A day of light and ideas

Sunrise Little Trout Bay 4These last five days have been among the worst I have known in my almost 31 years of being a part of this wonderful party. I’d pretty much prepared myself for winning only a couple of MEPs. Even those limited ambitions proved to be wildly optimistic. Seeing massive Labour fiefdoms recreated in London and Manchester. t’s been bruising, brutal and fraught. Seeing friends and colleagues lose their jobs and seats through no fault of their own is heartbreaking. And to lose them to wrecking, scapegoating UKIP types is particularly upsetting.

I’ve gone through so many emotions from grief, to worry and anger to immense pride at the incredible dignity of our defeated MEPs and councillors with some little tiny bits of delight at being the teeniest, weensiest part of victory in places like Abi Bell’s ward in Hull and Lucy Care’s in Derby. I’d done a bit of phoning for both of them and it was great to see them prevail against a Labour onslaught.

If I’ve learned anything in my 3 decades, it’s that this party is at its best under fire.  Working together, we are one of the most radical, creative, innovative, generally fabulous organisations I’ve come across. Given that choice isn’t part of this equation, we will pick ourselves up and get marching towards that gunfire again because it’s what we do.

I’m getting a sense from the contents of the LDV mailbag and elsewhere that people really want to stop talking about leadership elections and start to talk about the many practical things that we can do in order to ensure the best possible result next year.

We have loads to think about as a party so today is going to be about light and ideas for the future. How do we meet the competing needs to retain our Westminster seats and rebuild our local government base? How do we hold the fortress but rebuild the citadels? So, I want to hear from you. We’ll kick off today with a couple of posts about why we need to do this and we’ll take it from there. I have some of my own ideas which I’ll put forward.

The light doesn’t stop at midnight, so keep those ideas coming over the next days and weeks.

There are some things that it’s better to talk about in private. In a couple of weeks, the party’s Federal Executive, of which I am a member, has its next scheduled meeting. There’s now a thread in our members’ forum called Conversation with the FE. If you are a party member, come and join in that discussion. Every idea in there will be taken forward and put to the relevant people.

 

 

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

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52 Comments

  • Battered and bruised?

    So here we are, paper cuts from leaflets, nipped fingers by dogs through letter boxes, sworn at by UKIP supporters and that’s just me! Our local party chair even managed to break his ankle after slipping on glossy leaflets whilst delivering

    Are we beaten? I shout with the loudest voice I can NO !

    The vast bulk of voters, even UKIP ones want us to stay in Europe. They may not have voted for us but the policy is right.

    We need to bounce back and bounce back quick and fiercely. In this world of 24hr news we can not afford to spend a single second idle.

    We must get back to delivering focuses, to tweeting sound bites, to fighting the fight.

    We know that our liberal view is right for Britain.

    We lost an election, but if we don’t fight back we will loose the war! So let’s all dust ourselves off and get back to doing what we all do so well.

  • The link in the article isn’t working, any ideas?

  • You could start by appreciating democratic legitimacy comes from the ballot box and that when people vote for you based on a specific manifesto they expect that manifesto to be broadly upheld.

    To say one thing to win votes, then do another thing in power, well, that is not how democracy works.

    You might be tempted to argue against this, to say ‘coalition means compromise’, but that’s not the point. Those compromises have destroyed your vote, and thus your legitimacy to govern. To cling on will only make the electorate reject you further, unless you start doing what your vote expected you to do.

  • I don’t want to intrude too much on private grief Caron but will try and tread carefully.

    It must be awful to see your friends and colleagues lose their jobs & council roles.
    It’s probably going to have an impact on party finances too.

    But the signs have been there. The signs have been writ large on the wall for a long time.

    And continue to ignore it, pretend Clegg’s anything but toxic and 2015 could really mean anything other than a wipeout and loss of senior MPs and the days after May 2015 be very painful compared to this last week.

    The voters have served notice, not just those who have decided to veer to the right, ignore that at your peril.
    Whistling cheerfully, pulling together, all lovely and admirable but to voters it will seem like business as usual.
    The business they have so clearly rejected.

  • Include a referendum on our membership of the EU in the Party’s manifesto, because if the Party holds democracy in any regard – it is the right thing to do [and the voters know it is the right thing to do].

