Ed Davey on Marr: We need £150 billion green recovery, not weak and timid government

“We are not a rejoin party” was one of the first things Ed Davey said in his New Year interview with Andrew Marr. The starkness of that statement is bound to disappoint some Liberal Democrat members and activists who are committed to this country ultimately being part of the EU again. Party strategists are adamant that now is not the time to have that argument and that we need to re-establish our credibility after the 2019 election. Perhaps being proven right will take care of some of that issue. We just need to make sure that we can be better at benefitting from being right than we have been all the other times when we have called a major issue correctly – think Iraq and the 2008 economic crisis.

It’s also not what our policy, passed at Conference in September, says:

Conference resolves to support a longer term objective of UK membership of the EU.

I would have preferred to see a very quick addition to Ed’s line that we didn’t support Brexit for all the reasons we can see it going wrong before he emphasises the need for the closest possible relationship with the EU. There is nothing wrong with saying that while rejoin isn’t on the table now, we think we’ll get to a place where it will be a viable option. There is nothing wrong with keeping that hope alive.

However, he was very strong on one issue that differentiates us from the Labour Party. Keir Starmer is not going to fight for freedom of movement of people. The Liberal Democrats will. Ed said that taking away the freedom to live, work and raise families across the EU is illiberal. The issue is one that impacts on so many families in this country and should increase our support.

That’s a major point of difference with Labour and should attract young people.

The conversation then turned to students. Ed said that the Government had let down schools, universities and students. He called Gavin Williamson the worst education secretary in living memory, who had mismanaged the crisis for everyone in the education sector. He argued that students should be refunded some of their fees and the Government, not the universities should pay for this.

Marr then turned to another really important issue for Lib Dem voters – the environment.

Ed, as a former climate change secretary who knows his stuff on this argued for a £150 billion economic recovery plan over 3 years to create jobs,  support green industries and tackle climate change. The Government was weak and timid in the face of this emergency, he said.

Andrew Marr then tackled him about whether we should be leafleting after both Conservatives and Labour complained about us this week. This is allowed under the party’s Coronavirus guidance in England and Wales, but not, at present, in Scotland. There are rules if we do go delivering:

Anyone delivering literature must take suitable precautions. Wear a mask during delivery, use hand sanitiser before and after delivering, avoid any small enclosed spaces, such as within some blocks of flats, and avoid coming into contact with any individual from outside your own household. Do not meet in groups of people from outside your household. If distributing leaflets to others, leave them packaged on doorsteps and not handed directly to someone.

There are some very strong views on both sides of this argument in the party. I tend to think that, while delivery is one of the safest things that we can do and we’re all having many deliveries to our homes at the moment, my inclination is that we have much more meaningful interaction with people if we phone them and talk to them. The difficulty with that is that the proportion of phone numbers we have is quite small. If you want to give out information to the widest possible number of people you need to do what David Penhaligon said – put it on a bit of paper and push it through their door. Even if it were allowed in Scotland, I wouldn’t choose to do it at this point in the pandemic, but if other Lib Dems feel it is appropriate in their communities, I’m not going to argue with them.

Ed highlighted the importance of elected representatives and community activists keeping in touch with people and making sure that they have the information and advice that they need.

He said that we take the same precautions that the Royal Mail and Amazon do. He also highlighted that, despite their complaining, the Conservatives and Labour parties have been delivering leaflets too. “As long as you are helping the community, that is the sort of thing you should be doing.”

At this point, we need to highlight our usefulness not just in our communities, but to the country. We need to show that we have the big ideas that will get us back on track. All our efforts should be put into doing that in as engaging a way as possible and we need to make the most of every chance we get on a national platform.

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

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  • Helen Dudden 17th Jan '21 - 12:10pm

    I totally agree with Ed. Children have been let down, totally. The constant hype and U turns, have been upsetting for many. Children, don’t look at life with the same reasoning or understanding. As my little granddaughter rang me crying, it’s serious nana. I know, I said. Nothing put in place, on what should be explained or how. My granddaughter had a bad dream, she was going to talk to my daughter.
    So many things happening, like the many lorry drivers left parked up over the holidays, without adequate facilities.

    I thought the deal was ‘oven ready’ so the saying goes, fish rotting and I’ve noticed a shortage of fruit, in Ireland no onions, shelves bare of much needed food.
    One of grandchildren needs shoes, they need to be fitted, shops closed. Not good for children’s feet. The list of so called, not import things go on.
    Now at last the borders are closed, a bit late but getting there.
    You can’t blame those who voted for every failure, there has to be some responsibility for the actions this government has taken.

  • A leader’s car crash to outdo so many we have had over the past decade. But this time it was a car crash chosen and deliberately aimed at the members of our party. How any leader of a democratic party can have the arrogance and stupidity to choose to unilaterally undermine such a major part of our party’s DNA is mindblowing.

    Once again we have a leader who abuses the power of his/her position and makes an ill thought out putsch to distance us from the one bit of policy we are known for (and in our heartlands applauded for). In one fell swoop Ed has destroyed our one chance of recovery and consigned Liberal Democratic principles to the dustbin.

    Special Conference anyone?


  • He’s not the sharpest leader we’ve ever had, is he? It takes really exceptional qualities to have the very first thing you say in your first big interview of the new year contradict both the values of the party *and* the policy of the party.

  • Laurence Cox 17th Jan '21 - 12:30pm

    I was very disappointed by Ed’s first statement. In ‘foot in mouth’ terms it is on a level with Jo Swinson saying just before the last election that she would use nuclear weapons. Why is it that our Party leaders do not seem to engage their brains before opening their mouths? It would have been very easy to have had a prepared response to a question that Ed must have known was coming. While we want to get interviewers on to the subjects we want to emphasise, like free movement, Ed’s initial statement will be used against us again and again by our political opponents.

  • In terms of reaction – I think the party’s former Mayor of London candidate put it best: https://twitter.com/SiobhanBenita/status/1350739631453601793

    “And there we have it – neither @UKLabour nor the @LibDems are a #ReJoin party anymore.

    Never have so many people in this country been so politically homeless. It has to change.”

