Opinion: Creating a new Alliance

There has always been a need to blend parliamentary, representative politics with the social activism of extra parliamentary movements. Recent examples of informal action outside the confines of the parliamentary system include UK Uncut on companies avoiding corporation tax and the Occupy movement. Liberal Democrats and their antecedents have an honourable history of involvement in single issue campaigns and community movements.

Indeed, it can be argued that “community politics” grew out of the widespread social campaigning movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Given this history you would expect Liberal Democrats to be at the forefront of such campaigning today but we have a problem – our involvement in a Tory led coalition government which is now responsible for the latest attacks on social security and the welfare state.

Hasn’t the time come to try and forge a new alliance between campaigning movements working outside parliament with the best elements of parliamentary democracy in order to set out a different vision of the development of our society? I make no apology for holding to an old ideal – how to realign the centre left of British politics so that the campaigning instincts of a new generation can be harnessed and augmented by a responsive parliamentary leadership.

In order to achieve any such change existing political parties will have to banish their tribalism. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour love to operate within their own, limited silos and to pour scorn on their so-called rivals. So, big changes will have to come from both parties if they are to contemplate working together in the future.

In addition, the political parties will have to work in a new, open way with campaigning organisations and movements so that real social change can be encouraged. Compass is a high profile, effective campaigning organisation which has opened up its full membership to people of other parties and those who are not aligned to any party. It has recently re-launched itself with a dynamic new website.

Liberal Democrat campaigning bodies could also open themselves up in the same way so that there is a genuine mixing of political beliefs within the overall rubric of the centre left. Such fluidity would encourage joint working and better understanding for all those committed to radical social change.

By the time of the next election, we must have created an alternative to the right wing revanchism of the present coalition.

* Simon Hebditch is a member of the executive team of Liberal Left, a member of the Social Liberal Forum and on the Compass Management Committee

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  • Simon McGrath 18th Jun '13 - 9:46am

    How naive do you have to be to think that Labour pressure group Compass opening up to non Labour members is anything but a very unsubtle attempt to persuade the gullible to help get Labour into power again.

    Once they are all ideas of cooperation will disappear and we will be back to same old Labour. Incompetent, statist , centralising and taking away civil liberties.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Jun '13 - 10:18am

    It is difficult to take particularly seriously any suggestion of co-operation with Labour that fails to even mention that party’s disastrous 13 years in power.

    Outside of some of the public service reforms, it’s difficult to think of very much at all that could properly be called liberal. And of course Miliband and Balls were at the heart of it.

    Centralisation, authoritarianism and statism all characterise the New Labour administration; all are the antithesis of liberalism.

  • Anthony Hawkes 18th Jun '13 - 10:33am

    I am all for a resurgence of the Liberal left but , as the latest statement by mainly Labour ex Home Secretaries demonstrates, the authoritarian nature of the Labour Party is still alive and kicking.

    Just as I do not approve of Secret Courts (thanks Nick), I still remember the 90 day detention proposal and all the other illiberal things that came from Blair and Straw.

    Yes, the Liberal Left should have a louder voice, but should keep to liberal principles.

  • Steve Griffiths 18th Jun '13 - 10:56am

    Tim Oliver

    The “mythical pursuit” is that of the centre. You would do well to read this:


  • Simon McGrath

    How naive do you have to be to think that Tory pressure group “Clegg’s Coupists” opening up to “we would not rule out a coalition with Labour”is anything but a very unsubtle attempt to persuade the gullible to help get the Tories into power again.

    Once they are all ideas of cooperation will disappear and we will be back to same old Tories. Incompetent, privatist, kleptocrat, centralising and taking away civil liberties.

  • Simon McGrath 18th Jun '13 - 12:48pm

    @david allen – is there a group in the party who suggests we only work with the Tories – the equivalent of Liberal Left who only want to work with Labour ? Who are they ?

  • David Allen 18th Jun '13 - 1:09pm


    It’s Clegg, Alexander and Laws, of course!

    Clegg’s clenched-teeth comment about “not ruling out” working with Labour just gives the game away – it is the minimum Clegg could say to avoid making his antipathy to anyone-but-the-Tories too blatant.

