Grasping the cross party nettle

Whoops of delight and the whoosh of triumphant fists punching the air were apparently to be heard at Lib Dem HQ on Tuesday when Theresa May announced the 8 June election. For a party hammered so badly two years ago, the chance to regain some lost ground is indeed enticing, but if we’re to make the most of the opportunity some nettles need to be grasped.

Tempting though it is to believe in our invincibility based on recent by-election successes, we are still only around 11% in the polls. That will go up in certain seats, but our final total of MPs will depend on whether we’re willing to be smart, and to set aside the tribalism of past elections.

If you’re sick of terms like ‘progressive alliance’ or ‘cross-party cooperation’, fair enough. But then think of it like this: in an election that is going to defy traditional party allegiances because of the role of Brexit, we cannot adopt the old “my party right or wrong, and all other parties are the enemy” attitude. We have to think of the broader concept of liberalism, as well as openness, tolerance and internationalism.

That means recognising that there are plenty of people in other parties – largely Labour and the Greens – who are philosophically close to us. We may have issues with the Labour leadership, but that doesn’t stop us recognising that there are many good people in Labour. And while we believe we’re big on the environment, it helps to have a specifically environmental party to keep us all honest.

With such recognition, it makes no sense for like-minded people to be pummelling each other to a political pulp just because they’re in different parties, when the main enemy is the Conservative party’s contemptuous attitude towards the fabric of British society.

This does NOT necessarily mean Lib Dem candidates standing down. It might in certain seats; we owe Sarah Olney’s victory in Richmond Park to the Greens standing aside, and Brighton & Hove Lib Dems are exploring the mechanics of not putting up a candidate against Caroline Lucas. But sometimes it’s better to offer people the chance to vote for a Lib Dem, if only to tell voters that we’re in the business of cooperation, not a stitch-up.

Yet even where we do stand a candidate, we need to be aware of the places where ‘smart targeting’ could pay dividends, in other words we simply register the candidate but do nothing else as all we’d gain is enough votes to stop a like-minded Labour or Green candidate beating the Conservatives. Faced with an election where the sitting prime minister wants to force a hard Brexit, bring back grammar schools, and make it harder for anyone but her party to win future elections by gerrymandering the electoral map, we have to be smart.

And we have to show a generosity of spirit that involves accepting that some seats that are potentially winnable by us are another progressive party’s target. Sometimes it may depend on the candidate – it would be easier, say, to accept a social democrat Labour candidate as the principal progressive challenger to the Tories than a Corbynista. And any principal progressive challenger would have to represent much of the broad progressive agenda, in particular a commitment to a proportional voting system. But we have to be open to the possibilities.

It’s important for our local parties to have the freedom to negotiate with other local parties who the principal progressive challengers should be, perhaps in clusters of two and three seats. But we must remember that the mark of generosity is when it costs you something you really value. The Greens have done a lot of work in the Richmond and Kingston boroughs, so it was a wrench for them to stand aside for us. We have hailed it as a great Lib Dem by-election win, but it was – at least partly – a cooperative effort. With more cooperation that evokes the referendum campaign, we can deprive the Tories of more seats.

Even an 11% poll rating feels good when you’ve flatlined at 8% for a long time. But 11% won’t win us many MPs, and we won’t be able to put anything like the effort we can devote to a by-election into any seat at a general election. Smart targeting with other parties is therefore essential. In this election, we really have to grasp the nettle.

* Chris Bowers is a two-term district councillor and four-time parliamentary candidate. He writes on cross-party cooperation and in 2021 was the lead author of the New Liberal Manifesto.

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  • paul barker 20th Apr '17 - 6:26pm

    Well, No. Tactical voting can have a real effect but only Nationally, it cant be taylored to individual Seats except in Byelections. Voters just dont have enough knowledge or interest & no Party can mange the sort of intensive campaigning it would need to get the information through. Pacts can even be counterproductive as some Voters react to being denied a real choice.
    Obviously we will be targeting resources at Seats we think we can win, all we can do is hope other Parties have the sense to do the same. Labour wont as we know from past experience.
    On The Polls, we have actually risen about 1% in the last 10 days & that movement may well speed up as more Voters reluctantly start to think about who to Vote for. Our task is to create The Narrative that Labour are dying & being replaced by us.

  • I think what you call smart targetting is already part of the landscape, and we should always be as smart as we can.

    There is a problem though. Yes there is a broader, tolerant, progressive, centrist movement out there to be had with representatives in other parties, and it would be great to make that movement more effective however that can be done.

    However the Labour Party is currently suffering under the leadership of somebody who is not remotely progressive – whose economic policies would lead to empty shelves and whose foreign policy would lead to Russia invading the Baltic states. It is perhaps not important because he is going to lose anyway, but it is important that we maintain a great distance from him.

    The last thing we need is to obsess over how the smaller (judging by polls), progressive, half of the electorate is divided up at the expense of winning voters over from the other half – that currently has enough votes to win whatever we do. Every mention of a progressive alliance drives a thousand Soft Cons to vote Conservative, when we need to do the exact opposite.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Apr '17 - 6:29pm

    The problem with “progressive alliance” is it means “Corbyn for PM” and the Tories are already running on a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Corbyn. No pre-election alliances.

  • Andrew McCaig 20th Apr '17 - 6:45pm

    Problem is that the only seat I can see where us standing aside might deliver an MP to the Greens is Bristol W… And there a Tory would not be defeated.. perhaps Sheffield Central where as I recall Joe Otten stood last time.

    Labour meanwhile are neither progressive nor interested in alliances so that is a non starter!

    Finally we already have candidates in most seats and in the others we are scrambling to get them, not negotiating with other parties! If we were 6 months out from a 2020 election some deals might be possible, but as Joe says, too much talk of pacts will play into the meme St Theresa has already advanced that we will prop up Jeremy Corbyn in a coalition..

