Guardian revelations about Clegg, Cable and the Lib Dem election catastrophe

Well, as the ballot papers get sent out in the leadership election, the Guardian publishes a series of revelations tonight about the last year of the coalition and the aftermath of the European elections.

Apparently Nick Clegg was ready to resign in the wake of the European elections and was talked out of it by, among others, Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron. Certainly at the time, the feedback that Federal Executive members gave at our post Euro disaster meeting was that there was no appetite in the wider party for a leadership election, but they did want things to change.

Vince Cable, it transpires, did know about the Oakeshott polls.

The revelation of Clegg’s near resignation and subsequent attempt to force him out comes as part of a Guardian investigation into the collapse of the party that was in government until just over a month ago. The Guardian report also reveals:

  • The extent to which Cable was fully aware aware of the plot to oust Clegg in the wake of the 2014 elections.

  • The party’s director of communications, Steve Lotinga, bluffed Cable on a ministerial visit in China into confirming that his friend Lord Oakeshott was behind polls showing that the party was heading for defeat in 2015.

  • The former cabinet minister Ed Davey felt that Clegg showed strong leadership in difficult circumstances, but that the party’s manifesto was “blancmange”.

  • The leadership was rocked by the leaking by an aide to the former Scotland secretary Alistair Carmichael of a private civil service note which claimed that Nicola Sturgeon favoured David Cameron over Ed Miliband. Lotinga described it as “the worst leak in history”.

John Pugh is revealed as sounding out colleagues about challenging Nick’s leadership:

I had no animosity to Nick,” Pugh recalled. “But the party could not hinge on the fortunes of one man. We could not let liberalism disappear off the map just because we were afraid to take a tough decision about leadership. I approached colleagues and set some benchmarks – if we fell below three MEPs and lost more than 500 seats in locals, then we would have to act.” The party went on to lose 10 of its 11 European parliament seats, and 310 councillors. “There were a dozen MPs with serious misgivings,” Pugh said. “I spoke to Vince because MPs wanted to know, if Nick were to step down, would Vince step up? One MP’s only question to me was, ‘Will Vince do it ?’ Answer, ‘Yes’. ‘Oh, right, I am for it’.”

There is a much longer in-depth article which you can read here.

What will surprise people is that David Laws was one of the people advising against a u-turn on tuition fees and Danny Alexander was the one who was apparently pushing for it:

Many senior figures – including Clegg’s new press secretary James McGrory, Jonny Oates, the chief of staff, and David Laws, the former Treasury chief secretary – warned that supporting a rise in tuition fees would be disastrous. As business secretary, Cable looked for a way out; Danny Alexander, who had taken over from Laws as chief secretary to the Treasury, insisted the party should go along with the rise in tuition fees.

The more I read of this article, the more furious I get. At every Federal Executive possible, I said that our messaging wasn’t good enough and wasn’t connecting with people and needed to be changed. Now we discover that senior ministers felt the same thing. They had the power to change it and didn’t.

On the Blukip issue, I’d felt for some time that the biggest threat was a Tory majority and everyone I said that to said I was talking rubbish. I wrote that Blue was the problem, not the Kip. And now we find that Paddy Ashdown thought the same thing. He was not some random activist. He was the chair of the General Election campaign. Why was he not listened to?

Whether we could have pulled anything back, I don’t know. But given that David Laws saw the danger on tuition fees, you have to wonder if his demise is the night that it all became irrevocably lost for us.

That interview Nick is going to do with LBC at 9am tomorrow just got a whole load more interesting.

 

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

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78 Comments

  • Neil Babbage 24th Jun '15 - 11:22pm

    A depressing read for a number of reasons that I don’t feel inclined to comment on with one exception. The article is a classic hindsight piece. It’s all too easy knowing the conclusion to lay out the steps that “inevitably” led to this outcome. It would be much more credible if it had been predicted in advance. I don’t buy the inevitability argument. The situation faced in 2010 was almost unique – a crisis of unprecedented scale, a coalition government, etc. – and it is specious to argue that the actions taken had inevitable consequences. Nobody knew how the electorate would react, nobody knew how Scotland would vote for independence, nobody knew the outcome of the AV referendum. This last point alone had it gone the other way would leave us with a very different parliamentary make up now.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Jun '15 - 11:28pm

    John Pugh did the right thing by exploring options, his manner in the aftermath in May 2014 never annoyed me, but the people who wouldn’t settle down even after Cable and Farron had said they wanted Clegg to stay were doing damage.

    I don’t have anything to say on it for now. I say enough.

  • Sammy O'Neill 25th Jun '15 - 12:24am

    An interesting read, and I broadly agree with Caron’s conclusions on it all. The fact our only 2 leadership candidates were right in the middle of this mess and seemingly happily going along with it (especially Farron by the looks of it) is incredibly concerning. I stand by the view that neither of the candidates are going to be in a position to restore the parties fortunes.

  • Sadly those who choose to believe that doing nothing for the last year other than await further decline and disaster have only themselves to blame for the catastrophe that hit our party. Some of us had the courage to try; sadly almost all of our senior figures failed the test. The message from the electors in 2014 was clear: Nick was toxic and we had one final chance to do the right thing, to ditch Nick, apologise for the mess he had made and prove we had learned the lesson for the last 12 months. However, when the party need them to stand up for it and its values, most of our MPs went missing. John Pugh was one noble exception and Martin Tod tried his best. Several local parties tried, but many with MPs ducked and Julian persuaded Cambridge that voting to remove Nick would lose him his seat. Sadly his credulity cost him the one chance he had to save him seat and the party.

    Now we are back where we were in the 1960s in terms of MPs and the 1970s in terms of councillors, and the job of turning the party around is only just about to start. Membership is back up to the levels it was at when Nick became leader, but the loss of paid staff in MP’s offices has barely begun unwind. Our next leader will be hard pressed to come out level in terms of electoral results over the next five years, with Scotland looking particularly dodgy in 2016. However, it is vital that we do rebuild because the values of the party have never been more needed by the people out there who depend on us. It is the tragedy of Nick that just when the country most needs liberalism, his misjudgements have made us the most mistrusted of all the parties out there.

  • This is in equal measures encouraging and disturbing. It’s encouraging to know that the warning signs were not entirely missed, even by Nick. But it’s very disturbing to learn that the Party suffers from such sclerosis that even when the leadership of the Party is well aware that things have gone utterly pear-shaped, nothing can be done. It is as if everyone was stupefied, staring into the oncoming lights.

    How can Party structures and communications (and anything else that will help) be changed so that “do nothing and hope for the best” is not the default setting?

  • I do have to wonder — and there are certainly more generous readings of the situation — whether those who supposedly counselled Clegg to stay on were (a) convinced after 2014 that the 2015 election would be a rout (though probably none of them conceived of its scale) and (b) hoped that keeping Clegg on as leader would put the entire onus on him and leave the remainder of the Party free to redefine itself (while fudging the degree to which various persons were involved with the less salutary aspects of Cleggism).

