Author Archives: Katharine Pindar

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.’

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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.

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‘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

Of eggs hatching, plants springing up, and polls rising for us

 

Easter is a time of new beginnings, wrote my local Vicar in his April newsletter. New beginnings for whom? I wondered. If the followers of a 2000-year-old religion can talk about new beginnings, can there be anything in the idea for the rather younger Liberal Democrats?

This is a time of working and waiting, for us – working for the May elections and waiting for Brexit-related developments. But could this be a pregnant pause, with our party about to burst into new life after the nine-month post Referendum hard grind? I believe so.

What strikes me first about this time is the sound of silence. All the fierce denunciations by Brexiteers of supposed backsliding by Remainers (who actually thought they were lucky to get a word in edgeways) has ceased. The angry headlines in the right-wing press, stirring up ordinary folk to stay agitated about immigrants and Brussels and rulings by foreign courts or even our own – all gone.

The intimidation of Remainers had its effects. Canvassing in Gorton last Saturday, I didn’t quite convince a young man who believes we are right in our demands over Brexit and for a referendum on the final deal, will vote for Jackie Pearcey but feels May is too entrenched with too many backers for our national aims to succeed. He had evidently been silenced by the angry clamour which claimed to represent that elusive ‘will of the people’, who ‘wanted their country back’.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 40 Comments

Now we must stand firm, and proclaim our own powerful vision.

So we come to the crunch. We have voted against triggering Article 50 in both the Commons and the Lords. We are being attacked, as Tim Farron was on Radio 4’s Any Questions last Friday night, for being anti-democratic.

I have read this accusation many times here on Liberal Democrat Voice. I have occasionally heard it on Copeland doorsteps too, during the recent by-election. No amount of pointing out, as Tim did again that night, that the people who voted Leave in the Referendum had not voted to leave the EU Single Market has cut much ice with those voters who simply demand, ‘We voted to leave – get on with it!’  Theresa May’s government will shortly obey them.

Were we wrong in what we insisted on? And if so, are our electoral chances being harmed by that public perception? Maybe the latest Tory wins in local elections, maybe the commanding Tory lead in the opinion polls, maybe the too-few votes for us in the recent by-elections – perhaps they all had some small connection with public disagreement over our known stance. Could that be the case?

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