Boris offers us a petrol station bouquet as a peace offering…

I’ve watched the Boris Johnson New Year greeting to the nation – feel free to take a look if you’re so inclined – and am as unimpressed as I am unsurprised.

We are promised a decade of growth and innovation, a better NHS, safer streets, an improved environment, and so on and so forth. All very nice, after all, how could anyone disagree with any of that? But, despite the suggestion that we are being invited to pull together, that we now have “a People’s Government, delivering the People’s priorities” (yes, he really did say that… again), he said little that reflected the deep concerns that many of our citizens have about the future direction of the country.

And, for those who believed passionately in a future for our country within a union of European states, for those who have been made to feel unwelcome by the Government’s hostile environment, for those who have suffered from the hatred unleashed by some Brexiteers (including, lest we forget, Boris himself), it will all feel rather hollow this morning. If you’re mourning a tangible loss, or fearing an uncertain future, it’s hard to feel that this Government is pulling for you or will do in the future.

But we can’t just wait for what many experts believe will be the “inevitable disaster”. Firstly, there’s always a possibility that there might not be one and secondly, what might look like a statistical disaster might not feel like one to voters. And looking as though you want things to go badly wrong is seldom a good look.

However, when he promises to work for the good of “the people”, we are entitled to question who he means by “people”, and to be sceptical as to his motives, given his past deeds. We are entitled to hold him accountable, day by day, week by week. We have every right to ask him how he and his government intend to deal with the questions that Brexit poses, and to hold them to a standard of ethics and morality that is appropriate to a representative democracy. We remember their slurs and their insults of the past three and a half years, and one speech doesn’t undo that.

There will be a huge numbers of big questions for the Government to answer over the next five years – how we support the farming and fishing industries, how we build new trade links, how science and innovation are encouraged, how we handle the implications of greater restrictions on inward migration, to name but a few. We can, and must, make the case for liberal answers to these problems, and expose the contradictions and hypocrisy of Conservative answers.

We also have the right to question how the media treat him and his administration. Are they asking the questions that the people deserve answers to, and if not, why not? Or, are they merely acting as cheerleaders?

And, whilst we do that, we’ll have time to develop our own vision of a future Britain whilst the Government works out how to deal with the situation it sought and has created.

The next few years will be tough for our country and for our democracy, and I have little faith in Boris and his little helpers given their harsh words and offensive behaviour in the recent past. But we have our duty to perform, and Boris ought to know that we mean to do so in 2020.

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  • John Peters 1st Jan '20 - 9:55am

    Hope not hate should be the message.

    I expect over time we will forget and forgive the slurs of the Remoaners and their attempts to destroy democracy so they could get their way over the wishes of the electorate.

    It will take time.

  • John Marriott 1st Jan '20 - 10:03am

    Whatever any of us may think about Johnson and his crew, they have won the latest battle if not the war. Better get used to it and stop complaining. The so called opposition parties have been well and truly conned (sorry about the pun). The FTPA gave them the opportunity to screw him and his Tories down and they blew it. I predict that this will be one of the first Acts of Parliament to be repealed, followed closely by the implementation of the Parliamentary Constituencies’ Boundary Review, which could see us buying into the kind of gerrymandering that makes places in the US no go areas for opposition parties. And then, of course, there’s that unmentionable word.

    So it looks as if most, if not all, of the opposition will be coming from north of the border, courtesy of Nicola and her nationalist friends, unless that ‘dead cat’, beloved of a certain Mr Crosby, turns out to be another fish, namely a Salmon(d). By the time the Lib Dem’s and Labour have decided who is going to lead them much of the damage may already have been done…

    So, to paraphrase ‘Margot Channing’, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy year”.

  • Boris Johnson has won the election, the war of words and verbal promises, but time will tell if is war is a real people’s victory or just another fake gimic. Happy New Year all 32m of you whoever you voted, whoever you trusted.

  • Paul Barker 1st Jan '20 - 10:35am

    There does seem to be a consensus among people who are much closer to Johnson than we are; that He is now committed to a “No-Deal/WTO Brexit”. That is likely to be a disaster in the 2nd half of the Year with the probable result that support for Johnson will collapse.
    If we are to make any gains from that then we have to keep saying that Brexit is not over, that it doesnt have to be like this & that most of the damage can be avoided if we negotiate reasonably.
    2020 could look very like 1992 with public opinion swinging through 180 Degrees in a few Months.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jan '20 - 10:45am

    John Marriott “about the pun”
    Private Eye once described Cabinet member Peter Walker as “a Con man”.
    He is now a peer.

  • Simon McGrath 1st Jan '20 - 10:57am

    @paul barker “There does seem to be a consensus among people who are much closer to Johnson than we are; that He is now committed to a “No-Deal/WTO Brexit”.
    why would he want to do that. give me one reason why a man so committed to winning elections would do something damaging

  • Sorry John Peters, I will never forgive Leavers. Because you just don’t get what you’ve taken from us, what you have destroyed. I can no more forgive you than I could an arsonist who burned my house down and stood by watching the flames and whining on and on at me for trying to turn a hosepipe on it.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jan '20 - 11:26am

    Paul Barker 1st Jan ’20 – 10:35am
    The Tory majority in 1992 was about 21 seats, so that 100 votes hear or there would have made a difference to their overall majority. There were enough scandals affecting government MPs to cause enough bye-elections to reduce the government’s majority to zero. Some of the bye-elections were won by Lib Dems, some by Tony Blair’s New Labour.
    The PM withdrew the whip from 8 rebels, but one more joined them, of whom the PM famously commented about “white coats flapping”.
    The PM decided to hold another leadership election, voted on by MPs in those days, which he won by an adequate majority.
    One of the rebel “bastards” was John Redwood, not a “wet”, still an MP now and drier than dry.
    ISBN 0 00 653074 5

  • The most insulting comment in Mr Johnson’s New Year greeting was him trying to tell me that he is my equal!

  • @ John Marriott “Whatever any of us may think about Johnson and his crew, they have won the latest battle if not the war.”

    Currently building crush barriers at Gretna and Berwick to regulate the flow of folk fleeing north wishing to live in a social democratic republic elected by PR, with a local government system elected by PR, and hopefully, in a year or two, a member of the EU attracting inward investment. Much better health service up here (not for sale as it will ber in England), free care for the elderly, no awful academy schools….. and looks like our railways are coming back into the public domain soon. Additional welfare benefits also just introduced.

    PS, Despite ill informed prejudice from some on LDV, the natives are friendly up and the scenery is beautiful…… What is there not to like about probably ten years of the ghastly Boris Down South ?

    PS If Boris builds a wall instead of a bridge we have boats for hire in Berwick and Eyemouth and we know all the back Border country lanes.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jan '20 - 12:16pm

    Simon McGrath 1st Jan ’20 – 10:57am
    “Events, Dear Boy, Events.”

  • When bad things happen Mr Peter’s ( assuming you have not run away ) I’ll ask you should you be forgiven for your bad decision. I suspect that will be a question much asked of you in the new year. Enjoy your victory it will come at a cost you can’t imagine, but foresite really isn’t a Brexiteers gift they are far to obbsessed at gazing back at a glorious past.

