Keep the faith: our party should not consider any merger

There is a lot of talk about a possible new centrist party forming, given the deep divisions in the two main parties and the lowly position of the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls.

People can’t seem to decide whether we are more pro-Tory, on the basis of our Coalition involvement, or more pro-Labour, on the basis of our commitment to social justice and community. We have some claim to be different from either of them.

But we lack a cutting edge to seize public imagination. Is that because we don’t have any passionate commitment to good causes? What do we care most about? What makes us tick?

In switching back from demanding action on poverty and inequality to a renewed focus on fighting Brexit, I wondered, why does that seem so natural to me? What links my fervour for Europe with my concern about the increasing hardships endured by fellow citizens today?

Perhaps strangely for a social liberal, I think it is pride in my country.

I am proud of Britain being still at the centre for world affairs: a member of the UN Security Council, able to intervene militarily in the Middle East struggles against evil movements, at the same time donating 0.7% of national income to UN development projects. I am also proud that we have had a place in European history that stretches from sharing Roman civilisation to running an Empire to taking a lead in defeating Nazism and Fascism, and that we are still one of the big players in Europe at a time when the Continent needs to stand up to the big powers of the USA, Russia and China.

Turning to home, I am proud that Britain has the capacity and intention to promote the well-being of every individual citizen; that everyone shares in the NHS, that every child gets free schooling to the age of eighteen, and that all are free to marry whom they like, live together uncensored and worship where they please or not at all. I am proud that we have true democracy with separation of powers, the rule of law, and a free media to scrutinise the powerful.

I am proud but grieved. Troubled that the harmonious society we aim to live in is disturbed by a ruthless capitalism backed by Government which lets the wealthy become wealthier while the poorest don’t have enough to live on. Where ordinary working families have seen their standard of living static for eight years and still struggle to manage with inadequate benefits. Where the older generation sits in comfortable houses while the young can’t find affordable accommodation even to rent. Where boasted ‘full employment’ often means people having to take ill-paid short-term jobs. Sometimes at the mercy of exploitative employers.

The EU, however, has protected workers’ rights and aided the poorest parts of our country, while ensuring high environmental standards, clean air, clean water and safe foodstuffs for all. The EU has fostered democracy throughout Europe, worked with Britain on great industrial projects and scientific developments, arranged worldwide free trade agreements, and secured lasting peace and security for all its citizens. Britain has shared freely in this partnership of like-minded states with a common historical background and culture which have each pooled a bit of sovereignty for their mutual good.

To lose this is tragic. My Britain. My Europe. I’m proud to be European and British. Where Tories scorn and Labour cavils, Liberal Democrats commit. We can never merge with breakaway parts of those failing behemoths which substitute calculation for passion. They can join with us if they share our related ideals: to stay in Europe and to fight for social justice.


* 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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  • Shelagh Hemelryk 6th Apr '18 - 6:09pm

    Agree with the article, but think we must also bear in mind that older people who have worked all their lives, saved for their retirement and for care that they may need, kept their homes going to have something to hand on to their children, should not be considered as ‘rivals’ to the young people for those homes. Also must be born in mind that we do have to pay our way as a country and cannot expect everything to be free without contributing more to example the NHS, which is why your suggestion of small increase on income tax for all is common sense. But keep faith on your principles, don’t let party interest encourage you to make unwise promises, like those of a Corbyn led party, which would ruin the country for future generations.

  • John Marriott 6th Apr '18 - 6:25pm

    Is history really going to repeat Itself? My involvement in politics almost coincides with the founding of the SDP and I can remember the excitement it generated as Lincoln was an SDP designated seat by 1983. However, what did for the SDP/Liberal Alliance was FPTP and it would again if a new centrist party were to emerge.

    I note that both Vince Cable and Nick Clegg have hardly been hostile to the idea, which may take some explaining to Liberal Democrat loyalists. Without voting reform the only party that would benefit from a new kid on the block would be the Tory Party.

  • As much as we hate to admit it, we cannot overturn Brexit ourselves, and to think that we can is to bring a proverbial knife to a gunfight. As unlikely as it may be, a one-time-only coalition of remainers with real bulk, spread, and gravitas will need to unchain from the Tories and Labour, control the next parliament, and oversee a rebalance of the political order as we stay in or rejoin the EU. That, or a second referendum are it as viable scenarios.

  • The UK is able to protect workers’ rights in UK Law we do not need the EU to do this for us.
    After we leave the EU and are we no longer sending over vast sums of money, of which some comes back but it is dictated to on how this money is spent, we will be able fund out own projects in the poorest parts of the country, many of which are the result of our EU membership in the first place, ie once thriving fishing ports and communities.
    Once we are out of the CAP, we will be able to have our own subsidies that rewards farming for environmental standards etc.
    The UK is one of the oldest democracies in the world and helps other countries foster democracy throughout the world.

  • Sorry meant to say at the start of my post.

    There is nothing in your 2nd from last paragraph that the UK can not achieve itself outside of the EU

  • Chris Johnson 6th Apr '18 - 8:59pm

    Matt… vast sums of money to the EU, really???
    Have you had your annual Tax /NI statement for 2016/2017?
    Less then 0.7% of the 34 pence in the pound I paid in goes to the EU budget. Almost Four times as much goes to overseas aid. Almost Five times as much goes to service the repay,ents on National Debt, and so much more goes into the welfare pot. £170 a year of my contributions goes to the EU. I pay twice that amount each month just to get to work to earn those annual contributions.
    With the returns from the EU to poorer regions of the UK, like Cornwall and the Outer Islands of Scotland, The EU is ensuring infrastructure projects that this Government ignore. I would love to be able to quote the figures, but it is better than half of that 0.7% £170 annual contribution. Will the Government fill the gap for these communities when the EU funds stop coming in?
    0.35% back into the taxpayers pot is not going to make all those Leave promises appear, not this side of the next Blue Moon, especially as the bill for leaving is going to push up the debt levels the country is being saddled with.
    I still don’t see how a Government can latch onto what was a three choice referendum where only 37% of the electorate joined their vary single point options to create a Leave result, when 63% of the electorate clearly did not think the Leave arguments worth putting an X in that box… three choices Matt, Leave Stay or don’t vote. One third.. the same amount of votes Hitler acquired to start his Mayhem in history… the very reaso; the EEC was born, backed by Winston.. a United Europe for peace, not war.

  • @Chris Johnson
    “Matt… vast sums of money to the EU, really???”.
    Yes I would call 8.6 Billion Net contribution a vast amount of money.
    Not to be rude, I am not really that interested in what an individual person pays in contributions to the EU on a Micro level, considering wealth inequality in this country, I don’t think it an appropriate measure. I am only interested in the annual cost to the country as a whole and where else that money could be better spent and managed.

    “With the returns from the EU to poorer regions of the UK, like Cornwall and the Outer Islands of Scotland, The EU is ensuring infrastructure projects that this Government ignore. I would love to be able to quote the figures, but it is better than half of that 0.7% £170 annual contribution. Will the Government fill the gap for these communities when the EU funds stop coming in”
    You ignore the fact that it is partly the EU that has decimated these communities and local economies that were reliant on fishing in places like Cornwall.
    Oh but the EU pumps Millions into these communities I hear you say,
    On what exactly? Superfast Broadband and rail improvement, funny isn’t it how these projects mainly benefit wealthy 2nd home owners who want an easier journey to and from London.
    Once we have left the EU, The CAP and the CFP, the UK will be better place to target funding to revitalise these communities.
    You say that 63 % of the electorate clearly did not think the Leave arguments worth putting an X in that box, that is a blatant misuse of statistics, only 34% people voted remain the other 28% clearly did not think REMAINS argument was worth putting an X in the box either. Lets not fall into the trap of misusing stats again

  • sorry typo
    “28% clearly did not think REMAINS argument was worth putting an X in the box either ”
    should have obviously read
    65% clearly did not think remains argument was worth putting an X in the Box either

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Apr '18 - 10:23pm

    Yes, John Marriott, we have to beware of backsliding by leaders or former leaders who may have lost some appetite for the fight, and as you say couldn’t progress anyway without voting reform.

    Yours is a lovely idea, Mike KLEIN,. but I don’t foresee a spirit of sacrifice in the ranks of the hardened politicians of Tory and Labour, to risk their careers by throwing in their lot with members of other parties and turning their backs on party advancement. To be fair, they might well hesitate to deny their own party the chance of staying in or winning power. And to those party leaders, whatever tactics will keep them in or propel them towards power will always be their driving force.

    Shelagh, thank you for your support, and of course you are right that there is no place for inter-generational conflict; let the older generation keep their houses undisturbed, but we should support radical measures to ensure younger people get a better deal.

    Matt, steady on, the Greeks were developing democracy while the Britons were wearing woad and fighting each other in their Celtic tribes!

  • Laurence Cox 6th Apr '18 - 11:07pm


    I don’t think that the Ancient Athenians were a good advertisement for democracy. After leading the Delian League of Greek-speaking city states and ending the threat from the Persians, Athens began to treat their fellow states as colonies, extracting heavy taxes from them and were not above killing the men and enslaving the women of any state that refused to pay what they thought they were owed.

    You still have time to catch Michael Scott, the classisist, on iplayer talking about how these events affected the development of Greek theatre:

    Athens’ adventurism led to the Peloponnesian War which brought an end to the Golden Age of Greece. Democracy is not a vaccine that protects one from bad decisions made by leaders, especially populist leaders.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Apr '18 - 8:54am

    There’s always a downsize, Laurence, but the idea of democracy, of all sharing in decision-making, began in Greece. Although it was free men only, you will remember that women in Britain only got the vote last century. And in ancient Greece, the men were expected to take their share of leadership as well as participating in the crowd. There never has been an ideal more advanced than democracy in the polis of fifth-BC Athens, and the city state can still be an ideal for our local government. (Thank you for the link – will look at it later – just off now to Windermere to help deliver leaflets for a councillor in Tim’s South Lakes constituency, since we have no election here this May.)

  • @Katharine
    ‘But we lack a cutting edge to seize public imagination.’
    Sometimes you have to be brutally honest. What we lack is leadership.
    We recently had a leadership election where only one person stood. What does that say. The center ground of British politics is an open goal at the moment and all it will take is a strong personality to occupy it. At that point this party will not have a choice about mergers.
    It may have escaped your notice but we have just celebrated 100 years since women partially got the vote in this oldest of democracies. But don’t let this shatter your belief in the greatness and superiority of the UK.
    When is spring going arrive? I’ve never known it so late. Need something to cheer me up.

  • Actually, I said one of the oldest democracies.

    Interesting that you both have lots to say about that, but nothing to address the other points that I made on how parts of the Eu have contributed towards decimating our coastal fishing communities and How we are able to restore those once we have left.
    How we are able to better direct funding once leaving the CAP and CFP and promote healthy environmentally friendly farming through subsidies of our own.

  • paul barker 7th Apr '18 - 12:06pm

    The idea of Party Mergers is a non-starter but we could establish an Electoral Pact with The Greens for example, if they are open to the idea.
    Certainly, if we want to encourage breakaways from Labour & The Tories then we should make it plain in advance that we are open, in principle to a “New Alliance”. That depends on the New Parties being Pro EU & enthusiastic about Electoral Reform but we can assume that.

  • Phil Beesley 7th Apr '18 - 12:35pm

    The formation of the SDP was signalled for a long time — wasn’t a Council for Social Democracy formed in the Labour Party? — then a new party (containing a few former Conservatives) in alliance, before merger. There are no similar signs today.

    Katharine Pindar: “The EU, however, has protected workers’ rights and aided the poorest parts of our country, while ensuring high environmental standards, clean air, clean water and safe foodstuffs for all. The EU has fostered democracy throughout Europe, worked with Britain on great industrial projects and scientific developments, arranged worldwide free trade agreements, and secured lasting peace and security for all its citizens.”

    That’s the technocratic argument which was sold to voters badly during the EU membership referendum even if it has a strong rational basis. Remain campaigners didn’t have the confidence to say that they feel European as well as being British or Welsh or Northumbrian. I’m a Lancastrian by birth but I know that Lancashire isn’t perfect and I can smile or cry at English celebrations, Catalan celebrations, whatever.

    Technocratic arguments about Europe suggest that culture is a consommé rather than a soup with lumps. Some people like lumps or different textures; others need persuasion that contrasts improve the dish.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Apr '18 - 5:34pm

    Crocuses and flowering shrubs out in Windermere, P.J., enough promise of spring at least to cheer this Lib Dem activist, leafletting in the rain with Windermere councillor Andrew Jarvis and two young helpers from Kendal. All the council seats are up in South Lakes, as in so many places, and Andrew’s ward is now one of three-parter, but he is hopeful all this work will pay off as it should. As to leadership, P.J. I don’t see anybody outstanding in the bigger parties, do you? Anyway I wouldn’t personally want to have a ‘strong personality’ emerge and try to rule the roost – they have enough of that kind of trouble in Hungary and Poland, for instance.

    Thanks, Chris Johnson, for the useful detail on what we actually each pay to the EU. As people may gather, I believe it gives us far more value than cost.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Apr '18 - 5:54pm

    @ Paul Barker (good to encounter you at Southport, Paul) – the trouble with electoral pacts is that they tend not to be democratically acceptable, as you know; local parties aren’t willing to give up on having one of their own to vote for. So we have paper candidates instead, who cheerfully lose their deposits in hopeless contests. The only pact I was aware of was in Brighton with the Greens, is that right?

    But you have a point, I think, about new parties. If breakaway groups from the main parties constituted themselves as new parties, pro EU and pro electoral reform, I can see there could be an Electoral Alliance where giving up fighting in a hopeless seat might be more acceptable to local Lib Dems than yielding to either of the main parties.
    There are a lot of ‘ifs’ in that, but with both of them still driving their way towards a cliff edge, it seems possible that come the autumn some of their troops might jump out in time to try to save the situation and the country.

  • @Katharine

    ” it seems possible that come the autumn some of their troops might jump out in time to try to save the situation and the country.”

    Can you really see enough Labour MP’s leaving the party to become a new centrist party?

    I cannot see that happening at all, Corbyn has so much support in its heartlands with Momentum, it would put up candidates against them and they would be sure to lose their seat at the next election.

    A Pro EU Centrist Party, what exactly are they going to be campaigning for?
    By time the next election comes round in 2022 we would have already left the EU.
    We are leaving in less than 12 months time and will be out of the single market by Dec 2020, even if the transition period could be extended there would have still been an agreement to leave the EU signed, therefore the only way back is to rejoin the EU under article 49. which means joining the single currency and Schengen, which is never going to happen.

    Maybe your hoping that if enough Labour MP’s desert the party by the Autumn, there will at least be enough support to secure a second referendum, that’s near on impossible since the last referendum took 7 months to legislate for alone, can you really see a bunch of opposition MP’s managing to push legislation through in a rush against a government that is apposed to a 2nd referendum?

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Apr '18 - 8:42pm

    Just supposing that this autumn, in desperation at the prospect of Brexit, breakaway groups from each major party form mini parties, let’s call them Pragmatic Conservatives and Centrist Labour. I contend now that we couldn’t merge with either, because Liberal Democrats ARE different. Though we might seem to favour the Pragmatic Conservatives, because they might well be freedom-loving nationalists, as proud of their country as I am and as enthusiastic for Europe, they would emerge from a party which follows neo-liberal economics and rampant capitalism at the expense of ordinary people, and has uninterest in the growing poverty and inequality we deplore.

    What then of Centrist Labour? They surely would support measures of social justice, and would have a reasonable outlook on the need for continuing in the EU common market to protect British industry and services as well as workers’ rights. But their mother party is one that is top-down, state-centred, fixated on the unions and on policies of nationalisation and taxing wealth. The Centrists would not have our commitment to individual rights and empowerment, to decentralising, expansion of local services, and fostering local community. Young Momentum workers have learnt to go out and start canvassing, but they haven’t the heart and spirit for it as we have, and neither do the Centrists. Let them go and find their David Milliband to lead them, they will never be a party we would want to merge with. Keep the faith, fellow Liberal Democrats, because we ARE different.

  • Nigel Hardy 7th Apr '18 - 9:06pm

    With both main parties in meltdown at the moment as the radicals in each alienate the moderates, we should cautiously welcome the centrists from each side looking to breakaway. Cautious because they should share our values of being pro European, Liberal and be enthusiastic about Electoral Reform. Without such moderates we could be denying Britain a Liberal alternative that FPTP prevents. Abolish FPTP and that opens the way for new parties to get in to parliament. Whether it be a full merger, Alliance doesn’t really matter as long as the defecters wholeheartedly
    share our objective of electoral reform.

  • I do not believe there would be anything like the number of breakaway MP’s some people “hope” there would be to bring down Brexit and another referendum. Even if there were 25% from each of the 2 main parties. That would equate to 79 Tories Breaking Away and 64 Labour MP’s, even if they were to form a temporary alliance with Liberal Democrats and other opposition MP,s that amounts to 200 Mp’s
    The Government still would have 237 Mp’s + 10 DUP
    That leaves the remaining 195 Labour MP’s who would either vote to reject a 2nd referendum, or abstain.
    No amount of wishful thinking is going to get that 2nd referendum and like I said, by the autumn it would be to late anyway, the timing just isn’t there.

    And after we have left the EU in March 2019, what then? What would be the USP of these breakaway centrist MP’s, there only option remaining to them would be to campaign to rejoin the EU with the Single Currency and Schengen and that will go down like a lead balloon with the electorate

    “Young Momentum workers have learnt to go out and start canvassing, but they haven’t the heart and spirit for it as we have, and neither do the Centrists”
    I do not understand sweeping statements like that, how do you know that momentum activists do not have the heart and spirit? They certainly seem to like their rally’s which says to me like they are highly motivated and passionate about what they believe in.
    As for Electoral Reform, I am afraid that ship has well and truly sunk, LD’s stuffed that up in coalition failing to show that a junior party could be effective and how compromises were achieved, the lack of transparency etc. There is no way the country would vote in a referendum to make changes to the voting system, I suppose there could be a possibility of changing the way we vote in local elections without consulting the public, but to make sweeping changes to our constitution for general elections without giving people a say would cause an absolute uproar

  • It would be much better if the sizable group of sensible centre leaning Labour and Conservative MPs who have become disillusioned with their current parties joined the Liberal Democrats in one go. All they need to do is sign up to our values and constitution. I would welcome the injection of experience, and swelling numbers in the Houses of Parliament will have an immediate impact on our poll ratings. Forming another centre party and in the end merging that party with ours will be such a waste of energy.

  • John Marriott 7th Apr '18 - 10:27pm

    The problem is that wall to wall Brexit is distorting every other issue. If the only reason to form a new pro EU centre party is to fight Brexit, you simply have the reverse of the anti EU party that campaigned for Brexit. It was called first the Referendum Party, in case you’ve forgotten, and was bankrolled by Zac Goldsmith’s dad and then the United Kingdom Independence Party. The former disappeared and, now that it thinks it has achieved its aim, the latter could be going the same way. Surely the same thing could happen with a one trick pony Pro EU Centre Party, if it actually succeeded in reversing Brexit.

    @Paul D B
    The example of the SDP is illuminating. When the new party was formed around twenty or so sitting Labour MPs joined it; but, I believe, only one Tory MP, Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler. Despite racking up large numbers of votes and despite a ‘deal’ with the Liberal Party, the new party foundered on the rock of FPTP. I see no reason why it wouldn’t happen again.

  • paul barker 7th Apr '18 - 11:37pm

    The Observer article is interesting, certainly the £50 Million would give any New Party a useful buffer, it doesnt get them Members though. Any possible Centre Party would need us, just as The SDP needed The Liberals.
    The Local Elections on May 3rd are going to be examined much more closely than usual, with everyone looking for signs of Libdem recovery. No Pressure then.

  • John Roffey 8th Apr '18 - 12:40am

    The value of a new party would be that it would not carry the stigma of the tuition fees reversal and the austerity measures agreed to by the Party whilst in coalition – that are now causing such suffering and hardship.

    There does seem to be significant agreement that these are the reason for the difficulty the Party has had in improving its popularity – with some predicting that their impact will last for decades.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Apr '18 - 1:05am

    ‘Short-termism of professional politicians’ ? (according to the Observer article, thanks for posting the link, Simon Shaw) – Give me a break! The Liberal Party has survived for centuries, a lot longer than Labour of course, and the Liberal Democrats are here to stay. New parties and movements come and go. Perhaps this latest lot can help the campaign for electoral reform, since they will need it if they come to exist, and it appears they will share some of our ideals. Just how would they find a charismatic leader, Simon, do you think, since the existing parties can’t?

    This is likely to be a year of political upheaval here, and there could well be breakaways, new formations, electoral alliances, a referendum or even a general election again. Nobody can tell. I propose that in the absence of proper Media attention for our party, which we know is not itself ‘in the doldrums’ but full of internal life, we raise funds after the May elections to launch a massive advertising campaign through a top agency. It should have a drip-feed quality throughout the next few months, to tell the country what they are missing about us: about what we are and what we are offering. We know our worth, and that we (to adapt a famous saying) ‘are going on’.

  • @Katharine

    ““Just how would they find a charismatic leader, Simon, do you think, since the existing parties can’t?”
    And just how many leaders have the Liberal Democrats had since 2015, oh that’s right you’re on your third.
    Nick Clegg had an approval rating of something like a -36%, any charisma people thought he had prior to the 2010 General Election collapsed soon after the rose garden love in. Tim Farron lasted all of 2 years and failed to make any impact on the party’s approval ratings. As for Vince, well the once heavy weight of the party Prior to 2010 lost all his credibility during his time in Coalition, his leadership thus far is proving to be something of a damp squib. The LD’s are having considerable problems finding a leader with charisma that can identify and relate to the electorate. That’s not to say that I think either the Tories or Labour are doing any better on the leadership front.

    “ It should have a drip-feed quality throughout the next few months, to tell the country what they are missing about us: about what we are and what we are offering.”
    And what is that exactly? It is the local elections next month and as of yet I have absolutely no idea what the party stands for apart from it’s complete objection to Brexit. All I keep hearing about from the party is how much poorer we are going to be and how the country is doomed, the NHS is going to be doomed with staffing shortages etc. I hear nothing about the parties plan for local and national Government and what it will do outside of the EU if we have left.

  • roger billins 8th Apr '18 - 9:29am

    I have been a Liberal (Democrat) since 1974 and was proud to be in the same party as Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins and, although their modern equivalents in Labour are not of the same charismatic quality, I would be happy to be in the same party as, say, Hilary Benn, Ben Bradshaw or Sadiq Khan or for that matter, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry. We know the difficulty of breaking through under FPTP and we cannot afford to be tribal about this-it’s too important a time in politics. We have to recognise that the drag on our electoral support caused by tuition fees and the coalition generally means we are deeply unattractive to defectors from the other parties and that a new party may be more attractive to them.

  • Peter Martin 8th Apr '18 - 9:29am

    @ Katharine

    “The Liberal Party has survived for centuries, a lot longer than Labour of course….”

    You’d have to be including your historic roots in the Whig party to say this. I’m not sure you’d really want to identify with some of its ideas. Especially its anti-Catholic anti- Jacobite roots. Pitt the elder once said:

    “The errors of Rome are rank idolatry, a subversion of all civil as well as religious liberty, and the utter disgrace of reason and of human nature”.

    It’s probably not something we’d read in the next Lib Dem manifesto! 🙂

    ‘Liberalism’ isn’t the same now as it was then.

    ‘Liberalism’ also means something quite different in a European sense. Arnold Kiel, (admittedly a bete noire as far as I’m concerened), who I would guess is a FDP supporter in Germany, is well to the right of yourself. He acknowledged recently (I seem to remember) that he would be in a socialist party if he shared your views.

    So, in other words, the FDP aren’t ‘liberals’ in the same way at all.

  • I do think that there are a lot of Labour and Tory MPs who, if they were honest, find their values match our policies far better than those of their existing parties, but many of them can’t imagine not being Labour/Conservative, or at the very least, might be able to accept being in a new party, but see us through the lens of all of the rivalry we’ve had over the years, and if they spent the previous election campaign telling voters we’re rubbish, it will make campaigning under our banner more tricky. In more cynical terms, they wouldn’t want to switch to an existing party because their previous membership of a different one could impede their ability to rise to the top.

    From our point of view, we could welcome appropriate individuals into our fold, and while it would be easy enough to accommodate five additional MPs without losing our identity, that’s not going to be the case if we were to try to accommodate thirty extra MPs that were previously in other parties. Our ideal scenario would have been three or four from Labour every few months, each time Corbyn insisted Labour support the Tory hard-Brexit policy. Of course, that may have resulted in Corbyn being a bit less pro-Brexit, but a lot of us would take that.

    Realistically, the fact that no Labour MPs resigned the whip suggests that they have been talking amongst themselves about their own break-away party. I’d like to think that if that happened, they wouldn’t just be pro-EU, but would be pro-electoral reform and wouldn’t contest the seats where we have a better chance of winning.

    The biggest problem with any potential new party is that it’s just another excuse for the media to claim we are irrelevant, and to ignore us.

  • Simon Shaw

    “But that’s not going to happen, is it?” ……. Like Jeremy Corbyn would never be leader of the Labour Party, or Donald Trump would be President of the USA etc. etc. So given our unpredictable world there could well be circumstances in which a whole bunch of Labour and hopefully some centrist current Conservatives might want to join our party. I think that this would be a far more efficient and effective way of building the power of the “centre” than setting up a separate party, which would probably go the same way as the SDP last time round and have to merge with our party anyway.

  • David Evans 8th Apr '18 - 12:02pm

    No Paul. It’s not going to happen.

  • We cannot sit on our laurels and believe we are the answer. The public tell us in all the national polls that is not the case. We are in need a serious rebranding and it may have to come within another stronger force.

  • Whatever our deep emotional feelings for the party may be, and I have been around since 1964, it does seem to me that we have to accept that we are not moving forward nationally in any way likely to achieve a major breakthrough. At the very least we need some sort of rebranding. If that is as part of another much larger, better financed force then perhaps…….
    After all we cannot waste another £180K on lost deposits, can we?

  • paul holmes 8th Apr '18 - 3:47pm

    What intrigues me is who is the ‘new Messiah’ people keep hanging their noses over and what is their message?

    I joined the SDP, never having been in any other Party, because I was genuinely inspired by people like Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers and David Owen, although the latter turned out to have feet of clay. They gave up longstanding positions in one of the two dominant UK Parties in order to fight for the principles they believed in and they created the first ‘One Member One Vote’ Party in British politics. So as a ‘virgin’ member of a new Party in the early 1980’s and as a founder member of the Liberal Democrats in 1988 I should be open to consideration of further change in 2018.

