A woman’s place at Conservative Party Conference – walking with Dave, not talking on panels

Two interesting reports from Conservative Party Conference. First, Isabel Hardman writes for the Spectator that new MPs, many of them highly qualified professional people, are not taking kindly to being put on a rota for walking with David Cameron between buildings. Yes, dear readers, such a thing actually existms.

It appears that the women are none too pleased at being used as “arm candy” while the men are annoyed at being excluded:

But this exciting opportunity to be pictured with the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to have quite enthused some of those who have had to walk around with him so far. ‘I didn’t get into Parliament to be a bit of f***ing arm candy,’ mutters one. Older hands think they are being rather ungrateful, given it’s something all new MPs are expected to do and it is exciting publicity to be pictured walking and talking with the Prime Minister – but other new hands also think they’re being ungrateful, as they’re blokes who are still waiting for their call to walk between buildings with the boss.

However, it seems that for a number of organisations at least, having a woman on to actually talk about the issues on a panel at their fringe meeting is a bit too revolutionary.  Jamie Ross gives a list of 16 all male panels at the Conference – and they look like such happy meetings.  What’s interesting is that they seem to be attended mostly by men, too.

It looks like the Tories need their version of Mark Pack, who has refused to sit on any panel that only includes men. Conservative Home was one of them. Compare and contrast with our fringe in Bournemouth where there was a majority of women on the panel.

 

 

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

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107 Comments

  • Mark Reckons started that idea, not Mark Pack.

  • Ruth Bright 7th Oct '15 - 11:02am

    Looking at our party overall we are living in a glass house and we should therefore not throw stones.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Oct '15 - 11:19am

    Jennie: Mark Pack took it on though and does stick to the principle, which is a good thing.

    Ruth: I think we have more awareness in our party that the situation is atrocious than the Tories do, though.

  • I’d be a tad more worried if it was Boris…….

  • I honestly don’t feel the Tories have a woman problem. I actually now feel Labour have a bigger problem (not in the same way that Lib Dems though but no time to expand on that). I see Tory women everywhere. Priti Patel is constantly on TV, and just now another Tory woman on The Daily Politics. Yesterday Theresa May. Nicky Morgan. There are loads of Tory women. And a few non-white men and women. The Tories are a diverse party except in terms of class. And honestly I cannot see those Tory women being wilting wallflowers if they wanted to get on a committee.

    And it’s no good being aware if nothing changes.

  • I don’t know if it’s a bad thing if Tory women are chosen to ‘walk with Dave’. Yes of course it would be better if it was spontaneous not stage-managed but young girls and women seeing that will think it’s perfectly normal for a women to be standing chatting to the PM, isn’t that a good thing? It’s not like Tory women are treated as airheads. All the women I mentioned, and many more, have very prominent positions and they are very regularly on TV and Radio. It must be better than constantly seeing men of power surrounded by other men – Corbyn with Watson, McDonnell or Union leaders all men; Nick Clegg with Tim Farron and 6 other MPs all men. Please do tell me I am wrong because I would love to go back to criticising the Tories again.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Oct '15 - 3:46pm

    In response to David Wallace: I think it’s important not to engage in sexism denial. My opinion is, just going by experience, that women are more likely to get shouted at, even if they say the same thing as men.

    I’ve only got anecdotal evidence, but since I’ve joined Twitter I’ve seen a lot of abuse against women and I’ve hardly received any. It’s only anecdotal, but it still shapes opinions.

    It’s not all doom and gloom for women in politics though. The public want women in politics.

  • David Wallace – we had 7 women MPs before the election. Two of them did not defend their seats. Tessa Munt and Lorely Burt had tiny majorities in 2010. Jo Swinson was swept away by the SNP like almost everyone else in Scotland. Jenny Willott and Lynne Featherstone were vulnerable to Labour and lost. Remember, we lost 49 out of the 57 seats we were defending. There isn’t really anything to explain. In addition, although I don’t have the figures to hand, a very decent proportion of the seats where our incumbent MP was retiring had women candidates.

  • David Wallace “Although why every single female lib dem MP wasn’t able to keep their seat does puzzle me somewhat. How can this be explained?”

    Well they were clearly punished for the actions of the male Lib Dems in the Cabinet (all male).

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct '15 - 8:42pm

    @Phyllis “The Tories are a diverse party except in terms of class.”
    To be honest, when it comes to representation in Parliament I have to admit that the Tories appear pretty diverse in terms of social class as well, especially when compared to the Lib Dems. It has always seemed a great shame that Lib Dems talk “diversity” far more positively than other parties, but when we look at senior party figures in terms of age, race, gender, sexuality, social class, disability, etc. the party has not “walked the walk”.

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct '15 - 8:49pm

    @David Wallace “There are no lib dem female MPs. Is this because the selection process is sexist …”
    @tonyhill “we had 7 women MPs before the election.”
    Before the election we had 7 women MPs, but that was out of 57 so still not good, even compared to 0 out of 8.
    Somebody on LDV recently made the interesting point that interventions to improve diversity are often dismissed as “illiberal”, contributing to the party continuing to appear “pale, male and stale” despite its best intentions.

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct '15 - 8:56pm

    “It appears that the women are none too pleased at being used as “arm candy””
    I have no doubt that these same MPs will happily use these photos in their own election campaign material.
    Unless Cameron has fallen out of favour by then, in which case Osborne or Johnson might need to be photoshopped in 😉

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct '15 - 10:24pm

    Unless my maths is out, I believe that if men and women have an equal chance of becoming a Lib Dem MP, then 0 women out of 8 MPs is a more likely random outcome than 7 out of 57, i.e. less indicative that it is not random and that a woman has less chance of becoming a Lib Dem MP than a man. In that case, an absence of women MPs could be spun as a progressive step towards a more representative parliamentary party. Or perhaps not.

  • Peter Watson yes I caught the last 10 minutes if Cameron’s speech yesterday and as the camera panned out over the audience, they looked remarkably diverse. How did that happen? It seems effortless in the Tory party to have people of different genders and colour whereas in the Lib Dems it seems unachievable. It should be the other way around!

    I’m not sure what to think of the all-male panels, though, because firstly it doesn’t seem to me that there is a woman problem in the Tory Party (though I’m sure there is a lot of sexism) and secondly I’m sure Tory women, if they wanted to, could elbow their way in. Maybe we’ll see them doing that at next year’s conference.

  • Sarah Olney 8th Oct '15 - 4:53pm

    Actually many women and members of immigrant communities do tend to be quite conservative in their politics. Immigrants often work very hard to establish themselves when they first arrive – setting up their own enterprises if other employment is closed to them – and when they do have a foothold in their new country, they can be very disdainful of people who supposedly choose to live on benefits and seemingly don’t want to work hard and make a living.

    Women’s motivation is more often rooted in social conservatism. Women who stay at home to raise their children are more likely to support parties that make a virtue of ‘traditional values’ because this appears to validate the choice they’ve made. More fundamentally, as the weaker and more vulnerable sex, women are more likely to value stability and security and will support the party that appears to have the greater commitment to maintaining the status quo.

    The more radical agendas of the LibDems and Labour with regard to the poor and human rights don’t always play well with the groups that they want to champion because they challenge the status quo. However unequal their role within it, more vulnerable groups will often fear a change to the status quo more than the elite because they have relatively fewer resources to rely on in times of change.

    I think there’s a conservative mindset which cuts across gender, ethnicity and class which people often buy into regardless of whether it actually benefits them or not. See Annable Karmel’s comments at the Cheltenham Festival on why women can’t do certain jobs…….

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/businesswoman-annabel-karmel-says-woman-are-not-as-good-at-certain-jobs-as-their-male-counterparts-a6685026.html

  • Richard Underhill 8th Oct '15 - 10:32pm

    In some countries people pay good money to have a photograph taken with the President or Prime Minister.
    They are not necessasrially members of his/her political party. Influence is implied.
    The countries are often authoritarian. Kenyatta was an example. Putin is another.
    Maybe DC wants to be photographed with a large number of MPs to remind them of his power to promote to ministerial rank and to head off risks of splits.
    Maybe the MPs want photographs for their local papers.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Oct '15 - 9:34am

    David Wallace

    The party gave us a conservative government (albeit a fairly moderate one) in exchange for the Tories agreeing to implement some liberal policies. This would be fine if the party’s voters were people who had been persuaded to vote lib dem in order to get liberal policices implemented, but they weren’t. The lib dems spent decades targeting areas with the message of “labour can’t win here, it’s us or the Tories vote for us to keep the Tories out”. They built a base of anti conservative voters then put the conservatives in power.

    But what was the alternative?

    If you say the Liberal Democrats are bad people for “putting the Conservatives into power”, then it must be you suppose there was something else they could have done. The only alternative would have been a Labour-led coalition, which would have been unstable through lacking a majority. In any case, if the LibDems are bad people for conceding too much to the Tories shouldn’t Labour have shown what the alternative was by offering more concessions to the LibDems? So either it wasn’t possible, or you should just as much blame Labour for not making it possible.

    The idea that had the LibDems stood firm, and there was another general election on the grounds that the May 2010 was inconclusive, it would have resulted in something other than a Conservative government is bonkers, although it often is the fallback argument of people like you. Do you really suppose that people would have rushed back to Labour, having just voted Labour out, tired of them after 13 years of Labour government? Or, they would all rush to vote LibDem, even though they only put in 57 LibDems MPs our of 650 just before, and it was the existence of those 57 that meant they were going through the tedium of another general election?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Oct ’15 – 9:34am …………….The idea that had the LibDems stood firm, and there was another general election on the grounds that the May 2010 was inconclusive, it would have resulted in something other than a Conservative government is bonkers, although it often is the fallback argument of people like you. Do you really suppose that people would have rushed back to Labour, having just voted Labour out, tired of them after 13 years of Labour government? Or, they would all rush to vote LibDem, even though they only put in 57 LibDems MPs our of 650 just before, and it was the existence of those 57 that meant they were going through the tedium of another general election?……….

    There you go, yet again; anything that doesn’t fit with the Matthew Huntbach idea of inevitability is dismissed as ‘bonkers’….
    After 13 years of Labour (the most unpopular government and leader ever) the Tories had failed to win a majority.. The idea that Cameron would immediately try again is what is unlikely…
    Had the LibDems, still believed to be the party of principle, taken the stand that, “In this time of confusion we will support the majority party on a policy by policy basis” there would have been few gainsayers in the media/electorate and little ‘wriggle-room’ left for Cameron…
    Certainly the NHS ‘re-organisation’, a prime reason I didn’t vote LibDem in 2015, would never have seen the light of day….

  • David Evans 9th Oct '15 - 12:27pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach. I’m afraid that on this matter I am rather more with expats than you Matthew. You rightly point out so many reasons why, in your opinion and quite often mine, it is unjust that the Lib Dems have been punished so much after coalition because in many respects there was little or no alternative. The problem is that the public don’t see it that way and it is them we have to persuade to vote for us again if we are to survive.

