Christine Jardine: Brexit is sucking the life out of our politics

Christine Jardine was on Sophy Ridge this morning talking (among other things) about how Brexit was sucking the life out of everyone meaning that we couldn’t concentrate on the huge issues of the day like Brexit and the NHS.

The amusing thing is that this clip is both being promoted by the party on its social media channels and trashed on Guido Fawkes.

Guido reckons that Christine is saying that Brexit is more important than the union. Which is a cheek given that Brexit as proposed by the Conservatives is more of a threat to the union than anything I have seen in my lifetime.

If we stop Brexit, we strengthen the union.

Sophy Ridge asked Christine about the leaders’ debates.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • In the 2017 election, we were bewildered by the lack of interest most voters took in Brexit. We told ourselves that the voters hadn’t yet realised how big an issue it was. When Brexit hogged the headlines for the next two years, we told ourselves that we had been right, and that next time we had to fight a General Election, Brexit would be centre stage. And what do we find? Brexit has suddenly become a lesser issue, as the Tories and Labour have primarily campaigned on other topics. How come?

    I think there are two main reasons. One is that Brexit, like climate change, is an issue that many people would just prefer to sweep to the back of their minds. They know thta Brexit matters, but they would like to treat it as none of their business, something they can blame on somebody else, something we are just stuck with. So they would prefer to base their voting decision on something easier to deal with, like which leader they most dislike, or which party they think is best for people like themselves.

    The other is that no concerted effort has been made by Remain campaigners to put forward a clear, plausible, united route whereby we can stop Brexit. Labour’s “Renegotiate, then vote on whether we wanted the deal we have just agreed with the EU”, and the Lib Dems “Revoke, and just ignore the 2016 decision, if we win by a landslide” both sound – well, not terribly serious, and obviously uncoordinated and indeed antagonistic to each other. It’s as if they were just going through the motions.

    We should unite behind the simple People’s Vote proposition – An immediate referendum to choose whether to accept the Johnson Deal with the EU, or to reject it and Remain. If we don’t unite in that way, we are effectively giving up on EU membership.

  • jayne mansfield 11th Nov '19 - 10:40am

    @ Alessandro,
    A couple of members of my family who have moved from the UK to the continent feel the same way.

    To protect their sanity and the happiness of their families, they have just switched off when it comes to Brexit. There is now an acceptance of what will be will be.

    @ David Allen,
    What is your objection to Labour’s position on negotiating a better deal so that a further referendum offers the choice of a better deal than that now on the table or remain?

    If it is to be a peoples vote, why is Jeremy Corbyn’s position so important despite the fact that he says that he voted remain in the last referendum and would vote remain if there were to be another? Many voters have lost trust in politicians anyway. What matters is that the information given by the party is unbiased , taking a neutral position really does put one’s trust in ‘the people’, to make a decision based on current knowledge and information.

    Whatever one’s view on referenda, as the Liberal `Democrats have argued, the democratic way of testing whether people still want the outcome of the last referendum, is by holding another. If that can be done with an option for a less damaging deal, so much the better.

  • Gwyn Williams 11th Nov '19 - 11:51am

    I am sorry Caron but in Wales there is nothing amusing about Plaid Cymru. They want to stay in the EU but leave the UK. The same position as the SNP wants for Scotland. We oppose a hard border between the North of Ireland and the Republic so does Plaid Cymru. We and Plaid Cymru oppose a hard border between Wales and Ireland. Where we differ is that they are prepared to see a hard border between England and Wales.

  • Sandra Hammett 11th Nov '19 - 2:31pm

    We’ve been playing the short game, reacting, when we should have been laying the groundwork in preparation for an election. Nobody can provide the leadership any advice as Brexit has consumed them entirely. It is preposterous to believe in a LibDem majority when we like the Brexit Party are just offering another extreme which can only appeal to a small group as well as hardening the position of our opponents.
    Short of a time machine I can only await the outcome.

  • David Allen missed out a third reason voters are looking at issues: the forthcoming general election is not in fact a referendum on Brexit. If I tactically vote for a remain candidate, which unfortunately I will do, I’m potentially electing an MP who has views that are very different from my own on many subjects, we just happen to coincide over Brexit. So lets say that a government is able to revoke Brexit, or Remain wins a referendum, what happens next? Well quite possibly she governs in a way that I doesn’t represent my views on any other front for the next several views, and moreover claims my tactical anti-Brexit vote as a mandate for all of her party’s policies, when in fact it was nothing of the sort and actually I am strongly opposed to many of those policies. It really shouldn’t be a surprise that voters acknowledge Brexit while also being anxious about the many other issues that effect their lives.

