Lib Dem party membership: “10 members joining for each departure”

With the Labour party claiming an influx of new recruits, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Reading East at the last election, Gareth Epps, has written to The Guardian pointing out the Lib Dems too have seen a significant increase in new members:

Your report (7 July) of a “surge” in Labour membership makes claims about recruits from the Liberal Democrats. Labour’s claims are Walter Mittyish. My local Lib Dem party has had its most sustained membership boost since the 1988 merger. Since the election, we have had 10 members joining for each departure. As Labour’s crocodile tears continue over cuts they know they would have had to make, Lib Dems on the ground are doing rather well.

Cllr Gareth Epps
Reading, Berkshire

Anecdotal evidence from our members-only forum thread on membership numbers suggests Gareth’s experience of a net increase in Lib Dem membership since the election is by no means unique.

I’ve seen no national figures from the party, though there were unsourced reports that we attracted over 1,000 new members in the lead up to polling day.

What is unknowable, of course, is whether this trend can be continued if and when we’re two or three years into coalition; and whether some members disappointed by the coalition may allow their membership quietly to lapse.

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  • Richard Davis 9th Jul '10 - 11:33am

    In our local party membership increased from 2 months before the election to the present time by over 100%. With approximately 50% of that increase coming after the election date. This could be for two reasons, first Cowley street may have been a little slow in processing the new members given the huge influx following the first debate. The second reason seems more likely to be the case having spoke to a lot of new members, people who previously supported Lib Dems are getting behind the party in the coalition and actually now signing up to become members. Whichever is the case, the local membership has never appeared to be so active.

  • Leader of Liverpool Lib Dems has confirmed in the local press that several councillors are considering their party membership.He’s also stated the Lib Dems face wipeout in the North of England….but please, continue to delude ylourself by all means.

  • The number of members joining is not the issue. The problem is that we are losing our voters , you only have to follow public debate about our support for the public spending cuts to see that we are in danger of losing most of our parliamentary voice at the next election. We are seen as the party that lied in the election run up and are now turning our backs on voters in return for personal power for our leadership. The Tories are cutting front line services with our in year cuts and people are losing their jobs and WE are seen as highly instrumental. Nick Cleggs judgement is blown forever as he has disgarded our values for his personal career.

  • “We are seen as the party that lied in the election run up and are now turning our backs on voters in return for personal power for our leadership.”

    No, that the line that Labour and the entire left-wing media are pushing. It’s not true, but unfortunately they are doing rather well at pushing it at the moment, by backing it up with acres of faux-outrage and bile.

  • Wasn’t there something on this site a while ago about getting lots of new students while losing lots of older people? If anything this will just solidify the right-wing nature of the Lib Dems as the prinicipled old lefties leave and those who support the new order join.

  • David Blake 9th Jul '10 - 12:56pm

    Students are a lot more right wing than in my student days…

  • Students that are choosing to join the Lib Dems are.

  • Nick Cleggs judgement is blown forever as he has disgarded our values for his personal career.

    That doesn’t quite square with getting the unanimous support of Lib Dem MPs, and the overwhelming support of the Fed Ex and, apparently, still having approval of 84% of Lib Dem members.

    The party has gained much more in credibility from this coalition than Nick Clegg has personally. Of course it has meant compromises, but any supporter of coalition government as a concept should be prepared for that. We need to grow up a little on this issue.

  • Peter Dunphy 9th Jul '10 - 1:25pm

    Westminster got about 50 new members during and after the election, and about 20 of these were after the coalition was announced. There have been, to the best of my knowledge, no resignations, and we have a larger number of activists than in living memory.

  • Angie Robinson 9th Jul '10 - 1:32pm

    How many of those new members are women? How many will be after rape anonymity comes in. Not for other sexual offences, not paedophiles, not any other offences. Rape is the only offence where the Liberal Democrats believe the accusers should be considered liars. The Lib Dem view the damage to men of a 9% false claim rate as more important than the damage to, mostly, women of a 94% conviction failure. What is a few more per cent, after all. Hannah, you alright with that?

    Liberal Democrats say anonymity is more important than addressing the system failures permitting the 70+ victims of Kirk Reid or the 100+ of John Worboys. And they were named. How many more now? Not important. When asked why not other sex offences, Crispin Blunt said “because we are concentrating on rape.” He had no idea, none. Couldn’t care less.

    Will this affect those new members does anyone think?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Jul '10 - 1:44pm

    “How many of those new members are women? How many will be after rape anonymity comes in.”

    I can’t imagine anyone undergoing a sex-change operation in protest …

  • David Allen 9th Jul '10 - 1:48pm

    100 gallant Luftwaffe fighters took off. 200 safely returned to base!

  • paul barker 9th Jul '10 - 1:49pm

    Actually if you read what Harman is actually claiming rather than what she implies, she says that UP TO A THIRD of those joining Labour recently had VOTED Libdem in the past. Entirely plausible & utterly dull, unlike the spin.
    A bit of historical background, 1st, most people who join Parties have never belonged to another, this was true even for the SDP.
    2nd, Parties usually see a temporary rise in membership after GEs or leadership contests, for obvious reasons. Labour are benefiting from both but I suspect they are inflating the real rise; we will know in September.
    The real test for all 3 major Parties will come in 2012 when we return to “normal” politics.

  • Dean Hodges 9th Jul '10 - 1:50pm

    I am totally ashamed that the party I voted for are part of this Condem alliance. I am on the left side of the party and there are many of us out there and I would be grateful if any one can assure me that I now have a home with Lib Dems. For the party that I support to be holding up a foul right wing bunch is to be honest nothing less than a sham. I am the only one who feels embarrassed when Cameron is at the dispatch box and nodding behind him is the person I thought was a leader for progression and decency in our society; but now we are always going to be seen as partners in the most swingeing and unfair cuts seen in this country for many generations. This could be disasterous for us in the long run because nobody will ever vote for us tactically or as an alternative to Labour again. This could lead to melt down at the next election.

  • Angie Robinson 9th Jul '10 - 1:55pm

    I have always been supportive of tactical voting for Lib Dems but I am not now. That’s very good, Tone.