  • This would make sense if we could work with the Tories or Labour but we are now poles apart on Brexit so can’t.

    Personally I have suspicion that we can hit 20% in the poles by Election Day or more if Corbyn/ May make any big screw ups and we don’t. If we build some momentum then we may climb more quickly than we’ve ever dreamt possible. Such is the state of British Politics

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Apr '17 - 7:23pm

    Whilst in principle I’d like to agree with you, the way the Tories are trying to frame this election kyboshes _public_ declarations of pacts except in one or two seats. Brighton Pavillion is probably the main place we should be standing aside for the Greens.

    Any overt discussion of tactical voting or alliances from anyone halfway near leadership in any party feeds the Tory tabloid-style narrative that its a Good vs Evil struggle of May vs Everyone Else

    – In that case, bang goes the less-informed centre-ground part of our vote who might believe that May knows what she’s doing, even if they don’t agree with all of it.

    It’s a conspiracy theory, I know, but in the same way I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tories were encouraging jounralists to keep asking Tim rule out coalition with them – which they know is not going to happen anyway – as they win either way: say ‘no, never’ and they say ‘aha! we have proved the Coalition of Chaos’; say ‘maybe…’ and we lose the tactical voting from the left that – as you rightly say – is so key.

    The party needs a combination of anti-Tory, Anti-Corbyn and pro-Brexit tactical voting to work for us, and that’s going to be pretty hard to work out and coordinate, given that many of the candidates are unknown yet to their electorates, as they are unselected.

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Apr '17 - 7:23pm

    That comment largely nicked from a Bristol LibDem members’ facebook post I made.

  • Jonathan Pile 20th Apr '17 - 7:23pm

    Think we need to be talking about a non-Tory national government of moderation, unity and compromise to approach the brexit talks with a compromise all parts and all peoples of the UK could get behind (which parliament and a referendum to approve a deal) to contrast with the wrecking one party state approach of the Conservatives. Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, Plaid, SDLP, could be core but Labour not excluded. Democracy is under threat by May, who is seeking absolute power for her executive over the representatives of the people. We are on the edge of a very dark time in our history

  • Just say “I’ll consider a coalition with any party that will commit to a vote on the final Brexit deal” as neither will that ends that discussion.

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Apr '17 - 7:50pm

    sorry, got my antis and pros muddled earlier

  • I will repeat, becoming the second largest party to a hard Tory majority is no great victory. That is the summit of our ambitions currently and may be for a very long time if the party which has cut short money, either wants to reform the Lords or have a massive influx of Tory peers depending on how “difficult” they’re being and will stands against voting reform which aims to give UK citizens a representative government while campaigning to get out of the EU on that pretense, shading their desire to bin EU safeguarding, is in government.

    Knowing when to work together and when to challenge each other will be a key element of progressive politics over the next few decades.

  • John Chandler 20th Apr '17 - 7:59pm

    I honestly can’t see any cross-party coalition / progressive alliance working. I certainly can’t trust Labour to run the country, let alone do anything except follow the Tory path of the unfolding car-crash that is Brexit. I would not cast a vote for them, even tactically. The Greens are probably the only party that it could work with, but they’re unlikely to be a significant force.

  • Hi William. Agree with you in regard to the greens and standing down for them in Brighton. Labour? Progressive? Do you not recall your old stomping ground in rochdale? Regards to Vera. Any chance of a donation for Andy Kelly?!

  • Chris, I agree with every word you have said. In particular, it’s important to treat all candidates as individuals, and be honest about whether or not they are someone we could work with most of the time.

    The Tories are planting the seed of doubt that any vote for Labour, or for us, or for the Greens, means Corbyn could be be PM, so better to have a whole load of Brexit loving, NHS hating Tory MPs instead. If we are in a position to nudge a constituency towards a decent Labour candidate instead of a bad Tory one, we should see that as an opportunity.

    I do, however, think it’s essential that we restrict pacts to just a handful of carefully targeted seats with the full involvement of local parties and with clear statements about the shared values leading to that particular pact, such as electoral reform.

  • Well we don’t have to worry about reaching a deal with UKIP, now Farage has decided his political future doesn’t lie in Westminster, I think we can officially pronounce them deadkip. You have to feel for the poor journos who have so valiantly tried to keep the party afloat; spare chair on question Time perhaps.

  • I’d be happy to work with the Greens, SNP, or Plaid, but not Labour. Not without a guarantee of reversing brexit, which they will not give.

  • Any deal with Labour is toxic. Labour is the single biggest roadblock to any sort of sensible, progressive, non-conservative politics in this country, and they cannot offer any sort of route towards it. Someone needs to persuade Paddy to pipe down.

  • I suspect any realignment will come after the election and out of the ashes of Labour – unless they act quickly to get a more credible leader. Is Ed Balls still dancing or does he have any other future plans ?

  • Dave Orbison 20th Apr '17 - 9:35pm

    So Tim Farron rules out working with Labour but won’t rule out another coalition with the Tories. Enough said.

  • @Dave Orbison
    Tim Farron is on record that you should work to find agreement with the biggest party, has he changed his mind if so can you post a source. In my opinion getting back into bed with the Tories would kill the Lib Dems, I’d like to think people have learned from the near death experience of the last time but people can be foolish more than once.

  • Dave Orbison 20th Apr '17 - 10:43pm

    Frankie see link (hope it works) from Financial Times. Otherwise I agree with your comments re another coalition with the Tories, sadly Tim Farron disagrees.

  • @Dave Orbison/Frankie
    Its pretty clear that our “Red Line” on joining a Coalition would be an end to the Brexit process. Can you imagine The Tories accepting that without breaking in two ? I cant.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Apr ’17 – 6:29pm…..The problem with “progressive alliance” is it means “Corbyn for PM” and the Tories are already running on a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Corbyn. No pre-election alliances….

