Secret Courts now a reality after Lords amendments fall – how did Liberal Democrats vote?

As the sky fell in on open justice, according to Labour whip Angela Smith, Conservative peers were watching the Bond movie Skyfall. The irony actually hurts.

 

Lady Smith might have been better keeping an eye on her own benches. Between the first Division of the Day, on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, and the crucial vote on whether secret courts should be invoked only as a last resort, she lost 50 peers from her benches. The Conservatives lost just 4 from theirs.

The debate started much later than expected, too. Their Lordships seemed excessively preoccupied with extensions in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. 428 people voted on that, only 332 on the first Justice and Security Bill vote and just over 200 on the second. You have to wonder if there would have been a higher turnout if the votes had taken place at 7 pm and not nearly 10 pm. And you have to wonder about how serious Labour were when their peers couldn’t be bothered to even vote on something so fundamental.

In the end, that vote was lost by just 16 votes.

Liberal Democrats could have bridged that gap. 26 peers defied a three line whip to vote in favour of the amendment, and 29 demurred. A further 5 voted on the second division, which would have inserted a provision for a review of the legislation every Parliament which fell by a much heavier margin.

So, from the Liberal Democrat benches, who voted for and who against?

The 26 in favour were:

Avebury, Lord
Brinton, Baroness
Cotter, Lord
Doocey, Baroness
Dykes, Lord
Greaves, Lord
Hamwee, Baroness
Hussain, Lord
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lord
Lester of Herne Hill, Lord
Linklater of Butterstone, Baroness
Macdonald of River Glaven, Lord
Maclennan of Rogart, Lord
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Baroness
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, Lord
Phillips of Sudbury, Lord
Roberts of Llandudno, Lord
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, Lord
Smith of Clifton, Lord
Steel of Aikwood, Lord
Strasburger, Lord
Thomas of Gresford, Lord
Thomas of Winchester, Baroness
Tope, Lord
Tyler, Lord
Walmsley, Baroness

Those against:

Addington, Lord
Alderdice, Lord
Allan of Hallam, Lord
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, Baroness
Burnett, Lord
Falkner of Margravine, Baroness
Garden of Frognal, Baroness
German, Lord
Kramer, Baroness
Lee of Trafford, Lord
Loomba, Lord
Maddock, Baroness
Mar and Kellie, Earl
McNally, Lord
Newby, Lord
Nicholson of Winterbourne, Baroness
Northover, Baroness
Parminter, Baroness
Randerson, Baroness
Razzall, Lord
Roper, Lord
Sharkey, Lord
Shutt of Greetland, Lord
Stephen, Lord
Stoneham of Droxford, Lord
Taverne, Lord
Vallance of Tummel, Lord
Wallace of Saltaire, Lord
Wallace of Tankerness, Lord

For the vote on the review cluase, the 31 Liberal Democrats in favour were:

Allan of Hallam, Lord
Barker, Baroness
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, Baroness
Brinton, Baroness
Cotter, Lord
Doocey, Baroness
Greaves, Lord
Hamwee, Baroness
Harris of Richmond, Baroness
Hussain, Lord
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lord
Kramer, Baroness
Macdonald of River Glaven, Lord
Maclennan of Rogart, Lord
Marks of Henley-on-Thames, Lord
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Baroness
Razzall, Lord
Roberts of Llandudno, Lord
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, Lord
Scott of Needham Market, Baroness
Shutt of Greetland, Lord
Steel of Aikwood, Lord
Stephen, Lord
Strasburger, Lord
Taylor of Goss Moor, Lord
Teverson, Lord
Thomas of Gresford, Lord
Thomas of Winchester, Baroness
Tope, Lord
Tyler, Lord
Walmsley, Baroness

And the 22 against:

Alderdice, Lord
Burnett, Lord
Falkner of Margravine, Baroness
Garden of Frognal, Baroness
German, Lord
Lee of Trafford, Lord
Loomba, Lord
Maddock, Baroness
McNally, Lord
Newby, Lord
Nicholson of Winterbourne, Baroness
Northover, Baroness
Parminter, Baroness
Phillips of Sudbury, Lord
Randerson, Baroness
Roper, Lord
Stoneham of Droxford, Lord
Storey, Lord
Taverne, Lord
Wallace of Saltaire, Lord
Wallace of Tankerness, Lord

The Labour vote in favour of the second amendment was decimated – from 108 in the first vote to 30 in the second.

It just goes to show that stage management of the whole day by clever whips can impact on a vote.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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52 Comments

  • Secret courts have been a reality for a while – they had one in the supreme Court only the other day. Just like the bedroom tax, which labour applied to private tenants in 2008, if this is principle we should have been opposing it all along.

    (Caron, I know some of us have, comment is aimed at general readership)

  • The leadership must be so proud that it has joined the Tories and Labour in having complete disregard for its own members. Well done to those that voted with party policy, I just hope some of those that didn’t some day find themselves facing the kind of “justice” they have imposed on others……

  • “It’s time for those who are remaining in the party to tell the leadership what they think – I will be reducing my subscription to the minimum and I urge anyone else to do the same.”

