The problem of sustaining Liberalism in Britain today

The joke of Conservatism in Britain today being defined by Boris Johnson is not much funnier than the joke of Socialism being represented by Jeremy Corbyn. Hence the fractures in both main parties, and the gap left for Liberalism in the shape of the Liberal Democrats. Yet when the constitutional crisis is resolved, whether in the way we want or otherwise, can the Liberalism we represent flourish and our party continue to grow? For we will then be up against parties, even if diminished, representing the  great traditions of Socialism and Conservativism, which will most probably be led by men and women of more centrist, moderate views – and this may well happen within a very few months.

Liberalism worldwide is threatened by populism, and it may appear to be the case here also, with the rise of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, surely a classic case of popular sentiment being roused and directed by one strong and charismatic leader. However, there is no such thing as Brexitism. The Conservatives in choosing their own charismatic (if scarcely strong) leader hope to root out the alien growth, and if they succeed in achieving Brexit may do so. Or else, if we succeed in stopping Brexit through a renewed democratic popular vote, again it should wither. The British people are not attuned to populism, and if the proximate cause of this cancer is removed, they surely will mostly be relieved to have an amicable working relationship restored with our useful European neighbours.

Even so,  Liberalism in Britain and the continued growth of our party could still be threatened. That is partly because elements in British society have developed during this prolonged crisis a readiness to confront and go rapidly to extremes, even to violence, and there is greater public tolerance of these effects, for instance abuse of minorities, than there used to be. In the heightened atmosphere, Liberalism may perhaps not seem to convey a strong enough identity, to offer people security and some comfort and hope in their private lives.

For however much the main parties may fracture now, the ideas of Conservatism and Socialism retain their appeal to large sections of British society. And a Conservative party led by a more moderate figure than Johnson, once Brexit is resolved, will claim Liberalism, especially economic liberalism and freedom, as part of its DNA. Similarly the Labour Party, once Corbyn is replaced, through renewing the commitment to social democracy rather than Socialism will try to lure leftward-leaning social liberals away from our party and into theirs.

It won’t in those circumstances be much use to produce our traditional claim of strongly centralised top-down parties being different from ours and undesirable, because people have got used to the idea of strong central leadership being needed in these days of seemingly unending crisis. Yet there is still a way to show and continue the appeal of  Liberalism as exemplified by Liberal Democrats.

What our party can offer where the others cannot is commitment to individualism within community. I see lonely people in our local society every day. I hear often of painful family conflicts where local services are too starved of resources to give enough help. And I see Liberal Democrat candidates and councillors coming in to listen and to try to plug the gaps. That’s not to say there aren’t dedicated Tory and Labour councillors perhaps doing the same. But their help may not be based in the same deep-rooted conviction as is ours.

There were reasons why we did so well in the May local elections. Hard work and dedicated service certainly counted. But also we aim to show that we believe in giving people the liberation of having power over their own lives. We want them to have the chance of getting the income and housing and job satisfaction and social relations that they need. We can help save Liberalism, and grow the Liberal Democrat party’s success in Britain, by continuing to offer as dedicated a service to people in their communities – including the poor and the disadvantaged and the minorities and the immigrants – as we possibly can, both nationally and locally.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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  • William Fowler 5th Jul '19 - 11:00am

    But Boris is not extreme right, except for Brexit he is the sort of conservative liberal who you see as a threat to the Liberal vote.

    “What our party can offer where the others cannot is commitment to individualism within community” Surely that is an oxymoron and a cue for a shed-load of taxpayer’s money to disappear into a black hole of social concern rather than care.

  • Neil Sandison 5th Jul '19 - 12:07pm

    There is no magic wand or button to press but we could build upon regional diversification by enpowering and enabling more regions like the Northern Power House and the Midlands Engine to have greater autonomy from central government .We could levy a tax on surplus profits or windfalls received by the City of London and other financial service hubs to contribute to regional development funds .We could put more into research into the circular economy and reduce waste and the purchasing of raw materials from abroad .We could see water ,energy fuels better reprocessed within our own economy for example .Its sad to note that a Victorian health or education board had more power to shape their town or city than the average borough ,County or Unitary Councillor currently has .So ” an enabled liberalism “might be the solution .

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Jul '19 - 12:57pm

    I think I’m feeling more optimistic than you are, Katharine, about the opportunities for Liberalism post Brexit whichever way it goes. It seems to me that the Tories’ ideology of ever increasing privatisation has been proved wrong because companies are failing, buildings are being left empty because they aren’t fit for purpose and, I believe, in the tragic case of the Grenfell tower and other buildings using this cladding, safety has been ignored to reduce costs. I think this has been hidden by Brexit but will emerge with greater clarity once the dust has settled.
    I don’t think Labour’s proposals of re – nationalisation will be the answer either. We need a new model for providing services for the community at large and I think we have the answer to that in our historic support of cooperatives, based on our view of how society should work.

  • Paul Barker 5th Jul '19 - 2:56pm

    There really does not seem any short-term prospect of either Tories or Labour being recaptured by Centrism, its not just Voters who have moved, the Memberships of both Old Parties have changed. Both Labour & Tories have lost Centrists & Liberals & gained extremists.
    Of course Corbyn himself is time-limited & Labour will pivot to Remain at some point but any new leader is likely to be another Hard Liner & it may already be too late to regain all the lost Remainer Voters.
    The Tories can defeat The Brexit Party by becoming them but they will lose their own liberal Voters if they do.
    What we need to carry on doing is building Alliances & reaching out to everyone who is closer to us than they are to the Authoritarians.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Jul '19 - 4:23pm

    Thank you for your responses so far. You take a more cheerful view of the continued unpopular extremist tendencies in both major parties, Sue and Paul and perhaps you are right. But I think we need to build a more positive identity in the public eye than we have at present, and perhaps indeed commitment to stronger regional development is one good way forward, as Neil suggests.

    Thank you for highlighting the Kerslake Report, Joseph, which sounds highly relevant. At the same time, I remember that ‘The Northern Powerhouse’ was a concept of a Conservative, George Osborne, that the present Lord Heseltine was committed to Liverpool’s development, and I understand that the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham is driving forward progress there. Perhaps there is scope for working together on regional development, therefore, one possible route for the alliances you want to see, Paul.

    Where indeed will be Brexit vote go, Joseph? I think it will trickle back to its source, the right-wing narrow inward-looking viewpoint that is typical of much of modern Conservatism, and strengthen that party again.The policies being put forward by their leadership contenders, if popular in the country as well as with their voters, do indeed show the pressing need for a progressive alliance which hopefully we can continue to lead this autumn and beyond. But I will defend the idea of supporting individuals within their communities as being uniquely ours, William Fowler, and opposed to the strong centralization of powers which Joseph correctly identifies in both the major parties. The idea feeds into our developing economic and industrial strategy, much discussed on this site and at our party’s conferences, which will indeed promote co-operatives and other worker-participative businesses, Sue, even though there is acceptance also of the need for government investment in advanced technology businesses requiring fewer but highly trained workers.

  • @ William Fowler “But Boris is not extreme right,”

    Sounds like you’re missing him, William. Are you thinking of returning to your former home ?

  • Liberalism may perhaps not seem … to offer people security and some comfort and hope in their private lives.”.

    Then the answer is for our party to do so.

    Hopefully we will not try to keep economic liberalism and will allow the Conservatives to be the only party advocating economic liberalism. Corbyn’s Labour Party does not have extreme policies like the Labour Party did in 1983. It policies are less radical than the 1945 Labour government. We need to stop using the Conservative Party’s arguments against the Labour Party.

