ALDC By-Election report – 8 February 2024

There were 4 principal by-elections this week on a soggy and snowy Thursday. 

We start with a cracking result on West Northamptonshire Council where Councillor Carl Squires gained East Hunsbury and Shelfleys ward from the Conservatives. Carl overcame a 1000 vote Conservative majority and took the seat from 3rd place in 2021 – increasing the Lib Dem vote share by over 15%! Congratulations to Carl and the West Northamptonshire Lib Dem team. 

West Northamptonshire Council, East Hunsbury and Shelfleys
Liberal Democrats (Carl Squires): 820 (38.8%, +15.8)
Conservative: 746 (35.3%, -16.9)
Labour: 547 (25.9%, +1.1)

Thank you to Lib Dem candidate Andrew Joyce for standing in Criccieth ward on Gwynedd Council and giving voters a Lib Dem option on the ballot paper. Plaid Cymru gained the seat from an Independent councillor. 

Gwynedd Council, Criccieth
Plaid Cymru: 381 (71.9%, +30.4%)
Independent:129 (24.3%, new)
Liberal Democrats (Andrew Joyce): 11 (2.1%, new)
Conservative: 9 (1.7%, new)

Labour continued their terrible start to the year with another loss, this time on Cheshire East Council where the Conservatives gained Crewe Central ward from them. There was no Lib Dem candidate in this by-election and Labour are now net down 3 councillors since the beginning of the year!

Cheshire East Council, Crewe Alexandra
Conservative: 335 (43.3%, +19.9%)
Labour: 277 (35.8%, -18.9%)
Crewe First: 128 (16.5%, +1.1%)
WEP: 22 (2.8%, new)
Green Party: 12 (1.5%, new)

The final by election of this week took place on Blaenau Gwent Council in Ebbw Valley South ward. There was no Lib Dem candidate on the ballot paper and an Independent gained the seat from another Independent councillor. 

Blaenau Gwent Council, Ebbw Valley South
Independent: 239 (60.4%, +13.6%)
Labour: 124 (31.3%, -11%)
Green Party: 33 (8.3%, new)

A full summary of all results for this week and previous weeks can be found on the ALDC by-elections page here.

* Charles Quinn is Campaigns Organiser for ALDC and a local councillor in Hull.

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  • Kevin Hawkins 10th Feb '24 - 1:08pm

    As this week’s results demonstrate our performance in local by-elections in recent months is very patchy. While the overall results are actually quite good – we are currently doing better than either Labour or Conservatives in both percentage share of the vote, and net gains/losses, this is in spite of the fact that our performance in some by-elections (e.g. Criccieth) is derisory, or (e.g. Ebbw Vale South and Crewe Alexandra) non-existent.

    If this pattern holds at the General Election we could be in the bizarre situation of winning a number of our target seats while simultaneously having a large number of lost deposits.

  • Peter Davies 10th Feb '24 - 1:26pm

    That would not be bizarre. That would be good targetting.

  • Adrian Sanders 10th Feb '24 - 2:53pm

    On the day Devon & Cornwall was visited by Rishi Sunak we were able to celebrate another Liberal Democrat gain from the Conservatives in the far South West.
    Newton Abbot Town Council, Bushell Ward
    Amanda Ineson Liberal Democrat 248
    Save Queen Street 213
    Heritage Party 50
    Lib Dem gain from Conservative

  • The Labour candidate in Rochdale may yet be disowned by the national party – he endorsed an anti-semitic conspiracy theory about the Hamas attack and has now been obliged to apologise. I feel that won’t be enough for the Jewisd community.

    The vote will certainly go at least three ways – Labour, Galloway, Tory.

    If we campaigned seriously here, we might be in with a shout.

  • David Langshaw 11th Feb '24 - 3:57pm

    What @Chris Moore said, +1.

  • nvelope2003 12th Feb '24 - 5:12pm

    Chris Moore: I wonder how much support the Zionist proponents would get if more people were aware that they stole Palestine from the Palestinians and now claim that it is theirs to do as they please with, presumably by right of conquest. Support for the actions of the Israeli Government in Gaza has fallen to such an extent that the US and other Western Governments has also dropped to such an extent that their leaders have started to row back. The Labour candidate in Rochdale was not disowned because the Labour leadership feared that it would risk losing the seat if he had to resign.

  • Chris Moore 12th Feb '24 - 6:15pm

    Hi, nvelope2003,

    It was too late for him to resign. Whether Labour continues to back him is the issue.

    You can be opposed to the actions of the Israelis vis-a-vis the Palestinians, without falling into deplorable conspiracy theories.

    And though that this sort of conspiracy theory may be rife locally, it does no credit to someone hoping to be an MP.

    I agree with your remarks about the actions of the Israeli government.

    But bear in mind Israel’s formation received the backing of the UN.

  • nvelope2003 12th Feb '24 - 8:30pm

    Chris Moore: Labour has now abandoned support for its candidate because further details have now emerged but as you say it is too late to replace him so there is no official Labour candidate. It will be interesting to see who wins. Maybe he will still win if his supporters are in the majority.

  • Paul Barker 12th Feb '24 - 9:20pm

    Given that Labour Voters now have no-one to vote for there might be a case for a Libdems blitz but with only 2 days of campaigning left that would be hard to organise – do we have the people & the resources to do anything useful ?

  • Chris Moore 12th Feb '24 - 9:26pm

    Hello Paul,

    the Rochdale by-election is on the 29th.

    We should absolutely go for this.

    I pray that we were running a decent campaign prior to this, given the fact we held the seat till 2015.

  • Chris Moore 12th Feb '24 - 9:29pm

    Correction: until 2005

  • Chris Moore 12th Feb '24 - 9:34pm

    The Greens had previously disowned their candidate too.

  • Paul Barker 12th Feb '24 - 9:40pm

    Sorry, brain fog, 2 Weeks not 2 days. Shouldn’t post late at night.

  • Peter Martin 12th Feb '24 - 10:14pm

    There are three possibilities with regard to what the Israelis knew in advance of the events of the 7th October.

    1) They knew nothing.

    2) They were aware that something was brewing but ignored the threat hoping to secure some political justification for attacking Hamas in Gaza. However, they totally underestimated the extent of the planned attacks.

    3) They knew what was coming and let it go ahead anyway.

    FWIW my opinion is that it’s unlikely the Israelis electronic and conventional intelligence systems didn’t pick up on some of it. I’d go for 2)

    Both myself and Azhar Ali could be wrong but so could everyone who’s assuming the first possibility is the correct one. So it’s hardly a capital offence. None of us know for sure and maybe we never will.

  • David Langshaw 12th Feb '24 - 11:06pm

    “It’s a two horse race between the Liberal Democrats and George Galloway – only Iain Donaldson can win here!”

  • Alex Macfie 13th Feb '24 - 6:57am

    We held Rochdale until 2010 (we should not have been losing seats to Labour in that election). I also hope we are running a serious campaign in this by-election. Our candidate seems to be the only sensible one. Unfortunately that alone doesn’t necessarily win elections.

  • Chris Moore 13th Feb '24 - 8:40am

    You’re right, Alex, we held it for many years until 1997, lost it that year, then won it back in 2005 and lost it again in 2010.

