European Elections aren’t about the Lib Dems, they are about Remain

Tim Farron rightly gets lots of criticism for his lack of clarity on one issue. Unfortunately, this tends to obscure the huge credit that he should receive for his boldness – back on 24th June 2016 – in being the first to argue that there would need to be a final vote for the British people on whatever deal was eventually strike. I’m biased, but that looks visionary: not only was he clearly right but it gave the Lib Dems a raison d’etre, at a time when they might otherwise have seemed wholly irrelevant.

The Lib Dems now find themselves, increasingly, on what appears to be right side of history. Whether or not a people’s vote is achieved and ultimately Britain votes to remain, the party holds a position that will be a key determinate of how people will vote for decades to come.

And yet, the Lib Dems have frequently been right in the past without reaping political rewards. Even at this moment of greatest opportunity, going into EU elections, the party runs the risk of annihilation.

Yesterday’s Today programme carried two set-piece interviews about the forthcoming EU elections: the first with Nigel Farage about the launch of his Brexit party and the second with Anna Soubry MP about Change UK’s campaign. News is called that for a reason: what is new always trumps what is old.  And the Lib Dems are old.

The emerging media narrative for the EU election campaign is a fight between, on the one hand, the two new parties as the champions respectively of leave and remain, on the other, more broadly between the old parties and the new. Despite three long years of championing the remain cause the Lib Dems simply have no place in this narrative – they are irrelevant.

And yet despite what must now be viewed as an existential threat going into these elections, it feels uncomfortably like ‘business as usual’ for the party: 

There is some griping about the unwillingness of TIG to form a pro-EU alliance, but why would they? They see our brand as fatally tarnished. Whether they are right or wrong, they aren’t ready to do deals.

Polls suggest we might win up to six seats. Maybe TIG will win a few more.  But this is hardly the overwhelming endorsement for “remain” that is essential in what has the potential to serve as a proxy referendum. Nor is it the type of ambition to capture the imagination of the potential major donors who could transform our prospects.

Our policy committee is working on a manifesto which, I’m told, is shorter and more inspirational than normal, but who is it talking to? There will be no space in this election for nuance. 

So what does the Party need to do?

  1. Keep it simple: this campaign is about one thing: remain. The manifesto should be no more complicated than this one word: a one-word manifesto. This is about effective communication not policy planning.  Can the Lib Dems for once resist the need to over-explain everything?
  2. Don’t obsess about the party’s relationship with TIG, let alone allow the media to draw the parties into a fight to the death, which would directly contradict the public mood for compromise and country first.  
  3. Keep it focused: this election is the second referendum that the Tories have refused us and Labour won’t secure us. Don’t allow the party to become distracted by talking about the things Brexit has stopped us doing, or austerity or housing, let alone EU Reform. The time for these issues will come but ANY vote for ANY reason for ANY not wholly unambiguously remain party will be used to argue the case for a Hard Brexit.
  4. Be one Remain movement. We often ask people to lend us their votes for this or that. This time our brand – toxic or not – in every communication must come second to stopping Brexit – we are an arm of the Remain movement. We mustn’t be parochial and should instead allow that someone may choose to back another remain party – we must welcome that publicly and explicitly, not least because such generosity of spirit would be in tune to what the public wants to hear and they will reward us for it.
  5. Fight like we’ve never fought before. Remain-supporting parties will start this campaign on around 20% in total. Even if you class Labour as neutral, Leave-supporting parties are still around 40-45%. Unless we can reverse this, just as we now see the 2017 election caricatured as a “win for leave”, so the EU elections could kill the case for remain. People’s Vote, Best for Britain and the like are all fantastic organisations and have done amazing jobs in getting the country to this point, but now it’s the political parties’ turns. And that means back the Lib Dems, back TIG, back the SNP but do it with every penny and every second of your time.   

Second chances are rare in politics. There won’t be a third – a People’s Vote -unless Remain wins on the 23rd May.


