Brexit? Scrap-it.

Revoking Article 50 was proposed by Chuka Umunna before he joined the Lib Dems, but nobody was listening to him in those days. Now its time has come, and it is set to be our bold new policy.

It has at least two advantages over a final say referendum:

  1. It is not open to the accusation that we want to re-run the original referendum because we didn’t like the result.
  2. Unlike No Deal, or the agony of another bitterly fought referendum, it really is a clean break. Whereas no-deal ushers in interminable years of haggling, in which the hapless public will never hear the last of the B-word, revoking cancels out Cameron’s fateful mistake and allows us to address the real problems facing the country.

Fateful mistake? Yes, the one thing most people will agree on, Leavers and Remainers alike, is that it would have been better if David Cameron had never inflicted the referendum on the country, causing nothing but division, trouble and strife. Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it, it was foisted upon us as his bright idea to deal with the internal problems in his own party.

So if we cannot travel back in time and dissuade Cameron from plunging the country into chaos, scrapping the whole sorry business is about as close as we can get.

But surely Brexiters will not melt away and disappear, surely they will continue to agitate? Yes, but much of the force will go, once our course is settled and there is no immediate prospect of turning back. Because revoking can only be done if it is done in good faith, if it signifies a genuine intent to remain. We cannot revoke merely to obtain another 2 years of negotiating time.

Of course, we should be prepared for the inevitable cries of “undemocratic!” We hear this for instance from Stephen Kinnock, whose group of MPs are pressing for a soft Brexit, whilst Polly Toynbee accuses us of extremism.

Yes, it would certainly be undemocratic to revoke article 50 without a vote, but in the context of an election it is a perfectly reasonable option. And indeed, I predict it will prove very popular. A simple no-nonsense message, direct and unashamed, which takes the Brexit bull by the horns.

At the same time, according to journalist Hugo Dixon, the combination of Lib Dem clarity and Labour fudge may be advantageous in an election, and if Labour is enabled to hang onto its seats in the north and the midlands, there is no way Boris Johnson can win.

In an ideal world, the Remainer majority in the country would be able to vote a Lib Dem government into power who would dispose of Brexit and refocus attention on more constructive things. In that political utopia, the country would not have to endure a barrage of Cummings-inspired chickanery as part of a new referendum.

Apart from the injustices of “first-past-the-post”, the problem we have is that the media insist on treating Brexit and membership of the EU as propositions of equal merit, epitomised by the BBC’s creed of “balance”. If that were the case, compromise solutions like that favoured by Kinnock might indeed make sense. The reality is that there are no benefits to Brexit and a compromise solution is more like deciding to only burn down half of Brazil’s rainforest instead of the whole lot.

Amid all the confusion and debate, the position of the Lib Dems is clear: it is better not to burn the rainforest at all.

* John King is a retired doctor and Remain campaigner.

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73 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 18th Sep '19 - 10:54am

    “Cummings-inspired chickanery”
    chicanery can be spelled without a k

  • I hope this is the only point on which you disagree with my article, Richard. You are right, of course.

  • Lib Dems should still think better ways the articulate the new strategy, since some see revoking without a new referendum undemocratic. It should be pointed, that 1) the original referendum was just advisory, 2) because of the many lies of the Leave side we can’t now, whether the referendum result really reflects the genuine will of people, because many voters were misled by the lies, 3) UK is a representative democracy, where people vote the parliament to represent it’s will (admittedly the electoral system would be more representative, if it was proportional), and 4) people can change their will, and express it EITHER in a new referendum OR in a general election, where they can do it by electing a party unequivocally supporting revocation (i.e. Liberal Democrats) in power.

  • Richard MacKinnon 18th Sep '19 - 12:31pm

    John King states “But surely Brexiters will not melt away and disappear, surely they will continue to agitate? Yes, but much of the force will go, once our course is settled and there is no immediate prospect of turning back”. Wrong.
    If in the 1000 to 1 scenario a Libdem government abolished Brexit ‘the force’ will not go, ‘the force’ will do the opposite. It will surge like the biggest metaphor imaginable.
    This policy (revoke article 50 without a referndum is not only wrong it is dangerous. Older wiser heads in the Libdem party should come out the conference hall take a long walk and breathe reality. Swinson’s niaive idea is beyond stupid.

  • Martin, also they promised a better deal during the referendum campaign that has been offered since.

  • It’s perfectly legal. I will point out that if a Brexit government is elected it will also be perfectly legal to remove Britain from the EU without a referendum. But, in that altogether more likely event, I suspect Remainists would still be demanding a “people’s vote”.

