A small step for trust in the manifesto

It has been obvious since long before the election that we have a trust problem. We did the right thing on tuition fees, bringing more young people than ever from disadvantaged backgrounds to university, a contribution system that fairer in terms of graduate incomes than general taxation would be, and therefore more “left wing” in the distributional sense, if not in the clientilist sense. This, graduate tax in all but name, on a moderately generous interpretation (! yes I know) honoured the second half of the pledge “work towards a fairer system of student finance” in spades, and made the first half redundant.

But politics doesn’t work like that. Labour can repeatedly break their promises to students when they have a majority in parliament and money to spend and it does not define them. We can all but honour ours and face a massive trust issue.

We’ve all heard this before. But the difficult proposition I faced on the radio a few years back was this: “there’s a rumour isn’t there, that your leader never wanted this policy and that is why it was dropped so quickly.” And it is true that there was this rumour.

Ideally we would have a democratically agreed election manifesto, broadly agreeable to parliamentary candidates and the leader – because these people are also democratically chosen, and we are all liberals. The leader should be expected to represent this united position which is bound to differ in some details from their personal preference. And if the party forms a government, the whole parliamentary party would seek to implement the whole manifesto.

However we are also a third party and believers in political pluralism. We recognise the need and the merit of working with other parties. Whatever form this takes, there needs to be negotiation, and the public need to trust that this negotiation is in good faith on the manifesto.

I don’t think it is practical or legitimate for the party conference or the Federal Policy Committee (FPC) to negotiate with other parties. Once elected, MPs have a constitutional duty to form a government, or not, themselves. The MPs and the leader have to negotiate, and they must be seen to believe in the manifesto, as a matter of trust.

Therefore, to learn our lesson on trust, and to show that we are learning it, I propose we allow the party leader, whoever that may be, a veto on the inclusion of any specific policy in the general election manifesto. This was the rule in the pre-merger liberal party, frequently applied on nuclear weapons.

Now the rumour goes that there was an attempt to back away from our tuition fees policy (and it was difficult to resist the pledge once the policy was in place) at FPC, on the grounds that the economy had crashed and it was no longer “affordable”. The word “affordable” is a bit of a shorthand because clearly you could always cut something else. We aren’t allowed to know how FPC members voted (which doesn’t make them appropriate democratic guardians) but I will invent three positions, in order to illustrate a further point.

Suppose

  • One third of FPC votes that the fees policy is no longer affordable and can be left out for this election
  • One third votes that the policy is good and we don’t care about the numbers
  • One third votes that the policy is good, and should be kept even at the expense of other key policy, even, say, the Pupil Premium. [To sacrifice the Pupil Premium for tuition fees would have been great politics, but terrible policy, blighting the life chances of millions of young people. You might get re-elected, but how would you sleep at night.]

You’ll notice that a majority of FPC wants the fees policy, a majority wants a costed manifesto, and a majority rejects sacrificing other policies to pay for fees. Every member of the committee is individually consistent but the overall result is inconsistent.

This is a known result in Social Choice Theory, and it is a disadvantage that committees have compared to individual decision makers. The FPC should continue to write the manifestos, but a leader’s veto can serve as a sanity check when this and other intrinsic problems with committees surface.

We are an utterly democratic party. We vote on our policies, we vote on our candidates, we elect a leader, a president, and committees to run the party – too many unaccountable committees. We ask at election time for the public to trust our candidates and our leader, and, rightly, not our committees. Let’s make it a little easier for them.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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129 Comments

  • I’m old/sad enough to remember the last Liberal conference in 1987, when SDP leader Bob MacLennan came and spoke, as a guest, from the platform. Referring to the upcoming merger negotiations and the question of whether the new party should have one member one vote, he said, “Personally, the concept of ‘One Member One Vote’ sounds far more attractive to me than ‘One Leader One Veto'” David Steel laughed as much as anyone.

  • George Potter 30th Jun '15 - 1:19pm

    And we have one member, one vote about to come in for all federal committee elections.

    The leader is not elected to make policy. The FPC is. And the FPC can represent far more shades of opinion within the party than any individual can.

    If you think there’s a problem with FPC then push to make it more transparent and accountable. But giving the leader a veto over policy makes no sense when a key responsibility of a leader is to be able to argue for policy that they might personally disagree with because they are there to represent the entire party and not just themselves.

  • “We did the right thing on tuition fees, bringing more young people than ever from disadvantaged backgrounds to university, a contribution system that fairer in terms of graduate incomes than general taxation would be, and therefore more “left wing” in the distributional sense,”

    Absolute nonsense. You can’t restore your reputation for honesty by saying something that is completely untrue. Tuition fees are regressive – those on high incomes contribute a lower proportion of their incomes to paying the fees than those on lower incomes. How is that in any way “left wing” in a distributional sense.

  • George Potter 30th Jun '15 - 1:23pm

    Besides which, the problem with tuition fees wasn’t the policy or even the pledge. It was breaking the pledge as a result of being utterly without political nous when it came to the issue in coalition negotiations – something which wasn’t necessary given that the current system is costing more to the public purse than the old system and will continue to do so for at least twenty years.

  • david thorpe 30th Jun '15 - 1:30pm

    we need to address a number of myths-The first being that conference make the policy that goes into the manifesto-this is complete nonsense-somehting called the manifesto working group had a policy that was explictlt rejected by confernece put into the 2015 manifesto-the relevant lib dem cabinet minister didnt like the policy-the conference rejected it-but in it went-I dont know who is on the manifesto group but i didnt vopte for it-and i did vote for the leader-I want democracy….those who oppose this are not democratic-the leader is voted for by everyone who is a member-more people than can vote for conference motions and more than can vote for who sits on the committees that decide policy..

  • @George Potter “And we have one member, one vote about to come in for all federal committee elections. The leader is not elected to make policy. The FPC is. And the FPC can represent far more shades of opinion within the party than any individual can. If you think there’s a problem with FPC then push to make it more transparent and accountable. But giving the leader a veto over policy makes no sense when a key responsibility of a leader is to be able to argue for policy that they might personally disagree with because they are there to represent the entire party and not just themselves.”

    Yes there is a problem with the FPC and with conference making policy. I apply the Groucho Marx test here – to paraphrase, we shouldn’t let anyone make policy who has an unhealthy interest in making policy.

    The majority of the electorate are not policy wonks and go more by impression than by detail. We should take on board the views of experts with regards to policy, but ultimately the decision on policy should be taken by the membership as a whole using OMOV, and by the MPs who put together a politically acceptable policy package that they then have to sell to the electorate.

    So my simple solution is:

    – scrap the FPC
    – policy informed by external experts and decided upon by our elected (by the public) representatives.
    – put the full package to OMOV of the entire membership, who ultimately will cover far more shades of opinion than those who get themselves onto FPC

  • Malcolm Todd 30th Jun '15 - 1:54pm

    david thorpe

    “We all elect the leader and the leader decides the policy” (to paraphrase your comment) is not democracy. This is an age-old argument. Democracy that stops at the election of one man to decide everything is not democracy, it is, at best, elective dictatorship. Probably better than non-elective dictatorship but that’s not saying much.

    In fairness to Joe Otten, the OP doesn’t actually propose giving the leader carte blanche to write the manifesto, just a veto on policies s/he can’t live with. That’s not the same thing; and it’s not obviously worse (nor obviously better) than George Potter’s preferred alternative of institutionalised dishonesty (“a key responsibility of a leader is to be able to argue for policy that they might personally disagree with”– that can only sound good to a party activist!).

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 30th Jun '15 - 1:58pm

    Malcolm Todd – I’d argue it is demonstrably better (in both principle and practice) to insert a further check within the democratic system than to have what you term institutionalised dishonesty.

    The idea that vetoes are inherently undemocratic is nonsensical, as any study of democracies throughout the world and history will happily show.

  • ……………………..Labour can repeatedly break their promises to students when they have a majority in parliament and money to spend and it does not define them. We can all but honour ours and face a massive trust issue……………………..

    When Labour/Tories sign personal pledges and carry them, on placards, like ‘holy relics’ you can make comparisons.

    Personally promising to vote against, and then voting for, is a definition of “all but honour” with which I’m unfamiliar……

  • @expats “Personally promising to vote against, and then voting for, is a definition of “all but honour” with which I’m unfamiliar……”

    What they promised to oppose was fees payable in any circumstance, even by the least well off (Labour’s policy)

    What was implemented was fees paid only in certain circumstances, ie only if the payee is relatively well off.

  • It may be worth posing a simplistic question to flesh out some of the lines of reasoning here:

    Does an internal party vote (making a policy decision) trump a public vote (selecting decision makers)?

    Without answering that question, I would argue that the sensible course for a political party is to try to align its internal procedures with the structures of the political system in which it operates, so the public vote feeds into the internal decision making.

  • Peter Bancroft 30th Jun '15 - 2:22pm

    expats – by “like a holy relic” would you be thinking of something like an Ed-stone?

  • Everything you say about tuition fees and the broken pledge demonstrates very clearly that you just don’t ‘get it’ on the issue of trust. Let alone how to rebuild it.

  • Peter Bancroft 30th Jun ’15 – 2:22pm ……………….expats – by “like a holy relic” would you be thinking of something like an Ed-stone?………………..

    Yes!

    However, unlike the ‘Ed-Stone’ the ‘pledges’ were signed by individual MPs and also, unlike the ‘Ed-Stone’, the pledges were tested and broken….

