Leaderless for another year – no thank you

As we all stay safe in our homes, we have time to think and reflect. Too much time for some I know but at least we can take a step back and see the wood for the trees.

First of all, I want to say that postponing the leadership election was the right thing to do due to the extraordinary and overwhelming nature of the crisis we’re facing as a country and as a planet. The focus has to be on saving lives and supporting our communities.

But postponing it for so long – another 14 months – puts us in a very difficult position as a party. We’ve just come out of a bruising general election. The Tories have surged in popularity due to the crisis and being seen to have ‘delivered’ Brexit (even though they actually haven’t yet and probably won’t now on the promised timescales) whilst Labour has been muted.

This will start to change this weekend with Kier Starmer taking over as Labour leader. He will get some traction just by being new – and lets face it he’s bound to be more effective than his predecessor. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with no democratically elected leader until the summer of 2021.

We have the double hatted interim leadership – both good and competent people by the way – but not the single figure with the backing and authority of the party membership. As a party we are what our leader is. Paddy, Charles, Ming, Nick, Tim, Vince, Jo – they set the tone and image of what we were all about.

Yesterday someone interested in politics but not a member asked me ‘What’s happening about your leader at the moment?’ and his face dropped when I told him. “I don’t get it,” he said – and he was right.

Without a new leader setting the vision and being the voice for our party for another year we risk being further marginalised and ignored. Members are already leaving or threatening to go as they see a state of limbo.

Quarantine has taught us already the things we can do online when we need to. Surely we can have a digital leadership election contest (with some public events later on in the year when the worst of the lockdown crisis has passed)? We can make that work for sure if we want to – where there’s a will there’s a way.

The contest should happen in the autumn, depending on the way the crisis unfolds and eases, when it’s safe to do so. Drift is not the answer.

* Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has been a Liberal Democrat member for 25 years and is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council.

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67 Comments

  • Glenn Andrews 5th Apr '20 - 9:54am

    This is so mind numbingly obvious it is impossible to argue against. I would also like to say that we could do without having to defend any coalition minister’s voting record on any doorsteps come the next election

  • Dilettante Eye 5th Apr '20 - 9:59am

    I cannot see any place for Lib Dems in the post Brexit UK politics. When asked the blunt question, even Lib Dem members themselves can’t offer any coherent sense of What is the purpose of the Lib Dems?

    Kier Starmer is as liberal as the next decade is ever going to be in British politics.

    Answer : Forget a pointless LD leadership campaign, and amalgamate now with Labour under Kier Starmer. Yes, I know its a painful observation, but can anyone argue and sell the idea that Ed Davey is a better ‘liberal horse’ in the ‘race’ against Kier Starmer at the next GE?

  • Dilettante Eye – whatever else you say about the new Labour Leader please get his name right.
    The purpose of the Lib Dem’s? Try the Bernatd Greaves piece in the latest Liberator.

  • As Paul says, we currently have a double hatted leadership, as the Constitution requires, but the Constitution does not describe it as ‘interim’. The constitution also does not say what respective roles they will play, and the obvious division of responsibilities would make Ed Davey the public spokesman for the Liberal Democrats. As for the backing and authority of the party membership, if party members continually complain about the legitimacy of Ed Davey as co-Leader, then that will certainly undermine his authority in the eyes of the press and general public.

    The best way for us to increase the profile of Ed Davey, and through him the Lib Dems, is to give him our full support as our current (co-)Leader, and to respect the very difficult decision that has been made by our democratically elected bodies.

  • @Simon Pike – it is difficult for Ed Davey to command the backing and authority of the party membership when it overwhelmingly rejected him in the most recent election, only to have him installed as co-leader for three times as long as the woman who beat him.

    As Martin has said, revisiting the issue in the Autumn when things are hopefully a bit less constrained seems like the sensible thing to do. Unfortunately, in signalling the likely cancellation of the Autumn Conference, the Federal Board has ever-so-conveniently removed the main way in which the membership can hold them to account over their decision to postpone the leadership election (and also the main way in which the membership can do other annoying things like voting for policies and contributing to the 2019 election feedback).

  • Dr Mark Pack has a long record of service to the party and is a highly intelligent man. He is clearly committed to what is best for the party.

    However, he is not an elected parliamentarian or (shudder) a member of the House of Lords (yet ?). He is unknown to the general public and cannot speak with any identifiable authority. He suffers (no fault of his) from being a member of the London cognoscenti that run the party without any obvious connections to the South West, the Midlands, the North, Scotland, or Wales.