  • Richard MacKinnon 18th Sep '19 - 1:02pm

    Further to my last point; The Libdem party are perfectly entitled to put “if we are elected to government we will immediately revoke article 50 with out a further referendum” in their next manifesto. There are no conditions as to what is permissable in a democratic vote . Even breaking a manifesto promise is not against the rules. The only rules are , the winner is the one with the most votes and all particpants accept the result.
    But if they did put this policy on their manifesto at the next GE it needs to be stressed it is a policy that any attempt to implement will unleash, in my opinion, uncontrolable civil unrest.

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '19 - 1:06pm

    “Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it…..” ???

    Nobody? How about Paddy Ashdown? He said in 2016:

    “I was the first leader ever to ask for a referendum in 1989/90”

    Also

    “I will forgive no one who does not accept the sovereign voice of the British people once it has spoken whether it’s by one percent or 20 percent. It’s our duty to serve the public and make sure our country does the best it can with the decision people have given us”

  • The manifesto commitment to revoking article 50 should not be contingent on a Lib Dem majority government being the outcome of an election. If we are the major party in a coalition with remain MPs from other parties that had also committed to revoking article 50 it would also constitute a mandate to do so.

  • David Becket 18th Sep '19 - 2:37pm

    @ John Payne
    No No No. This is a risky policy, but possibly the correct one, providing we have a CLEAR majority. No clear majority and we stick with peoples vote, and that is what conference voted for.

  • Barry Lofty 18th Sep '19 - 2:59pm

    I must admit to a tiny niggling doubt about the revoking of article 50 policy,although Ed Daveys’ robust explanation of it on Politics Today Tuesday 17th went a long way towards reassuring me that it is the correct way to go, time will tell though.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Sep '19 - 3:32pm

    Richard MacKinnon: I don’t agree that revoking Article 50 would unleash civil unrest, or certainly no worse than No-deal Brexit would. But what if it did? We need to face down the people who would provoke civil unrest; appeasement never works, as shown in 1930s Germany. The day we let public policy be decided by the potential reaction of street thugs is the day democracy and the rule of law die.

  • Andrew McCaig 18th Sep '19 - 3:58pm

    Since the protagonists of previous arguments are coming out again I will just refer to my article from last Thursday.

    While I would really like to see a Lib Dem government for the first time in anyone’s life, I profoundly hope the slim possibility does not come to pass and we do not set this dangerous precedent. It opens the door to us leaving against the wishes of the majority of the population as Glenn points out, and will probably lose us a great many local councillors in Leave voting areas. This is a very polarising policy and Norman Lamb and Simon Hughes are right to say so. We will push through our version of PR and the next government will overturn it as our vote collapses, quite likely.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Sep '19 - 4:56pm

    Andrew McCaig: What “dangerous precedent”? A pro-Brexit majority government would take us out of the EU anyway; it wouldn’t need an excuse. It would also be perfectly legitimate democratically; I would oppose it politically, but not question the legitimacy of the policy.
    And why would our vote collapse if we swept into power and implemented our flagship manifesto policy exactly as we said we would? The only way that would happen is if that policy proved unpopular following implementation, as with the Poll Tax (for example). But the issue here is whether the policy is appropriate in principle. If our vote is going to collapse on account of the Revoke policy, then this will happen before the next election, and thus before we get any chance to implement it.

  • David Allen 18th Sep '19 - 5:25pm

    “What dangerous precedent?”

    Well now, next time the SNP win an overall majority of parliamentary seats in Scotland, will they take it as a mandate to declare independence immediately? Or will they be more moderate than the Lib Dems, and merely insist on an immediate Indyref2?

    If Boris wins an overall majority – which the polls suggest is increasingly likely – won’t he sniggeringly declare that the Liberal Democrats have taught him how a liberal democracy should be operated, and that means doing exactly as he chooses, which is to close down Parliament for good and to walk straight out of the EU with No Deal?

  • Lots of long standing lib dems have been pushing for a revoke policy since the day after the referendum, but sure, let’s credit the n00b…

  • Alex Macfie 18th Sep '19 - 7:05pm

    David Allen: Johnson would do that anyway if he won an overall majority. He currently heads a minority government, but is behaving like the PM of a government that has an overall majority of over 100. Given that he has no scruples about closing down Parliament for 5 weeks now, as leader of a minority government, why do you suppose he would do anything different if he had a majority? He doesn’t need Parliamentary approval to shut down Parliament anyway (though he may find the law stops him). Ultimately neither he or Farage care tuppence what the Lib Dems do or would do.
    I wouldn’t bet the house on an overall majority for Johnson at the next election, whatever the polls say now. Look what happened to May’s poll lead at the last election.

