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Rebuilding Trust in the LibDems

There has been a debate in the LibDems since we entered coalition and in particular since the tuition fees debacle of how to go about regaining the electorate’s trust that we have evidently lost.

Many think that in order to start re-building the damage, Nick has to say “sorry”. Richard Morris from A View from Ham Common writing in the New Statesman wrote:

[A]t the forefront of people’s minds when they think of the Liberal Democrats. It is lack of trust. Betrayal. An inability to keep a promise. It is still tuition fees.

Most people in the party are pretty bored talking about this now — which is fine. But the country isn’t. Is there a pantomime in the land that didn’t feature a “Nick Clegg breaking a promise” joke this Christmas? I suspect not.

Richard thinks that in order to deal with this problem is to apologise. Neil Monnery asked Nick about this back in Birmingham last year. Nick’s reply was “I think about saying sorry every day”

I know the LibDems have a trust problem as does every other political party in the country. I don’t think apologising will work. Why? People won’t listen. They think its another trick. He’s saying “sorry” not because he thinks he has done anything wrong or actually means it but because his poll ratings are in the gutter. The thing about the word “sorry” in all situations is the person you are apologising knows that you’ve done something wrong and that they will try to lie about being sorry in order to get back into your good books.

An apology is only as good as the person telling it being able to say it with sincerity and honesty. If being dishonest is the reason why you need to apologise that is incredibly difficult to do. You have to show that your sorry before they will believe it.

We as a party have to show we are still the party we were pre-election if only now we are a little more grown-up and capable of governing.

What should Nick Clegg do in order to patch-up his relations with the electorate?

  1.  He has to do something/anything that shows he cares and that he gets it. He has to show that he may have gone to a private school but he is the exact opposite of the ‘old Etonian’ Cameron. The more this something goes against his self-interest the better. The less stage-managed it looks the better as well. Although I think there does need to be proof.
  2. This could be an alternative to 1 but probably best if done in conjunction with 1. Nick has to get other non-LibDems preferably those who have maybe felt “betrayed” or people who you wouldn’t think of supporting Nick or the LibDems to back Nick and the LibDems. To act as sort of social proof that yes actually people with expertise and from everyday life do support us. We’ve also got to do it in a way so that we aren’t perceived as being in these people’s pockets.
  3. Only once 1 is done (could be extended to no. 2 on its own depending on how successful no. 2 is at opening people’s minds to wanting to listen to us and believing us) can Nick apologise for breaking promises.
  4. Then we need a big concession from the Tories to show we have influence in government. Then we can start shouting about achievements we’ve made and things we want to do, if only these pesky Tories would allow us.

More and better media coverage I think would also help but won’t help Nick’s standing. Apologising can only be part of a strategy. If Nick apologises, then he has to show us that he means it and that he is still the guy we fell for during Cleggmania. If he can do that his ratings will go back up. If we as a party can show that we are still the party that we were before the election as well as showing(and explaining) why we are doing what we are doing in government then our poll ratings will rise.

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