Here’s to the crazy 7.4%

In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to Apple having been ‘ousted’ a decade before.  In that time the famous ‘Mac’ hadn’t progressed.  Microsoft’s Windows had caught up and overtaken it.  Sales were down 30% year-on-year. It was haemorrhaging cash and talent. There were no new products in the pipeline. Speaking to staff Jobs explained, “There are a lot of great people at Apple, but they’re doing the wrong things because the plan has been wrong.”

“I think you still have to think differently to buy an Apple computer. The people who buy them do think different. They are the creative spirits in this world, and they’re out to change the world. We make tools for these kinds of people.”

Isn’t he describing the 2.35 million who voted Lib Dem in 2017 and how they feel about themselves?  So here’s his advice to us, “We too are going to think differently and serve the people who have been buying our products from the beginning. Because a lot of people think they’re crazy, but in that craziness we see genius.”

We’ve all met them haven’t we? The people who voice support for us in their communities, in their workplaces, in the pub, among their friends, on line. Their endorsement makes us smile with a quiet satisfaction because we have done and said those things too. We too have been lone voices – crazy ones.

We too make tools for these kinds of people; information and campaigns for those who want to take and use power in their communities.  Who want to change the world. Tools that help them achieve things they didn’t know they could achieve or even knew that they needed to achieve.

For forty years, up to 2007, we prioritized this approach and did this together with all kinds of folk, in all types of communities, helping people realise more and more of their potential in what people haven’t appreciated was one of the great movements for freedom this country has known.

But we are now where Apple was in 1997. How did Jobs turn things round? He used the concepts of creativity and difference and above all he used the concept of community – the community of those who ‘bought’ Apple, but who didn’t even live in the same street or talk the same language.  Apple had market share of 10% and he made a feature of its ‘minority’ status.

In our terms he took the 2.35 million people who voted for us in 2017 and made a community of them, made them proud of what they stood for in that vote, celebrated their sense of difference and made others want to belong to the community that was ‘in the know’.  A community which with our leadership can do things they never thought they could do – or even thought they needed to do.

We have just fought an election on process. So mark these words of Jobs, “This isn’t about processor speed or memory. It is about creativity.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones,” he wrote. “The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

7,000 attended the 1971 Glastonbury Festival. Now forty-six years on, 100,000 swear they were there.  If, like Jobs, we take Robert Frost’s ‘road less travelled by’ which ‘made all the difference’, in a few years time, 18 million will believe that they were one of the 2.35 million who voted for us in June ’17. Starting from 7.4% is an advantage not a handicap.

This piece should be read in conjunction with The Future and Practice of Garage Politics.

* Bill le Breton is a former Chair and President of ALDC and a member of the 1997 and 2001 General Election teams

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  • Peter Martin 5th Jul '17 - 11:36am

    “The people who buy them do think different.”

    “Isn’t he describing the 2.35 million who voted Lib Dem in 2017 and how they feel about themselves? ”

    Not necessarily. Lib Dems are a fairly mainstream bunch in my experience. You are no more likely to use a Mac than anyone else! Either literally or metaphorically. OK so you’re pro EU. You’re part of the 48% rather than the 52%. You’re not that much different! And you’re just about to announce Vince Cable as your new leader!

    There’s quite a lot of scope for some different thinking though. Like trying to understand why austerity economics is a failure both here and in the EU. Why austerity economics, again not just in the UK, has ultimately brought about Brexit. That’s thinking a bit differently.

    The conventional thinking is to blame it all on Cameron for calling a referendum, UKIP and the Tory Right for wanting one, the slogan on the Brexit Bus and the Daily Mail!

  • jayne Mansfield 5th Jul '17 - 11:39am

    @ Bill le Breon,
    What comes over most when `I read these posts, is a failure of imagination. A failure to even imagine a time before `Thatcherite ‘orthodoxy took hold.

    I despair when I read post after post about a ‘progressive alliance’, a party where it seems ‘left wing’ tories and ‘right wing Labourites’ join forces with ‘radical’ centrist Liberal Democrats.

    If such an alliance ever takes place, may I suggest a name for it, the ‘New SDP’.

  • jayne Mansfield 5th Jul '17 - 11:41am

    Sorry about typing error, Bill le Breton.

  • Well argued – but one of the principle ways that Jobs turned Apple around was by alienating many within Apple. He appealed to a cult of followers by creating an authoritarian regime – which has floundered and struggled since he left the company / since his passing.

    In that regards, it reminds me more of a New Labour approach than a Liberal Democrat approach – albeit couched in some excellent speech.

    So, let us be inspired by his words & take “the road less travelled” – but let’s be clear. A Jobs-like figure coming in and sweeping aside Liberal Democrat principles would be unwelcome (however successful the subsequent result).

  • Tony Dawson 5th Jul '17 - 12:59pm

    But havt e nothe Liberal Democrats just lost the nearest thing we’ve ever had to Steve Jobs as Leader following our overlong association with the designer of the Sinclair C5? 😉

  • Dave Orbison 5th Jul '17 - 1:01pm

    Bill I follow your arguement but not your conclusion. In fact quite the reverse.

    I’d say that many LibDems and especially the leadership in recent years have focused on chasing the mainstream centre. The idea being that electoral success depends upon chipping away at those mildly left of centre and those mildly right of centre.

    This is certainly reflected in many LDV posts since the GE and is reinforced by the LibDem equi-distant elections campaign strategy in 2015 and 2017. In fact this is simply the mainstream thinking in the Tory and Labour establishment too.

    If there was any creative rejection of the mainstream approach per se, it was surely Corbyn who appealed to the non traditional ‘market’ of voters and developed a sense of collective momentum that they were, for once, doing something different.

  • I don’t decry in any way thinking outside the box, doing something radically different etc. Posts that challenge orthodoxy are valuable when you’re in a hole and we’re in a deep one.

    There is though a problem with leaning to much on an analogy with a consumer product. The consumer product market operates to different rules to the ‘votes market’.

    It doesn’t matter to Apple how their customers are physically distributed. A Mac bought anywhere is just fine. But in a single member constituency system, you need 35%+ market penetration in a tightly drawn geographic area to win. 20% everywhere = no influence. So you somehow need a proposition that will play to 35%+ where you can make it.

    The other problem is that Apple can win with a smaller number of consumers spending more. In the votes market even people attracted to a premium product still can spend just the one vote.

    Creative thinking, yes please. But this analogy isn’t going to take us all the way. Not without PR anyway!

  • David Pocock 5th Jul '17 - 1:51pm

    One thing I think that would be good is the community idea from Bills idea. We have the internet but other than here I don’t know of a good forum for general chat and friendship. It might sound trite but if a few million vote for us and our membership is 100k then some platform where we can all mingle as liberals in and out of the party will not only help with recruitment if more party members but will disemmimate ideas too. And that is a two way street, our voters can communicate their thoughts and the party theirs.

    I guess I’m being quite nebulous and I can’t quite imagine what such a platform would look like and how you would keep it open but avoid entryism but if we could build out to our voters more and people we can make voters it can’t really hurt.

    Oh and we must as a party be ready to fight to the death for internet freedom. A lot of young people will join us in that fight.

  • Peter Watson 5th Jul '17 - 2:04pm

    @David Pocock “other than here I don’t know of a good forum for general chat and friendship … some platform where we can all mingle as liberals in and out of the party”
    I think that “here” is actually very good for that. This site’s open approach is its strength as it means that those of us not in the party can see the broader Lib Dem opinions behind the official party line (though this can sometimes be confusing), and we can be informed (and possibly persuaded) by the discussions and offer a view from the outside. The moderators do a good job and there is little or no noticeable “trolling”.

  • nvelope2003 5th Jul '17 - 2:11pm

    Dave Orbison: Corbyn is not appealong to the non traditional market but appealing to the traditional market of those who want someone else to pay their bills. Of course he cannot lose with those who have not thought this through and might very well win an election. The problems will arise when the money runs out but no doubt the current Labour Party will adopt the tactics used in Cuba, Venezuela and earlier in Czechoslovakia etc to deal with those who are unhappy with the results of their policies.

