Let’s really be the opposition to Boris’ government

I am sorry that the person who has led the most serious criticisms of Boris’ government has had to self-isolate, i.e. Sir Ed Davey.  He was right to suggest that we Lib-Dems are the real opposition.  The leader of the Labour Party does not appear to be strong enough for the battles that are needed and is making a mistake if he thinks he can win public support only on the basis of sleaze.

Most importantly the handling of the pandemic is key to understanding the mistaken way this government operates under Boris.

What follows is a letter I had published on Monday 26th in my local newspaper, The Sentinel, with a picture of Boris and a headline using my last sentence.  I hope it encourages others to write in their local papers.  This surely is the kind of message that must be part of our campaign to show people we can do better than the Conservatives, both during the current elections and in the next year or so.  I refer, of course, to just a few of the elements of criticism that can be made of this government.

The main source of data that I have used is found here.

I am so pleased I have now had my second vaccination, but I remain frustrated with this Government’s handling of the pandemic. In the first wave, the social care sector suffered from government mistakes, hospitals only coped by stopping non-Covid treatments, we went 2 weeks late into lockdown and people continued to enter via Heathrow in thousands each day.  Everyone was feeling their way at that stage, but in June, when the Liberal Democrat leader called for a speedy inquiry to learn from that, Boris refused.  Then in the Autumn, when experts warned of a second bigger wave, government were still deceiving us by talk of concern when they most wanted to revive the economy.  Now we have confirmation of an exceptionally high England death rate of 1901 per million people, compared to Germany’s death rate of 97 per million, higher than most developed countries, higher even than Brazil.  This is according to the recent Johns Hopkins University world-wide report on 21st April.

Over half of our deaths came from November onwards, showing clearly the huge mistake government made. If we had gone into lockdown more severely and sooner before Christmas we would almost certainly have had less deaths (as we should have learned from the first wave) and emerged sooner from lockdown.

But is that the end of the matter ? Far from it. We have continued to allow even tourists to come into the country in their thousands every day.  On 24th March the Indian authorities warned of a surge of a new variant and cases here began to emerge. We still continued to allow tourists from India to enter our country freely. Boris got elected on a promise to stand up for our nation, but now his claim that we had very strong curbs on people coming here from India was yet another deception.  His complacency is unforgivable.  Restrictions on people from India started on 23rd April, that is 30 days after the warning.

He has learned nothing from the mistakes made last year and it is costing us dearly.

* Nigel Jones is currently secretary of Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats and the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Education Association.

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  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Apr '21 - 9:47am

    There seem to be an awful lot of people vwho have undergone a road-to-Damascus type conversation on the subject of border controls.

  • Barry Lofty 29th Apr '21 - 9:59am

    And which party are the strongest adherents to stricter border controls until it might get in the way of the desperate need of a trade deal?

  • ……………………..I am sorry that the person who has led the most serious criticisms of Boris’ government has had to self-isolate, i.e. Sir Ed Davey. He was right to suggest that we Lib-Dems are the real opposition. The leader of the Labour Party does not appear to be strong enough for the battles that are needed and is making a mistake if he thinks he can win public support only on the basis of sleaze…………………….

    I wasn’t aware that Ian Blackford was out of the picture?

    As for ‘a mistake’ to concentrate on sleaze; where have you been for the last few years? The media headlines (I include the Telegraph, Times and BBC in this) have thrived on ‘tittle-tattle’; just a week ago a ‘set-up’ refusal to allow Starmer into a pub was the lead story…
    There will be no enquiry into the pandemic in the near future and the vaccine success (appropriated by Johnson) has enabled him to avoid criticism over his wider mishandling of the Covid situation..
    Johnson has dodged the ‘serious questions’, in and out of parliament, but yesterday, by concentrating on ‘sleaze’, the questions, especially Starmer’s ‘major sleaze’ exposed Johnsonson’s true narcissistic nature and to put it bluntly “He completely ‘lost it’; an unedifying spectacle leapt on by the media..The fact that even Laura Kuenssberg used her question to quiz Hancock about ‘ministers’ resignation’ shows that ‘sleaze’ is this government’s Achilles heel..

  • I happen to rate Laura Kuenssberg and think she is a top class analyst. I also think the Lib Dems need to be careful on sleaze…… there’s a long list I could quote. People in glass houses etc.,

    Yesterday Starmer was forensic and Johnson got what he deserved. Not sure where the Lib Dems were. Let’s see what happens in Scotland and Hartlepool.

  • Laurence Cox 29th Apr '21 - 12:30pm

    @David Raw

    The Leader of the Opposition always gets six questions each week at PMQs, the Leader of the SNP at Westminster two, since 2015 when the SNP became the third largest party at Westminster. Ed Davey only gets one question every few weeks in rotation with the leaders of other parties. Other Lib Dem MPs depend on ‘catching the Speaker’s eye’, so it is hardly surprising that you didn’t notice any this week.

  • Of course I am aware of sleaze over many years and it is an issue, but in response to the comments there are two things that I need to say.
    First is that sleaze gets headlines and so can be used as a starting point, but it becomes significant only when it spreads to other issues more serious than what is done to Boris’ flat in Downing Street. I agree that Keir Starmer did well on this in Parliament, but then Boris knows that his success on vaccination is a bigger issue in the public’s mind when voting. My main campaigning point is that we can show that the sleaze represents the way this government operates on a whole range of serious matters and not just this one issue. Keir has been weak in challenging government on other issues in ways that cut through politically; he rightly deals with details of issues, as if he is in the civil service, but more than that is required to communicate with the general public.
    Second point is the very limited extent to which people take notice of what goes on in Parliament. Given the huge right-wing media we have, they mostly see the right-wing spin on this and many don’t even see that. Too often we as a party concentrate on what goes on in Parliament when we need to be speaking outside that arena. Boris knows that his nicely choreographed visits around the country do him a lot of good, following Trump’s example and that of Farage. Our party will grow by activities outside Parliament because we can at the moment achieve so little in practice and gain so little attention by what we do in Parliament.
    I am not saying we should not take Parliament seriously, but as to campaigning to get a following, we cannot and must not rely on that. I hope over the next few years we will concentrate more on what we can say and do around the country to spell out our opposition to this government and the better way of doing things that we stand for.

  • @David Raw; I share your concern to be careful on sleaze and people in glass houses.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Apr '21 - 2:35pm

    David Raw

    The thing with ‘sleaze’ is that what is being described is often either (rightly or wrongly) not illegal or results in some relatively minor regulatory penalty. That’s why more often than not it blows over. And I mean that about all parties.

    There is a wider question for all of politics about donations and lobbying but there are no easy answers.

  • Barry Lofty 29th Apr '21 - 3:06pm

    What ever has happened in the past should not detract

  • Barry Lofty 29th Apr '21 - 3:20pm

    Try again! What ever happened in the past should not detract the opposition party’s from attacking Boris Johnson, in my opinion he firmly believes that the ” good old Boris” image will get him through any bad publicity with the electorate and it will all just go away, and it will of they let it. He is taking the proverbial!!!

  • @ Lawrence Cox Given I worked at LPO in the 1960’s and was a frequent visitor to the Liberal Whips office back in those days, it ought to be no surprise to you that I have a reasonable understanding of the procedures and conventions in both the Commons, and the Lords. I frequently observed Jo Grimond, Eric Lubbock, my own MP Donald Wade, Thorpe J.J. and my friend Arthur Holt ask questions….. but thank you anyway. I don’t suck eggs.

    The question you should ask yourself is why the party that I and so many others worked so hard for for nearly 60 years has been reduced to the state it is in and thus limited in the number of questions the Leader and others can put. You might find the answer is located somewhere after 2010.

  • George Thomas 29th Apr '21 - 4:05pm

    “Second point is the very limited extent to which people take notice of what goes on in Parliament. Given the huge right-wing media we have, they mostly see the right-wing spin on this and many don’t even see that.”

    I’m not sure we can describe the latest event under that bracket given that The Mail and The Times seem to be actively reporting on this matter. Think even an employee of the Telegraph asked what had happened to inquiry into Boris’ holiday last year and who had paid for that- is there an answer to that yet? – and still Boris’s approval rating go up in latest polls done by BMG Research.

    I don’t know what the answer is when many excuses have been made for Boris over the past year – even when sheer recklessness was shown during the winter period which accounts for over half the deaths – and blame has been directed at opposition even when they’re making good points. I think more needs to be made of the fact that yes Boris/Hancock may have backed the scientists in vaccine efforts but (taking inspiration from Van Tam) this political party has spent the past 10 years dismantling the outfield and spending only on a keeper – too much pressure and too much conceded regardless of having Banks/Southall/Jennings/Goram between the sticks.

    Regarding sleaze being a glass house, Tories are unwilling to take action regarding sleaze whereas it’s likely to appear in every party but a proper management structure would respond to it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Apr '21 - 4:18pm

    George Thomas

    Define ‘sleaze.’

