Vince Cable on Labour’s opposition day debate on Mansion tax

This evening, the Liberal Democrats have confirmed they won’t vote for Labour’s mischievous Opposition Day debate on mansion tax, instead tabling a Coalition amendment stating our support for the mansion tax and the Conservatives’ opposition to it. Vince Cable, architect of the mansion tax, has issued a statement explaining why:

This amendment allows Liberal Democrats in Parliament to back our long-held policy of the mansion tax. We created it and will continue to champion it.

The amendment also makes it clear that although we are in coalition with the Conservatives, we have different views on the desirability of a mansion tax.

The Liberal Democrats will not however support a Labour motion designed exclusively to play cynical party political games.

Parties should be judged on what they deliver on fairer taxes, rather than what they say about them. In Government, Labour refused to back our mansion tax.

Instead, Labour raised taxes for the lowest paid by abolishing the 10p tax rate. In Government, the Liberal Democrats have pushed for and achieved a £600 tax cut to over 24 million people on low and middle incomes, lifting more than two million low paid workers out of income tax all together.

The top rate of tax will be higher under the Coalition Government than any year under Labour and the rich are now paying more as a percentage of their income in tax than at any time under Labour .

In Government, Labour rubbished the Liberal Democrat policy of a mansion tax. In Opposition, they have simply copied it exactly in an attempt to fill in their blank piece of paper where original policies should be.

The Liberal Democrats continue to support a mansion tax. The current council tax system is totally unfair to many working families who pay more on a modest band H house than oligarchs living in mansions worth many millions. We believe that, in an age where the living standards of ordinary families are being squeezed, we should be asking for a greater contribution from the very wealthiest in society.

And here is the Liberal Democrat amendment:

Line 1, leave out from House to end, and insert:

‘This House notes that this Coalition Government has cut income tax for 25 million people, taking over 2.2 million low income individuals out of income tax altogether, while at the same time increasing taxes on the wealthy, including raising stamp duty on expensive properties and restricting tax reliefs; further notes that both parts of the Coalition continue to support tax cuts for people on low and middle incomes; notes the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister also advocates a Mansion Tax on properties worth more than £2million, as set out in his party’s manifesto, and the part of the Coalition led by the Prime Minister does not advocate a Mansion Tax; further notes that the top rate of tax will be higher under this Government than under any year of the previous administration and that the rich are now paying higher percentage of income tax than at any time under the previous administration, demonstrating that it presided over an unfair tax system where the rich paid less and the poor paid more in tax than now, meaning nobody will trust the Opposition’s promises on tax fairness.’

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66 Comments

  • Not quite sure that this will get us off the hook. Can’t we just say that we are very much in favour of a Mansion Tax and that it should be studied carefully for implementation as part of the 2016/17 budget, as part of a package of measures including a personal allowance set at the level of the full time minimum wage? After all, you can’t just rush into anything this radical, can you?

  • Doesnt the Labour motion indicate the money raised by the tax would be used to create a new 10p rate? If so, it should be voted against – the money raised should be used to enlarge the tax allowance, as it is more progressive; not to undo Labour silly 10p tax mistake from 2007.

  • What a waste at a chance of real differentiation from the Tories. No one will hear the bit about supporting the mansion tax, they will just see the bits about both parts of the coalition. It should have said simply that the Liberal Democrats support the theory of a Mansion Tax but not the implementation proposed by Labour.

  • Doesn’t Clegg, Cable & co realise how ludicrous they will appear when they refuse to vote for their precious mansion tax when given the opportunity to do so ?

    Imagine the scene when door-knocking in 2015 :

    Mansion tax ? Is that like the tuition fees then ? Why didn’t you vote for it when you had the chance ?

    LibDem activists across the country will be left red-faced & mumbling an apology.

  • MBoy
    “Doesnt the Labour motion indicate the money raised by the tax would be used to create a new 10p rate?”

    Not if what Andrew Neil read out to Tim Farron (I think it was Tim but may have been Vince) on Sunday Politics is correct.

  • This is quite clever – the Tories will end up voting for a measure saying they won’t support the tax, whilst our MPs will creating clear difference between the parties. ‘Split in coalition over mansion tax’ will become the news headline,

  • Richard Dean 11th Mar '13 - 9:58pm

    First, LibDems want a mansion tax. Next, they sulk when someone else wants it too. Gee!

