Lord William Wallace writes…Defending liberal values from wealthy reactionaries

The owners of five of the six English football clubs which they planned to hive off into an American-style Super-League are classic ‘people from anywhere’: three Americans, a Gulf sheikh and a Russian who made billions out of the post-Soviet free-for-all of privatisation. But neither David Goodhart, who popularised the distinction between ‘somewheres’ and ‘anywheres’ in his post-Brexit book, The Road to Somewhere: the populist revolt and the future of politics, nor Theresa May, who adopted the phrase in fighting the 2017 election, meant offshore billionaires by it. They were putting the blame for the loss of a sense of local community and national solidarity on ‘the liberal elite’: people like you and me.

Liberals are too nice, and too optimistic about reasoned argument, to fight back against the cynical campaigners of the hard right. Pluto-populism, in the USA and in England, has seen hedge-funders and offshore financiers fund populist politicians to discredit political moderates, telling those left behind by globalisation or confused by rapid social and economic change that it’s the intellectual classes who are to blame, not those who’ve made most money out of the disruption. Now that the public are beginning to learn about the close and murky links between right-wing politicians and casino capitalism, we need to work harder to undermine the credibility of their narrative.

I’ve just re-read Goodhart’s book. It’s astonishing that he pays so little attention to economic globalisation as a factor in creating popular disorientation. He blames social liberalisation, the expansion of university education and its inherently ‘liberal and international ethos’, and the espousal of ‘progressive causes’ like minority rights for popular disorientation. Nothing is said about the disappearance of local industries and banks, the enthusiasm with which free market ideologues sold off national assets to Gulf state wealth funds, Chinese state companies, and private equity speculators.

Goodhart is a fellow of Policy Exchange, a generously-funded think tank that is highly secretive about where its funding comes from. He grew up in a family whose wealth came from a New York bank, he went to Eton; but he claims to stand for the common people against the ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ of the educated elite.

Boris Johnson’s government is explicitly populist, and contemptuous of parliamentary as well as public scrutiny. Did you hear Oliver Dowden, whose entire career has been in the Conservative Party in London, tell the BBC last week that ‘we are the people’s government’? Gisela Stuart remarked that the 2019 Election represented the people reclaiming sovereignty after the ‘remarkable’ and improper attempt by Parliament to claim sovereignty for itself. I’m struck, on the contrary, by the frequency with which I read political commentators telling us what ‘the donors’ have told No.10 about political priorities; though No.10 is also spending lavishly on polling to craft its messages to what the people think they want.

This government will eventually come unstuck, like the Trump Administration. Johnson cannot deliver on many of the promises he gives so lightly: promising to invest heavily in levelling up the left behind parts of the country, while promising his donors that he will not raise more taxes from them. Last week the Institute of Economic Affairs launched a new ‘Free Market Forum’, with more than 40 Tory MPs as members, promising to shrink the state and cut taxes again as soon as the pandemic is over. That’s not what the people want, as the revolt over the Super League showed; they want local enterprise, if necessary with state protection and support. It’s what the donors are paying for. But the donors will be unhappy about the government standing up to overseas owners.

Our task is to expose the inherent corruption of this donor-dominated government, to defend liberal values vigorously against the wealthy reactionaries of the illiberal elite, and to craft a social liberal response to the discontents of the left behind.

* Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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  • nigel hunter 25th Apr '21 - 10:32am

    Goodhart went to Eton .Does he imply those who go to places like Eton, so called charity schools are not the educated elite? If so, we are ruled by millionaires who seem to think that they are not educated but know best how to run a country. Therefore we are not run by the educated elite but the un-educated.
    The discontent of the left behind.Yes the govnt can help here, if it suits them. Here Universal Basic Income could help by allowing people to decide where to spend the money giving them control. That includes the fact that it could be used to insulate their house ,plant trees you name it to put THEM in control of developing the environment for their children The funds can be on a sliding scale where those with considerable amounts of money do not qualify.It gives control to the individual

  • William has, as usual, produced an insightful article with which I agree, though when he writes, “Last week the Institute of Economic Affairs launched a new ‘Free Market Forum’, with more than 40 Tory MPs as members, promising to shrink the state and cut taxes again”, isn’t that what David Laws wanted ?

