Farron’s strategy to tackle Corbyn is all wrong

 

Recently Tim Farron responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s economic strategy by saying “Unfortunately Corbyn’s anti-business policies will ensure that no company has the budget to pay the wages their employees deserve”.

Now this is absolutely true and it’s very much Tim Farron’s approach to Corbyn and Labour at the moment. But it’s also absolutely the wrong approach to take.

The thing is, the public already thinks Labour aren’t economically competent and the Tories keep on ramming home that message. But since the public think that the Tories are economically competent then any attacks we make on Labour’s economic competence will just drive voters to the Tories.

In a nutshell, attacking Labour on the economy does nothing more than to annoy Labour voters who we want to win over while helping to turn undecided voters to the Tories.

Let’s not forget that many of Corbyn’s economic policies are popular with the public on their own. And many of them aren’t a million miles away from the sympathies of many Lib Dems. It’s the Labour party as a whole which is seen as economically incompetent rather than its policies.

Now no party has ever won an election while being seen as incompetent on the economy. So if we ever want to win we need to start convincing people of our own economic competence. And the way to do that isn’t to reinforce the perception that Labour is economically incompetent but to attack the Tories over their own economic incompetence.

If we convince a voter we’re more economically competent than the Tories enough that they decide not to vote for them then they’re hardly likely to vote Labour either. Which leaves us as the logical alternative.

And there’s plenty to attack the Tories over. We could and should be making the case that they have failed to rebalance our economy, that manufacturing is stagnant, that the failure to reform the banks leaves us vulnerable to a repeat of the crash and that Osborne’s policies are busily building up another property bubble built on debt which will burst sooner or later.

If we want to attack Labour, which we should, we need to do it on issues where they’re seen to be competent so that voters who care about those issues will come to prefer us on those issues instead.

And there’s no shortage of things to attack Labour over. Just this week we’ve seen Corbyn pass up the opportunity to block the Conservative abolition of student maintenance grants in favour of going on the BBC to talk about how he wants to have nuclear submarines with no weapons on them and about giving the Falklands to Argentina. We can and should be slamming Labour for obsessing over left wing obsessions rather than the issues of poverty, housing and the strain on the NHS which massively affect so many people’s lives right now.

But nor should we forget that Corbyn’s election as Labour leader showed that there’s a big appetite for a fairer alternative to the economic status quo. We should be doing all we can to say that we are offering an authentic, competent alternative rather than simply rubbishing Corbyn and, in the process, risk alienating voters looking for that alternative.

* George Potter is a Vice-Chair of the Social Liberal Forum and a campaigner for Guildford Liberal Democrats, writing in a personal capacity.

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71 Comments

  • Steve Bradley 18th Jan '16 - 10:21am

    Whilst I broadly agree with your argument, I fear it’ll be some time yet before the public is willing to listen to anything the Lib Dems have to say about student funding. Approx 40% of delegates at the last Lib Dem conference also voted for a motion to scrap trident, so it’s not a left wing obsession. And part of Corbyn’s argument re scrapping it is that the money saved would go to funding things like student maintenance.

  • Conor McGovern 18th Jan '16 - 10:31am

    I completely agree. This is the opposite of the Clegg strategy at the General Election.

  • “And the way to do that isn’t to reinforce the perception that Labour is economically incompetent but to attack the Tories over their own economic incompetence.”

    Partially right, the attacks have to go both directions where they are wrong. Simply shouting ‘everyone else is wrong’ doesn’t make you look competent but saying X is wrong on A and Y is wrong on B the correct approach is Z for A and Q for Y. Particularly focusing on the pointy that the intention of certain intentions are good but the proposed policy will not achieve them (or cause other excessive negative issues in other areas).

    Where someone else gets something right the public will give people credit for saying it is not a bad idea.

    At the end of the most people do prefer the Tories polices because on balance they often are more rooted in reality, but for the most part that is just a matter of winning a tastiest turd competition, if you only attack one side you miss that fact that most people recognise that.

  • The trouble with this: “And there’s plenty to attack the Tories over. We could and should be making the case that they have failed to rebalance our economy, that manufacturing is stagnant, that the failure to reform the banks leaves us vulnerable to a repeat of the crash and that Osborne’s policies are busily building up another property bubble built on debt which will burst sooner or later” is that all of this was done while you were in coalition with the Tories. You cannot attack it without looking hypocritical.

