LibLink: David Boyle – The Lib Dems should act decisively – and join the Independent Group now

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Over on the Guardian’s Comment is Free, David Boyle uses his first-hand experience of the Liberal party/SDP merger to reflect on the new situation with the Independent Group of MPs:

…this is what I believe Vince Cable should do. As soon as possible, the Lib Dems should join the Independent Group in parliament. I suggest this partly for the good of the independents. Joining the 11 Lib Dems (plus Stephen Lloyd, who resigned the whip recently, but who would surely then follow suit) would double their size and give them momentum. The new group would then be almost two-thirds of the way to becoming the third largest party (currently the SNP with 35 seats), and closer to the public funding attached for policymaking.
I am not suggesting that there should cease to be a Lib Dem group. I see no reason why they should not be a party in their own right, as the Co-operative party manages to be within Labour.

You can read the full article here.

From 1992-1998, David Boyle was editor of Liberal Democrat News. He has been a PPC and a member of the Federal Policy Committee from 1998-2012. He was Lib Dem Blogger of Year in 2013. He is an author and journalist.

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95 Comments

  • Holly Matthies 26th Feb '19 - 12:49pm

    But we don’t share any of their values! Numbers mean nothing if they require us to abandon liberalism in favor of racism, acceptance of Brexit, and many other things that are anathema to liberals.

  • Please feel free to TIG off if you want. Let the rest of us continue the fight for a Liberal society.

  • The Lib Dems are polling between 6 -10% Nationally..media coverage is almost zero ..the party claims it joined the dreaded Coalition because of the National interest and by doing so destroyed itself beyond repair. The only real choice is to join TIG..go to them and try to persuade the TIG doubters that you can still offer something to the Brexit nightmare ..TIG have the momentum money and lashings of coverage.. for the good of the country disband and join with them.. Brexit is bigger than political vanity and tribalism.

  • John Chandler 26th Feb '19 - 1:26pm

    No.

    We share some views , but they’re (mostly) not liberals. By all means work with them on the common ground, but joining them completely is ridiculous.

  • Martin Land 26th Feb '19 - 1:27pm

    @ Silvio. Off you go then. Nobody is stopping you.

  • To leave something to join nothing. What a silly idea

  • ,@Martin Land. Facts are blinding .the Lib Dems have never recovered from the dreaded Coalition but allowed the party to be smashed into bits and forever ruin its brand for the’ National good’ so why not now when the stakes are so high..join TIG and the future will look much kinder on the Lib Dems legacy. What’s in a name when the country needs the Lib Dems to step up and fight Brexit..

  • Chris Moore 26th Feb '19 - 1:53pm

    Hi Silvio,

    TIG currently have all the media attention. It’s true. That’s inevitable in the short run.

    But the Lib Dems have 100,000 + members, 1000+ councillors, structure, policies , a philosophy.

    Hopefully, there will be symbiosis between the two groups.

    But to be honest, none of the Tiggers are very inspiring as potential leaders. I’m not saying they lack guts. They clearly must have loads of guts to leave party and face such hostility. But one strike me as national leader potential.

    The Lib Dems need to make supportive noises and wait on events.

  • Chris Moore 26th Feb '19 - 1:55pm

    Silvio, I think you are too sweeping.

    The Lib Dems have often found it difficult to get media coverage. that’s nothing new.

    We need to wait and see what the general philosophy and policies of TIG turn out to be.

    Positive in response, but not jumping to conclusions!

  • John Bicknell 26th Feb '19 - 2:03pm

    If I was a member of TIG I’d be feeling quite nervous at the moment. Both Labour and the Conservatives have shifted position this week in order to stem further defections, which have dried up for them. They do not have a councillor or membership base, and could well be wiped out at the next GE. The media interest in them will move on unless they can expand beyond their current, limited base, or can carve out their own niche in the political spectrum. What a foolish idea to abandon 160 years of Liberalism for the latest novelty!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Feb '19 - 2:09pm

    As ever , a fine article and various commentary points some excellent, or ludicrous, or in between.

    I rate the writer thinker David Boyle. A good man and wonk but with reality in his political views a normal and regular quality.

    I agree with him. He does not advise this party disintegrates. He suggests the Co – operative model. Mark Pack has too. I did years ago, should we think a progressive movement beyond parties would be able to form.

    The description in the comment above that they are racist and for Brexit is so laughably wrong it makes for a reflective period as to whether liberalism is now at the edge another form of extremism. They are more or less being led by a man of mixed race with a Nigerian father and they exist because they want a vote to allow those obsessed with Brexit a possible route to stop it. Not good enough for they who like what they like and do not know the word compromise exists let alone cooperation.

    Polls have them on eighteen per cent , this party on six to eight.

    Chuka or Teresa or Jeremy?

    I that a question for liberals, who crave an alternative, to me there is no question of other than unity in the centre and centre left or right.

    Alternative is to dream of your pure liberal radical utopia.

  • Peter Watson 26th Feb '19 - 2:10pm

    @Holly Matthies “But we don’t share any of their values!”
    Don’t like Corbyn. Don’t like Brexit. That pretty much sums up TIGs and Lib Dems in 2019. 🙁
    But at least Lib Dems have solid foundations and policies to build upon if only the party can remember and communicate all of the other things it stands for.
    If nothing else, the apparent readiness of voters (as reflected in polling) to ignore the Lib Dems and choose instead some vague centrist grouping that is neither fowl nor fish (not Labour, not Conservative, but what?) should be evidence that Coalition did damage the Lib Dem reputation and that it should be dealt with rather than ignored by assuming the electorate has forgotten all about it.

  • @Peter Watson. If the party took your advice and finally came to terms with its terrible part in the Coalition then that would be transforming..as it is the memory of Danny Alexander and others passion and sadly glee in being part of some truly foul policies will be fixed in the minds of progressive voters.. the party won’t follow your advice therefore the party is doomed

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Feb '19 - 2:23pm

    Can people realise , this could be a move for liberals, they have not seetled on a name or status yet, they seek to break away from the same way as before, they invite us to, they do not say how, they are vague on this, but we , they, can indeed break with business as usually awful as in coalition, but with mps more open, for goodness sake nobody suggests abandoning the party in the country, we they, all of us as we, should meet and devise and think and build, not denigrate and languish and insult and be pointless.

