Are the Greens to the Lib Dems what Ukip is to the Tories?

image“As Ukip is to the Tories, so can the Green party be to the Lib Dems.” That’s a sentence I wrote here, almost seven years ago, on 3rd November, 2007.

In The Times, Sam Coates has looked at how the quiet rise of the Greens in recent months – the party polled just ahead of the Lib Dems in May’s European elections – might hurt the Lib Dems at the May 2015 general election.

An analysis of the European election results shows the Green vote strengthening and consolidating in the southwest and parts of Scotland while Lib Dem votes drain away. Demographic groups who once supported Mr Clegg’s party are becoming more favourable to the Greens. The analysis suggests that Lib Dem support is weakening among the young, old, urban, rural, poor, middle class and wealthy, and Greens are advancing in these categories, particularly among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Senior Lib Dems acknowledge that the Greens’ policy platform — which embraces higher public spending, opposes nuclear power and fracking, and pledges to scrap tuition fees — bears a strong resemblance to the Lib Dem manifesto of 2005. The Lib Dems have meanwhile switched positions on these symbolic, easily understood issues. They are also likely to lose their status as the protest-vote party for centre-left voters because of the coalition.

While there is little chance of the Greens taking any additional seats beyond their existing one, there are fears of a Ukip-style effect where they take enough votes from the Lib Dems to hand the seat to the challenger — often the Conservatives in the southwest. One senior Lib Dem said that the party was taking the Greens “not terribly” seriously but added: “Even the loss of 1 per cent or 2 per cent in a marginal seat can be costly.”

Five of the Lib Dems’ ten most marginal seats are in the southwest. They played down the threat, saying that the grassroots organisation of the Greens was “pretty feeble”. A source said: “We must have a clear green appeal in 2015 but not fret about the Green Party.”

The paper quotes Ian Warren, a political analyst and author of the @election-data blog, commenting: “In the southwest the Lib Dems are the effective opposition to the Conservatives and, come the general election I suspect many of the 2014 Greens will revert to type and go Lib Dem. However, many of them won’t, and how they break will determine the outcome. The Greens and Ukip provide a space on the ballot paper for these disaffected Lib Dems.”

I think the Lib Dems have made the right decisions in government — taking a scientific and cautious approach to fracking, recognising new-build nuclear power is a necessary and cleaner part of our energy mix — but there’s no doubt this pragmatism has hurt us with those who want to ban fracking and no more nuclear power. The party is right neither to over-estimate the Greens’ national appeal at general elections, nor to dismiss the threat. Marginal constituencies, by their very nature, are decided at the margins.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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97 Comments

  • Andrew Emmerson 8th Jul '14 - 4:21pm

    QTWAIN – Source (Ex Green of 6 years)

  • Alex Macfie 8th Jul '14 - 4:30pm

    The Green Party ran a Euro election campaign that focused on what their MEPs had done and would do in the European Parliament to shape EU law. That is, they ran a campaign based on the actual issues that were at stake in that election. Maybe we would have done better if we had run such a campaign, instead of bolstering Clegg’s ego and giving free publicity to Farage and UKIP

  • Unless and until we return to a radical, but sensible (not “cautious and pragmatic” – you might as well vote Labour or Tory for that!) policy, we will lose votes to the Greens. I am sure there are plenty on here who either did vote Green in May or actively considered it. You rather more straightforwardly describe what has happened “since 2005”, Stephen. That was the second and last time I stood as a candidate for Westminster. I was honoured to stand on such a platform. If what has happened since is “the Clegg Coup”, I find myself very much out of sympathy with it. It is time that our hierarchy realised the damage this so-called coup has done, instead of hanging in there doing a Micawber, waiting for something to turn up.

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Jul '14 - 4:47pm

    Humanity has identified more than enough fossil fuel reserves to fry the planet. So please explain this “scientific and cautious approach” to finding and extracting even more? There is plenty of gas in Qatar, for example.

  • Case in point, Solihull Council. A superb LibDem MP but May saw another rise in the Green vote (and hardly the type of place you’d have thought the Greens would have gained such a foothold).

  • Andrew Emmerson 8th Jul '14 - 4:54pm

    Tim13? You’ve got a horrendously strange definition of a coup. The act of getting selected as an MEP, then as an MP then running and getting elected by all the members – yerp 3 layers of democracy and voting – exactly the definition of a coup.

  • We should be taking the Greens seriously as in certain areas they are doing us serious harm and will definitely hit our chances of re-election. People need to understand that in voting Green in their constituency very often under FPTP they will serve to elect a Labour or Tory MP, both of which will be a much less green option than choosing a Lib Dem. They have taken around 10% of our 2010 vote, which is what is making the difference at the moment between us languishing at 8-9% and being (just) in double digits.

  • Jonathan Pile 8th Jul '14 - 5:03pm

    @ Tim13
    Your’e on the money with the “Clegg Coup” and personally as someone who’s quite happy with the 2005 Manifesto I find the Green offering very attractive as are increasing numbers of Green and Social Liberals fed up with the party dominance of the Orange Book Economic Liberal Cleggites. Another Issue – the Greens and UKIP have got exactly right and we have exactly wrong is opposition to HS2 – a Labour Idea and Tory Policy adopted by Clegg. So Daily Mail “Middle England” the constituency that Tony Blair and Nick Clegg lusted after is going to be carved up by UKIP and the Greens in the popular rush to avoid the carve up of HS2 and Fracking. The Question is are Green Lib Dems and Social Lib Dems going to take back the party now, wait for disaster or just give up and go?

  • matt (Bristol) 8th Jul '14 - 5:03pm

    @RC – I agree in general, but of course this is the argument used against us for years in seats we were unlikely to win, but were where we wished to campaign reasonably hard to build up a platform for future success. We need to be careful of our addiction to tactical voting; it’s not washing so well with the public in a world where they see themsevles as having up to 5 or 6 options, rather tha 2 or 3.

    I voted LibDem for years in seats where the electoral logic meant I was quite possibly at risk of undermining the lesser of the other two evils. Are you saying I should not have done so?

  • The Greens will surely attract votes from both Liberal Democrats and Labour. They are a genuinely European party and as things stand the most European party on the UK political scene [this is something we should put right]. Those who voted Lib Dem because Labour was not socialist enough will not come back to us, but may vote Green; there is nothing we can do about this: what we must aim to do is to attract are those who voted Lib Dem because Labour was not Liberal enough.

    I will disagree with Tim13, if “cautious and pragmatic” evidence based policy, then it becomes a strength. Parliamentarians such as Julian Huppert and Evan Harris lead the way in a scientific approach to rooting policy in what works and is effective. We need to make sure that Science is our strength; a problem for the Greens is that for them Science is not their strength.

  • 3 layers of democracy and voting – exactly the definition of a coup.

    But that’s exactly how an entryist coup works.

  • paul barker 8th Jul '14 - 5:05pm

    The Green vote didnt actually go up in May. compared to 2009 so I dont see why we would expect their vote next year to be any bigger than 2010. If they lose Brighton it will be entirely the result of their National Leadership attacks on the Local Party for being too Feminist or not Left Wing enough.
    If the New Workers Party ever gains momentum The Greens will be in real trouble.

  • Jim (London) 8th Jul '14 - 5:39pm

    It is the Lib Dem vote that collapsed around the country and not the Green vote that went up, in fact it went down. I agree with Paul Barker above because the numbers speak for themselves,

  • Andrew E / Dav
    I was quoting from the book title “the Clegg coup”. I do feel there has been a fair amount of “entryism” go on since the mid 90s, when the Lib Dems took off in earnest.

    Martin
    The term “evidence-based” seems to mean different things to different people. It’s a bit management speak really, and if you claim you have measured something and have results, then you can base policy around it, irrespective of whether or not it was an important thing to measure . The problem with waiting for evidence to absolutely confirm, is, as we know from various climate related issues, Governments can be desperately late and timid in taking necessary decisions.

  • Also to say, Martin, I do have a scientific background, so hope I am not totally off the wall on such things!!

  • Ed Shepherd 8th Jul '14 - 5:48pm

    Greens have become the second largest party on Solihull Council for a number of reasons. It’s easy to think of it as a “gin-and-Jags” place that is natural Tory territory but the Borough is in two halves divided by the Coventry Road: the north of the Borough contains poorer areas such as Kingshurst or Chelmsley Wood that have traditionally voted Labour. The South has posher areas but in those areas there are many older people and younger people who are interested in environmental issues and graduate un(der)employment has not bred natural Tory-ism amongst the young. Expansion of the airport and the destruction of local parks to build roads, shopping centres and executive homes (not even affordable housing) has caused much anger. The Tories and Labour have made a mistake over the past two decades in thinking that the so-called “middle-classes” will always prefer economic development over protection of the local environment. Betrayal by many LibDem MPs over tuition fees led some LibDem councillors to defect to the Greens taking with them student voters plus the grandparents and parents of those voters. Lorely Burt seems popular as an individual but the loss of Lib Dem votes to the Greens might hand the seat back to the Tories in 2015. It could be a constituency that is ripe for a Green MP in 2020 or 2025, though! Interesting times.

  • We’ve spent decades hammering home “X can’t win here, only one of the top two can win!!” bar charts. Of course people are going to vote green if they are ahead of us in the polls to beat an incumbent they dislike. We’ve told them to.

  • The Greens have also said they would trust the electorate with an EU referendum perhaps people like being trusted

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Jul '14 - 5:59pm

    Well said by Jennie. I’ve never liked the “x can’t win here” campaigns and now it looks like they will backfire!

    When it comes to the subject: I’m not worried about the Greens. If the Lib Dems want to pitch for the minority “left wing of the middle class” vote then worry about the Greens. However, I don’t think that should be where the party positions itself in future.

    Regards

    One final thing. I will say I was impressed with their EU campaign and thought it was better than ours, until the final weeks of the campaign when we realised unadulterated support for the EU was a vote loser.