    This just seems to be like the old definition of pornography: I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it.

  • @David Raw

    Thanks your work for the Liberals. And as I have said before the success that the Lib Dems did have in the 90s and 2000s was very much built on the hard slog – often unrewarded electorally of you, the MPs and Liberal activists holding jumble sales and putting out Focuses and standing for election for the first time that Liberals had ever stood (and probably getting a poor third place if that!)

    I would though gently suggest that you need to take the lessons of what you and others did then. And it wasn’t about asking questions in Parliament – it was about Grimond making speeches urging us to “march towards the sound of gunfire”, Thorpe landing hovercraft on beaches, Ashdown winning Yeovil though the use of Focus leaflets. Indeed Paddy was slammed as “Mr Invisible” in the first years of his leadership and indeed our poll rating was so low then that he would claim that later that it was an asterisk – no measurable support whatsoever – not actually true but it was below what it is today.

    Indeed I have said on LDV that we should introduce a party rule that Lib Dem MPs should be banned from Parliament and councillors from going into council offices. An exaggeration and a joke but I know that when I was a councillor – to my regret – I spent too much time in council meetings rather than actually campaigning to change things – although I like to think I was an active campaigner.

    I am sorry for your disappointment that we are where are we are in Parliamentary representation. But we are where are we are even if Ed and others may share some responsibility for that.

    But the key is to take the tactics of Grimond, Thorpe and Ashdown refresh them and apply them again – and indeed those of the advocates of community politics such as the sadly departed Tony Greaves (and others).

  • I don’t go back as far as David Raw, but was active in the old LP from the early 80s and still believe in the liberal way, hence my frustration with what the party has become and it’s current situation. I am estranged, and therefore cross, and also can’t fathom how unionist and establishment the party has become. For what it’s worth I’d have voted for Labour this time but for the antics of a local member here, just haven’t forgiven Ed for dumping us with the Hinckley point Franco-Chinese caper while he was energy minister (nor Kirsty for voting in the Welsh assembly for dumping the mud from that site all over the holiday coast where I live). The campaign in Scotland is all ‘we’re more open to closing down the apparatus of consent than the Tories’, in England – well, there will be some food local Cllrs dug in well, and in Wales it seems to be existing for the sake of it (and maybe coming in 6th in the votes cast, 5th of the Greens have a bad day!)

    So yes, post partisan spirit raisers if you like, but keep your feet on the ground. There are very few people outside of the orange bubble thinking what a great job the LDs are doing at holding this outrageous government to account!

  • Micchael 1,

    I would agree with you assessment. This is by no means the first time Liberals/LibDems have found themselves lagging in the polls and it won’t be the last. There is far too much reliance put on party leaders and parliamentary activity when what is of concern to most people is what is happening in their particular local community.
    We already know what will happen to the Libdem vote in Scotland and Hartlepool next week Far more important for the long-term future of the party are areas’ like LibDem controlled Cornwall Council where renters are facing a housing crisis https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornwall-reacts-housing-crisis-facing-5137845
    Modern day Communitarianism is the idea that human identities are largely shaped by different kinds of constitutive communities (or social relations) and that this conception of human nature should inform our moral and political judgments as well as policies and institutions. We live most of our lives in communities. Those communities shape, and ought to shape, our moral and political judgments and we have a strong obligation to support and nourish the particular communities that provide meaning for our lives. It is a philosophy which takes the common good of the political community as its first object of concern and is entrenched at the local level.

  • Barry Lofty 29th Apr '21 - 5:25pm

    Reading the replies on this site I am coming to the realisation that my wife is correct in continually informing me that all politicians from all party’s are a waste of time and not to be trusted, but I still dislike BJ intensely so perhaps that will have to be enough to keep me interested?

  • Glad to see Michael 1 elaborate well on my point about campaigning outside Parliament. Joe Bourke seems to agree, though I think it is far more than just campaigning on local issues. Spreading our message among the people about national issues is vital too.

  • Laurence Cox 29th Apr '21 - 6:56pm

    @David Raw

    If you are going to attack me, at least have the decency to spell my name correctly; I am no apologist for Nick Clegg as you seem to think. I shouldn’t have to remind you that certain Liberal MPs from your time engaged in behaviour that even then was criminal, notably Jeremy Thorpe and Cyril Smith. Unlike you, I don’t look back on the past with rose-tinted spectacles.

  • Are you suggesting I approve of those two characters when I warned the original poster not to throw stones in glass houses, Mr Cox…….

  • Roger Billins 29th Apr '21 - 8:02pm

    I go back to 1974 and seen all sorts of Liberal/ Lib Dem f..k ups but we really must stop kicking ourselves for the 2010 example-2019 was even worse !

  • John Marriott 29th Apr '21 - 9:13pm

    For my experience – perhaps not the length of David Raw’s – people will vote for you in local elections if you ARE local and have not been parachuted in and if you are proactive rather than just reactive and ABOVE ALL you don’t just rock up at election time. The trouble is that that it’s bloody hard work, which. If you are a family man can make you look very selfish. Succeeding at a higher level is a different matter. So much depends on getting it right at that level. I am as frustrated as Roger Billings appears to be at some of the ‘f..k ups’ in recent years.

    FPTP means that there is probably room for only two ‘main’ parties in the English political system.The identity of one may change but the other, namely the Conservative Party, seems able to adapt to all circumstances. Only a change in the voting system might create the space for alternative parties to muscle in. However, that probably means permanent coalitions that will require compromise, something that appears to be anathema to most LDV contributors.

  • @Roger Billins. No 2019 was not worse than 2010-2015.

    In 2019 (shockingly awful as that campaign and ‘strategy’ was) we actually did increase our national vote share although we ended up down one MP net and largely relegated to being a southern region niche Party at national level. In 2015 our vote share was cut by two thirds, our MP’s slashed from 57 to 8 and our credibility trashed for a decade and only just starting to inch back. We were also destroyed at every level in the elections of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 -whereas in 2019 we had good local election results and may well do so again next week.

    2010-2015 was a Tsunami of destruction on the (relative) scale of the early 1920’s self destruction of the Liberal Party.

  • Roger Billins 30th Apr '21 - 8:29am

    @paulholmes Strangely I wasn’t talking just about the GE but the handling of Brexit through the summer and autumn. We were putting the coalition behind us with huge victories in the Euro and local elections in the Spring. We eschewed the possibility of a soft Brexit in parliament and went all out for a hard remain and instead got a hard brexit. There was misjudgment after misjudgment and I know from talking to local activists that many feel betrayed. I suppose what I am saying is that 2019 put another nail in the coffin next to the nails already there. We can’t afford any more!

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 9:01am

    “We eschewed the possibility of a soft Brexit in parliament and went all out for a hard remain and instead got a hard brexit. ”

    Yes you did! We all got a hard Brexit.

    Many of us voted Leave because we weren’t happy with the direction of travel of the EU. We didn’t want the “ever closer union” that, ultimately, can only mean one thing. We were sort-of-OK with the old EEC but didn’t like the last two big Treaties which effectively turned it into the EU. ie Maastricht and Lisbon. So we wanted to step aside from what the EU had become rather than sever all ties with it completely.

    Many of us didn’t expect that the Lib Dems and other Remainers would play their hand so badly that we’d end up with what we have now!

  • Russell Simpson 30th Apr '21 - 9:17am

    we don’t talk about Ed, Keir and Nicola so why Boris? I’m sure referring to Johnson as Boris only adds to the “he’s a lad” image that he exploits?

  • Russell Simpson 30th Apr '21 - 9:21am

    @ Peter Martin. There was only one opportunity to stop a hard brexit and that was in 2016 so thanks for that

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Apr '21 - 9:28am

    Russell Simpson

    So those indicative votes were what then?

    Remainers had every chance to get together around some formula and blew it. Apparently they couldn’t even organise sufficiently to hold a run off vote.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 9:45am

    @ Russell,

    “There was only one opportunity to stop a hard brexit and that was in 2016”

    You must know from the arithmetic of the various Parliamentary votes that this simply isn’t true. Lib Dems and the ERG were voting in the same lobbies to reject such sensible proposals as staying in the Customs Union (at least for a period of time) for entirely different reasons.

    Going back to 2016, I didn’t think Leave would win but voted Leave in the hope or expectation that a high Leave vote would send a signal in the EU. It was impossible to foresee the circumstances that led to the situation we have now.

    At one time I did argue we should have a short sharp ultra hard no-deal Brexit, to be followed by negotiations afterwards, This was not because I wanted no-deal but because it was obvious that the negotiations weren’t mainly about securing the best deal possible. They were, on the EU’s side, about trying to reverse the 2016 vote. The Lib Dems played the same high stakes game in Parliament and lost badly. We all did.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Apr '21 - 9:58am

    Peter Martin

    Blame on the EU side largely rests with whoever decided to establish a treaty right with no mechanism to reify it.

