++ Government wins vote on Benefits Uprating Bill; 6 Lib Dem MPs rebel

There were no serious doubts the Coalition Government’s Benefits Uprating Bill — pegging increases in welfare payments at a below-inflation 1%, the same as public sector wage rises, for the next three years — would be approved. The only question was the size of majority and how many Lib Dems would rebel (I’ve been keeping a running tally here this afternoon).

There were two votes tonight. First, a Labour amendment to the Bill, defeated by 321 votes to 262, a government majority of 59. Then a vote on the unamended second reading, which the government won by 324 votes to 268, a majority of 56.

[Edit 7.30am, 9 Jan: originally I stated six Lib Dem MPs voted against. In fact, 4 voted against and 2 formally abstained, as follows…]

Six Lib Dem MPs rebelled on the second reading. Four voted against:

      Julian Huppert


      John Leech


      Sarah Teather and


    David Ward

A further two — Andrew George Charles Kennedy — formally abstained by voting both for and against the Bill. Adrian Sanders indicated on Twitter that he planned to abstain, and there is no vote recorded for him.

It is Sarah Teather’s opposition which has attracted most attention, as Mary Reid noted here this afternoon. Here’s the speech she made during the debate

Sarah Teather (Brent Central) (LD):
People who come to my constituency office these days for help with some kind of error in their benefits often spend the first few minutes trying to justify their worth. They usually begin by trying to explain their history of working and that they have paid tax. They are desperate to get over the point that they are not like other benefit claimants—they are not a scrounger. It is perhaps a feature of the way in which the term “scroungers” has become so pervasive in social consciousness that even those on benefits do not attempt to debunk the entire category, only to excuse themselves from the label.

Language matters. Politicians in this place know that, because all of us spend a good deal of time worrying about how everything we say will be reported by the media, just as journalists pore over every fact, comma and noun we give to look for power shifts and personal divisions. Any modern political party devotes considerable money and effort to testing messages with focus groups to see how they would influence voting patters. However, I am afraid we often spend less time considering how our language actually affects people’s lives, choices, values and sense of worth, how they rub up against their neighbours and how society itself functions.

In an atmosphere of uncertainty and limited resources and where every family in this country is struggling, there is a natural tendency to try to find someone to blame for our woes. A fissure already exists between the working and non-working poor. Hammering on that fault line with the language of “shirkers” and “strivers” will have long-term impacts on public attitudes, on attitudes to one neighbour against another. It will make society less generous, less sympathetic, less able to co-operate. The marginalisation of the undeserving poor will place one group outwith society entirely over time and leave them less able to make choices about their lives and to participate. That fragmentation of society, for me, is the spectre of broken Britain, and it is one that we hasten at our peril.

For those of us in this place who care about social justice, long-term changes in public attitudes to poverty should give us other causes of concern, because it will make it more difficult for any politicians who come after us to argue for any option for the poor, because public opinion will simply not support it. The irony, of course, is that, as many have said, many of those affected by the Bill are actually in work; many are the same group who have already had a negligible pay rise and are already bumping along at the bottom of the poverty threshold. For me, that is the first of a number of disingenuous comparisons used to argue for the fairness of the Bill. The first is that those affected are out of work, when many more are in fact in work but on low pay. As the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) mentioned a moment ago, many of those are part of the group of people who cycle in and out of work all the time; I see that in my constituency.

The second disingenuous point is about percentages themselves, which fail to take into account the cuts to housing benefit that families in my constituency will be experiencing in the next six months or so as the changes filter through. There are also the changes in April to council tax benefit; they will affect the same families affected by the uprating provisions in the Bill.

The third point is whether percentages mean anything at all. Whatever goal posts are used to measure the percentage change in benefit across time, it is clear that the monetary value of rising average wages is significantly more than that of benefits. Percentages do not buy milk, bread or school uniforms—pounds and pennies buy those things, and it is in pounds and pennies that people will experience a cut.

The fourth disingenuous point is probably that cutting the incomes of those at the bottom of the income threshold will help boost the economy. All the evidence says that money put into the pockets of those at the bottom of the income spectrum is most likely to be spent. That is precisely why my party argued so hard during negotiations to ensure that we raised the threshold of tax on the lowest paid.

I do not enjoy voting against my own party, and I cannot vote for the Labour amendment, but with a very heavy heart I shall be voting against the Second Reading of the Bill. I hope that I, and any others who choose that course of action, will give the Government some cause for thought and reflection.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Nick (not Clegg) 8th Jan '13 - 8:26pm

    I haven’t found much to applaud from the LibDem parliamentary party since May 2010, but I’d give this speech a standing ovation. The fact that only five other LibDems joined Sarah in the No lobby is an indication of the extent to which the party has lost its moral compass since ousting Charles Kennedy from the leadership.

  • Interesting rebels. Small in number but at least 3 are high profile.

    An ex-leader voting against the whip (I presume) is newsworthy

  • “The fact that only five other LibDems joined Sarah in the No lobby is an indication of the extent to which the party has lost its moral compass since ousting Charles Kennedy from the leadership.”

    Well, of course it’s their inalienable right to vote as they think fit – but of course they must be prepared to take the consequences for behaviour like this when they seek re-election.

  • I’m ashamed of them all.

    71p is the updating at 1% for those on JSA.

    The link to inflation has finally been broken but never did I believe that a Liberal Democrat would be responsible for doing so and to think that all bar 6 of them did is frankly, atrocious.

    For men and women to deny what is little more than peanuts to the very poorest in the land is the most undemocratic decision I have seen in a long time. The Impact Assessment was released just 2 hours prior to the debate and shows quite clearly that nearly 10m households – or 30% of all households – will lose money.

    I expected no better from the Tory party but not from the Liberal Democrats – how will they justify this decision to their constituents when they turn up at their surgeries ? It’s a nightmare from which many will never recover and what makes it much worse is that nobody cares.

    Disgusting !

  • To clarify

    When I say I’m ashamed of them all, I mean all those that voted to deny the uprating with inflation. I do not mean those mentioned above that rebelled.

  • I am really disgusted with the party.

    Even after all the reports that were published today by the charities and organisations like the Children’s Society,
    The DWP own impact assessment which verifies that the bottom decile income families are the worst affected.

    And yet despite all this information Liberal democrats still thought it was right to vote for a real terms cuts to benefits.

    Child poverty is on the increase, families reliant on food banks have risen six-fold, According to the Trussel Trust, their foodbanks fed 128,697 people nationwide in the 2011-12 financial year

    I really can not see how this party can keep it’s head held high whilst retaining the first paragraph of their constitution “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”

    I am looking forward to the local elections and being canvassed by the Libdems and I will not be interested in the excuse that “local government” is separate to “national government” and should be judged differently, because if you can not be trusted on a national level, why on earth should I trust the party on a local level.

    By the end of this parliament, if inflation stays at the “forecast levels” then people on out of work benefits would see a “real terms” cuts of 4% in their benefits.

    I know we are going to hear the same old trot on how the gap between rich and poor grew under labour, but that is no excuse for the government of today not to right the wrongs of the previous administration.

  • Shocking. A party that i once treasured has plunged to previously unimaginable depths. Shame on all those except the six. Well said Sarah.

  • Peter Hayes 8th Jan '13 - 9:09pm

    Well said Sarah, shame my MP seems to have been silent , but I don’t know yet how he voted. Does he not care for the voters in Saint Paul’s or off Lizzy Way?

  • Very pleased to read Sarah’s speech. In the interest of balance and a stance representative of the vast majority could we see the speeches of any of those who voted in favour please…

  • The ‘Magnificent Six’!

  • Richard Harris 8th Jan '13 - 9:37pm

    For libdem read tory-lite. A sad day when one considers the bold socially cohesive policies this party espoused only three years ago.

  • According to the unofficial Hansard tonight on the amendment by Labour, John Leech, Sarah Teather and David Ward all abstained whereas Andrew George, Julien Huppart and Charles Kennedy all voted against.

    On the bill itself Andrew George voted for and against second reading. Julien Huppert, Charles Kennedy, John Leech, Sarah Teather and David Ward all voted against.


    I guess it’s tomorrow when we get official confirmation of how the voting went.

