It can only get nastier until the election

It’s not surprising that polls suggest that many young people in the UK now despair about democratic politics. The partisan Westminster debate has become more and more negative. Prime Minister’s Questions have been getting worse week by week, throwing insults across the floor.  The Conservative Party has run out of positive themes to appeal to the public, and is falling back on attempts to discredit all of its opponents.  The right-wing media are in full hysterical mode, while conspiracy theories, culture wars and ideas about ‘Christian nationalism’ flow from across the Atlantic along with American finance to support Tory factions and think tanks.  And the Labour leadership is sufficiently intimidated by the right-wing media that it is responding cautiously and nervously – as are we.

I am as frustrated as other party members by the apparent timidity of both Labour and our own party leadership in the face of this right-wing onslaught.  But I’m also painfully aware of the ruthlessness and effectiveness of media monstering, and the closeness of the alliance between Conservative HQ and the right-wing media.  As soon as the Post Office scandal hit the headlines, CCHQ set out to pin the responsibility on others.  The Mail responded by going for Ed Davey, supported (of course) by the Telegraph and GB News – with the Standard giving him a frontpage monstering a few days later.  If he’d apologised immediately that would have fed the attacks and maintained the front-page coverage.  There’s nothing fair about tabloid press campaigns.

Conservative researchers have combed through cases Keir Starmer had any involvement with as Director of Public Prosecutions, hoping to find some dirt to throw – so far without much success.  So their press attack dogs are doing their best with Angela Rayner’s council house sale.   The Mail has given this front-page treatment several times in the past fortnight.  It’s an indication of what the Conservatives get away with that the allegations on Rayner taking advantage of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right-to-buy’ on her council house came from Lord Ashcroft, who has avoided paying infinitely larger sums in tax through offshore havens like Belize.

I see something of the hard work our party’s small communications team put in to break into media networks dominated by rightwing owners, with the BBC intimidated by years of Conservative attacks.  Stories on sewage get through; efforts to engage on international trade and foreign policy, and on political reform, either fail to get published or attract hostile coverage.  Our Spring conference did gain us some favourable coverage, but almost no further discussion of the political arguments in Ed Davey’s speech.

We have to expect that more mud will be thrown in our direction, as well as at Labour, as the weeks between now and the election go by. We will have to do what we can to get our arguments across on the doorstep, through leaflets, through local media outlets and through social media.  Between now and the local elections most of us will be too busy to think about any policy initiatives.  But if we are seen to have done really well in the local elections, the right-wing dirty tricks operators will redouble their efforts to plant smears.

Major new initiatives are not easy to get across in the increasing heat of an approaching election.  What might our messaging emphasise between early May and September that the media will pick up and potential voters respond to?  We have to find a way of responding to stories already in the news (and in voters’ minds), while shifting the terms of debate in our favoured direction.  One opportunity has just emerged in the Reform Party’s promise to campaign against active climate change policies.  Labour are almost as cautious on this as the Conservatives; while our target voters in the younger generation and graduates are seriously concerned.  There IS a climate emergency, and we should be calling to early action against further delay.

There’s a curious silence between the two main parties on taxation and public expenditure.  Tories continue to call for tax cuts, while Labour hesitate to spell out what that will mean for public services (and defence, and public investment).  We should be pointing out that further tax cuts and low growth mean further cuts in essential services, which the government has factored in but will not admit.

Above all, we should speak to the widespread disillusionment with our political system.  A change of government which leaves the way we are governed – over-centralised, a dysfunctional Parliament, constant ministerial churn – risks leaving the UK in five years’ time faced with a choice between disillusion with Labour and a more right-wing Tory Party as the only alternative.  We need more than a change of government; we need a change in how we are governed.  Can we get the media to listen to that message?

* William Wallace is Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional issues in the Lords.

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51 Comments

  • Anthony Acton 12th Apr '24 - 5:58pm

    This seems to me to be concentrated good sense. I hope LD HQ are reading it.