    (PS, I think your statement re Liberal Left is inaccurate – thus they explicitly mention the Greens for example as potential partners, along with a general aim for realignment on the centre-left.)

  • Peter Watson 18th Jun '13 - 1:10pm

    @Simon McGrath “is there a group in the party who suggests we only work with the Tories – the equivalent of Liberal Left who only want to work with Labour ? Who are they ?”
    I think they’re our MPs 😉

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Jun '13 - 1:16pm

    Simon Hebditch

    Indeed, it can be argued that “community politics” grew out of the widespread social campaigning movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    Yes, but a key aspect of community politics was the dual approach, it linked campaigning with electoral action. It recognised that to get the changes you were campaigning for, you needed to elect politicians committed to them. It was all about reviving interest in using the ballot box by showing that electoral politics doesn’t have to be about making a passive choice between options presented by distant organisations, and that a few people getting together to campaign electorally can overturn the local establishment.

    Groups such as “Occupy” are the opposite of this. They promote a pessimistic view of electoral politics, suggesting that thing can’t be changed that way, and that it’s better not to get involved. It may sound radical, but is is actually deeply conservative. It reduces the people to a peasantry, begging and pleading the aristocrats who govern to throw the occasional scrap, while supposing those aristocrats are there because that’s how things are and they can’t be changed. Underneath there may still be the old Trot idea that if you have enough of this pressure group stuff, there will be a popular uprising and The Revolution will happen. But we know that it won’t, and if it ever did the results would not be pleasant.

    The growth of pressure group politics links with the decline in public activity in electoral politics, and this decline links with the shift to the right, as the right wins elections through the power of money that wealthy people give it, while the left relies more on large numbers of volunteers to win elections. The idea that electoral politics is bad, that good people instead go into pressure groups is also inherently right-wing, because while it may use different language, underneath it’s promoting the small-state ideology that the political right now uses to defend the power of the wealthy. It is no coincidence that “Occupy” and one of the most well-known right-wing bloggers both use the “Guy Fawkes” image, because underneath they have in common a contempt for electoral democracy. We have now learned that a naive “the state is evil” way of thinking does not lead to a world in which we all live in hippy communes, it leads to a world in which we are controlled by big corporations.

    In the Liberal Democrats we know that Community Politics went the other way, focusing entirely on electoral politics and losing its radical edge. It lost the idea that it was about getting people actively involved and thinking about politics and seeing how it affected their lives and could be changed, and instead became just another form of passive consumer politics. It forgot that the election of a Liberal councillor was meant to be just a first step, a practical demonstration that people getting together can challenge assumptions, a shock to the system, which it was when Liberal councillors were a rarity and the Community Politics approach led to them appearing in areas which it had just been assumed would be forever Conservative or forever Labour.

    There is now more than ever a need for what was being done in the old Liberal Party with community politics as it was originally envisaged. Since those days, politics has moved much further from the people, the disconnection of ordinary people from the forces controlling their lives has grown, democracy itself is hardly understood. But Clegg and the Cleggies have destroyed what was left of that radical idealism we once had in the party. Still, as it seems t hey are also destroying the party as an electoral force, maybe the cycle will repeat, and as with the old Liberal Party the machinery will be picked up and used by a new generation of radicals. Sadly, if this takes as long as it did the last time, I shall be dead by the time we get back to where we were.

  • Geoffrey Payne 18th Jun '13 - 1:23pm

    As those who run LDV know, contributions have to be limited to a maximum of 500 words.
    For the “13 years of Labour in office” then I would point out that the only people who wish to continue with that agenda are a minority in the Labour Party, plus those in the Liberal Democrats (about 1 in 10 of those who who in the 2010 federal conference) who support Free Schools and Academies.
    99% of conference voted against secret courts, the only people who voted in favour were mostly the leadership of the party.
    I have been a member of Compass for a few years now, and no one has invited me to join the Labour Party, nor for that matter the Green Party.
    The reason we need a left of centre government is actually to support civil liberties ( of which the Blairites in the Labour Party would be a problem), democratisation and devolution of public services, a higher priority for tackling global warming, more restrictions on the arms trade, banking reform to the letter of the Vickers report ( Martin Wolf claims the banks have successfully lobbied for some of the key recommendations to be watered down), a fiscal stimulus in infrastructure to put people in to work and that will bring about growth that will help us reduce the budget deficit, as we campaigned for during the last general election campaign, reform of the welfare state so that people are not made destitute, and a determined anti poverty program to eliminate child poverty., a radical change in ownership along the principles advocated by JS Mill. There is much more than that that needs to be done. After this government we need a liberal government even more so.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Jun '13 - 2:07pm