    He could relinquish his ‘Joint Leader’ title without negative effect and still perform his role. It would enhance the authority of Ed Davey to speak as the Party Leader, however temporary. I’m sorry, Mark, I’m sure you’re a good guy, but your current title diminishes Ed’s authority. It sends the wrong message to the electorate and to the media.

    An LDV poster suggested this morning that the anti-Brexiteer ‘converts’ will drift away. It has already started. A distinguished and influential historian, who campaigned for the Lib Dems in Oxfordshire last year, posted on his twitter account yesterday after Keir Starmer’s election, “ After five years I can vote Labour again”. He won’t be the last one.

    He will be the first of many unless the Lib Dems sharpen up their game and come out with radical relevant policies. For now this should be Ed’s unfettered responsibility – it will also be a measure to judge him fairly by. The questions, ‘What is the point ?’ ‘What is the purpose?’ of the Lib Dems are the relevant ones. There is a two headed vacuum, a veritable Hydra… and a task for a Hercules..

  • I mostly agree with the article – no-one else is delaying anything for 14 months. Hard to see why the Lib Dem leadership needs to be deferred longer than the Olympics. Looks like even we aren’t taking ourselves seriously, so why should anyone else?

    If you’re going to delay make Ed Davey substantive leader, otherwise review in a couple of months and aim for late summer or Autumn if possible.

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Apr '20 - 11:35am

    I agree with David Raw – Mark Pack should stand aside from the ‘joint leader’ role.

    It is the party constitution which is at fault.

  • Dilettante Eye 5th Apr '20 - 11:42am

    Geoff Reid aka Jeff Reed

    O.K. let’s fast forward to the next GE.

    Somewhere like Bolton West is one of those ‘weather vane’ seats which tends to dither between Tory and Labour. Whilst we were in Corbyn-world, it maybe made sense to vote Lib Dem, but in Keer Starrrmur- world does it still make sense?

    If you are a Lib Dem in Bolton West and vote Lib Dem, you are more likely to get Chris Green and his boss Boris for another 5 years.
    If you want an election outcome where a ‘liberal leader’ has more seats and influence in parliament, you would vote for Julie Hilling (Labour) and her boss Keir Starmer.

    Hubris always seems to get the better of Lib Dems, who ought to learn from Nigel Farage. One of the most powerful things Farage did, was to stand down Brexit Party candidates in Tory Brexit seats. To achieve a political outcome liberalism, sacrifice can be a bitter pill, but also a powerful tool in achieving the outcome you desire.

    If your Lib Dem sense of self importance is so important to you then go ahead and waste your time electing Ed Davey as your new leader. It’s maybe worth pointing out a fact with regard to your last leadership election.
    A full 28% of Lib Dem members didn’t even bother to vote for anyone last time, because they didn’t want either Jo Swinson or Ed Davey.

    So why is Ed Davey now the go-to liberal leader, when liberal Keir Starmer would do just as well in the pursuit of liberalism, and has the advantage of ‘electability’?

  • Constitutionally speaking I don’t think Mark can relinquish the involuntary assumption of being acting leader. It goes with the job of President in the same way as chairing the Federal Board.

    Now you could criticise the framers of the constitution for not considering that this situation could arise but I think that is saying they should have had very exceptional foresight.

    If you think this is unconstituational, appeal to the Federal Appeals Panel. If you think the FB should be overruled ask them to reconsider (I don’t see why that would be prohbited) or call a special conference (though lord only knows what happens then!). Those are the routes to change this.

  • Glenn Andrews 5th Apr '20 - 11:51am

    @dilletente – I see your Liberal leader is backing further incarceration of the UK’s residents already.

  • If “Kier [sic] Starmer is as liberal as the next decade is ever going to be in British politics” then I’m not sure I want to stay in Britain much longer, given that his very first act as Labour leader has been to propose banning the public from leaving their homes to exercise: https://twitter.com/chrismasonbbc/status/1246725524107538433?s=21

  • Steve Griffiths 5th Apr '20 - 12:48pm

    ” it is noticeable that Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader has not grabbed the headlines as would have been expected”

    Clearly you have not been watching and reading the same things in the media as I have.