    Cease portraying the Party as the pro EU party [all the mainstream parties are]. Strategically this was a disastrous approach – the UKIP earthquake was not about our membership of the EU – but immigration. Immigration will be as an important issue at the GE as it was during the recent elections.

    The Party’s refusal to even consider leaving the EU, under any circumstances, hacked its potential support down to only those who believe we must stay in the EU and for whom this is the most important issue [less than 10% of the electorate]!

    It is difficult to believe such a simplistic and wrong strategy could have been adopted by a Party whose leaders think they belong in government.

  • g – you just dont get it do you? We lost the 2010 general Election – we could not put into practice our manifesto – we only have 50 odd seats – democracy didnt produce a one party win – so we had to go into what is called a coalition – which involves a lot of negotiation and give and take – but we did it for the good of the country – after the horrific mess Labour had left – thats what good politicians do – they work for the betterment of the society they live in. Yes compromises have to be made – but I still think it was by far the right thing to do. So g – keep on crying and moaning from the sidelines – or get involved

  • g – agreed

    And what needs to be appreciated Caron is much that I have sympathy for your emotional feelings about what has happened to colleagues and friends, you need think about the feelings of many voters such as myself who feel emotionally conned by the positions this party has taken on so many issues since the GE, particularly as we were told so many time s how it was all going to be different from what had gone on in politics before.

    Good luck with the rethink because at the moment I don’t think theres anything particularly radical, creative, innovative, or generally fabulous about a party I voted for at all.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th May '14 - 10:37am

    Great thread. As someone who had the foresight to say that the party of IN campaign was going to be a “net vote loser, especially once you consider opportunity cost.” my point is that ideas have to either be mainstream or have the potential to become mainstream quickly. This was never going to be the case with presenting anger over the EU as “wrong” and us “right”. We needed to be more nuanced than that, which was evidently what was happening towards the end of the campaign as we emphasised reform more, which was one of the things that gave me greater confidence in Nick Clegg.

  • Steve Griffiths 28th May '14 - 10:52am

    Caron

    Yes you are right. The party always has been good at picking itself up and getting out there to start all over again. You recall 31 years, but I recall walking away from Oxford Town Hall with the local Liberal team despondent after the 1979 GE count. We had worked our butts off, only to be badly squeezed between Lab and Con in Margaret Thatcher’s sweep to power. I was a young party secretary in my 20s and felt that we should get on doing things the following week. We began fund raising with jumble sales to finance the next Focus and the next council elections – yes we began with small stuff, but from little things……. Years later OXWAB fell to the Lib Dems.

    Of course you must do this, but it must NOT become a substitute for doing nothing at a national level. The party is very ill at the moment; a party which is loosing so heavily in elections is ailing indeed. Bemoaning those who wish to see fundamental change in either leadership or direction (or both) is simply treating the symptoms, not the disease.

    “Holding our nerve” (i.e. doing nothing) as some have advocated on LDV will not make the patient better.

  • Stuart Mitchell 28th May '14 - 11:04am

    “immense pride at the incredible dignity of our defeated MEPs”

    There wasn’t much dignity on show by Chris Davies on North West Tonight last night. He openly bragged to the interviewer about how, with his ex-MEP pension, he would have a better income than most of his working constituents.

    “The pension kicks in at 63, you know, it’s been featherbedded. Of course, there have been times when I have criticised it, and said we really should change these arrangements. Just at this moment, I’m not criticising it.”

  • We are likely to be totally humiliated at Newark next month, this whole problem will simply re-appear, insteadof lancing the boil we are allowing it to fester and fester.

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th May '14 - 11:18am

    @ Caron,
    It must be hard Caron. Many people willingly give a great deal of their time to politics because they truly want to make the world a better place. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t, but what I have learned from reading contributions on here is how much individuals are prepared to give to pursue their vision.

    IN a way, Ukip has been beneficial in that it has made even those of us who would not call themselves particularly political, realise just what we have to lose if we sit back and do nothing. When there is a common enemy, it makes some of the minor differences seem what they are, minor.

    I don’t for a minute think that Ukip represents the character of the British people, or the hopes and aspirations of the young. The results last Thursday and on Sunday were a set back, but all those hard working councillors and ME’s who lost their seats deserve a big thank you for the work they have put in on our behalf. Four years isn’t such a long time, and already one councillor in Redditch has shown his true colours so opportunities to be re-elected will crop up in the meantime. Keep your chin up!