    Blame on the UK side largely rests with those MPs who voted to trigger A50 and who then subsequently voted against May’s deal. Funnily enough Boris Johnson is not on that list.

    This idea that Remain can’t possibly be expected to come together on an alternative because ERG is pure deflection.

  • @Everyone: Please, DON’T CALL HIM “BORIS”.
    @Roger Billins: It’s debateable whether we could have achieved a “soft Brexit” in the 2017 Parliament. In any case, to have abandoned our opposition to Brexit to pursue a soft Brexit would have been seen by our new supporters as a betrayal on the scale of Tuition Fees, and would have come back to bite us at the next election, whenever that might have been.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Apr '21 - 10:31am

    Alex Macfie

    Suppose the 2017 Parliament had been sensible (I know, but hear me out) and had run off indicative votes and that the EEA or similar had become the de facto alternative.

    Would that have been acceptable to you given the alternative? To be clear here I mean you personally – not some hazy ‘new supporters.’

  • Jayne mansfield 30th Apr '21 - 10:38am

    I am afraid that this article is a wonderful example of the reason why Johnson and the current excuse for a Conservative party still have a majority. Divide and rule, it works every time for every occasion, Brexit, the increasing impoverishment of powerless people who cannot defend themselves against crony capitalism.

    @ Nigel,
    The success of the vaccination programme is not down to ‘Boris’ but to the NHS that he has been quietly privatising, and to the multitude of volunteers who have demonstrated that there is such a thing as society.

  • John Marriott 30th Apr '21 - 10:45am

    Please, let’s NOT revisit Brexit again. You know what it does to Peter Martin when the ‘B’ word is mentioned!

    Actually, when I wrote my last post, I was actually thinking of Paul Holmes from Chesterfield, so I’m glad he has seen fit to respond. I am reminded of that ‘Wayne’s World’ slogan: “We are not perfect!” when I think of Paul’s career. Like me, he started out in teaching before becoming a councillor. Unlike me, he climbed to the top of the political hill, although he has slipped down a little since then. Unlike me also, he had the good fortune to live in an area where Liberal Democracy was able to thrive. And he’s still pushing that stone up the hill. If anyone has the T shirt, Paul clearly does. So, when he opines, all you armchair pundits ought to listen!

    As he says, while the national picture may be dire, the local picture may be less so, depending whether or not you have a strong base. We proved that in North Hykeham for many years until old age and mortality defeated us, together with an inability to recruit and the inability of our Constituency Parties to copy what we did.

    I wish Paul and his team every success next week. Unfortunately I fear there won’t be much, if any, of that for the party around here.

  • John Marriott 30th Apr '21 - 10:47am

    Sorry Paul. I goofed again, That ‘Wayne’s World’ quote should have been “We are not WORTHY “!

  • Jayne mansfield: EXACTLY!!!

  • There is a fondness for reminiscing and questioning what might have been if things had been done differently on LDV – so I am surprised that no one has taken the opportunity to respond to the question I asked in my last post [Ed Davey – Clean up our air to save lives].

    “If Jo Grimond were Lib Dems leader today – would the gunfire he encouraged the Party to march towards be the Climate Emergency”

  • I think many will disagree with the view that the success of the vaccination programme is not down to ‘Boris’. The NHS have been great all through the pandemic and the volunteers who have helped with the vaccination programme have been fantastic. That said the government’s procurement of vaccines was as good (if not better) than anywhere in the world. Credit where credit is due the Tory government has done a great job on providing the vaccines. If the Lib Dems deny that they will just sound silly and bitter.

  • @Jayne mansfield (& @Barry Lofty): Johnson’s 2019 victory was won on the back of people switching from Labour to the Tories mainly in the Red Wall. This was a direct result of Labour’s ineptitude as an opposition, and for this Labour has only itself to blame; it certainly cannot blame the Lib Dems, who in those seats mainly took votes that would otherwise have gone to the Tories. The idea that the Lib Dems trying to be a more effective opposition than Labour would hand victory to the Tories is an attempt to deflect responsibility for Labour’s own ineffectiveness.
    The Tories are not popular everywhere in the country, whatever the polls say. They certainly aren’t in London. Next week could see the Tories gain Hartlepool from Labour in the Parliamentary by-election, while getting their worst ever results in the London Mayoral and Assembly elections.

    @Little Jackie Paper: Your question is moot as the indicative votes weren’t binding, so there was never a vote on a choice between Soft Brexit and No-Deal Brexit. The Johnson administration was never going to allow a soft Brexit. The only way it could have happened was by a change of government, and that was scuppered by Corbyn’s refusal to step aside for someone less divisive to head a GNU.

  • @Paul Holmes

    um…. it is good that you are reporting good canvass results but it’s likely that overall we will (possibly quite substantial) net losses.

    In the polls, compared to 2016, there is a swing of 3.5% from us to the Tories – putting any seat where we have a majority of less than 7% over them under threat. And compared to 2017,no swing.

    Compared to 2016, there is a swing of 1.5% from us to Labour. 2017: 3.6%.

    There are two slightly unknown factors – neither I would suggest are particularly helpful to us

    Firstly the demise of UKIP/Brexit Party/Reform UK.

    UKIP was on 16% in 16 and 8% in 17 compared to about 2% for Reform UK now. It’s uncertain exactly what the UKIP vote will do in local elections but are likely to break more heavily for Tories and to a degree Labour than us.

    And secondly the Green party.

    It is a little hidden but they are up from 3.7%/3.2% to 5.2% which doesn’t look much but is some 2/3rds increase in their vote. And Lib Dems may underestimate how well they are doing in their area.

    Now opinion polls are only blurry snapshots at one particular moment in time. And some people here don’t like them which is their prerogative but if you trust the stats on vaccination – it’s the same maths!

    And they’re national Westminster voting intentions. But in general they set the overall framework.

    The gory details.

    The opinion polls are the average for that year from the 1st April – you can do more fancy things – but you are likely to get pretty much the same result.

    Westminster voting intention
    Con: 42.6% Lab: 34.3% LD: 7.4% SNP: 4.6% Green:5.2% Others: 5.9%
    (Note: Reform UK is getting about 2% in the polls and is including in the others)
    Con: 45.5% Lab: 27.1% LD:10.3% SNP: 4.6% Green:3.2% Others: 1.6% UKIP: 8.0%
    Con: 34.7% Lab: 32.2% LD: 6.4% SNP: 5.7% Green:3.7% Others: 1.2% UKIP: 15.9%

    Compared to 2017:
    Con: -2.8% Lab: +7.2% LD: -2.8% SNP: 0.0% Green: 2.0% Others: +4.3% UKIP: -8.0%
    Compared to 2016:
    Con: +8.0% Lab: +2.1% LD:+1.0% SNP: -1.0% Green:+1.5% Others: +4.6% UKIP: -15.9%

    Swing from LD
    to Con – compared to 2016: 3.5%
    to Con – compared to 2017: 0%

    Swing from LD
    to Lab – compared to 2016: 1.5%
    to Lab – compared to 2017: 3.6%

    Swing from Lab
    to Con – compared to 2016: 3.0%
    to Con – compared to 2017: 5.0% (i.e. a swing to Lab)

    (There may be some rounding errors)

  • John Marriott 30th Apr '21 - 12:59pm

    It’s blindly obvious why Johnson and his Brexit Tories won in December 2019. Given ample opportunities to get their act together the opposition parties failed lamentably and allowed themselves to get suckered into having a General Election. As far as the position of Prime Minister was concerned, which is all most people think of when putting their cross on the GE ballot paper, for Michael Foot in 1983, read Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”!

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 1:02pm

    @ Alex Macfie,

    ” Johnson’s 2019 victory was won on the back of people switching from Labour to the Tories mainly in the Red Wall. This was a direct result of Labour’s ineptitude as an opposition, and for this Labour has only itself to blame; it certainly cannot blame the Lib Dems”

    The Labour victory of 2005 was achieved with just 35% of the vote. The Lib Dems took 22% then. So these figures show that Labour can do well enough to win when the Lib Dems do well. The Lib Dems do matter after all! There are various theories to explain why the Labour and the Lib Dems didn’t do much better in 2017 and 2019. The usual one was that many voters would vote neither Labour nor LibDem with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. They had to vote Tory to keep him out. Hence the Labour Party had only to change to someone like Keir Starmer and the fortunes of both parties would dramatically and quickly improve.

    We’ll see what happens in Hartlepool but I don’t expect they will.

    The big issue in 2019 was Brexit and to a large extent it still is. It wasn’t much of an issue in 2017, though. Labour did well (40% vote share) with Jeremy Corbyn in charge. The feeling then was that the EU question had been decided in the 2016 referendum and the voters wanted to get back to other issues. Later events showed this wasn’t going to be possible and the question of EU membership was going to be a defining factor in voting patterns for many years to come.