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '15 - 2:35pm

    I support the idea. It is ridiculous to have a party leader having to sell a policy that they are strongly against.

    I know it is controversial to some, but my “advice” is to do it. I have thought of other ways to make policy making more professional, such as a higher threshold to accept motions from ordinary members, but this is one idea that I think will work.

  • Jonathan Pile 30th Jun '15 - 2:42pm

    What a mess – I’m interested in a party that is truly democratic – perhaps allowing more member (as against activist) voting and participation on policy. There are lots of low cost online voting internet systems out there which would allow OMOV to operate on summarized policy motions with online referenda. I.e – this party opposes fracking , or this party opposes tuition fees, or this party opposes HS2, or this party opposes a future coalition with UKIP or the Conservative Party, or this party supports all-women, or BAME candidate selection.. etc
    It’s all got to byzantine and has opened the doors to the last 8 years of folly. We need a democratic party owned by its voters, run by its members.The party should be able to veto to leader & vice versa. True democracy = true liberalism.
    By the way also – Vote Tim Farron 4 leader.

  • George Potter 30th Jun ’15 – 1:19pm ………………… But giving the leader a veto over policy makes no sense when a key responsibility of a leader is to be able to argue for policy that they might personally disagree with because they are there to represent the entire party and not just themselves…………

    Agreed! Clegg and the “Justice and Security Bill” comes to mind….Instructions to “vote for” followed by U-turn (Sorry, promise to look for a more ‘reasonable interpretation’)

  • Malcolm Todd 30th Jun '15 - 2:55pm

    Nick Thornsby
    Not sure if your whole comment was directed to me, but I’m not arguing that the veto is inherently democratic, just the implied message of david thorpe’s post that the whole business of policy formation should be left to the elected leader. I agree that a leader’s veto is not offensive to democracy in the same way, or to the same degree. But of course, worst of all is the situation we had where a policy that the leadership wanted to drop (no “rumour” about it, they actually tried to change it) was nevertheless included in the manifesto and made a key campaign theme and subject of a punrobably precedented pledge, only to be thrown overboard when there was no room for it on the ministerial limousines. I’m not sure any sort of rules or structure could have prevented that; it was personal judgement that went badly astray.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 30th Jun '15 - 3:12pm

    Sorry, Malcolm – no, the latter part of my comment wasn’t aimed in your direction.

    I’m not so sure re tuition fees. It’s obviously impossible to know for sure but I think it’s likely Clegg would have nixed it. But in any event, knowing what we now know, I think Joe’s amendment is part of a wider series of things we can do to avoid the situation reoccurring.

  • Whilst I agree that trust needs to be forefront I think this suggestion is too problematic.

    1) How many policies do we allow a leader to spike (and would this lead to policy only being developed after a leader has given it a nod) and 2) How do we ensure that we don’t split the party if there isn’t balance betwleft/right wing policies that are stopped by the leader.

    If there was a corresponding offer (i.e. membership asked to vote on NHS bill, bedroom tax, etc.) before we adopted these policies it might be slightly more palatable!

  • Duncan Brack 30th Jun '15 - 4:05pm

    Just to pick up two of the arguments here –

    Joe Otten – in drawing up the 2010 manifesto, a large majority of the FPC was consistently in favour of the commitment to scrap tuition fees – as was conference when it debated it in spring 2009. The compromise in light of the financial situation was to phase them out over six years, instead of all at once. Your scenario may possibly be interesting in theory, but it’s irrelevant to this issue. Introducing a leader’s veto is a pretty drastic step, and I thinly our argument would be stronger if ut was based on real life, not on hypotheticals.

    Also, as others have pointed out, it wasn’t the manifesto that caused the problem, it was the pledge all our candidates signed. So assume the leader’s veto was in place – what would have been in the manifesto? Would it have been silent on tuition fees? Or would you give the leader the power not just to veto something but to replace it with something else? And then what would our candidates have done with the pledge? Refuse to sign it?

    David Thorpe – it’s the FPC that decides the manifesto, not the manifesto group, which was a purely a drafting group to do the detailed work in preparing successive versions of the manifesto for the FPC to approve, reject or amend. What’s the policy you think was rejected by conference but included in the manifesto?

  • @ Joe Otten… The problem with your proposal is our name. Liberal Democrats. I’m sure Tory democrats [if there will ever be such a group] will support the “leader makes the decisions”. But we are proposing a new structure for making our LibDem voices known and counted – not at closed group meetings of all kinds but open and transparent to all members via IT methodologies.
    Some LibDems are also moving towards a Tory mind-set, as you seem to be doing. This is where our party faces a divide – into more control by the leaders of all kinds [you are one, yes?] or more listening, and fully, to the members as in one-member-one-vote. If you cannot convince the majority of ALL members, you cannot enter your “not agreed” and un-voted policy into the manifesto.

  • TCO 30th Jun ’15 – 2:08p, Please stop ‘playing with words’…..The ‘pledge’ was, “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.”…

    ‘and’ not ‘or’….”over 80% of students asked felt ‘let down and support fell from 42% to just 11%”….

    Breaking the promise and then”turning verbal somersaults’ to pretend that a promise was not broken is a major reason for having just 8 MPs…..

  • @Tony Rowan-Wicks – if tuition fees proves anything, it’s not that the leadership is at variance with the membership, it’s the “activists” (or those who attend conference/FPC) who are at variance with the membership.

  • @expats but it wasn’t a simple case of increasing fees was it. Fees were and are not paid compulsorily by all students, so the model is different.

    Labour and, unfortunately some of their fellow travellers in yellow clothing, wilfully misrepresented this.

  • @Nick Barlow ““Join the Liberal Democrats, we’re an open and democratic party where our policy is determined by “activists” (and the members aren’t consulted)”

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '15 - 5:09pm

    Nick Barlow makes a good point about the marketability of it, but I just don’t think ordinary members have access to the same advice as the leader. It wouldn’t be an “Orange Book plot” because the next leader will be either Farron or Lamb and both are palatable for social liberals.

    The policy making process is too flawed and at least someone is suggesting a change that might stop deeply flawed motions being passed. I still can’t get over when conference nearly voted to get rid of the inflation target without understanding the consequences of it.

  • Much as I applaud the majority of Liberal Reform’s work I can’t agree with this one – its the secrecy of the FPC that’s the root issue here. I’d like to see proper agendas/minutes for FPC meetings and voting/attendence records for all FPC members so I can actually decide who to vote onto FPC come election time.

    Can anyone explain to me why the FPC is so secretive?

  • (Matt Bristol) 30th Jun '15 - 5:32pm

    So do the leaders of the federal constituents of the party get local vetoes on manifesto commitments in ‘their own’ manifestoes? And what about that mysterious thing, the English party? Who is its leader?

  • Ruth Bright 30th Jun '15 - 5:56pm

    Note to tonyj – you are not old or sad to remember the last Liberal Party Conference in 1987 though I am probably both to have spent my honeymoon at it!!!!!!

  • Joe, thanks for opening up the debate. I think you do put your finger on a problem. It is a problem of coherence. We should look at the Greens and learn how not to do it.

    It is seemingly OK if commentators largely ignore our policies, but lethal if they submit policies to forensic examination. By and large political interviewers asked more about procedures than policy before 2010, making me question whether the professional interviewers had adequately done their homework. Questions were dominated by what would you do if…? One interview seemed to be almost entirely about a party funding issue. It is almost as if we need to include some apparent policy contradiction to entice interviewers to deal with policy!

    The bottom line is that in the end the manifesto and party policy will be fronted by a few individuals. Ultimately there does need to be an accountable process by which these individuals can shape the policy into a coherence that they are able to defend and advocate.

  • George Potter 30th Jun '15 - 6:34pm

    If I could direct everyone to Mr Valladares’ blog he has a rather neat demolition of the idea that a leadership veto is necessary or a good idea.

    http://liberalbureaucracy.blogspot.fr/2015/06/liberal-reform-can-you-miss-all-four.html?m=0

  • TCO 30th Jun ’15 – 4:16pm …………..expats but it wasn’t a simple case of increasing fees was it. Fees were and are not paid compulsorily by all students, so the model is different..Labour and, unfortunately some of their fellow travellers in yellow clothing, wilfully misrepresented this………….

    …..You (and Joe Otten) make me despair of the future of the party…Rather than accept THE fundamental cause of the electorate’s lack of trust in the LibDem party as just that…You ‘fudge and fiddle’ to find virtue in the blatant breaking of a pledge…

    When you and I exchanged posts, regarding my discussion on voting intentions with a large group of 18-25s in the West Country, you dismissed their labelling of LibDems as ‘untrustworthy’ with the assertion that it didn’t really matter as, “They probably wouldn’t vote anyway”……

    The ‘pledge’ incident was what made them decide not to vote LibDem. Have we so many young supporters that we care so little?