  • Probably the best move out of a bad set of choices, given that Labour is clearly just out to create some mischief rather than seriously offer a route to progressing a Mansion Tax into law. However you look at it, the pressure is on the Tories to respond, given that on the face of it at least, the proposal commands majority support.

  • John Broggio 11th Mar '13 - 10:22pm

    Come the leadership debates in the 2015 GE campaign, EdM will be able to stand smugly and say “you voted against your own policy aims”. I thought that LDs professed to be above tribal politics, clearly I was wrong.

  • Sunny,

    Here are some quotes we dug out:
    » Earlier today Vince Cable told the Today programme, Vince Cable was asked about Labour’s motion he said: “if it is a real commitment, I would certainly welcome that.”

    – “welcome” does not meant “support a deliberate piece of Sixth form Common Room Politics”.

    » On 17 February, Vince Cable said of Labour’s motion: “It depends entirely how they phrase it. If it is purely a statement of support for the principle of a mansion tax I’m sure my colleagues would want to support it.”

    – Supprt it, yes, it’s our policy. That doesn’t mean vote for it, see response above.

    » Asked on yesterday’s Sunday Politics which part of the Labour motion he disagreed with Lib Dem party president, Tim Farron said: “none of it”.

    – Of course he doesn’s disagree, it is our policy. Once again, see response to first answer.

    » On BBC2’s Daily Politics today Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams said of the Labour motion: “I could have written it myself”.

    – Well, we basically did, It’s our policy – are you noticing a theme to my responses?

    » On 14 February, Lord Oakeshott told Newsnight: “If they [Labour] move a core Liberal Democrat flagship policy like that why wouldn’t Liberal Democrat MPs support it, are they doing political posturing or is this for real?”

    – Labour are doing it for political posturing. I will not believe Labour support it until it is in a manifesto, which they have failed to do in the past.

  • Peter Watson 11th Mar '13 - 11:22pm

    I’m confused: what do Lib Dems want?
    I thought we wanted a mansion tax. But our MPs will vote against it because the conservative coalition partners do not want it.
    We don’t want secret courts. But our MPs voted for them because the tories want them.
    If we want a Mansion Tax, why turn our backs on an opportunity to make it happen?
    If an Oppositon Day motion is non-binding why not use it to clarify our support for a policy?
    Why does a Lib Dem policy become unacceptable simply because Labour want it?
    What is the point of the Lib Dems if they vote against things they stood for and vote for things they stood against?

  • Peter Watson 11th Mar '13 - 11:38pm

    @John Broggio “Come the leadership debates in the 2015 GE campaign, EdM will be able to stand smugly and say “you voted against your own policy aims”.”
    Exactly. In 2015, Labour (and the Tories) will produce a catalogue of contradictions between the words and deeds of Lib Dems between 2010 and 2015. The soundtrack to this will be Clegg’s apology and endless loops of Clegg’s “No more broken promises” and “A new kind of politics”. A hostile media will reinforce this view. Every new promise or manifesto item will invite the question “Is this like tuition fees then?”. Mockery and distrust will be key weapons in the arsenal of our opponents. The party will belatedly float the excuse that as a minority partner we could not get what we wanted, but this is unlikely to get much of a hearing because the coalition line has been so enthusiastically promoted. I feel so badly let down by the parliamentary party and its leadership, and unless they are able to show in 2015 that economic recovery has made it all worthwhile, I fear the party will be sunk, and deservedly so.

  • John Broggio 11th Mar '13 - 11:53pm

    @ Peter Watson

    I know. I just can’t believe what a stunning own goal the LD MPs are about to inflict upon the party. It’s almost as though the parliamentary party want to lose heavily in 2015…

  • As an ex-LD member who resigned from the party because of the position re NHS reforms I keep looking for some reason to renew my support. However, leadership decisions such as this only confirm my belief that they are in the Tories pocket and therefore my decision last year was the correct decision. It seems that I will remain politically homeless at least until Clegg et al are removed.

  • Foregone Conclusion 12th Mar '13 - 1:39am

    To be honest, I think is the best possible options. We are in government, it’s a coalition government, and if we go divergent ways on something as fundamental as the budget, we may as well go home now.

    But wouldn’t it be the best thing in the world to force Osborne to implement a Mansion Tax in a few weeks time? Far better than this grandstanding. Alas, I fear that the leadership is too feeble to demand this: no doubt we will allow a fresh raft of Osborneite horrors to sail forth in return for another measly mess of pottage. And then we will look even more silly.

