Change UK – the big question is for the Liberal Democrats

Like many Lib Dems I have been more than a little disappointed with Change UK. Their launch was poorly executed; their decision to fight the EU elections ill thought out; their battle bus so badly designed that even I could have done better.

Perhaps most wounding of all was their leaked memo which showed that their number one priority was to get rid of us by pinching our members; PPCs; councillors; donors and votes. That was so naïve. It was never likely to happen and certainly will never happen give our surge in members; MEPs and votes.

The response from most Lib Dems is twofold. Either “they are so small we can roll over them”, or “they are so deceitful we cannot trust them.”

I don’t think either of those is the right approach. I look back at the influx of people who became energised and went into politics as a result of the SDP creation. Within three years SDP members who the Liberals could not work with had largely left politics. It was not the route to easy political pickings that some of them thought it would be. Those who were left were good people who largely shared our policies and largely shared our bottom up, community led approach to the business of politics.

Within a very short space of time those people had become indistinguishable from those of us who went on to become founder members of the Lib Dems from the Liberal Party side. These were people like Flo Clucas in Liverpool who became the leading Lib Dem within the Committee of the Regions and a chap called Vince Cable who went on to another job! I didn’t think much of this at the time but since then I have often asked myself the question “Why didn’t they join the Liberal Party in the first place?”.

That’s a question I have asked repeatedly since February. All the mistakes have been made around the Westminster Change UK team who have little experience of the grim reality (not so grim these days!) of being in a third party. When I look at their team who fought the elections in the North-West, I liked all those that I met. I want to work with them. I hope to serve alongside them in the Council and I hope that will go along to elected office and become Leaders of the future.

I look at two in particular. The lead Change UK candidate lives in my ward. I know her parents very well. She has an impressive CV in community led and social enterprise type activity. What did I do wrong that she didn’t immediately see that she could do things to bring about her political beliefs through a Party she knows well?

One of the other candidates was a bright young former Labour councillor in Warrington. Within Warrington the Lib Dems have always been a reasonably strong Party and led the Council for a number of years. He would never have been a lone voice on the back benches if he had left Labour for us. So why didn’t he?
If we are really to attract and retain talent like these two, we must question ourselves; the way we behave and the way we present ourselves to other liberals. So, my first self-imposed task is to go and ask that question. My second is to work out how, in one way or another, we can work with the talented people that Change UK have brought in and strengthen the liberal positions in every elected chamber in the Country.

Those are my tasks but I also really believe that those are the tasks we should all be undertaking locally and nationally. Do this right and continue to extend the hand of friendship to good people and together we will really be able to make a difference.

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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120 Comments

  • Excellent points, well made Richard.

    I think what concerns many of us, is if the answer is: “they did not join the Liberal Democrats because they are not liberals”.

    If that’s the case then it is a shame, but ultimately the right decision – for them, and for us.

    We cannot & should not dilute our liberal principles to accommodate “moderate” & “centrist” politicians who do not share our vision, even if they too want to stay in the EU. Ally with them, work with them, but let us not become them.

  • Change UK are such a diverse group politically that they can’t even agree among themselves what they stand for. From the Tories you’ve got arch-Thatcherite Anna Soubry, whose sole reason for quitting the Tories was its increasingly hardline position on the EU(Brexit). Sarah Wollaston, who is an independent in the truest sense , having being elected via the Tories brief experiment with Open Primaries in Totnes. Heidi Allen, who has been on a journey and discovered a conscience after dealing with years of constituency ‘austerity’ horror stories. From Labour, you’ve basically got a bunch of people from the hawkish, Blairite right of the party; people who jumped before being pushed for their disloyalty.

    With the exception of Sarah Wollaston and possibly Heidi Allen, the Lib Dems should have nothing to do with them imho.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Jun '19 - 4:09pm

    This is a good piece with its Heart in the right place. Some of the people attracted to Change are Liberals or Social Democrats who made mistaken decisions in the past, most aren’t. In that, not being Liberals, they are more in tune with most Voters unfortunately.
    If we seriously want to break through under FPTP then we either need to attract lots of Voters (& inevitably, members) who aren’t Liberals or we need to form Alliances with other Parties & take those Alliances into Government. It seems to me that there is much less danger of diluting Liberalism in an Alliance where each Party keeps its own flavour but agrees to work together.
    Even without attracting any new Voters, a Triple Alliance of Change, Libdems & Greens would be around 30% in The Polls, a good 10% clear of Brexit, Tories & Labour.
    That would shake up our Politics even more.

  • Very valuable reflections, Richard.

    I remember at the Llandudno Liberal Assembly ‘Great Fringe Meeting’ which preceded the Liberal acceptance of the Alliance strategy, Shirley Williams confessed that in all her years of Labour politics she had never actually read a Liberal manifesto in detail.

    We should welcome allies in the current anti-BREXIT discussions. Some will find that we are not where they want to place their long-term political allegiance, some will perhaps to their surprise will find they feel at home with us. We should all respect each other and go forwards without misleading anyone.

  • chris moore 3rd Jun '19 - 4:34pm

    @Paul Barker Even without attracting any new Voters, a Triple Alliance of Change, Libdems & Greens would be around 30% in The Polls, a good 10% clear of Brexit, Tories & Labour.

    Regarding Change, apart from their existing seats, in which constituencies do you think Change would be better placed than the Lib Dems? Should we be standing down in winnable seats ie those with a strong Lib Dem tradition of hard work? For example, St Albans? Watford? The other Liverpool seats?

    What are THEY bringing to the party? Apart from themselves?

  • Surely, before considering alliances and electoral pacts , the Lib Dems need to decide what they actually stand for? Is it Laws’ Orange Book liberalism, or more social Democratic party the late Charles Kennedy presided over?
    And as an avowedly ‘remain’ party, what will the party’s position be if the Brexit issue is resolved by the time of the next GE? For despite the idea the HoC won’t support no-deal, to me the idea pro-EU Tory MPs would vote to bring their newly elected leader down and force an election with The Brexit Party waiting to gobble them up, well it seems.. improbable.
    A ‘rejoin’ referendum stance could prove deeply unpopular for the Lib Dems post Brexit. As it’d mean a vote to seek new membership terms via a new negotiation that’d almost certain to see the UK sans rebate and likely agreeing to €uro adoption.

  • Charles Pragnell 3rd Jun '19 - 5:17pm

    Chris I totally disagree with the view that we stand down in Watford and St Albans. On current polling we would win both councils. We control Watford council, Three Rivers council next door, are the largest group on St Albans council, and Watford Mayor is a Lib Dem. I would not touch change UK with a barge poll. The only exception is Heidi Allen and Sarah Wolleston . With 111,000 members 2500 Councillor’s plus 250,000 Lib Dem supporters , we have grass root strength. One of Tim’s legacies was to build the grass roots up. That is being achieved, much quicker than any body imagined .
    Change UK have made way to many stupid and naive mistakes. Also why would we want to stand down brilliant candidates like Daisy Benson.
    The Labour Party and Broken Tories should be worried, the Liberal Dem renewal movement is growing, do add a word of caution , renewing the party , can potentially lead to a revival . Would it be great to win more than 157 seats at the next election , which would be more than the Liberals had in 1922 under Herbert Asquith .

  • Charles Rothwell 3rd Jun '19 - 5:21pm

    The more I saw and heard Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen speak. the more convinced I became they were in the wrong party (and had only been won over by Cameron’s “compassionate conservatism” (can anyone still remember that?) In terms of “the bigger picture”, I have always (going right back to the days of Joe Grimond and Jeremy Thorpe) seen the Liberals/Liberal Democrats as being in the centre-Left of UK politics (i.e. where Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy firmly positioned them) and believe that the break-down of the centre-right consensus between the two mainstream parties we are seeing across Europe (major losses by both SPD and CDU in Germany, decimation of the traditional conservative and social democratic parties in Italy etc. etc.) mean there are huge gains to be made here with internationalism being a key strand of such a stance as well. IF Brexit does occur (which I still doubt very much indeed it will), then the Liberal Democrats should indeed be at the forefront of calls (no doubt with the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru etc.) in calling for the UK to rejoin the EU. I doubt very much indeed that countries in the EU but with no intention of joining the euro (Sweden and Denmark) will insist the UK does so as part of any rejoining negotiations. The best way to prevent any such negotiations for happening in the first place, however, is to torpedo Brexit for good and, yet again, emphasise that the UK already has the best of all possible relations with the EU despite the blinkered and irrational hatred of it by many Brexiteers (and those with clear ulterior motives for the UK leaving it). The local and European Parliament elections were huge steps forward in moving towards this and an excellent base on which to build in the coming months (with the election of a new Leader and what is likely to be one of the best Autumn Conferences in years on the horizon!)

  • Change UK (possibly including some of the people you met) are not liberals, they could yet choose to become liberals, and are a natural ally, but they are simply not liberals.

    Which is why they weren’t already Lib Dems. Change UK does not have substantial policies and values and does not even want to have substantial policies and values. They see this as a positive.

    Each of their MPs originally wanted to force Labour and Tories to return to what they were, but they have now given up and resorted to fashioning a moderate facsimile of their old parties, minus any actual activism beyond campaigning. Their idea of a victory has no place in it for Lib Dems(notice that Leslie didn’t want to steal our policies or values despite wanting everything else).

    The SDP was a very different beast, Labour and a few Tories had been deeply split between modernising and ideological traditions. Those modernisers wanted to embrace new ideas and policies for a new era, and saw the Liberals natural openness to policy discussions and modernisation as an asset, not a flaw. That is the difference.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Jun '19 - 5:40pm

    If We have a “Secret Weapon” its our unity, most Libdems would be happy to be called Liberals, Social Democrats & Greens. That puts us in an excellent position to lead a “Progressive Alliance”; we have (different) things in common with both Change & The Green Party & don’t have to worry that working with others might widen our factional divides because we dont really have any.
    As to what The Greens & Change bring to the feast, well :
    The novelty of Parties working together & differing without being rude, compared to Parties who can’t even work with themselves;
    Different perspectives – we dont have a monopoly of wisdom;
    The ability to reach groups of Voters who we dont yet reach;
    & some good people.

  • I think Richard Kemp poses some very good question. I don’t remember the day that I become a Lib Dem! If old enough I would have voted Labour in 79 (and despite taking a massive interest in the election didn’t even notice the Liberals existed!) and hen thought Foot’s Labour was too left wing and so got interested in the SDP and Alliance. If I had grown up in the 90s I prob would have supported and may well have joined New Labour.

    Many with our politics join the Tories or Labour – some because it is more electoral successful and some because they want a better political career than we can offer (although…) Some stand for a council for a party as above all they want to be a councillor and that party is not too far away from their views (or at least they don’t object too violently to them!) Some because they like the candidate(s) or what the party is doing locally.

    I don’t know what all this means! But it is an odd route often to a political party – subject to where one lives, the political times, the electoral ups and downs of parties one’s family tradition (either for or against!), or someone drudging up the road and knocking on their door and asking (as with Paddy!)

  • @ Richard Kemp “why do so many liberals not see us as their natural home?” Unpick that one and I believe that we can sweep the board.”

    Do you think it might just be that they have a political and historical knowledge encompassing the period 2010-15 – when so many liberals got more than a tad queasy at a number of decisions and events, Richard ?

  • Mark Pack has shown some very interesting polling which indicates that the number of people who really dislike us because of 2010-15 is now quite small. Indeed, when you exclude those who were always hostile to us anyway and were never going to support us, it is actually very small. Yes there are some former LD voters who will never forgive us, and they tend to be very vocal. But the polling says they are not a huge group. And so does the anecdotal evidence; certainly when I was knocking on doors and manning street-stalls in the last few weeks, the reception was remarkably friendly, and very very few people mentioned the coalition. As a matter of fact the place where I hear most about it is here on LDV. Four years is a long time, and voters do move on. I don’t think the coalition is a big factor today in peoples minds, and as more time passes it will be even less so – especially if we are strongly leading on the issues of the day (B2B).

