Lord Dick Newby writes…We have more chance of breaking the mould of British politics than we had in 1981

House of Lords chamberIt was a great honour to be elected Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group in the Lords earlier this week. The challenge facing me and my colleagues is straightforward. How do we help the Party occupy as much as possible of the centre and centre left of British politics – ground which is currently vacant?

Obviously we can do our bit by trying to defeat or amend the worst of the Tory legislation. We face a Tory government unrestrained, Labour are not doing their job as the opposition. It is the Liberal Democrats who have to step up to the plate and be the real voice of opposition. We held the Government to account last session on tax credits, trade union reform and refugee children. We will seek to do so in coming months, for example on Investigatory Powers. And if we ever see any legislation promoting grammar schools, we can guarantee it a rough ride in the Lords.

Brexit gives us a huge new opportunity to engage with all sectors of society and all our spokespeople will be engaging with their stakeholder groups to discuss how the costs of Brexit for their sector might be mitigated. This Conservative Brexit government must be held to account. Most of what was promised in the referendum has already been scrapped and whatever they bring forward in future will need to be rigorously scrutinised. We will be expanding the team of people with specific portfolio responsibilities to help with this.

We are well aware that almost half the Party is new since the 2015 General Election. We will intensify the programme of visits by Peers to constituency parties to discuss what Liberal Democracy means and how campaigning works. Making sure we work both in the Westminster bubble and out on the streets and doorsteps up and down the country. We will continue to support local campaigning efforts by participating in local by-elections wherever we can.

And we will be extending an arm of friendship to liberal progressives currently in the Labour Party who cannot in all conscience remain in a Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

I left the civil service in 1981 to join the SDP in the hope that we could break the mould of British politics. The opportunities for doing so now are, in my view greater than in 1981. But we have to persuade the country that we provide the leadership at all levels which they can trust and support. We have to fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. Tim is doing that for the party as a whole. Local campaigners are doing it each week in by-elections across the country. And I intend to do so for my terrific group of colleagues in the Lords.

* Dick Newby is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Laurence Cox 16th Sep '16 - 6:03pm


    While we all agree that what we want to see is an elected House of Lords, perhaps you could start by negotiating with the other parties there for a proportionate reduction in the number of Peers. There must be a good deal of ‘dead wood’ and pushing for the numbers to be reduced would be good publicity for us if nothing else. Also in future, we need a ‘one in, one out’ rule so that the Lords does not start to grow again.

  • Peter Wrigley 16th Sep '16 - 6:29pm

    Congratualtions on your election. There’s quite a lot of what Jeremy Corbyn believes that I could subscribe to (and to what the SNP and Greens beleive.) If we are to get rid of the Tories in 2020 than we need to work together with fellow progressives. That meass stop being rude about Corbyn. Try politeness, sympathy and emphasise the policies on which we overlap. The alternative is years in the wilderness while the Tories systematically destroy the more civilised aspects of our society .

  • I hope that Lord Newby will read the comments made here and respond with a comment of his own.

    The MPs who have rebelled against Corbyn are poor democrats, not wanting to work with their democratically elected leader, most of them have a poor record on reducing inequalities and increasing liberty for the majority of us when in government. Therefore encouraging them to join us is the wrong policy. We should encourage them to stand as independents if they are de-selected in the hope we can win the seat ourselves.

  • Peter
    Jeremy Corbyn is not only damaging to the Labour Party but also the country. It isn’t rudeness but the truth. OK he is a vegetarian.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Sep '16 - 1:17am

    Lord Newby

    You re to be congratulated on your election, I thought it high time we could show gender balance, a national role as leader in the Lords, for example, filled by a woman , from amongst our able peers , male and female, but I like you , and this piece is a good indication of common sense!

  • ALASTAIR Forsyth 20th Sep '16 - 7:12pm

    This is the big moment for the Liberal Democrats.
    The biggest issue for the country is the relationship with Europe. The Lib Dems have always supported close tie with Europe , as well as reform of the EU as at present constituted.
    However the country has voted (by a narrow margin) to Leave. The Lib Dem present policy is to campaign for the public to be consulted on the terms of our leaving and our future relationship with the EU and its member countries.
    This makes sense; but the Lib Dems on their own will not win the day.
    What is required is an alliance of all those, of whatever party, who oppose the aims of the hard line Brexiteers. They are probably a majority and so could succeed.
    We do not need a new party and existing party members could maintain their allegiance. They would vote for the Alliance as Alliance Lib Dem or as Alliance Labour (pro close ties with Europe and anti Corbyn); or as Alliance Tory (there are many competent articulate Tories we need on our side, and Lib Dems should recognise this)
    If we aim for government or at least to become the official opposition we have to press for Alliance to be accepted as a legitimate voting option.
    Our battle cry should be solidarity with all that is best in the relationship with the EU; a rebalancing of Britain (less inequality of income and less regional disparities; and unavoidably higher taxes to pro tect the NHS.
    Next we have to choose our champions.

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