Corbyn: No horses were scared during delivery of a speech full of Liberal Democrat policies

For the first time in a long time, I watched a Labour leader’s conference speech this afternoon and didn’t cringe with horror. To be fair, that’s because he kept name checking Liberal Democrat policies. He even said that the agreed with Paddy Ashdown over airstrikes on Syria.

Many people,including some in that Brighton hall, wanted him to fail terribly today. Indeed, the Blairites were desperate for that to happen. Labour spin doctor Lance Price was quick to condemn the speech as one of the worst he had ever heard. Was he listening to something else? For sure it wasn’t an example of oratorical excellence, with perfect construction, but Corbyn did what he had to do today. No horses were scared in the delivery of the speech. The entire nation wasn’t petrified by the thought of  revolution coming to a street near them any time soon as the more excitable of our friends in the press have made out.

He clearly wasn’t used to having an autocue, but that added to the sincerity of what he was saying. We would be very foolish to underestimate Corbyn. As Gareth Epps reminded us, we tried underestimating the SNP and look where that got us in Scotland.

Corbyn’s speech today was really very clever. He talked about inequality, he talked very knowledgeably and practically about the effect of poor housing, insecurity of housing and revenge evictions. He talked about investing in infrastructure and broadband. He talked about improving mental health, a cause championed by Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb in government. He talked about opposing the government’s plans to cut the amount of time people have to get on the electoral register already challenged by Lib Dem peers. He praised the Green Investment Bank, brainchild of the Liberal Democrats. I barely disagreed with a single word. That may well be because I’d heard a lot of it before: from Tim Farron.  Compare Farron last week with Corbyn today. Can you guess which is which?

Access to affordable housing affects us all because it is the entry ticket to society, to security and stability, to work, health and community.

Because without secure, affordable and stable housing how can you be sure that you can send your kids to the same school one term after the next?

How can you be confident you can keep your children safe and warm?

How can you apply for and hold down a job to feed and clothe them?

And, without this confidence, how can you have the peace of mind to concentrate on anything else?

The worry and the burden of not knowing if you can pay the mortgage, pay the rent, stay in the same place for more than six months at a time, is devastating to millions and millions of British people.

People often talk about moving house being one of the most stressful experiences in life. But for millions of British people, without a stable or affordable home, that stress, that instability, that uncertainty is a debilitating reality, every single day. And I will not accept it.

Farron or Corbyn?

Where’s the security for families shuttled around the private rented sector on six month tenancies – with children endlessly having to change schools? Where’s the security for those tenants afraid to ask a landlord to fix a dangerous structure in their own homes because they might be evicted because they’ve gone to the local authority to seek the justice they’re entitled to?

It’s almost like he’d been listening to Farron’s Beveridge Lecture to the Social Liberal Forum Conference last year. Tim then talked about forging a new consensus on housing, investing in infrastructure including broadband and tackling climate change.

Other points of common interest were human rights. When he had a go at the Saudi government for its planned crucifixion of a teenager and urged the British Government to pull out of tendering for contracts in Saudi prisons, I permitted myself a small cheer and remembered how Vince Cable when acting leader had refused to meet the Saudi King when he came on a state visit to the UK.

There are clearly areas where we could work with Corbyn’s Labour party in giving this government the opposition it deserves. Labour, especially its more leftie, rowdy elements, is not known for working with other parties. It would be a shame if truculence provided a barrier to co-operation on certain issues.

However, Labour and Corbyn kept very quiet about the economy and exactly what they would do to fix it. If they are signing up to George Osborne’s fiscal plans, then they are going to have to raise a humungous amount in taxes and they will come a bit of  a cropper when they outline their plans in that regard. I have always said that we need to look at higher personal taxation if we are going to provide the quality public services we need, but Middle England is not necessarily going to agree with me. If Corbyn were allowed to stick around for long enough, between us, we might be able to permeate the public discourse with something a bit more inspiring and ambitious than the small-state approach beloved of the rich and powerful.

There’s also no way we would agree to some of the more radical elements of Corbyn’s housing policy – a right to buy in the private sector? That’ll surely help with the supply of houses that working people can afford. Not.