  • Boyle writes: “the Lib Dems these days have no obvious distinctiveness to lose, and must face up to that….Brexit…has separated the Lib Dems from their Brexit-voting supporters in the west country and Celtic fringes. It has hollowed out their message so thoroughly that only the cognoscenti can discern one.”

    Hard to disagree.

  • Denis Mollison 26th Feb '19 - 2:42pm

    The idea of joining a not-yet-formed party with no policies yet (apart from being laudably anti-Brexit), and several track records antithetical to our views is a non-starter. It makes sense to be friendly and cooperate for the time being, but we should be sharpening up our own clear policies and hoping that when the dust settles some of the 18% who apparently told Yougov they’d vote for this non-party will see us as the way forward.

  • Paul Holmes 26th Feb '19 - 2:54pm

    As I have said in another thread -when we know what they stand for then we can consider how closely we can work with them.

    Two of them were on Marr yesterday and he asked 3 specific policy questions of which two were completely evaded and the third given a vague answer. Soubry a few days earlier was asked about policy, delivered their stock waffle about being united by values but when pushed said she wanted good well funded public services. She then refused to answer when asked if that meant she supported raising taxes to pay for them -so no change at all from her years in the Tory Party where warm words meant nothing in reality.

    Putting forward a blank slate “we are against all of ‘that’ and just want common sense and reasonableness” is the easy part and offers no hostages to fortune. But it can only hold up for so long.

  • John Marriott 26th Feb '19 - 3:01pm

    You know, the Lib Dems may, in fact, have no choice eventually. At the moment we don’t know whether TIG is just a way of thinking or a genuine political party/ movement. So far, it would seem to me to be one way of wrestling the Brexit debate away from May and Corbyn.

    If all some contributors appear to be bothered about is the purity of ‘Liberalism’ or the May local elections, then they are clearly allowing themselves to be distracted away from what we should all be concentrating on, namely, how to avoid that Brexit cliff edge by the end of March.

  • Chris Bertram 26th Feb '19 - 3:21pm

    @Peter Watson, @Silvio – “Deal with”, “come to terms with” our part in the coalition – by doing what exactly? Please don’t make the stupid suggestion that we offer a public apology, we’ve been over that one before, and there is no possible way that it doesn’t make us a laughing-stock. So what else do you have in mind?

  • They, the TIGs, won’t be standing as Labour/Tory candidates …so that’s the Labour/Tory tribal vote lost. Will disenchanted Labour/Tory voters be enough to elect them? I doubt it. So they will need LibDem type voters (even though they haven’t a good word to say about this party).

    Vince Cable says LibDems won’t stand against them (but then Vince has been ‘casting around for mates’ for months; so no surprise there). They have, as has been said, only two common values; hatred of their current party leader and hatred of Brexit. Both these are likely to have been settled by the time of the next GE so where do THEY go from there?
    Joining such a disparate group would split this party asunder and I doubt either it, or the new group, would survive.

  • Ronald Murray 26th Feb '19 - 3:37pm

    First reaction Oh No Not Again. We would be grasping at straws these people dont know what they stand for so how can we offer an alliance. I like many of us I was involved in negotian with the SDP at local level for what seemed like years. They kept quoting their constitution so often, I thought I would go mad if I heard it again. In the end it worked out and we were on the up. The TIG dont even have that, no doubt any arrangement would mean no critisism of Israeli excesses would not be permitted. Even though the arabs are also semitic. Caw canny I would say.

  • nvelope2003 26th Feb '19 - 3:45pm

    When the SDP was formed in 1981 they had an opinion poll rating of 50%. This Group has got 18%. Amongst 18 – 24 year old voters the Liberal Democrats have 16% and TIG have 9% despite massive publicity last week though there has not been so much this week because there is nothing to publicise. Corbyn’s change of position will not help but the Lib Dems should not ignore them as anything which stirs up the pot will help.

  • I think on balance that Vince Cable is right in his current approach, but it’s hard for many members not to want to try and break the mould of British politics (again) by merging with this group.

    My view is that we should stick with the non aggression pack idea and try to agree common policies. We should defend existing seats and continue to try and win key targets but then give the TIG a free run everywhere else and hope to ride on the coat tails of this movement. We should offer party resources to facilitate this as much as possible.

    This way we don’t instruct many members wishes to break the mould and we don’t risk loosing seats by fighting TIG. Given where we are I think that’s perfectly sensible.

  • @Chris Bertram. If the Lib Dems do not go through the extremely difficult but ultimately purifying task of a full comprehensive review and knees on the ground apology for the Coalition then the rot will continue…not a ridiculous on line video apology like Cleggs but a Soul searching and honest approach that could yet save the party. Turn on the 24 HR news..listen to the various Talk Radio stations go on line..NOBODY is talking about the Lib Dems EVERYONE is talking about May, Corbyn and TIG.

  • David Westaby 26th Feb '19 - 4:13pm

    The arrival of the IG has given some welcome publicity to the LDs and the central ground. Some coordination with the group is essential but any thought of whole sale merger is nonsense. There needs to be an overriding aim to avoid an eventual election clash but within that framework there is much time to allow sensible evolution of a relationship. It would be v helpful if the IG was supportive of the LDs in the local elections- in which they will not have representation. Hopefully a positive set of results will give the LDs a strong hand in further developments. Something to aim for in May.

  • Martin Land 26th Feb '19 - 4:18pm

    Vince may say he’s not standing against them. I see an awful lot of Lib Dems standing as Liberals then…. The TIGs are a single issue group of malcontents. Brexit is an important issue, but it is only one of many. In or out we still face a housing crisis, the need for the rights of sexual and ethnic communities to be better acknowledged and enforced. Greater opportunity for children from deprived backgrounds, etc. These we will persue through the coherent and comprehensive ideology of Liberalism. That is our party and our duty. Our struggle since 1640 and not something to be abandoned to the whims of some soggy centrists.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Feb '19 - 4:27pm

    I like and rate Paul Walter, and you write from a perspective that we all in politics need here, progressive and strong, but if the only alternative to being the party of Gladstone, is to be the one of Gaitskell and Grimond in tandem, give me these two as heroes over the grand old man anyday!