    @ Nigel Hunter. Sorry, Nigel, a universal Basic Income would not pay for home insulation (especially for those in rented accommodation). It might just pay for a shop of items at Tesco.

    As for Eton, it was the Alma Mater of Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe, ‘Dave’ Cameron & Boris de Pfeffel. Sir Edward D. went to day fee paying Public School, Nottingham High (I believe on a scholarship). Sir Nicholas Clegg went to much posher Westminster School and Tony Blair to the equally posh Fettes in Edinburgh.

    My Alma Mater produced Denis Healey, David Hockney (and for a short while) Tony Greaves, but I must confess to being not very posh.

  • It’s interesting to hear William’s view on Liberals, “Liberals are too nice, and too optimistic about reasoned argument, to fight back against the cynical campaigners of the hard right.” I fear he is right.

    But the problem is more deep rooted than that. I remember pointing out to him a good number of years ago that the state of the Lib Dems (not just liberals, which so many seem to prefer being labelled as now) was down to senior figures, including him and many, many others, being unwilling to face up to the disaster that was Nick Clegg’s leadership, and how so many good Lib Dems (mainly on the social democrat wing of the party) were leaving in despair an disillusion at the unwillingness of the party elite to stand against the destruction of the party.

    Worrying now that what remains are by and large too nice to confront to our party’s real problems, and prefer to believe a nice story than to face up to a harsh reality, is s tiny start, but jumping straight to telling us what our task now is, without any indication of how we need to change to be able to do it, still is too little too late.

    We need to get those social democrats back, with their pragmatic approach to politics – you have to win to achieve anything – before we can progress. A narrow liberal church is too small to ever threaten the status quo. We could do it if we accept we have a problem, and they are part of the solution.

    Kier Starmer is so lacking in radical edge and charisma to appeal to any of them. A Penhalygon with his emphasis on practical help for working people in Cornwall, or an Ashdown or a Kennedy could do it, but where are such characters now?

  • I have to believe that Johnson and his government will be found out, hopefully sooner rather than later, or I might as well give up and see out my final years in sweet denial. Everyone thought the Thatcher government was bullet proof remember what happened then, happy days!! Maybe a similar fate will befall the present incumbents, it looks like the rats are turning on one another at the moment!

  • Simon McGrath 25th Apr '21 - 12:45pm

    His great uncle was the late Lib Dem peer Willie Goodhart, also and old Etonian and also a (distant) descendant of the founder of Lehman Brothers.

  • William writes “This government will eventually come unstuck.”
    A newly elected member of Parliament found himself sitting near Winston Churchill in the House. The new MP look across the floor said to Churchill “so that’s the enemy.” Churchill replied ““The opposition occupies the benches in front of you, but the enemy sits behind you.”
    Almost all Conservative leaders are brought down from within their own party and there is no reason to think it will be any different with Boris Johnson. As long as he delivers electoral success he will continue as party leader. When he does not, there will be a challenger waiting in the wings – just as Thatcher was brought in to topple Heath, Major to succeed Thatcher, May to succeed Cameron and Johnson to deliver Brexit.
    This government will ultimately run out of road. The opposition needs to be ready to pick-up the pieces, just as Joe Biden has steeped in to quickly reverse much of the Trump agenda in the USA.

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th Apr '21 - 1:38pm

    Joe Bourke

    I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be an immediate obvious successor to Johnson but that isn’t to say one can’t be found quick.

    I just can’t see Starmer’s Labour in government, not least looking at the polls. Granted he’s not had it easy but even so.

    Liz Truss doesn’t look outlandish as a bet for Johnson’s successor right now. I don’t think anyone saw that coming 6 months ago.

  • @ LJPaperweight Liz Truss ????? You sure have a sense of humour.

