A Remain Alliance and opportunities for the Lib Dems…..detail may not be quite there but Lib Dems are poised for massive breakthrough

On Friday night the Spectator’s Coffee House blog carried a piece by Nick Cohen about a Remain Alliance. It had details of all sorts of seats being divved up between us, Plaid and the Greens.

My first thoughts on reading that was that it was at best speculation. I mean, why on earth would anyone leak plans for a Remain Alliance to the heart of the Brexit-supporting media, I can’t imagine. Anyone can sit down with a bit of paper and the 2017 election results and work out where it might make sense to stand one Remain candidate. It’s not rocket science.

The official party response says:

These reports cited by Nick Cohen are inaccurate in many ways. As the strongest remain party we are committed to stopping Brexit and are actively talking to those in other parties, and none, to achieve this.

I mean, Unite to Remain is pretty open about what it is trying to do and I would be very surprised if there wasn’t some sort of arrangement in some seats. But that has to get buy-in from all sorts of people, not least the local parties involved. Just by way of interest, if you delve a bit deeper into that organisation, you will see that its director is one Peter Gerard Dunphy who, until last year, was the chair of our Federal Finance and Resources Committee. He left us to join the Change UK project earlier this year but is still on friendly terms. His motivation is more to bring about the massive change in politics than any falling out with the Lib Dems.

Today’s Observer carries a story saying that we are changing our strategy for a general election in the wake of new research which shows we could be in play in a couple of hundred seats. It mentions specific seats that we could be targeting, including Dominic Raab’s heavily Remain seat

The article basically says that we are changing our election strategy and trying to raise money. Now, if we weren’t doing these things, there would be something far wrong given that we could be facing an election within weeks. The election of a brilliant, engaging and dynamic leader with a strong message, and our victory in Brecon, should make those jobs a lot easier.

The article carries quotes from three senior Conservatives who suggests that the Tories could lose seats to us as voters are horrified at the hard right direction of the current Cabinet. This from a former Cabinet Minister:

The route the PM and [his senior adviser] Dominic Cummings have taken is really blind to the fact that you’ve opened up this yawning chasm in the centre of politics,” said one. “The Lib Dems have always been at their best in a crisis.”

And more:

There’s a really obvious home [for moderate Tories] … Look at Winchester – it is hugely vulnerable,” said the former cabinet minister. “It’s the sort of city where people will say, you know what, we don’t want to leave the EU, we don’t like this hard-right posturing of the likes of Dominic Raab and Priti Patel. Her approach to law and order goes down really badly. These voters want to rehabilitate people and get them out of prison.”

Another added: “There are lots of seats in the south-east where Conservatives are at risk.”

This gut feeling is confirmed in a YouGov poll conducted for People’s Vote which The Times (£) suggests would see us winning seats like Richmond Park, St Ives,Cheltenham, North Devon, Cheadle, Lewes, St Albans, Hazel Grove, Wells and North Cornwall. That would mean that our own Kirsten Johnson would be among our new MPs along with former Presidential candidate Daisy Cooper and would see the re-election of Sarah Olney and Tessa Munt.

The Observer article also mentions that Emma Kennedy, the actor and broadcaster who expressed support for the Lib Dems in the European elections, could fight Surrey Heath against Michael Gove. While I’m sure that’s something many people, not just in the Lib Dems,  would love to see, just a gentle reminder that nobody can stand for the party without being a member and going through an approval process and then get selected for the seat. Let’s just wait and see.

The detail of the press reports may be not be entirely accurate, but the overall mood music shows a resurgent party with a dynamic leader and a strong message poised to do very well indeed.

We all have our part to play in making it happen. Here are three things we can do:

Talk to friends and family and colleagues and people we meet at bus stops about the current political situation and if anyone says they want to stop Brexit and share our values, get them to join us.

For any election, the sooner you can start spending money the better. So  if you can, give money nationally or to your nearest target seat campaign.

Help in the two current by-elections, Beatrice Wishart in Shetland on August 29th and Laura Gordon in Sheffield, shortly after the current incumbent gets round to resigning.  All you need to know about how to do that is here.

And local parties, if you haven’t already, get round your new members, invite them along to things and get to know them. Invite them to action days and show them that we are on this vital job of stopping Brexit.

This is a time for all of us to step up and turn what are obvious opportunities into the reality of many Lib Dem MPs. While that would be great for us, it is vital for the country to take it away from the insular, dangerous, ultra-nationalist, hard right future that currently threatens.

Jo Swinson says she has no limits for her ambitions for our party. She is right to think that she is a candidate for Prime Minister and that we should think big. This week we found out that Ben Rathe, who did such a good job getting her in the media in her leadership campaign, is to be her new Press Secretary. She is amassing a team around her with the skills and vision to grab the public imagination.

We did it during the European election and motivated people to vote for us in huge numbers across the country. Remain parties actually won that election, not that you’d know from the press.

Jo has talked about us becoming a kinder, friendlier, more loving country where we transform the economy to put people and planet first. We need to be the party that makes people for each other not against each other. Those ideas, as well as stopping Brexit, will be front and centre of any campaign.Jo will compare very well with the reactionary, right wing rich Tory government and the Brexiteer Corbyn.

In amongst the fear fight of Boris Johnson concentrating their fire on Corbyn because, let’s face it, it’s all he’s got and Corbyn concentrating his fire on a Tory/Brexit Party alliance and the spectre of Farage in the Cabinet because that’s all he’s got, you will have a young, optimistic woman with a vision of hope. That’s a very powerful thing.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I got very excited when I read the Cohen piece, prematurely as it turns out but I still believe that Alliance is the way to go.
    The last time we came close to “Breaking The Mould” was in Alliance with The SDP, we need to spread the net wider this time.
    We should beware of thinking we can do this on our own. So far there have been 2 Polls since Brecon, one has us up 2% at 21%, the other down 3% at 13%. The safest assumption is that we are around 18-19%, way short of what we need.
    Of course we do much better in Local Elections where the National, Westminster obsessed Media have little influence, that’s helpful in the long-term but not for a General Election in The Autumn.
    We need “Unite To Remain”, we need it to work on a big scale, far more than 100 Seats.

