Now comes the hard part

We Lib Dems have had a great three months. The local elections were good, the European elections outstanding, we got a high-profile defection from the crumbling Tiggers, and we’ve just won a by-election in a Leave area. We’ve even had our new leader going down very well among voters we need to attract.

But now comes the hard part. As the celebrations from Brecon & Radnorshire die down, we need to recognise that we only won there because the Greens and Plaid Cymru stood aside. It was the smart decision, but they will want something in return, indeed the Lib Dem brand is still mud in Green circles for our perceived lack of generosity in responding to the Greens’ offer to stand aside in 12 of our target seats in the 2017 general election.

We must therefore get our head around what we can usefully give in return, and anyone who remembers the difficulties of deciding who should stand in which seat when the Liberal and Social Democrat parties merged in the late 1980s will know it won’t be easy. It is not my job to carve up seats – wiser counsels are working on that – but there are a few things we Liberal Democrats would do well to get our heads around.

The main one is that we will have to give something up, and it will be painful. If we are to be politically mature and rise to the challenge of the Johnson/Farage regressive alliance, we will have to stand aside (or at least do no work) in seats where there will be dedicated Lib Dems who have worked their patch for years, and who will probably feel after the recent results that they’re finally on the verge of a breakthrough. Whether they really are or not is irrelevant – they will have worked for the Lib Dem cause yet it will feel as if they’re being asked to put the last five years’ work on the bonfire.

Having said that, in strategic terms, what we can usefully offer the Greens and Plaid may not cost us that much.

At the 2017 general election, there were 14 seats in which the Greens were ahead of the Lib Dems, and in 2015 the Greens came second to either Labour to the Tories in four. The chances of us winning these seats are negligible, and the likelihood of us winning other seats if we can ‘trade’ some of these 14 for the Greens assisting us in some of our targets is immense. Not every Lib Dem voter will vote Green (that’s something the Greens will have to suck up, just as not every Green voter will vote for us if there’s no Green candidate), but if the Greens stand aside in seats we can win to avoid splitting the Remain vote, in return for us doing the same in some of their targets, it could be a major gain at very little cost.

One of the five seats where the Greens did well in 2017 is Sheffield Central, and this could have a special role to play. Barring a rapidly called general election, the next by-election on the horizon is Sheffield Hallam. We will not want to give that up, and nor should we, having had the MP from 1997 to 2017. But the Greens will understandably ask why they should stand aside in two by-elections running. The obvious answer is that we will stand aside in Sheffield Central at the next general election as part of a package of seat trading.

Exactly which potential Remain Alliance seats are best fought by us and which by other Remain parties is subject to specific factors, all of which make trying to find a formula for dividing up seats into a mug’s game. But what angered the Greens in 2017 is that they felt we didn’t show sufficient appreciation for their offers to stand aside, so if we’re to make any headway this time, we will have to show a greater generosity of spirit. And that ought not to be difficult, given our party’s creed.

One thing is important here: this is not an across-the-board idea. We are separate parties with separate identities, and standing aside should only be done where doing so would split the progressive vote and let a regressive candidate win. Thus, for example, our main target in Wales is Ceredigion, which is currently held by Plaid – this can be a straight fight between Lib Dems and Plaid, but we might thank Plaid for standing aside in Brecon in another Welsh seat where Plaid is up against the Conservatives or a Brexiteer Labour MP.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Our democracy is under threat from Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and their acolytes. This is the moment to put any differences aside and work with others for the greater good, even if it’s understandably painful for a few of our hard-working members.

* Chris Bowers is a two-term district councillor and four-time parliamentary candidate. He writes on cross-party cooperation and in 2021 was the lead author of the New Liberal Manifesto.

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  • Mark Goodrich 13th Aug '19 - 1:07pm

    Good article! Subject to getting local parties on board, I think it is a bit of a no-brainer to stand down in the few seats where the Greens were ahead of us. Similar logic applies to the remains of the Tiggers (some of whom will probably join us).

    I am not a huge fan of pacts in general but we are staring down the barrel of a crash out Brexit and this is emphatically not politics as usual.

  • Paul Barker 13th Aug '19 - 1:21pm

    While I agree with everything in this article it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
    Whatever arrangements we come to with The Greens (in England & Wales), Plaid & Independents, we need to be noisy about them. Rather than playing them down we should big them up. Even harder than accepting that we share a lot of Voters is accepting that we all share a lot of Values & that Values are what Voters are interested in rather than the details of policies.
    We can do a lot more than simply add up our separates groups of Voters. We can bring in Voters from across the spectrum by demonstrating our willingness to work together. The potential for a real Alliance is huge.

