Cllr Fran Oborski MBE writes… Why I rejoined the Liberal Democrats

Fran Oborski and Sal BrintonFor someone who was effectively forced to leave the Liberal Democrats in 1996 I found the behaviour of the Party during the coalition heartbreaking at times.

Hearing Nick Clegg embracing social mobility and seeming to somehow equate it with liberty, equality and justice rang alarm bells in that first summer in 2010 but things then rapidly went downhill as far as this lifelong Liberal was concerned.

In 42 years of being regularly re-elected as a Councillor the one lesson I really have learnt is never, ever to make promises that you either cannot, or do not intend, to keep. Indeed it was the vociferous objections of my late husband Mike when Hereford and Worcester CC Lib Dem Group betrayed an election pledge not to privatise OAP Homes in 1995 that led to our leaving the Party in the first place so to see the totally unnecessary car crash over tuition fees  was like a horrendous case of déjà vu.

When this was compounded by support for the “bedroom tax” I seriously began to wonder if there was anyone with “streetwise” experience offering advice. Although sitting as a Liberal Party Councillor I have been in a joint Group on Worcestershire CC with Liberal Democrat Cllrs. (most of whom were “twin hatted” since 2007 and I was frankly amazed when I found that none of them had been asked for their detailed advice as to the likely impact of the Bedroom Tax on Social Housing tenants and their landlords! Any experienced Cllr could tell you that:

  • Tenant households with a disabled member would often need a spare bedroom for equipment.
  • Making people with two children of opposite genders aged under 10 downsize was ludicrous when they would be requiring an additional bedroom once the elder child was aged over 10.
  • Many Social Landlords allow a parent (most often the father) who is separated from the family, to have an extra bedroom to enable overnight and weekend contact.
  • For around 10 years Planners have been urging the building of properties with two or more bedrooms so that family visits and live in carers could be facilitated; so there had been very few one bedroomed properties built!

Surely this knowledge, which was abundant in the Party, should have guided MPs?

So why am I back?

Bluntly I really do believe, after the disaster of May 7th that  “It is absolutely essential Britain has a vibrant and campaigning party prepared to stand up for the most marginalised in society and one that fights to protect human rights.

This is especially important as we have a Conservative Government already lurching to the Right and threatening to trample on civil liberties.

As a Polish Honorary Consul I am passionately pro-European.

I believe the Liberal Democrats are best-placed to lead a progressive politics in this country and I call on all Liberals, currently outside the party, to join me.

* Fran was first elected to Wyre Forest DC in 1973 and has been re-elected ever since; in 2001 she was elected to Worcestershire county Council. She sat as a Liberal Party Councillor from 1996 to 2015 and has just rejoined the Liberal Democrats. She was awarded MBE for Political and Public Service in the June 12th Birthday Honours List

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  • The most hopeful item on ldv in a long time, lovely to see this. and every good wish to Fran.

    I agree that Liberals need to be united, now it’s for the Lib Dems to prove that that party is the worthiest vessel for a revival.

  • Welcome back Fran!
    The benefit cuts were certainly a dark chapter in the history of the Liberal Democrats, but hopefully under a new leader we can put that behind us now! It is still worth asking the candidates where they stand on this – as I have. I am still waiting for their replies and I will report back when I get them.

  • Welcome back!

    I am, though, a little confused about what you mean by “Hearing Nick Clegg embracing social mobility and seeming to somehow equate it with liberty, equality and justice rang alarm bells…” To me, social mobility means being able to improve yourself and your family, and with it bringing a better quality of life. It should be one of the key objectives of our party – the idea that, while nobody should live in poverty, we should still encourage people to better themselves. How that happens is a matter of debate – and I don’t agree with all of how the coalition went about it, especially the bedroom tax – but surely encouraging people to have a better life should be something we should in general aspire to?

  • It is good to have Fran back. Always an inspiration but also grounded in pragmatism. Her examples show simply why coalition became a disaster for the Lib Dems – The top of the party (mainly senior MPs plus a few others in their Westminster bubble) disconnected themselves totally from the roots and instead relied on never ending rallying calls for unity to maintain discipline. The bedroom tax was just one of many – NHS Reform, Secret Courts etc. etc. It ended in catastrophe.

    We need wise hands like her to guide us so we all know never to let our leaders get so out of touch again.

  • Welcome back but, when rejoining an organisation it might be better not to begin with an article effectively boasting that you were right & most of us were wrong. Dont be misled by comments that support your position, the vast majority of members backed the coalition & what evidence we have suggests that most went on backing it & Clegg right up toThe Election.
    I appeal to you to withdraw this article & rewrite it, removing the triumphalist tone , or at least explain that it wasnt meant to be hurtful.

  • What a dog in a manger comment Paul. Fran has been a better Liberal delivering real value to her local community for longer than most of us have been around. You were wrong throughout, and the endless tide of articles and commenters like you discouraged so many from standing up and being counted when we might have salvaged something. Now we have almost nothing but hope and are on the brink, but still you go on as if any point of view counter to yours must be denigrated and expunged.

    Until people like you learn, accept it *and change* we will continue to sink.

