Author Archives: Mark Blackburn

Agenda 2020 Essay #10: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

Completely by chance, I’m writing this in the very house David Lloyd George lived and died. I’m here on a retreat for a few days, but had no idea of the history of the house when I booked. Almost one hundred years ago he became leader of the Wartime Coalition. Yes, another coalition, and then as now, not good for the Liberal Party. More importantly for my purpose here, he was the one of the architects and founders of the modern welfare state, worked closely with Keynes to formulate economic policy, and in his final vote in the Commons in 1943, condemned the government for their failure to back the Beveridge report.

It wasn’t easy to be a Liberal then, and history shows the decline of the party during that period and subsequently, though Lloyd George maintains a reputation as one of our finest Prime Ministers. Certainly, it isn’t easy to be a Liberal Democrat now. Some write us off, only 8% of the vote, only eight seats in the House of Commons. Still, that represents over two million voters, more than the SNP, a considerable franchise.

Consider also that the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey found more young people than ever have liberal attitudes. So the recovery of a Liberal Democrat party isn’t a hopeless case. But as what sort of party? As one standing for vague centrism, more economically competent and less scary than Labour, but kinder than the Conservatives? No, we’ve seen where ‘equidistance’ got us in May. We were so busy trying to straddle the middle ground our legs got further and further apart until the electorate kicked us firmly where it hurts. We must also avoid the revisionism which blames it all on nasty Lynton Crosby frightening our voters away at the last minute, complicit with the SNP threat to the Union. Doubtless this exacerbated our disastrous performance, but the situation was pretty dire already – 10 of our 11 MEPs lost in 2014 and thousands of councillors over the last five years.

Posted in News | Tagged | 3 Comments

Opinion: It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

Only four days after the cataclysm, already there’s a rosy (garden?) hue about our ignominious performance – martyrs to the cause of the Coalition, country before self-interest, fallen heroes. History will be kinder to us than the electorate. If we are ever going to recover from our nemesis, this is a very dangerous mindset.

Of course it was always going to be tough being in Coalition with the Conservatives, and a price was always going to be paid. But as Lord Steel said right after Nick Clegg’s moving farewell speech, it wasn’t the Coalition itself that destroyed trust in us and …

Posted in Op-eds | 40 Comments

Jessops – is administration a euphemism for obliteration?

Sadly, yesterday another retailer went into administration, this time Jessops, the high street camera chain. For the time being it continues to trade but the jobs of its 2000 employees in 200 stores are under threat. Surprisingly, Christmas can be a bad time for retailers – rents are due on Christmas Day and if the expected bumper sales don’t materialise, the money may not be there to pay them.

Obviously it’s not going to get any easier for ‘bricks and mortar’ store chains with the continuing increase in online sales, but there’s a more fundamental problem – apart from the massive …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments
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