On Vince, the Lib Dems and this supposed new party

The Sunday Times reports (£) that the reason missed that vote the other night was because he was at a meeting discussing the formation of a new centre party.

A few brief thoughts from me:

First of all, I think that if it is finally going to get off the ground, @libdems need to know about and work with it where it shares our values. It would be daft to stand against each other in an anti-Brexit election.

It may be that we can only work together on the anti-Brexit stuff because @libdems couldn’t work closely with a party that didn’t have a clear strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, tackle climate change, reform our political system & champion human rights & civil liberties.

So it’s very sensible for Vince to be in the discussions. He may be telling them that the best thing they can do is join the Liberal Democrats because we already have the campaign infrastructure and the Commons presence and experience.

If Vince wants @libdems to co-operate closely with any new party – and we’ve heard about lots of these which have never got off the ground – he will have to persuade our Conference to vote for it and there will be some spirited resistance.

It will not be easy for him to convince us to work with a new centrist party. We need to have much more information about it. And none of us wants to end up as the smile on the face of the tiger.

And, yes, Vince should have been at that vote. He knows that and it won’t happen again. A genuine mistake, owned and taken responsibility for in a candid manner. Refreshing to see these days. I’m over that now. And he has done so much more to oppose Brexit every day than, say, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, who has been waving the Tories’ ridiculous plans through.

A final thought – we’re in this politics game to change the world, to get rid of poverty, ignorance and conformity. We should work with others where we can to achieve that. Let’s see what’s on offer and decide then.

UPDATE: Vince was on spectacular form on Pienaar’s Politics. I can imagine the mischievous glint in his eye as he said he was spending the Summer on a staycation, plotting.

I couldn’t have asked more from him in that interview. He was clear that he wanted the Lib Dems to be at the forefront of a realignment of British politics that he sees as inevitable given the fractures in Conservative and Labour parties but he explicitly, as you would expect, ruled out joining a new party. He said that he had a good oarty of his own that was winning the arguments.

He also dismissed the idea of plots against him as “ridiculous” saying that he has a united, cohesive team of people working with him. He is right. Parliamentary Party is the most united I have ever known it.

The really great thing about what he said is that it is our absolute priority and preoccupation to stop Brexit. He said it several times.

It was one of his strongest performances. It isn’t like him to get through an entire interview completely on message!

Another good point was that he was very honest in admitting that missing that vote was a mistake and it wouldn’t happen again. It’s a pity that those who have put us in this appalling mess over Brexit can’t admit their catastrophic error.


Here’s what Vince has to say on today’s story:

The Liberal Democrats have a strong tradition of working with others across the political spectrum, to do the right thing. Very often, we have led a debate and found others coming in behind us. It happened with our opposition to the illegal war in Iraq; it happened on cutting income tax for the lowest earners; and now it’s happening on Brexit too. Our campaign for the people to get the final say on any Brexit deal was once derided by the political establishment. Now, more and more people are joining forces with us to get an exit from Brexit.

But something broader is happening too. I have always said that Brexit could lead to some form of realignment, since it has exposed so brutally the fact that there are really at least two Conservative parties, and at least two Labour parties, all fighting like rats in a sack. In that environment, I think it right that Liberal Democrats should set tribalism aside to work with others who share our values.

That does not mean that there should be a new party. Britain already has the big, strong, liberal, centrist political force – it is called the Liberal Democrats. Thanks to our 100,000 members, we are the strongest grassroots voice in Britain speaking out against Brexit and demanding a new and better politics. As the political landscape changes, I am determined that our party should win new support from the millions of people who are political liberals, but have not yet been persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat.

Our party’s future is as a commanding force in the centre of British politics. Join us now to be a part of it.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Jul '18 - 11:16am

    Vince was excellent on 5 Live about it. Basically saying that realignment was coming, we’d be at the forefront of it, there was no chance of us hitching up with a new party as we have a perfectly good party ourselves and are winning the argument.

  • William Fowler 22nd Jul '18 - 11:16am

    New anti-brexit party but no charismatic leader to encapsulate the reasons for staying and take down Nigel Farage if he comes back into play, talk about the next election is probably a waste of time as we will be out by then.

    Corbyn may have a change of heart, decide the Tories have messed things up so badly that the best option is to stay in the EU and then support second vote. It would leave the Tories looking silly if the fickle public then voted to remain though Mrs May is quite capable of turning around and saying she is here to serve the public and carry on until the next election. If we do win then need to lock into the EU for the next 25 years, otherwise the saga will just repeat itself.

  • Polls show three to four times the number of people very strongly oppose Brexit and hold broadly liberal values than are currently intending to vote for us nationally. We can all speculate why but the lack of profile is no doubt a significant factor. The BBC’s decision that they will only give regular, significant coverage to the Government, official Opposition and third Party defined by the number of MPs locks us out. As a result that very substantial group of voters end up voting Red or Blue to keep out the Brexit Tories or Hard Left Labour because they do not know where we stand or think we have no chance of getting in. In the early 80s the same position applied with a Thatcherite Tory Party and Michael Foot leading a rapidly leftward moving Labour Party heavily infiltrated by Militant just as Momentum is doing today. The formation of the SDP working in Alliance with the Liberal Party saw spectacular By-election and local election gains. Only events in the Falklands, a lack of of understanding of targeting and a failure of courage by progressive Tory MPss who opposed Mrs T stopped the Alliance from overtaking Labour in the popular vote and making the key breakthrough in seat wins in the 1983 General Election. Labour and the Tories then began their moves to recovery under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair, and John Major. Thatcher’s anti European legacy and fear of UKIP has put the Tories back to where they were and Momentum’s capture of Labour has meant they are there too. The way is open but as in 1981 it will take people of courage in other Parties and none to step forward, work closely with the Lib Dems in a spirit of mutual respect and learn from the mistakes we made back in 1982. Those of us present at the Liberal Party Conference of 1981 and rolling, inaugural SDP Conferences will never forget the sense of excitement and optimism for the future that filled the air. Such a move and approach taken 37 years later must this time transform British politics to deliver the radical change that President Macron and Prime Minister Trudeau are delivering for France and Canada respectively. It will also provide the committed, united and energised force to create the “Exit from Brexit” that our nation needs so desperately. Bring it on!

