Lib Dems can heal divides with useful answers to people’s problems

Between the two big parties, the Liberal Democrats are significant now, uniquely placed to be able to work for the health and healing of our divided and unhappy nation, having proved our capacity in the local government elections.

In these elections, Labour and the Conservatives reached stalemate again, neither being able to see how these results could foretell sufficient success in the next General Election. Their divisions are deep and their failings clearer than ever, the one tainted by the Windrush scandal, the other by voters’ lack of confidence that they could tackle anti-semitism amongst their members.

The divisions in the country are just as lamentable. Whether it is town versus country in the voting, old versus young, Leavers versus Remainers, British people are head to head in pointless confrontation, 

It is our job to show how the country can come together again. For what everybody wants is for our country to be successful. For our people to thrive, our jobs and businesses to flourish, and our country to continue to occupy a proud place in the world.

Nobody wants our economy to grow at a lesser rate than in the leading countries of the G7, for industry and services to face uncertainty and obstruction, for our place in great international co-operative ventures to be at risk, or for our people to see their standard of living in decline. 

Yet Government is stuck, unable to decide on how a customs arrangement to keep trade flowing freely between Britain and the EU can be made without preventing new deals with the rest of the world and threatening the open Irish border. Opposition is equally stuck in wanting the deal that only remaining in the EU can provide while refusing to oppose Brexit. Both fear the Brexiters as well as each other.

Meantime many British households face increasing poverty, stuck on inadequate benefits, or struggling with insecure and ill-paid jobs. Young people are limited to inadequate and costly rental accommodation, or forced to stay at home even into their thirties. Old people who fall ill get stuck in hospital for want of adequate social care. The hospitals themselves and the doctors’ surgeries are increasingly short of doctors and nurses, owing to immigration controls and Brexit exodus. Schools, police and prisons aren’t sufficiently funded, and local government services are starved of adequate funding year after year.

The state of the nation is parlous, but Government and Opposition stare at each other with impotent antagonism and fail the country.

We Liberal Democrats have answers to begin to restore the health and well-being of our nation, and are developing them constantly. This is the time to tell the country what our programme and our policies are, and campaign to have them accepted nationally and implemented for the good of the nation. We want what our people wants – our country back in a real sense: back to unity, back to everyone’s problems being tackled in a fair-minded way, and back to real hope for the future. 

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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41 Comments

  • John Roffey 6th May '18 - 6:08am

    Katharine – as you know I share the concerns expressed in your article. However, there is a root cause of the hardships faced by so many in the UK – it is the combination of George Osborne’s austerity measures and the introduction of the global free market. This combination is hugely benefitting global corporations at the expense of the majority of workers in the UK – and in the ‘free’ world generally – as this article amply demonstrates:

    Richest 1% on target to own two-thirds of all wealth by 2030

    World leaders urged to act as anger over inequality reaches a ‘tipping point’

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/07/global-inequality-tipping-point-2030

    I raise this issue because the global structures in place make it extremely difficult for national governments to improve the lot of its people substantially – clearly with so much wealth being accumulated by these global corporations – there is an ever decreasing ‘pot’ for the people to share in.

    VC has raised this issue in the past, however, his concerns have been somewhat muted  – no doubt because he knows that a key solution is to raise far more tax from these giants – and this is extremely difficult because the sheer volume of transactions coupled to legal tax strategies makes it nigh on impossible for a national tax authority’ to identify and prevent profits being transferred to a tax haven or elsewhere.

  • Peter Martin 6th May '18 - 8:02am

    @ Katharine,

    If you’re analysing the state of the nation then you really need to ask what the nation is. Is it the UK as a part of the wider EU or is it as the UK alone? We’ve been part of the EU, or its predecessors, for as long as most people can remember. So you really need to include the bigger picture too. The state of the UK today is the state we are in after being an EU/EC/EEC member for many many years.

    It’s an economic inevitability that if we allow our currency to float at the same time as we are part of a mercantilist trading bloc, that we’ll end up with a debt problem. You correctly point out that “Young people are limited to inadequate and costly rental accommodation, or forced to stay at home even into their thirties” but why? Why hasn’t a rising GDP translated into real benefits for everyone. It’s because the extra private sector debt (and this rather than public debt is the main problem) has to be backed by assets and the way to do that has been to artificially inflate the value of the housing stock to create the collateral.

