“Erotic spasm” infuriates Lib Dem conference goers

So, Vince Cable is apparently going to refer to Brexiteers being willing to trash the UK economy for the “erotic spasm” of leaving the EU. Is this really the best we could do when Conference has set out what our plans are for the Brexit endgame – withdrawing Article 50 if there is no deal or an agreement to extend it. We have so far been the grown-ups in the room. We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to being a Carry On film.

Every Conference goer I have met so far – and there have been quite a few – has reacted with a range of emotions from incredulity to rage at such a clumsy and crude headline-grabbing metaphor.

One senior female member of the party has decided not to go to the speech in protest at what she feels is a typical schoolboy humour dreamt up by a group of men which will just not resonate with women. To be fair, it’s not going down that well with men either.

The media coverage has so far managed to avoid the fact that we have radically changed our policy on Brexit. We have decided that if we don’t get a People’s Vote, or if the UK can’t negotiate an  extension to the Article 50 process to negotiate a deal, then we are in favour of withdrawing the Article 50 notification.

This is our chance to showcase that we mean business about stopping Brexit. We get about 30 seconds of media coverage which we need to be taken up with that, not immature, headline grabbing distractions.

We are serious about saving this country from the looming catastrophe of Brexit. We should not  be making cheap shots that are great for half a second but don’t actually achieve anything.

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

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34 Comments

  • Unfortunately someone thinks the only way to get that 30 seconds of media is to resort to these childish slogans.

    Not going to help your activists who hit the streets week in and week out. A range of policies that actually address the peoples concerns about what’s happening to them and their communities whatever their views on brexit. You know simple things like housing,health,education,employment and financial security. The chance to enjoy community facilities and have support when they need it from strong local government etc.

    Today should have been a chance for Vince to say ” we know the issues that matter to you and we believe we have the ideas to support you”. Instead everywhere to be caught up in internal concerns to the exclusion of everything else.

  • I’m with Dave Page. It’s the only thing conference has done all week that has got any attention outside the bubble.

  • Dave has aleady hit the nail on the head. Yesterday I watched BBC breakfast discussing Brexit – they went on location to a University not Brighton and The Lib Dems weren’t even mentioned. If purile humour gets media coverage I’ll take it. It would be lovely if a calm and reasoned explanation of our new policy and the reasons for it got us a slot on the news but it just won’t.

  • I agree entirely with David Raw (not something that happens every day). A little crass and tacky from our leader. Someone should have gently edited that bit of the speech. The decent into gender politics from our correspondent was disappointing. Routine slagging off of half the population is not the way to win back the hearts and minds of the nation, so a little more thought in that direction please.

  • Grace Goodlad 18th Sep '18 - 2:50pm

    Sounds morw like a line from Viz than the closing remarks of a political leader at party conference.

    Sadly under Vince’s tenure all we hear is rumour about his resignation/departure/replacement and a constant stream of media content discussing when this might be, which rather bizarrely seems to come from his own press operation.

    It is rather appalling that this is the only way he can get need coverage, either crass vulgarity or threayeningbto resign. He has become s complete non-entity.

  • For goodness sake Caron, we have to be prepared to get our hands dirty if necessary. This is a turn of phrase that has caught the eye. Is that not the purpose of the Conference?
    Somehow the party stalwarts have to understand that it is the wider public that matter and as a result of this phrase being in the media, they now know there is a conference on and the Lib Dems exist.
    Worrying about these sort of things is the privilege of the few and not the public at large.
    Well done Mr Cable.

  • chris moore 18th Sep '18 - 4:07pm

    Let’s not get too prcecious about it!

  • Jack Graham 18th Sep '18 - 4:27pm

    “We have so far been the grown-ups in the room.”

    You might well believe that Caron, but outside the LibDem bubble, the party and its diehard Europhile members come across as collectively the Violet Elizabeth Bott of Brexit.

  • John Marriott 18th Sep '18 - 4:39pm

    “Erotic spasm”? I’m too old to work out what that is. Come you, you purists, as the Bee Gees sang; “It’s only words”.

  • Going for a line like that is a high risk strategy and a distraction – if it goes wrong that’s all people talk about, which is a shame because I thought Vince’s speech was really good!