  • I tend to agree with what Geoffrey says. There have been other pro remain parties which have come and gone and it makes sense for these people to join the Lib Dems, a party with a good bank of hard working Councillors. None of these other parties have Councillors or MPs. Vince Cable is doing an excellent job in uniting the party and apart from some posters on here, possibly infiltrators who attack/want to privatise the NHS and would be better off in UKIP, I think the Social Liberal wing of the party is now very much alive and kicking.

    I think we need an ideas page on here, where the Party can consider ideas from Lib Dem voters as well as members. I count myself as more the former but can the Party seriously look at FOI and applying it to the private sector as well as the public sector. I had an experience recently with a major IT company which caused my PC to crash and had to incur the costs from another third party for repair and data recovery. When I complained and tried to recover the costs, I was unable to get hold of the transcript of relevant telephone conversations as they are ‘restricted for internal use only’. Unlike the public sector where FOI applies, many of these companies are not accountable or responsible for their failures and are able to get away with it.

  • Richard Easter 22nd Jul '18 - 12:11pm

    And is this new party really a “centre party” or an “establishment” party? My concern is that it is just going to be the same old Blairites and Osbornites, foreign wars, deference to horrible regimes and selling them arms, privatisation, running the economy for the benefit of big business and so on – just with some socially liberal window dressing and an anti-Brexit position – and this is doomed to fail. Broadly speaking the inner cities want socialism, the shires want traditional patriotic conservatism and the provincial towns seem to want a mixture.

    Case in point – I can’t see the South West (which used to be a liberal stronghold) voting for an establishment party as an opposition to the Tories. In many cases Labour support in this region since Corbyn has rocketed. Parts of Cornwall that have never had much Labour support now have strong Labour oppositions such as Truro and Camborne. The combined Liberal + Labour vote in St Austell could have ousted the Tory. It’s noticable that where the Lib Dems lost by only 312 votes was St Ives, where the superb Andrew George stood. A figure that could never be described as the establishment – but a true radical liberal who’s presence in Parliament is sorely missed. I really don’t see how standing a Blairite or Osbornite figure against him for example will achieve anything positive.

  • The curious thought is who was Vince meeting with as it wouldn’t seem to include any anti-Brexit MPs as they were in Parliament. The Lords was sitting but no divisions in the evening so not obvious who was/wasn’t there.

    You would expect a meeting involving the leader to also involve political figures (ie not senior party staff) – or was this a meeting with ex-politicans (eg Blair/Mandelson/Campbell/Major types).

    And TBH it seems unlikely a meeting like that would take place – with the figures that would be involved – was somewhere where Vince was more than 2 hours travel from Parliament.

  • David Miliband has been the ‘charismatic’ leader put forward previously.

  • Sue Sutherland 22nd Jul '18 - 1:01pm

    Caron, I’m a member and I haven’t seen any message from Vince saying he realises he should have been present for that vote. I’ve seen Alastair’s statement but nothing from Vince. Can anyone point it out to me please?

  • I think we would need further clarification on what the plan is. I know from above Vince has now given further clarification.

    1. If it is a new party then surely this could harm the lib dems and if Vince was there to help it’s formation them he needs to clarify in what capacity e.g as a new member( will be walk from lib dems or try to merge party with it?) Or have an agreement on candidates at election. My feeling is that members will not be happy or concerned with this option.

    2. Did he go to try and encourage those at the meeting to focus on lib dems instead by encouraging unhappy Mps from the other parties to join and use advisers and expertise of others to help party grow. I think this is what he is looking into as other reports suggest he has hired people who helped the liberal party in Canada etc

    3. Talk about the idea of a unity gov. A lot of talk about this at the moment but thibk this is only putting a plaster on the problem

  • John Roffey 22nd Jul '18 - 1:11pm

    A further thought on David Miliband. Could VC’s plan be that DM joins the Party to become leader? With the greatest respect to the present MPs – there is no high profile potential leader of the Party – and it does seem that VC is keen to step down.

    With DM as leader – the chances of disgruntled Labour and Tory MPs joining the Party should be greatly enhanced.

  • There are 2 things we need to do to improve our standing.

    1. Support free university tuition, move towards Labour, attack Labour hard on Brexit, champion strong green policies and strong education policies.

    2. Win a parliamentary by-election.

    On 1. According to yougov, we pick up 16% of Remain voters against 3% of leave voters. Labour pick up 55% of Remain voters. We have 5% of 18-24s against Labour’s 76% – despite being the most Remain group. Clearly there is the potential progress to be made. But clearly also the coalition is a barrier to making progress with both those groups.

    Tuition fees would be a clear signal. i would pay for it from borrowing – we already borrow £7.5 billion just individually rather than collectively – so it is affordable and at under 1% of Government spending prudent. The environment is important to this group. And we need to prepare to send 70% of our young people to university as our competitors like South Korea do – £2.5 billion on extra pupil premium – a Lib Dem success of the Coalition years and a significant real rise in the schools budget. Even a move to the left might see more conservative remainers supporting us as a viable party for remain.

