Can we please just concentrate on fighting Brexit, not internal party processes

There are not enough swear words in the world to describe my reaction when I read this Mirror story today about Vince’s alleged plan to open up the party leadership to non MPs.

He wants to scrap or amend an obscure part of the party’s constitution which states only an MP can take the helm.

The move, which is likely to be put to the party after summer recess and could be debated at the annual conference in Brighton in September, would mean a non-politician could become leader, scuppering ambitions of Sir Vince’s rivals on the Commons’ benches.

It may or may not be in Vince’s mind. We will not know until he tells us. But we do know for sure that the rules won’t change at this Conference. How? Well, LDV’s Federal Conference Committee Correspondent Zoe O’Connell said:

Only Conference can change the Constitution. The next Conference after Brighton takes place in York from 15-17 March 2019. That’s two weeks before Brexit is scheduled to happen. If we say to the country at that crucial point in our history that we’re going to debate our leadership rules, then that makes Nero fiddling while Rome burned look like a productive use of time.

This is not saying anything about the merits or otherwise of the proposal. It’s simply that we will be at a time of national crisis and need to be focusing on how the hell we’re going to put this divided country back together again.

I was wondering who leaked this to the Mirror. It doesn’t make sense for anyone round Vince to do it. I’m sure someone in his inner circle has the common sense to know that if you want to take the party on your journey, especially this party full of process geeks, the way to do it is not to bounce them into it on the front page of the tabloid press. He spoke to the Federal Board about the general political and party scene recently and this was not part of what he told us. However, he was on good form, he did take questions and he spoke like he wanted to be there, unlike previous leaders I could mention.

He has certainly made it clear that he wants the party to change. Just last week, he wrote for us:

Politics itself is evolving quickly, with movements becoming as important as parties. I see that as an opportunity not a threat. An opportunity for us to grow, and to become the vehicle for millions of voices across the country. I have taken advice from the experts who worked with Justin Trudeau in Canada and Emmanuel Macron in France to see how we can replicate their success

This summer I will be carefully considering that advice and I know that the Federal People Development Committee is already looking at a range of options for party reforms aimed at broadening our tent and building a movement for change. You will be hearing more on these plans in the coming months.

The centrepiece of his ideas is a registered supporters scheme. It’s not a new idea. It’s been knocking about in various forms for years.

Federal People Development Chair chair Miranda Roberts, in her recent report, went into a bit more detail about how her committee is examining this in more detail. :

Then we came to the largest agenda item, the idea of a registered supporters scheme.

This idea has been knocking around for a long time in the Party. The eagle-eared among you may remember that Vince expressed a desire to introduce this scheme in his speech to Southport conference earlier this year.

I’m going to cut a very long story short here, and say simply that the Federal Board discussed this and asked FPDC to look into the idea and produce some recommendations. Those recommendations will come to an informal consultation meeting for members at Brighton conference (provisionally on Saturday lunchtime) and we will make sure that there is an online way for people who can’t attend in person to feed in their thoughts too.

FPDC had a really interesting and constructive first discussion on this idea. Everyone was clear that any new initiative needs to be backed by research and data and not assumptions. There is a clear interest for everyone in engaging more people who share our values in our party. If the cost of being a registered supporter is free, or less than our minimum membership fee, it might also be easier for a more diverse range of people to afford. But obviously there are risks too, and we need to consider those carefully to ensure that if this goes ahead, it is done well, with a clear structure and offer that differs from membership.

This is a million miles away from letting a non MP stand as leader, though.

But back to the question of who has been talking about this to the Mirror. As I said above, it doesn’t really make sense for it to have been someone in his circle. So that means it could have been someone who let it slip out by accident, or it is someone actively trying to undermine him.

During the coalition years, I got sick to death of anonymous briefing, mainly about Vince and Tim Farron.

Let’s just not go there. We generally do pretty well for a broad church of wide ranging views so let’s just keep it that way.

We don’t get a lot of column inches. It’s important that the space we do carve out for ourselves is as the leaders of the movement that will end this Brexit shambles and offer a vision of hope for those people who are really struggling Let’s not waste the opportunity.