    Therefore Germany, because it doesn’t need to have the same level of private debt in its export driven economy, doesn’t have the same problem of unaffordable housing.

    So although you probably think my economic arguments are largely academic, they do explain just why we have the problems we do. You can’t fix something that’s failed unless you understand why it’s failed. There’s no point saying things like “We Liberal Democrats have answers to begin to restore the health and well-being of our nation, and are developing them constantly ” when you obviously don’t. I don’t mean that as a particular criticism of the Lib Dems. I don’t believe any party does.

    No party wants to tell it like it is because they think it will lose them votes.

  • William Fowler 6th May '18 - 8:38am

    House prices have always had a tinge of pyramid selling about them – people only willing to buy because they think they will lose out if they don’t and prices will always go up (they don’t, there is an eighteen year cycle). House price rises are not artificial, they are driven by demand but I suppose you can say that a low interest rate is artificial ergo mortgage costs but then you have a huge influx of foreign buyers on the back of a ruined currency (easily dissuaded by taxation, though). But if you look at the population figures, up nearly ten million since the end of the Thacther era, then you probably have the reason for the current situation and, indeed, Brexit (I know there is no direct logic to the latter but there you go).

    I will be interested to see what developing solutions the LibDems have to this massive overpopulation given that the dangerous levels of national debt make it necessary to move to a slight surplus and the next business cycle downturn is around the corner with yet more nastiness to govn revenue.

    Do agree with taxing companies more but the only way to do it effectively is with a turnover tax (and while you are doing that you may as well get rid of employer NI and business rates to hit companies in a fairer way and not dissuade them from employing lots of people rather than AI).

  • Peter Martin 6th May '18 - 9:10am

    @William,

    Germany has had an increase in demand for housing due to immigration too. And, yes, lower interest rates and almost total deregulation is the way to inflate the asset price bubble. At one time borrowers were scrutinised much more closely on their ability to repay. Overseas buyers were discouraged from buying up the hosing stock. Now, in the ultra free market 21st century UK – just about anything goes.

    So, yes, people pay silly prices for housing because they need somewhere to live and they have to ‘get that foot on the ladder’. If the bubble is inflating that’s probably the sensible thing to do.

    But nothing will inflate for ever. The market will eventually have its ‘Minsky moment’ when everything comes crashing down.

  • Steve Trevethan 6th May '18 - 2:34pm

    Thank you for an interesting article.
    We, person, party, main stream media and nation-state, need to free ourselves of the current neo-con economic ideology. It deludes its victims into the belief that sustainable wealth is created by debt leveraged inflation of real estates and financial asset prices.
    The debt costs of current finance capitalism results in austerity. It results in consistent reductions in living standards and “real world” productive capital investment.
    Higher house prices increase debt costs. This takes money out of the national “real world” economy and makes us ever less competitive internationally.
    We need policies which will tax away these rises in real estate prices to keep our internal costs down.
    For a really good read on the dangers of believing that debt creates general sustainable wealth, please read Mr M Hudson.
    https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/05/04/creating-wealth-through-debt-the-wests-finance-capitalist-road/

  • Katharine Pindar 6th May '18 - 3:26pm

    From a first reading of these very useful comments, thank you, colleagues, my feeling is a strong desire for our party to distance itself completely from the neo-liberal capitalist thinking of the ruling classes of our country, led by the Tory party, and shape a radical interventionist economic policy challenging the rentiers and wealth-hoarders in ways distinct from the Socialist absolutist proposals. I think we have the economic heft and determination among us to work this out and demand party acceptance. From the generalist observer viewpoint, it is amazing that the mass of our population is denied improving living standards and decent housing yet continues to vote for those who unthinkingly or deliberately uphold the unchecked power of the wealthy. We should commit ourselves to exposing this harmful subjugation falsely termed freedom.

  • I’m not sure why people are so focused taxing companies more? If you want to tax the 1% then tax the 1%. Taxing a company which consists of employees earning all sorts of wages is an extremely poor way of raising tax revenue from the 1%. Vince Cable himself said this:

    “The Labour party quite cleverly but dishonestly tried to pretend that somehow or other you make the country more of an equal place by taxing corporations or companies, but of course they don’t exist, they are just legal entities, so all they do is pass it on in higher prices or lower wages, maybe lower dividends to pension funds.

