Chris Rennard on the Henley result

For those who missed it, here is the result of the Henley by-election:

John Howell (Conservative): 19,796 (57%, +3%)
Stephen Kearney (Liberal Democrat): 9,680 (28%, +2%)
Mark Stevenson (Green Party): 1,321 (4%, +1%)
Timothy Rait (British National Party): 1,243 (4%, +4%)
Richard McKenzie (Labour): 1,066 (3%, -12%)
Chris Adams (UK Independence Party): 843 (2%, n/c)
Bananaman Owen (Official Monster Raving Loony Party): 242 (1%)
Derek Allpass (English Democrats Party): 157 (0.5%)
Amanda Harrington (Independent Candidate): 128 (0.4%)
Dick Rodgers (Common Good): 121 (0.4%)
Louise Cole (Independent Candidate): 91 (0.3%)
Harry Bear (Fur Play Party): 73 (0.2%)
Turnout: 34,915 (50.5%, -18%).

Here’s Chris Rennard’s reaction in an email this morning to Lib Dem members:

Just a brief note to thank everyone who helped our campaign in Henley yesterday.

We increased our vote and reduced the Conservative majority – but I would obviously preferred to have won !

The Conservatives also failed in their hope to reduce our share of support.

Labour suffered the most humiliating result losing their deposit and coming fifth.

Overall I would say that we held our own against the Conservatives in spite of their very high opinion poll ratings. We are clearly very well placed to make gains from Labour in future.

Thanks again to everyone who helped in so many ways.

Stephen Kearney gave an excellent speech from the count – he did us proud. You can read the main parts of the speech, watch his post-result reaction and get details of the result from our website.

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83 Comments

  • Pete (the Colchester one) 27th Jun '08 - 9:01am

    Chris Rennard:

    “We increased our vote…”

    LibDem Henley vote 2005 General Election – 12,101

    LibDem Henley vote 2008 By Election – 9,680

    An increase of minus 2421!

  • I would expect there to be a good hard look at this campaign. There is a danger with any orthodoxy, that if it doesn’t produce what it is expected, the blame is put on not being orthodox enough. We need to examine whether the orthodoxy still holds.

  • Pete no matter what you say people will defend Renard, he is more a cult than a man, in some eyes no matter what he can do no wrong.

    That people within the party will not even enter debate about his position or tactics shows that they have little to defend him on except fading past glories.

    2005 GE was in my and many others peoples point of view an abject failure to take advantage on a once in a generation opportunity.

    By 2010 we are already talking about “holding” and gone are the days of advance.
    Its sad that approaching the subject of possible change of tactics or personal come the infantile question “could you do better?” well frankly if we asked that no one would ever move on no matter what there results.

    If we are to become the Man Utd or even Tottenham(yes I support them….I seem to have form on who I support!) of politics we need change. We have the right leader now, but need to refresh policy and tactics. It all feels very 1990s and the opposition and public are getting wise.

    I know I am on a hiding to nothing with this post but I find in strange that our party of all find it hard to have a honest debate about such matters….and no it should not all be behind closed doors, if people want to argue otherwise let’s be open.

    The past is good for reference not for the future agenda, so if anyone can set out why we must continue on our current course please do.
    People are hungry for change; we seem to be a minor irrelevance to most so how to we adapt from our guerrilla tactics of yesteryear.

    I certainly don’t have all the answers but I certainly have a few questions that need answering.
    This is not personal, as the saying goes, this is business!

  • Darrell – I would agree with every word that Wit & Wisdom has written on his blog. I suggest everyone takes a look:

    http://frivolityrules.blogspot.com/2008/06/moving-forward-from-henley.html

    “However, I cannot conceal my crushing diappointment at the result. My fundamental qustion is how mnany more such disappointments must occur before we start to look at our successful but now faltering campaign machine.”

    I would add the word “previously” before “successful” in that paragraph, but he has it about right.

  • BM – you know my own views on this. I think the business analogy is about right here. Any business which goes about thinking “the product is right, but the customers are wrong” deserves to fail. We have to ask honest, hard questions, independently verfied, on the style and content of our campaigning. We are no longer going to hoover up protest votes. 67 MPs is great, but we are the establishment too. Lets accept this reality and set about much slicker voter IDing, and message presentation. And lets identify and stick to a core message.

  • Bah, there are often recriminations in the morning, but only because the memory isn’t as vivid as the experience. But just as all is fair in love and war, in politics everything counts.

    Resolve is as important as adaptability – the skill is in knowing when and how much to use according to the circumstances.