  • Sorry, but 6 out of 57 says it all.

  • There’s a lot of posturing here today, but increasing benefits payments when so many workers are into year 3 of a wages freeze is in its way quite generous. Let’s hope that crackdowns on benefits fraudsters and on tax cheats are effective so that tax pounds are not wasted or lost.

  • Anne corris 8th Jan '13 - 10:18pm

    I ve probably waited too long for the libdems to redeem themselves I’m digusted by this and can only applaud Sarah Teather and those few who opposed the second reading. It is not liky to be enough for me to keep my membership. I’m a former councillor, committee chair constituency chair and ppc.

  • Leviticus18_23 8th Jan '13 - 10:22pm

    Well, it had to be done. Tax cuts for the rich don’t pay for themselves. And the poor aren’t going to give you a job on the board when your days of being an MP are over!
    It’s a new low.

  • I cannot believe ,that knowing that these measures would hit the poorest households hardest, the Liberal Democrats have nodded through another three years of misery to those in the greatest need.With inflation rising, tax credits erroded and the poorest in society having to pay council tax for the first time, you are hammering people, mainly workers and not so called shirkers, at the raw edge of society.Your tax changes at the lower end are cancelled out.
    What were you saying George Potter the other day about Labour ignoring the very poorest in society ? This is a shameful day for the party and your MPs have, in the main, swallowed wholesale ,the divisive rubbish spun by the Tories, or maybe you believe it.

  • Well done to those decent Liberal Democrats that voted against this nasty bill. But like many other unpleasant and nasty pieces of Conservative legislation that seeks to blame the poorest and those that have least control for the failure of the market, it has passed. The voters at the last election knew what the Conservatives may have in store for the country and voted for the Liberal Democrats to stop such nasty divisive legislation.

    The Conservatives shirkers comments ignores the fact that millions of low paid workers will be punished. The ignorance of benefit levels, fraud fed by the Conservatives and media. It is shocking the cynical level of debate.

    The debate is framed by the IDS, the Conservatives and the right wing media, those that are poor, or unemployed, are to blame and are morally weak and therefore responsible for the poverty.

    So when the Universal credit fails as it appears likely due to IT and other problems, it will be shown to be the ‘shirkers’ fault. The general public will be able to step over the homeless and ignore suffering because it is all the poor’s fault. It will be a shock when those that need it, will find out what has happened to the safety net.

    It is increasingly difficult to distinguish the Liberal Democrats from the Conservatives.

  • Can we make one of these six leader, and take it from there?

  • David Allen 9th Jan '13 - 12:37am

    “An ex-leader voting against the whip (I presume) is newsworthy.”

    Well, you’d have thought so. BBC1 News tonight failed to mention it. They did show Sarah Teather uttering the least effective line of her otherwise good speech, the bit about “with a heavy heart I shall be voting against”. They also ran a long explainer which told us that benefits had outrun wages over the last five years, without mentioning the fact that it is the other way round if you measure over a longer period and don’t try to use a short-term blip in the statistics as the basis for a dishonest argument. Basically the BBC contrasted Labour claiming to stand up for the poorest versus the Tories claiming to be doing the right thing for the national economy, and invited the viewer to decide which was the stronger pitch. And that’s from one of our least biased media sources!

  • Well spoken Sarah Teather although I am not a lib dem voter

  • Foregone Conclusion 9th Jan '13 - 3:32am

    Is there anything we’re not willing to do? I mean this quite seriously. I get coalition. Coalition means compromise. Compromise means voting for stuff you dislike. But this?

    Presumably in twelve months time , things will have got even worse and our party will have voted en masse for the Kill The Poor (Finance Regulations) Bill 2014.* And then Lib Dem Voice can tell anyone willing to listen how this is a Great Lib Dem Win because only the first-born children of the unemployment have been put to death, and Nick Clegg will tell us how the Terrible Mess Left By Labour made this all necessary, and LOOK GUYS, WE HAVE TAX CUTS, TAX CUTS, AND TAX CUTS! THAT TOTALLY MAKES UP FOR IT!

    Jesus wept.

    *Swiftian irony employed here. I hope.

  • Foregone Conclusion 9th Jan '13 - 3:40am

    Incidentally, one of the only good reasons I can think for me to stay as a Lib Dem is for the pleasure of voting for a new leader in 2015 – and chosing someone who isn’t Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, David Laws or Jeremy Browne. Then perhaps we can have a confident party of social justice back – the party I joined.

  • johnmc 8th Jan ’13 – 10:13pm…………There’s a lot of posturing here today, but increasing benefits payments when so many workers are into year 3 of a wages freeze is in its way quite generous. ………

    Yes, really generous. After all, those who benefited from scrapping the 50% tax rate have only awarded themselves a 12% increase over the last 12 months. Such ‘restraint’ needs to be paid for.

  • At times when the economy is growing faster, should benefits be tied to cost of living, or should the growth of the economy be factored in? In the past clearly account has been taken of the state of the economy and public finances (which is why benefits are higher than in much poorer countries).

  • whilst Minimum wage is appallingly low and we should have a living wage.

    Minimum wage did actually go up 11p an hour in 2012 which equates to a dismal £4.29 a week, most people would be entitled to working and child tax credits on top of that.

    In contrast people on JSA, will see a paltry 71p a week increase.

    David Allen is entirely correct where he points out that “that benefits had outrun wages over the last five years, without mentioning the fact that it is the other way round if you measure over a longer period and don’t try to use a short-term blip in the statistics as the basis for a dishonest argument. “

  • Evidently Charles Kennedy abstained (by voting both for and against).

    Oh well. There’s ane end of ane auld sang.

  • The killer argument is – can it be right to reduce the margin between benefits and wages at a time when by cross-party agreement wee have had a public sector pay freeze and now a 1% increase to partly recognise inflation? However underneath all this is a story of massive public subsidy for low-paying private employers. Can it really be true that over 60% of those losing out from this latest measure are in work?

    Seamus Milne has it right in this morning’s Guardian when he says – “welfare has become a prop for the failure of neoliberal capitalism to deliver jobs on decent wages. In Britain the prop has partly taken the form of subsidising poverty pay through New Labour’s tax credits and exorbitant private rents through a massively expanded housing benefit bill.”

  • Steve Griffiths 9th Jan '13 - 1:42pm

    Well I suppose it’s a little refreshing to note that there are still some Lib Dem MPs that ressemble the type of Liberal/Lib Dem MPs that I recall the party once had when I joined. It’s probably too late to get my enthusiasm back to rejoin, but then as the likes of Richard Reeves has said and indeed Nick Clegg has largely endorsed in recent speeches, they don’t want us back; the current leadership is have with it’s narrow centrist viewpoint.

  • Steve Griffiths 9th Jan '13 - 1:45pm

    Apologies, that should read “happy with it’s narrow centrist viewpoint”.

  • Simon Hebditch 9th Jan '13 - 3:01pm

    Yet another nail in the coffin. The party leadership has sold its soul

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jan '13 - 3:38pm

    @David Allen:

    ” Basically the BBC contrasted Labour claiming to stand up for the poorest versus the Tories claiming to be doing the right thing for the national economy, and invited the viewer to decide which was the stronger pitch. ”

    Which is a fine example of why the national Lib Dem strategy is so flawed. Those responsible do not have the ‘clout’ and/or coherence to push into the media agenda, of/for those covering this issue, any distinctive ‘third way’. Although our Party’s pressing the Tories to allow 1 per cent made the news for a day or two, it has now long-since disappeared off the media agenda. It’s all ‘hot or cold’: ‘cuts or no cuts’. The result is that the largest part of the electorate sees us mainly nodding along with the Tories (including their foul Daily Express rhetoric) , and not even having the coherence to do that with any uniformity. 🙁

  • Thank you Sarah for the most inspiring and aspirational speech I have heard from the Liberal Democrats for some time.

    Yes, aspirational, the aim that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.