  • John McHugo 12th Apr '24 - 6:11pm

    Something else we can draw more attention to is our principled stand for a cease-fire on the Israel-Hamas war (while condemning atrocities by both Hamas and Israel), and calling for the release of hostages, recognition of Palestine and a settlement reflecting international law. This resonates much better with much of the public than Starmer’s approach which seems mealy-mouthed.

    Some will point out that this could be significant in constituencies with significant Muslim populations (Sheffield Hallam and some parts of London – like Sutton and Wimbledon?). But it also resonates with decent people all over the country. The right-wing attack dogs like Braverman, Priti Patel or Jenrick may play to their gallery, but only to a minority of voters.

  • Michael Cole 12th Apr '24 - 7:43pm

    “We need more than a change of government; we need a change in how we are governed.”

    Yes, indeed.

    Electoral and constitutional reform is a vote winner.

    Why is our leadership so timid on this issue ? It seems that they fear alienating the very people that wouldn’t vote for us anyway.

  • David Symonds 12th Apr '24 - 8:36pm

    One of the key things that Conservatives and Labour like is negative campaigning. They prefer to throw mud at each other than tackle the problems the country is facing day to day. They wouldn’t dream of working together but like to use the “bogey” of attacking each other as a way of scaring their supporters to come out and vote for them to “keep out the other lot”. People should vote for what they believe in and not for the least worst option.

  • @ David Symonds “One of the key things that Conservatives and Labour like is negative campaigning”.

    Watch tonight’s edition of “Have I got news for you”, David.

  • I think Labour will borrow more to invest than the Tories. Nevertheless we could pledge to spend more than them in areas such as education, early years and social care. Green policies can be popular if the burden falls on the better off or paid via windfall taxes. The right wing media dont bother to defend Brexit anymore they just say it wasn’t done the right way.

  • Mick Taylor 13th Apr '24 - 7:31am

    I have absolutely no time for the politics of Angela Rayner, but I find myself cheering her on as she stands up to the bullies in the Tory Party. The ‘crime’ she is alleged – by the Tory Party – to have committed pales into insignificance compared to the shenanigans of a raft of Tory MPs and the daily attacks by Tories as a whole on the poor, the homeless, anyone that can be ‘othered’ in their culture wars and the continued handouts to their rich friends and supporters, not to mention peerages and other honours to their donors.
    I hope our parliamentary colleagues make clear to the Labour Deputy Leader that we totally abhor the tactics of the Tory Party.

  • ………………..So their press attack dogs are doing their best with Angela Rayner’s council house sale. The Mail has given this front-page treatment several times in the past fortnight…………

    Guardian…Police to investigate Angela Rayner over residency declaration..

    So, just like ‘currygate’, the constant biased coverage in the Mail/Express has badgered the police into reviewing their original decision of her innocence…
    However, again like ‘currygate’, anything other than a guilty verdict will be called a ‘cover-up’…

    This pressure is in direct contrast with the police reluctance to investigate the ‘goings on’ at No.10 and Chequers (as Hislop said, at the time, on HIGNFY, “Why can’t they just ask those who were there?”)

    As the election draws closer I fully expect savage attacks on Ed Davey (as if he was the only minister involved) over the PO scandal..

    To quote the 1970’s song…”You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

  • John McHugo is right to say the plight of the Palestinians ought to be an election issue. It seems our policy people don’t agree. Maybe one reason is that most voters don’t think the Lib Dem response to the war in Gaza differs much from Labour’s or the government’s. So the policy wonks are right, but only because of the circular logic in their argument. We should be much stronger in our condemnation of what is very likely an act of genocide by Israel. Meanwhile the death count in Gaza creeps past 33,000.

  • David Allen 13th Apr '24 - 1:11pm

    Starmer pretends to be right-wing Labour in the mould of Blair and Brown. He isn’t. He and his team are now clearly emerging as out-and-out conservatives. Streeting wants more privatisation, while Labour’s newly chosen panel of experts on tax include a lawyer who believes that “taxation is legalised extortion”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/apr/10/the-guardian-view-on-labour-and-the-tax-gap-a-5-billion-question-let-to-a-panel-of-insiders

    This presents the Lib Dems with a golden opportunity to restore their pre-Clegg stance as a centre-left party which can restore ravaged public services and isn’t terrified of putting a panny on income tax. There is a massive gap in the electoral market to the left of Starmer’s NewRedTories.

