Opinion: It took a day to lose those seats in Parliament – it can take a day to win them back

The following was first submitted to LDV as a comment. The team felt it was worth publishing as a full post. The author gave his permission for this.

I write this as a new member awaiting the paperwork. I joined the party because I am pro European (accepting a need for increased reform & democratic accountability), am absolutely appalled with the prospect that a Conservative government might withdraw this country from the ECHR and because I cannot reconcile democracy with government access to personal emails. In addition I was impressed with the Liberal Democrat record in Government and the performance of Liberal Democrat Ministers.

Given the post election scenario which I, like many, found shocking I appreciate that rebuilding is required, but I feel that this may be easier than many think.

Firstly, the Conservatives made commitments in the election campaign that will be hard to deliver without some drastic cuts. The electorate will be able to see what the Liberal Democrats in government prevented the Conservatives from trying to introduce. We have already seen this in action. There was no mention of the HRA in the Queens Speech – it is clear that the campaign that the Liberal Democrats have run, combined with some high profile noises from the Conservative back benches and legal community, has revealed the home truth, that they would have a hell of a fight on their hands. The objection should be the withdrawal from the ECHR which this country and a Conservative government helped form in the first place.

We will also, in the term of this Parliament, see an attempt to introduce the Snoopers’ Charter. The Liberal Democrats made no secret of the fact that they were against it in Government and the electorate should be reminded of this at every opportunity. The Liberal Democrats should lead the opposition against it (as it is unclear where the Labour party will stand on this), as they did in government.

The biggest battle is the European referendum. The Liberal Democrats should campaign for 16 & 17 year old participation and for the participation of EU citizens who are living, working & contributing to the tax system in this referendum now. The party should also set out the reforms that are required in the period of Cameron renegotiation and then should fully engage in the debate, as this will give some much needed TV exposure.

Other parties such as UKIP will be under intense scrutiny over the next few years, and as we saw in the election campaign, they may not stand up to it very well. If the vote is a yes one, which I hope it is, UKIP will find it difficult to have a reason to exist. So, the protest votes that they clearly gained will go elsewhere. A yes vote in the region of 60-40 will probably split the Conservative party, as it will leave eurosceptics some hope. They will still be “banging on about europe”.

By having a new leader elected before the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats have head start over them. Labour have got a much harder task to get back to where they were, as they will have to build-up whatever vision their new leader has. The Liberal Democrats simply need to explain what Liberalism is – both economic & social forms, and point to the legislation that Liberal Democrats in Government helped introduce – whilst also making it absolutely clear that they did the right thing for the country in 2010 by entering into government.

We should explain that coalition does mean that not everything can be achieved and that the only way to achieve everything is to have majority government.

All this can be achieved through action locally and nationally via social media, local media where the party base in local government remains strong and in national media when the opportunities arise. The actions of others in politics will demonstrate the need for a party with strong Liberal convictions.

It took a day to actually lose the seats in Parliament – it can take a day to win them back as long as the work is done on the ground, on the airwaves and in cyberspace in the meantime.

* John Bland lives and works in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Staunchly pro European, he joined the party following the 2015 General Election and is currently Secretary of the South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats.

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49 Comments

  • Great stuff John. Welcome to the LibDems! I have been a member since 1983, but have not been active for many years. However, I am absolutely determined to get involved again for very much the same reasons as you state in your article.

    I am convinced that the UK is, at its roots, essentially a liberal country. Our real challenge as a party is to translate that into votes. It may only a day to change the make-up of parliament for the better, but 2020 is a long time away and there is a lot of hard work to do in the meantime. But, with 25% of the party membership having joined since the election, and hopefully with them all being keen to get involved (as you are), how can we fail?

  • Welcome home John. Why did it take you so long??! 🙂
    Nevermind,. You’re here now! And there is a lot in what you say.
    The party is in a crisis. There’s no doubt about that. But the way forward is clear enough. We just have to roll up our sleeves.

  • The views expressed may come to fruition but having worked over the years for this party, it is sometimes difficult to understand that the general public are excited by perception as well as fact. However we have to start somewhere and the younger membership who are more social media savvy than us old uns can use this to good effect.Equally we will have things to campaign about free from the coalition strait jacket
    But could I make one plea….as I understand it PPCs stay in post for one year?? Could they not be charged with ensuring that each constituency welcomes its new members,examines a development plan for the future and at least gets those significant number of constituencies who have become virtually derelict..ignite some enthuisiasm

  • Shaun Young 1st Jun '15 - 2:29pm

    Great post John, and welcome!

    Much of what you have said are things which I have had rolling around in my head the last couple of weeks, but couldn’t seem to structure them so eloquently! 🙂

  • Bob
    And speaking as an old uns, it is not in our nature to give up.The first general election I was invovled in was in 1970. It was a bleak one but within a couple of years the Liberals were back and went on to win a record number of votes at the February 1974 election.