  • David Allen 18th Sep '18 - 6:51pm

    The Brexiteers and their dangerous fantasy politics deserve ridicule. Too often, reporters treat their nonsensical claims as if they deserved respectful analysis. We need to make Leave voters feel uncomfortable about what they did, and keen to make amends. Describing Brexiteering as an erotic spasm is pretty much telling it like it is!

  • Debatable whether it was a good idea to pre release this phrase, but by pre releasing it and then messing it up, he has ensured that his message is missed and everyone ridicules him for flubbing the line. Still at least the stage didn’t fall apart.

  • I tend to think of Mr Mogg and Mr Johnson in terms of religious fundamentalism rather than sexual excitement. However I gave up listening to the Leader’s speech live in the hall some years ago — it’s not just an anti-Vince thing. Meanwhile I did enjoy my bus pass trip to Eastbourne via the South Downs and back as an alternative.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '18 - 9:38pm

    For those Brexiteers will the “erotic spasm” feel as if “a dam broke, sweeping away their pent-up emotional and physical restraint”?

  • Watched the speech on tv. Agree with Judy Abel- quite a bit of radical substance in it and much better than I expected.

  • Thanks @David!

  • Andrew Daer 19th Sep '18 - 5:55am

    Caron and the mainstream media may not have listened to important parts of Vince Cable’s speech, but most of us did. Unfortunately there will always be people willing to take cheap shots – in this case over two light-hearted words in a 40 minute speech – but their comments at won’t affect the experience of the vast majority of us who were there. Caron says her friends all agree with her, but that isn’t too surprising.
    We are a party that likes to see lively debate, but rubbishing the leader in this way at a time when we are the only party fighting to save the country from a mistake of such enormous magnitude as Brexit shows astonishing lack of judgement.
    At another point in his excellent speech, Vince said we need to engage with people who voted leave, and stop assuming they are all racists; those of us listening at an earlier point in the conference when Caron was at the podium may be wondering if daring to disagree with her was Vince’s real mistake.

  • Andrew Daer 19th Sep '18 - 8:22am

    Paul – I can’t agree that I am being unfair. It is Caron who claims those two words ruined an entire speech. Vince Cable came across as serious, focused and committed, at a time when our country faces a real crisis. He has consistently given strong leadership on Brexit, something the other two main party leaders have never done. He also went on to set out a vision for the future of our country under Liberal values.
    There were a couple of jokes (far fewer than last year) and the one she feels so bitter about, like most jokes, contained a grain of truth, or would have if he hadn’t mispronounced it. I apologise if I am wrong about the real cause of her annoyance being the immigration vote going against her (incidentally, I was there; it wasn’t close). Perhaps it was something else.

  • suzanne Fletcher 19th Sep '18 - 9:34am

    Sorry to spoil the discussion ! but I was there for the speech, did listen (really tired but camera near and sat next to visitors from other countries so didn’t have eyes closed), but cannot recall those words or versions of them. Whilst not a rousing or witty speech I did appreciate getting the situation outlined clearly, along with other policy points. I’ve been so busy, and not even trying to read up on Brexit stuff ( zillions of other Lib Dems on top of that) it was good to hear it all put together for me. So can’t enter the debate of rights and wrongs of the phrase (Yes- how very very boring of me !)

  • John Marriott 19th Sep '18 - 9:37am

    Given my aversion to conferences and the fact that I am a member of no political party at the moment, I tend to get my ‘politics’ from the BBC (and Channel 4 News – quite radical in my opinion), The Guardian and the Times.

    What the BBC broadcast of Sir Vince’s speech in their 10pm News showed a man, who was attempting (and I use that verb with caution) a bit of passion, although the final rallying call lacked the “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government” timbre. Oh, and he even managed to fluff the line, which, when previewed, appeared to cause so much ire amongst the PC brigade. Mind you, the “Mr Bean” joke was always going to be hard to beat. How many years ago was that?

    I haven’t had time to have a really good look at the papers yet; but a cursory read would appear to reveal that The Guardian has managed a short article from its Political Editor on Page 8, but no editorial comment. However, it would appear that Polly Toynbee backs a ‘Peoples’ Vote’ aka Referendum #3; but only if Labour delivers it. In The Times, Matthew Parris said that “the Lib Dems have opted for snooze” – but he would, wouldn’t he? Mind you, the Van Gough inspired cartoon of the Sir Vince on the next page was mildly amusing. To be honest, the best comment so far has been that tweet from Gary Lineker (did I ever tell you that he and I went to the same Leicester Primary school, albeit about twenty years apart?) on the joke that never was.