    We are in my view on the verge of creating a new party together, there are loads of us who thought a newer leader and more strong policy agenda might do it, but lets face it, Sir Vince and the radical association direction is not in tandem, this party is as mixed as is this party plus the Independent group, suerely all could understand this and we could all, in a combination of revitalising, unite and keep the party , new or varied name, more and greater numbers of members

  • Bernard Aris 26th Feb '19 - 4:39pm

    I reiterate i was severely underwhelmed by the performance of two TIG ladies this Sunday on Andrew Marr.

    And after their “first business meeting” yesterday, 7 days after their launch, they still hadn’t anything new to say. if you
    *) lack grassroots members;
    *) lack political qagents, cadres, councilors;
    *) talk vaguely about “valus” or platitudes like “sound money” for a whole week solid, while the news cycles roll on towards new “happenings” (as we called it in the hippy 1960’s), while the fish & chips are being served in TIG’s headlines from last week (sinking back into oblivion),

    you need to keep feeding the news cycles to keep in the converaation, keep in the sportlight.

    But after two weeks journalist will get decidely and irreparably BORED, and move on (see Evelyn Waughs novel “Scoop”… “The next whisky bar” Bertold Brecht called it…)

    so they better get of their high MP horse and join US, the hardworking Community Politics activists!

  • I agree with Peter Watson that the TIGgers poll rating shows there is a still a large section of the electorate who would like to support a party which is not Labour or Conservative and our failure to capture this section of the electorate shows that we are still being held back by what the Coalition government did.

    In 1983 the Labour Party achieved 27.6% of the vote, in 1987 it had increased to 30.8%, in 1992 to 34.4% and in 1997 to 43.2%. The Conservatives achieved 30.7% of the vote in 1997, 31.7% in 2001, 32.4% in 2005 and 36.1% in 2010. It could be said that the Labour Party leadership in 1997 had disowned the previous Labour government and the policies of the 1983 manifesto. It could be said that the Conservative leadership in 2010 was different from those who were in the Conservative government in 1992 and it had moved away from the policies of 2001 and 2005.

    In our 2017 manifesto we moved away from some of the policies of Coalition years, but not far enough away from austerity and the idea that governments need to balance their budget. How many people on out Federal Policy and Federal Conference Committees still support the economic outlook of our leadership during the Coalition years? In 2017 we had a leader who had not served in the government, but it wasn’t enough for the electorate to see us as different from the Party of the Coalition years. With Vince leading us it will be much more difficult for us to be seen as different from when we were in government. As well as disowning austerity and rejecting economic orthodoxy we need an MP leading us who has been elected to Parliament since we were in government – Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine, Layla Moran or Jamie Stone.

  • David Evans 26th Feb '19 - 4:54pm

    Chris Bertram, as you well know the time when an apology would have worked/could have worked has long gone. It totally depended on people who might change their mind actually having any interest in what we were saying, and nowadays about 90% of the British people have decided we are no longer of any consequence whatsoever. Whether they thought we lied to them, betrayed them (and quite a few still do) or were just totally incompetent in Coalition, most have stopped listening, and our party still has no idea what to do other than go out, campaign like we did in the 60s and 70s and try to make something to turn up.

    What is most worrying is that most of our members still seem to think this is an acceptable strategy, and that relying on something that took 50 years last time is the best option, so long as we pretend it is different. The country can’t afford to wait 50 years for Liberal Democracy. It needs it now. However perpetually saying ‘What would you do?’ is just more prevarication. Until we are all prepared to say to ourselves ‘This isn’t working. How do I need to change do to make things change?’ we will continue to languish as the fourth, fifth or maybe even sixth biggest party in the UK.

  • I view it as need to cooperate with Independent Group but certainly to keep identity at present time, can not be sure how they will develop and will not be clear until new party emerges. Think share values with some of them and past public statements may not necessarily be a definitive guide. Whilst needs to be voice for Liberalism at the moment many still not considering us and if chance for quicker revival must take it. May be exaggeration but some commentators think TIG have achieved more than Liberal Democrats recently in short space of time.

    Somewhat demoralising that the new group (without a party/policies) three times the support in one poll,even though of course may not be trully reflective. Not having any pacts(if party continues to have traction) would just be disastarous.

  • Joseph Bourke 26th Feb '19 - 5:41pm

    Karl Marx complained that philosophers “only interpreted the world” when the point was to change it. This is a key difference between the two larger parties and Libdems. The Conservative and Labour parties put winning elections above all else and interpret the world to this end. They tailor their offering to the views of their constituencies, with Tories dominating in the South and Midlands and Labour in London and the North (excluding Scotland). According to the British Social Attitudes survey big majorities in all parts of Britain think that both immigration and welfare benefits generally should be reduced and that prison sentences should be tougher; while everyone wants a first class NHS, good schools and better paying jobs.
    The Conservatives won a majority in 2015 because of the coalition not in spite of it. They threw that majority away with a hamfisted campaign in 2017 telling people they would have to give up their houses to pay for adult social care while Jeremy Corbyn and momentum were mobilising a ground army of students with the promise of a return to free tuition fees.
    If there is a single lesson that Libdems should learn it is don’t promise what you cannot or do not intend to deliver. TIG talk of a new way of doing politics. So did Obama. There was no new way only gridlock and then Trump.
    Socialism has failed to deliver lasting change everywhere it has been tried. The whole objective of Conservatism is to hold back change. The fusion of Liberalism and social democracy is a long hard road to bring about a change in social attitudes, but it is the only philosophy that can deliver lasting change for the better.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Feb '19 - 5:59pm

    For once, and it’s a rare event, I agree fully with Paul Holmes. When we know what TIG stand for (rather than what they are against) then it will be time to decide how to cooperate with them. Remember 35 MPs left labour to join the SDP (plus one
    odd Tory) and only a handful survived the next election. I suspect the same will happen with this lot. Please remember they had the option to join us and didn’t.
    I for one am not prepared to sacrifice a lifetime in the party for an untried, untested group of so-called independents.
    I like David Boyle, but he should remember the fate of the National Liberals, who ended up being subsumed in the Tory Party. And really the Cooperative Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Labour Party

  • The Liberal Democrats have a clear and distinct set of principles developed over a long historical tradition. The TIGers are a group of MP’s who have become so unhappy with the conduct of their respective ex parties that they have left them. I see no issue in working with them, but not at the expense of diluting the Liberal Democrat’s distinct identity. I can’t understand why Lib Dem leaders talk so little about Lib Dem principles and philosophy, the emergence of the TIGers is an obvious opportunity for them to do so, but I have heard nothing on these lines as yet.