  • Tabman wrote: “I would expect there to be a good hard look at this campaign. There is a danger with any orthodoxy, that if it doesn’t produce what it is expected, the blame is put on not being orthodox enough. We need to examine whether the orthodoxy still holds.”

    The thing is, that Lib Dem campaigns were for a long time advanced compared to the campaigns of the other parties, and that’s why Lib Dems made many spectacular wins in by-elections. Now the Conservatives have learned their lessons and adopted many of the Lib Dem tactics, so if the Lib Dems still wish to succeed, they need to invent something new.

    Beside the tactics, maybe the narrative should be revisited and simplified a bit. The green policies are known and popular, but probably insufficient. While the Conservatives have muddied their economic policies, maybe the Lib Dems could clarify theirs. There has been some good signals about that, but they should be repeated until the message gets through. It would also be good, if Lib Dems could come up with such policies on civil liberties, which will clearly divide the Conservatives or expose them being what they really are, bigoted bullies.

  • The fact is our by-election strategy will not work if we don’t have enough time in the campaign to pile in the resources and activists.

    Since Southall where Labour first called a snap election both the other parties have realised this and will probably call any by-elections as early as possible in future, effectively neutralising our strategy.

    So we need to stop becoming so reliant on big by-election wins… If we aren’t able to use the strategy effectively any more theres no point piling everyone in from across the country and putting other work on hold.

  • > We are clearly very well placed to make
    > gains from Labour in future.

    Well, clearly from this result, Crewe and the failure of courage even to stand in H&H, we are not.

    A few Labour seats might go Lib Dem, where the Lib Dems are a close second (there are only a few).

    Labour voters are not switching to the Lib Dems in large numbers and the irony is that they should be.

  • Anon – some good points. Agree with them all.

    Andy M: “The fact is our by-election strategy will not work if we don’t have enough time in the campaign to pile in the resources and activists.”

    Dangerous. That is too much of a “we weren’t orthodox enough” argument. How much time and activists is “enough”? We need to go away and look at doing things differently.

    Mouse – people need to fear a Tory government enough to want to vote for anyone who limits the damage. At the moment they hate Labour, but don’t fear the Tories. I’m not sur ethat they actively love them, but they don’t fear them and probably won’t until the second Cameron term. We need to recognise this and adapt accordingly.

  • I’ve been arguing since 2005 for a root and branch review of our strategy and tactics. I argued that that was what the leadership election should have been about.

    I’ve a nasty feeling I’ll still be arguing it in 2010. Meantime, I’ll just keep on hurting the Tories in my area until someone gets around to asking my opinion. I thought something might come of the Bones exercise, but I guess that was sat on our ‘vested interests’. But after Henley, C&N and the Paddick Campaign, it’s time someone asked some questions.

    We have a lot to say to the electorate which is POSITIVE and addresses their concerns; where we are saying it, we are still winning.

    We have an excellent leader, a good team and a plethora of policy. As a Marketing Man, I think ‘it’s the way we tell ’em’ that’s the problem.

  • Martin – is “plethora” the operative word? “Making things simple in a complex world” prthspd more appropriate?

  • Mouse – Crewe & Natwich, naturally Labour?

    Tabman & Martin Land – There is no return to being the only repository for protest votes, especially just as we are managing to solidify our alternative vision and the terms of debate are shifting in our direction.

    So, no, thank you – I’d rather be in government in a generation even if it’s at the expense of picking up a few by-elections – and if it is a choice between one and the other I think we’re all agreed, aren’t we (though if we could do both…)?

  • The election message of Lib Dems seems generally to be “vote tactically”. That might work in some constituencies, where Lib Dems are in second place, and the third party can be squeezed. However, it doesn’t seem to work in constituencies like Crewe and Nantwich where Lib Dems are on third place.

    And it increasingly doesn’t seem to work in constituencies with a Conservative incumbent, either because the Labour voters can’t be anymore be convinced, that it’s a good idea to vote tactically because the Tories are the bigger evil, or because what number of voters Lib Dems can gain from Labour by attacking the Tories they lose to Tories as disgusted Lib Dem voters.

    Could the message to put through be “vote with your conscience”, if the Lib Dems are in the third place, or if not sufficient opposition to the incumbent can’t be gathered? And maybe to present the Lib Dems as a party the “uncorrupted alternative” with indirect reference to the recent Tory sleaze and Labour failings.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 10:37am

    It would also be good, if Lib Dems could come up with such policies on civil liberties, which will clearly divide the Conservatives or expose them being what they really are, bigoted bullies.