    The “centre ground” of the Liberator article is something of a caricature; while it may represent the approach of some people who call themselves “centrists” I don’t think it is valid for all. It is often used by those in the party who just don’t see it as being naturally closer to either of the two big ideological groupings on the left or the right, and who think it imprudent for the party to say it will only work with parties representing one or the other. Perhaps “centre” is the wrong word; the better word for describing our ideology is “liberal”. Liberalism is different from both leftism and rightism, and in some ways may be as different from both as they are from each other. In the European Parliament the liberal ALDE group votes roughly equally with the main centre-right and centre-left groups when these two oppose each other; this does not mean that the liberals are “splitting the difference” between the two, just that that is where there ideology naturally puts them.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Jun '13 - 2:12pm

    @ Geoff Payne

    “a fiscal stimulus in infrastructure to put people in to work and that will bring about growth that will help us reduce the budget deficit, as we campaigned for during the last general election campaign”

    I don’t recall us running on a platform of greater fiscal stimulus through infrastructure spending in 2010 – would you mind pointing me in the direction of something that might jog my memory?

  • paul barker 18th Jun '13 - 2:40pm

    I was prepared to take the article seriously till it got to The Occupy movement as a n example of social activism of the sort we should be looking to work with. Occupy was the perfect example of “The Lefts” fondness for nostalgic, self-indulgent posturing with a streak of authoritarian bullying just below the surface.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jun '13 - 4:39pm

    I feel that many people who are most passionate on the left aren’t aware how much tax and other costs levied by the goverment “the rich” actually pay. To give you an example:

    If an additional rate taxpayer owns a company and pays 20% corporation tax, if they want to take the money out they will have to pay an additional 28% capital gains tax or 31.1% dividend tax – this is a cumulative tax rate of 42.4% and 44.88% respectively.

    The above doesn’t even include all other costs levied by the government such as VAT (which cannot just be added without reducing demand in the vast majority of businesses), regulatory costs and then more taxes if you want to buy anything .

    There should be no distinction between “entrepreneurs” and “shareholders” – all shareholders pay all of the taxes – it is pure folly to say a shareholder doesn’t pay the corporation tax whilst a “business owner” does.

    So I don’t see how racking up taxes, which these left wing groups would like to do, can be any way liberal.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jun '13 - 4:47pm

    Not to mention employers national insurance, which is 13.8% on all wages above £148 per week – all shareholders pay that too.

    The left often get angry because we are not taxing the rich, but we are. I agree corporate taxes could be reformed, perhaps a corporate income tax, but this could make corporations pay taxes even if they are losing money and send them under, so there’s no easy solution.

  • Paul Pettinger 18th Jun '13 - 5:10pm

    Nick T – how can we expect Labour to take us seriously until we account for this Govt’s disastrous economic policies?

  • Cllr Colin Strong 18th Jun '13 - 7:32pm

    @Nick Thornsby

    Lib Dem Manifesto 2010
    A Fair Future:
    “Green growth and jobs that last by investing in infrastructure”

    Pages 23 &24
    Our green stimulus plan will create 100,000 jobs. It comprises

    • Investing up to £400 million in refurbishing shipyards in the North of
    England and Scotland so that they can manufacture offshore wind
    turbines and other marine renewable energy equipment. As part of
    this scheme we will write off backdated business rates demands from
    before April 2008 for businesses in ports.