    I had been wondered what people meant when they said this was a “red line” for them.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Mar '13 - 10:00am

    Dan, I am as livid about this as you do, but how does that help? It won’t affect the leaders and it will give us less resources to make sure we win the Council and European elections which will weaken our position further. And it would also give the leadership the chance to share the blame, when it actually lies with them and their failure to listen.

    If we go on strike, we penalise our local councillors and candidates, which isn’t fair.

    We could refuse to put the national messages on our local literature, but again some of them are really good and it would be entirely counter-productive.

    What we shouldn’t do, under any circumstances, is stop speaking up. We should have been doing the “stronger economy, fairer society” stuff, but because of the widening disconnect between the party and its leaders, we’re all talking about immigration and secret courts.

    The next battle will be on web snooping which is going to come and bite us on the bum. If we go back on our word, it’s not just going to affect the very few people who say they’ve been kidnapped and tortured with UK Government compliance, it’ll affect everyone who uses the internet.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Mar '13 - 10:04am

    What it shows is (1) the random and objectively quite stupid way the House of Lords makes decisions – whether it is possible to defeat the Government often depends on the time of day the vote is taken. The worst offenders are the Cross-benchers most of whom usually go home at or after the dinner hour (7.30) – it is possible to think that (taken as a whole) they are a load of arrogant self-opinionated and highly distinguished people who don’t care for the rough and tumble of real politics.

    (2) the stupidity of people – in thise case mainly distinguished lawyers – who think they will change decisions by talking at length on things on which everyone has already made up their mids, when what is needed is for amendments to be moved quickly and voted on quickly before lots of their supporters have gone home. Well they do change decisions by doing this but not the way they want.

    (3) the uselessness of the Labour Party.

    By the way when you take away the payroll vote (Ministers and whips) the majority among the Liberal Democrats for “voting with the party not the government” was very clear in both votes.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 27th Mar '13 - 10:05am

    PS We all got invited to the free filmshows. I don’t know if any LDs went.

    Tony

  • Tony Greaves 27th Mar '13 - 10:10am

    Simon – there won’t be any sanctions and I doubt if any of us will feel isolated. Actually rather the reverse.

    And add in the abstensions – I estimate there were another 15 LDs in the House for the first vote, and I know some deliberately stayed at home.

    I think the “payroll” vote (most unpaid but there again this is the crazy world of the Lords) on the first vote was 12, so only 17 free agents voted against the party line (and for the government line). On the second I think it was 10 (so only 12 free agent government loyalists).

    Tony

  • Steve Griffiths 27th Mar '13 - 10:14am

    Nick Clegg is now a latter day Sir John Simon. it would be more honest of him for everyone if he simply referred to himself and thse around him as ‘National Liberals’. In the 1930’s the National Liberals began to become almost indistinguishable from the Tories, and many of us predicted (I did in my resignation letter) that a similar situation would begin to emerge as a result ofthis coalition, including a former chief whip here:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100039399/former-liberal-chief-whip-coalition-will-lead-to-lib-dem-rupture-and-resignations/

    If the Lib Dems are not very careful, history is very close to repeating itself.

  • The votes had a depressing sense of inevitability about them, although heartening that so many of our peers did stand up to the leadership.

    But I’m left thinking: why couldn’t we generate any more outrage on this issue? Lib Dem members have been up in arms about it for months, but why can’t we engage anyone outside the party on this? There’s been no media coverage of the issue outside our party, and we’ve not managed to persuade the wider public to take an interest. Had we generated that kind of public interest and not just party grassroots pressure then we’d have been in a far stronger position to make the leadership listen. Why can’t we persuade the country at large to take this seriously?

  • Andrew Suffield 27th Mar '13 - 10:33am

    But I’m left thinking: why couldn’t we generate any more outrage on this issue? Lib Dem members have been up in arms about it for months, but why can’t we engage anyone outside the party on this? There’s been no media coverage of the issue outside our party, and we’ve not managed to persuade the wider public to take an interest

    Worse yet, when the public do take an interest, they tend to be in favour of secret courts. We lost this argument.

  • No wonder the leadership walks all over you.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Mar '13 - 10:56am

    If people don’t want to give much to the party centrally, you can give it to parts of the party where you think it will do more good (or which you agree with). eg locally, particular election campaigns, party pressure groups etc.

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Dean 27th Mar '13 - 11:09am

    That’s right, Andrew Suffield. LibDems need to learn to listen to and serve the people, not themselves.

  • Steve Griffiths 27th Mar '13 - 11:27am

    Tony Greaves

    “If people don’t want to give much to the party centrally, you can give it to parts of the party where you think it will do more good (or which you agree with). eg locally, particular election campaigns, party pressure groups etc.”

    That’s exactly what I’ve done; I have joined the SLF and made them a donation. I will not renew my membership with the Lib Dem party until a change of leadership or complete change of direction, nearer to the party I remember.

  • @Richard Dean
    I suppose you want a return to capital punishment as well then ? The public consistently show their support for it….

