After Corbyn, what’s left with the Liberal Democrats?

There has been a tendency in recent years for the Liberal Democrats to define the party in relation to others. We will give a heart to the Conservatives and a brain to the Labour Party. Look left, look right, then cross.

There will be those who will argue that the election of a left wing MP to the Labour leadership means that the Lib Dems will have to keep close to the the centre. Any temptation to reposition itself on the left wing of British politics after leaving the coalition should be resisted.

Immediate reactions of this nature should be avoided as should any crass remarks about the ‘economic illiteracy’ of ‘Corbynomics’. Corbyn’s approach is rooted in serious economic thinking. Whether people disagree or not is a different issue but illiterate it is not. To that end Sal Brinton’s response to Corbyn’s election was both disappointing.

If the last election taught the Liberal Democrats anything it should be the utter futility of the strategy of defining the party in the light of others. Rather than present a vision of how Liberal Democrats aspired to change the country, at the last election the party simply told the public that they should vote for them because they were better people than the others. Given the obvious unpopularity of Clegg, Alexander and other leading figures the strategy was almost comical and a car crash waiting to happen.

In the short term, the Liberal Democrats need to get on with the job of establishing a post coalition identity. That job needs to start from the party’s values and an analysis of today’s economic and social circumstances, not from any reaction to the internal politics of the Labour party. If there is any time to ignore other parties it is in year one of a five year parliament.

At home and abroad the UK is not in a good place. Wealth inequality is at record levels and continuing to grow. The country finds itself in a deep housing crisis, with sky high rents crushing incomes and many living in squalid and overcrowded housing.

Europe is in the depths of a refugee crisis fuelled by seemingly endless war in the Middle East. Climate change threatens further large scale displacement of the world’s population and global economic and political instability.

The world’s economy remains fragile and the deficit, which was supposed to be eliminated by Osborne’s long term economic plan is still substantial.

The government response is both reckless and extreme. Euroscepticism, spending billions on weapons of mass destruction giving away billions more in corporate subsidies and spending tens of millions on hair brained schemes such as London’s Garden Bridge (supported it must be said by the Lambeth Labour party) is not the solution to anyone’s problems. Any party that seeks to be seen as responsible should put as much distance from the current government programme as possible.

Jeremy Corbyn has managed to tap into a huge mass of people who have seen that the medicine simply isn’t working and the results have been earth-shattering. To resile from that conclusion will only see the Lib Dems standing on the wrong side of history and fading into insignificance.

There are alternatives. In many of these areas the Liberal Democrats may find common cause with Corbyn’s Labour Party and in others it may not. Much of that will depend on the how rather than the what. In any event it should matter little, a party with the great tradition and history of the Liberal Democrats must have the confidence to make its own case for the policies it believes to be right (or indeed left).

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50 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 16th Sep '15 - 11:29am

    Joe – do you see any serious economic thinking in Osbornism? and which side of history would you say the Tories (and by extension the Orange bookers) are on? After 35 years of neo-liberalism, a change seems to me to be needed…

  • Teena Lashmore 16th Sep '15 - 11:34am

    Good to see our party undertaking more reflections. On economics, has anyone read 500 Years of Debt, Aftershock etc? What this should tell us is that economic systems are diverse and multiple and interelated etc. Let us embrace our party’s core values of supporting a mixed economy which meets the needs for many and then demonstrate how we mitigate, empower, inspire and support/ develope those who benefit less. And as history has shown, our ‘wealth creaters’ have and will always continue to create weath. Let us demonstrate economic leadership on how we support our diverse economic system!

  • We’ve had umpteen posts on ‘What happens to LibDems if Corbyn gets elected”, even more on, “What happens now he’s elected” and I thought, “Oh, no!”Now we are moving into ‘After he’s been elected’….

    However, I was surprised to read such a well written, calmly reasoned post after all the earlier vitriol…

    Thank you, GT

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 16th Sep '15 - 12:01pm

    I don’t think being “rooted in serious economic thinking” and being “economically illiterate” are mutually exclusive.

    Anyone can cherry-pick from academic literature from qualified people (albeit perhaps ones well outside the mainstream) to support an argument. In so doing, they can say their approach is “rooted” in that thinking.