  • @John Bland “The Liberal Democrats simply need to explain what Liberalism is – both economic & social forms, and point to the legislation that Liberal Democrats in Government helped introduce – whilst also making it absolutely clear that they did the right thing for the country in 2010 by entering into government.”

    Absolutely John. And it does have to be all forms of Liberalism.

    However doing this succinctly and with a sufficient “pull” factor (as well as the “push”) has been a difficult task over the years. Do you have any ideas about how to do this effectively?

  • If the vote is a yes one, which I hope it is, UKIP will find it difficult to have a reason to exist
    I fear precisely the opposite. I certainly sympathise with your plea for strong, positive campaigning, however, the Scottish referendum should be enough to warn us of the dangers of a backlash. In fact the more likely it is that the Conservative Party is damaged by a continuing split, the more likely it is that UKIP will prosper.

    I think we need to be very careful of how we handle an EU referendum to ensure that we do not become the victims of a backlash. I think we should leave Cameron to deliver all the fear and threats. We should decline a shared platform and confine our campaign to the positive Liberal and Democratic case.

  • I’m sure your intent is good. However without that detailed analysis of what went wrong and why the comeback will take even longer.
    Take Scotland as an example. The total opposition to Independence was verging on religous fervour. I stood at many street stalls and farming fairs and listened to the rants of Tories and LibDems in unison. They purchased and handed out those insulting little flags – a saltire with a union jack in the corner. My point is not to deny your right foe what you believed in but why not argue your case for a Federal UK than align so firmly with the Tories.
    We then had Danny Alexander / Carmichael / Cable all being the tools of the Tory puppet master.
    Do you think the public bought that line about moderating the Tories? No – you enabled the Tories.
    Forget the ACTUAL vote in which the electorate sent you a clear message. Pat each other on the back and claim the fight back has started.

    Do you have any concept of how badly you are going to do in the next big test – Holyrood. The Carmichael fiasco demonstrates how out of touch you are.

  • David Evans 1st Jun '15 - 3:13pm

    Sadly, the reality is that it took us forty years of hard work to get from the almost obscurity of single figures of MPs to where we were in 2010, and that progress was all squandered in five years under Nick’s leadership. The total loss of trust that occurred in 2010 will not recover as if by a magic touch in a day. It will take years of painstaking hard work by local activists to earn it back again. In contrast, in the early 60s we were looked on with some positive feeling by the public in general and we had heartlands in Scotland, the South West and Mid Wales. Now almost all of that is gone and we have to start again from scratch. Anyone who thinks that it will be any easier this time is sadly totally misleading themselves.

    Having said that, it must be done for Liberal Democracy is too precious to lose.

  • George Potter 1st Jun '15 - 3:32pm

    On the referendum campaign I think we might do well to run the equivalent of the Scottish independence Radical Yes campaign.

    E.g. one with Lib Dems in the lead (but a non-partisan campaign) setting out a positive vision for membership of the EU and what we think it should become rather than just defending the status quo with fear as the official Yes campaign will likely do.

  • @Clootie. Good luck when you’re independent old chap!

  • @David Evans but the good news is that we have a new generation coming through into the party not hidebound by previous thinking and mistakes, and inspired by experience in government and Liberalism in the round. The future’s bright, the future’s Orange!

  • A Social Liberal 1st Jun '15 - 3:41pm

    It didn’t take a day to facilitate the massacre of May 7th, it took year upon year upon year. Five years of supporting nasty Tory policies, helping them get enacted. That Rose Garden moment and at least three years of similar events, Clegg admitting that he wouldn’t be able to find something to disagree with Cameron on in the next set of debates.

    I could go on and on, opening up the wounds Lib Dem capitulation has inflicted upon our party, but you have all seen the cuts open and suppurating and I am tired of trying to get the economic liberals to admit the catastrophic damage they have caused.

    What I will say though, is that it will take a generation to put right the marriage which coalition split asunder, not a day, a year or even five.

  • Just to remind ourselves that the near wipeout at the General Election was the end product of four years hard work by the party, lead it seems by Clegg and Ashdown. During those magical years in government we lost over 2000 councillors, 95% of our Euro MPs and had the most appalling set of local and national by election results ever. Add to that £170K in lost deposits and £350K said to have been spent on opinion polling, which appears to have been a waste of time.
    During those four years we begged them to change course, but what did we know. The result the worst electoral overall performance, since the Liberal Party formed in the 1860’s. Currently we are faced with a national party that still has not seemingly apologized to its membership, an organisation that proved totally ineffective and out of touch, with individuals still saying how well I or we did in government and seemingly no longer a national party on the ground.. It is time to change from top to bottom, in style, presentation, personnel and approach. I probably sit on the center right of the party but it does seem that if we are going to start to get back some Assembly and Council seats, and see off the Greens, particularly in the northern and midland conurbations we will probably have to go back to being center left led by people not tainted by Tuition Fees.. Only in that scenario can we hope to clear the decks. Like Blatter we are hanging on just.
    Quite simply things have to radically change as an organisation if we are to become again and survive as a national force.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jun '15 - 4:09pm

