In the world of the Corbyn bounce

The unexpected is happening. In the wake of the late surge in support for Labour that wiped out Theresa May’s majority (and hit the Liberal Democrat vote), a new poll on 11 June shows Labour six points ahead of the Tories. Labour are reporting 15,000 new members in the first three days after the election.

On the doorsteps on polling day, and with friends since, the sense is that Labour under Corbyn have caught people’s imaginations. What does this mean for us?

My sense is that this is a problem because people’s imaginations have been caught by something unrealistic. If we now had a majority Labour government, disappointment would be around the corner, but for now, hopes are roused. There’s a parallel with Brexit being seen as a bright new future.

A sharp illustration is our respective economic policies. The IFS concluded that our manifesto was the only one properly costed and also the most likely to deliver for low income people. If Friday morning had seen Vince Cable become Chancellor of the Exchequer, that would have boded better for the economy than either of the other choices. Instead a costly cocktail of promises from Labour has fired people’s imaginations.

The air of unreality is particularly sharp around Brexit. This is by far the most important issue the UK faces at the moment, but it barely figured in the election campaign — except in vacuous comments about who could “get the best deal”. Perhaps the most disarmingly-honest canvassing conversations from the referendum campaign were with the people who said they simply didn’t know enough to decide. I am beginning to think that both the Corbyn surge and the Brexit vote are fueled in part by a desire for change.

Here’s where the normal Liberal Democrat approach is a little out of step. On autopilot we would be looking for evidence-based policy and for initiatives that are both achievable and consistent with our ideals. Both of those are eminently wise, but fail to connect with people reacting emotionally to a difficult world. Europe has beena secure containment for British politics for so long that the referendum result has put the system into a state of shock: perhaps it isn’t coincidence that Theresa May ends up destroying her own mandate to negotiate just before starting Brexit talks. With things as they are, we too need to offer a vision — one that engages the emotions and is not disconnected from reality. The task is urgent if we are not to become painted as the party of no vision.

Beginning to think about the first Focus for after the election, the bullet points coming into focus are:

  • Europe: a positive vision of being outward-looking and engaged in the EU, not negative “remoaners” or a neutral “remainers”, but proud and cited Europeans;
  • Enjoying the free movement of people and the possibilities it brings — celebrating migration rather than just “defending” it;
  • “freedom from enslavement by poverty, ignorance or conformity” — the words are familiar, but they should excite, particularly because they turn issues of inequality into ways of changing it;
  • democratic reform — inclusion needs to move on so that voting reform and devolution happen, giving people real control.

The details probably need refinement between now and the printing of that Focus, but the direction has to be to offer a vision and a real future, especially at a time when Labour are horribly unclear on how they propose to handle Brexit.

Ed: Since this post was published it has emerged that the claim that Labour had recruited 150,000 new members since the election is fake news. The relevant sentence in the first paragraph has been amended.

* Mark Argent was the Liberal Democrat candidate in Huntingdon Constituency in 2019 and blogs at

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  • Give it time.

    Labour will be found out.

  • Andrew McCaig 12th Jun '17 - 7:03pm

    Labour will have to be in government before they are found out. Look what happened to the Socialists in France…

    To Mark’s list I would add a Graduate Tax. Fairer and more progressive than Labour policy and not increasing debt. And a comprehensive set of Green policies front and centre

    But yes, we must retake electoral reform..

  • The strength of the Lib Dems is the achievable and evidence based policy just as the strength of Corbyn’s Labour is engaging young people. There are things to learn about how this Labour campaign was run, and while we may hope that Corbyn is never Prime Minister if political campaigning becomes a lot more Corbyn and a lot less Lynton Crosby then his unexpected rise will be a major benefit to the UK in the long run. There is definitely still room for a “switch over to Bake-off” line but campaigning has to be far more about presenting a positive vision and debating policy (isn’t this lib dem heartland?) than attack ads and repetitive slogans.

    As for a positive message on Europe, sadly the thing thrown at the Lib Dems most (or second most depending on if they remembered tuition fees) was that for a democratic party it wasn’t listening to the democratic vote. The party that wins hearts and minds will be the party that speaks for the 52% and 48% by suggesting a cross-party negotiating team that produces the best position to unite for the four nations on this divisive issue.

  • paul barker 12th Jun '17 - 7:38pm

    The top slogan should be “Drop Brexit”. We should be arguing for Article 50 to be put on ice at least till we a “Stable” majority Government.
    We should keep asking Labour whether they back Corbyns vision of Brexit – No Single Market, No Freedom of Movement ? How many of those 150,000 new Labour Members want that ?

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jun '17 - 7:44pm

    10 percentage points of Corbyn’s vote is decidedly soft. No way have all these Ukippers suddenly embraced the far left. I’m finding it’s a protest about public services: police, the NHS, education.

    We need to mention the risks of inflation that Corbyn brings. It’s no good putting lots more pounds into things if those pounds are worth less. We’ve got hard evidence of this with the value of the pound.

    Labour’s coalition of liberals and Ukippers is very fragile. Make them clarify their position on free movement and one of those coalitions should break away.

    To Andrew McCaig, students won’t vote for a graduate tax in large numbers. It’s hardly more appealing than the current policy, if at all.