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '14 - 11:33am

    g

    You might be tempted to argue against this, to say ‘coalition means compromise’, but that’s not the point. Those compromises have destroyed your vote, and thus your legitimacy to govern.

    OK, so we agree to block anything in Parliament which is not 100% our policy. So do all the other parties, “keeping to their principles” by blocking anything which is not in THEIR manifestoes.

    What then?

    Ever since the coalition was formed I’ve been asking this question to people who’ve been making the point you made, and never once got a straight answer.

    The logical conclusion would be that no coalition government is acceptable, therefore we should always have a government of just one party – so we should perhaps ensure the seats are distorted so we always get one. Extra seats to the largest party to give it a majority? Would that satisfy you and all the others moaning at the LibDems for “not keeping their promises”? If so, please be honest and admit what you are really saying – that we should have a 100% Tory government now. Because I can’t see any other way of interpreting your line.

  • @ Caron

    “And to lose them to wrecking, scapegoating UKIP types is particularly upsetting.”

    Can you not see the irony in that comment? You are stereotyping 4.4 million voters in the most illiberal way.

    Wishing to control immigration is an intellectually and morally legitimate aim of a political party.. Your policy is de facto if not de jure limited only to 450 million potential immigrants.

    Farage nailed your Leader on this during both debates, it resonated with the electorate and you never recovered.

  • I do wonder sometimes about the agendas and allegiances of comments-thread posters. Returning to the subject at hand, I think it’s heartening to hear that so many people have been in touch wanting to move forwards in a positive way, rather than the negativity reflected on this comment thread and others.

    I do think that one thing is going to be crucial, however: time and time again, on the doorstep and in conversation, people bring up tuition fees. Yes, we’ve done some explaining, and yes, Nick Clegg has apologised, but until we, as a party, develop a robust counterpoint to this particular broken record, it will stay broken. Whatever counterpoint this is, it needs to be simple. I’ve always seen it as something along the lines of: we didn’t win the seats we’d need to abolish them , so we utilised our position in government to come up with the least unpalatable alternative and prevent the Tories from either bulldozing ahead with their own plans or ignore the situation completely. We are not a party that lets the perfect be the enemy of the good; we didn’t win the seats to push through 100% of our manifesto, but WITH LESS THAN 10% OF THE SEATS IN THE COMMONS, WE STILL MANAGED 75%. That’s more than most single-party governments, and that’s the kind of argument I think we should – must! – be making.

  • Edit: Actually it IS de jure limited, my bad.

  • ” And to lose them to wrecking, scapegoating UKIP types is particularly upsetting.”

    Not wishing to intrude on personal grief, or your blinkered view of how politics should take place, but might I suggest you take off your LibDem rose tinted spectacles, and ask yourself why you have lost your support, rather than looking for something else to mitigate your own failures to.

    You did not lose them to UKIP, you lost them to the people who had decided that you had nothing to offer them. Your arrogant disdain for their views over the last 30 years, and especially the last 10 has shown that when push came to shove you were more interested in promoting party dogma and political ideology, than the interests of the British people. Please feel free to shudder at the thought of UKIP types wrecking your cosy consensus, though you had better get used to it, because on your current course you have nothing that the British people want.

    If your party is to have any future or relevance, then a touch of humility, perhaps an acceptance that you do not have all the answers, or that you even understand the question most of the time, might be a starting point to begin re-evaluating what is the purpose of a LibDem party.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    My point was more that the specific compromises made have destroyed your support.

    More generally, there are real issues with coalitions and FPTP (although I’m sure I don’t have to convince you). I’ve always wondered if Clegg had argued for power based on his share of the vote rather than his share of MPs it would have worked better, both as a way of winning more influence and of convincing the public that PR would be a fairer option. If he had, he could have argued for at least a 2/5 of government to be Lib Dem as well as negotiating something better than a miserable little compromise over AV.

    Under PR the presence of coalitions is usually inevitable, and governments in Wales and Scotland (and administrations in Europe) have functioned well under this system without great public anger at one party or another over compromise.

  • Peeved “you need think about the feelings of many voters such as myself who feel emotionally conned by the positions this party has taken on so many issues since the GE, particularly as we were told so many time s how it was all going to be different from what had gone on in politics before.”

