A mistake from the Coalition years that we must never repeat

I still think that we did the right thing to go into Government. We did a lot of good on mental health, the environment and education and we stopped the Tories from doing a whole load of nasty stuff that they proceeded to do the minute we were out the door.

However, we made some howlers of mistakes. It would be very strange if we didn’t. Some of them were completely avoidable. And one in particular, I can’t just let pass.

Recently, Polly Mackenzie, then a Special Adviser to Nick Clegg, was celebrating the Lib Dem plastic bag tax.

But this admission made many of us choke on our tea.

Come again – you mean, the sanctions regime that forces people to food banks, that leaves them without the basic means of providing for themselves – we agreed to that in order to get a plastic bag tax?

But it was ok, because…

No. This was not ok. Sanctions were implemented and tightened by the Coalition Government and caused untold hardship. Our MPs voted for it. The fact that such a brutal policy was traded in such a blasé fashion probably isn’t news either. It shouldn’t happen again though.

There are two lessons which must be learned from all of this.

The first is that before we agree to anything, we need to check whether it conflicts with the Preamble to our Constitution. Now, the plastic bag tax definitely fits to our values around “responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources.” However, in no universe could increasing the hardship faced by the most vulnerable people in our society ever be in tune with “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.” That should have bounced that proposal off the park immediately.

The second is that we should have a proper understanding of the effect on people of any policy we implement. I don’t think for a moment that anyone doing those deals actually thought about what this would actually involve in practice. That for spurious reasons people could be brought to the brink of homelessness and starvation. I doubt anyone involved had any idea what it was like to be in this position. We must always have in our mind how our policies are going to impact on people’s lives and if we don’t know, we should ask the expert organisations who support people in poverty.

And it would be helpful if those involved in making such deals didn’t boast about them on Twitter. It really, really doesn’t help.

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

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

152 Comments

  • Well said. This is a pretty damning insight into the mindset of those who ran our party in the coalition. So many people hit by benefit sanctions are victimised for spurious reasons, like the ‘crime’ of missing a jobcentre appointment because they were in hospital, or at a funeral, or because they hadn’t been told about the appointment. For this they (and their dependents) lose all of their income for months. Ha Ha.

  • Gillian Sathanandan 11th May '18 - 11:23am

    Good on mental health!!! Try changing from life time DLA to PIP with complex and severe mental health problems and getting zero points! So many have been helped by the charity Headway – the brain injury association and others but charities should not have to spend their monies helping people appeal wrongful decisions and going to tribunals. This is as much of a scandal as Windrush but no one is fighting for the disabled! As a life time Liberal and Lib Dem I am disgusted no one in my party fought for the disabled and those with mental health issues.

  • I was a fervent supporter of The Coalition but I was wrong. We abandoned our Long-Term strategy of replacing Labour for the very short-term satisfaction of “Doing Things”. We need to remember that we are here to crack the “System” open, no-one else is going to do that for us.

  • I disagree completely, and the first paragraph sums up why:

    “…we stopped the Tories from doing a whole load of nasty stuff that they proceeded to do the minute we were out the door.”

    We didn’t stop them from doing anything. We delayed them from doing things by five years.

    We had successes like the green investment bank …sold off as soon as we lost our place in government.

    We very, very nearly killed the party for 5 years worth of compromises. The coalition did have success that we rightly should be proud of, but we’re they worth it? Not even close.

  • I actually think the coalition mechanics should have been much more like this – transactional. We get this in return for letting through something we wouldn’t normally support. Would have made it far clearer what we were about, what was actually ours in coalition, and why we were doing things beyond the coalition.

    But in the big picture, particularly around welfare cuts and sanctions – yes I’m embarrassed what we supported and wish I’d been quicker to realise the impact at the time.

  • paul holmes 11th May '18 - 2:48pm

    @tpfkar. Of course there are 2 other ways of dealing with such a situation:
    1. Don’t enter Coalition if the compromises are going to be too bad. The Liberals didn’t in Feb 1974 (even though Thorpe wanted to) because Heath would not countenance PR. This remained our ‘deal breaker’ thereafter until our new Leader after Dec 2007 announced he was abandoning it.
    2. Enter a much more limited agreement as the DUP have done. They get some specific things they want but don’t have to vote for other policies which they are opposed to, which are treated on an individual basis as they arise. A version of ‘Confidence and Supply’.

    There was absolutely nothing inevitable about the choices that led to self destruction of 2010-2015.

    @Stephen. I agree with you. Although it could also be said that whilst we delayed some things the Tories wanted, we also enabled a lot more which a minority Cons Govt could not have got through Parliament 2010-2015. Would the Cons then have gone for a second election a little while later as Labour did in autumn 1974 after 6 months of minority Government? Maybe. Would they have won a majority, perhaps a tiny one like Labour in 1974? No one can tell. Would the Lib Dems have been destroyed at any subsequent election for refusing on principle to enable hard line Tory policies? No. The Liberal vote dropped in Oct 1974 but they were far from destroyed. We certainly would not have plummeted to 7.9% and 8 MP’s or endured 5 years of electoral slaughter at every other elected level.

  • Ruth Bright 11th May '18 - 2:51pm

    Thank you Caron for such clarity – please correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t Polly Mackenzie until recently head of a charity about Mental Health and Debt?

  • There are many lessons to learn from the coalition and someone in the party should be doing some serious work on this – as the opinion polls suggest today that we would have a well hung Parliament and indeed I would hazard this is one of the more likely scenarios of the next election with perhaps a Tory overall majority the most likely.

    I think that there was a comment in a previous thread that the Dutch liberals say that to go into your coalition is to half their vote.

    I would offer the following lessons:

    1. Do u-turns!
    2. Wipe the “barnacles of the boat”.Lynton Crosby’s favourite phrase. Sometimes trivial things – sometimes big – if they are getting in the way – change them,
    3. Be true to our core values – the Lib Dem “brand”
    4. Campaign in the country
    5. Work out the end game – it may need revision as we go along. What will people’s over-riding thought when they go into the ballot box
    6. Have more party backbenchers than the “payroll” ministerial vote
    7. Be (nicely) Machiavellian
    8. Explain what we are doing.
    9. Whatever over-riding political reasons there were at the beginning – they will have changed by the end!
    10. It is difficult to avoid the bigger party getting the credit and the minor party getting the blame.

    Finally to govern is to fail – no Government lasts for ever.

  • @paul holmes

    I have a very, very great deal sympathy and agreement with your post but it is easy to write a counter-factual coloured by history that seems plausible but is wrong. It is also easy as a result to learn the wrong from history – even if you learn some of the correct lessons!

  • ………………………. and we stopped the Tories from doing a whole load of nasty stuff that they proceeded to do the minute we were out the door……………..

    No we didn’t! On welfare cuts, disability, immigration (Windrush),etc. we either applauded, or stood by, while the pillars of social conscience we’d supported for generations were removed…The fact that, when we’d served our purpose, the Tories accelerated the process is a poor defence.

  • Nom de Plume 11th May '18 - 4:45pm

    I still consider tuition fees to be the biggest failing of coalition. It appears to me that they sold their souls for power.

  • Peter Watson 11th May '18 - 5:15pm

    @Michael 1 “I would offer the following lessons:
    1. Do u-turns!
    3. Be true to our core values – the Lib Dem “brand””
    I’m finding it difficult to reconcile those two. Do you mean “No u-turns”?

  • matt severn 11th May '18 - 6:16pm

    Well said Caron. In particular 2 Coalition laws have come back to cause society harm.

    The 2012 Legal Aid Act is responsible for the spiralling problems in the Justice system and the frequent miscarriages and abandoned trials now seen. Part of Liberalism has to be fair access to justice and the remedy of law – it beggars belief that we would endanger that in government to shave a decimal point off of spending.

    Likewise, the appalling treatment of the Windrush kids stems from the Immigration Act 2014 which created the now notorious hostile environment policy. To be sure, the deportations of British citizens was being done by the Tories but the Coalition planted the seeds in 2014. Any good Liberal can tell you that you should never use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and yet the 2014 law was allowed to proceed.

    Perhaps Polly has another oh so amusing anecdote about a marginal gain gotten from acquiescing to these 2 bills that now cause such harm.

    We need to make sure that in future, Liberal ideals are not traded away but remain at the centre of any policy commitment or legislative action.

  • Nom de Plume 11th May '18 - 6:41pm

    @matt

    Rather, in future, until a liberal government is possible, there should be no coalitions. There is no mechanism of controlling the executive once in power and the Tories/Labour should take full responsibilty for their policies.

  • It’s quite noticeable that we spend a lot of time looking back and regretting things we did or did not do, rather than looking forward and determining what we want to do when we have power and influence, either locally or nationally. I can imagine that at some point, nationally, we might be called upon to enter a “progressive coalition”, though whether we would consider a far left, anti—Europe Labour Party progressive is another matter. If we were to consider joining a coalition of any color then we had better be clear what is important to us and what our red lines are (deal and coalition breakers).

  • Nom de Plume 11th May '18 - 6:57pm

    @Paul

    One is never “called upon” to enter a coalition. It is always a choice.

  • Gosh, why do we seek to remind people of the Coalition. It is fatal to our prospects in Labour areas and we have a very important by election in Lewisham next month. Time to move on please.

  • @Nom,

    You can be called, you don’t have to accept.

  • Nom de Plume 11th May '18 - 8:57pm

    @David Raw

    I know. I could have said “never”, but remote possibilities should be included.

  • Thankyou so much for this Caron. I have been on this site many times attacking the Lib Dems and demanding an apology for voting for one thing in 2010 and getting another. The problem I had was people in the higher towers of the Lib Dems did not seem to care about those who took a chance with the party and came across as Polly Mackenzie does here. You have made me think about voting Lib Dem again today with your article. Well done.

  • If proportional representation is ever going to fly in the UK (or actually England, it exists in Wales and Scotland) we have to get past the spectre of coalition government = chaos. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Coalition is showed that a two party coalition could produce stable government over five years. The Tories left to their own devices have produced political chaos to rival any Italian-style 10 party coalition.

  • I remember the Lib Dems helped the Tories introduce employment tribunal fees which priced many vulnerable workers out of justice. So much for the Lib Dem claim that we helped to stall the harshness of the Tories while in the government.

  • Ian Hurdley 12th May '18 - 8:03am

    @ David Raw. Unfortunately the consequence of the trade-off is that food banks need more plastic bags in order to feed more people.

  • According to David Law’s book on the Coalition Danny Alexander was willing to continue with welfare cuts up to the end.

  • BrianD 12th May ’18 – 9:13am……………..According to David Law’s book on the Coalition Danny Alexander was willing to continue with welfare cuts up to the end…………………….

    Hence the ‘Sir’.,.

  • @ expats no shining armour though – only a slow boat to China.

  • Sue Sutherland 12th May '18 - 2:13pm

    Thank you Caron, it helps that you are saying this. The party must find a way to draw a line under what happened in Coalition and move forward in, what I hope, will be a way which will help those in need not kick them when they are down.
    I always wondered why we were so friendly towards the Tories until I discovered fairly recently from a post here that Nick Clegg and Co wanted to show the public that Coalitions work. Unfortunately instead it presented us as Tories too. I assume that was also why any disagreements weren’t made public, so it looked as if we were just rolling over and letting them tickle our tummies.
    In addition our leadership had already been won over by the prevailing economic ideas and so thought they were doing the right thing to cut spending to sort out the financial crisis. I think it’s important to remember the financial crisis because I think it played a vital part in where we went wrong.
    I also think our demands in the original negotiations weren’ t calculated to appeal to the majority of voters. Spending money on PR and reform of the HoL were never going to appeal to people suffering from the worst financial crash for decades. At worst PR can be taken as self serving and at best irrelevant to most people. I know this isn’t a popular view with a lot of members and I agree that democracy would be better with those reforms but I think that most people really don’t see why. What they want is a decent life and a good future for their children and we are failing to offer them that.
    Lastly there seemed to be a lot of arrogance within the Parliamentary party, a folie de grandeur if you like, and this resulted in an inability to see what was happening to the party even though our election results were consistently awful over the period of the Coalition. For me that culminated in Paddy’s offer to eat his hat if we did badly in 2015.
    We forgot the old Liberal advice to be wary of power, especially when you are wielding it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th May '18 - 2:28pm

    Paul DB, Theakes are correct, move on the country needs a Liberal party, a Democratic one, this looking back getting us nowhere fast.

    The Labour party today gets complete endorsement from the Communist party who cease candidates in their favour.

    The Conservative party is worse than ever in power.

    Either we look forward or this land cannot.

  • John Marriott 12th May '18 - 3:11pm

    The contribution of ‘[email protected]’ sums up my feelings as well.