  • Innocent Bystander 1st Jan '20 - 12:25pm

    I don’t understand?
    Why would anyone want to get past Boris’ border when everyone is pouring into Scotland, as you so emphatically (only one paragraph before) stated?
    Surely no-one will want to come south?
    p.s. you can keep your rain, haggis and midges. We are happy with what England has to offer.

  • @ Martin “The realities of the hostile environment are profoundly unpleasant, carelessly generating distress and substantial harm, directly in opposition to Liberal principals.”

    As did the Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced and supported (with a very few honourable exceptions) by ??

  • John Marriott 1st Jan '20 - 1:32pm

    @John Peters
    If your smug hubristic remarks are going to be typical of the ‘Leave’ side this coming year, then that doesn’t augur well for the ‘hope not hate’ message you are attempting to preach.

    As someone, who always saw the faults on both sides of the argument, I have to say that the ‘Brexit War’ looks likely to be one that will never completely end. Thanks again to Dave for opening this particular Pandora’s Box.

    Let’s drill down a bit.

    Firstly, ‘democracy’ comes in many different forms. Yes, it was ‘democratic’ to accept the narrow ‘victory’ for Leave in the 2016 Referendum. Secondly, however, I’m not sure that we can say precisely what the ‘wishes’ of the electorate were, given that a quarter of those eligible to vote never expressed a ‘wish’ at all. The best that you can say is that the largest majority three years ago wanted to ‘leave the EU’. I didn’t agree with them, I still don’t; but long ago I accepted the result, unlike the ‘frankie’s’ of this world.

    Of course, I hope our departure from the EU goes well. After all, I still hope to have a few years left to enjoy the undoubted benefits of living, as the late Jonathan Miller once described it when we weathered our last existential crisis back in the 1970’s, “like a slug in a warm mouldy lettuce”.

    However, it’s the future prospects for my children and grandchildren that concern me more. My worry also is that Johnson and those people behind him will use the next few momentous years to cement a kind of rule for which a whole new definition of democracy may be required. Having said that, the old Communist ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ might come closest, if you get my drift. Given your attitude, however, I don’t suppose you’ll be that bothered either way.

  • John Marriott 1st Jan '20 - 1:59pm

    ‘Slug’? Or was it a caterpillar?

  • @Mark Valladares: thank you for your constructive piece. The Remain/Leave debate has been about what is best for this country. We should all be able to agree that wishing harm to this country now just to score political points is not a sensible way to proceed.

    Any Prime Minister’s responsibility is to do what is best for the country. Similarly, our responsibility is to make clear what we believe that best interest to be. Any discussion about our future relationship with our continental neighbours as a country outside the EU must surely be guided by this. We should feel free to remind Prime Minister of this as needed.

    An important part of this Prime Minister’s responsibility is to bring unity to this country. For this to happen he needs to offer something we can unite around. So, a question to all you good people who contribute here: what can he offer us that we can unite around?

    Happy New Year to everyone.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Jan '20 - 2:05pm

    “Private Eye once described Cabinet member Peter Walker as “a Con man”.
    He is now a peer.”

    Peter Walker (Lord Walker of Worcester) died in 2010.

  • I wanted to remain in the EU but much happier to have Boris as PM than Corbyn, though at the moment he seems to be following Blair’s playbook in churning out nice sound bites that when put to the test tend to be not what you thought. Had Corbyn come in I would have probably moved to Spain or Portugal (possibly more left wing than McD but constrained by EU rules on wealth grabs so no great worries) and left them to it. One of the advantages of such a large majority is that he does not necessarily have to do what his right-wingers want (though he will have a few to deal with immigration, law and order, etc in a relatively strict manner without getting his own hands too dirty) and his history suggests much more of a centrist than extremist, so it would be very ill-liberal to write off the policies just because you don’t like the man. Conservatives have a history of borrowing the better LibDem policies so come up with some new ones and see what happens (integrating social care into NHS and paying for it with an IHT levy would be a good starting point)…

  • Kate Harris 1st Jan '20 - 2:38pm

    John Peters. So the polished Turk has spoken (again). I will never be his equal as I am just a European. Hope not hate? ‘Letterboxes, humbug, EU citizens have made the UK their home for too long….’ Your comment John Peters, was creepy. Will it be gleichshaftung next? (Must check the spelling of that, done from memory). Be a dear and check it out for me, there’s a good chap.

  • Kate Harris 1st Jan '20 - 2:42pm

    John Peters ‘Gleichschaltung’, my mistake above. But of course you knew that.

  • Innocent Bystander 1st Jan '20 - 3:14pm

    Your “shaftung” may turn out to closer to that which may well happen.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jan '20 - 3:26pm

    Lib Dem complaints about Boris Johnson’s majority government are mystifying.
    The party made it abundantly clear that it did not want any sort of Corbyn-led government (and Frank West’s comments here reflect a strand of Lib Demism that appeared to prefer a Johnson Brexit to a Corbyn Remain). This suggests that the only realistic outcome that would satisfy Lib Dems would be a Johnson-led minority government which was precisely what we had before the party supported a General Election to change that.

  • Nigel Hardy 1st Jan '20 - 3:39pm

    @ Frank West Had Corbyn got in it would only have been as a power sharing agreement with SNP and LibDems quite probably, and the man would have been unable to deliver any of his policies without a lot horse trading. Such an adminitration would probably only have been a one issue government anyway, to secure a peoples vote and hopefully revoke Article 50. The subsequent GE would then have been one of where do we as a country go from here. Unfortunately none of that materialised and we have turned a very dark corner.

    When you look at reports that around five thousand Britain First thugs have in the last few days joined the Tory party it seems improbable that the blonde bombshell will steer the party away from the hard right, despite the luxury of a big majority. In fact, this regime is a very populist one of the hard right with a very unscrupulous character in the limelight, determined to inflict some unpleasant constitutional changes upon the country. Meanwhile the Labour party’s busy shredding its voter base and imploding, becoming evermore unelectable.

    Where we are now seems to be a result of the 2008 global banking crisis and nations looking for answers, turning to populist demagogues for the answers. Leaving Europe is just a part of that. More fundamentaly, our crisis is a direct result of voters feeling disillusioned with politics, where an undemocratic voting system which should have been changed long ago wastes so many votes and favours one party everytime. Anger will only increase in the next decade, to a point where the ruling party will be defenestrated by a population demanding a better future, despite its efforts to hold power for generations.

  • @ Paul Walter. “But Jo Swinson repeated over and over again that she didn’t want to help with Corbyn or Johnson into Number Ten. She said they were both unfit to lead the country”.

    Correct,Paul. She put herself forward as fit to be Prime Minister when she could then claim a popular mandate to revoke Article 50 when she got 315 more M.P.’s than she actually got. I wonder who advised her that that was a good realistic stance ? Not Norman Lamb for sure.

    Search Results
    Web results
    Sir Norman Lamb slams Lib Dems for their “stupid … – LBC › radio › presenters › andrew-castle › sir-norman-la…
    5 days ago – Former Lib Dem MP Sir Norman Lamb slams the party for their “stupid” approach to Brexit. Andrew asked the former Lib Dem MP whether it was Jo Swinson’s fault for the party securing only 11 seats in the election. … “I think this will go down as a historic miscalculation

  • Jenny barnes 1st Jan '20 - 4:42pm

    The WTO has effectively ceased to exist. The US (trump) has refused to appoint judges to the dispute resolution panel, so WTO rules only apply if everyone agrees. Which they probably won’t.