    But what is on offer now apart from some anonymous rich people who, according to the Observer, are secretly drafting policies to be presented as a fait accompli along with their money? Some suggest a new Leader in David Milliband who gave up and ran off to a well paid job in New York as soon as he lost his Parties Leadership election. Others, even more unrealistically, proclaim the ever mobile Andrew Adonis who jumped from the SDP to being an unelected Labour Minister to being an unelected Conservative Government Transport Czar. Others mention highly divisive past political Leaders who might fancy making a comeback.

    None of these options seem to offer an inspirational new Leadership choice even before we get on to whatever policy platform the anonymous money men (persons?) might be proposing we accept. Then of course there is the electoral reality of FPTP elections in the UK which necessitate a strong ‘ground game’ and credibility in individual constituencies, not just a flurry in the opinion polls or a widely spread 12% national vote as for UKIP in 2015 or 25.5% as for the Alliance in 1983.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Apr '18 - 3:57pm

    The key to any new parties or realignment of parts of existing parties has to be, of course, electoral reform. Only when sufficient numbers of the political class decide that enough is enough and agree to seek the end of First Past the Post can any serious realignment take place. At present, there is a log-jam. The Labour Centrists ( or Blairites!) can’t break away to form a new party under (for example) David Milliband, because that would ruin the chances of the Labour Party gaining power at the next General Election. It would hand continuing Government to the Tories – unless at the same time, by some miracle, Pragmatic Conservatives also broke away to form a new party. All politicians wanting change would have to get together to agree on electoral reform, and the present tottering giants would have to consent to start the process. They will have to be undermined from underneath to do that.

    Meantime any new party would also run up against the log-jam. But the Liberal Democrats have the structure and the systems and the experience, not to mention perhaps the potential support of half the population at this time if only they thought we had a chance, to develop to the big time. We need to go on building up. Any serious student of our party knows that we have the worthwhile policies as well as the values that the country needs: they can read it in the several articles and numerous comments that have reiterated our values and policies here on LDV this spring, or consult the party website and emails that spell out the same messages. We have great substance, we are worthwhile and don’t need reinvention. But the non-political voters need to know more about us, beyond what we are able to tell them in the May elections. That is why I seriously recommend a major advertising campaign beginning straight after May, and continuing to the autumn. Let’s ask all members to contribute whatever they can to a special fund to finance it. I shall be writing to our Chief Executive and our Leader to propose it.

  • Any new centre party would mean the end of the LibDems….

    For it to even to be a little more than a fringe party our 12 members would be lost in the noise; to even challenge the two major parties on basic issues it would need 150+ members.
    Considering that we seemed to have a major conflict with the last Labour leadership who would you work with from Labour? Alan Clarke and a few others, and that’s it, from the Tory party.

    Mind you there is a precedent; we could just sign up and claim that “75% of it’s policies are LibDem”…

  • paul holmes 8th Apr '18 - 4:13pm

    @Paul DB – Your Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump examples raise a key point however.

    Both may be ‘unexpected surprises’ but both have approached power via an existing dominant Party, by respectively becoming the Leader of Labour and Presidential candidate (of the Republicans). Had Trump stood as an Independent he would have leached away more Republican inclined voters than Democrat ones and the Democrats would have won. Billionaire Ross Perot took 20% of the Presidential vote (the best USA Independent showing ever) when he ran, but it was widely spread and won him not a single Electoral College place.Other than the Electoral College the US system works much as our FPTP system does. Had Corbyn stood as Leader of a breakaway Socialist Party he would have sunk without trace as all previous such incarnations of ‘pure left policies’ have done in the UK’s FPTP electoral system.

    I think the latter point needs to be heeded by those who want an uncompromising, ideologically pure, ‘true Liberal policy platform’ for the Liberal Democrats. Even if we could agree which version of Liberalism is the ‘true’ one!

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Apr '18 - 4:59pm

    Paul, you make strong points, I think, in both your posts this afternoon, but what do you mean by your final paragraph? Our strength in the present volatile British politics is our steady and consistent existence. What is this ‘uncompromising, ideologically pure, true Liberal policy platform’ which you seem to suggest will be a danger for us in winning much more support? Surely on the contrary there are broad aspects of our policies which will appeal to both Tory and Labour dissidents. though in different ways? And what do you mean in suggesting that there are opposing versions of our Liberalism? I am genuinely puzzled, having supported Liberal party policies for half a century by and large, though naturally much preferring our present platform to that of the Coalition years.

  • Peter Martin 8th Apr '18 - 7:47pm

    I’d say that it would make sense for there to be a stronger UK centre party made up of the Blairite wing of Labour, the Lib Dems, and the more europhile wing of the Tory party.

    This would give the electorate a clearer choice of left, right, and centre in elections.

    Whether this would much boost the centre vote remains to be seen. The problem for centrists, throughout the EU, and to some extent in the USA too, is they are associated with the establishment. An establishment which is basically neoliberal in outlook, and with a belief in the virtues of austerity economics, financial deregulation and globalisation. We are where we are now because that’s where the establishment has led us over the past few decades. This has to be true almost by definition.

    The British left under Jeremy Corbyn has done reasonably well in tapping into anti-establishment sentiment here, but that’s not been the case in the EU. The centre might argue with the possible exception of Emmanuel Macron in France. He’s managed to present just a veneer of radicalism to the French electorate to suit his purpose but that’s pretty much worn off by now. I’d put him as much further to the right than most UK Lib Dems.

    The centre and left are in a woeful state in nearly all EU countries, with the populist right making all the running. Fortunately that’s not happened in the UK with UKIP but many would say the Tories aren’t much different.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Apr '18 - 8:17pm

    We aren’t neo-liberal in outlook now, I believe, Peter. Though there hasn’t been a recent survey, remember that half our party members have joined us since May ’15. The ‘stronger UK centre party’ you would like is exactly right, I believe – the Lib Dems plus Blairite Labour and some Europhile Tories! I don’t see us as being part of the Establishment, given where we are in the opinion polls, but if something novel is actually required, how about if we rebrand ourselves as New Liberal Democrats? ! Thanks anyway for your thoughtful comment.

  • David Allen 8th Apr '18 - 8:17pm

    A new party could be part of the answer. But first it will need a platform.

    Hillary Clinton stood for competence. She had no other message and no strong policy to “sell”. Hence she failed. Trump had “Make America Great Again!” Bogus nonsense, but it sounded like a real platform to vote for.

    The SDP had a platform. Until the new party has a platform, its backers will be wasting their money.

  • nvelope2003 8th Apr '18 - 8:38pm

    When there is a substantial need for a successful new party it will come as the Labour party did over 100 years ago. There is no evidence yet of any such need although several new parties have been formed. What has become of them ? Does anyone have any information ?

  • David Evans 8th Apr '18 - 9:17pm

    Katharine, you say “Our strength in the present volatile British politics is our steady and consistent existence.” How can you possibly say that when we are down to 12 MPs and 7.4% of the vote just 7 years after 57 MPs and 23% of the vote? There is absolutely no way that can be described as steady or consistent. Indeed they are so low as to draw into question whether our continued existence as a party with HoC representation is likely to continue beyond the lifespan of our current crop of MPs.

    Optimism and trying to maintain morale is all well and good in theory, until it comes face to face with harsh reality, when an unwillingness to admit to problems means real debate on what we need to do to turn the party around is simply put in the “Much too upsetting to ever face up to” pile.

  • David Evans 8th Apr '18 - 9:40pm

    nvelope – I think there was a party once, that came along just in time to save the country from the emergence excesses of selfish conservatism, rampant socialist dogma and arrogant europhobic nationalism. Then its leaders seemed to forget why people had worked and voted for them for all those years, and instead focussed on tinkering about the edges of government while the party that had worked for them was simply destroyed.

    I think a few of its once proud ranks are still around fighting for the party but waiting in vain for an “I’m sorry, I totally messed up. This is what I did wrong so those who come after me don’t make the same mistakes again,” instead of an “I sat in the wrong place on the front benches.”

  • @David Evans
    Your right of course
    ” Then its leaders seemed to forget why people had worked and voted for them for all those years, and instead focussed on tinkering about the edges of government while the party that had worked for them was simply destroyed.”

    I think it it tragic that the Liberal Democrats where completely taken over by Clegg , Laws and Alexander. This Toxic Trio managed to completely destroy the public trust and i would go as far to say affection for the party in a matter of months after joining the coalition.
    Alexander spent his time learning the ropes of party politics with being given the brief of shadow secretary for work and pensions, a role he did well whilst in opposition.
    The moment he found himself in Government and the treasury, he betrayed the trust of millions of disabled people with his enthusiasm for cuts to welfare. resulting in foodbank uses rocketing
    At least he has had the decency to wander out of site,even though he was awarded a knighthood for his betrayal to millions of people. At least now he is quiet though and no longer continuing to damage LD reputation

    David, Laws, Well. there is nothing that I can say about him that won’t get caught up in you know what, so I am better to say nothing at all.

    And as for The Rt Hon. Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg.
    The Man who grabbed the reigns and took off in completely his own direction, reduced the party from 57 mps and 23% of the vote to 7 mps and 7%, he never had the decency to step down and instead ended up losing his seat at the next election, bringing further embarrassment and dismay for the party. The Harm this man did to the party and to millions of families across the country, and yet with his flashy new title he still keeps cropping up, talking for and as a Liberal Democrat.
    Why He has not taken a leaf out of Alexanders Book, I’m not quite sure

  • David Evans 9th Apr '18 - 12:20am

    My real concern is that no-one senior did anything about it at all over a period of at least four years when it was clear what was happening. Indeed, it has continued since for even now the mantra from everyone involved seems to be “We did nothing wrong, get on with your canvassing.”

    We all make bad mistakes, but refusing to face up to them for year after year after year, as things get worse and worse takes an almost Trump level of self esteem.

  • Peter Watson 9th Apr '18 - 12:23am

    Elsewhere, Anthony Wells has written an interesting article about polling and a hypothetical “New Centrist Party” (
    In particular, I was struck by this comment, given a perceived move by Lib Dems towards the right on economics several years ago:

    Public opinion tends to the left on economics, and is quite right-wing on more cultural issues like immigration and crime. There may well be a gap for a political party putting forward that combination of views, but it doesn’t seem to be the same gap that most of the proposed centrist parties are seeking to fill, which often seem to be aimed at a far more liberal worldview.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Apr '18 - 12:43am

    @ David Evans. Yes, I do say our party has had a steady and consistent existence, David, because I am looking back over my 50 years as a member, and I see consistency of values throughout. We strayed to the right of Centre during the Coalition, as you have constantly pointed out, in going along with the Conservative programme of austerity, yet even then the outcry from the members over the compromises of our Ministers showed the Liberal heart was still beating as strongly as ever. The wrong decision on tuition fees was opposed by Tim Farron, who then became our Leader and attracted hundreds of newcomers to join us. We have been far less divided in values and approaches to strategy and tactics than either of the two main parties, developing a worthwhile programme which is just too little known, thanks especially to the polarisation of politics between two strikingly different leaders of those parties. We have in these latest articles and comments here continued to explore the kinds of approaches and policies we have successfully developed in our Conferences, displaying our basic unity without rancour.

    There are plenty of people who will vote for us again given the chance, as they have been doing in your constituency. Even in mine, here is a little snapshot. Obtaining my free Observer in Booths in Keswick today as usual after church, I chatted with the man on the till briefly about the papers, at which he started denouncing the present national politicians and saying he preferred to waste his vote and write ‘None of the above’ on his ballot paper. I protested at his wasting his vote and told him the Liberal Democrats were worth voting for. ‘Well,’ he conceded, ‘maybe the Liberal Democrats are all right – I remember my parents used to vote for them.’ I pointed out the Observer lead story after paying for my groceries and told him, ‘There’s no need for a new party, there are the Liberal Democrats!’ The queue prevented further chat, but I thought, well might he vote for us, considering the years of excellent service as a counsellor our constituency chair, now our president, has given the area.

    Nvelope, one of the papers I was reading lately, Times or Observer, mentioned that lots of new parties had been registered lately – it’s an easy process, apparently – but none of them are going anywhere. (Well done the Monster Raving Loony party, for longevity!)

  • @ David Evans ” I sat in the wrong place on the front benches.”

    It’s more than just that, David. It’s what they did – and didn’t do. All the knighthoods and C.B.E. gongs they collected as a reward for doing and not doing simply rubs salt in the wound. I’m not the only one to think that getting a C.B.E. for being a Junior Minister for three years in your early thirties is a bit, shall we say, excessive.

  • @ David Evans – on the question of gongs for politicians.

    I remember at school in Classics we were told of the Auriga – the slave holding a laurus crown in a Roman Triumph over the head of the Dux, standing at his back whispering in his ears “Memento homo” (remember you are only a man) to maintain a sense of proportions.

    There’s also a memory of hearing in Chapel, “to give but not to count the cost or to expect any reward”.

  • David Evans 9th Apr '18 - 8:17am

    Yes Katharine, I can see a point to a steady and consistent values in many aspects since the days of the Liberals, but I think you massively underestimate the change that happened when we were in coalition. You can argue that there was an “outcry from members over the compromises of our Ministers” at that time, but from my viewpoint a similar number of members enthusiastically espoused them as triumphs not compromises or surrenders, and many of the rest went along with it all because we were in power. In addition, the loss of so many good activists over those five years (many resigning in dismay and disgust) changed the party massively, from a party with many members with their hands on some of the levers of power and an understanding of how to use them to deliver a more liberal democratic society, to what is now a much bigger membership, but with little idea how to get the electoral success needed to do it.

    To me the Liberal heart is beating more intermittently than at any time since the early 1970s. It may be a bigger heart, but it doesn’t seem to know how to get that lifeblood pumping out strongly to the other parts of society we want to be liberal. Perhaps that is a fault of the head, not the heart. Currently in a great many parts of the country the liberal pulse seems reach less than 5% of the people.

    You say “There are plenty of people who will vote for us again given the chance,” but what do you mean by plenty? We need to be polling at least at 20% to make any sort of real impression on the council in May’s local elections. Many local parties are putting up a decent slate of candidates this time, but we need full slates everywhere, and with 100,000 members we should be able to do it. But will we get over 20% of the vote in May? I hope so because we need to make gains of over 200 seats to start to get noticed for two or three days in the mainstream media once again.

    Without it, the heart won’t kickstart those running the the head into taking the one chance we can give them to get us really noticed before Brexit happens.

  • Peter Watson 9th Apr '18 - 9:16am

    @David Evans “members enthusiastically espoused them as triumphs not compromises or surrenders”
    This was probably the biggest single mistake the party made when in Government, sacrificing its unique identity by subsuming itself into an overwhelmingly Conservative coalition.

  • John Marriott 9th Apr '18 - 10:12am

    This thread is getting more intense and soul searching as it gets longer! I think David Evans’ latest contribution sums it up for me. Now there is someone who really has practised what he preaches and, despite the scars, is still in there fighting for what he believes, without the use of rose tinted spectacles!

    Politics at any level can be a dirty business. As they say; “if you can’t stand the heat…….” I can’t compete with David Raw when it comes to Latin quotes, although the classic Caesar one comes to mind when talking about Sir Nick, namely, “veni, vidi, vici”. The problem was that what he conquered wasn’t really 100% behind him! Naivety has played a significant rôle in the tactics of the Lib Dems over the past eight years. Firstly, making a too hasty coalition agreement, (seven days, wasn’t it, compared with nearly a year in Belgium and, more recently, around six months in Germany?), secondly Clegg accepting the position of Deputy PM instead of something like Foreign Minister (how many languages does he speak?). Thirdly, yes, tuition fees (why all those PPCs signed that NUS ‘pledge’, I’ll never know), and finally, agreeing to that daft AV referendum and allowing Cameron to release his attack dogs to make sure the whole thing was rubbished in the eyes of most people. Given the prospects of any new party succeeding with our current voting system, it makes you realise what a golden opportunity – perhaps the ONLY oppportunity in my lifetime – was missed.

    I notice that the phrase ‘Breaking the mould’ is back in fashion. Unfortunately nothing, in my opinion, is going to break that mould until enough people, and I don’t mean just politicians or political activists, wake up to the fact PR and the coalitions it usually produces can better reflect their own aspirations better than the ‘winner takes’ system that has, over the past few years, failed to deliver ‘strong and stable government’. You may remember that, back in 2010, many cynics didn’t give the Coalition government, with all its undoubted faults, more than a couple of years. Quite frankly, I’d rather have that than the shambles we have today.

  • Nigel Hardy 9th Apr '18 - 11:11am

    What real chance does any new upstart party have of growing under our deplorable FPTP system that keeps the old stale duopoly going? Far better in my view that new centre ground upstarts put their money and energy into supporting the LibDem’s than their own vanity projects with the high risk and failure rate in Westminster politics.

    If as matt highlighted 25% of Labour and Tory centrists (the latter figure I doubt) that could make the LibDems the biggest player it’s been in a century and a half. With that number of MP’s joining the party of the centre ground, and with a bit of re-branding, the next GE could be very interesting if the electorate remained loyal to those MP’s rather the failing parties they had deserted. The current government would fall with just three defectors in fact.

    If the frustrated Labour and Tory MP’s from the centre ground remain loyal to their failing parties of dictatorship, I can’t imagine any epiphany for some years that brings enough people to realise that PR is essential for a true democracy. Rather, I can see a succession of unsatisfactory GE results similar to last years, with both main bumbling along reliant of favours to keep them power rather than accept that reform of the voting system is necessary, which would actually benefit those parties.

  • The thread has moved away from ‘mergers’ and ‘keep the faith’ and, especially with the current furore on violent knife/gun crime, it is easy to see why.

    Yesterday Amber Rudd declared that police numbers were not a major factor and today claimed she had not read her own report that contradicted that statement.

    I’d love to attack Rudd, and her predecessor, for cutting police numbers but, and it’s a big but, the largest drop in police numbers was between 2010 and 2015; sound familiar?
    A rise of around 18,000 between 2000 and 2010 was followed by a cut of almost the same number on our watch.

  • Neil Sandison 9th Apr '18 - 11:38am

    The reason that there is talk and that is all there is at the moment talk about a new centerist party is because the public is uncertain of the direction the old parties Labour and Conservatives are taking with the country .We Liberal Democrats have not got our act together and appealed over the heads of a biased media directly to the public .We should be arguing that if private donors have this sort of resources available they should put it into a campaign for the reform of British politics and we as Liberal Democrats should lead that campaign . Better to lead from the front than trying to catch up from the rear .If we are seen to be leading the campaign for reform which is likely to be resisted by the establishment parties then those voters and supporters will natural gravitate in our direction. Dont wait for knights on white chargers to create a new movement be that movement .

  • David Raw reminds us of Auriga – the slave holding a laurus crown in a Roman Triumph over the head of the Dux, standing at his back whispering in his ears “Memento homo” (remember you are only a man) to maintain a sense of proportions.

    It is a good idea for political parties to reflect on how they are seen from the outside. This speech by Vernon Bogdanor on the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats is both a good history of the party and current assessment.

    He notes that the Liberal Party did not support PR before 1922 when it was a governing party. He quotes Keynes on the break-up of the Liberal Party in the 1930’s between the so call Whig and Radical factions. Asked in 1926 to define the three groups of non-revolutionary reformers, Keynes had his answer pat. ‘A whig is a perfectly sensible Conservative. A radical is a perfectly sensible Labourite. A Liberal is anyone who is perfectly sensible.’

    Today we see the same tensions between economic Liberals and social Liberals, Liberal devolution of power and the tendency towards more centralisation and state intervention of social democrats.

    Jo Grimond talked of a realignment of the left – a single mainstream non-socialist progressive party that would be the main opposition to Conservatism in this country. This is the mission of the Liberal Democrats – an broad church of progressives, not a centrist equidistant party that is squeezed between left and right, but a party of the Left committed to social reform.

  • Peter Watson 9th Apr '18 - 1:09pm

    @JoeB “This is the mission of the Liberal Democrats – an broad church of progressives, not a centrist equidistant party that is squeezed between left and right, but a party of the Left committed to social reform.”
    I would agree, but away from the anti-Brexit unity, that statement seems to represent a party-defining divide between Lib Dems that is more significant these days than it was ten years ago.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Apr '18 - 1:32pm

    ‘ A Liberal is anyone who is perfectly sensible.’ Thanks for telling us that lovely quote from Keynes, Joe, and also for defining Liberal Democrats as ‘progressives of the Left committed to social reform’. I would buy that, if we made if ‘left of centre’ rather than just Left. and perhaps concluded it with ‘social, economic and constitutional reform’ .

    Thank you also, Nigel Hardy and Neil Sandison, for getting the thread back on theme. As you write, Neil, ‘ We should be arguing that private donors should put resources into a campaign for the reform of British politics and the Liberal Democrats should lead that campaign.’ (Slight editing to strengthen your idea.) Yes, you are right, we should step out into the limelight and get Vince to lead us on this; it’s our party with its thousands of new members I should hope urging us on which should usurp the role of the planned but futile proposed new centrist party. I think yours is the most constructive and useful comment of all here, and I hope you will follow it up. I’m with you on it!

  • Katherine, in national political terms we are in the wilderness, why even Vince Cable is more unpopular than Jeremy Corbyn -29 to -27. There is no way we can do this on our own, we only have 12 MPs, how many attend sessions and we are way behind the SNP in representation. Caron talks about going from 6 -62 MPs but it took 26 years!!!!!!
    I could go on and on about the Coalition, it virtually destroyed the party, but it is the past, we must move on, and get over it and ourselves. . But on our own? Realistically, hand on heart, not really on is it?
    If there is a new party led by say Chukka, okay by me.

  • Forgive me, Katharine, but I think Professor Bogdanor’s Gresham lecture on the Liberal Party/Liberal Democrats is well worth watching in full – especially given that he sits on the Liberal Democrat benches in the Lords. It was shown last week on the BBC Parliament Channel.

    The Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats – Professor Vernon …
    Video for vernon bogdanor the liberal party▶ 1:01:26

  • Nick Collins 9th Apr '18 - 5:01pm

    ” … especially given that he sits on the Liberal Democrat benches in the Lords”

    Are you sure about that, David? He was made a CBE in 1998, but I was unaware that he had received a peerage, and he does not appear among the LibDem Peers on the LibDem website.

    But I agree that his lectures are always worth listening to and this one, ‘though sad, is excellent.

  • nvelope2003 9th Apr '18 - 5:19pm

    Jeremy Corbyn is not young so why would a Labour MP leave the party after the SDP experience? If he wins the next election that MP will be happy and if he loses then Corbyn will be forced to resign and the party will revert to more traditional policies as it did before.
    There seems to be an understandable obsession with the 2010-2015 Coalition but the reason for the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote had more to do with the difference between the left of centre and left wing party members and activists and the rather less left wing, more centrist people who had voted for us in 2010. If the voters had really hated us for teaming up with the Conservatives why did they not vote Labour in 2015 ? In fact they seem to have switched to the Conservatives and UKIP in the South and the rural North and mostly to UKIP in the Midlands and the urban North and the SNP in Scotland where Labour lost ground, cancelling out the slight gains in England.
    Former Liberal Democrat voters seem to have disliked the slightly more moderate Liberal Democrat policies and preferred Conservative and UKIP ones. The 10% of voters who had traditionally voted Liberal Democrat as a protest vote switched to UKIP in 2015 and to Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 as being the vote most likely to annoy the establishment. We are the establishment now.
    There is no likelihood of any recovery until the EU question has been settled and forgotten. Even if leaving turns out to be a disaster Labour will get the benefit and form the Government because we are too weak.

    When Corbyn became Labour leader almost everyone except me said moderate voters would switch to the Liberal Democrats but they have not done so.

  • @ Nick Collins I must have had a senior moment and relied too much on a faulty memory. Quite right, Nick.

    It would be great if he did though.

  • @nvelope2003

    “If the voters had really hated us for teaming up with the Conservatives why did they not vote Labour in 2015 ? In fact they seem to have switched to the Conservatives and UKIP in the South and the rural North and mostly to UKIP in the Midlands and the urban North ”

    Is it possible that they switched to Tories and UKIP because they believed strongly in leaving the EU and these were the 2 parties most placed to deliver it.
    I know myself, I consider myself as left of centre, have mostly voted Labour, but have Voted Liberal Democrat (not since 2010) I toyed with the idea of Voting Conservative albeit temporarily in order to achieve Brexit, but then could not bring myself to do so as I would have felt as though I was betraying sick, disabled and unemployed and other disadvantaged groups.
    Bare in mind as well that 1/3 of Liberal Democrat Voters voted to leave, so it is highly plausible that significant numbers switched to Tory / UKIP

    On final point, I dont think it had anything to do with “teaming up” with the Conservatives as you suggested, but more for the way in which the party behaved in coalition, No transparency, broken promises etc

  • Peter Martin 9th Apr '18 - 6:27pm

    @ Katharine,

    “I am proud but grieved. Troubled that the harmonious society we aim to live in is disturbed by a ruthless capitalism backed by Government which lets the wealthy become wealthier while the poorest don’t have enough to live on. Where ordinary working families have seen their standard of living static for eight years and still struggle to manage with inadequate benefits. Where the older generation sits in comfortable houses while the young can’t find affordable accommodation even to rent. Where boasted ‘full employment’ often means people having to take ill-paid short-term jobs. Sometimes at the mercy of exploitative employers.”

    Blimey! You sound very left wing at times, Katharine.

    I’d be happy to be in the same party as yourself – except for just one thing. We disagree on the nature of the EU. I don’t believe it has protected workers’ rights. Germany is living on its reputation. The Hartz reforms changed what we think we know about German capital – labour relations.

    Emmanuel Macron is going down the same route in France right now. For countries on the periphery the situation must be even worse if their youngsters want to come to the UK to work for minimum wages!

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Apr '18 - 8:09pm

    Shaken, I must admit, David , after listening to Professor Bogdanor’s Gresham lecture. So the realignment of the Left has never happened, and why then could it do so now? But yet there has to be hope, surely, in two facts.

    One, that there has seemingly never been a time when both Tories and Labour were SIMULTANEOUSLY so deeply divided that the future progress of both, certainly under their current leaders, cannot be foretold. The other, that both parties are heading for a Brexit that will, we believe, be bad for the country, and therefore neither can claim moral ascendancy over the other.

