James Graham leaves the Liberal Democrats

Winner of the 2007 Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year award, James Graham has announced he has resigned from the Liberal Democrats.

Writing on his blog, Quaequam Blog!, under the title “Pressing reset”, James says:

Last night I formally resigned as a member of the Liberal Democrats, effective immediately. To answer some likely questions:

1) No, I’m not joining another party. As if.
2) No, I’m not making a protest or resigning because of a specific issue.
3) No, I’m not planning to write a self-aggrandising article about my personal reasons for resigning, at least not this week (and when I do I’ll try my best to keep the self-aggrandising to a minimum).
4) Yes, I’m planning to continue this blog.
5) Yes, I might well come back. Then again, I might not.

I’d just like to add my thanks and appreciation to my friends who have been so understanding, and in particular to the Social Liberal Forum council and exec team who I am, frankly, leaving in the lurch.

Onwards and upwards.

LibDemVoice thanks James for his unique and passionate voice in the party over the many years he has been a valued member, wishes him the very best for the future and hopes we will be seeing him back in the party in the near future.

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  • Paul Pettinger 5th Mar '12 - 1:48pm

    Very sad news; the idiots are winning 🙁

  • Tony Greaves 5th Mar '12 - 2:06pm

    “I am resigning and issuing a public announcement.”
    ” I’m not making a protest.”
    “I might come back” [when the rest of you have dug in and beavered away with time and energy to sort out the problems].


    Tony Greaves

  • Unlike Tony Greaves above, I do not mock any member’s decision to resign from the party; especially not one as evidently intelligent and gifted as James Graham. I hope he does come back.

  • Nikki Thomson 5th Mar '12 - 2:42pm

    I agree with Paul – the lunatics are taking control of this party. James has resigned, other Lib Dems are undoubtedly thinking about whether they belong in this party any more. I happen to be one of them.

    Tony, it’s not about letting other people sort out the problems. My issue is that too many members seem to believe there aren’t any problems to sort out; and that makes me wonder whether it’s the party that’s changed, or me.

  • Christine Headley 5th Mar '12 - 4:57pm

    I agree with Tony. One can always climb down quietly from the ramparts to refuel, but quitting just makes it harder for the rest of us and makes the way for a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’s not ‘mocking’ James, but hitting the nail on the head (as always).

    I do not see any difference in the Party I mix with, post May 2010. This obviously reflects my friends and the fringe meetings I attend, but I don’t think there need be any cause for terminal pessimism, unless everybody who is right-thinking jumps ship. I said from the beginning that the Coalition would end in tears, but I admit that this phase is infinitely worse than I thought. But I’m damned if I’m going to give it on a plate to the Tories or the Labour party.

  • David Allen 5th Mar '12 - 5:21pm

    Sad news, in particular because it looks as if a very able campaigner just can’t see a viable way forward at present. Well, James has tried very hard to get things changed by working as a critical supporter of the Coalition, whereas I am one of those people who has opposed the Coalition. I sincerely hope that such tactical differences have not created problems and weakened the forces of social liberalism, though I fear that they may have done. As to whether it is better (or morally superior) to tilt at the windmill with Liberal Left and seek the chance of bringing the whole sorry edifice crashing to the ground, or to lobby quietly with SLF for smaller changes and adaptations but with a much higher chance of actually achieving them right now, who can say?

    In my view, we’re all working towards similar ends, and those are, to stop the idiots winning! Never say it’ll never happen. What goes around comes around. Take that from an old opponent of Dr David Owen who had to watch him bask in the limelight for years – and also watched his eventual defeat by the Monster Raving Loonies some years later!

  • paul barker 5th Mar '12 - 5:56pm

    James Graham has left because hes lost the argument, 2/3rds of the Party back the current policy. I think he is kidding himself about coming back later, generally people who drop out of Party Politics stay out. I think members who feel like him should just wait for a bit, they might be wrong.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 5th Mar '12 - 6:02pm

    I agree with Nikki.
    When it came to deciding whether to go out campaigning for last year’s local elections, I asked myself (a) “do I still consider the LibDems worthy of this effort? “(b)”Can I honestly think of any good reason for urging someone else to vote for this Party?” (c) ” Are there better things that I could do with my time?”
    The answers to (a ) and (b) were “no”. The answer to (c) was “yes”.
    When my subscription became due last June, I asked myself (a) “Do I want to give this money to the LibDems?” (b) “Could this money be put to better use elsewhere?” The answer to (a) was “no”. The answer to (b) was “yes”.
    To those who are still grappling with similar questions, I offer one glimmer of hope: the one good thing about banging your head against a brick wall is that you do start to feel a little better after you stop.