    “The Liberal Democrats simply need to explain what Liberalism is – both economic & social forms, and point to the legislation that Liberal Democrats in Government helped introduce”
    From the outside it seems that Lib Dems endlessly circle around the debate about just how economically liberal the party should be without actually resolving it. The leadership campaign is shaping up to be a surrogate for this, but because it includes so many other issues I suspect that it will not resolve the more fundamental dispute between factions who variously describe each other as “lefties” or “orange book entryists”.
    Until one side emerges as a clear winner I do not see any future for the party (and declaring an interest, I don’t think there is much of a future for a “tories for Europe” version of the party).
    The general left-right-centre debate is irrelevant. Lib Dems are universally “socially liberal” in a way that might be considered “left” (though the party does have a real problem insofar as its parliamentarians have never reflected the range of genders, sexualities, ethnicities, faiths, etc. that the party professes to embrace and there often appears to be a degree of intolerance shown to those with a religious faith). It is the extent to which the party is “economically liberal”, where it is placed on that particular left-right spectrum and the balance between the roles of the state and the market, that is crucial to its future, and on that the party still looks divided between those who have learnt different lessons from five years of coalition and elections.

  • paul barker 1st Jun '15 - 4:13pm

    I am with the the spirit of the article but I would say that in The Referendum Campaign there is one Negative that we have a duty to raise. If The UK leave The EU then Scottish Independence becomes inevitable, not everyone will see that as a downside but we do & we have to say so.
    On the general point of how long recovery will take, I dont know & as far as I can see there is no evidence either way; I am going to wait for some facts before I develop an opinion on this.

  • George Potter, I think its very likely that the official Yes Campaign will be defending not the status quo, but rather a halfway house arrangement that will see the UK take up a position as the lead country on the fringes of the European Union, rather than as a core country driving the project forward. In the referendum itself, I fear that we will be choosing between staying In Cameron’s halfway house, or walking Out to negotiate an associated state agreement that will essentially be what Cameron was selling minus seats in the European Institutions and plus a few extra optouts.

    If that is the case, then really neither side of the argument will be offering what we actually want, that is to say the UK driving a Europe of subsidiarity and unity from the centre. So we absolutely must avoid the mistake of the Scottish referendum, lining up with one side or the other to defend someone else’s policy. A Radical European Campaign that says vote Yes to minimise the damage but prepare for bigger and better things in the future is one way forward.

  • Manfaring: yes I was parliamnentary candidate in 74. We started with no councillors and no organisation but 8 of us built a team which the tories called the orange machine winning 32 of the 42 seats available..today no councillors again but I am involved in another constituency and we are driving membership forward

  • David Evans 1st Jun '15 - 6:17pm

    @TCO Of course a new generation can be a wonderful thing. Nick Clegg was a new generation allegedly not hidebound by previous thinking and mistakes and you supported him to the hilt. Sadly Nick was not interested in avoiding mistakes and didn’t want to listen to those who had done it before and he led us to disaster. If the new, new generation actually listen to those who have done it successfully before, they won’t make the same mistakes and they will develop a future worth having. If they follow your hero’s example, we really will be in trouble.

  • David Allen 1st Jun '15 - 6:34pm

    “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange!”

    Not when you’ve lost “Everything, Everywhere”!

  • “Until one side emerges as a clear winner I do not see any future for the party (and declaring an interest, I don’t think there is much of a future for a “tories for Europe” version of the party).”

    I also think there’s no future for a Tories for Europe party. No economic liberal does.

    There is a future for a fully Liberal party, however. The left of the political spectrum is an overcrowded place, now occupied by Greens, Nationalists, Socialists and social democrats.

    that space is gone for ever since we last occupied it over 15 years ago and heading that way would apply the coup de grace as the “left liberals” die off.

    The younger generation is heading our way. Let’s embrace them.

  • @David Evans my hero isn’t Nick Clegg!

  • paul barker 1st Jun '15 - 7:20pm

    Can I reccomend that everyone reads the blog piece “Not all politics is local.” Its in the blog column now. I dont want to try & sum up a well-written piece & ruin it but for me the most crucial point is that the loss of so many MPs sets us free to try anew approach, National as well as Local & targetting voters who are already Liberal. That message resonates particularly in London which has the biggest concentrations of “Liberal” voters yet where we have done terribly even in good times & in Elections with PR. We can start next year by abandoning our traditional concentration on Target wards & constituencies.

  • @Paul barker agree. We’ve tried the incremental approach before. Time for something completely different.

