No silver bullet for our Lib Dem doldrums

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While picking over the bones of our, what could charitably be called, ‘middling’, general election campaign, many Lib Dems have called on the party to develop a new identity of some kind. A single issue that we can define ourselves with. I respectfully think that such an approach is unlikely to lead to the electoral promised-land that some have hoped for.

I am yet to be convinced that there is such an issue, but even assuming one exists that the public likes, there is an underlying paucity at heart of the party in terms of councillors, vote share, seats and public trust. A new identity may help to address some of these, but realistically, much of our resurrection is only going to be based upon time, rebuilding our local base and effort.

We have constructed our parliamentary success historically upon the bedrock of strong and local campaigns.  Boiling down from national context to seat-by-seat contests, often with victories instigated at council level and then translated upwards. Not only did it help to breach out credibility gap with the public (the idea that we couldn’t win somewhere), but it also compensated for our relative lack of party profile and money, as compared to Labour and the Conservatives. 

This approach also had significant drawbacks. For one, it certainly hampered our ability to gain a truly national identity. When I think of issues that really cut through positively for us nationally during the ‘golden years’ of the prior decade, I essentially see our opposition to the Iraq War and Cleggamania; both were inherently transitory. The national purpose problem mattered a great deal when we were winnings scores of seats and felt like we were close to demolishing the edifice of two-party politics. However, things have dramatically altered since then.

We are now in a situation where we have very little parliamentary representations, polling which hovers between 7% and 8%, a massively diminished number of seats where we finished second and a drained local government base. I do not think that strong national branding alone will help to solve these issues.

Barring the miraculous emergence of our own Macron or Trudeau (and even then, the influence would not be replicable due to the electoral system and relative party strength), I have little solace to offer than time, effort and a call to redouble our excellent local campaigning. We absolutely should ensure that our national vision and messaging is better than it was for the recent election, but the wounds inflicted in recent years will only be fully healed by the balm of time.

The sort of post-Coalition repair we need may take a similar length of time as it took the Conservatives following Blair’s landslide in 1997. In other words, we’re looking at three to four electoral cycles. In time, we can also probably assume that the stonking incompetence of the both the Conservative and Labour parties in their current guises will become increasingly evident. This is doubly true with regard to Brexit. Consequently, I think our issue is less one of wholesale rebranding, as it is building a platform from the ground up, so that we can capitalise on opportunities born of events when they occur.

So, in the meantime, we need to get back to basics in our communities. Whereas even the best parliamentary campaign can be neutered by national factors, at a local level we can really make a difference here and now. For no party is the grassroots more vital and I have long been proud of how much value we place on it.

I fully admit that my two-pennies worth to solving our existential problems as a party are hardly likely elicit the inspiration of a leading conference speech. But I believe that due to the factors outlined above, they are realistic. Moreover, they have worked in the past and I truly believe that they can do so again at this undeniably tough time for our party.

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53 Comments

  • Michael Mullaney 14th Jul '17 - 10:36am

    Great article Theo. Agree there’s no magic bullet, no messianic leader I waiting or stunning new policy nobody had thought of in the past to sweep us to victory. As you say to recover and win more parliamentary seats in the future it will take years of local campaigning across the country, starting with rebuilding our local government base. Whilst electing a new experienced leader who can steady the ship, start getting us into the national media more, while we wait for the political tide to turn in our favour again.

    Part of being human is to believe that our fates are down to us, in reality though looking at our party’s support historically we tend to do best when the two main parties are unpopular and there is no viable 4th party to split the vote. Hence the surge of support in the early 70s, the early 80s and the mid 2000s when both main parties were unpopular.

  • Trudeau did it with an FPTP system. Doesn’t (sadly) mean we can replicate his success here, but we could learn from our Canadian colleagues how they did it

  • Max Wilkinson 14th Jul '17 - 11:02am

    Theo,

    I’m not convinced that ‘wait for things to come our way and deliver more Focus in the meantime’ is a valid strategy for a national political party.

