New year, new us?

As we come into 2018, surely it is time for our party to regroup and to push forward in the fight to renew our place in British politics.

A quick glance of the progressive press and you’d think the Lib Dems were about to collapse. Apparently we have come through this year, bruised and battered, only to find an entire lack of real resurgence under our new party leader in Vince Cable. Supposedly, our polls are at around 7%, and most of our MPs have slim and fading majorities. Unfortunately, an ex-leader is now embroiled in speculation over a knighthood which, deserved or not, has prompted more conversation about promises forgotten and failings foretold.

And yet there is hope, real hope, that if energy and commitment are driven in the right direction, our party has a genuine chance of becoming a powerful, and very necessary voice in the fight against the insidious face of populist politics. It is my firm belief that we see before us an incredible opportunity – the gap in British politics for a real progressive voice is vast and needs filling. This is our party’s chance to stand tall and present voters with a choice of calm and rational, liberal and progressive politics – that would ultimately stem the tide of decline and of difficulty that our country faces.

The time is nigh for a re-think of strategy. As one staffer recently put it, “are we a Charles Kennedy-catch-all opposition party or are we the SDP, an adjunct to another party? Are we first and foremost an anti-Brexit party, or not? I don’t know the answers to these questions”. 

But in reality, the answers are staring us in the face. There is a reason why membership of our party has risen above 100,000. It is because people want to see what the Lib Dems offer, on a wider scale. With strong leadership, with youthful conviction and with passion, it is time for us to stand up and speak out. There are so many people in Britain that are crying out for a firm voice of progression, and it is time we offered them it. We need more dynamism and more belief in what we stand for. We need to offer voters conviction, not confusion. That is why it is my opinion that the leadership must now set out a clear platform for voters to see. One that is not consumed by the ‘B-word’ but that offers choices on all major issues. We are not just the anti-brexit party; we need real policies that present choice in all major areas, and we need energy and passion to drive these forward. Britain stands on the verge of a major societal shift – we need to be ahead of this, driving it.

The turn of a new year presents a unique opportunity to launch an agenda, and to reinvigorate our party. New year – new us. Let’s get to work.

* Henry Madell joined the Liberal Democrats in 2016

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Katharine Pindar 29th Dec '17 - 10:56am

    Excellent piece, Henry. Yes, there is hope that with our conviction, thoughtfulness and energy, we can be seen as the progressive voice of British politics, and help drive our country forward. Young and old, we will work together and prove up to the task.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Dec '17 - 11:20am

    Perhaps we could make a prominent point of being and being known as the party which presents the most accurate and objective information on matters of importance, whether or not that information is or is not comfortable or fashionable. Theory and style are better built on proximity to reality.

  • Now is the time for new thinking and fresh ideas.

  • paul barker 29th Dec '17 - 1:18pm

    This optimism is to be welcomed, we are too good at talking ourselves down.
    In fact while we havent yet seen any significant improvement in our National Polling we have seen massive gains in Vote Share at the Local level. Currently, I estimate that we are getting 21% in Local Byelections & that share has been rising by around 2.5% a Month. Theres no guarantee that improvement will continue of course but we do have real grounds for hope.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Dec '17 - 1:24pm

    The commentaries also say that Nick Clegg does not want a peerage and that a parliamentary candidate has been chosen for Sheffield Hallam, good luck to her.
    We wait to see what David Cameron will do. Does he, or his wife, have a claim on an extinct peerage? Is he waiting for progress on a smaller House of Lords? or is he dependent on the goodwill of Theresa May? If he accepts a peerage would he become Deputy Prime Minister? Margaret Thatcher said of Willie Whitelaw that “Everyone needs a Willie” and giving him an hereditary peerage, (although he had daughters) and another for the former Speaker of the House of Commons (although he had no heirs). It might be thought by some that his role as an export salesman would be enhanced, although he might also benefit from further study of languages, (by total immersion at the Foreign Office).

  • paul holmes 29th Dec '17 - 1:30pm

    We should be a strong and vibrant Social Liberal Party on the lines that hit three successive record best General Elections under first Paddy Ashdown and then Charles Kennedy.

    I am pleased that there are signs, since Vince became Leader, that we are moving back in that direction. Excellent policy announcements on Social Housing (Wera Hobhouse) Education (Layla Moran) and Welfare assessment (Stephen Lloyd) being 3 separate examples from 3 excellent MP’s of that process starting. William Wallace’s writing on tax here on Lib Dem Voice being another example.

