Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Liberal Voice of the Year? Speak Up Now!

Or, how do you solve a problem like Mark Littlewood? 2012 began with Liberal Democrat Voice criticised first because the shortlist for its “Liberal Voice of the Year” included only one woman, and then because someone many people didn’t like won. The two problems with this are that the shortlist emerged from nominations people submitted, with only one woman receiving enough from readers; and that the winner arose from votes cast on the site. So if you want a better nominations line-up, right now, this week only, is the time to tell LDV (and to then affect the winner, vote).

The other problem with the Liberal Voice of the Year award is that, of course, it’s designed to promote pluralism… And, as the rather unfortunate comment war when the last winner was announced demonstrates, nothing promotes tribalism like a call for pluralism. To be shortlisted, a person must not only receive at least a certain number of nominations from readers, showing at least some support to start with, but be a non-Lib Dem who’s advanced liberalism in the past 12 months. And if they’re not a Lib Dem (let alone if they are), by definition not everyone’s going to think they’re a Liberal. And complain. Mark’s win only provoked this in an exaggerated form, as he’s both a former Lib Dem and one associated with a particular branch of the Liberal family (some might say the mad aunt in the attic, but remember, there weren’t enough women nominations). Belated congratulations to Mark. I personally didn’t vote for him, but neither was I outraged by his victory, even if he has owed me money for more than two years now (if you’re reading, Mark, remember: you may have had a Pyrrhic victory, but a bet’s a bet).

So, What Can You Do?

If you want more women on the next shortlist, or more Liberals to your own sort of taste, or (ideally) both, nominations are only open this week (prompted via their readers’ survey, though I’m sure you can just email them). So think of some good candidates, and send them in. Then, if they’re shortlisted and you want them to win, why not spend the first two weeks of January – when the votes are a-clicking – writing promotional pieces to big up your candidate? Each year, a list appears, and plenty of people don’t know who they are until the missiles start firing when the ‘wrong’ one wins. Though, incidentally, as far as women candidates go, though this year’s shortlist didn’t promise much, in the previous four years two of the winners had been women, so the voters can share a little of the praise. Though I personally like 2012’s sole woman entrant, it looked like despite the complaints no-one was rallying round the sole woman, in theory a big advantage in a first-past-the-post election (and, LDV, that is in your gift to change, unlike the names or the result). She got just 4%.

It might even be an idea, if you have a brilliant nomination, to write a piece extolling their virtues today, and encourage everyone you know to nominate her or him, so they get to the starting gate this time.

Anyway, I didn’t join in the slanging match over Lib Dem Voice’s treatment of women this January, perhaps because this January I was too busy putting my head in my hands at Steven Moffat’s in Sherlock. Hurrah! An independent, sexually confident lesbian character! Plus, a faithfully non-villainous version of a famous character from the original stories who’s always traduced by every single ‘reimagining’ into an evil villain, because an independent, sexually confident woman who fascinates Sherlock must be evil. And, being a naturist, I wasn’t even going to complain about her being naked for extra Moffatitillation. That’s how happy I was until three-quarters of the way into A Scandal in Belgravia, when the non-villain was revealed as evil, and the lesbian fell for Sherlock, and the independent woman needed rescuing by our (male, if thankfully not butch) hero. Oh, Mr Moffat. If only all your writing was as honest and plausible as Lesbian Spank Inferno.

But I digress. I’ve already done the ‘chiding Lib Dem Voice over the Blogger of the Year Award’ thing, so this time I’m chiding you, dear reader. If you didn’t like last year’s choices, why not get your act together? Lib Dem Voice don’t rig the nominations or the vote. But you can, if you try! Be creative.

Personally, I’m good at writing an argument, but poor at choosing a hero. So I don’t have a whole series of ready-made nominations to start you off. I’ve racked my brain, and – having followed US politics obsessively for much of the year – here are, at least, two, for balance both women and both from a rather different branch of liberalism to Mark. What do you think of Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, who was responsible for the only defeat of an incumbent Senator (rather than incumbent party) this year, and whose populist economic message in effect defined the whole Democratic campaign this time? Or Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin, the first out lesbian – or, indeed, the first out LGBT person of any description – ever elected to the US Senate? Can you do better? Get thinking.

The other alternative that springs to mind is, of course, one that on two counts is probably ineligible: a sister party of the Liberal Democrats, within the UK, with many members in common, and a group rather than an individual. But when, today, Liberals are under potentially deadly repeated physical attack from fascist thugs on the streets of the UK, they are Liberal heroes.

You can support them at the Alliance Party website.

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