    I trust that nobody was that openly cynical, but it’s not difficult to imagine some such analysis playing a role in decision-making.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 25th Jun '15 - 2:07am

    David Evans: ” It is the tragedy of Nick that just when the country most needs liberalism, his misjudgements have made us the most mistrusted of all the parties out there.”
    Exactly.

    Ed Davey was wrong; Nick’s leadership decisions were what turned our manifesto into blancmange. Nick looked tough whilst saying patronising slogans that only spelled his role as an insider manicurist tweaking the nails to bigger players- not the outsider liberal speaking truth to power on the fundamental issues of today .

    Nick Clegg could not carry what liberalism means in the UK – which is strongest when it’s challenges the political establishment. While this ideal may be nigh on impossible as part of government, as the ultimate insider, Nick was far as could be from ever being up to scratch in such a difficult task.

    Cable seemed to get the point of outsider liberalism whilst being in government (as did Norman Baker!), so would have been far better suited to the task of articulating liberalism to the electorate.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jun '15 - 7:39am

    Caron writes, “On the Blukip issue, I’d felt for some time that the biggest threat was a Tory majority and everyone I said that to said I was talking rubbish. I wrote that Blue was the problem, not the Kip. And now we find that Paddy Ashdown thought the same thing. He was not some random activist. He was the chair of the General Election campaign. Why was he not listened to?”

    Where does the article say that ‘Ashdown thought the same thing.’ He and Olly steadfastly defended the Blukip campaign, their only concern was that the BBC and other media outlets weren’t giving it enough coverage!

    The LDV team gave Blukip massive endorsement and encouraged candidates to gather in behind it – despite the fact that to any experienced campaigner – eg Adrian Sanders it had the effect of encouraging LD>Tory switchers to go with the Tories. Adrian when told of the campaign by his area agent told him bluntly he wd have nothing to do with it. Within two minutes, yes two minutes he had Olly and Paddy on the phone to take him to task and tell him why it was an absolutely brilliant idea!

    Personally I gave Olly and Paddy a ten line outline for an anti-tory campaign (which turned out to be almost word for word the line Alastair Campell was recommending for Labour at the same time) and I got a detailed and long crit of the line – a crit endorsed by an email from Paddy. I am sorry but they really thought the Blukip Campaign was genius campaigning.

    And I am sorry, but when the situation is so bad keeping one’s concerns to the private forum of the FE and then being fulsomely loyal to an incompetent leadership in public is inexcusable, especially for Liberals.

    There were just 5 MPs and two peers who voiced their concerns. 7 out of 160 Parliamentarians. The rest fawned before power and patronage. And the bullying and abuse they received was incredible – just see what people said about Lord Trevor Smith – a wise and loyal Liberal for whom most of the 1997 entry owed their success.

    Good people did nothing for years and years, propping up the incompetent. Squandering their inheritance.

  • ……………………………………The more I read of this article, the more furious I get. At every Federal Executive possible, I said that our messaging wasn’t good enough and wasn’t connecting with people and needed to be changed. Now we discover that senior ministers felt the same thing. They had the power to change it and didn’t……………………………….

    I agree but It wasn’t just the ‘message’; it was the messenger…….”Clegg made numerous phone calls to discuss his position a year before the general election in which his party was reduced from 56 seats to eight. He told one colleague: “If I believe – and I am very close to thinking it – I am the problem and not the solution, I have to stand to one side.”……..

    Resignation….That is what the ‘Guardian’ article is about….

  • Liberal Neil 25th Jun '15 - 8:29am

    My reaction to the BluKip thing was exactly the same as Adrian’s.

    We should have been going hard against the Tories on issues like school budgets, welfare cuts and the need for investment, and not on political bubble positioning.

    As for the article, not sure how balanced it is. At least Pugh, Sanders and others were open in their calls for Nick to go. Oakshott & Co. ultimately scuppered any chance of it happening.

    Having been involved in negotiating the 2010 manifesto I’m not surprised about Danny being all for ditching our tuition fees position. Pleasantly surprised that Laws and others at least weren’t.

    I do think that tuition fees was the biggest single mistake, it meant people stopped trusting us. I’m still not convinced that ditching Clegg a year ago would have made a huge difference.

    Interesting that Tim, who has taken a lot of flak for being disloyal, turns out to have been one of the more admirably loyal ones.

  • “Certainly at the time, the feedback that Federal Executive members gave at our post Euro disaster meeting was that there was no appetite in the wider party for a leadership election, but they did want things to change.”

    I’ve heard different people on FE say different things about this meeting, including some stating that a few members of FE told Clegg to resign (to his face).

    I’m not going to parrot on about this, and of course with leadership issues, there needs to be some confidentiality. But given that the gist of FE is reported by different people in so many different ways (with different gists reported) it really does highlight the need to have a formal mechanism for party committees to report back to members.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jun '15 - 8:40am

    Neil, is one of our top campaigners. Oxwab were lucky to have him. He should have been at the heart of the campaign. He’s one of my top 12 campaigners.

    He is right that 2015 was late. Clegg needed to resign in June 2011. It was all over for him then. And whilst he he tied himself to the mast, a rotting political corpse, we were doomed. This is not hindsight as I went on record at the time.

    The real anti tory line was the danger of destroying the union and endangering EU membership. As I said to the powers that be, you have to fight fear with greater fear. If Neil or anyone else wants the line I gave them, email me. It was identical to the one that Wintour describes Campbell as advocating over in Labour land – see Wintour’s similar piece on Labour for details.

  • Mark Blackburn 25th Jun '15 - 9:04am

    What concerns me most is that I don’t think we’ve learnt these lessons even now. While there’ve been some inevitable and unfortunate casualties at Gt George St, who has actually gone who bears responsibility for all this? And all the while the revisionist attitude that our downfall was inevitable purely due to being in coalition. flourishes under the candy floss of new members. Let’s not forget Labour have more than twice the number of new members and that’s hardly solving their problems.

  • Paul In Wokingham 25th Jun '15 - 9:22am

    @David-1 asks if the opportunity to effect change at the top was deliberately squandered by those who wanted Clegg to carry the can before a post-GE leadership contest based on the expectation of a still substantial (30+) parliamentary party. This is the conclusion that I (a signatory of the libdems4change letter) had reached by this time last year. Those who had the nerve to tell the truth were slapped down and those who followed the officially approved policy of self-deception were promoted.

    As I said in the immediate aftermath of the GE, there is going to be a lot of self-serving revisionism published over the summer. Everything in quotes in that Guardian article needs to be read while keeping The Paxman Question in mind.

  • Neil Sandison 25th Jun '15 - 9:40am

    They say a week is a long time in politics .A month after the general election these kiss and tell revelations seem like ancient history and the sort of thing the Guardian would obsess over.
    On the ground we are receiving a warm welcome .The campaigning for next years locals has already started .positive meetings with new members are already underway .
    It really isn’t worth worrying about the past, Lets get a new campaigning leader in place and let those who want to write books and make money from the sales grumble about who said what and to whom .We need to get over it and build a more resilient party for the future.

