Mark Pack’s January report – Our positive vision versus Conservative desperation

Beating the Conservatives isn’t enough

That was the thrust of Ed Davey’s new year message, majoring on the importance of how our politics operates:

We must do nothing less than transform the nature of British politics for good.

Fight for a fair deal, that empowers everyone, and holds the already powerful to account.

Smash the two-party system, reform our elections, and give everyone an equal voice.

Because that is the only way we can build a fairer, greener, more caring country.

You can watch his new year message in full here.

But while that’s our positive message for the country…

Brace, brace, brace

When the newspapers appeared on the morning of 22 April 2010 there was a wall of negative front page stories about the Liberal Democrats. It was a well-timed hit, being the morning of the second TV debate in an election that had been upended by Nick Clegg’s performance in the first debate.

But there was a dirty secret behind those front page attacks which was only revealed when academics Phil Cowley and Dennis Kavannagh wrote a book about the election after. It was a secret about desperation on the part of the Conservatives: “All but one of the stories to feature on newspaper front pages that day came from the Conservatives”. Not that the papers told their readers this.

Nor did the stories stand up. Most notoriously the Daily Telegraph splashed that morning on its front page making claims about Nick Clegg’s bank account. Yet just a few hours later their chief political commentator and assistant editor was admitting he didn’t even know if anything wrong had happened. His admission that even he didn’t know if the allegations were true didn’t make that story, of course. Nor did he explain why his paper didn’t pause to research the story first rather than rushing to put in print what the Conservatives had handed them.

As Cowley and Kavanagh quoted a Cameron campaign source: “‘We did a pretty comprehensive job on them… However dirty it was… that was the machine swinging into action.”

Much has changed since 2010. But the willingness of Conservative HQ to do absolutely anything it takes to stay in power has not. We can expect them to brief negative stories about us continually.

It’s going to be a bracing year. But that shows we are a real threat to the Conservatives.

(And of course if you do see a story where you’re not sure what the full picture is or want to know the party’s response, do drop me a line on [email protected]).

A cracking quarter of council by-elections

The final quarter of 2023 was a cracking one for our local campaign teams: more than double the net gains of Labour and Greens combined, a big increase in vote share and overtaking the Conservatives in the aggregate vote for the first time in the year.

Many congratulations to everyone who played a part in that, especially the winning candidates and agents but also those who put a name on the ballot paper where previously we’d been absent. Commiserations too to those candidates and teams who just missed out this time.

These results show just how much potential there is for us in the May local elections, especially if we continue to increase the number of wards in which we have candidates.

That will be even more important if the local elections are at the same time as or before the general election as our candidate tally will be one of the signs in the eyes of the media of whether or not we’re growing as a national party. We did really well out of the media reaction to our growing candidate numbers in 2023.

So if you’ve got local elections coming up in your patch, please do make sure you have plans in place for, preferably, a full slate of candidates and, at the very least, more candidates than last time around.

There’s more on how to find candidates and get the paperwork all safely done in the Full Slate pack on the Campaign Hub.

Come to Federal Conference for free

If you volunteer as a steward you get free attendance plus help towards subsistence, travel and accommodation costs. Plus getting to be a member of a great team. More details are here.

Technology changes

It’s over a decade since we introduced CONNECT as our main electoral database, and nearly all local parties have switched over to using it. It’s also CONNECT that we provide data for, integrate with our other systems and which is used in our training.

A small number of places still use EARS and therefore miss out on these benefits. In addition, having two systems increases the administrative overhead for staff and increases our IT and data risks.

Therefore, our relevant party committees have decided later this year to remove EARS from our list of approved suppliers later this year – three months after the general election, but no earlier than 1 July. We have set that date to give everyone plenty of time to plan, and to ensure people can make migrations outside of an election campaign period itself.

Making local party finances easier

An increasing number of our local parties – and other party bodies – are using the online Xero accounting software and are banking with Unity Bank. In both cases, we have arrangements with the company which parts of the party can benefit from. Unity also has the benefit of having strong ethical banking policies and being a bank for whom supporting membership organisations is a core part of its outlook.

If you are involved in party finances and would like to make the switch to one or both, drop an email to [email protected] and the team can point you in the right direction.