* Ben Rich is Chief Executive of Radix, the radical centre think tank. From 1992-95 he was Lib Dem Deputy Policy Director and from 1997-2001 Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee. He was Tim Farron’s Leadership Campaign Director and his interim chief of staff from 2015-16 and senior adviser to the Lib Dem Business & Entrepreneurs Network until December 2019.

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  • While I agree 100% with the spirit of this article I dont think Remain works as a slogan, to most Voters that would suggest continuing the argument at a time when most of them are totally sick of it. I would suggest instead that all our Candidates should be on the Ballot Paper as – Liberal Democrat (Stop Brexit). More people are now Anti-Brexit than Pro-Remain.
    As to who is blocking an Electoral Alliance, I dont know; but they are being stupid & short-sighted whoever they are.

  • The West Midlands where I live has 7 MEPs. This means that under the d’Hondt system a party has to get 12.5% of the vote to guarantee one seat, 25% to guarantee two seats and so on. I could easily envisage a situation where the the Lib Dems, TIGs and Greens passionately supported a second referendum throughout the campaign and each ended up with about 8% of the vote. However by standing on separate lists it could come to pass that parties supporting a second referendum gained a quarter of the votes cast in the West Midlands and yet ended up with no seats.

  • Mick Taylor 13th Apr '19 - 2:08pm

    I am told we will be on the ballot paper as Liberal Democrats- fighting to stop Brexit.
    I don’t actually think we could be much clearer than that.

  • Denis Mollison 13th Apr '19 - 2:57pm

    I think we need a little more than a one word manifesto, though I agree it needs to be positive and inspiring. It is widely accepted that Brexit is likely to be bad for the economy, but we need to emphasize the non-economic arguments better than in 2016.

    There are many examples of answers we could give to `What has the EU ever done for us?’
    I would emphasize the environmental ones, beginning with cleaning up our rivers and the air we breathe; the environment has mostly been a field where representatives of different countries coming together have agreed standards higher than any of them would have decided on their own.

    And looking forward, the world faces environmental problems that can only be tackled collectively.

  • John Chandler 13th Apr '19 - 3:22pm

    I’ve just returned from a week in France. I happened to see a piece on BBC World where two BBC correspondents (I forget which ones) were discussing how the EU elections would become a “second referendum” and what the options for the anti-Brexit vote would be. I was pretty amazed when BBC Reporter 1 mentioned something like “Well, Labour have been feeling very confident with their polling for the election”, reporter 2 followed up with “Of course, Change UK are stating that they are the official voice of Remain”, rounded off by Reporter 1 making the rather interesting observation that “well, there are still many pro-EU members of the Conservatives, so don’t rule them out”. HUH?

    Typical BBC at the moment: Labour and even the Conservatives (!) are their pick of options for Remainers, despite backing Brexit, along with Change UK if you insist. None of the parties that have actually been providing a voice for Remainers since day 1 got even a slight name check: Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, nothing. Only thing the BBC needed to do to round the whole fiasco off was to wheel in Farage or Rees-Mogg for their views.

  • I love the idea of a single, one-word manifesto for the EU elections.


    I know it feels utterly unlibdemmy and there’s always much more nuance to our positions but that one unambiguous statement would be a coup.

  • Paul Pettinger 13th Apr '19 - 3:47pm

    The Euros may provide an ‘I told you so’ moment for those who would like remain parties to work more closely together. If we explore having a General Election electoral pact with Change UK, then we should include others in the conversation who agree with us on having PR/ equal votes and stopping Brexit, especially the Green Party of England & Wales.

