Syrian air strikes decision – stirrings of unhappiness in the party

The Independent on Sunday has pulled together a good number of quotes from party members who are not happy about the decision this week to support air strikes in Syria.

The report quotes Federal Policy Committee member Gareth Epps, who has written a critical piece on the Liberator blog entitled: “Is there any longer a point to the Liberal Democrats?”. The blog post includes this:

It seems Liberal Democrat MPs have learned nothing of the mistakes of action in Iraq and more recently Libya; nothing of their mistakes from the Coalition Parliament; and have understood nothing of the gaping chasm in opinion between them and the party members that have worked hard to get them elected. The reaction of those members – many of whom didn’t receive a single email from the party on how it would approach the issue – is of utter dismay.

It is no surprise so many party members are asking: what’s the point?

In the Independent report, Gareth is quoted as follows:

Gareth Epps, a member of the FPC who stood against David Cameron in Witney at the 2001 general election, said he is minded to let his membership lapse at the end of this year. He said: “For a party that has prided itself on enlightened scepticism of Western-led military adventurism, they [the Lib Dem leadership] seem to have suspended all critical faculties.”

The report starts with this summary:

Tim Farron is facing the first crisis of his leadership of the Liberal Democrats, as senior activists consider quitting the party over his decision to vote for air strikes in Syria.

Former MPs have also made it clear that they would have voted against the action, while members of the party’s powerful Federal Policy Committee (FPC) are angry that Mr Farron did not consult it about voting with the Government.

Many activists joined the Lib Dems because of the late Charles Kennedy’s opposition to the Iraq war in 2003 and were stunned when Mr Farron did not oppose air strikes against Isis in Syria. Mr Farron was one of the six Lib Dems who backed the attacks; only his former leadership rival, Norman Lamb, and Ceredigion MP Mark Williams voted against.

The report goes on to say:

The FPC meets this week, and several members want to discuss why it was not consulted thoroughly. Many also think that the party’s other most senior committee, the Federal Executive (FE), should have been better advised of Mr Farron’s thinking.

A FPC member said: “On an issue of this sensitivity and significance, Mr Farron should have consulted the party. The leadership should have spoken to the FE and FPC – after all, the FE got Charles Kennedy to go out on his finest hour, the march against the Iraq war.”

Mr Epps has also asked the FPC to discuss “the details within its remit arising from the Syria situation” at the meeting.

You can read the report in full here – it also has quotes from David Grace, Norman Baker, Andrew George, Julian Huppert, Stephen Lloyd.

My fourpenneth worth? I think we need to split this into two: (a) the decision and (b) how it was made and communicated.

(a) The decision.

I don’t agree with it, but I can see that there is a sheet of Izal toilet paper’s width between a “go” and a “no go” decision on this one. Tim explained the decision very well – very well indeed – in his email to members on the night of the decision. I respect his decision and that of five other MPs and some peers. I also respect the decision of Norman and Mark and the peers who were against. I don’t see this as a reason to despair or to be talking about tearing up membership cards.

(b) How it was made and communicated.

A total shambles. A complete unmitigated, chaotic, idiotic mess. The communication and non-consultation process could have been organised more effectively by Mister Blobby. The Five Tests were presented in such a way that it seemed we would not vote for air strikes. There was absolutely no forward indication of a “yes” vote, so that when it was eventually announced, by the former leader Nick Clegg on Sky News, for goodness sake, it looked like an inexplicable, mad U-turn. I lost count of the number of confusing briefings to the press about whether we would vote yes or no. At one point the BBC said no and Sky said yes. There were all sorts of messages about parliamentary meetings and when we would see a puff of white smoke indicating a decision.

Why the hell was there no decent communication of what was going on – to the membership?

At several points in the days running up to the decision, I imagined, because we had not heard from him on this subject, that Tim farron was crouched under his desk, with his arms wrapped around his knees, slowly rocking back and forwards and quietly sobbing. That’s what it seemed like.

I’d balance that by saying that MPs should make up their own minds on these decisions, so there is no actual need for consultation – but why advertise the five tests if you do not then keep the membership informed about the decision process to decide whether or not they have been passed?

