Lord Malcolm Bruce writes… Liberalism revitalised

I want to respond to the challenges issued by Paddy and Vince during our conference.

Paddy said the party was “intellectually dead.” Vince said our position on another referendum was disrespectful to the electorate.

Let me take on Vince first. We and our predecessors supported UK membership of the European Community from its inception. The SDP was created largely because of Labour’s equivocation over British membership. We campaigned unstintingly for Remain and we remain convinced that the UK ‘s interests are best served by being a key member of the European Union.

Yes, by a narrow margin the country voted Leave but we have not changed our view and, given that there is no clear idea of what kind of relationship people want – in or out of the single market – let alone the hundreds of cooperative agreements built up over the last 43 years.

It seems more rational to me to support negotiations for the deal that secures the best of our relationship with the  EU and once we know what that is to ask people whether they accept it.

Now to Paddy. We would have no credibility if we reneged on our coalition record but the drifting, divided Tory party struggling for a post Brexit identity surely gives room for revitalised Liberalism.

Look at health. The slogan “no privatisation of the NHS” summons up the blood for campaigners but the fact is the private sector is crucial to the health service. GPs are self employed and the BMA has opposed the NHS from the outset. Where do the drugs and equipment come from except the private sector?

Of course selling off the public component of the NHS will never be on the Liberal Democrat agenda. We need to boost resources for the core of the NHS and committing ourselves to raise taxes for that makes us credible but we know more will be needed. Merging health and care into one service should certainly lead to a much more rational and efficient use of resources.

Theresa May’s rekindling of the grammar school debate was clearly designed to reassess the domestic agenda in the wake of Brexit but it has added further splits to the Tories and given it was not on the manifesto it will struggle to get through either house.

But that debate is meat and drink to Liberal Democrats, highlighting our commitment to early years, targeted support for the disadvantaged and a pledge to support the profession of teaching.

At least in England, there is a debate about education and the Liberal Democrats are in the thick of it. In Scotland a radical curriculum reform, imaginative in conception has foundered on inadequate resourcing leading to a crisis in teacher recruitment and the end of Scotland’s once proud broad education. Subject scope has been reduced (especially languages) and Scottish pupils are struggling to get into any universities against outside competition and denied college places thanks to savage SNP cuts.

We do need to develop our ideas, Paddy, not abandon them.

* Malcolm Bruce was the Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon until 2015 and was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2014-15. He led the Scottish Party from 1988-92 and is now a member of the House of Lords.

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  • Well said Malcolm. I think the moving forward of the debate and calling for a new (and not a rerun) referendum on the terms of any Brexit deal is right. The referendum genie was let out of the bottle by having the first referendum and generally I don’t like them for all the reasons now apparent from the first one.

    But anyone who thinks trying to close it down and have a deal done in a ‘stitch up’ between politicians will solve the rifts in our society is going to find it won’t. All of us, the 48% and the 52% need to be consulted about how Brexit looks.

  • I agree completely. If Paddy & Vince are being correctly reported then my response is “EH?” I really dont get what they are on about.
    I am a provisional supporter of More United as a way, potentially of avoiding “wasted votes” but if Paddy really wants a United Centre-Left Party then he should advise Labour Centrists to just join Us.

  • Robert Wootton 22nd Sep '16 - 1:30pm

    If Paddy said the party was “intellectually dead”, he has been looking through his blinkered political spectacles. Scientists and cyberneticians have been warning governments and political parties since Jeremy Thorpe was leader of the Liberal Party that an economic and social collapse was on the cards. They could see that the internal system dynamics of our political and economic systems would make it inevitable.
    I have already published a conceptual design for an alternative economic operating system. It seems now that I will need to write a book detailing a conceptual model for a democratic political architecture. There has been a call for a Constitutional Convention after all.

  • It is perfectly possible to be concerned about our internal processes AND seek to intellectually develop the party, to answer Malcolm.
    I would suggest that since contributors to LDV only have 500 words they concentrate on one major topic rather than 2. In this case I recommend 2 separate articles as they are both important.

  • Barry Snelson 22nd Sep '16 - 4:10pm

    It is democratically legitimate to campaign for a new referendum to overturn the 2016 one.
    After all that followed a campaign to overturn the 1975 one. Was that an ‘undemocratic campaign?
    What it might not be is electorally sensible. I don’t detect any buyers’ remorse yet as there has been no consequence – yet!
    A rerun may well not overturn the result and a referendum on the ‘deal’ seems far fetched to me, from a presentation perspective, if anything. It’s likely to be multi faceted with all sorts of compromises and with so many bridges burnt that there will be no way back to pre June 23rd.

    As to Paddy’s intellectual void, well yes, there is no compelling vision just plenty of motherhood (sorry, parenthood) and apple pie.

    The nation, I believe, is desperate for a political movement that has a strong social conscience but still an affordable one funded by an economic revival that is neither Keynesian Magic Dust nor brutal globalisation “red in tooth and claw”.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Sep '16 - 4:21pm

    Vince Cable is right that the party should be focusing on getting the best outcome in the negotiations for the UK. The current approach seems to be to not care about the negotiations much because whatever happens the party will try to vote them down and stay in the EU.

    I don’t know how the party can say it doesn’t want to overturn the referendum when it wants a second referendum to vote down the negotiations. If they win the second referendum then people will change their pitch immediately and start saying there is no mandate for brexit.

    It’s like the motto of the political party in Orwell’s 1984: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” except for the Lib Dems it is now “To Overturn is To Not Overturn”.

    I know I supported ignoring the result at first, but things don’t seem too bad right now.

  • It is tempting to simply say “I agree with Malcolm” but that avoids the problems with the second referendum that Barry Snelson spells out. Any “deal” should be followed by a General Election and a subsequent parliamentary vote. While I see leaving the EU as a disaster, forfeiting our right to call ourselves a representative democracy would be an even greater disaster.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Sep '16 - 6:15pm

    I am not sure that Paddy was thinking especially about policy. He’ll tell me if I’m wrong. I think he was pointing to the way we practice politics and organise ourselves as a campaigning movement in the second decade of the C21st.

    If so – I think he’s right. Some time ago I wondered how the developing geniuses of Facebook, Paypal and the like would approach ‘running’ a political party. I am pretty sure that it would be a disruptive and an insurgent force. I don’t think at our size and with our aims and objectives there would be a C-X, A Head of this and a Head of that and a Management Board and a set of Committees. It would exploit technology and the talent of its people. It would terrify the establishment.

    All we seem to have done since May 2015 is recreate ourselves as an old fashioned C20th political party – which really had its organisational roots in the C19th.