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Jul '17 - 2:44pm

    I agree we need to value our voters more but the problem is that in many cases we don’t know who they are. I’d like to see us surveying those we have identified to see what it is about the Lib Dems that particularly resonates with them. IMHO that would be much more positive than bewailing the fact that our vote fell. It might not be a high core vote but it seems pretty much a core vote to me.

  • Joseph Bourke 5th Jul '17 - 3:05pm


    with the Apple analogy, I think we have ti understand that Mac’s are still a niche product used largely by the graphic design community. Apple’s corporate success came through improvement of products that had been developed by others – merging the highly successful Sony Walkman/MP3 players for portable music with the mobile phone, heretheto dominated by Nokia.

    The company’s success was not such much reinventing the wheel as developing branding and innovative design around existing technology to serve a market that had already been created. A single Iphone could now do the job where two separate devices were needed before.

    Our political settlement in the UK has been dominated for the past century by a struggle between Capital and Labour for control of the public realm. As the Tory party moved too far right a public backlash would see a Labour administration installed. As the Labour party moved too far left, the public would decide it was time for a return to a more conservative approach. This perpetual rebalancing has kept UK mainstream politics anchored in the centre ground.

    The challenge for the Liberal Democrats surely lies in being able to reconcile these opposing forces. A single political product, if you like, that combines fiscal prudence with effective programs to tackle income and wealth inequakities.

  • jayne Mansfield 5th Jul '17 - 3:13pm

    @ Arthur Bailey,
    Corbyn ‘unelectable ‘?

    @ envelope 2003,
    May I point out to you and Mr Bailey that a breakdown on the voting in the recent election, Labour comfortably beat the Conservatives in every age group up to the 50’s Amongst first time voters the lead was 66% to 22%. The conservatives won most seats because of the support of older voters, particularly those in their 60’s ,70 ‘ and older.

    My offspring would love a Liberal Party that they could feel passionate about, as I and their father once did, because they believe that Liberalism is the best political philosophy.

    They all , with the exception of one who voted Liberal Democrat in Sheffield Hallam, voted Labour. They have been continuously employed since leaving university. They all pay their own bills and enough in tax to help pay for the bills of others. Insulting the electorate seems to be a strange way of gaining support.

  • Christopher Curtis 5th Jul '17 - 3:36pm

    Thought-provoking article, thanks.
    The resurgence of Apple under Jobs was about rediscovering a passionate commitment to some core values (albeit in a commercial setting). Jobs would not compromise on Apple’s design aesthetic; on seeking to define the marketplace rather than studying and following it; being willing to take those approaches into completely new areas and on setting very high standards (insanely great) that would never be met but created an expectation of progress.
    Applying this to the Lib Dems is not straightforward but there are some things I like:
    – “defining the marketplace”. Trying to define ourselves in relation to not being Tories or Labour is doomed to failure. We need to make a radical critique of the two-party system and the frameworks of thinking that give us our impoverished politics. Fair, free and open needs to be defined and created: it really does not exist right now.
    – Commitment to core values. We can’t apologise for saying that Brexit is a very bad thing. We lost the referendum: that does not mean we were wrong. Pragmatically trying to make something better out of something bad is right but becoming champions of soft-brexit would be as big an error as supporting surveillance or reducing immigration.
    – high standards. Let’s be honest about the art of the possible but make sure that we are always aiming further and higher. There’s so much to be done.
    – design aesthetic. We have to model the politics we want. There just can’t be “palace coups” or secret deals or saying one thing in public and another in private.

    Sorry it’s long, but to quote Jobs: “one more thing”. Jobs made Apple exciting and fun. There was and is incredible attention to detail behind the scenes, but you wanted to see what they were going to announce next. Apple under Jobs could make me laugh with joy. We could do worse.

  • David Pocock 5th Jul '17 - 3:40pm

    @Peter Watson – I mean no disrespect to lib dem voice which I think does a great job. I like in particular that I at least hope my rambles here can be read by our lords and mps and it is good to here from them too.

    That said I suppose I am thinking of something more I guess. Perhaps a big forum with local sections as well as big topic parts. Off topic, a chat room, and something to pull in those Outside our group.

  • O.K. Bill I’ll just borrow the Conch from you if I may.

    I truly get the point you’re making, and I’ve read you’re other ‘garage’ preamble. But I’m left wondering as do Dal and AM if it even can, apply to politics?
    Steve Jobs certainly had the ‘rock star’ thing, but did he really change the way we think or do things. My recollection is that when all the trendy young things were spending daddy’s hard earned money on their very own Apple Macintosh, the office was filling up ‘one-per-desk’, with Dell’s and Amstrads to do the real work. Steve Jobs was about image first, second and third. His mission was to extract premium amounts of money from the few trendy image obsessives that had desire for elite coolness and the matching debit card to pay for it. The very same kind of people that buy a TAG Heuer or a Breitling, but not necessarily to tell the time.

    If rock god is your thing then in the political realm, Blair was a ‘rock star’ once, as is now Trudeau and Macron. You really have to pinch yourself to believe it but there are a few on these threads that believed Clegg was the ‘rock star’ of the LD’s. And more worryingly, they still do.!
    For some, Putin is a ‘rock god’ or a tyrant, depending where you sit. Bernie Madoff was the ‘rock god’ of the investment world, until someone checked the accounts. And speaking of smooth tongued charlatans, Elon Musk can certainly put a dream team of taxpayer subsidised technologists together, but have you seen anything beyond PayPal, that is a finished product or actually makes a profit?

    I’m just not convinced this ‘rock star’ adulation is what is needed in politics. And when it comes to making ground-breaking change I’m more a Raspberry Pi for the many rather than a MacBook Pro for the few.

    Handing you back the Conch.
    P.S has anyone noticed any grown-ups on this island?

  • Sorry to open a Pandora’s Box but if you want responsiveness in an organisation it is normally important to shorten the communication channels and centralise decision making. I don’t know whether the LibDems want that. Too many sacred cows. Take for instance the manifestos. The Labour party sat down with the Labour Executive and wrote their manifesto from scratch. It was current and it was radical. The LibDems pulled together conference policy, one of which was conceived in the after pain of the Leave vote some two months earlier. A policy that, some 10 months later may have been behind the curve. If you really want to be radical in an organisation then start looking at internal structures and fitness for purpose. It may be that our constitution restricts what we can and can’t be. That’s a values judgement.

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Jul '17 - 5:24pm

    I went to the 1970 Glastonbury festival. 1,500 attenders according to the website .
    Not sure that makes the slightest difference to how i think politically, but I’m obviously about 8 times as rare.
    I’m waiting for these “tools … to help [me] achieve things [i] didn’t know [i] could achieve”
    lately my participation in politics has been reduced to shouting at the radio, television, and just occasionally at the paper…mostly at people who haven’t noticed that the cutting edge of capitalism left the UK over 100 years ago.

  • Bill Le Breton 5th Jul '17 - 5:33pm

    Thanks everyone. I am on the road and have borrowed an iPad! If I was 22, I think I would be able to write a better piece … Know more about how people in the connecting business work and exploit new thinking. So this and the previous piece are rather crude approximations of what I imagine someone of that age and experience might be able to imagine.

    Please don’t take the analogy too literally. Grab what is appropriate from it as
    @Christoper Curtis does. Jobs would not have made a good companion on a desert island, so obviously a Liberal interpretation would not follow him or Tusk or Gates at every step.

    P.J. Pandora’s box has to be opened. You use one example of where our party remains wedded to a process from the 1880s. There are others and I’d support change to these.

    DAvid P and Jayne, our 100k members are a good place to start and so too are the 2.34 who votes for us.

    Joe, capital and labour? I just see that people like to dominate others. They institutionalise this process but behind every monopolistic institution in the private and public services there are people trying to prevent people from realising part of their potential. So, if we put freedom first we move on from that duality.