    It is going to be a long haul to repair the appalling damage of recent years but at last we seem to be serious about starting that long haul.

  • Well said, Henry. Local government elections will take place in London on 3 May 2018.
    All London borough councillor seats are up for election. Mayoral contests will also be held in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets.
    Labour made a number of gains in 2014 including taking the Tory-led councils of Hammersmith and Fulham, and Croydon. They took 11 seats from the Conservatives to control Hammersmith for the first time since 2006. Labour also gained Merton and Redbridge Councils.

    The Tories won Kingston Council from us, while holding Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Bexley, Westminster, Bromley, Richmond and Kensington and Chelsea.
    Redbridge, which was controlled by a Tory and Lib Dem coalition, came under Labour control for the first time.

    In Harrow, Labour regained control of the council and held Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Lambeth, Newham, Southwark and Waltham Forest, while in Merton it gained control where previously no party was in overall control.

    The Liberal Democrats held Sutton. We lost 15 seats in Brent leaving us with just one councillor.
    In the elections for a directly-elected mayor, Labour won Newham, Hackney and Lewisham., and also won the 2015 by-election in Tower Hamlets.
    The London elections, just 4 months away, will be a good test of how we fare in both Tory and labour facing seats at the local level.

  • OnceALibDem 29th Dec '17 - 3:39pm

    Grasp, I beseech you, with both hands the opportunities that are offered. Let us assume a bold front and go forward together. Let us carry the fight against ignorance to the four corners of the earth because it is a fight which concerns us all.

  • Tony Greaves 29th Dec '17 - 5:36pm

    “a firm voice of progression” – I may be a bit dim but what on earth does this mean?

    And by the way, we are a democratic party and the “platform” is not just set by the leader.

    This is not to say that things do not need to change.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Dec '17 - 2:55am

    Lord Greaves

    I think it means a firm progressive voice, in individual or modern parlance.

    I am two and a half decades younger than you but understand that , shall we say, language evolves.

    In which case we should begin posts with so, rather like Jo Swinson CBE does often.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Dec '17 - 2:57am

    And Tony, you are many things , not all of which do I agree with but do respect, dim is not one of them.

    Though I do agree with David Raw, be careful, some, though few today, Guardian staff rather good yet…

  • I agree it is an opportunity though by doing what and how is not as clear. Just sticking to our guns does not seem sufficient. We must captivate the media with some new idea(s).
    I saw Vince on Sky News last night and he came across as, as usual speaking sense and answering the questions put. We need more passion. We can win the intellectual argument and still lose the war. Though not in favour of negative politics pointing out the failings of the other two Parties might help.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Dec '17 - 12:36pm

    Lorenzo, you are right, we have a firm, progressive voice. We believe in always moving forward, for ourselves and for the country. So our anti-Brexit stance is never static, but ties in with our plans for improvements and advances, here and in the EU.

    Fortunately we do not have and therefore do not have a need to cover up deep internal divisions with ambiguity and stalling, as in the two big parties, where any progress is limited by their need to keep important groups with very different agendas on board. This is a strength our party has which they cannot have. Another strength is that our older members continue to have conviction and passion, while newer members, whatever their age, can bring new thinking and fresh energy to the cause. We can look forward to the New Year therefore with hope, optimism and enjoyment.

  • Dave Orbison 30th Dec '17 - 4:53pm

    Katherine Pindar “Fortunately we do not have and therefore do not have a need to cover up deep internal divisions with ambiguity and stalling, as in the two big parties”

    Ah so the debate on here between those who support the Orange-bookers vs Social Liberals and those who stand by the Coalition vs those who are against were a figment of my imagination?

    As for the thrust of the article, I think Peter Hirst captures the issue neatly. “I agree it is an opportunity though by doing what and how is not as clear.”

    The party seems to be going round in ever decreasing circles.

  • Peter Martin 30th Dec '17 - 5:54pm

    @ Katharine,

    “where any progress is limited by their need to keep important groups with very different agendas on board”.

    Your uncompromising stance against Brexit is brave. But one “important group” with a “very different agenda”, you should perhaps at least think about, is your more leave inclined West Country Liberal support. Or maybe former support? Are you happy to just let them go?

    And have you prepared a position for the possibility, that after we’ve left, the only way back to the EU will be to commit to the euro and accept Schengen? Is an uncompromising stance on rejoining likely to have widespread electoral appeal?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Dec '17 - 6:18pm

    Katharine, terrific positive comments, missed you here pre Christmas , was not on much, so trust you’re ok, happy hols etc.

