Lord Tony Greaves writes…Where now for the Liberal Democrats? Part 2: What we do about it

Yesterday, I laid out the issues facing the party. Here is my analysis of what we should do about them.

I suggest there are four or five things that should now be priorities for the party as an organisation and a movement. They may look rather different from each other but I suggest that they gel together more than may be immediately obvious. This is not an order of importance – I think they are all equally important.

First, in view of the election result we need to insure against the threat of another General Election in the next 12 months or two years. The very survival of the party requires a presence in the House of Commons. That means making sure that the 12 seats we held will be held again – no more carelessness or complacency. It means a similar level of intensive continuous work and campaigning in the 25 or so seats that are realistic targets for gains in an early poll. And those seats need to build up their local organisation to a level where they do not depend on support from lots of people in the surrounding areas and beyond when the election comes.

Second, from a longer term perspective, we need to rebuild and recreate the party as a campaigning organisation and movement. Campaigning in recent years has been diminished to mean just election campaigning, and a lot of that is now done in an arid “painting by numbers” fashion. The campaigning that gives political activity its interest, its excitement, its achievements, and its fun (and who is going to do it for year after year if it’s not fun?) is campaigning on issues, on projects, on protests, on getting things done. Community politics. It’s something the party almost abandoned during the Coalition. And campaigning of this kind is not just about elections – they are part of it but only a part. It’s much, much more, and genuinely all the year round stuff.

Third, two years after the end of the policy debilitation of the Coalition, it’s time for the party to start to think again about what it stands for. Why it exists. A good start is the preamble to the constitution (all of it, not just the first bits that derive from the Ramsay Muir/Elliot Dodds Liberal Party constitution from the mid-1930s, excellent though they are). In particular we need to re-establish our credentials as the progressive centre-left Liberal party of British politics, not just an airy-fairy party of small-l liberalism which increasingly means all things to everyone apart from the populist right and hard left, and so nothing much at all.

Following from that, do we really have a proper role for our members? Do we really try to involve them all in a movement for Liberal change – in the ideas, the action, the aims and achievements? Communication now seems almost all top-down, an eternal stream of emails and tweets from on high (in which respect the top-down decision to close down Liberal Democrat News was just one example of various errors on the part of party HQ). Including the dispiriting number of straight appeals for more and yet more money, one of the results of which must just be to drain resources from weak constituencies to rich ones.

Finally (for the moment) we need to work out why we get elected to local authorities and seek membership of other public bodies. I do think that back in the 1980s we used to have a good idea of why we do it. By and large we seem to have lost that other than being more effective, or more efficient, or better value for money, than the others. But anyone can take that bare utilitarian approach and many do. What is it about a Liberal-run Council that is unique and different – how and why? It’s not easy nowadays to cope with the scale of the budget cuts and that alone can take up the time and energies of anyone. But if we are not that different, why bother? I am arguing for going back to the idea that local politics, on and off the Council, linked to local campaigning, is a worthwhile activity in itself and a reason for our existence, not just a stepping stone to national success.

The Federal party has just reformed its democratic structures in ways which seem to me to be almost wholly unhelpful; a huge democratic deficit remains within the party. Be that as it may, I doubt if the party is currently geared to achieving any of these five broad objectives. But we have to use what we have got. The Federal Board and its offshoots, together with state parties and any regional parties that have any capacity, needs to take on the first (survival) task immediately. I suspect the second (campaigning) objective and the renewed approach to local councils will have to be done by external bodies, as it was done successfully in the past, but this will mean a very radical change in the work of such as ALDC and the Liberal Democrat group on the LGA.

I suppose the “what are we for?” question should lie with the Federal Policy Committee though its current policy-making processes are pretty well bust, and its rather useless obsession with getting a detailed policy on everything under the sun would have to be ditched. It will certainly need help from people with inspiration and vision though whether the Social Liberal Forum is up to this remains to be proven. As for the role of members, I know that some local parties among those who have been fortunate to get lots of new members have tried to involve them a lot more, with varying degrees of success. But we have to keep on trying.

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41 Comments

  • Peter Arnold 15th Jun '17 - 12:08pm

    Well done, Tony! Your approach is just what we need in these depressing times. I absolutely echo your point about the Preamble to the Federal Constitution. It never ceases to amaze me that the vast majority of our members don’t know what this is, or where to find it, and it seems to me that many of those who do know about it have never read it. It should be given to every member in a handy pocket-sized format so that no-one will have an excuse of not knowing what we believe and stand for.