  • If the Tories do regain power they will leave without a deal and hope after five or so years people forget the pain. Many of the posters who are concerned about is what is “nice” and what is “proper” are unlikely to find that much consolation when the body rcount starts to pile up. We are reaching the end game, two choices revoke or leave without a deal. There must be other options I hear you say, sorry nope reality is hard but reality it is, so make your choice.

  • @Jennie – Sometimes it takes an outsider to get people to see what people in their own organisation have been telling them for years… However, I totally agree it sucks when the credit is given to the outside agent. Glad your still around to give some cutting contributions.

  • david berry 18th Sep '19 - 8:11pm

    How can we call Boris undemocratic when we ignore the referendum result yes we will gain more votes in some areas but I cant see any break through in gaining more seats especially across the north of england

  • Perhaps we need a word for those Liberal Democrats that long championed revoke, I’m happy to be called a Jenniest.

  • I see in breaking news in the Guardian that Caroline Lucas has come out strongly against the revoke policy. In my opinion she makes a very convincing case, and I’m afraid Ms Swindon has made a serious mistake.

  • @David Raw ” see in breaking news in the Guardian that Caroline Lucas has come out strongly against the revoke policy. In my opinion she makes a very convincing case, and I’m afraid Ms Swindon has made a serious mistake.”

    Professional (re?)moaner finds fault with anti-socialist young female leader shocker.

    Fortunately Ms “Swindon” [sic] is made of bolder stuff.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Sep '19 - 9:36pm

    frankie: indeed. Some people here seem to think that if we play by Marquess of Queensberry rules, then our opponents will somehow be inspired to do so as well. This is Cleggite thinking. Surely the experience of the Coalition would show how mistaken that thinking is.

  • David,
    At the end there will be only two routes, revoke or leave without a deal. No harm getting there first, tagging along just makes you look weak and voters don’t vote for weak. We are at the end game, time has run out, we need quick solutions and those offered by Labour and the Greens are to long winded and complicated. Time is just not on their side, a solution in 12 days ( no chance) which leave revoke or leave with no deal. Your choice which us it?

  • This seemed like a mad idea a week ago. Now it seems like genius

  • Ross McLean 18th Sep '19 - 9:53pm

    If Ms Swindon (sic) has made a serious mistake, then the party has too. The conference voted for this policy, and therefore it is LibDem policy, not Jo Swinson policy.
    And at the risk of spoiling the fun of the doom-sayers, it is worth stating what the policy actually is: We are, at present, committed to a confirmatory referendum. That is our policy. If there is a General Election before such a referendum takes place, we will then tell the voters that a vote for the LibDems is a vote to revoke article 50. If they give us a majority, we’ll revoke, because that mandate will clearly over-ride the vote in 2016. But if they don’t give us that majority, then our policy in the next parliament will be the confirmatory referendum.
    To some extent all of this is technical. The political message is that we are the biggest and clearest party of Remain. In other words, Bollocks to Brexit. The same line that won us 20% and 16 seats in June.

  • David-
    Caroline Lucas has been quite unnecessarily rude, saying our idea of revoking in certain circumstances is arrogant, dangerous etc. Lucas seems to be saying the Leave ideology must be respected – I wonder if she thinks the same about the climate change denial and anti-vaxxer prejudice. I used to think of the Greens as our close companions but Lucas really seems unhinged at times. Thanks to Ross for bringing us down to earth with that policy summary.

  • Alex Macfie: “Some people here seem to think that if we play by Marquess of Queensberry rules, then our opponents will somehow be inspired to do so as well.”

    That’s not my point. My point is that you can’t complain when your opponent hits you below the belt, if you have loudly declared that you also believe in hitting your opponents below the belt.

    Actually, we are very unlikely to get into the position where we can land the blow ourselves. We won’t win an absolute majority. So we will get the worst of both worlds. We will advertise that we would happily play foul, but we won’t actually get the chance to do so. All we will achieve is to give Johnson a get-out-of-jail-free card. Nxet time he “goes low” (in Michelle Obama’s words), he will be able to say “What of it? Our poncey Liberal opponents admit that they would go just as low, too!”

