Brian Paddick writes… Are We Confusing Anti-politics with Anti-Westminster?

I have just been watching Marr on BBC1 and there appears to me to be a theme developing.

In the paper review, Trevor Phillips said the rise of UKIP was really about voters´ perception that “Westminster politicians” were not listening to their constituents. He also suggested immigration is not the real issue for many British people but fear of change. He claims that rapid change is unsettling for people and a party that represents the past like UKIP is understandably popular. I guess a progressive, forward thinking and radical party like ours might be unpopular for the same reason.

Next up is Douglas Carswell, former Tory, now a UKIP, MP. He talks like a Lib Dem. He is clearly a dedicated constituency MP, just like a Lib Dem, who does not take his constituents for granted, just like a Lib Dem, and he sees representing his constituency as far more important than what happens at Westminster. He appeared to me to be so unlike a Tory MP or a Labour MP in a safe seat and so like a Lib Dem.

It reminded me of campaigning in the 2012 London Mayoral election in Worcester Park where Paul Burstow is the local MP. It was in the midst of the NHS reorganisation debate, when my colleague Shirley Williams was leading the Lib Dem revolt against the Coalition Government proposals which resulted in a withdrawal and a rethink. With tuition fees still hanging around our necks and the unpopularity of the NHS reforms, a couple on the doorstep explained that they would never vote Lib Dem again “… but we´ll be voting for Paul Burstow because he’s a great local MP”. At that time, Paul was a Liberal Democrat Coalition government minister in the Department of Health.

I found it a little puzzling that UKIP, a right-wing party, not only won the Clacton by-election but they also reduced the Labour majority from 6,000 to 600 in Heywood and Middleton. But not so puzzling if the reason is not their policies but a reaction against MPs who take their constituents for granted.

If Douglas Carswell had stood in the Clacton by-election as a Lib Dem or as an Independent or for the Green Party, I am pretty confident he would have been re-elected. I am equally confident that Liberal Democrat MPs who stand at the next General Election on a platform of being true representatives of local people, like Paul Burstow and almost every other Lib Dem MP I can think of, will also be re-elected. And if our parliamentary candidates campaign on the same platform and demonstrate their commitment to their local constituents, particularly in safe Labour and Conservative seats, they can also make progress.

Then comes Harriet Harman who talks about policies. She talks about policies on immigration, policies on low pay and, for me, she misses the whole point. Voters have lost trust in the Westminster policy machine and, whatever the policies are and whoever it is that promises them, many in the electorate just don’t believe it any more. What they will believe is a hard-working local MP who “gets it”, who stands-up for local people and local issues and demonstrates that they understand.

At our Autumn conference many of us could not understand why, when we have achieved so much in government on the personal tax allowance, on the pupil premium, on state pensions, on childcare, the list goes on, why we are not more popular. Britain is a liberal democracy and we are the Liberal Democrats after all. We have achieved great things but they are not going to get our MPs re-elected and neither are the raft of great policies contained in our General Election manifesto, however important it is to have those things in place.

We have always been the party of devolving power to the lowest effective level, giving power to the people. There has never been a safe Lib Dem seat and our MPs have never taken their electorate for granted. So let’s campaign as the party that predominantly believes in the people, rather than the party that primarily believes in policy however laudable our policies may be.

* Brian Paddick Is Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service until 2007, the Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoral election in 2008 and 2012, and a life peer since 2013. He is joint President of LGBT+ Lib Dems.

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66 Comments

  • I would have though that this suggestion requires that the Party’s candidates state, on their publicity material, that, if elected, their votes in the HofC will be based on what is best for their constituents – not on what the leadership of the Party recommends or includes in its manifesto.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Oct '14 - 12:23pm

    Yes, but TRUST.

    And our Leadership did change our values, out positioning (even prior to 2010) and our style of communication. He was quite explicit at every major platform from 2008 onwards. Those who thought they ‘knew’ us found they didn’t. It was like coming home and finding your partner in bed with someone else.

    Let’s hope Paul and all the other hard working LOCAL Mps get back in all 50+ of them. But that shift of values, position and style mean that they won’t be voting LD, they’ll be voting local.

    I’d love to see the LDs faced with the present satate of things fighting for our old values – the values of Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell – not I am afraid of Clegg, Laws and Alexander.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct '14 - 12:30pm

    Being a good local MP matters, but I think I’d rather not vote and try my chances with a military junta than vote for UKIP.
    It is interesting that he seems to be a good local MP. I think a lot of the UKIP vote is a genuine protest vote and they just want to keep politicians on their toes. They can’t vote for Lib Dems because the party is in government, can’t vote for Labour because it is too soon after the last mess, so UKIP they are left with as the only credible alternative to land a blow.

    That said, I don’t believe in writing it all off as a protest vote, but it would be wrong to bend over too much.

  • Brian Paddick you wrote –“….At our Autumn conference many of us could not understand why, when we have achieved so much in government …. ……why we are not more popular”

    Which perhaps explains your level of support in two successive London Mayoral election .
    You achieved only 9% support in May 2008 two years before the coalition had even started.
    You did not understand then and you still do not understand now.

    I recommend you read anything written by Bill le Breton or Peter Chegwyn in LDV in the last few days.

    If you want to understand , if you want to see the problem you need to start by opening your eyes.

  • Brian Paddick 12th Oct '14 - 1:03pm

    An overall point. You can tell form the timing that this is an “off the cuff” piece designed to stimulate debate rather than a well considered and thought-through attempt to change the strategic direction of the party – well at least at this stage and depending on your, dear readers, views!

    Bill I do not believe we have changed our values. We have been engaged in a Coaltion in the real world and that means compromise. Not compromising our values but sometimes compromising on our policies.

    Geoff, my point is that people clearly voted in the last local elections against the national party, against national policies, against the Westminster Coalition, despite all the work done locally. Should we refocus the debate on to local politics. At the moment we are still debating and planning to campaign on national issues and on our record in the Coalition Government. I amnot syaing we can deny it never happened but what is important to people now is to have an MP is really listens and demonstrates they understand.

    Caracatus – it´s not very interesting to hear you think I´m wrong with no explanantion as to why you think I´m wrong just as it would be very boring if I simply replied “well I don´t think I am wrong!” My point is, a good constiuency MP from whatever party, even if they change allegiance, is difficult to dislodge e.g. Clacton whereas one that takes their sae seat for granted is in danger e.g. Heywood and Middleton. I think the results are good news for the Lib Dems not bad!

  • Brian Paddick 12th Oct '14 - 1:05pm

    apologies for typos!

  • Brian Paddick 12th Oct '14 - 1:20pm

    John – I had no say in the strategy for the 2008 London Mayoral Election as I was new to political campaigning and wouldn´t dare (back then) to argue with those who said they knew better. If you think I´m blind, perhaps you could be more helpful than mocking my affliction!

  • Brian’s remarks about Paul Burstow and his popularity in Sutton, despite what he was doing in government at that very moment, tell us what we have to do to hold on to those 57 seats.

    Let me explain.