    We are in a position to state that neither deserves to govern the country now, given this irresponsibility. Many MPs from both parties should secretly agree with this, which makes the possibility of their aligning with us this year, on this subject, a possibility. Given a bad deal – and it is still impossible to suppose that the terms can finally be satisfactory – the political situation will remain fluid and volatile. We should be anticipating this by stating our case as leaders of the anti-Brexit campaign, as I see Vince has already done in a tweet, and exposing both the falsity of the claims of the major parties to be doing right by the country, and the nonsense of the idea of a new party being needed. That should be one side of our driving force this year, with the other showing up the crying shame of the increasing impoverishment of our poorest citizens. There has surely never been opportunity like this for us in the past century.

    Peter, thank you for quoting me and liking the sentiments there. As to your objection, Germany is not the EU, and the EU has brought in workers’ protections. Whatever Germany may change for its own workers (I will ask my forthcoming German visitor about that), and the new French President propose for his country’s, the EU standards have benefited all of us.

  • Jayne mansfield 9th Apr '18 - 9:39pm

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    And what has Mr Clegg had to say about a new centrist party?

  • Jayne mansfield 9th Apr '18 - 9:45pm

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    …..or indeed Paddy Ashdown.

  • @ Jayne Cleggy ? Not a lot, Jayne, although he said it was highly likely but wouldn’t say whether he would join it. As far as I know Ashdown has said nowt. If Cleggy does join that will make two parties he’s joined. His trouble is he lacks a depth of conviction and is not rooted in any deep historical understanding.

    @ Katharine, I fully understand why you’re shaken. The Prof was, I think, pretty accurate in his judgements, though it does hurt when one has given so much over so many years.

  • @David

    Paddy Tweeted today

    “New centre Party? Nick Clegg spot on on BBC Today. This is not a time for the Centre to be tribal. If the modern moderates can find their voice like En Marche we all have to be part of that. Lib Dems included.”

  • Jayne mansfield 9th Apr '18 - 11:20pm

    @ David Raw,
    I thought that Mr Clegg’s comment that liberal values were more important than,
    ‘ the particular vehicle that is carrying them at a particular time ‘, very telling. It sort of mirror what you once posted about my switch from being a Liberal Democrat supporter to a Labour supporter.

    My own belief is that any attempt to further divide the left of centre votes amongst more left leaning small ‘l’ liberal parties is a Conservative wet dream.

    We have the most incompetent political party in power, and the creation of a third party is nothing more than a diversion from this fact. Given FPTP, another party may take a few but significant number of left wing, or liberal votes, leading to the return of a Conservative government , my worst nightmare, ( but something that some Liberal Democrats might welcome)

    Just to demonstrate my solidarity with Liberal Democrats that Brexit is a monumental act of self- harm and must be brought into every discussion, I would argue that the current bunch of Conservatives are even more incompetent than Cameron, who thought that a) a referendum was sensible and b) that if one was to be held on such a matter of import, a simple majority on such monumental decision was sensible.

  • British political parties are all the result of splits and reformed entities. The big Conservative split came in 1846 when the Peelites left the party over the repeal of the Corn Laws and joined with the Whigs and Radicals to form the Liberal Party in 1859.
    Labour split in 1931, when Ramsay MacDonald and part of the parliamentary party went into a national government with the Conservatives and some Liberals, and 1981, when the SDP was formed.
    No need to go over the number of times the Liberal Party has split since the Liberal Unionist Party was formed in 1886 as a breakaway over Irish home rule.
    Political parties are always in flux and major constitutional issues like Brexit have consistently led to breakaways and mergers.
    Neither Labour or the Conservative party are stable political groupings. The Libdems just need to hold fast as these tensions play out and be open to realignments and alliances as and when they occur.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 12:37am

    Jayne, our history in the past century and our present position appear the same, to be closer in outlook to Labour than the Conservatives, from whom we have traditionally taken seats, and will most likely target especially in the next General Election. Mr Clegg’s views are not so relevant, since the Orange Book era appears to have been an aberration.
    However, as Tim Farron has said, we should not have a coalition with either party. They are effectively paralysed, the Tories by the Brexiteers, Labour by Momentum, and both out of fear of each other and the voters. I believe we shall not merge, for there is every reason not to and in any case no party to merge with, but we should lead because we are free to lead, by fervent campaigning backed I suggest by advertising. Then as the situation develops, we can be ready to take advantage.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 12:45am

    Joe, I agree entirely with your conclusions, except for one omission there. The Liberal Democrats in taking advantage of flux and working with others should never surrender our firm, clear and distinctive identity.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Apr '18 - 7:42am

    Katharine, I would agree with you that we “should not consider any merger”. But I suppose we should remember that the party we belong to was created by a merger. I know you were an active member of the Liberal Party. Could I ask whether you supported or opposed the merger with the SDP at the time? I’m not implying that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer – just genuinely interested 🙂

  • Sorry to jump in Catherine, but as a Liberal I supported the merger – with a feeling that the SDP were to the right of the Liberal Party that I had known for over 25 years – but that the Liberal Party would take over the levers of power in the new organisation.

    In fact, eventually, it turned out that the arriviste Clegg & Co who took over nearly twenty years later were well to the right of what had been the SDP- and Charlie Kennedy was more Liberal than many Liberals..

    A funny old thing evolution.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '18 - 8:44am

    IF there is going to be a major split, and major party realignment over Brexit it will have to be soon. Before March 2019. After that and certainly by the time of the next election, which I never thought that was going to be any time soon even after the Tories lost their majority in 2017, the die will be cast and the choice will be to either rejoin or stay out of the EU.

    It would be better for the EU to make it clear to the UK that rejoining on the old terms can’t be an option. We should either be totally in (with the euro and Schengen etc) or totally out. Given such a stark choice it’s hard to see any Government wanting to reapply in the foreseeable future.

    If that happens then we can go back to our normal politics of left, centre, and right and it really won’t matter what Jeremy Corbyn’s, or any other Labour leader’s, attitude to Brexit might be. If that doesn’t happen, and the natural Parliamentary majority which exists in all parties against Brexit asserts itself to overthrow TM’s government all hell will break loose. The words ‘constitutional’ and ‘crisis’ won’t begin to describe what will follow.

    Interesting times!

  • Given that both main parties are moving to the extreme right and left, I don’t see how their could be any party for the LD’s to merge with. If half a dozen centrist Tory MP’s and a few more Blairite Labour MP’s jumped they would probably do one of two things: a) form a new party of their own or b) recognise the dangers of a, and defect to the LibDem’s. Any new party they formed would be merging with another for a few years. Even three defections from the Tory would bring this inept government down.

    With the way the Tories are ignorantly looking back to the 1800’s rather than the future, they cannot hope to gain support at the next GE, even if that is 2022. As they hurtle toward a settlement (or not) with Europe, and the mid-term of this government they have no strategy for broadly appealing to voters as they have not dealt with the reason for their nadir: failure to modernise. All the while they chase the Brexit vote they are doomed. It is now reckoned that the Tories are finished in London as a political party as the average age of a London dweller is 36, and the average of a Tory voter is 65; the liberal values of Londoners are no longer found in the Tory party. The Labour party might stand to gain some support in next months local elections from the Tories myopia, but they are also alienating the centre ground of voters. If we hold strong in the coming months that could serve us well.

  • @Peter – You are assuming the Tory’s actually deliver before the next election, on past performance I would not be surprised if they extend the transition period, particularly if the opinion polls indicate that they are likely to lose, just to burden a subsequent non-tory government with the task and thus permitting the tories to shout from the relative safety of opposition…

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 11:40am

    In this crucial year before March 2019 we have much work to do. We have to assert our leadership not only of the anti-Brexit movement, but also of progressive forces in this country who want major social, economic and constitutional reforms. These demands, for long-term economic reforms to reduce inequality and relative poverty and for a fairer voting system, must include short-term measures to help the poorest now. We need to campaign vigorously, explaining ourselves to the public and asking moderate progressives in the other parties to join us. This effort should involve our whole party with strong leadership from our MPs and peers, and we must convince the donors to the fantasy new centrist party that we are far more worthwhile recipients of their funding. The Liberal Democrat party is going on, is growing, and is ready to lead.

    Catherine, I welcomed the merging of the SDP with us Liberals because I feel even prouder to be a Liberal Democrat than I was to be a Liberal. Thanks to you, and the several repeat commentators above for furthering this discussion.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '18 - 12:25pm

    @ Roland,

    You could be right. That could happen but we’ll still be well down the Brexit road even so. We should all try to anticipate what the situation will be in 2022 – the likely year, IMO, of the next election. The general discussion, in all parties, is what would we put in our manifestos if an election was called in the next few days. That’s unlikely to happen. So the Lib Dems need to at least face up to the possibility that staying in the EU on the old terms won’t be an option in 2022. Neither will be rejoining the EU on EU terms be an option due to domestic political opinion.

  • Am I missing something here because I am pretty sure I am not getting some of the arguments being made here?
    My understanding is.
    We are leaving the EU In March 2019 and the transition period is until December 2020
    The Withdrawal agreement will be signed and binding in March 2019

    Personally, I do not believe article 50 to be revocable unilaterally, if even at all, and is something that will need to be decided by the ECJ

    Between now and March 2019 the UK and the EU “could” decide to extend the article 50 negotiation time table and thus the transition period if there was unanimous agreement to do so, However, once that withdrawal agreement has been signed, there is no going back.
    You could not go into a transition period of upto 18 months and then ¾ of the way through decide, oh actually this is not for us we have changed out mind we don’t want to leave after all. Because during that transition period we have already left, the transition period is just a grace period where we all still operate under the same set of rules in order to give businesses time to make their adjustments.
    Once we enter the transition period, the only way back is to rejoin under article 49, which means accepting schengan, single currency and other opt outs that we currently have.
    The impression that I get from some of the arguments made on here is that even when we are in the “transition” stage of leaving the EU, Brexit can be cancelled and we could carry on being a member under the same rules that we are now.
    Which in my understanding, we cant.

  • Nigel Hardy 10th Apr '18 - 1:52pm


    Next month’s local elections could well bring the Tories face-to-face with reality, that their Brexit fantasy is not popular. Once they get that message expect much ducking and diving to save their own skin until 2022. They’d also want to do so to prevent a split which would almost certainly bring them down with their delicate majority as it is. They would see an extension of our departure as necessary to fool the electorate that they were “listening”. Come 2022 the public mood will almost certainly be very much against leaving, and it would be incumbent upon the next government to negotiate our way back in to the EU and accepting the loss of our current opt outs as price to pay.

    As for a re-alignment in politics in the coming months much depends on the progressive Labour MP’s. If they feel that Corbyn’s Labour Party is no longer a home for them they may decide to jump ship. I don’t see Corbyn stepping down in a hurry to dig his vegetables, and neither do I see his momentum army losing faith in him yet a while. As long as that continues the party will become more of laughing stock every day.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '18 - 3:10pm

    @ Nigel Hardy,

    ” As long as that continues the party {Labour} will become more of laughing stock every day.

    Wasn’t this the consensus of opinion in metropolitan elitist circles prior to the 2017 elections?

    And who was doing the laughing afterwards?

  • Peter
    That depends on who gets the last laugh.

  • “all are free to marry whom they like,”
    If you have lots of money to bring your foreign spouse to Britain

  • @matt Am I missing something here because I am pretty sure I am not getting some of the arguments being made here?
    Yes! 🙂

    Fundamentally, the referendum and the Brexit negotiations are all about internal Conservative party divisions. So I expect, if Brexit is to trash the UK economy, they will want to be in opposition, so that they can blame a Labour (or another party) for actually wielding the knife and creating the mess.

    What about the interests of the country? 10 Downing St. isn’t interested, the most important matter that is exercising the Cabinet’s collected minds is keeping the Conservative party together and getting re-elected…

  • @Roland

    You’re missing the point.

    The next election will more than likely not be until 2022, by which time we would have already left the EU, or at the very least, we will be in a transitional period, therefore Brexit can not just be cancelled as some of you hope.
    The only option will be to “rejoin” which means accepting Schengan and the Euro.

    If there were a Labour Government, do you really think they would go along with that? And how successful do you think the Liberal Democrats would be making an argument for that?
    Do you really think the Liberal Democrats would improve their current standards of 7 % in the polls and 12 Mp’s if they went into the next election campaigning to “rejoin” the EU and adopting the Euro and Schengen?

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 5:28pm

    I think Matt is largely right this time, decisions have to be made by March 2019 when we must leave the EU with no prospect of returning, unless Parliament decides this autumn that the proposed final deal isn’t good enough and reverses its decision on Article 50. The proposed transition deal is as you say, Matt, just a grace period of adjustment. I see no point personally with all the unknowns of this year in speculating about 2022. I just want our party to get down to business, as I have requested above (11.40 am) and hope people may agree about?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Apr '18 - 5:53pm

    David and Katharine, thank you for sharing your memories of the merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP, in response to my question. I feel it must have been a very difficult time for many Liberal Party members, and I am surprised that so many were happy to agree to the merger. It is also surprising, and quite a remarkable achievement, that two parties which had quite a few differences in outlook, did manage to merge relatively harmoniously.

  • Andrew Melmoth 10th Apr '18 - 6:04pm

    The deal this autumn will be a fudge. The Tories aren’t capable of developing a viable and coherent Brexit strategy and it serves the EU’s interests to defer the critical decisions until the transition period when we will be in an even weaker position.
    There won’t be a second referendum because opinion is not going to shift decisively in Remain’s favour in the next 6 months. Leave’s majority will be whittled down during the transition period as reality starts to bite.
    By the time of the real exit in December 2020 Leave will no longer represent the ‘Will of the People’ but it will be too late. At best we will have some kind of Canada plus deal. We are then in for a decade of political and economic crisis. We will rejoin the EU in 15-20 years time. We won’t be required to adopt the Euro or Schengen though we might want to by that stage.

  • I think both you and Matt are correct, Katharine. It’s very much muck or nettles time in the next eleven months. Who knows for certain what will happen. Certainly a good local government push in May won’t do the Lib Dems any harm regardless of Brexit……… although it could rattle the Tories’ cage.

    However, I suspect and regret that the forces of Brexit will probably prevail next March. Then it will be time for the Lib Dems to move on….. probably electing a new leader in the Summer of 2019 and fashioning (I hope) a radical new agenda post Brexit reflecting as you say the need to tackle inequality and other domestic issues. Who the new leader will be is an open question but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Alistair Carmichael (if he wants it).

    As reality emerges, the Lib Dems might just get some post hoc credit and mileage again and we can finally lay the Coalition legacy to rest. One thing’s for sure – we’ve seen enough of the Tory Beast over the last two years never to want to embrace them again in a hurry…… and we should say so.

  • @ Catherine “It is also surprising, and quite a remarkable achievement, that two parties which had quite a few differences in outlook, did manage to merge relatively harmoniously.”

    Errrrrrrrrr, not quite. The demon doctor self immolated and scowled off back to Plymouth for a wee while before becoming an independent Peer courtesy of Major J. (then a Labour donor again when Milliband was set in stone). He’s an independent Social Democrat now but not very visible.

  • @Andrew Melmoth

    “it serves the EU’s interests to defer the critical decisions until the transition period when we will be in an even weaker position.”

    I am not sure that is the way it works Andrew. All the decisions have to be made, agreed and signed in order for us to go into the transition period.
    There will be no decisions left to thrash out during the transition period because the agreement will already have been ratified.

  • Nigel Hardy 10th Apr '18 - 8:36pm

    Despite the deluded aspirations of the hard right, I very much doubt their will be any crashing out. There are enough moderates on the Tory benches to stop that in its tracks. Corbyn’s Labour by that time will have opportunistically become more European friendly, and we’ll probably end up in Europe out of the EU. That’s why I believe we will be re-joining the before too long. The public by which time will be pro-European as the generation that’s anti will be much smaller in numbers by that time, and losing the opt outs we have enjoyed will be seen as price worth paying to get back in.

  • @Nigel Hardy

    “the public by which time will be pro-European as the generation that’s anti will be much smaller in numbers by that time,”

    By your logic, the Tory party should have ceased to exist a long time ago as their older supporters died off…..

    “and losing the opt outs we have enjoyed will be seen as price worth paying to get back in.”

    Seriously, do you honestly believe what your saying? Cameron went to the EU to get reforms and opt out assurances for the UK, this was not seen as anywhere near enough for the electorate and so was rejected and we voted to leave the EU, are you really suggesting that the electorate would not only change their mind on that we would be willing to join schengen, the Euro and give up the rebate and agree to an ever closer union? Seriously???

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 10:45pm

    Some surprisingly pessimistic notes to end the evening! David, even the older generation of Lib Dems doesn’t necessarily lack passion and energy – just look at Tony Greaves’ comment on the Brexit thread – and there are plenty of younger folk to take up the struggle. But it has to be taken up now, I believe, Nigel and Andrew: I don’t think we could rejoin, because the requirement for newcomers to join the Euro isn’t likely to disappear or ever be acceptable in Britain, and as Matt says there’s no renegotiation allowed in the transition period

    Meantime Parliament can still say no, or throw the decision back on the people in another referendum. An extra reason for them to do that has just been made clear, as it happens: the Institute of Government is warning that after Brexit the Government is likely to want more centralising powers which ‘will threaten the stability of existing devolution arrangements and could cause irreparable harm to the relationship between the devolved administrations and Westminster.’ (Report in the Times, Monday.) We in Cumbria had enough of Border warfare in past centuries, thank you, and there’s more than enough of a problem anyway with the Irish Border. It’s time for you Scots-based Liberal Democrats, David, to start militating! And for a demand for constitutional reform as part of a Lib Dem campaigning package perhaps to take on a wider remit, defending decentralisation as well as demanding electoral reform..

  • @matt re: “You’re missing the point.”
    Looking back, I suspect I may have confused several different conversation threads.

    But yes, I agree, unless we have a revolution in the coming months, that March 2019 deadline looks pretty secure. The past has shown how games will be played between the Executive and Parliament so that Parliament ultimately votes the way the executive want – just like: Maastricht, Lisbon…

    As for the only option (rejoin the EU), I disagree I suspect it may be politically expedient to extend the transition period because it avoids both the real-world of Brexit and reapplying. So I think currently that December 2020 deadline is fungible – by both Westminster and the EU27.

    We shouldn’t rule out T.May attempting to call another election in the March 2019~December 2020 window.

    But in answer to your substantive point, at some point, the political parties are going to have to lay out their stalls for the post-March 2019 UK. Previously on LDV, I have drawn attention to what some of the things Brexit want and how they actually provide an opportunity to draw attention to some LibDem policies.

    I suspect that many aren’t looking beyond March-2019 as there still is an opportunity for Parliament to actually show it has the interests of the country at heart and start giving the Executive some grief over its preferred Brexit.

  • Andrew Melmoth 11th Apr '18 - 12:20am

    @ Matt
    What further concessions do you think the EU will require of us before the trade negotiations start during the transition period? All the deal in autumn is going to contain are those things which are already agreed and some fairly general statements about the shape of the eventual trade agreement. Now, it is perfectly possible that the ‘negotiations’ collapse this year but I expect we will have a ‘deal’ in October because it is in the interests of all the major players to reach the transition phase.

    @ Katharine
    Of course nobody knows what the situation will be in 15 years time but given how flexible the requirement to join the euro has been in practice it seems unlikely that it would be made a deal-breaker if the UK (or what’s left of it at the time) opted to rejoin.

  • I view this new party idea as an attempt to buy remain-votes in Parliament. A majority of MPs want to stop Brexit but are afraid to do so because they have no answer to the question: and then? Donors try to offer them a new, defensible power-base for that day, a business-as-usual Brexit reversal on a stable platform to proceed on. But it cannot work. The question would remain: who will govern the UK then, based on which mandate and in which direction? Many things would happen very hastily: some Brexit suspension/cancellation/postponement, a snap election, manifesto-writing, candidate-haggling, re-selections, renewed EU-membership-based campaigning… Changing the Brexit-course comes with unavoidable chaos.

    The “good” news is: the same will happen if Brexit proceeds. Most people and MPs will be very unhappy with the result, as the question of Britain’s direction remains unanswered. Suddenly, you have all the options but no plan and no means. Any sequence of failing national experiments becomes imaginable: Singapore, socialism, or the reverse, and back…

    The current party-landscape is not intrinsically inadequate; the problem is that both major parties are currently controlled by their extremist fringes. Any course of events will sort this out, but in a very painful way.

    Moderate MPs who think this through will understand that all of this boils down to one question: do I want my country to live through inevitable constitutional, strategic, and financial turbulence while being inside or outside the politically and economically stabilizing EU framework? In the process, the instrumental questions of parties and EU-membership can be assessed. There lies the simplicity beyond the complexity.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Apr '18 - 10:53am

    Roland i agree with you and have said so on a number of occasions some sort of fudge deal for March 2019. Tories claim they have delivered Brexit and a snap general election in June 2019 .TM has no interest in fixed term parliaments and Labour will think they are in with a chance with Corbyn based on the 2017 results .We need to be on an general election campaign footing now. This is why if we want to lead a progressive movement we must emphasis the need for a reform of British politics root and branch ,why we need to prepare deliverable policy proposals that resonate wIth the public and why we must not become a one party issue party like UKIP . There will be life after Brexit lets make sure we have the ammunition and profile to take advantage of it.

  • Brexit was the nation having its say as a result of broken politics in the UK over the last two decades. When you have a stale political duopoly that moves to the centre ground representation of the working class that was Labour’s heartland becomes overlooked. It was no surprise therefore that so many people felt that their politicians had become elitist, and not representative of their life. Trust in politicians has steadily declined, exacerbated by MP’s expenses claims for duck houses etc. If we had PR (thanks New Labour for passing on that one) new parties wouldn’t be suffocated at birth and the choice of parties may have been more varied, and European membership may well not have been an issue; it was (and is still ) all about Tory party division.

    If the next generation of politicians fail to address the concerns of divisions in Britain, lack of democracy, dishonest media, poverty, housing inequality etc. and lead a more liberal nation Brexit will just be an appetiser for what will likely follow. This is where the two main parties currently caught up in their own malaise could well fall. The Tories have reached their nemesis a result of not modernising to the C21, and are now too pre-occupied with internal fighting to bother about the voters. Labour too could have returned to a position of pragmatism, but elected a populist left winger instead to lead. Oddly this hasn’t created insatiable appetite for the middle ground just yet.

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '18 - 11:54am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “………both major parties are currently controlled by their extremist fringes”

    The underlying assumption here is that anyone who doesn’t want to go along with the EU juggernaut is an “extremist”. Or anyone who would rather have a mixed economy with the railways and and public utilities back in national ownership is also an extremist. Or anyone who argues that Westminster and not Brussels should be in control of our laws and our economy. Similarly, anyone who wants to question the trend to globalism and financial deregulation. Just who benefits?

    Or anyone who argues, purely on the basis of simple arithmetic, that the government needs to run a deficit so that everyone else can be in surplus. Or that the real problem of the eurozone is 19 countries wanting to share single currency without having a system of fiscal transfers. Anything that challenges the neoliberal / ordoliberal agenda is extremism! Anyone who asks awkward questions or points out uncomfortable truths is an extremist.

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '18 - 12:10pm

    @ Andrew Melmoth

    “……..given how flexible the requirement to join the euro has been in practice”

    You’ll be thinking about Denmark and Sweden maybe?

    The euro, per se, isn’t really the problem. It’s the rules that go with it. All countries in the EU, including the UK, are meant to abide by the fiscal rules of the appallingly misnamed Stability and Growth Pact. The UK is unique in having an exemption to any penalties imposed for transgressing them. Although, in practice, the larger countries like Germany have enough political clout to have them set aside. They aren’t supposed to run such large surpluses for instance. But nothing is ever said. This is one of the better rules.

    There’s no way a net importing country like the UK could ever accept those rules. Any attempt to comply, even if we kept the pound, would lead to an economic disaster .

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Apr '18 - 12:41pm

    These calls for reform of British politics leading to a fairer, less divided and more liberal country are surely right, and our party is here to give the lead on that. We should lead on remaining in the EU, on immediate help for the poorest and disadvantaged (including the young lacking decent affordable housing), and on wider and more far-reaching reforms, social, economic and constitutional. We should demand the lead now, not waiting for any fudge on Brexit, and we should make it known to the country that we are the party ready and equipped to take the lead.

    It was reported in the last Observer by Andrew Rawnsley that ‘senior Lib Dems … have been giving encouragement to the idea (of a new party) in recognition that they don’t have the heft to fill the gaping hole in the middle ground of British politics.’ Let’s have no more of that! We have a lot more ‘heft’ than this chimera of a party, and we need to tell our leaders that and demand that they say so – and seek out those donors to back a real party with the experience and beliefs that the country needs, to break the log-jam of the two main parties and keep us out of Brexit.

  • Nigel Hardy 11th Apr '18 - 1:03pm

    @Katharine Pindar

    “…‘senior Lib Dems … have been giving encouragement to the idea (of a new party) in recognition that they don’t have the heft to fill the gaping hole in the middle ground…”

    The problem with that statement is that far too often folk just look at the number of MP’s a party has and no further; journalists do like to knock the LibDems and other smaller parties for that very reason. Abolish this undemocratic FPTP system and we’d be seen in a more positive light. Until that can be achieved we should not shut the door to pro-European defectors from the main parties. If they have remain constituencies then they and we could be rewarded in a subsequent election, which would more fruitful than starting up another party. However, any defectors would have to share our core values and our desire for PR.

  • Nigel Hardy 11th Apr ’18 – 1:03pm………………..The problem with that statement is that far too often folk just look at the number of MP’s a party has and no further; journalists do like to knock the LibDems and other smaller parties for that very reason. Abolish this undemocratic FPTP system and we’d be seen in a more positive light……………

    On 6% we’d still be a fringe party..

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Apr '18 - 4:51pm

    We’d have a lot more than 6 or 7% with a fairer voting system, expats. Nigel is right, that’s a priority in the demand for constitutional reform as well as social and economic reform. And, Nigel, of course we wouldn’t shut the door to pro-European defectors from other parties, but we must keep our Liberal Democrat identity, so that they need to join us or at least form an electoral alliance with us.

    I have just written to our Leader and to our Chief Executive to urge a summer-long campaign to assert our role as THE progressive party, demanding social, economic and constitutional reform, short-term and long-term, as well as defeat of Brexit. This campaign to include advertising from a top agency, to maintain the campaign if the Media tire of it. Of course it will need support from all our members too, on social media and every medium, after the immediate priority of the local government elections.

