An opinion piece

Both the Tories and Labour have a dominant elected represented presence across the UK on many different bodies. Because of their current dominance, people almost expect that they should be represented. Such prevalence has allowed some poor performance, by these parties, to be masked/accepted as the public find it difficult to see beyond, what has become, their own basic political norms.

The Lib Dems message is not being heard. We live in a liberal country that has liberal values, a liberal outlook on life and politics, and there is one real party that represents those values – the Liberal Democrats. We can’t get aligned with these dominate traits that the voters live by. You do have to ask the question why?

I am not going to go off on some socio-political anthropologically discussion, simply as I am not qualified to do so. But I do want to look at why we are not being heard or are more relevant across the country.

There are many reasons – not enough reach in the ethnic minority’s communities – yes OK, we have rightly supported more women candidates in the party for internal and external positions (although I would say where we have replaced white middle-class men, in most cases, with white middle-class women and not women who are care workers, single mothers, from working-class families etc.), we don’t have any traction in urban housing estates and so on.

I am concerned that we lack a cohesive vision that scales parishes to parliament. I view this as analogous to a football club. You are not doing well, so you bring in a new manager, maybe throw money at the problem and expect changes to happen and glory to be won. This doesn’t always work because you have inherent problems with your base. And, I feel that we as a party are not focused enough on local government. If we ever want to have a solid parliamentary party we can, I believe, really only have that if we have a robust and broad base of councillors across the country, that feed and secures parliamentary seats.

We have around 2,500 councillors in England out of about 17,000. Our focus should be in all intervening years when we are not fighting general elections, is to win more council seats. We should look to develop a comprehensive state, regional and local plans that are backed by the Federal party to win controls in towns, cities and counties. I know that many will say that is what we are doing and that this is our aspirations, but I am not convinced that we have a top-down commitment to do this. To achieve stated numbers of seats that are supported and followed up if they don’t hit the target, it’s just not there. We do have good elements of support and training but nothing is strategically coordinated.

The strength of the Tories and Labour lies in them having around 12000 councillors – they are the ones who are supporting communities up and down the country. Consequently, they reap the rewards of this when it comes to general elections. We have the advantage that as a party we share liberal values with most voters and it’s time that greater focus and party resource are made available for an ambitious expansion to secure a much larger Lib Dem councillor representation across the country. This will help us to better support our communities, our liberal values and achieve our parliamentary ambitions.


* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jul '20 - 12:46pm

    Tahir as usual, when he writes, is sensible and helpful.

    Tahir, what do we do in areas dominated by a reasonably popular usually mainstream Labour party, whether mediocre or better?

    In Nottingham, Labour win most seats even when our party put up terrific candidates who are working to win!

    A pact?

  • Paul Holmes 22nd Jul '20 - 1:49pm

    I agree with a lot of what you say here Tahir. Two points though:

    Firstly: Many areas of the UK are like the area I have lived in for the last 41 years. They are not Conservative facing constituencies/Council areas, with a largely educated, professional, middle class population who voted Remain in 2016. As such we do not fit the Core Vote profile that the Party’s Core Vote Strategy has concentrated on in recent years. In fact the key campaign messages of recent years have done much to actively alienate voters in such areas. Yet only a little over 10 years ago my local area had a Lib Dem MP, 38 out of 48 Borough Cllrs and 5 out of 9 County Cllrs. If the national party strategy continues to be based upon the idea that these were the ‘wrong sort of voters in the wrong sort of constituency’ how will we ever again hope to become a nationally relevant instead of a niche Party?

    Secondly: I agree with your suggestion that national and regional effort should be put into growing our Council base all over the country. A point also made in the Thornhill report, by both Leadership contenders and in recent internal Party Webinars I have taken part in. Indeed more or less every Leadership and Presidential contender for the 37 years I have been a member has said much the same. As yet however I have never seen such sentiment actually turn into reality. The 2021 County Council elections for example are now only 10 months away. Locally we had our key candidates in place and campaigning by Jan 2020 and after the Lockdown pause we started up again in June. No sign as yet of any practical national party input though. Usually the only source of such help is from the ALDC administered G8 scheme and we have not even heard from them this year.