  • From what I’ve heard locally we’ve had a lot of new Labour members but not many who are likely to be activists. Make of that what you will.

  • To sum up the public position of the Lib Dems……”What iceberg?”

  • To sum up the public position of the Lib Dems……”What iceberg?”

    Or for the more evidence-based among us, we’re losing protest voters who never bothered to check out what the Lib Dems actually stands for, but gaining members who genuinely supported our values but saw us as a wasted vote.

    Unless we were planning never to be on government in any shape of form, we have to recognise that we were bound to lose people who only voted for us to give the two larger parties a kicking – protest voters are voting against something not for something so are never likely to stick with a party in government.

    This gives us an excellent opportunity to finally grow up as a party and win support for our principles and ideas not just because we’re “not the other two”.

    But any talk of either huge collapses OR boosts in our membership numbers when we’re barely into the 3rd month of coalition is just meaningless. 

  • Angie Robinson 9th Jul '10 - 2:42pm

    Catherine, Surely that depends on what you do in government, doesn’t it?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Jul '10 - 2:48pm

    “Or for the more evidence-based among us, we’re losing protest voters who never bothered to check out what the Lib Dems actually stands for, but gaining members who genuinely supported our values but saw us as a wasted vote.”

    What’s the evidence that you’re not losing principled voters (and members) who supported the Lib Dem policies and principles that have now been dropped, and gaining new members who got all excited during all the media frenzy over “Cleggmania”?

  • I imagine we gained a significant number in the campaign. Since then I would be very surprised indeed if we had made a net gain. Most members do not leave suddenly or in a way that can be monitored accurately short term. People tend to become unhappy with the direction or policy and then drift away or not renew. We will only be able to see who has left in a few months time, certainly not yet.

    I can only speak for my part of the country but I know that our flow of new members has more or less stopped. We have lost a few but not many. The Coalition seems to have most negative impact on relatively new members, young members and those active occasionally – all are currently more negative/than positive.

    I can understand the motivation behind Gareth’s letter but he should not fool himself – we are likely to suffer a membership or support dip. Surely the task is not to deny it but to work out how we work through it and re-grow.

    I suspect Labour are recruiting people who voted Lib Dem but few of our members. In constituencies like mine they will be those who are often people who float between the two parties or former Labour supporters returning.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 3:41pm

    Typical New Labour spin from Hatter Harman.

    30,000 new members since the general election. Well, 21,000, actually, but whose why allow 9,000 to ruin a good story. And actually, they aren’t members, they’re membership enquiries. Shut up, you’ll damage the cause. And we lost 200 thousand members from 1998. Belt up, ffs. And why are we charging £1 only for new members under the age of 21, it’s hardly going to be a guarantee of long term loyalty, is it? That’s it, you’re getting banged up on under anti-terror laws for that.

    Why does the public have to suffer this continual assault of utter bull?

    Haven’t we had enough?


  • @Angie – yes, of course. If either our ministers mess up or we don’t succeed in getting a good number of our policies enacted then I would expect us to lose support heavily. Likewise if we do a decent job of pushing through some key policies (like the rise in personal allowance) and vetoing some Conservative excesses (like inheritance tax cuts), then I think our support will hold up. That’s why I said it’s pointless trying to make meaningless extrapolations a few months into the parliament – our electoral fate will be decided by our record over the next five years. Hyperventilating about it right now is like assuming Tony Blair would lose the 2005 election based on a few opinion polls at the height of the Iraq controversy.

    @Anthony – sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that nobody leaving the party (or saying they’ll no longer vote for us) is doing so out of principle: I’m sure there are some. But I know more people who’ve always liked our liberalism but been uncomfortable with our perceived proximity to Labour than vice versa. And just reading/hearing the comments of people who say they used to vote for us but never again – they all seem to feel let down because they thought we were just a fluffy version of Labour. Many are Old Labour supporters who defected either at first due to New Labour or later due to Iraq. 

    I feel for them because it can’t be pleasant to lack a political home and feel no one is speaking for you, but the Lib Dems were never philosophically compatible with them, or rather with what they wanted us to be. I for one would leave (and feel quite betrayed) if we ever became the old-leftist wing of the Labour party and I’m sure many others would too.

    I was also just making a general point about protest voters, by which I mean people who don’t engage with politics (or policies) much less read manifestos or find out what parties stand for. They vote to give the finger to “the establishment” not because they actually support – or even know much about – their chosen party. All smaller parties (ie outside the big two) attract this type of voter to a certain extent and we’d be naive to suppose that everyone who voted Lib Dem this year was a passionate liberal signed up to our political platform. I’m sure we’re losing the support of protest voters now we’re in government – it’d be weird if we didn’t as you can hardly protest against a government by voting for part of it! This would be the same whatever party we went into coalition with, whatever the circumstances, and even if we had won the election and were governing by ourselves. The only way to hold on to the protest vote demographic is never to be in government at all.        

  • vince thurnell 9th Jul '10 - 3:53pm

    Catherine, so to sum up you’re saying, you now believe you’re in a position where you only want a certain type of voter and the protest voters you don’t need anymore.

    I am honestly amazed at the snobbery that goes on , on this site. Anyone that doesnt agree with you , can just go off and vote for anther party and now anyone that only voted for the lib dems as a protest isnt wanted anymore. You’re right about one thing though catherine , the party does need to grow up, it needs to grow up and realise that without those protest votes you dont want anymore the party vote would of dropped even lower than it did during the general election.

  • Angie Robinson 9th Jul '10 - 3:59pm

    It isn’t protest votes you should be concerned about keeping, you only got them this year and not all that many. It is tactical votes and marginal seats at risk. I don’t know what you are expecting to see on PR/AV/whatever. The Libs Dems stopped being harmless to Labour voters. How many seats will that cost?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Jul '10 - 4:02pm


    What I was asking for was the evidence you’re basing these beliefs on.

    As you prefaced your previous comment with “for the more evidence-based among us”, I assumed there was some. Though of course it may have been just a rhetorical flourish.