  • David Allen 9th Jan '13 - 4:37pm

    “It’s probably too late to get my enthusiasm back to rejoin”

    That’s what the Clegg coupists are bargaining on. They could have set up their proto-German FDP party from new, but by taking over the Lib Dems by stealth instead, they got the priceless “goodwill” of our established “business” – a membership organisation, a councillor base, six million past “customers”, etc. All now ready to keep the Coalition in power for a generation, if they can. Perhaps they can. When it comes to the crunch, will the voters trust Balls’s manic glint, or Miliband’s limp quasi-professorial act?

    Winning our party back will be worth the work.

  • @David Allen

    “Winning our party back will be worth the work.”

    But the problem is how do you go about doing this?

    If LDV members surveys are anything to go by, the majority of the party believes the coalition will stick till 2015.
    Nick Clegg has clearly said that he intends to remain as party leader after the next election.

    If party members think it is best for the party to stick to the coalition right upto the next general election, I can not see there being much support from the party faithful to oust Nick Clegg through fear of destabilising the coalition.

    We have just heard that Laws has been appointed to chair the next party manifesto, so it seems as though the right leaning faction of the party intend to continue to dominate the Liberal Democrats.

    I dont see any evidence on how good people like yourselves can achieve the enormous task of regaining control of your party.
    I do not mean that to be disrespectful to you or others I have admiration for within the party who I have mentioned in previous posts

  • Steve Griffiths 9th Jan '13 - 5:09pm

    David Allen

    Well I never considered that that was what was behind the lurch in an unfamiliar direction for the party, but I suppose on reflection you may have a germ of truth there. And if many like me did return to “fight and fight again” to reclaim the party that we once loved, and assuming we won it back, what would be left? Six MPs that deserved the title Liberal Democrat; a fast shrinking councillor base that I and many others fought for, for years, to build up (just wait for the next clear-out in May); and an electorate with a massive sense of betrayal.

    Then we’d have to start all over again………mind you it might be fun to see the looks on the faces of the Cleggistas!

  • Julian Critchley 9th Jan '13 - 5:49pm

    Mr Sanders

    What you say makes perfect sense. However, I think you mistake what “smart” politics is. It’s all very well saying there are now opportunities for amendments to this rancid Bill (tm, Miliband. D), but in the mind of the voting public, the LibDems have already supported its passage. The betrayal of previous values is logged, and another example of facilitating a toxic Tory attack on the poorest amongst us is noted in the books alongside the NHS “reforms” and the tuition fee U-turn. You might think it’s smart politics to allow this to happen. Indeed, you can make a case that in the case of tuition fees, the actual result wasn’t bad at all when you read the small print.

    But voters don’t read the small print. They only look at the headlines. Sure the political anoraks like myself might note the minutiae of various measures, but most voters do not. What the LibDems in Parliament have done here, is further ensured that none of those voters who left since 2010 are coming back. I’ve said this before, and it’s worth repeating : the people who approve of measures like this already have a party to vote for : the Tories. There is no political space for another Tory Party.

    That Clegg and the leadership do not seem to be able to understand either this fundamental political truth, or the nature of public opinion and presentation, is simply tragic. For both the party, and for our country.

  • David Allen 9th Jan '13 - 6:18pm

    Adrian Sanders – Before I post anything else, thanks for this illuminating analysis of “smart politics”. It’s not the way most people on this thread are thinking, but yes, if you can make a bad situation a bit less bad, all power to your elbow.

  • Adrian,

    “An amendment to do this, link rises to earnings, although not perfect, nor what I would wish to see if it was just down to me, would be better than what’s proposed and possibly, if Labour support it, achievable.”

    This seems a practical and reasunable compromise position in present circumstances. You have not, howver, mentioned what it is you would like to see!

    Much of the parliamentary rhetoric surrounding the welfare uprating debate appears inconsistent and incongruous with the message accompaning the 2010 restoration of the link between the state pension and earnings, scrapped in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher. The chancellor, in announcing the triple lock, proffered the measure as evidence that the coalition is a “progressive alliance”. He said “There will be no more 75p increases in the basic state pension. With this coalition government pensioners will have the income to live with dignity in retirement.”

    On the theme of work and benefits, a related issue on which Labour support should be easily achievable is a Libdem initiated Job guarantee program, funded by restrction of higher rate tax relief on pension contrbutions.

  • David Allen 9th Jan '13 - 6:56pm

    Matt, Steve Griffiths,

    Well – I was saying what I’m saying now at the time of the tuition fees disaster, when our Party should first have realised what a mistake it had made. If we had decided then that we had chosen the wrong leader and the wrong course, it would have been a lot easier to make the change. The Lib Dem MPs (who after all did rebel in quite large numbers on that issue) would have maintained their integrity intact, having refused to make the first big unacceptable compromise they were confronted with.

    There is always an excuse for shying away from an inconvenient truth. In the case of tuition fees, there was an ambiguous statement in the coalition agreement to the effect that the Lib Dems would be expected to abstain on some sort of compromise result. When that turned out to mean a tripling of the fees, many people felt that arguably they had already sold the pass, and therefore couldn’t later kick up a fuss.

    I was saying what I’m saying now at the time of the NHS bill disaster, when for the first time we voted through a major “reform” (read destruction) which was not in the Coalition agreement. Those who had thought of tuition fees as a one-off special case could not say the same about this Bill. If we had decided then that we had chosen the wrong course, it would have been possible to justify a change. The Lib Dem MPs could have argued that they had maintained their integrity intact, having refused to accept the first big departure from the Coalition agreement they were confronted with.

    As you point out, the longer we go on making the wrong decisions, the harder it becomes to justify breaking the habit. However, it’s just like drinking to excess: the more you do it, the more important it is to stop!

    What becomes ever clearer is that none of these events are one-off blips. The words “mad conspiracy theorists” are beginning to die on the lips of those Lib Dems out side the Clegg camp who have used them in the past. Once upon a time Matthew Huntbach and I seemed to be almost lone dissident voices on this blog. Now there are many of us.

    OK, I still have not answered your question “how can you achieve this task”. I’m getting there….

    Part of the struggle is to win the battle of ideas. That’s where I’ve been piling in. Others with more active roles and responsibilities will be able to make other contributions.

    There is a natural horror, in this or any other party, of the destructive internal opponent, the splitter. The task now is to identify who that is.

    It is not Matthew Huntbach, or Bill le Breton, or me. It is Clegg, Alexander, and Laws. They have determined to split the party, and break away from those they so misleadingly describe as the “refugees from Labour”, and whom they have instructed to leave. It is the Clegg gang who should walk the plank.

    If they won’t do it, then we must be prepared to saw the ship in two. I don’t want to see the ship sawn in two. But I didn’t take my cronies, form up on one side of the ship, and declare that the other side could go hang. It was Clegg who did that. If he carries on as captain, he will set sail for permanent right-wing rule for a generation. Better than that will be to scuttle the ship.

  • Adrian you mention linking benefit rises to earnings yet earnings rises are currently at 1% and this is the reason Cameron gives for restricting benefit to 1%, regardless of the real terms value between the two.

    You also say (and I paraphrase here) that third reading and changes in House of Lords will be key yet we saw what happened with the Welfare Reform Bill and the changes made in the House of Lords to that – the govt invoked financial privilege to override those changes and railroad the bill through !

    I never believed that Liberal Democrats finally in govt would agree to further impoverish the poorest of the country. People living on subsistence levels are to be penalised for that by deliberately breaking the historic link between benefits and inflation. When we are expecting huge inflation rises because of rising energy and food prices this year, the actions of this govt are shameful and believe me, it’s not the £65k (min) a year, plus expenses, MPs that will be feeling the pain but the weakest and for that reason most of all, I am truly disgusted.

    Please don’t think I am making you personally responsible – of course I’m not but you put your head above the parapet so cannot complain too much if we shoot at the target (metaphorically of course).

  • @David Allen

    Thanks for the response. I really do hope that you and like minded “reasonable and compassionate” thinkers are able to take back control of the party.
    I have to say that I truly admire your resilience.

    I truly hope that members of the party stops and starts to listen, get behind your arguments and add their voice to your reasoned thinking. The domineering right fraction of the party are far to loud and unfortunately are the only ones who get heard, hence the reason they have managed to drive away so many of their former supporters or floating voters.