  • Paul,
    I agree that in the light of results we have been over-targeting. In particular I think quite a lot of winnable local government seats got abandoned where there were others nearby in target constituencies…

    But the Party desperately needs to start making net gains in local elections again. We are not going to do that by spreading ourselves too thin – I doubt if there is any council seat in the country where there are enough “Liberal voters” to simply win without any local factors, and local hard work. We know that only a sustained effort over the next 11 months will win back seats we lost 4 years ago (in most cases), and that will mean some degree of targeting.

    I do agree as well though that we need to campaign on core Lib Dem issues to try and win back activists and candidates, and not just on local issues

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jun '15 - 8:15pm

    In reference to Paul Barker’s comment: I can’t stand this idea that people should believe what is convenient at the time. People should move left or not depending on what they believe, not because they think they have found a clever strategy to win a few MPs in the short-term.

    I do a bit of pandering, or compromising, but I don’t change my fundamental values depending on what is convenient at the time.

  • John R G Bland 1st Jun '15 - 10:16pm

    Thank for the welcome and comments. I appreciate that building up the party did take a lot of hard work during the 1970’s through to the end of the Century. It must have needed a lot of foot soldiers delivering leaflets to persuade people to vote in Local elections and Parliamentary elections with limited coverage in the National Press and then obviously the elected representatives had to work hard to represent their constituents to get re-elected and to generally build up a base in Local Government to make a difference. MP’s would be in a minority in Parliament and it was probably not until the televising of Parliament that what they said was reported in an accessible medium.

    However there is a distinct difference between that time and now. Messages can be delivered in forms of media that are did not exist then. Take for example Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. It is only 10 years or so since they were formed and even less since internet speeds to most parts of the UK have been quick enough to make use of them – they are now tools that many now consider second nature. Indeed I think they were used by the NUS amongst others to target the student fees policy which was then picked up by the traditional Press (Newspaper & TV) that themselves were realising (in the case of Newspapers) that they had to embrace Social Media themselves to survive.

    Whilst leafleting and door campaigning will always have a role in a marginal seat, they certainly are not used in safe seats such as the one I live in. Yes there was a hustings event and yes we had leaflets through our door, but not once did a Parliamentary candidate knock on my door – these days I fear leaflets would be a waste of money. Most would be read perhaps and then go in the recycling bin. These days candidates can engage with a far bigger audience than they could ever expect to face to face. An example comes to mind, when our local newspaper covered the local hustings one comment I saw on Twitter was that they would not vote for the candidate that did not use social media!Social media can be used to spread both positive and negative messages that can be spread wide and far if it strikes a nerve. This is why I referred to the use of cyberspace. The forthcoming campaign against what is dubbed the “Snoopers Charter” will be keenly fought on cyberspace and I suspect it will be very one sided. The Liberal Democrats can point to the fact that it was they who stopped it during their time in Government. The difference this time is that there will be Liberal policies that the party introduced in Government and a record to point to. The campaigners of the 1970’s could only point to a time in Government 50 years previously and 60 years to real Liberal reforms.

    On the question of “left or right or even centre”, I am not sure that Liberalism should be defined in this way. I think that it is all to easy to fall into the trap of being accused of “sitting on the fence” or of “not being sure if they stand for one thing or another”. The first test of any policy must be does it “Liberalise”. If it does and does not affect the liberties of others then it is a policy that has to be considered.

    The comments about Scotland are very interesting and very concerning. Clearly the SNP have achieved something that is incredible. I suspect all parties can learn lessons from how they achieved it I can see that the anti Tory sentiment that has been building up for decades was going to be a problem for the Lib Dem Scottish seats with the Lib Dems in coalition, but the SNP can’t surely increase their vote again? They will be opposed on all fronts in the Scottish Parliament and this will in turn translate into votes for other parties. There is clearly a gap left by Labour in Scotland and there seems to be very clear differences between what a potential Labour voter in Scotland might vote for compared with what a potential Labour voter in London might vote for. However that cannot and must not be the case with the Liberal Democrats. Any policy must be of equal appeal to voters across the country which why defining Liberalism for the 21st Century must be key.

  • Sammy O'Neill 1st Jun '15 - 11:39pm

    Few things I disagree on:

    1. The Liberal Democrats complaints over the HRA have not had any impact on the government plans. It’s fear of controlling the backbenchers that has put that on hold, not 8 lib dem mp’s quietly complaining.

    2. Having a new leader elected before Labour will make no real tangible difference. With just 8 MP’s the Lib Dems will see their media air time cut massively, meaning the new leader faces a real uphill battle to be heard unless they are capable of Farage-level media grabbing. We’ll be lucky to get weekly invites to appear on Question Time.

    3. Labour do not have a harder task than the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems have successfully alienated their core support and probably driven a lot of them away for good. Can anyone really see us winning back Brent Central in 2020? Rebuilding will be slow, perhaps a 20 year process I fear. Labour has some hope of reclaiming most of their lost support in the space of one election if they get their act together (not that I think they will).