  • William Fowler 13th Apr '19 - 4:13pm

    If Labour decides to run on a confirmatory referendum ticket then all bets are off, suspect the Left will coalesce behind their banner (as per general election on a much more vague EU ticket) and give everyone a nasty shock.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Apr '19 - 4:36pm

    I completely disagree with this article. Remain vs Leave, or a 2nd referendum, is a domestic issue, so nothing to do with MEPs, who help shape law and policy for the EU as a whole. And the European Parliament divides into party groups, similar to those in national Parliaments, and what MEPs propose and how they vote therefore reflects their respective ideological positions. Our last Euro election campaign in 2014 did exactly what the OP suggested, and it was an unmitigated disaster. we completely played down that we were liberals, and instead just talked about how great the EU is. And one of the biggest individual errors of that campaign was that we failed to counter the assertion that the EU is “undemocratic”, Clegg didn’t even point out that we were having a democratic election for EU parliamentary representatives! Well, what better way to disprove that lie than to demonstrate the political, ideological differences between MEPs of different European parties, and therefore that whether we elect Tory, Labour, LibDem, Green or UKIP MEPs makes a material difference to the sort of EU legislation that gets passed? Our complete failure to do this in 2014 meant that people had no reason to vote in Lib Dem MEPs.
    Also the OP grossly overestimates the significance of “Change UK”, assuming this is what it will be able to call itself. It’s not even certain that the TIGgers will have registered as a party in time for the Euro election deadline, and even if they did, they have minimal campaigning resources, unlike us. Even in a Euro election, the ground war matters. And people are talking about forming electoral alliances as if this can just be done just by magic. As the talks between the SDP and Liberals showed in the early 1980s, it is not really that simple. You may wish to read Mark Smulian’s article in the latest Liberator. With potentially 3 or more parties involved in any Euro election pact, and potential arguments about positioning of candidates in joint lists, ISTM that the SDP/Liberal talks were a walk in the park compared with what’s being proposed for next month’s poll.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Apr '19 - 4:47pm

    @Paul Pettinger
    Change UK is still not yet registered with the Electoral Commission as a political party. As I have pointed out in at least one other discussion on LDV the Electoral Commission is saying the whole process including the legal checks takes around six weeks and there is no guarantee that organisations trying to register late will have their applications completed by close of nominations for the European elections.

    The following page shows current applications

    That confirms 29 March for the start of Change UK’s application. You will note at the bottom of that list the Progressive Peoples’ Party notice published 14 March. They are on the register, with date of registration 10/4/2019. That is the latest entry on the list of registered politcal parties.

    It’s Easter weekend next weekend so that’s going to take out a couple of working days….

  • Alex Macfie 13th Apr '19 - 4:54pm

    Surely, as this is a European Parliamentary election campaign, we should be talkong not about “What has the EU ever done for us?’”, but about what Lib Dem and other ALDE MEPs have done AS LIBERALS to help shape EU law and policy in a liberal direction. We should do this, and contrast it with what Tories, UKIP and Labour have supported. We should not be shy about pointing out, for instance, that Tory MEPs opposed climate change targets and also opposed making marital rape a crime EU-wide. And we should also not be afraid to note where Lib Dem MEPs have failed to get their preferred policy through (Article 13, perhaps?) and say that if you want more liberal EU policy, you need to vote for Lib Dem MEPs.

  • People may be aware of today’s Yougov poll which shows Westminster voting intention of Con – 28%, Lab – 32%, Lib Dem – 11%, UKIP – 6%, Brexit Party – 5%, Green – 5%, Change UK – 3% SNP/Plaid – 6% Other – 2%

    And European voting intention of Lab – 24%, Con – 16%, Brexit Party- 15%, UKIP – 14%
    Lib Dem – 8%, Green – 8%, Change UK – 7%, SNP/Plaid – 6%, Other – 1%

    There is quite a large probability that we will do well in the local elections and gain momentum going into the European elections and lead the Lib Dem, Green, Change UK “pack”. It is a question of working our socks off in the locals.