    If you believe that even an announcement from ‘God’ that there would be no “progressive alliance” would stop the Tories, and their tame media, from running such a campaign, you live in another world…Umpteen denials in 2015 between Labour/SNP didn’t stop the “SNP will govern England” headlines…

  • Dave, I think you are making mischief. Farron doesn’t want to do a deal with Corbyn’s Labour, which isn’t at all the same as ruling out working with the Labour party as a whole, and definitely not individual Labour MPs, or on specific policies.

    It’s clear there would be no deal with a Brexit Tory party, but ruling out a deal for eternity is equally daft. Not that it’s stopping short-sighted Labour from claiming we’re about to jump into bed with the Tories just so they can save a few deposits.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Apr '17 - 11:09pm

    But what is meant by this word “progressive”?

    Really it is an illiberal term, as it suggests that there is only one way society can develop, and therefore opposes the principle of democracy which is that people can choose which way they want society to develop. It originates from Marxism, with the Marxist idea that society will inevitably progress towards full socialism. This idea that this “progression” was inevitable, and that they the Marxists were what it is about led to the idea that there was no need for real democracy – what was inevitable just had to be accepted.

    This Marxist way of thinking has been taken over by many free marketeers who have pushed the idea that the way they want society to be is inevitable. Is this what those who say Corbyn is not “progressive” mean? I.e. they push their idea and subvert real democracy by claiming it is inevitable and so cannot be challenged.

    Yet it is fairly clear that most of those who voted Leave did so because they did not want to “progress”. Rather, they want to return society to how it was years ago. Or at least to some semi-mythical feeling about how it worked. I do not think leaving the EU will in any way bring this about. The real reason society has changed is because of the dominance of free market thinking. What people want and thought that Brexit would give them is a reversal of what was really started with Thatcherism. The Brexit campaign cynically suggested that Brexit would reverse changes in society, whereas the reality is that it was led and funded by those who support the most extreme form of those changes and who oppose the EU because they see it as something that stops extreme free market policy.

  • Dave Orbison 20th Apr '17 - 11:19pm

    Fiona with respect I think Tim Farron’s willingness to be part of a coalition with the Tories is entirely related to the current GE as opposed to some other time. The idea that the LibDems would, as a condition of such a coalition, prevent Brexit is of course fantasy. You will recall that last time the LibDems couldn’t even get their student fee pledge past the Tories.

    So the reality is there is no prospect of. a Tory coalition- given toxicity that arose from the last one, I can only wonder why he keeps banging on about it.

    I would prefer a Lab LibDem coalition to a Tory Govt any day. Why he rules this out is beyond me – as for it’s Corbyn as Labour Leader that’s the problem as last time it was Brown, that is just silly. To expect a coalition partner to choose the leader of the other partner is unrealistic, it’s not really grownup politics in my view.

    I don’t think it is mischief making either. I genuinely believe it is damaging to the LibDems for Tim Farron to adopt such a cosier relationship with the Tories cf Labour.

  • Richard Elliott 21st Apr '17 - 12:20am

    There is no prospect of a coalition and we should rule it out stressing that we cant work with May or Corbyn – this doesn’t stop there being either a limited number of local agreements eg Lewes/Brighton, agreeing with other parties on specific policies and targeting resources v popularists and brexiteers. It will be useful to appear to have a few clear messages and be seen to be cross-party in our approach – esp through organisations such as Open Britain. We should not attack Mps for their party label but policies we oppose – looking to forge links across all other parties, particularly in the next parliament. If the Tory majority is moderate and Brexit goes wrong there could be another election in 2019/2020 if Tory moderates vote against any bad deal – then all bets are off. Play the longer game and work with other individual MPs and cross-party groups but don’t get into formal alliances or coalitions

  • @Dave Orbison – re coalition
    I’m not aware that Tim is “banging on about this”. However, from the evidence of the 2015 election, I suggest whilst some may prefer a LibDem-Labour coalition, Tim has little choice but to rule it out, during the election campaign so that the Conservatives can’t say a vote for the LibDems is a vote for Corbyn. The other lesson from the 2015 campaign is that the LibDem-Conservative coalition went down well with the public, it being recognised that the LibDems main success was helping to keep the extremes of the Conservative party in check, however, with the dissolution of the Coalition there was nowhere on the ballot paper for people to vote for more coalition – so people voted Conservative rather than risk Labour getting in. So by publicly saying he would consider a coalition with the Conservatives immediately sends the ‘right’ message to those who would have voted for “more coalition” in 2015, but actually voted Conservative, additionally, it will be harder for the Conservative campaign machine to counterattack this positioning.

    Obviously, all of the above can be contradicted by the way the LibDems decide to campaign in individual constituencies, because as we saw from the Trump campaign: all that matters at the end of the day is winning and the LibDems need to return significantly more MPs this time than it did in 2015.

  • Yellow Submarine 21st Apr '17 - 2:36am

    If Kate Hoey is the Labour candidate in Vauxhall the Greens should stand down and the Lib Dems should reciprocate in Bristol West. The Lib Dems should not stand against Lucas and if so the Greens should not stand against Olney. That’s it I think – 4 seats – on the Lib Dem/Green axis.

  • Dave Orbison 21st Apr '17 - 5:22am

    Roland – I think the ‘we softened the excesses of the last Tory Govt’ really nneds to be I the context of going down to 8 MPs. It was a disaster.

    We can debate the finer points of how much emphasis Tim Farron has put on a willingness to form a coalition and whether or not it would happen til the cows come home. My point is simply that he has ruled out a coalition with Labour but not the Tories. Never thought I’d quote the expansive analysis of Trump,but in his words “Not good”.

