Lib Dem MP on post-22 May leadership speculation: “Ashdown would cut my balls off if I criticised Clegg”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE Lib Dems are braced for a tricky week. This Thursday will see the first UK-wide election since 2010, with voters choosing who represents them in the European Parliament. Many voters across England will also get to decide who runs their local council.

Votes for the local elections will be counted on that night and throughout Friday. If this year follows the pattern of the previous three years, the Lib Dems could be expected – as I wrote here a few weeks ago – to lose at least 300 seats, some 40% of those the party is defending. This would reduce the party’s councillor base to the levels last seen in the days of the Alliance.

So the news on Friday and Saturday is unlikely to be great fro the party. Then comes the European election result, declared on Sunday. Lib Dems do not traditionally fare well in these elections. In 2009, we scored 13.7% of the vote at a time when we were averaging 18% in the polls for the general election. Today we’re averaging c.10% in the opinion polls nationally, so it seems likely we’ll end up in single digits in the Euros. That’s where the current Euro opinion polls peg us, neck-and-neck with the Greens, and well behind the Tories, Labour and Ukip. There is clearly some expectations management from Lib Dem HQ, setting a low bar it’s hoped we can clear – I don’t actually think the party’s MEPs will be wiped out entirely, though it’s certainly not impossible.

From Friday to Monday, then, the news for the Lib Dems is likely to be grim. The question is: how will the party react?

So far this parliament, Lib Dem MPs have been remarkably loyal to the Lib Dem leader. There has scarcely been a murmur of dissent, nor any defection threats. Can that hold for a fourth successive set of elections where Lib Dem representatives are scythed down as punishment for the party’s involvement in the Coalition? Today’s Sunday Times has an interesting account of the behind-the-scenes machinations:

“There is more open talk [among MPs] than ever before,” said a senior party source. “They are all gaming out [scenarios] and not just doing it in hushed corners. They are doing it in front of one another now.” … The plotting comes as Clegg’s allies, including the former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown, seek to shore up the party.

Ashdown, who has been put in charge of the general election campaign, has been warning Clegg’s critics that they will have to answer to him personally if they publicly criticise their leader after this week’s poll results. One of those warned said: “Paddy said he would cut my balls off if I criticised Clegg. I’d be more concerned for my cojones if the threat had come from Miriam [Clegg’s wife].”

Ashdown, a former special forces officer, said the threat had been “a metaphor” but added: “I will be tough on people who make life difficult for the party.” He called on party colleagues to “hold their nerve”.

The report outlines two alternatives. Either Clegg is replaced by Danny Alexander or by Vince Cable as both party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, or he continues as DPM but is replaced as party leader. I find the first option implausible. It relies on Vince and Danny’s colleagues being happy to stand by while they contest the election; it relies on the party membership voting in the way MPs want; it relies on the public not being further turned off by the party at war with itself.

The second option is plausible. Indeed I wrote about it in my most recent Total Politics column:

Might Clegg jump? Might he bite on a cyanide pill for the sake of Lib Dem survival? It’s not impossible. Here’s how it could work… Clegg announces that he will resign as party leader but continue as Deputy Prime Minister: “I have a duty, on behalf of my party and my country, to see through the job that I signed up to,” he would nobly say.

“There is much we have achieved in the last four years of which we can be proud. But it is clear that the Lib Dems need to be able to fight the next election as a proudly independent party. I recognise this is best done under a new leader with a fresh mandate.” This statement would trigger a contest offering the Lib Dems a valuable media spotlight right through to the party conference in October, when Clegg’s successor (almost certainly current party president Tim Farron) is unveiled.

I labelled it a fantasy scenario for this reason: it would need Nick Clegg to voluntarily decide to stand down as party leader while continuing as DPM. (Any attempt at defenestration will be likely to blow up in the party’s face.) And I cannot see Clegg as a quitter. Unless, that is, Paddy Ashdown tells him it’s the best thing both for him and his party. I wonder if any Lib Dem MPs are considering making the suggestion to him?

