Category Archives: Op-eds

Vince Cable writes…The birth of the 48 movement

For our party and its supporters in the country the last few years have brought one defeat after another:  local councils, devolved government, national government, AV referendum, now the EU referendum.  There is a limit to the number of times a boxer can climb back up off the floor.  What fortifies me is the adage that winners are losers who never give up.  And perhaps we should think bigger: not as a small party with an 8% core vote but the centre of gravity of a broad movement of 48% of voters who chose Remain.

The first step in responding to defeat has been to look for scapegoats: the people who led a poor and failing campaign.  Cameron has gone and (hopefully) Corbyn and Osborne are going.   But in truth the Remain campaign as a whole failed to grasp the strength of the opposing coalition: not just conservative pensioners who want the past back but the’ left behind ‘who have suffered declining living standards and public services, the Commonwealth voters who felt Europe was at their expense and many who felt this was the best way to give an unpopular and unrepresentative government a good kicking.

That is why we have to approach the result with some humility.  There is nothing to be gained by denial: crying foul. We wuz robbed, ref.  I see petitions demanding a re-run, legal challenges and appeals to parliament to ‘do something’.  Dream on.  Of course the Leave campaign was mendacious; of course the referendum shouldn’t have happened; of course parliament was negligent in not building in thresholds. But the public was clearly told by both sides that the result would be final. And there was a big turnout.  That is it..

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What does the referendum result mean?

Almost every MP and politician from Tim Farron to Nigel Farrage has been saying that we must respect the result of the EU referendum last Thursday but there is no agreement on what the result means.

The act setting up the referendum deliberately made the result advisory, leaving parliament and the government to take the final decision (unlike the AV referendum, which was binding). But what is the final decision? To articulate a vision of the UK outside the EU, something not articulated by the leave campaign during the referendum? To prepare an initial negotiating position? To allow Scotland a second independence referendum? To notify the European Council under article 50 of the EU treaties?

We should respect the result of the referendum. But I believe this only means that the new prime minister, whoever they may be, has the obligation to clarify what our new relationship with the EU should look like (recognising our weak negotiating position). No more, no less! They should then go back to the electorate, through either a general election or second referendum, to gain a mandate for their proposed approach. This second plebiscite would then give a clear choice to the electorate and happen under very different conditions. 

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Pledge to rejoin EU needs to be matched by EU Impact Fund

Tim Farron has rightly pledged we should campaign to take Britain back into the EU in the next general election. Should the election take place earlier than expected, we may still be an EU member, and should propose to withdraw from the Article 50 process.

In either case, it would not be politically credible to advocate reinstating or maintaining EU membership without proposing major domestic initiatives on immigration. The overall Remain campaign failed to a considerable degree because it did not factor in concerns, whether real or imagined, about immigration. The voices of the, largely, English hinterland must be heeded. Any Lib Dem call to rejoin or remain in the EU should therefore be accompanied by proposals to alleviate the perceived and in many cases, real, impact of immigration.

Pressures on housing, education, health and other social services can only be attributed in part to immigration. Ageing, internal migration, austerity and underinvestment together are often the more salient causes. Free movement from the EU accounts for just under half of all net migration and is the price of access to the Single EU market. Ending free movement within the EU (including from Ireland and returning UK nationals) will therefore not substantially reduce immigration, a point of mine which Dan Hannan MEP agreed during a referendum debate. If the diagnosis of our problems is wrong, then the prescription of leaving the EU will not cure them. 

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How the Lib Dems can lead after the Referendum Result

The three days following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union saw Britain’s political landscape descend into chaos. Whilst both the Conservatives and Labour have been damaged both by intra-party division, the Liberal Democrats have remained unscathed, benefitting considerably from the turmoil the vote to leave has incited.