    A classic Lab-LD marginal.

  • Chris Moore 13th Feb '24 - 8:57am

    @Peter Martin,

    You’re three possibilities don’t cover all the eventualities.

    They may simply have had inadequate knowledge ie. they didn’t know the time or place or scope.

    Occam’s razor can be applied to your cod motivation, as it can to most conspiratorial-type thinking.

    Bear in mind there are a multiplicity of potential threats to Israel – and other countries – at any time. Eventually one of these threats will not be prevented.

    You show far too much confidence in Israeli intelligence services. They, like all other intelligence services, are not infallible. Nor is any public organisation. or any private organisation, for that matter.

    Think of Yom Kippur, or the attack on the Israeli athletes at the Olympics. Those are just two famous examples.

    Think of the UK: many terrorist attacks – IRA, then Islamic – have not been prevented. In some of these intelligence services knew something was at hand, but not enough to prevent it.

    Think of Spain. the Atocha train attacks in 2004 were preceded by warnings from the UK that something was imminent, yet couldn’t be prevented.

    And I could go on and on.

  • Leekliberal 13th Feb '24 - 9:35am

    I have just read a long article in the Guardian about the Rochdale by-election in which there is simply no mention of the Lib Dems. This sadly illustrates how seriously we have excluded ourselves from the national debate by the failure of our leadership to do the vision thing and give the electors any reason to support us. On the great issues, when have we taken a bold Liberal view in a timely way to get our voice heard in the national debate? My plea to our leadership is to.go for it now!

  • Actually, all it shows is how poor a newspaper and how anti-LD the Guardian has become.

  • I’ve just read the article, Leekliberal.

    it also makes no mention of the Conservative candidate, who’s probably in a better position to win the by-election than Reform, who the Guradian have chosen to single out as the most likely contender to Galloway.

    A thoroughly inadequate article.

  • Peter Martin 13th Feb '24 - 11:21am

    Keir Starmer tweeted, in Feb2022, during the Labour leadership election campaign:

    “The selections for Labour candidates needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates. Local Party members should select their candidates for every election”

    He didn’t say anything about the leadership disowning them afterwards. Maybe he regrets saying this now? It could be he’d had too many at the local pub after a night out with his football mates. Or maybe he just considers he had to lie about his intentions to secure a few extra votes from the Labour left?

    Whatever his motivations the Labour Party is now in a shambolic state and is only ahead in the polls because the Tories are in an even worse one. It shouldn’t be too difficult for the Lib Dems to do a bit better than they are.

  • Peter Martin 13th Feb '24 - 11:23am

    Correction: That should be Feb 2020

  • Alex Macfie 14th Feb '24 - 9:12am

    The Guardian ran an article on the Chesham & Amersham by-election campaign that didn’t mention the Lib Dems. So the absence of mentions of us by the commentariat is not necessarily a sign we aren’t around. We have often done well in by-elections when the media least expect it. Liverpool Walton (1991) was painted as a Labour v Militant struggle, but the Lib Dems came a strong 2nd and the Militant (“Walton Real Labour”) candidate a poor 3rd. Bermondsey (1983) was for most commentators between official Labour and the “Bermondsey Real Labour” candidate, but we all know what happened on the day.

  • Chris Moore 14th Feb '24 - 1:06pm

    Hi Martin and Alex,

    I understand that prior to Labour disowning their candidate, the LDs were only campaigning in parts of the constituency where we already have councillors – only three seats – or hope to win more in local elections.

    Post the disowning, we’re now campaigning across the whole constituency.

    (My feeling is we should have ramped up the moment the quotes from Azhar Ali became public knowledge, as there was a strong possibility that Labour would be obliged to renounce him.)

  • Alex Macfie 14th Feb '24 - 2:51pm

    I think what @Chris means is that the Rochdale Lib Dem local party is campaigning a lot more than it was before the Labour candidate defenestration. But it’s not being given the full by-election kitchen-sink-silly-stunt treatment by Federal party HQ. The by-election campaign asking for outside help, but only from activists in non-target areas.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Feb '24 - 3:09pm

    I saw another article (in the Guardian I think) that said the one branch of Israeli intelligence had picked up rumours of an attack but the Israeli Government failed to act on it, or simply didn’t believe it.
    I know Netanyahu is only interested in using his position to stymie the corruption investigation and keep himself out of prison, but I do find it hard to believe that he knowingly allowed Hamas to attack and kill 1200 + people. That would imply a level of deceit far greater than any other politician in Israel has ever used.
    As far as Rochdale is concerned people forget that the party there split with well over half the council group joining Labour. With the best will in the world, mounting a serious campaign without outside help will be difficult. Though given that the alternative is George Galloway, then we should certainly try.

  • Chris Moore 14th Feb '24 - 3:24pm

    Alex, you’ve expressed it more accurately than me.

  • Chris Moore 14th Feb '24 - 4:27pm

    When did the split occur, Mick, and what was it over?

  • Mick Taylor 14th Feb '24 - 4:39pm

    The split was some time ago but it cost us the council seats we had held since forever and we have not regained them. I never knew the reason but Rochdale politics has always been different!

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Feb '24 - 4:45pm

    The borough council election maps at might suggest by the time of the 2011 borough elections.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '24 - 8:57am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    Who knows just how Netanyahu thinks and what he is capable of?

    There have been well documented reports that both the US and Egypt gave advanced warnings. The Israelis will have a network of paid spies in Gaza and the West Bank. They have the latest surveillance technology to monitor all communications in collaboration with the US NSA.

    The army observers on the border also reported unusual activity in the days leading up to the Hamas attack.

  • Chris Moore 15th Feb '24 - 9:01am

    I took a quick look, Nonconformistradical, at the cycle of local election results in Rochdale in 2010, 2011, 2012. (At that time, Rochdale elected in thirds.)

    In 2010, we lost 5 seats and control of the council. We lost the Parliamentary seat on the same day on a small swing Labour. The swing at local level was only a few per cent too.

    In 2011, we lost every single seat we were defending: 7 to labour, 3 to Tories. A clear rebuke from the electors for going into Coalition.

    In 2012, repeat of 2011.

    Couldn’t find any info re the split. But maybe some members decamped to Labour when we entered into Coalition??

  • Chris Moore 15th Feb '24 - 9:07am

    @Peter Martin

    I repeat what I said earlier up the thread.

    You are assuming Israeli intelligence services are all-seeing and all-knowing. They are not. Nor are ANY intelligence services.

    There are obvious examples of both Shin Bet and Mossad failing to forsee attacks. Yom Kippur. 1972 Olympics and others.

    There are many examples of other intelligence services, gifted with all the panoply of modern spy equipment failing to pick up major and minor attacks.

    it’s not infrequent that intelligence services know that something is going to happen, but don’t know ENOUGH to be able to prevent it.

  • @ Chris Moore “A clear rebuke from the electors for going into Coalition”.

    Coalition wasn’t the only matter causing offence and leading to a loss of votes in Rochdale……… as has been well documented in both the national and local media.

