Cable: Conservative Party interest has always trumped national interest

Responding to the PM’s resignation, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

The Prime Minister is right to recognise that her administration has reached the end of the road.

Sadly her compromises through the last three years have too often been with the right-wing of her own party, rather than about bringing the country together.

Conservative Party interest has always trumped national interest, and yet Conservative MPs continue to demand an ever more extreme Brexit policy.

The best and only option remains to take Brexit back to the people. I believe the public would now choose to Stop Brexit, and stop the immeasurable damage the process has done to the United Kingdom.

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  • “Conservative Party interest has always trumped national interest”.

    Sorry, but can’t help thinking what a pity he didn’t realise that in 2010 – as apparently two others apparently still haven’t. Try looking this one up :

    Danny Alexander (@dannyalexander) · Twitter

    …and delighted to have the chance to see some old friends too @George_Osborne @nick_clegg…

  • Vince is absolutely correct. The Conservatives use the term “The National Interest” as a code for “What’s in our interest really” and always will.

    As Lib Dems we must continue to do everything we can in the real interest of all of our nation, and we have to get this message across, loud and clear as we oppose Brexit and the rampant self interest of so many politicians in high positions today.

  • nigel hunter 24th May '19 - 11:47am

    I trust bitter lessons have been learnt from the coalition years and we can move on. The country is at across roads. It needs to change. We should move down the Federal way with PR to represent all factions ,Cons Labs P. CYmru, those that make up the country . To show the world a more modern democratic way.

  • John Marriott 24th May '19 - 12:07pm

    As my victorious opponent, Douglas Hogg, said, with a glint in his eye, to his supporters after the count in the 1997 General Election; “Tories always win in the end”.

    Looking at my town, after over twenty years of bloody hard work that saw the Lib Dems virtually take over in terms of representation, we are now back to square one, Tory hegemony.

    As far as Theresa May’s legacy is concerned, she will certainly join the list of examples to illustrate the Enoch Powell assertion that all political lives end in failure. Being, as Ken Clarke claimed, ‘bloody difficult’ did not help. I would add the word ‘intransigent’. However, she is a produce of a system, tempered by our ‘winner takes all’ voting system, which requires broad churches to succeed, where compromise, instead of extending to the whole of the House of Commons, tends to be reserved purely for the Party caucus. The Cameron referendum strategy is a perfect example.

    I really get fed up with hearing phrases like ‘No Deal is better than a bad deal’, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, for example and that classic throw away phrase ‘under WTO rules’. As Vince implied in the Telegraph ‘debate’ with Farage, the WTO would appear to be as much use as a chocolate tea pot when the economic heavyweights, USA and China, go head to head over trade. What chance would a post No Deal Brexit Britain have as, at best, an economic middleweight?

    I hate to disagree with my friend, David Raw, but I still think that the Lib Dems were right to back the Tories in 2010. Whether that should have been a full fat Coalition or a more semi skimmed arrangement is for historians to decide. As I have said many times in LDV, if we ever get PR, the Lib Dems and the electorate have almost certainly got to learn how to live with coalitions and compromise. It’s largely this inability to compromise, as exhibited on the green benches but equally in various threads on LDV (‘frankie’ v ‘glenn’, Peter Martin v everyone) that has got us to this appalling mess.

  • William Fowler 24th May '19 - 12:08pm

    The Swiss model with electronic voting and lots of referendum would be worth adopting as it would take power away from the politicians, limiting the amount of damage they can do in the future. Going federal with a choice between high tax/high welfare and low tax/low welfare areas would at least give people the option of moving to areas that reflect the lifestyle they want, reinforcing the voting patterns in those areas and with the UK govn making sure, rather like the EU, that things can’t get completely out of hand.

  • Simon Horner 24th May '19 - 12:12pm

    To be fair, people who are strong supporters of any political party will normally see no contradiction between national and party interest. It is reasonable to assume that people join parties and campaign for them because they believe they have the best policies overall for the country.
    While I do not support the nationalist philosophy of the Brexiteers and would strongly dispute their view that Brexit will be economically beneficial for the UK in the longer term, this is what they believe.
    The politicians whom I respect the least are those who clearly now recognise that their own parties are acting against the national interest, but stick with them nonetheless.
    Sorry about this, but I am talking here about people like Kenneth Clarke, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, Nicky Morgan and Guto Bebb.

  • I agree with Simon Horner it is so frustrating to listen to these politicians being interviewed on radio and television saying what is patently true about the state of the Conservative party but ultimately carry on as if without doing something positive, like leaving, it will somehow magically change, the same can be said about some Labour members also.