  • Peter Watson 13th Apr '19 - 6:26pm

    An obvious risk of billing the European Elections as being all about Remain is that a low vote share and/or a low turnout could be very damaging. Even regardless of vote share which, ignoring Labour and Conservatives, looks evenly split between Remain and Brexit supporting parties, the latter can point to a low turnout as evidence of a lack of interest in remaining in the EU.
    Yougov polling being reported today ( gives this voting intention for the European election:
    Lab 24%
    Con 16%
    Brexit Party 15%
    UKIP 14%
    Lib Dem 8%
    Green 8%
    Change UK 7%
    SNP / PC 6%
    Other 1%

  • Richard O'Neill 13th Apr '19 - 6:55pm

    @Alex Macfie

    Yes that is an interesting point. However in comparison to previous European Parliament elections I can remember, this one will at least primarily be dominated by discussing Europe rather than just a popularity poll for domestic politics. Something that is not confined to just Britain.

    While in so many respects I am pleased we have the delay, I think this must be one of the few democratic elections in history where is is uncertain if those elected will ever take their seats.

    There does, as noted above, seem to be a massive media preference for noisy new parties (Brexit and Change UK) compared to older, established parties (UKIP and Lib Dems). I feared we are going to see far too much of Nigel Farage and Anna Soubry over the next couple of months.

  • Paul Barker 13th Apr '19 - 7:03pm

    I expect us to get around 15% (NEV) in The Locals, which should get us hundreds of gains & good publicity. With a big overlap between Voters who actually Vote in The Locals & The European Elections then we can reasonably hope to “Lead the Pack” of Remain Parties but that won’t be much consolation if Brexit or UKIP get more MEPs than us; it will just mean that we get most of the blame & we will deserve it.
    The Euros are already being seen as The Peoples Vote & Remain Parties need to do more than do well, we need to win & we can’t do that except as a single Bloc.

  • Peter Watson 13th Apr '19 - 7:20pm

    Voodoo poll alert: the Lib Dems might be more popular with Daily Express readers in the European Elections than the Conservatives!! 😉 (

  • I think a lot of ordinary voters are still misinterpreting Corbyn’s opposition to May’s deal as opposition to Brexit, which it most definitely isn’t. The good thing about the Euro elections is that they and the Tories will have to come up with manifestos, which means agreeing amongst themselves a position on Brexit. It should be fun watching this cause more blue-on-blue collateral damage to the Tories, and might finally force Corbyn to properly support a People’s Vote.

  • The Labour and Brexit parties are basically joint favourites to get the most votes in a EU election. The rest (including the Tories) are big outsiders. I think it’s looking good for the LibDems in the local elections, but the Remain votes look spread across too many parties in the Euros. The Brexit party should do very well in the Euros because leavers seem to feel let down by all the established parties – plus the fact that Farage is a far better leader than the other parties have.

  • “I expect us to get around 15% (NEV) in The Locals, which should get us hundreds of gains & good publicity.”

    15% would be a poorer performance than 2018 and 17 and only 2 points up on 2014’s locals. There might be 100s of gains (really the bare minimum for Lib Dem performance) but that would be desperately poor.

  • Michael1 – Some of us “working our socks off for the locals” round the clock have hardly got time to contribute to LDV …It really is that important for a party whose name journalists dare not utter!

  • Paul Barker
    For “hundreds of gains we would need to be higher the 15%, more like 20%+. We should minimise our expectations, if we get 100 we will be doing very well. Anything more would be a lovely and pleasant surprise, not least in the media reporting.

  • I think we should use the EU elections as an opportunity to campaign for the EU itself.

    This is a time to promote the real work of the parliament and to draw attention to the work of MEPs and how some do real work while others bluster. Brexiteers relied on the general British public not understanding what it does, so let’s put a few of those lies to bed.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Apr '19 - 8:07am

    apropos the idea that Lib De “brand” is “fatally tarnished”, this is common enough among the Westminster bubble and the JC fan club, but does not reflect political reality. Politics is about campaigning, not “branding”. We have the campaign resources. TIG, as a grouping that exists only at Westminster, does not. If TIG refuses to collaborate with us, then it is in for a rude awakening about the reality of life as a small new political party in our FPTP system.