    Their view is in a whole raft of different areas, we said one thing to get their vote and then did the absolute opposite. We won’t change that by any amount of debate or rational argument. They believe we lied. Telling them it is illogical to punish us for doing what we did is just a waste of time and effort, because it won’t change their views on us. Telling them we got the best deal we could on tuition fees to save the Universities – won’t work. Telling them the Tories would have won a second election in 2010 if we had stood back – why should I believe you, you lied on tuition fees.

    The question each of us has to answer is simple – Do we want to save Liberal Democracy or do we want to carry on simply saying we were right all along? We can’t do both.

  • David Evans

    ‘The question each of us has to answer is simple – Do we want to save Liberal Democracy or do we want to carry on simply saying we were right all along? We can’t do both’

    Matthew Huntbach’s argument is that the coalition was forced on the party opposes the counter-argument on the right that actually, the acts of the coalition were a success, an achievement and hence a choice by the party, and should be celebrated as such. As an ex-LD voter, I now enthusiastically support Corbyn in part because he represents Labour’s recognition that it has to repudiate its past to move forward – regardless of whether you agree with the direction it is moving in, it is a break with the past – and that in essence, is what the anti-Tory electorate wants. And I think the numbers of people now joining Labour is a testament to this. Today is the reality on the ground, today is the battle to be fought. And if it is necessary to repudiate the past to fight today’s battle – much as Corbyn and co are repudiating the Modernisers who once ruled Labour – then do it. A party can’t sit like Canute telling the sea of the electorate to go backwards.

    I don’t have problems so much now with the detail of Matthew Huntbach’s argument; more I think the Lib Dems are still in a position where that argument is unresolved. It’s that ambivalence in the party that I think will be it’s continued undoing. I’m not supporting the party right now because of that uncertainty. But that’s (for) now a concern for others.

  • David Allen 9th Oct '15 - 2:05pm

    Bolano,

    Yes – if the past is seen as a failure, you have to repudiate the past.

    Yes – in Labour’s case, the party are rightly blamed for Iraq, rightly blamed for cosying up to out-of-control financiers, wrongly blamed for the financial crash, rightly blamed for spin and cynicism, and wrongly ignored for achievements like the minimum wage and freedom of information. Rightly or wrongly, their past is seen as a failure, and they are right to repudiate it – if not necessarily right in the way they are going about doing so.

    Yes – in the Lib Dem case, the party are rightly blamed for breaking their pledge, rightly blamed for enabling austerity, the NHS reorganisation fiasco and the bedroom tax, and perhaps wrongly ignored on their claims to have prevented some worse Tory policies – though the public can be excused for ignoring claims which are hypothetical, and thus inconclusive. Rightly or wrongly, their past is seen as a failure, and they should do much more to repudiate it.

  • @Matthew Huntbach: “But what was the alternative?

    If you say the Liberal Democrats are bad people for “putting the Conservatives into power”, then it must be you suppose there was something else they could have done.”

    There was something else that could have been done, it might not have been the right thing to do but there was defiantly something else that could have been done. You could have just stubbornly refused to deal with the Tories simply because they were Tories, said they were evil, and blocked virtually everything they wanted to do no matter what.

    Now, most of the country would probably thought that this was the wrong thing to do and it wouldn’t have gotten any liberal policies implemented either, but it’s what your voters would have wanted. The Lib Dems only have themselves to blame for this because that is exactly the sort of voter they targeted.

    This is what you get when you deliberately build an anti-Tory voter base – a group of voters who are totally against the Tories no matter what. If instead of putting out leaflets saying “it’s a two horse race, vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out” you had put out leaflets saying “we’re the Lib Dems and these are the sort of Liberal Policies we want implemented and if you vote for us we will do all we can to get these implemented” you would have had a voter base that was probably a bit more understanding about the coalition.

    Canada have a real Liberal Party and use FPTP for elections in constituencies of a similar size to the UK’s. Their Federal Election is scheduled for the 19th of October and the polls are saying that the Liberals could just win it. Canada’s liberals are economic centre and pro-personal freedom. Their leader has said he doesn’t believe in cannabis decriminalisation he believes in full legalisation. He’s been openly pro immigration. And recently he refused to say that a vote for the NDP (the social democrats) was a vote for the Tories even though an anti conservative vote split could cost him the election. He’s said vote liberal for liberal policies http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/10/06/trudeau-ndp-harper-liberals-vote-splitting_n_8252888.html

    The Canadian Liberals tried all that opportunistic lib dem type nonsense last election and got swashed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Oct '15 - 8:01pm

    David Evans

    We won’t change that by any amount of debate or rational argument. They believe we lied. Telling them it is illogical to punish us for doing what we did is just a waste of time and effort, because it won’t change their views on us. Telling them we got the best deal we could on tuition fees to save the Universities – won’t work

    Well, I am sorry, but I am rational and logical, and I will not back down on my belief in liberal democracy. I will not go along with lies and nonsense just because that might win us back votes.

    At the core of my belief on liberal democracy is that government should be by a representative chamber, and that representatives come together to find the compromise which has majority support. Yes, that does mean minorities having to give up on their ideal if the majority won’t go along with it.

    When Liberal Democrats were elected in what were formerly true blue Tory constituencies, that did change the balance, meant we had a more moderate government than we would have if we had a pure Tory government. Given that these constituencies were never going to elect Labour MPs, that was the choice. If more people had voted LibDem there would have been more LibDem MPs and fewer Tories, so a more LibDem government, and much more power to the LibDems to make a real choice if it had meant a Labour-LibDem coalition would get a majority.

    Same applies if we had proportional representation. I will carry on saying this because it is what I believe in. If no-one else does, if everyone else wants Leninist party politics, well, so be it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Oct '15 - 8:08pm

    expats

    Had the LibDems, still believed to be the party of principle, taken the stand that, “In this time of confusion we will support the majority party on a policy by policy basis” there would have been few gainsayers in the media/electorate and little ‘wriggle-room’ left for Cameron…

    Er, the problem is that government doesn’t work like that. It isn’t a matter of isolated policies. Part of the issue is that people seemed to think that it does, so a Conservative-LibDem coalition could have Conservative policies on taxation and LibDem policies in government expenditure. Sorry, you can’t just block cuts, you have to balance that by getting agreement for higher taxation. That was the issue on tuition fees – what happens if the LibDems block a rise in tuition fees and the Tories block a rise in tax to pay to continue subsidising universities?

  • Richard Underhill 9th Oct '15 - 8:38pm

    Matthew Huntbach 9th Oct ’15 – 8:01pm Nick Clegg has resigned as leader. Tim Farron has been elected. We have had a conference. We have 20,000 new members, of high quality. We are startting to win a few local elections, no parliamentary be-elelctions yet, but the mayoral elections will cause some. Please join the fightback.

  • David Evans 9th Oct '15 - 10:39pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach – I too am sorry, but it is sad to hear a good Lib Dem like yourself describe a rationally argued point of view by another Lib Dem (i.e. me) as “lies and nonsense.” I may disagree with you but I would never refer to your views, however much I may disagree with them as lies and nonsence, and I hope you will reconsider your comment even if you still consider me to be misguided.

    Based on the rest of your response, I think that the core of our disagreement comes when you say “At the core of my belief on liberal democracy is that government should be by a representative chamber, and that representatives come together to find the compromise which has majority support. Yes, that does mean minorities having to give up on their ideal if the majority won’t go along with it.”

    I believe what you are saying here is flawed (as it related to Tuition Fees in the Coalition) from two viewpoints. Firstly you seem to predicate your argument on the view that the Conservatives refused to allow us to hold to our pledge. Hence we had to give in. However, I know of no evidence that shows that the Conservatives insisted on increasing fees at any stage of the coalition negotiations. If you are aware of anything, please let me know. Clearly, if they were not insisting upon it, it could have been negotiated.

    However, my most fundamental disagreement with your second paragraph comes when you state “Yes, that does mean minorities having to give up on their ideal if the majority won’t go along with it.” In this you seem to be saying that once in government the smaller party (but apparently never the larger party) must accept the other party’s view irrespective of any principle. To me this may be a view described as democratic, but the opportunity for simple bullying the smaller party into acquiescence could never to me be described as Liberal where ‘no one shall be enslaved by conformity,’ and ‘where we seek to balance the fundamental values’, not impose one view over all others. Indeed I cannot see how a government as you describe it can be ‘representative’ of anything other than the views of the larger party

    Now I accept I may have misunderstood your meaning here, but it does seem to be based on a fundamentally illiberal foundation. Could you explain how you reconcile this view of coalition with the preamble, because I am struggling to even imagine how you could start.

  • @David Evans

    What is being discussed here isn’t representative democracy. If we follow Matthew Huntbach’s reasoning, a smaller share of the vote for both the Lib Dems and for Labour would have allowed their MPs to be fully representative of the people who voted for them, because once the Tories have an absolute majority it is absolutely fine for Lib Dem MPs to completely oppose the Tories. It is only when the opposition’s support grows to the point where it threatens the Tories’ absolute majority that it cannot represent the views of the people it represents – i.e., the ones who voted for them. It’s an argument based on the idea that the effective exercise of power trumps the full representation of the people. The whole point of representational democracy is that the failure to achieve an absolute majority is a failure to exercise absolute power; Matthew Huntbach’s argument is that one can fix this deficiency in our system by keeping some MPs representative of their electorate, and turning others into MPs that function not to represent their own electorate but to shore up the first group in the name of the pragmatic exercise of power (it is more important that we form a government that does something rather than we represent the vote to disagree). It is – by my understanding of the term – essentially illiberal, because it’s anti-democratic. If you stand in Yeovil on a platform implacably opposed to the Tories who win in Kensington and Taunton, and you win, you don’t get to become an additional representative for those voters in Kensington and Taunton by saying not enough people voted for my kind of thing over the whole country therefore I’ll ignore the people who voted for me and represent some other group of intentions instead – and still call yourself a representative.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '15 - 8:12am

    David Evans

    However, my most fundamental disagreement with your second paragraph comes when you state “Yes, that does mean minorities having to give up on their ideal if the majority won’t go along with it.” In this you seem to be saying that once in government the smaller party (but apparently never the larger party) must accept the other party’s view irrespective of any principle.

    No, this is NOT what I am saying. I am saying that democracy means coming to a compromise position, which inevitably must be somewhere in between what different people want and will reflect the balance of opinion. That is why proportional representation is so important. One of the disastrous mistakes made by Clegg was not to make it clear that the coalition was far from what it should have been due to the distortional electoral system which pushed the balance far to the Tories.

    You and Bolano describe coming to an agreement which is somewhere between the ideals of two parties as the smaller one “acquiescing” or “shoring up” the larger party. No, all I am saying is that inevitably it will reflect the balance in numbers of the two. I’m not saying that the smaller party should simply let the larger party do whatever it wants. If you really believe it is wrong to accept a compromise, you would oppose democracy and say we should attempt to force our opinions however we can.