    4. Relying on a local base will do some good, but in so many areas the base is destroyed entirely. It’s not so much a case of building on what is already there, it’s a case of rebuilding.

  • David Evans 2nd Jun '15 - 1:47am

    John (Bland), With 25 years experience in accountancy I would have thought you would have realised from experience over that time that anyone who claims it’s all different now (aka the new paradigm) is almost always wrong unless they know why what they are doing is different. When you say things like “the SNP can’t surely increase their vote again?” It shows how little you understand about politics. They don’t need to increase their vote. We need to increase ours – massively, just to avoid being consigned to the dustbin of history in the entire country. Likewise your comment “Messages can be delivered in forms of media that are did not exist then.” This is true. But how do you think that we (the Lib Dems with very few resources) can compete with and beat the Tories or Labour in using them? The Tories are so far ahead of us they used them to massacre us this time. Unless you can answer that clearly, you are offering nothing more than the hope of a new entrant who doesn’t know how it all works.

    Hope is a wonderful thing, and given the right leadership can move mountains, but at present we have to overcome the biggest self inflicted injury any UK political party has faced since at least 1983, and in my mind probably the biggest since the collapse of the Liberal Party after WW1.

  • The conservative manifesto was a tool to get them as many MPs as possible, not a thing they wholeheartedly believe in. This is always true of party manifestos. if you dont believe that, just consider how fast central planks of the 2010 liberal manifesto flew out the window post election.

    The HRA was no doubt not up for legislation right now because they fear opposition, but as mentioned above, some real part of that opposition is from the conservative MPs themselves. Which is rather an example of what I just said. It would not amaze me if this never comes to legislation within this parliament. it was designed to get on board nationalists by appearing to get tough on immigrants. I strongly suspect the government’s principled opposition to Human rights has a lot more to do with allowing Uk security services to do what they like than any stated reason, and I could see this being dealt with by the back door, in notionaly different legislation about security services, and indeed in the EU renegotiations.

    Speaking of which , I fully expect Cameron to be campaigning shortly for the Uk to remain inside the EU. The message of this would then be that that conservatives hampered by liberal partners were unable to deal with the EU membership issue, but managed to settle it for staying in, when they had their own majority. Something of a paradox for those liberals who believe in staying in, and also believe they had a beneficial effect on the last government.

    Cameron will say that this was exactly what he had planned all along, but those interfering liberals stopped him and merely caused 5 years uncertainty. This is probably not true, because the climate now may well be better for winning a yes vote than it was 5 years ago. But thats politics.

    I think this argument about there being no room on the left for the party is fundamentally wrong. However, I think the issue is even more stark for most voters. Voters do not read manifestos. many vote tribally. Most have a vague idea what a party stands for, possibly a completely erroneous one, and will go with that. So all this detailed positioning was irrelevant to most voters. The libs simply projected the idea that they disapproved of labour and thought everything the coalition had done was wonderful. The image was simply conservative light: calculated to scare off labour doubters and be irrelevant to anyone wanting an independent view. Most of all, far from being a third force, at the first opportunity the liberal party bolted into the welcoming arms of the establishment and proved it had no intention whatsoever of being different.

    The truth is, if it isnt different to the other two parties, then what is the point of the liberals? The voting system imposes a massive advantage to the two main parties, and finessing a position a little apart from one or the other just is never going to work.

  • It did not take a day to lose those seats. It took eleven years. The publication of the Orange Book in 2004 was the start of the disaster.

    The contents of the book and the contributors to the book are a distraction to any discussion of the impact it has had. It was always set out by the editors to be a cult to turn the party into something other than it was. It was a movement, a faction. It was always an attempt to make the party a Torylite ally of corporate interests. And it managed to do that and through the luck of winning the balance of power in 2010; the illusion was kept going for the next four years.

    The defeat last month was the ultimate achievement of Laws and Marshall. The results in Somerset were, fittingly, amongst the worst for our party in the entire UK.

    The facts listed in a comment above are inescapable —
    theakes 1st Jun ’15 – 4:00pm
    “…….. During those magical years in government we lost over 2000 councillors, 95% of our Euro MPs and had the most appalling set of local and national by election results ever. Add to that £170K in lost deposits and £350K said to have been spent on opinion polling, which appears to have been a waste of time.
    During those four years we begged them to change course, but what did we know. The result the worst electoral overall performance, since the Liberal Party formed in the 1860’s. ”

    .

  • @John Bland your energy and optimism is exactly what is needed. Font be put off by the predictable negativity of those who want to carry on doing what they’ve always done (end result: you get what you’ve always got) and are hostile to thinking that challenges their certainties.

    Incrementalism was tried and ultimately failed. We need a completely different innovative approach and new members like you will be the catalyst to find this.

