Andrew George writes…Can progressives unite to defeat the Tories?

The AlternativeFailure to fully fathom the ‘shy Tory’ at the 2015 general election didn’t just leave egg on the faces of opinion pollsters. It produced shock waves across the political spectrum; from a delirious Conservative party to Paddy Ashdown’s exasperated milliner.

Of course psephologists weren’t really suggesting that a significant proportion of Tory voters are bashful by nature but were perhaps politely implying there may be a sense of ‘shame’.

Politics in its most basic form is polarised between, on the one hand, those who feel ‘shy’ about their self-absorption and (when the mask slips) their distaste for those they consider are ‘low achievers’, and on the other, ‘progressives’ who seek to appeal to our better instincts (for others, a wider community, the common good, future generations, the climate etc). Less bashful ‘progressives’ may believe they are in a majority when in fact the country may be evenly divided.

Indeed, there’s an assumption amongst many ‘progressives’ that the 2015 general election represented a high water mark for the Tories; that the pendulum will inevitably swing back at the next election, and that scores of Tory marginals will be comfortably won back. A reality check is needed.

My contribution to the book The Alternative which comes out tomorrow (25th August) reviews the prospects and appetite for cooperation amongst progressives; arguing that those with a broadly centre-left/green/liberal or just plain anti-Conservative perspective should do more to work together, because:

  • what divides them from each other is less pronounced than what divides them from Conservatives;
  • the Conservatives are quietly rigging and gerrymandering the system to grant themselves a stranglehold on power for decades to come;
  • an electoral system which permits – as it does now – Conservatives to secure dominant power when 76% of electors didn’t vote for them needs to be reformed, and it won’t be reformed so long as they have power;
  • the majority of non/anti-Tory voters who are not members of the party they vote for don’t understand why politicians who share a broadly progressive perspective seem to spend more time re-rehearsing their disagreements than identifying where they agree;
  • if the parties carry on as they are, they will fight each other to a standstill in enough marginal constituencies at the next general election to grant Theresa May a comfortable victory and larger Parliamentary majority.

If progressives are more interested in progressing their policies rather than their disagreements, they will have to find a way of cutting through the tribalism and forge a degree of cooperation.

Since last year’s election I’ve been working with colleagues in the Green, Labour and Plaid Cymru Parties to explore opportunities for effective cooperation. It is evident that, behind the obligation to demonstrate outward self-confidence, realistic assessments of electoral prospects have been made. The Tories’ electoral advantage will be further reinforced by their project to rig and gerrymander the system to their advantage; through:

  1. re-drawing constituency boundaries – to the significant benefit of the Conservatives;
  2. voter registration rule changes – resulting in the removal of mostly non-Conservative electors;
  3. constraints on trade union funding – giving the Conservatives a massive funding advantage;
  4. the Electoral Commission effectively sanctioning the Tory ‘carpet bombing’ of swing voters in marginal seats as ‘national’ rather than constituency expenditure – giving the Conservative election arsenal crucial superiority; and
  5. the ‘neutering’ of anti-Conservative Scotland from the UK parliamentary arithmetic – giving them the ability to govern even if they lose across the UK.

If the antipathy towards tribalism among the voting public isn’t enough to encourage party tribalists to stop and think, then perhaps the likelihood of growing Tory dominance might persuade them?

The centre-left can do something about it. If we take an 8 per cent swing as a plausible range for an ambitious, effective, campaigning challenger, 102 of the current 331 Tory-held seats are winnable. Of these, Labour are in second place in 76, Liberal Democrats in 22, the SNP one and Ukip 3.. Of course, forthcoming boundary changes will muddy the waters to a certain extent, but it will be possible to extrapolate where the new 100 or so Tory marginals are likely to fall.

In the book I set out a menu of potential initiatives (from non-aggression agreements, jointly selected candidates, Tatton models, VoteSwapping and many others) which cooperative centre-left parties at local or regional levels may seek to act upon.

If progressives don’t cooperate, the chances are they can look forward to decades in the political wilderness as the Conservatives exert a stranglehold on power.

* Andrew George was Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives until May 2015.

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102 Comments

  • Robert Wootton 24th Aug '16 - 1:24pm

    The current political system is based on Adversarial arguments which mean that if one party wins the other part loses or is left standing on the sidelines. The Yah Boo politics of the Labour party against the Tories and their support of Big Business and for the Increased power of the state and state intervention in the economy in the mistaken belief that State Power is “good” and the Conservative party’s and New Labour’s support of Big Business in the mistaken belief that the “free market” in the current economic system as it is presently constructed delivers social and public goods without government intervention is patently wrong. Look what is happening to the NHS and the ongoing privatisation.

    The Alternative is a new economic system with Community interest PLCs, Social enterprise PLCs and equitable PLCs which a statutory maximum wage ratio between the highest paid and the lowest paid employees of the PLC of, say, 5 to 1, 10 to 1 and 20 to 1 respectively.

    In this way, the distribution of businesses in the country, i.e. the proportion of Community interest, Social Enterprise and equitable PLCs would decide the categorisation of the country as socialist, communist or capitalist. Parties that get elected would the be able to steer the ship of state in the political direction they want as indicated by a free and fair vote in a free and fair electoral system by minor adjustment to tax rates.

  • Mathew McCarthy 24th Aug '16 - 1:32pm

    As I hinted at to Andrew while out canvassing in the Four Lanes by election this week (thanks for your help, Andrew!) I have serious reservations about any sort of progressive alliance or cooperation between the Lib Dems and the left.

    Firstly, the entire 2015 national campaign became dominated by endless talk of various coalition negotiations etc rather than real issues, and to set up another election where this dominates again will be a very bad move, especially now we have the chance to campaign as a unique, liberal party once more.

    Secondly, I very quickly realised that not ruling out a deal with Labour last year cost us an awful lot of votes. If there is an unpopular Labour leader who comes across as too left wing or incompetent then most of the UK will vote for the sensible Tory option to play it safe. To tie ourselves to Jeremy Corbyn (the most left wing *and* incompetent leader of modern times) will see us wiped out at Westminster.

    Thirdly, Labour are not our friends. I wonder if Andrew believes that Tim Dwelly, Labour cllr for Penzance East who uses his position for little else but viciously slating the Liberal Democrats publicly would campaign and vote for the Lib Dem candidate in St Ives constituency?

    However, the biggest problem is that Labour share all the worst authoritarian instincts of the Conservatives and have zero commitment to electoral reform, which would be a key factor in any alliance. Let’s not forget that Blair won a big majority in 2005 on fewer votes than the current Tory government, and had every opportunity to reform our political system fairly (Jenkins commission, anyone?).

    The single easiest way to undo all of the hard work and gains we’ve made since May 2015 is to indulge in this sort of fantasy politics of the left. If we want to beat the Tories we need broad appeal that attracts Tory voters too. Let’s stay liberal.

  • As a party we have more in common with the liberal wing of the Tories than any left wing party, unless Labour can be lead by Chukka / Jess Phillips / Harman / Kendall or Cooper, and drop left wing economics, protectionism and cut the trade union link.

    The party should work with liberal europhile conservatives and libertarian Tories who reject nationalism, Brexit and UKIP style protectionism.

    Personally I would prefer we team up with Blairites and Osbornites as centrist europhile economic and social liberals, rather than attempt to work with the hard left Labour and Greens or the nationalist and protectionist Plaid and SNP – parties who are essentially Red UKIP.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Aug '16 - 1:41pm

    Andrew is a rarer and thus very welcome contributor here , a very good member of parliament , who served the constituency of St. Ives with real dedication.

    I have long been of the view that there are two issues in this idea and hope , almost for a progressive alternative.

    1: There may regularly be much that unites non Tories , along the lines in this article . That is true from say centre to centre left.But within that anti Tory perspective there is much that divides . I have more in common with Ruth Davidson on nearly everything , than I do with a far left green or socialist , from the neo Marxist , or Socialist worker tendency .

    2: Therefore there are more than moments when we who are keen to identify as progressive , can and do ally with Tories, like the example given , add Sir John Major , the best communicator in the referendum campaign , or Lord Hesiltine , similarly .

    Over the next few years , the Labour party might split . The centre and centre right of the party are not going to want to join with Corbyn , in or out of that party , so how does that figure in this ?

    My main political awareness, or , perhaps , interest , other than this country , is the US. They have always had two main parties . But is their politics better than the fluid multi part alliances of Europe?

    If a broad centre left grouping is achieved , count me in , or taking a leading part. But I am not on the left , but the radical centre and mainstream centre left .

  • Richard Underhill 24th Aug '16 - 2:02pm

    Political books are often timed for the party conference season, but we do not yet know for sure who the Labour leader will be.
    Some Tory MEPs may be wanting seats in the Commons.
    Tories believe in a mythical “constitution” which is both a matter of uncontestable principle and infinite flexibility according to the needs of the moment.
    “… the death of the King meant that there had to be a general election”
    Reform or Revolution 1830 – 1832 E A Smith page 22 ISBN 0 7509 0187 X. There was one, but it made little difference. The exit of the Duke of Wellington, a soldier, as PM and the advancement of Lord Grey, a politician, occurred for other reasons.

  • The current Labour party are more regressive than progressive.

  • Simon Hebditch 24th Aug '16 - 3:16pm

    Oh dear, how dispiriting! The facts speak for themselves. Labour hasn’t a hope of winning the 2020 election with or without Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.They will need an alliance of some sort which both accentuates agreed manifesto commitments covering the development of the economy, the need for a new constitutional settlement which is avowedly federalist within the UK, the central importance of electoral reform as part of this package, the funding of the NHS and a radical, massive housing programme.

    To contest the Tory party in 2020, therefore, we need a campaigning progressive alliance from now and an electoral pact at that election. The alliance must bring together Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP.

    Otherwise, we can look forward to continuing Tory rule until at least 2025 and maybe beyond.

  • nvelope2003 24th Aug '16 - 3:37pm

    2020 is 4 years away. Who knows what will happen in that time. To say that Labour has no chance and that we need some kind of alliance with them is dangerous nonsense. I have lived through 19 General elections and I have heard this kind of talk before but in the end one or other of the 2 bigger parties won an election outright except for February 1974 and May 2010.

    The idea that we can kick out the Conservatives and rule for ever in some kind of electoral pact is not a dream but a nightmare. We need a change of Government from time to time. If you do not agree have a look at places where they do not.

  • Matt (Bristol) 24th Aug '16 - 3:53pm

    “The idea that we can kick out the Conservatives and rule for ever in some kind of electoral pact is not a dream but a nightmare. We need a change of Government from time to time. ”

    Completely agree.

    However, our current ‘winner takes all’ electoral system seems to have settled into a pattern – which 2010 appears to have not meaningfully interrupted – of long periods of single-party government, including even longer periods of single-party dominance in individual areas. These are both recipes for stagnant – and even nepotistic – thinking and politics.

    Pragmatically speaking, if we want to change that system – and since the Conservatives have so far made clear their desire to retain it – we need a (SHORT-TERM) alliance with Labour, if they will agree to it.

    And although the chaos inside the Labour party does not make the conditions favourable, if we do not start working on it now, I don’t see how we can deliver any meaningful advances on constitutional reforms dear to us as a party inside 8-10 years.

  • Definitely with Stimpson on this.

    I’m not sure that I agree with the assumption that the split of voters across the country is 50/50. As my husband says, if you ignore Blair, as Labour seem to wish to, then the left have been in opposition for almost 40 years. That would seem to indicate that our country’s personality is one where we want people to be given a chance, but only as long as no-one takes the mickey. As a people we seem to want freedom and progression, but only as long as no-one is taking advantage. When advantage is taken, we swing to the right again. I’m not sure how a progressive alliance would really solve that. I would prefer a centrist party – like large sections of our population, I don’t care what side of the ideological fence they originate from.

  • Stevan Rose 24th Aug '16 - 5:09pm

    What Stimpson says. I’m no more anti-Tory than I am anti-Labour. I will vote against any alliance that includes Labour or Greens. If I wanted to vote for either that’s where my X would have gone. I’m a centrist with touches of social centre left and touches of fiscal centre right. I suspect that is where most of our vote is or they’d be fully Labour or Tory.

