2021 – the year in review: August

As Western forces withdrew from Afghanistan, hopes that the Afghan Government could stand on its own two feet proved to be entirely illusionary, as did the Afghan Army. And whilst it could be reasonably said that no British Government could have dealt well with such a collapse, the failure of the Conservatives to honour their commitments was a reminder that their policy aim was almost solely to get to the next afternoon.

It started with the failure to evacuate those Afghans who had assisted our troops as interpreters, as Ed Davey noted. The challenge of how to evacuate U.K. nationals and their dependents proved difficult, as key players were either on holiday or blind to the issues. Our Foreign Affairs Editor, Tom Arms, wrote a masterful summary of the consequences of the Taliban victory, setting out the geopolitical issues. Perhaps he should have been our Foreign Secretary…

There were calls for Britain to take in Afghan refugees, whilst Lee Howgate was scathing in his contempt for the Government’s attitude towards the debacle. But, by the end of the month, Afghanistan was in the hands of the Taliban, and the former Government had fled. It wasn’t going to get any better for the Afghan people as winter approached…

Alex Cole-Hamilton hit the ground running as our new Leader in Scotland, chastising the SNP administration on drug policy and appointing a new, young team of spokespersons, one of whom was vaguely familiar to the Liberal Democrat Voice team…

Caron Lindsay – Social Security, Member of the Social Justice Secretary’s Steering Group on a Minimum Income Guarantee

William Wallace, who was becoming something of a regular contributor, and a most welcome one at that, offered a means of determining between liberalism and libertarianism. Some of you disagreed, and a lively debate ensued. I tend to worry more about those amongst you whose definition of liberalism is defined not by what it is but what your bias against it is.

The article which drew most comment though was a piece by Duncan Brack about developing Party policy on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. It never ceases to surprise me as to the number of people who like to wander into our conversations to tell us we’re wrong…

We were beginning to win local government by-elections – always a promising sign. There were two good gains in the Highlands, a solid hold in South Lakeland, two seats retained in Ribble Valley and a gain in Rutland, where Lord Bonkers was doubtless effectively deploying the Bonkers Patented Exploding Focus. And the month ended with a spectacular gain in Cumbria.

It couldn’t be said that the opinion polls were showing signs of a shift towards the Liberal Democrats, unfortunately, and whilst the Conservatives were looking more inept in office than ever, the tipping point where people start to look elsewhere was still to come;

Conservatives 40%, Labour 32%, Liberal Democrats 9%, Greens 8%

Party Conference season was approaching, with its opportunities for putting big ideas before the public. But were there any big ideas out there…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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  • Brad Barrows 1st Jan '22 - 12:40pm

    The two by-election wins on Highland Council on August 10th was indeed a sign of hope in Scotland. Unfortunately the fact that the third Scottish by-election result that day showed the Liberal Democrat candidate winning just 58 votes (1.5%) illustrates the problem – the Party now only has credibility and support in a few traditional areas. The elections in May 2022 are going to be crucial to see if the Party can at least hold its current position across Councils in Scotland or whether it will find itself further erased from large parts of the country. Highland Council will be absolutely crucial as the Liberal Democrats lost seats in 2017 and needs to at least regain those losses next time round.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 1st Jan '22 - 2:45pm

    @ Brad,

    As an outsider, one issue that seems to confront each of the Unionist parties is an increasing focus on rallying behind the party most likely to beat the SNP, despite the fact that elections are STV. The fact that parties seem to prefer to campaign as though elections are still FPTP doesn’t really help.

    Indeed, I think that that’s a GB-wide thing, as in list elections, we focus on driving out our vote in strongholds rather than trying to increase our vote in areas where it might be easier to add a few percentage points.

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