Clegg in the Guardian: “Why on earth would you not want to try and do s**t?”

We’re going to be hearing quite a lot from Nick Clegg over the next couple of weeks in the run up to his book being published on 15 September.

Today he has a long interview with the Guardian in which he talks at length about some of the key moments of the Coalition. Just to get this over with. I come from the Highlands of Scotland. If any journalist had written about some of the villages I love in the same patronising way that Clegg’s interviewer, Simon Hattenstone, did about Miriam’s home town in Spain, I’d be furious.

Whilst I have often disagreed with decisions that Nick took during the Coalition years, I stand by my long held view that he was often unfairly criticised, too. We can see with ever-increasing clarity that he brought a lot of common sense and stability to government. The minute he and the Liberal Democrats vacated Whitehall, everything started to fall apart. We are suffering the consequences of an arrogant Tory party governing exclusively in its own interests.

Naivety

Any feeling that we might have had that we could have been a lot better prepared for the realities of government is confirmed by the interview. However, the caveat is, of course, that we onlookers have the benefit of hindsight now and detachment at the time. Nick does admit to what appears to be astonishing naivety. It perhaps underlines the fact that he should maybe have had more people around him who had spent years fighting the Tories and knew first hand what they were capable of.

 Yes. I did not cater for the sheer brazen ruthlessness with which the Conservative party would hoover up any good news.”

Of course they did. Although a lot of the key decisions on the economy were influenced by us, the Tories got all the credit. In an extract from his book, he talks about how the Tories had an expectation of power and had spent their lives preparing for it:

But, like Westminster itself, many of the so-called trappings of power – grace-and-favour mansions, grand offices, ministerial Jaguars – can seem completely alien to people who have not spent their lives preparing for power. As such, it is easy to underestimate their importance.

He talks of the importance of symbolism and how things look. While this wasn’t the most important factor in our downfall, by far, it all added to the mood music.

When it was suggested that I take an office with no publicly recognisable entrance of its own, I didn’t mind, as I thought I wouldn’t need an equivalent of the Number 10 door at which to receive guests. When it was decided where I would sit in the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions, I thought it made sense to sit supportively next to the PM, to show that the coalition could work smoothly.

Big mistakes. All of them.

Contradictions

Both in reading David Laws’ Coalition and this interview, there are times when I want to scream with frustration. Now, I know that they held the Tories back on many of the stupid things they wanted to do to social security and there is a limit to what you can do as a junior coalition partner, but why, when the Tories explicitly expressed their contempt towards the poorest, did they agree to things like the Bedroom Tax?:

Welfare for Osborne was just a bottomless pit of savings, and it didn’t really matter what the human consequences were, because focus groups had shown that the voters they wanted to appeal to were very anti-welfare, and therefore there was almost no limit to those anti-welfare prejudices. I found that very unattractive, very cynical.

“Why on earth would you not want to try and do s**t?”

Part of the answer to that can be found in the above quote. We heard Nick talk a lot during the coalition years about turning us from a party of protest to a party of power, always a spurious claim when we’d run Scotland and councils all over the place. There is no doubt that we did do a lot of good stuff, from giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school to same sex marriage to more apprenticeships than the Tories would have done to work on FGM and giving consumers more rights to all the environmental stuff that the Tories are now dismantling with indecent haste.

Not team players

He’s quite blatant about Vince Cable and Chris Huhne.

“Well, I don’t think Vince and Chris would ever count themselves as great team players,” Clegg says.

If I was skippering the Lib Dems, I say, I’d want team players on my side. “Well, it’s not like that, is it? Vince’s strength, and the reason he’s liked by the public, was precisely because he stood apart. So there was no point in me saying, ‘Oh, Vince, can you put in a shift in the boiler room with the rest of the team?’ What I did was give them both big departmental responsibilities.”

I found the need to rebuke his office publicly for briefing against Vince several times during the coalition years, so this clearly works both ways.

Worse than the 2015 election

I get what Nick says about the referendum result. In some ways, I felt the same because of the wider consequences for our country. However, I think he should be very careful about how he phrases such comments:

I felt more wretched after the referendum than after the election. Political parties go up and down. Dare I say it, it’s not the end of the world. I immediately fell on my sword after the election, took responsibility, but we will come back. We already are. But on the 23rd of June we lost something for good as a country, which I feel much more strongly about. You can’t undo a lot of that damage.

Try telling the many Lib Dems who lost their jobs – at HQ, in parliamentary offices, as well as the MPs themselves, and those who had seen the work they had done over decades smashed to smithereens that it wasn’t the end of the world. Really.

We do have to remember, though, that he hasn’t had an easy time of it either. He’s had effigies burned of him in the street, protests outside his home and five years of progressive types calling him names rather than look at what he had actually managed to achieve. I’ve always thought history will be kinder to Clegg than contemporary commentary. The Brexit vote will accelerate that process. I just wish he’d actually acknowledge the party – the majority of whom stuck with him through thick and thin – and the consequences we’ve had to bear together.

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

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151 Comments

  • Peter Kenny 3rd Sep '16 - 11:18am

    I don’t support your party, although there were times during the Iraq war when I could have.

    Nick Clegg’s interview confirms for me, in spades, why I probably never will.

    It’s the witless astonishment that the Tories don’t care about the poor, the pious hand wringing about what that led them to do, as if he wasn’t there, in power with them, with choices.

    It amounts to “I gave them some quite stern talking tos, you know” – while trooping through the lobbies supporting, say, the bedroom tax.

    Let’s say it clearly – you supported these things, you were able to stop them and chose not to. The Tories were in power because of you.

    Woeful.

  • Actually, I’m not sure we were able to stop them without leaving the government and as we can see, our presence made for stability. I wish we had stopped more – and I certainly didn’t support much of the reforms to benefits or the Bedroom Tax – but I did support things like the Pupil Premium which the Tories would never have done – also raising of the tax threshold, investment in renewables and raising of the tax threshold which made the tax system a bit fairer.

  • Conor Clarke 3rd Sep '16 - 12:17pm

    “We heard Nick talk a lot during the coalition years about turning us from a party of protest to a party of power, always a spurious claim when we’d run Scotland and councils all over the place.”

    This is a joke?

    Sometimes I question what I’m doing in this party, it feels like most of the membership isn’t even interested in political power.

  • Caron – it was the stability that Clegg provided that allowed the Tories to attack the poor. By all means take credit for the good things stability enabled – but the party will never recover until it takes ownership of all the things that stability enabled. You can’t have it both ways.

  • My abiding image of Clegg is not so much about what he did or did not do; it is how he acted…
    Are these extracts from the same Nick Clegg who sat on the government front bench nodding like a ‘Churchill Insurance’ advert as each and every austerity measure was announced?
    As for, “trappings of power – grace-and-favour mansions, grand offices, ministerial Jaguars” This from a man who was born, and raised, with a silver spoon in his mouth…..

  • Sue Sutherland 3rd Sep '16 - 2:11pm

    To be naive is one thing, to give an interview about your naïveté is taking it several steps too far, so I hope the book isn’t going to be even more strides in the wrong direction. As for the trappings of power, I got the impression that many of our MPs paid too much attention to those glories and forgot that we are the party that should speak up for the powerless.
    I don’t think that we would have been in coalition if Nick and others hadn’t shared the background of the major Tory figures, so they had privilege in common, but I also think it’s a problem we have as a party. We tend to idolise our MPs because they are rarities, people who’ve overcome great political disadvantages to get where they are, so when they got into power they just didn’t realise how vulnerable they were to adverse public opinion.
    There was too much arrogance and not enough listening to ordinary members of the party who had their ear to the ground. As a party we have to fight that tendency whatever position of power we happen to hold. We must live out our principles, be more democratic, more open about our decision making and treat all members with respect. Their lived experience is often as important, if not more so, than studies and surveys when we make decisions. We must always be suspicious of those who hold power especially if we hold it ourselves (as a Liberal grandee once said).

  • Peter Watson 3rd Sep '16 - 2:29pm

    @David Becket “Labour introduced Tuition Fees … but shows that in 2010 both major parties supported Tuition Fees, not just Tories and closet Tories.”
    Indeed. In the 2010 campaign Lib Dems warned voters that the other two parties wanted to do this and instead offered a costed manifesto commitment to “scrap unfair tuition fees”. In that election campaign Lib Dems attacked Labour for introducing tuition fees (top up fees, anyway) despite having said they would not, so Lib Dem candidates promised to “vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament” and Clegg made a very very high profile pitch about “no more broken promises”.
    It is not so much the act of increasing tuition fees that damaged the Lib Dems, but everything they said and did about it beforehand and then the way that the volte-face was presented (including a much ridiculed apology for making a promise) that destroyed trust in the party and Clegg as its leader.

  • David Becket ,
    Perhaps you should remember that our individual MPs, led by Clegg, signed a promise about tuition fees….This pledge was paraded about like a holy icon to attract the student vote….
    It seems that the answer to accusations about our broken promises is, “Well, Labour/Tory break theirs”; that is NO defence!

  • nvelope2003 3rd Sep '16 - 2:47pm

    The Coalition saved the country but destroyed the Liberal Democrat Party, though hopefully not for ever if recent election results mean anything.
    I guess most of those who post such hostile and biased comments are not supporters of the party but place their loyalty elsewhere.

  • It seems that the answer to accusations about our broken promises is, “Well, Labour/Tory break theirs”; that is NO defence!

    And even then it might not have been such a big deal… had not the entire Lib Dem 2010 campaign been based around the line, ‘no more broken promises’!

  • @nvelope2003

    When did they “save the country”. Was it when they decided to penalise the poor and disabled with the bedroom tax? When IDS and the DWP drove 1000s to suicide with their punitive sanctions? When Osborne borrowed more money than any other chancellor in history? When they decided to carve up the NHS with the H&SC Act*? When they decided to close all the Sure Start centres? When they closed the NHS walk in centres, piling more pressure onto A&E?

    *Which Clegg didn’t even read before voting for. An abdication of responsibility if ever I saw one.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Sep '16 - 4:38pm

    @nvelope2003 “the Coalition saved the country”.

    Rubbish. This was a self serving, untested excuse put about then by LibDems justifying the Rose Garden love-in. The country would not have collapsed and any uncertainty then doesn’t come close to where we are today post Brexit referendum.

    We were told by Clegg and co that all that was being done was right and fair. Now it turns out he lied again.

    So many have suffered as a result of the last Govt and it is simply no good having argued this was not the case to suddenly launch a “tell all” book admitting it was true.

    This isn’t hindsight. There were no shortage of people complaining about all if this. The LibDem leadership chose not to listen.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '16 - 5:08pm

    Peter Kenny

    I don’t support your party, although there were times during the Iraq war when I could have.

    Nick Clegg’s interview confirms for me, in spades, why I probably never will.

    It’s the witless astonishment that the Tories don’t care about the poor, the pious hand wringing about what that led them to do, as if he wasn’t there, in power with them, with choices.

    This is very unfair.

    Just because Nick Clegg was like that does not mean all members of the party are like that.

    That was part of the problem during the coalition years. When those of us in the party who were unhappy about aspects of Clegg’s leadership wanted to make the point that the party was not all in 100% agreement with him, and we wanted support from people like you to make that point, we turned round and we did not get it.

    Instead all we got was jeering abuse, a seeming delight at asserting, quite wrongly, the view that every single Liberal Democrat agreed with everything Clegg said and did.

    If we had had greater recognition, I feel we would have been in a stronger position to turn the party round and to enable it to recover.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '16 - 5:19pm

    Caron Lindsay

    Any feeling that we might have had that we could have been a lot better prepared for the realities of government is confirmed by the interview. However, the caveat is, of course, that we onlookers have the benefit of hindsight now and detachment at the time.

    Hindsight?

    Please go back and read what I wrote here in comments on Liberal Democrat Voice from the very start of the Coalition. It is most definitely NOT “hindsight”. I, and others, said these things in advance. Had Clegg listened to experienced members of the party he may at least have avoided some of what he dropped us into.

    Clegg writes that “I mistakenly assumed that if I worked hard within government … took decisions on merits … political dividends would follow”.

    No.

    No, no, no, no, no.

    NO!!!!

    ANYONE who looks at what has happened to small parties who join coalitions in other countries, or who has experienced being in a small group holding the balance of power in local government here will know that almost never happens. Instead almost always the small party gets unfairly blamed for what it could not get the big party to drop, and the good things it did get overlooked.

    Because Clegg did not listen to those who told him this, he made a difficult situation worse by missing out on the necessary defences we could have made, and doing and saying things that were bound to reinforce the way small parties get unfairly attacked when they join coalitions.

  • Danny Alexanders passion and gusto when defending some of the revolting Tory attacks on welfare will always stay in my mind..if you want voters like myself to give the Lib Dems a second chance then stop talking about the old leadership you just make me and so many others regret all over again voting Lib Dem in 2010.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '16 - 6:06pm

    Dave Orbison

    Rubbish. This was a self serving, untested excuse put about then by LibDems justifying the Rose Garden love-in. The country would not have collapsed and any uncertainty then doesn’t come close to where we are today post Brexit referendum.

    There were not sufficient Labour MPs to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable, and Labour didn’t really want it anyway. They knew that whoever was in government would have to make difficult decisions, and rather liked the idea of being in opposition, knowing full well that the LibDems would be seriously damaged by being in Coalition with the Conservatives.

    Where Labour went wrong was to assume destroying the LibDems would help them. As we have seen, it did not. Given that the LibDems were the main opposition to the Conservatives in large parts of the country and most LibDem Parliamentary seats had been won after decades of campaigning in what were previously “true blue” Tory areas, destroying the LibDems would mainly help the Tories. To make things worse, Labour’s assumption that all it had to do was destroy the LibDems by jeering at them meant they made little effort in developing and promoting decent alternative policies. Ultimately that made them look like a party of negative nothingness. Well, we know where that led to, Corbyn took over and remains because there doesn’t seem to be much else in Labour.

    Again, to suggest all LibDems supported the Rose Garden love-in is wrong, so why do you knock us by making that accusation? Because you want to see us destroyed so the Tories win? The coalition did not and should not have been promoted like that, and would not had the leadership listened to the party’s members.

    Had there been no coalition, David Cameron would have been made Prime Minister of a minority Tory government, and of course he would have avoided government cuts and made tax cuts, and blamed the LibDems for refusing to join a coalition and so making the UK unstable, and joined in with Labour to have another general election a year later in the lines “Get rid of the LibDems so we can have a stable government again”. Just as they did in the AV referendum. Then, he would have won a majority, so we’d have had a full Tory government from 2011.