  • Samuel Griffiths 8th Jul '14 - 5:59pm

    Disgruntled LibDems will find the Greens as their natural home though. Any Liberals of the right are probably enjoying the present direction of the party, but the more traditional or social liberal types basically get the option of voting Green or not voting. If the party wants to retain it’s left wing, then it needs to think very carefully about how far to the right it swings. I’m less sure that Green issues are the problem, but more how compliant the party has been with austerity and its fallout.

    I voted, and even did a little campaigning for my LibDem last time. A combination of moving from that constituency and the direction of the party has prevented me from voting Yellow since. I am very much one of those voters presently looking at the Greens as a progressive alternative to the status quo (which is what the LibDems represented for me in 2010)

  • ErnstRemarx 8th Jul '14 - 6:02pm

    I concur with those who point the finger at the Greens taking LD votes, as well as Labour votes. I’ve noted it several times. It won’t harm the Labour party much, as they are a much more broad and (still) class based vote, however it’ll cut through the LDs like a knife. After all – the Greens can offer a vote to the left of anyone but TUSC, and are pro-Europe. Those two facts alone will see them increase voter share in 2015 and probably beyond. The fact that their record in running Brighton has been, at best, pretty patchy may well be ignored by the disillusioned, but the LDs cannot ignore th new threat on their doorstep.

  • paul barker 8th Jul '14 - 6:04pm

    A couple of points, I spent about 7 years as an Entryist in the Labour Party & I have to say I see no signs of it in The Libdems. If Clegg is leading the Entryist charge then what is his organisation & how do I join it ?
    I also spent 14 years in The Greens & I suppose the biggest thing that dissillusioned me was their openess to Nationalism & their hostility to effective International Organisations such as The EU & Nato.

  • @AlexMacfie I would question certainly in London how much the Greens campaign had to do with their success. Some people had an A5 Freepost and they thought a couple of target wards across mainly inner London Boroughs. It is the fact that their brand stands up particularly in inner London as a place for people who don’t want to go back to Labour that seems to be a particular problem for us. It is worth noting that their vote share was down us was just down much much more.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 8th Jul '14 - 6:38pm

    Paul Barker – your comments intrigue me more than the topic itself. Would you say your politics have changed over the years, or have you been trying to find a party that fits your views?
    On the topic, it surprises me that the Greens haven’t been doing better alongside our collapse in support. I fully understand why those of a quasi socialist bent who have previously voted LibDem as the left of centre party closest to them would ditch us on going in with the Conservatives.

  • ‘Case in point, Solihull Council. A superb LibDem MP but May saw another rise in the Green vote (and hardly the type of place you’d have thought the Greens would have gained such a foothold’

    This is actually a poor example, Green success here has been built solely on defections, rather than any great support for the party.
    A better example would be somewhere like Liverpool where our vote has collapsed and the Greens have gained seats (though admittedly not in the same parts of the city).

    Isolated council wards such as Broomhill (Sheffield), Headingley (Leeds) and Calder (Calderdale) provide the best examples.

  • Jonathan Pile 8th Jul '14 - 9:11pm

    Coming back to HS2 – in the 70+ midlands, Central England and Northern constituencies the 60% of people who oppose HS2 killing their communities, blighting their property wealth and putting up their taxes and debt will split between UKIP and the Greens. As with Austerity for Austerity’s sake we will be on the wrong side of the voters.

  • Nick Barlow 9th Jul '14 - 8:18am

    As someone whose council ward has been targeted by the Greens several times, I know that they do take some of our vote, but like UKIP they also appeal to those who don’t normally vote (though mostly a different set of non-voters to UKIP). From what I’ve seen and heard from elsewhere, their successes are based on a similar formula to ours from the 60s and 70s – candidates who are willing to get stuck in and build their support over several years/elections, then when they get a foothold, use that to get more elected.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 9th Jul '14 - 10:54am

    As Laour policies have moved increasingly into the territory of those of Lib Dems and NC takes the OBs in support of more Tory policies, it’s obvious that many of us will be voting Labour or Green in future. Of course people mostly vote for the party which can support their views; if party positions change the electorate will move to the party of their own view. If NC and the OBs had remained where we were – and still are – the LDs would at least have had the benefit of our local skills. We realize now that the OBs are not so interested in local policies as those of us in the centre-left.

  • matt (Bristol) 9th Jul '14 - 11:38am

    Smug self-promotion of the only article I have ever written on here, which includes my thoughts on exactly this topic:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-the-aftermath-from-a-seaside-cottage-40606.html

    Oh, and Jennie:
    “We’ve spent decades hammering home “X can’t win here, only one of the top two can win!!” bar charts. Of course people are going to vote green if they are ahead of us in the polls to beat an incumbent they dislike. We’ve told them to.”

    Amen, amen, amen. Hoist. Petard.

  • It is not the Greens we should be worrying about, it is ourselves, we have created all our problems and until we have the guts to tackle them in a robust way, and stop digging our own grave, nothing will change. All the evidence is suggesting that we seem incapable of doing this and are inevitably heading for “disaster” or even oblivion.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 9th Jul '14 - 5:50pm

    Colin – who will be voting Green. Amongst your righteous anger I note that you will vote Green because, “there’s no chance they’ll gain power.” this says it all, really. Supposing the Greens achieve, like the Liberal Democrats in 2010, the balance of power? They, like us will want to seize the opportunity to implement their policies in coalition with others. Will you then cancel your support, as they have become sullied by power?

  • @Colin. The Greens in government in Ireland introduced the most harsh austerity measures in western Europe.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 9th Jul '14 - 10:03pm

    @ Colin. I am at a loss to see how we have gone against core principles and ideology. It is a shame we went into government against a background of recession, but nonetheless much of what has been achieved is most definitely Liberal. I really don’t know what our former voters expected. Was it some sort of wishy washy version of Labour?

  • daft ha'p'orth 10th Jul '14 - 12:07am

    @Nigel Cheeseman
    ” I really don’t know what our former voters expected. ”
    And there, in a nutshell…

  • @ Nigel – but surely, and particularly after “an end to broken promises,” it was that Nick would do what he promised to do.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 12:20am

    Colin

    Because my mum certainly has buyer’s remorse these days, and has had since it dawned on her that she would not only not support Labour but her vote also helped bring back the Tories who turned out to be as bad as Thatcher ever was.

    No it didn’t. What brought back the Tories was the fact that more people voted Tory for any other party, and the distortion of the first-past-the-post meant the Tories being the biggest party in terms of votes got a far higher share of the seats than they had share of the votes. There was no other government that could be formed. There were not enough Labour and LibDems MPs combined to make a majority.

    This distorted electoral system which put the Tories in power was vocally backed by many leading Labour politicians in the 2011 referendum, and not a single leading Labour politician has ever spoken out against the way our electoral system can give a party with 36% of the vote almost a full majority as it did in 2010. Maybe because it gave them a full majority with just 35% of the vote in 2005.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 12:30am

    Colin

    Liberal Democrats sold their souls for power. You went against core principles. You went against core ideology.

    We had a Parliament with five times as many Tory MPs as LibDems MPs – thanks the the electoral system which Labour backs but the LibDems do not. So what sort of government do you expect? Yes, it is mainly Tory in policy and principles, but that reflects the balance of MPs in the coalition. It also reflects what many prominent Labour MPs campaigned for in he 2011 referendum – the idea that it is best to have a government dominated by a single party even if that party had well under half the votes, so long as it came “first past the post”.

    Do you suppose that 57 LibDem MPs could somehow have got 300+ Tory MPs to drop all their policies and adopt LibDem ones? Do you think it would have been right for 57 LibDem MPs to have made the country ungovernable by refusing to agree to the only government that could have been formed?

    If you think a Labour-led government could have been formed, then why aren’t Labour offering terms to the LibDems now for it?

  • Peter Watson 12th Jul '14 - 12:58am

    @Matthew Huntbach “Do you suppose that 57 LibDem MPs could somehow have got 300+ Tory MPs to drop all their policies and adopt LibDem ones? ”
    For me the big problem is that those 57 Lib Dem MPs – or at least the few at the top of the party – have given the impression that they are very happy with the Tory policies that come out of the Coalition.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 1:01am

    Colin

    Sweden has been run by a four-party coalition for the last three terms of office. The difference is that the Centre Party, the People’s Party, the Christian Democrats and the Moderate Party is in that coalition without selling out their souls.

    I’ve checked up the results of the 2010 Swedish general election. The Moderates with about 30% of the vote got 107 seats. The other three parties in the coalition with a combination of about 20% of the votes got 66 seats. Compare this with 2010 UK general election, where the Conservatives with 36% of the votes got 306 seats compared to the LibDems getting 23% of the vote, but just 57 seats.

    Quite obviously, the smaller parties in the Swedish coalition are far more able to exert their influence with two-fifths of its MPs, than the smaller party in the UK coalition with just one sixth of its MPs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 1:03am

    Peter Watson

    For me the big problem is that those 57 Lib Dem MPs – or at least the few at the top of the party – have given the impression that they are very happy with the Tory policies that come out of the Coalition.

    Yes, that is a big problem for me as well. But please don’t assume every member of the Liberal Democrat party is happy with its leadership.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 1:41am

    To me, people like Colin and Peter Watson are giving support to the Cleggies.

    Clegg and those surrounding him can and have used two lines. The first is to say that those who are opposing him are just unrealistic people who can’t see how the Parliamentary balance in 2010 made the coalition inevitable. The second is to say that there is no public support for the what Clegg’s opponents want, the party has lost the left-wing support it used to have and must now seek new supporters on the right.