    But what you and Bolano are wrongly accusing me of is actually what Labour wants. It is Labour who want to shore up the larger party (which in 2015 was the Tories) by having an electoral system which twists representation and so gives them a majority of seats when they didn’t have a majority of votes. This is because they have a Leninist view of political party, where all real discussion and policy making takes place within The Party, and then the representative chamber is just a rubber stamp for what has been decided by The Party, with representatives sticking rigidly to The Party Line.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '15 - 8:40am

    David Evans

    I believe what you are saying here is flawed (as it related to Tuition Fees in the Coalition) from two viewpoints. Firstly you seem to predicate your argument on the view that the Conservatives refused to allow us to hold to our pledge. Hence we had to give in. However, I know of no evidence that shows that the Conservatives insisted on increasing fees at any stage of the coalition negotiations.

    The flaw in your argument here is the flaw that has been made throughout by most people attacking the LibDems on tuition fees: the idea that it is an isolated policy that can be taken out of the context of everything else without affecting anything else.

    No. A policy which involves spending large amounts of money has to be linked to a policy which involves raising large amounts of money. Policies on spending and policies on taxation are not independent of each other. The central role of government is to make a budget which, roughly, balances the two. So, if the Liberal Democrats had insisted on tuition fees not being raised, it was not just a matter of getting the Conservatives to agree to that, it was also a matter of getting them to agree to the higher taxes it would require. Or compromise by accepting bigger cuts elsewhere. Where would you have liked them to be?

    Again, I think it was a disastrous mistake by Clegg not to make this clear. That is why I think it was very, very wrong for the LibDems to fight the 2015 general election as a tax-cutting party, going on and on about cutting income tax. Sorry, but that completely undermines the argument that we would want higher tax in order to pay for more things, like subsidy of universities. We should NEVER have done that. Fine to say, instead, that as the Tories insisted on tax cuts, we reached a compromise where the tax cuts would be on middle income people rather than what the Tories wanted, on the wealthiest.

    What we should have done with tuition fees is agree with the Tories that we would be allowed to propose and vote for the extra tax needed to continue subsidising universities, but the Tories would be under no obligation to support it. Well then, it would be “over to you Labour” on the issue, wouldn’t it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '15 - 8:44am

    Bolano

    If you stand in Yeovil on a platform implacably opposed to the Tories who win in Kensington and Taunton, and you win, you don’t get to become an additional representative for those voters in Kensington and Taunton by saying not enough people voted for my kind of thing over the whole country therefore I’ll ignore the people who voted for me

    No, you’ll argue their case and why that is what they want in negotiations to reach a compromise. And the more other representatives there are who think like you do, the more you can push it your way. Isn’t that what democracy is about?

  • @phyllis: anyone who wants to post here can, regardless of their sex. The lib dems are a serious political party, not some gender obsessed discussion group. If This was the other way round and I had complained about female posters taking over a thread started by a man like they had no right to post on it I would be getting accused of sexism. This is quite frankly gotten beyond a joke now.

    How dare men write here, they’re taking over. C’mon.

  • Phyllis – re: “The irony of a (seemingly) all-male panel of contributors taking over this thread”

    For your enjoyment I point you at this article which caught my eye:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/virals/11921640/Male-engineering-student-perfectly-explains-why-women-arent-equal-to-men.html

    Yes, it is ironic, but that is because it couldn’t have been penned and signed by a woman and still convey the same sentiment.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “No, you’ll argue their case and why that is what they want in negotiations to reach a compromise. And the more other representatives there are who think like you do, the more you can push it your way. Isn’t that what democracy is about?”

    It’s a clever argument but you’re not refuting my point that your argument undoes representation which is ultimately what democracy is about – not negotiations, not compromise. The greater the success of the Lib Dems, the less they must represent those who vote for them, because they must at the behest of power negotiate with a numerically superior force of Tories, to eventually say ‘there are more of them so they must be ascendent, we will trade the greatest part of our representation to enact a tiny part of our desires’. It is entirely arguable that this is a valid exercise of power; but it’s not a valid exercise of representative democracy. If you could prove that voters had given their votes not because of what the Lib Dems said they believed, but because above the values they espoused the voters wanted these particular people in power, you’d have an argument. But you can’t. In fact all the evidence – the last election – shows the voters doing the opposite.

    12,000 people voted for David Laws because he positioned himself as the opposition to the Tories. They voted for him to represent their antipathy towards the values of the Tories. He did almost – but not quite – entirely the opposite because he believed that it was a greater good for the party to exercise power than to represent their voters. And 12,000 people walked away.

    This is against the spirit of a representative democracy. I believe, further, it’s specifically against the values of the Lib Dems per se – although I’m happy to be corrected here. The Lib Dems are not a force supporting the state above all, or big business above all other concerns; my understanding has them on the side of the little guy, the individual, protecting the minority against the great forces of control that threaten to overwhelm them. If any party should have the values of representative democracy running through them like a stick of rock, it’s the Lib Dems – those who are so quick to expose Labour when it ignores its support to facilitate the state, really should know better.

  • @Matthew Huntback.

    Taking your point on compromise on board I’ll try and explain it like this. If you agree to go shopping for me, and agree to buy for my breakfast a box of cornflakes, I’ll give you my money. Conditions may prevent you from purchasing cornflakes, and instead, you may come back with another cereal. OK, fair enough. Conditions may require even greater compromise – you might come back with bacon and eggs. The point at which you come back with something that causes me to say I won’t entrust my money to you any longer is the point where you’ve ‘compromised’ so much you’re not representing my interests.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '15 - 7:55pm

    Bolano

    It’s a clever argument but you’re not refuting my point that your argument undoes representation which is ultimately what democracy is about – not negotiations, not compromise. The greater the success of the Lib Dems, the less they must represent those who vote for them, because they must at the behest of power negotiate with a numerically superior force of Tories

    Er, when did I say the Liberal Democrats should only ever form a coalition with the Conservatives? If that is the case, I will rip up my membership card and never vote for them again. I would much prefer a coalition with Labour. Unfortunately, the situation in 2010 was that a coalition with Labour was not viable. The only choice was the coalition we had, or a minority Conservative government which would collude with Labour to call another general election on the grounds “the Liberal Democrats make it impossible for Britain to have a working government, because they refuse to support the only viable one – therefore get rid of them”. So it is not a case of getting bacon and eggs rather than cereal as you put it. It is a case of stopping everyone getting any breakfast because you say if everyone won’t give up their tastes and agree to yours, you’ll block anyone having a breakfast at all.

    If there had been more LibDem MPs and fewer Tories – as there would have been if more people in Tory seats had voted LibDem to keep the Tories out – a Labour-LibDem coalition would have been viable, and I believe it is the coalition that should have been formed unless Labour really did refuse to compromise at all. But that wasn’t the position we were in. Why can’t you see that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '15 - 8:01pm

    Phyllis

    The irony of a (seemingly) all-male panel of contributors taking over this thread, started by a Lib Dem woman, about the role of women in a major political party, in order to squabble yet again about the mistakes of the past!

    Well, perhaps this is an outrageous stereotype, but isn’t it a typical male position to say that any attempt to come to an agreement with others is wrong, and instead one should say “Unless I get 100% of what I want, no-one gets anything, I will sit and cause wreckage because everyone must give in to me”? And isn’t it a much more sensible position, which women are more likely to take, to say “Ok, let’s talk together and try and come to a position which is midway between what each of us wants”?

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    I see it. I see exactly what you’re saying. You’re completely committed to the cause of representative democracy until the issue of possible exercise of power rears its head, whereupon you relegate representation as secondary before the exercise of power. You’re misdirecting by your constant framing of compromise as a moral good – it isn’t here. The Lib Dems didn’t engage in coalition because they had a desire to compromise; they compromised because the imperative was the exercise of power, and compromise was the route to it. And that’s fine, as I’ve already said, if this is purely an exercise in power. But my points are with regard to the sovereignty of representative democracy. And my belief in it follows yours, until you abandon it, whereupon I persist in sticking true to my cause.

    This isn’t about Labour, either: it’s more like the student fees. I think the Lib Dems positioned themselves deliberately in such a position of opposition to the Tories that the volte-face that followed was in itself undermining of representative democracy; in the same way that the volte-face on student fees was in itself profoundly undermining of trust. I think the Lib Dems after said positioning should not have formed a formal coalition because the cost was out of all proportion to the gain. They undermined our democracy; further, they contributed to the further disenfranchising of a part of the electorate by undermining their own positions. When you play so pragmatically with the system you undermine true belief in it.

  • @Matthew Huntback

    I understand what you’re saying. Your argument is pragmatic. I just don’t agree that your pragmatism over-rides the moral point. Further, I think your pragmatism is both corrosive of our democracy, and of the condition of the poor, and of the minorities in our society. In much of the South West, Labour has no chance. And the Lib Dems won’t supplant the Tories here because of precisely this triumph of pragmatism over a shared consensus in our democracy.

    This point is key IMHO to the revival of the party, as a valued part of our democracy. It needs to repudiate what it did not because of it in itself but because it was incompatible with the way the party presented itself to the electorate. In the same way the damage was not caused by agreeing to student fees, but by saying one thing and doing another. This is not a way to do business with the electorate. When portions of the party say it was good to work with the Tories, or say we had no option but to work with the Tories, it will never allow the party to move forward. In my opinion – I may be wrong. A substantial rise in support will prove me so.

  • Phyllis,

    “Caron, Jennie, Ruth, Sarah – where have you all gone and why have you let the men take over this thread?”

    I think the answer is that women, like yourself, dominated the early responses and in the main, didn’t think we deserved to score any points over the Tories when it came to female equality. Points well made, done, dusted.

    Then yes, when that topic had been exhausted, a man picked up on your claim that female Lib Dems had been punished for what male Lib Dems did in Cabinet. Well, I’m afraid I agree with that man – the punishment of Lib Dems had very little to do with gender, rather a lot to do with a Coalition formed by LDs of both sexes!

    And yes, after that, the conversation tacked across to wider issues of philosophy. Conversations just do ramble sometimes. I don’t think this invalidated what had been said earlier by women, though!

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Oct '15 - 6:50am

    Bolano

    I understand what you’re saying. You want to see the Liberal Democrats destroyed, so that the Tories triumph and poor people in the south-west are left without representation because, as you say, Labour has no chance there.

    Well, that is the equivalent of what you said about me in terms of true understanding i.e. completely and utterly wrong.

    I am not a Cleggie, so I don’t think it was good to work with the Tories, I do not sing the praises of the coalition, and I stopped giving active support to the Liberal Democrats when the Cleggies did that. My point is that the choice was either the coalition we had or a pure Conservative government, which would have been worse. By joining the coalition the Liberal Democrats were able to represent poor people by arguing their case and pushing government policies a little away from what the Conservatives really wanted.

