A letter to disheartened Layla supporters

In the aftermath of our leadership election, emotions are high. I know there are people disappointed by the result. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disheartened to be on the losing side. I know Ed is a great liberal, a caring person, and a hugely credible environmental campaigner and I’m still a Liberal Democrat at the end of the day no matter what.

With that said, many of you saw the need for new energy, a fresh start and a revitalisation of our party.

The leadership is only one aspect of our party and one piece of the puzzle. Please don’t give up.

Local, Scottish and Welsh elections are approaching.

We have lots of fresh faced, energetic and bright young talent in the party. People who embody what it is we loved about Layla in the first place. People like Molly Nolan in Caithness, Sutherland & Ross and Jenny Marr in the Scottish Borders.

Support them. Lift them up.

We’re a grassroots party at heart. When I ran for council in 2017 it wasn’t leader Tim Farron that won me my seat, it was our local grassroots!

Grieve if you need to, but don’t quit!

Let’s keep our spirits and momentum up. Let’s get a fresh and vibrant slate of candidates selected for our upcoming elections and LET’S HELP THEM WIN!!

To quote Layla one last time. Let’s move forward TOGETHER!

* Ben Lawrie is the youngest Liberal Democrat Councillor in Scotland, representing the Monifieth & Sidlaw Ward on Angus Council. He was the candidate for the Angus Constituency in the 2019 General Election.

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  • Peter Hayes 27th Aug '20 - 6:15pm

    I feel for those who worked for and supported Lyra. It looks like we will stuck with the Labour attacks, “what did you do in the coalition”, not what we want if we want to defeat BJs government or even avoid the taint locally.

  • Peter Hayes 27th Aug '20 - 6:17pm

    Sorry Lyla my spelling checker has been reading too much Philip Pullman!

  • Geoffrey Dron 27th Aug '20 - 6:24pm


    LDs have a long way to go and I’m not sure this leader has it in him to turn the situation around.

  • Yeovil Yokel 27th Aug '20 - 6:26pm

    Good for you, Ben Lawrie.

  • Brexit apart the problem the party has is not so much what we say but rather we say nothing. Until that is solved we will drift. Still congrats to SirEd so now we should re-unite our Liberal and Social Democrat wings and attack the Conservatives.

  • John Marriott 27th Aug '20 - 7:01pm

    There should always be a place in a pluralistic democracy for a party supporting liberal values. How big a place is debatable. In a good year it could be in double figures; but I doubt whether it would ever constitute a majority. The problem is how you construct a system that makes sure that this voice gets a chance to be heard.

    As a supporter of what basically is a liberal approach, I accept that I am in a minority. That doesn’t mean that my ideas are wrong, and I guess that a socialist or a conservative would say the same about their positions. However, none of us can claim to be in the majority. Nobody has all the answers. What we need is to try to work better together and stop trying to pick up brownie points.

    That won’t be easy when the Lib Dems’ 8% of the votes nationally doesn’t at least produce 8% of the seats, either in the Council Chamber or the House of Commons. Pie in the sky? Probably yes? Worth striving for? You bet!

  • Matt (Bristol) 27th Aug '20 - 7:17pm

    TIm Rogers, I don’t think a simplistic narrative that there is a need to unite two wings of ‘liberals’ and ‘social democrats’ cuts it at all.

    The party was an overlapping mess of , centrists, economic liberals, liberal centrists, social liberals, localist and regionalist social democrats, and centralising social democrats … and that was before an increased emphasis on identity awareness and a desire to end the concept of ‘conscience issues’ pushed further divisions of a ‘culture war’ type on the party.

    Just because you had two leadership candidates, don’t assume you have two factions.

  • Confession time. After more than a decade of commenting as Peter I am now Pete. That is because I’m aware that another is commenting with the name Peter. I only hope that I remember my new name. Moderators please note.