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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67 Comments

  • I understood that the Party’s rules allowed the party membership, itself, to be able to spark a leadership election. Although, as I have posted before, Lib/Dem members do seem to be the most placid of all party memberships.

  • Tony Greaves 18th May '14 - 12:28pm

    Paddy has an office two doors down from me. I look forward to the discussion.

    Tony Greaves

  • It had occurred to me before – but the article did remind me that Miriam is the true leader of the Party – which might be of some comfort to those who see sexual equality as the key issue of our time.

  • @ Rich C

    Thanks for explaining the mechanics of what sparks a leadership elections – although I don’t agree with your conclusions.

    There does seem to be a conflict in the Party between Liberal and Democratic. What harm would it do if leadership elections were sparked much more easily? If the majority still wanted NC – they would re-elect him. That demonstrates a lack of democracy within the Party – but not to the extent that the commitment to the EU demonstrates – this removes the right of the people to choose a government that enacts laws that they wish enacted in an ever increasing number of areas.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th May '14 - 12:53pm

    John Roffey – what are you on about? Miriam has no official role in the party – although I certainly wouldn’t complain if she did.

  • Richard Dean 18th May '14 - 1:02pm

    I get the impression that LDV is happy in LibDem defeat. No analysis at all. No data on why the electorate are turning away. Just, let’s get Clegg. Just, we’re not to blame, put it on the leader. Just, throw away principles, we want a hierarchical pyramid so we can blame to top. Maybe the real problem is right there in the mirror?

  • John Roffey 18th May '14 - 1:05pm

    @ Caron

    You don’t think that if the leader of a political party [or any organization for that matter] feels obliged to do as their wife says – the wife is the de facto leader of that organization?

  • Foregone Conclusion 18th May '14 - 1:20pm

    @Richard Dean,

    Clap louder, or Tinkerbell will die!

  • At least the matter is being discussed openly, instead of just here. There is hope for a change. I will pray it happens.

  • Richard Dean 18th May '14 - 1:46pm

    @Foregone Conclusion. I may not be Clegg’s biggest fan, and Sundays may not be my brightest day, but it’s blindingly obvious that an electorate will be reluctant to vote for a party that is constantly threatening to replace its leader. Put mildly, it makes electoral failure a Foregone Conclusion, but what the party really needs is an Adventurous Way Forward.

  • John Roffey

    “You don’t think that if the leader of a political party feels obliged to do as their wife says”

    Not in a work context, or even that the wife would be that interested.

  • Peter Chegwyn 18th May '14 - 2:30pm

    “If this year follows the pattern of the previous three years, the Lib Dems could be expected to lose at least 300 seats, some 40% of those the party is defending.”

    Well we won’t be losing seats here in Gosport! We’ll hold all three of the seats we’re defending (two of which were lost in 2012) and I confidently predict we’ll make gains.

    Mind you, we haven’t mentioned Nick Clegg or the national party anywhere in our campaign. We’ll be winning despite them, not because of them.

  • Paul Reynolds 18th May '14 - 3:01pm

    I would like to invite LDV readers to think back to the time after the first TV debate for the 2010 General Election. Nick roundly beat Cameron and Brown, much to everyone’s surprise, (except LibDem members… especially those that knew Nick personally). We suddenly looked like we could make a breakthrough in MP numbers, and importantly it was the first time in the modern era that we were on an equal footing relative to the other 2 main parties in front of the electorate. Moral ? When on equal terms the population warms to our messages. I was PPC at the time and even White Van Man was tooting approval on sight of my yellow rosette when he passed.
    Then recall what happened.
    The media went into a frenzy of anti Clegg hysteria, in order to kill stone dead the prospect of the electorate finding favour with the LibDems. Nick was accused of not really being British, of being a toff, of having allegiances outside the UK, and all manner of nonsense. It was successful in that we didn’t return to the 30%+ poll ratings after the first debate.
    Who feared what ? And what exactly prompted this seemingly spontaneous panic ?
    This is the true context for the public perception of Nick since May 2010. Did the anti Clegg media hysteria ease off after May 2010 or did it just become more subtle and insidious ? What has alarmed quite a few people since 2010, especially certain civil servants, is that LibDem ministers have on average been more competent and effective than Labour or Tory ministers. Whist I don’t agree with all of the decisions of the leadership in the last 4 years I do think we should remember this context. With very limited policy resources and a subtle anti Clegg media, what Nick and team has achieved has been remarkable. Our anger and political drive should be focused on the political and media system and these insidious agendas rather than Nick himself. Otherwise what we will have done is the bidding of this system which is so well geared to rise up against us if we are in danger of becoming universally popular. Contrast with Farage now !