    The Lib Dems need to decide either to stand proudly by the legacy of your time in government or actively disown it and condemn Nick Clegg, Vince Cable et al for the decisions taken during the coalition years. Trying to argue against the policies your MPs voted for and allowed to happen without a sharp break from the past simply won’t fly.

  • adrian sanders 18th Jan '16 - 11:08am

    George Potter, what an excellent strategy – where was it in 2015 (rhetorical?)
    Now Jack those are not the choices. We should be proud of the Liberal Democrat polices we got onto the statute book but admit we made a major error in not holding out for proportional representation without a referendum, and that we will not make that mistake again.

  • David Faggiani 18th Jan '16 - 11:15am

    I tend to agree with the author of this article. It’s a hard line to walk, isn’t it? I’m minded to think that the 2020 election is going to be a virtual replay of 2015, in terms of issues/positioning. I think a balance is needed, as in most things. I also think it would be nice to hear a bit of agreement once in a while, without a snide qualifier (As in the usual “It’s nice to see Labour/The Tories speaking up on ‘x’ – unfortunately, they didn’t speak up back in ….” formula) Sometimes, we are actually allowed to say “Yes, we agree with them on that”.

  • David Faggiani 18th Jan '16 - 11:18am

    I think we’ll probably start to see bolder Lib Dem policies gradually emerge after the two Conferences in 2016, so that might help a bit in terms of new positioning. But, agreed, let’s stop harping on the one-note Corbyn-bashing. It just makes us sound like Tories.

  • Anti-business policies? Please don’t take the torrent of abuse from the right wing press as evidence that Corbyn is on the far left. Corbyn isn’t the one who’s putting every trade deal with have in question, something that’s massively damaging for business.

  • As I have previously remarked on this site, It would be helpful in building, or rebuilding, our party’s reputation for economic competence, if our principal spokesperson on the economy was one of our MPs rather than a member of the House of Lords. This is not intended in any way as a reflexion on Baroness Kramer, of whom I have a good opinion, but it is a fact of life that the media are much more likely to report policy statements and speeches made by members of the House of Commons than policy statements and speeches made by members of the House of Lords.

  • Conor McGovern 18th Jan ’16 – 10:31am……………..I completely agree. This is the opposite of the Clegg strategy at the General Election………………

    I agree. Where we agree with Labour we should say so and where we don’t we should make our difference clear…
    Prior to the 2015 election Milliband asked Clegg for support over bankers bonuses…Even though Clegg was on record as saying almost the same thing, his response, on air,was that he wouldn’t take lessons from a party that had, “single handedly, crashed the economy”…..Cameron must have been rubbing his hands with glee…

  • George Potter. The fact that Simin Shaw disagrees with you is proof enough that you are absolutely right 🙂

  • George Potter 18th Jan '16 - 1:16pm

    To try to briefly reply to some of the points raised, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t criticise Labour when they get it wrong on economic issues but we shouldn’t be going out of our way to use the limited media coverage we get to attack them. (This is perhaps the most important point I’m trying to make)

    Instead we should use our media coverage to set out our alternative, to demonstrate that we’re capable of more than just criticism, and to act as a real opposition to a government whose policies are genuinely flawed when it comes to the economy.

    The coalition’s record isn’t a hindrance but nor is it something we should be massively proud of. We can talk positively of our achievements in coalition and castigate the Tories for abandoning positive coalition policies on the economy but at the same time we should say that the coalition didn’t get everything right because of the influence of the Tories and say what we would do differently on our own.

    But please don’t think that Corbyn’s policies aren’t both economically illiterate as a whole but also potentially reasonable when looked at individually. Trying to raise tens of billions extra from the backs of business would crash the economy but policies like scrapping trident and taking the railways into public ownership aren’t necessarily awful ideas.

    The difference being that we might say we should scrap trident to invest more in our conventional forces to tackle the real threats we now face or that we might say that moving railways into the hands of a state owned company along the same lines as Germany does is the best approach to take for what is a natural monopoly. Meanwhile Corbyn wants to do these things not for practical reasons of what is best for the average person but because of pure ideological dogma which he’d stick with regardless of what the actual evidence was.

    Similarly, something like, for instance, supporting employee representation on company boards or objecting to the massive inequality of senior management being paid many, many multiples of the pay of their lowest employees isn’t necessarily a bad idea just because Corbyn would also probably support those things.