  • I hope the Guardian article is recommended to all new members. It is an eye-opener on the real world of many in the [former] ranks the party’s elected members. Surely some of the article is correctly reported and if that is the case – is shocking. We need a constitution which enables all members of the party to be engaged and listened to, including how we are organised and on the action to be taken when we are outraged as a party. Let us put the constitution right so that whoever is elected leader cannot discount our comments again – Liberal Democrats we call ourselves. Let’s remember that.

  • Dear Mark,

    The LDs have never relied on LD/Tory waverers to win LD/Tory marginals. We rely, by and large, on Labour supporters voting tactically to keep out the Tories. A new leader would have been better for this than Clegg. For example, far more people voted Labour in Twickenham than the majority of Vince’s Tory replacement.

    Best,

    Will

  • Cllr Mark Wright 25th Jun ’15 – 9:48am
    “… The 2015 election was lost to the Tories not to Labour, something that the usual suspects here still don’t seem to have digested.”

    Mark, you have turned a tin ear to the facts of the election.
    The Tories got a majority of 12 thanks to FPTP.
    Only one in four people who could have voted, voted Conservative.
    More voters stayed at home and did not vote for any party than actually voted for the Conservative government.

    This does not indicate, as you seem to be suggesting, that the future has to be a rightwing future, quite the opposite.

    Liberal Democrats lost seats to Labour, to the SNP and to the Conservatives.
    Liberal Democrats also lost votes (and more importantly young activists) to the Greens.
    In your City of Bristol, The Greens got one of their best results coming second to Labour in a seat we had held with an excellent local MP (Stephen Williams) whilst the Conservative came fourth with a lost deposit.

    Five out of six of our candidates were in fourth place or worse, behind Labour and/or the Greens in most places.

    In many of our former seats which we lost to the Conservatives the Labour vote and the Green vote went up, whilst it is more difficult to estimate how many 2005 Liberal Democrat voters just stayed at home and did not vote foranybody.
    None of this is evidence of your implied swing to the right.
    Perhaps it is you who needs to explain your interpretation of events a little more?

  • @William

    Yes we have – we held seats like Solihull by doing just that.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 25th Jun ’15 – 9:48am………………….Those saying that getting rid of Nick (for a more left-wing leader, usually) would have changed the election result need to explain coherently why LD/Tory waverers in our rural seats would have thought that this would have made a Labour/SNP coalition less likely so they could stick with us. They need to explain coherently how it would have made the public trust Ed Milliband more so they didn’t vote Tory. Because those were the two defining factors of why the public voted in a Tory majority… Until they explain this, those people are still spouting the same hot-air they have been for the last 5 years. The 2015 election was lost to the Tories not to Labour, something that the usual suspects here still don’t seem to have digested………

    What do you mean by ” a more left-wing leader”? Someone who had not broken the tuition fee pledge? Had not embraced the NHS re-organisation? Had not instructed the party to vote for ‘secret courts’? Had required a fairer implementation of the bedroom tax?, etc…It was the fact, that appearing to support Tory policies, we gave the electorate the impression that there was little difference between us and they might as well vote for the ‘organ grinder’……

    As for Milliband that was a completely different issue.. The media had spent 5 years portraying him as, at best a ‘Wallace’ and at worst a ‘fratricidal commie’……In the election Labour policies were hardly touched upon; the emphasis was on ‘scaring’ the electorate over an SNP take-over, etc.

    As for the ‘usual suspects’….I imagine that means those of us who wanted the coalition to be emphasised as ‘marriage of convenience’ rather than a ‘love match’ and saw the polls, Local/Euro elections, etc. as the true state of the party…I despair for the future if there are many who hold your views on recent history….

  • I was agreeing with you Mark 🙂

  • Given that Clegg offered to go, perhaps some of the anti-Clegg brigade owe him an apology ?

  • What on earth is this quote about?

    Amid all the recriminations, Coetzee dismissed the idea that any campaign could have made much difference. If the key issue in many voters’ minds was the threat of the SNP, he argued, there was nothing the Lib Dems could do. “We didn’t have a response that was as powerful as the Tories’,” Coetzee said. “His response was: I’m David Cameron and I’ll tell you the solution to this problem. You give me a majority and there won’t be any SNP in the government.”

    Nick Clegg is on record as making the very argument that if people voted for Labour they would get the SNP!

  • What the Guardian reveals is that the Cleggites were our millstone – not primarily Clegg himself. Here is a revealing quute from the long version of the Guardian article:

    “By 26 May, Oakeshott became nervous that MPs were not rallying as planned – and in a bid to restore momentum to the rebellion, decided to publicise his polling on the dire fate awaiting the party at the general election. He handed the details to the Guardian….

    Oakeshott tried to ring Cable, who was in China … but they missed each other ….

    At this point Stephen Lotinga, the newly installed Lib Dem communications chief, decided to try to flush Cable out. Without consulting Clegg, Lotinga telephoned Cable’s team in China and confronted them with an ultimatum: “Either you distance yourself from this, or you and Oakeshott are going to be named in tomorrow’s papers as the people behind it.”

    Lotinga now admits that he was bluffing. He had no definitive evidence that Oakeshott was involved. But Cable was disoriented, and started to get cold feet – he had already been uncomfortable with the prospect of being handed the leadership on a plate after Clegg was forced out. … Within a few hours, Cable told the BBC that Oakeshott’s activities were reprehensible, and insisted publicly that there was no leadership issue in the party.

    The lesson, Lotinga said, was: “Never go to China if you want to mount a coup.” ”

    Who the heck is Stephen Lotinga, and what made him believe that a party functionary was entitled to strongarm a Government Minister out of mounting a challenge to the party leadership?

    Who runs the Liberal Democrats? It doesn’t look like it’s the elected politicians.

  • For me it is (again) the matter of a lack of integrity that shines through. Vince Cable knew about the “coup” but denied everything. Clegg considered resigning, then denied he had. Add the totally counter productive leak and ensuing lies and we have too many clear cases of outright dishonesty for a Party wanting to regain trust.

  • Neil Sandison “We need to get over it and build a more resilient party for the future.” True, but we will totally fail to do it if we do not all understand why things went wrong, and what we need to change in ourselves to prevent it in future. Currently there are still too many of “Nick’s true believers” who are now simply in denial as to their culpability in this disaster. The “History will look more kindly on Nick Clegg” narrative is the worst example of this soft soap approach, and their continual posting of such rubbish has the danger that it will become the accepted wisdom of many who were not aware of the disaster that happened behind the scenes. Then we will not learn and the party will simply continue to decline.