    And the saddest thing is the actual policy of the Lib Dems on this is fine, and speaks to the party’s values. It’s just that the leader doesn’t.

  • I suspect, sadly, Lawrence, that WAS the prepared answer: as William says, contractor both the party’s policy AND its values.

    I suspect he’s been told it’s necessary by somebody Very Important like the CEO or the director of strategy or something. Because still, after more than ten years, they haven’t realised that a loss of trust is not a policy problem that you can fix by saying magic policy words, but a lack of trust that will be MADE WORSE by appearing to go backwards in the one thing people thought they could trust us over – “well they shafted the students but at least we can trust them to be pro Europe” has now become “you can’t even trust them to be pro Europe, they’ve got no principles, they’ll say anything to get a vote”.

    * sigh *

    All so predictable.

  • Contractor = contradicting, obviously

  • I totally get why our policy on the EU is what it is, and I support that stance, but Ed could have presented it better.

    He should have said that our policy is to focus right now is on getting a better relationship with the EU rather than wasting energy fighting the in-out battle, which has passed. I’m afraid in answering the question the way he did, he’s set himself up for the clip to be edited in a way that doesn’t include our pro-EU credentials and aspirations. It’s good he said he was in favour of freedom of movement, but it sounded like an afterthought. It should have been one of the first things to come out of his mouth when asked about whether or not we were in favour of rejoining.

    I didn’t think he presented the leafleting thing that well either. He made it sound as if regular leafleting was being done using a loophole in the COVID regulations, rather than really emphasise that leafleting was only being done in limited circumstances, with consideration of the local situation and was part of helping residents during lockdown.

    The answer on the environment was fine, but that’s all it was. If I didn’t already think we needed to spend more on the environment, or knew how good our policies actually were, I’d not have been persuaded.

  • John Marriott 17th Jan '21 - 12:53pm

    I watched Mr Davey. Mind you, his interview was so short, you could almost say that, if you blinked, you might have missed it?

    The ‘highlights’? Well, it looks as if Ed at least has accepted the referendum result. No revoke and no return, it would seem. That won’t go down well in some quarters! Secondly, beware you FOCUS deliverers. Keep those ‘visits’ to properties quiet, like the Tories and Labour apparently are. Don’t you know there’s a virus on the loose? Best quote? Williamson is the worst Education Secretary “in living memory”. Ed, why exclude the dead, who might have more idea about what’s going on than that tarantula loving former fireplace salesman? I wonder what ‘kompromat’ he has on Johnson that keeps him in his job?

  • Yes I am really disappointed that we will not be members of the EU in the near future and sadly for me probably not in my lifetime, but that does not mean we should not continue to seek the closest possible alignment with them because Boris Johnson’s deal is a really bad deal for the UK one that I feel will be regretted by the majority of voters when the consequences of it begin to impact on their lives in more ways than one! Whatever I wish I think the British people may have had enough of Brexit at this moment in time?

  • Gwyneth Deakins 17th Jan '21 - 1:01pm

    Absolute despair and outrage that our leader has whacked in the own goal of the century which is not only contrary to Party policy (Conference resolution) but hands shedloads of potential pro-Remain Labour votes to the Greens or someone else. For weeks I have been arguing online with disgruntled Labour voters (and others) who say they have no political home, that the Lib Dems are a party of Rejoin – yes, when the time is right, which is not now, but nobody thinks it is. Now the ground has been cut from under me by our own leader. Is this because some focus group has caused some clown in HQ to decide that we must pander to the wishy washy Starmer middle ground? Never mind our core vote, never mind our principles. As usual we on the front line have to campaign for credibility on our own merits wholly unsupported by the national party – in spite of them not because of. And as for the leafleting fiasco don’t get me started.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Jan '21 - 2:06pm

    Did not see it yet, but Ed seems to have rejected the EU rejoin, accepted the biggest reason many voted against staying in an every other year expanding union, free movement!

    Better to be in the EU with free movement, out of it without it. A fudge gives us nothing but unpopularity and no power over direction.

    People need to accept the EU is unpopular in much of the EU, it is a giant that is weak and loud and disorganised.

    On covid it has coordinated hardly a thing.

    It should be great but isn’t.

    Rather like Britain.

  • I’m still really annoyed by this.

    When I voted for the motion, I did so knowing that rival political parties and opportunist journalists would try to twist our intentions, but I had faith that with proper explanation, we could explain our policy was still pro-EU, just that we were working with the cloth we had, not the cloth we wished we had. One of the main reasons was to ensure the public knew we had other policies and that we were going to dedicate more effort into promoting those.

    However, the way Ed answered the question so carelessly made it so easy for people to have the wrong impression of our attitudes towards Europe, and didn’t even use the opportunity to say what we are focusing on. Someone said the interview was very blink and you’ll miss it, and I wonder if Marr expected Ed to give longer answers. We complain we get ignored by the media, but when we get a chance for our leader to explain our position on a high profile show, not only does he bungle one of our main policies, he didn’t take the opportunity to mention our other policies that people think we don’t have. The fact he had to prompt Ed to say we supported Freedom of Movement is shameful.

    It’s years since I did any media training, and I’m not a politician, but I learnt enough in the first half day to know exactly how his answers this morning will be used against us in the coming months and possibly years. I’m sure he’s already had some media training, but I think he needs a refresher. And a reminder of who our target audience actually is.

  • Ernie Brown 17th Jan '21 - 2:40pm

    Ed Davey needs courage, not the usual procrastination. Surely the closest relationship with the EU is membership of the EU?
    I’m not voting for a party without a backbone.
    If the Scottish border could be moved south of Newcastle upon Tyne then I could vote Nicola Sturgeon.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Jan '21 - 2:56pm

    Lorenzo Cherin: So you’d be against moving the UK into an EFTA-like arrangement with the EU? Gradually moving back towards alignment with the EU is best seen as a stepping stone to rejoining. An “all or nothing” approach would be unlikely to work. If the UK were to rejoin the EU, then it would have to first accept and implement the EU law that exists at the time it is seeking to rejoin, after a period in which it has been out of the club and had no say in EU law.
    John Marriott: We ALL “accept the referendum result”. we also all accept the result of the last election. It doesn’t make us all cheerleaders for the Johnson government. We need to stop talking about “accepting the referendum result” to mean that no-one is allowed ever again to challenge the policy implemented as a result of it. If we applied that logic to elections, then there could never be any legitimate opposition to the government of the day.

