No Progressive Alliance please, we’re Liberals!

Recently there has been much talk of abandoning our principles and going in with the Greens and the Labour Party. Now my stance on this doesn’t come from some sort of archetypal hatred of them. In fact many of my friends belong to the Labour and Green movements. I have fond memories of standing side by side in Peterborough handing out leaflets and speaking to people about why we thought it was best to remain. I still keep cordial relations with the Greens and the Labour moderates. We campaign for Open Britain together and there is a lot to be said for cross party cooperation in this sense. Logic dictates when you believe in a common cause you should work as a team to achieve this.

However, the common cause on Europe is not a plan for government. We radically differ on policy with the Greens with regards to economic policy. With Labour, our Social Democratic wing undoubtedly has significant overlaps with the Labour moderate wing. However for every similarity there is a difference. I cannot honestly stand for election on a manifesto I disagree with, this is what would happen with the so called progressive alliance.

Progressivism is a broad philosophy based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition.

As we see with this definition the cause of progressivism spans a number of elements. Some in the Labour Party wish to see us back to the 1970’s in economic development and the Greens seem obsessed with a tax and spend culture. I would argue that the free market can solve some of these problems and an alliance with the left now wouldn’t necessarily deliver a better Britain.

My last point is not about the principle or the policy differences between the left and centre, nor is it about the personalities of the Green or Labour leadership. I wish to make this point very clearly. It is electorally disastrous, if you think that we should stand down in favour of the Greens or Labour then you should look at what the Tories are targeting us with. “The Coalition of Chaos” springs to mind, in openly mooting the idea we are playing into Conservative Party hands. If you forgive the football analogy, our team has literally walked off the pitch and given them the game if we do this.

Therefore, as one Liberal to another, don’t work for Theresa May. Pull together and work for Lib Dem gains on June 8th, it’s the only way we can get a truly progressive Britain.

* Callum Robertson is the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Essex.

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89 Comments

  • Well said

  • No more Tory coalition also, led by May or anyone else, moderate or far right alike. I don’t want to see Libdem becoming a bunch of Tory stooges like during the last Coalition.

  • Ashley Cartman 2nd May '17 - 2:54pm

    @Callum – here in Somerset we are hearing that UKIP are standing stand down their candidates in constituencies the Conservatives gained from the Lib Dems in 2015 (Wells, Yeovil, and Somerton I believe).

    Their aim is undoubtedly tactical to try and give the Conservatives a ‘clear run’ in seats that would otherwise be good Lib Dem targets.

    Although I agree with much of what you say I’m interested to know how you think we should respond given a ‘non-progressive alliance’ is forming against us in some areas.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd May '17 - 3:28pm

    Callum

    Very sensible , we need to change the system.

    Whoever delivers PR can then talk alliances .

    That would only be those , such as Peter Hain, the excellent ex- Liberal, Graham Allen the excellent mp local to me in Nottingham, standing down, and like minded in Labour .

    The Tories have few for it .

    Their raison d’etre is survival and staying in government.

  • Paul Pettinger 2nd May '17 - 4:06pm

    1) There’s a regressive alliance in place already. UKIP isn’t fielding candidates against pro-Brexit Conservatives. We either fight fire with fire, or should accept that the 21st Century will be as dominated by Conservative rule as was the 20th Century.

    2) The Liberal Democrats cannot alternate between supporting Governments of the left or right, but should pick a side. This is a key lesson for liberal parties from the multi-party systems Lib Dems support.

    3) Voters with a liberal outlook tend to be left leaning. Any new party or bloc of parties for remain will similarly lean leftwards, given the left leaning preference of remain voters. We need to make greater accommodation with the left.

    4) We know a progressive alliance can work, and not just thanks to the Richmond Park by-election. The greatest periods of success for progressives over the last 100 years all involved some degree of cross party collaboration (1906, 1945 and 1997).

    5) As long as progressive parties are estranged from one another, the Tories will always be able to play on the perceived disunity to present themselves as the providers of secure and stable Government. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

    6) We should not focus on our dislike of other parties over our dislike of a lack of Lib Dem influence. The Tories won’t ever give us PR. Labour has the much better record and more people in Labour are recognising a need to change the electoral system.

    7) Forming a progressive alliance with Labour right now – when it’s unpopular leadership is against a progressive alliance, fighting to stay in the single market and proportional representation – isn’t going to work. The debate right now is on a rebel alliance, and forging arrangements between local parties and individual candidates, where they are sufficiently progressive.

  • paul barker 2nd May '17 - 4:16pm

    Negotiating deals with other Parties is hard, making deals with individuals or rebel factions is impossible. If they keep their word they will be expelled from their own Parties so they wont keep their word. If they are already thinking of leaving their Party then suggest they should join us, now, not the 12th of Never.

  • Tom Papworth 2nd May '17 - 4:32pm

    Well said, Callum.

    What you could have added was that, while Lib Dems are standing down in Brighton Pavillion, helping the Greens re-elect their one MP, they are nonetheless standing in many of our held and target constituencies, helping reduce Lib Dem representation in parliament.

    There is very real possibility that in Richmond Park the Greens will siphon off just enough of Sarah Olney’s support that Zac Goldsmith will make a comeback. That’s about as regressive an outcome as one can possibly imagine.

  • Paul Pettinger 2nd May '17 - 4:43pm

    @Paul Barber: Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds urged that Labour did not stand in the Richmond by-election: http://labourlist.org/2016/10/lewis-nandy-and-reynolds-lets-make-this-a-referendum-on-goldsmith-not-heathrow/. They didn’t get expelled! Their call helped contribute towards recreating the conditions where we could win back the seat by leading a non-conservative bloc of voters to victory. Labour ended up with fewer votes than they had members living in constituency.

    Short of standing down candidates might also include tactical voting and non-aggression pacts.

  • Well said Callum.

    Given Labour policy on Brexit, and Green economic policy, joining with them would represent an illiberal Regressive Alliance.

  • Roger Billins 2nd May '17 - 4:52pm

    with our polling slipping backwards to between 8-10% we need all the help we can get !

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '17 - 4:53pm

    Callum Robertson

    the Greens seem obsessed with a tax and spend culture.

    We have had 38 years of governments that have had an objective of pushing away from that. Is it really so wrong to suggest we could move back that way a bit?

    I would argue that the free market can solve some of these problems

    We have had 38 years of government that have supposed the free market is the solution to all our problems, it’s like magic powder, wave it around and it solves everything. Only it hasn’t, has it? People’s unhappiness with where that has got us was a major contributing factor to why so many voted Leave. Leaving the EU won’t actually solve the problems, but people were persuaded by the Leave campaign saying it was all about “getting back control” that it would.

    and an alliance with the left now wouldn’t necessarily deliver a better Britain.

