Did you know the Lib Dems have lost half a million voters to Ukip? Here’s what I think it means.

UKIP logoConservative peer Lord Ashcroft — who, as ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie has noted before, spends more on polling than all three parties combined — has today published the latest survey looking at the timely issue of the threat of Ukip. Nigel Farage’s party is now regularly polling around the level of the Lib Dems, seemingly taking voters disproportionately from the Tories, contributing to lengthening Labour poll leads.

I’ve only had chance to glance through the findings so far, but three things stand out:

1) The Lib Dems are also suffering from the rise of Ukip: 7% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 said they would vote Ukip in a general election tomorrow. That’s almost half a million voters. By comparison, the Tories have shed 12% of their vote (1.3m voters), Labour just 1% (85,000 voters).

12% of those who voted Conservative say they would vote UKIP in an election tomorrow, as do 1% of those who voted Labour and 7% of those who voted Liberal Democrat. 50% of those who would consider voting UKIP voted Conservative at the 2010 general election. 22% voted Labour, 21% voted Liberal Democrat.

2) In part, this is because the Lib Dems have lost their ‘none of the above’ USP:

Now that the Liberal Democrats have been exposed – and have exposed their supporters – to the realities of government, UKIP is the only party (at least this side of the Greens) by which nobody can feel let down. … Liberal Democrat voters from 2010 are also attracted to UKIP by a wider range of factors than Conservative voters. Again, though, the party’s values and the view that it is on the side of people like them are the most important drivers. Immigration and Europe account for a slightly higher proportion of what attracts Lib Dem voters to UKIP than they do for Conservative and Labour voters. This, combined with the fact that they do not want a Conservative government and do not think Labour stand for fairness, suggests that they did not vote Liberal Democrat for positive reasons and are now looking for an alternative way of voting against the main parties.

3) But it’s also because Ukip’s values represent what some voters are looking for:

… in the mix of things that attract voters to UKIP, policies are secondary. It is much more to do with outlook. Certainly, those who are attracted to UKIP are more preoccupied than most with immigration, and will occasionally complain about Britain’s contribution to the EU or the international aid budget. But these are often part of a greater dissatisfaction with the way they see things going in Britain: schools, they say, can’t hold nativity plays or harvest festivals any more; you can’t fly a flag of St George any more; you can’t call Christmas Christmas any more; you won’t be promoted in the police force unless you’re from a minority; you can’t wear an England shirt on the bus; you won’t get social housing unless you’re an immigrant; you can’t speak up about these things because you’ll be called a racist; you can’t even smack your children. All of these examples, real and imagined, were mentioned in focus groups by UKIP voters and considerers to make the point that the mainstream political parties are so in thrall to the prevailing culture of political correctness that they have ceased to represent the silent majority. UKIP, for those who are attracted to it, may be the party that wants to leave the EU or toughen immigration policy but its primary attraction is that it will “say things that need to be said but others are scared to say”. Analysis of our poll found the biggest predictor of whether a voter will consider UKIP is that they agree the party is “on the side of people like me”.

I realise for some the source of this polling, Lord Ashcroft, will taint the findings. I think that would be a mistake. The polling itself appears robust enough to me. Besides its findings ring true — that the party has lost two significant chunks of supporters since the Coalition was formed: (1) those who now actively choose Labour, and (2) those who saw us as the ‘protest vote’ repository, especially in areas where we have (or had) active campaigners ready to take up local causes that directly connected the Lib Dems with the community — for some of those voters, Ukip is now their preferred party.

There are two ways we can regard Ukip. We can dismiss them as ‘fruitbats and loonies’ — to borrow David Cameron’s phrase — but there’s every likelihood that those voters who’re considering voting Ukip will resent the label, especially as most of the Ukip values they’re buying into are those fulsomely represented in the popular press, and are therefore ‘mainstream’ (albeit not within the more rarefied liberal-left online world).

The alternative is to recognise the issues that matter to Ukip voters/considerers, and to tackle them head on. This includes talking about the economic benefits — both of immigration and also of Europe — not in general terms, but in ways which matter to individuals and to their families and local communities.