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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51 Comments

  • Dave Orbison 6th Dec '15 - 9:34am

    Charles Kennedy did a great job for the Party and the country in standing up to the proposed action at that time . He was clear, consistant and principalled. As we now know he was also 100% correct. I fully agree with Gareth Epps and I’m afraid the LibDems are going down the same road as when they entered the Coalition. Judging by some of the contributions on LDV some are are making the same mistake again in how to deal with a decision that they dislike. Rather than speak out, some are choosing to accept ‘well it’s done know lets spin the decision and rationale’ as best we can. But that simply antagonises those who were minded to support the LibDems and are now put off. As for the communication with the party it seems nonexistent. Often I have seen LibDems scorn the lack of democracy in other parties. To his credit Corbyn consulted the membership not just a committee. I think Corbyn will be seen to be increasingly correct on this as was Charles Kennedy. I am not at all surprised “what’s the point?” is a question on the lips of some LibDems – apart from rhetoric and claims of abstract values, I really don’t see the point. [I say that with sadness as I’d prefer 3 not 2 political parties]

  • This feels like a reasonable article to me. It does/did feel like a mad U turn, and I still don’t think we were/are anywhere near the five tests so don’t understand why we mentioned them, etc.

    I’m very sad that people are so unhappy, though, and especially so many people I have lots of respect and affection for. 🙁

  • Mick Taylor 6th Dec '15 - 9:49am

    I totally oppose bombing in Syria and am very unhappy that a majority of our MPs voted for it. As a pacifist I am well used to people ignoring my views. In fact only once in my membership of the party (51 years and continuing) could I have said I was happy about a decision in this policy area made by our MPs and that was over Iraq. So I have had a myriad of times when I could have torn up my membership card or allowed my membership to lapse and I haven’t. I hope Gareth on further reflection will stay. I can think of ‘bomber Thorpe’ for example or the party supporting intervention in Libya as decisions with which I fundamentally disagreed.
    A Liberal Party is essential to the body politic and there is no other party that comes near in the UK except the Lib Dems.
    Having said that, I certainly have lost a great deal of faith in our new leader and his ability to consult properly with members. I wrote at least 2 emails to him on the issue of Syria and beyond an automatically triggered response I have yet to hear back from him. Had I even suspected that he might take this line, I would almost certainly not have voted for him as leader.
    What is now essential is that the party now takes a root and branch reappraisal of the way the leader and the parliamentary party seeks the views of the membership. The so-called reorganisation of the party at national level is clearly not fit for purpose as not only is it incapable of informing the leader of members’ views but by continuing the same old same old ways of fighting elections, it is doing the Lib Dem fightback no favours.

  • Tony Dawson 6th Dec '15 - 10:16am

    In one way, the decision required to be taken by our MPs was very urgent. In another way, we all knew what it was likely to be a good many weeks before it came, giving ample time for consultation if that was what the central Party and leadership were prepared or willing to do. So the lack of this discussion/consultation is of concern.

    What is perhaps causing the greatest distress within the Party is that most if us who saw Tim Farron’s ‘five factors’ for determining this decision felt, intuitively, as the Commons moved towards the debate, that we were nowhere near the position where those five factors could be objectively declared to have been met. We therefore thought it almost inevitable that our MPs would whip against approving the action. Not least because this action is precisely what ISIS appear to want us to do.

    Having listened to and read several of our MPs explaining how they arrived at their individual decisions, while I disagree with those decisions, I am more concerned with the lack of a widely-based serious discussion within the Party about this issue which to some extent, at least, determines the Lib Dem ‘position’ among a fair chunk of our ‘rump’ voters but, more importantly, is critical to the way in which things go globally. I do hope, though, that as strongly as people within the Lib Dems clearly do disagreewith each other at the moment on this decision, that we shall not descend into the insults and intimidation which appear to be pervading both Labour and Conservatives at this time – probably because, in both these parties, the decision appears to me to have been approached and taken, notwithstanding the rhetoric, on largely domestic political reasons rather than genuine international considerations..