  • Actually John it is compromise that got us into this mess. Under Clegg the Lib Dems compromised themselves into oblivion. Now I know after making the jump to get into bed with call me Dave, it is difficult even after all these years to accept the damage done to the party was actually done by the parties leadership, but it was. You look round at a local Tory hegemony, I look round at a Labour hegemony ( all be it starting to fray at the seams) but by supportting Clegg you effectively voted for that ( I didn’t, I’d left the Lib Dems is disgust at the stupid path they had taken). I leave the last word on the coalition to a poltician from another party
    On the coalition negotiations in May 2010, William Hague is reported to have told his wife, Ffion: ‘I think I’ve just killed the Liberal Democrats’
    Well he didn’t but if Lib Dem don’t learn, a tagalong leadership in the future may very well do so.

    David Raw the photo you linked to was taken in California and posted on Mr Alexander’s Twitter account. Nice for some, hopefully they all stay there.

  • Graham Jeffs 24th May '19 - 12:33pm

    Seldom can any PM have been worthy of so little sympathy. But before we rejoice, let’s recognise that we could easily be being transported from the frying pan to the fire.

    Many years ago someone said to me (in a somewhat patronising manner) “never forget, Graham, that the British electorate is the most sophisticated in the world”. I didn’t believe it then and I certainly don’t believe it now. The lack of true political awareness and of ’cause and effect’ worries me greatly. Our democracy is seriously threatened.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '19 - 12:49pm

    Theresa May described herself as “the Second female Prime Minister”.
    Typical Tory presentation, there have been lots before the UK got one.
    Margaret Thatcher invited the Queen and all living UK ex-PMs to Downing Street for a dinner celebrating an anniversary of the speculative builder after whom Downing Street was named.
    The Queen put them all in their places by announcing her hundredth Prime Minister. They need to think a little more, if they care, about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etcetera. There has also been an elected executive President in the Philippines.
    BBC political correspondents are still assuming that the next Tory leader will be PM and the “situation will not change one jot.” Remember David Cameron, not long ago. He said he would not resign as PM and did. He appeared not to relish life on the back-benches, subject to being whipped by others.
    What will Theresa May do? Does it depend on who wins the Tory leadership?
    Tories speaking about democracy looks like slow learners.
    Previous Tory leaders have served in the Cabinets of Winston Churchill and of Edward Heath, their first elected leader. Antony Eden was ill and died. Harold MacMillan seemed to be ill, but was well enough to take a seat in the Lords when they experimented with live television. Thatcher became a “back seat driver” an unlikely role for Theresa May, went to the Lords, and died. John Major was defeated at a general election, but was re-elected as an MP and resigned as party leader and became active in business most of the time.
    Historians should remember Theresa May’s failure as Home Secretary to stand up to Treasury cuts on police spending.
    In desperation she called a meeting of the entire staff to ask for ideas as to what to do. (I was there with a responsibility for communications, but said nothing). The current problems with knife crime are widespread and urgent.
    Her legacy includes an important failure on policing and consequent deaths.

  • I do not believe that the mistake with coalition was going into coalition, but what we did in it. Too many of us were simply too happy to believe that just because we were there in government that things would be better. However, by our leaders’ unthinking acceptance of cabinet collective responsibility and making the decision to be loyal to coalition to the bitter end, come what may, Nick put us in a position of total weakness, which Cameron exploited from day one.

    As the old song goes, “It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it …”

  • Teresa May leaves her party bitterly divided at a time when Labour MPs also struggle with Corbyn’s leadership. Right now we as Lib Dem’s must avoid becoming ideologs and must be a broad church to those in both the Conservative and Labour Party who have had enough and simply want competent, stable and sensible government to prevail. If we do that many voters and MPs will come to us, we can go from being a party in despair to government very quickly.

    That’s how much our politics has now changed.

  • John Marriott 24th May '19 - 1:03pm

    It would appear from what you have just said that you, like me, are no longer a party member. My reasons for leaving had more to do with the inability of my local party, in my opinion, to learn how to win elections in the extremely polarised community that is the County of Lincolnshire.

    That said, I still believe that the world would be a far worse place without a strong, well organised ‘Liberal’ Party. The problem is that being a liberal means possibly forever being in a minority. So, if you have good ideas that you sincerely believe to be beneficial to a more cohesive and fairer society, how are you going to get them on the statute book unless you are prepared to compromise?

    If you don’t want your beliefs to be tainted by those of other people, whom you invariably attempt to ridicule, then so be it. However, from my experience over many years of trying to break the mould, you will sadly be condemned for ever to be waiting in the wings, never to be invited on stage.