    I agree with Fiona. I was in a Kingston local party Zoom Q&A with him, and he explained the Lib Dem party thinking on Brexit and Rejoin. It was some time before the vote on the Deal, and it was clear then that our MPs had ruled out voting for it. He also made clear that Rejoin was something the party would campaign on when the time is right, which wasn’t then and obviously isn’t now. I don’t think anyone seriously thinks the UK can rejoin now. But Ed definitely fluffed the answer in the Marr interview. It seems to have been an error of omission, not a deliberate attempt to rule out Rejoin for the foreseeable future.

    As for leafetting, I’m one of those who considers it perfectly safe and legal, as long as it’s done observing safety and social distancing measure. As far as “keeping it quiet” goes, observing social distancing means I never deliver where there is someone in the front garden or behind an open front door, and I avoid other people religiously. And I’m so masked-up whenever I go out that I’m not recognisable even to people who know me. Probably the only people making a fuss about it are our political opponents, who really hate us getting the message out at all. It’ll join tabloids and barcharts as one of those cheap shots that our enemies like to throw at us but which gain almost no traction with the public.

  • Nigel Lindsay 17th Jan '21 - 3:02pm

    I’ve been wondering for a couple of months if Ed was asleep at the wheel. Now I know.

    And Caron, if “Party strategists are adamant that now is not the time to have that argument” (about re-joining the EU), would those be the same party strategists whose tactics have led us to semi-permanent oblivion since the last election?

    Today’s interview will lead to disaster in Scotland, where elections for Holyrood are due in three months. Scotland has a large pro-EU majority, and the SNP is clear about wanting an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU. Ed’s ill-considered remarks will push pro-EU liberals into the waiting arms of the SNP. What an embarrassing piece of self-harm!

  • Peter Hayes 17th Jan '21 - 3:24pm

    In Cheltenham just had a LibDem Leaflet, the majority of the back page is a list of phone numbers covering everything from council to food banks, mental health support and anyone else who can help people at present. How else do elderly people or children without internet access find someone to talk to? Front page covers things being done to support food banks etc. All delivered safely, mine was on the mat before I got up, but then I never did early morning deliveries such as good morning Election Day!

  • I agree with Nigel Lindsay when he says, “Scotland has a large pro-EU majority, and the SNP is clear about wanting an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU. Ed’s ill-considered remarks will push pro-EU liberals into the waiting arms of the SNP. What an embarrassing piece of self-harm!”

    I would add, and not just to the SNP…so do the Scottish Greens. I know Sir Edward has visited a zoo in Fife, but does he ever ask for advice from Scotland, does he ever get it, and if so who gives it ? I’m afraid it’s going to end badly.

  • Paul Barker 17th Jan '21 - 5:30pm

    The fact is that our Policy is not decided by the Leader but by Conference. Libdem policy is to rejoin asap & if Ed really cant handle that perhaps he should “consider his position” ?

    Obviously Rejoining is likely to be a long road & we will be pushing for closer ties as we travel that Road, there is no contradiction.
    BTW did you know that Gibraltar is to join The Schengen Area ? Perhaps other parts of The UK could be allowed to join as well ?

  • If Sir Edward had said this in the Leadership campaign before he was elected, would the result of that election been different ?

  • It seems a bit off to learn of a policy you didn’t expect or agree with on a tv show. How could this happen? Where is the disconnect between leader and party members?

  • Barry Lofty 17th Jan '21 - 6:03pm

    I certainly do not agree with everything that the Lib Dems hold dear, but I do believe in being pragmatic and except situations as they are and although Sir Ed Davey could have put more meat on the bones of his answers to Andrew Marr, the time he was allowed on the show was appallingly sparse. If I loose faith in the party altogether there is nowhere else for me go, perhaps I should have continued in my naivety and kept off all chat sites.

  • David Evans 17th Jan '21 - 6:36pm

    Barry, Somethings you have to accept, but others you have to campaign against because they are wrong. And a leader deliberately undermining the party and its membership so fundamentally is clearly wrong – assuming of course that all Lib Dems believe that democracy should not be overruled at the mere whim of a leader.

    I think some guy in America did try to get people to accept that his mere fancy was a valid reason to overrule a democratic decision. It seems he has been put back in his box, but whether the Pandora’s box he has also opened can be so easily shut is quite another matter.

  • @Nigel Lindsay – my comment about party strategists was a statement of fact, not an endorsement. Because my view is closer to yours. I think Sturgeon trying to present us as a pro Brexit party is utterly ridiculous, because we aren’t and our policy, carried by a huge margin, is unambiguously pro rejoin. But that won’t stop the SNP trying, and this really doesn’t help. It also doesn’t matter that an independent Scotland doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of getting into the EU because 1) we wouldn’t meet the economic conditions, 2) Catalonia and 3) A third of SNP voters don’t want it, it’s all about emotions and soundbites rather than fact these days.

  • Drew Durning 17th Jan '21 - 6:59pm

    My initial reaction to Ed’s unilateral decision to announce we’re not a rejoin party was just to instantly resign. The policy was only agreed at the last conference. I’ve been disillusioned for a while and this is a strategic blunder on a par with tuition fees.
    If the comments above are an indication of the whole party’s reaction, I’m now thinking I may hold off resigning to see if the party can take back control from the leadership and get us back on track. However, at this point I am not very hopeful.

  • Rob Kinnon-Brettle 17th Jan '21 - 7:16pm

    Is he still a “safe pair of hands” – having betrayed the views of much of the membership?

  • Richard Lowe 17th Jan '21 - 7:34pm

    I find it interesting he says we don’t need weak and timid government, but that’s exactly what we are right now.

    We’re utterly rudderless, without any leadership.

  • Richard Lowe 17th Jan '21 - 7:35pm

    I find it interesting he says we don’t need weak and timid government, but that’s exactly what we are right now (besides the government part!)

    We’re utterly rudderless, without any leadership.