    “That is not egalitarian, that doesn’t solve the problems, and you can only do that by restoring good economic growth and combine it with Scandinavian types of redistributive tax policy and generous social provision. I’m for a kind of Swedish model of western economy, I’m not in favour of 1970s socialism.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/22/vince-cable-wealth-taxes-win-back-labour-voters

    If you want to tax wealth then tax that. Wealth lies in property, then tax property efficiently.

  • Sean Hyland 6th May '18 - 4:10pm

    Thank you Katharine for a thoughtful and reasoned post. I believe it is time for an economic policy based on social justice as much as creation of growth. A transaction tax would work well combined with reviews of how we had individuals and property/land. Homes,jobs,financial security are what matters to people. Quality schools that educate children to participate in a changing world and allow teachers to teach. Hospitals and social care that are there when we need them. Infrastructure that is fit for purpose.

    The key is in communicating the vision and the policies. The difficulty for the Lib Dems will always be getting the message heard. I hope the planned publicity campaign you mentioned elsewhere goes ahead and builds on the work of local activists.

    I know that we do not as liberals on LDV always agree amongst ourselves on every point but I hope we all believe that there are better ways forward for the UK.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th May '18 - 6:31pm

    Can anybody tell me, what have the Tories to offer the working classes? Their inroads into working-class areas seems the biggest con job of the lot, at present, and one we should expose in the summer campaign we should be planning nationally now.

    Zak, our emphasis isn’t on taxing companies, though we want to reverse the Tory cut of Corporation Tax from 20% to 17% (Manifesto, Section 4.2 on Fairer Taxes). Thank you for the link to Vince’s speech, where he suggests aligning capital gains tax with income tax as a means of taxing wealth. The main measure which has wide acceptance in the party is a Land Value Tax. I don’t know about Swedish redistributive tax policy, nor about ‘co-operative capitalism’, also advocated lately in these columns, but it would be good to have such ideas fleshed out.

    Sean, as always you make helpful comments, thank you, but I don’t understand your third sentence, perhaps you could reword and explain a little? As for your general points on what people care about, you are right, of course, but I am becoming dissatisfied with mere claims that we want more money for the NHS and schools, plus lots more houses built. I think the party has to be much more radical than that.

  • David Evans 6th May '18 - 6:37pm

    Katharine, you ask “what have the Tories to offer the working classes?” Well for those working classes who vote Tory, it’s just one thing which we can’t ever offer, and that is Brexit.

  • Peter Hirst 6th May '18 - 6:45pm

    The issue is that whatever policies we come up with, in the frenzy of election night there is this seemingly inevitable dichotomy that does not include us. To make real progress we need a change in our electoral system and more thought into coalition politics so next time we “capitalise” on the system rather than it working to our disadvantage again.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th May '18 - 8:58pm

    Peter, ‘the seemingly inevitable dichotomy’ didn’t operate before 2010, did it? We had many more MPs of course. But now it seems that in electoral terms, with the two main parties continuing to be neck-and-neck we shall still have influence. Considering their deep internal divisions, the dissatisfaction of the factions within them (are not each of them effectively two parties in one?), and the public disappointment in both, we have ample reason to make ourselves heard again and be listened to.

    It would be helpful if one or two of the successful new councillors from outside the nine
    councils we now run would tell us what they consider contributed to their unusual victory – apart of course from the fact that they are obviously admirable individuals, unstoppable, utterly determined, and very hard-working! 🙂

    David, Brexit isn’t a sufficient reason for working men and women to vote Tory. How is it going to benefit them? It isn’t.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    “Brexit isn’t a sufficient reason for working men and women to vote Tory”

    Surely it is up to the voter to decide what is sufficient Katharine and not you??

    Actually a lot of working class people believe that leaving the EU will benefit them in many ways,
    whether it is concerns for their jobs, for which they are competing with Europeans,
    Housing, Overstretched services, they may believe as I do, that prices in the supermarkets will come down once we are outside the EU and able to strike trade agreements with the ROW.