  • nvelope2003 5th Jul ’17 – 2:11pm………….. The problems will arise when the money runs out but no doubt the current Labour Party will adopt the tactics used in Cuba, Venezuela and earlier in Czechoslovakia etc to deal with those who are unhappy with the results of their policies……………..

    Such remarks are an example of why, we as a party, are not taken seriously by the lectorate…Far from being ‘extreme’ Corbyn’s policies would be considered mainstream in most European countries and in pre-Thatcherite Britain…

  • Bill Le Breton 5th Jul '17 - 5:50pm

    Dal yours is a fair point. But if you just concentrate on getting 40% is some seats you end up with a handful of them. If you get the national percentage up to 25% the handful of seats mounts quickly to 50. Thinking about it from the experience of the last ten years we need to do more to get the background no use up to 25% again. I don’t call it a core vote because trying to ‘capture’ certain voters like that is reducing their freedom. We should have to earn their support at each and every election.

    Jenny, that was in September, if it was 1970. A few of us went to a festival in June 70 but it was held at the Bath and West site, I am told.

    Dave O , I am interested in the future. And not really interested in what Labour does. I am trying to save my party from extinction or from being lost in pursuit of the mythical Garden of the Centre where there is less freedom

    Arthur , I hope you get your wish.

    Jayne, I think I mis attributed something to you that should have been for @Sue. I remember there being a big buzz about a centre party in 1972 or thereabouts. It comes round in the cycle of things. To me Centrists show not just a lack of imagination, but a fear of imagination.

    Peter Martin, please leave me to my delusion … Lib Dem voters are more creative than Tory and labour voters . Full Stop. I have always believed that.

  • Peter Martin, P. J., nvelope2003, Dave Orbison – Let’s see:
    We can copy many of Corbyn’s policies like renationalization of certain utilities and abolish tuition fees. The difference will be our more realistic tax plan (which acknowledges that the overall tax rate for everyone must be increased at least to the average Continental Europe level). A penny of a pound for NHS is good, but abolishing NHS internal market (introduced by Thatcher) will outclass Corbyn. For tuition fees, it should be replaced by a graduate tax of 6-12% over a number of years depending on graduates’ level of income, and the abolition can go step by step, beginning with STEM.

    Next, besides the £100 billion infrastructure investment fund, the party need to introduce a separate £50 billion Automation Fund to invest in automated technology in plants and factories. The most basic way to improve productivity is to improve the means of production. According to Barclays, a £1 of automation investment can generate a return of around £49. This will persuade the voters that our plan will surely yield long-term return and economic growth. (

    But I am really disappointed to see that Libdem (and of course other parties) never borrow and copy strong ideas from parties in Continental Europe that can make big differences, especially France (Macron) and Germany. Many of these ideas are far superior than anything all British parties offer. For me, the first two things to copy from them is turning British Business Bank into a giant like KfW Bank, and a clear industrial policy. Another idea that can be borrowed from Hillary Clinton is a 39% short-term capital gain tax.

  • Peter Martin, P. J., nvelope2003, Dave Orbison – Let’s see:
    Finally, besides domestic issues which are still more important, this new report is another potential chance for us to get more votes regarding foreign policy. I expect that Saudi Arabia will be very unpopular among British electorate after this. A clear pledge to formally cut ties with and impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia (this is only a little further than our current stance regarding SA) can win loads of votes from anxious voters. If this report trigger fear among the electorate, then a harder stance against Saudi will allow us to reap even more benefits. This should go with another pledge to end all kinds of ME airstrikes AND other combat roles (copying from Justin Trudeau). Some pacifist foreign policies are actually very attractive to young voters.

    Meanwhile, ending Internet Surveillance will be another huge bonus, because it will attract all liberals, and more importantly, it will save billions of pounds.

    However, we must have strong domestic policies as a cornerstone for our manifesto, because after all, anything other than the economy, housing and infrastructures, health and education are just bonuses.

  • Dave Orbison 5th Jul '17 - 6:28pm

    nvelope2003 5th Jul ’17 – 2:11pm…………..Corbyn is not appealing to the non traditional market but appealing to the traditional market of those who want someone else to pay their bills. The problems will arise when the money runs out but no doubt the current Labour Party will adopt the tactics used in Cuba, Venezuela and earlier in Czechoslovakia etc to deal with those who are unhappy with the results of their policies……………..

    But the Labour vote rose to 40% and the LibDems continues to fall. Don’t you get it?
    Many of the Labour 40% are ex LibDem voters and many are those who would not previously of voted. But of course if you want keep shouting at them you are all wrong – great election gimmick. As for the Cuba analogy? Very tiresome. Anyone would think the UK was immune from financial crisis caused by the excesses of capitalism but then we had the fuel crisis 1970’s, the banking crisis in the last 10 years and we are all still paying for that.

    So nevelope2003 re people asking for decent pensions, benefits, decent public sector pay, healthcare and free education – do you feel this is outrageous. In Corbyn recognising what voters want you reject this as being irresponsible and just unrealistic. Really?

    Yet under our current system of private enterprise and free markets we have had to
    bail out the banks in the private sector with £375bn. Banks that have time and time again bent and broken laws working against consumer interests and motivated by their self-interest to drive up share holder value in order to ‘earn’ huge bonuses. Bonuses which, when subsequently were found to be based on cons and dubious and illegal practices, are never paid back. It is a rotten system unwritten by the public. It can’t fail because we are always stuck with the bill. How is this different to the countries you have selected, notwithstanding to the pressure exerted by the US to ensure their collapse?

    But carry on lecture us as Danny Alexander did about the need to tighten our belts. We are all in it together. But when was there last a pay cap on pay of executives in banks?

    No wonder people have left the LibDems and see no appeal when this is the message they hear. By the way where is the former LibDem Treasury spokesperson? Ah yes, Vice President of Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. So when he said we are all in it together, presumably he was just talking about him and his pals in banking?

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Jul '17 - 7:10pm

    The aspirations you mention are perfectly reasonable. They are very similar to the policies of Hollande and the Socialists in France in 2012. Very popular..

    But Corbyn and MacDonald proposed to pay for them by simultaneously leaving the Single Market and massively increasing corporation tax, and a bit of taxing the rich. Very good for tax revenues in Ireland (where so many companies would relocate) but catastrophic for us. The Socialists in France found that taxing the rich did not raise what they needed and in 2017 they dropped from 40% to 9%! The cleverest thing the Labour Party did in 2017 was not quite making it!

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Jul '17 - 7:13pm


    By your Apple analogy you seem to be advocating our Party should prioritise style over substance… I would be interested to hear about some specific policy examples!

  • Peter Martin 5th Jul '17 - 7:13pm

    @ Thomas,

    “The difference will be our more realistic tax plan (which acknowledges that the overall tax rate for everyone must be increased at least to the average Continental Europe level) “

    The only “realistic” tax plan is that you need to raise taxes if inflation is too high. And lower them if the economy is in recession. And/or spend more to speed up the economy or less to slow it down. According to one’s political views. This is just Keynesianism 101.

    Keynes was a Liberal. Not some anti-capitalist revolutionary. But he may just as well have been considering just how much he’s out of favour with Lib Dems now.

  • Joseph Bourke 5th Jul '17 - 7:28pm


    “The only “realistic” tax plan is that you need to raise taxes if inflation is too high. And lower them if the economy is in recession.” This is O/K until you get stagflation as happened in the 1970’s. Theoretically it should not happen, but it did.

  • @Dave Orbison

    “””But when was there last a pay cap on pay of executives in banks”””

    When the EU introduced a cap on bankers’ bonuses in 2013. Interestingly the same EU that has led you to get into bed with the Conservatives, UKIP and the DUP in collectively pushing for a Hard Brexit. The same Hard Brexit that will mean “decent pensions, benefits, decent public sector pay, healthcare and free education” will become even more difficult to deliver to the British public, and that’s before Labour’s plans to really drive UK business abroad with it’s planned hike of corporation tax.

  • @ James Pugh “before Labour’s plans to really drive UK business abroad with it’s planned hike of corporation tax”.

