Lord William Wallace writes…How do we beat the libertarian, populist right?

Could you envisage putting together ‘an informal alliance of the centre left’ in the (highly possible) run-up to a general election this autumn?  The phrase comes from Labour’s David Blunkett, setting out the case for attempting this in the Mail on Sunday (July 14th). He argues that we face the threat of a parallel informal alliance between the Brexit Party and a Johnson-led Conservative Party, with the Brexit Party not standing in seats held by right-wing Tory Brexiters and focussing their money and efforts on Remain-supporting Labour, LibDem, and nationalist constituencies (and any surviving Conservative Remainers).  This would threaten a landslide of seats won, despite a majority of votes distributed among contending left of centre parties. 

In our cruelly unforgiving electoral system, a campaign in which four parties (now including Farage’s Brexit Party) capture 20-25% of votes each, with Greens and nationalists splintering votes further, could see many seats won on less than 30% of votes cast.  If the Brexit Party were to put up candidates in only selected seats, with an informal alliance with right-wing Tories not to oppose them, it could produce disproportionate gains for those who want not only a hard break with the EU but also to cut taxes and welfare further and shrink the state, while their competing opponents collected wasted votes in separate piles.  Blunkett’s ‘killer fact’ is that, at least on the evidence of recent polling, the combination of Conservative and Brexit support adds up to around 45%, whereas Labour, LibDems and Greens together add up to 47%.

In the surreal atmosphere of current Westminster politics, party loyalties are already crumbling.  One Conservative MP told me the other day, with apparent pride, that his children were now voting Liberal Democrat; one Labour MP did her best to persuade me that the Liberal Democrats had a real chance of winning the two neighbouring seats to her own constituency, and should concentrate their efforts on those rather than her own.  When the Conservatives are polling below 30%, and with Labour falling in some polls below 20%, it concentrates minds.  

We too must adjust our perspectives.  Fighting a Johnson-led Conservative Party and a Corbyn-led Labour Party, we can raise our sights beyond the 60-odd seats we thought we might regain.  One of Labour’s long-term pollsters has just declared support for the LibDems on the grounds, amongst others, that we could well emerge from a messy election as the largest party, with 200 or more seats.  But that still leaves 450 seats we might not be able to win.  What should we do in these?

Any form of cross-party alliance negotiated from the top would be impossibly difficult – whatever David Blunkett might propose.  Labour’s National Executive would never countenance such an arrangement, let alone the ‘common platform’ that Blunkett thinks should underpin it.  My response to Blunkett’s proposal, posted on the ‘Left Foot Forward’ website, has attracted more purist denials and anti-LibDem comments than supporters.  It’s hard enough to negotiate constituency priorities with the Greens: their target seats and high local memberships overlap with ours, so it’s hard for either to give way.  And in many cities and industrial towns, Liberal Democrats are the major opposition to Labour, with hostility on both sides and hopes that we will take seats off them  In Scotland and Wales strong nationalist parties make for further complications – though note that Plaid Cymru has stood down in our favour in Brecon and Radnor, alongside the Greens.

Iain Brodie Browne and I opened a discussion on cooperation with other parties at the Social Liberal Forum conference on July 20th.  Responses varied according to how existential a threat to Britain’s social contract and future prosperity the election of a hard right Tory/Brexit Party majority would present.  Those who see this threat as overriding loyalty to different parties argued that we have to try to strike bargains with other parties and with independents, however difficult it may be.

I’m as tribal a Liberal as Blunkett is tribal Labour.  I joined the Liberal Party in the winter of 1959-60.  I met my wife at a Young Liberal conference (together with several others who are still activists and good friends).  I’ve worked in party HQ, fought five parliamentary elections (three of them against sitting Labour MPs), drafted the party manifesto twice, delivered a truckload of leaflets, and knocked on countless doors.  I’ve argued that we should always put up a candidate wherever we can.  But in our current political, economic, social and constitutional crisis I think that we – and others in other parties – have got to find ways to block the libertarian populist right.