January Board meeting

No surprise that our Westminster general election preparations are the big item for our agenda to kick-off the year. We’re deliberately taking a different approach to the Board’s oversight of election plans from the last few cycles, with in particular a specific deep drive into different parts of planning at successive meetings. For our first meeting of the year we’ll also do our now traditional review of the priorities set for our strategy by conference earlier in this Parliament and whether to update or refine them.

Coming up in February will be looking at membership and support for our candidates and their teams outside our Advanced and Moving Forward seats. I know both of those are of interest to many members, and rightly so as they are crucial parts of ensuring that the election not only delivers the prime outcome – more seats – but also helps put the party in a stronger position to win future elections at all levels.

To wrap up the January agenda though, it also covers final decisions on what party business the Board is putting to our spring conference, looking at whether DBS checks should be used more widely in the party and how we work with other party committees and bodies.

Just before Christmas, the Board elected its representatives to other party committees for the next two years. We elected Alison Rouse to Federal Conference Committee (FCC), Neil Fawcett and Jeremy Hargreaves to the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC) and Lucy Nethsingha to the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC).

Are you using WhatsApp locally?

One of the crucial parts of my role as President is being in touch with what members are saying all around the country (and overseas too). It’s been noticeable in the last year how much of the online conversation among members and supporters in local parties has moved away from (semi-)public social media, for example away from Facebook and X/Twitter and often moving to WhatsApp (and to a much lesser extent Slack).

If WhatsApp plays a big role in your local party’s chatter, and you wouldn’t mind an outsider being in your group so I can better see the temperature of members around the party, it’d be great if you can add me to your relevant group. You can either message me the join link on [email protected] or ask for my mobile number to add. Thank you.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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60 Comments

  • Tactical Voter 16th Jan '24 - 1:48pm

    What chance the Liberal Democrats really will win the 46 seats the new poll predicts? And what will they do about Labour activists who insist on contesting such seats, thereby enabling the Conservatives to keep them (I live in one such seat)

  • Paul Barker 16th Jan '24 - 2:54pm

    Without being complacent, we can be fairly confident about the Election, whenever we get it. It looks like we will see something very like 1997 – a Labour landslide & a doubling of our MPs.

    The BIG unknown is how Reform do. I expect a “Normal” Election where the Fringe Parties fade away but we ought to keep an eye on Reform. IF they were to hang on to their current Polling of around 9% they could halve The number of Tory holds & gift us another 30 MPs. As I said, its not likely but UKIP did it once – worth watching.

  • Ian Patterson 16th Jan '24 - 4:32pm

    That poll only ‘gave’ us two seats north of the Trent/Severn line, to whit Harrogate and Westmoreland. And nothing in Wales or little in Scotland.

  • Neil James Sandison 16th Jan '24 - 10:57pm

    I watched Ed Davey new year message particularly the section on changing politics and listening to those without power . rang more than a bit hollow following the Post Office Scandal

  • Peter Watson 16th Jan '24 - 11:30pm

    @Ian Patterson “That poll only ‘gave’ us two seats north of the Trent/Severn line …”
    Was that not the plan? 🙁

  • @Paul Barker according to yougov two thirds of reform UK voters wouldn’t vote Tory even if reform doesn’t stand.

    One worrying outcome of the poll is that it shows a very high labour vote share in places that don’t vote labour this splitting out vote or even pushing us into third in allot of seats that should be winnable for us. We’re it not for this we’d be looking at winning 60+ seats.

    Either because the model doesn’t account for tactical voting and is overestimating labour vote shares because those types of voters vote labour elsewhere or we have seriously screwed up in trying to appeal to them.

  • Two seats north of the Trent, I make it four, Hazel Grove and Cheadle, although I agree on the map it is hard to find them. Also a close second at Sheffield Hallam where we may gain from Conservative tactical voting.
    However irrespective of a possible 40 odd seats etc there are many where we have slumped to fourth or fifth. National party?
    My major concern is that sadly Ed Davey has now lost personal credibility and as a result will be mauled by the media at the General Election..

  • Theakes is correct in his observation on geographical spread and status as a national (rather than a regional) party. On the other matter I’m sure any interview by Andrew Neil would reveal that he is correct on that too.

