Tag Archives: brexit

We need to go into the next election with a different strategy

The key issue for me in the leadership debate is our strategy for the next election. My take is based on feedback from electors.

On the whole, our manifesto is sound (although I can’t help adding a quick pitch for the addition of the term time attendance policy for tourism constituencies & to exemplify our trust in people over government/commitment to family life). There are just two huge, key exceptions.

  1. Ditch the referendum on the deal.

Nothing in recent history, from the AV referendum to Brexit to the Scottish Independence Reernedum, gives cause to trust referenda. The electorate had already learned that …

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Momentum builds behind Brexit deal referendum

We shouldn’t assume that our failure to break through in the General Election means that people don’t agree with our policy on a referendum on the Brexit deal.

Polling is consistently showing that a majority of people are coming round to that position. For that reason, it would be unwise for us to ditch it.

A Survation poll carried out less than two weeks ago found that 53% of those who expressed a preference favoured a further referendum.

A poll of Scots for STV similarly showed that 61% of those polled said they wanted to see a referendum on the deal. This is particularly interesting given that 70% didn’t want a referendum on independence at the moment. It is significant, though, that 22% of those want to wait and see what happens with Brexit, so that argument isn’t entirely over.

Over at the Huffington Post, Tom Brake set out the case to continue wth our policy on a second referendum:

I do not agree with the view that we should just remain silent during the negotiating process and accept any deal the Government comes up with. This issue is far too important to give the Government a blank cheque. This is like saying that after a general election we should just accept and rubber stamp all decisions until the next election, without holding the Government to account.

I believe, even more strongly than a year ago, that just as people were able to vote for departure from the EU, they should be given a vote on our destination in our future relationship with the EU.

If the process started with a referendum, why shouldn’t it end with another one?

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Brexit, one year on

A lot can change in a year.

On 23rd June 2016, I was left heartbroken after a tough and exhausting referendum campaign saw a victory for an insular nationalist vision of Britain.

The vote to Leave has divided our country in a way even ‘Project Fear’ could never have imagined.

After the referendum, we were told that the populist right was on an unstoppable rise. Geert Wilders, Netherland’s answer to Donald Trump, would storm to victory in the Dutch general election; Marine Le Pen would triumph over the established political consensus in the French Presidential election; and the Liberal Democrats’ fight to keep Britain in Europe was laughed off.

But a lot can change in a year.

Our ALDE sister Party, VVD, secured victory in the Netherlands with a lead of over 8 points. Voters in France chose a pro-European liberal vision of hope as Emmanuel Macron overwhelmingly won the Presidency and obtained an absolute majority in the French Parliament.

And in the UK, it’s still all to fight for. Theresa May called a general election to ask the electorate to force through her destructive Brexit and the public refused to give her the mandate.

The latest polling on Brexit shows big movement – 53 per cent of people now back the Lib Dem position for a final say on the Brexit deal.

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Time for a coalition…of common sense

The General Election has left most Liberal Democrats feeling flat and hugely disappointed. We had hoped to create a springboard in the earlier Local Government elections, but fell short. (In many cases, like mine, frustratingly close, but still short.)

So now, with our commitment to enter no deals with either Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn, the party will continue to struggle to find any independent influence.

A weak and wobbly minority government, with its damaged, exposed Prime Minister and with an official opposition living in financial La-La Land, mean that the Liberal Democrats should be at least seen as a viable alternative opposition.

Instead, we have (in sad circumstances) lost our leader, and don’t have a universally appealing candidate with which to replace him. The Tories are likely to change their leader before their conference in October, but only have appalling candidates with which to replace her. Bizarre, isn’t it, that Corbyn is the most stable party leader!

And if there is another General Election, what likelihood is a vastly different outcome? Labour would say they would get elected. But that ignores that many former Labour supporters held their noses at the Polls to stop May, not to support Corbyn. Who wants another Election, only to return another hung parliament? (Not Brenda from Bristol, that’s for sure.)