  • Frankie: “We are at the end game, time has run out, … a solution in 12 days ( no chance), which leaves revoke or leave with no deal. Your choice, which is it?”

    That’s not what it’s about. Yes, if Johnson were to succeeed in running down the clock to the last 12 days of October, and somehow (how?) the Lib Dems were suddenly to gain power and have the chance to make a last-miniute decision, AND if the EU turned down our last-minute request for an extension (which they wouldn’t do), then “revoke” at a minute to midnight would be better than “leave with no deal”. But you are presenting a fantasy choice. Why should the Lib Dems suddenly gain power at the last minute, and why then should the EU not simply grant an extension?

    The new policy assumes we will win an election, to be held after October 31st (as Parliament has insisted), with an A50 extension in place. No emergency.

  • Latest Westminster Voting Intention in The Times tonight

    CON: 32% (=)
    LDM: 23% (+4)
    LAB: 21% (-2)
    BXP: 14% (=)
    GRN: 4% (-3)

    Via @YouGov.

    It’s only one poll, but nevertheless…

  • Alex Macfie 19th Sep '19 - 7:31am

    David Allen: But Johnson has already hit FAR, FAR below the belt ALREADY. He has prorogued Parliament for 5 weeks, and is hinting that he would disobey the law by refusing to ask for an Article 50 extension as instructed by Parliament. The government has also hinted at another prorogation if it loses the case in the Supreme Court and Parliament has to be reconvened. So he has ALREADY shown that he’s happy to play foul. And he thinks he can get away with it, probably because he thinks his opponents are patsies. It’s not that he would say “they’re doing it, so why shouldn’t I?” it’s actually the EXACT OPPOSITE.

    All we’ve done is to say what a majority Lib Dem government would do. There is nothing “foul” about this. It would not involve potentially unlawful constitutional trickery like extended prorogation (none of which we are proposing or would ever consider). Revoking Article 50 would probably require an Act of Parliament, and as a majority government we would have the votes to get it. So it would be absolutely constitutionally legitimate, not just in the letter but the spirit of our constitutional law.

    BTW “Revoke” is a unilateral action by the state that triggered Article 50. It doesn’t require the EU’s consent, only that it be done in good faith and according to our constitution.

  • David Allen,
    It amuses me that you use Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” yes they did and what happened, they lost and Trump won. So the “go high” strategy was a total disaster, no amount of “We go high” will prevent the Tories going “low and even lower” they don’t need our permission.

    The last two elections and the referendum have shown ( breaking point poster anyone) how low they can go and they will go lower. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty and engage in a bare knuckle contest, which will upset people prepare to lose and in losing empower a far right nightmare. Sometimes I feel Lib Dems are far too bothered about being “nice” and worrying about upsetting their “opponents” ( who are good chaps really, they just need a bit more info). We are either a party commited to gaining power and using it or we are a party that brings a quiche to a knife fight while going “O good they’ve brought the knife to cut the quiche and then expressing surprise as they cut your political throat” as Mr Clegg did.

  • Martin,
    Justifician is as the quote attributed to Keynes says “As the facts change, I change my mind, what do you do sir”.
    The fact us after more than three years after the referendum we can’t find a Brexit that doesn’t do major harm to the country, we therefore wish to bin bag it. Simplies, now what would you do continue on the path of harm because that really is a stupid idea.

  • John King 18th Sep ’19 – 10:28pm………..Caroline Lucas has been quite unnecessarily rude, saying our idea of revoking in certain circumstances is arrogant, dangerous etc. Lucas seems to be saying the Leave ideology must be respected – I wonder if she thinks the same about the climate change denial and anti-vaxxer prejudice. I used to think of the Greens as our close companions but Lucas really seems unhinged at times……………

    And yet Jo Swinsons rudeness is seen as “being blunt”, “telling it like it is” and “to the point”.

    She is not respecting their ideology but realises insulting them is unlikely to change their minds. There are many who, at the time thought ‘Leave’ as the lesser of two evils; just calling them names is counter productive.

    As for the rest of your post ‘stawman alert’ flashing.

  • John Peters 19th Sep '19 - 8:37am

    I have been on holiday.

    Do I understand correctly?

    The Lib Dems policy is to revoke article 50 if they are in power but also to refuse a general election? That does not work. Oh well I am only a stupid racist Leaver.

