If Labour splits what do the Liberal Democrats do?

So, some Labour MPs are rumoured to be preparing to leave their Party post Brexit debate. There are talks of six heavily involved and perhaps twenty in total. From my own observations I think that is highly credible but not necessarily guaranteed. There can be no doubt that nationally there are huge fissures in the Labour Party. What precisely those splits are is difficult to discern.

That is replicated in Liverpool. Its only partly a joke when I say that if my seven colleagues and I were in the Labour Party here I would probably be the leader of the largest faction! We have north versus south; working class against callow youths straight out of university; people who like the Mayor against people who loathe him; and all this before we can work out the growing threat of the Militant Tendency of the 2019 era – Momentum.

As I look at our 100,000 membership, I have been trying to work out how many in our Party were members in the last Labour split which formed the SDP in the early 80s. Not many I suspect! So perhaps its important that those of us who were there then should think through what happened and how we approached to see what lessons can be learnt.

As last time we have a Liverpool name in the frame – Luciana Berger. Last time there were three Labour MPs. There are crucial differences. I regarded those Labour MPs as a blast from the past. Right wing Labour MPs who had no respect for their constituents and did little in their constituencies. I respect Luciana Berger. I can probably agree with her on 90% of the policies that she would wish to introduce.

However, I also remember from my past and note in here that she comes from a different tradition; from different roots than me. Her style of campaigning; her relationship with her constituents is different than mine and I know different from our Parliamentary Party. But if you ask, “could I work with her?” the answer is definitely “yes”.

What went wrong in the 80s was that we concentrated too much on our political differences and too much time in trying to carve up the cake in terms of who fought what, where and when. The result was that jointly we blew the best opportunity in the late 20th Century to create a break through for a strong centre grouping. We see that so clearly today with centrists in Labour and Conservatives marginalised by extremists.

I believe that there is a better model and that is the way the Labour Party has traditionally been operated. In theory there are two Parties that work together. There is a Labour Party and a Cooperative Party. There are subtle differences between them but they have one Leader and one manifesto. The Cooperative Party have their own Conference but then are full participants in the Labour Conference.

The Lib Dems have already almost completed a manifesto in case of a snap General Election. I believe that this could be quickly shared and an agreement made on the key issues. It would also be honest to say where there were differences between us.

Negotiating seats at both parliamentary and council level would be far easier as wings of one Party than two which inevitably put their own interest first.

We must not blow this opportunity for a second time if it is, indeed, presented to us. We must be more mature and more liberal than we were then and if so, it’s just possible that the dream that I have had for all my 51 years in the Party can be achieved – the creation of a radical centre Party that can help us recover as a nation from the terrible mess that we are in.

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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56 Comments

  • John Marriott 4th Feb '19 - 5:09pm

    What scuppered the last attempt at forming a new political force was FPTP. You know, I almost feel sorry for UKIP in a way. Look at all the votes they used to get and still failed to gain any MPs, except briefly for the odd defection.

    What ‘went wrong in the 80s’ was, among other things, the personality clash between the two Davids. This was cleverly exploited by the media. Do you remember those two puppets on ‘Spitting Image’, showing the little Steel in the breast pocket of the giant Owen or the ‘send off’ at the start of the 1987 campaign outside Crowley Street when, having shaken hands, the two Davids boarded their gold campaign buses, which proceeded to depart in opposite directions?

    No, Cllr Kemp, the REAL opportunity which we blew was not in the 1980s. It was the failure to get any kind of electoral reform when the chance arose in the early years of the Coalition government. This failure, incidentally, ranks second, in my mind, only to the chance that Blair and company blew to change the political landscape following their landslide victory in 1997, when they had Parliament at their mercy.

    In spite of all this the votes piled up only to fail to surmount our voting system.

  • John Marriott 4th Feb '19 - 5:12pm

    Sorry. That final short paragraph shouldn’t be there.