    One week before we achieved our lowest percentage vote since 1945 (in Clacton), this is what happened in Westmorland & Lonsdale:

    SOUTH LAKELAND DC, WINDERMERE TOWN

    LD Dyan Jones 416 (64.0%;-5.9%)
    Conservatives 184 (28.3%;+13.1%)
    Green 50 (7.7%;+7.7%)
    [Labour 0.0%;-14.8%]

    Majority 232
    Turnout 39.4%

    Liberal Democrat Hold

    Tim Farron would appear to be a Lib Dem MP who, like Paul Burstow, many people are happy to support despite the intense unpopularity of our party nationally. And not only are they happy to support Tim Farron, but they are happy also to support other Lib Dems seeking office in his constituency.

    The party nationally needs to ask how it is that Paul Burstow and Tim Farron manage to buck the national trend by such a big margin, and do what they do in the other 55 seats. The solution is that simple.

    And this is what seems to be happening in some of those 55 seats:

    SOMERSET CC, FROME NORTH

    September 25, 2014

    Conservatives 1111 (46.5%; +10.8%)
    LD Damon Hooton 836 (35.0%; -2.3%)
    Labour 163 (6.8%; -3.9%)
    Green Party 139 (5.8%; +5.8%)
    Independent 139 (5.8%; +5.8%)
    [UKIP 0.0; -16.2%]

    Majority 275
    Turnout 33%

    Conservative gain from Liberal Democrats.

    What is it that is happening in Westmorland & Lonsdale and Sutton & Cheam (and Eastbourne and Eastleigh, according to the Ashcroft polling), which is not happening in Somerton & Frome and quite a few other places?

    That is the huge question that the party has to address.

    But is it addressing it?

    Where are all the Action Days? Where are all the emails and frantic phone-calls to members imploring us to go and help in target seats?

    I am beginning to wonder if the leadership actually cares what happens next May.

  • Brian Paddick, I despair of your failure to see the blindingly obvious.
    Your latest comment —“We have been engaged in a Coaltion in the real world …..”
    The real world???? Where have you been for the last four years? If you think that what has been going on in The Quad, or the parliamentary party, or anything in the Westminster Bubble is the “real world” you are even more out of touch than I imagined possible.

    I suppose your rapid transformation from celebrity policeman to London Mayoral candidate to member of the House of Lords was not the best grounding for the politics of the real world. But good grief surely you have a better understanding than this?

    You think that Carswell would have won in Clacton as a Liberal Democrat!!!! Wake up. We got 1% of the vote in Clacton. We have been in terminal decline since Clegg became leader even before the coalition (see earlier reference to your own dreadful result in 2008).

    What sort of ‘GroupThink’ were you and your friends engaged in this week in Glasgow? Did you not notice what happened in May this year? We were wiped out, we lost hundreds of councillors, we have no presence whatsoever in 18 London Boroughs, we lost evvery MEP except one. Our membership for the entire UK is less than half of what the SNP has in just a few dozen seats in Scotland. Wake up. We have been losing deposits in by-elections for year after year. Do you think that was due to a series of coincidences or something to do withatrology? Wake up. Nobody could have won Clacton for us in the present circumstances with the present leader.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct '14 - 1:43pm

    John Tilley, I think it is hard for you to come out with such strong criticism considering your ideas are electorally questionable themselves. I think your views are something like centre-left or radical social liberalism, but you can’t criticise someone strongly for being out of touch if you offer nothing but leftism. No country in the world has produced a sustainable left-wing government. They get booted out and replaced with conservatives and vice versa.

  • Bill Le Breton 12th Oct '14 - 1:50pm

    Brian, you disagree and write, ‘Bill I do not believe we have changed our values. We have been engaged in a Coaltion in the real world and that means compromise. Not compromising our values but sometimes compromising on our policies.’

    Yet the changes started immediately Clegg won the leadership. He changed policy on tax, he tried to change policy on tuition fees, he changed from a tough campaigning vision in to the fluff of fairness and can’t expressed by the other two established parties… All Westminster village stuff. In our great party of local government he campaigned and still campaigns for elected mayors. He does not mean to but every policy he advocates takes power away from the people. He made us look sound and vote as elitists.

    And when in power, when he had the chance to campaign for our old ideas and ideals he led the coalition through the quad in a very different direction. He signed the NHS white paper. If you in the Lords voted for these things you did so voluntarily. There was no need because most were outside of the Coaltion Agreement. It is not the people who deserted us that were wrong or misunderstood things. It was those who wanted to reform the Liberal democrats in a different image to the one they were happy with and voted for.

    You speak of Paul Barstow but fail to mention the role of Graham Tope. Why was Burstow sacked? Why was Tope never put in Government? Why no role for David Williams or Steve Hitchens or John Tilley. Leaders of their communities, respected members of their communities and people who knew how to challenge establishments and who never used their access to power to join those establishments.

    You will continue to be perplexed, because you don,t bring your professional life into your politics. (I genuinely admire the way you bring your personal life into your politics, by the way.)

    Perhaps you could just explain what in your old job you would have done if a local commander lost the trust of his or her community? That would be interesting. Because that is where Clegg was and took us within 12 months of Government.

  • A Social Liberal 12th Oct '14 - 1:57pm

    Brian

    Do yourself a favour, get onto the streets in a non Lib Dem ward do some canvassing. You’ll find that time after time after time people will say that they will not vote Lib Dem after we broke a fundamental promise, that they cannot support a party that compromised its ideals in order to get into government.

    Get a group of ex LIb Dem activists together and ask them why they left the party. Two reasons more than any other will be mentioned – we broke our promise and we went into a coalition where we had to compromise our ideals.

    We wouldn’t have gone into coalition with UKIP – why on earth did we get into bed with a party with whose policies we disagreed with so fundamentally?

  • Tony Dawson 12th Oct '14 - 2:25pm

    @ Brian Paddick

    ” I do not believe we have changed our values. We have been engaged in a Coaltion in the real world and that means compromise.”

    Two things: (a) most people out there currently do not think that MOST Lib Dem MPs know where the real world is. They might as well be on an Indian moonshot. Is this the fault of the public or the MPs concerned?

    (b) Coalition means compromise. It also, for any sane political party, means making it abundantly clear ALL THE TIME the nature of that compromise and your discontent with the necessity of compromise on specific issues. As far as 90 per cent of the public have been concerned, Nick Clegg & co have been in a love-in with David Cameron since the first moment of the Rose Garden. And you cannot just blame the media for this. Their ineptitude makes Lembit Opik look like a political guru in comparison.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct ’14 – 1:43pm

    My record speaks for itself — I was elected and re-elected at every election over a period of sixteen years.
    When I started we had not a single councillor, when I stepped down as leader of the council we not only had a majority on the council but had elected Liberal Democrat MPs to both of the seats in our borough.
    In addition, I had helped with the election of MPs for our party in Liverpool, Leeds, London, Hampshire, and probably others hat I have now forgotten. I think I might have picked up some useful knowledge about winning elections along the way.

