LibLink: Tim Farron – After 100 days, the penny is well and truly dropping on how hard Lib Dems fought in government

On Huffington Post, Tim Farron writes:

We’re 100 days into a Tory government and, let’s be honest, they have been fairly clear on what they’re about. Unfortunately, for the majority of us across the UK – those of us who didn’t vote Tory – it doesn’t look pretty.

A clear course has been set that puts the interests of the haves over the have nots, dismisses issues like the environment and migration as someone else’s problem and enthusiastically paints the UK as an increasingly insular, ungenerous country ill-fit and unwilling to play its part in Europe. The penny is well and truly dropping on how hard Lib Dems fought in government – and how much of a difference we actually made over the last five years.

Heartbreakingly, week after week, we’ve seen the Tories roll back the tides on a whole raft of policies that we blocked in government.
•Protection of housing benefit for those under 21 – gone;
•Protection of child tax credits for larger families – gone;
•Protection for the benefit rates for people with disabilities and health problems that make it particularly difficult for them to enter the job market – gone.
•And, tragically, we know the Tories’ ideological, unnecessary welfare cuts will hit the poorest families in the country – mostly hardworking families.

These changes are deeply unwise, deeply unfair and horribly divisive.

You can read the full post here.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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26 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '15 - 10:43am

    ” … the reality is that Calais is the tip of a humanitarian crisis. Nobody is suggesting we ‘let everyone in’ but we need to take our international responsibilities seriously. Cracking down on benefits – including for our own citizens – and threatening to make people who come here homeless and destitute will do nothing to deter people fleeing for their lives. The UK should be playing its part in finding genuine solutions by opting in to the EU’s proposal on resettling “our share” of asylum seekers from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq rather than fuelling scaremongering that leaves no room for humanity. “

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '15 - 10:51am

    Tim Farron is right about the Tories, but asylum should be looked at on a world-wide basis. The statute of limitations in Sweden means that Julian Assange may soon be leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Other embassies outside South America have not copied the Ecuadorian action and a change of ambassador may also have an effect. Julian Assange could have claimed asylum in the UK, but did he?

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '15 - 11:00am

    Asylum should be looked at on a world-wide basis. People fleeing across dangerous waters towards Australia are being turned away from this geographically large and prosperous country. The statements of the current Australian Prime Minister do not fall far short of a total withdrawal from the 1951 United Convention relating to the status of Refugees. He is also encouraging other countries to adopt similar policies, although the geographical situation is different, which does affect the key determinant of jurisdiction. Australia is not a member of the European Union, not meeting the acquis . We should therefore be careful to distinguish policy on a points-based system under the Immigration Rules from asylum claims and human rights claims.

  • Why is Saudi Arabia not being pressured to take refugees? After all they play a great part in creating them.

  • Great summary by Farron of the points we need to make to hard-headed voters at the moment, but what’s the party’s plan to get him in front of TV cameras to spread this?

  • I don’t see this working out – the public just elected a Tory government for 5 years, if you look at Tim’s list of issues I suspect many of them are items that the Tory electorate are broadly supportive of. Housing benefit to under 21’s – go to Uni or live with Mum and Dad; protecting housing benefit for large families – stop having so many kids to claim benefits; stopping support for onshore wind farms – never liked them anyway, ugly things! Whilst I agree with what Tim’s saying the biggest slice of the electorate voted Tory, the points Tim raises aren’t going to change their mind, they sadly agree with Dave. Tim’s coming at this from a compassionate, caring angle but I believe society has changed and hardened, I can’t see how we’re going to persuade people that simply don’t see the world as we do. “I’m alright Jack” is currently the most popular position, there’s no plan here to change people’s minds of that assertion.

  • ChrisB I don’t think there is any evidence for your assertion at all. The fact that the Tories won by a small majority is largely down to Labour and Lib Dems messing up in different ways rather than because the country at large agrees with their policies.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '15 - 3:06pm

    David Cameron has already fired the starting gun for a leadership election in the Conservative Party and named three of the contenders. Most of the actions of the Chancellor, the Home Secretary and the current Mayor of Greater London should be seen through this prism.

  • John Tilley 14th Aug '15 - 3:36pm

    Anne 14th Aug ’15 – 12:01pm
    “…Why is Saudi Arabia not being pressured to take refugees? After all they play a great part in creating them.”

    Good question, Anne. The last refugee they took was Idi Amin and they seemed to get on fine with him.

    Odd isn’t it that Prince Charles the heir to the throne of the UK has now made 14 state visits to Saudi Arabia? I am surprised he has the time to get away from his home in Transylvania as featured on BBC Radio 4 only last weekend.

    But as we now know that he is away from this country for so much of the year perhaps he could be persuaded to hand over his palace in Kensington or his estate in Gloucestershire to house a few hundred of these refugees ?

    After all – we are all in it together – as that David Cameron says.
    Yes that’s right the same David Cameron who was in the same class at school as Prince Charles’ little brother.
    The same David Cameron who accompanied Prince Charles on his last trip to Saudia Arabia. Small world isn’t it?