  • Ian Patterson 4th Feb '19 - 5:29pm

    This is the umpteenth rerunning of hordes of Labour MPs to defect line. This goes all the way back to 2015 when Tim was leader. Labour MPs sitting on 5 figure majorities with a virtual life time guarantee of tenure are NOT going to defect to anywhere near us, given the example of both SDP and UKIP before them. They are mostly pining Blarities for the glory days of their dear leader. Who would come with political baggage we couldn’t cope with!

  • David Evershed 4th Feb '19 - 5:41pm

    As Labour MP Stella Creasy said on the BBC’s Politics Live today when discussing a Labour spilt:

    “I am not a Liberal because I am a socialist”.

    Quite so. If the Lib Dems adopted socialism to attract Labour MPs there would be no need for the Lib Dem Party because the Labour Party is the socialist party.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Feb '19 - 5:49pm

    @ Ian Patterson,

    Indeed there was an expectation built up by Tim Farron. We now hear of meetings between Vince Cable and mystery people.

    If there are MPs who intend to set up a so called ‘centre ground’ party, I just wish they would get on with it. I haven’t noticed any excitement generated by the prospect.

  • Paul Barker 4th Feb '19 - 6:20pm

    Well, I don’t know what’s going on anymore than anyone else but its worth restating what little we do know.
    There are some Labour MPs seriously thinking about breaking away, probably to form a new Party rather than join ours.
    If that happens, they will need to form an Electoral Alliance with us. For 2 Centre-Left, liberally inclined Parties to fight each other would be mutual suicide.
    If we look at the experience of The SDP/Liberal Alliance in 1981, such a development has the potential to transform British Politics in Months rather than Years.
    The idea of a Merger is mad, forget it.
    I don’t recognise the description of the early 1980s given in the article above. What stopped The Alliance was The Falklands war, a weird, “Black Swan” event. We will never know what might have been without that.
    If any of this happens, we must welcome our new Allies with open hearts, we need each other & The UK needs us both to work together.

  • @David Evershed – I wasn’t aware that anyone had actually suggested that the Lib Dems should adopt socialism to attract Labour MPs! Was this seriously what you read into Richard Kemp’s article?

    The fact is that the Labour Party covers a very broad spectrum of opinion – they are not all militant socialists (as you seem to imagine), but also include various shades of “social democrats”, “centrists” and “liberal internationalists”, etc. There are also potentially a number of moderate liberal Conservatives who we may be able to work with.

    Where we share common values and priorities with MPs who currently belong to other parties, we should be prepared to engage constructively. However, given all the incessant speculation about mass Labour/Tory defections and new centre parties which have yet to materialise, let alone the harsh experience of past lost opportunities (e.g. as John Marriott points out) to “break the mould of British politics”, I don’t think that we should get over excited about the prospects of a major realignment of the U.K. political landscape just yet!

  • I’m watching all of this with great interest, and I /think/ I agree with Richard (as I usually do). However, I do want to know what this new party is going to stand FOR. There’s a danger that it will just be a disparate group of MPs who are disaffected from Corbyn – and God knows I understand that. But will there be unifying principles to fight for, or will it be just a Not Jeremy Corbyn party?
    If they are all anti-Brexit, that’s a good start – but what happens when Brexit is done? Some may be motivated more by anti-Semitism than by Brexit. Some may fear de-selection and want to jump into another boat before they are kicked out. I don’t mean to be negative; far from it. But I do think we should proceed very cautiously on all of this. And above all, any arrangement we enter into with them should be a decision of the whole party, not just a chummy stitch up between MPs and peers.

  • Paul Barker writes that what stopped the Alliance was the Falklands War. Well, it’s a case of yes and no. I was an agent in local government elections that year and our positive canvass returns began to tail off after the war broke out in early April. However, the gloss had already started to come off the Alliance earlier in 1982 after a public row about Westminster seat allocations or “carving up the cake” to use Richard Kemp’s phrase. We did very well in terms of votes at the 1983 General election but were defeated by FPTP.

  • David Warren 4th Feb '19 - 8:06pm

    The names I have heard linked with the possibility of forming a new centre party are neither Liberals or Democrats.

    They owe their current positions to their devotion to Blairite machine politics and the Progress faction within Labour.

    All brands of Labourism are thoroughly authoritarian and these so called moderates are no exception.