  • Julian Critchley 9th Jan '13 - 9:13pm

    “Julian, you are right, voters don’t read the small print and in my experience of having rarely, if ever, voted against a 2nd reading in Opposition or in Government it’s how I voted at 3rd reading that they remember!”

    Mr Sanders

    Under normal circumstances I’d agree. Largely, the point at which voters pay attention is the point at which the media decides to cover the issue. Unfortunately, the LibDems now have a track record of being on the wrong side of the issue when it’s covered in the media, and then doing any good works unnoticed. I’m sure the various NHS amendments championed by the LibDems made a terrible bill into merely an awful one. And I know that their work on tuition fees made a dreadful policy into a less dreadful one. I have no doubt you can try to ameliorate the effects of this rancid Bill, although having a 1% fixed rise or not is a bit of a binary issue, resistant to much nuance.

    But the public don’t give a stuff, because when those issues are covered, the Lib Dems are hugely increasing tuition fees in direct betrayal of their pre-election pledge, are supporting the dismantling of the NHS, and are hammering the poorest people (working and not working) in our society. Their good works are irrelevant, and in the latter case, anything short of a full party rebelion which defeats this odious Bill will not even register with the electorate.

    Yet the people who like these measures already vote Tory, and the people who dislike these measures see no reason to vote for a party which helps them to pass. So I remain completely oblivious to the section of the electorate who are happy to see these awful measures passed, yet don’t want to vote Tory to see it done. Clearly they’re the people Clegg is counting on to vote LibDem in 2015, which is why he can afford to be so overjoyed to see the back of the 60% of the Party’s former supporters, like me, who actually voted for the party’s pre-election policies. The problem is, I don’t know if this non-Tory-voting group of pro-Tory-policy voters exists anywhere except in Clegg’s head.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jan '13 - 10:50am

    Julian Critchley, I appreciate your arguments are about the headlines, and yes I agree the simplistic coverage the headlines give means the Liberal Democrats are getting hammered from both sides.

    However, there is this thing called “democracy”, and under this thing the people of this country – the public as you call them – chose to elect a Conservative-dominated government. They chose to make the Conservatives the biggest party, and then in case it was not clear, they endorsed the current electoral system after a campaign in its defence in which its distortion in favour of the biggest party was put as its best feature. The people of this country chose, by two to one, to support an electoral system which gave the Conservatives 306 MPs and the Liberal Democrats 57 MPs even though the share of votes of these two parties was nothing like that – the Conservatives had just over one and a half times as many votes as the Liberal Democrats.

    So what right have the Liberal Democrats to turn down what the people of this country voted for? How could this country be governed if every party insisted on voting against everything that was not 100% in line with its own policies? By voting “No” in the referendum on electoral reform the people of this country said they don’t want this, they said they want distortion so the biggest party always gets what it wants. That was the message the “No” campaign put, and it had the support of many prominent Labour politicians as well as Conservatives. The biggest party in the last election was the Conservative Party, so anyone who voted “No” in the referendum was in effect voting for the Conservatives to be dominant in government right now.

    You say the Liberal Democrats are “happy to see these awful measures passed”, but I am a Liberal Democrat and I am not. However, as a democrat I have to live with that – democracy means I have to accept much that is passed that I disagree with.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jan '13 - 10:55am

    Julian Critchley

    I’m sure the various NHS amendments championed by the LibDems made a terrible bill into merely an awful one. And I know that their work on tuition fees made a dreadful policy into a less dreadful one. I have no doubt you can try to ameliorate the effects of this rancid Bill, although having a 1% fixed rise or not is a bit of a binary issue, resistant to much nuance.

    Yup, and had there been more Liberal Democrat MPs and fewer Conservative MPs it all could have been pushed more in a Liberal Democrat direction. Had there been more Liberal Democrat MPs than Conservative MPs, the general direction of the government would be Liberal Democrat. But it is not like that because that’s not how the public voted. Sorry. If the public don’t like it, they shouldn’t have voted for it. Why blame those who lost the general election and lost the referendum vote for the consequences of the winner winning?

  • Steve Griffiths 10th Jan '13 - 11:21am

    David Allen

    But the battle of ideas is far from being won and the SLF and Lib Left do not seem to have achieved a great deal and seem from a (now) outsider like me to be pretty ineffective. I do acknowledge my own part in simply giving up and going away in disgust, but there seemed to be few senior Lib Dems saying anything other than the regular ‘Pravda’ which now eminates from the leadership of the party. If there are many dissedent MPs then the Lib Dems’ whips office need congratulating on how effective it has been up to now in keeping them quiet. David, you will need senior party figures as well as a return of the lost membership like me and I don’t see many likely ones, other than say Lord Oakeshot who has turned protest into an art-form. I have not heard any senior LibDem come out and denounce the bile spouted by the likes of Richard Reeves, for example.

    I wrote in my resignation letter from the party that these times were eerily like the coalitions of the 1930s when MPs that were very content with forming goverments with the Tories, became the National Liberals and the historical split occured. You may indeed be right that, sadly, the time has come to consider “sawing the ship in two” as you put it and the half of the ship we would find ourselves in might, coalesce around Lib Left, SLF, the lost members and even the still existing Liberal Party, but think of the recovery time.

  • Matthew

    I appreciate all you are saying.

    On the NHS though, I do not remeber voting for this. I voted LD and I don’t remember anything about them voting against party policy on the NHS.

    I don’t remember the Coalition agreement being put up for the vote.

    I voted LD and I will not be held responsable for how other people voted. When I voted LD I diod not expect them to vote for policies that they have opposed.

    Yes coalition is a compromise but i think it is a week argument saying that we voted for this, because we didn’t really did we?

  • Julian Critchley 10th Jan '13 - 4:57pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    That’s such a weak argument. It redefines coalition as capitulation, in which the largest party is entitled to force through any legislation it likes on the grounds that it got more seats than the smaller party. That may be the view of Tories who don’t accept that they didn’t win a majority, but it’s complete cobblers.

    If you want to quote numbers, 10.7m people voted Tory. 8.6m people voted Labour and 6.8m people voted LibDem. If we’re going to take this ridiculously simplistic approach, then the LibDems also have a moral duty to vote through any proposals put by Labour, because they have more seats and votes too ! Complete nonsense.

    I teach modern British political history, and if any of my students wrote about what “the people of this country” voted for, I’d hammer their mark. On the grounds that “the people of this country” don’t agree on anything. There are groups of people, who vote for different things. In order to bring order from that chaos, we have political parties who represent broad coalitions of voters. Which means that Tory voters voted for these measures. Labout voters voted for those measures, and LibDem voters voted for the measures over there. Most of the time, our electoral system awards total power to a minority of voters. On this occasion it didn’t. So for a LibDem to suggest that we should simply pretend that result didn’t matter, and grant total power to a minority anyway, is just bunkum of the highest order.

    Coalition can just as realistically mean that a government only delivers what both sides agree on. Or that it means that it will deliver X of what the Tories want but the LIbDems don’t, in return for Y of what the LibDems want but the Tories don’t. But the idea that it means that the government delivers whatever the largest party wants, even if the smaller party doesn’t, by some sort of moral right, is such nonsense that I can hardly believe I’m having to type this.

    The fact is that for every 100 Tory voters at the last election, there were 65 LibDem voters and 85 Labour voters. When the Parliamentary party votes through toxic Tory legislation which serves only the interests of Tory voters, it is passing legislation which the overwhelming majority of voters DID NOT BACK at the last election. It is ridiculous for any LibDem to suggest that they had no choice because of some bizarre interpretation of the concept of democracy or coalitions. Of course they have a choice. It’s the fact that they are repeatedly choosing to back Tory legislation which is responsible for their current 8% pol rating. What complete tripe.

  • Julian Critchley

    Thank you! The voice of reason, at last!