  • Does Tim have a strategy to regain voters lost to the Conservatives or is he just going to spend 5 years in his comfort zone on the left?

  • Re ChrisB, to add to Phyllis’s point, the Tories won on FTTP with 37% of the poll on a 66% turnout. This equates to the active support ~25% of the elctorate. Add to that the number of voters who have dropped off the electoral roll (8m according to Rennard in the Lords recently) and Cameron’s moral authority to govern diminshes further. Chris also asserts that all those who voted Tory are of the “I’m all right Jack” disposition. No doubt there are some, perhaps many. There were also those who voted Tory as the least worst option, those who came back from UKIP, and those scared of a Labour/SNP alliance. Post-election party membership boosts (not just us) and by-election results (most recently in Brecon & Radnor) indicate that the progressive part of the electorate woke on May 8 with a massive hangover and is looking for a cure. Time will tell if we can provide it but I doubt if the “I’m all right Jack” Tories will ever vote Lib Dem. It’s the others we should focus on.

  • Also,

    “for the majority of us across the UK – those of us who didn’t vote Tory” is an awful line. Yes the majority of us didn’t vote Tory, but that includes votes for UKIP and the DUP – with whom the Lib Dems hardly make common cause and whose votes would have taken the Conservatives past the 50% mark.

    Tim could and should do better than to associate us in a faux progressive majority that somehow includes UKIP and the DUP amongst others.

  • @ Richard Underhill 10.43
    ” … the reality is that Calais is the tip of a humanitarian crisis…………and threatening to make people who come here homeless and destitute will do nothing to deter people fleeing for their lives.”

    Whilst I agree we should take our fair share of refugees and we need a Europe wide agreement on this rapidly escalating issue, I am struggling to empathise with some of the comments written on here over the last couple of weeks………mainly because I think 2 crucial questions have not being answered, to even my satisfaction as a liberal (and therefore almost certainly not to the satisfaction of the majority of the British electorate).

    1. Fleeing for your life from Calais is simply not a credible argument – this is France for goodness sake – a country in which a refugee gets around £56 as opposed to around £35 in Britain. So why are so many people willing to risk their lives to get to Britain???

    2. A comment on here last week which I was surprised no one took on – said simply, that “you can have a Welfare State or you can have open borders, but you can’t have both”. Agree? Disagree? Debate?

    As long as 67% of the British population believe that we should deploy the army to Calais to ‘deal with this’, these 2 questions are quite obviously not being answered to the satisfaction of many Liberals, let alone the rest of the electorate.

    Maybe as Andrew says – it’s time for Tim and others to take on the difficult questions – now that would start to impress!!

  • Huw – good question.
    I think Tim is playing it just right at the moment. He will build his public momentum as and when the time is right and we as a party decide on priority issues. For me it would be housing and welfare cuts. For others it will be the environment or the snoopers charter or trident. Interesting times!

  • Since there is more than one Andrew posting I thought I would move to a different handle (the above Andrew on this thread is not me!)

    Anyway the other Andrew asks what Tim is doing to win over the 37% of Tory voters? The answer is that some of those voters will not like the welfare cuts any more than we do, and the ones who believe the Daily mail line of workshy welfare scroungers being the main cause of all Britain’s problems would probably never vote for us whatever we say. The reality is that where we were fighting Labour (eg. Sheffield Hallam and Leeds NW) many people who otherwise would have joined the 37% who voted Tory did actually vote for us, and we have clearly won over Tory voters in some of the council by-elections we have won since polling day. another person who has very clearly won over many, many former Tory voters in his constituency is Tim Farron. In 1983 they got 61 % there, and in 2015 33%. I am pretty sure he did not do that by favouring benefit cuts!

    The other reality is that we are not currently aiming to overtake the Tory party. We are in an existential battle to get back into double figure poll ratings and avoid losing more MP’s in 2020. We have a leader with strong social conscience and historically a strong social conscience has been associated with Liberals since the days of Lloyd George. Becoming perceived as “Tory-lite” in the last five years was disastrous for us and Tim is saying exactly the right things for me and many of the voters who deserted us for other parties in 2015.

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Aug '15 - 12:22pm

    Andrew makes some very good points.

  • As ever, lots of good points and much to ponder.

    Ultimately we should be prepared to take our share of refugees, though I cling to the hope that when times are better in their places of origin, that bthye may choose to return to be with any friends and family remaining there and to enrich their native countries with knowledge, skills and wealth they made from contributions made in and by the nations that sheltered them.

    I would like to hear that we are very generously supporting countries like Turkey, Greece and others close to the nations most affected in providing not just the basics but much much more (proper housing and decent healthcare and education), allowing those affected to be nearer their homeland. And alleviating the massive strain it must be on those countries on the front line.

    I think that Tim isn’t far from the right lines at present though as Andrew and others say we need to move beyond this before too long and to come up with the bigger solutions.