  • Peter Martin 14th Apr '19 - 9:50am

    “European Elections aren’t about the Lib Dems, they are about Remain” ??

    Or about Leave?

    I suspect you might be taking a different lines once the results are known. My local may not be a totally representative sample of the UK population but the majority opinion of customers on Friday night was that they were going to vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

    A typical comment was along the lines of “I usually vote Labour/Tory but……”

    No-one mentioned you guys! Sorry about that! 🙂

  • Linda Robertson 14th Apr '19 - 10:03am

    I am considering voting for the Lib Dems for the first time in my 63 years. I have always previously voted Conservative and I voted to Remain. What worries me more than leaving the EU is the sheer hate and anger that Brexit has caused (or has opened the door to ‘rent a mob’ ).
    In my opinion everyone knows that the Lib Dems are pro Remain and I would really like them to take the Campaign opportunity to woo Leavers into their fold. We need to hear so much more about what the EU has done for our country over the years. We need to hear more about the role of the MEP. I am in the East Midlands and had to google who my MEPs are. I’ve never heard from them, haven’t got a clue what they do, what they’ve achieved or anything.
    I don’t think it’s enough to sell the party on the Exit Brexit slogan. I know you want to remain. What I want to know are the benefits of remaining (in easy language) but most importantly what the party will do to fix our broken Britain.
    It was broken before the referendum and a lot of the blame directed unfairly at the EU which I think is why the Leave vote one, but some original remainers will change their vote to Leave because of the perceived failure to acknowledge the democratic vote. Not enough has been done to publicise or address the lies and criminal activity that swayed the public vote.
    Whatever the final outcome of the Brexit debacle, Britain will remain divided and that needs to be fixed. I have no answers on how to fix it but my vote will go to whoever convinced me that they can.

  • Let think about the message, not percentage votes. Here are some bullet points for remain, taken from a leaflet I am preparing for a local by-election:
    1.More people now accept that Brexit of any kind will harm our economy; even if we eventually rise above it, we will have declined relatively to others.
    2.The EU makes trade agreements round the world better than what we could do on our own.
    3.The EU is partly a peace project an internal European complement to NATO; Ireland is a clear example of that.
    4.We are big enough to be a forefront leader in the EU and have not taken advantage of this in recent years. We can ensure it moves forward in the interests of ordinary people.
    5.Within the EU we can help lead the world on cooperation over crime, security and the environment, not only for a good future for our children and the planet, but also long-term business sense.

  • nigel hunter 14th Apr '19 - 10:48am

    Nigel Jones. These points you mention should be wider used. Can they be used in other peoples elections addresses?

  • Nigel Hunter. I posted them so anyone can make use of them as they wish.

  • Bob Robinson 14th Apr '19 - 1:32pm

    I agree, whole heartedly, with Nigel Jones – the only change I would make is to include a pre-amble something to the effect that :” Brexit was sold on a false prospectus – now we know the truth”. and conclude ” When the facts change – there is nothing wrong with changing your mind”.

  • Spot on @Nigel! And if even people like Peter Oborne have changed their mind on Brexit, how many others haven’t too?

  • Alex Macfie 14th Apr '19 - 2:34pm

    Anna Soubry was on Sophy Ridge’s politics show on Sky News this morning, and when asked about collaboration with other pro-EU parties, she said TIG was open to this, and did not talk about the Lib Dems being “tarnished”. In any case, it would be utterly absurd and hypocritical for a former minister in the Coalition Government to say such a thing about us, and if TIG were to go around saying such a thing then Lib Dems would need to fight back and treat them as regular political opponents. But it would show crass stupidity on the part of TIG.