    The public as a whole has an appetite for an alternative economic strategy. Just because Corbyn’s alternative is wrong it doesn’t mean that the status quo is correct. And that is the argument we should be making.

  • George Potter 18th Jan '16 - 1:17pm

    Also, when it comes to student funding, I really don’t think people care that much compared to issues like welfare, housing, the NHS and immigration.

  • Farron’s strategy to tackle Corbyn is not just wrong, it is a total distraction from his bigger problem. Farron and Corbyn have the exact same problem, but Corbyn is fighting his, in the full glare of the media.
    Some believe Corbyn is (wisely or unwisely?), pulling the Labour party back to the Labour party of old. But the more subtle fight for Corbyn, is that he is trying to wrest control of the Labour party back from the continuing grasp of the Blairites who are refusing to let go despite their failure in May 2015.
    Here’s where it gets interesting. Farron certainly won the leadership from Clegg, .. but did he win it from the grasp of the Orange bookers?
    In trying to re-direct the Labour party, Corbyn is still constantly looking over his shoulder to placate the Blairites. Is it not the exact same problem for Farron as he tries to re-direct the LibDem party. Is Farron also mindful of biting off more that the Orange bookers are willing to chew?
    If you think this is not a serious question, then let me ask these further questions. Why on earth did Farron allow Clegg to go on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday? And more crucially,.. Who is *actually* in charge of the Liberal Democrat Party?

  • simon mcgrath 18th Jan '16 - 1:46pm

    George has fundamentally failed to understand how the media works. Corbyn says ( yet again) something idiotic – by commenting Tim gets coverage he would not otherwise have done. Yes of course we should attack Labour for lots of other things but you have to go with the moment

  • On the Falklands we shouldn’t give it to anybody. It should be an independent UN protected country capable of running its own affairs. The residents should decide who they trade with and who they give oil licences to. It should be agreed to be neutral with no forces and with its own policies.

    As for subs without missiles Corbyn has to keep building defence weaponry to keep the unions happy even if it isn’t used. Two white elephant aircraft carriers without planes, four ballistic subs without missiles while wasting taxes it keeps the union membership up so that their hierarchy can get their 6 figure salaries.

  • Agree with George about positioning and a clear narrative. All I can note is that when we were ‘equi-distant’ or seen as closer perhaps to labour policy-wise we regularly won 50+ seats. When we ran on a soggy platform seen as tory-lite we, err, didn’t do so well. People need to hear us be critical of both when needed, and we might start to win our reputation back as fair arbitrators.

  • George,
    I agree. All attacking Labour does at the moment is add to the chorus. As for the idea that concentrating the limited fire the Party has on the Conservatives means disowning the Lib Dem record in office, I don’t think so. There were plenty of disagreements on economic policy between Cable and Osborne as well as numerous attempts and in some cases successes at tempering some The Conservative’s more out there instincts.
    The thing about Osborne is, his policies have a habit of unravelling whether it be his mythical Northern Powerhouse or all over the shop idea that Nationalised industries owned by the British in Britain is very very bad but it’s okay for the same services to be franchised to the Nationalised industries of France or Communist China!

  • “attacking Labour on the economy does nothing more than to annoy Labour voters who we want to win over”
    But the Labour voters we want to win over are surely the more centre-left types who will be sceptical of Corbyn’s extreme and outdated policies. The people we alienate mostly wouldn’t vote for us anyway.
    Also, how about the Conservative voters we want to win over? I disagree that attacking Corbyn pushes them to vote Conservative – chances are they are already extremely afraid of his policies. Attacks on Corbyn could well make the Lib Dems seem a ‘safer’ option than if we left Corbyn alone, especially if it looks like the Conservatives will romp home to a huge majority anyway next time.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jan '16 - 2:40pm

    I want to criticise Corbyn partly by showing that the far left is failing by its own standards. They say they are about selflessness and justice, but it’s very questionable whether the most selfless foreign policy is not to really intervene and to minimise risk to yourself by saying so.

    When it comes to economics: there’s nothing fundamentally just about “automatically supporting every strike” as John McDonnell has said. Corbyn made a big mistake on his Sunday Marr interview by directly linking himself to mass strikes in the 70s. It will give the public a fright.

    I’m not the most selfless person in the country anyway by a long shot, but I’m fed up with being told by far leftists that their policies are more selfless than mine. I think there is ground for some co-operation when it comes to refugees and benefit sanctions, but there’s also ground to work with the Tories on such as helping the self-employed and with a sensibly interventionist foreign policy. Attlee won with interventionist foreign policy credentials. He wouldn’t have won if he was seen as unpatriotic during WW2.