  • @paul reynolds

    Your analysis is that it is the media’s fault that the electorate have turned against Clegg ? And that is your total thoughts on why this party is languishing below 10% in the polls?

    That’s the sort of nonsense you heard from Labour back in the eighties and shows a pitiful disregard for why support for the Lib Dems has vanished since the election.

  • Paul the party line is one thing, but reality is another. The party has ceased to exist in many areas of the country, the media are RIGHTLY asking if it is a national party anymore, we cannot find candidates in many may wards and we manage votes of 9 , 24, 32, 15 etc in local government by elections. Come on .

  • Naomi Smith SLF CoCh 18th May '14 - 4:19pm

    Nick’s had consistently bad advice from his team over the past few years. If he stays on as leader, or DPM, or both, which he probably will, I should hope he’ll use the post election period to have a major shake up of his senior personnel.

  • “Might he bite on a cyanide pill for the sake of Lib Dem survival?”

    “replaced by Danny Alexander or by Vince Cable”

    “Clegg’s successor (almost certainly current party president Tim Farron)”

    If that’s the best the party can come up with I think there will be more than Clegg taking cyanide pills.

  • “Today we’re averaging c.10% in the opinion polls nationally, so it seems likely we’ll end up in single digits in the Euros. That’s where the current Euro opinion polls peg us, neck-and-neck with the Greens, and well behind the Tories, Labour and Ukip.”

    Mike Smithson points out that the opinion polls are making no allowance for higher turnout in areas with local elections. Given the Lib Dems’ generally abysmal performance in “Labour-facing” areas, their performance could be significantly worse than the polls are indicating.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '14 - 5:47pm

    Clegg standing down wouldn’t be quitting, he’s been leader for long-enough and would arguably be a noble thing to do. Above all, I think the party needs someone to embrace the liberal centre-ground. I’d be worried that Cable would be left wing and Danny appears to not be ready yet, which is a problem I think we had with Nick. I think Danny needs to not be such a devout unionist and also listen to some other economic advisers who knew Help to Buy was wrong all along.

    Regards

  • I have no idea how the local government elections on Thursday will go, but it remains one of our strengths that in areas where we are well dug in we customarily have efficient get-the-vote-out operations, which is something that neither UKIP nor the Greens (except in a few very exceptional places) seem to possess. So higher voter turnout, if it is in the right places, will tell in our favour, not against us.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th May '14 - 5:55pm

    Note my “above all” line, I’d still support Clegg despite the results next week if he recognises the mistake of the “party of in” campaign.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th May '14 - 6:06pm

    John Roffey: “Feels obliged to do as their wife says?” Excuse me? Where are you getting this from?

  • “So higher voter turnout, if it is in the right places, will tell in our favour, not against us.”

    But this year’s local elections won’t be in the right places. They will be predominantly in the kind of areas where the party has been faring worst in local elections during this parliament.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th May '14 - 6:21pm

    Naomi, I do agree that some changes of personnel in the Westminster Bubble would not go amiss. Even if we have a good result on Thursday, that would still be necessary. I also think we need to have a long, hard look at the story we’ve told in these elections and learn lessons before we produce materials for next year. The Party of IN strategy was absolutely the right thing to do, but the execution could have been a bit better in places. We need to sharpen that up for next year.