    I do not claim to know all the answers, nor do I think that the answers of the past are necessarily the answers for the future. But I can spot a serial loser when I see one, and Clegg is a serial loser and his hedge fund friends have not a clue how to win elections or indeed what the voters want. Wrapping themselves in the pages of Orange Bookery and chasing the unicorns of “Soft Tories” to keep Clegg in a ministerial post after May (not you will notice DPM) is not a political strategy, it is a delusion of the worst kind.

    The slogan — “Vote for us so that Clegg can be junior minister for education” will not win a single vote in those constituencies where we might have the chance to elect an MP in May.

  • “I am equally confident that Liberal Democrat MPs who stand at the next General Election on a platform of being true representatives of local people”

    Will they be allowed to do this. When this strategy has been suggested it has been dismissed as not facilitating the “Lib Dem brand”

    And do the maths – if the party is on 7% then if the party is competitive in 50 seats (say around an average of 20k votes) then there are not enough votes to go around the remaining 600 seats to get above deposit loosing level.

  • Eddie Sammon, I am afraid that my response to your most recent comment has disappeared into the censor’s box. I hope it will reappear for you at some point, before too long.

  • The fallout from the financial crisis has a lot to do with the current political situation.It will takes years for a full recovery and things will never be the same as they were before the crisis.

  • It will be interesting to see how UKIP reconciles its founding free-market libertarianism with the self-interest of its emerging CD constituency and Carswell’s thinking independence.

    Many of we LibDems understand very well the desire to ‘break the mould’ of British politics, and for those of us that came of political age in the SDP era of the early 1980s, the current ability of UKIP to pick up support almost anywhere is familiar and reminiscent. Thatcher was saved by the Falklands war…what will come to Cameron’s rescue? Nevertheless we have to admit that a UKIP breakthrough offers the best chance right now of a big change in British politics, one that we have, understandably given all the constraints of our position, comprehensively failed to deliver through coalition. It is also very heartening to see both Labour and Tory MPs in long-taken-for-granted ‘safe seats’ realising that they may have a real contest on their hands next year.

    Brian – you will know as I do that the immigration issue comes up in conversation with voters all the time. To a limited extent it may be about racism or about fear of change. But we must be grown up and recognise that it is also reflects the everyday experience of people who don’t lead the privileged lives of the political elite – they want to buy a home but it is unaffordable due to demand, they want a school place for their child but their local schools are full, they drive to work and find the motorways regularly congested, or travel by train and find, even on long distance routes, the trains or tubes are crammed and they stand all the way, if they want to register with a local doctor or an NHS dentist there’s a waiting list or they get turned away, etc. etc. The narrative that “Britain is full” is persuasive not because we don’t have the space for more housing, but because our services and infrastructure is, for those forced to use it, very clearly stretched already to breaking point. If this is people’s everyday experience then good luck to any politician who thinks the answer is to argue that ‘immigration is good for Britain’ or that we have plenty of space for more development….

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Oct '14 - 3:13pm

    @Bill Le Breton 12th Oct ’14 – 1:50pm

    BRIAN: ” … I do not believe we have changed our values. We have been engaged in a Coaltion in the real world and that means compromise. Not compromising our values but sometimes compromising on our policies.’

    BILL: “Yet the changes started immediately Clegg won the leadership. He changed policy on tax, he tried to change policy on tuition fees, he changed from a tough campaigning vision in to the fluff of fairness and can’t expressed by the other two established parties… All Westminster village stuff. In our great party of local government he campaigned and still campaigns for elected mayors …”

    As I read through the thread I found myself thinking thoughts similar to those I then found to have already been noted by John Roffey, Bill Le Breton and John Tilley.

    The problem is that however liberal and decent, Nick Clegg does not share very many of the economically redistributive, anti-multi national monopoly and pro- local and environmental views and values of the centre-left membership, supporters and voters of main stream Liberal Democracy. I don’t ask you to listen to me – it’s there in the polls.

    Obviously many (myself included) didn’t vote for him as leader due to recognising him as a Centrist. But from what I recall it wasn’t clear that a vote for him as leader of the Lib Dems, would lead to an attempt to move our party to the right, particularly in in the area of economics.
    I doubt many realised when people voted for Clegg, it was also a 3 for 1 coup offer with Law and Browne to his right as well.

    So, we spend years working locally and fighting national elections as a party of common sense radical reform. We get into office under Nick Clegg and then immediately follow neo-Thatcherite economic policies. Forget the compromises coalition brings, Clegg et al were only too keen to buy into the unfree market views of the Tories.

    Surprise, surprise, members, supporters and voters didn’t and don’t like it. The polls simply reflect this. No amount of posting by NC loyalists is going to change this.

  • A Social Liberal writes: “You’ll find that time after time after time people will say that they will not vote Lib Dem after we broke a fundamental promise”.

    I am no longer in a position where I can be “out on the streets”, though I hope to lend a hand in the run up to the May election, so I am curious to know if most people really do place such a high importance on tuition fees policy. I would have thought that if this is the case then there would be greater clamour to greatly reduce or abolish the fees, but we hear little and it seems to me that whatever the make up of the next government, fees are more likely to go up than down.

    It seems to me that there is often a tension between core beliefs and outlook and a desire to reach out for the popular vote. This affects us on a host of issues from the EU to immigration, to crime and justice policy, to state surveillance.

    Hard as it is to accept, we may have to concede that in the present climate Liberalism, and more specifically Social and Democratic Liberalism, is not that popular. Even so I would hope that even if the general consensus was in favour of more intrusive state surveillance, Liberal Democrats would continue to make a stand to the contrary.

    Likewise on other issues: I was heartened to hear Vince Cable make the principled and Liberal case for unrestrictive (but not unrestricted) immigration. Obviously this does not tap into what currently fuels UKIP, but however popular the anti-immigrant meme, I do not want to see the Liberal Democrat Party lured down that route. I do note that in the past 24 hours reports are that Labour is already heeding the call of these siren voices – I do not think it will do them any good.

  • Brian, this is the nearest article that I have read on LDV that approaches my own thought, we have all found that once the MP is elected its about party not constituents and frankly I for one are sick of it.

    The best thing for me would be move parliment from Westminster, we may feel that London had less priority, but even more important that politicians may remember the UK is not just the South

    One point you make about LibDems re Pensions Steve made a very bad error in saying single tier when he never meant that for people in 2016 pointless telling us what it will be rather than what it is now, have a troll on the nett see how many are angry that many will not even after 35 years paying get the full Single tier

    Overall though a good piece MPs for the voter not the party that would be a nice change

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct '14 - 5:14pm

    Hi John, thanks for your explanation. I am glad you have a winning record and are still contributing! I still think the fundamentals of politics means all groups need listening to. We need to balance power, not try to direct it all to workers, the state or individuals. Basic preamble stuff 😀

  • @Martin – I’m not a party member, but I can assure you that just by virtue of occasionally discussing politics that yes, tuition fees are a huge deal. Not so much in themselves as representing a 180 from what was seen as the central plan of the 2010 campaign. People generally do want lower or nonexistent tuition fees but the salience of the issue is how the position was dropped in what was seen as a deceitful manner, not the policy itself so much. It is in common perception the encapsulation of Lib Dem failure. It’s also a long term issue of trust, people saying they’re never voting Lib Dem again are common. Many will, but begrudgingly, tactically or as the least worst option.

