Labour, Tory Leadership Vacuum

Thresa May is leading a divided party not wishing to be led and is heading in the opposite direction to anywhere she wants to go. Jeremy Corbyn is trying not to lead his party on Europe when his party is calling out for leadership. Vince is trying to get the party ready to take opportunities from a perceived moderate move from voters who are fed up by the dogmatic and squabbling Tories and leaderless Labour. Voters are moving away from the Tories because they have no agreed Brexit strategy, the can’t go to Labour as their 1970’s socialist tentacles have reappeared, and they won’t come to the Lib Dems as they perceive, wrongly, we are too small to make a difference. What a horrid dilemma. The country is being led by a Tory piped piper who is perilously taking us closer to the cliff edge.

YouGov polled in July asked voters what their top three priorities for the EU negotiators were:

  • Allow British companies to trade with EU without tariffs/restrictions – 42%
  • Allow the UK to make its own deals with other countries outside the EU                   – 40%
  • Maintaining co-operation with EU on anti-terrorism / security                                     – 38%

(Immigration came in fourth with 29%).

For Brits abroad, 31% of Remain voters thought it was an essential requirement to agree a solution for them for those who voted for Brexit it was 8%. Labour supporters (28%) were more concerned about this than Lib Dem (25%).

Everyone has rejected the Chequers proposal. You do have to question why the PM is so zealously pursuing it. It becomes clear when you consider it took the Tories 2 years to propose the Chequers deal and most Tories MPs rejected as effectively have the EU. There is now a real possibility of a no deal. This will leave the country close to chaos and Tories running for the hills (so to speak) because they will not accept responsibility for the big mess they created. By all accounts, there will be a downturn in the economy and a further excuse for cuts that will worsen austerity. If the public opinion is sharply against the Tories, they may try to hang on until 2022 and get their friends in the press to help them re-write their inept handling of Brexit negotiations as a success.

Labour leadership hadn’t been listening to their members who do want a people’s referendum. After much manoeuvring at the Labour party conference, they did, in the end, agree to keep the option for another referendum. However, Labour leadership is pushing for a general election, there is a possibility of that if the Tories deliver a bad Brexit and there is a significant public outcry.

One thing going for the Liberal Democrats is our consistent message on Brexit and Vince being right again. The proposed one trillion (over 15 years) benefit to the UK economy forecasted by the European Group after leaving the EU is a tale that will be picked up, as will Boris’s £350 million a week pledge. Disgruntled votes who have not had a proper pay increase for over a decade or have been hurt by the austerity programme are the ones that we need to attract. The situation is very fluid at the moment and there isn’t a likely Brexit outcome that many now agree on. Any disenfranchised voters moving to the middle are the ones we need to attract but with our Liberal ideals.


* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

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  • “Allow British companies to trade with EU without tariffs/restrictions – 42%
    Allow the UK to make its own deals with other countries outside the EU – 40%”

    So less than half think protecting trade with the EU is important, AND less than half think deals with non-EU countries are important.

    I know they might not be the same people, but even so………..

    Do people think we can build a thriving economy WITHOUT ANY international trade? Are we to keep ourselves busy trading Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Double Gloucester cheese and Buckfast tonic wine across county lines?

  • All history now and we are where we are, but if we had not gone into coalition and taken the hit in a second election in the Autumn of 2010, probably would still had 35-40 MPs after that, what a different situation we might be in now.
    Lesson learnt I hope, not lost to myself as I initially supported a coalition.

  • David Becket 26th Sep '18 - 9:11am

    Yes there is a Vacuum in the leadership of the Tory and Labour parties, but ours is no better.
    Consumed by Brexit we are asleep at the wheel as far as anything else is concerned.

    Today Labour has announcedSolar Panels on every roof, more wind farms, plans for the high street and extra childcare. OK how it is going to be paid for is not clear, but where are our big policy announcements?

  • Tahir Maher…………Labour, Tory Leadership Vacuum….

    Yet another article on other parties without any factual vision of our own. These ‘disgruntled/disenfranchised voters’ have shown no sign of “moving to the middle” and, as for our ‘Liberal ideals’; yet another vague statement.