  • David Allen 3rd Sep '16 - 6:16pm

    Our share of the vote bottomed out around the beginning of 2016 and has since gently climbed:

    http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2016/09/01/some-sobering-polling-for-the-corbynites/

    Expect that to come to a shuddering halt if Clegg insists on reminding the nation just how bad the Coalition was, just how hard he fought to enable it to rule, and just how hypocritically he now blames the Tories for all the misdeeds which he so enthusiastically supported at the time.

    Tim Farron is beginning to make progress. Don’t let Clegg wreck it.

  • Paul Kennedy 3rd Sep '16 - 6:28pm

    Nick may have voted to increase tuition fees – but many Lib Dem MPs including our new leader Tim Farron voted against.

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Sep '16 - 6:35pm

    Clegg’s naivety was obvious at the time, his admission now astonishing. There was never any compulsion to support anything beyond what was in black and white in the agreement. No tuition fees increases, no bedroom tax (at least not applying to existing tenants). It would be an endearing character trait in a different profession, vicar for example.

    What I can’t work out is why more experienced and wiser elder statesmen couldn’t see what was going to happen and taken action. I’d always thought highly of Vince Cable but his responsibility for tuition fee increases and Royal Mail privatisation also shows incredible naivety – should have insisted the policy was removed from his Department and voted against. And a habit of talking too freely with undercover reporters doesn’t help. So maybe the elder statesmen weren’t a lot of use or engaged in a deliberate silence for lesson teaching reasons. I think I’ll skip buying the book until it reaches the remainder bin.

  • Leekliberal 3rd Sep '16 - 6:43pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach ‘Instead almost always the small party gets unfairly blamed for what it could not get the big party to drop, and the good things it did get overlooked.’
    How true! So while we have lessons to learn let’s hear less from the impossiblists who want to blame us for things we, with 56 MPs simply couldn’t stop.

  • Phil Beesley 3rd Sep '16 - 7:38pm

    @petermartin2001:
    “As a young student, in the mid 70’s, I once engaged in debate with Sir Keith Joseph who was trying to explain to us all the benefits of monetarism and also economic growth. I was arguing that student grants (yes we did have grants then not loans) were being cut unfairly.”

    I met him too.

    “I don’t believe any politician who has had a hand in saddling our young people with massive amounts of personal debt can be anything other than a closet Tory!”

    Vince and Nick are villains?

    So who is paying for 40% plus kids going to university?

    What are we doing for kids from difficult backgrounds?

  • paul barker 3rd Sep '16 - 7:50pm

    Its worth reminding ourselves that History hasnt stopped happening, we dont yet know all the results of The Coalition.
    Its reasonable to assume that, without The Coalition, we would have seen another Election in 2010 or 2011 & a resultant Tory majority. With The EU Referendum in 2012 we might be already Out by now.
    Without The Coalition would Labour now be on the long road to a split ? If we want to know why the History of Liberalism in Canada & Britain has been so different, we had a Labour Party & they didnt. The removal of The Labour roadblock to Reform could be The Coalitions most long-term achievement.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Sep '16 - 8:04pm

    @leekliberal “let’s hear less from the impossiblists who want to blame us for things we, with 56 MPs simply couldn’t stop.”
    The party’s problems were not caused by failing to stop Tory policies, they were caused by senior Lib Dems like Clegg and Alexander going on television to defend those things or sitting in the Commons behind Cameron and Osborne nodding and gurning in violent agreement with them.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Sep '16 - 8:09pm

    The alternative was a minority Government. Please don’t tell me that thus would have brought the country to its knees. Each piece of legislation and budget could have been viewed on its merits.

    What would have happened to the economy and the Tories would have won a majority in a following election seem to be the arguments deployed here against that option.

    A) The books still do not balance and the economy hasn’t collapsed

    B) Following the Coalition the Tories DID win a majority.

    The price for achieving hardly anything that could not have been achieved by blocking legislation is that I and hundreds of thousands of LIbDem voters felt betrayed and turned elsewhere. The LibDem reputation is in tatters. Now we have Clegg telling us that he didn’t like what was going on at the time.

    Still people on hear are clinging to the straw “it could have been worse”. Well it WAS bad and it could have been better.

  • In hindsight the Tories are ruthless and care nothing for the poor. Hardly hindsight is it, a statement of the bleeding obvious for anyone who knows anything about them, to think otherwise is naive in the extreme. Kennedy know that it is unfortunate that Clegg and Co didn’t.

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Sep '16 - 8:45pm

    I’m not sure you can make posthumous assumptions about alternative histories. And Coalition gave the Lib Dems the opportunity to make some policies reality that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. I agree with Peter Watson’s analysis.

    It seems clear now that Clegg and his senior team were way out of their depth, fish out of water. But then apart from Ken Clarke the Tories had zero experience of government too. It is maybe understandable at first, but this naivety and outflanking went on for 5 full years. How do you get repeatedly outwitted for 5 years? And only work it out a further year later when you want to sell a book?

  • Paul Barker,

    Events, Dear Boy, Events

    As an global economic event looks more likely by the day, don’t write off the Labour party. If times get hard people look for the simple solution and Corbynism will look appealing too many.

    The Euro referendum was won by appealing to emotions not by using facts.

    The Western world is looking for scape goats and voters are flocking to politicians who provide them. In summation in desperate time people vote for desperate politicians.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Sep '16 - 10:04pm

    I’ve read most of the interview. He makes a good point about politics becoming a place for robots nuns and monks. It’s why I’m probably either going to return to financial services full time or some obscure job in France. As soon as you enter public life everything about you becomes public property.

    Anyway, on the substance of his interview: I think he has come across as back-stabbing a bit, probably motivated by a desire to make his book interesting and be honest, but he should be careful about questioning people’s motivations too much.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Sep ’16 – 8:09pm……………The alternative was a minority Government. Please don’t tell me that thus would have brought the country to its knees. Each piece of legislation and budget could have been viewed on its merits……….

    Exactly! The idea that a minority Tory government could have ‘bought’ a second election with ‘No Welfare Cuts’/’TaxCuts’ is untenable…The clue is in the word ‘minority’…
    Labour might have supported no cuts to government spending but not the Tax Cuts…Conservatives support the opposite….57 LibDems held the balance of power and it was our chance to show responsibility; “moderation in all things”…

    We were in a ‘win/win’ situation….

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '16 - 11:11pm

    Stevan Rose

    There was never any compulsion to support anything beyond what was in black and white in the agreement. No tuition fees increases,

    No, government does not work like this. This is the big problem, this idea that policies involving spending money are a completely separate thing unrelated to policies which raise money. Because people make this innumerate assumption, they seemed to suppose that a Conservative-LibDem coalition would combine LibDem policies on spending with Conservative policies on taxation. That couldn’t happen.

    It was not a matter just of not supporting tuition fee increases. That can’t be done as an isolated policy on its own. It must be combined with a policy that raises money to pay for universities. So, if the LibDems were to keep tuition fees down they would also need to get a policy accepted to raise more tax. How could they get the Tories to do that? They couldn’t.

    If the LibDems stopped tuition fees rising and got no extra money to pay for universities, it would have meant massive closure of universities due to the universities having not enough money to keep going.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '16 - 11:24pm

    expats

    Exactly! The idea that a minority Tory government could have ‘bought’ a second election with ‘No Welfare Cuts’/’TaxCuts’ is untenable…The clue is in the word ‘minority’…

    Sorry, but this is nonsense. If there was a Conservative minority government, it would be the Conservatives who were in a win/win situation. If things went well, they would get the credit, if not they would blame the LibDems for refusing to join a coalition and thus leaving the country without a stable government.

    OF COURSE the Conservatives would make tax cuts and leave off spending cuts in order to win a majority in a general election held a short time later. Doing that is not something that can be prolonged over many years, but it can be done for one year. And ABSOLUTELY 100% OF COURSE in that next general election Labour would have joined in with the Conservatives to fight it on the line “Get rid of the Liberal Democrats, they are denying this country a stable government, they have less than 10% of the seats, yet they are wrecking thing by playing political games trying to force the bigger parties to agree to their ideas”.

    It is OBVIOUS that is what Labour would do, because that is PRECISELY what Labour did in the AV election in 2011, fought it in the grounds (or at least those Labour people who said anything) that people should vote against AV in order to restore the two-party system.

    I am sorry, but anyone who thinks the LibDems could have gone on getting whatever they wanted from a minority government for five years is as bonkers and ignorant of history as Clegg was when he supposed joining the coalition would win the LibDems praise and more support. Look across history and the world – it just NEVER works like that.

  • Peter Kenny 3rd Sep '16 - 11:36pm

    It’s not just the hand wringing, like some useless Vicar asking people to be nice during a riot, it’s the lack of political nous.

    I heard my whole adult life what wonders would follow a hung parliament, what changes you would bring.

    I never voted Lib Dem but I imagined you might have thought about it, be prepared for it, razor sharp, focussed, full of the lessons of coalitions around the world. It was practically all you spoke about at times, that hung parliament.

    So, it came and you got diddly out of it, in terms of lasting change. To add to that we have to put up with your ex leader selling a book about his naivety, about how rubbish you were at taking your big chance. About how ruthless the Tories are. Shocking, who knew?

    It reminds me of people in English football talking about how difficult penalty shoot outs are – can’t predict where the ball will go, terribly hard, you know. Actually all the successful teams study players penalty styles and get the results.

    So when I see the bleating here about ‘minor parties alwys get the blame blah, blah’ I ask you what thinking, strategies, plans, contingencies you developed to address this known problem.

    The answer seems to be ‘Nick Clegg’!

    I rest my case.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Sep '16 - 12:08am

    We would have been better off with Ming and Paddy in Browns government first and see if a stitch up was avoidable !

  • Stevan Rose 4th Sep '16 - 1:06am

    “If the LibDems stopped tuition fees rising and got no extra money to pay for universities, it would have meant massive closure of universities due to the universities having not enough money to keep going.”

    A purge of substandard institutions and hobby courses would be no bad thing. Blair expanded the university sector to take hoards of young people off the unemployment figures, charging them for the privilege. Genius. Churning out excessive numbers of graduates to do jobs that don’t need degrees and putting false degree requirements on jobs that don’t need them, thereby unnecessarily excluding 50% of young people who don’t want a lifetime of debt, has always struck me as wrong all round. The whole thing needs a proper review with a greater focus on vocational education. Voting against tuition fee increases would have triggered that review.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 1:20am

    Peter Kenny

    I imagined you might have thought about it, be prepared for it, razor sharp, focussed, full of the lessons of coalitions around the world.

    Why do you say “you”, assuming all members of the Liberal Democrats felt the same, and that all us were responsible for what Nick Clegg did?

    Many of us in the Liberal Democrats HAD thought this through and been prepared for it. We knew what was achievable in the situation was small, so the party should have played a defensive role, not the “Rose Garden” love-in and making out we had equal power with the Conservatives. However, Nick Clegg chose to ignore experienced members of the party, and brought in his own advisers, mostly people who wanted to push the party to the economic right and who had no experience of grass roots campaigning for the party.

    From the start, many in the party were critical of the way Clegg played the coalition, but when we turned round looking for outside support, we got none. Labour wanted to see our party destroyed, so pushed the message that all of us were Clegg fans who loved the Tories rather than provide any sort of alternative or give backing to us when we did try and stand up to the Tories. People like Dave Orbison, who claimed to have supported the party in the past, seemed to take delight in accusing all party members of being unquestioning supporters of what Clegg was doing, rather than giving support to this critical of Clegg within the party. As a result, the left of the party was undermined, and the right of the party played the line “the support that people like you were trying to get has been lost, so you might as well accept it, and if you don’t like it, get out”.

    This hid the reality: with just one sixth of the coalition’s MPs and not enough Labour MPs to form an alternative coalition (thanks to the distortional electoral system that Labour supports), the LibDems really did not have that much power. All they could really do was swing the balance in the Conservative Party when it was fairly even, and get through a few side-line policies when they were policies that did not directly conflict with the Tory’s right-wing economics.

  • Reading these comments makes me wonder if anyone here actually read the Libdem manifesto pre-coalition which actually proposed much bigger cuts than the Tories. Cuts btw made necessary because Labour confused a debt mountain with real growth instead of listening to wiser heads like Vince Cable or Mervyn King.

    All you can criticise Nick for is being too darn nice with hypocritical Labour critics and the utterly treacherous Cameron. We cannot let Labour conveniently ignore that they brought in the tuition fees and that Tories increased them using pre-existing Labour plans, nor the Blairite NHS privatisation that now costs the NHS a huge chunk of its budget. The nerve of these guys!

    Nor is it ok to say the Tories are expected to be evil but we are somehow as bad as them for helping them do it. Michael Moore (the yank) truly wrote that to argue with conservatives don’t talk morals, just tell them how much money can be saved. This is not because conservatives are immoral but that they say that only by making money can we spend it on whatever we might like; benevolent or not. You may disagree with the credo but to misunderstand it is to know nothing about politics.

    I’ve criticised Cleggs leadership skills too (including noddingly sitting beside Cameron) but I at least remember that at one point he was up at 30% in the pre-election polls thanks to his debating skills. While that support dropped back a bit those were voters who really did want an alternative to Tory ruthlessness and Labour incompetence. They abandoned Libs because of the sudden metamorphosis into a Tory lapdog. But if voters can manage to forget Labour economic incompetence then I’m sure they have forgotten our lesser ‘sin’ of valiantly trying to save the country from the utter mess that Labour wrought.

  • Yellow Submarine 4th Sep '16 - 6:53am

    Please don’t give us the ” Hindsight ” defence. The die was cast between the Rose Garden and Tuition Fees fiasco. A period of about 7 months. The scale of the catastrophe inflicted on the party was described by many of us at the time. The fact he was allowed to continue as leader for another 4.5 years beggars belief.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep ’16 – 11:24pm

    There is no need to shout…I disagree with you, as do others, and consider myself neither ‘bonkers’ nor ‘ignorant’….

    Cameron had just scraped in,without a majority, against the most unpopular government/PM ever; to believe that he’d gamble his political future on policies which would immediately adversely affect the economy (and be challenged both in parliament and the media) shows no understanding of the man….
    For a minority government to pass anything (other than ‘water’) it needs the support of MPs in other parties….Support/Opposition on a policy by policy basis would have strengthened our case….The Tory pre-election claim was all about the country being in a worse state than Greece; to try and push through ‘Tax Cuts’ for the wealthy’, as a priority would not have got 100% Tory support, let alone that of Labour/LibDems….