    Climate change deniers do this all the time. There are a handful of academics who aren’t all dupes or in the pay of big oil who think that climate change isn’t happening or is grossly exaggerated. There are many more who will debate the significance of specific findings due to methodology etc. You can, if you like, stitch that together to make an argument against acting on climate change. You could say you were “rooted in serious climatology”… and you wouldn’t technically be wrong, but your approach would lack intellectual rigour and perhaps honesty.

    Much the same can be said of Corbynomics. Printing money in normal economic conditions to fund infrastructure projects that are incapable of attracting private funding is way, way outside mainstream economic thought. I don’t mean just outside the mainstream of classical economics… it’s outside mainstream Keynesian economics. A handful of academics keen to make a better living from journalism than is available from university work will give you some choice quotes. That doesn’t make it mainstream. A handful will say “it might work in strictly limited conditions X, Y and Z” – but you need to think what those conditions are, and consider in the context of the very many more who say it is an enormous risk – an experiment with a national economy which has every chance of being entirely disastrous. The “economic illiteracy” charge comes from the Corbyn/McDonnell attempt to cherry-pick from a minority view to support a dangerous experiment they devised 30 years ago.

    I know a lot of Lib Dems are attracted to radical, new ideas, and that’s a good thing about our party. But this is a reckless, reheated idea and please, please, please don’t go anywhere near it.

  • @Sir Norfolk Passmore
    “A handful of academics keen to make a better living from journalism than is available from university work will give you some choice quotes.”

    Krugman, Sitglitz, Blnachflower – Nobel memorial prize winners and a former chair of the Bank of England hardly match your description of of Corbyn’s economic policy supporters. The parallel you draw with the handful of scientists that dispute the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis is not valid.

  • Thank you for your excellent article. I am new to the Lib Dems, joining after the GE and formally being a member of the SNP here in Scotland. For me it is not about left, right or centre anymore, I suspect and hope that those days of defining ourselves are over. I would like to think that it is about what is right and wrong, is it right to purchase new weapons of mass destructiuon when many are going hungry and using food banks, is it right to cut tax credits while allowing big business to avoid paying tax, is it right to claim we live in a democracy when we have an unelected and unaccountable head of state and unelected second chambers. These are some of the questions I feel we should be asking ourselves, for me I joined the Liberal Democrats because I am a Liberal and we need to fighting for what is right. No more politics of hate, or power for power sake, no more proken pledges but a politics that voters can embrace because of it’s honesty and common cause that most or many can embrace. I think people have had enough of the politics of old.

  • The problem is that a lot of people may be on the wrong side of history and are really over reacting to Corbyn as well. From what I’ve read he is much keener on opening up arguments and a debate than on saying anything concrete. When you actually read what he says it’s invariably more cautious than the way it’s reported and is based on his personal beliefs rather than fixed political aims. The gist of his argument is bottom up rather than top down leadership to make labour more responsive to it’s membership. Where as the coverage is the usual stew of nonsense based on the idea that a party leader is a big man who rules his party like a roman emperor or something..

  • The party needs to focus immediately on Scotland before it becomes a Corbyn vs SNP battleground. The party needs a tough and determined presence and fresh faces. I believe Joe Otten could be used in a role there to take on the SNP articulate why the Lib Dems need a second hearing. Time to think differently.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 16th Sep '15 - 1:16pm

    Steve – as Joe indicates, Krugman, and Stiglitz are on the record saying that it is unsurprising that Corbyn emerged as Labour’s choice rather than one of the other candidates given they had implicitly or explicitly accepted the argument Labour mismanaged the economy to 2010 (I’m not 100% sure what Blanchflower has said about it).

    These economists think there wasn’t too much Labour could’ve done differently pre-2010 and that Brown handled things pretty well so there’s nothing much to apologise for. They are also on the record as being critical of Europe imposing austerity on Greece (which is not Britain – what we mean by “austerity” in Greece is orders of magnitude different in scale). They have also been more generally critical of Osborne and closer to Western European governments in terms of their approach to their own deficits (but not to Greece’s!)

    That is NOT endorsing Corbynomics by any means. They have clearly stopped short of that. Large scale “peacetime” printing of money has inflationary consequences – Keynesians know that as much as monetarists. Their actual position on these issues is much more like Miliband’s, when he essentially campaigned on a platform of a much slower trajectory to balanced books.