    Just say cheese, and if (looking at the polls) you can’t see the Starmer Labour Party in Government where does that put what’s left of the Lib Dems ?

    Liz Truss : We Import 2/3rds of Our Cheese!!! WATCH THE …https://www.youtube.com › watch
    25 Dec 2014 — Liz Truss : We Import 2/3rds of Our Cheese!!! WATCH THE DIANA CLONE on AMAZON. 320,271 views320K views. • Dec 25 …

  • Yeovil Yokel 25th Apr '21 - 2:22pm

    LJP – Dominic Cummings’ sharp and very public criticism of his former boss Johnson may be part of a ploy to elevate his ally, Michael Gove (who’s temporary absence from the public stage may be telling) to the premiership – a position he, like Johnson, has coveted for a long time.

  • Barry Lofty 25th Apr '21 - 2:35pm

    Good God, Liz Truss and Michael Gove it gets worse, go on why not suggest Nigel Farage as well, for all the criticism of the opposition leaders that bunch make them look like saints.

  • David Evans 25th Apr '21 - 5:06pm

    Indeed Barry, but as we all know, very few saints get elected to power. My worry remains that too many Lib Dems prefer the idea of being pure saints than hard politicians who actually achieve something.

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th Apr '21 - 5:31pm

    Whether Gove, Truss or Johnson appeal to you or me or the LDV faithful matters not one jot.

    If the Conservatives feel the need they won’t balk at removing Johnson as they did several of his predecessors.

    But the point remains that the Conservatives will have one eye on who comes next.

  • Barry Lofty 25th Apr '21 - 5:46pm

    David Evans: I do take your point and agree.
    LJP: I do not have to be told how the Tory party operate but it does not change my personal view of the people mentioned.

  • william wallace 25th Apr '21 - 7:24pm

    Nigel Hunter queries my reference to Old Etonians attacking ‘the liberal elite’ and implying that they are closer to the people. But that’s the trick that our wealthy populists – like Johnson – have pulled off. Some of them seem even to believe it. I listened with astonishment to one of the richest Tories in the Lords attacking ‘the establishment’ a while back, meaning the BBC, professors, civil servants, NHS staff – while he, with several houses and a large fortune was apparently an outsider. We have to fight back by pinning the blame on the greedy illiberal elite who are really running the show.

  • @ William Wallace Yes, Yes, Yes.

  • william wallace 25th Apr '21 - 7:35pm

    Policy Exchange published a paper on ‘academic freedom of speech’ last year which interpreted a survey of academic staff as showing that 80% are structurally left-wing. This was achieved by counting all respondents who do not declare that they had voted either UKIP or Conservative as left-wing, including Don’t Knows; but reported by Professor Robert Tombs in the Times as factual, no doubt to the concern of many readers. There’s a dangerous conspiracy of left-wing intellectuals running our universities….who include liberals like me!

  • John Roffey 25th Apr '21 - 8:02pm

    From Double Down News:

    George Monbiot is dismissive of Kier Starmer’s acceptance of the status quo and makes a forceful argument that times of crisis, such as the pandemic, provide rare opportunities for a new direction to be taken and these opportunities must be seized:

    Since KS is not going to follow GM’s advice – should it be followed by the Lib/Dems?

    George Monbiot on Keir Starmer

  • George Monbiot has done some good work on the economy and the environment. On the economy, In 2019, he authored a report for the Labour party – Land for the Many https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/04/tackle-inequality-land-ownership-laws
    On the environment he has drawn attention to the devestating destruction that industrial fishing has had on the oceans https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/07/seaspiracy-earth-oceans-destruction-industrial-fishing

  • John Roffey 26th Apr '21 - 5:45am

    GM’s suggested land reforms may well appeal to voters if they lead to cheaper housing. However, perhaps more importantly – they could lead to families being able to buy and run their own smallholding. This would be very helpful with regard to climate change as it would reduce the need for GM crops and the excessive use of pesticides. With unemployment rising alarmingly – it is likely there would be plenty of applicants for such a government run scheme.