    Leadership is hardly our strongest card. The last ‘real’ leader was Nick Clegg, Tim was blown ‘hither and thither’ (mostly by problems of his own making) and Vince is a ‘caretaker’.

    Where, oh where, are the articles (as David Becket notes) laying out our initiatives?

  • Totally agree with expats. To me the party is still not facing reality. I am sure that the enthusiasts think they know what Liberal Democrat policy on Europe is. Most people do not. I am a member and I do not. We have had the referendum, so we are in a new position. We still have not made clear our vision for Europe. What is our vision for Europe? We were at the centre of Europe, but our partners have got used to the idea of our leaving. Our Prime Minister has not. And our party does not seem to have.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Sep '18 - 10:40am

    “The proposed one trillion (over 15 years) benefit to the UK economy forecasted by the European Group” Pounds or euros?
    theakes: No, the Tories would still have implied on targeted social media in 2015 a Labour-SNP coalition to voters who did not accept what Charles Kennedy said
    “Speaking as a Scot, . . . they hate each other”, but
    it is now the SNP’s turn to say where they stand on a People’s vote.
    I have never voted Labour, but I watched some of the Labour conference yesterday on the parliament channel (201). Their Shadow Chancellor seems to have a magic money tree. He needs to put more numbers in his proposals, or be accused of taking the Labour conference (which cheered) or the electorate, as innumerate.
    Companies will be compelled to give away shares (number provided)
    the shares will not be given out (as some assumed) but will be kept in a special fund
    dividends received will be distributed up to a maximum and retained to accumulate
    but paid out to many causes (cheers) end.
    The taxation part of this is fairly clear, but the distribution part puts hope above reality.

  • Bill le Breton 26th Sep '18 - 11:33am

    Not sure people have taken into consideration the mechanics of the future vote on May’s deal (whatever that deal turns out to be).

    Tell me if I am wrong please. Her deal is expressed in the motion against which amendments are place (and accepted or rejected by the Speaker).

    So unless amended the final vote is the May Deal or the motion falls. (That is not the same as No Deal but in the short term would be seen as such). If it passes then there is a trip down to the House of Lord’s; No? But the pressures would be similar.

    Perhaps it is the intention of the some to drive the situation to that end because it is likely to produce immediate political and financial chaos.

    Who would win the resulting immediate blame-game for that? Mrs May/the Cabinet? Or those who voted against the (unamended) motion? Or the Lords if it fell there.

    There is quite a risk here? How many Tories would want to be in that number? Would the DUP be in that number? Suppose 20 Tories made up of ERG fanatics and Soubrists vote against, the motion would fall by as few as ten votes. Or those unelected Peers?

    Surely more likely would be that before that final vote some amendment would be arrived at which would amend the Government motion. I can think of only one possible amendment that could do that – you may think of others.

    The amendment that might attract more than 50% of those voting would be an EEA amendment. If so, we need to know at lot more about what EEAnonEU might offer those on the margin of their present positions including Labour, but really among all those worried about being seen not to follow the June 2016 decision.

  • As usual, agree with Expats.

    Meanwhile, the most significant political event of the last few weeks in the real world has been Keir Starmer’s speech at the Labour conference yesterday. It could be said to be more than a passing spresm.

  • Richard Underhill – my apologies it is off course in pounds – would be funny if the £15trn projection was in Euro’s.
    I had the labour discussion on Brexit on at work yesterday – it was a bit haphazard and you could clearly see JC applaud, hug smile when speakers came up to talk about leaving Europe.
    David Becket – painfully you are correct. We just don’t do eye catching announcements like labour is doing. Maybe it’s time to talk to FPC to ask them to put in small announcements like that. I will ask FPC to identify changes from our motions passed that capture specifics like those aired at the Labour conference. Maybe it’s just a matter of presentation.
    David Raw – I agree it was a good speech. But I would also say that we don’t get the coverage that Labour get and they don’t get the positive coverage that the Tories get. Apples and oranges

  • On leadership

    I have to disagree. Corbyn has shown virtually no leadership at all on the central issue facing us – Brexit from disappearing during the referendum campaign onwards. Both Tim Farron and Sir Vince Cable have staked out a clear position with some courage – and indeed events have proved them IMHO right – of course Brexiteers will take a different view.