  • Dilettante Eye 5th Apr '20 - 1:27pm

    Glenn Andrews & Joe Toovey

    Tweet by Ed Davey 9:19 pm · 3 Apr 2020

    “We have to protect the NHS, we have to behave responsibly and we must stay at home.” –
    @EdwardJDavey on @BBCNews
    this evening. We can all play our part in stopping the spread of coronavirus. #StayHome

    So keen to get the stay home message out there, Ed even posted a personal ‘talking head’ video on his tweet if you care to find it.

    Not sure what your problem is other than a request has turned into an instruction, which in the end is in aid of securing the health of the community? Maybe you’ve forgotten that our elected representatives have the opportunity in six months to review and cancel the legislation around this stay home policy if they so wish. It isn’t authoritarian if there is an Off switch.

    I think you two need to get out more. Ohhh, wait…. Forget that last instruction.

    Stay safe, stay home, and stay 2 metres away.

  • Very wise article – there really is no reason why we should rule out now an Autumn (possibly late Autumn) leadership election taking place.

    Let’s think imaginativley as to how the election is conducted and let’s not be so obsessed with traditional hustings or just repeating the leadership election as we have in teh past. Hustings are important, but let’s face it only a small fration of the party membership are able/want to, to attend formal hustings meetings conducted many miles away from their homes, even at the best of times.

    Postponing any leadership election from even starting for 13/14 months – which is what the short statement from the Federal Board appears to have been the decision made – is simply not acceptable.

    Finally, can the details of how members of Federal Board actually voted on such an important issue please be published? If membes of the Federal Board stand by their decision, then let us know how they voted on the decision.

  • Glenn Andrews 5th Apr '20 - 1:50pm

    @dilletente – I didn’t say I had a problem with the present measures. Pushing for further measures when we are a full week away from seeing the effect of the present ones is authoritarian. Physical distancing is fine and being well observed. Banning going out for exercise should be reserved for nuclear fallout.

  • ” It isn’t authoritarian if there’s an off switch”, really? The off switch argument could be used to justify any authoritarian measure because the main group reviewing it will be the people who imposed it in the first place and if they have the political power then they can just renew it every six months on the grounds that they are doing it for the greater good. It’s a slippery slope

  • Joe Toovey 5th Apr ’20 – 11:55am………….f “Kier [sic] Starmer is as liberal as the next decade is ever going to be in British politics” then I’m not sure I want to stay in Britain much longer, given that his very first act as Labour leader has been to propose banning the public from leaving their homes to exercise:………..

    You should consider a future as a ‘Sun/Mail/Express’ reporter…That is not what he said..
    He said he would support the government if they were to ban outdoor exercise due to some people flouting lockdown rules..”“But we’ve got to get through this and every time people break the guidance from the government they put other people at risk.”

    He also said he would scrutinise the government’s action and hold them to account without just scoring political points…
    Sounds sensible to me.

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Apr '20 - 2:40pm

    It’s about time we realised that our party should belong to its members and the leader belongs to us not the other way round. Glenn Andrews is right that the difference between advising and banning is huge. It should emphasise the difference between the authoritarian Labour Party and the community orientated Lib Dems.
    At the moment Liberal values are in the spotlight because they are the foundation of the action taken to lessen the impact of the virus. You can’t get a starker illustration of Liberal philosophy about freedom than a situation in which one person’s freedom to go out may bring about the death of another. We need to get this message across but a Leader alone can’t do this. It requires a lot of online activity by all of us.
    I think the decision to delay the leadership contest is right, but if the situation changes more quickly than the FB thinks then a members’ call to have an election should be organised.

  • Chris Jones 5th Apr '20 - 2:58pm

    I agree with Paul here. I’d go further and say that we need a Liberal Democrat leader who is untainted by the disastrous coalition years. Whilst Sir Keir Starmer has many admirable qualities, being a liberal isn’t one of them. Having said that, I’d be happy for the Liberal Democrats to work with Sir Keir on the important challenges facing our nation.

  • Dilettante Eye 5th Apr '20 - 3:00pm

    It is a universal problem that the few selfish idiots always spoil it for the rest. If those few idiots continue to flout the ‘spirit of the exercise rule’, by using their ‘rights to exercise’ as a bogus excuse for any social outside activity they see fit, even though it puts the rest of society at risk, then the only credible thing that a government can do is switch Off, the voluntary exercise rule for everyone!

    The government has no desire to stop you exercising, but how else can they reign-in those few selfish gob-sh..tes from using it as an excuse for their unsocial behaviour?