  • expats and Phyllis: you are entirely right!! I too despair of this Stalinist rewriting of history……

    Breaking the pledge was the most obvious and catastrophic political mistake I have ever witnessed. Worse than Thatcher deciding to introduce a Poll Tax… How can people still say that the mistake was in making the pledge, not in breaking it? The merits or otherwise of the policy are irrelevant (although I will make a few points in another post)

    The most publicly enthusiastic signer of the pledge was Nick Clegg himself. Hearing that he never wanted to do it just makes him look even more two-faced as he gained votes from the students of Crookes. And Nick was SO enthusiastic about our promises too. Joe Otten please say 3 Hail Marys and watch this again! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTLR8R9JXz4

    We lost trust with all parts of the electorate by breaking the pledge. But the people we REALLY annoyed were students, who as graduates will make up 45% of the electorate, and a part that will turn out at 90% rates in the future. If this party never gets 10 MP’s again (as is entirely possible, especially if there is a collective head in the sand moment in this leadership election) the breaking of the pledge will be the first and biggest nail in our coffin

  • Now onto tuition fees..
    1) It is highly doubtful that it is more progressive than the previous policy, where most university funding came from general taxation, ie. mainly from richer people… If it turns out to be more progressive then it will mainly because the default rate is far higher than anticipated, meaning that the Tories will quickly change it to a more regressive version

    2) It is not a “graduate tax in all but name” A graduate tax does not involve a “debt” and continues to be paid after the original cost is paid off by richer people, while the cost is never fully repaid by poorer people. The repayments for most people would be far less). A graduate tax was advocated by the NUS and would have enabled us to keep the pledge. A graduate tax need not have covered the whole cost (just as the current policy does not, for many students)

    3) The new policy was definitely not needed to solve the deficit. Despite the accounting sleight of hand that enabled borrowing money to pay the fees not to be counted as spending, the reality is that so far it has not saved a penny, and has actually cost money as the universities got a welcome (to universities) but unanticipated windfall. If we had really wanted to help the deficit a retrospective graduate tax payable by everyone who got free university education would have done the trick!

    4) We now have probably the most expensive university system in the world (well, I only checked California – £8100 there for Californians and less for over 50% of students). Quite how we justify that as Liberal Democrats I am not sure

    5) Finally the pupil premium… An admirable idea, but maybe a bit less effective in practice than people like to think, as today’s report by the NAO shows… http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2015/06/pupil-premium-funds-not-well-targeted-or-spent-says-nao

  • Richard Underhill 30th Jun '15 - 8:46pm

    Duncan Brack understands these things, but conversations on the doorstep can be shorter.

    If a voter says to me, as many have, that he (rarely she) will “read all the manifestoes and decide” I wonder quietly whether he will have the time and committment? and when should I call back for a further discussion?
    Will the party’s pollsters allow the entire manifesto to be in the leaflets?

    “The party elects the leader and the leader decides the policy. If you want to change the policy you have to change the leader” Conservative Party, circa 1920.

  • Matt (Bristol) 30th Jun '15 - 9:18pm

    Richard Underhill – I think you’ll find that in 1920 the Conservative Party was too Conservative to even consider such democratic madness as _electing_ its leader. Indeed, it didn’t even formally have a single leader at that time.

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jun '15 - 9:56pm

    I’m afraid that this proposal appears to be a cure in search of a disease, looking to address a one-off incident by taking an axe to some of the basic principles enshrined in the Party’s constitution.

    Firstly, it seems to run contrary to the notions of accountability and diffusion of power – FPC may appear secretive to you, Joe, but the solution is to improve accountability and transparency, rather than giving an individual the right of veto.

    It challenges the sovereignty of Federal Conference, whereby hundreds, perhaps thousands, of members gather, debate a concept, and then decide upon it. If the Leader can veto it without consequence, and that is effectively what your proposal allows, then policy debate becomes a consultation, not a resolution.

    You also place no ceiling on the right of veto. Is it one policy, or three, or all of them? Your proposal places no limits on this newly acquired power.

    And by basing your argument on the train wreck that was tuition fees, you choose rather shifting ground. The policy was inter-linked with a raft of other proposals that made it, at the time, viable. It was what happened after the election that was so damaging. But you could offer an alternative – the Health and Social Care Act – where the then Leader admits that he got it wrong, whilst the Party got it right.

    Leaders, like Popes, are not infallible, and only lead by the will of those who choose to follow them. This proposal seems to credit the Leader with an insight denied to the rest of us mere mortals.

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jun '15 - 10:35pm

    Joe,

    In which case, I refer you to another interesting part of the Party Constitution, Article 6.7, which reads;

    “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Conference shall be the sovereign representative body of the Party, and shall have power to determine the policy of the Party in accordance with and subject to the provisions of Article 5.”

    Article 5.8 then goes on to say;

    “Subject to the foregoing procedure (which explains how FPC works and what it does), all Federal policy papers and motions approved by the Federal Conference shall thereby become the policy of the Federal Party.”

    So, would you like to try again to convince me that this is not a challenge to the Federal Conference?

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jun '15 - 10:43pm

    Joe,

    And yes, a straw man alert. Have I claimed that committees are infallible? I’ve served on far too many over the years to believe that. On the other hand, FPC is accountable every two years to the whole membership (or at least, is about to be) and I have access to them. It is much harder for an unrepresentative minority to ‘nobble’ an entire committee, whereas a small, unrepresentative group of senior figures can influence one individual all too easily.

    No, I remain wholly convinced that, in the search of an easy administrative solution to a situation you don’t like, you have forgotten why so many of us are proud to be Liberal Democrats.

  • Paul Walters, if you don’t take the issue of trust seriously, how did you expect voters to take you seriously? Isn’t that precisely why the Party is down to just 8 MPs? It’s not about “sackcloth and ashes” but about facing up to the trust deficit which has landed the Party where it is now.

  • I do not think that anyone has really addressed the problem Joe poses that it is quite possible for democratically agreed policies to be incompatible. It does not require a leader’s veto to deal with this, but there does have to be an open system of adjudication that has the power to suspend a set of policies, referring them back to conference, possibly with proposals that would deal with the conflict between policies.

    Actually I think a strong leader publicly would declare that we have these policies that contain contradictions, which means that they cannot be fully implemented and that their preferred solution is … This would not be a veto as such, but would feel like one.

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jun '15 - 11:16pm

    @Mr Wallace,

    “Go unscathed”? You are kidding, aren’t you? I hardly call losing forty-nine of fifty-seven seats going unscathed. And whilst I disagree with the style of Paul Walter’s response, the only way to regain credibility is to change, not to go over a widely acknowledged mistake again and again for the benefit of our enemies.

    If there is a future for liberalism and for the Liberal Democrats, we will need to understand that we have less wriggle room in terms of integrity – it seems that breaking your promises on tuition fees is far more damaging for us than it was for Labour, for example. That might be unfair, but it appears to be fact, and we’ll just have to get used to it.

    So, thank you for your concern, but why not try to find someone else to measure against your standards and come back to us how you get on, rather than spend your valuable time reminding us over and over of what many of us ‘get’. Unless, of course, you prefer to insist upon a higher standard for one party over the others.

  • Kevin Manley 30th Jun '15 - 11:18pm

    I think you may be repeating the mistake the politicians made and one reason they got annihilated. The problem wasn’t the inability to implement a manifesto promise, to phase out fees. It wasn’t even whether the new policy is better than the old one; it probably is, although its ironically worse for the deficit which kind of makes a mockery of the reason why it was apparently so necessary.

    The problem is that every single Lib Dem MP pledged to their voters in their constituency to vote against a rise, if and when the issue came up , but when it came to it most of them voted for. I don’t think that’s forgivable in the short term – the first time the voters had a chance to punish MPs was 2015 -or that we can call ourselves “Democrat” with a straight face if we think this is OK. Surely the whole point of democracy is you make your promises to your voters, voters vote on it and then you’re judged on that when election time comes round again. By that measure, none of the MPs who voted for the rise deserved to be re-elected when judgment came. The twisted apologies, apologising initially for having made the pledge in thefirst place, not for having broken it, was a bonkers strategy. No one resigned or stood down over it. Only now, having been roundly and deservedly punished, can the party try to plot a way back.

    The wisdom of the pledge is one thing but having made the pledge there is no way the party should have signed up to a Coalition Agreement that would require its MPs to do anything other than keep its word and vote against. If that was the cost of going into government, to require each MP to break their word, then the price was too high and the party should have supported the government on a vote-by-vote basis.

    The policy may have got through anyway, or may have gone through in a different form, e.g. a graduate tax -the main resistance to that at the time seems to have been that the Tories didnt want to be seen to be adopting what was at that stage a Labour policy – but at least we wouldn’t now be talking about the Lib Dems having a trust issue and – possibly – about them having been reduced to single figures.

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jun '15 - 11:25pm

    @Joe Otten,

    And would you like to address the question of the extent of the powers you wish to award to the Leader – currently unlimited?

  • Phil Wainewright 30th Jun '15 - 11:26pm

    The issue of trust will never go away as long as people in this party persist in believing that it’s acceptable to go around saying “we did the right thing on tuition fees.”
    We did the worst possible thing: candidates and the leadership lied. They pledged never to vote for an increase. They issued a party political broadcast on the theme of ‘no more broken promises’. And then they cynically broke the pledge as soon as they got into government. How do you imagine that looks to the electorate?
    I know that inside government it felt like a good deal, it felt like the interests of poorer students were being protected, it felt like this was really a graduate tax in all but name. But no one should have fooled themselves they would sell this to the British electorate after making this pledge such a pillar of the party’s proposition.
    It was a stupid pledge. It was unsustainable. It was folly at a time of impending austerity to commit to fully fund the cost of universal degree-level education. No one should have signed up to it in the first place. But once signed up to it, a party that prided itself on integrity had no choice but to stick with this stupid pledge.
    And now this post attempts to argue that everything would have been OK if only there had been a procedure that allowed leaders to unilaterally renege on positions taken in good faith by the party. Talk about fighting the last war, if we are still at the bargaining bit of the five phases of grief I shudder to think how long it will take this party to recover from the entire episode.
    Despite all of this I do have huge respect for Nick Clegg and his resilience through five years of being on the back foot. But the tuition fees debacle was a self-inflicted political misjudgement which this party has to acknowledge and repent before it will ever fully regain the trust of the electorate.

