An open letter to Stephen Lloyd MP

Dear Mr Lloyd

I, along with many other of your fellow Liberal Democrats, have noted with considerable alarm, your intention to vote with the government on the issue of Brexit. Not only is this totally at variance with the party and the manifesto on which you fought the last General Election, but it flies in the face of your duty as an MP to vote in the best interests of your constituency and the country.

It is worth remembering the letter written by Edmund Burke MP to his constituents in which he examines the whole question of what an MP’s duty to his constituents is. Whilst it is well worth reading the whole letter the most salient point is:-

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

(Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol, 3 Nov. 1774)

I well understand your belief that you ought to keep a pledge made in the heat of an election campaign. (Though perhaps the experience of a pledge that bedevilled the party in coalition should have given you pause before making it).  However, the Brexit with which you promised to keep faith no longer exists. Instead there is an exit agreement that keeps almost none of the promises made by Brexiteers and in fact breaks one of the key promises, namely to get away from regulation by the EU. The reality is that the agreement that Mrs May wishes you to support leaves the UK having to obey all the EU rules, but having no say in their creation.

It would be perfectly respectable to say that in your judgement the agreement you are being asked to support does NOT keep faith with the result of the referendum and that you cannot support it precisely for that reason. You should also be arguing that as the representative for Eastbourne you cannot vote for a measure that will impoverish many of your constituents and the UK as a whole.

However, there is another consideration. The vote on this measure may well be close. Perhaps only a handful of votes will decide it. How would you feel if it was your vote that ensured that this government proposal went through and that you could have prevented the UK taking this disastrous step and did not? I do not believe you would be forgiven either by your electors or the party.

So, I ask you to think again. You are not a delegate for Eastbourne, bound to do as instructed, but a representative sent to Parliament to exercise your judgement after listening to the debate. I am confident that your judgement would be to remain in the EU. You should exercise that judgement and accept the consequences.

Yours sincerely

Dr Michael Taylor

(Party member for 54 years, 5 times parliamentary candidate, 22 years’ service as a district councillor)

* Dr Michael Taylor has been a party member since 1964. He is currently living in Greece.

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  • Surely the point Burke was making was that an MP should vote as his duty tells him rather than as a delegate for his constituents. That’s why we generally have MPs to make decisions rather than referenda. If Parliament could get down to a straight free vote between the deal and remain, I’d be perfectly ahppy.

  • John Marriott 20th Nov '18 - 9:47am

    If, according to Dr Taylor, Mr Lloyd is exercising his judgement “after listening to the debate” then that would appear to be what he has done. Goodness me, there’s been enough “debate” in the media, at the dinner table, the workplace and the pub etc. to last a lifetime – and even longer.

    As someone, who has now twice voted to remain in referenda already and, despite everything, would almost certainly vote remain again if given the chance (the odds for which are increasing by the day), I am also a realist. This country is still effectively split down the middle on membership of the EU.

    I haven’t read the ‘deal’ on offer, although I bet there may well be a few LDV contributors who have. However, if it is really the best that can be wrung out of the EU and if the CBI could live with it, if it gives some control back over Freedom of Movement, Fisheries and all the other ‘independence’ things that appear to excite so many people, then it might indeed be the best deal on offer, given that, unless Article 50 is suspended, the chances of getting a Referendum #3 are limited in the existing time frame. Let’s also not forget the disruption it could cause to next year’s EU Parliamentary Elections now that apparently the UK seats have already been redistributed amongst the remaining 27 EU members. You could add to that the strong possibility of a close finish again if another referendum were held, so the ‘problem’ with Europe won’t go away.

    Despite all its imperfections, I would be inclined to go along with the deal, and a possible extension to the deadline to 2022, as floated by M Barnier, in the understanding that this would give us precisious time to sort out where we belong in the world’s pecking order.

  • David Warren 20th Nov '18 - 9:48am

    I find this debate really interesting.

    Is this the start of a Momentum style approach in the Lib Dems?

    Stephen Lloyd and as I understand it also Norman Lamb represent constituencies that voted to leave the EU in 2016.

    They have to factor that into the way they vote in parliament.

    More than any other party the Lib Dem MPs are rightly known for putting their constituency first that is how they get into parliament.

    So on this occasion they should do an about face!

    This furore is part of a wider Euro mania in the party which I feel is going to far.

    Yes I accept the majority opinion of Lib Dem members is for Remaining in the EU and for a second referendum.

    However this is not the Communist Party where democratic centralism rules.

    There are Lib Dem members, supporters and voters who support leave.

    Many feel as strongly about leaving the EU as remainers do about staying in.

    The current atmosphere risks alienating them.

    It is also worrying that we didn’t see this level of anger against Lib Dem MPs who voted for benefit cuts and worse during the coalition.