    I believe that if there was more public recognition for the continuing existence of a left-wing of the Liberal Democrats, and a public expression of support for the left in the Liberal Democrats, and pledge to support the party if it gets rid of Clegg and returns to where it was before the “Clegg coup”, Clegg would be out by now. However, there is a big middle group in the party, which is unhappy with Clegg but looks at the way the party is being attacked by people like Colin and Peter Watson and concludes “getting rid of Clegg will not gain us any more support, it will just make the party look divided and lose us even more support”. In my own local party we had a vote on supporting a motion to get rid of Clegg, and it was just this middle group who swung it against supporting the motion, and I know similar has happened in other local parties.

    So, thanks to all you people who are attacking all of us in the party, abusing and insulting all of us on the grounds we are all mad keen supporters of Clegg, even people like myself who have been outspoken critics of Clegg, Clegg will stay. Thanks to you lot, we will get a return to the two-party system. and we will have a majority Tory government sooner or later – quite likely after the next general election as most LibDem seats are in places won from the Tories and they’ll go back to the Tories if half the LibDem votes go to Labour or the Greens. And when we have that majority Tory government, you’ll see just how far right the Tory Party has gone, and how much actually the LibDems were stopping the worst of it. Already in local elections across the south of England, councils that were LibDem run have reverted to the Tories thanks to the “I’ll never vote LibDem again” bunch.

  • daft ha'p'orth 12th Jul '14 - 2:03am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “there is a big middle group in the party, which is unhappy with Clegg but looks at the way the party is being attacked by people like Colin and Peter Watson”
    If it is true that the Lib Dems are terminally indecisive to the extent that the party can be tied up in knots by the harsh words of a couple of people on a web forum then the party clearly needs to take itself off into a corner and have a serious word with itself. No time like the present.

  • Of course, another typical feature of small parties on the verge of extinction is that they tend to split into mutually irreconcilable factions whose main occupation is blaming one another for their problems.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '14 - 8:56am

    @ Colin,
    I really understand your anger and that of your Mum. I have felt it too, as have many of my friends, but in our cases I would call it incoherent fury.

    We were delighted when the Lib Dems went into coalition with the conservatives, it was only when we got the impression that Peter Watson mentioned, a sense that some of the leaders were rather comfortable with conservative ideas and policies that the anger began.

    I think that you would do well to read what Matthew and many others have to say on here. Many have sacrificed a large part of their lives building up the Liberal Democrat Party and fighting for the ideas and principles that you and your mother thought you were voting for. My friends’ votes are lost to the Liberal Democrats but I have decided that whilst there are people within the party with the passion and commitment to fight for a party that I thought that I was voting for they will probably get my vote again at the next election. It will not be a vote for Clegg, Laws and Co. and should not be interpreted as such.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 9:09am

    daft ha’p’orth

    If it is true that the Lib Dems are terminally indecisive to the extent that the party can be tied up in knots by the harsh words of a couple of people on a web forum then the party clearly needs to take itself off into a corner and have a serious word with itself. No time like the present.

    This is quite obviously not what I am saying. I am saying “people like Colin and Peter Watson” and not just “Colin and Peter Watson”. What I mean is the general way in which people in this country are writing off the Liberal Democrats, the comments made by Colin and Peter Watson are just an example of this.

    But I do very much agree that the party “needs to have word with itself” about what is going wrong in terms of presentation. I have said a lot about this elsewhere, but in essence the way the party’s image has become dominated by Clegg and those surrounding him and has become just about him and his stream of the party is, to me, a big part of the problem. The coalition situation was always going to be difficult – I’ve accepted it was a necessity given the Parliamentary balance in May 2010, which does not mean I like what it is doing, and I believe Clegg’s exaggerated claims about what the LibDems are achieving in it are making things worse. But you know that, I’ve been saying it many times in discussions to which you have contributed. So why do you come back and make this ridiculous point here when you know full well my position?

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Jul '14 - 9:47am

    paul barker 8th Jul ’14 – 6:04pm
    “A couple of points, I spent about 7 years as an Entryist in the Labour Party & I have to say I see no signs of it in The Libdems. If Clegg is leading the Entryist charge then what is his organisation & how do I join it ?
    I also spent 14 years in The Greens … ”

    Hmmm. And you attack the likes of me who have been either a voter, supporter or member of the Liberals and Lib Dems since the mid-70’s on the basis of our loyalty!!!!!!!!!!

    My suggestion is that we have not been subjected to an Old Labour entryist plot but rather a New Labour/Blarite attempt to remould the party to the politics of (Clegg) Laws and Browne.

    The evidence was very clear in David Laws’ own words marking the decade since the publishing of the Orange Book. The people were already here; they simply decided to hijack the party for there own agenda.

    The result is the long term party loyalists railing against their ‘New Liberal Democrat’ project.

  • daft ha'p'orth 12th Jul '14 - 11:48am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “So why do you come back and make this ridiculous point here when you know full well my position?”
    ‘Look what you made us do!’ is famously a diversion tactic, not a position…

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 12:16pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “So why do you come back and make this ridiculous point here when you know full well my position?”
    ‘Look what you made us do!’ is famously a diversion tactic, not a position…

    You continue to be ridiculous.

    I have explained very clearly my position. I am not happy with the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and the direction it is pushing the party in, and I have been involved in action to pull the party back to where it was. However, I find the sort of attacks you and others keep making don’t help me at all with this task. First of all, you attack all of us in the party indiscriminately as if we are all mad keen supporters of Clegg and agree with everything he says and does, and refuse to acknowledge the existence of people like me who stay inside the party and are trying to oppose Clegg. Secondly you make unrealistic claims about what was possible in the situation following the May 2010 general election, which makes it harder for those of us criticising the Cleggies, because it enables them to dismiss us as people who aren;t living in the real world.

    You call living in the real world “Look what you made us do!”. That is ridiculous. Yes, the results of the May 2010 general election meant the Liberal Democrats had to work within the balance in Parliament that gave us. In that sense it is “look what you made us do”. But that’s democracy, the people of this country DID elect a Parliament in which the Conservatives were the largest party, and a coalition of Labour with the LibDems was not viable because it would not have a majority. The case against this is that it came about because of the distortions of the electoral system. If the parties had seats in proportion to votes, the LibDems would have had far more, the Conservatives far less, and along with a Labour-LibDem coalition then being viable it would have given the LibDems hugely more bargaining power in coalition negotiations. But, by two-to-one, the people of this country voted “No” to changing that electoral system after a campaign in which Labour and Conservative politicians united to say this distorting effect was its best thing.

    But you know all this, because I keep saying it in discussions to which you are contributing. Your contributions are always entirely negative. You never give any realistic alternatives which the Liberal Democrats cold gave taken, and so in effect all you are doing is throwing abuse at us for not achieving the impossible. In order to attack Clegg and demonstrate he is a bad leader and should go what we need is REALISTIC alternatives that could have been done.

  • daft ha'p'orth 12th Jul '14 - 12:28pm

    Matthew, if you want to make the point that there is a large proportion of the party that is afraid that losing Clegg will not gain support then that’s fine (and would not contain the element of gratuitous blame that caused me to comment, since it is a justifiable fear). However, these people are not (I sincerely hope) having their buttons pushed by a few people on Lib Dem Voice.

    I don’t agree with you, obviously, about what is realistic.But we’ve covered that. However, I’m tired of your frequent accusations that the fortunes of a national party with five million lost voters can be blamed on people commenting on a website….

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 12:28pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    We were delighted when the Lib Dems went into coalition with the conservatives,

    Why? What did you expect would come out of it?

    I was appalled by it. Even though I accept it had to be done because if it had not been done, there would have been a minority Tory government which would have called another general election before a year was out, and engineered a majority for itself, I was appalled because I knew what it would result in – a government which would, due to the balance of party numbers, be mainly Conservative in policy, and which would get the LibDems accused of turning over and giving up their ideals in order to support the Conservatives. When you say you were “delighted” by it, what did you expect? Did you really expect a government in which the Conservatives would give up all their extreme right-wing policies and meekly agree to accept Liberal Democrat ones instead?

    I think a lot of the problem was because people started with completely unrealistic assumptions about what this coalition would do. Yes, it was not helped by Clegg and his ad-men pursuing the “Rose Garden” strategy of looking very pleased with themselves and giving the impression that they had almost equal power in the coalition when they did not. What Clegg SHOULD have done is made clear from the start that this was a bitter defeat for the the LibDems, resulting in a government in which, thanks to the distortions of the electoral system, they would only be able to have fringe influence. By not doing this, by instead doing the opposite, Clegg set us up for the inevitable attacks that would follow, because he made us seem equally liable for policies which would inevitably be skewed way to the Tory side. His “word beginning with sm and rhyming with rug” attitude (sorry, LDV won’t let me use the actual word) gave the appearance that all he wanted was political office and would do anything for it. He shouldn’t have had this attitude.

  • @Colin

    ‘I and my mum will vote Green not because we particularly support their policies. They are anti-science to a large extent with their resistance to nuclear power and GMO crops. We will vote green because there’s no chance they’ll gain power, and we’ll vote green because whatever it says on the Liberal Democrat tin, it’s a lie.’

    Voting for a party because there’s no chance that they’ll get into power? I fail to see the point. I understand voting X to keep Y out, after all most votes are cast against something else rather than in favour of the thing being voted for. But voting specifically to negate one’s vote?

    Sure, it means that whatever happens you can always fall back on the excuse of ‘don’t blame me, guv, I voted for the other guy, no, not that one, the other other guy’. But it achieves nothing.

    And of course since we don’t live under a representative system but rather with an ‘adversarial’ museum piece of a democracy, if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your vote in communicating a signal to Parliament you have to look at who is standing for election in your constituency, as the overriding factor in your decision.

    For example, if you live in Cambridge or in Hornsey, voting for anyone other than the incumbent is voting against good policy, good governance and good people. But if you live in Sheffield or in Yeovil, voting against the incumbent would be a pretty good way of protesting the direction that politics has taken in recent years. Everything in politics ends up boiling down to the local sooner or later, and one of the serious flaws in our system is that people are making a local decision under the illusion that they’re making a national one.