  • We must consider:-
    1. That it is undemocratic to “fix” these arrangements behind closed doors with little or no consultation.
    2. Many of the Seats mentioned would be won anyway without any deal.
    3. The Greens and Plaid Cymru want to “break up Britain” and having an alliance with these would also LOSE votes from people who don’t like that.
    4. The so-called “Green Party”, in particular, have some bizarre policies, that we wouldn’t subscribe to.

  • Please consider the following points:-
    1. It is undemocratic to “carve up” the seats behind closed doors without consulting Party Members.
    2. Many of these Seats would be won by the Liberal Democrats anyway.
    3. The Greens and Plaid Cymru want to “break up Britain”. We want a federal approach within the Union. Big difference!
    4. There are various other policy differences.

  • John Marriott 11th Aug '19 - 1:16pm

    Now I don’t know how this thread will develop, if at all. If Paul Barker’s comment is anything to go by, it will be the usual “How can we use this to gain maximum advantage for the party?” Whilst hoping that the next General Election, whenever it finally comes, will see Lib Dem representation in the House of Commons increase significantly, I would hope that ALL opposition parties, the Lib Dems included, and a significant number of Tories as well, will temporarily put their own sectarian interests to one side to make sure that a No Deal Brexit can be avoided. If Johnson and Cummings want to wage war on the British Constitution they must be confronted in the place where our national sovereignty, according to Brexiteers, resides, namely in the Houses of Parliament before anything else is considered.

    For some reason I am reminded of Kaiser Wilhelm’s address to the German Reichstag at the start of WW1. Translated it read “ I recognise no parties any more, only Germans”. For those of you, who might find this analogy slightly distasteful, how about comparing it with the edict often given by saloon owners in Westerns, that cowboys should hand in their guns before entering their establishments?

  • Andrew Daer 11th Aug '19 - 1:54pm

    Thanks, Caron, you’ve done a great job pulling all these things together. Very interesting reading !

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Aug '19 - 1:57pm

    This is a great upbeat post, but, if we are to persuade people to vote for us we must have a blueprint for a Lib Dem future. We must show how we will change our country so life is made better by remaining in the EU, not just how much worse it will be if we leave. It’s not enough to fight for the status quo: we have to be a party of change, of hope and of reform.
    Many members struggle with our lengthy policy documents so how we expect members of the public, who aren’t much interested in politics, to know what we stand for is a mystery. We need 4 or 5 equivalents of Bollocks to Brexit in every piece of literature and every message on social media. I hope one of those statements will be about our answers to the cruelty of poverty in our countries today.
    I hope that conference will put flesh on the bones of Jo’s statement about putting people first in the economy by passing and perhaps amending the paper ‘A Fairer Way for All’. Then we can say “Pants to Poverty” or “Away with Austerity “ or hopefully something punchier than that which shows what our party stands for.
    N.B. I also want an economy which puts the planet first, but I don’t think our devotion to the environment is as hard to find as our belief in social justice.

  • Richard O'Neill 11th Aug '19 - 3:03pm

    This should be as open a process as possible, to avoid an impression of a behind the scenes stitch-up. That may well just boost Boris.

    In addition
    1) a definite proposal of what the Alliance proposes in terms of the referendum question.

    2) a commitment by all members to implement the result in Parliament. Caroline Lucas has already said she probably won’t do so if leave wins again. This is a frankly dishonest stance.

    I agree with John Marriott’s view about this being bigger than individual parties.

  • Paul Barker 11th Aug '19 - 3:04pm

    Obviously stopping Brexit comes ahead of putting Jo Swinson in Number 10 but they may amount to the same thing.
    We know that Parliament Can stop Brexit, the question is do they have the will ? My guess is not until there’s broken glass on the streets.
    My understanding of The Plaid Cymru position is that they aren’t calling for Independence right Now, its more of an aspiration.
    When we talk about The “Greens” we have to distinguish between The Scottish Greens (Soft Nationalist, Pro-Independence) & The Green Parties of England & Wales & of Northern Ireland, both Internationalist.
    I am sure that Conference could make room for an Emergency Debate on any Electoral Deals that emerge. Certainly the subject will be talked about.

  • This is interesting but misses the real point.

    We already know that there is discussion at national level between the LibDems, Greens and Plaid (and other interested parties such as Renew), following on from the success in Brecon. We also know that similar discussions have opened up in some constituencies.

    If these parties don’t now progress this towards some sort of formal agreement, at least in the target seats that each might win, they won’t be forgiven.

    “Unite to Remain” has little to do with this, being formed after rather than before the true remain parties are starting to co-ordinate their election plans.

    UtR is partly about providing a vehicle for the handful of Independent MPs to join the banner of a Remain Alliance without having to commit in advance to one of its constituent parties.

    But it is mostly about Labour. We know Labour will never stand down in favour of another party: they are too tribal, their decision processes are too cumbersome, and they are too divided as to whether they support a Remain Alliance or not.

    UtR is designed to allow those Labour MPs who are “out” remainers to: a) support the alliance, and b) receive support from the alliance, without having to put their future within the Labour Party at risk. As such we should welcome it – because it is clearly in the interests of everyone opposed to Brexit that those MPs who can be relied upon to do the right thing (which sadly is only a minority of current Labour MPs) get the maximum support.