  • Richard Kemp 3rd Jun '19 - 8:32pm

    David, I don’t think it’s much to do with the coalition although that has not helped. As I made clear I have asked the question since the1980s which well predates the coalition.

  • Brian Ellis 3rd Jun '19 - 8:58pm

    Richard Kemp has been correct to raise this debate. The way to approach the issue is to have an open heart and mind to enable one to extend the hand of friendship to those with whom we might have some differences but also some areas of agreement. There is an inherent danger if the debate about relationship Liberal Democrats have with Change UK or indeed the Greens. What is important is that a bridge is built over which all can move and enter into a dialogue. Having said that I must say that Heidi Allen in particular has during her time in Parliament spoken out and indeed voted very earlier on against the Conservative Party of which she was then a member a very lone voice before Change UK appeared. We need to use the time wisely to talk to those who are not within the Liberal Democrats, build bridges, not barriers.

  • Daniel Henry 3rd Jun '19 - 9:02pm

    Great article.

    In addition to the points made, I’d like to add that I think Vince’s attempts to work with other parties helped us in the EU elections.

    Remain voters don’t want the cause damaged by party political infighting. When we offered to work with the other parties and they turned us down, that made up a lot of minds in our favour.

    Many of our voters in the EU election were attracted to our maturity and pluralism, and I think they want to see more of it.

  • Chris Bertram 3rd Jun '19 - 9:08pm

    There are now rumours that ChUK are on the verge of collapse, with Heidi Allen possibly heading our way. While I feel sorry for some of those who risked their careers with the splits from their former parties, it does feel like the inevitable end of the enterprise given the way it developed.

  • @ Martin No mention of “snide remarks about ministerial limos etc” in my post, Martin. I’ll leave that to your expertise.

    More about what principled liberals might take to be reasonable liberal outcomes in government from a party claiming to have liberal principles. It’s called a credibility expectations gap. Let’s hope some lessons have been learned.

  • John Marriott 3rd Jun '19 - 9:35pm

    I would hope that a place could be found for politicians such as Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and even Anna Soubry within the Lib Dem family. The problem with the latter is that she has much more Tory ‘history’ than the other two.

    If this happens it will be very different from when the SDP was formed. Then only one Tory MP, Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, joined his ex Labour colleagues. Interesting also is how many ex SDP worthies went on to make their mark in the Lib Dems, for example, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers, Dick Newby, Ian Wigglesworth, Charles Kennedy and, of course, Vince Cable, none of whom felt the urge directly to join the old Liberal Party. And then there was Caron Lindsay, if I am not mistaken!

  • Ian Patterson 3rd Jun '19 - 9:38pm

    Pace Guido Fawkes website, what if Change UK splits three different ways?

  • Richard Kemp is absolutely right to ask “why do so many liberals not see us as their natural home?”. David Raw then suggests that this may have something to do with the lingering legacy of our record during the 2010-15 Tory/Lib Dem Coaltion.

    David’s explanation is probably *partially* true – the narrative that Lib Dem MPs enabled Tory austerity is still quite a powerful limitation on our potential appeal, particularly amongst left-leaning “liberals” – but it cannot be the full answer. Otherwise, why would some of those natural liberals shun the Lib Dems, only to support Change UK – rather than, say, the Greens – instead? (After all, Change UK are hardly in a position to criticise Lib Dems for our “toxic” legacy of “collusion” with the Tories – given that they were partly formed by ex-Tory MPs themselves!) But, even more fundamentally, Richard’s question also applied long before the Coalition, as he recognises himself – why else would so many good “liberals” have joined the SDP rather than the Liberals first, before finally becoming committed Lib Dems?

    The lesson from this Lib Dem history is that our party must be prepared to reach out and extend bridges to fellow liberals, progressives and internationalists currently belonging to other parties or none. The overriding imperatives of our time are to stop Brexit, reverse climate change and win funamental electoral and political reform. These objectives will all require Lib Dems to work constructively with others on a cross-party basis – primarily, but not exclusively, with both the Greens and Change UK – in order to build the broadest possible coalition for politically progressive and socially liberal solutions … and, yes, under FPTP, this may necessitate some form of “progressive alliance” … or perhaps a more limited electoral pact.

    Alternatively, as some on LDV would seem to prefer, we could retreat into narrow tribalism and pursue the ideological purity of “true liberalism”, indulging in “the narcissm of small differences” – but that would be a self-indulgent luxury that we simply cannot afford until/unless proportional representation is finally achieved.

  • The article that Chris Bertram refers to is extraordinary. It suggests that the 11 ChUK MPs are going to have a crisis meeting tomorrow and half of them want to disband the party; Heidi Allen and possibly others want to join us. This is from Guido Fawkes, which is a right-wing website but usually very well informed.

  • Mark Sherratt 3rd Jun '19 - 10:53pm

    I consider myself to be liberal minded, but I’d struggle to put forward a major way governance of the UK would change under a LibDem government (other than the end of Brexit and electoral reform).

    I’ve seen a lot of threads about attracting people with liberal tendancies and these usually end up with people wittering about the LD preamble.

    The country is burning, and your debating fancy language rather than setting out your stall with a mix of domestic and foreign policies that offer the public a real change and optimism.

  • Mark Sherrat – I understand what you are saying, and it is true that we are not very good at projecting our specific policies (apart from stopping Brexit and electoral reform – which are extremely important and would actually transform the country, in different ways).
    This policy paper was passed at our conference last year and is a good encapsulation of how we would put our values into practice:
    https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/libdems/pages/43501/attachments/original/1533298433/Policy_Paper_134_–_Demand_Better.pdf?1533298433
    There are other papers on more specific areas at: https://www.libdems.org.uk/policy_papers
    The problem is not that we don’t have ideas of how to govern. Rather it is that we have too many of them, and we struggle to communicate them effectively.
    Of course, were you to take the leap and join us you could be part of shaping our policies and sharpening our message. 🙂 (£1 per month, join before Friday and you get a vote in the leadership election).

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '19 - 3:59am

    Andy

    The Lib Dems need to decide what they actually stand for? Is it Laws’ Orange Book liberalism, or more social Democratic party the late Charles Kennedy presided over?

    Here is a classic example of how false history has been created to give the impression that when the Liberal Party and the SDP merged, it was the Liberal Party that was into right-wing economics and the SDP that was left-wing. It was actually the other way round.

    Back then, liberalism in this country was not seen at all as being largely about support for free-market economics. That was called “Thatcherism”, and it was what the Liberal Party opposed. We were pragmatic about whether things should be provided by the state or a free market, but we could certainly see how the Thatcherite obsession with the free market meant the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and this was against how we then defined liberalism “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Many of us Liberals then had radical views, wanting to move to a system where companies were primarily run democratically by their workers.

    So why has all this been completely forgotten?

    Well, the Orange Book is partly to blame for that, but were the authors of that all previously long-standing Liberal Party members? No.

    It seems to me there has been a collaboration between a few right-wing types who paid money to push the party that way and managed to take control of it when Clegg was leader, and the Labour Party who were happy to see it get pushed that way so that our party could be destroyed and our country returned to one where they were the sole opposition to the Conservatives.

  • Joseph Bourke 4th Jun '19 - 4:06am

    The Liberal Democrats have historically benefited from being portrayed as the alternative to Labour and the Conservatives. This was reflected in the 20%+ vote shares in 2005 and 2010.
    In Government, the Liberal Democrats were no longer able to position themselves as the alternative option – this cost votes and created space for parties like the Greens and UKIP (now Brexit) to position themselves as the real outsiders.
    Being in government forces parties to answer some uncomfortable questions that get sidelined in the compomises needed to develop a manifesto. Are we committed to this policy? What are our core beliefs?
    If and when the opportunity presents itself again we need to be able to answer those questions clearly and never make a promise we can’t or don’t intend to keep.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '19 - 4:28am

    TonyH

    Mark Pack has shown some very interesting polling which indicates that the number of people who really dislike us because of 2010-15 is now quite small.

    So has our party really recovered in all the places it was doing well before 2010 and lost catastrophically after that? I was a Liberal Democrat councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham 1994-2006, for half that time leader of the LibDem council group. During that time we managed to build up the party so that it became the main challenger to Labour across the borough, with strong second places in the general election, plenty of councillors, and it looked like we really could win control of the council and have MPs there. After the Coalition was formed and Clegg and his comrades used that to push the party to the right, the Liberal Democrats completely collapsed in Lewisham, returning to having no councillors and just a couple of thousand votes in general elections.

    It is still being put out as the main argument for not voting for us that our real policy os right-wing economics, and that was proved by the Coalition. I am sorry that our party has done nothing to counteract that, and that is partly why though I have retained membership, I have dropped out of activity with it.

    I felt it would be hypocritical to want a multi-party system (an important aspect of true liberalism) but then not to agree to the only coalition that could be formed. However, we needed to make it clear that as a party that was just a small part of a coalition, we could not control it, we could have only a minor influence on it. We also needed to make it clear that the reason we were just a small part of it was due to the disproportional representation system, supported by Labour but not us, which should the Conservatives up in the number of MPs and us down. We have done none of this.

    Sure, we have picked up votes by putting ourselves out as the main party of Remain. But I am concerned there are many former voters who are not coming back to us, and have now been tricked into voting for Brexit. It is many of those who are unhappy about what Thatcherite economics has done to our country who are voting Brexit, because right-wing types were able to persuade them that it was the EU that was to blame for this rather than their own economics. They want Brexit to push things further that way, despite the fact that most who voted for it did so for the opposite reason.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '19 - 4:56am

    Joseph Bourke

    If and when the opportunity presents itself again we need to be able to answer those questions clearly and never make a promise we can’t or don’t intend to keep.

    Again, we need to state clearly what the issue was with university tuition fees, and we have not done so. So the accusation that we supported in government the opposite of what we said we wanted continues to be made as a perhaps the main reason for not voting for us.

    The issue is that if you want the government to provide something, like free university tuition, then it needs to have taxes to pay for it. Why can’t we come out clearly and say that? The issue with the Coalition was that we as a party forming just one-sixth of its membership could not persuade the Conservatives, forming the other five-sixths, to drop their main policy of keeping taxes low.

    So therefore we were in a real dilemma about how to deal with paying for universities. If we were to insist that the government paid for them, then given that the Conservatives would not agree to tax rises to do that, it would have had to be done by even more cuts elsewhere? How could we have agreed to that, when the cuts that were made by that government, in things like support for local councils, were terrible?

    Would it have been appreciated if we had kept to our pledge, but done so by massive cuts in universities themselves?

    So the compromise was to accept what the Conservatives wanted in terms of student loans for universities, but to insist those loans were as generous as possible and only had to be paid back when income was high. That turned the loan into something in reality just like a graduation tax, and we were actually so successful in getting the Conservatives to accept being generous with it that actually the end result was in practice more government money going to universities, and universities here booming and not suffering from the cuts that other government services have had.

    So why can’t we come out and say that?

    The worsening of student loans, with high interest rates, and now the proposals to make them paid back with lower income and over a longer time have been done by the Conservatives alone after the Coalition, it is not what we agreed to. So we need to make that clear as well.

  • chris moore 4th Jun '19 - 7:39am

    @Charles Pragnell 3rd Jun ’19 – 5:17pm
    Chris I totally disagree with the view that we stand down in Watford and St Albans….

    Charles, i was being rhetorical!! I am strongly against the Lib Dems standing down in ANY seat other than those where Change UK are incumbents. I strongly agree with all your subsequent remarks about Lib Dem strength at the grassroots. Change has no such strength.