    I am very pleased you consider that “On the ground we are receiving a warm welcome.” However, we had so many postings on LDV over the last four years telling us the same and they all turned out to be misguided at best. As far as most of the public are concerned we haven’t changed and until we make it clear we have done, I do not believe we will even start to turn the corner. I hope I am wrong and it is easier than I fear it will be, but over the last four years I have been much closer to the truth than almost anyone.

  • @Mark Wright
    “that it was LD-Tory waverers going to the Tories that swung it in the last month.”

    Swung what? Your party was on around 8% in the polls for over four years prior to the election after a large chunk of your core supporters deserted you in 2010.

  • @ Paul Barker – offered to go? Clegg should have just gone. Offering to go is meaningless gesture politics of the very worst and most dishonest kind. I had though my opinion of Clegg couldn’t get any worse. Today it has.

  • Phil Rimmer,

    Here from the Guardian article is an answer to your charge that “Clegg should just have gone”.

    “Although the European results were not declared until Sunday 25 May, after a poor showing in the local elections that took place on the same day, Clegg knew what was coming. He descended into what Ashdown described as “the darkest of the dark nights of the soul”. In a series of phone calls with key figures across the party, Clegg ventured that the time had perhaps come for him to stand down.

    According to one senior Lib Dem who spoke to Clegg at the time, he said: “If I believe – and I think I’m very close to it – that I am the problem and not the solution, then I have to stand to one side.” But, the source continued, “I told him, ‘You don’t have that luxury – this is your burden now, you have to carry it through to the election. Whether you believe that or not, it’s tough titty.” ”

    Anonymous powers who run this party told Clegg that he was now their prisoner. Those people have not gone away. Norman Lamb will not drive them away. Tim Farron may not have the capability to do so, either.

  • @Mark, the only reason we were reliant on LD/Tory waverers and the fear killed us is that we’d already lost the tactical voters. A leader more palatable to centre-left voters would mean this wouldn’t be the case.

    But we’re moving towards digging up old history. Shall we just agree to disagree?

  • paul barker 25th Jun ’15 – 11:13am
    “Given that Clegg offered to go, perhaps some of the anti-Clegg brigade owe him an apology ?”

    The ordinary members of the party should apologise to Nick Clegg for not accepting an offer of resignation which he categorically denied making at the time?

    How were ordinary members supposed to detect his offer of resignation?
    Extra Sensory Perception? intuition? Mind reading?

    As far as The Guardian article reports – Clegg offered in provate to resign to Paddy Ashdown who talked him out of it. Before today he insisted that resignation had never crossed his mind.
    Those were Nick Clegg’s words – “…. Never crossed my mind.”

  • How much support gained since the mid was because it was a protest vote and not because it was for the LDs? How much LD vote was anti Tory in the West Country and when another party such as UKIP came along, it went there ? How much anti Iraq war vote post 2003 was anti Blair and not pro LD and returned to Labour once E Milliband became Labour leader ? How much youth vote went to the Green Party as soon as they could come up with naive un costed policies ? The tuition fee pledge was sign of naive un- costed politics: ‘ it’s reversal a sign of duplicity. The one achievement of Oakshott was to make Cable look a second rate Duke of York.

    I would suggest that the Tories won because they appealed more to people on average salaries working in the private sector who are decent people, vaguely patriotic in a low key manner and aspire to a better quality of life through honest hard work. Labour and the LDs also lost people to UKIP for similar reasons, especially in former industrial areas and the West Country. Cruddas , Hoey and Field appear to some of the few labour MPs who realise why former voters have gone to UKIP.

    A reading of Orwell’s essays from 1920-1950 would have explained the failures of left wing intelligentsia , which follows on from their shallow self righteousness and despising physical courage, patriotism and British culture ( especially the common decency and bourgeois views of the common man ) combined with veneration of the Soviet Union and all things foreign. Veneration of the USSR appears to have been replaced by a veneration of the EU.

  • Well done to Mark Shapland, Naomi Smith, Lord Oakshott and others for trying to save the ship from going down. I couldn’t agree more with Bill Le Breton in his comments here. What did we learn? The party was seriously outgunned and putting Paddy in charge of the campaign was a terrible idea. Did anyone read the ToryHome piece on their secret election plan? The party is waaay out of date and needs root-and-branch reform, including a purge of the old guard from the Clegg regime.

  • Ben Jephcott 25th Jun '15 - 2:38pm

    What is now clear is that Nick genuinely rather than rhetorically offered to quit last year. Electorally, a seamless transition to Vince might have been the best option but there was no clear support for that, instead an inconclusive bloodbath was likely. I think Tim was right to advise Nick to stay. The difference between 8 MPs and zero MPs under FPTP is small. Another interesting feature of the article is yet more evidence that David Laws has all the right instincts (unlike Danny Alexander).

    What should have changed and what everyone said they wanted to change after the Euro disaster was the campaign message and style, but it did not. We should have started to project that we understood the key concerns of swing voters, but we did not. Nick bears some responsibility for that but the problem goes far wider.

    The ‘Wheelhouse’ obsession for coalition and an establishment instead of insurgent narrative remained – instead of projecting what we were for and against and modifying our message in response to what worked with swing voters. Paddy made this mistake in 1992 and tried to repeat it in 1997 – when Rennard stopped him by insisting we stuck with the core policy message (C.H.E.E.S.E etc).

    In 2015, there was no challenge to this fundamental error – the people who followed Rennard’s approach were not there, for one reason or another. We used to have a genius for understanding (and locally, shaping) the narrative of an election campaign: identifying the swing policies or slogans that most resonated with voters and adapting our message accordingly. That is how we used to win by-elections. That is what Tory campaign director Lynton Crosby did very effectively this time to us, in our seats.

    Instead, from Coetzee down, we delivered the wrong messages, in volume, over time, making us look impervious to facts or arguments to all but our most dedicated supporters. Our infrastructure and staff delivered logistical heroics in all sorts of ways, but the core problem in the Wheelhouse meant it counted for little. We added fuel to the fire by highlighting the threat of the SNP and UKIP, instead of the extremism and general ghastliness of the Tories, our main opponents. Coalition with differentiation was not impossible.

    That is why the fact that Paddy is so strongly backing Norman means a Tim victory is essential if the party is to recover.

  • David Allen 25th Jun '15 - 3:12pm

    Mark Wright said,

    “we were hammered in Bristol because of a) tuition fees, and b) the very existence of the coalition. There is literally no way that replacing Nick with Vince – who was the architect of tuition fees and a pillar of the coalition! – would have changed that one jot. The only way to change that would have been to elect, say, Tim Farron, and quit the coalition entirely…”

    What you forget is that taking over the party leadership in mid 2014 was clearly a poisoned chalice for anyone aspiring to a long term political career. A replacement for Clegg could be expected to achieve only a weak partial revival. After winning twenty seats instead of eight, the 2014-2015 leader would almost certainly be on the political scrapheap. It is no surprise that Farron did not want to lead the assassination squad, and he cannot really be blamed for not doing so.

