Guardian – vote Liberal Democrat in North Shropshire

It would be fair to say that the relationship between Liberal Democrats and the Guardian has been somewhat lukewarm for some time. The likes of Polly “that Liberal Democrat idea is very good, vote Labour” Toynbee have given us a thorough kicking for doing a bunch of things in coalition that Labour would have probably done had they not lost in 2010. But I digress…

Today’s Guardian editorial, headed “The Guardian view on a byelection test: Labour voters should back the Lib Dems”, is perhaps a sign that the pragmatists are at the editorial helm. In a forceful piece, they note;

But losing a leave-voting rural constituency would be a bigger earthquake and send shock waves through the Conservative party. Even if the Lib Dems came close, the result would send a shiver up the spine of Tory MPs. That is why North Shropshire’s Labour voters ought to set aside their tribal loyalty and back the Lib Dem candidate.

They go on to suggest;

A byelection defeat next week would probably have a dramatic effect on government policies – the last one led to a rethink on Tory planning proposals.

But for me, the final paragraph has more long-term significance;

Yet how is it better for Labour’s backers to let the Conservatives keep their parliamentary majority instead of increasing the number of Liberal Democrats at the Tories’ expense? The Lib Dems came second to the Conservatives in 80 seats in England in 2019. Without a Lib Dem revival, Labour has no serious prospect of being in power.

It’s a very good question to ask. Have Labour activists in North Shropshire (and elsewhere) got an answer?

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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This entry was posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Martin Frost 7th Dec '21 - 8:15am

    Tactical voting has always made sense in a first past the post system . It is based on the principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. A Labour vote in a seat like North Shropshire, particularly during by-elections, is pointless, but have Labour voters forgiven the Liberal Democrats for the Coalition years? No, but memories fade. Would Labour have acted in a similar way if it had won in 2010? We will never know but I doubt if the austerity measures would have been as ruthless and ideologically driven as those of the Coalition. The Liberal Democrats have been in denial about their hijacking by the neoThatcherite Orange group faction ever since the party’s shift to the right cost it all but 8 seats. I doubt whether the Party will rise again (a few false dawns perhaps, remember Jo Swinson?) unless and until the legacy of that nice Mr Clegg has been exorcised.

  • Yeovil Yokel 7th Dec '21 - 8:20am

    In some constituencies we have more Momentum than Labour.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Dec '21 - 9:04am

    I feel we are in different times, now. Our very basic rights are being withdrawn.

    Are over 75s, to receive treatment or not, because of the booster being circulated.

    Sometimes the north is misunderstood. Very recently, a friend of my daughter returned to live in Bakewell. The north is often perceived in a non positive manner. Bakewell is so beautiful. I feel the non positive attitude has to be rethought.

    I think respect is earned or lost, there must be options to prevent falling into a deep hole of politics, that will never recover confidence.

  • I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that editorial in the Guardian this morning! Some “political” sense at last. Winning in North Shropshire is a big ask but a big swing is surely likely at the very least. I notice that a lot of policy announcements are being made by the government on law and order this week – Boris Johnson in a police uniform made me laugh after how he has treated the law. I see reports that he is likely to announce that Christmas is “on” before the by-election also that any change to restrictions will be announced on the 18th, after the by-election. If that turns out to be true they must be worried by their canvass returns.

  • Yeovil Yokel 7th Dec '21 - 9:55am

    Barry – I almost fell off my chair laughing last night when someone on Twitter labelled a photo of a dishevelled Johnson in police clothing as ‘Hobocop’.

  • I did fall of my chair when I read the Shropshire Star this morning with local Labour claiming to be in second place only 7 points behind the Cons with us on 11%!
    This is obviously a panic in response to the Guardian editorial, a few may be convinced.