  • David Evershed 18th Jan '16 - 3:26pm

    George – The Lib Dems publicising that they are pro business will help attract ex Conservatives to the party so we should not be afraid of frightening off anti business Labour supporters.

  • Paul Reynolds 18th Jan '16 - 3:34pm

    Tim Farron should continue to attack the extreme politics of Corbyn’s Labour and the increasingly authoritarian Tories. The middle ground is being deserted. Planting our flag conspicuously there does not mean submerging our identity in the blandness of Labour + Tory ÷ 2. Tim’s strategy necessitates patience.

  • George Potter 18th Jan '16 - 3:35pm

    @Simon Shaw

    But this is the point though, what got reported was “Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Mr Corbyn “seems committed on ripping apart our business sector in pursuit of an egalitarian fantasy”. ”

    So to the average punter all they’re seeing is Corbyn saying that Labour will do something about unfair pay and the Lib Dems saying “that’s an egalitarian fantasy and we disagree with it”.

    Now I’m concerned about unfair pay, as I’m sure Tim Farron and most Lib Dems are. But all that comes across is that we oppose Corbyn’s suggestions. Not that we have a better alternative and not that we think that there is a problem but that this is the wrong solution – all people see is that we’re calling Corbyn’s concern an “egalitarian fantasy”.

    Now I don’t know about you but that seems unlikely to persuade many people concerned about unfair pay (e.g. many people who are potential Lib Dem voters) that we share their concerns.

  • simon mcgrath 18th Jan ’16 – 1:46pm……………..George has fundamentally failed to understand how the media works. Corbyn says ( yet again) something idiotic – by commenting Tim gets coverage he would not otherwise have done. Yes of course we should attack Labour for lots of other things but you have to go with the moment………..

    Simon, I think it is you who fail to understand how the media works….In the ongoing media ‘feeding frenzy’ regarding Corbyn, anyone can join in…..If the only coverage Tim gets is on an anti-Corbyn platform it demonstrates how no-one cares what he thinks on matters of national importance…

  • The notion of linking dividends to pay is definitely worth exploring. It’s a pity Tim didn’t think of it first. On LDV, as recently 20 December 2015, an article appeared :

    “Tim Farron says that his mission for 2016 is to raise inequality up the political agenda”.

    Could this now be described on LDV as ‘an egalitarian fantasy’ ?

  • Corbyn likes to read books but not about economics. The railways in Britain need to carry more freight. The technology exists for moving containers by rail and then putting the container on the back of a lorry for the final part of its journey.
    The Liberal Democrats must outline alternative policies both to Labour and the Conservatives. The Conservatives are dangerously complacent, they fail to grasp the growing economic strengh of East Asia.
    Imagine it is China that is developing high speed railway technology and the country that invented railways-nowhere to be seen.

  • Phil Aisthorpe 18th Jan '16 - 4:57pm

    Do we actually have a Corbyn strategy? The polls have us stuck in single digits so we are clearly failing to attract disaffected moderate Labour supporters. With Labour in meltdown shouldn’t we be making some headway by now?

  • Peter Watson 18th Jan '16 - 5:00pm

    @Manfarang “Corbyn likes to read books …”
    So Tim Farron has declared that Lib Dems want to burn books? 😉

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Jan '16 - 5:16pm

    Phil Aisthorpe – I don’t find ‘meltdown’ a helpful phrase. It’s a cold war. It might hot up. It’s not a meltdown yet.

    What is a ‘meltdown’? How do you test for one? Just because it’s axiomatic that Labour (or the leadership of Labour) is having a ‘meltdown’, what does that mean? For who and how and where? And, to put it from other point of view, what if Labour is having several separate meltdowns, not one?

    I’d say that Labour is dysfunctional, it’s not effective as an opposition, but that doesn’t mean there are therefore immediately easy pickings that would give instant results for ourselves as a party, for all kinds of reasons.

    This the kind of thinking that led our party to feel Charles Kennedy should have done ‘better’ against Blair in the early 2000s, when we were in fact at our high point.

  • @Phil Aisthorpe: “With Labour in meltdown shouldn’t we be making some headway by now?”

