuff does not equal a law against that stuff. Humans more important than machine algorithms. And love; always.” Send that man a Liberal Democrat membership form, because that bears no relation to any Conservative Party in history.

A poster called resident leftie, whom I subtly suspect of not being a member of the Conservative Party, suggests, “If you believe that the Britain is broken, that the past is better than the future and that poverty is fault of the poor, vote Conservative.” Less flattering, but more accurate.

Spot-on for Mr Cameron’s policy agenda, davidtbreaker sums up the next election campaign from the largest Opposition party: “Conservatives, we aren’t the Labour Party”.

Updates: Despite being known for ten-hour Budget speeches, Mr Gladstone very nearly made it to Tweet length with one of his most famous couplets, and one that’s easy to edit down to fit Twitter:
“The principle of Liberalism is trust in the people, qualified by prudence. The principle of Conservatism is mistrust of the people, qualified by fear.”
I’d say that the principle of the Labour Party is mistrust of the people, qualified by the tabloids, but of course the Labour Party doesn’t actually have any principles left.

Last year, Lib Dem Voice asked a similar question – “Can you sum up the purpose of the Lib Dems in a sentence? (Or ‘The Quest for the Lib Dem Holy Grail’)” – which is almost at the Twitter limit on its own, and I came up with several suggestions, all of them improbably under 140 characters. Search the thread for what I said there, but my suggestions fell into two categories. Most of them were after something that gets Lib Dems nodding, but puts some people off – because if you can’t disagree with it, it doesn’t mean anything important or different – and the last one, which wasn’t very good, was trying to think of ‘the sort of thing you might say in conversation, rather than in a speech or a slogan’: And the Labour Party’s core message – which you’ll be seeing an awful lot over the next year – is blatantly:
“We’re shit, and we know we are, but, ooohh! The Tories! Scary!”

And another new one I’ve just thought of, this time a bit less positive: That’s not a million miles from the Nineteenth Century Liberal Party’s “Peace, Retrenchment and Reform,” is it? Which reminds me that, particularly these days, I should probably add something populist about cleaning up politics, given we’ve been talking reform for a hundred and fifty years…

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An interesting post. I'll see if I can come up with something. I am very fond of the Gladstone quote; as for the Labour version I would modify yours to "The principle of the Labour Party is mistrust of the people, qualified by paternalism/good intentions" (delete the last as appropriate depending on how good you think their intentions are).
For the Tories, try this:

"I do not know which makes a man more conservative--to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past." -John Maynard Keynes

And maybe this one I found on the net could be adapted for the LDs:

"If you're a liberal, anything you say is protected. If you're a conservative, anything you say is hateful."
Reassuring to see you can write at length about being brief :-)
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