    Let’s be honest, the chances of the Lib Dems replacing the Labour Party in a two party scenario (the reverse of what happened nearly a hundred years ago) are pretty slim. Their best hope, as it is for most ‘Liberal’ parties, is to be part of a coalition. If we ever do get PR that likelihood is more and more likely.

    I am getting pretty tired of this continued soul searching about the events between 2010 and 2015. Yes, mistakes were made and lessons hopefully have been learned, notably to take more time in getting agreement. But please stop reducing it to personalities. Alexander and Clegg appear to be the whipping boys. Why not Davie and Cable? And what about the self destructors like Laws and Huhne? Can we PLEASE move on!

  • “I still think that we did the right thing to go into Government. We did a lot of good on mental health, the environment and education and we stopped the Tories from doing a whole load of nasty stuff that they proceeded to do the minute we were out the door.”

    I laughed so much I nearly fell of my chair. The echo chamber is in fine comedy mode of late ..

  • Peter Watson 12th May '18 - 3:56pm

    @John Marriott “I am getting pretty tired of this continued soul searching about the events between 2010 and 2015. Yes, mistakes were made and lessons hopefully have been learned”
    But what evidence is there that lessons have been learned? The party seems to have muddled along since 2015, neither embracing nor distancing itself from those “events between 2010 and 2015”, in the hope that people will simply forget. But unfortunately every time Lib Dems attempt to criticise this government they are undermined by reminders of their own recent actions and by the fact that much of what we have in 2018 is a continuation of what began between 2010 and 2015. Including, sadly, Brexit.

  • @Peter Watson

    “@Michael 1 “I would offer the following lessons:
    1. Do u-turns!
    3. Be true to our core values – the Lib Dem “brand””
    I’m finding it difficult to reconcile those two. Do you mean “No u-turns”?”

    Um.. a fair point! No – I do mean DO u-turns – by the bucket load if necessary – to avoid “barnacles”

    I was thinking particularly of tuition fees. We should have u-turned at that point. As a rule of thumb when you have lost middle Britain and there are big demonstrations – the Poll tax, Iraq, tuition fees – it is time to think again!

    A myth has grown up in politics that you need to be strong and resolute in Government. A myth that stems from Thatcher (“you turn if you want to – the lady is not for turning”). In fact Thatcher was fairly cautious – not picking a fight with the miners until she could win for example. Privatising the most likely candidates first – she never privatised trains for example.

    You need to make sure that you are not accumulating too many “barnacles”.

    Of course ultimately Thatcher should have u-turned on the Poll Tax. Doing “something about the rates” was a key part of her brand – I believe stemming way back to the 70s. I am not sure that the specific implementation of the poll tax necessarily was part of her brand and if you were going to implement it – you need to consider a cautious start with some of the tweaks that were put into the council tax.

    Of course part of the role of the opposition is to oppose and of the media to point out all the faults with a policy. And no Government is popular mid-term. And part of governing is to be resolute and withstand some of that pressure – and to achieve one goal you may have to pursue another unpopular one. A government that wants low taxes may well have to make spending cuts. But this Government is at least trimming, may be even u-turning quite a bit. It would have been interesting to see if they got a big majority if they forced through things like the dementia tax.

    Of course – I do concede that hindsight is always 20/20 and it is easy to see where a Government went wrong looking back!!!!!

  • This was the dogma of the Orange Bookers, it’s good to see the Social Liberals back in the ascendancy now.

  • Sean Hyland 12th May '18 - 5:17pm

    Unfortunately the Lib Dems past in the coalition will not quickly go away however much you may wish it. As said by others every time a comment, view, or tweet as above is expressed by a LidDem mp or spokesperson there will always be someone in opposition who will use it against you. They only have to look at statements made at the time or mps voting record. These things do not just go away and are used by and against politicians of all parties. I accept that the motivation to enter into coalition was probably made with the best intention by those in charge.

    To look forward you have to acknowledge the past however good or bad. Maybe what is needed is, as some are asking, is a final definitive statement on the party in coalition acknowledging those parts ultimately that went against party values along with those parts that happened only because the party fought for them. It can no longer be generic ” yes we got some things wrong” or ” the Tories would have been worse if we hadn’t been there”. Make it a positive experience as part of a publicity campaign to promote policies and values now being pursued by the party to build on the first steps of recovery. A kind of who we are and what we believe in.

    Perhaps it’s easy for me to say this as i was not a party member at the time but I was a Lib Dems voter. I did stop voting for you during the coalition though as i could no longer support you. I voted again when I started to believe again.

  • paul barker 12th May '18 - 5:29pm

    If we are going to look back then we need to ask big questions, not argue about individual policies or people. Did joining a Coalition fit with our long-term strategy of replacing Labour ? Obviously not, we got impatient, for all the right reasons but still a big mistake.
    As to how long replacing Labour might take, we were only 6% behind them in 2010, there will be other opportunities in future, we have to be ready to take them. Entering another Coalition with whoever has to depend on our prospective partners being enthusiastic about Electoral Reform, they have to want it as much as we do. That implies that one or other of The Big 2 Parties split but that looks more likely now than at any time since the early 1980s.

  • Peter Watson 12th May '18 - 5:55pm

    @paul barker “our long-term strategy of replacing Labour”
    If (a big if) this is the party’s strategy then I think it has been (and continues to be) going about it the wrong way.
    Over the last several years Lib Dems seem to have expended far more firepower in attacking Labour than it has the Tories. If (still a big if!) the aim is to replace Labour then the party needs to show that it is better at opposing the Conservatives than Labour is.
    Instead the party’s strategy seems to be one of presenting itself as a nicer substitute for the Tories with a tacit assumption that right-wing economics are the way to go. This appeared more explicit with Clegg’s 2015 line “We will bring a heart to a Tory Government and a brain to a Labour one”.

  • Peter Watson 12th May '18 - 8:25pm

    @Michael 1 “I was thinking particularly of tuition fees. We should have u-turned at that point.”
    At what point? When exactly did the party U-turn on tuition fees? Indeed, apart from Lib Dem MPs breaking their pledges, did the party really U-turn at all?
    The party’s MPs were preparing to abandon their pre-election pledges within days of the election as they negotiated a Coalition Agreement which allowed them to abstain. But that was voted for by members. But officially scrapping fees remained an “aspiration”. But meanwhile the party was defending what it had previously scaremongered against as Labour and Conservative plans, and pointing to its success. But even by 2017, it was being implied that scrapping loans was not a priority rather than wrong per se.
    No hindsight was needed to see the mess the party was making out of a clear, unambiguous position which had been deployed to great effect in chasing the student vote. The party simultaneously looked dishonest (because of how readily it seemed to reverse a high-profile commitment to voters) and incompetent (the previous policy voted for by Conference must have been rubbish given the great claims made by the party for the alternative approach which was just a modified – worsened? – version of the existing one).
    And the party’s current position is what exactly? Even now, when the Tories have raised the income threshold for repayment, Lib Dems appear the most inflexible when it comes to tuition fees which remains a massive “barnacle” for the party. And eight years down the line Lib Dems have still not worked out how to scrape it off! 🙁

  • Katharine Pindar 12th May '18 - 9:22pm

    @ Peter Watson. You make pertinent observations here as usual, Peter. What about the content of the tuition fees debate? I understood the policy could be justified by the need of universities to have the money from tuition fees, and because students wouldn’t have to pay off the loan until earning a certain amount, and have it written off entirely if still owing 30 years later. (Anecdote – I canvassed for the local elections one day with a young graduate working for the party, who was not particularly concerned about either the volte-face or the debt she now owes.)

    The present situation on policy is that a Consultation on ‘Tuition fees in higher education’ was held during and after the Spring Conference this year, with the expectation, as usual with such consultations, that a policy paper will follow, hopefully at the next Federal Conference in Brighton in September. The Consultation Paper (no. 134) was a thorough review of the present situation and options, including eight policy goals on such matters as fairness, and consistency with Liberal values. Section 4.3 on Graduate tax systems identifies two main options, to replace loans with individual income-sharing contracts (a system which seemed to me personally the best), or to charge a supplementary income tax on a segment of the population.

    I haven’t heard anything more about this since Southport, but assume Federal Policy Committee will duly produce a policy paper and motion for Brighton, to allow revision of party policy.

  • @Peter Watson

    OK – I meant the Lib Dem government ministers. It is easy to rewrite history but we must remember that the coalition agreement was approved overwhelmingly by the parliamentary party, the federal executive and a special conference of the whole party.

    That included a Lib Dem abstention on the Browne report – still to be completed at the time but clear in the direction it was to take – (and that meant effectively meaning we would let it pass). The saga of tuition fees was a long complicated one – and clearly “we” got it wrong. And clearly Clegg was not a fan of the Lib Dem policy and tried to change it before the General Election which didn’t help.

    It was a bit like “new” Coke – they had good reasons for changing the formulation . And we were overly concerned in the first few years of the coalition to be “good” coalition partners and not upset the apple cart. Clearly Clegg like Thatcher on the poll tax should have listened harder to the country and pulled the plug on increasing tuition fees. I am sure even he might admit that – and to be fair given this thread was about apologies – he did apologise.

    Like you I think we should be bold and clear – and be unambiguously for the complete abolition of tuition fees.

  • On not discussing the coalition.

    It may be disappointing but not the whole electorate is reading LDV – far from it and indeed not enough to make any difference (except may be in Gordon!). And if we do not discuss it here then where?

    It is clear that after a disappointing period in Government that leads to them tanking electorally all parties need to discuss it, address it and change radically and boldly – Labour after 79 and 83 and the Tories after 97 and 2001.

    True friends of the Lib Dems need to be frank and fearless in thinking about the party’s mistakes and it is always thought provoking to hear from our enemies.

    IMHO we need to be bold and change radically just as Labour and the Tories did – to do anything less will invite continued electoral suicide. IMHO we need to become the new Liberal Democrats – advocate the complete abolition of tuition fees, be bold on education – double the pupil premium, big increase in the schools budget, free school meals for all primary and secondary school pupils – and bold too on the environment. Coupled with a clear advocacy for Remain.

    But I may be wrong????

  • Steve Trevethan 13th May '18 - 7:56am

    Will the Libyans get an apology for the destruction of their country which was one of the most affluent in Africa?
    Wil the caged people sold as slaves in post Coalition humanitarian intervention Libya get an apology?

  • Steve,

    I understand your concern about Libya, but there was a bloody civil war going on and many people being slaughtered well before the West got involved. Mistakes were made, yes, but we don’t know how it would have turned out if the west had not participated.

    At least countries were trying to stop bad things happening in Libya, which is in contrast to the Iraq war which was started by the west, when mr Corbyns party was in charge.

    Anyway, as I said in an earlier post, it’s about time people moved on and looked forward positively rather than back negatively.

  • You missed a later tweet of Polly’s

    Polly Mackenzie
    ‏ @pollymackenzie
    Apr 19

    On this occasion, we’d agreed to the change only if it could be done without changing the law (our advice was that it couldn’t, which we didn’t reveal).
    1 reply . 0 retweets 4 likes

    You could say that was clever poltics offerring something that couldn’t be achieved for something you wanted , but as presentation is everything it was actually rather dumb.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th May '18 - 5:30pm

    When “humanitarian” interventions are being considered, such as was/is the case in Syria and may well be the case with the next “humanitarian” intervention in Iran, it seems appropriate to check out the likely net effect on the country, ditto the benefits for the states who are “helping” and the financial advantages for the arms and finance industries.
    Which “humaniterian” interventions have resulted in a net benefit for the recipient?
    In which countries has these interventions brought benefits to their general public?
    (I can think of possibly one.)

  • I suppose the phrase low cunning might be more approriate than clever. “We know it can’t be done so we will agree to it”, but as you have pointed out David it doesn’t reflect well morallay (well at least in my opinion). It is also incredibly risky, what if the opinion you had been given was wrong, yet further harm would be done to those that could least afford it.

    It appear that poltics was a game for far to many of the leadership and advisors of the Lib Dems in colalition, it isn’t it a game it is peoples lives.

  • John Roffey 13th May '18 - 6:58pm

    Here is a party that might suit those who feel the Coalition years have made it impossible for the Lib/Dems to make any headway in the foreseeable future – it seems to meet most of the requirements.

  • John Roffey 13th May '18 - 7:00pm

    Sorry link did not work:

    http://liberal.org.uk

  • Apologies of the erratic spelling and grammar, just goes to show how much I need a spelling and grammar checker. Happily now installed so I can blame that for any strange phrases in future.