Equally, we need to recognise that both immigration and Europe are to a large extent displacement concerns. As pollster Peter Kellner points out in relation to immigration:

… there is a huge gulf between people’s perception of immigration as a national issue, and one that affects their own lives. Every fortnight we show respondents a list of 12 issues and ask them which two or three ‘are the most important facing the country at this time’. Every poll this year has placed the economy first, cited by around 80%; but immigration has always come a clear second with 40-50%; the figure in our latest survey is 45%. But when we show people the same list and ask which two or three matter most to ‘you and your family’, the answers are very different. The economy still leads by a mile (currently 66%); but immigration tumbles to just 12%. This time more people cite pensions, health, tax, family life and education.

The economy, pensions, health, tax, family life and education: those are the issues that matter most to voters as individuals. So they should be the issues that continue to matter most to political parties. Focusing on getting those right is the best way to counter the threat of Ukip.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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51 Comments

  • “There are two ways we can regard Ukip. We can dismiss them as ‘fruitbats and loonies’ — to borrow David Cameron’s phrase …”

    Surely fruitcakes?

  • Like what we get back on Knock and Drops : Economy, Health, Schools & Tax.

  • More accurately, we need to talk about how disastrous it would be for the country to lose our immigrants and our strong relationship with Europe. On these issues we need to be making the case against change.

  • David Allen 18th Dec '12 - 5:57pm

    Anybody who used to vote Lib Dem and now votes UKIP must be the archetypal protest voter, the Mr Angry, the moaner, the sad loser. Talking sense about the benefits of immigration and Europe has many merits, but, as far as the guys we currently have under the microscope are concerned, it ain’t gonna play. It is actually the best way to alienate them further. It is like saying “We are intelligent, comfortable, and tolerant. Are you?”

    How much do we care about winning back the whingers? Every vote counts of course but – I’d prefer to win back the centre-left.

  • Mark Argent 18th Dec '12 - 6:31pm

    I’m picking up from Duncan — and with a recollection that Levenson criticised the British press generally for its reporting of EU-related news in a distorted way that has the effect of obstructing genuine and informed debate on Europe.

    A Tory-UKIP coalition after the next election would be a truly horrific prospect.

    Surely we need to take up a position which is informed and engaged on Europe so that we are not so much defending EU membership as expressing the positive value it brings, Similarly it needs people to be moving beyond non-discrimination and into articulating the richness and value of a multi-cultural ethnically-diverse Britain. Those seem to be well entrenched in LibDem culture and are need to be clearly articulated.

    I’ve also heard stories of UKIP seeing themselves as the natural home of Tory supporters alienated by gay marriage — I wonder what proportion of the UK population are aware of the warmth of the applause when Nick Clegg spoke of this at the spring conference?

  • paul barker 18th Dec '12 - 6:42pm

    I wouldnt disagree with a word of the article but it rather ignores the elephant in the room – that pollsters & the people they poll both lie.
    Just look at the voting intention question – “if a general election were held tomorrow”.
    The polling firms & those being polled both know perfectly well there wont be, cant be an “election tomorrow”. It would be clearly illegal for a start.
    Pollsters could ask about an election in 3 months, they could be really honest & ask about 2015 but their clients, mostly “newspapers” dont want real information, they want something they can sell as “news”.
    The questions are designed to let those polled know that this isnt serious & the public respond with a series of whoppers, saying they will vote when they wont & vastly exagerating how many will vote for minor parties & the “opposition”.
    We should treat “The Polls” as what they are – entertainment.

  • I agree it looks like a protest vote, because people are VERY concerned about falling living standards.

    The economy = living standards.

    This is very evident in Greece too, I read an interview where people were saying they were voting for the worst party they could think of, as a protest vote, because they felt that the people they had voted for in the past were just as bad.

    Effectively, they were seeking to reward honesty.

  • It is interesting that their attraction is that they are seen as speaking their mind in a way other parties are not. This is also said to be the attraction of Boris, basically that we don’t mind if he says things we think are bonkers, as long as he believes it himself. At one time this was the attraction of Nick Clegg too.