  • Keith Browning 11th Nov '19 - 9:43pm

    As one of the active ‘remain camp’ living in Spain we are all despairing that Lib Dems seem to be fighting Labour as hard as the Tories. There is only one enemy and that is Johnson and his corrupt Tory Party. I dont hear that message from the leading LDs. Jo suggesting she would even talk to Tories in a hung parliament will lose millions of potential votes.

  • Jayne Mansfield,

    To me, the primary problem with Corbyn’s approach to Brexit is that it’s just too late to consider it. We have already had over three years of muddle and dither from the Tories, because whichever way you try, organising a sensible Brexit is just fiendishly difficult. Corbyn wants some but not all of the single market, some sort of customs union but somewhat different from the one the EU have actually created. Barnier basically tore his hair out in despair when he met Corbyn. Barnier fears that it would take just as long to get an agreed deal with Labour as it did with May or Johnson, and the deal would probably end up being just as much of an incoherent muddle.

    If Corbyn had been in charge in 2016, I would have understood him having a go at a softer Brexit. But not now. Johnson’s deal is awful, but letting Corbyn renegotiate would probably make things even worse.

  • Cathy M, you’re right, the third reason why this election is an unsatisfactory way of promoting the Remain cause is because the two main parties which attract most Remain voters haven’t been able to work with each other. Contrast what Farage and Johnson are doing, which looks like effective political collaboration.

    And yet there is a majority, albeit slim, for abandoning Brexit. Labour and the Lib Dems have managed to lose sight of that. They accepted Johnson’s election, despite all the evidence that it was well-timed for Johnson. They could have pushed for a referendum instead, but they didn’t. Big mistake.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Nov '19 - 7:07am

    Keith Browning: Meanwhile at the coalface, while canvassing in the #1 Tory-held Lib Dem target seat in the country (Richmond Park), I came across a Tory leaflet that had a picture of Jeremy Corbyn on it and the message that can be summarised as “Vote Lib Dem, get Corbyn”. That is what we have to deal with on the ground. Any perception that we would enable a Corbyn premiership would be toxic for us in our Tory-facing seats and Tory-held targets (which represent the great majority of them).

    Actually, Jo has repeatedly ruled out any deal with Johnson’s Tories as well as with Corbyn’s Labour. She has also said that a leadership change in either of the two old parties wouldn’t be enough on its own for coalition talks.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Nov '19 - 8:34am

    @ David Allen,
    The holding of a referendum in 2016 could not but end up in a muddle. Those who take an extreme position have simple answers to complex problems, and as such they are easily understood and too readily accepted because of this.

    I fear that you may be right about it being too late, but hope springs eternal and I hope that you are wrong. I am not sure that anything Labour does as far as re-negotiation is concerned can make things worse.

    Actually, I don’t think that what Johnson and Farage are doing is effective collaboration. The egotist Farage has had his legs cut out from under him, Johnson is the new leader of the majority Brexit party, formerly known as the Conservative party. One has to remember that Farage’s backers were all supporters of a particular wing of the conservative party so it does not need a change in values for them to change their allegiance.

    It seems probable that the Conservatives would have won the seats where he is standing his company down without any of his magnanimous help. It is in the North, my part of the UK where the real battle will take place. Farage still intends to field candidates in areas where the tories hope to win over labour voters. It gives yesterday’s man a diminished , but remaining relevance.

    The problem has always been that the leave voters are so single minded they will hold their noses and make alliance to ensure Brexit, the remain parties are too interested in dividing remain voters for party self interest. I have never known such vicious, mendacious allegations against political opponent who offer, at least the chance of a future remain vote. So called remain parties who use these tactics do not deserve to win seats.

    If only those who favour remain had spent the last three plus years trying to convert leavers instead of ‘divvying ‘ up remainers between parties. The pity of it.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Nov '19 - 8:41am

    David Allen: This election was “well-timed for Johnson”, but so was the 2017 election for Theresa May. We know what happened there. Johnson didn’t get his own way on the election. Labour and Lib Dems did not support Johnson’s bid for an election under the FTPA because we knew he couldn’t be trusted to stick to the proposed polling date, and that he might try to delay it so that the UK would crash out mid-campaign. This is why we insisted that the election date be fixed in law.