  • Peter Watson 13th May '18 - 11:05pm

    @Katharine Pindar & Michael 1
    Thanks for that,
    I think it is important for Lib Dems to scrape off the barnacle of tuition fees, and it is for the party to decide how best to do that and whether or not that should include scrapping them.
    Given that the concept of loans impacts other areas (maintenance costs, replacing bursaries with loans, using loans for health care or other types of cost) and that there is the wider issue of university funding and alternatives to traditional university degrees, then it needs to be thought through carefully.
    And given that each year another cohort of students & graduates enter the current system of borrowing and repaying, making any change that bit more problematic, then it needs to be thought through quickly.
    And for Lib Dems, following the positions taken before and since 2010, there is the added challenge of presenting any new policy successfully.

  • @Peter Watson

    Thanks for the thanks!

    We need our own equivalent on tuition fees of the Blair’s abolition of clause four – clear, unambiguous and bold.

    I would have a training/education fund of £30k for EVERY adult to be used over their lifetimes. It would be possible for people to use it for a two year degree or a degree based mainly online that costed less – in which case someone would may be have £10k to use on other things. It could also be used for non-university training/education in the craft, creative and technical fields.

    University participation among young people is for example 68% in South Korea – and to compete intentionally we will need most people to be educated to when they are 21 and massive lifetime learning and reskilling.

    If we think the pace of technology has been fast in the past 150 years during which the school leaving age has risen from 10 to 18 – you ain’t seen nothing yet. What earns you a crust one week doesn’t necessarily do so the next.

    I would couple with this as I say with doubling the pupil premium and increase schools funding – so everyone can participate in 18+ education.

    Paid for by borrowing say around £15 billion – we already borrow for tuition fees. Investing in human infrastructure makes sense and means that borrowing will actually be less as percentage of GDP if we are more competitive internationally and earn more as a nation.

  • John Roffey 14th May '18 - 7:24am

    No one has responded to my suggestion that some Lib/Dem members might find the old Liberal Party a more suitable home – this suggestion was made in all seriousness.

    There does seem to be a very real division within the Party – judging by the comments on this thread and others of a similar nature, between those who support the actions of the leadership during the Coalition years, or can at least accept them and do believe the Party can make progress in the foreseeable future – and those that do not.

    I do not know to what extent the views expressed here reflect the views of the membership as a whole – but it seems to me that it is very likely that a substantial minority, at least, will share these views – given the stark reality of the Party’s loss of popularity during and since and the leadership’s inability to achieve any significant recovery.

    Although I only returned to the Party a few months ago, reading most of the salient threads on LDV since then, it does appear that there is little chance of the leadership changing course and will focus on blocking Brexit and pushing for a second referendum on the deal finally agreed – although should this be achieved – judging by the research carried out, this is likely to increase the Party’s unpopularity still further.

    Since it will be very difficult for those who cannot support the leadership to make any positive contribution towards the leader’s ambitions – it seems to me that both the Party, as it stands, and the dissenters would be better off changing party as a state of conflict is not a beneficial condition to remain in for years. Helping the old party to develop in the meantime appears a healthier and potentially a more rewarding choice – as it is well placed to fill the need for a left of centre party unfettered by the burden of coaition government.

    Should the Lib/Dem leadership find a way to overcome what appears to be an intractable problem with regard to the mistakes made during the Coalition years – the dissenters can always return at some time in the years ahead.

  • John,
    The Liberal party has less councillors than UKIP and has the same policy on the EU as UKIP. It does not seem to be a home for anyone who believes our future is being an integral part of Europe. I’m sure they have other policies but their policy on Europe is enough for me to say “Not for me”.

  • Bill le Breton 14th May '18 - 8:04am

    Just read a really interesting ‘detective story’ from the 1950s by Josephine Tey which examines the question of who killed Richard III’s two nephews in the Tower. She came down clearly on the conclusion that it was Henry VII and the Lancastrians. Richard has a clear claim to the throne among the Yorkists of whom many survived Richard. If he killed the nephews why not the rest?

    And then look at Henry VII and Henry VIII. They did ruthlessly kill or exile all the rest of those who had actual claims to the throne. It was a Lancastrian coup and this is how you ‘do’ coups.

    It is good to see firm apologists for Clegg coming round to the realisation that some dreadful deeds were done under the new regime that, having dispatched Kennedy and the luckless Campbell, brought in a new era of ‘grown up politics’ that was ‘for the first time’ ‘ serious about power’. Too right!

  • John Roffey 14th May '18 - 8:29am

    Frankie,

    I have not gone through the whole site in detail, but Brexit does not seem to figure large in their interests. I did find this – “the ‘LibDems’ are showing contempt for the British people and the democratic process by refusing to accept the result of the referendum on EU membership, effectively saying that those who voted ‘leave’ are too old or too stupid to have their vote counted.”

    It seems that they are more concerned about the ‘democratic process’ – something that the majority of voters would probably support – based on the surveys I have seen.

    I am aware that the Liberal Party is a much smaller party. However, they are well placed to fill the recognised need for a left of centre party that concentrates on the many important issue other than Brexit – that have been neglected by the Lib/Dems.

    Keep in mind that I am only suggesting that those who no longer can support the Party based on the strategy applied by the leadership – which is likely to remain for some years ahead – might like to consider this option.

  • John – a serious post deserves a serious response.
    First of all, remember this is an open website, so the people posting are not all party members or even supporters. It would be wrong to draw too many conclusions from here about the extent of dissatisfaction within the party. An opinion site like this will always attract posts from people who have criticisms or questions – indeed it encourages them. That doesn’t mean we’re all ready to bolt.
    Secondly, you talk about how ‘the leadership’ is set on a Brexit policy. In fact our policy is decided by conference. We are anti-Brexit because that’s what the members want, and despite what you imply, any member who wants to change that has every opportunity to try to do so.
    Thirdly, a short look at that Liberal Party website shows an organisation that I find deeply unappealing. Pro-Brexit and still bitter about the existence of the LibDems (the merger was over 30 years ago!!) One of the most recent news releases is a genuinely proud statement that they are fielding a grand total of 19 candidates in the local elections.
    So, no thankyou. On every level – policy, strategy, relevance. The LibDems are the Liberal party now. Our fightback was always going to take more than 3 years. It is starting to happen. The last thing we need to do now is haemorrhage members to the fringe.

  • TonyH,

    Thanks for your reply. I am somewhat of a neutral in these matters – I was not a long-term member when I left the Party 5 years or so ago – so my post was more an observance than a recommendation. I really do not know if the views expressed here are representative of the membership in general or of just a few angry individuals. I suspect that they struck a chord with me because they reflect my own views. I will not be renewing my membership when it expires – unless there are some significant changes – which I do not expect.

    Rest assured that I will not be constantly repeating the suggestion. Also, I have had a closer look at the Liberal Party website since making the post and am inclined to agree with you – although they must suffer from the connection – perhaps they should just change the parties name to The Old Liberal Party or The Original Liberal Party, or something similar, to avoid this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th May '18 - 11:54am

    theakes

    Gosh, why do we seek to remind people of the Coalition. It is fatal to our prospects in Labour areas and we have a very important by election in Lewisham next month.

    You think people are just going to forget it?

    The fatal thing was and is not talking about the Coalition. Thus allowing the myths to grow.

    Myth 1) We could equally have formed a coalition with Labour, but choose the Tories because we would always prefer them. Reality is that a Tory-LibDem coalition was the only option. A Labour-LibDem coalition would not have had a majority, and Labour weren’t that interested in it, preferring to see us destroyed by the consequences of the only viable government.

    Myth 2) We could have got what we liked from the Coalition, but chose not to. Reality is that this was a five-sixths Tory to one-sixth LibDem coalition, and its policies reflected that. There was no way the Tories would have moved further. For example, absolutely no way they would have agreed to the tax rises necessary to avoid raising tuition fees and to avoid big cuts in universities.

    Myth 3) Most LibDems were happy with the Coalition. Most of us who were members in 2010 accepted it only very reluctantly, and hated much of what it did. We accepted it only because the alternative would have been a minority Conservative government that would have manipulated things to win a majority in another general election a year later.

  • David Evans 14th May '18 - 1:05pm

    It is good to see a more pragmatic assessment of coalition emerging on LDV at last. Sadly it has come much too late to help save the party from the catastrophe our leaders inflicted on us, but perhaps it will allow us to finally acknowledge and learn from our mistakes rather than simply reiterate the shallow and pathos laden soundbites so many have chosen to hide behind such as “It was all inevitable”, “We sacrificed ourselves for the country,” or “History will look kindly …”

    Caron is right to castigate Polly MacKenzie for her callous disregard of the consequences of the decision she applauds. We must do everything we can to ensure we never make the same mistake again, whether in local councils, or if we are that lucky again, in national government. But it is clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg that actually sank the good ship Liberal Democracy.

    For five consecutive years, the top of the party led us to commit communal suicide, destroying our core vote and allowing our workers and supporters to be undermined without a second thought. All those around at the time, knew, and some of us had the courage to tell Nick, that he had surrounded himself with bright young things who hadn’t a clue about politics and we offered real advice based on experience, but is was rejected with absolute disdain.

    Unfortunately, instead of galvanising a real movement to save things, LDV produced a massive series of puff pieces, designed to support the leadership, in the misguided belief that those who cried out for change were undermining the party. Indeed I remember quite recently posters being told that it was unacceptable to condemn staff (who were paid very large sums) and some posts were expunged. At least that has now changed. But it is all too slow.

    John Marriott is right when he says “I am getting pretty tired of this continued soul searching about the events between 2010 and 2015. Can we PLEASE move on!” But the problem is that the British public (on whose votes we depend) have not moved on, because we haven’t moved on. Despite our headline gains in the local elections, our national share of the vote was actually down once again by 2%, but still we carry on as if things will just come right.

    Until we accept that we messed up bad style and stop ignoring the mistakes of the past, we will continue to decline, despite the phenomenal efforts of a few areas.

  • “I will not be renewing my membership when it expires – unless there are some significant changes – which I do not expect.”
    John I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you will reconsider. If you believe in Liberal principles, this is the place for you – and we need you. Remember that this party is open and participatory: if you have changes that you want to see, you can use your power as a member to try and advance them.

  • Steve Magner 14th May '18 - 2:14pm

    David is absolutely right in his analysis. As Elton John said it – Sorry is the hardest word to say!!!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th May '18 - 2:27pm

    Mathew

    We disagreed a lot in the past, you with me too much for what were policy stances, not values, you and I share those as do most of us here.

    We have not seen you here for a long while. Trust you are well.

    A good sensible piece here.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th May '18 - 2:39pm

    David Evans

    All those around at the time, knew, and some of us had the courage to tell Nick, that he had surrounded himself with bright young things who hadn’t a clue about politics and we offered real advice based on experience,

    Indeed. From 1994 to 2006 I was a LibDem councillor in Downham ward – in Lewisham East constituency. I note that in 2018 we got a poor third place there. During the time of the Coalition, I was one of the most active contributors to LibDem Voice. I put a huge amount of effort into trying to point out all the things the Leadership was getting wrong. The Leadership did the exact opposite of everything I suggested.

    In 2017 with a new leader, we had the chance to explain clearly that the Coalition was not our ideal at all, and to talk properly about how the distortional electoral system led to it, and how the necessity to pay for government services and the Tory refusal to raise taxes led to what the Coalition did. We need honesty about this “If you want it provided by government you must pay for it by taxes”, with tuition fees showing the awful consequence of having to find some other way to pay for something if higher taxes are not accepted.

    Instead, we threw away the chance to do this by pushing ourselves as the party that was about one issue alone: Remaining in the EU. I’m happy for us to keep that policy, but making it look as if it’s all we stand for means it is now assumed we are economic right-wingers who differ from the Tories only on Brexit.

    Most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that the EU is all about giving power to big business, and so supposed leaving the EU would reverse what in reality is caused by the mass privatisation pushed by all governments since 1979. So, they see us making a big stand against Brexit as just confirmation that that’s what we are – the party of big business control. And we appear unable to say what is needed to counter that.

  • @Katharine Pindar
    ‘The Consultation Paper (no. 134) was a thorough review of the present situation and options,’
    Beg to differ on this. The consultation document was more a consultation on the Graduate tax option and was obviously designed to steer the membership down this path. No reference was made to put this policy in the context of the 2010 pledge and broken promise. No review of the higher education system was offered into which the student fee question has to be placed. IMHO, If the party goes down this line it will turn out to be an embarrassment on the doorstep and probably be the last straw for me.

  • Ruth Bright 14th May '18 - 5:06pm

    Lovely to hear from Matthew. Condolences about your old ward. It is tough but necessary to look at places we held so recently but where there is now little trace of our existence. I can think of a parliamentary seat we lost in 2015 where in 2017 we won just 3 polling districts

    As Chris Renwick reminds us in his amazing book “Bread for All”, in 1924 “The Liberals recorded their lowest ever share of the vote, 17.6% and were reduced to 40 seats. It would take another 86 years…for Liberals to return to government, at which point [another] coalition with the Conservatives would subsequently deliver a not dissimilar outcome”.