  • William Fowler 11th Aug '19 - 4:03pm

    I think both the Labour and Conservatives are going to come up with massive bribes before a GE, the former free tuition for uni’s and probably almost free water, gas and electric via nationalization, the latter slashing income tax and maybe getting rid of council tax, even the TV licence… that will sway those not too concerned about Brexit, if the bribes are big enough it will sway those who are quite concerned… meanwhile any alliance is unlikely to have coherent policies other than remain/revoke/rejoin (depending whether Brexit has happened or not) and vague promises to make the EU work better, green the economy and generally make everyone behave in a much nicer way to each other. Nothing wrong with that but will it work when confronted with rabid power hungry opposition?

    I suppose it could if Jo basked in serenity and calmness whilst the Torries and Labour spewed forth venom at each other…

  • Great article from Caron. We must aim high – if there is something close to a four-way split in the votes at a GE then we could be the largest party if not the outright government. This is possible if we can agree a Remain Alliance with Greens, PC etc on some very simple policies:
    a) stop Brexit – Remain and reform
    b) end austerity and reduce inequality, increase opportunities for all
    c) go green – protect the planet
    d) rebuild public services and build housing
    e) rebuild our democracy including STV
    I am sure that other people can come up with better phrases! We need simple understandable phrases and not long explanations.
    On the comments about alliances being “stitch-ups”, the answer is that often you have to do this to win in a first past the post voting system. Once get introduce STV we can get a lot closer to people being able to vote for what they want and not vote against what they hate/fear the most.

  • @Ron Heale. Not sure why it is undemocratic for those on the centre left to come together to fight an election. The centre right have been doing that for decades and it’s called the Conservative Party. Any party which contains Mark Francois and Rory Stewart is far more of an unstable coalition that anything we might put together with the Greens and PC.

  • @Chris Cory because we’re not centre left and @Rob Heale has it spot on.

    Blair assembled a coaliton right across the centre and won three terms. Allying with Socialists, red, green or nationalist, will lose more votes than it gains.

  • TCO – we are Centre-left with a big C and small l. And let me remind you that historically our party had always done better by being bellicose towards the Tories and always suffered whenever we jumped on board with them, as we are their rivals not their allies. So, allying with or if not at least having some loose forms of cooperation with the centre-left/leftist, which also has greater Remain factions, would be more sensible this time.

    Also, Blair government was technically centrist but still centre-left in name. The same cannot be said with the last Coalition.

    Rob Renold – also adding an industrial policy in the list and we will get a full package.

    William Fowler – In general we can probably keep our policy platform, but with more emphasis on Industrial Revolution 4.0 and industrial strategy. However, we can take something from Trump’s playbook and talk about trade deficit, and more importantly combine our pro-EU position with an (moderate) anti-China stance (this combined position can work as virtue signalling towards Macron, who also wants to deal with China according to his party’s manifesto), and then paint the Tories as bootlickers kowtowing to Xi Jinping – I mean, trying to depict the Tories as trying to withdraw from the EU to become Communist China bootlickers rathee than to “take back control”.

  • Paul Barker 11th Aug '19 - 7:31pm

    There are a host of concrete policies that all the Parties involved already back separately & more importantly a group of underlying values held in common too.
    To list some obvious things –
    Political Reform, bringing Power closer to The “People.” Not just PR & an Elected Upper House but massive Devolution powered by Local Taxes.
    A Green New Deal to combat The Climate Emergency & loss of Biodiversity.
    A commitment to Human Rights including a positive attitude to People moving about, working, living & loving where they want to.
    Reducing Inequality.
    Expanding & Funding Adult & Technical Education.
    I will stop there but I could go on, we have a lot of values in common.

  • @TCO. Others on this site may be interested to know that we are not a centre left party, but I suppose each is entitled to his or her view and matters of left/right are to some extent subjective.
    However, my central point is that a coming together of people from different parties, who never the less feel they have something in common, is in no way “cheating” the electorate, given that voters are being asked to support parties (Tory and increasingly, Labour) whose members are openly hostile to each other.
    As for whether it is in our interests to enters into such deals, well it worked in Brecon.

  • P.S. In 2017 I posted against the idea of having an unofficial deal with the Greens and was accused of tribalism by some. However, today we face a moment of existential danger, not just economically but as a nation and a society. Were such a deal on the table again my attitude would be very different. More rejoicing in heaven……etc…etc.

  • @Caron Lindsay
    “The Observer article also mentions that Emma Kennedy, the actor and broadcaster who expressed support for the Lib Dems in the European elections, could fight Surrey Heath against Michael Gove. While I’m sure that’s something many people, not just in the Lib Dems, would love to see, just a gentle reminder that nobody can stand for the party without being a member and going through an approval process and then get selected for the seat. Let’s just wait and see.”

    It seems she has already joined:

  • Personally I think it would be interesting to put one of the defectors from the Conservatives to stand against Dominic Raab (and perhaps also against other main Brexiteers) as an independent under the Unite to Remain banner. Possibly somebody whose old constituency is so strongly Pro-Brexit, that they can’t possibly regain it after leaving the Tories.

    As a former Tory they could perhaps gain more votes from Tory remainers, and criticise their opponent from an insider perspective.

  • Nigel Jones 11th Aug '19 - 9:29pm

    Rob Renold lists the key messages showing we are not just about EU. In the inequality item I would include Education and in the democracy STV item I would include big improvements to local government at the expense of Whitehall.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Aug '19 - 10:01pm

    It seems to me that there is a lot of idealistic if not rosy-spectacled and romantic wishful thinking going on here. I can see an LD-Plaid deal working in most of Wales though I doubt it will bring many more wins (if any). I can see a few local agreements taking place though again the number of wins they bring will be few, if any (it could save the skins of a small number of the existing defectors).