  • Support it yes it’s our policy that doesn’t mean vote for it…

    So that’s the plan to win over the electors ?

  • This is ludicrous, Cameron and Osborne are on the ropes, hanging on by a thread.

    Now is the time that Liberal Democrats should be pressing their advantage, differentiating themselves from the conservatives and prepping a clear distinct path for themselves readying for the 2015 election.

    But instead the leadership is making themselves appear weak and tribalist.

    The party will never regain the credibility and trust of the electorate again if the continue to carry on in this way for the rest of this parliament.

    I have said it before, leaving it until just before the 2015 election to distance yourselves from the coalition and the tories will be far to late and will look like pure hypocrisy and opportunism and I do not think that will be a vote winner.

  • Most of these comments demonstrate a lack of recognition of the fact that this is a transparent political manoeuvre by Labour to get us to vote against our Coalition partners. What instead we are doing by this amendment is to make clear our own support for a Mansion tax (and our Coalition partners’ lack of support for a Mansion tax) without breaching the underlying principle of Coalition unity, with which, like it or not, we are stuck until May 2015. As such, the amendment is rather clever, and I see no adverse consequences whatever if we amend the Labour motion in these terms.

  • @ Hugh

    “What instead we are doing by this amendment is to make clear our own support for a Mansion tax (and our Coalition partners’ lack of support for a Mansion tax) without breaching the underlying principle of Coalition unity, with which, like it or not, we are stuck until May 2015″

    That simply is not correct.

    The mansion tax policy is not in the coalition agreement, therefore Liberal Democrats are entirely free to vote on this matter as they see fit and should vote “accordingly” to what the party policy is and what they promised to their voters.

    Liberal Democrats scuppered boundary reforms by refusing to vote for it, where was the coalition unity on this matter?

    All this shows is that the party is prepared to fight the battles and stand up to the Tories where it suits them for personal gain. In the eyes of the public it will look as though Liberal Democrats are picking the “wrong battles” and are only interested in remaining in “power” rather than serving those that supported them.

  • People “out there” have no time for political games like this. We need things like the Mansion Tax (personally I think there are better and more progressive options) to demonstrate that the better off ARE really paying more tax. As a radical party in hard times we have to demonstrate we are holding the line on public services. We are already leading the charge in tax giveaways (the raising the threshold issue, which has put further pressure on our essential services, and our public servants themselves), so we desperately need to show that money can and will be raised in a fair manner. The need is there to differentiate ourselves clearly from hardline Tories. This should really be the time when we make the break – if the Tories then decide to break the coalition, so be it. It is clear they cannot call a General Election – the only possible downside I see is if Labour and Tories together call a GE (neither can do it by themselves) – and then we present ourselves as the progressive option to both, which, in truth we should have done in the first place!

    It would throw a spotlight on leadership and philosophies at the top of the party, but at some time this will happen anyway. Better now than in 2014 / early 2015 whenit will colour the entire GE, and probably lose us more than we would have done anyway.

  • Peter Watson 12th Mar '13 - 8:24am

    @Hugh p “Most of these comments demonstrate a lack of recognition of the fact that this is a transparent political manoeuvre by Labour to get us to vote against our Coalition partners.”
    It appears to be a transparent political manouevre by Labour to get us to vote for something we believe in.
    Lib Dems seem to be the ones playing silly political games on this matter, and from the outside it looks shypocritical and clumsy (or too nuanced for voters to appreciate).
    Why exactly should Lib Dem MPs amend or vote against this motion if they genuinely agree with what it says? Why is it more important how it ended up in the Commons instead of what it says?

  • The Lib Dem ammendment is a classic demonstration of ‘westminster bubble’ politics. Do our leadership seriously think that joe public will read the erudite explanation of why our Parliamentarians will vote against what they believe in? Of course Labour is playing politics, why wouldn’t they? The vote against will futher erode our fading credibility with joe public.

  • “And those who confess they have left the party but clearly still care, will re-join and fight within the party to make it even more democratic internally and help us to hold our leadership to account.”

    But how? What more could Jo Shaw have done on the issue of secret courts, for example? Would the leadership have taken any notice if only 5 people had supported it instead of only 10?

  • And I was beginning to think politics was about playing games. More cynical politics. The Lib Dems agree with a Mansion Tax won’t vote for it because Labour are putting it forward for debate. I thought I understood coalition politics – clearly I don’t. As I understand it LD supports Tories in the main but always has a go at Labour. Clegg did it again on Sunday.