    2. A by-election actually occurring is beyond our control. But in our constituencies we can campaign hard – especially with Remainers – for help, support and money.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jul '18 - 2:31pm

    I notice that in the Pienaar interview, Vince Cable said, “And we’ve had record levels of membership which has held up and is still growing, as far as I’m aware.”
    However, as far as I’m aware, the latest official figures in April 2018 were 100,500 (https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05125), and when the party was regularly reporting on the “surge” in membership it had reached 103,300 by the time Tim Farron stepped down (https://www.markpack.org.uk/143767/liberal-democrat-membership-figures/).
    Does Vince not know the number of members, was he dissembling by adding “as far as I’m aware”, or is the membership growing again?

  • Sandra Hammett 22nd Jul '18 - 3:37pm

    Chris Bird is right, we could turn things around as easily as flicking on a light switch if the will is there, a new party consisting of some old faces (Major/Blair/Miliband) isn’t likely to appeal to anyone.

  • Conventional wisdom has it that parties need to be broad churches to be successful, but by the same token, most of us would agree that both the Conservative and Labour parties are unstable coalitions at present and have been, albeit less visibly, for some time. Logic suggests we need a party of the left for those who genuinely consider themselves socialist, a centre right party (the Tories minus the hoodie huggers) and a party of the centre. Where that leaves the Lib Dems is really a matter for the individual. Liberalism as an idea, will survive. Whether it does so in a party which carries the word “LIberal” is a mote point.
    It is clear from posts in LDV that some in our party would be happy in a party of the centre, pro capitalism (not crony capitalism) socially liberal, internationalist. Others might want something a bit more radical, more clearly aligned to causes of the left.
    None of that is bad, but it does suggest that we need political parties that people feel comfortable in. At present there are too many people, in all parties, who have “square peg round hole” syndrome. It follows that we should all welcome realignment, which afterall is not a new idea. I seem to remember Paddy talking about it more than 20 years ago.

  • Michael Mullaney 22nd Jul '18 - 4:08pm

    Excellent analysis by Gavin Grant agree with it all

  • William Fowler 22nd Jul '18 - 4:18pm

    Someone mentioned LibDems being locked out by the press as not enough MPs but when did that stop Nigel Farage having his say, mostly with zero MPs. Vince has some good ideas and is a clever chap but he is not doing well from the point of view of inspiring the electorate, nor is he able to destroy Labour’s tendency to sit on the fence (neither is Mrs May but Boris would destroy them but he is on the wrong side for non-Brexit). Might have to swallow a bitter pill for LibDems and get George Osborne in harness once again!

  • Centre parties are rarely viable, because left-right polarisation is a reflection of how people really think about politics, and voters tend to cluster around centre-left and centre-right poles.

    The Liberal Democrats’ period of greatest success coincided with a period at which Labour were thought to have abandoned the centre-left for the centre, and the Liberal Democrats seemed like a plausible replacement in the centre-left position. This ended in the Clegg era, when the centre-left was ceded back to Labour and we tried and failed to replace the Tories as a centre-right party: not an effective strategy with a coalition partner!

    Right now the party consists of people who are unhappy with both the Conservative and Labour parties, but who do not necessarily share any ideological common ground; even if they agree on political tactics (one can hardly speak of Liberal Democrat political strategy at this point) they often do so for very different ideological reasons.

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Jul '18 - 4:53pm

    All this gossip presupposes there is any truth in the Sunday Times story.

    It’s ownership should be borne in mind.

    It is not the newspaper it once was.

  • William Fowler 22nd Jul '18 - 5:09pm

    Some people have joined because they don’t want Brexit, like myself, who will leave pronto if daft things like Land Tax becomes policy, others will scream blue murder if it doesn’t.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Jul '18 - 5:18pm

    I read Carons articles frequently and enjoy her updates on the Lib Dems. I do not have the words of many of her correspondents but I would like to add my views to the present discussions on Vince Cables meeting with like minded individuals, if true!
    I have been a Liberal/Lib Dem since JO Grimonds era and would wish see some movement to bring us back into government where we are needed desperately in this period of catastrophic ineptitude which is being wrought on us by a group of really extreme right-wing politicians and aided by an incompetent leader of the opposition, so more power to your elbow Vince whatever you are up to, before it is too late.
    By the way I supported the Coalition and was proud that we participated in a Government once in my life even if the Tories did the dirty in us.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jul '18 - 6:13pm

    Dual membership of SDP with Liberal Party was possible in those days, Norman Lamb was in both. It could be so now.

    We could see the new party as a chance for a realignment as Grimond and the Alliance both called for, in an era when it is needed.

    We can and must be involved in this.

    My view is it should be something we are joined to , a variant in a sense of us .

    The Liberal Party of New York backs Democrats they might like, or Republicans when they might be ,or who are Liberal, Social Democrats USA does so with only the Democrats. We must be aware that politics is fluid, more than this nation allows for or does thus far…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jul '18 - 6:17pm

    I add, we many of us have issues with the direction of this site ,or party, but this is key, we must unite for the values and country are more than such trifles. We are Liberal Democrats, let’s be both and not literal tribalists…

  • @William Fowler

    Liberals have been trying to implement land taxes since 1909 (the House of Lords being the ones to stop us). The Land is our party anthem and is very much grounded in georgism. You’ll have to decide whether stopping Brexit is more important to you over the pursuit of land taxation.

  • Firstly, Vince should have been in Parliament at the vote. What kind of anti-Brexit movement arranges a meeting for such a critical time?

    Secondly, let’s hope Vince hasn’t caught a dose of the Ashdown disease, discussing the future of the party behind closed doors without any scrutiny or accountability.

    Finally, the press is widely reporting moves by “senior LibDems” to oust Vince and go for a younger leader. Can we readers of LDV at least ask their censors to give us a break and allow the pros and cons of such a move to be debated openly, which is both the liberal thing to do and the accepted norm on other party sites.