It’s interesting to note that he mentioned Scotland and the mistakes Labour had made there but he didn’t say was anteing about Labour in Wales where Carwyn Jones’  administration is ruining both education and the health service.

He will also not tackle the vested interests in his own party which prevented him from debating Trident this week. Not that we can talk about running away from that issue. The unions are way too powerful, though and he will not see them curbed in any way.

One phrase I found particularly interesting was this one:

Labour is the voice that says to the many, at home and abroad: “you don’t have to take what you’re given.”

You see Labour to me epitomises the “you’ll take what you are given” school of public services. I’ve seen them be so inflexible, so bureaucratic with no respect for individual needs. It’s all about the collective with them.

We also shouldn’t forget the absolute gift Corbyn gave us:

I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less. So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks. The cyberbullying. And especially the misogynistic abuse online. And let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.

That’s something to remind the Labour trolls when they start calling you “Tory scum” and the like. It’s very welcome clear leadership on an issue that has been getting worse and worse.

Corby played it safe today and came across as a reasonable human being. He was the opposite of slick and sharp and he appealed to values that many of us can appreciate. Just like Tim Farron did last week. For a few moments you could forget that half his parliamentary party hate his guts and that he had kept his power dry on the real socialist stuff.

 

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

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47 Comments

  • Good article. I think Corbyn comes across as a very decent person. Just as Tim Farron does. Jeremy is not as slick as the other politicians and that is to his credit. I welcome the lack of personal insults in his speech, as in his campaign. Even if Corbyn doesn’t win in 2020 (and I’m not sure anyone in Labour could), he will have done the UK a great service just by moving the debate away from unquestioning acceptance of an increasingly right wing narrative.

  • That’s our problem. If, at a time when we need to be more distinctive than ever, the leader of another party can make a speech filled with our policies then we are in trouble. We’re in danger of being crowded out. If Corbyn moves onto our patch and uses his higher profile to say things that resonate with our would-be voters and all we have to reply is the bland head and heart stuff that won’t inspire anyone then we are in trouble. I’m sorry to be so gloomy.

  • Caron thank you for your critique of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech an interesting read as a fairly new member of the party. However your headline makes no sense in light of the speech. I am a Liberal Democrat because I am an economic and social Liberal. Social justice is unachievable without a sound and growing economy that provides opportunities for entrepeneurs to create the businesses of the future. From this standard Jeremy Corbyn offers virtually nothing. Labour lost becaue the Conservative’s “Project Fear” played into the hands of the British people who are generally small c conservatives. They value economic competence above almost everything else. The Liberal Democrats need to place economic credibility front and centre while Labour indulges itself.

  • George Kendall 29th Sep '15 - 11:21pm

    @Phyllis
    What worries me, Phyllis, is, assuming the Tories win in 2020, what they will do with nine and a half years of power. I wonder, for example, what will be left of the BBC, I doubt the union with Scotland will survive it, and I shudder to think what their follow-up will be to last budget, when they savaged in-work benefits for those on low incomes.

    I fear that Corbyn’s promises to reverse cuts and not introduce more cuts, plus the very unwise things he and his shadow Chancellor have said in the past, will mean a much bigger Tory majority in 2020. And I fear what they’ll do with that majority.

  • No mention of taking the railways back into British public ownership then, Caron ?

    Travelled home today from Leeds to Edinburgh on a nationalised railway – Cross Country – owned by the German nationalised Deutsch Bahn . Arrived 35 minutes late in a four carriage train with loads of people standing. One sandwich of two slices of bread plus small diet coke £ 5 – wifi only through their system at £ 2 per hour – lavatory out of use flooded …….. Interesting conversation with guard who told me fares had gone up three faster than wages and they had to advertise alcohol – “I work for a bunch of rip off merchants – I hope that bloke (Corbyn) wins.

    Incidentally Yougov poll shows Lib Dem voters want railways renationalised by 60% to 20% – as does J Corbyn.