    Some working class may even believe in being tougher on crime, punishment and longer prison sentences, something Liberal Democrats are very weak on..

  • Sean Hyland 6th May '18 - 9:36pm

    Sorry autocorrect in action and self not checking before submitting. Suggested that a financial transaction tax would be a beneficial policy. Also meant commitment to looking at how we tax individuals and property/land. I know there is a clear view on land value tax.

    In terms of radical would be how we fund any new investment. We have to avoid the open cheque book policies of Labour. Perhaps a more constructive use of quantitative easing measures through the issue of investment bonds and the use of a green investment bank. Actually spending time talking to rather than confronting and undermining teachers could result in changes to the curriculum before we approach the issue of cost. Personally have no issue with the 1pence for the NHS but can see if the messaging is wrong it would be easy to attack as government taking more from people’s pockets. I am no fan of nationalisation but can see some benefit in looking at addressing issues of monopoly service providers.

    The Tories work a simple narrative based on law and order and the need to balance the households/nations books. Fortunately the reality of their offering is becoming obvious as well as failing. I also think the recent suggestions of peak Corbyn in some sources have validity. The mobbing of areas by momentum activists and the highly publicised issues with anti-Semitism etc seem to be opening people’s eyes to the reality of Labour. My 80 year old mum is a life long Labour supporter but resigned from the party when ” that clown” became leader.

  • @Sean

    A financial transaction tax done even slightly wrong would kill finance in this country. See what happened to Sweden in the 80s and the 90s. Tobin, the economist who did major work on developing the tax, said this isn’t a revenue-raising tax.

    @Katharine

    Sorry, my comment was more aimed at others who want to tax the 1% more by increasing corporation tax or by introducing a revenue-based tax.

    My favourite article on land value taxation is this one:

    https://forward-thinking.org.uk/land-value-tax-reduce-tax-bill/

    Short but it quickly explains the major economic benefits of the tax. I’m in favour of replacing both income tax and corporation tax entirely with land value taxation as it’s a tax which primarily hits the 1% and it’s the wealth inequality between the 1% and others that we’re concerned with.

  • Sean Hyland 6th May '18 - 11:47pm

    Zak i agree that Tobin never intended his scheme to be revenue generating as it was applied to discourage particular speculative foreign exchange transactions. It is unfortunate that for what ever reason the use of the term Tobin Tax seems to have become a shorthand , like Robin Hood Tax , for all Financial Transaction Taxes (FTT).

    We already pay FTT in the UK as Stamp Duties for example. A number of countries around the world have successfully introduced them including France , Italy, and Switzerland. I agree that it didn’t work when introduced in Sweden but it was the nature of transactions taxed and the rate set – when they doubled it that is when they had major problems. The EU have to a large extent agreed to introduce a form of FTT but have been sat on it since 2013!

    A FTT on specific speculative activities such as High Frequency Trading and certain derivatives could be successfully introduced at a low rate with limited negative effect to the financial industry.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th May '18 - 12:18am

    It the appeal of the Tories is indeed in offering law and order and the need to balance the books, Sean, the wonder is that they have such massive support still. From gang crime in the cities to continuing to run a huge deficit, and from hugely failing to bring immigration down as they promised to the Grenfell and Windrush appalling scandals, it’s amazing to think that this split and uncaring Government is not being bawled out by the public. If it’s just for a great many people that they can’t see an acceptable alternative, then that’s why we have to shout now about what we are and what we have to offer.

    Matt, thank you for explaining why you think many working-class people believe they can benefit from Brexit.

  • Peter Martin 7th May '18 - 7:39am

    @ Katharine @ Sean,

    You need a bit more than “balancing the books” and “law and order” to explain the Tory working class vote. And , incidentally, we don’t run a “huge deficit”. And even if we did that would be neoliberal thinking if people wanted to save and/or unless inflation was getting out of hand.

    Most people (whether or not they are working class or self identify as such) have mixture of conservative and socialist opinions. Any one individual might be very pro the Monarchy. (Conservative). The same person could be in favour of nationalising the railways and utilities (Socialist). Or be in favour of selective schools (Conservative) but still think the Government should play an active role the economy generally (Socialist). So in the end, it’s a balance. Some working class voters do, for what they consider very good reasons, end up voting Tory.