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/3802

    Going on that approach all three parties will become indistinguishable. I would say there are times when parties need to lead public opinion not follow it like sheep.

  • Most of us feel upset about this but thats no ecuse for indulging in silly exageration.
    Glegg is not a Tory.
    The Party isnt split.
    The most likely explanation for the loss of members is that we are in Government, the same thing happened to Labour when they were in power. The Conservatives seem to have suffered much worse losses than us, are they leaving in protest against The Coalition being too right-wing ?
    We need to go on talking to our MPs/Peers about this, lets not talk ourselves into missing opportunities.

  • @Paul Barker
    Glegg may not be a Tory but I’m not sure about Clegg 🙂

  • Geoffrey Payne 27th Mar '13 - 1:10pm

    It has happened a few times now. There is something very odd about the party leadership implementing a 3 line whip against party policy, in this case one approved by a 99% majority at our last conference.
    The question about how do we punish the party for what has happened seems besides the point to me. It is not the party, it is the leadership who agree to these things. Punishing the party is what the other parties want us to do. Once you leave you have no say and that includes who the next leader will be. You have to have a years continuous membership in order to vote.
    There is only 2 years left until the next general election. Might as well stick around.

  • @Steve Way
    Isn’t there a level of incongruity in your point though?

    On the one hand, political types want politicians to show leadership and go against the public on certain matters, but on the other hand they want party MPs to follow party policy to the letter .

    I do not direct this solely at Lib Dems, it seems common among members from all parties.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Mar '13 - 1:50pm

    paul barker

    The most likely explanation for the loss of members is that we are in Government, the same thing happened to Labour when they were in power.

    But this is not OUR government. It is a government which is mainly Conservative. Since the coalition was formed, leadership loyalists have loved to talk about us being “in government” and seem to regard our fall in support attributed to this with pride. However, we are not “in government” as the phrase has always been used up till now, we are not like the Labour Party 1997-2010, or the Conservative Party 1979-1997. We are accepting the view of the people as expressed in the general election of 2010 and confirmed in the referendum of 2011 that they want a Conservative-dominated government, and therefore allowing the one they elected to carry on with an influence proportional to that which the people decided to give us – one sixth of it.

    The phrase “in government” with its usual meaning of being the lead party of government suggests we are completely in support of this government. We are not. We should not be using language which suggests we are. We should be making it clear that the support we give to it is for the sake of democracy rather than because everything it is putting forward is our ideal policies and what a government that was nothing but Liberal Democrat would be putting through. We should be constantly pointing out that a government with a stronger Liberal Democrat component would be doing things differently, and that a government with a stronger Liberal Democrat component could have been obtained by more people voting Liberal Democrat and by an electoral system which does not distort represemtation in favour of the largest party and against third parties.

    The Conservatives seem to have suffered much worse losses than us, are they leaving in protest against The Coalition being too right-wing

    Er no, but there are people leaving the Conservatives because they think the coalition is too left-wing, and plenty more staying in but grumbling a lot about how they think this coalition is much too left-wing and liberal. However, a government which is five-sixths Conservative and one-sixth Liberal Democrat is bound to be much more Conservative than Liberal Democrat, and therefore it is bound to be the case that Liberal Democrats are much less happy with it than Conservatives.

    Our party needs a leadership which points this out, after all the underlying message is “if you want a Liberal Democrat government, you should vote Liberal Democrat”, so what’s wrong with that? A leadership which constantly goes on about us being “in government”, which makes speech after speech about this being the fulfillment of our dreams, about this being the end goal which long-term members like Tony Greaves have given their life to, is damaging us enormously by giving the impression that a government which is largely Conservative is what we always wanted, or maybe a government in which the leader and a few of his pals have jobs is what we always wanted, regardless of what policies it might be pushing through. I cannot work for the party while it has a national leadership which undermines its members like this. So, yes, right now I am paying minimum membership fee in order to retain my democratic influence in the party, while refusing to do any campaigning work for it.

  • @Chris_sh
    “Isn’t there a level of incongruity in your point though?”

    Not really, I expect a political party to put forward it’s vision and be true to it when people vote for them. If MP’s feel unable to follow their party policy they should stand as an independent. Otherwise the public will never be able to trust in the political process (although the conduct of MP’s, including issues such as Tuition fees is leading to a loss of trust anyway).

  • @Steve Way

    So what you’re really calling for is “followship”, some one exercising leadership may realise that the “faithful” are wrong and lead his party to a better solution (that is a general observation, not a comment on what is currently going on).

  • @Chris_sh
    No, I am asking for integrity. If Clegg feels that the rules relating to policy development are wrong, then the approach should be to try and change these rules, not to circumvent them. If he wanted to lead people to a “better solution” then he should have faced it head on when he had the chance (for example at the recent conference). Let’s remember he didn’t even have the common decency to discuss his departure from party policy on immigration with the group tasked with developing policy. You can be both a leader and a team player, the trouble is he thinks his team are his immediate cabal rather than the wider party membership or supporters.