  • Very common sense article. However, the phrase “top-down commitment to do this” jumped out of the page at me: Top-down is what brought us to near extinction in 2015.
    We need a more devolved structure in which the membership takes back control.

  • Nigel Jones 22nd Jul '20 - 2:27pm

    Paul, I agree. It looks as though the party is going to target Conservative facing seats, whoever is leader, since that is where we came closest to winning in 2019 GE. But in the long-term, we must also work at Labour areas, though my area is one that has steadily gone from hugely Labour supporting to Conservative supporting and I do not think this is only because of Brexit. Conservatives have worked for at least 15 years at local elections and won, even though some of them do very little in their local wards.The new Tory MPs are playing a careful game by giving out friendly messages to everyone, painting a positive picture of government, not saying what they really think or want to do and people are attracted by that friendliness. That is akin to the cheerful manner of Boris, which definitely attracts support.

  • Tahir Maher Tahir Maher 22nd Jul '20 - 2:50pm

    Lorenzo – you are right in many areas we are effectively obsolete because over the years we have not been able to build an infrastructure. What I hear most from the parliamentary party is that they want to win more seats in Westminster (unless you challenge them and talk about the importance of winning councils – they say yes of course, off course!!) there is nothing wrong with that – my assertion is that we can really only do that if we have a large number of councillors. We can’t keep relying on :”Penny in a pound” – Brexit etc – we have to be what we profess to be: a party of community politics. Strategically – that means we need to increase our Cllr. base so that we do support our communities and I believe that our success there will give the Federal party what they need – more MPs

    John – I agree with your comment. But we need a Strategic vision that has to encompass the organisation. So a stronger state/region and Federal party are all moving in the same direction, but at different pace. We are currently (all due respect) a bit all over the place. Hence, why we need clearly vision and direction – without that you can’t lead.

    Nigel – As a party that wants to be taken seriously nationally – we need to work more in working class areas. Look at the Tories they breeched the red wall in Lancashire/Yorkshire why? because voters didn’t feel that they we being heard and being taken advantage of. Why are we not woking in these communities to to support them and over a period of time build something of value there.

    The key for me is time. This is something we are not allowed to have as we want immediate wins. Somewhere along the line we need to take a long term view and build for the future (still address the immediate) and thus allocate resource to that i.e. have a strategic vision / plan.

  • “We live in a liberal country that has liberal values, a liberal outlook on life and politics.”
    I agree with your statement. You wonder why the voters do not follow through by voting for the party.

    There are several reasons. An important one has been Brexit and the refusal to accept the democratic result. But let us put that to one side.

    As the writer points out, most voters regard equality, freedom of speech, human rights and a whole range of similar values as desirable, common sense attributes. They realise all is not well when obvious breaches of these take place but they do not think consciously about how liberal they are all of the time, or even any of the time.

    Activism, whether liberal, socialist or green, is often a big turn off.

  • Michael Bukola 22nd Jul '20 - 4:28pm

    Let us not waste this opportunity to rebuild the Party the right way instead of falling foul to political opportunism just for the want of achieving public office. Let us learn from our mistakes of clutching-on like “Little Caesars” to our patches of land. sometimes “Caesarism” is only temporary starving off of deeper currents. Sometimes, it can lead, through successive variations, to the formation of a new type of state. We must rebuild with integrity, in line with our values and not -by appealing to NIMBY’s in the Tory shires who will vote for us locally but not Nationally.

  • richard underhill 22nd Jul '20 - 5:30pm

    Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jul ’20 – 12:46pm
    “what do we do in areas dominated by a reasonably popular usually mainstream Labour party?”
    Work with them, as in Scotland, towards more agreement in Westminster, less hostility, and an agreed programme of constitutional reform, including electoral reform, even reform of the House of Lords, as Labour promised in 1997, including the heirs of Peers who owned slaves.

