It’s our legacy – let’s proclaim it

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We must not let the Tories define our legacy, as they did for Labour when that government fell. We were a force for good in the Coalition government, ensuring fairer and better policies for all. But we are not being given the credit for it by the public. Our standing in the polls is still less than 10%, and in Oldham West we didn’t save our deposit. Despite the valiant efforts of Tim and his team, eight months after the General Election we are not getting heard. Political discussion and comment in the media mostly ignores us. What to do?

Let’s look at how we got to this position. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’ and so there is. We swept into Coalition as a tide of discontent, and alarm at the economic situation swept Labour away. Action followed by reaction is the general rule of political history. Last year we were left like so much flotsam and jetsam on the beach.

But as the tide comes in, with each wave the flotsam and jetsam get washed a bit higher up the beach. We picked ourselves up. We realised that at any rate we were now freed from having to work with a party whose aims and ideals are not ours. We saw that since we have had experience of central government as well as local we are better equipped to serve again. We looked around and saw that the two major parties are seriously divided at a time when we are united. The country has never liked to see disunity in its government, nor wanted to back wild cards. Liberal Democrats offer a steady, progressive party with a strong driving impulse towards liberty and equality, fairness and community.

What’s not to like? So, how to put it over? We can’t afford TV ads or national billboards, social media has its limitations, and we can’t get into the papers. Meanwhile the public, mostly uninterested, absorbs subliminally that Tory message – “You can trust us more than the rest, we did well in the last five years, the tides of history have swept us again to our rightful place in sole control, and you are safe with us.”

What we have to do to counter this is to meet people in their own homes and market places, show ourselves to them individually, and tell them who we are and what we can do for them. In my own constituency we are delivering a newsletter which spells it out: what we did in Coalition, what’s gone wrong since, and what we have to offer. Everywhere there are ex-councillors and former MPs and MEPs to assist those of us already in office or about to stand, people of experience and commitment who must not be lost to our cause.

We need to get out there straight away this Spring, campaigning and talking to our neighbours, showing them that politics can be worthwhile. Tell them what we did. Tell them what we can do. We can’t let the Tories get away with it again: ours must be the next incoming tide.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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58 Comments

  • No!No NO!!!!! The public rejected our time in coalition, accept it and move on….Constantly trying to remind the voter that he was wrong will just make things worse…

    Look to the future…

  • expats
    Spot on. Until the LibDems understand that their record in coalition was the reason they were almost wiped out they are going nowhere. Yes they can point to the pupil premium or gay marriage, but most people just remember tuition fees and the bedroom tax. Tuition fees will follow them for many years to come and may yet finish the party.

  • I fully supported the coalition but electorally it was a living hell for this party. The last thing we should do is to remind the public in any way of those 5 years. It is history, we must, must move on. Best just to get over it. The important thing is the world ahead, we should learn from history and in this case the public now does not want a repeat.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jan '16 - 5:08pm

    Very good article. Quite simple, but I like the competitive nature of it.

    I’m frustrated at the moment because I see several ways Lib Dems can gain several percentage points. It is mainly based around becoming a party for inner city individuals again.

    For starters, the #SaveOurSteel campaign needs to be embraced, without offering blank cheques.

    Secondly, Lib Dems either need to commit to saving oil and gas jobs in Scotland, or replacing them with high-tech ones. Credible plans to be in place.

    Thirdly: change the message on immigration. Undiluted pro-immigration messages don’t work, but we should still remember to keep our hearts and help those in need.

    Lib Dems already seem quite good in rural areas. The big problem seems to be in inner cities and (and very affluent rural areas) and just some small policy changes can change this. Dropping the mansion tax could be another one. Reducing benefit sanctions are another good idea, I think.

  • Barry Snelson 25th Jan '16 - 5:13pm

    Well done Katharine. Just ignore those who actually think that telling the public “we were c**p please vote for us again” will somehow reconnect us. Justified or not, Labour were given the label of economic incompetence. Note “given” they did not choose it themselves but it stuck because a faction of the Labour party sided with their opponents because they wanted to undermine the previous leadership for their own ambitions. Do not allow anyone, at any time, to rubbish the party’s record. Our opponents will do enough of that without our help. What possible electoral benefit would come from announcing that the only time we’ve had power we demonstrated incompetence? Utter folly.
    There is a yawning political gap waiting for someone to fill it and it could even be the LibDems if they can quickly develop a brand new manifesto that attracts the voters’ attention and gives them hope and optimism. The current offering is tepid and uninspiring.

