Conservatism and nationalism

Embed from Getty Images

Some anecdotes throw sharp light on underlying realities.  Nick Timothy’s reflections on his experience as a fiercely loyal adviser to Theresa May as Home Secretary and Prime Minister, Remaking One Nation: The Future of Conservatism (just published) provides a classic example.  After the uncertain outcome of the 2017 election, May told Timothy and his equally fierce colleague Fiona Hill, “The donors think you ought to go”, and fired them both.  She didn’t say that she thought they should go, or the Cabinet, or the party chairman, or the parliamentary party: the donors were the key voice and influence.

Money counts in British politics.  It counts much more than it used to, because the Conservatives have found ways of getting round the rules loosely monitored by the Electoral Commission, in using the resources of its professional HQ to influence constituency campaigns, through paid-for mailings, targeted social media, etc..  LibDem and Labour activists have heavily outnumbered Conservatives on the streets and doorsteps; but the Conservative machine has enormously outspent us.

When British politics returns to something like normality, we will press in Parliament for a tightening of the rules on campaign spending – and press for the suppressed report on Russian interference (and funding) in British politics to be published.  But the Conservatives have a strong interest in resisting rule changes, even as they move to redraw constituency boundaries to entrench their advantages.

Liberal Democrats are too nice to turn back the attacks our opponents direct at us.  Right-wing media and political ‘technologists’ have created a popular image of ‘the liberal elite’ as a powerful establishment which lacks the gut loyalty to Britain that Tory nationalists claim as their own.  Theresa May’s version of this, borrowed from David Goodhart, was that the liberal elite are ‘citizens of nowhere’, dismissing the small-town rootedness of the ‘citizens of somewhere’, who regret the pace of change and the swamping of English traditions and values by globalization and immigration.

This is a persuasive myth, which has won over a lot of ‘blue collar’ and older voters.  It distracts attention from the Conservative Party’s dependence on donors who live in tax havens, run their businesses offshore, or are foreign nationals resident in London, contributing through generous participation in Tory fundraising events or subscribing to right-wing think tanks.  These, far more accurately, are ‘people from anywhere’ or nowhere.

Take the Barclay brothers, for example, owners of the Telegraph group (and sponsors of Boris Johnson through paying so generously for his weekly column), who are resident in Monaco and commute between there and the castle they have built on one of the smallest Channel Islands, almost beyond the reach of outside law. Major donors to the Conservative election campaign last December included Ann-Rosemary Said, wife of a Syrian-born arms dealer, John Gore, a British citizen resident in the Bahamas, Lubov Chernukin, wife of a Russian-born businessman,  and Alexander Ternenko, born in Ukraine.

So how did we let the myth take such strong hold that it is the university teachers, scientists, doctors, BBC broadcasters and professionals, whose work and careers engage them in cooperation across borders, who are disconnected from the ‘real’ and ‘rooted’ people of England?  Years of right-wing attacks on ‘left-wing intellectuals’ in the Daily Mail and the Murdoch press have shaped popular images.  Neglect of the needs and assumptions of those who never went to university and whose communities were disrupted by industrial collapse and social change, under Blair’s government as well as under Thatcher, built up resentment against the well-educated who easily moved to the cities and successful careers.  Those resentments came out on the doorstep in the 2016 Referendum campaign, with the old Etonian Johnson and the city trader Farage successfully persuading voters that they were the insurgents against the elite, the people’s friends against the establishment.

Print media and social media have successfully established this populist narrative in much of the British electorate.  Less money is flowing into Tory Party funds at present, but the donors will return when the opposition parties recover.  Liberal Democrats – and Labour too – need to think hard about how we get past the negative image of a cosmopolitan liberal elite and re-establish our credibility to the ‘blue-collar’ parts of our society, to those left behind by change who long for the world of fifty years ago.  We will never win the battle for funds; so we need to fight harder to win the narrative.

* Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

43 Comments

  • Stuart Bourne 2nd Apr '20 - 12:46pm

    One of the key ways to debunk the liberal elite myth is to ensure we invest in good local candidates which have deep roots in the communities they want to represent. People who at least understand the issues that local people have even if we don’t necessarily agree with.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Apr '20 - 1:17pm

    Is it really a “myth” to talk about the Liberal elite?