    I fear the party is losing it’s liberal heart and instead turning into a body fanatical about being part of the European Union and little else.

    Let’s be liberal and democratic.

  • Can you imagine the consequences for the LibDems if that one vote got the Tories over the line. Last person out, turn off the lights. I also heard that another of our MP’s is considering the same course. Fake News?

  • David Warren
    To be fair to Michael Taylor, he has always criticised the party’s MPs who voted for benefit cuts etc that youmention from Coalition days.

    This issue is so at the heart of the Party’s philosophy stretching back to the 1950s, and was a key part of its ideology in the merger that brought the Lib Dems into being, that it would be a real blow if Lib Dem MPS voted for May’s “deal” – much of which “kicks the can down the road”. Of course I know Lib Dems who voted Leave and passionately support that cause – in fact one of our very senior local party members did. But the whole idea of an internationalist politics – needed because of the huge issues facing us which do not respect borders – is under challenge in the party if our MPs broke ranks on this. The so-called “continuing Liberals” took this path, and look where that got them!!

  • May, excuse the pun, be a lot of energy for nothing. Latest rumours I hear is that there will, as in 1971, be a free vote in the Commons, which gets everyone off the hook.
    Can we order people to do this and that if they do not want to, is that a bit illiberal?

  • John Barrett 20th Nov '18 - 10:52am

    David Warren – wise words, I couldn’t agree more

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Nov '18 - 10:58am

    Stephen Lloyd promised his constituents that he would not do anything to stop Brexit, that he would vote against holding a second referendum, and that he would vote for whatever deal Theresa May managed to make with the EU.
    This is the platform on which Stephen Lloyd was elected in 2017. I don’t see he could be expected to break his promise now.
    Things were always going to be difficult for Stephen Lloyd, as he basically stood on a different platform from other Lib Dem candidates, promising to oppose official Lib Dem policy. But his local party evidently selected him as a candidate despite this. He was completely open, before the election, about how he would vote. It seems hardly fair to attack him for this now.
    Surely MPs are allowed to disagree with particular aspects of party policy? Many Lib Dem MPs have voted contrary to the way they were “whipped” to vote. Those who did so during the coalition are now applauded for their courage in doing do.
    Also, it could be argued that Stephen Lloyd is voting for the relatively “soft” Brexit that the party had previously considered to be preferable to a “hard” Brexit. If the rest of the party’s MPs vote against the deal, they may cause the “no deal” Brexit that the party had previously said would be the worst possible outcome.

  • Chris Bertram 20th Nov '18 - 11:08am

    Stephen Lloyd is acting as though opinion in Eastbourne is frozen in time, as of June 2016, as many other politicians are doing (J Corbyn being most prominent among them). But opinion across the country has shifted, and surely this will be as true of Eastbourne as of anywhere else. Is there any recent polling there to ascertain how the local electorate feel now?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Nov '18 - 11:11am

    David Raw, I would agree that it is a pity Stephen Lloyd was not similarly prepared to to vote against party policy during the coalition.
    But the fact he may have failed to keep his promises in the past does not alter the fact that he is doing the honourable thing in keeping them now.

  • It’s interesting to note that the recent Channel 4/Survation poll estimates that in Eastbourne the percentage supporting leave has changed from 57.33% in 2016 to 48.92% in 2018. In my own constituency, Chesham and Amersham, the Tory MP Cheryl Gillan stlll supports leave and is still out of line with her constituents. The leave vote here has changed from 44.98% in 2016 to 41.43% in 2018. Ms Gillan is fond of quoting Burke.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Nov '18 - 11:36am

    Surely this is another reason why our aim should be to bring about another General Election.

    The Fixed Term Parliament Act process will put much more strain on the other Parties than on ourselves. And, if it were to lead to a General Election, Parliament would be off the hook on the dangers of calling for another referendum.

    What also worries me is the way Commons procedure will work in mid December.. Tell me if I am wrong.

    There will be a Government motion supporting the draft WA. To be a meaningful exercise one would imagine the motion would be amendable.

    The Lib Dems will table an amendment. Let us assume it is accepted though that is not a certainty. One then imagines it will be voted on first. No doubt it will be voted down. Perhaps the SNP or even the DUP amendment is taken next … finally (no not finally) Labour’s amendment will be voted on.

    Not finally? Because then there will be a vote on the motion itself; for or against. Against is in effect a vote for no deal.

    Even if there are further small inducements from EU27 there comes a time, even if it is 10.30pm on 28th March there comes that final vote For or Against: Deal or No deal.

    It seems wise to keep this in mind. Which is another reason to be campaigning for a new Parliament, delivered by a General Election.