  • Hello Theakes,

    Much of the conversation on LD Voice about Ed’s role has focused on the unfairness of the media singling him out when he was merely one of 19 postal ministers in the years from 1999-2024.

    I agree with that line of argument. But then he is a party leader. So you’d expect him to be singled out, however unfairly.

    My feeling is the conversation up till now has largely avoided the crucial question which you have raised.

    Putting aside sympathy for Ed, and given that he’s likely to go on getting unfair coverage right through the GE, would the party be better off with a new leader?

    I believe it would be. I think we should move to a post-Coalition leader.

    May the best woman win!

  • Perhaps Andrew Neil will have in depth interviews with the higher echelons in the Tory party into their conduct throughout this Post Office scandal and other scandals during their tenure in office but I won’t hold my breath!
    There has been many instances of extremely poor judgment and worse during this travesty and why Ed Davey should seemingly be taking all the bad publicity being handed out while others with greater involvement are being kept out of the spotlight is rather strange but not surprising I suppose given where much of the media hang their hats?

  • Ian Patterson 17th Jan '24 - 12:40pm

    @Theakes missed Hazel Grove & Cheadle on that map. The bulk of our seats would still be resolutely south of the Trent/Severn line.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Jan '24 - 1:03pm

    As noted in another thread, the poll does not take sufficient account of local voting patterns, especially tactical voting. For instance, it has the Labour vote in my home constituency of Richmond Park (under the new boundaries) jumping from 5% to about 18%. This simply is not going to happen, as Labour has virtually no local organisation around here. There could be some Labour uplift influenced by the air war campaign, but certainly not by that much.
    The poll is by Focaldata, which has form for this sort of analysis. It seems to assume that any particular ‘tribe’ of voters will swing the same way everywhere. Thus, for example, if the polling data show (hypothetically) 30% of young, female graduates who voted Remain switch from Lib Dems to Labour, it maps everyone in that group as swinging the same way, whether in Richmond Park or Putney.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Jan '24 - 1:04pm

    @Chris Moore: I voted for Layla because I would have preferred a post-Coalition leader, but we are where we are. Now is not the time for another divisive leadership election.

  • Peter Watson 17th Jan '24 - 1:16pm

    theakes “National party?”
    I think more of a concern for the party should be the narrow socioeconomic spread that is reflected by that geographical spread, even (especially?) those few named seats in the north.
    I’ve not cited it here for a year or two (so am probably due! 🙂 ), but Alasdair Rae graphically shows the correlation for constituencies between deprivation and political representation (https://twitter.com/undertheraedar/status/1390632762105806856). I’ve not checked for an update, but its hard to imagine that Lib Dem by-election successes have done anything other than further cement the party’s position on the right (of the diagram! 😉 ) in more affluent places, where Rae’s infographics show it has become increasingly concentrated since 2001.

  • Chris Moore 17th Jan '24 - 1:34pm

    Hello Alex,

    My feeling is the leadership campaign wouldn’t be divisive. Looking at recent leadership campaigns they’ve been anything but.

    Personally, I like Ed a lot. And have supported his electoral strategy.

    But this is going to be a real albatross at the election.

    Think we’d do better with Daisy or Layla or Christine.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Jan '24 - 4:58pm

    @Chris Moore: I doubt it will. Most voters we have spoken to in Kingston can see through the transparent smear campaign against Ed. The attacks on Ed over the PO scandal come almost exclusively from the more unhinged section of the right-wing chatterati, not people one would ever look to for unbiased political information. They have made little attempt to disguise the origin of their talking points (unlike those behind the 2010 Clegg smears). Even the hatchet job in Monday’s Evening Standard seems to have failed; while I don’t think social media comments are necessarily indicative of public opinion, it is quite telling that nearly all the comments on its tweet linking to that article are supportive of Ed, with many of them drawing attention to its owner’s Russian oligarch status.

    This is not Singate, which was exclusively about Tim’s (alleged) views on certain issues. The claims against Ed are easy to debunk, and Tories will find it tricky to use the scandal against him without looking like hypocrites, given that various Tory politicians have played a much bigger role in enabling it.