    Anyway, since it seems impossible to get this message across, perhaps the Liberal Democrats are doomed and there is no point in trying to revive them. You are, in effect, arguing the case for a strict two party system, on the grounds that as a multi-party system involves compromise in the formation of coalitions it is bad for the reasons you say.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Oct '15 - 7:50am

    Richard Underhill

    Nick Clegg has resigned as leader. Tim Farron has been elected. We have had a conference. We have 20,000 new members, of high quality. We are startting to win a few local elections, no parliamentary be-elelctions yet, but the mayoral elections will cause some. Please join the fightback.

    No, I won’t. Bolano has convinced me that there is no point in bothering. I mean that. There is absolutely no point in trying to build up a third party as it will always get to this point. When there is no majority, either it joins a coalition and is accused of abandoning its principles and is destroyed for that. Or if it does not, it is accused of being pointless and just stopping the country from being able to be governed just by its existence, and so is destroyed for that.

    I gave my life to building up the Liberal Democrats, but why should I bother doing it again when all it will lead to is the Bolano type reaction? I have other things to do in my life.

    Good bye everyone. Thanks for reading what I have written, even if you did not understand it.

  • DavidW

    You have completely missed my point. Caron’s article is about all-male panels talking to an all-male audience. The thread is now dominated by an all-male group talking to, it seems from the responses, an all-male audience. It’s not even on-topic which is one of the rules of posting on here. That was the irony.

    Anyway it’s turned out to be a fascinating discussion, especially the comments by Bolano (who may be a woman) which I hope will continue.

  • David Allen

    ” Well, I’m afraid I agree with that man – the punishment of Lib Dems had very little to do with gender, rather a lot to do with a Coalition formed by LDs of both sexes!”

    Yes ok but the Quad and the Cabinet, where decisions were made, were all-male on the Lib Dem side. That’s what I was thinking of. Sadly my comment saying that was caught in a ‘flood alert’ after which I had forgotten all about it!

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    In case you’re still listening. There are other ways; it does not break down inevitably to either join a coalition or pointlessness – it’s not always binary. That is the challenge of being a third party, of being Lib Dems in my understanding – how does one propose a radical, Liberal and democratic alternative to the other two parties, to persist in being true to one’s principles, and yet moving forward in representation, and increasing the impact of those beliefs in governance by successful representation. The coalition wasn’t the representation the electorate wanted – and the party needs to coherently and creatively respond to that rejection. Not merely cry tough!

    Until the party can accept that the coalition was rejected, it’s not going to move forward. Acceptance – not yeah, but…

  • Bolano

    You are absolutely spot on!

  • @Phyllis

    You’re too kind.

  • Bolano, Matthew,

    I think that you both offer a counsel of despair. When Bolano says that pragmatism should not override the moral point, I think he(/she?) comes close to saying that no coalition deal is ever acceptable. That is self-destructive, and depending on what deal is achievable, it can actually be the immoral thing to do. MPs are elected to take their own decisions, not just do what the voters told them to do. MPs then have to account for their behaviour at the next election, and if they have been rascals, they should be thrown out. An MP should not say “I stood on platform X, therefore I can never vote for option Y.” An MP should say “Can I get a governing deal which I can persuade most of my voters will get closer to what they wanted than not doing the deal?” Because if an MP can do that, he/she can make the case for what was done, and for getting stuck in to government rather than staying aloof, pure, unsullied, and unable to achieve anything.

    Matthew, on the other hand, thinks that just because the Lib Dems were in a fairly weak bargaining position as a junior partner, therefore almost any bad deal should have been considered acceptable, and if the voters do not understand Matthew’s wisdom, then the voters are simply wrong. No Matthew, the deal has to be defensible, and the voters are the judges of that. Their thumbs were down in massive numbers, and we have to accept their reasons. All we got out of coalition was Tory policies, jobs for some of our boys (and a few girls), and a few sops which the voters did not think were adequate compensation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '15 - 9:40am

    David Allen

    Matthew, on the other hand, thinks that just because the Lib Dems were in a fairly weak bargaining position as a junior partner, therefore almost any bad deal should have been considered acceptable, and if the voters do not understand Matthew’s wisdom, then the voters are simply wrong

    No, that is not what I was saying, and I am SICK AND TIRED of being accused of holding to positions and having motivations that are almost the opposite of my actual positions and motivations.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '15 - 9:41am

    Bolano

    In case you’re still listening. There are other ways; it does not break down inevitably to either join a coalition or pointlessness – it’s not always binary.

    No, that is not what I was saying, and I am SICK AND TIRED of being accused of holding to positions and having motivations that are almost the opposite of my actual positions and motivations.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '15 - 12:29pm

    David Allen

    almost any bad deal should have been considered acceptable, and if the voters do not understand Matthew’s wisdom, then the voters are simply wrong. No Matthew, the deal has to be defensible, and the voters are the judges of that.

    Well, here we go, this really is a big problem I have. I really had vowed to stop contributing to LibDem Voice, because I am sick and tired of almost everything I say being misinterpreted. But I just can’t stand leaving it with people believing the horrible things about me that are being said here. I spent five years during the coalition as a bitter critic of Clegg and the LibDem leadership, yet here we are with people piling on me assuming I am a fan of his and my reasoning is the same as his.

    No David, it is not “my wisdom”. I think the party leadership should have said from the start that it’s a miserable little compromise and far from our ideal, but of course it did the opposite. As this was something I was saying day in and day out for five years, why do you ignore what I was saying and so make these untrue and offensive allegations we see here?

    To me, the problem is the assumption that with 57 MPs out of 650 and no party having 326, the Liberal Democrats had effectively “won” the general election and so could have got anything they liked. I think that is wrong, and I think it is wrong to condemn the LibDems for not being able to do it. But Labour were condemning us for not being able to do it, even though they had nothing much different to offer, as we saw from the shocked reaction of their big-wigs when Corbyn actually did offer something a bit different. And in his last immensely damaging act as leader, Clegg himself suggested that 57 SNP MPs could get whatever they wanted if neither Labour or the Tories had 326 MPs.

    Since no-one was telling them otherwise, the people assumed what they were being told by Clegg and Labour was true, and so condemned us for not achieving the impossible. And now you and Bolano etc condemn me for pointing that out, and want me to pretend instead that we could have achieved the impossible and we are bad people for not doing so.

  • David Evans 12th Oct '15 - 1:18pm

    Matthew Huntbach – Matthew, I accept your revised position explained in your post of 10 October 8:12am, but it really isn’t what you said in your earlier post when you said “Yes, that does mean minorities having to give up on their ideal if the majority won’t go along with it.” Now if you expressed it as “It means that where there is a disagreement between the majority party and the minority party, there has to be a negotiation to resolve the issue, but under no circumstances do either the majority or the minority have to give up on their ideal if the other party won’t go along with it. In that case it is up to the two parties to vote as they see fit and accept that they simply disagree on that issue.” Now, that is a Liberal Democracy working properly.

  • David Evans 12th Oct '15 - 1:32pm

    Matthew, P.S. I also said and repeat unreservedly that you are a good Lib Dem and it is just on how you have expressed yourself on this issue where we disagreed. I hope you will never go into exile. That would not be a victory for anyone other than those who don’t want to change.

  • Matthew, Correct me if I’m wrong but , as I’ve read your posts….
    1) You believe the coalition was the only viable option….
    2) You believe that, as a minor party, we couldn’t expect the coalition to implement (without compromise) most of our policies…
    3) You believe the way that 1) and 2) were presented, by our leadership, to the public was badly done…

    I don’t agree with 1) but, having entered coalition, I wholeheartedly agree with 2) and 3)…

  • David Allen 12th Oct '15 - 1:36pm

    Matthew,

    I know perfectly well that you “spent five years during the coalition as a bitter critic of Clegg and the LibDem leadership”. You led the way in many trenchant criticisms which others have gradually learned from and taken on board. However, not only did you endorse the decision to go into coalition (well, so did I, only changing my view about a month afterwards when the real nature of the agreement first began to become clear), you have also continued vociferously to argue, not only that it was the right thing to do, but also that the key reason why the voters have failed to comprehend that was because Clegg spun them the wrong line.

    You say “Since no-one was telling them otherwise, the people assumed what they were being told by Clegg and Labour was true, and so condemned us for not achieving the impossible.” Well, first of all, just about nobody gave any credence whatsoever to Clegg’s spin.

    The particular spin you criticise is Clegg’s bigging-up of the tiny bits-and-bobs of policy that might be claimed as Lib Dem achievements in coalition. You seem to think that the public totally believed Clegg’s assertion that the Lib Dems were capable of dictating 75% of the Coalition’s decisions, yet at the same time totally disbelieved Clegg’s assertions that the Lib Dems had thereby achieved huge successes in implementing Lib Dem policy goals through Coalition decisions and actions. There is no evidence that the mass of voters exhibited such a curiously schizophrenic attitude to what Clegg said to them.

    “Since no-one was telling them otherwise, the people assumed what they were being told by Clegg and Labour was true, and so condemned us for not achieving the impossible.” means the following: “The voters cannot think for themselves. They do not listen to any of the independent commentators, but listened only to what Clegg (and Labour) said about the Coalition. The voters were blindly unable to recognise the reality, which is that the Tories were 99% in charge of the Coalition government. Despite the overwhelming dominance of Cameron, Osborne & Co in all the news media, the voters expected Clegg to dictate 75% of policy, and then condemned him for not managing to do so. Oh and by the way, whilst the voters’ understanding of reality was appallingly deficient, none of that was their fault, because Clegg was the master spinner and had misled them all.”

    It doesn’t stand up. Sorry, it doesn’t even begin to stand up.

  • @expats and what was the other viable option then? Joining with Brown?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '15 - 4:31pm

    David Allen

    Again, you have got it completely wrong. I was not at the special assembly which voted on the coalition and I did not even say it was the right thing to do. My argument has only been that I can see justification on the grounds that the most likely alternative outcome was another general election leading to a majority Conservative government even worse than what we did get. The problem with the words “the right thing to do” is that it can be interpreted in the way the Cleggies developed (AFTER the party agreed to the coalition and without democratic party agreement) that it was the “right thing to do” on the grounds that we thought the Conservatives had the right policy. I utterly disagree with that.

    Nor am I being “schizophrenic”. The position that a third party “holding the balance” was in an immensely powerful position was pushed by most commentators for decades before 2010. But actually it never happens like that, look at e.g. the Greens in Ireland in 2007-2011. Labour had a vested interest in pushing that line in order to attack us, yes. It was just icing on the cake that Clegg joined in with pushing it re the SNP in 2015 when it was a line so damaging to us.

    Many people believed, based on what was said in years before, that we had a choice to put in Labour or the Conservatives and chose the Conservatives. Untrue – the presence of MPs from other parties meant a Labour-LibDem coalition was not viable, and Labour didn’t want it anyway, preferring to be in opposition and benefit from the LibDems being destroyed. People then believed we could have got whatever policies we wanted from the coalition, but chose instead just to go along with the Tories.