  • Dave Orbison 21st Apr '17 - 5:23am

    Apologies for typos

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 21st Apr '17 - 8:01am

    Frankie, A promise to hold a “referendum on the deal” would not be a good enough reason for another coalition with the conservatives. The likely consequence would be : another vote for Leave in that second referendum, and the Lib Dems down to about two or three MPs in 2022.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 21st Apr '17 - 8:05am

    I just don’t think there should be any standing down for other parties. It should be up to the voters whether or not they choose to vote tactically.

  • Tim Farron can say what he likes about coalition’s, Dave. Without the support of 2/3 of members ghee literally cannot provide one.

    Can you imagine a coalition agreement with the Tories which 2/3 or more of lib dem members would vote for, after how they shafted us over electoral reform and lords reform last time, without AT MINIMUM a complete cancellation of brexit?

    I can’t.

    And of course the Tories would never offer that. So while ruling out coalition would be silly, because we can always hope, inn realty it is vanishingly unlikely

  • Chris, I agree with almost all of this post. I think that we definitely owe the Greens one for Richmond Park and I’d be in favour of us standing aside in both Brighton and Bristol West. The problem with Labour, notwithstanding the pragmatic approach being taken by people like Clive Lewis and Lisa Nandy, is that relations between the two parties at a local level have always been very poor, as I’m sure most of us have previously experienced. It is totally unrealistic to expect this to change in the space of 7 weeks and so other than tactical voting it is difficult to see what can be done. A longer term progressive alliance requires a lot more work and would require as a minimum, in the first instance, for Labour to commit unequivocally to electoral reform, something that is yet to happen.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 21st Apr '17 - 8:13am

    Jennie, why would it be silly for Tim Farron to rule out a coalition with the Conservatives this time if, as you say, the members would never vote for such a coalition? Ruling it out would clear the air. It would be best to rule out a coalition with Labour too. One of the main reasons why people will not vote Lib Dem, is that they fear the Lib Dems will form a coalition with whichever of the main parties they (the voter) most dislikes.

  • 1. Say NO to Coalition. Simply work with the result, if necessary a minority government, voting issue by issue
    2. Having said that, how many seats will we have, personally I only see 10 -20 more likely the lower end. The Blacon result last night just emphasises how much ground we have lost. Remember a few years ago we were the largest party in Chester. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and keep with the bounds of realism. not optimism, otherwise there will be still more tears on June 9th.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Apr '17 - 8:42am

    @ Roland,
    I am not a political analyst, but I really don’t see how you reach the conclusions you reach about the ‘success’ of the coalition.

    The greatest success of the coalition was the size of the Conservative victory in 2015. It was a triumph for those who chose to divert attention from those really responsible for the financial crash onto the shoulders of scapegoats, the ‘undeserving poor’, the disabled, immigrants and of course the Labour government.

    It was an abject lesson that one cannot hit those least able to defend themselves hard enough, and that with a favourable press one can get away with it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '17 - 8:42am


    Say NO to Coalition. Simply work with the result, if necessary a minority government, voting issue by issue

    The problem is that it doesn’t work like that. Most of what a government does cannot be isolated into issue by issue. The principal task of a government is to balance what services it provides with how it pays for them. So one cannot just, say, vote against government policy to cut something – you also have to balance that with how you would propose to pay for it if it were not cut.

    This is what hit us in the coalition with university funding. Naive political argument put student tuition fees as an isolated issue, but it isn’t. We couldn’t just vote against raising tuition fees without also saying how we would pay for not raising them. We were destroyed for this, but neither Labour nor anyone else balanced their criticisms of us by any suggestions as to how they would pay to subsidise university tuition.

    To me, the biggest reason why politics is a mess in this country is this innumerate way where taxation policies and government spending policies are seen as separate issues. So people seem to think you can consider them separately, and want both high government spending and low taxation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '17 - 8:57am


    Is Tim Farron “banging on” about a coalition? Where and when? Or is it lazy journalists who have not genned up properly on policy?

    We really need to squash very firmly this idea that if no party gets a majority we would be in the position where we have the choice of whether to form a coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, and can get whatever we like out of it. As we saw in 2010, it just doesn’t work like that. Two big issues were:

    1) The presence of MPs from smaller parties means that only a coalition with one party is viable as there are not enough MPs in the other party to form a majority.

    2) It depends on the willingness of the other parties to form a coalition. One of the other parties may decide it is better to go into opposition, as Labour did in 2010, supposing that would see us destroyed and they would sweep back to power in 2015.

    Making statements ruling out coalitions with either party now is foolish, as it suggests we made the coalition in 2010 because that was our favoured choice, rather than because it was the only realistic option. Perhaps the first point Tim Farron should make, if asked “which party would you form a coalition with” is “why don’t you ask them which of them would be more willing to form a coalition with us?”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '17 - 9:03am

    Catherine Jane Crosland

    One of the main reasons why people will not vote Lib Dem, is that they fear the Lib Dems will form a coalition with whichever of the main parties they (the voter) most dislikes.

    Yes, and those who did not vote for us in 2015 for this reason can now see what they got as a result. To punish us for forming a coalition with the Conservatives they gave the Conservatives a majority.

  • richard underhill 21st Apr '17 - 9:38am

    Caroline Lucas. Was on the daily politics from Bristol. She. Said talks are going on at local level all over the country. She wants isle of Wight. As we attract pro EU voters from the Tories to become our members we need policy on relations with Tories.

  • David Pocock 21st Apr '17 - 9:49am

    Yeah we can’t win on labour vote alone. We need Tories to vote for us too. I understand to some here this is poison but if we act tribal towards the Tories then they will respond in kind and we will not get the pro EU conservative vote.

    I would rather eat pork at a David cameron BBQ than go into a coalition with either may or corbyn, but that is a question for June the ninth. For now we need to get the most we can from this election in both seats and % of the vote.