  • Vince, I didn’t say we didn’t WANT protest voters – we don’t “not want” any voters. I said it was inevitable that our party – like ANY party in ANY government of ANY type – cannot expect to hold on to protest voters whild in government. That’s the whole point of protest voters – they vote against the governing establishment. The idea that a governing party can hope to retain their support isjust bizarre.

    Anyone that doesnt agree with you can just go off and vote for another party

    Er, isn’t that sort of the whole point of politics?

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 4:25pm

    Frankly this whole hooha is good for the Liberal Democrats. It should help them define more tightly what their vision of Liberal Democracy is. And be bold in stating it.

    Many of our policies that were being decried in the sleazoids as “loony left” are now in the process of enactment. I commend that as a victory for Liberal Democracy.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 4:27pm

    @Angie Robinson

    Who cares?

    If you don’t want to vote for us, go ahead vote for Respect instead.

    I really couldn’t get worked up about your emotional blackmail.

  • Angie Robinson 9th Jul '10 - 4:39pm

    God almighty, haha..emotional blackmail haha. I was saying how by demonstrating clear water you could lose significant votes where it hurts most. A hazard of government, no doubt, but at least stand or fall by your own manifesto. And it is not just “Lib Dem” voters who are relevant. Emotional blackmail. I bet it gets real rowdy in here.
    Nobody answered my question on rape anonymity, except by disinterest.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 4:42pm


    Personally I think it is a good idea; you apparently disagree. I would prefix “rape” with “alleged”. It has been dealt with on other threads here, use the search facility.

  • “Or for the more evidence-based among us, we’re losing protest voters who never bothered to check out what the Lib Dems actually stands for”

    And what about the voters who did check out what you said you stood for and are now horrified at the reality-as opposed to the pre election rhetoric? In my part of the world the Lib Dems have always attempted to portray themselves as being to the left of Labour, bit difficult to do that now.I suspect that is true in many parts of the country.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 4:58pm


    As Labour spends all its time redefining what “left” means, that is hardly surprising. I would suggest that currently the mainstream of the Conservative party is rather to the “left” of Labour on many issues, including, just going on recent decisions by this government, on homosexual liberation, on habeus corpus, on the right to protest, on low carbon energy supplies, on environmental sustainability, on local democratic control, on handing crown prerogatives to parliamentary control, on reform of the Lords, on increasing the democratic mandate of the Commons, on regulatory control of the use of CCTV, on stop and search, on the retention of DNA samples of those found innocent by courts, on reform of the penal system, on asylum for homosexuals. On just about any issue one could think of, to be honest. The right of return of Chagossians, I expect, soon enough.

    The only way in which Labour these days can claim to be to the left of this government is by lying about magic money trees. You are perfectly free to believe them if you wish. You are perfectly free to vote for them too, but be warned, you will be voting in a bunch of chums of Augusto Pinochet and merely continuing the destructive economic boom and bust cycle.

  • I confess to being confused about lib dem policies. My tax allowance would have gone up next year. Angie there are no women active in the coilition so are you surprised about the cavalier attitude to rape cases. Just as women are going to be hit in a massive way to the cuts. I also find that my tiny pension is going to lose a good deal of value – and that my services will be cut by 40%. I am not writing out of self interest. Every day I see further attacks on the poor and the vulnerable – of which I am one. Is this the lib dem way.

  • Angie – yes, I’m sure you’re right about tactical voters, but there are as many soft Tories as soft Labourites. The former have declined to lend us their votes in recent years due to a fear that we were really an offshoot of the Labour party. We’ll lose plenty of tactical Labour support, but I expect us to pick up plenty of tactical Conservative support. What the net effect will be is anyone’s guess at this point, and as you said earlier will depend very much on how we perform over the next 5 years.

    As for rape anonymity, I can see the arguments on both sides. On the one hand, giving anonymity to the claimant and not the defendant violates my personal sense of justice. On the other hand, some good points on favour of the current system were made in the parliamentary debate – mostly by Conservative MPs actually – and swayed me somewhat. To be honest, this is sn issue where I broadly trust MPs of all parties to debate the pros and cons and decide on the least worst option. The policy was debated and voted for at Lib Dem conference and certainly chimes with our values – Lib Dems tend to come down on the side of “better 100 guilty people escape jail than one innocent person suffers for a crime they didn’t commit”. But that doesn’t mean sticking to that principle is always comfortable…      

  • To David Blake maybe students are more liberal and less socialist than in the past – not sure that is a bad thing.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 5:16pm

    @pat roche

    “cavalier attitude”

    Try “principled stance in defence of justice”.

    Theresa May, Lynne Featherstone, Cheryl Gillan, Caroline Spelman, Justine Greening, Sarah Teather, Sayeeda Warsi, Theresa Villiers, Baroness Neville-Jones, all just off the top of my head. There must be many more. So your statement was total cobblers, in fact.

    Your pension will go up. The link between pensions and earnings will be restored, for the first time in decades after Thatcher and the neo-Thatcherite governments of Major, Blair and Brown. From next April, the basic state pension will increase under a ‘triple lock’ under whichever of average earnings, inflation, or 2.5% is the highest.

    Try harder.

  • Pat Roche – it is the coalition that are taking over 800,000 people out of income tax next year. It was Labour that abolished the 10p tax band hitting low paid workers hard a couple of years ago. As for service cuts various government departments have been asked to plan for cuts including a 40% scenario to make to equate this to cuts that we will all experience is not neccessarily fair (we don’t even know that the 40% isn’t just a contingency measure). We need to accept that ultimatly everything has to be paid for and that Britain was expecting most of this to be done by future generations – hardly very progressive.

    As for no women ‘in the coalition’ there is a women Home Secretary although probably one many Liberal Democrats were understandably nervous of – although I found her contrition over Section 28 rather satisfying on Question Time.

  • Ray Cobbett 9th Jul '10 - 5:32pm

    Somehow between the election and now we’ve misplaced worst case about a third of the people who voted Lib Dem. Is the official line that things would have been much, much worse if the Tories had not been restrained. How much worse would they have been? They’ve already decided to slash pubic spending by £40Bn more than Labour and that includes the schools programme and youth employment scheme. True we made a start on taking the lowest paid out of tax, restoring the earning link and then there’s the non-proportional voting system we’re spending £80 million quid on. This must sound a bit like heresy to the my party right or wrong brigade but we need to work up a a new convincing doorstep act by next May.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 5:36pm

    @Ray Cobbett

    It isn’t a case of my party right or wrong, but one of facing up to the reality of a £150B deficit. Not debt, deficit. The debt increases annually by the amount of the deficit. It is truly gargantuan. For anyone that wishes to defend unrealistic spending programmes, you might ask them if they have a spare hundred billion or two down the back of the sofa.