    We need this approach , though it is not surprising to be down too.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Dec '17 - 6:58pm

    @ Dave O. – hi, Dave. It seems to me that the Orange Bookers have been put to bed (perhaps with a good book?!) and prevalent economic vision in the party is developing without controversy. You are certainly mistaken in thinking there is a big divide between ‘those who stand by the Coalition vs. those who are against’ ; rather, it is a matter of degree how far members deplore the actions taken there, in which all agree mistakes were made and good intentions fell on stony ground, and how far it still needs to be gone over and apologised for – which latter view I think is not predominant.

    @ Peter M. Hello again, Peter! Since I myself spent a few days during the Election campaign assisting Nick Harvey in North Devon and then Andrew George in St Ives (where I recruited the non-political friend I was staying with to assist him!), I was left in no doubt about their different views, and am relaxed about it, hoping to assist there again in future. They are winning council seats again in North Devon, and Nick Harvey is now our very welcome Chief Executive, so I see no deep divides still to be bridged. As for the years after Brexit, if we are so misguided as to leave, of course we will be no more prepared to join the Euro and Schengen, than we are now prepared to join the United States of Europe that you think is their only way forward. May I gently remind you of the rifts and divisions between EU states already? The EU itself is like a living organism subject to change, and may be quite different from how it is now in future years.

  • Dave Orbison 30th Dec '17 - 7:10pm

    Hi Katherine – I hope you are right about the Orange-bookers though I do not share you optimism.

    As for the view of the Coalition- in a previous comment you emphasised the need to be outward looking on this matter. I agree. But that is where the crucial difference lies between us on the issue of the Coalition. It matters little as to what LibDems say internally about the Coalition but what they say publicly DOES make a difference to voters. So far the leadership under Tim Farron and Vince Cable have blown hot and cold over the record of the Coalition. So long as the leadership keeps defending it, it will continue to be a problem though it’s true to say this will diminish in time. But how many years are you prepared to wait?

  • Peter Martin 30th Dec '17 - 9:46pm

    Hi again Katharine and Happy New Year,

    The EU has had a strange effect on politics everywhere.
    In most EU countries, the main parties of left and right used to alternate in government rather like Labour and Conservative in the UK. Today none of them have anywhere near the same power as in pre euro days. In Spain, the People’s Party leads a unstable minority coalition which struggles along in the absence of any coherent alternative. In Germany and the Netherlands no majority coalition has formed, whereas in Greece the two main parties were swept away by Syriza who have since wilted themselves in the face of detremined EU pressure. New Democracy has therefore recovered to second place. But Pasok, the sister party of UK’s Labour, barely rates in the polls. In France both main parties were demolished by popular discontent. Macron’s new movement in Parliamentary elections is an attempt to start with a clean slate. It’s been a panic measure by the French establishment to keep out the National Front. Neither former main party had a candidate in the second round.

    The underlying problem is the EU and Euro induced economic policy. The traditional parties in each country are firmly wedded to the EU and the needs of the Euro currency. The policies do not work out at all well economically for most people. It is no surprise that frustrated voters decide to challenge the orthodoxy by voting for a non establishment party which is usually explicitly Eurosceptic. Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France and Grillo in Italy are hostile to the Euro scheme. The Austrian Freedom party is hostile to EU migration policies, as is the National front in France, the Freedom movement in the Netherlands and AFD in Germany.

  • Peter Martin 30th Dec '17 - 9:50pm


    So the Lib Dems really need to be careful about hitching their wagon to the EU totally and unconditionally. Despite recent claims that the euro crisis is behind us, I don’t think we’ve seen the half of it yet. The banks in Southern Europe are often referred to as Zombies because of the high number of non performing loans there. The financial situation is ultra fragile and is only appearing to work because, and against all rules to the contrary, the ECB props up the system with huge amounts of QE. The Germans under the CDU have shown increasing impatience with the debtor countries of the south. They’ve been keen to wind up the QE program. This will be accelerated in the AfD have to be somehow appeased. The net result is likely to be an abrupt discontinuation of the life support provided by the ECB. The right wing ordoliberals will claim that rules are rules and that everything would work fine if only they were obeyed. They won’t as we will all see for sure in the next few years.

  • Katharine Pindar 31st Dec '17 - 1:11am

    Good discussion, thanks, chaps, I’d better try and reply just now, being otherwise engaged on Sunday mornings. Lorenzo, great to hear from you, and so pleasantly – I hope you haven’t been down yourself (as I was briefly just before Christmas, though sustained by our good friend David R.) but are having a cheery and uplifting festive season.