    As I said, the selfish few invariable spoil it for the rest.

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Apr ’20 – 2:40pm……………. Glenn Andrews is right that the difference between advising and banning is huge. It should emphasise the difference between the authoritarian Labour Party and the community orientated Lib Dems…….

    So, at what stage would you consider an outright ban?

    1. Now; when just a few people are flouting the instructions?
    2. Later, when lots of people are flouting the instructions?
    3. Never, although people are having street parties and there’s a ‘conga line’ around major cities?

  • Expats,

    So, at what stage would you consider an outright ban? The answer is never. Roll out the Queen tonight to give a speech. That should do it for the great majority and it is the great majority that count in containing the spread of this virus not a delinquent few.

  • I think the Government needs to get tougher now, this situation is only going to get worse as the temperatures rise and temptation will get the better of people.

    I would support adopting measures like other countries where either
    A) You text a number with passport/identity details and you are given a confirmation time/window of when you are a able to leave the house
    or
    B) People are allowed out to carry out essentials and brief exercise on a staged basis
    Monday Peoples surnames A-E Tuesday F-J etc etc

    We have to be able to control the people flouting the rules and risk endangering society as a whole and our recovery

    The science is there that we will not get on top of this virus unless strict social distancing measures are adhered to. The longer that this goes on for, the longer we all suffer the emotional, mental and economic damage.

    Put the rules in place now and give the police the authority to enforce it. The quicker we can get on top of this virus, the quicker we can get back to normal (or as normal as possible) obviously there is going to be changes to the way we do things in the future in order to monitor this virus and others when they raise their ugly heads again

  • We, as a party, need leadership right now. More importantly, we need direction and a clear message. Right now we simply don’t have that – and haven’t for a while.

    We have the Sword of Damocles of complete irrelevance hovering over our heads, and the Federal Board have seen fit to ignore reason and set us adrift. Leaving us essentially “on pause” for 14 months is catastrophic.

    The hustings can be online. The voting is already online. There is not a single technical reason why it cannot be run now.

  • Dilettante Eye 5th Apr '20 - 4:14pm

    “So, at what stage would you consider an outright ban? The answer is never.. / /..it is the great majority that count in containing the spread of this virus not a delinquent few. “

    A fair enough point under normal circumstances Joe, but this is an unusual crisis which unfortunately for us, exploits the exponential function. And a virus likes nothing better than the exponential function plus ‘a delinquent few.’

    This virus doesn’t know the concept of liberal. It just doesn’t give a damn about our human rights to be free to shake hands or hug?

  • David Allen 5th Apr '20 - 4:30pm

    There is a dilemma. We will need a tough lockdown, for longer than most authorities have admitted, to avoid a massive death toll. But we will need consent for that, and for many, patience could easily be exhausted far too early.

    It follows that this needs to be planned in a way that is clearly objective, fair-minded, and non-ideological. We don’t need a socialist lockdown, we don’t need a liberal lockdown, and we don’t need politicians pushing forward their favourite ideologies, when the need is to save lives.

    We also don’t need a draconian lockdown, and we don’t need a laissez-faire policy either. Those are also ideological political responses. The last thing a worried, frustrated, cooped-up puiblic wants is political ideologists peddling their own ideas and in-fighting with other politicians.

    Locking people into flats, where they can’t see the sun 24/7, is never going to work. Apart from anything else, if you give people no chance of sun or exercise and nothing much to do except drink, then their health will suffer, and coronavirus will easily carry them off. So, if we’re going to ban exercise outside people’s own dwellings, we surely have to limit that ban to those who have a garden in which they can sunbathe and exercise.

    And – We should all be wearing face masks in public:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/04/why-wear-a-mask-may-be-our-best-weapon-to-stop-coronavirus

  • Dilettante Eye 5th Apr '20 - 4:30pm

    “Kier Starmer is a self-identified socialist, not a liberal.”

    Nick Clegg was a self identified Lib Dem, but actually turned out to be a light blue Tory?

    I suppose the question many Lib Dems will consider over the coming months is.. is Keir Starmer ..sufficiently.. liberal, as to be a good enough compromise and an electable ‘bird in the hand’ towards the goal of liberalism?