    The Lib Dems, at least in England, generally only have traction in wealthy constituencies. You’ll win votes in Richmond, Bath and Twickenham, for example, but you won’t win many in Rotherham, Blackburn and Tottenham.

    If you look at your support by social grouping, it’s twice as high in groups AB as it is in groups DE. These are hard facts and hard numbers. You can’t dismiss anything you don’t like as a “myth”. It wasn’t always like this. You did have your own “yellow wall” in the West Country at one time. You need to ask yourselves why this is now just rubble.

    https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/17/how-britain-voted-2019-general-election

  • need to think hard about how we get past the negative image of a cosmopolitan liberal elite and re-establish our credibility to the ‘blue-collar’ parts of our society

    Liberalism has never been a blue-collar preoccupation.

    We need to face facts. We are the party of the middle class professional with a social conscience. It’s a large empty political space, so lets embrace it rather than all the hand-wringing.

  • Post virus LibDem’s will have plenty of things to campaign on after the govn brings in austerity-plus, good time for universal income, etc

  • Peter Martin 2nd Apr '20 - 3:45pm

    @ William Francis,

    On the question of Liberalism vs liberalism, I tend to agree with you. However, I would say that LWW was making the same conflation in the OP, so I just went along with it.

    We could extend “liberal” opinion to include much of the Right wing of the Labour Party and what’s left of the Pro EU wing of the Tory Party. The 2019 defections of prominent members from both parties to the Lib Dems showed there was little if any political differences between them. They can only have been in different parties to start with for reasons of opportunism and career positioning.

    Add them all in with the Lib Dems and the argument for “a liberal elite” becomes even stronger.

  • Steve Trevethan 2nd Apr '20 - 4:00pm

    Yes, our country is a plutocratic oligarchy with some democratic attributes.
    To what extent do voting patterns reflect the performances of the mainstream corporate media?
    Have Labour and Lib-Dems changed policies to being more finance friendly in power than in opposition?
    Might a sound set of economic policies, which benefit the majority sustainably, enable us to reach the majority of citizens?
    Might F D Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights” (1944) be a good start?

  • need to think hard about how we get past the negative image of a cosmopolitan liberal elite and re-establish our credibility to the ‘blue-collar’ parts of our society</blockquote

    Liberalism has never been a blue-collar preoccupation.

    We need to face facts. We are the party of the middle class professional with a social conscience. It’s a large empty political space, so lets embrace it rather than all the hand-wringing.

  • Another cracking contribution from WW.

    The military have a concept of ‘Full-spectrum dominance’ that we should learn from. It’s the ambition to dominate every possible dimension of the battlespace, most obviously land, sea and air but now also finance, the electromagnetic spectrum, the Internet and, in future, space. Then there are the golden oldies of propaganda and disinformation which subdivide into that directed towards the other side and that aimed at the domestic audience.

    The Tories have long understood this. They use their heft in the media to brainwash everyone about the importance of austerity and balanced budgets (see Peter Martin for how this really works) and to big up the alleged terrors of any form of state control as justification to sell to their cronies.

    In contrast, the Lib Dems don’t get it. They have an unshakeable belief in a mythical set of perfect policies that, once found, will sweep them into power but don’t realise that their policies are made in the intellectual fog created by Tory propaganda. That’s rather like the way that (according to some reports) the US was appalled to discover in Syria that the Russians had the ability to create an electronic fog that enabled them to blind or jam US communications and weapons systems at will.

    The Lib Dem’s only force is the infantry and their only plan is to send in the ‘poor bloody infantry’ again and again – the Somme 1916 meets Groundhog Day. And guess what; it didn’t work the first time, the second time, the third time… or the nth time. The battle was always lost long before they ever reached the battlefield by the Tory dominance of every other part of the battlespace.

    But the Tory universe has become a mass of contradictions. I see it as a Frankenstein-like creature made of ideas, policies etc. crudely stitched together, the only overall logic being one that dare not speak its name – to predate on the public for the benefit of a handful of insiders. In a democracy that makes them highly exposed to anyone who can inpick the stitches and tear down the curtain.

    So, we need a strategy to do that and hence challenge across the full spectrum. That must include among other things, plans to rediscover Liberal approaches to economics (foundational for everything), to running the economy, to the media, to taxation and much more.