    When Change UK arrived on the scene, I believed we should wait and see what they amounted to and be open to cooperation, if this seemed possible.

    Their behaviour since has persuaded me that my original cautious stance was TOO optimistic.

    I think it’s brilliant that they decided to try to out-perform us in the Euros. A very bad result is just what they needed to puncture their delusions of grandeur. Had their been cooperation, they’d be convincing themselves (and elements of the commentariat) that Remain’s fine result was all down to them.

    I believe it would also be very positive if they stand a candidate at Brecon. A few more very bad results for tehm will help to drive the message home.

  • Ronald Murray 4th Jun '19 - 9:43am

    The problem is that Change UK formed a new party too quickly as has been said already. They are a diverse bunch discontented with the state of their own parties with not much in common. To help their launch they hijacked the name of that great campaigning organisation Change.org no doubt hoping they would gain some gravitas.
    I think we should as we say in Scotland “Caw Canny” before coming to any formal agreement with them.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Jun '19 - 10:15am

    The above discussion is enlightening. Since the merging of the SDP and the Liberals, we have been enriched by a social democratic tradition, both in people and in policies. However, it has faltered, notably in its weakness in the Coalition, and it is perhaps not strong enough in the party even today. Social justice should I believe be as much an insistence of our fundamental being as liberalism. It should be cited in our talks with the people we believe should be joining us, and declared as part of our core principles.

    It has been asserted by the policies we have passed at Conference, but it is not always upheld by our activists. So, in the latest example, it is the Labour shadow work and pensions spokesperson who has spoken out in support of the Alston report, at the time when Amber Rudd is going to complain to the UN about it. Why have we no Liberal Democrat statement of support for Philip Alston’s devastating account of the Government’s failing the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our country? We should be demanding it of both our departing and our deputy leaders now. This is one assertion of our social democratic belief and commitment that is immediately required.

  • David Becket 4th Jun '19 - 10:18am

    @ Matthew Huntbach
    Everything you said is true, but you took 378 words to say it. The EU elections showed us it takes a few words to win elections. “Lib Dems broke a pledge” is easy, and most believe it. The secret is to boil those 378 words down into no more than ten.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '19 - 10:38am

    Katharine Pindar

    Social justice should I believe be as much an insistence of our fundamental being as liberalism.

    Yes, and that is summarised in the preamble to our constitution with the words “no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

    But these words came from the constitution of the Liberal Party before the merger, not from the SDP. In fact during the negotiations to form the merger, it was the Liberal Party members in the negotiating committee who insisted on words like this championing social justice to be included in the preamble to the constitution, and it was the SDP members who didn’t want them to be there.

    So this is more proof of the point I’ve been making recently – that false history has been created suggesting that before the merger the Liberal Party was a party of right-wing economics, and the SDP was a party of left-wing economics. This is simply not true, the reality is the opposite. I say this as someone who was a very active member of the Liberal Party during the time of the merger, and actually voted against merger in part because I saw the SDP as too right-wing.

    Some of us Liberals in those days actually said that by joining with the SDP we were joining with the wrong half of the Labour Party. So Katharine, actually I am quite deeply offended by what you have written which is suggesting that we Liberals were right-wing in those days.

    Sorry, but it was actually SDP background leadership that pushed us to the right. Clegg came from the SDP, not from the Liberal Party.

  • A few words – and then pleased to be off down south to walk daughter number four down the aisle and to make a non-political speech.

    1. Katharine’s right to complain about the party’s resounding silence on the Alston Report. Caron, if you pick this up, please pass it on to Ms Jardine.

    Yes, we’ve heard from Labour – and up here a powerful comment from Alison Johnstone MSP of the Scottish Greens. Not a peep from the UK Lib Dems I’m aware of.

    2. David Beckett on ‘Lib Dems broke a pledge’….. it’s not folklore, it’s true, they did, and on VAT as well as students. Forgiving often needs repentance…. and no repetition. Ed & Jo please note.

    3. Matthew Huntbach on the SDP. Every word, in my experience, correct. As a candidate in 1983 I was told by the SDP constituency Chair to campaign on my local ancestry and compare it to the ethnicity of my Conservative opponent…. the same issue causing problems now for Corbyn. Said Chair didn’t like my answer.

    Matthew says : “false history has been created suggesting that before the merger the Liberal Party was a party of right-wing economics, and the SDP was a party of left-wing economics. This is simply not true, the reality is the opposite”.

    Spot on, Matthew…. and their top down politics revealed they didn’t have a clue on how to campaign in the 1983 Darlington by-election – and this impacted on the Alliance bandwagon.

  • Joseph Bourke 4th Jun '19 - 11:24am

    Matthew,

    “we were in a real dilemma about how to deal with paying for universities. If we were to insist that the government paid for them, then given that the Conservatives would not agree to tax rises to do that, it would have had to be done by even more cuts elsewhere?

    The point is we need to think about and realise this before pledges are made. Don’t make a pledge that the party is not committed to or can’t deliver. It was thought that most Universities would charge £6,000 and £9,000 would be the exeption not the default position. That assumption turned out to be wrong.
    The fact that the student loan system is akin to a graduate tax has been said many times, but that did not counter the issue of loss of trust that has to be carefully and painstakingly reestablishd.

  • @Joseph Bourke

    “Conservatives would not agree to tax rises to do that, it would have had to be done by even more cuts elsewhere?

    The point is we need to think about and realise this before pledges are made.”

    With respect absolute rubbish! (Sorry!)

    We did implement another very costly manifesto promise which was to raise aid spending to 0.7% of GDP. Something that I support – but at a time when we were trying to reduce public spending? To govern is to choose and we chose!

    Fullfact doesn’t give exact figures for UK aid spending but from its graph it looks to have gone up from £6 billion in 2008 to £12 billion in 2017. Labour costed free tuition fees at £10 bn in its 2017 manifesto – about £7-£8 bn if you reduce them.

    But a promise we couldn’t keep is absolute balderdash. A policy that Nick Clegg didn’t support – probably true!

    I remind you that we had a coalition agreement that we could abstain on the issue. And George Osborne said “that’s the Lib Dems screwed” as soon as we agreed to it.

    What we should do is not rush into a coalition in a few days – whatever the Tory press says (frankly we are not short of laws in this country and we can wait a few days for a few more – or cancel some of the MPs’ holidays later on). And we should be good coalition partners but be prepared to rat on a few things if needed as Tory backbenchers did with knobs on.

    https://fullfact.org/economy/uk-spending-foreign-aid/

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '19 - 1:42pm

    Joseph Bourke

    It was thought that most Universities would charge £6,000 and £9,000 would be the exception not the default position. That assumption turned out to be wrong.

    Yes, and I said so at the time. It was said by the politicians in government that putting prices like this would make universities compete against each other to have lower prices in order to attract students, and so would help reduce the cost of universities.

    I said that this was nonsense, and that instead students would think the higher the price, the better the university and for this reason no university would want to have a lower price. So who got it right?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jun '19 - 2:03pm

    Councillor Kemp, is a real Liberal, he welcomes, he considers, he thinks. I admire his attitude.

    Some, a very few herein prefer their litmus test approach. I loathed science in school. I liked politics and history.

    The politics means we should welcome all who realise that most of us shall indeed welcome all these mps who might join us, Heidi, Chuka, Luciana, Sarah, look likely.

    The history of such moves from to parties is on the side of those good people like Richard Kemp who know that the old Liberal party was not any more a party of government other than local, had few mps and awful scandals in the seventies. The SDP gave credibility with greats like Shirley and Roy.

    We know that many in our party were SDP, yet too many wipe that out.

    I reckon that people like Richard, me, Paul Brker here, should be delegated a diplomatic task, bring in the Tiggers who want to join but are unsure…..

    Those who prefer their purist scientific experiment with political philosophy and human nature, can analyse levels of liberal purity all they can, but those of us who are Liberal more than liberal, and Liberal Democrats more than Liberal, in that we are also aware of progressives, social democrats, centrists, radicals, moderates, who prefer those as describer words, can get on with being able to get on with people…like Richard inspires us to…

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '19 - 2:24pm

    Michael 1

    I remind you that we had a coalition agreement that we could abstain on the issue.

    Yes, but what actually happened is that over half the LibDem MPs who were not in the government refused to abstain and instead insisted on keeping to their promise and voted against it. Of course, this never gets reported.

    I can, however, see the real dilemma for those LibDem MPs who had become government ministers. I am sure they would have been asked repeatedly “OK, so how will you pay for it?”. After all, Labour have never answered that question. I am sure the Tories would have been only too pleased to make massive cuts to universities, and blame the LibDems for it. So I can see why those LibDems who were ministers felt forced to support it.

    People seem to think that government spending and government taxation are entirely unrelated things, so a coalition between the Conservatives and LibDems would have LibDem levels of government services and Conservative levels of taxation. Err, no … We need to be able to talk about things like this, and we haven’t.

    It needs to be made clear that a small party cannot get whatever it wants from a coalition, especially if there is no other viable coalition available. We would have had a much stronger say in the coalition, and a coalition with Labour would have been viable, if we had proportional representation, which would have given us two-third the number of MPs the Conservative had rather than one fifth. So who is it that opposes proportional representation, in order to boost the Conservatives by giving the many more seats than their share of the vote, and almost a monopoly of MPs in the south and rural areas. Labour, of course. And Labour want to destroy us and boost the Conservatives by making the false claim that 100% of LibDems were and are keen supporters of everything the Coalition did

    Brexit shows what happens if there is a refusal to compromise. Let us say that too, that Brexit didn’t happen because those who said they agreed to it refused then to accept the compromise form worked out by Theresa May.

    The danger with universities is that had we not accepted the compromise, even though it was far from our ideal, the result could have been a complete destruction of the UK university system. Instead, by accepting the fee system, and concentrating on a compromise that insisted in a generous loan system to pay for it, universities greatly benefited from the Coalition government.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Indeed – one of the lessons is that the backbench vote should be larger than in this case the Tories plus the Lib Dem “payroll” vote. So those pesky backbenchers can block things. It’s what happened with the Tories and reform of the Lords.

    The Lib Dem ministers could have abstained – within the agreement and we could have blamed those bad boy backbenchers!

    As it was we were at the time proving that we were good little coalition boys and ensuring a stable government. SOME of this might prove of help as a coalition has proved more stable than one party government!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A handful of Tories also voted against raising tuition fees!

  • Alasdair Brooks 4th Jun '19 - 3:30pm

    Th

  • Alasdair Brooks 4th Jun '19 - 3:34pm

    Damn mobile phone. What I was trying to post was that the Guardian is now reporting that half of ChUK’s MPs, including Allen & Umunna, are ready to defect to us. A small rump of 5 may stay under the ChUK banner.

  • Alasdair Brooks 4th Jun '19 - 3:36pm

    Damn mobile phone. What I was trying to post was that the Guardian is now reporting that half of ChUK’s MPs, including Allen & Umunna, are ready to defect to us. A small rump of 5 may stay under the ChUK banner.

  • chris moore 4th Jun '19 - 3:44pm

    Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jun ’19 – 2:03pm
    The politics means we should welcome all who realise that most of us shall indeed welcome all these mps who might join us, Heidi, Chuka, Luciana, Sarah, look likely.

    Any Change UK MPs will be welcome to join the Lib Dems, where I hope they make a very full contriubtion. All those you mention are personable and it takes some courage to leave an established party for uncertain waters. (Luciana Berger, in particular, put up with disgusting bullying from some members of her ex-party.)

    To join the Lib Dems would be far more constructive than plotting to replace us and splitting the Remain vote in the Euro elections.