    Incidentally, Krugman has lost a lot of credibility over recent years because – to the extent you can ever get a testable prediction out of him – his predictions on the consequences of policies has been wrong. He was at the forefront of arguing Britain would plunge into a deep double dip, just as they moved into a period of growth. He’s still respectable and readable, though, and as I say hasn’t endorsed Corbyn/McDonnell policy at this time.

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 16th Sep '15 - 1:18pm

    Steve – “Googling that” and reading below the headline doesn’t get to the answer you think. As I say, their line has been to understand why a robust anti-austerity candidate emerged victorious. To say they have endorsed his policies is Corbynite spin.

  • http://lmgtfy.com/?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fpolitics%2F2015%2Faug%2F22%2Fjeremy-corbyn-economists-backing-anti-austerity-policies-corbynomics

    Okay, I’ll stop it now. My point is that it doesn’t take much effort to find serious economists that back Corbyn’s anti-austerity plans. Just because those economists have advocated the same anti-austerity policy for some years doesn’t invalidate the fact that they are serious economists and are well-regarded. Just because they haven’t gone through the detail of every Corbyn policy – which would be premature given Corbyn doesn’t dictate Labour policy – doesn’t mean to say that they don’t endorse the broad thrust of what he is advocating.

    Your original point, Sir Norfolk was that “A handful of academics keen to make a better living from journalism than is available from university work will give you some choice quotes.”. Clearly this does not apply to the three economists I mentioned.

  • Sir Passmore and Joe Otten.
    Britain did enter a double dip and Osbornomics didn’t work until they were abandoned in 2013. My gut tells me that as he readopts them over the coming months they will again flat line the economy. Look at growth figures, look at personal debt, look at borrowing and the trade deficit. These are not good figures or proof that he is getting it more right than wrong. Saying that Corbynomics, and in IMO it’s a stretch to take some statements and spin them as if they are a fixed set of definite labour policies, is a very long way from saying Osborn is on the right path.
    On the broader point of this article, I agree. I think the Lib Dems need a post coalition identity and to stop hoping that the other parties will spur the revival.

  • Steve

    “Blnachflower […] former chair of the Bank of England”

    errr. No he isn’t.

  • Tristan Ward 16th Sep '15 - 1:55pm

    @Adrian

    “what do your members believe in?”

    I have just checked the preamble to the Constitution:. It starts:

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

    Yep. Hasn’t changed .

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Sep '15 - 2:16pm

    I think George has hit the nail on the head in this post as well.

    “Immediate reactions of this nature (Positioning ourselves in the centre and perhaps closer to the Tories than to Labour) should be avoided as should any crass remarks about the ‘economic illiteracy’ of ‘Corbynomics’. Corbyn’s approach is rooted in serious economic thinking. Whether people disagree or not is a different issue but illiterate it is not. To that end Sal Brinton’s response to Corbyn’s election was both disappointing”.

    There is a big space between where we were in May 2015 and where Labour is now, which is currently unoccupied. It is the space we occupied for decades prior to the coalition and we were quite consistent about it as Labour moved backwards and forwards. We can occupy that space by opposing the Tories whenever they do things we don’t like and not caring too much about whether we agree or disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on a specific policy. For example Labour is going JOIN US in opposing the welfare bill now and that is how we should portray their u-turn on this in Focus leaflets and social media.

    If there are people who think that our 8 MP’s should have supported the welfare bill or abstained like Harman, then it is definitely they who are out of step with the position of the Party…

    (BTW I have recently been AndrewMcC on here but it seems I am “coming out”!)

  • Richard Underhill 16th Sep '15 - 2:19pm

    The first PMQ with Labour’s new leader has produced innovations which were not agreed “through the usual channels”.
    The Speaker was tolerant as JC explained his methods and did not, this time, tell him to ask a question.
    DC was nervous, but kept his temper until he was a question by the leader of the SNP at Westminster.
    The session did not overrun, so fewer MPs asked a question, including no Liberal Democrats.
    The DUP referred to four plaques for MPs killed by terrorists. The PM referred to the two Tories.
    Watch this space.

  • @Psi,
    Yes – he is of course a former member of the MPC of the BoE. Apologies.

  • The party needs to stop looking at Labour and focus on grabbing attention and finding its own individual voice..odds are there will be By Election soon. Put up a battle hardened and high profile candidate such as Joe Otten ang get amongst it. The party needs a big win and soon. Choosing Joe Otten and giving him a bigger profile could be the way.