  • Let me suggest an example of what I think we should be doing in media by way of example.

    One of the presenters on R4’s Today this morning – speaking in the context of the lack of testing – said something like, “Ministers have said there is a shortage of chemicals”.

    That’s narrowly correct. I heard a Minister (Alok Sharma, IIRC) say that on the daily Downing Street briefing the night before and Michael Gove had said the same earlier, so ministers HAVE said it. But it’s a rather curious phrasing. Why “ “Ministers have said…” as opposed to simply “ “There is a shortage…”?

    Because it a porky. See this recent Twitter thread: Robert Peston talked to the Chemical Industries Association and finds it ain’t so.
    https://twitter.com/Peston/status/1245046542974750720

    The BBC should be on top of what’s really going on (by committing ‘acts of journalism’, as someone put it) and call him out on it. If that sort of thing happened reasonably often the government’s whole carefully constructed image of competence would unravel fast.

    (An aside: it may be an uncomfortable thought that the media are at least as important as opposition MPs in controlling the government but that’s how it appears to me, so this really matters.)

    Now I imagine there are lots of good journalists at the BBC who would love to be allowed to unearth the real facts, but unless Lib Dems and Labour create the political demand for them to do so – provide air cover so to speak – the senior management has to be very, very careful not to offend the Tory government.

    Meanwhile, the Tories keep the pressure on for the BBC to remain compliant by periodically bringing up the licence fee. And when that came up here on LDV recently, most comments were along the lines of the BBC is useless and outdated and should be downsized, sold off or similar.

    That would be a total victory for the Tories (and Murdoch, the Barclays etc. not to mention predatory finance).

  • Barry Lofty 2nd Apr '20 - 5:59pm

    I cannot add anything, Lord Wallace has said it all, just hope they do not get away with it again!

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Apr '20 - 8:59pm

    I think it must be recalled in this context that we ourselves had much greater financial donations for the recent General Election campaign than usual (mainly thanks to Lord Sainsbury), which were greater than the Labour Party’s. I understood we also had a vast social media campaign, so it appears that we tried to challenge the Tories at their own games and didn’t get anywhere. I feel embarrassed about our running a disastrous campaign after such generosity from our donors, but this suggests both that it is useless to challenge Tory financial power and that Lord Wallace is right to try for ‘tightening the rules on campaign spending’. Perhaps the Labour Party will join us n that!

  • Nick Clegg had a chance in 2010 when he managed to won 30% of the youth vote and absolutely dominated the student vote. He also won substantial amount of votes from public sector employees and civil servants and probably intellectuals (away from Labour). But, instead of consolidating support from these groups and building a political coalition on top of it like Bernie Sanders did over the last 4 years, Clegg pissed it away by jumping into the Coalition and pursuing a Tory-lite agenda. Had he done like Bernie, he would have had a great chance of becoming Leader of The Opposition by 2015.

    You know what, this is exactly the core of the Die Grune political base in Germany, and the Grune is cannibalizing the Social Democrats hard and fast. This was also the political core of the pre-war Liberal Party.

  • Nick Clegg had a chance in 2010 when he won 30% of youth vote and dominated student vote. He also won substantial amount of votes from public sector workers and civil servants, and possibly many intellectuals. Instead of consolidating his support and building a political coalition based on that, like Bernie Sanders did over the last 4 years, he decided to jump into the Coalition and facilitated the Tory agenda.

    Hint: in Germany, such groups I mention are the core support base of the Die Grune, which is rapidly cannibalizing the SocDems.

    Another hint: those groups I mention were also the core of the pre-war Liberal Party.

    Another hint: During the First World War, Labour spent time in opposition to build up its power base. Such thing is the equivalent of Clegg not joining the Coalition.

  • “So how did we let the myth take such strong hold that it is the university teachers, scientists, doctors, BBC broadcasters and professionals, whose work and careers engage them in cooperation across borders, who are disconnected from the ‘real’ and ‘rooted’ people of England?  Years of right-wing attacks on ‘left-wing intellectuals’ in the Daily Mail and the Murdoch press have shaped popular images.  Neglect of the needs and assumptions of those who never went to university and whose communities were disrupted by industrial collapse and social change, under Blair’s government as well as under Thatcher, built up resentment against the well-educated who easily moved to the cities and successful careers.” – We must still embrace and reach out, reconnect to these groups as well as young voters and public sector employees and civil servants. Pitching universal social programs such as NHS funding increase, universal childcare or free tuition fee will win over these groups from Labour. Unlike the City bankers, Millennials and Brahmin leftists strongly prefer social programs. This is how Trudeau won in 2015 and 2019.