  • It’s a policy that rallies the Party faithful but is not going to win an election. Not even Remain newspapers like the Guardian and the i think it’s a good idea. As for the boxing analogies. The Euro election was a sparsely attended exhibition match, won by an inexperienced amateur flailing wildly, in which the Libs lost but acquitted themselves quite nicely. A general election is not the same thing.

  • The argument to revoke Article 50 is logical – if you believe any Brexit is bad for the country don’t do it – but when will we learn that people vote with their hearts not their minds?
    The argument not to revoke Article 50 when put in power by, possibly, 30% of the electorate also opens us to being accused of being ‘undemocratic’ and abusing first-past-the-post in the same way that we’ve used to argue for PR. I felt for Layla Moran on Andrew Neil last night.
    I was at Conference and, like a lot of people, chose to abstain. I chose to abstain because Jo Swinson, by hi-jacking Tom Brake’s motion, made it a vote of confidence in her. If she lost that first, major vote the damage would have been incalculable.
    When asked how she would respond to the charge of being ‘fluffy’ she replied that people only under-estimate her once. Jo, you can only under-estimate Conference once.

  • Alex Macfie 19th Sep '19 - 9:23am

    Glenn: Lib Dems are not inclined to expect support from The Guardian, which is full of Corbynistas and Lexiters, who still bear a grudge against us over the Coalition and will attack us even when we are adopting a strategy radically different from that of Clegg & Co. It also has tends to set store by the failed “go high” strategy.

    John Peters: An election has to happen some time. We are not against an election in principle, only against one in which Johnson can manipulate the timetable so that the UK crashes out of the EU during the campaign. When the election does happen, if the UK is still in the Article 50 process, Lib Dems will campaign on the basis that if we win outright, then we would revoke Article 50. Otherwise, we would push for a People’s Vote.

  • Corbynista (both red and green variety) apologists out in force on this thread, I see.

    All the facts are now available to anyone who voted leave. The facts tell us that the country will be worse off if we leave; considerably so without a deal.

    I believe that our fellow citizens are (or have the capacity to) keep themselves well-informed and make intelligent well-judged decisions. “When the facts change (or are better presented), I change my mind.”

    If they don change their minds given all the evidence presented to them? Well, that’s up to people to make their own minds up about.

  • Denis Loretto 19th Sep '19 - 9:37am

    We must stress 3 points –
    1. We want a people’s vote before a general election. If a GE is called first it may well be the only democratic test prior to brexit. In effect it would have to be our people’s vote.
    2. Does anyone seriously think that if Jo Swinson gained a majority she would seek a new Brexit deal from the EU?
    3. Revocation is the only possible way to end the chaotic Brexit process, stop it in its tracks and get on with many other priorities.

  • Alex Macfie
    The Guardian is not full of Lexiteers. It runs almost daily articles and editorials on the evils of Brexit. It employs amongst others Martin kettle, John Harris and Zoe Williams. It’s sister paper The Observer employs Will Hutton, Nick Cohen, Andrew Rawnsley. Both are solidly Remain.

  • Denis Loretto 19th Sep '19 - 10:43am

    @Glenn
    Indeed the Guardian is not “full of lexiteers”. However it has many people who are desperate to prop up the Labour Party at all costs. This is even bringing them closer and closer to supporting Corbyn despite his lexiteer credentials.

  • The Guardian is not full of Lexiteers says Glen. Really Glen do you think we don’t check

    Why the moaning? If anything can halt capitalism’s fat cats, it’s Brexit
    August 7, 2017 By LEXIT-NETWORK

    by Larry Elliot

    This article was first published on July 21st in The Guardian.
    https://lexit-network.org/why-the-moaning-if-anything-can-halt-capitalisms-fat-cats-its-brexit

    Lexit Larry is still the economic editor of the Guardian. If you are going to lie Glen at least make it hard to check, bless must do better as my old teachers said.

  • Denis Loretto 19th Sep ’19 – 10:43am………Indeed the Guardian is not “full of lexiteers”. However it has many people who are desperate to prop up the Labour Party at all costs. This is even bringing them closer and closer to supporting Corbyn despite his lexiteer credentials………………

    Strange how this party can accept ‘changes of view’ from those who, mere months ago, were espousing policies that were anything but LibDem and yet Corbyn, who campaigned for ‘Remain’ three years ago, is deemed a ‘Leaver’. His 7/10 for remain was how most remainers viewed EU membership; it wasn’t perfect but ‘in’ was far better than ‘out’. Now such an endorsement is considered, at best, lukewarm and, at worst, rabidly leave.
    I’ll accept that people can change but such changes are usually achieved over time; Damascene conversions are best left to saints

  • Alex Macfie, frankie,

    Thanks for your explanation of why you think the Lib Dems should play dirty. As you say:

    “No amount of “We go high” will prevent the Tories going “low and even lower” they don’t need our permission.”