  • What comes across is that 7 years too late Clegg is finally starting to accept the entirely justified criticisms made repeatedly on this site and in other places yet ignored. Yet still there are those like Caron looking to excuse the inexcusable. Clegg was beyond naïve, being utterly incompetent in his ministerial role and as leader of the Lib Dems. The biggest mistakes are 1) The idea that the Lib Dems stopped the Tories doing things, – in reality the Tories had lists of things they didn’t care about, things they did and things to keep bringing back. 2) The idea the Lib Dems were in Power – in office but not in power as someone else put it – I met the Lib Dem ministers who once railed against Council Tax and Capping now spending time winning ‘victories’ such as allowing councils 1/2 of one % increase in council tax higher than the Tories asked for. 3) It was worth it – no anything that is being undone by the Tories with a majority shows the achievements were built on sand. For the Tories it was like taking candy from a baby.

  • yes JamesG, we read the Manifesto, we read Vince’s plan to pay for abolishing tuition fees, we read the leaflets that reminded people of labour and Tory lies on tuition fees.
    We spotted that abolishing and tripling are slightly different. We watched as the 33% poll rating plummeted back to 23% as Clegg was unable to answer questions about the Euro and immigration.

    The fact was the lib Dems proposed cuts were abandoned, and the coalition missed it deficit reduction targets by a mile. The Conservatives aren’t solely concerned about making money – they are concerned about who has the money and entrenched power and privilege – ie them. Building Council houses, not replacing Trident, abolishing tax reliefs, making amazon pay tax, all would save money, but aren’t conservative policies.

  • Peter Kenny 4th Sep '16 - 9:47am

    Matthew, I say ‘you’ because you’re a political party. You’re just confirming for me how poor ‘you’ are at it. So ‘you’ have a rubbish leader and aren’t able to do anything about it.

    You’re complaining that people like me didn’t help. I’m not the cavalry! This is is just blaming others for your own problems. What kind of party needs its political opponents to help in its internal struggles? A useless one. This is leaving aside the question of what that help could possibly have been. It seems to mostly consist of not attacking your party as effectively.

    I’m not saying that all Lib Dems were like Clegg and that some didn’t oppose him. I am saying you failed.

    I don’t buy this ‘we didn’t have much power’ argument at all. In fact it undermines that decades-long talk about hung parliaments, unless you need the ‘right sort’ of hung parliament. At the start you had enormous power and could have torpedoed the government at any point, didn’t have to agree to things like the health act and bedroom tax.

    You had a strong hand to play, the defining chance you had talked about, yearned or , worked for and ‘you’ failed.

    Because?

    Oh, people like me let you down!

    Really, is that it? People like me? Not your party, remeber your party that you are a member of, its structures, culture, processes, personnel, history, policy?

    No, apparently people like me.

    It’s going to be a long old fight back, eh?

  • ALASTAIR Forsyrth 4th Sep '16 - 11:02am

    It is sad to see the LIB Dems once again squabbling among themselves.
    This is a huge opportunity for them. But they need a strong authoritative leader and the best option is for Clegg and members of his talented coalition team to be put in charge.
    Our objective must be to rid the country of the right wing of the Tory party who have been such a consistent drag on what the nation, within the EU, could have achieved.
    The country for good and bad reasons chose Brexit. Now we have to get back on course, not with a new referendum or a snap election, but constructing an effective election winning opposition.
    The best option, I suggest, is a Clegg led Lib Dem party, a Hilary Benn led non Corbynist Labour party, and a competent Remain Tory (there are many of them) to take the place of their many times rejected backwood looking block.
    The last Coalition was widely popular. What we need is a new coalition, not a new party, but an election winning alliance.

  • Dave Orbison 4th Sep '16 - 1:21pm

    @Matthew Huntbach – People like Dave Orbison, who claimed to have supported the party in the past, seemed to take delight in accusing all party members of being unquestioning supporters of what Clegg was doing, rather than giving support to this critical of Clegg within the party. As a result, the left of the party was undermined, …”.

    My support for the LibDems in 2010 isn’t a ‘claim’, it is fact. Not only did I vote for the LibDems in 2010 I had, prior to then, joined the LibDem party. Admittedly my membership was short lived as I rejoined the Labour Party immediately after the Rose Garden ‘love in’.

    Any casual inspection of my posts on LDV, at that time and since, will see that the focus of my ire was directed towards those that supported the Coalition and who doggedly dismissed concerns about the Coalition. Then, as now, I was critical of the Orange-bookers’ Coalition crusade as they dragged the rest of the party down an obvious path towards political oblivion. Contrary to what you say of me, I supported those LibDems that warned of the consequences of the Coalition. To accuse me of undermining the left within the LibDems is simply absurd.

    In another post you refer to being jeered and shouted down for speaking out against the Coalition, presumably you are referring to LibDem members who did this. The problem Matthew was then, as it is now, staring you in the face. It lies not with those of us who opted for different methods of protest following the Coalition, up to and including abandoning the party, but with those who ‘at the top’ should have known better and to and those LibDem members who ignored our protests, often in a most dismissive and patronising manner.

    Now Nick Clegg has at least come clean and recognised the disaster that was the Coalition although his motive may be just to sell some books. Rather than attack those of us who were critical of the Coalition perhaps it’s time for those LibDems, some of whom are regular contributors to LDV, to reflect on how they were swept away with the Coalition nonsense and ended up often excusing the inexcusable.

    Perhaps they should consider why they were so dismissive of friends and colleagues who expressed concern as to the Coalition – why did they fall for the Emperor’s New Clothes?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 2:15pm

    Peter Kenny

    Matthew, I say ‘you’ because you’re a political party. You’re just confirming for me how poor ‘you’ are at it.

    And you are confirming one of the problems: you have a Leninist view of political parties, so you cannot think of a political party in any terms except top-down leader-oriented, follow without question whatever is The Party Line this week.

    But I’m a Liberal, not a Leninist.

    So ‘you’ have a rubbish leader and aren’t able to do anything about it.

    I most certainly did. I spent much of 2010-15 posting messages here critical of what Clegg and his supporters were doing and saying and suggesting alternatives, and I was one of those who signed the petition asking for Clegg to stand down.

    What I am saying here is that if there had been more recognition and support from outside of people like me who were members of the Liberal Democrats but critical of Clegg’s leadership, I feel it would have helped us enormously to stop the damage that was being done. However, instead it seemed that almost everyone outside just took delight in accusing everyone who remained in the party of being an uncritical Clegg supporter.

    I’m not saying the blame fall totally on outsiders. Doesn’t my message of 5.19pm rather make that clear? So why can’t you see that? As I said, I suspect because so many people these days just seem to have no concept of political party except the Leninist model.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 2:34pm

    Peter Kenny

    I don’t buy this ‘we didn’t have much power’ argument at all. In fact it undermines that decades-long talk about hung parliaments, unless you need the ‘right sort’ of hung parliament.

    Are you going on what real Liberal Democrat members said and thought. or what the press reported? A big problem has always been that the press tends to make up what it thinks the Liberal Democrats should say or do, and report the party in those terms rather than in terms of what its actual members want or say or do.

    In fact I know very few experienced Liberal Democrat members who too the position that a hung Parliament would give us huge power. Those of us who had looked at what happens in other countries when a small party holds the balance, or had experienced it in local government knew full well it just doesn’t work like that.

    Consider for example the way the Green Party in Ireland was wiped out in the 2011 general election. Or the New Zealand First party in 2008. Or … well many others.

    Give a contradictory example to support your case.

    Small parties that benefit best from coalitions are those with strong support from very committed members who are mainly interested in a small number of sideline policies rather than mainstream issues. They benefit because they are easily bought off by giving them those sideline issues, and their supporters aren’t going to desert them no matter what they do on other issues. An example was the Israeli National Religious Party, permanently in coalition for years as its supporters were happy so long as they got their religious policies through.

    But the Liberal Democrats are the opposite of that sort of party.

  • Peter Kenny 4th Sep '16 - 2:42pm

    Matthew – you don’t know much about Leninism, I think!

    You should listen to yourself:

    ‘I’m not saying the blame fell totally on outsiders’

    So a little, some small smidgen belongs to insiders?

    Are you serious. How about negligible blame on outsiders, as I said I’m not your 7th cavalry.

    I never said you and other Lib Dems didn’t try to stop Clegg – I’m saying you failed and that the social mileu in which that happened – the Liberal Democrat Party, of which you are a member and I am not and never have been, or am I being too Leninist here – was, for cultural, political, procedural, historical reasons, say, most responsible for that.

    Otherwise ‘you’ take no responsibility and learn nothing and go nowhere, as witnessed by your ex leader. His essential pitch is “gosh it was hard, those Tories…”

    Yours seems to (re trying to stop Clegg) ‘Gosh, it was hard, people kept criticising the whole party for doing bad things. If they hadn’t done that we could have stopped the bad things they were criticising us for. You just can’t rely on people who aren’t insiders to help out.’

    For shorthand purposes I therefore describe ‘you’, that social mileu, as no use for any political purposes I am interested in at the moment and quite likely into the foreseeable future.

    So the real possibility that I might have voted for you (c 2005) has evaporated.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 2:45pm

    Dave Orbison

    In another post you refer to being jeered and shouted down for speaking out against the Coalition, presumably you are referring to LibDem members who did this.

    No, that is most definitely NOT what I am referring to.

    What I am referring to is coming here during the years of the coalition, and posting huge number of messages critical of Clegg and the people he had put in charge as his advisers and what they were doing in the coalition, and then finding that despite doing this all I got from people who were not LibDem members posting here to criticise the coalition was jeers and shouting down, because it didn’t matter what one said, these people just seemed to be fixated on the Leninist model of political party and so assumed that anyone who was a member of the party must be someone who worshipped Clegg as The Leader and obeyed The Party Line without question.

    I was so fed up with all this that I stopped posting to Liberal Democrat Voice, and now I find I’m in that same situation again, so I think I had better stop again.

    Why is it that political debate is so often like that? Always I find it the same – I had just the same thing in the series of posts on grammar schools – constantly one finds that there is this assumption that if you are not an uncritical supporter of a fixated line on one side of the debate, then you must be an uncritical supporter of a fixated line on the other. So I end up with both sides accusing me of being an uncritical supporter of the other rather than bothering to look into what I was actually saying.

  • Peter Kenny 4th Sep '16 - 2:56pm

    Matthew, you’re conflating electoral success after the coalition with power during it. The Lib Dems could have brought down the government at anytime and stopped any measure they wanted to.

    They supported attacks on the poor which they had not signed up to.

    They supported the health act, after a big internal debate, when you didn’t have to.

    ‘You’ voted to increase tuition fees when the Coalition agreement allowed you to abstain etc etc.

    I guess what it comes down to is I’m suggesting that there’s something about your party’s culture etc etc which facilitated that, that it wasn’t just the leadership, that it’s how you do your thing, in some way, that led to this.

    Opportunism, I think – facing left in Labour areas, right in Tory, cynically signing the ‘pledge’ on tuition fees to Hoover up student votes when, as Clegg says himself, they don’t agree with it, really. All the stunts, the fake bar charts in elections etc etc

    Being, in the end, ‘just like the rest’ having sworn, pledged, promised etc that ‘you’ weren’t.

    And your suggesting, I guess that your Party is OK or could be OK. Of course, why would you still be In it otherwise?

    I’m just saying the Lib Dems for me are done.

  • @ Alastair Forsyth

    “the best option is for Clegg and members of his talented coalition team to be put in charge”……………… I don’t know if you noticed, but it took a lot of talent to get reduced to just eight M.P.’s.

    This party will get nowhere until it,

    a) truly and honestly reflects on what went wrong between 2010 and 2015, not just in personal decision making, but in policy terms. It must vow never to go down the ‘me too’ Torylite path again.

    and
    b) the public memory of 2010 to 2015 gradually fades away.

    Rehashing the Clegg years without reflection is a lemming like path to oblivion.

    If it’s impossible to achieve item a) (or b) then it won’t just be Matthew Huntbach assessing his priorities.

  • Mathew please don’t stop posting; you make more sense than most of us.

  • Dave Orbison 4th Sep '16 - 3:12pm

    Matthew – With respect I think the problems you refer to lie in you reading things too much into things. Also it doesn’t help if you start labelling people as Lenninist simply because they disagree with you.

    The problem was due to those who left the party or those that stuck it out and valiantly fought their corner in criticising the Coalition. I make no criticism of either group at all.

    The problem was that the LibDem leadership were seduced by the illusion of power and were simply used by the Tories who couldn’t believe their luck. The party hierarchy were aided by very many LibDems, many who posted on LDV at the time, and since then, who dismissed our objections and concerns in patronising tones.

    It is they, not you perhaps, that need to look in the mirror and ask themselves now that Nick Clegg seems to have got there, how did we get it so wrong?

    Why did we dismiss the concerns of fellow LibDems (and yes some from other parties) ?

  • @ Peter Kenny

    An honest person would have to admit to what you say – although in fairness you muyst accept that there were many long standing Liberals (I joined in 1961) who tried to oppose what happened.

    I have recently read Greg Hurst’s biography of Charles Kennedy – ‘A tragic flaw’ – and frankly I am appalled at what it reveals about the lack of professionalism of those running the party at that time….. and that’s not an attack on CK.
    I have recently read

  • Dave Orbison 4th Sep '16 - 3:14pm

    Apologies for the typo. I. The above I meant to say the problem was NOT due to those that left the party….

  • Barry Snelson 4th Sep '16 - 3:21pm

    Through my life I have noticed something about the past. That is, you can’t change it.
    I wasn’t a member in 2010 but I voted LibDem and confess I was pleased to see Clegg and Cameron holding hands and promising to work honestly to protect the nation in very worrying times. We had already had a financial collapse, a run on the banks and who knew what was next? Hyper inflation? Mass unemployment?
    So I, for one, forgive Clegg. Even a cynical old git like me was taken in by Mr Smoothy Chops and his new, changed, “Hug-a-hoodie” Tories.
    Turns out they were the same two faced, lying **** they always were and I realised only a few months later when Central Office sent a national newspaper into constituency surgeries to tell lies to honest MPs in the hope of undermining the LibDems.
    Isn’t it time to stop “I knew all along this would happen”? Well, I confess I didn’t and I joined the party in the hope that it could be a force to derail the Tories (they deserve it). But we need to tackle the future and leave the past where it is – beyond our reach.

