How the Lib Dems can lead after the Referendum Result

The three days following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union saw Britain’s political landscape descend into chaos. Whilst both the Conservatives and Labour have been damaged both by intra-party division, the Liberal Democrats have remained unscathed, benefitting considerably from the turmoil the vote to leave has incited.

Division is rife within the Conservatives, with the likelihood of a leader attractive to both pro-and anti-Brexiteers in serious doubt. The 16 million that voted to Remain are unlikely to heed Boris Johnson’s call to “build bridges” with a man many perceive has just chosen isolationism over unity and progress. Likewise, 17 million Leavers are unlikely to vote for Theresa May, who’s second favourite to command the leadership, as David Cameron’s resignation is symbolic of the incompatibility of a Remain captain commanding a Leave ship. Whilst it is arguable that many Leavers have switched allegiances due to the perception that they voted on the basis of intangible promises (emphasised by Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan Smith’s abandoning of the Leave campaign’s promise that £350m would be injected into the NHS), it is likely that many are disillusioned with the Conservative Party as it has become synonymous with fear mongering, fragmentation and mistrust.

The situation among the Labour ranks is no better. The coup against Jeremy Corbyn has resulted in resignations from much of his shadow cabinet. Corbyn’s distinct quietness during Referendum campaigning encouraged frustration at his lack of leadership and will to unite the party. Whilst Labour voters are, on average, pro-Remain, many join the shadow cabinet in feeling neglected by their so-called leader, rebelling against Corbyn’s Labour.

  The Liberal Democrats have been well placed to pick up the pieces of the shattered parties. On Friday 24th June the party registered 1,000 new members, emphasising the electorate’s frustration at the disunity marring the two main parties. Tim Farron’s commanding speech on Friday morning represents another attraction for the disillusioned electorate. Farron has created a party with a positive vision, a more attractive tenet than fear mongering and misinformation associated with the Conservatives or leadership apathy represented in Corbyn’s Labour. It is no coincidence that the Liberal Democrats are the single party unscathed by disunity, as the party is based on fundamental values of cooperation, progressiveness and collectivism. Thus the Liberal Democrats represents a haven for all pro-European voices, promising to run for the next election on a pro-EU stance. It is no surprise that Labour MP’s such as David Lammy have pledged their support for Farron’s ideals, as should there be a General Election come October, the Liberal Democrats may once again command a decisive position; the possibility of another coalition government has become a realistic idea thanks to the political turmoil created by the Referendum result. Whilst it may be idealistic to perceive that a Liberal government means another referendum on Proportional Representation, the feeling of voicelessness among the 48% and mistrust among much of the 52% has increased the desire for a more representative democracy.

* Scott Partridge is a Lib Dem member and activist in Guildford.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jun '16 - 4:52pm

    One way the Lib Dems can lead is by toughening up the UK’s negotiating stance. I can’t believe the EU are demanding we should pay a fee for a mutually beneficial free-trade agreement. Should we charge the EU for our security and intelligence services? It is ridiculous.

    To me the EU seem morally wrong to insist that the UK pays them a fee to sign a free trade agreement. We are not buying a service from them – it is a bilateral deal.

    The cost of leaving the EU is that we no longer get a say on EU laws – it is not that we should still pay a big fee and accept total free movement. I’m outraged with the attitude of the EU and it is time we toughened up to it.

  • Emma Heseltine 29th Jun '16 - 5:28pm

    I can’t understand why Farron hasn’t got together with the Greens, SNP and Northern Irish parties to call simultaneous mass rallies against BREXIT in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and other cities. Here is a clear need and a clear opportunity to take leadership. Why are they waiting and letting people grope about on Facebook for disorganised gatherings?

  • @Eddie Sammon
    There are enough British politicians pratting about pretending to get tough with the rest of Europe and making fools of themselves. The only way the LibDems can lead and the way they are leading, I’m glad to say, is by opposing the suicidal course the government has taken us on and doing everything possible to stop it.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jun '16 - 5:53pm

    Yes but Chris, we can’t just walk into a negotiation room saying “we are dependent on you”. I’m only outraged with the EU post-Brexit when it seems some want to make an example out of us and wreck our economy (harming their own too).

  • @Eddie Sammon

    Wrecking the economy??

    Maybe you should follow the markets a bit closer.

    They have finished up higher today than what they were on the close last Thursday.
    They have regained all the losses on Friday and then some.

    And all this on the back of us having our so called gold star credit rating reduced

    Maybe leading remain activists need to look in another corner for there scaremongering and doom predictions, because the markets are not playing ball

  • @Eddie

    Sorry I should have read your post and previous comments properly.
    It seems now you are against the EU???

    Mind you I am finding it hard to follow your opinion on the EU as you seem to be flip flopping all over the place over the last couple of weeks, I am no longer sure where you stand on the issue lol

  • ddie Sammon 29th Jun ’16 – 4:52pm…………………..One way the Lib Dems can lead is by toughening up the UK’s negotiating stance…….The cost of leaving the EU is that we no longer get a say on EU laws – it is not that we should still pay a big fee and accept total free movement. I’m outraged with the attitude of the EU and it is time we toughened up to it………………

    We don’t have a negotiating stance…..You can’t continue in the game when you’ve thrown your hand in…..
    Anyone believing that “Just giving up our seat at the EU” was the price to keep everything else the same is for a rude awakening…

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jun '16 - 6:09pm

    Matt, I am pro EU, I am just not pro signing a poor deal just because the EU is big and we shouldn’t just say “yeah we are small, we can’t do anything about it”. We can use moral arguments.