    The second point maybe highlights the problem better. As long as you have a significant proportion of activists who just slag off other parties (and I have been watching Lib Dem circles for long enough to know that this proportion is remarkably large), the Lib Dems are going to remain peripheral. Sure, you can mop up the anti-establishment/protest vote, but then so can the BNP and the Greens (although Rennard’s tactics have made the Lib Dems far more efficient at this than those others).

  • Grammar Police 27th Jun '08 - 10:51am

    On the subject of slagging off other parties, where do you get this opinion from? If it’s largely based on online comments, then you should see Tory activists on ConHome and Iain Dale’s diary!

    I think the online contribution from all parties is overly negative.

  • Passing Tory wrote: “The second point maybe highlights the problem better. As long as you have a significant proportion of activists who just slag off other parties (and I have been watching Lib Dem circles for long enough to know that this proportion is remarkably large), the Lib Dems are going to remain peripheral.”

    Funny, the advice I have seen the Conservatives to always give to Lib Dems as a recipe for success is to stop criticising the Conservatives. But You seem to be blind to the fact, that the Conservatives do also criticise the Lib Dems, and Lib Dems criticise Labour and vice versa. And of course Labour and Conservatives criticise the other. That’s what the parties do.

    Of course your advice is that Lib Dems should stop criticising the Tories, but that wouldn’t benefit the Lib Dems, that would only benefit the Tories. If you really disagree, you should explain why it would benefit the Lib Dems if they would stop criticising one of their competitors and give them free reign.

  • Andy M: “both the other parties have realised this and will probably call any by-elections as early as possible in future, effectively neutralising our strategy”

    Everybody’s known that this by-election was going to happen since (at least) the weekend after the London mayoral elections and we’ve all known the most likely date since at least the day after the Crewe and Nantwich by-election – five weeks ago.

    Back in May, blogs were full of stories of the Lib Dem campaign being in full swing and plenty of “Where are the Tories?” comments. The idea that anyone was taken by surprise by the timing of this by-election doesn’t hold up to much examination.

    The logical conclusion to this is that it’s not just the circumstances of the last few by-elections that aren’t conducive to the Lib Dem standard by-election strategy but that that strategy is probably past its use-by date.

    Stephen Tall: “it’s silly to look at absolute voting figures on a reduced turnout”

    You are absolutely right but that is exactly what Lord Rennard did when he said that “we increased our vote and reduced the Conservative majority”. Either the Lib Dem vote increased (if you use vote shares) or the Conservative majority was reduced (if you use absolute votes). You can’t claim both.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 10:59am

    Did I say stop criticising? Criticism (and debate) are critical mechanisms of progress so I would never say don’t criticise. But what I see (as quoted) is just mindless abuse. Constructive criticism not only tackles one view, but proposes an alternative. Without this second bit (and I don’t mean saying ‘they are crap, vote for us’) then you are just in slagging off / negative campaigning territory.

  • Well, passing tory, I don’t think you can alone define what is justified criticism towards your party and what isn’t. You call it “mindless abuse”, I see it as justified criticism.

  • Besides, passing tory, remember where you are. We are discussing how the Lib Dems could improve their performance in the elections. The suggestion what I made wasn’t meant to be the final formulation of the criticism towards the Conservatives, it was the outcome I hoped would follow after the criticism would have been thought through. You are discussing like this would be the “Letters for Editor” of some national newspaper. Go to the ConservativeHome, and you see even more “mindless abuse” against the Lib Dems, though you are probably blind to it. Have you complained there?

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 11:14am

    Sorry, I missed the second part of your question, Anon. Well, with the caveat implicit above (i.e. it is not criticism that is the problem, but non-constructive criticism (i.e. abuse), there are a number of problems.

    The first is that you reduce elections down to games. Policy has no point rather than to outmanoevre the opposition. This is not conductive to holistic policy making.

    The second is that you undermine the body politic as a whole. We all have flaws – it is far more constructive to concentrate on what you can do than to base a strategy around undermining others. Ultimately government should be about constructive policy.

    There are also several others which concern the precise situation the Lib Dems find themselves in now, but I will leave it as an exercise to you to extrapolate my thought processes.

  • purplemeanie 27th Jun '08 - 11:19am

    stepping back from henley for a moment i wonder if lib dems are thinking that right now might be the best chance they’ve had in a long time to persuade labour of the merits of bringing in PR in time for the next election? seeing as there is pretty much universal despair amongst labourites about the prospect of keeping the tories from taking over, otherwise? yes – it would be completely blatant – but in what other circumstances other than a government looking at collapse of its parliamentary majority under the current system, are we ever going to get PR? (I should be upfront that i am a labour supporter but also a long time supporter of PR).