    His suggestions with regard to sea life may not have such appeal to voters as they would not benefit many directly – nevertheless, they are likely to find far more approving than opposing – particularly as the two suggestions combine [land and sea].

    GM’s ‘Double Down News’ proposals that attempt to remove the oligarchy running the country probably could not be achieved directly – as declaring this to be the case would likely meet with legal challenges which may hinder campaigning when the proposals were promulgated outside of the HofC. More to the point – these challenges would be costly to defend and quickly drain the Party of its financial resources.

    By nibbling at the edges of the elected dictatorship – as do the land and sea proposals [along with additional policies of a similar nature] – is probably the most effective approach to counter this very serious problem.

  • Peter Martin 26th Apr '21 - 7:07am

    “This government will eventually come unstuck”

    We all will in the end. To paraphrase Keynes. ‘Eventually’ we are all dead.

    But, providing the Tories keep picking up working class support the glue will set stronger for the foreseeable future.

    The problem is that the centre left, who run both the Labour Party and the Lib Dems, and the working classes are parting company. The Labour Party won’t win in Hartlepool and the Lib Dems will be lucky to crack the 5% ‘saving their deposit’ barrier.

    Everything has changed. Labour can win in Canterbury but they can’t win in Stoke. The Lib Dems have become the party of the upper middle classes. They can win in St Albans but are nowhere in St Helens. Most people who I grew up with and who used to vote Labour are now voting Tory. Some of the more affluent ones who used to be Tory are now voting Labour and Lib Dem.

    The situation is slightly different in Scotland. Formerly Labour voters have switched to the SNP. But, if we consider the Tories to now be the ENP, there is a parallel.

  • I totally agree about an uphill battle against Tory sleaze. A work right wing brexiter colleague agrees about Tory sleaze but puts the blame on Cameron not Johnson!

  • John Roffey,

    Monbiot writes “government should replace council tax with a progressive property tax, payable by owners, not tenants. Empty homes should automatically be taxed at a higher rate. Inheritance tax should be replaced with a lifetime gifts tax levied on the recipient. Capital gains tax on second homes and investment properties should match or exceed the rates of income tax. Business rates should be replaced with a land value tax, based on rental value. A 15% offshore tax should be levied on properties owned through tax havens.
    To democratise development and planning, we want to create new public development corporations. Alongside local authorities, they would assemble the land needed for affordable homes and new communities.”
    While Libdems have adopted a policy of replacing business rates with LVT we need to address the land issues comprehensively. If you are looking for corruption look at the extent of International money laundering in the UK property market.
    Getting control of housing costs has been a pressing issue for a long time. The economist this week has an article https://www.economist.com/britain/2021/04/24/when-britains-generation-rent-retires
    ” In 2019 around a fifth of people aged 35-64 lived in the prs in England, up from closer to a tenth a decade before. The welfare state is not set up to cope with such a shift. Only around one in 20 over 65s are now in the private rented sector. Social housing used to provide an alternative but there is not much of it these days, so many future pensioners will need housing benefit to cover their rent. State spending on pensions and health care will rise as populations age. With renters getting older, either state spending on rent must rise too, or pensioners will get poorer”

