Let’s not be the radical party

I find the word “radical” increasingly difficult nowadays. It has become a shibboleth. Whatever is being pitched has to be framed as radical. And everybody knows exactly what it means and says so with great authority. The trouble is that the next person will, with equally great authority, give it a different meaning.

And also, it doesn’t tell us anything about the liberalness of the policies being proposed. I think most people will agree that Iain Duncan Smith’s approach to welfare benefits was radical. But I don’t think any liberal wants a policy that vindictive. (Or that incompetent.)

When you look at the things we are in favour of, many of them are not radical at all.

Legalisation of cannabis, for instance. Cannabis is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol. Its prohibition actually creates harmful forms of the substance, costs taxpayers a significant amount of money and badly affects a significant number of lives by creating criminal records that otherwise would not exist. Legalising it can be framed not as radical, but as common sense.

Try this:

We can:

  • reduce harms to many ordinary people
  • reduce pressure on the police and the entire justice system
  • reduce burden to the NHS
  • reduce days lost to illness for businesses
  • increase tax revenue
  • by legalising and regulating cannabis in the same way as we treat alcohol and tobacco.

There is nothing radical there; it is just plain common sense.

Or, on a different topic, try this thought experiment:

  • you are a country with small but very sophisticated armed forces
  • your men and women are highly trained, well paid and dependable
  • they and their families live in good quality accommodation
  • if they are wounded in the service of their country, they get excellent medical and social care, and decent benefits
  • you buy high tech equipment, both large scale and small scale, with an eye to effectiveness and value
  • you invest in intelligence globally, regionally and locally, to enable your forces and equipment to be used most effectively and with least cost to bodies and lives
  • you put effort into working on relationships with other countries which enable you to  collaborate to prevent conflict, but also to prosecute it effectively when necessary
  • but one day you decide to spend more than three full years of your budget on a single weapon, one which is in practical terms useless for any conflict you can foresee, and will also, within five years, have lost its unique selling point of being invisible underwater. To afford this, you compromise every other budget: you take significant chunks of money away from recruiting, paying, accommodating and caring for your soldiers, you compromise on all the other equipment you buy, and you spend less on intelligence and on your diplomatic efforts. All for a weapon you will never use.

Doing something about Trident is not radical, it is just common sense.

We can do the same with most of our policies – climate change, housing, education, health and social care, transport.

Then we can save the word radical for policies that really are. Land Value Tax, maybe, because that really would shake up wealth and power in this country.

* Rob Parsons is a Lib Dem member in Lewes. He blogs at http://acomfortableplace.blogspot.co.uk

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77 Comments

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jul '18 - 4:43pm

    David Raw, there’s a new bus coming along. Instead of raking over the past, why not help us get aboard.

  • David Evans 3rd Jul '18 - 7:08pm

    Rob Parsons. The problem is that too many still want to pretend that a previous driver did nothing wrong when he crashed and totalled the old bus. Until they acknowledge that it was recklessly driven at speed into a liberal cul de sac, and accept they need move from the crash scene, to build and get onto a new bus, they will just stand there spouting the same old failed certainties.

    What is needed is to look to learn from how we, the previous generation made the bus work, so that it had more passengers than a few true believers, and instead of just saying we want to be radical (any trendy leftie can say it – it takes a lot of skill to actually do it) they will continue to cling to their failed certainties of pure 100% liberal failure.

    I think that was what was behind David Raw’s point.

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jul '18 - 10:06pm

    David Evans, that may be so, but I have to say that the tone of David Raw’s post was one of someone who was holding on to an old grudge rather than working to move on.

    I didn’t expect to find this debate thrust straight into the old and, to my mind, unhelpful divisiveness between social and economic liberalism. There was a time when we took economic liberalism too far. We have moved beyond that now, in my view, and there is no need to go back and fight that battle again. I was hoping to find a way to enable us to connect more effectively to ordinary people who do not find politic as exciting as we do.

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd Jul '18 - 10:32pm

    Rib,
    But without a credible economic offering the LibDems are just the Labour Party.

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd Jul '18 - 10:36pm

    Sorry Rob I meant Rab

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jul '18 - 10:40pm

    That’s all right, Onnocent Bustander 🙂

    It goes without saying that we need a credible economic policy. But that is not what my piece is about.