  • Alex, Chris I also think the time has come for a post coalition leader which could be Daisy, Layla, Munira maybe but this must happen after not before the GE. I supported Ed last time but I don’t feel he has adapted to the way the political landscape has changed since 2020-21.

  • @Theakes….Yep that’s a big concern . We can all remember that Marr interview from a couple of years back . We can expect the same this year but amplified many times over.
    @Peter Watson …We are seen as a party of the metropolitan middle classes . We hide our intolerance under the mask of inclusivity – the complete opposite of what liberalism is about …

  • Neil James Sandison 18th Jan '24 - 12:14am

    Perhaps we should not forget what happened to Jo Swinton another coalition survivor who was trapped by the past and was rejected by the public at a GE . A refreshed leadership may be in our interest and would certainly have a window to promote a fresh liberal message leading up to both the local and general election .

  • Roger Billins 18th Jan '24 - 7:43am

    Given that the opinion poll in the Times now has us at 8%, I agree with those calling for change at the top and to be finally free of the coalition.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Jan '24 - 8:55am

    The Times poll mentioned by @Roger Billins has yet to make it to Wikipedia (at time of writing) but the previous Times/YouGov poll (10–11 Jan) has us on 9%. Other polls put us on 8–11%. This may be noise rather than evidence of a new trend.
    The Conservative Britain Alliance MRP poll is also by YouGov (not Focaldata as I stated earlier) but my point about its methodology still stands. The poll has us on 12.5% nationally, slightly up on our 2019 performance, so it is not realistic for us to be down about 5 percentiles in one of our strongholds. I can tell you there are no local factors that would cause such a result.

  • Chris Moore 18th Jan '24 - 9:04am

    Hello Alex,

    Do you think we would be positively worse off with a new leader?

    Since the PO debacle finally evoked a response from the previously indifferent public – and Ed’s minor but negative contribution became known – our average poll ratings have declined notably.

    His role is likely to be brought up in every interview he does from now until voting day. It’s not a positive; that’s for sure.

  • Chris Moore 18th Jan '24 - 9:11am

    On another matter, Mark Park, there’s going to be a by-election in Rochdale.

    Given our historical strength in the seat at local and national level, I trust we are going to run a serious by-election campaign. Andy Kelly, Rochdale LD leader, if he’s chosen, is well-known locally and would be an excellent candidate.

    We are unlikely to win, but a solid result would set us up as main challenger for the future.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Jan '24 - 9:23am

    @Chris Moore
    Have you bothered to look at recent parliamentary election results for Rochdale?

    Is Campaigns HQ going to bother?

  • If we have current strength in Rochdale, fantastic. Perhaps stay clear of our “historical strength” there.

    PS is Rishi about to call the election? Hope not 😱

  • Yes, NCR, I’m well aware that we were in single figures in 2019.

    Nonetheless, this by-election is more promising than the other two in Kingswood and Wellingborough, where we have no historical strength.

    We could surely get back into second at the by-election.

  • @Chris Moore: A new leader would need to establish a profile for themself, and there isn’t the time before the next GE. And there is no doubt our enemies would be looking closely into the new leader’s past to find something to pin on them. Handling an interviewer with an agenda is never easy (given that so much of the media seems to have an anti-Lib Dem agenda, it should probably be part of the required skill set), but the difficulty for anyone trying to catch Ed out on the PO scandal is the ease with which the question can be turned around and used against the interrogator, as his “minor but negative contribution” can be contrasted with the major and negative contributions of many individual Tories (including Sunak). Changing leader now would send a message to our partisan enemies that we are an easy target. And it wouldn’t make the issue go away as Ed will still be part of a small Parliamentary team. Besides, we seem to have started slipping in the opinion polls before Ed was linked to PO scandal.

  • Yes we should aim for a strong 2nd place in Rochdale. Someone with the handle “Nonconformistradical” ought to know that Rochdale is a traditional stronghold of nonconformist radicalism, which is the source of its historic Liberal strength. Rochdale has had two Lib Dem MPs since the disgraced Cyril “Hanger” Smith whom @Ruth Bright is presumably alluding to. But many of the allegations against him are from when he was a Labour member (as he was for about 20 years), so Labour would not easily be able to use him against us (similar to attacks on Ed over the PO). Anyway he’s from the distant past, and by-election campaigns tend to be about the future.