    Now the Corbynite left are firmly in control they can see their parliamentary careers ending prematurely.

    If we want to make the breakthrough that I believe we all want then we should rely on those who share our Liberal politics not people from a failed project looking to save their own skins.

  • IMO, it’s best not to get carried away with these sorts of rumours, because we all know that actually forming new parties is much harder than talking about it. However, should a number of current Labour MPs split from the main party over Europe and certain other things we can agree on, then we’d need to think carefully about how we interact with them.

    Assuming we don’t disagree with them on two many points, and especially if they have proven themselves to be decent constituency MPs, willing to work cross-party and not tribal, then I’d say we could agree not to stand candidates against them at the next general election. Hopefully, they’d be keen on electoral reform, which would help everyone out in the longer term.

    It would be tempting to rub our hands at the thought of boosting our numbers with an influx of MPs, but in the assumed scenario, there’d be more of them than there currently are of us, as far as MPs are concerned, and that could mean losing our identity. I’m not sure how an informal arrangement would work in terms of counting party size in the Commons and representation at PMQs and indeed in the media overall.

    There would be a lot to think about, but IMO we need to stay focused on working cross-party with any MPs that share our values on Brexit, and be less concerned with the colour of everyone’s rosettes. Party politics is what got us into the Brexit mess, and we need to be careful it doesn’t continue to distract us from doing the best for the country.

  • When reading articles ( and comments) like this I’m reminded of a supposedly off camera remark just under a decade ago. it went something like this, ” “If we keep doing this we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on……”

    The rest, as they say, is history.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Feb '19 - 10:06pm

    @ David Raw,
    Some newspapers are gossiping about it. Some are doing their job as serious newspapers.

    ‘Ministers told to come clean on Brexit handout’. The Independent.

    This is a scandal and the Liberal Democrats are not mentioned in the article, too busy speculating on something that does not exercise most people.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Feb '19 - 12:43am

    @ David Raw,
    I had seen the photo and read the article David, it makes me weep.

    I refuse to name failures by their ennobled names. As expat’s post amply demonstrates. if
    the Liberal Democrats such as Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander et al were really opposed to the philosophy and aims of Cameron and Osborne, in my opinion, it is not a peerage or a Knighthood that they should have been awarded but an Oscar for their superb acting ability.

    When the Independent brought to attention an important question about the Brexit Bung Party :, what do we get from Vince Cable:-

    “Vince cable. claims there is a real chance of Labour MPs breaking away.'”

    .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Feb '19 - 1:48am

    A real and sensible piece, from Richard, much admirable content in there and commentary.

    Luciana Berger and some few already talked of as potential in a split, for us to consider, are fellow liberal, democratic, progressive colleagues in a fight for mainstream social justice. I rate and value David Warren in his views, yet above, the comments are way out to the left field of ideological narrow divisiveness, we need to be like the US Democrats of old, alas moving a little too close to the farther left, but it contains excellent people in a party of a variety of stances. Elizabeth Warren, is to the left of Clinton, to the right of the newer democratic socialist addition, I could get behind her, but never Corbyn.

    We need a real alternative to this lousy government.

    The official party waiting in the wings, are seven points trailing this terrible government, our party on eight points in the poll.

    Unite behind a new movement in the progressive mainstream, us, a new grouping, United for Change, whatever, the country needs a version of that party that once could claim FDR and JFK, something like which we have not had in many years if at all…

  • Alex Macfie 5th Feb '19 - 6:31am

    David Raw: Why would Nick Clegg be called upon to lead any new {centre party}? The leader of any breakaway party would come from among the MPs who started it. Nick Clegg left UK politics when he declined to seek reselection for his old Parliamentary seat. He’s a private citizen and can do as he wishes. Bringing him into this discussion is utterly pointless.

  • “The names I have heard linked with the possibility of forming a new centre party are neither Liberals or Democrats.”

    Yes and this is the problem I have. We’re not a centrist party, we’re a liberal one.