    Dave O. (Katharine with an ‘a’ in the middle, please, Dave) – hi again. I would have thought that for the leaders to ‘blow hot and cold’ about the Coalition record, if that’s what you think they have been doing, is in fact quite reasonable, since it had its upsides as well as its downsides. I remember an old hand, I think Mick Taylor, summarising it quite well, commenting here not long ago on the naivety shown and how we failed to get our own story across. And I don’t think myself the general public broods on the failures as much as we do.

    Peter, I don’t think I’ll be allowed the space to reply at length to your well-informed comments, at least for now, and anyway I have no special knowledge. But I think you are describing an EU in a state of flux with competing forces of left and right, and with populism struggling with conservatism, while the French government is novel and different. There are checks and balances, and I imagine the stronger states in conjunction with the Commission will ensure, economically and politically, sufficient stability. Very interesting, and I hope we can put our oar in before long.

    Meantime, a happy New Year to you all three, and to your families.

  • Graham Evans 31st Dec '17 - 8:26am

    @ Peter Martin. With the exception of France, all the countries you mention have some form of PR so it is much easier for protest parties to establish a foothold in parliament. Even France, with its system of second round voting, makes it easier for an anti-establishment figure to get elected. Moreover the problems which these countries experience are merely a symptom of the deeper problems associated with globalisation. It is also significant that a clear majority of voters on all these countries still support membership of the EU despite criticism of individual policies. Bodies like the UN and Commonwealth are well intentioned, but for a middle sized nation like the UK it is only through membership of a body like the EU with a degree of supranational authority that we can confront the power of global corporations.

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '17 - 10:13am

    @ Graham Evans,

    it is only through membership of a body like the EU with a degree of supranational authority that we can confront the power of global corporations.

    This is an important point and is very much the conventional wisdom of current leftish and progressive thinking. But like all conventional wisdoms it could be wrong and need challenging. The multinationals are very good at working the system in the EU. They’ll happily play one country off against another to get the best deal. For instance eBay is HQ’d in Luxembourg where the rate of Corporation tax is lower than anywhere else. If that changed, eBay would simply move and their EU business would be unaffected.

    Ireland was instructed by the EU to bail out their failed banks after the 2008 GFC, whereas little Iceland (pop 300,000 or so) refused and incurred the wrath of the EU as a result.

    The power of a truly independent nation state, even one as small as Iceland, shouldn’t be underestimated. It can make and change laws. Corporations have to comply. The state has a police force, tax inspectors and ultimately an army. Corporations don’t. They either have to toe the line or do no business at all in that state.

  • Dave Orbison 31st Dec '17 - 12:43pm

    Katharine I found the ‘a’ my spellcheck had lost.

    You say that you don’t think the public broods about the failures of the Coalition as much as LibDem members. I think it’s quite the opposite. The public have a decidedly negative view of the Coalition and are irked when LibDems try and tell them they are wrong.

    As in any Government there is good and bad but in the end the voter comes down on one side or the other, whatever the political make up of the Government.

    When LibDems talk-up the ‘achievements’ of the Coalition it just seems like a mix of arrogance an a lack of empathy with the many suffering from the effects of austerity by the party. It is as if the party does not want to listen to voters. I’d suggest the 2017 GE results provided sufficient confirmation of this.

  • Graham Evans 31st Dec '17 - 7:04pm

    @ Peter Martin. You seem to have fallen for the Brexiteers’ claim that most of our laws are made by the EU. If this were indeed the case, then for the past forty years we have clearly been wasting money paying MPs’ and ministers’ salaries. However even from the off you acknowledge that EU member states have wide discretion in setting tax rates. And it is precisely because of this freedom that, in or out of the EU, multinational corporations can play one state off against another. However, albeit slowly, because of the reluctance of some governments to pool national sovereignty, the EU is beginning to use its muscle to offset the power of the corporations.

    Incidentally, you paint a rather misleading picture of what happened to Iceland during the banking crisis. There was no way in which little Iceland could meet its obligations to bail out private bank customers, so the British and Dutch governments stepped in to provide support. However Iceland was not able to simply default on its obligations, the subsequently the Icelandic government fell because it had been obliged to accept the terms of the bail out imposed by the British and Dutch governments.