    You may be right about the convincing doorstep act. What is your suggestion?

  • Angie Robinson 9th Jul '10 - 5:54pm

    Thanks Paul, was it apparent I didn’t know my way around? I’ll go and see who’s around in the right place..

    Catherine, But it doesn’t bother your sense of personal justice with respect to any other crimes? What is LibDem “principled stand” on the 95% of accused not up for rape? Paedophiles? (Except rapists of girls, of course.) Is it searchable, Paul?

    The old adage of better 100 guilty going free than 1 innocent incarcerated is extended under LibDem policy to “1 innocent suffering”. Defined? Not interested? Do you really believe the reputational damage to 1 innocent accused is equivalent to the total suffering of rape victims . If not what is your top number? How much more than the current 94%?.. What you guys “actually stand for” is illuminating.

  • norfolk boy 9th Jul '10 - 6:10pm

    I decided not to vote Lib Dem ever again after the Lib Dem candidate in my seat encouraged me to vote for him to keep the tories out. I doubt we’ll see him again until he next wants our vote, but I will remember.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 6:14pm

    @Angie Robinson

    I really couldn’t care less about your rhetoric. My position is searchable too: all defendants deserve anonymity. It is the principle of innocent until found guilty. I’ve heard enough “all men are rapists” rhetoric to understand that all are not innocent until found guilty for some crimes in the eyes of some with bigoted agendas. I also understand that juries consist of men and women these days. That doesn’t prevent juries from acquitting many accused of rape. The reputational damage that you sneer at has lead many to kill themselves, suffer long term depression, etc. That you should have such an attitude towards the subject, merely confirms my belief in anonymity of defendants.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 6:15pm

    @norfolk boy

    Well you don’t have a Conservative government now. So, unless you just wanted a Labour government, you have nothing to complain about.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 6:17pm

    @Angie Robinson

    … and your stance is in my eyes an entirely illiberal one. No different from the Bush waterboarders. They are guilty, why bother with a trial. And if they were innocent, hey what the heck, it will have scared some that are actually guilty.

  • Sorry, Paul, some of your logic is, well, a bit tenuous. We do have a Conservative Government. It may be diluted with a few Cabinet Lib Dems, but those that there are, are in the main on the right of the party (note the relative isolation of Vince). All the senior posts are held by Tories, with the exception of Dep PM. and the role of that post is kept to “political reform”, and well away from tampering with any other “important” executive policies. I did wonder whether we might get Education, with our longstanding reputation there, but no…

    Surely the point about “ending the boom and bust cycle” was what Gordon Brown boasted he had done. The sin there was of pride, not necessarily bad economic policy. As we all should know the deficit is not in Britain only, is not entirely of GB’s making. By going along, as you have for I am sure entirely populist reasons, with this line, you and others who use this tactic are making it worse for us on the doorstep. We should have made it crystal clear to the Tories that we would not argue that Labour was entirely responsible as they have. Personally, I feel we should have said “either you are economically honest or we will not go into coalition with you”. Unfortunately, reality has gone the other way – and our party will pay a very high price. Remember that the 2010 election was fought largely on issues of political honesty. Lessons will be learned – a pity they weren’t sooner.

  • Catherine, But it doesn’t bother your sense of personal justice with respect to any other crimes?  What is the LibDem “principled stand” on the 95% of accused not up for rape?  Paedophiles? (Except rapists of girls, of course.)

    Angie, both your examples bother me deeply, but how does that relate to rape anonymity?  Children are granted anonymity in all criminal trials, nothing to do with the nature of the alleged crime.  Adults in other trials are only given anonymity if they’re threatened.  Rape is unique in awarding anonymity to all adult claimants.  This is done for some good and compelling reasons, but it does construct a fundamental unfairness against defendants. 

  • Oops, I chopped off half my above comment, pasted below: 

    I believe it’s estimated that about 9% of all criminal prosecutions (not just rape) are of someone who is innocent.  If that’s correct it means nearly one in every ten people accused of rape isn’t actually a rapist, but still goes through months of hell and often permanent damage to their relationships with friends, family and even partners (sometimes continuing even if they’re acquitted). Their accuser remains anonymous regardless.  

    This doesn’t bother you?

    As I said, I can see some compelling arguments on the other side of the debate as well.  But so far I’m not at all convinced that extending anonymity to rape defendants will have any impact on the rape conviction rate.  The low rate of prosecutions is something I feel very strongly about and would support many measures to increase it, but not at the expense of innocent people.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Jul '10 - 9:20pm

    The Lib Dem view the damage to men of a 9% false claim rate as more important than the damage to, mostly, women of a 94% conviction failure.

    Conviction “failure” in more than half those cases is because the accuser recants their accusation (a “false claim” in the reported statistics you’re referring to is when the accuser is defeated by the evidence or a jury, not when they change their mind). Another 9% of those “failures” is the false claims you just mentioned. Obviously, these things are terribly harmful to women.

    Most of the rest are because the police investigation failed to find any evidence (often because the accuser has waited weeks or months before making their accusation, by which time any evidence is long gone). Clearly, we should remove that pesky requirement for evidence of guilt, and convict people on the basis of the accusation alone.

    And of course, all rape victims are women and all rapists are men. While we’re at it, all women are rape victims and all men are rapists.

  • Paul McKeown commented: “For anyone that wishes to defend unrealistic spending programmes, you might ask them if they have a spare hundred billion or two down the back of the sofa.”

    No-one is defending unrealistic spending programmes but many economists have pointed out that the coalition’s plans for spending cuts go well beyond what money markets were expecting and threaten to inflict a deeper recession by damaging both the public and private sectors. The IMF have just downgraded their growth forecasts for the UK and even the respected ‘Economist’ magazine is worried about what it calls the “austerity fad”.