    The Conservatives appeal to a sense of National identity better than most other mainstream parties. Most Labour party members, for example, would know that their pro-republican views don’t go down too well on the doorstep and so tend to avoid losing votes by bringing that up. Rightly or wrongly, the monarchy is part of the British national identity. Those who don’t agree are quite likely to vote Labour in any case. Perhaps the Lib Dems will have to learn that the EU is in the same category. Just don’t mention the EU in Leave areas if you don’t want to lose votes.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th May '18 - 8:47am

    ” The Conservatives appeal to a sense of National identity better than most…” – I think you make a very good point there, Peter (and sorry about my Deficit mistake). Do you think, then, that the fact that the nation is in a sense now separating its identity from the rest of Europe may account for the Tories’ increasing success in working-class areas? If that is a major factor, I think that our party will have to emphasise more that while the Tories may provide superb leadership for the troops in war, in peacetime as now the interests of the wealthy classes which they represent are diametrically opposed to the interests of the mass of working people, and that they allow and increase the vast inequality which is so harmful to the nation as a whole. Whereas our party, by contrast, is for everyone…etc.

  • Sean Hyland 6th May ’18 – 9:36pm………………………The Tories work a simple narrative based on law and order and the need to balance the households/nations books. Fortunately the reality of their offering is becoming obvious as well as failing. I also think the recent suggestions of peak Corbyn in some sources have validity. The mobbing of areas by momentum activists and the highly publicised issues with anti-Semitism etc seem to be opening people’s eyes to the reality of Labour. My 80 year old mum is a life long Labour supporter but resigned from the party when ” that clown” became leader…………………..

    Regarding the “reality” of anti semitism on the far left..In the Institute for Jewish Research polls of 2017 people were asked eight different “anti-Semitic” questions and asked to say with how many they agreed. Around 5% were considered anti-semitic but “Hard-core” anti-Semites — of whom there were relatively few, but far more on the far Right than on the far Left — agreed with more of these ideas. (figures were that “14% of far right voters are strongly antisemitic, but 3.6% of far left voters are”)….Strange then that at the media briefing Dave Rich, Community Security Trust only referred to those on the left…One wonders what political agenda was behind that.

    As for life long members leaving when a ‘clown’ was elected leader? I wonder how such people accepted Blair without a murmur. The clown’s policies are those of the Labour party pre Blair…Such stories prove that the media are still powerful…Use the terms “Marxist”, “Commie” enough times and the mud sticks….

    A few weeks ago I was staying in a large hotel….No ‘Guardians’ on offer but dozens of ‘Mail/Express” all of which were taken by breakfast…

  • Katharine Pindar 7th May '18 - 9:35am

    We can plainly see the failings of both the Conservatives and Labour, but unfortunately the nation in general doesn’t, or just thinks there is no alternative. Backed up by the popular press, as you say Expats, and with our electoral system as it is, the dawning of the light is all too slow. Therefore in my view we MUST have a dynamic national campaign now, to explain in simple language and in graphic paragraphs what we have to offer. That should be put in the context of the failings of the others to meet national needs. It’s then a complex message which will require sophisticated marketing through social media and national advertising, to which we shall all need to contribute in a national appeal. What do colleagues think of this?

  • @Katharine Pindar

    “We can plainly see the failings of both the Conservatives and Labour”

    And what about the failings of the Liberal Democrats?

    According to an article in todays Guardian, since 2010, there are a million more children living in poverty.
    Liberal Democrats cannot walk away from that, since the increase started during their stint in Government.

    There is no point in telling people their is an alternative, when those ideals and policies are abandoned soon after taking office

  • Steve Trevethan 7th May '18 - 10:48am

    Perhaps we might also consider and even address the power of the deep/continuous state and the promotion of its policies by the main stream media.
    Our LD policies changed by about 180* to achieve deep state compliance when we were in coalition/ part of the ruling group.
    The main stream media, not least the BBC, did not point out that, before we attacked it, Libya was a best African state financially and for the conditions for women.
    It now has chaos and slave markets.

  • Peter Martin 7th May '18 - 11:00am

    @ Katharine,

    I’m sure that most voters do see the parties’ failings. They often often vote for the least worst! That’s largely my view too. So how do the voters see you?