    Contrary to what you say, I can see why most of our voters were disgusted and so turned away from us. However, I don’t think it will help us in the long run now to go along and agree with the line that we could have got whatever we wanted from the 2010 situation and are bad people because we did not, and then to beg and plead forgiveness for that. Sorry, when you and others say we should do that because that’s the only way to recover, you are asking me to say something I believe to be untrue. I can’t do that, and I think it will only damage us again if we are ever in similar circumstances.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '15 - 4:56pm

    expats

    1) You believe the coalition was the only viable option….

    Had the coalition not happened, Cameron would have been appointed Prime Minister and called another general election shortly afterwards in the ground “the last one was inconclusive, please vote again for what government you want”. That was what happened in 1951, 1966 and 1974, and the government party always won.

    What are people going to think when they are dragged into another general election months after the last one on the grounds that the existence of the LibDems means no-one won so we have to go through it all again? Do you REALLY think people will say “Oh, so this time we’ll vote LibDem”? No, a significant number of people will say “Well, the LibDems aren’t going to win a majority, so there’s no point in voting for them”. I really do not think people would have rushed back to support Labour, having just turfed them out. And people shifting from LibDem to Labour in LibDem-held seats would benefit the Tories, as it did in 2015. Also, of course the Tories in the few months they were in minority government would have shoved out some sweeteners and held back on the nasty policies to make sure they won that election.

    When you attack me on the grounds that what I am saying is unlikely, you are denying what history teaches us. Sorry, but to me the overwhelming likelihood had the coalition not been formed is that we would have had a majority Tory government at most a year later.

    And, when you look at Tory discussion groups 2010-2015 and see the spitting anger there at what they perceived the LibDems as stopping them from doing, well, Dave Allen may call it “bits and bobs”, but I think it is more significant than that. If Labour had played it better, we could have moved from that to a Labour government or Labour-LibDem coalition, and so avoided the horror of what we have now with this majority Tory government. But Labour thought they could win just by jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” at us, and the emptiness of their position has been shown up by the way that when Corbyn showed them what a real alternative would look like, most Labour bigwigs reacted with “oh no, actually we agree with what the Coalition wanted rather than that”.

  • Nick Collins 12th Oct '15 - 5:18pm

    “Caron, Jennie, Ruth, Sarah – where have you all gone and why have you let the men take over this thread?”
    Don’t you think their absence shows their good sense, Phyllis.? The discussion has wandered way off topic and, in doing so, has become a boring and repetitious re-run of arguments which have been done to death on countless previous threads.

  • Nick Collins 12th Oct '15 - 5:24pm

    ” I am SICK AND TIRED of being accused of holding to positions and having motivations that are almost the opposite of my actual positions and motivations.”

    The biter bit, methinks.

  • David Allen 12th Oct '15 - 6:16pm

    Matthew,

    “Now you and Bolano etc … want me to pretend instead that we could have achieved the impossible and we are bad people for not doing so.”

    “I don’t think it will help us … to agree with the line that we could have got whatever we wanted from the 2010 situation and are bad people because we did not, and then to beg and plead forgiveness for that. Sorry, … you are asking me to say something I believe to be untrue.”

    You are stuffing my mouth with words I did not say. Let’s start by peeling out the gross overstatements, then we can debate about what’s left.

    Nobody ever said we could have got “whatever we wanted” out of 2010. I do think that a better negotiating team could have either held out for a better deal, or done best to walk away and allow Tory minority government. However, we certainly could not have got “whatever we wanted”. Perhaps we might have got nothing except “no tuition fee rise”, in line with our (unwise) pledge. Can you imagine Cameron telling the nation that he was unable to govern and rescue our supposedly threatened currency, solely because he could not accept the impossible Lib Dem demand that fees be held constant?

    However, quite what we might have been able to get in 2010 has been argued to death, and is all purely speculative. So let’s suppose for the sake of argument that we could not have got more than we did.

    Why, then, are we “bad people”? Well, because our leadership enthusiastically joined a reforming right-wing crusade. They took lots of well paid jobs, which they would have done better not to take. They toasted the passage of the NHS Bill in Cabinet. They provided, without demur, the votes which enabled the bedroom tax. And of course, after a tremendously sanctimonious campaign against broken promises, they broke their biggest promise. The Clegg wing demonstrated that their real principles were not those they had claimed in their election campaign. The non-Clegg wing demonstrated that prestige jobs were more important than principles.

    How can you spend five years in “bitter opposition” to all these things, and then insist that we cannot now possibly repudiate them, or apologise for them? Or even just let others move on, without castigating them for “lies and nonsense”?

  • Nick, no I am enjoying it 🙂

  • @David Allen

    ‘When Bolano says that pragmatism should not override the moral point, I think he(/she?) comes close to saying that no coalition deal is ever acceptable.’

    I think your ‘comes close’ is in the ball park: I’m deliberately not saying no coalition deal is ever acceptable. I’m saying you have to be really conscious of who you’re representing, and not get giddy with a sense of manifold destiny. I’m trying to move the Overton Window back towards representation rather than pragmatism. My breakfast cereal analogy goes to what you later write: ‘ “Can I get a governing deal which I can persuade most of my voters will get closer to what they wanted than not doing the deal?” ‘

    I think the recent history of the party shows that it is unlikely to get carried away with being too representative.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '15 - 8:13pm

    David Allen

    How can you spend five years in “bitter opposition” to all these things, and then insist that we cannot now possibly repudiate them, or apologise for them? Or even just let others move on, without castigating them for “lies and nonsense”?

    Once again THAT IS NOT AT ALL WHAT I AM SAYING.

    I am drawing a distinction between unrealistic “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on us, which call us – ALL of us Liberal Democrats – bad and unprincipled people because with 57 MPs we were not able to achieve a government that was 100% Liberal Democrat policies, and correct attacks on Clegg and others at the top who made a difficult situation much worse by the way they handled it.

    I am SICK AND TIRED of the way that whenever I say that the “nah nah nah nah nah”s are being unrealistic in what they assume could have been done in that situation I am then attacked as if I am a fan of Clegg and all he did and said.

  • Nick Collins 12th Oct '15 - 9:10pm

    @ Mathew Huntbach

    Perhaps you need to lie down. All that sickness and tiredness can be very debilitating.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Oct '15 - 9:48pm

    Matthew Huntbach 11th Oct ’15 – 7:50am Shirley Williams has said that there could be a breakaway from the Labour Party because of JC. If that happens would you join it?

  • @David Allen

    The thing about our democracy is that it is both qualitative and quantitative. The quantitative element is in the number of MPs; the qualitative element is in the representation. If you get a smaller number of voters, you get a smaller number of MPs – and it is this that hampers your effectiveness. But if you get fewer, or more voters, the quality of your Lib Dem’ness doesn’t change: you believe as a Lib Dem what you believe whether 200 vote for you or 20,000, and you represent those beliefs.

    What places Matthew Huntbach and Clegg side-by-side, regardless of their antipathy towards each other, is that they both obsess the numbers. It’s not enough that, say, the Lib Dems suffer by only having 10% of the MPs; they must further be reduced in the quality of their representation.

    What the party should have said to the Tories is that, numbers apart, we recognise you represent – and are the only representation for – people whom it is right you stand by; you’ve got wriggle room to give up a little to get more elsewhere. But likewise, we are the sovereign and only representation of people whom we have to stand by, and we can negotiate a little wriggle too – but we represent them just as much as you do yours, albeit in smaller numbers: what do you want to negotiate?

    But Clegg and MATTHEW HUNTBACH believe that the quality of the representation should also be quantified. If the Tories are willing to give this we, having only a quarter of their numbers, must give 4 times as much. So the Tories give 20% and still remain in the quality of their representation 80% Tory – the natural home, still, for all natural Tories.

    And the Lib Dems tot up and give away 80%, and whoops! The vote collapses. That’s the issue with representation, that’s the issue with the Lib Dems. It’s exactly the same kind of stupidity shown by Harriet Harman with the Welfare Reform Bill, and it leads to exactly the same place.

  • Peter Watson 12th Oct '15 - 10:21pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “I am drawing a distinction between unrealistic “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on us, which call us – ALL of us Liberal Democrats – bad and unprincipled people because with 57 MPs we were not able to achieve a government that was 100% Liberal Democrat policies, and correct attacks on Clegg and others at the top who made a difficult situation much worse by the way they handled it.”
    I think you are right to draw that distinction, but I also feel that you sometimes overreact when somebody refers to “Lib Dems” without clarifying that they mean “Lib Dems with the exception of Matthew Huntbach, David Allen, John Tilley, and the usual suspects”.
    To the outside world, which is everybody apart from those jolly few of us who come to LibDemVoice, from 2010 to 2015 the Lib Dems were Nick Clegg.
    Danny Alexander, David Laws, Paddy Ashdown, Tim Farron, and a few others popped up in the media at regular intervals, but they only ever reinforced the party line. Dissenting views were seldom reported; there was never any suggestion of a rebellion within the parliamentary party or elsewhere. There was little or no indication that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem MPs were fighting to restrain rabid right-wing Tories, and whatever emerged from the private negotiations within an 80%+ Tory coalition was happily presented by Lib Dems (those in Parliament and many on this site) as what they wanted, not what they had been reluctantly forced to allow. For goodness sake, those same Lib Dems claimed that 75% of these policies were theirs.
    Yes, you were badly let down by Nick Clegg and those around him, and those are the Lib Dems that the “nah nah nah nah nahs” are attacking.
    Yes, many of those “nah nah nah nah nahs” fail to acknowledge that coalition is difficult and involves compromise, victories and defeats, but the public face of Lib Dems in Coalition gave them no reason to believe that it was any different in private.

  • Nick Collins

    Not to mention all that shouting.

  • Nick Collins 12th Oct ’15 – 9:10pm
    @ Mathew Huntbach

    “Perhaps you need to lie down. All that sickness and tiredness can be very debilitating.”

    Not to mention the shouting.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '15 - 5:44am

    Richard Underhill

    Matthew Huntbach 11th Oct ’15 – 7:50am Shirley Williams has said that there could be a breakaway from the Labour Party because of JC. If that happens would you join it?

    No. If the Labour Party split like that and I had to choose between one and the other, I’d prefer the Corbyn-led bit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '15 - 6:09am

    Peter Watson

    There was little or no indication that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem MPs were fighting to restrain rabid right-wing Tories, and whatever emerged from the private negotiations within an 80%+ Tory coalition was happily presented by Lib Dems (those in Parliament and many on this site) as what they wanted, not what they had been reluctantly forced to allow. For goodness sake, those same Lib Dems claimed that 75% of these policies were theirs.

    Yes, and I spent so much time posting messages to this website saying how wrong and damaging this was.

    I like the way you prove the point I made about the “75%” thing. The actual message that came out was “75% of our manifesto implemented”. As soon as it came out, I said that was a terrible message to put out, because people would wrongly interpret it as “75% of the coalition’s policies are what the LibDems want”. I remember being told “Oh no, that’s not what it means, and people won’t see it like that”. By the way, the chief promoter of that message was one Tim Farron.