  • Martin Land 22nd Jul '18 - 8:11pm

    @ Ian. Well said.

  • john bennett 22nd Jul '18 - 8:34pm

    My concerns are: the NHS and the environment; then Electoral reform to the extent that I will not vote for a party that opposes STV.

    Europe? Whatever, just stop messing about.

    So, who do I vote for?

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jul '18 - 8:52pm

    @Ian “the accepted norm on other party sites”
    There does seem to be a new norm on this site.

  • OnceALibDem 22nd Jul '18 - 9:10pm

    “Finally, the press is widely reporting moves by “senior LibDems” to oust Vince and go for a younger leader. ”

    Well the Mail on Sunday is. I’m sure their motives are for the Lib Dems to be a united and effective force under the best possible leader 🙂

  • OnceALibDem 22nd Jul '18 - 9:27pm

    FWIW I think there is a possibility (the most likely as it stands ATM – but who knows) that come next March the UK leaves the EU, without an agreement in place but on the basis that there is a transition period where everything continues as per being an EU member whilst the remaining arrangements are agreed.

    At that point it may be sensible for the Lib Dems to adopt a new leader and a longer game as ‘stopping Brexit’ ceases to be a possibility.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jul '18 - 9:37pm

    Lorenzo is right about dual membership. I was a member of both the Liberal Party and the SDP in the 1980’s. I’m not sure whether it would work today. The problem is that any ‘new’ party that was formed would tend to be, in David Raw’s words, a “one trick pony”.

    To be honest, the only way to sort out this mess, short of turning the clock back to 2015, or even earlier, is to have a General Election. How you achieve that is anyone’s guess. We may be stuck with the current negotiations running their course. At least the new Minister appears to have more about him than his predecessor, who was clearly out of his depth. Extending the deadline for Article 50 might have some merit as well, if it could be done. We could start by stopping treating the EU as ‘the enemy’. As Jess Phillips pointed out on ‘Any Questions’ last week, WE are leaving THEM not the other way round. What do we expect them to do? Lie down and let us walk all over them?

  • innocent bystander 22nd Jul '18 - 10:05pm

    Centre ground parties are seen for what they are, that is the comfortably off wanting to preserve the status quo. The disadvantaged have Corbyn. Comparisons with Macron and Trudeau are just silly. Macron is a Thatcherite elected to sort out the unions. Trudeau’s party was the dominant one for decades. It hasn’t sprung from nothing.
    The centre parties have no offering. Opposition to Brexit is not enough. Land tax will not be seen as a miracle, cos’ we all know the same people will end up paying it as pay all the taxes now, and the rest is unfunded Santa Claus.
    Economic policy is cooperative s not nationalisation which is obvious nonsense dreamt up by those who spend too much time in Waitrose
    Wouldn’t it be better to have more policies before we have more parties?

  • James Graham 22nd Jul '18 - 10:52pm

    I really do not understand why Vince is off gallivanting looking to help set up a new party. He has a job to do, namely lead this one and if he is not 100% focused on that then he really should re-consider his position of leader.
    We, as a party, need to move on from Brexit as the only focus. There are almost no other area where we have a clear and even vaguely known policy apart from on mental health. We have 2 main parties who are seriously divided and yet we are in danger of falling back to 4th in opinion polls behind UKIP and made almost no headway in the last year despite constantly banging on about Europe and stopping Brexit.
    Believe it or not for the vast majority of people Brexit is not that important, they just want people to sort things out and move on. People do care much more about things closer to home like education, affordable housing and the NHS. I agree with the comments before that it is only when we can make some progress in coming up with meaningful and popular policies in these areas that we will see a serious revival in the party’s fortunes.

  • Why not just read the update in the article that spells out what Vince Cable has to say about political realignment rather then speculating about new parties https://www.facebook.com/VinceCableMP/

  • Ian Patterson 23rd Jul '18 - 12:09am

    @ James Graham – gets first prize in stating blooming obvious. Banging on about Brexit for last 2 years has got us nowhere, as my fellow obsessives about our by election tallies every Thursday can aver!

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Jul '18 - 1:11am

    And should the Lib Dems merge, my lads, and should the Lib Dems die,
    There’s 20.000 South-Westerners would know the reason why!
    Sorry, all this vacillating discussion makes me feel frivolous, but I’d really like to know Andrew George’s opinion on where we are heading. For myself, it’s keep steady on Brexit and another Referendum, keep Vince as leader because unlike the other two parties we’ve got some unity and loyalty, and rely on Brighton Conference to pull our plans together and with the leadership collectively promote a dynamic programme.

  • John Roffey 23rd Jul '18 - 6:01am

    James Graham “I really do not understand why Vince is off gallivanting looking to help set up a new party. He has a job to do, namely lead this one and if he is not 100% focused on that then he really should re-consider his position of leader.”

    It could be argued that VC has never wanted to be leader of the Party – if he had – surely he would have stood in the 2007 election. He was eminently qualified for the role and had been very effective as Acting Leader.

    If this is true, his actions indicate that he feels a great responsibility to ensure that the Party has an effective replacement – before he can step down.

    Your suggestions on the direction that the Party should now take seem realistic. However, there appears to be something of an ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ attitude permeating the Party following the Coalition years – making it particularly difficult for those who held high office – to deal with today’s realities.

  • John Bicknell 23rd Jul '18 - 8:42am

    Rather than a new centre party emerging, I could see an umbrella group forming, with broad principles, being anti-Brexit paramount amongst them, to which MPs of various parties could subscribe. If there was a GE before Brexit is finalised, then the best placed candidate would ‘get the coupon’ from this umbrella group (let’s call it ‘New Dawn’ for the sake of argument). Candidates would not need to abandon the name of their original party, but would stand as Lib Dem New Dawn, Labour New Dawn etc. The fact that the Lib Dems have been pushed to the political margins (1st or 2nd in just 50 seats, only really competitive in around 30) makes arguments about seat allocation a little easier.
    This rather supposes that the next GE will be before Brexit is finalised. If not, I’m not sure that there is enough of a bond to hold the group together.