  • I’m with the two Davids on this….It is not the driver, conductor or the current passengers who need convincing, it is those waiting a the various stops along the way.

    Changing the destination written on the timetable (and on the front of the bus) is of little use when many those who stayed on the bus are still trying to convince potential passengers that the old timetable/destinations were really pretty good!

  • David Evans 4th Jul '18 - 1:52am

    Rob, I agree with the principle of a lot of what you say, but I am afraid we as a party are still in the position where as far as the electorate are concerned, absolutely nothing has changed from coalition days. And in all honesty, I agree with them.

    The party, those with influence (e.g. LDV) and those with a responsibility at the time of coalition, would all rather pretend that nothing much was done that was wrong (especially by them or their heroes), and that all that is needed is for us to brush up a set of radical liberal policies and we will be well on our way to recovery. The simple fact is that those of us with long history and long memories, remember how radical the old Liberal Party was and it never made it to more than 14 MPs. Because it was not seen as relevant by most of the population to their problems.

    We then spent 40 years building it up so it was seen to be relevant by a significant number of people, only to find that totally destroyed in five years of total self obsession and betrayal by those who led us. We obtained our lowest share of the vote in a General election (7.9%) since 1959, when the Liberals only stood in 216 seats. We then obtained an even lower share in 2017 – 7.4%.

    People like David Raw and I do not bear a grudge. We remain dismayed at how many Lib Dems still refuse to face up to the evidence the voters give them, that they need to change, or our party and its values will continue to decline into oblivion as far as National Politics is concerned.

    The division between Social and Economic liberalism may be old, the catastrophe came about because the common sense or even evidence based approach you espouse that bound the two together was jettisoned in favour of a particular new dogma. It isn’t that David Raw and I disagree with you on your objective, but quite simply the fact that there is a huge amount of work to be done before the party can adopt your proposal, and for many Lib Dems, who would rather believe that things are going just swimmingly, the hard work needed is not on their agenda.

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '18 - 7:07am

    As usual, I agree with Davids (Raw and Evans). If you want to be radical then you can expect to bottom line in the opinion polls.

  • Jayne mansfield 4th Jul '18 - 7:29am

    ‘ Lets not be the radical party’

    No danger of that.

    @ Dave Page,
    I disagree that your drugs policy is radical. I disagree because it does not deal with the fundamental issue of why individuals seek escapism through drugs, whether it be tobacco, alcohol or other harmful substances.

    A radical solution would not treat drug problems as an individual health problem but as a social problem. We live in a society where an unacceptable number children live in homes where they are damaged by alcohol and/ or domestic abuse, or neglect because of drug abusing parents. A, so called, civilised society where more than 270 children are taken into care every day, and social breakdown is met with punishing local government cuts . Children’s services cannot offer the necessary support to the most vulnerable members of society who will bare the consequences of their deprivation throughout their lifetime.

    The number of young people suffering from mental ill health is scandalous. It is not simply a case of putting more resources into the care and treatment of mental illness and psychological problems, a radical solution would be to deal with the social causes of this burgeoning problem amongst the young.

    When problems become widespread, the root problem in my view, lies at the social not the individual level. Dealing with individuals who use tobacco, alcohol and drugs as ‘chemical dummies’ , at cost to their own health and those of others, is necessary, but in this context, just tinkering at the edges.

  • John Probert 4th Jul '18 - 9:58am

    This is much ado about very little. We use ‘radical’ as an adjective to describe Liberal, which Iain Duncan Smith certainly is not.

  • In my youth the party was led by Jo Grimond. I can still hear his oratory and phrasing in my head. An oft repeated phrase was : “we in the Liberal Party are a radical party, we are a party of reform.”

    That was good enough for me.

  • Rob Parsons 4th Jul '18 - 11:12am

    David Raw, I think you have misunderstood my original post. I judged from the tone of your first comment, disparaging my connection with Tom Paine, that your misunderstanding was deliberate. If it was not, that is my misreading of you. My last paragraph makes it clear that I am not saying that we should not be radical. The headline was intended to catch the eye. Forigve me if the irony in it was too muted.

    I was trying to illustrate the misuse and overuse of the word “radical” and suggesting that we might frame many of our ideas in ways that might – I think, will – engage people more effectively. Harking back to the turn we took with the Orange Book is a distraction from that – an effective one as many of the comments have focussed on it.