    So we can expect Labour, and in places the Lib Dems, to do well in the Remain areas of the SE, like London, but they’ll both do badly in the more regional Leave areas like Hartlepool. In effect the Labour Party will have swapped Hartlepool for Hampstead. The Lib Dems Rochdale for Richmond. The problem is the losses far outnumber the gains.

    Consequently, there’s little chance of shifting the Tories for the foreseeable future.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Apr '21 - 1:10pm

    @Michael 1: Apart from ignoring the fact that national opinion polls tend to underestimate our mid-term electoral performance, your analysis assumes uniform national swing from 2016, and as I alluded to in an earlier post that is definitely not what is going to happen. As in 2019, the Tories are doing well in the Red Wall but are falling back in London and the South-east. Lib Dems will be the beneficiary of Tory failure where we are strong and well organised. As for the 57 varieties of Faragists, they were strongest in areas where we were weakest, so chances are their collapse won’t affect us as much as it will Labour.

  • @Malc

    People are differentiating between the vaccination programme and the handling of Covid.

    More people according to Ipsos Mori think that Johnson has handled covid badly (46%) than well (42%).

    But 88% think the Government is doing a good job at “vaccinating people as soon as possible” against 10% badly.

    Vaccination so far may have prevented 6,000 deaths – sadly Johnson has “killed” 60,000 by his callousness and disregard for the science – so you pay your money and take your choice.

    And the litany of mistakes is quite substantial – too late into the first lockdown, PPE, too early and fast out of the first lockdown, not quarantining people coming from abroad, poor test and trace, poor NHS app, not supporting the cities and areas that were “hot spots” enough, not increasing sick pay enough so people didn’t self-isolate, dodgy contracts, refusing lockdowns in the autumn, too late lockdowning the third time – the list goes on.

    But yes – I think there is and will be some relief that vaccination has gone well and – while one has to cautious – that we are “over” covid and one can probably expect some “honeymoon” period – totally undeserved for Johnson and the Tories from the summer onwards for a while.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 1:45pm

    @ Michael1,

    To use the old cliché, there’s only one poll that matters. In 2017 it was Tories: 42.4% , Labour: 40% , Lib Dems: 7.4%

    So Labour under JC had a larger vote share than Labour under Tony Blair in 2005 or the Tories under David Cameron in 2010 and 2015.

    So 40% should be enough to win. But it wasn’t because the Lib Dems didn’t do what they needed to do by taking away enough Tory votes.

    So come on, Lib Dems, pull your socks up and start targeting those Tory voters again!

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 2:04pm

    @ Michael 1,

    “Vaccination so far may have prevented 6,000 deaths….”

    Any reference to support that assertion?

    Even if it’s true, the figure that matters will be the number of lives saved already plus those still to be saved in the months and years to come. On the basis that we’d have at least the same numbers of deaths again as we’ve seen up to March this year when the effect of the vaccines started to become apparent that will be at least 125,000 and probably many more if the virus continued to work its way through the entire population. It would have got to us all in the end!

    It sounds like you’re rather disappointed that Boris has had a stroke of ill deserved luck. But better that than many more months of lockdowns and deaths.

  • @Alex Macfie

    I appreciate your points.

    But we (& the others) tend to outperform/underperform the national opinion poll ratings by fairly consistent amounts.

    That’s if we are on 10% in the national polls we get 18% in the locals, 12% nationally, 20% in the locals and so on. So – with some caveats – the swings in the national polls tend to transfer over.

    We *might* outperform our national rating by more than normal but it doesn’t really happen and indeed 2016 and 2017 were probably at the top end of our local outperformance.

    The point on London is well made – there is just one problem – there are no councillors (except for a few by-elections) up for election!

    Our rating is promising in London – and it is likely that we will move ahead of the Greens in the Mayoral and GLA elections. I haven’t done the numbers but at a guess we will gain 1 GLA member.

    The point about overall swings is that they are indeed that – and there are areas where we may do better or worse – but they average out.

    There are a lot of flows between parties but the key point is that the Tories will be substantially boosted by inflows of UKIP voters even where UKIP had low votes.

    Indeed there is a point – as we know – in FPTP elections when you begin to rack up more gains proportionally in seats than your vote goes up proportionally & that tends to be when your share goes above about 40%. So it’s likely on the 2016 seats the Tories will rack up gains. On their 2017 seats it looks as if they will make losses as they were doing well in 2017 (and the Corbyn bandwagon was yet to roll) and there is a swing to their main opponents – Labour.

    We will need some exceptionally good spinning – we didn’t do well in 2017 when the overall message coming from our representatives in the media was that they were “patchy”.

    Ed (in particular) though did a brilliant job in 2019 claiming that they were our “best ever” local election results – they weren’t but they were good in terms of gains – mainly because we had done atrociously in 2015!

    We need to watch and spin the results in our top target parliamentary seats – and we may well be to claim that we “won” them based on the local results in them – especially as we may be able to squeeze the Labour vote and minimise the Green vote.

    I suspect there will be something in the results for all the parties! And as they cover two baseline years they will be quite difficult to interpret.

  • @ Michael 1. “We need to spin the results…….”

    Why not just tell the truth ?

    The party already has a reputation for saying one thing and doing another, why should you compound that reputation by “spinning” the truth ?

  • @Peter Martin

    “Vaccination so far may have prevented 6,000 deaths….”

    Any reference to support that assertion?


    I made a mental note of the time but didn’t actually note where it came from – and I think it was in a Government briefing – it was certainly from an authoritative source.

    I think that JVT in (? the most recent) briefing noted that virtually all the reduction in deaths and cases so far has come from lockdown.

    You also can’t save a life twice. So lockdown may have prevented a case entering a care home but now once they have been vaccinated (most of) the residents happily wouldn’t die.

    There are two ways to save lives – to lockdown until you get to near-zero cases (and quarantine everyone coming from abroad) or to vaccinate everyone. It might have escaped your notice but no-one is dying in New Zealand and Australia although they haven’t vaccinated many people because they lockdowned until they got to zero cases.

    I am NOT disappointed that Johnson has had a stroke of luck – I am annoyed that he caused at least 60,000 deaths through his callousness and disregard of science.

    Of course as we head up towards more than 90% vaccination rates – that will stop covid (bearing any unforeseen nasty variants) cold stone dead in its tracks. At the moment – cases are flat rather than going down. The “natural” R rate may at the moment be 1.5 (as it was roughly when we came out of lockdown last time) and roughly 50% have had one dose that prevents 50% of transmission. You need the effective vaccination transmission prevention to be above (1-(1/R)) to reduce transmission or 33% with an R of 1.5 – 50% x 50% is 25% – so we are not quite there yet but we will be soon. If we have a “natural” R of 3 which it in March 2020 then you need an effective vaccination of 66%.

    It is good that we have vaccinated quicker – although actually countries such as Germany are catching us up now particularly as they are doing second doses sooner and they are likely to only finish a couple of months later than us and so far have had far, far fewer deaths.

  • The electoral landscape has changed significantly since the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the rise of Plaid Cymru in Wales.
    The Conservatives have a poor candidate in the London Mayoral elections and are unlikely to see much of a bounce in the city from the national poll ratings. That bodes well for LibDem members on the London Assembly. The Conservatives do appear likely to remain the main opposition in Scotland and Wales and perhaps entrench their support in the North.
    In local elections, here is an issue of some import for Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats and Environment Agency, Public Health England, Staffordshire County Council and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Councill to address https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/uks-smelliest-village-next-landfill-24013025
    In a statement https://www.newcastlelibdems.org.uk/2021/03/07/statement-about-walleys-quarry-from-cllr-marion-reddish/ Cllr. Marion Reddish bemoans the fact that this now become an election issue and folk are joining in on the band wagon, many of whom have been silent for years, but that is the nature of electoral politics and will no doubt be a factor in these elections.

  • David Raw
    @ Michael 1. “We need to spin the results…….”

    Why not just tell the truth ?

    The two are not mutually exclusive! It just depends which elements you wish to concentrate on. And given your desire for the Lib Dems to do well I would have thought that you would support that. And it is a truth of politics that – especially for us – it’s a chicken and egg situation – we improve our vote share when have improved our vote share..!

    It was particularly frustrating that we called the 2017 local elections “patchy” when they were actually pretty good for us just ahead of General Election.

    As I said Ed landed a bullseye when we called our 2019 local election results the best ever – which was true if you looked at the number of gains.

    It may well be that if you add up our vote share in those particular seats that we are on track to win 30-40 parliamentary seats which would make us a significant force again in British politics. This might not be initially apparent to the media (who are not our friends) – especially if we make net losses in councillors.

    It’s also the situation in London as pointed out – may be one of reasonable strength for us but actually may look pretty much one of no change as no councillors are up for election and the GLA numbers will stay relatively static (as the London wide list makes them broadly proportional) and Khan will win the Mayoral election. But actually if we are going up and the Tories down that brings into play several extra parliamentary seats for us. And we should point that out.

