Author Archives: Michael Meadowcroft

Review: A very English Scandal

I was glued to the screen for the three instalments of “A Very English Scandal” – not least because I was at party headquarters during the later years of Jo Grimond’s leadership and am the last remaining active member of the small cabal that tried, somewhat quixotically, to prevent Jeremy Thorpe becoming leader in January 1967. I was also a party officer in the later stages of his leadership. Our opposition to Jeremy at the time had nothing whatever to do with his homosexuality, which simply did not figure in any discussion. It was entirely to do with his lack of political depth and his capricious authoritarianism which was difficult, and at times unpleasant, to accommodate. I was glad that there was coverage of Thorpe’s principled stand on anti-colonialism which was always commendable. A lot of the reminiscences since the film stress his undoubted communication skills and his showmanship but, alas, these are not key attributes of leader. Also, it is clear that there was the most remarkable compartmentalisation with the Norman Scott saga being contained entirely within the parliamentary party separate from the problems we had to cope with at headquarters. My obituary of Jeremy Thorpe can be found here. 

Taken as a whole the programmes covered the period well. There was inevitable compression of the material which sometimes gave a skewed perspective, and Russell Davies’ “dramatic licence” led him to treat some of the rumours and speculations of the period as facts. The one serious misrepresentation is that of Emlyn Hooson who is portrayed as a sly politician always seeking an opportunity to topple Thorpe in order to take over the leadership. He certainly wanted to be leader – he stood against Thorpe in January 1967 – but I know of no evidence that he took any action with a view to causing his resignation for selfish purposes. I went back over all my files and publications and there is no such indication in any of them. In fact, Emlyn’s leading role in discrediting Norman Scott at the now infamous meeting with Scott in February 1971 had the effect of entrenching Thorpe’s leadership. Emlyn was, in fact, a man of considerable intellect and principle.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

Why targeting has damaged the Party

Editor’s Note: This article previously made reference to the alleged actions of an unidentified member of party staff. This reference has been removed on the request of that member of staff. Lib Dem Voice has apologised for its original inclusion – we have always sought to avoid such references on the site but our small team of volunteer editors overlooked it on this occasion

 

My fellow colleague kicked off a fascinating debate on how the Party might progress on Sunday. Amongst the comments was a contribution from Michael Meadowcroft which, according to one of our readers, deserved to be expanded upon. It’s a bit longer than our normal pieces, but I hope that it will be thought-provoking. Mark

I have a fellow feeling for Paul Holmes as another of the handful of Liberals who have gained seats from Labour, but it is perverse in his situation for him to defend targeting. I have acknowledged that it arguably works once in the ruthless way it has been carried out for twenty-five years with the diminishing and lethal returns we saw last year. It is a risk to execute targeting even once but the result in 1997 arguably justified its inception. It is the continuance of the strategy that has been disastrous. Indeed the evidence of its failure is visible in that the same seats have to be targeted election after election because we have been unable to build self-supporting organisations in those seats. How then can we rely only on this strategy to win a wide swathe of seats towards a majority in the House of Commons?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 89 Comments

The Government does not have a clue on a solution to the Irish border problem

Being an earnest seeker after truth I downloaded the full Joint Report of 8 December in order to discover just how the Prime Minister proposed to accomplish the trick of leaving the single market and the customs union whilst still having no physical border between the European Union, ie the Republic of Ireland, and the UK, ie Northern Ireland.

I searched in vain. There are no practical plans whatsoever in the Report. All there is are statements of intent on “the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland,” relying “to a significant extent on a common European Union legal and policy framework,” on being “committed …. to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border,” and “will propose specific solutions,” “will maintain full alignment,” with the necessary EU rules and “will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union.” It has the worthy aims of “what” they want, but nothing of “how”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 42 Comments

The Leeds Yellow Book 2015: Essays on a Liberal Future for Leeds

Leeds yellow bookNew liberal ideas for our city and region: that is what is offered in The Leeds Yellow Book 2015: Essays on a Liberal Future for Leeds.

The Leeds Yellow Book 2015 is a collection of essays by Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrat supporters offering fresh thinking and ideas for our city on how to ensure that everyone in Leeds and the Leeds City Region, no matter how they started out can make life better for themselves, their family and their community. The essays are focussed on Leeds but can be applied to any city or region.

The Leeds Yellow Book 2015 has been drawn together and edited by Michael Meadowcroft, former Leeds Liberal MP and Honorary Alderman of the City of Leeds, Liz Bee and Ian MacFadyen.

It is available priced £8.50, including postage and packing, from Beecroft Publications, 0113 257 6232 or [email protected], or from Amazon, www.amazon.org.

It may seem brave or foolhardy to publish a book of Liberal Democrat essays at this time. It is neither. It is an act of faith in a liberal future for Europe, the United Kingdom and the great City of Leeds. To win people’s trust and confidence once more, we have to offer clear visions of how our country and our city can be governed for all the people on Liberal Democrat values, principles and policies. We have to offer fresh ideas. The Leeds Yellow Book 2015 offers fresh ideas.

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Opinion: Why I joined the Liberal Democrats

Twenty-first century politics are a mockery of the rigorous and committed process that is required if our society and our communities are going to have a chance of surviving the challenges that dominate the agenda today. I happen to believe in politics and in the innate ability of men and women to work together in political organisations in order to create a secure and sustainable environment within which their life chances can be enhanced. To achieve that we need a far better quality of politics than we get from the two major parties today.

Spin, image and focus groups have dulled the public appetite for involvement in the political process – even at the most basic level of voting – and the electorate sees politicians as cynical chancers who will embrace any tactic that will give them a chance of power. Over the past twelve years new Labour has abandoned any semblance of an ideological anchor in progressive politics.

There was a time, before Blair, when, even if one did not agree with its proffered solutions, Labour could be trusted to have an instinctive response which would differentiate it from the Conservative right. Helping the poor, empathising with the developing world, being gentle with refugees, defending civil rights, building houses to let and espousing comprehensive education, could all be expected to be part and parcel of Labour’s agenda. But today all this has gone and the pragmatic dissection of its honourable past means that nothing is too illiberal or too harsh for Labour.

I discovered my personal Liberal millstone very early on. Once identified, we happy band of instinctive Liberals have no choice: it’s a lifetime of commitment and struggle. I joined the party way back in 1958 and after very few years it was a case of finding jobs that would keep me in politics. Over the thirty years to the merger I reckon to have done just about every task within the “backroom” and in the “frontline”, and to have written on just about every subject. It’s all on my website. Faced with those who lacked confidence in the potential of their Liberal beliefs, the task was to provide them with the material with which to triumph in debate and on the hustings.

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Howarth 25th Jun - 8:43am
    @OnceALibDem The 2011 referendum was legally binding but in a complicated way. You need to look at the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011,...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 25th Jun - 8:14am
    @ Mark, "England win 6-1....." I've noticed a lot more St George flags flying since our team have started to do well. But the flag...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 25th Jun - 8:04am
    On the whole I take the view that this was an arrangement that two local parties came to and that was up to them. They...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 25th Jun - 7:59am
    @ Gordon Lishman, You say: "your comment does sound like adolescent cynicism " But you don't say it's wrong. How can you when your leader...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 25th Jun - 7:58am
    To be fair to 'Liberator', it published two one-page articles on the Richmond arrangement - one for and one against.
  • User AvatarWilliam Fowler 25th Jun - 6:29am
    Yes, all rather odd isn't it? The Conservatives are supposed to be the party of big business yet big business mostly wants to stay in...