    Will they go for it? Doesn’t look like it. It was rich donors like Paul “Orange Book” Marshall who funded the Clegg coup and brought the Lib Dems into alliance with the Tories. It looks as if it is rich right-wing donors who are still pulling all the Lib Dem strings.

  • David Allen 13th Apr '24 - 1:12pm

    “Penny”, not panny – Sorry!

  • Anne-Marie Simpson 13th Apr '24 - 4:56pm

    Picking up on John McHugo’s and Andy Daer’s comments above, our Party’s policies on Gaza are much more in tune with the public than the other two national parties and recent YouGov polls show support for an arms embargo and a ceasefire growing in the population and this could well have an impact on target seats if we speak about them more.

  • Chris Moore 13th Apr '24 - 5:57pm

    @David Allen: Paul Marshall is long gone from the party.

    Social Liberalism is the dominant current of thinking .

    You’d need to back up your slightly cynical remarks re donors: they are not correct, in my view.

    We should be coming out strongly in favour of a renewal in public services. Taxation will be part of that.

    The leadership is getting a little bolder: they need to be encouraged to really go for it.

  • David Allen 13th Apr '24 - 6:53pm

    Chris Moore, I’ll be delighted if the party can prove me wrong!

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Apr '24 - 8:19pm

    What a refreshing discussion started by William, warning but also encouraging us. I think we can go strong on climate change policies, as you suggest, William – far too few new land-based wind turbines having been established lately for example – and the other big deficit in the main parties’ programmes is surely lack of commitment to spending on public services other than the NHS, which I expect local party campaigners will be focussing on. Grand to hear from HQ of the enormous effort able-bodied activists are making in canvassing in their local May elections.

  • Marco 12th Apr ’24 – 10:01pm:
    The right wing media dont bother to defend Brexit anymore…

    As someone who reads across the political spectrum that’s not what I’m seeing. It’s early days, but many Brexit Benefits are now coming through and are reported positively, although rarely mentioned by the Guardian or Brussels Broadcasting Corporation. Here are three recent articles from “right-wing media”…

    ‘Even Remainers cannot deny this benefit of Brexit’ [13th. April]:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2024/04/13/even-remainers-cannot-deny-this-benefit-of-brexit/

    Britain has had a lucky escape avoiding Brussels’ disastrous, profligate mess […]
    Take a look at the tax rises and spending squeezes necessitated by our own borrowing. Now consider the damage that would have been done by adding the EU’s Covid fund to the total.

    ‘Brexit Britain becomes the world’s fourth BIGGEST exporter – overtaking France, Netherlands and Japan – in blow to Remainers who said leaving the EU would be a disaster’ [10th. April]:
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13293237/brexit-Britain-biggest-exporter-France-remainers-blow-eu.html

    UK has shot up from its previous ranking of seventh in 2021, UN data has shown

    ‘Huge Brexit Britain victory as UK is world’s second most powerful country’ [3rd. April]:
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1884494/Huge-Brexit-Britain-victory-as-UK-is-world-s-second-most-powerful-country

    According to Brand Finance’s 2024 Global Soft Power Index, the UK has retained second place behind the US and has increased its score since 2023.

  • Chris Moore 14th Apr '24 - 6:46am

    Reagarding imports and exports, it’s fantastic you didn’t bother reading your own article.

    Which would have told you that UK exports/imports are DOWN between 2018-2023, taking into account inflation.

    Likewise, if you’d bothered to read the whole article, you would notice that France, Netherlands and the UK all have similar amounts of trade: any ranking falls well within margins of measurement.

    Please be more serious in your interventions.

  • Chris Moore 14th Apr '24 - 6:48am

    As for Britain being the second most powerful country on earth: this gem of a delusion merely reflects the study’s very doubtful criteria. Only a rag as daft as The Daily Express would take this seriously.