  • I first actively worked for the Liberals in 1966 when we lost our deposit in Hereford! Over the years I have seen the Party’s fortunes rise and fall but I have stuck with the Party through thick and thin because I believe that fundamentally its heart is in the right place. Every time I look at the alternatives, whether it be the Tories, the Labour Party, or more recently the Greens, I realise that that are strong elements with these parties with whom I could never feel at home, even if on some specific issues I might share their views. Historically, if I was forced to choose between Labour and the Tories inclined towards Labour because on social issues it seemed to me that there were more members of that Party, and in particular more MPs of that Party, who were inclined to share my views. However that has changed, in that I think there are just as many Tory MPs who are socially progressive as there are Labour MPs – let us not forget that the Labour Government of 1997-2010 produced Home Secretaries who were more right wing than the likes of Douglas Hurd or Ken Clarke. This is why I support the Coalition, and will continue to do so even though I may be unhappy with specific policies. Looking back to 2001 and 2005 I wonder whether in reality many of those who joined the Party then were mere fair weather friends, disillusioned with the Labour Government, but no more genuine supporters of Liberal ideals than the Tory voters of Orpington who in the 1960s turned against their Government but eventually returned to the Tory fold.

  • Ruth Bright 5th Mar '12 - 6:39pm

    A great shame, but James Graham presumably (like most of us) is a volunteer and has no obligation to continue if he feels burnt-out or demotivated.

  • While I regret, as others do, that James Graham has decided to leave our party, his resignation does focus attention on what the options are for those who are disenchanted with our party’s current political position. No Liberal/Liberal Democrat can surely find any intellectual reason for joining either the Labour party – profoundly conservative in its underlying attitudes (as exemplified by David Blunkett and Jack Straw on its right, and by various trade union leaders on its left), undemocratic in its structures, opportunist in its opposition to policies which it itself supported in government – or the Conservative party – profoundly conservative in its underlying attitudes, undemocratic in its structures, insular in its views on Europe and on non-English speaking countries generally, too forgiving towards the rich and not keen enough on assisting the disadvantaged. That leaves the Green Party, still an organisation of impractical idealists ; the various Nationalist parties (not a home for those of us who are not Scottish, Welsh, Irish or Cornish) ; and the Liberal Party, a pitifully small organisation with the merest handful of councillors, and no prospect of parliamentary representation.
    It ought to be a fairly straightforward conclusion for all of us that the Liberal Democrat Party, whatever its faults, is the least worst option.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 5th Mar '12 - 7:57pm

    hugh p, I think, provides an answer to Oranjepan’s search for an explanation as to “why the cynical tendency to discourage direct engagement with party politics still exists”. Apparently the best reason that hugh p can find for supporting the Liberal Democrat Party is the somewhat dubious claim that it is “the least worst” of a pretty dismal bunch. What an inspiring call to arms!

  • Richard Dean 5th Mar '12 - 10:51pm

    What does “onwards and upwards” mean?

  • David White 6th Mar '12 - 3:33pm

    James Graham has my sympathies. Indeed, I empathise with him. As a supporter of the Liberals since soon after returning from Africa in the late 1970s (and, until today, a twice-elected councillor), I find it very difficult to work for a party that, for example, offers ANY support to the cruel nonsense of the Tory NHS Privatisation Bill! And our Westminster Masters are still ambivalent (at best) about the stupid notion of Son of Trident.

    Like the admirable Mr Graham, I won’t know where to go, politically, if I resign from our party – MY party! I admit, freely, that I’m on the left of the LibDems: on the doorstep, I’ve told punters that I’m on the anarcho-syndicalist wing of our precious political party.

