Decisions, decisions…

It has been four days since the General Election, one which, I`m sure, will be considered one of the nation’s most historically significant, as well as one that will have longer lasting implications. This is true not only for the country, but for the Liberal Democrats as a party.

From my perspective there are two, major, ways in which this may impact this party, with decisions needing to be made regarding them.

The first is the one which, irrespective of the outcome of Brexit, will be something the party can, and already is, talking about. This being whether the party should see a realignment, be that to the Left or the Right and adopting newer policies to fit with this realignment, it is important to note that this may be chiefly economic.

For me the choice would be more centre-right, a more “four pointed liberalism” approach, a balance between Social Liberalism and Economic Liberalism. On the latter, this last manifesto was rated the best, economically, out of the main parties, and it embraced fiscal responsibility, something that, I feel, is beneficial for the nation. It also did this, whilst balancing it good, socially liberal, policies, a great mix, in my opinion. Embracing free market forces, something which the party has done in the past, would be of benefit for the party electorally and would be offering something to the electorate which it is simply not being shown at the moment, something this previous election, outside of the Lib Dems, shows. Whilst it could be said that our performance shows that this is not the case, and we should be looking elsewhere, I feel that other factors played a much larger role, with our economic stances not doing much harm.

The second can only happen with the proviso that Brexit does occur, meaning, of course, that the UK will be outside of the European Union. The party will have to decide whether it commits to re-joining the EU, adopting the Euro and following the same rules as a new member, or looking elsewhere, be that to a CANZUK agreement or other areas for trade. The specific outcome of Brexit, i.e. with or without a deal, could also effect this. It is, similarly, important to note that it is possible to gain the benefits of other agreements, from inside the EU, through various methods and policies.

In my opinion, should the party have to make this decision, and, as stated this is now more likely, the party should fully embrace free trade, adopting CANZUK and striving for free trade with Europe. There are a number of reasons why I support this; it is highly beneficial for all economies involved, it breaks barriers on movement and it is widely popular in all areas involved. Not only this, but it is a great base for further free trade within the Commonwealth, a great organisation on the world stage; for it helps all nations in it develop and is a body of equals. Thus, the Lib Dems could, if Brexit does happen, become a party to push for Commonwealth free trade. However, until Brexit, we should focus on reforming the EU and push for remain purely through democratic means, I shall be blunt, I feel that our “revoke” policy did harm us this election.

To summarise, I feel that the party has some important decisions to make in the near future and I have posted my opinions regarding these as well. I feel that the future shall be interesting for our party.

* Luke Binney is a member from Barnsley and is currently a student and a member of Liberal Reform.

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  • We never stopped being in favour of “Free Trade” & neither did The EU.
    We should continue our present policy of Rejoining The EU & joining The Eurozone.

  • Yeovil Yokel 16th Dec '19 - 11:10am

    “……the Commonwealth, a great organisation on the world stage”. Luke, where on earth did you get that idea? And can you be sure that the Commonwealth will continue to exist after Prince Charles succeeds its greatest champion?

  • This fetishisation of Canzuk by right-wingers is not only economic illiteracy, it’s basically chauvinism towards Europeans and Europe – Anglophone supremacy, really. you’ll be calling for Britain to re-annexe the Republic of Ireland next.

  • DAVID FENTON 16th Dec '19 - 11:53am

    We should understand that the Labour Party actually dislike the LibDems more than the Conservatives. It was always thus and will not change even now. There are many politicians inside Parliament and now outside Parliament who we have far more in common with. Revoke Article 50 was a disaster. Please let us be moderate in our policies and our use of words. I was canvassing for the Liberals 65 years ago always with hope but this time all I could see was failure. So sad.

  • There are in some other countries liberal parties, that are coalitions of social liberals and economic liberals (German FDP is probably a good example). I wish that the Lib Dems could find a way to accommodate different factions in (more or less) peaceful way. At least until the current FPTP system has been replaced with a proportional system. Until then, trying to purge one or another different interpretation.of liberalism from the liberal movement would be madness, which would only cause an even narrower supporter base.