  • nigel hunter 26th Feb '19 - 6:08pm

    I have heard reports of some of our donors donating to TIG and not us.If so we will be hit in the pocket which could change the .position quickly.The party needs money. If it drains away we will have no choice but come to terms with and an alliance wil l be needed.
    The Lib Dems have never been loved by the media ,the powers that be cos we are a thorn in their side.
    We did take a hit from the coalition and people do have long memories. On our own we will grow but with an Alliance it could come faster.
    The party needs new blood TIG could join us. Experience linked with new vitality,

  • So much is happening at the moment, we just have to let matters sort and play themselves through, patience , patience please. Concentrate on Newport West and the local elections, do not get distracted. After the dust has settled following the locals, we may do well we may not, then begin to think about such matters. In the meantime the Independant Group has tonight tabled an amendment for a second referendum. It will not win but let us see if gets significantly more support than a couple of weeks ago.

  • Martin Land 26th Feb '19 - 6:52pm

    @ Nigel Atkins. One thing that TIG seems to have already achieved is to stop LDs thinking before commenting. We need new blood? In case you haven’t noticed we’ve doubled our membership in the last three years. We have new MPs of the calibre of Layla and Wera. And, if we stop gazing at our navels, we will have two hundred or more new councillors in May. What have TIG got? Malcontents and mediocrities, destined to be like a 70s one hit wonder band, a future pub quiz question to which everyone responds, ‘I’d forgotten all about them’.

  • The Brexit process and its ramifications will go on for years if not decades. I suspect the ructions in both Labour and especially the Tories have far to go. Should we rush to join the Tiggers, no but I wouldn’t try to strangle them at birth either, let us see what they develop into. Two other points, one the opinion polls show the amount of disaffected floating voters, secondly there will be few if any Tigger candidates in May, let us see how many votes we can pick up.

  • This is totally a**e about face. If the TIG MPs want to survive they should be joining us.

    Whatever happens, the Lib Dems will still exist after the next GE. TIG won’t. On their own they will get wiped out by their former parties. With us, a couple of them might survive.

  • Just put some money on us leaving Europe on 29th March. Suspect MPs will vote the deal through.

  • Paul Barker 26th Feb '19 - 7:20pm

    I am not going to waste much time on this, its just plain silly & The LDV Team should not have put it up.
    I have been arguing for an Alliance to built between whatever TIG becomes, Us & The Greens, something like the SDP/Liberal Alliance. Thats a practical idea, something we could discuss now & prepare for.
    Lets not waste any more words on nonsense.

  • Sean Hyland 26th Feb '19 - 7:24pm

    It sometimes seems like some Lib Dems at the top have become like the eager kid desperately waving their arm in the air shouting ” pick me please “.

    Might do better to focus,as somebody also posted, on liberal principles and policies rather than constantly looking for the latest in-thing to latch on to.

  • Phil Wainewright 26th Feb '19 - 7:26pm

    Some may feel that the Liberal Democrat brand is hopelessly tarnished, but this party is still the only bastion of the unique set of values enshrined in the preamble to our constitution, and the only party that seeks power in order to disperse it. The fact that it’s not easy to package up that philosophy into catchy soundbite, or that the party missed its chance to reinforce those values during the Coalition, isn’t a reason to throw everything away at the first scent of a new party experiencing a brief honeymoon in the opinion polls.

    So long as they have no manifesto or clear value statement, The Independent Group are a magnet for the ‘none of the above’ vote. But until they have actually stood on a definitive platform and won in real actual elections, it’s far too premature to read anything into their current ratings.

    Let’s welcome their efforts to break the current stalemate in British politics, but our own experience should warn us how steep a hill they have to climb.

  • Just to correct some beliefs about opinion polls. They work when the things you are measuring are approaching parity -50/50. At that point the accuracy is in the order of +/- 2%. That’s because of the way sampling works. For the smaller parties the margin of error could be as much as 100% so the LibDems could be at 0-16%. The by-elections where we lose 11 show around 12-13% which is probably where we really are in the polls.
    As for joining TIG, we can certainly work with them but some of their member’s policies are out of step with ours and it would be the coalition all over again. They need to have a party structure and survive the next set of elections for us to join them and that may well not happen. PR would possibly change that but I don’t see them supporting that at present.

  • As others have said above, TIG has no clear policy platform apart from opposing Brexit. They does not even have a proper party structure and machinery with significant grassroot support. Worse, the Official Labour Party have came out to support 2nd Referendum.
    Until now, Vince’s strategy is still the most sensible one. If they fail to become a proper party with proper machinery and structure, joining them would be pointless and make us a laughable stock.

    I am sure that if a series of by-elections somehow occur in their seats right now, half of these TIGGERs would be decapitated.

  • John Marriott 27th Feb '19 - 8:12am

    @Dennis Mollison
    It’s amazing what you think about after midnight. And I though that ‘Michael 1’ was clever. What was that again, in language I can understand? No, on second thoughts don’t bother. I’ve got enough to worry about at the moment.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Feb '19 - 8:57am

    Silvio:

    “NOBODY is talking about the Lib Dems EVERYONE is talking about May, Corbyn and TIG.”

    It was ever thus. The national media have been ignoring us for the past 4 years. And how do you suppose an “apology” would rectify that? Most likely it would be buried in a small paragraph on p14 of the newspapers, and the only publicity it would give us would be from our political opponents, who would seize on it as evidence that we cannot be trusted in power — because we would have admitted ourselves that we messed up.
    TIG is shiny and new. The media like shiny new things. But the shine will fade, and the media will move onto the next shiny new thing. Meanwhile, Lib Dems will still be around, because our success comes from local campaigning. And this will reap better dividends than any national media flash in the pan — and (despite what David Evans writes) we are actually in a better position (in terms of Councillors and activists) than 50 years ago.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Feb '19 - 9:42am

    Of course as many other members have said above, there should be no question of a merger between the Liberal Democrat party and this small independent group. But TIG have thrown a stone in the stagnant waters of our current British politics, and if that can help get the stirred-up waters running again, that is all to the good. No wonder the voters seize eagerly on the idea.