  • paul barker 24th Aug '16 - 5:35pm

    2015 saw a massive swing to the Right in Britain, the combined Tory/UKIP share went from 40% in 2010 to 51% last May. However, before we all get too depressed, it is normal for countries to swing Right during & just after a Recession & both Tories & UKIP are badly divided. Whichever version of Brexit The Government choose they are going to make a lot of Voters & their own MPs very angry.
    Our recovery so far has been very encouraging with both Polling & actual votes going up steadily.
    Labour seem to be moving very slowly towards a split, the slowness is frustrating to watch but good for us. By the time “Progressive Labour” are a choice available to voters, we should be in a much stronger position.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Aug '16 - 5:42pm

    Labour’s tactic during 2010-2015 was to say nothing in particular about policies, but to destroy the Liberal Democrats and restore the good ol’ two-party system in the belief that LibDem votes would come flooding back to them.

    So when the LibDems did stand up to the Tories in the coalition and turned round looking for support that would strengthen their position in negotiation, they got none. Labour wanted to paint the LibDems as just another form of Tory, unfortunately there were too many in our party (Stimpson and those who say they agree with him, note) who were happy to go along with that. When those like myself, historically mainstream Liberals, wanted to keep the old image of our party that had been so successful leading up to 2010, and stand against Labour’c claims, Labour and the Cleggies were happy to dismiss us as some sort of minor left-wing fringe.

    Labour and the Cleggies combined to say that most of our vote was “borrowed from Labour”, thus Labour’s supposition that destroying us would bring them all our votes, and the Cleggies’ supposition that painting ourselves as a party that combined Thatcherite economics with a few token liberal issue that weren’t in contradiction to that would bring us in floods of new votes.

    It didn’t work, did it? Destroying the party that was the main opposition to the Conservatives in many parts of the country just helped the Conservatives. The line that there were floods of people wanting a right-wing economic liberal party was always just a fantasy of Conservative commentators, the reality was that those who said that sort of thing were never going to switch from the Conservative Party, they just wanted to establish Britain as a one-party state (with three wings: Blairite, Cleggie, and Conservative).

    Labour’s emptiness in terms of constructive alternative to the Conservatives was what led the Corbynites to take over. People in this country want something different from the Blairite-Cleggie-Conservative consensus.

  • “People in this country want something different from the Blairite-Cleggie-Conservative consensus.”

    The majority do not. Yes there are significantly large (and loud) sections of the electorate who want protectionism (whether via Old Labour style trade unionism, or UKIP nationalism) of some form – but they are a minority.

    The bulk of the electorate are economically liberal and socially liberal, even if the postings by Corbynites, Cybernats and Kippers everywhere online suggest otherwise.

    If there was a “reverse Lib Dems” (i.e. economically socialist, protectionist, anti immigration, socially conservative and highly nationalist), it would not gain much support other than perhaps in some Labour heartlands, and blue collar southern seats like Plymouth or Thanet.

  • Stimpson.
    The bulk of the population are neither economically or socially as liberal as many believe. This is one of the main reasons Remain lost. People are more wedded to the nation state and more protectionist than has been suggested over the last few decades. Globalism is popular with some governments, but it is plainly being rejected by an increasing number of the electorate.

  • Andrew George 24th Aug '16 - 7:27pm

    The comments are interesting and thought provoking. However, little is relevant to the points made both in my blog and the book as a whole.

    Regrettably some betray the very tribalism my chapter and the book seek to resist. Of course , as Mat McCarthy points out, there are always a few who are driven more by personal enmity than by political principle. I would have to write a different blog on counselling for political psychopaths to deal with that.

    The reference to the lack of any evident commitment to electoral reform in the Labour Party is perhaps the most significant factor which would do most to undermine the kind of PRE-electoral cooperation suggested.

    My chapter is deliberately agnostic on the personalities at the top of any Party (as most of the chapters were commissioned before Corbyn was elected Labour leader last year!). Though I agree that the existence of a plausible Labour leader has a greater impact on the electoral success of the Liberal Democrats than does the quality of our own leader.

    Corbyn is a protest politician. If Labour want to be a protest Party disinterested in Governing then there would be no better person to lead them…

    However, we can pull the wool over our eyes all we like, but the points which remain and which must be addressed by ‘progressives’ (for want of a better term!) is:
    1. the Tories are destined to Govern with a large(r) majority and for a very long time unless action is taken by non-Tories (even working together) to deal with it;
    2. the vast majority of non/anti-Tory voters don’t share the same sense of loyalty and tribalism expressed in many of these comments and they will never understand why we would prefer to work so hard to split the vote and their aspirations to end up with a Government they strongly oppose.

  • Barry Snelson 24th Aug '16 - 11:55pm

    Andrew,
    It is refreshing to hear Stimson, Lyn’s and Stevans voices. We shouldn’t view Tory voters as though they are afflicted with some disease which they are too embarrassed to discuss in public.
    They have voted for an economically credible alternative to a Labour Party which campaigns as the Santa Claus Party funded by ZImbabwenomics.
    We have a huge opportunity. Please don’t squander it by falling for promises from desperate Blairite careerists. The Tories have given themselves a huge hostage to fortune with their Brexit trade boasts and placing their trust in three incompetent scatterbrains. Continually and ruthlessly denounce Davies, Johnson and Fox. They have an impossible hand to play. Create an aura of bungling ineptitude around the Tories and detach their centre leaning voters to us.

  • John Roffey 25th Aug '16 - 9:40am

    I too doubt if Labour will be prepared to consider any pact prior to the GE. If you take a look at the polls prior to and post the EU Referendum – http://ukpollingreport.co.uk – you will see that Labour were not that far behind the Tories. It was only the Blairite attempt to dislodge Corbyn as leader that has made the polling gap now so wide. I would have thought that Corbyn, assuming he remains as leader as is predicted, will believe that the gap will gradually narrow again once the leadership election is over.

    Although their are the other features working against Labour – I think it very unlikely that Labour would consider any pact – and arguably Corbyn, given the support he has from the members, will have earned the right to challenge the Tories in a conventional battle.

    Without Labour a ‘progressive alliance’ is not possible – so if the Party does wish to improve its share of the vote and hold onto its MPs at the next GE – a different plan will be needed.

  • I think the party rapidly need a better understanding of what people really want. Corbyn or Smith will surely fare even worse than Milliband, which leaves the Tories an easy run. Liberals must form a coherent alternative for the sake of the country. For that we need to stop fussing over the minority issues that typically fill this blog and instead focus on preparing a coherent economic strategy. If Farron wants a new progressive party then he needs to entirely reject the regressive Greens, Trots and other single-issue fanatics and try to be a credible centrist alternative with big ideas rather than a little voice of lefty-inspired protest.

  • This is a very important issue regarding our strategy over the next few years. It assumes that we are opposed to a Tory government, but I hope that also means we want influence over any alternative government. As John Roffey says, Labour is likely to see no need to cooperate with us in election strategy and many on the left wing are very strongly against us.
    Matthew Macarthy above argues against any GE being focussed on talk of coalition has some validity, but is it not also true that in the next GE voters will need something that shows we could influence the next government ? Otherwise we are back to the old view that they like our ideas but will not vote for us because we stand no chance of power.
    The key is to identify policies that we might support in an alternative government. So, I am inclined towards working with other progressives on individual policies at this stage, rather than a binding alliance; that will show the public we are willing to work with others, but still have our distinctive views on many issues.
    There are possibilities of working on particular policies; I met with a Labour MP a couple of months ago and indicating my special interest in Education policy, I asked him if it would be possible for Labour and Lib-Dems to work together on Education policy alternatives to that of the Tories; he gave a strong positive answer. However, we need to wait to see if Labour can sort itself out in the next few months.

  • Nigel Jones 25th Aug ’16 – 11:48am

    “The key is to identify policies that we might support in an alternative government. So, I am inclined towards working with other progressives on individual policies at this stage, rather than a binding alliance; that will show the public we are willing to work with others, but still have our distinctive views on many issues.”

    I am inclined to believe that the Party needs at least one new and unique policy that is very popular wth the voters. Collaborating with other parties might help – but I doubt if it will have much effect.

    The problem for the Party since Brexit seems to me to be that its post 2010 unique niche has disappeared – right of centre/pro EU – and it needs to reinvent itself if it is to survive. 8% share of the vote with little media exposure [unlike 2015] – is likely to reduce the number of MPs returned significantly.

    Some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking is needed.

  • Andrew George makes some very telling points, but in his very last sentence, he says “the vast majority of non/anti-Tory voters don’t share the same sense of loyalty and tribalism expressed in many of these comments and they will never understand why we would prefer to work so hard to split the vote and their aspirations to end up with a Government they strongly oppose.”

    This shows a massive lack of self awareness as to the reasons for this loyalty and tribalism being expressed so forcefully by some here. Putting it simply, over the five years of coalition we had a leadership who showed no loyalty or tribalism towards most of the party, its values, its members or its voters. It talked of “grown up government” to demean those who pointed out its abject failure to persuade the British people that what they wanted was Liberal Democrats in government. It ignored votes in conference and repeated devastating losses of vote share, members, activists, councillors, MSPs, AMs and MEPs year after year, and next to none of our MPs, or other senior members did anything at all about it.

    Hence we are in a position where we now only have as many MPs as the Democratic Unionists and receive as little publicity as they do; we have no MPs in what were our West country heartlands and only one MP in each of Wales and Scotland; we no longer have the finance to support the infrastructure needed to be even an approximation to being a national force; we are making no progress at all in national opinion polls and where we have been overtaken by UKIP and the Greens in many national votes; the only thing that seems to lead to a growth in membership is electoral failure; and small amounts of progress at in local government seems to be the only area of to celebrate.

    Putting it simply, our leaders and MPs were so non-tribal for five years that nothing was protected against the attacks from the Tories or even our own senior members, to such an extent that our own continued existence as a party with MPs beyond 2020 is now open to question.

    Is there any wonder people remind you of the need to support your own team?

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Aug '16 - 1:15pm

    Have I misread Andrew George’s comment about the contributors to this discussion? I find his words very dismissive and I’m aghast at the reference to political psychopaths when as a party we are seeking to stop mental health problems being treated as something to laugh at.
    How can we ever get our party to practise what it preaches when its members opinions are treated as irrelevant? Perhaps members could have been consulted before the book is published rather than told what should happen, remember many have had contact with activists from other parties so they do know what they are talking about.
    Nigel Jones mentions the importance of this issue for the party’s strategy but he seems to have forgotten that those who will have to implement this are not just our great and good but the foot soldiers fighting at the grass roots. We have just been terribly mangled, but many of those foot soldiers are still fighting the war our MPs lost so spectacularly and have given us all hope with their gains at local level. Their opinions deserve respect.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Aug '16 - 1:44pm

    Sue Sutherland

    Your comments restore my faith in this site and party. I was reprimanded for referring to someone not in this party who is a famous , successful and powerful campaigner , as a good talker but overrated , but Andrew George makes the shocking comments you correctly allude to and gets away with it !

    I spend nearly every posting on here making sure I am in tune with the person I am engaging with , robust debate with those of a similar tendency , satire with those prone to humour , and always thanks for a positive comment , whether to me or not .I am a strong believer in free speech unless insulting directly to someone or swearing at them , and I would allow his comments , but would do so with many not allowed . The very strong difference , I would not have made those comments !

    Andrew George did, and as someone myself who was , in company of most of our fellow commentators above , not tribal but fair , so much in my case that despite once having been in Labour , I am one of the first above to show solidarity with good , moderate or progressive Tories , this , by most of us , is hardly tribal !

    Andrew George , who , I say some nice things about , says what he does and by implication gets us wondering who on earth he refers to ?!

  • John Roffey 25th Aug '16 - 1:52pm

    Sue Sutherland 25th Aug ’16 – 1:15pm

    “Have I misread Andrew George’s comment about the contributors to this discussion? I find his words very dismissive and I’m aghast at the reference to political psychopaths when as a party we are seeking to stop mental health problems being treated as something to laugh at.”

    Sue – although AG’s terminology might not be quite PC – his efforts are to find a way that the Party might survive and be influential – so that those who suffer mental illness might have the much needed improved treatment that the Party champions.

    Unfortunately in these self-centred times – mental health is not very high up on the majority’s agenda. Even though those inflicted are likely to suffer more than most of those suffering from a physical ailment.

    A policy or policies that do have greater appeal to the majority will be needed – if the Party is to survive and progress.

