Author Archives: Chris Whiting

A view on the leadership election from a former Lib Dem member

I joined the party in 2014, and resigned my membership just over a month ago. I didn’t leave because of any ideological difference with the party’s direction per se but because I have lost faith that the party is capable of winning and putting our values in to practice.

In the second half of 2019, I thought our watershed moment had arrived when the party had managed to surge in the EU elections, and attract a raft of exceptionally talented and likeable MPs from the other two parties. Like we had seen in Canada in 2015, and France in 2017, I thought the UK was about to be engulfed by a wave of liberalism in the 2019 election.

I still maintain that this was achievable for the party, but like many have correctly recognised, there were fatally bad strategic decisions made in our national campaign that unthinkably left us with fewer MPs than we had in 2017.
I believe the key questions for the leadership candidates are rather complex and existential. It seems to me that the party has a greatly embedded culture of strategic incompetence that causes us to squander each and every national electoral opportunity we’re presented with.

In my view, the party needs to accept that whilst electoral reform is what we all crave, we have to play the game of politics under its current rules – and not the rules we would like to play under. With that in mind, we need to decide which party we want to replace in this binary political system.

It seems obvious to me that the Lib Dems would ultimately supersede the Labour Party as Britain’s primary progressive force. Yet, our voter demographics do not seem to indicate this as a remote possibility.

My view is that the 2015 collapse that has ultimately led us to this sorry state of affairs is because our party had spent many years building voting blocs via local reputation that had no coherency in a national setting – so when our vote started to crumble, there was no obvious subsection to target and preserve.

Much of this is due to the party’s inability over multiple leaders to carve out a ‘core vote’. It is widely acknowledged that Labour’s power bases are urban centres and the Tories have their base in rural shire counties – but who do the Lib Dems represent?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 52 Comments

Four things I want from the next Liberal Democrat Leader

Vince Cable has made the difficult but correct decision to stand down as the leader of the Lib Dems. And now, for the third time in four years, we’re left looking for a new leader.

It’s certainly frustrating for us Liberals to see arguably the worst government and worst opposition in living memory still absolutely trouncing us in the polls.

What is clear in a relentlessly unpredictable political climate is that opposition to Brexit is not an automatic ticket back to the top, and the shadow of the coalition years looms larger than many of us realised.

With a leadership election anticipated …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 22 Comments

The choice for Lib Dems – embrace radicalism or die

I’m not going to mince my words or toe the centre-line in my summary of the Liberal Democrats’ election result for reasons that will become clearer the further you read.

Our result on the 8th June was embarrassing, demoralising, and worst of all, irrelevant. 7.4% of the vote was all that our party could accrue; 40,000 votes fewer than our 2015 performance which we naively thought was our floor. When the country was crying out for a party of the centre with both Labour and the Conservatives lurching to the extremes, we didn’t answer the call.

Whilst our swelling membership and activist base can feel rightly proud of their efforts in the campaign which saw an increase in Lib Dem MPs, they should also feel aggrieved at the lack of support our national message gave to them.

As a party we have failed to broaden our support, something that would have seen unthinkable in the wake of the 2015 election or even just a few weeks ago. We must address why we are primarily appealing to the white middle-classes and not other groups. As per Lord Ashcroft’s exit poll, just 6% of BME voters lent their support to the Liberal Democrats in this election, compared to 9% of white voters.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 69 Comments

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