    Of course, any prudent householder wants to pay off their debts but any prudent householder also tries to do this in a way that is sensible and achievable. My concern is that the scale of these cuts is being driven, not by economic necessity, but by a Tory right-wing agenda of creating a minimal state.

  • Ray Cobbett 9th Jul '10 - 9:52pm

    Never mind about Lib Dem Ministers and their ‘honorable friends’ there’s still a flicker of rebellion among
    our MPs. Mike Hancock is planning to ask whether Gove will reinburse councils
    that have spent millions preparing their BSF cases, now binned. Gove’s criteria is
    entirely based on where a case stand relative to the funding process. Surely a better way
    would be to have based it on need. Obviously money had to be found somewhere to fund the Tories new
    free schools.

  • Purely for circumstancial evidence:
    I’m a woman (and have no particular problem with rape anonymity)
    Each election for the last 12 years (when I moved in the country), I’ve looked at the candidates program and decided who to vote for, which almost always resulted in me voting libdem (voted green or independent alongside a few times, labour twice, for livingston as 2nd choice at the london mayor elections, and NEVER for the tories)
    I’ve joined the party about a week after the election, the first time I even considered joining one, because I think joining the coalition is a sign of maturity and non-partisanship.

    Of course I’m not 100% happy about some of the coalition decisions, but that’s the very nature of them. I do agree with people uncomfortable with the seeming enthusiasm of nick and co at times, though I still hope it’s more to do with them still learning the ropes of coalition than a genuine excitement.

    I do plan on being very much active in the party (though yet have to make contact with the local having been away a lot in the last couple of month), I intend to attend the party conference, and finally get around to get my british citizenship, though I can ill afford the cash, so I can vote for the referendum.

    From the people I heard around me, the only ones that were disappointed of having voted libdem are labour supporters (that had been pissed off with labour anyway).

    To whoever thinks they should leave now: don’t you think you will have a better influence if you stay in?

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jul '10 - 11:25pm

    @George Kendall

    My deconstruction of la Harman’s Labour membership statistics comes from the Guardian.

    For the rest, I’m off for a month or two.

    The mods need to get a grip.

    Apart from Anthony Aloysius St., an erstwhile Liberal Democrat member, activist and voter, with genuine disappointment, and for whom I have much respect, there is so much shit here, that there is simply no point reading or contributing. Labour has won: this site is wrecked, at least for the next few months.

    LDV needs to develop a much more robust policy towards Astroturf. Just being “liberal” won’t cut it, in the face of fascistic tactics. If this site is to be anything other than a sad memorial to the Liberal Kristallnacht, where Militant Redux kicked the windows in, burned the books and turfed the members onto the street, then the moderators must be prepared to stand up for Liberal Democracy and defend it against obvious attacks.

    They seem, alas, too trustingly liberal for that.

  • Sorry, Paul, I don’t see any obvious astroturfers from Labour. As you yourself say, it is perfectly possible that us Lib Dems take the variety of opinions expressed here.

  • Andrew Suffield 10th Jul '10 - 12:25am

    My concern is that the scale of these cuts is being driven, not by economic necessity, but by a Tory right-wing agenda of creating a minimal state.

    Frankly, after all those years of Labour state-bloating, it could use cutting down a bit. Letting the Tories pursue that agenda for a while should get the job done quite nicely. That doesn’t mean they get to go all the way – five years wouldn’t be long enough for that anyway, given the huge machine Labour built.

  • Good to hear that the membership figures seem to be holding up.

    For the LibDems to be successful in the next election there will have to be a good deal of rethinking the local campaigning strategy, though.

    I’d hope to see local campaigns that are more consistent with national policy: now that the LibDems are nationally visible, it will be harder to make the LibDems seem more to the left where it’s locally advantageous and more to the right where that seems to fit better. I’d also sincerely hope that the nasty local campaigning stops! I am a LibDem voter, but the local campaign leaflets (lots of them – since I vote in a target seat) had nothing whatsoever to do with national issues and were simply nasty about the other local parties. Frankly, this was embarrassing and really infuriating – and if the LibDems’ government involvement stops this sort of mortifying nonsense (since there will be national stuff to talk about) I sincerely hope that the vote will hold up next time.

    Planning for a completely new, more appropriate style of local campaign should start now, I would suggest. I think many activists will need some time to re-adjust, and I sincerely hope that this will happen. If the ‘usual LibDem campaign style’ was hardly OK for an eternal opposition party, it *really* isn’t appropriate for a party in government.

  • @Catherine “Or for the more evidence-based among us, we’re losing protest voters who never bothered to check out what the Lib Dems actually stands for, but gaining members who genuinely supported our values but saw us as a wasted vote… This gives us an excellent opportunity to finally grow up as a party and win support for our principles and ideas not just because we’re “not the other two”.”

    Exactly. I would rather have a solid core group of voters and members who understand and believe in what we stand for, rather than a large “soft” bubble of voters who read their own wishful thinking into what we supposedly stand for.

    As Vince Cable said in a Times interview when asked about activists fearing he was being used by the Tories: “They give cover to me,” he said. “Even last summer I was talking about cuts in quite a radical way.”

  • norfolk boy 10th Jul '10 - 1:44am

    Paul Mckeown

    I voted Lib Dem to keep the tories out

    the tories got in, and joined the Lib Dems

    a minor Lib Dem influence (pursuing policies I do not think for a minute that they believed in) is irrelevant to me

    you might be at ease with it, but hey, you obviously have a much more ‘modern’ approach than me

  • Andrea Gill 10th Jul '10 - 1:49am

    @norfolk boy: “the Lib Dem candidate in my seat encouraged me to vote for him to keep the tories out.”

    Assuming he meant in the seat he was contesting, did he win? If not, then obviously not enough people did vote for him.

    I do not like this tactic however, it is repeated nationwide against both Labour and the Conservative party, though I can see the need – under FPTP – to do this, I feel it is not a very productive approach, and one that I would hope AV would diminish the need for.