  • Monbiot in his article on the documentary file Seaspiracy touches on the issues of media bias raised by Lord Wallace in his piece “They [films about climate breakdown] are symptomatic of a disease that afflicts most of the media, most of the time: a phobia about confronting power. Though the BBC has subsequently made some better films, it still tends to direct us away from the massive commercial assaults on our life support systems, and towards the issues I call micro-consumerist bollocks (MCB), such as plastic straws and cotton buds. I see MCB as a displacement activity: a safe substitute for confronting economic power. Far from saving the planet, it distracts us from systemic problems and undermines effective action.”
    “…the media keeps us in a state of almost total ignorance about the impacts of our consumption.”
    “…industrial fishing, an issue woefully neglected by the media and conservation groups, is driving many wildlife populations and ecosystems around the world towards collapse. Vast fishing ships from powerful nations threaten to deprive local people of their subsistence. Many “marine reserves” are a total farce, as industrial fishing is still allowed inside them. In the EU, the intensity of trawling in so-called protected areas is greater than in unprotected places. “Sustainable seafood” is often nothing of the kind. Commercial fishing is the greatest cause of the death and decline of marine animals. It can also be extremely cruel to humans: slavery and other gross exploitations of labour are rampant.”
    Ultimately, the only answer here is a mass drive to stop the consumption of seafood and switch to vegetable based alternatives. As Monbiot concludes:
    “It’s time to see the oceans in a new light: to treat fish not as seafood but as wildlife; to see their societies not as stocks but as populations; and marine food webs not as fisheries but as ecosystems. It’s time we saw their existence as a wonder of nature, rather than an opportunity for exploitation. It’s time to redefine our relationship with the blue planet.”

  • John Roffey, You ask the very valid question “Since Kier Starmer is not going to follow George Monbiot’s advice – should it be followed by the Lib/Dems?”

    But the real question is “Would anyone notice?”

    Until the party faces up to that sad reality, we are still drifting to obscurity.

  • John Roffey 26th Apr '21 - 1:14pm

    David, it is doubtful that voters will pay much attention to the Lib/Dems if there is not a clear advantage for them to do so – but policies need to be presented in a way that quickly grabs their attention.

    I would be surprised if some arrangement could not be made with GM whereby the Party uses his hard hitting videos – this one on consumerism and sea life is a good example – it also seems to cover some of the issues raised by Joe.

  • @ John Roffey “George Monbio”. The tragedy is the Lib Dems could have been the vehicle for change as outlined by George Monbiot….. I remember suggesting he be approached on one of my very first posts on LDV after the May, 2015 Election.

    Sadly, speaking as someone who joined the Liberal Party way back in 1961/62 and devoted a huge amount of my spare time to it for over fifty years, the Lib Dems shot themselves in the foot in 2010-15.

    Their offering now is insipid and confused. People no longer listen. What passes for Leadership seems incapable of the passion and persuasion exhibited by George Monbiot on that clip….. probably because their record is compromised.

    Jo Grimond could light up a room with his oratory, as could some (not all) of his successors. But now, I’m afraid, it’s just a confused damp squib. In isolation, out of isolation, what’s the difference ? I’m afraid the party today is just a dud shell outside of the insider gang based in London and the South East. Watch out for the Hartlepool result next week if you don’t believe me. The latest poll there? Lib Dem 1%.

    It’s time for change and a fresh face with passion at the top however difficult that may seem.

  • David Evans 26th Apr '21 - 2:32pm

    John Roffey, your suggestion about using George Monbiot’s videos is interesting and shows a lot more inventiveness than anything coming from party central at the moment. Whether Mr Monbiot would be supportive of the idea is of course another matter. Would he be willing to be identified as a supporter is a good starter for 10, but it could be worth a try.

    David Raw, indeed you are right. The problem with most of our fresh faces is that they are mainly on the new, progressive, out of touch with real people wing of politics, massively more likely to talk about identity politics and issues of sex and sexuality than poverty, education or jobs. Stacking up lots of votes in a few places where there are lots of comfortably well off voters who have a bit of a social conscience is not going to lead to recovery – certainly not in Scotland, Wales or anywhere that is not a university town outside the South East of England.

  • These are the top five priorities in the Scottish LibDems manifesto https://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/5-reasons – Education, Mental Health, Jobs, Climate and economic recovery,

  • David Evans 26th Apr '21 - 4:05pm

    Interesting Joe. A shame we didn’t mention SNP sleaze and failure as well.

  • John Roffey 26th Apr '21 - 4:34pm

    David Raw and David Evans

    Perhaps when the results of the local elections are known there will be a greater preparedness for some revolutionary thinking within the Party.

