LibLink – Vince Cable: Keir Starmer needs a miracle – he has nothing to lose by being brave

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Over on the Independent, Vince Cable argues that Labour needs to “turn around the oil tanker of negative public opinion about Starmer, and to erode the remorseless Tory lead, which seems to persist no matter how many errors Boris Johnson presides over”:

In the world of miracles, great value is attached to visions. Starmer is routinely attacked for lacking one. He probably takes the sensible view that politicians with visions should see a psychiatrist. But he has been persuaded to put pen to paper and inspire the world with his visionary prospectus – the Starmer version of The Audacity of Hope. But he isn’t Obama and his long essay has gone down like a lead balloon. I know the feeling, having been persuaded as Lib Dem party leader to put my “vision” in a pamphlet. Most of the copies are still in my attic and even my best friends didn’t read it.

You can read the full article here.

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29 Comments

  • Paul Barker 28th Sep '21 - 6:01pm

    I can’t be bothered to read the article itself but I would like to comment on the Headline.

    First of all the next Election is at least 2 Years away, Years in which a lot more is likely to go wrong for this wretched Government. We saw today Polling that showed as many Voters thinking Starmer would make a good PM as think Johnson is one – this is a form of Polling where the actual PM has a natural advantage.

    The central point about the next Election is that Starmer doesn’t need to “Win” in order to become PM. The SNP, Plaid & Our Party would all be likely to back Labours right to form a minority Government – who would back The Tories ?

  • nigel hunter 28th Sep '21 - 8:11pm

    However.something needs to happen to reduce the ,near always, 40% who seem to vote for Johnson no matter what. Some vision is needed which can be spread easily and enough bravery to say it

  • I think one of the things that needs to happen before Tory support will drop much below 40% is that either Labour or the LibDems need to start listening to the concerns of the 40-ish % of voters who vote Tory, and thinking about how to address those concerns, instead of always assuming that the Tories are evil and there must be something wrong with people who vote for them. Sadly, at the moment, I see no sign of either party doing that.

    Or from another perspective: As long as Labour, the LibDems and the Greens are all presenting themselves as at least somewhat left-wing parties and all trying to attract the left-wing vote, most people who aren’t left-wing will feel they have no option but to vote Tory. And that’s easily 40%+ of the electorate.

  • Simon R, you touch the point with a needle, but it seems that the powers in the Lib Dems, don’t, understand, don’t agree, don’t care, or are psychologically incapable of making the sort of approach to Tory voters that might make a difference to their voting intentions
    As usual the opposition won’t win power, but the Tory party may well loose it, despite the best efforts of Labour and the Lib Dems.

  • Russell Simpson 29th Sep '21 - 10:11am

    @ Martin
    I don’t see how criticizing the Tories for equalising electorate sizes helps anyone?

  • Russell Simpson 29th Sep '21 - 10:19am

    @ Simon
    I agree. Pity we can’t get some of the “sacked” Tory MPs (Grieve, Hammond, Stewart, Clark, Clarke, Gauke, Greening) to defect or get Lee/Gyimah back into parliament. The 40% of Tories who voted Remain mostly voted Tory in 2019 because of Corbyn but surely the easiest way to get more MPs is to aim for those votes?

  • Is the current system not ‘jigged’ in favour of the Labour party? Is a boundary review not well overdue, and is there not a consensus for reducing the number of M.P.’s at Westminster? Haven’t many of them sat there too long for any good they may have done?

  • Surely wanting an increase in M.P.’ s is a symptom of some rare form of masochism? Thankfully most of the U.K. population do not seem to exhibit the said symptom.

    If there ever were to be an increse, perhaps the extras could be used to address the oft alleged under representation of England at Westminster?

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Sep '21 - 3:43pm

    Martin
    The current legislation doesn’t involve reducing the number of MPs. That was dropped by Johnson after repeated attempts under Cameron and May to implement the new boundaries failed, as so many Tory MPs were unhappy at the prospect of losing their seats in the general cull of constituencies. The legislation now specifies 650 MPs.
    That being so, an equalisation of constituency sizes is assuredly more democratic than the current gross disparities, so long as the boundaries continue to be set by a non-partisan body. This isn’t the US, you know!
    It is true that this change will benefit the Tories as against Labour but that is because the current boundaries are very biased the other way. You only have to look at the results of the elections between 2005 and 2017 to see that. (The overwhelming Tory victory in 2019 might seem to obscure it – but compare it with Labour’s 160-180 majorities under Blair with very similar division in the vote.)

    By the way, I’m no supporter of FPTP! But I don’t think it ‘s good for the politics of our country when people are encouraged to see anything that happens to work against their chosen party as gerrymandering.