    In view of the likely split, ti’s probable that the leaked startegy paper which angered many Lib Dem members did not refelct the overall opinión of Change MPs

  • Paul Barker 4th Jun '19 - 4:13pm

    And then there were 5. Essentially all the ones that you may have heard of have gone back to being Independent MPs though they are rumoured to be meeting later to discuss further possible moves. The 5 “Who ?” MPs are left in Change.
    So hold the Tea & Cake.

  • The ones left as ChUK: Anna Soubry (leader), Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Ann Coffey.
    The ones who have left to be Ind: Heidi Allan, Chukka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger, Sarah Wollaston, Angela Smith

  • Martin Land 4th Jun '19 - 4:41pm

    So 6 CHUKs chuck it in. If they would like to join us they are welcome as long as they come as individuals without demands. Their mandate (or more accurately their lack of one) does not permit that.

  • Would be useful if some did join us in the next 24 hours, just in time for the by election.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Jun '19 - 4:56pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach. Before catching up on all this afternoon’s discussion, I must remind you, Matthew, that in another Change thread here I welcomed your writing that the Liberals had a left-of-centre focus before the SDP joined us – welcomed and agreed with you! So please don’t imagine a quarrel with a friend and ally! I wrote of my 50 -year commitment to a Liberal party which was enriched by the social democratic input, and affirmed that I and my close university Liberal friends had always been left-orientated, and radical too. Please come back on board as an activist in our shared tradition which the party, I perceive, needs to be reminded of.

  • Richard O'Neill 4th Jun '19 - 5:12pm

    This fresh split, after just a matter of weeks, is perhaps a sign that some of these MPs are just flakey. If we welcome them into Lib Dem fold, what guaruntee do we have they will not just defect back to Labour and Conservatives as soon as those parties have a leader more to their liking.

    Lib Dems have withstood a lot over the past decade and kept going. These guys couldn’t manage a single election campaign.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Jun '19 - 5:46pm

    “That the Liberal Party was significantly more to the Left politically than the SDP – I am glad you are reasserting that, Matthew. I was just a humble foot-soldier, not much involved or aware of the machinations, but the one fact I and my close Liberal friends from University days were always aware of was that we were Left-leaning and radical (and that David Owen wasn’t!).” I wrote that on May 29, 6.18 pm, in Jon Andrew’s thread.

    “While Change UK are working out their identity, hopefully very much in tune with ours, let us reassert that our own party is Liberal and Social Democratic, as Matthew and George describe, and that the majority of us rejects neo-liberal economics. We are Centre-Left leaning,…progressive in policies, and well identified in brief by the name Liberal Democrats.” I wrote that on May 30 at 9.34 am in Jon Andrew’s thread.

    I am sure you will see that you did not pay attention to my comments which mentioned your name on May 30, Matthew, and withdraw the slur you wrote about me at 10.38 am, today, extraordinarily – that you were ‘quite deeply offended (by my) suggesting that we Liberals were right-wing in those days’. I was there, Matthew. You can alleviate the offence to me, please.

  • John Marriott 4th Jun '19 - 5:54pm

    Remember Kilroy-Silk’s Veritas Party? Quite.

  • This is all moving very quickly all of a sudden. I hope we are not about to make any hasty decisions. The rumour is that the TIGs (i.e. those who left ChUK today) may be about to try and join the LibDems, and then one of them to run for leader – nominated by the others.
    At the risk of being accused of being a tribalist, I hope we stop and consider how this might look: a group of 6 MPs joining a group of 11 is a big wedge to swallow in one gulp. Of course I’d love to have 17 MPs overnight but:
    1. are we absolutely sure all these guys share our values? If so, why didn’t they join us before now, and why did they not agree to work with us in the Euros when Vince asked them?
    2. Have we consulted the LibDems in their various constituencies about whether they should be members, and about whether they are being offered anything in return for joining?
    3. Given they’ll have changed party 3 times is 4 months, do we not think there is a serious case now for them to hold by elections? I think it’s a fair question, and it’s certainly one we will be asked.
    4. In terms of our leadership election, is it fair to allow people to stand who were not members when nominations opened?
    Believe it or not, I am not instinctively against welcoming them – or at least some of them. I’ve been open-minded about working closely with them, and I always considered that it might come to some of them ending up in this party. But I am concerned about the pace of events here. If they are to join, let’s do it in a considered way, making sure the relevant local parties are fully involved. And let’s make sure our leadership election doesn’t become a factor in how quickly all this happens.

  • Another new name is surely in the offing: Small Change UK

  • Laurence Cox 4th Jun '19 - 6:07pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    I would like to know what evidence you have for your assertion:
    Sorry, but it was actually SDP background leadership that pushed us to the right. Clegg came from the SDP, not from the Liberal Party.

    If anyone can tell us Nick Clegg’s membership number, then it is easy to identify whether he was an SDP or Liberal member prior to the merger or joined after the merger.

    I remember being told by one of the long-standing Liberals in Bromley, on learning that I was moving to Harrow, that under no circumstances should I have anything to do with the Harrow Liberals. It was only after several years there in the SDP and then in the merged party that I fully understood her warning.

    To claim that the SDP was right-leaning while the Liberals were left-leaning on economics is dishonest. Both parties had a wide range of economic views, and I knew ex-Marxists in the SDP. The real difference between the two parties was that the Liberals were fundamentally anarchic, while the SDP (as a result of their formation) were more centrally-organised. In one sense, they were ahead of their time on this.

    I also noted David Raw’s comments; but everyone seems to forget that Simon Hughes won his first election against Peter Tatchell by playing the homophobia card; whether it was Simon himself or his Agent who was responsible, I don’t know, but anyone who calls themself a Liberal should be ashamed of it and even Simon admits now that the Liberals were wrong not to speak out against the media vilification of Tatchell.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/bermondsey-by-election-1983-homophobia-hatred-smears-and-xenophobia-8508258.html

  • Charles Pragnell 4th Jun '19 - 7:32pm

    This is no surprise that the Change UK split has happened . I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some of the six may be having coffee and biscuits with leading Lib Dems. I know that Heidi Allen gets on well with Jo Swinson, and could this be the catylis for her and Sarah to join the Lib Dems. Both Cambridge South West and Totnes have a Liberal tradition . Thus if they stood as Lib Dems they would most likely gain the seats for the Lib Dems. I seem to remember the Lib Dems ran Chuka close in the 2010 election, I wonder if he is considering joining . During the European campaign he was hinting of closer ties to the Lib Dems.
    Not sure about the other three. I have a feeling we might see some movement in the next few days.

  • Ruth Coleman-Taylor 4th Jun '19 - 8:55pm

    There are plenty of good people out there who have not yet identified themselves as liberals or indeed as Liberal Democrats because they have not seen or heard enough about our party or met anyone who might help them make the connection between what they think and what we think. This is the primary argument for maintaining a public profile wherever we can.
    But there have been a lot of hard years for all kinds of reasons and I know that my local party in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, was one of the many that was in a state of collapse only a few months ago. Somehow we got a group of people together to campaign for the local elections and, in due course, the Euro-vote. Canvassing this year, both in my home area and elsewhere, has been wonderful because so many people want to get involved, want to know more about what is going on the political world. We have to be there to sustain these conversations and welcome them into the party.
    Our modest local campaign has helped to raise the party’s profile, elect several new Councillors and, thanks to a quirky system of selection at the Town Council, has landed me the post of Deputy Mayor (!!).
    But I don’t think anyone should get a free pass into membership of the Lib Dems: none of our recent recruits here did. If the former ChUK MPs/members want to join us, they need to apply, discuss, demonstrate that they share our values. What we need, now more than ever, is genuine Liberal Democrats who will help to carry our campaigning party forwards.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jun '19 - 5:52am

    Laurence Cox

    I also noted David Raw’s comments; but everyone seems to forget that Simon Hughes won his first election against Peter Tatchell by playing the homophobia card;

    Actually, no he didn’t.

    What seems to have been forgotten is that there was an Independent Labour candidate in the by-election, and right up to the last week of the by-election the press were reporting it as if it were a two-candidate contest between the official Labour and Independent Labour candidate. It was the Independent Labour candidate who used the homophobia card.

    Some of us were motivated to come and help Simon Hughes because we were angry at the way the Independent Labour candidate was openly using homophobia in his campaign, and we didn’t want him to win because of that.

    It was actually local activity by the Liberal Party that had built up support in the constituency for quite a long time before the by-election took place, but the national press were completely ignorant of that. The local activity of the Liberal Party was to challenge the very complacent Labour Party that didn’t have to do anything as they always assumed they wold automatically win there, and it was the candidate who was standing as the Independent Labour candidate who had been the leading Labour local figure there for years, so he was the one our local activity was principally challenging.

    It is because that Independent Labour candidate did so badly at the end that he has been forgotten, and much of what he put out in the by-election is now wrongly assumed to have been put out by the Liberal Party.

    Simon Hughes is apologising in the reference you give, but not for being actively homophobic as what you have written might suggest. He is apologising for just ignoring the homophobic aspect of the by-election in what we did, instead of actually coming out and ourselves stating clearly that we did not agree to it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jun '19 - 6:08am

    Laurence Cox

    To claim that the SDP was right-leaning while the Liberals were left-leaning on economics is dishonest.

    No it is not. I am writing from my own experience as someone who was very active in the Liberal Party during the time the SDP was founded and the time of the merger. My activity in the Liberal Democrats after the merger was as a local councillor, and during that time I wasn’t much involved with the national party activity. But before that, I was. I attended the national conference every year, for example. I was active in several different places in the country, and helped in many by-elections. At the time of the merger, I was a member of the national committee of the Liberal Democrats. Our chair was part of the Liberal team negotiating the merger with the SDP. We worked closely with her, being informed by her what was happening in the merger negotiation, and advising her on what to do next.

    Yes, all that time I was on the left side of the Liberal Party, but centre-left, not far-left. I can say for sure that it was us that were most unhappy about the SDP. It was those on the right of the Liberal Party who were most in favour of the SDP and who saw no big differences between themselves and it.

    I am telling what I experienced as the truth. And I am telling it because I am appalled at the way false history is being constructed, which tries to pretend that the pre-merger Liberal Party was all about right-wing economics. Back then there was no significant part of the party that gave keen support to what we then called “Thatcherism” but what now gets called “neoliberalism”. That word “neoliberalism” was never used in those days, because it was quite clear it had nothing to do with what the Liberal Party in our country stood for. I rather think it has been pushed a lot in recent years in order to damage us and help push that false history.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Jun '19 - 10:12am

    Unfortunately I shall not be able to believe anything that Matthew Huntbach says in future, if he is not going to acknowledge the terrible mistake he made yesterday at 10,38 a.m. in accusing me of an opinion which was the exact opposite of the opinion I had expressed, actually agreeing with him, in comments I had made to him the previous week. See above, June 4, 5.46 pm. The slur he so wrongly cast on me was astonishing and hurtful.

    Moreover, Matthew diverted himself from the point I was making earlier yesterday morning at 10.15, which was that I accept our party has been enriched by the social democrat tradition, but now am afraid that it may be somewhat failing in keeping up that tradition and standing up for social justice. I think this may be one of the answers to the question Richard poses in his excellent article, as to why people who appear to be thinking like us aren’t joining the Lib Dems. Maybe the people who are Labour-party and Remain inclined are not sure that we also do care passionately about social justice. I trust that we do, and want us to affirm it at this present moment by a party statement supporting the Philip Alston report with its devastating criticisms of the Government’s attitudes and practices. The Labour party’s shadow work and pensions secretary spoke out in support of Alston, and we should be doing the same, at this time when Amber Rudd is actually proposing to complain to the UN about the report.

  • Laurence Cox 5th Jun '19 - 12:18pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    I was very active in my local SDP from its foundation and afterwards in the merged party and I know what happened in the various power centres of Harrow Liberals, so don’t try to pretend that all Liberals were sweetness and light and that all SDP came with horns. Later on, as Secretary of the merged party, I ended up with the minutes of the Harrow Liberals meetings, which confirmed what I had been told previously.