  • Why do people think that remaining in the EU would help the poorest and the disadvantaged? It hasn’t done this since at least 2008 and maybe longer. It has inflicted harm on the poorest and forced millions of people to migrate. As far as I can tell the only people who have benefited in the last ten years have been the wealthiest and those already earning huge salaries. We know that austerity has affected the poorest the most. We know the EU has forced austerity on lots of Euro zone members.

    The EU’s economic policy is completely wrong. It also seems to stop countries having regional policies which would make a difference by giving financial incentives to particular businesses to setup in a particular place. It seems that nations have to treat all businesses the same.

    Roland is correct we need to have polices for when the UK has left the EU. We should not assume Brexit will not happen.

    To return to the central issue of this thread – if a new centralist party was formed it would be difficult to reach an agreement on the division of seats to fight. It was difficult enough in 1982 when there were a lot more places where we were second. In 2019 we came second in only 37 seats! If its main objective was to get the UK to re-join the EU I suppose we could keep most of our 49 target seats and only divide equally those seats with a pro-Remain vote.

    As the SDP failed in the 1980’s it seems likely that any new centralist party would also fail and I suppose the only MPs interested in joining would be Labour ones who had been de-selected and couldn’t find an alternative seat to stand in. Of the 29 MPs the SDP had in 1983 only 5 retained their seats after the general election!

  • @ Katharine “We’d have a lot more than 6 or 7% with a fairer voting system, expats. Nigel is right, that’s a priority in the demand for constitutional reform as well as social and economic reform.”

    I’m afraid that’s very Catch 22 and paradoxical, Katharine. To get PR we can demand all we like – but we would need to form a majority government to get it because nobody else is going to give it to us. At 6 to 7% in the polls, and with a Brexit polarised electorate, that’s not going to happen soon.

    Much better to think long term. What would be worthwhile would be to work on a genuinely radical re-distributive programme ready for post Brexit – and to engage with the latter day Keynes and Beveridges in the Universities to do this. Short of giving Vince a course of Phyllosan (which allegedly used to fortifiy the over forties when I was a lad) it will probably be under new next generation leadership.

    It will probably mean losing a few of the pale blue Lib Dems (some of whom seem to haunt LDV with their odd notions that the free market will fortify society – it won’t ) ……. and given the current clumsy policy making bureaucracy of the party it’s going to be quite a job to get there.

    If only we could get a bit of the Bernie Sanders fire in the party and the leadership we wouldn’t need the Phyllosan.

    It’s not impossible. It could be done.

  • paul barker 11th Apr '18 - 7:23pm

    A lot of this discussion seems to me to be taking place in a vacuum & fairly pointless. Right now we dont know much, in 22 Days we weill know a lot more. Once we see the results & how The Media/Twittersphere spin those results we will have something to work with.

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Apr '18 - 7:53pm

    I can only express bewilderment at the logic hereabouts. There is much talk of the wide open centre ground but not the smallest trace of centre ground policies. Those policies which are offered with real enthusiasm are radical wealth redistribution word for word from the Corbyn McDonnell manifesto
    Why would anyone who wanted wealth redistribution vote for anyone but Labour?

  • Nigel Hardy 11th Apr '18 - 8:27pm

    @David Raw

    There is a grassroots campaign called Make Votes Matter which is actively engaging with MP’s and peers. It recognises that to achieve PR we have to get one of the two main parties on board. The best option open are the Labour Party, of which 80 MP’s are on board. MVM are working hard to get Labour to commit to PR in time for the next GE. They will help you talk to your MP.


    “On 6% we’d still be a fringe party..”

    With around forty MP’s under PR. Don’t forget that FPTP discourages people from voting when they know their vote is wasted, and it probably puts the Tories in office again. Whereas PR is said to encourage higher voter turnout as their vote is actually counted fairly.

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '18 - 8:50pm

    @ Innocent Bystander

    “Why would anyone who wanted wealth redistribution vote for anyone but Labour?”

    That’s a good question. But in my experience Lib Dem voters are just as interested in social justice as Labour voters. In 2010 I did what I could to promote the idea of tactical voting – essentially to benefit the left of centre parties. See an early snapshot of my little tactical voting website as below. The idea was simple enough. Just let everyone know who the likely two front runners were in each constituency and if there was any point in a tactical vote. I had a huge surge as the election approached and ended up with over 200,000 hits.

    I didn’t repeat the exercise in 2015 due to the rise of UKIP and let the domain name go to someone else. But I’ve always thought the left should co-operate more, notwithstanding some major differences – especially over the EU.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Apr '18 - 9:32pm

    @ Nigel Hardy. That’s an excellent answer to the scoffers about getting PR, thanks, Nigel. It’s good to know about MVM, and I may seek their advice in asking our Workington Labour MP to support the campaign. David, I’m disappointed in you! We haven’t that many years between us to think long-term, and in any case this is a more vital year for our country than others possibly for a long time to come. A year in which we can lead the fight to defeat Brexit, prompting the hesitant and fearful in the main parties through our freedom to show the truths about it. What about adding the case for preserved decentralisation to our armoury of arguments? – see my yesterday’s post at 10.45 pm.
    Innocent Bystander: we share a commitment to social justice with Labour but the substantial differences between us include disagreements on how to promote greater equality, we favouring for example co-operative enterprises rather than wholesale nationalistion, and more localism rather than state-centred economy. See the Febnuary 9 article entitled ‘What should we do about Labour?’ and its comments, in the Archive.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Apr '18 - 9:58pm

    @ Michael BG. You misunderstand, Michael. The call for a campaign against poverty and inequality in this country, both now and in the longer term, is separate from the anti-Brexit campaign. They are only linked by the plea for our party to lead the progressive forces of this country, both in opposing Brexit and in demanding social, economic and constitutional reform for this country.

    To state ‘The EU’s economic policy is completely wrong’ is rather absolute. The EU like Britain confronted the financial crash of 2008 with austerity measures with which today’s Liberal Democrats tend to deplore. We would indeed, as I am sure you do, wish for help for the poorest throughout the EU. But even Greece decided to stay in the EU despite the grim austerity measures, and now the EU’s rate of growth is better than Britain’s, and its expectations higher than a post-Brexit Britain’s. Nobody is assuming Brexit won’t happen, we are just fighting to stop it!

    The general opinion of comments here is that a new centrist party cannot emerge as a genuine contestant, that there is no other party for ours to merge with even were that desirable which it is not, and that we should keep and propose to thrive in our independence and potential to lead the progressive forces of the centre-left.

  • Katharine, I’m sorry you’re disappointed in me but I’m afraid that’s how I see it at the moment – and after fifty seven years political activism I’ve developed a sensitive nose to public opinion.

    As to the not many years comment I’m going to have to disappoint you again – had a transplant seven years ago and due to have hip done in four weeks time. My consultant said the hip should last for at least twenty years – and hip apart – I was disgustingly healthy. It’s great fun being disgusting.

    PS Incidentally, I’m absolutely fed up with daytime TV ads for funeral plans (many from that Sir Steve Webb’s company – him of Universal Credit fame) – so they can stick all that where the sun don’t shine. They sound so blinking smug and cheerful announcing they’ve got a shroud fixed up. Granddad and Mum got to their nineties so I’ll be disappointing you for a wee while yet…… and we’ll see who’s right.

  • To re-emerge as the third or centrist party you need to have the policies that appeal and support the parties values, and also get them out there and heard by the public. I am not fully convinced at the moment that beyond initial statements that the depth of policies exist and due to party process may be some way down the line.
    As to getting the message out there you will always run up against an uninterested media as long as low polling continues. The reliance is back on the dedicated foot soldiers in local parties that seem sometimes to be unappreciated by HQ by some accounts.
    I have never been convinced by the effectiveness of PPB but accept they are important to hang on to. I did watch the parties latest one for the local elections earlier tonight. It felt a little flat and uninspiring. I believe this may represent the depressed financial position of the party as it seemed to consist mostly of the reply of Vince on the NHS and the empty briefcase one on brexit.
    I want the party to do well but worry were the move forward is coming from.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    Check out MVM website: . According to their map of MP’s yours hasn’t stated an opinion yet, so you should seek a meeting. MVM has lots of material and will put the message out to other local constituents if you want others to join you in talking to your MP. I have a meeting with mine soon, which sadly is a Cabinet member, and therefore will just be one of going through the motions.

    As for Brexit, much as I deplore it and the Tories cheap opportunism (think DUP), my growing feeling, albeit reluctantly, is that we probably have to aim for a soft Brexit and allow that to pass. It takes a good 5 years at minimum for public opinion to change, and if it were reversed later this year, the leavers would still boisterous enough to cry foul. Whereas leave it a few years for the economic effects to fully hit home, the empire nostalgia votes to die, the Tory Brexiteers to suffer deep humiliation and the public mood will have shifted significantly enough. I don’t wish to sound defeatist, but pragmatic.

  • Peter Martin 12th Apr '18 - 8:43am

    @ Katharine @ MichealBG

    “To state ‘The EU’s economic policy is completely wrong’ is rather absolute. The EU like Britain confronted the financial crash of 2008 with austerity measures with which today’s Liberal Democrats tend to deplore.”

    It’s true the consensus in the UK has changed quite a lot since the we all thought the economic sky was going to fall in if we didn’t do something about our budget deficit in 2010. Or at least I hope it has, there’s still quite some way to go though.

    That change, such as it is, has been brought about by rational argument and discussion. Though this alone wouldn’t be enough. The evidence is that George Osborne realised, sometime in late 2012, that he couldn’t carry on as he was, and the Tories were likely to lose the election in 2015. Although the Tories pretend not to, when it comes to the crunch, I’m sure they understand the basic principles of Keynesian economics just as well as any lefty like me.

    Elections are vital in the UK in order to hold our leaders to account. Elections can change things for the better even if the Tories still end up winning them. This is not the case in the EU. Their economic policy is indeed “rather absolute”. It’s written down as the Stability and Growth Pact. So if a party like Syriza wins in Greece there’s only one way forward. ie Stand up to the EU and win.

    Syriza lost and had to carry on doing what they were told to by the EU. The elections changed very little.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Apr '18 - 9:59am

    More helpful comments, thank you, chaps. David, I am of course very pleased to hear that genetically you have a good chance of reaching your nineties! The party, your local food bank, and no doubt your family, need you for many more years yet, and I trust you will have a good working hip again in a few weeks. ( Your heart transplant I knew about, and am very glad it worked so well – I won’t make the rather obvious comparison highlighting your lovely nature! )

    Nigel, thank you for your further information on Make Votes Matter and looking up my Workington MP – I will certainly follow that up. Peter, you have quoted the paragraph from me in which I failed annoyingly to delete an extra word (‘with’), but there you go! I remember reading that you economically-literatu chaps, Michael certainly and you perhaps, said that reform of the Stability and Growth Pact would be one necessary to the future health of the EU. Sean, you do have a point I think, in that although we have many excellent policies, we haven’t yet reaffirmed some of the most important economic policies we seem to want. However, in approaching the public it’s only the big themes that come over, and I hope we can reassert them in the summer campaign I propose which other commentators have suggested.

    This discussion is going on to an amazing length! I hope it seems worthwhile in parts, and at any rate it is at present some distraction from the sorrow of Syria and the threats of warfare.

  • @ Katharine Kindhearted as I am (and you certainly are), I have to tell you it was a non-alcoholic liver condition not a heart………. and that was genetic on the other side.

    Hence my support for amendments to the presumed consent transplant rules which thankfully – with support from Labour MSP’s but sadly not all the Lib Dems – the Scottish Government is about to introduce. Edinburgh is a world leader in Kidney & Liver transplants and last year performed a record number of ops.

    Incidentally, the Scottish Government has pursued Minimum pricing of alcohol (with my full support) – but again Lib Dems were compromised because of ties to the Scotch Whiskey Association who sponsored them. Claims to be an evidence based party (based on Sheffield University research) doesn’t always ring true…… though Willie, to his credit, supports it.

  • One or two respondents have commented on our leader, and I’d like to add to that debate. Elsewhere on less sober forums you can find comments referring to the leader’s age, perceived ability (or lack of) and much less favourable comments. The problem is that Gordon Brown’s prophetic warning to Nick Clegg in 2010 (according to Vernon Bogdanor the other night) has come true that “The Tories will tear us all apart over Europe”.

    No longer are our political times predictable and benign. Not only have the Tories torn their opponents apart, but they’re busy tearing themselves up as well. Brexit is such a tsunami that there is little room for a middle party or any sensible progressive policies at present. Look at the Tories; they’ve lost all sense of reality having conquered UKIP ground, squabbling about the very thing that was supposed to bring them together. Labour’s little different, run by an ageing lefty dogmatic populist, with two passions 1) rail nationalisation and 2) bringing the Tories down, completely unable to unite his party as he props up his opponents.

    By contrast our leader is well equipped for the job of leading his united party (and the nation), with a good grasp on the problems facing the country, which the other parties have created rather than fixed. Unfortunately his age isn’t in a our favour longer term. The problem is that under our outdated system the main (regressive) parties only see politics as a two horse race, hence their addiction to FPTP. Those inconvenient smaller parties in their eyes must be killed off, they are just an inconvenience. Our time in coalition has undone all the progress the party made in the 90’s and 00’s and again we struggle to be heard, particularly in the current media which needs reform. Our political system is broken, and democracy badly needs reform if the nation is to rebuild its trust in their politicians. The challenge is how we can re-claim the middle ground for the immediate and long term future to re-build and reform our democratic system.

  • Peter Watson 12th Apr '18 - 11:24am

    @Nigel Hardy “Elsewhere on less sober forums you can find comments referring to the leader’s age, perceived ability (or lack of) and much less favourable comments … Labour’s little different, run by an ageing lefty dogmatic populist”
    Didn’t shtay shober for long. Hic! 😉

  • @Peter Watson – Maybe I should don my blue coat and brazenly brandish the knife!

  • @ Innocent Bystander

    There are philosophical differences between us and Labour. They are more authoritarian (they wanted us all to have ID cards before the 2010 election). They are also classed based and are happy with conditionality; we should not be, as we see each individual as equal. In the 2017 we promised to reverse more of the benefit cuts than Labour.

    @ Katharine Pindar

    I don’t understand why the Greek government decided to stay in the Euro zone and inflict austerity on their people when the people had rejected the EU deal in 2015. The growth rate of a country is not the sole indicator of the state of their economy. In 2017 the Greek economy was 7% smaller than in 2012 and is likely to still be smaller at the end of this year. In November 2011 they had an unemployment rate of 20.1% and Spain’s was 16.6%.

  • Peter Martin 12th Apr '18 - 12:53pm

    @ MichaelBG,

    “I don’t understand why the Greek government decided to stay in the Euro zone”

    It might be some time before we ever get told what went on behind the scenes. My guess is that the Greek Govt didn’t want to win the referendum, were looking for a way out, and were embarrassingly surprised when they did.

    It would have been messy to leave. Even now Greek people try to keep their money as German euros, if need be in cash in wall safes, rather than Greek euros. They aren’t the same as German euros. There is the problem of existing contracts and prices and that would keep the lawyers busy for yeras to come.

    I was hoping that the Greek Govt would have shown more resolve. I was hoping the European left would have shown some support too but the response was, frankly, pathetic. If we are capable of standing up to Margaret Thatcher we should be capable of standing up to Merkel, Schauble, and their like too.

  • @Michael BG

    Personally I see nothing wrong in ID cards; all other EU countries have an ID system be it compulsory or otherwise. I use the argument thyat if you’ve nothing to hide you have nothing to fear from having such a card.

    The authorities have an awful lot of data on us, but no central means of knowing who’s in the country legally or otherwise. Many people are unable to access benefits because they have no fixed abode or open new bank accounts because they hold neither a passport nor drivers licence. The Tories now want us all to show such ID at the polling booth (another clever way of excluding) . If we had an ID system all we’d have to do is give our number to whichever body and they wouldn’t ask us to jump through hoops and then say sorry you don’t qualify! To my mind exclusion is not liberal.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Apr '18 - 2:33pm

    Nigel, I liked the summary you posted this morning, but I don’t agree with ID cards. It seems to me enough for people to be able to show their identity by means of a utility bill, passport, driving licence, or just declaring their National Insurance number. It isn’t Liberal thinking, surely, that we must all be classified in the same way. For legal newcomers, such as asylum seekers, if there are difficulties let the charities assist them as they already do. For illegal migrants, the next thing that would happen if ID cards were introduced is that there would be a new trade in stolen or fake ones, I should have thought.

  • Peter Martin 12th Apr '18 - 3:28pm

    If anyone is looking to understand the poor performance of EU centrists recently we need look no further than this stupid comment from Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Incidentally he was instrumental in stitching up Greece in 2015. He’s said, of EU debtor countries, largely interpreted as Greece, Spain and Italy:

    “I cannot spend all my money on liquor and women and plead for your support afterwards. This principle applies on the personal, local, national and also European level”

    Firstly, he is clearly straying onto racist ground with this remark. Secondly, and this is probably even more important, he’s economically illiterate if he thinks that personal finances can be compared with National and European finances. Our incomes are largely independent of our expenditure. But for a National Govt, a cut in expenditure translates almost directly into a cut in income.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if wasn’t chairman of the euro group and Dutch finance minister. You’d think the EU could afford to employ someone who knew what they were talking about!

    He’s reportedly also a member of the “European Socialist party”. I’m not sure what that is, but with friends like this who needs enemies?

  • Nigel Hardy 12th Apr '18 - 3:30pm

    @Katharine Pindar

    The problem with not having an ID card system is that there is no standard checking system. If you wish to open a bank account, but you don’t have 1. A passport or 2. Drivers licence some banks can say you don’t exist. I know this to be case, my OH tried opening an account with a Building Society and was refused an account on these grounds… yet we own a house together! An ID system would overcome that.

    People trapped in the catch22 situation of no job and no fixed address can’t claim their benefits because the criteria is to have a fixed address. Surely an ID card system would give them access to the benefits they should be entitled to?

    If it is deemed necessary that we produce ID at the polling booth the powers that be will probably say passport or drivers licence necessary, and how many thousands will be denied a vote? Who would they be? Some elderly, less well off and some first time voters. If we had ID cards everyone on the electoral register would get a vote. However, on this one I thought the checking system of volunteering your name and addy to the electoral officer was sufficient proof in itself of who you are.

    What is the black market in fake or stolen drivers licences? To overcome that one all we’d have to is look at how the plethora of countries prevent fake / stolen ID cards.

  • I have never really understood what the Liberal Democrats objection to ID Cards is

  • David Evans 12th Apr '18 - 4:45pm

    Katharine, you say “We’d have a lot more than 6 or 7% with a fairer voting system, expats.” However, in 2014 we got 6.6% in the EU elections held under a fair, proportionate system, worse than the 13% in the local elections held on the same day under the unfair FPTP system, and worse than the 7.9% we got in the 2015 General election.

    It’s not that I disagree with your optimism, motivation or belief, but we do need to cling to facts. They are the only possible basis for evidence based decision making. Otherwise it just boils down to “whatever choice of words that makes me feel good.” Ultimately, the unwillingness of so many people to face up to what was going wrong in coalition and the electoral disasters year after year they chose to ignore should be a warning to us all.

    Unless of course we don’t care.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Apr '18 - 8:25pm

    @David Evans. That poor record of votes in the 2014 EU elections only shows our people’s general lack of interest and involvement with their MEPs, David. One of the reforms proposed not long ago here on LDV (in a long discussion which you may recall) was for much closer regular connections between MEPs and the home Parliaments, and reporting back from them to their own constituents. It was also suggested that home Parliaments should debate and decide on forthcoming items of EU business, to instruct their Ministers in the Council of Ministers how to proceed. Such kind of reforms would lead to much greater voter interest in EU affairs – and hopefully here to eliminating useless UKIP MEPS! I don’t think you were making a fair comparison in suggesting that the EU results were relevant in assessing our general voting patterns, so I’m afraid those particular facts you cited weren’t appropriate.

  • @Katharine

    Having MEP’s report regularly to their constituents and parliament will make no difference at all, it is not going to make people get more “involved”
    Most people know that the biggest problem with the EU is the Commision, the UK’s commissioner is neither elected or accountable to the electorate or our government for that matter, they can take no advice or direction from the people or it’s government and they are there only to serve the interests of the EU.

    The Majority of the UK will never find this acceptable and no amount of tinkering around the edges is ever going to change that.
    The EU is not interested in reforms.
    Germany is not interested in reforms, you only have to look towards your dear friend Arnold, who is a good indication of how they see things.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Apr '18 - 11:45pm

    If the UK has a commissioner, Matt, then we have a say in the Commission. I doubt if many people do know where power lies in the EU – what about the Council of Ministers, for example? All kinds of reforms of the government of the EU can be proposed, if we stay in. You make these sweeping statements – ‘The EU is not interested in reforms’ – as if we know everything about what is going on there. I do know that there is central unhappiness about the tendency towards autocracy in Hungary and Poland, and Hungary’s refusal to accept refugees and increasing hostility towards Muslims, so that the western states might well wish changes in the status quo. As for us, if I ever get to elect an MEP again, I shall be far more interested than before in what he or she stands for. what group s/he will join, and in reports back from all our MEPs; and I would have thought people in general would want that after all this focus on the EU.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    “If the UK has a commissioner, Matt, then we have a say in the Commission”

    I am afraid Katharine that is not technically correct. Once the Commissioner has been appointed by our Prime Minister, that is it, The Commissioner can not seek or accept instructions or directions from the UK or the Government, the commissioner is there to represent the EU NOT the UK. I personally do not see how one Man / Women who is taking no direction from their country is giving the people of that country a “say”

    ” You make these sweeping statements – ‘The EU is not interested in reforms”
    Yes I do, we went to the EU seeking reforms and look what happened, hence the reason that we ended up voting to leave the EU.
    Now as a result, there will be a price to pay, the UK will not be able to unilaterally revoke article 50 because that would give to much power to a member state and the EU does not like that, it makes discipline impossible.
    They would demand accepting Schengen or the Euro as a price.
    Especially now with what is going on with Hungry, Poland etc. The EU needs to send countries a message, that no member state would be able to hold the EU to ransom with threat of article 50, without there being a consequence if they were to withdraw that notice at later.
    That is why all this talks of mergers to stop Brexit and getting Parliament to legislate for a 2nd Referendum before October is all nonsense. It really is.

    The Sooner this party and other parties for that matter get down to business, sets out how they would run the country outside of the EU, what policies it would implement, social policies, their own version of a CAP policy which aids farmers who at the same time work to environmental standards, revitalising communities, especially ones that had been effected by the EU, ie once thriving fishing ports and communities etc etc.

    Once parties get on with it, then we can start to see a true realignment in politics IMO

  • David Evans 13th Apr '18 - 1:44am

    Katharine, matt has pointed out several flaws in your argument. I will point out just one. You will find that the earnestness and depth of debate on most issues on LDV is in inverse proportion to the interest of the general public in those issues, and inevitably when we are talking about constitutional matters that divergence is at its greatest. The vast majority of people are interested only in what politicians do not what they say.

    What matters is not what we as Lib Dems like but what people out there like. I thought we would have learned that by now. That is why we lost so many voters in coalition. That is why we lost the AV referendum. If you really don’t believe me, I suggest you canvass a few council estates and ask them how important they think regular reports back from their MEPs are, or their MP, or even their councillor compared to say the state of the roads, or schools or of their house. And just to be sure ask if they can name their local councillor, their MP etc.

    Even our one remaining Lib Dem MP in the North West, rarely puts what he does in the HoC on leaflets, – but his fight to save the local hospital, investment in our local area, building affordable homes, improvements to recycling, how many people he has helped – these are what he emphasises, because that is what matters to voters. You will know, because you have helped deliver them. We all have to learn from others, and I suggest we learn form the good things that successful Lib Dems do, and not just describe facts as inappropriate because they don’t accord with what you would rather believe.

  • @ Nigel Hardy (and Matt)

    In my original post I was just declaring Party policy. My personal objection to ID cards is everyone is forced to pay for them no matter what their income. I also dislike having to provide any form of ID. I don’t recall having to do it in the 1970’s and 80’s. In the Appeal Case of Harry Willcock the Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard said demanding production of the card for its own sake tended “to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers” ( I think that is the liberal argument against them.

    @ David Evans and Katharine Pindar

    The 2014 EU election shows that those who said we shouldn’t fight the EU elections on Europe were correct and that Nick Clegg was wrong to debate Nigel Farage on the EU. I think there is evidence that we do worse under PR systems than FPTP but I don’t have it. I think this is because we became good at squeezing the third party and when fighting EU seats we didn’t deliver enough leaflets to every house in the huge constituency and instead we concentrated in our best areas as if it was a FPTP election.

    @ Matt

    I don’t think Commissioners have as much power as you think, but they shouldn’t have the power to propose legislation. They should only be able to make recommendations to the Parliament’s President or the relevant committee for them to take the legislation forward and become more like our civil service.

  • Dear Michael
    Thank you for your post.
    It is getting late and I will try to get round to reading what you have said about ID Cards and respond tomorrow.

    • Role: Promotes the general interest of the EU by proposing and enforcing legislation as well as by implementing policies and the EU budget

    1.Personal accountability (Article 245 TFEU)
    Members of the Commission are required:
    • To be completely independent in the performance of their duties, in the general interest of the Union; in particular, they may neither seek nor take instructions from any government or other external body;

    As a rule, the Commission has a monopoly on the initiative in EU law-making (Article 17(2) TEU). It draws up proposed acts to be adopted by the two decision-making institutions, Parliament and the Council.

    Proposes new laws
    The Commission is the sole EU institution tabling laws for adoption by the Parliament and the Council that:

    Manages EU policies & allocates EU funding
    • Sets EU spending priorities, together with the Council and Parliament.
    • Draws up annual budgets for approval by the Parliament and Council.
    • Supervises how the money is spent, under scrutiny by the Court of Auditors.

    Enforces EU law
    • Together with the Court of Justice, ensures that EU law is properly applied in all the member countries.

    Represents the EU internationally
    • Speaks on behalf of all EU countries in international bodies, in particular in areas of trade policy and humanitarian aid.
    • Negotiates international agreements for the EU.

    Now to my mind that is a lot of unelected power, especially to someone who has been appointed as a commissioner to his country but is no longer answerable to that country.
    And when it is going in a direction that I and my fellow countrymen and women feel is not right, we should be able to tell “our commissioner” that, especially since it is the commissioners that holds “most” of the power and influence.