  • I’ll tell you all where the libdems went wrong and no doubt the liberal democrats will disagree but in 2010 many LABOUR voters switched to the libdems. Dissolusioned desperate for a voice these poor people many disabled put there trust in a party they thought was progressive and expected the power they gave to theses new MPs would see that great responsibility would eminate. But what they saw over 5 years was the erosion of the basics in life. The rich got richer and the people who voted libdem got poorer. Those who benefited from the 5% tax cut from 50% to 45% were not liberals but Tories. The bankers who still got there bonuses and the hedge fund guys who still gambled like there was no tomorrow we’re never liberals they were Tories blue through and through. But turn to the 660,000 people hit by the bedroom tax who had voted libdem in 2010 were now being made the scape goats for a banking crisis brought on by the millionaire donors that funded the Tory party then and now. And today we are here, the poor and disabled once again without a voice and the libdems with some sort of voice. Unfortunately it can’t be heard. Austerity is great when you can afford it but when you can’t the people who are there to protect you from it somehow forget to, why? Because they can afford it.

  • We just can’t move on from tuition fees – one of the biggest internal challenges facing the new leader. How do we live with what we did?

    As someone who thinks tuition fees should have been the reddest of lines in coalition, there’s sadly little in Joe’s article I can agree with. Tuition fees cost a fraction of the pensions triple lock, and were perfectly affordable if we had said that this was on the same level for us. Instead we ended up hoping that free school meals would get forgiveness.

    The discussion does make good points about transparency of FPC though – hope that isn’t lost in the ongoing tuition fees issue.

  • Mark Valladares 1st Jul '15 - 12:33am

    @Joe Otten,

    This is the language as drafted by you;

    “, and subject to the Leader’s right to veto the inclusion of any specific policy.”

    Would you like to point out the limit there?

  • Jane Ann Liston 1st Jul '15 - 12:44am

    @Kevin Manley ‘… every single Lib Dem MP pledged to their voters in their constituency to vote against a rise, if and when the issue came up , but when it came to it most of them voted for.’

    Not quite. Most LibDem MPs did not vote for the rise; more either abstained or voted against, Also, I believe at least 1 LibDem MP didn’t sign the pledge, though as he lost his seat at the 2010 election, the question of voting for increasing fees did not arise for him.

  • David Evans 1st Jul '15 - 12:53am

    Yet another attempt to rewrite the disaster that was Nick Clegg and tuition fees by the usual suspects. Nick promised “An end to broken promises”. He broke the promise and got most of our MPs to break theirs as well (Most, if not all seemed to do it willingly). He lost the trust of almost all the electorate and we are now back to where we were 40 to 50 years ago, except now for many people we are disliked intensely. Now those usual suspects want to pretend it would have been OK if only Nick had had a veto.

    The road back from Nick’s disaster will be long and hard. We lost yet another council seat last Thursday in Cambridge and things are not improving. Unless we stop pretending things will be OK, and instead really fess up and tell the electorate Nick and the party totally messed up on this, we will carry on drifting towards oblivion. The new leader has to grasp this nettle or people will never consider voting for us again.

    We have a choice, listen to what the electorate have told us and start to turn the ship around, or pretend we haven’t heard and continue to ignore them. The only thing that will lead to is them ignoring us.

  • Phil
    “The issue of trust will never go away as long as people in this party persist in believing that it’s acceptable to go around saying “we did the right thing on tuition fees.”
    We did the worst possible thing: candidates and the leadership lied. They pledged never to vote for an increase. They issued a party political broadcast on the theme of ‘no more broken promises’. And then they cynically broke the pledge as soon as they got into government. How do you imagine that looks to the electorate?”

    I like you Phil read some of these views with impending despair. I am seriously starting to believe there are some obviously intelligent members who simply CAN’T imagine how it looks to the electorate at all.

    There have been many attempts to articulate this issue through the eyes of the electorate.
    Your whole post 2 up from here is probably the best I’ve read.
    How anyone with any intelligence cannot get their head around the importance of how the electorate perceive this is beyond me

  • In the time it’s taken me to write it – your post is now 6 up from here. Notice a few other’s are just as worried as myself!

  • ‘We can all but honour ours and face a massive trust issue.’

    Get real, we didn’t please stop deluding yourself it’s ridiculous.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '15 - 2:11am

    What happens if the Lib Dems need to change policy at short-notice? Organising a conference to vote on things often takes too long. Surely it makes sense for the leader to have policy making power?

    We are in the rapid digital age. The Lib Dems shouldn’t still be making policy in six month intervals at conference centre’s.

    My thoughts anyway.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '15 - 2:15am

    By the way, I don’t want to derail, so keep on the topic of the veto. But the point remains the same: if things change quickly then it can take too long to organise a conference, so the veto could come in handy.

  • David Evans:

    You are among another group of “usual suspects” who want this thread to b primarily about one particular viewpoint on tuition fees. My sense is that with more sophisticated political arts other parties and Lib Dems could have arrived at the same or a similar policy with a lot less damage.

    The question is of coherence, accountability, democracy and presentation of an authentic Liberal voice . Joe must be right to acknowledge that these factors can be at odds and can undermine each other. Now is certainly the time to reevaluate procedures. If we are debating this in two or three years time it will mean that we have given up on any prospect of renewal.

  • Kevin Manley 1st Jul '15 - 7:20am

    The other thing is, quite apart from tuition fees, what if you had a leader who was out of step with the rest of the party on, for example, abortion? Should the leader be able to veto the policy in that scenario? Seems very anti-democratic. I am voting for Tim Farron and think his views on some issues have been wildly misrepresented, but the point is if we did have a leader who had some faith-based objection to some of the party’s democratically made policy, should he be able to just over-rule it?

  • Mark Valladares 30th Jun ’15 – 11:16pm……………………. And whilst I disagree with the style of Paul Walter’s response, the only way to regain credibility is to change, not to go over a widely acknowledged mistake again and again for the benefit of our enemies……………..

    Paul Walter’s response is disgraceful! The reason that the ‘pledge’ is gone over again and again is because there are those (like Joe Otten and TCO) who deny that it was a mistake.
    Pre-Election, Caron wrote an inaccurate piece castigating the NUS for their ‘naming and shaming’ of those MPs who voted contrary to their promise…..THAT was the ‘real world’; THAT was how the electorate saw us…THAT is why we have 1 MEP and 8 MPs…..

    The greatest service we do ‘our enemies’ is to still try and convince the electorate (and ourselves) that, “It was all for the best”

  • Kevin Manley:

    Your example of abortion could be a fairly straightforward illustration of the issues at stake and useful for discussion. The example demonstrates why a blanket right of veto would be wrong. It seems to me that a simple veto is wrong but the possibility of referring an issue or policy back to conference with an explanation how it fails to cohere with other policies or with Liberal principles could be part of Party procedures.

    In the case of abortion, I suppose the issue of gender selection linked to abortion could be in conflict with the issue of gender rights and equality and therefore deserve a reevaluation.

  • Mark Valladares 1st Jul '15 - 9:52am

    @ expats,

    I’m a bureaucrat, and therefore tend towards understatement, hence my description of Paul’s comment. Paul will know what I mean.

    And Joe and TCO are not the Party, which itself is not a monolith. It is high time that we move on to face the new, rather harsh, environment for liberalism, rather than waste our time refighting amongst ourselves a lost war.

    The lesson learnt is that, if one insists on making a pledge, one sticks to it. If the price of sticking to it is too high, then don’t make the pledge in the first place, especially if you don’t have total control over your destiny.

  • Bill le Breton 1st Jul '15 - 9:55am

    Most leaders (and all those worth their salt) can get almost everything they want through Conference, through the FPC and into the manifesto.

    It is interesting that we choose to concentrate on an example from 5 years ago when a leader could not do that, then chose to lead his candidates into putting their names to the folly of an electoral pledge on that issue and then finally to renege on the pledge after running a campaign on ‘no more broken promises’.

    So, let’s agree we had an inept leader who surrounded himself with inept advisers.

    Surely, of more importance is the hollowness of our 2015 manifesto – over which the Leader and those advisers managed to have total control. As Nick Barlow writes in a comment under a piece by Alex Marsh here: http://www.alexsarchives.org/2015/05/social-liberalism-and-the-liberal-democrats/

    “The problem with the Economist article is that it reduces liberalism down to nothing much more than a list of nice things and then claims that because no one is against nice things, liberalism isn’t needed any more. Same sex marriage is a liberal achievement, but that doesn’t mean liberalism is about same sex marriage – it’s a representation of how we are opposed to inequality and discrimination, issues that are by no means resolved.

    “I think that does show one of the issues we’ve had with our campaigning, exemplified by the last manifesto – we reduced ourselves down to a series of policies, and didn’t make reference to any of the issues that drive those policies. We can hardly expect others to accept the ‘subtleties of liberalism’ if we’re not willing to talk about them ourselves.”

    Over the last 7 years we gained the plaudits of the Economist and Westminster Village people, but we did so by avoiding commitment to the issues that make us Liberal Democrats. The good was the victim of the ‘nice’. For that alone, we deserve to be where we are.