  • Paul Barker 1st Jan '20 - 5:26pm

    Can I point to the one piece of unambiguous evidence that we have so far, our Polling average.
    From early October to The Election It shows a steady trend downwards with perhaps a small levelling off at the end. That suggests that our Campaign had no effect one way or the other with fall being simply the reverse of the rise after Mays Results. There is actually a long history of us getting temporary boosts after good Election Results, its nothing new. The fact if it coinciding partly with The Election campaign is probably just that, a coincidence with no meaning.

  • We have the Brexit the Brexiteers campaigned for. Going forward they will have to justify the compromises, the failures and the loss of hope. Tis their glourious victory let them own it and clear up after it. Expect no help from me I don’t help stupid.

  • @ Paul Walter I’m glad we agree, Paul. I hope you’ll press the point with the powers that be when and if they ever research into what went wrong..

    As soon as I heard the word ‘Revoke’ my blood froze. It froze again when the single
    word, “Yes”, was given without qualification by Ms Swinson when asked if she would ‘be prepared to use a nuclear weapon’.

    It’s almost as if the party wanted to say ‘Bollox to the Electorate”……. which word, by the way, did lose votes amongst our more fastidious supporters….. probably a few hundred in East Dunbartonshire which I know through relatives is a stronghold of the respectable Kirk !

    It gives me no joy to say there’s an awful lot of sorting out to do politically, policy wise and organisationally if the remnants of this party are going to survive the next few months and beyond the next general election. It’s also hard to see who’s going to provide the intellectual clout and leadership needed to do this given the existing pool of talent as things stand at the moment and to appeal to all sections of the public.

    Meanwhile my local foodbank faced increasing demands over Christmas as a result of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 supported by guess who ? It’s as if the UN Report on Poverty in the UK never existed.

    @ Paul Barker “From early October to The Election It shows a steady trend downwards with perhaps a small levelling off at the end. That suggests that our Campaign had no effect one way or the other with fall being simply the reverse of the rise after Mays Results”.

    There’s a sort of convoluted logic there, but after near sixty years of campaigning (usually winning) I’m afraid I’m unable to see what it is. Flying the proverbial flag is an excuse for surrendering to the inevitable.

  • Jo Swindon’s passionate and full blooded support of the dreaded Coalition was a huge reason why the Lib Dems were so soundly beaten. The opportunity to exploit Labours pathetic response to Brexit was thrown away by Lib Dem blind loyalty to their own…did the party think that people had forgotten the pain and misery of the Coalition years. The Lib Dems chose a leader who reminded so many on the Left of the unforgivable Bedroom Tax the cruel vicious Benefit cuts and so much more….the party blew it.

  • Jenny barnes 1st Jan ’20 – 4:42pm:
    The WTO has effectively ceased to exist.

    Today, January 1st 2020, is the 25th anniversary of the WTO. The WTO (and GATT before it) was set up to help trade flow more smoothly using a system based on negotiated rules, that are transparent, predictable, stable and that minimise disputes. In this the WTO has been overwhelmingly successful. It seems likely that it will hobble on for a few more years yet.

    …WTO rules only apply if everyone agrees.

    That’s how the WTO works. It has no powers of enforcement. Here’s Peter Ungphakorn, a retired WTO official, to explain…

    ‘How the WTO deals with problem trade measures — it’s not just dispute settlement’ [December 2019]:

    All of this shows that there is a lot more going on to encourage countries to comply with WTO rules than dispute settlement. It’s highly unlikely that a dispute system that handles 45 SPS and TBT cases is a major reason why 60,000 measures stay on the straight and narrow.

    Dispute settlement helps to clarify the rules, and to avoid conflict in the most contentious areas, but not the bulk of trade policy, and even then it cannot enforce the rules.

    Governments know that. And so long as they cherish everything else that keeps trade policy honest, they will continue to value the WTO and to use it. For the next few years at least.

  • Bless Jeff such whistling in the wind when the facts are

    GENEVA (AP) — Global commerce will lose its ultimate umpire Tuesday, leaving countries unable to reach a final resolution of disputes at the World Trade Organization and instead facing what critics call “the law of the jungle.’’

    The United States, under a president who favors a go-it-alone approach to economics and diplomacy, appears to prefer it that way.

    The WTO is in a deep coma Jeff, knocking at deaths door and you’ve bet the house on it. Rather foolish I think most people would say, but hey not a surprise is it.

  • I looked up the link you posted Jeff I think you missed a link on the authors twitter account.

    A common assumption in the June 23 referendum debate is that after leaving the EU, the UK could “simply” operate as an ordinary WTO member. Eventually that’s true, but getting there would be far from simple.

    Some experts believe that the adjustments would be little more than technical, and that any negotiations would be straightforward. They could be right. It would depend on whether the WTO’s membership is determined to accommodate the UK’s wishes.

    But recent experience in the WTO suggests that is unlikely. A closer look at the details suggests some key issues could be politically contentious among the WTO’s members, currently 162 countries.

    On top of that, recent negotiating experience suggests that willingness to accommodate each other’s interests quickly is a scarce commodity in the WTO and even a final agreement cannot be guaranteed.

    If that is true, then post-Brexit, the UK can expect a long and rough ride.

    Bless Jeff who was to know making major decisions could be so difficult. Certainly seems to be coming as a shock to you.

  • And best wishes for the New Year to you too, Paul.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jan '20 - 11:30pm

    Martin, I don’t think your explanation of why we did so badly in the Election can explain why a target seat so apparently winnable as St Ives, with so good a candidate as Andrew George is, came nowhere near success. The unrealistic and probably undemocratic policy of Revoke if we could win a majority would seem possibly to have played a part in turning people off.

    The policy was Jo’s own – she was overconfident in putting it and herself forward in the ways she did, and I do blame the Conference leaders for not having a full debate on the relevant part of the motion, as well as presumably not warning Jo that it was not wise. Our former leaders Tim Farron and Vince Cable did not agree with the policy, any more than did Andrew George, so people handling the debate, presumably the Conference organisers, should take the responsibility. I think they must have accepted the policy because Jo wanted it and they felt the new leader should have her head. If that was not what happened, will somebody in the leadership please explain? It did distinguish us from Labour, but the ensuing publicity was not favourable to us.

    At any rate Ed Davey has made a good start to his possibly temporary leadership, and it will be good if he and our new president can work well together. I don’t think there is any point in rejecting Ed in the eventual election for leader because he, like Jo, was involved in Coalition decisions – we are not, in the public eye, going to shake off the blame for some Coalition decisions by ditching individuals. However, we can put the past behind us by valiant work, nationally and locally, in the coming years. Best wishes for 2020 to all Liberal Democrats.

  • Martin raises a good point that lack of success in seat numbers was due to the 2017GE leaving so few close 2nd places. The additional 1.3 million votes did not translate to net additional seats.

  • I hear lots of people say that the Revoke policy played a key role in the poor performance, however I haven’t seen evidence to support that.