    From the 1970s onwards the Party developed its campaigning as a political movement using paper, shoe leather, and letter boxes with fierce dogs behind too many. How we all would have wished to have the latest technology, then. But we have it now and actually 36 degrees is the kind of organisation that is exploiting those opportunities and not us. The timidity is incredible. We are not in Government. We’re in opposition.

    We have just finished a conference that dates back over 100 years. And still uses the fringe for csmpaigning – instead of putting campaigning centre stage and policy (hey – we have 8 MPs!!!) at the fringe.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Sep '16 - 6:38pm

    As for Vince he too is right. Just read this: https://www.libdemvoice.org/vince-cable-writes-what-brexit-means-51697.html

    And let’s face it, Vince was most right on most things during the 2010 – 15 destruction of our party as a fighting force.
    If MPs and Peers had done their job for the party and not persued personal aggrandizement, they would have removed the dysfunction leader and his appalling and weak political team and put one of their own number in the place of Deputy PM. If they had done this, surely they would have chosen the then Mr Cable MP.

    He would not have supported accelerated deficit reduction which sent the economy back into recession. He would not have allowed the HMT and the B of E to fail on Mon Pol. He would not have told Conference that setting the strategic aims of the Bank was to deny its independence, as the UK has only ever given the Bank independence over operational matters. He would not have supported yet another damaging reorganisation of the NHS – (why should we be lectured by about campaigning on the NHS by those who voted for that reorganisation?!) He would not have employed strategists who were happy for our left leaning voters and activists to go off to Labour. He would not have allowed a hopeless EU campaign and a hopeless GE campaign.

    And now he is right about how the Party should react and position itself over Europe.

    We should be actively shaping and leading on the future – our definition of Brexit – as his piece and recent comments stresses.

    Grandstanding is easy on this issue – but it will not help Britain’s future, nor the future of its citizens and those who have left their European homes to help us build our future and maintain our services.

    Get behind Vince. Ignore the Lord Bruce.

  • Richard Elliott 22nd Sep '16 - 6:44pm

    Malcolm is right on brexit. Asking for a further vote, in whatever form, once we know what brexit means is not contradictory with also pressing for the best pro-Eurorpe Brexit settlement (as emphasised by Vince) if we cant remain in. It is surely the democratic duty of a rational parliament to make practical decisions once the full evidence comes to light – the first vote asks the government to pursue the Brexit option – but what if the actual terms offered are very unfavourable and its looks as though the majority of the electorate would reject. Putting in an offer on an house is not the same as completion once you have seen the survey. Economic prospects could look a lot more negative in a years time.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Sep '16 - 6:53pm

    I see from my twitter feed that Stephen Tall has put it nicely, “Which means that the Lib Dems have committed to arguing over the next few years for (1) British voters to over-ride their 23 June vote to Leave, and (2) the UK to retain EU membership on worse terms than those put to voters in the first referendum.”

    Get off the grandstand and get on the pitch.

    That’s me lot for five hours, so failure to reply is down to that and a delayed flight home.

  • Bill Le Breton
    36 Degrees??

  • Once someone takes a seat in the UNELECTED HofL nothing he says is of any value.
    Give me one reason why a party rejected by the people should have over 100 unelected Lords.
    The only way democracy can work is when a vote indicates support.

    Not much has changed since 1707 – bought for English gold

  • Stevan Rose 22nd Sep '16 - 9:36pm

    I have some sympathy for Paddy’s position and totally agree with Vince. I fear, though, their voices will be ignored by others on a misguided course.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Sep '16 - 10:06pm

    I disagree fundamentally with Vince Cable here.

    What he seems to be saying is that we have Brexit, but make Brexit as much like non-Brexit as possible.

    Er, isn’t THAT cheating the people?

    I think people voted for Brexit expecting it to mean some big change. It was trumpeted by the right-wing press as “Independence Day”. Well, if people wanted a big change shouldn’t they get it? To me, it is cheating them to give them something which is what they voted for according to the letter of the law, but not what they thought they were voting for.

    Isn’t Brexit that looks the same as non-Brexit the worst of both worlds? Losing the advantage of being in the EU, but gaining little change from it? If that’s what’s on offer, isn’t it better to stay in the EU?

    So, it seems to me the choice must be clear – if people want Brexit, it has to be what Vince Cable called “Hard Brexit”. If we are really going to go down the line “We support them having what they voted for”, that’s what we should support.

    But we can’t, because it is so far from what we believe in. So to me, the line we should take has to be “let those who believe in Brexit work out what it means, and present the details”. If when that happens, it’s what people still want, well, ok. However, I don’t see anything wrong with the line “Now you see what it really means, do you really want it?”. I’m happy to go with what opinion polls say when the details are worked out. If they do reveal a big change of mind, then isn’t it being on the side of the people to have another referendum? If they don’t, well, let them have what they want.

    Of course, we can work at getting people to change their mind, but what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it what we do at every election, unless we really only want the votes of those who voted for us before?

  • “Vince said our position on another referendum was disrespectful to the electorate.”

    I worry somewhat over this new binding fear of going against democracy. For example, it has been used several times by this Tory government when a large number of their votes would have been via a lack of trust in the alternative rather than an interest in their policies (sometimes it’s used to support policies which weren’t mentioned in their manifesto) while it has also been used by Corbyn’s team despite his views as labour leader 10months ago were far from fully formed. Where is this clamour for democracy when it comes to political reform to actually make it more open rather than just who can misinform/mudsling the best?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Sep '16 - 11:27pm

    It takes a lot for me to read Stevan Rose and Matthew Huntbach in succession and say , I agree more with Matthew on this than Stevan, but there is a first time for everything, so they say !

    I actually would have gone down the route of Vince , after the referendum , and exactly as he obviously must be , was annoyed at the stance of Tim on this, and indeed I did agree with Vince on here , and shall again if the new stance goes too far , as my views on the EU are in line far more with him, and Paddy , and very much with Norman , and Nick , lately.

    However , I understand Tim to have recovered from the emotional reaction , after the vote,to a sensible conclusion , of the vote. If there has been no Brexit by the 2020 election, this policy is democratic and is saying , when this happens , before it is definite,the public want to be consulted on the deal.

    If Brexit has happened before the General Election, we must accept Vince’s expressed view as our policy , whether the public have been consulted or not , out is out , and , sorry Tim there is no going back for at least a generation if ever , then it is to make it work and get on with it , because if you can win me round , great , but do not try to make this the permanently obsessed with the EU party, or I shall be strongly agreeing with Stevan and not Matthew !