    Deutsch Bahn receive a British Government subsidy but still manage to export profits back to Germany to subsidise German rail fares.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Sep '15 - 11:33pm

    I said the other week I thought Paddy and Tim were being too soft in Syria policy and then Corbyn praises Paddy today. No military solution? Surely military has to be part of it? Iraq wanted our assistance and if Cameron can get some UN consensus then the Lib Dems should back it. François Hollande is no war monger.

    I don’t really understand the current Lib Dem strategy. Don’t listen to the public on immigration or defence, but do listen to them on business? It just looks like a compromise or just the product of personal opinions with no broader theme.

    Overall, I don’t see it as a good thing how much Farron sounds like Corbyn, but I notice the public now prefer Labour’s policies on welfare to the Conservatives.

  • Tony Hamilton 30th Sep '15 - 12:44am

    Reaction to Jeremy Corbyn.
    Far from reacting negatively to the advent of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party the Lib-Dems should be welcoming him. Typically the re-action has been to sneer at his philosophy with complaints that they are a throw back to the 1970s and that they are financially naïve.
    With respect to the throw back complaint this ignores the fact that a lot of social attitudes of the 1970s were a great deal better than today’s attitudes. Inequality in the 1970s was a great deal less than it is today. Commitment to “Public service” was much more valued than it is today. Workers had greater rights. We had not become a society were Thatcher’s (and later New Labour’s) dictum that “Greed is good” was an accepted attitude – where only profit and the bottom line mattered.
    As to financial naivety that too is a simplistic charge. The Labour Party’s proposals for increasing taxes on the rich and making a real attack on the corporations that do not pay their taxes make perfect sense, as do the proposals to increase spending in a Keynesian fashion to stimulate growth. Our own approach to continue to play ball with the corruption of the City financiers is inadequate. Our traditional support for free trade needs re-thinking. The global economic system permitting the free movement of finance and the use of tax havens and trusts to enable rich individuals and corporations to “minimise” their tax contribution to society is nothing short of a scandal and one which as a party we have done much too little to expose and oppose. Further because of their economic power global corporations undermine democracy and make tackling climate change very difficult. See Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”)
    We should seek to work with the Corbyn Labour party to get rid of the Tories and to reform the global financial system. The first thing to oppose is TTIP which is another recipe for giving global companies the power to dictate to national governments.

  • Dave Orbison 30th Sep '15 - 1:07am

    Caron – another excellent and fair article on Corbyn. But just to pick you up on a couple of things. Corbyn has a long parliamentary record fighting housing, welfare, and green issues. I don’t think the LibDems can Trade Mark concerns in these areas. They are just shared concerns which is fine.
    I think he relied on the McDonnell’s speech to outline the economic thinking – although agreed it is early days with lots to do.
    You mention some areas where LibDems do not agree with Corbyn. That’s fine some differences are inevitable but, as I think you imply, the existence of such differences are not reasons in themselves to refuse to work together. However, if the LibDem Leadership (Farron, Kramer etc.) continue to mock Corbyn it will not be helpful. It will reinforce views of many voters that the LibDems are closer to the Tories; it will make it harder for the parties to get along and share common platforms and it will confuse the hell out of the electorate who will see this as mixed messages by the LibDems.
    Mark Wright – Corbyn has no policies on welfare? Assuming you heard or read McDonnell and Corbyn’s speeches can you explain how you come to that astonishing conclusion? I heard both say that Labour will oppose the Welfare Bill and further cuts; that the poor, homeless and vulnerable need protection; that families should not be forced out of homes and family ties and support networks broken; that they should not be at the mercy of bad landlords and rent hikes and that self-employed should not be excluded from the Welfare safety nets but brought under its protection.
    Corbyn emphatically rejected austerity as the only option. If your prejudice against the Corbyn is so strong that you cannot accept this well OK. What’s the saying? Prejudice is ignorance.

  • He was entirely clear on Trident…….. Caron you’re right to imply we ran away from it at Bournemouth. It was frankly shameful how the payroll vote was rolled out……. They won the vote but lost the debate.