  • “Targeting Conservative facing seats” eh.
    Okay what happens if by elections come up in Sheffield, Hull, Newcastle, East Birmingham Swansea, etc etc.
    I for one am getting tired of this “Blue Wall” mantra. Anyone else.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '24 - 10:26am

    @ Chris Moore,

    I don’t know if you’ve read the BBC article that I linked to but I’ll just give you this quote:

    “…..she couldn’t count how many times she had filed reports. Within the unit, everyone took it seriously and would pass it on but in the end they [people outside of the unit] didn’t do anything about it “.

    What was the point of having unarmed women soldiers stationed so close to the border if their commanding officers, and those in government who they, in turn, were reporting to, were only going to ignore their reports which included warnings of an imminent attack?

    The least they could have done was pull them back and into a less hazardous position.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '24 - 11:02am

    Looking back at previous Parliamentary elections where Lib Dems did well under Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown (1997 – 2005) we can see that the successful approach was to offer a more radical alternative to a right of centre Blairite New Labour. Nick Clegg benefitted from this in 2010 even though he probably didn’t agree with the Lib Dem manifesto at the time. Nevertheless he was astute enough to know when he was on to a good thing.

    The present Labour offering is even more right wing. At least Blair had the good sense not to totally alienate the Labour left. He knew who he needed to do the legwork in any election.

    They might have a big lead in the polls but their support is soft. Take a look at any forum, such as Facebook’s “Labour Party Forum” where party members and supporters can freely express an opinion, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s hard to find any support for Starmer at all.

    It’s a big mistake to rely totally on winning seats from the Tories. The Labour Party are there for the taking. It wouldn’t take much. You don’t have to adopt an ultra left position. Just do what CK and PA did by offering at least a degree of radicalism.

  • Hello, David Raw,

    i’m guessing you’re referring to Cyril Smith?

    His behaviour had been known about for some time, but hadn’t stopped the LDs from taking control of the council from 2007-2010.

    There has subsequently been severe criticism of the response of Rochdale Council to widespread incidences of child abuse in its various facilities. However, this criticism applied to the Council over many decades – Labour-run for nearly all that period.

    So I think Coalition was the cause. It mirrors what happened on Manchester Council too.

  • @Peter Martin: as the BBC article itself says, the higher-ups didn’t add up the dots. Maybe, the fact the observers were very young women didn’t help their concerns to be taken seriously. this sort of dismissal of evidence happens in all walks of life.

    Incompetence and error is all around and within us. I don’t believe in weaving conspiracy theories out of such ubiquitous failings.

  • PS I agree with much of what you’ve written about electoral strategy.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '24 - 11:52am

    @ Chris Moore,

    ‘Joining the dots’ doesn’t sound like an appropriate analogy.

    The actual reports are will be kept under wraps, at least for now, but there can be little doubt what they contain. We have no reason to doubt the accounts of the surviving soldiers that they informed their commanding officers in no uncertain terms of Hamas’s preparations to attack.

  • @David Raw: If you are referring to Rochdale’s disgraced former Lib Dem MP, he wasn’t exposed until late 2012 (yes, there were lots of rumours and attempts at prosecution before that, but so were there about Jimmy Savile). Also he was a Labour member for 20 years, so he’s their responsibility as well as ours. Voters don’t tend to punish the child for the sins of the parent anyway.

    @theakes: Right now there is only one seat that’s realistically winnable from Labour, namely Sheffield Hallam; if there were to be a by-election there I’m sure we’d get the Lib Dem by-election machine out. There’d be silly stunts and everything. @Peter Martin’s analysis at 15th Feb ’24 – 11:02am makes sense for when we are in opposition to a Labour majority government, but in the 1997 GE we lost 2 seats to Labour (one of them being Rochdale), and in effect one more (David Alton’s old seat of Liverpool Mossley Hill which was divided up in the boundary review). Then, as now, the principal objective was to get a tired, discredited Tory government out of power. Losing 2 seats to Labour (again including Rochdale) in 2010 was much less excusable.

  • Yes, Peter, you can be sure the women on the ground reported what they saw.

    However, this sort of error crops up all the time, not only in war, but in all walks of life.

    Extrapolating a conspiracy theory from these very frequent oversights falls foul of Occam’s razor.

  • The near elimination of LDs northern council base occurred across cities and towns from the 2011 round of local elections onwards.

    Rochdale does not stand out in anyway in that regard.

  • @ Alex Macfie I don’t wish to enter into a controversy with you on this matter, but I’m afraid you are incorrect.

    I would refer you to the evidence given by, amongst others, a former Party Leader to the Alexis Jay Inquiry published in April, 1918, and also to the Private Eye archive (issue 454, 11 May, 1979). Both are available online.

    Private Eye (and other publications) were available in Rochdale in 1979 – although the granting of a knighthood in 1988 may have mitigated this and given some reassurance. Others must decide whether this was intentional.

    To suggest none of it was in the public domain in Rochdale in 2010 is mistaken (indeed the winning Labour MP in 2010 made it his business for it to be so). I agree there was a large swing away as a result of entering the Coalition post 2010, but the earlier factors still stand.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '24 - 3:39pm

    @ Chris Moore,

    A conspiracy theory requires at least two parties to conspire together. As the online dictionary puts it: make secret plans jointly to commit an unlawful or harmful act.

    No-one is suggesting that the Netanyahu regime conspired with Hamas.

    So it’s not, by definition, a conspiracy or a conspiracy theory.

    They are suggesting that they knew what was brewing, the evidence is that they did, and that the most plausible explanation ( with all due respect to Mr Occam) is that there was some ulterior motive for letting happen – albeit they greatly underestimated the extent of it all.

    Truth is always the first casuality of war and the Netanyahu govt has always been of the view that they’ve been in state of continuous war against the Palestinian people. It wouldn’t be the first time that a warring party has tried to use a utilise an adverse action by an enemy to its own advantage.

  • Peter Martin 15th Feb '24 - 3:53pm

    @ AlexMacAfie,

    “Right now there is only one seat that’s realistically winnable from Labour, namely Sheffield Hallam”

    OK but what about seats that Lib Dems could win from the Tories if they put in a decent effort but will otherwise go Labour?

    The most recent example of this was in the Mid Beds election when Labour won a seat which many on LDV were predicting to go Lib Dem. You may well have put in a “decent effort” against the Tories but you gave Labour a free ride.

    That’s why you lost.

  • Peter Martin: hardly a free road, have you seen the Labour costs for that by election.

  • Correction : The Jay enquiry was 2018 not 1918. Other things (coupons ?) even more harmful to the then Liberal Party were moving and shaking in 1918.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Feb '24 - 1:10pm

    @Peter Martin: Our line in Mid-Beds was “Labour can’t win here”. This proved to be incorrect. Labour worked the seat hard meaning the tactical voting campaign was ineffective. We won ~10% of the vote in the previous GE and had no local strength; we would never have targeted it if there wasn’t going to be a by-election there. It’s pretty fanciful to suggest that Lib Dems have any chance of winning seats in a GE where we were a poor 3rd or below last time. And Labour have already detargeted most of our target seats.