  • Katharine Pindar 31st Dec '17 - 7:17pm

    Graham Evans/ Peter Martin. On reading your comments it seems to me that Graham’s point about the need for some degree of supra-national authority in dealing with global economic powers holds up, despite the limitations you describe, Peter. Moreover, the fact that most of the states have some form of voting PR, as Graham points out (as of course we wish to have in Britain also) leads to diverse parties having some say in state governments, and perhaps therefore there is more reason for delegated central authority to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. This is a new idea to me, but I think for instance of M. Barnier, once instructed in his role as chief negotiator, having been given freedom to speak for the 27 states.

    Perhaps though the democratic balance ( in the wider context) would be better served by the Parliament having more powers? The British Executive has been restrained this year by our own Parliament, after a considerable struggle. I suppose these questions will be played out in the EU in the context of holding back the USE proposal, whatever its economic efficiency may be.

    We should not forget that the migration crisis has perhaps appeared a more pressing problem than globalisation to the EU in 2016-17.

  • Katharine Pindar 31st Dec '17 - 8:14pm

    @ Dave Orbison. Well, Dave, I can’t say I have noticed much talking up ‘the achievements of the Coalition’ among Lib Dem members, but I have noticed concern for the effects of austerity, for instance in the motions passed at the Federal Conferences, as well as in talking to and hearing from other members. I don’t know whence you have got this idea of our supposed arrogance and lack of empathy, unless it is some perhaps subconscious wish of yours to deny our social-democratic heart.

    I associate you with legitimate objection to some of the more strident comments on Jeremy Corbyn aired in these columns, but yet when it came to the two Manifestos, ours offered greater reversal of welfare cuts than yours, according to (for example) Michael BG’s analysis, while yours seemed more concerned with placating the educated middle-class. Nonetheless, your leader showed great concern for the mass of the people, to his credit, and won many more to your cause than the excited students. I think the GE result, however, had more to do with the contrasts of the two leading figures and their very different agendas than any disgust with us, helped by the unreformed voting system and also the careful ambiguity of your party about Brexit, which I hold deplorable.

    We Lib Dems have an overall concern and care for individual people of all classes, and feel deeply about increasing inequality which most afflicts the poorest and most vulnerable of our society. I believe British people recognise our sincerity, so that our author here, Henry, is justified in his hope and optimism.

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '17 - 9:47pm

    @ Graham Evans,

    It’s probably more that the EU prevent us making laws we’d like to make rather than impose laws on us we don’t like. The problem is our Treaty obligations.

    It would have been far worse if we’d signed up to the euro. We’d have had to sign up to the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact too and would almost certainly have fallen foul of it. Spain and Portugal were fined €360m for slightly exceeding the 3% limit for Govt Deficits. Goodness knows what we would have been fined for our much higher ‘transgressions’. Would it have been any use Spain and Portugal passing a law advising that the EU should get stuffed?

    The fundamental differences between the Eurozone nations and Iceland are:

    (a) Iceland issues its own currency while the other nations use a foreign currency;
    (b) Iceland enjoys a floating exchange rate;
    (c) Iceland sets its own interest rate.

    These are the characteristics that differentiate sovereign from non-sovereign nations in terms of the currency in use. Iceland has experienced a massive gain in its international competitiveness in recent years with far less austerity. Iceland has also jailed bankers for financial crimes.

  • Graham Evans 31st Dec '17 - 11:01pm

    @Peter Martin. Despite being a member of the EU, the UK issues its own currency, “enjoys” a floating exchange rate and sets its own interest rate, so on these key economic issues it is no different than Iceland. Indeed the only significant economic issue on which it has more freedom than the UK is in respect of fishing, but given the historic importance of this industry to Iceland it is not surprising that it has opted by partial membership of the single market and opted out of the customs union (though it does have to adhere to the “rules of origin” determined by the full EU members. As for jailing bankers, that has nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with a failure of British governments to provide the financial resources to police and prosecute financial crime.

    In terms of the policing of the Stability & Growth Pact, you would have been on stronger grounds were you to have criticised the inconsistency of applying sanctions to states exceeding the 3% criterium, because both Germany and France have in the past exceeded the criterium but with no sanctions imposed upon them. The reality is that the big economies which contribute most to the EU budget can get away with breaking the rules, and had the UK been a member of the Eurozone it too could probably have escaped without sanction.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jan '18 - 1:09am

    @ Graham Evans,

    You’re right, of course, that the UK has its own floating currency and sets its own interest rates etc. If all the other EU countries had done likewise, the EU would work much better than it does and probably would be worth staying a part of. Instead we have 19 countries sharing a single currency and the rest have pegged their currency to the euro and nearly all are preparing to adopt the euro themselves.

