Author Archives: MIchael Atkins

Corbyn’s offer: divisive by design?

Corbyn’s offer on Wednesday to opposition leaders was a new twist in the tragi-farce of Brexit. In brief, the offer goes as follows:

  1. He will table a vote of no-confidence in the Government.
  2. If that is successful, he would seek the confidence of the house to form a “strictly time-limited temporary Government”.
  3. If that is successful, he would aim to secure an extension to Article 50 to hold a General Election.
  4. He would then bring a vote to hold a General Election.
  5. In that General Election, Labour would commit to holding a public vote on the terms of exit, and it would include an option to Remain.

On social media, Labour supporters claim that if Lib Dems don’t support this it is a betrayal of our desire to stop Brexit (especially no-deal Brexit). To see a similar view in more words, the Guardian is reporting that the Lib Dems are now ‘isolated’ since other opposition leaders (Sturgeon, Lucas, Saville-Roberts) are receptive to the plan, and this is supported by an opinion piece.

Commentary has focused on whether Corbyn can command the confidence of the house. Swinson has challenged Corbyn to list the eight Conservative MPs whose support he can count on to get over the line (I make it nine with twelve independents so please correct me in the comments). Eight Conservatives seems like a stretch – I can’t even find eight current Conservatives who have backed a second referendum, let alone one brought about by Corbyn. Labour supporters think that being the leader of the Opposition gives Corbyn the right to head a unity government, whilst as Lib Dems we probably think that Corbyn and unity are unlikely concepts to find together and someone else would be better placed. 

The plan really falls apart at the General Election stage: I would argue the chances of returning a parliament which supports a people’s vote are very low. This is largely subjective, and therefore divisive: Labour supporters have been told for years that the only thing standing between Jeremy Corbyn and Downing Street is a General Election which they are bound to win (after all, he “won” the 2017 election didn’t he?). My assessment would be: 

  • The non-Conservative parties would be divided against a united Conservative party.
  • The “Leave” message from the conservatives would be much clearer than the “vote for us to have another vote on maybe not leaving or maybe leaving with some deal not sure what though” message from Labour.
  • It plays to Johnson’s strengths as a campaigner and personality
  • Labour would struggle to replicate their 2017 success, which was built on non-Brexit issues, without jeopardising the anti-no-deal-Brexit alliance who don’t agree with Labour on everything else. 

And even if a majority for a people’s vote is elected, it’s not clear if Corbyn wants a shot at renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, how he would campaign in the referendum, and even what would be in it (would it be deal vs remain, or no-deal vs deal vs remain). Then there’s the small matter of winning the referendum! Even just writing it all down is exhausting. Perhaps by this point, the “remain” option in the referendum campaign should be marketed as “make it all stop please”. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 62 Comments

We are not a party of the centre

There is a frequent claim on these pages and wider commentary: as a party of the centre or centre-left, with Labour and the Tories pulling away from the centre, the Lib Dems should be polling a good deal better than 5-7%. This failure to transform an advantageous position into wider support is ascribed to a lack of vision, distinctiveness, or messaging etc.

I consider this analysis is flawed, and that the ‘solutions’ that follow are unlikely to improve our situation. My contention is as the article title states – we are not a party of the ‘centre’.

Posted in News | 76 Comments

Are by-elections the best use of activists’ time?

Over the course of November I lost count of the exhortations I received to contribute, either financially or through my time, to the Oldham campaign. But is our current approach to by-elections the best for our party, and, if not, what wider lessons can we draw? This article is written to provoke, to challenge, and to inspire debate; equally, it is not written to insult or degrade the hard work or enthusiasm of activists or candidates with which this party is blessed.

Activists are encouraged to get involved in a by-election for a number of reasons: (i) the excellent qualities of the local candidate; (ii) the opportunity to increase our representation at Westminster; (iii) there is value in 2nd/3rd/… place; (iv) to learn about effective methods of campaigning; (v) to spread our national message; and (vi) it’s fun/sociable/exciting! But we have to realise that we are a seriously resource constrained political party. Resources are financial and people-time: activists, party staff, and political figures (e.g. MPs). I would argue that these are all more seriously limited than at any time since I joined the party in 2005, with the possible exception of activists. Even here, many will have full time commitments, a family, other volunteering work etc. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMike Stamp 18th Sep - 4:40am
    I used to be a fundraiser a long time ago. There are three things that make it difficult, expensive and distracting to do as Mr....
  • User AvatarDavid-1 18th Sep - 4:39am
    I don't know if Jo is really the leader the Liberal Democrats deserve; but, at this particular time, she is the leader we undoubtedly need.
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 18th Sep - 2:12am
    Television reporting was so appalling, clips so few, and brief, arch, out of context. Watch the whole and you see a terrific speech.
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 17th Sep - 11:29pm
    Yes except I couldn't get it to embed at submitted time period, so if I had embedded it here people would have had to fiddle...
  • User AvatarMatthew Harris 17th Sep - 10:22pm
    @Nom de Plume German racist pseudo-scientists in the 19th century spoke of German Jews as racially inferior "Semites", and they - the anti-Jewish racists -...
  • User AvatarWilliam Wallace 17th Sep - 10:00pm
    A comment for those who missed Bournemouth, or only saw extracts on TV. The atmosphere was very good, welcoming and friendly - as remarked to...
Thu 10th Oct 2019