  • Matthew.
    All through the coalition years you said it was the only viable opt6ion as Labour did not have enough seats. So how did they “decide it was better to go into opposition in 2010”? You even say it again in the same post.
    Coalitions are not forced on anyone. They are simply an option when there is no over all majority. It is perfectly possible to rule out forming a coalition and to supply or not supply votes on an issue by issue basis. The Lib Dems got wiped out because a lot of its voters were public sector workers, the disabled and students. Punishment has nothing to do with anything. The leadership simply failed to take into account who was voting Lib Dem, then compounded it by over claiming the amount of power they had and then again by keeping the coalition going until 2015.

  • Sue Sutherland 21st Apr '17 - 10:31am

    Gina Miller is raising funds for a tactical voting campaign to stop Brexit. This may well raise our game which is why there is so much emphasis on the scare mongering that we will go into another Coalition with the Tories by people who don’t want us back in politics as a significant force. Given our beliefs I just don’t see how we could go into a Coalition with either of the two main parties in their present form but the fact that lots of people are asking the question seems to indicate that they think or fear that we are going to have a much larger parliamentary group than we have at present. Which is good news.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 21st Apr '17 - 11:03am

    We might be around the 11% figure in the latest polls, but I believe we will do significantly better come Election Day. As for some formal cross party deals that would be a big mistake in my opinion and anyhow Corbyn has made it very clear, it’s not on the table, thank goodness. The public at large wouldn’t stand for such a stitch up, regardless how it’s framed. The question is why would a political party with a very clear policy on Brexit seek to be tarnished in some progressive alliance where it will inevitably end up in one almighty and dreadful collapse. Labour has set their course, let them sail off into political oblivion, the Lib/Dems have a very strong and powerful message regarding Brexit and anyhow with Labour hand in hand with the Tories on this central policy what is there to agree on? Yes indeed this election should be about more than Brexit, but May’s has made it very clear, it’s indeed all about Brexit, trust me is her central message and with Labour all over the place and in cahoots with the Tories in getting us out of Europe, progressive alliance no thank you.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Apr '17 - 11:08am

    Genuine question. Why will the NHS be further harmed by Brexit?

  • Malcolm Todd 21st Apr '17 - 11:15am

    Really? Are we still harping on about “progressive alliance” fantasies?
    First of all, it’s not going to happen.
    Secondly, if it were going to happen it certainly wouldn’t come out of the crucible of an election campaign.
    Thirdly, most real voters don’t identify themselves principally as “Tory” or “anti-Tory” and don’t vote accordingly.
    Fourthly, even if you could magic up a perfect alliance of the “centre-left” parties and perfect cooperation from the voters… it wouldn’t help.

    Let’s try some real politics instead.

  • Electoral pacts tend to alienate more people than they attract. Voters have the option of tactical voting to achieve what electoral pacts are meant to achieve, but without the smell of a fix.

    Liberal Democrats should stand down only in exceptional circumstances. For instance, in Brighton Pavilion, where Caroline Lucas is entitled to a quid pro quo for pulling the Green Party candidate out of Richmond Park. Tatton was a rare example of where not putting up a candidate was justified, as was Kidderminster. Such cases are few and far between.

    I have heard some ludicrous talk of targeting Vauxhall just to have a go at Kate Hoey. Are we seriously proposing to fight a futile campaign in Vauxhall, even if by so doing vital resources are taken away from Simon Hughes next door?

    We are up against a megalomaniac and a hysterical press shouting out her propaganda day in day out. In order to dent her ambitions, we need the strategy that attracts the greatest number of voters and alienates the fewest.

  • Richard Warren 21st Apr '17 - 11:55am

    We do not owe our victory in Richmond Park to the Greens. Sure, their candidate stood aside and Lucas urged Greens to vote for us, but their voters and even their members voted three ways: Lib Dem, Labour and Goldsmith.

    Some of those Greens backing Labour and Goldsmith did so publicly by adding their names to letters to newspapers or Goldsmith’s leaflets. With “progressive alliance” friends like that who needs enemies?!

  • Andrew McCaig 21st Apr '17 - 12:01pm


    The most obvious way that the NHS is already being harmed by brexit is that EU migrant doctors and nurses are not applying for jobs any more, and some are going home..

    About 4% of NHS nurses and 10% of NHS doctors are from the EU, and those numbers have been rising in recent years

  • Ruth Coleman Taylor 21st Apr '17 - 12:35pm

    The time to talk about coalition is AFTER an election. If no party has an overall majority then a coalition is one of the ways of forming a government: another would be for the largest party to form a minority government and to challenge the other parties to support its proposals.
    Journalists and members of other parties who keep asking about coalition are using up valuable time in which we could be talking about what the Liberal Democrats stand for and asking for support.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 21st Apr '17 - 1:24pm


    What’s wrong in stating one’s honest belief. I do believe we will do significantly better.

    As for saying this election is on the same basis as 2015, is simply miss reading of the political geography. The party was then heading in one direction and it was clear to all. Today the membership is over 95,000, Brexit is coming down the road, the plan is not going quite how the government wants, in what form will Brexit take place, no one knows, not even May, how depressing. Many individuals are very concerned what the future holds and yes, my view can be put down to conjecture like all other opinions regarding Brexit, but sometimes one has to make a judgement in forming an opinion, a blank piece of paper is the policy of government, that will play well for the party.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Apr '17 - 1:52pm

    S o much to respond to !

    My view is that Tim needs to rule out any coalition with the present leaders of their parties and current orientation of their parties.

    We should be advocating providing the most effective opposition to a Brexit right wing government , in absence of an official one , not provided by Labour !

    In this, I think we need to make it clear , that as a party very in favour of constructive and thus , coalition government, we are wanting to be the government or the opposition, not an adjunct !

    And we should not stand against Caroline Lucas as a thank you for Richmond, and thats it this time , until Labour change in general , and the Greens do north of the border!