  • @Steve Way
    I think I will have to respectfully disagree with you on what a leader is, to be honest from what you and others have written recently it seems that you really want a committee chairman. Now I’m not knocking that if it’s what really is wanted, but it’s not the same thing, any person who tries to show leadership whilst in the top slot is going to suffer from the same sort of issues unless they fully understand that this is their role.

    Regarding the Cabal statement, again plenty of good leaders surround themselves with a small group of trusted advisers – in fact I would say it is probably necessary as you can’t be running back to the population (or membership) every time you try to do something.

    About Clegg specifically, I think I would give him 10/10 for effort but maybe 2 or 3/10 for ability. Strangely enough the 2 Gov leaders seem to be trying to provide leadership in difficult circumstances, but neither seems very good at it and seem to be becoming the political equivalent of “Dead Men Walking”. Milliband seems to be operating in a manner that seems to be more in tune with the chairman role, but his Party seems to be about to embark on a wild adventure to the hard left (probably because he’s not showing enough leadership to pull the Party back the other way).

  • @Chris_sh
    I’ve worked under some superb leaders both in the armed forces and in civilian life. The one thing they shared was respect for those they led and the institution they were leaders within. A good leader consults where there is opportunity to do so, and by doing so they are trusted by those they lead when the situation dictates immediate action.

    By ditching long held principles without even the shred of consultation Clegg is not showing leadership he is wanting to dictate. If he had the makings of a true leader he would have confronted the conference and at least attempted to win the argument. For all his legion of faults, Blair did in his clause 4 moment.

    Good Leaders set a good example and have the moral, and occasionally in some walks of life the physical, courage to confront issues head on.

    Suggesting major policy changes to the media days after you have had the chance to explain them to those you lead, Avoiding facing your own conference over secret courts.
    Neither of these are acts of courageous leadership, more a lack of it.

  • Richard Harris 27th Mar '13 - 11:38pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach “But this is not OUR government. It is a government which is mainly Conservative.”
    It wouldn’t be a government if the Lib Dems did not support. It’s like saying the formal marital arrangement I have with my wife is not MY marriage because I only represent a proportion of it. Utter nonsense.

  • There is now a big opening for a party which, unlike the major parties, will stand for the right of the people to challenge their government, for scaling back the security and surveillance state, for restoring basic freedoms to everyone in the UK.

    It’s just too bad that that party can’t be the Liberal Democrats.

  • “It’s like saying the formal marital arrangement I have with my wife is not MY marriage because I only represent a proportion of it.”

    Brilliant! Matthew, who writes a great deal of sense, has just this one really bad blind spot. Maybe your brilliant line will finally get through to him that it’s a blind spot?

  • Richard Dean 28th Mar '13 - 12:49am

    That big opening is a big grave to fall into.
    Was the general population in uproar about the Lords vote? No!
    Is the population concerned about crime, jobs, money, health, education, welfare, immigration? Yes!
    So those are the issues we should be focussing on.

  • “But I’m left thinking: why couldn’t we generate any more outrage on this issue? Lib Dem members have been up in arms about it for months, but why can’t we engage anyone outside the party on this? There’s been no media coverage of the issue outside our party, and we’ve not managed to persuade the wider public to take an interest. Had we generated that kind of public interest and not just party grassroots pressure then we’d have been in a far stronger position to make the leadership listen. ”

    IN part I think because the people behind the secret courts campaign focused on an internal campaign believing they could persuade people (MPs – OK Nick) of the arguments as they were reasonable people who understood the concerns. If you’re going down that route then the more guerilla type tactics don’t help. Not entirely their fault that they misjudged that people weren’t as reasonable as they thought.

  • A Social Liberal 28th Mar '13 - 2:34am

    It seems that every week the Lib Dems do something to make my heart drop a little further.

  • Whether or not a certain number of people could be seduced into giving up, little by little, the freedoms they have left would be irrelevant to a party that holds to liberal values.

    That party is obviously not the parliamentary Liberal Democrats. But the country needs and deserves to have a party that represents liberalism in Parliament.

  • Richard Harris 28th Mar '13 - 12:24pm

    @ David Allen
    I think this really goes to the centre of how the LibDems must act in future. So many of their problems come from the fact that they produced a manifesto at the last election that was presented as though they would form a government. As this was never on the cards it is daft to make any absolute promises at all. Instead LibDems should present their ideas as a hierarchy of demands with absolute no-gos at one end and things that can be sacrificed at the other. They could even present these ideas against the policies of the other parties to show where overlaps (and therefore agreement) might be found. That way the electorate would know what it could realistically expect from the middle party and how best to use their vote.
    The best thing the LibDems can do next time round is campaign as a coalition partner to either larger party rather than do the usual “if we were the only party of government” routine that is utter fantasy land

  • David Allen 28th Mar '13 - 1:52pm

    Richard Harris: At the risk of giving a churlish reply to your nice posting, there are no entirely simple answers on how to campaign. If a party doesn’t have a full set of policies, it looks evasive and incompetent – so, it is almost bound to put together something that looks like a programme for government. And, if it then picks out a subset of “absolute no-gos”, before the election has been completed – well, then it just repeats our mistake on tuition fees, when we attempted to say we would enforce a no-go on our governing partner, when we should have known that we couldn’t.