    Max

  • A very realistic and refreshing article, yesterdays dreadful local election results everywhere, except for the traditional Chorleywood win, emphasise how dire our straights remain. We just survived at the general but the cost was very high, 370 lost deposits alone.
    We keep mentioning Trudeau, but the Liberals in Canada may have been relagated to third place but it was a high third place, either said of 20% at their lowest, and they had
    already taken British Columbia and Quebec at State level and had their Toronto base. We are nowhere near in a position to even consider emulating them, except that Cable may be able to do a Bob Rae, the Canadian Liberal leader between the previous election and Trudeau, when he did steady the ship and performed well in Parliament.
    I confess I do not know what is the answer, other than to wait for the electoral cycle to take its turn. It will probably be a very long wait, viz the Tories after 1997, because people memories are long, damn Tuition fees and deceit again. We are not helped by Tim Farrons apparent confession that he fought the election knowing he was going to resign!

  • Interesting thoughts Theo. I wonder though whether, in different ways, both Macron and Trudeau (and even, let’s admit it, Trump) won by breaking the systems, rather than by letting the systems break them.
    If so, a charismatic leader does seem to have value (am ignoring trump here!) , as does a fearless regard for muscular, non-apologetic liberalism. This is perhaps why our current leader quit (though I wish he’d stop going on about faith being incompatible with leading a liberal party – what would Jesus do, Tim?!)

  • One thing the party can do is to stop putting a sunny optimistic gloss on abysmal efforts and results in local government by-elections. Back in 2010, the Liberal Democrats obtained 20% in the Middlesbrough constituency.

    Yesterday there were two Council by-elections there where the Lib Dems got 1.1% (10 votes) and 2.2% (15 votes) respectively. This was described in a well known Lib Dem website “Over in Middlesbrough, good to see the local party putting up a pair of candidates in previously uncontested wards”.

    “Putting up” is not good enough. Even a one person band can canvass and get more than 10 or 15 votes. Frankly it’s using the brand self indulgently and merely reinforcing the image of a party as dead as a Dodo. If people can’t be bothered to get off their derrieres and knock on a few doors they should not be permitted to use the brand. It makes the party a laughing stock and pays no respect whatsoever to the 10 or 15 good souls who actually bothered to go down to the polling station.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone.

    On yours Max, I do think there is more than we can do than just grassroots work, hence why I am in favour of having that look into what our national messaging is, continuing to develop strategy. It’s more I think we are in such a damaged state as compared to the two major parties, that whatever strategy we develop, it’s in danger of not gaining much traction. I am a pessimist no doubt, but I think our position is weaker than many believe and our national credentials are weak. Consequently, until we gradually gain strength or events favour us (as Michael pointed out, we do much better when Lab/Cons do badly), I think we can do worse than focus on what has done well for us before.

    John, I agree with you regarding a charismatic leader and frankly, after the past few years, anything can happen in politics very quickly. I just struggle to see where this great leader/message comes from and feel that our position as a party is less ripe to harness it than the Candian Liberals or the GOP (though, of course, En Marche does somewhat put paid to my idea on that).

  • Laurence Cox 14th Jul '17 - 11:40am

    @David Raw

    So what do you want us to do; only put up candidates in target seats? There is no cost in running a paperless campaign in a council ward and it gives voters a Liberal Democrat candidate to vote for. It may surprise you, but even in the blackest of black holes for our Party, some voters actually like to have that opportunity.

  • David Evershed 14th Jul '17 - 12:00pm

    Theo is right that we don’t want to be defined by a single issue – or indeed multiple issues.

    We need to be defined by what we stand for and what we believe in – that in turn leads to why we take particlar positions on issues. That way we have a party of like minded people who stick with us rather than itinerants who move on as issues come and go.

    Lib Dems lean towards being liberal and this means the most freedom for individuals and businesses so long as it doesn’t harm others. Nowadays we also have to explain why this is good for people’s health and wealth.

    This leads on to our positions on issues such as free speech, free health care, free schooling, free markets, free trade and so on.

  • @ Laurence Cox “What do you want us to do ?”

    Make a serious effort or go cultivate an allotment. The Party should apply a condition of minimum standards of effort (i.e. personal canvassing) if the candidate is to be officially recognised.

    Over the last forty five years I have personally stood and fought in eight elections (seven Council, one parliamentary). I canvassed hard every time, won on five occasions, and never polled less than 28%.

    As for “some voters actually like to have that opportunity”……….. some voters might actually like having a serious candidate who wants and deserves their vote to represent them.

