Bad day in Black Rock… and Croydon North and Rotherham…

It is perhaps a sign of the times that three Parliamentary by-elections took place yesterday, and even your day editor mentally filed them under “not that interesting”. After all, all three were safe Labour seats at a point in the electoral cycle when the other two major parties are doing a bunch of unpopular things. Naturally, Labour held all three easily, although had they managed to lose even one, the media would doubtless have found room on their front page somehow.

In Croydon North, Marisha Ray did at least have the consolation of beating Respect’s Lee Jasper into sixth place, coming fourth with 840 votes, which represented 3.5% and a lost deposit. For Labour, Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council, increased their share of the vote to 64.4%, whilst the Conservatives came second with 16.8% and UKIP saved their deposit with 5.7%.

In Rotherham, the public appear to have spoken, and their message was that, if you don’t take them seriously, they’ll vote for anyone who responds to their frustration. In a result which speaks volumes for the one party state that is that part of South Yorkshire, UKIP came second with 21.8%, the BNP third with 8.5% and Respect fourth with 8.4%. Unfortunately, whilst the Conservatives clung onto the deposit in fifth place with 5.7%, Mike Beckett came eighth with 481 votes (2.1%), which meant our second lost deposit of the night.

Finally, because you should always end on a high note (and I accept that this is entirely relative), in Middlesbrough, George Selmer, part of the incredibly effective campaign team from the Redcar triumph in 2010, came third with 1,672 (9.9%), behind Labour’s Andy McDonald with 10,201 votes (60.5%) and UKIP on 1,990 votes (11.8%).

So, what have we learnt from last night?

Firstly, all three contests were in seats where Liberal Democrats polled below their national share in 2010 (Croydon North 14.0%, Middlesbrough 19.9%, Rotherham 16.0%). Indeed, in two of them, Croydon North and Rotherham, our share of the vote fell between 2005 and 2010 – it was up 1.2% in Middlesbrough over that period. From that, one can reasonably conclude that Liberal Democrat support in seats like these is relatively sparse, and vulnerable to a vicious squeeze in a by-election.

Second, in low turnouts, the fringe candidates come to the fore when public confidence in more mainstream political parties is low. UKIP rode the wave of the Rotherham fostering scandal to achieve their best ever result in a Parliamentary election, but still lost comfortably. Respect tried to game the betting markets in Croydon North to imply that their candidate was a threat to Labour there. He wasn’t.

Thirdly, in an election where the result really isn’t in doubt, people vote to stay at home on a cold winter evening.

These weren’t great results for the Party, although the prospects of them being anything other than a battle to retain the deposit were slim. If there’s any consolation, it is that these by-elections will not be any real guide to the outcome of the 2015 General Election nationally.

Finally, Liberal Democrats should be thankful for Marisha, Mike and George, whose efforts in carrying the Liberal Democrat banner under very trying circumstances are worthy of note.

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238 Comments

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Nov '12 - 10:21am

    I think you should also conclude that the LibDems are no longer the main repository for protest votes and that UKIP have taken that role – which all supports the view that it was never the LibDems politics that really attracted the votes in the first place.

  • “Mike Beckett came seventh with 481 votes (2.7%), which meant our second lost deposit of the night.”

    I think he came eighth, not seventh.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Nov '12 - 10:23am

    “Respect tried to game the betting markets in Croydon North to imply that their candidate was a threat to Labour there.”

    Any evidence – would be quite damning is this were the case given that they usually try to appeal to the Islamist vote.

  • A tad of wishful thinking in here.

    This is looking at this in a far too dispassionate way.

    The truth is the vote dropped by 10% or more in all the seats – lost deposits and also humiliation in Rotherham

    Can you point me to where there have been similar results in the past – surely the situation from last night has been replicated before. Liam previously suggested something which turned out to be nonsense when you looked at the actual results

    Why do you not make the link between all the poor results you have and your performance in Government. It is the only thing that is never given as a reason

  • I think you’re rather downplaying UKIP’s performance, unlike John Curtice on TODAY this morning.

    To balance that, there’s rather a fascinating (and overlooked) statistic about UKIP’s performance in the big batch of local byelections a fortnight ago: in 6 of those contests, UKIP had previously fielded a candidate, and in all 6 of those UKIP’s share of the vote fell.

  • Dominic Curran 30th Nov '12 - 10:26am

    a fair report, but i’m not sure there was sufficient analysis of ‘why’. Mid term blues and a cold night is far too sanguine a response to a collapse in our vote in at least two of those three elections. The party really needs to wake up from this slumber, as it’s stumbling into a rout in 2015 at this rate.

  • Liam

    You said the results were similar to those in the 2000 by-elections. This is nonsense. In two of the three you gained share compared to 1997 GE an din the other it was the speaker’s seat but the result looked sensible. All kept deposits and were not relegated to behind smaller parties. How does this equate?

    Mark, the results are not surprising taking into account the performance since 2010. LD have also seen some squeeze in particular cases (Glasgow North East) in the past but this is a consistent story in this Parliament

  • It’s worth at these times remembering our performance in the 1999 Hamilton South by-election where we came 6th on 3.3% of the vote and behind the Hamilton Academical FC candidate. That’s not to deny these were awful results and even in government we should be hoping to do better than this, but we need to be wary of reading too much in to these results.

    Unfortunately this parliament has been particularly difficult for us in terms of having a lot of by-elections in places where we have always underperformed in General Elections, and very few in better seats. In the places where there were by-elections where we do generally do better such as Oldham East & Saddleworth and Leicester South, we have at least performed credibly – up 0.3% in one and down 4.4% in the other – even though I accept they still weren’t good results.

  • I have been a follower of UK politics for most of my 45 or so years. I truly don’t know what the Lib Dems are for. They are a protest vote, they are the opposition to Labour in the most Tory hating places, but what are they FOR? I would vote for a truly liberal party but that doesn’t seem to be the Lib Dems who are a large state, nannying party not dissimilar to Labour. They may have people with liberal instincts but they never get heard above the tax and spend statism from the leadership.

    I think is was all downhill from when the fifth column socialist SDP merged with you. You could never be a liberal party with that group of lefties.

    But now the liberalism we do see in UK politics comes from others including tory modernisers such as Hannan and Carswell . Even UKIP seems more liberal than the Lib Dems!

    What about reinventing yourselves as the Liberal arty of old- having deeply held principles etc.

  • Mebbe the LibDems are wrong on europe, wrong on immigration and thats why they were punished. Or maybe they were the recepticle for protest votes of people who never expected LibDems in government.

  • “It’s worth at these times remembering our performance in the 1999 Hamilton South by-election where we came 6th on 3.3% of the vote and behind the Hamilton Academical FC candidate.”

    The trouble with historical examples like these is that they usually concern seats where the Lib Dems already had a very poor showing at the previous general election. In 1997 the Lib Dems had polled only 5.1% at Hamilton South, so their vote share at the by-election fell by only 1.9 percentage points.

    In yesterday’s by-elections the change in the Lib Dem vote share was -10.0 (starting from 19.9), -10.5 (from 14.0), -13.9 (from 16.0).

    It’s really not the same thing at all.

  • @ Bazzasc

    “Why do you not make the link between all the poor results you have and your performance in Government.”

    Because there is none? How, with 8% of MPs, could we have performed a miracle with a bombed out UK economy, saved the public finances without cutting anything anyone notices and single handedly stopped the Tories implementing any of their policies at all? That seems to be what people who have defected to Labour or aren’t turning out to vote for us now were expecting in 2010.

  • Guido you are wrong. Both the Liberal Democrats and UKIP currently have 12 MEPs.

  • Peter Chegwyn 30th Nov '12 - 12:39pm

    “These weren’t great results for the Party”? Under-statement of the year!

    Of course it’s easy to say they were all safe Labour seats and we were never going to win them anyway but finishing 4th in Croydon and 8th in Rotherham is, by any standards, disappointing to say the least.

    How low do we have to go before some people wake up and smell the coffee?

    I declare a personal interest having been the Agent in previous parliamentary by-elections in Rotherham (1976) when we finished 3rd in the midst of the Lib-Lab pact and the Jeremy Thorpe / Norman Scott scandal, and in Croydon North West (1981) over half of which is in the current Croydon North seat, which we won as the Liberal-SDP Alliance.

    We were a long way off winning yesterday!

    What’s clear is that the ‘protest’ vote which used to come our way in parliamentary by-elections is now going to UKIP, Respect, the BNP, Greens, English Democrats, Independents, anyone but us! If that trend continues and increasingly appears in council as well as parliamentary by-elections, then the prospects for anyone seeking election or re-election in 2013, 2014 or 2015 are grim indeed, especially if your main challenger is Labour or you are fighting north of the Watford Gap.

    I really despair with those who just shrug their shoulders and say we couldn’t really expect to do better than 8th place when we’re in government etc. etc. etc. I can’t recall any by-election ever, even in the midst of the Lib-Lab pact when our national poll ratings were even lower than they are now, when we finished 8th. Have we ever been 8th in a mainland UK parliamentary by-election? Someone please tell.

    Our party has survived in bleak times before thanks to a string of astonishing by-election victories in every parliament since the mid-1950s (except for the short parliament of 1974). What chance of a by-election victory in this parliament? Yes, Rotherham, Middlesborough and Croydon North were bad seats for us, but if and when a ‘good’ seat has a by-election, there will be no excuses if we fail to win it (and remember Oldham East and Saddleworth was a very good seat that in ‘normal’ circumstances we would have won comfortably).

    Anyway, rant over. Nobody at the top of the party listens anyway so what’s the point.

    I’m off to deliver a thousand of my local councillor newsletters. At least the sun’s shining.

  • @ Peter
    Agreed that we are in a parlous position compared with past by-election performance. We seem to be failing to give voters any good reasons at all to come out and vote for us.

    “Nobody at the top of the party listens anyway so what’s the point.”

    But if they listened, what would you want them to do, exactly?

  • The Lib Dems are living in denial, former Lib Dem voters have swung back to Labour, end of.

    I think the catty remarks about if Labour lost one the by-elections, underline the state of denial.

  • Richard Harris 30th Nov '12 - 1:08pm

    I hope that the powers that be in the LibDems are more troubled by last nights results than Mark is. Even if what he says is all true, I don’t see how it means things will be any better in the GE. As for it being a cold night, what makes anyone think that a warmer evening would have brought out a LibDem vote?

  • Peter Chegwyn 30th Nov '12 - 1:11pm

    Liam – “All is well with the world”? You’ve got to be joking! After the loss of hundreds of councillors over the past couple of years and after a string of quite dreadful by-election results? With no sign of any improvement as the 2013 elections approach? You must live in a very different world to me.

    RC – What would I like people at the top of the party to do? Start to realise why we are so unpopular, start to distance our party from the Tories (who are increasingly unpopular themselves), start to campaign AGAINST unpopular Tory policies and FOR popular Lib Dem policies, stop doing the Tories dirty work for them, stop making PR gaffes, stop concentrating on issues like Lords reform that the public aren’t interested in, start promoting a distinctive liberal identity separate to the Tories (Clegg’s comments on Leveson yesterday were a step in the right direction), accept that, despite what I’ve just said, Clegg’s name is toxic with vast swathes of the electorate and he is unlikely to recover his past popularity, start preparing a post-Clegg strategy with a new Leader in place before the next General Election, and start listening more to those like Lord Rennard and others who know how to win elections, start listening less to a bunch of Westminster ‘advisers’ with no experience of winning elections in difficult times.

    Second rant over. I really must get out and deliver my newsletters…

  • Richard Harris 30th Nov '12 - 1:21pm

    Liam – “We’re still in government, and UKIP are still without an MP. All is well with the world”

    Words fail me.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 30th Nov '12 - 1:23pm

    Two more lost deposits! 7th place in Rotherham behind UKIP, the BNP, the English Democrats and an Independent! Clearly the electorate see the Lib Dems as just another wing of the Tory party. When, if only for the sake ofpolitical self interest, are you going to accept that you have to uncouple yourself from your degrading union with the Tories? Why should I care about your demise when I see you shoring up this unspeakable Tory government? I’ll tell you why: because I’d rather see you in 2nd or 3rd place and not UKIP, the BNP and the English Democrats, that’s why.

  • “7th place in Rotherham behind UKIP, the BNP, the English Democrats and an Independent!”

    8th. Behind Respect as well.

  • John Broggio 30th Nov '12 - 1:33pm

    @RC 12:15pm

    The thing is, as bad & incompetent as New Labour were on the economy (particularly failing to deal with the banks a la Iceland which would have vastly reduced the economic damage to the UK), they bequeathed the coalition a growing economy. The coalition then plunged us into a double dip recession “thanks” to austerity which was widely predicted to do so. That’s a pretty clear link with an “economic strategy” which the Lib Dems rightly campaigned vigorously against in the run up to their current love-in with Gidiot.

    Many people voted for the Lib Dems, like me, in the hope that the Lib Dems would ameliorate such policies (if not completely stop them, especially because Brown’s offering was essentially the same but cutting a little less quickly); instead we see the likes of Danny Alexander embracing them with alarming ease & being seemingly comfortable with being Gidiot’s flak jacket. That’s just one area where the Lib Dems have performed a complete volte farce (sic) against the spin they in no way discouraged the media to project to woo disaffected Labour voters. Those people feel (rightly) conned as a result & there is the link to why these results were desperately bad for the Lib Dems.

  • Dominic Curran 30th Nov '12 - 1:35pm

    @ Liam

    “We’re still in government, and UKIP are still without an MP. All is well with the world.”

    You remind me of the man who fell from a building, and as he passed each floor on the way to his certain death, said: “ten storeys up, and i’m still alive, nine storeys up, and i’m still alive, eight storeys up, and i’m still alive…”

  • I can’t believe the level of denial by some party members on here. While accepting that these were not winnable seats, last night was total disaster. However, the problem is not last night, it is all the other nights when there have been terrible results, it is the loss of many former members (including myself), it is the general perception of the public – do many of you actually talk to non-party members.

    Yes, the party has often been a scource of protest votes in the past but we built on that and were becoming recognised as a true alternative. Here in Newcastle we were steadily building our share of the vote, held the council, and were on the verge of a parliamentary breakthrough. The decisions after 2010 completely destroyed that. Lib Dems lost the council and could well be down to third party again in 2015. More importantly, virtually anyone you talk to says they will never vote LD again in parliamentary elections. The voters are not going to come back in the next two years, at least not in Newcastle and I expect this applies to many area particularly those in an urban situation.

    I can totally empathise with these lost voter as I am uncertain as to how I will vote in 2015 unless there is a total change at the top of the party and the Tory-lite policies are dropped.

  • paul barker 30th Nov '12 - 1:53pm

    We have gone from a party of protest to a party of government & we are being punished for that.
    In 2015 voters will be choosing parties of government & the “others” will be back to 10%, not the 45% they got in Rotheram.
    .

  • John Broggio 30th Nov '12 - 2:00pm

    Liam – as I recall, Clegg & co campaigned on being different. Brown & Cameron were essentially both offering austerity of slightly different degree. Vince Cable rightly showed why their “strategies” were madness but instead of dampening either of Brown or Cameron’s strategies, they embraced it & are willing to go yet further.

  • Peter Watson 30th Nov '12 - 2:10pm

    “these by-elections will not be any real guide to the outcome of the 2015 General Election nationally” – true enough, but I sense an awful lot of denial on this site. Elsewhere I hear that none of the other by-elections tell us anything about the 2015 election. Nor do local council elections when held across the country on the same day (though apparently local by-elections that we win are meaningful). The AV referendum and PCC elections are equally irrelevant. Furthermore, opinion polling is a complete waste of time and money, because it tells us nothing about how popular or unpopular the party will be in 2015. Apparently it’s all just the usual midterm blues and anti-government voting, though I don’t know how either of these can be considered “usual” for the decidedly unusual situation of Lib Dems in government. Everything will return to normal in 2015, all by itself.

    This all sounds horribly complacent. The most positive suggestions I read are that our incumbent MPs are likely to be safe (“where we fight we win”), which will hardly encourage them to risk their jobs while the party crumbles elsewhere. And who’s to say that they really would be immune to a challenge from a “protest” candidate or a resurgent Labour party, or perhaps they could fall victim to stay-at-home anti-conservative voters who can’t see the point any more.

    I would like to see the leadership acknowledge the loss of support that all of the evidence suggests, and lay out a clear plan of action for the next few years. But what’s to be done? I believe that the party has gone too far in the wrong direction to simply reverse with any credibility, no matter how much I want it to, and any change of course must be navigated carefully. RC sums up a big problem for the party with the single question, “But if they listened, what would you want them to do, exactly?” Perhaps it is too late to salvage anything for 2015? If Nick Clegg asked me, then my directions would be the same as those given by the legendary Kerryman, “If I were you, I wouldn’t be starting from here.”

  • Richard Harris 30th Nov '12 - 2:10pm

    Mark,
    As Clegg has already gone someway to doing the venting podcast thing I think you can skip that step.

    Your analysis of the results is very reasonable. The only problem is that the leadership is either ignoring or misinterpreting every signal that is being sent that they are heading to electoral suicide. It is the bigger picture and the lack of action that frustrates so many potential supporters.

    As for your point about the weather, there is no need to be condescending. You mentioned the “cold winter night” would effect turnout. Not unreasonable to think you meant that it effected the Lib Dem vote disproportionately given that your piece is about how the LibDems did.

  • Tory MP Michael Fabricant ‘gets it’.
    Nobody wants, cares, or gives a damn about UKIP. ( especially not, UKIP voters!! ). It’s extremely simple.
    1. UKIP voters want an in/out referendum on Europe.
    2. The Tories (want/need), the sack of votes that ‘Santa’ Farage now has over his shoulder.
    As soon as more Tories get it, they will, statutorily guarantee an in/out referendum. And as a result, they will then get that sack of votes, that Farage presently holds over his shoulder. And if they have to, they [Tories], will even dump Cameron to get that sack of votes by 2015.

  • Charles Beaumont 30th Nov '12 - 2:20pm

    Mark – I think this is a good bit of analysis and I wouldn’t accuse you of being in denial. But, this (Rotheram) was the worst byelection result since 1945! Increasingly we’re clinging onto the hope that incumbency will just about see us stagger through in 2015. A year ago I was happy to buy that argument. Now, I really don’t think it is credible.

  • Private James Frazer 30th Nov '12 - 2:44pm

    “we’re doomed!” “I tell ya” “DOOMED”.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 2:48pm

    “So, what have we learnt from last night?”

    If the ‘we’ you are talking about includes the environs of Great George Street and Westminster, I might wager ‘absolutely nothing’.

    Since to hear requires (a) open ears and (b) an intention to listen. To learn requires a whole lot more.

  • Peter Chegwyn 30th Nov '12 - 2:51pm

    I echo the views expressed by Peter Bell, Peter Watson, Richard Harris and Charles Beaumont. The level of complacency from others is staggering.

    It seems that some people are pinning all their hopes on the economy coming right by 2015 and a grateful electorate rewarding us at the polls. But I see no evidence at present that the economy will come right in time or that a grateful electorate will credit us even if it does.

    I’ve been in politics long enough to recognise an electoral precipice when I see one and I see our party heading blindly towards one right now. Some might say the Leadership deserve everything they get in 2015 but I’m more concerned about the hundreds of hard-working councillors, myself included, who have to defend our seats before then.

    If the party doesn’t change direction fast and start to distance itself from unpopular Conservative policies that are hitting our past bedrock support hard then the outlook is not good.

    Don’t just write off these appalling by-election results as mid-term blues in safe Labour seats. Learn from what the electorate are saying, take note of where the protest vote is now going, and start listening more to Chris Rennard, Bill Le Breton and others who know how to fight and win elections in difficult times. It can be done!

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 2:55pm

    The headline should surely be: “Lib Dems streak to Victory”?

    From ConHome:

    Just one result:

    Folkestone Park Ward, Shepway

    Lib Dem 461, Con 320, Lab 111, People First 200, UKIP 153, Green 29.(May 2011 was Con 966, 940, 802; Lab 279; Lib Dem 569, 428, 403; People First 336, 258, 200; UKIP 217.)

    Lib Dem gain from Conservatives

    Where we work, we win??? :-)

  • slightly confused as to what the weather has got to do with it. Surely there is no suggestion that the cold, windy, rainy weather prevents the “stereotype” Sandal wearing Liberal Democrat to leave the comfort of their living room, because that would be absurd.

    To come behind the likes of the BNP, English Democrats, Respect, et.c. is absolutely appalling.

    The party is losing councils and councillors up and down the country.

    I would suggest that the reason that Liberal Democrats “used” to do so well in local elections was because they were never a party of Government, they had no record in Parliament to stand against, those that were unhappy with either the current government of the day Tory or Labour, would be inclined to vote Liberal Democrat on a local level.
    Those days are well and truly over now.
    You do have a record of being in Government now and the people do not like what they see.
    I can not see this changing by 2015 unless something pretty drastic happens.

    It is ludicrous to rely on reaping the rewards of a fanciful economic recovery, when the reality is, the economic situation is and will continue to worsen for years to come.

    With 2.5 million unemployed and 3 million underemployed and rising……………………

  • Despite one or two mitigating factors (these were seats where Lib Dems have not done well in the past), these are deeply depressing results.

    The biggest worry is that it appears to show how alarmingly low the Lid Dem vote can go. We cannot and would never want to compete with UKIP. Anyone switching from Lib Dem to UKIP must be confused about what these parties stand for.

    However it is the question of what the party stands for that is most important to address at this time. In my opinion it it should be quite simple: (the clue is in the name) liberal values (particularly socially liberal) and democracy. This does not mean some brand of anarchism (as the Leverson critics might wish us to espouse), but does support individual freedoms for those who are not particularly powerful, defending their interests against powerful vested interests. Liberal Democrats need to be able to show how cooperation in Europe is part of these aims (think Microsoft, mobile phone providers, environmental protection etc).

    This is a difficult time for Liberal Democrats and it is at such a time that it is important to establish a core vote. If the UK is inimicable to liberalism, then Lib Dems cannot do well, but at least Lib Dems can put their case as strongly as possible.

  • Liam

    I do not see this as defeatism rather as realism based on the evidence. If you have evidence to support your optimism then please share it

    A couple of posters are hitting on the appearance that the LD are not seen to stand for anything. The way I see it from posts on here is that the left of he party is moving away. The arguments over Leveson show that there is also becoming a large libertarian approach to things, similar to the approach of Mark Eastwood

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 3:36pm

    @matt :

    “slightly confused as to what the weather has got to do with it.”

    Wrong kind of voters on the line?

  • David Wildgoose 30th Nov '12 - 3:40pm

    After the last Election the Liberal Democrats could have had everything. The Tories had won big in England, but lost overall. There was even talk of a “grand anti-Tory” alliance of all the nationalist and non-Tory parties against them. All Nick Clegg had to do was to offer his support for a minority government in return for a devolved English Parliament to stand alongside those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    That’s it.

    How could the Tories refuse? Their vote was in England and their vote was being over-ruled.

    And an English Parliament would be voted in by PR, the precedent having already being set by those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It would also mean the need for a new federal upper house – which would mean House of Lords Reform as well.

    Not only that, a new federal UK would even undermine the SNP in Scotland. It would be in keeping with the professed (if not actual) belief of federalism within the Party. It would be seen as being principled.

    But Nick Clegg wasn’t interested.

    I was the Liberal Democrat candidate who got nearly 30% of the vote in the 1994 Rotherham by-election. This time I was the English Democrat candidate who got 50% more votes than the losing Liberal Democrat candidate.

    Principles and beliefs matter. Lib Dem voters and acivists have been let down by a leadership which fundamentally cares nothing for England and is now paying the price.

  • “A couple of posters are hitting on the appearance that the LD are not seen to stand for anything. The way I see it from posts on here is that the left of he party is moving away. The arguments over Leveson show that there is also becoming a large libertarian approach to things, similar to the approach of Mark Eastwood.”

    As someone on the left who has moved away from the party, I think you have this completely wrong.

    Economically, the party is now far further to the right than it used to be. If it had retained its commitment to civil liberties, that would have been one saving grace for left-leaning liberals. But that commitment is under severe threat, to say the least.

    Having said that, I think Nick Clegg has at least signalled his awareness of the dangers of some of what Leveson has proposed. Most of those cheerleading for Leveson here seem to be utterly oblivious to the dangers.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 3:59pm

    @Mark Valladares :

    “We covered Folkestone last Friday – I presume that Conservative Home needed to recover from the mourning stage before they reported the result”

    Possibly because the only really-contested result last night was just as bad for them and arguably worse for us:

    “LABOUR candidate Jeff Kenner has been elected councillor for Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s Shipston-On-Stour ward after a by-election which took place yesterday (Thursday 29 Nov).