    Legalising cannabis is radical in the context of the stubbornness of British policy on drugs, and doing away with Trident is radical in the context of Britain’s imperial tinged view of its place in the world.

    I see the daily misery too, very close at hand. You should have been able to understand my view of our current welfare system (and previous LibDem support for it) from the sentence I wrote about IDS. But I think it is more important to move on to what we do now. In policy terms the party has moved on – look at our policies on fairness and benefits https://www.libdems.org.uk/families and scroll to Treating People Fairly. We don’t need to re-fight the battles of the past. We have enough to do now.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '18 - 11:57am

    @ JoeB,

    ‘“Common Sense” is as much a shibboleth as “radical”. Many common sense ideas are wrong, and for anybody to have put an aircraft in the air, they had to defy common sense at some point.’

    Not too many. There’s no reason for air flight to defy common sense. Humanity has always been aware that birds can fly. It’s just a question of figuring out how they do it and either copying what they do or devising workable alternatives.

    As you’ll know, I often question what passes for common sense in the economic sphere. It’s not common sense that the UK government get its spending money from taxation. But that’s what 99.9% of the population think! If everyone just asked the question of where money comes from in the first instance, before it was available to be collected as taxes, they’d get the right answer. And its a very simple answer which by no means runs contrary to common sense.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '18 - 12:01pm

    Sorry, my previous comment should have been directed to Joe Otten, not JoeB.

  • Sandra Hammett 4th Jul '18 - 12:24pm

    What is clear is that the bus has at the very least some massive dents in the bodywork, both it’s headlights out and faulty indicators.
    This does not inspire potential passengers to go for a ride. They need to be told how the damage occured and how it will be fixed.

    Thanks for staying with us on ‘Bus Analogy 101’.

  • Rob Parsons 4th Jul '18 - 12:51pm

    Sandra Hammett: “like”.

  • Geoffrey Payne 4th Jul '18 - 1:11pm

    The reason for being radical is that there are many things that are radically wrong in society. The size of the Brexit vote is a good indicator of that, and so big changes are needed to put that right.
    The Orange Bookers were radical in government, policies that they championed such as free schools and academies were radical ideas. However many of us think they were radical in the wrong direction.
    So that is the danger in being radical – it may be based on ideas that are half baked, or lead us in an illiberal direction.
    There is no point in being radical for the sake of it. The truth is that nearly every day in politics is flawed in some way, so the danger in not being radical is that you do not achieve anything worthwhile, and the danger if you are is that you completely mess things up. So whatever you support you need to think very carefully.

  • Geoffrey Payne 4th Jul '18 - 1:13pm

    In the above comment, replace “day” with “idea”

  • Peter Watson 4th Jul '18 - 1:45pm

    @Sandra Hammett “…both it’s headlights out and faulty indicators.”
    Definitely a problem there: for the last few years the party has looked like it can’t see where it’s going and I don’t know whether it’s turning left or right.
    But on the upside, the rear-view mirrors are fine although some people seem determined not to use them.

  • Sandra Hammett 4th Jul '18 - 3:20pm

    Peter Watson
    The perils of conciously reversing into the Tory Bandwagon.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '18 - 5:02pm

    “It goes without saying that we need a credible economic policy. ”

    Credible: Able to be believed. Convincing.

    There’s no denying that Margaret Thatcher’s policy of economic monetarism was all of these things. She compared the National economy to her father’s grocery business. Most people were taken in.

    At the same time is was just plain wrong!

    So, it’s a difficult one for politicians. Do you say what people think sounds right or do you tell it as it is and potentially lose votes? On second thoughts, I doubt it’s really that difficult. Votes come first every time!

  • Rob Parsons 4th Jul '18 - 6:06pm

    Thanks for your observations, Mr Raw. I’m not going to engage with them for two reasons. The first is that they are nothing to do with my original post. The second is that you are taking up time and energy demanding apologies that have already been given. I am moving on to our current position and policies. Will you?

  • Rob Parsons 4th Jul '18 - 6:08pm

    “Do you say what people think sounds right or do you tell it as it is and potentially lose votes?”