  • We gave Labour so much space and rope in the campaign from week 2 onwards we only have ourselves to blame for the way they seized the moment. When you look round the country we have virtually disappeeared from the scene in most places, even those where traditionally we have been second, (look at Cornwall). We have a real job on our hands to get back as a national party, we need to start by learning from Labour and how they did it. If we were Real Madrid perhaps we should buy their campaign team!.

  • Little Jackie Paper 12th Jun '17 - 8:50pm

    ‘I am beginning to think that both the Corbyn surge and the Brexit vote are fueled in part by a desire for change.’

    Good grief man! What on earth took you so long to see that!?!?! It is as plain as the nose on your face.

    In the EU referendum the REMAIN campaign (deliberately or not) had a message that could be summarised pretty much as, ‘more of the same.’ That is just about what precisely no one wanted. At this election the Labour manifesto had some dubious costings, and perhaps isn’t as radical in parts as is often made out – but what it does is mark a clear break from the ‘more of the same’ thinking.

    What is wanted is change – albeit there isn’t a lot of consensus on what that change should be.

    Still if you seriously think that this election showed a mood for, ‘Enjoying the free movement of people and the possibilities it brings — celebrating migration rather than just “defending” it,’ by all means you go for it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 12th Jun '17 - 8:52pm

    Andrew McCaig and others – why not just write off all student debt? Is that really any more crazy than giving out council house discounts?

  • Is it true a Labour Government would rename the United Kingdom ‘New Venezuela’, or would it just feel like that?

  • “My sense is that this is a problem because people’s imaginations have been caught by something unrealistic. If we now had a majority Labour government, disappointment would be around the corner, but for now, hopes are roused. There’s a parallel with Brexit being seen as a bright new future.”
    I also think there is a parallel with our conduct in 2010.

  • Philip Rolle 12th Jun '17 - 9:51pm

    Of course, if the Lib Dems pinch the Labour protest vote element, the Conservatives would have an overall majority.

  • Libereal 12th Jun ’17 – 9:23pm…………..Is it true a Labour Government would rename the United Kingdom ‘New Venezuela’, or would it just feel like that?…………

    Dear, oh Dear… The Tories need a ‘new’ Lynton Crosby; try there…

  • The Lib Dems were squeezed out because of the return to two party politics,

    If the LD’s are to carve out a significant share of the vote again, they need to offer a message of hope to people,

    Labour did just that. And whatever people say, Labour’s manifesto would be considered mainstream in ore countries in Europe. Stop attacking it by saying it’s extreme, It is a misrepresentsation and it is dishonest.

  • Libereal
    The Disunited Kingdom under Labour would feel like East Germany.
    Remember there was no unemployment in the DDR.

  • We lost votes. We’re on 7% and basically these kinds of arguments lead nowhere except to vague mumbling that make Lib Dems sound a bit like that prisoner chained to the wall in Life of Brian. “Too right Centurion, nail some sense into them, great race the Tories”. The alternative to Labour taking this to a hung Parliament was redrawn electoral boundaries and near permanent Conservative government.

  • Mind you, all those Tories who boasted about paying £3 to vote for Corbyn, as Labour leader, are wishing they’d saved their money…

  • @ Mark
    “With things as they are, we too need to offer a vision — one that engages the emotions and is not disconnected from reality.”

    1. You need to identify the part of the electorate who are culturally tolerant and open -wherever they are.
    Targeting is fine for the election, but you simply MUST build the core vote to at least 15-18%
    2. Then you have to listen to them, really really listen.
    No trying to convert them to what you think they SHOULD be thinking/feeling at this stage.
    The issues that illicit an emotional response in them has to come form them
    (Just the people you have identified as open and tolerant, we are taking about remember here).
    3. Then there has to be processes put in place (if not there already), to share the data/information as widely as possible.
    4. Once you’ve identified a list of the MAINSTREAM issues which dominate this groups list of concerns AND are in line with Lib Dem values, those are what you campaign on in my view
    5. Then you need to be nimble, flexible, respond to opportunities and above all Innovate

  • Peace, Economy, and Reform.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Jun '17 - 5:57am

    I see, people are fools. Good message.

    First it was said that ideas like Corbyn’s were toxic with the public, and that his following was all about entryism, so now when millions have warmed to him and his ideas we say they are unaffordable. Well that is ‘opinion’ not fact. Are you against public investment? Privatisation of the railways?

    The Left sometimes get things right and sometimes they get is very wrong. The appeal of the old Lib Dem party before 2007 was that our policies overlapped with those of the Left that were right and did not include those which were wrong.

    Then in 2007 we started saying that all these ideas were wrong. That austerity was right, that you could cut the deficit rapidly and this would produce spontaneous growth based on some loopy right wing ideas.

    Go on with this yellow Tory stuff and our rejection by the public will continue.

  • Clive Simpson 13th Jun '17 - 8:05am

    It’s apparently a myth that young people surged towards Labour. Only 9% of the Labour vote came from the 18-24 age group.

  • live Simpson 13th Jun ’17 – 8:05am…….It’s apparently a myth that young people surged towards Labour. Only 9% of the Labour vote came from the 18-24 age group….

    Strange interpretation of the facts….Had that 9% (which the same analysis said was over 70% of how that group voted) not supported Labour then Labour’s share of the vote would have been only around 30% of the voting electorate…Not a good night for Labour..After all that would have been only just over 4 times our share…

  • Expats.
    Labour got around 40% of the total vote. 9% of 40% is not the same as 9% of the total number of votes for all parties. . It’s in fact a little over 3%. Meaning youngsters Labour would still have got close to 37% of the total vote.