    It really would be a good idea if people checked the comparative rates of Corporation Tax in the EU before making points one expects from a Tory The Labour manifesto said 26 %. – less than Germany, France, Italy, Belgium Luxembourg, Malta and Greece.

    EU Comparisons (High-Low) : Corporation Tax.
    1. Malta, 35 per cent
    2. Belgium, 33.99 per cent
    3. France, 33.3 per cent
    4. Italy, 31.4 per cent
    5. Germany, 29.72 per cent
    6. Luxembourg, 29.22 per cent
    7. Greece, 29 per cent
    8 / 9 /10. Austria / Netherlands / Spain, 25 per cent
    11/12 /13. Denmark / Slovakia / Sweden, 22 per cent
    14. Portugal, 21 per cent
    15 / 16 / 17 / 18. Britain / Croatia / Estonia / Finland, 20 per cent
    19 / 20 / 21. Czech Republic / Hungary / Poland, 19 per cent
    22. Slovenia, 17 per cent
    23. Romania, 16 per cent
    24 / 25. Latvia / Lithuania, 15 per cent
    26 / 27. Cyprus / Ireland 12.5 per cent
    28. Bulgaria, 10 per cent

    Does James Pugh think Angela Merkel is some sort of extreme lefty ? Hammond plans to reduce it from 20% to 19% this year – then 17% in 2020.

    I would rather end the public sector pay freeze and invest in the NHS and education than bale out such as Mike Ashley.

  • David Evershed 5th Jul '17 - 8:54pm

    Steve Jobs at Apple was the driving force but he had Jonathan Ives as the designer from 1992 where he remains as Chief Designer today.

    If the party leader is the driving force, who is Lib Dems Chief Designer?

    Thatcher had Keith Joseph. Who is the Lib Dems Keith Joseph?

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jul '17 - 9:23pm

    It’s much less risky celebrating a niche in business because you can charge premium prices, like Apple, although Jobs always maintained that their product wasn’t expensive considering what you got.

    I read a biography on Steve Jobs and it was absolutely gripping, but I still buy HP and Samsung because I can’t justify the cost (although I had an iPhone once).

    Anyway, it is true that minority status can be celebrated, but politics is much different to business.

  • Dave Orbison 5th Jul '17 - 9:39pm

    James Pugh I don’t really know what your issue is. But let me say first that bankers generally have had very lucrative deals whilst ripping off consumers and being bailed out for their excesses. Any cap that the EU brought in late in the day is not relevant to the point I was making re envelope2003 and his obsession with Venezuelan economics.

    Re the EU I support Remain but I am not obsessed by one single issue however important.

    Bill Le Breton – I admire your determination to get the LibDems ‘back in the game’. But isn’t that a bit tribal. I have no tribal allegiance to Labour. Yet I read so much that tribalism is a problem of other parties not the LibDems. I’m not sure I buy it. In any event good luck as I think on balance having a radical third party in the UK is healthy. Sadly, the LibDems seemed to have traded radical tendencies for Government limousines at the expense of the party’s reputation.

  • @PJ
    “The LibDems pulled together conference policy, one of which was conceived in the after pain of the Leave vote some two months earlier. A policy that, some 10 months later may have been behind the curve. If you really want to be radical in an organisation then start looking at internal structures and fitness for purpose”

    Firstly Bill Le Breton – thanks for making the effort to think like a 22 year old but admitting you don’t have all the answers, but are trying to make people really think differently. it is very refreshing and much needed.

    Now, I’m going to suggest something here that will light Peter Watson’s Blue touch paper again and have many “trad” Lib Dems spluttering into their Latte’s in the coffee shop tomorrow morning. It was PJ’s comment above which has given me the confidence to voice what I’ve been thinking for weeks but wasn’t sure how to say here without it been taken the wrong way. here goes:

    I believe the whole policy making process in the Lib Dem’s is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

    I don’t mean we should not be democratic and I don’t mean we should not be giving power back to the people. Exactly the opposite in fact. I believe 100,000 people many in an Echo chamber deciding policy is a big part of the problem.

    In my day job, I am in the business of aligning myself with the needs of my customers.
    It is about identifying the VALUE for them, helping them to solve their problems if you like. To do that you have to find a way of speaking their language and finding a solution that allows a win for both of you. Then you get engagement.

    I think our policy making process is simply too far removed from our voters.
    I think we need to find innovative ways of allowing them to tell us what they think a party such as ours should be doing. It needs to somehow have rapid mass penetration of your target audience, feedback needs to be as immediate possible and a vision needs to grow out of it which meets the needs and engages both customers and party.

    The other alternative is to go the Steve Jobs/Jonny Ives route and let the key people with the best vision decide the direction of travel – I think the former route will be more acceptable to the 100,000. Maybe Bill’s 7.4% is a starting point.

    I’m taking massive potential use of technology here, but I think some of you already know that and are starting to get the drift.

  • @David Raw

    It isn’t the relative variation of corporation tax between the UK and other EU countries that is the danger (though neighbouring ROI’s lower corporation tax has slowly bled some business operations across the Irish Sea over the decades). The danger is that the shock and disruption of Brexit will be damaging to UK business and leave many struggling, which is bad enough without Labour’s threatened kicking with a hike in corporation tax (an additional 6% on the existing 20%, representing a 30% marginal increase in corporation tax liabilities). So it is the increase in tax liabilities during a time of economic and structural weakness and vulnerability that is the problem here, and represents economic ineptitude as expected from a Labour Party taken over by the hard left.

  • @Dave Orbison

    You asked a (possibly rhetorical) question that was placed to fit a narrative praising the virtues of socialism. The problem was the answer to the question broke the narrative.

    If you support Remain, then you are supporting the wrong party. The Labour party are in coalition with UKIP, the Conservatives and the DUP in pushing for a Hard Brexit (possibly the DUP are a bit more moderate than the Labour Party, since I suspect the DUP do not supporting leaving the Customs Union because of the implications of doing that has on the need for a border between NI and the ROI).

    Rather than dismissing the issue of a potential Hard Brexit (which Labour has made clear it wants) as just “one single issue”, you should be recognising is as the one single issue that will be defining this parliament and the UK for a generation. A Hard Brexit that you support (coupled with hikes to corporation tax) will do terrible harm to UK business (which provides the jobs and tax revenue that employs and funds public services for “the many” that we heard so much about from the Labour campaign).

  • Peter Martin – inflation is not too high now. And you certainly know that British people still pay less tax than our European peers, while our public services need more money.

    David Raw – Correct, although I prefer raising Corporate tax to just 22% but 38-40% for Short-term Capital Gain Tax.

    A good approach is to shift the economic policy focus to labour-capital relationship, technology and business efficiency like in Germany.

    Dave Orbison – I have to say that the fastest way to become radical is to have a Continental Europe social market manifesto rather than an Anglo-Saxon one. This will include raising overall tax rate to EU average, public service nationalization, free university, greater focus on vocational training, and, industrial strategy. They will be combined with our traditional policies like devolution, green energy, infrastructure investment, LVT and industrial democracy.

  • Bill Le Breton 6th Jul '17 - 6:31am

    Cricket alert. May be pre occupied with Steve Job’s favourite secret passion, cricket.

    Mike S thanks for encouragement!

    Andrew, our priority is with what helps people take and use their power … And as a route to that helping people work together to those ends.

    Policies that take back power from those who have expropriated it. Specifics? Well at the moment I am focus on big picture. Remember. To do policy well you have to be able to make and work hardware. Which for us is the taking back of power.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 7:46am

    @ Joseph Bourke,

    There’s nothing in Keynesian theory to preclude the possibility of stagflation. Especially if the implementation had erred too much in allowing inflation to steadily creep up over time. Add in a sudden shock of the quadrupling of oil prices….

    The move to monetarism, which morphed into neoliberalism, was purely for ideological reasons, and nothing to do with any deficiencies in the largely correct economic understanding of the time.