    Targeting Labour voters for positive switching is for when Labour are in government. Our results in 1997 in seats where we would go on to win from Labour or at least gain strong 2nd places (before Coalition messed it up) were not impressive. For instance we were a poor 3rd place in Hornsey & Wood Green on 11.3%.

  • Peter Martin 16th Feb '24 - 2:16pm

    @ Alex,

    “It’s pretty fanciful to suggest that Lib Dems have any chance of winning seats in a GE where we were a poor 3rd or below last time.”

    Assuming this is the case, it means that there is a longer term value is aiming to secure 2nd place. You don’t want Labour to jump above you to be second even in seats that the Tories do win.

    This will mean not ignoring Labour completely in your campaigning.

    There’s plenty of criticisms to be made about Starmers party!

  • Peter Martin 16th Feb '24 - 2:48pm


    PS You’ll also not want Labour jumping from 3rd Place to win seats in which you are currently second.

    This will be more likely to happen if you don’t target Labour in your campaigning!

  • Let us be honest, last nights two Westminster results were a humiliation.

  • @theakes. If I lived in Kingswood or Wellingborough, I’d have held my nose and voted Labour yesterday. As it was, in Kingswood in 2019, Labour got 16,492 votes. In 2024, they won with just 11,176. But they don’t see to be complaining.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Feb '24 - 5:11pm

    @Peter Martin: I’ve already explained why I don’t think there’s a major issue with Labour jumping from 3rd Place to win seats in which we are currently second. There are very few seats in which we are both in contention. The only ones that might go the way you suggest are the ones like CoL&W and F&GG where we we got into 2nd place due to our candidate being a high-profile defector who isn’t standing again.
    Winning against Labour in Labour-facing seats will be an uphill struggle until Labour get into power, again see my previous posts. There will be strong local campaigns in our Labour-facing former strongholds such as Hornsey & Wood Green, but it’ll be much harder than against a Tory opponent.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Feb '24 - 5:15pm

    @David Raw: I said there were rumours. In 2010 that was still all they were, and they had not stopped Hanger Smith from repeatedly winning from 1972 until he stood down in 1992. We also carelessly lost Chesterfield in 2010. Both losses were probably due to taking our eyes off the prize after Cleggmania — something we definitely need to avoid, hence not wasting time mounting big campaigns in no-hope seats.

  • @ Alex Macfie Sorry, I’m afraid I have a slight advantage over you on the matter of Rochdale. The Liberal PPC displaced by Smith and his chums was a long standing friend of mine. Have you read the Jay Inquiry ? It’s available online.

  • David Evans 16th Feb '24 - 6:10pm

    Indeed Theakes, you are absolutely right.

    We seem to have a leadership that dare not say the word Europe and chooses not to campaign in seats where just getting our 2015 vote out would have saved our deposit in each by-election. Indeed getting out our 2019 vote would have put us ahead of Reform. Instead we are now on the cusp of becoming the fourth and possibly the fifth party in the whole of the UK, and if so the catastrophic conclusion of the disaster that began with Nick Clegg will be upon us.

    If we are not all over Rochdale like a rash for the next couple of weeks, with full on central party organisation to support every activist who can get there, there may well be no way back.

    All I can say to everyone who cares about our party and its values is get to Rochdale now, and again and again for every day you can spare.

    Pretending it isn’t happening like so many have been doing for so long, isn’t an option.

  • Peter Martin 16th Feb '24 - 7:46pm

    @ Alex,

    John Curtice doesn’t agree with you.

    “The truth is, while the party has focused on attacking the Conservatives, it has perhaps failed to notice that it’s losing votes to Labour.”

    So you think that doesn’t matter?

    JC obviously thinks otherwise. He favours concentrating on issues concerning Brexit and the EU. However, there are other possibilities too. Many ex Labour votes, even from Leavers, would be easy pickings if you simply adopted a slightly more radical stance.

    Starmer has taken Labour so far to the right that it wouldn’t be at all difficult.

  • Mick Taylor 16th Feb '24 - 8:00pm

    I have consulted a colleague in Rochdale and it seems the 2010 split was neither to do with the coalition nor Cyril Smith, but an internal falling about group leadership. It certainly destroyed the LibDems as a council force in Rochdale from which they have still not recovered.

  • Mick Taylor 16th Feb '24 - 8:11pm

    I seem to remember that Garth Pratt was the Liberal candidate before Smith. He joined Labour and stayed with them till he died.
    I can’t remember David Raw at the 1972 by-election. I was there campaigning every day as I had just moved to nearby Todmorden and remember very clearly the events of the campaign. The fledgling Muslim community supported Cyril Smith at that time.
    I would worry that George Galloway will target the now sizeable Muslim Community with a wholly anti Israel stance and in the absence of a Labour campaign, there must be a risk off him doing quite well unless the Muslims who supported Galloway in Bradford and then dumped him because they found out he was a charlatan contact their fellow religionists in Rochdale to warn them not to back him. Could we actually see a Tory gain as happened in Burnley in 2019? Or is it possible that we could snatch victory by a short sharp campaign? There may be all to play for.

  • @ David Evans To follow up on your comments, David. If, Heaven forbid, I was to advise the Party Leader, it would be to get out and about in the more than three quarters of the UK not in the Home Counties Blue Wall and to articulate forcefully a bit of Radical Liberalism with a twinkle , a smile and a bit of passion.

    That’s what Jo Grimond did when I first joined the Liberal Party back in the early sixties – and Jo’s home base in Orkney & Shetland was a tad more difficult to get to and from than suburban Kingston.

  • David Raw,

    Jo Grimond led the Liberals in three general elections – 1959, 1964 and 1966. In 1955 the Liberals fielded 110 candidates and achieved 2.7% of the vote and 6 MPs. In 1959 the Liberals fielded 216 candidates and achieved 5.9% of the vote and 6 MPs (0.0273% per candidate). In 1964 the Liberals fielded 365 candidates and achieved 11.2% of the vote and 9 MPs (0.0307% per candidate). In 1966 the Liberals fielded 311 candidates and achieved 8.5% of the vote and 12 MPs (0.0273% per candidate).

    In 1992 the Liberal Democrats fielded 632 candidates and achieved 17.8% of the vote and 20 MPs (0.0282% per candidate).

    In 2019 the Liberal Democrats fielded 611 candidates and achieved 11.6% of the vote and 11 MPs (0.019% per candidate).

    The Liberal Party under Jo Grimond was not a national party fighting most seats in a general election. I think the highest number of Liberal candidates since 1945 was in October 1974 – 619.

    It was easier for Jo Grimond to get national media coverage than it is for Ed Davey. However, talking about our liberal policies and what a liberal society would look like could increase our national share of the vote and get the national percentage per candidate above 0.02%. While I don’t expect our share of the vote to get to 16%, I do think we could get to 13% and ahead of Reform.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Feb '24 - 9:51am

    @Peter Martin: The question is WHERE are we losing votes to Labour? Not around here (in Kingston and Richmond) we aren’t. Years of hard work have gone into conditioning the electorate to understand that Labour aren’t in contention and it’s between us and the Tories around here. It’ll be the same in other Tory-facing target seats. I commented under another article about the psephological error of assuming that swings in particular groups of voters are uniform across the country. That isn’t what’s going to happen. It’ll happen most in Labour-facing seats, of which only Sheffield Hallam is realistically winnable for us at the next GE. They are more medium-term prospects for when people are disillusions with a Labour government, and disappointing results there next time do not necessarily mean they are write-offs in the future (see 1997).

