How to win people over to the Liberal Democrats

When I’ve heard strong disagreements about Brexit, whether the coalition was a good idea or not, or who should be welcome in the party, I’ve often thought of this video from Christians in Politics.

It features our very own Sarah Dickson, Director of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.

It has a simple message. The importance of disagreeing well.

It’s an important message, not just for Christians or just for Easter. And it’s important for everyone involved in politics.

If we want to change the country in a democracy, we need to change minds. And you don’t change minds by insulting people.

So if we want to persuade people who voted for Brexit, but are open to changing their minds, let’s disagree well.

If we want to persuade former Lib Dem supporters, who left us over the coalition to support us again, let’s disagree well.

And if we meet people who currently support other parties, and we want them to support the Liberal Democrats, let’s disagree well.

* George Kendall is chair of the Social Democrat Group, which is being formed to celebrate and develop our social democrat heritage, and to reach out to social democrats beyond the party. He writes in a personal capacity.

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18 Comments

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '17 - 10:20am

    That’s good advice , George. And I do tell myself the same thing. But sometimes I do let myself down. I get so frustrated when people say stupid things. Like complaining that the Government ought to pay off its debts and stop printing money etc etc.

    Where do they think money comes from in the first place? If they look in their wallets they can see it’s all printed, albeit now on plastic notes, and carries the stamp of the Bank of England. Entirely owned by the government! So our monetary assets have to be Government liabilities or Government debt.

    But I do resolve to count ten every time I hear phrases like “the Government has maxed out on its credit card”. It really hasn’t. That argument gets us all into so much self inflicted trouble that its hard to overstate just how much!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Apr '17 - 10:39am

    What a nice video 🙂
    There is far too much of a tendency in politics to vilify members of other parties, and attribute the worst possible motives to them, rather than recognising that perhaps they are sincerely doing what they believe to be right. We should remember that being mistaken is not the same as being evil.
    For example, sadly, in the Brexit debate, there is a tendency among Remainers to attribute the worst possible motives to people who voted Leave, assuming that they must be racist and anti immigrant, when in fact they may have voted Leave for very liberal reasons. It was disappointing that some of Tim Farron’s statements after the referendum result seemed to portray the Brexit debate as a conflict between good and evil, when really it is just a conflict between people with different, sincerely held, views about whether or not it is best for Britain to be in the EU – an issue on which surely most people know, deep down, that there are valid arguments on both sides.

  • I am one of those who will now probably vote Lib Dem next time around, despite swearing never to do so again after the Coalition!!.

    The reasons are largely that Labour is beyond hope till Corbyn goes, I blame the Tories for the Brexit fiasco and in retrospect the Coalition now doesn’t seem so bad as it did at the time.

    I come in peace when I say that your leader, decent though he is, is holding you back. The Lib Dems have a fairly narrow window of opportunity to replace Labour as the opposition I genuinely think that a leader of the calibre of Ashdown, Kennedy or Steel could push the party over the tipping point and Labour could decline almost as rapidly as they did in Scotland.

    Unfortunately I think the window closes when Corbyn goes. One real consequence of the Lib Dem’s drubbing in 2010 that was not seen as clearly at the time was the leadership pool became very very small and to be honest I don’t see any of the remaining 8 as being the one to take the Lib Dems on to replacing Labour.

    Anyway I wish you luck, I think you will gain ground but I can’t help thinking a huge opportunity is going begging.

  • Geoff English 16th Apr '17 - 11:13am

    You have managed to say exactly what I have been thinking for some time, George. Well said. Can I just say to Olly, I hope its welcome back, and please don’t underestimate Tim. Maybe there is something in his ordinary chap style that leaves a lot of people to underestimate him at first sight, and too many people may not get beyond that first impression. But give him time and he is going to surprise you and he may yet surpass his illustrious predecessors.

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Apr '17 - 2:56pm

    OllyT
    I like to judge politicians by looking at their constituency.. Tim Farron won Westmoreland and Lonsdale by a handful of voted in 2005, but now has the biggest majority in the country, a staggering 43% above our national vote share. He has that because people who know him trust him. He stuck to his pledge on tuition fees and is thus less tainted by the coalition than others. When people see more of him in a General Election campaign I am sure we will put on vote share..
    Meanwhile Labour are trying to appeal to two very different groups of people simultaneously. On the one hand the working class voters they lost to UKIP, and on the other the pro-Remain liberals they are currently losing to us. Getting rid of Corbyn will not help that, or the fact that the membership is much more left wing than most of the MPs or the electorate…

  • Geoffrey Payne 17th Apr '17 - 7:46am

    OllyT I suppose I am biased but I think Farron is fine. Did you see his speech at conference?
    I think if Labour does decide to change leaders – and I think it will – that is not the end of the story. Corbyn supporters will have to decide what to do next – and heaven knows what that will be. And one reason Corbyn got elected was that the alternatives looked so uninspiring.
    Anyway the main point of the video is the important thing here and I agree with it 100%. Well done for the Christians in showing the way.