But for amusement’s sake, Total Politics had the leadership under Vince’s new rules as a three horse race:

Gina Miller, who led the successful court challenge to force a parliamentary vote on Brexit, has been tipped as a potential candidate should the leadership be opened to those outwith parliament. She has spoken at Lib Dem events in the past but isn’t known to have shown any interest in getting elected.

Willie Rennie has been a success as leader of the Scottish Lib Dems and would be in the running to take over the party nationally. The only Lib Dem currently in government is Kirsty Williams, the party’s sole representative in the Welsh Assembly where she also serves as education secretary.

None of these people have ever expressed a desire to lead the UK party.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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70 Comments

  • Ian Patterson 27th Jul '18 - 8:44pm

    Where to begin. This is a non starter. If for the sake of argument it happened, the Press would latch on to idea that the extra parliamentary leader lacked authority as not in HofC. Would our ‘Floor Leader’ there be a souped up Chief Whip taking orders from somebody else. Whoever is coming up with these none to bright ideas in the Leader’s Office or Circle needs to have a lie down in a darkened room somewhere.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jul '18 - 9:06pm

    “This is TOO silly” as was often said in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
    The Mirror is loyally Labour.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Jul '18 - 9:11pm

    I don’t think it is a bad to look at doing things radically differently. I would perhaps be careful about extrapolating too much from the French and Canadians as they are not comparable to us – Macron being in a run-off against a fascist did himself a great deal of favours. The Canadians had been one of the two main parties and had fallen from grace temporarily and even with an open leadership election they managed to elect someone who was practically their royalty and an MP.

    It may have its attractions but is it our number 1 priority right now? I think not.

  • When times look dark it is often easier to pretend they are not, and concentrate on an irrelevance. I think this is a classic case of that.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jul '18 - 9:22pm

    There are many priorities which these horribly divided era reveal.

    Of those none is bigger than offering an exciting third force.

    Sir Vince has read my contributions herein obviously as I am one amongst few advocating these ideas.

    UKIP, the Greens, all small parties and most big parties in most countries have a leader of the party and a parliamentary group leader.

    Nicola Sturgeon is the leader of the Scottish National party, which most people could not name an mp for but do know her.

    Those of us who want an alternative to the far right or left want it Brexit or not.

  • Vince floats poorly-thought through ideas with no regard for due process of the party.

    It’s hardly surprising or new – see for example Mansion Tax.

  • This Mirror article should be marked with “00” in the margin as by Jim Hacker’s secretary

  • The last time we tried this it wasn’t a great success – Lord Rosebery in 1895. Far too rich, right wing – a bit erratic, mood swings and generally indecisive and incompetent. I’m sure we could find somebody who fits that profile………. But……..

    On the other hand, it is the press summer silly season and I wouldn’t get too fussed about it Caron.

  • I find it very difficult to believe that VC would have gone to the lengths he has to attract a leader of the ilk of those mentioned so far. If the person is to attract disgruntled Labour and Tory MPs to the Party – it would have to be someone considered of much greater stature.

    The non politician Mr T Blair seems the most obvious choice.

    He has, after all, worked for the benefit of Global Corporate interest before – and it is they who are most eager for the UK to stay in the EU.

  • Innocent Bystander 27th Jul '18 - 11:59pm

    David Milliband?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jul '18 - 12:03am

    I love how radical they who think they are, are, when a relitively moderate idea is thought so radical!

    How about reading what I said about most parties here and abroad, and not bring up the nineteenth c or the Daily Mirror but see Sir Vince as what he is, someone trying to open the party to people other than a dozen in seats that they serve well as mps but were so keen to be leader that…he was the only candidate!