    So, you can say I am pouring scorn on the Lib Dems if you like. However, what I am trying to say to all of you for whom the torch of Liberalism (whatever that really is) still burns bright, is that, given the past record and the public in general’s love of instant solutions, binary choices and sound bites, some of you at least have got to get out of your comfort zone and face the real world. As the late David Penhaligon said, when that FOCUS leaflet is picked up from the doormat you’ve got eight seconds to grab the average householder’s attention.

    If you want to get regularly over 10% in the national opinion polls, which is a figure that most European Liberal parties would give their high teeth for, you have got to bend a little in many of the positions you take. I’m afraid the first thing that’s required is a new Leader.

  • Opposition to Brexit gave the Liberal Democrats some extra seats at the 2017 General election but also lost some seats. What will happen to the party if Brexit does not bring either a catastrophe or a slow decline but a revival of the economy ? Focussing on Brexit may have given the Liberal Democrats a short term boost in some areas like London and the South East (although not in the North of England) but it could be like the sort of people who forecast the end of the world and nothing happens. Until the 1950s the party continued to advocate Free Trade ( because some supporters had benefitted from it) even when standards of living were improving without it and unemployment was almost nil unlike the situation when we did actually have Free Trade and there was massive unemployment although some people’s living standards did rise.

  • Stephen Booth 19th Sep '18 - 12:06pm

    Why on earth isn’t Vince (or Corbyn come to that) highlighting the real reason why Johnson, Rees Mogg, Redwood and the rest of the gang ready to sell our country down the Swannee: it’s because they can all make lots of dosh through their hedge funds, short selling the pound and moving their financial interests beyond UK law. Taking back control indeed.

    To achieve these egregious aims they highjacked the “left out millions” (once a cause of the Liberal Party), encouraging nostalgic and racist instincts amongst those who get their news from the Mail, Telegraph, Sun etc. And all jollyed along by social media (remember, Facebook is now used by the over 60s) .

    Remember too what Ruper Murdoch said, he knows where to go in UK when he want to influence something – No 10. He doesn’t know where or who to talk to in the EU.

    Wake up Vince, get over Gina Miller that “erotic spasm”!!

  • William Fowler 20th Sep '18 - 4:42pm

    Did anyone do a post-Brexit budget, showing govn revenues down 50-100bn with resulting spending cuts and debt servicing up with much higher interest rates? Might have grabbed some media attention.

  • Galen Milne 21st Sep '18 - 8:36pm

    At the end of the day Vince “fluffed his lines”, probably deliberately. As most have speech writers I’d sack that one now for sure

  • Graham Morgan 22nd Sep '18 - 12:38am

    Oh dear ! My reaction to all this shows my age. I suppose Caron must be excused, at least in part, on grounds of being too young but there must surely be others for whom the phrase rang bells as loud as it did for me as soon as i read of its planned use. It was another politician, and one of greater fame who used, impromptu, something very similiar in a speech which also includes a very familiar and much quoted line. I was too young to hear the speech myself but Vince might well have done so. Whether he deliberately chose to hark back to it or not is of no matter. I knew who and very quickly confirmed it from a book from which I shall now quote:- “What you are saying is that a British Foreign Secretary gets up in the United Nations without consultation – mark this; this is a responsible attitude! – without telling any members of the Commonwealth, without concerting with them, that the British Labour movement decides unilaterally that this country contracts out of all its commitments and obligations entered into with other countries and members of the Commonwealth – without consultation at all. And you call that statesmanship. I call it an emotional spasm.” (Michael Foot: Aneurin Bevan Volume 2 pp573-4 Paladin edition.). The speech was given at Labour Party conference in Brighton (!) back in 1957. “naked” and “conference chamber” occur a few lines earlier.

    The erotic is, of course, an element of the emotional. As both Martin and Stephen Booth suggest above the phrase does in all probability correctly identify the driving force of certain Brexiteers. I doubt whether it was ever intended jokingly, it is far too precisely accurate for that.
    Shame on those whose criticisms may have been cause of the ‘fluff’.

  • Simon Banks 30th Nov '18 - 9:48pm

    I’m not so worried about the lurid metaphor. I’m more disappointed that he appeared to be sneering at Brexit supporters. That’s not the way to win over the ones who might be having second thoughts or to get the votes of people who support Brexit but are with us on many other things.

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