    • Launching an ‘Eco Cash-Back’ scheme, for one year only, which
    will give you £400 if you install double glazing, replace an old boiler,
    or install micro-generation. If you choose micro-generation, you will
    be able to sell the energy back to the National Grid at a profi t, with
    a more attractive feed-in tariff than under current government plans.

    • Setting aside extra money for schools who want to improve the
    energy effi ciency of their buildings. They will pay back the loan over
    time from energy savings, creating a rolling fund to help insulate
    every public building.

    • Bringing 250,000 empty homes back into use. People who own
    these homes will get a grant or a cheap loan to renovate them so that
    they can be used: grants if the home is for social housing, loans for
    private use.

    • Investing £140 million in a bus scrappage scheme that helps bus
    companies to replace old polluting buses with new, accessible lowcarbon
    ones and creates jobs.”

    Not all of these are strategic infrastructure like roads but nonetheless empty homes and energy efficiency are issues that we wanted to tackle.

    The question is how much of this has been implemented either inside or outside of the coalition agreement.

  • This isn’t meant as a criticism of Simon, for whom I have the greatest respect, but I sometimes wonder whether people like myself, and him, who are now, unbelievably, around pensionable age are, like old generals, trying to fight the battles of forty years ago. As a party we cling to these mantras that were coined in those early years of community politics – “Working for you – all the year round”; “Where we work, we win”, and so on, but the truth is that the political environment has changed, and we changed it. Every party – Labour, Conservative, UKIP, even the BNP – now uses community politics techniques to establish and maintain a presence in the areas they seek to represent. The days are long gone when the arrival of a Focus team in a derelict ward would strike fear into the heart of the opposition. Sure, there are still potholes to point at, street lights to get repaired, buses to petition for, 20 mph speed limits to campaign about, but everyone else does it as well. And while we have been putting our energies into representing the people of our communities in the council chamber we have missed the macro changes that have been going on in the world: globalisation and the inexorable transfer of wealth to those with power from the rest of us; the way that in order to be able to afford somewhere to live, at least in the south of England, it is almost essential to have two people working full time; the pressures of the labour market on children which mean that from about the age of 14 they need to be doing things that will look good enough on a CV to get them an unpaid internship when they leave university. All these things, and many more, have meant that most people have become depoliticised because they have neither the time to take part in politics nor the belief that by doing so anything might change. We need to be discussing these things as a party: as a radical whose passion is not yet quite extinguished I want to be there finding a way forward that makes sense for this century, but I am not convinced that the 1960s provide the template.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Jun '13 - 8:27pm

    @ Cllr Colin Strong

    Yes, those are ideas for infrastructure spending, but they don’t in themselves amount to (and weren’t intended as) a fiscal stimulus. That’s the point.

    We did not fight the 2010 election on the basis of *greater* fiscal stimulus; we fought it on a platform of reducing the deficit as soon as the economic risks of not doing so outweighed those of doing so.

  • Sorry, Simon McGrath, Liberal Left is quite comfortable working with others than Labour. It would, I am sure have trouble with some of the more Blairite elements in Labour.

  • Michael Parsons 19th Jun '13 - 10:07am

    The often negative response of the commentary here, such as silly attacks on the desperate efforts of Occupy on St. Paul’s Cathedral steps, serve to strengthen doubts as to whether or not Parliament, and those of us who use party-interests to scrabble into it, has any useful future left for it in England. For centuries it has operated as the instrument of our wealthy oligarchy and “landed interests”, trying to supress newspaper reports, keeping its meetings secret, mounting huge land-grab campaigns by ‘enclosure’ , even resisting TV intrusion, attacking Public Libraries and education (who wants this mass of intelligence anyway?), and now operating an ideologically based “austerity campaign” to switch public funds to private (oligarchic) pockets.: time to cut it down to size and use it as a supervised administrative agency of democratic public need. It has been here too long for any good it is doing.

  • Simon Hebditch 19th Jun '13 - 12:43pm

    It is always nice to get a debate going. My points were very simple. I believe the current coalition has been a disaster and that it would be sensible to discover now, rather than in a hectic five days of haggling in 2015, whether there is any appetite for creating an alternative alliance. In parliamentary terms such an alternative would have to include Labour. I referred explicitly to the need for Labour to change as well as ourselves. We would, of course, involve the Greens in any such discussions.