    But one of the main points I’m making is that the constant attacks on the Liberal Democrats which made out that all of us were like that simply helped boost the Cleggies. If those attacking us were more careful to say that they recognised that not all Liberal Democrats were like that, and gave some support to those of us trying to challenge Clegg, I think we could have done better.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '15 - 9:42am

    Bolano

    What places Matthew Huntbach and Clegg side-by-side, regardless of their antipathy towards each other, is that they both obsess the numbers. It’s not enough that, say, the Lib Dems suffer by only having 10% of the MPs; they must further be reduced in the quality of their representation.

    Fine, so what you are saying is that the Liberal Democrats should have refused to compromise. The result would have been that David Cameron would have been appointed Prime Minister of a minority Conservative government, and he would have said “It is impossible to form a proper government from this Parliament, so we need another general election to elect a new Parliament where one party has a majority”, just as Harold Wilson did the last time the country was in a similar situation. Then Labour would have got together with the Tories, as they did in the AV referendum, to push the line “This country needs to return to a two-party system, so vote to get rid of the Liberal Democrats who are just getting in the way of that”.

    What I am saying is that I don’t think the Liberal Democrats are bad people who only care for “power” and don’t care for those who voted for them, as you allege, if they decided that instead of this scenario they would go for the coalition. The fact that the coalition was handled badly by Clegg, doesn’t change that, although I agree it makes it much harder to get the original point across.

    On numbers, all I am saying is that a coalition based on 57 LibDem MPs and 307 Conservative MPs is bound to reflect that balance, and from what came out of it that seemed to be the case – about one sixth LibDem and five-sixths Tory. I’m not saying it’s an exact arithmetical calculation, as you accuse me of. If we had had proportional representation, the balance would be very different and so I think the coalition polices much more towards the LibDem ideal.

    However, this point was never made by Clegg and the ad-men surrounding him. To them, politics was like selling a product, and selling a product means you must always claim it is super-duper wonderful. So immense damage was done with their idea that the best way to promote the LibDems in the coalition was to exaggerate what they were able to achieve and make out they were almost equal partners, rather than to tell the truth.

    I have been advocating telling the truth as the best way. And for that I have been remorselessly attacked by both sides.

  • Peter Watson 13th Oct '15 - 11:43am

    @Matthew Huntbach “I have been advocating telling the truth as the best way. And for that I have been remorselessly attacked by both sides.”
    It is a great shame that you feel like that and I accept it is not without foundation.
    I often think that because you are brave enough to defend the principles and compromises of being in coalition and because you sometimes appear to give the benefit of the doubt to the party leadership about how they might have been fighting their corner in private, you ironically end up as the fall guy for the awful way the Lib Dem leadership appeared to conduct that Coalition and present it in public even though you have been one of its most coherent and consistent critics.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '15 - 11:47am

    David Allen

    Why, then, are we “bad people”? Well, because our leadership enthusiastically joined a reforming right-wing crusade. They took lots of well paid jobs, which they would have done better not to take. They toasted the passage of the NHS Bill in Cabinet

    Well, ok, but I was at the Gateshead party conference where the NHS Bill was debated, and the proportion of delegates who gave outright support to it was tiny. The leadership tried to push the argument that the LibDems in the Lords had worked extensively to moderate it from what the Tories originally wanted, so it had become an acceptable compromise, and they got Shirley Williams to front that.

    The party has many scaredycat centrist types, who are over-loyal to the leader, and can be pulled over by tricks like that, yes. However, even then, a substantial proportion of the delegates voted for the party to outright reject the Bill, and most of those who followed the leader weren’t happy about it.

    So why push the line that every single Liberal Democrat was an enthusiastic supporter of the NHS Bill? Well, if you wanted to destroy the Liberal Democrats, as Labour did, wrongly thinking that would help them, of course that’s what you’d do. And if you’d wanted to destroy the party, so you could build a new right-wing neoliberal party from the ashes, which is what the the person Clegg appointed as “Director of Strategy” wanted to do (and Clegg knew that when he appointed him), it’s maybe what you would do.

    It’s less clear, however, while all these people posting here who claim to have supported the LibDems in the past and claim they want to see the party revived and taken back to where it was, should also have joined in with Labour and the Cleggies in pushing this destructive and untrue line. As I kept saying, if they’d actually given a bit of vocal support to those of us challenging the Cleggies rather than writing us off as non-existent, perhaps we could have done better.

    And I think in carrying on pushing this line they are stopping any chance our party has of reviving. Which is what you are doing now, David.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “Fine, so what you are saying is that the Liberal Democrats should have refused to compromise.”

    No, but I’ll resist a “Once again THAT IS NOT AT ALL WHAT I AM SAYING” all caps warning.

    What I’m saying is that the relative numbers which you keeping returning to are not the determining factor in representation. The party should have agreed to compromise but only by a comparable factor to the Tories that respected those who’d voted for the party in the same way that the Tories should reasonably respect the intentions of those who’d voted for them. If the Tories pushed a motion that was a step beyond that, then there were other groups in the House that could have supported it. If the Tories wished to push in the main motions for which there was no support in all other parts of the House then that actually is democratic representation at work – that’s the failure of the Tories to compromise, that’s the failure of the Tories to convince enough voters to vote for them.

    If the Tories had refused to recognise that the Lib Dems had an innate right to represent their voters much as the Tories believed they themselves did, then the options were another alignment or a fresh election. Certainly the Lib Dems could have returned to their constituencies and said to their supporters we both tried to compromise, and respect the intentions of those of you who voted for us. I don’t think that would have played badly.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    But if the electorate had turned around and said, actually on reflection, we’d all like to vote Tory (and I don’t share your confidence in your predictive capabilities) – well, that’s democracy for you. You can’t make the argument that the party has to move for a coalition because that’s what the voters want and then say we can’t have another election so soon because of the possibility that the voters might dare to want something else.

    Further, all this talk about ‘bad people’ is to a great part, your own invention. I’ve been very clear in not descending to a moral argument because this isn’t about morals, this is a political argument: I’ve clearly set out that this is an argument for me between pragmatism and representation. You’re the one who attaches the bad and good to these positions, and then comes running back saying but this means… It doesn’t. Stop ascribing a moral colouring that exists in your head to the thoughts of others. I’ll happily make a moral argument about the acts of a government, but not about theoretical comparisons of political structures of representation of the kind we’re discussing here. People who confuse the two, often get quickly intemperate, and THEN THE SHOUTING STARTS.

    I’m not attacking you. I simply think you’re wrong, that your logic is faulty, and that you’re clouding your analysis with emotion, and that you’re leaping from one extreme to another. You’re clearly not a supporter of Clegg, but your over-reliance on the numbers is parallel to his – and from my point of analysis I’m in opposition to you and Clegg here.

    I’m arguing for the support of core Lib Dem beliefs, of a recognition of integrity, of a reunion with former members, of a Lib Dem revival, of a putting aside of the mistakes of the past. I think you agree with all that. I just think your analysis is one of the problems that stands in the way – and that’s what I’m trying to explain to you.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “It’s less clear, however, while all these people posting here who claim to have supported the LibDems in the past and claim they want to see the party revived and taken back to where it was, should also have joined in with Labour and the Cleggies in pushing this destructive and untrue line. As I kept saying, if they’d actually given a bit of vocal support to those of us challenging the Cleggies rather than writing us off as non-existent, perhaps we could have done better.”

    I missed the memo where they made you the judge of authenticity. No one tries to make you look inauthentic by adding the word ‘claim’ to your statements, but all do you the service and respect of treating what you say as what you really believe.

    You’d do well to respect those who disagree with you in the same way they respect you.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '15 - 12:23pm

    Peter Watson

    It is a great shame that you feel like that and I accept it is not without foundation.

    Thanks. Just to add, my local Liberal Democrats have their AGM next week, and I was contemplating whether to go along and volunteer to get active and help build up the party again. But following on from the sickening, untrue and unrealistic attacks made on me here, I don’t think I’ll bother, because it seems clear to me not worth the effort. Too many people seem determined to carry on jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” to make sure it doesn’t happen.

    I was particularly upset by Bolano accusing me of being someone who is only interested in “power” (by which he means jobs for the Cleggies) and so would turn his back on the poor people of the south. My whole motivation for getting involved in politics and the Liberal Party was that I was brought up in a poor family of the south, I felt the Labour Party never cared for people like us, and I saw the Liberal Party as capable of taking on the Conservatives in the supposedly true-blue south and beating them and speaking up for us. And, yes, I feel the little that they did in the coalition was better than a majority Tory government, and they did not deserve to be destroyed for that.

    Accounts from former Liberal Democrat ministers, even those I did not care much for (most of them, as Clegg was very biased in who he picked) of the struggles they had with the Tories do suggest to me that it is quite wrong to say they just rolled over and accepted whatever the Conservatives wanted without argument. And I think if we can’t get that message across, and let the “nah nah nah nah nah” one prevail, we’re doomed.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “I was particularly upset by Bolano accusing me of being someone who is only interested in “power” (by which he means jobs for the Cleggies) and so would turn his back on the poor people of the south. ”

    Cite, please. Not your words – mine. Not your ‘interpretation’ of my words. My. Actual. Words. ‘Only interested in “power”‘.

  • David Allen 13th Oct '15 - 2:39pm

    There is a debate to be had about how we should relate our future to the past. We’re not having it properly. Let me try to start afresh.

    I think all those now active on this thread would agree that Farron should not be, and is not, Continuity Clegg.

    One view might be: Farron must avoid any major move away from Cleggism. That might be advocated out of fear of being labelled inconsistent, out of fear at losing our vast army of Cleggite voters out there, or out of deference to those powerful Lib Dem supporters who gave us Cleggism in the first place. It might even be advocated on principle, though I would struggle to identify valid principles in this respect.

    A second view could be: Farron must gradually develop his own leadership and identity, as a positive future, avoiding negativity toward the past. Gradually, positive perceptions on “Farron” issues like refugees, housing and more can replace, in the public mind, the reputation of Lib Dems in Coalition with Tories.

    There is much to be said for this approach. Rational image developers will probably jump at it. Unity if maintainable, positive messages and harmony, alongside an evolving prospectus of hope, could potentially play well.

    Here are my concerns. First, I don’t believe that those who masterminded the Orange Book project have gone away, and that worries me. Second, I don’t think the public will easily be brought to believe that our leopard has changed its spots. That David Allen, Matthew Huntbach, John Tilley and others typed lots of dissenting words into LDV is supremely irrelevant in that regard, because 99.999% of the voters never read them. Hence, I argue we must bite the bullet and repudiate at least some substantial elements of our past.

    This is in no way “pushing an untrue line”. It is to stand true to our real principles.

  • @ David Allen

    Yes.