    But, rather more seriously, it appears that few (none?) of todays LD Gaffers wish to build on the foundations of socio-economic decency which were laid by Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith, Lloyd George, Churchill and Beveridge. Post-1945, Attlee, Bevin, Bevan, Thomas, Cripps, et al added several robust storeys to the frail edifice. Since 1979, successive governments, of no matter which political hue, have been bent upon destroying that which is most precious to those Britons who use their time and intellect to reflect upon such things: social and health security.

    We LibDems should be ashamed of any of our Gaffers who offer support to the frightful Cameron/Osborne extreme right-wing project.

    OK guys and gals?

  • I am not commenting on James Graham’s resignation – his somewhat enigmatic comments give little clue to his reasoning. Rather am I commenting on the tenor of many of the posts from those who either have left or are agonising about leaving.

    I do think there is a strong element of discomfort at the realities of being a junior party in a coalition. How much more comfortable opposition can feel – however impotent. Three things stand out for me –

    1. Junior membership of a coalition is the only crack at implementation of any of our policies the Lib Dems will get in the lifetime of most of us.

    2. It would be no easier with Labour – perhaps more difficult.

    3. It is a hell of a lot better than opposition by any meaningful assessment – as distinct fromn personal comfort.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 7th Mar '12 - 11:49am

    What I want to know is what song Tony Greaves is now humming? It sounds rather different from his past tunes.

  • How, exactly do those leaving/considering leaving the party think we would get into Government if not by being the junior partner in a coalition with another large party whose policies by and large we don’t exactly agree with? How long have we extolled the German Free Democrats, for so long almost permament coalition members. People, real life and real politics is about compromise. “The art of the possible” remember?

  • Neil Bradbury, Moggy (Catermole?) – Amen to that.

  • “How, exactly do those leaving/considering leaving the party think we would get into Government…”

    The party I joined had (and still has) very specific aims stated in the constitution. “Getting into government” is not one of them. It is, of course, one of many possible means to our stated ends, but not the only one. I would imagine that most of us agonising about our position see the whole problem with this coalition is that this distinction has been muddied and that “getting into government” has overridden some of the principles we hold dear.

    Furthermore, “getting into government” is not the same as “staying in government”, which is presumably more important, and will be infinitely harder for a generation as a result of the actions of this coalition.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 7th Mar '12 - 4:58pm

    Julia – Amen to that!

    Neil Bradbury – I first joined the Liberal Party in 1962 so please do not count me as one who accepts that “an argument is lost as soon as some poll or election” (or, indeed some Liberal Assembly (remember those?) or LibDem Conference debate) ends with me on the losing side.
    But I cannot go along with those who seem to believe that any coalition or morsel of power is better than none.
    I’m sorry to say it , but I find the current government as mean-spirited, right wing and, yes, illiberal as those of Thatcher and Major (not that I consider Major to be all bad; I greatly enjoyed his book “More Than A Game” on the early years of cricket) and it saddens and disgusts me to see Liberal Democrat MPs providing Cameron with the numbers he needs in order to push through a series of policies which, in any other circumstance,, they would be opposing. That is why I have left the party and joined the ranks of the politically homeless.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 7th Mar '12 - 5:07pm

    Sorry, jumped a line in posting the above “-Neil Bradbury” should read “- Simon Banks”: apologies to both.

  • So we don’t like this coalition, we want a hypothetical one which gives us all we want, but isn’t actually available, or we want to join one with Labour which would have to be supported all sorts of odds and ends, and still end up trying to conduct much the same economic policy? Or of course we could say we’re not playing at all and sit on the back benches in our ineffective purity. Politics is a mucky imprecise infuriating business. If we are ever to be taken seriously by the public at large as a party that can actually manage and use power, we have to accept that.

  • Nigel Quinton 7th Mar '12 - 7:32pm

    James – Very sorry to hear of your resignation. I hope we will see you back soon.