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Apr '17 - 3:20pm

    @ Andrew McCaig,
    Andrew, the majority of health workers still come from countries outside the EU. Many from countries that are over producing health care workers such as India and the Philippines. Many more would come if they found it easy to do so. Those of us who are old have reason to thank those health workers from the commonwealth who kept our NHS afloat, and leave a massive deficit as they have reached retirement age.

    Even if Brexit was to go ahead, there is absolutely no reason why the government could not solve the current uncertainty that may cause a fall in health care workers from the EU. Those who voted Brexit who I speak to, have no wish to limit those whose skills would be beneficial to the country.

    Similarly when it comes to reciprocal arrangements regarding health care for Britain in the UK Europe and people from the continent, there are already reciprocal agreements between the UK and non EU countries. Such reciprocal arrangement could if there was the political will to do so, be negotiated with EU countries.

    When it comes to EU regulations, for example, the working time directive, the government will be able to decide whether to continue with the EU regulations that currently exist, or replace them with Uk regulations. Again, that will be a political choice.

    As the King’s Fund has suggested, there is unlikely to be significant impact on procurement and competition law. There is no reason why we couldn’t agree to a harmonised approach with the European Medicine Agency when it comes to medical regulation and the conducting of medical trials.

    I believe that all the issues, for example the continued collaboration and free movement of scientists which are in the best interests of the UK and the EU can be negotiated afresh. It is in the best interests of all parties that these continue.

    I regret that a majority voted for Brexit, but they won according to the rules. If the numbers had been reversed I doubt that the complaints of those who voted Brexit and than attempted to overthrow the result, would have received sympathy from the ‘Remain’ side.

  • Dave Orbison 21st Apr '17 - 3:22pm

    Well yes,I switched, post coalition, from LibDems to Corbyn’s Labour and so am biased but not anti LibDem. But when I look at policies of the Labour Party – I cannot for the life of me understand the fervent animosity and vitriol I read here on LDV from some regular contributors towards Corbyn.

    It may raise a laugh in the LibDem meetings when joking about Labour not being an opposition, and yes they have issues, but doesn’t it occur to Tim Farron and co that to suggest that 8-9 LibDem MP’s are now the official opposition is just daft. It invites the listener to ask how many MP’s have the LibDems got and reminds everyone of the hammering they received at the last GE. Such daft claims undermine the imperative for the LibDem party to be taken seriously again.

    As for blaming Corbyn over and over for Brexit, you can’t have it both ways, either no one listens to him or they did and his oft ‘misreported’ stance on the EU was responsible. I saw Corbyn live on the EU debate – he gave the EU 7/10 which I think was fair and honest. But he ended up being slated because the Brexitiers would have us believe the EU was an evil force and the ‘Remain’ campaign would accept no criticism of the EU else it would invite a lack of support. Both campaigns were misleading and were a great disservice to our country. It’s sad when honest answers are leaped upon and turned into tribal weapons.

    In the next few weeks I hope that the LibDems focus on the Tories more than Labour why? a) Because they are the Government and should be held to account; b)the Tories have implemented, and will continue to do so, some of the most punishing changes in benefits, slashing of public services and deliberate underfunding of the NHS we have ever seen. I believe Lab would not do this. The difference between the two is chalk and cheese – not something to be equidistant on.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '17 - 6:02pm


    I have said enough about these things over the years. I despise the Tories and everything they stand for, I hated most of what the Coalition did.

    So why do you continue to make comments that seem to be based on the assumption that secretly I like the Tories and their policies and that everything I say about why I sadly accepted the formation of the Coalition is nonsense put simply to disguise that?

    Of course, the point is that what you are saying is what most people believed to be true. People like me who tried to argue about it logically were ignored or despised. Labour wanted to do that in order to destroy the Liberal Democrats, because that is what Labour is like – a party that would rather have a permanent Tory government so long as it is the sole opposition.

    Well, those who smashed the LibDems by making the point you have made have what they wanted.

    As I have said myself, I reluctantly accepted the Coalition because I could see that the only alternative would have been the Tories calling another general election to get a majority – supported by Labour who would push the line “the LibDems are wrecking the country by making it impossible o have a stable government”. That does not mean I accepted the way Clegg and his fellow economic right-wingers in the party managed and promoted the Coalition.

  • There is no way we should agree an official pre-election pact with anyone – there are significant policy differences between the liberal democrats and labour/greens/SNP, so why on earth would want to play down those differences – we should be trying to differentiate ourselves more, so we stand out and people vote for us.

    With regards to more informal agreements, they might be possible on a case by case basis. I think there is an argument (perhaps not a great one) though for us supporting the greens in a seat like Bristol, where they are in second place.

    However there is no way we should give Caroline Lucas a free run in Brighton for tow main reasons (I am biased as I am a member who lives in Brighton Pavilion). Firstly she is incumbent MP, with a decent majority (over Labour) not a “progressive” candidate trying to oust a sitting Tory.

    Secondly Brighton Pavilion is an incredibly liberal and left leaning constituency, which voted heavily for remain, so there there is almost no chance of a conservative win. So giving people the choice of liberal leaning parties is important and denying people (like me) the opportunity to vote for their preferred party is a terrible idea, particularly in a city where the Liberal Democrats should be flourishing (we don’t even have a single council seat…). So we would be damaging the party locally to “help” a candidate who almost certainly doesn’t need the help.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '17 - 6:19pm


    It is perfectly possible to rule out forming a coalition and to supply or not supply votes on an issue by issue basis.

    No, it is not. Please see the point I made at 8.42am on this point. The main issues in politics are not isolated, they are linked. If you take in on an issue by issue basis, sure you can vote against cuts in government spending, but then what? The Tories can vote against any tax rises you might propose to pay to stop the cuts. A workable government, however, needs to balance taxes and spending.