  • Paul, Oh dear.

  • Lewis Hartland 14th Jun '15 - 1:12pm

    I keep hovering my button over the “join” button on the party website, but I have to say I keep pulling back not because i do not wholly support the principals of the party and liberalism but because I keep seeing comments on public forums like that of David Evans (not just him).

    If I were to join, is this myopic and incessant denigration of fellow members all I can expect? Because I have zero inclination to devote time and energy to a party obsessed with internecine bickering. Is genuinely off-putting.

  • Lewis Hartland, internecine bickering is not limited to any one party (just take a look at TorieS, Labour, UKIP ) , or any one part of society. It is in fact a fact of human life. Wherever there are people, there will be bickering, it is human nature.

    So you should go ahead and click the Join button – and then either, depending on your personality, ignore the bickering, try to stamp it out with rational debate or indeed, join in. Just like in any other part of life.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 14th Jun '15 - 1:53pm


    Please don’t feel that the commenters on LDV are in any way representative of the party at large, which is really a very friendly place. I can read a thread in here and feel in no doubt that I’m about to be dragged up against the wall once the revolution comes yet outside in the real world, it’s so not like that.

    The likes of David Evans would do well to reflect on how they come across to people.

    Generally, denigrating people personally and being hostile to them doesn’t generally motivate them to listen to you.

  • PS I would really not class the debate on here as the party being in any way “obsessed” with “internecine bickering” . A certain amount of ‘bloodletting’ is usual in any party after a heavy defeat but the Lib Dems are really pretty mild.

  • Why attack David Evans for defending a newly-joined member from the attack of another commentator? That seems praiseworthy to me.

  • Caron, I honestly don’t think what David Evans said what that bad. I don’t even think Paul Barkers comment was that bad, but it did a response. Surely people can have a ‘robust’ debate without being jumped on?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 14th Jun '15 - 2:17pm

    @ Lewis,

    Come on in, the water’s (generally) lovely. There is, I would suggest, much else to the Party than this. And, if you’re in Suffolk, I can confidently say that you’ll receive a warm welcome!

  • David Evans 14th Jun '15 - 2:17pm

    Indeed a curious comment from Lewis Hartland and an even more curious one from Caron. Presumably the editorial team considered Fran’s article just fine and then Paul asks her to withdraw it because it doesn’t agree with the narrative he has supported throughout and he still wishes to believe. I simply point out that believing it has led the party to where it is and point out that our problems will continue unless people like that change.

    I would suggest Caron reflects on how Paul Barker’s comment comes across to those of us who have been trying to save the party and the values it fights for over the last four and a half years.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th Jun '15 - 2:20pm

    Welcome back Fran to the big liberal family ! We need everyone to fight the Tories and Lewis don’t be put off by family bickering – that’s what families do but we fight like lions to defend our own. Paul – not one person is suggesting that the coalition did no good – pupil premium, jobs, apprenticeships. Equal marriage, lower taxes all things to shout from the rooftops. but yes David and Fran you know you’re right when you talk about bedroom tax & fees. But that dark time is over now and we unite and fight

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jun '15 - 2:32pm

    Good article.

    @ David Evans. I agree.

  • David-1 14th Jun ’15 – 2:01pm
    “Why attack David Evans for defending a newly-joined member from the attack of another commentator? That seems praiseworthy to me.”

    Yes you are absolutely right and Caron, I think you made the wrong call there.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 14th Jun '15 - 2:55pm

    David, it’s like you think the rest of us don’t care about the party at all. That’s what is probably most annoying. But neither your comment nor Paul’s was constructive or helpful.

  • As another rejoiner could I just mention how hurt and bereft I felt when (in my opinion) the Party I had been a member of for so long (and at times a councillor and election organiser) LEFT ME in 2010? Telling the truth is rarely a bad idea and that is what Fran does in her article.

    It was the pledge that really did it for me. Although I would have preferred a much more limited deal than the coalition, I would not have resigned over that… A “long spoon” approach rather than a meeting of minds in a rose garden would have been better… I do not blame anyone for going into the coalition, which I regard as a noble (slightly misguided) act of self-sacrifice by the Party, but I do still blame individual MP’s for breaking individual pledges. Sorry if that offends anyone…

    So welcome back Fran, lets put the recent past behind us, and lets look to the future with a new leader

  • Please correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like this article is making a snide jab at social mobility. In my opinion social mobility is a key part of liberty, equality and justice so I would like to know what Fran Oborski meant by that ludicrous sounding comment. Either the point she was trying to make was poorly written, she agrees with the Right of the Tory party about an ingrained class system where the lower classes are kept in their ‘place’, or she agrees with the Old Labour view that the working class should be given a council house, a low quality job and told to shut up and not have any higher aspirations for themselves or their children. I would be interested to know which it is, I seriously hope it is the former otherwise Fran Oborski is not the kind of person the Liberal Democrats (whether from the left or right of the party) should want within a mile of the party.

  • I will echo all those people who have already said “Welcome Home” !
    The party needs people like Fran Oborski.
    The party is much stronger for having her on our side.