    Don’t even think about Labour or Tory governments when voting – you don’t get a say on that, none of us do. Vote for whoever is standing in your constituency who you think will best represent your views and best interests, and if that means you end up voting Green, MRLP or even the hated Liberal Democrats, so be it.

  • Also @Colin

    ‘I only point you to the new rushed through snooper’s legislation. That should be all the evidence that you need to understand why I feel this way.’

    Fair enough.

    All I can really say there is that of the three main parties, two of them support greater powers, more surveillance and a rolling back of liberties in the interests of staving off threats, both well-defined external ones and ill-defined internal ones.

    Between them, those parties control 565 seats out of 650.

    The result of the rushed through legislation is that the previous legal situation will continue despite an ECJ ruling striking down the old Directive. Bad for the rule of law, bad for our engagement with Europe and bad for civil liberties in Britain.

    We couldn’t get any progress made on this issue behind the scenes. Frankly, if we need to rely on backroom deals to preserve our liberty we’ve lost it already anyway. But, now we have until the middle of 2016, when the sunset clause on the rushed act expires. By that time, the country will need to have formed a new legal framework for security and surveillance, and over this time the opportunity to liberalise it and make it accountable will be present.

    The country will need every vote if this is going to happen, so again look up your local candidates, find out their position on this, if they don’t say, ask them. And vote accordingly, even if it means wasting your vote on a Green, or voting for a member of the red team’s awkward squad, and even if it means having to deal with us again.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '14 - 1:42pm

    Yes Matthew,
    I agree with you, and with the benefit of hindsight I know better, but to mere voters like myself who don’t involve ourselves in politics, in our hearts of hearts we knew that our votes wouldn’t lead to a Liberal Democrat government so we were grateful and delighted that Liberal Democrats would have some say in government.

    Indeed, so politically naive was I, I thought I might even agree with Nick. May I say that when the unprincipled Cameron was hugging hoodies and showing concern for Polar bears, I did not even realise how very right wing a Cameron government would be. I assumed that when the Liberal Democrats had a part to play in government, even a bit part, the David Cameron and the conservative party would be pulled to the left, not that the Liberal Democrats would be pulled to the right.

    I seem to remember that polls showed that people were pleased that a coalition was formed, so I think that many outside politics thought like myself.

    Was it really an unrealistic assumption that Nick Clegg would not support an increase in tuition fees when 21 of his MP’s felt a moral imperative to do so?

    Was it really an unrealistic assumption that your party would argue against the top down organisation of the NHS has taken place against a backdrop of a promise from the majority party that it would not do so? I have joined the National Health Action Party which I consider more of a pressure group than a party. I get weekly e -mail updates on what is happening to our NHS. If you really want to know what is happening to our NHS and not the sanitised version that appears on here, you can pay the minimum £5 membership and find out.

    If I might offer one word of advice Matthew, it is that you recognise that most people are uninterested in the intricacies of politics and you need to put yourself in their position when this frustrates you. Most of us only hear what is happening on PMQ’s or Question Time or whatever when it is background Muzak from a television that is left on when we are doing other things. I am trying to develop a better understanding by reading Liberal Democrat Voice, but really I only do so when I am waiting for paint to dry- literally!

    I still can’t work out the word. Would you provide another clue?

  • @Colin

    Your comments at me and Matthew Huntbach make perfect sense in a representative proportional democracy such as exists across Europe. You’ve got the perfect answer to shut up party political loyalists like us and that should be that.

    Matthew would be unable to defend the exceedingly Tory hue to this coalition and I’d be quite wrong to suggest that constituency elections are about blocking the most objectionable candidate.

    But we’re not in a representative, proportional democracy, we’re in a museum diorama entitled Evolution of Democracy circa 1900.

    Within this system, coalition partners don’t have the power you suppose – particularly not when they can’t threaten to walk out and build a new deal with the other side. European coalitions work because they happen between a diverse array of parties with clear ideas and goals, in a system with more than three of them. If any one party gets too awkward, it can be replaced. If any one party gets too dictatorial, it too can be replaced. Under the UK system, there’s no credibility to threats to walk out, and the choice for the junior party is between walking out anyway and losing all credibility, or struggling onwards hoping to salvage something from the whole sorry mess.

    The sad thing is that so much of what we did put forward to try and change this was then defeated by short-term politicking in the Commons, aligning Tory and Labour self-interest against voting and Lords reform. As a result of the defeats on those big issues, the coalition programme as a whole looks rather sad, with few headline ideas to speak of. Libel reform, the green Investment Bank or Lynne Featherstone’s good work with DFID spring to my mind, but may not be significant to you, or may be dismissed as miserable compromises anyway. And of the headline ideas, only the tax threshold increase seems to have much mass appeal.

  • Also, what do you intend to do should the Greens not stand in Guildford? It seems they currently don’t have a candidate selected, and didn’t have one in 2010.

  • “Also, what do you intend to do should the Greens not stand in Guildford?”

    Obviously that’s the kind of thing you have to hope for if your only remaining card is “Vote for us because we’re not Con or Lab”. But actually, I’d be surprised if there weren’t some Independent Lib Dem/Liberal candidates next year. Unless they think the brand is so tarnished now that it’s not worth bothering.

  • @Chris

    I was only curious. While I would argue that the Greens are fundamentally illiberal, unsuited to government at any level and only appear remotely attractive to voters because they’ve been completely irrelevant throughout the recent crisis, able to remain all things to all people, the man is obviously intent on voting for them anyway. It remains to be hoped for that we are still ahead of Labour as a least-worst candidate.

    Also, it is certain that there will be some candidates standing for the Liberal Party next year. There always are, five stood in 2010 for example.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 7:49pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    If I might offer one word of advice Matthew, it is that you recognise that most people are uninterested in the intricacies of politics and you need to put yourself in their position when this frustrates you.

    Yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. But every time I try to explain it, I’m drowned out by people like daft ha’p’orth going in effect “nah nah nah nah nah, you’re just a Tory, all you are saying is just a way of hiding that what you really want, which is this extreme right-wing government”.

    I’m sorry, what else can I say to persuade you that it was not possible for 57 Liberal Democrat MPs somehow to persuade 306 Conservative Party MPs to drop their policies and beliefs and principles and instead adopt those of the Liberal Democrats?

    You can look back at my political activity over 35 years, at my articles in the Liberator magazine, at the letters I wrote to the Brighton Evening Argus when I was running the Brighton and Hove Young Liberals, at the material in the elections I have been candidates in going back to then, at my letters in the Guardian newspaper, at my comments here in Liberal Democrat Voice, at my persistent attacks here n the “Orange Bookers”, and I hope you would conclude that I am not really a Tory and that I am very much opposed to what the Tories stand for. From that I hope you would be able to see that I am not saying what I am saying here because underneath I think this government and what it is doing is wonderful, and that you might at least give me the courtesy of taking it at face value.

    Oh, by the way the word I meant has four letters, the first is S, the second is M, the third is U and the fourth is G. The system used by this website will not let messages be published if it contains that word, and I was warned by its editors that if I used that word to describe Nick Clegg in a message, that message would not appear here.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 7:59pm

    Colin

    No, what brought back the policies we have was because the Liberal Democrats refuse electoral math to push for their policies, and to nullify or moderate Tory policies.

    As I have already explained, the electoral maths is that there are not enough Labour MPs to form a Labour-LibDem coalition. Therefore the government we have is the only one that was possible that would be stable. You say the LibDems could block all Tory policy, but the 57 most right-wing Tory MPs could equally well block all LibDem policy.

    If the LibDem are to have strength to be able to push their position in the coalition, they need to be able to demonstrate outside support for it, they need to be able to say that if they walked out of the coalition, they would get that support. That is the point I was trying to put, if we aren’t getting that outside recognition and support, it just makes it harder for us to push our line in the coalition, and within the Liberal Democrats it means those on the right of the party who dominate its leadership can say to those of us like me on its left “there is no support for your position, if we do what you want it will just destroy the party, so we have to carry on with the current leadership and current soft line of only hidden criticism of the Tories”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 8:16pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    I assumed that when the Liberal Democrats had a part to play in government, even a bit part, the David Cameron and the conservative party would be pulled to the left, not that the Liberal Democrats would be pulled to the right.

    Well, actually David Cameron and the Conservatives HAVE been pulled to the left. You may find it hard to believe, but actually what the Tories really want is much more right wing than even this government. If you go to Conservative Party discussion sites, you will find plenty of Conservatives fuming at the Liberal Democrats, and accusing Cameron of being weak and just giving in too easily to the Liberal Democrats. Some of the worst policies that the Conservatives wanted have been stopped, the cost of doing so is agreeing to the rest.

    If what you mean by what is quoted above that you expected all the compromise to be on the Conservative side, that the government would have 100% LibDem policies, then how do you think that would come about? How do you think the people of the UK would react if Britain did not have a stable government because the LibDems said they would only join a coalition with the Conservatives if they dropped all their policies an adopted all LibDem ones? Would they be cheering them on, or would they be saying what a cheek that a party with less than one in ten of all MPs is bringing the country to ruin because it selfishly would only accept a government which is 100% in agreement with what it wants?

    I would be more confident that the people of the UK would be cheering on the LibDems if I could see some sign of them doing it now when they do try and stand up to the Tories and stop the worst of what they are doing. But I see no sign of that. Instead I see no recognition at all of the LibDems’ work, it doesn’t matter what the LibDems do, it’s still “nah nah nah nah nah, you’ve given up all you used to believe in and just rolled over and joined the Tories”, which just makes it harder for them to show strength in negotiation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 8:51pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    Was it really an unrealistic assumption that Nick Clegg would not support an increase in tuition fees when 21 of his MP’s felt a moral imperative to do so?

    OK, let’s work directly on this one.