  • Angie, I’m very much against the rape defendant anonymity proposal and think this is the one area in which Labour has been engaged in a model of constructive opposition (I’m talking about Labour MPs, though, not your posts, which hardly seem designed to persuade). I’m not giving up my Lib Dem membership any time soon, though – I support the coalition and am incredibly glad to see Labour out of government.

  • Hear, hear to Maria and Valerie – literature patterns must change now. Although it is clear we have to use local events and stories, we should not use that as football crowd – chanting style at the local opponents by activists. I know from discussions with local non – politically active people that they find this very tiresome indeed. My belief is that one of the reasons we have not taken off at a national level earlier is that we have devoted insufficient of our message to what we want to achieve nationally and internationally.

  • @ Tim:
    I would agree.

    It’s very odd – since the LibDems come across as sensible and willing to engage in a constructive debate when they appear nationally. On a local level, they appear as rabid attack dogs with few arguments and too much bile. If I didn’t follow national news over local news, I’d never vote for them.

    What’s the point of this local campaigning strategy?
    Not a few of the attacks now aimed at the LibDems, and not a little of Labour hatred is based on what people had to face in local constituencies – and I bet there are quite a few Conservative backbenchers, too, who feel similarly.
    I think that Nick Clegg (yesterday’s Guardian) is right in saying that Coalition politics is here to stay (no matter what the voting system is). Looking at LibDem local strategy in this light, I’d say that paradoxically, the LibDems seem the LEAST ready to enter such an era of coalition polticis. You don’t gain ground in such situations by mindlessly aggressive campaigning (even more so if it’s based on nasty attacks which have little to do with the arguments which actually count nationally).

    Finally, if many people now say ‘I voted LibDem to keep the Tories out’ it’s not because they are stupid – it’s because their local LibDem campaigners told them to do so. Seeing that such a promise was enirely contrary to what Nick Clegg was saying at the time (i.e. that he would negotiate with the party with the biggest mandate first), this kind of electoral campaigning strategy was madness. I have the feeling that many local campaigners were deluding themselves and their voters in the name of short-term local gains. Which will cost credibility in the longer term.

    No wonder that many people accuse the LibDems of opportunist lying.

    I am rather sad to see this state of affairs and I want to see it changed. Not sure, however, whether the corporate/local cultures of the party will allow it.

  • Tim13, I think you meant Andrea, not me, but I also agree. Re. “to keep the Tories out,” though – this was surely only ever to keep the Tory-singular out in that particular constituency? (Labour, of course, did tell people to vote LD to keep the Tories out, but that’s another story).

  • this is Balls’ quote: “‘I always want the Labour candidate to win, but I recognise there’s an issue in places like North Norfolk, where Norman Lamb (Lib Dem) is fighting the Tories, who are in second place,’ he said. ‘And I want to keep the Tories out.”
    Balls definitely sounded as if he were talking about the whole of the country when he said “keep the Tories out.” It was Labour who falsely gave the impression that there couldn’t be a Tory-LD government.

  • @Maria (welcome – hope you enjoy being a member!) and others

    I agree about the local campaigning messages and hope we’ll make progress here with a record in government to campaign on for a change.

    What’s the point of this local campaigning strategy?

    Sadly, it’s used mostly because it works. People always say how much they dislike negative campaigning, but then vote otherwise. However, I don’t believe that’s sufficient reason to use this tactic as widely as we do – I agree it puts us in danger of sacrificing credibility for short-term gain.

    To be fair though, we’re by no means alone in using these tactics (the Tony Blair demon-eyes poster for example). And because we have so few safe seats, our local campaigners are under a lot of pressure to deliver results in the short-term.

    I’ve always hated the “vote for x to keep y out” line, but it’s a by-product of our ridiculous electoral system. I’m not wildly enthusiastic about AV but at least it would remove the need for tactical voting, which in turn would allow all parties to campaign more on their values and policies and devote less leaflet-space to persuading local voters they’re in with a chance of winning the seat.  

  • Catherine,
    The low rate of prosecutions is something I feel very strongly about and would support many measures to increase it, but not at the expense of innocent people Rape victims are innocent people. You are placing the rights of one innocent group above another. This is about protecting the reputation of innocents at the expense of the victims of the guilty. Paul thinks it is illiberal to defend the rights of those other innocents harmed, akin to torture, in fact.

    Well, I came for a discussion, but got disinterest and insults. The idea that a tool that police consistently say aids capture of serial rapists is being abandoned with no consultation angers me, as did the indifference here, termed a ‘prncipled stand’.
    What studies are there on the benefits likely to accrue for accused (whose acquaintances/employer may know already) and in what numbers to justify removing publicity. Publicity brought forward 85 victims in John Worboys case, 70 odd for the latest one. 150 rape victims before the suspects were named, In future they will not be named so how many more victims?

    Rape conviction rates are tiny and this measure risks making them worse still. It surprised me that this would be LibDem policy. It lookslike it was a policy they both had on the books that they could move quickly to demonstrate a real coalition – a political gesture. I have voted Liberal Democrat in the past, and it looks to me like they have just thrown victims rights, women mostly, out for the sake of an image of political unity.

    Andrew Suffield/Paul

    I did not know that rape anonymity was LibDem policy. I came looking for LibDems to understand why. I wanted to know how this particular right of the accused was weighed against protection of victims and delivery of justice.
    Instead you spout feminazi slurs – illiberal, pro-torture, ‘all men are rapists.’ What the hell kind of response is that?? Who else here is raising this discussion on legislation your party just introduced which caused a row in your party in the Commons?

  • I am a Labour supporter who has been comfortable voting tactically for the Lib Dems on occasions in the past when it was appropriate, but I couldn’t do so any more. I used to feel that the parties had plenty in common, though I accept Labour became too authoritarian for many Lib Dems to be happy with. I recall Charlie Kennedy’s remark that “Labour are our rivals, the Tories are our enemies”. I also think that this is an excellent website for sensible and constructive discussion, far better than the diffficult-to-negotiate and Tory-troll infested ‘Labour Home’.