  • I agree with the 5 Points but I dont understand why the overall tone is so negative. I am not sure how making us all feel more depressed is helpful at this precise moment ?

  • ‘In particular we need to re-establish our credentials as the progressive centre-left Liberal party of British politics, not just an airy-fairy party of small-l liberalism which increasingly means all things to everyone apart from the populist right and hard left, and so nothing much at all.’

    This is where your problem is, I think. Progressive, centre-left, Liberal – these are also air-fairy words which have meant all kinds of things over the last century or so and are also principally defined by what they’re against than what they’re for.

  • @ Tony Greaves
    ….. it’s time for the party to start to think again about what it stands for. Why it exists.
    ……we need to work out why we get elected to local authorities and seek membership of other public bodies
    …What is it about a Liberal-run Council that is unique and different – how and why?
    But if we are not that different, why bother?

    I’ve highlight these sentences because they all contain the most crucial word that ANY organisation needs to understand for success. The little word WHY.
    You have to start with WHY. Why?
    Because people don’t buy WHAT do do, they buy WHY you do it.
    I’ve hesitated over many days now to post a link to what I’m about to post. But I think now is the right time. This post is the most encouraging I’ve read in a long time

    If anybody , activist, member, supporter, frustrated observer wants to know why starting with why is crucial to success, make yourself a cup of tea/coffee, sit down and really think about what the TED talk below (one of the top 3 of all time), says about the importance of communication.

    By the end, you’ll know WHY Corbyn is so successful right now
    You’ll understand WHY teresa May’s strategy was destined to fail.
    You’ve understand WHY it’s absolutely crucial to build the Lib Dem core vote to 15-18%
    and you’ll understand why some organisations and leaders are able to inspire action whilst others are not.
    Many off the communication messages in this next 15 mins are absolutely crucial for any potential leadership candidate to grasp in my view.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-11983

  • Graem Peters 15th Jun '17 - 12:51pm

    The strongest Liberal vision presented at the recent election was on the issue of Brexit. Many people at that election voted Labour on the assumption that Corbyn’s party stood for that Liberal vision. The Brexit issue will still be the central issue over the next few years. We need to ensure that these voters who share our Liberal vision, come to realise that Corbyn’s party don’t and that we are their natural home.

  • Spot on Tony.

  • David Becket 15th Jun '17 - 1:12pm

    Yesterdays news brings a new dimension. most of the likely leadership candidates voted for Student Fees to rise. Unless this boil is lanced it will cause more problems at the next election than Tim’s christian views. We cannot afford to scrap it but we need to look at spreading load and removing unfair interest rate rises.
    Some of the most unfair aspects of austerity need reviewing. Bedroom Tax should only apply to those who have been offered a move, the disabled need to be treated fairly and the cap on in work benefits and public sector pay must go. I remain to be convinced that any of the candidates would go down this path

    The importance of communication cannot be overstated, we need to encourage bottom up communication now. We must also top behaving like High Street Chuggers in our continual appeal for funds.

  • @ Graem Peters
    “The strongest Liberal vision presented at the recent election was on the issue of Brexit.”

    We have no vision of what a liberal EU looks like. While I think it is best economically for the UK to be in the EU it does not inspire me.

    When I joined the Liberal Democrats (or Social and Liberal Democrats) in 1988 I didn’t join because of the party’s preamble, I hadn’t read it. I joined it because I thought it was the correct vehicle for me to help make a “better” Britain. It was only after attending Federal conferences and listening to debates which referred to liberal values and how they should be included in our policies did I discover that I was a liberal.

    So for me why do the Liberal Democrats exist is really what sort of “better” UK do I want us to try to create – a more equal society, where those without work have enough income to make meaning choices about how they live their lives; a society where everyone has a home to live in; a society where if I want to change the services provided by the state, that I use, I can stand for election and change the way those services are run, locally; a society that ensures that those who do not conform can still achieve their full potential; a workplace where as a worker my opinion matters, where I have a say in how the organisation is run and where I am not stressed by the working environment; a society where I can choose who I work for and if I am unhappy working where I work it is easy to find another job.