We have already struck some bargains to get round the obstacles of first-past-the-post.  In Tatton in 1997 the Labour and LibDem candidates withdrew in favour of Martin Bell, who then captured this safe Conservative seat as an Independent.  Labour sabotaged our efforts to agree a common candidate in the recent Peterborough by-election; its narrow win, nevertheless, strengthened its leadership’s resistance to other efforts. We’ve accommodated the Greens in Brighton, and in local elections elsewhere – including in Richmond and Twickenham.  Constituency by constituency, taking into account local circumstances, local relations between parties, and the character and ideology of the sitting MP, it should be possible to agree – not always to go as far as withdrawing a candidate, but at least in concentrating efforts in different seats.  A shared candidate in 40-50 constituencies could make a major difference to the political balance of the new Parliament.

Meanwhile, quiet conversations about leaving the major parties or even moving to the Liberal Democrats are under way in Westminster tea rooms.  Many may lead nowhere; but the traumas both Labour and Tories now face are making previously-committed members question their loyalty.  I hope you agree that Chuka Umunna’s move to the Liberal Democrats was handled sensitively and well, with extensive consultation with local LibDems beforehand and an immediate welcome from our local parliamentary candidate when it was announced.  A handful of others might follow, from both disunited parties.  Local activists will know their local MP better than the centre, in many cases.  At the SLF conference I carefully avoided any names when I suggested that there were even a handful of former Conservative ministers we might not want to turn away, but was struck when one of the audience came up at the end and favourably suggested one of those I had been thinking of. 

This is an existential crisis in British politics.  We find ourselves in a far stronger position than six months ago.  Our new leader will be approached by the discontented from other parties, not all of whom we would want to welcome.  If there’s an early election, a parliament that currently includes 86 MPs from outside the two ‘major’ parties, 15 of whom are Independents, might well be replaced by a confusion of groups without any single party within sight of a majority.  We will need to be ready for difficult and messy negotiations as soon as the results are declared.  But first we need to do whatever we can to prevent that result being a hard right Conservative-Brexit coalition.

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

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  • Okay things are looking better for the Lib Dems than they were in 2015. Yes to make the breakthrough there has got to be wholesale tactical alliances and voting on a grand scale. A lot of seats have become 3 or 4 way marginals. With individual seats in London, the South east, the South west and Northern cities where Remain were at 55% plus. In London where Remain were at 65 even 70% plus hundreds of seats are in play for the Lib Dems or Remain alliance to take full advantage of. In fact we could see the decapitation of the Labour leadership. If the Brexit party could split the Tory and Labour votes as well then a lot of seats could well be won with as little as 30% of the vote. Even leave areas like Boris Johnson’s own seat in Uxbridge with 55% leave could be won if the leave vote is split.
    But Brexit and galvanising the remain vote in itself will not be enough. There needs to be a bold ‘ Where Eagles Dare ‘ agenda of eye catching policies. In general elections people tend to vote for what they want in a government generally not simply on Brexit. A short and long term plan for the NHS. Large scale funding for the NHS, schools, pensions and social care. An orange book re-organisation of tax reliefs with a tax cutting agenda on the PAYE tax rates across the board. A self paying radical plan of building houses for sale and rent at discount prices. Putting the new generation of solar panels on everybody;s house. save on your energy bills Lib Dem Lubbly Jubbly !!!
    A positive explanation that Remain will get the economy back on the track when we had the Lib Dems at the helm with the coalition. In 2012 3% plus, 2013 3% plus, 2014 3% plus, first half of 2015 3% plus. If we had the continuation of the Lib Dems in government we would be now approaching a balanced budget by 2020

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Jul '19 - 12:59pm

    Surely a lot depends on the timing of an election.

    Early and the Tories and Brexit Party would find it difficult to come to the kinds of arrangement Blunkett ‘fears’. Later and Brexit will already have failed in whatever deal if any that the Tories can achieve in the eyes of Farage and the Brexit Party and Farage will already have begun their campaign for majority power, a la The League

    No, Blunket underestimates the ambition and perhaps technical campaigning ability of Farage and over estimates the dangers for us and in his eyes (but not mine) for Labour.

    We are also in danger of underestimating our own potential. In the 2015 election I urged Paddy in his Wheelhouse to disregard any electoral information /contact info that he was relying on which we had collected prior to 2011. So much had changed in the five years 2010 to 2015 – because we had lost 5 million votes by 2011. Those of you who knocked up in 2015 and found people no longer supported us know that we didn’t do that.