    I regard myself as a semi-detached Lib Dem so I did not declare support for either candidate. Now that it is over, I feel that Ed will not advance the party. As a centrist, I did not welcome Layla’s intentions but since she was not Ed, she would have got my vote. The party lacks energy and I think Layla has that.

    Finally, the climate change policies are misguided because the science is corrupted. The momentum behind this will probably take years to feed through. Ed hasn’t got a clue about the science but has a completely closed mind, believing fervently that the science is settled. That is a failure in any politician. Science is never settled, and scientific beliefs not supported by evidence are eventually cast aside.

  • He was in the coalition.He WILL be attacked with it.I trust he will have a way of coping with it. He needs to say SOMETHING to stir the media, Not another middle aged man to reminisce about the old days but take notice of Layla’s emotions feelings ,tactics you name it AND come across firm decisive. The party does need to inspire its activists.

  • Well said Ben. The election was fair, the decision has been made, the mandate is clear. Let’s get behind Ed and move forward.

  • richard underhill. 27th Aug '20 - 8:35pm

    Under Gordon Brown Labour had a deputy leader who was also chaired the party.
    In Labour the leader made those decisions and made clear who was in charge.
    Therefore the strategist is superfluous. The role needs relevant experience which Layla has, but her support for ‘proportional representation’ is a problem. Only a small proportion of candidates are actually elected, the rest are mere cannon fodder.
    How can we say “Your vote counts” to potential members and to the general electorate when it would not be true of most of our MPs?
    A dislike of the disproportionate First Past The Post should not imply a liking for PR.
    This was good in South Africa ONCE. Nelson Mandela was elected ONCE. He won ONCE.
    There is a better way and we know what it is. STV
    Let’s get this right.
    We should campaign for what we believe in, which was not what we did in THAT referendum.

  • richard underhill. 27th Aug '20 - 8:44pm

    In our party the leader is not a Fuhrer.
    The leader is only a leader if he has followers who have freedom of speech and other freedoms.
    Having unelected MPs is a recipe for division. We need genuine unity.

  • Nigel Jones 27th Aug '20 - 9:26pm

    There is so much to be said about the need for change in our party and I support having Layla as deputy leader and I hope she works hard to continue the parliamentary enquiry into the government’s handling of the recent crisis and deals with the expected report from the commission looking at future of education, which she set up. I hope both of them will do more to help prepare for the local elections next May.

  • @ Richard Underhill “Having unelected MPs is a recipe for division”.

    Are you referring to the unelected House of Lords, Mr Underhill, where the Lib Dems have a plentiful supply ?

    And, come to think of it, I’m not a great fan of knighthoods (a fashion started by David Steel) or of giving C.B.E.’s to members who lose their seats at a young age.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Aug '20 - 10:46pm

    The difference between peerages and other honours is that you have to be a peer in order to sit in the upper house of Parliament and that is a place we need to have people. (Of course we were uncoupling peerages from membership of the Lords in the LD House of Lords reforms which were scuppered by a nasty alliance between right-wing Tories and the Labour Party about seven years ago). What use having the other honours may be, I do not know, and frankly I don’t know why we conspire in handing them out.

  • Denis Mollison 27th Aug '20 - 11:05pm

    @Richard Underhill
    Can you explain your comment about “Layla … her support for ‘proportional representation’ is a problem”? The party has long been in favour of PR in the form of STV, and I would assume any reference by Layla to PR to mean STV.

  • Hi everyone, I would also like to clear a few things up.
    I have been posting on and off as ‘Pete’ on Lib Dem Voice and other politics forums, because I was aware that another Lib Dem posted with the name Peter.
    My real name.
    So just to help everyone, from now on I’ll be posting as ‘Peter’, rather than Pete as that name seems to have been taken from me by the very same Pete that forced me into Petehood in the first place. Moderators take note.

    Anyhow, I personally supported Layla Moran to the extent that I regularly campaigned for her over the last 2 months. But I will 100% stick with the party even though she lost.
    Last night I went to bed a member of the Liberal Democrats, and today I woke up a member of the Liberal Democrats, the party hasn’t changed, it’s still a home for all liberals across the UK and the best platform for Liberal change.