    The obvious candidate in 2014 was Cable, who at 71 could reasonably be expected to believe that a single year’s leadership and the partial rescue of the Party would make a fitting conclusion to his political career. So as the Guardian explains,

    ““There were a dozen MPs with serious misgivings,” Pugh said. “I spoke to Vince because MPs wanted to know, if Nick were to step down, would Vince step up? One MP’s only question to me was, ‘Will Vince do it ?’ Answer, ‘Yes’. ‘Oh, right, I am for it’.””

    But “Cable (in China) was disoriented, and started to get cold feet – he had already been uncomfortable with the prospect of being handed the leadership on a plate after Clegg was forced out. His wife, who was travelling with him in China, was unhappy that he had let himself become embroiled in the coup attempt to begin with. Within a few hours, Cable told the BBC that … there was no leadership issue in the party.”

    It seems to me that Cable comes out of this reasonably well – willing to take action, but also rationally fearful that an attempted coronation could go badly wrong and cause damage. What would have saved the situation would have been more people willing to join Pugh in putting their heads above the parapet and demanding change. They didn’t, and so Clegg’s puppeteers succeeded in keeping Clegg in place, with the disastrous consequences we know.

  • A Social Liberal 25th Jun '15 - 3:15pm

    I cannot believe that some people are still trying to place the reason for our party being dead in the water on a last minute swing from us to the Nasty Party. As Steve says, we were polling on less than 10% for most of the last parliament and according to the BBC our share of the vote on 7th May was 7.9%. Therefore no swing away from the Lib Dems.

    There is one main reason for our poor showing, the voting public did not trust us – and to be fair, who can blame them? *We said we were against Free Schools
    *We said we were against a rise in VAT
    *We said we were against broken promises

    I could go on (and on and on) but you get the picture. We promised much, delivered a modicom and broke our word over and over and over again. Worse than that, in order to to have some small say in government we had to compromise – but we compromised our liberal principles.

    The public took note of our shortfalls and turned away from us in huge numbers. Those who say it was worth it – well you might think so but getting into bed with the devil has destroyed our party – probably for a generation and quite possibly for ever.

  • @A Social Liberal “getting into bed with the devil ”

    Anyone who uses this sort of language about political opponents instantly negates their own argument.

  • @David Evans “but over the last four years I have been much closer to the truth than almost anyone.”

    Well it’s good to know that modesty is one of your enduring qualities, David 😉

    So what truth would that be and how did you manage to get so close to it?

  • A Social Liberal 25th Jun '15 - 3:45pm

    Only in your eyes TCO

  • @A Social Liberal OK, explain to me then why the Conservative Party = The Devil

  • @Ben Jephcott “Another interesting feature of the article is yet more evidence that David Laws has all the right instincts (unlike Danny Alexander). ”

    Look at their respective Alma Maters.

  • Simon Hebditch 25th Jun '15 - 4:22pm

    To be frank, we haven’t learned much from the Guardian article that wasn’t already being talked about. The trouble with changing the leadership in 2014 was that, having lost one swathe of supporters by going into the coalition and braking our promises, we would have lost a further swathe of people who would have excoriated us for abandoning the government. No, we had to soldier on towards the disaster and then look to pick up the pieces afterwards.

    I am well aware that the party is incredibly resilient but we have to recognise that recovery is a long term project. In parliamentary terms, we would be doing well if managed to win 20 seats in 2020 and 50 in 2025. The question is whether the battle would be worth it. We will not recover unless we establish ourselves unequivocally as a centre left movement prepared to work with others in alliance. We have to regain trust and credibility both as an electoral force and, even more importantly, as a campaigning organisation at all levels which is in the business of promoting radical change. The time for anodyne messages such as “unity, stability” is over. Not only do we need new leadership but also the beginning of the hard slog to become relevant again. At the moment, we are nothing.

  • Nick Clegg was an elected LD leader wasn’t he? Did voting members not know the calibre of the man and his potential as a leader when he was chosen by the party? I’m a relatively new member and am so fed up with the kicking Nick continues to get from people who pontificate on LDV. For heavens sake move on and have a little more respect for the man the Liberal Democrats elected to lead the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jun '15 - 5:40pm

    Pat

    Nick Clegg was an elected LD leader wasn’t he? Did voting members not know the calibre of the man and his potential as a leader when he was chosen by the party?

    No, they did not. He was someone with very little experience in the party, whose main contribution to general party debate while a backbench MP was to write a pamphlet for “Centre Forum” which could have completely undermined me at the time in my role as Leader of the Opposition in the flagship New Labour London Borough of Lewisham. It sung the praises of Labour in Lewisham, supporting their thoroughly illiberal idea of abolishing votes for the representative assembly and putting it all in the hands of one person instead (i.e, the national version of socialism, as practiced in the 1030s in Italy and Germany), and accepted their propaganda about having got popular agreement through a “Citizens Jury” (which was fed a one-sided argument in favour of elected mayors and I was never invited to address to put the other side).

    Just perhaps he should have consulted with his own party colleagues in the place he was writing about before writing about it? Fortunately, Labour in Lewisham never got hold of this pamphlet and were unaware of its existence. I was deeply unimpressed by Clegg’s reply to the complaint about his behaviour I emailed to him. He seemed to have no idea of why what he had done could have been so damaging or why I as a liberal was so deeply opposed to the idea of elected Mayors.

    Clegg won because he was promoted relentlessly by the right-wing press as “obviously the next leader of the Liberal Democrats”, and I think one can see why.

  • David Evans 25th Jun '15 - 7:43pm

    TCO and many of us know that having your head in the clouds about our performance over the last five years based quite often on incorrect so-called facts is your enduring legacy. 🙂

    However, in answer to your question, I was right because I could see that the loss of hundreds of councillors every year was the verdict of voters and was not changing, because Nick had totally lost their trust in one fell swoop over tuition fees. The only chance was for the party to clearly repudiate what he had done but so many of us were simply in denial. Continuing with that approach will mean we will never start to turn the corner and win back people’s trust and that would be a tragedy. Sadly even now so many of Nick’s true believers refuse to accept this.

  • paul barker 25th Jun ’15 – 11:13am
    Given that Clegg offered to go, perhaps some of the anti-Clegg brigade owe him an apology ?

    I will apologise in the same manner and the same spirit as Nick offered to go. Ie my apology will be secret, known to virtually noone until it suits me to publicise it a year later.

  • Sammy O'Neill 25th Jun '15 - 9:13pm

    @A Social Liberal

    “the nasty party”- this isn’t the 1980’s, let’s move beyond ridiculous name calling.

  • A Social Liberal 25th Jun '15 - 9:33pm

    TCO

    What is it about the Tories that equivicates to the Devil? Obviously I didn’t mean it literally, any more than someone who states ‘the devil you know . . . . ‘ However I believe that they are enacting some truly wicked policies which do some truly awful things.