    Now, however, the danger is that we base our thinking on 2015 and 2017. We need to go back to moments after the Manchester Leader debate in 2010. We can win circa 150 seats – perhaps more.

    Our energies must therefore be devoted to finding ways of supporting meaningful top class campaigns in at least a couple of hundred seats. That means the kind of smart support that ALC/ALDC used to try to provide out of Hebden Bridge. Obviously using modern technology to help people deliver local campaigns – NOT to to provide an all-knowing all-directing central facility that has typified campaigning in the party for a dozen years, but one that facilitates local campaigns.

    We have to ‘move fast and break things’. Campaigners must have the freedom to inspect, to look under the hood, to break, to tamper, to share, to fix, to modify, to copy, and to redistribute. That is exactly the old ALC way.

    There has to be, there can be a ‘real’ Lib Dem campaigner for everyone to vote for in their communities. New technologies ensure that we can do this and do so relatively cheaply.

    Once we have ensured that this is how we are campaigning and resourcing campaigners, then, and only then, should we think about special arrangements’ but if we put our energies into that before we have put energies and resources into fielding viable campaigns in as many places as we can, we wont reach the potential that we have.

  • Iaib Brodie Browne 23rd Jul '19 - 2:53pm

    Thanks William for posting this article. May I suggest that it is read alongside the piece that Chris Bowers (who stood down for Caroline Lucas) Paul Pettinger an I published at the weekend https://www.socialliberal.net/an_open_society_alliance

  • Sue Sutherland 23rd Jul '19 - 3:12pm

    I’m hoping that somewhere the party has an analysis of every constituency that is updated frequently because I agree with Bill that we need to up our game in a situation that is more fluid than anything I’ve seen since I joined the party in 1985. The Tories have always presented a united front and voted together as a matter of principle. In a couple of years that’s changed dramatically so new members may not realise how seismic this is. At the same time Labour have gone into one of their left wing periods in a big way. These have never been popular with voters. It seems as if there are now very few safe seats where putting up any old candidate will result in an overwhelming majority. Our targeting strategy has to change but obviously to do that we need more members and more money. Well, the membership side of things is healthy so we may be able to do a doorstep conversion campaign in seats where we have a lot of active members. I don’t know about the money and whether we have any big donors. Over to the party leaders for that I think.
    The fluidity of the political situation is revealed by what happened in the constituency where I live. There is a small group of activists who are very energetic and committed but in 2018 we lost a council seat reducing the number to 2. In 2019 we gained two more seats. We have yearly elections. Then there was the unexpected EU election and activists were amazed that we actually won the constituency vote (as part of a larger EU constituency). There are lots of reasons why this happened including that the constituency voted to remain in the Referendum but I see it as an indication that almost anything could happen in a General Election. We need to be all bright eyed and bushy tailed to take advantage of this.

  • chris moore 23rd Jul '19 - 3:53pm

    If Tories/Brexit agree on single candidates in all constituencies, we are unlikely to persuade Labour to stand down in our favour anywhere.

    Then, I’m afraid the short-sightedness of some of the hyper-optimistic thinking about the potential of Remain alliances would be exposed.

    By increasingly limiting our appeal to anti-Brexiteering, we have directly put off our previous considerable support from Leave voters. This vote will have gone to Brexit party, Conservative Party and Labour. To compensate, we have many new Remain supporters.

    But if Cons and Brexit do combine, we will be easily outvoted, even in many Remain-leaning seats, because we will be in competition for the Remain vote with at least Labour. (Currently we have around 30% of the Remain vote. V difficult to ge up to 40% of the Remain vote.)

    Take B and R, the only opinion poll suggests our vote will not surpass the 2010 GE result, when we won the seat with 46% of the vote. Why? Because some of our previous support from Leave voters will have gone to the two right-wing parties (or indeed Labour).

    To compensate we have maybe 1 or 2% ex-PC voters, though I suspect that PC voters second preferences will be distributed widely amongst the other parties and will not come primarily to us.

    The electoral maths do not add up positively in B and R. Do not let hype about Remain alliances blind us to the psephology.