    That said, I don’t think it is right to throw up our hands in despair, just because campaigning is difficult. Nor is it right to say that what Clegg did wrong was merely to miss his steps through the tactical minefield. It is simpler than that.

    You don’t have to get bounced into a premature deal, just because your prospective partner is trying very hard to bounce you.

    You don’t have to sign a coalition agreement, and then just keep quiet, when it turns out that the agreement does not actually describe most of your partner’s major plans, e.g. in health and education.

    You don’t have to assume that it is the natural role of the junior partner to get screwed, just because that has happened before. Instead, knowing that fact, you should know that you need to negotiate toughly from the start. You should make some strong, clear policy demands in public, after the election, and explain to the public that if your prospective partner won’t accept reasonable demands, then it is they who are to blame for any economic chaos that might ensue.

    You don’t have to promise that any coalition deal you do will be based on policy principles rather than jobs for the boys – and then, when you finally get the chance, settle for a shedload of jobs for the boys and very little in the way of policy principles.

    Finally, you shouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying “oops, sorry, yes we did mess up a bit, that’s because it was such a technically difficult thing to get right”. It isn’t true.

    The reason we did a deal which gave the Tories so much of what they wanted, is because our leadership wanted it that way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Mar '13 - 4:37pm

    David Allen

    “It’s like saying the formal marital arrangement I have with my wife is not MY marriage because I only represent a proportion of it.”

    Brilliant! Matthew, who writes a great deal of sense, has just this one really bad blind spot. Maybe your brilliant line will finally get through to him that it’s a blind spot?

    No, this is a ridiculous analogy. Marriage is a choice, and it is between two partners who are equal. The coalition is neither of these – we have to work within the Parliament that was elected we don’t have a choice about that, and we have to work with the fact that it contains 57 Liberal Democrat MPs and 303 Conservative MPs, so the two coalition partners are not equal. Also in this analogy, not being married is a full Liberal Democrat majority government, but such a thing was not on offer.

    What I am saying is that if I am in a forced marriage with someone who is much more powerful than me, I ought not to go on about how wonderful it is to be married and how this marriage was what I was dreaming of all my life before I was pushed into it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Mar '13 - 4:48pm

    Richard Harris

    @ Matthew Huntbach “But this is not OUR government. It is a government which is mainly Conservative.”
    It wouldn’t be a government if the Lib Dems did not support.

    Yes, and so what should have happened? What government did the British people vote for?

    If the argument is that they didn’t vote for a government that is mainly Conservative and with just a little bit of Liberal Democrat influence, I am sorry but that argument was destroyed by the 2011 AV referendum. The “No” campaign in that referendum made their central point that the current electoral system is good because it distorts representation in favour of the biggest party and against third parties. Although AV is not proportional representation, the “No” campaign attacked it as if it was, and the arguments they used were the argument against proportional representation. The people of this country voted – by two to one – to support the “No” side. Therefore the people of this country voted by two to one in favour of THIS government because it is the government that results from the distortion of the current electoral system. If the people of this country don’t like the way we have a government where the Conservatives exert much more power than their share of the vote should have given them and the Liberal Democrats exert much less, then they ought not to have voted to support our electoral system whose supporters gave that distortion of power as the best thing about it,

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Mar '13 - 4:53pm

    OK, now following on from what I wrote, what I am saying is that the Liberal Democrat leadership should be pointing all this out. Instead of going on about how wonderful it is to be in coalition, they should be making it clear that it is a miserable little compromise, forced on us by the way people voted in 2010 and the electoral system. What is so wrong about this? Why are people like David Allen and Richard Harris opposed to the idea of saying that we would have had a different sort of government if there had been more Liberal Democrat MPs, which could have been obtained had there been a different electoral system and/or more Liberal Democrat votes?

  • Richard Harris 28th Mar '13 - 10:01pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    In what sense was the coalition “marriage” not a choice? The Libdem leadership had every choice – unless of course you buy the line that to not form a government would have led to economic disaster (although i suspect that in the light of our economic progress since, the “disaster” may not have been that much worse). No, the LibDem leadership did choose to create this government and keep it sustained. We could have had a minority government at any point in the last two years, or another General Election. Both choices. Neither taken.

    The partners are not equal? – although there are more conservatives in the government, the libdems have, in effect, 51% of the power when stopping legislation because by voting against as a block it will not pass. In this context the actual number of MPs is not relevant if the opposition votes with the Lib Dems. The conservatives would not be able to pass any legislation without LibDem support.

    What I was suggesting that if the LibDems ran as a coalition party (which they could only be in the current electoral environment) then I think they would be better off. People would know that compromise was inherent in voting LibDem, so would not expect policy outcomes as specifically described in the manifesto. However, I don’t see why you couldn’t list no-go areas – surely there are some things that the LibDems would regard as things that simply would not be on the table and they could be communicated. It wasn’t that the promise about Tuition Fees was a mistake – the leadership could have stuck to the promise and refused to support the government on the changes – the mistake was breaking the promise.
    Presenting the party as a moderate influence on either of the larger parties would be a strong message, not a weak one.