  • Brad Barrows 29th Sep '21 - 6:30pm

    FPTP favours smaller parties if their support is concentrated in smaller areas but favours larger parties with more evenly spread support. For example, Labour and the SDP/Liberal Alliance won almost the same share of the vote in 1983 but Labour ended up with 10 times more MPs because their vote was more concentrated while the Alliance vote was more evenly spread. The SNP used to suffer badly from FPTP when their vote only averaged 20% and was evenly spread, but now at more than 45% they find it easy to win the vast majority of MPs in the country.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Sep '21 - 9:29pm

    In the context of a system and (more importantly) political culture where the ‘constituency link’ with a local representative is considered so important, equalising the size of electorate is far less important than having constituencies that represent natural communities. Reducing the number of MPs would also make it far harder to create single-member constituencies that represent natural communities. And it should not even be considered without an accompanying reduction in the payroll vote (or we could abolish it altogether by going Dutch — they don’t have a payroll vote at all because government ministers don’t sit in Parliament).

  • Alex Macfie 29th Sep '21 - 9:57pm

    There may be 40% who seem to vote for Johnson “no matter what”, but there’s at least as many who won’t vote for him or the Tories under any circumstances. I’m not sure that trying to appeal to Johnson supporters would help either Labour or Lib Dems. Johnson supporters will vote for True Believers over poll-chasers every time. Biden defeated Trump by mobilising anti-Trump voters, not by appealing to Trumpites. It’ll be the same with defeating the Tories here.

  • I see Labour’s slogan is going to be “Make Brexit Work”.

    Can ours be “Get Brexit Gone”?

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '21 - 4:10am

    Regardless of what anyone might think of FPTP, it isn’t responsible for the need to change electoral boundaries. This is caused by the drift of population towards London and the SE of England. Any attempt to equalise constituency sizes is therefore going to favour the party which does well there. ie The Tories.

    We should be asking why we have a population drift. There is nothing inevitable about it. It really doesn’t make any sense for us all to crowd into one corner of the UK. The people doing the moving are behaving rationally in an economic sense. They are essentially following where the money ends up in the UK. We see the same thing happening in the eurozone/EU too. There is a severe depopulation problem in the peripheral regions as younger people leave to move to the more central and prosperous ones.

    It’s down to a failure in central government. They should be spending more in areas where that spending is unlikely to cause inflation, ie almost anywhere but London and the SE of England, and less in the prosperous areas where it will and has caused high inflation. We see this most strikingly in property prices. Everyone will benefit. There is no point spending extra money if the extra spending is going to cause inflation but every reason to spend if it won’t. We do actually end up with something to show for it.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '21 - 4:45am

    ” The 40% of Tories who voted Remain mostly voted Tory in 2019 because of Corbyn”

    So by my arithmetic this still means 60% voted to either Leave or abstained in the referendum. They mostly voted Tory in 2017 too but to a somewhat lesser extent. JC was the leader in that election too if I remember rightly. They’d also mostly vote Tory if an election were to be held now and the result wouldn’t be significantly different to what we saw in 2019. The Labour leader is Sir Keir Starmer. Specially chosen to be more supposedly appealing to Tory voters. Except they don’t seem to be going for it!

    And why would they? They are Tories. They aren’t going to suddenly switch to Labour. They are usually too snobbish to do that. They might vote Lib Dem if the Lib Dems run the right sort of campaign and promise to keep their countryside from being built over. But the majority of Tories didn’t vote Remain and the Lib Dems won’t win them over if they keep harping on about rejoining the EU.

  • John Marriott 30th Sep '21 - 10:17am

    As I wrote on another thread, the situation today has echoes of the early 1990s. Like Starmer today, Neil Kinnock and his sidekick, Roy Hattersley, appears to have wrestled the Labour Party out of the clutches of the modern day version of Militant and ‘the longest suicide note in History’ aka the Labour Election Manifesto of 1983 aka the Labour Party Manifesto of 2019.

    Things looked set for a narrow Labour win in 1992, especially as Lady Thatcher had been defenestrated and replaced by the lacklustre John Major, who was leading a tired party more than ready for a spell in opposition, or so many of us thought. Add to that the ‘new kid on the block’, led by Paddy Ashdown that was starting to see off what was left of the Owen fan club aka the SDP, sniping at Tory marginals and many reckoned that change was in the air.

    Well, it didn’t happen, did it? Major surprised us all by taking to his soap box in pedestrian precincts, Kinnock blew it at that final rally in Sheffield and the Lib Dems, while making some progress, came up against FPTP yet again. Deep down, I’m sure that many voters, who had toyed with the idea of not voting Tory this time, put their own financial interest first when they actually entered the polling booth. Sir John, for his pains, was left holding the poisoned chalice.