    Frankly, the reason so many voters turned away from the party is that they see it as a frivolously self indulgent minority sect with nothing to say affecting the lives and condition of ordinary people – and in some cases making a less than minimum effort to deserve support.

    Getting 10 votes is nothing less than a joke if it’s possible to get that many signatures on a nomination paper.

  • Actually we have done well when just one of the other parties have been unpopular – Labour in the 80s (when the alliance had a high vote share even if it didn’t translate it into seats) and Tories in 97 and the 2000s. The problem we obviously faced this time was that both parties were popular.

    Of course the question will be whether we were unpopular or the others popular this time.

    As I have remarked before politics perhaps especially at the grassroots level needs massive optimism and also massive realism. And one gets buffeted by the national headwinds. The Tories did by the poll tax but some of their councillors who lost then worked hard and regained their seats.

  • David Becket 14th Jul '17 - 12:43pm

    I suggest getting 10 votes is worse than not standing.
    We should aim for 5%, and if we cannot get that don’t stand.

  • paul barker 14th Jul '17 - 1:13pm

    One of the things that really wrecks a discussion thread is if members post repeatedly making the same point in slightly different ways, it puts other members off.
    On Topic, we have certainly seen a huge divide open between our performance in Local Elections & at The GB level. Currently we seem to be polling between 6 & 7% while our vote share in Local Byelections is probably around 12%. Even that 12% is a third down on how we did 2 Months ago but its a lot better than our share in The General Election or our polling. Clearly voters take us a lot more seriously at Local Level.
    Theo Knotts conclusion seem very reasonable for normal times but those are not what we are living through, we just dont know how quickly things can change.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jul '17 - 1:39pm

    Articles come and go and this one makes a good attempt at understanding, and Theo is to be thanked.

    Some of what David Raw says here is correct. I think the party should stop standing in certain areas in council and parliamentary contests. It is about targeting and supporting. I believe we should target the areas we have in our sights to do at least rather well, and we should support candidates of other parties who are ones we can say clearly we agree with or rate or work well with.

    There are many ways to do this. One is to become a relative of another party. The Conservative party is not a natural ally, though some of it is closer to us on liberty and internationalism.

    The Labour party is a natural ally on some areas especially , others less so. It can be said, the Co operative party has clout than us .

    The Liberal party of New York, whose mailing I subscribe to and programme I support, has never fielded candidates , but endorses and campaigns for candidates who are from the main two parties according to their Liberal stance. They are little known yet very influential, formed in the era of Roosevelt, they endorse Democrats often, but liberal Republicans, in NYC they do exist !

    Neither avenue is one I advocate, but the position now is nonsense without a leader who is truly a new exciting force.

    I was in the Labour party under Kinnock and Blair. Personality with purpose , is what can make politics, but policy is as important.

    The Brexit thing is ruining our political discourse.

  • paul holmes 14th Jul '17 - 1:42pm

    Excellent analysis Theo.

    As someone else says above, if there was a quick fix/quick win approach can you really believe that it would not already have been seized upon by skilled campaigners? There is a reason that we fought elections the hard way and so gained the highest number of MP’s since 1922 (in 2005), the highest number of MEP’s, majority control of many Councils including major cities, running Scotland (in successful Coalition) for 8 years and running Wales (in successful coalition) for 4 years.

    Unfortunately those who want the quick fix regardless of electoral reality have been in charge in recent years and have near obliterated our Party.

    First we had the “lets dump two thirds of our regular voters and replace them with Liberal Conservatives who are just waiting to flock to us once we adopt Conservative Economic policies” (see the writings of Nick Clegg appointed Chief Strategists Richard Reeves and Julian Astle plus Jeremy Brown, Jasper Gerard etc). That took us to 7.9% of the vote in our worst GE in history.

    We had the “lets be the uncritical Party of In “. We lost 13 out of 14 MEP’s.

    Then we had the single issue obsession with opposing Brexit “because 48% of voters were ripe to flock to our banner and we could then, overnight, win seats such as Vauxhall and St Albans.” That took us to a record low national vote and record number of lost deposits.

    Finally there is the Core Vote Strategy which involves telling most of the UK we are not interested in them because they are not “the right sort of voters in the right sort of places”.