  • I am unclear what our message is. Have we actually got one? What do we stand for, whatever it was appears to have been lost in the intricacies , nuances and errors of the coalition. Not sure we will ever recover.
    PS Remember, when we had 62 MPs, 6,000 Councillors, what was the message then, maybe worth repeating, providing the cuts/tuition fees of the Coalition can be avoided, highly unlikely..

  • richard underhill 22nd Jul '20 - 5:48pm

    We know that Murdoch is not a Monarchist, so may I draw attention to The Times today, page 27. A small figure who looks like Boris Al Johnson is holding a file labelled ISC Russia Report. He is saying “We honestly didn’t know … I thought he was Winnie the Pooh”
    The other figure is a large brown bear with long sharp talons, a hostile expression and a cap with a red star. There are at least a dozen insects flying around the bear.
    So, “Buy prints or signed copies of Times cartoons at
    or call 020 7711 7826”
    Unless Boris goes balder in the next 4-5 years this cartoon would still amuse at the next general election, he is unlikely to develop more common sense than he has now.
    At PMQ on 22/7/2020 he answered a Tory MP by offering her a game of Pooh Sticks.

  • Peter, there was nothing democratic about brexit

  • richard underhill 22nd Jul '20 - 5:55pm

  • Great stuff Tahir. I shall whisper this only once. The House of Commons is given far more respect than it deserves by most politicians and most of the media. In its composition, constitution and culture it is a sclerotic institution generating multiple blockages to radical change. I am not possessed of a pro-pact temperament – apart from the single issue one-off pact needed to change the way MPs get elected. Yes in my area we did work furiously to get an MP for one term in a Labour facing constituency, but to his credit he recognised the profound shortcomings of Westminster. In fairness, we saw the House of Commons at its best towards the end of the last Parliament when opposition MPs came together with remarkable discipline dragging some power away from the executive. It would be good if that brief period could be seen more widely as a hint that things could be done differently with votes in the House of Commons actually worth something.

  • Nigel Jones 22nd Jul '20 - 6:34pm

    Geoff, I take it from your comment about Parliament that we (including our MPs) should spend more time on local campaigning, thinking for the long-term, rather than simply reacting to the situation in government and Parliament.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jul '20 - 8:15pm

    “We live in a liberal country that has liberal values…….etc”. Not where I live, Mr Maher. By the way, just what IS “the Lib Dems(sic) message”? It would appear to depend on where you live. Sorry to be so negative; but haven’t the Lib Dems been here before?

  • The problem with being a party of local government is that all the serious lifting on the economy, education, health is done in Westminster. That is where the policies which will make or break peoples lives are made. If success in local elections is a stepping stone to national power, then fine, but as goal in itself, not so sure.

  • richard underhill 23rd Jul '20 - 9:01am

    PMQ today. Boris Johnson insults Keir Starmer.
    Keir Starmer says that Boris should have noticed that the Labour Party is under new management Boris refers to Russia Today, a tv station containing Moscow sentiments.
    Keir Starmer says that since he became Labour leader no Labour front bencher has appeared on Russia Today. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn posts his views on Facebook.
    Channel 4 News reports that Jeremy Corbyn is no longer a front bench spokesman.
    We can conclude that a Tory – Labour coalition is unlikely and that Labour needs friends (not including the SNP). Jeremy Corbyn’s performance includes supporting the timing of a general election which he was likely to lose, which, according to Private Eye, he did.
    We should consider our strategic options BEFORE we choose a leader. An alliance with Newer Labour should be seriously considered.
    Neither of us agree with the Tories under their current leadership, although what the Chancellor is doing is interesting, and what the Home Secretary says she will do is also interesting.
    Quick Quiz: Who said? and when?
    “I do know Jeremy Corbyn, because when Labour was in power he was often in the same lobby as us”.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jul '20 - 9:18am

    As usual, Chris Cory nails it! Because local government, as presently constituted, is viewed as unimportant by both government and large sections of the public, until, that is, there is unpleasant work to be done. Power still resides largely in the centre, or rather, in our lopsided country, in the Southeast, to be more precise. As I know from my own experience, it’s much easier to win at local level because, for those many of people, who do take their local council seriously and actually vote, selecting the person or the team that really makes an effort is often more important than voting for a party. That was often the clear message I used to get on the doorstop in my campaigning days.