  • While I’m tempted to join the kicking of the failed polticians Clegg, Alexander and co, I will forgo the opportunity. Why you ask, because no one is jumping to their defence. I think by now few people believe they where good for the party, and what little good they did temperring the Tories was undone by enabling the Tories to gain a majority in 2015. It’s a nasty tasting medicine to swallow, to have to realise those you acted as a cheer leader for had feet, nay whole bodies of clay, but they did. Mark it up to experience, but in future be more critical and don’t fall for the hype of some shiny catalog model.

  • I’m not really bothered about what tag someone feels comfortable about assigning to themselves. As long as they believe in improving peoples lives, maximising peoples opportunities, keep people safe from harm and keeping their noses out of what consenting adults do ( as long as it doesn’t do people lasting harm) I’m quite happy to go along with them. If they don’t ascribe to those points they can call themselves Liberal-Liberal-Liberals and I’d still wouldn’t go near them.

  • Quite right frankie, people become very fixated on labels, and I sometimes think that people forget to actually think for themselves about what will do good, because they signed up to a club that they assume is for the good guys, and therefore everything they do is good.

    IMO, this is the major weakness in the current Labour party and a number of other groups. They assume they are the good guys, anyone who isn’t one of them is one of the bad guys, and therefore any criticism of them must be a smear, rather than something worthy of consideration.

    We need more people who are prepared to think about issues on a case by case basis, and understand that as circumstances change, so does what can be assumed to be ‘best’.

  • Fiona 5th Feb ’19 – 8:27am……………Quite right frankie, people become very fixated on labels, and I sometimes think that people forget to actually think for themselves about what will do good, because they signed up to a club that they assume is for the good guys, and therefore everything they do is good…..IMO, this is the major weakness in the current Labour party and a number of other groups. They assume they are the good guys, anyone who isn’t one of them is one of the bad guys, and therefore any criticism of them must be a smear, rather than something worthy of consideration……….

    C’mon, Fiona. ‘Pots and Kettles’. I have yet to read any article on LDV where LibDems and Labour cooperate. I mentioned to Caron weeks ago about how, in Scotland, LibDems, SDP and Labour MPS joined to isolate the Tories; I was told an article was ‘in the pipeline’ and that was it.

    Most posts, with a few notable exceptions, cannot mention Jeremy Corbyn without umpteen epithets (‘Marxist’, ‘Communist’ ‘Stalinist’, etc.). One week he is a dictator controlling every aspect of Labour policies and the next he is a weak ‘non leader’ whose MPs are free to vote with the government.

  • John Marriott 5th Feb '19 - 9:13am

    @Jennie
    “We’re not a centrist party, we’re a liberal one”. Please discuss.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Feb '19 - 9:14am

    @ Fiona,
    I am sorry but I really have to disagree with you.

    The reason I continue to read the articles and posts on here is because I am both fascinated and appalled by the bubble that many Liberal democrats seem to inhabit.

    The issue facing us is one of world wide rising authoritarianism, and the traditional labels, left right etc., do not apply. What matters is which vehicle is the best of the bunch for opposing and facing down this threat which is growing.

    Who cares whether a few politicians decide that the party they claim to share values with may, or may not, decide to jump ship? If ever there was a time to show solidarity against this world wide phenomenon it is now., and in the bigger scheme of things the speculation is both tiresome and self -indulgent.

    Those who throw the authoritarian label around so liberally on here, as yet another attempt at differentiation from what is essentially a social democratic party, need to take a more internationalist view.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 5th Feb '19 - 9:43am

    we mustn’t forget that all of this is about MPs and what they might do. All Labour MPs will have councillors in their constituencies, and very likely in control, or a large number of them. Are any Lib Dems on the ground noticing any difference in how they are treated by them ?
    When the SDP was formed, none of the Councillors and few party members came over to the SDP, but very deep divisions of hatred were formed. Would it be any different if even MPs that were echoing a lot of Liberalism left the Labour party ?