  • Ian Patterson 23rd Jul '18 - 8:50am

    @ John Roffey – we have a Parliamentery Party of 12. Tim has burnt various bridges before they were built. The others are unknown beyond the Westminister bubble. Despite our female MPs being featured heavily on LDV on articles that only a Lib Dem would love, they lack traction nationally. Jo’s pairing arrangements are of no interest to the general public who only see whole matter as a non story of political types bickering.
    Ergo Vince should do the job he is currently occupying until the public (remember them) can be persuaded to elect further Lib Dem MPs.

  • Let us be honest. We aint going to change things ourselves, we are too small an influence. I know it hurts to say it but there it is, so a new party Yes, will have a much better chance.

  • John Bicknell 23rd Jul '18 - 10:14am

    David Raw: you are not the only person with a knowledge of history. I had the 1918 Coupon GE in mind when I used that term – but the circumstances are very different now. Rejoicing in splendid isolation may be comforting to some, but the party has made little progress in terms of public awareness or media attention since 2017, and needs to at least consider ways of cutting through to a wider audience.

  • Ian Patterson “Ergo Vince should do the job he is currently occupying until the public (remember them) can be persuaded to elect further Lib Dem MPs.”

    Or as you originally suggested – stand down and give a new and younger leader a chance to grow into the job before the next GE.

    I must say, judging by the range of comments on this tread, it would seem to be a good idea to collect the views of the membership – before any further discussions take place.

    The Party does seem in a critical state – any misjudged initiative – could endanger its potential to become a party of significance once again.

  • Ian Patterson 23rd Jul '18 - 11:33am

    @ John Roffey – sorry but the other ‘Ian’ was not me. I post here using only full name. The prospect of another GE next spring should be seriously alarming us all. The 2019 locals will be seriously torpedoed if it occurs before them and we would depleted if it occurred after them. If it is same day would stretch resources and personnel considerably. Also we DO NOT need a luvvies party on our flank. The WEP have not done well as either a party or as a luvvies vehicle.

  • Ian – sorry – it was James Graham’s suggestion.

  • David Evans 23rd Jul '18 - 1:35pm

    James you are almost absolutely spot on. The only factor I would disagree with you on is when you say “we are becoming more and more irrelevant.” I’m afraid that although what we have got to say is totally relevant, as far as 90% of the public are concerned we are totally irrelevant.

    Sadly we we allowed that to happen post 2015 when both Tim and Vince decided it was better not to stir up things by admitting we had made a mess of many things in coalition (and did some good things), and just hope people forgot. Well they did forget (or 90% of them did). They forgot about the Lib Dems being a relevant political party entirely.

    We are lost in a desert of self delusion and near total irrelevance and that is why we keep heading for whatever mirage appears on the horizon. All in the hope that something will turn up to save us. Labour inter-factional infighting. Conservative incompetence and splits. None have helped one bit.

    Anything but say we have to get out of the desert, and look at the mistakes that got us into it. We really are too deferential to our MPs and leaders.

  • David Allen 23rd Jul '18 - 1:36pm

    It’s Catch 22. Basically, the Lib Dems are bed-blocking. They are the incumbent centre party and want to stay that way, despite the obvious truth that the public has lost confidence in them and so they are going nowhere.

    Anyway, it’s all too easy to diss “new party” campaigners. Either they are experienced politicians, who can be dismissed as carrying too much baggage, or they are inexperienced politicians, who can be dismissed as carrying too little clout.

    If that isn’t enough, one can also muddy the waters by declaring that opposition to Brexit is either the crucial reason for a new party, or else it is not in itself a sufficient reason to form a new party (delete according to taste). Thus, a new anti-Brexit party can be declared dead because it has failed to establish its wider political stance: a new multi-campaign centrist party can be declared dead because it has failed to show that it meets the overriding need to kill Brexit. It’s very easy to rubbish new initiatives.

    Meanwhile, the nation heads down the pan, and the Lib Dems are seen to be even less effective than Grieve, Soubry and Umunna in seeking to rescue things.

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Jul '18 - 2:58pm

    What we need are broad alliances that go beyond political parties and are more issue based. The Party system is part of the problem, not its solution. We need to weaken the whip system and have more free secret votes.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Jul '18 - 3:10pm

    @Peter Hirst
    What we need are broad alliances that go beyond political parties and are more issue based.
    I agree and as an an example, I would suggest that the Lib Dem approach of making opposition to Brexit all about the party (presumably to attract Labour and Conservative voters/MPs who put Brexit above everything else) has been counter-productive.

    have more free secret votes.
    I disagree: I want to be able to know how my MP – how any MP – has voted.

  • David Allen 23rd Jul '18 - 3:17pm

    “The Lib Dem approach of making opposition to Brexit all about the party … has been counter-productive.”

    Yes, and that began six months before the referendum, when we were all briefed that this referendum was first and foremost a tremendous opportunity to promote the Liberal Democrat Party. I recall being a lone dissenter at a meeting who said “let’s just make sure we win the damn referendum…”!

  • David Evans, again spot on. It should start here with Lib Dem Voice, which needs to be openly critical of a leadership which has got us into this situation and cannot get us out. Perhaps as a start we should stop calling people by their Christian names as if they are old buddies, eg Nick this and Vince that and get down to hard facts and problems, face them square on and not beat about the bush. The current apporoach went on throughout the coalition years and still continues seemingly unabated. In the meantime as I said in an earleir posting we are apparently going nowhere for now and the forseeable future.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Jul '18 - 5:51pm

    Some interesting Yougov polling http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/kgfdyeogty/SundayTimesResults_180720_for_web.pdf

    Top line voting intention: Con 38, Lab 39, Lib Dem 9, UKIP 6. So nothing unusual.