  • @Steve Way – apologies for the late reply.

    “I’ve worked under some superb leaders both in the armed forces and in civilian life. ”

    As have I Steve, judging from comments you’ve made elsewhere I would hazard a guess that you were in the Army. How many battles do you think a general would win if he had to consult a committee every time he wanted to make a move?

    I’ve tried to keep the comments away from the Clegg issues because I actually think you would have had problems regardless of who was in the chair, it may not have been exactly the same issues but it would have happened. Elsewhere Orangepan has tried to make the point (on more than one occasion) that the Party machine is not fit for purpose (see http://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-cleggs-illiberal-hattrick-now-immigration-joins-secret-courts-and-media-regulation-on-the-pyre-33815.html#comment-244979 for example), I have some sympathy for what he is trying to say.

    “Suggesting major policy changes to the media days after you have had the chance to explain them to those you lead,”

    You are forgetting that he is not in Government on his own. Even if all the details had been ironed out before your Conference, there would have been some agreement on timescales for speeches etc, so again it is probable that anyone else would have faced the same issue.

    “ditching long held principles without even the shred of consultation ”

    I’m no Lib Dem so I don’t know your setup, but I can’t imagine he would have done anything without consultation. I would find it hard to believe that he doesn’t consult fellow LDs from the Cabinet at the very least, I would also be surprised if he didn’t hold consultations with the likes of Farron.

    Tbh, ever since I first started coming to this site (circa “Cleggmania”) I have been left with the impression that the LDP was the Party that preached coalition but never thought it would happen, the result being that no one ever really prepared the ground. For that sin, I would say you would need to spread the blame across all of you past leaders as well as Clegg.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Mar '13 - 12:45am

    Richard Harris

    In what sense was the coalition “marriage” not a choice?

    In the sense that there were not enough Labour MPs for a Labour-LibDem coalition to be viable, so it was going to be either the current coalition or a Conservative minority government.

    The Libdem leadership had every choice – unless of course you buy the line that to not form a government would have led to economic disaster (although i suspect that in the light of our economic progress since, the “disaster” may not have been that much worse).

    The unstable situation of there being no majority government would, I believe, have led to a big drop in confidence in the British economy – and the Liberal Democrats would have got the blame for it. Saying that does not mean I believe the current government to be following good economic policies, in fact I believe it to be following disastrous ones. However, they are unfortunately what the people of this country voted for when they voted to make the Conservatives the biggest party and voted by two to one in favour of the idea that representation should be distorted in favour of the biggest party to give “decisive government”. That is what they have.

    The real point I am making is that the people of this country need to develop a sense of responsibility, and realise they are getting what they voted for. Instead, they vote for it, and pretend they didn’t, pretend it’s all the fault of the Liberal Democrats and if the Liberal Democrats didn’ t exist we would have a marvellous government in place that would be making everyone happy.

    No, the LibDem leadership did choose to create this government and keep it sustained. We could have had a minority government at any point in the last two years, or another General Election. Both choices. Neither taken

    Why should we have another general election when the people voted in their MPs to do a job for five years? If they felt the system wasn’t giving them what they wanted, they had the opportunity to change it by voting for electoral reform. But they rejected electoral reform, by two to one. Sorry, I hate this government, I believe it is all wrong, but I also have to accept it is what the people voted for. If the people don’t want this sort of government, then they need to indicate that by supporting electoral reform which would mean we never again get such an unrepresentative government. However, by voting “No” to AV, the people of this country indicated that they WANT an unrepresentative government.

    Now – that is the line I am saying the Liberal Democrat leadership should be pushing. Instead, of saying how wonderful this coalition is, they should be agreeing it is not what we Liberal Democrats wanted, we accept it because we are democrats, but if people don’t like it they shouldn’t vote for it and the electoral system that supports it. That is, we need to get the people to see that THEY have the power to change things, to understand the power of the ballot box, and to USE it to vote out the Conservatives and support an electoral system which means we NEVER again have a government like this. Not just a dreary swing of the pendulum back to Labour, which has no policies worth talking about or significantly different from the Tories to really solve the problems, but hides that by hoping to win next time through a policy of “nah nah nah nah nah, dirty rotten LibDem for supporting the Tories”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Mar '13 - 1:10am

    Richard Harris

    The partners are not equal? – although there are more conservatives in the government, the libdems have, in effect, 51% of the power when stopping legislation because by voting against as a block it will not pass

    Yes, and exactly the same could be said for the other parties. Each could block everything proposed by the others. That’s the easy part, the hard part is finding something a majority would support.

    You seem to suppose the country would be cheering on the Liberal Democrats if we had a minority Conservative government and the LibDems blocking what it proposed. Well, I don’t see the country cheering on the Liberal Democrats when they moderate the Conservatives from inside the coalition, so why should it be supposed it would be any different if they were outside?