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Sep '16 - 12:32am

    Thank you, Malcolm, for that very clear and concise rebuttal of the Vince and Paddy positions. I agree with you. It seems to me that Vince has always taken a slightly different view on matters, both within the Coalition and since, and our ‘United’ party can accept it with equanimity. As for Paddy, I am not quite so sure about his judgement these days, though having of course enormous respect for him. ‘Liberalism’ has been extensively discussed in our party this last few months, and we can confidently present our ideas, as for example in The Opportunity to Succeed, the Power to Change, Policy Paper 125, which I read with pride. Our policies too are coming on fast, as with the excellent social security policy, ‘Mending the Safety Net’, which we agreed to on Monday in Brighton, and several others. Tim had much more to offer, moreover, in his final speech to Conference, and I think the proposal for a Beveridge Commission to work out a new Health and Social Care National Service is a winner. We have a great deal to offer our country and Europe, whether or not the Conference Fringe discussions on a progressive alliance come to much in practice.

  • J George SMID 23rd Sep '16 - 9:27am

    “It seems more rational to me to support negotiations for the deal that secures the best of our relationship with the EU” – well, we already have the ‘best deal’. It is called membership. There is an intellectual shortcoming here (not death though). To support “the best” you have to be in the position of being able to compare, select and evaluate from number of options. We don’t know the positions, we are not empowered to select. One way to square this would be for the Liberal Democrats to actually ‘specify’ what the ‘best Brexit deal’ should look like. Then we can compare it with what we have and, more importantly, compare it with what the May government proposes. This of course would be the anathema to our current pro-EU position – accepting that Brexit is likely to happen (and prepare for it).

  • Peter Watson 23rd Sep '16 - 10:04am

    @J George SMID “One way to square this would be for the Liberal Democrats to actually ‘specify’ what the ‘best Brexit deal’ should look like.”
    More importantly, for a party banging on about voting for the destination, Lib Dems should specify what the best Remain deal should look like.
    Is it the package that Cameron negotiated? Is it the situation before Cameron’s negotiations? Is it membership of the Euro? Is it something else?
    The party does not seem to have learnt from the dismally negative campaign that lost the referendum at least as much as the Brexit campaign won it. The approach is still anti-Brexit, now railing against an unknown Exit deal rather than the even more vague uncertainties of a few months ago, but sadly it is still not making the case for why membership of the EU is the good (best?) thing that Lib Dems believe it to be.

  • David Garlick 23rd Sep '16 - 10:20am

    A word of caution on the joining up of health and social care. Just remember it was split initially because the social care element was starved of resources. When Health officials were faced with the choice between the pressures on acute medicine and the need for social care they chose, understandably perhaps, acute medicine. The argument was that if people were failed by the medics due to lack of resource then the money spent on social care would have been wrongly spent. (Even if it was all used.) If we put them back together it has to be in a way that ensures that this is not a problem that we recreate.
    On a slightly separate tack. Under Labour the management and monitoring elements of Health spending was, if not out of control, certainly hugely excessive. When the essential extra funding is put in place we need to ensure that it is not spent to recreate that excess.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '16 - 10:47am

    There are two points at issue. The first is raised by Paddy who has replied to me that I am ‘spot on’ in my remarks above (yesterday at 6.15 UK time). He was driving at the way we campaign and the way we try to influence people – what we used to call ‘building a movement’. If people can’t see that we are bureaucratic and sclerotic and that this is an important reason why we remain at 8% in the polls – no change since the 2015 election – then we are headed for extinction.

    On the EU and the rest of the world – it is wrong to talk of a destination. It is about a journey – a journey into the future – a future of continual adjustment in a rapidly changing world. The EU is very poor at adjustment – which is why it has become a failing institution over the last 16 years.

    The next step in that journey will be decided in Parliament over the next three or four years and the British people will judge that first step in a General Election.

    Nothing is certain, but it is unlikely that the T’s will split on that – because they are a disciplined political machine led by people who put political management front and centre. They are feeling their way to an EEA minus position – and so too are influential people in the EU. Hard Brexit wont happen. The Ref is another country now.

    This is mirrored in the Labour camp where it is rapidly coming together over Brexit. Our new ‘best friend’ Chuka Umunna is the latest to declare his new position and to leave the Remain position.

    The population at large are moving in that direction as day by day the hysteria of the remain campaign is demonstrated to be just that.

    So, our virtually insignificant Party of 8 MPs – with almost no political platform inside or outside Westminster intends to pursue a position that will be outside the Overton Window. Good luck with that – if you don’t rethink (a la Paddy) the way we campaign.

    Meanwhile momentous decisions are being made inside the Overton Window with no Lib Dem influence at all.

    This is actually Cleggism. (His “I just don’t understand why people don’t see the world the way I do”) It is not about responding to the real world in a liberalising way.

  • Bill Le Breton: It seems Nick Clegg is not the only one suffering from this affliction.

  • The Lib Dems came into existence as a result of Labour having split over Europe. Being internationalist and pro membership of the EEC/EU is in our aims and objects. If people don’t like that, they can table a constitutional amendment and try their luck. As things are, the party is committed to opposing Brexit. I think Vince’s position that we mustn’t be disrespectful of the referendum vote is largely based on two things: that a large percentage of the British people are against high levels of net immigration and that free movement within the EU discriminates against migrants from outside the EU. In answer to the first point, apart from the fact that commonwealth citizens had a vote but most of the British people either didn’t vote for Brexit or couldn’t register to vote, so the referendum was an odd way to “ask the British people”, the British people are also against being made poorer, so they won’t like hard Brexit. They won’t like staying in the single market either, nor any variant that requires free movement. So they are going to be miserable anyway. As for the second point, it is true that migrants from outside the EU are discriminated against. This is what the nation-state-based world order we have does. It discriminates between nationals and non-nationals. Theresa May’s 2014 regulations do so in a cruel and grossly unfair way. Perhaps the answer to our problems is to stay in the EU but wreck our own economy and country so that no one will want to come here any more. We can then all emigrate and, being EU citizens, settle in other EU member states. Those who don’t want to because they don’t like foreigners can stay home and work in the fields, care homes and failing NHS to look after our proudly “indigenous” ageing population, doing the jobs that migrants used to do. I look forward to the sitcom. Bring back Jonathan Swift. Satire is all we have left.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Sep '16 - 12:23pm


    I have looked at the Adam Smith link you gave, and I’m afraid it comes across as pure waffle. Lots of assertions made, but little real case evidence.

    I have been asking this to Brexiteers throughout – just give me some examples of things that the British government could do and the British people would like it to do, but the EU stops it from doing. The only one that has come out is the freedom of big companies to force workers to work long hours, which rather proves my point: co-operation to prevent big companies playing one country off against another and so to preserve the freedom of ordinary people not be forced to work long hours etc is a case for EU membership.

    The other, of course, is the freedom to throw any EU citizens we like out of this country. However, that also rather proves my point: we don’t want that sort of Brexit, do we?