    We must expand our strategy towards blue-collar workers by using rebuilding manufacturing and job creation to win them, especially jobs. Blue-collar workers care mostly about jobs and food on the table, thus we must keep banging on job issue when dealing with them. This is how Trump won the Blue Wall States in 2016. While you can still pitch universal social programs to them (because it will benefit both the Brahmin left and the working class), never forget that job is still the most important issue for the blue-collar working class. The Tory strategy of using xenophobia and racism will fall flat if we can hammer the job issue home (while of course downplaying or outright ignoring SJW issues of race and gender if necessary).

  • Not that old canard again, @Thomas.

    We went into coalition to stop far worse effects if we hadn’t. It was the right thing to do. To argue otherwise, as you do consistently, is to argue that you’d have been happy to condemn millions of people to the sort of depression we will see post COVID-19 for the sake of narrow party advantage. A depression that will condemn many, many people to poverty.

    You know this – so why do you argue for it?

  • @ Thomas “During the First World War, Labour spent time in opposition to build up its power base.”

    Not so, Thomas.It was a lot more complicated than that. ‘Labour’ joined both the Asquith and the Lloyd George Coalitions, although many sections of the I.L.P. largely opposed the war. The Union of Democratic Control became a conduit for many radical Liberals such as Ponsonby and Trevelyan to join what was to become the Labour Party.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Apr '20 - 10:04am

    You are surely right about the need for a focus on jobs strategy, Thomas, particularly now that unemployment is rising again. At the Brighton September Conference in 2018 we passed the substantial motion Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities: Proposals for a new economy that really works for everyone. Two years after that, if the next Brighton Conference goes ahead as I hope it will in September, it would be good to review that policy and develop our strategy as the time requires. Today’s trends include the greater development of the digital economy and greater use of robots, therefore less semi-skilled and unskilled work available, so what can be offered the blue-collar workers today? Could we foster co-operatives perhaps, seek initiatives from the unions, begin working out the much-talked of Job Guarantee Scheme in detail? We should ask our own members with industrial experience or current jobs in industry for some proposals.

  • A political party can not complain about money and influence being used against them, and their message, whilst that party is receiving £8m from Lord Sainsbury (LDV, 31/3/2020)

  • Barry Lofty 3rd Apr '20 - 10:54am

    It is not just about a political party receiving donations but from where and from whom it comes from that should be the centre of any enquiry, some of these donations arrive through some very dubious routes.

  • David Raw – their participation was minimal, and most of their leadership was in opposition. They clearly spent more time to build up their power base, and the Union of Democratic Control was among their effort.

    What I mean is that Clegg should have stayed out of the hot potato which was the 2010-2015 Coalition and continue to consolidate his political base.

  • @Thomas “They clearly spent more time to build up their power base.”

    What increased the Labour Party’s “power base” was the extension of the franchise in December 1918.

  • @ Thomas Sorry, not so. The UDC was founded by two Liberal M.P.’s Charles Trevelyan and Arthur Ponsonby (financed by Trevelyan). The UDC Secretary E.D. Morel was a Liberal PPC at the time.

    The Labour Parliamentary Chairman Ramsay MacDonald opposed the war (and joined the UDC) but was forced out and replaced by Arthur Henderson who later joined the Asquith Coalition.

    Suggest you get access to The Cambridge Historical Journal, Volume 20, Issue 4 December 1977 , pp. 871-891 “MacDonald, Henderson, and the Outbreak of War, 1914” by Christopher Howard. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X00011444 Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 February 2009

    Or try, “Union of Democratic Control in British Politics During the First World War”, by Marvin J. Swartz (ISBN: 9780198271789)

  • David Evans 3rd Apr '20 - 12:42pm

    TCO yet again trots out his “We had to destroy Liberalism to save the country” excuse for the total mess our leadership (and almost all senior figures) made of the party while they were in coalition.