    As Chris says, it’s the next step that proves most difficult. As I said, we have been here before. What any party that is really interested in spreading democracy should be focusing on should is making sure that real power, and that has got to mean the power to tax locally free from central interference, is devolved from the centre. When local government has real power, parties like the Lib Dems would have a chance to being part of decisions that could really have an impact on people’s lives and, by their actions, prove worthy of moving to a bigger stage.

  • Sue Sutherland 23rd Jul '20 - 1:19pm

    I’m concerned that Tahir finds it necessary to write this article as I can’t believe that anyone would think we can win more Westminster seats without increasing our Councillor base. Apart from the good work they do for local people they are often the way that we build up campaigning teams. People who now say I’ll vote for you at local level but not at a general election have been known to change their minds.
    A lot of people, including myself, are concerned that we have lost our appeal to working class voters. Of course we have. Our policies have put us in opposition to their wishes, first by adopting austerity and then by opposing Brexit.
    One of the problems we had when we actually had over 60 MPs was that we lacked a vision for the kind of society we wanted to create and so were unable to break through the discussion about whether we were a left or right leaning party. I’d like to suggest that we’re a party of communities, of working together for the good of all, rather than adopting the competitive policies of the Tories and Labour. At a local level we are popular when we practise community politics but we have failed to do so at a national level even though the same principles apply. Let’s show people what should really be meant by “Take back control”.

  • @ Tahir Maher “– you are right in many areas we are effectively obsolete because over the years we have not been able to build an infrastructure”. Have you ever asked yourself why that is the case, Tahir ?

    Has it ever occurred to you that the failure to ‘build an infrastructure’ might just have something to do with the perceived failure of Liberal Democrats to put into practice (or defend) that which they preached and actually achieved when they have an opportunity to do so, especially between 2010-15 ?

    And could it be that many Liberal Democrats have in recent years tended to focus on minority personal issues of little or no interest to the vast majority of the population ?

    People are attracted to an ‘infrastructure’ when it is demonstrably successful in achieving its stated objectives and values. In your analogy with football, dear old Accrington Stanley and Barrow AFC are living proof of that, and how Joe Bourke’s metropolitan wonders Brentford do after their mauling by little old Barnsley last night remains to be seen.

  • Do I detect a cry of anguish about the poor state of Lib Demery in the article? If so, I agree but the reasons for that are unclear as is what might reasonably be done about them.

    I’m currently reading David Goodhart’s ‘The Road to Somewhere’ (highly recommended BTW) which identifies two value-based tribes. The ‘Anywheres’, aka the exam-passing classes, are mostly educated, usually mobile and have ‘achieved’ identities as a result of their education and career success such as doctor or marketig director. The ‘Somewheres’ are more rooted and have ‘ascribed’ identities such as working class or Geordie or ‘Left behind’.

    The Lib Dems are overwhelmingly Anywheres but many Anywheres vote for other parties. Goodhart estimates them to comprise 20-25% of the population with the Somewheres at around 50%. (The rest are ‘Inbetweeners’.)

    So, while attitudes (including Somewheres’) to non-traditional and non-mainstream groups and values have undoubtedly become more liberal in recent decades, it is NOT true that Britain is a ‘liberal country’ and Lib Dems need to think long and hard about how to appeal more widely.

    For example, in the Brexit debate Anywheres were in acute distress over the loss of mobility in the EU27 and the economic fallout etc. but that just didn’t wash in Sunderland where most have little mobility and experience little to no economic trickle down. As someone said, “That’s your economy”.

