Breaking out of the bubble?

With the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference approaching (16-19 September), and less than a week away from the deadline for amendments (4 September), this is my highly partisan tirade on the agenda, here to provoke you into sending your views, either to us at Liberal Democrat Voice or to the good people at the Federal Conference Committee.

The first party conference after a General Election is an opportunity for the party to reflect on the results, good and bad. While it is good to move forward, many of us expected more progress in the face of such a gulf in the centre. It is as if Corbyn and May fed off each other’s weakness, and we did not have the strength to stand out as an alternative.

Our conference, as usual, will make policy to demonstrate our values and soft virtues, to the neglect of other qualities: the toughness required to govern in coalition while under siege from all sides, and the fierce dedication to our communities that we show in local government.

Meanwhile the world keeps changing. That Corbyn might win an election and pursue a Venezuelan style calamity should terrify supporters of all parties. It is hard to understand how the country has responded with such stupor to this threat of socialism, starvation and tyranny. I guess somebody needs to show more leadership in offering a better and brighter alternative.

It’s good that we are talking about the impact of Brexit on public services – why didn’t we do that in the election? Beyond that we do seem to focus on important but small canvass issues, saying things that it is hard to believe wasn’t kind of our policy already.

We have a debate on terrorism and civil liberties that doesn’t mention Daesh, and mostly talks about things we aren’t going to do to combat terrorism. It’s all fine, but it is missing the more difficult question of what you do do to defeat terrorism, and that isn’t good enough. It gives a false impression of softness and comfort blankets.

We have a debate on housing standards in response to Grenfell, a terrible tragedy that rightly demands our attention. But we are somewhat caught out: we support the inquiry into the causes of the fire and to make recommendations to prevent it happening again. But at the same time we pronounce what we think are the causes and the solutions, I suspect wrongly. My money is on a failure of regulation, both in theory and in enforcement, not a failure to invest. Huge investment went into cladding, in the belief that it was a great thing.

And we have motions on the natural environment and corporate governance that seem to be inspired by a vague sense that there isn’t enough regulation in these areas, rather than by specific problems and how specific regulations might fix them. This is precisely the sort of thing that liberals should be against: the costs of regulation without the benefits; making other people do things just because we believe they sound worthy; demanding that the boxes all be ticked, in greater numbers, by more people, as the answer to everything.

So lets try to think outside the conference bubble. To seek out new answers to new problems, recognising the changing world. To find a better way to earn the public’s trust as the voice of the moderate, liberal, tolerant centre ground that is under siege from the other parties.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • Richard Underhill 29th Aug '17 - 1:28pm

    Part of the reason is the timing, under the rules. When Ming Campbell resigned as leader Vince Cable deputised to great effect, taking on the Prime Minister and doing permanent damage to GB’s reputation, from ‘Stalin to Mr. Bean’.
    Without a deputy leader in place there was nobody to do that, this time. Obviously the deputy leader must be an MP, so a previous, indecisive, conference has let the party down.
    We could compare the complexity of the current crisis with Suez, the Indian mutiny or the Schleswig-Holstein crisis.

  • If you had actually been tough in coalition instead of appearing to be a Tory fig leaf perhaps we wouldn’t all be in the mess we are in. Going on about how bad Corbyn may be is like a person who is drowning worrying the desert island they can’t reach may not have hot and cold running water. The disaster we are in should occupy our thoughts not trying to justify the last disaster or worrying about the next. One disaster at a time please.

  • Graham Jeffs 29th Aug '17 - 1:45pm

    Reflecting on the results – thank you for the opportunity – from an organisational angle I shall therefore complain most bitterly about the structure that, I’m told, is a product of the party constitution.

    I have the misfortune to live in a constituency where I’m expected to be active but not allowed to know who the members are in other parts of the constituency – because they belong to different District Council “parties” – of which there are four in total.

    Given the way the boundary commission review is going, this pattern could be repeated many times over. So for the party not to recognise that members should have dual membership of their constituency and district parties (where that applies) seems to me utterly grotesque!

    It has been suggested that this can be overcome through ‘working groups’. Oh no, please spare us that fudge! Surely at the very least there should be a basic organisational structure/committee for each constituency and where there are insufficient activists to fill all the posts those services could be provided by people in adjacent constituencies. If you have a basic structure there is some chance of growing it. Many of us are not wanting to be limited to purely a District Council involvement.

    Is what I’m being told really true? If so how can we aspire to run councils etc if we cannot grip our own organisational fundamentals in a logical way that enables all activists in an area to work together?

  • Mike MacSween 29th Aug '17 - 2:45pm

    At the spring conference we passed a motion on religion in education. There was not a peep about our policies on this issue in the 95 page manifesto. The FPC hasn’t even done me the courtesy of replying to my paper letter asking why. Instead my local party chair asked ‘somebody he knows’ on the FPC who said it was something to do with costings and that there’s going to be something on the issue in the September conference. Or something.

    Having seen, close up, how the Liberal Democrats work, I can tell you exactly the problem. You are so keen to never cause offence or be controversial that you appear not to have any convictions or beliefs. The incessant demands for respect are not promoting rational debate, otherwise I wouldn’t have been chucked out of a Facebook group for nothing other than disagreeing with other people. Empty politeness isn’t a political policy, but the Liberal Democrats seem to think it is.