    If any of those doubting this could demonstrate their value to the party by getting themselves elected to anything over the next few years it would be a better use of their time. Fran has been regularly re-elected as a local councillor on every occasion for more than forty years. I wonder if her critics have stopped for a moment to consider that perhaps, just perhaps, she knows something about politics and the voters that they do not know.

  • David Evans 14th Jun '15 - 3:59pm

    Caron, I know many people care passionately about the party and more importantly the values it espouses. The difference between you and I was that I could see the evidence in front of my eyes of the huge damage being done by Nick, and I simply pointed it out, particularly to those who almost continuously trotted out the mantra of ‘a split party is doomed to electoral failure. The Lib Dems are not split. Whatever you do don’t do anything it will only make things worse.’

    As we all know now, by pretending the party was united, we simply drove more and more voters and members away in dismay and disillusion, and so only appeared not to be split because many of those who disagreed had left. In the end the disaster that was Nick left us in a worse position than it has been in for at least 30 years and probably since the end of World War 2. We are now so weak, we actually face a threat to our continued existence and those who still want to pretend things were fine under Nick for five years will simply continue to say to voters “We did nothing wrong and do not need to change. Vote for us!”

    The flaw in this approach is plain for voters to see. I despair at how so many people in the party still will not accept it.

  • Sammy O'Neill 14th Jun '15 - 4:16pm

    It says a great deal about how popular/appreciated Fran must be in the local community to be continually re-elected when running as a candidate for a very small and not (nationally) well known party. No better sign of doing a consistently good job than that in my eyes.

  • Can I just add, I well remember Fran speaking at Lib Dem Midland Regional conferences and I may not always have agreed with her but I would defend to the death her right to say it. I was saddened when she left. Indeed I can remember the Lib Dem Council Wyre Forest group was strong in the late 70’s and 80’s, Did they not have control at one time. Look at the party there now. It is a very welcome sign that people like Fran are coming back to the party, pity many of us are knocking on a bit. But you are as young as you feel and after having the grandchildren all day I know how I am feeling!..

  • Alex Macfie 14th Jun '15 - 4:41pm

    To the best of my knowledge countries with higher social mobility tend to be the ones with more equal society. Sweden has more social mobility than the US, for instance.

  • paul barker 14th Jun '15 - 5:11pm

    I am sorry if I hurt anyones feelings, that wasnt my intention. My point is simply that one of our secret weapons is unity. We have had 5 years of constant debate about whether we were right to join/stay in the Coalition & we have mostly avoided bitterness. I felt hurt by the article which seemed to me to be rather contemptuous of what most of us have thought & done over the last 5 years.
    Knowing what we know now I still think we were right to join the Coalition but wrong to stay in it for the full term. I now feel that we should have pulled out once the Economic crisis had passed , probably.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th Jun '15 - 5:19pm

    @ Paul Barker
    what a relief to hear you finally say that – if only you have said the same this time last year. Your point on unity is well made but it’s my hope you don’t have to suffer as an ignored but vocal minority over the next five years like David, John, Fran and myself have had to . hopefully Tim will win and we can return to being a broad church party where we can all contribute.

  • David Evans 14th Jun '15 - 5:43pm

    I am still waiting for my comment made at 4:01 pm to be released. Suffice it to say for now that unity is not one of the things we had over the last five years.

  • Gwyn Griffiths 14th Jun '15 - 5:54pm

    Am I the only Lib Dem who thinks Housing Benefit (which is not a “Tax”) should be related to a person/ family’s housing NEED rather than what they might WANT ?

    As such, subject to sensible changes relating to disability and ages of children, what is wrong with the principle of the benefit changes in this specific area?

  • Gwyn Griffiths:
    ‘To each according to his need’ has long been a socialist tenet. Perhaps this was Labour’s justification when they introduced the principle into the private sector.

    The trouble is, as I am sure you know,availability of housing is the problem son this needs be considered in addition to “disability and ages of children’.

    Fran Oborski does not mention dealing families who are on council waiting lists but are living in totally inadequate provision in the private sector., but I expect she has seen quite a number.

    By the way is it Oborski or Iborski, (Oborska or Iborska)?

  • Steve Comer 14th Jun '15 - 6:31pm

    I’m also glad to see Fran re-join the Liberal Democrats, I just wished she’d come back when Michael Meadwocroft made the same move. There were reason why people did not join the Lib Dems after 1988, and why some left and joined the small ‘continuing’ Liberal party since, but now we’re at 7.8% in the polls, surely there is no longer any need for a splinter party?

    Fran says she “seriously began to wonder if there was anyone with “streetwise” experience offering advice.”
    Many of us with years of experience in Local Government, the Civil Service and the Voluntary sector tried to offer advice to our Liberal Democrat Ministers from day one, but many of us hgot the impression they were only listening to a narrow group of SpAds and Senior Civil Servants…….

  • Steve Comer:
    With similar thoughts I looked up the Liberal Party of GB and was surprised to find they had become an anti EU party. I would not have thought it was really forFran Oborski.