    This dangerous disconnect owes much to the grossly London-centric and top-down party management by apparatchiks – London being the one place (and the Westminster bubble even more so) where Anywheres dominate. Be that as it may, it suggests a picture of the Lib Dems as self-absorbed to the point of narcissism.

    So, the party must find a way to break out of that rut and engage with the people of Sunderland and the like. Hint 1: Move on from identity politics. Hint 2: “It’s the economy, stupid”.

    If the party can’t or won’t do that, it won’t survive (and won’t deserve to).

  • Peter Kenny 23rd Jul '20 - 4:46pm

    I think you’ve had a hearing and people didn’t like what you said, or what you did, enough to vote for you in numbers sufficient to win any more seats.

    I guess one problem is that it took you 60 years to go from near extinction to 60 MPs and many of you probably hope you can get a load back quickly. There’s this idea of the stages of grief, isn’t there? So your position in 2019 was Denial, for sure – where have you got to now? Bargaining?

  • Paul Holmes 23rd Jul '20 - 7:31pm

    @David Raw. Your point about the effect of 2010-2015 is highly relevant. With 60% of our current Members being new since 2015 it is not surprising that many of them regard the current dire situation as ‘the norm’.In reality however the last time this was ‘normal’ was half a century ago in the 1960’s when the Liberal Party was struggling on the brink of extinction.

    By the 1990’s and 2000’s however we had built up to record postwar levels of elected representation at all levels from Council to Parliamentary. Chris Cory please note, the two go hand in hand and are mutually interdependent not mutually exclusive. In 2005 we elected 62 MP’s, our highest number for almost a century now, since 1922. Very few Lib Dem MP’s seats have ever been won without first having a strong local campaigning base which includes electing Cllrs. The utter folly of the June – Dec 2019 Target Seat debacle just confirmed on a large and very expensive scale what had already been proved over and over again since 1945.

    But in just 5 short years all the hard won success was comprehensively trashed in every set of elections held in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Recovery in the 5 years since has been non existent to very slow, not least because of the experiments in chasing new blocks of voters and new ways of doing things, as in Nick Clegg’s ‘Liberal Conservatives’, Mark Packs ‘Core Voters’ and Jo Swinson’s ‘Remainer’ landslide.

    The Thornhill Report recommended that we go back to the electoral campaigning methods that had been proven to work, that we make fine words about the importance of Local Government a reality and that we go back to mainstream campaigning on the issues that make up the every day priorities of most voters. If we do that there is still a chance that recovery can happen and that it will not take the half century or more that it did last time.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jul '20 - 7:56pm

    “I do know Jeremy Corbyn, because when Labour was in power he was often in the same lobby as us”

    A stopped clock is always right twice a day.

  • Good to have your comments, Paul, and congratulations on sticking at it.

    I wasn’t aware of the figures you quote, but they are instructive. It demonstrates how a great many people of my generation who fought and won (I was elected five times and never lost my seat) have had enough of what the Cleggistas turned this party into – and I don’t think Mr Maher understands this, or if he does he’s happy with it.

    It’s not what it was. I’m afraid the so called Centre Think Tank (all 25 of them) podcast with Ed Davey on Education today on LDV illustrates the point. Shirley Williams must be squirming with embarrassment at Mr Davey’s stance on selection.

    One really wonders what the point is……. maybe Tony Greaves can enlighten us ?

  • It was Vince Cable wot said it, Alex, and it was more often than twice a day as anybody who knows anything about the politics of the last 37 years would know……

    But, hey, what’s wrong with a bit of tabloid knocking copy generalisation if you can get away with it…It’s the Sun Wot Wun it, and,”will the last person to give up on the Lib Dems please turn out the lights” ?