    The main job of a government is to set a budget. That means it must establish what it is going to do and how it is going to pay for it. Both of these must be done together. So it’s not just a matter of continuing to subsidise university education, if you want that you just also say how you would pay for it. The budget the government puts forward must include BOTH of these things.

    So, voting against increasing tuition fees must also mean, in the context of government, voting for whatever is needed to pay for it. The two things cannot be separated. If the LibDems voted against increasing tuition fees, but could not fund support for extra taxation to cover that, the net result would be that the cut in direct payment support to universities in the budget would stay, but the tuition fees and loan systems that was meant to pay for it would be scrapped. So universities would then have two-thirds of their funding taken away. The Tories would then say “We were forced into that by the Liberal Democrats, in order to keep their pledge”.

    If the Labour Party was willing to support some additional taxation to continue the subsidy of universities, and enough Ulster Unionist, Scottish Nationalist etc MPs could be found together with the LibDems to gain a majority for it, then why haven’t the Labour Party proposed it? The Labour Party will benefit from the collapse of the LibDem vote on this issue, so why have they NOTHING to say on what extra taxes they would have put in place to continue subsidising universities, or alternatively what other things they would cut? To ask the Conservatives to agree to the big increases in taxation which the LibDems would have used to continue subsidising universities at their current level would have been to ask them to abandon their most fundamental policy, and to go against their deepest principle, which is defence of wealth, and the belief that unearned income is noble so should be taxed less than dirty earned money, or better not taxed at all. Talk to any Tory about inheritance tax to find out that what I am saying here is the truth. See the frothing of the mouth at the mere mention of it.

    The position established was that the LibDems would compromise by accepting the increase of tuition fees so long as there was a guarantee of loans for all students and generous repayment and write-off conditions. Was this the best compromise that could have been established? Would it have been better to have stuck to the pledge but accepted big cuts elsewhere, or perhaps big cuts in universities? Was it possible to get all the Conservative MPs to back some big new tax that would have filled the budget gap needed to continue subsidising universities?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions, I was not there doing the negotiating. I do, however, feel it is unrealistic to suppose that on this and on every other issue the LibDems could always have got all they wanted. I am told that because of the pledge some LibDem MPs felt they had to vote against, regardless of the consequences, which meant that the plan that all should abstain was broken, so others felt they had to vote in favour in order to agree to the compromise.

    My own belief is that the Tory reforms of the NHS should have been the breaking point, as it was directly against the coalition agreement. I think this should have been the point where the Liberal Democrats should have said to the Tories “If you will not compromise, if you insist on forcing this through, we end the coalition”. I went to the LibDem conference in Gateshead on that basis, to vote for the motion calling for the party not to support the NHS “reforms”. The counter-argument, with Shirley Williams put forward to speak for it, was that the LibDems HAD managed to get a lot of compromises from the Tories on it, the result was a lot more towards the LibDem side than what the Tories originally wanted. Well, who knows? Anyway, it was that, and the leadership’s ignoring what that conference said it wanted that led to me dropping out of active support for the party.

    I hope this helps explain things in a realistic way. Some of what I am saying comes from my own experience of being involved in local government, having to deal with budgets. Some of it comes from my experience of helping advise the Liberal group on Brighton council when it held the balance in the 1980s – from that I could see that golding the balance generally does mean you get all the blame for the unpopular things and none of the credit for the popular things. Some of it comes from seeing how coalitions work in other countries. In general, the idea that a small party which holds the balance can somehow get all its own way all the time is nonsense, it never works that way. That is why, although I am very unhappy with the way Nick Clegg has presented it, and his word-I-explained-to-you previously attitude, which I think just makes things a whole lot worse for us, I do think criticism of the Liberal Democrats which is essentially “I’ll never vote for you again, you are unprincipled people who have sold your souls for power” because they have not been able to get a government which is 100% Liberal Democrats in policy out of a situation where they have 57 out of 650 MPs is unfair.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 9:03pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    I seem to remember that polls showed that people were pleased that a coalition was formed, so I think that many outside politics thought like myself.

    Yes, and from the start I warned against this. You can go back to my comments in LDV at the time and see that. From the start I knew it would be an awful situation, in which the weakness of the LibDems and the horrendous right-wing nature of today’s Conservative Party would mean the compromises that would be reached would still be very right-wing, and very, very far from what would be the LibDems’ ideal. From the start I warned that junior partners in coalition always get torn apart. So from the start I warned that Clegg’s “It’s all wonderful” exaggeration of what could be achieved and trying to make himself look equal in influence to Cameron when he was not was a disastrous strategy, that would make a difficult situation far, far worse for us.

    From the start I said that the LibDem position should be to say straight that thanks to our disappointing vote and the distortion of the electoral system, we were in a weak position, we were forced to acknowledge that the Tories had essentially won, and all we could really expect after the inevitable acknowledgement of this in order to give Britain a stable government was a fringe influence.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '14 - 10:12pm

    @ Matthew,
    Thank you for your long responses. I really want to do you the courtesy of reading what you have written carefully. so I will respond tomorrow.

    What I would ask you to do though is re-read my post to Colin. In it I make clear ( or I thought I had) that it is only yourself and other posters on here, (John Tilley. Helen Tedcastle to name a couple) that make me still think that the Liberal Democrat Party, whilst people like yourselves are still in it and fighting for your beliefs , is the party that most represents my views. It has never crossed my mind that you are a tory.

    As I say, I will read your replies carefully when my eyes are less strained.

  • Peter Watson 12th Jul '14 - 11:45pm

    @Jayne Mansfield “it is only yourself and other posters on here, (John Tilley. Helen Tedcastle to name a couple) that make me still think that the Liberal Democrat Party, whilst people like yourselves are still in it and fighting for your beliefs , is the party that most represents my views”
    I can only echo those sentiments. I always agree with most of what Matthew Huntbach writes, though I would hate to think that “people like [me] are giving support to the Cleggies” when we express our disappointment in what they have done with our votes. I accept that coalition with the Conservatives was the most stable option, that coalition government with any partner is something that Lib Dems and supporters of electoral reform should want to make work, and that a minor coalition partner will have little influence unless other coalitions are feasible. But it is the way that Clegg et al have presented this situation and the resulting policies which is bitterly disappointing.

    I am glad that there are Lib Dems – like yourself, Matthew, those you name and others, whose posts reassure me that my political views are not completely at odds with the party, but I do not see this reflected at the top. Many threads on LDV (e.g. Joe Otten’s article about public sector unions and the subsequent discussion) make me realise that Matthew’s “Cleggies” with whom I disagree are a significant chunk of the party, they are not going anywhere before 2015, and depending on the random distribution of safe seats and deliberate targeting of resources might still dominate senior positions after the election. Consequently I am not very optimistic that the post-2015 Lib Dems will be a party to which I will return to unless it is rebuilding from the sort of electoral humiliation that I would rather it did not have to endure in the first place.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '14 - 7:59am

    Peter Watson

    But it is the way that Clegg et al have presented this situation and the resulting policies which is bitterly disappointing.

    Yes, I share this opinion with you.

    However, I can assure you with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that the line you and most others are using IS boosting Clegg and DESTROYING the attempts that me and others are using to get rid of him and move the party back to where it used to be. This constant, constant use of language which attacks ALL Liberal Democrats, expresses a wish to see the party completely destroyed, accuses ALL of us of just being hidden Tories, dismisses anything any of us says as just subtle trickery designed to hide our real Tory instinct, refuses to accept the real difficulties which the May 2010 situation placed us in, boosts Clegg and the Cleggies. They ARE using it to say that there is no point in changing the leader, since they are quoting these attacks as showing it will make no difference in our support. They ARE using it to argue that the party has permanently lost any support it used to get on the left, and so that its only future is to become a right-wing “economic liberal” party.

    Peter, and others, I PLEAD with you. Those of us trying to rescue the party need to show we have outside support for it. When all we read is dismissive attacks on us from people like you and Colin and daft ha’p’orth, it causes despair and demoralisation. Sadly, I think you lot may have succeeded in what appears to be your aim in seeing the Liberal Democrats completely destroyed in order to punish Clegg and the Cleggies, as this despair and demoralisation has led to many of the sort of members we need for the fightback leaving the party.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Jul '14 - 5:32pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,
    I have already covered that I don’t think you are a Tory, every post I have written has been ( I thought) in support of you and the position that you take.

    I did not expect 57 Liberal Democrat MPs to persuade 306 Tories to change their policies, beliefs and principles and adapt or accept 100% of Lib Dem ones, but going back to 2010 when Labour was clapped out and Gordon Brown’s unpopularity was at its height, I believed that the Conservatives had a very weak hand. People didn’t want Labour but remembered what a conservative government represented. David Cameron knew this too, we had his ‘de-toxification stunts but despite this, he failed to win an overall majority.and many of his party blamed him for not ‘winning’. Mindful of his, I actually believe that in negotiations the Liberal democrats underplayed their hand, I can’t know this of course I wasn’t party to the negotiations. David Cameron, needed the Liberal Democrats as much , if not more , more than your party needed him.

    It does seem from polling that people did appreciate the Liberal Democrats willingness to go into negotiations, you are right to pull me up on my word ‘delighted ‘, but I did believe that the Liberal Democrats would have a moderating influence , especially given the image that David Cameron had managed to create of himself in an attempt to garner votes. I do believe that the Lib Dems in government have had a moderating influence, but for me it is a matter of degree. Could they have had more?

    This brings me on to the topic of Orange Bookers. I had never heard of the term before and having never read the book so am unable to comment on it directly, but I have read comments on here, (the articles on the Jeremy Browne Book and discussions that followed were particularly enlightening), and managed to glean some idea of what it means to be an Orange Booker.