    I checked her web page and found the O is correct (not I), however I am intrigued why there is an i on the other end of the name, I am not sure how these things work.

  • Welcome back. I think this article is a very important read for very Lib Dem.

    As for the ‘bedroom tax’, it was not a tax (and that name was just a cheap way for the right wing media to attach tax), but was a woefully ill-thought-out policy.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th Jun '15 - 7:14pm

    sorry I also left out Steve, David Allen , Bill, Dave, tonnes of others and the 4.9 million lib dems who voted for the party in 2010 and not 2015. One of themist disgraceful things Nick Clegg said before the election was that he didn’t care that centre left lib dems who voted for the party in 2010 weren’t going to vote as they had only leant us their votes . As such a second class lib dem I’m proud to have stuck by the party but ashamed of such comments .

  • Samuel Griffiths 14th Jun '15 - 7:29pm

    I am pleased for you, Fran. It must be a great feeling to know you’re home again and able to be supportive openly. Unfortunately, this article (and more importantly the comments made) has demonstrated why so many of us do not yet feel able to follow suit. I would go as far as to call what the LibDems did in coalition unforgivable and don’t feel I can share a platform with those whose values are clearly opposites. That all said, you are entirely correct to state that this is the only party where a Liberal response can be made, and this only highlights the need for a united response along a single set of values. I really hope to hear more from you within the party, especially if it grows back into something I can join again. That join button floats across my social media daily…

  • This is just for Lewis…
    Come on board. This is where you belong, and we need you! 🙂
    Will there be people in the party you disagree with, and who irritate you sometimes? Yes. But guess what, that’s life. That’s true of any organisation, or group of people, or family. I use that word deliberately: I’ve been a member of this party for 30 years, and it really is like a family. That means there are lots of great people, and a few that are not so great. Think of your own family: are there some people there who get up your nose sometimes? I suspect there are. Does that mean you don’t want to be a member of the family? No, of course it doesn’t. You just ignore them, or you fight them, or you learn to live with them. But you don’t let those few annoying ones keep you out of the whole family, or obscure the many great things (and people) in it.
    Some people will think the family analogy is strained. I don’t. Last week we lost one of our most-loved members. Since then, it has felt pretty much like a family to me. Come on board. It’s time. Look at Fran. She is clearly a part of the Liberal family, who found herself temporarily outside of the fold. She could have re-joined at any time in the last 2 decades, but didn’t. She is choosing to join now. If she can, you can too.

  • “Yes those who know about Polish surnames will recognise that I should be Oborska!
    The reason is simply that when Mike and I got married in 1968 we both got jobs in the same Shropshire school.
    It was hard enough getting the kids to cope with a Polish surname without getting them to use gender specific endings!”

    I think it would have been a wonderful moment to teach a little bit of grammar that the children might have found useful later in life!

  • Thank you Fran. In my mind, I was getting over subtle about the name endings, thinking perhaps there might be a special rule if you are a widow.

  • I worry that all the talk of ‘unity’ is designed to shush people up and avoid facing all the difficult stuff.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jun '15 - 12:21am

    @JJ “Either the point she was trying to make was poorly written, she agrees with the Right of the Tory party about an ingrained class system where the lower classes are kept in their ‘place’, or she agrees with the Old Labour view that the working class should be given a council house, a low quality job and told to shut up and not have any higher aspirations for themselves or their children”
    Sadly, and even before the 2015 election removed so many Lib Dem MPs, in terms of parliamentary representation both Labour and the Tories seem to demonstrate better social mobility and diversity than the Lib Dems.

  • Welcome back Fran. There are warning lights flashing for our party, as we all know – stating a clear liberalism will be so important as it is too easy to fudge our principles and set the wrong tone. If the principle doesn’t, for example, protect the poor from being moved from their home, family and neighbourhood – the principle isn’t defined well enough.

    Being in government or running any group brings the representative face to face with potential bear-traps. Take the wrong step and there is no climbing out of the trap again. It is sad when good work is written out by that step [or steps] but I suspect our party has a wonderful principle to protect or suffer disaster when not protecting it.

  • Paul Walter 15th Jun ’15 – 9:54am ………………….“Those who got it so badly wrong and so badly judged the situation have almost destroyed the party. They would be wise show a little humility now and put a sock in it for a while and defer to those who have clearly shown better judgement.”……………

    ………………….So a generalized “put a sock in it”. This does not seem very intelligent or liberal. Some people were suggesting bringing back previous leaders of the party. Were they right?……………………….

    You mean like, pre 2015, ‘liberally’ telling those of us who wanted change to “stop rocking the boat’ and how everything “would be alright on the night”?
    As for previous leaders; I never suggested that, but I can’t believe that a party taken into the 2015election by Ming Campbell (for example) could have done any worse….

  • David Warren 15th Jun '15 - 10:06am

    A really uplifting post.

    I too have recently rejoined the party for similar reasons to Fran.

    Following the General Election the Liberal Democrats really are the only hope of a progressive centre left alternative to the Tories.

  • Phyllis 14th Jun ’15 – 11:30pm
    “I worry that all the talk of ‘unity’ is designed to shush people up and avoid facing all the difficult stuff.”