    If there was an In/Out referendum, 44% would vote to remain in the EU, 40% to leave. Ignoring don’t knows, etc. this is 53% vs 47. On a 3-way vote with second preferences this would be 55% vs. 45% in favour of Remain. So still nothing particularly unusual there either.

    Worrying for Lib Dems, clarity about Lib Dem policy on Brexit is not much better than that of Labour (both worse than the Conservatives)!!

    And closer to the topic of this thread:
    42% think none of the political parties represent their views (vs. 41% who think at least one does).
    38% are likely to vote for a party on the political right committed to supporting Brexit (45% unlikely)
    24% are likely to vote for a party on the political far-right committed supporting Brexit (58% unlikely)
    33% are likely to vote for a party in the political centre committed to opposing Brexit (50% unlikely)

    I am struck by the juxtaposition of the figures for Lib Dem voting intention, the lack of clarity about the Lib Dems’ policies towards Brexit, and the potential support for a centrist single-issue anti-Brexit party.
    And I am worried about the rise of UKIP part 2 if the mainstream parties don’t get their acts together, not just on Brexit.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jul '18 - 12:09am

    @ Michael Meadowcroft. You’re absolutely right, as usual, Michael. The panic should go down, and we’ll meet again in Brighton in September and do more good work. David Raw: look at the agenda for the Social Liberal Forum’s meeting this Saturday, David, and you can see some of that fresh, radical thinking that can remind us of the ’60s again. The two main parties are both in a mess, but I don’t believe for a moment that we are too.

  • paul barker 24th Jul '18 - 1:06am

    On the question of how much trouble we are in, we are currently averaging just above 9% in The Polls, about 1% up on where we were a Month ago & our best performance in 15 Months. That doesnt suggest to me that now is the Time to panic.
    On the idea of a New Electoral Pact with any potential breakaways from Labour or The Tories; we could lay the groundwork by proposing a Pact now with The “Greens” (GPEW), The Womens Equality Party & any of the New Centre Parties who could show some evidence of being Real Parties.
    If we could get such an Alliance off the ground that would be a big encouragement to any possible breakaways & it would also establish our leading role from the start.

  • Peter Hirst,

    “What we need are broad alliances that go beyond political parties and are more issue based. The Party system is part of the problem, not its solution”.
    The Liberal Party was formed from a broad alliance of Whigs, Peelite Conservatives and Radicals in 1859. The Liberal History group has a record of the Times report on the Willis Rooms meeting https://liberalhistory.org.uk/history/times-report-on-the-meeting-in-willis-rooms/ which was heavily influenced by relations with Europe.

    Lord Palmerston contended that a Cabinet, which had manifestly lost all weight in the Councils of Europe upon so momentous a question as that of peace and war, was not fit to be any longer entrusted with the conduct of our foreign relations.
    Lord John Russell deprecated the continuance of the Government in the hands of a minority, which he characterized as most unconstitutional and dangerous.

    Palmerston’s by including all factions had built secure foundations for the administration that was created. Gladstone went on to conclude a major trade agreement with France in this first Liberal government.

  • David Evans 24th Jul '18 - 8:11am

    Michael, you are right on so many of your conclusions about the state of the party – the never ending series of dreams of what will save us (Labour imploding, Conservative splits, another new party), perpetual imaginings that all we have to do is be liberal and all will be well (when every successful lib Dem knows the main factor is hard work, gut-crunching hard work, year after year after year), and the vital need for parliamentary by-election success to help build the momentum to help others.

    However, I fear you are totally mistaken when you blame targeting for destroying the party. It wasn’t targeting. Targeting won us the seats to give our MPs the chance to show the British public what Lib Dems could do in government. It was what they ended up supporting in coalition that destroyed us. It was there that our leaders’ lack of faith in Liberal Democracy (remember Nick’s support for Secret Courts, the acceptance of the sop of a vote on AV instead of real action on constitutional reform, the acceptance of George Osborne’s austerity budget which led to our dropping our fully costed pledge on Tuition fees. That is what undermined trust in the party in the public’s eyes.

    Indeed, you actually say so yourself when you say we need by elections. What are by-elections except an opportunity for the party to target national resources (i.e. thousands of activists from all over the country) on one local area. It is what we have done for decades and it is the only way to win new seats when we are so low in the polls and have no liberal heartland left.

    The problem we face is that too many of the party hierarchy still refuse to face up to the total mess they made of the party’s future in coalition. First they sacrificed the trust people put in us (remember “An end to broken promises”), and then by their unwillingness to admit failure they made us irrelevant. As a result, the mass of fresh, radical thinking Katharine hopes for will have no impact whatsoever on our fortunes and Paul’s 1% increase will be seen to be no more than a blip by next May.

    Katharine is partly right, the two main parties are both in a mess, the trouble is we are in a bigger mess – How else can you describe a party that has lost 80% of its seats in a decade? But we have to save ourselves.

  • I am perplexed as to why so many posters seem to think that the Lib Dems are making no headway. The media clearly think that we are. Why else would they run this story about a plot to oust Vince? If they do not consider us a threat, why mention us at all? What it seems to me has happened is that the other parties and their media allies feel very threatened by our strong performance in May. Many journalists live in Richmond and Kingston, where Lib Dem progress is real and indisputable, and very visible.

    I am surprised that the party has not put out a firmer rebuttable of the plot against Vince story. Layla Moran has denied it, but no official spokesperson has done so, as far as I am aware. Why not? Either the story is a pure fabrication, or we are back to anonymous briefings. Who, if anyone, used the ageist insult, “fossil”, to describe Vince?