  • Alex Macfie 17th Feb '24 - 9:57am

    I don’t understand why people here are obsessed with the “Blue Wall” as somewhere our party is retreating to. It doesn’t really matter where our wins are, as long as we get some. Besides, only one of our by-election wins this Parliament can be characterised as “Blue Wall” (C&A, the first one). The others are rural seats of the type once dubbed “Blue Fields” on this site, two of them in the historically Liberal-leaning west country. If we were only targeting the “Blue Wall” (in the sense of Home Counties commuter belt) then we would indeed have a more pro-Rejoin message. However, many of our target seats were Leave-voting and our campaign strategists seem to think that even if there is a sense of Bregret among many of them, going gung-ho on Rejoin would be a step too far.

  • Peter Martin 17th Feb '24 - 10:08am

    @ Alex,

    You probably aren’t giving my opinion much weight. I’d just like to see the political centre move to the left and give potential Labour voters cause to have a rethink about the best way to achieve that now that the party is so right wing.

    However, I would expect you to give slightly more credence to what Prof. Curtice is saying.

    Where do you think he’s going wrong?

  • @Peter Martin: Where Curtice is wrong (as I have written before) is that he is ignoring the effect of tactical voting and other local factors, instead applying movement of tribes of voters across the board irrespective of local circumstances. Labour have already detargeted most of our top target seats and probably don’t have enough of a local organisation to mount any sort of campaign in them anyway.

    The references to Liberal Party campaigns from long ago and the talk of national messaging makes me think of the elections in February 1974 and 1983, when the centre party got a significant uplift in vote share (based on a strong national message) which did not translate into many more seats won because it was spread too thinly. This is exactly what we don’t want to happen, and is the reason for the current tight targeting strategy. What will matter for us at the next GE is number of seats won, not the percentage of vote share per Lib Dem candidate (something of interest only to political nerds).

  • Martin Bennett: The Liberal Democrats would have been winning by elections and getting large increases in votes if they had not betrayed their supporters during the Coalition Government when they abandoned categorical promises and agreed to policies which were not supported by many members of the party and within a year their support among the electorate collapsed and shows little sign of increasing despite the Government being one of the most unpopular in history. It is true we have won some byelections in areas where we had some traditional support but generally the party’s position has been derisory in most parts of the country, often receiving less than 5% of the vote. Some of the leadership seems to consist of those who either ignore advice or reject it in rather a rude manner The use of silly gimmicks seems inappropriate.

    It could be that the position of the Labour party would be undermined by the growth in support for the Reform Party which many people had never heard of before its existence was revealed by the publicity since the recent byelections. People are starting to ask what they stand for and some seem interested in its policies which could cause a further drop in support for the Conservatives and some abandoning the Labour Party. It would be a good time to put forward real Liberal policies.

  • @nvelope2003: If many of our potential voters were still nursing a grievance over the Coalition, then it would adversely affect our prospects in our winnable seats rather than in no-hope areas, where the main issue is that voters have forgotten we even exist. I don’t see any major pushback over the Coalition any more. Those who do bring it up are mostly partisan leftists who would never vote for us anyway.

  • nvelope2003 17th Feb '24 - 3:15pm

    Alex Macfie. Because the Conservatives are unpopular some plan to vote Liberal Democrat but most will abstain and return next time. Many Liberal Democrats seem happy with this but those who want a real change of direction would not be satisfied with it and Labour supporters would soon forget about us, as you say, because we forgot about them, including those who thought about them before even though we need them.
    The present international situation is an opportunity to re join the EU and other Liberal Democrat policies because we have no real say in the actions of the US Government even under Mr Biden let alone Donald Trump. All hopes of beneficial trade deals seem to have gone and we must be a full part of the EU to secure the future of Western Democracy against the threats from Putin etc.
    The majority here seem to regard Brexit as a mistake and re joining the EU would probably not get much opposition even from Brexiteers while our enhanced security without having to put all our trust in the support of the US would be welcomed by many. There would need to be more money spent on defence by all members of the EU but what is the alternative ? Is Western democracy so little valued that we don’t want to pay for it ?

  • nvelope2003 17th Feb '24 - 4:32pm

    Alex Macfie: I assume that you see the Liberal Democrats as a minor party linked with the Conservatives or how would it grow to compete with the other parties without taking new members from the Labour party and other parties ? It seems that the leadership like the trappings of office and have converted the party into a sort of private group of Conservative sympathisers who don’t quite feel at home with the “Tories” but would not support the Labour party even when they agree with some of its policies. Maybe if Reform grows they will take over from the Conservatives and some of the traditional moderate Conservatives will team up with the Liberal Democrats to form a moderate Liberal Conservative party. This would be in line with what is going on in Europe where the German Christian Democrats have retained most of their support while the Social Democrats are in decline and the right wing Alternative for Germany is growing. The German Free Democrats are not really similar to the Liberal Democrats in some ways but they do have proportional unless they fall below 5% of the vote or get 3 elected members.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Feb '24 - 5:40pm

    nvelope2003: You assume wrong. I do not see the Lib Dems as “linked with the Conservatives”, especially when they are our principal opponents in most of the seats we are seriously fighting. The party has categorically ruled out any cooperation with the Tories after the next GE. One of the reasons the party did so badly in 2015 is that we failed to differentiate ourselves sufficiently from the Tories in government. As well as unwinding of tactical voting, this resulted in soft Tory voters who liked the Coalition seeing no reason to vote for us instead of the Tories. So please don’t say I want the Lib Dems to be some version of the Simonite National Liberals, who could only stand where the Tories allowed us (which would mean not against any Tory candidate) before eventual assimilation.
    I said nothing about Labour supporters forgetting about us either. I referred to *partisan* leftists as the main people who still hold the Coalition against us. But they were never our friends anyway, they always tarred us as “yellow Tories”. I certainly did not include standard-issue left-leaning voters, who will lend us their vote tactically and in Labour-facing target seats may switch to us when they become disillusioned with a Labour government.

  • Alex Macfie,

    Labour are unlikely to have de-targeted all 80 seats where we were second in 2019. In 2015 we said that the amount of work we were doing in our MP seats would be enough for us not to be nearly wiped out and this was incorrect.

    Most people on LDV are not saying we should drop the targeting strategy, they are saying we need better national messaging to increase our national vote share, motivate our members and supporters and to help in our target seats. Our national messaging is not as good as it was in 1997. 1997 showed that we could both target seats and have national messaging with cut-through.


    Having a policy of re-joining the EU is not likely to benefit us, if the Conservatives and Reform point out what we would have to agree to if we re-joined, which we didn’t have to before. As Alex Macfie has pointed out some ‘of our target seats were Leave-voting and our campaign strategists seem to think that even if there is a sense of Bregret among many of them, going gung-ho on Rejoin would be a step too far’. We should be talking about improving our relations and trade with the EU not re-joining.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Feb '24 - 8:17am

    “Most people on LDV are not saying we should drop the targeting strategy, they are saying we need better national messaging to increase our national vote share, motivate our members and supporters and to help in our target seats.”