  • John Marriott 5th Feb '19 - 10:04am

    @David Raw
    You tell ‘em, Dave! (Apologies If I’m getting overly familiar) By the way our ‘mutual friend’ is the subject of an article (aka character assassination) by Suzanne Moore on page 3 of G2 in today’s Guardian. Mind you, it’s no worse than Lord Lawson applying for permanent residency in his beloved Gasconny or Farage applying for German passports for his children, or Rees Mogg’s firm moving assets to Dublin, or John Redwood’s consultancy firm recommending clients to invest in the EU, or all those ex pats on the Costa del Sol voting for Brexit. As ‘Frankie’ is wont to say: “Bless”. Oh, and isn’t there a Certain redhead working in China, or have I got that wrong as well?

  • If Labour splits, we cooperate with the Liberals and eschew the Socialists.

    Same story with the Tories – cooperate with the Liberals; eschew the Authoritarians.

  • “The precedent of the Labour and Cooperative party is a good model to focus on and one that has held together for nigh on a century.”

    It’s a joke – there is no difference. The “Co-op Party” bears no difference to Labour. It’s like trying to argue that there’s a National Liberal Party co-operating with the Conservatives.

  • @Jayne Mansfield. IIRC you’re a Labour Party member. It’s not a social democratic party – as Nick Cohen says in this article:

    “For readers bewildered by the indifference of Labour’s leaders to Brexit, let me offer a suggestion: you cannot understand British politics until you grasp that the party has been taken over by men (and the occasional woman) who spent their lives around the fag ends of the 20th-century Marxist-Leninist movement.

    It’s not that Labour now has a communist programme. Revolutionary socialism is as dead as any idea can be. Rather, Labour has inherited the mental deformations of the Leninist style of doing business: the leadership personality cult, the love of conspiracy theory, the robotic denunciations of opponents, and most critically for our current crisis, the ineradicable fantasy that the worse conditions for the masses become, the brighter the prospects of the far left are. Disaster socialism is its alternative to disaster capitalism.

    The hardest thing to see is what is staring you in the face. Even now Labour supporters do not recognise that their party had inherited the worst traditions of the far left. Yet how else to explain why Labour wants to end the freedom of movement its young members celebrate and leave the single market on which the manufacturing working class depends? An authentic leftwing party would worry about how a “compromise” Brexit – let alone the threat of leaving without a deal – will hit the poor and traditionally Labour-voting regions of Wales, the Midlands and northern England and extend austerity by cutting the tax base.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/16/why-are-labour-party-leaders-so-quiet-on-europe—maybe-it-is-the-lure-of-disaster

  • Laurence Cox 5th Feb '19 - 11:54am

    Regardless of the politicians they elect, Lib Dem and Labour voters have pretty much the same views on economics and open/closed societies, while Tory voters are distinctly different. See:

    https://www.flourish.org/2016/07/on-finding-political-axes-using-maths/

    which contains Chris Lightfoot’s and Tom Steinberg’s work from 2005 and:

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/from-left-right-to-open-closed-politics/

    which independently has done the same thing for 2015/2017.

    The great tragedy of 2010 was that a Labour/Lib Dem coalition was never practical because of the electoral arithmetic. A genuine choice between Labour/Lib Dem and Tory/Lib Dem coalitions would have made the Lib Dem position in 2010 immeasurably stronger.

  • Mick Taylor 5th Feb '19 - 12:28pm

    Laurence Cox: even if a Lab/LibDem coalition had been numerically possible Labour wouldn’t have wanted it. Just like in Leeds in 2004, Labour lost their majority and simply said to the LibDems you’ll let us carry on then as the largest party. No offers, no deals, no concessions. They were then very upset and surprised that the Lib Dems joined with the Conservatives to run the council. Some of still remember the LibLab pact when Labour reneged on their commitments to PR for Europe and much else. Coalition is always difficult and we certainly paid a heavy price for the last one, but please don’t pretend that it would have been different with Labour.

  • Mick Taylor 5th Feb '19 - 12:33pm

    On a more general line. It is certainly depressing that some people enrich themselves after having been in parliament or in government. However, beating ourselves up about it is completely futile.
    Far too many people on LDV want to prolong the agonising reappraisal of our difficulties and mistakes. The coalition ended in May 2015 a few months short of four years ago. We need to stop looking back, pick ourselves up and fight for a better future both for the UK and for our party.