  • I get the theory that as a candidate he stood on a platform that he’d not oppose Brexit, but it was hugely irresponsible to promise to vote through whichever deal May cobbled together, regardless. There are plenty of Tory MPs who stood on a platform of enacting Brexit who are now realising their folly.

    I’ll admit no substantial understanding of his constituency, but when you have the likes of Kate Hoey being elected in a heavily pro-remain constituency, then you have to wonder how much individual voters pay attention to some of these details, and how many vote hoping that overall they’ll get a decent MP from a party they generally agree with and these details will resolve themselves.

    But ultimately, any MP should be prepared to change their mind if there is sufficient evidence that their previous point of view is flawed. There is now plenty of evidence that Brexit is truly dreadful, and that many people have changed their minds. There’s certainly enough to justify letting the public confirm that’s what they really wanted all along.

    When I saw something on social media about this, I’d assumed this was an old story regurgitated to embarrass the party. I couldn’t believe that any of our MPs would still feel obliged to press ahead with something so obviously bad for the country and their constituents. I’d say that Lloyd should put the needs of his constituents (including those not old enough to vote at the last election) ahead of his own chances of re-election, but I’m not convinced that he’ll be forgiven by them if Brexit goes ahead. I mean, there are plenty of people who were on board with the Iraq war at the time, who now realise it was a mistake and blame any and all politicians who were complicit with it.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland: Why is it “the” honourable thing to keep his rather rash election promise. surely it would be equally honourable to publicly admit that the promise was made in very different political circumstances to where we find ourselves in now, and therefore keeping it would not be doing the right thing by his constituents. MPs are not delegates bound by pre-election pledges.

    Also there is no automatic electoral benefit to keeping an election promise, as Zac Goldsmith and Bruce Douglas-Mann discovered.

  • Bill Le Breton
    You are wrong.
    If a government is defeated in a vote it goes away and thinks about it and then comes back with a further (different) proposition. Or it calls for a motion of confidence. I could speculate about what TM will do if defeated on the so-called deal, but let’s stick to what you wrote. [Of course if a motion of confidence failed we would be heading for a General Election unless a new government could be formed within 2 weeks (I think) under the Fixed Term Parliament Act]
    So it is a fundamentally wrong assumption that to vote against this deal is a vote for a no-deal Brexit. Even TM doesn’t say that any more. She says that there are two alternatives, a no deal Brexit and no Brexit.
    If the deal is not passed, then Parliament will need to consider the matter further and new propositions can be put forward and voted on either by the government or the opposition. By this time, politicians of all sides will be looking for a way to square the circle and it’s at this point that a Peoples Vote becomes that way out.
    Now my opposition to referenda in general has been made abundantly clear. I am already involved with discussions with the Green Party about how to deal with a 3rd referendum if it comes, because it may happen despite my opposition!
    David Blake makes an interesting and valid point. Mr Lloyd should perhaps have a poll conducted in his constituency to see what the current view on Brexit is. There is a danger if he continues down the path he is following that he will actually be voting against the wishes of his constituents. As I have said many times before, democracy is a process not an event.
    David Warren. I am urging Mr Lloyd to change his mind, not threatening him if he doesn’t. In a Liberal and Democratic Party that is my right as it is his right to think again.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Nov ’18 – 11:11am……………..But the fact he may have failed to keep his promises in the past does not alter the fact that he is doing the honourable thing in keeping them now…………..

    The ONLY valid reason for wanting another referendum, and not following the original wishes of the electorate, is that circumstances have changed. Not accepting that circumstances have changed is not ‘honourable’; it smacks of dogmatic self indulgence.

    “When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?”

  • It’s worth noting that next week there is a European Court hearing that will decide whether the UK can unilaterally withdraw it’s Article 50 trigger notice. This case was initially brought by a group of MEPs and MSPs, and is happening despite the Government trying to block it and lock us all into the false choice of choosing between the May deal or no deal.

    This is crucial as there should be a judgement before Parliament votes on the deal. Assuming the EC rules that Article 50 can be withdrawn, this will stop May using the threat of a no deal scenario to bounce Remain MPs into voting with her.

    If Article 50 can be withdrawn, then logically it can also be suspended. This would allow Labour to vote against the deal, and then if the Government loses it can then go for a vote of no confidence and try to trigger a General Election, in turn allowing Corbyn to stand on a platform of suspending Article 50 to allow him to negotiate a better Leave deal.

  • Chris Bertram 20th Nov '18 - 12:46pm

    “If Article 50 can be withdrawn, then logically it can also be suspended. This would allow Labour to vote against the deal, and then if the Government loses it can then go for a vote of no confidence and try to trigger a General Election, in turn allowing Corbyn to stand on a platform of suspending Article 50 to allow him to negotiate a better Leave deal.”