  • Labour and Lib Dems/Liberals slogged it out for many, many years in Rochdale – taking it in turns to actually win, but always with small margins. The turning point came in 2015 when Labour took over as the preferred opposition to Conservatives and we rather faded. The key question is whether we have the troops in Rochdale to support not just a by-election but also the GE to follow when there won’t be an army of Lib Dems piling in. I actually don’t know the answer.

  • Alex Macfie: I am unclear what profile has Ed Davey? To the average voter someone who will not apologise but keeps digging that hole. Somebody like Daisy Cooper would certainly add some bounce, charisma and a break from the flaming Coalition. Do not know about her past. She will have one, haven’t we all?
    Mary: there are plenty of activists in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and the North Midlands Please do not take this the wrong way but there is world north of Watford. We have 28 Councillors in Sheffield and control Hull. Rochdale is also a seat where most of the population is in the urban area. Remember until the Coalition we had 36 Councillors in Manchester alone, with one MP and a target marginal Gorton. ALDC is based in Manchester.
    Getting a rise in the Rochdale vote or percentage vote would be a boost for Cheadle and
    Hazel Grove and Sheffield Hallam, although Reform can expect to poll well, also the Greens, which makes it trebly important that we fight a campaign properly,
    This weeks local by elections are interesting, we should hope for gains at Richmond and Hackney and hold the other Richmond seat as well as Sheffield Stannington but ……..,

  • The Independent Tribunal on child abuse has made withering comments about the MP who succeeded Smith and made clear that Smith was abusing right into the 90s. So not the distant past for the victims.

    Obviously there’s no comparison with the PO crisis. Smith was a Savile, it’s in a different league.

    That said, any excuse to help in a by-election. Yes please.

  • Roger Billins 18th Jan '24 - 1:13pm

    I agree with Theakes. The present position does give us the opportunity for a fresh start free from the stigma of coalition.

  • Ruth Bright 18th Jan '24 - 1:15pm

    My apologies, just to be clear that the tribunal criticizes the second Lib Dem MP to succeed Cyril.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Jan '24 - 1:22pm

    @theakes: Any apology would be seized on by our enemies as an admission of guilt. The narrative would be “Ed’s the politician who did the most damage in the PO scandal, he’s the only one who apologised”. This is a partisan smear campaign based on lies and half-truths; the only way to deal with it is to discredit it, not give it any legitimacy.

    @Ruth Bright: Obviously for a victim of child abuse the acts are never in the “distant” past. But my point was that Labour can’t legitimately attack the Lib Dems over the larger-than-life former Rochdale MP when they share some responsibility over him, in the same way as Tories and Labour can’t legitimately attack us over the PO scandal because their fingers are at least as dirty. Whether there is any similarity to the two scandals is irrelevant to this exercise in logic.

  • The window for a contest was 6-12 months ago but it is too late now, not only is there not enough time for a new leader to get on top of things but if any divisions did open up in the contest that could undermine the GE campaign if it took place only a couple of months later.

  • David Evans 18th Jan '24 - 2:02pm

    Actually Alex, I think it would probably even worse than you fear.

    The message wouldn’t be

    “Ed’s the politician who did the most damage in the PO scandal, he’s the only one who apologised”

    so much as

    “Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, has admitted he didn’t do enough when he was a minister, even after …”

  • Chris Moore 18th Jan '24 - 3:01pm

    The PO scandal and the inadequate response of council authorities in Rochdale to child abuse in council facilities do have a point in common.

    Well-meaning, earnest individuals tend to underestimate or deny the behaviour of malign actors.

    Ed, because he himself is upright and forthright, perhaps didn’t even consider the possibility that PO officials were lying to him through their teeth.

    In Rochdale, council officials tended to downplay the incidence of child abuse again, in part, I believe because it was inconceivable to them, outside their personal orbit.

    In other words, they were naive.

    Given advances in social awareness of sexual abuse over the last decade, I believe such naivety is less likely nowadays in that regard.