  • I know that Farron is well liked by the party but he is not making an impact with voters in general and I accept that other factors may be at play here.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I still believe that if the Lib Dems had not gone into coalition with the Tories in 2010 they would have become the official opposition during Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader.

  • Michael Cole 17th Apr '17 - 12:32pm

    OllyT,

    ” … I still believe that if the Lib Dems had not gone into coalition with the Tories in 2010 they would have become the official opposition during Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader.”

    You may well be right, but the decision to enter the coalition was made on the basis of putting the interests of the country before Party advantage.

    Yes, we have paid a heavy price for that but that doesn’t mean that we were wrong to do so.

  • Nick Collins 17th Apr '17 - 1:21pm

    @ Michael Cole. Please explain what substitute for reason led you to believe that helping Cameron, Gove and Co into office was “in the interests of the country”.

    Please tell me that you no longer believe that it was so.

  • David Evans 17th Apr '17 - 1:30pm

    Oh Michael we were definitely wrong to do so, but we didn’t know it at the start. We had spent over 40 years building the party up from 9 MPs to the 62 we had, all in order to give our MPs the chance to prove to the electors what we could do in a coalition, but Nick and the rest of our leadership made such a mess of it all they proved to the electorate was that they didn’t want us in government. In five years all that progress was lost and we were back to where we were in 1959. We are now the fourth party in Westminster with only as many MPs as the Democratic Unionists in Ulster.

    Our party and its values are down in the mud and we gave the Conservatives five years to detoxify their name and let them pass all the blame onto us. A total shambles.

    Now we are going out of Europe and we are in the position where we have to roll a six almost every time to keep getting ourselves noticed by the media. The party may have decided to put the interests of the country before Party, but our leaders decided to sacrifice almost our entire future for five years of playing around at the edges, before allowing the Tories to destroy us.

    In the interest of our country to have a resurgent Conservative party, destroying so much of the progress made in the last five decades, taking us out of Europe and helping their rich backers run down our country while take an ever greater share of our country’s wealth – Do give over.

  • paul holmes 17th Apr '17 - 3:06pm

    There is no evidence that had the LD’s not gone into Coalition they would have been ‘severely knocked back’.

    It is certainly inconceivable that we would subsequently have endured the worst election result (results because we were slaughtered at every level in 2011, 20102, 2013, 2014 as well as 2015) in the 150 years since the Liberal Party was formed.

    We should have stuck to the guiding principle of 1974 -2005, no Coalition without PR being guaranteed.

  • paul holmes 17th Apr '17 - 7:13pm

    Martin – I never said any of things you try to put into my mouth. A game you have tried before with equal lack of success.

    Of course the Tories would have made criticisms similar to those you suggest. There is however no evidence at all that it would have had any significant impact -and certainly not remotely on the scale of our successive 2011-2015 electoral wipeouts. How damaging was the Liberals refusal to enter Coalition with the Tories in Feb 1974? You also ignore the fact that the LD’s would have been countering from the morale high ground such as -“We fought the election up to 10pm on polling day saying that austerity cuts on the scale proposed by the Tories would destroy the nascent recession that was underway, but Osborne and Cameron refused to back down from their disastrous ideological dogma (ditto Tuiton Fees). In the face of Tory intransigence we could not break the promises we made to all those who voted for us……”

    Instead we rolled over and reversed what we had been saying up to 10pm on polling day -plus betraying the ‘no more broken promises’ line we had taken. Such a successful strategy!
    Arguing for PR and Coalitions is not the same as saying you will sell your soul for a Ministerial Limo at any price.

    As for PR being a deal breaker that is the whole point. If you lose support in a Coalition you entered under FPTP but have PR for the subsequent election then you could still emerge more or less as strong (in MP’s) as when you entered Coalition with a FPTP result. Hence 8% of the vote under PR in 2015 would produce around 50/52 MP’s compared to the 57 we entered the Coalition with in 2010.

  • Antony Watts 17th Apr '17 - 10:33pm

    I want to be kind, ok there’s a but. But the LibDems have one goal. To be the government of UK. Every aciton we take has to be aimed at that, not defeating Tories, not absorbing lost Labour. But becoming a strong trustworthy, progressive government.

    No more debate about who we are. Let just define what we intend to be.

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