    Well in a sense that’s true. Johnson is, indeed, considering the option of outright lawbreaking. However, he is obviously also a bit frit. So he keeps on saying contradictory things, and also holding out the option of making a last-minute deal, as a result of one side or the other (probably the UK!) making a big last-minute climb-down.

    Why is Johnson frit? Because he dimly recognises the enormity of what he is thinking of doing. It could literally be the end of British democracy and a transition to dictatorial rule, somewhat like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rise to power. But that will not happen if civil society as a whole stands firm in refusing to countenance it.

    If the Lib Dems instead side with those who “don’t play by Queensbury rules”, then they help Johnson to get away with ignoring the law.

  • “Latest Westminster Voting Intention in The Times tonight

    LDM: 23% (+4)”

    That’s a bog-standard result for the week after the Lib Dem conference. The exposure almost always helps us, because we get so little at any other time.

    To be fair, I had expected a fall in popularity, due to the “revoke” policy. That has not happened, but nor has a real rise.

  • Dilettante Eye 19th Sep '19 - 12:48pm

    David Allen

    “Why is Johnson frit? Because he dimly recognises the enormity of what he is thinking of doing. It could literally be the end of British democracy and a transition to dictatorial rule, somewhat like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rise to power..”

    In this fraught and dubious analysis of today’s state of UK politics, who exactly is this dictator you have identified, and wasn’t the refusal of a GE a major contributor to our ‘captive’ dictatorship?

  • John Peters 19th Sep '19 - 1:14pm

    We currently have rule by a Vichy parliament whose policies have no mandate.

    The Lib Dems support of this Vichy parliament will haunt them long after the tuition fees nonsense.

  • Peter Martin 19th Sep '19 - 1:33pm

    @ Glenn, @Frankie, @Denis @ expats

    Is the Guardian “full of lexiteers”? I’m sure there’s room at least another two or three!

    Larry Elliot writes some pretty good stuff such as on the link below. So we’d have to count him. But who else is there?

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/24/the-europe-union-has-bigger-problems-to-deal-with-than-brexit

  • David Allen 19th Sep '19 - 1:34pm

    “We currently have rule by a Vichy parliament whose policies have no mandate.”

    If the 2017 General Election had not happened, you might have had a point. However, in 2017 Theresa May called an Election and asked the nation to elect a new Parliament which would push more strongly for Brexit. The nation voted, and instead elected a Parliament which was clearly opposed to a no-deal Brexit. Parliament has a clear electoral mandate. It is Johnson and Cummings who do not.

  • David Becket 18th Sep ’19 – 2:37pm………………No No No. This is a risky policy, but possibly the correct one, providing we have a CLEAR majority. No clear majority and we stick with peoples vote, and that is what conference voted for………………………..

    So, if LibDems win, they go with Denis Loretto’s (3) Revocation is the only possible way to end the chaotic Brexit process, stop it in its tracks and get on with many other priorities?
    If they don’t win they go with another policy?

    AS Hannibal Hayes might have said, “That’s a clear policy?”

    And you accuse Corbyn of fence sitting!

  • John Peters 19th Sep '19 - 1:47pm

    “If the 2017 General Election had not happened, you might have had a point. However, in 2017 Theresa May called an Election and asked the nation to elect a new Parliament which would push more strongly for Brexit. The nation voted, and instead elected a Parliament which was clearly opposed to a no-deal Brexit. Parliament has a clear electoral mandate. It is Johnson and Cummings who do not.”

    @David Allen

    I once voted for Tony Blair. Within a year I knew I was one wrong.

    As a young man I voted Lib Dem. I grew up.

    I believed the Theresa May spin that she was going to deliver Brexit. She didn’t.

    Perhaps others believed the same?

  • Frankie
    Keep this to yourself, but, it turns out The Guardian has more than one writer and is published six days a week and, get this, it has a sister paper called The Observer that is published every Sunday. It also turns out it has published more than one article in every issue for decades.
    P.S
    There’s this argument going about that one article in a publication that carries hundreds of articles per week does not count as being “full of”. Crazy, what they think of these days.

  • If even these latest polls proved correct right up to polling day we would see a Tory Majority of 60
    Liberal Democrats although getting more votes than Labour, ending up with 55 seats
    Labour on 179 seats.