  • @Peter Martin

    Well – that’s one way to put it – but as you know in FPTP you have to beat your principal opponent and if you come second – you um.. come second as the Tories did to Blair in 2005.

    But as you point out JC could have deprived the Tories (well the Tories and the DUP) of a majority by urging Labour voters to vote Lib Dem in Tory/Labour marginal – or indeed not standing Labour candidates in those seats (even if there some argument as to how much that works….) so it was up to him. Just think he could have been Prime Minister…!

  • @ Michael 1. If Sir Edward ‘hit the bulls eye’ in May 2019, what effect did it have, and why were the results in December, 2019 so awful ?

    The public aren’t daft and see ‘spin’ for the vacuous froth it is. If anything it loses votes and people say, ‘there they go, telling porkies again’.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 3:37pm

    @ Michael1,

    “It might have escaped your notice but no-one is dying in New Zealand and Australia …..”

    No but It might have escaped yours that it is very hard to get in and out of both countries. Even Aussies who are stranded over here can’t get back home. I’m not sure we would able to do that with our own Nationals and nor should we want to. There are very foreign trucks on Aussie and NZ roads. They don’t have RO-RO ferries and foreign drivers like we do. The distances are much greater so that wouldn’t make sense. If we’d banned foreign drivers, Ireland would have kicked up a fuss. The situation in Australia and NZ isn’t comparable with the UK. The UK is an international travel hub. They can seal their borders much more easily than we can.

    Their problem will be re-opening them again. The population are more vaccine sceptical, especially as there is no pressing urgency for many, and it’s going to be difficult for the Aussie and Kiwi Govt to achieve the 70% or so double vaccine coverage they’ll need to prevent a Covid outbreak once they do re-open.


  • Alex Macfie 30th Apr '21 - 3:42pm

    @Peter Martin: “So 40% should be enough [for Labour] to win. But it wasn’t because the Lib Dems didn’t do what they needed to do by taking away enough Tory votes.”
    The principal reason why we didn’t take enough votes from the Tories (in both 2017 and 2019) was fear of Jeremy Corbyn as PM causing many soft Tories to stick with the “devil they knew”.
    And the suggestion by @Michael 1 that he could have “urg[ed] Labour voters to vote Lib Dem in Tory/Labour marginal[s] – or indeed not [stood] Labour candidates in those seats” would have killed us by driving even more of our potential voters to the “safety” of the Tories, due to the perception of collaboration with JC.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 3:53pm

    @ Alex Macafie,

    Yes, I’m well aware of the ‘If-Jeremy-Corbyn-is-Labour-Leader-then-Many-Lib-Dems-will have-to-vote-Tory’ theory. I described it in my comment of 30th Apr ’21 – 1:02pm

    The thing is: I, and the pollsters, expect it won’t be any different now Keir Starmer is leader.

  • @Peter Martin

    Well – actually as I understand people are banned at the moment from leaving this country (except for permitted reasons) and people entering have mandatory quarantine – and that has to be in a hotel from a “red list” country.


    Given that we have this quarantine now and we have been lockdowned for three months – it’s disappointing that we didn’t do both the quarantine and the lockdown at several points when it would saved tens of thousands of lives, meant a shorter lockdown and less damage to the economy – but hey that’s the choice Johnson made – completely in the face of science, medical experts and his health secretary – and to govern is to choose….

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Apr '21 - 4:24pm

    Peter Martin

    Worth adding, and under reported in the news. There were no direct flights from Wuhan to NZ. That alone probably bought them months.

    NZ has played the cards it was dealt very well but it was dealt the best possible cards.

    If Ardern had been UK PM I suspect the outcomes would not have been all that different. The more interesting question is how we so unquestioningly allowed ourselves to be led by the nose by the CCP. But I know some people really want to avoid that discussion.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 4:33pm

    @ Michael,

    The evidence was that Covid was in the country as early as January 2020 if not previously. There was no call as far as I remember for the type of lockdown you describe and which would have been necessary for a successful elimination strategy. It is possible that it was also in NZ and Australia at the same time. However, we were in winter with our closed windows and poor general ventilation. I never liked modern trains for this reason. You can’t get any fresh air in the carriages.

    The Aussies were in summer and the virus wouldn’t have been able to spread anywhere near as easily. So, again the situations aren’t comparable. The only place in Europe I can think of which might be is the Isle of Man. This is an interesting exception but they are a special case. Even so they’ve had their problems. A few weeks ago their case numbers were rising fast even though their vaccination rates were similar to the UK. It’s good they have since brought the situation under control.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '21 - 5:21pm

    @ Alex Macfie,
    In my opinion John Marriott is absolutely correct. And as far as I remember, the Liberal Democrats and SNP thought they would do well in an early election to be held on 9th December. This at a time when Labour were dragging Jeremy Corbyn to a position where a second referendum should be held. All polling in that year showed that most Labour members 80% and Labour voters 70% were anti Brexit and there were moves towards balloting members on this . Several campaigns including the left wing, Another Europe is Possible, were working towards that end.

    I am sorry for using the B word Mr Marriott, it is the least impolite B word I can think of when lockdown ennui has me occasionally reading articles on Liberal Democrat Voice. It is shame really because it could all have been so different.

  • @David Raw

    “. If Sir Edward ‘hit the bulls eye’ in May 2019, what effect did it have”

    A very clear effect – we did spectacularly well in the European elections that followed. And remember at that time people were saying on LDV that we would do so badly in them that we need to have a joint list for the Euros with the Greens and Change UK.

    Indeed I met with quite considerable derision on LDV at the time when I said I thought we would do well in the locals and come second in the Euros.

    Clearly we then made mistakes in the autumn and winter of 2019. But doing well – and as importantly being seeing to do well in the 2019 locals (and as I say we did well in the 2017 locals but weren’t seen to do well) was a necessary step if not unfortunately sufficient….

    Equally I seem to remember that the 2018 local elections were seen as a bit of disaster for Labour because they didn’t manage to take Westminster and Kensington councils in London – despite the fact they got 3.1 million votes in those local elections to the Tories’ 2.4 million.

    The public aren’t daft and see ‘spin’ for the vacuous froth it is. If anything it loses votes and people say, ‘there they go, telling porkies again’.

    Of course I am not advocating telling porkies. And it is a valid point that you can over-egg the pudding. But equally the electorate will take what the parties say and dial them down a notch – so if a party says they were “great” then probably people will think they were good and so on. And unfortunately in 2017, they got the message from our own representatives that the results were poor (when they weren’t) and that set us off on the wrong foot for the general election…

    If we can begin to get a narrative to roll that we are on course to pick up 30,40, 50 parliamentary seats from the Tories then our momentum begins to roll and we become more newsworthy, get more media coverage etc. etc. – and sadly yes that is necessary but not sufficient we can always blow it again….

  • @Peter Martin

    TVM your comment. But you misunderstand me.

    I’m not referring to the situation before March 2020.

    And the 60,000 deaths I would lay at Johnson’s door relate to decisions that he took after October 2020.

    Germany did though lockdown 2 weeks earlier than us in March 2020 and had half as many deaths as us in that first wave & it’s likely that we could have halved our death rate then if we had locked down earlier. It’s also something of a puzzle why we didn’t have the same quarantine rules for those coming from abroad from March 2020 as we did in 2021. But I think you can at least understand Johnson claiming that he deserved some leeway then as covid was new and we were somewhat blind to the extent of covid – although that was partly our own fault by not getting testing going as quickly as countries like Germany.

    The issues for me firstly to the easing of the first lockdown in July/August 20. It would have been better to have continued that lockdown until we had got to (near) zero cases. Tough granted but that’s what leadership is about it. And that’s what happened in New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. It is a bit like bush fires – you can put the fires out quickly and effectively if there just a few one-off fires – but you can’t if there is a general smouldering. For example, South Korea had one case in a nightclub in Seoul after having none and shut down all the night economy venues there. Australia has had a few localised outbreaks after having none and has completely shutdown that locality and restricted travel to/from the affected state. You just can’t do this if you have tens of thousands of cases a week in the country.

    A few more weeks lockdown in Summer 2020 would have prevented many more weeks later on and many thousands of deaths.

  • Continued…. (Sorry!)

    But if you have an R rate of 1.4 which we had in Aug/Sept 2020 you will get a doubling every 10 days – 2 weeks and it will double again & again & again… 4x, 8x, 16x…. until you lockdown again. If you get to (near) zero then 4x, 8x, 16x zero is still zero! And we also knew that the transmission was going to increase in the autumn – because as you say we move inside and the start of the school year means new groups of children and new groups of adults are mixing that didn’t before – leading to potentially new transmission routes.

    But arguably Johnson can claim some leeway even at this point. What I do think was unforgiveable was to postpone lockdown in October 2020 going against his own medical experts and health secretary. As I say every 10 days to 2 weeks of delay means a doubling of the number of deaths. And what was also unforgiveable was to release the restrictions in early December. On 1st November there had been 47,600 covid deaths – as of today there have been 127,500 – I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Johnson could have prevented 60,000 of those 80,000 deaths if he had taken different decisions in the last quarter of 2020.