  • Ian Patterson 28th Jul '18 - 12:34am

    @Lorenzo Cherin – we actually mislaid seats at 2017 GE, Hallam, Southport, Ceredigion, Leeds NW and Richmond. And nearly lost Westmorland but for the grace of calling out the northern counties to go and preserve Tim. I know I was there in the back woods of Cunbria. We are meant to be a 100,000 plus party. Aside from press items and threads on this site, the membership is being kept in the dark about what if anything is going on. Someone somewhere should yes it is a goer or no it’s a media concoction. The long suffering membership should be in the loop on proposals of this magnitude, not as an optional extra to be patrionised by the Party Leadership.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jul '18 - 1:21am

    Ian as with Caron there is much to agree with, my feeling is Sir Vince is exploring ideas in private to see what he and others think, but leaks are everywhere in media and parties. With our poll ratings very poor, who should blame our leader for looking at things with new ideas, yes ones he can and must share and the party could and might agree with…..

  • Ian Patterson 28th Jul '18 - 1:40am

    Lorenzo – since neither of us is a member of a rural whist club, the leadership of OUR Party is not to be hawked around whichever media luvvie is flavour of the month. I have not spent the last 30 years of my life in the Lib Dem’s to have it’s leadership reduced to the status of a raffle prize for the Metropolitian elite.

  • Philip Knowles 28th Jul '18 - 7:44am

    While we have low members of MPS we don’t have much choice of leader and it may be better to widen the field. Besides the leader of the SNP doesn’t sit at Westminster.
    As for the timing, normal life has to continue during the Brexit shenanigans. The 1944 Education Act was passed in the middle of a war.
    I don’t think Vince has taken his eye off the ball yet.

  • adrian sanders 28th Jul '18 - 7:56am

    Getting some media coverage for something other than our perceived obsession with Brexit is to be welcomed, especially in parts of the country that voted overwhelmingly to leave and have seen a significant loss of former support. I will campaign against leaving the EU because I am an internationalist, but not to the exclusion of all else. To leavers, and most of the electors I speak to locally voted leave, we are no longer seen as a progressive party of reform but a conservative party resisting change they voted for. There is some movement among the electorate away from belligerent faith in Brexit towards considering a vote on the deal (or no deal) but it is tiny and we need to broaden who we are and what we stand for if we want more bums on seats in Council chambers and Parliament. The reform agenda – electoral, party funding, House of Lords, bill of rights, devolution, written constitution etc, and including how we govern our own party – should be a a major part of that, if winning more seats is what the Party wants, then getting some media coverage for something other than Brexit should be welcomed not criticised.

  • Yeovil Yokel 28th Jul '18 - 8:01am

    One way to look at this is that it’s a compliment to Vince. The next General Election could be very tight and perhaps the Mirror sees the Lib Dems as a future threat in some Labour Remain seats and has concocted this story to undermine the Party and Vince’s leadership. Caron is right to be “fussed about it”, David Raw, because it may succeed in keeping some wavering voters within the Labour fold.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jul '18 - 8:10am

    A couple of years ago it was rumoured (Private Eye) that senior Lib Dems were sounding out colleagues for the replacement of Tim Farron by Nick Clegg. Perhaps this “alleged plan” is another opportunity for The Second Coming:

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jul '18 - 8:14am

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

    (courtesy of W.B. Yeats)

  • I’ve seen a few supposed leaks in the past few months on the subject of the leadership, and they’ve all come across as someone trying to stir the pot, with that someone not being sympathetic to our cause.

    I’m not saying that some “leaks” don’t stem from a real comment by a real person, but IMO the published stories look far more credible to those who are less familiar with what’s going on in the party, so I’m just assuming that most of this comes from, or is at least mainly written by “outsiders”.

    As for the non-MP leader concept. I’d say there is a preference that they are an MP, but I can see that being bound by that could pose problems, especially in times when we don’t have many MPs. When we have fewer MPs, they are all multi-tasking, and having to keep on top of their briefs, do constituency work, media appearances, and squeeze in the odd vote. Some may wish to spend time with their families. There would be benefits to lightening the load. However, it does risk sending out the message that we are short on MPs, so swings and roundabouts. I would say that as an absolute minimum, it should be someone who does, or who has, held elected office.

    I can’t say I know much about the leadership structure of the party, but if it’s about lightening the load, or bringing other faces to the forefront, maybe there are other options?