  • David Warren 13th Aug '19 - 1:47pm

    An alliance with parties who are not Liberal is very dangerous imo.

    I am getting really concerned about where the party is going with tactical error after tactical error. We really need to take a long hard look at strategy, I thought we were about promoting Liberalism and instead we are proposing creating an alliance based on a single issue.

    There were plenty of General Elections in the past when voters in many constituencies didn’t have a Liberal candidate to vote for it looks like we are going back there.

  • @ David Warren “An alliance with parties who are not Liberal is very dangerous imo.”

    In what way are they not Liberal, David ?

    Some people might reasonably say, that in many ways those parties could be described as more Liberal than the Lib Dems (especially between 2010-15).

  • What’s happening in Eastbourne ?

    Is the present incumbent going to be allowed back in after he has climbed the steps up to Lincoln Cathedral on his knees as an act of penitence…… or is it going to be offered to a genuine Liberal/Green Remainer ?

  • marcstevens 13th Aug '19 - 2:27pm

    That’s exactly the same question I was going to ask. I lived in Wales for a number of years and don’t see what is illiberal about Plaid. If you look at their policies they are similar to centre left parties and their brand of nationalism is outward looking, expansive, certainly not insular. The Greens trumpeting the environment and the threat of global warming, what is illiberal about that?

  • phil mclellan 13th Aug '19 - 3:04pm

    Looks to me that Stephen Lloyd has seen the light. He has posted several tweets vehemently opposed to a no deal Brexit so maybe he will come back into the fold. Think he is still a party member but not in the Parliamentary group

  • Paul is right – there is a big opportunity here to seize the agenda and marginalise Labour, so long as it can’t make up its mind.

    The alliance would form around the three principles of:

    – remaining in the EU
    – responding to the climate emergency
    – political and electoral reform

    on the understanding that it is a short term arrangement, with separate futures for the two parties under a fair voting system. Independents and others would be welcome to sign up.

    We can and should be generous to the Greens. They don’t have very many real targets, and in most of them we aren’t in the running. For example standing down in the IOW is a no brainer. We can also afford to let them run where they have established local councillors – as for example in a fair few London seats.

  • “”””As the celebrations from Brecon & Radnorshire die down, we need to recognise that we only won there because the Greens and Plaid Cymru stood aside.””””

    It’s become a tedious but necessary habit to debunk this myth wherever it is emerging it’s head (usually in the media but also from our opponents’ activists’ mouths)

    In 2017, Plaid polled 1299 votes. The Greens did not stand so had 0 votes. The 2019 byelection was won by Liberal Democrats by 1425.

    It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say even if Plaid and Green had stood, that the Liberal Democrats still would have won. To say it’s “the only reason” the Liberal Democrats won is ridiculous. There were a great many factors that meant the Liberal Democrats won, but in my view this “standing down” factor was neither decisive nor that importance

    I do wonder how many more times this myth will find itself being repeated on LDV though

  • John Marriott 13th Aug '19 - 5:22pm

    I’ve never really figured out what constitutes a true Liberal. A member of the awkward squad? Someone who reckons you should do exactly what you want regardless of the consequences. It was said somewhere that, if God had been a Liberal, Moses would have had Ten Suggestions rather than Ten Commandments. Or is it ‘brown bread and sandals’? If keeping the faith is all some people are bothered about then there really is no chance of making a breakthrough. Come on, guys, if you really do want to win, you had better be willing to get your hands dirty!

    As the Aussie swimmer said at the 2012 Olympics; “Second place is where the losers start!”

  • This is more than just about horse trading seats. Firstly it’s important that the electorate see that the Lib Dem’s, Greens and others will stand together to fight for the remain cause. This will enable the Lib Dem’s to claim they are the leading party for remain voters and that remainers should vote tactically for the Lib Dem’s over Labour as we command widespread support across the left right spectrum.

    With that in mind I would suggest that we go further with the greens, plaid and others and actually agree not to stand against one another anywhere. We should stand as Lib Dem – Remain or Green – remain. This way we actively ram the tactical vote message home.