    This is the crux of the matter.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Feb '24 - 8:52am

    @nvelope2003: Your assumptions about me and about the Lib Dems are 100% wrong.

  • Peter Martin 18th Feb '24 - 10:19am

    @ Alex Macfie,

    “Where Curtice is wrong….”

    It’s brave thing to challenge the Prof on his specialist area. You have to take only an immediate view of what might happen in the next election to make this argument.

    If we take a longer term view, any party should seek to maximise its vote on a national scale. It will mean endeavouring to convert otherwise 4th places to 3rd places . 3rd places to 2nd places. I think you, yourself, have said that a 2nd place is a prerequisite for a successful electoral challenge.

    So it may not happen this time, but if you’ve an ambition to be other than a niche party you need to take a longer term view. You’ll need to make the argument, of why they should vote for you, to all electors – not just the relatively well heeled voters in constituencies like Kingston and Richmond.

  • Peter Martin 18th Feb '24 - 11:29am

    @ Alex,

    As an example of what I’m suggesting: Take a look at the Lib Dem vote in Chesham and Amersham.

    4th in 2015
    3rd in 2017
    2nd in 2019
    1st in 2021

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Feb '24 - 12:43pm

    @Peter Martin
    Re Chesham & Amersham – perhaps you can tell us what the LD local government strength is across the constituency – in other words how good its campaigning strength is. And will it be good enough taking into account any forthcoming boundary changes?

  • We have 2 jobs at the coming General Election – get more Libdem MPs & get fewer Tories.

    After The Election we will have a louder Voice to promote Liberal Values & push Labour to be braver. Our long-term aim should be to replace the Tories as the Official Opposition.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Feb '24 - 1:37pm

    @Paul Barker
    Agree about the 2 jobs for the forthcoming general election but does that preclude publicising a straightforward national message (in plain English) which might resonate in some non-target areas?

    Or are you proposing to abandon non-target areas?

  • nvelope2003 18th Feb '24 - 3:48pm

    Alex Macfie: I did not say I assumed that you wanted the Liberal Democrats to be a version of the Simonite Liberals but what you are suggesting might have that effect. The party categorically ruled out various things such as tuition fees and this is why people, many of them new supporters, lost all faith in the Liberal Democrats and are unlikely to come back but party members don’t seem to understand that trust is vital and once it is lost it is difficult to regain it.

    Martin Bennett: I have been a Liberal all my life and I was greatly encouraged by the progress we made until 2010 and very depressed by the collapse of the party since 2011 after we had joined a coalition with the Conservatives, despite several chances to revive the party since 2019. Apart from winning some by elections in mostly rural areas we have not made the sort of progress we used to make in these circumstances and if we cannot do that now there is little chance of it happening so I am being provocative because somebody has to say something now before it is to late. I don’t have a time machine nor do I live in the past and I find the remark patronising like some other comments I see here which I find very revealing as it seems to be the cause of the disaster which might occur.

  • nvelope2003 18th Feb '24 - 4:27pm

    Michael BG: Improving our relations with the EU is essential but because of the international situation and the rise in the power of dictators the EU might not be so meticulous about imposing conditions on re joining the EU if we gave an undertaking not to be so belligerent in our attitude because we might not need to be. Forecasts of possible gains in the next election may not be realised but an energetic pro EU campaign might bring in those who support EU membership at a time when pro Brexit attitudes seem to have moderated. If not now when ? If the Reform Party improve their support at the expense of the Conservatives and Labour parties it would make it easier for the Liberal Democrats to gain seats.

    Alex Macfie: Why would someone who liked the Coalition vote Conservative ?

  • Alex Macfie 18th Feb '24 - 5:20pm

    @nvelope2003: WHY would the Lib Dems want to make any kind of pact with the Conservatives, the party that is our opponent in the vast majority of our target seats? Logic please!
    The Coalition and tuition fees do not come up on the doorstep in my experience talking to voters (nor, BTW, does the EU very much, and this is in a strongly pro-Remain area). The Tories in government post-Coalition have broken far more promises than the Lib Dems in government. This is not a justification for things like the tuition fees U-turn, but it does suggest that people who still bring it up now, 9 years and 3 GEs after the party left government, as a reason not to vote Lib Dem have some sort of anti-Lib Dem agenda.
    @Peter Martin: Of course, we won both North Shropshire and Tiverton & Honiton by-elections from 3rd place at 10–15% of the vote in 2019, helped by some strength in local government (something we lacked in Mid Beds). Developing future target seats is obviously important in the longer term, and I never suggested we shouldn’t do so. But there won’t be a long term future for the party if we don’t maximise our seat tally at the next GE, so this close to a GE (which IMO will be in the Autumn, sorry Martin B) we need to focus on our immediate target seats.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Feb '24 - 5:41pm

    @Alex McFie
    “so this close to a GE (which IMO will be in the Autumn, sorry Martin B) we need to focus on our immediate target seats.”

    I don’t dispute the need to focus on immediate target seats but does that preclude publicising a straightforward national message (in plain English) which might resonate in some non-target areas?

    Or are you proposing to abandon non-target areas?

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Feb '24 - 7:05pm

    “Most people on LDV are not saying we should drop the targeting strategy, they are saying we need better national messaging to increase our national vote share, motivate our members and supporters and to help in our target seats.” I believe this comment, Michael BG’s of February 17, 10.21 pm, is absolutely right, and so does Nonconformistradical who then wrote in support, “This is the crux of the matter.”

    Catching up on this thread today, it seems to me that the comments from London-based people may be influenced by their happier electoral situation, allowing them to ignore the importance of the national leadership giving out a strong national message – that we are a very significant national party with well-thought-out policies which we intend to show the country will be of considerable benefit to us all.

  • The bare fact is that ‘Reform’ collected the disenchanted ‘nutters’ from the Tory party ( I use the term ‘advisedly’ from reading the ‘Reform’ advocates in the comment sections of the DE/Mail))..By the same reasoning this party should pick up the votes of ‘rational’ disenchanted Tories who won’t vote Labour; WHY DIDN’T WE?

  • Martin Bennett and nvelope2003

    Our EU policy as set out on page 46 of the pre-manifesto ‘For a Fair Deal’ passed at Bournemouth is,
    ‘We have set out a four-stage roadmap to rebuild the relationship: with initial unilateral steps to mitigate the damage of the deal followed by confidence-building measures such as joining Erasmus Plus. Then, we will deepen the trading relationship with measures like a veterinary agreement. Finally, once the ties of trust have been restored, we would aim to place the UK-EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the Single Market’.

    According to the policy motion ‘Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe’ passed in spring 2022 we support ‘a longer-term objective of UK membership of the EU’.

    Therefore, even if we formed the next government we would not re-join the EU within the next five years.

    Martin Bennett,

    I have not supported a UBI for years. I support a guaranteed minimum income or us we call it in our policy passed in spring 2023 a Guaranteed Basic Income.