  • One thing that does need to be done is urgent reform of your House of Lords so that unelected and unaccountable politicians in the Upper House do not have the power to force out and remove democratically elected, by a majority of 56%, leaders of the party.

  • Sadie Smith 15th Jun '17 - 2:46pm

    Very helpful stuff, Tony.
    I am not sure how we get from ready-threaded campaigns with templates for everything that has been done to a change of attitude to campaigning.
    It was usual to work out campaigns from first principles. Are any people still doing it? Sure about some but it ought to be more widespread .
    A quick look at the alternatives gives me a good reason for our existence, though not to be defined by them.
    Everyone should know and understand that Preambe.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jun '17 - 2:57pm

    Visiting this site over the last several years I have only really seen Tony Greaves through the prism of short, pithy, and occasionally grumpy below-the-article posts. These two excellent articles show me why he is so well-regarded! 😉

    Some of his recommendations seem to be about party tactics, so as an outsider it is not for me to comment on them.

    However, I believe it is vital for the party to heed his third point: “it’s time for the party to start to think again about what it stands for. Why it exists. A good start is the preamble to the constitution“. I have repeatedly suggested the same thing myself on this site and it is great to hear it from somebody so influential.

    I would also echo Tony Greaves when he writes “In particular we need to re-establish our credentials as the progressive centre-left Liberal party of British politics, not just an airy-fairy party of small-l liberalism which increasingly means all things to everyone apart from the populist right and hard left, and so nothing much at all.”

    I hope the party and its new leader listens to him.

  • Joseph Bourke 15th Jun '17 - 3:12pm

    Mike S – we had a vote share in excess of the tipping point you quote of 15% to 18% for close to 20 years. 18% in 1992 and 2001, 22% in 2005 and 23% in 2010. Reaching that point did not see a doubling in vote share shortly thereafter, despite the exposure and publicity of coalition government, but rather fell back from 2010 to the current 8%.

    The question of why the Liberal Democrats exist has not changed. It is a vision of a society that does not tolerate extremes of poverty, educates its youth to the standard needed for the modern world and cares for the infirm and the old.

    For many membership of the Libdems is an expression of support for the values espoused by Liberal Democracy. Much of their time outside work is absorbed by family life, church, charitable, sporting or community activities (as is the case with other political parties). There is a small band of councillors and activists engaged in year round campaigning. It is only when elections come around that there is wider engagement from members.

    When those elections come, for voters there has to be distinctive policies that clearly express how the values that express why the Liberal Democrats exist can be delivered.

    For me these were put forward recently by the social liberal forum:

    1. Universal basic income – a policy that the party held to until 1992 and that has come back to the fore in an age of welfare reform.

    2. Land Value Tax – long given lipservice to but not actively pursued since the People’s budget of 1909 (the last time a radical Liberal government had a majority in Parliament). Would we be seeing tragedies like the Grenfell tower block fire if the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had access to LVT as a means of funding local authority housing provision and maintenance. I don’t know, but I think the question is worth asking.

    3. Federalisation.As the SLF article puts it – Taking back control from Westminster.

    There is little point in pursuing a managerial approach that tinkers at the edges of the existing political settlement in the UK. A new leader needs to offer a bold, radical departure from the status quo, if the party is to gain any traction in the hearts and minds of young and old alike.

  • Laurence Cox 15th Jun '17 - 3:42pm

    @Joseph Bourke
    Politics is the art of the possible. Let’s look at how possible your proposals are:
    1. UBI. Go back to the review I wrote on Richard Murphy’s “The Joy of Tax”

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/review-of-the-joy-of-tax-by-richard-murphy-53361.html

    and tell me whether you are talking about UBI at the Citizen’s Income Trust level (£3k), the Green Party level (£4k) or Richard Murphy’s level (£10k) and how you would sell the increases in taxes needed to the voters.

    2. Land Value Tax. Are you arguing for this as a replacement for Council Tax, raised and spent locally, or as a replacement for one or more national taxes as ALTER want? The consequences of these options are very different.

    It is all very well having innovative ideas, but if you cannot persuade enough voters to vote for them, you are just wasting your breath.

  • Joseph

    My challenge back to you would be to ask:

    ‘did the values that the 20+% think they were voting for change in their minds on entering the coalition?
    If so that could explain why there was no further penetration into the ‘early majority’.

    If the ‘why’ had changed for enough people, that could also explain the rapid fall back?