    I don’t think saying “we too” to the Conservatives far-right economic policies will necessarily deliver a better Britain either.

  • Nick Collins 2nd May '17 - 4:54pm

    I asked this question on another thread, but no-one answered, so I ask it again here:-what is going on in South West Surrey?

    Perhaps The Voice should invite someone from that constituency to write a piece to explain.

  • Callum Robertson………..Recently there has been much talk of abandoning our principles and going in with the Greens and the Labour Party………………

    Why make comments like “Abandoning our principles”; no-one is talking about that now (i hope we’ve learned the folly of that after 2010-15). However, May has called this election with the sole purpose of claiming an enhanced majority will give her carte blanche for HER Brexit…Do you seriously believe that, by dividing opposition votes, we can prevent that?
    Leaders say, “No Alliance”; it’s what they do….Tim pointed out his ‘EU scepticism” to Marr; how is that much different than Corbyn’s 7/10 in favour of remaining?

    THE greatest danger this country faces is a ‘Brexit’ led by May, Fox and Davis (with the odd mumble from Johnson)..If we can’t put sending a message that “Brexit means Brexit” is not acceptable, above party politics then this June will herald a bigger disaster than last June’s..

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '17 - 4:56pm

    There would be no need for any sort of electoral alliance if we had the Alternative Vote system. So why haven’t we got the Alternative Vote system?

  • why haven’t we got the Alternative Vote system

    Because the electorate don’t want it.

  • Paul Pettinger – Did you notice Clive Lewis writing in the Guardian the other day, calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, as though he had just invented the idea? Not a mention of the fact that we have been campaigning on it for 9 months – in the teeth of Labour opposition. He made no suggestion of Labour standing down in Tory/LD seats to help secure this objective. In fact he neglected to even mention us. Strange behaviour for someone who is truly interested in a progressive alliance, no?
    Callum is spot-on. I have been a member of this party since 1986, and it never ceases to amaze me how, time after time when an election starting gun is fired and we are faced with the chance/need to get our distinctive message across, some of us see this instead as a signal to start talking about linking up with other parties!
    Ashley Cartman – How do we combat the de facto Tory/UKIP alliance? Good question. We do what Labour, Greens and SNP/PC have done to us since 2010: we expose them! We NAIL UKIP to the Tories in every leaflet/speech/tweet. We talk about how UKIP and the Tory party are now indistinguishable – “look they are even standing down for each other”. In other words, we stop being so damned nice. (And we also stop scoring an own goal by talking about how we are basically the same as Corbyn so we may as well help him win a few seats).
    Now, where’s that bundle of blue letters….

  • Matthew/Dav – Another reason why we haven’t got an AV system is because Labour – that supposed bastion of progressive values – failed to deliver it. Not once but twice. (Once when they snubbed the Jenkins commission, and then again when we secured a referendum and they did nothing).

  • Arnold Kiel 2nd May '17 - 5:28pm

    Maybe this good thought should not have a name: alliance can easily be equated with coalition. It is less about creating some Alliance than preventing one: the alliance/coalition of archbrexiteers, the only true guarantee of chaos.

  • Nick Collins: seems to involve Labour and its internal politics, best ask Labour List?

  • Richard Underhill 2nd May '17 - 6:45pm

    Or the caggie handed cheese headed fopdoodle slumocking about? according to Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. But why criticise left handed people from Wisconsin even if they are indolent, clumsy and stupid? Such personal attacks are only effective if they are widely understood and have an underlying ring of truth about the UK’s top diplomat.

  • Tom & William, the Greens have not yet decided whether or not they will stand in Richmond. They have gone through the motions of selecting candidates, and will have a vote on it. I fully expect them to repeat their decision from late last year or make all of the Green Party talk of alliances look hollow. Apart from anything else, it’s apparent that Sarah Olney is now friends with both the local candidate, and Caroline Lucas, who we stood down for (with Sarah’s blessing).

    Reading the twitter feed of the local candidate, it looks like she is in favour, but they want to follow the correct process with the local party, and don’t want anyone making assumptions about what they’ll do. Local collaborations are supposed to be about putting country above party, but unfortunately, the delay in making/announcing that decision is at best confusing, and at worst making them look arrogant. They could undo the work that Lucas and other Greens are doing elsewhere in the country.

  • @ Callum “Recently there has been much talk of abandoning our principles and going in with the Greens and the Labour Party.”

    And what principles are being suggested as disposable ? And who suggested it ?

    The actualite is that this could have been said in 2010 – but with a different assignation.

    Personally I think Caroline Lucas is a good thing !!

  • Matt (Bristol) 2nd May '17 - 8:07pm

    I believe in a grass-roots democratic alliance of the left and centre (no caps) – among voters, not parties. It needs to be a silent conspiracy, not a press release, and certainly not a national initiative. It must be local and situational; devolved, not mandated (which, by the way, is very close to central liberal principles). It must not speak its name, or it will become attacked, misrepresented, sneered at and manipulated. But it exists and it must be nurtured.

  • UKIP have done this for donkeys years. Vote tactical! You have to use the system we have, not the one you wish we have. Just trust that Farron will have learned from previous mistakes.

  • I made several comments in the other thread which I won’t repeat. However, if we were to recognise that under the current system it is unlikely to ever elect a Lib Dem government then what are our options going forward? One option is to have a grassroot movement which allows finances and effort to be poured into key seats for each individual party who shares the idea of political reform to allow a more representative and better House. And if that helps stop a Hard Brexit and keeps the reigning government in check then all the better for it.

  • John Littler 2nd May '17 - 8:34pm

    Of course not everything on the progressive side will match across parties, that is why we are in different parties, but even inside parties there is a coalition of views sufficient to make the party large enough and broad enough to add up to the possibility of winning elections under that damned First Past the Post.

    If Labour had a mainstream competent leader, we should have had pre-election pact, especially if based on an agreement on PR voting. The LibDems and Labour are a better fit than the Greens, since the LibDems are usually stronger in non Labour Tory voting areas, whereas, the Greens are always stronger in predominantly Labour areas. This would suggest beating more Tories overall, which ought to be the aim against the strongest UK party.

    But even if there are differences, there is a lot in common and there are more parties on the centre left than on centre right to split the vote. Also, FPTP voting has to be overcome, which if one party stands down ( and the other reciprocates somewhere else), another should have a better chance than just a good second placed losing, which was what the SDP did nearly everywhere in 1983.