  • I agree it’s time to move on, and I’m not even sure that voters were that wrong in rejecting us after the coalition. I don’t believe even that the coalition was wrong or bad, but the Tories very neatly saddled us with the blame for the bad things, somehow, and took the credit for the good – BUT by 2020 that will all be history. What might not be is the entirely self inflicted implosion on fees. Rightly or not, very many people will not listen to
    us for a ling time to come, and others will do so much less enthusiatically than before. My honest view is it is time to re-build a liberal party, and a re-branding is also needed. The position must be in the liberal left of centre, tacking to the right clearly failed, almost counter-intuitively. I was never prouder of the party’s manifesto than in 2010, and never more unenthused by it than in 2015 …

  • Something drastic is required and something dramatic to get the medias attention. Maybe a one off special Conference where every Ex Minister and of course Nick Clegg to apologise for the Bedroom Tax and Tuition Fees etc. No ‘sorry but’ just a passionate and straight sorry because what the party needs and has to understand is that ex voters were not just let down but that they felt disgusted at the Bedroom Tax. The May Elections are coming so time to move and talk fast.

  • Ryan McAlister 25th Jan '16 - 5:45pm

    A good article.

    The hairshirt brigade will be here soon to talk you down, mind.

  • First, a note to the Editor. Copeland and Workington are two separate constituencies. We’ve never done well in either and took a disastrous hammering last May (3.5% and 4.4%).

    Full marks to Katharine for her optimism – I gather (appropriately) she is a Counsellor specialising in depression and anxiety therapy. There’s a big market in the Lib Dems, Katharine…. and in flooded Keswick/Cockermouth.

    I would love to agree with you, but I’m afraid the Coalition legacy cannot be spun. It was wrong politically and electorally – and we know how the electorate judged it. The rush for peerages, knighthoods and £ 20,000 speeches put the tin lid on it or give the party a radical idealistic ring. We must move on but this has to be acknowledged and dealt with.

    I hope Tim can do this – which is why I rejoined in May after a membership lasting from 1961 to 2012. I understand his difficulty, given that the old establishment are still hovering.

    I agree very much with @ johnmc. Serious thought should be given to re-branding and re-launching as a left of centre radical party. I prefer the traditional name : The Liberal Party, but thius is only a label. There must be radical content which means a serious look at all our policies in the light of growing inequality and power in modern society. Jo Grimond did this in the fifties with the best academic brains.The name shouldn’t be a problem for Tim. Westmorland has a strong Liberal radical tradition.

    As for the so called classical economic liberals, they really ought to give thought to the fact that their notions of shrinking the state went out in 1906, Would they be happier somewhere else ?

  • Typo alert : forget the words after tin lid in that sentence.

  • John Roffey 25th Jan '16 - 7:00pm

    David Raw 25th Jan ’16 – 6:30pm

    “I agree very much with @ johnmc. Serious thought should be given to re-branding and re-launching as a left of centre radical party. I prefer the traditional name : The Liberal Party, but thius is only a label. There must be radical content which means a serious look at all our policies in the light of growing inequality and power in modern society. Jo Grimond did this in the fifties with the best academic brains.The name shouldn’t be a problem for Tim. Westmorland has a strong Liberal radical tradition.”

    I too rejoined because TF was elected leader. I agree that the party name is relatively unimportant – it is just a label, although I understand the Liberal Party is struggling – perhaps a re-merger might help – the negotiations providing helpful friction from a different prospective.

    If NC is to be included – he must perform some kind of penance in the hope of obtaining forgiveness by the voters – but this is very, very difficult for politicians – few if any have achieved this.

    He did promise he would work as a hospital porter for the rest of his life if he destroyed the Party, perhaps if he kept out of the limelight for the next three years, just acting as a constituency MP and spending the rest of his time being a porter he might gain forgiveness – but I doubt it. He would be best advised to start a new career.

    Certainly a ‘re-branding and re-launching as a left of centre radical party’ is likely to be the best way forward and some change is absolutely vital. Currently the Party is stagnating – polling lower than it did at the time of the GE. A new direction and effort is required to change this – if the Party is not to become extinct.

  • Ryan McAlister 25th Jan ’16 – 5:45pm………….A good article………..The hairshirt brigade will be here soon to talk you down, mind…………….

    No hair shirts…Just don’t open the subject

    After the tuition fees debacle the party (and many on LDV) kept repeating how good the new system was….The way it still haunts us should say it all…

    As my mother used to tell me, when I ended up with scabbed knees, “If you pick it, It’ll never heal”…

  • As someone who voted for David Laws in 2010, but didn’t in 2015, on account of the Coalition, I would welcome a visit from David and would be fascinated to hear him in person tell me why the Coalition was such a good thing. I can think of nothing more likely to win my vote back in 2020. Such a good thing in fact, I can see no reason Clegg isn’t brought back as leader.

    “ours must be the next incoming tide” Paging King Canute.

  • Simon McGrath 25th Jan '16 - 9:55pm

    Good stuff. and it would help if some LDs stopped constantly talking down the coalition.