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Jun '17 - 3:56pm

    “We must also top behaving like High Street Chuggers in our continual appeal for funds.”
    Immediately the election was announced I sent a donation to the party to fund our campaign. I found it irritating in the extreme having done that to be asked again and again for more. If I’d been able to give more in the first place, I would have. And I wasn’t asked for the original donation – any conscious member knows we need funds to campaign; we don’t need to be nagged. So don’t.

  • Joseph Bourke 15th Jun '17 - 4:09pm

    Laurence,

    1. I think the Citizens Income trust has the more realistic approach i.e. replacing the personal allowance and NI threshold with a UBI tax credit. The merger of tax and NI and the replacement of Universal credit with UBI would be part and parcel of this reform.

    2. On LVT, I am not an advocate of the single tax. I think we need to look at what has worked in other countries. As a starting point, I would focus on replacing business rates and council tax. There is an argument to be made for replacing other forms of taxes but I think an incremental approach is more pragmatic. On the issue of national v local, as I noted in the comment I think devolving of tax raising powers to the nations and regions of the UK should be a concomitant part of this reform. This issue of taking back control of local services from Westminster is I believe an essential element of persuading voters of its veracity.

  • Tony Dawson 15th Jun '17 - 4:09pm

    Step one, bring back Tim Farron. Step two: enforce a ‘knives back in cutlery drawer’ policy.

  • Joseph Bourke 15th Jun '17 - 4:17pm

    Mike S,

    at the special conference of members in 2010 almost all members present voted for entering coalition with the Conservatives.

    Libdems have long argued for proportional representation and this remains a key aim of many members and supporters. PR necessitates coalition government with whichever grouping of parties can command a majority in the house.

    For the great majority, the why Liberal Democrats were there was to pursue the implementation of manifesto policies at a time of financial crisis.

    How the coalition was managed may have lost a number of left-leaning voters, but as aforementioned if you believe in PR you believe in coalition government, cross-party agreement on long-term issues, government of national unity etc.

  • Joseph

    I’m not making a case either way for the coalition

    My main point is that it matters much more what the Lib Dem’s core vote (whether 8% or 20%) BELIEVE about the Lib Dem’s core values and whether they believe they are aligned with their own.

    Remember, you can give people vast amounts of information and arguments (hitting their cerebral cortex) but it doesn’t usually drive behaviour, unless they feel their values are also aligned.
    Arguably this is even more important for a “value based party” than the other two, simply because the people more likely to vote Lib Dem are driven primarily by a value based offering.

  • Joseph Bourke 15th Jun '17 - 4:49pm

    Mike,

    the tipping point you refer to was reached in the early nineties. At no point in the ensuing years, whether during the Major administration or the Blair/Brown years did that surge to a point where Libdems were in a position to challenge for power. Not even in the wake of the Iraq war when much of the country was dismayed at what had been done and the Libdems were the only party vociferously opposed to that tragic venture.

    My argument is a simple one. The values (the Why) of Liberalism are constant and unchanging. Arguably, all UK political parties can make a claim to a degree of Liberal Values. What differentiates the mainstream parties is the policy offering (As John Pugh has noted in his article on the Southport election). It is these pragmatic solutions to the problems the general public are experiencing at any given point in time and crucially a realistic prospect of implementing them that determines the outcome of elections.

  • Joseph

    “My argument is a simple one. The values (the Why) of Liberalism are constant and unchanging.”

    But are they PERCEIVED to be so by the people the Lib Dems need to attract?
    I don’t know the answer to this question only your own market research will give you that.

    The other points you make about your further advance when you were at the tipping point, potentially has a very complex answer. I am not going to be presumptuous enough to start suggesting how you run your marketing operation.
    It would seem to me you have a lot of talent (Mack Pack) for one, who are well aware and have an excellent understanding of what needs to be done.
    If you read his “building a core vote article and his 50 recommendations in the other one, (someone else provided both links earlier on), it seems to me you have great strategists to utilise.

    A short answer to your question though is in most industries, you have to change the strategy at around 16% to accelerate into the next phase. I have no idea whether that is as relevant to politics or deemed as necessary or tried 10-15 years ago as I was not following it then.

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Jun '17 - 5:23pm

    on campaigning… Lately it seems that campaigning is very ritualised. Write, print, deliver focus leaflets, turn up at events like hustings. Why is really important if people are going to be motivated. I have many things I care about, but few actually get addressed in LD campaigns. Maybe I should be looking for a new political home with some go to it.