  • Paul Holmes 17th Jan '21 - 7:49pm

    @Drew Durning. The differences between this issue and Tuition Fees are massive. In 2010 our policy, for 13 years, had been total opposition to Tuition Fees, not the much weaker ‘Pledge’ of 2009/10 to simply vote against any proposed increase. In either case we could actually do something about it in 2010 as a result of having 57 MP’s in the Coalition. Osborne assumed it was one of our ‘Red Lines’ because we had made so much of it (includng that terrific ‘no more broken promises’ Party Political) and was prepared to simply park the issue. After all keeping Fees at £3,000 did not represent an increase in spending so why wreck the Coalition over it? Regrettably our Leaders made it clear they would happily ditch our popular 13 year old policy.

    The EU on the other hand is different altogether. In 2016 when we declared outright opposition to the Referendum decision we couldn’t actually do anything concrete about it because we had been reduced to an impotent 8 MP’s by the incompetent handling of Coalition. Neither could we do anything with our 12 MP’s in 2017 or our 11 in 2019. We lost the Referendum, we lost the 2017 and 2019 GE’s. Not once did Parliament vote against the Referendum outcome. We left the EU in Jan 2020, transition ended in Jan 2021.Reality makes it crystal clear that,for the forseeable future, there is no public appetite or interest in reversing the Referendum result and rejoining the EU – on what would be much worse terms than those we left. Make such a policy our focus between now and 2023/4 and we will continue to be irrelevant to what the UK electorate are concerned about.

  • Paul Holmes 17th Jan '21 - 8:17pm

    @David Evans. David, you and I have agreed about many issues over the last 10 years and we agree that the Lib Dems are on the edge of extinction as the Liberal Party was from 1950-1970. Unlike you I fear that should we continue to mainline on opposing the Referendum decision, as we did 2016-2019, then we are more likely to decline from our present precarious and largely irrelevant national position than to improve.

    As for criticising those who oppose democratic decisions this is dangerous ground. the 2016 Referendum was democratic and my side narrowly lost. The 2017 and 2019 GE’s were democratic and my side lost heavily. We could quibble about details, refuse to accept the results, go to court and shout stop the world we want to get off, rather like those people in the USA you refer to. Or we could accept that over 4 years we have repeatedly lost this battle and accept the Thornhill Report that said we should start campaigning on issues that concern the public rather than just those that we most care about.

    We can be a purist pressure group or we can be a serious political party but we can’t be both. That doesn’t mean we cease to pro EU – I first voted to remain in the EEC in 1975 and I have not changed my views on that. However I can see no prospect of the electorate wanting to rejoin the EU in the forseeable future and there are so many other things that need action that I do not want the Party I have campaigned for over the last 38 years to become an irrelevant cult. For once I can say ‘I agree with Ed’ -although he is pretty good on environmental issues too!

  • Laurence Cox 17th Jan '21 - 9:05pm


    “an independent Scotland doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of getting into the EU”

    I think you are over-simplifying here:
    1) The EU let Greece into the Eurozone, despite very obviously fixed figures. The EU letting a state join is a political, not an economic, decision.
    2) Catalonia only mattered because they wanted to leave Spain (a continuing member) and join the EU as a separate country. Once the UK left the EU, this argument is irrelevant.
    3) 30% of Lib Dem voters voted for Brexit. All the parties, including the SNP, have supporters on both sides of the divide. A majority for independence would have to come from the SNP and Scottish Green supporters, but they wouldn’t have to rely only on them for a majority to join the EU as both us and (presumably) Labour would support it. The question is does the SNP leadership really want to rejoin the EU, or are they just using it as a stick to beat their opponents with. For all I know, they may prefer EFTA membership which gets them into the EEA without having to make compromises like the CFP.

  • John Roffey 17th Jan '21 - 9:12pm

    As a neutral observer – it seemed more that AM was flustered by the many issues he had to cover in his program [he made a number of mistakes in his earlier interviews] – rather than ED failing to explain the Party’s policies clearly.

    ED probably and reasonably expected an incisive interview that never came.

  • Peter Sinclair 17th Jan '21 - 9:18pm

    I totally agree with Caron in her conclusion about SNP chances of rejoining the EU. The SNP is not being honest with its supporters. That does not say much about the SNP, except that a party that lies to its core voters does not deserve to get anywhere.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Jan '21 - 9:56pm

    @Paul Holmes: You cannot compare Brexit opponents with the mob of thugs who stormed Capitol Hill. No opponent of Brexit ever advocated armed insurrection to force the government to abandon it. To equate the two is to downplay the seriousness of what happened last week in Washington DC.

    If anyone in the Brexit battles was advocating tactics similar to those of the Trumpists it was the Brexiteers. You surely remember in Autumn 2019 the vague threats of riots that were supposed to happen if the government failed to deliver Brexit? There was even speculation that the government would seek to invoke the Civil Contingencies Act to force Brexit through on the basis of those same threats of civil unrest.

    BTW there was a court case on the validity of the Brexit referendum. Ironically, the court held that there was foul play from the Leave camp, but the referendum result couldn’t be invalidated because of that because it was only advisory.

    And of course we accept the results of the last 2 general elections, but we also campaign to have them reversed. We don’t act as Cheerleaders for the Johnson administration because they won a majority and our side lost.

    Finally the “mandate” from the 2016 referendum has been discharged, so it will be irrelevant going forward. The next election will be fought not on whether we should “respect” a referendum that will have predated 2 general elections, and about to predate a third, but on the real-world consequences of the mandate resulting from the referendum. It will be thus fought under completely different circumstances from either of the last two GEs, and there is no point in chasing yesterday’s polling by trying to “respect” the 2016 referendum in the way the Brexiteers want us to.

  • Hugely dissappointed that our Leader contradicted a position recently voted on by members at Conference.

    But I also don’t see the electoral sense of the combination of not being in favour of rejoin, whilst also being in favour of freedom of movement. That surely dissappoints both Leavers and Remainers?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Jan '21 - 11:01pm


    I would not want EFTRA now, it is too much, to continue the debate, the country wants to move on. The party is committed to consider a campaign to rejoin in the future. That is then not today.