    Who is doing any work now to see if it would be possible to create a joint programme post 2015 with centre left parties? I don’t know whether it would work but we might as well try! For any reforming party to be successful, it cannot rely simply on the parliamentary process. Such a government would need to be supported by other campaigning movements. How are you going to achieve that? Constant pressure from such campaigning movements is also useful for parliamentary politics – holding politicians to account for their actions. Would any work be going on, however inadequately, about companies and corporate taxation without the influence of external organisations?

  • Simon McGrath 19th Jun '13 - 1:59pm

    @Simon Hebditch “We would, of course, involve the Greens in any such discussions” – Why ? In the hope they could do for the country what they have done for Brighton and Hove ?

  • David Allen 19th Jun '13 - 3:08pm

    It’s interesting that Simon Hebditch has gone out of his way to emphasise the need for a broader realignment, for Labour to be pressed to change, and for wider involvement to bring in community groups which would bring different perspectives. Despite this generosity of spirit, the response of the so-called “centrists” has been overwhelmingly supercilious and dismissive. Probably the least overtly hostile response came from Peter Tyzack, with his “In principle the .. approach is one that I can work with, if genuine… the trouble is…”!

    Let’s just take a step back. Did our “centrists” ever agonise about the need for the Tories to change, before we could possibly work with them? Did anyone think to ask for a broader coalition with diverse organisations with independent, centrist or centre-right positions, or did we just sign a deal with the Tories alone? Did we help negotiations along by describing the previous Tory government as disastrous, as is being advocated should we ever dare to speak to Labour?

    Why do “centrists” pretend (a) that Labour are beyond the pale, while the Tories are not, and also (b) that they are upholding the fine old traditions of centrist equidistance, let alone centre-left politics, on which this party was founded?

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jun '13 - 4:40pm

    David, I am a genuine centrist/moderate. However I share your concerns about Orange Book “centrist liberalism”, which seems to be a confusing mixture of right and left wing policies that in my opinion will never sell well, which is arguably being proven by our position in the polls. I don’t think the party has gone right wing, but I think the market approach to the NHS, schools and renewables is all wrong.

    We need to win people over on values and our values need to be very clear and simple.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jun '13 - 5:01pm

    I also want to add that I know some can say that my state based approach to public services is left wing, but the point is that the marketing and the values of the party need to be clear and simple.

  • @Matthew Huntbach thanks for what I think that is a very thoughtful and insightful annalysis of the dangers of single issue pressure groups.

  • Steve Griffiths 19th Jun '13 - 7:26pm

    Eddie Sammon

    “I don’t think the party has gone right wing,”

    Are you serious? As someone else pointed out a while ago on LDV, when we now regard Shirley Williams and Charles Kennedy as being on the LEFT of the party, then I know how far we have moved rightwards!

  • David Pollard 19th Jun '13 - 8:22pm

    I still fail to see the point of the Labour party. It’s funded by the Unions but it does not support the working man. It just trots behind the Conservatives and in some things, like supporting the State having access to everyone’s emails etc. is likely to support the Comservatives to defeat the Liberalism of the LibDems.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Jun '13 - 1:58pm

    Michael Parsons

    The often negative response of the commentary here, such as silly attacks on the desperate efforts of Occupy on St. Paul’s Cathedral steps, serve to strengthen doubts as to whether or not Parliament, and those of us who use party-interests to scrabble into it, has any useful future left for it in England.

    Well, since only two people mentioned Occupy, and I was the one who gave a detailed comment on them, I assume you mean me. So, Michael, can you explain how what I wrote serves to strengthen doubts as to whether Parliament has any useful future left for it in England?