    We should leave individualism to the Conservative Party. We should embrace nonconformity instead. And we should eject authoritarianism.

    Offering dedicated service is not enough. We need a programme to change society so no one is left behind. If we were a radical party then the forth coming policy paper, “A Fairer Share for All” would set out such a programme.

  • Alexander Boris Depeffle Johnson is an extreme populist. At this moment in time populists exist on the far right and far left, somehow I can’t see him popping up on the left ( he could surprise me), if however the centre becomes the populists destination of choice I’m sure he will become a populist centrist, till then he will hobnob with Farage and Co. His lack of poltical principles doesn’t make him any less dangerous, for if killing the first born became popular, I’m sure he’d be championing that cause.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Jul '19 - 10:07pm

    We are true Democrats as well as Liberals, and for the Conservatives to thrust upon the country as Prime Minister the unprincipled Johnson, clearly out for himself and not for the good of the country in all his current stances, is truly an outrage against democracy. As Frankie says, he is dangerous, and the Tories are to be condemned for upholding the failing system which allows his ascent as well as for tolerating the man.

    But should we be equally condemnatory of Labour? Michael BG clearly doesn’t think so. Indeed, the party is not trying to subvert democracy, though it has undermined the welfare of the country from its acceptance of Article 50 through its endless two-facedness over Brexit, which en route undermined our own political advance in the 2017 General Election. I do not think it is a Liberal party in any way. Some also say that it does have extreme policies, for instance in its proposals for major representation of workers on company boards, and allocating them real shares of company profits.

    Is nonconformity a workable proposition for us, Michael? It doesn’t seem feasible if we are to share power in the government of Britain. What are we to not conform with?

  • Today’s Guardian indicates how much Johnson and Hunt are in the pockets ofc hedge funds and speculators.

    ” Who is giving away all this money?

    A relatively small and incredibly select group of people, almost entirely from the worlds of finance, banking and property – who would arguably have a vested interest in lower tax rates for the high-paid (a Johnson proposal), slashing the rate of corporation tax (as Hunt seeks to do), and a government with less interest in regulating businesses.

    For Johnson, of 27 individual donors who can be identified – who donated more than £200,000 between them – 11 work in investment and asset management or similar jobs, with four more owning hedge funds and two being property developers. With corporate donations, Johnson received seven separate contributions from the digger company JCB and its pro-Brexit boss, Anthony Bamford, among others.

    Of 12 Hunt donors who can be identified from the register, five are connected to investments or private equity, with one running a hedge fund. Hunt’s donors in part also reflect his time as health secretary: they include the director of a healthcare company, and a transplant surgeon”.

    The Guardian 5/7/2019.

  • Katharine,

    Of course the Labour Party is not a liberal party and we should attack it because of this, but not for it being extreme. I note you haven’t tried to refute the idea that the 1983 Labour manifesto was more extreme than the 2017 one. The Labour Party mantra on Brexit is to negotiate one to protect jobs and living standards. You should attack it for this being an unrealistic aim but not attack them for wanting a Brexit which would make the UK worse off like the Conservative do.

    Looking at the Labour 2017 manifesto I couldn’t see where they promise to put lots of workers on company boards and to allocate workers shares in companies. However, they have party policy (made in 2018 I think) which states that there should be at least two worker representatives on the company board of companies employing 250 workers or more and up to a third. I don’t understand why this is a bad policy. I think Germany has worker representatives on their company boards.

    I think the Labour Party policy to create worker collectives of share owner workers which own 10% of the shares starting at 1% in the first year is a bad policy, but it isn’t extreme. I support the idea that companies should allocate some of their profits to its workers as shares. Being a liberal the shares would go to individual workers not a collective of workers.

    Perhaps your choice of word was incorrect and you didn’t mean “individualism” but meant “individuals”, which was the word you used in your 4.23 pm comment. I could support us “committing to individuals within community”.

    We are the party of nonconformity. Liberalism is about supporting nonconformity. This never stopped the Liberal Party being the party of government in the nineteenth century.

  • @ Michael BG “Of course the Labour Party is not a liberal party and we should attack it because of this”.

    I usually agree with you, Michael, but I’m afraid I can’t go fully along with this. By trade I am an historian, and I have to tell you that the Labour Party was born out of the Victorian Liberal Party and by history and tradition still carries many of the same genes. The tragedy is that the two traditions split and went their separate ways a hundred years ago – leaving a gap, filled by middle class flight in 1924, to the Conservative Party.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jul '19 - 10:54am

    David puts his finger on the problem of whether the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats can both continue to flourish in future, by pointing to their shared roots. I became aware of this some time ago, on reading an analysis of twentieth-century political history by a well-known historian which I am sure David will know of. From our present political perspective, the question is whether the left-leaning electorate will favour our party, as revived contenders, or return to the presently-riven Labour Party once the Brexit question is resolved.. I am not myself suggesting that the present Labour Party programme is extreme, Michael, but of course the right-wing press will assert that it is so. We need in any case to strengthen our own identity in the public’s eye. Perhaps to maintain that we are for individuals in community (and yes, that is the better way to put it) can be a strong part of that.

  • It depends how you define liberalism. I’d argue that there was a brief period from the the post soviet era to the crash of 2008 when it was supposed that world had changed more that it had and the political classes forgot that they are entirely replaceable because whether they like it or not democracy relies on majoritarian consent expressed through the act of voting. A lot of what is being called populism is just voters in nation states (the basis of all electoral democracy) wanting different representation. The answer to this is to not overstep the power lent to you by voters whether you agree with them or not. Nudge, don’t push and be prepared not to get everything you believe is right and proper.

  • Michael BG – once we are fully committed to a comprehensive industrial policy, we are no longer “economic liberalism”. On the other hand, industrial policy and social liberalism can co-exist.

    Katharine Pindar – Devolution sounds great in theory, but the way the right-wingers in America weaponize “State rights” really worry me. What if regional governments use their newly gained power to impose reactionary right-wing policies on the people, let’s say, slashing social welfare, gerrymandering, or even go as far as… banning abortion?

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Jul '19 - 12:24pm

    ““made no effort to evaluate the value for money of nearly £12bn in public funding” channelled to the 39 partnerships in recent years.”

    That’s because there wasn’t any. As I have tried to explain before, this money is scalped, stolen, pinched, looted, nicked, heisted and made off with.
    All legally mind. I allege no law breaking. It’s just that there is a whole layer of professionals who know that politicians are both desperate to do something and/or who don’t care if the money is wasted just so long as the voters swallow the pretence that they have “done something” and the voters never check a few years down the line, do they ? And as your quote shows, actually nobody ever checks up.
    Who has been run up a lamppost for the £46M spent on the Garden Bridge for which expenditure not one brick or bag of cement was delivered?
    So will go all the spending proposed here, whether it is ‘support’, ‘industrial strategy’, ‘transformation’ or via the National Lame-Duck Investment Bank.
    To repeat, over and over, the same economic policies yet expect different outcomes is manifestly doomed.
    There is a cancer in our society that is easy to see, but most seem to find it too painful to look at.

  • Innocent bystander. By that cynical assessment of interventions, you would think that nothing might be achieved and that leaving everything to the market would produce the best results, but it does not. Political idiocy in the UK does not prove that intervention always fails. It often succeeds in Northern Europe.
    The incredible German manufacturing machine is not a product just of free markets but of government interventions, supporting training, even supporting companies to train. and retain staff during recessions. Trade shows are heavily subsidised.
    Energy intensive industries are supported to enable their competitiveness on energy costs and taxations
    The regions are supported, investment, technology and productivity measures are all supported.
    German VAT is also kept competitively low and they have ensured the most efficient and low cost parcels delivery service in Europe.
    We should learn by it because it works and it was not achieved by cutting income tax or Corporation tax.