    However, the three great parties will not be fundamentally disturbed. Joseph Bourke, yesterday at 5.41, put that extremely well, I think. Yet the cancer in each of the two biggest parties requires healing change for each of them, which the Independents hope to facilitate.

    Unless and until we get electoral reform, the country will still be stuck basically with the two parties alternating in power. But our party, small only in terms of MPs, with no cancerous growth, can profit from the Independents. Our leaders should engage with them, explain our policies to them, discuss and agree on what we can. Then if they succeed in becoming a political party, the way to an alliance of ideas and some electoral collaboration is open. But if they fail, the way to them merging with us and thus strengthening us in the future elections is also open. Working with them, we may get the clear waters of political action running again for our country.

  • Kathy Erasmus 27th Feb '19 - 9:52am

    If the up to 100 tory MPs that are supposedly preparing to join TIG don’t back the Cooper /Let win amendment tonight which is looking very likely, and instead back Theresa May’s latest fudge then I can’t see them having the courage to join the Independent Group in which case the new party will struggle to survive

  • Sandra Hammett 27th Feb '19 - 10:03am

    @ Phil Wainewright

    Amen to that.

  • Peter Martin 27th Feb '19 - 10:14am

    @ Katharine,

    Of course as many other members have said above, there should be no question of a merger between the Liberal Democrat party…

    Why not? I thought you guys were all keen on the idea of pooling sovereignty. Aren’t you “Better together”?

    Maybe you could at least have “free movement” of members?

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Feb '19 - 12:07pm

    A party can only merge with another party, Peter. There isn’t another. If one emerges, we may discuss allying with them in various ways. As others have already said, we have the structure, the members, the developed principles and worked-out policies of a mature and deeply-rooted national party, and so we go on. If they want to ally with us they can apply in due course. You merge if you want to, this party’s not for merging.

  • Silvio 26th Feb ’19 – 3:59pm
    @Chris Bertram. If the Lib Dems do not go through the extremely difficult but ultimately purifying task of a full comprehensive review and knees on the ground apology for the Coalition then the rot will continue…not a ridiculous on line video apology like Cleggs but a Soul searching and honest approach that could yet save the party. Turn on the 24 HR news..listen to the various Talk Radio stations go on line..NOBODY is talking about the Lib Dems EVERYONE is talking about May, Corbyn and TIG

    SIlvio, dear man, the electorate has moved on. You need to too. BTW when did LAbour ever “get down on its knees” and “apologise” for the disaster of the Iraq War? Get real!

    In the short run, TIG will get all the attention. And get Fancy opinión poll ratings. But they have many hopos to jump through before they will be a serious political forcé.

    The Lib Dems should be attentive and positive and open to co-operation, provided there’s complementarity between us and the new Group

    the Lib Dems have many strengths that the Tiggers don’t: I repeat, 1870 councillors, 100,000 members, policies, a philosophy,etc etc

    The Tiggers will need us too!

    Alone, I believe nearly all their MPs would be wiped out at a General Election.

  • To me as a member of the party, the first priority to to have a clear system of involving our members in the decisions to be made. This should start with conference, and a clear programme of involving those who cannot get to conference.
    My main issue with the coalition was that having attended our special conference in Birmingham I believed that the new government had as its aim to solve the financial problems. In fact I could see no real effort to even analyse the situation. For most people, at least those I spoke to, they could see no reason to take resources from the less well off and give to the super rich.
    I found it very hard to accept having a referendum on the alternative vote, which I did not support.
    The main issue seemed to be that we were keen to preach about participation in decision making, but forget about it when there was a chance to involve people.
    The party if anything seems to be getting worse on this and here is a golden opportunity to start putting it right.

  • @Peter Martin: “ … I thought you guys were all keen on the idea of pooling sovereignty. …”

    Further to Katherine’s previous relply, we might also add that Lib Dems believe in political pluralism, which necessarily implies a willingness to work cooperatively with other groups and individuals on issues of common concern whilst each also retaining our own independence and freedom of action – but, in any case, “merger” is clearly different from “pooling sovereignty”.

    Whereas merger involves a full fusion of sovereignty within a new combined entity, a partial pooling of sovereignty within shared institutions (e.g. as in the EU) is based on mutuality and reciprocity of rights and obligations between separate sovereign entities (e.g. EU member states) which nevertheless agree to work together in their joint interest in order to achieve common objectives.

    Perhaps, in the fullness of time, such a “pooled sovereignty” approach (rather than full merger or total separation) could provide a potential model for any future relationship between the Lib Dems and TIG … assuming, of course, that there is any basis for cooperation on a common agenda, which may become apparent if/when TIG ever evolve into a fully functioning political party and clearly demonstrate what values and objectives they actually stand for.

  • @Tom Harney. Agree totally with first paragraph. If we believe in spreading power and community politics, our own party would be avoid place to start. But then again, perhaps it’s easier for our leaders to find 11 new mates to talk to than having to go to the bother of engaging with 100,000 or so card carrying Lib Dems.

  • Denis Mollison 27th Feb '19 - 2:25pm

    @chris moore -`BTW when did Labour ever “get down on its knees” and “apologise” for the disaster of the Iraq War? ‘

    According to the link at the end of the article: `When Jeremy Corbyn apologized for the Iraq war on behalf of the Labour party in the House of Commons, Austin shouted “Sit down and shut up, you’re a disgrace”.’

    From what I’ve gleaned so far of the political careers of the Labour Tiggers, I suspect there are many MPs who’ve stayed in the Labour Party that are closer to fundamental Lib Dem values. Let’s work with both sorts to avoid Brexit, but not imagine they’d be a good fit in/with our party on values or policy in general.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Feb '19 - 4:22pm

    David Boyle – I think you have finally lost it!

    By the way, I am not aware that there are any of these TIGgers in the Lords (though I can think of a few semi-detached peers who might drift to them). But peers are not going to be de-selected are they?

  • Matt (bristol) 27th Feb '19 - 7:44pm

    I’m not starry eyed about our own party, but a party can’t ‘join’ a group of individual MPs with no formal structures as yet apart from a backing company. It’s a legal impossibility.

    TIG are shopping for MPs, not institutions (at this stage).

    And without internal accountability and scrutiny, not to mention open-ness about their funding streams, even the most centrist democrat must surely pause. I wouldn’t get toally cosy with them yet, they haven’t faced up to some of the illogic of their own stances.