  • John,
    Actually I compromised and rejoined the Lib Dems on the grounds that at least when it came to the biggest current issue they where on the right side. As to the calls to compromise, well it takes two to compromise and when it comes to Brexit there is no compromising with Farage. Mogg and Co. I keep labouring the point you can’t compromise with stupid, it only emboldens them. I will address the coalition, you can compromise on many things but when you gave up on electoral reform and protecting the weak then you’ve compromised far too far.

  • Paul Barker 24th May '19 - 2:52pm

    If we have to keep banging on about The Coalition can I raise a new question ?
    If we had refused Camerons offer would The Tories have won a 2nd Election ? If they had when would the Referendum on Leaving The EU been held ? What would the result have been ?
    My reading of The Polls about attitudes to The EU suggest the possibility that the Result would have been a much larger majority for Leave. Feelings about The EU in The UK have grown dramatically more positive over the last 8 Years, according to the most respected survey.

  • @ Paul Barker “If we have to keep banging on about The Coalition…….”

    Yes, I know it’s unfortunate and party loyalists don’t like it, Paul. But, there is a
    fundamental point : what it reveals about the Liberal Democrats, what sort of party they are, and what they might do if they ever get a share of power again in the future.

    For fifty years of heart and soul support I believed Liberalism was about left of centre radical progressive policies. There were thousands like me. Then came 2010 and austerity with NHS ‘reforms’, welfare cuts, food banks, growing homelessness, rising crime, local government undermined etc., …. you know the list.

    The big question now is will this be repeated or has the party learned the lessons ? Sadly, from many posts on LDV I’m yet to be convinced. Not a peep out of the Party about Philip Alston’s UN report on poverty, just water skiing stunts – and shallow neo-liberalism still lurking in corners of LDV. Please don’t let the blip of a here today gone tomorrow poll blips disguise this and stick your head under the pillow, Paul.

    To answer your question about the 2016 EU referendum I think you are just plain wrong. The Brexit majority result was a shout of pain against austerity post 2010. Lib Dem credibility in favour of the EU had been undermined when it was most needed. The Faustian compact helped to produce the Brexit result.

    The biggest question now ? Can the party recover it’s authenticity with convincing policies and convincing leadership once the present dust has settled ? Fiddling about with flag flying and obsessing about single digit swings is superficial and playing at politics.

    Politics should be about what sort of a society we want.

  • Arnold Kiel 24th May '19 - 4:20pm

    I wish the LibDems stopped castigating themselves about the coalition, especially at the moment of a possibly great comeback. It is superficial to see UK politics since 2010 as a continuum; it is not. Had the coalition continued since 2015, the UK would today be in a rather happy place. We would be looking back at 4 years of high growth and investment, a balanced budget, and greatly expanded public spending. The losses 2015 were a much more a communication-, than a policy-problem. Never to coalesce again is not the answer.

  • Barry Lofty 24th May '19 - 4:40pm

    Well said Arnold Kiel had been wondering how to reply to all the anti coalition sentiment I regularly read on this sight, you put it just right.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '19 - 4:43pm

    24/5/2019 is an historic day, but today is not like the last day of Margaret Thatcher.
    We had heard a British civil servant in Brussels say “Unanimity is required” which meant that one person could veto the entire process. She put on a bravado performance at PMQ, which showed that a change of PM would not produce a change of policy.
    We arranged a party with champagne and smoked salmon, but our guests were not in a mood for celebrating.
    On reflection we should feel sympathy for the Liberal Democrat junior ministers who tried to work for Theresa May. One of them resigned saying diplomatically “She knows her own mind”. When the last one was appointed (by Nick Clegg) she went to see David Cameron, making them both late for a cabinet meeting, and complained about what he had allowed to happen. The appointment went through and a job title was negotiated as “Minister for Crime Prevention” a task which had not been performed by others.
    A minister who had been effective at transport, electrifying railways (which Labour had not done) found it impossible to work for Theresa May. This was a waste of a political asset and not only in Lewes.

  • Arnold is right.

    I remember former BofE governor, Mervyn King, predicted in 2010 that austerity cuts will be so severe that the general election winner will make itself unelectable for a generation
    The LibDem moderation of Conservative economic Policies until 2015 saw growth and financial stability restored and may have helped the Tories return to power. However, left to their own devices they eventually collapse as we are seeing now. As the Conservatives collapse, liberalism and the Libdems revive.

  • John Marriott 24th May '19 - 6:03pm

    @William Fowler
    Your praise of the Swiss system reminds me of the famous line about them spoken by Orson Welles’ character, Harry Lime, to Joseph Cotten’s character on the Riesenrad at Vienna’s Prater fairground in David Lean’s post war film, ‘The Third Man’.