  • Robert Irwin 14th May '18 - 5:19pm

    Three comments to make:

    1. Coalition saved the nation from economic disaster. The Bank of England begged Sir Nick to form a government because the bond market was about to collapse.

    2. The plastic bag tax affects everyone and all living things.

    3. IDS’s cuts were ameliorated by the tax cut for the lowest earners, school meals for the under sevens, the triple lock, and vetoing the fire-at-will employment law.

    I agree that we should never be in Coalition again – if we enter it with Labout we will lose the liberal right vote instead – but hopefully the economic conditions of 2010 will never be repeated.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th May '18 - 10:24pm

    A good start for a balanced viewpoint, Robert Irwin, but we can’t go too far with it – the tax cut for the lowest earners was no help to those not earning enough to pay tax. There is a desperate need for us to build policy to help the poorest in this country, including many in work who still cannot make ends meet much of the time. I am anxious that we are not yet as radical in our policies as excellent pieces from many contributors to LDV would have us be, and trust this may be improved at the September Conference.

    I too welcome Matthew Huntbach’s reappearance, but I don’t think it’s right ‘that most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that the EU is all about giving power to big business’, Matthew – surely an astonishing unprovable assertion from an academic?

    The higher education system may well need reconsideration as a whole, P.J., but if the party is moving towards acceptance of a graduate tax, as you infer, that is surely in acknowledgement that the present arrangement amounts to a sort of graduate tax, and that (as Jeremy Corbyn found out) you can’t just abolish tuition fees without giving universities some comparable support.

  • @Robert Irwin

    “3. IDS’s cuts were ameliorated ”
    Sorry, but there was no way of making these cuts to welfare “better”.
    Millions of people struggling on benefits having them frozen for years on end, which amounts to a cut, and you think giving pensioners a triple lock on their pensions (Which increased the welfare budget) makes it all ok??? I don’t think so

  • John Roffey 15th May '18 - 5:56am

    Katharine – your view of Matthew Huntbach’s contribution is understandable – but unfortunately incorrect.

    ” I don’t think it’s right ‘that most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that the EU is all about giving power to big business’, Matthew – surely an astonishing unprovable assertion from an academic?”

    Whereas Noam Chomsky’s view on these matters might not be without some bias – he is greatly respected and is in a position to know what is going on in the US – he explains the extent of US corporate power in this recent interview.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=561&v=JFXkH_Dotuw

    These matters are not reported in the MSM – because this is almost entirely owned or controlled by the same corporate power. It is worth watching any recent John Pilger YouTube video on the subject to see this explained from a different prospective. JP’s basic complaint of the Press is not that ‘fake news’ is reported – it is what is omitted that concerns him. In doing so it leaves the public completely oblivious of much of what is going on in the world – those matters that are of the utmost importance!

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 6:33am

    Robert Irwin

    I agree that we should never be in Coalition again

    If that is the position we should hold, then we are not liberal democrats.

    At the centre of liberal democracy is the idea that government should be formed from a representative assembly, with policies agreed by that assembly reaching a compromise. If we don’t want that, and instead want government by one party, so that party forces through whatever its polices are, then that is what socialists are all about, the Leninist sort and the National Socialists of 1930s Italy and Germany taking that idea to its natural conclusion. Is that what we are as well?

    If we believe in proportional representation to give a truly representative Parliament, then inevitably that means a multi-party system, and it is hypocritical to support that, and yet refuse to accept what it must necessarily lead to, which is coalition governments.

    As I said, continuously in 2010-15, we should have made clear that the Coalition then was very far from our ideal, not only because coalition means compromise, but also because the distortional representation system we have gave the Tories many more seats and us many less seats than our share of votes. I feel it was necessary for Britain to have a stable government, and the Coalition formed was the only one possible. It’s what people voted for, and they voted for it again when they were given the chance to change the electoral system and rejected it. Just because as democrats we had to go along with it does not mean we regard everything it did as ideal. Why couldn’t we make that clear then? Why can’t we make that clear now?

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 6:46am

    Katharine Pindar

    I too welcome Matthew Huntbach’s reappearance, but I don’t think it’s right ‘that most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that the EU is all about giving power to big business’,

    Perhaps you do not have contact with working class people, so you do not have experience of why people in so many poor Labour-majority areas voted Leave. My own experience is very much that people who voted Leave are people who are unhappy with the way our country has changed since 1979, when a government whose main policy was “public bad, private good, baah” came into power, and every government since then has been the same.

    Sure, the Leave campaign was cynical, because it was funded and run by people who believe in the exact opposite of what most Leave voters thought it was about. Sure, a few Leave voters may have gone along with their true beliefs, but in my experience the vast majority of Leave voter just didn’t get the point – because of the appallingly bad way the Remain campaign was run, mostly by economic right-wingers like Clegg who lacked the ability to be able to criticise fellow (but more extreme) economic right-wingers for what they really were about.

    When people heard that leaving the EU meant “more control” that’s what they wanted – and they thought it meant a reversal of the way control had moved away from government since 1979. The clinching case in favour of Leave was made by Clegg when he said that leaving the EU would “turn the clock back”. Well, that’s just what Leave voters wanted, a return to the old economy style of decades ago. Except, of course, when you look at who was funding and running the Leave campaign, what it actually means is the exact opposite of that. But thickoes like Clegg couldn’t see that and get it across to stop the madness of the Leave vote.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 6:55am

    Ruth Bright

    Lovely to hear from Matthew. Condolences about your old ward.

    What has happened there shows the reality, that the LibDems have thrown away what used to be their core vote – working class people who would never vote Conservative, but who didn’t like Labour much either. So far as I’m concerned, my life’s work in building up the party in places like Downham ward and the working class suburbs in the south where I grew up, has been destroyed. I’ve no real interest in getting back to being active in the party. There a few reasons why I’ve got back to contributing to LibDem Voice in the last couple of days, one of which is that I’m currently working in Beijing (I have to do that for two weeks every year), and for some reason LibDem Voice is available here, while other websites I’d now prefer to spend my time on are not.

  • Robert Irwin 14th May ’18 – 5:19pm………………..I agree that we should never be in Coalition again……………………….

    The problem was not with the ‘coalition’ (although I would have far preferred a ‘Confidence and Supply’ agreement) but with those who entered and gained ministerial positions within it.
    Sadly, Clegg, Alexander, Laws, etc. seemed to have no loyalty to the liberal policies they had been elected to represent. NHS reorganisation, tuition fees, immigrant rights, bedroom tax, UC, etc. were vigorously supported in the media by our leaders and also, disappointingly, on mainstream LDV (75% of coalition policies are LibDem, anyone?).
    The ‘rose garden’ aside was not a slip but a promise.

    With just 10 MPs the DUP have stood for THEIR beliefs far more than did our 50+.

    We keep hearing about ‘moving on’ but those advocating it are usually explaining how much good was done in the coalition years; but that is not what is remembered. Every time we condemn a Tory attack on immigrants, child poverty, homelessness, etc., the counter argument is, “What did you do in government?”..For example, on the ‘Windrush Generation’ scandal, only 3 of our MPs voted against the policy that made it happen.
    The remedy has been pointed out by many on here but, to quote Elton John, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”

  • @expats

    “We keep hearing about ‘moving on’ but those advocating it are usually explaining how much good was done in the coalition years”

    What Irks me is, that from 2010-2015 and even now, everything that went wrong was Labours fault, no matter what went on in Government, it seemed to be the fault of the last Labour administration, it was trotted out time and again
    But now, since 2015, all the things that went wrong during the last administration, have nothing to do with Liberal Democrats, i.e. Child Poverty Increases, Universal Credit, etc.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 12:13pm

    expats

    With just 10 MPs the DUP have stood for THEIR beliefs far more than did our 50+.

    Parties that do best as minority parties in coalitions are those who have fanatically committed supporters, and those whose only real interest is some small issue or geographical area that can easily be paid off. That’s the DUP. The LibDems are the opposite.

    DUP voters are not going to switch to Sinn Fein in protest at the DUP supporting a Tory government, are they? Given the semi-independent nature of Northern Ireland, the DUP can happily vote for Tory policies that don’t affect their own voters. Paying off the DUP by dumping money into Northern Ireland is relatively cheap compared with what would be required to meet LibDem ideals across the rest of the UK.

    On the other stuff, to what extent were those things really “vigorously supported”, rather than accepted as a compromise? And why is it that all of us who opposed them in the party are written off as if we never existed, in order to give the impression that 100% of LibDem members vigorously supported them all? The reality is that our ability to stop these things happening was wrecked because when we turned round for outside support we got none – instead Labour were happy to push the line that 100% of LibDems were vigorous supporters of everything the Coalition does because Labour wants to destroy us.

    It as actually “75% of LibDem policies implemented” rather than “75% of coalition policies are LibDem” – subtle difference. However, I do remember pointing out at the time that it was madness to push that line, as it would obviously be seen by everyone as you have put it.

  • John Roffey 15th May '18 - 1:17pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “Parties that do best as minority parties in coalitions are those who have fanatically committed supporters, and those whose only real interest is some small issue or geographical area that can easily be paid off.”

    Surely it is possible to enter an arrangement where the smaller party simply acts as a restraining force on the larger party across a wide range of policies. However, to do this the smaller party must not expect any of their policies to be implemented unless they were more or less the same as those of the larger party. This seems to be a responsible approach to the problem – after all a majority of the voters did not support the smaller party’s unique policies – to take advantage of the situation is effectively to ‘slip them in through the back door’.

    Such an approach – as long as what is being done is transparent – is likely to improve the standing of the smaller party in the voter’s eyes – and lead to increased support at the next GE. Tuition fees would not have been agreed to with this approach.

    Such a basis would also provide for a suitable arrangement with Labour if the Party’s support is needed after the next GE.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th May '18 - 1:23pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    “And why is it that all of us who opposed them in the party are written off as if we never existed, in order to give the impression that 100% of LibDem members vigorously supported them all?”

    Still on that straw man, Matthew? No one cares whether 100% of party members vigorously supported anything, much less whether you or I individually did so. The party collectively and overwhelmingly supported the decision to go into the coalition and supported staying in it long past the point of, frankly, sanity. People outside the party aren’t seeking to deny the existence of lone voices within the party opposing some of the Coalition policies, because they (rightly) don’t care. The Party – led of course by Clegg with the overwhelming support of the other 56 MPs – supported the Coalition and voted for all sorts of things, whilst publicly enthusiastically supporting government policies that were anathema to many of their supporters. Your feelings of being personally traduced by association are frankly irrelevant.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 2:50pm

    Malcolm Todd – what you are saying is insulting to me and MANY other LibDem and ex-LibDem members. You like others deliberately downplay us and make the false impression that we are a small minority because you want to destroy the Liberal Democrats.

    Congratulations – you have done it. People now believe what you say, and disbelieve what I say. As a result, the Liberal Democrats have been destroyed. And you have what you want – a permanent Tory government. Well done!

  • Peter Watson 15th May '18 - 3:44pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I often think you are too harsh on those who didn’t/don’t give enough credit or support to Lib Dems who did not back Nick Clegg.

    Certainly nobody should believe that all Lib Dems were fully behind Nick Clegg in exactly the same way that not everybody in the Labour party supported Blair or supports Corbyn and not everybody in the Conservative party supported Cameron or supports May.

    But under Clegg’s leadership there was very little public dissent (Corbyn and May would love that sort of solidarity!), and Lib Dem MPs looked much more aligned with Cameron and Osborne than did some of their own backbenchers. Anybody coming to this site would have seen those who disapproved of Clegg being dismissed as a noisy minority. Even when Clegg’s toxicity in polls and elections was evident, the LibDems4Change movement got short shrift here.

    So what if Labour did choose to lump all Lib Dems together, perhaps for their own electoral gain, perhaps because they were preoccupied with licking their own wounds, or perhaps because they did not see any potential Lib Dem allies (not even Vince Cable). After all, the official Lib Dem line was very much about blaming Labour for everything and disagreeing with Clegg did not necessarily imply any liking for Labour.