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Mar '13 - 11:11am

    @peter.tyzack

    “And those who confess they have left the party but clearly still care, will re-join and fight within the party to make it even more democratic internally”

    As I had said in several threads in past months, I too left the party after 40 years (unlike Peter Bell I left earlier and for a different reason); there are many of us and it appears the numbers seem to be increasing. I’ve not gone to any other party as some of Nick Clegg’s advisors suggested and would like to get back into active politics again. It just seems to be that whenever I think that I may return, the Party seems to throw out another precious principle – this time secret courts followed by inability to vote for a mansion tax now you have the chance. As the months/years roll on the party is simply looking and sounding less and less like the one I remember, but with which even now I maintain a strong emotional. But what would the point of re-joining to “fight within the party” be? Many party members have expressed the view in recent threads that the parliamentary party is not communicating with the ever dwindling membership and Nick Clegg is described in another thread here as being “beyond listening mode”.
    You need every activist to save whatever seats you can at the forthcoming local and parliamentary elections – not all constituencies are like Easteigh. The Chair of the General Election Campaign will need ground troops to return, but I see little prospect of me helping without a real recognition in the party that things have gone so wrong. Are you listening Paddy?

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Mar '13 - 11:17am

    Emotional BOND that is. Writing in haste!

  • Peter Watson 12th Mar '13 - 11:47am

    @peter.tyzack “And those who confess they have left the party but clearly still care, will re-join and fight within the party to make it even more democratic internally and help us to hold our leadership to account.”
    I could not consider rejoining the party at the moment and am reluctant even to vote for it in elections at any level – as it would be interpreted as support for the current situation. I would rather join and vote to show support for change but first I would need to see that change, and that does not look likely this side of 2015.

  • It says a lot when you cannot even vote for things you think are right

  • Peter Andrews 12th Mar '13 - 4:28pm

    Lets be clear this is an opposition motion so if it is passed then it will not actually make the mansion tax happen. If it did then obviously it would probably be worth the Lib Dem MPs voting for it but as it stand it is not worth voting against the government position for no actual gain

  • The lib Dems have been gifted the Mansion Tax. It is irrelevant whether it’s a labour ploy. The conservatives had no compulsion about voting down Lord’s reform or campaigning against AV. I do not get why Lib Dem points of principle are so easy to drop in the name of compromise, but Tory ones aren’t?
    Fact is The Conservatives have crunched the numbers and know they can’t win a majority in the next election. Thus they are in no hurry to split the Coalition. Voting for the mansion Tax would call Labour’s bluff, give party workers a boost and look stronger than meekly voting against it. Eastleigh gave the Tories a wake up call, this is why they’re all jostling each-other for potential leadership battles. There is no reason for Lib Dems to be more loyal to the Conservative party than actual Tories are.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 12th Mar '13 - 4:57pm

    Obviously the only way to work out what the Lib Dems will do in government is to read their manifesto and then assume the opposite. They made a pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees and then voted for a huge increase. They promised to avoid a VAT bombshell and then voted for one. They promised in their manifesto to have an amnesty for illegal immigrants and then forgot about it. They promised to democratise the Primary Care Trusts and then voted to abolish them. They said they would oppose Nuclear Power and then voted for it. They promised to uphold civil liberties and are now supporting secret courts. And they promised to introduce a mansion tax and have just voted against it. They say it will be in their next manifesto, Well, we know now what that means!

  • @ Peter Andrews: “not worth voting against the government position for no actual gain”

    Voting for the motion would have been a vote against the tory position and for a Liberal Democrat positon I have always been behind, There was indeed something to be gained, It is very dissapointing you do not seem to know what that was.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Mar '13 - 5:57pm

    The vote on the mansion tax is about parliament not the government. It is a debate so simply a vote on the opinion of the House. If it is passed it will have no effect at all.

    This kind of thing is not widely understood outside the Bubble.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 12th Mar '13 - 5:58pm

    (You can of course use what I have just written above as an argument as to why the motion should be supported, or not supported, by our MPs.

    Tony Greaves

  • What was it Nick Clegg said in his conference speech.
    Oh yes it was
    “The Conservatives, on their own, will never deliver the fairer society – it’s just not who they are. Take the Mansion tax. Even now, when millions of families are feeling the pinch, they still refuse to ask people who live in multi-million pound homes to chip in a bit more. The Conservative party knows it needs to stay on the centre ground to have any chance of speaking to ordinary people’s concerns. At least the leadership seem to. But they just can’t manage it, no matter how hard they try. They’re like a kind of broken shopping trolley. Every time you try and push them straight ahead they veer off to the right hand side”

    Clegg likens the Tories to a shopping trolley, always veering to the right!