  • Simon Titley 18th Dec '12 - 9:04pm

    Stephen is broadly right, in that the attraction of UKIP is essentially cultural rather than to do with any specific issue, even Europe. The issues that raise UKIP supporters’ ire – whether the EU, wind farms, political correctness, school discipline or gay marriage – boil down to the same thing: a sense of loss for an imagined ‘golden age’ when Britain had an empire, nobody saw anything wrong with the ‘Black & White Minstrel Show’, the only camp thing allowed was Camp coffee, and everybody had their holidays in Skegness (see my blog post: http://liberator-magazine.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/is-ukip-racist.html).

    This outlook is compounded by the central conceit of all (small ‘c’) conservatives, the utter conviction that they are ‘normal’ people.

    Such voters, if they voted Liberal Democrat in the past, did so out of an unfocused sense of protest. They were certainly not attracted to liberal values. Trying to mollify such people now would be a disastrous strategy, which would lose more votes than it gained by alienating the Liberal Democrats’ natural base.

    Stephen is right that the Liberal Democrats should focus on a distinctive response to the issues that matter to people most. In doing so, we should worry more about cementing the allegiance of people more likely to share our values and worry less about upsetting people who don’t.

  • Anyone voting UKIP, having voted Lib Dem in 2010 either cannot understand what Lib Dems stand for, or what UKIP stands for or more likely what both stand for.

    I do think there is a genuine concern about what constitutes a core Lib Dem support. It may be that concerns for liberal values, civil rights and representative democracy are not valued nearly as highly as we would hope in the UK.

    The other possibility that would come into the weird but true category is that some people might, as an attempted act of absolution perhaps, cast their vote in the hope that the party they vote for gets nowhere.

  • @Mark Argent

    “Similarly it needs people to be moving beyond non-discrimination and into articulating the richness and value of a multi-cultural ethnically-diverse Britain. ”

    I think they will boil us alive if we start doing that.

    We can’t just dismiss people’s concerns over immigration. Many of them are genuinely held.

    I grew up in a multicultural part of North London with friends from different countries and religions, but even I now have serious concerns about what is happening to my area. Yesterday I visited the contact office for my local council in North London and there was a crowd of around a dozen women speaking a foreign language, some veiled but most in full burka. I have even begun to see European women in my area who have converted to Islam and are wearing the veil. This is not an exaggeration, it is the truth.

    Many people are starting to question the prevailing orthodoxy that immigration is always an enriching thing, because I hate to have to say that, in excess and taken to extremes, frankly it isn’t. Some people bring valuable skills and knowledge with them, but often they don’t. In many areas of the UK immigration is leading to drastic cultural change and not for the better. We have to recognise this and can’t just bury our heads in the sand.

  • Some of us have a genuinely held belief that it’s wrong to appease bigots. In modern Britain there’s only one party that caters for us – the Liberal Democrats. Let’s keep it that way.

  • David Pollard 18th Dec '12 - 10:48pm

    Maybe the Tories would support the AV referendum if we held it again.

  • “This includes talking about the economic benefits [ of Europe ]“.
    I’ve already asked this several times before, but has anyone managed to put together the ( Letterbox ready, list of benefits of EU membership ) ?
    If LD’s are incapable of selling it, why should anyone buy it?
    Cognitive Dissonance can only avoid reality for so long, but the fact remains that 56% do not want the kind of Europe that is flagship Liberal Democrat policy. These 56%, are not swastika wearing Neanderthals, they just want their democracy back.
    Is democracy, too much of an ask?

  • Peter Watson 18th Dec '12 - 11:10pm

    @David Allen “Anybody who used to vote Lib Dem and now votes UKIP must be the archetypal protest voter”
    Not necessarily.
    Under the first-past-the-post system, Lib Dems have positioned themselves in many seats as an acceptable alternative to the tories in order to attract labour voters, and in others as an acceptable alternative to Labour for conservative voters.
    Many anti-tory Lib Dem voters appear to have abandoned the party for Labour. Similarly, it is not surprising that many anti-Labour Lib Dem voters might see UKIP as a better option. The “centre” could become a fairly empty place!