  • Glenn 13th Jun ’17 – 10:11am..
    I realised that just after I wrote it…If no-one queried it I wasn’t going to waste one of my three available posts to rectify…Damn it!

  • Expats 10.11am

    Are you Dianne Abbott?

  • Neil Sandison 13th Jun '17 - 11:24am

    The real problem was we brought into the pundits narrative the Teresa May would have a stonking great big majority .If you campaign to come second or be a runner up dont be surprised if you end up the second ,third or forth party preference of the electorate never again do i want to hear us say we are campaigning to be the opposition or taking for granted that they electors are not like Mrs May Maybots who will vote the way they are told to vote we didnt learn the lessons of Brexit the public not the pundits have the final say.

  • This election was determined by the young vote and the ability of some to vote tactically.
    Of course wild promises whilst in opposition are the norm,lib dems have done it, but the Labour Party managed to identify virtually everything that was concerning people and set out to get believed that they could cure what ails you.In Canterbury it worked as lib dem after lib dem held their nose and voted Labour, some apologizing to out tellers as they did it. TV coverage of talking to students after the election and informing them of Mr Corbyns wish to leave the single market had some questioning their support.
    It will be the case that as more of Labours promises are overturned by rational , objective consideration by their MPs and others the tide will turn. But contributors are right if Lib Dems(we) dont get off our high horses and get down and dirty with the ills that people are affected by, there will only be abstentions not a move to us

  • The Liberal Democrats were squeezed because they got very little mention on tv or the press. Both portrayed the election as ‘choose between Conservative and Labour’.
    No publicity for the Liberal Democrats means few votes.
    Strangely enough in my constituency I received a Liberal Democrat election address twice, on different days, delivered by Royal Mail. No Conservative, Labour/Socialist or Green election address was delivered. The Greens told me that that they had not used the free delivery option, Labour promised a reply but have not, and the Conservatives ignored my emails completely.
    So, locally the General Election was a none event, with hardly any posters displayed. I spotted only two, one Liberal Democrat and one Conservative, apart from the generous display at the Consevative office.

  • I see the Independent reports secret talks between Labour and Tories to fix Brexit. If Labour fall for that they deserve to be trampled by Nelly.

  • This reminds me of the struggle we had against the early Tony Blair, who had shot most of our foxes. Ironically, the main charge we then laid against him, that he was over-cautious and under-spending (hence our “penny in the pound” policy), was quite right, at the time! (We weren’t to know, of course, that Brown and Blair would eventually ramp up their spending from inadequate to excessive…).

    The point is that until Iraq came along, we were struggling to make headway against New Labour. Pointing out that Blair was making some technical mistakes in his economic planning didn’t cut much ice with the public, even though it was fair comment.

    It could be similar with Corbyn. All the while Corbyn is out of power, our reasonable spending policies just look wishy-washy compared with Corbyn’s vaulting ambition. And what if Corbyn takes power? If his policies work, he will get the credit. If, instead, his over-spending comes back to bite him, then it will be the Tories whom the voters decide have been proved right. It’s not easy being centrist….

  • Andrew McCaig 13th Jun '17 - 12:30pm

    45% of people now go to University.. 45% of people will be paying off their student fees at 9% marginal rate and will see that on their payslip for 20-30 years to come, and will get questioned about their student debt whenever they try to borrow money. The parents and grandparents of those people are also worried. University educated people are our core vote on most things we believe in, and we have thrown it away

    Labour made a grand gesture of abolishing fees, and politically it worked, and not just in the 18-24 age group that people are going on about on this thread.

    We need to stop going on about “evidence-based policy” and realise that our real support in most places in this country is at 2.5%! We will be extinct as a Party outside a handful of seats if we do not get rid of our tuition fee policy, either to match Labour or to bring in a graduate tax (which Eddie has been backed by the NUS in more realistic times and would be much more popular with graduates and their parents than the current policy, because it is fairer. And once understood by the 55% + who are not graduates, more popular than Labour’s policy that they are expected to fund…)

  • Peter Watson 13th Jun '17 - 12:40pm

    @Libereal “No publicity for the Liberal Democrats means few votes.”
    That may have been true up to May 2010 but since then the Lib Dems have not been short of publicity though have been short of votes.
    Even if you believe the party was completely overlooked during this general election campaign (I don’t believe it was) we had the local election campaign, the Lib Dem by-election success in Richmond Park, and a much publicised position on Brexit.
    It is not enough for voters to notice you, you also have to let us know what you are for.

  • Peter Watson,

    All the smaller parties (except Plaid) were repeatedly dismissed as irrelevancies in TV presentations on the election campaign. All the smaller parties (except Plaid) fell back. The 15% gain by Tory and Labour combined is a scandal, because it was the media insistence that only two parties mattered which produced this gain.

    Why should the Greens have lost half their votes compared to 2015? They were better led in 2017 than in 2015, and climate issues (with Trump!) were prominent in the news in 2017. It can only be because in 2015 the Greens shared a stage with all other parties, while in 2017 the Greens (and Lib Dems too!) were relegated to a TV “second rankers” ghetto by the broadcast media.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Jun '17 - 1:07pm

    The Survation poll in the Mirror says that: “Some 52% say Boris Johnson would be a bad leader, a level of hostility beaten only by Michael Gove.”