    Very much agree with this post. If so many voters such as ourselves had not been lost, there would not be any need for tears now. Eggs, home, roost.

  • Barry Holliday “We lost an election, but if we don’t fight back we will loose the war! So let’s all dust ourselves off and get back to doing what we all do so well.”

    Barry I admire your energy . When you say ‘we lost an election’ this is just the latest in a whole run of elections which have been lost and lost badly. In one election the Lib Dems came behind the joke ‘Elvis’ Party. Also when you say ‘dust ourselves off and get back to….’ That’s the whole point. What you’ve been doing hasn’t worked for a long time now. The country is not listening to the Lib Dems. Business as usual will only lead to more heartache.

  • ” Seeing friends and colleagues lose their jobs and seats through no fault of their own is heartbreaking. ”

    So who’s fault is it? Nick? The media? UKIP? The voters?

    The whole party has to take some collective responsibility. The leadership and parliamentary party has pursued unpopular policies which the whole party has either supported or acquiesed to. These policies have alienated erstwhile suporters and contributed to popular disenchantment with the body politic (a new type of pilitics, no more broken promises etc) If individuals have resisted or oppossed tuition fees rises, secret courts, NHS privatisation etc then maybe its not their fault but in general the party membership and elected representatives have enthusiastically supported them whilst simultaneously bemoaning that voters don’t understand or won’t listen because of the right wing press and Nasty Nigel.

    It’s time to take the heads out of the sand stop blaming everyone but yourselves and take some responsibility.

  • John Grout “we didn’t win the seats to push through 100% of our manifesto, but WITH LESS THAN 10% OF THE SEATS IN THE COMMONS, WE STILL MANAGED 75%. That’s more than most single-party governments, and that’s the kind of argument I think we should – must! – be making.”

    Matthew Huntbach will tell you far more eloquently than I ever could, why that is exactly the wrong thing to say.

  • Saying that we should put the leadership question to one side and concentrate on rebuilding the party ignores the fact that, to voters, the leader is the public face of the party. If the leader is desperately unpopular, it’s unlikely that any amount of Focus leaflets will change that. As long as Clegg is leader, I just don’t think people will listen to anything the party says, no matter how eloquent or effective the message is.

  • John Nicholson 28th May '14 - 12:18pm

    There seems to be confusion about the compromises necessary in a coaltion government. Of course it is true that compromises have been necessary, and I accept that. What I do not accept is that, having made a pledge (a pledge!) not to increase student fees at the time of the last General Election, immediately we got into goverment, we voted for it. This has become the defining feature of our role in government in the public mind, and I know lots of people who won’t vote for us because of it. It is the only issue they mention, even during Council elections.
    Given the nature of the pledge, we simply should not have voted for it. The meaure would still have gone through in the face of 57 LibDem abstentions, but we would not have got the blame.
    As it is, the mark of this broken promise is now indelible, at least on Nick Clegg. Whether we can ever get back to where we were remains to be seem. Personally, I am not optimistic. But whatever happens in the future, I really think we should consider in depth how we handled this issue. It is not just “one of those compromises”, it is the one act which may well have damaged the party’s electoral prospects for a generation.

  • John Grout
    “We are not a party that lets the perfect be the enemy of the good; we didn’t win the seats to push through 100% of our manifesto, but WITH LESS THAN 10% OF THE SEATS IN THE COMMONS, WE STILL MANAGED 75%. That’s more than most single-party governments, and that’s the kind of argument I think we should – must! – be making.”

    So now the LDs can be blamed for 75% of the stuff this govt has enacted & the Cons get away with the blame for only 25% ??!!

    Funny kind of message to give if you’re trying to encourage LD voters if you ask me.

  • Matthew Oakeshott has resigned.

    “I am today taking leave of absence from the House of Lords and resigning as a member of the Liberal Democrats. I am sure the Party is heading for disaster if it keeps Nick Clegg; and I must not get in the way of the many brave Liberal Democrats fighting for change.”

  • Martin B. Maths isn’t your strong point is it. 75% of our manifesto means we acheived three quarters of the things we set out to achie. It does not mean it is three quarters of what the government did. It is a much smaller proportion of that, probably in line with the 1-5 ratio of our MPs to the Tories.

  • Wow 75% of our manifesto whilst in government, is this the same figure 75% which gets enacted when the party are in opposition as well, there is so much similar between parties… ah well keep deceiving yourselves.