    I agree – such as why an incremental strategy based on being all things to all people and saying “only the Lib Dems can beat X here” was allowed to persist for decades, leading to the inevitable situation we got when a choice was made to enter coalition.

  • Ah, much of this takes me back to all those undergraduate essays about what caused the decline of the Liberal Party between the two World Wars.

    But there is no need to for long winded student angst this time .

    1988: Those of us who voted against merger. We were WRONG!
    2014: Those of us who thought Clegg should go. We were RIGHT!


  • Ruth Bright:
    2014: Those of us who thought that Clegg should be replaced by …xxx… We were …???… !

    It really was not at all simple. Worse still, the way the election panned out meant that the more we looked like propping up Labour (+SNP) the more we tended to lose seats in Lib /Con marginals, which were the majority of our seats. Like it or not, at the next election, the more electable Labour appear to be the more likely, under FPTP, that we can win back those seats. This means we have a real problem of how we present ourselves vis à vis Labour and Conservatives.

    In fact Labour in opposition adopt Liberal clothing which disappears in government, partly this is the nature of the problems of governing – it happened to us too – but Labour has historically had a dominant authoritarian wing that asserts itself when important issues are at stake. Differentiation will not be easy: I think it will be most important to stress the Liberal principles behind the policies we espouse.

  • David Warren – welcome home. 🙂

  • Paul:
    The wonder of counterfactual scenarios is that we can never know. As DPM, Chris Huhne’s domestic strife might have been sidelined by the demands of his position; his subversion of the consequences of traffic law infringements may not have come to light. Chris Huhne might have had a more robust relationship with Cameron and the Tories, but even so the eventual outcome could easily have been little different.

    The point about Ming is that Ming Cambell never suggested coming back, as, more importantly, did no one else. This is a fact not a counterfactual. The only point to volunteering to be a replacement would have been if someone had been able to see how he or she could make a significant difference.

  • (Matt Bristol) 15th Jun '15 - 12:06pm

    I agree with Martin, and not Ruth, surprisingly.

    I do still think we should have left coalition earlier than 2015, ideally with Clegg still leading us into the election.

    But… we will never know if this would have worked, and we may still have been slaughtered in the election. The way I read it, Nick Clegg personally heavily linked of his own political identity in the period 2010-2012 to two ideas:
    – the idea of coalition as an issue of liberal principle and a way of forcing a more plural politics on the UK
    – the specific agenda of the Tory-led coalition and it’s policies

    Therefore he (unconsciously) tied his own ‘brand’ to that of Cameron in a way that was inexricable in the public mind and effectively cut off all his room to manouevre and meant any shifts in policy or presentation did not get heard. There is no way to say that leaving coalition would have improved this, and many would have demanded his head anyway, saying that his ‘giving up’ on the coalition proved he had ‘failed’; ergo he was probably dammned either way.

    It is not unreasonable to assume that had Clegg led the out of coalition in 2013 or early 2014, we would have had a leadership election before 2015 (Vince vs Danny)? This may not have been good for the party at the time.

    But yeah, I don’t think we can say with utter certainty, oh, we should have ditched Clegg in 2014. It would still have been highly personalised, internecine backstabbing that would have produced less clarity, not more, and it may have already been too late.

  • Paul Walter 15th Jun ’15 – 11:15am…………I don’t think anyone ever suggested bringing back Ming Campbell.
    I voted for Chris Huhne. Was I right?…..

    Considering he came second to Ming????? But, in 2007; why not? ….However, when a change from Clegg was urgently needed, Huhne was embroiled in a criminal case….
    What is so frustrating is, that when it became obvious that under Clegg the party was haemorrhaging voters, we were constantly being told there was no alternative; now the same people are lauding Tim and Norman’s talents…

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jun '15 - 12:51pm


    Either the point she was trying to make was poorly written, she agrees with the Right of the Tory party about an ingrained class system where the lower classes are kept in their ‘place’, or she agrees with the Old Labour view that the working class should be given a council house, a low quality job and told to shut up and not have any higher aspirations for themselves or their children.

    Just what did she write that can be sensibly interpreted as that? You appear to believe, unless there is something I have missed, that the mere provision of council housing means that. Well, that is absolute rot. I was brought up in a council house, and I now work as a university lecturer. My brother and sisters also have professional careers. How come, according to you?

    Well, I tell you – the provision of secure housing which met our family needs helped us. If my parents did not have the security offered by that, if they were forced to work unreasonable hours to pay private rent or a mortgage they couldn’t really afford, we would not have been brought up so well.