    If we really were in the situation where the EU is our government, wouldn’t most political discussion be about the EU? But it isn’t, is it? It isn’t the EU that tripled tuition fees. It isn’t the EU that has stopped building of new houses. It isn’t the EU that has pushed top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Etc.

    The EU is about setting common trading standards, yes. But I think to push this as if it means everything our government does is dictated by the EU is gross exaggeration. As we are seeing, we will still need to have trading standards outside the EU, and in reality they won’t be much different. Indeed, it looks to me that we will end up having to observe the same trading standards, freedom of movement etc, but have even less say on them.

    Is it really the case, as Brexiteer leaders suggest, that there are loads of British companies with things to sell to countries outside the EU and jobs to give to British people to make them, but the EU is stopping them from doing it? Where are the actual examples? How are they being stopped?

    I do believe there is a need for co-operation on environmental issues, environmental degradation does not observe national boundaries. I do believe there is a case for protecting agriculture: we aren’t producing enough of our own food, are we really sure that other countries will be happy to carry on feeding us forever? That doesn’t mean I regard the current arrangements by the EU as perfect, but then I don’t regard much of what the UK government does as perfect, that doesn’t mean I believe there should be no government.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '16 - 12:58pm

    @noorderling (odd how those dropping in here to defend Clegg over the years are 9/10 times anonymous).

    But you are right – itis the nature of egocentricity.

    Which is why we should judge our leaders and advisers by their record of successful diagnosis and treatment.

    Ashdown and Vince (for his short time holding the Leadership reins and leading public thought) have records of building the party as a fighting force, seeing the future, persuading others of their view and turning out to be right. Being right- the most difficult thing.

    Clegg on the other hand has been in almost all cases wrong. His book is a record and confession of that. As a human reaction that is laudable but it is not a good advertisement for his ability to get things right in the future. The man who crashed the car, however, sorry, because he remains puzzled, is a poor choice to guide us in the future.

    Why do people consistently forget the errors and continue to have faith in his judgement? An explanation addressed to his Co-Coalitionist is a good guide as to why people belief certain people are ‘rather good’ at something when the record shows repeated failure: http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2016/09/rather-good-at-it.html

    The Party faces irrelevance, continuing decline and a long period in the wilderness. Why? Because it is not very good at politics and (to make it worse) actually proud of that.

    It can’t persuade. It can’t move people (build a movement).

    I hope we win the by-election but, if we do, it may – no it will – (like our great good fortune in having many new members) delay the necessary changes to the way we do politics.

  • “I am as Brexity as it is possible to be, and yet I have no objection at all to a Brexit that is as non-Brexit as possible.
    By which I think we both mean Efta/EEA.”

    I don’t! Efta/EEA membership to me is a poor man’s version of a two-tier EU!
    If the objective is to effectively achieve a two-tier Europe that works for everyone then the question that organisations like the Adam Smith Institute should be asking is what is the best way to achieve such an objective.

    As for the impatient, well the EU can change and any look back over the last 50 years will show you just how much it has changed when it has the motivation to change. Thus I suggest the best way forward isn’t to leave and thus create an emotive us-and-them situation but to remain and use our position to both promote a tiered approach that works for all of Europe and hinder the progress of the EU into some form of superstate. I suspect working within the EU, we actually stand a greater chance of gaining support from other members and thus achieve results sooner rather than later.

    The question thus to Brexit fanatics, isn’t so much about leave, but how will the aftermath of Brexit on the EU benefit the long-term interests of the UK. Because if the nightmares of the Brexit fanatics are to be believed, the EU won’t be in a fit state to trade with the UK…

  • Sue Sutherland 23rd Sep '16 - 1:24pm

    Bill le Breton. I have great hope in the Your Liberal Britain group. At the moment they are concentrating on a Lib Dem vision for our future, using technology in a fun way, so I’m sure they will apply their enthusiasm and abilities to campaigning in due course. We have to regenerate after our massive defeat and that means more than returning to campaigning on local issues. Of course the party is bureaucratic but with the growth in membership we need to have the structures to manage a larger party. I’m truly grateful that we have managed to avoid the muddled mess that is the Labour Party.
    I have been concerned that we might be seen as ignoring the democratic vote of the referendum, but what sort of a party would we be if we turned our backs on one of our most deeply held beliefs? I think Nick Clegg will do a great job of trying to ensure we get the best deal for Britain during Brexit, I hope Tim will keep talking about his vision of the EU and also how we could improve it and we are seeing signs of policies that will make Britain a fairer place to live.
    Of course Leave voters want a massive change and we are inclined as a party to assume that means returning to the good old days of Empire, it’s assumptions of our superiority and its xenophobia. However, there is another past that people might want to return to: a time when jobs were safer, when public servants were able to believe that they were engaged in helping the public not scraping and scrimping to provide a service at all, when, if you wanted to know the time you’d ask a policeman, when all parties were trying to build homes fit for heroes, when, somehow, life was cosier and less threatening and when our grandparents could see a good future for their loved ones, which is not the case for the grandparents of today.
    I believe the Lib Dems are the only party who would like to see a modern version of this world, where people once again don’t have to worry if they are sick or disabled, where the transitory nature of employment is recognised and people are given a safety net, where housing is easier to come by and where differences in wealth and income are no longer so extreme.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '16 - 2:36pm

    Roland, you are a reasonable person, then, you use the word fanatic to desribe people that don’t agree with you and it all goes to pot.

    Lib dems keep on dreaming up not so much straw men as nasty orges.

    The mindset is that the UK people have made the biggest mistake in their history. Unless they unmake that decision nothing can be done – the difficulties are just too steep, the adversaries too numerous and too powerful. We are doom merchants. The British public have left us, are leaving us behind. So too are opponents.

    Our record is cracked, the same howl screaming over and over again. We are not acting like Liberals we are acting like conservatives.

    Sue, sorry, but everything is ground down in centralism and bureaucracy. Working groups, committees, organisation charts, mission statements – it is all displacement activity – more and more heat, less and less light. Everything is campaignable.

    I read the Mark Pack pamphlet – everything in it is process. Successful campaigning doesn’t work like that … and actually the new world doesn’t operate that way either.

  • @Bill le Breton – I use the term “Brexit fanatic” to refer to a particular group of particularly vocal Leave supporters, specifically those who probably did most of the emotive rabble rousing, and who will most probably plague any second referendum.

    But yes, it is a question we perhaps should be asking in general rather than to the fanatics who don’t understand compromise, is how can we ensure Leaving is beneficial and reasonably amicable to all. Because key to a favourable Article 50 negotiation is making it seem beneficial to the EU to agree to our terms…

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Sep '16 - 5:11pm

    Roland, you are so thoughtful, informative, reasonable, I do wish you cd use your name or your name in full. Written in sincerity, B.