  • Tony Dawson 6th Dec '15 - 10:21am

    “Simon Shaw :

    What I do know is that, thanks to Charles and the Iraq War issue, the Party gained a lot of votes post 2003 from people who could never be described as genuinely liberal or true Lib Dems and whom we were going to lose eventually.”

    With the exception of the occasional truly charismatic local or national leader, most voters for all the three main parties have no particular ideological basis and have not done so for decades. Hence the volatility of the electorate. Most people vote for the candidate (or sometimes the party) who is likely to stop the things happening that they fear will otherwise happen. There is a smaller ‘positive’ vote., So, whether particular groups of voters will stay with or desert political parties is largely down to the parties local and national teams. In Lib Dems’ terms, the local teams have been far more significant in these matters, even at the height of our relative national ‘success’ around the turn of this century. but far more so now.

  • Mark Wright

    But where is the ‘judgement’ in having five clear tests and then abandoning them?

    When the Foreign Affairs Committee talks about ‘bogus battalions’ and withdraws its support for bombing, a wise leader should be hearing very loud alarm bells.

  • @Dave Orbison
    “Charles Kennedy did a great job for the Party and the country in standing up to the proposed action at that time . He was clear, consistant and principalled. As we now know he was also 100% correct.”

    Actually Kennedy’s position in 2003 was not that dissimilar to Farron’s position on Syria. Far from being opposed to the war “on principle”, Kennedy offered to support it if four conditions were met, one of them being a new UN resolution (whereas Farron argued that his similar condition was already satisfied by an existing resolution). If Blair had got that resolution, Kennedy would almost certainly have voted for the war. And far from being proved “100% correct” in hindsight as you suggest, Kennedy conceded before the war that Saddam’s removal would make the world “a safer place” – his crystal ball was functioning no better than Blair’s.

    Kennedy was not opposed to the war under any circumstances as Lib Dems like to make out today. Those who were genuinely opposed to war, resolution or no, are distinctly unimpressed with Lib Dem claims to have “led” the anti-war movement.

  • The difficulty, as I have said before, is that I now do not know how to uphold my own integrity when asking people to vote Lib Dem.

    I do not believe the 5 tests were met. To me the parliamentarians said they would do one thing and they have done another. This is worse than coalition – where compromises were expected. This is the parliamentary party saying one thing and doing another of their own accord.

    And if they do it here, how can we trust they won’t do it elsewhere?

    If I can’t take the parliamentary party at its word myself, how can I have any kind of integrity when I ask people to vote for Liberal Democrat candidates (especially at Westminster elections)?

    I’m minded to agree with Gareth’s position – a very honourable one. I’ll think about all this more over the coming month, and then make up my mind.

  • I should add, re: communication, I still have not received any communication from the party explaining the vote – I’m only aware of what I read online. I did however receive, since the vote on air-strikes, a mail asking for donations for the Oldham by-election.

    I have complained about this lack of communication. I have of course heard nothing back.

  • A Social Liberal 6th Dec '15 - 11:14am

    Stuart said

    ” . . . . . his crystal ball was functioning no better than Blair’s.”

    Quite. Kennedy’s crystal ball couldn’t tell him that the US would employ a strategy of lowering troop levels to dangerous levels and then refusing for several years to raise those levels so that the US military could be effective against the Iraqi insurgency. Nor did it inform him of the premature draw down of the US and UK military, leaving Iraq with armed forces not sufficiently trained to counter it’s insurgency.

  • Dave Orbison 6th Dec '15 - 11:56am

    Mark Wright – I think it is clear I was referring to Iraq. I didn’t express any views on the other issues you raise. But since you raise them I did agree with action in Bosnia for what it’s worth too. But I don’t see the relevance to the specific circumstances which were the central point of the article and which you choose not to address.

    Simon Shaw – I think to suggest that LibDem membership received no boost from Charles Kennedy stance is wrong but I have to say I do not have the numbers. Nevertheless if it hasn’t occurred to you a Party needs voters too.

  • Why publish five tests and then not follow through with the outcomes.

    Test 2 “No bomb zone” – NO “No bomb zones”.

    Test 4 “plan for post-IS Syria” – NO “plan for post-IS Syria”.

    The five tests were not met and yet the vote was in favour of bombing suspected IS positions in Syria.