    You decide what it is best to do, and then you find a way of presenting that which convinces people. That was what I was trying to get at by suggesting that “common sense” might persuade people where “radical” does not.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Jul '18 - 6:57pm

    But doesn’t this rather cut two ways? I could, for example question the wisdom and budget implication of the ‘radical’ triple lock pension but I suspect that it wouldn’t go down too well. I’m not saying you are wrong, just that there are flipsides here.

  • @ Joe Otten

    Have you consider the alternative we had in our 2010 manifesto? The effects on people on benefits would have been a lot less.

    We implemented the wrong economic policies: it should never have been a priority to reduce the deficit, the priority should have been economic growth and reducing unemployment and underemployment as the way to reduce the deficit. So we could have avoided it being reported at the time that we had a double dip recession which the coalition government cuts and VAT increase caused.

    I think your figures for Labour’s support for Tory benefit cuts is wrong. We had about £6.3 billion towards reversing some cuts and the future cuts and Labour had £4 billion (figures from 2017 costing documents). So if Labour wanted £7 billion of cuts then we must have wanted £4.7 billion.

  • Sandra Hammett 5th Jul '18 - 8:51am

    Honesty and accountability are radical these days, perhaps we should try that.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Jul '18 - 9:21am

    It seems to me there is needless antagonism here. We all want policies for more social justice and greater equality to be implemented, as David Raw and Joe Bourke suggest. (Thank you for the insights into the astonishing radicalism of Tom Paine, Joe.) It has been often discussed on LDV that our ministers in the Coalition Government went along with harmful policies which we have deplored ever since. But Joe Otten reminds us that our ministers did prevent even worse outcomes, and for Michael BG to state ‘We implemented the wrong economic policies’ ignores the fact that we were a tiny minority in the Coalition Government.

    At the same time, Michael is right to remind us of the fact of our 2017 Manifesto being more radical on welfare than Labour’s. Let us also continue to offer more useful, radical policies on economic advance than Labour can. Thank you for starting this thought-provoking discussion, Rob.

  • Joe OttenJoe Otten 4th Jul ’18 – 11:49pm………..I don’t accept that coalition policy had a disasterous effect on people on welfare, compared to the alternatives that might reasonably have existed…..

    After reading your contribution I realise why, after over 50 years as a Lib(Dem) supporter, I voted Labour in 2015 and 2017.

  • Sean Hyland 5th Jul '18 - 11:36am

    Joe Often

    Perhaps you should take the time to go and chat with some of those who have been on the receiving end of the welfare reforms or the families of those who committed suicide.

    Explain to them that they should be thankful to the Lib Dems for supporting the introduction of the reforms. I’m sure they will thank you for the parties actions and accept it could have been much worse and they should be grateful.

  • Katharine Pindar, it seems you want it both ways – when in coalition we stopped the Tories doing worse things than the coalition did and we were a minority and so just had to agree to the harmful Tory cuts. If the first is true then the second isn’t.

    With only 306 MP’s they needed the support of about 16 non-Conservative MPs to get anything passed in the House of Commons and the 9 conservative Northern Ireland MPs were not sufficient. Therefore if all our MPs had voted against it, it wouldn’t have happened. We can’t wash our hands of responsibility over this.

    It is vital that a large majority of the party accept that we implemented the wrong economic policies while in government. It is only once this has happened that we can have the right economic policy for the future and never repeat the mistakes we made on the economy while in government.

  • @ KatherinePinder. You are, of course, right about the needless antagonism. But bear in mind that many of the protagonists in this particular first fight have got form on this topic and seem more comfortable slagging off former leaders and fellow liberals than pointing out the many shortcomings of our political rivals. Peoples Front of Judaea comes to mind, but ’twas ever so !

  • nvelope2003 5th Jul '18 - 6:11pm

    I thought the coalition was wrong from the start. All previous coalitions or support for another party whether Labour or Conservative have ended in disaster for the Liberal parties -1916,1918, 1923/24, 1931, 2010. Even the wartime coalition did us no good.
    Supporting Conservative policies did not help but it was more the fact of entering a coalition with another party, particularly the Conservatives, which damaged the Lib Dems as evidenced by the dramatic fall In poll ratings before any policies had been implemented.
    Mrs Thatcher introduced far more drastic policies than anything the coalition did and had some terrible poll ratings but she won 3 general elections and was never turned out by the voters. The people whose lives she turned upside down were vastly more numerous than those whose lives were damaged by the coalition and the effects of the benefit changes mostly occurred after it ended.
    You have to look for other factors to account for the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. They have more to do with the sense that established policies appear to have failed and those parties who offer a different plan – Brexit, Nationalisation etc should be given a try. The fact that these sort of policies have failed before does not interest those who know nothing of history and care less. It might take years for the Lib Dems to recover and even economic collapse might not bring this about. I would not want the country to be ruined to bring about a Liberal Government.