    One potential result would be to unfocus the GE campaign and leave the anti-Johnson field open to Mr Corbyn and Labour. Time to get real I think.

  • ……………………..Corbyn concentrating his fire on a Tory/Brexit Party alliance and the spectre of Farage in the Cabinet because that’s all he’s got………………..

    A Tory/Brexit party is the scariest scenario about; had that happened, in Brecon and Radnorshire, there would’ve been no LibDem win.

    Could someone please explain why it is unwelcome to form an voting agreement, on a seat by seat basis, with Labour candidates when it was OK to welcome as a member an ex-Labour MP whose past record included ‘Never believe a word from a LibDem’ and who wanted to destroy this party?
    Churchill was willing to make a pact with the devil in order to destroy the greater evil that threatened this country; why not show the same courage?

  • “One potential result would be to unfocus the GE campaign and leave the anti-Johnson field open to Mr Corbyn and Labour. Time to get real I think.”

    One of the rare occasions I agree with Lord Greaves.

    “TCO – we are Centre-left with a big C and small l. And let me remind you that historically our party had always done better by being bellicose towards the Tories and always suffered whenever we jumped on board with them, as we are their rivals not their allies. So, allying with or if not at least having some loose forms of cooperation with the centre-left/leftist, which also has greater Remain factions, would be more sensible this time.”

    Oh dear. Labour are our enemies not our allies. Hi and talk to anyone in s Labour facing seat. The only thing Labour wants from an alliance is an increase in its position.

    We are not “left” anything and using the word outs off swathes of potential voters.

  • Graham Jeffs 12th Aug '19 - 10:09am

    Regretfully I have no great faith in the hopes expressed in this article.

    We like to believe that we think logically and seem to assume that everyone else does too. If that were the case, we probably wouldn’t be in this Brexit mess in the first place.

    I have absolutely no confidence that there are sufficient Conservative voters prepared to dump their habitual preference in numbers that would swing seats other than those regarded as relatively marginal. Even if they are Remain voters, that won’t necessarily ‘unstick’ them. There may be stirrings of unrest in some quarters, but don’t over-estimate that the logical response would be for them to stop voting Conservative.

    There is a long way to go yet. Yes, there is progress (particularly where we are well organised), but there is not yet a sense of wider excitement. And to achieve that there needs to be a broader canvass than that of Brexit, important though that is.

  • I read the Cohen article with interest. It all sounds very promising and straightforward. If only things were so easy in reality, and while I welcome Caron’s reminder that it contains a substantial element of speculation, it fills me with hope. The basic plan of starting with getting the easier agreements in place ASAP is sensible, especially when we’re uncertain of when an election might take place. That’s the kind of announcement that fills the general voter with confidence and will grease the wheels of support for the party and the trickier seats.

    I share some scepticism about ‘celebrity candidates’, but having noticed Emma Kennedy cheerleading for us over recent weeks, I started to follow her on twitter and think she could be a great asset. I wouldn’t class her as a typical ‘celeb’, more of someone with a lot of success who has gained a public profile. If Wikipedia is to be believed, she studied, and even practised Law for a bit. She clearly chose to leave that behind, but she has skills beyond being able to communicate well on tv. If she chooses to proceed, and everyone locally decides she’s the right person, then it wouldn’t even be for one of our target seats. There would be a bit of extra media attention, especially being up against Gove, and who knows what might happen, especially with the added attention, but I don’t think we ought to worry that she’s jumping some kind of queue to become a candidate.

    Of course, she might decide it’s not for her, but we’d be foolish not to pursue some of these opportunities that come when someone well liked, articulate and with a reasonable profile who seems keen to campaign for our values expresses their support for us.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Aug '19 - 10:40am

    Caroline Lucas has written in the Guardian.
    Hopefully there is some planning for a possible by-election in Dover, currently held by a Tory.

  • (Caron,
    Rocket Science is just ordinary science;
    the clever stuff is Rocket Engineering.)

  • cliveenglish 12th Aug '19 - 11:50am

    Dear TCO and anyone else thinking Lib Dems are not a centre Left Party, What on earth are you saying.
    Clearly I must have dreamt that the Lib Dems and its fore runners have consistently argued for change and reform to increase real freedom of opportunity for all over many decades. Surely not the mark of Conservatism in even its Christian democratic form, let alone in its modern nationalist corporatist form. As for having differences with Plaid and the Greens Yes there are differences but frankly both Brexit and Climate Change are too serious to worry about theological points of detail.

  • Politics is a state of flux and as well as winning as many seats as possible, we should have our sights on fundamentally altering the playing field so that elections are fairer and there are stronger rules and regulations as to what can and cannot be done. We also need to take this opportunity to involve the people by including in our manifesto a timeline for delivering a new constitution, created by the people. Possibilities often come out of chaos.

  • Peter Hirst 12th Aug '19 - 1:09pm

    This depends on there being an early General Election that is by no means certain. Can we not force the government to again postpone the October deadline? We are in no way ready for it, something even those who support Brexit can agree. It would also defuse Boris Johnson’s balloon before it is fully inflated.

  • Agree with Sue Sutherland, Lib Dems (and other Remain groups/parties for that matter) need to promote the positives of staying in the EU rather than the negative of leaving. Also agree that the Lib Dems need to have succinct messages about other things that affect people as well as/irrespective of Brexit. I suggest (from Pub and Coffee Shop conversations) that these are primarily affordable Housing (especially for younger people), Social Care along with NHS (Integration thereof), Policing (want to see more) and Climate Change (driven by younger people in the main). However, the biggest challenge facing all political parties is the contempt in which Politicians are held. It’s a bit of and exaggeration to say no one is listening, but many people are not. Hence, messages need to be brief and to the point, not just about Brexit!