  • I agree with Tony Greaves. The first priority has to be to secure the current position against another GE as far as possible.

    Running alongside that we must not merely recover the importance of Community Politics but also discover how to adapt it and take it onto the national stage. That’s something the Lib Dems have never managed to do effectively but it would be immensely productive.

    This would indirectly but powerfully address Mike S’s point about the importance of values (with which I wholeheartedly agree).

    For example we might develop a citizen campaign against PFI. That could harness skills that already exist unused in the party, it would probably bring in new people and above all it would demonstrate our values of good management. It would also seriously wrong-foot the Tories, showing them up as crony capitalists and blowing their carefully constructed (but entirely fallacious) self-portrayal as good managers out of the water. What’s not to like?

    The one think I slightly disagree with Tony Greaves about is how the “what are we for?” question might be addressed. I think a succinct statement will only emerge as a final garnish – possibly coined by a strapline writer – once the party has rediscovered in practice and in action what it’s about. Until then there is no consensus which to summarise.

  • Martin Land 15th Jun '17 - 7:13pm

    Some good points Tony, but I would settle on two. 1. Involve the members and treat them with respect. We voted in Tim less than two years ago so how come a coalition of the unelected and the unelectable (aka peers) decided to do the dirty on him? 2. Stop insulting the intelligence of the electorate. We cannot expect them to vote for us even in target seats if every day opinion polls tell them we are at 7%.We need a proper national campaign. Chris Rennard understood that. Quite how HQ campaigners thought re-runnimg the 2015 campaign was a good idea is beyond me.

  • Yeah the Campaign Team should be disbanded. Lost 2 elections in a humiliating style, we need a new look, well perhaps not, copy Labour, yes its simple is it not.

  • Joseph Bourke 15th Jun '17 - 7:49pm

    The Conservative campaign in Brentford and Isleworth (No 4 on their target list) is a good example of what happens when you let marketing strategies drive campaigns and ignore Tip O’neills dictum that “All Politics is Local.”
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/speakerscorner/2017/06/how-tories-lost.

    In a fast paced world of 140 character tweets – distinctive policies that relate to people’s everyday experiences and circumstances, communicated on the doorstep and across broadcast, print and online media, is what engages hearts and minds. All else is background noise.

  • Bill le Breton 15th Jun '17 - 8:00pm

    Martin “Quite how HQ campaigners thought re-running the 2015 campaign was a good idea is beyond me.”. That is exactly what I would like to know.

    That actually is not what a leader does in a general election campaign where they are ‘on stage’ all of the time. The leader chooses a leader of the general Election Team ands/he selects a team and they get on with it.

    Of course the leader is responsible for the initial choice but thereafter responsibility is shared.

    Dark figures are now saying that the assault on Tim had nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with the campaign. So the people that a) decided to rerun the 2015 campaign need to resign, and b) the decision to give the previous leader such prominence needs to be explained, justified and credited to someone … who then needs to resign.

    Anyone looking at the Sheffield Hallam 2015 figures and realising a) that Tories weren’t going to vote for him tactically this time, b) that the UKIP vote would go somewhere where it could do most harm to him and c) even before the Labour manifesto that the Labour vote would not be any less than in 2015 and probably more, would have ensured that he stayed in Sheffield to conduct the fight of his life.

    Why the former leader decided voluntarily to commit parliamentary suicide is a moot point.

  • Peter Chambers 15th Jun '17 - 8:09pm

    Well said Tony Greaves. Delivering leaflets you wrote and printed yourself is so much easier than doing one more air-drop.

  • David Allen 15th Jun '17 - 8:34pm

    Point 3 is the crucial question: “it’s time for the party to start to think again about what it stands for. Why it exists. ” Sadly, the fact that someone can ask this question without immediately coming up with an answer tells its own tale. Who can doubt that Corbyn, or even May, would not have immediately produced a pithy and readily understood answer to that question, in respect of their own Party?

    When I joined, back in 1981, it was very easy to justify a centrist (or centre-left) position. Labour had rigid dogmatic beliefs in the virtual abolition of the free market and the creation of an all-powerful State which were clearly millstones around their necks, huge handicaps which could not possibly help them achieve their goals (and mine) of fighting injustice and inequality. We could very easily sum up our aims in pithy one-liners such as our ambition to replace Labour and provide a much more effective alternative to Toryism.