    I do not suppose that the total failure of Government control of the railways as evidenced by yet another Network Rail signal failure today will have the slightest effect on popular support for renationalisation. Some people are immune to evidence based policies sadly. I have lost all faith in politics.

    in Streatham today

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Jul '18 - 11:14pm

    Nvelope, i, too, have never bought the “It was Clegg what done it” verdict.
    2015 was not between two broadly similar ideologies but two very polarised ones it was not a time to risk a vote that might let in the feared “other side”. It was very much a two party affair and, fasten your seatbelts LibDems, the next will be even worse.
    I grieve for the growing poverty but the nation needs more drastic proposals than workers co-operatives, which I assume is a joke thought up by those who spend too much time in Waitrose and John Lewis (financially struggling by the way).

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Jul ’18 – 11:14pm………………… i, too, have never bought the “It was Clegg what done it” verdict.
    2015 was not between two broadly similar ideologies but two very polarised ones it was not a time to risk a vote that might let in the feared “other side”. It was very much a two party affair and, fasten your seatbelts LibDems, the next will be even worse…………..

    Really? In 2015 the Labour party was headed by Milliband and its ‘leading lights’ were those moderates that LDV articles consistently portray as our possible, like minded, allies.
    As for LibDem chances in that election? Our parliamentary party, as has been said, “trooped through the lobby” with the Tories so the “It was a big boy who done it” campaign fooled no-one (except, it seems, those who still post about our coalition success).

  • @David Raw. I am not blind to the mistakes made in the coalition years, nor is there anything lofty about my position. I live on the South Coast and close to many areas of extreme poverty, so I understand where you are coming from.
    All I am suggesting is that we have a balanced approach, where we say that we are proud of some of the achievements of the coalition, but clearly we got it wrong, very wrong (there you are, I said it !) in other areas. This debate, like so many, becomes polarised.

  • PS to my previous post. I have been marking A level papers this week. One student wrote that the pupil premium was introduced by the Conservative government. Clearly we are not crowing enough about our achievements in government.

  • David Evans 6th Jul '18 - 8:34am

    Chris, You are absolutely right. There were very good things in coalition, but there were very bad things as well. The problem is that in general most of the people we need to support us if we are to rebuild, know that the bad exceeded the good by a substantial margin.

    However, those at the top still seem to prefer denying and ignoring the bad and so people don’t listen when we point out the good. So you, or me or David saying it is nothing like enough. Until the party hierarchy (from LDV to Vince and all stops in between) accept it and actively acknowledge it in public, we will continue to be stuck at 8% nationally, with no prospect of improvement except in the very, very, very long term.

    It took 50 years to do it last time. It will take the Conservatives only four years to take us out of the EU. Just imagine how much damage they could do if they are in power for only half of the next 50 years. And then think what a Corbyn Labour party could do with the other 25.

    Our country can’t afford to wait that long.

  • Sandra Hammett 6th Jul '18 - 9:16am

    First step to recovery; admitting that you have a problem.

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '18 - 10:27am

    David Evans: The problem with your argument is that in most of the seats which were held by the Liberal Democrats or where they had a reasonable prospect of winning their former supporters switched to the Conservatives or UKIP in 2015 and the Conservatives gained 24 seats and won an absolute majority in the House of Commons. The Labour Party lost 40 seats to the SNP and gained about 8 seats from the Liberal Democrats and 6 from the Conservatives. Only UKIP had a significant increase in vote share (about 10%) and the Liberal Democrats lost about 15%. Make of that what you will.

    Had the Liberal Democrats won an absolute majority or were by far the biggest party in 2010 they would most likely still be in power and we would not be leaving the EU.

    People have become poorer because there is a surplus of unskilled labour despite an acute shortage of essential skilled workers which could become even worse when we leave the EU.