    Your idea of a Federal Britain of high tax and low tax areas with people moving between the two is quite frankly bizarre. What happened to the idea of One Nation? Or were you just trying to be funny as I was in my first paragraph?

  • chris moore 24th May '19 - 6:08pm

    David Raw 24th May ’19 – 4:05pm
    The big question now is will this be repeated ((mistakes of Coalition) or has the party learned the lessons ? Sadly, from many posts on LDV I’m yet to be convinced. Not a peep out of the Party about Philip Alston’s UN report on poverty, just water skiing stunts – and shallow neo-liberalism still lurking in corners of LDV.

    “Just water-skiing stunts.” Damn, I’ve only seen the one wáter-skiing stunt. Were there more?

  • John Marriott 24th May '19 - 6:09pm

    Oh, and for those of you, who might not know what ‘Harry Lime’ said about the Swiss, just google ‘Harry Lime cuckoo clock’.

  • David Evans 24th May '19 - 6:19pm

    Arnold Kiel, you say ‘I wish the LibDems stopped castigating themselves about the coalition,’ but in saying so you miss the entire point – there are many Lib Dems who never castigated themselves at all and never want to. The possibility that there are lessons to be learned is dismissed with a ‘wish they would all go away’

    If you want us to be a learning and improving party as opposed to one that simply allows itself to be driven by whatever political currents there are, by all means wish the Lib Dems stopped. However, to those like me who believe we can learn from the past and improve, you are part of the same problem as exemplified by Danny’s tweet about him, Nick and George Osborne being old friends.

  • David Evans 24th May '19 - 6:27pm

    Arnold, a bit got missed from my previous post .

    You say ‘Had the coalition continued since 2015, the UK would today be in a rather happy place.’ It didn’t. We were almost totally rejected and nearly annihilated. and the Country now is more divided than ever – partly because we let people down so badly in 2010 to 2015.

    Admit the truth. We made mistakes. Don’t play fantasy politics of how nice it could have been. Do real politics in the real world. That is what will build a fair open and free society. Not dreams of what might have been if only.

  • Simon Horner,
    “It is reasonable to assume that people join parties and campaign for them because they believe they have the best policies overall for the country.”
    To a large extent that is not true of the two old has-been parties. Labour and Conservatives campaigned to sectional interest groups on the basis of perceived selfish self interests. Liberals have always tried to distance ourselves from that approach and should continue to do so.

  • John Marriott 24th May '19 - 7:06pm

    Oops. Before anyone corrects me, ‘The Third Man’ was, of course, directed by Carol Reed in 1949.

    I see that some people still can’t get over the Coalition. Blimey, the one chance the party had actually to influence events and all that some of you continue to do is complain. Don’t you like getting your hands dirty? Don’t you ever want to be part of a Government again? Why don’t you remember what the economic situation was like back in 2010? You know, I would gladly swop the period from 2010 to 2015 with where we find ourselves today.

    Yes, of course mistakes were made so learn from your mistakes; but, if the phone ever rings again, for goodness sake don’t ignore it!

  • David Evershed 24th May '19 - 8:19pm

    If the Lib Dems were acting in the national interest by forming a coalition with Conservatives in 2010 then why were the Conservatives not also acting in the national interest?

  • Joseph Bourke 24th May '19 - 8:44pm

    David Raw.

    I don’t know how you come up with these little snippets like Danny Alexander’s tweets and the strategic importance of Gibraltar’s Barbary Apes to the war effort, but here is one more for you:

    Guess the odd one out:
    Lord Stevenson, former chairman, HBOS Bank
    Andy Hornby, former ceo, HBOS Bank
    Sir Fred Goodwin, former CEO, RBS Bank
    Sir Tom McKillup, former chairman, RBS Bank
    George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer
    Sir Terry Wogan, presenter of the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show

    Answer: The late Terry Wogan is the only one with a banking qualification. He was a bank teller in his younger days.

  • @ Joseph Bourke And unlike you, Joe, I believe what they all have/had in common was that they could have paid a lot more income tax than they were allowed to get away with – though I don’t suppose you’d agree with me about that.

    I do remember Wogan invested a lot of money controversially planting conifers in the Flow Lands of Caithness at one time as a tax move. I wonder what Jamie Stone thought about that ?

  • John (Marriott), Yes I do like getting my hands dirty. And have done regularly. I do want us to be part of a Government again. We spent 20 years taking control of St Helens from Labour, only for it to disappear in 2010. Now they are down to just 4 councillors. All I want is for us to make a success of it next time and not spend the following decade pretending once more we did a great job building and safeguarding that fair free and open society we all aspire to, after we have lost three quarters of our MPs. Arnold’s and Barry’s comments are simply another set of examples of our unwillingness to face up to what our problem is.