  • Peter Watson 25th Jan '16 - 10:09pm

    “We looked around and saw that the two major parties are seriously divided at a time when we are united.”
    In case there was any doubt, this thread instantly disproved that assertion.
    Even in its greatly diminished state, the Lib Dem party is divided between those who believe Coalition was worth it and those saying “I told you so”. And the biggest policy divide between the two factions often appears to be around economic policy, particularly the role of privatisation, competition and market forces. While both sides are closer to the centre than Corbyn’s Labour party or Cameron’s Conservatives, they still appear to be diametrically opposed with each side accusing the other of being in the wrong party.

  • It would be good to see the withheld report that analyses the cause of the virtual demise of the Party – so that some facts can be established and reasoned judgements made – before it is too late.

  • We certainly need something dramatic and very soon. But it can’t be all Coalition was good and it can’t be all coalition was bad. There was good and bad, but on balance the voters told us it was bad, and they won’t even start to listen to us until we acknowledge that fact. Currently Tim’s strategy has been work hard and it will come good eventually. The problem is that it isn’t coming good and the current downward drift means we can’t wait for eventually.

    As I said to both Tim and Norman at the hustings, they were both trying to become leader a year too late. However, they both decided to do nothing after the May 2014 disaster and they have to lie on that bed now. The question is do any of our senior members have any idea how to get us out of this mess.

  • Katherine writes a positive article and those who disagree with elements , can you please stop the n, no, no attitude to a member trying to show ways ahead ?! No single person in this party cannot admit mistakes were made , but any member coming out with the sort of bile heaped on participants in our leadership really need to see how alienating it is as people try for unity . I have never heard anything as ludicrous and odd and filled with blame ,than the idea put forward of a special conference for leaders of our own party to mire themselves in shame , I think some of the Clegg haters are resembling the sort of cultural revolution elements in former eastern block era . After that , as for the idea that those members on the more classically economic liberal wing might be better off elsewhere , what hypocrisy from people who loathed that those on the right of the party have on occasion suggested left wing social liberals might be better off in another party ! As someone in the centre of the party , to the left of Liberal Reform , to the right of Social Liberal Forum , I welcome a range of viewpoints , that IS Liberalism . And it includes Katherine s welcome views above !

  • P. S. Why also insult members from the social democrat strand of our party , trying to attract people who are moderates in Labour, for example, by yet again this stuff about only being the Liberal party redux, changing the name negates that contribution , and baffles those of us , and we are many , who are as keen Democrats , as we are Liberals !!!

  • Great article Katharine! Couldn’t agree more. We should absolutely be saying equal marriage, renewables, shared parental leave (or what I call Swinson leave!), the pupil premium – ALL US. And the things the Tories are now doing – ideological cuts, destroying the unions, risking our place in Europe, refusing all but a handful of refugees – sum up what they are like when not moderated. And Labour are a shambles!

    Maoist self-criticism, on the other hand, will get us NOWHERE!

  • Ian Hurdley 26th Jan '16 - 8:14am

    Katherine, I’m with you. But I would put a different spin on it, spin being so popular these days. The truth which is not getting across is that we are not getting new Tory policies; we are finally being hit with the original policies which we worked hard to block when in coalition.
    Essentially, as each piece of doctrinaire legislation comes forward, our message should be along the lines: You could have had all this inflicted on you five years ago without us. I’m not a media man, so sadly I can’t point to how we get the media to listen.

  • It is certainly a bit odd to learn that David Raw and John Roffey consider that our party name is “just a label”, when for the vast majority of us, whether we call ourselves “preamble Liberals” or, more boringly, Liberal Democrats, the fact that we are Liberals with a capital L is at the very roots of our political beliefs.

  • Ian Hurdley 26th Jan '16 - 8:26am

    Of the ‘Told you so’ brigade, I would ask this. In 2010, faced with a result which showed a clear rejection of the outgoing Labour government, a very qualified endorsement of the Tory Party and the customary squeeze of the Lib Dems (We lost seats, if you remember), taken together with a clearly stated policy before the election, that we would look at the results and make a decision which reflected the will of the voters, what would you have done in 2010?

  • n Hurdley 26th Jan ’16 – 8:26am………………Of the ‘Told you so’ brigade, I would ask this. In 2010, faced with a result which showed a clear rejection of the outgoing Labour government, a very qualified endorsement of the Tory Party and the customary squeeze of the Lib Dems (We lost seats, if you remember), taken together with a clearly stated policy before the election, that we would look at the results and make a decision which reflected the will of the voters, what would you have done in 2010?………..