    You couldn’t make it up! No need to though, just read the Party Strategy Consultation that was sent out during the County Council elections when most serious LD Members were preoccupied with fighting real elections.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Jul '17 - 1:46pm

    Theo Knott and David Raw have their feet on the ground. Far too many Lib Dem ‘commentators’ continue to postulate a response to a magical scenario which has the strange problem of being completely at variance with current reality – or any reality likely to occur this side of the next ice age.

    I agree about Macron and Trudeau. I was surprised that Tim Farron did not appear to have anything to do with either of them or try to make capital from their success. The best thing, of course, would have been if he were to have got to meet either or both of them, even briefly, as fellow Liberal leaders and had this photographed or televised. I rather expected Tim to be in Paris the morning after Macron won – and to try to do a whistle stop visit to Canada to try to create parallels. But the sense behind such an approach required Tim to be putting himself forward as a potential prime minister. Instead, he was putting himself forward as a potential runner up (I still do not know whether this was Tim’s own idea or was foisted upon him).

  • ‘Moreover, they have worked in the past and I truly believe that they can do so again at this undeniably tough time for our party.’

    Yes. Time is slipping by and the pain of all that hard work for no reward is fading. Lets get back to doing what we’ve always done because it will all be different next time.

    This sort of thinking is our biggest enemy. We need to have a detailed autopsy on why we only managed to poll 7% of the electorate. I have my own feelings which is probably a kaleidoscope of much of the comments on this site. The party as a whole needs to do the graft, hopefully come up with the right conclusions and introduce changes. More of the same is not going produce anything but the same result.

  • In response to Arthur Bailey. I completely understand his position and if I was not someone who was so committed to us being part of the EU, I might have said the same thing.

    However, I joined the LibDems a week ago because they are pro-Europe. And because we live in a democracy, I see nothing wrong in trying to persuade people to change their minds, particularly when I believe that it will make the country poorer and less relevant.

    So I am doing all I can to reverse the decision to leave made by 51.9% of those who voted; it’s my right. I believe that more and more people will join us because the LibDems continue to be a pro-Europe party.

  • I agree with this article.

  • Rejecting the outcome of a democratic vote is regarded by many voters as an insult and not the way they expect political parties to behave. I kept saying before the election that it was not a good policy. I was ignored then and I expect to be ignored now.

    I respect your right to ignore the voters but you will have to live with the reality that they will ignore you.

  • I’m assuming that Peter’s comment is in response to my comment.
    Peter, I’m not rejecting the outcome. There was a small majority for Brexit. However, if at a later point in time, enough people wish to vote to remain then that will be the will of the people at that time.
    Remember, we did vote to join the EU (Common Market). By your argument, we have rejected the outcome of that democratic vote.

    My view is that for such a momentous decision, not knowing all the possible outcomes, we should have had a threshold of say 60% before accepting the ‘will of the people’.

  • Theo Knott and Paul Barker between offer helpful stimulus to our thinking – going way beyond stock responses. The death of illusions in the midst of uncertainties can offer a kind of hope. And that applies to others beyond Lib Dem activists. As a Toryphobe my
    respect for Anna Soubry is undimmed!

  • @Gerald Zuk
    Yes, a majority voted to join the Common Market. It is a pity that the hidden agenda was ever closer union otherwise a majority would have been happy to remain in that market now. We did not vote for transfer of legal supremacy and all that goes with it.

    Unfortunately, it took forty years before the people got the opportunity to have their say on that.

  • Peter
    We did vote for the supremacy of EU law, actually. The Treaty of Rome enshrined that. Again (I have said this once or twice before!!) it is a rewriting of history to claim that people did not know that we were voting for a political Europe, not just a “common market”. The campaign in 1975 revolved round whether we stayed with EFTA, which was presented as just a free trade area, versus the EEC which was a market plus political close (and about to be, democratic) working.

  • Sorry, I should say, reverted to EFTA, having by that time already signed up to the Treaty of Rome.

  • In fact it has been a principle of UKIP, and our europhobe press to claim this about the 1975 Referendum, and I feel it is a major part of the dripfeed to the electorate which created last year’s vote – a real fundamental, foundation lie, to build others on.

  • @Tim13
    Yes, I, and everyone else, now knows that the Treaty of Rome enshrined the objective of ever closer union.