    The party had the power to do so much more, NHS, Welfare, *Education* and most of all protect the most vulnerable the sick and disabled who are still in for more cuts to pay for the mistakes of the City… so much more indeed.

  • “We need to bounce back and bounce back quick and fiercely. … We must get back to delivering focuses, to tweeting sound bites, to fighting the fight. We know that our liberal view is right for Britain.”

    Sorry, that’s a recipe for disaster. Manic efforts and closed minds will merely continue to repel the voters.

    There is plenty of room for argument as to what has gone wrong. One can blame Clegg, or defend Clegg. One can blame coalition or defend it. One can blame an excessively pro-European stance, or argue that this was not the crucial issue. One can argue that we need to revert to our traditional centre-left principles: one can argue that we must retain our new-found centre-right stance: one can argue that we need to stop shifting around and grow some honesty. One can conceivably argue any of these things. What is crazy is to attempt to continue arguing that nothing has gone wrong.

    There is plenty of room for argument for what we need to do next. Ditching Clegg can be argued to be our salvation – or only a first step – or perhaps a big mistake that will not help. However, we can’t just carry on the way we have done. Clearly that has failed.

  • Phil Rimmer 28th May '14 - 1:06pm

    I was taught that there are five stages in dealing with grief at the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

    Frankly, I am very surprised that you are still stuck between the second and third stages, Caron. You have used LDV to attack those of us party members willing to call for Clegg resign. Now you are attacking the voters who chose UKIP.

  • Tabman “Martin B. Maths isn’t your strong point is it. 75% of our manifesto means we acheived three quarters of the things we set out to achieve. It does not mean it is three quarters of what the government did. It is a much smaller proportion of that, probably in line with the 1-5 ratio of our MPs to the Tories.”

    Exactly; that was my point. We have to campaign on what we’ve done, and that includes both enacting a large proportion of our 2010 manifesto, and preventing the Tories from enacting some of their more hard-right proposals, such as at-will employment. There are,of course, those out there who will never be satisfied short of a party-wide ritual seppuku (some of which I suspect are posting on this thread); we need to move beyond a simple desire for retribution/ damnation, into actually *doing* something positive. This, I suspect, is exactly what Caron was driving at above.

    I suspect that the best way forward will be to acknowledge some of the more common criticisms we’re hearing of the party; own them, accept them, and remind people of our many successes, thereby depriving the lynch mob of some of their sharper weapons. Of course there should be an element of humility and contrition around areas which remain controversial, but if we don’t move beyond that to own our triumphs over the last 4 years, we may as well all pack up and go home, and I’m supremely disinclined to do that.

  • John Grout “I do think that one thing is going to be crucial, however: time and time again, on the doorstep and in conversation, people bring up tuition fees. Yes, we’ve done some explaining, and yes, Nick Clegg has apologised, but until we, as a party, develop a robust counterpoint to this particular broken record, it will stay broken”

    On another thread, Andre Garrett made the point that when it comes to voting “Emotion is much more influential than dispassionate factual argument. ” I feel that is very true when it comes to the issue if tuition fees. People feel betrayed and no amount if factual argument will persuade them. So I honestly don’t think any ‘robust counterpoint ‘ will be sufficient.

  • “I suspect that the best way forward will be to acknowledge some of the more common criticisms we’re hearing of the party; own them, accept them,”

    Yes I agree

  • I do not see what the FE can achieve if Clegg is still keeping to his position of “no change is allowed”

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '14 - 2:14pm

    g

    I’ve always wondered if Clegg had argued for power based on his share of the vote rather than his share of MPs it would have worked better, both as a way of winning more influence and of convincing the public that PR would be a fairer option.

    Well, it would have meant the Parliamentary party run ragged if it had been granted. Although I don’t think the back-bench Tories would have take it – If you look in Tory discussion groups, you’ll find the coalition written up in a very different way than the line that tends to be seen from its attackers here. One thing that needs to be pointed out is the innumeracy of most Tories and media commentators – I used to think they were making it up, but after the AV debacle, I’ve come to realise that the maths of electoral reform really is beyond most of them.