    I just love the ‘Told you so” jibe…Many of us on here spent 5 years ‘telling you so” but you wouldn’t listen…
    As for ‘qualified endorsement’??????? Cameron couldn’t win a majority against the most unpopular government and leader in UK history that is NO endorsement…Compare that with Blair’s 1997 victory when twice as many seats changed hands…

    As for the coalition…I was against it and would have preferred allowing Cameron to form a minority government with LibDem support on a ‘policy by policy’ basis…

    However, when the coalition was formed I was more than prepared to support it…That support was short lived; the NHS “agreement” showed what was going to happen…

    Let me ask you…Given that the coalition was the ‘only game in town’, How would you have specifically handled the Tory proposals on “NHS reorganisation, change in tuition fees, bedroom tax and the secret courts issues?

  • Peter Watson 26th Jan '16 - 9:18am

    @Ian Hurdley “what would you have done in 2010?”
    What the party did in 2010 is not the problem. What it did over the next 5 years is.

    It would be contradictory to support a minor party like the Lib Dems, to campaign for electoral reform, and then to reject Coalition on principle. Perhaps outside Government Lib Dems could have held the Conservatives to account more effectively as a minority government than as a coalition partner. Or perhaps not, we’ll never know.

    However, accepting going into Coalition does not mean accepting that Lib Dems played their hand well. Disappointingly for a party that should have been better prepared than any other, it lost its identity, associated itself with positions it previously opposed, lost support, did not acknowledge the views/advice/experience of many members and supporters, etc. Perhaps through a misguided approach to collective responsibility, Lib Dems in Government publicly supported Coalition policy and right up to the election in 2015 did not give the impression that behind the scenes they were moderating the Conservatives, so subsequent claims that “the good bits were ours, the bad bits were theirs” ring hollow.

  • Paul In Wokingham 26th Jan '16 - 10:09am

    We’ve been round this so many times and it’s the worst kind of navel-gazing introspection: all the arguments are well-rehearsed. Regardless of who was right and who was wrong in 2014, the fact is that the Liberal Democrats are where they are: on the cusp of obliteration as a meaningful national political movement.

    Rather than pointing fingers at each other as the party sinks into oblivion, or trumpeting each win on a parish council as though it were Crosby all over again, perhaps it would be useful if we could see the report into what went wrong last year and use it as a starting point for a meaningful debate on how to ensure the long-term survival and success of the only party that represents the values and aspirations of Liberals.

  • Simon Shaw 26th Jan ’16 – 9:49am……[email protected]…..etc…

    Simon, as always you ignore the substance of posts and indulge in semantics…… As for the advice that “most of the rest of us simply disagreed with it.”…Our 8 Mps are the culmination of YOU, and those like you, who thought that ‘rocking the boat’ was a bigger problem than “full steam ahead in the wrong direction”…

    I’ve said before trying to have any dialogue with you is like ‘wrestling fog’ .. So I won’t waste any more of my ‘three lives’ responding…

  • @ Hugh p “It is certainly a bit odd to learn that David Raw and John Roffey consider that our party name is “just a label”, when for the vast majority of us, whether we call ourselves “preamble Liberals” or, more boringly, Liberal Democrats, the fact that we are Liberals with a capital L is at the very roots of our political beliefs.”

    I think you misread me Hugh. I think the name Liberal has a long held identity going back into the mists of time for which I have great affection. It does signify more than just a label.

    I meant to say that to LIBERAL PARTY would be an effective re-branding – BUT – providing it was linked to a radical left of centre policy programme which I remember so well from the days of Jo Grimond. What came across in the Coalition time after time was weak kneed caving in to the Tories.

    Somebody else states : “Oh, I think people listened, it’s just that with at least 43 different bits of conflicting, mutually incompatible “advice” most of the rest of us simply disagreed with it”. Well the outcome – 3% in many cases where we’d been on 20% plus – that’s not “many of us” – whether listening or (as I suspect) not.

    I don’t equate “43 different bits of conflicting, mutually incompatible “advice” “- as a radical left of centre policy stance.

    The coalition would have been more acceptable if the Party in parliament had pursued a firm Liberal line on so many of the issues like the NHS, Welfare reform and Austerity. If Tim – and he needs time – can’t get us to that place then I’m afraid it’s curtains for a great historical political tradition.

  • @Simon Shaw 26th Jan ’16 – 9:49am

    “Oh, I think people listened, it’s just that with at least 43 different bits of conflicting, mutually incompatible “advice” most of the rest of us simply disagreed with it.”

    Quite right, too. How was one to make sense of the inherent contradictions between those who wanted us to get rid of Clegg today vs those who argued for tomorrow, and those who even suggested we get rid of him by next week. One minute he was accused of destroying our prospects at the next election; the next for ever and ever. They just couldn’t make their minds up.