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Jul '20 - 8:35pm

    Tahir, thank you for your insightful article which has provoked this interesting discussion. I felt you were so right to call for ‘state, regional and local plans which are backed by the Federal party’. There has been such disconnect between the centre and local parties, such misguided targetting, such chasing after groups of voters without connecting with the needs of everyone – the Thornhill report says it all and Paul Holmes has just reminded us of that. To old hands like myself it is obvious that we need to build up from the base everywhere.

    A hopeful aspect is that neither Tory nor Labour seats are as ‘safe’ as they were. In my own northern desert the Labour hegemony has become the present Tory one, so there is room for progress. A less hopeful element is the disillusionment of some members who were going to be activists but were put off by the last leadership and the awful GE campaign. Certainly we can’t just wait now for a new leader to raise us up – we need a strategy which involves every level of the party, and hard work from us all.

  • Paul Holmes 23rd Jul '20 - 8:36pm

    @Chris Cory. In part I have responded to your post in my reply above to David Raw.

    Building a local campaigning base has been essential to most of our MP’s who have been successfull. In my area, when I joined just after the 1983 election, we had no Cllrs, had been third at every General Election since WW2 and were capable of delivering leaflets in not quite one third of the Constituency. I had joined because of issues such as International Affairs (we were still in the midst of the Cold War), Human Rights and Constitutional reform plus opposition to Thatcherism and Bennite Labour. Other than writing letters to the local papers (todays version would be posting on social media) there was little we could practically achieve locally on such issues at that time. So I stood for Council in 1987, winning a Ward Labour had never ever previously lost and discovering a passion for local community politics a world away from from my grandiose motives for joining in 1983.

    By the 2000’s however we were running the Council with 75% of the Cllrs and I was the MP. Yet as I often pointed out to my colleague and friend who was so successfully leading the Council, he and his team were far more able than I was, to excercise more direct decision taking and leave a legacy that will in some cases still be benefitting our community decades later.

    The call for the Party to put serious help into building Cllr presence is not therefore only about helping get MP’s elected further down the line. Let’s face it, even at the 100 year height of our Parliamentary electoral success in 2005, the largest part of 600 out of 650 seats did not elect a Lib Dem MP. For the vast majority of our Local Parties their only real hope of electoral success over the next decade, at the very very least, is to win or start to win at a purely local level. Some of those new Cllrs might later go on be MP’s like the very good friends I made in Parliament such as Annette Brook, Patsy Calton, Richard Younger Ross, John Pugh, John Barrett, Sandra Gidley and others.

    Most will not though, but even in the seriously reduced state Con/Lab/Coalition Governments have left Local Government over recent decades, it remains a potent force for acting to the benefit of local communities. Certainly more potent than a handful of Opposition backbench MP’s.

  • Whilst there are more informed people than I, writing comments re Tahirs piece,I can find no mention that we build our partys base on the backs of people who are willing to go out for long periods delivering and talking to voters. But too many constituencies are failing to provide that drive,usually for the obvious reason they have limited resources. Suggestion: That regional parties set up a small team to visit each Constituency to ensure that local executives have a development plan to ensure a forward movement takes place. Being in a derilict area can be a lonely place but there are members who are not being asked to get involved

  • @Ruth Bright.
    In spite of your protests I suspect Tahir is right. If an organisation decides to replace a man in a senior position with a woman, everything we know about the way class works in this country tells us that woman is likely to be from a middle class background than a working class one. Nothing in the CVs of leading women in our party contradicts that view, though I have absolutely nothing against having a leader who went to Roedean. Of course nobody seems to be very interested in class analysis these days (heavens, I never thought I would hear myself say that !!).
    Incidentally, interested to know that you have an authentic Hampshire accent. As a resident of that fair county I have found that most people under 70 speak varieties of Estuary English, which has become ubiquitous west of a line between Salisbury and Cambridge. Can’t believe you had to go posh to get a seat to fight. Clearly we need to look at bias against regional accents in our UBT sessions.