    I am assuming that As Boris will have a Mandate for a No deal Brexit, we will not be hearing any calls from the party about it being undemocratic.

  • Alex Macfie 19th Sep '19 - 3:19pm

    David Allen: On what planet is setting out our policy stall on what we would do if we won an election “playing dirty”? What we are doing may be radical and consensus-breaking, but it is absolutely not dirty or breaking any (valid) rules. Pledging to revoke Article 50 IF WE GET A MANDATE is completely different from seeking to sidestop your lack of mandate by proroguing Parliament or hinting that you will disobey Parliament and the LAW.
    Honouring the 2016 advisory Referendum is not a sacred commandment. Whether it should be honoured is a political issue. That it should be honoured just happens to be the political consensus, so most politicians (including Lib Dems, up to now) have at least paid lip-service to that idea. But referendums are not part of the UK constitution, and there is no reason why we need to obey made-up rules about honouring them.
    It is deeply offensive to liken ignoring made-up rules and breaking a recently developed political consensus to breaking the ACTUAL LAW and trashing the ACTUAL CONSTITUTION. As has been said, Johnson does not need permission from us to do what he is doing.
    Anyway your approach of letting ourselves be hidebound by gentlemen’s agreements when the other side is not has been tried (by Clegg and by Hillary Clinton) and proven to fail. The fact that you expected our poll ratings to fall and they didn’t shows you are wrong.

  • Mark Seaman 19th Sep '19 - 5:33pm

    @David Allen
    2017 election …the majority of those elected were on a basis of respecting the result of the referendum. That Remainer MPs have blocked the only deal that the EU offered, does not mean that they have a legitimate democratic mandate to block Brexit itself, just because No-Deal is the only Leave option left.

  • David Allen 19th Sep '19 - 5:54pm

    Mark Seaman,

    “Remainer MPs have blocked the only deal that the EU offered”

    No – Brexiter MPs did that.

    “they (Parliament) (do not) have a legitimate democratic mandate to block Brexit itself”

    That is debatable. One view would be that the nation elected them, the nation had a pretty good idea what they really believed, they are entitled to act on that belief. An opposite view would be that insofar as many MPs did not actively campaign to block Brexit, their mandate to do so is at best weak. My own view is that there is a weak mandate to block Brexit, but it would be unwise to act on it. It would be fairer, and more likely to lead to a lasting settlement, to hold a second referendum.

    “No-Deal is the only Leave option left.”

    Oh don’t talk rubbish. Just because Boris wants No Deal doesn’t mean he must get his way. Actually, May’s Deal is the main Leave option available. In theory, Corbyn’s idea of renegotiating is also possible.

  • Arnold Kiel 19th Sep '19 - 6:46pm

    The 2016 referendum had no result: 37% voted for something that does not exist, 35% to do nothing, and 28% did not vote. There is nothing to “honour”. Just a big national embarrassment that has brought the country’s worst feelings to the surface (and its worst people in power). Quite right, John: scrapping it is the most beneficial and merciful thing to do.

  • Sandra Hammett 19th Sep '19 - 6:47pm

    In failing to reach out to those who voted to leave over the past 3 years, laying the groundwork necessary for uniting the country and now pledging to scrap Brexit day one even if we only manage the slimmest of majorities, we continue to do Farage’s job for him; ‘us and them politics’, amply supplied in Jo’s speech and in the recent case of Dr. Kirsten Johnson.
    Should the Labour party conference be successful, we may discover we have reached critical mass AND abandoned that centre ground Vince was so eager to capture.

  • Sandra Hammett, well said.

    Alex Macfie: “On what planet is setting out our policy stall on what we would do if we won an election “playing dirty”?”

    Oh all right, let’s revert to your preferred eumphemism, that we are “not playing by Queensbury rules”. There you go – Happier now?

    “Pledging to revoke Article 50 IF WE GET A MANDATE is completely different from seeking to sidestop your lack of mandate by proroguing Parliament or hinting that you will disobey Parliament and the LAW.”

    Sure, it’s different. Sure, what Boris is doing is appalling. He is doing things which may or may not succeed in imposing his own preferred Brexit outcome by Prime Ministerial fiat. By contrast, Jo Swinson is proposing to do things which, if she becomes Prime Minister, will make quite sure that she succeeds in imposing her own preferred Brexit outcome by Prime Ministerial fiat. That’s different from what Boris is doing. Is it better?