  • Julian Critchley 10th Jan '13 - 5:47pm

    At the risk of sounding like a nutter on a bus (gosh, but Matthew’s post really wound me up)…

    I have absolutely no problem with Clegg turning around and saying that he couldn’t get LibDem legislation past because of Tory opposition. No problem at all. That’s how coalition works – you need to obtain support or assent from the other coalition partner(s), either through principled agreement, or horse-trading. If you don’t, you can’t move on that issue. Fine. What I cannot understand is the number of times that LibDem support has been given to Tpry legislation which has very little or no support in the party. If Clegg could point to LibDem legislation which the Tories hated, but which had been granted as quid pro quo, then it would be more tolerable. But while the Tories will point to lots of examples of them having to temper their assault on the poor, or their climate change denial, or their ideological free-marketeering nonsense, because of LibDem reluctance, I’m not aware of a single piece of legislation which the LibDems have inspired and passed which the majority of Tories found objectionable. They wouldn’t even pass the Lords Reform Act, and it was in the Coalition Agreement ! On the other hand, the list of pieces of legislation which the LibDems have not supported as a party, but allowed the Tories to pass, is too long to list here, and plenty of it is not in the coalition agreement. When Clegg casts around for examples of what the LibDems have achieved, he either points to polciies which both parties broadly supported, or policies where the LibDems have tried to limit the damage caused by some obnoxious Tory policy or other. But the problem with this latter category is that the party still helped the Tories to pass that legislation when it could have stopped it.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the smaller party in a coalition exerting its position to prevent legislation which its supporters would not approve of. In fact, given that its supporters voted for the LibDems, not the Tories, the moral case for preventing rancid Tpry policies is much stronger than any moral case that because 35% of the electorate voted Tory, the LibDems have a duty to ride roughshod over the wishes of the other 65% !

  • Having seen the film ‘The Iron Lady’ recently, I was reminded of just how close all three political parties are nowdays perceived to be by the general public.

    Since Thatcherism replaced the ‘Buttslellite Consensus’ in 1979, it has dominated the beliefs of all British government since including the governments of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

    Most of the major British political parties today accept the anti-trade union legislation, privatisations and general free market approach to government that Thatcher’s governments installed. No major political party in the UK, at present, is committed to reversing the Thatcher government’s reforms of the economy. Such a convergence of policy is one reason that the British electorate perceive few apparent differences in policy between the major political parties

    Thatcherism is sometimes compared to classical liberalism. Milton Friedman claimed that “the thing that people do not recognise is that Margaret Thatcher is not in terms of belief a Tory. She is a nineteenth-century Liberal.” Thatcher herself stated in 1983: “I would not mind betting that if Mr Gladstone were alive today he would apply to join the Conservative Party”. In the 1996 Keith Joseph memorial lecture Mrs. Thatcher argued that “The kind of Conservatism which he and I…favoured would be best described as ‘liberal’, in the old-fashioned sense. And I mean the liberalism of Mr. Gladstone, not of the latter day collectivists”.

    In 2002, Peter Mandelson, famously declared that “we are all Thatcherites now.” Andew Marr has called libertarianism the “dominant, if unofficial, characteristic of Thatcherism”

    Thatcherism is closely associated with supply-side economics and rejects the Liberal heritage of Keynes and Beveridge together with the associated economic policies developed around securing full-employment.

    It is the same thatcherist ideology of authoritarian populism that underlines the current IDS approach to welfare reforms.

  • @Julian Critchley

    Absolutely spot on the money.

    I can not see myself ever voting Liberal Democrats again after the betrayals in this government. It would take some kind of seismic shift to get me to change my mind, and I have to say the arguments and excuses that we constantly keep hearing about parliamentary arithmetic and the constant blaming of the electorate for the loss of AV or It’s the electorates fault for not voting in enough Libdem MP’s quite frankly is just turning me off even more.

    When the party was putting forward it’s argument for AV, where did they say that in order for plural politics to work though they need to have at least “x” amount to be able to mitigate the excesses of the larger party. They didn’t, because quite frankly that’s not how a coalition should work.

    The parties should come together where they agree, negotiate where they don’t and make trades in other policies area’s where there is no particularly strong argument for or against.

    But what a coalition government should never be able to do, is rail road through polices that where in neither parties manifesto and neither party has a mandate to do, especially on policies that are of such significance to the country as a whole like the NHS

  • MPs have suggested a 32% hike in their pay to the Commons expenses watchdog

    YouGov conducted online interviews with 100 MPs on Ipsa’s behalf, and weighted the results slightly to represent the Commons by party, gender, year elected, and geography.
    Conservative MPs were the most likely to believe they were underpaid, according to the results.
    On average, Tories said their salary should be £96,740, while Lib Dems thought the right amount was £78,361 and Labour £77,322. Other parties put the figure at £75,091.

    Kind of says it all really doesn’t it

  • At least this is one area where Libdems can claim correctly that they are to the left of Conservatives and to the Right of Labour lol.

  • Matt…I listened to, I believe, the only MP willing to be interviewed….His answers ignored their record on expenses, their ability to claim, and juggle, a second home, the fact that many have ‘extra’ jobs, etc….However what really’took the biscuit’ was the number who sought to maintain their final salary pension…”We’re all in this together?” Maybe; but some are travelling first class…

  • Julian Critchley 10th Jan '13 - 10:42pm


    Nice one.

    On a slightly more serious note, while I have no problem with paying MPs a decent wage, don’t results like that just underline exactly why the LibDems should not be helping these Tory idiots do anything ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jan '13 - 11:44am

    Julian Critchley

    That’s such a weak argument. It redefines coalition as capitulation, in which the largest party is entitled to force through any legislation it likes on the grounds that it got more seats than the smaller party. That may be the view of Tories who don’t accept that they didn’t win a majority, but it’s complete cobblers.

    No, the view of the Tories – try seeing most Tory discussion groups, or much of the right-wing press – is that the Liberal Democrats are in control of this government, exerting a power they don’t deserve due to their small numbers, and stopping the Conservatives doing so much of what they want to do.

    That is quite obviously a gross exaggeration. However, it directly contradicts what you are saying, which is that the Liberal Democrats are just pushing through anything and everything the Conservatives want.

    Now, the reality is somewhere in between. I’m afraid I very much dislike the sort of politics which is put at extremes where people are so blinked they won’t budge from the most extreme position, won’t even contemplate that perhaps they’re being a little unrealistic.

    I have hardly made a secret of my deep unhappiness with the leadership of Nick Clegg and my belief that he is pulling the party way to the right without any democratic mandate from its members. But I do appreciate the difficulty of being a junior coalition partner, it is very hard to get things through, almost impossible if they are things the senior partner does not want, and even to achieve a little you have to give up a lot else. I’m not there in Parliament myself, though Adrian Sanders who has contributed here is. I’m always reluctant to make criticisms from the outside when I don’t know what it’s like on the inside, which is why I don’t come out with direct attacks on Clegg and the leadership for actual coalition policy. Of course I am very unhappy with the coalition’s policies, and I don’t have any particular confidence that Clegg and people like Laws have pushed as hard as they could to make things more Liberal Democrat and less Conservative. However, I think it’s wrong to say they have done nothing at all. Saying they have done nothing at all is just stupid political knockabout, and I’ve always detested stupid political knockabout.

    If you want to quote numbers, 10.7m people voted Tory. 8.6m people voted Labour and 6.8m people voted LibDem. If we’re going to take this ridiculously simplistic approach, then the LibDems also have a moral duty to vote through any proposals put by Labour, because they have more seats and votes too

    Yes, but those figures are at the centre of my argument. They are why I believe it is YET ANOTHER tactical mistake that Clegg and the Cleggies have put forward this coalition as reaching our ideal. It is not because of the way the current electoral system distorts representation. That is WHY I am excusing the weakness of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition because I am making the point that as we don’t have proportional representation they don’t have the strength they should have coming from their votes. What I want to push is the idea that people who are unhappy with this, people who don’t like the way the Liberal Democrats are so weak and the Conservatives so strong in this coalition should see how much the distortions of the electoral system contribute to it and therefore support proportional representation where the relative power of parties in a coalition would reflect their share of the votes. So in making out that what we have now is the sort of ideal balanced government we have always wanted, instead of admitting it is a miserable little compromise in which we are far weaker than we should be, Clegg is destroying the case for one of our most longstanding policies, and in doing so further destroying the case for the party he is supposed to be the leader of.