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '18 - 12:21pm

    Sandra Hammett: The problem is not the one most people here think it is. The Liberals were traditionally seen as an anti establishment party so when they join a coalition or offer support to the establishment parties their anti establishment supporters desert them. At one time it was often to the Greens but now that they are also part of the hated establishment with their support for the EU and environmental concerns so they went to UKIP and now to Jeremy Corbyn who is considered an outsider, feared and hated by the establishment. Of course he isn’t really any more than UKIP but I suppose people need someone who seems to offer them hope or at least make those they blame for their misfortune feel uncomfortable. Imagine rallying around those immensely rich supporters of leaving the EU !
    If the Liberal Democrats had come out in favour of leaving the EU and returned to their traditional support for Free Trade who knows what support they might have gained from the disadvantaged but I guess they might have lost supporters too, although less than those they gained. Many traditional West Country Liberals are anti EU, except perhaps in Bath !

  • Peter Martin 6th Jul '18 - 12:40pm

    “The Liberals were traditionally seen as an anti establishment party”

    Come on. Pull the other one!

    One of my first memories of my own political interest (in the 1950s) was asking my grandfather why there was no Conservative candidate to vote for in our constituency.

    The answer was that they’d formed a pact with the Libs. They weren’t standing so they could keep Labour out!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolton_West_(UK_Parliament_constituency)

  • Geoffrey Payne 6th Jul '18 - 1:00pm

    To Joe Otten, thankfully the party has moved on since the Coalition and has much better welfare policies.
    Even David Laws admits now that the bedroom tax was a bad policy that should never have been agreed (see his book on the Coalition). The money had to come from somewhere you say, but it came off the backs of the poorest people, something Nick Clegg said he would not agree to. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that we had to agree to the Tories plan for spending cuts we could have found the money from cutting defence or not cutting taxes – corporation tax for example. And if the Tories were not going to agree we could have blown the lid off the Coalition.
    At least voters would then be able to see why we were there and not to just prop up the Tories – which whether fairly or not was how we were perceived.
    Lets be clear, the welfare cuts wrecked people’s lives regardless of whether the other parties had better or worse policies than the Coalition government at the time. Whatever Labour’s policy was was up to them. What bothers me is what our policy was (albeit not that we ever passed these welfare cuts as policy in a conference motion).

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '18 - 1:22pm

    Peter Martin: And looked what good that did them. It was only after those pacts ended that the party regained significant support. I was referring to an earlier period when the Liberals were one of the two parties contending for power not the 1950s when they were virtually extinct and just clinging to 6 seats. I think you should “pull the other one” !
    Yes I know quite a lot of people are unaware that the Liberals were once a great party of power.

  • Neil Sandison 6th Jul '18 - 1:46pm

    One thing i have noticed is that the old parties are incredible slow to meet a changed environment .So i have no problems being a grassroots radical who is prepared to challenge ideologically led policy against common sense .Why have we not got a national water grid operated a bit like railtrack with a duty to co-operate between suppliers much cheaper that re-nationalising it and private finance will assist upgrading the infrastructure.Whats wrong in re-introducing modern pre-fabricated housing to meet our desperate social housing needs..Why are we puuting all our eggs in one basket hoping nuclear will meet energy shortfalls when EFW plants and anaerobic digesters could and should replace coal fire power stations .lets be cutting edge and not timid about our radical policy.

  • Peter Watson 6th Jul '18 - 3:14pm

    @nvelope2003 “in most of the seats which were held by the Liberal Democrats or where they had a reasonable prospect of winning their former supporters switched to the Conservatives or UKIP in 2015 and the Conservatives gained 24 seats”
    But was that because former Lib Dem voters switched to the Conservatives or because anti-Conservative voters no longer voted for the Lib Dems? Also, a significant part of the Lib Dem campaign endorsed the Conservative-stoked fears of a Labour-SNP coalition, almost encouraging anti-Labour voters to move to the Conservatives instead of risking a vote on a greatly diminished Lib Dem party.
    Ultimately I think the party suffered because it combined a fierce opposition to Labour with a failure (perhaps intentionally) to distinguish itself from its Conservative coalition partners, and it no longer looked like an independent political party, let alone one occupying a centre or centre-left position in the political spectrum.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jul '18 - 10:11pm