    “The fact that you expected our poll ratings to fall and they didn’t shows you are wrong.”

    As I believe in honest debate, I mentioned the polls, even though the direct rating didn’t show the fall which I had expected. But, hold the front page! Ipsos-Mori find that after the Conference, Swinson’s improved recognition has produced a big increase in her satisfaction rating – but a bigger increase in her dissatisfaction rating.

    http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2019/09/19/ipsos-mori-has-the-lds-at-a-post-ge2010-high-with-a-big-increase-in-awareness-of-joe-swinson-if-not-her-net-satisfaction-figures/

    So there you have it. We have tried out the unfamiliar idea of turning ourselves into demagogic populists. But we are amateurs in that field. It hasn’t even made us more popular!

  • Part of Nick Clegg’s rationale for calling for an In/Out referendum in 2008 appears to be to differentiate the Lib Dems from Labour and the Conservatives:

    “But Labour don’t want the people to have their say.”

    “The Conservatives only support a limited referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Why won’t they give the people a say in a real referendum?”

    Is there anything that could be learnt from that decision?

  • Peter Martin 20th Sep '19 - 11:10am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    I don’t know in detail how elections work in Germany, but in the UK we work on the principles that voting is voluntary, abstentions are allowed, and the winner is decided on the basis of who receives the majority of votes cast. This is 50% +1 when there are just two options.

    I well remember the Remain side making the case that theirs was the better option. They naturally, as was their democratic right, highlighted as many downsides as they could think of for exiting the EU. But I don’t ever remember anyone saying “don’t vote leave” because it doesn’t make sense to “vote for something that does not exist”.

  • @Peter Martin – “But I don’t ever remember anyone saying “don’t vote leave” because it doesn’t make sense to “vote for something that does not exist”.

    Personally, I thought it was self evident that leave was snake oil from the moment the various leave campaigns majored on an emotional sell and couldn’t even present a coherent set of facts to support their case – I’m still waiting, but given Mogg is too scared to publish his ‘plan’ my expectations are very very low. But then having been involved with sales over the decades I might just be a little more aware of such things.

  • Peter Martin 20th Sep '19 - 11:59am

    @ Mark Seaman @ David Allen

    MS: “Remainer MPs have blocked the only deal that the EU offered”

    DA: “No – Brexiter MPs did that.”

    Both sides of the debate voted against the TM for different reasons. They both went through the no lobby to block the deal. Remainers wanted to, er, Remain. Many leavers wanted a better deal or no deal at all.

    If a family have one TV with a choice of three channels to watch, as was often the case a few years ago, there may or may not be a majority for any one channel. Most families were capable of resolving the issue one way or another. Our Parliament obviously isn’t.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Sep '19 - 5:58pm

    David Allen: Jo’s relative satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings don’t tell very much on their own. On the face of it, all it really shows is that more people know who she is. To read any more into it, you would have to find out who is satisfied and who is dissatisfied with her. It would not be very surprising, for instance, if her “dissatisfaction” rating comes mainly from hardcore Brexiters who have only just found out who she is.

    It would not just be “Prime Ministerial fiat” because Jo would have a Parliamentary majority, so would be able to get her Revoke Bill through the democratically elected Parliament. Of course this is better than what Johnson is doing, because it doesn’t involve breaking the law or trying to sideline Parliament. All it breaks is the previous consensus.

    And populist demagoguery means saying whatever you think is popular to get into power. Our Revoke platform is the exact opposite of this. We are setting out our stall, saying, this is what we would do, take it or leave it. And yes, we are prepared to risk unpopularity among certain groups of voters. Generally when taking a principled position that is what you do. What you have to do in the face of populist demagogues is face them down. In the past, liberals have failed to do this, and it’s ended up like the plot to the movie Bob Roberts.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Sep '19 - 5:13pm

    What concerns me is that if we win a majority and we must assume we might, apart from revoking Article 50, what comes next. Do we ignore the people who voted to leave and concentrate on healing the wounds by addressing the causes? We are then stuck with a majority election system when we know the country desperately needs a more proportional one. We have nailed our mast to an anti-democratic sail, despite our name. We are using an undemocratic system to advance our cause.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Sep '19 - 7:09am

    Peter Hirst: I we won a majority we would reform the voting system (I think if we failed to do so, we would lose credibility faster than you can say “tuition fees”). But up until then, we have the system we have, and we have to make the best of it. Even contesting FPTP elections could be said to be “using an undemocratic system to advance our cause”.

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