    Yes. Correct. Inflation is not too high. There has been a spurt recently because the pound has fallen. But we can’t say we have inflation when the pound falls and deflation when it rises.

    So why do you think taxes need to rise? Maybe you are thinking that the Government’s budget is like a household’s and it needs taxation revenue to be able to spend?

  • Christopher Haigh 6th Jul '17 - 10:09am

    Just like Osbourne drooled over the 2008 deficit position as an excuse for implementing Tory libertarians ideology, Howe and Josephs used stagflation to introduce their monetarists’ philosophy and break the post war Keynesian consensus. As Peter describes stagflation was the result of the worldwide economic shock of increased oil prices and the bad response of the Bank of England increasing money supply in a cost push inflation situation. The Tories now seem to be bereft of any sort of economic theory but again as Peter says Keynesianism still holds good.

  • Nick Collins 6th Jul '17 - 10:44am

    Cricket alert: England have won the toss and decided to bat

  • Yes, George Osborne used (the American originating) 2008 deficit to implement austerity, but I seem to remember there were supporting echoes from others singing from the same hymn sheet a bit closer to home.

    People have long memories…… that’s probably why Messrs Clegg, Laws and Alexander are no longer MP’s…… and the party made little progress when anti-austerity sentiment began to raise its head this time.

    Yes, PR and an anti-Brexit stance are laudable, but there is a rising tide demanding a change to austerity and an attack on inequality which has much more resonance now.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Jul '17 - 11:07am


    I like you and your approach. You seem to be a friendly person as you are too a thinking liberal.

    Why do you make the typical , and rather tiresome ,comment so many of old who have a frankly, insulting tendency here do, sometimes to anyone not of their ilk circa 1970 !

    You say centrists are not only unimaginative , they fear imagination.

    You think there is a seven per cent. It contains a vast group of , indeed , we must ,call them, centrists. Read the surveys of views.

    Read the description of our party in the general span, it is centrist , or centre, or , yes, there is such a thing, radical centre.

    It is also , centre left.

    The word centrist is used by people who denigrate ,as an insult of them , but also by those are delighted to be called it ,and these people ,about most things in politics, are staunch in their convictions.

    Jenkins, Macron, Blair, JFK, Obama, Carter, say what you like , all , for want of a better word ,centrists, none unimaginative at all. You may be to the left of them. Some to the right. But they are hardly fearful, as political types or people.

    Sir Peter Ustinov, lifelong Liberal, humorist, actor, humanitarian ambassador, writer of over twenty plays and a very large number of articles and other writings,

    ” I think the central position is the most difficult to defend. I am liberal, but a militant liberal. I do not see why the central position should be reticent because it is central…

    …I believe the central position to be the true one …

    … the high notes on the piano , like the low ones , are more dramatic than middle c, grey is a drab colour when compared to black and white. That doesn’t lessen it’s importance.

    .. the truth is very often in the middle of things and it isn’t the result of a compromise . It’s so small we can hardly see it, but it’s there that I look for it and never on an extreme.”

    I think most would call him imaginative .

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 1:03pm

    @ David Raw,
    “George Osborne used (the American originating) 2008 deficit to implement austerity…”

    Tempting as it might be to blame the Americans we shouldn’t really do that. The Blair/Brown government were just as enthusiastic as the Americans in encouraging the ever rising levels of private debt in the 00s. It was difficult to get in and out of a bank at the time without them wanting to lend more money than anyone could reasonably spend.

    When the asset price bubble burst in 2008 , naturally everyone stopped borrowing and started saving. So it was the lack of spending that caused the Govt’s revenues to fall. The Brown government did what governments should do in that situation by spending more (taxing less especially on VAT) when everyone else was spending less. That’s Keynesian economics!

    Sadly to be discontinued by the Con/Lib Dem coalition (an increase in VAT for example) and with predictable results!

  • Joe boiurke 6th Jul '17 - 1:07pm


    its not Keynesian economic theory that I am questioning, it is your assertion that “The only “realistic” tax plan is that you need to raise taxes if inflation is too high. And lower them if the economy is in recession.” I would say that this is a simplistic approach to managing an economy that has a significant element of automatic stabilisers built into it.

    CPI is currently running close to 3% (i.e 1% over target) and RPI at around 3.6% while earnings growth is below this level leading to squeeze on general living standards. The economy is not in recession and hasn’t been since 2010, although one may be coming post-brexit. Based on your assertion taxes should be raised now to squeeze down on consumer spending and bring inflation back to target.

    It is not Keynesian theory that asserts stagflation is theoretically impossible it is proponents that treat the Philips curve as a fundamental law of economics

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 1:56pm


    I can’t speak for all proponents. There’s quite a few economists who claim to be Keynesian but just aren’t. The so-called New Keynesians for starters.

    However, we don’t have to be Keynesian, or even know that much about economics, to appreciate that if the GDP of the country is, say, £2.2 trillion then it needs £2.2 trillion of spending to keep it going. Or, a bit more if we want to achieve some growth and hit our 2% inflation target.

    If the level of total spending is too high then we’re likely to have an inflation problem. If total spending is too low we’re going to be in recession with no growth. So the responsibility of government is to spend more (tax less) if everyone else is spending too little. Or , conversely, spend less (tax more) is everyone else is spending too much.

    If budgets balance they balance. If they don’t they don’t! But, usually, they don’t anyway so what’s the problem in recognising the reality of the situation?

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 2:12pm

    @ Joe,

    “Based on your assertion taxes should be raised now to squeeze down on consumer spending and bring inflation back to target.”

    Ordinarily yes. But, we do need a better measure of inflation first. If UK prices are stable and the pound goes up we have falling prices. Is that deflation? If UK prices are stable and the pound goes down we have rising prices. Is that inflation?

    I’d say No and No. The official method says Yes and Yes.

    We also need a better understanding of what a recession is. Two quarters of growth of -0.01% means we are in recession but +0.01% means we aren’t???

    Also a better measure of the way unemployment is measured. We need to include underemployment too and stop fiddling the official figures to make them seem lower than they really are.

  • Liberals became a recognised and respected force in local government with community politics – that is an organic mixture of listening, leading, innovating, enabling and much more, the exact recipe depending on local circumstances and the personalities involved but always – above all – putting people first.

    Yet bizarrely, when it comes to national politics these good lessons from local government go straight out of the window. In fact, the way the party makes *national* policy is best described as “machine politics” – the exact opposite of the community version.

    It is dominated by byzantine processes run largely by metropolitan insiders many woefully disconnected from the rest of the country and often obsessed with identity politics. There is nothing organic about it at all; it’s a process that manufactures “policy” because that’s what the machine is set up to do. Whether those policies actually address the pressing issues of the day is an entirely subsidiary consideration and any connection to Liberal political economy is often tenuous to say the least.

    We know from the unhappy experience of the Soviet Union and more recently the collapse of the Co-op Bank that systems that work by refracting decision–making through a byzantine series of committees don’t work. Vision, innovation and strategy are all squeezed out, reduced to the lowest common denominator by ‘office politics’ and the practical need to establish consensus (not to mention the weird things that happen on committees) so that the system as a whole performs way below the sum of its individual members.

    Bill will understand when I say we are in the midst of a full-blown “Seldon crisis” and must look to the margins for a new approach.

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '17 - 3:08pm

    Dave Orbison: Maybe you would prefer to live in Cuba or Venezuela or Czechoslovaia before 1989. That is up to you but if they were so successful why are/were the people in those places so poor ?
    We have our problems here and of course most people would like things to be better but they are not terrible. There are no general food shortages, the housing problem is partly the result of so many people wanting to come to live in what you consider to be a poverty stricken hell hole. There will always be people who are poorer than others and I am sure that if Labour had promised to double pensions and wages and reduce taxes for all but those earning more than £35,000 per year they would have won almost every seat in the House of Commons. Does that mean the Liberal Democrats should have made such promises ? Would the party have a majority if they did or had ?
    There has to be a balance between what is desirable and what is practicable. The crises you referred to affected all nations in one way or another. No system on earth is perfect but the free market has generally supplied what most people want while the other systems have been less successful. You are the sort of person who would rather we were reduced to poverty than that some people get a bit more money than the rest of us. I have no time or affinity for the very rich and powerful but they are part of the human condition, like it or not, and they exist in your favourite countries as they do everywhere else. Greed is sadly part of human nature.
    I did not say Corbyn was putting forward extreme policies but questioning whether what he proposed was affordable and the nature of the current Labour party compared to what it was before the changes.