    Well it could just as easily be said that Clegg and the leadership are a bit like wheel-Barrow.
    Hard to push and easy to upset.

  • Okay, the mansion tax would be a motion rather than a government policy, but in the event of another hung parliament it’s a useful weapon. And all Nick Clegg really has to say is “Of course we’re voting for are own policy Mr Miliband, we are in government”.
    The point is as 2015 looms nearer it will actually look less professional and weaker to outside observers if tou don’t vote for your own key policies. You don’t want to spend the next two years with another student-loans style albatross around your neck. The coalition will end eventually and it will do a lot of good to show instances of real differences with lib Dem and Conservatives values.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 13th Mar '13 - 10:24am

    @Tony Greaves 12th Mar ’13 – 5:57pm
    “The vote on the mansion tax is about parliament not the government. It is a debate so simply a vote on the opinion of the House. If it is passed it will have no effect at all.”

    Exactly, so why didn’t the Lib Dems vote for it. when it would have been an otiose exercise for them? They could have had their cake and eaten it. The Lib Dems won’t even vote for their own flagship policy yet will vote for the Tories’ tax cut for 13,000 millionaires worth an average £100,000 as well as the inhumane bedroom tax which will result in an Eastern European style eviction program against those on state benefits whose homes happen to have a spare bedroom and are owned by the state. And if you are consoling yourselves with your Eastleigh win, you only got in there because UKIP split the massive Tory vote against you. Why do you go on propping them up?

  • Tony Greaves is right, but this continues to make the same mistake that has been made so often by our leadership. It will give the wrong impression to the public; that we care more about maintaining a position of power in government with the Conservatives than sticking to our principles.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Mar '13 - 1:23pm

    peter.tyzack

    I do hope all these commentators, above, are putting themselves forward to be Parliamentary Candidates, especially as they are all so convinced(regardless of their position) of how right they are.. – And those who confess they have left the party but clearly still care, will re-join and fight within the party to make it even more democratic internally and help us to hold our leadership to account. This sniping, albeit well-intentioned, gets us nowhere.

    Peter, this needs to be seen both ways. Much of what you call “sniping” comes about because those of us who want to put the case for the party, have long experience of doing so, and have lived reasonably ordinary lives, so now how the sort of people we need to appeal to think and what works with them and what doesn’t, are getting fed up at the way our leadership is mishandling the national image and so making a bad situation worse.

    This is an example. The fine procedural arguments won’t be heard. To the public, this IS the Liberal Democrats pretending to support a policy, but when it actually comes down to being asked to vote for it instead vote against it because the Tories won’t like it. As Tony Greaves reminds us, this was not a vote on the policy coming in tomorrow. If we vote with Labour on it, so what? We are now two years to the next general election, we need to demonstrate that we have not entered a merger with the Conservatives, we made an arrangement with them due to the 2010 election results, in 2015 we’ll be fighting as an independent force, with the possibility of a coalition with Labour, either forced by the situation or because we really do hold the balance and in that case would work with Labour if they show more willingness to concede to our position than the Tories do. Here was an opportunity. Not taking it means those of us who canvass in the election face doors being slammed in our faces with the shouts “You’re just a bunch of Tories, I’m never voting for you again” from people we’ve painstakingly worked with to get their support in the past.

    Nick Clegg is meant to be the leader of a democratic party, which means ultimately he’s our servant, we are not his. He doesn’t show much signs of that. He shows almost no signs of ever listening to what party members say. He and his advisers are forever sniping at party members, accusing them of being “faint-hearted” if they disagree with the way he is playing the coalition, or in a notable case last year one of his close advisers actually saying “you’re not welcome in the party, go off and join Labour” in a message aimed squarely at MOST of our party’s hardest workers. Sometimes Clegg seems to think his role is to be an emissary from the Conservatives to us rather than someone fighting our corner in the government.

    I’ve defended, and bear the scars for it, the compromises we have had to make in government. I’ve explained, time and time again, that our 57 MPs are not able to convert 303 Conservative MPs to become supporters of every aspect of Liberal Democrat policy and drop everything they stand for as Conservatives which conflicts with that. I’ve said that what we see in terms of what’s coming out of this government is about what one would expect from a government five-sixths Tory and one-sixth LibDem. So I’m not someone running scared from the responsibilities of being “in government” as Clegg and his advisers keep accusing anyone who expresses unhappiness with his leadership of being. But I am someone who wants to see Clegg and those at the top giving ME support in the work I want to be doing to support them. Except they aren’t, they seem determined to do and say things which makes that task more difficulty rather than less.