  • David Allen.
    I’d say the Greens lost part of their vote because Labour had some similar policies and were simply much bigger. To an extent you have to say this was a return to two party politics.

  • Joseph Bourke 13th Jun '17 - 1:28pm


    the bullet points for your focus do indeed need refining if they are going to inspire anyone.. I would suggest as a first step taking a good look at the five radical policies put forward by the Social Liberal Forum and getting behind moving party policy firmly in this direction.

    1. Support a Universal Basic Income

    2. Abolish Benefit Sanctions

    3. End Religious Discrimination in Faith School Selection

    4. Introduce a Land Value Tax

    5. Create a Federal Britain

  • Peter Watson 13th Jun '17 - 1:46pm

    @David Allen
    But were Lib Dems starved of publicity? Compared to pre-coalition years the party has had a relatively high and sustained profile since the 2016 local elections, through the EU referendum campaign and parliamentary by-elections, up to the local elections in May, regardless of how hard done by it might have felt in the last 4 weeks.

    And perhaps in those last few weeks, a “media insistence that only two parties mattered” was reflecting the situation rather than causing it? If “the Greens (and Lib Dems too!) were relegated to a TV “second rankers” ghetto by the broadcast media” what have they done and what are they doing, to justify better treatment?

    But my recollection of 2015 is that those other parties were also “relegated to a TV “second rankers” ghetto” sharing a stage with the then Labour leader, just like in 2017, while Lib Dems and Tories chose to sit it out at that time.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Jun '17 - 2:01pm

    Mark offers got solutions but misses the point on immigration. I say it so often and get completely ignored. Considering I would not probably be here but for immigration, as my father was from Italy, you would think I would be trusted on this. Add that I married someone of immigrant origin and you get my indignation on this . Here goes:

    I could not bring my American , of Polish , French , German , origin mother -in-law , widowed, elderly, alone, to this country to live with my wife and me , because the Labour government, yes, a Labour government, changed the rules on the amount of savings and pensions a relative would need . No single thing the coalition did on spouses was , though bad, as bad as this from Brown and the egregious Phil Woolas, the minister who the wonderful Joanna Lumley shamed on the Gurkas , did in the pursuit of yet allowing untrammeled immigration from Europe even when we could have phased it in because the EU were happy to ! My aged mother-in-law is all alone and semi -disabled thanks to our lop-sided immigration rules that say strict when we feel like it , laissez -faiire when we do not !

    We had once upon a time a terrific attitude in this country. I believe freedom of movement as practiced by this country has been badly handled, worse than in any other in the EU.

    Stop talking of migrants and start talking of people , and families, and communities !

  • Andrew McCaig

    “I would add a Graduate Tax”

    Right lets get this one out of the way.
    would this be those who recently graduated with £27k (ish) loans in fee loans alone with living cost loans on top being repaid at 9% above 15k(ish), also paying a graduate tax?
    If not, and you are writing off student debt and charging a graduate tax, if so what about those who left with just living cost loans?
    What about those who had £3k tuition + living costs? What about £9k + living costs? What about those who got grants?
    What about those who rushed to pay off loans (I know someone who moved home and worked night shifts spending next to nothing for a couple of years due to his attitude to debt)?
    Will different groups get refunds on the loans they have already repaid and will now to taxed for?
    Many of those who received the most generous support (free tuition and full grants) are now retired, will there be claims against their assets for the benefit they received but never paid for?
    What is really “fair” in this situation?

    Is this the abolition of fees completely? Hang on didn’t I hear something about that back in 2010, oh yes. How is this looking credible and not just a shot gun aimed firmly at the LibDem’s feet?

    The historic mess from tuition fees means that the LibDems need a policy that neutralises tuition fees, not a policy that just raises loads of questions brings it back up in the consciousness. Corbyn can out promise and still not have the baggage of the coalition (in spite of Labour being the party that introduced fees and then first to treble them).

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Jun '17 - 2:41pm


    The Social Liberal Forum is more than one person, your link points to an individual article. Was this a policy your group agreed ?

    If you mean what I fear you do , in my view you are on a hiding to very little unless thought through on these .

    I recently heard a speaker from the land value tax group in our party. With no disrespect to him , I have to add ,though he disrespected me, by saying I was going on and on ,when I outright, expressed concern, so used to being unchallenged are some with policies that too often are not thought through. In the love expressed for Henry George , we live in a globalised tax dodging off shore era , he did not , live in, how can you guarantee that the Duke of Westminster is going to pay lots more , not the small holder of a few acres of land he does not farm or build on , but keeps in beautiful condition for the appreciation of him or her and the family that own it because of hard work and a decision to spend their money on other than holidays or cars or fancy dining out ?!

    Under the much loved Charles Kennedy, a man from the Highlands who understood the individual love affair with the land, we heard less of land and property tax , more of local income tax.

    The Liberal party that actually existed , rather than the mythical left wing one some think started when they were involved in the sixties and seventies, had the right to property in its constitution. I do not own any property, having had to give up my mortgage on a small two bed room house in financial difficulty some years ago. If I made real money , I would buy a house , a modest one, and a bit of land , and enjoy it. I would not expect some guff about my debt to the community that made it what it is, but the fact that if I had made a lot of money, I would have paid a lot of tax, and would continue to on the lot of money I continued earning ! Hit the big people not the small.