    Nevertheless, yes, of course it should have been pointed out when the coalition was formed – that this was not a coalition on our terms, not the sort of coalition we have been wanting which would arise from a proportional system, a coalition in which our strength was much reduced due to the distortional representation electoral system. A lot of the problems of the way the coalition has been received comes from the raised expectations it created initially when the impression was given that Cameron and Clegg were almost equal partners. This inevitably led to feelings of betrayal when the coalition produced the sort of policies it was bound to given the proportion of its members from the two parties. Anyone with a bit of tactical sense would have realised that. This is an example of how one can get away from it being Clegg the person that’s the problem, not just the formation of the coalition. I suspect Clegg really did think that if he stood there next to the Tory ministers looking every bit the “proper politician”, people would like him and our support would go up. Anyone with a little bit of practical grassroots campaigning experience could have told him how wrong he was on that – but it looks like he never bothers to stoop to consulting such people – they are just there to do what he says and bring in the vote … or take the blame if it doesn’t come in.

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th May '14 - 2:21pm

    @ theakes,
    Isn’t it too late?

    I ask because if Nick Clegg ( David Laws et al) are removed and the party still does badly, the fault cannot be squarely placed on him and the ministers he has surrounded himself with. Instead it might be blamed on party ‘indiscipline’.

    I would have thought that acceptance and allowing the chickens to come home to roost at the GE would be the best way forward. After that, an analysis of where it all went wrong can take place and changes can be made on the findings.

    In my opinion, the electorate aren’t suddenly going to regain trust in one year, the damage has been too great.

  • A few starters would be
    1) Reverse the Bedroom Tax. Even daily mail readers are starting to criticize it because of the lack of smaller housing for people to be able to move into. Not to mention the damning report by the UN
    2) Cancel Universal Credit. The project is a complete failure, has been reset so many times and millions written off already and a further 90 million to be written off. The project has been a disaster and unworkable, especially as it requires real time earnings updates from HMRC for people with fluctuating pay etc.
    3) Abolishing help to buy which is creating another housing bubble
    4) Reform the WCA it is not working, upto 50% of ESA decisions are being overturned in the courts, costing the country millions in added costs to the DWP and the Justice department (and the human cost to many vulnerable people)
    5) commit to reversing the NHS privatization and instead raise income tax by 1%
    6) Appose companies like serco, G4S, A4E from being able to tender government contracts when they have been found guilty of overcharging or fraudulence.
    7) Insist on a LVT or mansion tax
    8) Force land holders who are sitting on land which is earmarked for housing development.
    9) Commit to an EU referendum and give the people their say. After all we are supposed to live in a democracy and it is perfectly legitimate for the UK citizens to have a choice of whether they want to be a member of the EU or not. It feels very much like a dictatorship from ALL of the parties with this we know best attitude.
    10) Appose Fracking. If wealthy land owners are sitting on land which is needed for housing, they sure as heck should not be able to profiteer and use it instead for fracking.
    11) Make it quite clear to the electorate that IF liberal democrats where too enter another coalition with either the Tories OR Labor, they will stick to the policies that are in the coalition agreement AND they will use their Veto on polices that are not in the coalition agreement if it goes against the parties constitution and there was no mandate for such a policy i.e the NHS reforms.
    12) A promise that any future coalitions will be transparent, that where disagreements exist and a compromise is made, the public are aware of where each party started from on the policy and what the compromise was. That is a perfectly transparent and legitimate way to run a coalition, so that the electorate can see DEMOCRACY at work.

  • Oh and I forgot one more thing.

    reduce the 5 years fixed term parliaments. Half a decade is far to long for the country to have too wait before it gets it say on the government. Reduce it to 4 years or less

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '14 - 2:30pm

    John Grout

    Exactly; that was my point. We have to campaign on what we’ve done, and that includes both enacting a large proportion of our 2010 manifesto, and preventing the Tories from enacting some of their more hard-right proposals, such as at-will employment

    But that’s what the party nationally has been trying to do, and it hasn’t worked. The problem is that exaggerating our influence and twisting dubious compromises to make out they were exactly what we wanted in the first place just makes things worse for us. People see a government which is very right-wing Tory, even if we have softened it a bit at the edges, and if we make out we have been a huge influence on it by twisted and distorted arguments, it just leaves people thinking if we’re so happy with it, we must be much more right-wing than we let on in the election. Again, this indicates it’s Clegg the person and those he has chosen to surround himself with as advisers who are the problem, not just the mere fact of the coalition. They just haven’t listened to wiser and more experienced voice telling them that this approach is damaging to us. The promotion of the 75% figure was hugely damaging to us, in part because it was very easily misread as us being responsible for 75% of the government’s policies (most people aren’t mathematically inclined so a line which depends on them understanding the subtlety here just won’t work), and in part because anyone who looked at what this government is doing would conclude it cannot possibly be one so close to the Liberal Democrats’ ideal, so if it is as they are claiming, it’s an ideal much more right-wing than was expected of the party.