  • Nigel Jones 7th Dec '21 - 11:11am

    Great news from the Guardian and highly relevant to the by-election. I am also pleased to find Helen, our candidate, has put out positive messages about local health services and farmers and her local identity and concerns. I remain frustrated that Labour are unwilling to mute their campaigns in spite of reality and we should support organisations like Compass to convince them otherwise.
    To win of course needs convincing soft Tories as well as Labour voters and that must be our long term aim, bringing together all who care about inequality, democracy, localism and internationalism. Otherwise, in many constituencies soft Tories will be persuaded by their party’s propaganda under the message that a vote for Lib-Dems will let Labour in.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Dec '21 - 11:35am

    There are, sadly, some Labour activists who would rather the Tories win than the Lib Dems. Witness a number seats where Labour campaigned relentlessly in 2019 to stop their supporters going for tactical voting and where the LibDems narrowly lost. The bookies are the best way to show up the false Labour claims. The odds have continued to shorten on the Lib Dems winning and Labour are also rans. Of course, betting odds are n to a sure guide to voting intentions, but political betting is pretty savvy.

  • Mark Valladares, As someone still (just) on the left of this party I’d have a lot more sympathy with your view if I didn’t believe that, if Labour supporters actually voted for us to win, LDV would be full (Nigel Jones, Mick Taylor, et al) of those claiming that Labour are now an irrelevance in future seats..

    On this thread…Nigel Jones 7th Dec ’21 – 11:11am… I remain frustrated that Labour are unwilling to mute their campaigns in spite of reality…
    On the “Low turnout as Tories retain Old Bexley and Sidcup with reduced majority” thread…..Christopher Moore 5th Dec ’21 – 2:51pm… It made sense then to downgrade (our) effort and give Labour a clearer run. They are partly returning the favour in N Shrop.

    What is it?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 7th Dec '21 - 9:11pm

    @ Expats,

    I’m not entirely sure that I expressed a view as such, and whilst I am a Day Editor of this esteemed site, what other people choose to say (comments policy permitting) is not really my concern. If Labour activists do, by campaigning in seats where they haven’t a credible shot of winning, enable Conservative MPs to survive, they and those they represent have to question their strategy. I would like to think that we as Liberal Democrats worked that out a while ago – that is, effectively, what targeting is all about.

    But the partisan nature of our politics tends to encourage confrontation over co-operation, egged on by a media which prefer simple binary concepts over nuance. Pragmatism and co-operation have quiet voices in a world of shouted slogans, and thus don’t influence debate as perhaps they ought.

    So I ask questions in the hope that they might trigger some thought, albeit that I don’t claim to be optimistic about the outcomes…

  • Peter Martin 7th Dec '21 - 9:43pm

    The chatter in Labour circles is that Keir Starmer is trying to persuade Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger to return to the fold with the intention for one of them to take on Jeremy Corbyn in his Islington North constituency at the next election.

    How would Lib Dems handle this one? Would they stand aside and encourage a vote for Labour? Or would that risk giving the impression that the official Labour candidate was actually a Lib Dem under a false flag and so decide to campaign strongly to prevent that?

    It could be an interesting contest with the majority of local Labour Party members, plus a many others from neighbouring constituencies, campaigning for a different candidate from the one imposed from the top!

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 7th Dec '21 - 9:57pm

    @ Peter,

    I suspect that we’d run a candidate as we’re little more than background noise in Islington North anyway – our strength was across the south of the borough.

    Assuming that Jeremy doesn’t get the whip back, the contest for the nomination is going to be a messy one, and I’m not convinced that Luciana would want to stick her head into that particular hornet’s nest. But who knows?

    You’re right though – any candidate imposed from the centre is going to have their work cut out, as my sense is that Jeremy is pretty highly thought of in his patch. He’d have a decent shot as an independent, especially if the Greens gave him a clean run.

  • Given tonight’s revelations, Afghanistan, Downing Street and Grenfell, the skids are under Johnson. Whoever is regarded as the most likely candidate to defeat the Tories on all sides of the Borders will be supported and likely to win.

    Today is the day the political weather changed….. there’s coffee waiting to be smelled…… if people can be persuaded not to chuck their party particularist toys out of the pram.