  • Mick Taylor 18th Jan '24 - 4:03pm

    The problem with alleged crimes is that they are not adjudicated on by any court, except the court of public opinion. The allegation being tossed around by Tory (and some Labour) politicians is that somehow Ed was uniquely responsible for the Post Office injustice, or that only he could have done something about it. The truth is very different. Ed did meet Alan Bates and did ask for investigations to be carried out. Then, like all the other 15 or so ministers who had in their brief ‘postal services’ he was lied to both by the Post Office and the Civil Service.
    We Liberal Democrats seem to be our own worst enemies when our leader is attacked by the press and Tory/Labour politicians. [And that’s also true about Tim and Jo] Instead of rebutting the attacks, we wonder aloud if the attack might be true and then start talking about a change of leader. Indeed, those who want a change of leader are using this attack on Ed as grounds for having one. Worse, in an election year, we do so in public and on public forums instead of internally.
    Perhaps Ed should be following Paddy’s example when asked by the press about an affair. Yes. Next question.

  • Anthony Acton 18th Jan '24 - 4:47pm

    I’m afraid David Evans is right. It’s so unfair for the media to portray Ed as the big political villain of the story and he does not deserve the obloquy he’s getting. But it’s not going away – the Tories will make sure of that – and it will do the party no end of harm during the GE campaign if Ed is still there as our leader.

  • David Allen 18th Jan '24 - 4:48pm

    “Ed Davey’s new year message… ‘We must do nothing less than transform the nature of British politics for good’ ”

    He might as well have wrapped it up after his fourth word, if you ask me…

  • Alex Macfie 18th Jan '24 - 5:05pm

    @Anthony Acton: I don’t agree; there is a way it can go away, and that is if we discredit the story (something that should not be difficult). But it certainly won’t go away if we validate the story in any way, such as by apologising (when no-one else has done) or resigning.

  • Ruth Bright 18th Jan '24 - 6:09pm

    Smith was a Liberal/Liberal Democrat for 38 years his victims have been failed by all parties (Thatcher supported his knighthood), agencies and authorities.

  • Mick Taylor 18th Jan '24 - 8:16pm

    The stories about Cyril Smith were in the public domain just after I started work at a Rochdale comprehensive School in 1974. Rochdale Alternative Press published extensive detail of the alleged offences. The police investigated and found no case to answer.
    The problem about this allegation and others is the there was never a court case in which the offences could be tested. and there is no way they can be legally tested after the alleged perpetrator is dead. Even the Labour MP who published an account of the allegations waited until Cyril Smith was dead before he did it.
    I knew Cyril from 1972 onwards and I never saw anything that could be called remotely suspicious. Big Cyril continued to win elections in Rochdale long after RAP published the allegations.
    I really do not know if Cyril Smith committed any offences or not. What I have seen on and off since 1974 was people making allegations with little or no proof. Unless and until we have a system that allows posthumous investigation and trial of such offences, then there will be no certainty of the truth or otherwise of the allegations.
    There is an unfortunate trend both inside the party and outside it to assume that allegations are fact and to condemn the alleged perpetrators without the benefit of an investigation and trial.

  • Dave Sheppard 18th Jan '24 - 10:56pm

    I’m going to say this has cut through and it’s not going to get better. If we are not seen as the clean alternative party we have lost our usp.If we do nothing it’s a pretty massive gamble. We must have a leader with no links to the coalition.

  • What’s this sudden frenzy with people wanting a leader with no links to the coalition? Or let’s rephrase that… a leader with no experience of being in Government. If we are to be a serious party then presumably we want to be in Government, and that means valuing the times we have had in Government and respecting that time and the people involved. You don’t get to be a responsible party by by disowning the responsibility of being in Government and the people involved. Remember – Labour tried that in Milliband/Corbyn eras – they tried fighting elections while communicating embarrassment at what they had actually done in Government, and look how far that got them!

    Government is by its nature messy: You always end up discovering that the things you wanted to do are much harder than you thought, then you get blown off course by events and inevitably end up disappointing many people. Being in a coalition Government where you have to start off by compromising some of your agenda is harder still. But if you want to be in Government, that’s how it goes. Maybe, it’s time we accepted that instead of trying to run away from the (remaining) people who actually delivered a bit of responsible LibDem Government?