  • Peter Watson 16th Sep '15 - 2:38pm

    @Tristan Ward “I have just checked the preamble to the Constitution:. … Yep. Hasn’t changed .”
    But what do Lib Dems believe is the best way to realise the ambitions of the preamble? And has that changed?

  • PHIL THOMAS 16th Sep '15 - 2:38pm

    Richard Underhill asks why no Lib Dem asked a question at PMQ’s ? The answer is very simple. Very rarely is there a Lib Dem there in any debate. Clegg is out making money from speaking engagements and Tim Farron couldn’t be bother to turn up for last Fridays debate ? At the moment the Lib Dems seem to be totally irrelevant. Oblivion seems closer to the mark ?

  • Peter Watson 16th Sep '15 - 2:45pm

    @Silvio “Put up a battle hardened and high profile candidate such as Joe Otten ang get amongst it.”
    I believe that the party tried that in Sheffield Central in May with mixed results.
    Perhaps a different approach and a different sort of candidate might yield better results than we have seen over the last five years.

  • Your comment about the waste of public money on the Garden Bridge are spot on.

    Thank goodness for Caroline Pidgeon exposing the very dubious decision making process:

    http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/questions-raised-after-tfl-report-reveals-staff-destroyed-key-garden-bridge-paperwork/

    http://www.afollyforlondon.co.uk/09-something-even-murkier-than-the-river-thames

  • Richard Underhill 16th Sep '15 - 4:01pm

    PHIL THOMAS 16th Sep ’15 – 2:38pm Not a question, a statement. Perhaps because 8 MPs only get round the Speaker’s reputed list occasionally out of 650 MPs. Nothing from the SDLP either, although Northern Ireland is topical. Nothing from the Green MP either although the government is slashing subsidies on solar panels.

  • @Peter Watson “I believe that the party tried that in Sheffield Central in May with mixed results.
    Perhaps a different approach and a different sort of candidate might yield better results than we have seen over the last five years.”

    Indeed – those pesky Sheffield Central Labour swing voters, and their deep knowledge of the minutae of the Orange Book!

  • Hard work and a real economy has something to do with the creation of prosperity as the history of South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan attest.

  • Joe Otten – “I don’t agree that there is serious economic thinking in Corbynism…”

    I hope you’re not implying that there is any in the Tories as some Lib Dems apparently do (hence the line about them needing a heart in contrast to Labour needing a brain).

    Consider this: for the last 35 years the UK has been run according to a Tory version of economics that’s resulted in, among other things, soaring inequality, a runaway housing Ponzi, the first banking collapses in over 100 years and wholesale flouting of the rule of law in the City. We are constantly told that all this is “necessary” for the sake of the economy yet are left with an economy built on a mountain of debt and far more fragile than the establishment dares admit – not to mention an epic current account deficit.

    Austerity is justified largely on a fallacy of composition that wrongly equates a currency sovereign with a household. Austerity has been tried dozens of times in recent decades but has NEVER once worked (except in a very few cases where a fortuitous export boom saved the day – i.e. it was exports, not austerity that worked). The elementary bookkeeping of sector balances shows why this is.

    So Corbyn proposes to ‘print money’ to fund worthwhile investments and the Tories go into meltdown. Now this is indeed a plan with dangerous pitfalls – just not the ones they obsess about. In particular I suspect the government machinery is so sclerotic it can’t reliably discriminate between a bridge to nowhere and a good investment. Also, if a significant part of any deficit spending leaks overseas, then it merely boosts the German or Chinese economies.

    How did Tories fail to notice that the banks have been ‘printing money’ like crazy in recent years, not for any socially worthwhile purpose, but to fund an orgy of speculation and thereby enrich themselves? The unsustainable debt so created is indeed a problem; its uncontrolled collapse would take down the financial system so government must create new money to plug the holes. Corbyn plans to do that in a socially useful way and I’ll wager put a stop to the City’s looting of the public realm. That’s why they’re cross – he will spoil their profitable but destructive game.

    I was never attracted by Labour because of their tendency to talk in class war terms. The Tories may distain to talk of class war but, by gosh, they practice it. Either that or Osborne is stupid – which I don’t think.