    Earlier you said “I still believe that the world would be a far worse place without a strong, well organised ‘Liberal’ Party.” So surely you can’t accept the failure that led to the loss of over three quarters of our MPs as being consistent with the need for a strong, well organised liberal party.

    Surely you must agree with that?

    As you say, “mistakes were made so learn from your mistakes” but have you seen a single acceptance from any official source identifying the mistakes we made in coalition and what we should learn, any discussion of them or any acceptance. I haven’t..

    The simple fact is that the collapse of our vote in 2015 was due to the mess our leaders made of our party in coalition, and the disillusionment it instilled in so many of the electorate was a major factor in reinforcing the arguments of the far right and their easy options, and that is why we find our country in the mess it is in today.

  • Joseph Bourke 25th May '19 - 12:34am

    David Raw,

    I am not against higher taxes. I just think Land Value Tax on communaly produced increments in rental values is a more effective and socially beneficial option than confiscatory rates of income tax on incomes earned by individual talents or effort..

    Tax reduction schemes based on investment in woodlands were promoted as supporting the forestry industry and creating jobs in the 1970s and 1980s. This one was condemned by conservationists because of its draining of the peat bog. I think the trees have been cut down since and the area returned to a nature reserve.
    With climate change and environmental protection moving to the top of the agenda, promoting investment in woodlands and tree planting is not such a bad idea. It just has to be the right trees in the right place.

  • 1. I agree with John Marriott about being open to Coalition – I was a Social Care Convenor in a Tory/Lib Dem administration.

    It’s what you do when you’re in it that counts – assuming that you know what you want to do – which I’m not sure Clegg & Co did in 2010.

    2.. Have you got a draft bill ready to present for your Land Tax, Joseph, and do you reckon it would be easier to get through a hung parliament than Brexit ?

  • Arnold Kiel 25th May '19 - 8:04am

    In Germany and other countries on the continent coalitions are much more commonplace, and it is true that they are often unhealthy for the smaller partner. It has to choose its battles selectively and, naturally, cannot dominate the agenda. This is a tactical call at the time, which does not produce enduring policy-lessons to be learned. Key is to maintain some distinction, which is difficult if the coalition has to manage an unprecedented crisis. I am insisting that rehashing the 2015 trauma is totally unproductive. You had a fantastic campaigner at the time, who generated a luxury-problem for a niche-party. He then did something (at least believed to do so) we all demand from politicians today: put country before party, maybe too much so, but that, and Nick’s qualities are history now. Move on, that will make voters move on. Brexit is the issue now, not the coalition years. Reset the agenda, forget the old battles, refocus on gaining some power, and try to do it better next time; that’s all the useful lesson to be learned.

  • John Marriott 25th May '19 - 8:44am

    @David Evans
    I agree with much of what you say. Your local example mirrors my own. I always think of the Lib Dems like gardeners getting on top of the weeds (ie Tories). Once you get too old to keep up with the weeding, those ‘weeds’ just keep coming back!

    The problem with many Lib Dems is that they enjoy the campaign for itself. What they do when they win is often something they find hard to get their head around. In some way it’s a bit like the Brexiteers! For Tory and Labour this second step is often worked out before the first doorbell is rung.

    Following the Rose Garden ‘Love In’, which came as quite a surprise to many, as support for the Lib Dems had, I believe, dipped somewhat following the high point in 2005, the unexpected resignation of David Laws, over what was an eminently avoidable situation, had he had the courage to acknowledge aspects of his private life earlier, was a warning signal. The apparent delight of Lib Dem ministers at the acquisition of their government limos didn’t go well with the ‘brown bread and sandals’ brigade. And then we had the fiasco of Chris Huhne and his equally capable wife conspiring over something that most of us would just accept as a fact of life. Oh, and, besides the Tuition Fees débâcle, there was the naive approach to the AV Referendum.

    I also blame the electorate, or at least those of them, who vote for a party and not for an MP, who get their sound bite messages from national campaigning via the media rather than the knock on the door, and who just do not understand why their efforts should land them with a coalition. They are encouraged to expect winners, not fudge. Remember the lines of the ABBA hit; “The winner takes it all, The loser standing small”?

    “We didn’t vote for that.”, many said after the 2010 General Election. True; but the fact was that nobody got enough seats to rule alone even under FPTP, a system that was supposed to guarantee ‘strong and stable government’. I doubt whether you would get the same reaction in continental Europe, where PR, or similar forms of it, tends to be the norm. Yes, we could have gone for a DUP quasi ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement. After all it kept the Callaghan government going in the late 1970s but we didn’t. So let’s move on, shall we?