  • Yeovil Yokel 14th Apr '24 - 7:55am

    Jeff – if you want your views to be treated with respect, then you need to cite more credible sources than the Telegraph, Mail, and Express.

  • Peter Davies 14th Apr '24 - 8:26am

    Though none of the articles actually confirms the headlines, they do suggest that these rags are still trying to defend Brexit and with increasing desperation.

  • John McHugo: “constituencies with significant Muslim populations [such as] Wimbledon” which also has a significant Jewish population. Our non-sectarian position on Israel~Palestine should appeal to any voters who want a just and peaceful settlement, while it might not satisfy the more hot-headed pro-Palestinian activists who are all too ready to repeat divisive slogans that they maybe don’t fully understand and who turn a blind eye to Hamas atrocities.

    However, foreign policy rarely turns UK elections. As I wrote in another thread, this is an issue that people tend to either care about passionately or very little.

  • David Symonds 14th Apr '24 - 11:16am

    I remember when the Alliance became a threat to the old two parties and then Tory and Labour decided to insult the Alliance. Tory and Labour hate the Lib Dems more than they hate each other, i remember a Tory and Labour agent speaking at a local election count and they feared Lib Dems winning the Council seat, they united in their opposition to Lib Dems. They were relieved when Tories held the seat. Labour particularly hates the Lib Dems and the Lib predecessor as they think they are the only repository for centre left votes but Labour are not really progressive (Trade union barons) and there are also the Greens who are to the left of Labour.

  • I agree Katharine we have a lot of scope to push harder on Climate Change policies, especially if we can frame them correctly. I’ve seen Tories justify additional licences for North Sea oil extraction on the grounds of energy security, and it should be straightforward to propose that reducing our reliance on oil & gas of any kind is an even better way to achieve energy security.

    We see some on the right engaging in outright climate change denial, but the more insidious danger comes from those pushing the idea that carbon reductions and mitigations against the impact of climate change are too expensive. We can challenge that.

    Requiring new developments to have much better insulation and designed to include solar and heat pumps is cheaper and more effective than retrofitting, but developing a market for new installations will boost the expertise available for retrofits, making them cheaper too.

    We can also point out that not spending on mitigation now will cost us more in the future, and while true, it’s a message that will land better with younger voters, and is more susceptible to being twisted. However, when the Tories can claim that spending on the NHS now creates an unfair burden on the taxpayers of the future, we have an opening.

  • Yeovil Yokel 14th Apr ’24 – 7:55am:
    …you need to cite more credible sources than the Telegraph, Mail, and Express.

    The newspapers are the messenger. Each article cites or refers to the source of the data being reported or discussed…

    1. EU Commission ‘NextGenerationEU’:
    https://next-generation-eu.europa.eu/recovery-and-resilience-facility_en

    Our plan is worth €723 billion.

    Based on the UK’s last membership contribution percentage of 15.6%, the UK’s contribution would have been approximately £97 billion.

    2. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development table of ‘Goods and Services (BPM6): Exports and imports of goods and services, annual’:
    https://unctadstat.unctad.org/datacentre/dataviewer/US.GoodsAndServicesBpm6

    This data shows that the UK was the world’s fourth largest exporter in 2022.

    3. ‘Brand Finance’s Global Soft Power Index 2024: USA and UK ranked top nation brands, China takes third place, overtaking Japan and Germany’ [February 2024]:
    https://brandfinance.com/press-releases/brand-finances-global-soft-power-index-2024-usa-and-uk-ranked-top-nation-brands-china-takes-third-place-overtaking-japan-and-germany

    The United Kingdom has overcome a soft power risk from temporary instability in late 2022 resulting from tumultuous government changes and the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. This year, the UK ranks 7th in ‘strong and stable economy’ compared to last year’s 12th and improves on ‘politically stable and well governed’ up to 12th from last year’s 16th. The nation’s Global Soft Power Index Score of 71.8 continues an upward trend from 67.3 in the previous year.