    BUT … I hope collaboration with them will come, I don’t think they are the complete antithesis of this party and we’re pretty hypocritical and illogical ourselves.

    Whether or not we conjoin with the TIGs, some kind of a moderate centrist grouping that is not necessarily a LIberal party is more than likely to emerge, and I hope we can find out a way to work with more conservative, communitarian democrats other than sneer about them or hoodwink them into delivering leaflets for us whilst we dream gaily about a future that eradicates their influence – it’s the only way back for us, even if the Tim Farron era shows us exactly how not to do it.

    Or do we not believe in political pluralism at all?

  • John Chandler 27th Feb '19 - 8:09pm

    Hate to break it to some on here obsessed with the matter, but the Coalition was nearly four years and two governments ago. Apart from some staunch Labour supporters, and a few Lib Dems, the rest of the UK has moved on from the Coalition. Shocking, I know.

    Meanwhile, I seem to recall there’s something a little more pressing and serious happening to the UK at the moment, backed by factions within the Blue and Red parties. Something that the average member of the public is actually concerned about. I can’t remember the last time someone said something to me about the Coalition (negative or positive). Weirdly, they seem more interested in what’s actually happening right now, not four years ago.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '19 - 8:52pm

    @ John Chandler,
    With reference to your first paragraph, I would suggest that the polls ( for what they are worth) would suggest otherwise.

    Despite the Liberal Democrats being the party of remain, the mystery remains as to why the Liberal Democrats continue to do so badly in polls.

  • @Matt (Bristol): well said! This largely reflects my own analysis of the overall situation – although the broader political coalition that I hope to see would comprise Lib Dems and other “progressive” parliamentary forces (possibly including, but not limited to, TIG) which support fundamental electoral and constitutional reform, etc.

    @John Chandler: “… Apart from some staunch Labour supporters, and a few Lib Dems, the rest of the UK has moved on from the Coalition. …”
    If only we could be confident that was true! Apart from anecdotal evidence of your own experience, what else do you have to support that confident assertion? For example, has the party commissioned any opinion polling of its own to explain why we seem to be stuck since 2015 at a glass ceiling of about 8-10% of the popular vote?

  • Matt (bristol) 27th Feb '19 - 10:50pm

    Sean Hagan – thanks.

    I find the following article a more sensible reaction to the TIG phenomenom, from Matthew Green:

    http://thinkingliberal.co.uk/the-independent-group-poses-how-all-three-main-parties-are-narrowing-their-appeal/

  • Alex Macfie 28th Feb '19 - 6:18am

    The reason for our low national opinion poll ratings is the national media still ignores us (especially with this TIGger bouncing about), so people forget we still exist when asked about voting intentions. It is not that voters are aware we exist, and have made a conscious decision not to support us because of events that ended nearly 4 years ago. And voters are certainly not waiting for us to deliver a grand apology for the Coalition before considering voting for us.
    The next big electoral test will be the May local elections. Liberal Democrats will be on the ballot paper. TIG almost certainly will not.

  • John Marriott 28th Feb '19 - 7:26am

    @Matt (Bristol)
    That piece from the Idependent is interesting, particularly in the author’s conclusions about the Lib Dems. He thinks they should seek to be a broader church. Are you listening, activists?

  • John Chandler 28th Feb '19 - 7:30am

    @jayne mansfield

    Given a poll last year indicated a lot of people don’t know we were the party of Remain, the message isn’t getting out. Unsurprising given how little media attention we get. Even UKIP seem to get more than we do! Either that or the majority of people in the UK don’t follow British politics like us here. After all, a lot of people voted Labour thinking they were a Remain party, despite their manifesto clearly stating otherwise.

    FPTP crops up (indirectly) in a lot of conversations I have with potential voters. People want to vote for us (or the Greens) but see it as a wasted vote. Instead, they hold their noses and vote for a party they dislike less than the other party they really dislike. Policy is almost a side-issue, which is ridiculous. In local elections (we’ll gloss over turnout issues) where people’s votes count more and policy has a more noticeable effect, we’re polling a lot higher – indeed, we’ve made more gains in terms of councillors than all the other parties. What are we doing right locally that we’re not doing nationally? Are we doing something right here?

    Look at the GE polling trends in general at the moment: they’re fairly stable, and have been for a while now (except for the 2017 election campaign to shake things up). Okay, a slight drift upwards for us since the election, same for the Greens and UKIP, a slow downward trend for Labour and the Conservatives. But we’re talking a point or two here and there.

    What can make a real impact? It sure doesn’t seem to be the two main parties with civil wars raging, each contributing to the mess of Brexit. TIG has made an initial impression, along with Farage’s latest “hey look at me party”, but they’re in the news at the moment, we’re not.

  • John Chandler 28th Feb '19 - 7:43am

    @David Raw & @Sean Hagan – I didn’t say the effects of Coalition policies weren’t still here, and I’m not asking us to forget (quite the opposite or we’re doomed to make the same mistakes, and screw up people’s lives). I’m saying that the “taint of Coalition” is not the only factor as some are saying. Looking for answers as to why we’re so low in the polls is very important, but I think we’re focusing too much on one thing and not identifying a range of factors that have a cumulative effect. Sean is right: has the party done any research? If so, where is it? If not, why not? Seems like a pretty basic thing to do given we do it locally all the time.

    As for the Coalition, what do we do? Apologise again for it? Hope to get some airtime and play into Labour’s and the Conservative’s hands by bringing it up again? How does it help those affected? How does it get us into a position where we can help people and make a difference?

    How do we improve people’s lives on a national scale? What key policies do we have? What radical policies do we have? How do we get our message out there? How do we overcome the problems of FPTP? How do we look like a credible opposition, heck, a credible future government? How do we give a voice to those disillusioned with what’s going on? How do we build support? Is our leadership charismatic enough? How do we change politics for the better?

    If I’m honest, there are times when we collectively just look boring, although to be fair we’re never going to be as exciting as two main parties self-combusting in public. I joined the party in 2016 to help real people and make a difference to society for the better, rather than sit on the sideline. I didn’t expect it to be an easy ride given where we are, but I’m concerned there’s a lot of talk but very little action on a national level.