    As we’ve seen, most people who are getting fed up with this are just leaving the party quietly, drip, drip, drip. I think that will be more damaging to the party electorally than a few of us vocally pleading with Mr Clegg to LISTEN to his members from time to time and accept that maybe we DO have something useful to contribute to development of tactics and public presentation.

    As for becoming a Parliamentary Candidate, well many years ago I tried and was rejected on the grounds I had “poor communications skills”. But I wouldn’t want to do it now anyway, since the requirements for the post in terms of time commitment and money expected of our PPCs rule me out, as they would anyone who isn’t wealthy and either very secure in their job or young, free and single.

  • Steve Griffiths 13th Mar '13 - 3:14pm

    peter.tyzack and matthew huntbach

    “I do hope all these commentators, above, are putting themselves forward to be Parliamentary Candidates, especially as they are all so convinced(regardless of their position) of how right they are.. – And those who confess they have left the party but clearly still care, will re-join and fight within the party to make it even more democratic internally and help us to hold our leadership to account. This sniping, albeit well-intentioned, gets us nowhere.”

    I would echo most of Matthew’s comments. Unlike him I not only stopped campaigning for the party, I did not renew my membership either. I spent years – decades in fact – walking the pavements, canvassing, delivering and spending 8 years as a Lib Dem district councilor, (which included some time as housing spokesman and committee chair). But the party has in recent years ceased to resemble the one I had joined in so many ways, not least in philosophy and in policy. The phrase “no longer just a party of protest” is used now to smother over what I knew to mean a ‘radical reforming party of the centre left’.

    With regard to putting myself forward to be a parliamentary candidate, whilst a councilor in the 1990s it was suggested to me that I do just that. At the time, it would not have been possible. It was something that I always regretted until recently, but by the time that it would have been possible I suspect that I would have been considered too off message by the current leadership and party managers, where once my views were pretty much mainstream.

    As to whether my rejoining would make much difference, I’m afraid I doubt it; communication between the ‘troops’ and the parliamentary party has demonstrably failed. I suppose I shall just sit it out until there is a change of leadership or perceived direction. I suppose I could join the SLF, but their motions to conference are ignored as well…..

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Mar '13 - 5:22pm

    Steve Griffiths

    I would echo most of Matthew’s comments. Unlike him I not only stopped campaigning for the party, I did not renew my membership either. I spent years – decades in fact – walking the pavements, canvassing, delivering and spending 8 years as a Lib Dem district councillor

    Yes, but we seem to be getting this gradual dropping off of members one by one, the secret courts issue having caused a few more.

    Imagine how very different it would be if all those who have dropped off had instead stayed in and fought back.

    The trouble is, the more people drop off, the harder it is for those of us who remain but are unhappy with the leadership to fight back.

    As I said, in a democracy, it should be the leaders who are the servants, so why should it be members who are dropping out because of unhappiness with the leadership rather than vice versa?

  • “Imagine how very different it would be if all those who have dropped off had instead stayed in and fought back.”

    How?

  • Steve Griffiths 13th Mar '13 - 8:04pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “Imagine how very different it would be if all those who have dropped off had instead stayed in and fought back”

    Well I’m trying to, but I just can’t see it at the moment. The SLF and Liberal Left have hardly been effective and Centre Forum and LDV seem mostly to spout the Leadership ‘Pravda’ of centrism-wash and naming the party that you and I remember as only a “party of protest”. How will this fight be? What would we do that has not been tried? The Parliamentary party seems to have simply shut the door and conferences are over-managed in a way they were not before.

    My own local party seems rather moribund and I cannot imagine they would be comfortable with my return. They would find it a bumpy ride, as I would not come back simply to deliver leaflets, but to fight to change the party back to what it once was. The problem with all this is that there is no new ‘Yellow Book’ or think tank for those who share our beliefs. Where would we begin Matthew?

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Mar '13 - 11:17pm

    Steve Griffiths

    Please re-read what I wrote ““Imagine how very different it would be if all those who have dropped off had instead stayed in and fought back”, noting in particular the last three words.