    They see largely a collection of well meaning people who are pro-the EU and pro equal rights of race and gender. But even the latter can be a disadvantage if they get the idea that you’re more concerned with equal pay for high earning BBC newsreaders than people who work in a local factory or supermarket. So you need to make that point very clear.

    They know that most Lib Dems will do a reasonably good job at local level. But after that they’ll be struggling to add to the list of reasons why they should vote LIb Dem at National level. Your former left leaning support (which included me at one election!) who might have been anti the Labour Party at the time due to their support for the Iraq war has largely evaporated after the coalition years.

    So maybe if I were giving advice I’d say you shouldn’t start from here 🙂 But the Coalition years and the 52% of voters who are against EU membership are going to be big problems for the foreseeable future.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th May '18 - 1:04pm

    ‘Deep state compliance’ is a new idea to me, Steve (thank you!), and an immediate difficulty with it is perhaps in the context of the success of the Blair governments. I do prefer your earlier analysis (May 6, 2.34 pm), where you wrote of the power of ‘the current neo-con economic ideology’ obviously upheld consistently by the Conservatives. You wrote that ‘It deludes its victims into the belief that sustainable wealth is created by debt-leveraged inflation of real estates and financial asset prices. The debt costs of current finance capitalism results in austerity — reduced living standards and productive capital investment.’ We Lib Dems obviously went along with this in Coalition, to our and the nation’s detriment, as Matt observes.

    The current question is, why do the working classes put up with such Tory philosophy? My own gut feeling is with David Raw (May 7, 8.45, thanks, David) – that there has been ‘clever pandering to the prejudices and less generous impulses of people – wrapping it up in the Union Jack…’, but perhaps the delusion could also be understood as a fair-minded acceptance that the upper classes know how to create wealth and the likes of us don’t and it’s for the good of the country in the long run that they go on doing that. If there’s anything in that, belief in the Tories’ capacity to manage the nation’s finances will indeed survive general disgust at the way they are running everything else! But we then need to point out that trickle-down economics hasn’t worked and actually for their own and their families’ self-interest people need to abandon what may even be subconscious deference and stop accepting that economic outlook – as we Lib Dems have certainly now done.

  • Sean Hyland 7th May '18 - 6:42pm

    Expats she wasn’t a fan of Blair either that’s when she and my late father stepped down from branch/regional committee positions. With 60+ years of membership she has seen many shades of the Labour party. I don’t dismiss the anti-Semitism of the right of racism of the far right either, my comment was a referral to recent events and it’s impact on the recent election.

  • Sean Hyland 7th May '18 - 6:48pm

    Peter Martin yes was a quick simple catch all statement and the reasons for a working class Tory vote are wide and varied. I think you covered that well in the following paragraphs.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th May '18 - 11:05pm

    @ Peter Martin. I think that’s a fair enough statement of the vague goodwill in which our party may be generally held, despite the Coalition record. I don’t at all see why you yourself think it’s worth voting for any party but ours? You are so politically aware that any general ignorance about our policies can’t be the case with you, so why aren’t you committed to us? For most people, however – and I have to struggle now myself to work out the text of an introductory leaflet to put out locally – our reams of carefully worked out, conscientous and thorough policies will never be known. This discussion has made me realise how essential it is for the party actually to distill the core messages for the national campaign that I and other activists want now.

  • Sean Hyland 7th May ’18 – 6:42pm………………….Expats she wasn’t a fan of Blair either that’s when she and my late father stepped down from branch/regional committee positions. With 60+ years of membership she has seen many shades of the Labour party. I don’t dismiss the anti-Semitism of the right of racism of the far right either, my comment was a referral to recent events and it’s impact on the recent election………………………….

    From the above it seems your mother left because of Corbyn’s ‘clown’ status rather than his policies which are, as I said those of pre-Blair days.
    I find Corbyn attractive for that very reason. I have had my fill of snake oil salesmen like Blair and Cameron; career politicians whose only belief is in themselves. We had our own lightweights in Clegg, Laws and Alexander; men who preferred media attention to Liberal policies.