  • Jeff – The OBR estimates that GDP is 4% lower due to Brexit, imports and exports have fallen by 15% and that “investment growth has been significantly weaker than we expected before the referendum” https://obr.uk/forecasts-in-depth/the-economy-forecast/brexit-analysis/#indepth

  • Jeff, I’m only surprised that you haven’t referenced more Daily Express trade bonuses…

    Like..Express…Brexit Britain flying high with new £725billion US trade deal with home state of Boeing…(the snag being individual US states can’t sign trade deals and the entire GDP of Washington State is £725 billion.)

    Or…Express….Kemi Badenoch to sign huge trade deal with Texas today in Brexit victory..

    and…Express….Great victory for Brexit as Global Britain signs historic £12tn trade deal.

    With such ‘wonder deals’ will I be getting my personal unicorn any time soon?..

  • Chris Moore 14th Apr ’24 – 6:48am:
    As for Britain being the second most powerful country on earth: this gem of a delusion merely reflects the study’s very doubtful criteria.

    I would agree that ‘second most influential’ would be a better phrase to use as it avoids any connotations of military power (which is not part of the assessment).

    Only a rag as daft as The Daily Express would take this seriously.

    Brand Finance’s annual Global Soft Power Index is the most broadly assessed and largest study for measuring how countries are regarded internationally. It’s widely cited by many newspapers, journals and professional bodies such as the Association of Accredited Public Policy Advocates to the European Union (AALEP)…

    ‘The World’s Top 20 Soft Power Nations In 2023’:
    https://aalep.eu/world%E2%80%99s-top-20-soft-power-nations-2023

    The Global Soft Power Index incorporates a broad range of measures, which in combination provide a balanced and holistic assessment of nation’s presence, reputation and impact on the world stage. These include familiarity, influence and reputation as well as performance on eight soft power pillars, including
    1. Business & trade
    2. Governance
    3. International Relations
    4. Culture & Heritage
    5. Media & Communications
    6. Education & Science
    7. People & Value
    8. Sustainable Future

  • Nigel Jones 14th Apr '24 - 6:49pm

    Chris Moore and Marco, you make valid points, but you seem to have missed the key purpose of Jeff’s messaging, which is that right-wing media are definitely pumping out pro-Brexit messages and we must not assume that most people will not be influenced by these. The right-wing messages may be nonsense, but remember we made the mistake before the referendum of assuming that because they were so wrong that most people would not take them as true. We now live in times where so many can believe so much nonsense if it is even slightly slanted towards their prejudices but repeated several times so strongly by media they do not believe to be dishonest.

  • Chris Moore 14th Apr '24 - 9:38pm

    Hello Nigel, that’s a fair point.

    Jeff himself however is I believe an ardent Brexiteer. I can’t remember whether he’s an LD supporter?

    @Jeff: as for distinguishing between the message and the messenger: in reality, all three of your original examples showed right-wing rags in the act of distorting the relevant pretty low-level research or misunderstanding nuance. They are really poor examples of argumentation.

    I’m all for pro-Brexiteers laying out their point of view, and but honestly you can do better than this.

  • expats 14th Apr ’24 – 4:00pm:
    I’m only surprised that you haven’t referenced more Daily Express trade bonuses…

    I don’t often cite the Daily Express, not least because of its hyperbolic click-bait headlines. I only did so here as an example of a pro-Brexit article, in what I assume, Marco considers to be “the right-wing media”.
    To be fair, in amongst articles on “Remove gravel weeds in ‘less than 24 hours’ with salt and 1 other item that’s not vinegar” they often cover some niche EU and trade matters not reported by others, such as this…

    ‘British artists set for ‘royalty windfall’ with new Australia trade deal’ [31st. March 2024]:
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1883334/Aussie-trade-deal-bonanza-for-British-artists

    British painters, photographers and sculptors are set for a “royalty windfall” down under as a result of the UK-Australia trade deal. Artists will now earn new royalties when their artwork is resold in Australia.

    With such ‘wonder deals’ will I be getting my personal unicorn any time soon?