    I must take exception to this remark by George Kendall: “If Labour had won, I suspect the new Labour Chancellor (Ed Balls?) would have brought in the VAT rise Alistair Darling refused to rule out.” Brown announced during the election campaign that Darling would continue as Chancellor in the event of a Labour victory, and when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman he explicitly ruled out a VAT increase, saying that it was “a Tory tax”. As Labour has never increased the standard of rate of VAT, one of the most regressive of all taxes, I’m inclined to believe him.

  • George Kendall 10th Jul '10 - 9:24pm

    @Bert Finch

    Thanks for your comment. Sorry you didn’t like mine.

    You’re quite right that, when interviewed by Paxman on May 1st, Brown ruled out a rise in VAT.

    That interview was in the context of one opinion poll showing Labour trailing third, down two to 24 per cent. Probably, if Labour had, from such a position, surged forward to an overall majority they no longer thought possible, the Brown pledge would have constrained them.

    But, earlier, when they still held a hope for an overall majority, they explicitly refused to rule it out. For example, Darling, in the Chancellors’ debates.

    The New Statesman, on 6 April, said: ‘the former Tory chancellor Geoffrey Howe similarly declared that “we have absolutely no intention of doubling VAT” during the 1979 campaign, and then did just that. … But until Labour issues a copper-bottomed guarantee that it won’t do the same, the party’s attack on the Tories won’t win over any voters.’

    But, until the last minute, Labour refused to rule it out. Doesn’t that speak volumes?

    The Times, February 13
    “The Chancellor is also keenly aware that Britain needs to retain the confidence of the credit-rating agencies. He has privately ruled out either raising income taxes or increasing the scope of VAT, but has deliberately left open the possibility of increasing the sales tax in the next Parliament.”

    And it appears that Labour did flirt with the idea of a VAT rise in 2008:
    ‘In January 2010, the rate of Vat will revert to 17.5 per cent. However, a legal document laid before Parliament states that VAT will “subsequently increase to 18.5 per cent in 2011-12”. It is signed by Stephen Timms, a junior Treasury Minister.’ Telegraph 25 Nov 2008

    This isn’t to criticise Labour for contemplating raising VAT. While it’s more regressive than income tax, all taxes are. It is far, far less regressive than the appalling council tax, which has gone up enormously in recent years.

    As for Brown not sacking Darling, have a good read of this:

    If he had won, Brown would have had huge credibility, for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. He’d have done whatever he wanted with the new cabinet.

    It is specifically Brown’s treatment of Darling that most shocked me about the previous Labour government. In a press conference, directly after a period when Brown’s people had been briefing the press that Darling would go, they issued a statement that they had never been planning to remove him. This was to the self-same journalists who, days before, they had told the opposite. It’s not the deceit I found shocking, but the shamelessness of the deceit.

    I dearly hope the new Labour leader will be a complete break from this kind of politics. And, though many of my party colleagues will call me naive, I have some hopes for David Miliband. Alistair Darling would definitely have been a massive improvement.

  • George Kendall 10th Jul '10 - 9:29pm


    I don’t want to cut and paste the debate from another thread. So if you want my views, have a read of:

    Better yet. Add a few comments to that thread, and resurrect the discussion there.

  • Rape victims are innocent people. You are placing the rights of one innocent group above another. This is about protecting the reputation of innocents at the expense of the victims of the guilty.

    Angie, I never said rape victims aren’t  innocent. But I’ve seen no evidence that convinces me that by giving defendants anonymity we would harm an equivalent number of rape victims. The police’s say so is not, for me, sufficient evidence that they’re right. The police also said 40 days detention without trial could prevent innocent people being blown up in terrorist attacks. That’s not a good enough reason to either believe them or pass it into law.  

    There are even some moderately persuasive arguments that giving defendants anonymity might increase the chance of a rape allegation being treated with the seriousness it should be.

    Yes, there is the occasional case like John Worboys, but in the vast majority of cases (AFAIK) no other victims of the same defendant come forward. 

    To say we’re trying to protect the 9% of innocent defendants at the expense of 94% of victims that don’t get justice is a false equation. The anonymity imbalance that currently exists manifestly doesn’t help those 94% secure convictions, otherwise they would get convictions under the present system. 

  • Andrew Suffield 10th Jul '10 - 10:17pm

    I have the feeling that many local campaigners were deluding themselves and their voters in the name of short-term local gains.

    People need to understand the federal structure of the Lib Dem party. Each local party is independent, and the national party is assembled and directed by consensus and votes at party conferences. The national party does not rule the local parties; in fact, exactly the opposite is true.

    This is completely reversed from Labour and the Tories, where the national party rules over the local parties, in a structure based on feudal lords. It is very important to realise that this is a big difference between the parties.

    A small number of the Lib Dem local parties are a bit crazy. This is usually because they are quite small. They do not represent the national party (again, exactly the opposite is true) nor any other local parties. Lib Dems from other districts will not normally interfere, so long as they stay within the bounds of the federal constitution, because local parties are supposed to represent diverse views rather than conformity, and the right to be an idiot is one of the core values of liberalism.

    Instead you spout feminazi slurs – illiberal, pro-torture, ‘all men are rapists.’ What the hell kind of response is that??

    If you don’t like people pointing out that you’re arguing for the “rape is a crime against women, all that matters is gender” side, then maybe you shouldn’t argue for it.

    I wanted to know how this particular right of the accused was weighed against protection of victims and delivery of justice.

    And you’ve been told several times. None so blind, etc.

  • George Kendall – No harm in using negative campaigning. But it needs to be on issues – certainly the Poll Tax was an issue to be attcked heavily in its time. I think the type of negativity NOT appreciated by the electorate is very partisan personal stuff. You are right to say other parties use equally negative stuff – I have observed many Tory leaflets over the years, and their speciality is the difficult to deny in simple terms half truth. And, as for Labour, they occasionally use very vicious campaigning against individual candidates.

    The best most effective campaigns consist of a blend of messages – a clear statement of what benefits electing A could or would bring, together with why Party X (or in absolutely clear circumstances, candidate B) would be a bad thing. The fact – purely as a random example – that B is clearly not “local”, unless they have made such an untrue claim, should not lead to heavy attacks. I was recently agent for a GE candidate who made no such claims of localism. He wasn’t pilloried for it, and did not suffer any apparent electoral damage because of it.