  • Negative campaigning does work. It worked in Bermondsey and in Greenwich, in both of which the imcumbent party candidate was deeply unpopular with the electorate.

    However, in both those cases the Alliance (as it then was) campaign also had a complementary positive message: vote against Peter Tatchell/Deirdre Wood AND vote for the much better Simon Hughes/Rosie Barnes.

    In Henley, the Tories had a candidate who had serious faults, but the narrative didn’t quite hang together as it has done so successfully on previous occasions. When the Tory Party is popular, an immobile vote in a a seat like Henley is the most we are likely to get.

    John Howell may be an oleaginous chancer (ie, a typical Tory politician), but he is hardly viscerally repellent to the extent that people are going to flock to the polling-stations to kick him in the teeth.

    Getting rid of Chris Rennard would be insanity. The Party owes more to Chris than to all the leaders stacked on top of each other.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 11:21am

    OK, Anon, I’ll play ball. You say your criticism is justified. Please justify the statement:

    expose them [Conservatives] being what they really are, bigoted bullies

  • I think the role of the campaign literature should also be reconsidered. Maybe less leaflets with more thought on how to make sure they would be read, and when they are, how to get the message through, and which message. Now all the parties seem to be too focused on getting the maximum number of leaflets through the mail boxes, and not paying enough attention to how to get them read, and how to achieve the wanted result.

  • Rob in London 27th Jun '08 - 11:24am

    Henley is arch-tory land, prosperous, socially conservative, and wanting to keep things that way. Much more rural than Bromley and possibly more culturally conservative, not just economically.

    Any increase in the Lib Dem vote here (it was nearly 2%) when Conservatives are riding high in the polls is a respectable result. Don’t waste time crying over this one.

    If the next by-election is in an urban seat I would expect a much much better result for Lib Dems.

  • Hywel Morgan 27th Jun '08 - 11:24am

    “The fact is our by-election strategy will not work if we don’t have enough time in the campaign to pile in the resources and activists.

    Since Southall where Labour first called a snap election…”

    The tactic has been evident for longer than that (Ipswich was called very rapidly for example).

    However Hartlepool was given a long run in and we didn’t win there.

    It’s silly of people to take Chris’s on the night spin as reflective of an overall (internal) opinion. Tabman is right though – our campaigning approach at by-elections does need a serious look – 2 wins (one a hold) from 6 full on campaigns this Parliament, compared to 4/4 in 92/7 , 2/2 in 97/01 and 2/4 in 01/05.

  • Every successful product has a lifecycle. Both Lib Dem by election tactics, and Lib Dem strategy with by-elections as a major vehicle for promoting success have reached the zenith of the life cycle and need a serious overhaul.

    Th by-election approach has been the strategy of a guerilla campaign. However all guerilla campaigns must come to an end and become ‘open warfare’ or end up in comprimise and defeat. The Liberal democrats at the last GE reached a tipping point strategically whereby they had to move out of guerilla tactics and onto a more traditional campaign footing.

    This means increased attention to the air war for example. It means learning to ‘fight lighter’ over a wider area, rather than the standard, resource heavy campaigns. It means reassessing the way that we organise constituency parties on a normal footing – one of the problems with the current model is that many areas where a by-election turns up we have black holes where a local party essentially has to be built from scratch to fight the election. As someone above pointed out the short turnaround that the other two parties now have, this cannot be done as easily.

    We also need to look at our messages. We have strong strategic messages that we are failing to exploit in by elections because they are sublimated to the need for high impact ‘local messages’. This can lead – unfairly, but what is fair in politics – to charges of being all things to all men, and mercenary in our approach. When we fight by elections it should be with a broader national message in mind than simply ‘winning here’.

    The major problem I see with this situation is that the by election is central to the Liberal Democrat campaigning model. It has brought us back into the game through a combination of the small incremental gains it gives and the oxygen it gives to our publicity. But as a model it is (to use a phrase that thankfully is not the current vogue) ‘no longer fit for purpose’. The recent by election results should be a wake up call to the Liberal Democrats that we need to reassess not just how we campaign in these one off situations, but how we utilise our resources over a five year campaign cycle – and thus how we organise our party to campaign.

  • What’s this stuff about too much literature?

    I well remember attempting to hand out leaflets to homecoming commuters at a station in Greenwich and having every one refused by irritated travellers.

    We still won.

  • Passing Tory, I wouldn’t want to generalise, but…

    Letters From A Tory is a reasonably common contributor here with whom you should be reasonably well acquainted… not a nice person.