  • Fiona White 28th Jul '18 - 8:30am

    While I don’t agree with the idea of the party being led by someone outside the parliamentary party, it is a personal opinion and I have no problem with a debate taking place. This is not the time. It would be a distraction from the Brexit discussions. The outcome of Brexit will affect this country for a very long time. We should make opposition to Brexit our main priority. After that are important issues of housing, education, health and social care (not necessarily in that order). Everyone can add their own priorities to the list.

    With all that going on, this is not the time for navel gazing. The public at large do not have the way political parties are run at the top of their agenda. With all that’s going on at the moment, it shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of ours.

    If we listen to the electorate and argue our case on Brexit clearly, make their priorities our priorities and work with people so that we have sensible, workable policies we could end up with a larger parliamentary party and a much bigger choice for any future leadership election.

  • David Evans 28th Jul '18 - 8:30am

    As David Raw said, it is silly season for the press and some editors use it as an opportunity to put together a story based on the most tenuous of facts in order to have a go at something or other. The Mirror chose us and Vince as their chosen target.

    What is disappointing is that LDV bit.

  • John Marriott 28th Jul '18 - 9:06am

    Choosing a ‘Leader’ from outside Parliament happens elsewhere. I seem to think that, in Germany, when a party chooses its ‘Kanzlerkandidat’ it can legitimately choose from outside the Bundestag

  • Martin Land 28th Jul '18 - 9:08am

    Some leadership would be nice. Any leadership really.

  • John Marriott 28th Jul '18 - 9:18am

    My iPad appears to have a life of its own, hence the omission of a full stop! I was going to add that this would only occur in the run up to a ‘Bundestagwahl’. I think this is how Helmut Kohl got to be Chancellor.

    For it to happen here in mid term a vacancy would surely have to be found for the ‘anointed one’ via a Parliamentary By Election. Any volunteers to stand aside? Not a good way to treat your electorate, I would say. I remember Harold Wilson’s attempt to get Patrick Gordon Walker into his cabinet back in the 1960s after the latter had unexpectedly lost his seat in the General Election.

    I hope I’m not offending anyone when I suggest that a break from internal party matters might do some people a lot of good. END

  • nvelope2003 28th Jul '18 - 9:42am

    What happens if there are no MPS ?

  • David Westaby 28th Jul '18 - 9:51am

    It is important to put the mirror and new statesman articles in the context of media sources with well established antipathy to the LDs. At a time when the Labour Party seems to have hit its ceiling there is sense in undermining one destination for some of their voters. Local election results and now even the national polls are showing some minor nudge in our direction.Radical views need to be out there identifying a party going forward. There are very clear constitutional checks that safeguard decision making to the membership . I strongly welcome discussions arising out the box and hope vince will lead them.

  • Richard Fagence 28th Jul '18 - 10:45am

    You may find it difficult to countenance, but there really are people who actually believe what is written in the Mirror, the Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and all their Sunday equivalents. Remember the old saying: “It must be true – I read it in the paper!” Really? And isn’t the extremely anti-LD political editor of the Mirror one Kevin Maguire?

  • The paper to read at the moment – if you want a second referendum – is the Independent. This seems to occupy their entire team of journalists – for example:

    Final Say: The Independent’s second Brexit referendum petition reaches 310,000 in first three days

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-referendum-final-say-petition-vote-eu-remain-leave-theresa-may-a8467491.html

  • William Fowler 28th Jul '18 - 11:10am

    I was listening to Tony Blair’s Chatham House speech last night and I was shocked to find myself agreeing with most of what he said re delaying brexif for a few years whilst EU reformed and came back to us with a better offer to stay in. He even admitted that he might possibly have messed up on immigration but as usual offered no immediate solutions, just the promise that EU reform would sort it out in due course (hopeless from the point of view of winning over leavers)… but I really can’t see him as leader of the LibDems, too tainted by Iraq etc.

  • William Fowler: “but I really can’t see him as leader of the LibDems, too tainted by Iraq etc.”

    That might be the case for many – but perhaps not for a raft of disgruntled Labour MP who did very well under his premiership.