  • George Turner

    “The government response is both reckless and extreme. Euroscepticism, spending billions on weapons of mass destruction giving away billions more in corporate subsidies and spending”

    Oh dear. That could have actually made sense but you had to spoil it. Cutting corporate subsidies, yes. But spending? So you want government trying to run businesses to produce food, cloths whatever is needed because buying from private companies is ‘corporate welfare’?

    So are we restarting British Leyland?

  • Peter Watson 16th Sep '15 - 7:04pm

    @TCO ” those pesky Sheffield Central Labour swing voters, and their deep knowledge of the minutae of the Orange Book!”
    I don’t know much about the people of Sheffield, but I assume that Joe told them what he believed in. Are you suggesting that is not the Lib Dem way?

  • Phil Thomas says ” Clegg is out making money from speaking engagements and Tim Farron couldn’t be bother to turn up for last Fridays debate ? ”

    Is this true? Aren’t MOs supposed to be the the HoC representing their constituents? Why was Tim not there?

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Sep '15 - 8:14pm

    QUESTION:
    Jenny Barnes 16th Sep ’15 – 11:29am
    “Joe – do you see any serious economic thinking in Osbornism? and which side of history would you say the Tories (and by extension the Orange bookers) are on? After 35 years of neo-liberalism, a change seems to me to be needed…”

    REPLY:
    Joe Otten 16th Sep ’15 – 12:46pm
    “Jenny, I’m not sure what Osbornism is beyond being much closer to the orthodox, with doses of populism and pragmatism.”

    Oh dear, you heard it from first folks.

    And some wonder why mainstream Preamble-believing Liberal Democrats are somewhat less than enamored with the post-1979 Tory orthodoxy swallowed by certain so-called economic liberals.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Sep '15 - 8:16pm

    Obviously a draft typo … should be “Oh dear, you heard it here first folks.”

  • George Turner 16th Sep '15 - 10:15pm

    Thanks for the comments. @PSI I really dont understand how any reading of my article could be interpreted as me advocating for the government to take over major industries so I really dont know what you are talking about.

  • Good, well balanced Article, George.

    The Corbyn idea of PQE looks rather naive at first sight, but Gordon makes some valid points, in his comment above, about recent experience. We have seen bubbles created in the housing and equity markets concurrent with the implementation of monetary quantitative easing in recent years.

    Vince Cable has argued strongly for the aspect of Corbyn’s proposals that would see the creation and capitalisation of a National Infrastructure Bank. Vince however has argued for traditional debt funding while gilt issues can be made at what are effectively negative real interest rates,

    As Sir Norfolk points out money creation has potential inflationary consequences albeit with a certain time lag . Inflation is induced when the state is competing for scarce resources in an economy that is structurally or output constrained. It is important to recognise that inflationary pressure is only generated when the state money created is actually spent into the economy on real goods and services. and this new demand is not counter-balanced by increased levels of taxation.

    Corbyn’s or more precisely, Richard Murphy’s proposals are somewhat vague. They do, however, seem to anticipate significant tax hikes which have the effect of withdrawing real spending power from the economy providing a counter-weight to the inflationary aspects of QE or increased government borrowing.

    What is important here is what sectors of the economy/income deciles the tax is raised from . An economic model can be developed that has a broadly neutral effect on aggregate demand (and consequently minimal impact on inflation/inflationary expectations) but is nonetheless redistributive in nature.

    There is no doubt that monetary QE has exacerbated inequality since the financial crisis of 2008. I think we should not rush to judgement on the economic proposals of this new labour administration until we see some details put on the table. Only then can we judge whether what is being proposed is another short-lived ‘Barber Boom’ to be followed by economic collapse or a more rational effort to tackle the inequality that increased financialisation of the economy has exacerbated..

  • Thank you George Turner for pointing that we should be looking at what our economic and social policies should be following embracing the economic policies of the Conservatives in the coalition. You are right to point out the major problems of wealth inequality and the housing crisis as well as that the world economy is fragile and therefore so is ours.

