Author Archives: Katharine Pindar

Not waving, nearly drowned dead

So there we are. The deep splits in the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have foreshadowed the division of the British voting public now into two nearly equal halves. There will be plenty of analysis of who the Brexiters are and why they won, but one thing seems clear. The Leave voters rejected the supposed authority figures, the elites of politics and business and finance, all the leaders to whom our forebears looked up. It seemed to be in that respect a genuine revolt of the masses.

An almighty wave, worthy of a Japanese painter, has crashed our own tiny ship on a stony shore, called Britain outside the EU. But mighty galleons have crashed with us, some never to float again. We should have more buoyancy than them, and Tim has certainly showed it since the result.

Still, as we painfully pick our way over the pebbles, we need to think about why there is this apparent rebellion of the masses against the elites. It seems that people felt powerless and wanted a sense of control. One way we could respond to that is by fighting again for proportional representation, which will make all elections in England and Wales meaningful, restoring democracy without having referendums.

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Liberal Democrats need to oppose this government with more passion and rage

Thank heaven we have had no major crises while our Government is weak and split. The lordly predecessors of the present set must have turned in their graves when Cabinet responsibility was temporarily abandoned, in defiance of historic practice. The ghosts should then have howled when leading Tories began to spit insults at each other and denounce the supposed lies of their colleagues.

Yet we are stuck with this Tory Government, in or out of the EU. This collection of sophisticated predators, who systematically promote the interests of their own kind and seek the further enrichment of the moneyed classes despite the deep inequalities in Britain, know how to survive.

Where was Iain Duncan Smith’s consciousness of his Government’s preferring tax cuts for the wealthy when poor and disabled people, hit by his benefit cuts, were struggling to survive? Those were the days when David Cameron’s response to Nick Clegg’s attempts to adjust the balance of taxation in favour of the poor was ‘But our donors wouldn’t like it’, and the reply to requests for more public housing was ‘It would only create more Labour voters’. Yet, only this year did Duncan Smith apparently find his conscience and notice that the parrot-cry of ‘We are all in this together’ was false.

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Let’s express the passionate commitment of our united party

‘Divided parties don’t win elections.’ Those were the words of newly-elected London mayor Sadiq Khan, recorded in Saturday’s Guardian (14.05), asking his Labour Party for unity. Of course, if true the saying should equally apply to today’s Conservative Party, with its bitter infighting even at Cabinet level. Liberal Democrats can offer a saying arguably more telling – ‘A small party can help a divided major party form a governing coalition.’ A year after the Coalition Government ended, the road to 2020 may lie wide open.

We are a small party now, but we are not a minor party. Unlike other small parties we have many hundreds of councillors in England, with 45 more elected this month as our Fightback kicks in, and we have a voice and an impact beyond our eight MPs and our cohorts in the House of Lords. Liberalism has a proud history of almost 170 years of progressive service to the British people, reaching its latest peak with five years of shared power within the Coalition.

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Fear and loathing at the coalface: how to combat it

Taking charge of the Stay in the EU campaign, David Cameron was accused of using the politics of fear: claiming Britain will have greater security staying in, while leaving would expose us to unknown hazards. It’s ironic, though, that his actions caused an astonishing split even in his own Cabinet. Are the British people expected to feel safe and secure while seeing our Government and the ruling Party split from top to bottom? How much effective business can such a Government enact in the next fraught few months?

Meantime our own Party has had its share of turmoil and trauma in the past five years. Internally, the comprehensive 2015 Election Review from the Campaigns and Communications Committee shows that a fatal dislocation arose between our Party in Government and the Party in the country. Externally, strong negative emotions against us were simultaneously roused in the British public. Anger among many that we joined with the Tories in the Coalition at all became disgust and even hatred when our Government Ministers broke the Manifesto pledge on abolishing tuition fees, and went on to back austerity measures to reduce the Deficit. As the Review reminds us, our Poll ratings dropped like a stone, our activists departed and our councillors fell from power. While the Lib Dem Ministers achieved much good and prevented some harm, there was little recognition of this in the country.

During the build-up to the Election, the Review points out the inadequate ‘messaging’ from our Centre: ‘Stronger economy, fairer society’ was a slogan not distinctive for us. Then came ‘Look right, look left, then cross’. This though more specific was surely worse, for it suggested the truth that we were willing to enter another coalition with either Tories or Labour. That could be seen as opportunistic and unprincipled, the Lib Dems out for a bit more power and ministerial salaries. Cue renewed hatred from sections of the public, especially if we looked likely to ‘let in’ a candidate from the Party they most detested.

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It’s our legacy – let’s proclaim it

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We must not let the Tories define our legacy, as they did for Labour when that government fell. We were a force for good in the Coalition government, ensuring fairer and better policies for all. But we are not being given the credit for it by the public. Our standing in the polls is still less than 10%, and in Oldham West we didn’t save our deposit. Despite the valiant efforts of Tim and his team, eight months after the General Election we are not getting heard. Political discussion and comment in the media mostly ignores us. What to do?

Let’s look at how we got to this position. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’ and so there is. We swept into Coalition as a tide of discontent, and alarm at the economic situation swept Labour away. Action followed by reaction is the general rule of political history. Last year we were left like so much flotsam and jetsam on the beach.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarFormer Dem 27th May - 12:33pm
    @John Littler you can't be in both EFTA and the EU customs union.
  • User AvatarAndrew Tampion 27th May - 11:52am
    Going off on a slight tangent it seems to me that the mistake that most pro EU commentators make is the implicit assumption that all...
  • User AvatarAndrew Daer 27th May - 11:49am
    There is no average leave voter, but one substantial group includes those like Farage, who can't stand the idea that little countries like Belgium get...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 27th May - 10:45am
    I think the phrase, " if you're going there, I wouldn't start from here" is appropriate. We got off on the wrong foot. We should...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 27th May - 10:27am
    @nvelope2003, You obviously don't read the Guardian! We are shortly due to fall off the economic cliff according to them! https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/brexit-cliff-edge-eu-hardline-thatcherism-uk-economy PS I wasn't being...
  • User Avatarexpats 27th May - 9:59am
    imon Shaw 26th May '18 - 9:58pm.....As I understand it someone on (say) 30K who has had a student loan will pay #450 a year...