  • Greens did well in Norwich in the European elections, so maybe Lib Dems could stand aside in one or both constituencies there? Lib Dems gained slightly more votes in 2017, but the last GE results weren’t promising for either of the parties. But the Greens could try and ride on European elections success there.

    But I wonder, whether the Lib Dem PPCs are willing to stand aside for (ex-)Tiggers, if they are prepared to join the Lib Dems? And if they aren’t willing to stand aside, could the party somehow sweeten the sacrifice, perhaps by finding them another winnable seat, or something?

  • The pedant in me agrees with James that some of the media, Plaid and the Greens, and of course the Tories have somewhat over-egged the role of Plaid and the Greens in the win, but just because the electoral arithmetic might appear that we’d have won anyway, the value of an electoral pact is about more than Plaid/Green voters switching to us. It’s the kind of thing that encourages Remain supporting Labour voters to change the habits of a life-time, and gives hope to the nation that politicians can be grown-up.

    Similarly, I think the Greens were being a bit unrealistic about our relative chances of victory in a number of seats, and at the root of any pact should be the shared desire to have a progressive and remain supporting MP. Expectations of a reciprocal deal should be secondary, and some seemed to think that it should be on a one for one basis, but any attempt to do so would have been a genuine danger to maximising the number of remain MPs.

    An important consideration isn’t just who got the most votes last time, but if extra votes are required, where could they come from and how likely is it that those voters would switch to us or the Greens, or Plaid. If we do proceed with such candidates having a ‘unite to remain’ tag, or similar, then I think that will help people to hold their nose.

    We should work in good faith to find seats where the Greens/Plaid stand a good chance and commit to supporting their campaign when the time comes and communicating clearly to our own supporters what we are doing and why. Goodwill goes a long way in these situations, and it may be that we have to concede a couple of seats where we have doubts that the Greens can increase their vote share as well as we might. We might be making mistakes, but if insisting we are definitely better placed means we lose cross party support in that seat and others, then is it worth it?

  • Gwyn Williams 13th Aug '19 - 7:51pm

    This article starts in the wrong place. In Brecon and Radnor Plaid Cymru-the Welsh Nationalist Party stood down and instead of losing their deposit and risk being ridiculed for being squeezed into the same status as MRLP they are praised as shrewd and progressive. For their own supporters many of whom are cultural rather than political nationalists they can point to the election of a Welsh speaker in one of the most anglicised constituencies in Wales. Monoglot English speakers please note that there is an immense sense of pride when someone from a minority linguistic community triumphs.
    There is a similar,weaker and subtler argument which can be drawn by the Greens. In the past Liberal and now Liberal Democrat candidates have been drawn from farming communities to appeal in a constituency that is very heavily dependent on livestock production. Jane Dodds has no farming background and is a vegetarian. If someone like Jane can win in B&R this can help promote similar candidates win outside of the “hummus belt” of the major cities.

  • STOP PRESS The Guardian 18.07 tonight

    “Tom Watson urges Labour to work with Lib Dems to stop no-deal Brexit
    Labour deputy leader says union with Jo Swinson only way to block no-deal Brexit”.

  • I assume Tom Watson’s proposal means working together in parliament, not in elections.

    However, even though co-operation in the parliament is necessary, at the same time it is necessary to prepare for the coming general elections. Tories at least seem to be preparing.

  • Surely we won Brecon because the Brexit party took enough Cons votes to leave us ahead! Lookig at the latest YouGov figures showing voting pattern in the most 20 competitve Con/Lib Dem marginals we are shown at 36 , Cons 35, Brexit 13, Labour 11. Seems we may well need a good Brexit vote in these seats as well.

  • John Peters 13th Aug '19 - 9:07pm

    Re Tom Watson

    There is a possibility that Jeremy Corbyn loathes Tom Watson more than he loathes Jo Swinson.

  • David Warren 13th Aug '19 - 9:11pm

    I think Tom Watson is getting a bit worried about the fact that George Galloway has indicated he is going to stand against him in his constituency and is probably hoping the pro Remain parties don’t stand candidates in West Bromwich West.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Aug '19 - 9:11pm

    Chris Bowers
    Did you see Layla Moran on Newsnight a few days ago? she said she was grilled by members of the Green party in Oxford West and Abingdon who voted to support her. She appears to be, in effect, a LibDem-Green MP.
    Have you considered the Co-operative Party and their relationship with the Labour party?
    or Scottish Greens relationship with the SNP?
    We do not stand against a Speaker seeking re-election as an MP, although Farage did.
    We need to credibly maintain our stance as a nationwide party.