    After polling at the Sheldon Bosley Hub in Pittway Avenue, Mr Kenner pipped his Tory and Lib Dem rivals to the post gaining 613 votes.

    Laura Elizabeth Nelson (Liberal Democrat) came second with 575 votes and Marion Lowe (Conservative) came in third with 431 votes.

    The electorate for the Shipston ward is 4110 and the turnout for the poll was 39.56 per cent.”

  • Peter Sinclair 30th Nov '12 - 4:03pm

    Lib Dems used to be seen as reasonably sensible, safe option if both the mainstream parties seemed unattractive in some way. Being in Government has exposed Lib Dem policies and views which can seem quite bizarre and extreme relative to dominant public thinking. I refer to immigration, the Euro, the EU and political reform that mainly benefits the party, to name just a few.

    I respect the party’s right to hold these views, but don’t be surprised if the party is decimated at the next election.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 4:04pm

    Actually, things may not be QUITE so gloomy the East Wallworth local by-election in Simon Hughes’ area last night showed little swing at all between Labour and Lib Dem since May 2010:

    EAST WALWORTH

    • Dr Ben Johnson (Lib Dem): 1003
    • Rebecca Lury (Labour): 1259
    • Stuart Millson (Conservative): 94

    Labour Hold

  • James Sandbach 30th Nov '12 - 4:55pm

    I’m afraid I’m with the gloomy crowd on this one – Croydon North actually used to be a liberal seat won at a by-election some 30 years ago and borders on some pretty strong electoral areas for us in South london (Sutton, Merton, Bromley) so not a complete ‘libdem desert’ to work. Plus we had a fantastic candidate in Marisha (hats off to her!) who really put in the work on the ground, hustings and doorsteps – but the libdem “brand” was the problem once again. And if you consider that so much of our Party’s political growth and development strategy over the past two decades and has been based around turning in stunning key strategic byelections wins at key points of the political cycle..! Plus John Curtice has pretty much said all that needs to be said about the Rotherham result. So we need to start asking some pretty hard questions about the future…

  • Vacant Possession 30th Nov '12 - 5:12pm

    It is tricky to vote when all there is on offer is different shades of the rainbow of socialist parties, red, yellow, green and to an increasing extent blue.

    It is no wonder people are heading for the extreme fringe – ultra violet.

    We don’t want to be taxed to oblivion if we are stupid enough to work
    We don’t want to be in hock to the middle east & china – and leave this delicious surprise for our kids and their kids
    We don’t want to subsidise 1st generation green technology
    We don’t want endless legislation about what we say and what we do
    It is not homophobic to doubt the intelligence of politicians meddling with religion
    It is not racist to only want those the country needs
    It is not anti Europe to want to trade with them without being federated.

    These are really simple ideas which seem to have resonance with the public. All it takes is for the politicians to listen.

  • Peter Chegwyn 30th Nov '12 - 5:46pm

    Liam (@doktorb) How can you say that “this month, across six by-elections, we only had a terrible day in three unusual elections”?

    Ummm, didn’t we poll just 9.4% in Manchester Central just a fortnight ago, down 17.2%, and lose our deposit in Corby?

    How many terrible days do we have to endure before you face up to the reality of what’s happening?

  • Peter Chegwyn 30th Nov '12 - 6:21pm

    Good piece from the BBC here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20554311

  • Bill le Breton 30th Nov '12 - 6:32pm

    First lets thank again those candidates who put themselves forward yesterday at every level.

    Peter C is right to demand that, in the name of all those who have represented us and lost at every level since 2010, campaigning is being lifted up the agenda, given its proper place at the heart of Liberalism, properly resourced and properly valued.

    When in Government there is so much to campaign on. You don’t stop campaigning when you get in Government – that’s when you redouble your commitment to campaigning as the intrinsic structure of government – the acid test of Liberalism in governance. That does not mean one Secretary of State or Minister and her adviser making the decision and then demanding the support of the Party.

    Second let’s take a bit of cheer from seeing our leader break the mould and stand at the dispatch box speaking against the Prime Minister. It was an important issue but actually a bit of a minority issue given the extent of its relevance to people’s ordinary lives. But it must not be a rare thing – it must become the norm that

    Our mistake was to accept the convention of collective cabinet responsibility. I am sure that is what the Cabinet Secretary wanted … and the Leader of the larger of the two Coalition Parties but it needed to be specifically reformulated for this Coalition with its particular balance of the two parties.

    The Coalition Agreement is exhausted. We don’t need to tie are selves artificially to a new one. We should openly bid for new initiatives whether we have a Minister responsible or not. We should have as much access to civil service time as we needed during the negotiations. We should openly give our opinion on each issue as if we were a majority government, so people know where we stand and where we have to negotiate.

    By ensuring that differences within Government are admitted, defined and communicated, we would be able to take issues into our communities, engage the public in our response and our campaigns. With that backing behind us we should continually report back on negotiations so that the issues we win are clearly owned by us and those that we have to give way on are seen as Conservative policies and the linkages between what we have given way on and those we have won are transparent.

    Practically we need advanced notice of every issue. That means we need all the Parliamentary party in both Houses involved in covering the Departments. There are 120 of them. Plus our policy panels and experts. There must be no black holes in decision taking, no sudden surprises from Tory front benches. We need to involve the whole party and through them the widest possible community in decision formulation conducted in a campaigning spirit.

    It is a new way, it’s a better way, its the right way and it’s distinctively Liberal.

  • Liberal Eye 30th Nov '12 - 6:35pm

    The Lib Dems should rename themselves the ‘Black Knight Party’ to show just how in touch with reality they are.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=mjEcj8KpuJw

    This is the end of an era, the era when the idiotic but settled strategy has been to win power on the national stage by exploiting discontent with the big parties and tactical voting etc. and blame any setbacks on a hostile media and an unfair voting system. Spirits are raised by after every setback by pointing to a town council win in some far-flung corner of the country and hopes of a hung Parliament and coalition. The theory was that if only the public could see us in government they would come over in droves. What nonsense! It’s actually gone the other way. Before the GE every pundit was saying that this would be a good election to lose for obvious reasons. Did our leadership take any notice? Of course not. Sad to say, I am forced to conclude that for many their main interest was personal promotion.

    This is an era that needed to end. We need an effective liberal party but on present evidence the LDs aren’t it.

  • Ruth Bright 30th Nov '12 - 6:44pm

    Speaking as someone who knows the East Walworth ward well and was the councillor in the next door seat for eight years I really cannot believe it is being categorised here as a “good” result. It was a valiant result by a fantastic team and a fantastic candidate in a seat which a few short years ago we won with ease.

  • @ Liberal Eye

    “Before the GE every pundit was saying that this would be a good election to lose for obvious reasons. Did our leadership take any notice? Of course not. Sad to say, I am forced to conclude that for many their main interest was personal promotion.”

    Oh, so presumably you’re saying we should have not fielded any candidates or something? Or maybe we could have campaigned with the slogan: “Vote Lib Dem! (just not this time)”

    “We need an effective liberal party but on present evidence the LDs aren’t it.”

    Presumably on the evidence from going into government with just 8% of MPs in the middle of an economic crisis and with the public finances in the worst condition in the post state since WW2.

    All I can see here is a lot of back biting and criticism but no positive suggestions about what could realistically be done differently that we aren’t doing now.

    I think there are things that can be done. We need to be putting more effort into communicating what we are doing on a national level on a local basis. We may think we are communicating, but we aren’t. People don’t seem to know about how we’re single handedly (Vince Cable) reinventing an industrial strategy, forcing investment in green energy, forcing the rich to pay higher taxes and cutting them for the poor. If we could just get these things into people’s minds, then perhaps they wouldn’t be so irrationally negative towards the party at parliamentary level.

  • @ Peter Bell
    “I can totally empathise with these lost voter as I am uncertain as to how I will vote in 2015 unless there is a total change at the top of the party and the Tory-lite policies are dropped”

    You are aware that we didn’t get a majority in the last election, aren’t you? If you were expecting us to be able to block totally a party with 47% of MPs from implementing any policies at all, you may need to adjust your expectations.

  • @ Peter Chegwyn

    “start to campaign AGAINST unpopular Tory policies”

    And what if they start campaigning against ours? As can be seen with AV, all that then happens is that we end up with zero Lib Dem policies being implemented.

    As for changing leader, who exactly are you proposing instead of Nick Clegg?

  • @ John Broggio

    “The thing is, as bad & incompetent as New Labour were on the economy (particularly failing to deal with the banks a la Iceland which would have vastly reduced the economic damage to the UK), they bequeathed the coalition a growing economy. The coalition then plunged us into a double dip recession “thanks” to austerity which was widely predicted to do so”

    The problem with your analysis is that it is utterly wrong and unsupported by the facts. I am very sad that so many people are making up their minds on how to vote on the basis of utterly false premises.

    Labour “grew” the economy by letting the deficit explode. There was no way you could carry on increasing the deficit by 3 percentage points of GDP year on year. It wasn’t growth, it was merely buying time with a last splurge of borrowing.

    Since then, if you look at the most recent GDP figures, it has been exports and private spending that have contracted the economy, not cuts in government spending.

    Sorry, but if Labour had been in power, the situation would have been virtually identical to the one we face today, given the vast amount of consumer debt from pre 2008, commodity and food price inflation as well as the Eurozone crisis hitting exports and business confidence.

    Really, it pains me to hear yet another person trotting out this bog standard Labour party analysis because it is really such a convenient mistruth.

  • @Bill le Breton

    “Our mistake was to accept the convention of collective cabinet responsibility.”
    ” We should openly give our opinion on each issue as if we were a majority government, so people know where we stand and where we have to negotiate.”

    I have said the same thing many times on previous threads.
    It was ludicrous for this coalition not to allow the electorate to see the divisions between the 2 parties.

    For coalition to work, the public needs to see what affect both parties have had on policy,
    where did both parties start from on a policy
    what was negotiated
    and what did we end up with.

    There is no point having these discussions behind closed doors and then coming out and simply claiming, Liberal Democrats have made the policy better or less draconian, without proof or details the claims will simply no longer be believed.

    If there is no distinction between the coalition parties and policies, then the case for coalition politics is totally lost.

    This is what has happened to this coalition government and the Liberal Democrats are coming off the worse for it.

    It is a cruel world, but Liberal Democrats will be hit disproportionately for the failures of government which the electorate most care about, i.e the NHS & the Economy.

  • Peter Chegwyn 30th Nov '12 - 7:18pm

    @RC “start to campaign AGAINST unpopular Tory policies”
    And what if they start campaigning against ours?

    They already are!!!

  • @RC

    “And what if they start campaigning against ours? As can be seen with AV, all that then happens is that we end up with zero Lib Dem policies being implemented.”

    Surely that is what a party has to do in order to maintain it’s identity, otherwise what is the point.

    It does seem as though that there are many people in the party that seem to think that the Tories and Libdems will maintain there “lovein” even after the General Election, that is terribly naive and you only have to look at the Tories 40/40 target seats for the next election, look at the seats they have already declared to see that they hope to capitalise on the Liberal Democrats misfortunes especially in their marginal seats. The Tories always have and always will be ruthless.
    I don’t think this party is anywhere near prepared for the onslaught that is heading in their direction from all sides.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Nov '12 - 7:41pm

    Lester Holloway: I don’t think were (or should be) competing for votes with Respect any more than we are with UKIP. Respect wins among black voters by playing ‘caste & clan’ politics; that is not the Lib Dem way. Rather, we should aim to have visible ethnic-minority Lib Dem MPs by appealing to all voters, not just to certain “communities” in a divide and rule fashion (that’s the Labour/Respect/57 Varieties way), and they should be able to win irrespective of the ethnic make-up of their constituencies.
    Incidentally, I don’t know if anyone has suggested that voters “stuck with Labour out of sympathy with the late Malcolm Wicks”, but I don’t buy it anyway. It seems to me that voters liking a previous MP personally are no more likely to vote for someone else who happens to share the same party label because of it. Indeed they may be less inclined to do so, as shown by our party’s record of losing seats where the sitting MP stands down. Consider also the Eastbourne by-election in 1990; many commentators suggested the Tories would get a sympathy vote because of the circumstances that caused the by-election (Ian Gow’s assassination by the IRA) but that did not happen. Undoubtedly the people of Eastbourne did have sympathy for Mr Gow and his family, but that did not translate into support for his blue-rosetted successor candidate at the by-election. So the Lib Dems did well by not heeding Paddy Ashdown’s advice (opposed by Chris Rennard) that we not contest the by-election!

  • @ Matt

    There is no “love in”. Have you followed politics at all over the past couple of years. There is the Coalition agreement, that is all, and even that is being chewed off round the edges, mostly by the Tories.

    However, anything is better than letting Labour walk back into government given their total opportunism, lack of policies and appalling record with the economy.

  • @ Matt

    “And what if they start campaigning against ours? As can be seen with AV, all that then happens is that we end up with zero Lib Dem policies being implemented.”

    “Surely that is what a party has to do in order to maintain it’s identity, otherwise what is the point.”

    So, in order to maintain our identity (presumably as convenient political eunuchs) we should not insist on having any of our policies implemented?

    What kind of thinking is that?

  • Alex Macfie 30th Nov '12 - 7:58pm

    Yes, the Croydon North seat includes much of the old Croydon North West seat that the SDP-Liberal Alliance won in 1981. But that was a classic flash-in-the-pan by-election result: we were originally 3rd, the seat went back to the Tories in 1983, and in 1987 we were back to third place and it was a Con-Lab marginal. So the fact that we won a similar in 1981 has little relevance to our failure to win yesterday.

  • The poor CONDEM performance in these by-elections was only to be expected for the parties forming an unpopular government. Of more significance was the 34% vote (UKIP/BNP/ED) for extreme right-wing parties in Rotherham. The mainstream parties appear unsympathetic to the core WASP (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) values which underpin Englishness. They need to ditch political correctness and the farce of multiculturalism, without being intolerant of outsiders, to appeal to and win back the votes of real Englishmen and women, who are still the majority in this country. At least the LDs aren’t led by a rootless cosmoplitan (EM) and the likes of Harriet Harman.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Nov '12 - 8:03pm

    George Potter:

    Meanwhile the Lib Dem block takes the lead on things like reform of the CAP and yesterday’s launch of EU-Japan free trade talks which will boost our exports by £35 billion.

    Indeed, but are we going to emphasise this in our Euro-election campaign? I really hope so, but I doubt it. In the 2014 Euro-election campaign we need to focus on Lib Dem policy IN Europe (not necessarily policy ABOUT Europe — this are not the same thing, and most policy issues ABOUT Europe (i.e. whether we are in or out) are domestic issues, not European issues).

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 8:16pm

    @Alex Macfie 30th :

    ” the fact that we won a similar in 1981 has little relevance to our failure to win yesterday.”

    From ‘flash in the pan’ to ‘flushed down the pan’? :-(

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 8:20pm

    @RC:

    “If you were expecting us to be able to block totally a party with 47% of MPs from implementing any policies at all, you may need to adjust your expectations.”

    Lib Dems in Council chambers up and down the land have managed this. Not ‘no policies at all’. Just ensuring that the only policies allowed were ones which had more than 50% support. It is quite clear that many policies of this government do not have the support of anything like a majority of voters. One can only hope that some of these do also not really have the genuine support of half the MPs.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Nov '12 - 8:26pm

    @Ruth Bright 3

    “Speaking as someone who knows the East Walworth ward well and was the councillor in the next door seat for eight years I really cannot believe it is being categorised here as a “good” result. It was a valiant result by a fantastic team and a fantastic candidate in a seat which a few short years ago we won with ease.”

    Apologies, Ruth, I was placing the result in the comparative context of short-term meltdown in substantial bits of the country. In comparison, roughly holding vote share over two years in a municipal area seems little short of miraculous. It would certainly put that Lib Dem team in the top few per cent of Lib Dem election achievers at the moment.

  • ‘If there’s any consolation, it is that these by-elections will not be any real guide to the outcome of the 2015 General Election nationally.’

    There is no consolation. Peter Chegwyn’s posts put the situation clearly and soundly. An election disaster is in the making.

  • Peter Sinclair 30th Nov '12 - 9:04pm

    Lib Dem policies are simply deeply unattractive to the majorirty of the public. For example:
    Are we to assume that a Lib Dem government would join the Euro, hand over any remaining sovereignty and take our country into some sort of Federal States of Europe, while giving up the rest of our rebate and enthusiastically agreeing to all regulations and demands for more money by Brussels?

    I get the impression that the policies are based on some sort of ideology and neither reality or popular opinion can bring common sense into the equation.

    I may seem like a hostile commenter, but I was once a Lib Dem voter. I care passionately about politics yet I am not tied to any particular party. I vote according to the merits of the policies at any given election. Currently, I despair of all the parties and their leaders and I rate the Lib Dems bottom of the heap at this time, though all of the others are also close to useless.

  • Liberal Eye 30th Nov '12 - 9:17pm

    @ RC

    An available strategy was to agree a confidence & supply agreement with the Tories, specifically agreeing to support them as long as Osborne’s financial strategy was working. It was always a racing certainty that it wouldn’t work (as is now becomming more obvious by the day) and we would then have been in pole position to scoop up disaffected Tories and others looking for a different vision.

    I know this is a minority view which I held back then as now and I never believed the majority view back just after the GE that, for the good of the country, we HAD to go into a coalition. The good of the country would have been far better served if we had a different approach to offer as the neoliberal one collapsed. Joining it as a junior partner and then trying to argue exactly what percentage of our policies had been adopted is a guaranteed fail – as the public have opined.

    The difficulty is that the Party (as opposed to many of its members) has never displayed any significant ambition to develop and articulate an alternative to neoliberalism. For instance, a few days ago a post here on LDV reported members’ views on the railways. 40% wanted to see full nationalisation, 5% full privatisation. That’s not a broad tent so much as a window into the muddle and lack of consensus within the party on how to run the country. Faced with that I can see why successive leaders might have wanted to keep debate at the purely tactical level but the problem then is that their options are basically limited to opportunism.

    So what I am calling for is not any particular policy but rather for effective leadership. That would include an ability to convey the valuable initiatives Cable et al are contributing but it must also include developing an attractive narrative. What makes good leadership is hard to define but it’s easy to spot when it’s missing.

  • David Wildgoose 30th Nov '12 - 9:26pm

    Liam, no offence taken – but I don’t think I “jumped” so much as was pushed. I believe that all citizens of the UK should have equal rights, as did Richard Wainwright, who was been Liberal MP for Colne Valley. Back in 1977 during the first devolution debates Richard said “For a government to propose that some British people shall have two Parliaments to shout for them, while others are left with only one, is the last word in political debauchery”.

    I am still a Liberal. It’s just a shame that the “Liberal” “Democrats” clearly aren’t. Politics makes strange bedfellows, but at least the English Democrats believe that all citizens of the state should have equal rights – which you clearly don’t.

  • Another interpretation of these results is that the voters have not improved their opinion of Labour since they ejected the Broon terror in 2010 but they cannot stand the sight of the coalition partners.

    Yet a further conclusion might be that the large proportion (OK, there is a debate about is it more or less than 50%) who want out of the EU have now realised that UKIP is their only hope of national independence and accountable government.

    Whatever the correct analysis, LibDemmery is finished.

  • I voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last general election on the basis that they were a ‘sensible’ left of centre party when compared to the (then) imploding and authoritarian Labour government. Would I vote for the Liberal Democrats again? No, firstly due the abandonment of a major policy (tuition fees) and secondly the feeling that the party I voted for is not the same one as in government.

    I believe that the Conservative vote has help up well because their voters knew what they would be getting where as former Liberal Democrat voters feel badly let down.

  • The problem isn’t just that Lib Dems have become unpopular, great swathes of the electorate appear to have decided the Party is irrelevant.
    Of course mid-term elections an low turn outs can be misleading. But there are real warning sign that in theses elections that have been pretty consistent sin other election of the last two years. Whatever happens in 2015 the lib Dem’s vote will be down disastrously and that effects funding.
    One thin I think is interesting about the UKIP is that it’s a mistake to assume that it ‘s entirely made up of disaffected Conservatives..

  • “This is an era that needed to end. We need an effective liberal party but on present evidence the LDs aren’t it.”

    Here is further reason to support that view:

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/cyril-smith-the-decision-made-in-1970-would-not-be-made-by-the-crown-prosecution-service-today-31830.html#comment-229826

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Nov '12 - 11:39pm

    steve

    I have been a follower of UK politics for most of my 45 or so years. I truly don’t know what the Lib Dems are for. They are a protest vote, they are the opposition to Labour in the most Tory hating places, but what are they FOR? I would vote for a truly liberal party but that doesn’t seem to be the Lib Dems who are a large state, nannying party not dissimilar to Labour.

    So your main problem with the Liberal Democrats is that they aren’t right-wing enough? You think all the Liberal Democrats need to do is become even more like the Tories and those votes we’ve lost in the last two years will come flooding back?

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Nov '12 - 11:42pm

    Peter Sinclair

    For example:
    Are we to assume that a Lib Dem government would join the Euro, hand over any remaining sovereignty and take our country into some sort of Federal States of Europe, while giving up the rest of our rebate and enthusiastically agreeing to all regulations and demands for more money by Brussels?

    And when did you stop beating your wife?

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Nov '12 - 11:50pm

    UKIP Local

    Yet a further conclusion might be that the large proportion (OK, there is a debate about is it more or less than 50%) who want out of the EU have now realised that UKIP is their only hope of national independence and accountable government.

    A close analysis of what UKIP actually stands for is even more extreme free market politics than the Conservative Party. The main thing they actually seem to have against the EU is that it stands in the way of such things. UKIP has nothing whatsoever to say about the way big global corporations who can play one nation state off against another are destroying national independence – or rather, they stand against the EU when it wants a united front in Europe against the dominatio of our life by the international super-rich. UKIP has nothing whatsoever to say about Qatar and China and Russian billionaires buying up control of the vital assets in our country.

    It is the sort of economics that UKIP stands for that is actually the biggest threat to UK independence, the force that has destroyed so much of what is traditionally British, the force that has taken away our capacity to control how our country is. UKIP just raises the EU, whose power is very limited, as a distraction from all that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Nov '12 - 11:58pm

    Tony Dawson

    It is quite clear that many policies of this government do not have the support of anything like a majority of voters.

    No, they don’t. But, to be honest, neither would anything else that is viable. What the voters want is a party that promises to provide huge amounts of high quality government services, but won’t increase taxation to pay for it, and consists entirely of honest people. It is constantly disappointed to find no party fits the bill.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '12 - 12:57am

    Liberal Eye

    I know this is a minority view which I held back then as now and I never believed the majority view back just after the GE that, for the good of the country, we HAD to go into a coalition. The good of the country would have been far better served if we had a different approach to offer as the neoliberal one collapsed. Joining it as a junior partner and then trying to argue exactly what percentage of our policies had been adopted is a guaranteed fail – as the public have opined

    Right, so the Tory MPs, Labour MPs and LibDem MPs ALL sit back and say “We’ll only support policies which are 100% ours – we’ll vote against everything else”. Then what?

    We’d have a Tory minority government – Cameron as leader of the largest party in the Commons would have the right to be appointed Prime Minister. If the LibDems were to join with Labour to block the Tory budget then what? With the political situation at a stalemate, Cameron would be able to say “It’s impossible to govern like this, give me a majority so I can get on with running the country, I’ll call another general election so you can do that”. What would be the result of that general election? Would people be cheering on the LibDems for making the country ungovernable? Would the press be praising the LibDems for standing up against Tory cuts? Would Tory backbenchers meekly stand down saying “We’d better moderate our policies to get LibDem support for them”?

    No, in fact you can see already what is happening. On the political right, LibDems are being slammed for being some sort of “socialist” block standing in the way of the true Tory policies that would save our country (in the minds of the political right). On the political left is our blocking of the worst of the Tories getting appreciation? No, none whatsoever, not a tiny weeny little bit of it, we are universally condemned for having “put in the Tories” as if the British electorate had no say in it, and we could have had a social democratic type government emerging from the 2010 parliament had the Liberal Democrats chosen to support it.

    It’s all nonsense. At the root of it is the fact that the country is in a mess due to the right-wing economics governments of all parties have followed since 1979, yet the people voted out the more moderate right-wing economic party in disgust at the mess and put in the more extreme right-wing party, standing for more and in more extreme form of the policies that had led to this mess. Or rather, they elected a Parliament with a distorted representation that made a government dominated by the more extreme party the only viable one – and a year later voted in support of the distortion that gave us that.