  • @matt
    How about a new project to introduce marine energy? Such energy would be low-carbon and could help to keep the price of electricity low

  • Matthew Huntbach – So what are the alternatives, then? Bring down the government? Wash our hands of what achievements we have managed to make in spite of the Tories? Give up and go home? Apologies if I’m sounding stupid or repetitive, but there seems to be a lot of what’s currently wrong here (as has been and is being aired extensively elsewhere), but very little of what we can actually *do* about it.

    If we can’t talk about what we’ve achieved in government because it’s stained by association with the Tories and the coalition, then what evidence *do* we have to stand on – assuming, of course, that we make a stand on evidence in the first place? Achievements in local government are good and can be compelling in places, but overreliance on them will merely feed the “Lib Dems are only a party of local government” criticsm, which one also hears quite a lot. Your implied point in your first comment re: coalition governments as a whole is very good, by the way; surely by following that to its logical conclusion, we can talk about achievements in government to some extent? Discussion of points for the 2015 manifesto is surely a starting point, but until we address the issue of credibility (the tuition fees hangover), that will only be of so much help.

    The amount of negativity at the moment is understandable, but I wonder if we run the risk of cutting off our noses to spite our faces, sometimes. At some point we need to transition into actually doing something; a contraction next year is surely on the cards, but endless negativity will only see us hammered unreasonably hard.

  • John Penson 28th May '14 - 3:34pm

    Read through most of these posts. Surely changing the leader is like shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic. However Nick is very wrong to say ” There will be NO change in policy” This is a very arrogant statement given the LD very poor polling position and less than one year to the General Election. Surely it is time to review all LD policies then to stop wasting time squabbling but to ensure a clear coherent and positive message is effectively communicated to the electorate by a united party. You do not need me to spell out the outcome id this is not done!

  • Matthew Huntbach

    Well, it would have meant the Parliamentary party run ragged if it had been granted. Although I don’t think the back-bench Tories would have take it – If you look in Tory discussion groups, you’ll find the coalition written up in a very different way than the line that tends to be seen from its attackers here. One thing that needs to be pointed out is the innumeracy of most Tories and media commentators – I used to think they were making it up, but after the AV debacle, I’ve come to realise that the maths of electoral reform really is beyond most of them.

    Leaving aside the efforts it would require of Lib Dem MPs, this goes back to my point about democratic legitimacy. Votes aren’t handed to a party like an unrestricted donation to be spent on whatever they choose, they are given on the understanding that the party will act a certain way, and are taken away when that party does not, or when another party offers a better investment.

    Clegg was given a big chunk of votes, that should have given him enough power to go over the heads of Tory MPs to the public and demand that the latter listen to the 20 odd percent of the former, regardless of the numerically unfair distribution of MPs. It is the voter that holds power over politicians, not the other way around.

    Many in the Lib Dems who support Clegg do not seem to realise this. They are acting as if power, once achieved, is a license to do what THEY want, not what the voter expected of them.

  • Firm Liberal 28th May '14 - 7:50pm

    I sill hesitate to comment on our massive dilemma. If I had the answer I’d have jumped in straightaway. But the answer is a long time coming.
    Canvassing and chatting to many people they refuse to take us as a party seriously. They will not give our leader a hearing.To a large extent Tuition Fees still haunt us. The Coalition is seen by many of our traditional supporters as a betrayal – although I backed it as the only way to a government strong enough to lead.
    But when our people in local government, in Scotland and Wales.in the European parliament spoke and acted they did so (usually !) wisely. Now those voices have in many cases been silenced. Who speaks for example in Liverpool where we replaced Degsey and transformed much of the city or in Islington or Manchester and a dozen other places. Who will be the UK Liberal voice in a European parliament swamped by a dangerous right wing ? Who is best able to ensure a strong and effective presence in the 2015 UK Parliament ?
    Where are those best able to promote an effective liberalism ? Others must answer. I have sadly my own conclusion.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th May '14 - 11:08pm

    @Phil Rimmer, “You have used LDV to attack those of us party members willing to call for Clegg resign.”