  • @ John Peters “There is a possibility that Jeremy Corbyn loathes Tom Watson more than he loathes Jo Swinson”.

    Well, given that J.C. voted in the same lobby as the Lib Dems almost as much as he voted with the Blair/Brown governments nothing is surprising in politics…… though there is no evidence that he loathes either Jo Swinson or Tom Watson. On a personal level he is known for his courtesy. A shame to see Lib Dems falling for all the Tory media stuff and demonising anybody.

  • I’m thinking, that because Remain/Leave has divided UK in a new way, and Lib Dems are the Remain party, the constituencies which Lib Dems have held recently, aren’t necessarily anymore those, that would be most easily won. They might be, but the success in the European elections might be a better indicator in which areas most of the Lib Dem potential voters are concentrated now.

    But this is just a hunch, probably somebody has made some more reliable calculations about it.

  • Richard O'Neill 13th Aug '19 - 11:47pm

    Limited local pacts might be worthwhile, but a central carving up of seats is just bad. Voters can’t be taken for granted.

    @David Raw
    I’m not sure Corbyn has any particular issue with Jo Swinson (although his supporters clearly do judging by their reaction to her election), but it is surely well-known that he and Watson don’t get on.

    Its a side issue, because I still can’t see the arithmetic working out to provide a stable govt without a fresh election first, whether it is led by Corbyn or not. This latest intervention is really about the ongoing internal battle in the Labour party at the moment.

  • David Raw writes: “@ David Warren “An alliance with parties who are not Liberal is very dangerous imo.”

    In what way are they not Liberal, David ?”

    In the way that they are Socialist rather than Liberal, David. If you’re unaware of the difference, let me point you to a great speech made by a member of Lloyd George’s radical government:

    “Some people might reasonably say, that in many ways those parties could be described as more Liberal than the Lib Dems (especially between 2010-15).”

    “Some” would, in that case, be incorrect. The 2010-5 government was the most Liberal of the century so far, and the first for decades to be true to all strands of Liberal philosophy.

  • Mark Sherratt 14th Aug '19 - 8:30am

    Points to think about on a per seat basis:

    1. Which remain party got most votes over last three general elections.

    2. Who is the incumbent and who will be their main challenger.

    Seats previously won by a Remain party candidate should be contested by that party, all other Remain parties stand down.

    Seats where a Remain party candidate came second should be contested by that party, all other Remain parties stand down.

    Seats where Tories win and Labour come second should be contested by Lib Dem unless a third place Remain party had a significant minority vote share.

    Seats where Labour win and Tories come second should be contested by Green/Plaid/SNP unless a third place Remain party had a significant minority vote share. Yes – I know this will be the hardest to give up but the Greens can offer the socialist agenda to win over Corbynista Labour voters and possibly sneak through the middle.

    NO Remain party should put paperless candidates forward to seats that another Remain party intends to actively compete.

    Maximising Remainers means making sacrifices, if it works then it can be extended into a pro-PR alliance in the future.

    Doesn’t matter if we don’t agree with some of the policies and persons in another Remain party, it is important to remember they will be more palatable to work with in parliament than those in the main parties who are either pushing for a damaging brexit or enabling it by their association and support for colleagues.

  • Denis Loretto 14th Aug '19 - 8:47am

    Obviously the only reason for consideration of inter party deals at this time is to stop brexit. If and when there was to be an election after brexit had occurred quite different circumstances would arise. I must say that I do not see the so-called remainer parties, however they co-operate, as strong enough to stop brexit. Highly difficult as it is, I cannot see how we can now stop brexit without the help of a very large section of the Labour party. Corbyn is the main barrier and I for one welcome the news this morning that Jo Swindon is trying to address this conundrum.

  • To my mind Labour are in big trouble. They are not in a position to take seats at a GE held before the end of October, they really have to stop the Tory march North.

    The Lib Dem challenge is different we could take anything from 50-200 seats if the polls hold up/ we have a good campaign. But if Labour splits the vote where we are second in Tory seats that becomes unlikely. With that in mind we should offer Watson a deal. Get out of the way in our top 150 target seats and we will get out of the way in the top 150 seats they must defend / target on one condition that those MPs commit to pushing for a referendum or revoking art 50.

    For our part we would head to be clear that this doesn’t mean we’d prop up a Corbyn led government but it does mean we will not prop up a Tory one and that there are people in both parties we can work with.