    Regarding Bermondsey:

    “These slurs on my nationality and sexuality were also spread by the Liberals to boost support for their candidate, Simon Hughes.”

    seems to be pretty unambiguous to me.

    On right vs left economically. I thought that I had made it clear above that I didn’t recognise your identification of the SDP with right-leaning economics and I made no claim that the Liberals were right-leaning either. It seems that just as with Katharine Pindar, you are seeking to tar me with views that I have never expressed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jun '19 - 3:23pm

    @Katharine Pindar

    What mistake did I make? Sorry, I am telling the truth from my own experience. The idea that the Liberal Party did not have a concern for social justice before the merger with the SDP is what you suggest in what you wrote, particularly “Social justice should I believe be as much an insistence of our fundamental being as liberalism”. What you are suggesting there is false.

    As I said, that can be shown by the wording in the preamble to the Liberal Party “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity”. Back at the time of the merger, that was actually seen as the key definition of what the Liberal Party stood for. We had to force the SDP to agree to continue having that wording in the preamble of the merged party. I know that because I was personally involved closely with those Liberals negotiating the merger.

    Surely that wording is all about social justice. So how come you are suggesting that social justice is not something those who called ourselves liberals back then cared about, and suggesting that it was the SDP who made us consider it? Sorry, but when you write wording which suggests that, you do offend me. I joined the Liberal Party back in the 1970s because I felt it was the party of social justice.

    My deep concern is that there seems to be a coalition who are determined to push the idea that liberalism is primarily about right-wing economics: letting big business do what it likes, and minimising the state. That coalition consists of a small minority who infiltrated our party some years after the merger, and the Labour Party who were happy to support them and push the idea that they were what we are all about. The Labour Party do that to this day by repeatedly suggesting that all of us members of the party were keen supporters of everything the 2010-15 Coalition did.

    It really, really, really saddens me to find that many people today who are to young to know what the pre-merger Liberal Party was like really do believe it was primarily about extreme free-market economics, because that is what they suppose “liberalism” means. What Labour says about that helps build up this false history. And by using wording which suggests that liberalism and social justice are too completely different things, you are contributing to that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jun '19 - 3:45pm

    Laurence Cox

    Regarding Bermondsey:

    “These slurs on my nationality and sexuality were also spread by the Liberals to boost support for their candidate, Simon Hughes.”

    seems to be pretty unambiguous to me.

    Well, it might be unambiguous, but it is just not true.

    I was deeply involve in the Bermondsey by-election. And not just in the by-election itself, but in the build up to it, where Liberals were getting active in Bermondsey for many months before the by-election happened. I spent many days there helping deliver literature, and canvassing.

    And I NEVER AT ANY TIME saw any literature delivered by the Liberals which made any mention of Peter Tatchell’s nationality or sexuality.

    The issue here is that the by-election was seen as a competition between the Peter Tatchell and the Independent Labour candidate, who had been one of the prominent members of the Labour Party and was assumed to have widespread local support. The media reported it like this up to the last week, completely missing the extent to which the Liberal Party had been building up local support for a long time. It was crazy – you would walk around Bermondsey seeing “Vote Liberal” posters up all over the place, and then read a national newspaper article still describing it as a a competition between two Labour candidates where no-one needed even to be mentioned because no-one else stood a chance.

    However, the Independent Labour candidate did so badly that after that it was forgotten he even existed. With Simon Hughes winning it, it began to be supposed that the slurring material and words put out by the Independent Labour candidate were put out by Simon Hughes. No they were not.

    If you don’t believe me, there is nothing I can do. If others have other experiences, fine. But I assure everyone reading this – what I am writing is the truth based on what I actually experienced.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jun '19 - 4:18pm

    Katharine Pindar

    Maybe the people who are Labour-party and Remain inclined are not sure that we also do care passionately about social justice.

    But I myself agree with you over this concern.

    There seem to be a concerted effort to push the idea that the Liberal Party before the merge was all about right-wing economics, and that this has continued in the Liberal Democrats today. An aspect of this is the way the word “neoliberalism” has recently become commonly used. That word suggests that what it is used to mean is a natural development of liberalism, and so is what we were about in those days. I don’t remember that word being used at all until a few years ago, and it does seem to me to used now primarily by people who like the way it damages us.

    It is not just what I think, it is what I have observed – people who were not there to experience the real pre-merger Liberal Party writing about the merger under the assumption that the Liberal Party then stood for right-wing economics, and the merger pushed it to the left. But I know from my own deep experience and very active involvement in the Liberal Party in the years before the merger that this is the opposite of the real truth.

    The point I am making, Katharine, is that by writing things like “Social justice should I believe be as much an insistence of our fundamental being as liberalism”, you are giving support to those who are trying to damage our party by pushing this false history.

    In reality, what actually happened is that a tiny minority group who were certainly NOT long-term members of the Liberal Party managed to take over control of the top of our party. I have to say because the SDP was a more centralised party, and the merged party adopted the centralised organisation of the SDP, that enabled those minority who took control to do immense damage to our party. Then they did even more by using the Coalition to strengthen that new right-wing image.

    The reality is that because they are new infiltrators, long-term Liberals and former SDP members now often find ourselves united as opponents to this new group – I have experienced that as well. So the old division of the party between Liberals and SDP had indeed completely vanished. What is wrong is to talk about these infiltrators as if they are inheritors of what the Liberal Party in the 1980s stood for. They most certainly are not.

  • @David Raw 4th Jun ’19 – 11:18am

    … 2. David Beckett on ‘Lib Dems broke a pledge’….. it’s not folklore, it’s true, they did, and on VAT as well as students.

    I’m not aware of any broken pledge on VAT. Mr Raw needs to check back and read what Vince Cable said re VAT in 2010. Let’s leave it to our opponents to tell lies about us, without joining in ourselves.

  • @ Simon Shaw VAT bombshell – The Telegraph
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/General-Election-2010-Nick-Clegg-accuses-Conservative…
    9 Apr 2010 – General Election 2010: Nick Clegg accuses Conservatives of ‘VAT bombshell … Unveiling a “bombshell” election poster copied from the Tories’ ………

    “”It’s the Tory VAT bombshell. Under the Conservatives, the richest 3,000 families in the land will be £233,000 better off because of inheritance tax cuts. And everyone else will be stung for nearly £400 more in VAT.” Nick Clegg

    Nick Clegg and that Tory VAT bombshell poster | UK news | The …
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/blog/2010/jun/22/nick-clegg-vat-poster
    22 Jun 2010 – Bombshell: Nick Clegg and that Tory VAT poster … More people are reading and supporting our independent, investigative reporting than ever …

    Time to get the old memory checked out, Simon ?

  • Of course it may be that the then Mr Clegg didn’t inform the then Mr Cable….. which would be disappointing from a team player point of view.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Jun '19 - 9:47pm

    I don’t know what you lecture in, Matthew Huntbach, but medieval scholasticism would seem to be up your street. How could you possibly suppose that, in writing that I and my Liberal university friends were ‘Left-leaning and radical’ from the beginning, I was not saying that we believed in social justice and identified our party with it then and always? I began this debate with you by saying that I was glad that you were reasserting that the Liberal Party was significantly more to to the Left politically than the SDP! That is, that I agreed with you that it was! I have to pity your students, if you read their submitted work with such inattention and lack of understanding.

    Can I finally make it plain to you that in writing, ‘Social justice should I believe be as much an insistence of our fundamental being as liberalism’ I was welcoming the CONTINUING tradition which I went on to say I feared was under threat. I have been in agreement with you all along! The SPD merely contributed the words that helped to clarify what we Liberals believed in: as I wrote on May 30, ‘Let us reassert that our own party is Liberal and Social Democratic, as Matthew and George (Kendall) describe.’ I knew that the SPD was not ADDING social justice to our armoury – it could not, since as I wrote (agreeing with you!) it was less left-wing than we were. This attack by you on myself who has been a left-leaning Liberal all my political life greatly upset me, and I find it unbelievable that you still accuse me of suggesting a falsity, for which you owe me an apology.

    Your attack also stultified what should have been a useful dialogue between us in answer to Richard’s extremely useful theme. Our Liberalism, which you claim to see as I do, did not and does not involve right-wing economics, or neo-liberalism, and inasmuch as that approach was accepted by Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, it was an aberration. But since they were our leaders in the Coalition, it is sad but unsurprising that many people should still be concerned that the present Liberal Democrat party could have retained that approach. It was never upheld by Tim Farron, nor by Vince Cable who has publicly spoken of the need to tax wealth, and any familiarity with the progressive policies we passed at Brighton last September would dispel the idea. But we do need to keep insisting on our true nature and the value of our policies, to help retain the ex-Labour and ex-Tory voters who chose us in the Euro elections.

  • So what “pledge” on VAT are you claiming was broken? Because there wasn’t any. Nick (as well as the national poster(s) ) were pointing out that the Tories’ tax policies didn’t add up.

    Vince, when asked, made it quite clear that the Lib Dems were making no pledge not to raise VAT. What Nick said was totally consistent with that.

    Or maybe you don’t like the idea of the Lib Dems attacking the Tories. Make your mind up, Mr Raw.

  • @ Simon Shaw Really ? It takes a bit of sophistication (or is it wishful thinking) to believe that. I’m sure many people remember a certain frisson between Clegg and Cable in the run up to 2010.

    And that old Tory Walter Scott was probably anticipating Sir Nick when he wrote.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive!”.

    @ Martin Thank you. A generous comment with an accurate conclusion.

    Off for the the next few days, Simon …. so don’t bother to reply.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jun '19 - 5:45am

    @Katharine Pindar

    You wrote “Since the merging of the SDP and the Liberals, we have been enriched by a social democratic tradition, both in people and in policies”, and I disagreed with that.

    My disagreement was not because I support right-wing economics, but because I am concerned it gives the false impression that the old Liberal Party did not have any interest in social justice and was not bothered by the way freedom is drastically reduced by poverty.

    Ok, from what you have written I accept you may not have intended that, but I can see there is a real problem that this is being pushed by those who want to destroy our party. I.e. Labour, who want to return to a cosy two-party system, making out we are no different from the Conservatives in terms of social justice to do this, as the majority of places we were winning seats were where we were the main left opposition to the Conservatives.

    I really have experienced many in recent years who genuinely believe the completely false idea that the Liberal Party was right-wing and was pushed to the left by the SDP, but this pushing to the left has now gone away and it has returned to being a right-wing economic party, standing for what is now being called “neoliberalism”.

    Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why those Labour MPs who started Change did not just join us. They went along with Labour’s claim that all of us in our party were keen supporters of everything the Coalition did.

    Fortunately, what took years to establish in the 1980s: that the foundation of the SDP was unnecessary, because the Liberal Party was already doing what they wanted to be done and was much stronger with local activity than the media ever reported, has with Change taken just weeks to establish.

    However, when you write “It was never upheld by Tim Farron, nor by Vince Cable “, I think they should both have done MUCH more to counter the accusations being made against us. Those accusations continue to get made and believed because they haven’t.

    So the belief remains that a small party in the only coalition that was viable can get everything it wants from the much larger party that dominates it. Why can’t the leaders of our party put effort into stating that is nonsense? Why can’t they make clear that it is the disproportional electoral system supported by Labour that so weakened our ability to push the Coalition much more towards what we would really want?

  • @David Raw

    So when I ask: “So what “pledge” on VAT are you claiming was broken?”, your answer is that you haven’t found any such pledge – because it doesn’t exist.