    The politically interested circles and the media might be convinced Labour are in Meltdown but polling (and I know polling gets a deservedly bad rap after May but, still, changes in support should show) don’t show any movement in Labour support since Corbyn took office and Labour membership is continuing to grow so where are they former Labour voters supposed to be coming from?

  • Very perceptive article. Tim Farron seems to have learned nothing from Clegg’s disastrous strategy during his last days in the bunker, when his grim warnings of a Labour/SNP left-wing coalition drove so many ex-Lib Dem voters in to the hands of the Tories.

    Alas, I’ll be astonished if I ever hear words as wise as this article coming from the mouth of a senior Lib Dem.

  • Peter Watson 18th Jan '16 - 7:24pm

    The party should also be careful about what it wishes for. If all of its fire is on Corbyn and his particular brand of politics, which it certainly appears to be, then as soon as Labour replace him with a more Blairite alternative the Lib Dems suddenly look redundant and irrelevant.
    George Potter’s article seems to propose a very sensible way forward for the party.

  • Yellow Peril 18th Jan '16 - 9:33pm

    By the same logic should we not attack the Tories on, say, the NHS (ie Junior Doctors pay)? The public already don’t trust the Tories on it (rightly!) and it is a key Labour attack on them.

  • Ultimately, Lib Dems have limited media exposure currently and attacking Corbyn will just have Tim lost in a crowd of right wing pundits who don’t want to challenge the established way of doing things and thus don’t want a fairer society.

    As far as I can work out, the new universal credit laws (once rolled out proper) would have made it somewhere between very unlikely and impossible for JK Rowling to write a series that has made the UK many millions and created thousands of jobs. Far smarter to point out that the conservatives are not supporting potential wealth creators rather than be seen to echo others.

  • Peter Watson
    Not to my knowledge. I think Tim may well write books.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jan '16 - 2:57am

    One of my big worries is that someone like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn is going to get in and make economic policy based on myths and prejudice. Obviously the public are concerned about inequality and I get concerned too, but we need to remember to seek justice and not just some short-term rise in the opinion polls.

    Bernie Sanders is already driving Hillary Clinton to the “left” and she is probably going to be president. But it isn’t even the left where Bernie Sanders gets his policies from. I don’t know what you call policies partly based on myths, scapegoats and conspiracy theories.

  • Clive Peaple 19th Jan '16 - 8:33am

    I think that we need to say what we are about, rather than bouncing off the other teams’ inadequacies. Time for metaphor to clear our thought and inform planning. Scaling the north face of the Eiger possibly?

  • We live, as the Chinese are reputed to say, in interesting times. If the Tories have some internal difficulties, so has Labour and so have Libdems. The Tories are getting away with murder while the opposition is so ineffective and split, and I am not sure that attacking Corbin is what we should be doing. We may reflect that Labour got an unexpected Leader after OMOV was taken to extremes by taking on additional new voters at the last minute. It is that madness that I want to see attacked: they have got what their electoral arrangements gave them. Stupid, or what?

  • “since the public think that the Tories are economically competent then any attacks we make on Labour’s economic competence will just drive voters to the Tories.”

    The non-Tory public will be looking for non-Tories who are economically competent. The Tory public are already Tory. What you need in Guildford George, is sufficient reason to attract those who voted Tory towards your Lib Dem candidate.

  • Kevin White 19th Jan '16 - 9:28am

    We should be attacking the economic illiteracy of the Tories in committing the country to wasting circa £167billion on renewing the white elephant that is Trident.

  • Paul King 19th Jan ’16 – 8:49am………….. We may reflect that Labour got an unexpected Leader after OMOV was taken to extremes by taking on additional new voters at the last minute. It is that madness that I want to see attacked: they have got what their electoral arrangements gave them. Stupid, or what?…………..

    The ‘OMOV’ wasn’t confined to “£3 members”…Corbyn won from every section of Labour voting….Trade Unions, existing Labour members, etc….

    Implying that he ONLY won due to ‘special voters’ is “Stupid, or what?”

  • George is bang on the money to caution mocking Corbyn. Eveytime I feel inclined to ‘lend’ the Lib Dems my vote a Simon Shaw or a Eddie Sammon pops up and back in my pocket goes the loan. Like it or not you are in desperate need of voters such as myself. When the fourth and fifth places start piling up all over the place in May and the party slips further into the void maybe you will see sense but I wont hold my breath. Silly sausages.

  • @ Silvio Agree with your diagnosis Silvio.