  • Passing tory wrote: “OK, Anon, I’ll play ball. You say your criticism is justified. Please justify the statement:

    expose them [Conservatives] being what they really are, bigoted bullies”

    Tories have a long history of discriminating racial and sexual minorities etc. Remember for instance section 28, just to mention one example? There are signs that Tories haven’t actually changed, though Cameron is trying to give that impression, and what is changed is tactical and limited to only few visible MPs.

    I believe that the Tories could be exposed by selecting the correct initiatives to improve civil rights which are supported by many enough swing voters, but which most of the Tories can’t accept even in order to increase their vote. I could of course be wrong, maybe the Tories really have repented, but in the case I’m correct, I think it’s only reasonable to test the authenticity of their change.

    What I say here is of course only my personal opinion, everybody who reads it can judge for himself if it’s a worthy idea to follow.

  • Paul Lloyd’s post is excellent. I agree completely.

  • Hear Hear, Paul. It will be no surprise to you that I agree with you.

    By-elections are our political crack. Unfortunately, the ‘hit’ is no longer working and we’re in withdrawal.

    We need to rebuild to generate a consistent and thoughtful long term strategy that doesn’t rely on us getting short term fixes between GEs.

  • Sesenco wrote: “Getting rid of Chris Rennard would be insanity. The Party owes more to Chris than to all the leaders stacked on top of each other.”

    I agree, and I haven’t seen that anybody would have actually suggested anything like that. But the tactics should be nevertheless be updated, because other parties have cathed up with the Lib Dems. I just hope Chris Rennard isn’t too blinded by the past success in order to adapt to the new situation.

  • Anon – its not just the tactics, its the strategy. Paul’s post adresses this.

    There is a very different reality these days compared to 25 years ago. Literature goes from doormat to adjacent recycling bin. People no longer plug into the nation-wide zeitgeist of 4 TV channels.

    We need to:

    – work out our simple message
    – work out how we communicate this in a different world
    – stop worrying about by-elections

  • Thanks Anax and Tabman. It is clear from what you and others like Martin Land above are saying that I am not a total lone voice in the wilderness on this issue.

    2005 was a watershed for the party in terms of approach. We need to make sure that our past successes with the by election model do not blind us to the virues of a major revamp of strategies and tactics. As Tabman says, we cannot get stuck in the old mindset of if it failed it was because it was not orthodox enough.

  • Hywel Morgan 27th Jun '08 - 12:04pm

    “What’s this stuff about too much literature?

    I well remember attempting to hand out leaflets to homecoming commuters at a station in Greenwich and having every one refused by irritated travellers.

    We still won.”

    But fundamentally we aren’t winning 🙂

    However it’s not just the “no more leaflets” brigade – there was no evidence in the canvassing I was doing that people who weren’t turned off by the volume of literature were engaged and enthused by our message.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 12:08pm

    Tories have a long history of discriminating racial and sexual minorities etc. Remember for instance section 28, just to mention one example? There are signs that Tories haven’t actually changed, though Cameron is trying to give that impression, and what is changed is tactical and limited to only few visible MPs.

    Do you mean discriminating _against_, or just that we have good Gaydar?

    In terms of the link, I am not quite sure I see what wanting low taxes, prioritising the battle against terrorism, being concerned at the way that the EU is going and wanting nuclear power stations has to do with this.

    Yes, [shock horror] there are socially conservative people in the country (by no means all who vote Conservative, by the way) who think that homosexuality is a sin and there is some horribly hashed anti-discrimination legislation from the this parliament that I imagine (and hope) that many Tory MPs would oppose because it is terrible legislation.

    And there is racism which spans all sectors of society, and which our collective failure to address is a result in down in no small part to the PC brigade (of which the Lib Dems are a prominant part) who seem to think that discussing racism issues makes you racist.

    Maybe, if the Tory party is so racist you could remind me precisely how many BME MPs and MEPs the Lib Dems and the Tories have respectively?

    I believe that the Tories could be exposed by selecting the correct initiatives to improve civil rights which are supported by many enough swing voters, but which most of the Tories can’t accept even in order to increase their vote. I could of course be wrong, maybe the Tories really have repented, but in the case I’m correct, I think it’s only reasonable to test the authenticity of their change.

    Well, from my completely unbiased point of view 🙂 bring it on. And I hope you will be signing up to help DD in his by election.

  • There appear to be two discussions going on here.

    1) On the ground by election tactics. These I know are things that Chris Rennard would be open at looking at – and will forcefully put his position forward on.