    If they are as poor as some predict, the shock of realising the Party is in terminal decline might convince even the most hardened traditionalist that things must change – and a serious effort made to identify the Party’s failings and what needs to be done to appeal to the electorates real concerns.

  • “Liberals are too nice…”

    Meanwhile, the Conservatives, described by then future leader Theresa May as the ‘Nasty Party’ win more often than not. And when they don’t win, they dominate the argument which is even more important in the long run.

    I suggest that Lib Dems have failed to grasp the importance of organisational capital. It’s a much less familiar concept than financial capital or human capital so it’s often overlooked, yet it’s crucial to the success of complex enterprises – like political parties.

    Organisational capital is positive when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts; trust is high, individuals are valued, and most find their way into roles that suit their talents. More subtly, the organisation is structured so that decisions are made at the right level by those with proven good judgement who are provided with quality information by an effective staff function.

    Organisational capital is negative when the opposite applies. Key decisions can become ‘baked in’ because of choices made by junior staff (who inevitably don’t have the full picture) which senior people can’t easily challenge because they don’t have the information they should have. When things are really bad key people get distracted by constant firefighting as they try to sort out earlier mistakes.

    I think the Conservatives succeed because by luck or good judgement (I don’t know which) they stumbled on an organisational approach that promotes high organisational capital and that has been handed down the generations. I doubt the average Tory understands this, but it’s now normalised as the way they do things and so it’s comfortably orthodox for them.

    Their secret is to require their leaders to win elections above all and to allow them great freedom in how they do that – in hard policy, in messaging, even in (temporary) control of much of the party machine. The quid pro quo is that those who don’t win elections (and hence the party’s heart) are out on their ear.

    Hence the leader must have a conductor’s talent for coordinating virtuosos, in political terms for developing a narrative. S/he must also ensure staff work is good.

    There are always several rival camps and vibrant internal debates, but everyone goes with the leader who best puts it all together (until a better one appears) so there is effective internal democracy.

  • Conversely, the LDs do just about everything wrongly giving them highly negative organisational capital. To my knowledge this dates back to the Lib-SDP era and was baked in at merger, but it may have even older roots (calling David Raw!).

    Policy is subcontracted to a tiny group of insiders, mainly in London & the SE. By the time it gets to conference the investment of time and effort so great it has to be essentially a done deal, so the theoretical democratic control is, in practice, toothless.

    Meanwhile, the party leader is just a mandated spokesman tasked with selling whatever the lumbering and byzantine policy process serves up. Consequently, coordination across policy areas is, at best, weak and mostly politically tone deaf – based mainly on the concerns of a tiny, unrepresentative, and London-centric group. No doubt they work hard and are well-meaning, but they can’t speak to the wider country as real elections repeatedly prove.

    In a representative democracy like ours, MPs are required to exercise their judgement and act accordingly. But if there were a LD government, they would – strictly speaking – be mandated to do as conference told them even if circumstances had changed in the meantime. Of course, in practice they would ignore conference but in doing so would make a mockery of party democracy – all exactly as we saw in 2010-15.

    The party bureaucracy isn’t going to sort this. After the 2015 GE we had two consultation papers, one on policy-making that was quite good and one on governance that was possibly the worst paper I’ve ever read. AFAIK both died in the long grass. More recently we’ve had Thornhill. Will that also die?

    Ed Davey needs to grasp the nettle and work for reforms that raise organisational capital. If he does, he will encounter opposition – but also strong support. Right now, it’s the only way forward and the only way the party has a future.

  • Believe it or not, somebody dug me out of a membership list somewhere at HQ, and sent me an email called “David’s April Briefing”.

    It told me that Vaccine Passports wouldn’t work and infringe my liberty (which, of course, it wouldn’t), but guess what in April, 2021, it was from ‘Nick.Clegg.org’.

    Nowt like keeping up with the times at HQ.