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Dec '12 - 11:23pm

    The alternative is to recognise the issues that matter to Ukip voters/considerers, and to tackle them head on.

    Well, yes – but we are completely opposed to the positions stated that these voters hold, and they should not vote for us. So aside from cementing their determination to vote for somebody else, I don’t see what you think this is going to accomplish.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Dec '12 - 11:53pm

    There is an arrogance amongst many of the political elite which leads to an easy dismissal of small-c conservative positions and thus pushes people with those positions into the hands of the far right like UKIP which most certainly DO NOT deserve their vote. While UKIP poses as a small-c conservative party, the reality is that it is a fanatical supporter of extreme free market economics and the domination of our society by the global super-rich which this leads to. If one looks carefully at what UKIP are saying, their main objection to the EU is the way it brings nations together and serves as a brake against the global super-rich playing one off against the other. It is the growth of the market and the domination of the way of thinking it engender which has destroyed much of what was traditionally British, the sort of society which many who are shifting towards UKIP look back to with nostalgia. Rather than pander to the image UKIP has created to win over the support of such people, we should point out the contradiction in their position.

    On small-c conservative positions, we need to consider that for the past 30 years or so, Britain has been growing more unequal. The arguments used to push the policies that drive this growth in inequality are often that they are “modern” and so cannot be resisted.From this I believe people at the bottom end of society have every reason to fear change. Go back to earlier decades when society was becoming more equal, then you can see that small-c conservatism in those days was more of a right-wing position, a position held by those with power and wealth who feared change would cause them to lose that power and wealth.

    We also need to consider that rapid change leaves people who are not part of the elite driving that change to feel disoriented, to lose what they knew about society and how it worked and therefore to lose the ability to control their own lives. So I reject the idea that we should dismiss people who have a nostalgic wish to revert to older ways of living as so contemptible that we do not want their votes and UKIP are welcome to them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Dec '12 - 12:23am

    Martin

    Anyone voting UKIP, having voted Lib Dem in 2010 either cannot understand what Lib Dems stand for, or what UKIP stands for or more likely what both stand for.

    I do think there is a genuine concern about what constitutes a core Lib Dem support. It may be that concerns for liberal values, civil rights and representative democracy are not valued nearly as highly as we would hope in the UK.

    If the Liberal Democrats really are now just about civil liberties and constitutional issues, and no longer have an agenda which recognises that poverty, ignorance and conformity are just as great barriers to freedom as state legislation, then we should expect our core vote to be about 5%. Constitutional and civil rights issues are important, but they tend to be considered the most important issues only by those whose economic situation is very comfortable. With a proportional representation system we could probably survive on that, as similar Liberal parties do elsewhere in Europe. With First-Past-The-Post now with us for the foreseeable future, we are not going to survive as an electoral force if we let ourselves become the British FDP.

    UKIP are succeeding because there are forces in the UK, dominant in most of the newspapers, which wish to raise the EU as a bogeyman in order to disguise the real problems of our society. Most people have no idea what the EU does, but are led by these forces to suppose it has much more power and influence than it really has. It’s not that far removed from the way the Jews were raised in years past in other parts of Europe as a bogeyman supposed to have huge powers and influence, and so anti-semitism proved a big vote winner. People who felt disillusioned with the conventional political parties flocked to support one which seemed to offer an easy solution because it claimed to have identified what the real problem was, it was new and organised, and it had something to appeal to everyone: “national socialism”, seeming to many to embody the best of the left and the best of the right, to be simultaneously modern and appealing to traditional values.

    I don’t think those going to UKIP are all such bad people we should not be bothered about them. I think they are mostly naive and ill-informed people. I think we need to win them back by exposing the contradictions that are at the heart of UKIP, and by rebuilding our Liberal Democrat movement as one which is primarily a network of liberal-minded people working within their communities rather than just another bunch of elite types in Westminster.