    Katharine says earlier “If the UK has a commissioner, Matt, then we have a say in the Commission”
    But this is not true, Neither we the people or the Government we elected has any say in the commissioner in their role once they have been put in place, we cannot advise or direct him on the will of either the British Government or the Electorate as a large, we become Irrelevant. That to make is completely wrong.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Apr '18 - 10:49am

    Thank you for those facts, Matt. It is still possible for Parliament to revoke Article 50, however. David Evans, the particular facts you gave which I called inappropriate were indeed inappropriate, but I don’t intend to debate about the EU here any further. Thank you for your input, Michael BG, and to everyone who has participated in this very wide-ranging debate.

  • @ Matt

    As I have said the Commission should be the “civil service” of the EU and shouldn’t have the power to propose legislation only advise by making recommendations for others to propose and amend. I think those who enforce the law should not be law makers and it would therefore be fine for the Commission to enforce the law once they have lost the power to propose it. If the Commission just had a supporting role then it would be fine for them to implement the agreed policies and budget of the EU (agreed by Parliament and the Council) and to manage or supervise how the money is spent. It is quite normal for civil servants to actually write the budget under the supervision of politicians. Our police are independent of politicians therefore it seems fine that once the Commission can’t propose legislation that it ensures that EU law is applied equally across the whole EU.

    It seems fine for Commissioners to represent the EU in the same way as national ambassadors do. Negotiating is more problematic because I would expect negotiators to have to compromise, but I suppose they could propose and take their proposals back to the politicians for agreement.

    I don’t think what I have stated the Commissioners could do once they can’t propose legislation is a lot of power. I think I have removed what real power they have.

    Of course the EU could have a directly elected President who could appoint all the Commissioners like the President of the USA can appoint their Cabinet and then they would be accountable in the same manner.

  • @Michael

    Thank you for that, to some extent I agree.

    But isn’t it also the case that an “individual” commissioner cannot be removed from post once appointed.
    The EU Parliament has the ability to dissolve the “whole” commission as a whole with a vote of no confidence.
    But an “individual” commissioner cannot be removed by the “elected” parliament and only the President can “request” a resignation.

    If my understanding is correct, then like I said, that is a whole lot of power for someone who is not elected and is not even accountable to the elected MEP’s.

    There is no reforming the EU in my opinion and there will certainly never be any reform in the commission.

    Thanks for your comments though Michael, I do enjoy reading them and I learn a lot from you

  • Thank you for your comments. It is nice to know people like reading my comments.

    I think you are correct and the Parliament can only dismiss all of the Commissioners and individual commissioners can either be asked to resign by the Commission President or removed via the European Court of Justice. A bit like US Cabinet members who serve at the pleasure of the President and can only be removed for acting unlawfully via the impeachment process.

    I think you are wrong and the EU can be reformed but because of the unpopularity of the EU and the requirement which some countries have to ratify any reform via a referendum politicians are reluctant at the moment to consider treaty changes. Which was the problem David Cameron run into. However, I think if the EU wanted to remove the power of the Commissioners to propose legislation and give it to members of Parliament and the Council it is possible that it could be accepted via referendums. I would hope at the same time they would restrict the power of the members of the Council of Ministers so they could only vote after their national Parliaments have mandated them. Making them delegates and not representatives. However, even if the EU doesn’t reform itself in ways I would want I think it will have some reforms in the next 20 or 30 years. You may be correct that the EU will not be reformed in ways you would like it to be which is slightly different.

  • nvelope2003 13th Apr '18 - 8:47pm

    The origins of the EU come from a desire to end the wars which have plagued Western Europe for centuries. Nato was set up to deter possible aggression from the Soviet Union.
    Both have worked. To abandon either would be like getting rid of the police because there was not much crime in your town.

    Much of the hostility to the EU springs from jealousy of the Germans because they have succeeded by following the policies which Britain and others were too lazy or arrogant to adopt. There is no real guarantee that we will recover our economic strength and leaving the EU is a big gamble.It will be interesting to see how people react when they discover that the Leavers want to replace immigration from the EU by allowing people from other continents to provide the cheap Labour that the remnants of British industry require to maintain their profits. Poland is doing well so possibly not so many will be coming from there.
    All this talk about EU Commissioners and the minutiae of the EU rules is the equivalent of mediaeval theologians arguing how many angels could dance on the point of a needle. There have to be rules and people to enforce them unless you want continual trade wars which would presumably mean building an enormous Royal Navy without the means to pay for it.

    Vernon Bogdanor’s talk on the Liberal Party was most illuminating but somewhat depressing as its collapse was almost certainly brought about by the failures of its leaders. We need a vigorous young leader with widespread popular appeal and no baggage but sadly there is no sign of one yet. Cometh the hour, cometh the man ? The leaders of the Labour and Conservative parties are uninspiring so where is the man or woman ? But he/she will need some new policies to replace the stale and tired stuff which is on offer at the moment.

  • Beware of PR. It may benefit you, but it can also lead to mob rule, like in Germany during the 1930s. Earlier example of mob rule was Andrew Jackson and his popular sovereignty doctrine.

    You know, also, I suddenly have an idea of adopting Federalist a.k.a Alexander Hamilton economic platform, which had turned the US into an economic powerhouse, for the next general election. Of course we must make it less elitist and must not talk explicitly about tariffs, but certain alternatives to tariffs like intellectual property, foreign takeover laws or anti-dumping must be talked about. Doing so would allow us to make a far far more manufacturing and industrial-oriented manifesto than both Labour and Tories. Also, such platform can TAKE AWAY NATIONALISM from the right (Tories).

    Explain: a modern day Alexander Hamilton economic platform would consist of a comprehensive industrial strategy with a strong focus on manufacturing and STEM, various industry protection measures such as intellectual protection, foreign takeover restriction or anti-dumping (outright protective tariffs may not suitable in the 21st century), as well as a National Bank to fund industries. I am certain that this platform would make both Corbyn and May clueless, especially if we use provocative message with populist rhetoric to back it up, for example, “make Britain an industrial powerhouse again”.

    Examples of real life Alexander Hamilton platforms: postwar France, postwar Japan, Korea under general Park Chung Hee.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Apr '18 - 11:17am

    Nvelope, to wait for a ‘vigorous young leader’ to emerge to lead our party is surely a hopeless policy of inertia. It would also be an unsuitable remedy, given that we are a democratic party deciding on strategy and policy collectively, We look to our leader to be our public face, to inspire and front our initiatives, but we can also hold him or her to account. We have had inspiring leaders in any case, from Jo Grimond through Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy to Tim Farron, and Vince Cable is growing into the job.
    What holds back our progress is complex, the unfair voting system being most to blame which has focused voter attention latterly on an either-or choice of two major parties in England, and formerly meant that our time of greatest success in terms of votes didn’t give us an appropriate number of seats in the House of Commons.

    Our party’s inertia is also part of the problem, and it is difficult to combat because of our very virtues – our democratic principles of everyone being consulted in the party, and of every individual counting in the mass of people whom we seek to serve. To combat it I think we do need national campaigning in which our leader and others in the parliamentary party drive us. The campaigning needed this year is evident. It is to show up the two-facedness, selfishness and impotence of both major parties, and demand that they serve our country better, not only by stopping the main harmful features of Brexit, but by taking steps to restore public services and reverse the increasing poverty of ordinary working families. Longer term, Liberal Democrats need to lead a campaign for political renewal, for social, economic and constitutional reform. After the local government elections we must not slide back into inertia.

  • The EU is generally open to reform and change, and the crisis that faced it before Brexit has made it think about how it can change, unlike the Tory party that fears change. Brexit actually brought the EU27 together again one could argue. Macron spoke about a two speed Europe for example, and given the influence he has as the new big name, replacing Merkel as she enters the autumn of her power, he will probably navigate some necessary changes. It would be good if Britain were to be a part of that, instead of throwing a hissing fit, akin to teenagers, as has been its behaviour toward Europe.

    @nvelope2003 – Vernon Bogdanor’s recent talks on all of the three main parties have been worth listening to. He pours scorn on the Labour party making a comments about the purity of opposition, and how unforgivable it was of Blair (in their eyes) to win three consecutive elections! Now that both main parties have taken us back to the dark days of extremes left vs right, the other parties have been pushed aside as the voters flock to those two main parties. Unless one or both parties make complete cock-up in the coming months I don’t see how we can make ourselves heard in the foreseeable future. Brexit has taken politics back three decades. Politics badly needs reform at a time when the publics trust in politicians is at an all time low, yet rather than recognise and embrace that need both parties elect (or crown) leaders who lack the ability to understand anything post 1960’s.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Apr '18 - 6:33pm

    Nigel, the country needs us to make ourselves heard. We are doing so in the local government elections. We must do so in the rest of this vital year, while politics are volatile, and therefore the chances of change are greater.

  • David Evans 14th Apr '18 - 6:53pm

    Katharine, it is disappointing that as a Lib Dem who should believe in evidence based decision making, you choose to decline to consider how the facts disprove your contention, other than saying they are inappropriate facts. However, as a liberal I accept that it is your right to do so.

  • Nigel Hardy 14th Apr '18 - 7:30pm

    Katharine, I agree. The problem is the polarisation of politics. When both main parties retreat to starkly opposite ideologies, which I thought we’d left behind, the smaller parties get squeezed out under FPTP, as we did in 80’s. Our success in local elections is cause for some celebration, but the locals are very different to the nationals. Until the public makes enough noise to get PR it will always be thus.

  • @ nvelope2003

    When the UK leaves the EU, the EU will continue to exist and we are not leaving NATO!

    I always thought German economic success was due to them having to rebuild their industries after the Second World War plus their industrial partnership within companies and that their banks were more willing than ours to invest in start-up businesses and those wanting investment so they could grow. These have nothing to do with either laziness or arrogance.

    I agree it would be good to have a leader with no baggage. I don’t understand why the leader has to be young. David Steel became leader aged 38, Paddy Ashdown aged 47, Nick Clegg aged 40 and Tim Farron aged 45. Jo Swinson is 38; shame about the baggage!

    @ Thomas

    Alexander Hamilton as a Federalist was not a supporter of local power, hardly a liberal. Lots of political parties talk of restoring Britain’s industrial base, but I don’t think it is possible. I think it would be much better not to be bothered about how much of the world’s industry is based in the UK and instead provide a job and home for everyone who wants one.

  • nvelope2003 14th Apr '18 - 9:22pm

    Katharine Pindar: I did not say we had to wait for an inspiring leader but that we needed one. Unfortunately Tim Farron seems to have inspired people not to vote for us, although I voted for him, because some of his policies, for instance on education were disliked by many people who would have voted for us. Grimond, Thorpe, Kennedy and possibly Ashdown did inspire people to vote for us.
    PR is not necessarily an advantage. In Wales and Scotland it has not brought much benefit recently – none at all in Wales as the only Assembly member was elected by FPTP and in Scotland most of the MSPs were similarly elected.
    Although we should stay in the EU there will be no progress until the issue is resolved one way or the other. Apart from the 2005 election when we gained seats from Labour because of the Iraq war most gains have come from the Conservatives so adopting an avowedly left wing policy when Labour is already fulfilling that role might not be the right course. We need to adopt some new policies that are different from Labour’s and deal with present concerns such as the failure of comprehensive schools and the need for genuine and real vocational education to train people for the world of work, to do jobs they might enjoy, not for a life on benefits. Not everyone wants to do the sort of jobs middle class Liberal Democrats might consider suitable for themselves or their children.
    Other countries, even in Scandinavia, have adopted the Finnish model but they have not benefitted from it because they are not Finns and do not have their culture so why would we. Even their own teachers admit it does not produce high flyers which all societies need. If we are leaving the EU average will not do.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '18 - 12:09am

    “Adopting an avowedly left-wing course when Labour is already fulfilling that role might not be the right course” you say, Nvelope (I wish you would tell us a bit about what your name signifies, by the way, and about yourself). But I think the party view would be that we are not supporting ‘an avowedly left-wing course’ at all, but that we are fundamentally different in approach from Labour, as has often been pointed out in these columns (see for instance Michael BG, on April 12 at 12.18 pm) . Moreover, we don’t ‘adopt a course’, but campaign on our principles and the policies that we agree on in support of them. Do you not see that, if you are a Liberal Democrat member or supporter? However, you are opening up fruitful lines of discussion here , and ones related to the main themes of this thread, and I thank you for doing so.

  • The Economist has an article arguing that Britain doesn’t need a new centrist party, it needs new ideas.
    They write “People who hope for a great political realignment need to reckon with two obvious problems. The first is that Britain already has a centre party. The Liberal Democrats, the heirs to the SDP-Liberal Alliance, polled only 8% in last year’s election, on a platform of reversing Brexit. The second is that the country is awash with new parties. In the first three months of this year 35 new ones were formed, including one called the Sensible Party.”
    The article concludes:
    “Time spent trying to rethink liberalism is much more likely to be repaid than time spent building a new party. New parties sink into the sand unless they are very lucky. New ideas can colonise old parties and redirect old debates. Beatrice and Sidney Webb said that the best way to change the country was to “permeate” all its parties, left, right and centre, with ideas. Today’s centrists need to do likewise, and focus on thinking up new ideas rather than inventing new parties.”

  • Michael BG – Hamilton was a pragmatist and modernizer who believed that America needed a strong industrial base, whereas Jefferson, IMO, was an economic reactionary who wanted his country to be a underdeveloped agricultural society. Friedrich List was a liberal, but eventually had to agree with Hamilton about nation building.
    Postwar Germany, France, Japan and South Korea ALL adopted a Hamiltonian platform to build/rebuild their industrial capacity. In nature, it is basically an economic platform that consists of an industrial strategy, a National Bank and industry protection (in 21st century, it would include anti-dumping, intellectual protection, and foreign takeover laws), and in modern day, a strong technical education system. We also add our liberal initiatives into that package, such as industrial democracy, or renewable energy.
    Rhetorics like “manufacturing powerhouse” are just intended to garner support from everyone who is a patriot or nationalist or victim of deindustrialization in the whole country, and will greatly expand our votes. You must agree that Trump has used rhetorics like Make America great again with a great effectiveness. I am a liberal, but also a pragmatist, which means not ruling out using illiberal means to achieve liberal goals (great liberal statesmen like Lincoln or FDR did so).

    My reason: traditionally, May & Co often brag about patriotism and nationalism. A modified Hamiltonian economic plan WILL SHUT THEM UP, since it is the Tories who destroyed industries and sold national assets one by one to foreigners, especially the Chinese. You know that in France, Macron did promise to tighten takeover laws and last year he had blocked at least one takeover case.

    “German economic success was due to them having to rebuild their industries after the Second World War plus their industrial partnership within companies and that their banks were more willing than ours to invest in start-up businesses and those wanting investment so they could grow” – a Hamiltonian economic plan in another form.

    Oh, and by 18th century standard, both Federalist and Anti-Federalist were left-wing radicals (the right wingers were the Tories, the European monarchies and land-owning aristocrats).

  • Michael BG – For centralization vs localism, each country had a different context. In the US, localism or States’ Rights were used to Southern conservatives to protect their Slave Power and then the Jim Crow system. You know, during the 1850s, the Democrats used localism argument to require that Kansas’ status as slave/free state would be determined by local popular sovereignty instead of Congressional vote. Guess what happened? Bleeding Kansas. Charles Sumner did a great job to expose this hypocrisy in his legendary ” The Crime Against Kansas”.
    Oh, and currently, localism is currently used by Red states to justify the teaching of alternative history (like War of Northern Aggression), creationism and flat earth theory, which is the reason why I always believe in an uniform and nationwide education policy.

  • @ Thomas

    I am glad I don’t live in the USA and have to struggle with their constitution and the powers of the Federal government being implied rather that clearly stated as I would expect in any well written constitution. It seems quite logical for Democrats to assert in the 18th century that power rested in the states and the states as they had freely entered into the union had the right to leave it. I suppose a case could be made out this applied to the original 13 states plus Vermont and Texas but that the other states were not sovereign bodies but already Federal property when given statehood.

    Liberals believe people should make their own democratic decisions and this should be done locally. I do support a strong central government. I would support the idea that no school should be allowed to teach creationism instead of the accepted scientific theories. I support the idea of a national bank to provide the investment businesses often can’t get from the banks. I would support the government restricting foreign takeovers more but this is illiberal but maybe supportable as in the national interest. Of course I support the compulsory imposition of industrial democracy and partnership. However, as liberals we should not make false promises such as making Britain a “manufacturing powerhouse”. Promising that everyone who wants a job will have one is much better. Promising everyone who wants a home of their own will have one is much better. Making people freer by their having a home of their own and a job is liberal and intervening in the economy is the method.

  • Michael BG – The promises you mention only work for sensible people. For some, like less educated folks, hardliner nationalists among Brexiteers, Kippers, or certain groups of left behind white working class people (In the US they would be called Trumpists), you need more provocative rhetorics (like “make…great again”) to sway them. Especially less educated people are very easily to be influenced by rhetorics. And, a pragmatist would not say “I don’t need your votes”.

    I mean, a slightly to moderately nationalistic rhetoric can deprive the Tories of their traditional ability to brag about patriotism and nationalism. We all know that patriotism and nationalism has been one of the biggest foundations of Toryism for decades, at least rhetorically.

    The struggle between Federal and State powers in the US is a very long and complicated one. Liberals in the US were quite different from liberals in Europe. Up until the New Deal, or earlier the Taft-Roosevelt split, they often supported the Federalist/Whig/Republican, primarily due to the slavery and race question (the Democrats tended to use states’ rights to protect slave power), and the fact that liberals were generally urban bourgeois and mercantiles rather than farmers or plant owners. The New York Time and the Tribune, the two major liberal newspapers in the US, also supported the Republicans back then.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '18 - 6:28pm

    Your point about ‘a slightly moderated nationalist rhetoric’ to confront the Tories is an interesting one, Thomas, I agree, because as you say they do tend to assume their right to patriotism and nationalism, and yet were keen to sell off British industry and still are glad to welcome foreign investment – we see power companies ceded to the French and Germans, American and Chinese companies taking over from the British, and so on. It is hard, though, to see how beyond the desire to formulate a national industrial strategy what its component parts may be.

    You offer an updated Alexander Hamilton strategy as involving a strong focus on manufacturing and small businesses, and further industrial protection such as foreign takeover restrictions. Michael BG mentions how post-war Germany fostered industrial partnerships and investment in start-up businesses, but also you say (Michael) you support ‘the compulsory imposition of industrial democracy and partnerships’ . I think myself of co-operative enterprises and whether businesses could be fostered at community level. But given that our manufacturing capacity has been drastically reduced, and that neither of you suppose that Britain can be ‘a manufacturing powerhouse’ again, I am not sure I understand much yet about the industrial strategy we should advocate, and how also the jobs for everyone which Michael wishes can be provided. Perhaps these ideas can be expanded on?

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '18 - 9:59pm

    @ Katharine,

    “neither of you suppose that Britain can be ‘a manufacturing powerhouse’ again”

    We could be if we wanted to be and if other countries would allow it. We’d have to do what all the big net exporters do and hold down our currency to well below its market value. That way home demand would be reduced, we all would be able to afford less, and it would make sense for UK industry to export more where the prices were higher and profits were better.

    The question is if we should do this. I’d say not. Not all countries can be Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, Singapore etc with huge current account trade surpluses. Someone has to run the deficits. If everyone was like Germany and measured its economic success by the size of its surplus then there would be a huge international trade war which could very well escalate into a real war. That’s very likely the underlying cause of WW1 for example. That’s why I said “if other countries would allow it”. How would the USA cope with yet another big net exporter like Germany. They might well draw a line against that.

    I would say the best approach is to just let countries like Germany get on with supplying more than they buy from us. Exports are a real cost. Imports are a net benefit. But we do need to understand the macroeconomic implications of that. If the UK imports more than it exports we have to fund the difference by what might be termed as borrowing.

    If we push too much of that borrowing requirement on to the private sector we jsut create asset bubbles. Unfortunately that’s what we’ve done. We need to learn that Government deficits are quite normal and we should fight against them by applying spending cuts and raising taxes.

  • @ Thomas

    I take your point about southern Democrats pre the Civil War being the party of farmers and plantation owners rather than industrialists. However Wikipedia seems to suggest this wasn’t true for northern Democrats who promoted capitalism and were against the “Whiggish monied elite”.

    As a liberal I reject the idea that voters are not sensible people who can be appealed to with rational arguments. I would hope that everyone would want everyone to have their own home if they wanted one and to have a job if they wanted one. I would hope such a practical programme would be popular without having to talk about theoretical greatness. I don’t accept that the Conservatives get most of their votes most of the time by pretending to be the patriotic party. However, I accept it helped them in 1983.

    @ Katharine Pindar

    I would not advocate an industrial strategy. I think Vince talked about implementing one when he was Business Secretary but I don’t recall it being a measurable success. If as a liberal you reject the government running industry then any plan is doomed to failure just like the economic plans Communist countries used to have. The role of government is to ensure training is provided for people to do the jobs of the future and encourage businesses to innovate and train their staff.

  • Peter Martin – the problem is that trade deficit and thus debt problem lies in manufacturing weakness. Our trade deficit was due to huge deficit in visible goods. Our focus is not accumulating surplus but reducing trade deficit or even achieving trade balance, which is the only way to achieve a sustainable reduction in debt.
    Besides, a healthy manufacturing sector will play a pivotal role in providing middle-income jobs and thus reducing inequality. Service jobs tend to be very high-paid or low-paid.

    Michael BG – You should look at postwar Japan, Germany, France as examples rather than The Warsaw Pact. A coherent industrial strategy would involve identifying sectors that either have strong future prospects or have a key role in national security, and assist in channelling the essential technical and financial resources to them. Of course, education and training is crucial.
    Next, a good industrial strategy must also have a discipline measure to ensure that resources are used in the right places (manufacturing and tech firms) and for the right purposes (such as subsidizing the use of automation in factories), and to weed out losing inefficient firms. For example, I think that funding from National Bank should never go to places like kebab kiosks or coffee shops. In the past, Japan and Korea used export performance to discipline their firms in the past in order to force firms to expose themselves to international competition instead of hiding behind trade barriers in domestic market.
    Finally, the government should subsidize R&D spending, especially for areas neglected by the private sectors, as well as funding infrastructure. R&D expenditure should be raised to 3% of GDP, and investment spending should be raised to over 20%. As mention above, supporting our use of automation in manufacturing, which lags behind most of our OECD peers, is an area that should be prioritized and promoted by the party.

    Oh, and our National Bank should be as powerful as German KfW.

  • Michael BG –
    If voters are sensible as you assume then there would no Lee Atwater, there would be no Trump. Trump would not even win the primary. The last Republican National Convention looked like a pure dirty commedy show, with things like Trump bashing Kasich’s eating habits. Many of Trump voting groups like alt-right, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, CSA flag wavers (which emerged as a backlash against Obama’s victory in 2008) showed their utmost ignorance and bigotry by voting purely on their social stance (pro life, pro gun, racism, “family values”, anti-gay…) rather than economy and jobs (ironically, many of them actually benefited from Obama’s policies). Likewise, the Leave campaign also won by using empty rhetorics like “take back control”.

    Btw, if you mean the 19th century Bourbon Democrats, they were even more Wall Street than the Republicans, who were often Midwestern and Great Lake industrialists. Also, both Northern and Southern Democrats were ultra-racist back then, their views were represented by the Dunning School of History which vilified Reconstruction and the Radical Republicans.

    Katharine Pindar – Not to mention May’s attempt to veto EU anti-dumping tariff on Chinese steel even though steel firms were struggling mightily at that time.

  • Peter Martin 17th Apr '18 - 9:30am

    @ Thomas,

    You’re view is quite widespead. But is it right? If we consider two countries/economies, with freely floating currencies, who trade with each other (but no-one else) then the current and capital accounts will tend towards balance. However if country A deliberately suppresses its currency its population will be able to afford less. Its exports will rise and its imports will fall. It will accumulate more of B’s currency which it will need to recycle by way of capital spending. It will buy government bonds and/or property (if it is allowed to) in B.

    So does this mean that A now has a healthier economy than B? A is running an export surplus and B is in debt. A’s manufacturing sector is doing well with exports, B’s manufacturing sector is struggling to be competitive. B’s government is worried about a sluggish economy and tries to balance the books by spending cuts and tax rises. Sound familiar?

    But on the other hand B has a higher value currency which gives its citizens extra spending power. They won’t take kindly to it having a lower value. The correct way to look at this problem is to consider that exports are a real cost to the economy and imports are a real benefit. So A should just let B get on with supplying more stuff in return for less stuff. The politicians need to understand that debt in this sense isn’t the same as debt in the way it is genenerally understood. It’s really just country A doing its banking with country B.

    If my argument has just one flaw, it’s that the politicians in country B tend not to understand the nature of the money flows, and think that the ‘debt’ is a sign of failure on their part.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Apr '18 - 9:34am

    It seems to me that Thomas here puts forward a well-reasoned argument for an effective national industrial strategy which it would be good to have our party adopt. It sounds interventionist in a rational way, to stimulate sectors by channelling ‘essential technical and financial resources to them ‘ with due consideration of which are the best areas to support. He advocates higher R&D spending as well as higher investment spending, and support for use of automation in a manufacturing sector which should be backed as a priority.

    It would be good to know if such a policy, which I recall Thomas has been advocating for a long time, would be welcomed by industrialists and business people among us, and could be adopted as a broad approach.

  • nvelope2003 17th Apr '18 - 8:40pm

    Michael BG : You say that when we leave the EU it will continue to exist but the Leave campaigners claim that it is on the verge of collapse, our abscence will cause it to do so and that is why it is so desperate to stop us leaving and they may be right. This would be a disaster for peace in Western Europe. A short spell of cheap goods and food in the face of a looming world shortage is not going to be much long term benefit is it ? Germany rebuilt its economy 70 years ago but has continued to be prosperous while we have continued to struggle – because we do not educate our workforce for snobbish reasons. The elite do not want their children to have to compete with those educated free at state grammar and technical schools so they abolished most of them and forced other people’s children to go to the rather indifferent comprehensives which they devised so as not to educate too many for the world of work, especially in the better jobs. Sadly the Socialists who were often educated at grammar schools went along with this – ostensibly for political reasons but also because they are snobs too and send their children to private “public schools”

    Peter Martin: Would it really be better to muddle along while Germany, Denmark, Singapore and Switzerland prosper ? What for ?