    I don’t think there has been a serious fight back. The position of SLF is that they want to have influence by being loyal to the leadership. I don’t want to be rude about the people running Liberal Left, but … well, you know what I mean. LDV is dominated by leadership loyalists, and CentreForum is a right-wing pressure group stuffed with money by big business.

    I think we do need a serious organisation fighting back against the leadership, and I think if you put together all the people who have left the party over it, you’d have one. One thing that is needed, which is also why Liberal Left are getting it wrong, is that it should be focused on the leadership, and not on the coalition. The focus should be on all the ways the leadership is getting it wrong – as I keep saying, one can agree the coalition was a sad necessity, which is not the same as being against it altogether or the same as regarding it as a wonderful thing, the fulfillment of our dreams. I would hope that many of those who do not regard themselves as particularly to the left in the party could nevertheless agree the situation has been badly managed by our leader, in particular the way he has exaggerated what can be achieved in it and so set us up to look look failures for achieving little, and the way he has appeared so word-beginning-with-sm-and-rhyming with “rug” (LDV won’t let me use it directly) about having “power” which damages us immensely because it feeds into all people think (often unfairly) is wrong with politicians.

    So I think what is needed is an organisation of people who make it very clear they are loyal to the party and the principles it has stood for over the years, but make a clear distinction between that and being loyal to the current leader. Yes, it does require serious organisation, leadership from people who can gain respect, and a willingness to say “Enough is enough” in public rather than grumble in private.

  • Steve Griffiths 14th Mar '13 - 9:45am

    “So I think what is needed is an organisation of people who make it very clear they are loyal to the party and the principles it has stood for over the years, but make a clear distinction between that and being loyal to the current leader. Yes, it does require serious organisation, leadership from people who can gain respect, and a willingness to say “Enough is enough” in public rather than grumble in private.”

    Wow Matthew: that’s a big ask, starting from not much! (But then I note in Paddy’s recent speech to conference he said that when they set out to win Yeovil all those years ago, the membership was in single figures). Maybe it is time – as another party’s politician once said – “…to fight, fight and fight again to save the party that we love”; in our case sadly, from its own leadership.

    You would need some party ‘big beasts’ on side – where will they come from? The parliamentary party seems to be on ‘lock-down’. There would need to be an effective rallying point/person/organisation, for the departed membership to be recalled. A new organization/think tank researching, redefining and putting forward libertarian left philosophy and policies would be useful. Your aspiration is a wonderful vision, and if such a movement is possible, I’m here – count me in.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '13 - 2:52pm

    Steve Griffiths

    Wow Matthew: that’s a big ask, starting from not much

    Yes, but it would be easier if there was a big number of active members willing to make their opposition to what the leadership is doing vocal, but staying in the party to do so rather than resigning. I think it could happen quite quickly and suddenly, but I agree it needs a “Big beast” to start it off.

    If it doesn’t happen soon, well, I personally doubt the party will be holding the balance after the next election, and I suspect it will be well down in MPs, though not completely wiped out. I think then there will be those who can do it willing to come out and do it.

  • Steve Griffiths 14th Mar '13 - 3:19pm

    Dane Clouston

    “There is a Liberal Party, you know!”

    Yes Dane, I am fully aware that there is and have taken a long hard look at them. I wondered why they did not put up a candidate at Eastleigh?

  • Simon Hebditch 14th Mar '13 - 6:36pm

    As a member of Liberal Left and a supporter of SLF, I am not sure what some people are aiming at when criticising those attempts to shift the party towards a more centre left position. As someone who regards himself as on the centre left and, even more importantly, in favour of the old concept of the realignment of the Left, I am bound to be “againt the coalition” which was established as a realignment of the right. This fact was promulgated by William Hague on the steps of the Cabinet Office at the end of the negotiations setting up the coalition.

    I agree that the party leadership has created the current problems for the Lib Dems through its determination to follow through Osborne’s deficit reduction strategy which was wrong in 2010 and wrong today. Our party is committed to a joint economic policy and strategy at least until 2018. So, we are hand in glove with the Tories over the central issues concerning the country’s economic programme. Add to that – reneging on our civil liberties credentials, participating in a devastating programme of welfare benefit cuts which will add to homelessness and increase poverty.

    Matthew, either there has to be a significant revoly now which leads to the ejection of the neo-liberal leadership ofhe party or we will witness two desperate situations – either a collapse of our parliamentary numbers in 2015 or a renewal of the policy positions of the current leadership which imply a more long term alliance between us and the Tories. What a prospect!