  • Neil Sandison 28th Jul '18 - 12:18pm

    I had hoped with Jo Swinson that some form of co-leadership would develop because with such a small number of MPs we have a very small pond to fish in and are too reliant on their lordships to deliver a viable team to shadow the Government .Having a co-leadership has not harmed the Greens and i can see no disadvantage for the Liberal Democrats in having both a Westminster team and a national team spokes person .it could be argued that this is the role of the president of the party but that seems to have become very blurred in recent years.

  • Vince Cable has been the subject of unpleasant attacks in the Labour supporting papers so he is clearly considered a threat. A good reason to keep him as leader. No doubt another leader could be found but it would take some time for them to establish themselves and that would be damaging.

  • paul barker 28th Jul '18 - 1:53pm

    In the absence of solid evidence I think we shoud see this as Silly Season/Fake News. If this was a story about Labour that would be different, The Mirror have deep links to Labour, they have no such connection with us.This is just “Journalists” filling up space.

  • Having a non MP as leader is sheer lunacy. Do we aspire to be a proper and responsible party or some kind of freak show ? This idea should be stamped and crushed with both feet

  • Matthew Severn 28th Jul '18 - 2:30pm

    We are a party that believes in the Parliamentary system and we always have, even in the dark days of post war Liberalism. How can we uphold parliamentary democracy if we dont promote it within our party.
    The more useful questions are what role do members have, who becomes a member, what role do supporters have, who becomes a supporter, what role does the public have. That is where you can really open things up.

  • “Having a co-leadership has not harmed the Greens”

    That’s true. They still have their one MP.

  • nvelope2003 28th Jul '18 - 4:28pm

    LibDemer: I do not think the Greens are some kind of freak show and I suspect the Welsh Liberal Democrats do not consider themselves to be a freak show either despite having no Westminster MPs. All ideas showed be given proper consideration. That is what the party is here for. What is the point of being like the others in every respect ? What would we do if we lost all our MPs or none of them were considered suitable ?

  • nvelope2003 28th Jul '18 - 4:36pm

    Fiona White: The obsession with Brexit could and probably is what is holding the party back. It has been going on far too long. People are sick of it. They just want it dealt with and for the parties to present workable policies on the issues that really concern them. Sadly no one here seems to understand this.

  • Of course Labour and the Tories have done it before – if other way around

    Labour had Tony Blair but many argued that Alistair Campbell was the real Prime Minister. Now the the Tories have Theresa May but many argue that it is Rees-Mogg that is the real Prime Minister calling the shots.

  • Having co-leaders worked for the Greens precisely because they have one MP, and they needed to find a way to give that one MP credibility, whilst making it easier for another high profile member to get TV gigs. I’d say it was a canny move on their part, but while we too suffer problems getting our representatives on tv, I don’t see that approach working for us.

    That said, I do think that sharing the load of leadership is always a wise move. I’d argue that it was the leadership of Willie Rennie that played a huge part in the return of a number of Scottish MPs, and to the best of my knowledge, he did so without treading on toes in Westminster.

    IMO, our biggest challenge is getting regular representation in the media, and that has to mean getting more of our MPs, MSPs, AMs, and MEPs on tv, and in the newspapers. We shouldn’t be so reliant on any single member, not even our leader, for public image. Bringing back the role of deputy leader was a good move, but understandably, Jo’s been low profile on that front lately.

  • Teresa Wilson 28th Jul '18 - 5:09pm

    I’ve no idea whether Vince said this or anything like it, who leaked it to the Mirror, other whether they just made it up, but one thing I have noticed lately is that those who support the Labour cause are gunning for us.

    Lord Adonis has been making hay over Vince and Tim being absent for that vote – despite being a fellow remainer. Now the Labour supporting Mirror is having a go. There’s only one time the Labour party gets in a panic about the Lib Dems and that is when they think we might take votes off them and let the Tories back in.

    I suspect they scent an election on the wind.

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th Jul '18 - 6:57pm

    UKIP has been led by someone who was not an MP, albeit Farrage is an MEP. Didn’t get them very far in Westminster, although there is a reasonable argument that they were far more a pressure group than an political party in the classic sense.