    The public perception is that the Liberal Democrats don’t know what they stand for. I think the public might be right. Many British politicians are actually liberal, with a small l. There is sometimes little to distinguish us from Tory and Labour politicians. Apart from the fact that most people think we’re unelectable.

  • nigel hunter 29th Aug '17 - 3:12pm

    Yes Joe, the difference between the Coalition strong and stable and today’s Conservative disasters should be pointed out 24/7. on the media.
    Brexit and the EU equally. For example “What did the EU ever do for us?”Not much,apart from: providing 57%of our trade,cheaper mobile charges etc. Not my idea but the ‘good’ bits of the EU could be used to recite to the doubters in this fashion.
    The mess we are in can be put firmly in front of little Englander’s not wishing to grow into the ever developing world.

  • These are good points, Joe.

    Terrorism isn’t going away and evidence-based policies directly aimed at combatting and containing its spread, that the public can have confidence in, is an essential element of any political platform.

    Defence of the realm and the maintenance of law and order are the basics of government. it is from these foundations that social justice can be developed.

  • “This is my highly partisan tirade on the agenda”. Sure is, Joe, “That Corbyn might win an election and pursue a Venezuelan style calamity should terrify supporters of all parties. It is hard to understand how the country has responded with such stupor to this threat of socialism, starvation and tyranny.”

    Give it a rest, Joe. It’s counter-productive and scares nobody but yourself. The saintly Vincent needs to talk to the guy and to Starmer about getting the best out of whatever emerges from Brexit. May, Johnson & Davis seem to be cooking up their own Venezuelan economic calamity, and if experience at my local Foodbank is any guide they’re into brownie points for increasing ‘starvation’ – but then you wouldn’t say that would you, because they’re Tories.

    “The toughness required to govern in coalition while under siege from all sides, and the fierce dedication to our communities that we show in local government.”

    Unfortunately the mistakes, misjudgements, wrong headed policies, broken promises inept wobbliness and the pursuit of austerity in coalition undermined those communities’ dedication to us.

  • PS “the country has responded with such stupor”.

    There speaks the democratic man of the people. Unfortunately the electorate don’t take kindly to being taken as such.

  • Labour under Milliband would have turned the UK into another Greece; under Corbyn it would be another Venezuela….WOW!

    Come on, Joe….Surely you can do better than that. After all Athens temperature in December averages around a comfortable 10C, Caracas around a warm 20C, whilst Moscow has a december average of -10C…
    Why not go the whole hog and frighten us all with Stalinist gulags, etc.

  • @ Joe Otten
    “Corbyn might win an election and pursue a Venezuelan style calamity should terrify supporters of all parties. It is hard to understand how the country has responded with such stupor to this threat of socialism, starvation and tyranny. I guess somebody needs to show more leadership in offering a better and brighter alternative.”

    You are correct we do not have a clear vision of a brighter and better alternative to Corbyn’s Labour Party which will increase taxation on the top 5%, increase tax on profits, abolish tuition fees and do some nationalisation (saying it will cause a Venezuelan like crisis is as silly as our MPs saying that the UK was like Greece in 2010).

    We need to drop neo-liberal economic policies, end austerity, end the public service pay freeze, promise that our first aim in government will be that everyone who wants to have a job will have one (everyone of working age will be guaranteed a job or training that will lead to paid employment) and if this means getting companies to pay more to government for recruiting outside of the UK so be it, if it means fining large companies for not employing unemployed people or people with disabilities or long term health issue then so be it. Our second aim should be to substantially reduce economic inequalities. We need to promise that after 2020 we will increase the National Living Wage 1% more than the highest measurement of inflation. Not only do we need to restore out of work benefits to the pre 2010 level in real terms we need to introduce a basic citizen’s income to replace it and the income tax personal allowance with the long term aim of setting it to the new increased single person’s out of work benefit level. We need to abolish tuition fees. We need to state how we would fund the more than 1.5 million new homes we would get built in the next five years. We need to abolish elected mayor and the cabinet system in local government and give local government the power to carry out any commercial activity if feels will benefit its residents.

  • Tony Greaves 29th Aug '17 - 4:50pm

    “That Corbyn might win an election and pursue a Venezuelan style calamity should terrify supporters of all parties. It is hard to understand how the country has responded with such stupor to this threat of socialism, starvation and tyranny. I guess somebody needs to show more leadership in offering a better and brighter alternative.”

    Well at last Joe Otten is outing himself as a purveyor of silly neoliberal nonsense! Corbyn’s problem is indeed that he looks backwards and fails to provide solutions to the new changing world we are now in. But to write of starvation and tyranny is ridiculous. And just remember that most of the younger voters who voted for Corbyn are people who ought to be voting for us. And perhaps will do so when we start to provide the visionary radical Liberal solutions that are now needed.

  • @Joe Otten.
    I think we need to look inside the bubble a bit as well.
    How can a party that polled 7.4% and lost 375 deposits come up with the pile of fluff that is this year’s conference agenda.
    What is it about the party that is so lethargic. Where is the energy and dynamism generated or drained/soaked up in our internal procedures/structures.
    Why did we have an uncontested leadership election.
    Always look to yourself before looking outside.
    In addition we don’t need to look for answers to new problems. We have enough on our plate with the current ones. We just don’t seem to able to get the right answers. Much as I think Corbyn’s economic policy will be a disaster for the country I think his handling of Brexit has been a master class in Politics. Or maybe he has long standing principles that he will not betray. Might be something in that philosophy.