    It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it TCO. We didn’t have to break our pledge and our party to save the country – our leaders chose to. We didn’t have to support the mess that was NHS reform, but our leaders chose to. We didn’t have to vote for Secret Courts in defiance of two votes at party Conference but Nick chose to ignore the party. We didn’t have to accept Theresa May freezing us out of the Home Office, but Nick did nothing to stop it and the Windrush scandal was the end result. And we didn’t have to accept the Tory version of austerity i.e. Bale out the Bankers and Cut Benefits for the Poor.

    Those who say that once we were in coalition, we had to behave like Tories because there were 306 of them and only 57 of us and that is the way coalition works, simply show how easy it is to be seduced by the easy, go with the flow, traditional mores of the old way of doing things, rather than to stand up for liberalism and change them.

  • David Chadwick 3rd Apr '20 - 12:49pm

    Thank you William for another excellent contribution.

    As Katherine mentioned, I don’t think we have to accept it as inevitable that the other parties will out raise us. A great positive from the last election must be that we reportedly raised more than Labour. This shows that if the country sees a need for us, they will fund us. The Conservatives – indeed any ruling party – will be given huge amounts of money in exchange for funding. But this money comes from a relatively small number of people.

    I was our candidate for North Dorset, selected in September 3 months before the election in a non-target seat. We made fundraising a priority, i talked about an £80,000 target during the selection hustings, which was probably one of the reasons why i won. We raised just over a quarter of that in 3 months, which shows that if we talk about money and dedicate resources to raising it then we can get it.

    I believe that several target seats did exceptionally well in this regard.

    We have to rethink the way we think about money. One of our problems is that we find ourselves asking our members to bear the brunt of the donating. In reality we should be using our members to raise the money from the local voters. In North Dorset over 6500 people voted for the Lib Dems. Those are core voters, people who must really want to vote Lib Dem. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that each one of them might donate £10 to us if we can get in front of them. That makes £65,000.

    If everyone who voted for us at the last election could be persuaded to give us a tenner, we could raise £36,000,000.

    We can raise as much money as the other parties, but we have prioritise fundraising and make it as much a part of our DNA as leaflets are. We can use micro donations, raising huge amounts via small contributions from our core voters

    I also understand that LD BEN has been an extremely successful initiative. So fundraising can be one thing we can say we have improved on over the past 5 years. That should give us the confidence to improve further.

  • Sorry, I couldn’t properly complete my train of thought about the BBC yesterday – life intervened!

    For as long as the Tories are able to intimidate the BBC into soft-pedalling on anything awkward or embarrassing to them or helpful to us, they have basically won. A million leaflets cannot then undo the vague sense left with most voters that the Tories are doing the best possible job in difficult circumstances.

    But if we can get better reporting – and I think we can – then that equation changes. Sunlight, they say, is a great sterilizer and we need a lot more to expose some of the murkier corners of UK politics and public administration.

    FWIW, the true story of the lack of testing seems to have little or nothing to do with shortage of chemicals. It’s apparently down to an attempt by Public Health England (PHE) to ‘control’ all testing by centralising it all in their own laboratories, including especially their huge new ‘super-lab’ in Milton Keynes which they can’t make work. Meanwhile, offers of help from all sides were side-lined, even from world-leading institutions like Oxford University and the Francis Crick Institute that collectively have huge testing capacity.

    So, while the UK has struggled to get to 10,000 tests per day, Germany has long been running at 100,000 per day and will soon be doubling that, apparently done by authorising private institutions from the off.

    But PHE couldn’t make it work. If, I’ve got this even roughly right (and it’s hard to be sure given the lack of decent reporting – anyone?) then their empire-building and incompetence has huge costs; medical staff have to self-isolate because they may (or may not) have coronavirus, extreme pressure on their colleagues, people infecting others because of the lack of contact-tracing, businesses closed and so on.

    That all adds up to an epic scandal. And yet, I don’t think it’s widely understood how badly the government has handled this.

    Better reporting would blow their cover and do more for good public administration in general and for us at the next GE than another million leaflets. In other words, better reporting has a huge leverage – output result in relation to input effort – which we’re simply not using adequately.

    And the thing is decentralisation has long (and rightly IMO) been a Liberal theme while centralisation is classic Tory.

  • Gordon – Yes, also in Canada, testing is largely provincial responsibility.