  • The current Labour leadership is anything but progressive so any alliance with them as the biggest party would not be…

  • Forget Brexit for a couple of weeks. Hammer the Greens into the ground AND most importantly:-

    “start talking policies that affect ordinary people and what we are going to do to make them realistic and enduring. I do not know much about what they are, if I do not then then the average voter probably knows nothing. It is not good enough and we deserve 7-8% again”.

  • John Littler 2nd May '17 - 8:40pm

    You don’t sacrifice your principles for a pre-election pact, you just tip the balance of unfairness inherent in the FPTP voting system somewhat towards yourself.

    There are Social Liberals and Orange Liberals in this party and many have a lot in common with Chuka Umuna or Liz Kendall in Labour or with Caroline Lucas of the Greens.

    There is nothing undemocratic about a party choosing not to stand somewhere. Parties always stand down somewhere, even if against the speaker, Jo Cox, the man in the White Suit, or in local government. If it saves and re-allocates resources and boosts overall chances, then do it.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd May '17 - 8:42pm

    But didn’t Tim Farron come out over the weekend as having some leanings for Brexit? Didn’t the electorate decisively reject PR? Are you suggesting Labour should have imposed it?

    And rather than the tag ‘Labour want to return to the 1970’s’, though infinitely better than the Tories returning us to the 1870’s, in the absence of any LibDem or Tory party policy announcements, what specific Labour Party policy announcement is so unacceptable to the LibDems, any ?

  • Christopher Haigh 2nd May '17 - 9:18pm

    Any constituency should have only on opposition party (excluding UKIP/BNP) standing against the over powerful Tories The party chosen should be based on a preliminary vote amongst registered opposition voters or the prior general election results.

  • Ruth Coleman-Taylor 2nd May '17 - 9:29pm

    A progressive alliance can only happen if there is a progressive party for us to ally with. There may be individual Labour candidates who have good progressive ideas and who personally oppose Brexit, but, as we have seen over the last few months, Labour MPs and Peers have followed their Party Whip and supported the Tory Government’s Brexit proposals.
    Standing down in favour of Labour would let down the huge number of people who oppose Brexit and for whom, in many constituencies, the Liberal Democrats are only anti-Brexit voice.

  • @Dave, admitting that the EU isn’t perfect isn’t ‘some leanings for Brexit’. As far as I can tell, Farron was and is very certain that the UK was and is better off in the EU, but would be better off if the EU could be improved.

    The UK has never had the option of PR. There was a referendum on the Alternative Vote vs First Past the Post, neither of which are proportional systems, with actual PR not being allowed on the ballot paper. Many rejected AV specifically because it wasn’t PR, fearing that accepting AV would make a proportional system harder to achieve. In many cases AV is less proportional than FPTP.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '17 - 9:36pm

    Dave Orbison

    Didn’t the electorate decisively reject PR?

    No, they didn’t.

    There was a referendum on the Alternative Vote system. That system is not proportional representation.

    The media interpreted it as a rejection of any form of electoral reform. However, one of the arguments used against AV was indeed that it was not proportional and can in some circumstances be less proportional than the current system. There would have been at least some people who voted No to AV on the grounds that it wasn’t proportional or wasn’t a big enough change to the current system.

    Whatever, I do take the point made by Dav that the people voted against AV because they didn’t want it. Fine, so let them have a system whereby their vote gets split and they get the candidate they least like elected. By voting “No” to AV, that’s what they said they want. Why should we deny what they want by standing candidates down to avoid that lovely split whereby by voting for the candidate you most want you end up helping to elect the candidate you least want.

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd May '17 - 9:46pm

    Fiona,

    Hear hear!

    Harking back to the AV referendum reminded me to look on the helpful policy guide on the Lib Dem website to see what our tuition fees and University policy is 7 years after the debacle. And I find the Omerta of the 2015 manifesto still reigns.
    Labour have pledged to abolish them. This is a big issue for students and graduates and we need a policy or we are going to do terribly again in the demographic most favourable to us on Brexit. Good article in the Guardian today supporting abolition.. (was that long-standing policy ever overturned by conference??)

  • Dave Orbison 2nd May '17 - 9:53pm

    Fiona – re Tim Farron and Brexit. It was he who announced on Marr he had some Brexit in him and referred to his resignation in 2008. If by saying this he meant that EU was not perfect I agree. But then I question why many here attacked Corbyn for being anti EU when he gave the EU 7/10. Double standards.

    Fiona, Matthew re AV is not PR. I take your point. Didn’t Nick Clegg have the job of managing the referendum? Whilst I appreciate electoral reform has been very dear to LibDems over the years I think to suggest the rejection of AV so decisively could not necessarily mean PR would not be rejected as being a bit fanciful. I just don’t sense a great appetite for this beyond those who campaign for it. I had once leaned in favour of PR but after my vote for LibDems translated into a Tory coalition and ditching of LibDem policies I would never go near it.

  • Peter Watson 2nd May '17 - 10:23pm

    @Andrew McCaig “Good article in the Guardian today supporting abolition.. (was that long-standing policy ever overturned by conference??)”
    As far as I recall, Lib Dem policy still aspires to scrap tuition fees in theory. However, in 2015 the party strongly opposed Labour’s proposals to reduce tuition fees.

  • Peter Watson 2nd May '17 - 10:41pm

    @Dave Orbison
    “I think to suggest the rejection of AV so decisively could not necessarily mean PR would not be rejected as being a bit fanciful.”
    I have to disagree with that: one of the main arguments levelled against AV during the campaign was that even its supporters, the Lib Dems, did not want that “miserable little compromise”.

    ” I had once leaned in favour of PR but after my vote for LibDems translated into a Tory coalition and ditching of LibDem policies I would never go near it.”
    Sadly, this is why I believe that the Lib Dems have blown the chance of any electoral reform for a generation. For a party committed to PR, going into coalition should not be dismissed out of hand and it should have been something for which they were better prepared than any potential partner. Unfortunately the party seemed happy to sacrifice its own identity within a Tory-dominated government.

  • I wonder why Paul Pettinger is so keen to get Labour MPs elected? Am I the only person who finds it troubling that a supposed party member actively encourages votes for our illiberal political enemies? Does he jot realise that such activity reinforce’s the Tory message that a Liberal vote is a Socialist vote thereby successfully (in their eyes) allowing them up retain the soft centre tight vote that keeps them in power?

  • Antony Watts 3rd May '17 - 7:46am

    Too much discussion on “process” and not enough on policy and tactics. Need simple, sound bite policies and cooperative tactics.

  • Interesting to see the drift towards a discussion of AV/PR on here, although it never seems to get mentioned that we already have PR at Holyrood and in Local Government in Scotland.

    The logic of PR is that it almost certainly requires cross party co-operation.