  • Get over it and lets move move on remembering that we are a minority and the bulk of the public do not agree with the content of this article. . This is a situation where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I campaigned vigourously against the second Iraq war, but on balance the 6 Lib Dem MP’s got it right. We have been active in Syria for some time, drones etc identifying targets for the French.
    Ideally there might now be a multilateral force, acting together, to clear out ISIS from the area, including the Russians. Memories of the Boxer uprising?

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Dec '15 - 2:29pm

    I disagree with the idea that the five tests suggested Tim was going to vote against bombing, which is why for someone who was very pro airstrikes I initially said the tests were “reasonable”. If you look at probably the most difficult test on the diplomatic framework it says “efforts towards a no-bomb zone”. Some seem to have read it as “a no bomb zone” being a test itself.

    I think it would be unwise to resign from a party because they bombed a group like Daesh. The SNP were considering backing bombing too. Probably only the Greens were never going to do it.

  • The trouble with bombing, and particularly with a substantially guerrilla force is that you are always going to kill many others. This will have a dual effect of turning local populations against us, and inspiring more of the same sort of thing as yesterday’s knife attack in London, and worse. I do think, that as Liberals and internationalists, we do have a responsibility to look for better solutions than what seems like an eternal war. This, with mujahideen etc, has been going on since at least 1979, with “western”countries at times on both sides, and all that has happened is that it has spread more widely, there is now ever more hatred, revenge, dead and injured on all sides. The objective Cameron has set of reducing threat levels to Britons in the UK will most certainly not be met, any time soon.

  • Peter Davies 6th Dec '15 - 2:44pm

    The problem is with the five tests. All good proposals but not not tests. In particular test 4: we need to put that plan in place but there is no way it could have happened before the vote. and it won’t actually be needed for months possibly years. We need to stop giving out hostages to fortune like this. It’s not the lesson of Iraq we have failed to learn. It’s the lesson of tuition fees.

  • Theaks
    Speaking before the Reichstag, the German Social Democrat politician August Bebel criticized the war against the Boxers, saying:
    “No, this is no crusade, no holy war; it is a very ordinary war of conquest…A campaign of revenge as barbaric as has never been seen in the last centuries, and not often at all in history…not even with the Huns, not even with the Vandals…That is not match for what the German and other troops of foreign powers, together with the Japanese troops, have done in China”.

  • Tim 13
    “This will have a dual effect of turning local populations against us”
    The local populations long turned against us as any Middle East expat will tell you. The question is how do you get,Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Turkey to come to some sort of agreement over Syria. The long term dangers are of a wider conflict as happened after the Spanish civil war.

  • I’m with Gareth, Mick, William and Dave on this. I only rejoined as a member in June, didn’t expect to be considering chucking it in so quickly, but then, didn’t expect to be joining a pro-bombing-Syria party either!

    “The difficulty, as I have said before, is that I now do not know how to uphold my own integrity when asking people to vote Lib Dem.”

    Exactly. The case for war was no stronger than in Iraq, it’s just this time we’ve got a UN fig leaf to absolve us of our sins. It’s cold comfort but this is happening all over the political spectrum, sadly we’re the only party facing an extinction level event because of it. It’s been a while since I’ve felt depressed, but this week’s had me staring up at my feet. It seems most members and peers didn’t agree with the leadership, yet another reminder of how fiercely undemocratic the party can be.

    Those claiming Kennedy had no better prescience than Blair should read his 2003 conference speech, which addresses their points directly – Kennedy knew that going to war with no legal backing wasn’t a great idea, he’d heard Ritter’s explanation of the state of arms in the country and he could see that all other “evidence” was lacking in credibility. There’s no crystal ball there, simply better judgement, based upon the only facts at hand and ignoring the conjecture. Had TF and NC applied that logic to this situation they’d never of agreed to action.

    We know that bombing countries in the middle east increases terrorism here, as the last 48 hours/decade attests. That’s just common sense, a lot of people don’t seem to be getting the picture yet.