    Katharine Pindar: Thank you for your comments. I have been a Liberal since I was at school and Clement Davies was the leader. I am not in favour of the state running everything but I would have no problems with them running some railway services like the London Commuter network which do not need to attract more passengers but neither would I want private firms excluded from operating services which could encourage more people to use public transport and where there is capacity to carry them. Likewise private firms should be allowed to continue to run power stations in competition with the state owned ones where and if appropriate. It is the dogmatic all or nothing aprroach that I cannot stomach though in some ways I have a lot of respect for Jeremy Corbyn.

  • nvelope2003 17th Apr '18 - 8:56pm

    Mi.chael BG and others : By young leader I mean someone 35 – 45 like those you mentioned, not a teenager but there is no sign of anyone suitable in that age bracket. Vince is doing his best but like the rest he is damaged goods like Clegg and the rest after the coalition, although to be honest I have not got much time for some of those who criticised it, like those who left the party before it had done anything and it could be argued that some unpleasant things had to tried but it was the way they were done which provoked anger.
    We can be absolutely certain that if Labour had been returned in 2010 they would have done most of those things and that is why they were reluctant to stay in office and hoped somebody else would get the blame and they would return to office in triumph.

  • Peter Martin 17th Apr '18 - 9:26pm

    @ Nvelope2003,

    “..while Germany, Denmark, Singapore and Switzerland prosper…” ???

    All these countries are guilty of currency manipulation. Not everyone can hold their currencies lower than they should actually be to boost their exports. The arithmetic of world trade simply doesn’t allow it.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Apr '18 - 10:21pm

    nvelope, I don’t think the EU is in any danger of collapse, and neither does the German friend who has just been visiting me. Surely a certain amount of internal dissent and competing ideas is healthy in a lively body politic? It’s the acceptance of stasis, or inertia in our own party, which may inhibit development and growth, it seems to me.

    Your ideal of our country having both state-run and private services and industries is one which I guess most of us accept. But you have a remarkably dark view of the competition of classes and its effect on education here!

    It’s good to know that even so you have been a Liberal like me since your teens, and they were some time ago. I suppose there is nothing intrinsically Liberal in being either optimistic or pessimistic. May we know why you chose your curious pseudonym, and why 2003 in particular?

  • @ Thomas

    Please tell me more about the economic plans of France. France is often held up as an economic failure.

    I am sure I have stated that a Government owned bank to invest when commercial banks don’t would be a good thing. I think investing in new products would be good too and that implies some investment in developing a product manufactured in the UK. However, the question is how far can a government plan to invest in such products and how does it decide which are going to be successful and which not and so shouldn’t be invested in. I have this idea that the Labour government in the past set up a company to invest and pick winners. I think it was criticised for not picking winners but I could be wrong. As I have said the government should encourage innovation which implies more spending on R and D. My point is not that the government shouldn’t try to influence business in a positive way; it is that it is not normally very successful and so we should not claim more will be delivered than can be delivered.

    @ Peter Martin

    In the past the UK had balance of payments crises but we no longer have such things. This isn’t because our balance of trade is better, it is we are not so concerned about it. If it is cheaper to manufacture something aboard then it makes sense to do so. The whole point of free trade is specialisation and providing those things which you can provide cheaper to foreign countries. You would think that Liberals would understand this.

    I suppose if country B decided to restrict what people in country A could do with the money printed in country B there would be pressure to devalue the currency of country B. Which must be an argument not to restrict the investments of foreigners in Britain including their investment in land.

  • Katharine Pindar: I agree that stasis and inertia are doing the party no good but I am not so sure about the future of the EU – there appears to be a lot of opposition in many countries from those who might have been expected to support it only recently like young people. I do not think many predicted the collapse of the Liberal Party in 1914 or its failure to recover from the Coalition by 2018 but then most people expect things to go on as normal – how many predicted the collapse of the Communist system ? When I told my school friends it would collapse and there would be an independent Ukraine they said I was crazy so who were the crazy people ? Competing ideas are absolutely essential that is why Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are dangerous because they hate anyone who disagrees with their “solutions” which have been repeatedly tried and while they were initially succesful soon produced poverty because they banned private enterprise. It was the banning of private business in the 1960s/70s which caused the collapse of East Germany and the Cuban economy and the economies of many African states and even India under Nehru where private business was controlled by the state. India is now a vibrant economy since excessive controls were lifted. On this site we only hear about nationalising the railways when a revived partially private system has brought them back to life after so many years of decline. No wonder the people whose support we need do not trust us.
    My name I saw somewhere when I first went online in 2003 and I thought it was clever hehe!

    Peter Martin: Then we will have to do some strenuous currency manipulation from 1st January 2021. How can you say that Germany, Switzerland etc do not have a high standard of living ?

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '18 - 1:36pm

    @ nvelope2003,

    I didn’t say they didn’t. You must be confusing me with someone else. However any highly developed country (there is a case to be made for underdeveloped countries doing this) which manipulates its currency to ‘game the system’ isn’t a responsible member of the international community.

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '18 - 1:55pm

    @ Michael BG,

    In the past we worried about our BOP because the currency was pegged to the dollar at a certain narrow rate. I remember £2.40 +/- 0.02 for example. If we couldn’t maintain the peg then we had to devalue. If the currency is allowed to freely float then it doesn’t matter. The currency will always adjust to make both the current and capital accounts (which constitute the BOP) balance.

    It took some politicians a while to grasp that when the currency did float.

    It makes perfect sense to impose limits of what overseas holders of sterling or dollars can do with their money. The USA would be crazy to sell off Boeing to the Chinese for example. We aren’t smart in allowing parts of London to stagnate. Expensive suburbs are becoming depopulated due to overseas buyers buying up houses and apartments and keeping them empty.

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '18 - 2:06pm

    @ Katharine,

    “I don’t think the EU is in any danger of collapse, and neither does the German friend who has just been visiting me”

    But your friend’s Government is wisely making contingency plans! I doubt the EU would survive in its present form if a world GFC mark 2 were to strike. Obama did a good job in the USA to engineer a recovery after 2008 which pulled us all along in its wake. I’m not so confident about Trump. We’ll have to see.

  • nvelope2003 18th Apr '18 - 3:31pm

    Peter Martin: Your post of 15th April at 9.59 implies it.

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '18 - 4:16pm

    @ Nvelope,

    No it doesn’t. It says that to produce a net exporting economy the Government has to hold down its currency and so constrain domestic demand. Naturally any manufacturer will prefer to supply the market where there is most demand.

    If Germany had its own truly freely floating currency, as do countries like the UK and USA, German people would be able to afford more imports and more of German home production. It would have a similar type of economy to the USA where imports were greater than exports. So would that mean the standard of living in Germany would be even higher? The answer to that really depends on German politicians.

    Germany would have similar sectoral balances to the USA. The current account deficit would have to be funded by someone ‘borrowing’. The Govt would have to do its share so there would be, shock, horror 🙂 , a Govt budget deficit of similar proportions to the USA govt deficit. Germany is a stable country so there’s no reason why people wouldn’t want to save their money there.

    But if the German Govt went into panic mode, as they may very well do, then they may make the mistake of trying to reduce their budget deficit by cutting spending and raising taxes. They’d then, if they still let their currency float, plunge their economy into deep recession. Just like our own Tories tend to do when they get on their hobbyhorse of wanting to ‘balance the books’.

  • nvelope2003 18th Apr '18 - 8:43pm

    Peter Martin: Saying you want to balance the books is not the same as actually doing it and the Conservatives have no intention of doing so because they want to win elections. These statements are made for electoral purposes because they sound good to their supporters. Not sure I would want the Germans changing their policy though all the same. It could be risky as your theories might not work in practice. Woops !

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Apr '18 - 9:12pm

    Peter Martin, I don’t see any reason to fear the future of the EU from the interesting Guardian article you have given the link to, thank you. This is a Defence industry review for a starter, and the Defence industry always has an interest in keeping people alert and a bit apprehensive about the future. Secondly, the document is trying to predict the future in more than 20 years’ time, and we are not even told the date when it was written – only that last November it was publicised. Thirdly, the Guardian article is written by Paul Mason, a left-wing Socialist who may well share the Socialist suspicion of the EU as a capitalist club. Fourthly, the article draws attention to the problems of the EU which are already recognised as severe, notably migration, which are not destroying it because the rebellious Visegrad countries don’t intend to leave and lose EU subsidies. Fifthly, President Macron is supposed to be content with a two-speed Europe, though he would like the Eurozone to integrate further, and in any case his wishes will be balanced by those of the German leadership. The EU is very much a living, growing organism, and a vital one.

    Peter, you range so widely and interestingly, that may I plead that you do not make the current discussion yet another one about economic balances between countries? The question of our possible industrial strategy seems to me rather more open to new or as yet not much heard thinking.

  • Peter Martin 19th Apr '18 - 8:14am

    The question of a Government led industrial strategy is important but it’s not particularly new. We all remember British Leyland and what happened to that. Then there was an attempt to set up a British Computer industry to rival IBM. That, too, just fizzled out eventually.

    The track record of Government in picking winners isn’t particularly good. It’s probably better for Government to keep out of these kinds of ventures. There is a role for Government anywhere there is a natural monopoly – like with the railways and the utilities – so it shouldn’t necessarily keep out completely.

    Instead, government should concentrate on the bigger picture of the whole economy. Just keep it ticking along with full employment and steady growth. If it’s cheaper to import cars, computers, TVs etc from elsewhere we shouldn’t try to compete with producers who are already doing that successfully on slim profit margins. That’s probably more a political attitude in keeping with traditional Liberalism than socialism. And, yes, the economic balances between countries are important and not particularly well understood. Government has an important role to play in regulating those.

  • Peter Martin 19th Apr '18 - 8:54am

    @ Nvelope,

    “Saying you want to balance the books is not the same as actually doing it and the Conservatives have no intention of doing so because they want to win elections”

    It’s impossible to know for sure what actually goes on in other people’s heads, but my guess would be that the the last Tory/Lib Dem coalition did intend to eliminate the budget deficit. They failed, not because of a lack of intention, but because it is just about impossible to do that for any length of time in a UK style economy. If the government cuts its spending it is cutting its tax revenue too. A simple enough concept. But, was it ever properly factored in? I seem to remember John Redwood bemoaning how the deficit would have been much smaller if only tax revenues hadn’t fallen! Well, what did he expect?

    Another way to look at it is to say that if the UK runs a current account trade deficit then someone in the UK has to do the borrowing to support that. The government can minimise it’s own ‘borrowing’ temporarily by shoving the requirement onto the private sector and that’s what’s actually happened in the past couple of decades. That policy will come back to bite them when the housing bubble deflates though!

  • nvelope2003 19th Apr '18 - 9:56am

    Peter Martin: As there is alleged to be an acute housing shortage, despite there being large numbers of empty ones even in places like London where there is a demand for them, let alone in places where there is not much demand, it might be some time before the housing bubble bursts. As many of the empty houses are publicly owned are they being kept empty to keep prices high ?

    A lot of public expenditure is money wasted – running empty subsidised bus services for example to appease vociferous and articulate middle class busy bodies who do not use them any way – and this sort of money wasting is what has made public expenditure cut backs popular. If you want the Government to squander money on public spending you must make sure it looks worthwhile. I suppose even HS2 will carry some passengers if the tax payer funded subsidy is high enough and then there will be a huge subsidy for the existing lines which cannot be closed and will have lost many of their customers to the new faster line but will need to be kept open to serve the smaller places not served by HS2. The possibilities are endless because a few years after HS2 is opened a new faster service will be developed and like the canals the new railway will become redundant.
    One benefit of public spending cuts is that many councils have found much cheaper ways of providing services, even bus services, so where is all that saved money going ? Are new ways of wasting it being developed because it does not seem to be spent on things that people actually need or want. Presumably it is going on huge expenses allowances for councillors and staff, redundancy payments and suchlike ?

  • Peter Martin 19th Apr '18 - 11:33am

    @ nvelope2003,

    …… it might be some time before the housing bubble bursts

    I’d say this is the start of it.

    No doubt most Lib Dems will blame it on Brexit. But look what’s happening in Australia too:

    It’s curious that the same pattern tends to emerge wordwide. Everyone tends to be far too parochial when it comes to understanding cause and effect on such matters.

  • @ Peter Martin

    ICL was not setup by the government. The Wikipedia article you linked to only states that in 1981 the government guaranteed their loans enabling them to resist a takeover bid from Univac. (This fighting off takeovers is something Martin is advocating.) They were taken over by Fujitsu in the 1990s. However, I think it was the National Enterprise Board (1975-80) which was supposed to pick winners.

    @ nvelope2003

    Just because some people think the EU will cease to exist does not mean it will happen. Even if the Eurozone collapsed I can’t see the EU ending. There are advantages of being in a single market and I can’t imagine all the current EU members deciding they wanted to reject them.

    For party leader we really only have a choice of one of our MPs and if you don’t think any of them are suitable then you will need to wait until we get someone suitable elected into Parliament.

    Do you have any independent reports about how many publicly owned houses are empty?

    I note you say you have been a Liberal since at least 1956, but you sound like a Conservative with your anti-government spending views.

    Subsidising bus fares is not wasting money; maintaining bus services in non-economic areas is not wasting money, especially if there are large numbers of elderly people who have given up driving living in the area. Are you aware of the range of Councillor basic allowances?

  • Peter Martin: The threats of a rise in interest rates seem to have moderated so this could affect a possible falling market but there have always been fluctuations.

    Michael BG: I am not against public spending like the Conservative claim to be nor am I dogmatically in favour of it like Labour but as a Liberal I take a pragmatic view and where it is beneficial I am very much in favour. What I am worried about is using taxpayers’ money to prop up out of date or misguided institutions or services.
    As regards bus services I am not opposed to subsidising those which are used but I do not see the point of subsidising those which are not used or providing a higher frequency than can be justified. It is not really wise to provide new buses for little used services yet those which are better used have to make do with old and sometimes decrepit vehicles as I see daily where I live. Nor is it much use providing higher frequencies to the railway station when the buses arrive too late for the train and/or depart before it arrives yet the bus service to the nearest town is completely closed although that is where many of the passengers came from. Do you have any experience of operating bus services ? The elderly people often have no buses to use their bus passes on because of the cost of subsising free transport – how does that help ?

  • @ nvelope2003

    Your earlier post was a general attack on providing particular services and paying Councillors allowances. I am glad to read that you do in fact think bus services should be subsidised. The timing of buses is a separate issue. However, I can’t see the point in providing a bus service which only runs three or four times a day or only one or two days a week. I would expect it to run at least 7 times a day and more if workers and young people in the evening were expected to use it. If a bus only has three or four passengers on it, this does not mean that the bus isn’t busier at other times. I expect the reason those elderly people don’t have a bus service is because decision makers thought like your original post that it was a waste of money to provide a regular bus service so it could be used by 100 people each month (less than 4 a day).

  • nvelope2003 21st Apr '18 - 9:52am

    Michael BG: I spent a large part of my life working in public transport and buses pass my house so I am in a good position to know what needs to be done. The timing of buses is not a separate issue – it is crucial. A perfectly adequate bus service need only operate 2 or 3 times a day, perhaps only once or twice a week, in rural areas where most people use cars and demand for buses is minimal. We need more imaginative ways of serving those without cars and the elederly, rather than sending almost empty buses around narrow lanes. Local councils in some areas have become more inventive and some quite useful services have been introduced and I am very much in favour of that but almost everyone involved have recognised that the old blanket subsidies to every loss making service was not the way. We had about 15 buses pass my door and those taking people to and from work and college, shopping etc were reasonably well used but evening buses were almost empty. Why do you think there should be 7 buses per day ? Provision of services is a matter of priorities and while buses are important so are other services and resources are not unlimited. Free bus services for all elderly people regardless of income does seem a strange priority but it was an election bribe for those who are most likely to vote and I am happy to enjoy that benefit !
    I aceept that different considerations may apply in urban areas.
    Rather than spending possibly £80 – £100 billion on a High Speed line some might think bringing existing railway lines up to modern standards and restoring some closed routes could be more beneficial. It is time in our democracy that people were provided with services they actually want and need not what some people think is good for them.

    There are said to be 7,500 empty local authority houses in London alone according to Government figures.

  • @ nvelope2003

    I note you didn’t give a link to your 7,500 local authority properties being empty try this one from 2016 (two years ago) – It does not say what the percentage is. Also 4000 of them are waiting to be demolished because of regeneration. Also some properties are classified as empty while housing someone temporarily!

    “A perfectly adequate bus service need only operate 2 or 3 times a day, perhaps only once or twice a week”

    You may consider it “perfectly adequate” but it isn’t liberal. As a liberal I don’t think local government should restrict either the time of day or the day of the week that a person can travel on a bus. This is why 7 buses a day is the minimum except for Sunday when I would accept 4 as the shops are only open for 5 hours. We were discussing buses service in a general way and not dealing with specifics. I accept that councillors have to weigh up priorities and even Liberal Democrat councillors have to comprise their liberal principles because of restrictions on the amount of money a council can raise to pay for services. I don’t know which is the higher priority – providing a bus in the day time for elderly people or in the evening for young people? Without them the poorest will have their liberty restricted.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Apr '18 - 3:35pm

    Michael BG:
    It isn’t liberal ? The need or otherwise for bus services must be based on the use that is made of them. The first one in the morning is reasonably well used by college students but poorly used when the college is closed. The second one has about 3 or 4, the third one is about one third full, mostly with older people and the rest of the day numbers vary from maybe 3 or 4 to none. The evening buses generally carry no passengers. The older people tend to travel at about 10 am and return at midday. It is not the fares that deter people as not many of those entitled to free passes use them as they prefer to use their own cars despite the cost because that is what they have them for. No wonder not many Liberal Democrat councillors are elected if they prefer to spend the tax payers money on little used bus services. Indeed there was a great deal of criticism locally of this policy and the former large Liberal Democrat majority was eliminated. What about the waste of resources and harm to the environment from running almost empty diesel buses ? It seems that your ideas are based on theories possibly garnered from policy documents prepared by people who have little idea what ordinary people need or want or what is practical. There is a shortage of bus drivers for instance and those that are available should be driving buses that are actually used.
    What I would like to see is a massive increase in services where there is a big untapped potential demand such as journeys to work but the problem is that traffic congestion even in smaller towns plays havoc with timetables and people prefer to sit in their cars than sitting in buses or waiting for them in the rain.
    I realise this sounds rather negative and as someone who loves buses I find it rather sad but many people do not seem to like buses although trains have been attracting more passengers because the roads are so congested. To get people on buses we would have to develop more bus lanes and comfortable bus stations.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Apr '18 - 4:17pm

    Tim13: When free bus passes were introduced there was an initial upsurge in bus use but because of the cost and the assumed increase in bus company revenue the rate of reimbursement (based on fares) was cut by many local authorities and this caused bus companies to increase fares to compensate for the loss of revenue. From my observations there seems to have been a drop in bus use by the elderly as they mostly now have cars so free travel has been a mixed blessing for fare paying passengers.
    We tried increasing frequency but there was little increase in passenger numbers and a great increase in costs. There would have to be frequencies of every 15 or 20 minutes to make a difference and there are simply not the numbers available.
    Many young people in rural areas have free bus travel to school and college but this seems to put them off buses for life so I doubt if free travel up to 25 would do much good and would cost money which could have been used to improve the buses.

    The deregulation of services in the 1980s actually caused a big increase in rural bus routes and this was maintained until fairly recently when regulations were introduced governing the type of vehicle which could be used which resulted in many of them being withdrawn, particularly shopping services for the elderly which used school buses during the school day. There was also a reduction in the fuel duty rebate (BSOG).

  • Peter Martin 22nd Apr '18 - 4:43pm

    I was just thinking that I perhaps could write an article called:

    “Keep the faith: Our country should not consider any merger” 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Apr '18 - 7:27pm

    Thanks, Peter, that made me laugh – and especially because anyone reading the title of my article and then looking at the latest few comments here would wonder what the connection was! I was amazed looking something up in the comments here yesterday to find the pleasant discussion still going on, so I might as well join in. I am more in sympathy with Michael BG’s views on local transport needs than with yours, Nvelope, basically because providing local buses and trains gives people choice, and reduces car usage.

    Here in West Cumbria we have a lot of buses, though with the distances between towns they are never enough for people needing to get to hospital appointments or visit family in hospital. However, people with hip or knee operations, which are quite frequent here, being unable to use their cars for a few weeks can be glad of the buses. They are well used for leisure purposes too; an elderly friend of mine, for instance, will take a bus from Cockermouth to Keswick, and from thence to Kendal or to a huge garden centre in the South Lakes, for a day of shopping and lunching out, which supports local businesses. We also have excellent local train services which I have noticed are very popular, and which are very handy when you are setting off on holiday.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 22nd Apr '18 - 7:56pm

    Katharine, I’m pleased to see that discussion on this article is still continuing 🙂 Could I possibly return to the original theme of your article, that our party “must not consider any merger”?
    A while ago, at an earlier stage of the discussion on this same article, I asked you whether, as an active member of the old Liberal party, you supported or opposed the merger with the SDP. You replied that you supported it, and that you were even more proud to be a Lib Dem than you were to be a Liberal.
    If that is so, then how can you be so certain that we must not consider any merger with any possible new “centre party”? So far, we know virtually nothing about the new party that is apparently being planned. But isn’t it at least theoretically possible that it might turn out to be a party that you would be just as happy to merge with, as you were to merge with the SDP?

  • @ nvelope2003

    It is about being liberal; (the bus service you are describing seems to have more than 7 a day) just because most people have used the bus on the first three buses does not mean as liberals we should stop the other two dozen or so people from using buses later in the day. To do so is illiberal. I am surprised that older people do not stay in their destinations longer than two hours and have their lunch there some of the time. My mother would always have something to eat when she went into town. (I imagine that she and Katharine elderly friend are typical.) I am not convince you have actually surveyed the people. I think you are just giving your impression of how long they stay at their destination. If no one uses the bus in either direction in the evening then questions need asking about what activities travelling on the bus in the evening would lead to and why people are not using the bus to take them up. Also I imagine that to run a return bus, a bus has to travel in the other direction. So for example the buses going past your house after 2.30 might be the result of the need for them to return to bring back students or workers who have travelled on them earlier in the day.

    I am surprised that you do not understand that a liberal policy increases choice. I have never said I prefer to use council money on a little used bus service than say keeping a residential care home open. What I have stated is the liberal position. I recognise it is not possible to carry out every liberal policy in local government. Councillors often have to make difficult choices; ones where they have to balance priorities.

    I agree with you more comfortable buses would be an improvement. If the council owned the bus company then it would be possible to influence what new routes were developed. I am not against councils running their own bus company.

  • Michael BG: There is a commercially operated bus service approximately hourly to the nearest main town but the evening return buses have now been withdrawn as they did not carry any passengers to my small town. The main town has a large number of shops, a cinema, theatre and leisure complex. There is also a subsidised service with about 7 return journeys to other small towns which carries one or two passengers from here and a few more elsewhere on each journey on average. There is also a subsidised twice weekly service to another large town which I formerly used but like many of the passengers I stopped using when the revised times made it necessary to have lunch in the big town so timing is important.
    Yes of course there are positioning journeys on both services to get the bus back to bring people home and people use them when it gets nearer to the big town. I do talk to the passengers and observe what they do. Some of them only stay for one hour but others longer.
    The Council does not need to own the bus company to develop new services as they can be put out to tender. There are other bus companies in the area and any one of them would have a better idea of what the public want than any council which would be subject to ideological pressures. One of the last publicly owned bus companies was notorious for inefficiency and mismanagement and was mercifully sold off.

    Of course I would like a choice but sometimes the best can be the enemy of the good and some strong viable routes are better than several weak routes which can be withdrawn at any moment as subsidised services were not subject to the same requirements for 56 days notice.

    When it takes 2 or 3 weeks to get an appointment with a doctor here support for retaining loss making bus services is likely to be limited as I discovered when the one I used was reduced to one journey each way at a time that was no use to me, except the return journey ! I understand what you are saying and hope that one day it will be possible but many members of the public do have strong views on what they perceive as wasting money and it will not be easy to implement your policies.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Apr '18 - 12:10pm

    @ Katharine,

    Just to get away from Brexit, macroeconomics and the wider political discussion, here’s a practical suggestion:

    Why not a greater national integration of Bus and Train services. Maybe even air and taxi services too? It is technically quite straightforward to issue a ticket on the internet to give anyone almost door to door transport using a combination of available services. Local Buses could be timed to coincide with train arrivals to minimise waiting times. The forecourt on most rail stations could become a de – facto ‘extra platform’ at which buses rather than trains stopped. There could be similar style overhead information on bus arrivals and departures. Many rail stations have unused sidings which could be converted into ‘bus bays’.

    Where no adequate local bus services exist then some relaxation on the rules for Uber style taxis or car sharing could be considered. Buses aren’t such an environmentally attractive transport solution unless they are relatively full. But there are obvious safety implications that would need to be addressed.

  • @ nvelope2003

    You appear more liberal to me in your last post as you recognise the restrictions on a person’s freedom due to buses not being available when they want to use them. You want it both ways it seems, you think the Council should on the one hand put out a route to tender (in my opinion being a provider of bus services) and on the other think private bus companies are best placed to know what the public want. Most bus companies provide bus services to make a profit not because some people want it, which is why councils subsidise some bus services.

    Councils have no financial involvement with the provision of NHS services!

    I agree it would not be easy to implement my suggested policies.

  • nvelope2003 23rd Apr '18 - 3:45pm

    Peter Martin: What a good idea ! But will it ever happen ?
    Michael BG: When a route is put out to tender the wiser councils would ask the operators for their views and they do have experience of running buses. This could avoid mistakes. The successful tenderer would be expected to make a modest profit from a subsidised bus service. Bus companies do run services because people want them otherwise they would not make any profits. Some companies are more innovative than others but there have been successful new services operated commercially.

    I have been watching the programmes about Cuba on the BBC and although the previous regime was certainly very bad and the Cubans have experienced an improved standard of living, as some of them said, they would have expected better after nearly 50 years of state control. Since new private business licenses were ended last year the economy has stagnated and the place looked a mess. There does not appear to be anyone with any knowledge or desire to run the place efficiently, probably because anyone who did know would be forced out, so do not put much faith in council owned bus companies.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Apr '18 - 4:39pm

    Good heavens, Nvelope, don’t start comparing transport services provided by local councils to Cuba’s! I was just thinking that Peter Martin’s idea of an integrated system would only work in a country run by a Socialist or Communist government, where people were expected to lead managed lives fitting in with government requirements and not allowed to change their minds and go freely where and when they want.