    Corbyn has been lucky in that Sir Keir Starmer has handled the Europe brief with some skill but was very close to resigning at one point and had to depart from his prepared speech yesterday – presumably because he couldn’t get his line past Corbyn if it was prepared.

    On other issues than Brexit there was a fair deal of that at our conference and in Vince’s speech to conference. A Corbynite Labour party does have a tendency just to throw money at problems – and while I have some sympathy with his approach the Tories will begin to tot it all up and tell us how much extra we will be paying in tax.

  • Laurence Cox 26th Sep '18 - 12:31pm


    If you are talking to FPC, you need to talk first to Tony Greaves. I know, because he has mentioned them on CiX, that he has ideas to reform the policy-making process that would lead to shorter, more-focused, motions.

  • @ Laurence – Thanks. Will do

  • @ Tahir. I said Keir Starmer’s speech was significant – which is profoundly different to being just a good speech. It bounced Corbyn into where he didn’t want to be, Michael 1, and it received a rapturous reception.

    As to Lib Dem media coverage, as a participant and observer of politics for over sixty years I simply reflect they get what they currently deserve as a consequence of their actions over the last ten years. There is a Lib Dem policy vacuum and the needle has got stuck on the record. The interesting – if controversial – stuff is coming from elsewhere.

    As to policy, good luck Tony in attempting to sharpen things up. For far too long policy resolutions at conference have been like an over long O level essay from an over conscientious student…….a duty but not a pleasure to read.

  • @David Raw

    There seems to be a contradiction in what you say in that you agree with @expats was a “real leader” but deplore where he has got us to.

    For me as a Liberal no leader – no current leader at least – is a hero! And most leaderships – of any party – end in “failure”. They do say all political careers end in tears. Our policy making process probably does need sharpening up and I have urged Lib Dems on LDV to be bold, particularly for me on education, and march towards the sound of gunfire. But I am proud of a party that does take its policy making process and debate seriously not just as a soundbite for the news. On issues such as immigration and asylum for example we have got to a position where as far as I can see Corbyn et al do not dare to tread.

    Whatever Starmer said yesterday – it is clear that Labour’s policy on Brexit is one of complete compromise with all sides being able to read into whatever they want into the composited motion – and Corbyn already is. Labour’s Brexit policy may be right tactically for them – but it is not one of vision, leadership or courage. Indeed just like Corbyn during the referendum.

  • If the Lib Dems continue to attack Labour and as often happens mock Labour then the party will not receive votes from people like me who could be persuaded to ‘lend’ our vote in the next Election. Simple advice..STOP GETTING AT CORBYN.

  • Michael 1 26th Sep ’18 – 1:36pm………………Labour’s Brexit policy may be right tactically for them – but it is not one of vision, leadership or courage. Indeed just like Corbyn during the referendum……………..

    Did you actually listen to Corbyn’s words, or attend any of his meetings, during the run up to the referendum?
    I did; and he was the only leader to give a sensible assessment of ‘Remaining’ (his 7/10 stood out between the ‘Sky Falling’ and ‘Unicorns/Faerie Gold’). He spoke passionately about the advantages of remaining and the need for ‘reform’ from within.

    Jenny Barnes 26th Sep ’18 – 3:19pm…..expats “The last ‘real’ leader was Nick Clegg, ”………If that’s a real leader, we’re better off without one…..

    I agree; hence the inverted commas.

  • John Marriott 26th Sep '18 - 6:58pm

    Here I go again, diving into the Brexit debate – talk about Groundhog Day!

    Rees-Mogg and co want us to be the Singapore of Europe – few regulations, low pay, limited workers’ rights etc. Corbyn and co would quite like us out as a siege economy would aid them in their aim to introduce a socialist agenda.

    And the rest? Well, when have we ever heard something like “vote Remain and we’ll make the EU a peoples’ EU rather than an extension of global capitalism”?

  • Silvio has a point about stop knocking the Labour Party.

    LIB Dems gained many seats pre 2010 by squeezing Labour votes in con-lib marginals. The present attacks on Labour prevent that from happening again. Leave the Labour bashing to the Tories – they’re better at it. All it does is confirm progressive voters that after the 2010-15 experience Lib Dems are merely pale blue Tories – and moderate Tories that they might as well vote for the real thing.