    And then , faith schools. They operate on the basis of positive discrimination in favour of a religious minority, a liberal and Liberal , and , now , with our all women and quota based short lists , a Liberal Democrat policy. Not one faith school refuses entry to other or no religions. They could be made to do a fifty fifty , thus equal entry , for all, as well as giving to those who want them, what they want.

    Labour and the Tories understand that to get rid of the schools people want makes parties unpopular. It is a reason they are on eighty per cent !

  • Sue Sutherland 13th Jun '17 - 2:42pm

    I’m sorry Joseph but I wouldn’t be prepared to man the barricades for that list!

  • Andrew McCaig 13th Jun '17 - 2:48pm

    You are correct that we have such a complicated and all stages unfair system of changes to successive generations of students that any reform that seeks to be fair will also be complex.

    However I think an approach could be devised that would be pretty fair to all the groups you mention, although as with social security the Daily Mail would soon find anomalous individuals who had been penalised or benefitted by any new system. At the heart of my proposal would be that graduate tax could be applied from now on to people like me and most MPs who got free higher education.. In between are a bunch of generations that would need intermediate treatment..
    Of course Russell Group universities like the current fees regime, which allows them to charge Arts students about 30% more than it used to cost to teach them.

    Anyway, I don’t really care if we adopt the vastly expensive Labour proposal or something more sensible, but if we don’t get rid of our love for tuition fees one way or another we are doomed to decades in the wilderness… (or we have to chase voters who did not go to university, accepting that we will then need to adopt the UKIP approach to Europe…)

  • @ L. Cherin “The Liberal party that actually existed , rather than the mythical left wing one some think started when they were involved in the sixties and seventies”.

    And your knowledge and personal experience of the Liberal Party in the sixties and seventies is ? You weren’t even a twinkle in your Daddy’s eyes in those far off days young Lorenzo.

  • Phil Beesley 13th Jun '17 - 3:04pm

    @Peter Watson: “But were Lib Dems starved of publicity?”

    The party earned press reports in the first two weeks — “no-to-Brexit” was reported by the serious press. At the same time, you may also have noticed comments that the message was not getting through to voters. X percent of the voting population did not understand our position after it being the only thing we talked about…

    This election took a long time to take off. I admit that I never saw it flutter a wing. It did take off and when it took off, Liberals had nothing to say.

    Like parents watching their children on Facebook, we could spend our time observing what happens on social media and switch to WhatsApp, the new thing. But WhatsApp is supposedly for “old men” like me. We can spend forever wibbling on social media. The Conservatives can do it because they have a lot of money even if it doesn’t work for them.

    How hard is it to explain that “voters have to like us”? We have to have something to say, something that others wish to echo.

  • ‘evidence-based policy and for initiatives …… fail to connect with people reacting emotionally to a difficult world.’
    The cannabis policy was a classic. Not only were we perceived to be legalising drugs but making £1 billion as a drug dealer. Did we not see that one coming? Lessons to be learned.

  • Joseph Bourke 13th Jun '17 - 3:57pm


    I don’t speak for the Social Liberal Forum, but I think the positions they have taken and their policy ideas are generally sound. I won’t address faith schools as this has been recently debated and a party position agreed at conference.

    The three key issues I would welcome advancing are Universal basic income as part and parcel of an integrated tax and welfare reform; Land value tax as a means of addressing the housing crisis and inter-generational equity; and federalisation based on home rule and devolution of tax, borrowing and spending powers to the major English regions, particularly with a view to the provision of public housing.

    Various Land Value Tax models are already in place around the world, from Australia to Hong Kong and at state/city level in the USA. Private ownership of land is unaffected. LVT is based on economic rents, not simply land, but all natural community resources including the radio spectrum utilised by global internal companies and such amenities as airport landing slots. One of the key benefits of this system of taxation is the difficulty of avoiding tax liabilities in the myriad ways that multi-national organisations do now.

  • David Allen 13th Jun '17 - 6:16pm

    Peter Watson

    “But were Lib Dems starved of publicity? … the party has had a relatively high and sustained profile … up to the local elections in May, regardless of how hard done by it might have felt in the last 4 weeks.”

    Everything changed hugely in the last 4 weeks, didn’t it? Corbyn’s ratings, May’s ratings, etc. It follows that, when TV spent the final 4 weeks treating all but one small party (Plaid) dismissively, that probably mattered. Hugely.

    “Perhaps in those last few weeks, a “media insistence that only two parties mattered” was reflecting the situation rather than causing it?”

    Look, the media were not solely at fault. There was plenty wrong with the campaign by the LDs, and also the campaigns by UKIP and SNP. However, the Greens were frankly far poorer campaigners in 2015 than in 2017, and yet they got a higher vote in 2015. Plaid alone got good TV coverage relative to their real importance and to their local opponents – and Plaid gained.

    At the end of the day, all the other small parties were treated as irrelevant by the media if they couldn’t make enough fireworks to claw their way into prominence – and none of them could. Why couldn’t they? Because a small party can only hit the headlines if its leaders do something crazy (which will lose votes), or, if they look likely to have a pivotal influence on the result. Gaining ground gets reported, but of course there’s a Catch-22 there – If you don’t get reported, then you won’t gain ground, so then the media will fail to report you, and will argue that it’s all your own fault, not theirs…!