  • Good article @YS I think you have nailed it – the danger for us is that Corbyn will make it more difficult for us to strike distinctive positions and hence get noticed. If all we have is a choice (or splitting the difference) between Tory and labour positions, we will be crowded out. In many ways we would have been better with a managerial non-entity like Cooper or Burnham in charge; Kennedy did best when labour and Tory policies were very close.

    The awful conference fudge on one of the few opportunities we did have to be distinctive – scrapping Trident – showed that the party establishment hasn’t learned much from the 2015 election. We need clear attractive policies we can campaign on and pull in new support, not a pile of split-the-difference all-things-to-all-men (people) policy papers and working groups….

  • Ed Shepherd 30th Sep '15 - 7:56am

    Perhaps things will work out well for the Labour Party. The unplanned election of Jeremy Corbyn has increased the membership of his party, made it seem attractive for the millions who were alienated by the Thatcher-Major-Blair consensus, got lots of media attention (some good, some bad) and got people talking about fundamental economic ideas again. There was never that much support for privatisation of public services, anyway, and for decades the problem of un(der)employment has been disguised by social security benefits, zero hours contracts, alleged “self-employment” and consumer credit. Maybe he will do the job for a couple of years and either step down or be voted out then replaced by a politician who is very much in touch with modern technology and the media: Tom Watson. Tom Watson might be like one of the greatest prime ministers Britain never had: John Smith. Tom Watson might be facing a tired Conservative government who are damaged by infighting between George Osborne and Boris Johnson in the run up to 2020. It might work out for Labour. That’s if winning general elections is still considered to be “working out” for a political party these days.

  • No horses were scared because he didn’t go anywhere near anything difficult. It was a canter through ‘wouldn’t it be nice if’land. A long contribution on Room 101. A sensible move when you are being teed up as the revolutionary bogeyman.

    But life really is tougher than that. Nice policies have to paid for and despite what some of Corbyn’s supporters are saying, there really isn’t a money tree.

    Same applies to the proposition that it’s ok and grown up to have honest disagreement. Yes it is. But there will be a point at which the electorate needs to know where Labour stands on Trident and all the tax’n’spend stuff.

    So yes, no horses scared, Corbyn is a decent, honest man who doesn’t actually eat babies and it would be ‘nice if’ a lot of these things (some of which we agree with) got done. But let’s not pretend that there was some big switch that made delivering all this nice stuff easy and all that was needed was for someone to wander over and press it.

    Oh, and a lot of the seventies was rubbish. Just sayin’.

  • Roger Roberts 30th Sep '15 - 8:49am

    So much that Lib Dems and Corbyn can agree on but actions will speak louder than words. I remember Labour whips standing at the Division Lobbies to urge their peers from supporting Lib-Dem amendments to the Tory Immigration Bill.
    With Labour support we can end unlimited detention, can give Asylum Seeks the right to work after 6 months and not 12, can save 18 year olds from deportation and much more. Will the Salisbury Convention prevent Labour Peers from backing humane Liberal policies ? The Lib-Dem contribution in the coming months will be vital to the lives of tens of thousands of people.

  • George Kendall 29th Sep ’15 – 11:21pm
    @Phyllis
    What worries me, Phyllis, is, assuming the Tories win in 2020, what they will do with nine and a half years of power. I wonder, for example, what will be left of the BBC, I doubt the union with Scotland will survive it, and I shudder to think what their follow-up will be to last budget, when they savaged in-work benefits for those on low incomes.

    Yes I agree and I think it is vital that people who don’t want another Tory government in 2020 have a “gentleman’s agreement” not to bash each other, mock each other or generally do the work of the Tories for them but to debate issues in a serious way. Corbyn and McDonnell have started their leadership with a “grownup ” style, focussing on the issues and refusing to make it personal. I think Tim, Carolyn, Nicola , Natalie and PC should all follow suit. No-one can out-sneer the Tories, they learn how to do that at public school. But the combined forces of all the other leaders can perhaps force then to have an honest and straightforward debate. The public is sick of dishonest politicians with slick words pulling the wool over their eyes. We do need a better solution to the railways, for instance. Let’s have an honest debate about what the best solution is. I’m not interested in people sneering at each other but I’d like to know that there are other solutions apart from the extremes of privatisation or nationalisation.