  • The Greens are not to be trusted. Regardless of the bizarre statements from Ms. Lucas. They are intent on replacing our Party and attempting to grab strong Lib Dem Seats in Cornwall, Sussex and elsewhere. Campaigning alone, the Greens are unlikely to gain more than two Seats. Also, their policies are dodgy.
    1. The Greens are lukewarm about Civil Liberties when they are pursuing their own brand of extreme greenism.
    2. The Greens want to break up Britain – they want a separate Scotland and Wales.
    3. The Greens targeted our Seats at recent General Elections and undermined us. they continued to do this at the recent Local and European Elections (including their Party Election Broadcast).
    4. The Greens have quite bizarre policies. In Brighton and Hove they have left a legacy of a corporate pod funded with £40Million of Public Funding, which is also loss-making; their policies reduced recycling; they opposed park and ride; they failed to consult about important traffic schemes.

  • Denis Loretto 12th Aug '19 - 4:24pm

    The more optimistic predictions of Lib Dem or indeed remainer alliance seats depend completely on the election coming before brexit implemention. I would be happier to contribute to this optimism if I could see a clear way to achieve this timetable.

  • Ian Patterson 12th Aug '19 - 6:29pm

    Everyone needs to take a cold bath. Outside of the Westminister hot house, talk of emergency cabinets, political coups will not do down well with electorate, if anyone cares to remember them! I do hope someone in HQ is advising Jo not to condone, participate or encourage anything approaching illegal activity. Once that Rubicon is crossed it can’t be uncrossed and it establishes an unwelcome precedent. Do we really want to let that out of Pandora’s box?

  • Denis Loretto,

    The way to achieve a general election before Brexit is for Labour to move a vote of no confidence on or before 12th September, for Parliament not to break up for the conference season, and for no government to win a vote of no confidence by 26th September thus forcing a general election with the Queen setting it, no matter what Johnson recommendations, for 24th October.

    Jo Swinson talked about being the largest party in the House of Commons which would mean that we need to have more than 158 MPs and would mean we would need to target more than 200 seats for it to be likely that we could become the largest party. Now if we are talking about targeting 100 seats on top of those we hold that is a more modest aim. But it will not achieve what Jo said she wanted to achieve. As Caron is on the Federal Board she should know what the new aim is, and hopefully she can get the party to tell the membership what its aim will be if there is an autumn general election.

  • Richard O'Neill 12th Aug '19 - 6:57pm

    I see Caroline Lucas’s strange proposal of yesterday has rapidly turned into disaster for her. I really hope she was acting off her own initiative rather than in conjunction with this party or other organizations.

    Mostly it seems to have be done to get publicity for the Greens. They seem to be resentful of the Liberal recovery in recent months.

  • David Allen 12th Aug '19 - 8:01pm

    Before we get to these sunlit uplands, there is the little matter of whether Mr Johnson will be able to push No Deal Brexit through before needing to hold an election, despite losing a vote of no confidence. If he does that, the UK will be in chaos. Mr Johnson might very well say that because of the chaos, he needs to impose martial law and put the election off indefinitely! And if instead he holds the election, the Lib Dem anti-Brexit vote will evaporate, becase there is no point voting to oppose something which has just happened anyway.

    So before we salivate about all these potential gains, we need to stop NDB first.

    The experts think that Johnson can probably cling on to the driving seat, and force through NDB, despite a no confidence vote. The only think that can stop that is the demonstration that there is a Parliamentary majority for a specific new PM to replace Johnson.


    Sadly, Labour say that PM must be Corbyn, and the Lib Dems say it must not be Corbyn. This is a recipe for avoidable disaster, caused by the Opposition parties failing to agree.

    Michael BG, on a previous thread, explains this dilemma. As he says, the Lib Dems need to back Corbyn in this -very limited- way. Otherwise they are enabling NDB.


  • Dilettante Eye 12th Aug '19 - 8:02pm

    Everyone is waiting for the ‘Vote of no confidence’, and debating when it will be presented after the return of parliament on the 3rd September.

    But the assumption is that this Boris government will just sit passively waiting for the no confidence vote to happen. But what if it doesn’t?

    Suppose, as Leader of the House, Rees-Mogg ‘lays down’ a Negative Statutory Instrument, attached to a ‘parent’ Article 50 Act which is already on the legal statute?
    The wording of that S.I. could be quite varied, but it could offer a guaranteed legal date for a GE assigned to the first available Thursday after the Christmas recess, on the proviso that Article 50 is allowed to run its course to the 31st of Oct.

    That would set Corbyn with a ‘bird in the hand’ dilemma.

    Does he bring the Tory government down, and along with it the Rees-Mogg S.I., which gives him (after 40 days uncontested), a legal date for a GE early in Feb 2020?

    So in that scenario, is it even worth Corbyn putting forward a no confidence vote, followed by an inevitable political ‘wrestling match’ with Caroline Lucas, Jo Swinson, or Evette Cooper for the ‘top spot’ in a fragile Government of National Unity?

    My experience of life is that planning for the expected is often a fool’s errand.

  • Ian Patterson 12th Aug '19 - 8:37pm

    Double cold baths required, as we’ve moved into martial law scenario!

  • David Allen – /i/”the Lib Dem anti-Brexit vote will evaporate, becase there is no point voting to oppose something which has just happened anyway.”
    This is not necessarily true. Long after the Iraq war started we continued to gain support for having been the only party to oppose it. If NDB is the disaster we all know it will be, voters will be inclined to punish those responsible and reward those who opposed it. There might be ‘no point,’ but voters are not always that logical. Many will want to express their frustration at the ballot box.
    I don’t disagree with your general point though, David. We absolutely need to stop NDB. But we also need a political strategy for how to respond if it happens.