  • In view of the events of the last week, and especially of the last 24 hours, the Tory candidate should face a lot of ‘flak’ (in the form of,”We couldn’t meet loved ones; why could your lot party?)…
    Even the 30% of the population who, despite everything, think Johnson is doing a good job must be asking themselves a few questions..
    Last minute booster visits by the Tory ‘great and good’ will be restricted, if they happen at all, to who draws the short straw..

  • Michael Chandler 9th Dec '21 - 4:26pm

    If you look at the social media sites and follow the political discussions you will see a common narrative from Labour supporters that the voters of any constituency should not vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate because, among others, that party is tainted by its association with the Tory’s austerity programme.

    They make this argument as if the Labour Party has clean hands and had nothing to do with the austerity programmes of the last decade. This is untrue and the narrative which they try to create is duplicitous.

    Labour hitched their wagon to the same Tory’s austerity programmes back in 2009. In 2010 their manifesto promised an austerity programme that would, as Darling put it, cut deeper than anything that the Thatcher governments had done. If elected in the 2010 general election Labour would have introduced the same welfare cuts and decimated government spending in the same way as the coalition government.

    This agenda was repeated in their 2015 manifesto in which they said that they would keep the austerity programmes that had been introduced by the Tories. Labour under Milliband’s leadership, campaigned on an austerity agenda which tried to out-do the Tory’s commitment to cuts in welfare programmes and government spending. Again, if elected Labour had made it clear that they would continue to implement the same austerity measures pushed by the Tories

    And, to compound the matter when given the chance to vote against the Tory government’s welfare cuts, Labour refused to do. They opted instead to abstain. and thus gave the Tories the green light to go ahead. The Tory government would not get any opposition from Labour for its austerity programme. Labour was all for it.

    Even under Corbyn’s leadership the 2017 Labour manifesto kept £billions of Tory welfare cuts.

    For anyone who thinks that the austerity programmes of the past decade have been fundamentally wrong, it is galling to read comments by Labour supporters criticising the Liberal Democrats but refusing to accept Labour’s complicity in enabling those same programmes.

  • Michael Chandler 9th Dec ’21 – 4:26pm:
    If elected in the 2010 general election Labour would have introduced the same welfare cuts and decimated government spending in the same way as the coalition government.

    The austerity measures were initiated by Labour…

    ‘Alistair Darling: we will cut deeper than Margaret Thatcher’ [March 2010]:

    Neither Labour or the Coalition had a choice at the time as the EU had put the UK into Excessive Deficit Procedure…

    ‘2008/713/EC: Council Decision of 8 July 2008 on the existence of an excessive deficit in the United Kingdom’:

    ‘Austerity has not been a Tory choice, but an EU one’ [July 2019]:

    The Application of powers to the United Kingdom

    The EU has opened Excessive Deficit Procedure measures against the UK three times (1998, 2004 — 2007, and 2008 — 2017) since the Stability & Growth Pact was signed. It was the most recent recommendations from 2008 which led to all major parties in the UK promising to reduce the deficit through austerity measures. […]

    By the following year, The EU Council acknowledged that the UK had not taken any remedial action, and set the UK a deadline of 2015 to end its excessive deficit situation. To achieve this, the EU Council recommended a deficit reduction of 1.75% per year from 2009 to 2015. This was a large figure, not possible through growth of the economy alone. Only by cutting expenditure substantially could this ambitious figure be achieved.

    Five years of Coalition austerity still wasn’t enough to get the EU off our backs…

    ‘Council Decision (EU) 2015/1098 of 19 June 2015 establishing that no effective action has been taken by the United Kingdom in response to the Council Recommendation of 2 December 2009’:

    For anyone who thinks that the austerity programmes of the past decade have been fundamentally wrong,…

    It was one of the reasons why I voted to Leave the EU – our loss of sovereignty.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Dec '21 - 1:31pm

    Jeff 10th Dec ’21 – 2:14am

    You keep quoting that EU Council “decision” as if it proves something deeply nefarious. It’s nonsense. The Eu Council’s decision (if you actually read it) is “From an overall assessment it follows that an excessive deficit exists in the United Kingdom.” It’s a decision only in a very weird, EU-legalistic sense of the word. What it actually is, is an opinion, and it is one without any legal consequence whatsoever. Why so? Because, as it says in para (2), “the obligation under Article 104(1) of the Treaty to avoid excessive general government deficits does not apply to the United Kingdom unless it moves to the third stage of economic and monetary union”.
    Your claim that austerity was mandated by the EU is untrue. It was entirely made in Britain.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Dec ’21 – 1:31pm:
    You keep quoting that EU Council “decision” as if it proves something deeply nefarious. It’s nonsense.