    Liberals were at their best when challenging the forces of conservatism in both the Tory and the Labour Party. Somewhere along the line… post Charlie Kennedy…. all that got lost and the Party lost its radical mojo. The pursuit of office, knighthoods, peerages, large lecture fees and a pale pink pseudo conservatism grabbed the levers of power and policy in the Party.

    We know what the electorate thought about it. The drop in the Lib Dem vote in places I know best (West Yorkshire and Scotland) was catastrophic. The sad thing is that the characters you mention just don’t seem to get it and nit-picky small ‘c’ conservatism butters no parsnips. I think Tim does get it …. but he seems to be looking over his shoulder all the time so as not to offend the Party grandees.

    We have seen rising inequalities in society since 2010 so there is plenty to go at if only Tim could focus on his pledge to tackle inequality in 2016.

  • @Jack makes the valid point that we are still blamed for what we are perceived to have done in coalition, I.e. ‘Got into bed with the Tories. This also has to be addressed. For a number of reasons we subscribed to the doctrine of cabinet responsibility, so that the understandable conclusion was drawn that we went along with everything. Well, now we are in opposition and free to make clear where we stood.
    We need to be quoting chapter and verse whenever the present government introduce something we blocked, that that is indeed what we did. WE know that many of the things now causing alarm and outrage would have gone onto the statute book on n 2010-2015, had we not blocked them. We know that but we seem reluctant to press the point.
    It’s not enough to discredit our opponents on issues without also working to counter the myth of the Con-Dems.

  • George Potter 19th Jan '16 - 12:38pm

    The fact is that most of the people who like Corbyn aren’t necessarily hardcore socialists. Many of them are young voters who like Corbyn’s apparent authenticity and willingness to offer an alternative to a status quo which has comprehensively failed them.

    I would say that those kind of voters are exactly the kind of voters we should hope to have supporting us, especially when the extremeness of Corbyn and his core supporters comes to light.

    Remember that most people pay very little attention to politics. What they saw and liked about Corbyn is someone who didn’t come across as an identikit politician, who was authentic and principled, who had integrity and who challenged the economic status quo.

    The appetite for that brand of politics is still out there and it would be idiotic of us not to try and satisfy it – as that is very much what modern liberalism should be about. But there is no way we can demonstrate that we are the logical home for those of that political taste when all we are *seen* to be doing is attacking the broad economic principles of Corbyn when those are precisely the kind of principles which make him seen attractive for those for whom voting Tory is out of the question.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jan '16 - 12:58pm

    I’m fairly certain I’ve never voted Conservative and Tim Farron won me back over with his Syria vote, so let’s not go around telling people who others support.

    I’ve got plenty of policies such as a wealth cap that Tories wouldnt touch.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jan '16 - 2:12pm

    Thanks Simon Shaw. 🙂

    Yes I had said I was voting Conservative in the next European and Local elections, but then said I was voting Lib Dem again after Tim supported the Syria strikes.

    It might sound a peculiar issue to give my support back over for, but I thought it was a brave call and I “lobbied” quite hard for it!

  • – Soft Conservative
    – Protest vote type UKIP
    – Genuine (as opposed to Far Left) Green
    – Non-voter
    – Corbyn-disliking/more moderate Labour
    – Corbyn-admiring/more left wing Labour

    Non-exhaustive indeed….I’d consider that the number of ‘overlaps’ in the first five categories could mean that they could, in fact, be treated as one group….

    But we’ve already tried them…These were the people that would flock to our banner between 2010-15 as we proved “we were no longer a party of protest” (or, as I viewed it “we were no longer a party of values)….That experiment was the longest suicide in history….

    I agree with George Potter (19th Jan ’16 – 12:38pm)…”The fact is that most of the people who like Corbyn aren’t necessarily hardcore socialists. Many of them are young voters who like Corbyn’s apparent authenticity and willingness to offer an alternative to a status quo which has comprehensively failed them.”