    And if he can’t, what then? Exit on the deal agreed by May anyway? Exit with no deal? Or revoke Brexit? Jeremy Corbyn would surely never contemplate the last of these, would he?

  • Laurence Cox 20th Nov '18 - 1:16pm

    I agree with David Warren and Mark Wright. Integrity is the most important characteristic that a politician can have. If you cannot trust a politician to do what her or she has promised then all their promises are meaningless. Has everyone forgotten our MPs’ promises on tuition fees so soon?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Nov '18 - 1:29pm

    Mark Wright gets to the nub. This letter is fine because it is to Stephen Lloyd. Another letter, written to the chief whip, is terrible, the undersignatories calling for the whip,s removal. It says that this party has the EU in its constitution. It might even have support for fisheries, and farming, but as a vegetarian I am not that excited!

    A party must have many voices. A liberal one must have a voice of conscience and common sense.

    There is a tendency to neither in this party now.

    I think a real movement, is needed. Whether this party aspires to be it and in government is debateable.

    As a supporter of the criticism of the worst of the coalition, the critics like David Raw, seem to advocate ideas that might answer that. There is a small but loud and lousy minority in this party, as in the Labour and Conservative ones, who seem to think the answer is to alienate the very people we need to advocate for.

  • @Nick Baird
    ‘If Article 50 can be withdrawn, then logically it can also be suspended.’

    Sorry, I do not follow your logic.
    Article 50 governs the process of a member state withdrawing from the EU.
    The first step is for that member state to submit a notice of withdrawal.
    The question is ‘can the notice be withdrawn’.
    If it can, then it ceases to exist and a new notice would have to be submitted under article 50 to start the whole process again.

  • I really don’t see any parallel between one of our MP’s promising to vote with the government on Brexit and the party making the tuition fee pledge. One was party policy, one involves a single MP putting their constituents (or themselves) above their party and/or country.

  • Firstly, I think this is a better letter than the one written by James Baillie and signed by some Federal Committee members calling on the whip to be withdrawn from Stephen Lloyd as it tries to persuade Stephen to take a different action. (The first MP I would withdraw the whip from would be Alistair Carmichael [because of his actions as Scottish Secretary] followed by all our MPs who voted for the increase in tuition fees.)

    There are two other points I wish to make. Edmund Burke lost his Bristol seat in 1780 after stating he believed that an MP should vote on their judgment and not according to the majority view of their constituents. With a majority of only 1609, it is likely that if Stephen Lloyd had not made his promise to not support a second referendum and to support the Brexit deal he would not have got elected. To break that promise is likely to mean he will lose his seat at the next general election. I think he should keep the promise he made to his electorate even though I think he should not have made such a promise and I wouldn’t have made it.

  • Sadly whatever Lib Dem MPs do is unlikely to be crucial. The nation’s fate is in the hands of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I had this wild fantasy that they might adopt a “Stuff the Tories, stay in the EU” line. A local Labour activist assured me that this would have resonance with some of their northern voters but it may be too subtle!

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Nov '18 - 2:53pm

    I agree with Chris Bertram. It’s vital that there is an independent poll in Eastbourne to see if people have changed their minds in the present circumstances. Stephen would then be quite justified in changing his mind if he thinks the present deal would be deleterious to his constituency.
    We oldies have to remember that there are many new members in the party who have joined because we’re the only party offering opposition to Brexit. When Vince and Tim missed a vote due to parliamentary procedures there was a great deal of upset. If one of our MPs votes with the government new members will not understand and quite a few will resign. In fact, I think it could finish us off. It’s the only thing that most people know about us and this is our opportunity to break through the post Coalition morass we find ourselves in.
    The country is polarising into extreme right and extreme left with no one doing what is best for the people. Please can we be united around the one thing that many people are hoping against hope that we can achieve.

  • paul barker 20th Nov '18 - 4:45pm

    Over The Century since Liberalism was a major force in British Politics, we have survived partly by acting more like a loose alliance of Independents. If we are ever going to break back into the mainstream then we need to move to being a real Party, organised round a clear program. That goes with building a Core Vote around shared Values.
    Inevitably we are going to lose people along the way, including some of our present MPs & probably, most of our current Peers.
    Hopefully we will gain People from other Parties as well.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Nov '18 - 5:26pm

    “One was party policy, one involves a single MP putting their constituents (or themselves) above their party and/or country.” More to the point, many people voted for us in 2010 because of the tuition fee pledge, and there is no suggestion that they had changed their minds, nor that the politics of higher-education funding had changed between the election and our MPs breaking the pledge. So it was a fatal error when we were seen to be going back on the pledge.