    So much genuine goodwill wasted.

    As far as it goes I think Brian is right in one sense but he does ignore that, whether he agrees or not, most people do think that what the Lib Dems have done in government bears much resemblance to their pre-government positions. Local issues help but there’s a real issue of trust, promises broken and politicians acting very differently to their perceived position. Which, if the economic liberals like it or not was centre-left.

    So, yeah, a lot of work for you guys to do.

  • There have been a lot of comments on this thread telling us what the problem is. Much of it is blindingly obvious. We are propping up a Tory government, and we have a leadership clique that is determined to move the party to the right. As a result, we have shed members, activists and voters by the lorry-load. What I would like to hear, for a change, is suggestions as to what we do about it.

    The leadership has no strategy, other than “more of the same”. Mr Coetzee, whose knowledge of campaigning seems to be fairly minimal, probably thinks that Mr Clegg on television will do the trick, just as Owenites who sneered at community politics thought that all that was required was David Owen on television.

    One would have thought that Mr Coetzee’s first act as campaigns supremo would have been to organise a programme of action days in target seats. We had them at this stage in 2010 and 2005. Why not this time? Is it a total lack of resolve? Or is the leadership so terrified that MPs will put out leaflets without a single photograph of or reference to Nick Clegg?

    Leadership, what are you going to do to rescue the party?

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct '14 - 6:24pm

    Jedi, I am not one for holding back my tongue, but I fail to see how Brian deserves to be spoken to like that. I thought it was an interesting article and we need to welcome contributions from serious politicians. Some people only seem interested in using this website for lobbying, but those interested in two-way communication, such as Brian, should be respected.

    He has read and even replied to some comments and that should matter to people like us.

  • Eddie, I keep reading that “difference is dead” but it would seem that you at least still think we should doff our caps to members of the House of Lords. If you think I was being rude to Brian Paddick, I was not. I was actually holding back.

    Anyone who goes on “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” — and then expects to be considered a “serious politician” is pushing their luck.
    For those without a TV, this is the trashy programme where D List “celebrities” go “into the jungle” and eat exotic insects or kanagroo testicles for the benefit of the not too discerning viewer. If you are also attractive and female the camera will spend a lot of time following you in and out of the shower. It is not exactly Newsnight.
    Taking part in such a programme seems like “bringing the party into disrepute” but Brian was not suspended from the party for a year or threatened with expulsion.

    Brian Paddick complains that he had no influence over the 2008 election for London Mayor when he got 9%.
    This implies he did have some influence over the 2012 election for London Mayor where his vote slumped to 4% and he dropped from third place to fourth place behind The Green Party.
    He now tells us that he really cannot understand why Liberal Democrats are not popular. I suggest he reads the comment from Sesenco in this thread.
    In particular these words —
    “…..Tim Farron would appear to be a Lib Dem MP who, like Paul Burstow, many people are happy to support despite the intense unpopularity of our party nationally. And not only are they happy to support Tim Farron, but they are happy also to support other Lib Dems seeking office in his constituency….”

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Oct '14 - 6:58pm

    John, I’m not getting into a debate about this. My reaction to the article was just different to others. Let’s get back on topic.

  • What I actually typed was —

    ” Eddie, I keep reading that “DEFERENCE is dead” but it would seem that you at least still think we should doff our caps to members of the House of Lords. ”

    This I-pad thought it knew better and changed the word …. I am thinking of going back to using a fountain pen.

  • Some heated comments here, which I don’t think the author intended or deserved.
    The party’s in a quandary, it seems to happen to liberal parties in liberal democracies from time to time!
    Other parties are too though, and the only ones without some of crisis to resolve seem to be thr Greens (but they’re not really breaking through), the SNP (but they lost the referendum vote) and UKIP (yet… suspect personality clashes to rock them soon). Labour has real issues, a bit of a dud leader, and some real opposition in its heartlands (for once) – esp a re-energised SNP, and it seems UKIP for now. Tristan Hunt has hardly helped the sense of an ineffective labour leadership drifting ever further away from the party’s point and purpose. The Tories have a leader plagued by the right, and threatened by the further right – they have never experienced a breach in their core support before. With Europe ticking away that schism could easily get much worse.
    I haven’t forgotten Plaid, they are as divided, ineffectual and divisive as ever.
    The point of all of which being, it’s not just us. Voters did set higher expectations of us, and members have every right to be cross about the leaderships getting a bit grand (and being inept in govt). I expect we’ll get a drubbing and then claw back. Looking forward, I’d rather have our set of challenges than some of the others!

  • For me this article reads too much like the emailed letter that went out to members after this year’s local and European election debacle essentially saying “where we work we win”. This was an insult to all those councillors and MEPs who had worked, often to the detriment of careers, family life, sometimes even health and relationships, and who still lost (by the way, I’m not suggesting that Brian is being insulting). I spent some of the summer re-reading John Vincent’s “The Formation of the Liberal Party”, a very complex book that is impossible to summarise, but what was clear from it is that the appeal of the Liberal Party was that for a large proportion of its supporters its values reflected those of their religious beliefs (largely nonconformist), even where the consequences of those beliefs might run counter to their immediate temporal well-being. That the Liberal Party survived into the second half of the twentieth century was in no small part thanks to the, ever weakening, ripples of nineteenth century religious principle. From the 1960s we rebuilt the party by campaigning on broadly social liberal principles at a national level – internationalism, redistribution of wealth and devolution of power, effective action against monopolies, workers’ representation on boards of management – and at local level through community politics giving people a voice and the techniques to confront power structures which had hitherto been unconcerned about what the people they were supposed to represent actually wanted. At my adoption meeting in 1973 for the derelict ward I was campaigning in, I remember saying that it could take 25 years for the principles behind community politics to become established there (possibly, in retrospect, not the most encouraging message to be giving my little band of activists!), but actually it was 1997 when we won the constituency, and a year later when we won my ward for the first time (I wasn’t the candidate). Since 2010 the leadership has managed to destroy the constituency of support that we had taken two generations to build amongst the educated, outward looking, anti-authoritarian, left of centre voters who would have have been our new ‘moral’ core, and as collateral damage also achieved a near wipeout of councillors and activists who had built a reputation for efficacy in our major cities, a role that is now being taken over by the new zealots of UKIP who have the fire in their bellies that we once had but which I see very little sign that we will be able to rekindle in the foreseeable future.