    Ultimately I doubt that the party will see any substantial return to its pre-Coalition support for a number of years. Not because that potential support isn’t there, but because I think the party won’t be able to sort out the legacy of the Coalition for a number of years. It’s the elephant in the room.

    Currently Corbyn’s Labour has my support, unpredictable as the position currently is there. But I think what’s key is that Labour has decided that things couldn’t go on as they have done for years, and that change, even such disruptive change is necessary to get the whole project going again. It’s going back to a grass roots movement.

    I’d love to see the Lib Dems flourish but, right now, I don’t think the party is up for the kind of radical, substantial changes that will be necessary. I think the tensions in the party are too balanced, too strong, and that the only way forward being considered is a kind of Basil Fawlty ‘don’t mention the war’ approach. If we just try and ignore the coalition people will forget. They will. But not for a generation.

    But, I pretty much agree with your analysis.

  • Very very good points being made here by Bolano.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '15 - 6:40pm

    David Allen

    Hence, I argue we must bite the bullet and repudiate at least some substantial elements of our past.

    Yes, and I have never disagreed with that. It’s what I’ve been saying all along, the coalition should never have been promoted as super-duper wonderful, instead we should have made clear from day 1 that it was a miserable little compromise forced onto us by the situation, in particular the distortional effect of the electoral system which greatly weakened our ability to get a compromise which more truly represented the balance of opinion across the country. However, I think it will help us get to that point if it can be accepted that it was not the case, as is still being alleged, that all Liberal Democrats enthusiastically endorsed the coalition because they were much more right-wing than they let on, or because all they wanted was “power”. That’s what I’ve been trying to say, and been attacked here for saying.

    I don’t think remaining silent on the coalition will help, as it will just lead to the “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on us continuing, and most of the electorate continuing to believe that all Liberal Democrats are bad people because of how we have all been painted by these attacks. Unless something is done, people will continue to think this way, even after they have long forgotten the details.

  • @David Allen 13th Oct ’15 – 2:39pm

    And just to be absolutely clear, a radical reinvention for me would be a return to the representation of the individual against the forces of big business and the state. And this makes the Cleggist abandonment of his electorate all the more worthy of condemnation. A party for the individual isn’t a party that is about supporting big business through TTIP, or free-market technocrats at Brussels; it’s a party that is fully-engaged in an EU project that is about defending the rights of individuals from interference by multinationals, by states – defending access to a peoples NHS that isn’t a political football in the hands of the state. A party that welcomes individuals fleeing noxious regimes; a party that doesn’t bomb because its the little people who get hurt. And so on, and…

  • David Allen 13th Oct '15 - 8:38pm

    Bolano,

    You may well be right that Farron goes for a “don’t mention the war” approach, in which the Cleggies are expected to shut up about how wonderful the Coalition was, while the preamble Lib Dems are expected to shut up about how dreadful it was. If so, I suspect public opinion will be pretty slow to recover from the Coalition legacy, but I doubt whether it will really take a generation, as you suggest.

    As for Corbyn – Well, I’d have preferred him over his hopeless opponents, and I share the ideals you describe. However, I don’t believe a Labour leadership which gives automatic support to all strikers (these were basically McDonnell’s words), shuns royalty, buys the Bomb but commits never to use it, can’t make up its mind about financial policy, and is hated by most of its own MPs, has the slightest hope in hell of any form of success.

    I’m actually sad about that. I have put together the foregoing rather shock-jockish sentence not because it’s a style that appeals to me, but because it is the powerful ammunition that the tabloids will use to sink Corbyn. Really the only question is how quickly they get on with it.

    The Tories will want them to hold fire until 2020 so that Corbyn, like Ed Miliband, can be another Labour leader loser who just wasn’t up to it and lets the Tories back again. This might sound like an unlikely long delay, but events will probably embroil the Government in crises which hog the news. That will leave Corbyn to survive on the sidelines until his disastrous 2020 election.

    In truth, we really need a new party to replace the discredited Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, don’t we?

  • @David Allen

    I think you are, if nothing’s done, talking about a generation. Those who are politically engaged (i.e. who vote) have very long memories. How long did it take Thatcher’s reputation to soften? And our views on Kinnock? Cameron isn’t going to be forgotten anytime soon, and the Lib Dems are inextricably linked to his first term.

    I’m more optimistic about Corbyn because they won’t hold fire – and haven’t. It’s in their nature. I suspect we’re in for a full-term of this most dangerous man stories that both the press and Tories will struggle to build upon.: I think it’ll prove counter-productive in the end. People are going to see someone who reminds them of their old history teacher and both the press and the Tories are going to suffer. The other cause for optimism is that the antipathy is from MPs with very little support. The smarter ones are already shutting up. I think the ones who’ll persist in attacking him are gradually going to struggle – Chris Leslie has nowhere to go but sink back into obscurity.

    I think a confrontation is eventually coming in the Lib Dems. The war can only remain unmentioned as a hope to growth. I don’t think the growth will happen until the Coalition/Orange Book/Cleggies/whatever issue is finally addressed, and so I think eventually, mutatis mutandis, there’s going to be displays of impatience on the right, and this will be met from the left. If Farron can’t restore fortunes what does it benefit Orange Bookers to keep quiet?

    I have hope for both Lib Dems and Labour, but I think the former have a longer path to travel.

  • Bolano,

    Hmm. Marxists boasted that capitalism would collapse under a weight of self-contradiction. Capitalists gleefully watched Communism collapse first. Capitalists then went a bit quiet, as their system of government threatened (and still threatens) to collapse all over the world soon afterwards.

    You’re telling me that the Lib Dems will soon collapse under a weight of self-contradiction and internal division. Well, you might be right. But that would imply that, whereas Cleggism did not actually split the party, Farronism will for some reason – a reason which totally escapes me – actually prove to be more divisive. My own guess is that, whilst there wil be divisions and conflicts, they may in fact turn out to be productive. They may well accompany a very sluggish recovery in popularity, but they probably won’t actually split the party into two. Whether that is to be considered good or bad fortune, I am frankly unsure!

    You’re telling me that, whilst there are also two warring sides in the Labour Party, it will not collapse. Instead, one side will annihilate the other. The losing side “is bound to be” the one with 90% of the MPs, the one with all the traditional loyalties, the one which gave Labour its last three terms in office. Well, you might possibly be right. If Corbyn had a blazing message of hope to inspire the nation, you probably would be right. All the while he inspires only a select few, I really wouldn’t bet on his chances.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Oct '15 - 1:50pm

    Bolano

    And just to be absolutely clear, a radical reinvention for me would be a return to the representation of the individual against the forces of big business and the state.

    That’s what the Tories and Orange Bookers say they are about. “Representation of the individual against the forces of the state” translates into cuts in taxation, and cuts in state services. And when you ask them why it doesn’t seem to be leading to the freedom they promised, they give the answer the socialists always gave when you asked them the same question “Why does your ideology in practice not lead to what you say it leads to?”, which is “Oh, that’s because it was not implemented properly”. That’s what put me off socialism when I was young, when you asked about it, “real socialism” was always just around the corner, only every time you turned the corner there was another corner.

    So, just as the old socialists said their ideology would eventually lead to the “withering of the state”, so the new Tories and Orange Bookers will insist that big business dominates because we are still in a semi-socialist world, and all we need is more tax cuts and more cutting of “red tape” and that will help the individual compete against big business.

    “Red tape”‘s a good phrase, isn’t it? Makes us think of nasty bureaucrats stamping on us. What they actually mean is things that protect workers’ rights, protect the environment, and so on. Silly tests that cars have to go through to prove they are not polluting us all, that sort of thing. Throw it all out to make the individual free.

    It’s like council housing. Me and my family were terribly oppressed when we were brought up in a local state owned house, so the Tories and Orange Bookers would argue. The modern young generation is free of all of that, er, by not having any housing at all.

  • @David Allen

    I don’t think it’s apocalyptic, that it’s collapse and annihilation.

    I think you’re simply looking at a phenomenon where the range of opinions able to be expressed by the parliamentary parties has been pinched. I think a lot of Labour party members – probably the majority – have felt that they needed to settle for less, quieten down, put their faith in the MPs and things, by some curious manner, would get better. That if they didn’t alienated that thin sliver that trips back and forth between parties, that if they didn’t alienate the newspapers with ‘radical’ opinions, that things would get better. And they haven’t. The revelation of Corbyn is that a lot of people who perceived that they were in a minority when the mass of the party must have aligned themselves with the MPs have suddenly found that actually, the people sat next to them feel the same way.

    The Chris Leslie’s of the party are becoming – in a way – the Lembit Opiks, not the David Laws. Ben Bradshaw storms out and that probably has an impact on his support, which is insignificant and Nancy Dell’Olio. The remnants of the Blairite/Brownite cause are Oz, the Great and Terrible.

  • @David Allen

    Cleggism didn’t split the party because, like Labour, a large number of members put their faith in a leadership that appeared to have the chance to do something. It’s the same hope the left-leaning Labour members had; keep quiet, hold the line, the future’s coming. It’s just that the Labour traditionalists had bitten their tongue for many more years than their Lib Dem equivalents. The choice of Farron, the way in which the election was professionally handled, strikes me as very much a continuation of the fingers crossed approach during the Clegg years. If we keep our heads down, keep quiet, concentrate on a presentation of unity then Farron might be able to return us to something approaching the pre-Clegg levels of support. But that hope, and the don’t mention the war approach, won’t have the position of government, the possibilities there to keep the lid of the kettle on if Farron fails to recover that lost support. I know with Labour, the left in numbers are really, significantly greater than the tired old Blairites. I don’t know the Lib Dems as well. From the presentations of the MPs and LDV I’d say the Matthew Huntbachs are in a tiny minority; from my knowledge of Lib Dem members in South Somerset I’d say there’s a lot more people in agreement with him. I bow to your expertise here.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Oct ’15 – 1:50pm

    Yes. Totally agree with you.

    “That’s what the Tories and Orange Bookers say they are about.”

    But you know different. And I know different. And David Allen knows different. And I suspect that there’s a hell of a lot more. But we’ll see.

  • David Allen 14th Oct '15 - 6:48pm

    Matthew,

    Bolano has called for “the representation of the individual against the forces of big business and the state”. You say “That’s what the Tories and Orange Bookers say they are about.” Not so. The Tories and Orange Bookers certainly do not act against the forces of big business, they act in their favour! The Tories and Orange Bookers also have a very partial view of acting against an over-mighty state: they sure want to get rid of socialised health, education and welfare, but they’re quite happy with powerful state surveillance, actions against dissent, actions to shore up business, etc!

    “The representation of the individual against the forces of big business and the state” is very much what “preamble” traditional Lib Dems believe in. Your point, that what Tories call “red tape” commonly means valid government measures to prevent business subjugating the individual, is absolutely right. (One way to prevent an over-mighty state and an over-mighty business sector can be to put these two sides into creative conflict, so that neither has absolute power.) So we should endorse Bolano’s words, and then carefully seek their effective application.