  • Matt (bristol) 28th Jul '18 - 7:49pm

    I’m up for the leader not being an MP.

    If things go badly for us, we could be even more clinging on to our parliamentary fingertips than we are already, and the members need to be offered a wider choice than (hypothetically): a) unknown newbie, b) the leader who just resigned, c) old hand with many enemies; d) someone desperately trying to cling onto a hyper-marginal so too busy to do the job.

    I think the idea that we should head-hunt a figurehead with no experience of life inside the party, and build our campaign around them, is the worst aspect of the post-Mirror speculation. The last party that did this was UKIP with Robert Kilroy Silk, which was one of the fruitcake stall’s madder moments.

    The problem with any rules changes at the moment is
    a) we do desperately need to do some, as the context the party finds itself in is rapidly changing and fraught with both risk and opportunity.
    b) they need to be very well thought out – Labour’s voting rules change under Ed Miliband is the ultimate example of the law of unintended consequences, and a less to all parties ever
    c) there is no obvious time to do it; politics is always in a crisis right now, and changing leadership and voting rules change always tempts someone to give the rules a spin and try a challenge, unless the leader is rock-solid and secure.
    d) all of the above means, if we do face a situation where it would be helpful to have a leader outside parliament, we won’t have had time to change the rules and will look like numpties. But I can’t see a way round it without causing greater instability.

    And, also, also, also — every other news story for the next 2 months will be speculative silly-season nonsense, or game-playing / kite-flying, unless something awful happens we don’t want to contemplate.

  • Arlene Foster is the DUP leader who props up this government. She is not an MP and has not taken her seat in Stormont for years (along with the rest). Does not being an MP make her a weaker and less effective party leader?

  • Exactly right Caron. Though since both the people I would vote for are on maternity leave it would certainly make for a ground-breaking leadership campaign if we had the contest now!

  • John Roffey 29th Jul '18 - 9:47am

    Having declared my interest in Brexit to be primarily in the context of Climate Change – wishing for a hard Brexit to give the UK government as much freedom of action as possible to counteract the devastating impact from Climate Change – expected within the next decade. I thought I should listen carefully to the Brexit lecture given by NC in May – to see if there were any compelling arguments for staying in the EU that I had missed.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b4nz8k/the-brexit-lectures-series-1-nick-clegg-on-brexit

    As NC said – he did not put forward any new arguments – repeating the, already claimed, financial benefits, the advantages to the UK in international affairs and that democracy demands the UK parliament, rather than the government, should decide how the referendum vote should be interpreted.

    It is this last matter – democracy – that seems to make the EU project most questionable. My concern about the EU has grown since it has become an increasingly political organisation. The key feature that troubles me is that the, all powerful, President of the European Council is not elected by the people, as is the case in the USA, but is nominated by the European Council and then formally elected by the European Parliament [the only influence the people have – and then just by their representatives].

    Such an arrangement seems to give the President of the EC powers that can barely be challenged – certainly not by the people – and this would appear to cause a severe democratic deficit within the organisation.

    I did read somewhere that the current structure is, more or less, identical to the one the Nazis intended to implement once they had conquered the whole of Europe – this does seem credible given the missing element of democracy. Does anyone know if this is the case?

  • William Fowler 29th Jul '18 - 2:24pm

    You will get full democracy (hopefully, anyway) when you get full integration and the structures change to suit that, all these things evolve. If the UK signed up for the Full Monty you would expect the role of the Parliament and Lords to be taken over by the EU Parliament whilst the four parts of the UK would have their own parliaments for local stuff. You can imagine Farage et al eating their own heads in rage at the very idea but for normal people it would not make much difference to their lives but never going to happen.

    Not sure of the logic of the UK fighting climate change as a single entity, seems a lost cause when half the polar cap turns up in the North Sea.

  • @John Roffey

    We, of course, give away and pool “sovereignty” in a diverse number of ways. We are, for example a member of the Council of Europe (separate from the EU and will remain a member) and so our legal system is subject to the European Court on Human Rights. And a vast number of other conventions, organisations, agreements etc.