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th Feb '19 - 8:43am

    @ John Chandler,
    You could look interesting rather than boring if you enthusiastically promoted a vision of what a country under a Liberal Democrat Government would look like, how it would make the lives of people immeasurably better.

    Instead, you appear to be the sniping bridesmaid ,always criticising the bride whilst desperately trying to catch any flowers thrown by her.

  • I think we need a sober analysis. It is a little easy to throw brickbats at each other over two particular viewpoints in a futile sterile debate that doesn’t take us very far forward:

    1. TIG are not “pure” liberals, we should have nothing to do them versus we are not achieving any political momentum we should merge immediately

    2. The Coalition and has tainted forever and was terrible versus it did a good job in difficult circumstances.

    On TIG, we should keep a watching brief and engage with them constructively.

    The SDP weren’t liberals but there is no doubt that the SDP was a big boost for liberal politics and policies. As of today it does look to me that TIG may be running somewhat out of steam with it being relatively unlikely we will see many more if any MP defections from Tories (especially) or Labour.

    On the coalition. I have defended the coalition against @David Raw and others on LDV. IMHO it was a good-ish attempt against a very difficult background left by Labour.

    But…

    We do need to draw a line under it to signal to the electorate we have moved on. Just as Labour did with new Labour after the Winter of Discontent. And Cameron did after Tory sleaze.

    The symbolic policy area for us is tuition fees. The Government review gives us an opportunity. They also now officially form part of Government debt. We should commit to abolishing them.

    This should be coupled with other BOLD policies on education.

    A much better deal for those not going to university post-16. More going to university. A lifelong learning fund for adult education.

    And revitalising the pupil premium – a very successful policy.

    And we need to excite people on bold policies. There is a little tendency to have too many mounds of dry if worthy detail.

    I would personally have a very clear policy on the environment. Particularly more solar and renewable – especially individual household solar and re-introducing the feed in tariff. A campaign on this would be a good idea!

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '19 - 12:29pm

    @ Sean @ Katharine,

    I wasn’t being totally serious!

    You are quite right to be wary of the TiG. The individuals concerned shouldn’t have been in either the Labour Party or the Tory Party in the first place. How was it possible that Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston could have stood on the platform they did? They were obviously much more aligned with what Lib Dems were saying.

    This is from the 2017 Tory Manifesto:

    “As we leave the EU we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union……..We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside our withdrawal, reaching agreement on both within the 2 years allowed by Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union……..We will not bring the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law…….We continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK.”

    They should have resigned before the 2017 election and either stood as independents or joined the Lib Dems.

    It’s harder to find something similar in the 2017 Labour manifesto. It’s not the ultra left document that it is often described as. Nevertheless the constant criticising of the party leadership shows the Labour defectors were in the wrong party too and should have resigned at the same time.

    We all know why they chose the parties they did. They gave them the best chance of furthering their careers!

  • This whole discussion is really a reflection on the failed leadership of the party. Until this is resolved we aren’t going anywhere.

  • Neil Sandison 28th Feb '19 - 12:48pm

    Sensible comments from Tom Harney and Matt (Bristol ) engage with the membership .Survey members on how we want to see colaboration develop across party or with no party . TIG is not the only game in town .How we develop that broader Social Liberal Movement that respects diversity and debate but retains the core commitment to a Liberal Democracy accessible to all and is represented in Parliament by MPs
    Social Democrats and One Nation Tories are being squeezed out of the debate by polarisation of politics and i genuinely fear what it will be replaces will be a hard/far right blue KIP .or a socialist totalitarian state machine intolerant of any scrutiny of a nationalised public sector where ministers will feted because of the size of their budgets not the quality of the services they deliver .

  • David Evans 28th Feb '19 - 1:02pm

    Alex Macfie – I’m sorry, but your post simply reinforces the truth in what I am saying by exemplifying the ‘Let’s concentrate on a few good bits and ignore the real problems we face’ approach those who don’t want to change always adopt.

    You say we are we are (in terms of Councillors and activists) actually in a better position than 50 years ago, and it is partly true. In terms of councillors we are only in the worst position we have been since 1985 with 10% of all council seats (2015, 16 and 17 excluded when we had 9%). As for activists, what do you mean by an activist, and if you can come up with a published measure of activists, we can look at it, but local experience tells me there is little upturn since 2015.

    As for some other statistics, which you don’t consider, things are much worse. Lowest share of the vote in a general election since 1959 – that’s 60 years ago. Still only the fourth largest party in the House of Commons, and potentially being outpolled by a political party that isn’t a political party. About to lose the biggest thing we have fought for over decades and the only policy that is gets us noticed even a little bit in less than a month’s time, and no-one even dares to consider what to do next.

    As I said ” The country can’t afford to wait 50 years for Liberal Democracy. It needs it now. However perpetually saying ‘What would you do?’ is just more prevarication. Until we are all prepared to say to ourselves ‘This isn’t working. How do I need to change do to make things change?’ we will continue to languish as the fourth, fifth or maybe even sixth biggest party in the UK.”

    So although local campaigning for the coming elections may get us another small step on the way to recovery, I for one know we can’t expect that to deliver anything in a parliamentary context for a number of decades, and the party and you your self need to face up to that fact. Unless of course you are happy to give up on Liberal Democracy as a national force for that long. I am not.

  • David Evans. Could not agree more. Newport West will be held 4th April. We need to decide very quickly who is to be the candidate etc and get the campaign moving. We have some Councillors there, pewrhaps Kirsty would provide a boost to the vote or would a well known and competent TIG supporter be the person. This should be our immediate priority. It might be an opportunity for an advance whether a Lib Dem or a TIG, nicely timed before the May locals..

  • It is vital to have the 3rd largest party in the commons as an English Party.
    I fully relate to people who say they feel politically homeless these days.

    This is not meant as a criticism at the Liberal Democrat members who I know have worked tirelessly for the party for decades to get it where it was.

    I come from the pub / club industry and the problem for the party reminds me very much of a pub which has gone down hill and got itself such a bad reputation, that no matter what you do, it never recovers. Once the Pub has had that reputation in the community, it does not matter what you try, change the management, introduce theme nights, revamp the beer garden and play area, mass advertising, nothing works, because the community just can not shake that image of the bad reputation.

    There is so much that I used to agree with Liberal Democrats on (Apart from Brexit, where we are polar opposites) I truly hope the party is able to survive, or merge into something new like the Tigs, if they get up off the ground and form a new party.