    I know that a big tent approach might be difficult for some to swallow, but I think it is necessary in order to achieve some vital objectives, like proportional representation. It might even not be enough to let different liberals and social democrats in, it might require wooing One Nation conservatives, who feel homeless now, when Johnson has turned the Conservative Party into a Far Right party. Moderate social democrats from Labour might also be interested, if the next Labour leader will come from the same faction than Corbyn.

    I think, that if the proportional representation will one day be achieved, there will be a realignment, when even smaller parties has the chance to enter the Parliament. But before that a different realignment , which gathers democrats for PR system, is absolutely necessary.

  • Patrick – the German FDP hasn’t been a coalition of social and economic liberals since the early ‘80s. It’s an economic liberal and slightly socially conservative party of the centre-right, increasingly tacking right-wing to attract votes from the AfD.

  • André, at least according to Wikipedia
    “Scholars of political science identify the FDP as closer to the CDU/CSU than to the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on economic issues, but closer to the SPD and the Greens on issues such as civil liberties, education, defense, and foreign policy.”

    “The FDP supports the legalization of cannabis in Germany, and strongly opposes proposals to heighten Internet surveillance.

    The FDP supports same-sex marriage in Germany.

    The FDP is a pro-European party, favoring greater European integration. In its 2009 campaign manifesto, the FDP pledged support for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as well as EU reforms aimed at enhancing transparency and democratic responsiveness,”

  • nigel hunter 16th Dec '19 - 12:48pm

    We are supposed to be an international looking outwards party. We should be embracing all Liberal leaning parties and uniting under one banner. That is a World ‘company’ that prints its own paper globally available on the net and at newsagents WITH PROMINENT DISPLAY.

  • Andre – in fact, the social liberal party in Germany is the Grune, but many Libdems here don’t like to hear that. And, the Grune is quietly replacing the SPD and threatening Merkel directly.

  • Patrick – please look at the FDP’s recent immigration stance, which has become more populistic to woo AfD voters a.k.a the fascists.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Dec '19 - 1:17pm


    There are in some other countries liberal parties, that are coalitions of social liberals and economic liberals (German FDP is probably a good example). I wish that the Lib Dems could find a way to accommodate different factions in (more or less) peaceful way

    The UK Liberal Party split in the 20th century, with the right-wing half joining the Conservative Party. So we were the party of social liberals. That meant we were to the left of most liberal parties in the rest of Europe. In the rest of Europe, the equivalent of our Conservative Party i.e. the party of aristocrats, had disappeared. The Christian Democrat parties that got formed might have been conservative in resisting big changes to society, but in economic terms they were centrist rather than right-wing. So with the collapse of aristocratic power, and businessmen growing as the new rich types, liberal parties became the party of right-wing economics.

    The attempt by a small and unrepresentative group in the 21st century to push our party towards being one of right-wing economics and calling that “economic liberalism” has proved to be a disaster. They only managed to take so much control at the top because they were well-funded by wealthy elite types.

    Pushing our party that way at that time was madness, as this has been just the time when it is becoming clear that free-market economics, the dominant political ideology since Margaret Thatcher took control in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in the USA in the 1980s, is not delivering what it promised and needs to be re-thought. Up to that point, socialism was the dominant political ideology, but by then it was becoming clear it wasn’t working. So pushing our party towards becoming all about orthodox free-market politics was rather like pushing our party towards adopting orthodox Communism in the 1970.

    We used to be the party that challenged that, with true neoliberalism i.e. liberalism developed to deal with modern society being about the need to have active opposition to letting rich people in control of business do whatever they want as that is “freedom”. But now we’ve come to let most ordinary people believe that we are the party of orthodox right-wing economics, with the EU being the mechanism for that, and so leaving the EU the way to change it and give control of the way things are run back to ordinary people.

    We have lost much of what used to be our core support because of that.

  • Patrick – you know, the FDP economic stance is on the right of CDU and close to AfD. They recently adopted a populistic stance on immigration to woo AfD voters (you know, the modern day NSDAP party).

    And now, let’s me introduce you about the German right-wing liberals (National Liberals/DVP), and their glorious records:
    – A bunch of Greater Germany nationalist whackjobs (similar to Austrian Fatherland Party/FPO)
    – Sold out liberal principles including free trade to support Bismarck
    – Support jingoism and imperialism
    – Opposing the formation of Weimar Republic and Democracy
    – Sold out to DNVP and NSDAP.