    The reality would be that the Tories would have an easy scapegoat. Anything gong wrong with the economy or anything else, they could say “Don’t blame us, it’s all down to the Liberal Democrats who are blocking us putting through the policies we really want, and which would work”. In doing this, they would get the enthusiastic support of the right-wing press – and the Labour Party, who would join them in the line “Yes, let’s have another general election, so we can get rid of the Liberal Democrats, and have once again a stable single-party government, that is capable of acting decisively”. Note, there are already echoes of this coming from the right-wing of the Conservative Party, and in the populist right-wing press.

    The Liberal Democrats would have been in a MUCH stronger position had they ended the general election doing unexpectedly better than predictions rather than unexpectedly worse – even with the same net amount of support. Had they ended the general election going up, the fear would have been that if there was another general election soon they’d go up even further. Ending the general election going down meant they were seen – correctly – as the election’s biggest losers, and – correctly – likely to suffer serious losses in an early general election called because a stable government could not be formed.

    We went down in the general election campaign because of Clegg. The “Cleggmania” rise in the polls at the start, which was partly just a novelty factor due to him having made no impact at all, and partly due to local campaigners cranking up the delivery in the week before, turned attention away from the party’s strength – its local campaigners, and towards what has turned out to be its greatest liability – its incompetent leader. The more people saw of him, the less they liked him, that is why we ended the general election campaign no better than we started. I’m afraid that Clegg as the leader of the Liberal Democrats with a minority Conservative government would be derided as a ridiculous figure, making a petulant stand on subjects no-one outside “those loony LibDems” were interested in, constantly painted as the loser of the general election who had no right with just 57 MPs to block what the election victors with their 303 MPs wanted.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Mar '13 - 1:46am

    Chris_sh

    Tbh, ever since I first started coming to this site (circa “Cleggmania”) I have been left with the impression that the LDP was the Party that preached coalition but never thought it would happen, the result being that no one ever really prepared the ground. For that sin, I would say you would need to spread the blame across all of you past leaders as well as Clegg

    Many Liberal Democrat have plenty of experience of balance of power situations in local government. Those who have led council groups in this situation ought to have been the first to have been brought in to advise. They weren’t even consulted.

    Balance of power in national government was something that was bound to happen sooner or later, once the Liberal Democrats had established themselves as a permanent presence. There was noting particularly special about the situation in 2010 that led to it. Quite obviously, the party’s leader should be been well prepared for it.

    However, if one looks at balance of power situations in local government here, or at coalition situations in other countries, one thing is very clear – the junior coalition partner is mostly NOT in a powerful position able to act as “kingmaker”. Political commentators here before 2010 always portrayed a balance of power situation as if it would be like that, but it almost never is. Although they were wrong, this false idea has led to the Liberal Democrats being damaged because they have not lived up to what it was supposed they would be able to do.

    The reality is much more that junior coalition partners end up being greatly damaged by the situation, getting the blame for what goes wrong, but none of the credit for what goes right.

    Part of the problem is that what coalition gets formed depends more on the willingness of the larger parties. If one of them would rather go into opposition, the third party has lost all its bargaining power. It does not have much bargaining power in the first place if, as in the UK in May 2010, the number of MPs for the larger parties and also for fourth and fifth parties means there’s only one of the larger parties with whom a coalition is viable. Another part of the problem is that when the junior partner makes demands on the senior partner, it is generally does not go down well with the public, who see it as some small block of MPs with little public support acting selfishly and unreasonably. The senior partner can appeal to the public on this basis, the senior opposition party is unlikely to back the junior coalition partner, even if it underneath its agrees with it on policy terms, because it is in the interest of the senior opposition party to see the coalition fail. So the junior coalition partner will always be left looking isolated.

    The loss of independent identity of the junior partner through going into coalition is usually damaging, leading to loss of support. Those junior coalition partners who are most successfully able to play the kingmaker game are those with strong “tribal” support, which isn’t going to go away because of the position it takes on issues which aren’t to do with the tribe – e.g. the Israeli religious parties, or in the UK the Ulster Unionists. The Unionists are never going to be in the position of fearing that if they were junior partners their support would shift to the Republicans. Of course, the Liberal Democrats are the opposite of this – very little in the way of tribal support.

    My personal position in 2010 was that the Liberal Democrats WERE forced into the position where they had to agree to the current coalition, because the alternative would have been a minority Conservative government which would have engineered things to win a majority in another general election called less than a year later. The Conservatives would have cut taxes, but not spending, blaming any wobbles in the economy coming from that on the Liberal Democrats making it impossible to govern properly. However, I felt then that the Liberal Democrats should have let the coalition run for a couple of years, enough time to remind the people what a Tory government is like, and then pulled the rug in it. I still feel that. The Liberal Democrat leadership should have been careful to build an escape route into the coalition agreement. Instead, it did the opposite.

    So conclusion – the Liberal Democrats were dealt a bad hand in 2010 – and have played that bad hand as bad as it could be played.