    2) What I think that this is less likely to be discussed in the Henley debrief (and is more important in my opinion) is the strategic weaknesses of the campaigning / organisational model of the Lib Dems as a whole, and how we go about strengrthening our approach.

    Different times call for different approaches – not just policies or leaders – but organisational models and strategic tactics. Tactical votes are unwinding. Party allegiances are shifting. We cannot keep fighting the 1997 GE. We have to recognise where we are now, and where the others are. If we cannot do that, then we will surely remain trapped at the level we are.

  • One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is of course the internet. Lib Dems have quite a good understanding on internet, but there are room for improvement.

    A website takes some time to rise at the top in the Google search, even if it would be optimised for the search engines. There are lots of constituencies where Lib Dems don’t yet have a website, and when a by-election occurs, there’s simply no time to get a newly founded website a top place in search results. And unfortunately many constituency association and local branches seem to think that they can close the site after the election and then suddenly reopen it few weeks before the next election.

    A website takes at least approximately half a year to get good placement in the search engines, and the longer it is online, the better placement it gets. It’s not actually enough to just keep it online, it should also regularly be updated. If the payments of the site are ignored, in the worse case the domain can be hijacked by spammers, and it is possible that it will never get the old placement in the search results even if it can be recovered at some point.

    There are a lot of other things that could be done in order to improve the visibility of a website, but maybe those should be discussed in some workshops of the Lib Dem conferences.

  • This post from Flockers on PBC is worth reproducing:

    “I think the most interesting question in all of this is where the Liberal Democrats go from here. I don’t think yesterday was a disaster for them (though it has damaged the credibility of their by-election machine and of posters on here who primed us for a closer result than occurred), but it is further evidence that the current electoral strategy is failing to resonate with voters.

    Given the strength of anti-Tory feeling that still exists in many parts of the UK, I would have expected the LDs to capitalise much more than they have on the collapse of the New Labour coalition; their failure to do so raises serious questions that need to be addressed.

    In my view their biggest failure is a failure to articulate a clear sense of purpose or policy direction. Many LDs on this site, including Stodge in particularly, fairly criticise Cameron for failing to set out Tory policies in sufficient detail, but I think the same point can be made about the LDs – where is the beef? A few weeks ago I challenged Mark Senior on the inconsistencies in the LD’s tax policy over the last few years and he has not responded; I think the result of more than a decade of the LDs defining themselves through opposition to both of the other main parties has been a certain political incoherence – yes you are liberal, but to what extent does your liberalism extend to economics? Can you set out a credible policy platform without frightening the Labour-but-not-authoritarian and the Tory-but-not-buttonned-up wings of your party? Are you serious about governing, or are you quite happy being an influential protest group?

    I appreciate it is difficult to progress when you are (relatively) starved of the oxygen of publicity, but you need to take a hard look at yourself and decide what your purpose is.

    The next three-four years presents as good an opportunity as any third party has had since the early 1980s to change the landscape of party politics. At the moment I feel the LDs are sleep walking into a missed opportunity.”

  • Passing Tory, yes, I meant discriminating against, as I’m sure you understood from the context.

    “Yes, [shock horror] there are socially conservative people in the country (by no means all who vote Conservative, by the way) who think that homosexuality is a sin and there is some horribly hashed anti-discrimination legislation from the this parliament that I imagine (and hope) that many Tory MPs would oppose because it is terrible legislation.”

    My point is, that socially liberal people probably wouldn’t vote for socially conservative candidates, if the Conservative bluff could be called, and that would benefit Lib Dems.

    “Maybe, if the Tory party is so racist you could remind me precisely how many BME MPs and MEPs the Lib Dems and the Tories have respectively?”

    Well, I’m speaking about a long history. I don’t recall that the Lib Dems or Liberals would ever have had a slogan like ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour’.

    I’m sorry, but now I have some real work to do.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 12:36pm

    Given the strength of anti-Tory feeling that still exists in many parts of the UK, I would have expected the LDs to capitalise much more than they have on the collapse of the New Labour coalition

    Oh boy, you just don’t get it do you. If you insist on defining yourself as anti- whatever then you are (a) inherently taking a negative angle from the start (which is not an encouraging indicator for the ability to govern) and (b) going to struggle a bit when the thing that you most define yourself as being anti is really quite popular. Anyone who is hoping to reap votes based on anti-Tory-ism in 2008 deserves a Darwin award.

  • Paul Lloyd, I agree that we should keep evolving the model and we can’t expect the same level of gains as previously. However, I’d say that tactical voting is on the increase as traditionally ‘core’ Labour votes reduces, a generational changeover hits the Conservatives (they had to die off eventually) and new loyalties are unlikely to grow so rigid while social mobility and movement remains so high.