  • jedibeeftrix 23rd Sep '16 - 5:23pm

    @ Matthew – With respect, you did not address the point i made about your post:

    ““Er, isn’t THAT cheating the people? I think people voted for Brexit expecting it to mean some big change. It was trumpeted by the right-wing press as “Independence Day”. Well, if people wanted a big change shouldn’t they get it?””

    I did not expect a BIG change, and I think you are wrong to make assumptions about what people wanted.

    @ Roland – “I suspect working within the EU, we actually stand a greater chance of gaining support from other members and thus achieve results sooner rather than later.”

    First, do you believe i am a brexit fanatic?

    Second, i tend to agree with the quote above. But marriage is a two way street, and EUrope failed this test in Camerons renegotiation.

    I was quite content with what modest renegotiation Cameron pulled off, and would have been happy for Remain to have won on a narrow margin. I may even have supported it. However, throughout the renegotiation I said the one thing I wanted more than anything, was that whatever we got back should apply to all. An end to ever-closer-union, i.e. the ability for a recent accession state to say no to the Euro if that is their wish, or, the ability for an existing Euro nation to withdraw if it was bad for their society. This resulted in a final reason to vote leave:

    At the end of the renegotiation, when all was looking positive, Belgium with the support of others, demanded that the concessions secured by Cameron must apply only to Britain.

    I looked at millions in Southern Europe being broken on the wheel of the Euro, and I looked at callous indifference of Belgium and Co in demanding what they did. The project mattered more to them than the people.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Sep '16 - 8:37pm


    I did not expect a BIG change, and I think you are wrong to make assumptions about what people wanted.

    People voted Brexit for a variety of reasons. This was what I pointed out at the start. People like you and the Adam Smith institute you quoted supported Brexit because they thought it would lead to a more extreme free market system. However most people who voted Brexit did so for the opposite reason, they thought it was a vote to end the misery that extreme free market policies have brought to them.

    I am going on what people have actually said to me, and what I have reported as being said.

    I looked at millions in Southern Europe being broken on the wheel of the Euro,

    What actually seems to have happened is that the governments of these countries borrowed large amounts of money and can’t pay it back. This would still have been an issue without the Euro.

  • I have found this absolutely fascinating to read. Thank you Bill, Malcolm and all for making it so.
    As Bill and others will know, I am a committed European and will continue to be so. Our leaving will not just affect the UK, but put peace at risk, not least in Ireland. No Brexiter would have wished for that as an outcome, but in Ireland, conflict could be a real possibility.
    Not only that, but the question of the border will be crucial to any negotiation. How can we have a closed border on the island of Ireland? Without it, there will be free movement. With it, the peace process is seriously at risk.
    As for the state of the party…party organisation is one thing; campaigning another. Paddy is right as is Bill. We need to adapt to new ways of campaigning if we are claw our way back. The party is looking at Canada, thank heavens, and seeing the changes there that were successful, both in campaining and developing the party. We should look at Spain too.
    As a party, we need to capture the imagination of the electorate. A by election win would help, but we also need to be thinking outside the box.

  • @jedibeeftrix
    First, do you believe i am a brexit fanatic? No, more like myself who can see the need for reform of the EU particularly among the career bureaucrats in Brussels. Also if we are to actually invoke Article 50, EFTA/EEA membership may well be the least bad option potentially available to us. – provided the EU doesn’t veto our application…

    We are in broad agreement that David Camerons seemingly modest renegotiations actually contained some rather fundamental changes in emphasis and which gained broad agreement among many member states – who I suggest with the right encouragement may well follow the UK into a second EFTA/EEA style tier, particularly after witnessing the behaviour of Belguim and some of the “European Project” diehards. So should we not stand and help or do we one-by-one risk the Article 50 exit…?

    Of concern and an opportunity moving forward is the divisions beginning to be seen between the bureaucrats who want to make an example of the UK and the member states. It will be interesting to see the final composition of the team the EU puts together to actually conduct the Article 50 negotiations…

  • @Bill, your post of 2:36pm is spot on, well said.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Sep '16 - 12:43am

    Stevan Rose
    Please do return to the post on the other article , where you say your’e leaving , I urge you not to there !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Sep '16 - 1:19am

    Katharine Pindar and Sue Sutherland

    I often have said I enjoy your positive and constructive opinions and contributions here, the above , in keeping with that view , well done !

    I try very hard to be very positive and constructive on here, I put a lot of effort in, it is in my nature , but in party politics it is a struggle. I find , at certain times, some contributors and members so anti Clegg that it is corrosive , some of the younger members terrific, but so enthusiastic I cannot be other than keen myself !

    Yet, at the same age as our more recently ex leader, often , but not always of the same view as him , but respectful, I yearn for this site , and our party , to make better use of those of us with so much that is vibrant , and creative , but gets dissipated in being dissappointed!

  • Paul Murray 24th Sep '16 - 8:10am

    Some time ago I commented on this forum that the QE mandate of the BoE permitted it to purchase high quality corporate bonds as well as UK government securities (gilts).

    Starting on Tuesday September 27th the BoE will follow the recent example of the ECB and will begin to make significant purchases of corporate bonds. The list of eligible securities is available here: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/markets/documents/cbeligiblesecurities.xls

    It might come as something of a surprise to Liberals to discover that the Bank of England is planning to purchase the bonds of McDonald’s, Apple Inc, Pepsi and Wal-Mart Stores.

    I see two issues here: first, why McDonald’s but not (say) Burger King? If BK gets into financial difficulties should the BoE purchase their assets? Why M&S but not Morrisons? Is this a rational decision or does it say something about the shopping preferences of the decision makers?

    Secondly (and this is the real issue) why is there not a single bond from providers of social housing? The required AA investment grade is readily available. We are prepared to buy the assets of fast food retailers but not invest in decent housing for our citizens?

    The world has continued to spin on its axis after the referendum. There are real issues that need to have a Liberal voice speaking out about them. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the Liberal Democrats who still seem to think it’s June 24th, 2016.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Sep '16 - 9:44am

    Thanks for kind comments Flo – hope you are well. I think that both Governments have already declared that there will continue to be free movement between Ireland and the UK whatever transpires.

    Since April I have been publishing here my belief in the opportunities for the UK and the 27 in what has come to be called a soft Brexit. As part of that I have been urging that by taking this position we can campaign against and expose those who want a hard Brexit. It is good to read the interchange of ideas between Roland and Jedi. We should be fighting a great battle with them now. Europe is a least in three stages of economic and social development. Trying to fit them into one mission (and one currency) is having appalling consequences for Liberty and Life Chances in more and more of those countries that make up the EU and particularly the EMU.

    We can be pioneers to a better, safer Europe.