  • Peter Watson 29th Mar '13 - 8:12am

    @Chris_sh “How many battles do you think a general would win if he had to consult a committee every time he wanted to make a move?”
    If his soldiers had the freedom to stay at home or swap to other armies then I’m pretty sure he’d lose a lot of battles if he didn’t keep them behind him.
    Having been selected from within the party to lead it after explaining his views, and then receiving votes from the electorate on the basis of personal and party manifestos, and with an implicit and explicit set of party principles to guide his decisions, a good political leader would not need to continually go back to a committee or the membership to ensure his decisions will be consistent with and suppported by them. Besides which, we are not in the heat of battle where every decision must be made in minutes, and we do have the luxury of time for consultation. Policies should be the result of detailed thought and consultation in order to ensure they are as good and widely-supported as possible; they should not be at the whim of an individual and his small group of advisers.

    Perhaps this is the problem with being in government as a “centrist” party. It is all very well being in the middle, but in practice that means being to the left on some issues and the right on others, and we do not all have the same view on the same issues. In opposition we can be all things to all people but in government we have to act and it turns out that my left-right views don’t match the leaders’. At least if I vote Labour (or Tory) I will have a better idea about the party’s likely position on most issues, even if I disagree with them on some. With the Lib Dems, it turns out that after voting for the party all these years I’m unpleasantly surprised by what it stands for (though I am reassured by many of the views expressed here or by activists at conference).

  • @Chris_sh
    “As have I Steve, judging from comments you’ve made elsewhere I would hazard a guess that you were in the Army. How many battles do you think a general would win if he had to consult a committee every time he wanted to make a move?”

    Royal Marines actually but I will forgive you what many would consider a grievous sin!!!

    Actually they do consult where there is opportunity to do so, and that is key here, there was opportunity and he decided not to take it. Also Generals, like everyone else in the forces, abide by their own rules or pay the consequences. A general who gave an order that was outside of these rules (for example ordered his soldiers to breach the rules of engagement) could have that order disobeyed quite legally.

  • David| Evans 29th Mar '13 - 10:53am

    It’s clear Nick has led the party hierarchy to treat the party as a whole with total disdain. Not only that, but he has been our most unsuccessful leader – electoral results and loss of members – we have had since before Jo Grimond.

    It’s time for him to go.

  • @Steve Way
    “Royal Marines actually but I will forgive you what many would consider a grievous sin!!!”

    ROFL, thanks for the correction. At least now I know how to get your immediate attention, start any comment with “You, as an ex-Para….” 😉

    It’s funny that you should use the ROE anology, after all these are dictated from the top and most of the complaints recently have been from the membership complaining about not being listened to (via various committees etc). At the risk of being overly flippant, I would liken it more to Eisenhower being told by a junior ranks messing committee that he couldn’t invade on D-Day, as the bad weather would interfere with the principle that troops needed to digest their food properly.

    “… and that is key here, there was opportunity and he decided not to take it.”

    He may not have consulted with the people you wanted him to consult with, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t consult. An interesting recent article (sorry, I can’t remember where I saw it so no link, call it an age thing) told the story of how the coalition partners would meet to thrash out an agreement, the next day some one would come back and say “sorry, we can’t do that”. If that is a valid tale, then it means that some one somewhere is being consulted (not necessarily at the right time though). As I said previously, I would be surprised if some of those darlings of the Party were not in the loop, so if you get rid of Clegg then how are you going to be better off?

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “Those who have led council groups in this situation ought to have been the first to have been brought in to advise.”

    Well yes, but they should have been doing this years ago, not in the period between the election and the formation of a coalition. That is why I think that it has been a serial failure of leadership as opposed to just Clegg.

    Look at it this way Matthew, the LDP have been dreaming of this for years but the CP never believed in coalition politics. However after the first debate Cameron realised it may come to pass and put together a team to come up with a deal. The impression that I got was that the LD negotiators walked into the room expecting tough task and had their socks blown off by all the things they were offered. Why wasn’t this sort of scenario gamed by the high command over many years, thus enabling the team to operate more effectively?

    I take all your points about the junior partner ended up suffering, but if the Party was really serious about the merits of coalition (as has been claimed over the years), why haven’t the high command been beavering away during those years to come up with tactics or strategies to counter this problem, am I supposed to believe that there is no one capable enough to take this on and it is some sort of force of nature? Come to that, why haven’t the LDP leadership been spending those years preparing the PBI for this event, it seems fairly obvious that the ongoing job of coalition politics (as opposed to the initial rush) has been quite a nasty shock for many.

  • @Peter Watson
    “Besides which, we are not in the heat of battle where every decision must be made in minutes, and we do have the luxury of time for consultation.”

    Perhaps this view is one of the reasons that you are having problems? In opposition I would say you are right to hold that view, in Government I would suggest that it is a view that is positively dangerous. We live in a world of 24 hours news, where the planet is in a constant state of flux (in political terms) and where the sky can fall on your head in an instant. Perhaps you need to be on the political equivalent of a wartime footing, be nimble of foot and ready to react in an instant? Perhaps forming part time Party committees that may report in months is not the way to go?

    I would agree with the gist of your last paragraph, but again I would ask the same question as I asked Matthew, why weren’t the PBI prepared beforehand? Surely it’s better to prepare the troops before the event than trying to mollify them afterwards?

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