  • Ian Patterson – Our mini-Trump has already told us he is happy to ignore Parliament if it gets in his way. Do you think we should all just take a cold bath, and reflect that democracy doesn’t really matter terribly much?

  • Dilettante Eye – It’s good to war-game all eventualities, because we are competing against a completely cynical wargamer in Dominic Cummings, and he believes he can out-smart his opponents because they are too civilised to think about punching below the belt. However, I can’t particularly see your speculation making sense. If Johnson / Cummings made a commitment months ahead to a GE in Feb 2020, they would (a) tie their own hands, (b) time the contest nicely for the point at which the chickens caused by NDB would well and truly be coming home to roost.

    I have a simpler speculation. What Johnson wants, I suggest, is a GE before NDB, at which he gets a “mandate” for NDB. Then, he can win five years to get people to forget how bad it was, and he can win his GE before he wrecks the economy and his own chances of election. If he simply called a GE now, however, he would be rightly accused of a cynical ploy, and of trying to win his NDB while concealing its faults.

    So Johnson wants to get himself “forced” into calling an early GE. To that end, he is making bloodcurdling threats about proroguing etcetera. When he drops those terrible threats, and merely calls a GE, he will want everybody to breathe a sight of relief, thank him for not completely destroying our democracy, and tell him what a statesmanlike figure (nay, Churchilian figure) he cuts.

    The tactic is akin to “I’m not asking for a million pounds! I’m not asking for ten thousand pounds! I’m letting you have London Bridge for a bargain price – Just one thousand pounds in my hand now, and it’s yours at a stroke!”

  • Mark Sherratt 13th Aug '19 - 8:16am

    We have a minority of the Tory party (which is also a minority party) running the executive as a result of a new PM elected by a minority of the country (conservative members).

    That immediately flags up the second biggest concern here, that an executive with a flimsy mandate can inflict something like NDB on the country, most likely by careful manipulation of the events to ensure no action is taken to prevent it happening (as opposed to actually winning a vote to enact).

    So any Alliance should have two aims –

    1. To offer a Remain v Soft Brexit referendum.
    2. Vote reform.

    Any other policy differences should be immaterial. Some argue that the Greens have looney policies or that Plaid or SNP have independence agendas, so what. If these parties didn’t have different policies and priorities what would be the point of them existing.

    As long as a party can sign up to the big two points they should be welcomed into an alliance to stop NDB and restore democracy to the country.

    Another party to throw into the mix is the Alliance party of NI who could do with an assist to get more exposure. In a ‘land stand’ election (assuming we get one before 31st October) winning seats from Sinn Fein (or even DUP) would help.

    There is the question of Labour, while their somewhat confusing policy on Brexit could meet point #1 I seriously doubt they would ever agree point #2, and this should be the focus of why they would not be part of such an alliance, rather than the fixation on Corbyn.

    Finally – paper candidates, this is the norm within the LibDem party and has been so for many years, it has been a long time since LibDems have had to leave seats with no candidate due to lack of funds or lack of candidates. As such if your idea of an Alliance simply means more paper candidates then you should scrap the idea right now. In an election average voters are not going to keep up with the nuances of which party is the main Alliance candidate in which constituency. Either be prepared to not field candidates to a significant minority of seats or don’t bother with an Alliance at all.

  • Dilettante Eye 13th Aug '19 - 11:52am

    David Allen

    “Do you think we should all just take a cold bath, and reflect that democracy doesn’t really matter terribly much?”

    Sadly Lib Dems like yourself have been telling us for three years that the democratic vote in 2016, doesn’t matter terribly much and should be ignored, and instead try to force us to vote again until we get the answer you agree with.

    Where would it get us if I took the same (but reciprocal) intransigent stance as you, and refused to accept any future democratic result that you agreed with (but I didn’t), and I then demand the result should be ignored, blocked and demand that we have a vote re-run, of course, with new questions on the 2nd ballot only allowed if I agree with them?

    The ‘contract’ of democracy only works when the losers magnanimously accept the result and implement that result, and sadly this picking and choosing which democratic result you will agree with is a new, and dangerous phenomenon.

  • Dilettante Eye,

    I personally think the Government in 2016 should have done their best to implement the referendum result and achieve a viable Brexit, which would – necessarily – have meant staying in the customs union and single market. They didn’t do that.

    They spent over three years pursuing fantasy versions of Brexit, in which the EU would voluntarily concede a series of totally impossible demands made by the UK. When they found that the impossible was impossible, they sulked off and took their ball home. They would now prefer to bankrupt the UK rather than admit that they got it all wrong.

    We cannot now go back to 2016 and start all over. The sensible very soft Brexit compromise which might have been brokered then, by a less incompetent government, would no longer satisfy anybody. Corbyn is clinging to a variant of that compromise, but he fails to recognise that it is no longer what anybody might want.

    The government has spent three years trying to implement the referendum, and it has failed. Leaving with No Deal, which was explicitly ruled out by Leave campaigners in 2016, would totally fail to implement the referendum result.

    The time has come to accept that when you have spent over three years trying to follow a course of action and have found no way to do so, you must change course.

  • Dilettante Eye 13th Aug '19 - 12:43pm

    Mark Sherratt

    “That immediately flags up the second biggest concern here, that an executive with a flimsy mandate can inflict something like NDB on the country”

    Did you conveniently forget that Parliament (on the legal approval of Gina Miller), voted for sending the Article 50 letter by a massive majority (413 to 202), over two years ago, so our leaving the EU was hardly instigated by a flimsy mandate?