  • Governments can’t control viruses, nature does and sometimes science helps. Keeping people stuck in their homes for months on end and wrecking the country may make some people feel protected, but it probably won’t achieve much and certainly nothing good. We’re already seeing authoritarians screaming for more control, harsher punishments and an ever extended timescale. Jobs lost, businesses gone,liberty given up, general health damaged, social lives curtailed, relationships strained, families separated and the economy shrunk, based on a flattening the curve theory that might not work and following the lead of the communist dictatorship that runs China.

  • Expats,

    I won’t be going down the pub and neither will you or anyone else. They are all shut, There are no conga lines around, just a few youngsters and families with small children gathering in parks. It may have escaped your attention, but there are millions of people still going to work in hospitals, care homes and pharmacists, supermarkets and warehouses, farms and food processing plants, lorry drivers and delivery services, police, prison, fire and public transport services, docks, social care and mental health workers, and a myriad of other essential areas to keeong people secure and provisioned.
    This is the difference between a liberal and a socialist. The socialist will also look first to the state and coercive control to impose their agenda on others; the Liberal will look to local communities cooperating together to address common problems. Try treating people like adults and with a bit of respect instead of just issuing commands from central HQ. You never know you might just find that you will get better results.

  • Peter Watson 5th Apr '20 - 6:39pm

    With regards to the leadership election, even without the covid19 pandemic, the original plan looked weak and indecisive: waiting until July to appoint a new leader who would probably have little opportunity to be noticed until the autumn after the summer recess. At least the pandemic provides a good excuse for such a delay, but not for as long as has been decided.
    In the last few years the party made it look like Vince Cable was keeping the seat warm for Jo Swinson, then seemed to be bending over backwards to make Gina Miller or some other non-MP the leader, and now it appears to want someone other than Ed Davey without being clear who or why. The party is a little like a headless chicken but without the energy, and the Coalition-induced identity crisis shows no sign of abating.
    Four months on from the General Election, the question for Lib Dems to answer is, quo vadis. Where are you going?

  • @Expats

    “The socialist will also look first to the state and coercive control to impose their agenda on others; the Liberal will look to local communities cooperating together to address common problems”

    Joe, so what then does the “liberal” do if the cooperation does not work and too many flout the guidance and put public health, lives and the economy at greater long-term risk????

  • Sorry previous message was to Joe Bourke not expats

    Btw expats how is the wife doing, you have not updated in a couple of days I hope she is well on the mend now

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Apr '20 - 6:56pm

    @Matt
    “I would support adopting measures like other countries where either
    A) You text a number with passport/identity details and you are given a confirmation time/window of when you are a able to leave the house
    or
    B) People are allowed out to carry out essentials and brief exercise on a staged basis
    Monday Peoples surnames A-E Tuesday F-J etc etc”

    Option A – do you think – seriously – that our dysfunctional bureaucracy is remotely capable of organising this so that it works properly?

    Option B – are you expecting the police to stop and check everyone they see out and about?

  • @ Joe Bourke “LIBERTY…. “This is the difference between a liberal and a socialist.”

    So, Joe, do you reckon the Labour Party badge, which has the word LIBERTY in block capitals on it, is a terminological inexactitude ? Do you reckon the Liberals who joined the Labour Party because of conscription in WW1 were secret authoritarians ? Do you reckon the suffragettes force fed by a Liberal Government were not actually having their Liberty infringed ?

    Do you think my Granddad, a Durham miner who went down the pit at the age of twelve (under a Liberal Government) was infringing Lord Londonderry’s freedom to be a multimillionaire when he went on strike after his wages were cut by said noble Lord in 1922 and 1926 and he had five mouths to feed ?

    I really do wonder sometimes, especially when I remember Keir Starmer was a successful human rights lawyer who acted in numerous cases for free… including the MacDonalds case and the Lawrence case.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Apr '20 - 7:45pm

    Well said, Joe B. and Glenn. There are too many unthinking, even hysterical reactions being voiced. It is expected that the numbers infected will rise, probably for the next week, but then level off, so ‘Keep calm and carry on’ should surely be the advice. Tory commentator Matthew Parris wrote in The Times yesterday that the Government’s strategy is only to slow the transmission of the virus so that the epidemic can be managed, and that we cannot ‘isolate’ ourselves in practice from each other. Many people, as Joe points out, have to be out and about daily. The legislation remains as it was passed on March 26, much less restrictive than the ‘guidance’ since, and Mr Parris discusses the falsity of the images being transmitted. Actually, his paper reports, 80% of infections are mild, and also (it may well not be known), 1600 people in the UK die each day from all causes.