  • The key phrase in this post is ‘a greater generosity of spirit’. Without that, we won’t get anywhere. That and a broad vision of what’s at stake in the current crisis, with Johnson and the Tory right using no-deal as a pretext for a parliamentary coup.

    I also agree with Paul Barker’s comment that not only should we be open to cooperation pacts with other parties, we should be noisy about them. Otherwise, if we claim to be ‘the party of Remain’ but then put obstacles and yes-buts in the way of effective cooperation, it’s very likely we’ll be seen as just using the issue as a front for narrow party advantage. A lot of people think that already, and as Paul says, we need to make a noise to contradict the impression.

    The big thing, of course, would be to get some cooperation going of any sort with Labour remainers and the SNP. Compared to this I imagine the Greens and Plaid would be easy. But surely, if all the pro-Remain elements are actually to have an effect and stop Johnson, this has to be faced, no?

  • Mark Sheets writes ” Yes – I know this will be the hardest to give up but the Greens can offer the socialist agenda to win over Corbynista Labour voters and possibly sneak through the middle.”

    This is exactly why these alliances should be resisted. Go away and look at history – we gave Labour a free run in the 1900s when we were strong and they were weak, and sowed the seeds of our own destruction.

    This will not stop brexit but will create a larger Socialist bloc to enact their destructive philosophy in future.

  • John Peters 14th Aug '19 - 9:50am

    @David Raw

    Perhaps Corbyn loathes his/her politics would have been a better choice.

    As a Tory voter perhaps I can be excused.

    However I’m fairly sure I’ve read articles/comments on this site comparing Mr Farage to Hitler (and by implication suggesting that Leave voters are Nazis). Perhaps it isn’t just Tories who have a problem with phrasing.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '19 - 9:52am

    Denis Loretto 14th Aug ’19 – 8:47am is usually a voice to listen to. I also welcome the news this morning that Jo Swinson is trying to address this conundrum.

  • John Peters, “As a Tory voter perhaps I can be excused”. Well, John, there’s plenty to forgive about that but not much to excuse.

    However, given my Dad flew with the RAF in WW11 (and saw the liberation of Belsen) , I agree with you completely about comparisons with any of that. To me, and I’ve met him and talked with him, Farage is merely an over large ego with any over large mouth (this week in Australia for example).

  • If our activists in these “Green” seats could just alter their objective from winning a Lib Dem MP to defeating the leave candidate, they could campaign just as hard and feel just as satisfied when their campaign is successful as long as the next GE is held under a better system.

  • Gwyn Williams makes some interesting points.

    I do differ with regard to the cultural and political nationalism assessment though. The “cultural nationalist” supporters of Plaid tend to be urban dwellers, with relatively few of this sort in the Welsh borders. Those few Welsh nationalists in Brecon & Radnor (as well as Montgomery to the north and Monmouth to the south) are far more likely to be;
    1. Political nationalists
    2. Core Plaid Cymru supporters

    The second point is important in assessing the impact of Plaid standing down. The circa 1000 Plaid voters in Brecon & Radnor exist in a constituency which is heavily “worked” by the Lib Dems and possibly Conservatives, with zero “work” by Plaid in living memory. The vast majority of those circa 1000 Plaid voters are therefore going to vote Plaid or nothing. So Plaid not putting up a candidate doesn’t mean many transfer of votes to Liberal Democrats because most of them will just not vote or spoil their ballot paper.

    The point about Jane Dodds being a Welsh speaker, as well as non-farming and vegetarian is also worthy of comment. I suspect along with an effective squeeze of Brexit Party voters by the Conservatives, one of the biggest reasons the margin was so much narrower than many people suspected was because the Conservatives progressively persuaded more and more of the electorate that Jane “wasn’t one of us”. They did this by pointing out that she had no connection to the constituency and that her home and work were indeed very far from it (standard Lib Dem campaigning line when an opponent is parachuted into the seat). Lesson being here that local connections do still matter, especially for the Liberal Democrats which make localism one of their main platforms.

  • Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Tom Watson a leading light in that anti and ridiculing of Lib Dems web site a few years ago! How times change.

  • What James Pugh’s comment above reminds us us the crucial facr that voters are not interchangeable, which makes talk of alliances wrong and dangerous. He is spot on when he says that in these sorts of cases where greens and nationalists have nothing to lose, they get publicity at zero cost.