  • Now we must listen to each other, not ridicule as we were ridiculed, but listen and work together. With 15,000 or more new members, who will surely set a different course, and guided by old members over the next few years, we will spread back into the neglected areas. Keep the new membership drive going – as it takes time for us to find every likely new member and those who left us over the last years. Members here can post the link on their social media http://www.libdems.org.uk/join

    We know that the leadership contenders are reading here, that new members are here too. It is important that every area group that remains and the national centre which must also remain open-eyed to what we are doing – that all groups link all members into our new beginnings. Thank you Lib Dem Voice for your contributions to re-building.

  • SIMON BANKS 2nd Jun '15 - 1:48pm

    If there’s a backlash following a vote to stay in the EU, that’s a big problem for Cameron and an opportunity for UKIP if it hasn’t already self-destructed. It is not a threat to us. We would be fighting with conviction on our chosen ground.

    The “backlash” in Scotland has been exaggerated. The first past the post system delivered a huge SNP surge. Also some Scots who voted cautiously against independence were persuaded that the SNP would get the best deal for Scotland within the Union. I can’t see people voting UKIP to get a better deal for the UK in the EU.

  • @John Tilley “It did not take a day to lose those seats. It took eleven years. The publication of the Orange Book in 2004 was the start of the disaster. The contents of the book and the contributors to the book are a distraction to any discussion of the impact it has had. It was always set out by the editors to be a cult to turn the party into something other than it was. It was a movement, a faction. It was always an attempt to make the party a Torylite ally of corporate interests. ”

    Vince Cable. Steve Webb. Chris Huhne. Susan Kramer. Ed Davey. All of them to a man (and woman) rabid Thatcherites. That’s 50% of the book’s authors.

    Give it a read – it might surprise you. Come and join us, John! There is no greater joy in heaven for a sinner who repenteth, than but 99 who are already saved!

  • TCO __What is about this sentence that you do not understand ? —
    “..The contents of the book and the contributors to the book are a distraction to any discussion of the impact it has had”

    You repeat the distraction by listing some contributors.

    You then go on to pretend to believe that I have not read the book! Which is another distraction.

    Exactly what do not understand about these facts facing the party in June 2015 ?

    theakes 1st Jun ’15 – 4:00pm
    “…….. we lost over 2000 councillors, 95% of our Euro MPs and had the most appalling set of local and national by election results ever. Add to that £170K in lost deposits and £350K said to have been spent on opinion polling, which appears to have been a waste of time.
    During those four years we begged them to change course, but what did we know. The result the worst electoral overall performance, since the Liberal Party formed in the 1860’s. ”

  • Christine Headley 2nd Jun '15 - 8:39pm

    While the background of Coalition and the loss of councillors (myself included), members and morale during it obviously didn’t augur well for our chances in May 2015, I am not convinced that it caused the truly terrible results – say, the loss of the last 20 seats. For that I blame the neck-and-neck opinion polls. It was a two horse race.
    Furthermore, what I really want to know is how ComRes knew a fortnight before polling day that we would be wiped out in the South West. Our first inklings were apparently in some held seats when they saw the postal votes opened; others only found out when the ballot boxes were opened on polling day. From voters’ comments on polling day, it would appear that Tory telephone canvassers put the frighteners on them – but I still don’t see how ComRes cottoned on so early.

  • @John Tilley I think you over estimate the influence of the Orange Book. That said I hope you will read it if you haven’t already and join up with us! Come on in, the water’s lovely!

  • JohnBland – please don’t be put off by the negative comments here, and particularly those who can’t make their point without making personal attacks on you. Sadly such people are a feature of this party as of any other. But the vast majority of us respect you and welcome your contribution. We need the new blood and fresh ideas as well as the experienced old hands. I hope we hear more from you.

  • Christine Headley 2nd Jun ’15 – 8:39pm

    Christine, 
    In answer to your question, I can recommend the BBC Parliament Channel coverage of a seminar put on jointly by Nuffield College and the EP.   It was broadcast on 14 May but you may be able to find it still.   It was entitled “Who won the UK General Election, How and Why”.  

    The panel included Prof Jeff Evans of Nuffield, Prof Jane Green of Manchester and Peter Kellner;  there were comments from others including Michael Steed.  
    One point they were all agreed on was that Liberal Democrats had been “dead in the water” in the polls for years and that it was an illusion to suggest that we would hang on to dozens of seats when our national opinion poll rating was less than 10%.

    Importantly, it was not just ComRes who spotted that we were in trouble in the South West long before polling day.  The loss of our most experienced and most highly respected MEP only 11 months before might have been a clue that without very careful and something approaching an effective national campaign, we would lose all 15 seats.   We had neither and we lost the lot.  Worse than that in the region we only managed to achieve more than 20% in five seats.

    There were people here in LDV who were making the point.  Look back at the comments in the thread sparked by a video  by Sal Brinton urging members to go and help in North Devon, as opposed to anywhere else.   