    The next five years were significant in many ways: the exit from the EMF, the tragic death of Kinnock’s successor, John Smith – one of the best Prime Ministers we never had, some may argue – and the rise of New Labour aka ‘Tory lite’ under the latest ‘breath of fresh air’ Tony Blair.

    So, what am I getting at? Well, in my ageing mind, Starmer is the modern day Kinnock, in that, like Moses, he might be able to lead his people across the desert; but his chances of getting himself to the Promised Land may be slim. In fact, unless we really do revert to ‘two party politics’, which I personally doubt, Starmer’s fate may be the same as Kinnock’s, while Johnson, unless he really does come unstuck, could be the modern day Major.

  • @Alex Macfie “There may be 40% who seem to vote for Johnson “no matter what”” I don’t think that’s quite right to the extent that those 40% aren’t all voting specifically for Johnson. It’s more like, at least ~40% will vote for a party that has centre-to-right values, no matter what. At present, those people effectively have no choice but to vote Tory because the LibDems have largely abandoned the centre-ground, and Labour also is nowhere near the centre. Many of them will therefore be voting Tory despite feeling distaste at Boris’s character and his Government’s incompetence.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '21 - 11:27am

    @ Martin,

    Are you suggesting that Sarah Green, in C&A ran “a populist, nationalistic, illiberal” campaign which “attracted some of the Brexiters, and some of the xenophobes”?

    Because I’m not. However, I’m sure she would have obtained the support of many Brexiteers some of whom may even have exhibited xenophobic tendencies.

    She’s smart. She knows how to do it the right way and what to emphasise and what to keep quiet about during the campaign. You might want to listen to her advice.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '21 - 12:08pm

    To try to get the discussion back on track, we could slightly rephrase the title by writing that Starmer has verything to lose by being reckless and inconsistent.

    The right wing press will tear him apart on reneging on his pledge to abandon the Nationalisation of mail, rail the utilities etc. Apparantly he’s spinning it as that “common ownership” doesn’t mean Nationalisation. So what does it mean? Who would own the railways under ‘common ownership’?

    From a left perspective it seems pretty obvious that Starmer never meant what he said in the first place. However, from a right perspective the accusation will be that he did originally mean what he said but he’s only pretending to change his mind in order to not scare off the centrist and right wing vote. So, at the next lection, they’ll be asking which Keir Starmer are we all going to be voting for? The one who says he wants lots more Nationalisation, sorry “Common Ownership”, or the one who says he doesn’t?

    Of course he wriggle and not answer the question but voters aren’t stupid. They’ll know he can’t answer. He’s likely to end up with the worst of all worlds with both the left and the right distrusting what he says.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '21 - 12:47pm

    @ Martin,

    I can assure you I’m not making anything up. True, I don’t know Sarah Green personally and it’s possible she might not be quite as smart a cookie as I’m giving her credit for. But, I can read what she puts up on her campaign website.

    She’s smart ebough to know when to keep stum about Brexit and the EU. There was zilch on there about that. Or, if you think I have missed it maybe you can give me a link?

  • Paul Barker 30th Sep '21 - 2:14pm

    The current “Crisis/crises” reminds me very much of the time around “Black Wednesday” in 1992 when The Tories lost their reputation for competence & 10% in the Polls. That could happen again in which case Labours loss of Scotland would become irrelevant.

    I remember after the 1992 Election the endless articles saying that Labour could never win again.

  • Jenny Barnes 30th Sep '21 - 3:10pm

    Thing about black wednesday was that it caused interest rates to rise to 15%. This literally hit the Tory electorate where they live, putting their housing equity at considerable risk. They don’t care much about the Covid death rate, Brexit problems etc so long as they can continue to earn more from the growth in property prices than the rest can earn by work.
    The Tories are continuing to deliver that, very competently.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '21 - 8:08pm

    @ Paul Barker

    Black Wednesday couldn’t happen again. At least not unless the govt decided to try to fix the pound against some other currency at an artificially high exchange rate.

    That’s a course of action guaranteed to line the pockets of the speculators.

    Providing the govt let the pound freely float they won’t be making the same mistake twice

  • The word brave is not one we are likely to hear being linked to Sir Starter very often if at all. Not only does he not have the courage to discipline his deputy leader, he can’t even bring himself to state who his favourite Bond actor is, but did say that he thinks the next Bond should be portrayed by a woman.
    To misquote Tony Blair, woke, woke, woke!

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