    The “centre party” talk does not look to me as if it is going to get anywhere. None of the people mentioned thus far is an MP. All are elder statesmen of varying degrees of note and seniority. Let’s not speculate. Let’s wait to see what is on the table, then comment. While I am doubtful about the need for any new “centre party”, we should not reject it out of hand.

  • ……………………………….And, yes, Vince should have been at that vote. He knows that and it won’t happen again. A genuine mistake, owned and taken responsibility for in a candid manner. Refreshing to see these days. I’m over that now. And he has done so much more to oppose Brexit every day than, say, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, who has been waving the Tories’ ridiculous plans through………………………..

    I almost smiled when I read that. On the very occasion that HM’s Official Opposition came within a whisker of defeating the government, on the most important vote so far, our leader and ex-leader were elsewhere.
    I’m sure ‘it won’t happen again’ but, when it really mattered, it did.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jul '18 - 9:11am

    To put it another way, David E., the bigger parties are in a heap of trouble, and we are not. Your prescriptions for the necessary work are right, I think, but it doesn’t help to dwell on the dire state of the party in 2015 from which we have been slowly but steadily progressing. We need electoral reform, and have to keep pressing for that. Meantime any small electoral pact, as Paul Barker suggests, could perhaps help. But what about the SNP? Is it always avoidance for Scots Lib Dems? And our Welsh members?

  • Two new parties-the Liberal Conservatives, and Liberal Labour, or rather groupings.

  • Katharine,

    Michael Meadowcroft, has already pointed out that “The party has been destroyed,” and “we languish in the polls despite having the most saleable and respected long term principle: a united Europe. We are not visible on the ground so why support us?

    To which you replied “@ Michael Meadowcroft. You’re absolutely right, as usual, Michael.”

    I just can’t understand which bit of the above, could then lead you to say “the bigger parties are in a heap of trouble, and we are not.”

    Can you explain?

  • rine Pindar 24th Jul ’18 – 9:11am………….. the bigger parties are in a heap of trouble, and we are not………………

    If that is true I’d hate to see what trouble for our party would look like. It even seems it’s OK to congratulate ourselves for reaching 9% (the best performance in 15 months; Wow!).
    As for “the media must think we are doing well because they print a derogatory story about Vince Cable”; talk about clutching at straws. They ran the story because, when someone who has done little else but talk about Brexit misses a crucial Brexit vote (and is reluctant to elaborate on why), it is newsworthy.
    Sadly, James Alexander 23rd Jul ’18 – 12:56pm is absolutely spot on

  • If this is the sort of support that Vince Cable gets from a supposedly Lib Dem leaning site God help us, if his discussions with like minded people can shift us out of the mess this country has got into over the past I for one wish him well and hope something good comes of it . From one senior to another good luck Vince

  • David Becket 24th Jul '18 - 3:17pm

    Well said Barry, but let us get back to the original subject of this thread.

    Currently the political system is broken, with neither of the main parties meeting the needs of many of their traditional supporters.

    We have three main groups.

    Pro Brexit at any cost, usually right wing, scrap controls, ignore environment and job protection and pick up trade by being the cheapest.
    This represents up to third of the Country, mainly in the Conservative Party,

    Come out of EU but keep in Single Market/Customs Union, possibly Norway Option. These tend to be socially more progressive. Again about one third of Country, and could be represented by part of the Labour Party, if only Corbyn would start leading.

    Stay in EU, reformed. International and socially progressive. Again about a third. These views are held by Lib Dems, and many in the Conservative and Labour Parties.

    It is difficult to see how the three main parties are going to adapt to meet the needs of these three groups. For the third group the Lib Dems are in a pivotal position, and anything that Vince can do to unblock is welcome. (Though not when there is a key Brexit vote please)

  • Martin Land 24th Jul '18 - 6:33pm

    New political parties are inevitably formed by has beens and never will be’s. Surely we have enough of our own?

  • Sandra Hammett 24th Jul '18 - 6:56pm

    We need fresh vision from the leadership, a joined up opposition to Brexit inclusive of other groups and some high profile defections to the Lib Dems, we should be courting the likes of Soubry and Umunna, not organising a one issue party that won’t be up and running in time to achieve anything.

  • Exclusive: why I walked out on Labour – the Barrow MP John Woodcock gives his first television interview

    Mr Woodcock is now standing as an independent. And he’s calling for MPs of all sides to come together to form a new political party.


  • I hold no brief for Mr Woodstock, I find it intresting he’s calling for a new party. A lone voice in the wildness or the Herald of things to come. I’d rather things where done in the light rather than dark rooms; but I rather think I’ll be disappointed and I suspect I won’t be alone in that.

  • So Vince said: “I have always said that Brexit could lead to some form of realignment …
    That does not mean that there should be a new party. Britain already has the … centrist political force … called the Liberal Democrats. … I am determined that our party should win new support from … people who … have not yet been persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat.”

    Translation 1: “I’ll pay a little bit of lip service to the idea of realignment, but in truth, I’m really only interested in gaining more votes for the party I lead.”

    Alternative translation 2: “I’m interested in realignment, but only on our own terms. Whether it’s Mandelson, or Blair, or Soubry, or anyone else – They’ll have to offer a very generous deal to the Lib Dems.”

    I suspect alternative translation 2 is the more accurate. It begs the question, why has that deal not been made? Is it because Blair / Mandelson / Soubry etc are too self-important, or is it the Lib Dems who have been too self-important, or both?

    History will not look kindly on those who could have formed a Remain Coalition to rescue Britain from penury, but didn’t do it.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jul '18 - 1:44am

    We should support Vince, who has said a new party is not necessary. Our party is the only large British party fighting to stay in the EU, which is not only the right policy for our country, but is probably now supported by a majority of voters. Therefore I say, the two larger parties are in a heap of trouble but we are not.