    You say that Occupy are “desperate”, but what are they desperate for? They draw attention to problems, which actually most people are already aware of, and make a plaintive cry “something must be done”, but who do they suppose will be doing the doing? It seems to me they are just assuming the politicians we have will always be there, and so if you tug and tug at their heartstrings, just maybe, maybe they’ll change their minds. Well, has it worked? No. What I have seen throughout my adult life is a shift towards this sort of picturesque protest, accompanied by a shift in politics towards the political right resulting in our governments containing people who couldn’t give a stuff for what the protests are about. That is, I think what is now supposed to be the reaction to bad things – a bunch of young sons and daughters of the social elite (sorry, but every interview I’ve seen with Occupy people reveals them to be just that) take banners and march around a bit with them, or perform some other bit of college drama – isn’t working to achieve anything useful.

    People at the bottom of the social pile, and those not doing so well in the middle as well, have been encouraged to take the attitude that a good way of demonstrating your belief that society is run in an unfair way that does not gives you a chance in life is not to vote. They say to the politicians “If you don’t do more for us, we WON’T VOTE”. Well, that’s achieved a lot, hasn’t it? (Obviously, Not). Are the politicians quaking in their boots in fear of all those poor people who won’t vote? No. They’re directing their policies very more at those rich people who are much more likely to vote. Or, as we saw with the recent UKIP boom, the reaction of people at the bottom of society who have been damaged by the right-wing policies of recent governments is – to vote for a party which supports such right-wing policies, just wants them in an even more extreme form.

    Now, why are people voting UKIP? Partly because the right-wing press many of them read has been cheering on UKIP for years, mostly not directly but indirectly by pumping out UKIP’s propaganda lines. However, also because UKIP are actually managing to get stuff through the letter-boxes at election time. It may be crude and simplistic, but it works, especially in the absence of anyone else doing similar outside the smarmy politicians of the conventional parties pushing their smarmy ad-men’s stuff, like this.

    So, instead of mounting a drama school final year project, what if all those people in Occupy and the like were to put effort into pushing stuff through letterboxes encouraging people to come out and vote for something different? What if the stuff being pushed through the letterboxes was deliberately produced so it looked a bit amateurish rather than smarmy ad-man’s stuff, that is, it looked like it was produced by normal human beings who understood normal life as most people live it? What if instead of talking down to them, and saying “vote for us, we’re wonderful people who’ll solve all your problems, here’s a load of ad-men’s misleading figures that show it”, the stuff pushed through letterboxes actually spoke the language ordinary people speak and took the stand of linking the things that ordinary people experience directly in their lives to wider political issues? That’s what the Liberal idea of “community politics” was originally all about.

    That is, it didn’t take the defeatist step of saying “politics is useless, so we’ll wave a few banners and leave it to the politicians we have to govern us and maybe just feel a bit sorry for us if we wave them really hard”. No, it took the step of saying “We’re in a democracy, we have the politicians we have because that’s what people vote for, but mostly they vote out of habit, so we’re going to demonstrate you don’t have to vote as you always have done in the past, and if you vote differently that can result in a different sort of person being elected”.

    Now, actually, mounting the odd dramatic event to get people’s attention is a good strategy so long as it is not the only strategy. That is why it formed part of the community politics idea, part of the dual approach, in which issue based campaigning was joined with electoral campaigning. The point is that the issue-based campaigning wasn’t of the peasants-tugging-at-the-aristocrats-robes type, begging and pleading the existing politicians to have a bit of heart. No, it was directed at ordinary people to get them to consider getting rid of their current batch of politicians through voting for someone new.

    Now, you may reply “But once we elect the new politicians, they turn into lords lording it over us just like the old ones”. A good point, but if that’s your argument against what I’m saying, it’s really an argument against democracy. So what would you replace democracy with? The political right already have the answer – rule by businessmen. They have been energetically following the “politics is bad” by saying that means we should privatise everything and deregulate, and so give power to businessmen. We have been told politics is no good, because crooked politicians claim a few thousand in dubious expenses claims, and as a result we have been encouraged to shift power to the bankers, where a few thousand is what you and your mates pay for lunch, and a few millions is what you take as earnings.

    What we need is a political structure which is network based rather than leader based, is not all about The Great Leader lording it all over us. Unfortunately, the leadership of our party have pushed the line that real success involves us looking as much like the old lords as we can, that way, the people will be really impressed. It hasn’t worked, has it? And I have at least been consistently saying this for a very long time. Anyone remember the pamphlet I wrote called A Liberal Party back around the time of the merger on that theme?