  • Below I have provided a first draft of a recommendation on how the Party might make a fresh start. If any one would like to help improve this – I would welcome their contribution. However, please note – I will not respond to negative comments that are not accompanied with a positive alternative:

    One of the problems of having a divided party is that, with everyone defending their own position – it makes it difficult to stand back and decide what are the real priorities for the UK today and what a small party can do to meet these needs with minimal resources, limited media exposure and faced with an extremely turbulent world.

    Looking at TF’s priorities, understandably, they do seem to be heavily influenced by the background of the MPs he has available to him – but, I fear, there is no clear overall strategy.

    One of the biggest problems facing TF is that he, and his MPs, cannot cover all of the issues currently filling other politicians and the media’s minds at present. This does seriously present the danger of issues being dealt with superficially rather than in depth. I would argue that TF’s main priority, at present, is to find as many issues that he can to ignore, certainly for the time being – and what he cannot. If he can create enough ‘space’ for himself – he can use this time to develop and implement the necessary ‘fresh start’ -perhaps for a year or so.

    The economy is one issue that can never be ignored by any political party as it is at the root of any government’s actions – a strong economy is a fundamental necessity for a governing party to fulfil its duties towards the nation and its people. I would also argue that Climate Change must also be given the highest priority given that since the Paris Conference – where it was acknowledged that the necessary action to reduce global warming must be put in place within the next decade – if global temperatures are to be kept within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels. This is also, coincidentally, an issue that has risen in importance since the coalition and one that the Party had had a good record so can be responded to without too much concern with regard to the Party’s time in government. [continued]

  • We know that the economic outlook is bleak with the Chinese growth, the driver of the global economy in recent years, on the wane. The question is what practical measures can be put in place to minimise the impact of this downturn on the UK. The most obvious way to achieve these improvements is by ensuring that the multinationals do pay their fair share of tax – although this will be difficult to achieve because of their huge power and influence. However, if Climate Change is viewed as a key issue for the Party – this does open the door to other means of benefitting the Exchequer by seeking to reduce ‘food miles’ along with ‘product and service miles’ – taxing or rationing these ‘miles’ should both reduce imports and invigorate local economies. Notably missing, however is an MP who speaks on the economy in the HofC – this seems an issue that needs attention.

    Certainly there is a great need to improve mental health treatment – but also in the NHS generally. However, the likelihood that these will be forthcoming, because of the current pressures on the economy, seem remote. A new approach to these issues seems necessary. Although it is unlikely to be admitted by the Tories, there are very good reasons to believe that both physical and mental illness are caused by stress which many citizens are experiencing as a result of the austerity measures and an excessive concern to keep up-to-date with the latest consumer products – accentuated by corporate success in ensuring that their adverts are visible at every turn. If the issue of health was approached from a psychological stance with the aim of preventing incidents of poor health – rather than curing them once they have taken hold – this would seem a step in the right direction, reducing both suffering and costs. [continued]

  • Basically, to lead a reasonably contented life, the vast majority need secure and adequate accommodation, sufficient food and a job of some interest that provides at least for their basic needs along with some spare time to pursue other interests. I would suggest that these become the basic aims of party policy at this time. It is not surprising that TF has chosen himself within the Campaigning team to be responsible for Housing – it is one of the essential basics that has been woefully neglected by the Tories. What is needed is a significant surge in the land available for secure housing. However, I do not see that the initial constructions need to be anything more than basic – constructions that can be improved at some later date when the finances and time are available. Easily [self erected?] prefabricated homes should be fine – provided that sufficient land is initially made available for later development – the important thing is to provide the housing as soon as possible.

  • Andrew Noblet 26th Jan '16 - 12:28pm

    A brilliant, almost all positive statement which is what we need. Yes, forget about coalition and Clegg. Reflect more on Ashdown and Kennedy, our base of local government and real people with sound common sense who really understand what society needs which may not necessarily be what they want.
    Let the Tories fall into that trap!

  • olano 26th Jan ’16 – 11:43am………… How was one to make sense of the inherent contradictions between those who wanted us to get rid of Clegg today vs those who argued for tomorrow, and those who even suggested we get rid of him by next week. One minute he was accused of destroying our prospects at the next election; the next for ever and ever. They just couldn’t make their minds up………

    There were NO real contradictions…The thrust of our argument, from the NHS ‘agreement’ on, was for Clegg to distance himself from the Tories. After the first disastrous showings in local elections it was clear that we were seen as Tory-lite but our leadership continued to support Tory policies that were the exact opposite on what we promised in 2010….
    As far as Clegg goes, until Stephen Tall ( May 2014) called for Clegg to step down, I don’t remember any clamour for his head…….2014 was his time, when 40% of LibDems wanted him to go, to admit he had become a liability rather than an asset. However, there was no appetite, among party’s ‘great and good’, for his removal and so we limped into 2015….