    Swings are rarely if ever direct. Voters move in and out of non voting, or fragment in myriad ways.

    Let’s just stop this now.

  • Until 2015 the Liberal Democrats were in First or Second place in about half the seats but not after that and even less after 2017 which could make things more difficult unless there is a really strong surge in support which could only be achieved by presenting the party as an alternative Government and not as hoping to have the balance of power which is the very last thing the voters want. They are sick of the chaos they have endured since the 2017 election and billion pound bungs to the DUP which represents a minority of the Northern Irish voters, the majority having voted to stay in the EU.
    There should be no coalition if there is a hung Parliament. All Government proposals should be decided on their merits and any that are not in line with party policy or principles rejected. No deals should be done except in the unlikely event of proportional representation being enacted by Parliament without a referendum.
    Apart from a Liberal Democrat Government there would appear to be two possible outcomes of a General election – a Conservative Government after Brexit has been enacted or a Labour Government supported by the SNP if it is not enacted, probably without a majority as the Labour party have given up on Scotland and it might be their last chance of power before the end of the United Kingdom after which the Conservatives will normally be in Government at Westminster if Wales also turns against Labour.

  • TCO when you say “The 2010-5 government was the most Liberal of the century so far, and the first for decades to be true to all strands of Liberal philosophy,” were you not paying attention when our MPs voted through the legislation on Secret Courts?

    Even after two votes in Conference against it and articles in LDV urging compromise.

    Specifically it said “I call on Nick to sit down with Jo Shaw and Martin Tod, listen to them and work to find a way forward”.

    Sadly that didn’t happen and many good Lib Dems left the party as a result.

    Presumably the right of someone accused of a crime to know what the evidence is against him/her is not one of your “strands of Liberal philosophy?”

  • @ TCO “Go away and look at history – we gave Labour a free run in the 1900s”.

    I’m afraid your grasp of early 20th century political history is shallow to say the least, though it appears to fit in with some of your other notions..

    Can we assume you don’t favour paying a salary to M.P.’s leaving representation solely to those of independent means ; that you don’t wish to have universal suffrage, and that you wish to restrict the franchise only to males ?

    Are you aspiring to be the Liberal Democrat version of Jacob Rees-Mogg ? Indeed, could you be a born again John Morley ?

  • Christian 14th Aug ’19 – 9:00am……………………..we should offer Watson a deal. Get out of the way in our top 150 target seats and we will get out of the way in the top 150 seats they must defend / target on one condition that those MPs commit to pushing for a referendum or revoking art 50…………….

    So Labour should give up 150 of the 247 seats they currently hold in exchange for 137 LibDem ‘hopefuls’…(i.e. seats they don’t hold)

    As Hannibal Hayes said, “That’s a good deal?”

  • Sue Sutherland 14th Aug '19 - 1:12pm

    I think that we as a party should face up to the fact that we are winning elections because people want to vote for us. Jane Dodds was a good candidate, she had a good team and lots of enthusiastic helpers from all over the place and we won. It was great that Plaid and the Greens stood down and it makes sense for us to do that in places where we have few activists and fewer hopes of winning. Other seats require more delicate negotiation.
    However, sometimes our hard work ethic can mean that we don’t see enthusiasm for our party when it comes up and hugs us in the street. Of course we need to remember the caveats and not get above ourselves but we also need to harness excitement and enthusiasm to win the largest number of MPs ever. We can do it! Go Jo!

  • theakes 14th Aug ’19 – 11:22am……………………..Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Tom Watson a leading light in that anti and ridiculing of Lib Dems web site a few years ago! How times change…………….

    Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Chuka Umunna a leading light in that leaked memo (about wiping out and replacing the LibDem party) a few months ago (last April) How times change.

  • nvelope2003 14th Aug '19 - 2:14pm

    but nothing changes in the ex spats unfortunately – time to move on I think

  • I feel that the Financial Times is warming to Lib Dems. Interesting article from one of the Lib Dem target seats.

  • @David Evans I wrote “The 2010-5 government was the most Liberal of the century so far”. This is compared to Blair II (Iraq), Blair III/ Brown (Financial Crisis), Cameron II, May & Johnson (all Brexit). Which of these do you think was more Liberal?