    There was no majority for a PV in the last Parliament. But there was a majority for Johnson’s deal, because 19 Labour MPs voted for it in 2nd Reading. There may be a risk of a Tory majority on 13 December, but the Lib Dems judged the risk of Johnson’s deal (or no-deal) passing in the last Parliament to have been greater.

    Farage has unilaterally pulled his party out of Tory-defending seats in this election. That is not “collaboration” as much as an admission by Farage that he has no realistic chance of success. It could backfire on both the Tories and Brexit Party plc, as it means we can win over moderate Tories with a “Vote Boris get Nigel” message, countering the Tories’ baseless but potentially effective “Vote Jo get Jeremy” message.

  • @ Alex Macfie “Farage has unilaterally pulled his party out of Tory-defending seats in this election”.

    Apparently this hasn’t gone down too well among the ditched candidates. Yesterday evening, one of them responded to a comment on Twitter pointing out that Farage had taken £100 from each of the Brexit Party candidates that had now stood down.

    He said that this was just a fraction of the money that he’s owed by Farage. “I employed a full time campaign coordinator last week on a two month contract which has cost me thousands,” he said. “I also have an outbuilding FULL of Brexit Party leaflets and signs ready for next weeks launch. Nigel owes me over TEN GRAND.”

  • Should have added, wonder if the Brexit lot will get their money back ?

  • By promising to revoke the vote for independence made in 2016, and, as yet, still not implemented, the Liberal Democrats have potentially lost the votes of over 17 million people.

  • Mack 12th Nov ’19 – 11:08am:
    By promising to revoke the vote for independence made in 2016, and, as yet, still not implemented, the Liberal Democrats have potentially lost the votes of over 17 million people.

    More than that. Many people who voted remain in the referendum do actually believe in democracy and expect our decision to Leave the EU to be implemented. Surveys showed that of those who voted Liberal Democrat in the 2015 General Election around a third went on to vote Leave in the EU referendum. One wonders how many of those will be voting Liberal Democrat in this election?

  • And if they had not promised to revoke the vote to leave they would have lost more votes from the remainers than the leavers. The problems and huge expense caused by all this might very well mean we will stay in the EU anyway. For those who seem unaware the Liberals have been in favour of the European project since the 1950s and it would seem a betrayal to change course now.

  • Alex, I think you are right when you say ‘There was no majority for a PV in the last Parliament.’ However, I think you are mistaken when you say ‘there was a majority for Johnson’s deal, because 19 Labour MPs voted for it in 2nd Reading.’

    Quite simply, although they are pro Brexit (if only to save their political skins), almost all those MPs know the difference between a Tory Brexit and a Labour one. That is why only five of them supported the timetabling motion.

    It is a traditional political trick to say “The alternative is impossible, only my way can be successful” and it can be successful, indeed Boris Johnson is on the cusp of success with his “Let’s get it over” message. But to say there was a majority for Johnson’s deal is just misleading. There was a majority for *further detailed debate* on it when its weaknesses from a Labour perspective would have been exposed. That is not evidence that there was a majority who would have voted it through.

    We are now in a position where a significant number of anti-Brexit Conservatives have decided to walk away from parliament, who will almost certainly be replaced by automaton newbies. For every Grieve who has stayed there is a Hammond who has left. That is another element of what has been sacrificed, apparently inadvertently, by our eagerness to tie Boris down to a fixed date for an election.

    Sadly it seems that a lot of assumptions were made with little exploration of whether the assumptions behind them were valid. Whether it was Heidi Allen, who came over to us (don’t like the word defected), was accepted as candidate, but as soon as the election was called decided she didn’t want to stand, or Phillip Hammond, Guto Bebb, Ken Clarke or Justine Greening etc, a lot of anti Brexit MPs will have gone. I worry more and more that our party’s political nous has been found sadly wanting yet again.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Nov '19 - 1:20pm

    Jeff / Mack: Democracy means that democratic mandates can be challenged and replaced at any time. Every mandate replaces a previous one. Campaigning to replace a previous mandate is not “anti-democratic”, it is what happens every time we have an election. So Lib Dems are campaigning on a “Revoke Article 50” platform, which is to say that they are campaigning to replace the “mandate” (such as it is) provided by the 2016 referendum. If you don’t agree with that position, you can just not vote Lib Dem. If you do, then vote for us. That’s democracy.