    It’s a shame that we still have to put up with FPTP for Westminster elections…. and it adds grist to the mill for those who think Scotland would be better off in Europe but outside the UK.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '17 - 8:05am

    Dave Orbison

    I had once leaned in favour of PR but after my vote for LibDems translated into a Tory coalition and ditching of LibDem policies I would never go near it.

    The argument of the Labervatives against PR is that it is better to have a system that distorts representation in favour of the biggest party in order that the biggest party will have a majority of seats even if it has well under a majority of votes. That means we will generally have single-party governments.

    So, David, what you are saying is that you support propping up the Tories by giving them many more seats than their share of the vote in order to have a majority Tory government. You, and all those others who didn’t vote LibDem because you didn’t lie the coalition got what you want in 2015: a pure Tory government. Congratulations, and you will probably get it again after this general election.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '17 - 8:22am

    Peter Watson

    Unfortunately the party seemed happy to sacrifice its own identity within a Tory-dominated government.

    It was badly handled: from the start it should have been made clear that this was not our ideal, and that due to the uneven balance of the two parties coming not just from the votes but from the distortional representation system, we would have only a limited effect on the resulting government. The point needed to be made that this was not really a choice, thanks to the distortions there were not enough Labour MPs to make an alternative coalition viable.

    Somehow the impression was always given that if there was no majority in Parliament, the Liberal Democrats would have immense power and could get whatever they want. That was not the case. If you look at similar situations elsewhere, it is never the case, Small parties cannot persuade large parties to drop all their policies and adopt those of the small parties. Small parties that do get what they want from coalitions are those who are only interested in a small number of issues and have strong committed supporters who are interested in those issues, so they don’t mind about what else the coalition does. The Liberal Democrats are the opposite of that.

    We were greatly damaged by the Labour Party pushing the false view that we had voluntarily supported the Tories and dropped all out policies in favour of theirs. Had Labour been more supportive of us, we would have been able to stand up against the Tories more in the coalition. Labour thought that by making their prime tactic destroying us, they would storm back to power in 2015. Only it didn’t work, did it? Instead they boosted the Tories by destroying the party that was the main opposition to the Tories in many places. And by adopting a tactic that was all about being negative towards us rather than developing and promoting alternative policies and offering them to us for an alternative coalition, they ended up destroying themselves. People don’t want to vote Labour because thanks to that Labour don’t seem to stand for anything much.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May ’17 – 8:22am……………We were greatly damaged by the Labour Party pushing the false view that we had voluntarily supported the Tories and dropped all out policies in favour of theirs. Had Labour been more supportive of us, we would have been able to stand up against the Tories more in the coalition. Labour thought that by making their prime tactic destroying us, they would storm back to power in 2015. Only it didn’t work, did it? Instead they boosted the Tories by destroying the party that was the main opposition to the Tories in many places. And by adopting a tactic that was all about being negative towards us rather than developing and promoting alternative policies and offering them to us for an alternative coalition, they ended up destroying themselves. People don’t want to vote Labour because thanks to that Labour don’t seem to stand for anything much……

    Whereas, when in government, we were really, really evenhanded to the Labour opposition….As for ‘alternative policies’, I recall a Labour request for co-operation regarding restricting ‘bankers’bonuses’ being met with a tirade from Clegg about how he’d ‘accept no advice from a party that was singlehandedly responsible for the UK financial crisis’…We even blocked a ministerial enquiry into Jeremy Hunt’s conduct because it was a Labour motion…

    Labour didn’t need to highlight our part in the 2010-15 fiasco…WE did most of it ourselves!

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “We were greatly damaged by the Labour Party pushing the false view that we had voluntarily supported the Tories and dropped all out policies in favour of theirs. Had Labour been more supportive of us, we would have been able to stand up against the Tories more in the coalition. ”

    I doubt that I’m afraid. The Lib Dems pushed the line that the financial crisis was all due to Labour mismanagement and pretty much set an adversarial tone throughout. Remember HoL reform when Clegg decided to let it go rather than vote with Labour. The fault was both ways and both parties are now reaping the rewards. Labour have gone from bad to worse in leadership and the Lib Dems are down to a handful of MP’s. Clegg decided to chase soft Tories and they simply didn’t materialise…

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd May '17 - 11:01am

    I don’t see how the Labour party could be expected to be sympathetic to the Liberal Democrats when they have done so much to trash the Labour Party with their ‘ Labour trashed the economy’ meme.

    How can one forget Danny Alexander’s role as enthusiastic spokesman for ‘Osbornomics’?

    I’m sorry, but the ‘ We were just misunderstood’ doesn’t really wash, and I am not sure that Tim Farron will be able to change perceptions, at least not whilst we are reaping the devastation of the welfare system, health service etc., that followed on from coalition policies.

    It is appalling that the party is still fighting it out with UKIP for third place, there is a need for policies that inform the electorate of what the party will do if ever back in Government. At the moment, it just seems like a mirror image of UKIP, UKNIP.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd May '17 - 11:03am

    On some points, it seems Steve Way beat me to it by a couple of minutes.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd May '17 - 11:22am

    The Tories are currently claiming credit for our policy of reducing income tax, which David Cameron rejected in the leadership debates in 2010, but which were achieved. I agree with Nick.
    Nick Clegg gave a speech yesterday which was broadcast on the Parliament Channel (201, next to the 24 hour news channel). I will not repeat what his mother said about the current government. He debunked some of the nonsense and fake news that is currently asserted as factual. I agree with Nick, but although voters may dislike being told that they might have voted differently if they had possessed more facts in June 2016, it is surely indisputable that they did not know at the time that the UK would be faced with a bill in the billions to be paid at the start of negotiations. See the Financial Times 3/5/2017(£).

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '17 - 12:28pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    I’m sorry, but the ‘ We were just misunderstood’ doesn’t really wash, and I am not sure that Tim Farron will be able to change perceptions, at least not whilst we are reaping the devastation of the welfare system, health service etc., that followed on from coalition policies.

    And there we go again. You and Steve Way write in a way that suggests every Liberal Democrat was an enthusiastic support of every policy put forward by the coalition.

    What does that achieve except kicking the Liberal Democrats down, or boosting the right wing of the party at the expense of its centre and left wing? Well, if you want to do that, and so let the Tories carry on winning in all those seats where we are the main challengers and Labour will never win, go ahead.

    If you look back at all what I wrote here 2010-2015, was I an enthusiastic supporter of Clegg and all he said and did? I think you will find I was not. So why do reply to me as if I were?

    I am saying that by focusing on attacking us rather than putting forward positive alternative policies, Labour did not do themselves any good. Saying that does not mean the leadership of our party did everything right and good.