    For someone who claims to be a Lib Dem you seem to spend a whole lot of time attacking the Party, even to the extent of quoting the sort of lies we expect from our political opponents.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '19 - 8:45am

    @ Simon Shaw, @ David Raw

    If politicians campaign under a slogan “TORY VAT BOMBSHELL” during the election, and then later help the Tories drop that bombshell, voting to increase VAT to 20%, then most people will think they’ve gone back on their intent.

    I’m probably too old and cynical to take much notice of any of that. It’s all about the impression you give. Calling an increase in VAT a ‘bombshell’ creates the desired impression, but isn’t the same thing as opposing an increase in VAT. It’s possible to be in favour of bombshells! Especially if you not too close to where they explode.

    The same process was at work on the famous red bus. The wording is well known.

    “We send the EU £350 million per week”. Literally true. But you’ll say “Ah but they send have of it back”. That may be true too. But did the Leave campaign say they didn’t?

    “Let’s fund the NHS instead.” We do fund the NHS. So instead of what? The total amount? The difference? 10% of the difference? The Leave campaign just don’t say.

    It’s almost impossible to be too cynical when analysing what politicians say, especially when you look at the fine detail.

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Jun '19 - 8:45am

    @ Simon Shaw,
    I remember Nick Clegg standing in front of a rather large billboards and being rather disappointed by a subsequent rise in VAT.

    By googling-

    ‘Factcheck: What have the Liberal Democrats ever done for us’ , you may find the reason why some of us remain suspicious of the Liberal Democrats and their ‘evidence based claims.

  • Daniel Walker 6th Jun '19 - 10:03am

    @Peter Martin “ “We send the EU £350 million per week”. Literally true

    No, it isn’t. The rebate is deducted before the payment is made.. It is literally false.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jun '19 - 10:21am

    Matthew, I accept that winning former Labour supporters to join us is difficult if they continue to believe that we support neo-liberal economics as do the Conservatives. But you wanted to find an opponent so you could expound your beliefs, and picked on me, a Liberal who has believed in social justice all my life, and knew that our party identified with it! I understood my party so well that as a teenager I actually won a prize from them in a competition for the best short description of liberalism. So you can understand my outrage at your picking on me, of all people commenting here, as a paper opponent.

    The short-lived Social Democratic Party allowed us to add the word Democrat to enrich our image, but also contributed the idea of social democracy which put a name to our already strong belief in and work to further social justice. That we continued the tradition to this day is actually amply attested by our policy developments and our leadership since the Coalition. Look at our 2017 Manifesto, the policies passed at Brighton last September, and the present development of the Fairer Shares for All policy which will be finalised at Bournemouth next September. But I accept that we have continuing work to do to make plain to leftish-inclined voters all this good work and commitment.

    It is in keeping with what we are and fight for that we support the findings of the devastating Alston report, on which a party statement is needed now, and I trust that you yourself and other members reading this will ask our leaders, present and pending, to issue such a statement and pursue the Alston recommendations.

  • When the SDP merged with the Liberal Party, it contained Social Democratic types from Labour as well as ex Tories. Change UK is no different and those people can be accommodated within the LibDems until or unless real PR voting arrives and more nuanced political parties can be supported.
    When people move to a new party, they have a learning process which will probably influence them in a slightly new direction. This obviously happened with Shirley Williams who was one of the most left wing people via the SDP, but who admitted that she had developed along a somewhat different path.

    Don’t be “splitters”, welcome them in and let them develop.

  • chris moore 6th Jun '19 - 1:38pm

    Katharine Pindar 6th Jun ’19 – 10:21am
    Matthew, I accept that winning former Labour supporters to join us is difficult if they continue to believe that we support neo-liberal economics as do the Conservatives.

    Hello Katherine, I don’t remember the party ever supporting neo-liberal economics.

    Our macro-approach has been Keynesian all the time I’ve been a member – 30+ years.

    BTW I entirely agree with you re Alston.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '19 - 1:51pm

    @ Matthew @ Katharine

    “I accept that winning former Labour supporters to join us is difficult if they continue to believe that we support neo-liberal economics……”

    I wouldn’t worry too much about that. The Labour Party are neoliberals with flat caps. The Greens are neoloiberals on bikes. Lib Dems are neoliberals with sandals. Change are neoliberals lost in the wilderness. 🙂

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2019/06/06/john-reynolds-mp-is-protesting-way-too-much-about-mmt/

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '19 - 2:24pm

    @ Chris Moore,

    “Hello Katherine, I don’t remember the party ever supporting neo-liberal economics.”

    Have you read the Lib Dem 2010 manifesto?

    “Public borrowing has reached unsustainable levels, and needs to be brought
    under control to protect the country’s economic future.”

    “Honesty about the tough choices needed to cut the deficit”….. “We will reduce the deficit” …….”dealing with the deficit we will seek to identify additional savings which
    can be used to pay down the deficit further”….. “This group would agree the timeframe and scale of a deficit reduction plan”…… “The savings identified below are only the start of a programme to tackle the deficit ”

    An obsession with the deficit is a key indicator of neoliberal thought. Cutting govt spending also cuts government income as the economy tanks. So the deficit is largely unaffected. The only way to bring taxation revenue back up again is to cut interest rates to encourage more private borrowing and so more private sector spending. This IS neoliberalism. Period.

  • In our 2017 manifesto we still had a commitment to two neoliberal fiscal rules – the idea that day-to-day government spending should be funded from taxation and that we needed to not spend all of the increased government revenue from economic growth. Also we had the largest spending commitment on reversing the benefits cuts of the Coalition and Tory governments since 2010 and increasing spending on welfare by £9.71 billion. During the campaign I think I heard more about the first than the second. We need to ditch our neoliberal economic policies and embrace the idea that governments can run the economy to achieve economic growth in the region of 3% each year and provide the right type of help to those not in work to make them employable in a liberal manner which gives each person control over their destiny and doesn’t mean the government will dictate to the unemployed what they have to do to become employable.

    If we emphasised that we would provide the help people wanted to get on in life rather than the government telling them what to do, that we would use fiscal measures to manage the economy to maximise economic growth while controlling inflation and that we would end relative poverty in the UK within eight years, then maybe people who don’t think we are the party for them would join us.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '19 - 3:34pm

    @ Michael BG,

    I probably should have said that 2010 was LibDem neoliberalism at its worst. There has been some significant improvement since. There’s still some way to go though.

    All Lib Dems need say is that they’ll use fiscal policy to manage the economy steering a sensible mid course between the constraints of too much inflation and too much recession. That’s all there is to it. I’m anticipating that the economy will continue along its sluggish path with interest rates close to zero. If there is another crash, maybe caused by the Italian banks failing and the Italian economy going the same way as the Greek economy, no govt will have a choice.

    There won’t be any monetary option with interest rates so close to zero.

  • Chris Moore

    I wish we had been a party which supported Keynesian economics to achieve full employment from 1988 until now. It was true until 2005 but after this it changed. According to Wikipedia, Vince Cable “oversaw the party’s shift towards economic liberalism”. I recall looking at the policies we passed after 2005, when Vince had great influence, we ditched our commitment to negative income tax, he wouldn’t support reforming inheritance tax along lines which we now support and we ditched our commitment to running the economy to achieve full employment. Social Liberalism was being replaced with Economic Liberalism or neoliberalism in our economic and social policies. During the Coalition policies were passed which strongly supported the neoliberal economic policies of the government.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '19 - 7:30pm

    @ Joseph Burke,

    “…..we have the prospect of an unaffordable, bloated state built on irresponsible borrowing, unsustainable debt, spending for spending’s sake. ” ???

    “And if we go into another recession with a high debt to GDP ratio it will be much harder for us to keep the confidence of creditors, to keep the cost of borrowing down.”

    Except, as the debt has increased in recent years the cost of borrowing has decreased to historical lows. Methinks you need to invest in some new text books.

    I did say in an earlier comment regarding progress required to completely remove neo-liberalism from LibDem thinking : “There’s still some way to go though.”

    I’m not sure it was absolutely necessary to conclusively demonstrate that. But thanks anyway!

    PS How’s Nick getting on in his new job at Facebook?

  • Joseph Bourke 6th Jun '19 - 9:11pm

    Peter Martin,

    The above comment did state its purpose – to introduce a bit of factual content to this thread. On the subject of factual evidence the OBR publishes a longer-term assessment of UK fiscal sustainability https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/734970/FSR_July_2018_web.pdf

    The baseline conclusion: “…the fiscal position is unsustainable if the public sector is on course to absorb an ever-growing share of national income simply to pay the interest on its accumulated debt. This notion of sustainability can be quantified in several ways. The projections assume whole economy productivity growth will average 2.0per cent a year in steady state.”
    “Our baselineprojections show public spending increasing as a share of national income beyond the medium-term forecast horizon, exceeding receipts by increasing amounts over the projection period. As a result, the primary budget deficit (the difference between non-interest revenues and spending) is projected to move from 0.3per cent of GDP in 2022-23 to 8.6per cent of GDP in 2067-68–an eventual overall deterioration of 8.3per cent of GDP, equivalent to £176.5billion a year in that year in today’s terms. Taking this and our projection of financial transactions into account, PSND is projected to fall from its medium-term peak of 85.6per cent of GDP in 2017-18 to 80.0 per cent of GDP in 2022-23, before rising thereafter and reaching 282.8per cent of GDP in 2067-68. Beyond this point, debt would remain on a rising path.Needless to say, in practice policy would need to change long before this dateto prevent this outcome”
    The number of people aged 85+ is set to double to 3m over the next twenty years. What is needed quickly is a government prepared to deal with the real pressures in the NHS, Social Services and state pensions that are here now and wlll become ever more pressing in the coming years.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jun '19 - 9:25pm

    Heaven save us from another instalment of our three economists arguing the toss in this valuable thread along with all the others, while the rest of us look on and then turn away, bemused! All I know is that we are still blamed for the austerity policies which we do admit to some responsibility for allowing to proceed during the Coalition years, but of which we denounce the continuance. Along with publicising our progressive policies, developed and still in development, in order to keep up the new national interest in us and the retention of voters disgusted with the feeble narcissism of the leaders of both major parties, it surely makes sense to declare our full support for the Alston report. What are we waiting for, while Amber Rudd protests about it, and the Greens and Labour welcome it? We are indeed social and liberal democrats, and we demand a fairer Britain – not next year, but now – because our country is in so much genuine need.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '19 - 9:32pm

    @ JoeB,

    The name tells it all. The Office of Budget Responsibility. You can imagine the ads going out when they are recruiting. They may not say it in so many words but this will be what they’ll be meaning:

    The successful candidate will have been indoctrinated in neoliberal or Classical economics at a prestigious university. A complete ignorance of how the economy actually works isn’t essential but it will be looked upon favourably. No PKs or MMTers need apply.

    It’s an organisation set up by neoliberals to spout neoliberal nonsense, It’s full of cr*p essentially. A waste of money. Should be resources of course!

    PS I and other MMTers are well aware of the demographic problem looming. Yes it is a problem. The solution of which isn’t going to be helped by the application of nonsensical mainstream economics. The proponents of that can get themselves into a huge mess even when the going should be good.

  • Joseph,

    Your post at 6.35 pm today does not contradict what I wrote. By quoting Nick Clegg you show that during the Coalition years we had rejected Keynesian economics and embraced neoliberal economics as many have already stated in this thread.

    Many have also pointed out that part of the answer to Richard Kemp’s question asked in the opinion piece is making it very clear that we have rejected neoliberal economics. We need to have economic policies which are social liberal so that people who have a liberal outlook are happy to join us rather than looking for some other political party.

  • Katharine,

    being in government does require the ability to compromise, prioritise spending commitments and when necessary take difficult decisions.
    Nick Clegg in his 2014 speech linked above was clear enough about the choices :
    “Borrowing more, piling on more debt, diminishing the confidence of our creditors is reckless and it threatens the stability that’s been achieved. Ed Miliband keeps promising a recovery for all. But there will be no recovery at all if you won’t see through the difficult decisions and get the job done.”