  • Peter Watson 26th Apr '21 - 8:06pm

    @John Roffey “the shock of realising the Party is in terminal decline might convince even the most hardened traditionalist that things must change”
    Funnily enough, the impression I get from the outside is that it’s the hardened traditionalists who have realised that and are trying to convince the rest of the party that things must change! 😉

  • John Roffey 26th Apr '21 - 9:27pm

    @Peter Watson

    I can accept your judgement Peter because I am not sufficiently knowledgable of what goes on within the Party. I was only a member for a year or two starting just before the 2010 GE – although I have commented on LDV off and on since then. However, time will tell!

  • So, to summarise the stae of the party, we were briefly popular(ish) with the electorate in 2010 but the party itself has decided that we didn’t really like Clegg/Law et al and don’t want to be like that again. So we have moved away from all that and are now slumped in the polls.
    I’m not going to argue the rights and wrongs of the Clegg years and it is undeniable that being in coalition was a disater for the party, but there is a consituency for the kind of politcis we were putting forward in the run up to 2010. If we don’t want to be that party that’s fine, but at some point we need to decide whether we are in the business of winning elections or not.

  • Peter Watson 27th Apr '21 - 8:22am

    @Chris Cory “the party itself has decided that we didn’t really like Clegg/Law et al and don’t want to be like that again. So we have moved away from all that and are now slumped in the polls.”
    I would dispute the chronology of those events. I think Lib Dem voters decided that they didn’t really like Clegg/Laws/Alexander (who presented themselves or allowed themselves to appear as untrustworthy and as a wet wing of the Tories rather than an independent third party) so the party slumped in the polls.
    Subsequently I don’t see that the party has had enough sense of direction to move anywhere (possibly in a misguided belief that time heals all wounds so do nothing about it, or that opposition to Brexit was all that was needed to unite the political centre in a single party) so that slump has persisted and worsened.

    “there is a consituency for the kind of politcis we were putting forward in the run up to 2010”
    Re-securing the trust of that constituency is the challenge though, and is made worse by the chicken-and-egg nature of needing to gain that trust first in order to put the party in a position to demonstrate that it is worthy of it. Comments on these pages over the years have often suggested a need to regroup around local politics and rebuild trust in the national party from there, but that’s a lot of hard work with no shortcuts.

  • There has been a saying in the Liberal Democracy for many years, that local elections will go well, so long as the leadership and Head office don’t make a total mess of it. Our problem has been that over most of the last 10 years, the leadership has made mess, after mess, after mess of it.

    Five consecutive years of disastrous results when the whole of the party’s central organisation increasingly focussed on protecting the leader, and by May 2014 we were reduced to just 1MEP in the Euro elections, but still no-one senior had the courage to say or do anything to change things. It all ended with the loss of 49 MPs in 2015, and the party was back in the wilderness of near extinction.

    Since then we have had four leaders, two of whom helped with the rebuilding, one who squandered it all, and a new one who leads a bureaucracy that still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that we are once again a small party and need to totally change our approach. We have to understand that political change only comes through the failure of the government, not through the opposition or even less a third or now fourth party having great policies or simply being good and virtuous about carers.

    We have to position ourselves where we are clearly seen as calling out the Conservatives for sleaze, corruption and money for mates. This is an easy one for us – Labour have Liverpool and the Conservatives have the rest. Above all we have to nimble and controversial or we get no publicity at all. Paddy could do controversial, Ed and many other senior Lib Dems need training in it, otherwise they just come over as a double dose of dull.

    We have to change to fit our new position. We have failed to do so for10 years.

    There is not much time left. But can anyone senior be bothered to listen?

  • John Roffey 27th Apr '21 - 9:43pm

    An unexamined Party is not worth supporting…

  • @Chris Cory ‘We were briefly popular(ish) in 2010…………….’

    Actually we averaged 20% of the vote across all the General Elections from 1974 -2010 including 25.5% in 1983, 22% in 2005 and 23% in 2010. So not ‘briefly’ at all -until that was destroyed from 2010 onwards. Incidentally, in vote terms, we were consistently the highest performing of our ‘sister’ Parties across Europe across those decades but without the advantage of some form of PR to make the read across of votes to seats a logical follow on.