    Why do people like you want to deny the existence of people like me on the left of the Liberal Democrats, and do all you can to harm us and so let the right-wing of the party win, by making out that all of us are right-wing Clegg fans?

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    I think you are in danger of moving into straw man territory here. You made statements about Labour being responsible for damaging the Lib Dems “We were greatly damaged by the Labour Party pushing the false view that we had voluntarily supported the Tories” and that they were “all about being negative towards us rather than developing and promoting alternative policies and offering them to us for an alternative coalition, they ended up destroying themselves”.

    Disputing these does not suggest that “every Liberal Democrat was an enthusiastic support of every policy put forward by the coalition” nor does it “deny the existence of people like me on the left of the Liberal Democrats”.

    What it does is remind you of the reality that the Lib Dems as an entity refused to work with Labour and played the partisan mud slinging game as much as Labour indeed it could argued prior to Labour.

    As for portraying that Lib Dems voluntarily supported the Tories, I suspect you and I would agree that seeing a bunch of Lib Dem ministers cheering and clapping as policies like tuition fees were waved through achieved that far more than my criticism of them will ever do. At times it was impossible to tell the difference between Danny Alexander and George Osbourne when they were presenting policy. Whilst you would like to blame Labour for that I’m afraid I believe the Lib Dems need to look inwards.

    Their actions mean I’m still unsure whether there is a place for voters like me who are left of centre or whether we are currently homeless. I don’t want to re-fight the coalition issues, and could never vote for Labour under Corbyn, but blaming Labour for the Lib Dems appearing to support Tory policy is far off the mark…

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd May '17 - 2:54pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,
    I have always read your posts carefully Matthew and usually agree with the political views in them. If you can find any comment from me that actually suggests that you personally have any sympathy with right of your party and a diluted Thatcherism, I challenge you to find it.

    I wish you wouldn’t take every criticism of your party so personally, Matthew. I can understand the depth of your grief given how much you have given to the party, but I am afraid that despite your beliefs, values and efforts, your leaders demonstrated all too vividly, what their values were and which other party had ones that came closest to them.

    Anyone who suggests otherwise is being asked to suspend what they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. So please don’t expect people like myself to wish your party greater success when those Liberal Democrats who have values that I still feel an affinity to, who continue to fight the good fight on here, no longer seem to carry much weight in the party.

    Some of us despite being lifelong voters for your party do not share your loyalty to it. My values haven’t changed over the years, but I still have a passionate desire for a better world and a radicalism that means I don’t care too much whether people think I am ‘nice’, ‘moderate’, or ‘unthreatening to the status quo’.

    Perhaps age is playing tricks, but with a few exceptions, there seems to be a determination to replace the radicalism that first attracted me to the party, with a lukewarm sago pudding politics that doesn’t frighten the horses, but doesn’t tempt them either.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '17 - 3:20pm

    Steve Way

    As for portraying that Lib Dems voluntarily supported the Tories, I suspect you and I would agree that seeing a bunch of Lib Dem ministers cheering and clapping as policies like tuition fees were waved through achieved that far more than my criticism of them will ever do.

    Yes, and when you say that, you give the impression that every single Liberal Democrat behaved that way. You and Jane Mansfield may not have meant it that way, but that is how most people who are not involved in politics interpret that sort of comment. You give no acknowledgement to the fact that a substantial number of LibDem MPs voted against the tuition fees policy. You give no acknowledgement to the fact that a substantial proportion of the Liberal Democrat membership was unhappy about Clegg’s leadership.

    In doing that way, you help destroy the left of the party and you boost the right. Why do want to do that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '17 - 4:05pm

    Also, if you accuse someone of doing something bad, the implication is that there is something different that is good they could have done. So, what else could the Liberal Democrats have done in 2010? An alternative government with different policies would have been a Labour-led coalition. Therefore, Labour should, for their criticisms to be valid, have said what they would have proposed for that coalition to do. They never did. How can it be right for Labour to accuse the LibDems of being bad people for not being able to get more concessions from the Conservatives, while saying nothing about what they would have offered as a better alternative?

    On tuition fees, what was the alternative? How would Labour have paid for continued subsidy of universities? They never said, and have not said to this day. Indeed, the Conservatives are already getting them for making various promises about doing things that would cost more money, and yet not saying how they would raise that money.

  • Nick Collins 3rd May '17 - 4:37pm

    I am puzzled by Theakes’ suggestion (2 June 6.41 p.m.) that i should ask Labour List what the LibDems are doing in South West Surrey. But that suggestion is, perhaps, as good as any since a search of the local LibDem website conveys no indication that they have noticed that there is a general election.

    Meanwhile a leaflet from South West Surrey Compass, which was delivered two days ago concurrently with a leaflet from the Labour County Council candidate, informs me that Compass is “working for a progressive alliance” to select a “single progressive candidate” for South West Surrey who should, among other things, “command the support of all the main progressive parties in the area (Libdem, Labour and Green)”

    To this end, they are holding a “Progressive Forum” on Saturday morning in a small church hall in one of the three towns in the constituency. it is a “public meeting” and entry is free but by ticket obtainable by registering on-line with the “progressive forum”.

    Meanwhile, none of the afore-mentioned “progressive parties” seems to have begun campaigning.

    I don’t think Jeremy Hunt has anything to fear

  • Dave Orbison 3rd May '17 - 4:50pm

    Matthew Huntback

    “So, David, what you are saying is that you support propping up the Tories by giving them many more seats than their share of the vote in order to have a majority Tory government. ”

    There’s drawbacks in all voting systems. I do not believe there’s a huge appetite with many of the electorate to engage in another debate on voting systems whatever the merits. Whatever we ‘political geeks’ (affectionately) think I believe it to be the sad reality.

    Despite issues with FPTP, it does enable a change of Government and change of policy direction albeit that it will be harder to remove the Tories with the current strength of the SNP and effect of planned boundary changes. But the deal breaker for me re PR is that it inevitably means parties will have to ‘horse-trade’ concerning manifesto commitments.

    Some may welcome this. But I cling to the old-fashioned view that each party should have a manifesto and they should be held to account should they gain office. As we saw in 2010, once a coalition is formed it’s anybody’s guess as to what policies that Government will choose to pursue. Of course, I realise that is how it would have to be under that system – but it just doesn’t appeal to me, not one iota. Judging by the humiliation suffered by the LibDems despite their protestations on this point, it would seem many of the electorate share my point of view.

    Also, without being too pointed I find it supremely ironic that you accuse me of wanting to prop-up the Tories (never would I do this) by supporting FPTP when it was the LibDems who actually did this in the Coalition. Seriously Matthew you must appreciate the irony of your accusation?