    Our history was with the young, the idealistic, those who want change. That should also be our future…

  • Matt (Bristol) 19th Jan '16 - 3:14pm

    IMHO, There isn’t one message that is going to work for us.
    The problem is, the multiple messages we would need to have would need to be:
    – not seen to be incompatible and contradictory
    – voiced by a limited number of spokespersons
    – got over in very limited ‘airtime’

    If you contrast this to what the Tories did at the election, they were able to play multiple messages but:
    – their inherent contradictions and hypocrisies were either not seen or felt to be irrelevant, or subsumed by distrust of the alternatives.
    – voiced by a greater number of spokespersons (and spokesmedia), locally and nationally so that the tensions in this approach were not shown up too much
    – boosted by a lot of airtime

    Given the emphasis on leadership and authenticity in what we’re seeing coming out of the polling post-mortem, I wonder if we just need to focus on what I dislike – personality politics. Tim is a bluff, honest, Northern community-focused MP who says what he thinks and doesn’t evade tough questions. Therefore ‘we’ need to match him and be an honest, community-focused party that doesn’t evade tough questions.

    With regard to Labour, we should stop trying either to put the boot in too blatantly or expecting people to rush into our arms.

    Attacks on Labour, where we need to make them, need to be made in tones of patient exasperation with their current inability to make a coherent opposition to the Tories work.

    For a bit, I think we need to give up on positioning ourselves on the left-right spectrum. For this year, politics is too fluid. The differentiations I would seek are instead: The Tories are self-serving and manipulative, Labour and self-engrossed and not working properly as a political party. Instead, we will try hard, work hard, and be as honest as possible.

    I hope we could make that work … you never know.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Jan '16 - 3:22pm

    Completely agree with this article. Well said.

  • Good article and I definitely agree with Ian Hurdley that most of time at present should be spent pointing out what we stopped the Tories doing. The problem is that most voters get bored with the nitty gritty of politics and only see broad themes, so they know we don’t agree with Labour because we went into coalition with the Tories so there’s no need to bang that drum too loudly. Once we were in coalition we became irrelevant because we were seen as just keeping the Tories in power, so we need to shout about our successes AND our failures in winning the Tories over to our policies. They used to be seen as the nasty party so we should show how they are at best uncaring and at worst vindictive in their social policies. At the moment people don’t trust Labour so they are moving straight across to the Tories which has always happened and our best bet is to be economically competent and socially concerned about poverty and inequality. Tim’s focus on housing is a good one because new Labour did virtually nothing about the lack of social housing and affordable homes and obviously neither did the Tories.

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '16 - 6:41pm

    George Potter: “What they saw and liked about Corbyn is someone who didn’t come across as an identikit politician, who was authentic and principled, who had integrity and who challenged the economic status quo.”
    Matt (Bristol) “Tim is a bluff, honest, Northern community-focused MP who says what he thinks and doesn’t evade tough questions.”
    David Raw “I think Tim does get it …. but he seems to be looking over his shoulder all the time so as not to offend the Party grandees.”
    I think these points are related, and also reflect some of the disappointment I have felt since Tim Farron became leader. I think he can present himself as different from the “identikit” politicians, as someone who is “authentic and principled” with “integrity” and “challenging the economic status quo”. I hoped he would mark some sort of break with, or underlining of, the recent past and allow the party to move forward but somehow it feels as if he is being restrained, perhaps by a need to maintain peace between those with different opinions about the years in coalition, and as a result the party appears a bit directionless.

  • Katerina Porter 19th Jan '16 - 7:21pm

    Thank you for the good article. We should be concentrating on the Tories who are doing enormous damage to the country and its institutions at this very moment as well as during the coalition and accept where we were complicit. We should certainly take what credit we are entitled to but emphasise that we have a new leadership and a new approach. For instance the NHS reforms of 2012 have destroyed the successful structures of 1948. The first clause then was that the Secretary of State had the duty to ensure that every citizen had the right to the best affordable treatment. This has been removed. The present structure of competition, contracts, of invoices and bills has driven the cost of running the NHS from that of those decades since 1948 of 3/4% of the budget, a slight rise when an internal market was brought in by Tony Blair, and now to 30/40% since 2012. This is so obviously impossible that it will put the Tories into the position of being able to say only privatisation will do. Things we should pick up on are Cameron saying that Muslim women must speak English or be deported and the government will spend 20 million for classes when they had cut 40 million from this program last year.It also adds to the demonisation of Muslims. He states that sink estates must be rebuilt, when it is really the value of the land that is in question for sale to private developers for private housing and seriously diminished social housing. They have put more and more burdens on local authorities but stopped them having the necessary funds. Social Services, libraries museums suffer. I cannot remember when our council tax last went up. And the line repeated by Nick only the other day that Labour crashed the economy is simply not true. The crash started in the US, it was Gordon Brown who saved the banks- hence the deficit – and Alistair Darling had already achieved some growth which the coalition reversed. Voters in Europe are looking to extremes just as they did at the time of the prewar Depression. Many are leaning to the left because of the failure of austerity and Corbyn is part of it. But it is the Conservatives who are the comtry’s immediate danger and should be our main target.