    I appreciate the attraction of campaigning to reverse Brexit in its ability perhaps to pull back into support some of the 4.5million of our voters who were alienated and frankly pushed out in the events leading up to and immediately after May 2015. (Lorenzo, you cannot possibly think that a leader who lost the support of 4.5 million people a ‘good leader’.

    Some of those people who most wanted to stay in the EU will also be on a journey which I think will take them to an EEA/EFTA position eventually. Much benefit can come to a small party like ourselves from being subsequently found to be ‘right’ or subsequently found to be the voice of reason – look how much we benefited from Vince Cable’s early stance on the coming Great Financial Crisis.

    As it is our present line becomes weaker and weaker as time moves on. It has the capacity to remove the Democrat from our values and leave us with some kind of ‘pure’ liberalism that is more about ‘individuality’ than it is about community. And for what – to return to a dysfunctional political institution on worse terms. Hum.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Sep '16 - 9:45am

    Uuuups – not a battle with Roland and Jedi, but with the hard brexiteers.

  • Thank you Bill, I am fine. My concern was in relation to the legal chalkenge being mounted in NI. The reason it is being done is because there is fear of what Brexit will mean there and the consequent impact on the devolved constitutional and financial position. Cross border cooperation, people working across border and the benefit from the EU’s Peace fund will be seriously at risk. Hence the legal challenge.
    The other issue of course is that free movement in the Irish context will have consequences for any Brexit deal. The EU27 will be part of the single market with all that entails. If there is a ‘soft border’, with free movement North and South, how will that stop free movement from the rest of the EU into the UK? There are either border checks or there aren’t.

  • Denis Loretto 24th Sep '16 - 12:43pm

    Flo Clucas is right to draw attention to the Irish dilemma, something that I highlighted at the European Movement AGM in October 2015, followed up by this article http://euromove.org.uk/?s=denis+loretto.
    I support the policy overwhelmingly supported at Brighton – campaigning for the form of brexit which is the best available for our country and arguing that the final result of negotiations should be put before the electorate for their acceptance or otherwise. Frankly I do not see any real chance of the “soft” brexit mentioned in some of the posts above such as EEA/EFTA membership -inevitably carrying obligations including a large measure of freedom of movement. I fear that the negotiations may well led us into an appalling mess of seriously damaging consequences, affecting most of all the worst-off people in our community. If so more and more people, including many who voted to leave, may well begin to demand a voice before the final button is pushed. I hasten to say that I am not hoping for this scenario. Despite being a passionate supporter of the EU I want to see the best possible result from these negotiations – perhaps even an outcome I could vote for – but it cannot be wrong to give the electorate their voice in such a fundamentally important matter.

  • Tony Greaves 24th Sep '16 - 2:02pm

    When Paddy Ashdown says the party is wrong what he means is that it does not agree with his latest “strategy”. One thing that is fairly consistent is that when Paddy talks about strategy he is usually wrong! I am however surprised to find that Bill le Breton, who is usually right on these things, seems to be quite wrong on all this. (No doubt he will phone me for a chat about it following this post!)

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Sep '16 - 2:13pm


    The only problem , for me Bill, above all else, is bitterness wherever I encounter it , rarely in person in the party , regularly in the websites online.

    I think Nick Clegg has many qualities I like , and made many mistakes I do not .

    On the EU I have written many times I am not an enthusiast for it as it has been , no pun intended, or is it ?! I was very concerned that Tim does not committ to re joining if we are out. I would be nearer your position on that , Bill. I am broadly with the Norman Lamb and Anna Soubry view of Open Britain, but believe the new policy could unify , if we state that if Brexit has happened before 2020, we adapt our policy to mean no going back.

  • “and Scottish pupils are struggling to get into any universities against outside competition

    Is that why record numbers are going to university with a welcome rise in those doing so from disadvantaged backgrounds?

  • Bill le Breton 24th Sep '16 - 10:14pm

    Tony just to make sure we agree what we are disagreeing about: I am totally opposed to Paddy’s so called ‘progressive platform’ – see my comments July 21 6.35pm here https://www.libdemvoice.org/paddy-ashdown-to-endorse-new-progressive-liberal-movement-51367.html

    However his ‘intellectually dead’ comment was, I think, and he confirms, to do with the way we organize as a party, which seems fair comment. We are hanging on to a structure of political organisation that has its roots in the c19th. Process seems more important that campaigning. And our campaigning is a shadow of what it could be because it is extremely centralised and deliberately formulaic – almost disciplinarian. We are continuing to behave as if we we are in government and not in opposition – and an organisation like 38 Degrees is leaving us far behind as a campaigning force.

    I don’t expect we agree on Europe.

    Will give you a call Wednesday when I’m back in NW.

  • My only previous political activism was Labour of 1996-97 and I wasn’t ever a member. It was very collaborative, people were listened to, a policy I suggested was adopted and is still in force – I recall a phone call with Brown’s office asking me to explain. They knew how to motivate. It was a “movement” and the result was a massive landslide.

    This party is failing the centre/-left/-right of politics, people on the same side scrapping rather than collaborating from top to bottom. Policy is the preserve of an elite and the politics are inward facing not outward, pleasing that elite and ignoring the electorate (hence 6% in the last Ipsos poll). And this ties in with Paddy’s position:

    “He was driving at the way we campaign and the way we try to influence people – what we used to call ‘building a movement’. If people can’t see that we are bureaucratic and sclerotic … then we are headed for extinction.”

    I see little compliance with liberalism as defined by Alan Paton, little internal democracy, an obsession with the EU, and few practical policies to excite an electorate struggling to find viable choices. If this party wants to be relevant, and keep the new members, it has to change, it has to collaborate with its members and supporters and potential supporters. It has to build a movement and not one obsessed with the EU.

  • To those who argue that the EU has failed after some sixty-odd years of existence, I would say – What about the AU?

    The AU, of course, is better known as the USA. After some sixty-odd years of existence, the AU was so unsuccessful that it was riven in two by a bitter civil war. But – the AU managed to hold together, and, er, look at what they achieved over the next two centuries!

    Of course the EU has faults. Brussels bureaucrats are to be demonised, since this provides a convenient form of covert racism for our new masters from the Leave campaign to deploy in argument. Meanwhile, the manifold incompetences of Whitehall bureaucrats must of course be swept under the table, as they are good old Britons!

    Yes, we should sympathise with the left behind of Teesside and Fenland, who voted to leave for understandable reasons, and whose problems we must seek to address. We should have no sympathy whatsoever with the vanguard Brexiteers, who are quite simply a political evil. We didn’t appease Hitler, we won’t appease Trump, and we mustn’t appease Farage, Fox, Davis and Johnson. There is only one valid response to evil – Fight it.