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Jul '19 - 2:27pm

    It is not cynicism at all but a situation I have repeatedly seen and is just the British way of doing things. A National Investment Bank will only have lame ducks to invest in as the proposals with genuine prospects will have funds aplenty from the hordes of astute private investors. It will, it must, be run by civil servants with no personal risk in the game squandering its money. How could it be anything else? Only the desperation of those who know that they are impotent in the face of global capitalism keeps this idea (which has failed over and over again) alive.
    We hear continually that we should be like the Germans. We have a totally different mind set and national characteristics. It is akin to telling the Venezuelans to solve their problems by emulating the Japanese.
    The reason the population is being populist is because they are tired of the same proposals for economic regeneration being endlessly recycled with no progress, ever.
    One LibDem idea is Catapult Centres. The same things have been called Incubators, Enterprise, Innovation (and others including one called the Faraday Centres), over the decades. All are now filled with tyre and exhaust shops and dog toooming parlours.
    All I can do is implore those who continually offer the same old proposals in new frocks is to forget Germany. We aren’t Germans we can’t solve our problems in a Germanic fashion. Ask, delve, ferret through our failed economic initiatives (there are plenty to choose from) and try and deduce why they went awry instead of calling for yet another repeat.

  • David Raw,

    The Labour Party sometimes has liberal policies but it is and never was a liberal party based on liberal philosophy. It grew out of trade unionism and the idea that the working class needed a party of their own. It had socialism as its main political philosophy. The Labour Party demands more conformity than a liberal party would and it is often authoritarian.

    Please can you identify where in the Labour Party’s constitution it upholds principles of liberalism?

    Even before 1918 I think it would be difficult to see Labour MPs as liberals. But please supply evidence that they all were.


    You clearly implied it with your attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. I hope all members of the party will agree that the Labour Party’s policies are not extreme.

  • Bless are two reactionaries are pushing for either do nothing or a return to our little village poltics. Both seem at odds with each other and yet they are not. They both believe if we can free ourselves from big government, the elite amongst us will look after us. In not so innocents case it appears to be the “money men”, in Glen’s the village “squire”. Both believe our betters know better than us and we shouldn’t try to change things. I suspect they both agree that as we are special, under no circumstances should we ever learn anything from furrins, in fact not so innocent is specific in that we can’t copy the Germans. Tis sad they think they are revolutionary but all they can drag up, is a return to the past, trust our betters and know your place; the very policies which got us into this mess.

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Jul '19 - 5:31pm

    You mis-read me (if you read it at all).
    My point is quite the opposite. Our “betters” have demonstrably failed but suffer no consequences. I believe in a strong and intrusive government strategy but only after a wholesale kicking over of the corrupt apple cart which exists at the very high level of the British “machine”. Any govt spending before that essential step will just follow its predecessors down the same plughole.
    We are not German’s. We have a different education system. They have virtually no private education sector at all. We have a system of public schools which continually replenishes our top levels with yet more serial failures who survive almost because of their disasters rather than in spite of them. The Germans have a deep respect for engineering whereas we attribute intelligence to anyone who can sprinkle their speeches with bon-mots in Latin. Even though every street tart and urchin in Pompeii could speak it fluently we British regard it as the hallmark of intellect. We have a long, long way to go to get a Germanic way of doing things.

  • I was recently looking at ConservativeHome, just to see what the “other lot” were up to. The consensus of the ladies and gentlemen posting there was that a fair chunk of Conservative M.P.s, including Rory Stewart and his supporters, Ken Clarke and old timers like Heseltine and Major were never real conservatives and should be in the liberal democrats.
    It is virtually impossible to have a debate about the future of liberalism when there seems to be no way of adequately describing what being a “Liberal”, “Conservative” or “Socialist” means. Looking at historical roots is of little help, for we would be bound into the world view of Gladstone, and that would please few in the party. It is easier to talk about the prospects of centrist politics, though that too would irk many regulars on this site. For example, we could look at the role of the state and say with some confidence that the instinct of the Tory is to have a small state, socialists see a state that controls not only essential services but the “commanding heights”of the economy. The centrist, I would argue, sees a very specific roll for the state, as a guarantor of individual rights, an actor in cases of market failure, but is instinctively suspicious of the power of Leviathan. This instinctive position is largely fixed, and thus the “centre” does not constantly move, as some on this site have suggested in the past.
    Is there a future for the centre ? Of course there is, but it needs to be articulated in a way which connects with the majority. Unfortunately many people today associate liberalism with minority rights, and although our commitment to the rights of all members of society is an essential and non negotiatable part of our beliefs, we need to paint on a larger canvas.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jul '19 - 8:11pm

    You can’t very well have ‘a larger canvas to paint on’, Chris Cory, than ‘all members of society’. Liberalism is there for them, that is, for everyone. Liberal Democrats focus in the words of our Preamble on liberty, equality and community, and in the words of the latest statement, Demand Better, maintain that ‘a Better Britain is possible’.

    Here are the first words of this publication.
    “Everyone deserves the opportunity to work hard and build a good life (the last three words in bold) for themselves, their family and their community. Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage. to afford a home and to be able to use good public services. But for many, that’s not the reality today. People are working hard: they are playing their part, whether that means taking care of their family, earning their degree or working to afford their rent or their mortgage – and yet too many are trapped by lack of opportunity.”

    The declaration goes on to say, in bold type, that austerity policies are hurting people, that Brexit will make all this much worse, that ‘Too many people are trapped’, and that a better Britain is possible. This slim document, Policy Paper 134, has a lot in it, and all of it breathes our Liberalism. and shows in its overall grasp how we are different from the other main parties.

  • Chris Corey, and Katharine Pindar, just above this:

    You two seem to be disagreeing somewhat, but I believe that between you you’ve got to the nub.

    “Is there a future for the centre ? Of course there is, but it needs to be articulated in a way which connects with the majority [and] we need to paint on a larger canvas.”

    And, “The declaration [ in Demand Better] [says], in bold type, that austerity policies are hurting people, that Brexit will make all this much worse, that ‘Too many people are trapped’, and that a better Britain is possible. This slim document, Policy Paper 134, has a lot in it, and all of it breathes our Liberalism. and shows in its overall grasp how we are different from the other main parties.”

    But the problem for us Lib Dems, it seems to me, is that if we do have ‘a large canvas’ it is too crammed with lovely details to make an eye-catching artwork. Interesting for the connoisseur and the historian, but unconsidered by the passing many, in the Gallery because it’s raining, hoping to be cheered up. But they are the people we aspire to help — but cannot, unless they vote for us.
    What we need to produce more of is T-shirts with ” *****” boldly proclaiming policy. Then, perhaps, more people will ask themselves what else we are on about.

    That’s too simple a picture. But Govey was right, about people being tired of listening to experts, and those are the people whose votes we need. Snappy, dodgy, T-shirts are well and good. But perhaps we need snappier policies — policies which don’t look so much like experty-ness. The expertise we do need, of course; but we need, surely to paint it in snappier colours, more distinctively our own? We might try UBI, for a start; it’s so radically, so bravely daft, people might look twice at it — if we have. Or as Chris puts it above, “the future for the centre . . . needs to be articulated in a way which connects with the majority.”

  • Sean Hyland 6th Jul '19 - 11:41pm

    ” the revolution is just a t-shirt away” – a valid point based on the ******** to brexit ones?

