New issue of Liberator is out

Issue 378 of Liberator is on its way to subscribers.

This issue’s free sample online content is the Commentary on how local parties need to feel able to innovate in campaigning, and Claire Tyler’s article on how many people are overlooked and left behind by an incoherent post-16 education system.

Elsewhere the issue has the Commentary, news and gossip in Radical Bulletin, book reviews, Lord Bonkers’ latest thoughts and among the articles:

A RETURN TO REASON? Adrian Slade finds hope for better politics in May’s election results

BACK FROM THE BRINK IN LIVERPOOL – The Lib Dems were close to being wiped out in a city they ran six years ago, but this year’s election have seen a small but crucial revival, says Richard Clein

COMMUNITY POLITICS BUT NO COMMUNITY – A new book observing London’s population shows a city grappling huge population churns of rich and poor, finds Wendy Kyrle-Pope

WHY LIBERALS LOST IN SCOTLAND – The tragedy of the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ near-demise in May’s elections was so predictable it could be written in advance, writes new arrival in Scotland Gareth Epps

SURVIVAL PLAN – The Liberal Democrats could face extinction unless they swap mindless activism for arguing for a liberal society, says Michael Meadowcroft, in an abridged version of his Viv Bingham Memorial Lecture

OFFSHORE CENTRE – Nothing in European Union membership poses a threat to England’s character and patriotism demands a ‘remain’ vote, says Tom Barney

Back issues and subscription details (£25 a year) are on our website.


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  • Nick Collins 29th May '16 - 3:00pm

    “Back From The Brink in Liverpool” may be an unfortunate title. I seem to recall that “Back From The Brink” was the title of a book, circa 1980, by Sir Michael Edwards about how he had “saved” British Leyland. Where is it now?

  • I understand that Mr Epps is sympathetic to the SNP and Scottish Independence, but to describe May’s elections as a ‘near-demise’ in Scotland when we racked up the two largest % majorities over the SNP (in Orkney and Shetland) and gained two other constituencies is truly insulting to all those who worked hard on the campaign up there.

    Congratulations to Willie Rennie and the team for an impressive set of results.

  • Also interesting how this summary doesn’t mention the (largely false) attack piece on Liberal Youth

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th May '16 - 4:57pm


    Intriguing comment , would you care to elaborate ?

  • @Andrew Please do not make false statements about people. While Gareth is not the biggest fan of the Scottish party, and I think he is wrong in many aspects of his article, it is not right to say that he is sympathetic to the SNP and, as far as I can see, he wants the party to appeal to Yes voters. As it happens I think there are many ways it can and does.

  • John Barrett 29th May '16 - 8:03pm

    “Near demise” is an accurate description of May’s results.

    We did gain two constituencies, but we lost two list seats. Even the best spin by the party cannot claim that Willie Rennie being re-elected is a gain, yet this is what those trying to make out the results were better than they actually were continue to claim.

    Good results in Orkney and Shetland were for many years taken as a given, now to some they are a sign of how well we are doing.

    The number of lost deposits is the real indication of the party’s demise. In many of those seats where we were close second, we lost our deposit and are now in fourth or fifth place. Our next challenge is the Scottish Council elections next year, where finding good candidates willing to stand will be a formidable task. I expect that we will field the lowest number of candidates since the introduction of STV for local government.

    In no way we’re the results in May impressive, other than we did not go backwards. We did not move forwards.

    I was more delighted than most that Alex Cole-Hamilton won Edinburgh West, but unless we accept the scale of the mountain we have to climb, we will never hope to reach the summit……or even base camp.

    Putting on rose-tinted spectacles every time we have a bad election result is one reason we are not able to see the true colour of what has unfolded in recent years.

  • Allan Heron 29th May '16 - 8:26pm

    I think that’s an accurate assessment by John of where we find ourselves. At best, we stood still but being able to advance remains a formidable challenge and that may yet be underplaying it considerably.

  • Denis Mollison 30th May '16 - 8:26am

    In Scotland we stood still both in the constituency (just under 8%) and the regional (just over 5%) vote. While some see constituencies as prestigious (we can now claim more constituencies than Labour!), the effect is that our representation is highly concentrated. While the Greens’ 6 regional MSPs give them representation in 46 of the 73 constituencies, there are just 14 with some LD representation. This must make it more difficult for us to rebuild support elsewhere. Particularly galling are the loss of Jim Hume who worked so hard for the 200-mile across region of South Scotland, and the continued lack of any representation in Highland or Argyll Council areas – a huge area where 10 years ago we held constituencies from the Mull of Kintyre to John O’Groats, and where we still have reasonable Council representation.

  • John, if you had told me 6 months ago that we’d still have five MSPs and that we’d gain two constituency seats from the SNP, I’d have laughed at you. We faced wipeout and we held our own. That doesn’t mean that we should rest, but we can at least breathe a bit and then work on the next stage of the rebuild. It’s been a while since we had an election result that didn’t see us going backwards. We know that with a positive, upbeat campaign, led by an engaging, upbeat leader, we can confound the odds. When the figures come out about what we spent on the campaign, you’ll also see that we did it on a shoestring.