    Paul Barker,

    There is no way we could replace the Conservatives.

  • Peter Watson 19th Feb '24 - 12:12am

    @Michael BG
    I’ve seen conference votes which called on “the government to abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools” and to “ensure that selection in admissions on the basis of religion or belief to state-funded schools is phased out over up to six years” ignored and forgotten for several years, so I have little confidence that something passed by conference can be called a policy! 🙁
    Would anyone outside the party even know about them.

  • @ Michael BG. Michael, I’m afraid the policy towards the EU you kindly outline is more water than milk, and unfortunately typical of the current fearful flight from radical liberalism. Being all things to all men (and women) usually ends up as nothing.

  • Peter Martin 19th Feb '24 - 10:27am

    “When surveyed by Prof Tim Bale a few years ago, he found 96% of the Party were anti-Brexit.”

    How many did he find that were actually pro the EU?

  • nvelope2003 19th Feb '24 - 4:06pm

    Alex Macfie: I don’t know why the Liberal Democrats would want to make a pact with the Conservatives but some members or supporters seem to prefer that to a deal with Labour. I understand that the Coalition is long in the past but people wanted to believe promises by the Liberal Democrat party would be kept and when they were not they regarded us as just like the others, willing to abandon promises when it suited us. Believe it or not many ordinary people still believe we should keep our word but surveys appear to show that is not the view of many middle class people who are happy to lie and cheat when it enables them to get what they want. I am afraid we see it every day but of course not all act like this.
    I guess we will have to get used to the rise of the hard right but there have been some surprises such as the decision of the Greek Government to reform the laws on personal relationships!

  • Alex Macfie 19th Feb '24 - 4:48pm

    @nvelope2003: You are obviously talking to very different Lib Dem members and supporters from the ones I know, none of whom (from the Leader downwards) want any truck with the Tories as far as pacts and coalitions are concerned. Most of those who wanted to move the Lib Dems closer to the Tories have left the party. You really do need to move on. You admit yourself it’s long past.

    The Greek ruling party is centre-right (NOT far right), but the law to allow same-sex marriage was passed with the help of left-wing parties. Arguably the hard right is in power in the UK via the Tories.

  • Alex Macfie 19th Feb '24 - 8:55pm

    “Why would someone who liked the Coalition vote Conservative?” I thought I had made it clear — in 2015 most voters did not perceive a difference between the two Coalition parties (which is mainly the fault of the Lib Dem leadership of the time), so considered vote for either one of them to be for a continuation of it, and if that was what they wanted then they might as well vote for the bigger Coalition party.

    But that was then. The ideological divergence between the two former Coalition parties since 2015 means that no-one living in the present is going to think that they are ever going to go into government together. And voters, on the whole, do generally live in the present not the past. People who hold the kind of historic partisan grievances that you seem fixated on tend to be themselves partisan and would never switch to the party they bear the grudge against. For them it’s just an excuse.

  • Peter Watson,

    I wonder if before 2007 everything passed at conference ended up in the manifesto. There is a problem now about the Manifesto Working Group not only not including policy in it, but making up policy to put in it. I wonder if it would be possible to get Conference after the general election to reduce the power of the leadership over both policy papers and the Manifesto Working Group.

    Martin Bennett,

    I have seen Daisy Cooper (I think) express our policy on building relations with the EU and Ed Davey should be able to express our policy successful as she has.

    Our messaging often sets out the problems, but often our leadership doesn’t want to express our remedies. Hopefully, they will make it into the manifesto, but I am not convinced this will happen.


    The Brexiteers thought the EU would not stick to its rules regarding trading with the UK. Your belief that they would give us special terms for re-joining is the same league. We should recognise that the EU always sticks to its rules. Therefore if we want to re-join we will need to agree to their terms.

  • nvelope2003 20th Feb '24 - 2:20pm

    Michael BG. We were not in a war with Russia in 2019 and everything has changed. You have to be brave to get things done but I guess that quality is in short supply.

    Alex Macfie: I was not talking about pacts but about trust. You don’t seem to want to answer the points I have made despite my repeated attempts to explain but prefer to answer your own questions. I don’t live in the past and I have no time for those who say we have always done it that way but you must know the past and learn from it. Sadly most people don’t and this is the cause of so many mistakes.

  • nvelope2003 20th Feb '24 - 5:26pm

    Alex Macfie: I did not say that the Greek Government was hard right and I know the change was voted in because of support from opposition parties, particularly the left.
    If someone had wanted the Coalition to remain in power they would not have voted Tory because you need more than one party to be able to form a coalition.
    I am not fixated on anything except the search for truth of which one element is looking for the reason why certain events occurred in the way they did and the effect they had on subsequent events. I am fascinated by history but most people are not. Living only in the present is a bit limiting. We have to consider the future in the light of experience.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Feb '24 - 6:40pm

    @nvelope2003: Your arguments are so slippery that it’s impossible to answer them. You assert, without evidence that “some” Lib Dems prefer a deal with the Tories than with Labour. Well, who are they? where? And what does it tell us? I mean, 3 inactive members in a branch of 200 would qualify as “some”, but it says nothing about what the party as a whole. And why should what they say trump the position of the vast majority of members and activists, as well as the leadership, that there can be no deals with the Tories?
    Then we have the guff about “surveys” saying the “middle class” think it’s OK to “lie and cheat” I mean what on earth has that got to do with anything? What “surveys”? And as Sir Humphrey demonstrated you can make surveys say whatever you want them to say.

    Your argument seems to be based on the assumption that because the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tories 14 years ago, the party (under a completely different leadership and in completely different circumstances) must want to do the same thing again. You go on about “trust” and “learning from the past”, but your framing makes it impossible to show either. But it’s moot, as once again this *does not* come up on the doorstep very often (and when it does it’s from people with anti-Lib Dem agendas).

    You would do well to listen to what Lib Dems actually say, rather than repeat tired tropes that could have come from Labour media apparatchiks.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Feb '24 - 6:48pm

    “If someone had wanted the Coalition to remain in power they would not have voted Tory because you need more than one party to be able to form a coalition” Well you could say the same about voting Lib Dem. Of course there was no box for “Coalition” on any ballot paper. So voters in 2015 who wanted it to carry on had to make a judgement call, and consequently many voted Tory because Coalition seemed to make them look sane, forgetting that it was the Lib Dem involvement that did that.

  • Michael BG 20th Feb ’24 – 1:23am:
    The Brexiteers thought the EU would not stick to its rules regarding trading with the UK.

    No rule breaking was expected. Prior to the Referendum, the official Vote Leave campaign stated that it would be possible to negotiate a “UK-EU free trade deal”. And that’s exactly what we’ve now got with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – the world’s most comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

    ‘A framework for taking back control and establishing a new UK-EU deal after 23 June’ [15th. June 2016]:

    It will be possible to negotiate a new settlement with the EU, including a UK-EU free trade deal, by the next general election in May 2020. This is mainly because 1) there is already tariff-free trade between the UK and the EU and 2) there is already regulatory equivalence, so the main stumbling blocks to negotiating a trade agreement are absent. It is also in all countries’ economic and political interests for there to be a friendly deal that will increase and improve international cooperation.