    ‘Are we in the business of winning elections or not?….’ Well, we were getting quite good at it with the three successive record breaking General Elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005 (the latter seeing 62 MP’s elected, the highest in almost the last 100 years) but 2010 saw our largest net fall in MP’s since 1970 and 2015 of course saw us nearly wiped out. Not exactly a testament to the ‘kind of politics’ , or Leadership, you seem to be advocating.

    As for those (in other recent threads) predicting doom and gloom for us in next Thursday’s elections I am not sure how involved in running real elections those commentators are? Certainly the County Council ones I am currently campaign managing locally seem quite promising. Today’s canvassing from four different areas was good. The canvassing I took part in this afternoon was the best from that particular area since we last won it in a 1992 Council by election! Friends, involved in real on the ground electioneering elsewhere in the country, are similarly upbeat. Maybe the ‘keyboard commentators’ know best though?

    However, as Peter Watson noted a few comments ago ‘the hard work of regrouping around local politics and rebuilding trust is hard work with no shortcuts.’

  • Roy Hattersley, when he published his biography of Lloyd George, took the opportunity to compare the coalition of 1916-1922 with that formed in 2010 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1311018/ROY-HATTERSLEY-A-Tory-Lib-pact-won-Great-War-But-Llloyd-George-discovered-coalitions-end-tears.html
    “The Liberals were divided, defeated and destroyed. David Lloyd George was exiled into the political wilderness, where he remained for the rest of his life. The Liberals who had chosen to follow Lloyd George had tasted power – but 90 years were to pass before their party sampled the dangerous delights of another coalition.”
    I think Paul Holmes is right about that the local elections looking quite promising.
    In general elections, historically a lot of LibDem votes have come from Labour or Tory voters in seats which their own party can’t win to keep the other out. There are no shortcuts and targeting needs to be driven by the recognition that a lot of votes are tactical, particularly where LibDems are the main opposition to Conservatives. The party needs to hang-in there on the ground in local councils for when the political tide begins to turn, as it inevitably will.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd May '21 - 7:07pm

    David Raw: The poll putting us at 1% in Hartlepool appears to be the only published poll for the by-election, and it’s a month old now. Constituency opinion polls tend to be unreliable and often reflect the agenda of whoever commissioned them. For comparison, the first opinion poll for the Richmond Park by-election, produced as soon as the by-election was called, had Zac Goldsmith winning with 59% of the vote.
    I’m confident we’ll get more than 1% in Hartlepool. We’ll probably save our deposit, which is about what we’re aiming for there this time around. And we’ll mostly be taking votes that would otherwise have gone to the Tories.

  • @ joe Bourke As usual, the Daily Mail gets it wrong – because it follows its own agenda. Asquith was not ‘patrician’ – he was a very clever lawyer orphaned early from West Yorkshire textile manufacturing stock………….

    As to who won the war, it certainly wasn’t Lloyd George it was starvation in Germany and but the poor old bldy. infantry despite everything they had to put up with. Most of them didn’t even have the vote, and when they eventually got it, most of them didn’t vote Liberal.

  • Peter Watson 4th May '21 - 10:28am

    @Alex Macfie “The poll putting us at 1% in Hartlepool appears to be the only published poll for the by-election, and it’s a month old now. … I’m confident we’ll get more than 1% in Hartlepool. We’ll probably save our deposit …”
    Another poll being reported today (Survation, as previously ) still puts the Lib Dems on 1% (https://www.survation.com/new-phone-poll-places-conservatives-on-course-for-hartlepool-win/).

  • Peter Watson 4th May '21 - 10:39am

    Idly looking at the Wikipedia page for the Hartlepool constituency (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartlepool_(UK_Parliament_constituency)), I was surprised by how well the party has performed there in the past, especially getting 34% of the vote in a 2004 by-election after Peter Mandelson stepped down (and no, that’s not me as the Fathers4Justice candidate!). Puts 1% in a pretty depressing context.

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