  • jayne mansfield 29th Aug '17 - 4:59pm

    Ed Miliband refused to commit to an EU referendum during the 2015 referendum.

    It now seems that Cameron’s decision for a referendum for party political purposes, and the vote to leave, means we are all going to hell in a handcart anyway. Thanks to the penury we will all suffer because we are leaving the EU, we won’t even be able to afford a ticket to visit Venezuala for the Mardi Gras.

    Joe, how did we get into this situation? What role might the Liberal Democrats have played as midwives when delivering this mess?

  • jayne mansfield 29th Aug '17 - 5:24pm

    2015 election.

  • Tony Greaves
    I think poor Joe “outed” himself as a neoliberal (silly or otherwise!) a long time ago.

  • Ed Shepherd 29th Aug '17 - 6:55pm

    There has been unemployment, instability and poverty under previous Conservative, Labour and Coalition governments too. No wonder about 40 per cent of voters concluded thar things might not be any worse under Corbyn’s Seventies Labour. Nationalising railways and abolishing tuition fees would make the country no more of a Soviet hellhole than it was when exactly the same policies were in place under those Socialist despots: Thatcher and Major…

  • Joe, your comment on the Housing Motion “My money is on a failure of regulation, both in theory and in enforcement, not a failure to invest. Huge investment went into cladding, in the belief that it was a great thing.” is in my view to the point. How did the prevailing “Best Value” process manage to turn an Architect scheme which was safe into a built scheme which was defective. In my experience public procurement “Best Value” can end up with both poorer quality and higher price.

  • Joe, you should have realised that anything other than adulation for Corbyn will attract fire and fury the like of which this blog has never seen. You have even been accused of being ‘neoliberal’. The ultimate.
    I’ve been reading Corbyn’s op-eds in the ‘Morning Star’ for many years (I am a regular reader) and I see no sign at all that he has changed his spots as he approaches power. Far from it, he appears to be gathering devoted followers who will encourage, not moderate, his views.
    I couldn’t care less what names I am called but I will be personally grateful if after 5 years of Corbyn and McDonnell we were still as well off as Venezuela.

  • Richard Easter 29th Aug '17 - 10:34pm

    What does Corbyn plan to nationalise?

    The Railways – 75% of franchises are let out to rail companies owned by foreign states. Presumably France, Germany, Holland and Hong Kong are all like Venezuela – leftist hell holes then by having state owned railways? Come to think of it, Amtrack is also state owned, so therefore the US is a horrible communist wreck?

    Energy / Water Companies – a mixture of foreign state ownership and largely foreign private company ownership – again hardly communism in action?

    National Grid – part owned by the Chinese government – say no more.

    Royal Mail – The Communist Thatcher refused to privatise it due to the respect she had for the Monarch.

    Taking council work back in house – G4S / Capita and the like are incompetent and greedy at best and criminals and corrupt at worse.

    Ask the average bloke in the pub, and the idea that foreign governments should own / run any of our public services / infrastructure, and that the likes of G4S are competent to run public services are the extremist positions, not Corbyn’s.

    It is also utterly illogical to oppose state ownership, when you outsource to foreign governments, and for those opposed to nationalisation then I trust you will support the privatisation of the armed forces, police, judiciary, highways and taken to the logical conclusion – those who regulate.

  • Richard Easter 29th Aug '17 - 10:40pm

    Palehorse – I don’t care less about Corbyn as a person either way. The idea however that nationalising essential public monopolies which are largely outsourced to / or owned foreign governments is somehow extreme is a nonsense. And anyone who thinks that G4S or Capita are fit to sit on a toilet the right way round, let alone do anything more complicated has no business giving out government contracts. Corbyn is the first major political figure with any real power who actually gets this, and may be in a position to do anything about it, hence why shouting about “Venezuela” is just farcical.

    Other Labour figures, some Greens and even some UKIP figures have said the same for a long time, but have largely been ignored as backbenchers or dismissed as fringe consipiracy theorists in the past, despite the vast bulk of the public being against privatisation and having utter contempt for the outsourcing companies.

  • Richard,
    There is much in what you say but IMHO, having lived through the Thatcherite years, the motives were not solely economic but also the breaking of the TU stranglehold. It;s a long time ago now, but I studied for my engineering finals by candlelight because the miners (or maybe the power workers, or maybe both) were on strike.
    It is anachronistic to have our privatised utilities run by Nationalised entities but maybe they are better at managing workforces than us.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Aug '17 - 11:13pm

    I think Joe has taken sarcasm to the level of satire, or he is serious in which case it is the same result , we can only laugh !

    My response to the post of David Raw, if you think the coalition was as bad with hardly much good, why do you support Vince Cable in any way as a very big player in it, and Jo Swinson as a minor one in comparison who , between them did and supported everything Nick Clegg did and supported ?

    My response to Lord Greaves, why every time you think this party should be as supposedly radical as the left want, would those who want it support this party and not the now really genuinely left wing Labour leadership ?

  • Lorenzo, I’ve told you before – it’s well past your bedtime and an early night works wonders. The world will look a better place tomorrow.

  • PS Lorenzo Why do I support the Blessed Vincent ?

    Because as a lapsed Methodist I believe in the redemption of all sinners, yea, there might even be hope for Jotten if he changes his ways PDQ.