  • Russell Simpson 6th Dec '15 - 4:34pm

    It’s clear to me that the five tests were nowhere near met (let alone the 6 criteria for Christian Just War, Christian Tim Farron!) I was staggered beyond belief when I heard the LibDems were going to support the Yes vote. The LibDems “took one for the country” in 2010 but the damage done to the LibDem credibility here is completely self inflicted. Tim Farron ignored the wishes of members. It’s already time to look for a new leader!

  • Andrew McCaig 6th Dec '15 - 4:59pm

    ChrisB,

    Well, to be fair, this is very different from Iraq, where we were voting for or against a war of conquest. Here we were voting for or against a totally irrelevant extension to what we were already doing in Iraq. Therefore because I don’t consider it a huge moral issue to extend existing military activity across a border that our enemies do not recognise as such, I am not thinking of tearing up my membership card for a second time…

    I was against the position Tim and 5 MPs took because:
    a) the 5 tests were not met – when I saw those tests I thought “oh, we are just making our excuses for voting no” because I could see they would never be met… So that just made us look foolish
    b) Adding our bombs will make no material difference to Daesh, but will further damage relations with many Islamic communities in Britain. We are already doing our bit in Iraq, and our allies I am sure would have been perfectly happy with that if we had made it clear we were going to stick with that before they started trying to help Cameron win his vote…
    c) undoubtedly we will kill some innocent civilians. To do that there has to be more point to it than there is – a long-term objective that will save lives in the medium term
    d) adding another air force to the crowded skies above Syria increases somewhat the chances of a decline into a bigger war with Russia (I don’t think that is a big risk, BTW. But it would certainly be on my “risk register” for action in Syria)

  • Denis Loretto 6th Dec '15 - 6:36pm

    Frankly I’m getting a bit tired of hearing about people who join or rejoin the Lib Dems and then talk about leaving because of a specific decision, even one addressing issues as important as this. Apart from the SNP who seem to be able for the time being at least to exercise a remarkable degree of party discipline , virtually all parties in the Commons were split on this. My own decision (marginally) would have been to vote against but I do not for a moment condemn any MP who after full consideration took the opposite view. In no way was this analogous to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

    It was absolutely right for people (whether or not political party members) to campaign prior to the debate and try to influence the MPs. Now that the decision has been taken it behoves all of us to wait until the outcome is known before finally judging the rights and wrongs. As for Lib Dem membership I will consider terminating mine only if and when a viable party emerges which is clearly better in terms of fighting for and securing truly liberal values. I think I will wait a long time.

  • David Allen 6th Dec '15 - 7:30pm

    “(b) How it was made and communicated.
    A total shambles. A complete unmitigated, chaotic, idiotic mess. The communication and non-consultation process could have been organised more effectively by Mister Blobby. The Five Tests were presented in such a way that it seemed we would not vote for air strikes. There was absolutely no forward indication of a “yes” vote, so that when it was eventually announced, by the former leader Nick Clegg on Sky News, for goodness sake, it looked like an inexplicable, mad U-turn.”

    But the trouble is that it looks even worse than a shambles. Innocent bungling would be one thing. An “inexplicable” U-turn for which a shameful explanation eventually emerged would be quite another.

    As Paul Walter indicates, Tim’s “five tests” speech doesn’t remotely sound like that sort of thing a leader would say if he thought it at all likely that he would swing round to a vote in favour in just two days. So what caused Tim to change his mind at the last moment?

    I haven’t a clue but – Why on earth was it Nick Clegg who pre-empted our new leader by announcing the change of mind?

  • Gareth, come on, decisions have to be taken and actions are required. It is easy to sit around, moan and groan, but the world moves on very fast, ISIS stepped in where there was a vacum, heads have been chopped off, people have been massacred and something needs to be done now. They have no truck with you or me and we should have absolutely no truck with them. Time to move on, the die has been cast and we need to focus on our problems as identified by our atrocious showing at Oldham West and how the hell we are going to move forward from here.

  • @A Social Liberal
    To be fair, I don’t think Blair’s crystal ball told him any of that either, nor do I think Kennedy would have had much of it in mind when he made HIS predictions.