    Can we put this post- coalition vendetta on the shelf please? And can we put post referendum denial with it?

    The Tories have exposed themselves to opportunities for endless fruitful attacks on their competence (one of their strong suits) by biting off more Brexit that they can chew.

    Believe it or not the only serious attacks on this vulnerability seems to be the Member for Broxtowe (another Tory!).

    My appeal is for the party to stop crying over spilt milk and build a “Tory Incompetence” narrative using every piece of evidence we can.

  • Again and again etc etc etc ….members have to live with some of the more revolting things the Lib Dems signed up to in Government and couldn’t wouldn’t stop but surely you have the power now to insist that talk of Clegg and co stops reminding ex voters of that terrible time so you can rebuild etc..you have got that power at least..aint ya ?

  • Sadie Smith 4th Sep '16 - 4:05pm

    I do not think some in the Party realise how very angry some of us are with Nick Clegg. We could see it going wrong, and the Party voted against a good few policies and was ignored. And many of us have worked on Councils and know how politics works. And how perception matters.
    A lot has been thrown away, but the party is building again. The book ought to ensure that a Clegg leadership cannot be repeated.

  • As Barry Snelson says, about history, “you can’t change it.”
    However, sadly, every so often, there is an attempt to rewrite history…This is yet another…
    The best thing for this party is for Clegg to remember that he is responsible for where we are today….Like Blair, no matter how noble the cause, his involvement has a negative effect…Please, please Nick, if you have any regard for the party ‘keep stumm’….
    These threads only open old wounds and, as my mother used to say, “If you pick it, it will never get better”….

    n read LDVe the party rbears , assisted by a couple of k bear, along with (Sir)

  • @peter watson
    Yes, the Lib Dems never recovered from the Tuition Fees fiasco. It could have been a red line. Higher Education is about 1% of public spending – why was it deemed necessary to increase fees, rather than other areas?

    Nick Clegg’s narrative of austerity cuts or we’d have ended up like Greece was simply implausible.

    Finally, the more basic problem of presenting themselves for 13 years as being to the Left of the New Labour government – them jumping into bed with the Tories. How could a left-of-centre party fail to be hammered in a General Election for that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 8:55pm

    frankie

    Mathew please don’t stop posting; you make more sense than most of us.

    Thanks frankie.

    However, looking at the way people like Dave Orbison, Peter Kenny and so on just can’t be bothered to listen, and instead just want to throw abuse and make false accusations against me, I realise that if I try to argue rationally back, I’ll end up trapped, wasting my time and pushed down into depression about it as I was before.

    To these people there are only two positions that can be taken – either you think that Clegg was wonderful and the Liberal Democrats did no wrong, and every single member of the Liberal Democrats thinks that way because all political parties work on the Leninist basis that you have to be an uncritical supporter of The Party Line as set by The Glorious Leader, or you go along with them and make totally unrealistic assertions about what was possible and join in their abuse to be thrown at every single Liberal Democrat member.

    Dave Orbison, Peter Kenny etc don’t care, they want to see the Liberal Democrats destroyed and destroyed permanently. they don’t want to listen to those of us who want to restore the party to where it was, no they just want to stamp on us. So we can restore the good ol’ two-party system, like we have now, with the Tories in government permanently and Labour in permanent opposition.

    Dave Orbison, Peter Kenny et al. You have won. British politics now is how you want it. Your attitude conforms to me there is no point in me trying to make effort to restore the party I once was so proud to be a member of.

    Bye bye, it isn’t worth bothering with you lot any more, because you clearly don’t want to listen.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    You’re a good man, Matthew. Don’t give up. The Lib Dems are doomed if folk like you give up.

    David………….

  • Bill I’m not sure Nick Clegg was inadequate he just came from a cosseted background and had little or no idea how tough the world can be for must of us. He lacked the real world experience and thought liberal campaigns for the latest buzz cause in the circles he inhabited mattered to the majority of people. In the main they don’t, what comes first is putting bread on the table and a roof over your families head. Lose sight of that and you lose sight of the electorate.

  • Dave Orbison 4th Sep '16 - 10:25pm

    Matthew – I do not know where you are coming from. I genuinely am not aware of a single accusation thrown at you as a person at all. In fact anything to the contrary,as people like you who spoke out against the Coalition and stood your ground, are those I have the highest regard for. So if you feel attacked what do you have in mind? By contrast you have inferred I did not support the LibDems, I corrected this in pointing that I did and was a party member at the time.

    As for the future of the LibDems I must be on record several times over by stating that I think having a third party (well not UKIP) is essential. But for that to happen I think those that were staunchly pro Coalition need to accept, as Clegg has done, that it was a catastrophic mistake.

  • Caracatus I don’t think we disagree that much. At least most Libdems still want to see tuition fees abolished. It seems no other party except the SNP believes the same so I am still amazed by the sniping lefties: Why not complain to their own party leader about Labour policy? But the drop back to 23% only happened on the polling day itself and was a surprise to all – there had been only one yougov poll predicting that which everyone derided but which turned out to be correct. Rather than Cleggs position on the Euro it was likely the constant media reminders that even 33% under FPTP would not result in sufficient Liberal seats to win.

    Yellow Submarine
    I agree the coalition itself was the problem and that falls on Clegg. But I thought at the time it was important to get Vince in a position where he could do something concrete to boost small businesses that may have increased growth. Alas he didn’t seem to do very much at all. Davey by contrast was extremely damaging. For me the writing on the wall was during the AV vote campaign but forcing a new election then would have got us trotted out sooner. Up until that point we had not been subjected to the derision of the press so much. But that’s what happens if you play in the big leagues.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 10:41pm

    Dave Orbison

    Matthew – I do not know where you are coming from. I genuinely am not aware of a single accusation thrown at you as a person at all.

    Get lost. I am fed up with people like you. You have not bothered to listen to the points I have actually made. I have said what I need to say, and if you don’t understand it, well, that proves my point.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '16 - 10:48pm

    David Raw

    You’re a good man, Matthew. Don’t give up. The Lib Dems are doomed if folk like you give up.

    I have given up. I have not been active in the party about 2012. I had hoped once Clegg had gone, I would be able to get back involved, but I can see judging from people like Dave Orbison and Peter Kenny that it isn’t worth it. They just don’t want to listen. They just want to carry on pouring abuse at our party, stamping it down when it tries to recover, and having spent my adult life trying to build it up, I am heartbroken at the attitude of people like that and the accusations they make. So I am going back to doing other hobbies, I cannot be bothered to spend hours and hours and hours of my time pointlessly trying to talk sense to the “nah nah nah nah nah” jeerers, as I did for five years continuously 2010-2015. They have what they want: our party destroyed.

  • Stevan Rose 4th Sep '16 - 11:54pm

    Matthew, people do listen to what you say, but if they happen to disagree with your personal opinion and view of the world you rant at them for destroying the party even when they are or were non-members when any damage was done. You seem to equate disagreement with not listening and you attempt to intimidate others. You’re patronising, don’t listen to others, “shout” at and insult people on this site. I don’t want to take part in any discussion here that you’re involved in because I don’t need the hassle of engaging with you. I don’t want you to give up or shut up, I would just like you to give the same respect to others and their opinions as you would want them to give to you.

    Someone had to say it.

  • David Allen 5th Sep '16 - 12:18am

    Matthew, I’m sorry, but Stevan Rose is right. You persist in arguing that it is everyone else who is out of step with you. You need to see that it is the other way around.

    It is a great pity because when you get away from the obsessive self-defensive stuff, and you talk about issues, you frequently come up with tremendous insights.

    Let me just try to pick on one unnecessary piece of conflict from the above thread, and explain the problem.

    Peter Kenny has made several trenchant and effective criticisms of the way “the Lib Dems” behaved in Coalition. Most of his points are very similar to points that you have made, and I have made, in the past. And yet your response to someone who is clearly one of your strongest allies has been to argue and to disparage!

    Your argument has been, essentially, that Kenny must not condemn “The Lib Dems”, because you are one of the Lib Dems, and you never supported Clegg. Well, indeed you didn’t! And nor did I! But, Clegg called the shots, didn’t he! So when Kenny talks about what “The Lib Dems” did, he is talking about what Clegg and his allies did. What, for heaven’s sake, is wrong with that?

    Wouldn’t you say that the Tories have a disastrous policy on Brexit? If Ken Clarke protested, wouldn’t you say that sadly his better ideas don’t count for much, because his leader is ignoring them?

    Please, please, think about how to make friends with your allies, not how to fall out with them.

  • It only took a little knowledge of British political history — and, particularly, the history of the Liberals — to know that the modus operandi of the Conservatives in coalition governments has always been to closely embrace their coalition partners in a bear hug — and then crush them to death. The only way to dance with such a partner is to keep it at arms’ length. This Nick Clegg failed to do; whether from ignorance of the history, or from a fond belief that “this time will be different,” I do not know.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I understand where you are coming from, Matthew and I wish you well. If the party is to survive in any recognisable form then it needs radical voices like yours instead of the half baked Tory lite economic liberal stuff. I’m truly sorry if we lose you.

    I was also extremely sad to hear of the death of Bishop David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham. He was a good man of honesty and conscience and understood what the words community meant…… which some of the anti-trades union ranters on this site who talk like Thatcher about “enemies” ought to give some thought to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '16 - 9:23am

    David Allen and Stevan Rose

    OK, let me try again.

    My point is that I am fed up with being in a situation where it is supposed that there are only two positions that you can hold. I am fed up of finding myself in a position where I am trying to make serious points and the only response I get is for those on each position to accuse me of being on the other position, or even to be a particularly bad person of the other position because I am trying to hide my supposed true support for that position by using some sort of sophisticated false argument.

    This is the case here. It seems there are only two positions one can hold. The first is that the result of the 2010 general election gave the Liberal Democrats enormous power and they could just have got anything they wanted, but choose to support Conservative policies without question because really that’s what they wanted, they just pretended otherwise. The second is that the coalition was a marvellous success, that everything the Liberal Democrats did in it was the right thing to do, and that Nick Clegg was a great leader.

    I am just fed up with finding that when I argue that the first of these positions is unrealistic, it is just assumed that I hold to the second position, and I am attacked as if that is my position.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '16 - 9:41am

    David Allen

    Your argument has been, essentially, that Kenny must not condemn “The Lib Dems”, because you are one of the Lib Dems, and you never supported Clegg.

    No, I am not saying that at all.

    Please, please, think about how to make friends with your allies, not how to fall out with them.

    Now THAT actually is more like the point I was making.

    The central issue here is that people like Peter Kenny use language that assumes all Liberal Democrats are the same. This sort of attack on us was made throughout the coalition years when attacks on us were continually made that assumed every single member of the Liberal Democrats was an uncritical supporter of Nick Clegg and what he was doing.

    These attacks were made alongside continuous claims about what could have been done as an alternative which are along the lines that Harold Wilson would never have called the October 1974 general election because either Ted Heath would have come storming back to power, or the Liberal Party would have doubled its share of votes again.

    All I am saying is that criticism of what the Liberal Democrats as a party did in 2010-2015 should acknowledge the spread of opinion that existed in the party and that many of us were unhappy with the leadership of Nick Clegg, and should also give acknowledgment of the difficulty of the situation we were left in following the 2010 general election.

    My point is that because criticism of the Liberal Democrats almost universally did not do this, we were damaged even more than we would have been. As I said, part of the reason for this was that it was a deliberate tactic of Labour to do this in order to destroy us, so that the two-party system would be restored.

    I believe that had Labour not acted in that way, we would both had had more negotiating power in the coalition, and been more able to recover after it. However, every time I try to argue this point, and I did it continuously 2010-2015, I find the only response is jeering accusations, which completely ignore my real point.

    I am sorry to see this is still happening.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '16 - 9:50am

    Stevan Rose

    Matthew, people do listen to what you say, but if they happen to disagree with your personal opinion and view of the world you rant at them for destroying the party even when they are or were non-members when any damage was done.

    No, that is not at all what I am saying, and if I am ranting it is because I am fed up of the way that every time I try to make my point, it is not listened to, and instead this false accusation is made against me.

    So ONCE AGAIN – good grief, how many times do I have to say this? – no, I am NOT saying that critics of what the Liberal Democrats did during the coalition are the sole reason for its destruction. This ought to be obvious, as I have been one of the principle critics of Nick Clegg and his leadership. But it seems not, because I get this same line every time I make what I think is a useful and valid point – that further damage to the Liberal Democrats was done by the way that critics seemed to take a delight in writing off those like myself who were unhappy with Clegg as insignificant, and in using language that put out the message that every single Liberal Democrat was a fan of Clegg and supported the Coalition and everything it did because really underneath they liked its right-wing policies.

  • Nick Clegg: “I stopped talking to Michael Gove during time in coalition”…

    If there was a time to stop listening to Clegg’s excuses the above says it all…

    I’m sure many here have had the experience of working with someone they detest; however, in the ‘real’ world, one makes the best of it….
    I mean, it’s not as if, in running the country, one should be expected to act any more ‘grown up’ than those in primary school…..

  • Richard Underhill 5th Sep '16 - 11:05am

    ALASTAIR Forsyrth: You describe Liberal Democrats as “them”, which invites a Thatcherite response that you are not, or not yet, “one of us”.
    You implied that you supported Remain. Please consider joining the Liberal Democrats as numerous pro-Europeans from other parties and from no party have been doing.
    The electoral system which affects you most directly depends, of course, on where you live.

  • From the article. “Well, I don’t think Vince and Chris would ever count themselves as great team players,” Clegg says.

    I’ve been in many situations where one of the team (sometimes myself) has been accused by the boss of “not being a team player”. It was invariably because that person was challenging a prevailing groupthink around ideas or plans promoted by a leader with, so to speak, his fingers stuck firmly in his ears to shut out inputs from the rest of the team.

    It amounts to “playing the player, not the ball” and is always a sign of poor leadership and an inability to use the talents available and integrate the best ideas irrespective of source. Any organisation, especially ones trying to manage complex tasks, needs people to challenge proposed ideas and actions both large/strategic and small/detailed at every turn. Organisations that don’t manage to integrate the skills and insights of all their people seriously underperform.