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Oct '14 - 8:50pm

    @Martin 12th Oct ’14 – 4:10pm
    ” … I am curious to know if most people really do place such a high importance on tuition fees policy. ”

    I understand where you are coming from with this question but for what it’s worth, I think it has several elements to it:

    1) Any candidate making a pledge and then breaking it almost immediately probably deserves every thing they get.
    2) The negotiating team should have made this a red line issue. Any politician worth their salt should have foreseen the result of breaking such a specific, public and written pledge.
    3) OK, in real life crap happens and policies may need to change in light of additional knowledge or changed circumstance but if that were indeed the case we should have insisted that the Tories took this on and that it was they who were seen to drive it through.
    4) In accepting the Tory line and implementing THEIR policy, we sowed the seeds of our own destruction because it was obvious (or should have been!) that both Labour and the Tory press would absolutely nail us for this; particularly after our claiming for years to be different to the other parties.
    5) Students and their families took us letting them down very badly and large numbers of that cohort will probably never forgive us for such a betrayal.
    6) Most other groups probably see the breaking of a SIGNED PLEDGE as being the most important issue rather than the fees themselves.

    Whatever else happens in the run up to the next general election, Clegg is going to have it thrown at him at every opportunity something along the lines of “… it’s OK you saying that – but it didn’t stop you breaking the tuition fees pledge, why should anyone believe you on this policy or anything else in your manifesto come to that?”

    It’s going to be dirty, embarrassing and almost certainly very bloody.

    The question is do we do battle under the banner of mainstream centre-left Liberal Democracy or that of Centrism with neo-Thatcherite economics running through its fibres?

    If I were a candidate in the forthcoming GE, there is no way I would be letting anyone from party HQ anywhere near my election strategy.

  • Simon McGrath 12th Oct '14 - 9:54pm

    @Philip Young “Is Nick going to get on the train and attend weekly, in the way his predecessors used to? Grimond, Thorpe, Steel, Paddy…all used to visit the by-election candidate and his team of workers, however dire the prospects”
    I am not sure that is actually correct but then of course none of them was also Deputy PM.

  • “JohnTilley 12th Oct ’14 – 6:53pm
    Eddie, I keep reading that “difference is dead” but it would seem that you at least still think we should doff our caps to members of the House of Lords. If you think I was being rude to Brian Paddick, I was not. I was actually holding back.”

    @John, I am sorry, but you were somewhat rude – and it did you nor the otherwise valid point that you wished to make any credit.

    I understand that you and many other members are frustrated (to put it mildly), but we cannot allow ourselves to become like the other parties in sense of turning on one another when things start going wrong. We are better than that. You are better than that.

    Now, you may believe that Brian has (as a member of the leadership in a manner of speaking) slighted you and the rest of the party by not listening to your ideas, which is fair enough, but people are much less likely to listen to you when you put forward your views in an aggressive manner.

    Rightly or wrongly, people are judged just as much on the way they say things, as what they are saying.

    “6) Most other groups probably see the breaking of a SIGNED PLEDGE as being the most important issue rather than the fees themselves.”

    @Stephen, this is very true. I often explain the current tuition fees system to people and once they actually understand how the new system works, they ‘begrudging’ accept that it is no where near as bad as the press would have them believe. However, not one of them ever forgives the Lib Dems who broke the pledge – and to be honest, I make no effort to defend those Lib Dems on that front. If you signed a pledge, you cannot then go back on it – especially, in the manner that the Party went back on this one.

  • Stephen Hesketh, thank you for the response, however in the absence of being able to contribute to door to door campaigning (out of the country), I really would like to know if there is such a groundswell against the tuition fees.

    I certainly appreciate that it was an astonishing and probably needless mistake and that the manner in which it was adopted was mistaken too. It is also obvious how our opponents seize on the issue with alacrity. I even see how the mistakes happened, how a graduate tax morphed into the present system, without someone stepping back to take a considered overview of where the arguments had taken them. I feel the mistakes have been compounded subsequently. Whoever suggested Clegg should make an apology should express thier regrets and leave asap; rather than issue a free invite for a kicking, the leadership, those responsible , should be brazenly advocating the virtues of their system, explaining how it is the next best thing to a graduate tax. Not to do so, is to expose Party activists to almost defencelessness.

    The position of the Party should be an assumption that Labour will probably win, though may try to run a minority government, that another coalition is most unlikely, but in any case we would be open to talks. Above all we should be emphasising Liberal principles – Liberal left of centre if you like. As for Nick Clegg, if we lose more that a third of our MPs, he should forthwith announce his resignation, but stay on as caretaker until the party conference where his successor would take over. Admittedly, in the unlikely outcome of no overall control, this could create difficulties for the largest party, but I cannot see how Lib Dems could, in such circumstances, could have the legitimacy to rush into a further coalition.

  • Paul in Wokingham 12th Oct '14 - 11:29pm

    @Brian – thank you for putting down your thoughts on the rise of anti-politics. It seems to me that just like flammable and inflammable, or press and depress, that when you talk of politics and anti-politics you really mean the same thing.

    Because “anti-politics” sounds like a form of words to salve the cognitive dissonance of those in the Westminster Bubble who cannot or will not comprehend the profound nature of the change in the way that the governed view those who govern.

    We have recently been through a massive recession where a primary cause was excessive risk-taking in the banking sector, and yet the main beneficiaries of the “recovery” have been the exact people whose behaviour helped create that crisis in the first place.

    We have had a skewed recovery in which the assets of the wealthy – equities and property – have ramped up in value while the value of the primary asset of the poor – their labour – has slumped.

    The new order coming of the recession is a world of zero-hour contracts, zero interest rate policy, zero responsibility by those who caused the whole thing and zero understanding by a professional political class that is correctly viewed as remote, detached and – being blunt – in thrall to money.

    And if we – the Liberal Democrats – are being more impacted than the other parties then perhaps that is because during the election Mr. Clegg told us to “say goodbye to broken promises”… and then? Perhaps we have fallen further because the difference between the rhetoric and the reality is that much greater and the sense of grievance that much deeper.

  • It’s not as simple as people being anti-politics or even anti-Westminster If you look at UKIP, for example, It is often claimed that they are reviving political interest by challenging the Westminster bubble /metropolitan elite and are the voice of alienated Brits or are a sort of peoples army. The reality is that a few people who can be relied upon to vote in local elections have changed allegiances. The real problem is apathy not antipathy. the sad fact is great chunks of the population pootle about entirely oblivious to politics until politicians do something annoying. I’m sorry, but if you don’t vote then why should anyone represent you. Seriously, the weather is as big a factor in local election results as politics. If it’s a bit wet the turn our slumps! This is not because people are turned off by the Westminster elite. It’s because they’re more bothered about getting their hair wet than by who is going to decide whether or not their roads get resurfaced or their local A&E is underfunded,
    The answer is to make all voting compulsory and this in turn will make electorate important to politicians.

  • Colin, the Green Party has never delivered on anything. You can claim that the reason for this is that it has never had any power and that is fair enough. But at the end of the day, you are asking liberals to believe and accept that a party that is explicitly not liberal will somehow deliver liberal policy.

    The Green Party has neither the policies, the beliefs nor the strategy to deliver for liberalism. At best, it will simply take elements of the progressive vote for another jaunt around the third party experience having learned nothing from our experience in government. But more likely it will allow itself to be outmanoeuvred and crucified by the Labour Party in much the same way as it has been co-opted into the nationalist movement in Scotland.