    You could invest in one; the UK has the most unicorns in Europe…

    ‘BREXIT 4th Anniversary: Britain’s Brexit Success’ [January 2024]
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65ba6d48c75d300012ca1003/brexit-4th-anniversary-print-version.pdf

    Prepared by Department for Business & Trade

    Tech Sector
    […]
    And the UK has created over 150 unicorns (tech companies valued at over $1 billion) – top in Europe and more than Germany, France, and the Netherlands combined.

  • Marco 14th Apr ’24 – 1:37pm:
    The OBR estimates that GDP is 4% lower due to Brexit,…

    No. They forecast a reduction in “long-run productivity by 4 per cent relative to remaining in the EU” as stated in your citation. Long-run means in 2035. It’s an average of 13 estimates from (mostly remain biased) organisations based on several wrong assumptions such as immigration falling. The OBR has a poor record for forecasting even six months ahead.

    Here’s a quick dismissal from Gully…

    Gully Foyle #UKTrade [September 2023]:
    https://twitter.com/TerraOrBust/status/1697651717842551019

    This revision by the ONS, putting GDP 1.8% higher than they had thought it to be when the OBR made that statement, means that the trade intensity is significantly higher than being “broadly on track” with their forecasts, and so their forecasts need to go directly into the bin.

    Here’s a detailed analysis…

    ‘Why the OBR is wrong about Brexit’ [April 2024]:
    https://www.briefingsforbritain.co.uk/why-the-obr-is-wrong-about-brexit/

    The real story on productivity (as I explained here and the FT has since belatedly realised) is the whole of Europe’s “competitiveness crisis” versus the USA and how this productivity gap has been widening since 2008. Not since 2016 and the Brexit referendum, and not since 2021 and the end of the transition period. It is obvious that the UK (and the rest of Europe) has a productivity problem; but the data does not suggest that problem is as a result of Brexit.

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '24 - 5:40am

    I’m somewhat puzzled by continuing assumptions, shared by both former remainers and former leavers, that the EU is somehow a leftist/progressive organisation valiantly, or not according to political persuasion, opposed by the British political right wing.

    Maybe I’m missing something but I just don’t see it. None of these discussions are doing anything to enlighten me on the nature of the EU itself. They are all about the UK and whether we are going to ever so slightly worse off in the future according to the economic projections of a bunch of economists whose previous projections have always left a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy in any case.

    Can we have more discussion on the EU itself please? I agree that if they are doing well with high growth rates and low rates of unemployment etc that there would be a case for rejoining.

    But, if this case isn’t being made, is it because it can’t be?

  • Martin Gray 15th Apr '24 - 5:58am

    Exactly Peter….The Social aspect of the EU is a myth.
    Didn’t save one factory or one job loss . And those workers who were on the MW zero hours contract in 2016 must of been wondering just what exactly those rights were – couldn’t see them and certainly couldn’t feel them . For those at the bottom EU membership was an irrelevance – woeful election turnouts, anonymous Mep’s were the norm – fom a one way ticket , where exactly is a factory worker from Hartlepool going to up sticks and work . A metropolitan middle class concept . The only time the British people engaged fully with the EU – was when given a chance to leave…

  • Peter and Martin – I don’t see the EU as a leftist project but I do see it as supporting a social democratic and third way approach i.e ensuring common standards alongside a free trade area. Much of what Thatcher did was inevitable it was just done in a way that was too fast and too brutal. EU membership helped to create alternative jobs e.g in car manufacturing.

  • Martin Gray 16th Apr '24 - 4:35am

    Marco/Martin…
    What exactly were the benefits of membership in those towns that voted so heavily to leave . Communities couldn’t see or feel them . That third way approach is meaningless political speak , devoid of any substantive change for those at the bottom . Not everyone works in the car industry. Try doing a triple shift in a faceless warehouse on the edge of town stuck on the MW agency zhc . That’s the norm for many in those towns – the EU is/was an utter irrelevance to them. It didn’t make one iota of difference in their lives.

  • Martin Gray what are the benefits of Brexit for those communities? Is anything improving? Far from it, the falls in inward investment are decimating what was left of UK manufacturing. EEC/EU membership was essential in Toyota, Nissan and Honda establishing plants here. Honda has now closed. Brexit is Thatcher Mark 2.