    Sadly because Clegg and the Cleggies did not put it this way, when we had a vote on electoral reform, people drew the opposite conclusion to the one that should have been drawn. They said they did not like coalition because of what they had seen, so voted against AV (I accept AV is not proportional representation, but the “No” campaign attacked it as if it was, so the referendum was seen as being about electoral reform to make it more proportional). Had Clegg made clear from the start that the Liberal Democrats are NOT equal partners to the Tories, had he and his right-wing followers such as Tim Farron with his claim of 75% of Liberal Democrat policies implemented not tried to make this coalition seem such a triumph for the party, we could have effectively argued that if you don’t like the results of the distortions of the current electoral system (i.e. this Tory-dominated government) you should vote “Yes” to AV as a first step to make sure we never get anything like it again. Instead, thanks to them people wrongly thought the opposite way and so voted “No”. We lost the chance of a lifetime thanks to them.

  • David Allen 11th Jan '13 - 1:09pm

    Steve Griffiths,

    “the SLF and Lib Left do not seem to have achieved a great deal and seem from a (now) outsider like me to be pretty ineffective”

    Yes, the leadership have treated these organisations as providing a way people can let off steam and then get back to knuckling under. We have to get beyond the handwringing exercises and be prepared to make trouble. Nothing else will get us anywhere.

    “You may indeed be right that, sadly, the time has come to consider “sawing the ship in two” as you put it and the half of the ship we would find ourselves in might, coalesce around Lib Left, SLF, the lost members and even the still existing Liberal Party, but think of the recovery time.”

    Sure. But unless this is made a credible threat, the keep calm and carry on brigade will successfully lead us into a 2015 election, in which we shall discover that, oh golly gosh, amazingly we find that our only option is to campaign for an ongoing Tory coalition.

    Then, when that campaign elects around 20 MPs, and Cameron offers continued alliance (which he will probably do irrespective of the result, because his interests favour co-opting a Cleggite party in perpetuity), the split will happen anyway. Ten or so Cleggites will accept the deal, ten or so Kennedyites will reject it. The recovery time will be long, and it will be only the worse for not being started until after the 2015 disaster,

  • David Allen 11th Jan '13 - 1:13pm

    Simon Shaw said:

    “I would be interested to know what it is on which you base this “instruction to leave” allegation. ”

    and in the same post (!)

    “maybe you would be better off elsewhere.”

    Nice one Simon!

  • Peter Watson 11th Jan '13 - 1:27pm

    @Simon Shaw “A lot of the Lib Dems’ current difficulties are attributable to a minority of (often vociferous) members who see the Party as being to the left of Labour.”
    I’ve found a prime example for you of a vociferous member who, in October 2010, saw the party as being to the left of Labour: “We have a Coalition Government that is slightly to the left of Labour (taking account of all aspects of policy).” Who wrote that? A certain Simon Shaw apparently (https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-faith-schools-mail-21539.html#comment-145366).
    Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

  • David Allen 11th Jan '13 - 4:33pm
  • Simon Shaw

    I hope this post gets let through as I am responding to a direct question.

    I can tell you my PPC did say that. I told you at the time I do not remember the direct quote, although I could fib and make one up.

    I said to this person that I was a left-wing LD (I have listed my particular main policy wishes on other threads) . He asked me if I was ever tempted by Labour and said that I had been in 97 to ensure the end of Tory hegemony but apart from that had always been LD since 87. I said I found Labour to have taken too many right wing positions, been too authoritarian and , even when doing the right thing, such as investing in services they still seemed to believe the mantra ‘private’ is best.

    His response to me was on the lines of that he agreed that Labour had moved to the right and that on many issues the LD were now to the left. Examples he gave were commitment to no tuition fees, opposition to trident and economically he said at they were opposed to the Tory measures which were socially unacceptable. Whether more left than Labour I couldn’t say but before the election Cable seemed to be more with Darling than Osborne

    As others of said Left/right labels are not always easy to give but he clearly said that now the LD were to the left of Labour on many issues.

    This message may not have been possible in Southport but in West Yorkshire it was definitely the approach taken. It was also consistent with 2005 and 2001 as well.

    That is the truth – I would ask you not to misrepresent what I said

  • Simon Hebditch 11th Jan '13 - 5:53pm

    I am glad to be involved, as a member of Liberal Left, in the initiative covered in a Guardian letter on 10 January to do some work to see if a Lib/Lab alliance is at all feasible. The only way forward is for the centre left in the party to unite around two objectives – first to show clearly that the Lib Dem leadership cabal (Clegg, Alexander, Laws) has always been intent on shifting the perspective of the party in a more congenial direction for them.

    The arithmetical result of the 2010 election simply provided the cabal with a way in which they could pursue a realignment of the right in British politics. Remember that William Hague welcomed the coalition on that very basis. Those people who regard themselves as on the centre left now have to make a serious decision. Do they hang on till the 2015 election and then participate in, hopefully, a rebuilding of the party following a dismal election outcome or do they try and bring abouta real change of direction over the next twelve months. In the latter context, an ongoing dialogue between Lib Dems and Labour would be wise.

    Personally, I think the situation is pretty hopeless because the adoption of a common economic policy, confirmed by the autumn statement, means that we are going into an election tied into the current strategy. There will be no reason to expect the public to differentiate between Tories and Lib Dems – we will be jointly responsible, rightly, for the success or failure of the existing policy programme.

  • Simon Shaw

    The thing is these things are not said explicitly. The implication those to us of us on the left is that the leadership didn’t want us anymore. If you look at the opposite ie left wingers satisfied with Labour then we would vote for them.

    As it is I am a left-wing person who sees the Labour Party as too authoritarian, and,in a number of key areas, too right wing.

    I see on here too often an unrealistic expectation of ‘liberal purity’. I am sorry but the reality is not like that. I am not a member of the LD because I am not that enthused by you. I find some of the inconsistencies and the libertarianism too much at times.

    Like 99% of the population I am not a member of a political party, I am a simple voter who chooses the party closest to my values. That has mainly been the LD. Now I can say that is no longer the case – some of it linked to this crass article by your leader

    I really think some people who are members of a party do not understand what voters are looking for!

  • Julian Critchley 11th Jan '13 - 8:21pm

    @Simon Hebditch

    A nice comment, and congratulations on your perseverance. You did have a slight drafting error in there, which I’ve corrected for you :

    “There will be no reason to expect the public to differentiate between Tories and Lib Dems – we will be jointly responsible, rightly, for the ………failure of the existing policy programme.”


    On a more serious note, I agree with your analysis that there is a stark choice. However, I’m afraid I fear it’s too late for a groundswell movement to reform or reclaim the party from the Orange Booker clique. As I’ve pointed out on another thread, of the party’s 6.8m voters in 2010, 4.5m have already abandoned ship in disgust. That majority almost certainly consisted of the centre-left supporters. Similarly, there has been a haemorrhage of centre-left members and activists, such as myself, who would have been the footsoldiers and votes for a reform movement within the party. I would argue that the great bulk of that 8% of the electorate who still support the party, and the remaining members, are either dyed-in-the-wool yellow tribalists (yes, we did have some!) who are unlikely to revolt against the leadership even if they hate everything they are doing (as per the ever-grumbling but never acting Old Labour tribalists who hated Blair but loyally returned him), or sympathetic orange bookers who won’t want to act against the leadership, because they approve of what they’re doing.

    The result is that conferences between now and 2015 will moan, grumble and be ignored by Clegg and Laws, and will be led to the slaughteryard of 2015 more-or-less willingly. And 2015 will be a slaughter. I readsome of the panglossian spin on the 2015 outcome seen elsewhere on this site with incredulity. If the party has more than 20 seats after 2015, I will be genuinely astonished. In fact, I’ll lay a £100 bet now, with the first taker on this site, that the LibDems will be down to the teens in 2015 unless there is a dramatic change in party direction (more below). I’m actually expecting Clegg to lose his seat, which is at least a small blessing.

    The party will be left in the position it was in when Ashdown took over. And the journey back will be longer than the journey from the 1980s, because Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell didn’t have to fight a folk-memory of perceived betrayal, which the next leader will have hanging round his neck like a millstone. I actually think it’s game over for the party. Clegg and the orange bookers have taken aim at a practically non-existent section of the electorate with their policies, and the real gap, populated by the millions of us who used to be LibDem members and voters, will be filled by another party with a wiser leader.