  • Arnold Kiel and John Marriott are entirely correct. For many years our party strategy was to hold the balance of power in parliament, knowing that outright victory at the polls was beyond us. Then the opportunity comes and half the party has a hissy fit.
    It almost seems as if the errors of the coalition years are being used to kick off a bit if social liberal versus orange book skirmishing. We’ve seen were that has taken the Labour and Tory tribes, so time to stop all that now.

  • Alex Macfie 25th May '19 - 8:49am

    William Fowler:

    “The Swiss model with electronic voting and lots of referendum[s]”

    would be absolutely awful. Electronic voting is a Very Bad Idea because there is logically no way of scrutinising the vote without violating the secret ballot. And direct democracy is predicated on the idea that most ordinary members of the public are fanatically interested in politics and have lots of spare time in which they can analyze political details, when in reality they are more like Brenda from Bristol.

  • John Marriott 25th May '19 - 10:06am

    I was forced to shorten my last post so I missed out the bit about the achievements of the coalition. Let’s hope this gets through. Oh, and I am definitely NOT a robot!

    We all know what went wrong. Indeed many would argue the espousal of austerity was the biggest mistake of all. Some of the positives, which came directly from tge 2010 Lib Dem Manifesto, were, in no particular order, taking many low wage earners out of paying Income Tax, the Pupil Premium, free school meals, the green agenda; but, above all, curbing some of the right wing agenda that a purely Tory government would doubtless have followed – not bad for what was clearly the junior partner in the arrangement.

    Oh, and finally, I really do need to revisit my ABBA songbook. That second line should have read “And the loser has to fall”.

  • Chris,
    We are merely pointing out that when Clegg had the power to change our gereatric electoral system and to act as a firewall on crucifying the poor he failed, not only did he fail he seemed to be infatuated by “call me Dave”. Now achieving power may be a goal itself, but to me if you don’t actually achieve anything what use is it?

  • Dilettante Eye 25th May '19 - 10:22am

    @ Alex Macfie

    “And direct democracy is predicated on the idea that most ordinary members of the public are fanatically interested in politics and have lots of spare time in which they can analyze political details, when in reality they are more like Brenda from Bristol.”

    Are you so sure? The huge voter turnout in the 2016 referendum in itself, should give cause to reflect on whether voters are as disengaged as you suggest.

    Here’s a radical question for you:

    Are elected political representatives (MPs), going the way of petrol pump attendants?
    I’m old enough to remember the services of petrol pump attendants, the corner shop where the owner cut bacon in slices (per the oz.) on request, and booking a holiday sitting at a desk in a travel agency.

    Over a period of some 70 years, these (and many other), personal services have quite acceptably, gone from public-or commercial- services to self-services.

    So why not a self-service ~ direct democracy?

    Instead of clinging to the arcane and stale expectations of voting for representative MPs who inevitably disappoint rather than represent, can we maybe create a radical direct democracy system, where voters get to decide directly on major issues which affect their lives?

    If as William Fowler observes that the Swiss can do referenda responsibly, and California with an equivalent size economy to the UK has a successful method of direct democracy, (using propositions) I see no reason why we can’t do similar pilot trials of such a system of decision making here in Britain.
    Much like the demise of forecourt attendants, maybe it’s time a few of our MPs dusted off their CVs and started to look for more gainful employment?

  • Dilettante Eye: The Brexit referendum was a one-off event, on a major national issue. Now imagine if there were several such referendums every month, maybe on niche special-interest issues. Do you really think voters would maintain the enthusiasm? And referendum fatigue is a problem in places like California.
    So no, elected political representatives are not going the way of petrol pump attendants.

  • John Marriott 25th May '19 - 12:01pm

    @Alex Macfie
    I wouldn’t get too worked up about the musings of Mr/Ms ‘Eye’. I think that he/she is well summed up in their Christian name!

  • Dilettante Eye 25th May '19 - 12:36pm

    “Do you really think voters would maintain the enthusiasm?”

    Not with referenda once a month.

    But we often use the same 5 yearly election day, for electing our MPs and our local councillors, police commissioners and occasionally mayoral candidates. So I can envisage the public endorsing maybe half a dozen propositions on the same day, without too much fuss.

    With the referenda, (propositions and options) published in advance of polling day, I think voters are more than capable of working out where they feel their vote should go on a proposition, well in advance of polling day.

    I just sense that the old form of politics is now so distrusted and broken that it’s frankly gone beyond repair and that the public are ready for something more direct, accessible and politically creative.