    He governed, he chose, he should now be held accountable for those choices.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '21 - 9:12pm

    @ Michael 1,

    I think you’re probably right that the autumn 2020 lockdown should have been earlier and stricter than it was. The schools shouldn’t have reopened in Sept for example. But there weren’t many saying this at the time. The lockdown, when it did occur, wasn’t observed as well as the Spring lockdown. The levels of traffic on local roads was a good indicator of that. I’m not sure what the scientific advice was at the time. It would have been possible for BJ to find a range of opinion and choose the one which he liked best.

    But even if we’d done all that, we could never hope to emulate the Asian countries or the Australasian ones. It was too late by then. Once the virus had taken hold to that extent there was no getting rid of it. No European country has got it completely right. Macron should have had a lock down much earlier this year too. Then there’s the overall EU cock-up on vaccine procurement. That doesn’t get much of a mention on LDV.

    I’m not sure what it is about BJ but I find it hard to dislike him anywhere near as much as I disliked Thatcher. I do try! This hard-to-explain factor is what keeps him going strong in the polls. Ardent Remainers won’t feel the same. They hate him because of Brexit! I suspect this is what drives much of the Covid criticism. Nicola Sturgeon gets a much better rap but her policies aren’t too much different.

    It’s a bit early to be having an inquest into what went wrong. The crisis isn’t over yet so we won’t be able say how well, or otherwise, we’ve done until at least this time next year.

  • @Peter Martin

    What people were saying – Starmer, medical experts, Matt Hancock as Health secretary at the time was the lockdown that came at the beginning of November should have come (at least) two weeks earlier when there was the school half-term.

    On the 15th Oct there were 140 deaths a day, by 1st Nov there were 335 deaths a day & by 26th Nov they plateaued for a while at about 460 & were beginning to head down thanks to the November lockdown. If we’d continued the lockdown at that point – rather than waiting until January they’d have most probably headed down – may be gently. Instead we didn’t and they peaked at 1283 on 19th January. That’s a lot of deaths – very sadly! And remember effectively for every death going up the curve – there’s another one as it were on the other side of the curve.

    I’m NOT laying the deaths in the first wave in Spring 2020 or the increase in deaths between the ending of lockdown and the middle of October at Johnson’s door – there is some mitigation – although I do think he could’ve done very significantly better. But I am laying (some of) the deaths after the middle of October at his door – particularly as he ignored advice, should have figured out how things worked by then & just, it seems, got into a teenage strop about it.

    It is as I have said simply a question of maths if you have a R rate above 1 – 1.4 say – the cases are going to double every 10-14 days or so – and that will be 4, 8, 16,32, 64, 128 times the initial amount and indeed you have to go down the other side of the curve as well…

    I agree with you about Johnson – he’s very intelligent & has worked out that it is better to endear yourself to people than impress them with your intelligence. Hence the deliberately messy hair. Apparently at Eton he would engage in a hilarious dialogue with the prompter which ruined the play but had his fellow pupils in fits of laughter. He may have fashioned a persona to banish the “nasty tory boy” image but he has also been in league with & kowtowed to the Tory hard right – the ERG and CRG.

    I fear Maggie would have been better than Johnson – she had a science background like Merkel & would have applied herself to the science, understood it & made better decisions.

    Sadly BJ has proved himself brilliant at politics but to the detriment of the country bad at Government – viz his disastrous time at the Foreign Office & now taking the wrong decisions on Covid.

  • Peter Martin 1st May '21 - 9:32am

    @ Michael1,

    I think you’re right that lockdown should have started in October rather than November last year. But there wasn’t much being said to that effect at the time. We were all guilty of some wishful thinking at the time.

    This was what was being said, at the time, on LDV

    “Lockdown doesn’t work”

    “The second wave is less deadly”

    “Excess mortality is not occurring in the current outbreak of infection”

    Looking through my own comments on this posting, I was one of the more cautious ones who disagreed with all this nonsense. I was predicting that the second wave would be as bad as the first. I was wrong about that! It was significantly worse.

    You made a couple of comments yourself. But I don’t see where you were calling for another hard lockdown. You did say:

    “… we are now where we are and an indeterminate lockdown is probably unrealistic”

    That was my view too, at the time, but that was what we should have done.

    So I would say we are basically in agreement about what we should have done but I’m really not sure it makes any sense to lay all the blame on politicians. Even Tory ones. They can only do so much and what the mood of the country will allow them to at the time.


  • Alex Macfie 1st May '21 - 1:48pm

    @ Michael 1: Another example of us spinning a good result as a disappointment, with rather more far-reaching consequences than the spin on the 2017 locals, was the 2005 GE.
    We went up from 51 to 62 seats, and gained 12 seats from Labour, making it the first GE ever in which we or our predecessor parties made substantial gains from Labour. Despite this respectable showing, senior party figures spun it as a “disappointing” result, because we had failed to fulfill totally unrealistic expectations about how many seats we could win from Labour. We made a net loss of 1 seat aganst the Tories, with swings and roundabouts, but we were fighting a Labour government so we were always going to have to take the fight to Labour. But the reality was we didn’t have many Labour-facing target seats, and winning 12 was therefore a very good performance. We were certainly never going to win upwards of 100 seats as some people in the party were saying we should have done. And of course, this “disappointment” in winning “only” 62 seats was part of the pretext for the Cleggite coup against Charles Kennedy,

    And the irony is that 2010 was a bone fide disappointment, because we not only failed to win the “hundreds” of seats that Cleggmania was supposed to deliver, but we actually had a net loss of seats (a “decimation” in the original sense of the word, because our seat tally went down by ~10%). Worse, we actually lost some seats to Labour, something that simply should not have happened in an election in which a Labour government lost power. Yet Clegg wasn’t forced out, because an accident of Parliamentary arithmetic propelled us into government, and his handling of our role as junior Coalition partner led to the decimation of our MPs in the modern sense of the word.

  • @Peter Martin

    The hindsight argument is fair – but we do pay our politicians to take the right decisions at the time & they get the blame if they don’t.

    I’m not blaming Johnson for the deaths caused by the delay in going into the 1st lockdown or by easing it too quickly in the summer – even if wrong & deserving of some blame – but for the resulting deaths is different given difficult decisions in unclear circumstances.

    But there were other decisions – not fully funding sick pay so people were reluctant to self-isolate & more that were wrong & could be seen to be wrong at the time.

    I disagree that the UK could not have taken the decision to lockdown for longer last summer until we got to near-zero cases as “western” democracies in the form of NZ & Australia did. Certainly it did call for toughness, leadership & guts by their PMs – sadly not qualities you would normally associate with Johnson!

    Actually by October – there were many people saying there should be a “firebreak” lockdown – not least his health secretary but also medical experts and Starmer. So BJ doesn’t have the excuse of people being “Captain Hindsight”.

    Perhaps luckily for me I didn’t comment much on LDV in the spring & summer last year!

    But on 23rd Oct 2020 I was advocating near-zero lockdowns- – as I put it “…earlier, harder & longer lockdowns have proved Better for the economy, Better for younger people, Better for people with diseases other than Covid.”

    On the length of an autumn lockdown partly because it was what was being discussed & I was arguing with someone against lockdowns – I was saying that if Johnson had at least taken the decision for a 2 week lockdown mid-October it would have a significant effect on the rise in deaths which were still yet to come at that point. I was right – sadly!

    An advantage of a lockdown that gets you to zero cases is that it is not indefinite lockdown. You might need restrictions on travel from abroad but not domestically as there is no covid risk.

    Sadly here & in other countries victory has been declared prematurely against covid. Winning one battle does not win you the war! As I put it on 23rd Oct – and if I might allowed to say so myself somewhat presciently (unfortunately) – “We didn’t stop making spitfires after we won the Battle of Britain. We knew the enemy would be back.”

    So sadly it proved!

    (Johnson may be should may be have actually have read his biography of Churchill!)

  • Coming back in on this discussion, my thanks to Michael 1 for adding detail to the littany of mistakes made by this government over Covid. That supports one of my main arguments of attack on the Conservatives that needs to be heard loud and clear over the coming months and years.
    Alex Macfie (April 30th at 1158) similarly seems to support us trying to be a more effective opposition than Labour, though can we hope that Labour would support us and follow our lead ?
    Jayne Mansfield (1038 on 30 April) puzzles me with her accusation that I am causing a divide in the opposition. On the contrary, we need to take a lead in campaigning around the country among the people, to improve the opposition to Government and that of course does not exclude working with other parties. As others have said, the point about the vaccination programme being a government success is open to opinion and like it or not, the general public see it as a huge positive for Boris Johnson. Hence the reason to focus on his many mistakes and deceptions in our campaigning; thereby eventually turning attention away from some people’s current feelings towards the deceptions and incompetence, as well as real right-wing aims of this government.
    I am surprised at the way this discussion has so hugely led to analysis of past election results; the points made are important, but at a tangent to my article.