    Political liberalism needs a liberal party to carry it forward. This party is the liberal option, and will not be rescued, repaired or rehabilitated if liberals walk away from it. The present crisis is the opening stage in a process that will result either in renewal and rediscovery for this party, or its destruction and replacement by UKIP. If liberals engage with the problem and can reclaim the party from the anodyne centrism of recent years, we can recover and use what we’ve learned from this coalition. If not, we redo third party politics from the start, and from my perspective there’s no point in bothering if the party in question isn’t ideologically grounded in liberal thought.

  • Colin, your argument that we’ve failed to even try to hold a line on matters of liberal politics is inaccurate. This very week past we’ve had the Home Secretary telling the press that our resistance to her illiberal attempts to broaden and deepen surveillance and control have put children at risk. What we have failed at is negotiating a sensible position that both coalition parties could comfortably support. And as the junior partner, we have been railroaded into deals we would rather not have been involved in at all.

    But setting aside your opinion of our performance, your entire premise for what to do about it hangs on us all accepting that the Green Party is a viable, valid alternative.

    It is neither. An illiberal party lacking both the beliefs to defend liberalism and the strategic ability to avoid the traps we’ve fallen into, doomed to repeat the same mistakes because it won’t learn from history. Two can play at the doomsaying cassandra schtick.

    If this party is destroyed, we should set about building a new liberal party and not waste our time trying to make one or another party of wrongheaded ideology slightly more liberal-leaning.

    And do not get me started on the Scottish question. The Green Party here loses my support partly because it has chosen to be a fig leaf for the SNP’s narrow nationalism. The referendum happened, a lot of people found themselves on opposite sides of the divide to their natural allies, and we had a vote. I voted Yes because it was the only change on offer at the time, but it didn’t win. So now political parties have a duty to work to create the best new deal for the whole country and create change that means we don’t have to again make that choice between the known devil of stagnation or the new devil of nationalism.

    The SNP, I get their refusal to abandon nationalist goals. They are after all the nationalist party. But I cannot understand the Green Party’s decision to continue in the role of fig-leaf. It bodes ill for your party’s ability or will to project an independent identity in any future coalition if you’re just going to be the fluffier, leftier annexe to the nationalists in Scotland.

  • T-J 13th Oct ’14 – 5:55am

    I have just read through your night-shift exchanges with “Colin”. It is interesting and thoughtful. But it raises a question in my head. What happens when there are more Liberals (voters, members, activists) who have gone off to the Green Party than have stayed with the Liberal Democrats under Clegg?

    One might argue that this has already happened across more than half of all London Boroughs, and was signalled two years ago by the disastrous 2012 Mayor of London election when the Liberal Democrat candidate got just 4% and came fourth behind the Greens. It was certainly underined in May of this year when Liberal Democrts were wiped out in 18 of the 32 London Boroughs and only retain a presence of more than a couple of councillors in a handful of boroughs.

    Is it already later than we think?

    I have an instinctive attraction to this part of what you wrote —
    “…..Political liberalism needs a liberal party to carry it forward. This party is the liberal option, and will not be rescued, repaired or rehabilitated if liberals walk away from it. … …. If liberals engage with the problem and can reclaim the party from the anodyne centrism of recent years, we can recover …”

    But is it already too late?
    You say that you voted YES in the referendum. I would have done the same if i had been resident in Scotland. Certainly many Liberal Democrats voted YES. How will they vote in May’s General Election? Has the party cut its own throat by siding with The Unionists?
    I fear that May 2015 will be the first General Election in my life-time when there will not be a significant number of Liberal MPs from North of the border to bolster the numbers in what even the Clegg loyalists now openly admit will be a parliamentary party of less than 35 MPs, possibly a lot less than 35.

  • “I fear that May 2015 will be the first General Election in my life-time when there will not be a significant number of Liberal MPs from North of the border”.

    I do not know when John Tilley was born, but there were no Liberal MPs from Scotland between 1945 and 1950, and only one Liberal MP from Scotland between 1950 and 1964. Even on the most pessimistic projections possible, we should still have two seats in Scotland after 2015 – Orkney and Shetland and Ross and Cromarty – and the likelihood is that we will end up with a few more Scottish MPs than that.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Oct '14 - 10:21am

    @ Liberal Al,
    I normally agree with you but I must question your assertion that John Tilley should change his approach. I won’t vote Liberal Democrat at the next election, but I feel really upset that by not doing so I am letting down the likes of John Tilley Matthew Huntbach, TonyHill, and others who I have never met and don’t know except through their contributions on Liberal Democrat Voice.

    We are going through turbulent times, times that I find truly frightening with the rise of the political right and scapegoating , do I trust Clegg ( a soft tory if ever I met one) to defend us from this right wing onslaught? No, we need some of the war horses from the old Liberal Party to come to our defence. If this upsets a few soft tories, am I bovvered? Yes, about as bovvered as I was when those of us fought unpopular causes like apartheid and discrimination on the grounds of human difference made us ‘aggressive’. You might call it aggression, I call it fire in the belly. A fire that can only exist when one truly believes in what one says one believes in.

    Keep the fire burning, John Tilley et al. Some of us remember a party where it burned brightly and was not a flickering, almost extinguished flame that blew with the wind.

  • JohnTilley, I suppose that in the event of there being more liberals in the Green Party than in a liberal one, there would then be a struggle for control of the Greens between watermelons and avocados. The watermelons, green on the outside, red on the inside refugees from Labour and the assorted remnants of the further left, run the show now. But if there were a large number of liberals choosing to paint over their traditional colours with a green coat, that might change.

    Of course, we’re then looking at years of internal struggling to get a party to a position we still wouldn’t be comfortable in, with all the risks such infighting poses. Its what I’d recommend if I wanted to see the Green Party fragmented and destroyed. I don’t, although it would be convenient if they’d get back in the pressure group box at the UK level until the country works on a proportional democratic model.

    The best way forward for liberals is to first attempt to recover and rebuild this party, whether it needs to go through a schism, demerger or some other renewing process. Perhaps going through the electoral fire and coming out the other side shorn of the most unpopular, conspicuously failed representatives will be enough, although I personally doubt it. As a second best option, there’s always the redo from start idea, perhaps made a little easier by the existence of the continuity Liberal Party among others.

    Either way, there’s nothing to gain in allowing liberalism to become a second tier political idea, no matter how unstained and cuddly the vehicle in which we’d be subsumed is. In the worst case political liberals might end up decimated and irrelevant, more closely resembling Don Quixote than an alternative for government, but that is for me preferable to becoming subsumed into something else. And it will be only temporary, as the Greens are learning nothing from our experience of the pitfalls of third party politics.

    Regarding Scotland, whether or not we’ve cut our own throat depends on what ends up happening on the devolution front with the Smith Commission and how quickly it ends up happening. We might end up having to work with the SNP to hold the two main parties to a real, substantial deal, but if we can go to the polls next year having a large scale reform of the Scottish situation that’s got our mark on it, things may not be the wipeout scenario we anticipate. If not, we can’t, and they probably will be, however.