    So, let’s have better protection for our valiant health workers, let’s listen to what the Queen has to say, but, Sir Keir Starmer, please do NOT go along with any government demand to stop people walking outside their homes, so long as they keep due distance from the others sensibly doing the same. The Times’ subhead to the Parris article seems right, and ominous: ‘Rules that make little sense, along with overzealous enforcement, will soon test the public’s patience to breaking point.’

  • David Raw,

    we judge by actions. Force-feeding a hunger striker is a moral quandary. Margaret Thatcher chose to let IRA hunger strikers die but then acquiesced to the prisoner’s demands a short-time later.
    The suffragettes that were kept alive lived long-enough to see women get the vote after the war and tell the story of their struggles to their children. Not so the likes of Bobby Sands MP.
    Conscription came with an exemption for conscientious objectors. Around 16,000 men were exempted on these grounds.
    We owe a debt of gratitude to men like your grandfather who fought for their rights and went through many hardships to secure them for themselves and future generations.
    When it comes to socialism it has failed in practice too many times to be worthy of any further consideration. The Labour party does best when it is run by a Liberal. Tony Blair is no more of a socialist than I am. Nor for that matter was Ramsey Mcdonald, Wilson or Callaghan.
    The Libdems need to be a party of the 21st Century. Class struggle is over. Pandemics, climate change and economic depressions make no distinctions. Rawls expressed modern liberalism best in my view -a property-owning democracy as a social system that aspires to distribute the ownership of property widely throughout the populace, so that citizens may co-operate under equal and free relationships. That is something a Durham miner might find worthy of fighting for today.

  • @Nonconformistradical

    “”Option A – do you think – seriously – that our dysfunctional bureaucracy is remotely capable of organising this so that it works properly?”

    Other countries are managing it quite well and it is amazing what you can put together in a short time period during a time of National Emergency. My mother is 1 of the 1.5 Million people who were shielded as part of the NHS, she was written too within a couple of days of the Governments announcement, she receives multiple texts each day from the Government for advice. She received her first care package within days of the announcement, she was written to by 2 supermarkets to say that she has been identified by the government as one of the most vulnerable and needs a priority for online food shopping. So if that can all be organised by the government and business within days then yes I think it is possible

    “Option B – are you expecting the police to stop and check everyone they see out and about?”
    No, I would not expect them to check everyone but to do spot checks and I would expect the fines to be more severe if you were caught flouting the law.
    Yes they are draconian measures but these are exceptional times where the NHS is at risk, lives are at risk and the economy is at risk, and the nicely, nicely approach is not working in large enough numbers
    @Katharine
    Now you heard the queen, she asked people to heed the government’s advice and stay indoors.

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Apr '20 - 10:34pm

    @Matt
    So for Option A how many people do you estimate would be sending texts over, say, a week and needing a response? Because it seems to me it could be a diffierent order of magintude from the 1.5 million people who are – quite rightly – receiving special attention.

    Despite having some republican tendencies – I did listen to the queen – but being of the old folks category I was already exercising common sense and staying put – haven’t been off site for over a couple of weeks.

  • @ Joe B. So it’s a matter of theory rather than actual political practice then, Joe ?

    You say, “Conscription came with an exemption for conscientious objectors. Around 16,000 men were exempted on these grounds”.

    It was quite a few more than that. I suggest you get a copy of my friend Cyril Pearce’s book to help pass the isolation. You’ll discover the cruel reality of the treatment dished out to conscientious objectors under both the Asquith (and even more) under the Lloyd George governments. Here’s a link to a review by someone you’ll have heard of.

    Review: Comrades in Conscience by Cyril Pearce | Books …www.theguardian.com › books › feb › historybooks.highereducation1
    22 Feb 2002 – Martin Wainwright on the defiance of the original peaceniks in Cyril Pearce’s consensus-breaking Comrades in Conscience: The Story of an …

  • Andrew Tampion 6th Apr '20 - 7:07am

    Katherine Pindar (5th April 7.45pm) is right to point out the risk of over reacting with draconian measures. The latest ONS mortality figures https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredweeklyinenglandandwalesprovisional/weekending20march2020 for the week ending the 20th of March show that the total number of deaths recorded for that week is only 72 higher than the average for the previous 5 years, which is less than 1%. Although it has been a mild winter so Flu deaths will be lower and social distancing and other measures are clearly important for controlling the outbreak.