    No sense in losing all faith in politics, nvelope2003, since it’s all we’ve got, and your interesting contributions suggest otherwise, anyway! I enjoy the contributions that show the passion felt by members about the current state of the poorest and the suffering from UC, as David Raw does, and others that tease out the arguments or offer useful ideas. It was refreshing to see David Evans pointing out that the Coalition did good things as well as great harm, though uncharacteristically Michael BG wrote nonsense in his first paragraph of 5th July. For my part I have come to feel that coalitions without PR are going to be no good for us Lib Dems, and certainly to have a first coalition after so many years with the Tories in particular was a sad mistake.

  • Peter Watson 6th Jul '18 - 10:39pm

    @Katharine Pindar “For my part I have come to feel that coalitions without PR are going to be no good for us Lib Dems”
    I don’t think that is necessarily so. Perhaps there was previously an assumption that the minor party in any coalition would have great influence by wielding “the balance of power” like Excalibur, but parliamentary arithmetic in 2010 meant that this was not so although it would still be possible under first-past-the-post.
    I think the party made a huge mistake by subsuming its identity into an overwhelmingly Conservative-dominated coalition (and appearing to do so with too much enthusiasm) and alienating a lot of its traditional support. This also seemed to shine a spotlight on a still unresolved divide within the party between a leftish and a rightish approach to economics.
    I would hope that if the party can resolve the latter, reaffirm its unique political identity, and learn from its mistakes, then it could be a successful coalition partner in the future.

  • nvelope2003 7th Jul '18 - 11:46am

    Katharine Pindar: Thank you for your comment.

  • nvelope2003 7th Jul '18 - 12:45pm

    Peter Watson: In many seats lost by the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives Labour barely gained 1% and the Greens just 2% but Conservative and UKIP support soared in the West Country. Many Liberal Democrat voters are Centrist rather than Left of Centre and Cameron was popular. The press portrayed Miliband as left wing because of views he had expressed in the past which frightened some people.
    Some people do not understand why people on benefits do not work when there seems to be a shortage of workers in many areas so they may not have been put off by reforms and indeed may have supported them. They also do not understand why we need immigrants when many people here do not have jobs. People on this site seem not to understand this because they see only the benefits – low prices for services etc but not the reduced pay for the local work force. The party’s obsession with the EU as they see it has not helped either.

    Peter Martin: The Liberals have their origin in the Parliamentary forces in the English Civil war of the 1640s. They also derived much support from nonconformist Christians who did not like the Established Church of England and from businessmen who were fighting the established order. We have lost that spirit and need to get it back if the party is ever to recover. We seem to be mostly concerned with maintaining the status quo now.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Jul '18 - 2:35pm

    but, “Football’s coming home”.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    If my first paragraph was nonsense then so must my second. However, my second was factually true as was my conclusion in the first. I note you couldn’t post a rational argument against it, but just were dismissive. OK you don’t believe it is true, then just say that. However, if we stopped the Conservatives doing anything when in government then we could have stopped them doing anything we felt was too harmful but we agreed to what you called “harmful policies”. We always had a choice either support or oppose and too many times we supported where we should have opposed.

    @ Joe Otten

    Indeed, we wanted to cut benefits less than Labour did in 2017 and the Conservatives had planned when in government 2015-17 and are doing now. However, you have ignored our 2010 manifesto alternative and the fact that we agreed to the Conservative cuts and the hike in VAT 2010-12 which lead to it being reported that the UK economy had returned to recession. Please post your evidence that economic growth in the UK between 2010 and 2015 was the best in the G7? Economic growth in the last quarter of 2011 was terrible, bad in the first quarter of 2012 and negative in second and fourth quarters of 2012. This near recession was caused by the coalition government. After this plan B was used but the coalition government denied that its economic policy had changed so we couldn’t even claim credit for it.

  • Sean Hyland 7th Jul '18 - 3:52pm

    Joe Often

    Whatever Labour put in their 2017 manifesto is irrelevant. You referred to the coalition years and policy actions taken then. You cannot escape the fact that Lib Dem MPs supported, including in interviews on tv etc, and voted for a policy that inflicted damage on individuals and families.