  • Nick Collins: I just said that because the problems, if they are problems, seem to be with some Labour activisits locally not agreeing with the national views about standing in the seat. Got that from the Independant web site. Might just be paper/web site talk.
    Re Compass: beware of wolves in sheeps clothing.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd May '17 - 5:05pm

    Paul is correct in some countries, Liberal parties have an ongoing alliance, with the centre left or more democratic socialist or social democratic party.

    Gibralter do. Italy often has ongoing alliances, yet its parties change like we change underwear !

    Most, like the Free Democrats of Germany or D66 in Holland, do not, but forge constructive relationships utilised at the point of requirement for coalition, if at all possible.

    What Paul does not grasp, as he is too busy talking to the good reasonable converts of Compass, the bulk of the Labour and Conservative parties do not want an alliance with us ever !

    Sir John Major, often sighted by those of us who think we have more in common with the truly liberal Tories like him, than we do with Seamus Milne, wanted an alliance with us , as The Coalition, in 2015, as he liked our input. Who can blame him, with Brexit, he, is more Liberal Democrat than Conservative !

  • Nick Collins 3rd May '17 - 5:18pm

    Thanks. theakes. I’ll have a look at the Independent website.

    From where I sit, the problem seems to be that Compass has beguiled all three “progressive parties” into doing nothing while they continue discussing this chimera of a “progressive alliance”.

    They have left it far too late to mount a successful campaign in support of a “single progressive candidate” even if that were a good idea. The result will merely be to damage still further the future credibility in the area of all three “progressive parties”.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    So by your runs we cannot criticise any Lib Dem ministers from the coalition?

    As to what they could have done differently, I was stating that, on this site, throughout the coalition. Refusing to break the personal pledges they made (and making that a red line in coalition talks) would have been a start. Not cheering and clapping the back of ministers who were breaking that pledge. Not publically throwing their weight behind policies they disagreed with. Not telling the world they achieved 75% of their manifesto to etc etc

    The fact the coalition happened was not the problem it was how the Lib Dem ministers and MP acted within it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 10:31am

    Dave Orbison

    Also, without being too pointed I find it supremely ironic that you accuse me of wanting to prop-up the Tories (never would I do this) by supporting FPTP when it was the LibDems who actually did this in the Coalition. Seriously Matthew you must appreciate the irony of your accusation?

    The irony is with you and others who say they support FPTP because they are disgusted with the way the Liberal Democrats “propped up” the Conservatives in the coalition.

    You are supporting FPTP because it distorts representation, and so usually means one party has more than half the seats so it can form an all-powerful government on its own, even if has way under half the votes. You say this is good, but surely it is just propping up the biggest party – the Conservatives – by giving them many more MPs than their share of the vote. So it rather like what you say was bad about the LibDems, but instead of LibDem MPs supporting (but modifying) Conservative policies, you prefer just to have more Conservative MPs.

    Or, to make it more like what say is best, the LibDem MPs should just have voted for Conservative policies without trying to modify them, as you say the government should just be entirely what the biggest party wants.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 10:54am

    Steve Way

    So by your runs we cannot criticise any Lib Dem ministers from the coalition?

    No, I am not saying that at all. Throughout the period of the coalition I myself was extremely critical of the Liberal Democrats leadership. I dropped out of active work for the LibDems, while retaining my membership, when the coalition put forward extensive top-down changes to the NHS which was in direct contradiction to what was in the coalition agreement. I felt that if the Conservatives would not concede on that, it was a signal the coalition should end.

    I agree with you that saying that the coalition “achieved 75% of the manifesto” was an EXTREMELY stupid thing for the LibDem leadership to say, and I made that very clear at the time. It did indeed give the disastrous impression that the coalition was something the LibDems were very happy with. Most people read this as “75% of the coalition policies are LibDem policies” (you probably have to be a mathematician to see it doesn’t mean that).

    The point I am making is that there was an unrealistic expectation that the LibDems could get whatever they wanted from the coalition, but it just doesn’t work like that. I think this should have been made clear from the start – the coalition was formed because it was the only viable government given the party balance following the 2010 general election, and with the Tories having five times as many MPs as the LibDems (thanks to the electoral system that David Orbison supports) it would inevitably be much more Tory in policy than LibDem.

    In reality I think the LibDems did temper the worst of Tory policies in the coalition, and I think that was the best they could do. But I think they could have done more had there been more outside recognition of this, and support for them when they tried to do that.

    Had the coalition not been formed, there would have been a minority Tory government followed shortly by another general election on the lines “we need a majority to be able to govern properly”. And for those who said then, no, the Tories would not have risked that, well, what are you seeing now?

    I warned at the time that the Labour approach of using the coalition to destroy the LibDems by making false claims that all of us in the party were uncritical supporters of everything the Tories did would just end up helping the Tories by handing back to them all those hard-won formerly “true blue” seats. And that is just what happened, isn’t it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 11:06am

    Dave Orbison

    But I cling to the old-fashioned view that each party should have a manifesto and they should be held to account should they gain office. As we saw in 2010, once a coalition is formed it’s anybody’s guess as to what policies that Government will choose to pursue.

    Well, I believe in liberal democracy – that we should have a representative parliament, and that parliament should work together to produce the sort of policies that are realistic and would be what the people would want if they had the time to work them out in detail.

    What you seem to believe in is that Parliament should just be an electoral college for a a dictatorial Prime Minister, and after that just be a waste of space, a place were MPs can shout at each other but not have any active involvement in policy development.

    What you want is old-fashioned, yes, it is Leninism. The Leninist idea is that policies are developed just within a party, which puts forward a rigid five-year plan, and the elected parliament is just for decoration. I don’t agree with that approach. That is why I am a Liberal, not a Labour member.

  • Dave Orbison 4th May '17 - 1:03pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    “ You believe…. MP’s can shout at each other but not have any active involvement in policy development…..What you want is old-fashioned, yes, it is Leninism. The Leninist idea is that policies are developed just within a party, which puts forward a rigid five-year pan, and the elected parliament is just for decoration”.

    I understand the Leninists also support “suppression by force, i.e. exclusion from democracy, for the exploiters and oppressors of the people”. I apologise if this is wrong I don’t profess to be a political scholar just a sometimes Labour sometimes LibDem voter.

    Matthew I don’t recall using any such language. I don’t think labelling people as “Laberatives” or Leninists as you have is a particularly fair not is it likely to be persuasive, it seems rather tribal.
    I support democracy within a political party. I prefer members to have a significant say in developing policy. Also, contrary to what you say I recognise and support a Parliamentary democracy which includes MP’s acting out of conscience. But I expect a party elected on a manifesto to do their best to implement it. That does not sound at all revolutionary to me.