    If Lib Dems wanted to demonstrate that they were not all “Cleggies”, that anti-Cleggies were not a small minority, then it was up to them to do so themselves rather than expect sympathy from political opponents who on all sides (Labour, Conservative, SNP, etc.) were bound to be happier with the decline of a party that could take seats from any of them. And ultimately, the party, its parliamentarians, its members, its conferences, failed to make themselves look like anything other than Nick Clegg’s fan club. Even now, criticism of him is contentious on this site.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th May '18 - 3:51pm

    Do grow up, Matthew. Learn to read what people actually write and consider it from the perspective of a brain that isn’t yours and therefore isn’t primarily concerned with what people think about Matthew Huntbach.
    I won’t bother to address the rest of your little rant, which I’ve seen many times before and which no amount of argument or explanation will induce you to give up.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 4:12pm

    I was an active member of the Liberal Democrats and I know what I am talking about. The idea that you Peter Watson and Michael Todd are putting across, that almost all Liberal Democrats members were firm supporters of every policy the Coalition government had is simply false. I believe that if those of us who stood up against the Clegg leadership had more recognition and support, we could have achieved much more.

    My last active involvement with the Liberal Democrats was to attend the party conference where there was a vote against the leadership’s support for NHS reorganisation. Your claim that almost all Liberal Democrats enthusiastically supported that is one thing – A LIE. Even those who did argue for it, put the case that they reluctantly supported it because it was as far as the Conservatives would go, they most certainly did not support it “enthusiastically”. The vote was very close, the leadership almost lost. If we who stood against them had more outside support, we would have won, because there was a whole middle ground who were persuaded by the leadership to vote for them using the argument that you are putting – it was pointless to vote against the leadership because no-one outside the party supported us the opposition to them.

    So, congratulations, Peter and Malcolm, you Clegg supporters. You won, we lost, the party got destroyed.

  • @Katharine Pindar
    ‘(as Jeremy Corbyn found out) you can’t just abolish tuition fees without giving universities some comparable support.’
    I don’t think JC has found out anything of the kind. He found out that writing off the student debt book would cost about £100billion. He also found out that tuition fees amount to about £18billion a year at current rate of fees (small change in JC’s book). The Tories have instigated a report on higher education and will come up with an offering. A recent thinktank report estimated the true cost of university education should be c£4,500 p.a. Unless the Libdems get this right we will end up twisting in the wind at the next election.
    We don’t need to be radical, just competent and true to our beliefs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 4:43pm

    Peter Watson

    So what if Labour did choose to lump all Lib Dems together, perhaps for their own electoral gain,

    And for the Conservatives’ electoral gain, as the main effect of the destruction of the Liberal Democrats has been that so many places where the Tories and LibDems were neck-and-neck have now become safe Tory again. So, yes, as you say, there has been a coalition between Labour and the Conservative to restore the two-party system. They have won, it is back, and mostly it means forever having a Conservative majority government.

    I myself have dropped out of political activity. I certainly can’t see the point of getting active in the Liberal Democrats again when there are so many Cleggies like you enthusiastically pushing the image of the Liberal Democrats as an economic right-wing party. Thanks to people like you, many people like me have dropped out, and many others having believed what you say about the LibDems have joined the party because they like the idea of the party as you have been pushing it.

    So, as I said, congratulations – you have won. Even if you were wrong about how the Liberal Democrats were in the past, your enthusiastic pushing of the right-wing means you probably are correct now.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th May ’18 – 3:51pm……………..Do grow up, Matthew………..

    I thought such insults were ‘infra dig’ on LDV; or does that depend on one’s ‘standing’ in the hierarchy?
    The rank and file were anything but ‘enthusiastic’ over policies like the NHS reorganisation. However, the ‘party machine’ wheeled out Shirley and ‘bad bill was made a little less bad’ (a bill that should never have seen the light of day).
    Over the following months/years many of us posted ‘not in my name’ over umpteen policies that were anything but liberal but, and here is where I disagree with MH, it was those who held the ‘public face’ within the party who stifled debate.

    You say “….supported staying in it long past the point of, frankly, sanity”; where was that ‘sanity’ when it mattered?
    If my memory serves the official narrative went from “Too early to make changes at the top” to “Too late to make changes at the top” without ever passing through “Now is the time, etc”

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th May '18 - 5:00pm

    John Roffey, you say “tuition fees would not have been agreed to with this approach”. OK. so what would have happened instead? How would the Liberal Democrats acting just as a “restraining force” have been able to force the Tory government to raise taxes enough to carry on subsidising universities? They wouldn’t, so the Tories would instead have made massive cuts in universities.

    As for “A recent thinktank report estimated the true cost of university education should be c£4,500 p.a.”, sure. If you abolished all university research, and forced all academics to spend all their time just doing teaching, maybe the price of it could be lowered to that.

    I’m not even saying these alternatives are necessarily bad things. What I am saying is that the idea that tuition fees are a separate issue with no connection to anything else is false. Perhaps it would have been better not to have tuition fees as they are, and instead do what I put as the alternatives above. But let us at least be honest about it.

    Or could we have paid for universities by big increases in inheritance tax? Well, personally that would be my favourite option. But I find when I suggest it to others, who have been vocal in criticising tuition fees, suddenly they go all quiet.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    While i understand that you have much to do – I would hope that you and others that consider the Lib Dems their natural home even if they were not a fan of the coalition (or indeed if they were) will consider arguing for what they want within the party and working for building it up.

    After all it would have been easy for Corbynistas in Labour and anti-Europeans within Tories might well have gone off – and that would probably would have been the wrong strategy for them.

    In life, people don’t get everything right, nor do political parties especially when under the spotlight of Government – but we should consider sticking by our friends and families – not for their sake but ours.

  • Peter Watson 15th May '18 - 6:19pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “The idea that you Peter Watson and Michael Todd are putting across, that almost all Liberal Democrats members were firm supporters of every policy the Coalition government had is simply false.”
    I’ve tried to make it clear that I don’t think that all Liberal Democrat members were firm supporters of every policy of the Coalition government. Indeed, I originally came across this site when looking for reassurance that there was still more to the Lib Dems than the impression given by its senior figures in the Coalition Government.

    But … if the Lib Dem leadership was not going to indicate where it dissented from Tory-led coalition policy, if Lib Dem MPs weren’t going to make it clear where they dissented from the leadership, and if rank-and-file members on the doorstep or in a forum like this site weren’t going to demonstrate that the leader did not have the support of a large majority of members, then it is not my fault (or Ed Milliband’s or Alex Salmond’s). I had to dig a bit to find that some Lib Dems had stayed to fight their ground but there was no suggestion that they were ever reaching out to Labour or the SNP for assistance. And for millions of voters, from all that we saw and heard, the Lib Dems were Clegg, Alexander and Laws, and Coalition policy had become Lib Dem policy.

  • John Roffey 15th May '18 - 6:26pm

    Matthew Huntbach – tuition fees was a particularly sensitive issue because of NC’s pledge – and arguably began the rapid decline in the Party’s fortunes.

    Would a Finance Bill with cuts to university subsidies have passed through the HofC without L/D support? Even if this were achieved – it would have been no worse than other measures that were taken under the austerity package aimed at worsening the lot of the poorest and most vulnerable.

    My interest is more in – what if the Party were to find itself in the same position again in the future. I would argue that had the Party operated as a restraining force as I have suggested – the likelihood is that it would not have lost many MPs at the following GE and may have increased this number.

    It is an important issue for the Party to consider – to learn lessons from a devastating event in its history. Since then there seems to have been a great reluctance to enter into any arrangement with another party should the opportunity arise again. This seems a pity as such a situation should give the Party a chance to demonstrate its maturity, its willingness to sacrifice short-term gains for the benefit of the nation and thereby increase the likelihood of winning an election in its own right in the future.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    ” If we who stood against them had more outside support, we would have won, ”

    I don’t understand this comment. Surly you had the support from, not only over half the country who did not vote conservative, but all former Labour voters who instead voted for Liberal Democrats in 2010. Public opinion was on Your side, it is a case that the Cleggites where not prepared to listen

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '18 - 6:58am

    matt

    I don’t understand this comment.

    Read what Peter Watson and Malcolm Todd have written. There was an eagerness to push the line that almost all Liberal Democrat members were keen supporters of the Coalition and every policy it enacted. This was simply untrue, most of us reluctantly accepted it for the reasons I’ve explained, and certainly did not think its policies were wonderful. As I have also said, things were made worse by the way the Cleggies in the party lined up with the opponents of the party to push this line as well.

    Those of us in the party who were willing to publicly stand up and oppose the Cleggies were greatly weakened by people like Peter Watson and Malcolm Todd giving support to the Cleggies as they are doing here. It enabled the Cleggies to push the line that that since we had already lost the left-wing support we used to have, there was no point in trying to revive it. The consequence is that there was a middle ground of members of the Liberal Democrats who would have been willing to support us if we could have shown that was not true, but who the Clegg-Watson-Todd alliance persuaded to support Clegg on the grounds that it was pointless trying to rescue the party because we would never regain all our old voters.

    This is what I saw in the 2012 conference, successfully used by the Cleggies to get a narrow victory against those of us who put the motion in that the party must reject the NHS reorganisation. If people outside the party on the political left but not committed to Labour were to have come out at that point and said they supported us Clegg opponents and would go back to supporting our party if we succeeded, then I think we would have succeeded in getting rid of Clegg. But when we turned round and looked for that support, we got none – the sort of people who could have helped us defeat Clegg were just supporting Clegg by pushing the false line that almost all members of the party were really extreme economic right-wingers who loved everything the Coalition was doing.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '18 - 7:07am

    expats

    here is where I disagree with MH, it was those who held the ‘public face’ within the party who stifled debate.

    Why do you say this is a disagreement with me? I fully support what you have written here. One of the most appalling and illiberal things Clegg did was to show extreme bias in who he gave positions to at the top of the party, in particular those responsible for its national publicity. If I were a party leader, I would feel it would be essential to give a balance to all views in the party in that way. Clegg appointed just load of fellow extreme-right economic types.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '18 - 7:34am

    John Roffey

    Matthew Huntbach – tuition fees was a particularly sensitive issue because of NC’s pledge – and arguably began the rapid decline in the Party’s fortunes.

    Sure, which is why I believe how the LibDems should have tackled this is to have agreed to propose the tax rise that would have been necessary to continue subsidising universities as a public motion in Parliament, and agreed the Tories could vote against it. That would have forced Labour to come out and be honest about how they would pay for universities if they were in government.

    I can see the logic behind what the LibDem ministers did (the majority of LibDem MPs who were not ministers voted against tuition fee increases): since there was no way they could persuade the Tories to raise tax to pay for universities, rather than argue with them on that, instead push for the most generous loan system that could be put in place, which was really no different from a tax increase in the way it would work. Remember that the high interest rates now in existence on student loans were not introduced at that time, the Tories are to blame for that.

    As a university lecturer, my job was saved by what the LibDem ministers did. Had the alternative taken place, I would almost certainly have been one of the victims of the massive cuts in universities that would then have happened.

    Pushing the idea that the LibDems could have stopped tuition fees without that having any other consequences is an aspect of a more general problem: the tendency in politics to think of government spending and taxation as two separate unrelated things. Pushing this line aids the political right, because it makes people think they can vote for parties which promise to keep taxes low without considering the consequences. This country is in a complete mess because of that – no party dares propose the tax increases that actually would be necessary to restore public services to where they need to be. Corbyn won’t do it, he just waves his hands vaguely about he could really pay for all the things he says a government led by him would do.

    Tuition fees should have been pushed as an awful warning: this is what happens if you aren’t willing to pay taxes.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May ’18 – 7:07am……………expats, here is where I disagree with MH, it was those who held the ‘public face’ within the party who stifled debate…………
    Why do you say this is a disagreement with me? I fully support what you have written here. One of the most appalling and illiberal things Clegg did was to show extreme bias in who he gave positions to at the top of the party, in particular those responsible for its national publicity……………………….

    My apologies, Mathew. The way I read your post I thought you were primarily blaming those outside the party for not backing dissenting voices within the party..It was our house and, at the time, I felt we had as much affect as throwing snowballs into hell when it came to getting our voices heard.
    Obviously I got, as my mother used to say, “The wrong end of the stick” again, I apologise

  • John Roffey 16th May '18 - 9:11am

    Matthew Huntbach – ‘a more general problem: the tendency in politics to think of government spending and taxation as two separate unrelated things’.

    I certainly understand the connection – I can also understand your particular concern over tuition fees – as you are a university lecturer. However, in truth, my concern has been more for the poorest and most vulnerable, as Caron points out at the beginning of the article, the need for food banks is a disgrace for a relatively rich nation as is widespread homelessness. As you say tax rises are a sensitive issue – my solution would be to extract much more from the global corporations that have become so profitable since the introduction of the free global market which has caused a veritable upwards flood of wealth and virtually ended the trickle down effect.

    That said – if you look at my post you will see I was trying to identify what lessons the Party should learn from the disastrous consequences of the Coalition – to avoid a similar occurrence in the future. I don’t think some arrangement to work with a larger party should be ruled out entirely – as seems to be the general opinion at the moment – and have offered some suggestions on how this might be tackled.

    Any thoughts?