  • Peter Hirst 12th Nov '19 - 1:41pm

    If the General Election does not solve Brexit then it is time to consider a non-political solution to this mess. One solution is to form a Citizens’ Assembly with a strict remit to consider and decide. This would help to bring the country together, focus on other issues and bring some stability to the markets and our society. The process is already defined so it just needs some political leverage.

  • @ Alex Mcfie
    Of course, democratic mandates can be challenged and revoked. As long as they have first been implemented! Thenceforward parties opposed to such a mandate can campaign for a different mandate. That is their prerogative, and is the democratic process. It is normally what happens after general elections and referenda. Are you seriously suggesting that if the Conservatives receive a mandate for forming a government on December 12th it should be ignored and revoked before that government is established, for that, surely is the logical extension of your argument? If the Scottish Independence Referendum had resulted in a majority for independence and the government in Westminster had refused to implement it and had campaigned to revoke it that would have rightly been seen as an outrage and an abuse of democracy. Why should the UK’s own vote for independence from the EU be any different? Why should it not be implemented before another alternative mandate to remain in the EU is sought? That is why I say that the Liberal Democrats by their decision to revoke have set their face potentially against 17 million voters.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Nov '19 - 3:18pm

    Mack: First of all, the Brexit referendum was advisory, so there was literally nothing to “implement”. But even in jurisdictions where binding referendums are commonplace (e.g. Switzerland), there is no cast-iron rule that the decisions made in them have to be implemented. The implementation of a referendum result may be abandoned if it proves unworkable, or the result itself may be overturned if there was found to be a breach of electoral law. All this happens within a legal framework, which specifies exactly what should happen at each stage. The Brexit referendum was an example of how NOT to do it: a legally advisory referendum on an open-ended question, which the political establishment chose to treat as binding, but whose result cannot legally be overturned because the referendum was advisory, meaning there was literally nothing to overturn.

    If the Conservatives win a Parliamentary majority in this election, then the newly elected MPs take their seats, and Johnson gets invited to form a government, which can enact whatever legislation it wishes (including, for instance, crashing out fo the EU without a deal) because his party has a majority. That is how Parliamentary democracy works. The election result is binding, and the entire process is automatic. Nothing needs to be done to “implement” an election result. It is just implemented, automatically. Of course, there would also be opposition MPs, and of course they would oppose the government’s programme, but in practice there is very little that they can do when the governing party has a majority. So your analogy with ignoring an elected government’s mandate makes no sense, as there is not much (legally) that can be done to challenge it.

  • nvelope2003 12th Nov '19 - 3:29pm

    Mack: So if it was discovered after a referendum that the proposed change was impractical and damaging it would still have to be implemented regardless of the consequences ? I do not think it is being suggested that the result of a general election should be ignored because it can be reversed by another one. Leavers seem to believe that a referendum result cannot or must not ever be reversed which is undemocratic as circumstances can change. They claim that it was the biggest vote ever but there were only 2 options whereas an election has several options. The turnout was 72% – about average for an election since 1918 although it was 84% in 1950 and 82% in 1951and generally about 85% before 1914. The Scottish referendum turnout was 85%
    We can never again be the sovereign state that we were before 1939 and whatever the outcome we will always have to comply with the rules of those to whom we export but if we leave the EU we will have no rightful opportunity to influence how EU rules are made so we will have lost an element of our sovereignty by leaving and become more dependent on others, particularly the USA.

  • @ Alex Mcfie: “Mack: First of all, the Brexit referendum was advisory, so there was literally nothing to “implement”.
    In which part of the leaflet that the government put through every door in the United Kingdom prior to the EU referendum, setting out the consequences of a vote for UK independence, does it state that the referendum was purely “advisory”? If it was only advisory surely that leaflet would have made it clear. It may have been advisory de jure but not de facto. And that is the only thing which matters to those who voted for independence. Of course the referendum result should be implemented. The British people are a fair minded people: they can see when an injustice is being perpetrated and is being justified by casuistry.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Nov '19 - 4:23pm

    @Mack: That leaflet has no significance except telling the public what the government *that was in power at that time* proposed to do. It did not bind that government’s successors, any more than any other government propaganda does.
    Making any government pledges binding on future legislators is an absolute attack on Parliamentary sovereignty, and thus on democracy. And to decide that something is ‘de facto’ binding is dangerous, because then who decides when it is no longer binding? And how? This shows exactly the problem with the Brexit referendum, of the government making up the rules as it goes along, and this sort of thing has no place in a proper democracy.