    Also, I think it’s worth looking at what you say you want and how the LibDems have performed. It was Nick Clegg in 2010 who made a very impressive election broadcast about other parties breaking their manifesto pledges. Wasn’t the point of this to urge voters to believe the LibDems would try and deliver their manifesto. Is he a Leninist?

    Then there ae many here who have weighed into Jeremy Corbyn decrying him for his voting record in voting against a party whip. Leaving aside the merits of the case with each rebellion why do some contributors here feel this is a weakness rather than a strength? And in the context of your casual definition of what constitutes a Leninist perhaps you might wish to castigate them too?

    I understand your support for PR and respect your arguments though I choose, as is my democratic right, to disagree with you. I explained why. I did not resort to labelling you or putting words into your mouth perhaps you too should refrain from being so quick to ‘judge’ and look down on those to have the temerity to disagree with you.

  • Matt (Bristol) and Dan Falchikov have both got it right.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 3:27pm

    Dave Orbison

    Sorry, but I believe the line you are putting, which is the line that the Labour Party puts about the Liberal Democrats, is completely illogical. You criticise the LibDems for “propping up the Conservatives” but then say what you want is for the Conservatives to be propped up even more by an electoral system which gives them a majority of seats when they didn’t get a majority of the votes. The way that we would have got what is your ideal in 2010 is if the Liberal Democrats just supported the Conservatives without question. And then, thanks to the illogical criticism of the Liberal Democrats, that is just what we did get in 2015.

    It is thanks to people like you that our country is being destroyed by the Conservatives now.

  • Dave Orbison 4th May '17 - 5:10pm

    Matthew Huntback when you use the phrase “you say” this traditionally refers to what was actually said. You are making erroneous assumptions and extrapolations from what I actually said so as to justify your support for PR. The last thing I would do is prop up a Tory Government- the LibDems under FPTP have done this. So I have no confidence, none whatsoever, that this would not occur with PR? You cannot guarantee this either can you?

  • Peter Watson 4th May '17 - 5:34pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I have an awful lot of sympathy for the line you have taken consistently over the last several years and agree with most of what you have written (on a range of topics) during that time. It was certainly a loss to this site when you withdrew for a while.

    However, unless somebody regularly read the threads below LibDemVoice articles during the coalition years to find comments by you and many others (I particularly miss John Tilley’s spirited contributions from a couple of years ago) then they would not realise there was an alternative within the party to the public face of Clegg and Alexander. I only found this site because I was actively looking for such an alternative version of the party, and even those of us who have visited this site have seen Lib Dems with such dissenting views (particularly the LibDems4Change campaign) treated dismissively by their fellow Lib Dems and made to look very much like a minority.

    Consequently, however unfair it might feel to be lumped together as “Lib Dems” when you have been an arch-critic of the way the party was led, I think it is equally unfair to expect external critics of the party, every time they write “Lib Dems did this ..” or “Lib Dems said that ..”, to acknowledge that a small and ultimately ineffective number of Lib Dems had different points of view. No political party is truly homogeneous, and all parties represent a range of opinions. “Orange Bookers” seems to be a term often used within the party to describe those whose actions have brought the party low but that does not seem to be a suitable label for those of us on the outside to use. In my own comments I have usually tried to distinguish between the leadership, the parliamentary party, etc. rather than use a blanket term to cover all of you, but perhaps that is because when I occasionally see my old comments I am reminded that I used to refer to Lib Dems as “us” rather than “you”!

    I also think that it is unfair to blame Labour for not welcoming and being grateful for the way they were treated by Lib Dems (not all of them, obviously 😉 ) before and after the 2010 election. Yes, their reward for being less than forgiving is more Tory government, but for many people, sadly, that is not noticeably different from the one that was buttressed by Lib Dems.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 5:44pm

    On Leninism, the current idea of what politics parties should be like DOES derive from the Leninist model of political party. Party manifestoes used to be fairly brief statements of principle, not hugely detailed policies. I think that is better because it is not possible to predict in advance all that will happen in five years, and in a multi-party system, policies have to be derived from negotiation.

    The idea that policies should be rigidly enforced, top-down as dictated by The Leader, derives from Leninism. To me it is better that MPs should have more freedom, and should be able to interact directly with their constituents in order to develop policies as needed. If you are familiar with software engineering, this is like the Agile model of development as opposed to the Waterfall model.

    The role of political parties and the electoral system should be to ensure that Parliament is properly representative of the population, and therefore the policies it develops reflect what the public would want, but also what is possible under the actual circumstances.

  • Nick Collins 4th May '17 - 5:53pm

    @ Rebecca Taylor. Had the South West Surrey Local Labour Party done something along those lines in 1997, 2001, 2005 or even 2010, there might have been some point. Now it just looks Quixotic.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 6:06pm

    Dave Orbison

    The last thing I would do is prop up a Tory Government- the LibDems under FPTP have done this.

    Yes, but you have missed the point – what was the alternative? If you say someone is bad for doing something wrong that implies there is something they could have done that was better. I detest the Conservatives and was very sorry to see the coalition formed, yet it seemed to me that the alternative would have been a Conservative minority government that would have soon called another general election in order to gain a majority. The coalition meant that the Conservative policies would be tempered a little, I think that was the best that could be achieved under the circumstances. If we had proportional representation, the balance of the parties would have been different, giving the Liberal Democrats more power in the coalition, and also a Labour-LibDem coalition, which I would much prefer to have seen, would have been a possibility.

    The point I have been making throughout since 2010 is that instead of recognising this, critics of the Liberal Democrats pushed out the false idea that the party formed the coalition because all its members thought a Conservative-LibDem coalition was wonderful, and that the Liberal Democrats could somehow have got anything they wanted out of the coalition, so that in effect it would be a Liberal Democrat government, but just instead chose to have largely Conservative policies because that is secretly what they really wanted.

    If someone has a choice of two bad things and chooses what they believe is the less worse, I think it is wrong to criticise them by suggesting what they chose is what would be their ideal under any circumstance – which is what you are doing.

    This is not just theory, it is just what I did when I was Leader of the Opposition in a Labour-run council. I could easily have thrown abuse at Labour for making cuts, and accused them of being Tory-lites for doing so. However, I knew that in reality they were restricted by the amount of money they had as all local government is, and so it would be wrong to criticise them for doing unpleasant things if I did not have a real possible alternative to propose. Before making any criticism I would always consider what would actually be possible if I were in their situation, and if in reality I realised I would be forced to do the same thing, I did not make the criticism.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th May '17 - 6:06pm

    @ Peter Watson,
    I have missed John Tilley’s contributions too.