    A promise is only as good as the thing being promised. So there is no intrinsic value in keeping a promise. The tuition fees promise was a big deal. But when Zac Goldsmith kept his pledge to resign over the Heathrow third runway, he lost the resulting by-election, squandering a majority of 23,015. One possible reason is that the promise itself was of little value; his vanity gesture achieved nothing for the cause of stopping the third runway, but just caused an unnecessary election. And, of course, we were able to turn it into an election about Brexit.

    So whether Eastbourne’s voters give Stephen Lloyd any credit for keeping his pledge really will depend on what they themselves think about the deal (so, +1 from me for a constituency opinion poll on it). They are not going to say that it’s good that he keeps his word even if it’s not what they support. Voters aren’t so deontological. “I was against the Poll Tax, but the government was wrong to break its manifesto promise by abolishing it,” said no-one at all.

  • I’m not exactly thrilled about Stephen’s position, but I would not support any kind of disciplinary action. He made a pledge to his voters and I understand why he wants to honour that. For him to renege would give the Eastbourne Tories a gift they don’t deserve. For us to punish him for sticking to his word would not be a good look. It’s not an ideal situation but I think letting him honour his pledge is the way to go.
    I’d be less forgiving about any of our other MPs though, who haven’t made such a specific pledge. Hopefully those rumours aren’t true.

  • marcstevens 20th Nov '18 - 6:34pm

    I can’t understand why any opposition MPs would support May’s deal. Most Leavers are against it as are most Remainers so the likelihood of it getting through is very low and therefore it’s incumbent on any opposition MP to do their job as an opposition party and oppose it. Mr Lloyd would be in step with his constituents if he were to do so, whether they voted Leave or Remain.

  • There is always the option of resigning his seat and calling a by election. Think about the message: “18 months ago I promised you that I would honour the referendum and vote for whatever Brexit deal the government brought. But 18 months is a long time; we now know that this deal – and Brexit in general – is now such a mess that I can’t vote for it, and yet I can’t honourably vote against it. Therefore I am asking you to release me from that pledge. Vote for me and I will fight to stop Brexit. Or if you really want this deal or a hard Brexit, vote Tory.”
    It would become a Brexit by election. Imagine the Greens and maybe some Labour MPs backing him, and celebs like Gary Lineker and JK Rowling. I think he’d win easily and it could be a big boost to the party and also to the Peoples Vote campaign.
    Just a thought. 🙂

  • Whilst I profoundly disagree with the stance that Stephen Lloyd has taken on Brexit and believe that he demonstrated highly questionable judgement in making the specific election pledges that he apparently did, I feel that (having done so) he has left himself with virtually no room for manoeuvre. Surely, however, he should have realised the potential political implications of the promises that he was making at the time. Not to have done so seems somewhat naive, to say the least.

    If Stephen Lloyd had merely pledged to respect the result of the 2016 referendum, he would have had ample scope to argue that the May/Barnier deal fails to deliver what his constituents voted for or that circumstances have changed, etc – but, as reported by Catherine Jane Crosland above, it seems that he went much further than that … by promising “that he would not do anything to stop Brexit, that he would vote against holding a second referendum, and that he would vote for whatever deal Theresa May managed to make with the EU”. In these circumstances, regrettable as they clearly are, I feel that he really has no alternative but to uphold his personal integrity – by honouring the somewhat rash promises that he made to his own electorate.

  • Andrew Tampion 20th Nov '18 - 7:38pm

    I can help thinking that some of the commentators on this artcle might do well to read and reflect on Gordon Lishman’s article A Better Quality of Debate posted a1.30pm today

  • marcstevens 20th Nov '18 - 8:04pm

    But many of us don’t come to debate but to comment so perhaps we need another article.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Nov '18 - 8:11pm

    “resigning his seat and calling a by election” NO NO NO!!!! We would lose the resulting by-election, because voters would see it as an unnecessary election. Look what happened to Zac Goldsmith.

  • David Warren 20th Nov '18 - 10:23pm

    I agree we don’t want a byelection.

    Not only would there be a risk it would lost to the Tories but it would also highlight an issue that is really an internal one for the party.

  • Ian Hurdley 21st Nov '18 - 8:43am

    ‘Democracy’ is a prevalent subject of argument (I won’t call it debate because there is much asserting and precious little listening) on social media right now, almost all of it focusing on the 2016 referendum. It has become a talisman. Now we have another talisman; party loyalty. Stephen Lloyd stands accused of putting his promise to his constituents above his loyalty to the Party. This is a bit rich given that we are actively encouraging Tory MPs to defy their own party and follow their conscience. Likewise, although it is hard to discern Labour’s policy, we praise those of their MPs who support our own position. They are praised for their principles whilst Stephen is traduced. That is not democracy. No party is a monolith. Members will share the broad aims of a party, whilst disagreeing with some of the elements making up the overall aims. Accepting that and seeing it as legitimate is part of the complex concept that is democracy.
    I disagree with Stephen Lloyd but I accept his right to make that choice and to keep his promise.

