A missed opportunity for the Party

As President Trump sits down in the Oval Office for his first day in power, hundreds of thousands of people will march in Washington DC to show solidarity with those who have good reason to be fearful of the next four years. Women, Muslims disabled people, Mexicans are just some of Trump’s targets who have faced mockery, inappropriate comment or language bordering on hate speech from him. Every time he talks about building walls, or banning people, or openly admits sexual assault like it’s all a game or mocks disabled people, he encourages another round of abuse and prejudice.

Marches in solidarity with the Washington march will take place in London and Edinburgh. I will be at the Edinburgh one in spirit as the Scottish Lib Dem Exec is meeting at the same time.

On the London march website the organisers talk about why they are protesting:

We, the organisers of the London march, call on people of all genders to march in London as part of an international day of action in solidarity.

We will march, wherever we march, for the protection of our fundamental rights and for the safeguarding of freedoms threatened by recent political events. We unite and stand together for the dignity and equality of all peoples, for the safety and health of our planet and for the strength of our vibrant and diverse communities.

We will come together in the spirit of democracy, honouring the champions of human rights who have gone before us.

Everything in that statement is consistent with Liberal Democrat values. I am annoyed, therefore, that our party name does not appear in the list of  organisations supporting the march. The Greens and Women’s Equality Party are marked as supporters but we are not. It would have been astonishing if the Tories had been supporting  it but it is a bit of a surprise that Labour aren’t.

If we want to continue to grow, we need to reach out to these groups who share our values. People from all over the country from all sorts of backgrounds will be marching tomorrow, some for the first time. They should be able to see that the Liberal Democrats are standing with them.

Lib Dem Women will be there, which is great, but there is no official endorsement from the party. I hope that senior Liberal Democrat figures will at the very least tweet solidarity in the morning.

 

UPDATE: Sarah Olney is marching with the Lib Dem Women tomorrow. If you want to join them, meet at the Marriott on Grosvenor Square at 11:45 am.

Update 10 am Saturday: Even better news: Sarah has just tweeted that she is speaking at the March! 

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

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21 Comments

  • Neil Mackinnon 20th Jan '17 - 9:48pm

    I agree that it is a pity but did the organisers ask the Lib Dems for an endorsement which was then declined? If the party wasn’t asked there isn’t a lot that can be done. It’s tue that a lot of people on left hate the Liberal Democrats and the organisers might not have asked although the absence of the Labour Party is odd.

  • Sarah Taylor 20th Jan '17 - 10:48pm

    Agreed! Very frustrating.

    It’s not clear to me who the organisers did invite. They tweeted ALL the other parties and I and a few others chased them for days before they admitted inviting UKIP was a mistake, but they never actually apologised. We’ll be there with LibDem banners but, if we could find a spokesperson, could we not ask to speak, even at this late stage?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jan '17 - 11:14pm

    Caron

    I think you are right in criticising Trump. I have written a lot about my views on this man, on here , and on other sites. I watched , with my wife who is of American origin, the overblown bombastic rhetoric of his in his address.

    But I do not agree with you on the reaction or participation of our party. We are not a protest movement , we are a political party. We are right to protest at times. We are and should be more of a movement. But we aspire to lead , however far from that we are currently , we lead in our attitudes and our behaviour.

    It is for individual members or party groupings to attend something like this , not the party as a symbolic gesture. We are still talking about the man, however at odds with our views and values he is, who is the official leader now of the most important , and in some ways, one of the most democratic, democracies in the whole world. We must at some level engage with him and his attitudes. As with the debate about banning him from this country , we opposed that. John McCain and Hillary Clinton attended his inaugural luncheon . That took some doing !

  • Lorenzo, I was incredibly proud when Vince Cable as acting leader refused to engage with the Saudi Arabian king who was here on a state visit because of the country’s appalling human rights record.

    I would hope that Tim Farron would take the same attitude to a Trump state visit.

  • Sarah – to check – you mean the organisers tweeted inviting other parties including UKIP but didn’t tweet inviting the Libs?

  • David Pocock 20th Jan '17 - 11:55pm

    Tbh I would protest trump but this protest already feels like it is further left than I’m comfortable.

    I think at some point we have to as a party decide where the line is between us and the crazy left.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jan '17 - 12:42am

    Caron

    Thank you for returning but I cannot agree with your comparison and am surprised you make one.

    What Sir Vince did was marvellous. Just this week I have written an article for an international site on the Liberal in captivity , in Saudi Arabia, Raif Badawi, who I have commented on more than once on here.

    But to compare Trump with Saudi Arabia is wrong. You read my comments . America is probably in many ways the most rigorously democratic country in the world! Take money and the raising of it out of the equation and there is no probably ! They elect dog catchers in some small towns !

    Trump is a populist , vulgar , boorish, and as Bernie Sanders said yesterday in an excellent interview with Adam Bolton on Sky news whose coverage of US politics is about as good as possible on British television, possibly the least qualified man to hold the office of President . But Sanders is attending the events today !

    If Tim chose not to attend a State visit event , in his own capacity that would be a matter for him, but I would think that out of character from the man who was vociferous in his criticism of no platforming, and of banning Trump in the election months, and made a point of saying we need to debate him ! I would not be of the view that we or Tim should boycott such an event.