  • David Allen 29th Jun '16 - 6:13pm


    Norway pay a fee for access to the single market. Norway get everything organised for them by the “evil” Brussels bureaucracy, whereas EU members contribute to all the heavy lifting themselves. So it’s only fair that the EU charges Norway. Same for us. It’s taking a lot of Brits far too long to understand this but – there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

  • That is part of the irony of the Leave vote. The UK is only, at best, 60% self-sufficient in food. It needs trade agreements just to feed itself. 27% of Britain’s food comes from the EU. And that is just the food situation. The EU’s negotiating position is a strong one, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if it uses that strength to the advantage of its members. It could even extract concessions it couldn’t get while the UK was a member.

  • @AI

    ” The UK is only, at best, 60% self-sufficient in food. It needs trade agreements just to feed itself. 27% of Britain’s food comes from the EU. And that is just the food situation.”

    The reason why 27% of our food comes from the EU is because being part of the EU forces us to accept high tariffs from non EU countries for imports.
    The EU is hopeless at making trade deals.
    And to say that we need trade agreements just to feed ourselves is stretching the truth.
    The nonsensical CAP pays wealthy land owners in this country Not to use their land for farming in order to support the weaker EU countries.

    Whatever the outcome over this EU negotiations at least the UK will be able to negotiate its own trade agreements with the rest of the world.

  • We have set out a cause. At this time it is both worthy and has some voter appeal. Much depends on what happens in the Labour party over the next two months, assuming there is a leadership contest. We campaign on our cause and hope something dramatic happens to Labour. One thing we must not do is allow any speace on the centre left to the Greens. Web need to gobble them up!!!

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jun '16 - 7:17pm

    Thanks David Allen. I can now see why we pay a fee, but we should still be careful we don’t pay too much and in general I am worried about the assumption that paying a big fee for a free trade deal is fine. We shouldn’t pay beyond the costs of it, not extra as a kind of exploitation fee and deterrence fee.

  • Peter Watson 29th Jun '16 - 7:39pm

    @David Allen “Norway pay a fee for access to the single market.”
    One thing I have wondered recently: are Norwegians happy with their arrangement or are they desperate to join the EU?

  • David Allen 29th Jun '16 - 7:40pm

    Well, we can try, Eddie. But think about it from the EU’s point of view. We have given them grief. We plan to go on giving them grief. They’ll want to get even. That’s no more than fair.

    It’s like the golf club who charge a fat fee for membership, because that’s what it needs to maintain a golf course, and then they get people come along and demand to play the occasional round as a guest for a tenner. The club soon wises up and charges guest fees that don’t undercut the membership fee, because that’s what it needs to do. Norway are paying for the favour of gaining access, and paying again for the favour of not having to follow all the rules. So shall we. If we didn’t like that, we didn’t ought to have left!

  • David Allen 29th Jun '16 - 7:46pm

    Peter Watson – are Norway happy? – Pretty mixed feelings it seems

  • Derek Campbell 29th Jun '16 - 8:03pm

    @ Peter Watson

    As it happens the BBC pondered this very issue recently

  • Mark Goodrich 30th Jun '16 - 1:45am

    I have been posing the question on Twitter (@markygoodrich) and trying to find information on what the advantages of the Norway option are. As far I can find out, the only thing is being able to do your own trade deals. I think you can debate whether we do better on trade deals as part of the EU or outside it but it hardly seems worth it for lack of influence on EU laws and the scope of the single market (note the problems of Norway’s fishermen mentioned in the BBC article). Norway is stuck there because the country is equally divided between those who want to be more “in” and those who want to be more “out”. This could be our future but, if so, I guess it would be one without Scotland.

    Incidentally, I would like to say how much I appreciate the tone and level of debate on Lib Dem Voice. People actually listen and respond to points. If we had more of this, we wouldn’t be in this mess!

  • Jenny Barnes 30th Jun '16 - 8:55am

    Assuming there are benefits to a deal with the EU, one would expect them to split 50/50 with decent negotiators on both sides. However, the EU is not one polity; consider a model of the EU made up of a mostly manufacturing high employment area ( call it Germany) and a mostly agricultural low employment area ( Poland ). Then a deal that Germany ( low tariffs on cars ) would be happy with would be likely vetoed by Poland (low access for workers to the UK economy) and vice versa; so it’s more likely that the benefits to the UK will be considerably less than half of what’s available. Any fee would be balancing the benefit to one side or the other – it’s not impossible that the EU would pay us. It’s not very likely though.

  • “…the party is based on fundamental values of…collectivism…”

    Funny, because our party constitution clearly states that, “…We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals…”

    The definition of collectivism: “the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it.”

    This doesn’t sound like our party…

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