    Silence on covid from most parties, other than support for carers or pubs.

    There is a pandemic caused not by Brexit, no, by human activity relating to animal exploitation in China and other areas.

    All people in this party do is squander the chance to connect. Labour did it under Corbyn. This party could learn to not do it as the new man in the driving seat of Labour, very gradually and rather dully, but very definitely seems to be able to.

    Paul Holmes talks sense!!!!!!!!

  • James Moore 18th Jan '21 - 1:28am

    I can forgive Ed for struggling as leader – it is a hard job and he is clearly not cut out for it.

    I find it more difficult to forgive him for ignoring a party policy that was agreed through democratic processes.

  • Galen Milne 18th Jan '21 - 1:41am
  • John Roffey 18th Jan '21 - 7:33am

    I seem to remember Nick Clegg saying that it was worth sacrificing the Party to defeat Brexit. Having failed in this goal and having succeeded in destroying a Party with a 300 year history – his political career was clearly over.

    Whatever happened to him? He could be unemployed and homeless or working as a food delivery driver or as an orderly in the Covid ward of a hospital.

    Those of the political class who are prepared to sacrifice so much – so that what is right should prevail – really do deserve our greatest respect!

  • Philip Knowles 18th Jan '21 - 8:57am

    In 2019 Jo Swinson, just before her first Conference as leader, told the media what Party policy would be before the vote was taken. That made it a vote of confidence so I abstained. That led to our disastrous stance in the 2019 GE.
    The ‘party strategists’ couldn’t see that, in the debates, Jo was going down like a lead balloon. The Tories and Labour mixed and matched but we made it all about Jo.
    There are thousands of LibDem members up and down the country who feel that they are being ignored by HQ. The strength of the Party has always been ‘bottom up’ but, increasingly, it has become ‘top down’.
    Hours of hard work and campaigning can be destroyed by a London-centric view.
    As a voter once said to me, ‘You used to be the voice of the thinking working man (or woman) but you have lost your way’.
    We need to get back to that. It’s not the ‘metropolitan elite’ that will win us Councillors and, then, MPs but the millions of working people who are sick of the Punch and Judy show of Labour and the Tories.

  • Zigurds Kronbergs 18th Jan '21 - 9:08am

    ‘The starkness of that statement is bound to disappoint some Liberal Democrat members and activists who are committed to this country ultimately being part of the EU again.’

    I thought we are all committed to ‘ultimately’ rejoining the EU. I, and expect many others, would say ‘as soon as possible’.

    ‘Bound to disappoint’. You bet! I feel angry and betrayed, not just ‘disappointed’. No, I didn’t vote for Ed, but I certainly didn’t expect him to slap me in the face. Yes, FoM is important, and at least Ed stood up for that, but it’s not a substitute.

    Which is the party for Rejoiners now? Not Labour, and not, it seems, the LibDems anymore.

    Apparently, ‘party strategists’ (whoever they are) seem to think this is the right way forward. Well, they haven’t done a very good job so far, have they? 10% in the polls now seems an impossible target, let alone the 20%+ we need to gain most target seats.

    I have been a Liberal Democrat, and a Liberal before that, for nearly 50 years. I have been a local councillor and an approved Westminster and European Parliament candidate, but I can frankly say I am on the verge of leaving the Party. It doesn’t feel like my home any more.

  • James Moore 18th Jan '21 - 9:46am

    I am afraid the Voaden article is a rather poor attempt to attack a straw man.

    No one is suggesting that Europe should be the only or most important plank of our programme. I have been saying for years that we need to have a broader social reform agenda and give it prominence in our campaigns.

    What we are saying is that the party leader should accept the European policy that has been democratically agreed.

    We are on 4% in the polls and people who have pictures of Lloyd George on their wall are threatening to leave the party. Destroy your base and you destroy the party. One would have thought the Clegg years would have taught everyone that lesson.

  • It is strange reading all the anti Sir Ed Davey posts here and the number of lifetime members threatening to leave the party because of his very brief appearance and statement on the Andrew Marr show. I admit to voting for Sir Ed in the leadership election but continue to wonder whether I am in the correct party but for entirely different reasons to most of the posts on this site. But have to admit to being a stubborn awkward so and so on occasions.

  • David Garlick 18th Jan '21 - 10:23am

    SMH at some of the reaction to Ed’s first comment. It clearly identifies that rejoining is not possible to contemplate in the short term and if the Party wants to talk about the things that are important to the voters he needed to silence, hopefully, the media attacks on Liberal Democrats as unrealistic at best and woefully out of touch with the people at worst. Well done Ed! Now we can build a response to this terrible Government and the useless oppostion offered by Labour and regain a position of influence locally and Nationally. The time will come when rejoining the EU is the right policy to trumpet and it remians our long term Policy. Get savvy you people…

  • @ james moore
    No, we are not “at” 4% in the Polls, we are Polling in the range of 4-10%, ie we are “at” 7% & have been since the Covid crisis kicked off in the Spring of 2020.

    On Topic, Ed doesnt decide Libdem policy, we do, in Conference. What Ed said on our EU Policy wasnt just inaccurate, it was Plain Stupid – confusing our loyal supporters & possible future ones while giving a stick for our enemies/rivals to beat us with.
    However, I dont believe this will have any material effect on our support & I dont think we have any idea how we are are going to perform over the next 3 Years. Speculation is pointless until we see the results of the Local/Scots/Other Elections.

  • I came here to see what Sir Ed had said yesterday; isn’t the bigger issue that a big set piece – leader on national TV – generated so little comment and the all-hallowed cut through?

    That’s what would be worrying me, more than any rejoin comments. He can say what he likes if no-one is listening.

  • Peter Watson 18th Jan '21 - 11:24am

    @James Moore “I am afraid the Voaden article is a rather poor attempt to attack a straw man.”
    Looking at this from the outside, I needed to check a few dates and details

    So Ed Davey became party leader in August 2020 and presumably expressed views on this in the leadership competition.
    The Voaden article was published on 9 September (updated 21 September) and was part of the debate (e.g. https://www.libdemvoice.org/ten-former-meps-writewhy-now-is-not-the-right-time-to-campaign-to-rejoin-the-eu-65931.html) that led to the Conference vote on 27 September.
    That vote was on a motion that proposed keeping “all options open for the UK’s future relationship with the EU” but instead backed an amendment to “support a longer term objective of UK membership of the EU”.
    And now Ed Davey is presenting the party’s policy as if it were the unamended motion of being pro-European but not a “rejoin party”.

