Author Archives: Katharine Pindar

Loss, connection and happiness. Is Liberal Democrat activism good for us?

Happiness, social psychologists like Jonathan Haidt have suggested, may be found more in the single-minded pursuit of good aims than in achieving them. If this is true, Liberal Democrats should be some of the happiest people around – always striving, always hoping, yet too often actually failing to achieve our aims.

Ridiculous, retorts common sense. We fail, and that is depressing and debilitating. Yet there must be something in the theory to keep some of us for fifty years or more committed to the cause of Liberalism – not always activists, deflected by our personal human dramas and careers and families, yet always resuming.

You’re just fanatics to do that, say scornful pragmatists. And it’s true that this commitment depends on your being a certain type of character, raised in certain circumstances such as, maybe, growing up in a politically concerned family.  Perhaps also you have to start young, when you can’t anticipate the long unproductive years to come.

There has to be resilience in your character to keep going, and certain social conditions to help sustain you. Liberal Democrats become used to long disappointment brightened by moments of triumph and joy, but actual loss is hard to bear.

The loss of a political position, whether a council or a parliamentary one, may never be as devastating as the loss of someone you love, or getting a life-threatening illness, or seeing your child come to grief, but it’s still a terrible blow. All that effort to get there, all that hard work in office, all that useful accomplishment, suddenly finished, seemingly wasted. How did our Liberal Democrat champions feel, as one by one they fell, from 2011 to 2015? The pain of having failed their closest associates, family, employees and fellow campaigners would have been combined with deep frustration and probable impotent suppressed anger. How many vowed never to subject themselves again to that? It took a certain cast of character to resolve to carry on, probably resisting the plea of loved ones not to be masochistic. They had the imperative of finding other paying work speedily, as well.

Posted in Op-eds | 28 Comments

Lib Dems must lead the fight against the calamity of Brexit

Whatever motion we debate at Conference next month, we already know that the majority of us oppose Brexit. We all need to persuade the people around us of what a developing calamity it is. We also need to take the lead nationally. No new party is required to campaign on this: the Brexit Exiters are us.

But we need to shout about it, not leave it to retired government ministers and would-be leaders from other parties to grab the limelight.

For the country is in dire need of Brexit being called off.

Poverty worsens. Austerity bites harder as living standards sink. Health services decline with too few doctors and nurses. Councils struggle to keep meeting local needs, Young people lack decent rental accommodation at an affordable price. Working people with zero-hours contracts or temporary jobs can’t pay all the bills, fall into debt and resort to food banks.

Yet we have a disunited government which, so far from tackling these ills, is almost entirely occupied with the enormous, wasteful task of trying to accomplish a Brexit which will make conditions worse. Negotiations with the EU on all fronts are stalled – rights of citizens living abroad, the Irish border, the size of the bill to be paid, and future trade relations.

As for the Labour opposition, with a better will to tackle the ills but no power to do so, it is no less divided on the terms of Brexit yet firmly keeps step with the government on the necessity of it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 58 Comments

What should Liberal Democrats expect of our leaders?

 

Members are sovereign in the Liberal Democrat party. Members will be consulted on the overall party strategy at the next Federal Conference, prior to a motion being passed. Yet the party leader is expected, both by the membership and by the country, somehow to embody the image of the party. He or she is identified with its perceived success or failure by the media, regardless of how much control they may actually have had.

So what do we members think the first duty of the Liberal Democrat leader should be?

Surely he must show in outlining his political priorities that he is true to the party’s principles and values. This Tim Farron did, when elected in 2015. He said, for example,

We see people as individuals. The Liberal mission is to help us to be the best we can be. Standing up for the individual is not what we do – it’s what we are.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 86 Comments

Open a golden gate to grow power

We Liberal Democrats want power. Leader Tim Farron has stated that we want to be in government again, to have power to enact our policies, and we also seek power in local government through our elected councillors.

At present though we seem all too far away from having power. The ’fightback’ after the grim 2015 General Election results seems to have petered out. Yes, numbers of council seats have been won back, and yes, we now have 12 MPs instead of 8. But highly valued MPs have lost, scores of deposits have been forfeited, and we reach only 7% in the polls. We hoped to have massive support from Remainers, now that the country’s economy is faltering and the promises of the Brexiteers being shown up, but in the highlighted clash of May’s Tories and Corbyn’s Labour, pro-EU voters found other priorities.

Then the vote on the amendment to the Queen’s Speech to stay in the EU single market and the customs union gained only 101 ‘ayes’, as the Government and the Labour Party maintained their extraordinary negative alliance. What we Lib Dems actually want is for the British people to realise that Brexit is not only harmful but need not be carried through. But it hasn’t happened yet.

So we are as powerless as before. Or are we? It’s interesting that a Corbyn ally, Ian Lavery, says that the Labour Party is now ‘too broad a church’, and that Momentum voices are suggesting that 50 moderate Labour MPs might like to join us. Previously, Tory commentator and former MP Matthew Parris had similarly said in a Times column that his party may be too broad a church, though he didn’t go so far as to advise a breakaway movement, remarking that ‘Liberal Democrats aren’t serious about government.’