    How can finding someone with a terminal illness fit for work be anything other than wicked. How can treating someone as guilty without giving them the right to answer their accusers in court even be legal never mind morally right. That Lib Dems supported something that is so wrong would at one time have been beyond belief. This is what I meant when I spoke of getting into bed with the devil.

  • Jonathan Pile 25th Jun '15 - 10:23pm

    I stand by my call along with 400+ others for Nick Clegg to stand down for the sake of the party. how ironic that he thought the same but appears to have been Paddy’s prisoner in some way. I still believe that a leadership election last summer would have given Jo Swinson , Lynne Featherstone ,Ed Davey, Danny Alexander & Vince cable le to lead the party in an election which would have gripped the voters. Tim Farron would have won. And gone on to get voters to listen to the party . Perhaps 20-25 MPs and 11-14% and a better chance than now . But now the damage has been done

  • Rather than going over endlessly what might have been or what did happen when there will be as many versions of that as there were people present and probably as many again from those who were told something by someone who was present, please can we get behind which ever person we want to be the next leader so they get elected and then all get behind that person so he can rescue our party by using all the talents which are at the moment going down the plug hole of who did what.
    What I would like to find out about is how the SNP came back from losing the Independance vote and turned practically the whole of Scotland into supporters.. They could have argued themselves into oblivion but didn’t and there must be many lessons we could learn from them. Or is that akin to heresy?

  • All very discouraging. We cannot afford any more time getting thing wrong – otherwise we really will be toast.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jun '15 - 7:59am

    Sue S

    please can we get behind which ever person we want to be the next leader so they get elected and then all get behind that person so he can rescue our party by using all the talents which are at the moment going down the plug hole of who did what.

    Yes, and please can the next leader get behind those in the party doing the work on the ground so that they can rescue the party. The point about talking about mistakes made in the past is to try and make sure similar mistakes are not made in the future.

    I don’t think Nick Clegg is a bad person, and he was in a very difficult position. The Coalition was always going to lose us a lot of support, yet I’ve always agreed we had a duty to form the only stable government that could be formed out of the Parliament that got elected thanks to the way the people voted and distortions of the electoral system which the people backed by two to one when we offered them a change.

    The problem with Nick Clegg was that he really didn’t seem to know our party at all, and didn’t even seem to want to know. Instead he seemed to have ideas about how to lead it which came straight from the Westminster Bubble elite view of the party – which is always completely and often quite stunningly, wrong. In that view, local party members are an unimportant detail, a nuisance really, and best suppressed, because it’s the marketing men at the top who know how to sell the party and what sort of policies it should have.

  • Bill le Breton 26th Jun '15 - 8:42am

    Here’s a thought: In his article immediately post election, Julian Astle tells us that Nick Clegg had made his ‘Liberalism’ speech many times before. He says in fact that the resignation version wasn’t a particularly stunning version of the speech.

    So, what might have happened had Nick Clegg resigned and made that speech on May 28th 2014. Wow – we might have gained 20,000 new members by this time last year.

    And another thought: many of these members (and possibly many more who felt the same feelings but didn’t quite get making the joining commitment) have apparently done so also because they now realise the value of our contribution to politics and to governance. It’s the classic, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’.

    So what if we had left the Coalition BEFORE Mau 2015? There were plenty of opportunities (as I have advocated over the years), specifically May/June 2014. (see above) Recall how Kennedy, as a a new leader, distanced us from Labour – leaving the Cabinet’s Constitutional Committee. Or at the time of the Dec 2014 Autumn Statement which first gave figures to the Tory Welfare cut plans (that Alexander supported so keenly).

    A new leader cd have repositioned us very quickly.

    Might we have better demonstrated our value as a party from outside Government?

  • Bill le Breton 26th Jun '15 - 8:45am

    Mark Wright says it was all up, when we joined the coalition and did the deed on Tuition fees. There’s a lot of truth in that but, did the Coalition have to operate as Clegg and Cameron chose to operate it?

    Ryan Cortzee in his informative review of what happened (in the Independent? – the full version) describes how Cameron immediately following the Euros called a meeting of all the SpAds – Tory and Lib Dems – to tell them he did not what a ‘transactional’ Coalition and to make sure there was no element or atmosphere of a transaction coalition in the last 12 months of the Government. By transactional he meant that he did not want the Coalition to show its horse trading in public.

    This is most revealing because the 2010/15 Coalition was not an ordinary Coalition – it was an extraordinary coalition in that the two party’s did their negotiation in private where the accepted norm everywhere is ‘differentiation, open negotiation and ‘clear ownership’ of policy. This was a massive advantage to the larger party and suicidal for the smaller party.

    Of course the reason that Clegg went along with this exceptional version of coalition was that his own agenda was at odds (or he believed it to be at odds) with the core of his own party. He believed in his own ability to devise and implement policies (eg tuition, reorganisation of the NHS {his ambitions for which he was clear about prior to his leadership election campaign] assault on welfare), to demonstrate their effectiveness and to change not just the views those who voted for us in 2010, but also a wave of new voters – a new core vote.

    This was his vision, this was his mission. And he persuaded a huge proportion of the most influential members of our party and the majority of those who attended subsequent Conferences to ‘buy’ this dream. As I said above – he convinced most of the 160 LD Parliamentarians that he could achieve this. He was a great salesman. That was his most significant and most dangerous gift.

    The Party generally bought the dream. Which is why it was so difficult for those of us who did not, to have any impact on the relentless march to the cliff’s edge.

  • @A Social Liberal “However I believe that they are enacting some truly wicked policies which do some truly awful things. How can finding someone with a terminal illness fit for work be anything other than wicked. How can treating someone as guilty without giving them the right to answer their accusers in court even be legal never mind morally right. ”

    Using this sort of Biblical apocalyptic language is lazy and just turns moderate people off our party. It prevents us from looking at the intention behind the policy and the genuine concerns it is seeking to address. We need to be addressing these concerns with our own policies, not ignoring them. If you think your opponents are evil and wicked, and surely it must be obvious to any right-thinking person, then you’re not doing the work to identify the genuine concerns of our potential voters.

    if you believe the intention or effect of a policy is wrong, state *why* it is wrong, and drop the emotive quasi-religious language. You put off far more people than you engage. Many, many people vote Conservative. They are not all evil and wicked; indeed I would venture there are evil and wicked voters in roughly the same proportion as vote for any other party. They just view the world in a different way and we, above all else, should seek to understand how and why.

  • David Evershed 26th Jun '15 - 2:45pm

    Some contributors don’t seem to understand what politics is about.

    Politics – activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization.

    So don’t be surprised at the activities engaged in by Lib Dem individuals.

  • Tony Dawson 26th Jun '15 - 6:39pm

    @William

    “The LDs have never relied on LD/Tory waverers to win LD/Tory marginals. We rely, by and large, on Labour supporters voting tactically to keep out the Tories. ”

    This is not true, William. It is not one or the other. The process relies on both: normally winning over thousands of soft Tory votes and then squeezing the soft Labour ones.