  • This is a battle that LD’s cannot win.
    The Tories have been a little slow out of the blocks, but they are finally doing the arithmetic. They want the keys to number 10, in 2015. And they want those keys, unfettered by ANY coalition, with ANY other party. And a simple strategy, could ‘potentially’, give them those keys.
    A large swathe of their potential [Tory], vote is haemorrhaging to UKIP. To counter this problem, firstly, they will drop Cameron like a stone, and install a new leader before 2015. ( I suspect they will do this anyway.) Secondly, the Tories do not want to coalesce with UKIP, any more than they want to coalesce with Liberal Democrats. And perhaps, they don’t need to. All they need to do to get the keys of number 10, is steal UKIPs hat. (i.e. Guaranteed EU Referendum).
    The above seems quite obvious, and straightforward. But, the intriguing bit, that I am not sure about is this.:
    How many of the half million, that have shifted from LD to UKIP, would continue to ‘hold their nose’ a little while longer, and do a ‘one time’, shift to the Tories, simply in order to secure the EU referendum vote?

  • Do you suppose those who back UKIP because “they say things the others won’t” are as keen on compulsory abortion as UKIP candidates are:

    http://www.gravesendreporter.co.uk/news/exclusive_compulsory_abortion_for_down_s_syndrome_foetuses_says_ukip_kent_candidate_1_1745952

  • @ David Allen

    I think you are underestimating the protest vote aspect.

    Ashcroft’s polling points out the dislike of the political neuance and that many of those polled tend to see them as “understanding people like me” which is a strike against the main political parties. That is not to say that they believe UKIPs policies are right, but they see them as more honest.

    The Lid Dems suffered over tuition fees not soley for breaking a signed pledge (lets not open that discussion here) but also the way it was justified afterwards. Too many excuses, politicians trying to sound like they are not committing to anything. There is a style aspect here which feeds in to politicians not being trusted.

    Language matters and none of the main 3 sound honest in media interviews.

  • On the EU, here’s a test. At the moment there is much discussion of the Luxembourg VAT rate applying to downloads of internet services, including e-books, with Amazon being particularly criticised. However this regime comes from EU VAT directives introduced about 9 years ago (and is due to be removed in 2 more years after which British VAT will apply). The test is, did anyone from the Lib Dems speak out against the VAT directive 9 years ago, or was it accepted unquestionably because we are good Europeans? I genuinely don’t know the answer but my guess (and I bet the perception of the people in the focus groups), is the second case. If I’m wrong then there is problem of perception, we need to shout much louder next time we disagree with something happening in the EU.

    On immigration. I think for the majority of people race and culture is not the big issue, except where you have a large number of people from the same part of the world moving to the same part of one town. The issue is population. Without a population policy, in other words, a view on how many people you would like there to be in the country in 25 years time, you also don’t have a health, housing, transport or economic policy that makes any sense.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Dec '12 - 8:51am

    @Martin:

    “Anyone voting UKIP, having voted Lib Dem in 2010 either cannot understand what Lib Dems stand for, or what UKIP stands for or more likely what both stand for.”

    And most people who vote Labour and Tory don’t know what they stand for, either.

    Electoral participation is not the biggest thing in most people’s lives. Millions vote in each election without a clear idea of what their candidates really feel or think about a wide range of issues. Often the vote is more to stop something or someone the voter does not like, rather than being a positive vote for an alternative: this is a legacy of FPTP.

  • Andrew Suffield 19th Dec '12 - 9:18am

    The issue is population. Without a population policy, in other words, a view on how many people you would like there to be in the country in 25 years time, you also don’t have a health, housing, transport or economic policy that makes any sense.

    Well, that’s an easy one – huge amounts of the current government’s policy are based on it. The working-age population of the UK (and hence the overall population in the long run) is in terminal decline and we desperately need all the immigrants we can get just to maintain a workforce that can support the current economy. But even that can’t work in the long term because the rest of the world is catching up to us economically and in a few decades there will be no huge income difference to attract the people over here. So we need to shift our economy onto a footing which can handle an ageing population and a permanent end to economic growth.