  • @ Mark… I agree with you….It may seem, sometimes, if I belabour the ‘pledge’ but Joe did raise it…

    I, and many like me, would love to ‘learn and move on’…I hope we do. If not..?

  • @Mark Valladares,

    It is a bit unrealistic to suggest that we should stop fighting this particular war during a leadership campaign where the pledge (and being prepared to resist some other aspects of the Leader’s programme for coalition) is the major dividing line between the candidates, who otherwise seem to have almost identical policy positions. (well, another dividing line apparently important to some people is “being a Christian”)

    Personally I am praying (in a strictly atheistic way, of course! ) that in a couple of week’s time we will have a leader who can say “Why are you still talking about the pledge? When I make a pledge I keep it – look at the record”

  • Mark Blackburn 1st Jul '15 - 11:01am

    There’s too much of the hard-done-by ‘Labour can mess up and get away with it but poor us get punished’ attitude here. Everyone knows how Labour and the Tories behave. What made it worse was all tat ‘new politics’ and ‘breaking the mould’ stuff, and then within months of being in power throwing all that out of the window. Breaking pledges is bad enough, doing it hypocritically makes it far worse.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 1st Jul '15 - 11:10am

    Mark and Joe – genuine question – does the constitution distinguish (explicitly or implicitly) between party policy and the contents of the manifesto?

    Because it seems to me from the sections Mark quotes above that whilst the latter is drawn from the former, some of the language does draw such a distribution.

    So Joe’s proposal does not relate to party policy; only to the contents of the manifesto.

  • David Evans 1st Jul '15 - 11:34am

    Sorry Martin, but you just don’t get it. Carrying on along the line of “Let’s just carry on as if nothing other than a process problem occurred in the general election,” will just kill us as a party. The thread is not about tuition fees, but sadly about those who still do not want to own up to the mess we are in. Some Lib Dems will debate coherence, accountability, democracy and presentation along with process and constitution until the cows come home. Some because it is their comfort zone and others because it salves their conscience to pretend things didn’t go disastrously wrong under Nick.

    The only problem the party faces is the almost total loss of trust in the party by the electorate. Eight MPs and their teams had enough of a personal, local credibility to ride out the storm. Not even Eastleigh, Sutton or Cambridge were strong enough to survive this time. People pretending they had sophisticated political arts got us into the mess. Until we all face up to it we will continue in our steady decline towards oblivion.

    Andrew: I wish your answer “Why are you still talking about the pledge? When I make a pledge I keep it – look at the record” would work, but it won’t. The next question would be “That’s fine, if I was in your constituency I would vote for you. However you are leader of the Lib Dems and they didn’t keep the pledge. What has changed that means I should I vote for them?”

  • Julie Maxon 1st Jul '15 - 12:19pm

    I tried many times to respond to this yesterday but couldn’t get beyond anger and frustration. I am very glad to see that other contributors more experienced than I am, have responded. To be honest, as a new member, I was horrified to read an article which I felt included comments which showed total disregard, if not utter contempt, for the message we received from the electorate in May. How anyone can continue to make excuses about tuition fees whilst totally failing to acknowledge the trust issue and devastation resulting from the broken pledge is beyond me. We will have to work hard to win back the trust which has been lost. We have to earn it. Arrogance will get us nowhere.

  • Paul Walter 1st Jul ’15 – 12:32pm
    “Phyllis
    Of course I take the issue of trust seriously. I am just not sure how many times we have to go round this circle. Do I have to hand over my mother as a surety to demonstrate how seriously I understand the historic error of tuition fees?”

    We are only going ” round this circle” in response to Joe Otten’s article in which he shows a complete lack of understanding on this issue. Surely you don’t expect this to go unchallenged. And it’s hardly a ‘historic error’ – it’s very much alive and kicking because until trust is regained, the Party will continue to decline.

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand your comment about handing over your mother (to whom? Surety against what?). Unless you’re willing to pay 27k to get her back, in which case that will cover offspring’s tuition fees very nicely thank you.

  • Kevin Manley 1st Jul '15 - 1:50pm

    @MrWallace – here here!!

    @ Martin – my point was the leader is not (in this party anyway) the one who decides the policy; there is a democratic process for that. The leader should not be able to unilaterally veto policy, once made; otherwise, what is the point of the policymaking process? The author uses the example of tuition fees, but the example of abortion (or other similar conscience issues) might be more illustrative of why the author’s suggestion is a really bad idea.

  • Paul Walter 30th Jun ’15 – 10:51pm ………………..Yes, brng out the sackcloth, ashes and stinging nettles and let’s thrash ourselves again and again and again. Yaddah. Yaddah. Yaddah…………

    Is hardly taking the issue seriously…. “As Phylis says, the issue was raised in the article. Instead of addressing those of us who respond, why not ask why there are still those who believe that the electorate shouldn’t have blamed us because, actually, we “mostly” kept our promise…

  • How should the leader relate to the party’s policy-making?

    Bill le Breton makes the point that any leader worth his salt can get whatever he wants through Conference and the FPC so what exactly do Conference and the FPC add other than window dressing? (I’m assuming we don’t aim to have leaders not worth their salt!)

    Joe Otten (in the original article) makes the point that committees often reach inconsistent conclusions (in a real-world illustration not a single member of the John Major cabinet that privatised British Rail agreed with the proposals they adopted). I would add that committees have a strong tendency to be conservative (small ‘c’) which makes them cumbersome so change, even when badly needed, is hard to achieve. So why should the party stick with a system that demonstrably achieves poor results?

    The answer appears to be because it’s ‘democratic’. Well, so it is according to a particular interpretation of democracy that’s not widely shared. It’s ideological purity of a rather odd sort at the expense of effectiveness and it ensures we remain as a third place party – reducing to a fourth or fifth place party once the electorate has actual experience of Lib Dems on a national stage. We can continue this way but if we do shouldn’t expect much liberal input into national life. It makes Lib Dems pure (according to themselves) but irrelevant (according to the electorate).

    Alternatively, we can have a different form of internal democracy that actually works and enables a responsive style of party. That would mean less committees (as in none) and more individual responsibility for senior MPs with the corresponding understanding (and formal mechanisms) to ensure that any individual who doesn’t measure up gets pushed out. That would mean that ambitious people would have to develop a keen sense of political sentiment among supporters or face the consequences. In other words they would respond to what people in the country want rather than to the confused conclusions of a secretive committee which is, lets face it, very much part of the Westminster bubble that voters hate so much.

  • Kevin Manley:

    I agree; giving the leader a unilateral right to veto a policy is “a really bad idea”. My point is that there needs to be a better system of review that enables an outcome of a more distinctive manifesto.

    In fact there was quite a lot that was very worthy and Liberal in our manifesto, but the overall sense was too bland. Avoidance of blandness has risks, which in part led to the tuition fees calamity; though I would argue that it was as much a failure of politics as of policy and only by addressing the failure of politics can we put the issue behind us. Avoidance of blandness and the attendant risks in doing so, do, I think, require a better system of review.

  • Mark Valladares 1st Jul '15 - 6:03pm

    @Julie Maxon,

    Welcome, and I hope that you feel that your membership is a gateway to something you can value. Thank you for offering us your perspective.

    @ Gordon,

    I think that the revolutionary idea of abolishing committees and burdening eight MPs with responsibility for drawing up policy and adhering to it is a brave one. You appear to imply mid-term deselection of MPs, and I wonder who would organise things – committees can be invaluable if done well.

    FPC is not secretive, particularly. Yes, it has no real delivery method for reporting back, although that is a problem for virtually every part of the Party. We do need to explore that. But to accuse it of being part of the Westminster bubble does it a grave disservice. Its membership comes from across the country and is mostly directly elected by Federal Conference delegates (and soon all Party members).

    I suspect that your stated opinion reflects a degree of ignorance as to how FPC works, who is on it and what it does. That might be down to how FPC interacts with the wider Party, and I wouldn’t deny that communication is sub-optimal, but the committee structure of the Party has served us pretty well for nearly thirty years.

    We do need to consider if it is fit for purpose though, and the new Leader needs to consider whether or not changes are necessary.

  • “It has been obvious since long before the election that we have a trust problem. We did the right thing on tuition fees, bringing more young people than ever from disadvantaged backgrounds to university, a contribution system that fairer in terms of graduate incomes than general taxation would be, and therefore more “left wing” in the distributional sense,”

    After the 2015 General Election collapse giving us only 8 Lib Dem MPs, it is truly amazing that so very many Lib Dems are still ‘in denial’ about the broken Pledges on Tuition Fees. The Pledges were individually signed before the 2010 General Election by all 57 of the May 2010 elected Lib Dem MPs. So that there is no doubt let me spell out the central issues that are in denial starting with what the Pledges said:

    “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.”

    These were individual, personal Pledges and were not repeated in the 2010 Lib Dem Manifesto and were in no way conditional on the Lib Dems winning the 2010 General Election. Rather each Pledge was a personal promise to vote against any increase in tuition fees in the parliament that started in May 2010.
    The Pledges were not ‘either-or’ matters whereby MPs could perhaps excuse not voting against increases in fees because they helped deliver a fairer alternative, etc.
    It is very difficult to understand how any honourable person of integrity could then excuse voting other than as they had pledged and the fact that 36 of our 57 Lib Dem MPs broke their Pledges is the principal reason why so much damage has been done to trust and belief in the Lib Dems. Naturally all the other parties and the media were happy to remind everyone of the broken pledges at every opportunity.