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin

    We as a party should have policies that increase liberty. One of the major ways of doing this is to decrease economic inequalities. It is therefore nothing to do with being “left wing”. It can be argued that our policy to end the welfare freeze is more “left wing” than Labour Party’s policy of talking of reviewing benefits, however I would argue it was a liberal policy, while some might argue it was social democratic.

  • We are polling derisory numbers in opinion polls.
    Our leader only talks of Brexit to the exclusion of
    everything else. The Lib Dems should look at themselves and ask how do we change this. One way is to take heed of the Brexit result and accept we are leaving the EU. Otherwise the Lib Dems are in danger of ending up as a sectional interest party of the remainers.

  • ” hence why shouting about “Venezuela” is just farcical.”

    A little harsh as that is precisely and exactly what Jeremy has been doing for years in issue after issue of the ‘Morning Star’. Although he seems not to be quite so publicly ardent in his support these days. If he has changed his mind on the beauty of Venezuela economics then he needs to say so. Until then we shall continue to rub his nose in it. Your criticism notwithstanding.

  • LibDemer
    If you believe as most with specialist knowledge of topics central to our relationship with Europe do (“experts”, as beloved by Michael Gove) that Brexit is one of the most profound acts of self-harm by a nation, certainly in Britain, why wouldn’t you keep shouting about it.

    There is a strong strand of opinion, which holds that Brexit is liable to collapse under the weight of its contradictions. If that is the case, the quicker people are persuaded of that, and political conditions (whatever they may be) are put on place to reverse it, the better, surely – irrespective of what you may think about current Lib Dem rhetoric on the subject?

  • jayne Mansfield 30th Aug '17 - 10:10am

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,

    Many have taken your advice and that of others, and instead of supporting the Liberal Democrats, become enthusiastic supporters of the Labour party under the leadership of Corbyn.

    Most of us now find it a more congenial home, because we supported the Liberal party when it was more radical party than the then Labour Party, and because we believed in individual freedom. It was the party that was most likely to bring about the changes in society that we wanted.

    Some if us still feel an affection for the party. And also for those warriors, who find their Liberal credentials questioned, usually by individuals who have no memory of the significant impact they made on the political landscape.

    I find it somewhat amusing ( and tragic), that former Labour and Conservative party supporters, now see them see themselves as arbiters of who is worthy or remaining supporters of the Liberal Democrats.

    I am a pluralist. There are some very fine people in the Liberal Democrats. I hope that they remain in the party fighting for their deeply held beliefs. No- one gains if the Liberal Democrat party becomes weakened to the point of irrelevance.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield “Some if us still feel an affection for the party. And also for those warriors, who find their Liberal credentials questioned, usually by individuals who have no memory of the significant impact they made on the political landscape.”

    You express the situation and historical background well. Jayne.

    I don’t wish to be unkind, but Lorenzo just doesn’t get it. He refers to someone I’ve known and respected for over fifty years who is one such warrior, who worked his socks off for the party physically and intellectually, helped thousands of people as an elected representative, and was at the heart of the Liberal Party’s rebirth in the 1960’s by founding ALDC – all when the Labour Party, with the odd exception, was authoritarian and conservative.

    When the young man has made a similar contribution he can speak with more authority. He shouldn’t be too surprised if some of us object to the cuckoo neo-liberal eggs who jumped in and wrecked what we had built. For myself I lament the sheer incompetence of said cuckoos and still wonder at their lack of insight into what they did in places such as Sheffield.

    I understand why people like yourself decided to do what you did. Anyone with an ounce of historical understanding will recognise that idealistic radicalism never dies, but on occasion for some like yourself, a different vehicle may be necessary. It should be outcomes, always outcomes, that matter.

  • Neil Sandison 30th Aug '17 - 11:43am

    Well done Joe a much needed kick up the backside to wake us from our collective navel gazing .On housing we need to brake up the cozy cartel of the large housing providers that George Osborne through the NPPF provided a licence to print money ,control what and when we get housing supply ,and are failing to provide genuinely affordable homes not only to buy but also to rent for our communities .
    Heres one for internal democracy our subscriptions are not changing much but do members know how little goes back into investing in local parties ? A miserly 3% as a local party we cover 3 parliamentary constituency should there be another snap general election possible in 2019 post Brexit we just couldnt afford to raise 3 deposits again, or cover a parliamentary or county by-election .The rebate to local parties should be raised to a modest 5% of the membership fee enabling local parties to at least cover the costs of deposits and real elections .With so many direct mail requests to fund the national party it is simply wiping out our chances to raise adequate sums at a local level .Something has to give or we will not provide a full slate of candidates at the next general election.

  • We need to define once again what sort of Party we are, especially to those who have recently joined us. We need to define our values and then prioritise them for particular policy areas. In a time of spin and false news, it is essential that as a minority Party we show people that we are consistent, predictable and innovative.

  • There seems to be a lot of directionless dither going on with Lib Dems in general, and policy planning in particular, and I’d like to point out why I think that is.
    The two binary possibilities by the year 2022, could likely be summarized as either ‘Post Brexit’, or ‘Brexit Cancelled’. It follows then, that ALL political parties must design policy, and be ready to hit the ground running for the GE of 2022, based on either a ‘Post Brexit’ or a ‘Brexit Cancelled’ world.