    (Note: the UK’s birth rate has been sub-replenishment for decades, and we’re fast approaching the point where the last of the population bubble will have retired. By 2050 the overall population will be in sharp decline, and a scarily large proportion of the ones still alive will be retired and hence not really paying any substantial amount of tax. Then there really will be no money left.)

  • “I have even begun to see European women in my area who have converted to Islam and are wearing the veil.”

    Assuming you mean white European women, what exactly concerns you about that? The fact of their conversion to Islam, the fact that they are women, or the fact that they are wearing the veil? Is it OK for “non-European” women to wear the veil?

  • @Andrew, yes that’s true, we are at sub-replenishment. UKIP and the BNP are actually arguing for a “Great” Britain with a population about the same as Holland has, which suddenly doesn’t sound that attractive or that “Great”. The thing is though if we need to increase our population every generation to keep the working generation outnumbering the retired generation by a sufficiently large fraction, then we are effectively running a Ponzi scheme with the public finances, and it is unsustainable in the long run because we hope other countries will catch up. Even if it is not, though, I still think if someone said they agree it is undesirable for the population to rise above 65 or 70 million then a lot of wind would be taken out of the sails of the fruitbats, and there is still plenty of room for migration as we are at a sub-replenishment birth rate, and because people (such as me personally) are also leaving the UK.

  • “I still think if someone said they agree it is undesirable for the population to rise above 65 or 70 million then a lot of wind would be taken out of the sails of the fruitbats”

    No, really, it’s the fruitcakes whose sails you want to take the wind out of. Not that either fruitbats or fruitcakes actually have sails, but I’ll assume the mixed metaphor was a tribute to “cliche Cleggie”…

  • Immigration is a very tricky issue for all parties and it is going to become increasingly problematic. I think a start would be to admit that all immigration is not the same and by that I don’t mean black or white. I sympathise with RC’s comments above. I feel uncomfortable with women in Burka’s and the reason is that the Burka is making a political statement that I abhor. All over Europe the prime antipathy to immigration largely boils down to concern/fear about those muslims (not all) who are increasing rapidly and appear to have no intention of integrating into western style democracy but seem intent on following a fundamentalist islamic agenda that is abhorent to the host nations. It has become very difficult to challenge ad attack the views of fundamental islam without being accused of racism or worse. I have always voted Lib Dem or Labour and will continue to do so and consider myself to be liberal on all social issues but this one bothers me and it is not going to go away. I believe that a multi-cultural UK is a good thing and enriches everyone but, have we make a huge mistake in allowing a section of immigrants to settle in this country who fundamentally oppose liberal democracy and will not integrate? I would love to be convinced we didn’t but as far as I can tell the left in the UK is ignoring the issue because it is too uncomfortable to discuss.

  • “I feel uncomfortable with women in Burka’s and the reason is that the Burka is making a political statement that I abhor.”

    What political statement would that be?

  • So 93% of the people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 would not vote for UKIP in a general election tomorrow. I wonder how this 93% woud in fact vote. We are obviously well aware that many of them would not right now choose Lib Dem. How many Conservative, how many Labour etc etc. In other words why this concentration on UKIP?

    As Lord Ashcroft’s work shows, we are talking largely about people who have regarded Lib Dem as a protest vote. Also, while the Lib Dems are EU supporters did we ever think that 100% of our voters agreed with this policy? Is it surprising that some of them are attracted by an anti-EU party which is increasing its share in by-elections and opinion polls?

    While we are currently suffering a definite loss of popularity we have “crossed the rubicon” into the big boys club i.e. a party with a share in government. Let’s measure ourselves against the other big boys and not the UKIPs of this world – even if just now they can claim to be ahead if us in some polls.

  • David Cordingley 19th Dec '12 - 1:06pm

    An excellent analysis of reality, Stephen. This is not about bigotry or wrong-headedness or even fruit-battery; voters don’t think in those terms. Dedicated activists of other parties – and many voters ditto – think the same of Liberal Democrat voters. I hear the comments of ‘Lippy Dippy Dems’ from those of other persuasions.
    The fact is that for the first time since the second world war the average person in the street is genuinely concerned about those basic needs illustrated by the bottom line of Maslow’s Pyramid. That is, concerns of real day to day need. What our party seems hell-bent on delivering are arguments and policies on ‘empowerment’. Unfortunately for us, need trumps empowerment any day of the week. The party has already heavily leaked core voters through imposing pain on them and is lacking any real end to that pain in sight. Now that UKIP is providing clarity in a Daily Mail sort of simplicity, voters who feel they can’t get their needs met elsewhere, especially from those parties who promised things would be better, like us and our coalition partners, then our remaining much needed voters, and Conservative voters, are bound to move in UKIPs direction.