    With due respect, I feel sure that these matters were before your time. Otherwise you would be well aware that politicians lied to the people, telling them that there would be no loss of Sovereignty.

    At a time when there was no internet, people had little option but to believe what the government and press were telling them.

  • Why do you think it was before my time, Peter? I voted to stay in in 1975, as I did last year, essentially for similar reasons. I can’t remember too many lies from 1975, but they fade in the memory with time, and I would have to do some research if I were to try to answer your question fully!
    Presumably you don’t now “believe everything the internet tells you?”

  • @Tim13
    Each Prime Minister since Heath has been economical with the truth about the legal consequences of the treaties that they signed. You must be aware that even quite recently, when the proposed EU constitution was rejected by the people, it was re-written by the lawyers to re-appear as the Lisbon Treaty. That was rejected by Ireland, but in a tactic now adopted by this party, the Irish had to keep voting until they got the answer required. The advance of the EU project has been by subterfuge and blatant dishonesty at every stage.

    This is why the project has little popular support and such a serious democratic deficit.

  • @Tim13
    I suggest that you research what was said about the Treaty of Rome to the electorate in 1975. Good luck with that. When you have refreshed your memory you may desist from making erroneous claims such as the one at 8:38 pm this evening.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '17 - 10:14pm

    Peter 14th Jul ’17 – 8:51pm: No. Ted Heath had negotiated for entry to the EEC on behalf of Tory Prime Minister Harold MacMillan. The Lord Chancellor told Parliament about sovereignty. President De Gaulle cast a veto. He had also vetoed Norway, twice.
    https://www.theguardian.com/profile/michaelwhite

  • An excellent article, the first I have read since the election which shows a real understanding of how truly disastrous the situation now facing the Party is. In 1950 there was still a core of support for the Liberal Party which was based on nonconformist Christian decency: the Party might not have been electable any more but Liberals were ‘good’ people. Grimond and the community politicians of the late 60s and 70s built on that traditional support, and Clegg (“No more broken promises”) instantly toxified the brand with the betrayal of the pledge. It is not policies, or big ideas, or great leaders, or the failure of other parties that will win us back widespread support, but our will to create a Party that is perceived as being honest at all levels and which puts morality at the core of all its dealings.

  • @tonyhill
    Well said. Liberals used to be “good people”. The party I used to vote for no longer exists.

  • @ tonyhill. Absolutely right. Your profile describes the West Yorkshire of Donald Wade MP (Huddersfield) and Richard Wainwright MP (Colne Valley) and the nonconformist conscience radical decency that I was brought up in. Your diagnosis of what is needed is spot on.

    Some of the metro centric in-crowd in the party haven’t a clue about it – yet there is a market for it…….. and believe it or not J.Corbyn actually seemed to understand it and tapped into what ought to be our natural market. See for example his speech to several thousand people outside the Sage in Gateshead – it’s on You Tube

    I’m afraid the party has lost touch with its radical heritage and far too often appears to be untrustworthy, shifty and more interested in acquiring knighthoods and peerages in its own self indulgent little world.

    Unless it rediscovers its mojo soon then it will become a dusty footnote in an obscure corner of Wikipedia.

  • Philip Knowles 15th Jul '17 - 9:18am

    There is no silver bullet but we need to work on the gun to fire it. The GE campaign was relentlessly negative -HQ produced 2 leaflet templates (both of which were dire) one slagging off the Tories the other slagging off Labour. If I see a leaflet slagging off the LibDems it isn’t going to change my mind so why do we think it will work for others?
    We need to be the sensible alternative. We need to point out the faults but also give OUR solution. Most importantly we need to pick our fights and match our strengths against their weaknesses.
    Success is going to start at local levels so we do need to stand in the previously uncontested seats – 10 and 15 votes is potentially 25 new members and they can snowball new members. It is going to take a long time and we need to be patient. We need to harness social media and word of mouth because we haven’t the resources of Labour and the Conservatives. I’m trying to persuade our local party to use the marked registers- why waste time talking to people who don’t vote when we can be having longer conversations with those that do? A good weapon is the voting record of the MP/ Councillor. It gets voters to think and that will become our silver bullet.

  • @ Philip Knowles “10 and 15 votes is potentially 25 new members and they can snowball new members.”

    Assuming somebody gets of their derrieres and bothers to go see them.