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Feb '19 - 12:44pm

    At the moment, unless there’s a miracle, the poor are about to get very much poorer and the wealthy are going to be very pleased with themselves in a few weeks time. I can’t understand why Labour isn’t united against this happening when we are constantly told they stand for the many not the few. In addition we have the possibility of martial law and the royal family being evacuated, all because a few wealthy people want to be even richer and free to do what they like to their workers, the environment and those in need.
    Once again we are about to become the kind of society the Labour Party was set up to reform. If a few Labour MPs want to leave their party because of this I would be full of admiration for them and happy for our party to work with them to bring about change for the better not the worse and I don’t really care about numbers and deals and the rest of it because I want my country back.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Feb '19 - 1:39pm

    If the devil is in the detail, then let’s not make the detail prevent the original intention. A radical centre Party would indeed galvanise this country. It must have one leader however but preserve the distinct origins if they so desire.

  • David Evans 5th Feb '19 - 3:43pm

    Joseph, I really can’t fathom why you mention “how many bedrooms Nick Clegg’s new house has,” in a comment to David Raw on his post when it has nothing to do with David Raw’s post but only mentioned in an article (only part of which is relevant to David’s point), but which David gave as a source because it is relevant to what is in his post.

    When things like this are mentioned by fanatics like some Jeremy Corbyn followers, I dismiss it as a sad attempt to undermine someone else by drawing attention to something irrelevant but vaguely linked. But you are a good Liberal.

    So why do you mention it?

  • @Mick Taylor: “The coalition ended in May 2015 … We need to stop looking back, pick ourselves up and fight for a better future …”.

    This is all very well – and I agree that we shouldn’t endlessly dwell on the history of our past mistakes and lost opportunities, e.g. our role and strategy during the 2010-15 Coalition Govt, but neither should we develop collective amnesia or adopt deliberate denial. Whilst keeping our focus on present and future challenges, we should remain mindful of the lessons derived from our past errors and failures – lest we be condemned to repeat them. Also, only by properly acknowledging and “owning” these failures can we show that we have learnt how we might do things differently in the future – and we might *then* start rebuilding lost trust, both in our party and in liberal democracy more generally.

  • @Joseph Bourke: “… I can see no justification for trashing the efforts of the man [Nick Clegg] to improve his lot in life and that of his family. Perhaps I have spent too much time working in the USA, where personal success is considered a laudable ambition …”.

    Yes, by all means, genuine individual merit should be commended and properly rewarded (however that is measured) – but can anyone seriously argue that Sir Nick would have secured his current PR role with Facebook had he not previously been Deputy PM?

    David Raw can obviously speak for himself – and perhaps his previous comment wasn’t strictly relevant to this particular thread, but IMHO it is still valid. The real objection here is that far too many ex-politicians (especially former Govt ministers), e.g. Nick and Danny to name just two, shamelessly trade on their so-called “transferable skills” and “valuable contacts” in order to secure lucrative second careers and thereby enrich themselves from public office. And this only serves to further undermine voters’ trust in the political system – is it any wonder that they’re generally cynical about the motivation of MPs?

    Call me naive, but I hoped (evidently in vain) that Lib Dems might attempt to set a better moral example!

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Feb '19 - 5:36pm

    I think that the way both the Tories and Labour have behaved in the Commons, allowing Brexit to go forward regardless of the true interests of the country , and seeming more concerned with electoral advantage than reconsidering the growing and expected devastation, shows that one party is as bad as the other. We will have to have alliances in future, but should keep our identity – upholding the true values and principles of our Liberal Democrat party, and promoting good policies.

  • I am disappointed not to have seen another liberally minded party mentioned in the discussion — liberally minded, and forward-looking. Why — and this is not a wail of despair, but a simple enquiry — why has no-one mentioned the Green Party, in this discussion? Within the last few months I have read that they aspire to become the third largest party. Whether that was in MPs or in members or in voters, I don’t know; and it is unimportant. But it does suggest an energetic and ambitious party, looking to overtake us. The impudence!