    I suspect the first new party to realise and capitalise on this direct democracy, will go exponential in its popularity, and to be honest I think that new fledgling politics is already in its ascendancy?

  • Laurence Cox 25th May '19 - 1:27pm

    A rather nice story on the Political Betting web site:

    Perhaps it is long odds against but, knowing the behaviour of both Boris and Jeremy, it isn’t that improbable.

  • Peter Hirst 25th May '19 - 1:46pm

    Yes, the demise of the Conservative Party, a significant loss of support of Labour and a rise in the remain Parties might be the only way to achieve it so let’s hope Sunday’s election results point in that direction

  • David Raw,

    “Have you got a draft bill ready to present for your Land Tax, Joseph, and do you reckon it would be easier to get through a hung parliament than Brexit ?”

    The status is this:

    1. Land Value Capture – Reform of the 1961 Land Compensation Act. The cross-party APPG on Land Value Capture will review a draft bill at its meeting next month. See Helen Hayes article for background
    2. Business Rate Reform – Site Value Rating has been adopted as Libdem Policy and a submission has been made to Treasury committee inquiry into business rates
    3. Council Tax reform – Similiar research to that which underpinned the motion to conference on business rates reform is currently underway with a view to bringing forward a motion later this year.

    All parties recognize the importance of tackling the housing crisis; addressing the impact of business rates on the high street and business generally; and developing a longer-term solution to local government finances than temporary precepts for social care funding. So the answer is yes, I think it would be easier to get through a hung parliament than Brexit. Land Value Capture and business rate reform both have wide cross-party support including with one-nation Conservatives. Replacing council tax with LVT should be a good fit with both Libdem and Labour policy objectives. It will be a tougher task to bring significant numbers of Conservatives on board with respect to LVT on residential land.
    For history buffs, the former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a Land Value Tax bill in 1931 The exchanges with Austen Chamberlain and Colonel Josiah Wedgewood may be of interest.

  • Arnold Kiel,

    ”The losses 2015 were a much more a communication-, than a policy-problem”.

    This is completely wrong. If the policies are bad and many were then no matter how great the communication, communication can’t fix it.

    Joseph Bourke,

    Mervyn King was wrong to believe that austerity was the correct policy and I recently read somewhere that the IMF now agree. The Lib Dems accepted Conservative economic policy which cut spending and increased VAT and created the reported double dip recession at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. They supported the unnecessary welfare cuts agreed in 2012. Even once the economic policy was moderated a little, they failed to say that the economic policy had been changed.

    John Marriott

    Free school meals for infant children was not in our 2010 manifesto and was not party policy until Clegg did his deal with Cameron and announced it at a conference as a done deal.

  • John Marriott 25th May '19 - 10:09pm

    @Michael BG
    Hey, three out of four isn’t that bad, is it? So, because it wasn’t in the manifesto, does that make free school meals such a bad idea? After all, it was Nick wot done it.

  • Equal marriage as well. That’s one of our biggest achievements in the coalition. Absolutely no way it would have happened without the LibDems – read Lynne Featherstone’s book. Oh, and lifting the poorest people out of paying income tax. The Tories have now adopted that as their own, even though they said it was unworkable when we first suggested it.
    My view of the coalition is that it wasn’t wrong in principle but we made some big strategic errors (tuition fees) and totally screwed up the comms/campaigning side. But any serious discussion of it has to acknowledge that we did achieve a lot of good stuff. If in doubt, see

  • John Marriott,

    Yes I think it was a bad policy. If it had been a good policy it would have been in our 2010 manifesto and our councillors in different councils wouldn’t have opposed it. I always wonder how it affected the Pupil Premium which was based on the number of children entitled to free schools meals. Once free schools meals were universal for infant school children then parents would not need to admit their children were entitled. Also £170 million was needed to provide lots of schools with the facilities to provide so many free schools meals.

    Could £800 million a year have been better spent? Most likely. £500 million could have been used to abolish the bedroom tax; £300 million would have increased the Pupil Premium by 12.5% based on the £2.4 billion it cost in 2018-19, and in the year 2014-15 it would have increased it by 16.3%.

  • John Marriott 26th May '19 - 9:25am

    Michael BG
    I was a teacher for 34 years, admittedly at secondary level but I am convinced that good nutrition plays a vital part in a young person’s development. Hungry children find it harder to concentrate and coming to school with a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar is hardly a substitute.

    Entitlement to ‘free school meals’ was viewed by some as a stigma and, for this reason, was not claimed. The fact that more facilities were required to provide the extra meals can be put down to the zeal of the Thatcher government in closing down so many primary school kitchens in the early 1980s.