    I’m also not very interested in what people said some decades ago. I think they should be judged on what they say and do now. Lib Dems should also be happy for people not to focus on their past words and deeds.

  • Roger Roberts

    Jeremy Corbyn represents a break from the past, even the very recent past when Labour MPs shamefully abstained on the Welfare Bill. Do you seriously think Corbyn will not support the things you mention?

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Sep '15 - 9:34am

    John Armah

    Social justice is unachievable without a sound and growing economy that provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to create the businesses of the future. From this standard Jeremy Corbyn offers virtually nothing.

    Er, there’s a LOT of Tory assumptions in that statement.

    One of the most effective ways people can be encouraged to take risks and be entrepreneurial is to have a good welfare system they can fall back on if things don’t work out, and cheap and secure housing so they have money left to invest after putting a roof over their heads and don’t have to go for the safe option job in order to pay a massive mortgage or rent.

    Now, of course people who live luxurious lives and come from wealthy backgrounds don’t see it that way, because they’ve always had the roof over their heads and plenty of wealth to fall back on – and their values have permeated political discussion because of their dominance in society. So we are told about how bad high tax on the wealthy is because that puts off entrepreneurs, as if the first thing anyone who has a good idea for a new service or product thinks about is “Oh, if I start up a business to provide it, and I do really well and make lots of profit, I’ll have to pay lots of tax, so I won’t bother”. Well, maybe if you come from a background of wealth and luxury, that’s how you do think, and there’s an elitist assumption that only people like that have the skills to become entrepreneurs. In writing off anyone else, that is deeply anti-entrepreneurial.

    It is deeply hypocritical to say that high taxes are anti-entrepreneurial, but to ignore the way that high housing costs are as well. Yet the Tories even say that the sort of tax on unearned income, on money made NOT by working or being entrepreneurial is “anti-aspiration”, with a sort of twisted argument that means letting lazy good-for-nothings keep the wealth inherited from their hard-working ancestors is the ultimate reward for that hard work. That is the CORE of what the Conservative Party is about. We should not be going along with it by accepting its very dubious arguments.

  • Christopher Haigh 30th Sep '15 - 9:51am

    Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn are two decent honourable people who are going to command respect from the electorate. Lets get Vince Cable back on board and we can have a good widespread articulated opposition to Tory rule.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Sep '15 - 9:52am

    Dal

    But life really is tougher than that. Nice policies have to paid for and despite what some of Corbyn’s supporters are saying, there really isn’t a money tree.

    Sure, just as there aren’t easy-peasy cuts in state spending that can be made, which has been the thinking behind much of Tory economics.

    The idea that there is some massive bureaucracy which can be cut and no-one will notice is the right-wing equivalent of the money tree. So the Tory government makes the cuts, and leaves it to those lower down to find out if they can be made. Well, often they are made at the expense of long-term expensive damage, but if you’re told that’s what you have to, that’s what you will do, especially if dealing with the damage will be someone else’s responsibility.

    The reality is that the easy-peasy cuts were long ago made. State expenditure remains stubbornly high because of the failure to understand this, it’s not because the cuts haven’t really been made as the right-wing keeps saying, it’s because there’s a downwards vicious spiral where the more they try to make the more knock-on damage is done that pushes cost up elsewhere.

    We have also seen that the other right-wing money tree “put it all out to private contract” does not work nearly so well as supposed. I remember when PFI was pushed in that way, but now even Tories acknowledge it was a mistake not to look at the long-term costs, and try to blame Labour for something they cheered on at the time. Much of privatization has just resulted in more bureaucracy, not just the state employees to handle it, but also the layers of lawyers and accountants and public-relations salespeople it brings in. These layers upon layers of management we call the “finance industry” is a high drain on real entrepreneurial activity.

  • Dave Orbison 30th Sep '15 - 10:31am

    Matthew – great posts.

    John Armah: but what if the aspirations of social liberalism cannot be delivered by limitations of economic liberalism?