    I think Ed has been a good MP for the last 23 years and he *could* go on to to make a good Party Leader, but his chances at succeeding will only be reduced if we seek to undermine him and constantly make smug comments about ‘oh this wouldn’t have happened if Layla had won’.
    As Ben and Layla said let’s move forward together!

  • Daniel Walker 28th Aug '20 - 7:16am

    @Denis Mollison “ The party has long been in favour of PR in the form of STV

    Some people think PR is a single system. I don’t know which system, but I have had to point out that STV is a form of PR on here before.

    @richard underhill “This was good in South Africa ONCE. Nelson Mandela was elected ONCE. He won ONCE.

    He only stood ONCE, Richard, so I’m not sure the electoral system is relevant there!

  • Re the “2 wings of the party”. My wife and I voted differently in this election. Nothing to do with ideology of the candidates. One went for experience and the other for a clearer break with the coalition years. The left-right issue was not involved. I am sure it was the same for many others.

  • I agree with Ben’s sentiments entirely, but like @Matt (Bristol) I suspect that in the mid/long term he is right, we are an unstable coalition of various types who are united only by our distrust of the two main parties. We can’t even agree what a Liberal is.
    @John Marriott, I’m not sure that liberalism (in it’s broad philosophical sense) is a minority position as you suggest. Freedom of speech, the rule of law, respect for the individual (all individuals, with no hierarchy of value) I imagine the vast majority of our fellow citizens would sign up to that.

  • John Marriott 28th Aug '20 - 9:51am

    @Chris Cory
    Point taken. You are probably right that, deep down, many more than 8% of the voting population harbour ‘Liberal’ views – and a few under voting age as well. The trouble is that many would be surprised to have them described as a ‘philosophy’.

    However, I think you would be surprised to learn how many people there are out there, who would be quite prepared to shelve ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘respect for the individual’ for the sake of ‘Law and order’, which would be how the ‘rule of law’ would probably be defined in their lexicon.

  • Christopher Haigh 28th Aug '20 - 11:58am

    Hopefully Sir Ed will be able to work well with Sir Keir to effectively oppose the Tories.

  • Ethicsgradient 28th Aug '20 - 5:44pm


    A libertarian outsider looking in. Both were poor choices, Davey the marginally better of the two. Beyond the Lib Dem bubble Layla Moran was widely derided, seen a totally out of touch with most of the country and elitist.

    Ed Davey is a grey man. I don’t think the public are aware of him. Some association with the coalition government but that is becoming history now. They does not seem to be any vision or energy about him.

    Lib Dem’s I urge you, go back and connect with the fundamentals of libertarianism. Besides your EU policy a ‘liberal’ party is where I’d be looking to vote. Freedom of the individual, small government as an ideal, localism and community involvement.

    I dislike the central control of Labour’s innate desire to control usually with big government. I dislike the Tory’s natural conservatism (change and dynamism are good things) and cronyism

    Lib Dem’s put the Eurpean Union issue into the past ( the country has decided again and again … and has moved on). Create a clear vibrant vision of what a new UK could be like in 10 years. Time to connect with your soul one more.

  • Neil Fawcett 28th Aug '20 - 7:37pm

    Nice article Ben.

    @Peter Hayes – don’t worry, Philip Pullman had posters up for Layla in the last election 🙂

  • “go back and connect with the fundamentals of libertarianism. Besides your EU policy a ‘liberal’ party is where I’d be looking to vote. Freedom of the individual, small government as an ideal, localism and community involvement.”

    Yep to an extent I would agree with that although I would call it classical liberalism rather than libertarianism and I think it needs complemented by well funded public services (albeit more localised and user centred than the ones we have) and a proper welfare safety net which is why I am not personally a libertarian.