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/sal-brinton-appeals-for-help-for-nick-harvey-in-north-devon-45568.html

    The results in Devon seats and others in the South West simply show the accuracy of the warnings.    Unlike HQ we did not need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on “special polling” because we could read the bog standard polling which – as Professor Geoff Evans  of Nuffield College has said – showed us as “dead in the water”.   He points out that the polls showed repeatedly, month after month, year after year, that the Liberal Democrat vote was flat-lining below 10%.   

    You can see the scale of the disaster in the South West if you check out pages 32 and 33 of the HofC Library Briefing Paper on the election results
    http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7186/CBP-7186.pdf

    Our vote declined by around 19% in the region, the worst decline anywhere in the UK

     

  • @Clootie
    You a free to rage away at the Lib Dems all you like, but how is it going to get the Tories out? Labour are not exactly in the strongest position, and the SNP don’t exist in Wales, or England, or NI.

  • David Evans 3rd Jun '15 - 11:04am

    It has been pointed out that one of my responses to you was too harsh and could be considered as a personal attack on you. Particularly when I posted “When you say things like “the SNP can’t surely increase their vote again?” It shows how little you understand about politics.”

    This was unforgiveable and I apologise. However to put things in context, over the last five years of repeated disaster for the party we have suffered a never ending stream of articles (here and elsewhere), briefings and messages from the party hierarchy telling us that nothing needed to change because:

    Stage 1 – Summer 2010. We were bound to be unpopular for a while because we had gone into coalition, but this was “grown up politics” and that things would improve when people realised the good we were doing.

    Stage 2 – Late 2010 to early 2011. We were bound to be unpopular for tuition fees but this was “grown up politics” and that things would improve once people realised we couldn’t persuade David Cameron to support our Pledge, but also that the one we voted for was a better system that was fairer to students.

    After this stage (May 2011) we lost 800 councillors and all our directly elected MSPs bar Orkney and Shetland.

    Stage 3 – Spring 2012.We were bound to be unpopular for supporting the Conservatives’ NHS Reforms, but this was “grown up politics” and our Senior parliamentarians had done a lot to improve the Bill (especially in the House of Lords) and people would eventually realise this when they concentrated on the fact that we had done so much good in government.

    After this stage (May 2012) we lost another 400 councillors.

    Stage 4 – Late 2012 to Spring 2013. We were bound to be unpopular for taking tough decisions IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, but this was “grown up politics” and mid-term blues and things would improve as the election got closer and people concentrated on the fact that we had done so much good in government.

    After this stage (May 2013) we lost another 140 councillors (less to defend).

    Stage 5 – Late 2013 to May 2014. We were bound to be unpopular for taking tough decisions IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, but this was “grown up politics” and still mid-term blues and things would be bound to improve as the election got closer and people concentrated on the fact that we had done so much good in government. Also Nick was going to lead a fightback by taking on Nigel Farage in a debate on the EU in the run up to the Euro Elections and we would fight as “The party of IN.”

    After this stage (May 2014) we lost another 300 councillors and all but one of our MEPs.

    Stage 6 – 23 May 2014 onwards. We were bound to be unpopular for taking tough decisions IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, but this was “grown up politics” and “the strategy we are following is the best strategy we could follow to deliver the optimum result in our present circumstances at the next election.” We could fight 57 by- elections and our private polling irrefutably showed that this would save enough of our MPs to ensure we would be successful (head off any chance of a rebellion by MPs to save the party).

    After this stage we lost another 400 councillors and surprise, surprise all but eight of our MPs.

    We are now at
    Stage 7.We were bound to be unpopular for taking tough decisions IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, but this was “grown up politics” and “history will look kindly on Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats”.

    It is always good to have new blood in the party and I welcome you all. However, over the last five years we have had repeated messages and articles saying that things could/would turn around without any need for significant change but we were taking tough decisions IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, and this was “grown up politics.” Sadly things have never changed and things have continued to deteriorate.

    My fear is that unless we accept our responsibility for the disaster that has happened, we will continue to make the same mistakes and that

    After the next stage (May 2016) we will find we have lost another few hundred councillors and even more of our MSPs, and we will be on a spiral of further decline possibly to oblivion.

    I hope you will understand that while I share all your hopes, the belief that things can just turn around by pointing out that things can change and things are different, will mean absolutely nothing unless we change, ‘fess up to our failure and determine that we are all up to the hard work necessary to turn things around over the coming years. My view is that if we wait for lots of new members to learn this for themselves, we will wait forever and the demise our party and the values it stands for will be assured. However, the way I expressed my concerns was not at all appropriate and I apologise again for my abrupt comments earlier.

  • David Evans this is the best comment I have seen on this thread. Thank you.

  • Stephen Hesketh 3rd Jun '15 - 10:50pm

    TCO 1st Jun ’15 – 6:50pm
    “@David Evans my hero isn’t Nick Clegg!”