  • @ jedibeeftrix 9.19am
    Interesting research i was not aware of.
    However, if close to the mark, this is exactly why I’m pushing for a debate on this “Welfare Provision V Borders” issue – it would be so easy to tie ourselves in knots and give a knee jerk ‘Liberal message’ which could be seen as impractical and/or divisive

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '15 - 7:58pm

    Hard work is about inputs. Voters are interested in outputs, such as reductions in income tax.

  • @ Mike S
    “2. A comment on here last week which I was surprised no one took on – said simply, that “you can have a Welfare State or you can have open borders, but you can’t have both”. Agree? Disagree? Debate?”

    I am not sure the correct problem has been identified. The government can’t pursue fiscal and or monetary policies to achieve full employment when the number of people who wish to work here is almost limitless because of immigrant. When the number of people who can be employed is limited then the number of people who are not employed is reduced.

    Of course there are other factors with regard to the increased welfare bill – the cost of housing and the level of wages. Therefore increasing the minimum wage will help reduce the welfare bill. Building more houses to force down rents would help reduce housing benefit.

    There is a belief that some people not working could work and so some working people don’t feel they should be paying for other people not to work. Maybe paying employers to employ the long-term unemployed or those with long-term health problems or those who are difficult to employ might help and might also encourage employers to employ fewer migrants. Fining large employers who don’t employ their quota of these people might help. Maybe the government should identify the skilled workers we will need in ten years time and provide grants to encourage people to get these skills rather than other ones.

    A more radical solution would be to pay all UK citizens a Citizens Income so they didn’t need to work and then no-body could say “it is no fair I have to work, why don’t they have to work”. Only those people who wished to work would do so. It would change the nature of society!

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Aug '15 - 9:59am

    “A more radical solution would be to pay all UK citizens a Citizens Income so they didn’t need to work and then no-body could say “it is no fair I have to work, why don’t they have to work”. Only those people who wished to work would do so. It would change the nature of society!”

    No suggestions as to how to pay for this – or what those who didn’t wish to work and who preferred tp exist on the goodwill of others would be doing with their time…..

  • Tim a bit of an over exaggeration to say the least and trying to put a bit of a gloss over the fact that the party worked hand in hand with the Tories in government on an agenda of austerity and that’s the reason why we got wiped out at the general election. It would be more credible if we acknowledged it was a mistake joining with the Tories and only then would win back the respect of the electorate people are not silly.

  • Michael BG suggests :
    “Maybe the government should identify the skilled workers we will need in ten years time and provide grants to encourage people to get these skills rather than other ones.”
    So the flow of this logic is to first impose tuition fees on students studying the needed skills,… and give them a grant to incentivise them? Seriously ?
    How about this instead ? :
    To incentivise students into the much needed STEM subjects, we should cancel their tuition fees if after graduation, they work in a needed field and pay taxes in the UK for 5 years after graduation? Isn’t that a little more ‘joined up’ thinking?
    As regards what I’ve read in the article, Tim has a massive amount of work to do, to turn his un-costed and vague liberal wish list, into something resembling ‘thought through’ policy.?

  • Richard Underhill 16th Aug '15 - 3:33pm

    Will 16th Aug ’15 – 12:51pm It was only those standing for election who lost their seats, not all.
    Those elected in different years did not.

  • @ John Dunn
    “To incentivise students into the much needed STEM subjects, we should cancel their tuition fees if after graduation, they work in a needed field and pay taxes in the UK for 5 years after graduation? Isn’t that a little more ‘joined up’ thinking?”

    I did not assume that only university students would be learning the identified skills and I sure didn’t assume that only STEM graduates would have the identified skills. However my suggestion would give the person the freedom to decide how they spent the grant rather than having to use it to pay off their Student Loan. I would not be against extra grants being paid if these people worked in areas where the identified skills were needed, with increasing grants the more years they used their identified skill.

    @ Nonconformistradical

    “No suggestions as to how to pay for this – or what those who didn’t wish to work and who preferred tp exist on the goodwill of others would be doing with their time…..”

    By calling it a more radical solution I thought I had made it clear it was not an easy choice. I also recognise that the general public is more likely to prefer my first solution.

    I have not looked at the mechanics of increasing direct taxation and at the same time increasing universal benefits. Would a person be prepared to pay a higher marginal rate of Income Tax if the amount needed to get to work, to rent a home, and buy the week’s food, water, gas and electricity was not taxed? Would migrants still wish to come here to work?

    The point I was making was either the government works to ensure everyone is working by making sure employers employ those who it would rather not employ or it pays everyone enough so that working becomes a voluntary activity. Either solution would remove welfare as an issue of discontent.

    I don’t understand why it is any concern to anyone what people do with their time if they are not working. Do we worry about what the rich do with their time? Do we worry about what the retired do with their time? As Liberals we shouldn’t be worrying about how people would use this huge increase in freedom.

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