    @David Raw I wrote “Go away and look at history – we gave Labour a free run in the 1900s when we were strong and they were weak, and sowed the seeds of our own destruction.” To which you replied “I’m afraid your grasp of early 20th century political history is shallow to say the least,”

    This is quite probably true – after all I only have a PhD in history, do am not well qualified to comment unlike yourself. However, I am surprised you are unaware of the Gladstone–MacDonald pact agreed in 1903 which meant that, in 31 of the 50 seats where Labour Party candidates stood, the Liberal Party did not put up a candidate. 24 of Labour’s 29 MPs elected in 1906 came from constituencies where the Liberal Party agreed not to stand.

    Or that Asquith enabled McDonald to become PM in 1923, thereby killing the old Liberal Party for 50 years.

    Both these are telling examples of what happens when we assist weaker rivals out to replace us, and the same would happen with the greens.

    @Patrick the FT was a strong supporter of ours during the coalition.

  • @ TCO You assume too much in saying I’m unaware of the Herbert Gladstone – Ramsay Mac pact. It was in fact to the Liberals advantage and maintained a Liberal Government in office until May, 2015. It might even have led to a fusion of the two parties if the Libs had played their cards right. People like Haldane knew that and acted on it.

    Yes, Asquith’s decision led to middle class flight in 1924, but the ship had been sinking since May, ’15 for much bigger reasons than you cite to back up your prejudices.

    You say a PhD in history. … and your particular thesis was about what, pray ?

  • @David Raw you haven’t refuted my key point, which was that-for short term tactical advantage the Liberal Party made a huge strategic error by permitting the Labour Party to gain a foothold in parliament. Ultimately that led to its effective death as a party of government.

    Did you read the quote I tagged for you in another thread about the huge philosophical gulf between Liberalism and Socialism? Given this gulf, perhaps you can explain how such a merger may have come about?

  • David Evans 14th Aug '19 - 9:32pm

    TCO – what you wrote in full was “The 2010-5 government was the most Liberal of the century so far, and the first for decades to be true to all strands of Liberal philosophy,” exactly as I quoted and debunked.

    PhD in history – as David Raw says “and your particular thesis was about what, pray?”
    My suggestion would be the History of ignoring the point. 🙂

  • TCO – you know, a whooping number of Labour grassroots/members/MPs were ex-Liberals who defected during the war, well before the supposed middle-class flight. Worse, many of those guys were considered the future of the party before 1914, like Charles Trevelyan.

    Next, without those Orange Bookers, the Libdems could tried two tactics that were successful in Canada, another FPTP country. The first one is Jack Layton’s playbook by staying in Opposition and voted for issues on a case-by-case basis, he refused Coalition because he knew what would have happened to his party (a.k.a what eventually happened to us) if he had done so, and he managed to become Leader of the Opposition, but his death derailed his party’s rise.
    The second tactic would be the Trudeau tactic: outflanking the Socialists from the left that allowed him to win an outright majority despite starting as a third party. We all know that Cameron obviously ran from the right and Brown also ran as a “Third Way Centrist”. Had we employed both tactics during 2010-2015, we would have become the Opposition by 2017.

  • TCO – and you seriously believe in Orange Bookers’ austerity during the midst of a big recession, don’t you?

  • @Thomas you wrote “The second tactic would be the Trudeau tactic: outflanking the Socialists from the left”.

    Yes, that is always possible – but what would be the point? Positioning the Liberal Democrat party to the left of Socialism would be two steps too far to the left. Socialism is already too far; going further would mean Marxism.

    Such a move would be self-defeating and I’m surprised you countenance it.

  • TCO – Sir, Gordon Brown ran as a Blairite Third Way Centrist, just like Thomas Mulcair in 2015 (that’s why Trudeau pulled it off by running as a left-winger). Clegg had a similar chance in 2010, but he never took it and instead placing himself between Brown and Cameron (and failed).

    Do not forget that the Liberal under Trudeau in 2015 started as a third party and won the election with a majority. It is not unfair to say Trudeau saved the Liberals from extinction (together with Jack Layton’s death).

  • TCO – in 1923 the Liberals were already a dead man walking.

  • @Thomas, at the risk of repeating myself, what is the point of positioning to the left of Socialism? To do so is not Liberal, and if we are not Liberal, then it’s a pointless exercise.

    The party exists to further Liberalism, not to win power as Socialists. Why would any member of a Liberal Party want to do that? It doesn’t even make sense from an entryist perspective.

  • @Thomas

    “”””Do not forget that the Liberal under Trudeau in 2015 started as a third party and won the election with a majority. It is not unfair to say Trudeau saved the Liberals from extinction (together with Jack Layton’s death).””””