  • A century ago, Britain led the world. A year ago, Britain was one of the leading nations of the Western world. If we Brexit, ten years from now, where shall we be? We will be a small, friendless, mid-atlantic island. To our trade deficit, we shall add a deficit in invisible earnings, as the City collapses and Europe “takes back control” (!) of its own financial affairs. We shall be isolated and economically suffering, rather like Japan, but without the saving grace of Japan’s technological strengths. Meanwhile, our actions might well have begun the breakdown of the wider European project, such that other European nations also follow our lead toward self-centred individualism and isolationism, setting the stage for Europe’s eventual return to its age-old history of internal war.

    Weighing all this up in the scales of justice, might national disaster perhaps be a little bit more important than the theoretical argument that we should play the Brexit referendum and its aftermath under Queensberry rules – Even though our opponents have shamelessly been slugging away below the belt?

  • Denis Loretto 25th Sep '16 - 12:36am

    Was Stevan Rose at the conference? Surely he knows that the Lib Dems are the only party democratically deciding or endorsing policy – definitely not “the preserve of an elite”.

  • Stevan Rose 25th Sep '16 - 1:33am

    @Dennis Loretta. Thanks for making that point. How many people out if the 75,000 members and 2.4 million voters were at the conference? 2,000 / 3% ? Of those at the conference how many had voting rights? What about those who could not take time off or couldn’t afford the cost? Voting is dependent on payment of the relevant registration fee. That isn’t anywhere close to democracy, either in participation or endorsement. Conference is the party equivalent of a rotten borough. It’s a franchise limited to the relatively wealthy, other than those who qualify for an access fund grant, who have the time. An elite. You have to buy a vote in this party. That’s why it’s increasingly irrelevant. If this party is to survive it has to go beyond the 2,000 hardcore paying electorate deciding what they want, not what the membership want, the supporters want or the voters want. Why should people pay membership fees and pound the streets and make phone calls for policies they don’t own and are not invested in. To win anything come 2020 you have to think outside the box and engage the 75,000 first then the 2.4 million and listen, really listen.

  • Peter Davies 25th Sep '16 - 7:23am

    All our party members who turn up and register can now vote. That was about 2500 last year and more this year. The party website doesn’t have a figure yet, perhaps because they are still taking registrations. https://www.eventsforce.net/libdems/frontend/reg/thome.csp?pageID=248431&eventID=49&eventID=49&CSPCHD=0000024f00007vlydzL12JV7EsMRRbJ6FjEWigKWB5cUuNvveN

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Sep '16 - 7:51am

    Steven Rose makes an important point that, although in theory all party members can attend conference and vote on policy, in practice many are unable to do so. The cost of attending Conference is considerable. Its not just the actual cost of registration. There are travel costs, and, unless you happen to live near enough to the Conference venue to travel there are back each day, there are accommodation costs too. The overall cost of registering, getting there, and staying there is likely to be several hundred pounds. It is true that there is an access fund for people on benefits or very low incomes, but there are many people who do not qualify for the access fund, but who would not really be able to afford the cost of conference.
    Perhaps we need to look at ways of enabling members to vote on policy without actually attending conference?

  • Peter Davies 25th Sep '16 - 9:10am

    We have real debates at conference and they are often more important than the votes. The votes are often complex with amendments, alternatives and separate votes sometimes contingent on others. Postal votes would make the process pointless. It might be possible to allow virtual attendance though. We also ought to discuss policy more at regional conferences. You can get to those and back in a day.

  • Whether it is 2,000 or 3,000 it’s still a tiny tiny number and I read the rule change on voting in future and it still requires payment of the appropriate registration fee. It’s an illiberal anti-democratic rotten system that keeps power in the hands of that tiny number. I understand that group will resist any change or challenge to their power and making issues infinitely more complex than they need to be is a classic technique to preserve the status quo.

    I saw a great post from me of our younger members here a while back advocating the use of collaboration technology to widen policy development to virtually every member connected to the Internet and 10 minutes to spare on a Saturday night. Like many great ideas here it eventually died but if there is someone watching who can actually do something constructive, look it up, take it seriously. Open collaboration projects allow full participation and most importantly allow broad objective sense checking of output so it reflects reality and prevents the Emperor’s new clothes syndrome that this party suffers from regularly. Participation -> investment -> ownership -> enthusiasm -> a powerful movement. Conference is anti-participation for all bar 3% and guess where that leads.

  • Denis Loretto 25th Sep '16 - 11:34am

    I could imagine few worse ways to decide party policy than a referendum on every issue across the entire party membership. While it is hard to avoid national referenda on big constitutional-type issues they should be rare. Within the party , policy formation is or should be a deliberative process. When it gets to conference level the debate is important – I changed my mind on a couple of motions during the debate
    Stevan Rose needs to attend a Lib Dem conference and observe the most democratic process in British party politics

  • Denis, how is a gathering of 3% of members who can afford the time and to pay travel, accommodation and conference fees in any way democratic? Please address that point specifically. Never mind how it compares to other parties, they aren’t claiming to be liberal or democratic, and being slightly less rotten than other franchises isn’t a good advertisement. I haven’t got the money to spare to have gone to Conference in Brighton, nor, running a business, do I have time for the trip. So I’m disenfranchised yet still expected to embrace and sell whatever you 3% decide.

    I didn’t suggest referenda. I suggested broad collaborative policy development with universal participation amongst members and supporters. Open, visible, accountable. You can change your mind 100 times during that process. You can question, challenge, debate without time constraint. The technology exists.

    The current ways of working mean 6% in the latest poll. Nominally after boundary changes that means 3 or 4 seats in 2020. But it could be 50 to 100 if you can build a participatory movement in the centre. The party is sleepwalking into oblivion.

  • Denis Loretto 25th Sep '16 - 1:33pm

    I may have picked you up wrong, Stevan. If, rather than deciding policy by electronic vote of every member, you are talking about widening the deliberative process by taking advantage of electronic communication I’m sure this is already done to a degree and I agree it could and should be increased. However given our current level of progress compared to other parties it is unfair to use pejorative language like “rotten” etc.

  • Stevan Rose 25th Sep '16 - 2:34pm

    You’ve ducked the question Denis, whilst focusing on my comparison to rotten boroughs, which I think is perfectly fair.

  • From the article:
    “the drifting, divided Tory party struggling for a post Brexit identity surely gives room for revitalised Liberalism.”

    No, no, no. No!

    Liberalism will never be reborn as a force in British politics until people stop the futile exercise of trying to define it in terms of the other parties, be it equidistance or some such or, as here, hoping that their falling apart will drive people to the Lib Dems.

    Is it really the height of our ambition that we hope many voters will someday conclude the Lib Dems have become marginally the least awful alternative and so vote for them?