    I’m afraid this snippet of information, straight from the horse’s mouth, merely confirms what I thought of the Clegg era.

  • Phil Beesley 5th Sep '16 - 12:36pm

    When the coalition was announced there were words of advice from liberal parties in Europe: the Lib Dems will not get credit for any achievements and will be given the blame for government failings. Which is exactly what happened.

    I look forward to reading more of Nick Clegg’s thoughts about coalition. I’m particularly interested in discovering how members of the parliamentary party and support staff acted on that advice. I’m assuming that a minor party in coalition can mitigate against voter backlash.

  • I do so admire how Nick admits with hindsight that he made mistakes, something that ‘professional’ politicians rarely do, ( Boris Johnson, Cameron, Blair, Gordon Brown etc etc

    [g]

  • David Allen 5th Sep '16 - 1:30pm

    Some interesting comments above about management and team players. In practice, all leaders operate with a mixture of key allies, semi-aligned colleagues, and potential enemies: for Cameron, think of Osborne, Clarke, and Boris in the three respective categories. The checks and balances are that if a leader cosies up too much to the Osbornes and falls out with too many of the Clarkes, then the Borises find a way to defenestrate the leader!

    How exactly is this different for the leadership of a junior party in Coalition? Well, it may be different, insofar as the leader can cement himself into his position, and tell all rivals that his leadership must be unchallengeable, as the Coalition would colapse without him!

    Our Party allowed its leader to play the dictator, and there weren’t enough checks and balances. Especially in Coalition circumstances, we need to weaken the position of our leader within the party, and impose more checks and balances – such as, for example, compulsory annual re-election.

  • George 5th Sep ’16 – 1:21pm……..I do so admire how Nick admits with hindsight that he made mistakes, something that ‘professional’ politicians rarely do, ( Boris Johnson, Cameron, Blair, Gordon Brown etc etc…..

    Admitting mistakes…As far as I can see the only mistakes he’s admitted to are sitting next to the PM (where a deputy usually sits) and not having a front door like N0 10….

    Where has he admitted the real mistakes…NHS reorganisation, tuition fees, bedroom tax, secret courts, blocking a ministerial enquiry into Jeremy Hunt, etc.?
    And, of course, not stepping down when it was clear that ‘brand Clegg’ was toxic to the party…

  • Phil Beesley 5th Sep '16 - 2:13pm

    @expats: “Where has he admitted the real mistakes…”

    Try the Guardian interview: ‘The day he agreed to triple tuition fees, he lost credibility. Isn’t it easy to promise to freeze fees when you think you’ll never be in power? “Yes, clearly,” he concedes. “And when we made that commitment, I didn’t think it was very sensible. Nor did Vince.””
    (see http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/03/nick-clegg-did-not-cater-tories-brazen-ruthlessness)

    That’s a very depressing quote from Clegg.

    Without the benefit of hindsight, I thought it was the wrong policy. I respect those who argue that tuition fees should be zero — and I think Lib Dems could have conducted better debates to formulate higher and continuing education policy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '16 - 3:35pm

    Phil Beesley

    When the coalition was announced there were words of advice from liberal parties in Europe: the Lib Dems will not get credit for any achievements and will be given the blame for government failings. Which is exactly what happened.

    No, it was not just liberal parties in Europe. It was Liberal Democrats members who, knowing that one day we would end up in a coalition, had observed what happens to junior coalition partners, not just in Europe but elsewhere (as I said, the New Zealand First party was a good example). Also Liberal Democrat members who had been in similar situations in local government.

    Almost always the junior partner comes off badly. It is just not the powerful position as is often imagined, and as the press suggested, and as it usually does when reporting the Liberal Democrats, made up what it thought that Liberal Democrat members would be thinking and reported that as if it were the truth rather than actually investigating what Liberal Democrat members were really thinking and then reporting what was the real truth.

    Then, as we have seen here, we Liberal Democrat members get attacked by others who assume the truth is what the press reported rather than what it actually is.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '16 - 3:59pm

    George

    I do so admire how Nick admits with hindsight that he made mistakes, something that ‘professional’ politicians rarely do, ( Boris Johnson, Cameron, Blair, Gordon Brown etc etc

    Yes, it is good that he is able to admit to mistakes.

    However, the underlying mistake he made, again and again, is not to listen to party members. As I have indicated, there are plenty of party members who could and maybe did tell him that parties that are junior coalition partners are generally severely damaged by it. But by his own account he seems not to have listened to them and just started off with the false assumption that being a junior coalition partner would look good and increase support for the party.

    If he had listened he could and should have taken advice and taken defensive actions that would have countered some of the inevitable damage. Instead, by not listening, he did just the things that those who knew about all this could have told him would make things worse. The Rose Garden “love-in”, which he now admits was a mistake, is an obvious example. Instead of this, he should have kept a clear distance and made clear that the coalition was a sad necessity forced on us by the Parliamentary balance, not at all our ideal, and a situation where due to the distortional effects of the electoral system that Labour think is so wonderful due to the way it props up the biggest party by giving them many more seats than their share of the vote meant our ability to influence coalition policies was greatly weakened.

    Clegg’s disconnection with the party membership meant that he himself seemed to view it as the press portrayed it, rather than as it actually was. He seemed to rely exclusively on self-appointed advisors who viewed the party the same way. Hence his appointment as “Director of Strategy” someone who took seriously and believed a line that Tory commentators often made about our party, that reflected more their being Tories than anything with any real evidence.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '16 - 4:28pm

    Phil Beesley

    Try the Guardian interview: ‘The day he agreed to triple tuition fees, he lost credibility. Isn’t it easy to promise to freeze fees when you think you’ll never be in power?

    Yes, and he continue to blame party democracy for it, and there he is wrong.

    The fact that party democracy pushed for this as one of our stated policies does not mean those who pushed for it thought it could be instantly implemented. Actually, those of us (many of the party’s membership) with involvement in local government know full well that you have to balance policy ideals with the reality of having to pay for them. Pushing this forward meant we wanted it to be treated as a priority, but not necessarily without balancing it against other priorities or making it the sole policy on which a “pledge” is made.

    Actually, anyone involved in local government campaigning would know full well that you should be VERY cautious about making “pledges”, and only do so when you are certain you can implement then in all possible circumstances, which obviously was not the case here. Otherwise, yes, you push it as something you desire, but make clear that’s if circumstances permit.

    It was Clegg and his appointed advisers who singled out tuition fees as a “pledge”. It was also Clegg and his advisers who insisted that our 2010 manifesto was “costed”, so when campaigning we felt relaxed about it, and didn’t exercise the caution that should have been exercised.

    John B writes that “Higher Education is about 1% of public spending”, but anyone who knows about actual budgeting knows that finding 1% is not easy. I have had no straight answer from anyone to the question “OK, what further cuts elsewhere would you have rather seen made?”. As I keep saying, but no-one seems to be listening, no it was NOT just a case of not agreeing to tuition fee rises. It was also that to do this, either we had to propose further cuts elsewhere, or persuade the Tories to support big tax increases to pay for it. Sorry, but this idea everyone is saying that the LibDems could have just waved their hands and tuition fees could be paid for no problem just isn’t in accord with financial reality.

    What we SHOULD have done is agreed with the Tories that we would propose the necessary tax increases, accepted the Tories would vote them down, and turned to Labour and said “Over to you guys …”.

  • David Evans 5th Sep '16 - 5:10pm

    Putting it simply, the party toiled for fifty years to earn the chance of our MPs to show to the British people what Lib Dems could do in government. Nick Clegg spent five years in government and the showed to the British people that the one thing they didn’t want was the Lib Dems in government.

    He was not a man who “brought a lot of common sense and stability to government”. He brought naivity and credulousness. He demeaned activists who disagreed with him with his talk of “grown up government” and he provided a stable platform for five years to the Conservatives to detoxify themselves and plan our destruction. Don’t judge by what people say, judge by the facts of his leadership.

    He destroyed that fifty years of hard work in five years of holding the Tories back a bit. He ignored the membership,20,000 of whom left under his leadership; losses of councillors across the country every year (down to less than half of the number when he became leader); two thirds of our MSPs went in 2011; and all but one of our MEPs in 2014. His name was toxic on the doorstep, and still he refused to go. As a result, in 2015 we lost all but 8 of our MPs.

    He failed to get proportional representation, reform of the House of Lords, indeed he appointed several of his Bag carriers to it, and now the Tories are undoing everything they don’t like, that we did do. Sadly pathos is too mild a description of a man who ignored those who were older and wiser, and has put Liberal Democracy in the UK on the edge of oblivion.

  • Nick Collins 5th Sep '16 - 5:49pm

    @ David Evans. Quite so.

  • Phil Beesley 5th Sep '16 - 6:00pm

    Matthew Huntbach and I disagree. I think it was wrong; Matthew reckons that it was the wrong policy for the time.

    Matthew: “It was Clegg and his appointed advisers who singled out tuition fees as a “pledge”.” I think it is time to say that Lib Dems are lousy populists.

  • Stevan Rose 5th Sep '16 - 9:45pm

    The tuition fees pledge was daft from the outset, and made with little expectation that it would ever be tested. It was there to attract the student vote. Having made the pledge it was politically disastrous to not only break it in a huge way, but be the Coalition party responsible for the policy via Cable’s portfolio, and then be ridiculed for saying sorry. Should have said no, move the policy to a Tory Department, payroll vote abstains. You can’t get a straight answer on where the further cuts would have been made because the intent was to vote against an increase in opposition, knowing the Government would win the vote regardless – no need to find further cuts. Backed into a corner I’d have pointed at defence knowing it would never happen but at least the brave little Lib Dems tried. But we didn’t play smart games and bullet dodging, we took the bullet for the Tories. They must have nearly killed themselves laughing.

    As to oblivion, who can tell what the next few years will bring with Labour in deep crisis and Brexit having huge potential for banana skins depending on what the Tories come up with. A complete realignment isn’t impossible. FPTP can throw up some odd results as the SNP prove and the demise of the Canadian Tories down to 2 seats in the 90’s only to bounce back into government.

  • Stevan Rose 5th Sep '16 - 9:58pm

    By the way I was never a Clegg supporter. His election as leader preceded my rejoining but the alternative was Huhne and I can’t imagine where we would be now with our Deputy PM ending up in jail. But Clegg was making big mistakes about how to govern in a Coalition from the start so should have stepped down.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Sep '16 - 9:35am

    Phil Beesley

    Matthew Huntbach and I disagree. I think it was wrong; Matthew reckons that it was the wrong policy for the time.

    I don’t think I have said whether it was right or wrong (I assume by “it” you mean having no tuition fees charged to university students). Neither have I said it was right but wrong at the time.

    However, when Stevan Rose says it was “made with little expectation that it would ever be tested” and “It was there to attract the student vote” he is wrong, and insulting to party democracy. It was pushed through by the party’s policy making mechanism, and Clegg has several times tried to blame party democracy for it and used that to want to justify his own non-democratic attitude to party management. Words like Stevan Rose is using are damaging to our party, suggesting we are cynical tellers of untruths, and that our members are people with no sense.

    Since the possibility of the party ending up in a coalition was always there, and not negligible, yes there definitely was the chance that party policies would be tested.

    Those who supported the policy supported it seriously because they felt that university education should be open to everyone, no-one should be put off by fear of costs. That is something that applies to the whole of society, so to suggest it is just to “attract the student vote” is ridiculous (of course, it would not apply directly anyway to those who are already students).

    My point, and it illustrates how staggeringly nonsensical so much political discussion is in this country due to a lack of numeracy, is that it costs money. So it was not just a matter of the Liberal Democrats voting down tuition fee increases. To balance that they would also have had to get support for the additional taxation needed to pay for it. Yet this point hardly gets mentioned when it is argued that the Liberal Democrats could very easily have stopped it. Could they very easily have made the Tories vote for the tax increases necessary? Or could they very easily have found big cuts to make elsewhere that would have saved the same money?

    Making it policy means one is accepting the taxation necessary, and this should have been made clear throughout. Clegg undermined the defence that should have been used when in 2015 he wrongly claimed that in 2010 we were a party that supported tax cuts.

  • The policy of ‘No tuition Fees’ may well have been party policy…However, the signed pledge was Clegg’s doing…He was put on the spot by the NUS and made the pledge to capure the student vote…

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Sep '16 - 10:55am

    David Evans

    He failed to get proportional representation

    This illustrates why caution is necessary in drawing red line on policies for coalition negotiation, making “pledges” and so on.

    I myself am a strong supporter of proportional representation, with the fact that the Liberal Party was the only party to support it being one of the main reasons I joined it in the first place – outraged at the cosy agreement between Labour and Conservatives that led to working class people in the south like my family denied a voice in Parliament in return for Labour having safe seats in the north.

    However, for just that reason, Labour and Conservative are not easily going to give in to agreeing to it in a coalition situation. And if they don’t, then what?

    Unfortunately, most people in this country don’t see proportional representation as an important issue. So the LibDems refusing to join a coalition on the grounds that the other party won’t agree to it will be put as the LibDems leaving the country in a mess due to there being no stable government all for the sake of some petty policy that no-one else cares about and the LibDems only want because it benefits them as a party.

    Remember how the Labour-Conservative alliance put it that way in the AV referendum? I don’t blame Clegg for that, I can see that AV was as far as the Conservatives would go, and I felt it was worth trying for that as a first step.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Sep '16 - 3:49pm

    Stevan Rose

    By the way I was never a Clegg supporter. His election as leader preceded my rejoining but the alternative was Huhne and I can’t imagine where we would be now with our Deputy PM ending up in jail.

    OK, but Clegg was VERY heavily pushed by the national media as “obviously the next leader of the Liberal Democrats”, even in the previous leadership election where he did not actually stand.

    Why?

    It is perhaps obvious why the right-wing press were so in favour of him, but why did the Guardian newspaper back him as well? The only thing I could ever see about him was that he had a posh background. Apart from that, his speeches and articles always seemed very wooden to me, nothing particularly illuminating or innovative. Most of all, he seemed to have very little actual experience inside the party and of grassroots campaigning and of how and why we were winning votes, and to me that is a main reason why he made so many mistakes – but because he was so posh he just dismissed those who weren’t like him, and made no secret of the way he despised grassroots pleb members, preferring to rely exclusively on advice from Westminster Bubble types. Indeed, he appointed as “Director of Strategy” someone who had actually expressed the opinion that he’d like to see us lose a lot of our votes as they were “borrowed form Labour”.