    The Tory party under Theresa May have gone ‘all in’ on a ‘Post Brexit’ scenario. Thus the Tories have the advantage in their 2022 policy planning, because they are using a ‘Post Brexit’ drawing board, with its associated freedoms from EU interference.

    Conversely the Lib Dems under Vince, have gone for a ‘fingers crossed’, on a ‘Brexit Cancelled’ world by 2022. The dilemma is that you cannot realistically design policy on a ‘Brexit Cancelled’ drawing board, because you don’t know if that will be the outcome by 2022? Thus LibDem ‘policy dither’ starts to become apparent.

    So what are the options?
    1. Accept a ‘Post Brexit’ scenario and start work on viable ‘liberal’ policy development for independent UK citizens, unfettered by EU involvement by 2022.
    2. Start to design policy for a ‘Brexit Cancelled’ world, and hope that both your policy plans, and a ‘Brexit Cancelled’ scenario converge by 2022.
    3. Design policy plans with an ‘If this, Then that, backstop’, to accommodate both possibilities, and show you are a party able to adapt decisively to whatever faces the UK by 2022.

    If Lib Dems stay viscerally opposed to a Post Brexit world and refuse to contemplate policy for that scenario, you will (potentially), be ‘high and dry’, at the 2022 GE, because you will be bereft of relevant policy for UK citizens in a Post Brexit world.

  • I, too, agree with the sentiments expressed by Jayne Mansfield….Reading so many threads on LDV I’m reminded of the old adage about fleas arguing about the direction of the dog…
    The fact that we have become ‘fleas’ in terms of influence is not due to the left leaners in the party but to those on the right…In coalition, as every poll, bye and local election showed our policy of actively supporting Tory policies costing us votes and influence, most articles/posts on LDV were arguing against change…We went from “Too soon for change” to “Too late for change” without, it seems, ever passing ‘Go’…
    Apart, perhaps, on the subject of Brexit there are far more posts attacking Corbyn/Labour than the Tories….We appear to have run out of sensible criticism and into hyperbolic claims of Armageddon, and beyond, should Corbyn’s Labour ever achieve government…
    The biggest threat facing this country is not from Corbyn/Labour but by a ‘hard’ Brexit and draconian cuts to services/benefits imposed by those, to the right of May, who are likely to replace her at any future election….

  • Phil Beesley 30th Aug '17 - 2:27pm

    @Richard Easter: “What does Corbyn plan to nationalise?”

    The Railways
    Energy / Water Companies
    National Grid etc

    A list of utilities and services which Corbyn would like to nationalise (and which I would too) does not make Corbyn a nice or nasty man.

    The Venezuelan aspect of his personality, backing the anti-imperialist side irrespective of merit, means that he has been on the side of some unpleasant people. To me, Corbyn is a nasty man.

    “It is also utterly illogical to oppose state ownership, when you outsource to foreign governments… …and taken to the logical conclusion – those who regulate.”

    Somehow, UK government has permitted private agencies to run prisons, guarded estates and the streets outside night clubs. That is power given away.

    UK government creates contracts for suppliers to assess whether benefits claimants are disabled enough. That is power given away.

    Utterly wrong, of course.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Aug '17 - 2:51pm

    David Raw

    It is ,here you who do not get it. I merely asked Lord Greaves a very polite question. I agreed with his comment but wonder why if you keep telling us the coalition was hideous, anyone to the left would back this party.Unfortunately Jayne , or you , I do get it, I was in the Labour party ,when they were popular and unpopular, old and new varieties, as a youth. I have no interest or time for neo liberalism, loathe the word, but do not have time for or rather fondness for unrealistic nonsense.

    Palehorse has read inumerable articles from Corbyn, many supporting Venezuella.

    We here Vince Cable saying much the same.

    Just as you were radical , so was I , but that does not mean at the expense of a broader view. Corbyn and his chancellor do not have economic credibility, or exciting or modern ideas. The Lord Greaves says so, David , so you can agree with him if never , me.

  • Tom Papworth 30th Aug '17 - 4:34pm

    Three or four people dominating the comments, mainly shouting at each other, while Tony Greaves calls for Actually Existing Social-Liberalism.

    Just another Wednesday on Lib Dem Voice.

  • Phil Beesley 30th Aug ’17 – 2:27pm……………The Venezuelan aspect of his personality, backing the anti-imperialist side irrespective of merit, means that he has been on the side of some unpleasant people. To me, Corbyn is a nasty man……..

    Corbyn has spoken out against the removal of Nicolás Maduro by outside force…

    Didn’t we oppose the removal of Saddam by outside force (as did Corbyn); does that make us nasty?

    We then voted to remove Gaddafi and Assad whilst he, at least, is consistent in his condemnation of violence on all sides…

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Aug '17 - 9:53pm

    This discussion has certainly brought into focus the strong feelings of activists who either can’t abide Corbyn’s neo-socialist Labour or who detest the neo-liberal Tories. Personally, I can’t stand either lot. Looking at the past, I deplore the selling off of British manufacturing and public services by the Tories, and am more troubled by that than by Jeremy Corbyn’s past connections with undesirables. Looking to the future, I am horrified to think of 2022, Sheila Gee, if this awful act of self-harm which is Brexit does go ahead, but I regard the latest stance of the Labour Opposition as cynical manoevring, part of the contrived ambiguity they have pursued for the past year to keep all sides content but mislead many of their followers.