    The extraordinary thing is, despite having been given such a comprehensive demonstration of how not to do things in Iraq, the Lib Dems and their friends went and repeated the whole exercise, more or less, in Libya – remove a dictator, hotfoot it out of there, and leave behind sectarian strife and a terrible civil war. Needless to say, Libya too is now partly occupied by Islamic State.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Dec '15 - 11:17pm

    For some time now I have been rather critical of LAB and CON for a mindset that is basically living in the past. Increasingly I am starting to think that Liberal Democrats are falling into the same trap. The Iraq conflict was almost 13 years ago. All parties have had several leaders since. It’s no use keep trotting out events that are well in the past, still less using them as some sort of a stick to hit people with when they happen to make a different value judgment.

    Even if people did join the party because of a stance 13 years ago, why should that stance be forever pickled in aspic? I stress here that I would say the same of all parties. If some people joined the party because of an anti-fees stance would people here think that therefore that stance on fees should be regarded as binding forever?

    For my own part, if I had had a vote in Parliament I’d have voted against. I say that not because of any great, compelling anti-war alternative plan for Syria. I say that because I think however unsatisfactory the status quo is it is the least bad option.

    Granted, the communications here were not at a good level. I certainly took the five tests as a de facto anti-war stance. Granted, having Clegg go before the media was bizarre. Granted also other parties are seeing divides, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

    But ultimately to keep clinging onto the Iraq/Kennedy comfort blanket is not an actual strategy to deal with events on the ground now. Politics has moved on, whether we like it or not, and the voters aren’t dumb – they can see when parties are fighting dragons that are already dead, even if maybe the internet gives a different impression.

  • The old Liberal Party wasn’t a pacifist party but it had its pacifists.
    There is no quick fix to the civil war in Syria but the Liberal Democrats must not lose sight of the goal of peace.
    That goal should be met through diplomatic efforts and the United Nations.

  • It would be absolutely impossible to keep everyone in any political party happy over every decision made. On balance I am prepared to go along with Tim Farron’s position on this particular issue.

    In times of strife, war and attack this country has always been able to accommodate the views and actions of pacifists and conscientious objectors and I hope that will continue. However we always have to bear in mind that enemies of our way of life won’t necessarily be that understanding or accommodating.

  • Hear, hear to:

    Denis Loretto 6th Dec ’15 – 6:36pm
    Frankly I’m getting a bit tired of hearing about people who join or rejoin the Lib Dems and then talk about leaving because of a specific decision,

  • David 7th Dec ’15 – 9:55am

    Hear, hear to:

    Denis Loretto 6th Dec ’15 – 6:36pm
    Frankly I’m getting a bit tired of hearing about people who join or rejoin the Lib Dems and then talk about leaving because of a specific decision,

    Here, here as well!

  • Simon Banks 7th Dec '15 - 3:46pm

    I tend to agree with Paul Walter. For a start, both those in favour of airstrikes and those against exaggerate the importance of the decision. Airstrikes were happening already. The vote in Parliament was on whether we’d add a little bit more to them.

    It does not seem to me reasonable to draw from the experience after the Iraq invasion, the lesson that all military interventions in the Middle East are morally wrong or practically counterproductive. The lessons that can be drawn from that invasion include – that if you aim to overthrow a government, you should at least have prepared well and thought hard about what will follow; that a mindset which assumes all people in the world are much like Americans is an invitation to disaster; that military evidence (whether of presence of WOMD, or of the effectiveness of airstrikes) should be examined dispassionately and not presented dishonestly. Those lessons point to caution on Syria but they don’t give a clear answer.

    The issue certainly doesn’t seem to me a resigning-from-the-party one and I would be very sorry indeed if Gareth did that.

    It does seem the party could, even given the urgency, have been consulted better.

    I think we should take some credit for how the Party has handled deep divisions on this issue. No-one is threatening Tim Farron’s physical safety and I doubt if anyone has been shouted down.

  • I completed a Lib Dem survey a few days before the vote.
    Was the survey only sent to LDV members?
    How are survey answers collated?
    Do surveys inform the leadership?
    If anyone reads this, I would appreciate an answer ….. thanks!