    Where have I attacked anybody? I’ve said I’m not signing the letter, but I understand and share the fears and anxieties of those who have.

  • John Pension “Surely it is time to review all LD policies then to stop wasting time squabbling but to ensure a clear coherent and positive message is effectively communicated to the electorate by a united party”

    Do you think that’s possible say on Tuition Fees? It seems to me there is a lot of dissent on that issue alone, never mind others, and whichever way the Party decides for the 2015 Manifesto, it cannot help but become a laughing stock.

  • Phil Rimmer 29th May '14 - 8:20am

    @Caron Lindsay
    Caron, if attacks on firstly party members who want rid of Clegg and then a side swipe at UKIP voters weren’t the over all intention of the two most recent pieces I read by you here on LDV, then I honestly don’t know what you intended them as.

  • Roger Harcourt 29th May '14 - 10:11am

    Thanks, Caron for a realistic yet inspiring piece. My sentiments entirely. And I’ve been in this party since birth, nearly seventy five years ago.

    Roger Harcourt

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th May '14 - 10:36am

    John Grout

    Matthew Huntbach – So what are the alternatives, then? Bring down the government? Wash our hands of what achievements we have managed to make in spite of the Tories? Give up and go home? Apologies if I’m sounding stupid or repetitive, but there seems to be a lot of what’s currently wrong here (as has been and is being aired extensively elsewhere), but very little of what we can actually *do* about it

    Why don’t you try looking at my arguments with ‘g’ here to see that I’m not a person making unrealistic assumptions about what was achievable in the coalition?

    You are asking what we should DO, and yes, what I am writing is more about what we should have DONE. From the start I think we should have been more downbeat about the coalition, as the way our leadership has presented it, and has exaggerated our real achievements in it only comes across as making us look far more supportive of Tory policies than we really are.

    The thing we should be saying again and again is that the more Liberal Democrat MPs there are, the more Liberal Democrat in policy will be any coalition that involves us. That ought not to be a difficult thing for us to say, because all it is really is “Vote Liberal Democrat”, isn’t that a thing our party leader should be saying from time to time? By not making the point about our representation being distorted downwards by the electoral system, and thus our power weakened, he lost us that one right away, when it could have been a powerful line in favour of electoral reform in the referendum a year later. Clegg’s continuing exaggeration about our achievements and tone of rejoicing at what was a very poor compromise, even though I agree a necessary one, has lost us the ability to use the “We need more Liberal Democrat MPs so we can exert more influence line”. Refusing to acknowledge our weak position in the coalition and pretending we have so much influence in it is actually sending out the message that we don’t need more Liberal Democrat MPs to achieve what we want, it is a Liberal Democrat leader in effect saying “Don’t vote Liberal Democrat”.

    I don’t think we should bring down the government. The time for doing that was when it brought in large-scale reorganisation of the NHS in complete contradiction to the Coalition agreement. THAT was when we SHOULD have said, “ok, that’s enough, we’re off”. It’s too late now. I think we should be making plans to leave the government, in however, in order to re-establish our independence well before the general election. I think that re-establishment of our independence needs to be done under a different leader than the one we have at present. Of course we should talk about our achievements in the current government but make clear that due to our low numbers it was very far from our ideal.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 29th May '14 - 1:02pm

    The immediate thing to do is thank those who lost their seats at any level, those who worked their butts off in the elections, and those who voted for our party. I say ‘thank you’ too.

    Second, get the representatives together from all local groups who won, lost, worked hard in the constituencies – and make a new plan to take to your Federal Executive. Please don’t leave it all to go through forums or you will surely get more of the same after analysis.

    Third, try to make a POSITIVE image for our party and not look like the rabble we are being portrayed as. This can only be dome by using our principles in a constructive way. Look to the future.

    Fourth, please stop the mantras of Party of IN, Fairer Society etc. and all those other sound-bites created by boffins who don’t realize how lame they appear to the public, even when they are correct. Be up-to-date not coasting.

    Fifth, start again because what you were doing isn’t working. Clinging to the past will sink us all. Open eyes!

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