    What is so depressing is that, after all that has happened, there are so many who believe that re-opening the “We should be proud of our time in coalition” argument, will do anything other than remind voters of why they deserted us in droves….

    I don’t want ‘conferences’; I don’t want apologies; I don’t want Clegg to resign from the party…
    What I want is us to draw a veil over 2010-15; Clegg to keep a low profile and to use what little media attention we get to oppose this 2015-20 government…

  • John Roffey 26th Jan '16 - 1:17pm

    Andrew Noblet 26th Jan ’16 – 12:28pm

    Thanks for your kind comment Andrew.

    I have spent most of the morning writing the piece – so am going ‘off duty’ for a couple of hours. If anyone should wish to suggest any improvements please do so – but I will not respond during that time.

  • AC Trussell 26th Jan '16 - 2:12pm

    It is the Media that gives the public, most- if not practically all! of their information, and instills; like Pavlov’s dog, the view and reaction that (the public) will take. Of course they have had it in for the Lib/Dems from the start.
    The coverage by the red & blue media was so good and insidiously and relentlessly plastered on headlines and interviews that even most LibDems believe it!
    It is as though the nature of events conspired to keep a Liberal, pragmatic and empathetic Party out of power for ever!
    It would be a useful way of getting some effective “truth” out to people; if there are some well-constructed (a good headline and a picture) with short explanations, that can be posted directly to Facebook. These could be explaining the past if necessary- but definitely some good ideas for the future.
    I often see good stories- with no quick way to share. No one else is going to tell anything like the truth about the Lib/Dems.

  • Nigel Jones 26th Jan '16 - 2:53pm

    When are we going to get the report on what went wrong in 2015 ??
    When are we going to stop Nick Clegg making media headlines ? this happened last week in our local newpaper letters page and it was presented in an extremely negative way for us.

  • Reading the comments of the ‘Grown up’ politics brigade I now fully understand the bind the party is in. The days of 4th and 5th place are now here I think the Lib Dems are finished and you have nobody to blame but yourselves. Scotland Sheffield Manchester Liverpool London etc will reward you in May. Poor Tim how was he ever going to set things right. Awful.

  • I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting we abandon all from the coalition nor do we cite it all as a massive success. My main issue is that, when I ask people what the Lib Dem’s stand for I do not hear anything that you could not also attribute to the other two (including the hypocrite/liar/etc. insults).

    The policy of being a brake on the Tories is completely non-sensical. If we say without us they are ‘evil’ etc. people ask why were we in bed with them. I am yet to hear a satisfactory answer (vague notions of national interest, a bigger rejection of Gordon Brown, being ‘grown up’) to this after 5 years.

    Tim’s biggest success so far was being ahead of the curve with stating that migrants are people and not a swarm and fully opposing tax credit cuts. There are opportunities (Google and tax anyone) for a ‘radical’ alternative to sweetheart deals and squeezing pips but are we offering these?

  • The Lib Dems did many good things while in coalition and it’s vitally important for those who support the party and/or voting reform to highlight this fact. Of course there were also moments when the Lib dems fell short or got it wrong to the conservatives getting it right and our future leaders should be prepared to discuss those moments too if we want to seen as leaders.

  • I agree with those who have said that the report on what went wrong in 2015 must be made public. We believe in open government and we must walk our talk. Until that happens most of us will be blowing about in the storm of accusations and blame based on personal opinions.
    I agree that saying we are proud of Coalition is the wrong thing to do but I did not understand from Katharine’s article that she was saying that. Surely we should tell the public about the things we achieved in our literature etc. However, we should also seek to explain why we were forced to agree with indefensible policies like the bedroom tax. I think Katharine is right that we should refute both Tory and Labour stories about Coalition and present our own case. Now we are out of Coalition and able to rebut their accusations we should do so.
    I am so glad that TF has focused on housing because in my view neither the Tories nor Labour during their long time in power did anything significant to improve the supply of affordable housing. We can attack them both on their record as long as we are prepared for Labour to attack us yet again on the bedroom tax and are ready with a simple but effective defence.
    At the moment the party is still considering how the it should change its structures, how the Lib Dems are relevant today (it’s freedom stupid as Bill Clinton might say) how we can operate with only 8 MPs and how members can play a more active part in the party. There are some good signs that change is coming and that out of this disaster a party that is stronger and receives more support than it did before coalition will emerge. We need this time of introspection before we can fight back properly so don’t let’s get depressed about the inevitable lack of publicity at the moment and consequent low rating in the polls.
    We are all passionate about our party but no one individual or group ever has total truth and right on their side. There is much hurt and anger around and we WILL disappear from national politics as some fear if we carry on insulting each other instead of attacking the selfish Tories and riven Labour Party when they produce policies and ideas we know to be wrong.