  • Sue;
    The accusation of Psychopathy usually comes with judgements about the extent to which someone displays emotional intelligence. When it does exist as a reality rather than as a put-down it is arguably a personality type rather than a mental health condition. How exactly would you begin to treat the lack of empathy, easy dishonesty and glib superficial charm which are the most cited characteristics of a psychopath.

  • Andrew George 25th Aug '16 - 3:36pm

    Oh dear…

    I see my words have been mangled…

    my previous comments in SUPPORT of Mat McCarthy’s original remarks about the irrational belligerence (am I allowed to use those words?) of a particular type of tribalist in another Party seems to have been interpreted as unPC re mental health and a criticism of Mat (which it wasn’t – I’ll be canvassing in a by-election with him again tomorrow!). I’ll try to find the time to spend a little longer to spell things out more carefully next time.

    Meanwhile the Tories (who are quietly rigging and gerrymandering the system to give themselves invincibility for decades to come) are rubbing their hands. No Party of the centre-left can defeat them on their own. Time to face up to some uncomfortable realities I’m afraid.

  • John Roffey 25th Aug '16 - 5:03pm

    It would be a pity if this discussion ground to a halt because of a dispute over the use of a single word.

    No one has disputed that the Party is in difficulty following Brexit – and it is important that a new direction is found asap.

    Perhaps it is too soon for some/many – who have not come to terms with the new situation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Aug '16 - 7:34pm

    In response to my writing:

    People in this country want something different from the Blairite-Cleggie-Conservative consensus.

    Stimpson wrote:

    The majority do not. Yes there are significantly large (and loud) sections of the electorate who want protectionism (whether via Old Labour style trade unionism, or UKIP nationalism) of some form – but they are a minority.

    Well, that is somewhat putting words into my mouth, because I myself did not say the “something different” was “protectionism”.

    Now, part of the issue is that a lot of people are dissatisfied with the society we have, but don’t have a clear idea of what alternative they would want instead. That is why they are easy picking for those proposing simplistic, infeasible or plain illiberal alternatives.

    We are told, and I think there is a lot of truth in it, that the reason most people who voted “Leave” in the referendum was because the Leave campaign had successfully (but untruthfully) put across the impression that EU membership is what makes our society what it is, because the EU is somehow in control of everything, so leaving the EU will cause a big change. That is, many Leave voters saw it as a vote against the Blairite-Cleggie-Conservative consensus, and the Leave campaign was happy to give that impression. Well, Leave got a majority, and given that plenty of Greens and leftists who are also unhappy about the Blairite-Cleggie-Conservative consensus voted Remain, can you really say only a minority are unhappy with it?

    What I think people are unhappy with is the underlying notion to the idea of the free market, which is that a good society is one where everyone is under stress due to competition, where the only way to live is to be aggressively pushy so that you win at the expense of others, where the rich have to be pampered and the poor suffer from “austerity” because power is effectively in the hands of those with money, and we are told if we don’t suck up to them, they’ll take their money elsewhere, because they are rich it must mean they are the best people at running things and so it is only right that power is with them, and not with democracy.

  • Jackie CHARLTON 25th Aug '16 - 7:36pm

    Interesting and quite in depth comments here. Some of which are too deep for me to understand and perhaps that is what is wrong with LibDem political rhetoric – too deep to understand!!?? However, what I do understand is the need for something new and maybe progressive politics will fill that gap. UKIP voters don’t have the leader they followed and this will ensure that many will now go back to being the non-voters they always were. Voters who think collectively and want to see politics for good are wondering where they should go – some will easily remain with the Tory (left) moderate and see Theresa May as the vote winner rather than the Party. Some actually see Jeremy Corbyn filling that gap even though he is left of centre, simply because he is a campaign politician. Just my simple observation on this. They are the progressive grouping we need to attract. They think and act.

  • John Roffey 25th Aug '16 - 8:06pm

    Matthew Huntbach 25th Aug ’16 – 7:34pm
    “What I think people are unhappy with is the underlying notion to the idea of the free market, which is that a good society is one where everyone is under stress due to competition, where the only way to live is to be aggressively pushy so that you win at the expense of others, where the rich have to be pampered and the poor suffer from “austerity” because power is effectively in the hands of those with money, and we are told if we don’t suck up to them, they’ll take their money elsewhere, because they are rich it must mean they are the best people at running things and so it is only right that power is with them, and not with democracy.”

    Yes, well described – if the L/Ds genuinely want to improve the lot of the people – ‘Market Forces’ has to be abandoned – perhaps it is the reason that there seems to be a nostalgia for pre Reagan/Thatcher times both here and in the US [apart of course by the feminist movement].

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Aug '16 - 9:12pm

    John Roffey

    Yes, well described – if the L/Ds genuinely want to improve the lot of the people – ‘Market Forces’ has to be abandoned – perhaps it is the reason that there seems to be a nostalgia for pre Reagan/Thatcher times both here

    Yes, and when it was becoming more and more obvious that Thatcherite/Reagan worship of the free market just was not delivering the freedom that those pushing it claimed it would, along came a bunch of people trying to push our party down the road of accepting their arguments, with Clegg showing and outrageous bias in appointing cheerleaders for the “liberalism == free market” line to top positions in the party.

    I am sorry to say, looking at those contributing here who have decide to have their names put in orange with the LibDem birdie next to them, that this sort instead of going away with their heads hung low in shame for how they have destroyed the party, still seem to think that they are what the party is all about, still seem to be over-dominant in it, and seem to have learnt or understood absolutely nothing from all that has happened in recent years.

  • Mathew,
    Do you not think that part of the problem is that political parties sort of hear what they want to hear at least as much as you seem to think the public does. Personally, I suspect most people are to an extent small c conservative and seek stability and comfort, which the Right exploits and the Left tries to bypass.

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Aug '16 - 10:48pm

    So, back to the main purpose of this discussion. Agreed the Tories are going to do everything in their power to stay in Government and we as a party helped them to power. If we form part of a progressive alliance, why would we be in any better position than we are now, having formed part of a centre right Coalition? Doesn’t this smack of desperation and a lack of principles?
    What are the progressive policies we want to see implemented by this alliance? The only one I’ve heard mentioned is PR. This is our holy grail but it isn’t shared by the majority of the population. Yes I agree reform is desperately needed but most people are finding life difficult because we haven’t yet developed a thriving economy, so for them the question is what have we got to offer them, not, as they see it, asking them to support something which will help us win elections. Why should they believe anything we say about what we want to achieve when having been nearly destroyed by holding up the Tories, we say we want to help Labour now?
    Anyway which bit of Labour do we want to support? Tory lite or Trotsky lite? Neither are anything I’d want to support. The Blairites did little for the poorest in society, virtually nothing about building more homes and neglected to provide any safety net for the nation should the economy implode. The other part of Labour might have some policies to make our society less polarised economically but are being manipulated by those who see an opportunity for revolution by the back door.
    We have to go back to the Preamble, agree what a truly Liberal Democrat society would look like and then fight for it. Otherwise, why do we exist? Being led by strategy rather than belief is a pointless existence for a political party.
    That is, of course IMHO.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Aug ’16 – 9:12pm

    “… instead of going away with their heads hung low in shame for how they have destroyed the party, still seem to think that they are what the party is all about, still seem to be over-dominant in it, and seem to have learnt or understood absolutely nothing from all that has happened in recent years.’

    What I find difficult to understand is that, whereas it might have been possible for those leading this shift to the right to delude themselves, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, that the Party would get 30+ seats in 2015 – it seems impossible to believe that, after Brexit, that this position can result in anything other than the extinction of the Party. I find it difficult to believe that is the intention.

    With UKIP now clearly having replaced the L/Ds as the ‘Third Party’ – the only place left vacant on the political spectrum is left of centre – but not generally as far left as Corbyn’s Labour.

    We saw some crazy stuff throughout the coalition years – but this seems totally incomprehensible.

  • Barry Snelson 25th Aug '16 - 11:16pm

    Matthew,
    I feel no obligation to hang my head in shame, even though I wasn’t a member during the (alleged) destruction of the party. I joined because I don’t want to live in a one party state and the LibDems seemed (sic) capable of providing an alternative.
    I concede that Nick had an unfortunate ability to attract bad publicity but bear in mind that the entire weight of the Tory controlled press mounted a sustained campaign of personal vilification against him, in the belief that LibDem seats would be the key to Tory hegemony.
    I actually believe that the party was on thin ice anyway, in a political scene that was viciously polarising. The party that portrays itself as “Mr Nice Guy” was always in danger when hard choices were on the table.
    As to the view that market forces are the work of Satan, well that’s a pity as the rest of the planet is governed by them (stand fast Venezuela and North Korea) and to sniffily refuse to recognise their power is a position too principled to be of any practical use to anyone.
    This party needs leadership, unity and a fresh voice To be the party that proposes increasing borrowing until our grandchildren are guaranteed destitution and to increase taxes until the last sparks of ambition and enterprise are extinguished may not be all that convincing.
    But these are only my opinions. Others my disagree.

  • “the vast majority of non/anti-Tory voters don’t share the same sense of loyalty and tribalism expressed in many of these comments and they will never understand why we would prefer to work so hard to split the vote and their aspirations to end up with a Government they strongly oppose.”

    There’s a weird assumption in that statement that the UK political scene consists of Conservatives and Non-Conservatives. And that Non-Conservatives really all believe in compatible policies, divided only by selfish differences of form rather than substance. The largest grouping of Non-Conservatives outside Scotland are Labour voters and I can understand their disappointment that Lib Dems get in their way of their aspirations. But this party is home to people who are Non-Conservative and Non-Labour and Non-Green and Non-SNP. That’s not tribalism or loyalty, it’s a rejection of those other parties. And regardless of orange on orange attacks that are a regular feature of this site, there are still things that unite, such as that rejection, and cause us to put our crosses in the same box when 90% of other voters don’t.

    For myself, make me choose May or Corbyn and I’ll go May every time despite a deep distrust based on her Home Office tenure. There’s a deeper distrust of the extreme left that Corbyn represents. Really I’d rather have neither. Lurching to the left is what will destroy any chance of recovery for this party. To survive we need to be stripping votes from Labour and Conservatives. Getting into bed with ruthless Tories didn’t help. Snuggling up to a party that has supporters who put bricks through the windows of dissidents and who attack their own Jewish MPs will help even less.

  • Barry Snelson 25th Aug ’16 – 11:16pm

    “As to the view that market forces are the work of Satan, well that’s a pity as the rest of the planet is governed by them (stand fast Venezuela and North Korea) and to sniffily refuse to recognise their power is a position too principled to be of any practical use to anyone.”

    The discussion is more whether the UK or any other sovereign state could largely escape the global free market in order to return to kinder times [although often difficult to detect – this is Trump’s appeal for many Americans]. Clearly Osborne/Cameron made every effort to make the multinationals ever more powerful [even though they seldom paid much in corporation tax].

    Out of the EU – it would be possible to introduce legislation that favoured smaller UK businesses – who operate only within the UK [and paid their corporation tax] and thereby remove the massive corporate influence on the UK government.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Aug '16 - 1:05am

    Barry does say some things above in response to Matthew, that must be said , if the left of our party are ever going to understand something . This party was not taken over by can we say , for want of words more direct , people the late, lamented and Tory , Sir Christopher Lee might have played , or , whose fictitious wickedness might have stepped out of a Bram Stoker or Dennis Wheatley novel !

    There were always some Liberals leftish , a few rightish , a great many in the , wait for it, not soggy centre, but radical centre ! Nick Clegg made some real mistakes , as did colleagues , but he does not “worship” something called “market forces ” any more than the late , great movie star alluded to, worshipped the Prince of Darkness !

    I say it as someone involved as much , in the arts , as a creator of fiction , or interpreter of it , as I am in politics doing the same with facts , but if we could have less dime a dozen, or great , blockbuster, novel or movie plot language, and more getting on with discussing where we do agree on much , we might get somewhere!

    We might make progress, really , it is possible if we remove the rancour , and the the intention of Andrew George in his article , if not his wording later on , might , lead us to think the unifying of progressive voices is more than a fiction too !

  • Stevan Rose 26th Aug '16 - 1:33am

    “though I wasn’t a member during the (alleged) destruction of the party.”

    Me neither, left the Liberals in the early 80s, rejoined Lib Dems in 2014. That can only leave Robert Wootton and Lyn Newman as Matthew’s targets. Unless you can be responsible for destroying the party by simply being a Lib Dem voter that is, which would be odd.