  • Stephen Lloyd, like most of the Labour members regards keeping his job/seat as the priority thereby betraying his constituents. Simple really

  • Alex Macfie 21st Nov '18 - 9:06am

    JoeB: IMHO a more principled stand is to vote for what you actually believe is in the best interest of your constituents, rather than to stand by a promise made in the heat of an election campaign, especially when the politics of the issue on which the promise was based have changed to radically since the election. To those who say that given our history our representatives can’t afford to be seen to be “breaking promises”, I refer you to my previous comments demonstrating that keeping an election promise is not an automatic election-winner. It all depends on whether the voters care enough, and agree in principle with the promise that was made. It would be perfectly honourable for Stephen Lloyd to publicly admit his error in making the promise he made (but please, not the way Nick Clegg did). The main lesson of the tuition fees fiasco is politicians should never make promises that leave them hostages to fortune.

  • He promised it, he has to deliver. What bit of ‘tuition fees’ do those suggesting the contrary not recall.

  • Ian Hurdley 21st Nov '18 - 9:25am

    @Brian D Do you have evidence of that, or is it simply your opinion?

  • @Ian Hurdley. Absolutely spot on -especially your point about praising MP’s from other Parties who are prepared to rebel (because they agree with us) but condemning a Lib Dem MP who is also prepared to ‘rebel’ (because we don’t agree with him). It has the same intellectual and logical consistency as saying that there absolutely must not be a Second Referendum in Scotland but that there absolutely must be one on the EU.

    @Charis Pollard. Actually this issue has only been such a ‘big piece of our branding’ very recently. I was in the Parliamentary Party for 9 years and discussions about the EU only ever took up a very small fraction of our Parliamentary Party meetings and indeed of our campaigning as a nationwide Political Party (over my 35 years of active membership). Indeed some of the Euro enthusiasts in our membership used to regularly complain precisely because we did not put the EU front and centre of all our election campaigns. This was in the days when we elected 62 MP’s, 14 MEP’s, 4,500 Cllrs and successfully took part in Government in the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

    Personally I think that turning ourselves into a near single issue Party for the last two and half years has been a grave mistake. Are we indeed a single issue pressure group content to answer every question on every issue with a Dalek like monotone answer of ‘There must be a People’s Vote’? Even at the most basic tactical level enthusiasts for that approach surely have to admit that it has not brought the flood of Remain voters that we were told would ensue?

  • The most common question in any approval system is ‘are there any policies you disagree with’ It’s inconceivable that Stephen was approved without his views being known so I think he’s entitled to respect for them

    And of course follows in the footsteps of Nick Harvey in dissenting from the party line on Europe (Nick opposed the Maastrict treaty)

    It may be a question as to why the party approved a candidate who didn’t back the main policy pledge of the party but I suspect ‘because he can win’ will have trumped such secondary considerations.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Nov '18 - 9:06am

    Paul Holmes: We are not a single-issue party. But we do have a distinctive stance on the current #1 UK political issue. We don’t often get opportunities to be heard in the media, and when we do, it tends to be on Brexit. But this does not mean we don’t have policies on other things.
    I think that hankering after our glorious past is a mistake. The politics of 2018 is not the politics of the Charles Kennedy era, and what worked for us then would not necessarily work now. The EU wasn’t a big part of our campaigning because it wasn’t a big part of the public political debate back then. Save for a few people on what was then considered a Eurosceptical fringe, the EU was largely taken for granted.
    I’m under no illusion that anything is going to bring a “flood” of voters to us. Rebuilding our support after the 2015 debacle will take time, and there is no quick fix that will change that. But to rebuild our support, we have to capitalise on our current USPs (including our stance on Brexit) and use these to build a core vote. One mistake we definitely made before the Clegg era was not to get ourselves a core vote, and this is why we were so vulnerable in the Coalition and the mistakes made therein.

  • Paul Holmes 22nd Nov '18 - 1:58pm

    Alex, I have seen you make this comment (what worked then won’t necessarily work now) several times. Can you elaborate on exactly what you mean?

    Could you also elaborate on how ‘we get ourselves a Core Vote’ as you put it? How long will it take to build one? Will concentrating on one narrow version of a ‘Core Vote’ actually deter even more voters than it attracts? How in a FPTP system can any Party ever win just on the basis of a narrow Core Vote? Do you see any signs of success so far in the Core Vote strategy of the last two and a half years? After all we are still stuck at an average 7.5% in the Opinion Polls, the Brexit GE of 2017 saw our vote fall even lower than in the utter disaster of 2015 and we didn’t exactly sweep the board in May’s elections in Remainer London.