    The problem was that the press support for him was so strong that it became clear it was not worth anyone else trying to challenge him. So the only one who did stand against him was someone who had a particular sort of personality and background that gave him the guts to do so, but meant that he too was, well as you say …

  • Sigh…….. It is clear that most people posting here are either supporters of another party or simply like moaning about their own party. To the latter I say, you will never find a party with whom you agree on every issue 100% of the time. If you are generally looking to create an open, tolerant society, then the Lib Dems are probably the party for you. If you have authoritarian tendencies them there are plenty of other parties who can accommodate your prejudices. Secondly, we are all agreed that voting for the rise in tuition fees was a big, big error, but compared to the damage the Labour and Tory parties have done to the nation i recent years, it pales into insignificance. Move on.
    Finally, our membership has grown by tens of thousands in recent months. All those people have seen something attractive, something worth supporting in our party. And to the gentleman who thinks the problem with Nick Clegg is he’s too posh, it’s ideas and policies which count and judging a person on their background, be it rich or poor, is just the kind of small minded thinking our party exists to fight.

  • Bill le Breton 6th Sep '16 - 6:57pm

    Steven Rose – you write “The tuition fees pledge was daft from the outset, and made with little expectation that it would ever be tested. ”

    This often said – but is, I am afraid, totally wrong. The Party expected to be in Coalition after the 2010 election. In fact Clegg expected to be in Coalition with the Tories.

    To my knowledge the negotiating team was in place at least by December 2009 and preparations well underway by that time.

    Clegg and Cameron were in discussion by October 2009. One must assume that Cameron’s ‘Great Big Open Offer’ was choreographed well in advance – as indeed was the similar offer by Blair in 1997 – which was withdrawn as late Wednesday, the day before polling.

    The pledge to scrap the “dead weight of (student) debt” was made on 13th April 2010.

    Yet Danny Alexander (who Clegg had chosen to lead the negotiations) it is claimed wrote in a negotiation document dated 16th March 2015: “On tuition fees we should seek agreement on part-time students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches.”

    It is a sign of the Leadership’s negligence, inexperience and arrogance that they thought they could have both their cake (during the campaign) and eat it (during the subsequent negotiations).

    In 2010 there was every expectation that ‘this time’ the Lib Dems would break through and enter Government.

    And now we have this: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/i-cant-forgive-nick-clegg-lib-dems-useful-idiots-coalition-tory-savagery-pr?CMP=share_btn_tw

  • @ Chris Cory ” it’s ideas and policies which count”….

    I’m afraid, Chris, that it was the ideas and policies that were the problem.

    It would be useful for you to read the substance (not the frothy pyrotechnics) of Polly Toynbee’s article in the Guardian today :

    “Why I can’t forgive Nick Clegg and his party” : Polly Toynbee The Guardian‎ – 12 hours ago

  • David Evans 6th Sep '16 - 7:18pm

    Matthew, you say you don’t blame Nick Clegg for failing to get AV because of the way Labour and Conservatives put it in the referendum, but we both (and lots of other wise heads) knew they would do that in the campaign.

    In Scotland we got PR, indeed we got STV in local elections and that is a great step in the right direction because by now the Scots know how it works, and understand it better. In ten or twenty years time, if there is a Lib Dem party left in Scotland and we are in a position to influence government there, we would have a chance to get it through, possibly after a referendum.

    Putting it simply, Nick (and his negotiators) totally overestimated their ability. They overestimated their chances to get a win in a referendum and so blew the one chance we have had in 50 years. Perhaps you are right not to blame Nick for how Labour and the Conservatives behave, but I think we can all blame Nick (and his negotiators) for incredible naivety in not realising that is how they would behave and/or their arrogance in assuming they could win despite it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Sep '16 - 7:19pm

    Stevan Rose

    You can’t get a straight answer on where the further cuts would have been made because the intent was to vote against an increase in opposition, knowing the Government would win the vote regardless – no need to find further cuts.

    No. A pledge to vote against something is rather odd, because a manifesto contains things you plan to vote for, not against. If you are in opposition, you’ll vote against government proposals anyway, so why single out that one with a “pledge” to vote against it?

    To me, the only way one can read a pledge to vote against something is that one would do so when holding the balance of power. So I’m afraid I can only treat this as stating it to be a red line in coalition agreements.

    You have missed my point on the “straight answer”, because this is not a question I am asking those who led the Liberal Democrats at the time, it’s a question I’m asking those who claim it would have been easy for the Liberal Democrats to stop the tuition fee rises. They seem to think it would just have been a matter of the Liberal Democrats voting against, Labour and all the others voting against, and that’s it.

    Er, no. The principal task of a government is to set a budget, and if a budget is set on the assumption that universities do not have much money allocated to them as tuition fees will be paid to support them, what happens if tuition fees are then banned? In theory, the universities then have no money and no way to raise it, so all have to be closed down.

    In practice? Well, I don’t think the Tories would readily have agreed to tax rises to cover it (that would have broken their election pledges), so then what? There would have to a be a shift in the budget, so it really would have been a case of turning round to the LibDems and saying “So, what would you cut to pay for it?”.

    A small party simply cannot get anything it wants from a coalition, particularly when the party balance is such that no other coalition can realistically be formed. That is why I think people who keep asserting that the LibDems could have got anything they wanted are wrong.

    Clegg played it very badly yes, but actually I don’t think it would have been possible to get more.

  • David Evans 6th Sep '16 - 7:22pm

    Matthew, I seem to be back on automoderate for my comments on Nick, so my response to you may be delayed a while.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Sep '16 - 7:28pm

    David Raw

    It would be useful for you to read the substance (not the frothy pyrotechnics) of Polly Toynbee’s article in the Guardian today :

    Yes, and there we go, an article which makes the assumption that every single Liberal Democrat was an uncritical Clegg fan. But what do you expect from a Westminster Bubble person like Toynbee? To them, political parties are just their leaders, plebs are just there to do what the leaders in the Bubble tell them to do, or to be dismissed as uppity know-nothings if they object.

    Toynbee was deeply insulting when she claimed of the Liberal Democrats that “social equality is not in their DNA”. Er, Polly, I was heavily involved in the merger negotiations (as a member of the National Executive of the Young Liberals working with our Chair who was on the merger negotiation committee) and it was us Liberals who insisted that the party must keep that basic statement of what we believe in “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance of conformity” against you SDPers (Toynbee was in the SDP). What do you think “None shall be enslaved by poverty” means?

    But most of all, how did Clegg get to be leader? The fact that the Guardian supported him was probably the swing factor.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Sep '16 - 11:48pm

    David Evans

    Matthew, you say you don’t blame Nick Clegg for failing to get AV because of the way Labour and Conservatives put it in the referendum, but we both (and lots of other wise heads) knew they would do that in the campaign.

    Once again, no, that is not at all my position.

    I don’t blame Nick Clegg that all he was able to get was a referendum on AV. I can see that no way would the Tories have agreed to PR, it would have ended the dominance they have enjoyed for the last century or more.

    I very much DO blame those who ran the “Yes” to AV campaign, however, for losing it. It was appallingly badly run.

    Labour must take some of the blame, because Labour people either remained silent or joined with the “No” side. They used the illogical line “Punish the LibDems for propping up the Tories by voting to keep an electoral system where the best thing about it is the way it props up the Tories”.

    If we had had AV, we wouldn’t now have to be talking about forming alliances with Labour and the Greens etc to defeat the Tories because AV ends the need for that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Sep '16 - 9:54am

    Chris Cory

    And to the gentleman who thinks the problem with Nick Clegg is he’s too posh, it’s ideas and policies which count and judging a person on their background, be it rich or poor, is just the kind of small minded thinking our party exists to fight.

    I presume “the gentleman” is me.

    Yes, it is ideas and policies that count, and it is on those grounds that I am judging Nick Clegg. He had little in the way of ideas or policies. Even he himself is admitting incompetence, stating that he made mistakes that anyone with a bit more political knowledge and skills would have avoided.

    So my actual point is just the point you make – that there should have been fair judgment on who ought to have been the next leader of the Liberal Democrats on the competency, knowledge and ideas of the potential leaders, and not on social background. I believe that if there had been, Nick Clegg would not have been seen as a viable contender.

    I remember when he was first put forward, mostly by the right-wing press, but also by the elitist left press (i.e. the Guardian) as “obviously the best person to be leader of the Liberal Democrats”) I struggled to think why. I still do, can anyone tell me why? He was lacking in experience, and I never saw anything written or said by him that marked him out as having particular skills better than any other Liberal Democrat MP to be the next leader.

    So, the only conclusion I can come to is that he was judged to be much more suitable than he really was because he had a social background that often leads to such judgements being made.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Sep '16 - 10:08am

    Chris Cory

    Secondly, we are all agreed that voting for the rise in tuition fees was a big, big error, but compared to the damage the Labour and Tory parties have done to the nation i recent years, it pales into insignificance. Move on.

    Well, I would like to move on, but I think it is clear that this will always be the main thing thrown at us to knock us down.

    If you think voting for tuition fees was an “error” that means you must think there was something different we should have done. So, can you answer my question already asked, what? As I said, I don’t believe the Tories would have supported big tax rises to pay for it, so what extra big cuts in spending should we have asked for instead?

    Again, we are hitting contradictory arguments. People are saying both that the amount tuition fees are means they are a huge life-time burden on a large proportion of the population, and simultaneously that it is such a small amount that it could have been taken in taxation in a way no-one would have noticed much.

    Duh, how can that be the case when it’s the same amount of money overall we are talking about?

    I don’t think it was wrong to have abolishing tuition fees as a policy, but it should have been clearly stated what taxation was necessary to cover it. It was wrong, however, to make it a “pledge” not to raise tuition fees unless it was absolutely certain that under all possible circumstances, it could be kept. Clearly a coalition with the Conservatives was a possible circumstance (no-one made a big issue about it during the election when Clegg stated that a coalition with whichever of the two main parties had most seats was the most likely outcome), so that should have been taken into account.

    The problem for me is that though I very much dislike what happened with tuition fees, I can’t see an obvious alternative under the circumstances, and in five years or so of asking people who complain about it “OK, what else do you suggest?” I’ve never yet had a clear answer.

  • Matthew Huntbach,…………… Yes, you’re a gentleman…. so keep up the good work and the posting.

    As to Toynbee, shared a car with her in the Darlington by-election back in 1983 and she was certainly rather pleased with herself… tho’ the substance of her article yesterday was I thought fair comment. As a candidate in Yorkshire in ’83 I found the SDP to be much more to the right and authoritarian than the Liberals.

    As to NC, agree with you. Went to a Dinner over ten years ago to hear Charlie K….. of course he decided to be unwell…. so NC stepped in and was hailed by the Chair as “our future Leader”. I’m afraid it was a lack lustre performance and I came away shaking my head. Incidentally in fairness must point out that Jo Grimond and Jeremy Thorpe both went to Eton whereas NC wasn’t quite so posh at Westminster School.

  • David Evans 7th Sep '16 - 10:17am

    Matthew,

    I think you have missed my point. The extract you put from my post referred to Nick failing to get AV – i.e. he failed to win the referendum to get AV, not the fact that he and his negotiators got the Conservatives to agree to hold a referendum. Your reply says you don’t blame Nick for getting agreement to hold a referendum, which is a totally different point.

    I do blame Nick because a referendum on AV was worth nothing – we were bound to lose. I think you agree on this, because of your references to how Labour and the Conservatives would behave in a referendum. Let me know if you don’t.

    However, it is my clear belief we could have got the Conservatives to agree to STV in local elections. There was a precedent (in Scotland) and it wouldn’t affect Westminster (in the short term) so I think Cameron would have given it. After all at that time he was desperate to get our support. What is your view on that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Sep '16 - 2:34pm

    David Evans

    I do blame Nick because a referendum on AV was worth nothing – we were bound to lose.

    No, I don’t think so. Opinion polls until fairly close to the referendum were showing “Yes” ahead.

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: I went to the London Region LibDem conference before the referendum, when the general feeling was that we would win, and the people running the “Yes” campaign were there showing the literature they proposed, and I looked at it and felt it was all wrong. So much so that when it came to the time it was open to ask questions, I stood up, gave my name and said (can’t remember the exact words but something like) “From what I’ve seen, I think we are going to lose, remember my name when we do”.

    The reason why is that it was all so vague, and there was nothing that explained how AV actually worked. To me, the basis is that it avoids the “split the vote” problem, and this could have been demonstrated with a few practical examples, like showing how an independent challenger to a failing MP of a party that otherwise people supported would be able to stand, and so on.

    Without this, the “No” campaign were able to get away with some outrageously innumerate attacks (like claiming that AV means a candidate who no-one likes best but is everyone’s third choice is likely to win – er, no, because they’ll be eliminated early on). But also because it was so vague, it became easy to switch the referendum to one on the question “Do you like Nick Clegg?”.

    In that way it was similar to the EU referendum, where I feel had there been more basic facts on how the EU works what actual powers it has, and so on, much of the nonsense put out by the “No” campaign would have been shown up.

    Also, we should have made clear from the start that, yes, AV was not our ideal, just a compromise, but at least a first step. Like other things in the coalition giving the impression that what was a compromise was now our ideal was a bad move. Better just to have been honest about it.

  • “what extra big cuts in spending should we have asked for instead?”

    That was all costed in the manifesto.

  • David Evans 7th Sep '16 - 7:18pm

    Fair enough Matthew. I misread your “Labour and Conservative are not easily going to give in to agreeing to it (i.e. any form of PR) in a coalition situation. And if they don’t, then what?” as a clear statement you thought they would gang up on us in a referendum and so we would lose.

  • David Evans 7th Sep '16 - 7:22pm

    Matthew (sorry for the premature end to the last post)

    Hence I assumed you would have thought agreeing a referendum was a bad idea – Not what we really wanted, certain to lose (even thought the polls showed us ahead at the start), once lost it would not be raised again for decades, better to get something else out of the negotiations e.g. STV for local government.

    I just extended your logic too far.

  • With some distance between myself and the Lib Dems, I can see things more dispassionately now. What I believe is the great tragedy about the Party is that the leadership and the Parliamentarians helped the Tories to de-toxic ‘ the nasty party’ and paved the way for a Tory majority in 2015, destroying the Lib Dem party in the process. It’s no good stopping the Tories for five years if you then create the very conditions that ensure that it carries on without you, free to wreak havoc on the country. It’s all for nowt.