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jul '19 - 12:14am

    Thank you for that thoughtful contribution, Roger. You put it both vividly and correctly, I think, that our large canvas “is crammed with too many lovely details to be a convincing artwork.” But I am not sure that we need snappier policies exactly. Chris wrote of one of our substantial and lasting contributions, that we want a role for the state. Surely this is a benevolent one, respecting individuals, protecting their rights, intervening in the markets to promote growth and ensure fairer distribution, promoting health and welfare and educational advance, and ensuring that the most disadvantaged people have their needs fully met.

    As I wrote that, I realised that that is a very considerable role which we do require of the state in relation to individuals, and yet as Chris wrote we must beware of the power of Leviathan.

    It is again the word ‘central’, along with that other key word ‘moderate’. which is daunting, both in our own self-conception and in thinking of our impact on the electorate. These are terms which do tend to make us reach for snappy slogans and words that suggest that we are more exciting and interesting, such as ‘radical’. However, I want instead to make one plea – for us to EXPRESS the emotion that we actually feel when for instance we see victims of Government indifference and callous management, as was observed and expressed vividly by the UN Rapporteur Philip Alston. Let us not be too cerebral, but show we do care and intend to help.

    Our policy paper is on the right lines. Here is another extract:
    “Too many people are trapped by inequality, poverty, debt, a failing economy, the shambles of Brexit. Too many people find that the odds are stacked against them however hard they try.”
    Yes. These are things that Liberal Democrats care about, and vigorously attempt to find solutions for. Not only in this time of crisis, but for ever.

  • Innocent Bystander – “I believe in a strong and intrusive government strategy but only after a wholesale kicking over of the corrupt apple cart which exists at the very high level of the British machine” – I agree with what you say, but with the rapid emergence of Industry 4.0, we as a nation cannot really afford to do nothing and wait until “after a wholesale kicking over of the corrupt apple cart which exists at the very high level of the British machine”, as such wholesale kicking will need at least a full decade to yield tangible results.

  • John Littler 7th Jul '19 - 3:38pm

    Innocent Bystander: The Vehicles industry in the 1970’s -80’s had too much capacity across Europe and was struggling. No one wanted to be the part that went, but continental governments put more investment into their plants and their brands are all there now and usually bigger. Peugeot re-invented itself to making small hatchbacks . The small SAAB was the only one that went down, partly after making faulty aircraft.

    Instead, in the UK there was not enough investment in the cars and they were still using 1950’s ancient steering, the metro used to old floor pan from earlier vehicles so could not be properly re-designed. Wheels fell off going around corners, the Princess liquid suspension leaked out etc. Their governments outspent ours and got labour relations right.

    The New labour Government could have helped Rover at the end but chose to let it go down and be sold off cheap to the Chinese. Governments had let a bunch of accountants asset strip it and walk away with millions, while the Germans got it right.

    Not everything about the German way is ideal but we should take the best bits. They don’t allow start ups working from home in residential areas or in buildings with no windows, like garages. Also, you need a qualification before being able to start a business in a lot of cases across much of Northern Europe. They are too rigid and inflexible on small business but they do middle sized and large brilliantly. But Ingerlund and it’s government is usually too arrogant to look

  • Thomas, I think your suggested decade is about right. I made an offhand reference to UBI above, and I think completing such a transformation of our national life, giving more certainty and less angst to the financially needy among us, would take about seven years, once initiated. And, before that, no less than three years to introduce this radical idea to the voting populace, and get them to accept both its do-ability and its desirability. A few weeks ago the Guardian headlined a recent article “UBI doesn’t work”, but that cannot be known until it has been tried. The LibDems are the right party to try it: it gives less anxiety and wretchedness to the poor than the present tory version of the ‘welfare state’, together with a greater freedom of action and sense of being a full member of society than would socialist authoritarian paternalism. Surely it is a truly liberal and Liberal idea?

    The seven years should be enough to introduce UBI ( I prefer a different name) in an orderly way without harshness even to the top incomes, which would certainly be reduced, since one purpose of UBI would be the substantial reduction of the current shameful imbalance in incomes. Effecting the transition gradually would ease the rebalancing of markets in everything, from labour to lobsters that would intentionally ensue: that is its point.

    A secondary important benefit for our party (considering out title today — sustaining Liberalism) if it aspired to offer UBI to our four nations, would be a narrowing of the gap between us and our rival party in the centre, the Greens. I think UBI is already part of their programme (though I believe their notion may still be sketchy, and tweaky, rather than radical). Agreement between the two parties on such a major reorientation of the national life would be a good thing for everyone but diehards of all colours.

  • Roger, thank your for your comments. I think that you, Katherine and myself are on the same page here, with the inevitable subtle differences of emphasis.
    Sorry that my comment about “painting on a larger canvas” caused misunderstanding.. An example would be the leadership election material that Jo Swinson has recently put out. We know her commitment to equality and gender rights, yet in her pitch to members she talked of climate change, technology, opportunities for young people. A larger canvas. She proved she has a breadth of vision, which is why she has my vote.

  • Chris ,thank you for your comments. I agree with you in that Jo displayed a larger and different portion of her own broad canvas from the bit with equality-and-gender-rights; and I agree that in this she was right in demonstrating a breadth that may extend beyond the priorities of fans turning up to a husting or reading her material. But in this, very properly, she was addressing supporters in an internal LD contest. And most of the broader canvas themes you mention are not distinctively Liberal, though undoubtedly and rightly current, across the spectrum.

    Our title today seeks solutions to the problem of “sustaining liberalism” — not as a philosophy but as a living and energetic political party, for a kingdom that’s got itself into a right mess and is looking for a party believing and plausibly proclaiming that it has a generous and humane approach both more credible and more appealing than what the bigger parties have brought us to: bungling and bickering. Surely our long term future depends on our offering something that is distinctive, positive, and different. A Botham, not a Boycott, if your memory goes back that far! ( But I too have voted for Jo.)

  • Peter Hirst 7th Jul '19 - 7:20pm

    Empowerment by education, life long learning and an emphasis on skills and self development will drive the liberal democracy we all strive for.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jul '19 - 8:07pm

    Roger Lake, I am with you in wanting our party to offer the voters ‘something that is distinctive and positive’. But different? There are some fields where the parties working together makes sense, for instance on electoral reform and on the climate crisis with the need for a green agenda, and we are I believe working with Labour towards land value taxation to help tilt the economic balance away from the wealthy and reduce inequality.

    As to what is to be distinctive, I have made some suggestions, but I regret to say that I don’t think UBI should be one of them. To me, it smacks of an easy cop-out, which would prevent us thinking about the challenges of helping everyone who wants one to find a decent job, even at this time when the development of high tech in which more investment and R&D are required seems to threaten lower-skilled workers. Let us have better educational opportunities for them including financing retraining at all stages of life, but don’t write people off or discourage them from continuing to seek paid employment individually or co-operatively.

    Besides, as Michael BG has already explained to you on his concurrent thread, to avert poverty the rate for a proposed UBI should be set at £157.62 a week for an adult and £84.13 a week for each child of the family, with housing costs as well. The total cost would then be about £480 billion, which is about 22.5% of GDP. Despite this largesse a single pensioner would be worse off, since the current pension rate is £167.25 a week.

  • Katharine, many thanks for commenting so fully on my last, and in particular, thanks for referring me to Michael GB’s figures and , I think, assumptions. I’m afraid I don’t follow all these threads as assiduously as I would like — I just can’t keep up. But I did satisfy myself, I hope correctly, that the calculations you refer to related essentially not to an unspecified UBI, but to eliminating poverty. My own approach to the notion of UBI is quite different (and very probably ignorant and foolish), and I will try to complete this reply to your observations tomorrow.