    What is needed, it seems to me, is pursuit of most of the radical policies which Michael BG suggests above, as far as they can be while the menace of Brexit, as Tim13 has rightly said, cannot be ignored. I will also hope to see the economic and industrial ideas of such thoughtful contributors to LDV as Thomas, Peter Martin, Anthony Watts, Joe Bourke and John Littler brought to consideration in the development of party policy.

  • Geoffrey Payne 31st Aug '17 - 4:47pm

    Whilst it is absurd for Jeremy Corbyn to continue to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in Venezuela and to ignore the fact that the country has become a failed state, the 2017 Labour party manifesto bore virtually no relation to the policies of the Venezuelan government. It was really quite modest compared to what you read in the Morning Star. We need to come to terms with the fact that almost half of the electorate – possibly enough to get Labour elected into government – are not going to take seriously these accusations of extremism whatever we think.

  • @ Geoffrey Payne : “Whilst it is absurd for Jeremy Corbyn to continue to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in Venezuela….”

    Well, it would be absurd not to indulge in a knee jerk slag off of Corbyn wouldn’t it ? It’s a pity that he, “condemned violence on all sides”, and said “there has to be a dialogue and a process that respects the independence of the judiciary and respects the human rights of all.” The Guardian 7 August.

    I’ve no great love of Corbyn, but let’s not let the facts get in the way, eh, Geoffrey ?

  • From the article: “My money is on a failure of regulation, both in theory and in enforcement…”

    My money too. We talk a lot about policy but rarely about governance yet that is what much of government comes down to. How do you actually run things so they work?

    Thatcher, of course, proposed solutions that all subsequent governments have broadly followed: markets, privatisations and targets. In practice that has meant lots of regulations plus box-ticking to prove compliance. It was, unsurprisingly for a Tory plan, an authoritarian top-down approach that provided cover to enrich well-connected cronies among other shortcomings.

    It’s not working too well is it? Just about every professional I meet is frustrated and angry and I can’t remember ever meeting anyone who thought box-ticking is the way to go yet it remains the norm.

    In other words it’s an open goal ready for a truly Liberal approach and it’s one of the most important things to get right. A good grasp of what is required will go a long way to restoring party fortunes; without it there is no hope.

  • Geoffery,
    “the 2017 Labour party manifesto bore virtually no relation to the policies of the Venezuelan government. It was really quite modest compared to what you read in the Morning Star”

    Election promises (even unbreakable pledges) can be discarded when a party assumes power and, of course, he condemns violence in Venezuela. That’s a worthless stance. Has anyone welcomed it?

    He has expressed repeatedly his views on the Venezuelan economy and we are entitled to question and even ridicule those views.

    Exactly right. A Civil Service that could not manage nationalised entities are no more effective in managing contractors. Your question is the starting point for a true British revival unless the unavoidable consequences are avoided.

  • So, condemning violence is ‘a worthless stance’ – that’s a new first on what purports to be a Liberal website.

    And what else can you reasonably expect the Leader of the Opposition to do ?

  • All political parties in Britain condemn the violence, including the government he opposes. So what? His stance is worthless until he declares where he think the blame lies and then clearly and unequivocally call on the Venezuelan government to restore the elements of a democratic society.

    So until he condemns the Maduro administration his stance is worthless.

  • nvelope2003 1st Sep '17 - 3:24pm

    Geoffrey Payne: A significant part of the electorate in all democracies votes for the party which they think is most opposed to the established order of things. In Britain until 2010 those who did not vote for the BNP voted Liberal Democrat, after that they voted UKIP and when that party seemed to have achieved its objective they voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party as he was perceived by some, and portrayed by sections of the press, as being the most extreme leader. While it may be true that the Labour manifesto was not an extremist document Corbyn was portrayed by sections of the press as someone who held what many consider to be extremist views in the British context, especially in relation to the IRA and nationalisation. This fact undoubtedly attracted people who feel discontented although probably many would not want a Venezuelan type solution but there again some of them would especially those who would have gained positions of power. Recent opinion polls seem to show a gradual fall in support for the Labour Party and their lead over the Conservatives, possibly because his colleagues seem somewhat confused. Extremists prefer leaders who seem absolutely sure that they are right and hate anyone whose views are in any way nuanced or affected by the realities of power.

  • Well, there is one problem is that many people here still pretend that the Gold Standard still exists.

  • I think N. Velope is correct. There isn’t a right wing populist movement behind Trump or a left wing one for Corbyn. The common feature with Brexit and all the rest is anti-establishment and the voters are turning to anyone who seems outside the existing power brokers.

  • Palehorse – even Emmanuel Macron did not allow foreign takeovers of strategic firms. Actually, his main focuses are labour law reform and some tax cuts (note that France has higher than average tax rates). But when it comes to foreign takeovers, nothing will change (actually, on his party’s website, he even planned to tighten pan-European foreign investment laws on non-EU countries, with China being a specific example).

    And I don’t believe that clowns like G4S are good at running public services. In most other countries, there is at least one major state-owned enterprise operates in each of those sectors like railway, energy and water. And foreign SOEs controlling vital industries are unthinkable in other nations, even the US.