    It’s neither “nefarious” or “nonsense”. It’s what we signed up to in the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). That required us to endeavour to keep our annual deficit to 3% or less and total debt to 60%.

    It’s a decision only in a very weird, EU-legalistic sense of the word.

    It may be “EU-legalistic”, but it’s not “weird”. It’s an EU Council Decision that is issued to inform member states that they have been placed in Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP).

    What it actually is, is an opinion, and it is one without any legal consequence whatsoever.

    The title states it was an EU Council “Decision”. It’s a formal notification that we were in breach of the Stability and Growth Pact by having an “excessive deficit”. While the UK couldn’t be fined, there would have been consequences for breaking the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union while a member.

    …it says in para (2),…

    And that paragraph continues…”While in the second stage of economic and monetary union, the United Kingdom shall endeavour to avoid excessive deficits, pursuant to Article 116(4) of the Treaty.”

    All that does is add “endeavour” in front of “to avoid”. You might like to read the article I cited which explains this.

    The United Kingdom, despite opting out of the third stage of EMU and the Euro, was included in the scope of the Stability & Growth Pact, and subject to the same measures. […]

    These are remarkable powers for the EU to hold over its member states. The United Kingdom, as a non-Eurozone member, cannot be fined or be the subject of punitive action, as it has an exemption to Article 126. However it is obliged to comply with any recommendations issued by the EU, as a treaty obligation, and the United Kingdom is bound by Treaty Protocol No 15, which states: “the UK shall endeavour to avoid an excessive government deficit”.

    Your claim that austerity was mandated by the EU is untrue.

    The EU Council put the UK into Excessive Deficit Procedure. We had a treaty obligation to comply with the EU Council’s Decision and correct our excessive deficit.

    It was entirely made in Britain.

    The decision to sign up to the Stability and Growth Pact was made in Britain.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Dec ’21 – 1:31pm:
    What it actually is, is an opinion,…

    Here’s the EU’s assessment of the UK’s progress when they moved us into the preventative arm of the Stability and Growth Pact in 2018. Note the language used: “subject to”, “corrected”, “also subject to”, “compliance”, “correction”, “expected to comply”, “was required”, “deviation from required”, etc…

    ‘Assessment of the 2017-18 Convergence Programme for the United Kingdom’ [May 2018]:

    The United Kingdom is currently subject to the preventive arm of the the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and should ensure sufficient progress towards its Medium-Term Budgetary Objective (MTO). As the debt ratio was 86.7% of GDP in 2016-17 (the year in which the United Kingdom corrected its excessive deficit), exceeding the 60% of GDP reference value, the United Kingdom is also subject to the debt reduction transitional arrangements as regards compliance with the debt reduction benchmark during the three years following the correction of the excessive deficit (transitional debt rule). In this period, it should ensure sufficient progress towards compliance with the debt reduction benchmark. After the three-year period of the debt reduction transitional arrangements, Member States are expected to comply with the debt reduction benchmark.

    4.2. Adjustment towards the MTO
    The United Kingdom became subject to the preventive arm of the SGP in 2017-18, following the abrogation of the EDP in 2016-17. In 2017-18, the United Kingdom was required to reduce government expenditure (net of discretionary revenue measures and one-offs) by at least 0.1% in real terms, corresponding to a structural adjustment of 0.6% of GDP towards the minimum MTO. According to the Convergence Programme and preliminary data from the ONS, net government expenditure is expected to have grown by 0.4% in real terms in 2017- 18, exceeding the expenditure benchmark and pointing to a risk of some deviation from the required adjustment.

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