    After the election there was a poll asking why 2017 Labour voters didn’t vote Labour this time. Far from Labour’s (utterly awful) Brexit policy (19%) or Labour’s (utterly terrifying) extremism (3%) the most important reason was Labour’s (utterly disgusting) Leadership (35%). Of course “Leadership” is a broad reason (would could incorporate Labour’s Brexit policy or anti-semitic and terrorist supporting extremism).

    But I’d like to see this sort of detailed polling about why voters chose not to vote Lib Dem before people start ascribing their own opiniobs as to the reason (which sometimes reflect their own ideological positions (or repetition of what the Lib Dems’ enemies have asserted are the reason, often to try and bury the Remain movement). I personally never liked the Revoke policy and really didn’t like Jo at all, however my own personal opinion is that the biggest reason people didn’t vote Lib Dem was tactical voting and a sense that the Liberal Democrats couldn’t win and was a wasted vote. But I’d like to see evidence to support that, which as I understand doesn’t exist yet

  • Arnold Kiel 2nd Jan '20 - 1:21am

    Katharine Pindar,

    I always found the Revoke-policy logically straightforward and entirely democratic, but I had to learn that too many voters did not see the logic, and bought the “undemocratic” claim. This criticism implies, btw, that the 2016 exercise was democratic, a claim I will forever reject, and I thought you saw that similarly. In any event, Johnson implementing his WA with less than 50% of the popular vote is as democratic as PM Swinson’s revoking the leave-letter would have been.

    I therefore agree with Martin, and believe Jo had no good policy-options. You also seem to have difficulties to formulate a more successful alternative to Revoke. A 2nd referendum promise (which was always there, but drowned out) only would have looked like a Labour-light offer and would have made the anyhow awkward (but equally unavoidable) claim not to put any major party-leader into No.10 even less credible.

    I think warmly of Jo and her brave, un-winnable fight. If she stays in politics and comes back from this defeat, she will impress us all.

  • As a Party member and activist for more than 50 years I was appalled by the ‘Revoke’ policy and voted LibDem this time with less enthusiasm than I have ever felt. Arnold Kiel says that it was ‘entirely democratic’: to give the policy even a modicum of democracy it was necessary for us to go into the election lumbering ourselves with the hubristic claim, ‘Jo Swinson – our next Prime Minister’, which just made the Party look ridiculous, but even had we won a majority of seats it would still not have overcome the legitimate claim of the Leavers to have won the Referendum because no party in the UK has ever won a majority of votes, so for us to have revoked Article 50 as a result of the quirks of First Past the Post would still not have been democratic.

  • Denis Loretto 2nd Jan '20 - 8:21am

    This thread seems to be turning towards criticism of our (admittedly highly flawed) campaign. Let’s get back to what we should do now. For those of us who think that under FTTP our best hope lies in having a Labour party we can work with the news that Keir Starmer is polling ahead with Labour members is welcome.


  • Boris goes wherever the votes are, the LibDems want to impose a set of ideals on the voters that do no have majority support… does that make Boris more of a democrat?

  • Denis Loretto makes a good point about Keir Starmer. Unexciting he may be, but competent he certainly is. I expect under his leadership Labour will make a recovery. It’s questionable whether the present pool of talent in the Lib Dems will have the same effect.

  • John Marriott 2nd Jan '20 - 9:26am

    Dennis Loretto bemoans the fact that this thread has turned into a riot of Lib Dem, or, to be fair, Lib Dem leadership bashing. His suggestion, however, that liberals should suck up to the Labour Party to get anywhere I find laughable. Just as the Lib Dems blew it in the AV referendum, so did Labour when it had a chance for real fundamental reform after its 1997 electoral landslide. No, Labour has had its chance. There was a reason for it once; but not any more.

    This recent ‘General Election, which never need have happened’ was basically about two issues; Brexit and who becomes PM. The first and equally undemocratically, given the percentages, a putative revocation of Article 50 had the Lib Dems actually achieved a working parliamentary majority, as ‘tonyhill ’ and others have said, would have been based on FPTP. As for the choice of PM, there were really only two contenders and it was pretty obvious whom tge majority of electors would choose. In some ways, whether we like it or not, that was what really swung it.

    As for Katharine blaming ‘Conference’, therein lies another problem. Get a bunch of Lib Dems, complete with lanyards, in a hall and anything could happen, much of which is based on idealism rather than reality. I only ever attended one Autumn Conference in my forty odd years of political activity. Now I know why.

  • Paul Barker 2nd Jan '20 - 10:50am

    The next General Election is almost certainly 5 Years away.
    The next round of Local Elections is 5 Months away.
    Any lessons learned from 2019 will almost certainly not apply to 2024/2025.
    Can we please Focus on this Year which we can do something about & not endless blaming each other for the Past.

  • As we face the magical sunlit uplands of Brexit, with its cast of unicorns, faries and other fantasies ( why they even a Lexit Svartalfar ) in the real world as a poster on the Independent pointed out things are not going so well

    Project Fact

    Quarterly UK GDP Growth

    ————————— 2014 Fastest growth in G7
    2014 Q1 0.8
    2014 Q2 0.9
    2014 Q3 0.8
    2014 Q4 0.8
    ————————— 2015 2nd fastest growth in G7
    2015 Q1 0.3
    2015 Q2 0.5
    2015 Q3 0.3
    2015 Q4 0.7
    ————————— 2016 Fastest growth in G7
    2016 Q1 0.2
    2016 Q2 0.5
    2016 Q3 0.4
    2016 Q4 0.7
    ————————— 2017 Oops! Second slowest growth in G7
    2017 Q1 0.3 27th out of 28 in the EU
    2017 Q2 0.3
    2017 Q3 0.4
    2017 Q4 0.4
    ————————– 2018 Slowest GDP growth for 6 years
    2018 Q1 0.1 24th out of 28 in the EU
    2018 Q2 0.4
    2018 Q3 0.6
    2018 Q4 0.2
    ————————- 2019 Even worse – slowest .
    2019 Q1 0.5 growth for 9 years
    2019 Q2 -0.2
    2019 Q3 0.4

    Source: ONS

    This lose of GDP will have an effect going forward, left only with Peter’s magic money tree the economy will struggle and as I have said several times much to the discomfort of many of our Brexiteers “Poor countries cannot afford to support the economically inactive, and they don’t”

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jan '20 - 11:32am

    Arnold Kiel. I have generally agreed with you, Arnold, but I did think the Revoke policy was fundamentally wrong. We had as a party for three years said we disagreed with the Referendum decision, voters had not been given true or enough facts to be able to make their decision, and after due consideration by everybody another Referendum would be right. (Especially after three years – there would be a new tranche of young people entitled to vote, and leaving the EU would affect their future.) This was our consistent policy, affirmed at each Conference (and, John Marriott, my experience of Conference decision-making in the last four years has usually impressed me), and it was just not sensible to set it aside. And yes, it was in my view undemocratic to be prepared finally to ignore the result of the 2016 referendum, affirmed by Parliament in invoking Article 50, by simply revoking it without giving the people the final say.