  • Tony Dawson 26th Jun '15 - 6:46pm

    @Pat:

    “Did voting members not know the calibre of the man and his potential as a leader when he was chosen by the party?”

    In a word, ‘No’. He had no track record in leadership at all but had obvious talents in marketing a superficially-attractive product, himself. Since virtually every single political judgment which Nick Clegg has made has been completely wrong, there is no obvious reason for respecting his ‘leadership’. This would be so even if this had not also been responsible for the loss of many hundreds of Lib Dem councillors, many of whom knew an awful lot more about successfully managing coalition than Nick Clegg and all his coterie put together did.

  • It takes many years to slowly and carefully build trust (relationships with friends/family is an example everyone can relate to) and a moment to destroy it !-
    I watched and listened as many of my own acquaintances (at work especially) openly used the word betrayal over the triton fees issue. They felt betrayed, cheated. It was like a divorce in many ways – they simply stopped listening after that.
    For me, the biggest lesson is when an issue is perceived to be woven into the DNA of what you stand for and is the flagship of what you present to the world, it can never ever be compromised without ‘full divorce proceedings’ been issued. It’s very very sad – but hopefully a crucial lesson has been learned.

  • Jonathan Pile 27th Jun '15 - 12:31am

    bill le Breton
    You nailed it again. hindsight’s easy except in your case it was foresight. There’s much said that coalition with the Tories was the only choice, yet a lib-lab minority gvt would have had decent support and the tories would have found it difficult to bring it down on moral grounds in difficult conditions. now think CK was right all along & we were rushed in. even the coalition with Tories could have taken a different firm – look at the tough way the SNP approached a lab coalition . both options mishandled and once fees and AV we needed to do something radical . true we kept our word but not to our voters. Going to country in 2015 with a new leader would have been a dogs breakfast messy , but better than a last supper. Country would have cared about LD leadership & we would have twice the Mps

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '15 - 8:42am

    Jonathan Pile

    bill le Breton
    You nailed it again. hindsight’s easy except in your case it was foresight. There’s much said that coalition with the Tories was the only choice, yet a lib-lab minority gvt would have had decent support

    I don’t think Bill was arguing the case for a lib-lab minority government. It looks to me more like arguing the case that we should have made it much more clear from the start that we regarded the coalition as a “miserable little compromise” forced on us by circumstances: the way people voted and the distortions of the electoral system. That is, instead of selling it as super-duper wonderful and giving the impression we were in full agreement with everything it did and it is what we would have done if we had a majority government, we should have made clear that it was a government where we had about one-sixth of the say. Inevitably, a government with that balance is going to be Conservative in its main thrust, in that sense the distortions of the electoral system, even if they did not give an actual Conservative majority, did what its Labour and Conservative supporters say is so good about it.

    This is a point I have been making here since the coalition was formed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '15 - 9:11am

    William

    The LDs have never relied on LD/Tory waverers to win LD/Tory marginals. We rely, by and large, on Labour supporters voting tactically to keep out the Tories

    No, it’s more complicated than that.

    I’ve written many times in Liberal Democrat Voice about the working class in the south, because in many ways they were the bedrock of our support, yet they are perhaps the least understood people in this country.

    To describe them as “Labour supporters voting tactically” is to swallow Labour’s line that Labour has a right to their vote. What actually happened is that the disillusionment with Labour among working class people, which has now become more widespread, started in the south. The south never had the strong Labour culture that once existed in places with big heavy industry and the strong trade unions which came from it. In the 1970s, a big factor in the shift to the Liberals was a belief among working class people in the south that Labour was only interested in workers in the industrial areas who had strong trade unions. Many constituencies became Conservative-Liberal contests in the February 1974 general election and stayed that way until the 2015 disaster.

    That trade union image of Labour gradually shifted to one which was just as unattractive to the working class of the south: the urban intellectual image, or one might even put it the “middle class guilt” image. That is, people with an obsession with certain fringe issues, sometimes called “loony left”, which seemed to come from having an elite background and perhaps being a bit embarrassed about it, so wanting a “cause” to fight for to try and shed it. Well, to some extent that image itself was lost as Labour tried to become more “centrist” and so came to look just like another bunch of politicians: people from an elite background who thought they had aright to rule over us, and ruling over us was all they cared for.

    So the Liberal Democrats were about getting people who felt no-one in politics cared for them to see that the Liberal Democrats cared for them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '15 - 9:14am

    Me

    So the Liberal Democrats were about getting people who felt no-one in politics cared for them to see that the Liberal Democrats cared for them.

    But that in itself is an elitist way of putting it. It should instead by about getting people who feel no-one cares for them together to work to gain power for themselves, that is we should not be another bunch of elitists trying to sell ourselves as a consumer product, instead we should emphasise we are about active participation, a way in which people who are powerless on their own can get together and gain power.

    Of course, what the Liberal Democrats were about in 2015, how those at the top energetically pushed the party, was one which embodied many of the unattractive aspects of Labour that had put off working class voters, along with right-wing economic policies that also put them off.

  • Mike S
    yes, I agree entirely. Trust was the issue. Before the tuition fees pledge hit the headlines in Nov 2010 we had lost a good deal of Labour-leaning supporters but we still had some respect for doing what seemed necessary. After that everyone just stopped listening and frankly how we behaved in the coalition became irrelevant. And I don’t believe that any other issue would have been hung on us like that, because we had not made our other promises in the same way. Each individual MP had the power to keep the pledge, but the majority, and in particular the Leader, did not. The electorate understood that very well. It really is essential that going forward the Party can be detached from the breaking of the pledge, and we know only one of the leadership candidates can do that. I don’t personally think we have to detach ourselves from the whole coalition thing. I do actually agree with both leadership candidates that opinion about that will improve with time amongst many voters.

    If anyone needs reminding of how Nick Clegg set us up for this disaster, just watch the “scorched earth” election broadcast again…. “He who lives by the sword…..”

  • TCO 26th Jun ’15 – 9:12am …………[email protected] Social Liberal “However I believe that they are enacting some truly wicked policies which do some truly awful things. How can finding someone with a terminal illness fit for work be anything other than wicked. How can treating someone as guilty without giving them the right to answer their accusers in court even be legal never mind morally right. ”……………………..Using this sort of Biblical apocalyptic language is lazy and just turns moderate people off our party. It prevents us from looking at the intention behind the policy and the genuine concerns it is seeking to address. We need to be addressing these concerns with our own policies, not ignoring them. If you think your opponents are evil and wicked, and surely it must be obvious to any right-thinking person, then you’re not doing the work to identify the genuine concerns of our potential voters…………………..if you believe the intention or effect of a policy is wrong, state *why* it is wrong, and drop the emotive quasi-religious language. You put off far more people than you engage. Many, many people vote Conservative. They are not all evil and wicked; indeed I would venture there are evil and wicked voters in roughly the same proportion as vote for any other party. They just view the world in a different way and we, above all else, should seek to understand how and why………………….