    Yet no-one is saying this. The Liberal Democrats, who stood firm against the economic policies of the 1979 government are now frightened to say “We were right in the first place”. The Liberal Democrats who have supported proportional representation for years are frightened to point out that the unrepresentative government e have now is due to us having a distortional representation system, and one which forces people to vote for only one of two choices in most places due to the risk of “splitting the vote” and letting the other in if you don’t.

    What they SHOULD have said following the May 2010 general election is “Right, people of Britain, this is not at all the government we want, but it is what YOU voted for, so we’ll let it carry on. Tell us when you decide you don’t want it after all – but we appreciate the country needs a government so in the meantime we’ll give it our support”.

    Instead Clegg and those around him adopted a policy of looking very pleased with themselves for having a few posts in the government – which they thought the public would interpret as “Oh, that mean the Liberal Democrats are a serious party because they are ‘in government’, we didn’t support them before but we will now”, but which the public actually interpreted as “That’s all the wanted really – cushy well paid posts , just like all the other politicians”. Instead of making it clear that this is a government which due to the balance of the parties is inevitably going to be far more Conservative than Liberal Democrat, and making it clear that if people don’t want such a thing they need to vote Liberal Democrat and get rid of the electoral system whose distortion leads to the Tories having five times as many MPs as the Liberal despite having only one and a half times a many votes, Clegg and those around him went out of their way to make it seem the Liberal Democrats were equally responsible for this government’s policies as the Conservatives, with the craziest line being one which actually seemed to be claiming this government is three quarters Liberal Democrat in policy.

    If the Liberal Democrats want to survive, they HAVE to get rid of these people at the top whose presentational disasters are of such an epic proportion. The May 2010 general election left us in a difficult situation – but our leaders seem determined to make it so much more difficult for us than the difficult position it was. Unbelievably, they are STILL at it. I STILL get emails from party HQ urging us to “say coalition”, to use the very lines of looking pleased with ourselves and claiming responsibility for policies of a government where we can only swing the balance between the far right “moderate wing” of the Conservative Party and the off-the-scale right of its other wing.

    However, the people of this country need to learn some responsibility and realise you get what you vote for. The reason we don’t have a Liberal Democrat government in place now making Liberal Democrat policy is that most people didn’t vote for it. The reason we have such an unrepresentative government in place now is the distortional electoral system which most people DID vote for (or by abstaining gave their support to) just a year and a half ago. More people voted for the Tories than for any other party, we have an electoral system which distorts representation in favour of the biggest party, as it did in May 2010 making anything but a government dominated by them impossibly, and it was left to the Liberal Democrats to have the dismal task of saying “OK, that’s what you voted for people of Britain, that’s what you’re getting”. But we really ought to have done so making it clear we offer an alternative, and we are willing to give it if the people of Britain show they want it.

    Nick Clegg’s defeatist speech at the 2012 Liberal Democrat conference, when he put forward the current tiny influence of the party in a government dominated by another as the pinnacle of success, when he offered no criticism of the distortions of the system that made it that way, was the opposite of that. Clegg’s 2012 Brighton speech was a surrender speech, a speech that shows why we are losing and losing badly, a disgrace to all who have worked so hard for so long for the party, given so much of their time and money to it.

  • Marisha Ray 1st Dec '12 - 1:07am

    Were I prone to blushing some of the remarks made by Mark and commentators above would certainly make me blush!
    The Green candidate, who unlike me was a local man, and though of similar descent to my own, has different familial religious affiliations , reminded me with alacrity at the count that he had five fewer votes than I and that I had the better result, and that too in spite of the fact that he’d attempted to run a campaign against a proposed waste facility which would produce combined heat and power on grounds of safety considerations. The result appeared to me to question the notion that the electorate trusts the Green party’s judgement on environmental issues. It seems to me that the electorate instead prefers a more considered approach put forward by other parties even when the environmental issue at hand is almost in their own back yard. While it may be less than modest to say so, I believe my own approach as a scientist to the matter made a difference as following my remarks at one of the hustings it is likely the press were reassured. The Green party needs to be wary of opportunism on local environmental issues and the assumption that local residents and press who are interested in environmental issues will be susceptible to it, and we need to bear this in mind too in future during the decades to come.
    One further obstacle to electoral success which hasn’t been mentioned is the availability of good, reasonably priced transport links, the free flow of traffic and the willingness of all involved to reschedule all the commitments in their diaries to put face to face contact with voters first at a time when work is often a priority by necessity. All of these are issues which need to be born in mind if we want as politicians of any party to engage with the public which we are a part of, something which needs to be prioritised not only by our party, but by everyone however tenuously linked to politics in the UK.

  • We will never be forgiven for failing in our pledge on tuition fee’s. This one decision by Clegg has destroyed his career and very badly damage the party. Parents and students all over the country were outraged and it’s not the type of “outrage” that disappears overnight.

  • Phil Wainewright 1st Dec '12 - 1:40am

    I believe I’m right in saying the worst previous post-war by-election performance was the Holborn & St Pancras South by-election of 19th November 1953, when the Liberal candidate polled 2.3% in a 3-way contest won by Lena Jeger for Labour with 52.1% over her Conservative opponent on 45.6% (allowing us the excuse on that occasion of a classic 3rd-party squeeze, without call in aid as additional excuses the November weather, darkness – and indeed smog in those days!).

    What we now have to get used to as a party is the sudden loss of the protest vote. We are in Government, and people can see how we behave, so they can no longer invest us with their own wish-fulfilment. Those votes instead go to UKIP or whatever other convenient empty vessel can capture it.

    Now we have to win votes from people who identify with what we stand for. And the problem for any party that’s done well out of protest votes for so long is that you get out of the habit of articulating what you stand for.

    In the case of the Lib Dems today, that problem is compounded by two further very harmful factors.:

    1) The difficult birth of coalition government. We had not had coalition in this country since the second world war, and even then unity had been at a premium. Therefore the doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility had a sixty-year stranglehold on the political establishment. Replacing that constrictive doctrine is one of the unsung triumphs of the coalition, confirmed this week by the unprecedented spectacle of the deputy prime minister speaking at odds from the despatch box against the prime minister’s position. We now have a much a healthier recognition that members of government can openly disagree with each other and yet work together despite those conflicting goals. Unfortunately, on the path to that recognition we had to endure the rose garden period of postured love-in that made us look like wannabee Tories.

    2) The fate-tempting juxtaposition of a ‘No more broken promises’ campaign alongside the signing of impossible personal pledges by our candidate MPs to oppose the raising of tuition fees. We could have avoided the trap we had set ourselves had our leadership not had the hubris to imagine they could get away with breaking that pledge. At a stroke, we destroyed the image that we were different from the rest and we cannot go back – even if we change leader, there is a segment of a generation that will never vote Lib Dem because of that single betrayal.

    And yet, we can do a better job of articulating what we believe in. Any Lib Dem knows that if you put a random bunch of us in a room, we rapidly find common ground. We respect individual rights and self-determination tempered by sensitivity to community. We share a distrust of top-down control, whether exerted by the state or by powerful corporations. We’re instinctively open and inclusive rather than distrustful of the unfamiliar.

    These are difficult times, but maybe we should be glad to be free of the protest vote mantle because now we can at last start working out how to express what we stand for without worrying about whether it will cost us votes. We already lost them, now let’s start working to earn more of the votes of people who actually share our beliefs.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 2:17am

    I read this thread with interest and frustration. Like others, I am genuinely shocked at the complacency on display by some contributors. Some of the excuses offered for an utterly disastrous performance (one in a series of increasingly disasterous performances), were pathetic.

    I was a party member from the mid-1990s to 2010. I have been a candidate for the party in local elections, and have also been a foot-soldier on the letterbox rounds. I tried very hard to stay with the party even after it formed a full coalition with the Tories. However, I left after Osborne’s first budget. So I wasn’t an Iraq-War protesting ex-Labour voter. Nor was I some muesli-eating sandal-wearing Liberal stereotype. What I was, or am, is someone who believes that British politics is broken. Who does not back the neo-liberal economic consensus of Thatcher. Who believes that political parties have a duty to acknowledge difficult issues and explain them to the electorate, rather than simplify to the point of ridiculous soundbite politics. And I beleve that the state should manage the economy in the best interests of the citizens, rather than managing the citizens for the benefit of big business. I also believe that the right-wing media, and the two main political parties, find it convenient to keep political debate stupid; to oversimplify; to tell people that they can have their cake and eat it. I voted LibDem because it was the intelligent party, in which issues were reasonably discussed and positions arrived at through debate,and consideration of evidence. One of the great advantages of the party, in my view, was that it did not try to appeal to everyone. I know that this is the charge most often levelled at the centre party by both right and left, but I always thought that hypocritical. New Labour has spent two decades trying to pretend it can be best friends with both the poor and the plutocrat. Cameron talks to the left of his concern for “Broken Britain”, while portraying the poor as workshy scroungers to his right. The LibDems always said – “These are our policies. We don’t expect everyone to like them, but they’re based on what we believe. If you’re authoritarian, we’re not interested. If you’re intolerant, or xenophobic, go cast your vote elsewhere”.

    Before the 2010 election, that’s what the party meant to me – a different, more grown-up, more intelligent type of politics. And the party leaders said the things I expected them to say on these lines, so I happily gave them my vote. I didn’t want to enter coalition with the Tories, but I also accepted that there was no realistic alternative coalition arrangement. I also recognised that the same old stupid politics was putting tremendous pressure on the party leaders to strike a far-too-rapid deal, with the ridiculous threats of market turmoil and occasionally bizarre reporting of the negotiations from a hostile media establishment.

    Nevertheless, I simply could not swallow what Clegg, Laws and Alexander then did. When did coalition, in our grown-up world, mean a complete lack of acknowledgment of difference ? I thought we stood for the ability to compromise while accepting differences. Not pretending they don’t exist ! This is what the other two parties had always done – lied openly to the public about their beliefs, and their actions, and justified it all by hiding behind the catch-all excuse of party unity or collective responsibility. Yet we didn’t have to adopt collective responsibility with the Tories. Nor did we need to maintain unity with them. This wasn’t the stance that I ever signed up for. Nor was it the stance which the party leadership had ever suggested would be the case. Nor had the party ever adopted an economic policy which is the most laissez-faire, ideologically right-wing, devil-take-the-hindmost approach which we have seen in this country since before Attlee. Did I miss the debates at conference when we abandoned our fundamental belief that the state is there to help people, not hurt them ? We were the intelligent party, yet suddenly from the mouths of our leaders, came the same glib, obviously inaccurate soundbites which Labour and the Tories had specialised in. Simplistic dribble about paying down credit cards, and likening state finances to household budgets. The denial of every economic lesson learned from Keynes about what happens when you cut spending in a recession. This was the usual stupidity of politics. A complete abandonment of everything which the party had stood for. I’m not even going to get into the support for the dismemberment of the NHS, which – given that there isn’t even the fig-leaf of coalition agreement cover – I count as a far, far more shameful betrayal of pre-2010 values than tuition fees.

    I am one of the ex-LibDems who left the party. At the last election, all four of the people who work in my small office voted LibDem. Today, none of us do, or will. I joined Labour – a party I’d never been in before, and had only voted for tactically on two occasions. Not because I think their policies are great. Not because I think their MPs are any more competent, or less venal. Simply because of two poor options, they are the least bad, and I can’t in all good conscience allow the Tories to continue to dismantle our society and create a Murdoch state, without trying to oppose it. And the Lib Dems are facilitating it, not opposing it. This is what Clegg and the current leadership have done. They took the hope of a different type of politics – a real choice between the old, stupid politics based on tribe and soundbites, and a new, intelligent version based on argument and evidence – and they simply dissolved it. They entered, wholeheartedly, into the same old politics. We didn’t need a third neo-liberal party seeking the approval of tabloids through stupidity. We already had two.

    Clegg’s whole strategy seems to have been that he would show that the LibDems in government could be seen as a “normal” governing party, like the other two. BUT THE WHOLE POINT WAS THAT LIBDEM VOTERS WANTED A DIFFERENT PARTY TO THE OTHER TWO. Did Clegg never meet any of his voters, or members ? Does he wonder who the hell the people at Conference are ?

    It still causes me some serious pain to see what has become of the party I supported and campaigned for pretty much all of my adult life. Such an incredible lost opportunity. But we need to be honest. It is lost. Clegg’s political misjudgements, and the support of the party which has tied all to his mast, has destroyed the LibDems. There is no recovery from this. The next election will see an electoral wipeout on a scale of the 1920s destruction of the party. There was room in British politics for a different party to the red&blue conservatives : we can see that from the number of voters casting around with Greens, UKIP and others. There is no room at all for a yellow conservative party. The leadership are sleepwalking to armageddon in 2015. And I don’t now think there’s any way to stop that. If the party is lucky, then it may uncover a new Ashdown-Kennedy type leader who can rebuild from the single number of seats it will be left with after the next election, and in 2030+, it may begin to offer an alternative again.

    I said earlier I left the party after 2010. I didn’t, of course. I remained in exactly the same place. The party left me, and several million like me. We won’t be back any time soon.

  • Ed Shepherd 1st Dec '12 - 6:32am

    The LibDem party never seems to have understood why people voted for it in the twenty or so years leading up to 2010. Many people used to vote LibDem because it was seen as an alternative to the two dominant parties. So-called “Middle-Class” voters saw it as more friendly to them than Labour. Students and poorer people saw it as obviously more friendly to them than the Tories. By entering into government with the Tories, the LibDems have lost most of that latter group of voters. They have either returned to Labour or are trying out the other parties (UKIP, Respect, ED) that the LibDems short-sightedly denigrate. Denigrating the parties that your former voters now vote for will not bring those voters back to the LibDems. Effectively, such denigration is saying that those who vote for those parties are stupid. That’s not going to help the LibDem party get more votes. The LibDems had the option in 2010 of offering qualified support for a minority Tory government but not entering into a coalition. They underestimated the dislike that many voters have for the Tories and misguidedly entered into the “Rose Garden” coalition. By creating the tuition fees debacle so early in the coalition, the LibDems lost vast numbers of voters who may never return to them. The constant harking about “freedom” that one sees in LibDem debates is another reason why the LibDems will struggle to make progress. Un(der)employed millions need money and jobs. Press freedom, secret courts, child detention, “localism” (whatever that is) and the “Big Society”(whatever happened to that?) offer nothing to people who are struggling to live more than a breadline lifestyle. Labour can push all the right buttons in 2015 to get the votes of those struggling millions.

  • At the risk of repeating myself, [sorry,] I think that LibDemocrat betrayal over the NHS and it’s agreement to deliver up to 49% private to NHS hospitals, will be the biggest undoing for the LD party.Trying to claim some sort of improvement and amelioration from the party, re this flawed and unmandated legislation, just rubs salt in the wounds.
    Having previously been sympathetic to the LD party and floating at times, around what I saw as centre left politics, we now have a Government more extreme than that of Thatcher.
    At the Police Comm isioner elections, I could not put my cross against the Liberal Democrat candidate , as first or second choice and under present leadership and policies, there are no circumstances in which I would vote for the party.There has been a seachange among many voters and it is a shame that so many party members are in denial.

  • I am amazed at the semi-detached analysis of Thursday’s disasterous results. Peter Chegwyn has stronger campaigning credentials than any other correspondent. Bill LeBreton & Matthew Huntbach are of the same ilk.
    The common conclusion, which stands out a mile, is that Clegg hass succeded in becoming both Toxic and a joke and us along with him. I recall the Conference glee club song about the lean years – lost deposits. They are back unless Bill LeB’s advice is heeded.

  • Bill le Breton 1st Dec '12 - 8:36am

    Brian thanks for your kind comments here and elsewhere. It is not simply that we are no longer a home for protest votes – it’s more complex than that.

    Lord Ashcroft has done some important polling, not looking at people according to the old economic class categores of A,D, C1 and C2 etc, but by looking at categories of outlook and attitudes to life.

    The results which I list below make interesting reading first on where we have lost support and what we need to do to win them back.

    Ashcroft identifies the following temperaments, with percentage of population, voting history from 2010 and disposition today (or in the summer when the 8,400 were polled.

    Optimistic individuals [29% of population] who have an upbeat view of life and believe that hard work and enterprise will be rewarded. 56% voted Conservative in 2010, 53% now. Lab: 9%, 11% now. Lib Dems: 13%,11% now. 29.7 people voted in 2010, so this suggests that approximately we have lost 170,000 with an outlook of life like this..

    Those with Entitlement Anxiety [28%] feel they have a raw deal from an unfair system which works against their interests and rewards those less needy or deserving. 28% voted Labour in 2010, 37% now. Lib Dems: 18%, 6% now. Our lost voters: 1,000,000.

    Suspicious Strivers [15%] who have many of the rugged attitudes generally associated with striving but are not sure that their endeavour, and that of other people like them, will bring the rewards it should. Con 29% to 20%, Labour 19% to 20%, Lib Dems 18% to 8% and UKIP 3% to 12%. Our lost voters 450,000

    Liberal Idealists [14%] optimistic, things are improving for them and theirs, but see unfair barriers to others succeeding and general improvements come from collective effort and well funded public services. Labour 30% to 43%, Con 15% to 14%, Lib Dems 23% to 11%. Our lost voters 500,000.

    Downbeat Dependents [14%] pessimistic and look to government, believing people have a right to decent housing, healthcare, education and enough to live on and government should make sure everyone has these. Labour 38% to 56%, Lib Dems 25% to 6%, Con 6% to 2%. Our lost voters 850,000.

  • Richard Dean 1st Dec '12 - 8:59am

    I wonder whether Lord Ashcroft’s approach might actually be the problem? Can people really be meaningfully assessed using these groupings? Do the groupings really represent motivations to vote one way or another? Or is this categorization just a management gimmick, a way of NOT understanding, rather than a way of understanding?

  • Richard Dean 1st Dec '12 - 9:12am

    The impression I get is that, of you put a random group of LibDems in a room, you end up with a heated discussion about how the voting system should be organized, and virtually no discussion at all about policies relevant to the furure of this country. And when a spark of policy debate does get lit, virtually nothing is said that is different from any other party, everyone feels they have a right to disagree with everyone else, and everyone does so.

    So, what little distinctiveness exists for LibDems is largely viewed as irrelevant by voters – as was seen in the referendum about voting. Every party is green to an extent. Every party sticks up for people’s rights. There is virtually no impression of a meaningful distinctive agenda or of unity. Apologies for being blunt, but this is a time for such.

  • @ Richard Dean

    “Can people really be meaningfully assessed using these groupings? ”

    They are the product of is what is known in marketing terms as “cluster analysis”, where you group people according to shared attitudes, and yes, in terms of politics they are valid because what is a party other than a group of people with (mostly) shared outlooks?

    The problem is that Ashcroft’s analysis demonstrates why people have fled from Lib Dem to Labour: lots of people like people to be given money and lots of people like well funded public services. The cuts are just incredibly unpopular among large sections of society, and they are especially unpopular among our voter base – much more so than among the Tories. This explains why our voter base has suffered and the Tories have held up so well. Many of their voters don’t value public spending.

    The trouble is this: there’s no money to promise higher spending. The only thing we can hope is that voters realise this when we come to the next election. Sadly, however, I think they will carry on voting for those who promise the most – even if it is completely undeliverable. People just want to believe there is a magic money tree that can save us all from hard times. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are promoting belief with their “too deep too soon” meme, which is utterly unsupported by economic reality (cuts haven’t caused the economy to stall) but which plays the right tune as far as large sections of society are concerned. And voters are just lapping it up.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 10:41am

    @RC

    I’m sorry, but that “argument” sounds effectively pruned straight from the pages of the right-wing tabloids. In fact, I have heard and read plenty of Tories saying exactly the same thing, and it’s just as wrong coming from them. IT seeks to frame the debate as if there is only one possible understanding of how the economy works. There is lots of money in this country. But it is incrasingly concentrated in the hands of a fantastically wealthy (and greedy) few, while a far higher number are suffering real drops in thei r income. Your (Tory) analysis serves that greedy few well, because it suggests that the only possible redistribution of wealth has to be between one group of less well-off and another. So you have to cut public spending there (hitting one group), in order to provide services here to help another. There are other options – a reform of the taxation system is one (yes, including a rise in taxes for the wealthy); and debt finance is another. But you dismiss debt finance as if it’s simply not an option. In other words, you (and Clegg and Alexander) repeat the orthodox neo-liberal view that the nation has some sort of bank account which is overdrawn, and we can’t therefore spend any more. This is, and always has been, a nonsense. It essentially denies that Keynes ever existed, denies that the UK has control over its own central bank, and denies that interest rates are at a historic low making borrowing cheap. Moreover, it helps to cover up one of the greatest scandals of this administration, which is that the quantitive easing which has taken place has seen a vast amount of money created, but rather than being put into the real economy via people and businesses, it has simply been given to the same banks who created this crisis in the first place.

    This is a Tory view. In my opinion, a simplistic and inaccurate Tory view. But in any case, anyone who thinks like this has absolutely no need to suport the LibDems. The Tories already have this ground perfectly well covered. I simply do not undersatnd what people who hold views like this are doing in the LibDems when there’s already a Tory Party whose approach to the economy is neatly summed up by what you say. As I said in my earlier post (which I hope has been accepted by moderators now), the whole point of the LibDems was to offer an alternative to the failed orthodoxy. By adopting the neo-Liberal orthodoxy, the party leadership removed its whole raison d’etre.

    Telling those voters who left the party that they did so because they’re too stupid to understand reality, or that they’re dependent scroungers seeking a free hand-out, is (a) not a very good way to try and win them back and (b) a very good explanation as to why the LibDems are now facing electoral annihilation.

    It’s possible that the LibDems have always had a portion of their electorate who are essentially anti-authoritarian Tories, and a portion who are anti-Authoritarian Labour types. That’s certainly what the red-blue conservatives would like to claim. But even if that were true, then a simple counting exercise makes one thing clear – there were an awful lot more Keynesian, interventionist Liberals, like me, than there were Orange Book, Thatcherite liberals like the leadership.

  • RC. “…….And voters are just lapping it up.” As did many many voters lap up the “abolish Tuition Fees” promise of the LIbDems in 2010. This promise (we are now told) was known to be “completely undeliverable” by LibDems at the time. So what is the difference between what Miliband is doing from what Clegg did?

  • robert sayer 1st Dec '12 - 11:20am

    So Labour,Tory and UKIP supporters are lining up to write off the Lib Dems. As a Lib Dem supporter for over 50 years , I experienced 1% in opinion polls and 1 MP. I was among a few councillors who met Tony Greaves in Birmingham to discuss how we improved on that situation. In 1979 I watched every Lib Dem Councillor disappear from my Council as Thatcher started her reign. Yes it took years to rebuild to the point where I was the Leader of a council where 31 of the 42 Councillors were Lib Dem.The lessons from both situations was that you stopped whingeing and got out to the doorsteps and saw off the lies , distortions and character assasinations from others. Let other parties spit bile at us the deep down “Liberal” is hurting but there is within them a belief that is not shared by such nonsenses as UKIP,BNP and other groups who have no place in a democratic and integrated society

  • @RC.The national debt is rising under the coalition and people can see that.

  • Chris Greaves 1st Dec '12 - 11:58am

    The problem is that, as has been said by others, the main article here seems to have been written in a state of denial. We did embarrassingly badly, and we need to acknowledge that, and look long and hard as to why. In this context, I fully agree with RC that Ashcroft’s analysis is totally valid.
    I stood as our candidate in a Council by-election just a year ago, when there was a bit of noise about Greece in the news, and I had an objective of beating UKIP. OK, Greece’s issues should have zero impact in a Council election, but it is all about sentiment and perception. Yes, we did beat UKIP, but by only 4 votes. That was a bit close at the time, but in a re-run today, let’s be honest with ourselves, I’d have had no chance!
    So what’s my message? We need to wake up and smell the coffee, otherwise we do face oblivion in 2014 and 2015. We may be right about Europe, but the public just don’t want to know, and we need to face that reality. Head on!
    There is a lot that is wrong with the EU, as well as a lot that is right, but it is the drama and the sillies that make the press, not the things that are right or that go well. And if we simply highlight what is right and good, we’ll get written off as mere apologists trying to paper over all that is wrong.
    The rise of nationalism is being fed by the problems in the EU and particularly the eurozone. That rise in nationalism comes at a time when we are in government having spectacularly failed to deliver a high-profile pledge at the last election, with Nick’s famous recent apology, and our most distinctive policy being diametrically opposite public opinion. We are a strongly pro-Europe, pro-euro party, and even if we try not to talk about it much at the moment, the truth remains, and it is how the public sees us. It is our one most distinctive policy. It may not be our most important policy at the moment, but I do suggest that it is the policy that distinguishes us from the other parties more than any other.
    So what do we do about it? Well, I’m not a strategist, merely an active activist, but unless we do wake up and accept that our most distinctive policy is out of sync with public thinking, we cannot hope to stop the upcoming rout. I’m not remotely suggesting our policy is wrong, but the public clearly thinks it is, with the demonstrable rise of UKIP, and support from the detail Ashcroft’s analysis, which seems to show the public links the EU with red tape and regulation, rather than the aspirational hopes of the people. That is the challenge. It is for the party to evolve the solution, but unless it does wake up and tackle the issue head-on, we do face the future as irrelevant.
    We need to tackle UKIP directly, engage with them, and not just write them off with platitudes like “we’re in government and they haven’t even got a single MP”. That is the way to disaster.
    How many readers here would find the following scenario utterly distasteful but not totally unrealistic: after the 2015 general election, UKIP have more MP’s than us, and will hold the balance of power, possibly even in government with the Tories? Unless we do something, and do it now, that could happen. Don’t forget, UKIP are clearly still rising, and we are, well, demonstrably declining. Sorry, but it needs to be said.