    I also think that we need to really understand what the people who would vote for us are thinking. I suspect that they are more concerned about things like food poverty, for example, than the people in the bubble think. We must have some ideas to tackle that.

    I would not like to lose our leader on the basis of an election that is traditionally not our best day at the ballot box especially when he has championed so many causes so close to my heart such as shared parental leave, better mental health support and equality. A lot of what he’s pushed in Government are the priorities he has always talked about as an elected politician – and even before then. He is probably one of the most consistent people I have ever met in politics. I want to see him lead us proudly into the General Election. We have a lot to hold our heads up high for.

    I can still see a path to victory in the vast majority of our held seats next year even if we do badly on Thursday. The calmer people stay after the results come through, the easier it will be to make that result happen.

  • And we wonder why so few women want to go into politics, sheesh!

  • I have rarely seen such a Panglossian view of the Party than the comment by Caron Lindsay and one or two others.

  • I really want a leadership election and change of leader, is there a way of getting a vote through and how many members are needed to get this change?

  • Phyllis – just like the bedroom tax, privatising royal mail, abolition of the agricultural wages board… he’s doing such a great job in losing natural voters and taking the party further to the right. The sooner Clegg is gone the better, we’re now a league 2 party veering on the conference.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 18th May '14 - 9:31pm

    Just an observation. If the party ends up returning 2 MEPs next Sunday as the polls are predicting , it is the equivalent of returning to Westminster after the GE with about a dozen MPs. The Leader responsible for that sort of carnage would have to resign.

  • @Phyllis: I wouldn’t worry — reality will hit home pretty heavily by the last week of May.

  • @ Phyliss

    ‘I have rarely seen such a Panglossian view of the Party than the comment by Caron Lindsay and one or two others.’

    I genuinely hope you are right – that Caron’s represent’s a minority view – for the the Party does have an important role to play within the current reordering of the political balance. A few more errors of judgement at the top could confine the Party to history.

  • Punctuation error … represents!

  • John Roffey “A few more errors of judgement at the top could confine the Party to history.”

    Sadly I think it is already on an unswerving path to political oblivion. Once trust has been lost to the extent that it has, it makes the Lib Dems “pointless” since voters cannot believe anything that is ever ‘promised’ . Us voters have pretty well been told we were naive to believe the manifesto commitments etc since that could only ever be met if the LDs won an outright majority. Of course that bit was, to use Clegg’s phrase’ “in the small print”.

  • Denial is far too weak a word for what is going on.

    How anyone can still be endorsing this utterly misconceived “party of IN” strategy is utterly beyond me. Not only has it signally failed to improve the party’s standing in the European elections (or to dent UKIP’s ratings – though of course that was never the point) – it has also landed the party with a millstone around its neck when it comes to LD/Con marginals next year. Whether or not UKIP voters return to the Tories generally, in LD/Con seats they are going to be ripe for the plucking as tactical Tory supporters against the Lib Dems.

  • Phyllis – the lib Dems have delivered on much of their manifesto so the arguments about trust are complete nonsense. Coalition is completely different territory . That the party has been caricatured and characterised in the media to such an extent that people say what you say here, does not mean perception suddenly becomes fact. As for who should lead the party if Clegg was to stand down, perhaps Charles Kennedy should return if only as a caretaker leader. He’s still enormously popular and hasn’t really been tainted by coalition.

  • As for the future. Well given the current situation with UKIP and the impact their presence will have on British politics there has never been a more important in recent history to have a thriving LIBERAL party so whatever the short term electoral fortunes, I hope people remain ready for the fight back, our country is going to need us . You have to take the rough with the smooth in this game.

  • @ John Roffey and Phyllis – history teaches us that the Liberal Democrats should be able to recover from being reduced to 6 MPs and not being able to put candidates up in every constituency as the Liberal Party did from 1951.