    The broadcasters, especially the BBC, have evolved a simplistic model of political balance based on airtime. How many times do you hear “Bloggs revealed massive problems in the NHS / schools / Brexit plans … But the Government has explained that everything is getting better every day.” When it comes to political debate, 30 seconds of Tim waving to voters in Cumbria is taken to equate to 30 seconds of Corbyn trenchantly criticising the Tories or vice versa.

    Media bias is a big factor in why BOTH the Tories and Labour made massive gains. It would be wrong to claim it was the only factor. But to dismiss its significance would surely be wilful blindness.

  • Andrew McCaig 13th Jun '17 - 6:33pm

    A few days before polling day Radio 4 decided to find out how we were doing in the SW, so they went to Truro where they did a few minutes of vox pops saying we were finished in the SW. Hardly surprising in Truro and Falmouth.. If they had gone to St Ives and interviewed some people enthusiastically backing Andrew George maybe we would have one more MP and Theresa one less.
    Media bias or just lazy journalism? Take your pick…

  • David Allen 13th Jun '17 - 6:46pm

    Spot on Andrew McCaig.

    Vox pop from Old Fogey declaring loyalty to May – Result – Younger / poorer people motivated to vote Corbyn.

    Vox pop from Young Scruffy in praise of Corbyn – Result – Older / richer people motivated to vote May.

    Vox pop from Cornish people saying that Lib Dems are finished – Result – All viewers less motivated to vote Lib Dem!

  • I’m minded to think that it’s usually laziness, and why it’s important that we keep the pressure up to ensure fair coverage.

    A couple of days before the election, BBC Scotland went to North East Fife, and gave the strong impression that the Tories were contenders, which I suppose is fair enough, but IMO (and I know it can be hard to be objective) the coverage gave the impression that the LibDems were the third wheel. What wasn’t objective was when they asked the students about each party – when it came to asking about the LibDems, the interviewer asked “have you forgiven them for tuition fees yet?”. Not only would it be irrelevant to most students there, it was a leading question, and reminding them and everyone watching of an unpopular policy. They didn’t ask if they were ready to forgive the Tories for the same, or Labour for the Iraq War, or the SNP for falling education standards.

    There is no doubt in my mind that even before the election, most media coverage consisted of Tories vs Labour. We got the odd mention in the Independent and the Guardian, but easy to miss, and the right wing papers just ignored us, except to occasionally call us loony on Brexit.

    TV coverage was very much focused on Red vs Blue, and gave the strong impression that was the choice, except in Scotland, where the SNP were assumed to represent all Scots.

    There are many non-conspiracy reasons for why this happens, and getting a grip on them is essential so we can counter that in the future. Having new MPs, especially women, will help but we need to be less shy about reminding the media that it’s acceptable to present more than two views. This is especially challenging in the more mainstream, less obviously political media. We might think that getting people on Question Time is a challenge, but we have to remember that most people don’t watch Question Time, and just have the news on in the background.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jun '17 - 7:36pm

    @ Mark Argent

    “The IFS concluded that our manifesto was the only one properly costed”

    So you think the Institute of Fiscal Studies is an independent and politically neutral arbiter of what is affordable and what isn’t?

    Not everyone shares this view. Nick Clegg complained in 2010 that the IFS used methods that were “distorted and a complete nonsense”. Richard Murphy has also claimed that “the IFS is a body that persistently recommends tax increases that benefit the wealthiest in society at cost to those who make their living from work and the poorest in society”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Jun '17 - 7:38pm


    Thank you for making a middle aged man seem as young as he feels , which is rather young, rather than as middle aged as he is, the same age as Nick Clegg !

    I do feel great respect for those generations above me , more so than many, I have real heroes. But I think people who were young and in threadbare days for Liberalism, did much to boost it , sometimes forget it is , in common with other philosophies, a work in progress that was before and shall be yet. My desire in politics is to be aware of much even if I do not experience it , and make those who do aware that others have other experiences they might not be aware of.I am a practitioner in the arts , but a graduate in history and politics. The art of politics should include a knowledge of it’s history. Otherwise the art of the possible , becomes , if not impossible, less possible for sure. I am aware the right of the party in the pre and coalition era could have done with more of this too , not that I want to dwell on it .

    I , being in the centre of a party , basically in the centre or centre left, can , as one very dear colleague of the same generation and stance, I reckon, as you , to the left of me , Tony Gillam, terrific former leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Gedling Council , who I like and admire , and an authority international in renown, on chess, said to me when getting to know me , ” Lorenzo, you are a typical Liberal, you can always see different sides to things , and the other person’s point of view …”

  • @Peter, I’d be tempted to disregard anything said by Richard Murphy. He recently attempted to enter the world of Scottish economics, but made a complete hash of it. He plainly wanted to make bold and critical statements against the status quo, but it all fell apart when it turned out that the answers to almost every question he raised was already fully explained in the notes of the document he was reviewing.

    He’s one of those people eager to give a controversial opinion without bothering to do the home work. He’s the economic equivalent of an anti-vaxxer.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jun '17 - 9:20pm

    @ Fiona,

    I don’t know the details of Richard Murphy’s attempt “to enter the world of Scottish Economics” so I can’t comment on that.

    He’s not the only one with a problem re the IFS though. Prof. John Weeks makes the comments:

    “However, the central message (of an IFS Report) was that expenditure exceeding revenue is irresponsible, an ideological position that parrots the propaganda of the Conservative Party.”