  • Hugh p
    I was born in 1952 so my memories of the number of Liberal MPs before 1954 are perhaps not as clear as your’s. 🙂

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Oct ’14 – 10:21am
    Thanks Jayne, I am flattered to be bracketed with Matthew Huntbach and TonyHill whose contributions are more articulate and considered than mine. It is always worth reading what they say, and then worth thinking about it.

    In his comment in this thread TonyHill says some very important things which Brian Paddick and others at the top of the
    party should read and then act on.
    In particular — “…..From the 1960s we rebuilt the party by campaigning on broadly social liberal principles at a national level – internationalism, redistribution of wealth and devolution of power, effective action against monopolies, workers’ representation on boards of management – and at local level through community politics giving people a voice and the techniques to confront power structures …”
    I wonder if Brian Paddick has ever considered such things in his six year fast tracking from new member of the party to a seat in the House of Lords??
    BTW – have you noticed how it is perfectly possible to fast track some people into parliament in no time at all but we continue to have legitimate complaints that the parliamentary parties are too pale and too male?

  • T-J 13th Oct ’14 – 10:29am
    Goodness me, you pack a lot into a few sentences. I need to think more aout some of it.
    As I said before, my natural instinct reflects your position – that a liberal party must be a Liberal Party.

    I would go further and say it must be the sort of Liberal Party that Tony Hills describes —
    “…..campaigning on broadly social liberal principles at a national level – internationalism, redistribution of wealth and devolution of power, effective action against monopolies, workers’ representation on boards of management – and at local level through community politics giving people a voice and the techniques to confront power structures …”

    But this will require a new generation of people for whom the 1960s and 1970s was the era of their grandparents.

    Kropotkin wrote his ‘Appeal to the young’. Maybe we need a new Liberal Party version of Kropotkin now?

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 13th Oct '14 - 11:25am

    One person who is often overlooked in these dabates is N Farage. His personal style doesn’t appeal to me but the constancy of his campaigning is a copy of the Liberal campaigning vision of old. And he admits he is a copy. He makes huge errors and freely changes tack on camera. Although he laughs oddly, the media are always reporting his latest view. He gets free publicity every day and hardly a word is spoken against his views or the many changes. He has stolen the clothes we once wore and is making great use of them to hide his many inadequacies. His message is pretty much a simple anti-immigration one and he pulls in anything which seems to support his view on that.

    Now if we could find a leader like that – a campagning leader with a simple message on which we could hang our own policies – we could interest the voting public in our major principle. Why not copy the NF copy, and get out on the streets. Don’t talk back just listen and add voters comments to your principle. Don’t get bogged down in Westminster which so often doesn’t seem like the real world – get speaking off the cuff and in public. A copy of the style of A Salmond would also suffice as it did in Scotland but NF’s style is better in England. It’s what the people listen to – whether they like the message or not. A public campaigner. A cool headed leader with a few minders who are good orators for correcting the errors. Step forward that person – preferably not from the Westminster bubble or speaking more of the same. Was tempted to quote King Henry on Thomas Becket but that’s for another post so better not.

    As an aside but relevant, I believe NF has been campaigning in a long-haul manner and this is now his time to shine whilst he was joked about in the past. So start campaigning at the right time with the right leader. This is not anti anyone in particular but positive for campaigning every day.

  • Jenny Barnes 13th Oct '14 - 12:16pm

    We are, so it is often said. a party that believes in evidence based policy making. I would like to know who the genius was who thought there was space for a centre right market loving party to replace the party many of us thought we had joined, and exactly what evidence would convince said genius that they were wrong. How many councillors, MEPs and MPs, let alone activists and members leaving or losing their seats? how many lost deposits ? We didn’t have to support the NHS reform, for example. nor many another illiberal measure. The only reason that makes sense is that the leadership wanted to support those things; no reluctance “oh well for the good of the country then”. The electorate are not fools, and they are very angry at being promised an alternative to business as usual westminster political corruption, and just getting a yellow version of it. Not what was written on the tin. Coalition is not an excuse. The coalition agreement could have been followed, with robust disagreement, and voting against, measures that were disagreed with.
    A recent example – I understand the leadership are displeased with conference decision to mandate no new runways at Gatwick and Stansted as well as Heathrow (leadership apparently have some belief in magic technology that makes no noise and emits no carbon) Whose party is it? A cabal of MPs? or the activists and members?

  • Jenny Barnes
    The answer to your question can be found in Chapter 7 of the book ‘The Clegg Coup’ which was written by a Clegg insider and supporter.
    Chapter 7 is entitled PAUL”MONEYBAGS” MARSHALL. There is a clue there.

    See in particular pages 87,88. Which include — “Marshall met Clegg when the latter was a young MEP..,,,, he identified Clegg as the future leader most likely to push an Orange Book agenda…….”

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '14 - 2:33pm

    Ever since I joined the party (when it was the Liberal Party, back in the 1970s) one of the biggest divisions was between those who said:

    “We need to look more professional, more like mainstream politicians. We are coming across as a bunch of amateurs. People aren’t voting for us because we don’t look serious”

    and those who said:

    “We need to look like something different, we need to offer an alternative to the way politics works in this country, something which is more on the side of the people and coming from the grassroots upwards, not something coming top-down from Westminster”.

    That was really more what the Liberal-SDP conflicts in the 1980s was about than any policy issue. It also the biggest division in the old Liberal Party, more so than strict political left-right, though it tended to be the right who went for the former and the left who went for the latter.

    The national media in this country have ALWAYS pushed the former, always held it out that if only we did that, we’d be more popular, and they’d report us more sympathetically Nick Clegg has very firmly associated himself with the former, seemingly believing the press. He was very, very wrong in this.

  • Nigel Quinton 13th Oct '14 - 3:04pm

    As usual I agree with Matthew. Some of us believe that wanting to change things and being professional about it are not mutually exclusive. Equally, appearing more professional does not necessarily mean looking like mainstream politicians!

    I thought Brian’s post was a very interesting one and very welcome, as was his response. For many of us the leadership has taken a wrong and unnecessary turn once in government, but we are where we are. Given that the election is now upon us, we have to decide what we will do, either to support the party or to throw brickbats. I have thrown many brickbats in the past two years, and done precious little to support the party locally, but I have to say that the propaganda exercise in Glasgow won me over (from a distance). Clegg’s speech was the best I have heard him give, and even if I might have some doubts about how what he was saying stacked up against his performance in government, at least this time he was saying the things I wanted to hear.

    Despite everything, I can still see no other party that reflects my views sufficient to support, although if the green party did indeed become more liberal and less socialist in outlook I might be tempted. So I will be supporting my local target seat as much as I can. I would urge others who despair of Nick’s leadership but value this party’s future to swallow hard and do likewise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '14 - 5:46pm

    Jenny Barnes

    Coalition is not an excuse. The coalition agreement could have been followed, with robust disagreement, and voting against, measures that were disagreed with.