    TCO – “What increased the Labour Party’s “power base” was the extension of the franchise in December 1918.” – of course it did. However, Labour also spent lots of effort winning over anti-war radicals would have have otherwise remained Liberals.

    David Raw – The Liberal Party, or at least the Lloyd George a.k.a Radical wing (DLG actually opposed war entry prior to “poor little Belgium”), could have actually functioned as the Union of Democratic Control if it hadn’t been the governing party in 1914.

    David Evans – ”
    Those who say that once we were in coalition, we had to behave like Tories because there were 306 of them and only 57 of us and that is the way coalition works, simply show how easy it is to be seduced by the easy, go with the flow, traditional mores of the old way of doing things, rather than to stand up for liberalism and change them” – we should have played the long game. Stay out, keep consolidating political base, reach out to blue-collar workers. Had we done so, we could have built up a truly powerful politically coalition and potentially replaced Labour as the Opposition. Instead, Clegg blew up everything.

  • I was against the coalition in principle and my fears were realised within days (the ‘aside’ from Clegg in the ‘Rose Garden Love In’ proved it, at least to me)..
    A statement of support for Cameron “On non political issues that will tackle the financial crisis” would have got voter support….
    The idea that Cameron, having just failed to get a majority against the least popular government/leader, would have gambled on another election is laughable.

    Sadly, this party’s leadership (Clegg, Laws, Alexander, etc.) were Torylite in nature and the NHS reorganisation, bedroom tax and benefit cuts were their preferred course of action anyway.

  • “The Liberal Party, or at least the Lloyd George a.k.a Radical wing (DLG actually opposed war entry prior to “poor little Belgium”), could have actually functioned as the Union of Democratic Control if it hadn’t been the governing party in 1914.”

    Not sure what that means… it’s like saying a crocodile could be a vegetarian… but it didn’t.

    Ponsonby & Trevelyan soon got the order of the boot from their (all male) constituency executives. Yes, LLG, hesitated over the weekend…. as did Simon, Beauchamp and a couple of others….. but, he then sniffed the political air and like the chameleon that he was, decided it was time to turn himself into the great patriot and ‘the man who won the war’…. which he didn’t.

  • @Thomas “we should have played the long game. Stay out, keep consolidating political base, reach out to blue-collar workers. Had we done so, we could have built up a truly powerful politically coalition and potentially replaced Labour as the Opposition.”

    This is fundamentally opposed to everything Liberalism stands for.

    In 2010 the coalition was both necessary and the closest political alignment available. In the long term, our only future as a party is to embrace what we are (as evidenced by Lord Ashcroft’s polling) – a party for educated internationalist pro-enterprise socially-liberal middle class professionals. There is the added advantage that no other party is going after this vote, it’s growing, and it’s our core. Win-win.

    The blue collar vote is socially conservative, authoritarian and economically statist – we see that in the direction of both the Conservative and Labour parties who are fighting over it. We join that fight at our peril – both politically and philosophically.

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Apr '20 - 6:30pm

    We need strict rules around funding political parties with strict sanctions against infringement. Complete transparency is also vital so the electorate can judge how potentially corrupt a political party is. I wouldn’t trust a Party funded by millionaires who live abroad.

  • Thomas – It goes well beyond what level of government is responsible – whether central, provincial or whatever.

    My belief is that where possible and sensible (which is more often the case than most suppose) responsibility and the authority to go with it should be delegated to the coal face. That’s the real ‘Dunkirk Spirit of the small ships’ and is the proper way to tackle this crisis.

    In contrast, what appears to be happening here is that PHE (i.e. it’s senior people) is trying very hard to keep everything tightly controlled by itself/themselves. In my experience that’s a consequence of top-down-ism and control freakery although those responsible will almost certainly not see that and would deny it if challenged. It’s a case of “by their works shall you know them…”.

    So, turning to, of all places the Daily Mail (which is at least trying to do some reporting), we discover that PHE rebuffed offers of thousands of extra tests a day two weeks ago. Meanwhile, UK firms claim to have developed good antibody tests but that PHE won’t even look at them because they are the wrong sort of test.