    “The basic flaw in the IFS analysis of party manifestos, a flaw found in much of its work, is the organization’s ideological commitment to the balanced budget dogma. ”

    Would you say he’s right? Do they have such a dogma? From what I’ve read on their economic approach, I would tend to agree. They are highly neoliberal and anti-Keynesian in their general approach.

  • Peter Martin – we should have used the results provided by Oxford Economics, which focused on GDP, the most single economic indicator, and were more neutral. They even rejected the anti-Keynes myth.

  • Well, next election we should increase the £100 billion spending on infrastructures to £200-£250 billion, with £50 billion on increasing AUTOMATION (state clear that “we will spend £50 billion on boosting automation technology”). At the same time, reduce the working hours to 6 hrs per day.
    According to Barclays, investing an additional £1.2bn in automation has the potential to add as much as £60.5bn to the UK economy over the next decade; this represents a return on investment of £49 in economic output for the every £1 invested in manufacturing automation.

    Next, state that ” we would introduce a series export-oriented policies to achieve trade balance in goods and to balance the current account” (not goods and services but just GOODS ONLY, this is another way of talking about achieving trade surplus). Voters may be against either austerity or Corbynomics, but nobody is going to oppose boosting export.

    Next, increase the capitalization of British Business Bank to £20-£25 billion, which is still a joke compared with German KfW Bank. By the end of 2016, the capitalization of BBB was only £708m, which is a total joke. Also, allow BBB to raise funds on capital markets by issuing state-backed bonds like KfW.

    Then, repealing the Health and Social Care Act during coalition years that accelerated the privatization of NHS, but we will go further by DISMANTLING NHS internal market.

    In the long run, renationalization of railway is a good policy.

    Also, we can introduce a graduate tax to end tuition fees, and raise the student loan payment threshold for current students. Converting student loans into government debts, while seems to be interesting, is a too risky move.

  • I was really disappointed to see that the party only talk about repealing snooper charter once on their Facebook page. They should have talked about it as much as if not more than talking about Brexit. Opposing authoritarianism will attract all Liberals.

    Finally, about foreign policies, we must end all ME airstrikes and outline a 6-year route to cease all kinds of military activity in the region. Trudeau had proven that this stance would gain huge support.
    “Call us old fashioned, but we think we ought to avoid doing what our enemies want us to do. They want us to elevate them, to give into fear, to indulge in hatred, to eye one another with suspicion and to take leave of our faculties. The lethal enemy of barbarism isn’t hatred, it’s reason” – Trudeau. This reminds me of Campbell Bannerman’s famous “methods of barbarism” speech. I hope that the Libdem leader with repeat this in the next election.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jun '17 - 1:49pm

    Lorenzo Cherin

    The Liberal party that actually existed , rather than the mythical left wing one some think started when they were involved in the sixties and seventies, had the right to property in its constitution.

    Once again, more right-wing propaganda nonsense from you, Lorenzo Cherin. The Liberal Party I joined in the 1970s certainly was not opposed to ownership of property, as you are suggesting here.

    As we have seen with the recent decline in home ownership, simplistic right-wing economic policies do not result in everyone becoming property owners, as their propagandists claim, they actually result in the reverse. We are clearly NOT in a land of home-owning and share-holding democracy as it was promised we would be when the Thatcher government pushed politics down the right-wing economics path.

    The survival of the Liberal Party in the 20th century was very much down to acknowledging this and seeking an alternative. It was influenced, for example, by the distributist movement which pushed the idea of having an even distribution of property by banning excessive ownership beyond needs. It very much acknowledged that if you do not have something to ensure a more even distribution of wealth, simplistic free market policies would end up in wealth becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of a few.

    Pooh-poohing this, and claiming that the Liberal Party was historically a party of Thatcherite economics is a false claim put forward by Tory propaganda merchants to try and turn our country into a one-party state. You are one of that sort. Get lost, people like you have destroyed the party I spent decades helping to rebuild.

  • Matthew Huntbach – Agree. The Liberal Party had no longer been the party of “free market” economics, at least from 1906. Classical liberalism had evolved into social liberalism in order to tackle poverty and inequality.

    Lorenzo Cherin – You consistently call your self a social liberal, but always preach market fundamentalism (another name of economic far-right). The Keynesian 1928 Yellow Book was totally contrary to what you say. There is no such a thing like “socially liberal but fiscally conservative”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jun '17 - 5:08pm


    I was really disappointed to see that the party only talk about repealing snooper charter once on their Facebook page. They should have talked about it as much as if not more than talking about Brexit. Opposing authoritarianism will attract all Liberals.

    I really wish people like you could live in the real world.

    Important though issues like this are, to the vast majority of people they are side issues. They are not the most important thing that influences how they vote. So, if the party goes on and on about things like this as if they are all it is interested in, sure it may attract a small number of supporters. Mostly these will be people from wealthy and secure backgrounds, so they can afford to put their attention towards this sort of thing rather than worry about basic income and services and housing and the like. For everyone else, it will be a turn-off, making it seem we don’t care about the things that most affect ordinary people.

    If we had a proportional representation system, it might be just about viable to be a party that concentrates its concerns on theoretical liberal issues that a small proportion of the population (I would say under 5%) do get really worked up about (and I am not saying they are wrong to do so), and ignores what most people see as the more central issues. However, we are simply never going to win any seats if that’s what we are, as there are no seats where the majority of the population are of that sort.