  • @Gordon.
    Hard hitting stuff but pretty close to the truth. So people in Sunderland care more about the economy than intersectionality. Well who would have guessed. I fear however that in its present mood the party isn’t really that bothered about the problems of working class communities, containing as they do lots of unenlightened Brexity types.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Jul '20 - 9:50am

    @David Raw: If I were a Tory-leaning tabloid editor I would seek to tar Lib Dems with the same brush as Corbynistas. My point is that they are not the same, however often Lib Dems and the Labour left may have happened to share common ground in opposing a Labour government that was often more centre-right than centre-left.
    The “stopped clock” point is about the Labour left’s dogmatic single-tracked belief system, leaving no room for nuances or critical analysis, but which means they sometimes happen to agree with us. So, for instance, both Lib Dems and the Labour left opposed the second Iraq War. However, Lib Dems supported the first one (in 1990), which the Labour left also opposed. The difference is that the Labour left opposes all Western military intervention as a dogma, while Lib Dems opposed the Blair~Dubya Bush Iraq War because we thought that particular intervention would turn out badly, as it did — the Allies won the War but lost the peace. Lib Dems supported intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo, while there seems to be a strong attachment among Corbynistas to pro-Serbian conspiracy theories. Lib Dems condemned the Russian poisoning of the Skripals, while Corbyn appeared to sympathise with the conspiracy theory about it being a false-flag attack by the UK. Lib Dems were the first to propose giving UK passports to Hong Kong Chinese, while Corbynistas are too attached to the Red Flag to express genuine sympathy for victims of Chinese repression. Lib Dems condemn misogyny, homophobia and repression by regimes like Iran; Corbyn has appeared uncritically on its TV station.

    We Lib Dems just have a different world view from Corbynite Labour left, and this is not changed just because we happen to agree on specific issues. And Vince is certainly aware of that as well.

  • Tahir should have identified the regional issue here. We were both once members of the same regional executive. Regional support is often focused on the constituencies we hope to win in a general election. Regions often target support to those areas where we already had lots of councillors. Local election support is given to areas where we were close to taking control of the council. When I tried to get my region to provide support for weaker local parties there was no enthusiasm. I wanted people from those areas where we are strong to go to the areas where we are weak to work those areas. This would mean canvassing in a few the better wards in these areas but with little expectation of winning that election. It would mean getting people to help in those wards after the election to recruit members and it might mean providing this support for years until the local party has enough members to put candidates up in every seat up for election and enough supporters to deliver more than the wards they hold.

    In England the Federal Party could provide support for target constituencies and Regional Parties provide support to Local Parties to build a council base not to win control of councils. ALDC have often provided support to these council areas.

    I believe that it is understood that over the years when a constituency is a target seat that members would try to increase the number of our councillors in the area. It might be easier for areas which elect by thirds than those areas who have all-district elections every four years and all-out county election once also every four years. Those areas with a unitary council who have all-out elections only get local elections every four years! This must make building up our council base a slow process meaning keeping at it for more than 8 years.

  • Gordon makes some interesting points for the party nationally. As we are leaving the EU we have the opportunity to focus on the economy and ‘somewhere’ people who are happy living where they live, want to continue to live there and bring up a family there. We can reject neo-liberalism and the idea that the economy most of the time works well and the government finance is like a household’s finance and the government should reduce the size of the government deficit. We can restore our previous commitment to full employment, we must make the eradication of poverty something we are committed to with a plan on how we will achieve it. Leaving the EU gives us opportunities to have a more interventionist regional economic policy where we encourage businesses to setup in regions with high rates of unemployment such as the north-east.

    Ruth Bright,

    I understand that the Federal Party has some savings after the last general election. It is understandable why current income is used to fight elections and not provide help to our council candidates. Perhaps some of these savings can be used to provide bursaries to poor candidates to assist them to stand for election and create a pool of people prepared to cover for maternity leave.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jul '20 - 11:50am

    Excellent from Alex and Martin.