    And, Nvelope, I object strongly to your earlier comment, at 11.22 today, when you suggested that any (commercial) bus company would have a better idea of what the public wants ‘than any council which would be subject to ideological pressures.’ ???! I guess the bus company might have a better idea of where their profits lay, whether or not that was what the local public wanted, but what are these council ‘ideological pressures’? Surely Lib Dem councillors at least can be relied on to try to get the best possible fair services for local people, which may indeed mean they occasionally ‘spend tax-payers’ money’ (as you earlier remarked scornfully) on ‘little-used bus services’ which supply some people’s needs. It’s called liberalism, isn’t it, to look after individuals’ needs, and that’s why members like me who are fit enough are going out to help our hard-working council candidates get elected in May. What we need are more council services, not fewer, and more of them provided by Lib Dem councillors, carefully and ingeniously working out how best to stretch their sadly limited resources.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Apr '18 - 5:21pm

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland. Hi, Catherine, thank you for joining in and reverting to the original theme, my contention that we should not merge with any new party. They are practically two-a-penny anyway: I just happened to come across again a report in a February newspaper about a new one which had got several thousand supporters but which did not appear to be the one lately publicised in the Observer.

    The point is anyway the old truth, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. The reports and discussion on the newest contender suggest it has no more to offer the public and in fact very much less than we have. We have the structures of a national political party in place, the membership of more than 100,000, the systems, the national HQ, twelve MPs and dozens of peers, lots of local government councillors and even still one MEP, activists in Wales and even more in Scotland including MPs, and a respected national leader. We have a thirty-year history as Liberal Democrats, and what was acceptable was for the new party the SDP to join us, the long-established party, and not the other way round. Above all we have the values and the policies and the urgency for action which the country needs,

    Moreover we have a unique opportunity now to tell the country this and to be heard, when there is such widespread , understandable public disillusionment with both the major parties. People need us to rise to the occasion. I understand that HQ is thinking of running a major publicity campaign this summer, at this vital time for the country, and it will be good if members contact our Leader and Chief Executive to make suggestions about the messages and the means of such a campaign. On this thread Neil Sandison was forceful in recommending that our party takes the lead now in campaigning ‘for the reform of British politics’ (April 9, 11.38 am), and I hope he and many others follow this up.

  • Sean Hyland 23rd Apr '18 - 7:17pm

    I believe the Electoral Commission have approximately 400 political parties registered with it. I have neither the time of inclination to go and check them out. No doubt amongst the single issue and protest parties there may be those with similar principles to the Lib Dems. Doesn’t mean they should join together.

    Sorry to drag buses back Katharine but I miss municipal bus companies. I know FirstBus used to require each route to generate 14% profit. Those that did got new buses. Those that didn’t got the old buses then reduced frequency and eventually the threat to deregister the route unless they got subsidy. They needed the profits to satisfy their major borrowings. This is in addition to the money they made from selling of depots and his stations to developers.
    In the municipal companies the profitable routes subsidised the socially necessary but not viable routes. No doubt a bit of political gerrymandering went on to protect certain wards etc but there were some quality operations loved by their customers.
    The way it is going, as one union officer pointed out, without council subsidies there would be no services outside 7am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and none on Sunday in our town.

  • Peter Martin 24th Apr '18 - 9:08am

    @ Katharine,

    “I was just thinking that Peter Martin’s idea of an integrated system would only work in a country run by a Socialist or Communist government, where people were expected to lead managed lives fitting in with government requirements and not allowed to change their minds and go freely where and when they want.”

    The last part is being rather unfair. There’d be no restriction on anyone going wherever they like, and changing their minds whenever they like regardless of any government requirements.

    But, although it doesn’t have to be particularly socialist, you are right that an integrated transport system would be better run centrally rather than devolved to local councils. This is at odds with current Lib Dem thinking. Central Government has always played a key role in national transport. The railways and canals would never have been built in the 19th century if Parliament hadn’t intervened to override local objections. Even when they had been built, Parliament still had a direct say in their running. For example, Brunel’s broad gauge railtrack on the GWR had to be replaced by standard gauge, even though it was technically superior, to satisfy Parliament’s requirement of standardisation.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Apr '18 - 10:17am

    Sean and Peter, regarding provision of transport services locally or nationally, I suppose pragmatic yet Liberal solutions are best. Yes, let’s have local councils empowered and financed to provide more services, but we surely need Government action to ensure electrification of major rail lines and provision of better, quicker services across the Pennines with extension of HS2.

  • Michael BG – I was talking about the 1945-1973 France, whose GDP grew from 60% of the UK in 1945 to a higher GDP than the UK by 1973. You also magically forgot that I also mentioned Japan and Korea.

    Investing in energy efficiency tech, which is often overlooked by major parties, should also be prioritized. It can save an amount of electricity equal to the projected annual output of Hinkey Point projects every year. Besides, like automation and computerization, you can push for it without picking winners, since we want as many companies as possible to adopt such technology.

    Another area that Britain often falls behind is commercialization/application of initial scientific discoveries/technological inventions.

    For foreign investment, I would not let foreign SOEs or “private” firms with blatant state backing like Huawei to invest freely in the country, on the ground of national security. In railway, foreign SOEs tend to overcharge to get money to reinvest in their own countries’ infrastructure at the expense of Britain itself.

    Peter Martin – have to agree with the idea of an active central government, especially after reading American history.

  • Katharine Pindar: I do not understand why an integrated public transport system would infringe anyone’s liberty. Surely if we are to get people to use public transport then buses and trains must connect as it is not possible to provide through services to every place in the UK.

    Sean Hyland: Nationalised British Rail and the National Bus company destroyed huge amounts of infrastructure and did not even achieve any success in getting people to use public transport, in fact the reverse. We cannot take a sentimental attitude to past structures as the need to get people onto public transport where it will make a difference is too important.

  • Sean Hyland 24th Apr '18 - 2:22pm

    nvelope 2003 happy to accept your point but didn’t refer to British Rail or the NBC, both of which were constructs of Labour policy of one size fits all statism.
    Was referring specifically to municipal or council owner companies. Should have been clearer but I was trying to make a point that they were in the main to provide a comprehensive service based more on social need and not purely profit. They were not perfect and I am not calling for their return.
    I am hoping one day that a party may commit to developing integrated transport policies provided by whatever providers are best suited. I agree it not infringing individual liberty to provide them to it nothing else provide a choice to the dominance of the car. From a purely environmental viewpoint we cannot continue this way.
    To get back to Katharines original post on merger is this not an example of avoiding merger but building single issue campaigns with like minded individuals or groups to promote party policies.

  • @ nvelope2003

    “I have been a Liberal since I was at school and Clement Davies was the leader.”

    When you say you have been a Liberal since at least 1956 do you mean a party member or a Liberal voter?

    Part of being a liberal is having faith in human nature. Therefore we should assume that if a Council decides to run a bus company it will employ someone with experience of running a bus company to manage that service and advise councillors.

    Perhaps British Rail and the National Bus Company reduced services to achieve profitability rather than keeping them to provide services for people to use at the cost of some losses. It is back to the argument which is more important providing services so a minority can have increased choices or what you would classify as “wasting money” on running unprofitable services.

    As you say if public transport was better integrated and run more regularly there should be an increase in usage, but before that it would need to be subsidised in some way.

    @ Thomas

    Thank you for coming back. I hadn’t overlooked Japan and Korea. I was just more interested in France.

    I agree that Britain has a poor record of investing in initial scientific discoveries and technological inventions. A national bank we can both hope would help us to do better. I think a case could be made out that for products that can only be used in the UK the company running it should be UK based, such as railway and bus companies and energy providers.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Apr '18 - 12:41am

    Nvelope, an integrated public transport system sounds fine, it’s the system of government that would be able to achieve that that I would distrust. As someone said at our local Executive meeting tonight, we don’t want merger, we do want alliances, working together to achieve progress. Co-operation and co-ordination at local level I suppose is what is desirable. But government investment in advanced technologies and support for leading-edge companies is needed too.

  • nvelope2003 25th Apr '18 - 1:18pm

    Katharine Pindar: (23.04.18 -4.39 pm) Michael BG: I am sorry that I do not fit your notions of being a Liberal. I will cancel my subscription to the party if that is what you wish. It would be lovely if we could believe that everyone in the party is perfect but we know that is not true.
    I have no way of knowing whether you have met any bus company managers or owners but most of those I have met were honourable and decent people with a great knowledge and love of the industry. Many local councillors have little understanding of bus services because they do not use them or know anyone who does. Obviously this does not apply to all councillors.
    Some of the subsidised bus routes in this area have unused extra journeys on Mondays to Fridays but no journey to work facility on Saturdays so that the route can be run with only one bus and driver. On Mondays to Fridays it needs 3 buses and drivers but more people used to travel on Saturdays. The company did not want this but had to accept it. Many people work on Saturdays but maybe council staff do not. The commercial bus route has the same service Mondays to Saturdays although less people use the early bus so I would be careful about criticising greedy bus companies. At least they know what they are doing and try to get people to use the buses they run.
    London is one of the few major world cities which has no public transport on Christmas Day and when some private companies tried to operate they were banned by the Council in future and the TFL public information stated there were no buses on Christmas Day which was untrue. National Express and Megabus operate on Christmas day throughout the UK but unless you live near Victoria Coach Station you have to hire an expensive taxi to use the coaches from London. Despite that many were fully booked. The idea that in a multicultural city like London the drivers would not want to work is a bit silly. Many would like the chance to do one shift for the extra money. The roads are clogged with cars but those without have to stay at home.

    What we need is an integrated public transport system that ordinary people will use in large numbers to reduce car use and environmental damage and while the needs of minorities should not be ignored those of the majority must take priority.

  • David Evans 25th Apr '18 - 2:34pm

    Michael BG – I’m afraid you will let people down far too often if you really do believe that “Part of being a liberal is having faith in human nature. Therefore we should assume that if a Council decides to run a bus company it will employ someone with experience of running a bus company to manage that service and advise councillors.”

    Sadly I have been misinformed by officers on far too many occasions, who often treat linguistic flexibility as a desirable attribute, to subscribe to such a naive attitude. When your community tells you one thing and the bureaucracy another, I would always side with the community.

  • David Evans 25th Apr '18 - 3:36pm

    Having said that, I agree that there is nothing wrong with Municipal Bus companies, which were quite often much better than what ultimately replaced them.

  • On the subject of municipal bus/tram companies – it’s ironic they were set up in Victorian times when most of the great cities were run by Liberal Councillors…… as a form of municipal socialism along with parks, baths, libraries and free school meals.

    It must be hard for the modern so called ‘classical liberal’ right wingers who joined our party after the millennium to get their heads round the fact that whilst free trade and markets were national policy for the then powerful Liberal Party – municipal enterprises was pursued locally. Indeed in the First World War the 15th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry was formed entirely by the Glasgow tramways department.

    I remember with nostalgic affection the red and yellow Huddersfield (and blue & white) Bradford trolley buses – as well as the two tone green Leeds Corporation fleets.

    Municipal enterprise is one sort of ‘classical liberalism’ I would happily see brought back.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Apr '18 - 9:40pm

    Municipal enterprise does indeed sound worthwhile, David, along with co-operatives and local community enterprises. I heard briefly from a South Lakes County Councillor whom I and the candidate Ian Wharton met while calling on postal voters in Ian’s area on Saturday that local district councils can and do facilitate local enterprise: perhaps you could tell us more about that, David Evans? There is so much to learn from the numerous active councillors in Farron-land that we will trust to see re-elected next week. or who at county level remain in post.

    Nvelope, you are clearly dissatisfied with the bus services in your area, wherever that is. Do you not have any Liberal Democrat councillor to talk to about it? Are you perhaps helping some prospective candidate within reach of you? The council candidate I and other members of my local Executive are trying to help in South Lakes (since we have no local elections here until next year) lives 50 miles away, but is worth the (car!) journey. Perhaps some office work or telephone canvassing may be helpful in some places too. I suppose we are all bent on seeing progress for the party in next week’s elections.

  • You’re a very good soul helping in South Lakeland, Katharine. Good luck – and wish them good luck from me too.

    Don’t know if I told you but I was the first Leader of the Liberal group on S. Lakeland (Fell & Strickland Ward) back in 1974. Happy days – fighting for bus passes for the elderly and saving the Working Mens’ Institute building from demolition. So pleased to see Tim get in to parliament so many years later.

    Before that I was the first openly labelled Liberal elected to Kendal Borough Council (Fellside ward in 1972. I remember canvassing a very old lady who told me the Tory colours were yellow (Lord Lonsdale’s colours) and the Liberals were blue. When Lordy and his followers demonstrated for the Tories in 1906 by galloping up Highgate all the washerwomen at the municipal baths in Allhallows Lane jumped out, pulled him out of his carriage by the Town Hall, covered him in dolly blue, and threw him in the river.

    I said how better mannered it was in 1972. She chuckled and said “I know….. but I was one of them as did it. Oh, Ah reet enjoyed it and Lordy were furious. And Stewart-Smith won for’t Liberals. I’ll vote for thee young lad ‘cos I’m a Liberal”.

    So municipal enterprise (the baths) produced excellent results in those days.

  • @ nvelope2003

    I didn’t ask you to stop being a member of the party I only asked if you were a member. I never said everyone in the party is perfect. As you wrote, “but we know that is not true”. We should not think badly of people without examples of their particular bad behaviour. I do think that most councillors want to represent what they believe are the interests of their electors and are not in it for what they can make out of it. I was careful not to criticise bus companies by calling them greedy. I even implied with my “Most bus companies provide bus services to make a profit” that some bus companies run buses which are not profitable sometimes even when not subsidised by councils.

    I am not defending particular councils or TFL decisions.

    @ David Evans

    Indeed I do believe “Part of being a liberal is having faith in human nature”. When you write, “When your community tells you one thing … I would always side with the community” you are agreeing with me.

    In my four years as a councillor I never had any trouble with the advice given by officers or the language they used to express themselves. I may have just been lucky. It may well be entirely different now with the Cabinet system. (Are you still a councillor?)

  • Nationalisation and municipal enterprises were a good idea at the start when most revenue came from the better off tax payers who also sat on the council and made sure it was not wasted but Council tax has become a burden for many ordinary working people now and I can only assume that most of those advocating more spending are either affluent middle class idealists or exempt from paying taxes for some reason. We did have a Liberal Democrat councillor but he lost his seat before the 2010 coalition and this was connected with what many people thought was wasteful expenditure. I also did not find council officials either polite, truthful or helpful.
    Until 1945 most ordinary working people did not pay income tax in peace time and the only tax they paid were the duties on tobacco and alcohol if they used those things. Methodists presumably paid hardly any tax – maybe that is why they tended to be Labour or Liberal supporters !
    Now that we all have to pay large amounts of our income in various taxes even if we do not smoke or drink alcohol a more critical attitude is taken to public spending which does not seem to be reflected here, and indeed there is a hostile tone towards anyone who indicates a sceptical view as I have observed on this thread.
    We are told that we can borrow as much money as is necessary as the economy of the state is different from the home but that is only because when the state makes a mistake the people can be forced to pay for it whereas if ordinary people do that they cannot force their neighbours to pay.
    I have read in a reputable journal that 52 miles of railway sidings will have to provided to store redundant railway coaches ordered in response to Government contracts, one of which ended before most of the vehicles were brought into use. The owners have stated that unless other uses can be found, which is unlikely, vehicles which are still being built will be scrapped. I have not heard of the Transport Secretary responsible for this having to resign. Is it any wonder that people have become sceptical of public spending ?

  • David Evans 26th Apr '18 - 3:08pm

    Michael BG – Congratulations! You behaved just like a council officer with something to hide.

    I clearly express a quote you make and draw a conclusion. You quote back only part of what you said and a carefully selected part of what I subsequently said and conclude I agree with you. Perhaps you are so used to this sort of tactic you don’t even recognise when you are doing it.

    But to make it clear, I don’t agree with what you said and no linguistic flexibility on your part will change it.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Apr '18 - 4:39pm

    Katharine, thank you for your reply to my question about why you are certain that we “should not consider any merger”, despite the fact that you supported the merger with the SDP.
    You say “what was acceptable was for the new party, the SDP, to join us, the established party, and not the other way round”.
    But as I understand it, the merger wasn’t meant to be the SDP “joining” the Liberal Party. Officially at least, the two parties were supposed to be equals, merging to form a new party – not one party “joining” the other.
    It’s true that today, the party sees itself as a continuation of the old Liberal Party. The SDP is not often mentioned, and I don’t think many people see us as a continuation of the SDP. So with hindsight, it does seem as if the SDP “joined” the Liberals. But wasn’t the official intention supposed to be that the new party would be just as much SDP as Liberal?

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Apr '18 - 4:52pm

    David Raw. Lovely reminiscences of your Lakeland years, David! It was good to hear of your early experiences as doubtless a good counsellor when you were nobbut a lad. I hadn’t heard the Lord Lonsdale story before – no wonder if he then changed to yellow colour! But I remember the Liberal blue, driving about Penrith and the Border with Nancy Powell the Liberal agent in her blue Ford, when I were a lile lass, seeing the blue posters. As to helping in South Lakes now I enjoy it (except when I got lost trying to find Ian’s house, adding miles to my journey!), and perhaps they will return the favour with our candidates next year.

    David Evans, you haven’t answered Michael’s query as to whether you are a councillor, or my suggestion it would be good to hear of enterprises fostered by district councillors in your area. You must have a wealth of useful local knowledge to share.

    Nvelope, I agree Council Tax is a burden for ordinary folk, and surely it should be reformed to take note of people’s incomes, while Land Value Capture seems the better way for future taxation, as often promoted here on LDV and hopefully adopted as policy nationally in the end..

  • @ nvelope2003

    The amount of Council Tax most people pay is less than the amount of Income Tax they pay. In my area for a band D property the amount the Borough Council receives is £116.42, the County Council £1200.96 and the total is £1560.58 a year (this is if two or more people live in the property). Someone earning £25,000 would pay £2,232.18 in Income Tax during the year. Of course if a person is earning less than £11,850 they will not be happy paying any Council Tax.

    One of the points of democracy is that the people can replace ineffective elected people. If the system wastes money then part of the democratic process is to get people elected to change the system so money is not wasted. If bad decisions are made then part of the democratic process is to get people elected make better decisions. However each person has to decide what they consider bad decisions are.

    When talking about governments wasting money it is important to make clear that you accept that governments do lots of good with their spending and you are only talking about a particular item.

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland

    Indeed merger was the joining of two equal parties and the SDP influence can still be seen in our current constitution and national membership system. In my area the SDP influence was great. However at the Federal Conference level it was liberalism which was appealed to when discussing policy and that might be why we clearly identify as a liberal party now.

  • @ David Evans
    “Congratulations! You behaved just like a council officer with something to hide.”
    “officers … who often treat linguistic flexibility as a desirable attribute”

    If you interpret what people say so negatively then it is not surprising that you think they “treat linguistic flexibility as a desirable attribute”.

    There are a number of levels to look at this discussion. You are focussed on officers who you seem to think are there not to help you as a councillor. I did accept that your experience of officers could be different to mine when I wrote, “I may have just been lucky. It may well be entirely different now with the Cabinet system”.

    The reason I removed the references to officers was because I was saying that when you believe what your community is saying you are showing the liberal attitude to people by having faith in them. Can you not see this?

    My faith in human nature is not restricted to officers it applies to everyone until I have evidence to refute it. Do you not recognise that liberalism has faith in human nature and that is why liberals in the past supported the extension of the franchise?

  • @ Katharine. In my experience of being an elected member on four very different councils I must say the vast majority of Council officers do their very best to serve the public and to advise the elected members. It is only a very tiny minority who don’t and if elected members are wise they will get the best out of officers when they treat them politely and with respect.

    The person you asked a question is as far as I know still an elected member in Kendal.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Apr '18 - 11:52pm

    David, it’s good to hear of your positive experience as a councillor in several different
    councils, and also to read Michael BG’s thoughtful and constructive comments (thank you for answering Catherine’s query en route, Michael). Regards to you both, and let’s hope many more such good Liberal Democrat councillors are elected next Thursday.

  • nvelope2003 28th Apr '18 - 1:22pm

    There appear to be few Liberal Democrat candidates in parts of South London but some Greens standing. One advantage of linking up with the Greens would be having Caroline Lucas as leader. She may not be perfect but she can inspire.

  • nvelope2003 28th Apr '18 - 1:27pm

    When those who did not have to pay income tax before World War II found that they also had to contribute to the Government’s growing expenditure there was a stop in the growth of support for left and centre left parties at subsequent elections until Blair gave the impression he would not increase taxes. That will always be the problem for progressive parties.

  • paul holmes 28th Apr '18 - 2:23pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland and others: I joined the SDP in 1983 and I was a Founder member of the merged Liberal Democrats in 1988. I did not join the Liberal Party and certainly found, as an elected politician visiting other countries, that I often had only limited rapport with the Liberal politicians I was paired up with elsewhere, as in Sweden and Germany. Primarily this was because they were Economic Liberals and my affinity was with the Social Liberal tradition.

    As far the SDP influence today I note that our Leader, Vince Cable and our Leader and Chief Whip in the Lords (Dick Newby and Ben Stoneham) all arrived from the SDP via the merger as did people like Charles Kennedy and Shirley Williams. The SDP also brought, among other things, the principle of One Member One Vote to the merged Party.

    The Liberal Democrats more recent dalliance with a return to the lower tax, smaller state Economic Liberalism of the nineteenth century certainly put a severe strain on my remaining in the Party. Since 2015 have we have in some respects moved heavily back towards the Social Liberalism that made the 1988 merger such an easy choice for me at that time. As many commentators below the line here on LDV however keep noting, that does mean that we are often criticising the policies ‘we’ actually put through Parliament during the Coalition.

  • paul holmes 28th Apr '18 - 2:41pm

    @nvelope2003: That is one interpretation.

    On the other hand Labour in 1951 actually increased their vote to a record high and only ‘lost’ that election due to our random Russian Roulette’ FPTP voting system. What was dubbed the ‘thirteen wasted years’ followed under the Conservatives from 1951-1964.

    For our part, our best ever electoral success since 1922 came in the period encapsulated by the 3 successive General Elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005. In all three of those elections we fought on platforms that involved increasing taxation to fund decent public services. As my much missed friend Charles Kennedy used to put it, the public know that you don’t get ‘owt for nowt.’

    The SNP too did pretty well in 2015 (a near 100% electoral dominance that year) with a programme that included an emphasis on well funded Public Services. Of course they were a bit coy about actually using their tax raising powers and the Barnett formulae certainly helps. But the message was that Public Services needed funding in a way that New Labour and the Coalition Parties were not advocating in that period.

    Some would cite Corbyn’s miraculous Lazarus like resurrection in the last 2 weeks of the 2017 General Election too. Although he did fudge it somewhat with the implication that it could all be easily funded by ‘soaking the rich’.

  • @ David Raw

    Thank you for sharing your experience of Council Officers of four different councils.

    @ nvelope2003

    Following on from what Paul Holmes posted. In the 1964 general election the Labour and Liberal parties achieved 55.3% of the vote; in 1966 – 56.5%; in 1970 – 50.6%; in October 1974 – 57.5% and 1979 – 50.7%. In the 1983 general election the Labour Party and the Alliance achieved 53% of the vote and in 1987 – 53.4%. The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in 1992 achieved 52.2%. Therefore there is no evidence that from 1964 to 1992 there was a significant decline in support for left and centre left parties.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Apr '18 - 1:17am

    @ Paul Holmes. It’s good to learn more about your personal experience and knowledge of the SDP outlook and contribution to our Liberal Democrat party, Paul, and encouraging to be reminded that our better electoral results were in years when we were, apparently following their lead, recommending higher taxation for better public services. I personally was I suppose always a social Liberal, trying out the Labour group at Uni as well as the Liberals for a short time, and I am relieved that after the aberration of the Coalition years our party does as you say tend now towards social liberalism.

    The question arises, can the majority of the voters be disposed towards it now? If our latest success suggesting it was in 2005, we may guess that it hasn’t been a popular idea in the past decade, and that can easily be understood in the context of a static standard of living since the GFC of 2008. I mean by that, most people would still have liked improving public services, but didn’t feel there should be extra taxes to pay for them when they were already feeling times were hard. Maybe that idea is shifting a bit now, since polls show that our idea of an extra penny on income tax for the NHS has become acceptable. But the devil is Brexit, with food prices having risen because of the increased cost of imports, and the threat of most people becoming worse off again once it is implemented, if it is. We don’t though suggest higher taxes for the mass of the population, and we did in the Coalition years insist on the increase in the taxable allowance, so our case surely remains a good one.

  • nvelope2003 29th Apr '18 - 9:09am

    Paul Holmes and Michael BG: but these successes were nearly always achieved by the implication that someone else – the rich, the English – would pay for the increased expenditure. The Liberals and Labour usually get their best results when the economy is doing well as people feel it is time to spend more – even the 1945 result was after victory in war when many had gained higher wages and they were feeling happier. In the 50s and 60s there was a great deal of anger at the level of taxation and the Conservatives won 3 elections because they claimed they would reduce it.
    The record Labour vote in 1951 was achieved partly as the result of the collapse of the Liberal vote. The Conservatives did not contest a number of seats (Labour contested virtually every seat) which were more likely to elect a Liberal MP as they thought they might need their support to form a Government but in the end they achieved an absolute majority in Parliament and the Liberal leader, Clement Davies, declined an invitation to join the Government, clearly a wise and principled man as befits one of Britain’s leading lawyers.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Apr '18 - 7:35pm

    John Littler, it’s good to have an opposing view, but I think you are not being realistic. Money can’t make a new party, you would need politically active and experienced people (as President Macron was), and you would need a vision and core message which would resonate with people. Where are the activists, let alone their leader, to be magicked up from?

    It’s arguable to begin with that ‘people are desperate for change and for something new in politics’. I imagine that only the politically engaged are ‘desperate for change’ at all, but your YouGov polling can probably easily find that very many voters are fed up with both the major parties for their slippery ways and unproductive squaring up to each other. They may well want to see the Brexit business settled so all this uncertainty can end, and the next six crucial months should help with that. Not any new party – there is nothing here for the cavalry to gallop in and win, because there isn’t a battle.

    Why won’t the voters look to the Liberal Democrats, then, as a sensible, pragmatic, middle-of-the-road party? Because again there is no battleground for them. Besides, the last General Election saw a polarisation between two extremely different visions of government led by two utterly opposite leaders which might happen again if a snap election were to be called . I think myself (as a political observer for the last half-century) that it is the practicalities of our having only a small number of MPs rather than any widespread rejection of us which is leading to our present lack of impact.