    One thing would have kept many of us onside – putting a halt to the NHS reforms.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Sep '16 - 8:49am

    David Evans

    Hence I assumed you would have thought agreeing a referendum was a bad idea – Not what we really wanted, certain to lose (even thought the polls showed us ahead at the start)

    I don’t think we were certain to lose. With a better campaign we could have won. Also Labour must take a lot of the blame: they were supposed to be in favour of AV, but who would have known? This goes back to what I’ve been saying from the start: Labour’s decision to employ a “nah nah nah nah nah” strategy to destroy the Liberal Democrats has done nothing but enhance the Tories, both undermining the Liberal Democrats in standing up to the Tories in the coalition, and strengthening the Tories permanently because they have destroyed the party that was their main opposition in large parts of the country.

    I don’t myself think the Tories would have agreed to STV in local government in England. Yes, there is STV in local elections in Scotland, but that was introduced by the Scottish Parliament. I think they would see it as a danger, both taking away their control of councils where they dominate and opening up the possibility that STV in national elections would come next.

    AV in national elections means we wouldn’t have to be talking about making deals and alliances to defeat the Tories in the next general election. This needs to be pointed out: Labour are to blame for that, they have put the Tories permanently in power by destroying us and yet being unable to offer anything that wins a majority for them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Sep '16 - 9:08am

    Phyllis

    One thing would have kept many of us onside – putting a halt to the NHS reforms.

    Yes. I went to the Gateshead conference as a delegate to make that point, and the way the leadership ignored what was clearly members’ views there was to me the last straw. That was what led me to dropping out of activity in the party.

    I have defended what the majority of the party’s MPs did on tuition fees on the grounds that I can see there was no easy alternative the Tories would agree to. I can see that the only alternative they would have gone for would have been big cuts, most likely in universities themselves, and that the strategy of concentrating on making sure the loans were available to all and had a generous write-off may have been a realistic compromise. As ever, just because one accepts a compromise does not mean it is one’s ideal.

    However, there was no “How do you pay for it?” issue with the NHS “reforms”. Blocking them would not have cost anything. Having these “reforms” was in complete contradiction to the coalition agreement where it actually stated that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. So to me, if the Tories were insisting on it, that was the point where the LibDems should have stood firm and said “If you do that, we walk out”.

    This is what I felt from the start of the coalition, I remember saying it on election night when the results were coming in and it became clear that a Tory-LibDem coalition was the only viable government: “We’ll have to go for it, but we need to find a way of pulling the rug out from them at some point and ending it”. They gave us the opportunity there, and we should have taken it.

  • Bill le Breton 8th Sep '16 - 9:38am

    I have recently returned to former MP David Howarth’s ‘Thoughts on the Way Forward’ http://www.socialliberal.net/david_howarth_thoughts_on_the_way_forward

    In a below the line comment replying to @alex on he puts his fingers on why we got our chances wrong during the Coalition years.

    This is David, “I agree completely about the mistakes that were made in the course of the coalition and about the party’s leadership at the time – which seemed focussed almost entirely on using the coalition to force the party to the right. ”

    Actually this comment applies not just to our time in Government, but to the entire period of Nick Clegg’s leadership. His approach was always to ‘force the party to the right’.

    He and his backers, and then, those he employed both within the Party and within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister were driven by this belief that the Party had gone down a community politics, community campaigning dead-end and that a more classical liberalism was a better way forward.

    They were much inspired and energized by the belief that the ‘activists’ in the Party were the cause of this excursion down the dead end and had to be defeated and replaced wherever they dared to challenge the new expression of classical liberalism – so experienced campaigners and those experienced in government were ignored.

    It is amusing to hear Clegg talking today of the need for consensus politics, but his time as leader of our Party was characterised by conviction rather than consensus politics. He favoured a ‘small tent’ with anyone who did not agree with him kept out of influence. Grass roots campaigning was seen as a misdirected obsession; that the air-war would ‘win it for us’ – a belief given oxygen by the first, Manchester, Leader’s debate – that our time in office would convince a growing number (a new core vote) that this super-rational classical liberal approach was a panacea, that the’old guard’ had nothing to teach them.

    They bet the farm on this and lost.

  • Bill le Breton 8th Sep '16 - 9:55am

    Ever since Blair conducted his ‘Clause IV Moment’ – members of leaders’ bunkers from whatever Party have tried to repeat the tactic.

    Clegg’s Bunker had a number of Clause IV campaigns. One of these was Tuition Fees. The leadership lost in Conference but was determined to win it in Government. It was as much about who ‘leads’ as anything. It was symbolic of defeating the old community focused guard, who the classical liberals believed, because of their commitment to local government, were too ‘statist’ – they attacked the Kennedy era for being on the ‘producers’ side’ and not the consumers’, pointing to Kennedy’s appointment of a Doctor (Evan Harris) to be the Party’s health spokesperson as evidence, when they wanted a breaking up of the NHS, a policy they soon had a chance to back in Government in the form of the White Paper.

    It was always going to end in tears – there is only room for one Party to defend the producers’ interests – that is the Tory Party.

  • Nick Collins 8th Sep '16 - 4:21pm

    “He and his backers, and then, those he employed both within the Party and within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister were driven by this belief that the Party had gone down a community politics, community campaigning dead-end and that a more classical liberalism was a better way forward.”

    “Grass roots campaigning was seen as a misdirected obsession; that the air-war would ‘win it for us’”

    It’s a pity that Clegg and his clique did not have the honesty to make that clear sooner. Then those, apparently much-despised, activists who, like me, left the party after 2010 could have hung up our boots a lot sooner.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '16 - 5:55pm

    It’s very sad what Nick Collins says, although I can understand why he did leave the party.

    The simple fact is that when it became clear to all in 2014 that Nick was toxic, even then most MPs were so timid that next to none of them had the courage to say “No more”. At that point we needed as many activists as possible to organise votes in their local parties to get rid of Nick. The problem was that 20,000 members had left in disgust before then and so had no say.

    I stayed to fight for the party and the values I have fought for for decades, but sadly there were too few left because so many had walked away by 2014. When people tried to hold votes to remove Nick, there were just too many of the “don’t rock the boat” ones left. Ultimately, Nick undermined one of its key values (democracy) by his behaviour and cleared the ground for the Conservatives to destroy us, cement themselves in government, and ultimately lead us out of the EU.

    What a legacy for a man who claimed to be a liberal, a democrat and a European.

  • Like Nick Collins, I stopped paying a sub in 2012 (after 51 years).

    I had hoped there would be a change post 2015 and re-joined. Unfortunately the jury is still out as far as I am concerned but. frankly, it looks a bit shaky. There is still a substantial element in denial about the Coalition years – including several on LDV who seem to believe in some sort of Mystic Meg monetarist Thatcherism with no account of social needs

    Odd hearing Cleggy on the radio this morning…… actually for the first time blaming the bankers for the 2008 crash – after five years in government singing from the Tory hymn sheet that it was those naughty Labour lot wot dun it. I never thought Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were members of the Labour Cabinet (or even Corbynites… shudder…) but clearly Nicky did.

  • nvelope2003 8th Sep '16 - 9:07pm

    Clearly Clegg got it wrong but since 1923 the Liberals had been fighting a losing battle to recover from their displacement by the Labour Party as the principal opposition to the Conservatives. All sorts of things had been tried and in some elections since 1964 there were modest improvements in the number of MPs followed by further setbacks but when the Liberal SPD alliance failed to achieve the hoped for breakthrough it must have been obvious even to the most optimistic people that the party would never have an important role in Parliament although there was a temporary uplift in 1997 due to the unpopularity of the Major Government which resulted in a large number of Conservatives in the rural areas of the West of England losing their seats to the only serious opposition there – the Liberal Democrats. There was another lift in 2005 when some Labour voters in the North turned to the Liberal Democrats and this masked the loss of several Liberal Democrat seats to the Conservatives followed by further losses in 2010 leading to them forming a Government. These losses were also masked by some gains from Labour. All this was almost swept away in 2015 but no amount of policy changes or fiddling about was going to change the party’s fortunes without a radical rethink of what the party stood for. At the rate we were going it would take 100 years to gain power.

    Clegg and his supporters tried a different tack but the party’s supporters did not want it so what is their big idea apart from endless carping and attacks on the one man who actually got them into power for the first time since 1922 ? More of the same unpopular policies which go down well at conference but go down like a lead balloon with the voters ? Come on you people tell us what will work. I do not think you have a clue.

  • nvelope2003 8th Sep ’16 – 9:07pm…………..Clegg and his supporters tried a different tack but the party’s supporters did not want it so what is their big idea apart from endless carping and attacks on the one man who actually got them into power for the first time since 1922 ? More of the same unpopular policies which go down well at conference but go down like a lead balloon with the voters ? Come on you people tell us what will work. I do not think you have a clue………

    A complete re-write of history… …As far as getting into government goes; it was a hung parliament, Clegg actually lost seats in the 2010 election ….
    The policies that got us to where we were were policies of the members…The policies that got us to 8 MPs were those Clegg, Laws, etc. believed in. As we found out, the electorate didn’t…

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '16 - 7:34am

    nvelope2003

    although there was a temporary uplift in 1997 due to the unpopularity of the Major Government which resulted in a large number of Conservatives in the rural areas of the West of England losing their seats to the only serious opposition there – the Liberal Democrats.

    You have missed what was the biggest shift, the 1974 general elections when the Liberals became the main opposition to the Conservatives in much of south-east England, also other rural and suburban parts not just the West Country. Although there was a drop in 1979, it was not nearly as big as the 2015 drop, and from then on the Liberals were the main opposition to the Conservatives across much of the country.

    Historians tend to ignore the 1974 general elections when they suggest the boost came from the SDP. The community politics movement was what pushed the party forward, some of us involved in it even think the foundation of the SDP slowed down our progression. The community politics movement also established the party as the main opposition to Labour in places where Labour had made it a one-party state for local government, and this also led eventually to some Parliamentary seats being won.

    We knew how to win votes, we were successful. Winning and holding seats like Lewes and Eastbourne in my home county was a major achievement. It was what I joined the party for: beating the Tories in places that had previously been written off as “true blue”. It involved being an alternative left to Labour, with a sensible people-oriented set of policies. The idea that we were all about “policies which go down well at conference but go down like a lead balloon with the voters” is false, it was pushed by the Cleggies to justify their shift to the right and to do down party democracy.

  • Bill le Breton 9th Sep '16 - 7:42am

    A comprehensive response Matthew!

  • @ nvelope 2003 “endless carping and attacks on the one man who actually got them into power for the first time since 1922 ? ”

    It would help your opinions if you got your history right.

    1. Liberals were involved in the ‘National Government’ Government post 1931 – Samuel and Simon had both been in Asquith’s Cabinet.
    In WW11 Sinclair and others held office under Churchill.

    2. Clegg didn’t “get the party into power”. He actually lost seats in 2010. It just so happened neither Tories or Labour had an overall majority. It was a numbers game not a Clegg ‘wot won i’t game. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time…. madwe a bit of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx of it, and the rest is history for probably a verey long time if ever.

    End of carp…………….

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '16 - 8:14am

    Thanks Bill.

    Additionally, nvelope2003 illustrates the point I made earlier about the Leninist model of political party.

    The idea that a political party is principally about developing a rigid set of policies, and winning power to enforce them, is one aspect of the Leninist model, the other is the idea that a political party enforces rigid obedience on its members, so that they must all without question support that rigid set of policies, and if it changes they instantly change to support the new set. In theory the Leninist model has the policies decided internally by party democracy, in practice it always means top-down leader-oriented enforcement, because the idea that one must hold to the party line without question kills the democratic instinct.

    This model of political party has now become so general that most people seem unable to view or think about political parties in any other way. Yet it is quite recent. It was not that long ago that election manifestoes were short statements of principles rather than detailed sets of policies, and that is more in line with the liberal democratic model of political party.

    In the liberal democratic model, the main role of a political party is to bring people together in order to challenge aristocratic power (today that would mean big business power) so that ordinary people can get elected by co-operation. The idea is to elect truly representative assemblies, and they are the main means for making policy. Of course the people who come together in a party in this model must have general aims and objectives they share, but not on the rigid Party Line of the Leninist model.

    The shift in the public to the assumption that all parties are of the Leninist model also leads to the assumption that all parties are remote and aristocratic. In re-establishing and promoting the liberal democratic model, community politics challenged that assumption, and got people to see that politics can mean active involvement, not just passive voting, and that politicians can and should be people like them who listen to them.

    Another way of thinking of it is in terms of the Waterfall versus Agile model of software development, with community politics the Agile model. I might say more about this later.

  • @ Matthew “In the liberal democratic model, the main role of a political party is to bring people together in order to challenge aristocratic power (today that would mean big business power) so that ordinary people can get elected by co-operation”.

    Spot on.

    That’s exactly what the so called orangist tendency classical ‘liberals’ don’t get. We should be tackling the over weening power of the 1% not rolling over for them.

  • Neale Upstone 9th Sep '16 - 9:06am

    I wonder how many of the Labour activists commenting on this post who are out of power perhaps for a generation, support reforms that would actually sort out the problems that meant that there were not enough Lab MPs to form a LibDem Lab coalition despite that being the preference of most of the country.

    Labour need to commit as a party to proportional representation if they truly want to solve the problems, as otherwise the united right will keep winning against the fragmented centre and left.

  • David Raw writes, “Odd hearing Cleggy on the radio this morning…… actually for the first time blaming the bankers for the 2008 crash – after five years in government singing from the Tory hymn sheet that it was those naughty Labour lot wot dun it.”

    That’s not what I’ve heard him saying over the past six years at all. The crash at the first level of cause was the bankers; but then they could only do it with the aid of many people outside their industry; while the decision to go against Keynesianism and run a big deficit during the boom times was Labour’s great “boom and bust has been abolished” delusion that left us with a massive deficit when the pretend-money dried up. Clegg and many others have talked about Labour’s deliberately created mess and the bankers’ wilfully created financial crisis, the two are tightly linked but the one did not have to cause the other.

    According to their own political prejudice people pretend it’s always the a single answer as to why we’ve gone through the economic grimness of the last decade, but the question you ask determines the answer (“Labour got us into this fix”, “blame the bankers”, and the less popular but more honest “blame all the people who enabled and encouraged the bankers to do what they did”).