  • innocent Bystander 26th Sep '18 - 8:36pm

    Personally I can not see why the LibDems would not attack Labour’s plans. Their plans involve the 7,000 biggest of UK companies having 10% of their value expropriated.
    Well, it would do but
    a) privately held companies couldn’t be robbed and they are now seriously dis incentivised to list and grow
    b) foreign companies will be excluded
    c) any Board of Directors worth their salt would close their LSE listing and move to Frankfurt or New York (and probably their head office as well)
    Any shareholder or fund daft enough to hold shares in a UK listed company deserves to have their money expropriated, a la Venezuela.
    So Labour’s flagship plan simply tells UK companies “Leave or be fined 10% of your value”.

  • Peter Watson 26th Sep '18 - 11:34pm

    @Silvio “Simple advice..STOP GETTING AT CORBYN.”
    I expected media coverage of this week’s Labour party conference to be feverishly all about anti-semitism, anti-Corbynism. And Brexit.
    And following all of the froth before and during the Lib Dems’ own conference about internal party rules and external moderate movement, I was waiting for the rug to be pulled from beneath Corbyn’s feet by high profile defections from Labour.

    So I’m quite surprised by the way it’s turned out (so far, anyway).

    I can’t help but wonder what all the fuss was about for the Lib Dems last week. Perhaps something is brewing post-Liverpool, or perhaps it’s more about Soubry than Umunna and there’ll be some excitement in Birmingham next week. But otherwise it looks like quite a bit of time and energy might have been wasted in Brighton.

    Unless there are some big surprises in the next week or two, I’m not convinced that it’s the Labour or Conservative parties that have a “leadership vacuum”, which is quite a shock given the accurate description of those parties at the start of this article.

  • innocent Bystander 26th Sep ’18 – 8:36pm…….Personally I can not see why the LibDems would not attack Labour’s plans……….

    I agree; go for the policies rather than the ‘Corbyn wets his pants’ nonsense that is so often the level of rhetoric on LDV.

  • Innocent Bystander 27th Sep '18 - 8:23am

    There is no call for some of the baseless invective hurled at Corbyn (or for similar hurled at Rees-Mogg) but a review of his career and previously held positions must be legitimate.
    As far as I read in his and his shadow chancellor’s CVs neither has held any role outside the cossetted labour movement and have never had to achieve production and delivery targets, never struggled to balance a tight budget (that is one with actual consequences) or do anything at all productive. They have had careers of irresponsible protest only.

  • We are where we are because of our own incompetence 2011-15. Fancy destroying an historic electoral base area like Cornwall. I see next to nothing that suggests we now know how to respond. Huffington Post survey last weekend said 58% would support a centre party.

  • Peter Hirst 27th Sep '18 - 5:03pm

    It does seem that we need to be proactive in forging a grouping of MPs and the electorate opposed to Brexit. To do this, we must be prepared to sacrifice political advantage to save the country again. Once we have achieved this, with a fair wind and proper preparation we can reap the benefit.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Sep '18 - 5:15pm

    David Raw, Silvio: Attacking Labour makes us “merely pale blue Tories”? Never mind that actually we attack the Tories at least as much as we do Labour. Never mind also that we refused to go into coalition with the Tories after the 2017 election, despite the parliamentary arithmetic. Why should we “stop getting at Corbyn”? He is not a liberal, and he is leader of the Official Opposition, so of course we are going to criticise him. There are many progressive-minded voters who are not enamoured by the Jeremy Corbyn cult, and so to get their votes we need to attack Corbyn from a liberal perspective, while also attacking the Tories in the same way. And this is exactly what we are doing.
    I would expect the Lib Dems to be equal-opportunity critics of both the two main parties while they are going off to opposite extremes. Those like Mr Raw, who seem to have bought fully into the Labour activist’s portrayal of us, don’t like us criticising Labour. (This makes me wonder; if they think Corbyn is so great that He Must Never Be Criticised And Doing So Means Supporting The Tories, then why don’t they go off and join Labour?) But there also are some Lib Dem bloggers who seem to think we are too close to Labour. For instance, Nick Tyrone often writes that we are trying to be “Corbyn-lite”, which makes no sense at all when our pro-Remain stance is the opposite of Corbyn’s view that the EU is a capitalist conspiracy. So if those who want us to be more like one of the two main parties don’t like us because we seem too close to the other, then we are probably walking the correct path!