    Then Blair came along, and largely shot our fox. From 1997-2003, our steps somewhat faltered. Then Iraq happened, and ironically, what was a tragedy for Iraq was a boon for the Liberal Democrats. We rediscovered a sense of purpose. We didn’t much stop to think that if Iraq hadn’t existed, we might have had to invent it!

    There have been two subsequent events which have also enabled us to rediscover a mojo. The first was the expenses scandal, which Clegg parleyed into an (overblown?) rationale for a Great Constitutional Reform Movement – which, of course, proved to be ill-fated. The most recent was Brexit. Again, the Brexit threat has re-energised this party. Again, the nagging feeling occurs to me that if it hadn’t happened we might have wanted to invent it. And again, it hasn’t yet proved to be the electoral godsend that we might have hoped it would be.

    Perhaps May will press ahead with a disastrous hard Brexit, and we shall do well to be the party that rescued Britain from disaster – or at least (like Iraq) were seen in hindsight to have got it right. But perhaps a loose cross-party coalition will ensure something like a Norway solution, a comparative non-event which defuses the issue, so that politics can move on? If that happens, I fear we won’t easily find a mojo.

  • Daniel Walker 15th Jun '17 - 10:12pm

    @Peter Arnold Lib Dem Preamble in handy pocket-sized format. Print it two-sided (“short edge” or “flip” binding), then fold (place the front cover in the top-right corner, then fold in half away from yourself parallel to the short edge (so the cover remains in the top right) three times, and trim.

  • Gordon Lishman 16th Jun '17 - 10:37am

    I tend to agree with Tony. Not for the first time in the last 53 years. A few additions:
    1. The route to taking a democratic decision on strategic priorities was established in the recent constitutional revisions. The new Federal Board has established a group to bring proposals to conference. Members should take the opportunity to organise to get their priorities agreed.
    2. Campaigning outside Parliament and mobilising people on campaigns should be built into national party work. It’s not just about maximising the number of FPTP seats. We need to build national momentum.
    3. In terms of policy and campaigns, we need to have a much clearer idea of our target audiences. Labour appears to have regained ground amongst metropolitan, socially liberal graduates. The (large) part of the population which is alienated from conventional politics is the traditional “working-class”, some of which has always been Conservative, some of which has moved to the Conservative Party from Labour, directly or via UKIP. Liberal Democrats do not have to follow that group towards social conservatism; there is considerable opportunity around issues of inequality, engagement and taking and using power.
    4. A very specific priority should be to identify a new generation of long-term local leaders and to motivate, involve, motivate, train, motivate and support them.

  • We need to start talking on a range of issues that the other Parties and media do not or not associate with us such as electoral reform, climate change, inequality, world poverty and minority rights. We must articulate a more humanistic approach and actually care about the injustices and calamities that befall our fellow citizens. We will therefore create an emotional bond with the electorate acting as their conscience and reminding them that there is big, uncaring world out there.

  • Clive Lindley 16th Jun '17 - 12:37pm

    I was impressed by Tony Greaves’ analysis of our travails. His conclusions also contain the fruits of a long lifetime of activism. They are naturally contentious in some respects, but on the whole reflect mature political wisdom. My main concern now is that the party does not make numerous binding decisions too soon, whilst we haven’t yet determined on our leader; and before the new political settlement has had time to indicate the areas on which we should (and should not) campaign, in addition to our existing hostility to Brexit. We still attract hard core Remainers who were not previously involved, who have been handily involved in financial donations. Notwithstanding promoting our core policies, our stance on Europe is a great asset and as we come closer to a resolution, we must exploit our unique championing of ‘sanity’ in this issue, which has a resonance in the population beyond our natural supporters.

    The leader that we will elect from a small field, will of course be critical, another reason not to rush into setting too soon our policy priorities, subject of course to a vital understanding of how to confront a surprise early election.

    Tony’s key recommedation, I thought was the vital importance of continuing to campaign, beyond the exigencies of local elections. Perhaps the most impressisve outcome of the recent election was to see how Jeremy Corbyn emerged from his lacklustre leadership into being seen as an inspired campaigner. Promising everything to everybody perhaps, but the governing party does get to decide the tax priorities and he tapped into the anti-May campaign brilliantly. As the alternative government, he had the ‘cred’ that we dont have, but we should learn what we can from this inspired campaigning.