  • Peter Watson 21st Feb '24 - 8:33am

    @Michael BG “There is a problem now about the Manifesto Working Group not only not including policy in it, but making up policy to put in it.”
    I often cite the disappointingly ignored conference vote in 2016 against academic selection (and faith schools in 2017) because at the time, I was excited that the party was finally adopting a radical approach to grammar schools instead of its previous two-faced conservative position.
    On the other hand, we have a policy like like universal free school meals that Lib Dems had previously opposed but which was dropped on the party by Nick Clegg at conference and later promoted in the 2015 General Election as being worth £400 to families – though obviously only those with incomes above the previous threshold for free school meals.
    It all combines to give the impression of a gap between Lib Dem members (whom I admire) and the type of voters the party is trying to attract, or at least to not scare, for whom I have somewhat less admiration. I am not optimistic that a conference vote really means it is a policy, no matter how admirable and well-intentioned, if it looks like something relatively affluent, soft Tories would not like or benefit from directly. 🙁
    Perhaps, if Lib Dems find themselves in a position to influence Government, they will present these past conference votes and say “We kept this stuff a secret, but this is what we’re actually going to do!”

  • Jeff, you are being very selective in your views (as always) regarding Brexit. The simple fact is we got a trade deal and it was a crap trade deal – negotiated from a position of abject weakness and desperation by a party totally lacking the ability and expertise to negotiate anything better.

    Indeed that is par for the course for all the trade deals the Brexiteers have dumped on us as a nation, and is without doubt another reason why our country is in such an absolute mess.

  • nvelope2003,

    Do you have any evidence that the EU would be willing to break its rules about the requirements for joining?

    Alex Macfie and Martin Bennett,

    Every week those who watch politicians being interviewed see them misrepresent and distort the truth. In the past we used to say that not all politicians are the same, we said we were different, we would be honest and keep our promises. In the 2010 General Election Nick Clegg did a political broadcast pointing out that other parties broke their promises and we wouldn’t. We can’t say that now. For those voters who we could get to vote for us because we said we were different and would keep our promises will remember that we were no different in government and so can’t be persuaded. However, this might be a very small percentage of the population, but every one percent makes a difference when your opinion polling rating is between 8 and 10% (since 15th February).

    Also those graduates who were at university during 2010 to 2015 are not likely to vote for us and possibly members of their families (or not until their student loans have ended). This could be over 1% of the electorate.

    For our opinion poll rating these are important factors. Maybe in a target seat it is not such an important factor as getting rid of the Conservative MP.

  • Jeff,

    I have not seen this framework suggested by Vote Leave before. The government didn’t follow it. What I was talking about was members of the Leave campaign saying that we would continue to trade with the EU as before Brexit because it was in their interest not to raise tariffs and regulations to disrupt trade.

    Peter Watson,

    It would seem that after 2010 the leadership took more control over policies and what is in the manifesto. Conference needs to reserve this. Then it will be members at Conference who agree our policies once again.

  • Michael BG: I have no evidence that the EU would be willing to break its rules about the requirements for joining but it may be that in the evolving international situation they might consider it. Clearly what has been going on should be carefully reviewed and in the light of current events changes could be considered. We cannot rely on another country for support and it seems dangerous for us not to be closely associated with our nearest neighbours.

    I am pleased that you at least understand that the collapse in support for the party after the decision of the leadership to break certain promises which were promoted as crucial but were not liked by the leader was most likely caused by the realisation by voters that we were no different from the other parties. It might take a long time to attract more support but we could at least try some more interesting policies which are known to attract some voters. It might help if we dropped those silly gimmicks.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Feb '24 - 11:35am

    @ David Evans,

    “The simple fact is we got a trade deal and it was a crap trade deal – negotiated from a position of abject weakness and desperation by a party totally lacking the ability and expertise to negotiate anything better”

    We all know, from our own experience, that we have to be prepared to walk away completely in any negotiations if the situation calls for it. If, for example, someone offers us a job we have to be prepared to say “no deal” if the terms and conditions aren’t right. It doesn’t make any sense to say that we won’t accept not getting a deal.

    However, this was the position adopted by many Remainers. They would never sell their own house on that basis so why advocate it for the country as a whole?

    That said, it could be argued that there is no such thing a trade deal which is advantageous to just one party. Any restrictions will harm both. It harms political co-operation too. At a time when western Europe is facing military threats it doesn’t make any sense for it to become isolationist.

  • David Evans 23rd Feb '24 - 4:26pm

    @Peter Martin

    Hi Peter,

    Yes you are right when you say that Remainers opposed a No deal Brexit. They opposed it because a no deal Brexit would have been much worse than the alternative – remaining in the EU.

    Boris Johnson’s solution (I think that is the best word to describe the deal his key negotiator Lord Frost set up) was to deliberately agree a deal that was in fact much, much worse than No deal, and then go on to repeatedly lie in the subsequent general Election denying all its manifest problems with his usual bluff and bluster.

    Indeed there rarely is a trade deal that is “which is advantageous to just one party” as you put it. However, the Johnson deal was such a deal. It was bad for Britain – giving up so much for so little. It was bad for the EU – who were conned into giving Boris Johnson the pretense of applying the term deal to what was a total surrender.

    But it was a great deal for the Boris Johnson’s Conservative party and its rich backers by giving it another five years in power and Boris Johnson a platform to get rid of all the pro Europeans in that party using the only skills he seems to have – bluff, bluster and fake blond bonhomie.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Feb '24 - 6:43pm

    The result for our party at the next election could vary b between 10s of seats or a couple of hundred. There are many factors that we have no control of. For example, if in seats where we are a good second, reform could ensure we win by taking votes off the Tories. Under our election system we could get not much more than in 2019 but win. That in effect happened in the Brecon and Radnor by-election and we then lost the seat when the Farage backed candidate from the by-election stood down. In addition, FPTP can have disastrous effects for a party whose vote plummets as the Tory vote looks as though it might. There is a floor below which you suddenly lose a huge number of seats. Not sure what it is for the Tories, but 23% or below could see them drop below a hundred seats, many of the losses to us.
    No-one should rule out an election in which FPTP actually wins us seats and where Tories are reduced to a rump.
    Now, we don’t need another Tory Party, Labour will do that job by aping Tory spending and tax plans. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be opposing a Labour government and offering more radical solutions than. them? Not difficult really given the ultra economic orthodoxy of the likely chancellor in Starmer’s government.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Feb '24 - 6:53pm

    To get back onto the topic of by-elections:

    I was tipping a George Galloway victory when everyone else was forecasting an easy win for Labour. I should have put on a bet at good odds when I had the chance! However, now that Galloway is the odds-on favourite and Starmer has disowned Azhar Ali I’m less sure of the outcome.

    This withdrawal of support could well have increased AA’s chances of winning. The strength of left opposition to Starmer tends to be greatly underestimated in the mainstream media. Many are now going to vote for Ali who would otherwise voted for Galloway. If the anti-Galloway forces decide to back Ali as the only candidate who can keep him out then Ali will likely pull off a surprise win.

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