  • Peter Watson 1st Dec '12 - 12:19pm

    Earlier, RC posed the question, “what would you want them to do, exactly?”
    For what its worth, here are a couple of ideas.

    For supporters of the coalition, how about an electoral pact with the conservatives? Avoid splitting the vote and pick up tory voters who have no candidate of their own. Campaign on the basis of the shared government record, capitalise on the hoped for recovery by claiming that it was “coalition wot done it” and that the best way to ensure more of the same is to vote for your local coalition candidate. Perhaps this would retain current seats and maybe even increase the party’s representation and influence within a second coallition, making it even more Lib Dem.

    Alternatively, dump Clegg and step away from the coalition – but not yet. Changing direction too far from the election risks losing the novelty and impact by the time pople cast their votes. Let Clegg go to the much vaunted European Commissioner role in 2014: tory eurosceptics will furiously point to Brussels as a gravy train for discredited politicians, so they’ll be happy. Lib Dems can then apologise for the mistakes they have made under the former leadership and promise to learn from them. If the party hides the coalition-policy enthusiasts, it can emphasise the point that Lib Dems were a small minority in a tory-dominated coalition and were bound by collective repsonsibility to reluctantly go against their better instincts. Maybe this will be enough to retain tactical voters from both ends of the policital spectrum, and maybe atract back some of those who have been left by the party.

    I believe that if the party approaches 2015 in the same way as every previous general election, without acknowledging that this coalition government has changed the game, then it risks being decimated.

  • The problems facing the Lib Dems are more general to progressive politics than specific to the Party. People vote out of self interests with maybe the odd nod at the greater good. At the moment all the major Parties to a greater and lesser extent are pushing a particular economy agenda which does not benefit the majority of voters. For instance it is seen as “brave pragmatic realism” to make a postman pay more to retire later on less or to sack a few dinner laddies, but as pandering to “populism and mob rule” to suggest higher rates of tax at the top, or to regulate the markets or introduce something like an operating tax that means companies currently insisting they are making losses can’t use loopholes. . The point is that people are disillusioned because politics bye passes them. So you switch on the telly and it’s “how do you think the markets will react, over to the business editor. The head of the Bank of England says this, Here’s an polling expert wit h with a chart,. Oh and by the way here’s a token interview with a couple of plebs . Now, over to Andrew Marr, who is talking to the editor of a newspaper, some Party munchkin and an actor about the troubles in Palestine”. The voters are playing second fiddle to the pundits .
    In the case of the Lib Dems , they are currently hitting their own voters, to prop up a Conservative economic strategy that is failing on virtually every level and on wednesday will reveal more evidence of the extent of this abysmal failure. Vince Cable will look disgruntled and Nick Clegg will be wheeled out sell more “tough pragmatic choices” which will lead to a triple dip because they’re based on muddled thinking. Why should people vote for Parties that leave them worse off and refuse to represent them properly?

  • ..Clegg European Commissioner role.. and that salary that this intails..

    ..that would really show that we are in this austerity programme together wouldn’t it?..

  • Peter Watson 1st Dec '12 - 12:44pm

    P.S. I just realised that I should point out that neither of the ideas in my last post should be seen as things that I want the party to do. I was simply playing devil’s advocate for a couple of ways that the party could approach the 2015 general election.

  • “Given that the media read this, providing them with a ‘senior Liberal Democrat throws hands up in despair’ headline is probably bad.”

    I suppose that difficulty could be overcome by having the article written by someone on a slightly less exalted plane …

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 1:42pm

    @Jedibeeftrix

    I’m well aware of the failings of the British political system and the damaging consequences of the electroal system – I was a LibDem for more than two decades, you know !

    However, I think your view that any party has to compete for those Worcester-Woman-Essex-Man Daily Mail reading swingers is mistaken. I know that Blair took the view that New Labour could only win if it appealed to Tory voters, and Cameron likewise took the view that the Tories would only win if they appealed to Labour voters. However,that view seems to be ignoring the broader trend in British politics which has been underway since the 1960s, which is an increasing proportion of the electorate who are either seeking to vote for anyone except the duopoly (which explains the rise in votes for Liberals, nationalists and Greens), or who are so disenchanted with politics that they simply don’t vote at all. There is clearly a very large number of voters out there – possibly a majority – who want something which the mainstream parties are not offering them. Labour and the Conservatives since 1990 have essentially set themselves the task fo fighting over a small number of people in the middle of a shrinking proportion of the electorate. Both have traditionally taken what they assume to be their “base” for granted, as if they had nowhere else to go. The success of the Kennedy approach was that he gave those people, and indeed many of the disenchanted, somewhere where they could go. What Clegg has done, is he has joined the scrummage for that small and shrinking group of people Labour and Tories are already scrapping over. In the process, he has lost literally millions of people who, like me, had identified the LibDems as a chance for something different.

    Even if you don’t agree with that, let me pose a question. Assume everything I said was wrong. Assume that the huge proportion of the electorate who vote neither Tory nor Labour are actually interested in the same orthodox policies put forward by the main parties, but simply don’t vote because it’s too cold, or some equally weak reason. Do you, or indeed anyone, think that by abandoning the LibDem distinctiveness which appealed to nearly 7 million voters at the last election, Clegg has made it more or less likely that the party will win office in the future ?

    You can’t have it both ways. The old, principled policies won 7m votes and enough seats to claim a place in power. The new orthodox, neo-liberal policies will see the return of the LibDems to obscurity within the next 3 years, and their replacement as an alternative party by essentially single-issue groupings such as the Greens and Ukip. So I don’t think it’s reasonable to attack that principled stance on the grounds that it prevented the LibDems getting into power. Actually, it was only by adopting and sticking to that principled stance that they got anywhere near power. Now it’s been abandoned, they’re toast.

    In other words, you imply that the Liberals’ problem was that they were not competing for a majority of voters. My argument is that the leadership has actually abandoned a large and growing group of voters in favour of competing for a small and shrinking group. It is a sign, I think, of how sclerotic political debate has become in this country that people in all parties simply assert that “elections are won in the centre” and are referring to this small and dying breed of small “c” swing voters, while there are huge numbers of voters whose votes are there for the taking, but who are not being spoken to by any major party.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 2:47pm

    @jedibeeftrix

    Obviously we’re not going to agree. But I’m fascinated with your optimism that the LibDems will even be able to field sufficient candidates in 2020 to compete in every consitutency, let alone target the election as some sort of goal for Government.

    Your post seemed to me to have two flaws :

    First, I don’ty understand what you think the LibDems are currently offering to the electorate. Why would the LibDems want to be a party of Government if they have nothing to govern for ? You seem to be implying that this is just some sort of football game, where we happen to be the yellow team and our goal is to beat the red and blue teams. That’s red&blue conservative politics in a nutshell, and everything that I and millions of ex-LibDem voters find repellent about the two main parties. What exactly, do the LibDems stand for, if not for a principled platform of distinctive policies ?

    Second, when the Labour party replaced the Liberals as the main non-Tory party, the method they used was to identify with a large segment of the electorate for whom they would become the natural party. Those people were the previously unrepresented and recently enfranchised working class, of course. The Liberals, on the other hand, had no such mass self-identifying group. It seems to me that this was a completely one-off event which doesn’t offer the chance for repetition in reverse. There is no large monolithic socio-economic consitutency out there which is currently unrepresented, waiting for the Liberals to do the job. In the meantime, Labour has a century of tribal voter identification behind it which means that no matter what, it’s likely to gain and keep about 30% of the electorate. Likewise, the Tories have about 30% of the electorate who will vote blue no matter what, even if they have no idea what Tory policies are. That leaves 40% of the electorate. But they’re a disparate group, so where do you target ? What unites them, if anything ? My suggestion is that not much unites all of them, and no party can, or should, attempt to appeal to a group which includes BNP/UKIP nutters, and socialist worker loons. But a large and growing group are small “l” liberals and social democrats who are independent-minded, often more highly-educated than party tribalists tend to be, and who tend to be pro-Government intervention because they care rather more about society and the vulnerable than the Tories ever will, but who are socially liberal and anti-authoritarian in a way which most Labourites can’t empathise with. This is the growing part of the electorate, and they are not the same as the traditional swing voters Cameron and Miliband target. Cameron can hug hoodies and promote gay marriage, but he can’t offer compassion for the poor or restraint on market failure. Miliband can offer assistance to the vulnerable, but can’t hid the big clunking fist of a party which has never given up its belief that it should tell people howto live their personal lives. What Kennedy managed to do was attract this growing and active group of people to the LibDems. They were, as we can now see very clearly, about 4 million of the 7 million who voted LibDem last time.

    As I said, I admire your optimism, but I simply do not see where you hope to get votes from. The 30% Labour and 30% Tory voters won’t come to the LibDems under any circumstances. A further 20% were coming to us, but have now been so badly betrayed by Clegg et al in power that they will look elsewhere for a home for their loyalty, time and money. The LibDems can’t compete for the lunatic fringe on either side. So who’s left ? Who, exactly, does the leadership think is going to vote LibDem at the next election ?

    The inescapable truth, as demonstrated now for getting on for 3 years, is that the majority of us who supported the LibDems prior to 2010 simply did not want what the leadership have delivered. We did not want yet another small “c” conservative party. We were a growing number in a growing part of the electorate. Clegg’s actions in Government have destroyed that vote, and left, well, what ? Tribalists ? Fine, everyone needs tribalists, I guess. It’s just the LibDems don’t have very many of them.

  • John Broggio 1st Dec '12 - 2:51pm

    @RC

    “this bog standard Labour party analysis” – really? I’ve never heard Balls or Miliband saying that we should have let the banks go the wall and then picked up the pieces like Iceland did, have you?

    You are right that the deficit exploded under New Labour. It exploded in 2008. Solely because Brown thought it was better to support some people wearing suits than to let capitalism take its course & because of that decision he has a lot to answer for. But to pretend that means that the less fortunate in society should pay from the evisceration of benefits (cash & services) instead of the people wearing the suits is completely disingenuous.

    Growth is growth irrespective of how it is obtained. We had some in 2010 & it was extinguished because too many who should know far better have been hoodwinked into thinking an economy is the same as a household. In a household it makes no sense to run a deficit because the householder is subject to the mercy of an externally controlled currency and credit line; ruin is inevitable. In an economy, cutting spending reduces money spent & then demand resulting in the recession which was widely predicted including that notable Labour apparatchik, Paul Krugman. Watch him outline where my argument is exactly wrong here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r-AKruzmkk

    “Sorry, but if Labour had been in power, the situation would have been virtually identical to the one we face today,” – I am complete agreement with that statement because, like Gidiot , (following complete volte faces) Vince & Danny, Ed BallsUp would have followed the same criminally idiotic & completely uneconomic policies.

    So my analysis is “that it is utterly wrong and unsupported by the facts” is it? Seems to me you need to catch up on what searching on the www can do for you.

  • @ Peter Watson
    “For supporters of the coalition, how about an electoral pact with the conservatives?”

    Utterly suicidal and simply not going to happen, even if we wanted it. Do you think the Tories want anything other than to annihilate us?

    @ John Broggio

    “Growth is growth irrespective of how it is obtained.”

    Oh really, that takes the biscuit, it does. Are you seriously saying that having an 11.3% of GDP deficit is sustainable for more than one year or so? Without a plan to bring that deficit down in double quick time, the UK’s days of solvency in 2010 would have been numbered and yet you seem to be saying we could have breezed straight ahead without giving a thought to putting things in order.

    Labour threw everything including the kitchen sink into pumping up the UK economy with even more debt in a desperate bid to get re-elected and the Coalition is now picking up the pieces.

    As for lecturing me about the need to catch up on economics from the www, let me tell you that I studied economics at Cambridge where we had Keynes rammed down our throats at every possible opportunity.

    Keynes’s insights were brilliant but are of limited use to today’s UK economy which is much more open in terms of trade than the past, meaning that the multipliers of any fiscal boost would be considerably lower given the current circumstances of low international demand for UK exports, with credit deleveraging and high commodity prices.

    What does this mean? It means you could go on throwing even more demand at the UK economy with public spending but it still wouldn’t come right because it all leaks out in imports. That is the problem at the moment: we have the mother of all financial crises hanging over us in the Eurozone plus high prices for oil and other commodities. The result is that businesses are hoarding cash and consumers have little spending power and are focused on paying down debt.

    I really hang my head in despair at the thought that anyone who tricks themselves into believing we can solve that with even more borrowed government cash on top of the already large deficit.

  • @margaret
    “The national debt is rising under the coalition and people can see that.”

    Yes, it is, but it was skyrocketing and out of control under Labour. The deficit (which is how much we add to the debt total each year) was over 11% under Labour and it’s now down to 7-8% after just two and a half years.

    The question is, how do we work to bring that down? Unless we get some help from the international economy in terms of lower oil, food and other commodity prices to boost households’ spending power and higher demand for our exports, then it is going to be a very tough job.

    Labour left us on top of a dangerous debt mountain (£1.5 trillion of household debt alone), and the Coalition was left with the task of inching us slowly back down and out of danger. Sadly, I think an awful lot of people here are in denial about how difficult that actually is.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 4:19pm

    @RC

    Sorry, but even if I accepted your ideas about the irrelevance of Keynes and the necessity of paying down the national debt at a tremendous rate, that still leaves three questions for you :

    1) Why have the LibDems chosento support a course of action which attempts to pay off the national debt, not by using the unproductive wealth of the richest individuals and corporations, but by reducing the incomes and services of the poorest ?

    2) In what way were these – frankly very right wing neo-liberal economic theories – put to the electorate or party members prior to 2010. Because I was both, and I don’t recall us saying that we had become Hayekian deficit hawks. Quite the reverse.

    3) If this is what the leadership, and the remaining rump of members believe, then what on earth stops them from joining the Tories ? Can it really just be a more positive attitude towards Europe ?

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 5:34pm

    @Jedi

    You’re answering a different question. I didn’t ask why the LibDems chosen to reduce the deficit, I asked why they chose to reduce it by cutting the incomes and services of the less well off, rather than increasing the taxes of the wealthiest. Even if one accepted the argument that the government is living “beyond its means” – which, as it happens, I think is simplistic – then that still leaves choices.

    There are budgets to be cut which impact less on the poor and more on the rich – pension tax relief, for example. There are alternative spending choices – we’re currently burning billions on a war in Afghanistan we’ve lost, and more billions maintaining armed forces whose sole goal seems to be allow UK politicians to still pretend London controls the globe. There are loopholes to be closed which we are all well aware of, and there are choices which can be made to increase tax income from the wealthiest. There are some choices which could be made on the scandal which is PFI which could save billions, but would require big business leeches to be challenged. All these actions would also reduce the budget deficit. Instead, we have a concerted attack on the very poorest and most vulnerable. The picture emerging of the fate of disabled and sick people is horrifying. Within 6 months, poor families are going to start being evicted from the communities which they and their children have always lived in. The real incomes of everyone outside the top 10% have shrunk, with an effect on business that can be seen in any town outside of the south-east, and plenty of parts of London. And at the same time, the very richest not only are allowed to get away with increasingly outrageous tax avoidance, but are even given a tax cut !

    The reason why the LibDems have lost 4 million voters in two years is not because people are stupid and believe in a magic money tree. It’s because these choices are absolutely oposed to the values of those people. It’s because the party leaders were happy to state before the last election that they would not make these choices. And yet these policies are being implemented with LibDem support. It is simply not good enough to say that these are Tory policies and they could ahve been worse, or that being part of a coalition involves compromise. The LibDems have helped the Tories to launch the greatest attack on the weak and the vulnerable this country has seen since the war. They have trooped into Tory lobbies to dismantle and sell-off the NHS and the public education system. Their reward for this has been, what ? No voting reform. No Lords reform. No constitutional reform at all, in fact. The most hostile stance towards the EU we’ve ever had. A higher education funding system which is now clearly discouraging young people from pursuing their education post-18. A Tory Right so confident in the slavish uselessness of their coalition partners that they confidently begin to attack the most basic working rights and protections, and begin to decry global warming as a con, and environmentalism as pointless, even as they contemptuously spit on the yellow lobby fodder who have to deliver their policies for them. They even floated the abolition of maternity leave, for Pete’s sake !

    There is no escaping that the LibDems could have stopped any of these things. But they didn’t. The 7m people who voted LibDem in 2010 did not vote for a Conservative party of Conservative economic and social views. But that’s what we got. And that’s why at the next election, there will be just enough MPs to fit comfortably into a people mover, and there will continue to be a cull of councillors with every local election. The denial about this amongst the Orange Bookers is truly shocking.

  • @Rebecca Taylor. With due respect. The fact remains that the Liberal Democratics were complicit with the Tories in introducing a law enabling NHS hospitals to legally receive up to 49% of their income from private patients (not long ago Shirley Williams was insisting that this is not the case, but you appear to be confirming that it is). In addition we are witnessing increasing commercialisation of the health service with private companies queuing up for contracts. Again this is courtesy of the LibDem/Tory Coalition. You will be aware that no-one in Britain voted for this – is this what people want for their National Health Service? I believe that the electorate has a real resentment with the LibDems in relation to the NHS, which helps to explain the recent poor LibDem electorate performances.

  • mark fairclough 1st Dec '12 - 6:32pm

    some libdem voters supported them not expecting the libdems propping up labour to so labour could carry on bankrupting us.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 6:50pm

    @mark fairclough

    You say this as if the only alternative to facilitating the Tories’ attack on civil society was supporting an incompetent and authoritarian Labour administration.

    This misses the point I’ve been making all along. The LibDems had shaped a distinct identity pre-2010 which was different from both Labour and Tories. The list of policies I set out as an example above see Labour and the Tories differ only by degree, not in principle. Both are obsequious to the rich, and contemptuous of the poor. Both pander to populism and cringe from tabloids. Both continue to espouse the failed economic approach of Thatcher. Perhaps the mistake the leadership made was that they saw the last election as forcing them to choose between Labour and the Conservatives. But actually, it gave them the power to choose to be LibDems. At the very moment when either Labour or Tories would HAVE to concede ground to the LibDems in order to form a government, Clegg decided to simply abandon that distinct LibDem identity in a futile attempt to somehow prove that the LibDems were a “Party of Government”, as defined by the two “parties of Government” who had been rejected by LibDem voters.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’re right, and there are some LibDems who don’t have a problem with what the current governmentis doing, and who find the Tories much more convivial company than Labour. Certainly that appears to be the case in the parliamentary party. Unfortunately for that particular minority of the pre-2010 party, it turns out there were far fewer of them than there were LibDems like me. Which is why the LibDems are now the fourth party of British politics, and sinking faster than anyone could have predicted.

    No more complex an answer to current travails is needed : the leadership took the party into an extreme right government pursuing extreme right polciies, and the membership and supporters weren’t extreme right. Until that’s acknowledged, then there’s no hope of recovery.

  • mark fairclough 1st Dec '12 - 7:03pm

    there was a time when people understood the third party was equal distance from the other two & could go in coalition with both the other 2 parties maybe it was before THATCHER & BLAIR took their parties to the right

  • Note to the Lib Dems: ditch Clegg and make Julian Critchley your leader. He talks a great deal of sense!

  • @Julian Critchley. You are spot on. I believe that the LibDem leadership and a majority of the the party’s MPs are very seriously ‘out of sync’ with a majority of the party’s membership and voters. This, for any political party, is not a situation that can be sustained. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a big crisis within the LibDem party. In my opinion the MPs and leadership are increasiingly ‘to the right’ of the party’s membership and voters. Something has to give.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '12 - 10:10pm

    Julian Critchley

    There is clearly a very large number of voters out there – possibly a majority – who want something which the mainstream parties are not offering them.

    Yes, as I said, a party which offers super high levels of public services, no increases in taxation.That will give good quality affordable housing to everyone, but won’t build over green land and won’t lay a finger on the money people get for free out of owning housing. That will stop global warming, but won’t make us change the way we do anything. Etc. Oh, and that never tells lies …

    I have never found anyone who tells me they are fed up with all the parties and want something different who has a coherent and possible alternative. Everyone like that I encounter is essentially moaning because no party is offering the impossible.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '12 - 10:44pm

    Julian Critchley

    At the very moment when either Labour or Tories would HAVE to concede ground to the LibDems in order to form a government, Clegg decided to simply abandon that distinct LibDem identity in a futile attempt to somehow prove that the LibDems were a “Party of Government”, as defined by the two “parties of Government” who had been rejected by LibDem voters.

    No, the May 2010 general election gave a Parliament in which the only viable government was a Conservative-LibDem coalition. The LibDems were not in a position to choose between Labour and the Conservatives because there were not enough Labur MPs for a Labour-LibDem coalition to have a majority.

    You have this idea that the Liberal Democrats following the general election of 2010 could just have sat back and said “We’ll make Britain ungovernable by refusing to join any coalition unless the larger party in the coalition agrees to drop all their policies and adopt ours”. Do you honestly think the Liberal Democrats would have got much public sympathy had they taken this stand? They’d have been torn to pieces, derided for their arrogance in supposing they could dictate to the rest of the country despite having less than one in ten of the country’s MPs. Indeed, we see this already, when the Liberal Democrats do try to dictate to the Tories they are slammed down by the right-wing press for getting in the way of effective government, and they get NO support for it from anyone on the left since whatever they do, they are still universally derided on the left for having “put the Tories in”, as if somehow that’s nothing to do with ow the people voted and how that vote got distorted by the electoral system, whose distortion is supported by most Labour people as well as by almost all Tories.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Dec '12 - 10:52pm

    @Mark Valladares:

    ” But as I’m married to a Member of Parliament”

    NOT a Lib Dem peer? Someone should tell Ros!

    Mark is obviously having a ‘senior’ moment. :-)

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '12 - 11:02pm

    jedibeeftrix

    I think that Clegg and the senior management realised that hoping britain was really a consensual european democracy in disguise was a pipe dream, but that for the first time in 100 years there existed an oportunity to return the lib-dem’s as a party of government………….. by knocking labour of the perch they stole from the lib-dem’s a century earlier.

    Well, that’s the Clegg line, but it hasn’t worked, has it? The party’s reputation could perhaps be saved if Clegg and those surrounding him were to make a public apology “Sorry – we really thought that people would be impressed by seeing us as a ‘party of government’ so we pushed a policy of exaggerating our influence, thinking that would gain us support. Now we can see we got it wrong, we made a huge mistake, therefore we resign”.

    What it comes down to is that if you hold a small number of posts in a government which is largely of another party and so have only a small influence on government policy, saying you are “in government” does not impress, it does the opposite – people can see the government you are “in” is not by and large following your policies, so it just looks like pathetic boasting, or a defeatist attitude, or that all you really valued was having those posts so you didn’t matter what policies the government you were”in” followed once you had them. The Liberal Democrat leadership and those making the party’s national image ought to have realised that the words “in government” mean what the Labour Party had between 1997 and 2010, and the Conservative Party had between 1979 and 1997 – complete control of the government. It just does not work to use that phrase of the Liberal Democrats when they are simply NOT in the position that Labour was from 1997 to 2010 and the Conservative Party was from 1979 to 1997.

    To put the current position of the Liberal Democrats as “knocking Labour off the perch” is ridiculous. Would you say that the Liberal Party was “knocking the Conservatives off the perch” when it formed the Lib-Lab pact in 1977 after Labour lost its majority in the Commons?

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 11:08pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    One of Blair’s tricks was that, when faced with demands from his own party members for different policies, he’d erect several straw men, argue against them, and then conclude that because those men were made of straw, he had to carry on with what he was doing. He was the first practitioner of There Is No Alternative. You just did the same.