There is one key issue for this Parliament – Brexit. We now have Phillip Hammond, with increased influence, proposing a much “softer” approach. Indeed, between him and Keir Starmer, there is now little to differentiate.

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The case for a softer Brexit

After the UK voted to leave the EU, by only a slim majority, May’s Conservatives (and to a certain extent Corbyn’s Labour) failed to understand that a compromise needed to be made between Leave voters and Remain voters. As I write this, I feel as though I will probably be branded as a ‘remoaner’, as ‘anti-democratic’ or as ‘against the will of the people’. The truth is that I am none of those.

Even many Leave supporting politicians in the lead up to the referendum, last year, supported the prospect of a Britain outside the EU, but inside the single market.

Nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market.
– Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP

Only a madman would actually leave the market.
– Owen Paterson, Conservative MP

Increasingly the Norway option looks the best for the UK.
– Arron Banks, Leave.EU founder

Clearly many people voted Leave on the assumption that the UK would stay in the single market, making May’s vision for a UK, isolated from the rest of Europe, twisted and unfair. A poll, published by NatCen Social Research, found that 90% of leave voters were in favour of the UK being inside the common market and around two thirds of all voters wanted British businesses to comply with EU design and safety regulations, as well as fisheries policies.

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The narrow-mindedness of Theresa May as prime minister in a transforming world

While watching the Theresa May profile by Tory and newspaper “sketch” writer Matthew Parris on BBC Newsnight on the eve of the General Election  I was alarmed by hearing various people interviewed by Parris repeating objections to May’s breath of knowledge and policy interest I had earlier encountered in the Economist editorial and Bagehot column about her.

In his column in The Economist of 27th May,  Bagehot writes that in the social care U-turn fiasco, two worrying trends in May’s approach of being (prime) minister and politician came together with an aspect of her policy interests and knowledge.

Firstly, he says it is an “established impression” that May knows “precious little about business and economics”, and doesn’t mind that omission, doesn’t try to remedy it.  In the Economist editorial endorsing not the Tories or Labour but us Lib Dems  the paper also mentions her ignoring the economic aspect (“starving the economy of the skills it needs to prosper”) of a purely numbers-based restriction of immigration.

In the Newsnight profile, the point about economics was brought forward both by her former Cabinet colleague Nick Clegg, and by baroness Camilla Cavendish, ex-McKinsey consultant and prominent journalist with The Times before being in Camerons No. 10 Policy unit (2015-‘6). Clegg said he was struck by her lack of interest in economic aspects of for example immigration policy, while obsessing about immigration numbers. Vince Cable, former business secretary, made the same point  in this campaign, criticizing May’s cavalier pushing of a hard Brexit in spite of the thousands of jobs in London in branches of companies whose HQ is on the EU continent.

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The nature of predictions

This General Election campaign has given me pause for thought about the nature of prediction. When we make a political prediction we use information that is available to us such as polls, statistical calculations based on data such as turnout and past performance and what we hear on the doorstep when campaigning. But we also use our past experience of such matters and our hopes. Computing all of this we come up with a prediction of likely outcome. Our predictions are important to us personally as they reflect the quality of our judgement, an aspect of our being that we hold dear, as it relates to our sense of competence and thus strongly relates to our sense of self. Because of this we can become over attached to our predictions which can lead to negative effects.

If our prediction is positive such attachment can lead us to be overconfident and unresponsive to the reality of what is going on around us, as possibly happened to Theresa May at the start of her campaign.

If the prediction is negative such attachment can lead us to becoming despondent in our campaigning, playing down our message when talking to people, not bothering to campaign so vigorously for example not delivering that extra round of leaflets and demotivating our fellow campaigners. Such negative responses can contribute to our negative prediction becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. To avoid such negativity we need to develop equanimity in relation to our prediction always having the humility to say, at the back of our minds, “but I might be wrong”. With this balanced approach, in spite of whatever prediction we make, we will continue to campaign in a positive constructive way. During campaigning obviously the results of polls are useful in deciding the sensible direction of the campaign but we should always take them with a pinch of salt and not allow them to make us negative in our approach.

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