Division is rife within the Conservatives, with the likelihood of a leader attractive to both pro-and anti-Brexiteers in serious doubt. The 16 million that voted to Remain are unlikely to heed Boris Johnson’s call to “build bridges” with a man many perceive has just chosen isolationism over unity and progress. Likewise, 17 million Leavers are unlikely to vote for Theresa May, who’s second favourite to command the leadership, as David Cameron’s resignation is symbolic of the incompatibility of a Remain captain commanding a Leave ship. Whilst it is arguable that many Leavers have switched allegiances due to the perception that they voted on the basis of intangible promises (emphasised by Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan Smith’s abandoning of the Leave campaign’s promise that £350m would be injected into the NHS), it is likely that many are disillusioned with the Conservative Party as it has become synonymous with fear mongering, fragmentation and mistrust.

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Fighting for votes at 16

In light of the recent referendum result, as a Young Liberal, I have found this result  disheartening and frustrating. Joining the party at 16 and now being 17, I have not yet been able to exercise my voice and vote in any democratic election aside from the Liberal Democrat leadership election. This matter disappoints me and,  I’m sure,  many other politically passionate 16 and 17 year olds massively.

From a personal perspective I cannot help but feel that there is an enormous need for change to cater for this currently unheard voice in politics. I and many other young people have been active  in the political landscape since the day I joined the party yet feel angry that I am not allowed to exercise my passionate views through a vote.

Young people have shouted louder than ever on the issue of the European Union and I feel unsatisfied and discouraged that David Cameron declined me and other 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote on an issue that has shifted the tectonic plates of British politics more than any other issue in recent times.

It is clear that young people favoured Remain by a landslide yet they did not get the decision they wanted. It could be argued that this is down to a lack of a voice amongst young people, but also the lack of action to energise the base of young people in the United Kingdom and galvanise their opinion on the issues that will affect their everyday lives and also their future.

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It’s time for a Constitutional Convention

We are now facing the reality of life outside the EU and with it the prospect of a new United Kingdom. With the result of the referendum so close it is essential that the path we move forward on as a country is determined by a wide range of views: those who voted in and those who voted out; the young and the old; people from the left, the right and centre; voices from all parts of the United Kingdom.

We have a chance to take this huge, albeit unwanted, change in our relationship with the world and turn it into …

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Winning people around and winning here

Amongst the post-apocalyptic Brexit debris, I have somehow managed to steel myself and pore over the depressing map of blue England in an attempt to seek out some positive signs of life and hope. The immediate signals are clear and well-documented, pretty much yellow ‘Remain’ for the large metropolitan areas and swathes of blue for the rural ‘Leave’ (although the blue is practically purple on the East Anglian fringes!).

Amongst all this there are some exceptions, some yellow remain anomalies that stand out amongst the sea of blue. On closer inspection, these areas are identified as Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, South Hams in Devon, and South Lakeland in Cumbria. By anyone’s standards that’s a pretty eclectic mix, so I sought to understand what might be the reason these particular areas bucked their regional trends. When I examined who was the MP for these areas, a possible explanation emerged.

The main town in South Hams is Totnes. The MP for Totnes is the independently-minded Tory GP Dr Sarah Wollaston. She was famous during the campaign for switching from ‘Leave’ to ‘Remain’ and helping to bust the £350m a week NHS myth that the Vote Leave side were peddling. The MP for Rushcliffe is Tory grandee and respected pro-European Ken Clarke. South Lakeland, of course, is the stamping ground of our leader, Tim Farron. 

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 1st Jul - 4:25am
    Sorry I meant the Lisbon Treaty of signed in 2007 which only entered into force in 2009. Interesting that it came in so close to...
  • User AvatarKevin colwill 1st Jul - 4:22am
    A referendum gives a binary choice. For those on the losing side it makes democracy look like the dictatorship of the majoity. Indeed, it emphasises...
  • User AvatarGlenn 1st Jul - 4:16am
    Freedom of movement is not the issue. There was freedom of movement in the 1970s. After Maastricht everyone in the EU became a European Citizen...
  • User AvatarMark Seaman 1st Jul - 2:05am
    At last ... A sane Lib Dem response to the EU referendum result. Thank you Mr Cable.
  • User AvatarSue Sutherland 1st Jul - 12:59am
    No one has responded to steamdrivenandy. I think it depends on your definition of left wing. We are all coming to terms with a new...
  • User AvatarHywel 30th Jun - 11:19pm
    The aim was similar but Dean had a 50 state strategy, not a 435 congressional division strategy. There is an important difference.