    We have to campaign now to show why our vision, ideas and policies are indeed what the country needs. And I suggest that in fact more ordinary people are tired of fantasy politics than wanting some new politics. I think people want some old ideas back: of a united, tolerant, happy country where there aren’t people living in desperate poverty, where the disparities of wealth and income aren’t so gross, and where people are accepted for what they can offer, not discriminated against because of where they come from or how different they are. My party will surely fight for that.

  • @ nvelope2003

    You have been provided with evidence that the electorate of the UK didn’t stop supporting left and centre left parties at subsequent elections until Blair become leader of the Labour Party as you claimed. But you have not acknowledged this.

    Do you have any evidence that “in the 50s and 60s there was a great deal of anger at the level of taxation”? I don’t think this was an issue. If you were correct then Labour should have won the 1959 general election because the economy was doing very well at the time.

    According to Wikipedia both the Labour Party and the Conservatives contested 617 seats in 1951. The Liberal Party fielded 366 fewer candidates in 1951 than 1950 so it is wrong to say the Liberal vote collapsed, especially as the votes per candidate in 1951 had increased to about 6,700 from 5,500 in 1950.

    Please can you let us know what makes you a Liberal Democrat member as you don’t seem to support liberal interventions in the economy and to make society better?

  • @Katharine Pindar

    ” I think myself (as a political observer for the last half-century) that it is the practicalities of our having only a small number of MPs rather than any widespread rejection of us which is leading to our present lack of impact.”

    I admire your tenacity but that is funny, It was a widespread rejection of the party during the coalition that resulted in the party losing most of it MP’s and councillors and that continued rejection by the electorate now.

    “you would need a vision and core message which would resonate with people. Where are the activists, let alone their leader, to be magicked up from?”
    I don’t support a new centrist party, but it is not hard to imagine someone like David Milliband coming back to the forefront of politics. As for activists, you only have to look to momentum to see how quickly people can band together and become effective if there is a cause they believe in.

    “Why won’t the voters look to the Liberal Democrats, then, as a sensible, pragmatic, middle-of-the-road party?”
    Because Liberal Democrats tried to portray themselves as that in 2010 somewhere in the middle of Labour and Conservatives and look what happened within months of being elected

  • Peter Watson 29th Apr '18 - 9:23pm

    @matt “As for activists, you only have to look to momentum to see how quickly people can band together and become effective if there is a cause they believe in.”
    Or even the Lib Dems when the rapid increase in membership was being trumpeted with almost daily updates as a rallying of anti-Brexit sentiment.
    However, the publicity seemed to disappear after the figure of 100,000 members was reached (did it continue to rise and rise?) and now, 12 months later, as all of those members should have been renewing, I don’t remember the last time a more up-to-date figure was quoted for party membership.

  • I thing I find difficulty with the idea of using President Macron as an example of an outsider creating a new political movement is that he is very much a political insider. He is graduate of their elite Ecole for national administration that produces most of the top politicians and senior civil servants in France. He also served as a minister in government. His skill in creating a new movement is however to be applauded as he managed to appeal to a wider range of individuals to serve in government and to be activists. I think the French political system is different in that it has a history of diverse political parties being formed and at various times being either in the ascendancy or in terminal decline. The French perhaps do not see creation or ending of parties as an issue as it is the message,vision and activities that count.
    It would be harder for a major new political party to form in the UK i think. We have close to 400 parties registered with the electoral commission but I would imagine most of them to be tiny protest or single issue parties not that that lessens their validity. With a reported £50 million on offer i could imagine a new party being formed but it would need to spend large amounts in publicity to get beyond the politically engaged to involve the wider public. It would also need a clear message,value base and policies combined with a charismatic trusted leadership.
    The problem for the Lib Dems is that the legacy of the coalition with the wider public still remains. Also apart from exit from brexit were are the defining policies and vision to engage the public on the rare occasions media exposure is gained. I take my hat off to the activists who knock on doors in all weather’s week after week but they can only engaged to a limited extent. I also worry if the surge in new members is over and how many renewed their membership.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '18 - 12:29am

    The chaos of this Government continues with the resignation of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd: more reason to expect the exasperation of voters with our central political leadership to continue to grow, more reason for them to begin to look again at the Liberal Democrats. Sean, I think you make very good points in most of your comment above, but it really isn’t right to suggest we lack vision or policies. As I have suggested, and I believe HQ are anyway considering, we need a major campaign this summer, weighing in on social media and advertising, to insist on the relevance of our thinking.

    There still will be I suppose some legacy of distrust for our Coalition failures, but considering how people have seen over the past two years the extent of deliberate misleading (to put it mildly) from Brexiteers and Conservative ministers, and the unscrupulous so -called ‘constructive ambiguity’ of the Labour leadership, the general standard of morality among the political classes cannot, unfortunately, be reckoned very high by the public. I don’t therefore, Matt, consider it likely that the voters are continuing to reject us on moral grounds. And we do in fact have a reason to claim to have a higher standard now than the two main parties. That’s because it is generally understood that most MPs do in fact believe we should not be leaving the EU. But among the major national parties, only the Liberal Democrats are putting THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY first in opposing Brexit, refusing the hypocrisy of denying our real belief, and insisting that the voters should be given a final democratic chance to decide on the deal.

  • @Katharine

    “I don’t therefore, Matt, consider it likely that the voters are continuing to reject us on moral grounds”
    Well, I think students saddled with debt would disagree.
    People who were affected by the bedroom Tax
    People who voted for the party believing there would be no top down reorganisation of the NHS
    People who were forced onto workfare or faced sanctions
    Many of these people would disagree with your conclusions Katharine and will continue to reject on moral grounds.
    It takes many years to rebuild trust, more so when the party is failing to acknowledge the wrongs it made.

    “And we do in fact have a reason to claim to have a higher standard now than the two main parties. That’s because it is generally understood that most MPs do in fact believe we should not be leaving the EU.”
    Confused, why would that give the Liberal Democrats a higher standard? Especially since it is UNDERSTOOD that the majority of the electorate (which are the ones that matter) believe we should be leaving the EU. Maybe you can expand a bit on what you mean?

    “refusing the hypocrisy of denying our real belief”
    I find this really strange, after all wasn’t it Liberal Democrats who were calling for years for us to have an in / out referendum? In fact, wasn’t it Nick Clegg who lead the party out of the commons in protest over the issue? Maybe you could remind me how Liberal Democrat MP’s voted in legislating for the referendum?

  • Katharine some very good points in your post. I was trying to get across the idea that people in the mainstream think all the Lib Dems stand for is stopping brexit and returning to an unchanged EU. They don’t see the values that Lib Dems stand for and I think they would be hard put to know the wider policies. I do sincerely hope the planned publicity drive has the desired effect on reaching beyond activists and engaging the public. Perhaps the difficulty is as a none party member but usual lib dems voter i am not always entirely sure what the party stands for. I consider myself more of a social liberal and am looking for more in that line.

    I do believe that the legacy of coalition is fading and will do more so as the excesses of Labour and the Tories grows. It is the chance to create a clear identity that offers a way forward if the party can get a clear message across. As I’ve said before it’s time to perhaps create a drive similar to that behind the New Liberalism of Hobhouse etc.

  • Michael BG, Yet again you have taken our discussion up another cul de sac by choosing to misconstrue and misrepresent what has been said, taking limited and different parts of it out of context and ultimately mangling it to suit your argument as if to prove you were right all along. Let us go back to the beginning and what you said.

    Your comment exactly was “Part of being a liberal is having faith in human nature. Therefore we should assume that if a Council decides to run a bus company it will employ someone with experience of running a bus company to manage that service and advise councillors.” These two sentences are inexorably linked by the adverb Therefore. If you read what I said you will see that I have raised no problem with your comment “Part of being a liberal is having faith in human nature.” Indeed I sign on to it.

    The part I was warning you about was your conclusion “we should assume that if a Council decides to run a bus company it will employ someone with experience of running a bus company to manage that service and advise councillors,” and trying to give you the extra benefit by being aware of my experience.

    But in your first response, you take a separate part of my comment and which is peripheral to the point I made and pretend I am agreeing with you. When this is pointed out, in your second response, you completely cut out all references to our area of disagreement (your apparent total trust in officers) and instead focus on something we do not disagree about i.e. my faith in my community and you make it as if this totally overrides my point which was about officers.

    In my younger days that was called “Changing the subject.”

    And finally, to cap it all you have the impertinence to round it off by choosing to question whether I recognise liberalism.

    Ultimately, I’m afraid your comments are just sadly so typical of a significant number of Lib Dems who would rather believe exactly what they are told by people whose motivations they know nothing about, than accept a warning from a fellow long standing Lib Dem colleague, which asks them to reconsider their cosy preconceptions, ultimately so that they can better represent their community.

    It’s up to you whether you choose to.

  • Michael BG: I did not say that the electorate stopped supporting left and centre left parties but that support for them did not grow as might have been expected. The Liberal vote collapsed because the party only fielded about 109 candidates instead of 475. The average vote rose presumably because the seats contested were the better prospects.

    I have books containing the complete results of most UK elections since 1924 and in 1951 the Conservatives did not contest Bolton West, Huddersfield West, Carmarthen, Cardigan, Montgomery at least although Labour contested them. A number of Ulster Unionists were elected unopposed which means their potential votes are not included in the total for the Conservative and Unionist party. The Labour Party only contested 4 or 5 seats in Northern Ireland and generally the Unionist vote was vastly higher than their opponents where the seat was contested and at subsequent elections in those that were not

    I am not against interventions in the economy where this would be beneficial but I have seen instances where this was not so. Of course I want improvements in society but we have to beware of changes which have the opposite effect to that intended. Since the abolition of most grammar schools many of the best jobs have gone to those who were privately educated whose parents were better off whereas before they were often taken by those from more humble backrounds who could not afford private education. Is that progress ?

    I was around in the 1950s and 1960s and recall complaints about the amount of tax payable. I seem to recall the standard rate was 33% in the pound which was quite a lot and of course the higher rates were correspondingly higher, although the level at which they were payable was higher than now taking account of inflation.

    I come from a Liberal background and will always support the party but that does not mean I must never make constructive criticism of its policies and warn of possible downsides to seemingly positive policies. It is the lack of such comment or ignoring it which has led to the present unforunate situation which shows little sign of improving.

    For a party which calls itself Liberal Democrat attempts to overturn the result of a referendum, however misguided we think it is, gives a very bad impression to the voters who think democratic votes should be respected, especially as many of those who voted to remain did so because they feared change although not really very pro EU

  • Innocent Bystander 30th Apr '18 - 1:03pm

    I would like add my non aligned two penn’orth.
    1. The LibDems did well during the Blair years because they picked up all the hard(ish) left vote which refused to support New Labour. Blair won huge numbers of soft Tories in compensation.
    2. Macron seems a poor example of a liberal revival because he seems to be neither that nor centre ground. He looks like a Thatcherite and has been elected to take on the bloated public sector and its union base.
    3. The local elections in May could well be a false dawn as, if Corbyn fights the next general there will be a severe polarisation and the LibDems could easily be seen as a wasted vote especially if it campaigns as a labour “Mini-me”. Why not vote labour instead?
    4. I was briefly a member and what struck me was the very high intelligence of the membership and simultaneously the party’s inability to exploit that intellect productively. These clever people just seem to try and outwit each other (as clever people often will).
    5. The economic policy seems to be Corbynism but with “co-operatives” not nationalisation. That is inexplicable to the general public and as both specifically exclude private sector, entrepreneurial leadership they are identical, in effect.
    6. Nowhere, in the west, are the electorate showing any sign of wanting a beige, amorphous centre party. They are voting for change.
    7. If the LibDems can not come up with something more engaging than the relentless “Exit from Brexit” they can expect to lose share at the next general.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '18 - 5:31pm

    Let’s offer a programme for Britain’s economic growth and renewal, colleagues, which simultaneously confronts the challenges of the globalised world with its high-tech advances and demands the rights of everyone to be employed if they want and are able to take a job. Let’s promote ‘cooperative capitalism with strong regional emphasis and some additional support for SMEs’ as John Littler suggests. (BTW John. I’ve never heard of Aaron Rand either, but let’s not get diverted!) Let’s propose to build on what Vince started as Business Secretary with the Green Investment Bank and so on.

    Let’s put this forward in a full-throated campaign this summer, to show the British people that we have so many more ideas than being against Brexit, and solidify our policies at the September Conference. Don’t bother about the many mini-parties that have sprung up, or the numerous pressure groups with the same aim, fighting Brexit. Good, let them get on with it. Our own stance is clear and well-known.

    Matt, my point was that there is hypocrisy in the major parties in not openly fighting Brexit, when it seems that the majority of their MPs do believe we should Remain. We alone can say clearly, we will do what is right as we see it for the GOOD OF THE COUNTRY, That is the first duty of Parliamentarians, a stronger duty than trying to follow an ephemeral Will of the People.

    Sean, thank you for another well-reasoned comment. Innocent Bystander, you make some good points, We really are very different from Labour, as was explored in an article and comments posted here on February 9, What should we do about Labour? (view in Archive if you wish), but I guess we do need to make it much more evident to the public.

  • @Katharine

    “Matt, my point was that there is hypocrisy in the major parties in not openly fighting Brexit, when it seems that the majority of their MPs do believe we should Remain”
    But isnt it the case that MP’s are there to represent the will of the people not the will of the party and it is still the will of the majority that we leave the EU.

    You did not address the points I made earlier Katharine.
    Wasn’t it Liberal Democrats who were at the forefront for years pushing for in / out referendum?
    Wasn’t it Nick Clegg who lead the party out of the commons in protest?
    How did Liberal Democrat MP’s vote in legislating for the Referendum?

    Considering the above, isnt it a bid odd for the party to be throwing around words like hypocrisy, when the party legislated for the referendum to give people their say……

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '18 - 10:08pm

    Matt, this is exactly my point, that when it comes to the crunch, Parliamentarians have a duty first to vote for what they consider to be the good of the country, putting that above representing the majority vote of their constituents or the policy of their party. Take it or leave it, that is my idea of the duty of the legislators. It seems to me hypocritical when MPs believe one thing but speak out for another, but that is a separate point.

    As to the Referendums, I believe you are right that they have been recommended by our party leaders in the past, but I seem to recall that Nick Clegg specified that that should only be if there was substantive change proposed to the Lisbon Treaty.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    So why then did Liberal Democrats vote to legislate for this EU Referendum?

    Was it because they were afraid they would lose votes at the next election if they did not vote and legislate for it? If that were the case then surely that is Hypocrisy, they voted for something that they did not believe in, in order to garner votes? or maybe you have another explanation?

  • @ David Evans

    I am glad you have made it clear you are conscious that you agree with: “Part of being a liberal is having faith in human nature”, which I was trying to point out that you did because I didn’t think it was clear from what you had originally written.

    I have not misconstrued or misrepresented what you were saying.

    I never said nor implied that you agreed with “Therefore we should assume that if a Council decides to run a bus company it will employ someone with experience of running a bus company to manage that service and advise councillors.”

    I never stated your experience was invalid, I just said like David Raw that it didn’t agree with mine. Your comment without giving any examples has not changed my belief that we should assume that local government officers are honourable. This does not mean that the assumption can’t be wrong and we would have to act differently if this happens. Also it doesn’t mean we should follow officer recommendations.

    @ nvelope2003

    So you are drawing a conclusion from something that you expected to happen which didn’t!

    Even in 1970 and 1979 more than half the population voted for the Labour and Liberal Parties but you think a majority of the people were concerned about high rates of taxation. People often complain about the amount of tax they pay, this does not mean that they change their vote because of it.

    It would be interesting to know what the figures are for successful people who passed their eleven plus and those who went to a comprehensive.

    We hold general elections regularly so the people can change the government. Sometimes with less than 12 months between them. The rules of referendum have not been decided. I was never a supporter of referendum.

    I suppose a person can be a party member because it is their family tradition! I would like a commitment to our principles as well. I am glad you still think interventions in the economy can be beneficial. We shouldn’t think just because there have been failures in the past that we should give up trying.

  • nvelope2003 1st May '18 - 5:46pm

    Michael BG: In 1970 and 1979 the Liberal party was generally regarded as a centre party – not right or left but Forward was one of their slogans. Many people had expected that once there was a Labour Government with a majority in Parliament, as in 1945, they would become so popular that they would remain in power for many years as was the case in Scandinavian countries but that did not happen here.
    I did not say everyone changed their vote because of taxation but some must have done or the Conservatives would not have regained power. Some people did not like the things their money was being spent on but others got the benefit of it and they would most likely continue to vote Labour – no doubt this situation continues now.
    I am all in favour of public spending but not on things which are out of date. All expenditure needs to be examined to make sure it is still relevant.

    I am also against referenda but as Parliament set one up the voters might have a reasonable expectation that the result would be respected for some years unless circumstances makd it essential to either hold another one or for Parliament to overturn it in an emergency.

    I should think the majority of people support a particular party because of family tradition, at least since Labour become a main contender for power when it supplanted the Liberals in 1922 and even before that. Hopefully people will continue to join our party but things do not look very promising at the moment. We need to regain trust and find some attractive policies, not try to imitate Labour policies.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st May '18 - 6:50pm

    This thread of which I was the original author has become rather entangled with various discussion points which I feel myself may now perhaps more profitably transfer to other current threads. I think I will sign off here, only concluding that the last comment is right in saying we need to regain trust as we are beginning to do, but wrong in suggesting that we are trying to imitate Labour policies. On the contrary, we have established policies and developing policies consistent with our beliefs and values which demonstrate that we are distinctive from both the major parties. Our task this summer is to assert ourselves and show the country the major contribution the Liberal Democrats can continue to make to local and national well-being.

  • @ nvelope2003

    If you accept that a referendum decision is not for eternity then the question becomes what circumstances make it legitimate for there to be another. A referendum on the deal is for some the correct circumstances.

    The Liberal Party was a left of centre party from at least the time of Jo Grimond which you seemed to have accepted when replying to myself and Paul Holmes earlier.

    When I started canvassing in the late 1980’s I was surprised that people born in the 1920’s or earlier thought their parents always had voted Labour.

    We do need to regain trust, but I am not sure it can be done. I think it will only come back after time and when those of our MPs who broke their personal pledge are no longer in Parliament.

    We should never have got rid of our negative tax policy of the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and some of the 00’s, or our full employment policy of the same period.

    What policies which we have ditched in the last 20 years would you like us to restore?

  • nvelope2003 2nd May '18 - 10:07am

    Michael BG: It is often a matter of perception. I agree that a referendum on the final deal is fair but some of the public seem to view it as a means of overturning the 2016 result, or it is being portrayed as such by the Brexiteers.
    Similarly the Liberals were perceived by many as being a centre party and as a result attracted votes from Conservatives and Labour supporters as well as protest voters, although the party members tended to be left of centre. In some ways this conflict was the cause of the disillusion with the party during the coalition with the Conservatives although there had been some fall in support before that. The number of seats fell from 62 in 2005 to 57 in 2010.

    Many people think that the Labour Party always existed and that the Liberals had never formed a Government but this is not the case. The Liberals and their predecessors the Whigs have been in power many times in the past 300 years but the Labour Party has only existed since about 1906.

    The only people I know who support comprehensive schools are well off people who send their own children to fee paying schools. That says all i need to know. As one of them said to me they did not want children from poor families to have the sort of education they had to pay for but when we had grammar schools such an education was available throughout Britain to all who could benefit from it regardless of parental income.

    As Katharine has closed this thread I think it is not the place to go into policy details but I am not going to join the Conservatives or vote for them.

  • @ nvelope2003

    I don’t recognise the right of Katharine to close this thread.

    The idea behind comprehensive schools is a good one (even more so today). It is wrong to judge children at 11. If they go to the same school then those who would have failed their 11+ and are slow developers have the opportunity to do as well as those who would have passed their 11+. That is how comprehensive schools should work by increasing opportunities. In those few areas which still have the 11+ the number of children passing it from “working class” backgrounds has fallen as middle class parents spend money on extra tuition to ensure their children pass.

  • Peter Watson 2nd May '18 - 1:53pm

    @nvelope2003 “The only people I know who support comprehensive schools are well off people who send their own children to fee paying schools.”
    I suspect that tells us more about you and your social circle than it does about the relative merits of comprehensive schools and grammar schools! 😉

    @nvelope2003 & @Michael BG
    Surely this is the longest thread we’ve seen on LDV for a very long time, and now you introduce the grammar school debate as well! This could run a little longer 🙂

    Rather than go completely off-topic here, I’ll link to one of a number of previous long threads about grammar schools which covered a lot of ground (e.g.

    Less off-topic, particularly in the discussion about general Lib Demmery that this thread has become, perhaps my biggest gripe (also discussed a few times!) is the Lib Dems’ unprincipled, conservative, don’t scare the voters, facing-both-ways position on the issue in which grammar schools are sufficiently bad that there should be no more and they should be no larger, but not bad enough that the party would want to do anything about the existing ones.

  • nvelope2003 2nd May '18 - 2:46pm

    Peter Watson and Michael BG; Yes the idea behind comprehensive schools was a good one but not all good ideas work. The reason why so few children from working class homes go to grammar schools is because there are so few of them. When I was young they were everywhere and all my friends at school came from working class backgrounds.
    I do not have a narrow social circle and I do meet all sorts of people. My friends and colleagues who went to comprehensive schools all told me of the bullying of those who attempted to study by those who did not wish to. Whenever I pass the bullying hedge where they lurked I always shudder a little. Many of those of my generation who went to secondary modern schools did get on in life because they had the practical education which enabled them to do so. Now we have to bring in people with practical skills from abroad. I asked the man who came to fix my boiler what he thought and he said bring back the secondary modern schools because his firm could not recruit skilled people any more and it was the same with the one I worked for. People have different abilities and aptitudes and they all have their place in this world with the right training and education. Not everyone wants to be a lawyer or office worker, thank goodness. At my school we did have to do woodwork, metal work and other practical skills. There sholuld be a mix of different types of school wherever that is practical.

  • @ nvelope2003

    You seem to think that everyone who fails their 11+ should have an education focused on “practical” things. One of my points was that this is wrong for the late developer who failed their 11+. In some areas there are both grammar and technical schools for those who pass their 11+. You also have ignored the idea that today middle class parents will pay for extra tuition to help their children pass the 11+ but in the 1950’s when I assume you took the test it was a much more level playing field between middle class and working class children.

    I was shocked to discover that it is nearly impossible for some children to get the top grades in their GCSE, because of the paper they take. In my day there were not different exams depending on the teacher’s assessment of a pupil.

    I don’t understand why all children can’t do both academic and “practical” subjects until they decide which subjects they want to take at GCSE. This gives them more choice and opportunities.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd May '18 - 8:56am

    I agree with much of what Michael BG 3rd May ’18 – 2:28am says – it’s ridiculous not to recognise that children develop at different rates and therefore the education system has to cater for late developers – and changing interests.

    And I agree that it would be better if all children did both academic and practical subjects – even at GCSE level.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd May '18 - 9:25am

    “My friends and colleagues who went to comprehensive schools all told me of the bullying of those who attempted to study by those who did not wish to. ”

    Failure to address that problem (including the need to involve parents of the bullies in getting them to understand that academic education is OK – and necessary – and the parents of the academically inclined to understand that exposure of their offspring to practical activities might actually improve their lives) only makes it worse….

    By the way – Katharine does not to my knowledge have any authority to close this thread since she is not part of the LDV editorial team – the rest of us can continue it if we wish…

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd May '18 - 2:45pm

    My own view, incendiary though it is, is that the animosity to grammar schools comes from teachers and not parents. The 11+ is voluntary, those who don’t want to feel rejection don’t have to risk it at all.
    Why should a child’s education be worse just because some other child is in a different school a mile away?
    “Grammar schools cream off the brightest pupils” say teachers.
    And so what? Were you proposing to give your pupils an inferior education just because another child isn’t present at all?
    Do you want these bright children to “infect” your disinterested pupils with a work ethic when you can’t?
    What if the bright children are dragged down instead because they are bullied for being clever? Do the`bright ones deserve to be hampered (perhaps permanently) because there are plenty of families who are disinterested in or even hostile to education and send their offspring to school with that attitude?
    Parents love grammar schools, teachers hate them and would rather the bright ones be used for their social engineering. My message is just teach the children you get to the best of your, and their ability and ignore what is happening at another school up the road.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th May '18 - 1:26am

    Fascinated to discover this thread still continuing, as I wait up to see some of the local election results. I haven’t anything to contribute on the education topic, but I do want to make it clear that I didn’t ‘close the thread’ – as people have rightly pointed out I have no such power, and I would deplore having it. I simply said that I was bowing out myself. But thanks, colleagues, for briefly luring me back!

  • Innocent Bystander: I think you are right about the different attitudes of teachers and parents to grammar schools, although many teachers send their own children to grammar or independent schools – but then they are looking at them as parents !

    Finland has banned all but comprehensive schools and it is falling behind. Most countries have some form of selection although it is often disguised to give the opposite impression. What has happened to classical music since most grammar schools were closed ? When I talk to young people abroad they seem so much better informed than those who live here. It is all so very sad.
    Sorry this is a rather belated response but I have been away and just got back from a very long flight.

  • nvelope2003 21st May '18 - 1:23pm

    Michael BG: Germany has grammar schools but no equivalent of the 11 plus, however there were arrangements here for late developers and I know of someone who could have benefitted from them although when young he seemed to lack the necessary drive and determination. He had very considerable practical skills and had a very good working life.

    My recollection of the 11 plus was that we had no training for it and I only knew about it when my father asked me to go to bed early as I had an important day ahead. The questions were similar to an intelligence test and I do not see how private tuition would have helped. Parents who employ tutors are wasting their money and those who gain places when they are not qualified will struggle. In Germany these issues are discussed with parents before they are accepted in the grammar school.

    We had a full curriculum including practical subjects like woodwork as well as Latin, some Greek, modern languages, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Geography, History, English language and Literature.

    I do not think children should be forced to study subjects they are not interested in as this will only make them hate school and might be the cause of some of the bullying although I doubt if much can be done to stop the determined bullies as they are part of our world like criminals and others who deviate from the norms of society. Over one hundred years of attempting to reform people so that they will conform has failed utterly and maybe that is just as well as we should not want to change people in their nature even if it would be desirable in the case of those considered to be bad or guilty of anti social behaviour. Just try to remove opportunities for them to make the lives of others utterly miserable.

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