    Tim Farron was one of the 21 Lib Dem MPs who kept their Pledge.
    Norman Lamb was one of the 36 Lib Dem MPs who broke their Pledge.
    IF we are to rebuild the party we MUST have a leader who can regain the trust of the electorate.
    Now let’s go from there – please.

    Incidentally, I have posted most of the above Comment before on Lib Dem Voice and dare I say, nobody challenged it.

  • Yes, more disadvantaged pupils applied to university, though not all lasted the course. More people signed up with payday loan companies too. Both are things that happen in times of high unemployment. It’s not a just system however you try to sell it. I know university lecturers who have left because they don’t like selling debt to the young. It’s not just a matter of trust – it’s a matter of having the highest fees for home students on courses at public universities in the world.

    Last year Germany abolished all university tuition fees. They offer several courses in English, as do many overseas universities. And a fair graduate tax would be progressive on wealth – this isn’t. Those who walk into very well paid jobs (often those with family contacts and inherited wealth) don’t pay the huge amount of compound interest incurred by those in less well-paid and often socially useful jobs. Look at the maths – I have.

  • Paul,
    I realise tuition fees must have been much debated on LDV while I was not a member, so I apologise if you are a bit bored with the debate!

    However you need to give those like me who resigned over the breaking of the pledge and then rejoined 2 days after Nick Clegg resigned as Leader the chance to make our views known when it is apparent that some people still do not realise just how much damage it did to us! Believe me, resigning from the Liberal Democrats was one of the worst days of my life, but I id not see any alternative…

  • Kevin Manley 1st Jul '15 - 7:27pm

    @Martin totally agree

  • Kevin Manley 1st Jul '15 - 7:29pm

    @gerry m here here!

  • Bill le Breton 1st Jul '15 - 7:56pm

    A leader worth his salt is at ease with Conference – celebrates the wisdom of that particular crowd; appreciates the experience and talent of those who who convince Conference that they should be elected to FPC – and in return earns sufficient respect, so that, in the times in which the leader wishes to lead Conference follows.

    This used to be called Conference Management. If you want a model of how that is done you should look at the way the Party was, over the space of many conferences, gradually convinced of the wisdom of abandoning equi-distance in the run up to the 1997 election.

    There develops a mutual respect. Which frankly does not suit young men in a hurray who do not recognize the value of experience and who find it hard to imagine that someone else might just have better judgment than themselves.

  • Paul – no offence taken! You have made your own position clear and I agree with it.

  • Paul Walter “To be clear: I absolutely recognize that the tuition fees was a total and absolute monumental mistake from start to finish. It destroyed trust with the electorate which took several generations to build up and it will now take several generations to rebuild that trust. That is one of the reasons I have voted for Tim Farron, who voted against the tuition fees rise and gives us a chance of a fresh start.”

    Hurrah!

    And btw how did you manage to edit your post??

  • Gerry M
    “Tim Farron was one of the 21 Lib Dem MPs who kept their Pledge.
    Norman Lamb was one of the 36 Lib Dem MPs who broke their Pledge.
    IF we are to rebuild the party we MUST have a leader who can regain the trust of the electorate.
    Now let’s go from there – please.”

    Unfortunately for Norman – who appears to me a thoroughly decent, talented, sincere and creative politician – Gerry’s assessment would appear to be undeniably true, I’m afraid.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '15 - 11:16am

    Andrew

    Despite the accounting sleight of hand that enabled borrowing money to pay the fees not to be counted as spending, the reality is that so far it has not saved a penny, and has actually cost money as the universities got a welcome (to universities) but unanticipated windfall. If we had really wanted to help the deficit a retrospective graduate tax payable by everyone who got free university education would have done the trick!

    Sure, but the Tories would not have agreed to a retrospective graduate tax, or to any other big tax increase. Neither would they have agreed to straightforward borrowing of the money with it being counted as government debt. If the reply to this is “But the Liberal Democrats should not have supported the Tories”, the alternative would have to be supported by Labour and everyone else to get a majority. Well, did Labour propose an alternative? No.

    If there was an alternative government that could have been formed and alternative policies that could have been put through, it would have to be Labour-led. If the LibDems were bad people for “giving in to the Tories” then it would have had to be Labour which would have given in more to the LibDems as the alternative. So did Labour propose any sort of alternative to prove that the LibDems could have gone that way if they had wanted. No.

    Labour sat there for five years jeering “Nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty rotten Liberal Democrats, you put in the Tories, nah nah nah nah nah” supposing that would destroy the Liberal Democrats, and the votes would come swinging to them, and that was rather easier than having to devise and get support for alternative policies. Well, they managed with the destroying the Liberal Democrats part, with the rather predictable result that it just strengthened the Tories (all you needed to do is look at where most LibDems seats were to see that).

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '15 - 11:28am

    Andrew

    Despite the accounting sleight of hand that enabled borrowing money to pay the fees not to be counted as spending, the reality is that so far it has not saved a penny, and has actually cost money as the universities got a welcome (to universities) but unanticipated windfall.

    So, sure, it is an accounting sleight of hand. But it is a sleight of hand the Tories were willing to agree to, when they were not willing to agree to do the same directly. Isn’t getting the Tories to agree to something by a sleight of hand when they would not have agreed to it directly quite a good bit of trickery? It hasn’t saved a penny, but isn’t the whole point of those who wanted universities to be state funded that they would rather have that and its costs rather than saving pennies? Or should the pledge have been kept and pennies saved simply by massive cuts to the number of university places?

    Now, when I’ve used this line in the past (so many times), the inevitable reply is something like “you are failing to acknowledge the trust issue and devastation resulting from the broken pledge”. This is the had banging against brick wall thing. I very much DO recognise the trust issue, and that’s my motivation in trying to get across the idea that one needs to think through what’s happening underneath rather than jeering “nah nah nah nah nah”.

    However, throughout the period of the Coalition, I felt the defence I was willing to give the the compromises made was being continuously undermined by the Liberal Democrat leadership who instead of admitting these were compromises made out they were now our new ideals, and pushed out message grossly exaggerating the influence of the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition.

  • @David Evans ” Unless we stop pretending things will be OK, and instead really fess up and tell the electorate Nick and the party totally messed up on this, we will carry on drifting towards oblivion. The new leader has to grasp this nettle or people will never consider voting for us again.”

    Nearly two and a half million people voted Lib Dem in May. Presumably they voted for the party on the basis that they thought that the coalition was doing a good job. To “fess up and tell the electorate Nick and the party totally messed up” will presumably put those 2.5 million votes at risk, with no guarantee of recouping any of the votes that were lost to replace them.

    There is also some evidence that coalition supporters voted Conservative in fear of a Labour/SNP government, and they may well return to the party in future elections when that threat is reduced or removed. Are we also to put that at risk?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '15 - 11:42am

    Andrew

    Despite the accounting sleight of hand that enabled borrowing money to pay the fees not to be counted as spending

    The point is that the Tories were willing to agree to the sleight of hand borrowing when they would not have agreed to anything more direct because they really believed that a system where fees fell directly in students would lead to market forces pushing costs down and university teaching quality up. That is why they would not have agreed to any compromise which did not have the fee-paying aspect.

    So, Andrew, when you and others put the line “But there’s no real difference underneath, it didn’t save money, so why not have just direct state subsidy” you are missing the point.

    The reality is that this has shown that the Tory and Orange Booker line that using a cash market always drives down costs and drives up quality is wrong. This thinking is typical of the sort of person who is out of touch with human reality but wants to look clever by adopting and fanatically supporting some simplistic political theory. It used to the Trots who acted like this, now it’s the free market fanatics.

    It was very obvious to me from the start that students would take the line “the higher the fee, the better” and so far from pushing fees down, no university would dare charge less than the maximum. Also, given how easily older people are fooled by financial packages (see all the bank mis-selling scandals), it was pretty obvious that 18-year olds would see the borrowed money as “funny money” and not exercise much rational thought about it.

    Anyway, coming in to the university where I work this morning, and seeing all the cranes and builders with all the new developments that are taking place, I say “Thank you Liberal Democrats for this”. Other public sector services are facing huge cuts, we in the universities are not. Had the Liberal Democrats insisted on keeping the pledge to the letter, I probably wouldn’t be coming in to work at all, I’d have been one of the many who would have lost their jobs in the cuts it would have led to.

  • The problem is that we.ve already had a leader or rather a leadership that ignored policy at a party level. It wasn’t very successful and once again it is largely supporters of these manifest failings who are arguing for more of the same. The answer is to pick a leadership that will reflect the party and present it to the electorate rather than a sort of El Presidente. This is a liberal party, not a personality cult.

  • Mr Wallace:

    This thread is about party procedures. There are many factors to discuss about tuition fees, but not here and probably not with you (let’s face it you do not really add anyting substantive to the discussion).

    You have written that you hav nô regrets about voting in a way that has produces a Tory government. It would be a lot more informative to see your spirited defence of the government that your vote has helped to usher in.

    Matthew and others: Perhaps a new thread on where policy can procede on the fees issue needs to be started on the members’ forum. I believe that a number of under acknowledged issues, such as you raise, get in the way of finding the way forward.