  • I want to vote for a pro-EU centre party with a realistic businesslike and pragmatic approach to national and EU politics, devoid of the idealistic extremes of smug entitlement, or bitterness and resentment that for me in their different ways tarnish both Labour and Conservative parties. It is extremely frustrating therefore to find the parties of the centre more concerned with their own esoteric tribal differences instead of coming together to develop and support their common interest. More so because their potential collective vote, on the figures quoted so far in this thread, does not in numerical terms look all that distant from what may be expected of the individual major parties. You may make a brave statement to cock a snook at the others, but needless to say, divided you will fall. Please get your act together!

  • Alex Macfie 13th Apr ’19 – 4:54pm……………Surely, as this is a European Parliamentary election campaign, we should be talkong not about “What has the EU ever done for us?’”, but about what Lib Dem and other ALDE MEPs have done AS LIBERALS to help shape EU law and policy in a liberal direction……………

    You seem to have forgotten that the “UK’s relationship with the EU in 2016 will be about the same as in 2016”.
    Not much scope for future change there or do you believe that there is no room for further improvement?

  • OnceALibDem 14th Apr '19 - 7:15pm

    “Remain-supporting parties will start this campaign on around 20% in total. Even if you class Labour as neutral, Leave-supporting parties are still around 40-45%. Unless we can reverse this, just as we now see the 2017 election caricatured as a “win for leave”,”

    Lets look at the maths of this. If you take leave as being at the lower end of that (40%) then if you treat Labour as neutral then it needs Labour to get under 20% for ‘the remain vote’ to come ahead of leave. That sounds inherently unlikely.

    And any assessment of whether leave or remain ‘won’ these elections will be horribly confused by how you categorise Labour. Or will be judged on seats which could be highly random with 7 parties in the game

  • Our National Equivalent Vote (NEV) share is likely to be at least 18%.

    We got 16% last year and our opinion poll rating is up 1.5%-2%. Based on local council by-elections by my calculations we are running on average over the last 50 by-elections at 22% – although I think this is likely to be over-optimistic. (I have taken into the account the base NEV from when they were last fought – i.e. up 6% in a year when we had a NEV of 10% equates to 16%, up 6% in a year when we had a NEV of 16% equates to 22%).

    18% would put us up 8% compared to 2015 when these seats were last fought.

    But it is difficult to gauge how Labour will do.

    Labour who did relatively badly in 2015 with a NEV of 27%, and I calculate their by-election NEV at 28% and based on opinion polls 30% (they are averaging 35% and normally do about 5% worse in locals). But they have had recently had some poor by-election results and weak opinion polls (and some good ones!)

    The Conservatives got 35% in 2015 and their NEV is 35% in by-elections but around 28% based on opinion polls (averaging 33% – assume around 5% less in locals). But they have had a very recent dip in the opinion polls and this won’t yet have fed through to the by-election NEV as there have only been a handful since their opinion poll dropped – a month ago they were on 40%. And the vote has obviously gone to UKIP and the Brexit party. The issue with the Conservatives is what their vote will do. UKIP are only standing in 14% of wards and the Brexit party not at all. Tories might stay at home or they might vote on local issues. And they might vote UKIP where they are standing.

    On the number of gains it becomes very difficult as a result to estimate. A poor Labour result in 2015 may conceal a generally poor result for them – and there seems to be some signs of a recent slight strengthening of the opinion poll rating. The Conservatives are a very unknown quantity at the moment.

    It seems to be their are two messages for local campaigners. Strong local campaigning to push people towards us locally and away from incompetently run (by definition!) Labour and Tory run councils. People may not be 100% convinced by us on a national level but they are prepared to dip a toe in with us locally. And target Labour remainers to vote for us to send a message to Labour to back a People’s Vote and Tory leavers on how incompetently the Tories have run the Brexit process.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Apr '19 - 9:20pm

    expats: What’s your point? I’ve made clear many times here that as far as I’m concerned our 2014 Euro election campaign, in which Clegg made that statement you allude to, was totally wrong. Why on earth do you think I would defend it? As the “UK’s relationship with the EU” is a domestic issue, and not a European issue, it actually has nothing whatsoever to do with EU elections, because MEPs legislate for the EU AS A WHOLE. But the architect of that disaster has left active politics, so let’s just move on now, shall we?