    Now, the LibDems might have taken this position if they were in a solid enough state, so that the Tories would be scared to call another general election. But the LibDems were in a weak state – gaining a much lower share of the vote in the 2010 election than the polls suggested, and clearly on the way down.

    If Labour had backed the LibDems when they did stand up against the Tories, and proposed workable alternative policies that a Labour-LibDem coalition could have had, then I think the LibDems would have been in a much stronger position, more able to argue their point, and threat to end the coalition with an early general election. However, since all Labour did was to abuse the Liberal Democrats to try and destroy them, without offering any solid alternative, that didn’t happen.

    And, as we now have seen, Labour managed to destroy themselves as well by behaving in this way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '17 - 6:34pm

    Dave Orbison

    But he ended up being slated because the Brexitiers would have us believe the EU was an evil force and the ‘Remain’ campaign would accept no criticism of the EU else it would invite a lack of support.

    I don’t think the Remain campaign was at all well run. However, I think the line that anyone who supported Remain was a fanatic supporter of every single aspect of the EU was one put by the Leave campaign rather than the truth. Indeed, this seemed to me to be the problem throughout – it was impossible to have a rational discussion on the EU because those who opposed it almost always in effect adopted the position, if you tried to debate it with them, “Lah lah lah lah lah, we’re not listening, you’re just a fanatic singing the Ode to Joy because you have an irrational love for being controlled by Brussels”.

  • Matthew,
    I never implied any such thing.
    I believe what you’re saying , I just disagree with it. No one smashed the lib Dems. They put their vote elsewhere.
    No, it is always a choice to form a coalition. There is no rule that forces one. Dude you tie yourself in knots

  • David Allen 21st Apr '17 - 6:48pm

    We should rule out a coalition led by Corbyn. We should not rule out a coalition with Labour led by someone else. That way we can (and must) avoid the charge that we are in the pockets of the Tories.

    We cannot rule out a coalition with the Tories, because we shall be campaigning to prevent a hard Brexit. If we succeed in holding the balance of power – which is the least unrealistic ambition we can reasonably entertain – then we have options. To prevent hard Brexit, we might have to sup once again with the Tory devil, despite all the harm they did us last time around.

    What we should rule out is a coalition which leaves the Single Market. If the Tories were hypothetically to offer a coalition deal which enabled us to insist on soft Brexit, with our EU trading links fully preserved, then we should not rule out accepting.

  • Keith Browning 21st Apr '17 - 7:22pm

    As one of the 8000 and the 48% there is far too much internal bickering going on, which is probably why the LDs never make real progress in the polls. There seems to be more hatred of Corbyn than May – I don’t understand why. Too much pettiness generally..!! Everyone – get your eyes on the target, which is to remove the Tories by any means – and please keep us in the European Union. As we were told yesterday – ‘Brussels’ is quite happy to tear up the Article 50 letter if we vote for a ‘Remain’ government.

  • paul barker 21st Apr '17 - 8:00pm

    @Keith Browning, our average Polling seems to have risen about 1% in the last 10 days, it was rising before but at a much slower rate, more like 1% every 100 days. Its a massive acceleration & I would expect it rise further.
    I wouldnt describe the lively debate on LDV as bickering – theres a genuine debate to be had about how far we can go by ourselves & whether & when we can replace Labour.

  • nick cotter 21st Apr '17 - 8:10pm

    I Agree with Keith !!

    Stop Navel Gazing and get out there making the Lib Dem case

    Nick Cotter – Lib Dem member, originally Manchester Uni early 80’s and only time not a member during the latter part of the coalition …..

  • David Evershed 22nd Apr '17 - 12:11am

    Lib Dem philosopy is for business competition, free markets and free trade because of the economic benefit they bring.

    Labour and Green philosophy is against fee markets and free trade.

    Lib Dems are not Labour Lite.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '17 - 9:10am


    The LibDems were smashed. They went down from 57 to 8 MPs. The main beneficiaries of this were the Conservatives. I joined the Liberal Party in the 1970s because I saw it as the party that could challenge the Conservatives and win against them in the south-east where I lived where Labour couldn’t win. And we did see Liberal Democrat MPs elected in quite a few seats that were previously written off as “true blue” safe Conservative.

    So far as I am concerned, my life’s political work was destroyed when all these places returned to being safe Conservative. And yes I DO partly blame people for you for that. Sorry, you may it have meant it that way, but that is how many people have taken it. Thanks to the sort of comments you are making, people have the impression that somehow the Liberal Democrats could have formed a sort of left-wing government and just chose instead to back the Tories because secretly we are all Tory sympathisers.

    That is so wrong, and I am disgusted by the way you hint that is what I am instead of accepting the pints I have been trying to make.

  • Matthew,
    Fair enough. I think it was the result a short sighted decision. I never hinted anything.

  • Robin Grayson 22nd Apr '17 - 9:48am

    Good morning folks. I regret I simply have no time to read the ins and outs of the debate. Here in Manchester we have put all our ducks in a row to win Gorton and Withington and break Labour’s control of our great city. We already have a coalition, but NOT in smoke-filled rooms. But by hard work in gaining the trust and respect of Mancunians spanning Lib Dems, soft Labour, soft Conservatives and Greens to vote for us to replace Labour. Our voters are our solid coalition/alliance in this pair of Labour-facing seats.

    Mancunians act on a broader canvas too, helping in Witney, Richmond, Stoke… Regionally we are helping take seats – Labour and Conservative – by supporting Jane Brophy win the Greater Manchester Mayoral Elections on May 5th. She even has a team perfecting novel measures for combating NO2 air pollution first in Withington, then in Gorton and now for anywhere: join ALDC and ask them for our reports.

  • A suggestion for a 2017 electoral alliance for Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens:
    Considering the scale of change required to hold back the Tories and remove FPTP this is not a very ambitions plan but given the short time available, and the tribal nature of politics, and the fear of doing things differently, any progress would be welcome.