    If we remain merely a vehicle for Remain, there is a ceiling on our support, in the low twenties. This will gain us quite a number of seats, if Brexit and Tories do not co-operate. But if they do, we are not going to gain many seats at all, with this strategy.

    So I do hope, with Sue, that there are some serious electoral strategists thinking on a seat by seat basis and who clearly realise the limitations of the current approach.

    Above all, we have to find a way of appealing to Leave voters.

  • William Wallace 23rd Jul '19 - 4:09pm

    We don’t know how much further the two ‘old’ parties will splinter over the summer. There may be a lot more ‘independents’ in the Commons in September than there are now – some of whom we will certainly want to welcome. Yes, party strategists are following recent polls and constituency results closely’ On the basis of the European election results, almost every seat in London is winnable! We also have to consider how th4 distribution of our membership has changed. Some previously derelict seats now have many enthusiastic new members. And, of course, we need to be much more than just ‘the anti-Brexit Party’. Jo’s speech on Monday about fighting for liberal values, and about combatting inequality, touched on themes we must press forward in the coming months.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Jul '19 - 4:11pm

    Chris the size the vote is not the key point. It is the electoral split. It is about the arrival of the Brexit Party. And about the ambivalent position of Labour re Brexit. The latter could restore us to the 2010 level (or certainly reduce the Labour vote from 17 and 15 levels back to 10 levels. And it is the split between Ts and BP that makes a huge difference. Thus we could get the same vote as 2010 in every constituency yet gain far more seats.

    You have to appreciate that the leaders of the Brexit Party want ultimately to replace the Conservatives. They are less interested in the next election than they are in the election after that. You do not replace a party by doing a deal with them, you give it a life-line. (A lesson we need to appreciate too.) The Brexit Party wants power. For them power comes before values. They won’t ever say so, but offer them power, by which I mean a majority in the House of Commons, and they would accept that position even if it meant the UK remaining in the EU.

  • chris moore 23rd Jul '19 - 4:30pm

    @Bill Bretton

    Yes, Bill, I certainly agree that if the right-wing split between Tories and Brexit persists, then a score in the low twenties will gain us a good number of seats, not least in London and the Home Counties, as Lord Wallace points out in his follow up post.

    Clearly, establishing ourselves as the most forthright Remain party has brought a purpose, many new members, and many new potential target seats.

    However, it’s also a strategy that depends on divisions continuing on the right-wing. And has the strong risk of failing for the reasons I’ve hinted at.

    And it still doesn’t get us beyond the low twenties, by the way.

    Obviously, if Labour and Tories descend into further chaos that will help us. But that’s the most favourable scenario for us. We can’t assume that favourable scenario will materialise. That would be to have merely a very fair-weather strategy.

  • Michael Sammon 23rd Jul '19 - 9:46pm

    Please no alliance forced on local parties. There is no way we can stand down or stand joint candidates with Greens/SNP/Plaid and expect our voters to follow that rather than back to Labour or Conservatives where most of the #LibDemSurge support has come from. I especially can’t imagine many of our voters switching to nationalist party candidates. Tons of new people joining us our looking for us to be a party of government. If we start standing down now for parties with different values and trying to second guess the our voters then I predict it will backfire. What happened to standing as many candidates as we can and building our core vote. There is no easy route. I don’t understand the dig at people wishing to cut taxes either. I don’t want to cut welfare, I’d increase it but I want us to be economically credible and cut taxes if we can afford to which is a liberal principle in anyone’s book surely. Many of our members and voters do not identify as being on the left. A “centre left” alliance would be contentious to say the least. We already voted down progressive alliance at Southport conference in 2018. We are doing well at the moment attracting a nice broad range of liberals and appealing to even more of the electorate from centre left to centre right. Let’s not mess this up now with trying to change direction and alienating vast swathes of our members, supporters and voters.