    As someone who started voting Lib Dem in the 60’s what attracted me to the party was the behaviour of the Young Liberals. It was issues such as Apartheid and the Vietnam War that broke through into my apolitical mindset. Green issues, local politics these were all brought to my consciousness by a certain radical group. Even then, I failed to notice that a party might be made up of many streams of thought. Custom and habit kept me voting for the party, and the stance against the Iraq war kept me largely apolitical and happy enough not to delve deeper. The entry of Lib Dems into government was a big event, leading to another bout of political awareness and the revival of ‘Mrs Angry’. It was anger motivated me to belatedly try and find out more about the party.

    Now, through reading Lib Dem Voice, I am a little wiser and I now recognise that I have responded by taking a broad brush approach by criticising ‘The Liberal Democrats’ when really my criticisms should have been of the behaviour of those who belong to a particular stream within the party. This must have been hurtful to you. Do I think that some of those in the party of whom I am critical are Tories? Well, maybe it has just been a matter of presentation, ( parroting the conservatives’ criticisms of Labour especially about the financial crisis etc.) has been I believe deeply damaging, and responsible in part for the defections to Labour. Similarly some of the rhetoric against those least able to defend themselves against the consequences of the economic crisis.

    As an outsider to deeper ongoing debates and arguments within the party, I still don’t understand why you think that it is those you mentioned who are bolstering Nick Clegg’s position. It seems to me that the blame for the damage done to the party lies firmly on the shoulders of those who have led it to its current woeful position. The issue of whether Nick Clegg’s unpopularity has been caused by presentation or the ascendency of a political stream of thought within the party seems to be a legitimate one to have. I doubt that those who have left the party or have chosen to no longer vote for it have made up their minds by reading Liberal democrat Voice – no disrespect intended.

    The contributions of Colin and others just give an insight as to of why someone might have have reached that decision. I have never had a Liberal Democrat candidate darken my door and I have lived in this house for over thirty years, perhaps I have always been out at the time . Neither I or my family have ever I needed to seek help from a local councillor or an MP. Perhaps this is the one space where Colin and others might be able to explain their feelings about the party and have them addressed.

    In my opinion, those who come on here here to express their anger and/or dismay. are those who haven’t given up on the party and are trying understand/ and or help those like yourself succeed in your efforts to return the party to what we assumed it always was. For myself, I am truly sorry if my clumsy interventions have had the opposite effect and that you think that they been counter-productive.

    On a more positive note, I do believe that the Liberal Democrat Party will become a stronger as a a consequence of its current travails and I believe that you will be able to get the party back to where it used to be . In my opinion, it is those who share your political perspective who offer something radically different to what is on offer from the other major parties.

  • daft ha'p'orth 13th Jul '14 - 10:36pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “nah nah nah nah nah, you’re just a Tory, all you are saying is just a way of hiding that what you really want, which is this extreme right-wing government”.
    I have never called you a Tory or suggested that what you want is an extreme right-wing government. I haven’t called you a Tory for two reasons: firstly, you manifestly aren’t, and secondly, ‘Tory’ is a political affiliation, not a convenient insult.

    That said, I have, in effect, suggested that sometimes your arguments contain special pleading. You often resort to alloplastic defenses, which is to say ‘look what you made [us/them] do’ arguments, blaming the economy and the voters for the actions of the LDs in coalition and blaming myself and other posters for the lassitude exhibited by the party. This is of course an intensely problematic choice of defensive tactic. Nonetheless, I recognise that your use of this tactic is not motivated by love for the political right. To be honest, I tend to read the use of this tactic as an expression of pain. Given that we are fellow members of the human race, I’m sorry that you’re hurting, but that fact doesn’t make your remarks accurate.

    The peanut gallery (of which I am a member) cannot realistically assume responsibility for decisions taken by Liberal Democrat party leaders, members or ex-members. People choose to do what they do for their own reasons, not through spooky mind control imposed by someone called, of all things, daft ha’p’orth.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '14 - 11:45pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    That said, I have, in effect, suggested that sometimes your arguments contain special pleading. You often resort to alloplastic defenses, which is to say ‘look what you made [us/them] do’ arguments, blaming the economy and the voters for the actions of the LDs in coalition and blaming myself and other posters for the lassitude exhibited by the party

    “Look at what you made me do” is a phrase which means someone wanted to do something, and is just pretending that they were forced into it by someone else. So when say I am using “Look at what you made us do” arguments, your implication is that actually I like what the Liberal Democrats are doing in this government, that underneath I believe that they could easily have done something else, but I am just hiding what I really feel by blaming circumstances. That is, you are accusing me of being a supporter of right-wing economic policies, and of being a fan of Nick Clegg, and of just pretending I am not in order to try and fool the gullible.

    daft ha’p’orth, I found that a deeply, deeply, insulting accusation. You may disagree with my conclusion that although I am unhappy about it, and dislike the word-LDV-won’t-let-me-use attitude of Nick Clegg about it, I accept the Parliamentary balance forced the Liberal Democrats into it. That’s fine, it’s a matter of judgement. What is very much not fine is when you throw this “look at what you made us do” line at me, which accuses me of being dishonest about my real beliefs in what I write.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '14 - 12:17am

    Jayne Mansfield

    As an outsider to deeper ongoing debates and arguments within the party, I still don’t understand why you think that it is those you mentioned who are bolstering Nick Clegg’s position

    It is the way they are aiming their attacks at ALL Liberal Democrats, refusing to acknowledge there are different streams in the Liberal Democrats, refusing to accept that actually many of us in the Liberal Democrats are very unhappy about the direction Nick Clegg is taking the party, and essentially putting across this Leninist idea of a political party as something which consists entirely of people who will do whatever their leader says.

    This is bolstering Nick Clegg, because those of us within the party who wish to argue him down need to be able to show that there is outside support for our position, that if the party pulls back from where Nick Clegg has taken it, we will see a growth in support. If there is none, if the outside world doesn’t even acknowledge that we exist, it helps Clegg and the Cleggies push the idea that there is no future for the party except the one they want.

    It is also extremely demoralising. After reading the sort of attacks I read here, after dealing day in day out with people like daft ha’p’orth who, whatever I say, however much I try to point out my position, just reply with a “nah nah nah nah nah, I’m not listening, you are just making excuses to hide the fact that you really love the right-wing economic policies of this government” line, I am not motivated to go out and do more to turn the Liberal Democrats back to the sort of party I first joined, with the green and alterative left policies that so attracted me to it. No, people like daft ha’p’orth, Colin, Peter Watson and the like, with their constant constant negative attacks aimed at ALL Liberal Democrats, and their clear desire to see the party destroyed forever as a punishment of Nick Clegg are a hugely demotivating factor.

    So many of the people on the left of the party have become so demotivated by all this that they have left. I too am on the verge of leaving. Colin, Peter Watson, daft ha’p’orth and all the many, many other people saying the same sort of thing are making me think it just isn’t worth the effort, it is too late, whatever I and anyone else do, we will still be attacked by that sort, we will still be accused by them of “rolling over and supporting the Tories”. That is why I say – if they are contributing to Liberal Democrat Voice in the hope of trying to persuade the Liberal Democrats to move back to the left, far from doing it, hey are doing the opposite.

    In my local branch of the party we had a vote on whether to support a motion asking Nick Clegg to step down. It was lost because some of those who would have supported it have already left the party due to being demotivated, and others who dislike Clegg and what he is doing to the party wouldn’t agree to support the motion because they weren’t convinced that getting rid of Clegg now would help the party recover support.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '14 - 12:41am

    daft ha’p’orth

    People choose to do what they do for their own reasons, not through spooky mind control imposed by someone called, of all things, daft ha’p’orth.

    It quite obviously isn’t just you. I use you just as an illustration of attitudes we seem to be meeting from so many people, from so many of the people we once persuaded to vote for us. Activists in the last local elections talk of being spat at, at having doors slammed in their faces by former voters. There really does seem to be this widespread idea that the Liberal Democrats could easily have got a government that was 100% Liberal Democrat in policy going, and just chose instead to have this five-sixths Tory government because secretly it was what they wanted in the first place.

    Sure, I do blame Nick Clegg and those around him for a lot of this. His boasting from the start and ever after about “being in government” and gross exaggeration about the influence the Liberal Democrats could have in their position, and his bias in promotions and who he chooses to use as his advisers towards “Orange Book” types who really do equate liberalism with cutting back state services and putting power into the hands of big business all help bolster the attacks made on the party by making them seem more credible.

    Nevertheless, I do feel that if the Liberal Democrats had not gone into coalition we would have had a minority Tory government for a few months which would have called another general election, and engineered a majority for themselves in it (by holding back on all the nasty policies and blaming any economic problems on the instability caused by no majority government caused by the existence of LibDem MPs), and then we would see a government far more right-wing than this one. My argument for this comes from seeing how many Tories are fuming at the LibDems for what they see as stopping them pushing the policies they really want. I can see that the concessions the LibDems have been able to get from the Tories are about as far as they can push them without a major revolt on the right. I can see that in no other coalition with a balance of parties similar to the five-to-one Tory-LibDem balance we have here has the smaller party been able to exert the sort of influence which people seem to think the LibDems ought to have been able to exert. So I do think a lot of the criticism the LibDems are getting is unfair. We are simultaneously getting attacked from the left for “rolling over and just agreeing to whatever the Tories want” and attacked from the right for “blocking the Tories from doing what they were elected to do, and turning what should be a Tory government into a LibDem government”. There seems to be almost nothing balancing these attacks in terms of public acknowledgement for what we have been able to achieve.

  • “and essentially putting across this Leninist idea of a political party as something which consists entirely of people who will do whatever their leader says.”

    Well, what percentage of the parliamentary party has typically refused to do what the leader has said? Would it be fair to say it’s in low single figures?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '14 - 9:21am

    Jayne Mansfield

    Mindful of his, I actually believe that in negotiations the Liberal democrats underplayed their hand, I can’t know this of course I wasn’t party to the negotiations. David Cameron, needed the Liberal Democrats as much , if not more , more than your party needed him.