  • @Alex Mcfie: “Making parliamentary pledges binding on future legislators is an absolute attack on parliamentary sovereignty, and thus on democracy.”

    You know very well that our constitution doesn’t allow for that. If the 2016 vote for UK independence is rightly implemented, as I hope it will be after December 12th, there is nothing to prevent the Liberal Democrats campaigning to rejoin the EU at a the next general election, and, if they gained a majority they could apply to re-join the EU. And that really would be democratic. Unlike revoking a vote for the UK’s independence which hasn’t even been implemented yet.

  • David Evans 12th Nov '19 - 5:33pm

    I completely agree with Alex’s comment “to decide that something is ‘de facto’ binding is dangerous, because then who decides when it is no longer binding? And how? This shows exactly the problem with the Brexit referendum, of the government making up the rules as it goes along, and this sort of thing has no place in a proper democracy.”

    The situation we find ourselves is that we are in a position where about 37% of the electorate agree with the decision and believe absolutely it is democracy, while about 34% disagree with the decision but quite a significant proportion of them feel it is democratic.

    The problem is that I’m not at all sure we have convinced anything like enough people yet that the Brexit referendum result was undeliverable, because while a slight majority of the voters wanted to leave, there was no agreement as to where they wanted to go.

    It’s like a big family voting on where to go on holiday.
    48% wanted to go to somewhere in the EU – France, Germany or Italy;
    about 24% wanted to go somewhere close to the EU – Norway +;
    and 20% wanted to go to a bit further away – Canada ++; and
    8% wanted to go as far away as possible – Singapore + Devil’s take the hindmost Island.

    The problem is that the Conservatives, UKIP and the ERG 8% scuppered the EU option.
    Then the ERG scuppered scuppered the Conservative’s Norway option.
    Next the ERG Scuppered the Canada option.
    Now they want us to believe their Singapore + option is exactly what people wanted all along.

    However so far, we have been pants at getting people to understand that it is the extremist Tory party who have failed to deliver Brexit. We should have been laying the blame on them every day from the day after the Referendum. However instead we have let them blame us.

    I really hope our leaders have a cunning plan which will turn this all around in the next few weeks, because to me 30 Lib Dem MPs plus Brexit would be a disaster, 20 MPs and Brexit a catastrophe, 10 MPs and Brexit could easily be the beginning of the end.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Nov '19 - 5:48pm

    Christine is right, Brexit trumps every issue.

    Here is Prof Chris Grey, from his blog, ‘The Brexit Blog, “As prefigured in my previous post, this election campaign looks set to avoid any serious discussion of Brexit. That is actually quite extraordinary. We have a country whose politics and culture have been convulsed by Brexit for the last three years, and will be for years to come. A country whose entire future and place in the world will be shaped by what happens with Brexit. A country where there is not a single area of policy that Brexit does not affect. Nothing sensible can be said about government spending or taxation without reference to the impact of Brexit but, equally, environmental, security, foreign, diplomatic and defence policies are all intertwined with Brexit, as are debates about Irish reunification, Scottish independence and even, if perhaps less audibly, Welsh independence.”

    Our policies of supporting a minority government to fold a fresh referendum or of directing a majority government to revoke Art50 require us to explain the harm that the Johnson WA will do to the livelihoods, quality of life and freedoms of all UK citizens.

    We should not be diverted or deviate from this prime task.

    I fear that we are not able or willing to press this single message with every resource we have.

  • @David Evans – “I really hope our leaders have a cunning plan which will turn this all around in the next few weeks, because to me 30 Lib Dem MPs plus Brexit would be a disaster, 20 MPs and Brexit a catastrophe, 10 MPs and Brexit could easily be the beginning of the end.”
    You’re right David, but the answer is to get out there and campaign. If you’ve already done some campaigning, do some more. If you can’t campaign, send money. If you’ve already sent money, send more! But don’t just “hope our leaders have a plan” – Let’s all get out there and be part of that plan.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Nov '19 - 8:32pm

    @David Evans: I think your estimate of the number of seats we might win is flawed, because it assumes Uniform National Swing based on 2017 results. And quite simply, that is not what is going to happen.

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