    George – “what if the Tories win in 2020” I share you concern. But we do not know what will happen then. The premise that Corbyn as Labour Leader will bring this about is not a given. I may as well say that the LibDems will not win a majority or be large enough, or willing, to form an anti Tory coalition. I just don’t know. But none of this should stop us campaigning for a fairer society. Farron needs to throw off the shackles of the Coalition and campaign on issues. If that places him shoulder to shoulder with Corbyn, sobeit.

  • Matthew H

    Agree with you. That’s why we’re Liberals not Tories.

    My point was not that Corbyn’s decent ideals cannot be achieved ( and I’ll skip the debate here of which i think we share or not) and that the Tory mantra must therefore prevail. My point was that Corbyn can only get away with the no horses scared approach for so long. At some point Labour will have to agree a position on the tough choices too. Choosing some nice things will also mean choosing some less nice things.

    The same challenge applies to us Lib Dems of course, although we now have the bigger problem of just getting a hearing!

  • This was the worst leaders speech I’ve seen. No structure whatsoever and simply a speech to appease already supporters. Poor.

  • It was a interesting speech mainly because it suggested a challenge to the idea that right wing=moderate. Are Cameron, IDS and Osborne really moderate? Was Tony Blair moderate in Iraq? Is twice forced to resign, Peter Mandelson a voice of reason or someone anyone genuinely respects? You could criticise it for lack of substance, but he’s only two weeks in and it’s 5 years from an election so what substance could you realistically expect.

    As a lib Dem voter, I welcome hearing a different perspective to the current political and economic orthodoxy being presented to the British electorate as “centrist” and the only course of action by an extreme right-wing Conservative party and its backers.

  • Andrew McCaig 30th Sep '15 - 12:01pm

    Yes, very good posts from Matthew there!

    I would add inheritance tax as something the Tories claim is “anti-aspirational” when all they mean is that it slightly dents their aspiration for their children to be much more secure in life that those of poorer people. Well wanting the best for your children is of course only natural but the vast majority of “entrepreneurs” (outside London – and there it is increasingly landlords these days) are in little danger of having their children pay inheritance tax ( and it is only on inheritance above £350k, after all)

  • Corbyn is quite right to take up the issue of challenging the Tory’s plans to cut (against the advice of the Electoral Commission) the time people have to get on the electoral register.

    He is taking up an issue raised by our Peers, Tom Brake in the Lords and Caroline Pidgeon at City Hall.

    These links might be useful:

    https://www.london.gov.uk/media/assembly-press-releases/2015/09/assembly-wants-a-block-on-deleting-names-from-the-electoral

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/tories-accused-of-shameful-abuse-of-power-over-electoral-roll-changes-a2925551.html

  • Daniel Henry 30th Sep '15 - 12:43pm

    Good analysis.
    We need to be careful in how we react to him.

    Clearly we should attack Corbyn if and when he says or does something we disagree with, but so far too many of our attacks on him have come across more as “political party attacks their political opponent, for no other reason than that they are their political opponent”.

    That’s not a message that will cause the public to listen to us.

  • Geoffrey Payne 30th Sep '15 - 1:15pm

    Jeremy Corbyn has always been on the hard left, and until recently even wrote a column in the communist Morning Star newspaper.
    The hard left of always given the impression that they are rigid in their thinking and never change their views.
    And yet Jeremy Corbyn has confounded all that by sounding perfectly sensible and dare I say Liberal?
    And that has left us in the Lib Dems in a confused state, with the Orange Bookers imagining he is still an extremist (and who knows what he REALLY thinks?) and the rest of us wondering whether he would be better off in the Lib Dems.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Sep '15 - 1:22pm

    @Simon I did mention in the piece that Lib Dem peers have been working on the electoral register stuff and also linked to some more detail about it.

  • Joseph Donnelly 30th Sep '15 - 2:14pm

    @Geoffrey Payne

    I think the problem is more that many of the left of the Lib Dem’s aren’t aware that their views are ‘hard left’.

    It would be interesting to see you and others read the Morning Star for a period and see how much you disagree with. I suspect not much.