  • David Fenton – the nature and depth of Labour hatred of the Lib Dem’s can vary according to which part of the country you are in. Meanwhile on our Council our Tory Leader of the Opposition boasts openly about his regular meetings with the Labour Leader of the Council. This goes hand in hand with their Group Whips meeting to decide on which bits of the Council Agenda they want to stop us saying anything about by jointly moving “straight to the vote”. In our own wards we tell people about the collusion in Focus and which of our policies they work together to oppose. Quite often in our own motions are about the last things they want to talk about anyway. That sort of mutual hatred can be turned to our advantage.

  • Thomas – yes, the Realo faction of Die Grünen is arguably the nearest thing Germany has to the LibDems. The FDP are basically Thatcherite Tories who notionally support European federalism(!).

  • DAVID FENTON 16th Dec '19 - 1:52pm

    Geoff Reid. No doubt the Tories don’t like us eitherexcept when they can make use of us. We have been very naive at times. We should not “play” politics and the missuse of facts – it backfires. I’ve just beem for lunch with seven fellow LibDems and I know I’m at “home”
    We’re not all that nice but we are caring and reasonably moderate and I know most of our members are the same.

  • Thomas, and are you aware, that FDP is the follower of the left-liberal Democratic Party (DP) of the Weimar Republic, not the National Liberals, so I don’t actually understand, what has the DVP to do with anything?

  • Patrick – the modern FDP was the result of the merger between DDP and DVP, two Weimar-era liberal parties. However, the DDP wing had lost the internal ideological struggle long ago. The current form of the FDP is the DVP/National Liberals.

  • CANZUK is a purely Anglo-Saxon Imperialist pipe dream.

  • The fact is we are a centre party and our broad church ranges from right of centre to left of centre, we are not one or the other, we encompass the entire centre ground, that is why we ve had both moderate ex Tories and moderate ex Labour members join us recently. I think its a good thing, it makes us balanced. And its probably not a good time for both our right and left wings to start fighting, particularly when Labour is about to start infighting and an extreme right Tory party has just gained power.

  • Julian Tisi 16th Dec '19 - 5:10pm

    I agree completely with JH. We’re a broad church and, for me, part of our party’s USP is that we embrace both social and economic liberalism.

    On what happens post Brexit I think the article is getting ahead of itself. I don’t think CANZUK is a good model to go for; our membership of the EU has been hugely beneficial for the UK and I hope we don’t give up wanting to rejoin. For now I think we have to hold the Conservatives to account for the many promises they’ve made about Brexit – frictionless trade, lots more money for the NHS, no payments to the EU, not having to follow EU (or US) rules, lots of great new trade deals etc etc. As each promise is broken we have to call them out and ask what was the point of Brexit. In time we could be vindicated and hopefully reap the electoral benefit.

  • Thomas, there were no longer a DVP that could have merged with DDP, since DVP had already merged with conservatives. Maybe some of it former, more liberal members joined DDP.

    Anyway, FDP isn’t nationalist or conservative. It was also the first German party to openly gay leader, Guido Westerwelle. (Another of its former leaders was probably also gay, but not openly). It was also the first elect a leader from an ethnic minority (Philipp Rösler, who was adopted from.Vietnam). So I don’t see that would woo the Right wing voters.

  • Lee_Thacker 16th Dec '19 - 9:17pm

    There was an eighteen year gap between the demise of the DDP and the formation of the FDP.

  • Michael Sammon 17th Dec '19 - 12:50am

    I’m all for becoming more economically liberal but the talk of CANZUK completely loses me. Perhaps refresh your social media feeds if they have taken you down this path. Well done for the article anyway.

  • [Full disclosure: I live in Australia at the moment, my sisters-in-law live in Canada, and CANZUK-like arrangements would benefit me personally. I’m trying not to let that colour my views too much, but it probably has an effect.]