  • I too would have voted against air strikes but given how complicated the situation is I am not surprised that 6 of our MPs voted the opposite way, after much thought I am sure. I am sorry that people are hurt by the lack of consultation but this is not something that our party does well. Gareth is upset that the FPC weren’t consulted but as an ordinary member I am not aware of ever being consulted by the FPC. I have never seen an agenda or policy papers that were to be discussed at a meeting. As far as I am aware there is no requirement for Conference reps to consult the membership before they vote on issues that are in no way as urgent as this one was. If we can’t consult on this kind of issue then it should come as no surprise that consultation falls to pieces on urgent matters. There is no proper mechanism in place.
    I was very pleased that LDV surveyed its members but had no expectation that the results would be used to influence MPs decisions. There is no agreed policy on that either as far as I’m aware.
    How the party consults needs to be worked out as does the even thornier question about how the results should be used. Should MPs and Lords take them into account when voting? Shouldn’t MPs be consulting their constituencies rather than the Lib Dem membership?
    Is anyone in the party trying to work out these issues? I fear that if we don’t resolve the problem of consultation that may be worse for the survival of the party than a highly understandable split over Syria.

  • I expected one or two Lib Dem MPs to vote for bombing, Clegg for example. Some people will agree to anything if they are told it is necessary. But the Lib Dem MPs are all experienced and I was surprised about the party line on the vote.

  • David Evans 7th Dec '15 - 8:16pm

    The whole thing was a bad decision, badly handled and badly communicated. I am in a postion where I haven’t a clue where our party is likely to stand on key issues until it is announced. The thought there might be a fairly predictable Lib Dem stance seems to be lost on our MPs. It seems nothing that was held dear by the activists is held in any regard, and the possibility that the party at large might just have a better idea than our MPs, seems not to compute.

    The fact that there was so little consultation with the party shows how little our MPs have learned from the disaster of the last five years. No consultation; no change; continuing decline; wait five years; lose disastrously; carry on regardless. If they don’t get out of their own little private bubbles, where they talk to a few, listen to less and debate with no-one, we will continue to watch our party decline, and the grassroots members will not have a chance to do anything about it.

  • I proudly marched with Charles in 2003. However sometimes there is true evil which has to be faced. ISIS or Daesh is true evil. They recognise no international borders, no human rights, no other faith but their perversion of Islam. They don’t negotiate, they have no mercy. Those who oppose any action, please tell me is it ok for France and the US to attack them, or is it just us.

    There are few just wars, I believe fighting the Nazis was one and frankly I see no alternative to someone ending ISIS. They already bomb and kill, so don’t think this will make them any more likely so to do.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Dec '15 - 12:25am

    Catching up with all this, I’m surprised at the indignation. I personally felt consulted, having emails from Tim and the survey in LDV which I replied to. What more did people expect? There wasn’t a Federal Policy Committee policy on this, and even if the wider membership could have been consulted, so what? There was a majority against the bombing from the LDV survey, but again, so what? Our Leaders had briefings which we didn’t hear, doubtless gave this very difficult decision much agonised thought, and were in the end entitled to vote as their best considerations decided them. Besides, surely none of us thinks the Syrian problem will be solved easily or quickly, whatever minor British involvement there may be.

  • @madmacs: “They recognise no international borders”

    This is not exactly true. Daesh has pretty consistently respected the border with Turkey — make of that what you will. Other than the Syrian-Iraq border, which obviously they are determined to obliterate, Daesh’s territory does not abut on any other international border, though it comes close to the Iraqi border with Iran in some places.

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Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    Somewhat ironically the Covid crisis has considerably reduced, albeit temporarily, the strains which have always threatened to tear the EU apart. We don't hear ...
  • Jeff
    Roland 5th Aug '21 - 7:56pm: Not interested in percentages, real numbers – its harder to hide/misrepresent the truth. Roland 5th Aug '2...
  • Roland
    @Jeff - > "We do the majority of our trade both exports (57%) and now imports with the world beyond the EU. " Not interested in percentages, real n...
  • Martin
    Alex Macfie: "The referendum was advisory" - Absolutely, there can be nothing 'once in a generation' about it. In any case joining the Single Market would ...
  • Alex Macfie
    Simon R: The longer the time that has elapsed since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the less the result will matter to the electorate. People join the electoral rol...