  • @Alex Macfie

    Some good and interesting points. Thanks for making them.

    I hadn’t actually realised how far through the list of the few possible targets against Labour we got in 2005 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/gainsandlosses_ld.stm (that does by the way as it happens suggest that we had a net loss of 2 not 1 to the Tories – five losses and 3 gains).

    You might underplay how much Kennedy’s struggles with alcoholism played in the coup against him as leader but I guess that if (some) people hadn’t thought the 2005 General Election disappointing then it might not have happened.

    Whether the 2010 election was disappointing I guess depends where you start from – on just 17% at the dissolution of Parliament we would probably have settled for 23% at the election and arguably fairly limited losses to clearly recovering Conservative party and Clegg does deserve some credit for that – and especially of course his performance at the debates. I think by the way rather than “some” – in 2010 we had one loss to Labour (Chesterfield) and one “notional” loss (Rochdale) – but not to actually pick up more seats from Labour was disappointing.


    But a careful analysis of election results does repay itself and there are often quite a lot of portents of what is to come (often somewhat deeply) embedded in them and – to risk the wrath of David Raw – to ignore what the parties themselves say and indeed most pundits!

  • @ Michael 1. No wrath, Michael, just a gentle comment that very sadly Charles was no longer fit enough or reliable enough to continue to lead the party after 2005. We may grieve about it, and it was tragic, but it had to be done. If there was a coup by a certain element in the party it came later than then.

  • Peter Martin 1st May '21 - 11:24pm

    @ Michael 1,

    Maybe with different government we would have had a lockdown slightly earlier in October 2020 but the national mood was changing quickly at the time, You make the point that you were calling for a lockdown on the 23rd Oct. BJ announced one on 31st. Ok he was a week or so late. And you’re right that if cases are doubling in that timescale we can’t afford to be a week late.

    But even so I don’t believe that an earlier lockdown would have got us anywhere near “zero cases”. We’d have to have had much more draconian laws than the population would accept. We would have had to virtually seal the borders. There’d be no foreign lorries with their foreign drivers allowed on the roads. The Irish Govt would have to be part of the same plan or we’d have to close the Irish border.

    It wouldn’t be politically possible. The Australians, Japanese etc don’t have these same issues to contend with. So a direct comparison is not realistic.

  • @Peter Martin

    “Ok he was a week or so late.”

    Actually no – he was 3-4 weeks late.

    23rd October was only the date that I happened to respond to a (woefully inaccurate) article written on 22nd October

    He announced it on 31st October but it didn’t come in until 5 November.

    Starmer for example called for a lockdown on 13th October.

    And Sage had warned the Government on 21st September:” that the country faced a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences” unless it took urgent action and implemented the national measure [of a lockdown].”


    Northern Ireland introduced a lockdown from 16th October

    Wales introduced a lockdown from 23rd October.


  • @Peter Martin

    There is an interesting article on the Australian experience at:

    https://www.standard.co.uk/news/australia-covid-response-victoria-australia-lockdown-b920121.html by Richard Clover, an Australian journalist

    He starts by noting Australian bushfires are a “perfect training for COVID-19. Just one lit match, thrown into a dry paddock, and soon fire is everywhere. Like fires, pandemics grow exponentially. And, like fires, the best time to apply water is at the first sign of smoke.

    He also notes that while Australia may have differences – other countries that have those characteristics have suffered badly it is an island (so is Britain), it’s sunny (so is Brazil), it has wide-open spaces (it’s also one of the most urbanised countries)

    He notes they implemented an early, strict quarantine with no visitors from overseas and mandatory hotel quarantine for all citizens returning.

    In Australia, health is the responsibility of the individual states.

    In April in Melbourne, Victoria, he notes: “the virus escaped hotel quarantine… a blaze of new cases quickly took hold…. Victoria’s second wave appeared unstoppable. It peaked at over 700 new cases a day. And was then brought under control by one of the world’s harshest lockdowns. In Melbourne, locals spent 112 days under emergency rules, with a night-time curfew, closed schools, shuttered businesses, mandatory masks, a one-hour limit on outdoor exercise, and a ban on travelling more than a few miles from home. The borders to the rest of the country were also snapped shut.

    “The politician who mandated this harsh lockdown was the Australian Labor Party’s Daniel Andrews. He was quickly labelled “Dictator Dan” by the Murdoch press. Here’s the thing: the vociferous criticism failed to land. …”

    “…This willingness to be locked down is hardly surprising. An excess of caution has been our saviour.

    (my emphasis)

    In short an earlier, longer, harsher lockdown is the worst thing (for health, mental health, civil liberties, the young, children and their schooling etc.) until you consider all the other options.

    I’m against curfews but since January we’ve had very similar measures to Victoria & it too has brought the cases dramatically down – it is sad that it didn’t start at really the beginning of October after the SAGE report and there wasn’t the hiatus in December.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd May '21 - 9:57am

    @Michael 1: Nick Clegg was only good in the first debate of the 2010 election, and he proved unable to defend himself or the party against attacks in the right-wing press that followed that “I agree with Nick” debate. This was a manifestation of a fundamental problem with Nick that he was no good in the rough and tumble of politics. William Wallace’s concern that liberals are too “nice” might be aimed at him, always playing by Queensberry rules even when his opponents did not.
    CK was a street fighter prepared to take on opponents. NC was not; he was too elite, looked too much like an identikit Westminster politician.

  • Peter Martin 2nd May '21 - 10:11am

    @ Michael 1,

    I agree with the general thrust of your argument that we should have acted earlier and stronger than we did last year.

    The disagreement is:

    1) On what we should do now. Isolating ourselves from the ROW is neither desirable nor practical. Australia, NZ, Japan etc can’t stay isolated forever. They’ll have to open themselves up to the ROW and face life with the virus sooner or later. Eradication may have been an option in Spring 2020 but we missed our opportunity for that. The reason given then for lockdowns was to “flatten the curve” and ensure the NHS wasn’t completely overwhelmed as we are seeing in India now.

    I took the view that we were hanging on to do the best we could until vaccines became available. Thankfully the hard working scientists have done wonders. We are far too advanced with that policy to go back to what could have possibly worked if we’d done it in March 2020.

    2) The extent to which we should use mistakes on Covid policy as stick to beat Boris Johnson. You tell us when Wales and NI locked down. You don’t mention when Nicola Sturgeon ordered a Scottish lockdown. You don’t mention the cock-up of EU vaccine procurement policy. They were guilty of penny pinching and making the mistake of thinking the situation was well under control in the Summer of 2020. Just like Boris Johnson and many others did here too. Including many Lib Dems.

    So the desire to beat Boris Johnson isn’t motivated by any mistakes that he might have made on Covid lockdowns. There are other motivations. This is dangerous game to play and the voters will see through it.

  • Peter Martin 2nd May '21 - 10:57am

    @ Alex Macfie,

    Niceness doesn’t come into it. Nick Clegg’s fundamental problem was that he was too right wing.

    According to his Wiki entry: he said that he “regretted” not being able to keep his pre-election policy to scrap tuition fees but claimed that this was a result of the financial situation the country had found itself in. And On 19 September 2012, Clegg apologised, not for breaking his pledge, but for having “made a promise we weren’t absolutely sure we could deliver”.

    He can only have meant that he thought it was safe to make such a pledge because he thought Lib Dems wouldn’t ever be in a position to make good on it.

    He was fundamentally wrong to think that tuition fees couldn’t be afforded if there was insufficient taxation revenue to cover it. The macroeconomics works the other way around. It is when the economy is overheating and taxation revenues are high that spending needs to be cut, or taxation needs to be increased, to prevent inflation. The same thinking led to other cuts which simply depressed the economy needlessly, causing both the Lib Dems and EU to become unpopular. The Tories were smart enough to deflect the unpopularity that should have gone to them towards the EU.

    That wasn’t too difficult! The EU are run by a bunch of EuroTories so they make the same mistakes too, which increases their unpopularity needlessly.

  • James Fowler 3rd May '21 - 4:12pm

    Trying to leverage the deaths caused by COVID as political ammunition is both morally distasteful and pragmatically foolish – the virus isn’t over yet, and the full ramifications of all the policies choices made are far from understood. It maybe that in time the public will come to see the government’s response as inadequate – however, that is a view that I think they should reach for themselves (or not).

    It doesn’t help that the standard of argument in the COVID international comparisons debate is often abysmal. Data cherry picking and factual inaccuracies rub shoulders with sloppy, one-sided and wishful thinking – and that’s just the mainstream media.

    The ‘Boris Bad; Ardern Good’ trope is politically tired, objectively inaccurate and in any case subjectively undermined by the relative success of the vaccine roll out. Let it go.