    I fear, incidentally, that there may be a lot about UBI in LDV of which I am unaware, to the extent of somewaht saturating the space for it, for some of my attempts have not got through. This may be another, but I hope not.

  • Peter Hirst,

    I think that the idea that education will make everyone better off is wrong. There is likely to always be a need for people to do some jobs where a level of education is not needed. The level of pay is what is important for people doing these jobs not how much education they had.

    Our policy on life-long learning is inadequate. We are talking about setting up a fund, for individuals to pay for learning and training rather than providing free life-long training to everyone. That would be truly liberal.

    Liberalism is not just about providing opportunities for the best to succeed, it is about ensuring no one fails. That no-one’s living conditions are such that they affect their choices, freedoms and liberty.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jul '19 - 9:41am

    Opportunities for everyone to fulfil their hopes and expectations, and provision of a safety net for times of difficulty: as Michael partly suggests, these are indeed aims of Liberalism. In education, a fund for paying for training, perhaps including a grant universally for 18-year-olds to utilise at whatever point in their lives they wish, are plans familiar to our party deliberations. So are plans for ensuring everyone has enough to live on, and Universal Basic Income is a subject of recurring interest, Roger, so no reason why you should not continue to raise it (and nobody, surely can follow every comment on every thread on this fast-moving site).

    I am about to depart to Brecon and Radnor for a couple of days, so can’t continue to read or post here till I return – I will miss the daily discussion! One cheerful item to share before I go. David Aaronovitch, the thoughtful long-established columnist on The Times, on July 4 was considering today’s Labour Party as led by Jeremy Corbyn very disparagingly, and in his final paragraph wrote that, now ‘we don’t have to choose between the Conservative Party or the Labour Party to govern us in perpetuity. As of this year, the “voting Lib Dem/Green/Independent is a wasted vote” is no truer than saying the same of the two traditional governing parties. If anything, “vote Boris to stop Corbyn” has less resonance than, say, “vote Lib Dem to stop both of them”.’ Amen to that!

  • Michael BG, I am sorry to read what you say above, that ” the idea that education will make everyone better off is wrong. There is likely to always be a need for people to do some jobs where a level of education is not needed. The level of pay is what is important for people doing these jobs not how much education they had.” I disagree with it for several reasons.

    Perhaps most fundamental is what I think is a confusion or failure to separate the future from the past, in someone’s life. Education is cumulative, and the very earliest years — “at mother’s knee” ( to go soppy and un-PC!) — are surely the most important, for they determine how far the succeeding years can go, and how far they will go. Government may not be able to do much before school, but the first school years are surely crucial for all but born geniuses and saints.

    Another thought is that you seem, if I may say so, to be pursuing what might be called a GDP approach, as opposed to a national Income perspective — looking at the Economy, to the disadvantage of the individual Person living (as best he or she may) a life that is part of that economy, willy nilly: not only a unit in a labour force but also a neighbour and a voter and often a parent.

    I believe, for example, that what has brought us to our current pass is the widespread belief that you can’t get out of debt by borrowing more. If you’re a self-employed taxi driver still paying for his car, and it’s off the road with a faulty tyre, should you Austerely scrimp and save for a month or ten years to buy a new tyre, or buy it at once, with a credit card? To many people the answer is not obvious, and that is not because they are stupid, but because their education fell short of basic in important respects, with sorry consequences for us all.

    So I cannot agree with the assertion that “the idea that education will make everyone better off is wrong”. There are more ways of being “better off” than having a higher income, and I know that you as a Lib Dem understand very well that there is more to life than lolly.

    That sounds obnoxiously pious, I know, and I apologise for it. Life and LDV do demand brevity, don’t they, and that distorts!

  • Roger Lake,

    There is a mantra in the party that if everyone has more education that this will solve the problem of the left behind. It is also implied that more education would solve relative poverty in the UK. Therefore when I wrote, “better off” I meant economically.

    You could argue that Peter Hirst was including education for fun, but that wasn’t the way I read it. It appeared to me he was talking about education as a tool for self-economic improvement.

    I do understand that education is not all about future employment and includes things which are more life-centred.

    I expect there are millions of people in the UK who hated the time they spent at school because they disliked the educational environment and they would feel the same about the adult education environment. More education is unlikely to benefit these people.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Jul '19 - 8:33pm

    It’s been really interesting after pounding the streets of a town in Radnorshire yesterday afternoon with, among other colleagues, Nigel Jones , chair of the LD Educational Association, to come home to LDV tonight and find that Roger Lake and Michael BG have been discussing the different values of sustained education in comments at the end of my thread, The problem of sustaining Liberalism in Britain today (July 5). It’s coincidental, since Nigel and I then had a pub meal together and discussed development of a motion, that I now see has been selected for debate at Conference by FCC, with the title ‘ Education is for Everyone – investing in further education and learning throughout life’. I liked the ideas that Nigel told me about, and look forward now to reading the motion on the agenda and the debate at Conference.

    I think Education for Everyone who seeks or/and needs it throughout life is surely part of Liberalism, and in keeping with our Liberal Democrat concern for every individual. Good to see busy people like Nigel, also chair of his local constituency association, finding time to come and assist getting Jane Dodds elected in the by-election!

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Jul '19 - 6:56pm

    Being distracted by going to help in the Brecon by-election. I didn’t realise that our party’s rating in the Opinion Polls had fallen to 15 or 16 % from the lovely 20% we have had, and I am again alarmed at how we can go on sustaining Liberalism, and especially our Liberal Democrats, when Labour has risen to be one of the big three again in the current polls. You would think they could hardly have failed to do so, given the grim and wretched time to which the Tory leadership contest has subjected the country! But then again, the BBC Panorama programme last night thoroughly roused once more the anti-Semitic spectre for that party.

    Meantime on George Kendal’s valuable concurrent thread an evidently seasoned campaigner, Nigel Quinton, wrote that from his extensive experience in the last 12 months our record in Coalition remains a cause for concern, “especially in Labour-leaning areas, and for those we need to attract to join us.” So on the one hand we can think of the current Labour Party as almost a basket-case, what with the split between the moderates and the Corbynites, the doubts about Corbyn himself, and the anti-Semitic threat – and on the other, realistically accept that that party is still our main and continuing obstacle to our obtaining a further share of power.

    We will have to work hard at sustaining our party’s electoral appeal. Not least in Llandindrod Wells, where they need more members turning up to canvass with Mini-Van, but I wish they would consider canvassing in the evening too.

  • Katharine Pindar: The 15% poll rating was in Comres which has consistently underrated the party and was badly adrift from actual election results recently. It was similar to their recent polls which were out of line with others.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '19 - 10:10am

    Granted the Comres poll may not be reliable, Acland, but I had also seen a 16% rating from another poll cited in one of Mark Pack’s emails. I think my point is, we cannot expect to retain our current popularity in future just because we are the leading Remain party.

    Of course we need alliances in the near future and PR as soon as possible, but we also need to keep putting out strong messages about our progressive values and policies, and, frankly, point out that they can serve the country better than some of Labour’s. I hope some of the motions for Conference, such as the Education for Everyone one and perhaps Fairer Shares for All will if passed enhance our continuing appeal.

  • Katharine Pindar: I think the only polls giving our party about 20% regularly were Ipsos Mori ang YouGov which had us on 23% this week. The other polls have mostly reported figures of 13 – 16% in the last 2 months. Ipsos Mori and YouGov were the most accurate when the actual results came in. Obviously we cannot afford to be complacent even if we reached 30% as we could only win a General Election with over 35% with the other parties averaging 15 – 18 %. Some kind of deal with the Greens and possibly the Nationalists seems the best chance of advancing as many voters like the idea of collaborating at least at elections if not in Government.