    You say that the Referendum was itself undemocratic, and you are right in the sense that it is Parliament that had to make the decision to stay or to leave in the end. The Referendum in the last analysis was advisory, but the government at the time had said its result would be accepted, and so Parliament voted to accept it. Eventually, it was the fact that Parliament could not make its collective mind up as to our relationship with the EU that led to the General Election.

    Yes, we would as a party in the GE have had to look similar to Labour if we had simply stuck to our policy, given that they had eventually decided on another referendum. But we could have pointed out forcibly that it was our consistent policy and that the Labour leader did not in fact agree with it and was not providing leadership. We had condemned Labour shilly-shallying often enough, only unfortunately to be inconsistent in the end ourselves. Tonyhill above illustrates well how we may have put some voters off by changing our policy.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '20 - 11:40am

    We did badly because we were not going to win and the voters preferred Johnson to Corbyn by 44% to 32%. This situation will not last for ever as Corbyn says he is retiring and all sorts of unexpcted events could trip up the Tories and probably will. For the Liberal Democrats to do well they need a low Conservative vote, as in 1997, 2001 etc, as most of their winnable seats are held by Conservatives for example Cheltenham, St Ives, Eastbourne, Brecon & Radnor etc. We rely on what used to be called the swing of the pendulum although most people probably do not know what a pendulum is any more. We just have to keep plodding along, forget Brexit and devise some policies that are attractive to the ordinary voter, not extremist fantasies or nightmares.

  • For the first time since I joined in 1962 I am at a loss as to where we go from here, especially if Starmer is the new Labour leader.
    What bothers me most is that we still have the same faces at HQ who got us into this mess.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '20 - 11:54am

    Yes I agree with David Evans too. We need a clear out of the “upper echelons” who have brought nothing but disaster.

  • Martin, I was not surprised with the Cheltenham result since the Tory incumbent is actually one of the more down to earth West Country Tory Mps.

  • John Marriott 2nd Jan ’20 – 9:26am…………………..Dennis Loretto bemoans the fact that this thread has turned into a riot of Lib Dem, or, to be fair, Lib Dem leadership bashing. His suggestion, however, that liberals should suck up to the Labour Party to get anywhere I find laughable. Just as the Lib Dems blew it in the AV referendum, so did Labour when it had a chance for real fundamental reform after its 1997 electoral landslide. No, Labour has had its chance. There was a reason for it once; but not any more………………………

    For Labour read ‘LibDem’…With such opinions this party is going nowhere except down..
    It wasn’t just Corbyn; when Miliband was leader the attacks were the same. The rmedia attacked him personally and many in this party were only too happy to jump on that band wagon. If, as seems likely, Starmer becomes the new Labour leader I wonder what ‘dire secrets’ about him will be exposed?

    As for Blair…. he didn’t do ‘fundamental change’ because, despite his promises, like Clegg, Alexander, Laws, etc., his core beliefs were little different from those of the Tory partry.

    The mere mention of a ‘mixed economy’, as espoused by Labour, seems to give many in this party ‘The Vapours’. However, with 11 MPs, this party needs to decide where its future lies. Any fundamental change for the better (social care, education, housing, etc.) won’t come from an ever more right wing Tory party; there is only one alternative and it isn’t by attacking Labour on every issue.

  • Like others above I am keen that we have a self-critical review of our campaign and make sure that we don’t let the same people have another go at ruining things for the party.

    We got the 2019 campaign wrong not only on strategy, but with dozens of tactical mistakes (wasting resources on literally incredible direct mail shots to voters in obviously no-hope constituencies, directing members toward no-hope campaigns against Labour remainers right through to polling day, taking the media to court over our exclusion from the debates, overriding the decision of the Canterbury candidate and local party not to stand, spending the final days of the campaign talking about gender reassignment on the media, etc, etc).

    Sadly, all I am seeing right now is senior people in the party trying to distance themselves from all the mistakes that have been made, and expect that the promised review of the campaign will turn into another whitewash as we saw in 2017. We might as well ask Baroness Shami to do it for us?

  • Malcolm Todd 2nd Jan '20 - 1:49pm

    Mike Read 2nd Jan ’20 – 12:19pm

    “I was not surprised with the Cheltenham result since the Tory incumbent is actually one of the more down to earth West Country Tory Mps.”

    This is the fantasy of individual candidates and electors’ response to them that fuels so many misconceived ideas about political success and failure (and also, in my opinion, the Lib Dem activists’ rapturous enthusiasm for STV, but that’s another story).
    In fact, what happened in Cheltenham was an almost perfect match for the national swing picture: Tories up 1.6% (nationally, it was 1.2%), Lib Dems up 4.2% (precisely on par), the already low Labour vote falling away. No need to imagine that many voters knew anything more about the Tory MP except the most important thing to know about him: his party affiliation.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Jan '20 - 2:01pm

    Does he or anyone in his administration realise the enormity of the challenge we face in combating climate change in the UK and globally? In normal times his victory would be bad enough. In today’s, it is nothing short of catastrophic.

  • Nigel Hardy 2nd Jan '20 - 2:07pm

    @ Martin:
    Labour could do well to elect Kier Starmer who has the legal mind to undermine the Tories when its pragmatic to do so and then savage them when the moment is right. He would not be a pathetic enabler that the outgoing dithering ‘leader’ is.

    I would hope he were able to modernise the party and knock it into shape for the harsh new world the constituencies reorganisation will inflict on all opposition parties. Labour will have to recognise that its petty deep tribalism serves no purpose any longer, and if it wants to have a role in the future it will have be build alliances rather than walls. It will have to urgently embrace PR reform. To defeat the Tories from now on will require co-operation from all opposition parties on the centre and left of centre, all opposing like a choir rather than a rabble. Throwing grenades at the people who should be seen as their allies will not help Labour rebuild, which in turn will not help us. Pacts as demonstrated by the Blair and Ashdown agreement in the 1990’s will be the only way forward from here. I would hope that Keir Starmer as new Labour leader could achieve that.

  • There is much discussion here about what needs to change to make the Lib Dems a winning party. This has raised a question in my mind based on my ignorance of what happens at the top of the party: How much computer modelling of how the electorate might vote, or respond to policies takes place? I assume the party has significant amounts of data based on previous campaigns, focus groups, conferences etc. I also assume this is routinely analyzed to provide guidance on decisions. But how sophisticated is the analysis? Is it just bar charts, or is machine learning involved? I am not suggesting computer models replace human political judgement, but they should provide input to discussions that is not clouded by emotion or prior beliefs. My guess (and it is nothing more than that) is this might be most valuable when deciding where to allocate scarce resources during a campaign.

  • David Evans 2nd Jan '20 - 2:32pm

    Dennis Loretto raises an important point – clear and correct in its objective, flawed in its logic, but vital in that we have to deal with it.

    Primarily he says “This thread seems to be turning towards criticism of our (admittedly highly flawed) campaign. Let’s get back to what we should do now.” The thing we all have to remember is that the people who decide what we do now are not those of us who post on LDV, but those at the top of the party – our leader (or in this case acting leader) and the party establishment – MPs, the Party President and so on.