    No, the Liberal Democrats were in an extremely weak position. They ended up getting a far lower share of the actual vote than the polls were predicting, and were clearly on the way down. They had spent all their money on the election, and could not afford to fight another one soon. They could not play off Labour against the Conservatives because only a coalition with the Conservatives would have a majority. Anyone with experience of LibDems holding the balance of power knows what happens – any compromises made to reach agreement with Conservative/Labour Party is denounced by the Labour/Conservative Party as an outrageous dropping of principles, while simultaneously the supporters of the bigger party in the coalition are raging at the LibDems for stopping them doing what they really want. The LibDems become a convenient excuse to blame for any difficult issues experienced by the joint authority. Any attempts by the LibDems to hold form on particular issues are denounced as selfish political posturing for the sake of some party political issue which no-one but the smallest party is interested in.

    The fact is that whatever the LibDems did in coalition, Labour supporters would denounce them as “rolling over and giving in to the Tories just to get power”, and Conservative supporters would denounce them for blocking the policies they insist the country needed. Had the LibDems not joined in the coalition, the whole of the country would have turned on them, accused them of being irresponsible for leaving Britain without a stable government, accused them of playing party politics while the country burns.

    I remember on election night as the results came through and it was becoming clear that a Conservative-LibDem coalition would be the only majority government that could come it of it, thinking “Oh …., we’re stuffed”.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jul '14 - 10:23am

    @ Mathew,
    I don’t think you should have worried so much about what Labour supporters or Conservative supporters thought, the most important thing should have been what those who considered themselves Liberal Democrats thought.

    I.s starting to think that it would have been better if there had been another election and the conservatives had won. Once people in the country had a reminder of what having a conservative government really means, they might have been kept out of power for good ( or until people had again forgotten their libertarian, laissez faire , greed is good and to hell with the little man, philosophy.

    I’m sorry to add to your gloom, but I think you are ‘stuffed’. Reading through the articles and posts on surveillance, which party does anyone vote for at the next election if one disagrees with what the three main parties have agreed to? I’m sure we will be scared out of our wits by the threat we are told we face without extra surveillance, that we have ‘responsible ‘. government who know things that we don’t know etc., but do I trust a government with a Home Secretary who couldn’t even get the right date when trying to arrest Abu Quatada, who oversaw the illegal immigrants vans and presides over a country where there is disproportionate stop and search of people with a different coloured skin who have done no wrong. This constant making of excuses , this putting a positive spin on things when your leaders excuse your role in enabling a party that couldn’t even get a working majority at the last election despite having everything in its favour just annoys me.

    Here endeth the rant of the day.

  • daft ha'p'orth 14th Jul '14 - 10:29am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    It is to each individual to do as he or she wishes.Nobody thinks for you but you; nobody makes your decisions but you.

    I suspect the widespread idea is not “that the Liberal Democrats could easily have got a government that was 100% Liberal Democrat in policy going, and just chose instead to have this five-sixths Tory government because secretly it was what they wanted in the first place”- it’s more like “LD MPs should have fought with more backbone, kept their tune consistent and retained a distinct identity/position on key issues (but they didn’t, because secretly this was what they wanted in the first place)”. Which is unfair on the proportion of LD MPs who have backbone, clarity of purpose and integrity, but then that faction truly is not dominant in current LD politics.

    As you say, the situation is not just about actions forced by coalition. It is more complex than that, since the party is indeed suffering an identity crisis such that party members in government genuinely hold positions that flatly contradict party policy. The voter can’t support half a party, no matter how much he or she might wish to do so; there’s no mechanism for that.

    A government that is ‘far more right-wing than this one’ would be an interesting experiment in the nature of unrest in 21st century England.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    “I can assure you with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that the line you and most others are using IS boosting Clegg and DESTROYING the attempts that me and others are using to get rid of him and move the party back to where it used to be. This constant, constant use of language which attacks ALL Liberal Democrats, expresses a wish to see the party completely destroyed, accuses ALL of us of just being hidden Tories, … boosts Clegg and the Cleggies. They ARE using it to say that there is no point in changing the leader, since they are quoting these attacks as showing it will make no difference in our support. They ARE using it to argue that the party has permanently lost any support it used to get on the left, and so that its only future is to become a right-wing “economic liberal” party.”

    I wish I could share your absolute certainty about political tactics. I don’t. Personally, I’ve always been a bit independent-minded as a tactician, even in the old days when I was a loyal servant of Jenkins / Ashdown / Kennedy / Campbell. When I look back, I can recall occasions great and small when I had it right, and everybody else got it wrong. Sadly, I can also recall about the same number of occasions when the majority tactic turned out to work well, whereas what I would have preferred to do would in hindsight have been disastrous…

    There is certainly a measure of logic in your argument. It is certainly the case that the Cleggies argue that their coup is irreversible, that they have destroyed the old Liberal Democrat party, and that the only hope is to knuckle under and position our brave new party as an ally of the Conservatives. It is also the case, as Chris indicates, that most of the public at large broadly accept Clegg’s point. Most centrist or left-of-centre voters nowadays condemn all Liberal Democrats equally, whether as right-wing supporters of Clegg or centre-left spineless drifters with the tide. If that attitude is to change, we need to do something to make it change, not just continue parroting the same old arguments.

    What ex-Lib Dems would like to see, from centre-left people who have stayed with the party, is REBELLION, NO COMPROMISE! What they can see is – well, they might remember a brief early protest from Charles Kennedy, they might just notice the rare significant parliamentary rebellion such as that over tuition fees. For the rest, nothing. They don’t read LDV. They won’t know we exist unless we tell them.

    The last thing they want is wishy-washy on-the-one-hand-on-the-other stuff. They don’t want to hear about the glorious sops that the Tories have thrown to Clegg, such as the tax threshold increase and the pupil premium, alongside wholesale redistribution toward the rich. They don’t want to hear finicky argumentation about the agonising choices the Lib Dems had to make over coalition and the putative justification for doing something which turned out to be so harmful. They just want a clear commitment to change.

    We’re beginning to provide it.

    http://www.libdems4change.org/

    http://libdemfightback.yolasite.com/

  • Peter Watson 14th Jul '14 - 7:24pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “Peter, and others, I PLEAD with you. Those of us trying to rescue the party need to show we have outside support for it. When all we read is dismissive attacks on us from people like you and Colin and daft ha’p’orth, it causes despair and demoralisation. Sadly, I think you lot may have succeeded in what appears to be your aim in seeing the Liberal Democrats completely destroyed in order to punish Clegg and the Cleggies,”

    I agree with your sentiment, but there is no way that I could consider voting for or joining the Lib Dems at the moment: I might intend it to be a gesture of support for yourself and others like you in the party, but it would be interpreted as an increase in support, membership and funding for Clegg and the Cleggies. I accept that any Coalition government would always introduce policies with which I disagree and which I voted against when I put my cross in the Lib Dem box, but it is the apparent enthusiasm for those policies shown by the Lib Dem leadership and many loyalists that has driven me away.
    I join in the discussions on Lib Dem Voice because postings by yourself and others give me hope that there is still a party I agree with behind the leadership. The only counter-view I can put to your argument that this damages your cause (the opposite of what I intend) is that I would vote Lib Dem again if the party changed before the 2015 election (and I would prefer that to rebuilding from Ground Zero afterwards). I may be an unrepresentative sample of one, but I am evidence that ” there is outside support for [your] position, that if the party pulls back from where Nick Clegg has taken it, we will see a growth in support”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '14 - 9:39pm

    Peter Watson

    I agree with your sentiment, but there is no way that I could consider voting for or joining the Lib Dems at the moment:

    I am not asking you to. As I have said many times, I have reached the point where I myself refuse to campaign for the party.

    All I am asking is that you acknowledge that it is NOT the case that all members of the Liberal Democrats are keen fans of Clegg who agree with his tactics and policy, and perhaps acknowledge the difficulty of the situation we faced in May 2010 (which does not mean agreeing with how Clegg has handled it and his belief that it’s all wonderful and marks a permanent change in the Liberal Democrats). An indication that you may be willing to reconsider support for the party if t gets rid of Clegg and moves back to where it was politically pre-Clegg would be enormously helpful in efforts to do just that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '14 - 10:01pm

    David Allen

    The last thing they want is wishy-washy on-the-one-hand-on-the-other stuff. They don’t want to hear about the glorious sops that the Tories have thrown to Clegg, such as the tax threshold increase and the pupil premium, alongside wholesale redistribution toward the rich.

    Sure. I’ve already subscribed to both the groups you’ve referenced. I’ve said many times that I disagree with Clegg’s line on the tax threshold increase, because he and those surrounding him and putting out national party statements are not telling the truth when they claim it was a fulfilment of a manifesto promise. The manifesto stated quiet clearly that the income tax threshold increase would be balanced by tax increase elsewhere – it is false to claim it stood on its own, it is an insult to suggest that paying for it by expenditure cuts (such as cutting subsidy to higher education) is a fulfilment of an election promise.

    On the other hand, I do feel that the line constantly thrown at us that we could have gained anything we asked for from the Conservatives is wrong. So I feel, and have felt since the coalition was formed, ground down between two lines on the coalition, neither of which I agree with – the Clegg “what a great government this is, we’ve achieved so much from this wonderful coalition” line, and the “Liberal Democrats are unprincipled people because they just rolled over and agreed with the Tories when they could have got the Tories to drop all their policies and agree to 100% LibDem policies” line. If you think it is “wishy washy” to take a position somewhere between these two, well so be it, I confess to being wishy-washy. What hurt me so much, as in many other things, like attempting to argue with Orange Bookers or with Trots, is the way that if you don’t agree 100% with one side, they argue with you and write you off as if you were 100% in agreement with the other. It seems to me this constant wish to put people into boxes and simplify on a completely black-and-white division is really damaging. It is preventing a satisfactory conclusion from emerging, and it actually means both extremes are helping each other to destroy the Liberal Democrats.