    Canada’s Liberals were the natural party of government for a huge proportion of the 20th century, and felt as much by the Canadian population. They position in 3rd prior to the previous election was an anomaly which they corrected in one election cycle. They are not remotely comparable to the Liberal Democrats from a “political establishment” perspective, indeed they were quite the opposite.

    Separately, Canada’s Liberals are heading for an almighty thrashing at the next GE ubless there is a massive turnaround in public opinion (perfectly possible for a party that is viewed as the natural party if government to do)

  • @ TCO Still waiting for details of your thesis for your history Ph.D. ……

  • James Pugh – you have a good point that it is a party of establishment, but, don’t forget about Duverger’s law. I still maintain my point that Trudeau was the only one who could do it in 2015, and the decisive factor was still that he campaigned from the left of NDP by promise to run deficit while others tried to balance the budget (but is governing as a centrist). At that time Canada was facing a downturn due to falling oil price.

    About the upcoming election, Trudeau only needs to win in Eastern Canada to be reelected, and well, DoFo will help him by keeping messing up and freaking out Ontarians (Tories are already falling behind in recent Ontario federal polling). He does not even need to win national popular vote.

    TCO – I am talking about campaign from the left not govern from the left. Tim Farron once tried that approach (positioning Libdem to the left of New Labour) before Corbyn got elected as Labour leader. Also, when I talked abouy Jack Layton, my point about Clegg is that he should have actually played his king-making role, voting on issues strategically on a case-by-case basis instead of throwing his lot with the Tories.

  • nvelope2003 16th Aug '19 - 4:08pm

    Thomas: Do you mean it is ok to campaign for one policy without any intention of implementing it ? I thought that was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015.The present recovery seems to be about one issue so what happens when that has been sorted – which also applies to the Brexit Party and even the Boris Johnson Party ? Ohhhh Jeremy Corbyn !

  • nvelope2003 – there is a gigantic difference between promising free tuition fees and then just reducing fees by x%/ or making student debts interest-free, and promising free education and then voting for massive tuition fee hike. The first one is making incremental, moderate efforts towards the goal (similar to Obamacare as a stepping stone towards universal healthcare), the second one is a monumental betrayal to youth vote. You seems to have forgotten about a classic liberal politic playbook of making incremental steps towards a goal.

    Also, there is a huge difference between making Obama-style moderate, incremental austerity spending cuts combined with targeted public work investments, and the Coalition-style hacking and slashing of public services and social welfare. Instead of “balancing the book”, talking about “working towards lowering deficit to within EU’s 3% target” would look much better in the midst of a recession/weak economy.

    Look at DoFo’s latest hack-and-slash policies in Ontario, and then look back at the Coalition. See, no difference.

  • nvelope2003 18th Aug '19 - 5:11pm

    Not sure who or what DoFos are. Slash and burn policies are rarely wise. The Greens are on the up in Canada but no sign of the New Democrats improving much.

    Going back on the promise to end tuition fees was wrong but the Labour Party started them despite saying they would not do so and they did not lose the following election.

    Most of the Liberal Democrat vote, at least in the South, went to the Conservatives or UKIP in 2015 and there was little up lift for Labour until the 2017 election when Mr Corbyn was leader. It will be interesting to see what happens if leaving the EU without a deal causes a disaster. I suspect nothing much as the true believers will say it was all a plot by the Remainers ! They are all apparently more than happy to see their living standards collapse to regain our sovereignty which means handing the UK to the US.

  • nvelope2003 – DoFo is Doug Ford, premier of Ontario. He has been single-handedly helping the Liberals regain their lead in Ontario by his slash-and-burn policies, many are quite similar to Coalition cuts.

  • Thomas: are the Liberals in front in Ontario? Majority of polls have it a three way contest, sometimes first second or third. We can say they have recovered since last Provincial elections when they only got 7 seats I believe.

  • nvelope2003 19th Aug '19 - 9:15am

    Thomas: Slash and burn cuts were wrong but they were popular with the voters as in 2015 they gave the Conservatives a majority in the House of Commons for the first time since 1992. Many people did not think they needed some of the public services provided and thought some were a waste of public money. Some people also resented paying for students to enjoy 3 years at university drinking a lot of beer ! That feeling has largely gone now as people see valuable services being reduced or closed in order to give tax cuts to the rich.

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