    David Raw, Richard Easter – the only thing that is Venezuelan in Corbyn’s plan is his tax plan. He basically promised to raise tax from very few sources to cover all of his policies, while still pledging to balance the book after one term. Meanwhile, what we need to do in order to raise sufficient tax revenue is to raise general taxation.

    Regarding devolution, the most radical proposal is definitely devolution of tax and spending together with devolution of public services to regional/local governments, I mean something similar to a federal system.

  • Dave Orbison 1st Sep '17 - 6:35pm

    Thought I’d stop by and see where the LibDems were at.

    “Breaking out the bubble” Sounds promising I thought… perhaps some fresh thinking.

    But no. Nothing but a desperate, really, really desperate attempts to damage Corbyn’s appeal by linking him to what is currently happening in Venezuela. Added to this a shift towards soft Brexit by Labour, surely a step in the right direction, dismissed as cynical.

    Contrast this with a Labour gains in Liam Foxes’s backyard with a 21% swing, Labour’s membership up to 550,000 and up to 43% in the polls. Yet the LibDems are still rehashing their strategy of attacking Corbyn – yes, of course he must be the problem for our ills, not the Tories who sell arms to Venezuela – do you remember approving that Vince? Well done to all those here who steadfastly point out that Corbyn has condemned violence on all sides, that public ownership may be preferable to the current fiasco that mugs the public on a daily basis and that perhaps the Tories are a bigger threat to the UK..

    Bottom line – as for LibDems “breaking out of a bubble?”. No, more a case of disappearing without a trace.

    I once had some hope that the LibDems would rediscover some passion and commitment to becoming that third party, a radical party challenging dogma and orthodoxy – and above speaking from a platform based on a clear set of values and policies, regardless of where other parties stood.

    But I give up. The party seems locked in a death struggle determined to attack Tory and Labour in equal measure regardless as if this would provide a resurgence in support. It will not. It simply confuses people as to where the LibDems stand. No longer a party in favour of xyz, but a party that defines itself by what it opposes.

    Now that really is a cynical and unappealing strategy. It’s not even a productive one. No wonder there is no ‘new leader’ ‘bounce’ in the polls and the LibDems continue to bump along the bottom.

  • It’s called schadenfreud, Dave. Now go and do something useful, there’s a good chap.

  • Dave Orbison 1st Sep '17 - 8:31pm

    David Raw – after the frustration of the transfer window I had to do sometimes cheer myself up and this article and some of the comments were funny.

  • Well, if the Libdem leadership does not attempt to take advantage of the BBC’s recent report on the link between Saudi Arabia and the funding of British radicalized Islam, then they are clearly dumb. The report found a strong link, which should support our policies of banning arm exports to Saudi and comdemning it publicly.

  • Dave Orbison 1st Sep '17 - 11:16pm

    Thomas – Didn’t Corbyn call for a debate and demand an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Didn’t Vince Cable approve the sales whilst a minister?

  • Dave Orbison. Fair point, but my problem with Corbyn is that he’s been too much on the other side in the past, ie pro Assad and Iran. I really don’t think we should take sides in the proxy wars between Saudi and Iran – and certainly not sell arms to either side.

    On your other point about the Lib Dems spending too much time criticising Labour and not enough time criticising the Tories, I’m not sure that’s true. Maybe there could be some research done there? However, I do agree that we should cautiously welcome Labour’s recent policy change on the EU while pointing out perfectly reasonably that it needs to go further and become less ambiguous.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Sep '17 - 12:46am


    If you are going to be a regular again, at least, a little bit in the way of this thread you dislike , that offers a range of views, how about a bit of balance.

    Sir Vince Cable actually suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia and subsequently faced much heated pressure and criticism from the Conservatives, then misleading information and assurances from the Ministry of Defence types of that ilk.

    Read about it , its all there, and shows why the efforts to do anything decent in coalition by this party were often ruined by the Conservatives, and the legacy of hard work and attempts at decency ruined by those who persist in saying only negative things about it and those involved in it.

    Why tell a whole story when part of one makes for much better levels of typical narrative and publicity.

  • Palehorse ” Election promises (even unbreakable pledges) can be discarded when a party assumes power”

    If only there were some principled political leaders whom we could trust to put an end to broken promises….

  • Lorenzo Cherin – Well, the Coalition had passed. What we must do now is to return to our pre-2007 position and stop letting things from the Coalition define us (by doing things like retaining the Coalition’s position on tuition fee).

    A truly cunning leader will take the outcome of the report to launch a demonising campaign against Saudi Arabia (as well as the Tories) combined with the policies to suspend arm sales, condemn and even call for sanctions, to take advantage of people’s worry and fear of terrorism and extremism. A liberal must know that this was what William Ewart Gladstone had done with the Ottoman Empire during his Midlothian Campaign. What I want to say is that, the report on Saudi gives us an opportunity for a second Midlothian Campaign with Saudi Arabia as a scapegoat.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Sep '17 - 6:36am

    Lorenzo – I’m not sure you are right. There is plenty of media coverage in Nov 2016 where Vince Cable complains GE was misled about arms sales to Saudi Arabia and there use in the Yemen. Nothing about him stopping sales.

    In this point the fact that he relied on assurances re their use by the regime, whilst others, including Corbyn were not so naive as to be taken in and objected to their sales, speaks volumes.