  • Peter Martin 16th May '18 - 10:04am

    @ Matthew,

    “……the tendency in politics to think of government spending and taxation as two separate unrelated things”

    Yep. You’re right. There is. Yet, it is easy enough to see that if the Govt cuts its spending its taxation revenue will fall too.

    But then you make the mistake of saying.

    ” no party dares propose the tax increases that actually would be necessary to restore public services to where they need to be”

    But tax rises are likely to have the same effect as spending cuts and depress the economy.

    Nothing is separate. Exports, Imports, Ours Savings, Govt Spending, Our spending and investment etc. You can’t just change one parameter and expect everything else to stay the same.

    https://www.socialeurope.eu/government-deficits-and-national-accounting-identities

  • Sandra Hammett 16th May '18 - 11:11am

    WE SERIOUSLY NEED TO RESET OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ELECTORATE. IMHO THE EASIEST WAY TO DO THIS IS TO

    1: STOP TALKING ABOUT BREXIT SO NEGATIVELY (WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DEMOCRATS AFTER ALL)

    2: APOLOGISE FOR MISTAKES MADE IN THE COALITION YEARS, PEOPLE STILL HOLD IT AGAINST US. IF WE CAN HOLD OUR HANDS UP AND CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR ACTIONS, PEOPLE MAY FINALLY FORGIVE US AND GIVE US A SYMPATHETIC EAR IN THE FUTURE

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '18 - 1:04pm

    Peter Martin

    But tax rises are likely to have the same effect as spending cuts and depress the economy

    Oh, that’s what the rich say, isn’t it: “You must keep us rich, because that benefits the economy”. Sorry, no, rubbish.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '18 - 1:19pm

    Sandra Hammett

    STOP TALKING ABOUT BREXIT SO NEGATIVELY (WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DEMOCRATS AFTER ALL)

    Ok, so the people vote for X because they want Y. I believe that X will lead to the opposite of Y. So what am I supposed to do as a democrat?

    Sorry, but right from the start I could see that the Leave campaign was being run by extreme economic right-wingers, but they were hiding why they really wanted Leave in order to get support from those who want the opposite.

    Nothing has persuaded me that leaving the EU will bring about what most of those who voted for it thought it would bring about. I’m open to someone managing to do so, I wish someone could, but no-one has managed to do so. Indeed, I started off not that mad keen on the EU, but the more I heard from Leave campaigners the more I was convinced we need to stay in the EU.

    You seem to suppose that as a democrat I should believe something to be true that I know to be a lie because people voted to support the lie. Well, I just can’t do that.

    Now, this is rather like working in a job and you are told by your manager to do something that you know will lead to a disaster. What should you do? Do it anyway? No, I don’t think so. You should explain to your manager why you think it will lead to a disaster and ask him/her to think again. Ultimately, if your manager won’t back down, there’s only one decent thing you can do: resign. And that’s what I’ve done. While Brexit is being pushed because we are told we must have it because people voted for it, and I know it will lead to disaster, I have resigned from politics.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '18 - 1:35pm

    John Roffey

    That said – if you look at my post you will see I was trying to identify what lessons the Party should learn from the disastrous consequences of the Coalition

    If you look at the posts I made here in LibDem Voice during the time of the Coalition you can see that I told the Party exactly what it should do to avoid the disastrous consequences. Its leader and those he put at the top did the exact opposite to everything I suggested.

    expats

    My apologies, Mathew. The way I read your post I thought you were primarily blaming those outside the party for not backing dissenting voices within the party

    No, it was quite clearly an alliance wanting to destroy the Liberal Democrats, the alliance consisting of its right-wing leadership and its followers and left-wingers outside the Liberal Democrats. I remember during the time of Coalition how trapped I felt between these two. The worst thing was the way both sides of this alliance tended to accuse you of being on the other side and ignore what you were really saying, especially when you hit the nail on the head.

    I stand by everything I wrote here in 2010-15. I told the truth. Had the party done what I suggested, I do not think it would have been destroyed.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I don’t think the leadership group of the party 2008-2015 set out to destroy the party. As you say they were right-wingers. However, they also had a contempt for the activists who had got thousands of councillors elected and they didn’t accept our left of centre tradition. Lots of them would have been Conservatives but had particular reasons for not being so, in Clegg’s case the EU. Lots of them really believed that there was a place in British politics for an economic liberal and socially liberal party. Then of course Clegg thought people would be grateful for us taking part in government!

    There has always been a section of conference attendees who support the leadership, because it is the leadership. I imagine this group expanded when we were in government because being seen as a split party is damaging for public support. Also the right-wing section of the party had increased. It is likely that these factors were greater in determining the outcome of the 2012 NHS debate than ex-Lib Dem voters not saying they will return to vote for us if we stopped the NHS reforms.

  • Peter Martin 16th May '18 - 2:50pm

    @Matthew Huntbach,

    Taxes aren’t just paid by the rich. If you’re in work you’ll likely be paying income tax at the standard rate, you’ll be paying 20% VAT on most/many of your purchases, you’ll be paying a variety of car taxes, petrol duty, council taxes. You’ll possibly be able to think of a few others. Then there’s National Insurance and TV licences which are taxes in all but name.

  • Sandra Hammett 16th May '18 - 3:30pm

    MATT HUNTBACH

    I’M NOT SAYING WE STOP OPPOSING BREXIT BUT WE DO NEED TO REALISE THAT THE MAJORITY, HOWEVER SLIM, VOTED FOR IT; AND IF WE ARE TO PERSUADE THEM THAT THEIR DECISION WAS AN ERROR BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE WE MUST APPRECIATE THEIR POINT OF VIEW RATHER THAN BERATING THEM. IF WE LISTEN TO THEM THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO LISTEN TO US.

  • Michael BG 16th May ’18 – 2:31pm…………….I don’t think the leadership group of the party 2008-2015 set out to destroy the party……………

    What they set out to do was to rebrand the party, a party that had by, unpaid support, built itself to a solid third party.
    Their beliefs were, as you say, right wing and they had a grandiose plan that by distancing the party from those on the left they would attract ‘soft’ Tories (forgetting that soft Tories are still Tories).
    Far from being a ‘marriage of convenience’ it was a ‘love match’ and our leadership spent as much time in the media applauding policies, most of which should have been an anathema to us, as did their ministerial bosses. So, instead of attracting new members, those soft Tories voted for the real thing.
    The NHS reorganisation was bullied through and even the unreformed ‘bedroom tax’ and secret courts were supported. Danny Alexander’s interview in May 2013, in which he stated that, ” “Let me reassure you and your viewers that Liberal Democrats will make sure that this government continues to be strong and stable (so that’s where May got the phrase from) enough to continue to take the difficult decisions in the many years to come.”, said it all.

    Instead of reacting to the fall in support, loss of councillors and MEPs, they persisted in the same belief until the end; an end that came in 2015.

  • Jim Alexander 16th May '18 - 6:01pm

    Caron

    “and starvation” can you provide any evidence in any shape or form where people have been on the brink of starvation due to benefit sanctions – I would also challenge you to come up with stats on the number of people made “homeless” due to sanctions – you cannot simply dismiss all sanctions as wrong – nor that they dont work – there will always be issues with anything new – but the Welfare System was allowed to run unchecked under Labour – it actually harms people at the bottom end of Society if they become dependant on it – Clintions Welfare to Work Act was far more brutal but the benefits to those art the bottom end in the longer term were massive – as fior the quote from the SPAD – too many of them think they are in the West Wing _ would ban anyone from being a SPAD who hadnt worked outside Politics for 5 Years – and that includes working in lobbying /PR – they have no “real world ” experience to base there policies on

  • Sean Hyland 16th May '18 - 6:24pm

    I am not a party member, have not been so since pre coalition. I would like to ask those who may have more of an idea especially those within the party the following question.

    Do they think that any one at a senior level within the party has actually taken this issue on board? I am thinking of Vince and the MPs as well as the senior officials and board members etc. I don’t get the impression that they feel they need to acknowledge fully what happened whilst they we’re in the coalition and the effect it had on the public most importantly and party performance at the ballot box. I don’t feel they see the need to fully apologise for or acknowledge the votes they took or the speeches that they made. Does anyone think they are actually listening or reading the posts on sites such as this? Will anything actually change? There are some tremendous individuals in the party with principles I just wonder if they are truly appreciated.

    I consider myself a party supporter and voter. I still find the coalition an issue when talking with wider circle of friends etc. People think there is a still an issue of trust and worry that principles will not matter if a chance of power comes again.

  • Sandra Hammett 17th May '18 - 12:56am

    SEAN HYLAND

    IF WE ARE EVER TO BE HEARD AGAIN, ESPECIALLY WITH BREXIT IMMINENT, WE NEED TO TAKE ACCOUNT OF OUR ACTIONS DURING THE COALITION. IF PEOPLE ARE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO FORGIVE US, WE CAN HAVE A CHANCE TO PERSUADE THEM AGAIN. BUT UNTIL THEN WE’LL FOREVER BE SHACKLED TO OUR PAST.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 3:40am

    Michael BG

    It is likely that these factors were greater in determining the outcome of the 2012 NHS debate than ex-Lib Dem voters not saying they will return to vote for us if we stopped the NHS reforms.

    Oh, sure – I’m certainly not saying that the only factor that damaged the LibDems was the lack of outside support and recognition we who opposed the leadership got. What I am saying is that the readiness of people like Peter Watson and Malcolm Todd to push the false line that almost all of us in the LibDems were keen supporters of everything the Coalition government did was a contributing factor. In effect, by doing this they were supporting the LibDem leadership in its aim to push the LibDems to the economic right.

    Labour were keen to do this, but the result was to restore the Tories to absolute power in all those places where once they were seriously challenged by the Liberal Democrats.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 4:05am

    Sean Hyland

    I consider myself a party supporter and voter. I still find the coalition an issue when talking with wider circle of friends etc. People think there is a still an issue of trust and worry that principles will not matter if a chance of power comes again.

    This is why the LibDem leadership needed to come out right at the start and say what a coalition means. The idea pushed by that it was just about power is wrong. After all, for most of us in the LibDems it took away our power, for example I was once a LibDem councillor, and thanks to the Coalition I probably never will be again.

    A coalition has to be formed because there is a need for a stable government. It seems to me to be hypocritical to want a multi-party system and yet not to go into a coalition when as a result of that going into a coalition is the only way to get a stable government. The distortional effect of our electoral system meant that in 2010 a Labour-LibDem coalition was ruled out because it would not have had a majority. In a sense, accepting the Coalition was just accepting what people voted for, especially when they confirmed that in the referendum on electoral reform when they voted against changing our current electoral system because they supported the way it gave extra seats to the party with the most votes.

    A minor party in a coalition actually has very little power. This needed to be stated by the LibDem leadership from the start. It was a government that was five-sixths Conservative and one-sixth LibDem. As such, its policies would obviously be very far from the LibDem ideal. This idea being pushed by the likes of Peter Watson and Malcolm Todd that the LibDems supported enthusiastically everything done by the Coalition and would have done exactly the same if there had been a majority Liberal Democrat government is so false, and yet now seems to be believed by most people in this country.

    Nevertheless, I feel that if there had been more recognition and support for the LibDems in the Coalition when they did stand up against the Tories, they would have been more emboldened to do so.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 4:28am

    Peter Martin

    Taxes aren’t just paid by the rich.

    Sure, but your claim was that any tax rises would damage the economy. It is the rich who push that line, and they do it primarily to argue against higher taxes on those with wealth.

    Perhaps you could explain, for example, why you think increasing inheritance tax would damage the economy. I don’t think it would.

    In fact I think there is a fundamental contradiction between the claim that higher taxes would damage the economy because they suck away people’s money, and the reality of the way that low taxes on inheritance and property have pushed house prices right up, so people’s money is sucked away by having to pay so much of it for housing. Of course, if you are rich and already own houses, you’re the one sucking up the money, so of course you’ll push that line. Just perhaps if taxation on excessive ownership of houses made house prices lower, young people wouldn’t have to pay so much for somewhere to live, so would have more money to invest in developing new businesses, and that might improve the economy? Well, you are suggesting it wouldn’t.

    I wouldn’t myself take the Corbyn line that the cost of funding universities is so high that it wrecks the lives of almost everyone to pay for it through tuition fees, and yet so low that it could all be paid for by taxes that would affect almost no-one except a few wealthy people. I want to be honest and make the clear point that if one wants government services they must be paid for by taxation, and therefore consider just what taxation would best work to pay for it. Sure, that does mean considering forms of taxation which when first suggested people recoil from – inheritance tax being an obvious example. That is why I want to put the question “OK, if you don’t want to have that tax, how WOULD you pay for it?”. And, if people won’t come up with an answer “OK, so perhaps you do support the cuts after all”.