    Again, there are a lot of people out there who are quite capable of doing the sums. I listed a whole series of policies above which would be popular with a large section of the electorate who used to vote LibDem, and I could add to them if I wished. The idea that the only way to address this economic crisis is to hammer the poor, squeeze the middle, and cosset the rich, is a toxin which is poisoning our society. This is a very wealthy country. We have plenty of money in our companies and individuals which could be used more productively than it is at present. We do not have to privatise public services, when PFI has demonstrated time and again how that costs the taxpayer MORE. The Government, including the LibDems, is choosing to pursue this particular set of policies, and there are alternatives which just don’t suit a particular ideological right-wing agenda, so they are dismissed, as you dismissed them above.

    The fact is that while many Labour and Tory voters may not be interested in alternatives (or may be repeatedly told they’re not interested by their tabloid of choice), their core only now constitute some 60% of the electorate. That leaves a LOT of people who are open to different ideas. There is a coherent alternative. In fact, if you wanted to see a coherent alternative to the current orthodoxy, then you could simply read pre-2010 LibDem policy documents (well, not the Orange Book, obviously).

    You sound contemptuous of those party members and voters who have withdrawn their support. I think that’s dangerous for the party. Partly because ex-supporters are much more likely to become supporters once again than those who never were supporters, so telling them they’re simpletons doesn’t help rebuild, and partly because you sound like the red&blue conservatives, and as I’ve maintained throughout, there is no room between those two. Labour and Tories love telling us that There Is No Alternative, because the current situation serves them, and their friendly plutocrats, very well indeed. The LibDems rose on the back of saying that there actually IS an alternative, and sensibly setting out what that alternative was. It was when the leadership abandoned that stance that they abandoned all of us who actually believe that there is indeed a better way to govern, and a better society to be built.

    By all means let the leadership continue to say the same things as the Tories and Labour. By all means, let the leadership pervert democracy as Labour and the Tories do, seeing it as some sort of tendering process for a management consultant contract fought between identical teams offering the same solutions but wearing different colour ties. But the voters who are happy with that approach already vote Labour and Tory. This isn’t an argument, it’s a fact. And it’s a fact which Rotherham hammered home about as forcefully as anyone should need. The Lib Dems need to offer an alternative again (and can only do that under a new leadership), or they will go the way of the SDP shortly after 2015. To be honest, I think Clegg has so badly mishandled this opportunity that there’s not really much chance of saving the party in any case, but go to the 2015 election defending this record in Government, and promising to do more of the same, and the party will certainly be annihilated.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '12 - 11:25pm

    BIGDAVE

    In addition we are witnessing increasing commercialisation of the health service with private companies queuing up for contracts. Again this is courtesy of the LibDem/Tory Coalition. You will be aware that no-one in Britain voted for this – is this what people want for their National Health Service?

    More people voted for the Conservatives than for any other party, and the Conservatives are the party of privatisation, the party that believes the best way of delivering a service is to offer it out to private bidders and give it to the one which bids lowest. This is what the Conservatives forced on local government – remember Nick Ridley’s vision of local governmnet reduced to an annual dinner where the councillors hand out the contracts to the private bidders? – and while I don’t have the Conservative manifesto at hand, I’m pretty sure once can find words in it which state that’s what they would do with the NHS. The Conservatives wouldn’t see this as contradicting their stated support for the NHS, they would (and do) say it’s still no charge to the patient, they would (and do) just suppose the natural way to boost efficiency and quality is to introduce a market mechanisms with competing private contractors.

    So, sorry, your claim is simply wrong – when people voted Conservative, and more of them voted Conservative in 2010 than for anything else, they voted for this sort of thing. Any argument you might raise that the Conservatives still only got 36% of the vote was DESTROYED by the May 2011 referendum. The opponent of electoral reform in that referendum put the argument that the party with the most votes has the right to all power, that representation should be distorted in order to give it that power – and the people of Britain voted, by two to one, in support of that idea. That is, by two to one in May 2011 the people of Britain voted in support of the idea that the Conservatives, as the biggest party, should dominate government far more than their share of the vote would give them if power were given in proportion to vote share. That is they voted by two to one for the NHS policies of this government. They may not have realised it, but that is just what they did. The “No” campaign was absolutely clear – they urged a “No” vote on the grounds that First-Past-the-Post means the biggest wins, and it doesn’t matter if they have less than half support, they are the biggest, they have won, they should have complete power, because that is “dynamic” government, which they said is good. The “No” campaign was supported by many prominent Labour Party people as well as Conservatives, opposition to it in the Labor Party was so weak that hardly anyone even knew it existed.

    If people didn’t like the consequences of the distortions of the electoral system we have – the one which strengthens the power of the biggest party and weakens the power of third parties – and what is happening to the NHS is one of those consequences – they were given the opportunity to say so. But they didn’t take that opportunity, they took the opposite approach – they voted by two to one in favour of the distortions that gave us what we have.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Dec '12 - 11:27pm

    @Matthew

    Obviously the right-wing press (and even establishment vehicles such as the BBC) put an enormous amount of pressure on the LibDems after the election, but what you wrote was fundamentally flawed, in my view. I didn’t oppose going into coalition with the Tories. It was the only coalition government possible. But I absolutely opposed the nature of the coalition Clegg signed us up to, with its false portrayal of unity, and its discounting of 7m LibDem voters.

    You wrote :
    “You have this idea that the Liberal Democrats following the general election of 2010 could just have sat back and said “We’ll make Britain ungovernable by refusing to join any coalition unless the larger party in the coalition agrees to drop all their policies and adopt ours”. Do you honestly think the Liberal Democrats would have got much public sympathy had they taken this stand? They’d have been torn to pieces, derided for their arrogance in supposing they could dictate to the rest of the country despite having less than one in ten of the country’s MPs.”

    Firstly having a minority government does not make a country ungovernable. It’s happened in this country in living memory, and it happens in other countries all the time. They manage.

    Secondly, of course the rabid right-wing press would have torn the LibDems to pieces. That’s what they do. It’s what they always did. This is exactly what I said when I said that Clegg looked at the wrong people when deciding what to do. 7 million of us voted for the LibDem alternative DESPITE the endless media hostility and contempt. Not many LibDem voters were unaware of where the media’s loyalties lie. Those same papers may have influenced Tories and Labourites to blame/hate the LibDems more, but they were also going to do that anyway. Clegg’s approach to coalition was a doomed attempt to appease/attract Tory/Labour/swing voters. Not an attempt to represent his actual voters. Yes, if the LibDems had refused to raise tuition fees, they would have been monstered by the press. But their own supporters put them there to do that. Yes if they’d stopped the NHS dismemberment, the right-wingers would have howled from the rooftops, but their own supporters would have cheered them to the rafters.

    Clegg has spent much of the first two years of the coalition trying to appease and attract people who hate him, his party and everything he stands for, and he’s been willing to pay the price of losing the large majority of those who actually supported his party. It’s like watching an abusive relationship playing out in Westminster. Labour and the Tories have always considered it safe to ignore and dismiss their base, on the grounds that their tribalists have nowhere else to go. That 30% will vote for them no matter what they do. The LibDem tribe is probably only about 5%of the electorate. The other 15% were people who voted for a set of policies which they believed in, not for a colour. So when Clegg tried to do a Blair, and “reach out” to new support, all he did was push out old support, and receive the derision of those he sought to attract. The last two years has been possibly the most catastrophic period of party leadership this country has seen in the modern democratic era. It’s right up there with Heath and MacDonald. Clegg sacrificed the majority of his support in order to try and get a bunch of rabid dogs to stop savaging him for a bit.

    How’s that working out, do you think ?

  • “”But as I’m married to a Member of Parliament”
    NOT a Lib Dem peer? Someone should tell Ros!
    Mark is obviously having a ‘senior’ moment.”

    Give the poor man a break. His (perceived) status as a “senior Liberal Democrat” scarcely hinges on that distinction. His user profile on blogger.com describes him as a “Portfolio Holder for Finance and Wildlife on the Parish Council” [of Creeting St Peter, Suffolk, I presume]. That in itself must assure close media scrutiny of his utterances.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '12 - 11:49pm

    Julian Critchley

    Again, there are a lot of people out there who are quite capable of doing the sums. I listed a whole series of policies above which would be popular with a large section of the electorate who used to vote LibDem, and I could add to them if I wished. The idea that the only way to address this economic crisis is to hammer the poor, squeeze the middle, and cosset the rich, is a toxin which is poisoning our society

    Sorry, where did I say I disagreed with that? I was not writing about what policies I myself thought were best for this country. I believe the current government has it wrong and is dragging our country down to disaster. You are acting just like Nick Clegg in conflating two different things, the one thing is acceptance of the position the May 2010 general election put the Liberal Democrats in, and the other thing is acceptance of the way Clegg has chosen to lead the Liberal Democrats and the national image of that party following that. Clegg tells us if you accept the first, you have to accept the second – and you seem to be agreeing with him because you seem to be supposing my acceptance of the first means I accept the second.

    My point, I thought, was very clear. I agree (well I might quibble over details, but fir the sake of argument, let’s say I agree, it’s approximately true) with what you are saying on policy. I just happen to note that we don’t have a Parliament where there is a majority that agrees with you and I. And when the people of Britain were given the chance to change the way Parliament is constituted, to give themselves an electoral system which would open up the choices they have, by two to one they voted NO to that idea, by two to one they voted for the idea that it is better to have an electoral system whose distortions rule out the policies you and I want to see, because they are not the policies of the party which gained the most votes and which therefore “won” “first past the post”.

    You sound contemptuous of those party members and voters who have withdrawn their support. I think that’s dangerous for the party.

    Well, this is extraordinary, isn’t it? Here I am, actually expressing my discontent with what Clegg has done with the party, actually calling on him and his followers to step down, and instead of you giving me some sort of support for that call, you insult me and tell me I am being contemptuous to the very people I thought I was expressing my support for.

    Jeez, I don’t know why I bother. Actually, Julian, thanks to you, I won’t bother. Perhaps I might have done something like try and move a motion of no confidence in Nick Clegg at the party’s conference, or at least gone on attacking the man and the way he’s wrecking our party, but you have made it clear there’s no point. So good bye, Julian Critchley, I hope you feel proud for what you have done – given your support to Nick Clegg by your insults thrown at me for attacking him.

  • Bu t Mathew,
    that fact is the Conservatives did not actually win and if there was an election on Monday they would be out of power. It annoys me that people chose to keep FPTP , but this doesn’t excuse the Lib Dem leadership’s continued support for bad economic polices. Both Parties decided to fix the parliamentary term to five years and thus fundamentally alter the existing system without consulting with the electorate. and no one voted for that or the policies that were in neither manifestos. What’s happening is not the fault of the electorate, it’s a quite deliberate attempt to use the formation of a voting block to push policies that neither Party were brave enough the present to voters. You can’t really say that failure to be elected means you can do what you like because that failure proves that this is what people voted for.? It makes no sense.
    IMO this is really happening because the top rung of the Lib Dem’s actively support the Conservatives right wing economic agenda and not only saw and see their voters as irrelevant, but also view party members and activists. a hindrance No one is forcing them to continue with this ,. What I want to know is why, when they can see their Party being destroyed, is no one is tapping them on the shoulder and politely suggesting that maybe it’s time to spend more time with their families?

  • ‘These weren’t great results for the Party..’
    Who’s writing this? Hirohito?

  • The latest Opinium poll shows UKIP up by 3 points. In addition, the Tories are down to 29%. IMO, together with the increasing influence of Boris and Gove, this is likely to move Cameron further right. If this happens, will Clegg et al continue to support Cameron (another visit to the Rose Garden!!) or will he/they at long last wake up nevermind smell the coffee.

    As JC and others have said here, the party needs to stand by Lib Dem principles – forget about keeping the Tories happy. Refuse to vote for any policy which does not meet LD criteria. What are the consequences of such a position. We don’t get LD policies passed into law . So what, it doesn’t happen anyhow – how long must VC keep hammering on about a mansion tax – a policy which has been shown to have significant support in the polls. The Tories try to dissolve parliament – my understanding is that they can’t under the 5 year parliament agreement and even if that wasn’t the case, would they really want an election now. Conversely, we gain some respect from the public – hopefully it is not too late for that – and this should result in additional votes in 2015. Even if it has little effect in 2015, it should help avoid the party falling into complete oblivion which is the course it is currently on.

    The poll also shows LDs trailing UKIP by 4 points, and virtually unable to get out of single figures in any recent poll. If Clegg et al are not prepared to change immediately, and I suspect they are not, then I would have to disagree with posters on here who suggested that leadership change could wait until 2014. By then the party will have few councillors, and a handful of ground troops. 2015 will be a disaster and it will be at least a generation before we are considered a major party again, if ever.

  • The polling debacle shouldn’t be written off, but the reason is as short to spell out as it is hurtful: tuition fees.

    It may be time for liberal politics to start again, again.

  • @Matthew Huntbach, I agree with most of what you write, most of the time and it gives me confidence that there are people of principle, such as yourself,batting it out here.However, I think you are fundamentally wrong in saying that by default, because Tories do this sort of thing, ie privatisation,people should have expected NHS changes,, hidden away in the small print, as it was, of their manifesto.
    Lansley had secretly been working on this for years and Cameron did not have the courage to put it to the electorate, deceiving voters in a way worthy of Robert Mugabe, in my view.
    The Liberal Democrats did not have to support this and it is said that danny Alexander traded off the NHS, for electoral legislation, re the House of Lords.
    I have no idea if this is true, having read it in newspapers, but, if so, it is scandalous. I have never heard him deny it.To think that we have been betrayed by the Liberal Democrats, in the dismembering of the NHS, is the sickest, saddest thing to happen in my lifetime and I am old.Just coming back from visiting a relative in our local hospital, the brown board proudly displays the list of original donors and philanthropists, money given by poor people so that there would be security for our people and away from the idea that people should make money from someone else’s illness or misfortune.It belongs to us and your party has absolutley no right to deliver it to the hands of the Tories.The LDs were third in the election, with no sort of mandate.
    I won’t be writing again and am sorry if I have been repetitive, not being a politicial anarak, as such, just that I have had enough now and it is tallyho to the next election.

  • @margaret

    Well said! And please stay on.

  • John Mc

    “The polling debacle shouldn’t be written off, but the reason is as short to spell out as it is hurtful: tuition fees.”

    Even shorter: NHS

  • “It’s fortunate that I don’t take myself as seriously as you do.”

    Do you really think I could have posted that comment above with a straight face?

  • @Margaret. You are quite right. Absolutely nowhere in the Tory manifesto was there any indication of what they planned for the NHS. In this sorry story the fact that they are “the party of privatisation” so therefore we, the electors should have known what was in their mind is, quite honestly, ridiculous. The LibDems certainly did not promise “commercialisation”. BUT whatever the Tories did or did not overtly or covertly plan for the health service, does not excuse the LibDems for their bebaviour. The Liberal Democrats should have abstained or preferably voted against the NHS Bill (now Act). It is totally inexcusable that they supported something that no-one in Britain had voted for. It was not the fault of FPTP; It was not the fault of ‘Parliamentary Arithmetic’. It was, plain and simple, a dreadful decision, for which the blame is shared between the LibDem leadership and MPs. The bebaviour of LibDems over the NHS will bring a terrible ‘comeuppance’ from the electorate. Neither the Conservatives or the LibDems will ever again be able to claim that the “NHS is safe in our hands”.

  • BigDave

    “Absolutely nowhere in the Tory manifesto was there any indication of what they planned for the NHS”

    And they actually promised no top down re-organisation of the NHS – the Lib Dems had plenty of get-outs but Clegg signed off the White Paper without even reading it. It’s beyond belief that the Lib Dem leadership can get so many things wrong.

  • Julian Critchley 2nd Dec '12 - 10:27am

    @Matthew

    You sound as if you feel I’m attacking you. I assure you I’m not, and I apologise if you thought I was insulting you, which I certainly didn’t intend to do. I’m not here to play the role of troll. I’m here as someone with 20 years of LibDemmery under my belt, who is truly appalled at seeing the party I committed my adult political life to, committing collective hari-kari. I’m sure you’re as frustrated, and I’d encourage you to continue with your plan to challenge the leadership. Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression that there is any sort of significant move against Clegg. I think the Parliamentary party have managed to get themselves so closely implicated in the disaster which has been the last two years that none of them seem able or willing to try and change this. It’s like watching a coach with a dead driver heading towards a cliff. There’s plenty of passengers in the back, but they’re all sitting staring in terror, rather than attempting to grab the wheel.

    You raised in a couple of places the result of the AV referendum as if that provides some sort of explanation for what Clegg et al have done. I’m afraid I differ. Let’s leave aside the fact that the decision to go for a referendum on AV rather than a proportional system was another Clegg catastrophe (it allowed nominally pro-reform Labour tribalists to oppose electoral reform by claiming that AV wasn’t proportional). But again, I’d say that this is another major strategic error. You’re right, the majority of the electorate voted against. But the majority of the electorate is never going to vote LibDem, just as the majority of the electorate will never vote Tory or Labour. If all political parties took the line that because the majority of the electorate didn’t support them, then they had no right to make a stand to implement their policies, then there would be no government at all. Clegg’s duty was to his voters, not to those who didn’t vote for him and would never vote for him. As I’ve said, that group of voters were growing, and while a more intransigent LibDem approach may well have provoked condemnation and bile from their enemies, they would have retained their own voters, and possibly attracted more as that proportion of the electorate grew. Instead, in seeking to pacify non-supporters, they not only attracted predictable bile and condemnation from their enemies anyway, they also lost their friends.

    @jedibeeftrix

    “Explain to me, in simplistic terms, how you intend to persuade an electorate that has never tolerated a sustained level of taxation over 38% of GDP that a sustained level of spending over 45% of GDP is responsible……………….. and representative of their will.”

    This is a meaningless question, I think. Voters do not think in this way, and parties do not campaign in this way. Not many people go to the polls thinking about whether the party manifestos would put public spending as a proportion of GDP at X, Y or Z %.

    In any case, even if they did, you are doing exactly what Matthew has done in places : you are asking how the LibDems could please the whole electorate. Well they can’t. Nobody could. Right-wing voters would not support higher taxes, even on the rich. But again, why would the LibDems be appealing to them ? Their own voters had made it quite clear, ever since the1% for education pledge, that LibDem voters were content with tax rises as long as they believed they were wise. Yet Clegg and the leadership have chosen to support a right-wing tax&spend agenda in a failed attempt to appease people who hate them, rather than making a stand for the alternative which their supporters would have swallowed.

    In addition, you’re still trying to make this binary, as if the only way to tackle a deficit is to either slash services, or raise taxes. It’s a false dichotomy. The choices this government has made have seen taxes on the rich fall, while services for the poor have to be cut further. The government has also chosen to provide quantitative easing to the banks, rather than to the real economy. The government has also chosen not to take advantage of the lowest sustained interest rates in living memory. The idea that the alternative to this set of choices was a massive across-the-board tax rise for everyone, and that would send voters to the polls with a worried frown about the proportion of GDP now taken up by public spending is obviously not true. When I read statements like that, I don’t see reasoned arguments, I see desperate excuses from the leadership. Again, it’s wheeling out “There Is No Alternative” to justify choices which were made when there absolutely WERE alternatives. Maybe not alternatives the Tories would have liked, but alternatives nevertheless.

    We won’t agree, I’m sure, so this is my last post. We can quibble as much as we like about possible alternative histories, and what was and wasn’t possible. None of it matters. What matters is that Clegg and the leadership, through their approach to this coalition and its policies, have overseen the eviction of some two thirds of their supporters in two years. This is by far the fastest and most devastating political loss of support of any major party in recent times. I would argue this is because they have chosen to support the values of right-wing voters who did not support the party, and have hidden behind the claim that they had no choice give either electoral arithmetic or bond markets. Yet the fact is that they did have choices. They had an effective veto on everything this Godawful bunch of Tory slash-n-burn ideologues have done. That they chose not to exercise that veto, and not to stand up for the principles of the people who elected them, is why they finished 8th in Rotherham. There is no room in British politics for a third small “c” conservative party. Yet that is what Clegg and the leadership chose to be. The result is plain to see.

    Best of luck trying to turn it around. I hope you, or someone, manages to grab the wheel before you reach the cliff.

  • “Given your past record, I’m afraid that the answer is ‘yes’…”

    Ah, my ‘past record’.

    Yes – I must confess I have always had difficulty showing proper deference to the great and the good – and particularly the great and the good of the Lib Dems over the past couple of years. Still, perhaps that’s not absolutely the worst fault in a liberal …

  • Peter Chivall 2nd Dec '12 - 10:51am

    The literal truth is “they don’t know who we are and they don’t know what we stand for” because whoever’s job it is to get that message out is doing a lousy job of it. Last week for me was the culmination of weeks of online consultation and briefings on the Energy Bill. A fantastic piece of Green legislation that will serve both the environment and consumers well for decades to come. (and the planet for the foreseeable future).
    The Green agenda is our one popular USP and one where differentiation from the Tories (thanks to Osborn) is greatest. It should also enable former LibDems with Green sympathies to identify and start to support us again. I haven’t had a single LibDem supporter mention the Energy Bill because they haven’t heard of it. Last Thursday was a day to ‘bury bad news’ but we succeeded only in burying the good news, i.e. Ed Davey’s statement introducing the Bill.
    All people know about us is Tuition Fees and the NHS destruction. Both these came about because our half of the ‘Quad’ let it happen. They were focussed on Lords Reform and AV, in both of which the Tories ultimately betrayed us. Fortunately, our team got the message this time and held the line on the funding of Renewable Energy and Carbon Targets, even if the latter was fudged by delaying the target setting until 2016. However, all I have heard from centre left and green groups like FoE is ‘bitching’ that the Carbon emissions targets won’t be introduced earlier, even though groups like Renewables UK say the Bill gives them ‘more than they hoped for’.
    Why aren’t the electorate listening? Because our Leadership is a ‘busted flush’. You’re nice guys, Nick and Danny but noone’s listening any more. I don’t even bother opening your ’round robin’ emails any more. I had hoped for an orderly departure to Brussels after the 2014 Euros, but I can’t see us winning a single seat north of Watford on the present showing. At the Brighton Spring Conference I shall support any Motion that calls for ‘an immediate change of leadership’.
    It may not be what we want – it’s what we need, to survive as a Party.

  • @Julian Critchley. Yes, you have more-or-less summed up the whole situation precisely. Your piece, I believe, describes how the great majority of LibDem supporters feel. Someone, somwhere is in great denial.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Dec '12 - 11:49am

    @Julian Critchley and @Matthew Huntbach
    I find myself agreeing with both of you even though you appear not to be agreeing with each other!
    I think you both describe eloquently the disappointment felt by many former Lib Dem supporters because of the actions of the party leadership, and whilst there may be differences about the precise causes (Matthew appears to believe the electorate has got what it deserves whilst Julian appears to belive that the party leadership deserves more of the blame) and the best way forwards, it is voices like yours that give me some faith that the party might have a future built around some core principles.
    In the meantime though, unless there is good justification for a tactical vote, I cannot imagine putting an X in a Lib Dem box for the next few years.

  • Mark

    I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. All I intended to do was poke fun at you.

  • paul barker 2nd Dec '12 - 12:26pm

    Yet more comments from members who know what most libdems think but dont give any evidence as to where their knowledge comes from.
    Im not an activist so my opinions on what most libdems think is based on the LDV surveys of party opinion. These survey consistently suggest that while most members are a lot more pessimistic/negative than me they are nothing like as gloomy as most commentators on this thread. Thats unsurprising, people who are against anything often make the most noise.

  • @Julian Critchley

    Everything you say is absolutely spot-on. This is the best analysis I have seen from anyone regarding the loss of support for the Lib Dems. Such a shame that a fine party has been brought down. If you were to form a political party, I and many like me would join tomorrow.

  • Richard Jacquard 2nd Dec '12 - 2:16pm

    A keen analysis of the electoral situation. However, what remains in question, key to Liberal success in 2015 is ‘what does the party need to do to appeal to voters, detoxify its tory-human shield image, and offer a unique selling point for the vote of public confidence?’

    The answer is threefold, two of which lie in championing the wheelhouse of the party by new campaigning.

    1. Liberal Britain, ‘Free to be you and me’

    – This is the heart of the national party. We believe in a Britain where the state doesn’t get to decide what goes on in your heart, where everyone is free to believe in what they believe, and live how they want to live. Where barriers are broken down and everyone is treated fairly, with equal rights before the law, and in the ‘civic space’. This is the heart of our country at her best; Fairness, integrity and the British Way.