    “The Conservatives, on the other hand, agree we need to finish what we’ve started, but they will not do that in a way that is fair. To hold our country together in these difficult times, it is essential that everyone makes a fair contribution. But the Conservative Party has ruled out asking the very wealthy to pay even just a bit more in tax to help the ongoing fiscal effort. Instead they are going to find all of the necessary savings over and above Whitehall cuts by reducing the support we give to the working age poor. The Conservatives have made a deliberate decision that this one group – the working age poor – should be singled out for especially tough sacrifices. When George Osborne says he wants to take a further £12 billion from the welfare budget, that’s actually who he’s talking about. He’s not talking about taking away the universal benefits enjoyed by the very rich, the free TV licences handed out to very wealthy older people. He’s talking about the people scraping by on the minimum wage, the jobseekers who’ve found themselves temporarily down on their luck, the men and women trying to earn their way out of poverty, often working more than one job. Of course we need to get welfare spending at sensible levels. But not through an assault on the hardworking people we should be helping stand on their own two feet.”
    It doesn’t take a degree in economics to understand the points being made or that what is being advocated is anything other than prudent economic policy designed to protect the lowest paid. The policies adopted on increasing tax, rolling back welfare cuts and borrowing for investment by Libdems since 2015 are designed to put this ecomomic policy into effect.

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Jun '19 - 12:44am

    Michael BG,

    The party went down in the opinion polls immediately on entering coalition before any policies were enacted and stayed there for the five years of coalition.
    Nick Clegg’s crime was an inability to turn that around leading to the loss of so many councillors and MPs. It is, however, a little strange that the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties are now trying to emulate Nick Clegg’s loss of electoral support. But that’s a concern for those parties not us.
    We have had two good leaders in Tim Farron and Vince Cable that have restored our electoral fortunes and we will have another good leader in either Ed Davey or Jo Swinson.
    Tim Farron said of the coalition “Many people have told me how much they disliked the coalition we formed with the Conservatives, and I understand why. But no one has yet convinced me that we had any other credible option.”
    Vince Cable recently opined: “I think now people look back, they see that period as one of strong and stable government after the financial disaster and we’ve had three years of chaos since under the Conservatives. I think a lot of people are now reappraising that period and we act as a massive restraint on the Tories over things like public expenditure. It could have been a lot worse as we now know it is.”
    Both candidates in the leadership election are clear that no apologies are needed for the achievements in coalition.
    Ed Davey in 2017 “The decision to leap into bed with the Tories remains controversial. But collaboration can be essential. I think the coalition government, when history looks at it, will go down as actually a pretty good government”
    Jo Swinson on the Lib Dem record in coalition “we should be celebrate our successes but also own what we got wrong”.
    Libdem economic policy has been a continum in the elections in 2010, 2015 & 2017. The coaltion economic policy was dominated by Cameron and Osborne, but it did not change core Libdem policy as reflected in election manifesto’s.

  • ONceALibDem 7th Jun '19 - 1:06am

    “The party went down in the opinion polls immediately on entering coalition”

    But that’s simply not true. If you look at UKPOlling Report the party dead flatlined with a consistent 21% through May and was polling as high as 25% on 9th June (above the GE performance) and 21% on the 20th of June. All within MoE of the Ge outcome.

    And there is real world evidence to counter that view in the Thirsk and Malton by-election on May 27th (two weeks after the Rose Garden) when the Lib Dem vote went up compared to 2005.

    Whatever else happened there wasn’t an immediate turning against the Lib Dems just because of the fact of them entering into coalition

  • Joseph,

    I would never uphold Nick Clegg as someone who understands economics just as Margaret Thatcher didn’t understand macro-economics.

    Just because someone thought going into Coalition was the right thing to do, it does not follow that that person supported the neoliberal economics implemented by the Coalition government.

    From what you quoted it sounds like Jo wants to distance herself more than Ed from the mistakes of the Coalition years.

    You are correct that there is a continuum in our economic policies from 2010 to 2017, but there was a big discontinuation from our previous social liberal economic policies which we had until the 2005 general election. There were other breaks from our traditional policies in 2010.

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Jun '19 - 2:10am

    OnceALibdem,

    see https://academic.oup.com/pa/article/68/suppl_1/70/1403259

    “On the coalition negotiations in May 2010, William Hague is reported to have told his wife, Ffion: ‘I think I’ve just killed the Liberal Democrats.’1 The final agreement was signed off on 20 May 2010. It seems the fate of the Liberal Democrats might have been sealed. After barely one month in coalition, the party’s poll rating had fallen by 8%. Three months on and three weeks before Lord Browne’s report on Higher Education and Student Finance, it had more than halved to 11%.”
    “By the seven month anniversary of the coalition agreement, a YouGov poll in the Sun2 had the Liberal Democrats languishing at 8%. It was never to recover. The party’s collapse was complete. Four and half years later it polled 8%, its worst UK- wide share of the vote for 45 years”

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jun '19 - 2:50am


    Ed Davey in 2017 “The decision to leap into bed with the Tories remains controversial. But collaboration can be essential. I think the coalition government, when history looks at it, will go down as actually a pretty good government”

    Right, that’s it: I’m not voting for Ed Davey a leader.

    Saying this gives the impression that we think the right-wing Conservative Party leads to a “good government”. No, NO, NO!!!!

    If that is what Ed Davey believes, and it would seem to be the case from what he has said, then he is a supporter of pushing our party to the right, and I am not sure I’d want to remain a member if he becomes leader and he really believes a five-sixths Conservative government was a “good government”. I joined the Liberal Party to oppose the Conservatives, not to support them.

    What we need to make clear is that the 2010-15 Coalition was a government that was five-sixths Conservative. Its policies matched that. We were only able to swing things a bit our way if the Conservatives themselves were fairly evenly divided. So it was a very long way from what a government where the Liberal Democrats are the lead party would be like. And if it is not a very long way from that, as what Ed Davey said suggests, then that suggests the Liberal Democrat are a party very similar to the Conservatives. Ugh, I have no wish to be a member of such a party.

    I think it would be hypocritical to support multi-party politics, but then not to agree to a coalition. As the Conservative-LibDem coalition was the only stable government that could be formed in 2010, due to the party balance in the House of Commons, I could accept it being done. But we needed to make clear we were accepting it only for that reason, and not because we really preferred the Conservatives like Ed Davey suggests.

    Also it needs to be made clear that if you are a small party in a coalition dominated by another big party, the central aspects of that coalition will be those of the big party. The small party cannot get the big party to give up its policies and take up instead those of the small party. And that is especially so if no other coalition is possible (as in 2010).

    So we need to make absolutely clear that the idea being pushed that everything the Coalition did is what we really wanted is nonsense.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '19 - 8:37am

    @ Katharine,

    I can understand where you’re coming from. You consider that economic theory is an esoteric subject that only interests a few anorak types. You could be right. But it’s a matter of much greater importance than many realise.

    In 1928, and even after the German hyperinflation of the early 20s, the Nazi party could only muster 2.6% of the vote in Federal elections. Just a few years later after the economy crashed that jumped to 37%. If there’d been no crash and no economic slump there’d have been no Nazi government and no WW2 which cost the lives of millions. So why the big problem? There was no asteroid strike on the Earth. There was no drought or other kind of natural disaster. Crops grew just as well as they ever did. And yet people went hungry. They lost their jobs and their homes. They didn’t understand why and blamed the Jews.

    @ Katharine @ JoeB

    Max Planck, a well known Physicist, famously said

    “A new scientific truth does not prevail by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather by the fact that their opponents eventually die, and a new generation emerges that is acquainted with the truth from the outset.”

    Or more succinctly : “Science advances one funeral at a time!”

    I’m sure he would have preferred it differently.

    There’s little chance of convincing the present generation of economists who’ve somehow managed to combine what should be a successful economic system (UK gdp is $60k per person for example) with a failed social system that requires many people to need food banks and live rough on the streets.

    I know it might sound heartless but roll on those funerals!

  • Peter Hirst 7th Jun '19 - 12:56pm

    What the MPs do is one thing; the other is their supporters who thought they saw a new beginning for the centre ground. Many of these will follow their MPs so let’s hope they do the sensible thing and join us. Five is not a sufficient number for a credible Party and we should do what we can to encourage all of them and hopefully their supporters to do likewise.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jun '19 - 6:32pm

    Peter and Joe, of course the state of the economy matters hugely and all of us need to have some understanding of it, but as the longest thread I ever began was recently prolonged enormously by you and my friend Michael, not so long after there had been another immense tripartite debate, I think you can understand my apprehension. These discussions tend gradually to throw up economic terms and statements beyond the understanding of the lay person like me, and, more depressingly, you all seem to provide many good points but never reach agreement! Thus the popular idea of economists appears to have some truth in it. However, your discussion above didn’t go on too long (?! tempting you?), and, Joe, I was interested by your reference, and also by your quoting Nick Clegg’s statement. I like the way you tend to give us the salient points from references you provide, so long as you don’t go on at a great length. Thank you all!

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jun '19 - 6:49pm

    Matthew, I sympathise with your indignation at the thought that we could succumb to acquiescence with centre-right or further neo-liberal thinking as a party, which you seem feel is a threat if the Coalition government is too much excused. However, I don’t feel alarmed myself, whichever candidate wins. I think our party is now pretty firmly of the centre-left, and I have confidence in Conference decisions, after attending them all in the last three years. The fact is that, unlike in the pretence of the Labour Party leadership, we are a genuinely democratic party and will decide the direction of our forward travel together with our leader. I think Vince Cable understood that!

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jun '19 - 2:37am

    Joseph, I have of course a copy of the full 20-page Alston report, and have offered a precis to the LDV editors as part of an article. You would perhaps guess that I would not need to read most of the Summary here, but are offering it to concerned colleagues who have not had a chance to read it as yet.

    I am interested in what you pick out as key concerns related to poverty. Alston’s twelve recommendations arise naturally from his text, and are all I believe worth attentive consideration. Some of them, such as the fourth, ‘Reverse particularly regressive measures such as the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap and the reduction of the Housing Benefit, including for underoccupied social rented housing’, concur with our policy, as does the eighth, ‘Eliminate the five-week delay in receiving initial UC benefits’.

    Many others are new, radical and decisive, such as the third, ‘Request the National Audit Office to assess the cumulative social impact of tax and spending decisions since 2010, especially on vulnerable groups, with a view to identifying what would be required to restore an effective social safety net.’ There is compassion shown to disadvantaged people along with a practicality, for instance in point seven, ‘Train Department staff to use more constructive and less punitive approaches to encouraging compliance.’ It is tempting to go on quoting the recommendations, which all repay reading. Altogether we have reason to be grateful for the Professor’s visit, and will I hope as a party now welcome his report and endorse its recommendations.

  • Peter Martin 8th Jun '19 - 7:23am

    @ Katharine,

    “………..and, more depressingly, you all seem to provide many good points but never reach agreement! Thus the popular idea of economists appears to have some truth in it.”

    Yes you’re right. My background is Physics and Electronics. More evidence there of possible anorak tendencies I’m afraid! There are some differences at the margins in those academic disciplines. Generally, though, in all the sciences, an agreement is eventually reached in ways that Economists haven’t managed to do in the last 250 years or so. Ah but some might say “Economics isn’t a science”. Possibly that’s true but it could be much more scientific than it is. IMO it is the inherent politics that colours everyone’s views, and stops the normal process of consensus operating.