    This is not a personal attack, these are valid and well thought through views, however when ‘social liberals’ find their views indistinguishable from a socialist it raises questions about the point of maintaining a separate social liberal philosophical position.

  • I thought his speech was pretty good, very little I could disagree with, except maybe Trident, but that’s such a complicated issue am not sure even about that.
    I also think that the right wing media are looking a bit too desperate to ‘diss the trots’ – it might just backfire!

  • Andrew McCaig 30th Sep '15 - 3:16pm

    Joseph,

    I guess it would be the same where other members of the Party find their views indistinguishable from a Tory… However it is worth pointing out that Corbyn is in many cases agreeing with OUR stated policies, not vice versa…

    I think it is fair to say that for most of the years from 1997 to 2010 the centre of gravity (not the left wing extreme) of the Liberal Democrat Party was to the left of the Labour Party, but probably not by much. The left of the Labour Party (including Corbyn) was to the left of us. This Liberal/Social Democrat position on the political spectrum (defined relative to some extremes like communism and fascism) had been similar since 1906, but Labour Party were to the left of it for most of that period. There was always a big overlap between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, and we enjoyed 20+% of the popular vote for long periods despite this. The big visible difference was in attitude to the Unions – the Labour Party saw them as part of the political life of the country (and of course the main funders of the Labour Party), while Liberals thought they should keep out of politics and look after their members (as an example from long ago, my father, always a Liberal, was an active strike breaker in 1926)

    In 2010 the Liberal Democrats moved to the right of Labour (at least in terms of words and deeds), which was a bit confusing for those who had felt in the mainstream for most of their lives, and became in the eyes of virtually all the electorate “Tory-lite”. That is where we are still perceived to be by those who don’t vote for us, although if various polls are to be believed, the 8% who do still vote for us are left of centre, agreeing with such “hard left” Corbyn policies as taking the railways back into public ownership… I am not sure where the centre of gravity of current Liberal Democrat members is…

    In the last week Corbyn has moved well to the right in order to keep his MP’s onside. Hence we have a lot of overlap. However if he is serious about letting the membership determine policy, by the next election the policy position could be a bit wild, since the membership are probably to the left of Corbyn! We Liberal Democrats should focus on what we believe in, and not worry about the Labour Party.

  • @Phyllis ” No-one can out-sneer the Tories, they learn how to do that at public school. ”

    Because, of course, no Tories went to State School, no lib dems or labour went to public school, and no one ever sneers at a state school.

    I’d have thought you of all people would no better than to stereotype.

  • chrisjsmart 30th Sep '15 - 4:16pm

    Rational analysis from Caron, and the majority of commentators. However I fear the leadership is still in a parallel universe talking of filling the so called void of the centre. For instance I found Kramer’s response totally dispiriting and Farron is in danger of loosing his radical reputation. I thought the liberal democrats were leading the charge, away from tribalism towards the new politics of grown up debate and cooperation with like minded people. When Corbyn and Farron sit down together to discuss a common approach to holding the Tory government to account; when we stop protesting that the voters are ill informed, misguided rather than disillusioned and betrayed, I will consider rejoining the party. In other words when I see real evidence that the party has returned to it’s radical roots that I voted for over 50 years.

  • TCO

    sorry but I’m totally baffled by ” you of all people”. What does that mean? Genuinely perplexed {scratches head}

  • Excellent article Caron.

    We badly need a paradigm change and that is what Corbyn offers. Of course, the right is desperate that he doesn’t succeed hence all the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, character assassination – that he doesn’t look “prime ministerial” for instance.

    The start is bound to be a bit bumpy. He has to transition from rank outsider/perennial protester to leader while facing strong opposition from many on his own side. And a paradigm change will take time to articulate and explain. Thatcher too faced considerable opposition from her own ranks in the early days of her premiership.

    But he seems to understand the core of it, namely that your economic theory works like a skeleton that holds everything else in its proper place, that the Tory version is a pile of horse droppings and that there IS a better way (no TINA in his mind). To that end he has assembled a highly impressive team of economic advisors. Watch this space I say.