    The only possible way to avoid this doomsday scenario, in my view, would be a revolt led from the top. Bottom-up won’t happen. It has to be top-down. A LibDem figure in Parliament would need to launch a coup and evict Clegg. It wouldn’t have to require the immediate end of the coalition, although God knows I wouldn’t mind that, but it would require a very public distancing from the previous leadership and policy stance. The yellow tribalists would go along with it as long as the face at the top was right. If the policy changes were sufficient, the a portion of the ex-members and supporters would return, although we have to accept that some millions are lost for good. If that revolt took place at the end of this year, or next year, then the party might retain a sufficient parliamentary and nationwide base to be able to rebuild. It would be the method the Tories used on Eden after Suez, and Labour tried on Blair after Iraq. They’d all supported the disaster, but they successfully managed to package the blame up, and dump it with the old leader. Even Brown got a honeymoon bounce, and would have won an earlier election if he’d not bottled it, being the political coward that he is.

    So who could possibly fulfil that role ? Honestly, the only person I could imagine successfully defenestrating Clegg, issuing a huge mea culpa to the voting public, and then steering the party into the rebiuld stage, would be a fit and healthy Kennedy. Open to other prospects though !

    Anyway, enough musing from me, I think. Keep up the good fight. It provides me with some comfort to know that there remain some people within the party I dedicated so much of my adult life to, who shared the beliefs and values I naively thought we all did.

  • Simon Shaw

    I don’t understand your post.

    You say that LD are not to the left of Labour and then you (and he) say that you are left to them on a number of things. What policies were you to the right of Labour then?

  • Steve Griffiths 11th Jan '13 - 9:20pm

    @Simon Shaw

    The piece may not support David Allan’s theories, but the first paragraph of the article and Nick Clegg’s recent “staying in the center – not looking back” tub-thumping speeches and communications reinforce my suspicions that the party is no longer the ‘broad church’ that both of us wish to see.

  • Simon Shaw

    go on then – just humour me and tell me some headlines

  • Julian Critchley,

    “I fear it’s too late for a groundswell movement to reform or reclaim the party from the Orange Booker clique.”

    It may be too early. The majority SDP came to its senses and reclaimed a united Lib Dem / Alliance party from the Owenite right-wing clique directly after the disastrous election of 1987, having ignored the obvious signs of impending disaster beforehand. History could repeat itself when the 15-20 re-elected MPs you mention finally split between a Cleggite rump who ally or join with the Tories, and a Kennedyite rump who refuse. It would of course be vastly preferable to reach that outcome earlier!

    “I would argue that the great bulk of that 8% of the electorate who still support the party, and the remaining members, are either … yellow tribalists … or sympathetic orange bookers”

    I suspect many of the 8% are just people who have always voted Lib Dem, and can’t think what else to say when a pollster asks, but will think their way through to an answer – Labour, Green, or even UKIP – when an election is called. So that 8% figure is headed downwards. Of the members, many of your “yellow tribalists” will be able councillors who want to carry on in local politics, and who just wish our national troubles would go away and leave them in peace. We should be understanding – but not too understanding. Keeping faith with your local pavement politics team, while letting Cameron dismantle State services, is not going to make you feel good about yourself in your old age.

    “The only possible way to avoid this doomsday scenario, in my view, would be a revolt led from the top. Bottom-up won’t happen. It has to be top-down. ”

    I think it has to be both. Generals don’t launch an infantry charge if they can’t see the battalions formed up and ready. We have to demonstrate that we are there. I stood in a small local election back in 2011 as an anti-coalition Independent, in the ward I had previously contested as a Lib Dem. I almost won. If a sizable group of similar candidates stood next time, we would alert the public and alert our Generals that this was a war that could be won.

    We are growing. Keep up the good fight.

  • Simon Shaw,

    Thanks for quoting Clegg’s remarks from the “Independent” article from 2010 which I cited. Clegg is there reported as talking of “people, particularly around the height of the Iraq war, who gave up on the Labour Party and turned to the Liberal Democrats as a sort of left-wing conscience of the Labour Party”. The phrase I remember, “refugees from Labour”, is clearly a very accurate paraphrase of Clegg’s remarks. I suspect it may have been used by another reporter at the time, though I can’t now find a written record. No matter. The meaning is entirely the same.

    Clegg then says “The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.” Now, that is a pretty emphatic instruction to those people to leave the Lib Dems, isn’t it?

    Clegg is clearly happy to turn away voters in their masses, in the interests of moving the party to the right.

  • @David Allen

    I agree, anybody with the slightest grasp of the English language would also I imagine. But from what I have experienced here on LDV from certain fractions of the party, they disregard quotes as “unreliable” or they accuse you of “misrepresenting”

    There where a couple of speeches where Nick Clegg frame-worked the speech to give the impression that there was no place in the Liberal Democats for left thinking Labour voters who thought LD was going to be an alternative for them. It was a direct slap in the face to all those people who gave their vote to Liberal Democrats in the 2010 election.
    I have seen posts from certain “councillors” on this forum saying that they would not want their vote, which echoed Nick Cleggs attitude.

    What other explanation can be given for the loss of so many voters, activists and members.

  • Julian Critchley 12th Jan '13 - 11:14am


    To add to your point, one thing I found very frustrating was that Clegg’s comments, and the similar comments of other LibDems who support his stance, seem to make the assumption that any “left-leaning” or “centre-left” voters were Labour supporters lending their support to the LibDems. I was a LibDem from my teens through to the age of 41. I voted Labour on two occasions, both tactically in order to try and defeat a Tory. My views remained consistent throughout that time, and they were in tune with each party manifesto and the great majority of conference motions. I didn’t consider myself “left-wing” in the 1980s, but by retaining my essential values of anti-authoritarianism, and a belief that the state’s role was to intervene in the economy in the best interests of citizens (rather than intervening in citizens’ lives in the best interests of business), I found that Blair swept the Labour Party past me to the right, so yes, on many issues, I probably did find myself to the left of New Labour. It was this position which New Labour left vacant in British politics, and it was people from this position who began to swell the ranks of LibDems. That’s Clegg’s huge political misjudgement. He abandoned a genuine space in British politics where there was plentiful support, and targeted a more-right wing position between Labour and Tories which, in my view, does not exist. There is no support to be gained there. When Blair did it, he could rely on his tribal support, and the fact that he could win over soft Tories with his authoritarianism and right-wing tabloid populism. Clegg can’t do that – he hasn’t got a large tribe, and the only aspect of LibDem policies which has hasn’t jettisoned are the anti-authoritarian liberal stances on social policy which are not supported by those groups who support his economic policies.

    The idea that the 4.5 million of us who have now withdrawn our support were all Labour refugees is simply wrong. It provides a convenient way for the leadership to dismiss the objections of those supporters who object to their move to the right, but it remains wrong. What Clegg and the leadership have done through their actions within the coalition has been to jettison not just any “Labour refugees”, but several million genuine LibDems who actually believed that the party stood for what it said it stood for before 2010.

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Jan '13 - 11:45am

    @Julian Critchley

    Absolutely right. I too have been very frustrated by the Leadership’s ‘deliberate myopia’ with regard to the left of it’s own party. I joined the Liberals in the late 1960s and regarded myself as a member of the libertarian left, as many others in the party at the time did. We had no natural home in the Labour party and regarded the Tories as the enemy and Labour as the competition. I felt my views were pretty much mainstream within the Liberal and Lib Dem parties, up until very recent times. Clegg and his wing of the party clearly do not want a ‘broad church’ and it suits their own purposes to deny the existence of a non-socialist left.

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Jan '13 - 12:08pm

    @Simon Shaw

    You stated earlier in this thread that you believed the party “…is and should be a broad church”. What evidence is there in any of Nick’s recent pronouncements/speeches that he believes this too? You may be right about the sense of that particular line, but what are we to glean from all his recent speeches about whether he welcomes those of my beliefs in the current party?