  • Matthew,
    Well in most cases the cost has been transferred onto individual students as a debt. Less successful (financially) graduates may not ever have to pay it back… I suspect the Tories will very soon be bringing forward proposals to change that though. Once you have established the principal that the vast majority of the cost of Higher Education (and MORE than the cost in the case of many courses at many universities) is paid through fees rather than general taxation, then changing the thresholds and interest rates is no problem…

    I accept that getting money through fees is safer for Universities… (paying for private healthcare is also safer for citizens). I don’t think it is better for students and graduates though…

    The excuse given for going into coalition with the Tories was always “we have to solve the current financial crisis”. My point was that rushing through this root and branch reform of university funding was NOT necessary to solve the financial crisis. Fees-based funding was a move that fits perfectly with Tory ideology but was firmly rejected in vote after vote at conference by Liberal Democrats. Most other European countries have also taken a very different course, with Germany moving in the opposite direction. Our students now pay more (eventually, in most cases) for university education than in California. Is that really what we think is the best policy?

  • Mark Valladares,

    Thanks for engaging. I fear my poor phrasing has misled you so let me try again with more detail for clarity.

    Joe Otten makes the absolutely correct point that committees often reach perverse and inconsistent conclusions. I would add that they are particularly poor – quite hopeless in fact – at formulating strategy because doing that successfully that involves not just policy as such (which we might reasonably expect the FPC to be fairly expert at) but a whole lot more including picking priorities, deciding what can be sold politically, what trade-offs are worthwhile and a sensitive understanding of the wider context, in foreign policy, industrial policy etc. One absolutely crucial ingredient is ‘metapolicy’ (I had to invent the word) by which I mean the foundations on which what we normally consider to be policy are constructed. For instance for Thatcher that included that markets would deliver efficiency and discipline if given free rein with minimal regulation – much of what her ministers did was to put that idea into practice. Although revolutionary at the outset she thought it important to sell politically and made it the new normal – TINA. I find it impossible to imagine a Lib Dem equivalent.

    Strategy then can only be made effectively by bringing together all these strands in a single mind which is why history and culture celebrate great leaders – politicians, generals, businessmen etc. Strategy is intrinsically top-down and nothing else works. It follows that we need a leader who is properly empower to make strategy.

  • Earlier comment continued…

    But, if the leader more power to determine strategy how then should he relate to the Party, to Conference and to the other MPs? Bill le Bretton says he can take Conference with him which is true but clumsy and fudges the issue of who actually determines strategy. Joe Otten suggests one solution (albeit starting from a different point). My suggestion is to say that the leader should explicitly have the power to determine strategy and hence lead (arguably, that’s more or less what actually happened in recent years) but this needs countervailing changes to maintain democracy.

    I suggest that anyone sitting at the top of the tree should be very exposed to being blown off their perch if/when they lose the plot. (‘When’ is the norm for politicians.) That means both cultural willingness to act and multiple formal mechanisms for challenge including if the leader loses the confidence of the MPs (it’s intolerable that continues without their support) so perhaps 20% should be able to initiate a motion of no-confidence. That would be rare because a failed putsch would be severely career-limiting for participants. Conversely, the possibility of challenge would keep even the most megalomaniac leader attentive. The Tory’s clinically effective approach is an important part of their success.

    We should be more demanding of our leader – but also more impatient with sub-par results. His job is not a sinecure but a responsibility. Party institutions need to reflect that perspective.

  • Mark Valladares,

    the committee structure of the Party has served us pretty well for nearly thirty years.

    I beg to differ and offer electoral support (lack of) in evidence.

    Of course not everything is down to the committee structure but the confusion over what the party is for runs very deep and the structure cannot escape a share of the responsibility.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '15 - 12:54pm

    Andrew

    My point was that rushing through this root and branch reform of university funding was NOT necessary to solve the financial crisis.

    You are COMPLETELY missing my point.

    You seem to be arguing with me supposing that I am saying this is a good and wonderful policy better than what we proposed in the first place. What you are saying here about the details of the policy assume that I am supporting it as the best of all workable options. I am not. You are ignoring what I am actually saying which is that I regard it as perhaps the best of all possible options from the subset of workable options that the Tories would agree to. I cannot say for sure, since I was not party to the internal negotiations. But I just can’t see the Tories agreeing to the generous funding it has given to universities without a very big comeback elsewhere. Thinking through it logically, it seems to me to be highly likely that the cost of the Tories saying “OK, we’ll find budget space to continue state funding of universities” would be “But we’ll reduce that funding by reducing the number of university places”. After all, they made 40% cuts in local government, and big cuts in Further Education, so why should anyone assume Higher Education would have been immune had it not been taken away from direct state funding by this sleight of hand?

    Since I did not say this root and branch reform of university funding was necessary to solve the financial crisis, why are you arguing with me as if that was what I said? I don’t believe it was necessary, and I would have preferred direct state funding paid for by extra taxes, particularly and very appropriately increased inheritance tax. To me, this would be a MUCH better way of dealing with the financial crisis. But the Tories would never agree to that, seeing as how it attacks what is their core belief, the thing they stand for before all other things. Which is, being the party of non-workers, the party which believes money gained by sitting in your bum is better and more noble than money gained by working, and therefore should be taxed at a lower rate or not at all.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '15 - 12:58pm

    TCO

    Nearly two and a half million people voted Lib Dem in May. Presumably they voted for the party on the basis that they thought that the coalition was doing a good job

    Well, I was one of those two and a half million, and I assure you that the assumption you make about me here is completely wrong.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '15 - 1:03pm

    Gordon

    Committees often reach perverse and inconsistent conclusions. I would add that they are particularly poor – quite hopeless in fact – at formulating strategy … Strategy then can only be made effectively by bringing together all these strands in a single mind

    There is a name for the political philosophy you propose here. It is the political philosophy founded by Benito Mussolini, and used to govern Italy and Germany in the 1930s. Gordon, the words you use here could have come straight from the writings of Mussolini and those who supported his policy. They are the core of the argument they used to argue for that philosophy.

    I, however, am a liberal. I am against that sort of thing. It is against the core of what I believe in.

  • Gordon, I think that Keynes would be the Lib dem equivalent to Thatcher’s belief in the market, but unfortunately his theories took a battering in the 70s, if I remember correctly, because of stagflation. If we are going to stop the Tories recreating a new aristocracy , I do believe we need a new economic theory to underpin our arguments if we are going to be taken seriously.
    However, we can reform our party’s structure/methods once we have a new leader and it must be based on the values expressed in the Constitution. We need to be using technology not just to receive feedback from the Leader, MPs, Commitees etc but also to consult with all members. There should be no secrecy in our party because we are against it in Government. To ensure that everyone of our members has access, two or three active members could volunteer to help those who either do not have the necessary technology or who find it difficult to use it. I include myself in the last group.
    I used to run a small charity which enabled people with learning difficulties to live independently. They were involved in Committee meetings and in appointing staff. I believed I was putting my political principles into action in my work. Now I would like to be given the same opportunities in my party.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “Well, I was one of those two and a half million, and I assure you that the assumption you make about me here is completely wrong.”

    But, more importantly, you were one of only 45,000 of those voters who are also a party member who (we presume) voted for the party, and would be far more likely to do so despite policy than would be the case for the general populace.

  • Wow this one will run and run.

    Joe I think you need to take some time and think about this, I think you are in a position of having found your self in a corner and you are so focused upon the moment you aren’t stepping back and evaluating. I’m saying this as someone who probably broadly agrees with you a a number of areas.

    Is the new system better? Yes
    Should the MPs have voted for a worse system? Yes
    The point is that they said they would in a pledge signed and presented to their constituents.

    Any position saying it is better so they should break their pledge makes no sense. You need to accept the top bods of the LibDems were out maneuverered by a bunch of Labour supporting students, painful I know but learn and move on. Though I accept you are trying to move on with this article.

    The problem that is trying to be addressed is the wrong diagnosis. The proposal is a procedural fix for a cultural problem. The LibDems often come across to the electorate as a single issue party (penny on income tax; then, free student fees) then for those who have more interest it looks like a not very good think tank producing policy proposals that no one bothers to look in to but (unlike an effective think tank) gets no interest in the headline above the policy.

    The fees policy was a good example of this, the question:
    The education market is facing many different challenges in technology; multiple retraining requirements through peoples careers; people who have been failed in terms of basic skills; international competition; rapidly rising costs for the more important subjects; etc. etc.
    The LibDem Answer:
    Return to the pre 1998 model of student fees for undergraduates.

    That is what the LinDems put front and centre and made the head line in the 2010 election. That was partly the fault of the Leadership it was partly the fault of the inertia in the party structures. But fundamentally it is cultural problem.

    The impression is that if the LibDems were in government were in power during a pandemic they would issue lots of wet wipes.

    Some of that impression is unfair some of it is not, it comes from many causes but at the end of the day I see very few people acknowledge the problem even exists.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    No. The essential feature of a democracy (national or party) is that it’s possible to fire the b*****ds when they go sufficiently off piste and moreover do so without triggering a civil war. That was equally true of the ancient Athenians’ participatory democracy (a half-baked version of which is used by Lib Dems) and the now nearly universal model of representative democracy that I propose should be adapted for Party use. Chris Hedges, the American Pulitzer prize-winning author has argued that politicians should “fear” their electorates. I agree and propose that much of what we have seen over the last few years (not all obviously) can be explained by a lack of fear amounting almost to distain for the majority view perpetrated by a clique that was unrepresentative because it didn’t need to be representative. That is democratic precisely how?

    The distinguishing feature of fascism was, as Mussolini himself explained, a merger of state and corporate interests. That is in a wholly different dimension from what I was discussing although it’s obviously not democratic by definition.