    We cannot be stuck with 2 party politics for decades to come

  • David Evans 28th Feb '19 - 2:47pm

    Theakes, Absolutely. Campaigning locally this may is absolutely vital, especially with so many in the party centrally being in some sort of self imposed paralysis. Top quality Local Lib Dem councillors will gradually get us to a position where we can get out of this mess, but a bit of real help from the centre would help.

    As for Newport West, what happens now is vital. We need to finish at least third. 130 more votes in 2017 would have done it for us. However, instead we finished fifth. If someone supporting TIG finds a way to stand and defeats us as well, all the progress over the last three three years will be in grave danger.

    We need a great local candidate, good central support and people to get out there. Does anyone know if Mike Flynn is a Lib Dem supporter?

  • David Evans: if only everyone thought like us!!!

  • Alex Macfie 28th Feb '19 - 5:25pm

    David Evans: No, there is virtually no chance of us “being outpolled by a political party that isn’t a political party”, for the simple reason that if it isn’t a political party, then it has no potential to outpoll anyone. For TIG (or any other political vapourware) to outpoll us in the only polls that matter (i.e. actual elections), then it has to (1) stand candidates in elections, so that it is actually an option on the ballot paper, and (2) campaign in those elections. So national opinion polls putting TIG above Lib Dems are irrelevant — opinion polls are not good indicators of levels of potential support for hypothetical or prospective political parties, for the reasons that Mark Pack gave recently.

    We don’t yet know what TIG is going to become. But currently it exists only as a Parliamentary grouping, and its perceived relevance is inflated by the fact that so many of our political commentators are in the Westminster bubble. You know as well as I do that in this country’s political and electoral system any political party needs grassroots organisation to succeed. TIG has no such organisation. So although there will likely be benefits to us from collaboration with TIG, they will need us more than we’ll need them in the medium and long terms. As for the short term, I can only repeat what I wrote in my earlier post (which also applies to the Newport West by-election).

    “The next big electoral test will be the May local elections. Liberal Democrats will be on the ballot paper. TIG almost certainly will not.”

    And you are still clinging to the idea that Brexit will suddenly cease to be a political issue after 29 March. On the contrary, it will continue to be an issue for the next 10+ years, whatever happens on that date — and it looks much less likely than it did even 2 weeks ago that Brexit will actually happen then.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Feb '19 - 8:36pm

    Part of the early attractiveness was that they were inclusive, so members could influence the direction of the party. The TIG may be like that for a while.
    I remember Labour MP David Owen arguing for one member one vote, whereas the status quo in Labour was that being a member of the Fabian Society also provided a vote, some people had four votes. After a while a game of Follow the Leader gradually occurred and the SDP became the Slowly Declining Party and merger became necessary. David Sainsbury spelled out the problem at conference, an old computer in a building where the lease was running out.

  • Alex Macfie 1st Mar '19 - 8:21am

    Richard Underhill: “The TIG”? Reminds me of the The Hoi Polloi debate.

  • R A Underhill 2nd Mar '19 - 10:13am

    The Independent Group have appointed Chuka as spokesperson.
    Because they are not a political party they are not (yet) appointing a leader.
    Greens in the UK were a party, but proudly said that they did not have leaders. Others, including Lib Dems said that they would and they did. Former MEP Caroline Lucas MP was elected as leader and then as joint leader.

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb ’19 – 12:29pm…………..You are quite right to be wary of the TiG. The individuals concerned shouldn’t have been in either the Labour Party or the Tory Party in the first place. ….We all know why they chose the parties they did. They gave them the best chance of furthering their careers!…………………………..

    So very true.

    It now seems, from his ‘exclusive’ in the Guardian, that Chuka Umunna never felt totally comfortable in the Labour party and felt that his mixed cultural and class background were “a chain round my neck” (his words)
    From his wiki page it seems that, although he only became really active in the party around 2006, a safe seat was found for him within two years; quite an achievement for any prospective candidate let alone an ‘uncomfortable’ one.

    His ambition seems to have been leadership of the party he seems so uncomfortable in. So now, perhaps, he prefers being a ‘big fish in a small pond’

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Mar '19 - 2:34pm

    At the first press conference of The Independent Group the first to speak was Luciana Berger. Speaking about anti-Semitism she said “Enough is enough”. Typically British understatement. There is obviously much too much in quantity and much too much severity in quality.
    Other ex-Labour MPs were asked “Why now?”. It may be that the contents of her Inbox triggered the timing of their departure from Labour.
    She has 3 pages of textual comment in the Times magazine of Saturday 2/3/2019 and 3 pages of colour pictures, including the cover.

    I remember a Liberal parliamentary candidate in London receiving death threats on his answer-phone. He is not Jewish, a Quaker. I said “presumably they do not leave their names and addresses?” He said “Yes they do”. Luciana Berger reports that the police (in Liverpool?) failed to find a perpetrator.
    Campaigning in the 2017 general election must have been difficult, but she presumably had deliverers from Labour who may, next time, support an official Labour candidate.

  • Steve Comer 3rd Mar '19 - 6:04pm

    The TIG group are increasingly less like the SDP in 1981, and more like some now largely forgotten parties of the inter-war years ie:
    The National Democratic & Labour Party (1918-22)
    Liberal Nationals (1931-48)
    Constitutionalists (1924)
    National Labour (1931-45)
    What they all had in common was that they were essentially Parliamentary Groups with little or no roots at local level.

    40+ years later there were two more attempts to form centre parties. In 1969 Labour MP Desmond Donnelly former the Democratic Party, which fougnht a few seats in 1970 to little effect. In 1972 Dick Taverne resigned form Labour and successfully fought a by-election with Liberal support (the issue was Europe, aided by the role of lefty activists in Labour!). Opinion polls and positive praise from the commentariat convinced him to form a ‘Campaign for Social Democracy’, in effect a fledgling party. It fought a handful of seats in the February 1974 elections, but all candidates got derisory votes, Taverne himself was re-elected narrowly, but then lost his seat in the October election the same year.

    So although as with the earlier parties, and with Donnelly and Taverne there was a lot of positive media coverage, the lack of local organisation and the FPTP voting system meant these efforts got nowhere, although in the former cases they stayed on life support for a while due to electoral pacts.

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