  • John Roffey 26th Aug '16 - 5:00am

    Lorenzo Cherin 26th Aug ’16 – 1:05am
    “There were always some Liberals leftish , a few rightish , a great many in the , wait for it, not soggy centre, but radical centre ! Nick Clegg made some real mistakes , as did colleagues , but he does not “worship” something called “market forces ” any more than the late , great movie star alluded to, worshipped the Prince of Darkness !”

    Perhaps you have not seen the YouTube clip where NC – possibly after or soon after the Rose Garden press conference where he has left his mic on and is saying to Cameron how fully he agreed with the measures included in the coalition agreement. These [austerity] measures were designed by Osborne to strengthen the operation of market forces within the UK, empower the largest multinationals and to ensure that the gap between rich and would widen as quickly as possible in the UK and the rest of world.

    In truth it is quite astonishing how the face of the UK has been transformed by Osborne’s ‘market forces’ policies in just six short years – perhaps best demonstrated globally by the most recent Oxfam survey which showed that the wealth of the 68 [if memory serves] richest individuals was equivalent to that of the 3.5 billion poorest [there are similar figures relating to the UK].

    That those who introduced the concept of ‘market forces’ and its consequences can be portrayed as Satanic is best demonstrated by ‘Abrupt Climate Change’ which is something you might not have heard about. If so – it is because of the control that these extraordinarily rich individuals have on the MSM – in this case those corporations whose business is to sell fossil fuels to provide energy.

    Abrupt Climate change is a term that expresses the findings of a group of boots-on-the ground scientists, working in the Arctic, who have found that irreversible climate change is already happened and its speed will be much quicker than the model used by the IPCC when the Paris accord was reached.

    Rather than me attempting to explain something reasonably complex here – it is better that this is done by a climate change scientist – here by one from the US:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB75GPC0ZBA

    and here by the UK’s leading climate change scientist [who I do not think has ever appeared on the BBC!]:

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Aug '16 - 8:39am

    Barry Snelson

    I joined because I don’t want to live in a one party state and the LibDems seemed (sic) capable of providing an alternative.

    Yes, I joined for the same reason, although when I joined it was the Liberal Party.

    As to the view that market forces are the work of Satan, well that’s a pity as the rest of the planet is governed by them

    Oh, here we go, it is something I seem to be facing all the time, it is something I am facing all the time, and it proves my point.

    A true liberal can see both sides of an argument, can accept that one has to be careful to reach a balance, can see the point of someone else even if they do not agree with them. An illiberal fanatic cannot do that. An illiberal fanatic is someone who is so stuck to their ideology and fixed way of thinking that if anyone makes any point against it, they accuse that person of being an extremist on the other side.

    No, I am not saying that market forces are “the work of Satan”. I am saying that there are negative aspects of the use of them, our society has currently become too dominated by the idea that the use of the market is the solution to all problems, and it needs to pull back from that. Extreme free market policies are not delivering the fully free society their proponents claim they are all about, just as extreme socialist policies did not when they were implemented elsewhere.

    The long-term position of the Liberal Party is that market forces have a place, and are an aspect of freedom, but not the only aspect, and may need to be balanced when they contradict other aspects of freedom. Hence that great phrase of ours “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

    Simply because I believe there is now a strong case to increase taxes to counter these barriers to freedom does not mean I want to “increase taxes until the last sparks of ambition and enterprise are extinguished” as you allege. I have already noted elsewhere to other economic right-wingers trying to infiltrate our party that their constant claim that a central aspect of our party was low taxes because that is “liberalism” is wrong, and that 19th and early 20th century Liberals often supported increases in taxation in order to build a more liberal society.

    Liberals should be in favour of debate and discussion, not closing it down by accusing anyone who disagrees with them of being an extremist on the other side.

  • John Roffey 26th Aug '16 - 8:47am

    The incident where NC forgets about his microphone [above]:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL4RSP2Zpp8

    62 – not 68 have equivalent wealth as poorest 3.5 bn:

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/18/richest-62-billionaires-wealthy-half-world-population-combined

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Aug '16 - 9:07am

    Glenn

    Personally, I suspect most people are to an extent small c conservative and seek stability and comfort, which the Right exploits and the Left tries to bypass.

    Yes, I do think that is true, and a big part of the problem of our current politics is that small-c conservatism is derided, and hardly anyone influential in politics understands why most ordinary people have that attitude.

    I am not a conservative in the sense of opposing all changes to society, but I am concerned that many who call themselves “liberals” take the opposite point of view, and think that any change is automatically good. They miss the point that you note, that when things change it can be that people become less certain, they no longer know how things work, what to do to get something done, and thus they have lost freedom.

    The classic case of not understanding this was Nick Clegg’s debate with Nigel Farage, in which Clegg’s central line was that Farage wanted to return to the past. By putting it that way, he was practically making Farage’s case for him. We have argued about this before, I myself do not believe that leaving the EU will return us to some sort of mythical golden age past, but many people voted for it in the belief, or at least hope, that it would.

    One of the most destructive forces in society is extreme free market economics. If one really wanted to return to the past in this country, one would have to reverse all those free-market policies introduced by Thatcher and subsequent governments: bring back council housing, nationalise all those industries that were privatised etc.

    The political right have a way of giving the impression they sympathise with people who have small-c conservative attitudes, while standing for free-market policies that in effect have the opposite effects. In that way they are like quacks who sell a potion to people that supposedly cures some symptoms, but it actually causes those symptoms. A quack who can get away with this can make a lot of money.

  • Barry Snelson 26th Aug '16 - 9:18am

    Matthew and John,
    I thought my post was measured and not fanatical in any way. I accuse no one and I joined the LibDems just because it has a left wing which operates as a vital conscience and guide. I respect and admire your views and if I was an extremist right winger I would have joined the Tories. Although if I did I am sure my father’s ghost would rise from his grave and strangle me.
    However, the British are 1% (about) of the world’s population and the other 99% don’t necessarily agree that we are eternally entitled to the lifestyle we enjoy now.
    To manage our economy to be both prosperous and kinder is a very challenging task and almost impossible in a cut throat world. It is because I believe that the LibDems may be able to find that elusive “almost” that I am a member. We need measured debate (preferably face to face) to tease out proposals that would convince the practically minded voters and not just the idealists.

  • Stevan Rose 26th Aug '16 - 9:23am

    “Liberals should be in favour of debate and discussion, not closing it down by accusing anyone who disagrees with them of being an extremist on the other side.”

    That’s rich coming from one who tries to close others down by firstly suggesting a group of fellow members should hold their heads in shame for destroying the party then, when caught out, changing tack and referring to “infiltrators”. I would respectfully suggest that personal attacks do nothing to advance your views, and do not accord with the rules of this site.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Aug '16 - 9:29am

    Stevan Rose

    Lurching to the left is what will destroy any chance of recovery for this party.

    Our party was seen, and was, the main opposition to the Conservatives in many parts of the country. We won seats because we were seen as the party of the left in those places, that was where the strength of the old Liberal Party and its successor always was. In more recent years, the Liberal Party developed ways of winning votes in Labour-dominated areas, by being an alternative party of the left, so that people who wanted an alternative to Labour in those places, but would never have voted Conservative, voted for us. Where we did win in supposedly “true blue” Conservative areas, we generally did so by first winning council seats in the enclaves in those areas that voted Labour.

    We had a catastrophic loss of votes in 2015, because people saw the coalition as a “lurch to the right”. You only have to talk to people who in the past voted for us to find that is the case. The situation was made worse, however, because the infiltrators in our party, who wanted to re-write history and make out that liberalism always meant extreme free market economics, used it as an opportunity to push their image, and had a leader who was extraordinarily biased to their point of view, and lacked the intelligence and grass-roots knowledge of our party to realise why it was so damaging.

    Describing reversing that damage as “lurching to the left” is just ridiculous. Surely it is obvious now that there are no significant votes to be gained from the position people now seem to think we are in, and the position you seem to want us to be in: a party that believes in Thatcherite economics, with just a few side-line issues such as gay marriage to distinguish us from what the Conservatives always stood for.

  • John Roffey 26th Aug '16 - 9:42am

    Barry Snelson 26th Aug ’16 – 9:18am

    “We need measured debate (preferably face to face) to tease out proposals that would convince the practically minded voters and not just the idealists.”

    The problem is Barry [as the George Potter article shows] even when such a debate is officially created – the ‘right of centre’ preferences – of those who appear to have the Party machine in their grip – still persist.

  • Simon Hebditch 26th Aug '16 - 9:50am

    This is the most depressing debate I have read for a long time. I thought that both the Liberal Party and its Lib Dem successor were radical, left of centre entities which had a series of values and political objectives designed to transform our society not tinker with it.

    So, for reasons of both principle and pragmatism, I remain convinced that the only way a centre left orientation can possibly contest the Tory machine is by a progressive alliance, a common main line programme and electoral reform. I reiterate – Labour cannot win on its own in 2020 with or without Corbyn as its leader. No alternative leader stands a chance either! The Lib Dems will not have more than 20 seats in the House of Commons, if we are lucky, without a pact.

    If we all retreat into our individual tribes, we might as well concentrate on fomenting a political insurgency rather than play the Westminster game.

  • Simon Hebditch 26th Aug ’16 – 9:50am

    “I remain convinced that the only way a centre left orientation can possibly contest the Tory machine is by a progressive alliance, a common main line programme and electoral reform.”

    Although they seem to have become lost in the debate – I posted above a couple of YouTube videos explaining Abrupt Climate Change. If you watch these – the first is very short – you will realise that it is desperately important that the use of fossil fuels to create energy must be ended asap as, amongst others, Sweden, Norway and Germany are attempting to do.

    As we know, the Tories are trying to press ahead with fracking and have demoted the importance of the use renewable energy. The dangers posed by Abrupt Climate Change have been heavily suppressed in the UK and US – if this issue were taken up by the Party – I think it very likely it could recover the seats lost in 2015 at the expense of the Tories.

  • John Roffey
    I fact the climate scientist featured in that video has been ridiculed by his peers (notably Gavin Schmidt of NASA Giss) for being ridiculously alarmist and wrong all the time. As much as you worry about the influence of fossil fuels the plain fact is that using them has brought prosperity to the extent that we have spare time to worry about the climate rather than spending every waking minute just surviving on this hostile planet. Replacing them with windmills and solar panels is a pipe-dream while nuclear power has to become more appealing and a lot less expensive (I have hopes for the Moltex project but not much else). That leaves CCS which is still underfunded. If there was an easy solution there would be no opposition anywhere – even from fossil fuel companies who would endeavour to own the new technology too: Perhaps you didn’t notice that BP and Shell spent a fortune on renewables tech but they just couldn’t make it pay!

    Abrupt climate change goes back to Wally Broecker should you wish to read some science rather than just the alarmist headlines. Yes its fair to say that we are poking the climate with a stick but its also fair to say that many climate scientists have been caught blatantly egging the pudding and that the climate has undergone abrupt climate change all by itself. In fact a new ice age is overdue and some believe man has staved it off. The extent of natural variation in the system is in fact the biggest unknown. All the bad scenarios depended on the assumption that nature played little to no part in current warming (plus inadequate models) but all the latest climate research says that notion is bunkum.

    As for the voters – poll after poll says they don’t give a stuff for climate change but they do care about energy security and price rises; both off which are mightily affected adversely by current climate/energy policy. So in all respects you are backing a loser. If you can find a win-win strategy where all parts of the trilemma are addressed then we are all ears.

  • John Roffey 26th Aug '16 - 5:49pm

    JamesG 26th Aug ’16 – 3:52pm

    “Abrupt climate change goes back to Wally Broecker should you wish to read some science rather than just the alarmist headlines.”

    In truth I have looked into the matter in much greater depth than I indicated – I did decide to post the videos by experts initially – rather than give my interpretation of the matter.

    I did not learn of the issue until a few months ago and since then I have spent most of my spare time trying to identify and absorb new material. It takes some time to take in what is being said – primarily because the ramifications are so enormous [and I have also always had a great dislike of physics – beyond the basics].

    I do believe that the issue is being played down by the energy corporations, particularly in the UK and the US, because they have so much to lose in terms of previous investment.