  • We have so few LibDem MPs, no leader and an effective and reasonable Labour Leader so I think some members will leave now. If Labour can have a leadership election why can’t we? And tbh I agree with comments about working closely with Labour or even merging . The Tories may be all cuddly at the moment we don’t want another term of them showing their true colours. A better voting system tops my list.

  • @ Meg Thomas You make some forceful points, Meg, and I agree with you. Your conclusion is highly likely. Whatever else , the Lib Dems ought to discuss and negotiate a future arrangement with Keir Starmer. He is on the record of saying in January,

    “So many people vote and it doesn’t count, and we can’t go on like that – because progressive politics requires people’s votes to actually count. So I would want to look at this. The only caveat I’ve got is that I also genuinely believe that you need a representative in each area who is there to represent the people in that area and to act on their behalf.”

  • @Nonconformistradical

    I know it is something that Cyprus has managed to do, if it was not able to be scaled up for the purpose in the UK then maybe we have to look at other options like option B

    The point is though measures are going to have to come in place, measures that are going to make some people extremely uncomfortable, but in my view are necessary in order to get on top of this virus.
    Yes, it is only a minority that is flouting the rules, but it is the risks of the minority that could cause this lockdown to go on much longer and put further lives and NHS resources at risk.

    I imagine most of the governments have been discussing how they are going to go about getting themselves out of lockdown.
    Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza has announced plans for getting them out of lockdown he said
    “He said social distancing would have to remain, with wider use of individual protection devices such as face masks, while local health systems would be strengthened, to allow a faster and more efficient treatment of suspected COVID-19 cases.
    Testing and ‘contact tracing’ would be extended, including with the use of smartphone apps and other forms of digital technology while a network of hospitals dedicated solely to treating COVID-19 patients would be set up. Until a vaccine is distributed, we cannot rule out a new wave of the virus,”

    Which is basically along the lines that I have been saying for weeks, when we do get out of lockdown here there is going to have to be better surveillance measures tracking, tracing, testing and isolating and it is going to involve technology that a lot of liberal-minded people dislike. But I would argue that in these circumstances, it is necessary if we want to get our lives back to as normal as possible.
    It’s better to start having these conversations now and getting used to it rather than making the government’s job even harder than it is and fueling discontent on the street through social media, imo anyway

    No doubt someone is going to post after me that I am one of the hysterical types

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Apr '20 - 8:55am

    @Matt
    “I know it is something that Cyprus has managed to do..”

    As did I – and that was why I asked further – because I question the ability of UK authorities to scale that up without burying the whole idea under a mountain of bureaucracy. Their track record over the years on bureaucracy isn’t great.

  • @dilettante eye “So why is Ed Davey now the go-to liberal leader, when liberal Keir Starmer would do just as well in the pursuit of liberalism, and has the advantage of ‘electability’?”

    Because Sir Keir Starmer, and the Labour Party in general, are not Liberal.

  • @Meg Thomas “We have so few LibDem MPs, no leader”

    We have a leaader – Sir Ed Davey

    “and an effective and reasonable Labour Leader”

    How do you know this? It’s far too early to tell. He’s a self-declared Socialist pledged to continue with Corbynism.

    “so I think some members will leave now.”

    Can’t have been Liberals then.

    “And tbh I agree with comments about working closely with Labour or even merging

    Anyone who supports this view cannot be a Liberal – merge with Labour???

    David Raw “@ Meg Thomas You make some forceful points, Meg, and I agree with you.”

  • Please spare a thought for the candidates in any leadership election.

    They are (obviously) all MPs. For the foreseeable future, they will want to devote all of their efforts to supporting their constituents – and their constituents will expect them to. Once a leadership election is called, any candidates would need to devote a substantial proportion of their time to campaigning. All of their public profile in the media would relate to the campaign – to the extent that the campaign would be reported at all in the current circumstances. The topics that ought to be discussed in the campaign would be very different to the current prioities of the general population (and probably of most Lib Dem members too).

    Would you want to stand under these circumstances – and be seen as a person who is ignoring the current national crisis?

  • Peter Hirst 6th Apr '20 - 9:56am

    What about an interim poll of all members without any campaigning to elect an interim leader for a specific period. Then we could have the usual leadership election. This would give our MPs an opportunity to test their popularity and give the winner some authority and us some publicity. It would need to be sanctioned by The Federal Board or an online change to the constitution.