  • Antony Watts 15th Jul '17 - 9:44am

    Pro Remain
    Pro Social Justice

    With these policies ec.europa.eu/info/strategy_en

    A sure winner.

  • Stick to, and articulate our liberal principles in all that we do. We have a distinct position to offer …. but MUST be true to our beliefs.

  • 1. Before standing a candidate anywhere, we should conduct local canvassing to determine the reliable core vote. To agree the size of the ‘cv’ see below – as cv is a policy of a kind.
    2. I believe we have become too democratically committee-bound [democracy is good but not if it hands over powers to decide too much]. Instead, we must continue to break out into further consulting of our members and supporters as Momemtum and others do. Good progress has been made in many localities and online with policy questionnaires but follow-up needs wider face to face discussion at social parties and meetings of our ‘core voters’ – see 5 on meetings.
    3. To develop firm policies we should hold timely ‘policy hustings open to all members’ [not supporters] – spread around the country and regions – in order to create and focus ideas which are forwarded to MPs for final moderation and focus on legality etc.
    4. Deriving from the above, I’m not convinced we use our current committee structures [and other bodies] in best ways for development, though they seem to function well on other specifics. We have tried several times to modify structures but seem to be electing people to do jobs we should do within the wider membership. There are several indications that our systems serve only to maintain the status quo – and are not sufficiently fleet of foot as policy developers.
    5. Having attended many meetings, it’s clear that they are too passive, seated, dominated from the front, and do not involve those attending – leading to more of the same. Let’s concentrate on developing in original ways – e.g. like asking active people to develop more active people from those attending. To do this, we cannot do active things while sitting and listening, so use progressive gaming which will also appeal to young people, as well as old geezers like me.

  • Its worth pointing out Trudeau in some respects would be seen as a conservative here eg He got elected saying he would increase income for those at the top to 31% which is lower than when blair was around at 40% and lower than the tories now and much lower than what labour would have it. Further he did not even say he would introduce an estate tax mean that tax even under the tories is among the highest in the world while over 1/3rd of EU countries do not have that kind of tax either, which is ironic as the lib dems blocked a cut in that tax 7 years ago which would make those eu countries laugh. There is more to it than just that though.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jul '17 - 1:13pm

    I agree with some of what Tony and David say here . The only problem is that the decent mainstream common sense area of consideration, is broad, we do not all agree nor should we.

    I am regularly saying we need to moderate the Brexit stance and now be more understanding of areas of high immigration, defending Sir Vince. I got sweet Fanny Adams support on here , even from you who were supporters of him.

    I regularly make it clear that a left or right libertarianism too often moved to in the stance of some , is not Liberalism, nor social democracy , and alienates people on issues of personal tolerance of genuine harm, and got Sweet Fanny Adams support on here from others, usually stay silent when common sense is called for.

    I regularly defend our social democrat colleagues , moderates or radicals, all, in the mainstream, Shirley Williams is understood and liked, but others decry the SDP as nothing much.

    You can look back in anger , or forward in hope, but too many here are calling for radicalism as if it is a nostalgia trip, sorry guys, moderation, is the new radicalism, and common sense , very uncommon, indeed more so than before !

  • Martin Walker 15th Jul '17 - 3:24pm

    I agree with many of the sentiments in the article (although Cleggmania was not a policy position like the Iraq War), but I don’t half get frustrated with the arguments about whether we need a strong, compelling, distinctive liberal message promoted by a leader with the ability to reach people, or effective local campaigning based on capacity, hard work, and a local government base. I would have thought it was pretty self-evident we need both.

  • Peter Kemp
    “but [we] MUST be true to our beliefs”

    This is the liberal blind spot I truly find most baffling.
    Liberals say their core belief is for the rights of the individual to be free to choose their own destiny. And even Nick Clegg in one of his more lucid moments said that to deny an EU referendum would be cowardly. (Guardian 2008)
    But when people finally got that freedom to choose their destiny, liberals shout no no no, you uneducated fools, you chose wrong.
    Is there an amendment written in small print, to the Liberal preamble that says ‘in the event of you using your freedom of choice in a manner we liberals don’t approve of we reserve the right to make you choose again’
    The words liberal hypocrisy will do until I can think of something stronger.