  • David Allen 14th Oct '15 - 7:08pm

    Bolano,

    On Labour – Yes, I do see how important it is that Corbyn truly wants to fight the kleptocracy, not just become a new breed of kleptocrats called New Labour. Yes, I agree that Blairownite Labour is not full of top-notch people of the Denis Healey standard who can rightly demand to be heard. However, just because you’re a happy and engaged camp doesn’t mean you’re on the way to government.

    Yes, Jeremy looks like Mr Chips the history teacher. Ed Miliband looked like a nice shy nerdy chemistry teacher. Neither look like a PM. You can’t be a PM and mumble into your beard when things get embarassing, like when you need to talk to the Queen and you can’t look her in the eye.

    The impotence of Opposition is a big problem. You’ll want to make waves. You can’t. The temptation will be to make wild promises, and construct houses of cards such as people’s QE. The more you can’t implement them in Opposition, the higher you’ll want to stack the cards. The Tories will ignore until 2020, then they’ll huff and puff and blow it down. They won’t try to argue with the ideas. They will just laugh them away and claim, utterly wrongly of course, that no-one but themselves is competent to govern.

    What you should do is, simply, attack all the bad things the Tories are doing. You, and the Lib Dems, don’t really need a huge supply of brilliant new ideas. Primarily, what is needed is just to stop and reverse all the bad things. But that sounds too simple. So Corbyn, and maybe Farron too, will want to win with a brilliant display of intellectual fireworks. Instead, what is really needed is to win with a bucket of water – to extinguish the Right’s fireworks!

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Oct '15 - 10:18am

    David Allen

    Bolano has called for “the representation of the individual against the forces of big business and the state”. You say “That’s what the Tories and Orange Bookers say they are about.” Not so. The Tories and Orange Bookers certainly do not act against the forces of big business, they act in their favour!

    Yes, that’s why I wrote “that’s what they say they are about” and not “that’s what they are about”.

    I would have thought it rather obvious that the whole point of my message which you are quoting here is to note the contradiction between what the Tories say and what the actual consequences of their policies are. If we are to challenge the Tories we need to point out this contradiction, but of course the party under Clegg’s leadership did nothing of the sort because the Orange Bookers are rather dim people who have been taken in by the Tory propaganda, or they are wealthy elite types who cannot see that things which might enhance their freedom are not so beneficial to those who don’t have their privileged background.

    The point about the claim that they are on the side of the individual against big business is that the Tories and Orange Bookers really do use that line if you challenge them. They really do push the line that what they call “red tape” is why big business does well, and getting rid of it will help the individual compete against big corporation. So much of Tory and Orange Booker stuff is put in the form of it all being about helping ma-and-pa small businesses and volunteer organisations and the like, and so is on the side of the individual, whereas the reality is that it is pushing things towards shadowy big business. Take “free schools” as an example, always promoted as about letting parents come together and create their own schools free of Local Authority “red tape”, whereas the reality is that many of them are run by shadowy chains and vested interests and almost none by local volunteers.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Oct '15 - 10:43am

    David Allen

    What you should do is, simply, attack all the bad things the Tories are doing. You, and the Lib Dems, don’t really need a huge supply of brilliant new ideas. Primarily, what is needed is just to stop and reverse all the bad things. But that sounds too simple.

    Yes it does, and yes it IS too simple. Ed Miliband’s Labour tried it and it didn’t work. They actually did fall down on the fact that if you turned round and asked them “OK, so what’s your alternative?” their reply was “Oh, er, uhm … nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty rotten Liberal Democrats, they put the Tories in, nah nah nah nah nah”. That put people off voting LibDem, for sure, but it didn’t actually do much to get them to vote Labour. I really am surprised by the number of intelligent and thoughtful people I’ve spoken to whose line is (I’m paraphrasing, obviously) “I didn’t vote LibDems, because that was just another way of voting Tory, and I didn’t vote Labour, because they didn’t seem to stand for anything coherent, so I ended up voting Tory, even though I don’t like them and what they stand for, because at least they seemed to be competent and had a definite plan of what to do”.

    My own view is quite simple: if we want good public services, we have to pay for them, and it’s nonsense to say “it can’t be afforded” as there’s LOADS of money floating around, only these days it’s floating around housing being sold and the money used to buy more housing. If we aren’t willing to tap into that (because to do so is an “attack on aspiration”, yeah, like the biggest thing stopping people from starting a business is the fear that if they do so and get rich and buy a big house they might have to pay a mansion tax on it), things will crack up. They already are cracking up – see today’s news on the NHS.

    As the student fees issue shows, if you aren’t willing to pay the taxes needed to fund it publicly, you’ll end up paying it in another way that will cost you more. So actually that was the first big real crack. What’s next?

    I don’t see Corbyn’s “borrow money, that’ll make the economy grow so fast we can pay it off later” as any more realistic than the Tories “cut taxes, that’ll make people work so hard the economy will grow, and that will pay for everything”. Not that I see it as less realistic, in fact I think the Tories’ one is the bigger fantasy.

  • It seems a shame to butt into this anti-OB love-in, but just because you conflate Tory/Orange-Booker into one easy-to-revile grouping, doesn’t mean it’s factual.

    Just note, gentlemen, that the equivalent would be a constant refrain from those of us on the right of “SLF/SWP/Militant”. Not very pleasant, is it?

    @Matthew Huntbach “They really do push the line that what they call “red tape” is why big business does well, and getting rid of it will help the individual compete against big corporation. ”

    The fact that you don’t believe that this is true says more about your shaky grasp of economics and business (which, I suppose, is to be expected from someone who has spent their working life in the public sector) than it does about the accuracy of that belief.

    It’s a simple fact that small businesses can only compete on a limited number of avenues; namely price, quality, service or innovation.

    For many small businesses the stark reality is that price is the dominant factor and they have a much lesser ability to compete on this basis due to the economies of scale that larger businesses enjoy and their greater ability to absorb fixed cost that governments can impose through over-regulation.

    For example, the cost and regulatory barriers from moving from being a self-employed person to employing just one extra person are massive.

  • David Allen 15th Oct '15 - 1:39pm

    Matthew / TCO,

    “Red tape” is a snarky pejorative designed to mean whatever the user of the phrase wants it to mean, and preferably to be usefully ambiguous, so that any interpretation by an opponent can be dismissed as wrongful. Regulation can sometimes disadvantage small compared to large businesses for the reasons TCO cites, though government can and does compensate through special provisions and support for SMEs. It’s understandable that SMEs will talk up the bad things and downplay the good ones, in the hope of winning more of the special treatment. Government shouldn’t be over-swayed by the talk. (Declaration of interest – I’m a consultant SME!)

    More often, “red tape” actually means things like measures to protect the environment, which business both big and small would like to avoid or get funded by someone else. Again, business is just doing what business does and maximising its profits, but when politicians play along, then they have been captured by vested interests.

    On that note – TCO, if you want us to believe that Orange Bookers are different from Tories, you really need to identify a difference, and one that is relevant to the subject under discussion. You complained about being lumped together with the Tories when we talked about excessive subservience to business interests, but you didn’t point up any actual differences. I’m tempted to conclude that there aren’t any, other than your wish to paint Orange Bookers in a lighter shade of blue!

  • David Allen 15th Oct '15 - 2:08pm

    Matthew 10.43 am,

    Ed Miliband didn’t take the line which I am suggesting the Tories’ opponents should primarily focus upon, which is simply to reverse the Tories’ bad policies. Miliband and Balls spent two years reviling austerity, followed by three years arguing in its favour. The public concluded they didn’t know what they were doing. Miliband rambled on about predistribution, floated a visibly unworkable scheme to cap energy prices (in a world where fuel import prices are not capped and can vary massively!), and also devised other cunning schemes such as the tuition fee reduction plan. It was all just too clever by half. Basically, the country is being run by kleptocrats who are privatising it for the sake of their cronies. All we really need to do is kick them out and stop the robbery!

    You are however right to a certain extent that this, on its own, is a little too simple. The other thing that is needed is to present a coherent economic plan. (Camerbourne’s is to pretend to have a long term plan while in reality ducking, dodging and weaving from one idea to the next – but let that pass!) Your post does make a start on doing that. More is needed, however, and now that we are not bound by Cleggite austerianism, we will need to develop it.

    For me, the starting point should be that a generation ago, Chancellors were more honest. They talked correctly about the economic ship of state being liable to get buffeted by unpredictable storms, and the need for wise judgment (even good guesswork!) by the captain with his hand on the tiller. None of this planning five years ahead nonsense, none of this lunacy and economic illiteracy about permanent surpluses. We need to get back to that honesty. We should have economic principles, not fixed long term plans.

    But we do need the principles. I support part of your approach, which I take to be a call for higher taxes. We must qualify that by indicating how much higher. The old “penny in the pound” slogan did that well – it implied a significant but not huge rise. We would do well to restore that.

    As to borrowing – I’ll exceed the word count if I cover that properly, so I’ll just say it should not be demonised by Tories et al, it can be perfectly sensible and necessary.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Oct '15 - 2:28pm

    TCO

    The fact that you don’t believe that this is true says more about your shaky grasp of economics and business (which, I suppose, is to be expected from someone who has spent their working life in the public sector) than it does about the accuracy of that belief.

    I work as a university lecturer, and for many years was the admissions tutor for my department. Other departments were closed down because they were unable to recruit enough students to meet their costs. So to suggest I know nothing about marketing and budgets is wrong.

    Currently as part of my job I teach a module in Beijing, as my university has a partnership arrangement with a university in Beijing. Do you know how much money the university fees for 600 students (the number on the module) brings in to this country?

    For many small businesses the stark reality is that price is the dominant factor and they have a much lesser ability to compete on this basis due to the economies of scale that larger businesses enjoy and their greater ability to absorb fixed cost that governments can impose through over-regulation.

    Exactly, that is why the free market is not nearly so free as its propagandists like to make out. The big squeeze out the small, and it becomes in effect an aristocracy.

  • @David Allen 14th Oct ’15 – 7:08pm

    Good points. I’d say right now that the concerns about being seen as a PM/Government in waiting is secondary to pursue the right things. Both Lib Dems and Labour have just gone through a phase of putting the cart before the horse, putting the perception of waiting to govern before sorting out exactly what is to be done. I think Corbyn’s in for a long, hesitant, slow build – in short I think he’s in it for the long term.

    I think the major difference between Milliband and Corbyn is that the Tories portrayed the former as a geek unfit to command and the latter as too dangerous, too. I think what kippered Ed is that he couldn’t turn that perception around. The approach to Corbyn is double-edged for the Tories – but we’ll see how it works.

  • Bolano,

    Thanks for the very useful discussion – why don’t more people let their thoughts range freely like you do? To far too many people, a political commitment acts as a mental straitjacket!

  • David Allen “Thanks for the very useful discussion ”

    Yes I agree. I’ve enjoyed ‘listening in’.

  • @David Allen

    Thank you, too – and thank you, Phyllis.

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