    It’s just possible the DM is making this up or is being told porkies, but I believe that, on this occasion, it’s on the level. Equally, it’s possible that BioSure and other companies tests aren’t as good as they think they but PHE won’t discover that until they evaluate them.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8183573/Scientists-say-UK-Government-did-not-offers-coronavirus-testing-help.html

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8183649/Britains-antibody-testing-fiasco.html

    This is as near to a smoking gun as you are ever likely to find. Had PHE been running things in 1940 I rather suspect that no fishing boat would have been allowed to cross to France until it had a naval officer assigned to take command (except they would all be fully engaged on proper ships like destroyers. /sarc). Politicians may invoke the Dunkirk Spirit as the way to go but their leadership is the opposite.

    The outcome is that the UK’s performance is near the bottom of the World coronavirus league.

    All this is costing us thousands of lives and £10s of billions. But, returning to my other point in this thread, the BBC has been neutered. Hancock must be relieved; the rest of us not so much.

  • David Evans 4th Apr '20 - 2:32am

    Thomas, It is very hard to argue with that Old Etonian, and wonderful Liberal David Rendel, who warned us that Coalition with the Conservatives would be a disaster for our party.

    He was clearly right.

    Whether he considered it to be an inviolable truth – any coalition ever with the Conservatives would be a disaster or more an indicative truth – our leaders were prepared to sacrifice too much, we will never know. My view is that we probably had to go into coalition, but we were woefully unprepared, with a naive understanding of how the Conservatives could stitch us up and a leadership willing to sacrifice anything to make it look like coalition worked.

    Instead we should have gone in much more with the aim of showing we could control the Conservatives throughout and not just stopping this excess and that excess and the other, while letting to Conservatives get what they really wanted almost every time. It would have been tough and quite nasty, but it was what the country needed and what we needed as well. Instead Nick just rolled over. Perhaps that was what David Rendel realised at the very start.

  • James Fowler 4th Apr '20 - 2:50pm

    @TCO. Very much agreed.

    1. No point going after ‘Blue Labour’ or ‘Red Tories’. We never had them anyway and persuading them that we were on their side on key issues (Immigration, Law n’ Order) would mean ceasing to be liberals. Utterly self defeating.

    2. Having said that, there is curious fetish in LD circles about how blue collar workers somehow ought belong to us – hence articles like this one. My question is simply, why? First principles liberalism actually has very little to offer unless its opponent is a sort of landed semi-feudal conservatism as it was until the mid 19th C. A lot of working class Liberal support was really loyalty to non-conformist religion plus rule by landowners meaning expensive food.

    3. So, like you say we ought to look ourselves in the eye and celebrate what our policies and attitudes make us. There’s probably a really solid core of 15% of the electorate who would be fiercely loyal to a liberal society and a market economy in any circumstances. On good years we’d do even better. If we did enter government we’d have really solid principles instead of just a opportunistic auction of ideas.

  • David Allen 5th Apr '20 - 12:07am

    Gordon “For as long as the Tories are able to intimidate the BBC into soft-pedalling on anything awkward or embarrassing to them or helpful to us, they have basically won. … But if we can get better reporting – and I think we can – then that equation changes. Sunlight, they say, is a great sterilizer”

    Absolutely right. We need to get away from the myth that the BBC set the Gold Standard when it comes to news reporting. ITV News at Ten, for a start, is far better. Tom Bradby and his colleagues don’t hesitate to call out cant and bullsh*t.

    We should tell the BBC that if they want our support for the licence fee, they have to abandon their spurious “balance” policy, whereby all news items must end with “But the Govrnment said that everything was going swimmingly and that we should all move on because there was nothing to see here. And now, here’s the weather with…”

  • William Francis – “Rather than pining for a blue-collar fantasy of reindustrialisation (that requires we take vocational and technical education seriously, and firms to break a century of tradition of systemic underinvestment in capital goods)” – after everything that has happened since February with Covid-19, I am convinced that we need to push for rebuilding the manufacturing sector. Supply shortage would have been much less problematic had we retained a stronger manufacturing base. Actively pushing for pro-manufacturing and pro-export policies can help us winning back a part of the working class (the more socially liberal segments) without fundamentally changing our positions on immigration and crime.