  • @James Fowler

    I strongly disagree – it is a very important part of a democracy that its citizens can discuss important issues and hold their Government to account. Indeed not to allow it would be the worst form of dictatorial censorship. And leading this debate are the political parties. Not only is this important for democracy it means that ultimately better decisions are made.

    This important constitutional role is recognised by the tag “loyal” – its “her majesty’s loyal opposition”. Disagreeing is not disloyal, traitorous or unpatriotic – even if Governments claim that it is from time… Even at our most perilous hour during the Second World War we had a democratically elected parliament sitting.

    Of course opposition parties should be respectful of those that have lost loved ones and it probably benefits them not to indulge in over-gratuitous point-scoring. But there are a lot of issues that we argue over every day – the NHS, policing, whether our troops should be in combat zones or fighting wars like the Iraq war that involve people dying. It doesn’t diminish or question the bravery of those in all these services that put their lives on their line or those that have died from ill-health due to lack of money in the NHS or air pollution or not enough policing etc. etc.

    If Johnson thinks he has acted perfectly (or at least well) he should not be afraid to now have a public inquiry. This is what the relatives of those who have died from covid want. There is clearly now enough capacity in Government for it not to impact on services. And perhaps most importantly if we don’t we won’t be ready for the next pandemic which just might come sooner rather than later if nasty vaccine-resistant covid variants emerge.

    It may or may not be “Johnson good, Ardern bad” or vice versa. But we do need to learn why we have been one of the worst countries for deaths and economic damage and NZ one of the best. And as importantly we need to have a national conversation as to what measures we would accept when if it happens again.

  • @Peter Martin

    It seems that we are in a fair degree of agreement.

    “1) On what to do now.”

    I said the vaccine can now take over and that it “will stop covid (bearing any unforeseen nasty variants) cold stone dead in its tracks.”

    But consider what we would have done if the vaccine hadn’t come.

    There’s a debate but consider the maths – if we went back to an R rate of 1.4 – we would double every two transmission periods. And that would be 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, 32x. If you started at 1,000 (confirmed) cases At some point you would have to lockdown again as we did in November 2020 as 1,000 cases turned into 20,000 – the point at which we locked down. Far better to have those lockdown weeks at the end of one lockdown to get really, really low so that you don’t have to lockdown again.

    Now I don’t know what “really, really low” means but it probably 100s may be even literally to zero – rather than 1,000s – and you have then for example close the pubs even there is a single case in a town/city. You have to pour big buckets of water on each bushfire rather than let it smoulder.

    We are not good as humans of grasping exponential growth but 1 growing to 2 is the same effectively as 10,000 to 20,000. See the wheat on chessboard problem – just 1 ear of wheat on the first square of a chessboard grows to 1,000 times the entire world production of wheat by the 64th square. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_and_chessboard_problem

    And we would have had to have an effective quarantine system. It is more difficult in the UK with a lot of food etc. imported by truck. And you would have had to have very regular testing of truckers. But more generally you would have to had the current hotel quarantine system for those coming back from abroad.

    But as other countries got to zero cases you can – with caution – begin to have air corridors/travel bubbles with them

  • @Peter Martin

    On September/October 2020

    You maintained that no-one was saying that there should be a lockdown. As I pointed a lot of people were – BJ’s own experts on SAGE, Starmer, the FMs of Wales and NI ,even little old Michael on LDV! And yes Sturgeon was wrong not to lockdown then. And I think it’d have had widespread public acceptance – not everyone of course – as people by then understood about covid. And frankly you do as PM have to show some leadership!

    It’s thought Asian countries (inc. Aus) did well because they had had SARS before. We treated it initially as if it was flu not SARS. By September we should have realised it needed a different approach.

    On the EU and vaccines – they got it wrong – I’d be the first to criticise them for it. Although actually individual countries could also do their own deals as well (Germany did). And actually they are catching us up on vaccines – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/03/covid-vaccine-rollout-rapidly-gathering-pace-across-europe With Germany now vaccinating as many a day as us. Overall because they had far fewer deaths over the second wave, they have done better than us.

    Of course there are things that went well – furlough scheme (broadly in line with other countries, the nightingale hospitals (not actually needed in the end) – there were things that went badly – sick pay support, track and trace, quarantine… and the timing of lockdown.

  • Peter Martin 4th May '21 - 4:19pm

    @ Michael1,

    I don’t mind having a good discussion but please try to avoid misquoting me or putting words in my mouth. As in “You maintained that no-one was saying that there should be a lockdown”

    No. I didn’t. I did say “But there weren’t many saying this at the time”. A look at the comments on Geoff Crocker’s ill informed piece last October should confirm that. And the word “lockdown” was avoided. The Buzz term at the time from those few who were taking a more pessimsitic view was “circuit breaker”. The implication being that we could have short sharp break like a fuse blowing.

    There was hardly anyone saying the schools should be closed for example. That’s a lockdown. My view at the time, and said in the comments, was that everyone had had enough of lockdowns but there was going to be second wave over the winter which was as bad as the first. There weren’t many agreeing with me on that even though I admit I was being too optimistic too.

    I do understand exponentials BTW. I have a Physics degree. But there’s a bit more to the mathematics of pandemics than the doubling of grains of wheat on the squares of a chess board. Our ancestors would have all died of the plague if that had been the case!

    We were all generally too optimistic. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find someone somewhere who was spot-on . There’s always be someone who’ll get it right given the range of opinions out there at the time. I don’t see why you have a problem with that.

  • @Peter Martin

    “But there weren’t many saying this at the time”

    (sorry if I exaggerated what you said) – but this is not true – only SAGE, Matt Hancock, Keir Starmer and 68% of the public were saying this – so not many at all – NOT


    “Our ancestors would have all died of the plague if that had been the case!”

    Well actually a lot of our ancestors were killed by the plague! Up to 200 million in Europe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death

    Luckily covid “only” kills about 1% – 99% survive – but that still means it kills an awful lot of people!

    If you don’t stop the exponential growth – let’s consider when it will stop – herd immunity which was thought to be a minimum of 50% – 30 million – infected. That’s 300,000 dead – 50% above the normal yearly rate – in addition we would run out of ventilators, oxygen, health supplies and staff to cope so that number would be massively more – and in addition there would be thousands more dead from other diseases as the NHS stopped functioning…

    The point is that without vaccines you have at some point – by definition – to put in the weeks of lockdown. It is far, far better to do this as early as possible and couple it with an effective quarantine system so its not “re-seeded”.

    That Johnson did not do so shows in my opinion lack of leadership and strength and that he is not fit to be our prime minister… He seems more concerned as to what sort of wallpaper he should have on his walls…..

  • Peter Martin 5th May '21 - 8:42am

    @ Michael 1,

    “That’s 300,000 dead – 50% above the normal yearly rate……”

    I’d written it could be about 1% of the population or about 650,000 . As you say we’ve only kept it to 125,000 or so because the NHS has just about managed to cope and we haven’t seen patients die in hospital car parks because they haven’t been given any oxygen.

    We haven’t really had a full lockdown since the initial one was relaxed in the summer of 2020. We have had some restrictions which includes me not being able to go to football matches and the pub! But for most of the time children have been in school and many people who were either working from home during the genuine lockdown period, or as genuine as it would be possible to make it in the UK, have been back at work. There was noticeably little traffic on the roads last spring but there was much more in January this year when the Covid situation was markedly worse.

    So how much of this was due to Government and how much was due to our collective mood as a society that we just didn’t want the restrictions to be as tight as were probably necessary to put a serious dent in the Covid death numbers?

  • @Peter Martin

    “So how much of this was due to Government and how much was due to our collective mood as a society that we just didn’t want the restrictions to be as tight as were probably necessary to put a serious dent in the Covid death numbers.”

    Well it’s an interesting question and I was thinking about these aspects – what actually works and doesn’t in a lockdown. I think that quite a lot of it was due to lockdown. You can see the figures turn down a week or less after lockdown started.

    This is despite people probably being worried and modifying their behaviour at least a bit before lockdown came into effect. So reductions are definitely correlated with lockdowns being in place and you have to say there is likely to be a cause and effect. So it seems that they were doing something the day after the restrictions came into place that they weren’t doing the day before.

    The peaks in (recorded) number of cases were:
    9th April. Lockdown started 26th March (legally 28th)
    9th November. Lockdown started 5th November
    5th January. Lockdown started 4th January (but 20 million people in England went to Tier 4 on 31st December and Christmas might have caused a slight increase in transmission)

    “But for most of the time children have been in school”

    Schools (in England) were closed (except for children of key workers/vulnerable children) from 20th March 2020 to 1st June 2020 – when primary schools only re-opened for 3 cohorts only – reception, year 1, year 6 and then for both primary and secondary for the autumn term from September 2020.

    And they were closed again from beginning of January to 8th March.

    So actually in the 12 months from the 1st closure on 26th March in England they mostly have been closed – open just really 3.5 months – September – December 2020 and the (slightly) over 2 weeks in March 2021.


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