  • Chris Moore 19th Jan '24 - 7:57am

    @Mick Taylor:
    Regarding leadership: I’ve been one of the few posters on here who’s defended Ed’s electoral strategy, in face of much misplaced criticism, in my view.

    So my suggestion we should move on to new leadership is certainly not a continuation of previous criticism.

    I’ve not mentioned Cyril Smith in my remarks on Rochdale child abuse.

    There was a widespread problem with child abuse in Rochdale in council facilities for decades. A number of perpetrators were jailed. The council response – lack of – was heavily criticised in an official report in 2018 (from memory.)

  • Ruth Bright 19th Jan '24 - 8:16am

    I don’t always agree with Mark Pack but he works incredibly hard for our party, so I am sorry we have got bogged down with Rochdale in the comments on Mark’s post.

    However, the comments of Mick Taylor cannot stand. The Independent Tribunal on Child Abuse is crystal clear that Cyril Smith was a serial abuser into the 1990s, based on extensive interviews and investigation. It is simply incredible that any member of our lovely, kind, idealistic party has anything to do with gaslighting Smith’s victims in the twilight years of those victims. Those victims have had no redress or apology. All they have is the truth.

  • John Bicknell 19th Jan '24 - 9:42am

    There seems to be a tendency for Lib Dems to want to constantly apologise in the face of hostile commentary, whether that be over the Coalition (‘let’s pretend that was nothing to do with us’), Ed Davey (‘he should show greater contrition’), or even the Rochdale by-election (‘we shouldn’t have the affront to campaign seriously here, given our past record’). No wonder political opponents of the party find it so tempting to criticise the Lib Dems; they no longer have the desire to march towards the sound of gunfire, they simply offer abject surrender, and retreat into self-recrimination.

  • John Bicknell: I agree with your post, as the saying goes “ with friends like this who needs enemies “

  • Simon R – I think it’s because the experience was uniquely damaging with the party losing 2/3 of its voters in one election. This wasn’t an inevitable result of going into govt as coalition in Scotland led to an increase in support. Rather it was the taking of decisions that were anathema to many supporters and we have never recovered.

  • Ruth Bright 20th Jan '24 - 8:35am

    my words were: “any excuse to campaign in a by-election, yes please”

  • Mick Taylor 20th Jan '24 - 9:43am

    Ruth Bright. I’m not gaslighting anybody. I am merely pointing out that alleged abusers need to be prosecuted so that the courts can decide issues of guilt or innocence. Post death inquiries are not a satisfactory or sufficient answer. There was plenty of opportunity to prosecute Smith during the years after the RAP revelations, but nobody did. Perhaps that’s where the spotlight ought to be focussing.

  • @Mick Taylor: could I suggest you read the official report into child abuse in Rochdale?

    This includes C Smith’s alleged role. But is a wide-ranging examination of how well-meaning council officers and concillors can fail in their response to child abuse.

    I believe lessons are being learned at institutional level.

  • I’m against party self-flagellation over Coalition or the PO.

    But I think it’s perfectly ok to have some debate about whether a change of leadership would be helpful to our electoral prospects or not.

    Thank you Alex and others for putting the case for continuity.

  • Can I remind everyone that while The Election will probably be in the Autumn it could be called anytime – its up to Sunak, no-one else has any say.
    Any change of our Leader now would have to be to a Caretaker, with the Leadership Election delayed till …….

    More generally I don’t get the low morale shown in some comments. Most of the stuff I have seen suggests that we will get somewhere between 30 & 40 MPs, tripling our haul from 2019 – I would be quietly pleased with that.

  • Martin yes and an added problem will be the new boundaries, meaning that in many seats there will be a lack of “tactical memory” where people aren’t used to voting LD for tactical reasons and may not be persuaded by bar charts saying “Labour can’t win here”.

  • If the Party is going to win it will have to take on the other two Parties. What it must do however is be prepared for possible back lashes. We’ve had plenty of warnings that if we step outside THEIR lines we face possible vicious attacks because of their superior finances and resources. So sometimes reticence might be the wiser course of action.

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