    As we have already seen, giving the impression that the only thing our party cared about was stopping Brexit was a HUGE mistake in the election. I don’t think Brexit will deliver anything like what most of those who voted for it supposed, in fact I think it will do the opposite, so I remain opposed to it, and I think out party should as well. But I think we should have put our effort into demonstrating that we understood the concerns of those who voted Brexit, instead of dismissing those people.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jun '17 - 5:28pm


    The Liberal Party had no longer been the party of “free market” economics, at least from 1906. Classical liberalism had evolved into social liberalism in order to tackle poverty and inequality.

    Not even that. The right-wingers who make out that the 19th century Liberal Party was centred on free-market economics are like the religious fundamentalists of today who start off with narrow personal beliefs and pick out those bits of their religion that support them (or do if they are distorted) and ignore the rest.

    The Liberal Party of the 19th century was pragmatic on issues of state control, it certainly did not support the idea that everything should be put out to private business to control and the state minimised. In the 19th century, power was in the hands of the aristocracy and established religion, and the prime aim of the Liberal Party was to oppose that and spread power. Business would then have been small scale in the hands of local people, not vast global companies. The vast global companies of today that the free market extremists want to hand over power to, reducing democracy to something meaningless, are more like the 19th century aristocracy that the party opposed then, and supported democracy to oppose.

    Not only that, but the Liberal Party that survived and grew again in the 1960s and 1970s was what was left after several splits in which the rest went on to join the Conservative Party. So it descends from the more left-wing aspect of the 19th century Liberal Party, with the Conservative Party being the party which follows on from the right-wing of that party.

    That is why Britain is different from most of the rest of Europe, where the old-style aristocratic parties disappeared, leaving the liberal parties as the parties of the economic right. The Christian Democrat parties in the rest of Europe were more centrist in economic position and in some cases quite left-wing, though conservative on social issues. In some ways, given the close connection the19th century Liberal Party had with non-conformist Christianity, the Liberal Party in Britain has as much equivalence to the Christian Democrat parties in the rest of Europe than to right-wing economic liberal parties.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jun '17 - 12:00am

    Andrew McCaig

    Anyway, I don’t really care if we adopt the vastly expensive Labour proposal or something more sensible, but if we don’t get rid of our love for tuition fees one way or another we are doomed to decades in the wilderness…

    What “love for tuition fees”? Why do you claim that? How does a reluctant support for this, because the Tories would not agree to the taxation to fund universities in other ways, turn into a “love” for it?

    Labour have pushed the idea that we thought everything that the Coalition did was wonderful, and it’s what a pure Liberal Democrat government would have done. That is nonsense. The Coalition was a government five-sixths Conservative and one-sixth Liberal Democrat, and had policies that roughly matched that. The idea that a junior coalition partner can get whatever it wants is nonsense – it just does not work like that, especially when there is no alternative government that could be formed, and the junior coalition partner is likely to be the main loser if there is an early general election.

    We should have made that clear from the start, but due to Clegg’s poor leadership, from the Rose Garden disaster onwards, we did the exact opposite and seemed to be doing everything we could to make Labour’s false claims stick. Remarkably, instead of tackling that, Farron let it stay.

    Recall, however, that what pulled the Tories down was when they were honest and realistic about the big issue of the rapidly growing costs of care of the elderly and a need to find a way to pay for it. I do not believe that Labour have been honest and realistic – just waved their hands around making lots of promises about things that together would cost a LOT of money, and then suggesting it can all be paid for in a way that would not even affect most people.

    Uh, really? How come, for example, paying for universities is so crippling high that it causes huge costs to young people, yet Labour put the idea that it can be paid for in some other way, along with much more money for the NHS and so on, and all in a way that no-one will even notice where the money is coming from?

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jul '17 - 4:53pm

    On page one column five of The Times of Monday 24 July 2017 they follow up the news that was on TV on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show.
    “No pledge on student debt says Corbyn”
    Jeremy Corbyn denied yesterday that he had promised to wipe out student debt as a Tory minister accused him of “shamelessly abandoning” a pre-election position.
    The Labour leader said in the week before Britons headed to the polls last month that he would “deal with” the issue of existing tuition fee debt amassed by students and graduates.
    He admitted yesterday that he had been unaware of the size of the debt when he made those remarks and insisted that the comments had not amounted to a pledge.
    The party has said that while its manifesto set out concrete plans to scrap tuition fees for all future university students, a policy that experts predict would cost about £11.2 billion, cancelling student debt was never a firm or costed pledge. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said last week that wiping out all student debt would cost about £100 billion.
    Mr Corbyn said yesterday of existing student debt: “We never said we would completely abolish it because we were unaware of the size at that time. (sic) John McDonnell has established a working party to look at this policy and we will be making a statement on it in the near future.”
    Looking back at the comments he made in an interview with the NME before the election, Mr Corbyn told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “I pointed out there was a massive overhanging debt that many people dealt with, I recognised it was a huge burden, I did not make a commitment we will write it off because I couldn’t at that stage — I pointed out we’d written the manifesto in a short space of time because it was a surprise election — but that we would look at ways of reducing that debt burden, recognising that quite a lot of it is never going to be collected.
    “But the point we absolutely made was that we would abolish the student debt from the time we were elected.”
    “Mr. McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, conceded that the proposal to wipe out student debt was an ambition rather than a promise.

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