    This is not the first time I’ve wondered about the truth of much vaunted Conference votes setting Lib Dem policy when it appears that those votes can be simply ignored or forgotten about (two that regularly spring to mind for me are “abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools” and “ensure that selection in admissions on the basis of religion or belief to state-funded schools is phased out”).
    But this time it seems so unnecessary: supporting a longer term objective of rejoining if/when the time is right doesn’t seem particularly contentious and perhaps Davey could have said Lib Dems were not a “rejoin now party” without confusing the issue or alienating “rejoiners”. Cock-up or conspiracy?

  • James Fowler 18th Jan '21 - 11:32am

    After lengthy agonizing, the UK has left the EU. I think almost everyone here can agree that it was the wrong thing to do. But in the immediate wake of that traumatic process, talk about ‘Rejoin’ is just absurd, punch-drunk bravado. Rejoining now would mean automatic membership of the Euro and no Rebate. Ed Davey was right: Forget it.

    But the world turns and the balance is always shifting. Neither the UK nor the EU are fixed in aspic. It may be possible to gain another kind of associate status. Before then, a lot of water will have to pass under the bridge. We must let it pass. The more graciously we do it, the faster the rancour will evaporate.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jan '21 - 11:36am

    Why not just keep your options open and see how it goes?

    If Brexit turns out to be as bad as many are predicting then tack more towards a rejoin stance. On the other hand, if Brexit UK is doing better than the EU in recovering from the Pandemic, you’ll need to do the opposite.

    The EU will face the additional problem of which countries are going to have to pay for the Pandemic. Ultimately it will have to be richer ones with their euro surpluses. The ability of the ECB to create euros doesn’t change that as the Germans well understand. If they are happy about that then fine. But if they try to enforce the repayment of loans with enforced austerity then it is going to Euro Debt Crisis 2010 onwards but on steroids!

    There won’t be many votes for rejoining the EU if that happens.

  • One of the reasons Brexiteers won was that they stuck at it for 30 years, even in the days when they were a small and marginal minority in the Tory party. We need to be prepared to fight too.

    Young people overwhelmingly back the EU and around 40% of the general population still want us to be in the EU. So why is our view that in the long term we should rejoin the EU so embarrassing? It is about the only issue on which we had a distinctive public position.

    Many of our thousands of new members joined because of our position on the EU. How are they feeling now?

    This is not ‘clever politics’ – it will undermine our membership and activist base without doing anything to cut through with new voters.

  • @Alex Macfie. Nice try at a straw man/red herring (to mix metaphors) but neither David Evans comment or mine in response mentioned the mob that stormed the Capitol. Neither have I seen anyone in all the comments above suggest acting as cheerleaders for Boris.

    Another time though we could have an interesting debate on issues relating to mob action. As in “I agree with a mob/crowd of concerned citzens [delete according to taste] doing ‘this’ but I don’t agree with one doing ‘the other’. Personally, in a democracy, I prefer a consistent principle that no street crowd has the right to take the law into their own hands. Likewise on Referendum results I prefer a consistent approach, not one of “We must have a second go at this one (because I didn’t like the result) but we must not have a second go at this other one (because I did like the result).

    Back on topic, the Caroline Voaden article linked to above is excellent. A reasoned analysis of where we are at -from the former Leader of our MEP’s. A shame it has not been put up in full on LDV.

    One point Caroline picks up on is the poll findings that only 2% think Brexit is the most important issue facing the UK. Had I been polled I would be one of the 48% saying leaving the EU was a bad decision but I would also be one of the 2% saying it is not the most important issue we now face. This of course is where the failed strategy of June to Dec 2019 got it so badly wrong. In later General Elections people who voted Remain in 2016 did not cast their vote on that single issue -otherwise we would have done extremely well in both the 2017 and 2019 GE’s and Jo Swinson for PM may not have been such a ridiculed campaign theme.

    Meanwhile back in the real world……………….

  • John Littler 18th Jan '21 - 12:00pm

    A re-join EU position now is not realistic in terms of the EU, nor the UK politics. The Wallingford seat was possibly lost on the EU issue as well as much of the west country and it’s not helped Tim Faron’s majority either.

    The EU have said they will not waste more time discussing fundamental aspects of treaties, still less re-joining, until there is consensus in the UK. That means the Tories would need to change their position and it won’t be overnight. They can see UK opinion is on a knife edge and that a Labour led term of government would not settle the issue long term. Because when inevitably the party of Vulture Capitalism, hot money, tax evasion and corrupt contracts returns to power, they would want out again

    The position should be close co-operation with the EU on standards, customs arrangements and membership of the EEA and possibly the minnow trade rival EFTA, if they would have us, although that is far from assured. Also we need Erasmus and to be part of the Chemicals body, plus for EHIC to continue long term. EFTA however, do not want to be dominated by a chaotic and uncertain UK. We can get most EU benefits, but without much say other than on the fringes. It would be far better than where we are now.

    A realistic position moving in the right direction would still differentiate us from Starmer’s dismal EU position. I fear Ed sounds too close to that. Maybe he plans a progressive alliance though?

  • John Littler 18th Jan '21 - 12:09pm

    So the promised free trade is not free at all. Exporting items under £150 carries new charges and taxes that make the transaction uncompetitive as well as slower. The promise of “Lets cut EU red tape” is in reality: Lets add burdens on business and end much manufacturing, retailing, transportation, services exports and Fish exports. Meanwhile UK shelves empty.

    It is only going to get worse, as stockpiles run out, new procedures start in N.I in April and in Summer to the Continent. Lorry drivers are refusing to come to the UK or leave it and a crunch is coming over the next few months. The numbers going through the borders are a fraction of what they should be

    The coming brexit crunch carries with it the possibility of turning UK politics upside down. But we’ve thought similar before and what happens is the Tories make upbeat noises and tell excuses, while the popular press and Torygraph make up loads of nonsense and re-confirm the brexiter view on a daily basis.