    Or are you saying that MP’s were too ill-educated, and didn’t know what they were voting for?
    P.S. Thank you Gina Miller, from the bottom of my heart.

  • In my post yesterday it should have read “and for no government to win a vote of confidence” not “no confidence”. Sorry.

    Dilettante Eye,

    I don’t think Corbyn would see a no deal Brexit which he facilitated followed by a February general election in his interests. I think he recognises that he has to be seen as trying to stop a no deal Brexit. This might mean he would call a vote of no confidence in October when there is no time for a general election before we leave with no deal and the only way to stop a no deal Brexit is for a Labour government to be formed.

    David Allen,

    Thank you for linking to a previous comment of mine.

    I am not convinced all Conservative MPs would vote for a general election before 31st October. The Fixed-term Parliament Act means that at least 434 MPs have to vote for a general election. I can’t see most opposition MPs voting for a general election unless it was held before 31st October. Therefore even if Johnson tabled a motion for a general election I don’t think it would get passed unless he stated the date would be before the 31st October and I don’t think the Conservatives could win such a general election. It is possible that Conservative MPs might disagree and vote for a general election before 31st October, but before Parliament broke up it was reported than most Conservative MPs thought the Conservatives would lose a general election if held before we leave the EU.

  • John Littler 13th Aug '19 - 10:18pm

    The Remain Alliance could become greater than the sum of the parts, being a new offer in a political nightmare and with the public often telling politicians to work together, plus having just won the Brecon by election.

    An unofficial alliance could be made with Labour’s strong Remain supporters, by running just paper candidates against them and moving resources elsewhere. Of course this more or less happens now.


  • John Littler 13th Aug '19 - 10:20pm

    Every 70-100 years; which equates to a full human lifespan, there are major changes, including in public life and politics and we are starting one of those change periods now.
    After Lloyd George turned around WW1 from losing to winning; much as Churchill had done in WW2; the Liberal party went into decline, being replaced as the main party of opposition by the Labour Party and they achieved a landslide victory in 1945.
    Labour built the welfare state on the foundations of what Lloyd George had started, with the Beverage Report, also a Liberal and with the support of the great Keynes, who achieved a reluctant American/Canadian loan, another Liberal.
    The years that followed were of manufacturing workshop of the world, unions and the building up of the social realm and Welfare State which Labour were perfectly matched for, while the Liberal Party were almost snuffed out by the 70’s.
    Like it or not, that era has come largely to an end and ordinary people feel instinctively that Labour no longer represents the now as it did then and Labour co-opting public sector professional supporters does not relate to working class people now at all. Labour has become an odd hybrid, which brexit illustrates is split down the middle, with the old working class shrinking, losing income, power and influence and being split between other parties, some seduced by narrow nationalism.

    In the next era, a new set of parties and policies will be needed and in the common realm, what works now is mainly what can be passed at European level, whereby Multi nationals, tax avoiders, media barons and large aggressive countries cannot bully an organisation of 500million with an expanding free trade zone currently of 1 Billion people, but have no choice other than to go along with it. Democracy can and should be improved at European as well as at the British levels, which is near non existent here.
    Contrast the EU with the 1970’s style “Socialism in One Country” doctrine of Corbyn and it is literally impossible to carry out without runs on the pound and assets and companies moving their tax domiciles out of the UK. Companies will not put up with 1/3 of boards being workers with no executive role, or with Corporation taxes increasing to 28% + 10% on top into a Government fund, plus big hikes in top rate income taxes. The most well resourced people and companies are the ones paying the most tax and are best able to move or avoid these taxes.

  • Mark Sherratt 13th Aug '19 - 11:59pm

    Dilettante Eye 13th Aug ’19 – 12:43pm

    “Did you conveniently forget that Parliament (on the legal approval of Gina Miller), voted for sending the Article 50 letter by a massive majority (413 to 202), over two years ago, so our leaving the EU was hardly instigated by a flimsy mandate?”

    NDB = No Deal Brexit

    My comments about flimsy mandates refer to PM Johnson and how the country is now being run by a minority sub-set of the Tory party which is itself a minority government.

    Do keep up man, we’re talking about the current electoral situation and potential party alliances, not events from three years ago.

    That said, In a PR alternative universe we would not be in this mess as “enacting brexit” would have been a multi-party effort and we would be enjoying an EFTA or Canada-Plus style Brexit by now.

    The failure to reach a deal after three years is because all decision making was restricted to one faction of the Tory party (PM May + cohorts), now we’ve swapped to an equally myopic different faction which is contemplating an engineered suspension of Parliament to push forward a version of Brexit that wasn’t envisaged at the time of the referendum.

  • Michael BG,

    We’re in danger of getting confused by the complexity (well, I am , anyway!), since there are two separate questions of interest: (a) can an “emergency government” be formed prior to NDB and to any election, and (b) can an election take place instead, either before or after NDB. In your last post, you discuss (b), so I’ll respond to that!

    An election can happen either because (as you discuss) 434 MPs vote for it, or because the PM is successfully no-confidenced and no alternative PM can win the confidence of the House within 14 days. You explain why 434MPs might not want to vote for an election, but you don’t address the alternative possibility of a successful no-confidence vote. I think Johnson would be delighted to get no-confidenced (provided no emergency government could be formed), because that would let him fight an election before NDB, on a platform of throwing out the Parliamentary dead-wood that was blocking the “will of the people”. That is the kind of election which Johnson thinks – probably rightly – that he could win.

    Johnson would be much less sanguine about a GE after NDB. Once NDB has happened, Project Fear will be proven to be Project Reality, and Johnson would fear losing. After NDB, a GE could be held only if both the Tories and Labour voted for that to happen, which would only occur if both Tories and Labour felt confident of winning. Nota very likely possibility! I don’t believe, therefore, that Johnson’s blatant electioneering is directed toward an election after NDB. His game has to be to be apparently “forced” into an election before NDB.