    Once the Liberal Democrats are destroyed, that is it. There is no prospect of another decent third party arising. We are seeing it means at best a return to it being forever a rotation of Conservative and Labour, at worst a rise in far-right parties pretending to be on the side of the people like UKIP.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jul '14 - 10:03pm

    @ Mathew Huntbach,
    The dilemma is what to do in 2015. Wouldn’t a vote for the Lib Dems be interpreted as a vote for Nick Clegg and the Cleggites?

  • jedibeeftrix 14th Jul '14 - 10:36pm

    @ MH – “Once the Liberal Democrats are destroyed, that is it. There is no prospect of another decent third party arising. ”

    I agree.
    Having a valid third party is what makes britain’s adversarial system work, preventing it from ossifying as the US system has done.

    My ambition, such as it is, is to see the Lib-Dem’s move beyond being the third party in british politics.
    I’d like to see it come to succeed as the voice of the left in this country.

    For all our disagreements, and i split my personal views from my hopes for the party, i hope you recognise that i have never been one to rubbish the lib-dem’s, or add poison to the clegg wound with never a thought for how it might damage the wider party.

    The endless acid gloom is toxic, and i’ll have no part in it.

  • @Colin

    ‘What does it matter if the Greens are fundamentally illiberal. So are the Liberal Democrats!’

    You’re laying the charge for DRIP, secret courts, heavy-handed policing and all the other bad things this government has done squarely on our doorstep. Frankly, I’m flattered that you think us so powerful.

    As I said above, if we were living in a representative proportional democracy as enjoyed across Europe, you’d be right, we’d have the power to stop them if we wanted to.

    Perhaps the only way forward for the Liberal Democrats as a party is to stand aside after 2015 and leave the Tories to govern alone, minority or majority. Then, you’ll get to see exactly what we mean when we say that we’ve moderated the worst excesses of Tory ideology.

    I refer you to Theresa May’s regular invectives against Liberal Democrats blocking her and the Prime Minister’s ideas on law and order. If you don’t believe us, maybe you’ll believe her.

    But in any case, the coalition has been a failure in large part, and it’ll take longer than one election to even begin to reverse the damage. I just hope that Britain doesn’t end up having to rely on the Greens or on UKIP to be the third party. If its UKIP, we’re stuffed. If its the Greens, then you’ll spend decades building up a new progressive third party only to see it fall victim to exactly the same tactics the two main parties have used on the Liberal Democrats. With none of the institutional memory that a continuing LibDem party would provide, it’ll end exactly the same – disillusionment, disappointment, and a new hope doomed to fail.

  • “Once the Liberal Democrats are destroyed, that is it. There is no prospect of another decent third party arising.”

    That sounds like the guy who watched the Berlin Wall fall and declared that we had reached “the end of history”. It sounds like what Owen said when his rump SDP disintegrated. I dare say the various Liberal factions in the 1930s made similarly apocalyptic remarks, though I wasn’t around watching at the time.

    The Lib Dems under Clegg have been a force for harm. So, annihilation would be better than survival with Cleggite leadership. However, history teaches us that nothing in politics is as permanent as people expect it to be at the time. Britain’s discredited politics is crying out for change. There is every reason to suppose that – as happened in 1987 – a phoenix can rise very quickly from the ashes.

  • Matthew,

    “What hurt me so much, as in many other things, like attempting to argue with Orange Bookers or with Trots, is the way that if you don’t agree 100% with one side, they argue with you and write you off as if you were 100% in agreement with the other. ”

    As others have said, we all know perfectly well that you are no Cleggite. I really, really don’t “write you off”. On the contrary, I think you so often post an admirably clear and convincing analysis of the issues that I am especially moved to take issue on the minority of occasions when I disagree with you. It’s a lot more edifying than trading in trivia with the Simon Shaws of this world!

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '14 - 12:20am

    Jayne Mansfield

    I don’t think you should have worried so much about what Labour supporters or Conservative supporters thought, the most important thing should have been what those who considered themselves Liberal Democrats thought.

    There you go again, writing “you” in the plural, as if I am somehow a representative of the whole Liberal Democrats, as if I am an agreement with everything the Liberal Democrats have done under Clegg.

    What I write is my own opinion. I am a member of the Liberal Democrats, but I do not write as some sort of official representative of the Liberal Democrats, and I don’t claim to be particularly representative of Liberal Democrat members as a whole. If you want to criticise the actions of the Liberal Democrats in reply to something I have written, please do so by writing “the Liberal Democrats” rather than by writing “you”.

    When you write about Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters, you are assuming that everyone is very political and so it clearly divides like that. It does not. Most people in this country aren’t very interested in politics. The number of people who are strong and convinced and long-term Liberal Democrat supporters, or were of the party as it was in 2010, is very small. So if there is some huge amount of criticism of the Liberal Democrats coming from a Labour-supporting background, it’s not going to be the case that people who voted Liberal Democrat won’t listen to it and won’t be influenced by it, ditto from the Conservatives. When I was campaigning in the ward I held for 12 years, I had to contend with the fact that THE Sun newspaper was by far the most widely read newspaper in the ward, and that therefore people who voted for me or who were potential voters for me were very much influenced by what was in that newspaper. I regard that newspaper as a nasty, but very clever propaganda device. Dealing with people whose minds have very much been influenced by it means you have to start from where it has led them to, and not just say “Well, it’s all nasty illiberal rubbish, so I’ll ignore it existence”. It didn’t mean I would put out election material which agreed with what was in THE Sun, but it did mean I had to be aware of people’s assumptions coming from that direction, and try to lead them away from it.

    So what I have been saying here which you are criticising me for comes from many years of active campaigning, which has given me experience of the sort of attacks our opponents have thrown at us, and experience of how best to counter those attacks and to ensure one is in a position where they won’t be effective. Nick Clegg’s lack of such experience is painfully obvious, unless he really is planted in our party to destroy it. Since the coalition was formed he seems to have gone out of his way to do things that would help make the mud that would be thrown at the party stick.

  • Julian Critchley 15th Jul '14 - 12:28am

    @Jayne Mansfield

    That was possibly the best post I’ve ever read on LDV.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '14 - 12:32am

    David Allen

    However, history teaches us that nothing in politics is as permanent as people expect it to be at the time. Britain’s discredited politics is crying out for change. There is every reason to suppose that – as happened in 1987 – a phoenix can rise very quickly from the ashes.

    Oh, I really hope so. I really hope that what Clegg and the Cleggies have done to the party amounts in the end to giving the right-wing of the party the rope to hang itself. That is, I hope it will lead to all the lines they use, such as the one we have constantly heard about there being some big bunch of voters out there just waiting to support us if we become “authentic liberals” in the Jeremy Browne sense, being so discredited that we stop hearing them, or if they are tried again they are laughed off.

    However, that requires something to survive of old school Liberals and Social Democrats to come back and rebuild the party after the miserable failure of the Clegg coup. Sadly, I think Clegg has been so dominating and damaging and the image of the Liberal Democrats so totally destroyed by the “nah nah nah nah nah” types, that I think there is a real chance it will not be able to come back. Worse still for me, it seems now so many people have been led to believe that “liberal” means “supporter of extreme free market economics” and most new recruits to the party seem to be joining it on that basis, that if the party does manage to revive it may not be the sort of party I would wish to have involvement with anyway.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '14 - 12:44am

    Jayne Mansfield

    The dilemma is what to do in 2015. Wouldn’t a vote for the Lib Dems be interpreted as a vote for Nick Clegg and the Cleggites?

    Sure. I only voted LibDem in May because I felt Sarah Ludford really deserved to keep her seat in the European Parliament, and since Labour’s victory was a foregone conclusion in the borough where I live I saw no reason to help it further by supporting it against the Tories in the ward where I live. But the more Clegg claims any LibDem vote is some sort of vote of confidence in him personally, the more it makes me want to spoil my ballot paper by writing on it “Get rid of Clegg, and this would be a LibDem vote”.

    My advice is check out the candidate. Tell him or her that you would vote for him or her if he or she came out against Clegg. If he or she is one of those decent LibDems who hasn’t always towed the Clegg line, do support him or her. Don’t write us all off.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '14 - 12:55am

    Colin

    Unless you can, by some form of magic and sleight of hand, call secret courts and DRIP and smashing guardian computers and such liberal then the UK doesn’t have a liberal party any longer, and the party which called itself ‘liberal’ is just putting out PR and spin about it.

    Well, you define “liberal” in that way. There are others who define “liberal” as meaning “a belief in minimising the state” which means they support privatisation of state services, cuts to taxes and cuts to benefits. Why do you think you are right and they are wrong?

    Sure, the sort of civil liberties issues you mention here are important, but to the vast majority of electors they are very much fringe issues. If you want to build a party which defines itself principally as about abstract issues of civil liberties, you’ll attract a few high-minded supporters. In continental political systems, there’s room for a party like that, it has a valuable role, and it will bumble along on about 5% of the vote attracting high-minded support from people leading such comfortable lives that they can afford to turn their political attention mainly to such issues.

    In the UK, with its first-past-the-post electoral system, for a party to get anywhere it must be capable of winning more votes than any other party in some sizeable parts of the country. In reality that must mean it attracts support on more “bread and butter” issues. Wealth, income, job prospects, care quality, housing and so on are, for most people, FAR more important than the things you mention.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '14 - 1:05am

    Jayne Mansfield

    I.s starting to think that it would have been better if there had been another election and the conservatives had won. Once people in the country had a reminder of what having a conservative government really means, they might have been kept out of power for good

    Well, maybe. So are you going to vote Tory in the next general election on that basis?

    Of course, it would still have resulted in Labour attacking the LibDems on the grounds “You let the Tories in by refusing to form a coalition with them where you could have stopped the worst aspects of them, and so allowing them to do what they’ve done.

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