    John Woodcock is irrelevant. An MP who has left his party is quite likely to call for a new one. We should call for Mr Woodcock to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, along with that other newly Independent MP, Jared O’Mara, so we can fight by-elections in Barrow and Sheffield.

    David Evans, that is selective reporting, David. Michael Meadowcroft did not write, ‘The party has been destroyed’, but, ‘The party has been latterly destroyed by targetting’. I am inclined to agree with you that targetting seems to be necessary, at least for the time being. I am agreeing with you both that ‘sacrificial work’ or ‘hard graft’ must continue, to build us up again. No sense in arguing with friends. Well said indeed, Barry Lofty.

  • frankie 24th Jul ’18 – 8:21pm…………………..Exclusive: why I walked out on Labour – the Barrow MP John Woodcock gives his first television interview……………….

    If my memory serves it seems that the interview should have been more aptly titled, “Why Labour walked out on me”

  • John Roffey 25th Jul '18 - 8:47am

    If the Party is successful and keeps us in the EU – will it save us from the Apocalypse?

    Does this article, in yesterday’s Guardian, put the matter into prospective and suggest that there are far greater issues that the Party is failing to address because Brexit has become its obsession?

    “How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse

    Silicon Valley’s elite are hatching plans to escape disaster – and when it comes, they’ll leave the rest of us behind”


  • Innocent Bystander 25th Jul '18 - 9:22am

    I read the very strange piece by some juvenile who writes for the Daily Beast (the intellectuals’ National Enquirer).
    The Apocalypse will play out not at all like that. It will be economic and local and will hit those states which have allowed themselves to become weak and vulnerable and the consequences will be dire. A good comparison would be the effect the Wall Street Crash had on the Weimar Republic.
    My prediction is that the principal casualties of the oncoming economic “readjustment” will be the UK and possibly some southern European states. America will be badly hit but is big enough to survive.

  • Innocent Bystander,

    It is indeed a strange piece – although I do not know why where it was published makes a great deal of difference – as it is extracts from a forthcoming book [Team Human].

    Your assessment is certainly at some odds with that of these five billionaires:

    “The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down.”

  • Innocent Bystander 25th Jul '18 - 1:09pm

    Which billionaires were they?
    They aren’t named. The names are the ones from whom these anonymous doomsday preppers are “taking their cues”.
    You have to laugh, don’t you?

  • David Evans 25th Jul '18 - 2:58pm

    Katharine, it is good that we are friends again. You are right Michael did say ‘The party has been latterly destroyed by targetting’ and not just ‘The party has been destroyed.’

    Perhaps I should have posted – Michael Meadowcroft, has already pointed out that “The party has been … destroyed …” However, there is not a fag paper between what Michael said and what I posted. So I think for you to call this “selective reporting” is a bit much when I was pointing out that after you had said “@ Michael Meadowcroft. You’re absolutely right, as usual, Michael,” you then posted “the bigger parties are in a heap of trouble, and we are not.”

    Surely if we have been destroyed, we are in a whole heap of trouble.

    I realise that cognitive dissonance is considered an asset by some, but I’m not so sure when it comes to the future of our party. And in this case, I really don’t understand how you can come to that conclusion.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jul '18 - 7:22pm

    But we haven’t been destroyed, David, have we. I was agreeing with the general thrust of Michael’s post, which affirmed faith in Liberal values and philosophy, and deplored the ‘whoring after’ a new party. Hear hear!

    You and I seem to represent those two opposite streams of humanity – the half who see a half-full glass as half-full (like me) and the other half who see it as half-empty (like you). I wonder who gets to drink the half? I think it’s me and I hope it’s red wine! 🙂

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jul '18 - 10:28pm

    Elton John was on Channel 4 News, mainly about AIDS. Please note his joke at the end about Brexit as a cereal.

  • Colin Paine 26th Jul '18 - 2:59pm

    Every Lib Dem member needs an apology and explanation from Cable. He blew our credibility as the party of remain in one evening. Struggle to see how he can stay leader when he fails to do something so basic as vote.

  • James Alexander 26th Jul '18 - 4:40pm

    The thing is about the Meeting Vince Cable attended – there were no MPs from other parties as they were too busy voting – which begs the question who was that important that he could miss a vote on Bexit on

    As for Tim Farrons absence to speak to a Church Group – unacceptable on every level – ok he has his faith -which is important to him – Willie Rennie is a long distance Runner – Runs Marathons – will run every day ( or try to) – now as any Runner will explain – its a big part of who they are -its important to them – Tim Farron’s Christian beliefs are no more important than Willie Rennie,s Running to him – they are personal choices – how would we think if Willie missed a key vote as he got a Teachers Note so he could go Running – this complacency at Senior levels as at the core on why we are going no where – its unacceptable – the National Executive should be conducting a formal inquiry

    Apologies and “admissions of mistakes” dont cut it – choices were made by the Cheif Whip – Vince Cable & Tim Farron – they need to be held to account for those choices

  • Colin Paine 26th Jul '18 - 7:49pm

    Paul Walter…how about this from the Guardian leader column earlier this week? “Don’t look at the Liberal Democrats; their former leader missed a knife-edge Brexit vote this week to give a speech addressing the controversy over his beliefs on gay sex.”

  • Ian Patterson 27th Jul '18 - 12:19am

    We have today mislaid a council seat in torridge, that was only won last year. Big switch in relative voting. Rather similar to Alston from last year. Tories gain two seats (so far) ours and one from UKIP in Kent. For a party meant to be imploding. Meanwhile official opposition has mislaid an mp and the dear leader has been called a racist and anti Semitic to his face.

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