  • Peter Martin – I have no problem with borrowing for investment, especially in automation, but other kinds of spending should be financed by raising more tax. Note that if our plan has an extra £20 billion for investment in manufacturing automated technology (ROi = £49 for every £1 invested according to Barclays), it would be even more convincing. You have to admit that Continental Europeans pay more tax than the British, and generally they also get better services.

    Our corporate tax is still lower than most European countries even if it is raised to 22%. Besides, we can raise short-term capital gain tax to 39% like Hillary Clinton. Bankers’ bonus tax and LVT shoukd also be considered. Finally, we can raise income tax on all income bands by 1-2 percent points. We should even lower the £11000 income tax floor to just £9000 like European countries (raising income tax allowance was never our policy before the Orange Bookers took over).

    The era of high tax, strong intervention during 1950s-1970s was an extremely successful period for most developed countries (The UK was an exception).

    nvelope2003 – I have no problem with Corbyn’s actual policies. I actually support the renationalization of several strategic public industries like rail or water or even energy, or at least having a British SOE capturing over 50% of total market share. These are the norm in Continental Europe, the norm, I repeat, and these countries have no problem with state-owned utilities. The only problem for Corbyn is his tax plan. Next, Libdem can also easily have its own equivalent of Corbynite National Investment Bank by expanding the capitalization of British Business Bank from £700m to £25bn and giving the bank KfW’s financing mechanism (issuing state-backed bonds).

  • nvelope2003 – why just Cuba and Venezuela. In Germany, France and Scandinavia, public ownership of utilities is common if not the norm.

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '17 - 4:44pm

    Thomas: Public ownership in Cuba and Venezuela goes far beyond utilities. Until recently there were virtually no private businesses in Cuba until their government decided it was necessary to restore some elements of the free enterprise system to improve living standards. In Venezuela the Government wished to destroy the private enterprise system and rely entirely on imports paid for by oil revenues. Despite those revenues being 3 times what they were when they came to power, though lower than the peak period, this money was largely wasted and there are shortages of many essentials including food and health care and riots every day, including invasion of the opposition controlled Parliament.

    In Germany and France rail services on certain routes are put out to tender by private companies. Some utilities in France are in the hands of private companies.

    Under nationalisation the share of transport of the railways dropped to about 5% and has only started to rise since the operating companies were privatised. Most of the delays on trains are the result of failures by the state owned Network Rail who operate the track and signalling, or by industrial action called by the RMT or ASLEF since the Government took control of the Southern line by replacing the franchise with a management contract.

    Huge subsidies are given to railways in France, Italy, Germany etc but despite lower fares the railways seem to have little effect on traffic congestion and most people use private transport so this money is largely wasted. Public bus services outside main centres in France are virtually non existent even in the sort of towns which in the UK would have an hourly bus to the next town operated on a commercial basis.

    I am not qualified to say whether all utilities should be publicly owned but what most people mean by that is that they should be subject to the whims of vociferous minorities and politicians who use them for their own ends. Public bus services in the UK are sometimes subsidised despite carrying hardly any passengers because it suits politicians though recent cuts have somewhat reduced this wasteful expenditure. It would make more sense to subsidise routes carrying passengers so that they would attract more passengers but that will never happen in a state controlled system which is operated to collect subsidies and give the employees a cushy life.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jul '17 - 6:35pm

    Comparing Apple to the Liberal Democrats is unusual. Apple has more money. There was a “warts and all” authorised biography of Jobs. He knew he had cancer but told staff that it was treatable because it was at an early stage. He did nothing about it because of pressure of work. He did not have a company car, but he did have a company aircraft and a pilot, which enabled him to reach hospitals with the necessary expertise, not in California. He also believed that his diet of fruit would help him, which it did not. He was thorough in ensuring that problems were thought through, so there were lots of arguments at Apple, some of them very intense.
    Lord Thomson Fleet, former owner of the Times and Sunday Times. prior to Murdoch, said “think until it hurts” as he did.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jul '17 - 6:41pm

    Nick Collins 6th Jul ’17 – 10:44am Four England captains out of 78 scored a century in their first test match as captain. All the recent ones. Root 184 not out, Moeen 61 not out.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 7:40pm

    @ Thomas,

    “I have no problem with borrowing for investment, especially in automation, but other kinds of spending should be financed by raising more tax.”

    “Borrowing for investment is OK” can be a handy argument if you need to convince someone quickly of the need for deficit spending. I’ve used it myself but I always feel rather guilty when I do that because I know it isn’t right. But it sounds good! Superficially.

    So we build a bridge, a road, a school, a hospital, or whatever, and we can call those things an investment. Right? This is really just an accounting exercise. If the road, bridge, school, or hospital, or whatever, cost say £5 million then we can put an asset down on our balance sheet to the same value. So on that basis we are in the same net position both before and afterwards. We’ve spent £5 million on the bridge on one side of the sheet. We have an asset worth £5 million on the other. But how often are these kinds of assets sold? Hardly ever. When they are it’s often after they’ve been used for many years. I don’t know what the Humber Bridge is valued at on the Govt’s balance sheet but say it’s £100 million. Would there be any buyers at that price if it were put up for sale?

    It doesn’t matter in the slightest unless it is put up for sale. Then the accountants would have to declare a loss if there were no takers.

    There’s obviously no point in building schools or hospitals if we don’t have the teachers, doctors and nurses to work in them. So can we put their salaries down to investment? Most parents would consider the salaries of their children’s teachers to be a good investment. Sadly not. The Govt doesn’t own the children so it can’t put a higher value on an educated child than an uneducated one.

    So somehow, if we accept the conventional thinking, we have to consider that building workers are somehow more worthy of their pay than nurses. We can borrow to pay them. We can’t borrow to pay nurses.

    You need to put on your thinking cap to sort this one out. But there is a rational explanation!

  • Gordon
    Ummm – interesting and revealing at the same time.

    I’m quite an intuitive listener I think, and as a result tend to look for patterns and trends in order to reach conclusions.
    It’s not particularly scientific, ironic for one with a science degree, but serves me generally fairly well.

    I think the more I learn and observe the more concerned I become.

    Question: are the lib dems so attached to the safe and the familiar that they are incaple of evolution and effective change?
    Wonder if anyone will bite?

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 9:00pm

    “Under nationalisation the share of transport of the railways dropped to about 5% and has only started to rise since the operating companies were privatised.”

    So you are saying that prioritisation is the cause of the steep increase in rail usage since about 1990? Have you considered other possibilities?

    What about the congested state of the roads? I used to complete a 30 mile journey to and from work, mainly using Manchester’s motorways in about 45 minutes in the mid 70s’. I very rarely was help up. Maybe just occasionally if there’d been an accident. I did the same journey a couple of years ago and it took over two hours. So the commute I did my car was possible then but isn’t now.

    The railways and trams around Manchester are much more heavily used now than they were then. I don’t think many people actually know who owns what or who runs what. They haven’t suddenly started using them because of the much better services offered by the private sector. The peak hour trains are often dirty, smelly, and overcrowded. But there’s no real alternative.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '17 - 9:02pm

    Prioritisation ?? I think that was my spell checker at work!

  • Paul Murray 6th Jul '17 - 11:46pm

    “Here’s to the dreamers..” etc.

