If you thought we were having a #libdemfightback – you’ve seen nothing yet!

Like many people, both in our party and out of it, I felt a sense of numb devastation following the result on June 23, a date etched into our country’s storied history.

The resulting euphoria of the Leave campaign, pouring salt into the wound, has little consolation in that the Remain euphoria would have been as high. It doesn’t surprise many of us, however, that a Conservative election for a new leader has started (don’t be so sure that Boris is loved by everyone in that party).

What did come as a surprise to me, is how quickly the Leave team have started rowing back.

Controlled immigration at a lower level? No, they say no.

£350million a week to the EU? Oh, I never believed that, some say.

You’re now giving all that to the NHS? We aren’t the government; we can’t make spending commitments they now admit.

I’ve been keen to say the Leave team – implying the leaders of the Leave campaign. Please remember, there are liberals who did want to leave in our party. The ones I know personally, are not anti-LGBT, anti-NHS or any other badges we could give to the likes of Boris or Farage so please, be careful when directing your anger to the right places.

So, what next? I truly believe this is the battleground we’ve been heading towards. The Labour party are in the throes of further dismantling themselves (MP defections? I’d not be surprised) and the Conservatives are still reeling from decades of EU-mistrust. So we need to carry on being the “true” opposition, and build our base further.

We need to use the “sovereignty” argument to shout louder about our consistent call for a change to the UK voting system. We need to step up our commitments to education. To mental health, drug reform and health overall. To further our support for business. To continue our fight to tackle climate change. To further rights for inclusion, diversity and civil rights. To ensure young people have a voice.

Some of us still feeling hurt right now – however being willed along by approaching 5,000 more members to help secure a liberal Britain (WELCOME!) – a Britain I already believe exists, but like anything we care about, it needs to be nurtured and cared for, healing wounds along the way.

So, of course, there is a chance our country will regress, and not have a space for liberals. To that end, I will renew my passport to prepare for moving to Massachusetts or Toronto. Until that time comes, I hope we can dust ourselves down and get back on with the fightback.

I saw a glimmer of hope in the campaign – that members of many parties joined together to fight for something. Norman Lamb has consistently called for a cross-party commission on the NHS. Perhaps we can start there. Electoral reform also a key area we share with other parties, as well as 16/17 year-olds getting the right to vote, as they deserve.

Whatever the case, please finish your grieving and don’t let people tell you to “just get on with it”. The type of grieving and the time it will take to recover is yours, and yours alone.

When you’ve been able to stop grieving, you’ll be welcomed back, and then we all can fight on. I was going to quote Jo Grimond in full, but thought it too crass following the tragedy of Jo Cox’s murder.

What I will use from Jo, with both of their spirits in mind, is to finish by saying never has our time been in more doubt, and our march been more needed.

For those feeling hurt – when you feel ready, let’s saddle up with our new friends and make the #libdemfightback a force to be reckoned with!


* Lee has long campaigned on mental health in and out of the Lib Dems, he is the PPC for Birmingham Ladywood and speaks for the Party on Health, in the West Midlands.

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  • paul barker 26th Jun '16 - 7:02pm

    “All that is solid melts into air.” This does feel like a srt of Revolution, where none of the old ways work anymore, there are vast oppotunities for both good & bad. Already we have seen a wave of racist attacks & this before the Economic damage kicks in. These are dangerous times but also times when new opportunities for progress open up. We need to be talking loudly about everything that need Reform before the mood sours even more.

  • Fight back ? What fightback ?

    If the Liberal Democrats are a serious political party with a serious political future they should get a PR media Manager in double quick who will scream at the BBC in the same way that Alistair Campbell used to do for Labour about why on earth there is no Liberal Democrat presence on the six panel member Question Time currently being broadcast.

  • paul barker 26th Jun '16 - 7:22pm

    PS it would be really handy if someone at HQ could give us an approximate figure for current membership, its not very convincing to tell people its gone up by 5,000 if we cant say what its gone up to.
    +David Raw is right, & if that fails why not direct action ? We need the oxygen of publicity.

  • I cannot think of a time when the UK has needed the LibDems as it does now. We are in the middle of a national suicide attempt, where both Labour and Tories seem more interested in leadership tussles than facing the problem.

    We have to be there as the voice of pro-EU sanity, mobilising those who feel hurt and betrayed — those who voted Remain, and especially those who voted Leave and realise they we conned.