    I am sick and tired of right-wing rubbish propaganda appearing here in Liberal Democrat Voice. People like you haven’t a clue, you just haven’t a clue.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jun '15 - 1:11pm

    On the subject of the “bedroom tax”, during the time I was a councillor I found it very hard to defend people living in three-bedroom houses which they didn’t need when there were so many on the council house waiting list who had a desperate family need for that housing but would never stand a chance of getting it. Thanks to the right-to-buy, there really is no need for any council house to become available to re-let, because if one isn’t needed any more there’s always ways to use the right-to-buy to make a profit from it. For example, anyone with elderly relatives in a council house (that was the typical case – three bedroom house with the kids long ago grown up and left home) can just buy it for them at a huge discount, inherit it when the time comes, sell if off. And that’s just what happened. It’s also why a significant proportion of casework was relatives trying to make out they had lived in the house all the time and so had a right to inherit the property. So, how do you defend a single person trying to argue that case to stay in a three bedroomed house when your previous casework was a couple with three children in a two bedroom flat told no they would never get an allocation of a three-bedroomed house who left you in tears when you said “Sorry, there is nothing I can do for you”?

    I appreciate that the “bedroom tax” should not have been implemented that way. But it also annoys me a lot when it is written up as if it was introduced purely out of nastiness. I think the other side of the argument needs to be heard. Maybe it is different in other parts of the country, but I know where I was a councillor, EVERY council house that would have been vacated due to the “bedroom tax” would have been allocated to a family in MORE need of it. So why do we always hear the sob stories of those having to vacate and never the sob stories of those who are left without adequate housing due to the council houses they need being occupied by people who have less need for them?

  • Yes we are in a terrible position as a party. We may well carry on declining but I’m sure every member who comments or contributes to Lib Dem Voice feels as I do. This is where I belong, this is where I’m staying. I can no longer get out on the doorstep or even deliver leaflets and there are much better people who can stand as Councillors or as local party organisers so I am so glad that this site exists. Sometimes it depresses me , sometimes I am moved to tears, sometimes it makes me laugh out loud, sometimes I get angry and sometimes even now it exhilarates me, even though we are in such a mess, but it keeps me in touch with other members and I know we all want the best thing for the party we love. So let’s stop discussing what went wrong because the election result clearly showed us we had blundered.
    For the future we have all these new members and we know from LDV that quite a few of them saw that there were achievements in Coalition and thought that Nick Clegg was a decent bloke. We must use these new members to understand what we did right because it’s pretty easy to see that we did an awful lot wrong. Let’s build on these strengths as well as taking steps to ensure that the things we did wrong don’t happen again.
    I would like to see measures put in place to ensure that MPs are required to consult their local party before they take irrevocable decisions and ,of course,to take into account party policy. Members should also make policy decisions as if they are going to be implemented rather than with the previous gung-ho attitude associated with always being in opposition. We now have an enormous amount of experience within the party from those who know how to get policies implemented. We must listen to them even though our first reaction may be anger and resentment that they led us so far astray.
    We have an enormous task in front of us because it’s only natural to want to point out the failures of others and our own foresight but we all have to take a deep breath and listen. We will emerge a much stronger party if we can pull this off.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “So why do we always hear the sob stories of those having to vacate and never the sob stories of those who are left without adequate housing due to the council houses they need being occupied by people who have less need for them?”

    I totally agree. This statement should be printed at the bottom of any post that attacks the party for the “bedroom tax”.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jun '15 - 4:00pm

    @TCO @Matthew Huntbach “So why do we always hear the sob stories of those having to vacate and never the sob stories of those who are left without adequate housing due to the council houses they need being occupied by people who have less need for them?”
    The major criticism of the bedroom tax was not its principle – after all, that had simply been copied from Labour – but its implementation: rather than being applied to new tenancies, it was imposed on people regardless of the availability of alternative accommodation and other personal circumstances.

  • Paul Barker 5:11 pm
    ” I now feel that we should have pulled out once the Economic crisis had passed ”
    What makes you think it has passed? Has The IMF done a deal with Greece?

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jun '15 - 7:13pm

    Peter Watson

    The major criticism of the bedroom tax was not its principle – after all, that had simply been copied from Labour – but its implementation

    Oh sure, that should have been the case. But it wasn’t. Every attack I saw on it made no acknowledgement of the principle at all, and suggested it was done purely through vindictive nastiness. I felt that the total lack of acknowledgment of all those people living in horrible situations due to being unable even to get council accommodation was just as misguided as those who agreed to this policy without considering what it would mean in terms of those immediately affected by it.

  • Samuel Griffiths 15th Jun '15 - 8:15pm

    Matthew: it was vindictive, though. Do you really think the government are somehow stupid enough to not know that those they were inflicting the Bedroom tax upon could not move to other available locations? That would be preposterous. It would imply that I know more than government ministers about a policy they were creating. No, the Bedroom tax was a deliberate attempt at discouraging social housing claimants as a move towards removing the system entirely. Just look at their continued promotion for right to buy – you’ll notice it’s not being balanced house for house in any building programme. Thatcher did exactly the same thing when she wanted to get rid of social housing. None of this is new at all.

    You are quite correct that we have a massive shortage of affordable housing as you are to point out the dire situation that entire families are presently living in. Punishing those in social housing and with nowhere to go does not help these people one bit. A programme of expanded social housing might! But of course, we have right to buy, which is about having less social housing, not more….