Posted in News | 42 Comments

Tim’s resignation: Wrong reasoning, wrong cause, wrong result

There is a clear irony in this car-crash. Prejudice against Tim’s supposed prejudices appears to have led to his resignation. Since he neither expressed such prejudices, nor, if he had them, allowed them to influence in the slightest his work as Liberal Democrat MP and Leader, what he has experienced is itself prejudice, an attack on his freedom of thought.

It seems a disgrace that he should have been confronted by senior party figures and asked to resign, apparently because of the supposed views which he has not expressed. It was unfair, and the more so since the delegation to him was apparently of unelected peers accountable to nobody, overriding the wishes of members who had elected him.

To the watching world it looks as if he has been forced out on the basis of aspects of his Christian faith. So, whether from an internal or external viewpoint, our party grandees seem to have acted from prejudice, rather than supporting the leader over the media voices which have tormented him with persistent, intrusive but irrelevant questioning.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 133 Comments

‘Fiery Farron’ will fight false Mayism – but so may leading Tories

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron was given a new title by the Mail on Sunday. Under the striking large-caps headline, THE WRATH OF FIERY FARRON, Tim was reported as  fired up to denounce the Tory manifesto declaration that the value of people’s homes will be taken into account in future to help pay for extensive home care. People will only be able to safeguard £100,000 of their total assets, including their home. ‘If you have dementia’, Tim is said to have told the Mail journalist Simon Walters, ‘Theresa May is coming for you. Your house is up for grabs.’ He said it showed the hardness of May and her party. ‘She’s making the Tories nastier than ever.’

This is the Prime Minister who pledged herself when taking office last July to ‘a vision of a country that works not for the privileged few but that works for every one of us.’ Here is a May policy which seems likely to dismay every modest home-owner in England and Wales who contemplates retirement without much other wealth, in fear now that the lottery of life may make them or their partner housebound with long-term illness.

Mayism in practice already seems far from the Prime Minister’s vision. Inflation has reached its highest level in almost four years, with consumer prices at 2.7% now rising faster than earnings at 2.3%. As always, it will be the poorest families who suffer most, with the greater part of their income going on necessities including food and energy. And there is no relief proposed in the Tory manifesto for families on frozen or reduced benefits, already suffering from the government’s austerity programme. Instead, pensioners will lose the present guarantee of a 2.5% annual rise in their pensions, and primary-school children are to be denied their nutritious free school lunches, reversing policies initiated by the Liberal Democrat ministers in the Coalition government.

Posted in News | 15 Comments

The country goes a-Maying now, but is being led a merry dance

England has a long tradition of May Queens, but never before had a May who sometimes acts like a queen. ‘This is the most important election in my lifetime’ she insisted to Andrew Marr on one of his Sunday-morning BBC 1 shows.  ‘It’s about the future of the country and about the national interest’. She made plain her belief that to get the ‘tough’ Brexit negotiations right the country needs her in charge, which will also ensure a strong economy and ‘a country that works for everyone’.

She put over the same message even more explicitly on a visit to Scotland on April 30, stating that ‘every vote for me and my team will strengthen the Union, strengthen the economy, and the UK and Scotland together will flourish’.

Her messages are evidently working, as the local election results seem to show. The tide of approval and trust evidenced by comments of ordinary people who may never have voted Tory before almost suggests a developing cult status for her. When she held that queenly audience outside No.10 to announce that ‘some in Brussels’ want to sabotage Brexit, try to affect the election result and harm the UK, she was not noticeably received with incredulous laughter. Her words were not generally regarded either as paranoid or manipulative, but instead brought solemn head-shaking about our erstwhile friends apparently becoming enemies, in a newly Manichean view of Europe.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 27 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAdam Penny 18th Oct - 2:15am
    Hi David, I pondered whether to go into models when writing it, but in the end I plumped for simply trying to raise the profile...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 18th Oct - 1:03am
    @ Katharine Pindar You made me laugh Katharine, which I enjoyed and needed.
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 18th Oct - 12:21am
    Andrew McCaig - hi, Andrew, I must challenge the logic of your statement, 8.17 pm, that having 'gone on a lot about Brexit' in your...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 17th Oct - 11:32pm
    Norway, along with Costa Rica, Vanuatu, New Zealand and many others, manage fine outside the EU. That's because they have always been otside the EU,...
  • User AvatarLaurence Cox 17th Oct - 11:31pm
    @David Raw, @Expats There are perfectly good reasons for standing a paperless candidate in local elections: First, unlike a General Election, it doesn't cost anything...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 17th Oct - 11:02pm
    Tristan Ward - 'Britain is becoming a laughing stock among foreigners. Who wants that?' Some years ago in the 1980s there was a painfully bad...