    Vince as complacent on Corbyn in this old comment as he is on China in his recent article in the Independent.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Jul ’20 – 9:50am…………The difference is that the Labour left opposes all Western military intervention as a dogma, while Lib Dems opposed the Blair~Dubya Bush Iraq War because we thought that particular intervention would turn out badly, as it did……

    Strange how you omit LibDem supprt for the Libyan conflict and LibDem support for both a) bombing Assad in 2013 and b) bombing Assad’s opponents (Isis, etc) in 2015..

    As for turning out badly…The destruction of Libya (the most prosperous and developed country in Africa), on as big a lie as Iraq, was a disgrace. A disgrace which has led to the country being the centre for the trafficing of desperate refugees into Europe…

  • Alex Macfie 25th Jul '20 - 2:48pm

    @expats: The Assad regime is one that the far left has a tendency to indulge, as was the Gadaffi regime. My point is that Lib Dems don’t have a doctrinaire opposition to Western military intervention (although there are certainly differences in opinion among party members over how to handle all conflicts) — it’s horses for courses.

  • @ Martin And when pray, Mr Martin Anonymous, did I indulge Mr Corbyn any more than you have ? What I didn’t like was Tory offshore media barons of dubious power, influence, wealth and tax status – such as Murdoch (of phone tapping fame) and the Barclays – trying to smear Mr Corbyn with half truths. You should feel the same.

    As for Mr Cherin, he really ought to try harder to get his facts right and put it into
    comprehensible English, e.g., “Vince as complacent on Corbyn in this old comment…..”

    In the real world, Sir Vincent’s decent good manners towards a fellow parliamentarian of long standing can be described as an occasional Asquithian type quip. But it didn’t stop him saying when in more serious mode ……………………

    “We won’t put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10, Sir Vince Cable … › top-stories › liberal-dem…
    16 Nov 2019 – Sir Vince Cable has said there is a ‘one in a million’ chance Jeremy Corbyn will be prime minister – and said the Lib Dems won’t support him if ……..

    That’s enough for today.

  • Alex Macfie 26th Jul '20 - 9:44am

    Chris Cory: I assume you mean “EAST of a line between Salisbury and Cambridge”? I used to live in Oxford, where the born-and-bred locals talk like Ricky Gervais. The local accent in the south of England nowadays sounds like a westcountry~Estuary hybrid, sounding more like Estuary the closer one gets to London. But authentic local accents can be hard to find in the south of England, because so many residents are not born-and-bred locals.

  • Alex Macfie 25th Jul ’20 – 2:48pm………..@expats: The Assad regime is one that the far left has a tendency to indulge, as was the Gadaffi regime………..

    In that case, why would they not indulge Saddam? I fail to see much difference between the three in terms of dictatorships..
    As ‘the left’ were against all three interventions I believe the word you missed was ‘consistency’ where-as this party’s policy on such military interventions seemed anything but..
    Perhaps a simple explanation of the change was that, in the case of Saddam, we were in opposition whilst, in the cases of Gaddafi and Assad, we were in government..

  • Peter Martin 27th Jul '20 - 8:30am

    “But I do want to look at why we are not being heard……”

    “We have the advantage that as a party we share liberal values with most voters…..”

    Why would Lib Dems have gone from “being heard” in 2005 when you picked up 22% of the vote to not “being heard” now when you’re struggling to get into double figures?

    Have you considered the possibility that you are being heard but the not enough voters like what they hear?

    Most voters would be liberal with a small “l”. But that doesn’t mean they’ll go out and vote Lib Dem.

  • richard underhill 27th Jul '20 - 9:28am

    25th Jul ’20 – 4:57pm
    When we review the 1992 general election we should remember that Belfast West was taken by the SDLP.

  • richard underhill 27th Jul '20 - 9:30am

    27th Jul ’20 – 9:28am
    Gerry Adams later stood for election to the Dail in a seat formerly held by Sinn Fein.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Jul '20 - 9:47am

    @expats: Remember George Galloway? “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”

  • @Alex Macfie.
    Well spotted. I did indeed mean east. Had the map upside down.

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