    ” emotive quasi-religious language” is the mainstay of the Tory message…
    Do you ever ‘read’ the “Mail”, “Sun”, “Telegraph”, etc…?.

    These prejudices are distilled by Cameron, Osborne, IDS (to name just three) into statistics that are so often rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority….
    The lies, as Churchill observed, “are halfway around the world…” before the rebuttal appears on page 17 under an ‘advert’ for haemorrhoids…

    Emotive language showing how the evils of welfare cuts, sanctions, etc. affect REAL people is the only answer…

  • Bill le Breton 27th Jun '15 - 10:22am

    Putting what Mike S wrote into the words of an old Italian proverb: “Trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback”.

    This is a great law of life, but it is THE greatest law of political campaigning.

    Odd that so few in our Party appreciated the force of this Law in 2010/11.

  • Bill,

    Yes, good proverb… I did the only thing I could think of to try and avoid the debacle, which was to write to Simon Hughes threatening to resign. Then of course I had to resign… The consequences of breaking the pledge seemed very obvious to me, much clearer than the consequences of going into coalition.

    I was not at the Special Conference but I have seen various interpretations of what was said and decided here. All I have is the final resolution which said:
    “Conference notes that many Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS ‘vote for students’ pledge against any real terms rise in the tuition fee cap. Conference calls upon Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs to ensure that on any decision made on Lord Browne’s report on higher education funding, they above all else take into account the impact on student debt. Conference affirms the Liberal Democrat objective of scrapping tuition fees.”

    That does not sound like a mandate to abstain (for example) for MPs who signed the pledge to me…

  • “Conference notes that many Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS ‘vote for students’ pledge against any real terms rise in the tuition fee cap. Conference calls upon Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs to ensure that on any decision made on Lord Browne’s report on higher education funding, they above all else take into account the impact on student debt. Conference affirms the Liberal Democrat objective of scrapping tuition fees.”

    That does not sound like a mandate to abstain (for example) for MPs who signed the pledge to me…

    And indeed it was not a mandate for any such thing. Nor was the Coaltion Agreement a mandate for the party leader and those around him to pressure the restor our MPs to vote for something which the Coalition Agreement specifically said they need not vote for.

    The David Laws book (rapidly written after he was sacked as a minister) honestly reveals the view at the top of the party that they had no intention of following either party policy, the resolution quoted here, The Coalition Agreement or anything other than their own desires on tuition fees. The fact hat Laws and Clegg had views on tuition fees remarkably similar to those of their Conservative Cabinet colleagues may possibly have been relevant to the outcome.

    The outcome was that Clegg put the noose of tuition fees round the party’s neck and then asked the party to jump with him.
    That is what happened, give or take some improving amendments from Vince Cable who had been placed in BIS so that he had to front the disaster.
    We know from this week’s admission on LBC that Clegg regarded Cable as “the most left-wing Liberal Democrat”. Which tells us a lot about Clegg’s view of the world, but not much about Vince Cable and that Clegg has never actually met or bothered to listen to any really left-wing Liberal Democrats.

  • Although much of this may be true – for most of the voting public who are not part of (and I hate these terms but maybe they make the point), the ‘westminster village’ and the ‘inner workings of party politics’, it is I suspect completely irrelevant.
    In my humble experience, perception IS reality and although people are usually quite forgiving in the long run, a broken promise is a broken promise, in most peoples eyes regardless of the difficulties in keeping it.
    As Andrew pointed out above, when your present as a ‘shop front’ to the Nation – ‘no more broken promises’, ‘we are different to other parties’, it doesn’t have to be this way” etc etc, ALL the public are interested in is ‘are you really different or actually just the same as the rest?’
    The fact that Nick based his whole reputation and that of his party on this absolutely key measure of TRUST, simply left absolutely no room for a U turn.
    At the risk of repeating myself, perception IS reality for most people.
    Therefore how you are perceived by the voting public would seem to be absolutely crucial. I really really hope this lesson has been learned – I can see no other way the party will ever be trusted again unless everyone speaks with one (humble) voice over this which really was with the benefit of hindsight, political suicide.

  • John Tilley 27th Jun ’15 – 11:27am………………….“Conference notes that many Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS ‘vote for students’ pledge against any real terms rise in the tuition fee cap. Conference calls upon Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs to ensure that on any decision made on Lord Browne’s report on higher education funding, they above all else take into account the impact on student debt. Conference affirms the Liberal Democrat objective of scrapping tuition fees.”……..That does not sound like a mandate to abstain (for example) for MPs who signed the pledge to me……..And indeed it was not a mandate for any such thing. Nor was the Coaltion Agreement a mandate for the party leader and those around him to pressure the restor our MPs to vote for something which the Coalition Agreement specifically said they need not vote for…………….The David Laws book (rapidly written after he was sacked as a minister) honestly reveals the view at the top of the party that they had no intention of following either party policy, the resolution quoted here, The Coalition Agreement or anything other than their own desires on tuition fees. The fact hat Laws and Clegg had views on tuition fees remarkably similar to those of their Conservative Cabinet colleagues may possibly have been relevant to the outcome……………..The outcome was that Clegg put the noose of tuition fees round the party’s neck and then asked the party to jump with him………………That is what happened, give or take some improving amendments from Vince Cable who had been placed in BIS so that he had to front the disaster………………….

    Clegg was not alone….From day one of the vote every time the ‘Tuition Fee” subject came on here there were umpteen supporters explaining how the ‘volte face’ created a much fairer system and was the right decision…Where are they now?

  • Mike S

    It was worse than “you are just the same as all the rest” We actually managed to make ourselves WORSE than all the rest, because the pledge was so specific. Hence why the pledges on the Edstone were so pathetically anodyne… “Controls on immigration”? “Action on rents”? “An NHS with the time to care”?

    Perhaps that will be our lasting legacy. Truly breaking the mould of politics! “No more pledges!” can be our rallying cry as we man the barricades!

  • David Evans 28th Jun '15 - 6:46pm

    The simple fact is that Nick Clegg and his supporters destroyed the future for our party with that one disastrous decision, and then spent another four years pretending what they were doing was worth the so called sacrifice in the interest of “grown up government”. What an insult!

    We are now back to where we were 40 years ago in terms of councillors and 50 years in terms of MPs. Liberal Democracy is totally extinct in many parts of the country, and in our so called heartlands, the West Country and Scotland, could become wastelands within a few years unless we do something dramatic. The results in 2011 showed the scale of the catastrophe, 2012 and 2013 reinforced them and 2014 was the final wake up call. Sadly, even then, so few cared enough to even try to change things. Nick should have gone then and anyone who didn’t try to get him to go has a lot to answer for. John Pugh tried but far too many chose to believe the professionals rather than the listen to the activists. The disaster has happened on our watch and those who ignored the facts have to answer why they chose to oppose change when something useful could have been done.

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