    I will try to answer the points you raised individually and really do hope that you are able to prove my concerns unfounded. I think I should firstly post up this lecture by Wadhams from Nov 2015. However, for the sake of others who might be interested – here he covers the subject in greater depth.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Aug '16 - 12:25am

    Stevan Rose

    That’s rich coming from one who tries to close others down by firstly suggesting a group of fellow members should hold their heads in shame for destroying the party then, when caught out, changing tack and referring to “infiltrators”.

    I spent 30 years of my life spending most of my spare tine helping build up the party. In the London Borough of Lewisham, where I led the council group, we went up to 17 councillors to Labour’s 26, and to second place in all the three constituencies, seriously challenging Labour to the point where winning control of the council and winning a Parliamentary seat was a real possibility.

    All this has been completely destroyed. In the 2014 local elections we were back to 0 councillors. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections we were down to 4th place.

    I am sorry, but it is people like YOU who have done that. It the line that people like YOU have pushed that have destroyed our party. Ask all the people who used to vote for us, and now say they regret it and will never do so again. That is what they will say: they voted for us because they thought we were a party that stood for something very different from the Conservatives, but they think they were fooled because in 2010-2015 we seemed to stand for the same thing as the Conservatives.

    I know that if I had joined an organisation, forced it to completely change its image, and as a result that organisation had collapsed, I would hang my head in shame for doing it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Aug '16 - 1:35am

    Matthew Huntbach re comments to Stevan Rose
    and to anyone who cares about this party

    Please read this and take it in and take it in the spirit it is meant . A constructive one.
    You have singled out a group in our party and attacked them . You have done so for years.

    You have done the same to individuals on this website , and for years .

    Those you perceive to have , in your own words , infiltrated , taken over, and destroyed our party!

    You are an articulate , knowledgable man , educated , indeed , in higher education.

    But you have not learnt something many of us have , and have been trying to communicate again and so again , and again. Above , with humour and an analogy I attempt to . But to little or no avail.

    This party has never been infiltrated , taken over , destroyed or otherwise trampled on !

    M.P.S make not the party . Nor even councillors . A party is its members . And its members are only as good as their ideas and their ideals .And their attitudes!

    You allude to your loss of seats in your council group. Nick Clegg in his parliamentary group , shares much in common with you ! Perhaps he went into government to do something good in bad times . Maybe he failed . Or succeeded , depending on his or our point of view.

    He is a fellow Liberal . You can hate him if you like and all his ilk . But you have no need at all to single out fellow members and point directly to them on a public site as ones who should feel shame .

    We are colleagues. Some on the left of this party might find more views similar to left wing Labour , well if so , there is enough meanness and bitterness there . We do not need it in our party.

    I feel this site should allow even more robust debate . To avoid the sesspit that other sites are , we must not on here become a Sunday school instead .

    But we do not need talk of shame ,being deserved to be felt ,by members to members.

    And where we find it we should say , no , that is not right !

    A loss of seats , fine , a loss of a lot more in the way of decency and tolerence , of openmindedness and , yes of Liberalism might otherwise result .

    People are going to more often leave politics because they are fed up with being powerless and singled out for criticism , than because they lose seats they can try to win again !

  • John Roffey
    Please don’t bother discussing the science as I have been studying it since 2005 and my specialty is modeling real world physics which is why I know more than most about the inadequacy of the models and the guesswork behind their input assumptions. However I have no interest in reducing your alarm because it is ok for society to decide to limit emissions regardless of the crap science or the hysteria of some scientists. Plus I have been an advocate and on/off worker in alternative energies (mainly nuclear) for many years.

    My concern is on energy policy. Limiting fossil fuels without doing more harm than good is difficult despite all the bluster and we are heading for a very severe energy shortfall in the UK with almost no plans to fill it. That is why politicians needs to cut the gesture politics, discuss just how much extra we have to pay for greener energy and stop pretending we will be magically ok if we just believe hard enough or that the huge installation costs can just be ignored. Bearing in mind of course that uk.gov is practically bankrupt! Energy underpins everything else and we have been undermining it for years with zero regard for the consequences.

  • John Roffey 27th Aug '16 - 9:56am

    JamesG 27th Aug ’16 – 2:21am
    Abrupt Climate Change

    Whereas I as I have no doubt that you are sincere – I have not come across a James G… during my research into ACC. On the other hand, I have not found anyone who disputes that Peter Wadhams is a climate expert – particularly on what is actually happening in the Arctic, as a result of his boots-on-the-ground research, and that he has been working in this field since the 70’s.

    Although it is true that some climate scientists do dispute Wadhams’ view that climate change will happen as quickly as he fears – I think you would agree that, in these circumstances, I would be foolish to accept your conclusions over his. My concern is increased by the fact that the arguments you put forward seem to be remarkably similar to those of the fossil fuel and nuclear energy lobbies.

    In these times when, as a result of the global free market, global corporations have become so influential and increasingly less regulated – there is a grave danger that their recklessness will have extremely dire consequences. This is because the sole purpose of these corporations is to make as much profit as possible and as quickly as possible – environmental and social issues and long-term consequences do not enter into this equation.

    Few working in this field doubt that if greenhouse gas emissions do continue at the present rate there is a serious possibility that the planet will become uninhabitable for humans and many other species within the lifetime of many alive today. There are those who believe that this will be far sooner.

    We could reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly and quite substantially – all that would really suffer would be our current lifestyle. Given what is at stake – this seems a small price to pay.

    Since the Tories are clearly vulnerable with regard to reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing that of renewables [and of meeting the more meagre demands of the IPCC Paris Accord] – this would appear to be an issue where significant gains could be made at their expense – particularly as it is an issue that tends to make all other pale into insignificance.

  • We must defeat the Greens and UKIP, establish ourselves clearly as the third force in England and Wales and wait for the tide to turn in Scotland. The must be no question of alliances of any sort. Things are going okay at the moment, we do not need to stand down or get others to stand down for us. It is fight for OUR political survival. There must be no interest in ayone else.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Aug '16 - 11:59am

    Lorenzo Cherin

    I read what you wrote in this spirit: you don’t care about me and my views, you don’t care that the party I was once such a keen and proud member of has changed to the point that it no longer stands for what it stood for that led to me to join it. But you seem to think that for some reason I should carry on supporting it, as if I am like one of those Trotskyite types who thinks all that matters is being a member of The Party, so will follow without question The Party Line, whatever it is.

    I desperately tried to say over the years that the move to the economic right was damaging, that it was losing us votes and support, but people like you did not want to listen to me. Instead you carried on making false claims, like suggesting historical leaders like Asquith stood for that sort of thing. I appreciate the reason the coalition was formed, and defended it, but I did not defend the way it was used (both by those at the top of it, without party democratic authority, and by our opponents, who had their own reasons for wanting it to appear to have gone that way) to push our party in terms of its overall policies after the coalition ended to a position that when I joined it would have been seen as firmly that of the Conservative Party.

    For now I remain a member, hoping it will return it what it stood for, but what I read here and elsewhere on Liberal Democrat Voice suggests less and less that this will happen. Rather, the change in image pushed by the Cleggies, though it has attracted nothing in terms of votes, seems to have attracted quite a few new members who want it to stay like that.

    So be it, it is your party, not mine. You try and restore it in terms of votes back to where it was when I was last active in it. Don’t expect me to help you.

  • Barry Snelson 27th Aug '16 - 5:45pm

    Matthew,
    I respect your views and appreciate the campaigning work you have done over years and my hope would be that the separate ideologies, within the party, could find common ground.
    I hold humanist principles but I suppose I sit slightly to right of centre because 21st century Britain is not in the same situation as it was post war. Idealism eventually collides with reality and the numbers simply can’t be made to add up. I, too, resent the vast sums owned by the handful of mega rich, but there is no possibility of getting it off them. Their money isn’t kept under their mattress. They employ full time specialists who can easily thwart politicians and play one nation off against the other. To expect international collaboration to beat them is less realistic than banking on the tooth fairy.
    A taxation solution has obvious difficulties to surmount. Increasing personal taxation runs the risk that the most able and energetic sit on their hands and abstain from the economic risk taking that generates so much wealth and jobs.
    Go too far with corporate taxation and global companies choose to build cars and ‘planes somewhere less taxing.
    I believe that if we use all our native talents and challenge a huge raft of old fashioned paradigms, then we can find a way of creating equitable prosperity but not from the uncompromising and idealistic left.
    Corbyn’s plan is to make us “like Finland”.
    What ? Millions of trees and hardly any people?

  • paul barker 27th Aug '16 - 8:22pm

    If our vote had collapsed because of our Coalition with The Tories then those Ex-Libdem voters would have all gone to Labour or The Greens; they didnt. In fact as many of “Our” voters went Right as went Left. The only explanation I can see that makes any sense is that it was our presence in Government that cuased voters to desert us. Presumably they thought we were an AntiEverything Protest Party, a sort of UKIP for “Nice” people, in some ways we were just that.

  • John Roffey 27th Aug '16 - 9:02pm

    paul barker 27th Aug ’16 – 8:22pm

    “Presumably they thought we were an AntiEverything Protest Party, a sort of UKIP for “Nice” people, in some ways we were just that.”

    I think the Green Party have now assumed that mantle. Clearly there is no appetite for prioritizing climate change [which oddly the Greens do not – even though many accept abrupt climate change].

    I looks as if this debate has virtually wound down – without any agreement on how the Party can avoid losing more or most of its MPs in 2020.

    If this is to change a clear and simple plan is required – I hope this is found because it will be a pity to see the Party consigned to the history books.

  • David Evans 27th Aug '16 - 9:28pm

    Unfortunately Paul, your analysis does not accord with the research. According to Electoral Calculus whose sample size is doubtless many times bigger than yours, of the 23% of the vote we received in 2010: 7% went to Labour; 3% to the Conservatives; 2% to the Greens; 2% to UKIP; and 1% to the SNP – leaving us with the 8% left.

    We are now back to where we were in the 1960s, with only as many MPs as the Democratic unionists in Northern Ireland.
    We have one MEP, down from 12.
    Five MSPs in Scotland, down from 16.
    One AM in Wales, down from six.
    Even our hardworking councillors are down by two thirds from when Nick became leader.

    In essence our party has worked for 60 years to give our MPs the chance to prove to the British voters that Lib Dems could make a real difference in government. Sadly all our leaders proved after five years in coalition was that 92% of British voters would rather not have us in government.

    There is a long hard task ahead to rebuild and nothing is guaranteed, but the key question is, when in thirty or forty years time, when the next chance comes, will our leaders listen to its members and councillors any more than they did last time.

  • Barry Snelson 27th Aug '16 - 9:37pm

    I am astonished the pollsters can be so accurate after the election when they were famously so c**p before it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Aug '16 - 9:45pm

    Paul Barker

    Presumably they thought we were an AntiEverything Protest Party, a sort of UKIP for “Nice” people, in some ways we were just that.

    So why would they think that in the many places where we had long experience of being in control of local government?

    One of the things that needs to be noted is that ordinary voters often don’t see politics in terms of a straight left-right spectrum. I have come across surprisingly large numbers of former voters who said they disliked us because they thought we had dropped our position which they liked as a left alternative to Labour and become too much like the Tories, and who then said they would vote Tory. The reason was generally something along the lines that though they didn’t like the Tories much, given that there was no difference between us and them, and they didn’t like Labour, they might as well vote Tory because the Tories were more competent than Labour and as a vote for us was just another way of voting for Tory policies, so why not just vote for the real thing?

    It is indeed surprising to find how many people when you speak to them express quote left-wing opinions, and yet vote Tory. One of the reasons, which Glenn has picked up on, is that the Tories get a large number of people who vote for them on the grounds they suppose them to be the party of small-c conservatism. Another is simply that many people dislike Labour for various reasons, and think that means they have to vote Tory because it’s the only alternative.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Aug '16 - 9:54pm

    Barry Snelson

    I actually do accept the point you make that it isn’t as easy just to tax the rich more as some on the left would like. My point was not that, it was to cast doubt on the idea that more free marketeering is the answer to everything. Suggesting it is not, and that in fact simplistic free marketeering policies have not delivered all that was promised does not mean, contrary to what you are suggesting, that one supposes it is simple just to tax the rich more.

    I do however think there are some doubts about this:

    Increasing personal taxation runs the risk that the most able and energetic sit on their hands and abstain from the economic risk taking that generates so much wealth and jobs.

    In my experience, people who are REALLY able and REALLY energetic, and have truly good ideas they want to push are motivated by wanting to exercise their ability and push those good idea. So, no, they are not just going to sit in their beds watching telly on the grounds “Oh, I can’t be bothered, because if I make money put of it, I’ll be taxed too much”.