  • Alex Macfie 27th Sep '18 - 5:17pm

    theakes: “58% would support a centre party” there is a big difference between considering supporting a new party in the abstract, and actually voting for one when it appears on the ballot paper. UK Polling Report has an interesting article about this.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Sep '18 - 7:26pm

    There is no Lib Dem leadership vacuum but no waste of time and energy at Brighton, Peter Watson. The plan is for our party to lead a social and political revival, connecting with the progressives of other parties, but ourselves enlisting thousands of supporters who agree with our values and outlook and many of our policies. I think it is vain for Mr Corbyn to think his is the party of ‘the new common sense’; he has to tie the horses of John McDonnell and Keir Starmer to the same chariot! It is our party who better represent the views of the moderate majority, and Sir Vince is helping us ‘Extremist moderates’ to plan to lead them.

    Comparison of our practical policies with those just put forward by Labour would be good. And it would certainly be useful to draw out the more mind-catching ideas of ours from the Brighton decisions, Tahir. We certainly don’t lack well -thought-out evidence based policies, but we do need to select among and publicise them now.

  • @ Alex Macfie. You’ve clearly missed reports in the foreign press as well as in the British quality press that the frequently over the top personal attacks on Mr Corbyn have been counter productive and actually boosted his support. This was clearly true in the 2017 election campaign.

    Or do you know better?

  • Peter Watson 27th Sep '18 - 8:57pm

    @Katharine Pindar “There is no Lib Dem leadership vacuum but no waste of time and energy at Brighton,”
    Gina Miller is a great example of both of those problems. A well-received speech aligned her with the Lib Dems and highlighted the policy of a “people’s vote”, but instead the coverage was dominated by speculation about her as a leader-in-waiting (and perhaps the subject of all those discussions about a non-parliamentary leader or newly-joined MPs) and then about her turning down the job (and party membership).

    At a time when publicity is a valuable resource for the party, it shouldn’t be squandered on speculation about which public figure from outside the party might be the next leader instead of any of the current MPs, or what the party rules are for supporters/leaders/MPs.

    In particular, instead of talking about speeches about leading a movement of moderates or centrists, news reports should be able to demonstrate that the party is just doing it. That will certainly be the case if there are some high-profile defections from Labour and the Conservatives this week and next: it would look like Vince Cable’s speeches initiated some serious political change. I assumed (not least because of the controversy over that missed vote in the Commons) that there was some important plotting going on behind the scenes and that we would see some choreographed events, but if too much time passes and nothing happens it will not look like leadership.

    Perhaps I’m just being too impatient! 😉

  • Alex Macfie 27th Sep '18 - 9:44pm

    @David Raw: As I wrote in another thread (and originally written by Nick Clegg), Corbyn got a lot of abuse but little scrutiny during the 2017 election campaign. Now that he’s seen as a more serious contender there is a lot more serious scrutiny of his policies and his character (which IS important). Liberal critique of his policies is part of this. There is a Trumpian tendency among Corbyn’s fans to characterise any criticism or scrutiny of their Dear Leader as smears by the “mainstream media”. But this does not mean we should just lay off him and get in line with the cargo cult; if we do, that just makes us part of it.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Sep '18 - 3:10pm

    Yes, one does hope there is some important plotting going on behind the scenes, Peter Watson, probably always! But there was no waste of time at Brighton. Both Vince’s initiatives and Gina Miller’s appearance there brought us useful publicity, and the Media will inevitably focus on leadership questions rather than the valuable policies which we passed there. These will, however, continue to gain us credibility when learnt about, even without waiting for a General Election Manifesto, as we campaign for necessary change to fix our country’s deep and manifold problems. That campaigning can continue to be done in concert with progressives from other parties, and does take effect, as witness public acceptance of the need to providing more funds for the NHS.

    (It’s years now since I first advised you to look at our policies on our website, Peter, and what we passed at Brighton will be well worth you looking up now! 🙂 )

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