    Yes there was a deficit to address but choices are available in policy decisions. Other actions could have been taken. Reality is what actually occurs not in promises made in political manifestos especially if they are written 2 years after the coalition ended.

  • Sean Hyland 7th Jul '18 - 3:59pm

    Sorry spellchecker in action should be Joe Otten

  • nvelope2003 7th Jul '18 - 9:06pm

    Joe Otten: A close friend who lived to be 100 once said to me that “common sense” was the rarest thing on earth. He was very wise. How right he was.

  • Sean Hyland 8th Jul '18 - 1:00am

    Joe Often

    You said you didn’t accept that coalition policy had a disastrous effect on people on welfare. Comparison with what might have been implemented by another party is not relevant wether it was said then or now or 2017. It is what the coalition actually did that counts and I would contend that it did have a disastrous effect on individuals and families.

    Trying to justify that by comparison with other parties is therefore meaningless. You cannot know the mindset or reasoning behind what others put in their manifesto or why.

    What you are essentially saying in sense is telling the patient ” it’s ok we only cut off one arm and leg but the other lot would have cut off both so what’s your problem!! “

  • Sean Hyland 8th Jul '18 - 1:22am

    Sorry again – Otten

    To clarify surgery not the best option for the patient as better treatments available.

  • @ Joe Otten

    The first chart in your 2014 post shows the UK as only ahead of Italy and behind, Canada, US, Germany, Japan and France. Your second also ending in 2014 has us only in third place, behind Canada and the US. This seems to be because they didn’t have the coalition inflicted near recession during 2011 and 2012. So to be clear if the Coalition government hadn’t tried to balance the budget too early we might have been in first place. We were not in first place as you claimed. We failed in the early years of the coalition as I have pointed out and then we couldn’t claim any credit for changing the government’s policy afterwards, which was stupid.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Jul '18 - 5:04pm

    @Michael BG. I’m reluctant to argue with a friend, Michael, but what you wrote on the 5th at 3.14 was, ‘it seems you want it both ways – when in coalition we stopped the Tories doing worse things than the coalition did.’ I can’t get my head round that particular statement, it appears to me to be nonsense. You went on, ‘and we were a minority and so just had to agree to the harmful Tory cuts. If the first is true then the second isn’t.’ Do you see that I have difficulty understanding the ‘first’, to compare with the ‘second’? My point of view is that we did indeed stop the Tories doing even worse things, but being in a minority could not stop them doing some harmful things. I think that is a reasonable conclusion, which many Lib Dems seem to agree with, though there are inevitable arguments as to the EXTENT of the harms inflicted on the country and EXTENT of the alleviation.

    I’m not sure that you are correct to state that our ministers could either accept or oppose? Surely they had influence to alter government policy through the Quad? They evidently didn’t have a successful enough influence, and I guess that what you and others are suggesting is that they didn’t care enough, weren’t sufficiently troubled, about the cuts to welfare and services. And I would tend to agree with you that that is how it appears to have been.

  • Katharine, if you believe that we stopped the Conservatives getting the Coalition to do worse than it did in fact do, then we must have had the power to stop them doing whatever we didn’t want to support. Therefore we could have stopped them doing all the harmful things that the coalition did, but decided not to.

    If the quad had been split 2 / 2 then the policy wouldn’t have been implemented. If all our MPs had voted against it, it wouldn’t have been implemented. Our being in a minority in the first didn’t stop us stopping the Conservatives doing something, therefore it cannot be used as a reason in the second for why we didn’t stop other harmful things. I hope I have been clearer this time.

  • Simon Banks 5th Aug '18 - 10:22am

    There is no difficulty at all about what “radical” means: Latin, “radix”, a root, so radical is going to the root of the issue. It is of course used very loosely by people who don’t want to change things much or annoy anyone, but like the frisson of being radical, which may be why the Ashdown Prize for Radical Thought went to the suggestion of getting supermarkets to donate surplus food to food banks.

    It is of course possible to be on the radical right, to be radically anti-devolutionist or anti-civil-liberties and so on – which is why it’s often a qualifying word as in Radical Liberal. However, there is also an honourable tradition on the left of the Liberal Party and its successor which was historically named “Radical” and viewed with horror by the Tories: this goes back to the dangerous people who were campaigning for a vast extension of the right to vote during the period around 1790 – 1825.

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