  • As William rightly says, I am as tribalist as the Labour Party, because I want my party to succeed. But right now, everything I have fought for my whole adult life as a Liberal/Liberal Democrat is under threat from populism and the new right. It is unthinkable that we allow the nationalism of Johnson and Farage to triumph by fighting amongst ourselves about whether to stand up for remain or stick rigidly to going it alone.
    This doesn’t mean wholesale standing down in a swathe of seats. We need to consider whether we identify say 100 seats where a remain alliance might realistically make a difference and then tacitly agree with other remain parties that we will all encourage tactical voting for the most likely to win remain candidate. Of course this will need to overseen by someone not seen to have a party political interest, because otherwise it will be about us agreeing to vote tactically for Labour, not about winning for remain.
    As an alternative we might consider joint candidates in some seats or a limited joint programme that would include stopping Brexit.
    Desperate times require desperate measures.

  • Michael Sammon has this spot on and William Wallace is completely wrong.

    On a day when we are likely to have picked up scores of ex conservatives the last thing we should be doing is cosying up to left wing parties who are fundamentally illiberal.

    We are Liberals standing for Liberalism. We don’t need any shonky “progressive (Labour? Progressive? Please …) alliance”.

  • William Wallace 24th Jul '19 - 1:26pm

    One Nation Conservatives will not necessarily be put off by a centre left alliance: they are put off by what they thought was their party being hijacked by a right-wing ideological group. We need to be prepared for a lot of Labour and Conservative MPs to stand down in current circumstances, rather than to stay on as ‘independents’. One Conservative MP told me today that ‘the departure lounge will be crowded’ in an election; deselection threats will encourage Labour MPs to go. Michael Sammon, on tax cuts: look at current squeeze on education at all levels, lack of investment in England’s poorer regions, the cost implications of our ageing population, the pain imposed by Conservative attempts to squeeze welfare further. And where are you planning to cut, or even hold down, spending to finance any further tax cuts?

  • @ TCO The events of 2010-15 ought to prove that cosying up to the Tory Party, or advocating a Tory-lite Orange Book approach is particularly toxic to Liberal Democrats.

  • Peter Hirst 24th Jul '19 - 2:32pm

    We certainly want any contest between the far right and the centre left to come out in our favour under our current voting system. A common platform encompassing a new constitutional settlement, combating climate change, reversing austerity and remaining in the eu following a people’s vote might be attractive to sufficient of the electorate for us to form a government, perhaps with a limited life span. Then we can have a fresh election in the early twenties on a better electoral system with improved voter choice, preferential voting and a more proportional result that does not rely on pacts, common platforms or tactical voting.

  • @David Raw the events of 2015-19 (ongoing) prove that cosying up to the Labour Party, or advocating a Corbyn-lite pro-Brexit approach will be particularly toxic to Liberal Democrats.

  • I don’t recall any cosying up to the Labour Party or any advocating of any Corbyn-lite pro-Brexit approach by the party…… though I do recall that some time ago a poster on LDV (not me) rather naughtily suggested that the abbreviation TCO was short for Tory Central Office. That organisation certainly has a lively creative imagination whether the facts justify it or not.

  • @David Raw of course the party doesn’t advocate cosying up to the Labour Party, and indeed I’ve just watched Jo Swinson robustly decry any coalition with Corbyn on Newsnight. There are, however, some posters on this site who advocate policies far to the left of the Liberal mainstream, even to the point of calling themselves “Red Guards”. They may or may not be party members, but they certainly advocate a direction more in sympathy with Corbynism than Swinsonism.

  • TCO – “cosying up to the Labour party”? “Advocating a Corbyn-lite pro-Brexit approach”? What on earth are you talking about???

  • @Tom Mclean this, for example:

    “[T]he party needs to embrace clear radical policies that will advance social justice and will help to keep and win over further left-leaning Remain voters.”


  • Michael Sammon 25th Jul '19 - 12:03am

    Just responding to William Wallace. I am not pushing for tax cuts at the moment. I just thought it was made out there was something wrong with tax cuts per se. Increasing the tax free allowance was one of our most successful policies that so many appreciated. Some people struggling could do with tax cuts I’m sure but they have to be affordable so not funded by deficit spending as per Trump. I support our current tax policies to return to sustainable government budgeting and well funded public services. The tories have just created a cabinet more to the right than Thatcher’s class of 79 I believe. Labour have also gone off in a silly direction and probably don’t have the mass support to win a general election. I think the worst thing we could do is go off in a silly direction of our own and push away all our new support by aligning with parties whom so many have never considered supporting before. It could even save the Conservative party as liberals switching to us from the Conservatives would feel pushed away. We do not need to find a new identity, we are appealing to greater numbers than ever in my opinion and that is essential if we are going to have our first Lib Dem MP.