    That’s why we have to stop that happening, by means of an “emergency government”.

  • Now to get back to the subject of an “emergency government”.

    Having complained that the Lib Dems’ unwillingness to deal with Corbyn was unhelpful and tribalist, I should acknowledge that Swinson’s willingness to deal with Watson as reported today is a good step forward. It demonstrates that senior Lib Dem and Labour people are willing to bury the hatchet and work together to stop NDB.

    However – and I say this with regret, and certainly without sympathy for Corbyn – it still doesn’t get over the Corbyn problem.

    Forming a “government of national unity” is like forming a Second World War Atlantic convoy. There is only one way to operate such a convoy. It must travel at the speed of the slowest ship in the convoy, even if that is an ancient rustbucket. Once you have recognised that you need that rustbucket in your convoy, you must recognise that it will set the pace.

    We won’t get Kate Hoey into our convoy, and fortunately we won’t need to. Provided that almost all other Labour MPs do oppose an NDB, we can cope by getting all those MPs into our convoy. But we can’t afford to lose more than a tiny handful. Corbyn, and those who align with him rather than with Watson (or Starmer, or Thornberry), simply has to be in the convoy. That gives him – unfortunately – a great deal of leverage. Leverage he has never had before, and probably will never have again!

    Corbyn has us over a barrel. It is not fun to be over a barrel. People may like to deny that they are over a barrel. Denialism is not wise. Adapting to reality, and coping with it, is wise.

  • John Litter – good to see you again. I hope that you will write a full article about the need of an industrial strategy in the future.

  • David Allen,

    In my earlier post 12th Aug 6.31pm I stated that a vote of no confidence would have to take place by or on 12th September for a general election to be held on 24th October before Brexit on 31st October.

    I think the day is 12th September because I think the 13th will be needed to stop the House of Commons having a recess starting on that day. 14 days are required for a new government to be formed this takes us to 26th September. Therefore if no government has won a vote of confidence there will be a general election. From my reading of the Fixed-term Parliament Act (3.1) 17 working days are required after Parliament dissolves to the day of the general election. If Parliament is dissolved on 27th September this takes us to Tuesday 22nd October.

    In the post you linked to in another thread I set out we needed to support a Labour minority government if the vote of no confidence takes place after 13th September.

    I would welcome a general election on 24th October, as I stated in my previous post before Parliament broke up most Conservative MPs believed they could not win a general election before we left the EU. I think the chances of the Conservatives winning a general election improve if held in early November (7th) before we are badly affected by leaving without a deal.

    I think Parliament will come back after the Conference season recess on 8th October. I think it would be in Corbyn’s interest to hold the no confidence vote that week before 11th, so he could become PM before 25th leaving him a few days to get an extension from the EU and it agreed in Parliament. If Johnson wanted an early November general election he could hold his vote to dissolve parliament that week getting his general election on 7th November.

  • David Allen 14th Aug '19 - 7:44pm

    Michael BG, “I would welcome a general election on 24th October, as I stated in my previous post before Parliament broke up most Conservative MPs believed they could not win a general election before we left the EU.”

    Yes but – The Tory MPs will have been thinking of a Theresa May Ploy Mark 2, whereby Johnson voluntarily says “Let’s have yet another General Election, because with more MPs, I could negotiate Brexit more effectively”. In such a situation, the public and commentariat en masse would say “Pull the other one! You are just sliding inexorably towards a No Deal Brexit, you are not negotiating, the EU are not negotiating, so why are you pulling this election stunt just now? You just want five years of power, and you want to grab hold of it before NDB actually happens, chaos kicks in, and your popularity plummets! We’re not buying that!” The Tory MPs are aware of the risk that a voluntary GE called by Johnson could bomb for these reasons, which is why they will have argued against going for it.

    But – The situation changes entirely if an election on 24th October is “forced” on Johnson, or appears to be forced upon him. If Johnson is VONCed, then Johnson gains two very important things. First, a get-out-of-jail-free card, in that nobody can now easily lay the charge that the GE is just a cynical ploy by Johnson. Second, a campaign theme. “The treacherous Parliamentary Remoaner deadwood has illegitimately acted to frustrate the democratic will of the people and block our historic British Brexit! Vote Tory to stand up for the patriotic British People, restore democracy, and break free from the shackles of the tyrannical EU!” Jingoism is a potent weapon. Johnson knows that he will only have that weapon to use if, when the GE is held, Brexit is not yet a done deal.

    It follows that VONCing Johnson could work in Johnson’s favour. I think that could be why we hear all the talk about proroguing, cosying up to Trump, etcetera. The more Johnson can work up his opponents into fury, the more likely they are to VONC him. Which is what he secretly wants. Provided, that is, his opponents fail to get their act together and forestall the election by forming an emergency alternative government.

  • John Littler 17th Aug '19 - 5:56pm

    Thank you Thomas. I was a lot more impressed by what Cable and Davey did in coalition than what I have seen in LibDem Industrial policy papers, which were too keen on theoretical market doctrines that do not really work in the real world and are too close to those on the modern Tory right. Trade deals are not free, but like negotiated rules of the road.
    If the public has got excited about the unlikely issue of distant ( and grossly exaggerated) trade deals, then it ought to be able to excite them with an Active Industrial Strategy, tied in with Regional Policy, education & training, support to science and R&D and support to UK firms overseas. If done properly, this will have more bang for bucks than ineffective tax cuts in Corpn Tax and higher income tax. Germany would be a good model, except that they oversee small business poorly, with far too many restrictions.

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