    To get support for the EU ( or joining EEA / EFTA etc) out of the 51%-57% range into overwhelming, there is going to have to be a disaster of economic collapse, jobs loss, shelves empty and impossible situations happening that can no longer be covered by the usual bullocks

  • John Marriott 18th Jan '21 - 12:17pm

    Some heart rending stuff in this thread. Arguing about whether 4% should be BETWEEN 4% and 10%, making up policy BEFORE ‘Conference’ had had its say. Well, the only ‘say’ that really counts is votes in ballot boxes and, at the moment, the Lib Dems unfortunately are verging on irrelevance.

    Paul Holmes is right. Forget about tuition fees and Brexit (if I have interpreted his several interventions correctly), and ‘what happened to Clegg and co?’ (they appear to be doing quite well, thank you very much). If the Lib Dems really want to stay a part of British politics, it’s TIME TO MOVE ON! Here’s something to think about. Every 30 seconds somebody in the U.K. is being hospitalised with COVID.

  • @paul holmes

    As I said in a previous post, no one here is arguing the EU is the only issue or the most important issue. Nor is anyone likely to make it a major part of their council or EU campaign.

    However, it is one of the issues Britain needs to face in the years to come as the costs of Brexit become clear. We need to be on the right side of the argument about rejoining – and the party leader needs to support agreed policy and not undermine it.

  • I see from Peter Watson’s more recent link that the original New European article by Caroline Voaden was in fact reworked and published on LDV later on. The reworked article makes the reality even clearer than the first one and is signed by a number of former MEP’s some of whom I know well. Bill Newton Dunn for example was a good colleague in the East Midlands for all the many years he was a Lib Dem MEP and I have known few people more passionately pro EU than he is. The last time I campaigned with him in person was when we were both on Chesterfield Market Place during the (unexpected and very short lived) 2019 EU elections. If someone of Bill’s long standing EU credentials says that Rejoin has to be a very long term hope then others should listen.

    As for the view that we should be like the Referendum/UKIP/Brexit incarnations and spend 30 years in the wilderness arguing for Rejoin, there are 2 obvious answers. Firstly let’s remember that over 30 years their sum level of success at Westminster was to elect 2 very short lived By election MP’s and one in a GE and even they first won their seats as Conservative MP’s. Secondly we are (have been for the last two centuries) a Political Party not a single issue pressure group. Single issue pressure groups, like UKIP or the Greens have at best got just one MP elected in a General Election.

  • I am disappointed by Ed’s stance because pro-Europeanism/ opposition to Brexit is one of the few distinctive positions the party has and the flaws of Brexit are already apparent like not being able to take a sandwich into the EU.

    Paul Holmes describes the referendum as “democratic” and compares it to an election result. That is nonsensical as a referendum in the UK is consultative, non-binding and subordinate to a general election result. They are held to resolve internal party disputes. I would do away with referendums and instead say that major constitutional changes require a super-majority in parliament instead (e.g 2/3’s of MPs have to support).

  • We are in the wilderness because of the coalition, not because of Europe.

    We experienced a brief revival when we supported a pro-EU position backed by 47% of the electorate.

    I would agree with the need for a broader and distinctive Liberal programme and I have been arguing for one. But ignoring party policy and ditching Rejoin without offering anything else is not sensible leadership.

  • Rejoiners need to think about what rejoining means.

    If what they’re looking for is a return to the world as it was in 2015 then that’s simply not realistic. There is no way that the EU allows the country to rejoin with all the perks and rebates that it had before, its own currency, and its own agenda of preventing further integration.

    If we want to rejoin, it has to be wholehearted. We have to be 100% behind a United States of Europe, with a single currency, a European army, a federal government, and everything else that we told leavers would never happen.

    I’d be on board with the party adopting that as its line. I don’t think it would be popular, but at least it would be honest. The only way to get back in is to demonstrate that we really, truly want to be there.

    If we’re not prepared to go that far, then the only sensible line is to state that we want the closest available relationship at any given time, then wait to see how things pan out.

  • Peter Watson 18th Jan '21 - 5:56pm

    @Paul Holmes “If someone of Bill’s long standing EU credentials says that Rejoin has to be a very long term hope then others should listen.”
    I get the impression that this is exactly what the conference voted for. It rejected the original part of the motion that the party should “keep all options open for the UK’s future relationship with the EU” (which included membership), but it also rejected an amendment that the party should “campaign to rejoin the EU after the post-Brexit transition period ends” (though that did receive quite a lot of support). Instead, Conference voted that the party should “support a longer term objective of UK membership of the EU” while retaining the original conditions of “an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms”.

    But Ed Davey’s pretty emphatic statement, “we’re not a rejoin party but we are a very pro-European party” does sound like a rejection of that conference vote and a restatement of the original motion.

    Some of this thread is repeating the debate that led to that vote and what I would have assumed was therefore party policy but now think might not be.

    I don’t have a particular problem with either approach to Europe and/or the EU, but I am more concerned that the oft-repeated claim that Lib Dems are not like other parties because policy is decided by the members is somewhat exaggerated.

  • Party strategists? Oh help / they’re the ones that see us in about 2% in Wales and Scotland and thought it was a food idea to March behind Boris and Corbyn to cause an unnecessary and disastrous election a year ago. The same ones that didn’t even manage to keep the leader’s seat?

  • Martin,

    The EU is committed to a process of “creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. This has to lead ultimately to the creation of a unitary state. Firstly because it is the logical conclusion of the process, and second because it is the only way the EU can follow its direction of travel to a sustainable point.

    If those on the pro-EU side are so keen to rejoin the EU, and I don’t doubt that they are, why can they not embrace this ultimate goal in full and campaign for it? It would show they genuinely believe in the project.

    If I were a European politician there is no way I would consider letting the UK back in without some demonstration that it seeks to be a real, productive part of the union and not some stroppy ingrate, forced in against its will by the reality of its own weakness in the world.