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '24 - 8:48am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “I have absolutely no time for the politics of Angela Rayner……..”

    Just what, exactly, would they be, Mick ? Which ones do you dislike most?

    I don’t like the way that many Labour politicians, including AR, have moved to the right since the last election but, perhaps, you have your own reasons.

    Nevertheless I’m prepared to back her because she’s widely considered to be “uppity”. She’s a woman with a Northern working class accent who was an unmarried teenage mother and she clearly has since not “known her place” in society. This fuels the dislike of many towards her.

    This is not to say she should have a free pass to do anything she likes. If she has broken the law she should be accountable but the scale of the issue does need to be kept in perspective.

  • David Symonds 16th Apr '24 - 11:45am

    I had never realised that First Past the Post was effectively initiated by the Marquess of Salisbury in 1885 in consultation with the Liberals (not the Libs with the social liberalism period). Found this article from September 2023 and this made me realise even more how first past the post has damaged our country by forcing electors to choose two adversarial parties and leaving millions of votes as being of no consequence. https://makevotesmatter.org.uk/news/2024/3/25/the-untold-tale-of-how-and-why-britain-has-first-past-the-post/

    Lord Salisbury and the Tories generally want to keep the status quo and he was worried about losing power to “working classes” and losing the aristocratic right to rule.

    Root and branch reform of our electoral and democratic system is vital for our nation’s survival, nothing less will do.

  • Factories were closing all throughout our membership of the EU – only to be replaced with faceless warehouses on the edge of town with insecure and poorly paid jobs …That was & is the lived experience in those towns.
    The Social aspect of the EU is a mirage. It just wasn’t there.

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '24 - 1:22pm

    @ Martin,

    The working class has never put too much faith in the social generosity of any government. However if there is coal to be mined, ships to be built, railways to be run etc then they’ll get on with doing whatever needs to be done at the same time doing their best to ensure wages paid are fair.

    The effect of EU membership has been to shift the economic centre of balance in the direction of the EU. So the ports in the South East which faced the EU became busier whereas ports such as Liverpool declined. The economy relied more on the service sector, which was mainly located in the South.

    The problem in the UK has always been that macroeconomic management, whether that took the form of fiscal or monetary adjustment has been applied far too indiscriminately. Consequently the SE overheats with high housing and labour costs whereas the North is still operating at lower than full capacity.

    We can blame those in the UK who supported membership. They should have had the nous to see what was going on and adjusted economic policies accordingly. Liverpool is an interesting case in point. The situation was so desperate in the 80’s that widespread rioting broke out. Michael Heseltine was one of the few Tories who appreciated what needed to be done

    I don’t know if he realised that he was turning Liverpool into a future Remain city but that was the outcome some 35 years later. He might be wishing he’d done the same for Stoke-on-Trent now!

  • I believe we need two distinct strategies for tactical voting:

    I believe that:

    1. In the 163 ‘wasted vote’ Constituencies,
    we should be fighting to force Reform.

    2. In all of the 487 remaining Constituencies,
    we should be fighting to win in a FPTP election.

    This contribution addresses only the first of these two opportunities.
    It does not address the second of these two opportunities.

    In the 163 ‘wasted vote’ Constituencies:

    1. The leadership of all ‘smaller parties’
    (i.e. other than Conservative and Labour)
    should decline to stand a Candidate in the election.

    2. All reformer voters should then be urged
    to vote for Conservative in that election
    (i.e. to force a hung Commons).

    3. All reformer voters should then be urged
    to force a Confidence and Supply arrangement for Reform.

    Note that there would be no impact on national campaigning
    (e.g. leadership debates and/or policy campaigning),
    and no impact on campaigning in any of the remaining 487 constituencies.

    The key factor here is that the leadership of the smaller parties
    must support the single optimal Campaign for Constitutional Reform
    (i.e. before the next general election).

    Please see the attached PowerPoint data and Excell data for a more detailed exposition.