  • Doug Chisholm 16th Jun '17 - 12:45pm

    We must do all those things.

    But I do believe one reason we are so lamentable to national politics – is precisly becuase we do rely on community politics – and herculean commitment by the practioners for our success and elected representatives.

    If we want to increase our national vote – we need stronger messages – that reflect our core values. I think most people have a gut feel for what liberalism is – they just dont think it is worth voting for against the arguments in favour say of voting Labour i.e. getting rid of Labour.

    Our key message must be that we are
    1. Not a class based party – we believe in consensus
    2. The Tories and Labour are locked into a fruitless war that weakens our economy and society – majority government means bad government
    3. If Labour are for “the many nor the few” we are “everyone is someone”

  • Sue Sutherland 16th Jun '17 - 1:46pm

    I think we should all watch the video MikeS shared the link for. It explains clearly why we as a party fail. We are a party of thinkers, of evidence based policy, we appeal to educated people and we love having discussions on LDV in which we delve into the minutiae of theories with good evidence to back up our arguments.
    Instead we should be saying to people: I believe. Just like Martin Luther did. So here goes. I believe that every life lost or damaged in that horrendous fire in London is more precious than profit. I believe that every life lost and damaged by failure to provide a proper safety net for the poor, the disabled, the ill and the mentally ill is more important than low taxes for the wealthy and middle classes. I believe that every life lost or damaged by intolerance, ignorance, poverty etc is worth more than my own prejudice or financial security. I could go on.
    For me that fire in London symbolises everything that has gone wrong over the last 40 years. Privatisation has ridiculed safety provision. I know that because that is exactly what happened when my council’s services were privatised. This is what community politics is about, fighting for people’s rights to live in safety no matter how insignificant they seem to those that have political, financial or military power.
    I do not want the hatred and disinterest of extreme right or extreme left because both regard us little people as tools to be used in pursuit of power.
    I believe the Lib Dems are the only party that can truly stand up for the powerless. Sadly I also believe that Tim Farron was the person who could articulate my beliefs.

  • Sue Sutherland 16th Jun '17 - 1:47pm

    I realise I said Martin Luther rather than Martin Luther King but he was another man who believed and changed the world.

  • A really short offering… Over 100,000 members: use them!

  • Colin Strong 17th Jun '17 - 3:57pm

    As always a thoughtful piece by Tony Greaves.

    As a former Councillor who had served some 17 years the primary difference is the attitude of Councillors and campaigners. Liberals believe that devolving power to the people is key. The 2 old parties believe and still believe in centralising power particularly tax raising power.

    “What is it about a Liberal-run Council that is unique and different – how and why?”

    Liberal Councillors represent the people to the Council – this holds true in opposition as well as in power. Tories, Labour and others represent the Council to the people.

    This is the key philosophical difference.

    To give an example that would apply to the recent appalling tragedy.

    A Liberal Democrat Prime Minister would go to the area around Grenfell Tower to meet the emergency services, talk to the survivors and the bereaved. Speak to the Councillors and the Management Company.

    The Lib Dem PM would also do this in a community centre – actually sit down and listen.
    Then would, having heard the first hand accounts, come out and announce money to help and a public inquiry. This is representing the people to Government. It is grassroots up.

    The Conservative PM turns up, chats to the emergency services then once in 10 Downing Street announces a public inquiry and money. This is representing the Government to the people. It is top down.

    Grassroots up is better.

  • suzanne fletcher 17th Jun '17 - 5:14pm

    Indeed, indeed. the only part of Tony Greaves article I disagree with is that community politics ended with the coalition – it was well before that, as I think we both know. the very meaning of community politics is far less understood than the preamble to the constitution. It seems to have got translated into call in focus, and write about local issues.
    I also strongly agree with Gordon, that community politics needs to be rethought for our modern era of social media (including those in our communities cut off from so much as they don’t do such).
    Lots of other things to comment on but forgotten for now what they were ….

  • Tony and Gordon Lishman still on the money after all these years!
    Hope to see you both, and many others from the ALC Standing Committee of the mid 80’s, at the 50th Anniversary dinner (and hopefully other activities) in Manchester on 21st October 2017.

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