  • David Allen 15th Apr '19 - 1:09pm

    The Euro Elections will be the next big Brexit event – and one which could kill off Remain for good, if tribalism prevents us from forming a single united Remain campaign.

    The polls, showing three or more Remain parties all largely polling below the d’Hondt threshold and hence unlikely to win seats, look bad enough now. Things could easily get worse.

    Once campaigning starts, novelty will be the big news. Farage and Soubry will go down big, Cable not so much. Expect Farage’s Brexit party to eclipse UKIP, hoover up the Brexiteer vote, and send Nigel back to insult foreigners in Brussels. How will Remain compete? As things stand, with Change moving up a little to match the Lib Dems on around 10%, neither winning anything like as many seats as the Brexit Party. A disaster for Remain, a disaster for the Lib Dems, a disaster for Change UK.

    We’ve got ten days to stop the disaster and form a united front.

  • Paul Barker 15th Apr '19 - 1:21pm

    The Media & Commentariat have already decided that The European Elections are a Referendum on Brexit, if the actual results are anything like The Polls suggest then Leave will be declared the winners.
    Not only do the added Votes of the Ultra-Leavers come to more than those of The explicit Remainers; we are split 3 ways while the Brexiteers are only split in 2.
    Even if Change can’t stand Candidates their Voters won’t automatically Vote for Liberal Democrats, we need some sort of explicit Alliance. And then there are The Greens.
    Under the peculiar voting system used in the Euros, the size of your vote isn’t as important as the order you come in & we look likely to come 5th or 6th in most Regions.

  • JONATHAN HUNT 15th Apr '19 - 2:20pm

    What matters most is that all we Brits who don’t want to be forced out of the EU by a proven cheating, lying minority, have the opportunity to decide. It matters far more than what small proportion of the vote we Lib Dems gain.

    This means putting up just one anti-Brexit candidate in every constituency if a general election comes first. That eventuality would most likely occur after we have been forced out by a Tory-Labour pact to deny us a referendum.

    Should that happen, we must never accept it. We continue the opposition whatever.

    Voters are pissed-off and wish to see national unity. Liberal Democrats, TIGgers, the nationalist parties and any other anti-Brexit group must work together and decide who has the best chance of winning in each constituency. In the case of sitting MPs, including Labour, Conservative, Lib Dems and TIGgers, it is self-selecting.

    In many others, it could be whoever came a good second in the last election — which gives Liberals many great opportunities. Yet more may have had ardent remainers as the runners-up who are Tories or Labour.

    Remember that a little over a third of the electorate voted to Leave. If 17.4 million voted for Brexit, some 30 million-plus were against or unconvinced.

    And that the slogan of despots and dictators: One Person, One Vote ONCE is exactly what anti-democracy deniers of another referendum have acquired.

  • David Allen 15th Apr '19 - 4:15pm

    Paul Barker – I guess a reason why the “ultra-Leave” vote currently appears to be polling higher than the “ultra-Remain” vote is that, at the moment, many traditional Remain-oriented Labour voters will still say “Labour” when asked which way they will vote. Whether they actually go on to do that will depend on whether Labour finally get off the fence in time.

    If Labour come out unequivocally for a referendum, then their vote will hold, and they will win the Euros. From the remainer point of view, that will be a satisfactory result. Farage might come second, but second is a losing result. The People’s Vote campaign will have the wind in their sails. They will plausibly claim that the UK popular will has changed and that a referendum is our best way forward.