    Mostly I find when I say this sort of thing to people who moan about tuition fees, they go silent. Which rather proves my point.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 4:47am

    expats

    The NHS reorganisation was bullied through and even the unreformed ‘bedroom tax’ and secret courts were supported.

    OK, when I was a councillor for a ward that was largely council estate (now mostly sold off through right-to-buy and rented out privately at three times what the council rent is, with the house owners renting them out being paid fat money from taxpayers through housing allowance), here’s a typical councillor’s surgery day:

    First case: parents with four children living in a two-bedroom flat come to me. They are desperate and want me to help them get a three-bedroom council house. I have to say to them “Sorry, you will never get one, there are hardly any left now, and if any do become available they will always go to those who are in a more desperate situation than you are”.

    Second case: a single man whose mother who lived in a three-bedroomed council house has just died. He wants to take over the house by claiming he lived there, and wants me to support him. I have to agree to do so as he has the the right to do so.

    Do you think it is good that the single man also gets his rent subsidised by housing allowance so that he can carry on living in a house much bigger than his real needs? The details of “bedroom tax” may be wrong, but stopping that sort of subsidy was the general idea of it.

  • Alex Macfie 17th May '18 - 5:00am

    Sandra Hammett: First of all, no need to shout!
    Second, yes, we are democrats. And part of being a democrat is that you can dissent from the status quo, and continue to campaign for your principles even if the vote has gone against you. This is why we have opposition parties. After an election, the losing parties do not slavishly support everything the winning party in government does. And it is the same after the Brexit referendum. The idea that a vote should shut down debate is not democracy, it is dictatorship.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May ’18 – 4:47am
    expats

    The NHS reorganisation was bullied through and even the unreformed ‘bedroom tax’ and secret courts were supported………Do you think it is good that the single man also gets his rent subsidised by housing allowance so that he can carry on living in a house much bigger than his real needs? The details of “bedroom tax” may be wrong, but stopping that sort of subsidy was the general idea of it………………………..

    You appear to have missed the ‘unreformed’ bit.
    If ( as was the initial proposal) the tax is imposed even when there are NO suitable alternatives offered, then the tax has nothing to do with helping others and everything to do with a penalty simply for having an ‘extra’ bedroom. An ‘extra’ bedroom which was in some cases needed for a husband/wife who, due to illness, etc. could not share a bedroom with their spouse.
    I have no problem with the tax being used as an incentive to make ‘fairer’ use of available housing but a ‘real’ problem when there is none.

  • Peter Martin 17th May '18 - 8:40am

    @ Matthew,

    If you’d like to check I think you’ll find that what I actually said was:

    “… tax rises are likely to have the same effect as spending cuts and depress the economy”

    Is this the same as your “damage the economy”?

    No, it isn’t because its never a good idea to damage the economy! But sometimes the economy does need a touch on the brakes to stop it running too quickly and causing inflation. So a bit of ‘depression’, either by way of tax rises or spending cuts, on an overheating economy is necessary. Sometimes.

    But I’d say not now. Or maybe you disagree?

    If you do disagree, then fair enough. Argue for whatever extra taxes you like. Including an inheritance tax if that is your preference. But don’t think the Government is like a household and requires to raise the money from taxation before it can spend. Where do you think it comes from it the first instance before it is available to be collected as taxes from all of us?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 11:52am

    Peter Martin – so why don’t we just propose abolishing taxes altogether?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 12:25pm

    expats

    You appear to have missed the ‘unreformed’ bit.

    No, that’s why I wrote myself “the details may be wrong”. I quite agree that no-one should be forced out of their house without an alternative being offered. Indeed, I think a very generous alternative needs to be offered. However, once again I say, is it fair to subsidise someone so they can live in a house much bigger than their needs when the consequence is that a family who desperately need such a house can’t get one?

    On the husband and wife needing separate rooms, well of course if that really is the case that should be counted as sufficient to carry on paying housing allowance. However, what if they weren’t able to get a house with an extra bedroom in the first place? What if due to the shortage of council housing they lived in one room? That’s the reality now – if you have a roof over your head, there’s absolutely no chance you would ever get council housing.

    That’s what I had to deal with as a councillor in a ward that was once almost all council housing. Every week, constituents coming to my surgery, pleading with me to get them a council house as they were living in a squeezed situation, and I had to say “No, no chance”. In reality of course there is no way a councillor can get the rules twisted for council house allocation, although constituents seemed to think there was. What was happening was that council housing officers thought the best way to get rid of all these people with tears in their eyes desperately pleading was to send them off to me.

    Now, consider that the people coming to me were locals who had been brought up in a community where up till a few decades ago it was the norm that when you got married and started a family you would be given a council house in your community. And the people who got the few council houses that did become available were usually recent immigrants, who came first on the list due to being classed as homeless.

  • Peter Martin 17th May '18 - 1:46pm

    @ Matthew,

    You ask: ” ..so why don’t we just propose abolishing taxes altogether?”

    I’m sure you’re more than capable of answering this question for yourself. It just needs a little lateral thinking!

    But, in case you’re struggling:

    1) The Govt creates the currency.
    2) It spends it into the economy.
    3) At the same time it levies taxes – to be paid in its own issued currency.
    4) This gives a value to the currency and prevents too much inflation.
    5) The govt can never get back, in taxes, more than it has issued by spending which is why it is always in debt and nearly always in deficit.

  • Peter Martin 17th May '18 - 2:10pm

    @ Matthew,

    “When people heard that leaving the EU meant “more control” that’s what they wanted – and they thought it meant a reversal of the way control had moved away from government since 1979. The clinching case in favour of Leave was made by Clegg when he said that leaving the EU would “turn the clock back”. Well, that’s just what Leave voters wanted, a return to the old economy style of decades ago. Except, of course, when you look at who was funding and running the Leave campaign, what it actually means is the exact opposite of that. But thickoes like Clegg couldn’t see that and get it across to stop the madness of the Leave vote.”

    You start off being partially right but I don’t believe you’ll get anywhere if you dismiss anyone as a “thicko”. I’m sure David Cameron, George Osborne, and Nick Clegg are all quite intelligent. If we put them in the right economics class with the right lecturer – someone like Yanis Varoufakis or Stephanie Kelton they’d all be capable getting good marks.

    People do want an end to neoliberalism. That’s what a return to pre 1979 is generally taken to mean. We can all be in favour of the European ideal, but we have to also be realistic enough to realise that the PTB in the EU are worse than most. Much worse than the Americans, for example, in imposing a neoliberal doctrine. Their speciality is ordoliberalism. So they’ve even got their own word for it. It can work well enough in single net exporting country but until someone comes up with a way of everyone being a net exporter, it can’t work generally.

    https://www.ft.com/content/e257ed96-6b2c-11e4-be68-00144feabdc0

  • Peter Watson 17th May '18 - 3:12pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “people like Peter Watson … push the false line that almost all of us in the LibDems were keen supporters of everything”.
    I’d love to be so influential! I try to refer to “the Lib Dem leadership” or “senior Lib Dems” to avoid tarring everyone with the same brush.

    I came across this site because I was open to supporting the party again. It was an opportunity for members to show that most of them disliked what Clegg et al were doing in their name (surely worth their while given the influence I apparently wield!). My impression was that those with whom I sympathised were a disgruntled minority and those who seemed to show genuine enthusiasm for Coalition policies were in the ascendant. I’d never heard of the “Orange Book” but it was regularly used as an insult or badge of honour and seemed to be emblematic of who was in control.

    I think I understand your point – and I certainly feel your passion – but I don’t believe I’m the right scapegoat. You refer to the Lib Dem leadership’s “aim to push the LibDems to the economic right” so your complaint can’t be that other people noticed. Lib Dems often take pride in the party’s democratic control by members so perhaps you should be attributing much more blame to those inside the party who put Nick Clegg in charge, those who kept him there, and those who did not do enough to dispel the apparent myth that the party backed him.

    If looking for support outside the party, we can only vote for what is presented to us, not for what we would wish a party to be. If the party’s spokespeople did not make it obvious that the Coalition partners were different, that Lib Dems made a policy less awful or negotiated something brilliant elsewhere or were proceeding with great reluctance, then why should voters give them the benefit of the doubt. I would love to have voted for your version of the Lib Dems instead of Nick Clegg’s but that wasn’t an option, and there is no “conditional voting” mechanism where we can dangle a vote like a carrot and say if you change your mind on the NHS you can have it. Instead, it is by withholding our vote that we exert influence: poll after poll, election after election, showed that Lib Dems were not regaining support or votes for the direction of travel along which they were being led and that should have been a hint to change of course. The LibDems4Change movement saw that, but the leadership knew better and the membership let them carry on.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '18 - 3:50pm

    Peter Martin

    I’m sure David Cameron, George Osborne, and Nick Clegg are all quite intelligent.

    I see no signs whatsoever of Nick Clegg having any intelligence. I do not recall him ever saying or writing anything that was interesting or suggested some new ideas. He always struck me as like a teenager trying to be a Liberal Democrat, nothing but naive platitude, and then taken in by the right-wing economic nonsense being pushed. He made a total complete mess of the Coalition, his complete failure to be able to see where he was getting is so wrong was remarkable.

    I am pretty sure that if he came from an ordinary background he’d have got nowhere in politics, and it was only his poshness that got him where he is. Sad to say, if you look and speak posh, you are still seen as massively more skilled and intelligent than you are if you look and speak working class or even middle-middle-class.

  • Peter Hirst 17th May '18 - 6:53pm

    It’s those deals that we made that we have to be careful about in future. It’s all very well to agree something so one of our core policies is implemented. Then the other coalition party gets the credit for it and we get the blame for the other policy we agreed to. There is no easy solution though we should bargain harder and put more resources into explaining what we’re agreeing to and why at the time to try to reduce the political damage.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 1:11am

    @Peter Hirst “we should bargain harder and put more resources into explaining what we’re agreeing to and why”
    As Matthew Huntbach has long pointed out, the Lib Dems’ ability to “bargain harder” was very limited. There was not the ‘balance of power’ that many had assumed being in a coalition would involve.
    I agree with your second point though. For me, the key thing that was missing in the Coalition was openness (or maybe transparency is a better word). Perhaps it was a deliberate choice to make apparent unity and collective cabinet responsibility the priority, but maybe that is more appropriate for a single-party government than a coalition (although it is ironic that we are more aware of splits in cabinet before 2010 and since 2015!). It’s possible that I and millions of voters might have completely misjudged the actions and motives of Nick Clegg and his colleagues behind the scenes, but we could only base that judgement on what senior Lib Dems were doing and saying in public at the time.

  • Peter Martin 18th May '18 - 7:53am

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    “……. and then taken in by the right-wing economic nonsense being pushed.”

    You’re right about the right wing economic nonsense. But many other successful politicians push it too. They can’t be stupid and successful. So why do they push nonsense?

    You’d be in a better position to show it up as nonsense if you could explain just why it is. This is a good place to start. Skip to about the 4:00 mark

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '18 - 9:50am

    Peter Martin

    You’re right about the right wing economic nonsense. But many other successful politicians push it too. They can’t be stupid and successful.

    Of course you can be stupid and successful. Indeed, it may help to be stupid to be a successful politician. Then you will go along with whatever is the current ideology, and won’t be cursed in the way I am with wanting to question everything and come up with different ideas and pointing out errors in what is currently popular.

    Supporting right-wing economics has been successful for politicians, because it supports the super-rich, and the super-rich pay money to those who support it. Vast amounts of money is being paid to push right-wing economics. This was certainly an aspect of the way it was pushed in the Liberal Democrats, where small but well-paid pressure groups were influential in pushing the party to the right.

    Right-wing economics clearly hasn’t given us the society with personal control it promised. Indeed, one reason Leave won is because people feel they have lost control over the way society is run, and so were attracted by the Leave claim that leaving theEU would restore control. Errrrr – how come the Leave campaign was run by the very people responsible for loss of control by privatising everything? How come that was never made an issue? Well it wouldn’t be by all the newspapers subsidised by the right-wing economic super-rich, would it?

    As I said, I’m in Beijing right now, and that means I can’t access YouTube. Funny that LibDem Voice currently gets through the firewall.

  • Peter Martin 18th May '18 - 1:08pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    Ok It will have to wait until you are out of China. But, meanwhile, I’d just make the point that the economy works the way it does regardless. So a correct understanding gives you the right perspective to apply policies which are to the left or the right. If you want higher levels of unemployment with workers scrambling for every job and worried about keeping the one they’ve got, I can tell you exactly how to achieve that. I can also tell you how to sell it all politically. You let the pound float high then tell everyone there’s no ‘magic money tree’ that we all have to cut our coat according to our cloth, that our credit card is ‘maxxed out’etc etc. You’ll have heard it often enough.