  • Richard Underhill. 6th Apr '20 - 10:29am

    Peter Hirst 6th Apr ’20 – 9:56am
    Not an interim poll. We need the real thing or the elected person would be undermined.

  • Richard Underhill. 6th Apr '20 - 10:47am

    Simon Pike 6th Apr ’20 – 9:25am
    All parties need a deputy leader with a democratic mandate (except the Greens who have a dual leadership outside parliament and a former leader in parliament).
    If anything unfortunate happens to the Tories current leader the vacancy would become more glaring.
    Labour has an elected deputy leader now, after the resignation of the previous one, and have achieved gender balance in the process. When Gordon Brown was elected Labour leader he immediately put the elected deputy in charge of organisation of the following general election campaign, without giving her real power. He wanted to take the big decisions himself as memoirs from Peter Mandelson (the third man) and others assert.

  • Joe Bourke 5th Apr ’20 – 6:23pm…Expats, This is the difference between a liberal and a socialist. The socialist will also look first to the state and coercive control to impose their agenda on others; the Liberal will look to local communities cooperating together to address common problems. Try treating people like adults and with a bit of respect instead of just issuing commands from central HQ. You never know you might just find that you will get better results………………

    To borrow your phrase “It may have escaped your attention” but the ‘socialists’ are not running this show.
    Your idea of never imposing an outright ban (no matter what the circumstances) isn’t liberal; it’s lunacy….As for “it is the great majority that count in containing the spread of this virus not a delinquent few”???? This disease has an R0 of between 2 and 2.5. one delinquent can infect almost 60,000 people in a worst case snowball scenario..Why do you think the spread was so rapid out of China,?

    I’m wasting my time, and yours, in a pointless discussion. but BTW those pointing out that “1600 people in the UK die each day from all causes” may I just say that those didn’t die of the effects of this virus.

    Matt…My wife is almost back to normal; so scare over..However, when something like this happens, you ask yourself, “Was it my fault; did I absolutely need to go to xxxx?”.. We’ll never know if it was this virus but thank you, again, for your concern. ..Keep well..

  • @David Raw “It was quite a few more than that. I suggest you get a copy of my friend Cyril Pearce’s book to help pass the isolation. You’ll discover the cruel reality of the treatment dished out to conscientious objectors under both the Asquith (and even more) under the Lloyd George governments. Here’s a link to a review by someone you’ll have heard of.”

    As a historian, you should (or ought to) know that you can’t impose the standards and norms of one era on those of another.

    Why was conscription introduced? Because there were insufficient volunteers. Why were conscientious objectors treated harshly? Firstly – because the age was far more brutal, and brutalised, than we are today. Secondly – because if conscientious objecting was seen as an easy option, then thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands would choose it thereby frustrating the whole point of conscription.

  • “As a historian, you should (or ought to) know that you can’t impose the standards and norms of one era on those of another.”

    Yes, I know that. I also know a great number of Liberals objected to it on grounds of liberal principle and it was one of the many factors which led up to the demise of the Liberal Party over 100 years ago. Are you saying it didn’t ?

    Whether

  • @David Raw ” I also know a great number of Liberals objected to it on grounds of liberal principle and it was one of the many factors which led up to the demise of the Liberal Party over 100 years ago. Are you saying it didn’t ?”

    No – I’m referring to your initial statement, which said “You’ll discover the cruel reality of the treatment dished out to conscientious objectors under both the Asquith (and even more) under the Lloyd George governments.”

    You made a value judgement (“cruel”) from a modern perspective that would not have been the prevailing view of the Asquith and Lloyd-George administrations, and the majority of contemporary society. They would have viewed the “great number of Liberals [who] objected to it on grounds of liberal principle” to whom you refer as out of step with majority opinion, weak, and possibly anti-patriotic, and conscientious objectors as cowards letting down the huge number of conscripts who, nevertheless, put themselves in mortal danger by submitting to join the army in defence of their country.

    That is the point that I was making (as I’m sure you well knew).

  • Lee Howgate 6th Apr '20 - 5:24pm

    We need a leader with a mandate to address the central political question which faces us now: how far and in what ways we can work with a transformed Labour Party. To stall on this for over a year will be to miss whatever opportunities there might be for a joint progressive platform on PR, UBI and our new relationship with the EU.

    We do not have a wide field to choose from, so anything longer than autumn for our leadership election seems eccentric to say the least.

  • Totally agree, nothing more to say.

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