    But If Labour stay on the fence, they will deserve to haemhorrage votes. A united Remain campaign by Lib Dems, Change and Greens, fielding only one party’s slate in each region, could hoover up those votes and – potentially – even win more seats (for the alliance) than anyone else.

    Moral – If we unite, we put pressure on Labour to do the right thing.

    (PS – Yes, Change might not get registered in time. If they don’t, the Lib Dems could at the last moment bring back their own slate of nominations for those regions that Change would otherwise have contested. In such circumstances, one could expect Change to be hopping mad with the Electoral Commission, and to heartily recommend a Lib Dem vote as “next best thing”!)

  • Peter Hirst 16th Apr '19 - 2:00pm

    Where we differ is our reasons for voting remain – respecting human rights, Britain’s role in the world and Europe and acting as a defender of liberal democracy and all that entails.
    I would add playing a larger part in combating climate change, inequality and trafficking. Our economy is important though does not arouse the passion that some of the other factors do.

  • Agree with quite a few of these comments and with Remain vote splintered a challenge, D’Hondt not agreat form of PR. Concur with @peter Hirst, campaign needs to be a bit wider than simply Remain-as more or less mentioned on other thread need to show how working with others in EU benefits us as a nation and is in our interests. Need some emphasis on Climate Change, particularly with Greens ahead of us in some polls.

    See that YouGov have released another poll tonight, with Brexit party down a bit and Change Uk slightly up.

    Full figures:

    Brexit 23, Labour 22, Conservative 17 , Green 10, Lib dem 9, Change UK 8, UKIP 6.

  • Richard Dawkins suggested two years ago that the Lib Dems change their name to the European Party

    A prescient article which went unheeded at the time.

    But there is still time for the Lib Dems to amalgamate with Change UK before a second referendum. That’s the answer to Farage and the Brexit Party. As yougov says-

    “They’ve got very good branding – it does what it says on the tin. If you want to say ‘I support Brexit’ you’ve got a party there that is called the Brexit Party. That probably does help them in away that Change UK does not help The Independent Group.”

    Another good choice of name would be BREXIT PLUS. It gives you all the benefits of Brexit, plus you get to stay in the EU.

    Someone has even suggested EUKeep. But you can keep that one.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Apr '19 - 7:31pm

    John King: Like all those who go on about “branding” and its supposed importance for political parties, I think you’re paying far too much attention to the Westminster Bubble. If you stepped out of there, you would realise how irrelevant Change UK actually is for the UK as a whole . It is literally an outfit that exists only in the Palace of Westminster, with 12 MPs but practically no activists and no representation anywhere else. It also has yet to produce any MEP candidates, while the Lib Dems are so far the only party with a full slate. Any “amalgamation” would have to be an absorption of Change UK into the Lib Dems.
    Farage and the Brexit Party don’t provide any meaningful lessons for the pro-Remain side. There is one reason and one reason alone for the success (in national opinion polls) of the Brexit Party, and that’s Nigel Farage, and the large group of people who will vote (particularly in European elections) for any party that has him as its leader. There is no equivalent figure on the Remain side, and probably the political culture on our side does not lend itself to the idea of a charismatic leader who deicdes everything, and who is or should be followed uncritically. Lib Dems in particular tend to dislike that concept. Also none of Change UK’s MPs are particularly well known to the public. There are no household names there (unlike in the SDP, for instance). Whether with Chukka Umunna, Heidi Allen or anyone else as its chief spokesperson, Change UK will struggle to be seen as relevant in an actual election campaign. Meanwhile, Lib Dems activists will be out on the ground canvassing and delivering leaflets. It is this activity that matters, not “branding”.

  • Robert Pinsker 26th Apr '19 - 9:56pm

    I totally agree with Ben. This is about forcing Westminster to consider that remain is an option. I’d add that on the doorstep we have to encourage votes for any pro-EU party if we find ourselves talking to people who are unlikely to vote lib dem but clearly favour remain – in spite of Change UK’s tactics.

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