    @ Ashley – the concerns about trust are not complete nonsense. I do not agree with Phyllis that when a coalition is formed one should expected everything from both manifestos to be enacted. However I do expect that the Coalition Agreement to be kept and NHS reform is an example where it wasn’t. This is a trust issue. However for most of our MPs the tuition fee increase is the biggest trust issue. For three of them it is even bigger because it seems they kept talking about their pledge while having agreed to break it as soon as coalition negotiations would start.

    For the party as a whole the tuition fee rise is a trust issue. At the Special Conference there was no amendment that called on all our MPs to honour their promise or face the disciplinary procedure to have their membership revoked.

    If all our MPs had voted against the new scheme that increased tuition fees or if we had vetoed it as soon as Browne reported I don’t believe trust would be such a big issue that it is for us.

  • What is the point of the Liberal Democrats? Whose political interests do you articulate?

    What the UKIP Spring has shown is that the decisive component was an anti Labour/Tory protest vote. Now that UKIP has turned that into an anti all three parties protest vote you have lost all but a tiny rump of popular support. You are now merely a member of the political class which has failed and betrayed the country.

    Why don’t you seek to transform the nation for the better rather than worrying about your narrow party interest? Come up with a credible strategy to do that and you would get votes.

    But no one is holding their breath!

  • Amalric ” I do not agree with Phyllis that when a coalition is formed one should expected everything from both manifestos to be enacted.”

    That is not my position. My point is that when you say “no more broken promises” and promise a better kind of politics, then immediately break all your promises, my point is that no-one can ever trust the Party again. That’s the real problem. I believe that is fundamentally different from any other point in history when Lib Dems were reduced to 6 MPs.

  • Amalric. “However I do expect that the Coalition Agreement to be kept and NHS reform is an example where it wasn’t. This is a trust issue. However for most of our MPs the tuition fee increase is the biggest trust issue. For three of them it is even bigger because it seems they kept talking about their pledge while having agreed to break it as soon as coalition negotiations would start.”

    Yes absolutely! THAT is exactly my view.

  • Ashley “the arguments about trust are complete nonsense”

    Nick Clegg made the 2010 Election ALL about trust, ripping up other parties manifestos. And you may consider it nonesense but back in the real world 20,000 members have left the Party and in most recent elections the LD candidates are losing deposits and getting say 13 votes (that’s not even all the candidates friends and family) and coming behind joke-parties such as the ‘Elvis’ party. But of course all the people who no longer trust the Party should be ignored because according to you, it’s all “complete nonesense”

  • No one could justify criticism of Nick’s ability integrity or effort. The problem is that he is an electoral liability and hundreds more effective Lib Dem Councillors are set to lose their seats because of him. I believe that he has a problem with judgement. Sadly Ashdown is short of a campaign advisor who was responsible for years of electoral success.

  • BrianD

    “No one could justify criticism of Nick’s ability integrity or effort”

    Unfortunately for Nick Clegg the general public do doubt his integrity. Away from these boards many people only know him for “no more broken promises” and breaking his tuition fee pledge. To the vast majority he’s just a man who will promise anything to get their vote. People expected that from the two main parties, but though the LibDems were better. His dreadful “apology” and his performance in the Farage debates certainly didn’t help him.

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th May '14 - 11:02am

    @ Helen Tedcastle,
    We voted for Nick Clegg because we did believe that he was different to other politicians who get into power.

    If he is so naive that he trusted the tories, would I trust him in his dealings with some of the foreign leaders that he would need to deal with? No, I don’t think I would, he is clearly out of his depth.

  • Never mind Ashdown . He is really yesterday’s man. We are concerned about the future aren’t we? Clegg has to go and take Laws and Alexander with him.

