Author Archives: Mark Argent

Responding to Labour Remain

Recently a friend and Liberal Democrat activist showed me an email from Labour Remain — formed in the last few weeks and claiming significant support. This comes on the back of a survey showing that 78% of Labour members disagree with Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to a referendum on the terms of Brexit. How should we respond?

Brexit is a profound threat to British values, the economy and the very integrity of the United Kingdom. In that sense it needs us all to pull together.

The country is in a crisis. We have been so intertwined with the rest of Europe, for so long, that the referendum result has had a deeply destructive effect on public life. Parliament seems paralised. Andrew Adonis has written of a Brexit-induced “nervous breakdown” in Whitehall. The Conservatives and Labour seem massively dysfunctional. There are stories of moderate councillors in both parties being de-selected. Most of the pro-Remain majority in the Commons is silent or vanquished. My excitement over the formation of Labour Remain is more than a little tempered by the lurch to the Left in their recent National Executive Committee elections and stories of MPs being threatened with de-selection. Faced with Brexit, this has all the wisdom of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to think differently.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 38 Comments

In the world of the Corbyn bounce

The unexpected is happening. In the wake of the late surge in support for Labour that wiped out Theresa May’s majority (and hit the Liberal Democrat vote), a new poll on 11 June shows Labour six points ahead of the Tories. Labour are reporting 15,000 new members in the first three days after the election.

On the doorsteps on polling day, and with friends since, the sense is that Labour under Corbyn have caught people’s imaginations. What does this mean for us?

My sense is that this is a problem because people’s imaginations have been caught by something unrealistic. If we now had a majority Labour government, disappointment would be around the corner, but for now, hopes are roused. There’s a parallel with Brexit being seen as a bright new future.

Posted in News | Tagged | 63 Comments

New members, En Marche and non-target seats

Our huge number of new members are making me think differently about the familiar problem of balancing resources between target and non-target seats, and the possibility of attracting support in a way that parallels En Marche in France.

For a long time targetting has been a difficult decision. The electoral system means that, if we lean too far one way, we spread ourselves too thinly and are even more badly under-represented in parliament. If we lean too far the other way, we create Liberal Democrat “holes” where there is more-or-less little for people to join, which makes it really hard for that situation to change.

But one of the many unusual things about this General Election campaign is that it is taking place in a period of rapid growth while our membership is growing rapidly. At the moment I am parliamentary candidate in a constituency where membership is up 400% since the General Election and 250% since the EU referendum.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Brexit on the doorstep

One of the salutary experiences of the last few months has been door-knocking in several areas which Liberal Democrats have not worked for a while and where there is significant support for Brexit. Responses have been varying. Alongside those promising to vote Lib Dem there have been angry responses — people who see the Lib Dem clipboard and slam the door and even someone who rushed out of their house to shout at me for putting a Lib Dem leaflet through their letterbox.

This leaves me wondering about the antipathy.

A slammed door says that someone is angry, but not why. Where …

Posted in News | Tagged | 37 Comments

The other side of Brexit: What about the Leavers?

I’m increasingly conscious that one really important group has become invisible in the storm around Brexit: the people who actually voted for it.

Canvassing recently my ear was firmly bent by someone who voted Leave and is worried about the NHS. The promise of £350 million per week might have evaporated on the morning after the referendum, but her concerns have not. She’s not angry at the lie: for her this is just one more in the chain of politicians’ lies. The worry is real.

One of the memorable moments in  Laura  Kuenssberg’s documentary on the referendum had  Leave voters  in Sunderland saying “now people in London have got to listen to us”.

Instead we have a prime minister saying “Brexit means Brexit” and talking of the “will of the people”, but who reacted to being reigned in by the courts by bring a bill before parliament to give her huge powers in the Brexit process. This sounds like a land grab from No.10 rather than an attempt at listening.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 69 Comments

A time for wise leadership

At the start of 2017, things feel much less stable than a year ago. Prince Charles broke with convention in his Christmas message by expressing concern at the “deeply-disturbing echoes of the 1930s”. He is thinking in global terms, but the UK is part of this story. He is right to be concerned.

I finished a recent blog post by saying that what we need now is wise leadership. Those words are haunting me. Doubtless there are some who want a leader to push Brexit through as fast as possible, and others who want a …

Posted in Op-eds | 26 Comments

Lessons (and warning) from Trump

The day after the US electoral college chose Donald Trump to be their new president, Huffington Post ran an article on his use of digital campaigning, where Brad Parscale, the digital director of the campaign explains:

We never fought for the popular vote. There was no economic reason, and there was no reason based off the system of our constitution to do so. We needed to win 270 , and to do so we needed to win in certain states, and we needed to target registered voters that had a low propensity to vote and a propensity to vote for Donald Trump if they come.

This was done by highly-targeted and personalised messages to key voters in key states.

Questionable behaviour by the FBI over Hilary Clinton’s emails, and whatever it is the Russians actually did may have contributed, but Parscale’s point is that very effective targeting gets results.

Part of me is wincing. The targeting is entirely legal, but also strains the definition of democracy — not least because Hilary Clinton had 2.8 million more votes than Trump (and roughly the same number of votes as Barack Obama had in 2012): the problem is that she had the votes in the wrong places. Most worryingly, this means that the voters-who-matter end up being a small number in a few places: marginalising the vast majority.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments
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