    @ Sir Norfolk Passmore

    Post Keynes using monetary policy to increase demand is not “way outside (of) mainstream economic thought”. I am not convinced you understand monetarist economic theory. The simple version I was taught was if you increase the money supply (as QE does) there can be three effects, increased inflation or increased growth or an increase in both. It is possible to look at the UK economy and see we are not at full production. Productivity is low, because cheap labour has been a disincentive for investment, and QE doesn’t seem to have increased vastly the amounts being invested in new equipment and increased productivity. Therefore it would be reason to consider increasing the money supply and directing how that money is spent. It could be lent to companies who wish to modernise their production methods and so increase productivity but this might also reduce the number of people being employed in these companies. It could be invested in capital programmes of infrastructure investment that benefit UK businesses. It could be used in building more houses to alleviate the housing crisis. There is no law in economics that states that if you increase the money supply inflation has to increase as the history of the last 7 years shows.

  • Paul In Wokingham 17th Sep '15 - 7:15am

    Like many others on this forum I have for many years been saying that QE should be targeted at improving economic infrastructure rather than (as is currently the case) boosting the nominal value of the assets of the rich. This is essentially what Corbyn’s economic policy proposes.

    Perhaps the most surprising endorsement of Corbynomics to date comes from The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – not exactly a left-wing ideologue – who suggests that the government could avoid “frightening the horses” by calling it “Nominal GDP management policy” rather than “helicopter money”. Evans-Pritchard says of QE that much of the money has leaked into asset booms, greatly enriching the “haves”, with a painfully slow trickle-down to the rest of society,

    We should look at Corbyn’s economic proposals on their merits rather than taking the easy option of knee-jerk opposition.

  • George Turner

    Well you have linked to:

    “Add to that the corporate tax benefits,”
    A vague statement which often falls apart under scrutiny

    “the value of the cheap credit made available to banks and other business, the insurance schemes run by the government to protect exporters, the marketing for British business laid on by Vince Cable’s ministry,”

    Then, wait for it:

    “the public procurement from the private sector … ”

    So what is the alternative to public procurement from the private sector? Well that would be ownership by the government of production.

    If you link to those articles that seek to conflate subsidy with normal prucurment and logical tax treatment people will assume that is your basis of your argument.

  • Geoff Hinchliffe 17th Sep '15 - 9:26am

    Well sad Bruce Hosie ! I joined over 40 years ago, and still sometimes despair at the nit-picking of my fellow members. Your down to earth simple assertion of Liberal principles reminded me of why I joined.

  • Geoff Hinchliffe 17th Sep '15 - 9:27am

    Correction : Well SAID

  • James Murray 17th Sep '15 - 1:36pm

    See
    http://www.positivemoney.org
    for a full explanation as to how the economics background of Corbynomics is almost mainstream, why it would not work as politicians are too greedy and would convince themselves they should overproduce this ‘Sovereign Money’

    You may end up convinced (as I was) that, with the right safeguards, Sovereign Money Production (SMC) should certainly be a major LibDem policy to help smooth out the boom and bust cycles.

    You will certainly see that the technique has a much deeper economic consistency and longer history even than the Nobel Laureates supporters mentioned above of Stiglitz and Krugman – going all the way back to a major commentator on the Great Depression of Irving Fisher.

    If you want the answers to the major critiques of the Positive Money proposals seen in the above link, see
    http://positivemoney.org/our-proposals/sovereign-money-common-critiques/

  • Whilst I agree that the economic basis of policies is crucial and think that we need to establish that for ourselves, I am surprised that no one has mentioned that Corbyn consulted people and asked the questions they wanted answered. I admired this because it seems a very Liberal thing to do. I have often wondered why we don’t seek to change parliamentary rules so that ordinary people can present their own petition now we can ask for a petition to be debated when it reaches a certain number of signatures. Back in the eighties our council group did this together with Labour when our council first entered no overall control. It would be good to have a similar battle with the Tories in parliament . If the Leader of the opposition should be holding the government to account rather than asking the questions the public want answered then surely we should be the first to suggest that the public can ask their own questions and present their own petitions.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '15 - 10:14am

    David Wallace

    The liberal democrats problem is that the people who should be the lib dems core voters aren’t. And this leaves them with no real voter base.

    If we had proportional representation we could chug along getting the votes of those people who want a voice on some of the purist freedom issues which most others are not bothered with as it does not affect them. However, there is unlikely to be a constituency where there are more such people than supporters of other parties who put their emphasis on more mainstream issues.

    Going on about issues which most people feel aren’t that important to them has the problem that it can be seen to be very elitist, the sort of thing done by those who lead such comfortable lives due to being wealthy and well places that they can just assume all will always be well for them on the basics of existence, and so spend their time on these others fringe issues.

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