  • I think there are many whose interest was raised in the campaign, and are watching the coalition closely. The policy statement looked like there was a great deal of lib dem influence in the programme for government, but those on the edge are looking to see whether the party stands up to the tories in the implementation stage. Each time something is watered down or sidelined (Income tax threshold, democratic NHS commissioning…..) the appeal wanes.

    If ever there was a time to stand up and be counted it is now. If the leadership allowslib allow our support to be taken for granted by the tories and allow our influence to reduce it will snatch defeat from the jaws of historic victory

  • Whilst I’ve never seen any negative leaflets myself (always lived in very safe, at the time, labour or tory seats with LD 3rd), the many mentions of such leaflets I’ve seen in the last few months made me very uncomfortable.
    If anyone locally at the next suggest doing something like that, I’m going to go apeshit on their ass! 😀

  • david thorpe 12th Jul '10 - 1:34pm

    there are a large amount of rape cases which nebver come to court as the accustaion is later withdrawn.
    some amount of work must be done on the reasons for this(Im sure the victim not wanting to tesify is relevant to many cases) but the mans name is dragged through the mud nevertheless

  • George, On reading the thread you directed me too, I remembered the scene in Taxi Driver when Travis takes the woman to an adult movie on a first date, and has no idea why she is offended. A primary concern about this legislation is that it tells that rape victims they will not be believed and so will discourage reporting. 20 of 23 of the posters in that discussion on anonymity rejected the false accusation rate drawn from data as too low and replaced it with unsubtantiated inflated rates. That disbelief is right here.

    None of those 20 considered the damage done to rape victims as relevant. None of them thought the 6% conviction rate worth of consideration from the POV of rapists out on the streets.

    Andrew Suffield thinks I am a fool for failing to understand that the victims of rape are simply irrelevant to a defendent’s rights (not his life or his liberty, all his rights, even the ones that were called someone else’s rights until you swapped the tag). It does not matter if anonymity creates more victims.

    You had me at a disavantage, Andrew, I did not know I was arguing “all that matters in gender”. I see from the grim mysogyny of that last discussion that I in this forum, I was. I did not know the LibDens had so few women and a reputation for sexism, see what a gender warrior I am, but I went away and looked and it is everywhere. Whoever said being in goverment will show people what LibDems are like. Mark one up for me

    And I had a look at your other topic comments on this forum, Andrew. You have an problem with women all over. It is about gender to you and I understand your name calling better now. Thanks for the illuminating discussion.

  • Catherine,
    I was not speaking of the 94% of cases where there is no rape conviction.but the 6% where there is. 1) You dismiss the cases you know of when publicity has led to convictions – Worboys, Reid – though the victim numbers are appalling; 2) you apparently do not look very hard – Michael Thomas ’09, 3 more victims came forward – a quick google search, and 3) you don’t believe anything the investigators (police) say. It will be a struggle convincing you, won’t it? Are well liked here? Nice to have a woman pop up and support the boys on an otherwise gender split issue . ‘See, we’re not sexist!’


    Sorry, I meant 20 out of 23 either discounted the false allegation rate or discounted the relevance of victim numbers altogether.

    It may be easier for you to imagine the trauma of the falsely accused, but is that just? I think it is the key reason that the Coalition is focusing on the innocent accused and ignoring the much larger population of victims who see no justice and future victims of rapists still on the street. I can see how damaging an innocent accusation can be. I can see that both situations can be extremely damaging. You do not.
    You quoted FoxNews as “compelling evidence,” George. And you are annoyed that I lumped you in with the mysogynists (sorry, male libertarians looking for excuses)? Is this where you look? Are you bookmarking the BNP website for interesting immigration facts? You do not engage at all with my argument, but see, here I am addressing your “evidence”.
    In the report you find so compelling:
    “They stated, “Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, … about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect”
    Small point – USA has average 140,000 rape allegations per year. 10,000 “since 1989” is a small percentage.

    Bloody great hole in theory – This is evidence of false reporting how? So, they tested the DNA and it was not the named suspect. Who named this prime suspect? Where does it say the alleged victim did? Would a malicious woman have the wrong DNA? These are referrals from police investigators seeing if an unknown assailant who left DNA evidence is a previous offender, surely. Similar MO, geography, description. It has nothing to do with false reporting. But you offered up a FoxNews report, and you didnt even give it a smell test. When I said you were offering unsubstantiated evidence, I was being polite.

    You discount the right to personal safety of rape victims, because they are women mostly and you cannot feel it. This is libertarianism – it doesn’t affect me, I dont want it. It is why the LibDems are white middle class men. In general, you need the least from the state. It is the discussion you are having on the other thread about what kind of liberals you are. Government needs to be able to understand a little of what people that don’t look like it need from a justice system, economy etc etc

    This really has bee an education. The LibDems are the tea party protestors and hardly anyone realises.

  • Paul McKeown 13th Jul '10 - 3:14pm

    “sexist” “misogynists” “male libertarians looking for excuses” “BNP ” “white middle class men” “tea party protestors”

    I love the fact that you seem to assume the several Liberal Democrat females of undisclosed social class as sexist and misogynist, It is indeed possible that they might have been having a cup of tea whilst reading your hyperbole, although I doubt their affiliation to the BNP.

    Have a nice day.

  • It’s a shocking idea I know, Paul, but women don’t all think the same way. Some of them are cowards though. So unfortunate Lynne Featherstone, LibDem Equality Minister (yikes), missed the debate with that “diary clash”. I don’t know her but surely that is a career ending plan,

    several Liberal Democrat ‘females’. Ha, you really are struggling there, aren’t you.On the rape anonymity thread there were 3, 2 were against and then the stalwart Catherine . I don’t now that that’s several enough to be definitive. I don’t know they were even LibDems. God, I hope nobody thinks I am.

  • “… white middle class men. In general, you need the least from the state.” I have just read that again. Haha, sorry about that.

  • I am not quite sure why this debate is going on on this thread. Why doesn’t someone – Angie perhaps, start up a Rape Anonymity thread. I keep looking at postings, hoping we might have some more on people’s views on members staying / leaving, but no…

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