    Lord Ashcroft just tweeted a flow diagram drawn quite literally on the back of a paper napkin that I thought interesting and relevant. Don’t know if this attempt to replicate it will work but let’s try:

    /\ |
    | \/
    The same old The same old
    thinking results
    /\ |
    | \/

    I attended MacWorld in January 1993 in San Francisco when I was working at a small British technology firm. We’d won the Queen’s award for both technology and export achievement and the Queen came to visit our offices so I guess we must have been doing something right. But the CEO of Apple was a guy who used to run Pepsi (he created “The Pepsi Challenge”) – a corporate guy to his fingertips who knew nothing about tech and who was later voted one of the worst CEOs in history. Apple’s stock price was about $60 (it is currently about $4200 if you ignore stock splits) and although there was still a thriving cottage industry of small entrepreneurs there was a sense of drift in Apple itself which had recently taken a lot of hits. I remember earnest dinner-time discussions about whether Apple could survive.

    Is all of this sounding familiar? The solution for Apple was to go back to the garage – ignore the corporate suits telling you how proper, grown-up businesses are run and rediscover how to innovate and excite. It’s easy to say and I’m not offering any clues on what the magic formula is, because you know what? I’m not Steve Jobs. But maybe somebody else out there is…

  • Paul Murray 6th Jul '17 - 11:51pm

    Whitespace! I hate whitespace!

    Same old thinking Same old results

  • Same old thinking – same old results

    If you do what you’ve always done – you get what you’ve always got.

    You know what to do to come a good third 62 & a poor third 8

    Does anyone out there know what we need to do to come first – because second’s not good enough and not aspirational enough and therefore not even worth wasting time over.

  • @ Phil Wainwright

    Good article!

    Quote from it:
    “At a local level as a party, we keep people informed and encourage them to take power for themselves. At a national level, we decide policy by one member one vote”

    Does anyone see a potential issue here?

  • Bill Le Breton 7th Jul '17 - 5:51am

    Thanks everyone.

    Back in 2015 when I first started looking how how one of these very bright people might go about designing a political movement from scratch I asked. Would it have a chief executive, would it have a Board, would it have committees, would it have conferences?

    Gordon who writes above wrote into to the process some very different ideas to the status quo. Well done him. But the recent was the same … No change.

    And the point I made elsewhere about the Londonoisation that follows the present process …

    Anyway the cricket was good. Thanks for the info Nick.

  • Bill Le Breton 7th Jul '17 - 6:29am

    Lorenzo, Centrists are more often than not people who are frustrated with their own party because they are not in the majority of it and cannot obtain the office they crave. They are short cut merchants who won’t accept the position and the slow pace of advance of they cleque. They actually are not well,attached to values and also often have authoritarian tendencies which they cannot accept in themselves. In power they are adrift on a sea of decisions. They either continue to hide their differences or triangulate them or become paralysed by the need for decisive action.

    They want you to see things in terms of left and right because the liberal/authoritative access gives them trouble. liberal on the way up, perhaps, but then authoritarian in power.

    That pursuit of power is actually illiberal as it is taking power from people. True Liberals work to help people in their communities take and use power. If the centre exists it is the juxtaposed with Liberalism and freedom.

    I have never met an over ambitious Liberal.

  • Bill Le Breton 7th Jul '17 - 6:32am

    Also they and their followers love to see them as being imbued with charisma. See charisma at work in a society and you will never see freedom. All you see is leadership and follower ship.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Jul '17 - 7:46am

    I know this isn’t very relevant to the original post, but I thought this should be mentioned on Lib Dem Voice, and I’ve seen no mention of it elsewhere : I just read this interview that Tim Farron gave to his local paper, the Westormoland Gazette :

    There seems to have been a lot of anger on Lib Dem Voice and elsewhere about the events surrounding Tim’s resignation, and especially, anger towards individuals who have been thought to have forced him into reigning, But in this interview, he seems to make it clear that it was entirely his own decision.
    He says he had just realised that his faith was always going to be an issue. He was always going to be constantly asked about it. He says he came to feel that this meant that either he would end up having to compromise in a way that wouldn’t seem right, or he would have to stop being leader.
    He says he had made the decision to stand down soon, about eight weeks before his resignation. But it was while he was waiting to be sworn in again as an MP, that he came to the decision that he should stand down immediately.
    He says that he is completely at peace with this decision, and indeed feels “about two stone lighter”.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jul '17 - 8:03am

    @ Bill le Breton

    “That pursuit of power is actually illiberal as it is taking power from people.”

    The people don’t have the power in the first place. So you can’t take it off them! You can only fight to give them some through the democratic process. And that isn’t as democratic as many might think. And I don’t mean on the question of PR. I mean that no-one ever won the right to vote by actually voting for it!

    The Lib Dems’ beloved EU is much worse than the Westminster Government. The power is held by the European Commission and the ECB. If you want change in the EU it has to come from them. And who votes for them? Not even the German electorate. But because the German government has some economic clout they have a big influence over the workings of the EU. That’s the power of money not democracy though.

  • David Hopps 7th Jul '17 - 9:11am

    It’s very Lib Dem that Bill’s Jobs analogy has been analysed so forensically. I almost felt an English dissertation coming on.
    The crux of Bill’s point, as I see it, is that we should be assembling a community of like-minded people, driven by similar values: creative in their own field, unwilling to be suppressed, free-thinking, willing to think differently, “people out to change the world”.
    An enthusiastic vision for people to believe in with passion.
    As Bill says, don’t take the analogy too seriously.
    But the desire for building this community is a good one.
    if centrism ever morphs into a vague desire for safe thinking, or liberalism becomes obsessed with identity politics or retreats solely into local politics (where arguably less can be achieved now anyway with smaller budgets) or brings an unwillingness to create a central, empowering vision, then you don’t get Jobs’ Apple, you get 7.3% in the polls.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jul '17 - 1:29pm


    I start by heaping praise on your good qualities , then make a very constructive criticism which you respond to ,by denigrating the very people and stance I was defending !

    You do so in words I am in actuality aghast at !!!

    Are we referring to separate things ?

    Do you have a different view of the spectrum of political stance?

    Are you unaware how far from Liberalism or democracy it seems to say the personal and judgemental comments you make here.

    You just insulted many in our party.

    And did so ignoring the examples I gave of people who are centrists who believe in a centre or radical centre or centre left approach.

    Also a quote from a man I admire who was a Liberal , before you were born, and old enough to be my grandfather !

    I do not like labels but like them a lot more than the insults used about those where they apply that label in a one sided narrow way of doing so.

    Who are you to say what all those who adhere to a stance in the mainstream are ?

    And where were all those left wing critics of individual choice and on empowerment within remote organisations dishing out , top down to the poor masses ?

    Where was the power then when it was only those in the centre who gave a monkey’s about the left out powerless .

    Are you a liberal or only a member of the Liberal Democrats ?

    If both how about respect for some good people.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jul '17 - 1:35pm


    On charisma, I am the regular advocate of individuals being their own boss, taking forward what is in them, using initiative.Are you really saying that good, decent , political leaders, local, regional, national, are better if uncharismatic ?

    Then May is a great, truly giant leader, according to you may-be , no pun unintended ?She is not centrist, and not charismatic !

    Far better than , say Obama, then, who is centrist, and charismatic ?!

  • nvelope2003 7th Jul '17 - 4:01pm

    Peter Martin: Yes I have considered other possibilities such as those you mentioned. Until recently I could get the train to London by taking a bus to the station and another bus when I got back. Because of a local authority subsidising a bus service which competes with the commercially operated bus service I used to use the operator has had to change the times and their buses no longer connect with the trains so I have to travel by other means. The trains were neither over crowded or smelly but clean and punctual. However due to outside interference they are no longer available to me.

    Road congestion has played its part in putting more people on the trains as has the cost of insurance for young drivers but the sort of services I used would not have been much affected by this. However they have become more frequent and I can only recall one occasion about 17 years ago when the train was late coming back so that I missed the bus. Under BR they were frequently late. There are penalties for late running which a private company has to pay but a state owned railway would not be bothered by. The nationalised Network Rail regularly causes delays due to signal failures, over running works etc but as it does not have any shareholders it is not concerned by any penalties imposed. Last night Paddington Station was closed for several hours by signal problems causing friends to have to make a long detour to get a train to Waterloo. It was the second day running or rather not running.