  • I should have thought that wearing a burqu’ was a personal religious statement, not a political statement. And while I find the use of a burqu’ in a western society to be deeply paradoxical (it generally has an effect exactly opposite to its intended one), isn’t liberalism about protecting the right of people to make odd, or even bizarre, shocking, and offensive statements, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others?

  • @ Chris
    Would I be right to suppose that someone who wears a Burka is proclaiming their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs? If that assumption is correct then the political statement that wearing a Burka makes relating to women’s rights or gay rights would be as good a place as any to start I guess.

  • Agree with Richard S

    I don’t disagree with the broad analysis of the peice but I think it overlooks another factor which is the complete breakdown of trust and faith that the public now have in the body politic. Politicians – perception is reality regardless of truth – are seen as lacking in integrity and being essentially self serving. Voters don’t want this. Nick Clegg managed to successfully portray himself as an honest alternative at the elections (banishing the ‘old’ politics) Now that the Lib Dems only seem to have further confirmed the voters perception people are casting around for those they can trust and this gives outsiders like UKIP an appeal to sell.

  • “Would I be right to suppose that someone who wears a Burka is proclaiming their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs?”

    No, I don’t think that’s a safe assumption at all. I don’t think most ordinary people have much interest in making “political statements”, or even religious ones.

  • @ Chris
    We will just have to agree to differ, time will tell I guess

  • While corporation tax-avoidance is a hot issue at the moment, how about putting forward an EU-positive idea that we should have a minimum corporation tax rate in all member states, as we do for VAT (minimum is 15 percent) to keep the single market running effectively. Or does being good Europeans mean we would only support it after the commission puts it forward, so it isn’t interpreted as criticism?

  • olly

    Obviously we’ll have to agree to differ, but I really can’t see how “time will tell” whether every woman wearing a Burka is making a proclamation of an anti-gay, anti-feminist political agenda. Isn’t it common sense that most women wearing Burkas are simply dressing as they were brought up to dress? I reckon that’s how 90%+ of people dress.

    And even if their dress is meant to project a particular religious or political message, shouldn’t liberals be defending their freedom to do that? Surely liberals still defend the right to express views that liberals don’t agree with?

  • @ Chris
    By “Time will Tell” I meant time will tell whether our approach proves the best in terms of future race-relations. I think your approach is simplistic, if you look at the debates in France, Netherlands, Italy and Belgium where the Burka is banned it is far from self-evident that all liberals were on your side of the debate. In fact the vote went through the French Assembly there was only one vote against so please stop trying to imply that anyone that holds a different view to yours is illiberal because it is a far more complex issue than that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Dec '12 - 10:05pm

    jedibeeftrix

    Branding UKIP as far-right is exactly the kind of demonisation that you speak out against.

    Why? It is to the right of the Conservative Party on every issue, and the Conservative Party is this country’s mainstream right-wing party. So “far-right” is an entirely appropriate description of it. By the way, I would not describe the BNP as “far right”, in economical terms they are actually centre-left.

  • I don’t think UKIP are really much of a problem, at the moment they are on a high, but I doubt that will last as we approach the General Election. However, because of the type of government we are in, we are seen as a party that has moved very much to the right. All the LibDem voters I know would say their politics were centre or left of centre, if LibDem leaders don’t realise this soon – it may already be to late – Labour will walk the next election without the two Ed’s even breaking into a sweat.

  • Is it likely that people unemployed in the context of unlimited EU immigration will vote for us?.

  • @David – Freedom of movement. It goes two ways.

  • Mainly this way: soft touch benefits and the English language.

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