    There is an interesting article on Conservative Home today from a Conservative in Devon explaining how they have recently discovered that a good route to winning is to knock on doors and find out/campaign on what voters are concerned about! Meanwhile he says Labour and Lib Dems campaigned on Brexit and lost in their last two by elections. Perhaps, after all, there is still something to be said for the ‘out of date’ approach that saw us only recently gain our greatest level of electoral representation (at all levels) for almost a century.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Nov '18 - 4:09pm

    Further to my comment on a motion of no confidence, it appears that I was correct in assuming there would be 14 days for a new government to be formed before a GE is called if TM was to lose such a vote. In today’s Guardian there is an article saying that the current Labour strategy is to oppose the TM plan and, assuming it is lost, then to go for a motion of no confidence. The article assumes Jeremy Corbyn would try and form a government, though it would, of course be open to the Conservatives to seek new partners, although I can’t see any willing parties available.
    Whatever Mr Lloyd finally decides to do about Brexit, I assume all our 12 MPs would be present and would vote for a motion of no confidence. I would also expect that the party are making contingency plans for such a General Election, because we do need both a strategy and a manifesto for such an event.
    Maybe we need another thread on how we should fight another early election!

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Nov '18 - 4:59pm

    Paul Holmes: What on earth makes you think I *don’t* think we should be knocking on doors and discovering and campaigning on what voters are concerned about? Or that we haven’t been doing this recently? It is certainly what we were doing in Kingston and Twickenham & Richmond earlier this year, and one of the answers that came back was “Brexit”. Another in Kingston was the mismanagement of the Council by the (then) ruling Tory group. I’m well aware of the need to campaign locally thank you very much. We are actually a bit higher than 7.5% on average now, but the reason, as I’m sure you know full well, is that in most localities voters have forgotten we even exist. And as we get so little airtime in the national media, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference what sort of national strategy we had. The way we have to get our message across, including to our potential voters, is locally. It’s not either/or. It’s both.
    As for the 2017 election, our poll ratings were rising up until the Tim Farron gay sex/sin row became the biggest thing about us. Again, this would have been the same regardless of what we were campaigning about nationally.
    What I mean by “what worked then won’t necessarily work now” is nothing to do with campaigning locally, but that the national politics were different then, for instance:
    * The EU wasn’t much of an issue in 2005 for most voters. It very definitely is now.
    * It was the “New Labour” era, and we could out-radical Labour on many issues. Now that we have a Labour Party dominated by the hard left, this makes no sense.
    * We hadn’t been in coalition with the Tories.
    * We can no longer be a repository for generalised protest voters, as there are many other options available now.
    How would a core vote strategy fits in with FPTP? As I said we work locally to get our message across to potential core voters. Also I do not expect our potential core voters are evenly spread throughout the country. Labour and the Tories have their core votes, in both cases geographically concentrated.
    What we cannot do is blow conflicting dog-whistles aimed at different groups of voters. Labour may be able to get away with this cynical strategy, as they are doing on Brexit. We cannot.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Nov '18 - 5:59pm

    David Raw. Stephen Lloyd promised to support Brexit. He didn’t I think promise to support TM if she has been defeated in a vote in the HoC.
    I cannot really believe that Mr Lloyd has any confidence in this shambles of a government. That isn’t why he says he’s voting for Brexit.
    Whilst I think it will be hard for the party to forgive him if his Brexit vote proved the decisive one, I think it would be completely unacceptable and unforgivable if he voted against a motion of no confidence.

  • I wish people would stop saying this nonsense about us being a ‘single issue party’. Brexit is clearly the biggest issue of the day so it would be odd if we didn’t talk about it. Also, we have a distinctive position on it – and an increasingly popular one. But aside from all that, the fact is you can’t talk about any other policy issue /without/ talking about Brexit. It is going to wreck our economy – which means it impacts on jobs, wages, inflation and growth. That economic downturn will hit investment in schools, hospitals, trains, and welfare benefits. Meanwhile EU nationals are leaving in droves, which is emptying our hospitals, leisure sector and agricultural areas of workers they all rely on; and the fabric of our constitution is under threat in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
    Idea for a parlour game: pick a policy area, any policy area, and see how long you can talk about it without hesitation, repetition or mentioning Brexit.

  • Paul Holmes 23rd Nov '18 - 1:14pm

    Alex, you and I can at least agree that the Coalition disaster has dramatically changed our electoral prospects for the worse and that there is going to be no ‘magic bullet’ rush of Remain voters switching to us to transform our electoral fortunes.

    I very much part company with you however on your advocacy of the Core Vote strategy.I note you did not try to answer my question as to how long it would take to create this supposedly ‘loyal Core Vote’ or how many other voters, without whom we can never win under FPTP, would actually be deterred from supporting us if we concentrate on marketing ourselves to this supposed Core Vote.