    Engineering could be said to be applied science and the first thing that often needs to be done is to figure out how something works. That’s what I’ve always done in my day job. Just as a chemist might start with atoms and molecules, I started my own Economics study by looking at what money is and where it comes from. That seemed a logical approach and a good place to start. However, I was surprised to find that it was only those on the fringes of the economics profession who also took the same view. I sensed something was very wrong with conventional mainstream thinking very quickly and the more I’ve learned the more convinced I am about that.

    But why does the mainstream not want to answer that question? It’s politics. The PTB in society don’t want us to know. That’s the only possible explanation.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Jun '19 - 8:42am

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    I admire your calm radicalism.

    @ Peter Martin,
    There is a simple reason why there is such diversion of opinion in economics. It is a social science. It is what many who have studied natural sciences ( often pejoratively) refer to as a soft science. But, although economics requires a disciplined and systematic approach to acquiring verifiable knowledge, the social sciences will always have a humanistic affinity.

    Because of this, there are different scholarly approaches to economics, and different models and conclusions are hardly surprising. You believe that you can adopt a model from the natural sciences and apply it to a social science, there are others who do not, so one could carry on your arguments with Joseph ad infinitum ( preferably in an institution of higher education).

    The Alston report should make us, as a society, hold our head in shame. If there are lessons to be learnt, Alston offers recommendations. There are also practical lessons offered as a result of authoritative research, for example the closure of Sure Start centres and the cost both human and financial of austerity measure. The closure of women’s refuges, leaving women ( and their children), at risk of violence and death because they have been denied a place of safety, the suicides, the unequal and often overwhelming burden that austerity placed on those who were least able to defend themselves.

    Take off the anorak, Peter. There are devastating problems that need addressing in the here and now. There is human suffering that needs alleviating now. I am in no doubt that Katharine has the same radical spirit as myself, she is the last person who needs a lecture on economics as a diversion from the achievable practicalities of radical reform.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jun '19 - 9:43am

    Jayne, thank you very much for that wise and helpful comment. I am glad that we can work together towards radical reform, and that you care so much about human suffering and what we can do to alleviate it. My impression is that both you and Peter may be Labour adherents, but while you comment usefully, Peter is a gadfly alighting on every subject, from whom sadly I do not learn much, so that I wonder if he is actually deliberately destructive in LDV in the supposed interests of the Labour Party, Or maybe he is just an LDV addict like me, but he is not constructive, as you point out.

    Thank you for your gracious comments on me. I do care passionately about supporting the Alston statement and this final report, not only for its fine analysis and very important recommendations , but because Philip Alston has shown up the indifference and negligence of the ruling Tory tribe, and the heartlessness of its leaders. From Mrs May’s attitude to immigrants as home secretary to the current crew’s tolerance of the idea of No Deal, they ignore the needs of the most needy, and so they cannot be allowed to go on as a ruling party. There must and will be real change, and thankfully it is beginning to happen, but we have much work to do first with all progressive people.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '19 - 10:04am

    Differences in economic policy can lead to war.
    In the negotiations that followed the end of WW1 John Maynard Keynes advised David Lloyd George that Germany could not afford the level of reparations demanded. The PM agreed and said so.
    When Germany failed to pay France invaded Germany to try to enforce reparations.
    The treaty became a dead letter in 1936 when Nazi Germany remilitarised the land between the Rhine and the French border. France built a defensive wall on the French German border, but not on the French-Belgian border. Neutral Belgium was invaded again in 1940. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlieffen_Plan
    In WW2 Holland was also invaded.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Jun '19 - 10:22am

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    I wouldn’t describe myself as a Labour adherent exactly. As a one time Liberal Democrat supporter, I have a set of values and I have decided that currently, the set of ideas expounded by Labour provides the political vehicle that is most likely to achieve them.

    My overriding concern, and that of all radicals I believe, is a need to get to the root of the problems that have led to the re-emergence of a strong extreme right movement, not only in the Uk but globally, and the need to implement policies that tackle the discontent that has led to its success.

    As someone from the Yorkshire and Humber area, I voted Green party in the EU elections . I did so after following the number crunching of remain voter.com. In doing so, I and other similarly minded electors deprived Leave of a final seat. I must admit, I do also rate Magid Magid.

    I believe that all people of goodwill, whatever our choice of party vehicle, and I have Conservative friends who also reject the politics of hate, ought, whilst disagreeing on some things, stand together in opposition to a much larger threat.

    When it comes to wisdom, I think that great wisdom has been demonstrated by James O’Brien in his book ‘How to be Right when the world has gone wrong’ A difference should be make between those who tell lies and those who sadly believe them. Together we can challenge the lies.

    I wish you well Katharine.

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Jun '19 - 11:47am

    Jayne,
    I found your comments interesting. I am often dismissed as a right wing reactionary hereabouts but I would actually prefer to be a socialist if only I could find one who could explain to me how it works in the real world and why its next manifestation would not fail as comprehensively as have all previous attempts in this century and the last.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jun '19 - 6:37pm

    Innocent Bystander hits on a real quandary, Jayne. I am wondering if the combination of intellectual enquiry with deep feeling could be a hazard for us, in assuring us that we have the correct way forward, because thought and compassionate inclinations seem so right as prompts to action. I am thinking that it could set us on paths where high walls prevent us noting other possible paths. So though you see clearly the dangers of the growth of far-right extremism, I guess that you do not see so many hazards in far-left extremism. That can equally well be led by clever people who understand crowd dynamics and pretend to be at one with the masses whom they may actually deceive. So I suppose the great promise of Leninism was followed eventually by Stalinism. Without pondering more on such history, I do think that some tendencies in our present Labour party are questionable, and it may be that the pragmatism of McDonnell will need to overcome the idealism of Corbyn for your Socialists to be trusted. Possibly our friend Lorenzo is right in the end, in his maintaining (as I understand it) that it is even possible to be simultaneously centrist, moderate AND radical! But personally I only know for certain that I am a feeling intellectual, but not particularly wise.

  • Joseph Bourke 8th Jun '19 - 7:39pm

    Jayne comments “My overriding concern, and that of all radicals I believe, is a need to get to the root of the problems that have led to the re-emergence of a strong extreme right movement, not only in the Uk but globally, and the need to implement policies that tackle the discontent that has led to its succes.”
    That seems to me a primary aim of most if not all of us that comment on this site.
    Liberal economic policy has been pretty consistent throughout the history of the Liberal party since its founding. In the 19th century, policy was influenced by classical liberalism and in particuar by the political economist John Stuart Mill who placed great emphasis on the collection of taxes on land rents (as had Adam Smith and Davd Ricardo) as a means of funding public service provision and alleviating the burden of taxes on wages and basic foodstuffs. This remained a central tenet of the Edwardian Liberal Party.
    After WW1 and the mass unemployment of the inter-war years, the insights of the Liberal economist John Mayard Keynes came to the fore and remained prominent until the stagfaltion of the 1970s forced a rethink (or rather a re-reading of what Keynes actualy said).
    Today we have a well developed understanding of the influence of money and credit creation on the economy, but still struggle to mitigate the fluctuatiions in demand, asset bubbles and cycles of boom and bust it generates.
    That said Liberal Democrat policy remains firmly rooted in the heritage of Keynes and Beveridge. Keynes did not advocate stagflation, he advocated full employment and the socialisation of investment. Beveridge did not advocate welfare dependency he advocated a social welfare safety net (paid for by national insurance contributions) that went hand in hand with full employment.

  • Joseph Bourke 8th Jun '19 - 7:59pm

    Katharine,

    you write above “Reverse particularly regressive measures such as the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap and the reduction of the Housing Benefit, including for underoccupied social rented housing’, concur with our policy, as does the eighth, ‘Eliminate the five-week delay in receiving initial UC benefits’.

    These are indeed the immediate prioriity as they relate directly to food poverty. This recent Human Rights watch report https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/05/20/nothing-left-cupboards/austerity-welfare-cuts-and-right-food-uk notes:
    “Three fiscal policies on the one hand, have exerted a particularly detrimental impact on people on the lowest incomes in the UK. The fiscal policies include caps on benefits, freezing the rate at which benefits increase, and limiting child tax credits to just two children:

    Since 2013, the government has introduced an arbitrary financial cap on the amount of welfare benefits a family can receive. The government further lowered the cap in 2016. This cap has negatively affected income levels of families with children under the age of five, and single parents (the overwhelming proportion of whom are women).
    For four years, starting from 2016, the government has implemented a freeze on most working-age welfare benefits to “workless” (unemployed) households, so they did not keep pace with inflation, partly reflecting a belief that the “positive and dynamic behavioral effects” of reduced welfare payments would incentivize work among poor people claiming welfare benefits.
    A third, particularly egregious policy, which began in 2017, is a “two child limit,” curtailing any child tax credit (a means-tested cash benefit) to families for any child after their first two (with some exceptions, i.e. multiple births, adoption and children born from rape). This arbitrary limit on a means-tested benefit penalizes low- and middle-income families for having more than two children.

    The other major change that has been particularly harmful is the transition to the Universal Credit system, the government’s signature welfare policy that began in 2012 to replace a complex set of six “legacy” social security benefits. Food aid providers, academic researchers and nongovernmental welfare advice providers have established clear links between the restructuring of the welfare system and a marked increase in food poverty among low income families who receive such support.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jun '19 - 11:42am

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    I want to respond to your thoughtful post, but I shall not be at home until this evening. I also intend to respond to Innocent Bystander and Joseph Bourke, if this thread is still in existence. Don’t expect words of wisdom though. I can only give my opinion which is an honestly held one. Quandary is an apt noun Katherine.

  • Peter Martin 9th Jun '19 - 5:02pm

    @ Katharine,

    I’m not that tribal. Except when it comes to football! But even then I can happily chat with others without falling out! I’ve voted Lib Dem in the past and may again in the future. Maybe.

    “…..but he ( ie yours truly) is not constructive……”

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by that. I suspect being “constructive” might mean the type of suggestions that have been cropping up for years. More of the same, in other words. If you want more of the same then listen to people like JoeB. A LVT might help a bit, and I’m not against one, but you can’t just tack on a little bit of Georgism onto the present day mainstream economics and claim to be an economic radical.

    I sometimes think I should sit back and just let it all happen. The situation in Italy is worse than anyone on LDV realises. That’s the big problem for the EU right now. Salvini’s idea for a parallel currency makes a lot of sense for Italy. Just how the EU view that will probably decide the EU’s future. If they are too tough and start to issue multi-billion euro fines they will totally wreck the Italian economy and create an enormous problem for themselves. If they are too lenient, then everyone else will want to do the same thing and ultimately the Germans will end up picking up the tab for a whole heap of off-book deficit spending.Either could lead to the disintegration of the EU.

    Some skilful middle way might be possible if the EU PTB manage to find it. We’ll see if they do.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/05/eu-could-fine-italy-3bn-for-breaking-spending-and-borrowing-rules

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Jun '19 - 10:24pm

    Jayne, your comments will always be worth reading. I have been busy all day myself anyway. I hope yours has been good. I shall catch up on Andrew Marr now, and maybe tackle the Observer. At least we need not waste time on the shenanigans of the Tory infighting! Best wishes; I assume you have some interesting professional career, or have had, from which to distill useful thoughts and lend some to LDV.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Jun '19 - 11:57am

    At a time when leading Tories are blatantly disregarding the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our country, both by suggesting crashing out of the EU with No Deal and by actually proposing tax cuts for the wealthy, our party must surely speak out for the 14 million people living in poverty here, and therefore support the new Philip Alston report. Thank you, Joseph, for referencing the recent Human Rights Watch report which again cites the three most harmful fiscal policies concerning inadequate benefits, of which Alston and our own policies demand the removal. This should be our party’s answer to the callousness of the Tory ministers, and I shall be asking our two leadership candidates to endorse the Alston report and its recommendations, as the fullest statement of what needs to be done which relates entirely to our own present and developing policies.

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