  • @simon

    This should answer your questions:

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

    For more information please read: http://www.libdems.org.uk/constitution

    I must warn you though as it does contain the following paragraph:

    “Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, we will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security. Within the European Community we affirm the values of federalism and integration and work for unity based on these principles. We will contribute to the process of peace and disarmament, the elimination of world poverty and the collective safeguarding of democracy by playing a full and constructive role in international organisations which share similar aims and objectives. These are the conditions of liberty and social justice which it is the responsibility of each citizen and the duty of the state to protect and enlarge. “

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th May ’14 – 10:42am
    @ Phyllis: ” I think it is already on an unswerving path to political oblivion” I don’t agree. The Liberal and then the Lib Dems have faced the abyss before and have come back fighting – leaner and fitter. There will always be a need for a Liberal Democrat party in the UK.

    Helen I refer you to my comment at 7:40am today, in particular the last sentence.

  • @ Phyllis I am sorry you feel I misrepresented your position but you did write, ‘Us voters have pretty well been told we were naive to believe the manifesto commitments etc since that could only ever be met if the LDs won an outright majority. Of course that bit was, to use Clegg’s phrase’ “in the small print”.’

    My point is that some things in our manifesto we couldn’t get the Conservatives to agree to. However you are right to continue to remind us that we said we could be trusted and we wouldn’t break our promises. This is why I see the NHS reforms as breaking the coalition agreement and what the government promised and why I see those MPs who didn’t vote against increasing tuition fees as breaking their personal promise. However I don’t think the Liberal Democrat broke their word when they failed to get other parts of the Liberal Democrat manifesto into the Coalition Agreement.

  • @ATF

    Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries.

    There was me thinking you were a UK political party, but you aspire to be the United Nations! Now we know why you hate Britain and the British so much.

    We are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance,disease and aggression wherever they occur.

    Well the rest of us are bang in favour of poverty disease and ignorance obviously, but how do you feel that fight is going?
    Last time I looked there still seemed to be quite a lot of it around despite the Coalition….

  • @simon

    “There was me thinking you were a UK political party, but you aspire to be the United Nations! Now we know why you hate Britain and the British so much.”

    – So, a hatred of one’s country and fellow citizens is as a result of believing that liberty and justice should not be confined solely to the country in which you live?

    Should we not care about the rights of others? Does the case last week of Sudanese woman being sentenced to death for converting from one religion to another not outrage you, or would you rather that the Foreign Office said nothing about it at all as what business is it of ours? The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, by caring about them and wanting action do I hate my country?

    “Well the rest of us are bang in favour of poverty disease and ignorance obviously, but how do you feel that fight is going?”

    – Did anyone say they were exclusive to the LibDems? Don’t think so.

    – How do I feel that fight is going? Well, I look back on the standard of living I have and that of my grandparents at my age and I know when I’d rather live.

  • Helen T “Okay, you feel that in a sense a rubicon has been crossed in that no one can ever trust the party ever again, even when we have faced the abyss before.”

    I’m intrigued because I can’t honestly think when the LibDems faced a situation where the Leader promised ‘no more broken promises’ then broke a personal Pledge which all the Party’s MPs signed up to, with great fanfare and publicity., as soon as the Party was in government a few weeks later. As if this weren’t bad enough, the country then learns that the leadership had planned to ditch the Pledge even while they were signing it and that the leadership had never believed in the promised policy at all . I can’t think of comparable circumstances at any point in living memory.

  • Helen Tedcastle “If there wasn’t a Liberal Democrat Party, it would have to be invented.”

    I’m inclined to agree but I have to confess that I am not at all sure what THIS Liberal Democrat Party is anymore or what it believes in. As an example , I have no confidence that the Party has any shared understanding regarding Tuition Fees any more. The membership want one thing and the leadership quite another. Same goes for Secret Courts etc etc. and if the LibDems do rise from the abyss again , why would we trust any future LD leadership not to ignore Conference Decisions and pass policy which is the exact opposite of what the membership want. No, this experience has shown that LD members cannot be relied on, or simply have no power to, reign in a wayward Leader and Parliamentary Party.