    My point about antisemitism was not that it doesn’t exist in Labour but how it was carefully choreographed, for maximum damage, by a hostile media, Conservative Jewish groups and those within the Labour party who would far rather see a permanent Tory government than one led by Corbyn.

    It seems convenient to ignore the fact that the last time these seats were contested Labour was in opposition and made massive gains. To expect very many of those seats, that had remained Tory then, to change was unrealistic.

    Katharine Pindar’s opening statement that, ” Liberal Democrats are significant now, uniquely placed to be able to work for the health and healing of our divided and unhappy nation, having proved our capacity in the local government elections.”…Seems, at least to me, to be ‘selling the crop when the seeds have barely germinated’. The results show hope but, considering that ‘stalemated’ Labour/Tories have well over 16,000 councillors and we still have less than 2,000, that is all they show.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th May '18 - 11:26am

    expats, the importance of the local government election results is not that we gained 75 extra councillors – a modest result as you say when compared with overall numbers – but that it brought us to national attention as appearing relevant once more in the national political scene. The general consensus in the Media that we had done quite well means that we can not be written off as a spent force in the public mind any longer. So the significance that we really have, in knowing the right way ahead in these months crucial to the Brexit negotiations, and in having the right values, principles and some of the policies that are required by the nation for the future, can now be asserted with some hope of being heard.

    We have the situation of a catastrophic Government and an impotent, hopelessly divided and fatally temporising main Opposition, so for us to assert ourselves is essential.. The national need for us, for our thinking and our proposals, was there anyway but we weren’t being listened to. Now we should build on this opening by national and local campaigning, and forcefully assert what we have to offer. Our country, being in a current bad state and with no better prospects, needs to hear us now.

  • David Evans 8th May '18 - 12:00pm

    Matt, Thank you for pointing out the fundamental flaw in Katharine’s view “Brexit isn’t a sufficient reason for working men and women to vote Tory. How is it going to benefit them? It isn’t.” However, underlying those points is a fundamental problem that sadly lots of Lib Dems have when it comes down to things they hold dear – an inability to see things other than from the viewpoint of their own personal logic.

    Different people have different viewpoints and different criteria for making their judgements, and applying our personal values to their decisions, without talking to them or sometimes even considering why they may be different means that we simply fail to understand them. As a consequence we can often pigeonhole them as simply needing education to help them think like us, when the fact may be, we need education to help us think like them. After all the important things in life to an unemployed person in Lambeth, can be very different to those of a retired person in Richmond.

    That is what we need to always be aware of to become more tolerant and accepting of diversity.

  • Sean Hyland 8th May '18 - 3:42pm

    Expats as i said in 60+ years she has seen many aspects, policies and individuals of Labour and campaigned on the doorstep etc for them. Her clown comment has nothing to do with his policies but years of being in meetings etc with him and some of those closest to him i.e.personal experience not msm reports, headlines etc.

    Back to Katharine and her original post the reasons anyone voted for any party vary. It’s the message that appeals to each individual based on background,life experience to make just two and not forgetting community identity. The Tory message has never appealed to me partly due to my upbringing but more importantly my life experience including work. I have voted Labour, for my first ever vote in 1983, and for a short time a party member when I lived and worked in North Wales in the mid eighties. Been a lib dem member up to the resignation of Charles Kennedy. Since the varied between Green and Lib Dems to vote. Find i support more,but not all, of Lib Dem policies as opposed to other parties. Simple as that based on my circumstances and having the luck to have the time to look at what each party offers. The ability to get a clear message across is always going to be key.

  • Peter Martin makes an important point (comment @ 7:39 am, 7/05) when he says that most people have a mix of conventionally Conservative and conventionally Socialist opinions – simultaneously pro-monarchy (Conservative) AND in favour of nationalising the railways (Socialist) and so on.

    He is right. And it makes the eternal Lib Dem search for a centralist platform futile. Such a position doesn’t exist.

    The bits will have to be reassembled into new and (initially) unfamiliar patterns before any breakthrough can happen. Is there any evidence of that happening, even on a small scale?