  • Simon Banks 15th Jul '17 - 6:23pm

    If we identify ourselves with a single issue, we become a single issue party. The EU, for example, is a hugely important issue where we have a clear identity, but it is possible to be pro-EU, favourable towards increasing economic inequality, lukewarm on combating climate change, lukewarm on civil liberties and anti-devolution.

    There is no need for local effort to blur our national identity. We need to do more to point out the common threads in what local campaigners are fighting for – more devolution and openness and more effective climate change action often feature – and to be aware at local level of when we can link a local issue to a wider one.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Jul '17 - 7:18pm

    ‘Further consulting of our members and supporters as Momentum and others do’ – I’m not sure, Tony Rowan-Wicks, that Momentum members do much consulting rather than forcibly stating their opinions, but I broadly agree with your comment, as with many other constructive comments here especially perhaps from David Raw. But let us not only consult our members, but go out canvassing and issuing Focus and Facebook messages which encourage non-political local people to voice their concerns to us. It’s called Empowering the people, and I propose to go on banging that drum because it extends our will to serve ordinary people, to their betterment and ours.

    I live in what I have called a derelict constituency, one in which one of those 370 lost deposits duly fell in the General Election. It’s called Copeland and we fought a by-election this year where we couldn’t win, regardless of the two-party squeeze, because we had no elected councillors at all until Rebecca got on to the town council just in time to be eligible as our by-election candidate. Then she stood in May for the county council, and now we have her as our county councillor, and I’ve been out this week delivering some of her latest Focus while she is replying to the queries and demands raised by people from those already delivered. It’s a deal of work, but it does gradually get results. With a more flexible national policy-making system too, ready to respond to locally-derived demands, we will surely build again.

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Jul '17 - 8:52am

    Sheila Gee

    I would like to know where you would like to put the following amendment into our preamble:

    “Once you have chosen, you are never allowed to change your mind”

    Some people do have VERY strange ideas about democracy, in my view!

  • But Andrew, the party campaigned, virtually exclusively, to give the electorate an opportunity to change their mind.
    And the result?
    I think the Trudeau parallels are specious. The Canadian Liberals were dominant for years, fell out of favour due to scandal and have bounced back – they haven’t grown a new core vote from scratch.
    Macron has also had the advantage of the planets all lining up. A disastrous socialist presidency, the unappealing return of Sarkozy and the fear of a far right insurgent.
    He was also an experienced politician and well connected.
    It is hard to see a mega turnround until a leader emerges who has youthful energy, self belief, eloquence and above all courage., firstly to lead the party and secondly the nation.
    My own view, and it’s only my perception from reading the various voices here, is that there is a very large contingent , within the party of those who don’t see the challenge as one of increasing everyone’s standard of living by increasing national prosperity.
    Rather, their obsession (if you will forgive that word) is to reduce the gap between rich and poor. That is – politics is an equalising issue not a wealth creating issue, even to the extent that they would be happy if the poor had to eat grass just so long as Sir Philip Green had to eat grass too.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Jul '17 - 8:52pm

    We won’t sit around waiting to be led, Palehorse, we’ll get on with campaigning together, like the democratic party we are. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there is a growing clamour for a change of approach to Brexit, and even for a referendum on the deal – see Jonathan Freedland’s op ed in the Saturday Guardian for instance, though you would think he had just thought of the probable desirability of it for himself, regardless of Vince mentioning it in an interview in the same paper. However, I think you’ve got a point about aiming to raise national prosperity and with it the standard of living for everyone. But there are some convincing economic strategies suggested by a few regular contributors here which surely aim to do just that.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Jul '17 - 2:16pm

    The magic bullet is already present; it just need stronger articulating, namely the prevention of a disastrous hard Brexit. We need to keep repeating it ad nauseum. Just as we saved the country from economic chaos in 2010, we moved the debate in this week’s General Election so leaving the EU is not inevitable.

  • John Littler 18th Jul '17 - 9:37pm

    The certainty of brexit disaster ought to make relevance and success fall into LibDem laps as it did from opposing the Iraq war, albeit a bigger issue in the UK.

    The other issue is rebuilding Industry, technology, skills and the productive base of the UK economy, which would reduce the north south divide, increase wages, reduce the balance of payments deficit and increase growth and the UK’s poor productivity. Look at Germany and Scandinavia as to how they have done it.

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