    I have been fearful as to why his inspirational contributions ceased. Now his name has been raised, it would good to know that he is in good health. He ( and Matthew) would get my vote anytime.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 6:22pm

    Peter Watson

    I think it is equally unfair to expect external critics of the party, every time they write “Lib Dems did this ..” or “Lib Dems said that ..”, to acknowledge that a small and ultimately ineffective number of Lib Dems had different points of view.

    But here you are – you’re supporting the right-wing of the party by suggesting that those of us who hold positions which once would have been mainstream in the party are just a “small” and “ineffective” group of people.

    This is what happened when the coalition started. When critics pushed the line that all of us were keen supporters of everything the coalition did, and gave no acknowledgement that MOST of us in the party accepted it only reluctantly because we realised what the alternative would be, in effect they undermined the left and centre of the party and boosted the right.

    Those of us who tried to challenge the Clegg leadership and the way it was pushing the party to the right were undermined when the sort of people we thought would support us in that instead turned round and denied our existence, and refused to acknowledge what our real position was.

    All I have been trying to say throughout is if there had been more understanding of the difficult position we were in due to the balance in Parliament following the 2010 general election, and less of the false claims made about us, the Liberal Democrats would not have been so badly damaged. If Labour had given the sort of constructive opposition that I gave to them in Lewisham, politics here would have gone very differently. I do not think we would have a Conservative government now, and certainly not another general election where it looks like they will get a bigger majority.

  • @ Jayne Yes, I miss John Tilley too. I know he was based in Kingston upon Thames in Ed Davey’s seat where he had been a Councillor – but no more than that he got increasingly fed up with the Coalition and the direction the party took under the Member for Hallam.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '17 - 6:59pm

    Dave Orbison

    Matthew Huntback when you use the phrase “you say” this traditionally refers to what was actually said. You are making erroneous assumptions and extrapolations from what I actually said

    You have said you oppose proportional representation and support FPTP because you like the way FPTP generally leads to a government of one party. I cannot see any other way of interpreting that except as you saying that you support a distortional representation system that gives more seats to the biggest party than its share of votes, in order to give it a majority. So that’s what it means – if the Conservatives get the most votes, as they did in 2010 and 2015, you support the idea that they should get more seats than their share of the vote in order that they should be able to form a majority government.

    If we follow what you say, that there should always be a government of one party, as that is better than a coalition, what that implies is that what you think should have happened in 2010 is a pure Conservative government. So it follow from this that the more the Liberal Democrats in the coalition supported the Conservatives rather than tried to get them to moderate their policies, the more they would be doing what you think should be done. So, if you are to be consistent, your criticism of the Liberal Democrats should have been at when they caused Conservative policy to be modified, thus stopping your idea of single-party government, rather than the opposite.

    You might not like it when I explain the logical consequence of what you have said, but if you think it is wrong, please explain how it is wrong.

  • Peter Watson 4th May '17 - 10:20pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “you’re supporting the right-wing of the party by suggesting that those of us who hold positions which once would have been mainstream in the party are just a “small” and “ineffective” group of people”
    I would hate to appear dismissive of the wing of the Lib Dems with which I most identify but it is a great shame that even after 4 years they were too few in number to make a realistic attempt to bring about a leadership contest and they were unable to persuade their colleagues to heed the evidence of polling and elections. The point I was trying to make is that after 2010, sadly, these Lib Dems never appeared to be a significant or representative section of the party, despite holding what I would agree were “positions which once would have been mainstream in the party”. Even this site did not provide a very supportive platform for them.

    At no time did it look like Lib Dems would welcome a friendlier approach from Labour as the party under Nick Clegg distanced itself from Labour who “crashed the economy” and appeared to embrace Tory policies that it had previously opposed. It was perhaps inevitable that rather than bolster a more sympathetic wing of the Lib Dems, Labour would instead try to pick up disaffected left-leaning Lib Dem voters while a detoxified Conservative party would try to acquire those from the right.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '17 - 8:42am

    Peter Watson

    it is a great shame that even after 4 years they were too few in number to make a realistic attempt to bring about a leadership contest

    I think if there was more recognition and support from the outside for those of us on the centre and left of the LibDems during the time of the coalition, we could have done more to stop the disastrous and undemocratic shift to the right in the party. This is the point I was making throughout: most of us in the party agreed to the coalition only because we could see there was no realistic alternative apart from a minority Tory government manipulating an early general election to get a majority. We did not do it, as we were universally accused of, because we liked Conservative policies. There was not a way, as is being implied by those who criticise us for the coalition, in which we could have got a government that was more in line with actual Liberal Democrat policies.

    Those in the party who actually did support the coalition because they had right-wing economic views were small in number, but they had gained control from the top, and used it ruthlessly to push the party their way. They actually seemed happy to see us lose much of our more left support, but their idea that we would gain a whole load of new votes because the people wanted a socially liberal but economically right-wing party was wrong.

    Many in the centre of the party were persuaded not to support challenges against the leadership by the line that the right had put, that we had permanently lost our support on the left, so we just needed to accept that rather than fight against it.

    I don’t know to what extent the party can be pushed back to where it was, but I think the continuing accusations made against us about the coalition are a big aspect in stopping that happening. As we can see, Labour’s belief that by making those accusations it could storm back to power were false. That was what I was saying throughout 2010-2015, all it would do is boost the Tories by allowing them to win back all those places where Labour could never win but the LibDems could and had.

  • Bill le Breton 5th May '17 - 10:45am

    Jayne Mansfield and Peter Watson,

    The gentleman you refer to is alive and well and campaigning in Richmond Park. He is active on the Liberator page of Facebook, I’m told.

    He may have been asked to retract something on this site and probably would not accept any form of gagging.

    He has been a great Liberal and an extremely effective Liberal Democrat – leading the team that worked over many years to eventually take control of Kingston Council. He knows how to win and found himself in the company of like-minded people of great ability and considerable political drive.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th May '17 - 1:13pm

    @ Bill le Bretton,
    Thank you.

    He was very much my sort of Liberal Democrat, and I am pleased to hear that he is well and still fighting fit. If there were more like him , I doubt that the party would have had the poor, but entirely predictable, result it has had today.

  • Peter Watson 5th May '17 - 1:54pm

    @Bill le Breton
    Thanks for the update. I do not know John – or anybody else on LDV behind the computer screen – but I always admired the passion and experience in his posts here.

  • I could not disagree with you more. Bath currently have a Conservative MP because the progressive vote was split in the last election. Adhering to principles is all very well but in this case it will almost certainly mean an overwhelming Tory landsclide. The one small glimmer of hope is if the left leaning parties could join together for the greater good. By rejecting such an alliance you are condemening us to probably the most venal Conservative governement there has ever been for the foreseeable future. Sorry but this is sheer stupidity.

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