  • Katharine Pindar 8th May '18 - 7:31pm

    Logically speaking, Gordon and Peter, if most people do indeed have a mix of conventionally Conservative and conventionally Socialist opinions, most people may not be able to decide between them to cast their vote. Which obviously isn’t the case. I don’t myself claim to know about most people, but I do know that my party doesn’t have to strive for ‘a centralist platform’. We ARE a party of the centre, including right- , left- and centre-centre Liberal Democrats, now tending I believe to left of centre, I’m glad to observe. Come to one of our national conferences, Gordon, and see for yourself. Or listen to our good colleague Lorenzo Cherin on the subject.

    David Evans: ‘an inability to see things other than from the viewpoint of their own personal logic’ your today’s magisterial pronouncement, eh, David? The words that come into mind are, ‘If the cap fits…’

    Sean, thanks for the interesting background briefing. Glad it’s made you a Lib Dem supporter! Yes, we always have to work at getting our messages across clearly. I’ve just been trying to get a succinct statement together for our introductory leaflet to start our May 2019 local campaign; it’s about 100 words to offer my colleague Roger Putnam when we work together tomorrow, and I hope and expect he will improve on it.

  • Peter Martin 8th May '18 - 8:29pm

    @ Katharine,

    I would say many people in the Labour Party are very liberal, even Lib Demish, in their attitude too. You could recruit people like Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna and what would be the areas of disagreement? I’m really not that bothered myself whether the Railways are nationalised or if we have a Monarchy or we are a republic. So these labels of centre left and centre etc don’t really mean that much.

    I’m more concerned with the very obvious. Like it really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to say we “can’t afford” to educate our younger generation, or provide jobs for them, or run the health service, or provide housing, or keep libraries and parks open and the streets cleaned etc when we managed to do that perfectly well to do all that when we were much less well off in terms of GDP than we are now.

    We can have a successful economy which is more socialist or more capitalist as we choose. The Lib Dems have it right in saying that conflicts between left and right are generally counterproductive.

  • Katharine asks what do the Conservatives offer working people. A better question is why do working people vote Conservative. For some because:
    it is their family tradition (just like for all parties);
    they want to leave the EU and stop having laws “passed in Brussels” and to control immigration for the EU and believe things will be better outside the EU;
    they don’t want taxes to increase or believe they will be lower under the Conservatives;
    they believe the Conservative will be tougher on criminals;
    they believe the Conservative will defend Britain and British interests better than any other party;
    they believe people should be self-reliant;
    they believe those on benefits are scroungers;
    they believe the Conservative will run the economy better than anyone else;
    they dislike or don’t trust Labour at this election;
    they like their local MP who seems to get things done for local people and businesses.

    I expect there are others.

    If we assume that some working people were given the vote in 1867, then some have always voted Conservative.

  • Michael BG 9th May ’18 – 9:16am…..

    The critical word is ‘believe’…Mind you, with an almost entirely pro-Tory media, it should not come as a surprise.
    Looking at your list I’m reminded of Mcdonald’s and Mateus Rosé; both are a ‘triumph of advertising over experience’……

  • Katharine Pindar 9th May '18 - 11:09am

    Michael, thank you for giving thought to that splendid list! It strikes me, however, that you are noting there the significant divide explored by academics between the people in our society who are inward-looking, focused on personal security and keeping things as they are, and the people who are outward-looking, more broad-minded and open to new ideas, rather than what makes currently-working people who need to put bread on the table vote for a party which isn’t interested in whether the bread is available or not. And that is a bit of a mystery still, it seems to me.

    Peter, I like your depiction of what we believe as Liberal Democrats the nation should and can afford for its people, thank you.

  • @David Raw

    Thank you.

    I thought as you do. However Wikipedia states, “Before the Act, only one million of the seven million adult males in England and Wales could vote; the Act immediately doubled that number. Moreover, by the end of 1868 all male heads of household were enfranchised as a result of the end of compounding of rents.” Also, I am not sure all the Liberals voted against the final Act as it was made more radical as it went through Parliament.

    @ Katharine Pindar

    I think a majority of voters are concerned with how they perceive a political party will assist them when they vote. This is why political parties have policies for different sections of the community – promises for retired people or students.

    It is likely that our members come from the group of people who are more concerned with a political party having policies to help others than one which benefits themselves.

    Working people who vote Conservative are likely to believe they will be better off by doing so. They do believe that they will be able “to put bread on the table”. Also the Conservatives are concerned with growing the economy.

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