    As to your general complaint that I should only rely on facts in making a point, that’s fair. If only others here, including yourself, applied the same rule instead of talking of Corbyn and having ridiculous fantasies accusing him of advocating a form of socialism modelled on Venezuela.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Sep '17 - 6:37am

    Sorry not GE but ‘he’

  • “having ridiculous fantasies accusing him of advocating a form of socialism modelled on Venezuela.”

    That’s exactly what he has been doing for many years in his regular column in the ‘Morning Star’. Go and get some back issues if you don’t believe me and refrain from pestering those who know too much to be silenced.
    I for one, will not accept his devotees rewriting his history to airbrush out the embarrassing bits.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Sep '17 - 9:00am

    Palehorse – I have supported Corbyn for a much shorter time than you appear to have been reading his views in the Morning Star. Given this, as a former LibDem member and voter, I am puzzled by your accusation that I am a Corbyn ‘devotee’ simply because latterly I have been supportive of him and his policies.

    You comment that I should ‘refrain from pestering those who know too much to be silenced’ is telling. If you want the LibDems and LibDem Voice to be nothing more than a closed club of like-minded individuals intolerant of views that differ from yours, you are going the right way about it.

    However, just how you think that will improve the party appeal is beyond me. Or perhaps that isn’t really your concern as apparently you know so much and others do not.

    You can shoot the messenger if you want but let me ask you, since you claim to be one of those “who knows too much” why Corbyn is at 43% in the polls and with 550,000 members why the LibDems languish at just 7%?

  • Dave,
    My response was based on an accusation of “having ridiculous fantasies”. Corbyn is not new to the political scene. He has been around for years and has written prolifically on Venezuela and Cuba. As he is now in the limelight and approaching power we are entitled to question his views on the management of an economy based on his writings.

    Frankly, if you dismiss his critics as fantasists when you don’t seem to have read his works you must expect my type of response.

    I expect him to be the next PM but I don’t fear him. I fear those in the shadows behind him.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Sep '17 - 12:29pm


    What you say is correct. I do not believe as much as you like it to be , as much can be made of this. Domestic issues are where we need to be heard most. Brexit is playing to a switch off on foreign policy .


    You need to be heard more. Those views are based on a fair recollection of facts, not fiction, reading the views of the leader of Labour.


    Not sure you are as measured on the Labour pm in waiting as you think.

    If as you say , you think you are, then the man must be accountable.
    To not allow a Liberal and Democratic party to be as strong in criticism of him sometimes as you are of this party is to trample on liberty and democracy.The criticisms are not of fantasy but facts. Not the silly suggestion that he wants us to resemble Venezuella, the fact that he so admired that country as with Cuba, not for the very few things they did well, but for the very essence of their regime and ideology. We cannot as Liberal and Democrats ignore that.

    Similarly the fact is Sir Vince was refusing to sit at dinner with the king of the Saudi regime, when Corbyn and Mc were yet singing at banquets for the IRA and attending assorted events honouring them and other groups many of us loathe or dislike and distrust.

    Sir Vince suspended sales to that country , faced a terrible backlash from the coalition Conservatives at cabinet level, got , because he insisted on it, reassurances from the MOD, which they gave on civilian casualties, before h would continue the sales. He claims , and has received support from a close quarter, to have been given biased and very misleading assurances.

    Cable should be treated as Corbyn. Separate fact from fiction. Which I and most here do.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Sep '17 - 4:24pm

    Lorenzo. – At best Vince Cable relied on worthless assurances that an undemocratic oppressive regime wouldn’t use arms we sold to them on innocent civilians. It turns out that they did. What a surprise? At best Vince Cable was naive or worse just playing along Di he could keep his ministerial portfolio.

    None of which makes him a standout leader. You are entitled to your opinion as I am mine. When it comes to standing up and being counted Corbyn’s record is outstanding on almost every single vote in the Commons.

    When it comes to Vince Cable and sadly too many LibDems they say one thing and then another. Hence, they are probably the least trusted political party. A reputation they earned for themselves and unlikely to improve if the master plan is simply to skip past the past whilst cheekily trying to find fault with others.

  • Neil Sandison 2nd Sep '17 - 4:56pm

    Personally i dont give a monkeys cuss what other party leaders did and didnt do what i want to know as a loyal party member is what we are going to do and to get back to the thread of Joes article. What amendments we are looking to table for this years conference Those with nothing new to say always hark back to the past what we need to do is to look forward to the future and how we as Liberal Democrats hope to shape that future and influence the discourse of events

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Sep '17 - 8:59pm

    Neil, well said. There is, I read on Facebook, an emergency motion being concocted about the failing treatment of people with disabilities, which seems a good thing. Personally I am asking my local party to support an amendment on the new EU motion, as I expect many other members are also doing. There are many good ideas on future policy being mooted on LDV by people such as Michael BG and Joe Bourke and Thomas, but I suppose between the General Election and Brexit, there has not been much room for radical proposals to emerge as policy proposals for Bournemouth.

    Dave Orbison, I have a lot of sympathy with your point of view (as also with Lorenzo’s), but ‘saying one thing and then another’ strikes me as appertaining more to your party leaders than to mine. Still, as to the Tory leadership, of any one of them I would use the good old expression we had in Yorkshire way back, ‘I wouldn’t pull his closet string!’

  • By allowing yourselves to appear the junior partner with little influence or will to appear to be distinct from the Tories or Labour is what allowed the Conservatives to take all the credit and snatch seats off you.

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