  • Micki Taylor 16th Apr '24 - 4:02pm

    @Peter Martin
    Centralist, statist and divisive. But nothing to do with being Northern or Uppity. As I lived in the North for 50 years and have been known to be uppity, why would I dislike that?

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '24 - 4:06pm

    @ Tim Knight,

    “All reformer voters should then be urged to vote for Conservative in that election”

    I’m sure you don’t need me to point out to you that this is never going to happen.

    The logic of voting Tory to limit Starmer’s majority hasn’t escaped my notice. However, I just won’t ever be able to bring myself to do that.

    The election has a local aspect to it too. In my constituency the Labour candidate is a very decent hard working person. She campaigns on such things as potholes, sewage dumping, keeping public transport functioning, class sizes in schools etc. She’s not particularly socialist. She’s never, to my knowledge, expressed an opinion on anything that might be considered controversial such nationalising anything. She’s never ventured on to such unsafe ground as discussing the situation in Gaza.

    I don’t think any LibDem person in the constituency would have a problem voting for her. I really don’t know why you’d bother to run a candidate yourselves.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Apr '24 - 5:40pm

    @Tim Knight: April Fool’s Day was 2 weeks ago. Seriously though, that sort of thing would go down with voters like a lead balloon, as they don’t want to be instructed. You’d have to know exactly how every voter in the relevant constituencies is going vote, otherwise it wouldn’t work. There’s a big risk of it backfiring such that we end up with another Tory majority government. Voters aren’t pawns in a game.

  • Peter Martin 17th Apr '24 - 8:38am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “Centralist, statist………..”

    So are all parties who stand candidates for Westminster election. The recent vote for smoking restrictions is an example, even if you disagree with the outcome, of how the system works. The devolved governments didn’t have anywhere near enough clout to cope with the economic aspects of the Covid crisis. The “central and statist” currency issuing government in Westminster did.

    “…….and divisive”

    So is anyone who takes a position, either way, on anything that can be regarded as politically significant. Like membership of the EU for example.

  • Peter Martin 17th Apr '24 - 8:39am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “Centralist, statist………..”

    So are all parties who stand candidates for Westminster election. The recent vote for smoking restrictions is an example, even if you disagree with the outcome, of how the system works. The devolved governments didn’t have anywhere near enough clout to cope with the economic aspects of the Covid crisis. The “central and statist” currency issuing government in Westminster did.

    “…….and divisive”

    So is anyone who takes a position, either way, on anything that can possibly be regarded as politically significant. Like membership of the EU for example.

  • Alex Macfie: “I really don’t know why you’d bother to run a candidate yourselves.” Because it would look bad if we didn’t stand in every seat. It would send the message that we are no longer a national party. And we certainly should not be recommending voters to vote for either of the main parties, which is another reason Tim Knight’s idea is a non-starter.

    Tim’s proposal is best characterised as “strategic” voting rather than “tactical” voting. Tactical voting usually means voting for one’s 2nd choice to avoid the election of the least favoured candidate, but what Tim proposes is voting for one’s least preferred candidate locally to try to achieve some other favoured outcome nationally. Rather Macchiavelian, and as such it is highly risky if only because voters are so unpredictable. It relies on the opinion polls being exactly right, and no poll can make that claim.

  • Peter Hirst 19th Apr '24 - 3:02pm

    We need a stategy and plan to make politics interesting again especially to young people. Deliberative democracy could be a start, involving interested people in topics of importance. Aspiring politicians need to realise that they will be held to higher standards than the normal public and that infringements will not be tolerated. Complete transparency and adequate resources are also important so the time taken to act on possible demeanours is short. Swift justice is better justice.

  • @ Peter Hirst “We need a strategy and plan to make politics interesting again especially to young people”.

    I’m sure that’s true, Peter, but it only goes so far. When I first joined the Liberal Party as a teenager many moons ago, the party had the advantage of an articulate charismatic Leader in the person of Jo Grimond. Like many other youngsters at the time, I was enthused and “marched towards the sound of the gunfire”.

    Over the years, when the party has done well, it has had the advantage of other charismatic Leaders. In their different ways, they all connected with the public throughout all parts of the UK. It is an important ingredient.

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