    People who are only motivated by the wish to make money are mostly people who are semi conmen, wanting to sell rubbish products, and use trickery to get ahead in the market. Not the sort of people we ought to encourage.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Aug '16 - 12:14am

    Matthew Huntbach

    If you read my comments ever on here you can see not one thing you just said to me makes sense if you understand me rather than misunderstand .

    I was suggesting that one way to move forward is to stop the bitter feeling towards colleagues , instead you carry on in that way .

    I am not on the right of the party , nor the left . I was not even involved during the coalition years to any great degree in politics , too involved with other things .I have been through a lot personally. I did vote for Nick Clegg in the first place , before that Ming , after , Norman . Do make of that something , but all it says is I am someone who is not on the left . So ?!

    I do not want you to leave saying it is my or any other persons party , anymore than I want to leave saying it belongs to you or them . My whole point is I care very much that there is room for all.

    As for the party line , I agree with you as much as the leadership on the need to think of why people voted for Brexit , and you more than many , and said it , on grammar schools .

    If you listened to the friendliness on here, even within the disagreement, you would soon realise we can agree to disagree.

    David Raw , well to the left of me on here , has a sense of mischief in his criticisms of those he thinks of as to the right . If you developed that , you would find it a way to deal with your understandable frustration at the way things have gone .

    It is not my party anymore than yours and I do care , as I show , but I cannot allow bitterness to seem nasty . That is as near to anything Trotskyist as it gets , and I do not like it . You are not that . You are praised in my piece as a man of substance , read it again and engage as a friend and colleague , anger , fine , but no way towards me or others here , we are fellow members.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Aug ’16 – 9:54pm

    “In my experience, people who are REALLY able and REALLY energetic, and have truly good ideas they want to push are motivated by wanting to exercise their ability and push those good idea. So, no, they are not just going to sit in their beds watching telly on the grounds “Oh, I can’t be bothered, because if I make money put of it, I’ll be taxed too much”.

    This used to be referred to as ‘self actualization’ – but it is not a term I have heard used much in recent times. I would suspect this is because those who are only motivated by how much money they will make [dominated by global corporations – their sole purpose] are in control of the wealth that is needed by many of those who wish to self-actualize.

    In my view – this is the root cause of much of the increase in the numbers suffering mental health problems.

    If this were generally accepted, a program to extract corporate interests from as much of our national life as possible – would meet with the approval of the voters.

  • If there are any genuine progressives in the Labour Party, they do not seem to be making any progress towards anything that I would regard as worthwhile.

  • Wow. This seems like an exceptionally powerful and condensed example of not getting it.

    Why is there a shy Tory effect? (There’s not much of one by the way, it’s mostly a sampling problem but…). Could it be that people are ashamed of “their self-absorption and (when the mask slips) their distaste for those they consider are ‘low achievers’”. Or, could it be that they’re scared that people are trying to “unite” to “defeat” them, or that people think they are “self-absorbed” for having perfectly reasonable views.

    You note correctly that people don’t like tribalism. And that people should stop their petty tribal hatred of other progressives. I agree, very wise. It’s where you go “and instead direct that petty tribal hate towards the Tories instead” that gets me.

    If you start from the assumption “a large fraction of this country are evil people who want to do evil things” then you’re not only not going to win those people over, you’re going to lose most of the people on your side to.

    Remember when progressives spent the whole referendum campaign telling Leave voters they were evil racists? And it turned out Leave voters are a majority? Racists aren’t a majority in this country. But if you go round telling people they’re evil they’ll turn away from you. Take normal centrist people with normal centrist voting habits (sometimes voting Tory, voting leave), call them horrible insulting names and tell them they ought to be ashamed and suddenly a whole generation stops listening to what the left has to say.

    I’m not a progressive, I’m a liberal, so I want no part of your project anyway. But really. If you want to help the left in this country can we please try and at least *pretend* that those of us on the right aren’t evil twisted monsters.

  • David Evans 28th Aug '16 - 4:51pm

    Barry, I’m not sure what you are getting at with your “I am astonished the pollsters can be so accurate after the election when they were famously so c**p before it.” It’s easy to be accurate after the event, it’s called analysing the evidence. What is dispiriting is how many people here choose to ignore the research simply because its results do not agree with their chosen preconceptions.

    In the case of Paul Barker, if we believe his view of the facts, we will continue to make the same old mistakes we did during coalition and simply delay our recovery ever further.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Aug '16 - 5:30pm

    Adam Casey

    If you start from the assumption “a large fraction of this country are evil people who want to do evil things” then you’re not only not going to win those people over, you’re going to lose most of the people on your side too.

    And if you start from the assumption that anyone who expresses concern about the drift to the economic right in the Liberal Democrats is saying and thinking what you claim, then you prove my point.

    I have expressed my point that I believe the shift to free market economics that has dominated politics in this country since the 1970s has not delivered the freedom for most that was claimed. I have tried to explain why I think that might be the case. But I have not claimed that those who support that sort of thing are what you state here. Over-simplistic, maybe, too easily taken in by a nice theory, and not able to see that in practice it does not work out quite as well, perhaps also too easily taken in by the propaganda pumped out by powerful groups that have a vested interest. In that way, very similar to the socialists I used to argue with, and whose simple-mindedness and refusal to consider reality led me not to want to be one of those.

    We need to learn from mistakes. What I want to see is people with the humility to be able to do that. People who are willing to listen to arguments from the other side. Quite clearly the catastrophic collapse of the Liberal Democrats in terms of votes and seats indicates that big mistakes were made – yet what I am seeing here from those who have their names in orange with a birdie next to them is no acknowledgement of that, no willingness to listen and argue constructively, just an insulting dismissal of people like me who are trying to point out what went wrong.

    I myself am a great fan of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, a great criticism of what was then the dominant ideology of socialism, pointing out why it is likely goes wrong in practice. But now free market economics is the dominant ideology, so as socialism was back then, so now it is the one that needs intelligent criticism and willingness of its proponents to listen to that criticism.

    I am sorry to see no such willingness from the orange birdies here.

  • Matthew Huntbach:

    Sorry, but I think you’ve misread the aim of my comment.

    “And if you start from the assumption that anyone who expresses concern about the drift to the economic right in the Liberal Democrats is saying and thinking what you claim.”

    I dont! Most of the people who I have serious discussions with on this subject from the left of the party are reasonable people. My post is solely directed at the post by Andrew George, which was exactly saying and thinking what I claim (because I quote it directly at several points). It’s not directed at anyone else, including yourself, who from reading the above seems to have only been talking sensibly and responsibly.

    Lots of people are worried about how markets in this country work. I happen to be on the other side of the discussion, but there is 100% a full and open conversation to be had here. One I’ve participated in many times to the benefit of all involved.

    Where there isn’t constructive conversation is when people like Andrew George post things like this which demonise a third of our fellow countrymen explicitly, and tar more than half of them with the same brush. *That* is where I see a lack of humility, a lack of willingness to listen to the other side.

    I agree with you that the lib dems need to make clear our alternatives to parts of the economic consensus that are failing. Parts like investment and R&D seem like great candidates. What areas would you suggest? I’m sure there are many! I agree, and hope you’ll join us as we do have that conversation.

    My post wasn’t aiming to forestall that, far from it. Rather it was to say that the original post’s divisive rhetoric doesn’t help us.

  • Barry Snelson 29th Aug '16 - 9:55am

    David,
    The “evidence” is asking people how they intended to vote and subsequently asking them how they did vote.
    What is the difference?
    You – and all the pollsters – only “know” how you (and they) individually voted in that booth with the curtain drawn.
    The pollsters made a prediction before the election and manifestly showed themselves unable to get honest answers from their sample. That is the only evidence here.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Aug '16 - 1:52pm

    Lorenzo Cherin

    I do not want you to leave saying it is my or any other persons party , anymore than I want to leave saying it belongs to you or them . My whole point is I care very much that there is room for all.

    I cannot be forced to remain in a party if it no longer fits in with my own views. My own views on politics have not changed very much since I joined the Liberal Party in 1978. Of course, there was a variety of opinion in the party, but I always felt comfortable in it, and knew that almost every member would have a reasonable feeling for the sort of issues that concern me, even though they may differ on details.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t find that any more. The old Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats for years after the merger had a pragmatic view on free market economics, with no particular hard line taken for or against, an acceptance that it was a good approach in some cases but needed control in others, and was inappropriate for some services. There simply were not the hardline free marketeers in it, who claimed that that’s what “liberalism” is all about that there seem to be now, there were not all these people claiming that the core aspect of liberalism is minimising taxes and reducing the state so that power is instead in the hands of big business. That sort of person belonged to the Conservative Party, and we were against that sort of thing.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Aug '16 - 2:32pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    Thank you for getting back to me , but you misunderstand me again , far be it from me to force you to stay , I feel like leaving often , I want you to know many who may disagree with each other need to feel they have that right to stay together n our party ,each with a view , and are able to express it .

    Actually Matthew , to be honest , my only strong disagreement with those more to the left of our party , is their seeming to say those not of that ilk , do not have a place , which I think they do .

    Having read your comments , I think you not only have a place, but express your position well. Where you go wrong in my view , is in the level of your anger towards those I do not see in our party . If I thought the movement towards lower taxes for the lowest paid was a move to the economic right , I would not support it . It is not that in my view. I believe if Nick Clegg had been the Prime Minister of a Liberal Democrat government , you even , would have liked a great deal of what he might have done. I do not believe him a radical Liberal , but he is a genuine one .

    I believe we can do politics very differently . I am not on the economic right , but do believe government should be more about helping than hindering , but that does not mean helping the fattest cats of capitalism get fatter ! Equally it does not mean hindering our economic dynamism.

    It is about balance . The balance of probabilities is we agree with each other or do not , issue by issue , but do so in a friendly , plucky way !

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Aug '16 - 12:37am

    Lorenzo Cherin

    If I thought the movement towards lower taxes for the lowest paid was a move to the economic right , I would not support it . It is not that in my view.

    In the 2010 manifesto it was put clearly that the increase in income tax allowance would be balanced by higher taxes elsewhere. That is fine, it is a position I myself had argued in favour of before. Note, it is not quite “lower taxes for the lowest paid”, because it benefits the higher paid as well, and it does not benefit those whose pay is so low they are below the income tax allowance anyway.

    However, when the coalition put it through, the balancing bit about higher taxes elsewhere was taken out, and it was made out that the Liberal Democrats were a party of tax cuts rather than rebalancing tax. If it was put that it was a compromise, that the Tories wanted other tax cuts, and we had insisted that if there were tax cuts they would have to be that one, that too would be fine, but it wasn’t.

    Pushing the idea that we a party that supports tax cuts without anything to balance them is a dangerous shift to the economic right. Tax cuts have to be paid for by cuts in government services, and I believe we have already reached the point where government services have been cut to the bone and beyond. Morale in the NHS and other public services is at rock bottom, because there simply is no room for more cuts, and the cuts that are now being made are dangerous.

    The economic right have been insisting for decades that cuts can be made, because introducing privatisation and competition will reduce costs. It is becoming more and more obvious that that does not work, it just induces stress and misery. The big bloated bureaucracy in our society now is not public services, but the private bureaucracy called the “finance industry”.

    There was one great big cut in government spending made by the coalition, and that was the ending of direct financing of universities, replacing it by the tuition fees system. It was this cut that enabled cuts in taxation to be made. So for the Liberal Democrat leadership to claim that was our policy all along was a direct reversal of that pledge that we would not cut university subsidy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Aug '16 - 12:59am

    Lorenzo Cherin

    Actually Matthew , to be honest , my only strong disagreement with those more to the left of our party , is their seeming to say those not of that ilk , do not have a place , which I think they do .

    Well, there you go, showing your bias. You do not seem to realise that it is more the other way round, those to the right of the party holding political views that were once more associated with the Conservative Party than the Liberal Party have been the ones arguing that people like me, long-standing members of the party, do not have a place in it any more.

    See, for example here about Richard Reeves, who Nick Clegg appointed as Director of Strategy for our party. He was appointed after he had already written an article saying that people with what were mainstream Liberal Democrat opinion should not be in the party and should leave it and join the Labour Party.