    I was even sadder to see some of the negative comments above in response to your leaving. I’ve no idea why you have left, as you don’t elaborate, but there are many I know and respect who have already left because they cannot be part of a party that has allowed this government to make such negative steps in respect of education and health especially. And that does not mean they would prefer to be in “safe opposition” or are unrealistic about the constraints of coalition. It’s just that they feel the sacrifices our leadership are making in support of the coalition are too great and/or misguided.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 7th Mar '12 - 8:27pm

    “but there are many … who have already left because they cannot be part of a party that has allowed this government to make such negative steps in respect of education and health especially. And that does not mean they would prefer to be in “safe opposition” or are unrealistic about the constraints of coalition. It’s just that they feel the sacrifices our leadership are making in support of the coalition are too great and/or misguided.”

    Thank you, Nigel, spot on.

  • Moggy – amen to that!

    I wish the assorted hand-wringers above would sit down and ask themselves some questions, such as what exactly do they think would have happened if we had not gone into coalition? To help them, I will answer:

    – Cameron would have attempted to govern for a year. There would have been markets chaos and massive interest rate rises. If you think things are bad now, they would have been far far worse.
    – The Tories would have gone to the country saying “the Lib Dems can’t be trusted to govern in the national interest, we offered them a coalition but they walked away from responsibility on petty points like changing the voting system. Give us a majority.”
    – they would have got that majority and we would have been consigned for ever to the wilderness as a bunch of ineffectual purists who wussed it when faced with real responsibility.

    But hey, that’s OK, because our consciences would be clean.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 8th Mar '12 - 1:08pm

    Tabman,, your wish is granted. I, fo r one, did think through the possible / probable consequences of going into the coalition, or not doing so, before I decided to vote against the motion at the Birmingham Conference in May 2010.

    My analysis of the likely consequence of declining Cameron’s offer was somewhat (although not entirely) different to yours. Cameron would have governed with a minority government for a year or so.: probably with LibDem support (but not a coalition) for a limited programme to address the deficit. He would not have been able to embark upon the right-wing programme of alleged reforms which Gove, Lansley et al .are pushing through, because he would not have had the numbers in the H of C to get their legislation through. He would probably have introduced a handful of populist measures and then gone to the country. He would probably have got his majority, but not a landslide, in an election whose results would have probably not been hugely different from that of 2010 (cf 1966 and 1974). He would then have been in a position to introduce his more contentious and right-wing programme (very similar to the one he is pushing through now). LibDems would probably have lost some seats in that election (your guess as to how many is probably as good as mine). But they would then have been in a position to oppose Cameron’s unpopular measures , instead of being trapped into supporting them, and so to win by-elections and probably make some gains in the following general election. And we would have been spared the disastrous AV referendum which has probably put back the cause of electoral reform for at least a generation.

    The “what if” game of re-writing history is enormous fun and we shall, of course, never know whether your scenario or mine is the closer to what would actually have happened. What I can tell you. however, is that the present situation is extremely close to that which I fore-saw as the consequence of going into the coalition and rejected as the less choosable of the two options open to us. And the losses which you would have incurred in a snap election in 2011 or 2012 in both our scenarios are as nothing to those which I expect you to suffer in 2015.

    However we are where we are. The difference between you and I is that you support this government and are therefore happy to remain a member of the Liberal Democrats while I am as opposed to this government as I was those of Heath, Thatcher and Major. and, as such, can no longer feel at home as a member of that party.

  • John Leston 9th Mar '12 - 12:16pm

    @William – There are an increasing number of us who have concluded that we can do less to serve the Tories from outside the Party than from within it ……

  • Jonathan Hunt 9th Mar '12 - 5:47pm

    James: Sorry that you are going. But hope we shall continue to benefit from the high quality of thinking and expression you bring to the political jungle in general, as well as our little corner of it.


  • @rankersbo – so you left effectively to save the party money 🙂

    I hope James will still contribute to this site and generally to the Liberal Democrat cause. I’d be interested to know his reasoning – if it is simply that he wanted to take a break but realised he never could while he was still a member, then that’s something I completely understand and agree with, having thought about it myself on a number of occasions even before 2010!

  • James Graham writes very coherently and clearly. Clearly a well thought of and liked person within the Liberal Democrats. Honourable too with the manner of resignation. It is good that the blog will still continue to run. I will read with interest and try to work out, how he writes so well.

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