  • Paul Barker 12th Jul '19 - 5:53pm

    We can be fairly sure that we are now Polling around 19%, down from the 20% plateau that we have been on for the Month or so after The European Election Results came out. That we have come down isn’t surprising, that its taken so long is. Its now more than 2 Months since The Local Elections that began our surge & even now we are only slightly down.
    Looking forward, we can reasonably hope for another boost from The New Leader in 10 Days & perhaps a victory in Brecon 10 Days after that.
    The basics remain the same, that both The Old Parties are riven with multiple splits & both are chasing unicorns while we are united behind a simple message.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Jul '19 - 7:05pm

    Paul Barker, it’s good to know that we are polling at about 19%, and as everyone probably agrees, the divisions in both the largest parties are enhancing our chances – at present. Joseph, the interesting New Stateman article you quote is almost three months old so a bit out of date, but presumably our top target seats will still be those where the majority of the sitting MP is no more than 10,000, and most of those are Tory-held.

    I’m thinking, though, that while we can hope to trounce many Tories in the next GE as we did in the May local elections, we have got to be defeating Labour MPs and candidates as well, to stand a real chance of a solid share of power in years to come.

  • Katharine,

    On the Election Polling website you can look up which seats are our best bets on winning. They list 100 seats, 12 of which were won by Labour, 5 were won by the SNP, 1 was won by Plaid Cymru, leaving 82 won by the Conservatives ( It doesn’t show which seats are now held by UK Change or Independents.

    Mostly we do better in general elections when Labour do well as well, such as 1964 (we gained 3 seats net), February 1974 (we gained 8 seats net ) and 1997 (we gained 26 seats net). If Labour is seen as unfit for government we don’t do very well – 1924 Labour lost 40 MPs, we lost 118; 1951 Labour lost 20 MPs, and we lost 3; 1970 Labour lost 76 MPs, and we lost 6; 1979 Labour lost 50 MPs, and we lost 2; 2010 Labour lost a notional 91 seats and we lost 5 seats.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '19 - 12:19am

    Thanks, Michael, how well that shows the continuing sense in the electorate that we are to be more closely identified with Labour than with the Conservatives. The trouble is, as everyone knows, under First Past the Post there can’t be three major national parties competing for two places, Government and HM Opposition, without one of them failing.

    Robert Ford, professor of political science at the University of Manchester, wrote in The Observer after the May local elections this year, “The Lib Dems are restored to strength in parts of the country that formed their heartland in the 1990s and 2000s – the south-east and south-west, the prosperous towns and suburbs full of middle-class professionals.” It’s fascinating to consider which areas of the country may now possibly be considered ‘heartlands’ for us or for the other parties, but I am more struck by Professor Ford’s last ten words there. For if we are drawing our strongest support from ‘prosperous towns and suburbs full of middle-class professionals’ (a.k.a. metropolitan elites), we are surely fishing in the same ponds as the Labour Party, and there may not be sufficient fish to satisfy us both.

  • Katharine Pindar: Some former Labour supporters seem to be coming over to the Liberal Democrats. If we are seen to be likely winners in certain seats then more might follow. A win in Brecon & Radnor could help that process. The latest YouGov poll has Liberal Democrats on 19%, Labour on 20%, Brexit on 21% and Conservatives on 24%.

  • Katharine,

    I think we are still closely identified with the Conservatives because of the coalition. Also we are traditionally an anti-Conservative Party. Consider our history from 1859 to c. 1915, and from 1958. Consider the Whigs from 1784.

    Our appeal is to people who are not Conservative supporters just like the Labour Party no matter where they live. However, the Labour Party have areas of strong traditional support based on past industrialisation. I expect we have always appealed most to the middle classes such as teachers, civil servants and middle managers.

    The Conservatives are our enemies; the Labour Party are our rivals.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jul '19 - 11:17pm

    ” The Conservatives are our enemies, the Labour Party are our rivals.” That is also how I see our situation, Michael – you have put it well. I am not sure we have the strength as yet to see off our rivals, who are still ahead of us in the polls according to YouGov. In the short term we may have a boost, as Acland, a new contributor I think, suggests, if we win the by-election. (I just hope they are canvassing in the Llandindrod Wells rural areas, as well as in Brecon further south.) In the longer term, I suppose the failure of British industrialisation may have weakened Labour’s traditional support, Michael, and I trust our policies can benefit all classes.

  • Peter Martin 14th Jul '19 - 8:51am

    @ Michael BG @ Katharine Pindar,

    “The Conservatives are our enemies; the Labour Party are our rivals.”

    I’m not sure about that! I really don’t remember the Libs or the Lib Dems for anything other than being a pro-EEC/proEU party. The Libs/Lib Dems have been pretty much neutral on most of the other the big issues of my lifetime such as the Vietnam War, and the Thatcher led anti-trade unionism of the 80s. One possible exception might be the anti-apartheid struggle but that was largely because of Peter Hain personally, who did at one time call himself a Liberal.

    In the late 70s I was living in London relatively close to the Grunwick factory. The largely female and Asian workforce had gone out on strike in protest at the poor pay and conditions they were expected to put up with. I really don’t remember any Liberals taking an active part in the general support the workers had from the political left. And yet it wasn’t just a class issue. It was at least as much about the inate sexism and racism of UK society at the time. Weren’t you supposed to be against that too?

    It was an interesting experience for me. I had the chance to chat to some famous names in the Labour movement. I don’t remember any Liberals though!
    The nearest would have been Shirley Williams who used to be there quite often. But that was before she left the Labour Party. I really don’t know why she did that. She was the only one out of the “Gang of Four” who was, IMO, any real loss to the Labour movement.

    I never saw any of the other three on the picket line.

  • That’s how I too see us in relation to Labour and the Tories these days. The problem is that many in Labour see us as the enemy and paint us as the enemy, and that can be tricky to navigate. This is the advantage of entering into pacts with the Greens. We are still rivals, but in recognising the benefits of supporting each other to beat the Tories, it sends a message to Green supporters and various others, that we are not the enemy and helps to distance us that little bit further away from the Tories.

    I reckon it’s inevitable to have a bit of return to mean in our polling figures. Tempting as it is to remember the best numbers and give them more attention, the very top numbers are just as likely to be the outlier as the less sympathetic ones. There was also a flurry of activity and press attention and people who wanted to make a statement to Labour and the Tories exerting a temporary influence on how people would respond. I take comfort in the fact the figures are still holding up well above where they were, and with hard work and a bit of luck, we can nudge those figures up again over the coming weeks.

    The danger is that once the added media attention of the leadership contest inevitably dips, so does our polling. We need to fight to ensure that neither of those happen.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Jul '19 - 3:52pm

    Those are very good points, thank you, Fiona. Yes we do need to keep working at showing Labour we are not the enemy. The Labour friends who have just been staying with me did mention the bedroom tax, but I told them that our 2017 Manifesto had been more generous about reversing the welfare cuts than Labour’s, and added a bit about our policies on education, jobs and industry, and on social welfare, passed or likely to be passed this autumn. (The Labour activist of the pair was noticeably gloomy and non-commital!)

    Peter Martin, without wishing to be unkind, do you ever intend any of your numerous comments on LDV to be useful in any way? Your comment above just seems to fit the agent provocateur mode. You can’t actually be an active observer of British political life without knowing that Lib Dems are committed to care for and service to the British people, individually and in community, as has long been shown both in our practice at local level and in our constant policy development. We are indeed rivals to Labour, but also colleagues in the better principles and progressive intentions of your party.