  • Amalric, sorry the fault is mine for being unclear. I was rushing to work and used shorthand, not realising that not everyone knows what I have previously written. When I said ‘manifesto commitments etc’ I meant specifically the Tuition Fees Pledge and manifesto commitment relating to that. I totally agree with you about the NHS and indeed all your comments relating to the trust issue. I honestly struggle to see why so many on here don’t understand how huge it is.

  • Amalric “However I don’t think the Liberal Democrat broke their word when they failed to get other parts of the Liberal Democrat manifesto into the Coalition Agreement.”

    Yes I agree. There is a big difference.

  • “History teaches us that the Liberal Democrats should be able to recover from being reduced to 6 MPs and not being able to put candidates up in every constituency as the Liberal Party did from 1951.”

    History teaches us that our party can oscillate between 6 seats and 60 seats. It can fall, and it can rise again. But what can it actually achieve while it is doing these things?

    Twenty years ago, our aim was to bury doctrinaire socialism and replace it with a more rational Left, a party which could make a market economy work fairly. In a sense, we succeeded – but by making room for Blair, not be winning power ourselves. Blair, of course, turned out to be far to the Right of the Alliance parties. So we helped get rid of unrealistic socialism, but in its place we now see gross inequality and the dominance of the capitalist super-rich.

    So what do we now seek to achieve? Under Clegg, nothing useful. Under Clegg, we have simply been one more brick in the capitalist wall.

    Unless we can change that, it does not matter a jot whether we win 6 seats or 60.

  • Helen Tedcastle “It’s a great pity that much of the damage has been self-inflicted from the top but accountability to the grassroots when in high office, appears to be a lesser priority for leading politicians . Look at Labour. The democracy in that party is for show and the Tories aren’t democratic at all.”

    The difficulty is that, as I understand it, the Lib Dems are the ONLY party who decide party policy at Conference. That’s its USP, frequently quoted as defining the LDs as different to other parties. That’s a very attractive trait in a political party. However, once in government, the Parliamentarians have shown this to be an illusion. The policy is decided at Conference but the MPs ignore that and vote for the opposite. It makes the whole Party look impotent to those of us who agree with the membership. However I take on board your comment about the fallout from this week’s elections and live in hope that the Lib Dems can still regain their party.

  • How can we get a vote of no confidence put forward in the leadership? Ordinary party members should be able to instigate this. I really fear the worst on Thursday.

  • I’m surprised by those that are surprised! How many of you guys look back at the history of the Liberals and third parties in Coalition……….. they always get screwed!!!! Many voices in the Lib Dems pointed this out loud and clear before the coalition deal and a many times since. Since 2010 I have been saying the Lib Dems should have a clear plan to replace NC before the 2015 election……. my money has always been on Charles Kennedy as a caretaker leader until after the election. The problem that I didn’t see was how damaged NC is in the eyes of the public…..his last stand against NF was brave but desperate and did nothing but reinforce the publics negative view of him (from people I have spoken too).
    Hang in there be positive….make your own luck where you can……… whos knows I may even rejoin ….

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Lee We were repeatedly warned, but what, in practice could we do?
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 5th Jun - 1:04pm
    Frank West 5th Jun '20 - 9:00am Please go back to the circumstances in which a British Conservative government said that 'Hong Kong is a...
  • User AvatarFrank West 5th Jun - 1:00pm
    I would not write Trump off yet, he seems to bounce back from imminent disaster and Americans are much more flexible in their work than...
  • User AvatarJohn Probert 5th Jun - 12:57pm
    Thank you Larry for revealing the true cost of Dominic Raab's beau geste, offering British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong the right to...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 5th Jun - 12:55pm
    The tag "No recourse to public funds" has recently been raised at PMQ and Boris Al Johnson appears to be unsympathetic. He and his Home...
  • User Avatartheakes 5th Jun - 11:54am
    Since the police custody death in Minnesota and the following demonstrations Trumps approval rating has turned mround and is now heading back up, whilst the...