    Let’s recall that the Core Vote strategy envisages us concentrating our campaigning, resources and policies on the issues that appeal to the Urban, educated, middle classes. Well that rules out most Constituencies in the UK then, where such a grouping simply does not exist in large enough numbers to allow for electoral success. Not that I, for one, would want to be a member of any Party, whatever its electoral success, that framed itself in such narrow terms.

  • “We are actually a bit higher than 7.5% on average now”

    Barely. The trend does not look good – the gentle uptick since the Spring has been largely reversed.

  • Neil Sandison 24th Nov '18 - 8:56am

    Stephen Lloyd is an elected representative of his constituency and not a mindless party robot who slavishly has to comply to a particular supporters or fan club .Healthy debate from a non-conformist who takes a slightly different view should be welcome in a party that professes to come from the liberal tradition .You may disagree with his view point but you should defend his right to be different.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Nov '18 - 9:33am

    Paul Holmes: The idea of a “rush of Remain voters switching to us to transform our electoral fortunes” is yours not mine. Its fundamental flaw is the same as that of the idea that voters are rejecting us because of our opposition to Brexit. It assumes that voters (i) are aware of our policy on Brexit, and (ii) are aware we exist at all. Our fundamental problem is that outside areas where we are firmly established, voters don’t know we exist, because much of the national media ignores us (while talking up UKIP, whose current electoral position, in terms of actual votes in actual elections, is much more dire than ours). If we seem to keep banging on about Brexit (which is only the case if you are paying attention to politics and to us in particular), this is because the only way we can remind voters (those who don’t pay much attention to politics) we do actually exist and have a point is talk about our policy at every opportunity. We have to assume that no-one else is going to do it for us.
    Also you misunderstand the concept of a core vote. It would be a floor, not a ceiling of our level of support. I don’t pretend that it can be achieved quickly, but the point of it is that our support is not so likely to collapse like a house of cards as it did in 2015.

  • Neil Sandison 24th Nov ’18 – 8:56am……………Stephen Lloyd is an elected representative of his constituency and not a mindless party robot who slavishly has to comply to a particular supporters or fan club .Healthy debate from a non-conformist who takes a slightly different view should be welcome in a party that professes to come from the liberal tradition .You may disagree with his view point but you should defend his right to be different……………….

    It’s amazing how ‘differences’ in the Tory/Labour parties are signs of ‘disunity and confusion’ whilst differences in our’s are………..?

  • Expats – It’s amazing how pro Remain rebels in Cons/Lab are noble, principled etc etc whereas a LD MP saying he will keep his clear commitment to his constituents is, according to many of the same people who praise Con/Lab rebels, all that is bad and should have the Whip withdrawn.

  • Alex, I never said that it was ‘your’ idea. But it has certainly been put forward by many.

    Just look back at LD Voice from June 2016 onwards. It used to be that every Council by election gain or vote increase was lauded as evidence of precisely that happening. Even though, as in the case of Chesterfield’s three gains from Labour between Dec 2016 and Oct 2018 they were gains in Leave voting areas and Brexit played no role whatsoever in those campaigns (or rather UKIP’s attempts in that respect failed miserably each time). Likewise with the Tupton gain in NE Derbyshire in Autumn 2016.

    No I don’t think I have misunderstood the Core Vote prospectus. You still have not answered the question as to how many non Core Voters will be deterred by a purist Core Vote approach designed to create a loyal base drawn from the urban, educated, middle class . No Party, especially a Fourth Party of UK politics, can win more than an odd seat under FPTP with just a small Core Vote -just look at say the Greens or indeed UKIP performance in FPTP elections.

    I am also intrigued by the notion of this Core Vote who will remain loyal through thick and thin. So if we fought an election on being pro EU and open border migration but in Government immediately afterwards implemented and advocated the exact opposite (as we did over Tuition Fees for example) -would we then seriously expect our Core Vote to remain loyal? It is fantasy.

  • The core vote is an interesting topic in itself. On Stephen Lloyd, I think very few people are criticising him personally or suggesting he should not be able to hold a view different to party policy. I don’t think withdrawing the whip would be appropriate but I can see a reasoned argument why it could be.

    As for wanting other MP’s to vote with us, I don’t think there’s anything underhand or hypocritical about wanting other party MP’s to vote with us but not wanting our own to vote against us.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '18 - 6:30am

    Paul Holmes: Tuition fees is not a good example because there, we signed a pledge promoted by a special interest group for short-term political gain. This is the exact opposite of a core vote strategy; it was naked populism.

  • Richard Underhill. 30th Oct '19 - 9:01am

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