    Couple that with the ever more alarming predictions of the scientists about climate, health, nutrition and such aspects of potentially grim reality, and the ever more alarming frequency of events that seem to bear them out, and it would not be surprising if a nation brazenly robbed by one big party and deserted by its traditionally biggest competitor turned at last to look for an alternative in the distracting melée after Brexit. So why has no-one mentioned them, as we look around to see what’s what, or will be soon?

    I have consistently and not unthinkingly voted Liberal for 60 years: I’m thinking harder now. If we don’t all do so we shall wake up one day soon, and smell the Green coffee.

  • This thread was originally about how Lib Dems should respond if Labour splits – but, in true LDV fashion, it has also wandered off in all sorts of other directions … and now Roger Lake wants to throw the Greens into the mix too! Perhaps he could therefore explain how they are specifically relevant in the context of a somewhat speculative discussion about potential future relations between Lib Dems and an unknown number of dissident Labour MPs who may, at some point, decide to jump ship and possibly form a new “centrist” party, with wholly unspecified values and priorities, maybe in combination with others?

    How, if at all, does Roger suggest that the Greens might wish to involve themselves in that process (if it ever materialises!) – or, alternatively, seek to position themselves in relation to Labour and/or the Lib Dems? (Although that’s probably a subject for a separate thread, some other time.)

    My main point, however, is that this whole discussion is somewhat pointless – and also a self-indulgent distraction from more pressing priorities – until/unless there is some clarity about who might be involved in any new party and what it might stand for.

    In the meantime, the real issue demanding our immediate attention is the continuing and increasingly imminent threat of a “no deal” Brexit on 29 March – and, regardless of any future arrangements that may possibly emerge, we now need to focus on urgent constructive cross-party action to avert that particular crisis above all else … and, while there is still any prospect of success, to continue pressing the case for a further referendum.

  • David Evans 5th Feb '19 - 8:03pm

    Indeed you may believe that Joseph, but David didn’t mention bedrooms in his first post, you were the first person to mention it, then you questioned its relevance in the thread and then went on to comment on an article that had nothing to do with the topic or David’s post and then ended with a tribute to Nick’s new career and by some great stretch of logic – Vinny Jones, both of whom you wish well to despite one almost destroying our party as a parliamentary force and the other most famous for a photo of him grabbing Paul Gascoigne by the testicles during a match against Newcastle.

    I wouldn’t decry you for not wishing ill on people, but I suggest your good wishes would be better targeted at fellow Lib Dems who have worked for decades building the party up, than the individual who led us to the worst defeat in our history, or a man who to put it simply, was an appalling example to young footballers.

  • @David Raw “Neither am I, Joe…. merely a mention of the seamless thread from Westminster/Cabinet Office to a £ 7 million pad in California….”

    Perhaps you could focus on the first Liberal Deputy Prime Minister since a hundred years previously, and all the immense good the Coalition did. Envy of another’s circumstances is never a good look.

  • @expats, @Jayne. You do a very good job of illustrating my point that too many people are overly invested in backing their particular tribe t stop and think what it is they are trying to achieve in the first place, never mind stopping to think that working together might produce better results than the constant one-upmanship that is evident amongst those who treat politics as some kind of sporting event or parlour game.

    And I don’t restrict that to Labour, or indeed the Tories. There are some in all parties who are guilty of it, including LibDems, and I wouldn’t claim otherwise. But in my experience, there is a higher proportion of Labour supporters who think that simply being a ‘card carrying member of the Labour party’ fulfils their duties when it comes to being a socially aware and ‘good’ person. Although here in Scotland there are plenty in the SNP who have decided that independence is ‘best’ for Scotland, and therefore everyone who is against it is against Scotland etc. That’s why people talk of cults.

    IMO, the best way to find out if a politician or party supporter falls into that mould is to see how they react when another party adopts a good idea that will help the public. In particular, if it’s an idea that your party already supports. If your first thought is that they nicked it, how dare they, and you worry they’ll get credit for implementing a good idea – then you are tribal. On the other hand, if your instinctive reaction is that you are pleased that a good idea is gaining traction and might be put into practice to help people as soon as possible, then put people first. Politics has both sorts, and IMO we can work the latter. Attempting to work with the former is a hiding to nothing.