    Denis makes a good point about the lack of regional representation. That is a worry. We’ve never really had it in Lothians, but this is the first time we haven’t had it in Mid Scotland and Fife, for example.

    There’s lots to learn from a good campaign – particularly in terms of the effort it takes to win. The amazing Edinburgh Western team performed miracles and picked themselves up after the defeat last May and got on with it. Now we have to deliver council gains next year. That’s going to be more difficult with the Tories, who seem to have managed to decouple themselves from the Tories down south pretty successfully, carpet-bombing wards with literature. We have to stop them getting a hold in local government in Scotland. It’s bad enough having them as the opposition.

  • John Barrett 30th May '16 - 10:38am

    Caron, as you know I have been increasingly concerned in recent years that the party has not fully accepted the depth of the hole we are in and has at times continued to dig deeper and at other times continued to try to put an unrealistically positive spin on to a reality which is not so bright. Denis quotes the facts and he correctly details where we were both before and after the May election.

    You say that we were heading for wipeout and held our own. I cannot remember you or Willie Rennie, or any official party spokesman/woman ever saying before the election that we faced wipeout. If I am wrong I will stand corrected.

    On the contrary, I can remember many upbeat and positive predictions about our prospects from many people in the party , including yourself and Willie, MSPs, our MP and former MPs in the media, and I sure those who follow comments on Lib-Dem voice will recall them here too.

    I fear that saying that we were headed for wipeout and that we did much better than expected is simply another example of the double-speak which is holding the party back from making real progress and which also provides ammunition to those who say the party cannot be trusted to tell the truth on more important issues, if it cannot even ensure that it is consistent and honest about its own self.

    Now we have a new team of party spokespeople I hope they will understand that what needs to be said to boost the morale of party activists between and during election campaigns, and to regain the trust of the general public, is not exaggerated claims or endless press releases aimed at making a headline, but well thought out policy based on the principles and ideals which we believe in. Policies which can stand up or scrutiny and can inspire those who have stopped voting Lib-Dem to think again and hopefully return to the fold.

    Good luck to Willie Rennie and his new team, as they have a a lot of hard work in front of them in the year ahead. Hopefully by next May at the Scottish Council elections, we will see some positive results.

  • Denis Mollison and Ian Sanderson are both right, and like Denis I am very sorry Jim Hume didn’t get back in again.

    One thing not been mentioned is the impact of the Green Party. From what I hear they took a significant proportion of the radical Lib Dem vote amongst those unhappy about the Westminster Coalition. This is an area that Willie could well do to address when he reviews future policy. The pro fracking vote at Conference was an embarrassment.

    There was also a squeeze on the Lib Dem vote where some folk voted Tory or Labour in a particular constituency to keep the SNP out.

  • Richard Clein 30th May '16 - 4:53pm

    Not my title Nick and not sure what you are inferring. For the record my title was “Clowning around – Liverpool’s political circus is back in town”. I hope this thread has tempted Andrew Page to take out a subscription to our esteemed organ.

  • Caron – “if you had told me 6 months ago that we’d still have five MSPs and that we’d gain two constituency seats from the SNP, I’d have laughed at you.”

    Maybe. But mid campaign you were saying “I think it is reasonable to think that it is possible for us to send a bigger contingent to Holyrood than we currently have.” So clearly you changed that opinion and were expecting better results than the actuality.

  • John Barrett 30th May '16 - 8:31pm

    I can clearly recall Caron, Willie, sitting MSPs our one MP and former MPs all predicting good results. Not one of them predicted a wipeout and if Caron can show me where she or any other party spokesperson said we faced “a wipeout” I will stand corrected.

    Making out that remaining at 5 MSPs is so much better than what was expected does not wash with anyone who has looked at the results. Willie Rennie went from being a list MSP in Fife to a constituency MSP in Fife. Those who claim this is a gain for the party should not be surprised when the public say they cannot trust what we say.

    There is much work to do by Willie and his new team of spokesmen and women and I would suggest that making sure what they say in public is honest and stands up to scrutiny. This is not the same a putting a spin on results to make poor results sound better than the actually are or downplaying expectations immediately after the results are in.

  • Gary Peacock 2nd Jun '16 - 1:10pm

    I very much agree with John. While it is great that enormous amounts of hard work in Edinburgh Western produced a wonderful result and Fife North East was also encouraging we started with 5 seats and ended with 5. That is not progress but holding steady even if constituency wins give hope for future Westminster elections. As someone who has moved recently from a strong Lib Dem area (Edinburgh) to a weak one (Galloway and West Dumfries) – one of 58 constituencies I believe in Scotland where we lost our deposit – it is hard not to think that in very large parts of Scotland the party is irrelevant and we need to find a distinctive social liberal message which will appeal to a wider number of people. Simply delivering loads of leaflets and winning back a few seats we used to hold comfortably will mean very slow progress. We have to aim for a wider appeal that will win us list seats in areas like South Scotland where the loss of Jim Hume is a major blow to our credibility and also any activism. The coalition will take some time to recover from but I hope for better times ahead and I wish the new team well in getting a disticitive message out.

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