    The social benefits of actually sitting down and eating a proper meal together cannot be understated either and this applies equally to trying out new foods. No, Mr ‘Michael BG’, your attitude towards the concept and philosophy behind free school meals for all primary school children strikes me as having more in common that of a certain Mr Scrooge.

    “If it had been a good policy it would have been in our 2010 manifesto”. Perhaps those, who put that document together weren’t aware of the crisis. I say, better late than never. For an increasing number of youngsters it’s quite frankly the ONLY proper meal they get each day.

  • @Michael BG

    Some “universal” benefits – child benefit for example (OK – I know that those earning over £60k don’t get it now) are good.

    1. Because often those just missing out get it. I think to get free school meals you need to earn under roughly £17k – still not a lot of money. You get a massive “poverty trap” if everything is ultra-targeted.

    2. It wins massive support for it which helps maintains it. My mum liked getting her child benefit although she might have been seen as middle class and indeed Tory voting (I suspect) mostly.

    3. It can go directly to those that benefit. Mums for example when the Dads may be spending money down the pub. (OK this is sexist and old fashioned way of looking at how life operates – it may equally be to the Dads when the Mums are spending it down the pub). Hopefully a good quality nutritious meal benefits those including those from better off families who might not get it otherwise – sent off with a can of fizzy drink and a packet of crisps.

    4. Reduce the stigma of free school meals.

    5. It is just a good liberal thing – that everyone sits down to a free meal together regardless of income. It is a good signal to send to young people.

    It may not be absolutely the most ultra efficient way of targeting poverty. But for all these reasons and more I would extend FSM to all in secondary and primary education.

  • John Marriott 26th May '19 - 10:21am

    @Michael BG
    Let me correct the statement about the Thatcher government closing down primary school kitchens. It was, of course, the ‘zeal’ of many mainly Tory led councils that did it!

    On the subject of the infamous ‘Bedroom Tax’, it might have worked had there been enough smaller properties available locally into which families with ‘spare’ bedrooms in their current accommodation might have been persuaded to move.

  • Peter Watson 26th May '19 - 10:37am

    @John Marriott “So, because it wasn’t in the manifesto, does that make free school meals such a bad idea?”
    At the time, I recall that the evidence suggested that other ways of investing £500 million p.a. could deliver better educational results but perhaps not the middle-class votes of those for whom Nick Clegg pitched this as a £400 saving in 2015!

    However, it is mind-boggling how often universal free school meals has been presented as if it were a uniquely Lib Dem idea despite the party having opposed it and been the last party to join the … errr, party.

    Ed Balls had previously launched trials of the idea and it was in Labour’s 2010 manifesto:

    We are extending the provision of free school meals so that an additional half a million primary school children in families on low incomes will benefit from healthy and nutritious food, and we are trialing free school meals for all primary school children in pilot areas across the country. Together, these schemes will thoroughly test the case for
    universal free school meals, with the results available by autumn 2011.

    Meanwhile, Lib Dems had opposed the idea and those trials, e.g. as discussed previously

    In July 2013 it was reported that “Extending free school meals beyond the poorest pupils will cost around £1bn but the education secretary, Michael Gove, is understood to be supportive of the move in principle.” (

    Some months later, Nick Clegg surprised the party by announcing the policy which was apparently quid pro quo for allowing the Tories to spend a similar amount (£500 million p.a.) on a married couples tax allowance that Lib Dems also opposed.

  • Peter Watson 26th May '19 - 10:42am

    @Michael BG “I always wonder how it affected the Pupil Premium which was based on the number of children entitled to free schools meals.”
    I wondered the same, and although I did not see it at the time, googling to dig up some references for my post above threw up a 2015 Daily Mail article which suggests there was an impact (

  • Indeed Peter Watson, your memory as to who proposed what regarding Free School Meals is correct and should be a warning to us all as to how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We went into coalition with so many good intentions, but as it went on things deteriorated to the extent that our leader, as a quid pro quo for allowing a Tory tax cut, was allowed to make a surprise announcement of a Tory policy to conference and pretend it was his.

    Says it all really doesn’t it.

  • John Marriott and Michael 1

    With the role out of Universal Credit and the reduction of the income amount to only £7,400 pa free schools meals in England this becomes a better policy. In a perfect world universal would be better, but when choices have to be made because of the limits on government spending then targeting is the right policy. If £17k is too low an income then increase it.

    The issue of what children have in their packed lunches is a difficult thing to sort out, education would be a start. However, if the income level for eligibility is correct then the parents of the child should have the responsibility of providing the lunch or paying for a school meal.

    I wonder why cooked school meals for primary school children became less popular than it was when I was at school.

    Peter Watson

    Thanks for the link about the reduction in Pupil Premiums.

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