    2. ‘Balanced Britain’ – Liberal Democracy without pandering to vested interests

    – This is the absolute unique selling point beyond any policy difference or other innovations we offer to the citizen, to the electorate; we are truly a party of balance. The party that takes ‘everyone with them’, considers everyone important, is not swayed by the lure of money and vested interests on either side of the political divide. We are the party in government that reaches across the isle, and puts this country back together economically and socially, protecting the most vulnerable, and championing all those whom would aspire to Greatness. Free from vested interests, the liberal democratic party is indeed the ‘one nation’ party.

    The third is simple, but requires us to bite the bullet.

    3. Better party funding, and not being ashamed to hit people up for donations continuously; championing the link between ‘everyone doing their bit’ ‘digging deep’ and actually winning elections in your ward and your constituency. It’s not pretty but in the current state of pre-political reform in the UK, you want political office? You need to spend money to get it. We live in a democratic country, we Liberals are making it every step of the way more democratic, with more devolution, less centralisation, and extending the voting franchise across age groups and throughout political office. But, the reason the Tories and Labour beat us in the polls, has a lot less to do with their principles and results, and lot more to do with the fact that they currently have great deal more money than us.

    So friends under these banners lets continue on, upward and forward; mid-term election results are not the best indicators of new term election outcomes. The future is shapable, and tangible in our hands, in our town halls, and around our local beats, throughout our wards. Remember, the future’s bright, the future’s Orange.

  • @paul barker. Who you mean by “libdems”? If are referring to the party membership then yes, current members are probably relaxed about the party’s “direction of travel” – the fact that people are still LibDem party members indicates as much. If, however, you are referring to LibDem supporters, as in voters, that is easy; to gauge how they feel about the LibDems as a political party in the here and now might I respectfully point you in the direction of recent by-election results. Also an Observer opinion poll of the 1 December 2012, gave Labour 38%, Conservatives 29%, UKIP 13%, LibDems 9%. I know all the opinion poll caveats apply here, but all-in-all it seems to me that whilst the party members might be happy the voters are most definitely not.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '12 - 4:39pm

    @ Julian Critchley,

    Please recognise that you are far from alone! As one of those who has campaigned within the Party against Cleggism for the last four years, my congratulations and thanks for a massive and very persuasive burst of campaigning over the last few days.

    Don’t get fazed by Matthew Huntbach. Matthew has a great deal of wisdom to contribute. What we shouldn’t do, in politics, is to fall out with each other because we only agree with 90% of what our closest allies say. What we should do, of course, is build on the bulk of agreement between us, and get things changed.

    You say you have now joined Labour, though obviously not with full enthusiasm. But you are not pillorying those Lib Dems who have chosen to stay and fight. That is sensible. I won’t pillory you either. The Labour Party contains a great variety of people and attitudes ranging from appalling to marvellous, and the tribalist nonsense you frequently see on this site which would simply lump them all together and slag them off is despicable. As, of course, it is equally despicable when tribalist Labour people similarly slag off all Lib Dems.

    I will put up an argument as to why I prefer to stay and fight. It isn’t, primarily, about the supposed weakness of Ed Miliband, or about the (real) deficiencies of some of Labour policies, or even the unpleasant memory of so many shifty obfuscators and dissimulators in Labour’s last Cabinet. It is mainly because, quite simply, the Lib Dems are now the British swing party. The Clegg Coup was designed to keep the Right in power for a generation, and, it has worked well for them so far. It could still work well for them in 2015. All the professional pollsters believe a Cleggite rump may very well still get enough seats (20-30) to tip the balance. That’s why we need to stay and fight and win our party back!

    Before our September Conference this year, you might have read a growing upswell of discontent on this blog. You will have seen mutterings reach the national Press that the LDs might now rebel and ditch their leader. It didn’t happen. Why not?

    Well – you never know when you are posting on this site whether anybody or nobody is taking any notice of what you say, but – What I and some others said was, broadly, the following:

    “Hang about, what exactly do would do if we got rid of Clegg just now? We are halfway through a Coalition parliament. If we were to elect someone else, with a mandate to restore our traditional centre-left political position, what exactly would we expect him / her to do about the Coalition? What if he / she demanded major changes, and Cameron simply refused to negotiate? Remember that we can’t force an election now we have a fixed term Parliament. If we elected a new leader right now, he or she would be on a hiding to nothing. We have to be patient, and wait a year or so, until the Parliament is closer to its end game. Then will be the right time to strike.”

    Clegg duly told the September Conference that he would be going on for ever, and that the plans for a renewed Tory Coalition after 2015 were falling neatly into place. The fact that nobody bothered to rubbish these statements does not mean that it will work out that way.

    Watch this space, and if you can, shout into this space. As Obama put it, if we believe in ourselves, we can make the change!

  • Marcus Aurelius 2nd Dec '12 - 5:44pm

    Maybe the three main interests of the Lib Dems,;gay marriage, a fanatical wish to be absorbed in the coming Eurostate and a fervent interest in “progressive” government just are not very attractive to the average Briton?

    Perhaps jumping into bed with Ed Milliband and Ed Balls would help? But I’m not sure. They don’t seem very “man of the people” either do they?

  • @Phyllis (9.48)

    “It’s beyond belief that the Lib Dem leadership can get so many things wrong.”

    Several people have made similar comments in recent months, I have made them myself although not on here. However, I am starting to come to the conclusion that these are not mistakes but deliberate decisions by the four Tories in the Quad. How come all the initial decisions were made by the closet Tory grouping of Clegg, Laws & Alexander.

  • “Maybe the three main interests of the Lib Dems,;gay marriage, a fanatical wish to be absorbed in the coming Eurostate and a fervent interest in “progressive” government just are not very attractive to the average Briton?”

    Amongst the interests of the Lib Dems are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, gay marriage, an almost fanatical devotion to the Treaty of Rome …

  • @David Allen

    I am always interested in what you have to got to say on these boards, You always come across as a well reasoned and honest kinder guy, never tribalist and certainly no apologist.

    I am Intrigued though as to why you think the party should hold on to Clegg until 2014.

    Do you not think 2014 is leaving it far to late for a new leader of the party to turn the Image of the party around?

    Surely the party is going to have its hands full at the next GE trying to convince the electorate not to persecute them for the decisions already made in government i.e Tuition Fee’s, the failing economic policies and especially the NHS.

    The party has waived through many policies already that were never in the coalition agreement in the first place, How many more will Clegg et al sign through over the next 18 months? which will no doubt cause even more hostility from the electorate.

    If things continue down the path as they are, the party will continue to lose By-elections when they come up, and will most certainly lose more councillors about and down the country in 2013/14

    All these loses, I am sure will cause more people become dissatisfied and disheartened with the party and less people will be inclined to canvass and deliver focus for the party.

    When you think of the amount of damage that has been caused by Clegg et al in the last 2 1/2 years, what on earth would things look like if Clegg was to continue on this path of destruction for another 18 Months.

    From the point Clegg does resign or is forcibly removed from the party “whatever”, you have to hold your conferences and elections to vote for a new leader, which I am sure takes several months, leaving them virtually no time at all to establish themselves as the new leader of the party or to gain credibility with the public.

    I would have thought having a new leader sooner rather than later, would give the party time to establish itself once more and to find its direction. The coalition would not need to come to an end, because the new leader could treat coalition in the proper fashion for which is was supposed to in the first instance, with openness, honesty and transparency.
    I could not see the Tories calling an early election, because they know they would get hammered and lose, They might suggest a change to confidence and supply for the remainder of the term, but would that be so bad? Surely that could only benefit the libdems even further.

    I am curious as to why you might think keeping Clegg till 2014 would be a good thing.

  • John Broggio 2nd Dec '12 - 6:37pm

    @Peter Bell

    I don’t think that Cable or Huhne can be overlooked in this either. None of these 5 have been exactly reluctant about coming forwards with Tory neo-liberal propaganda. The LD’s I voted for have been stolen from the electorate & I’m just glad many of them are waking up to this fact.

  • @Peter Bell. “……..the four Tories in the Quad” …….ouch! BUT I do believe that the voters (ultimately the only people who matter – and quite rightly so) are seeing the Coalition in the way you suggest.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '12 - 7:18pm

    Matt,

    No, I don’t think Clegg should stay until 2014, for the reasons you give. Indeed, the Cleggites would love people to think in terms of a handover to a new leader just a few months before the election. Then when we actually got to that date, they would cheerfully argue that we couldn’t possibly change leader now, because the public would only see it as a cynical last-chance bid for survival!

    I think something like autumn 2013 would be a good time for the change. That would be early enough to make it clear that we had genuinely changed course for good reasons, out of conviction, and not just to fight an election. But it would be late enough to allow a new leader to concentrate on where we will stand in May 2015, and not to be too badly thrown by the obvious problem that the Coalition would have to continue a short while longer.

    A new leader would, of course, have to stand up to Cameron in coalition. Instead of boasting about minor Lib Dem wins such as the income tax threshold, a new leader could concentrate on reversing a few of the Tories’ worst failures, such as ATOS disability assessments and the forced closure of successful state schools to make room for academies. This would inevitably cause ructions, and the Tory Press would no doubt try to suggest we were being economically irresponsible by threatening the stability of the coalition government. If that was all happening now, the smear that the Lib Dems couldn’t cope with governing might gain some credence. If it happens from late 2013 onwards, our new leader would be entitled to point out that the parliament was in any case coming to a close, and that we were entitled to concentrate on planning for how the next government could clear up the mess made by this one.

  • @David Allen

    Thanks for the reply.

    What you say makes sense.

    I do not hold out much hope though for reversing the Tories awful position with ATOS, even though it was Labour who started that mess.

    It is something that the Liberal Democrats would do well on to pursue though, I know first hand the complete fiasco that is going on with not only ATOS, but in the DWP dept. It will not be long now before the stories start hitting the headlines that even before Ian Duncan Smith starts his Universal Credit roll out , the DWP computer system is in shambles, I now first hand that there are hundreds of thousands of ESA claimants who are currently classed as “clerical cases” because the IT System is overloaded and they are not able to input everyones details on to the system, So the main system only holds very basic details about the claimant, but no details whatsoever of the actual claim, so they are classed as “clerical” where they have been set up to receive payments through the system, If someone who is unfortunate enough to be one of these “clerical” cases and have to phone up benefits, they are not able to discuss your case and you have to be scheduled for a call, which is supposed to be 3 hours, but is now sometimes taking days, if at all.
    The Convenience I am sure of having all these “clerical” cases as well is they probably do not show up in all these wonderful statistics the government likes to issue.

    ATOS the Tribunals and the DWP is a ticking time bomb of this coalitions mess, It would be good to see the Libdems take the Initiative on this and probably do themselves a lot of favour

  • Jen The Blue 2nd Dec '12 - 8:15pm

    Does any of it really matter? The Lib Dems will be annihilated at the next election but there is so little difference between the Liberal, Conservative and Labour parties that exactly the same disastrous policies will carry one whichever party gets the most votes.

    The three main UK parties are just tribal banners for their supporters.

    20 years from now we will be totally governed by unelected Eurocrats with practically all the population employed by the state in one form or another.

    The future looks bloody awful!

  • “As one of those who has campaigned within the Party against Cleggism”

    I don’t think there is something well enough defined to campaign against.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 10:03pm

    Glenn

    Bu t Mathew,
    that fact is the Conservatives did not actually win and if there was an election on Monday they would be out of power. It annoys me that people chose to keep FPTP , but this doesn’t excuse the Lib Dem leadership’s continued support for bad economic polices. Both Parties decided to fix the parliamentary term to five years and thus fundamentally alter the existing system without consulting with the electorate. and no one voted for that or the policies that were in neither manifestos

    Had the Liberal Democrats got the same proportion of votes, but a but more evenly distributed as the Liberal-SDP alliance votes were distributed in the 1983 general election, the Conservatives would have got a majority of the seats. Had this happened, no-one wold have been moaning at the Liberal Democrats, and most people would have said “The Conservatives won, they have a mandate to govern”. So why is it that because the Liberal Democrats targetted their campaigning a bit more in 2010 than in 1983 the Conservatives had a right to govern then, but not now? Anyone who opposes proportional representation – and that includes most of the Labour Party – should answer that question, but I have heard no answer to that question from anyone in the Labour Party. If we have the principle “distortion of representation so that the largest party gets more seats than its share of the votes is a good thing” – and that WAS the main argument of the “No to AV” campaign backed by many prominent Labour people and by the British people, two-to-one in favour – then it seems to me to be ludicrous to complain about the current government being unrepresentative. If you oppose electoral reform, than unrepresentatIve governments are what you are about, and therefore it would seem to me to be illogical to complain about the unrepresentative nature of this government. Why should the precise distribution of the votes, which in 2010 did not quite give the Conservatives a ,majority, but in another year with a slightly different spread but the same party shares could have given the Conservatives a clear majority (as in 1983) make such a big difference to the legitimacy of the government as those who are claiming the current government has “no ,mandate” are saying?

    I am a support of proportional representation. I have been all my adult life. Therefore I DO have a right to say the current government is illegitimate. But I believe anyone who opposes electoral reform, anyone who supports the current electoral system – and that includes most of the Labour Party – has no such right. It seems to me that anyone who supports the idea that distortion is good, that it’s better to have government by one party rather than a coalition, even if that one party does not have a majority of the seats – and that includes most of the Labour Party – has only one legitimate criticism of Nick Clegg – that he is not supportive enough of the Conservatives. Because, surely if, as the ‘No to AV’ campaign said, which the British people backed by two to one, a single party government is better than a coalition never mind whether the single party had true majority support, then the closest Clegg makes it to a single party government by backing Conservative Party policy, the better.

    Now all the above is an argument I don’t agree with. But most of the British people, judging by the way they voted in the referendum on electoral reform, and by their support for the Labour or Conservative parties, both of which oppose electoral reform, do. So either they should shut up moaning about Clegg, or they should join me in moaning about Clegg AND in supporting what is needed to make sure we never get this sort of thing happening again, by supporting the campaign for proportional representation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 10:08pm

    Glenn

    Both Parties decided to fix the parliamentary term to five years and thus fundamentally alter the existing system without consulting with the electorate

    Support for a fixed term Parliament has long been Liberal Democrat policy and Liberal policy before that, based on the idea that the Prime Minister should not be able to pick whenever he or she wants to have an election. I am pretty sure it would have been in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 10:13pm

    Margaret

    However, I think you are fundamentally wrong in saying that by default, because Tories do this sort of thing, ie privatisation,people should have expected NHS changes,, hidden away in the small print, as it was, of their manifesto.

    Sorry, Margaret, but this IS what the Conservatives are about. They are all about privatising things. They privatised huge numbers of things when they were in government 1979-1997. When it’s not actual privatisation, they are all in favour of opening public services to contract, so that the public part is just in picking the “most efficient” bidder. The Conservatives have made no secret that this is what they are about., they have made quite clear they believe this is the best way to run things because “competition drives up quality”. So I really don’t think anyone who voted Conservative has any right to complain about it. Or perhaps, next time they should try THINKING a bit before voting? Or just try not voting Conservative?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 10:18pm

    Marcus Aurelius

    Maybe the three main interests of the Lib Dems,;gay marriage, a fanatical wish to be absorbed in the coming Eurostate and a fervent interest in “progressive” government

    I am a Liberal Democrat, have been a member of the party and its main predecessor for 33 years. And I’m not particularly interested in any of the three things you list above. The Liberal Democrats, and the Liberal Party before that, said it was about building a society where “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Now THAT is what I am about. Perhaps you should stop reading the Daily Mail, and start reading something which gives you a little more truthful information.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 10:28pm

    Julian Critchley

    You sound as if you feel I’m attacking you. I assure you I’m not, and I apologise if you thought I was insulting you, which I certainly didn’t intend to do. I’m not here to play the role of troll. I’m here as someone with 20 years of LibDemmery under my belt, who is truly appalled at seeing the party I committed my adult political life to, committing collective hari-kari. I’m sure you’re as frustrated, and I’d encourage you to continue with your plan to challenge the leadership. Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression that there is any sort of significant move against Clegg.

    Yes, and people like you are part of the problem. I try to put the case against Clegg, to build a coherent and realistic line against him, I turn round to look for support, and what do I get? Well I find you accusing me of being “contemptuous of those party members and voters who have withdrawn their support”, I find you completely ignoring what I was actually saying, and suggesting I was saying something quite different. The fact is that when people inside the Liberal Democrats find that whatever they do to try and pull it back to the position it used to be, all that happens is that they are STILL getting attacked by people who ignore what they say and just continue throwing insults at them as if all of us are uncritical supporters of Clegg, it’s disheartening, it makes you want to give up.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 10:59pm

    Peter Watson

    Matthew appears to believe the electorate has got what it deserves whilst Julian appears to belive that the party leadership deserves more of the blame

    No, that’s not my line. A big part of what I am saying is underneath just an urge to be realistic, and to campaign in the real world, not in the fantasy world many leftists inhabit. In the real world, the general election of May 2010 DID give us a Parliament where a Conservative-LibDem coalition with the LibDems having only a little influence was the only viable government. In the leftist fantasy world the LibDems could somehow have forced the Conservatives to drop all their policies and adopt 100% Liberal Democrat policies instead.

    Now, a very big part of the problem I face in wanting to pull the Liberal Democrats back to being the party I was proud to be a member of for many years is that I find MOST of the criticism of the party since May 2010 from people outside it on the left had been leftist fantasy world criticism, not realistic criticism. That is, it has criticised the Liberal Democrats for not achieving the impossible, and abused those of us inside the Liberal Democrats who are trying to lay our a different but POSSIBLE way the Liberal Democrats could have and could now handle the situation.

    Look, I would love to live in that fantasist world where the Liberal Democrats had the magic power of persuasion to convert Conservatives to Liberal Democrat policies, and where the public would cheer on Liberal Democrat policies and cheer on the party when it tried to steer the government towards them. But I don’t, and neither do people like Julian Critchley, I just wish they could see that. That is why I am so upset when in trying to push a line which is realistic, I get accused of being “contemptuous” because I am not pushing a fantasist line.

    For example, in a fantasy world, people would understand that the Conservatives have five times as many seats as the Liberal Democrats despite having only one-and-a-half times as many votes, see that as really unfair, see it as due to our electoral system, and thus be enthusiastic promoters of electoral reform, doing what is necessary to get it through, backing the compromise of AV as the first step to something more radical. In the real world, it’s hard to get anyone to see this argument, the Labour Party attacks it as much as the Conservatives do (as the Labour Party has attacked, or allowed by its silence Conservatives to succeed in their attacks quite a big proportion of he more progressive things the Liberal Democrats have managed to sneak through) – in the real world people world people voted by two-to-one to back the electoral system we have whose distortions gave us this government, In a fantasy world people would be really angry about the huge amounts of money that can be gained and passed on tax free or at tax rates far lower than earned income just from owning property, and would be enthusiastically supporting things like Land Value Taxation. In the real world, the merest hint of something like this gets shouted down in howls of anger – I mean the “Mansion Tax” proposals.

    Now the problem is I find myself fighting on two fronts. Against the fantasists ion the one hand, as described above, but against the leaders of my own party on the other. I accept the need for compromise in the real world, but the leaders of my own party instead of accepting compromise as just a necessity in the real world have adopted a position whereby every compromise made then gets promoted as the ideal, as if it was the thing we really most wanted in the first place. I suspect this is because a lot of them or their advisers come from a Public Relations or ad-man’s background where this sort of mentality prevails. Unfortunately, they do seem to see politics as like selling a consumer product, but I don’t think it works like that, and I think it has been dragged down by people at its top trying to run it like that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 11:10pm

    Jen the Blue

    20 years from now we will be totally governed by unelected Eurocrats with practically all the population employed by the state in one form or another.

    Oh, COME ON, again, stop reading the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail and the rest of the right-wing press are just raising the EU, whose powers are actually very limited, as a distraction from what is REALLY happening to our country. It’s not Eurocrats who are taking control, it’s the international big corporations, who play one country against another, hide their profits in tax havens, and don’t like the EU because they don’t like the idea of international co-operation to fight against this sort of thing. See how extreme free market economics means our country’s vital infrastructure, our energy supply, our transport links, our water, our land, are being bought up by foreign powers. Yet UKIP which claims to stand for “UK independence” is in favour of even more extreme free market economics than the Conservative Party. How come these supposed supports of “UK independence” have nothing to say abut our energy companies and our rail companies falling into foreign ownership? How come they have noting to say about foreigners buying up our manufacturing capacity and closing it down, moving it abroad? Because their anti-EU stuff is just a smokescreen for what they are really about, a way of attracting support from people who if they really understood what they really were about would run away screaming in horror at them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 11:19pm

    Peter Chivall

    The Green agenda is our one popular USP and one where differentiation from the Tories (thanks to Osborn) is greatest.

    Yes, but here as in much else, people will SAY they want green policies, but when it actually comes to backing real green policies, the sort of strong action that is needed if we are REALLY to combat the many ecological disasters coming to us, that’s another thing. For example, what proportion of the population will support us if we call for higher petrol taxes? If the Tories try to keep petrol tax down and we insist it goes up, will we get big public backing for our stand? Will people say “I really admire the LibDems for the way they support the Green agenda in this way” and will our opinion poll support go up for it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 11:26pm

    David Allen

    This would inevitably cause ructions, and the Tory Press would no doubt try to suggest we were being economically irresponsible by threatening the stability of the coalition government. If that was all happening now, the smear that the Lib Dems couldn’t cope with governing might gain some credence.

    Indeed. While I am urging some to stop reading the Daily Mail, I would urge leftists fantasists to start reading it to see what we are up against. There’s a parallel universe, which is actually the universe most of our national newspapers inhabit, where the Liberal Democrats, far from being people who have betrayed their principles by becoming uncritical supporters of the Conservative Party, are a sort of loony left fifth column in the government, mad socialists who have betrayed the supposedly “liberal” principles (as invented by the Mark Littlewoods of this world) of extreme free market economics.

    The problem we are facing is that everyone on the left of politics hates us because they think we are too right-wing, everyone on the right of politics hates us because they think we are to left-wing.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    I do find myself agreeing with a lot of things that you write and admire your passion and enthusiasm that you have for politics.

    admittedly that passion can come across at times ats a little hostile, especially when you speak the way in which you do about AV or Proportional Representation with such Vigour and I think that’s when other peoples opinions and reactions get a bit skewed.

    As I have said before, I personally do not support AV or PR, that’s not to say that I do not support coalition in a FPTP.

    I believe that this coalition government had the chance to prove the case for future PR or AV, however, the party leadership at the reigns of Clegg totally destroyed that.

    As you say, the Liberal Democrats only have a “small” amount of influence in government due the number of MP’s
    The problem is the electorate have no idea what that influence has been because Cameron and Clegg & co refused to allow us to know what divisions and negotiations there has been.

    All we have seen is policy after policy announced, Liberal Democrats coming out in force to sell the policy and defending it and embracing it fully.
    Often we get rumblings that Libdems diluted the worse of the policy, But how so? because they never tell us what the negotiations were.

    I don’t think it is completely fare to blame the electorate for any of this. Asking them to change the political voting system was a huge ask, especially when there was and is so much distrust with politics as it is, but like I said, this coalition could have used this opportunity whilst in government to sell the idea for future elections. It was a total wasted opportunity.

    Do you honestly think that Clegg and co have behaved in a manor whilst in this coalition which could even now sell the idea of PR and how it can work.

    Hand on heart, I hope you do still carry on and fight the good fight and hopefully get rid of the leaders of this disaster and put people back in place who are able to articulate and connect with the people, I would like to see the party return to one that I could vote for again.
    My vote will always be split between Labour or Liberal Democrats as it has in the past, It’s just as things stand I would never vote for this party again unless things changed dramatically.

    I do see hope in this party though, from the likes of yourself, George Potter and David Allen and a few others and if you guy’s were all more prominent figures in the party and potential candidates, then who knows what the future holds, But without wanting to turn things to personal, there are a few to many paul barkers and RC who have overrun this party and it seems as though it is this far more aggressive right that seems to be the most domineering voice and direction where the party is heading.