    From where I view things dynastic loyalties and fashion are playing for the tories right now, so we need to keep banging on about their inconsistencies and how they aren’t really liberal.

    It is a policy choice facing our leadership whether we choose to define ourselves in opposition to the government and tories or whether we choose to be distinctive, or indeed whether it is possible to do both at the same time.

    The current spate of by-elections has been a missed opportunity to use to define Clegg’s style, which would have been possible in the case of a gain where he could put a pin on what works for him. Then again I think longer term dividends will only be possible by developing our identification with a broader based and more serious set of policies which could realistically be introduced to a governmental programme.

    We have reached the stage where we are stepping up to the next level and we are looking at 100+ seats and what we need to do to get us there.

    It seems obvious that our dependance on by-election success to provide self-definition needs to rev down as we change up to the next gear.

  • Passing Tory – that wasn’t my view, it was written by a non LD on Politicalbetting. I happen to agree with the anti-Tory thing being the wrong approach.

    However … I know someone who believes that the most viceral instincts are what drive voting behaviour. That is why the Conservatives are doing well at the moment; the uncommitted do not fear a Tory government as they once did. There are many reasons for this, not least I suspect because the two main fear factors (illiberalism and economic incompetence) have been taken over by Gordo.

  • Tabman. I totally agree. But who reads this? Is it just Lib Dem online nerds, or is there a wider audience? Are we shouting in the wilderness, or are there Lib Dems who can actually start to consider putting things in motion?

    We are probably at a generational turning point of British politics. These happen around about every 13 years on average. In 79 and 97 we were not strong enough to be a major player in that turning point. But at the moment we are in a far more powerful position than we were then. But it feels like the old party bigwigs want to carry on playing the old game.

    As I understand it, the Kennedy affair was supposed to mark a watershed in the ambition of the party. A casting off of the old incrementalist approach and a reach to a bigger audience. But if we do not change what we do it will seem that Kennedy was merely a scapegoat, as others settle back into their comfortable old ways of doing things.

  • A quick note to Oranjepan before I go:

    “From where I view things dynastic loyalties and fashion are playing for the tories right now, so we need to keep banging on about their inconsistencies and how they aren’t really liberal.”

    I have a feeling that people aren’t willing to listen for the criticism against the Tories right now, so what I suggest is to make policy initiatives which would force the Conservatives to take a stance and either reveal them for what they really are or divide them. If Cameron makes any liberal policy initiatives, they should also be warmly supported in order to deepen the internal rifts in the Conservative Party.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 12:50pm

    Yeh, Anon, don’t worry about developing a set of policies – just play games to try to trip up others. You a fan of Gordon Brown by any chance?

  • passing tory, what policies do dave and gideon have?

  • PT – well its not entirely without merit. The Conservative Party is an alliance between social conservatives, social liberals, authoritarians and libertarians. There are undeniable fault lines (as there are in any party), but I think the spread of opinon in the Lib Dems is naarrower than in the other two, not least because of the “power-hungry liberals” who put office before principle.

    Paul – Mark pack of this parish?

  • PT, if anything, Lib Dems have an excess of policies, and in economic policy there has been a shift recently. I don’t think there’s a big need to develop even new ones, but perhaps a need to clarify the existing ones and think how to get them through to the public, as I have already suggested in my first comments of this thread before getting stuck to this unconstructive repetition of arguments with you.

    Now have a nice day!

  • The Party is making 2 linked strategic errors:-

    1. When Labour is so weak and the Tories are so strong it makes no sence for the Lib Dems to be seen to be attacking the Tories so much e.g. at PMQ’s instead the main attack should be against Labour.

    2. A failure to recognise that in the present political climate the focus should be on holding onto seats and building up strength in those Labour seats where the Lib Dems have a reasonable chance i.e no wasting resources and credability by putting so much effort into Henley.

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 1:03pm

    passing tory, what policies do dave and gideon have?

    If you have known Osbourne for long enough to know him as Gideon, I suggest you call him up and ask him yourself.

  • PT – so you’re not sure what policies you are supporting.

    Where do you stand on grammar schools?

  • Phillip Matis 27th Jun '08 - 1:19pm

    Mr Clegg said the results in Henley were extremely positive for the Liberal Democrats.

    “We are the only alternative to the Conservatives in rural areas and we are the only alternative to Labour in urban areas – we are the growing, vibrant alternative in British politics.

    “In terms of the proportion of the vote, we have gone forward – completely confounding all of the predictions that this would be a simple walk in the park for the Conservatives.