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Feb '19 - 12:02am

    @ TCO,
    Nick Cohen is entitled to his view, as indeed you are to yours. I do not share it.

    I think that you will find that Labour is already softening its stance to one of limited free movement of workers. In a democratic party, some disagreements can be fierce, but it is through discussion and argument that these disagreements lead a resolution that all participants can accept.

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Feb '19 - 9:43am

    @ Fiona,

    I have tried to analyse why I find so much of what I read on here objectionable, and as someone who supported the Liberal Democrat Party up to and including 2010, I can only conclude that it the unshakeable sense of ‘rightness ‘ that is displayed in some posts. Perhaps arrogance is a pre-requisite of being a political activist or utterly committed supporter of any party, but a lack of humility does not bode well for the idea for a lack of tribalism in politics.

    To say that I am aghast that someone who claims to be a Liberal Democrat , ( TCO) chooses to rely heavily on the opinion of journalist Nick Cohen whose opinions included criticism of the anti-war demonstrations before the Iraq war with the dismissive comment about a million liberal minded people who marched … to protest the overthrow of a fascist regime, encapsulates what most horrifies me about some Liberal democrat thinking, a lack of understanding of what forces may be unleashed by ill thought through actions. That, and excuses rather than contrition when effects that were not considered, manifest themselves in damaging ways.

    A lack of tribalism requires a modicum of humility, When I am in danger of sliding into a sense of my own absolute ‘rightness’ I remind myself of the nature of wisdom found in the ‘Apology’.

    You raise an important point, and I would ask of some members of your party, what are you hoping to achieve by your demonisation of Corbyn rather than examination of the policies that the Labour party under his leadership have formulated, including some policies that I agree with.

    If the removal of this incompetent Tory government requires supporting a party that has the most chance of doing so by democratic means, and a recognition that righting the current social problems in our society requires radical action, indulging oneself in the Tory strategy of divide and rule ( the latest being the promise of money to those leave areas who have most suffered since Thatcher) is not an option.

  • Neil Sandison 7th Feb '19 - 4:22am

    Our mission as a progressive liberal movement should be to attract supporters who share social liberal and economic values .Now those new members may come from the Co-operative wing of the Labour Party ,the practical wing of the Green Party that understands the circular economy needs to function, or even one nation Conservatives who are not Brexiteer libertarians who think the free market solves every problem and are a little too keen to cuddle up to the alt-right in the USA. But we must become a broad co-alition of ideas not ideological purest or we will fall into the same trap and self destructive mode we are now seeing in both the Labour and Tory parties.

  • Steve Comer 7th Feb '19 - 5:12pm

    John Marriott: For me the biggest mistake in the coalition negotiations was accepting a referendum on AV for the House of Commons, whilst completely ignoring local government. If our negotiators had insisted on STV for Local Government (without a referendum) and full AV (rather than SV) for Mayors I think the Tories would not have opposed it. Yes, they would have lost some Councils where they held power, but it would also have given them a foothold in Councils (like Richard’s Liverpool) where they’ve had little or no representation for two or three decades.

    For Liberal Democrats PR in Local Government would have been a big prize, as in Scotland, but sadly Clegg and his cohorts never really understood us, or even wanted too.

  • TCO,

    there are some differences between Labour policy and the Co-op party over Brexit https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/labour-party/news/99024/labour-sister-party-backs-peoples-vote-brexit-deal including this motion passed at their Conference:
    “The terms of any Brexit deal were not known at the time of the referendum in 2016. Once the negotiations are concluded, there should be a public vote on whether or not we should leave the EU on the terms proposed.”

  • Dennis Wake 8th Feb '19 - 2:21pm

    The local free newspaper has a cartoon showing a small boy looking over his father’s shoulder reading “Tributes to former Liberal Democrat Leader Paddy Ashdown” and saying ” I know who Paddy Ashdown was …. but who were the Liberal Democrats.

    I have not heard anyone, except journalists, talking about a new centre left party. The situation now, compared to 1981, is entirely different. Just as they had had enough of Socialism then, they have had enough of the centre left now and want something different.

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