    There is always a debate on the exact amount of legislation that comes under the EU. But there remain vast reams and areas that are decided by the British Parliament. Let’s remember how EU regulations come into being – they are negotiated by our elected Government. It is highly likely that out of the EU we will be a rule taker in virtually every EU matter but not a rule maker. We have seen the benefit of a UK single market in the UK. I can’t get too excited by the fact that Hampshire doesn’t have different washing machines from Dorset and can’t set its own rules about them. If that is OK a few miles one way – I don’t see why it is not OK a few miles the other way that happen to be across the channel.

    On climate change and many such international problems. We are kidding ourselves if our 66 million population out of some 7,000 million is going to solve the complete problem even if we can set a good example and do our bit. Working with our 500 million neighbours as a next step is obviously good. And while we may consider ourselves British – we are of course from French, German, Scandinavian, Italian stock – let alone African and Asian.

    The sad thing is we are uniquely posed to have a very significant place that is hugely beneficial to the UK. The only country that is a permanent member of the UN security council, the Commonwealth, English speaking, NATO, (still actually!) a special and significant relationship with the US – and of course at the moment a member of the EU and the world’s biggest single market. it is sad that unique place, role and significance will be severely diminished if we leave.

  • John Roffey 29th Jul '18 - 4:03pm

    William Fowler: “You will get full democracy (hopefully, anyway) when you get full integration and the structures change to suit that, all these things evolve.”

    That seems very unlikely William – there is no reason why the President of the European Council should not be elected by the people. If it is not the case now – I think we can safely assume that it was intended that the role would be confined to an elite group.

    “Not sure of the logic of the UK fighting climate change as a single entity, seems a lost cause when half the polar cap turns up in the North Sea.”

    The IMPACT of Climate Change – you are quite right the aims of the IPCC [to keep temperatures within 2°C of pre-industrial levels] were pretty much blown with the election of Trump. However, a foretaste of what is to be expected is now being seen globally – this, and much worse, are the predicted outcomes – if the rises get out of hand as seems likely.

    This primarily requires major and early investment in the infrastructure,

  • nvelope2003 29th Jul '18 - 4:37pm

    John Roffey: The President of the USA is not elected by the people. If that was so Hillary Clinton would be President as she polled 2 million votes more than Trump who was elected by an Electoral College whose composition was designed to ensure only certain people can normally win.

    If leaving the EU turned out to be a disaster, and we do not know that, the Conservative Party, and those parties who support them, would be severely damaged and this could be to the long term benefit of the people of the UK as it could end the rule of the public school educated elite who could be seen as having got it wrong. Ken Clarke went to a grammar school not a public school.

  • John Roffey 30th Jul '18 - 9:16am

    @nvelope2003

    The system in the US might be skewed towards a certain group – but, even so, it is the people who elect the President – and Trump was not amongst the group that the system is intended to favour.

    In contrast the people are not involved in the selection of the President of the European Council.

  • John Roffey 30th Jul '18 - 9:31am

    Tony Blair – The Brexit Lectures

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?443416-1/tony-blair-lectures-effects-brexit

    He seems unwell – this may be why it is not available from the BBC – the Establishment would not want their man performing badly!

  • John Roffey –
    Having declared my interest in Brexit to be primarily in the context of Climate Change – wishing for a hard Brexit to give the UK government as much freedom of action as possible to counteract the devastating impact from Climate Change – expected within the next decade.”

    Yes, Brexit does give us an opportunity to actually be radical. The trouble is that from the comments around here on ‘radical’ policies I perceive many to think that ‘radical’ is more of the same and carry on ignoring or even denying the signs of the approaching perfect storm that we’ve known about since the late 1960s.

    @Michael 1 – When it comes to the crunch, I’m not really concerned about the rest of the world, but I can act locally and help the UK weather the storm a little better…

  • @Roland: “Yes, Brexit does give us an opportunity to actually be radical. The trouble is that from the comments around here on ‘radical’ policies I perceive many to think that ‘radical’ is more of the same and carry on ignoring or even denying the signs of the approaching perfect storm that we’ve known about since the late 1960s.”