    Start small and local where the 3 parties have nothing to lose. A trial experiment with low risk.
    No need, and no time available, for agreements on policy (PR, Brexit etc.)
    Find 3 constituencies where the incumbent Tory is the likely winner anyway.
    Fair deal where all 3 parties can see potential benefit
    For example: Warwick and Leamington: Labour 2nd, Lib Dems no chance. Cheltenham Lib Dems 2nd, Labour no chance, Isle of Wight Greens 2nd, no chance anyway.
    Only requires the agreement of 9 local parties.

  • Yeovil Yokel 22nd Apr '17 - 3:54pm

    Andy P – just touching on your comment: the biggest prize for us from a coalition agreement would be a timetabled commitment to PR, with all the huge positive benefits which would flow from it. Therefore, that should be the biggest price we extract from a minority Tory or Labour administration. After the experience of 2010-15 I do not feel the Tories can trusted for the foreseeable future, so the introduction of STV or AM (not AV) should be non-negotiable.

  • This may be of interest to people in West London, possibly building on the work at the Richmond by-election.

    We have a lot to gain from this as a party, and I feel we have even more to gain as people if we can get this sort of thing off the ground, so I hope some of those local to this will show their support.

  • John Littler 22nd Apr '17 - 7:33pm

    The LibDem profile has risen due to one issue, Brexit. The main emphasis should be on that and electoral reform as the key to a whole range of reforms.

    The LibLab pact in the 70’s was not toxic in the way that the Tory Coalition was. There is no serious electoral gains to be had from right wing liberalism, as that has become subsumed within the Tories. Having said that, Corbyn is too toxic for a pre-election arrangement, even if the Labour tribalists would agree to do so.

    A confidence and supply offer in return for remaining in the Customs Union, might be achievable and should be the aim, as it gives us free trade with 53 countries in addition to the 27. When the look at the countries not covered, many are highly corrupt, most are distant and expensive to deal with, some are in recession and many are mostly very poor. Add to that an assortment of dictatorships and basket cases and the case for leaving it is weak.

    The lies about various countries queuing up for fast trade deal

  • John Littler 22nd Apr '17 - 7:40pm

    2. The lies about various countries queuing up for fast trade deals are coming apart. Liam Fox has done over quarter of a million miles of trade envoy trips and has very little to show for it. May was told that India was only interested if it had visa free access for it’s people and Australia said much the same. In any case, studies show that long distance trade deals make little difference to trade and present trade with those territories is only in the 1% range.
    Today, the EU Parliament made it clear that without a deal agreed, the UK would face customs restrictions on it’s goods and immigration controls on it’s people, the same as would apply to India.

  • John Littler 22nd Apr '17 - 7:49pm

    Either LibDems should say that they might go into coalition with either party, in order to receive support from borderline voters of either side, or it should be neither side and just the consideration of confidence and supply for concessions.

    By saying that only the Tories were in consideration of coalition, Farron could be taken as suggesting that a vote for the LibDems is for Tory lite. This has limited appeal and is not worthy of a party that is the inheritors of the Whigs, the Radicals, or the Liberal Party of Gladstone, Corn Laws Repeal, Lloyd George’s founding of the welfare state and turning around of WW1, as well as of the SDP.

  • John Littler 22nd Apr '17 - 8:05pm


    It is probably too late now for the election, but having read the Industrial policy forum material, I thought there could be significant dividends for a higher profile and more distinctive and detailed Industrial Policy offering in the manifesto, based on the principles of Co-operative Capitalism, or what is sometimes called the German/Scandinavian model.

    This would go hand in hand with green policy, regional policy, financial reform, training and education, as well as boosting growth and lessening the effects of brexit and looming recession. It would also help to improve the situation of the left behind.

    While proactive policies such as these cost money, they are more effective spends than giving it away as tax cuts in Corpn tax, the bank levy, to rich dead people and in higher rate income tax thresholds, which are often squirreled away in tax havens or stockpiled uselessly.

  • Denis Mollison 22nd Apr '17 - 9:01pm

    @ David Evershed 22nd Apr ’17 – 12:11am – “Lib Dem philosopy is for business competition, free markets and free trade because of the economic benefit they bring.
    Labour and Green philosophy is against fee markets and free trade.”

    That’s the right wing of our party’s attitude. Social Liberals such as myself think the emphasis should be on fair trade rather than free trade, and are closer to Labour and the Green Party on this.

  • Denis Mollison 22nd Apr '17 - 9:06pm

    “because of the economic benefit they bring”. Read up the history of free trade; it has often been a tactic of strong economies to exploit weak ones. The 19th century Liberal free trade tradition is something we should examine critically, not boast about.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '17 - 7:43am

    David Evershed

    Lib Dem philosopy is for business competition, free markets and free trade because of the economic benefit they bring.

    No. It is for the freedom they bring. Big difference in reasons. Liberals put freedom before economic benefit.

  • richard underhill. 19th Aug '20 - 3:18pm

    Matthew Huntbach 20th Apr ’17 – 11:09pm
    For the sake of the memory of Liberals in South Africa during the years of Apartheid we should accept that they were living examples of what it meant to be Progressive, sometimes at great risk to their lives and freedom, although they also used the word Liberal at a time when we might have dropped it.
    Acceptance of a nasty effect of democracy might allow what I call judicial execution, sometimes known as capital punishment, which can be justified if an alternative to execution is transportation to Australia or USA for an offence such as prostitution.
    Liberal is an adjective, so we believe in a form of democracy which we have not achieved but South Africa has.
    There is more to do, so coalition may be necessary in the future, with newer Labour as the obvious partner, being “under new management” and avoiding their recent history of anti-semitism which has not affected us on any serious scale.

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