  • Michael Sammon 25th Jul '19 - 12:05am

    Sorry I meant our first Lib Dem PM 🙂

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jul '19 - 2:23am

    Lord Wallace offers ideas but not anything definite, thanks for that, as to be more firm in can we say, progressive alliance, would be as daft as anything now, everything being politically volatile.

    Lord Blunkett is so rightly aghast at Corbyn, he would, though in no sense liberal, quite apart from Liberal, prefer our party to the disaster that is that of Corbyn and his ilk.

    Labour as a partner in alliance under this or any likely leadership pre an election is a non starter, not only Brexit, antisemitism crisis and all.

    We are gaining ex Conservatives and many ex Labour members from the Jewish community who see Jo and indeed Sir Ed, as allies , as moderates, as real defenders of equality not bias, on issues such as Israel, Palestine.

    We are getting many ex Conservatives who might not mind a local alignment with some Greens, but would loathe a full on one with Labour.

    We should be open to being open.

    Being open to alliances is part of this but not one we should emphasise.

    And, as a non tribal Liberal Democrat, can we have less antagonism to Orange book , backers, they on here did not cause our problems as a group, an inept lack of political nouse, coupled with certain Conservative attitudes to the right of Thatcher did.

    Nowhere in that book is the slashing of welfare advised. Never did Thatcher slash it.

    Rightwingers like IDS were not contributors to that book nor members of the Thatcher govt.

    I say this as long ago ex moderate Labour, fifteen years a Liberal Democrat.

  • TCO – We are liberals, but we are also Progressives, Progressives here is not Corbynite socialism, but is the Progressive ideals of the early 20th century that led to the abolition of child labour, introduction of 8-hour work day, anti-trust legislation, women’s suffrage, civil service reform, civil rights, scientific adoption and modernization. All of these things were once vehemently opposed by Tories and Tory-lite folks.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jul '19 - 7:57am

    “How do we beat the libertarian populist right?”

    The wisdom of William Wallace is striking. Re-reading his piece this wording I realised I’d missed the most important part of his OP – the Title.

    We wake up this morning to find ourselves governed by the first populist government – whether it is libertarian, I am not so sure. Whether it is of the right – I am also not so sure. It may just be more socialist than we imagine.

    The list of spending plans in Bojo’s speech from Downing Street is pure “populist social democratic”. Thatcherite it was not. Expect borrowing to rise. He believes in the money tree and will take its fruit.

    Secondly on his first day he launched is Facebook campaign. With what, you ask? With a survey of course – like any Lib Dem starting out to win a ward or a seat.

    “This is what I believe – what do you believe? the Facebook ads inquired.

    Not just a survey but a targeted survey. The message went out in over 500 subtly different forms. Did YOU get one?

    We are up against a master campaigner in Dominic Cummins. Some kind of Cambridge Analytics is already at work.

    History tells us that the ‘centre’ never beats populism – only Liberalism can do that. Thankfully we have a Liberal leader. That is a great start, but our task is to reveal the true nature of the BoJo Government.

  • @THomas “Progressive” is a much misused and frankly meaningless term that in it’s current guise means Labour-dominated (as in “progressive alliance”).

    We are Liberals – pure and simple – and we should be proud of this. So I will simply quote a great Liberal statesman, who enacted many of those things you talk about of the early twentieth century, on why we need to shout about our Liberalism and draw a clear line between it and socialism,(which only gets muddied with this talk of “progressive alliances”). It’s as true today as when it was written:

    Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. There is a great gulf fixed. It is not only a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle. There are many steps we have to take which our Socialist opponents or friends, whichever they like to call themselves, will have to take with us; but there are immense differences of principle and of political philosophy between the views we put forward and the views they put forward.

    Liberalism has its own history and its own tradition. Socialism has its own formulas and its own aims. Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely, by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. Socialism assails the pre-eminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks, and shall seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard for the mass. Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly.