  • I feel the party has missed an opportunity to move forward. We now have the situation whereby the three main English parties have leaders that are all London MPs, all white, all middle aged, all straight …. in this mushness of similarity I feel we will struggle to get the Liberal voice heard – it will be drowned out with questions such as “and how did you vote in the coalition”, and the other two parties drive to return us to a two-party state. With Layla will would have been noticed – now I feel we will be ignored, again.

  • good article but I think at this point I’m here for the ongoing Pete/Peter saga…

  • Ethicsgradient 28th Aug '20 - 10:54pm


    Interestingly we are on the same page. In that along with more core principles of libertarianism, I am also at heart a pragmatist ( I’m not fussed where it comes from if it works). So like yourself I too would want a social safety net ahead of all out individualism. That could be through state or charitable sources (whichever works best)… I think that was the notion behind Cameron’s ‘big society’. Yes I am close to classical liberalism.

    Back to my point though. I urge the Lib Dems to go back to basic principles, then develop pragmatic policy from there. Create a positive vision of how the UK you’d like to create in 10years. A coherent vision. Not just EU good, everything else bad. Good luck.

  • For me, we made a mistake. First interview on the Beeb, and Ed defends the coalition.

    Add in to his questionable campaign, the borderline obsession with Tim (bearing in mind Tim said he’d have voted against keeping access to abortions hard for domestic abuse victims, on top of the LGBT+ issues) and the lack of contrition/apology for the mistakes the RO mentioned, and he’s got a lot of work to do to convince me to get on board with him as leader.

    If he does listen to members, understands our concerns with him as leader, and demonstrates that, fine – I’m not one of those who are leaving because he won, but I will remain cyncial until he convinced me otherwise.

    It’s a conservative decision by the membership, when it was the perfect time to be radical.

  • “First interview on the Beeb, and Ed defends the coalition.”

    He’s good at defending it though!

    With Tim Farron we tried “I wasn’t part of it” and actually lost more votes.

    With Jo Swinson we tried “I’m sorry we didn’t win more battles” and lost a seat.

    So Plan C is “Here’s how I took the fight to the Tories at the heart of government”.

    It might just work.

  • @Marco
    1. Tim Farron “actually lost more votes” for entirely different reasons (which need hardly be repeated); and
    2. An alternative Plan C could have been “I wasn’t part of it, so let’s move on, work to rebuild lost trust and credibility, learn from our past mistakes and focus on our fresh and progressive vision for the future” … but we’ll now have to wait and see whether Ed’s plan (“owning the coalition” by trying to divert attention from all the “negatives” whilst highlighting a few “positives”) actually works.

  • Unless Layla Moran’s position was that in 2010 she would have rejected coalition and would have refused a government post then you cannot argue that her candidacy offered a clean break from the coalition.

  • John Marriott 29th Aug '20 - 9:32pm

    Coalition, coalition. The first time some of you encounter reality, you run for the hills! Politics can be and often is, a messy business. Between 2010 and 2015 the Lib Dems found out what it was like to have a share of power. It’s no walk in the park. They made mistakes for sure; but, as I have written before, give me 2010 to 2015 any time compared with what we have now.

    I’m glad that Sir Ed intends to ‘own’ the coalition. If nothing else, participating in a coalition, as opposed to something like ‘confidence and supply’, has sorted out those, who are not afraid to grasp the nettle from those, who want to stay pure to their ideals. Despite all the good he did and the bravery he showed despite his own personal demons, Charles Kennedy went down in my estimation because of his attitude towards the coalition. In some ways, the same could be said of Tim Farron. If Layla Moran tries the same trick, despite the fact that her arrival on the national political scene came after 2015, she will not endear herself to people like me.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Sep '20 - 7:35am

    Marco: Layla wasn’t a public figure in 2010. What she thought about coalition, or anything else, at that time is therefore irrelevant.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Sep '20 - 7:38am

    Ethicsgradient: If Layla were “seen as totally out of touch with most of the country and elitist,” then there is no way she would have won her seat the way she did.

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