    The rules of the Stability and Growth Pact induce a tendency to recession in most countries. Only in the strongest economies, like Germany, can a mercantilist policy be operated, which ensures a large net export surplus, and therfore insulates them from that. They, in effect, export their unemployment problem. So we have ended up in trading bloc composed of large net exporters or countries in severe recession. This isn’t good for UK exporters. So it’s no surprise we end up with a large net trading deficit with the EU. Unlike the ROW where our trade is approximately in balance.

    This deficit has to be funded by someone in the UK borrowing. The Govt has made it pretty clear that it doesn’t want to do the borrowing itself so we’ve seen austerity measures imposed here too. We are better off by not using the euro but we aren’t totally isolated from its problems.

    The Brexit vote was highest where the effects of austerity were highest. Not surprisingly this also translates into the Brexit vote being highest where the number of immigrants wasn’t the highest. Why would immigrants settle in the more depressed areas? They could have stayed at home in the sunshine and had that. So the vote for Brexit wasn’t so much about immigration as a protest against austerity. An austerity in large part caused by the economic failure of the EU.

    You may or may not be right about the UK avoiding EU fines. They are intrinsically evil whether or not. They are really no different from fining a poor family which is having trouble paying the bills and runs into too much debt. And we are looking to the EU which imposes these fines to protect us from the multinational corporations? Come on. Get real. The fines, though, probably aren’t the worst of it. The austerity, the threat of the fines causes, reduces the GDP of struggling economies by at least the same amount. If the EU ever find out otherwise they’ll just increase the penalties.

  • Graham Evans 1st Jan '18 - 4:11pm

    @ Peter Martin I actually agree with you that creation of the Euro was premature. Moreover admission should have been subject to stricter criteria, and caused unnecessary damage to the weaker economies in the Eurozone, made worse by the mercantile policies of Germany. However our problems are self made and only related to the problems of the Eurozone in that as our largest market by far if the Eurozone countries do not thrive, we cannot avoid being affected. However, that is true whether we are a member or not of the EU. The problems of Leaver voting areas have little to do with the EU but are the result of an accumulation of policy decisions made by successive British governments over decades. That will not change as a result of the UK leaving the EU, and indeed these parts of the country will suffer most, particularly if the UK aspires to become a second Singapore writ large as many Brexiteers believe we should. (Incidentally the idea that we should become a second Iceland is even more bizarre.)

  • Peter Martin 1st Jan '18 - 8:56pm

    @Graham Evans,

    You are right that we can’t avoid being affected by the EU’s problems even if we’re out. But even most of those who voted Remain are only half hearted “Europeans” in the sense that they don’t want to be a part of the eurozone and they don’t want Schengen. Many have advocated staying in the EU just to be able veto any moves the UK might disapprove of – especially if they are in the direction of “ever closer union”. I can’t see the point of that. This half-in half-out approach isn’t good for us and it isn’t good for the EU.

    A “second Iceland” ? Who suggested that? Their population is tiny but they have a high standard of living without being beholden to a larger economy. We don’t have to be part of a huge super state to do well economically. I would have thought that
    Lib Dems might be naturally of that opinion themselves. It’s only the creation of the euro that’s made it necessary. Economically, the creators of the euro didn’t fully appreciate what they were doing, but politically they did. It was all about creating a U.S.E and nothing to do with making life more convenient for those who lived near or wanted to travel across national borders.

    We should either choose to join in enthusiastically with all that or stand aside and let them get on with their project without us.

  • Neil Sandison 4th Jan '18 - 2:47pm

    There is more than enough space in politics to build a modern social liberal movement .i believe that is our challenge as Liberal Democrats it is interesting to note a recent breakdown of social mores should more British people fell into the social liberal spectrum than the social conservative spectrum .So lets recapture some of those issues liberalism led upon ,education,housing,welfare reform , health and social care reform ,civil liberties and human rights . We can deliver a more palatable menu than state socialism or free market ideology .

  • Simon Banks 1st Mar '18 - 4:12pm

    Are we a catch-all or are we the SDP? Easy. No.

    We stand for individual and community empowerment, freedom and a fairer society. Someone thinks we can’t have all those, that their incompatible? Then why can countries like Russia or Turkey have none of them?

    Our failure is to translate principles into two or three headline policies which are different from what the other parties are offering and express our identity rather than just being clever fixes.

  • Simon Banks 1st Mar '18 - 4:13pm

    “they’re” not “their”. Was that spellcheck or the mulled wine to blame?

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