    So is it ‘stupidity’ on the part of those who say such things? It could be – but I don’t think so.

    Hopefully this isn’t blocked!

    https://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/powerpoints/7DIF.pdf

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '18 - 2:21pm

    Peter Martin

    People do want an end to neoliberalism.

    How come this word “neoliberalism” has come to be used in the past couple of years for what we used to call “Thatcherism”? What it means isn’t “modern liberalism”, so I object to it. The 20th century Liberal Party developed modern liberalism in part as a recognition that there was need for an aspect of state involvement to keep true freedom for everyone.

    I rather suspect this word “neoliberalism” is being pushed in order to keep the idea going that it’s the sort of thing the Liberal Democrats stand for.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '18 - 2:26pm

    Peter Martin

    1) The Govt creates the currency.

    Nope. When a bank issues a mortgage, it creates currency. The idea that all currency is created by the government is somewhat outdated.

  • Peter Martin 18th May '18 - 8:40pm

    Matthew,

    Currency is an IOU of government. In America, its the dollar. In Japan its the yen. In the UK its the pound. The link between national governments (apart from the euro which hasn’t been thought through properly) is obvious.

    So dollars, yens and pounds then become, like feet or metres. ie units of measurement. So when it creates a loan it creates something that is measured in pounds but it can’t create pounds in the same way as the bank of England can. Otherwise it would never go broke.

    Neoliberalism is a term used internationally and nothing to do with the UK Lib Dems. It refers to an economic doctrine and not social liberalism. There’s a need to distinguish between the two.

    Its always a good idea to see how the Americans are talking about for an unbiased view. There’s not much of a socialist presence there! At least not yet.

  • @ Peter Martin

    Matthew Huntbach has a point. Before there were banks the government created all of the money. Once people started to use banks, the banks started to create their own money. In the past it was with the issuing of bank notes. A bank could issue more bank notes than it had coins to cover them. In England a law was passed to stop banks from issuing bank notes if the bank had premises within a certain area of England. Nowadays banks create money by lending more money than they have bank notes and government bonds to cover them. The government no longer creates all the money in the economy but it does control the amount created via the Bank of England. Therefore it is no longer true that the government has to create the money before it can collect it in taxes.

    If a government wants to spend more money on say the NHS it could create the money itself and depending on the current economic conditions this might be inflationary. Or it could remove from circulation an equal amount of tax as the increased spending so there are no increases in aggregate demand in the economy.

    Also as the government doesn’t issue all of the money it could have a budget surplus and remove from the economy more money than it creates, but not more money than is in circulation. It could even remove from circulation more money than was created in that year if it wanted to ensure there was no economic growth that year.

  • Peter Martin 19th May '18 - 8:35am

    Michael BG,

    All money is an credit/debit or an asset/liability. As Minsky said “Anyone can create money the problem is getting it accepted. ” So if I write out a paper IOU and “promise to pay the bearer on demand” the sum of £5 then theoretically I’ve created a banknote (which is my liability but the holder’s asset) which could circulate instead of a BoE note. If people would accept it – that is. They would perhaps up to a point and would trust me to make good on my promise if they though I was trustworthy and had the ability to afford it. I’m told that, at one time, on the island of Macau that casino chips would serve the same purpose as official money. The people trusted the casino. Up to a point.

    But the taxman wouldn’t take my IOU. Or the casino’s IOU. Neither would the taxman directly take a bank IOU. Warren Mosler explains it as follows in the link I gave to Matthew yesterday on page 20.

    “When you pay taxes by writing a check to the federal government, they debit your bank’s reserve account at the Federal Reserve Bank reserves can only come from the Fed; the private sector can’t generate them. If your bank doesn’t have any, the check you write results in an overdraft in that bank’s reserve account. An overdraft is
    a loan from the Fed. So in any case, the funds to make payments to the federal government can only come from the federal government.”

    For “Fed” read BoE, and Federal Government read Westmister- in a UK context.

    Neither will banks willingly hold anther bank’s IOUs for any length of time. They cancel out each other’s IOUs via the clearing system and can demand any imbalance to be made good by payment from their reserve account. Or the can formalise a loan via the LIBOR system.

    There are various tiers of money. Money issued by you and I would rank very lowly. Bank money would be higher. But at the top is BoE/Government money against which everything else needs to be measured and guaranteed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th May '18 - 1:04pm

    Peter Martin

    Neoliberalism is a term used internationally and nothing to do with the UK Lib Dems.

    I don’t recall this word being used in this country, certainly not routinely, until a year or two ago. Now it is used all the time.

    Sorry, but this word WILL help push the idea that we as Liberals are in favour of extreme free market economics. Consciously or unconsciously, the use of this word does give the impression that it is closely related to what we who call ourselves “Liberals” stand for, or that it is where what we stand for will lead to.

    We as party SHOULD object to it. We should say that using it is an insult to us because it is simple NOT what it literally means, which is “modern liberals”. Unless we do believe that. Well, I have already dropped out of all activity in the party, but I retain membership, and I would like to be able to get back to activity in it some day. But if the party is happy with that word “neoliberalism” being used, sorry, that is the last straw.

  • Peter Martin 19th May '18 - 6:47pm

    @ Matthew,

    Liberalism tends to mean different things in different places. In the USA it tends to imply a leftish or socialist perspective. In Australia the Liberals are the party occupying the centre right ground. Australia also has the National Party (who usually from a coalition with the Libs) who are slightly to the right of them and have more of a traditionally Conservative perspective.

    In Germany, there is the FDP who are very right wing and, even though they might be considered ‘liberal’ in some ways, I would say more libertarian than Liberal.

    Maybe the Canadian Liberal Party is similar to the Lib Dems but I’d be struggling to suggest other similar parties to the UK Lib Dems.

  • @ Peter Martin

    Even in olden times I expect the system didn’t work like you think in does. The government would accept bank notes issued by private banks from people, because they could spend them again. If the government was running a surplus then it would have to do something with the surplus. In the UK it would have been to buy back government gilts and so the money would enter the system again.

    When a bank has a surplus of another bank’s money then this is in effect a loan just as it was when the bank issued the paper money to its customer. It might become a problem long terms and a bank would have to stop lending money to customers and getting old customer to pay back their loans. But even this does not reduce the amount of money in the economy.

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I think your memory is at fault. I think the term neo-liberal was used well before 2010 and maybe even before 1997 in the UK. In the 1980s and early 1990s Thatcherism was the more popular term, but with the end of the Thatcher government neoliberal was used instead. The Blair government was neoliberal but no one would have described it as Thatcherism.

    The Liberal Democrats do not control the usage of words in the UK and it is silly to expect them to ensure neoliberal is not used in the UK to describe a worldwide economic theory. However, the Liberal Democrats have never described themselves as neoliberal. Many members do describe themselves as economic liberals and they are correct to do so. However, it is not possible for the party to expel all members who describe themselves as economic liberals, as it was impossible for it during the coalition to expel all members who describe themselves as social liberals. (And anyway Peter Martin is not a party member.)

  • Alex Macfie 20th May '18 - 7:31am

    Peter Martin: It is not the first time I have pointed this out here, but the Liberal Party of Australia is NOT, and does not claim to be, “small-l liberal” in its politics. AIUI Australians always make a clear distinction between “small-l liberalism “and the politics of the Liberal Party of Australia, which is actually a sister party of our Conservative Party and gave us Lynton Crosby. The small-l liberal party i Australia is (or was — it seems to be moribund now) the Australian Democrats.
    Similarly, the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party is neither liberal nor particularly democratic. It does not belong to Liberal International, and is a catch-all party that has been in power for all but a few brief periods. As for the Russian “Liberal Democratic Party”…

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th May '18 - 7:56am

    Michael BG

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I think your memory is at fault. I think the term neo-liberal was used well before 2010 and maybe even before 1997 in the UK.

    Prove it then.

    Show me a link to an article or two from five or more years ago where the term is used to mean what it is used to mean. If it was well used then, it should not be difficult to do that.

    It seems to me that there has been a massive growth in the use of the word “neoliberalism” to mean extreme right economics in the past couple of years in this country. I suspect this has been done deliberately in order to keep pushing the idea that what the five-sixths Conservative Coalition did was what the Liberal Democrats are all about.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I don’t think it is easy to find articles from the past on the internet. I think you meant find some articles to show that the word neoliberal is used as it is used today.

    I found this Economist article (https://www.economist.com/node/3955449) from 2005 which states, “Remember the “Third Way”? Probably not. That was New Labour’s grand unified theory of the new politics—a distinct ideology, neither socialism nor neoliberalism, to explain how kindly 1970s-vintage Tory policies were really a fresh-minted response to the 21st-century challenges of globalisation, post-modern international relations, the end of history and so forth.

    Also I found this article from the New Statesmen which claims it was written in 1997 (https://www.newstatesman.com/2017/05/1997-election-archive-centre-left-centre-stage ), which states, “The second was Thatcherism or, more broadly, neoliberalism. If new Labour has the vision and the courage, it could be the sparking-point for a new political framework of comparable importance and influence to those that went before. For the old “welfare consensus” is no more, and Blair is right to say there can be no going back to it. Neoliberalism, however, has not only run out of steam, it was a thoroughly inadequate and self-contradictory political philosophy to begin with – as the Tories found to their cost and Labour will also discover if the party does not advance beyond it.”

    Here are two examples of neoliberalism being used as an alternative term to Thatcherism, hopefully it is sufficient for you to change your mind.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st May '18 - 4:20pm

    @ Michael BG

    Ok, thanks for finding some articles from the past where “neoliberal” was used. However, it remains my recollection that it was not a commonly used word until very recently. Just in the past couple of years it seems to have become very widely used – and almost always by people on the left who think of it as a bad thing. Nowadays, for example, you may find several commentary articles in one edition of the Guardian using it – I’m pretty sure you would not have seen that five or more years ago.

    I do believe that the growth in the use of the word in this country is connected with the way the Liberal Democrats have been seen to have moved to the economic right. As I’ve said, the party was pushed that way by an alliance – the right-wing minority in the party who took control at the top under Clegg, and left-wing opponents of the party who wanted to see it pushed to the right in order to destroy the Liberal Democrats and restore the two-party system.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st May '18 - 4:31pm

    Michael BG

    However, it is not possible for the party to expel all members who describe themselves as economic liberals, as it was impossible for it during the coalition to expel all members who describe themselves as social liberals.

    Oh, sure. Regrettably it seems the effort made to push the image that “neoliberalism” is what the Liberal Democrats are about means that the only people who join the party are those who are on the right of what used to be the mainstream position of the party. As a consequence, the party is no longer the party I joined. I remain a member, but I doubt I would have joined it now if I were the age when I first joined the Liberal Party, and I find it hard to get enthusiastic about the party any more.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st May '18 - 4:36pm

    Peter Martin

    In Germany, there is the FDP who are very right wing and, even though they might be considered ‘liberal’ in some ways,

    Historically they were not that right-wing. Indeed, I remember years ago when I was active in the Liberal Party, and we were uncomfortable that many parties called “Liberal” in the rest of Europe were well to the right of us economically, the FDP was one that was considered not too bad in that way.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I am disappointed with your reaction. There is this 2003 Guardian article – (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/aug/06/society.labour ), “It (Thatcherism) was grounded in a radical remodelling of state and economy and a new neo-liberal common sense”. And “New Labour has a long-term strategy, a “project”: the transformation of social democracy into a particular variant of free market neo-liberalism”.

    There is also a study of the use of term since the 1930’s – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12116-009-9040-5.

    This graph might be useful – https://media.springernature.com/original/springer-static/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs12116-009-9040-5/MediaObjects/12116_2009_9040_Fig1_HTML.gif

    You wrote, “the party is no longer the party I joined”. This is why it is important for social liberals to stay or re-join the party to move the party back into the party you joined, or even the one I joined.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 24th May - 6:47am
    I agree with David. In fact I wasn’t really quite sure what he was trying to infer. Was it an example of irony or sarcasm?
  • User AvatarJoeB 24th May - 1:27am
    Peter, the former Portugese colony of Macau is one of the wealthiest regions of the world in terms of per capita GDP. It has its...
  • User AvatarGlenn 23rd May - 11:10pm
    Nick Baird I sort of agree, but I associate a lot of the language of identity more with American politics and campus culture than anything...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd May - 9:41pm
    It seems to me there is a sub-text in the idea that 'we should help people in communities to take and use power'. I think...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd May - 9:19pm
    I'm afraid it didn't have the impact of referring to Gordon Brown as Mr. Bean.
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd May - 9:17pm
    @ Richard Underhill "The context could have included the fact that Heath’s predecessor Sir Winston Churchill had offered a Cabinet post to a former Liberal...