  • Call me cynical, but I love wranglings like this.

    Yes, politics is bruising, but it is because it is an all-in grudge match between differing world views rather than some sort of triumphal procession dedicated to the one great holy leader who makes decisions in conclave with results indicated by different coloured smoke.

    LibDems are a middle-weight party up against two heavyweights. We’re the underdog and we’re under the yoke of circumstance.

    We get knocked down, we get up again. And every time we get knocked down we get a little bit stronger, a little bit more resilient and a little bit more determined.

    The facts remain.

    The liberal tradition consistently provides the best policies, which other traditions consistently steal.

    Non-liberal traditions consistently fail to implement our liberal policies in a liberal manner, causing lasting ruin.

    We don’t live in an ideal world, so we must temper our ideals.

    Politics is not just an abstract battleground of ideas, it is about meaningful action. And until we get a LibDem government it will remain wrong to complain that LibDems are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs.

    Others can sneer, that’s up to them. They know they can’t keep us down forever. They should be warned, they are keeping humanity down.

  • Steve Griffiths 15th Mar '13 - 11:26am

    @Oranjepan

    “rather than some sort of triumphal procession dedicated to the one great holy leader who makes decisions in conclave with results indicated by different coloured smoke.”

    Seems rather unnervingly familiar to me. The ‘triumphal procession’ of the rose garden; the conclave – the conference ignoring parliamentary party; the coloured smokes – the Leader’s emails to party members. It is a credit to the Lib Dems that when knocked down they get up again, but each time they get up they have fewer members. They need to address this.

    @Dane Clouston

    I guess the Liberal Party simply had no organisation or members in Eastleigh or nearby constituencies and strapped for cash is the truth, isn’t it?. I have been tempted by the still existing Liberal Party on several occasions, not least because they retain the old, beautiful and unadulterated preamble to their constitution. You have activity in a few constituencies I know, but I currently am still looking for the most effective vehicle for me to campaign for my beliefs and principles.

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th Mar '13 - 12:04pm

    @ Oranjepan: “some sort of triumphal procession dedicated to the one great holy leader who makes decisions in conclave with results indicated by different coloured smoke.”

    The ‘one great holy leader’ described does not make the decisions in the conclave – there is no Pope in the conclave. Instead, Cardinals (115 of them eligible) vote in multiple rounds and the person with two thirds of the vote becomes the Holy Father. Black smoke indicates no man is elected in the ballot. White smoke indicates a person has been elected.

    There you have it – in this most ancient of organisations – democracy is in action. The Pope is elected.

  • Helen,
    surely not, the Cardinals are channeling the will of God!

    Steve,
    that’s hardly the same thing.

    As for membership numbers, it’s worth also comparing LibDems with other parties. see:
    http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05125.pdf

    There is a long-term historic downwards trend – from a peak in the 1950s numbers fell to 1970 when 10% of the population were members of a political party. In 1983 it was 3.8%, now only 1% of people have any sort of party card.

    Those sorts of declines are not attributable to LibDems alone, and actually Labour and Conservatives have seen larger proportional falls in similar periods.

    When the tories first started publishing reliable numbers in the mid-90s they had 400,000 members, now it’s less than 170,000 with a risk of a major split with Ukip developing.

    When Blair was PM he talked about potentially reaching 1m members for Labour, but that seems like a pipe-dream nowadays. At the start of 2012 they had 193,000 – and don’t even get me started on how much double-counting goes on regarding Trade Unions and the political levy they collect.

    Personally, I think all this presents both a risk and an opportunity as more people are now more likely to make active choices about who they vote for, though there may be less direct identification with the choices available. Instead of a politics of broad brushstrokes, we now want to engage with the finer details of policy – obviously giving us more things to disagree about.

    The fact is simple, Libdemmery is fun because it is about making real achievements, not about screwing your opponent. That alone makes our membership numbers less susceptible than either of the larger parties.

  • Steve Griffiths 17th Mar '13 - 12:49pm

    Dane,

    I am in Oxfordshire. After merger with the SDP I fought my local ward as simply ‘Liberal’ having voted against merger. I eventually joined the new merged party after watching an appeal by (I think) the leader of the then Welsh Lib Dems at conference and also Paddy, that the anti-merger ‘lost’ members should return. Both said that there was always a place in the party for radicals, liberals, greens, etc and that the new party was a ‘broad church’. How sad that Nick Clegg has taken it away from that.

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