Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Brexit, one year on

A lot can change in a year.

On 23rd June 2016, I was left heartbroken after a tough and exhausting referendum campaign saw a victory for an insular nationalist vision of Britain.

The vote to Leave has divided our country in a way even ‘Project Fear’ could never have imagined.

After the referendum, we were told that the populist right was on an unstoppable rise. Geert Wilders, Netherland’s answer to Donald Trump, would storm to victory in the Dutch general election; Marine Le Pen would triumph over the established political consensus in the French Presidential election; and the Liberal Democrats’ fight to keep Britain in Europe was laughed off.

But a lot can change in a year.

Our ALDE sister Party, VVD, secured victory in the Netherlands with a lead of over 8 points. Voters in France chose a pro-European liberal vision of hope as Emmanuel Macron overwhelmingly won the Presidency and obtained an absolute majority in the French Parliament.

And in the UK, it’s still all to fight for. Theresa May called a general election to ask the electorate to force through her destructive Brexit and the public refused to give her the mandate.

The latest polling on Brexit shows big movement – 53 per cent of people now back the Lib Dem position for a final say on the Brexit deal.

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Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

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Latest Social Liberal Forum Publication Now Available: “Northern Discomfort: An Analysis of the Lib Dem performance in the 2017 General Election”

Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the Social Liberal Forum is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of  liberals—in particular social liberals– everywhere.

We are very grateful to Michael Mullaney for writing his excellent analysis of the General Election results, especially as it focuses on the fate of the party in significant regions of  England.  We now hold only one seat in the north of England (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and looking at the north, the Midlands, Wales and East Anglia combined, we defended only seven of the 16 second places we were defending, and lost our seats in Leeds Northwest, Sheffield Hallam and Ceredigion.

The story of this General Election is undoubtedly the fall in vote share to 7.4%–wonderful as it may be to have increased our tally of MPs by four– and the party facing irrelevance in large parts of the north, and other parts of the country.   This is particularly distressing, as our policies would make such a difference to people living in these regions of England.

At the end of his piece, Michael says,

….there is a large potential market place for centre-left progressive politics.  This gives us the opportunity at the next election to present the public with a progressive, social liberal agenda.

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A candidate’s tale: Part 2

Today Richard continues his account of his campaign in Macclesfield in the General Election. You can read Part 1 here.

We planned a campaign to make maximum use of social media – the leafleting of the 21st Century. (Don’t worry. We had plenty of leaflets too!)

Having practiced our high-visibility public-facing events – canvassing and hustings – we captured them in photos and posted through Facebook and Twitter, so people could see we were out there talking to the voters, taking the campaign seriously. A weekend’s events could be spread …

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Layla Moran MP writes: Where I stand on the leadership contest

My, it feels a long time ago since June 9th.

My first few days in Parliament have been hectic, exhilarating and at times utterly magical. The first time you sit on the Green Benches and you pinch yourself to check you’re not dreaming. Accidentally on purpose getting lost in the warren of passages and have policemen refer to you as ma’am (being in my early 30s I find this very odd indeed). Your first engagement as the MP in the constituency and random people stopping you with huge smiles to say how happy they are that ‘we did it!’. Having a quick nap and waking up to find the Leader who got us there has decided to step down. Thud.

Like many of you, the changing of this particular guard was not something I remotely expected, nor indeed desired.

I was hoping for a period of stability. Not least for me and my fellow new MPs to have time to settle in and tackle such mundane tasks as: work out how the internet works (very well actually), where the ladies’ loos are (clearly an afterthought in some areas) and where all the post has gone (in the hidden Post Office off Central Lobby, 3 bags worth).

I have a very sage member in my constituency who has a mantra: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”.

This is the approach that got OxWAb to the narrow win we achieved.  It is what will drive us to hold on to it.

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Early Bird Discount for Autumn Conference ends tomorrow

Make sure you register for Autumn Conference before the end of tomorrow to qualify for the Early Bird Discount.

A reminder of the post I wrote when registration opened:

An email from Andrew Wiseman, chair of Federal Conference Committee, announced that registration was open for Autumn Conference in Bournemouth.

The Dorset town is my favourite conference venue. Maybe I’m just biased because the weather was so gorgeous the last time we were there, and the Goat and Tricycle pub is one of the nicest and has fantastic beer, but I’d strongly recommend coming. Let’s hope that we have many more MPs to welcome, too.

The exceptionally good news is that the Early Bird Discount rate would normally run out before the election, but it has been extended until 23rd June. This shows that the Conference Office and Federal Conference Committee have listened to criticism they received (some of it from me) about previous events when the discount has expired at a time when it would have caused difficulties for people. So, well done to them for that. 

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Introducing Lib Dem Immigrants

When I moved to the UK, I couldn’t see myself joining any party that wasn’t pro-immigrant – seeing as now, suddenly, I was one. Sadly there’s not a lot of competition there, but it helped make it clear that the Liberal Democrats were right for me. I’ve always been glad to share the party with people who share my conviction that immigration is a good in itself (when the best you’ll get from most other parties is that we have to hold our noses and accept it for the economic benefits) and, at least as importantly, that immigrants are fellow humans who deserve to be treated well.

Now I’m part of a new group seeking official recognition by the party, called Lib Dem Immigrants. The name has the potential to be ambiguous – people have already asked “can people who aren’t immigrants join?” (the answer is resoundingly yes) – but I think it’s worth it to center the focus of our group on immigrants as people rather than immigration as an abstract subject for debate.

The first piece I wrote for Lib Dem Voice was about how the UK immigration system had harmed my mental health, and in my experience that kind of anecdote – the immigrant, not immigration – is more effective than figures and economic arguments, true as those things may be, in convincing people that a liberal approach to immigration is best for us all.

If we as Lib Dems exist to promote and protect freedom from povery, ignorance and conformity, immigrants are suffering on all three counts. 

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael BG 23rd Jun - 6:17pm
    I think Andy Cooke has forgotten that the Labour Party was in government in 1924 and 1929-31. Also in 1997 the Labour Party had very...
  • User AvatarPsi 23rd Jun - 6:08pm
    I think it would be a useful addition to the campaign to have some interviews that try and probe as close to a hostile media...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 23rd Jun - 5:56pm
    I'm sick of the DUP being so influential but the public have rejected coalition. Next parliament I think Confidence and Supply should be on the...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 23rd Jun - 5:51pm
    Most people I have spoken with (outside of Labour activists) consider the coalition government to have been a pretty successful one in the circumstances and...
  • User AvatarDavid Blake 23rd Jun - 5:45pm
    Russell Kent - one of Nick's mistakes was to always be seen sitting next to David Cameron. He should have sat with his Liberal Democrat...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 23rd Jun - 5:39pm
    Carolyn. the fact that 'we see what has happened these last 2 years when the Tories have governed on their own' is because we allowed...
Sat 1st Jul 2017