    I suspect that the Mellennials [and many others] would be far more supportive of the Party if such an unitive were taken.

  • nvelope2003 31st Jul '18 - 9:43am

    David Raw: It is not a state Grammar School but it is not Eton or Harrow etc either. It was founded as a Free School like many of these establishments so why do people have to pay to go to there ? I understand that my local school used to take fee paying pupils but it did not do so when I went there. Many of these schools were founded in the 16th century, especially after the dissolution of the monasteries, but that does not seem to be the case here. We cannot remove everyone from public life who went to a fee paying school as many Liberal Democrats would have to go though maybe that would be a good idea. Clarke does not seem to me to be the sort of establishment figure I was thinking of but there again I might be wrong. I think it is time for ordinary people to take control of this country but I am disaapointed that does not seem to be what this party, the Labour Party or the Green Party wish to achieve as they seem to like to send their children to fee paying schools even if or especially if they did not go to one themselves. That is why they hate state grammar schools so much as it enables ordinary people to get a decent eductaion

    I note that the name of the headmaster is one that is familiar to me but I am not aware that we are related.

  • David Raw, nvelope2003, John Roffey. As I understand it at the time Ken Clarke went to Nottingham High, it was as a student with a local authority scholarship after passing his 11 plus. I think it was always a public school.

  • @nvelope2003 ” I think it is time for ordinary people to take control of this country”

    I’m curious about this – are you able to expand on what you mean please?

    “they seem to like to send their children to fee paying schools even if or especially if they did not go to one themselves. That is why they hate state grammar schools”

    Of course, like many people it may be that they send their children to fee-paying schools precisely because in the majority of the country there aren’t any selective state grammar schools.

  • nvelope2003 31st Jul '18 - 3:15pm

    David Evans: Thank you for that information. His father was a Nottinghamshire mining electrician who later became a watchmaker so it would seem unlikely that he would have paid for his son to go to a public school but life is full of surprises. There used to be what was called direct grant schools but I guess Nottingham High was not one of them.

  • nvelope2003 31st Jul '18 - 3:33pm

    TCO; I would have thought it was self explanatory but I mean people other than the upper classes, whether Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat or Green who have traditionally run it in their own interest despite only being a small percentage of the population. The sort who send their own children to fee paying schools whilst providing bog standard comprehensives for other people’s children after abolishing most of the grammar schools which gave people like me a bit of a chance in life so that we could compete with their offspring for the good jobs, which they could not bear, and now the children of people like us have no chance. You have to go to a public school to get a job on a local newspaper apparently. If there are no grammar schools in their area it is because people like them got rid of the ones that existed before.

    I have no objection to people paying to send their children to school but I do object to them stopping the children of those who do not have money from going to a grammar school which is what they have done and pretend it is for their own good when it clearly is not. I hear people praising comprehensive schools one moment and to a different audience discussing the Common Entrance Examination. They do not get much sympathy from me when they complain how hard it is to pay the school fees. I tell them education is free here !

  • nvelope2003 31st Jul '18 - 9:52pm

    David Raw: Perhaps I should have said Kenneth Clarke passed the 11 plus (which I do not want restored) but I suppose someone will tell me he did not do that either. Perhaps he just walked in and no one had the nerve to ask him to leave. It is a pity other people have not tried that – it would give Eton etc something to wrestle with and maybe ithey would not be such a draw after all. Like the surplus Burbery handbags they might have to burn some of them down to preserve their exclusivity.

  • nvelope2003 5th Aug '18 - 4:26pm

    John Littler: I am afraid we will have to experience what it is like outside the EU before this issue can be resolved. After 2 months of heat waves, fires and water shortages here and in Europe we do not seem to hear much from the climate change deniers. Perhaps leaving the EU will have the same effect on those who wanted to leave it.

  • John Roffey 7th Aug '18 - 7:42am

    Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state

    Leading scientists warn that passing such a point would make efforts to reduce emissions increasingly futile

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/06/domino-effect-of-climate-events-could-push-earth-into-a-hothouse-state

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