    It is quite rare for the above to post on LDV and very,very rare for any to engage in debate with others in threads, especially those who disagree with them on a position they have chosen. Indeed, it is almost impossible for a member or even group of members of the party who are concerned about bad decisions to find any means to engage with our leaders. However, our leaders are the ones who have made, driven and supported unto the death those decisions.

    Quite simply over the last ten years or so, our party, one which believes in diversity of views and learning form others, has had a series of leaders who have repeatedly taken massively dangerous decisions, often doubling down on mistakes they or their predecessors have made and in each case it has been nigh on catastrophic for our party, our values and the future of our country.

    When things were going well, leaders are always willing to have their praises sung, but when things go badly, our party leadership behaves like a closed shop. People who post on LDV like most other members (except possibly big donors) have next to no means to influence what we as a party will do now or what we do at any other time and until we address this our party will continue to fail.

    The question is do enough of us have the courage to say enough is enough and start the long journey to turn our party around, or will we carry on doing our little bit in our local community and pray that the next centrally co-ordinated catastrophe doesn’t destroy all of what we have built?

  • Sue Sutherland 2nd Jan '20 - 3:37pm

    David Evans I’m afraid you are right. The party has no mechanism for members to challenge its leaders/ MPs in a formal sensible way and if we believe in open government and cooperative working we should be practising it in our own party. We rely too much on the claim that the membership decides policy.
    With regard to the campaign, our vote did go up, though not as far as we’d hoped, but our targeting strategy didn’t turn that increase into more seats.
    I think we all got rather over excited about the result of the Euro elections and thought there would be a repeat of this in the GE because of Brexit. So we didn’t target tightly enough. We also have a big problem for future elections which is that we have alienated Brexit voters which electorally is another barrier to us winning seats both against Labour and the Tories. At one time we could challenge Labour because of our policies for social justice.
    Much of what happens now is out of our control and it’s important not to leap on every Brexit failure, but on the important ones. People will start to rethink their Brexit attitudes when they feel the impact themselves. They will want to blame someone and it seems to me that the Tories are the obvious and correct target.
    Meanwhile, we have to wait and see what Labour makes of its leadership contest. So let’s keep our heads down and work locally for good results in local elections, building up our campaigning strength as we have done for the last few years, then, if we experience a positive swing in the next GE, we will be able to make the most of it.

  • Interesting to see Norman Lamb isn’t the only one to challenge the party’s direction since July. Vince Cable has spoken words of wisdom too.

    Story image for vince cable from LBC
    Sir Vince Cable calls it “silly” for Remainers to want to rejoin …
    LBC-21 Dec 2019
    The former Lib Dem leader says that we need to “accept the reality” of Brexit and it’s “silly” to campaign to rejoin the EU. Sir Vince Cable said: …

    Water under the bridge now, but Vince retired when the election was thought to be three years away. December might have been different if he’d hung on… and Jo Swinson might still be in parliament if he had.

    Whatever, I hope now that notice is taken of his wise old common sense advice as the party contemplates its future. Re-fighting the last war when you’ve lost it is never a good idea.

  • Tony Walker 2nd Jan '20 - 3:58pm

    Now that Boris Johnson is floating on his Brexit cloud, might it be timely to remind him that the “clear will of the British people” which he uses to keep himself aloft is in fact the expressed view of merely those of the roughly one in five or six of the total electorate who actually ticked the ‘leave’ box. If that is democracy, I despair. Sure, under the current rules it is, but really?

  • Nigel Hardy 2nd Jan '20 - 4:24pm

    @ Sue Sutherland:

    I would like to see our new President addressing some the problems discussed on here since the GE, namely poor decisions in that election campaign and why. Also to the fact that the party has no mechanism for members to challenge its leaders/ MPs in a formal sensible way.

    We have to work out how to build on our increased vote share at last month’s GE, and the long slow task of rebuilding the trust of the leave voters. Did they switch allegiances from Labour to Conservative because the really trusted them or was it simply a protest vote because of the state of lives in neglected towns for example. Once the forgotten towns feel the impact of a Brexit downturn really bite a lot of hostility will begin to surface. Those are the voices we should seek to convert into votes as well as soft Tory remain votes.

    With some commonsense the Labour party will elect a centre left leader prepared to knock the party into shape, and to recognise the need to build alliances rather than walls. Only they can bring all opposition parties together to sing as a choir.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jan '20 - 4:46pm

    @Tony Walker “the roughly one in five or six of the total electorate who actually ticked the ‘leave’ box”
    Isn’t 52% of a 72% turnout in the Referendum more like 3 in 8 (approx. 1 in 2.5) of the total electorate? Even the Con+Brexit share of the GE result (45% of 67% turnout) is nearer 1 in 3.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jan '20 - 4:46pm

    Our poor strategy and tactics leading to the bad General Election results do need to be challenged, but I don’t accept that ordinary members are powerless to find out who in the leadership, apart from the Leader herself, made the wrong decisions. We can contact Conference Committee members, or Federal Board members, or the Campaigns Direcot

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jan '20 - 4:51pm

    @Tony Walker “If that is democracy, I despair. Sure, under the current rules it is, but really?”
    Unfortunately before the General Election, with its Revoke policy, the Lib Dems made it abundantly clear that a Parliamentary majority based upon any share of the vote was a perfectly democratic mandate to go ahead with something even if the majority of the electorate opposed it.
    Strictly speaking I suppose that would be true regardless of Lib Dem policy but it makes it appear hypocritical to challenge Johnson’s mandate now.

  • David Raw:

    “Whatever, I hope now that notice is taken of his wise old common sense advice as the party contemplates its future. Re-fighting the last war when you’ve lost it is never a good idea.”

    This is not the kind of comment that I would have expected to hear from someone who has spent much of the last four-and-a-half years berating the party for betraying its principles. And it sits rather oddly with your recent remark that a newly independent Scotland will shortly be prospering inside the EU while poor old England languishes under Brexit.

    Which is last war, by the way? Brexit, or 1960s radical liberalism?

  • Depeffle has a mandate, fine let him use it and take the consequences. As should the people who voted for it, so we will be having no moaning, no ” this isn’t my sort of Brexit/Lexit”, no “I regret what happened to Sunderland” or any other deverstated region. All we want from those that voted for it is ” This is my mess, I own it and I’ll sort it”, I fear there is little chance of that.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jan '20 - 5:09pm

    – I don’t know why I was suddenly cut off and posted, there! – contact the Campaigns Directorate individually. It would be helpful if LDV editors who are themselves on Federal Board would clarify which of our elected or appointed leaders it would be most useful to write to. We had a chance in the recent Committee elections to vote for members of the committees, who provided information about themselves. I am not suggesting a witch-hunt, but for ordinary members to seek information on where the decisions were made, and why, should be part of our own democratic processes.