    Ah, gentlemen, I don’t want to embark on bitter or harsh controversy, but I think the exalted ideal of the Socialists – a universal brotherhood, owning all things in common – is not always supported by the evidence of their practice. They put before us a creed of universal self-sacrifice. They preach it in the language of spite and envy, of hatred, and all uncharitableness. They tell us that we should dwell together in unity and comradeship. They are themselves split into twenty obscure factions, who hate and abuse each other more than they hate and abuse us.</blockquote.

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin “Nowhere in that book is the slashing of welfare advised. Never did Thatcher slash it.” ….. Thatcher would if she could ….. it was not for lack of trying and I’m afraid Mr Cherin is wrong – at 2.23 a.m. that’s not surprising.

    Unlike Mr. Cherin, I was around politically in the Thatcher days as Liberal candidate in Richmond, Yorkshire. I know what we had to deal with and as the Independent reported in November, 1916

    “Margaret Thatcher secretly continued to pursue politically explosive plans to dismantle the welfare state even after ministers thought they had been killed off by a Cabinet revolt in September, 1982, according to newly-released official files.

    The proposals – drawn up by Whitehall’s think tank the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) – were among the most contentious and the most radical to be considered by Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative government during her 11 years in office.

    They included scrapping free universal healthcare and requiring people to take out private insurance, charging for education, and ending the annual uprating of benefits in line with inflation, as well as sweeping defence cuts.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jul '19 - 1:23pm


    Great from Churchill, love that.

    David Raw

    You are correct if you refer to gazing at potential as, plans.

    I judged in my piece, on facts, on policies. You say, unlike you who were involved as a Liberal candidate, fine, I was a Labour youth.

    I refer to the fact that neither the Orange book or Thatcher government backed or slashed welfare.

    The intent of a few amongst that government is revealed by your comments.

    This is not so with Orange book supporters.

    I am neither supporter or detractor. A varied book with various articles. Similar to Conservatives in the eighties, Labour then and….Liberals and the SDP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • @Lorenzo Cherin you are indeed correct that we need to broaden our horizons to include all Liberals; those from the centre-left, centre, and centre-right.

    We have two good examples of what happens when political parties turn themselves into narrow puritan sects by pandering to their extremes. That is not the way for our party to go, and it needs to find a place for Liberals of all stripes (including economic Liberals), if it wants to continue to flourish.

    I am always saddened by attempts to exclude, such as we see all to frequently on these pages, those who come from the Orange Book side of the party.

  • Nigel Jones 25th Jul '19 - 4:13pm

    Bill le Breton, your comments add to William Wallace’s. Boris will do whatever he can to capture the working class populist anti-EU. anti-immigration support by giving them something no matter how it affects government finances. That is how he can deplete support for the Brexit Party. It is therefore too simplistic to call it left or right. It is left in the sense of using central government to give certain people what they want (the rich as well as the poor) and then win support for policies like hard punishment and even death penalty for crimes, only accepting immigrants who can immediately help our nation’s wealth, supporting US republican policy of hard opposition to other nations, especially developing nations and generally boasting (even unrealistically) our ability on the world stage, in support of US foreign policy probably. It will be an unliberal approach but as long as it gives people some material gains and a feeling of pride as a nation it will gain some support. We must ensure that people can gain similarly by a different approach which is less narrowly nationalistic, more humane and in the longer term interest of world development and peace.

  • Nigel Jones 25th Jul '19 - 4:23pm

    I must further add to Bill’s point about campaigning tactics. Boris may well pick up on the Brexit Party’s centralised approach, as well as our now well-known tactics. Can we, with our more localised approach and little help to local parties except a few targets, compete ? Also, where are our long-term key messages, like pointing out why we want to remain in the EU, what we want to achieve in welfare, education and skills, NHS and social care, local government and democracy that enables people to have more influence in their local governance and infrastructure plans that help more communities than projects like HS2 will ?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jul '19 - 6:12pm


    Good to read that, your reply to me commenting, as one who thinks labelling belongs on packets not people, we agree with each other!

  • Bill le Breton 26th Jul '19 - 6:54am

    Nigel encapsulates the new regime, “It is therefore too simplistic to call it left or right. ”

    I think we all know the two word oxymoron that, close to 100 years ago, described that position.

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