    “So I think it is a real sense of momentum and progress for us in what remains one of the Conservative Party’s heartland seats.”

  • passing tory 27th Jun '08 - 1:45pm

    What, me personally? I like them because they do seem to have been a good mechansim for social mobility in the past. They don’t seem to be so effective at the moment for a number of reasons so I guess it comes down to whether you can address those reasons or whether it is better to look for another solution.

    But in terms of the principle of selection on academic merit, I thoroughly support it. Indeed, if we want the brighter kids to fulfil their potential, I suugest it is essential. It is most interesting that the education system within the USSR (one of the few successes of that regime, and an area with which I am moderately familiar) relied heavily upon selection by merit, and indeed used this very successfully to drive social mobility.

    The alterntive to selection at the school level- streaming within a school – has some definite advantages, not least that it allows considerably greater flexibility. It does, however, fix school sizes to a certain extent because to be effective the school has to be large enough to require separate streams. Of course that works quite well with the current vision of mega-schools although there is consderable evidence that smaller “boutique” schools may serve some children better.

    However, in terms of improving standards across the board, the supply side approach we advocate seems like an extremely strong mechanism for change. In fact, it is somewhat sad (and indeed, revealing) that you choose to concentrate on Grammars rather then the body of Conservative policy in this area.

    If by your question you mean where does the Conservative party stand, then I am not the best person to ask. Write to Mr Gove, he is usually most helpful. But I will have a go.

    In terms of context, Grammar schools have totemic status amongst some of the population because they stand for a level of meritocratic educational aspiration and social mobility that the comprehensive system, for a number of practical reasons, finds hard to match.

    In terms of policy, my understanding is that, for pursely practical reasons, areas that have a Grammar system may need to build more Grammar schools to match any increased requirement in places, but that there would be no general move towards such a system.

    It is hoped that the supply side reforms should, in any case, negate the need for new Grammar schools although it seems perfectly sensible to me for local residents to want to be convinced that the new system is improving standards to the extent we hope before weakening their attachement to Grammars.

    Sorry for the ramble; I hope it goes some way towards answering your question.

  • Two failures in a row. Good to see the wheels have fallen off the lib dem by-election bandwagon. Maybe it’s time to think up a new strategy for changing times.

  • Dane – AV is NOT Proportional. End of.

  • Yes, Dane, electoral reform is both desirable and urgent, but while the target is still some distance off we need to work out the best way of achieving it before it comes directly into focus.

    Simply put, the best method of getting there is to get more LibDems elected and in doing so building a critical groundswell of support for the specific form it will take.

    It’s a shame your outcome-based approach creates the resistance to the change you desire when you could be part of the force which brings it closer.

    Personally I think all forms of election have their strengths and could find their place within a fully-functioning democracy.

    Would we be willing to abandon the dynamic effect on our democracy afforded by by-elections like yesterday and lose the ability to apply symbolic value to local voices? Not completely.
    Does the public want to allow our opinion to be sidetracked or ignored? Not at all.
    Would it help the party system to lose these valuable opportunities to engage voters? Not on your nelly.
    Does the spectacle of hundreds of committed campaigners and politicians pounding the streets dramatise and vivify our politics? Absolutely – we want more of it please.

  • Dane,

    Can I respectfully suggest that you’re more likely to move the LDs in an EU-sceptic direction from within the party, rather than from outside?

    We happy few (EU-sceptic LDs) need all the support we can muster !

  • Dane, you’ll find that we are at the forefront of the debate in reforming the market distorting CAP and ending the bad practices within EU institutions.

    EU-realism is a far more productive position in solving the problems which face all Europeans for the benefit of all Europeans than any ‘leave your brain at the door’ emoting indulged in by the fanatics on both sides.

  • Rob in London 27th Jun '08 - 6:53pm

    ‘Dane Clouston’

    As Henley came after the Irish referendum vote I think euroscepticism would be less of a factor.

    Context: Safe Tory seat. Incumbent left on a high. Tories high in polls.
    Result? Tories hold seat. Lib Dem % vote WENT UP. Labour tanked.

    Unless you argue that all of that is due to a uniquely brilliant Lib Dem candidate (and he was a good’un) then it’s not a bad result for us.

  • Whilst a Tory victory was almost a given, I received so much junk mail from Stephen Kearney and his gang with his hideous grinning face beaming at me, I would not have been able to vote for him if I had wanted to. I did ask for it to stop, but to no avail. It is no good slagging off the opposition without having some definate intentions. SK got his just desserts.

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