  • Mathew ,
    fair points. you’ll find n argument from me that FPTP cause distortions or that electoral reform makes sense. But the fact is that those distortion exist. What happened nearly 30 years ago has no bearing on the current reality. The Conservatives overwhelmingly back FPTP, so if I and other people choose to continually point out that they did not gain an overall majority in 2010 and therefor under their own favoured electoral system did not actually win the election, that is their problem not mine.
    I would also add that most of the damaging policy decisions were made well before the AV vote and that the economic right of both parties used a hung parliament to bypass the policies they put before the electorate and that there is no defence for this. I accept that the Lib Dems are the junior partners in the coalition, but then again the Conservatives are reliant on them whether they like it or not. The Lib Dems did not and do not have to back every bad policy They can quite easily vote against the Conservatives if they choose to and it’s about time they did.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '12 - 11:53pm

    David Allen

    I think something like autumn 2013 would be a good time for the change. That would be early enough to make it clear that we had genuinely changed course for good reasons, out of conviction, and not just to fight an election

    I remember sitting in the count at the general election waiting for my constituency’s result to be announced (it was not until daylight the next day, LB Greenwich had the bright idea of doing it all in some sort of big tent thing on what was one of the coldest May nights for years, by 8am we were in danger of hypothermia ) seeing the results coming in and thinking “Oh **** that means we’ll have to make a coalition with the Tories, well, let;s put them in. keep them there two years or so, long enough to remind people what the Tories are like, then pull the rug in them”.

    What has made that line unworkable? Leftist fantasist criticism of the Liberal Democrats as much as Clegg’s enthusiastic support for every aspect of the coalition rather than the grim acceptance I had of it. The leftist fantasist criticism has accused us of “putting in the Tories” as if somehow there was an alternative government that could have come out of the 2010 general election, and wants to see us destroyed for that. The leftist fantasist criticism has made out that somehow Liberal Democrats are enthusiastic supporters of everything this government is doing, and would have done it all had there been a pure Liberal Democrat government. Well I think they are very wrong on that, but lines coming from the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats like Tim Farron’s boasting about “75% of our policies implemented” (why anyone thinks that Farron is a leftist in the LibDems after his enthusiasm for that line beats me) don’t help, obviously. The leftist fantasist criticism of the Liberal Democrats refuses to acknowledge any achievements, limited though they are (thanks to the distortions of the electoral system which so weakens us) we have managed from within government, and instead of backing those of us trying to keep the party to the left from within, throws as much abuse at us as it does at Clegg et al, twists anything we say to suggest that we too are just Tories in disguise – see Julian Critchley’s insults aimed at me for an example.

    As a result, the leadership of the Liberal Democrats can say to its internal critics on the left “There’s no support for your position in the wider world – all you are doing is weakening the party by dividing it”. If whatever we do we are STILL going to get wiped out for “putting in the Tories”, they have a point. Leftist fantasist criticism of the Liberal Democrats suggests we would get no thanks at all for bringing down the government. We’d have a hope and be able to win arguments within the party if there was some sign of outside world backing for the left position within the Liberal Democrats. But there isn’t, see constantly in LibDem Voice where I find myself fighting on both fronts – against the leadership loyalists and against almost anyone who joins our conversations here in order to throw abuse at “rotten nasty LibDems, propping up the Tories”. Julian Critchley really took the biscuit however, I actually posted an article calling for Clegg to resign, and I’m STILL accused of being some sort of Tory-backing right-winger who’s contemptuous of former Lib Dem supporters. As I said, Jeez, I don’t know why I bother. Good night.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Dec '12 - 12:48am

    I agree with what matt has written above.

    I also agree with most of what Matthew Huntbach writes (here and elsewhere), but on the subject of the AV referendum I do believe that much of the electorate did not fully understand what they were voting for or against so did not really make a considered rejection of electoral reform or a categoric endorsement of first-past-the-post. Very little of the debate was about the pros and cons of different electoral systems, and for many people it simply came down to “I disagree with Nick”, the poster-boy of the No campaign. Also, they were offered the choice between pretty poor electoral reform and the status quo. For these reasons, I blame our leadership for squandering an opportunity and at the same time I hope (however forlornly) that the door is still open for electoral reform in the not-too-distant future . Specifically, I blame Clegg et al for settling for a referendum on the least desirable form of electoral reform (which meant supporters of change did not really want it and there was the uncertainty of more change coming along later), and at the same time acting as the worst possible advertisement for coalition government.

  • Julian Critchley 3rd Dec '12 - 12:59am

    @Matthew Huntbach

    Look, I said I’d refrain from commenting any more, but you’re being a bit needlessly hostile. I think you need to row back a bit. If you re-read my posts, I don’t actually make any personal criticism of you at all. I have no idea what your position is. You seem to have interpreted everything I’ve written as some sort of attack on you. With all due respect, I don’t know who you are, and didn’t write with you in mind. The phrase I used which you seem to have taken umbrage over was when I said “You sound contemptuous of those party members and voters who have withdrawn their support”. Not a personal insult in my book, but anyway, try reading what you have written again :

    “people like you are part of the problem”
    “what I am saying is ….to campaign in the real world, not in the fantasy world many leftists inhabit”
    “I would love to live in that fantasist world ….But I don’t, and neither do people like Julian Critchley, I just wish they could see that”
    “I find myself fighting on two fronts. Against the fantasists ion the one hand, as described above”
    “I would urge leftists fantasists to start reading [the Daily Mail]”
    “What has made that line unworkable? Leftist fantasist criticism of the Liberal Democrats”
    “leftist fantasist criticism has accused us of “putting in the Tories””
    “The leftist fantasist criticism has made out ”

    Finally,

    “Julian Critchley really took the biscuit however, I actually posted an article calling for Clegg to resign, and I’m STILL accused of being some sort of Tory-backing right-winger who’s contemptuous of former Lib Dem supporters.”

    As I said, I have no idea what your positions are. I’ve never seen any articles by you. I was responding to the original article on this thread. I have never accused you of being a right-winger, or a left-winger, or indeed any winger at all. I am going to stick, however, by my earlier assertion that you repeatedly sound contemptuous of former LibDems, who, like me, think that the party simply did not and does not need to facilitate the Tories in implementing their ferociously right-wing agenda, even while maintaining a coalition.

    You accuse me (and presumably people who hold similar views) of being fantasists. Yet if anyone here has claimed that the LibDems could have forced their own manifesto in full through the coalition, then I didn’t see that claim. But it is certainly not a fantasy to say that the parliamentary party are enabling the Tories to attack the NHS, the education system, the poor and the vulnerable, while sheltering the City and protecting privilege. When disabled people are denied benefits because of a dodgy assessment, or a popular local school is forced into a Tory donor’s private academy chain, or a young family are evicted from their home, then the LibDems will bear some of the responsibility. That’s not fantasy. It’s fact.

    Anyway, it’s late. Passion is fine, but you’re crossing the line into needless personal hostility. I’d ask you to stop it.

  • If the Liberal Democrats get rid of Clegg & the Gang in 2013 or 2014, but otherwise keep on as normal, then it will look like a stage-managed pseudo-coup, meant only to win a few extra seats in 2015 — that Clegg & Co. have gone out the revolving door and soon enough will be right back in.
    For this kind of intra-party coup to be perceived as actually significant, it has to look like a revolution from below — a wholesale rejection of all things Clegg. The new people in charge need to be able to make a plausible case that the last several years have been an aberration, and that the Lib Dems are taking a new course. And that will have to mean major policy changes and a ripping up of the coalition agreement — which has by now done all the good that it ever will do. For the Liberal Democrats to be perceived as a real alternative in 2015, they have to look like a new party, one which has made a complete break with the past few years and has learned its lesson.
    Of course, there’s always the option of settling for whichever 15 MPs the Conservatives decide to tolerate and spending the next 60 years as an unheard and undistinguished voice in the corner of the House of Commons.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 4:05pm

    matt

    As I have said before, I personally do not support AV or PR, that’s not to say that I do not support coalition in a FPTP.
    I believe that this coalition government had the chance to prove the case for future PR or AV, however, the party leadership at the reigns of Clegg totally destroyed that.

    OK, so if you do not believe in proportional representation, then you must believe in distorted representation, as the opponents of electoral reform put it, that it is better for representation to be distorted so that the largest party takes complete control even if it did not get an actual majority of the vote. Well, if that’s the case, surely you should believe that as the Conservatives won the most votes in 2010, they won the election “first past the post” and therefore should be in complete control of the government. So, from that, your position should surely be the more Nick Clegg makes it like you ideal, the better. So therefore, the only LOGICAL criticism you ought to be making of Nick Clegg from your stand as an opponent of electoral reform is that he hasn’t given into the Tories enough. Since you believe in distortion and all power to the biggest party, shouldn’t you be calling on Nick Clegg to say “I agree with Dave” on everything, so giving the effect of your ideal, one-party government?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 4:15pm

    Peter Watson

    I also agree with most of what Matthew Huntbach writes (here and elsewhere), but on the subject of the AV referendum I do believe that much of the electorate did not fully understand what they were voting for or against so did not really make a considered rejection of electoral reform or a categoric endorsement of first-past-the-post.

    Yes, I agree with you on that. I am absolutely clear that most people who voted “No” to AV, or who didn’t vote and so let “No” win did so because they didn’t understand the arguments.

    That actually is my point.

    I would like to get people to THINK, and to see how they are manipulated by the media and powerful forces, by pointing out through sheer logic what they ACTUALLY voted for if they voted “No” to AV, when I know full well many of them were tricked into voting for the opposite.

    We need to get out of the rut politics is in, and to do that we need to get people to THINK and to get away from the twisted assumptions that have been pumped into their minds by the power-that-be.

    One of the ways to get people to think is to lead them into seeing the positions they hold are illogical, contradictory. Often that can be done by approaching issues from the opposite direction they were expecting, by the use of paradox, by the use of challenging uncomfortable language.

    I hope some of what I have written here will get people to THINK in a new way. If so, i will have done a little something productive.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 4:25pm

    matt

    Do you honestly think that Clegg and co have behaved in a manor whilst in this coalition which could even now sell the idea of PR and how it can work.

    No. Why do you ask this question? Is there anything I have written which suggests I do honestly think Clegg and co have behaved in a manner which would sell the idea of PR?

    What I have written is quite the opposite – I have attacked Clegg and co here, and elsewhere, again and again, and have been doing so ever since the coalition was formed because I believe the way they have handled it has been hugely damaging to their party and mine.

    Try reading what I wrote here in my comment of 12.57am on 1st December.

    How on earth can you suppose, and Julian Critchley suppose from the insults he threw at me as being “contemptuous” of former Liberal Democrat voters, some sort of Tory-supporting Clegg-cheerleader from what I wrote there? Try reading it, please, and tell me what logic it was that made you come to that conclusion?

    Is that last paragraph I wrote in that article what someone who you take me to be, from your question above, would have written?

  • David Allen 3rd Dec '12 - 4:28pm

    David,

    A great deal of your posting above makes a lot of sense. But there is a difficulty. When our new leadership has “ripped up the coalition agreement”, what comes next?

    It can’t be an election, not before May2015 anyway, unless two-thirds of Parliament vote for it.

    It could possibly be the “rainbow coalition” with Labour and the Nats etc, but that would surely consist of a bunch of political rabbits in the sack, with all the minority parties pressing narrow partisan interests, Labour determined to win the popularity contest, and all their partners ready to humiliate the hapless Lib Dems. To be avoided, at this stage anyway.

    It could be the Tories governing as a single party, teasing us about the confidence vote, proving that they can shift to the right in a populist manner when freed from coalition, playing the game to make us look like irresponsible destabilisers. Again, avoid.

    Or it could be Coalition Agreement Mark 2. The least worst option, I think. We would have to stop pretending we were achieving positive policy changes. We would have to draw some clear red lines, some things we could not tolerate (for example, abandonment of Leveson?) Then we would have it clearly established that if the Tories crossed a red line, they and not we were doing the destabilising.

    An awkward game to play. It will be difficult, whatever we do, to gain credit before 2015, even if we genuinely intend to “look like a new party, one which has made a complete break with the past few years and has learned its lesson.”

    The main things we need, I suggest, is (a) to show that we are doing our best in difficult circumstances, in the 2014-2015 pre-election period: (b) a totally different manifesto for the 2015 elections. In the circumstances, RULING OUT a coalition with the Tories after 2015 would make sense!

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 4:39pm

    Julian Critchley

    With all due respect, I don’t know who you are, and didn’t write with you in mind. The phrase I used which you seem to have taken umbrage over was when I said “You sound contemptuous of those party members and voters who have withdrawn their support”.

    Yes, it is. Because you have not paid me the courtesy of following the argument I have been developing. Instead, you have just jumped to an assumption that I hold what is actually the opposite of the position I really hold.

    I’m afraid I really do feel that people like you ARE helping Clegg. What I mean by this is that those of us inside the Liberal Democrats who are trying to develop an alternative to what Clegg is doing with the party are being damaged, not helped by external critics of the party who seem unable to differentiate between the various forces in the party, unable to accept the argument over the real difficulty the party was placed in by the 2010 general election results which forced a reluctant acceptance of the coalition from most of us, and so instead of giving us support condemn all of us as if we are all unthinking Clegg loyalists. Within the party I can assure you that the sort of attack YOU are making IS being used to push the line “there is no alternative, there is no Liberal Democrats survival outside a growing permanent relationship with the Tories – look, when you fight against it, you win us back no support, you just damage the party by making it look weak and divided”.

    If we on the left of the Liberal Democarts CAN demonstrate that pulling the party back to the left WOULD win us support, that there are people out there who would come back to us if we did that, we would be better able to win our battles.That, Julian, is why I get so angry with the “It doesn’t matter what you say, I ‘ll never vote LibDem again, ALL you LibDems are just Tories in disguise” sort of attack on us. I’m afraid that’s a line that is playing Clegg’s game.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 4:53pm

    Julian Critchley

    I am going to stick, however, by my earlier assertion that you repeatedly sound contemptuous of former LibDems, who, like me, think that the party simply did not and does not need to facilitate the Tories in implementing their ferociously right-wing agenda, even while maintaining a coalition.

    My assessment of the situation following the 2010 general election was that if the coalition was not formed, Cameron as the leader of the largest party would have been appointed Prime Minister of a minority government, and would have called another general election soon afterwards to get a majority on the grounds “the existence of the LibDems makes it impossible for me to govern”.

    It also seems to me that the distortions of the electoral system which give us a government in which the Tories have five times as many MPs as the Liberal Democrats (even though they only had one and a half times as many votes) very seriously weakens what the LibDems can achieve in that government. And most obviously, as there are not enough Labour MPs to form a viable Labour-LibDem coalition, the Liberal Democrats lack the only real big threat a junior coaltion partner can use to get its way.

    The fact that I point out these things does not mean, as you seem to be suggesting, that I am happy with them and their consequences. Acknowledging something exists is not the same thing as being happy about it existing.

  • David Allen 3rd Dec '12 - 5:24pm

    Matthew,

    You have given a very clear, logical analysis as to why you have given (strictly conditional) initial support for our coalition with the Conservatives. It is a consistent and credible position to take. But it is not the only possible option we could have chosen. Some people on the centre-left or “liberal left” argue that we should have offered confidence-and-supply. I, and Julian Critchley, think we should have driven a much tougher bargain in the first place.

    Now, I know that you have put logical arguments against these two options. However, we are not dealing with Euclidean geometry! The logic is good, but it does not have the status of mathematical proof. I sincerely believe my logic makes equal or better sense. Neither of us can be sure who is right. We are dealing with humans, with negotiations, with events.

    In any case – it is arguing about how to relive the past, when what we should be thinking about is the future.

    We should look for common ground not disunity. We should try not to get angry with people whose views we share. I don’t always manage that perfectly myself. But (I hope) I try. Let’s all try.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    I get what your saying in your post at 12.57am on 1st December. And like I have said previously I agree with most of what you say, If I can be brutally honest though, at times your delivery can come across as a little hostile and I think that is why sometimes people feel defensive.

    I have said that I am against PR and AV {as things stand} when this coalition was formed, I knew very little about AV/PR and therefore I had to judge it on the basis of how the “current” coalition was performing.

    I did not like what I saw, that is not to say that I expected the liberal Democrats in government to be able to stop all the far right excesses of the Tories. What I expected to see in coalition was more open,honesty and transparency.
    I wanted to see how negotiations took place on policies,
    What was each parties starting position on a policy
    what negotiations took place,
    And what was the final result of the policy that we ended up with.
    For me that is the only way for plural politics to work and for the electorate to see that working.

    That is not what happened with this coalition, everything was and still is, hush hush behind closed doors, then Tory and Liberal Democrat Ministers come out side by side embracing the policy announcement.
    We then get a few whispers and grumbles from some Liberal Democrats telling us that things would have been worse if it was not for the Libdems, but how?
    with no details given to us on what the Tories originally wanted and how Libdems watered it down,how can we judge the merits of it.
    It was this complete lack of transparency that made my mind up to vote against AV and why I am of the opinion {at present} towards PR and AV

    That is why I also think it is vital for Nick Clegg to go, sooner rather than later, so another leader of the party has the time and opportunity to show how plural politics should work. I am not suggesting for one moment there should not be collective cabinet responsibility, but transparency is absolutely vital in order for a party to retain it’s identity.

    Anyway like I said many times, I do admire your resolve and passion, I just think you need to be slightly less passionate in your frustrations with those who voted against AV, because all of the blame lays with Clegg et al and his complete disaster in applying the party correctly in this government.

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  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 9:50pm

    matt

    I have said that I am against PR and AV {as things stand} when this coalition was formed, I knew very little about AV/PR and therefore I had to judge it on the basis of how the “current” coalition was performing.

    Er, come again? We have a coalition whose existence and balance was determined by the first-past-the-post system, and you use that as an argument against proportional representation? How does that work?

    The Liberal Democrats are weak in the coalition because the Conservatives have five times as many seats as the Liberal Democrats – even though the Conservatives had only one and a half times as many votes as the Liberal Democrats. “Proportional representation” means the seats are allocated in proportion to the vote share, which means the Conservatives would have about one and a half times as many MPs as the Liberal Democrats rather than five times as many. Obviously if that were the case, we would be seeing a very different coalition, one far less dominated by the Conservatives than the one we have now. Also if seats were allocated in proportion to the share of the vote, there would be enough Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs combined to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable, whereas the distortions of first-past-the-post meant such a coalition was not viable because the Labour and LibDem MPs added together still did not make half the total. If the LibDems had the alternative of a coalition with Labour to threaten the Conservatives with if the Conservatives did not give way to the LibDems, then also that would enable the LibDems to be far stronger and far more able to push what they want in the coalition.

    So matt, your complaint is that the LibDems are weak in the coalition, that they have just given in to the Conservatives, and yet you use this as an argument to support the electoral system that makes them weak, and to oppose changes to an electoral system that would make them much stronger and greatly weaken the Conservatives. Are you able to see just how illogical your position is?

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Dec '12 - 10:16pm

    @Chris: Amongst the interests of the Lib Dems are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, gay marriage, an almost fanatical devotion to the Treaty of Rome …

    When Nick Clegg gets home too late and Miriam starts asking questions.

    NO ONE EXPECTS. . . . . ;-)

    I’ll get my red cap.

  • @Matthew

    You seem to be completely ignoring the point I have been trying to make.

    I know I am not the brightest spark lol, but maybe I am not explaining myself properly.

    For starters the offer on the table at the time was the Alternative Vote and not Proportional Representation, but for arguments sake lets put that to one side for the moment.

    Plural politics, which is what we are talking about here, was argued for strongly by this party, they where very insistent that plural politics could work, regardless of whether it was a coalition via, FPTP/AV or PR

    For me the argument is not just about the smaller party having enough elected members to implement *x* amount of their manifesto or by putting the breaks on the extremes of the majority party, My argument is as I have said many times before. Plural politics has to be transparent, we have to know how the negotiations have worked between the parties and what concessions where made by both parties. Without this transparency, how can we judge if plural politics works?

    Liberal Democrats in government and Nick Clegg especially have had that opportunity to prove this plurality through openness and transparency on negotiations within government, the problem is, they totally stuffed it up. That was the main reason why the argument for AV fell on it’s backside.

    I know we still have a coalition government from using FPTP, but then that is because Nick Clegg managed to convince a lot of the electorate the time that a vote for Liberal Democrats was not a wasted vote and the party would prove that plural politics can work. His failure in government to show the operations of coalition and negotiations cost him the reforms.

    I do think the argument has been lost now and probably for a very long time, I can not see there being another coalition government for a long time, because Nick Clegg destroyed the case of plurality and we will probably go back to the old 2 party politics for years to come.

    That is unless something pretty drastic happens, Clegg is done away with and whoever takes his place is given enough time to show how plurality should work, through openness and transparency and allowing the electorate to see the negotiations that goes on between the 2 parties.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 10:35pm

    David Allen

    You have given a very clear, logical analysis as to why you have given (strictly conditional) initial support for our coalition with the Conservatives. It is a consistent and credible position to take. But it is not the only possible option we could have chosen. Some people on the centre-left or “liberal left” argue that we should have offered confidence-and-supply. I, and Julian Critchley, think we should have driven a much tougher bargain in the first place.

    Nick Clegg likes to mix two separate things: acceptance that the situation in May 2010 meant we had to form a coalition with Conservatives, and acceptance of how he has chosen to operate in that coalition, as if anyone who holds one must hold the other. This was, for example, the theme of his interview in the Independent newspaper on the eve of the Brighton conference this year, where he dismissed anyone who was critical of his leadership as if they were scaredy-cats, or fantasists, people afraid of power, people unable to accept reality. I found this very offensive. I wish “The Voice” who complains at me were to say the same about Nick Clegg. What Clegg was saying was particularly offensive to me because I have, right up till now, strongly defended the formation of the coalition, while also making the point that I believe Clegg has handled it very badly and that I have no confidence in him as a capable or fair leader of our party from what I have seen of him on this.

    That is why I am pointing out that the attacks being made on me in this thread by people of the “dirty rotten Liberal Democrats for putting in the Tories” type are in fact taking the Clegg line of conflating and making out those two separate things are the same, of being unable or unwilling to accept that one can have agreed to the formation of the coalition while not necessarily agreeing that what the Liberal Democrats and their leader have done in the coalition is the best they could possibly have done.

    I believe this sort of attack is serving Clegg’s interests because in effect it is putting the line that either you must be someone who wishes the Liberal Democrats to be destroyed merely for having formed the coalition, or you must be someone who is an enthusiastic and uncritical supporter of Nick Clegg. I am neither.

    Now, Clegg and those surrounding him have made a difficult situation worse by seeing to accept the coalition and its compromises with such enthusiasm it raises the question that perhaps they really preferred those compromises to what the Liberal Democrats out as their ideal in their manifesto. It does not help that Clegg and those he seems to particularly admire in the party are the people involved with the “Orange Book” attempt to push the party more towards a kind of Thatcherite economics. It makes it MUCH harder to argue the case, which I still hold to, that though the formation of the coalition was depressing because of what it involves signing up for, it was necessity because the only realistic alternatives would have been even worse. That is, I am trying to push that line in defence of the Liberal Democrats, to suggest we are not bad people, we have not abandoned our principles, but I find it very much harder to do that, as the attacks on me in this thread show, when my argument is being undermined by our leader and the way he puts across the idea that the coalition and what it is doing is our ideal, our dream, rather than a depressing compromise with electoral reality.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 10:49pm

    On the confidence-and-supply option, yes, initially I too thought we should have gone for that. However, thinking through it I realised it would not work. The reason for that is we are in a weak position – there seems to be little public support for us, as shown by the public dismissal of us when we do try to stand up against the Tories in the coalition. The last budget showed this horribly – Clegg had actually managed to get in some good progressive taxation measures, yet they were misrepresented and torn to pieces as the “granny tax” and “charity tax”. As I have said, the left outside the Liberal Democrats attacks us for being weak in the coalition, yet gives us no support whatsoever when we try to stand up and be strong, indeed it joins in with the Tory attacks on us.

    If we had ended the general election moving upwards, with the fear in the other parties that if there were another general election soon we would be the main gainers, the sort of “agree with us, or we bring it all down” threat that is behind the idea of going for supply-and-confidence might have worked. As it is we would be rather like David Owen in what is probably the most famous Liberator cover: standing in the toilet pan with his hand on the chain saying “Agree with me, or I flush”.

    I don’t think those who argue we should have gone for supply-and-confidence have properly considered what it really means. “Supply” means we give them the money government needs to keep going i.e. we support their budgets – that is, we support the cuts they want to make and we support the taxation policies they want. “Confidence” means we vote with them on ANY issue they or the Labour Party choose to make a matter of confidence, all that is needed is to tack a confidence clause in any Bill. So it means they could, and probably would, embarass us by making the issues we find most unpleasant issues of confidence. That is, I believe supply-and-confidence would have ended up forcing us to vote for even more unpleasant and extreme right-wing policies than those we find we have to support due to being coalition compromises.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 10:56pm

    matt

    For starters the offer on the table at the time was the Alternative Vote and not Proportional Representation, but for arguments sake lets put that to one side for the moment.