    He repeated that point in 2012 in his article here in the New Statesman. This was a deeply offensive article because it poured scorn on the hard work of people like myself, and ignored what our real positions are, using the lines against us that our political enemies used to use, and using the phrase “true liberal” for what is in effect Thatcherite economics.

    It was after this that I could no longer remain active in the party. How could I remain active when the Leader appointed as Director of Strategy someone whose main strategy was to urge me to leave the party and join Labour?

    Yet there has been no apology from him and those like him for the fact that their claim that moving the party towards a Thatcherite approach to economics would win over a whole load of new support has proved to be completely wrong. There has been no apology for the fact that pushing this line was just about the worst thing that could have been done when we were in a position where we inevitably be accused of having shifted become just another form of Tory party, so actually we needed to stand up and make clear we were not, and that the Coalition was formed out of necessity (because no other government was viable) rather than because really we agreed all along with Tory policy.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Aug '16 - 2:00am

    Matthew Huntbach

    I can happily engage with you , and am endeavouring to do so thus,but would do so more enthusiastically ,if you would not have both a preconceived notion of the individual you are speaking to , and if you would not take an absolutist position.

    So , firstly , you say , I am showing bias, on a comment I make , why presume my reason is that ? Secondly , you immediately say ,no it is the other way round , in response to something I say , which is not about black and white or right and wrong or fact and fiction.

    All we are offering is our views.

    There is much truth in your economic based criticisms of coalition policy . I would not have cut as Osbourne did , nor reduced the tax on income at the top , even by 5%.We need more spending where it counts on the whole , not less , but savings can be made at times and there is waste.

    I agree on the funding of public services , but do not blame privatisation or competition, though the successes are variable , I blame the fact that we do not integrate all providers , public and private , offering everyone the best of everything, free at the point of use. And the fact that we do not massively invest in the services where it counts in actual delivery.

    My wife has suffered greatly for poor treatment on the NHS, having been injured in a car accident in which the driver mounted the pavement and knocked her down, a nightmare I was present for ! Years later she has permanent effects. She , years later still needs therepies she rarely , gets , affordable for the NHS, not always to us , privately. She some time ago asked the GP for a referral to physio, waited ages, told she would have to travel a bit of a way on a bus . Got a handful of , get what you are given, appointments , in a hospital environment lacking space. Meanwhile two minutes walk from our flat , is a sole trader , private practice , physio, not being utilised by the NHS. How about buying her in as they do in every major health care system in the western world ?! Not big private multinational health care firms , practitioners , and not for profit clinics , and hospitals . Nuffield and BUPA are not for profit , buy them in , not necessarily as competition, as co operation !

    In addition, on the right not wanting you in the party , more than the left not wanting me in it , I could not care less , as long as you know that is not my view , and if I learn it is not yours .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Aug '16 - 2:26am

    Matthew Huntbach

    I do not think you should care what someone said about something years ago or whenever. You are far too experienced and eloquent to give a … Clarke Gable in Gone With The Wind ! I am sure you know what I am referring to !

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin “David Raw , well to the left of me on here , has a sense of mischief in his criticisms of those he thinks of as to the right . If you developed that , you would find it a way to deal with your understandable frustration at the way things have gone” .
    Incorrect, Mr Cherin. Wrong way round. You’re to the right of me……. as are the many recent Mrs Thatcher’s children ‘economic liberals’ who joined the party in the years since Mr Clegg became leader.

    I joined the Liberal Party in 1961. My views are what was then regarded as mainstream Liberal under Jo Grimond. I remember (you were still a gleam in your Daddy’s eye then) that Jo would begin speech after speech with the phrase, “The Liberal Party is a radical party. We are a party of reform”. He would ridicule the notion of a British nuclear weapon. We regarded Gaitskell’s Labour Party as small ‘c’ conservative.

    Now I know the party well……five times a Councillor holding a Cabinet post… worked for the Deputy Leader of the party. In the early days I knew Lucy Masterman, widow of a member of Asquith’s Cabinet, and believe me she understood and articulated all of that radicalism.

    Take it from me the party has changed and moved to the right – sadly at a time when the power of corporate greed and the wealthy 1% (including Branson and Green) have become tax exiles… as have the media moguls who churn out Brexit venom. They need more scrutiny to their over mightiness and exploitation yet somehow collect knighthoods. If they paid tax your wife might have got better medical treatment…. and to cap it all Mr Clegg now joins forces with Andrew Lansley of the Health and Social Care Act fame.

    Matthew Huntbach and Expats are worth listening to. They tell it straight even though you and others don’t want to hear it. We live in an unequal world and an unequal society. Don’t be surprised if people like Matthew and I get cross when we see what we worked for for fifty years taken advantage of by people who in five short years nearly destroyed it.

    As to mischief, if we didn’t laugh we would cry. We don’t need nicey nicey therapy…. we just want our party back.

  • Barry Snelson 30th Aug '16 - 5:41pm

    David Raw,
    I appreciate your views but the world has radically changed since 1961 and Britain has changed more than most.
    I am 65 and I recall the Liberals as being seen as firmly in the centre. There really was a “Left”and it was ably represented by Arthur Scargil, Mick McGahey and countless others.
    I was a very junior engineer in a major engineering works on Scotswood Road in the heart of ‘Red Tyneside’, in the 70’s. It was a nightmare getting anything done or any improvements made. I recall being sent on an errand to give the Works Convenor an envelope and went down to the fitting shop. I asked a chap where the Convenor worked, His reply was – “He doesn’t work anywhere lad, but that’s the bench he leaves his bait on”.
    The factory is, of course, no more. The last time I drove down Scotswood Road the site of the machine shop is an Audi garage, But Charlie Parsons went as well, and Churchill Machine Tools across the river and Swans and Smiths and all the rest.
    So I can get angry too at the notion of a golden age. At the slightest hint of automation or efficiency there would be a walk out. No wonder so much of our engineering heritage gave up the unequal struggle.
    In the 90’s the average worker realised that the “Red Left” was a blind alley and a guarantee of unemployment and it is they who have moved to a more pragmatic place, and the LibDems with them, not some right wing interlopers stealing the party heritage.
    It must be time to put this “I am the true Liberal and you are a Right/Left wing fanatic (delete as appropriate)” aside and listen to each other. All parts of the party need each other.
    We need prosperity to share amongst everyone. To continue to covet the billionaires’ wealth is pure futility. They will ensure you don’t get a penny of it. The tax take will come from your next door neighbour and nowhere else.

  • David Evans 30th Aug '16 - 6:42pm

    Barry, but when a billionaire steals a massive part of a company’s prosperity for himself and his wife, who lives in a tax haven to avoid paying as much tax as possible, should Liberals not do everything they can to get a fair share back? That can never be coveting, surely?

  • David Allen 30th Aug '16 - 7:37pm

    The Tories don’t do tribalism. They don’t waste time arguing that Bill Cash and Ken Clarke can’t possibly belong in the same party. Tories don’t say that they can’t work with the posh boys (before the referendum), or without the posh boys (after the referendum). Thye pull together, and they achieve enough unity to hold on to power. Big changes, like the defenestration of Cameron by May, are done without risking the loss of power.

    We do tribalism. Of course, we blame Labour for being tribalist, and point to things like our support for PR as demonstrating that we aren’t the guys who are to blame for tribalism. Meanwhile Labour blame us for being the tribalists, and point to us as a smaller party which ought to just pack it in and join their big tent. The saintly Caroline Lucas laments tribalism at great length, and talks about working with others – while steadfastly promoting a small splinter party all of her own.

    The Tories win. Their opponents lose. They lose despite winning more votes, because they have thrown away their chances.

    But never mind. What really matters to most of us is our peacock stance, the fact that we each have a precious and highly individual political opinion, which defines who we are. It gives us each as individuals a secure identity, a personality, a reason for living, an assured status as a leading liberal, or socialist, or environmentalist, or whatever. Never mind that because of our precious individualism and tribalism, we have no power, and the grossly rich are getting richer at everyone else’s expense.

  • Barry Snelson 30th Aug '16 - 7:41pm

    David,
    Of course I am not on the side of multi billionaires.
    My biological problem is that I am an engineer by training and instinct and the arch pragmatist. I see so much talent in this party. Not the knuckle dragging Tory “sod you jack, I’m all right” or the champagne socialists who live high on the London hog.
    The Libdems show some real thought and insight (as evidenced by lots of posts here and on the private site).
    But so much of that talent is wasted in pointless emotion. Any number of politicians (and none politicians) from across the spectrum say they will fund a public services revival by “closing tax loopholes and making those with funds offshore pay their fair share because there is billions there”.
    The next step is to ask them how – EXACTLY. Then the face goes blank, silence, just a bit of blinking. Most making this claim struggle to fill in a cheque properly but they are going to take on the smartest accountants and tycoons on the planet and succeed where countless other administrations have failed.
    Is this the party that will roar into the political void or stay the one with “the box full of wishes and for dreams that will never come true”?
    So I fall out (a little bit) with some because I fear this is the party that is too idealistic to be of any practical use to the British public, and that public is crying out for leadership that isn’t dog eat dog capitalism or Venezuelan Socialism. We can fill that void.
    Personally, if I had to tackle the offshore tax problem i would
    1) set up register of all LibDem members who have talents and skills they would offer (there is a lot of experience out there)
    2) establish “Attack Groups” focused on selected targets (like this) from those volunteers
    3) these would not be policy groups (God forbid) but teams of subject matter experts brainstorming options (not policy)
    4) the objective – to make the Party the best informed and with the most watertight plans.

    As a guide, aim to be the exact opposite of the Brexiteers.

  • David Allen 30th Aug '16 - 8:10pm

    Lorenzo Cherin: “You have singled out a group in our party and attacked them. …
    Those you perceive to have , in your own words , infiltrated , taken over, and destroyed our party! … But you have not learnt something many of us have …. This party has never been infiltrated , taken over , destroyed or otherwise trampled on ! …. A party is its members. … Nick Clegg… is a fellow Liberal.”

    Well Lorenzo, do you think that Labour has ever been infiltrated and taken over by anyone who has trampled on its core beliefs and purposes? Would you say that since Jeremy Corbyn, and Derek Hatton, and (for that matter) Tony Blair were all members of the Labour Party, none of them could never be validly accused of infiltration, or acting against Labour’s core principles and purposes?

    In truth, many Militant or Socialist Worker politicians would boast of their prowess as party infiltrators and wreckers. Blair, likewise, eventually admitted that his purpose had been to convert Labour to a form of Thatcherism. Joining Labour in order to trash it has been practised by many! Are the Lib Dems immune from similar entryism?

    I don’t believe they are. I won’t comment on the specific case of Clegg, because I want this post to get posted.

  • Barry, I hear what you say and take your point.

    However, given your Tyneside connections, don’t you see the absurdity of the Mike Ashley revolution in methods of employment and the exploitation of people – which he compounds with a Wonga slogan on a once proud black and white shirt ?

    There still are some over-mighty Lambton Worms about that need dealing with – and only politics can do that – there are no John Lambtons about.

  • Barry Snelson 30th Aug '16 - 8:39pm

    David Raw,
    Again, I think we have the expertise to focus on tackling the increasing casualisation of the workforce (which I also deplore). But we have to have smart answers for the obvious retort “I’ll sack them all – will you be happy then?”. We must have party members who could review contract law and propose plausible (and again watertight) revision to it. We could propose a new “Key Clause” that all new employment contracts must include and a timescale for back fitting such a clause in existing contracts. I don’t know but I have a feeling that lurking in our membership base there will be just the subject matter experts we need, who could work it out (in a darkened room with lots of coffee).
    Perhaps a corporation tax algorithm that takes account of employee service and “rewards” employers who “invest” in employees.
    We have fixed tax percentages – 20%, 40% etc
    Why?
    With the crudest computers we can have variable percentages so a business could “accumulate” tax benefit by deploying the behaviours we want to encourage (and vice versa).
    Anyway, I just have a feeling that this party is stuffed with latent talent just waiting for leadership and direction.

  • Barry Snelson 30th Aug '16 - 8:47pm

    David,
    As to the ‘Toon’, I remember talking to a “long-suffering” Newcastle United supporter (are there any other types?).
    He said the new Leazes End Stand was marvellous, but it faced the wrong way. If it faced outwards, he said, you could at least watch the ducks in Leazes Park.