    But then, there’s an equal myth around how only Vince Cable saw the crash coming. Everyone with a basic grasp of maths who looked at the rate of house price increase compared to the rest of the economy and the signs saying “120% mortgages available” and the like knew where it was leading. Cable was just the only person saying it that the BBC would give airtime to.

  • nvelope2003 9th Sep '16 - 9:47am

    David Raw: Yes I am aware of the Liberals’ role in the National Government of 1931 and the war time coalition but these were special circumstances and a Government could have been formed without them. If there had been a war in 1974 no doubt Messrs Heath, Wilson and Thorpe would all have been invited to join the Cabinet to present the appearance of National Unity.

    Before the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats had been down to 12% in some polls. When Clegg succeeded the admirable but much derided Sir Menzies Campbell support began to increase and soared to 30% during the run up to the election – remember Clegg Mania ? On election day this level of support did not materialise, although the party gained a similar percentage of the vote to that achieved in 2005 but lost a number of seats to the resurgent Conservatives whilst gaining some seats from Labour.

    The reasons why support for the party collapsed were a combination of broken promises, particularly over tuition fees (although when Labour had broken their promise on this it did not damage them) and an almost instant drop in support by those who either objected in principle to a coalition with the Conservatives, or to the idea of the party being in power at all – the oppositionist mentality which some say Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters share.

  • nvelope2003 9th Sep '16 - 10:04am

    Will the oppositionist tendency which moved to UKIP in 2015 now move to a Corbyn led Labour party now that UKIP have got what they wanted ? It does not seem to have moved back to the Liberal Democrats, perhaps mercifully, although there have been some encouraging local by election results in areas where we were formerly strong, alongside continued decline in less fertile areas. Hopefully this could lead to a gain in seats in 2020 even if the percentage of the total vote remains the same as in 2015. I am afraid it will largely depend on whether the Conservatives succeed in keeping their supporters or Brexit blows up in their faces and the economy deteriorates.

  • nvelope2003 9th Sep '16 - 10:18am

    Matthew Huntbach: Yes the 1974 election did put the Liberals in a much better position than they had been for many years, possibly since 1929 and they achieved second place in about half of the seats, something that had not happened since the 1920s and sadly this has mostly been lost after 2015 although we are still the main challengers to the Conservatives in the South West, though much further behind now but the Labour party does not seem to have gained much there. The Greens and UKIP and particularly the Conservatives were the main beneficiaries of the Lib Dem collapse.

    I agree with the points you have made and feel more optimistic after reading your comments, coming as they did at the time of the brilliant result in Sheffield last night

  • Philip Knowles 9th Sep '16 - 12:08pm

    I’ve been reading the comments on here with increasing dismay. The personal attacks and the vitriol is terrible.
    No, the Coalition was not brilliant but we did manage to temper some of the worst of it (sometimes not enough).
    Nick may not have been the best leader but he was by no means the worst either.
    Life (and politics) is not black and white however much some people might like it to be. The reason I’m a LibDem is because the party genuinely wants to do what is best for the people. That means sometimes we may be on the left and sometimes on the fight – and sometimes in the middle of nowhere!
    That will inevitably mean that there will be disagreement and strife – but we should all remain friends in the end.
    There are some certainties in life. One is that you can’t change the past. I was devastated with the election and referendum results. I could sit back and rail against everybody else whose fault it was – or I could get back on with fighting for what I believe in. I have fought (and lost) 2 council by-elections. The last one I was beaten by an Independent by 31 votes with the Tories a poor third. I was agent for another in a seat we haven’t fought in 9 years and we came second by 25 votes.
    It will almost certainly be 4 years until the next General Election. You can keep on squabbling amongst yourselves and watch the Tories win again or start rebuilding at the grass roots. The only way we can get back to the levels of 2010 is to stop looking back and start planning for the future – and stop burying hatchets in each other and instead taking it to the Tories.

  • Peter Watson 9th Sep '16 - 12:30pm

    @Philip Knowles “you can’t change the past.”
    But you can learn from it, and the Lib Dem party needs to demonstrate that it is doing that in order to provide a direction for “rebuilding at the grass roots” and “taking it to the Tories”.
    The Lib Dems in Coalition looked, sounded and smelt different from the ones I thought I knew before 2010, and it is still not clear exactly what sort of party it will be going forwards. The obsession with the EU referendum does not help as it distracts from the party’s position on a host of other political, social, environmental and economical issues.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '16 - 2:00pm

    nvelope2003

    When Clegg succeeded the admirable but much derided Sir Menzies Campbell support began to increase and soared to 30% during the run up to the election – remember Clegg Mania ?

    What had actually happened was that because the general election was on the last possible date, it was already known when it would happen, so Liberal Democrat activists had made intensive effort to distribute pre-election literature just before it was officially called. It was due to this that the opinion polls showed a sharp rise in the Liberal Democrat share of the vote before Clegg’s television appearance. The media’s attribute of the opinion poll rise that took place early on in 2010 general election entirely to Nick Clegg’s appearance in the leaders’ debate, hence “Cleggmania”, was wrong.

    In fact Nick Clegg had made very little impact from when he was elected leader up till this point, which is why when he appeared in the television debate he was something of a novelty, and this helped push it a little higher. However, by turning attention solely to Clegg and away from the party’s real strength, which was its local campaigning, it may actually have hindered rather than helped. On polling day, the actual share of the vote was down to where it had been before the election started. It was just 1% more than the 2005 general election, whereas the 2005 general election share was 3.7% more than the 2001 general election and the 2001 general election was 1.5% more than the 1997 general election.

    My feeling is that Clegg’s shortcomings became more and more apparent during the campaign, and had we a different leader, we would have done better.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Sep '16 - 2:53pm

    I am in the centre of our party . The comments above make me very much and more, aware of this. I voted for Ming , and Nick and would again based on qualities I liked , they both have . I am a Liberal Democrat. For me where our party went wrong in a big way is where it goes wrong now in a small way. It is a party of friends and colleagues.And it forgets that. Bile and bitterness is not , nor should it , be the default position.

    I was once in Labour. There I was a liberal minded Social Democrat. Here I am a Liberal Democrat.

    I joined because I was appalled over Iraq, and admired the stance of Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell. I joined because I read about the Orange book as being a welcome thing , with an introduction by Charles , a party looking at new ideas, by others,whether accepted or not. I was shocked in what I found . But not by the book , which was and is a mixed bag of good and not so good writing and policy.

    I was shocked though.A majority of decent , friendly , welcoming members , locally , many of whom could not care less what so called wing one was on or what book one had read! And a vocal minority , mainly at national level , initially on the left , who denegrated any ideas that were so called right wing , then on the right of the party , directed at those on the left. This infected at local party level very little , but enough to put me off at both levels , and I drifted away , and benefited from a lack of the angst.

    I came back , because my experience , is mine and it is valuable , my committment is mine and it is genuine. I do not need bitter people to define me or my colleagues in my party because it is my party.And it is true of anyone who has that attitude.

    I am not one of Thatchers children because I believe in change on some issues in a certain direction, on others , different altogether. I was , if anything , a child of Kinnock and Williams , not wholly comfortable in parties full of bitterness , of the left or centre left , and so believe I am mainly in the radical centre.

    I see my local party in Nottingham full of terrific people ,older , middle aged and young, the younger to the economic centre right of some older , but all friends and colleagues getting on well and with respect.

    If other s want to look back in anger , that to me is as dated , but expected, as a rerun of John Osbournes great play !

  • David Evans 9th Sep '16 - 4:33pm

    Philip, I don’t see where your comment about personal attacks, vitriol and hatchets come from. People have different views as to what were the most important causes of our catastrophic decline, but Nick’s leadership was clearly key. Experienced activists were derided – “Grown up government” being a typical put down of those who pointed out the mess the leadership was making. Councillors, MSPs, AMs, and MEPs were sacrificed in continuing waves with little more than an expression of sadness but never culpability from the top. MPs did nothing to raise concerns in any meaningful way and over five years of disaster for the party nothing changed.

    Fifty years of hard work and gains have been sacrificed – 1964 we rose from six to nine Liberal MPs; 2015 in one fell swoop we dropped from 57 to 8. Even councillors are down to levels last seen in the early 1980s. Those councillors didn’t suddenly become incompetent in 2010.

    It wasn’t the local. It was the central. We went from a party people trusted to represent them in large areas of the country to a party people do not trust. The centre continually exhorted us to get out there, work hard and not worry our little minds about what they were doing. Look where it got us. Planning locally may save a few of us in 2020 (when boundary reviews will have decimated most of our MPs seats) but it won’t even start to turn the party nationally around. All women shortlists and other diversions from the centre that make us feel like we are good people will not save a single seat.

    Bombing Syria – we set out five conditions for support. Maybe two were achieved. But we backed down from a clear position and voted like the rest. Even now the other conditions are nowhere near being achieved. Child refugees, we believed the Tories had moved their position – some chance.

    Now we have lost a referendum on one of our key policies. If our fortunes nationally are going to change, it is the centre that needs to change. I still don’t see it happening. Do you?

  • David Evans 9th Sep '16 - 8:39pm

    Sorry missed that one. Matthew has had to put up with a lot on this site over the last few years, and has largely been proved to be right much more often than not. He has watched the party which he has worked for for thirty or more years being destroyed by a leadership that ultimately didn’t care about the next 30 years, but more like the next 30 minutes.

    However, I wouldn’t really call that vitriol, but I can understand why you might. Exasperation, coupled with a sharp tongue, intemperate, but not bitter criticism or malice.

    However, even if that is one example, I think it is probably the only one and for Philip Knowles to suggest that the “personal attacks and the vitriol is terrible,” is, I think, overegging it.

  • nvelope2003 9th Sep '16 - 9:24pm

    Matthew Huntbach: I am sure you are right but who would have been the leader ? The only other candidate was Chris Huhne. Need I say more ? It would have been a bit embarrassing to have the Liberal Democrat leader in prison. Only Sinn Fein could manage that. The parties of the left and centre left do not seem to have people of outstanding ability who would make good leaders because such people no longer believe in the policies of those groupings. Mihail Gorbachov is a good example of what happens when no one with any sense believes in the party anymore but when the leader says so those with vested interests try to overthrow them and only the second rate will take on the job. Maybe Norman Lamb should have got the job this time as the fashion for young leaders seems to have faded but we did not know that at the time.

    What Clegg seems to have lacked most is experience and that rare quality nous but he seems to have learned something from the experience although it is too late to do us much good.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Sep '16 - 10:41pm

    It is still debatable that Clegg won the election as leader at all. If Royal Mail had delivered all the ballot papers on time there is a quite widely held view that Huhne would have won. Now people talk blithely of him going to prison, but that is to assume he would have acted as he did if was leader. I suspect he wouldn’t. It is fashionable to deride Chris Huhne, but he did a good job in government before he had to resign. I think it is likely he would have made a better first of standing up to the Tories than Clegg. Still, without a Tadis we will never know.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Sep '16 - 10:42pm

    Oops, Tardis!

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Sep '16 - 8:36am

    nvelope2003

    Matthew Huntbach: I am sure you are right but who would have been the leader ? The only other candidate was Chris Huhne. Need I say more ?

    Yes, but why was the only other candidate was Chris Huhne?

    Nick Clegg had been pushed VERY heavily by the media as “obviously the best person to be leader of the Liberal Democrats” since the previous leadership election. As we have seen, he seems to have lacked necessary skills and experience, and as a result made serious mistakes that even he acknowledges. I think Nick Clegg was pushed so strongly that other potential leadership candidates who would have done a better job decided it was not worth bothering trying.

    So why was Clegg so heavily pushed? In part, think, because the media’s concept of what the party is and how it works is generally very wrong. In part, I think, because the right-wing media pushed someone they thought would push the party in the way they wanted. They hinted that they would give the Liberal Democrats more sympathetic treatment if that happened, and I think many members fell for that. Of course it didn’t happen, they would never really drop their support for the Conservative Party. Instead of thanking the Liberal Democrats for what they did, the right-wing press joined in Labour’s attacks on them, because destroying the Liberal Democrats and restoring the good ol’ two-party system is what best suits them: it means perpetual Tory rule.

  • Stephen Hesketh 10th Sep '16 - 9:16am

    Bill le Breton 8th Sep ’16 – 9:38am

    I had read with interest and general agreement many of the comments in the thread but had, at the back of my mind, the view that a key factor was missing from the posts. Then I reached Bill le Breton’s post as above which I believe makes the key point – Clegg, Laws, Alexander and certain others had a clear agenda of shifting the party to the right economically and accepting the post-Thatcherite economic analysis and market solutions. Of (re)claiming the party of Social Liberal Democracy for Classical Liberalism, of inviting those of a more radical persuasion to find a home elsewhere and to shift key economic policies to a position where they would attract the mythical mass of nice centre right Tory voters.

    This brings me neatly to the post by Peter Watson 9th Sep ’16 – 12:30pm …

    The Lib Dems in Coalition looked, sounded and smelt different from the ones I thought I knew before 2010, and it is still not clear exactly what sort of party it will be going forwards. The obsession with the EU referendum does not help as it distracts from the party’s position on a host of other political, social, environmental and economical issues.”

    Precisely Peter. I back Tim’s position on Europe 100% but we must go out and pro actively campaign on the host of other issues you mention. My concern is that the failed (and never official party) policies of the coalition years are yet to be cast off.

    Until we do so we will not see a large scale return of our former supporters; until we see a major improvement in our polling ratings, organisations such as the BBC will essentially continue to ignore us.

  • Mick Taylor
    Just checked – thought I was correct – Chris Huhne’s speeding ticket was in 2003, while he was still an MEP – so your solution could not have come true.

    My beef with what came out in that case was also that he decided to fly to Brussels from Stansted, when he was living in Clapham, and the Eurostar went from Waterloo. For someone environmentally conscious this was poor judgment, and then to drive at crazy speeds, further damaging the environment… Words fail me!

  • Stephen Hesketh 10th Sep '16 - 6:53pm
  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '16 - 9:15pm

    @Tim13 “Chris Huhne’s speeding ticket was in 2003, while he was still an MEP – so your solution could not have come true.”
    The offence was in 2003, but the circumstances which led to it becoming public knowledge might not have arisen if Huhne were party leader. I have absolutely no idea what else might have happened in that alternative universe though!

  • Stephen Hesketh 10th Sep '16 - 10:37pm

    I do so wish we could have a way of demonstrating our support for the posts of others. Is the fact that we can’t down to an LDV policy decision or a technical issue? Thank you, Stephen.

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