    I totally agree with Bill le Breton’s observations about the complete failure of the way the party campaigns. It’s stuck in the wrong century, prioritises mind numbing process over leadership and, as the record shows, quite simply doesn’t work. We should instead ask and expect more of our leaders. When they don’t measure up, we should promptly fire them just as the Conservatives do and not, as now, default to offering protected employment to politicians who can’t quite cut the mustard.

    I also agree with Stevan Rose that the party is not nearly as democratic as it likes to imagine. Its management is top-down and that naturally advantages insiders. Ordinary members may have the theoretical right to say their piece but no-one has to take any notice.

    As Lib Dems with few MPs, we can’t control the voting system but what we can do is refashion the party to be fit for purpose as an effective campaigning force. One of the big things the voters want government to do is to find how to run the country better. If Lib Dems can’t even address the issue of reforming themselves then they disqualify themselves from entry into the main event.

  • Stevan Rose 25th Sep '16 - 6:30pm
  • Katharine Pindar 25th Sep '16 - 7:47pm

    Stevan, the fact of your not knowing that every member can vote at Conference suggests you don’t pay much attention to it. In fact, the policy papers were available on line months beforehand, so you could have read them and made your opinions known, possibly suggesting amendments, possibly asking someone locally who was able to go to speak for you. I hope you will now obtain and read the policies adopted, which were as thoughtfully considered as had been the preceding papers. You could have followed the debates on BBC or on line meantime. Those of us who go save up to do so, and give up some of our holiday time – as did the businessman I had an extensive discussion with following the stimulating fringe meeting between Norman Lamb, Caroline Lucas and the Hove Labour MP which discussed how to campaign together. Where did you get your nihilistic views? The Party is inviting people to serve on its working groups developing policy, it is putting committee reports on the website, and our President Sal Brinton, despite going all round the country to local parties to discuss Governmental reorganisation and proposing the structures which we have now adopted, still manages to reply to individual queries and complaints like mine. There’s a tremendous amount of solid work going on all the time to develop policy, on the basis of excellent principles and openness to discussion, and equally national campaigning is open to everyone to discuss, as I found when I contacted the Campaigns and Communications Committee Chair last year. Your idea of a small closed and secretive power structure is all wrong.
    And by the way, Stevan, have you thought what a privilege you share, in being able to write at will on this site without time delay or any restriction, and be read by possibly 2000 members any day?
    (Good to read Matthew Huntbach, Sue Sutherland and David Allen among others writing above, and Lorenzo, grazie mille!)

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Sep '16 - 8:40pm

    Katharine Pindar – Steven Rose was making a very valid point that it is not fair that in order to vote on policy, it is necessary to attend Conference, which many people are unable to do, either because of the cost, or because they are unable to take time off work, or because they are are able to travel for health reasons.
    Even if theoretically every member can vote on policy, in practice policy is voted on by the 3% or so who attend conference. This is less than democratic.
    Would it not be possible for those who watch the online live stream of conference, to vote online, at the same time that those at Conference are voting? It could be designed so that you have to watch the debate online in order to vote online, so this would not detract from the importance of the debate.

  • Simon Banks 25th Sep '16 - 9:59pm

    There is more thoughtful debate going on about party’s principles and intellectual culture than at any previous time since the early days of community politics – so for more than forty years. Paddy should read more of it.

    Where there is an issue is translating this thought coherently into policy – but that’s hardly a new weakness.

  • Katherine, I’m surprised you are not aware that members who can only attend for a day and purchase a day pass are permitted neither to speak nor to vote. I am pleased you were able to save up; what spare money I come by gets spent on children, both within my family and with SOS Children’s Villages, a cause I would highly commend. I last took time off work in May 2015. My next break is May 2017 and I will be spending it in Tenerife on a sun lounger. My views most certainly are not nihilistic – perhaps you could look the word up.

    You are also missing the point. Publishing policy papers for people to read might be consultation but it is not collaboration. Working groups, by how they are structured, require a commitment to time and expense I couldn’t do and nor could many others and are a collaboration of a small selected group, not of the mass membership and supporters. You’re inside the elite Katherine, you’re not seeing it from the outside, and you have to be outward looking because that’s where the foot soldiers and voters are. Labour, 96-97, collaborated widely and it paid off in spades; they didn’t publish a paper and charge people to discuss it, they got thousands of sympathetic supporters to write the policies.

    Catherine Jane, thanks for understanding what I’m saying. Not sure the online streaming would work though. You need thousands all contributing to developing the policies before it gets to Conference.

  • Stevan Rose 26th Sep '16 - 6:19pm

    @jedibeeftrix, couldn’t agree more. To add to your last point, there will be no change to the system as the referendum for what the public thought was a Lib Dem PR voting system was well and truly lost. We are building a reputation for referendum denial. There is no reason to suppose we will get a second referendum on that one, nor that the result would not be the same. How many times can we tell the electorate wrong answer try again.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Sep '16 - 9:46pm

    Stevan, it’s a minor point, but I always spell your name with an ‘a’ correctly and you continue to spell mine with an ‘e’ in the middle. Anyway, I am surprised to be told I am ‘inside the elite’ , being an ordinary member who felt I needed to do what I could to help after the May 15 result; I’m not on any working groups or central committees, and I wasn’t called to speak in the debate for which I’d written a speech – fair enough, there were other people more appropriate to be called. I’d be happy, Catherine, if a system could be devised for members who have the time to follow the debates fully on line could indeed vote, but it’s a big ask. Meantime, I agree with Denis Loretto that it’s a pity for any member to describe our Conferences as rotten, because they are useful and productive and as democratic as can be currently devised, and I feel a bit angry at lack of appreciation of the immense amount of patient work by many members and staff that causes them to be so. Small example – the research done by the working group on social security, taking advice from other western countries as well as seeking out facts and opinions from all relevant sources, to produce a first-class policy. Now is the time to be going out to the wider public, to tell them about such policies, and I will try to do my bit with that. though I also have a job and commitments. No doubt you are working away yourself for the Party, Stevan; we are all on the same side after all, and the debates move on. Best wishes.

  • My apologies Katharine. If you read my posts you will know that I was making a comparison between the rotten boroughs that existed pre-1832 and a system that restricts voting on policy to 3% of the membership who can afford the time and money to attend Conference. No-one has explained to me how 3%, buying a vote, excluding 97% from the franchise, can in any way be democratic. It simply isn’t, no matter how benevolent, hard working and well intentioned the 3% are. With the greatest of respect you illustrate my point when you refer to “telling” people about a great policy instead of involving them in developing it. People don’t like to be told what’s good for them, they do like to be involved, and then they own it and sell it. I am not invested in the social security policy. I wasn’t involved in developing it, I wasn’t allowed to vote for it, it’s just presented to me with an expectation I should go out and sell it to others. Collaboration wins elections, we do not collaborate amongst the wider membership and supporters.

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