  • Barry, I appreciate the sentiment in your reply, but why then do you refer to it as coveting, which has the typical Tory subtext of envy. They use it as a debate stopper by attacking the opponent while pretending to attack the concept. As for pools of experts, you are talking to a qualified accountant and auditor who worked in Financial services for too long. All I can say is many are available, but few are chosen.

    Referring further back to your comment on polling organisations, methinks there is just a bit too much dismissing what evidence there is because it contradicts what is possibly a fondly held preconception, rather than an objective assessment by an expert evaluating the quality of the evidence there is on both sides. You will note that Paul B has kept quiet since his original assertion – he often does.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Aug '16 - 10:16pm

    Barry Nelson

    Any number of politicians (and none politicians) from across the spectrum say they will fund a public services revival by “closing tax loopholes and making those with funds offshore pay their fair share because there is billions there”.

    Er, no, not really. A few mostly on the left maybe, nearly always those who have never been involved in government. It is obvious that if this was easy to do, it would have been done. A loophole almost always involves an unexpected use of something that is there for a good reason, and whenever you introduce something new, chances are you have introduced a new loophole, they will never go away.

    So, I would always say that though it’s good to try and reduce loopholes, one should never rely on that being possible and covering everythung. That’s why I’m always quite clear myself, if we are to improve public services we must be honest and be clear that they will need to be paid for, and that will mean taxes that fall on ordinary people.

    If people aren’t willing to pay taxes, well, they will end up having to pay for it in some other way. We have a very good example of this: university tuition fees, introduced because people were to willing to pay enough taxes to fund universities as well as increasing health and pensions payments.

    However, I would say that the number of politicians who say what you mention here is balanced by the number who are always saying that public services can be improved without tax rises because there is always bureaucracy that can be removed, or competition introduced that will drive prices down. Well, this can’t be done forever, and I rather think we have gone beyond the point where there is more to squeeze this way.

    I remember when I was a councillor there was a cycle whereby one year consultants would be brought in and say the way to reduce costs was to centralise purchase, and so benefit from economy of scale, and another year consultants would be brought in and say the way to reduce costs was to decentralise purchase, and so benefit from individual knowledge and competition. So, if one believed them, one could reduce costs forever by perpetually centralising and decentralising. All it actually did was increase costs due to the overhead of making the adjustment, and earn the consultants fat fees. No consultant, of course would ever say “Actually, you’re doing things just fine, no change needed”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Aug '16 - 10:23pm

    Lorenzo Cherin

    Meanwhile two minutes walk from our flat , is a sole trader , private practice , physio, not being utilised by the NHS. How about buying her in as they do in every major health care system in the western world ?!

    Er, yes, and my wife has a physical condition that is helped by osteopathy, which is not available on the NHS, so she pays £40 weekly for treatment. So why not buy in those osteopaths?

    Well, it’s going to cost money, isn’t it? If the £40 per week is paid by the NHS rather than my wife personally (or me for her …), it’s going to have to be raised, so there’s £40 a week extra taxation on someone (maybe £60 a week taxation on me, as a higher than average earner).

    Sorry, but what you’ve written here completely contradicts what you wrote previously about supporting tax cuts. You can’t do that and simultaneously buy in all these private practitioners, at least not unless you make big cuts elsewhere.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Aug '16 - 1:46am

    David Raw

    You make so many good points , I do not know why you think someone who is to the centre left on two thirds of economic policy does not agree with you , ie me ! nor why you feel the need to convince someone who you called a Liberal friend.I have more understanding of politics than you know , so just extolling the virtues of your distinguished cv impresses a lot but would not that be true of many of us …

    Active in politics from fourteen years old when Putney Labour party let me join early despite their rules because of enthusiam

    A degree in politics and history from London University , including LSE, amongst three colleges of that university , attending and studying in

    At one of those London University Colleges,
    Elected President of the Student Union

    Held office on several committees of both the Labour party , and over many years , the Liberal Democrats

    Council candidate for the Liberal Democrats ,….

    David , what does it prove , I listen to you and my elders , but am the same generation as Nick and Tim, not a school boy rightwinger ! I was a school boy centre left activist and am a , young middle aged variation on a theme !

    Barry Snelson

    Your post comments above about your history , as with your respect for fellow members which I try and show at all times as a proponent of individuality and unity , inspires me, thank you!

    Matthew Huntbach

    We are getting somewhere now ,and as often your views are worth agreeing with or understanding, in their substance , but progress is seen in that you only try to catch me out once in your most recent bit! However , you are mistaken , I have not argued , for ,therefore not contradicted myself , on , , across the board tax cuts ! I state above that I agreed with the cut in the basic rate , or the raising the threshold, but disagreed with the cut in the top rate . I have many times shown my support for a raft of revenue raising , policies …

    A health tax on earnings as a progressive hypothecated tax

    A tax on mass ownership of land based on amount of land not on the basis of one property

    An increase in corporation tax to the level under the Major government

    A cap on the jackpot of the lottery at one million pounds , and a public private deal to run it and receive the revenue massively increased due to the jackpot cap

    An international agreement attempted on off shoring and tax havens …

  • Barry Snelson 31st Aug '16 - 8:28am

    David Evans,
    You make my point. You (and many other members I am sure) have the experience and talents to produce serious and thought through proposals on the key questions of the day and should be brigaded into teams and thrown into action instead of sitting watching the leadership looking for new tangents to go off on.
    Sorry.
    I’m calling for a bit of sound party management as the basis of good leadership.

    I have to observe that the posts now seem to have moved from swapping accusations to exposing the latent talents and constructive opinions of all the posters.
    A healthy party needs a spectrum of opinions respectfully exchanged. The alternative is “group think” where we all think the same. Incidentally a natural weakness of the Tories and one we could usefully exploit against them.
    Like Matthew, I despise management consultants and believe that much greater benefits come from worker led improvement teams and a process of peer reviews.
    As to tax, Matthew is again correct but my instincts are that we should put lots more effort into increasing the pool of wealth from which we abstract that tax rather than increasing the proportion from a diminishing pool.

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Aug '16 - 9:55am

    Barry Snelson

    As to tax, Matthew is again correct but my instincts are that we should put lots more effort into increasing the pool of wealth from which we abstract that tax rather than increasing the proportion from a diminishing pool.

    How? Are you suggesting here (it seems like it) the Tory line that wealth is created by a small group of people who have talents but will somehow just stay in bed and not use them if they are taxed? So the Tories are trying to use the phrase “wealth creator” for people who are simply rich. How do we know these people are not actually wealth absorbers, by taking wealth away from those who could otherwise be using it creatively?

    If you spread wealth more widely, it will be used more widely. We have had the notion that reducing tax on the wealthy will make them more creative and productive going for years, and where is the evidence that it has led to a more productive society on the whole than the one we had before the Thatcher era? Economic growth was actually higher when income tax was higher.

    I don’t believe that creativity is restricted to a small bunch of aristocrats who must be coddled. The best way to get more people to exercise their creativity is to build a society where they feel safe to do so, rather than scared all the time. So that needs a welfare state, council housing as a fallback option, and so on. If you don’t have that, people being scared that they experiment with new things and fail will instead stick to the safe options. How much creativity is being stifled, for example, because people are paying huge mortgages to the wealth absorbers and so must take safe option jobs rather than experiment with creativity and real wealth creation? How much creativity is being lost because the young have no money left to invest in new ideas after paying huge rents to the wealth absorbers?

    The optimism of the 1960s and willingness to try out new ideas was very much connected with the more equal society we had then. Our unequal society, the most unequal in western Europe, is stifling creativity and real wealth creation. If you look now, creative new businesses seem to be started only by those with highly elite backgrounds, and hence wealth and security. People are being enslaved by poverty, and we as Liberals are meant to be against that sort of thing.

  • Great post, Matthew, though frankly I feel the party has changed and Mrs. Thatcher’s children are taking over…. they did it to Blair’s Labour and they’ve done it to us.

    Weeding the garden suddenly seems quite enticing.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Aug '16 - 1:50pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    Excellent analysis and compassion, I agree with it and concur with every point,but you should not so readily presume to know the mindset of someone , Barry Snelson did not appear to me to be saying what you imply , but that , as you show , if more of us who are trying to create wealth could get to , there would be more wealth to tax , and we would not necessariy need much higher rates of tax always.

    Let me give you an example. I am in the arts , background as a performer , moved as a result of the car accident I mentioned, more towards teaching and in recent years especially , writing as well.

    I am writing and developing both a film and a musical. The former, a low budget feature, has already started , initial filming to get intereest ,including cameos from very distinguished , well known older actors , whose support I got by writing to them. The goodwill in the performing arts , from older or other successful practitioners is prevalent ,and in our party I think, towards anyone trying to do good things.

    The latter project, is a musical adaptation of a very important book , for which I have already written the music and lyrics, and it , as a subject of great social concern, has , never been turned into a modern and popular musical .I have real interest and enthusiasm for it from creative people , as well as a leading west end director having agreed to open doors for me if I get the thing together in a format to market it.

    I need some capital , not much , but a few thousand , to film the film , market the musical. I cannot get a bank to touch me because I , as a result of the circumstances and aftermath of the car accident , subsequent work trajectory and financial loss, have an agreed overdraft at my bank , which lowers my credit rating . No ccj s , no outstanding debts , but the computers do not rate me !

    When people think I am right wing it hurts me . When even David Raw thinks some of us are Thatchers children despite what I wrote above that gets ignored it saddens me.

    I am radical , believe me .

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Aug '16 - 1:55pm

    David Raw

    Thanks. Sometimes when I read stuff here I wonder if I’m getting it wrong, and maybe the Liberal Party was much more right-wing than I supposed when I first joined it, and was active in the NLYL up to the merger with the SDP (a member of its national executive at the time of the merger). In those days, younger members of the party tended to be to its left, now younger members of the party seem to be exclusively on its economic right, due to them having grown up seeing that pushed forward as what our party is all about, and that being the only sort who wants to join now.

    So when someone like you who was a member for even longer than I was confirms what I say and what I remember, it’s a great comfort.

    In the past, much of what I have written here wouldn’t need to have been written because it could just be assumed that all members of the party would understand the point and be in accord with its general principle. Of course there was a variety of views, but not like now when you come here and it seems people who feel so accord with the party that they put its logo next to their names find what I say incomprehensible or see it as the mark of someone who is against the essence of their political stand.

    For me, what happened is that I was active in the party nationally until the merger, came back into activity as a councillor, but in that position didn’t pay much attention to what was happening in the party nationally. It was only when the leadership election that made Clegg the leader happened that I came here and became involved in on-line discussion, and I was quite shocked at how there seemed to have been a big shift.

    One of the things that particularly shocked me was that many just seemed to assume that right-wing economics was what the Liberal Party was about, and a more centrist position what theSDP was about, so the difference in opinion in the Liberal Democrats derived from that, whereas we know that if anything it was the other way round. To me the fact that this utter falsehood is now taken by many as accepted truth is a sign of something very sinister, as I’ve said, an Orwellian re-writing of history.

  • Barry Snelson 31st Aug '16 - 1:59pm

    Matthew,
    I didn’t say how. I certainly didn’t say that we should all fall in obeisance to the already wealthy. I do have ideas as to how we can ignite a second industrial revolution and they are not far away from yours but they are too lengthy to share here and they would not get any sort of constructive response. I am not sure anything I say gets a constructive response.
    But no matter. I tried my best.
    Let us part as friends.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Aug '16 - 2:06pm

    Barry Snelson

    Read my comments and you shall see you get a constructive response from some of us !

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Aug '16 - 2:09pm

    Lorenzo Cherin

    In respect to your last message, in the past there would have been government (national and local) funds that might have supported you.

    No longer. This is the sort of thing that goes when cuts are made. Local councils have had their funding cut to the bone, they can only pay for absolute necessities these days, and don’t really have enough funding to that properly.

    The reality is that private financiers are free to do what they like, and if they think there’s too much risk in funding something, they won’t.

  • Barry Snelson 31st Aug '16 - 2:41pm

    Lorenzo,
    Thank you for your kind words and best of luck with your project. Our creative arts (and software) are amongst our most productive wealth generators and would be encouraged in a “New Britain”. Keep knocking on doors. JK Rowling had at least eight rejections before the little firm of Bloomsbury gave her a chance (now a very big firm!).

  • @ Barry Snelson,

    Given that I have Mackem Sympathies (Granddad was down the pit at Hetton-le-Hole) , I enjoyed your comments about the toon !!

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