    What could possibly go wrong if politicians don’t sufficiently ‘fear’ their electorates (party or national). Surely that they will be tempted to take the corporate shilling – initially for party funding but then it’s a slippery slope to being wholly in hock to corporate backers. Soon it means dancing to their tune above that of electors, perhaps seduced by the promise of a profitable second career as a director or after dinner speaker. That’s sliding into a soft fascism that wears a mask of democracy which is a reasonable description of British politics today. It leaves the people as an afterthought, impotent and therefore not a factor the power-brokers need worry about.

    The voters view is clear: they are ANGRY with the ‘Westminster bubble’ for not representing their interests; the Lib Dems are not excused and I think that’s a problem.

  • Sue S,

    I agree with you about Keynes. Thatcherism is now so obviously out of steam and off the rails that, as you say, we desperately need a new economic theory to underpin and direct our thinking.

    I also believe we need a better formal structure and yes, I agree with you again, that MUST include using technology to remake the way things are done, we need an orders-of-magnitude increase in the participation of members and supporters.

    Information, expertise, ideas etc. exists ‘out there’ with the members and must flow into the centre where is doesn’t exist. At the centre the leader (in practice supported by a small staff and colleagues) has to make sense of this, to discern what is sensible and what not so sensible, what is doable and what is not, what is for later and what is for now. In other words orchestrate and decide on priorities. His decisions then flows outwards so everyone is working off the same page and to a coherent plan.

    I’ve experience of this approach in a large corporate setting and it is astonishingly effective – as in transforming a basket case into a star in short order.

    NB: I am off very shortly for 2 days without Internet access so won’t be able to respond to any follow up for some time.

  • Gordon

    “Thatcherism is now so obviously out of steam and off the rails that, as you say, we desperately need a new economic theory to underpin and direct our thinking”

    Some terminology is also so obviously out of steam, perhaps people could also use terms that don’t make it sound like they are living in 1995.

    New thinking is good to debate, but; someone needs to put down the use of certain terms.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '15 - 1:04pm

    Gordon

    The distinguishing feature of fascism was, as Mussolini himself explained, a merger of state and corporate interests. That is in a wholly different dimension from what I was discussing although it’s obviously not democratic by definition.

    The distinguishing feature of fascism was the belief that representative democracy was bad, because it involved debate and negotiations and deals being made, and that was a bad thing. Therefore, the fascists argued, it was much better to put all power in the hands of one person, who would be a very charismatic person, having popular support, and above all the dirtiness of politics.

    Many of the arguments used in the early days fascism were so much like the argument you have used to argue for all power being in the hands of one person, and like the similar arguments that get used to push the idea of executive mayors. Executive mayors are just local level fascism. That is why I stood up and opposed the idea with all my hearty and guts as well as my mind when the New Labour flagship borough where I was Leader of the Opposition wanted top be the first in the country to have that system – and Nick Clegg, then a backbench MP, wrote a pamphlet praising them without bothering to consult his fellow party members in the Borough he was writing about.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '15 - 1:06pm

    Gordon

    The voters view is clear: they are ANGRY with the ‘Westminster bubble’ for not representing their interests; the Lib Dems are not excused and I think that’s a problem.

    Indeed. As voters were angry with the conventional politicians in 1920s Italy and 1930s Germany, and so many thought this new idea coming in of strong government in the hands of one charismatic person instead of all these committees and compromising was a good thing.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '15 - 1:11pm

    MrWallace

    Something lib dems seem to be incapable of understanding is that you cannot restrict the voters choice.

    We understand it very much, that is why we supported AV, which if it were introduced WOULD allow people to vote for their real choice without having to consider the “got to vote for X to avoid splitting the vote and letting Y in” line.

    It is Labour and the Conservatives who in opposing AV want to restrict voters choice. It is they who want to push the line that a vote for anything other than their candidates is a “wasted vote”. It is they who want to win not in their own merit but on the line “You have to vote for us to stop them”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '15 - 1:18pm

    Psi

    “Thatcherism is now so obviously out of steam and off the rails that, as you say, we desperately need a new economic theory to underpin and direct our thinking”

    There was a marked shift in politics following the election of the Thatcher government. Before that, socialism was the dominant ideology, politics tended to be thought of in terms of how socialist you were, the Conservatives were see just as pragmatists who perhaps didn’t want to move as quickly down the inevitable path to socialism as others. After the Thatcher government, that all changed, free market economics became the dominant ideology, and it remains like that now. So, I think it very appropriate to label that ideology as “Thatcherism”. I reject those who are trying to hijack the word “liberalism” to describe it even if they do precede it with “classical” or “economic”, as I am old enough to remember when in no way was “liberalism” though to mean such a thing, and in many parts of the country the Liberal led the opposition to Thatcherism.

  • Psi “That is what the Lib Dems put front and centre and made the head line in the 2010 election. That was partly the fault of the Leadership it was partly the fault of the inertia in the party structures. But fundamentally it is cultural problem. …. Some of that impression is unfair some of it is not, it comes from many causes but at the end of the day I see very few people acknowledge the problem even exists.”

    That is a very shrewd piece of analysis; perhaps the best I’ve seen in a long time.

    Ask the general public to play word association and see what you would come up with.

  • @matthew. Can’t you vote green to stop the Tories too if that is the party you like best? If you say “no the lib dems are best place to stop them” then you have to accept green activists targeting lib dem voters with the same message. Remember in many party’s of the country the greens will have far more support than the lib dems. In the up and coming elections in Scotland for example the greens are on 10% in the polls and the lib dems are on 3%

    Even under PR 3% across a region will not get you a seat. In most regions the lib dems will not win a list seat, you need about 6% of the votes across a region to get one. Are you happy for the greens to tell the voters that the snp can’t get a list seat because they’ll win all the Fptp seats? Therefore who are you going to give your 2nd vote to? Lab/con or greens because the lib dems can’t win in this region? Is that a fair message?

  • David,

    Actually it was Greens 10% Lib Dems 5% in the TNS Holyrood poll (in the non-constituency section; the Greens are not mentioned in the constituency section where the Lib Dems got 3% but others only got 2%)

    It is still rubbish but it IS 67% more votes than you said! And the same as we got in 2011…

  • Neil Sandison 4th Jul '15 - 8:41am

    I agree with George Potter a lack of political nous on tuition fees was our undoing where we kept on apologising for a policy we could not have possible got through the house of commons because it did not have support either from the Tories or Labour.
    In terms of party democracy we are elected representatives to conference not delegates with a specific mandate from a branch or constituency .That’s old fashioned Labourism., baggage former SDP members were only too glad to leave behind.As a representative body we can make policy but that does not prevent the leader modifying that policy in the light of changed circumstances or practical negotiations .It is then the responsibility of the leadership to explain why they have modified or ditched a conference decision.Liberal Democrats unlike Tories do not let their leaders lightly off the hook .indeed there was a special conference to endorce the coalition agreement.Our political inexperience let us down this time on some policy issues .Lets hope we do not consider a coalition again until we have sufficient MPs to be at least reasonable equal partners in any future arrangements in a multi party system.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    I fear you have got the wrong end of the stick. It seems you have convinced yourself that I want a strongman, a charismatic person in whose hands all power would reside. That would indeed be fascist.

    You have totally misunderstood what I said – I was actually arguing for the OPPOSITE of that. Please go back and re-read what I wrote earlier, not just a single paragraph out of context but the totality.

    I think that the leader should, as a quid pro quo for his elevation, be in a highly precarious position, dependent on the continued support of both the rest of the MPs and the wider party separately (separately because that’s sets a lower bar to challenge making it more likely if the leader is underperforming). In other words the leader should be WEAK (obviously only in terms of his grip on power, not in terms of his intellectual capacity or judgement). That is the antithesis of a fascist solution.

    In return I would expect the leader to take the lead (reasonable enough surely!) in determining policy in a collegiate and consultative context, liaising in particular with the MPs but also more widely. Among other things that would involve finding good advisors, effective teamwork, developing a sensitive ear for the public mood, good skills in the black arts of politics etc. That puts the onus on a single person to co-ordinate key choices which is why orchestras have conductors instead of having the musicians vote on tempo etc.

    Any leader who approach wasn’t collegiate etc., who got above himself, became bullying, narcissistic, listened only to an unrepresentative clique or indulged in activities that might damage the party would soon get deposed in favour of someone more capable. That very possibility would moderate behaviour in a good way.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Aug '15 - 5:02pm

    Duncan Brack 30th Jun ’15 – 4:05pm is right. We should also bear in mind the Fixed Term Parliament Act. Unless the current government falls on a motion of confidence or no confidence the next general election will be in May 2020.
    Therefore the current leader does not need a veto on the manifesto at this time.
    Just suppose conference were to repeat the debate on battleships (four or six?) and “compromise on eight” trident submarines, the leader does not need a veto because there will be further conferences.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Sep '15 - 7:49pm

    Matt (Bristol) 30th Jun ’15 – 9:18pm “you’ll find that in 1920 the Conservative Party was too Conservative to even consider such democratic madness as _electing_ its leader”
    Yes, the first elected leader of the tories was Ted Heath, a carpenter’s son, after the recommendation of Harold MacMillan produced Alec Douglas-Home, 14th Earl. Ted Heath was elected by Tory MPs, as was Mrs Thatcher, the political balance in the tory party deriving in part from general election results.
    A more accurate version may therefore be “The party chooses the leader and the leader chooses the policy, If the party wants to change the policy it has to change the leader”.
    i was not at the meeting, but reportedly they decided to end a coalition with Lloyd George in 1922.

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