  • Simon Banks 15th Jun '15 - 8:20pm

    In reply to Keith Legg: social mobility, if it is the result of your efforts for you and your family, is a good thing, yes. But social mobility – up and down – can happen for all sorts of reasons nothing to do with your energy, ability and commitment. Someone who becomes unemployed and can’t get another job experiences a lot of social mobility. So does someone who wins the lottery. Moreover, the ultimate in social mobility is a devil-take-the hindmost society with profound and widening divides between rich and poor and people dedicated to improving their own material position rather than serving their communities. That isn’t Liberal. And if you have the wrong genes or the wrong accident, you’re at a big disadvantage the best of programmes can’t entirely correct.

    Besides, a society as unequal as ours can never have equality of opportunity because there’s no way government can compensate for the huge differences.

    Social mobility as an ideal also bypasses and undermines a profoundly Liberal value, a core part of our history, namely COMMUNITY self-help.

    I understand Fran’s comment. There were times when Nick Clegg, and more particularly Jeremy Browne and some around Nick Clegg appeared to be using social mobility and equality of opportunity as a fix to avoid responsibility for attacking poverty and suffering. This is not an attack on either idea, but an argument that they must not stand alone.

  • Welcome back Fran I hope many others return to strenghen a sorely needed Liberalism.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jun '15 - 9:33am

    Samuel Griffiths

    Do you really think the government are somehow stupid enough to not know that those they were inflicting the Bedroom tax upon could not move to other available locations?


  • Richard Underhill 16th Jun '15 - 10:57am

    So many points here!
    An MP is advised to make one point at a time, a Cabinet Minister may be permitted two and a Prime Minister three.

    Fran, You “speak human”, so please come to federal conference in Bournemouth and put in a card to speak, in English. Do you also speak Polish? Please consider applying for candidate approval for MEP and for the speakers’ panel for the referendum. (Paddy Ashdown once addressed the federal conference in Chinese, but there was an interpreter for us).

    We should remember John Cleese’s famous line “Yes you did, you invaded Poland!” which was true, ambiguous and unfair, all at the same time and therefore humorous.
    Unfair because Hitler had a deal with Stalin, in the names of their foreign ministers, to take about half each of Poland. Inaccurate because Danzig / Gdansk was also invaded.
    Britain and France declared war, but did not invade Germany in 1939, which was principled? pragmatic? and ineffective in the short term?

    Winston Churchill said “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few”, but much of what he said or wrote was in breach of the Official Secrets Act, giving him a monopoly of wisdom for years. Historians have since established that about half of the pilots in the Battle of Britain were not British or Canadian (and therefore inexperienced in battle) but Polish or Czechoslovakian, having had recent experience of aerial combat. They changed the settings of their fighter planes and made them more effective. The result was close and their contribution was crucial.

    We might also remember that Margaret Thatcher was an enthusiastic supporter of a trade union in Poland called Solidarity.

    Modern tennis fans may have noticed the difference between players with names ending in “ov” and names ending in “ova” if they watch BBC1 for Wimbledon or ITV4 for Paris and ask their parents or teachers “why?”

  • AC Trussell 16th Jun '15 - 1:29pm

    Welcome Fran.
    How ever, I do wonder how coalitions can work- if neither party gives up any policies. The student fees mess would not have been such a mess if it hadn’t been wipped-up relentlessly by the opposition’s medias.; so much so that the Lib Dems think it was so terrible- even if both the other parties were going to do it anyway!
    Also the so called “bed-room tax” would have been fair if it hadn’t been retrospective.
    I don’t think I would stop being a Liberal Democrat if I didn’t agree with some of the policies.

  • “I do wonder how coalitions can work- if neither party gives up any policies.”

    This is part of the problem; somebody decided, somewhere along the line, that “making the coalition work” was in and of itself a valuable goal that took precedence of all other considerations. Was “making coalitions work” ever part of any manifesto? Was it a fundamental part of Liberal Democrat policy? It certainly seems to have been so treated.

    It’s odd, however, that the onus always seemed to be on the Liberal Democrats to prove that “the coalition works”; when the Tories scuttled things that were in the coalition agreement, I don’t recall any great criticism about their failure to show that “the coalition can work” and it certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them in elections.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Jun '15 - 5:51pm

    We should hear more from those who attended the special conference on the coalition deal in 2010. At southeast regional conference we did debate the issue in an advisory way, recognising that we would lose a protest vote, but a full debate could not be decisive because it would have been ultra vires.

    There was also a communication problem. Liberal Democrat MPs amended the “bedroom tax / spare room subsidy” and were supported by Labour MPs so that the motion carried. Labour MPs then came under criticism for sticking to their principles and their party’s policy positions.

    Labour has often acted in a tribal manner, as on Lords reform, wanting to do good for those who need help, but only if the Labour brand name is written all over the action.

    Reforming the electoral system was not a red line in 2010, nor in 2015, which it should have been. It was a red line when Paddy Ashdown was leader. Progress was made.

    It is cynical or hypocritical of Tories to support the election of MPs first past the post and then argue proportional representation for the elected MPs in coalition, in committees, etc.