  • I think a bit of balance is needed on these boards. Why is it that certain people “party members, councillors” are allowed to use language that calls someone a disgrace, and yet other non-party posters or left thinking individuals seem to suffer difficulty in posting similar critical comments.
    All things being equal and all, shouldn’t we have the same rights to use the same language.

  • matt

    Hear, hear

  • @ matt – email us with links to the comments you think offend and we’ll take a look. Posting a comment that refers to “certain people” doesn’t exactly help us to work it out.

  • Simon Shaw

    The simple answer to your question is yes it should be a receptacle for disillusioned Labour voters as well as anyone else.

    The reason is that political parties are not voted for my true believers in the main. The LD membership is less that 100000 so you need others to vote for you.

    Some of these will be people who leave the Labour Party, others ex-Tory. At the moment Clegg seems to be pitching for ‘soft’ Tories – what is the difference?

    Do you really only want ‘pure liberals’ what ever that means to vote for you – ones that agree with your stance on everything? If you want to gain more votes you need to get them from somewhere so clearly you will be looking for voters who have previously voted for other parties (some will have switched, others will have sat on their hands)

    I really am at a loss to see why you are so anti ex-Labour voters

  • @Stephen Tall.

    Thank you, E-mail in transit.

  • Simon Hebditch 12th Jan '13 - 1:16pm

    Simon Shaw

    Accusing me of talking codswallop doesn’t really address the issues facing the party at the moment. My concern is really a simple one. I have always favoured and worked for that famous concept ” the realignment of the left” and have believed that the centre left best reflects the aims, objectives and principles of the Lib Dems. This exemplfied by the preamble to the party constitution. I see the party, under its current leadership, marching in the other direction.

    I also happen to believe that there are currents in the party leadership which would much prefer a continuing alliance with the Tories beyond 2015 – an aim given increased credence by the fact that we have endorsed a common economic programme until 2018.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jan '13 - 1:49pm

    ““The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.””

    The problem with this quote of Nick Clegg is that it means completelydifferent things to different people. There are plenty of present Lib Dem members, let alone voters, who would happily describe themselves as ‘left’, ‘centre left’ and even ‘left wing’, especially using the broadest terms of the original definition of those words, which basically means ‘progressive, re-distributive, not-conservative’. The majority of those voters, members etc are indeed ‘dissatisfied with Labour’. And it’s not even ‘dissatisfied with socialism’ any more, which you could once say about people unhappy with the Labour Party. For, while there are still some socialists within the Labour Party, the politics of Labour has not been socialist since Neil Kinnock left and could not really be described accurately as even social democrat since John Smith died. Labour could, if it wanted to, take on all the policies and principles of the Liberal Democrats tomorrow (I don’t think they are likely to). It s a drifting ship, seeking popular support to do whatever it feels like tomorrow. So Nick Clegg’s usage of that terminology is either deliberately provocative or naive or fails to understand what he is actually talking about.

  • David Allen 12th Jan '13 - 7:35pm

    ““The Lib Dems NEVER were and AREN’T a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is NO future for that; there NEVER was.””

    The remarkable thing about these 25 words from Clegg is he has managed to include four negatives (which I have highlighted by capitalising them).

    As Tony Dawson points out, it means completely different things to different people. The one clear target is identified by the word “left-wing”, and the message which Clegg repeats four times is negative, specifically discouraging any association with the Liberal Democrats.

    In fact, the words “broad church” come to mind! Clegg is lumping together all those people who might ever have considered themselves in any way “left” (which would of course include “centre-left”), into a very “broad church”. And then he is saying, four times over, that they are not to think of themselves as part of HIS “church”.

    Four times over. It’s like “go away, go directly away, do not pass go, do not collect £200”. Or “go away, depart, p*ss off, and turn the lights out when you leave, thank you!”. It’s emphatic. It is designed to make an impact. It is designed to worry any listener who has ever thought of themselves as being on the political left.

    It makes its impact because it is so unusual. Almost all politicians, almost all of the time, go around soft-soaping the voters. Politicians from the Moderate Party go around telling all types of voter – sports fanatics, or animal lovers, or vexatious busybodies, or whatever – that they are the salt of the earth, and they are natural Moderate voters. Suddenly, along comes this Clegg person, who actually addresses negative words to a great number of voters. How strange! How odd! Can it be that a politician is actually trying to drive voters away?

    Yes, I’m afraid it can.

  • Simon Shaw

    Again you are not not being just, and I am amazed that you can continue to in sult with impunity

    I do not presume to answer for Dave Allen but he has already said that he does not think the question is relevant as the Labour Party keeps shifting its position so at any one moment it may be 1, 2 or 3.

    Why do you keep trying to position the LD against Labour – why not just focus on the policies of the party as they are and judge whether they are right or not.

    I will answer your question although it is not directed at me:

    At the moment of the election and prior to then the answer is 3.

    At the current time the answer is a mixture of 2 and 3 as Labour seem to be tacking left under Miliband. How this develops is impossible to say

    The Lib Dems should concentrate on their policies and their values, not focus on another party which seems to change its position depending on the latest focus group.

    You seem to love asking these questions based on definitions on left/right which to me are irrelevant.

    To me it is simple, the LD are voting with the mksot right-wing Government in my lifetime. They should not be doing so. They should instead be trying to promote the policies they espoused during the last Parliament. Whether that is left or right of Labour is not to me that relevant. What matters if, by my judgement, it is right or wrong. You have the right to your view and I have the right to mind. The fact is I am thinking do I ever want to vote again for a party that has decided that Simon Shaw is judged suitable to stand for them

  • Peter Watson 12th Jan '13 - 9:42pm

    @Simon Shaw At the risk of repeating myself, back in October 2010 you wrote, “We have a Coalition Government that is slightly to the left of Labour (taking account of all aspects of policy).” Perhaps you can reconcile that with what you are saying now, because these days you appear to be quite hostile to the left or the idea of Lib Dems being there. Perhaps you thought it was the tories bringing the leftwing element to the coalition? Or do you believe that Labour has moved to the left, though that would put in you in disagreement with those who believe that the current Labour party is a policy-free zone?

  • Peter Watson 12th Jan '13 - 11:09pm

    @Simon Shaw
    It’s just that here and elsewhere you have given people a hard time when they have claimed that Lib Dem PPCs before the 2010 election said that the party was to the left of Labour. Yet months after the election you seemed to believe that it was to the left of Labour. I can’t quite see the consistency.

  • Peter Watson 13th Jan '13 - 1:19am

    @Simon Shaw “Do you think the Party was to the left of Labour at the time of the 2010 General Election?
    I’m not sure how relevant it is to know where I thought the party was, but at the 2010 election on a left-right spectrum (for what it’s worth) I would have put Labour and Lib Dems in a similar place but there were enough issues (commitment to free tertiary education, opposition to replacing Trident, opposing the war in Iraq, opposing free schools, banking reform, lifting the low paid out of income tax) where Lib Dems could be seen as further left than Labour. In the years leading up to the 2010 election it was an oft-quoted view that Lib Dems were to the left of Labour, statements from Menzies Campbell’s Ieadership campaign made it seem the party was quite comfortable there, yougov and opinium polling shows that perception existed in the electorate (in fact the latter suggested that Clegg was perceived to be to the left of Menzies Campbell and the party at one time). I had paid little attention to internal party politics for a number of years, but there was no widely publicised right-wing putsch before the 2010 election. In the campaign Clegg came across as a truly compassionate man and I genuinely believed that he wanted what was best for everybody in society, traits I instinctively consider as “left”. Consequently I would not have batted an eyelid if a Lib Dem activist claimed his party was to the left of Labour, and even now there are some very vocal long-term active Lib Dems on this site for whom I have the utmost respect and would consider to be to the left of many in Labour.

    That is why I was astonished at how antagonistic you were towards someone stating that a Lib Dem PPC had made such a claim. And I was then more surprised and a little confused to find that you yourself had claimed the coalition was to the left of Labour so soon after the election. I couldn’t (and still can’t) resolve exactly where you believed the party was relative to Labour in 2010, though I gather you see the party (and yourself) as to the right of Labour now, so presumably you also believe that the party has moved right (seems reasonable based on the loss of left-leaning supporters) or that Labour has moved left (very difficult to tell where they stand) or both.


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