    Finally, much as I deplore the Revoke policy and the associated hubris, depending far too much on the temporary delight of the May EU Parliament election results (alas for our Lib Dem MEPs now, but hurrah for the removal of the UKIP and Brexit ones!), I don’t suppose in the end it made much difference to the overall results. There was a weariness in the voting population, a real wish to get to a decision, preferably with no further referendum, which may have meant that, even if a majority of the voters would have really preferred to stay in the EU, there would not in the end have been a majority for it – and meantime, the weary populace accepted the Johnson government.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Jan '20 - 6:15pm

    Ian: If we had not stood in Canterbury we would probably not have won Richmond Park & North Kingston.
    The Tories were pushing the “Vote Lib Dem Get Corbyn” line very aggressively in Con-LD battleground seats like RPNK. Having us unilaterally stand aside for a Labour candidate (who won handsomely anyway) would have only served to validate that message, driving many more potential Lib Dem voters to the Tories in places we won or hoped to win. (The 7,766 Lib Dem majority in RPNK was significantly less than the >10,000 the YouGov MRP Poll was predicting; this suggests a large late swing to the Tories).
    It is almost never a good idea to unilaterally stand aside for another candidate or party, whether that be Labour (as some are suggesting we should have done in last month’s election) or the Tories (as we foolishly did for David Davis in the 2008 Haltemprice and Howden by-election).

    Also what were we supposed to do when we were frozen out of the TV debates apart from fight it in court?

    Martin is absolutely right: it helps us if Labour have an electable leader, as it makes soft Tories less scared to vote for us in our target seats. Self-fulfilling polls were a big problem, and Revoke was probably the best policy option for us, even if it was unsatisfactory.

    I do agree with Ian that it was a mistake to let the focus of our campaign drift onto fringe issues. Gender identity is the sort of thing that belongs on p94 of the manifesto in small print, and we should have done our best to stop interviewers focusing onto that.

  • @, Sesenco Your admonitions might carry more force if you didn’t hide behind anonymity.

    In September, 1918, Sky News reported “Sir Vince Cable admits ‘regret’ coalition austerity policies may have led to Brexit vote. The Liberal Democrat leader confesses a “massive cutback” in public investment prolonged the “decay” of some UK communities…..” . He was known to be uncomfortable with the Clegg/Alexander (who they now ?) axis…. so no doubt on balance he may not have objected overmuch to my comments about the Coalition…. a position I have held consistently since 2010 when I saw what austerity was producing.

    As to Scotland…. in politics one thing can often lead to another as the outcome of unintended consequences. I could have told you that after May, 2007. Maybe you ought to reflect on it a bit.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Jan '20 - 7:38pm

    David Raw “In September, 1918” So Vince served under Lloyd George then?

  • Good one, Alex. I remember it well…. though I think he was one of the few Asquithians at the time.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jan '20 - 10:34pm

    It’s interesting that commenters here are tending to be pleased that Sir Keir Starmer looks to be heading for the Labour leadership. I agree, he has appeared to be moderate, reasonable and an effective communicator, so we think now of possible co-operation in pushing progressive policies, though how far he has endorsed the Socialist thinking of Corbyn and McDonnell I wouldn’t know.

    From a strategic point of view, it should be in our interests that he remains a Socialist thinker, because it is exactly the Far Left positioning of the one big party and the Far Right thinking of the other that has allowed our moderate centrist party to flourish in recent years. That realisation was a good reason for our leaders keeping equi-distance from both parties, and may have prompted the thinking that we would be too identified with Labour once they also had decided there should be another referendum, and should strike out differently.

    But the equi-distance argument which did seem convincing (and led to anxiety when Jo seemed to be fiercer about Corbyn’s Labour than Johnson’s Tories) just didn’t work in the long run, did it? Our polling average in the last months dwindled to about 11%, and here we are with 12% and eleven MPs. We can’t change from being a moderate centrist party in essence, but we should reveal our centre-left leanings and radical hopes. And so, yes, it should be good to work on progressive policies with Labour now – and extremely needful in fact, to oppose this Johnson government and to seek voting reform.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jan '20 - 8:05am

    Katharine Pindar: I think you misunderstand the dynamics of the Labour-LibDem relationship, and perhaps you have never had the experience of a Tory-LibDem fight where the Tories are aggressively pushing the “Vote LibDem Get Labour” message, using a hard-left Labour leader as the bogeyman. This is exactly what was happening here in Richmond Park, where the Tories were putting out A5 cards more than once a week featuring Corbyn’s face (and only him) prominently on them, with “Vote LibDem Get Jeremy Corbyn” as the strapline.
    “Revealing our centre-left leanings” works when Labour has an electable leader, and as I’ve noted before, we tend to do better when it does, because soft Tories are less scared of a Labour government so more likely to vote for us. This is one reason for our successes in 1997, 2001 and 2005, as well as (on a less grand scale in terms of seats) 1964, 1966 and 1974. The “equidistance” message that we adopted in the 2019 election was necessary to minimise the impact of the Tory scare tactics about a hard-left Labour PM, but even so it was not totally successful. Therefore I hope that Labour elects Keir Starmer as leader, but in case it elects a continuity Corbyn leader (e.g. RLB) then we’ll have to learn how to campaign effectively against a hard-left Labour party.

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd Jan '20 - 8:30am


    we seem to agree that Revoke did not work, but it did not make much of a difference in the election.

    But the “democratic”-question matters for the record and future reference. Brexit will be a failure that will cost lives and livelihoods, and I am resenting politicians’ cheap excuse: it was the democratic will of the people. Because the consequences never were. They are entirely shaped by politicians using HoC-majorities based on FPTP.

    The referendum was undemocratic, because elected politicians cannot put a highly complex question to the people without specifying the discontinuity-option, and then confusing it further by selling each leave-voter his preferred Brexit lie (with Putin’s money).

    Therefore, Parliament, using Commons majorities, always had to turn this unspecific emotion-poll into policies and law. Treating this as binding (what? how?) might have been the obligation of the Parliament that passed the referendum law, but could not bind its successors.

    Just as I always upheld the view that Parliament could (and should) have decided Brexit alone without a referendum, Johnson is now as entitled to pass his WA (which could not be further away from his leave-promises), as a LibDem majority would have been to Revoke.

    We will look back at this situation in dismay for many years, but must never concede to the “democratic will of the people” excuse of entirely self-serving and irresponsible politicians.

  • John Marriott 3rd Jan '20 - 9:14am

    @Arnold Kiel
    So you reckon that the revoke strategy didn’t make much of a difference. Yes, I suppose it did if you thought that the election would be a two horse race, which in effect it always was destined to be, when the Lib Dems and others were suckered into having a General Election in the first place, which, I have said umpteen times, could have been avoided.

    Had the Lib Dems concentrated on consolidation instead of harbouring the idea that they could actually on this occasion not only have formed a government but, in the height of hubris, actually provided its leader, not only might they by better targeting have gained a few more seats; but would have allowed Jo Swinson to spend a lot more time defending her seat. At least – and I guess this comment won’t go down well in some quarters – the real ‘winners’ from all of this might now turn out to be her husband and two young sons, who, might, for a while at least, see a bit more of her.

    The lesson from this might be, “don’t run before you can walk (properly)” or, perhaps, “beware Tories bearing gifts”! And, as far as “B******s to Brexit” is concerned, oh dear!

  • As regards Jo’s Revoke policy, now widely condemned in the party, I think two points still need to be made.

    The first is that it was too subtle for most of the electorate — and for many commentators.
    For, surely, it was in fact a perfectly democratic short cut to a second Referendum: if you want to remain, you will want to vote for us; if you don’t, you won’t. In that regard, its failure lay in overlooking or underestimating other considerations, of which the first, I believe, was the fear of Corbyn as PM.