    As he is not our choice , so too we cannot escape the President of the United States is Trump and we must get on with it ! Reality check !

  • Caron as you are a member of the Federal Board, you are part of the body which should make the decision to support this march. So you are criticising yourself for not making this happen. Perhaps you can investigate why the Federal Board did not make a decision to support this march.

    (I remember the anti-war march and it was only because the Federal Executive supported it, that Charles Kennedy was there!)

  • Jennie Rigg 21st Jan '17 - 8:20am
  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jan '17 - 8:41am

    I’m not a party member but I lean against the idea of being overtly hostile towards Trump whilst he is president. My problem is I want a democratic world and the US is still a democracy and we need their help to encourage other countries to become democracies too, but not via use of military force like George W. Bush.

    We need to encourage Trump to move away from his super power and great power theory of the world which seems to be that larger countries should be free to trample on the rights of smaller ones under the guise of “pursuing their own interests”. The same ideology as Putin and it seems to me China’s leaders too.

    A focus for us should be to encourage effective democracies around the world. The US need to reform or abolish their electoral college. Someone even worse than Trump could have still won with his voter demographics because of the system.

  • Simon Freeman 21st Jan '17 - 9:23am

    I have this nightmare scenario running on a loop through my head. Trump shafts Britain in the Trade Deal as Hard Brexit goes through without access to the Single Market. UK economy collapses. Trump bails Britain out but as a condition his advisors get appointed to run the Economy. He Stations more soldiers here to keep the peace as he retreats from the rest of the world. Conditions involve US Private Medical Firms taking over the NHS to make more money for them, US Gun Laws enacted so weapons firms make more money. Crime and poverty increase. He fracks the country to pieces instead of pursuing renewables. The Countryside is ruined. He then gets the Queen to appoint him Lord Trump and makes us a US Colony. UGH! Can someone prescribe an antidote to this malady?

  • I’m with Lorenzo; we should distance ourselves from this.

  • Every time America elects a new Repubican President it’s always the end of the world to the liberal left. They had an election and Trump won – with the support of tens of millions of women. He’s not my cup of tea, but give the guy a chance. Lets wait and see if he actually brings in racist or sexist policies before we start demonstrating.

  • According to the organisation’s own web-page, this isn’t an anti-Trump march. It is, however, triggered by recent events, and the issues and concerns raised during and since the election were a motivator.

    https://www.womensmarchlondon.com/update-faq/

    I’d agree that a specific “Trump is bad” rally is at best vain and pointless, and at worse, adding to the division. However, this march seems to be about promoting positive values, rather than being complacent. I’ll admit I’ve only skim read the website, but I’ve not seen anything I object to.

    Speakers include representatives from Labour, the Greens and our own Sarah Olney, so we have representation.

    It’s good that the LibDems have representation, and are broadly supportive, but a formal endorsement of the event could easily lead to misunderstanding, so that may be part of the thinking. There are those who will twist the intentions of this movement, and would then use this as an excuse to say we don’t care for the democratic process, and we need to pick our battles. Whether that’s canny, or a missed opportunity is hard to judge.

  • Sorry for replying to myself, but not long after I pressed the submit button, I heard that the producer from Graham Norton’s radio show was leaving – possibly to attend the Women’s March. I didn’t catch the details, but she left in a rush, and the event got a plug.

    I realise many think of Graham Norton as a lefty-liberal urban elite sort, but I don’t think the march is anything like as toxic as some of the commentators here think. I didn’t think it was toxic at all until I came here, so I’d be interested to know how people came by their views. It seems there is some PR against the event, of which we should be mindful, but not subservient.

  • @ Caron
    “It was certainly discussed at the Federal Board meeting last Saturday”

    I find it strange that you didn’t post what was decided? Did the Federal Board after discussing it, decide to support it?

  • I wasn’t there for that part of the discussion so I don’t know exactly what happened.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Jan '17 - 2:49pm

    Don’t know about anyone else but I become more and more and more and more impressed with Sarah Olney every week.

    She has that campaigner’s knack of making things happen around her. In short, of knowing where the axis is, being there and making a splash.

    You cannot manufacture that ability.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jan '17 - 3:38pm

    Some good points .

    Can I add, if anyone reads what I said earlier above , I certainly did not say we , as party members or groups should distance ourselves from marches , but said otherwise, just that we should be careful not to be demonstrating, as a party , as an official protest against Trump, as if we were saying his election is what we protest. We cannot be past tense , our approach to Brexit must be to secure a deal , such as staying in the single market , our approach to Trump must be to engage and criticise not disappear and ostracise!

    I said this knowing full well the sort of groups such as Caron and Jennie mention, for Liberal Democrat Women, LGBT, etc., would and should attend.

    But we need to know who is organising what, before we give a party seal of approval to anything. There were violent clashes amidst the protests yesterday in America.

    And I really do believe the comparison with the Iraq war and Trump, or , worse , Saudi Arabia and Trump, is misplaced , to say the least !

  • Geoffrey Payne 22nd Jan '17 - 7:51am

    I think we should decide what we support as Liberals and lets others worry if they agree with us.
    This is precisely the march that Liberals should be joining and well done everyone for the success it was yesterday.

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