  • @Simon shaw

    Might I suggest that if you ignored the advice of those now saying “I told you so” because you had 43 other bits of advice and weighted those different bit of advice equally your political judgement might be seriously lacking and that the correct course might be to listen to those who were proven right?

    Also, you can’t compare cleggs unpopularity to corbyn. Corbyn still has support from his base. Clegg destroyed his.

  • Peter Watson 26th Jan '16 - 10:23pm

    @Sue S “how the Lib Dems are relevant today (it’s freedom stupid as Bill Clinton might say)”
    But what sort of “freedom”?
    The Conservatives and UKIP might claim that removing red tape and rolling back the state gives people freedom to compete and succeed. Labour, Greens and SNP might claim that more intervention by a protective state gives people freedom from exploitation. From the outside, this distinction appears to be an important part of the divide between two wings of the Lib Dems.
    Perhaps it would be better if the party does not try to define itself in terms of principles, e.g. “freedom”, “liberalism”, etc. and hope that obvious policies will roll out from that starting point since there is often disagreement on what those terms mean. Perhaps instead the party should highlight how each policy it advocates contributes to the aims and ideals of the preamble. Some policies might be more welcome to those on left or those on the right, but if they all demonstrably and directly contribute to ensuring that “no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”, etc. then they may still have a consistency that defies left-right categorisation.

  • Why anyone continues to debate with Simon Shaw is beyond me. He is part of the Lib Dem bubble and no matter what you say and how loud you say it he will NEVER admit he was wrong. Even after the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, 8MPs, 1MEP, losses of 1,000s of councillors, languishing in the polls, etc he still won’t admit he and the LD leadership got it spectacularly wrong. He engages in petty semantics and nit picking over every comment from anyone who dares to disagree with him or poses an opposite view. I remember his bold assumption that LDs would gain 30 odd MPs in the election. That is now never mentioned. I now read his comments with humour because I simply know no one is listening to him any more.

  • @expats 26th Jan ’16 – 1:14pm

    Apologies – I wasn’t being serious.

    Much as I understand entirely your points, Clegg won’t keep a low profile. Clegg and the Cleggies won’t draw a veil over 2010-2015: it’s a legacy thing. As a consequence, the party won’t recover much of the ground lost in 2015 because the majority of voters who withdrew their support won’t reconnect until the party acknowledges why they withdrew their support. It’ll be a face-off, that only the party can lose. The easiest part-solution would be for Clegg to stand down now, because he can’t hide in such a small parliamentary party. I suspect he’ll go in 2020, but by that point the party will be in the same situation as it is now, neither repudiating nor denying 2010-2015. I expect roughly the same number of MPs to be returned then (maybe one or two more). I think a lot of the post-2015 new members will have gone by that point in response to the lack of growth. I think facing up to things now would be bloody, but it would probably speed the longterm recovery.

  • Peter Watson I think we agree if you think of freedom as the opposite of slavery then the preamble would read freedom from poverty, ignorance or conformity. I think there is also an aspect of freedom for the little guy who doesn’t belong to a powerful group. I still remember David Penhaligon standing up for Cornish tin miners when Labour was only concerned with powerful workforces such as Yorkshire and Welsh miners.
    I would be very happy if the party used the preamble to test policies for consistency as you suggest.

  • Now and in the future Tuition is never going to be free for everyone. Even in the days of student grants there were some on minimum grant and only a few on full grant. Bedroom tax? Well there once was a window tax. It wasn’t a tax as such. The problem is a lack of suitable social housing into which to move people.
    There are lessons to be learnt from the coalition, the main one is how governments actually work. I expect there will be talk again of coalitions in three years time.If electoral reform to Westminster elections comes about coalitions will be the norm. Maybe the British will learn coalitions can bring about stability and prosperity as in other countries.

  • Bolano 27th Jan ’16 – 12:01am…………[email protected] 26th Jan ’16 – 1:14pm………….Apologies – I wasn’t being serious…………..

    No problem…It’s just becoming more and more difficult to sort ‘fact from farce’…
    It just seems, at least to me, so obvious that a period that saw the loss of hundreds of hard working councillors, 8 MEPs and almost 50 MPs should be looked upon as anything more than a disaster….
    Trying to highlight the ‘good’ will mean raking up all the ‘bad’ and, as you say, “only the party can lose.”….

  • Nelson Mandela understood that if you don’t acknowledge past mistakes, talk them through honestly and reach a resolution, then you will become trapped in your own past. We too need Truth and Reconciliation before we can move on.

    Labour’s inquest has been slammed for its timidity, but at least they have published one. It is time we did the same.