    TCO, William Francis, James Fowler – sorry, I should have been more clear. Our core must be the groups we won in 2010: public sector employees, civil servants, intellectuals, teachers, progressive professionals (except for City financiers/bankers), students and young people (a.k.a the Brahmin Left). The next groups that we can quickly add to our potential coalition include the tech-sector employees and low-wage service employees (in retail, hospitality and restaurant). However, the Brahmin Left generally prefer centre-left SLF/New Deal-style economic and welfare policies: greater spending on NHS, free higher education, universal childcare, greater spending on infrastructures (especially broadbands and public transits), more aggressive environmental a.k.a green policies… (most of which are/were actually part of our manifestos since 2010). Tech-sector employees also love pro-tech industrial/economic strategy (like the way the Clinton Adminstration aggressively push for nationwide adoption and application of ICT and Internet in the US during the 1990s – the Dotcom Bubble era).

    For businesspeople and blue-collar working class, a pro-manufacturing, pro-export industrial strategy can help us win a part of them, the more socially liberal and progressive parts – let me be clear, my intention is not to win over and dominate these groups, but to peel off the more socially liberal elements of them.

    So, the answer is a more pro-tech, pro-manufacturing and pro-export industrial strategy, combined with expansion of social programs, free higher education and green policies.

  • @James Fowler what a breath of fresh air you are on this site.

    “2. Having said that, there is curious fetish in LD circles about how blue collar workers somehow ought belong to us”

    Agreed – and typically embodied by those who are (i) curiously in denial about their middle class status, preferring to fetishise their supposed working class identity (often accompanied by comments about football) and/or (ii) those who in the 1970s joined the Liberal Party despite being left wing, because they thought the Labour Party was too Establishment.

  • James Fowler 5th Apr '20 - 10:40am

    @ Thomas. Really like your description of the ‘Brahmin Left’ and agree that they favour centre left policies on the economy. The problem for us is that I think they instinctively prefer a moderate Labour Party – now they’ve got one again.

  • @James Fowler I think he’s referring to Champagne Socialists, who never really went away. You’re correct that they’ll flock back to Starmer, and we need to concentrate on our core proposition and vote – internationalist, pro-enterprise, State-suspicious, socially Liberal.

  • TCO – “I think he’s referring to Champagne Socialists, who never really went away.” – these so-called Champaign Socialists constituted a large part of Libdem voting base in 2010. Going further back, these so-called Champaign Socialists were the backbone of the Liberal Party before 1914, and only defected during and after the war.

  • John Littler 22nd Apr '20 - 4:28pm

    “…dismissing the small-town rootedness of the ‘citizens of somewhere’, who regret the pace of change and the swamping of English traditions and values by globalization and immigration.”

    What nonsense. If people did not want Indian food, Thai or Chinese or much Italian in standard supermarket fare, it would not have caught on, with many Oxfordshire villages having their own Indian restaurants to have replaced pubs.

    I am all for Lancashire Hotpot and the odd roast, but taking the best from around the world and making it our own is a British trait. The kids are into international video games and music artists.

    We still have a lot of Morris dancing g but most of it was revived in the 60’s & 70’s and they are often struggling to make up the numbers now.

    If people wish to keep something, they will keep it. That May rhetoric is just code for racism and about keeping the swarthy off the streets

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 29th May - 5:50pm
    Peter Martin, money is destroyed everyday - when banknotes are burned, when loans are repaid, when taxes are paid. It makes not an iota of...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 29th May - 5:40pm
    There are occasional differences in the Conservative Party. Please consider their first elected leader, Edward Heath, organ scholar and sailor ISBN 0 340 70582 2,...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 29th May - 5:29pm
    David Raw, this is the FT comment on the last Libdem manifesto https://www.ft.com/content/b1f66762-0b96-11ea-bb52-34c8d9dc6d84 "...the manifesto confirms the Lib Dems are now a borrow, tax and...
  • User AvatarJames Young 29th May - 5:03pm
    Re Cummings , I am sure you would not be bored if a member of your family had Covid ,like my sister. I desperately wanted...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 29th May - 4:50pm
    @Matt (Bristol) Thanks for the question. sometimes, I find discussion in threads below an article stimulate my thinking more than writing the article in the...
  • User AvatarMatt (Bristol) 29th May - 4:37pm
    Thanks George for your thoughtful reply. I should have been clear that I meant I was speaking as a self-identified social democrat, although I know...