  • Paul Barker 14th Jul '19 - 5:57pm

    I think we have to be very careful to distinguish between the good people in The Labour Party & the Labour tradition which is based on Class hatred & Small c conservatism. There has always been a Reformist, even liberal tradition within Labour but its never been dominant & its very much an embattled fringe now.
    The Enemy/Rival distinction is not a useful one.
    Its now fairly clear from recent Polling that The Libdem Surge is slowly fading, my best estimate is that we are currently around 18%. We may get more boosts from a New Leader & Brecon (if we win) but in the longer term we need to build a Libdem/Green/TIG Alliance that can survive a General Election. 20% was never enough.

  • Peter,

    The Liberal Party attitude to Trade Unions and certain industrial disputes is not a good litmus test of their anti-Conservativism. The Grunwick dispute seems to be about the right of an employer to sack their staff and to deny recognition of a trade union ( It seems that at that time the company acted within the letter of the law. I don’t understand why the sacked employees didn’t go to an Employment Tribunal to get reinstated. (The sacked workers joined APEX. The Wikipedia article implies that is why Shirley Williams joined the picket line – because she was sponsored by APEX.)

    If you wanted to do such a test on employee rights a better litmus test would be the Liberal Democrat position on the Employment Relations Act 1999 which restricts the power of an employer not to recognise a trade union when there is sufficient support from the workers to join one or on the EU’s Social Chapter. Unfortunately I don’t know what the party position was.

    Liberalism is about controlling power, therefore I think we should have supported the Employment Relations Act 1999 and the EU’s Social Chapter. Some liberals supported the changes to the law which reduced the power of Trade Unions under Thatcher because they believed that trade unions had too much unregulated power.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Jul '19 - 11:45pm

    Our Liberal, progressive and independent outlook on industry was well illustrated in the motion passed at the Brighton Conference last September, Michael. Its full title was, ‘Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities: Proposals for a New Economy that Really Works for Everyone’, and the proposals were in keeping with our Liberal tradition. We do endeavour to serve all of our people, not just a section such as industry workers and the working class. or the moneyed and privileged.

    I’m a bit surprised, though, Paul, to read that you think of the Labour tradition as being based on ‘class hatred and small-c conservatism’. I need David Raw’s knowledge, but I had seen Labour’s rise, certainly to defend the new unions and the working class, but in keeping with the Liberal tradition which gave the country David Lloyd George and the first social insurance of 1906.

  • Peter Martin 15th Jul '19 - 9:50am

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    “The problem of sustaining Liberalism in Britain today”

    Caused almost entirely by LibDems perceived unconditional support for the EU and all things “European”! When was the last time LibDems mounted a campaign to change anything imposed on the UK by the EU. Apparently our new EU President will be Ursula von der Leyen. Who’s even heard of her in the UK?

    If we stay in the EU we’ll not be allowed to change our clocks between summer and winter time. Now, that may or may not, be a good idea. But whenever Westminster has floated the idea we’ve had lots of discussion. . Those in the South of England tend to like the idea. Those in the North of Scotland say it causes a danger to their children who have to go to school in the dark. That’s as it should be in healthy democracy.

    But when the EU decrees, there’s no discussion whatever!

  • Peter Martin 15th Jul '19 - 10:18am

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    PS Just noticed your previous comment! You can be as unkind as you like about me. But you’d perhaps find that difficult. I know, all too well, just how Lib Dems, who are mainly decent people, think. The overriding desire is to try to bring various sections of society together and always look for the reasonable ‘middle ground’. Sometimes that can work. Other times, like now, it doesn’t.

    The right wing of the Labour Party are just the same. Except maybe less nice! So I’d accept that they were more your rivals. People like Chuka Umunna will likely settle in quite nicely and everyone will wonder why he wasn’t in the Lib Dems to start with.

  • jayne mansfield 15th Jul '19 - 10:21am

    @ Paul Barker,
    Are you certain that a Lib Dem/ Green/TIG alliance would beat a Tory/ Brexit alliance in a General election predicted to happen later this year?

    Traditional party loyalties have been weakened and there are now two strong and determined tribes, the Leavers and the Remainers.

    When deciding tactics, I follow the old adage, first know your enemy.

  • Daniel Walker 15th Jul '19 - 11:00am

    @Peter Martin “But when the EU decrees, there’s no discussion whatever!

    Again, Peter?

    It’s been pointed out to you before, twice, that the discussion of which you speak is still ongoing, has involved a large public consultation, and democratic oversight by both the EU Parliament and the Council of the EU.

    You declined my suggestion to take part in said discussion, which is your right of course, but saying that said discussions don’t take place is just incorrect.

  • Peter,

    So I’d accept that they were more your rivals”.

    I am glad that you now agree with me. It is no good “insulting” us by telling us we are “kind, decent people” who like bringing people together :). I expect these are reasons why you like posting here.

    An EU directive is like a law passed by the EU and it has to pass the elected parliament and the Council of Ministers (made up of one representative from each country). Just like in the UK a law has to pass the Commons and the Lords and in the USA the House of Representatives and the Senate. The only difference is that there is no head of state to also sign it off.

    Perhaps the UK government should have done more to make people aware of the consultation on no longer changing the clocks as it seems the Germans got involved the most. However the UK government isn’t very good at telling us even about their own consultation exercises. Recently they held one on increasing minimum wages but I didn’t see any publicity about it.

  • Peter Martin 15th Jul '19 - 6:18pm

    @ Daniel Walker,

    This is a story of Scottish opposition when Westminster suggests not moving the clocks.

    No-one can have a problem with that. So where is their opposition when the EU suggests the same thing?

    Discussion isn’t just the EU asking us to fill in a form then ignoring all the feedback.
    The clocks may only be a minor issue. Easily solved by letting countries do what they like. Who wants to have to convince the hundreds of million people in the EU to change their clocks, or not change their clocks so we can or can’t do the same? If the French and Germans don’t want (or do want) to change their clocks then why should we care in the UK? They can do what they like.

    The EU have shown themselves to be totally inflexible on the major issues too. The EU PTB don’t listen to popular opinion. David Cameron asked the EU for help and to give the UK a deal that he could sell to the electorate to keep the UK in the EU. He would have told them that popular opinion in the UK couldn’t be relied upon to produce a Remain vote. They offered him next to nothing to help change that. Even the Remain camp felt the same because they didn’t want to speak about the derisory offer prior to the ’16 referendum. It was just an embarrassment to them.

  • @ Paul Barker I agree with Katharine’s comment, “I’m a bit surprised, though, Paul, to read that you think of the Labour tradition as being based on ‘class hatred and small-c conservatism”.

    Anyone with knowledge of early twentieth century politics knows this is a one dimensional view. Until the First World War Labour MP’s worked closely with the Liberal Government and after 1910 their votes helped to maintain its majority. Many Labour M.P.’s (e.g. E.D. Morel, Ramsay Macdonald) began their lives in the Liberal Party. It was Liberal inadequacy and division that inspired their shift.

    Wartime events played havoc with Liberal unity and left a political vacuum. Many radical Liberal MP’s moved to Labour after opposing entry to the war (Trevelyan, Ponsonby, Philip Morrell, Denman etc.) – some because of conscription and the appalling illiberalism of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) – and some because of the failure the extend the franchise to women. Lloyd George’s use of the army in Ireland, Glasgow and the coal mining districts exacerbated disaffection as did Coalition with the Conservatives.

    Yes, there were a few ‘conservative’ class warriors in Labour, but many had been Liberals on the radical side of politics. Look up Ramsay Mac’s first Cabinet and see how many were former Liberals such as the great Richard Haldane – and think about events in Bradford (the Manningham Mills strike) where actions of a Liberal owner (Samuel Lister) led to the founding of the Labour Party.