    The other point is that the first point is too subtle. The electorate, guided no doubt by a malevolent press, chose to miss the point, and to pretend to suppose, or even to believe, that it was dictatorially high-handed and not an offer at all, and consequently unacceptable. I believe we must avoid subtlety in future.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jan '20 - 9:52am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “Just as I always upheld the view that Parliament could (and should) have decided Brexit alone without a referendum”

    So, by this argument, the Holyrood Govt can decide for itself that Scotland should become fully independent? I would agree that referendums can be a problem. On the one hand Scottish Lib Dems were saying that Scotland can’t be fully independent without a popular direct vote but that there couldn’t be one because we’d only just had one. On the other, we could have another referendum on the EU even though that had been even more recent.

    Presumably this contradiction was because one had gone your way and the other hadn’t?

    Yes Parliament can do what it likes. Subject to it not contravening EU law of course! In early 2016 its ‘like’ was that we should have a referendum on the EU. The rest, rightly or wrongly, follows on from that decision.

  • Andrew Tampion 3rd Jan '20 - 10:05am

    Roger Lake
    “As regards Jo’s Revoke policy, now widely condemned in the party, I think two points still need to be made.
    The first is that it was too subtle for most of the electorate — and for many commentators.”
    Any policy that is too subtle for most of the electorate is a bad policy.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jan '20 - 10:17am

    @ Katharine,

    “……. Sir Keir Starmer looks to be heading for the Labour leadership.”

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. In 2015, most people I knew in the Labour Party were committing for Jeremy Corbyn even when the bookies were rating him as a rank outsider. I should have taken up those odds when I had the chance.

    This time, most people I know are backing Rebecca Long-Bailey, and I’m trusting my judgement with some of my hard earned cash! 🙂

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd Jan '20 - 10:35am

    When it first appeared I thought the revoke policy was hard to explain
    “We call upon the govt to hold a second referendum because that is the only democratic way forward.
    Unless we are the govt in which case it won’t be.”
    However, I’m with Arnold. A more ‘conventional’ campaign would only have brought a couple more seats and at least the point has been tested. If the mass of people had wanted to remain badly enough then Jo would be in Number 10.
    As it is we had best get on with it, for better or worse, and no one knows which yet.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Jan '20 - 10:53am

    Alex Macfie, I did understand the danger to us of the ‘Vote Lib Dem get Labour’ message, used when Milliband was Labour leader as well as when Corbyn became the Tory bogeyman, and I do think the equi-distance stance of our party leaders in the recent GE was right. I suspect it was not significant in some Con-Lib Dem target seats for us, though I stand to be corrected – neither in the defeat in St Ives, nor in the success in Westmoreland and Lonsdale, where I remember Tim Farron gently pointing out to a voter that she was electing an MP to represent her for five years. Be that as it may, I am interested in your theory that ‘soft’ Tories are more likely to vote for us if they are less scared of a moderate Labour leader, so we will be better off if Starmer succeeds.

    Arnold Kiel, I don’t think that politicians putting a highly complex and emotive issue to the people without adequate explanation in a referendum actually makes the action ‘undemocratic’. It is just undesirable, and a failure of the governing party, in my view. The word ‘undemocratic’ is debatable – I don’t myself think that for politicians then to argue that the result of the Referendum was undesirable, bad for the country, and that therefore after due consideration there might have to be a re-run was undemocratic, though some and perhaps many people do. What I do feel strongly about is the wrongness of the ‘will of the people’ idea, a fatuous concept in the way it was applied.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jan ’20 – 10:34pm………………….From a strategic point of view, it should be in our interests that he remains a Socialist thinker, because it is exactly the Far Left positioning of the one big party and the Far Right thinking of the other that has allowed our moderate centrist party to flourish in recent years…………………..

    I am at a loss to understand your reasoning.

    Under the Blair/Brown years this party averaged 54 seats per parliament; under the leftish Miliband/Corbyn years it averaged 10 per parliament.

    Your definition of ‘flourishing’ seems rather strange.

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd Jan '20 - 12:49pm

    Peter Martin,

    I am puzzled by your comparisons you know full well are wrong: The UK is a constitutional union, Westminster holds the key, and Holyrood can open the lock, if given the key. The EU is a contractual union with an agreed unilateral exit-clause.

    Katharine Pindar,

    I insist the referendum was undemocratic, not just undesirable. It has already caused significant damage to the UK’s representative governance model, and there is more to come: the combination of an unspecific referendum result and a radical Government that uses this as carte blanche to introduce Trumpian policies could only happen by purposefully diluting and diminishing responsibilities. Wait what will happen to the Supreme Court and parliamentary scrutiny in the next 5 years, probably beyond.

    Ask any Swiss whether he thinks the EU-referendum complied with democratic standards, or look at the practice in all other countries that regularly hold referendums. The question must be specific, ideally in the form of the proposed law, the consequences unambiguously spelled out, campaigning standards apply, and oftentimes a quorum for participation and winning (the discontinuity-option) is required.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Jan '20 - 4:16pm

    expats, that’s a fair point. My reasoning only applies to very recent years, since I became an activist again in May 2015, and specifically to the rise of the more extreme tendencies in both major parties coinciding with the departure – forced or unforced – of moderates from both. We acquired several new MPs as a result, a rise in the polls and stunning success in May 2019. Without voting reform, it seems, the success could not be sustained.

    Arnold, I thought you were objecting to referendums as undemocratic in general. Whether general or specific, I can’t agree with you on this point. As to the rise of this radical right-wing new government, it seems to me not to have come about directly from the inadequately presented referendum, but from the failure of Parliament to agree on a way forward in the past three years, as well I suppose as the failure of Remainers – all of us – to convince the country on the harm we expect from Brexit. It is a poor silver lining to the expected troubles, that we don/t have to debate what would be the fairest Swiss-type referendum to hold this coming summer.

    Roger Lake, I absolutely disagree with your suggestion, that Revoke was ‘a perfectly democratic short-cut to a second referendum’. Why should the populace have been expected to be proving they wanted that by voting us into government? Asking them to do that because of a single issue would have been as bad as holding a yes-no referendum!

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '20 - 6:10pm

    If it’s not too off-topic – I’ll comment on the original posting!

    Boris the “One Nation Conservative” is the phoney self-reinvention which all newly elected Tory leaders must emulate. We remember the Blessed Margaret, on the steps of 10 Downing Street, preaching the words of St Francis of Assisi. We remember David Cameron, hugging a hoodie and embracing green ideals (before they mutated to green crap, of course). We remember William Hague and his oh-so-trendy backward-facing baseball cap. We remember Iain Duncan-Smith, struggling a bit with the quasi-leftie pose but eventually managing to call himself “The Quiet Man”. We remember Theresa May and her novel determination to stand up for the “just about managing”. Every Tory Prime Minister we have ever had has been a completely new kind of compassionate conservative, quite unlike his or her predecessors. Until they get rumbled.

    Boris wants to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be left alone, to use his honeymoon period profitably, to get nasty things done before his opponents get wise. That’s what Tories always try to do. Don’t let them. Brexit will be a national disaster. Don’t forget that just because it no longer hogs the headlines.

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