  • Mike S –“I think the more I learn and observe the more concerned I become.”

    Me too. But at long last I sense that, probably due to the many new members not to mention the complete failure of the status quo, there is a growing impatience with tired orthodoxy and a desire for change.

    That’s a major positive. I think the received wisdom on how to run the party is now running only on fumes so even the most damming critiques get next to no push-back from the establishment. A new paradigm is coming but has yet to be born.

    I have a rough notion of what that must be. Am I right to sense that you also do? It would be interesting to compare notes.

  • Phil Wainewright 7th Jul '17 - 5:58pm

    Mike S – thanks for the link and comments.

    My thoughts on injecting new thinking into the policy process (and much else):

    The trouble with revolutions is that they tend to throw out valuable stuff along with problems. We do need to make sure policy making doesn’t end up dominated by London-based professionals and hamstrung by backroom cabals. But there’s a risk of replacing that with a process that is entirely populist and ‘fed up with experts’, which would not be a happy end point.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jul '17 - 8:21pm


    You’re probably in a minority in wanting more privatisation of the Railways. Most people in the UK aren’t at all happy. Especially with the high fares.

  • Bill le Breton 8th Jul '17 - 6:43am

    David Hopps, thank you for your sensitive reading of my ideas. I have admired your pieces and comments on LDV recently and of course your cricket writing. over the years.

    Peter, we are very different on this. I find it helpful to think of people being born to and growing up with very different and unequal **access*** to their innate powers and potentials.

    To me the greatest inequality is this ability to take and use innate power and realise more and more of their potential as they choose. I find the heroic idea of winning power to give to people ie empowerment – a paternal idea.

    Lorenzo, I spent the last two days with one of my oldest friends who happens to have been a godson of Sir Peter’s, so please beware of assuming things.

    Please re-read my comments of yesterday morning a 6.29 again. My greatest Liberals are certainly not centrists, have values which are not determined by the position of others. Nor are they nor were they content to be limited to a position on a straight line of just two dimensions.

  • Peter Martin 8th Jul '17 - 10:24am

    @ Bill,

    I find the heroic idea of winning power to give to people ie empowerment – a paternal idea

    Or maybe that should be ‘maternal’? Prior to WW1 when the Suffragette campaign was at its height, Liberals did achieve slightly more than 7.4% of the vote, albeit the male vote. The Liberals were in government. But that still wasn’t enough to enfranchise at least half the adult population of the time.

    And, yes, our (Great Great) Grandmothers who fought for the vote were heroic. I’m sure we all do now accept that they were. They weren’t considered that at the time though!

    Their struggle wasn’t just about the vote. It was to help everyone, and particularly women, to “realise more and more of their potential as they (chose)”.

  • David Evershed 8th Jul '17 - 11:41am

    Bill le Breton “Nor are they nor were they content to be limited to a position on a straight line of just two dimensions.”

    When I was at school straight lines were just one dimension but I am willing to learn if things have moved on.

    But if you refer to not being defined by a left/right axis I am with you.

  • Nick Collins 8th Jul '17 - 5:40pm

    Cricket alert: England 200+ ahead with one wicket down in the third innings and seven overs left to play on day 3 of Lord’s test against S. Africa. Pinch me, someone; I must be dreaming.

  • nvelope2003 9th Jul '17 - 3:39pm

    Peter Martin: Maybe but those other countries provide large subsisdies for their railways, probably to stop people moaning. However, with pressure on budgets these subsidies may have to be reduced over time, especially when they realise what a small percentage of the voters actually use trains regularly when most of them have cars. The UK Government has already started the process of reducing subsidies. France will be next I suspect. On visits to France I saw very few passengers on non TGV trains despite the lower fares. The French Transport Minister admitted that the system was in crisis and praised the UK railways.

    When Britain’s railways were nationalised they were the subject of constant criticism because people resent having to pay for public transport because they have nothing to show for it when their journey ends and most people dislike actually travelling except in their own cars. Unless it became possible to run a perfect system of trains which were never late there will always be complaints. There is a sort of obsessive fantasy about the perfect train journey which has of course never existed. People pay huge sums to travel on tourist steam trains which of course do break down sometimes but we never hear complaints. They are all operated privately but obviously with very old equipment as only one steam locomotive has been built recently.

    I actually have to use Southern and apart from when the drivers were on strike the trains were running normally except when Network Rail were carrying out works or their signals failed. Even since the drivers’ overtime ban trains seemed to running normally.. I asked the people here if the trains were always late and they said it was not true. Not every body is objective in thw way they regard public services. I used to deal with complaints and when I investigated them I often found the cause was because they had been caught without paying.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jul '17 - 8:51am

    Nick: no alert from you at 5.30pm Sunday 😉

    Peter M: the Suffragettes are a great example of taking and using power – that intrinsic power having been taken away from them over centuries by a male establishment.

    The idea that a majority of men in both Houses woke one morning and decided to ‘give’ women power is exactly the idea that I wish to expose as a fallacy.

    David E you are right. I am wrong.

  • @ Bill le Breton. Not just the suffragettes, Bill. Don’t forget the suffragists like Catherine Courtney who were active not just on that issue but on the whole question of war and peace.

  • Nick Collins 10th Jul '17 - 10:37am

    Bill, Sorry about that, but it was all over bar the shouting ( or even including the shouting) by then. But what a splendid occasion: England Women beating Australia and England Men beating S. Africa on the same day!

    Btw, I shall not be in a position to issue alerts on Friday or Saturday. I shall be at Trent Bridge: without access to the internet since I do not carry portable technology.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jul '17 - 10:56am


    Maybe we are misunderstanding each other here. Of course Liberal, Tory and Labour MPs, all men at the time, didn’t do what you suggest they didn’t. However there would only have been a small percentage of women involved in the suffragette movement. The vast majority of women, many of whom would have been critical of the militant tactics involved, would have just been given the vote by the actions of others.

    There was no mass movement. There was a pursuit of power by a minority which you consider “illiberal as it is taking power from people.” The power the suffragettes sought wasn’t necessarily for themselves. As I’ve said democracy wasn’t won by anyone voting for it. They achieved the power to bring about change by militant action.

    You’re comment: “intrinsic power having been taken away from them” implies that women had power at some point. When was this? I know we’ve always had Queens as well as Kings. Is this what you mean?

  • Nick Collins 10th Jul '17 - 11:04am

    Btw (2) Bill, would you agree that the number of LBW dismissals over the four days at Lord’s (nine if I have not miscounted) is perhaps an indication that the centre is not always the best place to be standing: particularly when the ball is moving in the air or off the surface and the playing field is not level?

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Jul '17 - 4:51pm

    ‘Are the Lib Dems so attached to the safe and familiar that they are incapable of evolution and effective change?’ You probably recognise your pessimistic words, Mike S., and that you wrote a day later ‘If you do what you’ve always done – you get what you’ve always got.’ Not quite, Mike, it’s only seven years since our party had 57 MPs. How to grow again is the question, of course.
    I’d meant to join this interesting thread earlier, but was interrupted by the early acceptance of my own piece on Saturday (8th). I wanted to answer your earlier point (July 6) which I quoted above.. My answer is that, it seems to me, we ARE capable of evolution and that is itself effective change. Thus, I suggested in my own piece a new emphasis on empowering ordinary people (which I am sure Bill wants too) by talking and listening to them and working up ideas which we should then feed into the policy-making processes of the party. ‘Identify a VALUE for them – find a way of speaking their language’, you wrote earlier, which I entirely accept, as with your ‘tell us what they think we should be doing.’ Where I think I disagree with you is in your wanting ‘rapid mass penetration of your target audience’ : no, we already talk to and serve our communities in person, and we simply need to make it purposeful, asking, listening, and BUILDING UP POLICY from the grassroots instead of top-down as is the Labour way. Empower the people! I challenge you to go over to my piece and explain there why we can’t work with evolving the present structures, as I maintain – if you can!

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