    Yes, I accept that point. Had there been a significant bunch of people saying “Vote NO to AV because we want a more radical reform”, had there been press commentators who after the No victory concluded “That means the country should go for proper proportional representation, because it has rejected the compromise of AV”, that would be a valid point, I might have voted “No” myself had I supposed my vote would have been interpreted that way. However, the “No” success was universally accepted as a rejection of ALL electoral reform, as meaning the case for proportional representation had been lost, as the people having opposed even a minimal change to the electoral system, meaning a bigger change than that is ruled out for decades – probably for my lifetime.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 11:03pm

    matt

    Plural politics has to be transparent, we have to know how the negotiations have worked between the parties and what concessions where made by both parties. Without this transparency, how can we judge if plural politics works?

    I think Nick Clegg should have put it straight at the start – made clear the coalition is very far from our ideal, that the distortion of the electoral system makes us much weaker in negotiating with the Tories than we would be if the parties were proportionally represented, and that while we’ll try to do our nest and argue our case, we can’t realistically expect much. Instead, of course, he did the opposite, with the consequences we now see in terms of our party;s support and reputation collapsing.

    If you look back at my posts you will see I have been saying this since the days the coalition was formed, that while I accept the reason for forming it , I believe the tactic of Nick Clegg and those running our party’s national image making campaign of exaggerating our influence in it and of looking very pleased with ourselves for having a few posts in an overwhelmingly Conservative government is a huge mistake and will lead us to disaster. I said this before it happened, you can look at my record and see that, this is not just hindsight I am using here, it has all gone as I publicly predicted it would.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 11:13pm

    matt

    It was this complete lack of transparency that made my mind up to vote against AV and why I am of the opinion {at present} towards PR and AV

    Yes, but you do not seem to have got my point that the situation would have been very different if we had proportiomal representation. The parties in the coalition then would have been almost equal partners, with the Liberal Democrats in a hugely stronger position than the one they are in now holding just one fifth of the coalition’s MPs.

    You also have not replied to my point that if you believe, as you have stated you believe, that distorted representation is good, that the current electoral system is good because it distorts representation in favour of the biggest party usually giving it over half the seats even though it got well under half the votes, and that is good because it rules out coalitions, then it follows naturally that your position should be that you would prefer we had a purely Conservative government right now.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    I sincerely hope you do not feel as though any of my posts have been an attack on you personally, because I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.

    I very much admire you from what I have seen on here.

    It is easy to see the passion that you have for politics and your party.

    I sympathise with what must be an extremely frustrating situation for you.

    I hope you continue on with your work and I truly hope that people start to listen to what you have to say, however, I think it is the majority within your own party membership that you need to get your arguments across to first.

    Ex Libdem voters and other members of the electorate can not be blamed for drawing the conclusions that they have had towards the party leadership and the likes of AV.

    I am afraid until the argument has been won within the party membership on the current leadership and the direction of things, it is going to be near on impossible to win back the lost voters and regain the trust. Once those are resolved, maybe then the case for reform could be raised once more, but only when someone whose far more competent is in charge and is able to articulate.

  • I did try to address all your points Matthew.

    My main issue with politics is transparency.

    None of the governments over the last decades, or probably even ever, have ever been transparent.

    So in one sense of the word, as things stand I do prefer one party of government, because then they can be fully held to account at the next election. I can not stand the Tories and I would never want to see a Tory government again.

    What my fear is though, judging by this current coalition government and the lack of transparency, even if we would have had full PR at the last election which would have meant Liberal Democrats having what ???? 140 seats, would they have behaved any differently?
    Like I said, I am not talking about yielding power to be able to negotiate more of your policies or watering down those of the Tories. I am talking about the transparency of the political negotiations themselves on ALL of the polices that get enacted.
    It is the transparency that is missing, which for me is losing the arguments for plurality.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '12 - 11:33pm

    matt

    Liberal Democrats in government and Nick Clegg especially have had that opportunity to prove this plurality through openness and transparency on negotiations within government, the problem is, they totally stuffed it up.

    You accuse me of ignoring your point, but why do you say that is so, when I have openly expressed my dissatisfaction with the leadership of Nick Clegg to the point of calling for his resignation?

    That was the main reason why the argument for AV fell on it’s backside.

    Sure, but the point I have been making all along is that when people voted “No” to AV thinking this was a gesture of attack on Nick Clegg for perceived and perhaps actual weakness, they did not realise what an illogical thing they were doing – as I have argued, they were in fact voting FOR the very thing they said they were voting against.

    That is why I am pushing this line again and again, going through it step-by-step to point out that if your position is that you support the current electoral system because you don’t like coalitions, then you need to accept that a logical corollary of your argument is that we should have a purely Conservative government in right now. No-one has been able to point out any flaw in my argument – I am saying that if you hold to the position we should have distorted representation in order to give all power to one party, then right now you are arguing in favour of the Conservatives as they were the largest party in terms of votes at the last election, you are saying what is wrong with the current government is that it is not Conservative enough. As I said, the further corollary from that is that the only complaint you can legitimately make against Nick Clegg is that he is not supporting with question every Conservative policy in order to render he government most like the one your opposition to proportional representation means you most favour.

    If on reflection you realise that is not your position, if on reflection you think that what is wrong with our current government is that it is too Conservative, and the Conservatives do not deserve so much power after having gained such little electoral support, then I urge you to reconsider your position on proportional representation. Because the argument that what is wrong with our government is that it is too distorted in favour of the Conservatives and they did not really gain the electoral support for that, is in fact the argument for proportional representation, it is the argument against the first-past-the-post principle that it’s enough to have the most votes to win complete power and it doesn’t matter if actually there were many more votes for other parties if they were divided up so none of them cam ahead of the first-past-the-post winners.

  • John Broggio 3rd Dec '12 - 11:45pm

    @Matthew Huntback

    When the Orange Booker’s vision (“there is no alternative, there is no Liberal Democrats survival outside a growing permanent relationship with the Tories”) that they are goading the critics to ‘force’ into happening, what then? For you, disillusioned former LD voters (like me), prospective voters who wish to vote for a different set of proposals of “hard” neo-liberalism or “soft” neo-liberalism?

  • daft h'a'porth 3rd Dec '12 - 11:51pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I put to you that AV and PR are fundamentally very little to do with the price of cheese in the context of evaluating the behaviour of the Lib Dems in the 2010-($whenever) coalition. If the election had taken place under PR then sure, things would’ve been quite different, but as this was not the case, even if 99% of the population had voted yes to AV the Lib Dems would still be junior partner in the 2010 coalition and judged by the public on that basis. A proportion of voters apparently liked the idea of ‘a new kind of politics’, ‘no more broken promises’ etc, but one who surfs that wave into a position of power had better be ready to live up to it to the best of their ability – transparency and integrity, adherence to party policy where possible and ready acceptance of the fact where the action taken differs from policy, and avoidance of weasel-words and sophistry.

    Personally I voted Yes to AV and am pretty miffed that it didn’t happen, but it’s just not THAT relevant to the performance of the Lib Dems in this government. Somehow the Conservatives and Labour seem to manage to gain a majority vote on occasion. Would it not have been possible for the Lib Dems, had they played this opportunity differently, to have impressed a proportion of the general public with their integrity and general awesomeness?

    Regards,
    – A leftist fantasist

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '12 - 11:55am

    John Broggio

    When the Orange Booker’s vision (“there is no alternative, there is no Liberal Democrats survival outside a growing permanent relationship with the Tories”) that they are goading the critics to ‘force’ into happening, what then? For you, disillusioned former LD voters (like me), prospective voters who wish to vote for a different set of proposals of “hard” neo-liberalism or “soft” neo-liberalism?

    This is a little unfair. The Orange Book itself is a collection of articles each by a different person, the articles are not all saying the same thing, and though they have an orientation towards emphasising the liberal aspects of a market economy, that is not all they are about, nor do all of them take the extreme line on it which now seems to be supposed. I appreciate that “Orange Booker” is a shorthand for those in the party who have wanted it to be pushed more in an “economic liberal” direction, but maybe you need to be clear that’s what you mean. I might not be keen on that direction, but of course I cannot oppose free discussion within the party, and those who want it to go that way have a right to argue their case.

    Also, one can hardly suppose it was deliberately planned to have a general election result which meant the only viable government was a Conservative-LibDem coalition – getting that balance depends on so many fine local level things that it just could not be organised centrally. But, yes, there are some, they seem to include Clegg himself and many of his close advisers, who have taken the opportunity of this to push the party further that way without any proper party consultation and in fact using techniques which are rather insulting to party members who don’t want the party to go that way (I refer in particular to the comments from Clegg in his conference interview with the Independent).

    Obviously, if they continue pushing it that way, the time will come when I have to consider whether it is worthwhile trying to fight back, or whether I should just quit and throw away 33 years membership and all he time and money I have given to the cause of the third party movement. That is why I am getting so vocal and angry about this – these people are destroying my hopes and what I’ve dedicated much of my life to. I don’t find any other party at all attractive, if they win, I give up political involvement altogether.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '12 - 12:37pm

    daft h’a’porth

    I put to you that AV and PR are fundamentally very little to do with the price of cheese in the context of evaluating the behaviour of the Lib Dems in the 2010-($whenever) coalition.

    If the 363 coalition party MPs were divided in proportion to the votes cast nationwide, there would be 222 Conservative MPs and 141 Liberal Democrat MPs. Our electoral system, the one the British people backed by two to one, turned that into 306 Conservative MPs and 57 Liberal Democrat MPs.

    Your argument is that it makes no difference whether the balance is 306-57 or 222-141, that the Liberal Democrats were not weakened by that. My argument is that is makes a huge difference – I believe the Liberal Democrats would be in a much more stronger negotiating position and thus able to push the coalition much more in their direction had the balance been 222-141 rather than 306-57. Not only is there the difference of the weight of numbers there is also the fact that with 141 Liberal Democrat MPs, a Labour-LibDem coalition would have been viable, and Clegg would be able to use the negotiation threat of walking out and trying the alternative coalition if the Conservatives stood their ground.

  • Mathew,
    I think Clegg’s vision is doomed to failure becauase there is no desire for it within the Conservative Party. They mistrust him even more than disenters within the Lib Dems do and propbably at least as much as the lost voters. He’s heading for a date with hubris.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '12 - 12:55pm

    daft h’a’porth

    A proportion of voters apparently liked the idea of ‘a new kind of politics’, ‘no more broken promises’ etc, but one who surfs that wave into a position of power had better be ready to live up to it to the best of their ability – transparency and integrity, adherence to party policy where possible …

    Where possible, yes. So how are the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs going to make the 306 Conservative MPs change their mind and agree to Liberal Democrat policy rather than Conservative policy?

    The only real power the Liberal Democrats have in the coalition is to weigh the balance, so their 57 MPs added to 125 Conservative MPs would outvote the other 181 Conservative MPs. So they can only get through something if it also has substantial minority support among the Conservatives.

    So, yes, I’m very unhappy with Nick Clegg because the way he has presented the coalition, over-optimistic, exaggerating what he can really achieve, making out it is the fulfillment of our dreams rather than a miserable little compromise, has greatly damaged our party because it just gives fuel to the leftist fantasist attack on it, the one which somehow supposes it’s easy-peasy for the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs to convert the 306 Conservative MPs to Liberal Democrat ways, and the Liberal Democrats are unprincipled people who have broken their promises for not managing that conversion.

    However, I have always taken the position that one should go easy on criticising someone doing a job until one has done that job oneself. In professional and political life SO MANY times have I had to deal with naive critics who say silly things and propose silly unworkable solutions to problems I face because they actually haven’t a clue about the reality of what I am doing. That is why any criticism I have of Nick Clegg for weakness in policy negotiation with the Tories is much more muted. One thing that needs to be considered is that Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are fighting on two fronts – against the Conservatives, but also against Labour who want them to fail. Labour are the Conservatives’ secret allies here. Labur silence, or outright backing for the Conservatives, on any issue where the Liberal Democrats do take a stand against the Conservatives is a big part of Liberal Democrat weakness in the coalition. As is the constant “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, dirty rotten Liberal Democrats” from fantasists who seem to suppose anything short of the Liberal Democrats converting all Conservative MPs to the Liberal Democrat position is a “broken promise”, and whose refusal therefore to acknowledge what the Liberal Democrats have achieved, small though it is, is undermining and in fact feeds the defeatists in the party who want to use the line “we have no support left outside the coalition, so we had better form a permanent alliance with the Conservatives in order to survive”.

  • daft h'a'porth 4th Dec '12 - 11:29pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “If the 363 coalition party MPs were divided in proportion to the votes cast nationwide, there would be 222 Conservative MPs and 141 Liberal Democrat MPs[…etc]”

    Yes, and that would in my opinion be devoutly to be wished, but I wrote that: “I put to you that AV and PR are fundamentally very little to do with the price of cheese in the context of evaluating the behaviour of the Lib Dems in the 2010-($whenever) coalition.” Why conflate these two issues? What’s the point of playing if-there-had-been-a-successful-referendum-on-AV-pre-2010 fantasy politics? Yes, it’s unfair that the Lib Dems had so few seats but they stood for election under the existing system, which presumably implies that they thought they were equal to dealing with it, skew and all, so pointing at it and claiming that they can’t do their jobs under those conditions is a bit disingenuous at this point.

    You ask, “So how are the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs going to make the 306 Conservative MPs change their mind and agree to Liberal Democrat policy rather than Conservative policy?” Sounds like a great opportunity to demonstrate the art and science of politics! Not being a politician I wouldn’t know how to approach that problem – not being a brickie, I wouldn’t know how to build a garage either – that is the nature of specialism. If we all had to be MPs to adequately judge our MP’s performance then democracy would appear to suffer from a serious mathematical flaw, because there are 68,175 voters per constituency on average and just one MP. We collectively voted to hire a MP to do a job, on the strength of a job description he and his party contributed, and I’m pretty sure that the *intention* is for voters to put serious thought into whether said MP has done what it says on the tin, so don’t knock it. At least people who are reacting are paying some level of attention; as far as I can tell looking at recent election turnouts, a significant proportion of people aren’t.

  • Labour silence, or outright backing for the Conservatives, on any issue where the Liberal Democrats do take a stand against the Conservatives is a big part of Liberal Democrat weakness in the coalition.

    It seems to me the biggest problem for a lot of former Lib Dem supporters is the phrase is more easily recognisable as

    Lib Dem silence, or outright backing for the Conservatives, on any issue where the Lib Dems should take a stand against the Conservatives is a big part of Liberal Democrat weakness in the coalition.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Dec '12 - 5:03pm

    daft h’a’porth

    Yes, and that would in my opinion be devoutly to be wished, but I wrote that: “I put to you that AV and PR are fundamentally very little to do with the price of cheese in the context of evaluating the behaviour of the Lib Dems in the 2010-($whenever) coalition.” Why conflate these two issues? What’s the point of playing if-there-had-been-a-successful-referendum-on-AV-pre-2010 fantasy politics?

    That’s not the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that the power of the Liberal Democrats following the 2010 general election was much weaker than it would have been if seats were allocated on share of votes. That has nothing to do with the results of the AV election. I am noting that people are moaning about the LibDems being unable to exert much influence, but not about the system that led to that. The point about the AV referendum is that people moaned, and then did nothing about the cause of what they were moaning about, indeed many of them went out and supported the cause of what they were moaning about, doing that as some sort of protest against the consequences of it.

    You ask, “So how are the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs going to make the 306 Conservative MPs change their mind and agree to Liberal Democrat policy rather than Conservative policy?” Sounds like a great opportunity to demonstrate the art and science of politics! Not being a politician I wouldn’t know how to approach that problem

    Well, THERE YOU GO then. You are moaning about the Liberal Democrats, but now you admit you have no idea how they could achieve what you are moaning at them for not achieving.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Dec '12 - 5:11pm


    not being a brickie, I wouldn’t know how to build a garage either

    OK, so your brickie says “Give me £10,000 and I’ll build you garage”. You give £2000 to the brickie and £8000 to another brickie. So the two brickies have to work together, and you accuse the first brickie of “breaking his promises” because the resulting garage doesn’t look like the one he said he would build with £10,000. Then the brickie says “Sorry mate, it can’t be done, not when I’ve got to work with this other bloke who’s got different ideas”. So then you say “I’m not a brickie so I don’t know, but still I’m going to moan at you and say you’re a liar”.

  • daft h'a'porth 6th Dec '12 - 10:02pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I don’t know if you’ve ever had a garage built but typically more than one guy *is* involved in the process… and yet they seem to manage not to make a complete screw-up of it , probably because they’re generally fairly practiced at working out the customer requirements *sigh*

  • “I don’t know if you’ve ever had a garage built but typically more than one guy *is* involved in the process… and yet they seem to manage not to make a complete screw-up of it”

    Then again, the people involved probably don’t include Nick Clegg …

  • To continue the garage and brick laying analogy. You don’t build a garage without a plan. Unfortunately, the Conservative plan was hastily accepted on a false premise that a British Garage is similar to a Greek Garage.

    Also the current brick layers looked at the previous work and shook their head ‘what happened here then’ when there was ground subsidence caused by defective surveying (Thatcher Big Bang no regulation surveying co) some 30 years ago. The fact that all accepted the Surveying report that missed the subsidence is conveniently ignored. The surveying company is left unscathed.

    When that subsidence happened and some extra was spent on shoring up the building, the current bricklayers whistle and say how much did they spend on that shoring up ? And then proceed to blame the cost on the brick layers for the cost of shoring up the builder and not letting it fall into a big hole.

    It is totally disingenous, simplistic and opportunistic.

    They then conveniently forget that they too accepted the Thatcherite surveying report and try to blame it all on the previous bricklayers. They then let the same surveying company (who interestingly own the largest bricklayers building the garage) to pay them to carry out more surveying work.

    Unfortunately, the garage is still at risk of serious subsidence and is being built at unacceptably slow rate. I understand from the last building meeting that the garage is no further forward than when it was started 2.5 years ago.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Dec '12 - 11:57pm

    We are rather losing the point here. What I was saying was that the British people chose to elect a Parliament which contained 306 Conservative MPs and 57 Liberal Democrat MPs. I am suggesting that under those circumstances why should it be expected that that Parliament will deliver mainly Liberal Democrat policies, and Liberal Democrats are abused and accused of breaking promises when it does not? Daft h’a’porth only response to that is to say he thinks the Liberal Democrats ought to be able to get their way and change the minds of the 306 Conservative MPs, although he admits he hasn’t a clue how.

    The point about electoral systems is that if the British people felt that was wrong and the balance of MPs did not represent what they really wanted, they had the opportunity to show that by voting to change the electoral system. But they voted by two-to-one to keep it the same. I don’t support the Conservatives, I believe their policies are damaging, I wish the election did nit have that result, I think the British people made a mistake in electing a Parliament with the balance it has. But, as I keep saying, they did elect it, and underlined it’s what they wanted by rejecting a change in the electoral system which delivered that result.

    Simply acknowledging that to be the case is not to say that oneself is pleased it is the case. It is simply to acknowledge fact. The workman analogy I was trying to use is that if a workman presents a plan, but you choose to divide the work and give most of it to another workman, isn’t it a little unfair to complain that the final result is more like that of the second workman’s plan than the first’s?

  • daft h'a'porth 7th Dec '12 - 2:39am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    ‘Mainly Lib Dem policies’? That’s that ‘percentage of Lib Dem policies’ argument coming out again; it’s subtler than that. As they say, qui aime, ne compte pas – one who loves doesn’t waste time doing the maths. This is about understanding the ‘customer’, knowing which design decisions are negotiable and which are not, understanding how one’s acts will be perceived…

    Daft h’a’porth expects the Lib Dems to do the best they can for the people who hired them, to fulfil their conditions of hiring to the greatest extent possible and to communicate adequately with the people who hired them. Daft h’a’porth expected the same from the people who built the garage – and strives to do the same for the various entities who employ Daft. What Daft is asking of the MP is nothing that Daft would not expect of anybody else, or, indeed, of Daft. It is okay for projects to fail, but it is not okay to promise to build a garage, to decide to join forces with a colleague to build a horse-trough instead and to explain it to the customer by claiming that actually horse-troughs are better than garages if you look at them from the right perspective, ignoring the obvious complaints, like the fact that the car doesn’t fit under it and the fact that one of the customers is violently allergic to horsehair. Everybody who works with customers knows (or rapidly learns) that if you’re going to take on a job then you had better make sure it’s realistically specced beforehand; attempting to weasel out of it will just erode trust.

    I still say that AV is a red herring in the context of the coalition. It was naive to accept that an AV referendum be held on that schedule in any case, given the political headlines of the prior year; naive to imagine that Cameron would’ve accepted it if he hadn’t known full well how to have it fall flat on its face; to be charitable, ‘naive’ pretty much sums up the whole episode. Oh well.

  • I still see the same old postings flailing around.

    I do not think the AV results were brought about by the electorate because they expected Liberal democrat MP’s to implement policies A, B, C and D and to temper Tory Polices E, F, G and H.

    Because this county had no experience of AV or how plural politics could work, they had to look at the current coalition and how the 2 parties interacted with one another.

    When it comes down to it, it was all to do with “identity” & “transparency” The conservatives have mostly been transparent because lets be honest, the tone of their language is normally they do not give a stuff, just look at Osborne’s language this week at welfare cuts and those who uses as scapegoats as work shy and feckless, and look at the way he totally dismisses Liberal Democrats call for a mansion tax. But what we don’t see is Liberal Democrats doing the same, They do not come out and speak harshly against Tory Policies, they do not condemn the language that is used by the Tories to scapegoat and Vilify the sick and unemployed.
    No what we actually get is Liberal Democrats coming out and embracing ALL of the governments policies, we never hear about what the Liberal Democrats wanted, how negotiations went and what affect that had on the outcome.

    The 2010 election was fort on a FPTP basis, however, due the MP’s Scandals enough Liberal Democrats were voted in so that no party won the election outright and Liberal Democrats were given that opportunity to show to the electorate how Plural Politics “could” work, and make their case for “AV” for all future elections.

    Nick Clegg and the party leaders totally stuffed that up. Not because they were not getting to put their policies in place which their supporters voted them in for, people are realistic and are well aware that the balance of power was much in the Tories Favour, they stuffed it up by having all negotiations hidden behind closed doors and by their parliamentarians flinging themselves behind the policies accepting them as responsible government and policies for both coalition partners that they all support.

    I believe that is why the Liberal Democrats have lost all the support they had back in 2010 and why they have probably lost another opportunity in 2015. Transparency, Transparency, Transparency

  • David Allen 7th Dec '12 - 1:29pm

    Matt, you’re absolutely right about transparency. Tim Farron on QT last night did a lot better than most, though. We can change, if we want to change.

  • -The thing is that the Liberal Democrats stood on one platform of slow deficit reduction, similar to Labour. The electorate voted for the Liberal Democrat to prevent giving the Conservatives for a full mandate. This is because they (Conservatives) were not trusted (with good reason) as they were being completely honest about their policies or intentions.

    Britain is not Greece in the terms of lending, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Such a change in position from the election over deficit reduction, left many people who had voted Liberal Democrat feeling betrayed.

    Rightly or wrongly, the change to the alternate vote was rejected in this context. It was known that the Liberal Democrats were not that enthusiastic about it, which looked like they had made a poor compromise and lacked principles over a key policy. Also because the Liberal Democrats appeared untrustworthy over the change to quick deficit reduction and changing to the Tories. The alternative vote favoured them and appeared to make the Liberal Democrats permanent king maker. Part of the electorate may have felt that this was not a good position to put a party who had appeared to renege on their stated electoral platform and lacked principles over an important constitutional issue.

    So what now ? A quicker cutting of the deficit and austerity is not working. Cutting government spending causes output to fall, tax revenues to decrease, and spending on benefits to increase. This leads to slower growth, or recession and high budget deficits.

    Conservative fast austerity was identified by many, economists as something that would not work. I mean this as a non partisan point. Blaming Labour for all the ecomomic woes for implementing the consensus of free market non regulation has to stop, as it prevents solutions to the economic problems of this country being identified and enacted. I am not saying that Labour have all the answers but they are right to point out that fast paced Conservative austerity is not working.

    More austerity will lead to more blaming of the poor and those on benefits – those that have least control and resources and a temptation to blame either the EC or migrants working in this country.

    Fast paced deficit reduction / Conservative austerity is failing. Whilst the Liberal Democrats continue to wed themselves to Osbourne then there will be poor polling and electoral results as per the latest in the next set of national or Local elections. This is because fast paced Conservative austerity does not work. How many years of it, will the Liberal Democrats support ? It is all about the health of the nation isn’t it ?

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