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '16 - 7:32pm

    @Katerina Porter “it will put the Tories into the position of being able to say only privatisation will do.”
    To be fair to the Tories, some Lib Dems are saying that as well (https://www.libdemvoice.org/privatisation-keeping-the-nhs-afloat-48775.html)

  • Agree with Steve Bradley re-Trident. It is hard to disagree with Corbyn over alternatives to armed conflict – throwing bombs around. There are really enough international problems around without exacerbating them by throwing our own bombs into the mix. We should be concentrating on using diplomacy at many levels (not just embassies) to solve heated situations. Considering the environmental state of the world, we should on a practical level be eschewing conflict, as it will just destroy our living habitat and that of our wildlife even faster than we are currently managing.

  • Katerina Porter 19th Jan '16 - 9:12pm

    The facts I quoted on the NHS were from Professor Allyson Pollock whose field it is. You can look it up.

    It is not the uncaring side of the Conservatives I was talking about, but their skills at very misleading presentation to use a polite word. I know those who are still One Nation Conservatives who might even join us.

  • Katerina Porter 19th Jan '16 - 9:19pm

    PS Quite a lot of these are worried about the Government efforts for close links with the Chinese, even joining their Bank. As for trusting them with a nuclear power station Sellafield refuses to have any use of Chinese steel because it is of such poor quality.

  • @ Katerina Porter

    Thank you, Katerina. Good to hear a voice of sanity on LDV.

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Jan '16 - 12:13pm

    Good article George.

    Even if not interested in party politics, fair minded progressive people understand there are major issues with much of what has been handed down to the ordinary citizens of the UK and most other countries via the post-1979 economic consensus, the financial crash – including what caused it and the results of the general austerity agenda – and the threats to the human and natural environment.

    Blair for Labour and Clegg for offered hope for a different future but each failed to deliver on promises of a fairer more citizen-centred politics and, having offered hope, paid the price in terms of their own and their parties reputations.

    I think Corbyn is also offering hope of an alternative, albeit in a socialist guise, and that it is this many have been latching on to. Where there are major issues with the direction the Tories are driving our society we should agree, clearly and publically but then concentrate our efforts on offering distinctive social justice Liberal Democratic solutions to these problems.

    Spending what little media exposure we get attacking Corbyn this far out from a General Election simply runs the risk of reinforcing memories of the poorly differentiated electorally disastrous coalition period in the minds of those we need to win back to our cause.

    Yes, belatedly the electorate have been told of the Tory policies we blocked but no one will be supporting us on the strength of that in four years time. This again brings us to the need to present our positive social, economic and environmental justice agenda to the British electorate.

    Finally, none of us know how the political landscape is going to develop over the next four years. Labour’s internal tensions may indeed cause them to split; more likely though the Tories, having continued in their efforts to skew the UK’s significant electoral playing field in their own favour, may leave the opposition parties in such a position that one of the few options available would be to work together for a broad short term pro-PR electoral arrangement. Labour appreciating the benefits to Britain in having a proportional voting system would represent a major success between now and 2020; this too would be better served by a less automatically hostile engagement.

  • Talking about strategy, just watched Prime Minister’s Questions on TV. As far as I could see there was only Tom Brake on the Liberal Democrat bench. We are in danger of becoming the invisible party.

    Is Tim a Privy Councillor or not ? I suspect not, but if he was he would get precedence to be called at PMQ’s. Does anybody know what the state of play is on this ?

    Back in 1967 Jeremy Thorpe became leader and was automatically made a Privy Councillor. I remember it well because J.T. got into trouble by writing (The Rt. Hon.) in ink on his passport. At the time we had 12 MP’s (reduced to 6 in 1970).

    Pressing for Tim to become a PC so as to get a voice at PMQ’s is one of the few bits of the (quasi) honours system I would support. Surely Cameron ought to support this as a mark of gratitude for the self sacrificing support he got from the Lib Dems in Coalition.

  • Katerina Porter 20th Jan '16 - 2:13pm

    Thank you David for the encouragement!

    For anyone wanting to look up Allyson Pollock her video on TEDxExeter is good

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