  • Sue S: I agree with all you said.
    Peter Watson: I think that both “Freedoms” are possible; it’s- as usual: a question of balance; which is something that a lot of people cannot get their heads round. Also:
    ” Perhaps instead the party should highlight how each policy it advocates contributes to the aims and ideals of the preamble.” I agree with you. This is vital to give the general direction of the Party to the ill-informed.

    I think that Nick Clegg was a good leader, and would have made an excellent PM. Very few people actually watched all his speeches- so never really knew his thinking.
    I wonder what the people that keep insulting him because of the decision in 2010 and the results of 2015 would have done?
    In 2010 we were supposed to be in a financial emergency. So spending extra billions on fees was perhaps a bit reckless?
    Also, 19million people voted for parties that were going follow the Brown report and increase student fees! I think (not sure) one party said £12,000 and the other said no-limit!
    The “bedroom tax” was brought in too quick. It should have only applied to new claims and where there was alternative, suitable property.

    The public AND the bias Media(on purpose) refuse to try and understand how and why; in coalition ,it is impossible to act as if you have won.

  • I did write above [with regard to increasing tax revenue]:

    “The most obvious way to achieve these improvements is by ensuring that the multinationals do pay their fair share of tax – although this will be difficult to achieve because of their huge power and influence.”

    However, apparently there was a ‘whistle blower’ [which I had not picked up] Guardian 13.06.13:

    Google tax whistleblower says he was motivated by Christian beliefs
    Barney Jones says he has no regrets even though speaking out on Google’s tax affairs may have damaged his career

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jun/12/google-tax-whistleblower-christian-beliefs

    The Mail has picked up the story after the condemnation of how small Google’s prior tax payment was [and Osborne’s acclaim!] with a comment from the whistle blower].

    Google whistleblower who gave 100,000 emails to HMRC ‘proving’ the tech giant does business in the UK slams its ‘trivial’ £130m tax bill

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3418821/Google-whistleblower-gave-100-000-emails-HMRC-slams-tech-giant-s-trivial-130m-tax-bill-PM-s-ex-aide-Steve-Hilton-admits-big-businesses-law.html#ixzz3yRmLvS1d

    With a comment from Max Hastings:

    MAX HASTINGS: Google’s tax deal is made even dirtier by the way George and Dave suck up to their tech giant chums

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3418436/MAX-HASTINGS-Google-s-tax-deal-dirtier-way-George-Dave-suck-tech-giant-chums.html#ixzz3yRmoZRXE

    This does seem to be a story that the Party should follow up in the HofC – even with its limited resources – because if much of the back tax could be recovered – the austerity measures could be far less austere.

    I suppose if NC were put on this case and he could recover billions in tax from Google and the other big offenders – Starbucks, Amazon, Apple etc – it might be one way he could restore his reputation.

  • I understand that Simon Shaw is a Chartered accountant – his help I am sure would be readily given and would be invaluable to NC – if he does take on the task.

  • John Roffey 27th Jan '16 - 2:21pm

    I see that this is now news headlines [BBC]. NC and DA were at the very heart of this issue and would know more than anyone if Osborne & Cameron did deliberately give special allowances to these giant corporations.

    Surely the Party would not wish ‘aiding global corporations to avoid tax’ to be its legacy!

  • John Roffey 27th Jan '16 - 5:29pm

    Oddly, another of the Coalition’s legacies is in the news today – the Bedroom Tax with disabled people’s carers describing the impact of having to live with the stress of not knowing whether or not the ‘special payments’, which are discretionary, will continued to be paid. This has arisen today because the Court of Appeal has decided the tax is discriminatory in the cases which where appealed.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35418488

    Some very troubling stories are being presented by these carers, and others, who just want to know that their Housing Benefit is their entitlement – not something that can be taken away at any time. Haven’t these people got enough to deal with?

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jan '16 - 11:21am

    A stimulating debate, thank you contributors. On the Coalition, I think we must not forget it, if only because the public won’t and because we may well join another in 2020. I agree with D.J.’s view that many good things were done and we should highlight them, while being prepared to discuss moments of failure too. The good things, as my constituency newsletter says, include no tax on earnings below £10,500, the pupil premium, the Green Deal and equal priority for mental health. On what’s gone wrong since, we focused on the Tories’ ‘inequality agenda’ and the retreat on climate change deals. As for priority concerns, staying in the EU is a big one, and there we have most unity. Towards the future manifesto, I like John Roffey’s ideas of focusing on economic policy, climate change, mental health, and action on housing.
    I’d ask you all again, to get out there and contact people, and certainly it should be through social media as well as by putting leaflets through doors. But one last thought. I believe in these five years we need above all to plant an idea in people’s minds and hearts. The idea, or image, is that the Liberal Democrats were and are a good thing for our country: mature and moderating in the Coalition, steady and progressive in our stances since. That isn’t false, it’s part of what we are, and it’s appropriate now because these are in many ways frightening times.

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