  • AC Trussell 16th Jun '15 - 6:22pm

    I see your point David-1, ” was “making coalitions work” ever part of any manifesto? ” was it because it had to be decided very quickly- they did say it was an emergency.
    I think we will know next time- if i’m still hear by then 🙂

  • @TCO @Matthew Huntsbach. If there were enough 1 bedroom accommodation available then the policy may have been workable. But if there is no accommodation available then the poor tenants just have to lose benefit. Saving the government a wedge.

    Where disabled people need a spare room again they simply had to lose the benefit. Saving another wedge.

    I suspect the Tories had this worked out.

  • Trussell 16th Jun ’15 – 1:29pm ………………… The student fees mess would not have been such a mess if it hadn’t been wipped-up relentlessly by the opposition’s medias.; so much so that the Lib Dems think it was so terrible- even if both the other parties were going to do it anyway!……Also the so called “bed-room tax” would have been fair if it hadn’t been retrospective………..

    Don’t blame the media; the ‘mess’ was wholly of our own making! If you are happy to sign pledges and ‘revel’ in the media coverage don’t moan about the coverage when you do the opposite at the first opportunity….

    As for the bedroom tax…. It was designed to grab headlines instead of tackling the real problem of too few affordable homes….Those believing that the government (and their armies of highly paid advisors) didn’t know exactly what they were doing?????????????

  • Richard Underhill 17th Jun '15 - 5:18pm

    During federal conference at Brighton one of our cabinet members was on Radio 4 Any Questions with J. Dimbleby.
    Asked about the “bedroom tax” he supported it on the grounds that his constituency casework contained a large number of people who were badly housed and in need of better circumstances. I do not recall him saying anything about the performance of Boris Johnson as Mayor on housing.

    He lost his seat in May 2015.

    Our brand included vigorous opposition to the “poll tax”, including forecasting in the Ribble Valley by-election that a Tory-controlled government would abolish it , which they did, after we won.

    Labour was also against the poll tax, but helped to re-unite the Tories in the Commons by moving a motion of No Confidence, which, at the time, seemed like cynical tribalism.

  • Kevin McNamara 18th Jun '15 - 2:03pm

    Welcome home Fran.

    And to the ensuing comments: you all have a right to be heard without being rude to each other. No-one has to put a sock in it, nor show humility. We all make right and wrong judgement calls, and no-one need hold that against anyone else.

    Let’s rebuild the party TOGETHER.

  • @Matthew Huntbach. I never once attacked the principle of social housing and I think it is a highly valued public asset. However I was attacking the Old Left ideology that living in a council house in a low payed job is the best the working class can aspire to and the highly poisonous belief that they should know their place, stay there and shut up. Working class kids that are able and willing should be able to better their lives, get a good job and buy their own home in the future. Where you were born and who your parents are should not determine your life chances.

    Social Mobility is a cornerstone value of Liberalism and any party that opposes it has no right to put the word ‘Liberal’ in its name and any person who opposes it is not a Liberal of any shape or form. The fact that the author of this article article decided to attack it in the second paragraph of her first article on this site and has virtually the entire forum clapping like seals I find utterly bizzare. The call for ‘progressive politics’ in the final paragraph seems laughable when juxtaposed with paragraph two…

    I am surprised that the moderators didn’t force her to remove this snide jab at social mobility but I suspect Lib Dem Voice were so pleased about getting a new council seat they completely forgot about upholding the values of Liberalism…

  • JJ 19th Jun ’15 – 11:52pm
    “…I am surprised that the moderators didn’t force her to remove this snide jab at social mobility but I suspect Lib Dem Voice were so pleased about getting a new council seat they completely forgot about upholding the values of Liberalism…”

    Which value of Liberalism do you mean here?

    The one that promotes conformity and turning a discussion forum into an echo chamber, perhaps?
    Can you point to the “value” of censorship and total conformity of opinion in the preamble to the constitution of the party?
    Or are you one of those “helpful” visitors from the far right who occasionally turn up in LDV to re-interpret Liberalism for us?

  • JJ,

    Fran Oborski did not actually oppose the idea of social mobility. She opposed the line taken by Nick Clegg, which was effectively that “liberty, equality and justice” could all be relegated to the sidelines, provided that the Lib Dems were seen to be trying to do something about social mobility. A convenient philosophy when you want to ally with Tories!

    Clegg was largely echoing Blair. Our Tony denounced the entrenched moneyed establishment. What Tony did was to promote social mobility. He wanted “meritocrats”, i.e. beautiful people like Oasis and of course himself – to step up and beome the new rich. He achieved the social mobility he sought. He did not achieve social justice. Nor did Clegg.

  • On the bedroom tax discussion, Matthew is (as often is the case) right: it is was a woefully implemented policy, but that does not mean all of its aims were wrapped in vindictive and nasty ideals!

    Governments are generally not competent enough to be that vindictive and nasty.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Jun '15 - 6:31pm

    “Governments are generally not competent enough to be that vindictive and nasty.”

    Have a look at Norman Tebbitt commenting on the Poll Tax, which in part taxed people who were unable to pay.

  • Fran, all I can say is that it’s great to be in the same party with you once again. Your analysis is, as ever, spot on.

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