    I’m not sure I’d dismiss CANZUK out-of-hand, but it seems to me to be a potential staging post. In a post-Brexit world, I’d like to see Britain making free trade and economic cooperation agreements with as many nations as possible. Canada, Australia and NZ are all pretty active in wanting to do trade deals (TPP, CETA), and close to us in law and political outlook, meaning doing such a deal could be relatively quick. You could add Singapore to the list of countries with similar legal systems that are pro-trade (though I’d want to hesitate given their continuing poor treatment of LGBTQI people and curbs on free speech). I’d actually also welcome a free trade (ideally free trade ++) agreement with the U.S. We would need to negotiate carefully on intellectual property (medicines) and environmental standards — but actually, it would be good for the UK if we could make that work.

    I don’t see why Lib Dems would argue against this. The WTO is dying on the vine. If we could help build a patchwork of such agreements into a functioning free trade area / economic cooperation area — for example piggy-backing on such agreements to combine with CETA or TPP — that would be good for the world.

    We should also work with developing countries, but frankly, free trade is a less clear cut for those: it’s good for them to have access to our markets, but unclear if the reverse is true, always (or at least, it is more industry-dependent).

    So, not as an alternative to a deal with the EU, clearly — but if we built a CANZUK area as part of a patchwork of agreements that we sought to integrate over time, why would we oppose that?

  • Sorry my developing countries comment wasn’t clear. I mean, it is not clear if it is good *for them* for Britain to have unfettered trade access to their domestic markets.

  • Panicos Georgiou 17th Dec '19 - 8:39am

    We must come to terms that Brexit will happen. Whilst at heart we are a pro-EU Party, depending upon am the type of Brexit and the impact upon the nation, to have a Rejoin policy so quickly and make it our principle policy will be a greater disaster than Revoke. Our policies must not be dictated by this axiom.

    As to whether we are centre-right or centre-left, we need to see where our votes and seats come from, Conservative supporting areas. We win more seats as the country goes to Labour because Conservative supporters see us a better option than Labour. We are not a party that wins seats from Labour, so our policies need to reflect this
    Where we need a change is in the south west, we need to have distinct policies for this area which was once a bastion for liberalism. We need to have south west regional coordinator that knows and understands this area and I would advocate former St Ives MP Andrew George to do this. If we do not win this area back we have block upon which we can build the future upon

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Dec '19 - 6:09pm

    “As to whether we are centre-right or centre-left…”

    Please stop talking about right and left and start talking about liberal

  • Some good questions, Mark. I am not expert on the answers, but here is what is running through my tiny mind. It’s not about trade in manufacturing or resources so much, but about trade in tech and services. Some things we have in common besides those you mention:
    – a common legal system, based on English civil law. Important not only for the law but for industries that rely heavily on it (e.g., those seeking IP protection)
    – strength in multiple relevant service industries. I know less about Canada, but in Aus, opportunities exist around infrastructure/engineering, telcos, media and finance, all of which are strong in both the UK and here.
    – (most importantly), a willingness to do deals. In recent years, Canada, Australia and NZ all joined the TPP trade area (with Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, etc.) and Canada negotiated CETA. Unlike, say, the U.S. or Brazil, they are more likely to be open to quickly negotiating relatively broad agreements that facilitate exchange of people, services and ideas.

    Others perhaps fit the above, but not as cleanly. In no particular order: Singapore has human rights concerns; Malaysia, India, Brazil and South Africa have extensive trade barriers including hideously complex local origin and ownership rules that make expansive deals difficult; Hong Kong is complicated by its relationship to China; Japan is open to deals, but more cautious and takes longer to agree (I don’t know about Korea). The U.S. has a, well, *complicated* relationship with free trade at the moment. So who else would be first out of the gate? Chile, maybe?

    Finally, you ask me, bridge to what? I’d like to see us knitting together common economic areas linking (to start with) the EEA, CETA and TPP (which includes Chile, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, ANZ and 5 other Asian countries). Maybe Mercosur, but it is pretty weak right now and (rightly) can’t get a deal done with the EU at the moment because of the environmental vandalism of Jair Bolsonaro. Maybe USMCA, but Trump. If the WTO does die, as it seems like it will in the next year or two, I reckon such a patchwork is the best bet for a replacement, and Britain could help build it.

    (It may be obvious, but all of this is, of course, dependent on also getting an expansive agreement with Europe.)

  • Simple question, why would anyone vote for the party envisioned here when they could vote Tory, and get a result?

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