    Many think the Tories are a safe bet for 2020 but I doubt it. The neoliberal snake is eating its own tail and destroying the world. We’ve already had one catastrophic financial meltdown. The Coalition only papered over cracks and really didn’t fix anything much so some in the financial markets think another crisis is not far off. What price the Tories in 2020 then?

    For the Lib Dems the lesson is surely clear. We have to stop obsessing about positioning, and just argue for what we believe. And central to that must be getting the economics right for a change.

  • Why are people so fixated on leaders’ speeches that are written by other people? Words do not matter, action does. Being a good orator does not make a good person.

  • Neil Sandison 1st Oct '15 - 11:34am

    Since much of Corbyns speech was begged borrowed from other sources we should not be surprised if some of its content sounds remarkable like some Liberal Democrat statements on the same issues. What matters is how he intends to reach his objectives .Will he fudge on key areas or try to duck out of his leadership responsibilities by staying we need a conversation with our members who presumable all live in the long grass of policy making.

  • Peter Watson 1st Oct '15 - 1:59pm

    @Neil Sandison “Will he fudge on key areas or try to duck out of his leadership responsibilities by staying we need a conversation with our members who presumable all live in the long grass of policy making.”
    How does Lib Dem policy on Trident since 2010 differ from either of these approaches?

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Oct '15 - 10:05pm

    Pleased by Caron’s article, and posts by Tony Hamilton (‘financial naivety a simplistic charge’) and Andrew McCaig (we were Left of Labour until 2010), among others. Yes, we can see that Corbynism has a lot in common with our own values and our drive to the future as focused by Tim, and we can perhaps campaign together on some issues such as housing needs. BUT Labour is a badly divided Party, and we are not. This is surely the time for us to have a publicity drive (mass leaflets, social media, etc.) to tell the probably confused public that WE are a united Party in good heart, offering sound policies and humane solutions to some of our country’s problems, and a reasoned but determined opposition to unacceptable Government actions. NOW is when we have a chance to make ourselves heard .

  • @Car Gardner & @Joe Otten – No, actually… Please do judge “many LibDems” by what you read here, as there seems to be a good plurality of views. Many of which I agree with, and many I disagree with.

    What the great majority of us have in common, however, is a commitment to liberty – which was hampered by the ’97-’10 government, and equality – and many were made more unequal during the ’97-’10 government.

    @Joe Otten
    Please don’t encourage others to ignore comments people have taken the time to post. Members or not, they’re making an effort to be part of the Lib Dem discussion.

  • David Allen 2nd Oct '15 - 6:08pm

    Speaking as a “left-of-centre” or “preamble” Liberal Democrat, yes I agree that Corbyn says much that I agree with. First and foremost, he is determined to tackle the disgraceful rise in social inequality which has progressed under all governments (oddly, excluding only Major’s!) for the past thirty-five years. We should applaud and seek to help.

    However, we should also find it easy to rebut the charge that we preamble Lib Dems don’t have any serious disagreements with Corbyn.

    Not singing the national anthem (while saying that republicanism was not on his agenda) was a big mistake by Corbyn. Standing aloof from the rest of the nation does not inspire confidence as a national leader.

    Ruling out use of nuclear weapons (while being content to waste money by not cancelling their procurement) was a big mistake by Corbyn. Roy Jenkins’ line, that he could not conceive of circumstances in which he might use nuclear weapons, was a better way to maintain a position of ultimate deterrence while reassuring us all that the threshold for thermonuclear destruction would be kept unimaginably high.

    Offering automatic support for all strike campaigns, as McDonnell has done, is a big mistake. A government can and should support freedom to strike, but should never favour the union side – or indeed a private employer’s side – in an actual dispute.

    On the most crucial issue of sound economic policy Corbyn has not yet made any big mistake. But he has not yet won confidence either.

    Plenty of reasons to argue that Labour on their own in power would be a disaster. A Lib Dem partnership, and a Lib Dem veto to override Corbyn’s big mistakes, is something to work for.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Oct '15 - 9:33pm

    David Raw 29 Sept 1130: Nice to have you confirm that nationalised railways (DB) do not give a good service and are just interested in making money.

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