  • David Allen 20th Jun '13 - 6:39pm

    “instead of mounting a drama school final year project, what if all those people in Occupy and the like were to put effort into pushing stuff through letterboxes encouraging people to come out and vote for something different?”

    I used to share that view. I used to think that single-issue campaign groups were a cop-out and that people should get real and join in party politics.

    Nowadays I think it is the party politicians who need to get real. They all routinely lie to the voters, act in self interest, and follow much the same policies. So much so that one can’t any longer complain when people join single-issue pressure groups instead.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jun '13 - 12:18am

    David Allen

    Nowadays I think it is the party politicians who need to get real. They all routinely lie to the voters, act in self interest, and follow much the same policies. So much so that one can’t any longer complain when people join single-issue pressure groups instead.

    Yes, but isn’t there a cause and effect issue here? Because so few people are getting involved in party politics, those few that are left in it are of the sort you mention here, and there isn’t the force of strong and active local party members to reject the careerists and instead pick candidates who they know to be genuine and sincere?

    One of the reasons I stopped being a councillor is that I just couldn’t stand any more the constant accusations that having taken on that role meant I was only in it for myself, meant I was a liar, a nasty person, “feathering my own nest” and all that. The reality was that putting my energy that way had wrecked my academic career, and the many hours I spent doing it because I really cared about the people I represented had left me exhausted. Having then to smile and be pleasant as the door got slammed in your face while canvassing with the “go away, you’re only in for yourself” line was something I could no longer stand – I wanted to scream at them “You f-ing ungrateful b-stards”.

  • Well – The great British public can certainly be a bunch of a*seholes at times. But I’m glad you didn’t badmouth them, because they weren’t really to blame. The people who gave you an undeservedly bad reputation were your fellow politicians – the ones who operate at parliamentary level, that is.

    It used to be belived, most of the time, that local Lib Dems were different and should not be tarred with the sins of Tory or Labour MPs. No longer. The public rightly understand that Lib Dems in government are not different, and that anybody at the local level who has stuck with the Party has a lot of explaining to do. That’s a bit hard on long-serving councillors whose careers have been honourable, but, basically, it’s fair enough. They could always go Independent and thereby keep their integrity intact.

  • Simon Banks 2nd Jul '13 - 10:04pm

    Tactically, it’s a big mistake for any third party to tie itself semi-permanently to co-operating with one other party only. You probably lose votes and you certainly weaken your hand in negotiations.

    I do think the mass of the party has rather more in common with Labour than with the Tories, especially the way the Tories are going now.

    Co-operation with Labour in a future coalition would be fine depending on how we played our hand in the negotiations and in government.

    If something persuaded me I could no longer stay in the Liberal Democrats, I wouldn’t give a second’s consideration to joining Labour. They have a totalitarian streak in their blood.

    Nonetheless, there are many decent and even liberal people in the Labour Party.

    Revitalising our links with community campaigns is essential. In such campaigns we will meet people with different politics from ours and it’s good if we can work together.

    But Labour, unlike ourselves or even the Tories, has a strong tendency to try to take over campaigns in its own interest, to make them “Labour campaigns”, and to treat campaigners as enemies if they don’t align with Labour. We may start campaigns we see as ours, but we don’t as a rule enter existing campaigns and try to take them over.

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  • Martin Eggleston
    "not so lovely people can get quite far into the Party’s core before anyone necessarily notices." Absolutely! Hear hear...
  • Yeovil Yokel
    This elegant piece warrants a thumbs-up of its own, Mark - and no, I'm not proffering a bribe to a moderator....
  • Mel Borthwaite
    Maybe the time has come for there to be two separate organisations responsible for policing - one being a ‘Police Force’ and the other being a ‘Police Ser...
  • Martin Gray
    "The policy and the Liberal Democrat outlook is for the improvement of the UK’s economic, social and geopolitical well being and absolutely ‘tackle the issu...
  • Martin
    Martin Gray: The Party's constitution and policy adopted at the Spring conference a year ago do mark the Liberal Democrats as 'a rejoin party'. In fact there ...