  • @ David Raw
    You make some good points but I was really thinking of Labour since 1950.
    There have been 2 Labour Government that made some significant Reforms, the 1st Wilson Administration from 1964-70 & the 1st Blair one, 1997-2001 but neither of these was explicitly Reformist as a whole, it was more a case of Individual Ministers being allowed to push pet projects.
    One thing both extremes of Labour agree on is a snobbish disdain for Reform in general, seeing it as holding back The Revolution on The Left or as soppy, southern, Middle-Class & Liberal, on The Right.

  • @ Paul Barker Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, so…. the ‘Labour tradition’ of ‘class hatred and small-c conservatism” started in 1950 ? An interesting new historical theory, Paul. Is that why former Liberal MPs Megan Lloyd George and Dingle Foot joined Labour in 1955 and 1956 – or why former Liberal Harold Wilson became PM in 1964 ?

    Maybe it’s better to stick to flag flying and 0.1% movements in the opinion poll, Paul,
    though I’m grateful that you think I made ‘some good points’.

  • Mick Taylor 16th Jul '19 - 3:24pm

    But Katherine, Labour, especially in the big cities, ARE the enemy. They hate and fear us and will do absolutely anything to stop us being successful. As someone who has seen them at close quarters, I can tell you that except on a few issues we won’t be able to work with them. This is principally because they see us as Labour Party mark II and then when we don’t roll over and do what they want we are class traitors and Tory collaborators.
    This has very little to do with policies, it’s all about tribalism and those in our party who think we can trust Labour to deliver on any agreement we make with them is living in cloud cuckoo land. The only time we did have a (national) deal with them they reneged on PR for Europe, one of the few things in our deal that made it worthwhile.
    Of course any further deal with the Conservatives is not to be contemplated at all. So we’ll have to go out and campaign for the radical changes in the UK that we want and try to win. That, in reality, is the only way we’ll ever deliver Liberal Democracy.
    I’m not against working with others, but the truth is we have little to gain from working with TIG (or whatever it’s now called) and the Green’s authoritarianism is wholly at odds with Liberalism, though we should be able to work with them on Brexit and some at least of our Green policies.

  • Paul Barker 16th Jul '19 - 4:23pm

    We need Allies because we are averaging 18% in recent Polls while our Twin Enemies, Labour & Tories are both around 24%.
    Its not a matter of just adding up the numbers for the various “Progressive” Parties, though that would put us ahead, its about showing that Politicians can work together & treat each other with respect where they disagree. Crucially its about making News & getting the Media talking about us, always our biggest problem.
    Our New Leader & a win in Brecon may get us another boost but that too will be temporary, we need something that will last.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Jul '19 - 5:24pm

    Well argued, David! Thank you for your succinct snapshots of Liberal/Labour history. And was not our great Paddy Ashdown close to coming to terms with Tony Blair on having a share of power, before the decisive Labour victory of 1997? Nor surely would the SDP have been able to merge with the Liberal Party if those rebels from Labour had not shared our values, as does Chuka Umunna apparently now.

    And so, Mick, I disagree with Paul, and also with you when you say “Labour ARE the enemy”. Your next sentence, about that party hating and fearing us and “will do absolutely anything to stop us being successful” seems a little excessive, and still seemed so to me when I first typed ‘ almost anything’ by mistake! It’s true that your statement immediately reminded me of what my old Liberal friend in North Devon who used to live in Liverpool is apt to say about Labour, having experienced the Hard Left there, and fearing it may be reborn in Momentum., but Momentum is not the whole Labour Party.

    As we know, that party is bitterly divided, with their deputy leader Tom Watson lately reviled by a Corbynite union leader, and Stephen Kinnock MP asking Corbyn to order MPs to vote for May’s Brexit deal. There are strong factions in their party that we could conceivably work with, from the whistleblowers on antisemitism to Peter Kyle, the Hove MP and compromise-motion promoter whom I heard speak at a fringe meeting during our Brighton 2016 Conference. You are “not against working with others”, Mick – well, realistically, we are surely likely to work with the Centre-Left and Social Democratic people in the Labour Party in future, whether their party can’t sustain its contradictions and breaks up or not.

  • Mick Taylor,

    It was me who originally posted here, “The Conservatives are our enemies; the Labour Party are our rivals” (13th July 9.41pm). In that post I set out why this is so. It is to do with our position in politics. Also it is important at a national level because as I set on 12th July 10.08pm we often do better when Labour do well and are seen as electable and do badly when people are moving towards voting for the Conservatives.

    At a local level there were many councils in the past where a joint administration of us and Labour worked well.

  • jayne mansfield 16th Jul '19 - 7:43pm

    Enemies is such a strong word. I don’t think many people go out of their way to make enemies, but sometimes one has to accept that one has different political values and priorities that do lead to fundamental differences.

    There are a few on here whose values and priorities I agree with. Yes David Raw, Katharine Pindar, Expats, I mean people like you. ( I hope this doesn’t get you drummed out of the party). I wish there were more of you so that I could still vote Liberal Democrat. Instead the party seems to be dominated by a variety of competing and incoherent personal interests.

  • @ Jayne Thanks, Jayne – much appreciated and agree that enemies is a horrible word. Back in the 60’s the sort of opinions I express now were mainstream Liberal Party attitudes. I totally agree when you say, “Instead the party seems to be dominated by a variety of competing and incoherent personal interests”. I also question basic competence in some of the things I happen to know a bit about. A lot’s happened since then.

    As a Councillor I’ve worked happily with Labour, Conservative (more difficult – but they’re suckers for flattery), SNP, Borders Party and Independents without having to sacrifice any of my principles.

    Back in the 60’s I found Douglas Houghton (Labour MP for Sowerby, and a Gallipoli veteran) a very decent man who took time out to help me with research for my then thesis – I was the Lib PPC and his opponent at the time….. so I don’t know what Mick Taylor has stirred up in Todmorden.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Jul '19 - 10:24pm

    Is our party really ‘dominated by a variety of competing and incoherent personal interests’, Jayne? (though I am glad of your personal approval, thank you!). I don’t see it. Nobody is entirely free of personal interests, unless they are saints, but I am always aware that people standing for office as Liberal Democrats take a financial risk and cannot expect to become rich. sacrifice any likelihood of personal power, and must work hard and give up other pleasurable activities to a greater extent probably than those in the other main parties. I salute you all!

    I agree ‘enemies’ is a strong word, and there are some people I admire among the Tories, but that the mass of them are prepared to allow Boris Johnson to become our Prime Minister in a short while does confirm my sense that the Conservative Party is indeed the enemy. Not that I needed the confirmation. That party stands for retention of power, privilege and wealth for its own kind first and foremost, not for the good of the country, and it took a dispassionate outsider, Professor Alston, to show how far the the party in government has disregarded and been complicit in letting the weakest go to the wall and the poor get ever poorer, to the shame of Britain today.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '19 - 6:24pm

    I happened to catch the tail-end of an interview on the World at One, Radio 4, today, in which Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was apparently talking about poverty, and condemning the roll-out of Universal Credit, which I think Labour want to abolish. Even the scrap I heard contrasted sadly with our party’s failure to endorse UN Rapporteur Philip Alston’s devastating statement and report on poverty and deprivation in our country, showing how Government policy and action have worsened the situation. The Labour Party Welfare spokesperson, unlike our own, has spoken favourably of last month’s final report from Professor Alston. On this crucial subject of social justice, our rivals in the Labour party are doing better than us.

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