    This is not “LibDem fightback”, this is “The UK needs a LibDem government, and it needs it now”. Under other circumstances that would sound grandiose, but right we are in one hell of a national crisis.

  • Where is the Lib Dem membership counter? Worked so well last year – could we not make it a permanent feature of Lib Dem Voice? Certainly the Federal site? On the subject of publicity and shouting at BBC – please put phone numbers on site of who to complain to – and keep it on

  • We are about to become a self-governing democracy again – rejoice.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jun '16 - 11:36pm

    Lib Dems should be careful not to become extinct in the north-east of England. This brexit referendum and the aftermath has been a terrible in my opinion. My head always said remain, my heart leaned towards brexit, I voted and argued for remain, but now brexit has happened it is a lot worse than I thought it would be and I just want the whole crisis to be over.

    I felt a desire to send a message to some that we shouldn’t be content with mass immigration every year. But I always felt it would slow down anyway and the reality of leaving seems worse than the idea of it.

    The aftermath has damaged relations within my family because one is an EU migrant. Blocking the referendum result would anger people too. We just need to develop a kind of national consensus and work on that basis.

  • I am very puzzled why people vote in referenda completley contrary to what they would want to happen. I have always been liberalish, but have voted tactically and never for anyone where I would be unhappy if they won. generally that was the whole idea, to vote for the best achievable outcome. here there were only two possible outcomes, but people in fact voted for the one they did not want to happen?

    Yet I know there are many out there regretting they voted out. A brief chat in a supermarket with total strangers created a small crowd all saying they regretted voting out, and they all agreed to rush off and sign the petition to cancel the result. Which they had not heard of. Its amazing it has go 3.5 million signatures. So amazing there is now a concerted attempt to spin it as fake registrations, but my own experience demonstrates to me why there is a real groundswell of shock at the result and why it does not represent the true wishes of even those who voted.

  • David Warren 27th Jun '16 - 9:03am

    Well said Lee.

    Finally a mention of some policy areas that will resonate with a large number of voters.

    Things like health and education.

    A liberal vision for these vital public services is urgently needed.

  • Lee is right to urge caution against those who want to make hasty decisions about long-term actions and policy. However, we can try to remind the public of our principles. We in the Lib-Dem Education Association have prepared a motion for the Autumn conference setting out principles for Education policy and I think members need the opportunity to debate these. There is a copy of it on the website http://www.ldea.co.uk

  • Neil Sandison 27th Jun '16 - 11:53am

    The old adage don’t get angry just get even comes to mind .This outcome to the referendum and the political turmoil in Tory and Labour ranks gives us the opportunity to make real progress in becoming a national party once more ,Common sense says we should be arguing post brexit to be part of the European Economic Area so that we can retain a foothold and influence in the single market .It is clear from the comments of European leaders that they want to reshape Europe we can therefor argue that we would consider rejoining a genuinely reformed EU or its successor .particularly one that enabled young people from GB to continue to study abroad and was now based on scientific and technological advancement for the betterment of European citizens.

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Jun '16 - 7:55pm

    I think a lot of people who voted Leave and now regret it were enslaved by poverty and/ or ignorance as per our preamble. They voted Leave because they wanted change because they thought it would improve their lives and now they are discovering too late that it may make things worse.
    I can support membership of the EEA but not if we are in a worse relationship with the EU than at present which, if things stay the same as for Norway, we will be. One of the problems is that the EU has overwhelmingly backed austerity and it seems to have a blind belief in free movement of people. The problem with both of these is that they tend to have a detrimental effect on the poorest and weakest which is the opposite kind of society to the one which we Lib Dems seek to create.
    We desperately need a new Keynes and should be seeking to find a way of dealing with the economy that truly encourages diversity by enabling the disabled, the jobless, the structurally unemployed to become useful members of society. Free movement of people is a grand idea if all countries are roughly equal in wealth, but shouldn’t we be examining the way this works in our current circumstances when it seems that poor areas in richer countries become even more deprived and the poorer countries lose talented people to the richer ones?
    I’m not sure why free movement has become such a mantra and am genuinely seeking enlightenment. If poverty encourages isolationism and racism, which I believe it does, then we must address this before we can expect everyone to share our Liberal ideal of a diversified society.

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