    On the other hand, your final point about immediately rejoining the Single Market and Customs Union, I think is rather different and certainly a sensible policy, but it’s not the same as rejoining the EU. It’s perfectly compatible with the position that Ed Davey set out and would remove a lot of the immediate problems. I’d be totally on board with that.

  • Steve Trevethan 19th Jan '21 - 10:14am

    Might LDV ask Sir E Davey for an article on this interview?

  • nonconformistradical 19th Jan '21 - 10:21am

    “Might LDV ask Sir E Davey for an article on this interview?”


  • Might LDV ask Sir E Davey for an article on who he consulted with before he came to the decision to make this his answer to such a key question.

  • @Paul Holmes. Hi Paul, thanks for the compliment, but I think on this occasion you are reading something into my post that is not actually there, though I can understand why you might think it is. So I hope you will give me the benefit of considering my explanation and, if possible, responding on it.

    To begin, one statement I think all Lib Dems will agree with – This Conservative government are without doubt the most incompetent government our country has ever had. They are completely out of their depth and mired in the consequences of a decision far beyond their ability to understand.

    And a second. Over the last five years, the Liberal Democrats have taken a principled (though quite a number would say misguided) position that the consequences of Brexit will be bad for Britain, bad for the British people, bad for British industry, bad for importers and exporters; indeed bad for everyone except rich currency speculators and hedge funds.

    The key question now is will we be proved right?

    We are known widely for this – some despise us for it, some laud us, but currently most just want to get on with things and at last hope that, now it is all over, it will somehow work out right.

    But we all know that it’s only just beginning and the chances of that last hope coming about are nil.

    Already the evidence is clear. Boris Johnson’s so called deal has betrayed fishermen and the fishing industry is in turmoil. Small exporters are drowning in new charges and red tape and it is down to the government to sort it all out.

    But we all know that Boris and his cronies don’t have a clue how to sort it out. Indeed immediately before Ed went on, Dominic Raab was reduced to saying that he didn’t accept what the fishing industry was saying about the so called deal and its impact on their members. Cornish voters ready to return!

    So with things already going badly wrong for the Conservatives, a Labour leader who has already decided to run away from the fight and the public increasingly looking for who to blame and who to support, what does our so called leader do?

    He walks off the battlefield, chooses to retreat, and pretend it’s all over!

    After this final incompetence, I really fear it is now.

  • Geoffrey Dron 20th Jan '21 - 1:08pm

    The priority now and for the next few years is the preservation of the Union that is the UK not rejoining the EU.

    This will mean co-operation with Labour (now a social democratic party again) in England and with unionist parties in Scotland. Electoral pacts are not to be rejected.

  • Paul Barker 20th Jan '21 - 1:22pm

    @ Geoffrey Dron
    One of the best ways to hold The UK together is to give people hope that we can Rejoin The EU, or at least get as close as we can. That is particularly clear in the cases of Scotland & Northern Ireland but it resonates in Wales too.

    I am all in favour of as close co-operation with Labour as they can stoumach but Formal Pacts are Politically impossible & actually barred by The Labour Constitution.
    Labour do appear to be moving towards us on Devolution & Federalism but away from us on Europe.

  • Geoffrey Dron 20th Jan '21 - 10:21pm

    @Paul Barker

    No way. The support of unionist brexiteers and remain voters like myself who accept the result of the 2016 referendum as reinforced by two GEs is needed if the UK is to be saved.

    Forget federalism; the safety mechanisms against the overwhelming size of England (83% of population) would soon render a written constitution unworkable. Let’s maintain our flexible semi-written constitution with extended devolution.

    If the union is at stake, Labour will come round to electoral co-operation in some form – a pact by another name.

    The existential crisis of the UK will be upon us within 12-18 months.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jan '21 - 7:50am

    @Geoffrey Dron: I “accept the result of the 2016 referendum” in the same way as I accept the last 2019 general election. It doesn’t preclude campaigning for a different result in the future. In any case the mandate from the 2016 referendum has now been discharged, and it is likely to be irrelevant come the next election, which will be about the real-world consequences of Brexit, not abstract questions of democratic mandates from some referendum that by then will have been 8 years previously.

  • Geoffrey Dron 21st Jan '21 - 11:11am

    @Alex Macfie

    Fine, but, as far as possible, keep reversing Brexit separate from saving the union.

    The fight to save the union will have to accept Brexit as a fact on the ground (which has made preserving the union more tenuous) and proceed from that base. Unionism needs all round support, including even from out and out Brexiteers.

    There is going to be a Scottish independence referendum in the next 2-3 years, in which the SNP will proclaim that Scotland wants to rejoin the EU. The counter must be that even with Brexit the UK is worth preserving, The PM will be halfhearted as he and a substantial number of English Tories want Scotland to go away. Unionists cannot risk the Brexit issue becoming divisive of a campaign which must be full-throated.

  • Peter Martin 21st Jan '21 - 8:49pm

    @ Martin,
    You ask: ‘Who is campaigning for “a federal government” or a “United States of Europe”? ‘

    There are various organisations which are advocating for the former: These include the Union of European Federalists, the European Movement International, the European Federalist Party and Stand Up For Europe.

    Guy Verhofstadt has written a book titled “The United States of Europe”. There is a list of prominent others who want the same thing too. See the wiki link below. Ursula von der Leyen should probably be included. She once said “My aim is the United States of Europe”.

    Having introduced a single currency the EU does need a single government to ensure it functions properly. One currency – one government. That is the model that works reasonably well everywhere. Europe is no different.


  • Geoffrey Dron 22nd Jan '21 - 11:02am


    Brexit is a fact and will be for the next 10 years plus. The SNP will rely on its having happened in the next referendum campaign. It need not be determinative of the issue in that referendum if the unionist parties take steps to prevent it being so.

    We need a discussion, starting today, on what the next stage in devolution should be so that it can be presented as an alternative to independence. This means co-operation between LibDems and Labour as well as unionist Tories esp., in Scotland and Wales. I’d go so far as to say Ruth Davidson might chair the group.

    BoJo, I fear, will simply turn down the SNP’s request for a new referendum after the SNP wins the Holyrood election. He needs to be pushed into refusing it initially but with an offer of enhanced devolution to be fleshed out before a second referendum in, say, 2025.

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