    Actually, no. You can’t, for example, vote to give 100% subsidy to university education without also voting for how you would do this. That is the problem with the tuition fees issue – for the LibDems to have kept their pledge on tuition fees they would have had to persuade the Conservatives to break their pledges on keeping taxes down. Or propose whole load more cuts in other services to make up the balance. Or drastically reduce the number of university places. To take it to its extreme, suppose all universities except Oxford and Cambridge were closed down, but tuition at Oxford and Cambridge was free of charge. Well, the LibDems would have kept their pledge, but would people be happy with it?

    I think a lot of the coverage of the coalition HAS been unfair to the LibDems because it has effectively supposed their 57 MPs are bad people for not being able to get 307 Tory MPs to give up their Tory policies and adopt LibDem ones. The Tories already feel so much under pressure to compromise to the LibDems way that some of them who disagree with it are defecting to UKIP. The problem is that the Conservative Party has moved so horrendously to the extreme right even since it was last in government that a hard-bargained compromise with it still looks very, very right wing – but push it any further and the Tories would split with a big chunk going to UKIP.

    However, John Tilley is also right. The Liberal Democrats have been pushed to the right by strong financial forces and by underhand methods. If you read the right-wing elite press, you will see they are obsessed with this idea of extreme free market economics and keep on publishing articles suggesting there’s a gap in the market for a party which is all about that sort of thing but doesn’t have the residual social conservative elements of the Conservative Party. Which is nonsense, there is no demand at all for such a party outside a few very wealthy people. Clegg is either a knowing part of this nonsense, or is very naive and has been taken in by it, or (I think the reality) somewhat in between.

    Because of this and the general Orange Book movement in that unwanted (apart from a few elite types) direction, the argument I’ve made above about the practical realities of compromise just doesn’t get heard. Clegg and the Cleggies have acted as if it’s what they wanted in the first place, and the coalition is just an excuse.

    So I feel trapped, and have done since May 2010, between the two. I’d like to defend the LibDems against what I feel are a lot of unrealistic attacks which do not recognise the reality of how coalitions work. But Clegg and the Cleggies just keep undermining the defence I would otherwise be willing to give them.

  • @Jayne, please do not misunderstand me, I hold nothing but the utmost respect for John Tilley Matthew Huntbach and TonyHill, plus many of the others on here.

    Our party and its beliefs clearly run to their core and they clearly only want the best for our communities and our party, so their frustration at the seemingly deaf ears of our leadership is most understandable.

    My point was directed as much at myself as it was at JohnTilley because we both fall into the same trap at times which is that we let our passion for our beleifs mean that we put things forward in a way that is so passionate that it actually has the opposite effect to the one we intended – aka, it pushes people away from us and our beliefs.

    I have myself been on the end of JohnTilley’s passion (as well as Matthews) – and whilst I can respect that passion, sometimes it can lead them to make their comments sound just a little bit unpleasant or make their comments in a way that is easier to disparage. I believe that sometimes there is a need for passion, but sometimes there is a need for a colder and more tempered debate, as well. Plus there is never any need for personal attacks, such as ‘celebrity policeman’. Patrick clearly came here willing to listen to what supporters such as John had to say; however, rather than engaging with him and helping to pass on their undoubtedly valuable knowledge, it seems we have attacked Patrick for putting his head above the Westminster turrets. It is, therefore, no wonder that some of our other leaders and parliamentarians ignore us as just ‘malcontents’ and angry people, as opposed to listening to the wisdom of people such as John.

    I agree that our party does not need more ‘PR’ men and wholly support John’s passion and hold nothing but respect for his beliefs (my own beliefs have been directly influenced more by Matthew and John than they have by many of our Ministers) ; however, I also think that we do need to engage with people in the right way.

    If after putting forward a friendly and reasoned (if critical) position, Patrick is still not willing to listen (though, I think he would be), then he will never be willing to listen and no amount of frustration will change that. However, we need to first give him the chance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Oct '14 - 12:38pm

    Liberal Al

    I have myself been on the end of JohnTilley’s passion (as well as Matthews) – and whilst I can respect that passion, sometimes it can lead them to make their comments sound just a little bit unpleasant or make their comments in a way that is easier to disparage

    I do not have time to phrase things more carefully. Everything I write here is done in a few minutes snatched between other things. The free-market right have people who are paid lavishly to wrote stuff which pushes their line in the party. No-one pays anyone anything to push the line that goes in the other direction. If the way that I write comes across as unpleasant, well, I am sorry, maybe if I had hours to spare I could think of ways of expressing it more pleasantly. But I don’t.

  • Giselle Evans 16th Oct '14 - 9:00pm

    I despair reading the comments above. I have been a liberal democrat supporter for many years but in a marginal I used to vote Labour to stop the Conservatives. At the last election Nick Clegg managed to get many people inspired (so he was not the problem then) and in common with many others I thought this time we had a chance and I voted Lib Dem. Unfortunately we ended up with a Conservative government. I’m sorry but the little impact you may have had (pupil premium? what the hell is that?) is useless next to the disaster of University fees and NHS reorganisation. However it pales into insignificance against the unholy rush to get in the AV referendum instead of holding out for proportional representation and having much longer to educate the public. I know you were in a difficult position but we would have had more respect for you if you had not got into bed with the Tories. Then we might still be voting for you this time round instead of the Greens or Labour. Remember that. Tories =evil. Anyone else (except UKIP unless you are an idiot) not as bad as the Tories.

  • Simon Banks 17th Oct '14 - 5:05pm

    Carswell has extreme right-wing views on the NHS, benefits, immigration and tax. He’s also a libertarian, so there is an overlap between his views and Liberal Democrats’. But he would be oddly placed in our party.

    He is a hard-working constituency MP, though with a talent for rubbing some people up the wrong way, but it’s lazy to go along with the popular view that very few MPs are hard-working or ignore their constituents. For the last forty years, polls have shown people have a low opinion of MPs in general but a much higher opinion of their own local MP. So much of the disdain for MPs is not informed by local experience.

    Brian Paddick perhaps knows little of Clacton. Concern about “benefits migrants” is at very high levels there. Many of the residents are elderly people who’ve retired to the sea and want to protect their calm. I’d have put it, before the by-election, in the top ten or so most likely seats for UKIP. Carswell would not have been elected as Liberal Democrat in the current state of the party, though it is true that the natural UKIP vote was much enhanced by people who saw him as a brave man taking a stand, and the nature of the stand was unimportant.

    As for the basis of UKIP support, there is some truth in what Brian Paddick says, but the British Election Survey shows that there’s one factor which miles ahead of any other tells us how likely someone is to vote UKIP – their attitude to immigration. Strong antis are likely UKIP voters.

    True, there are other factors behind this. I’ve met many UKIP voters and only one who believed someone close had suffered because of immigration (her daughter had failed to find a job and she blamed immigrants taking our jobs). I’ve yet to meet one who could argue that immigration had hurt him or her personally. It is a proxy for other fears. But so was anti-semitism.

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