    OK then TCO – who is your Liberal Democrat hero of the Nick Clegg era?

  • David Evans To quote an old saying “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. In other words there is nothing wrong in healthy debate and I am not one who is easily offended. I will claim an interest in Politics and do have some in my DNA with a past Mayor of Westminster in my blood (albeit from the era of Haldane).

    It is clear that those of you who have been involved for years will still be sore over what happened on 7th May. I know I am & I hope the other 15,000 plus members who joined the party are. What has happened has happened. The party must learn from it & move onwards & upwards.

    All of the new members will have a lot to learn about how the party’s internal machinery works, and hopefully be able to contribute with suggestions as to how it can be improved, where improvement may be apparent when looked at with a fresh set of eyes. Equally I hope those longstanding members will be keen to learn who the new members are, what makes them tick and what experiences in life from outside of politics they can offer. I myself have yet to make myself known to my local party group which has to be a step I need to take in finding out how things work.

    It is obvious that unless any of us win the lottery, funding when compared with the Tories & Labour will not be at the same level as they enjoy so the party needs to find out what can be provided from within its party membership and crucially, needs to retain it’s members. The question ought to be asked of those returning members why did they leave? How can the party ensure members stay members? If it is a question of engagement from top to bottom, what can be done to change that?

    However the party also needs to have a manifesto that will make it electable as the public will not be interested in the internal structures of a party. They will just be interested in the end results of what the party is saying.

    Much reference is made about the Orange book. It had contributions from far greater minds than mine – most of the public who voted for the party in 2005 & 2010 won’t have even heard of it, but the ideas that eminated from it that contributed towards party policies clearly did resonate with the public. The opinion polls in those years all offer pointers to that (even allowing for polling errors). Whilst nothing should be set in stone (apart from the basics of Liberalism) and any basis for policies should be relevant for the time when those policies are presented to the electorate , the party has shown that it can capture the imagination of the public in the recent past. It can do again. It must do again.How long that will take is as long as piece of string . None of us know the answer to that.

    The point of my original post which was in response to another opinion, which the editors of this domain then asked me if they could use as an opinion piece in its own right is that the Libdemfightback need not take the decades that some fear.

  • @Stephen Hesketh you are!

    @John Bland the key point that you are making, and one that I wholeheartedly endorse, is that there are some in the party who believe the only way it can grow again is (i) position itself to the left of Labour and (ii) re-adopt the gradualistic bottom up approach.

    My views on (I) are well known. Regarding (ii), there’s no harm in doing this, but it takes a long time.

    Given where we are, what I find frustrating is that what have we to lose by trying an innovative approach, to try and move forward much more quickly than we have in the past? “The Theory and Practice of Community Politics” was written forty years ago. The world has moved on dramatically in the ways you mention – you’re an accountant; you don’t use the same approach as you did at the start of your career I’m sure. No hand-written ledgers!

    There are people resistant to change in all organisations. Fear of loss of prestige, fear of change, weltanschauung – all these contribute. But as someone once said to me, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Try things out, see what works and what doesn’t, and don’t listen to people who tell you you can’t.

    Members like you are the future and will drive the party in new and exciting directions.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Jun '15 - 11:26am

    John Bland 4th Jun ’15 – 1:20am
    “Much reference is made about the Orange book. … most of the public who voted for the party in 2005 & 2010 won’t have even heard of it, but the ideas that eminated from it that contributed towards party policies clearly did resonate with the public. The opinion polls in those years all offer pointers to that (even allowing for polling errors).”

    Hmm far from sure about that John. Surely most people pick up on a few policies but what most go for is the party they perceive as best representing their own overall view of society. Because they are essentially simplistic self interest and economic/class-based, the electorate ‘know’ what Labour and the Tories stand for … essentially simplistic self interest and economic/class-based solutions.

    The Liberal Democrats on the other hand stand something far more important but perhaps less easy to define – a balance of freedom, social justice and the empowering individuals and communities against powerful social and economic forces and interests.

    Charles Kennedy led our party 1999-2006.

    Your conclusion that the Orange Book (published in 2004) had any effect on the perception of the electorate of the party led by the Social Justice Liberal Charles Kennedy simply does not hold water. In 2005 people voted for the party of Charles Kennedy and the thousands of hard working councillors then holding power and the balance of power across the country. It was the electoral high water mark of British Liberalism since the 1920’s.

    Following Nick Clegg’s election he did make some changes to tone and policy. He was decently Liberal in the 2010 election campaign but failed to deliver the doubled number of MPs he and his closest Orange book colleagues and advisors believed they and Orange Book liberalism could deliver. In the end they actually delivered less than did the party under Charles Kennedy.

    Sadly what the economically driven Orange Book contributors did do was pave the way for a much cosier economic accommodation with the Tories. This and the collective responsibility strategy drawn up and agreed by Clegg, Laws, Norman Lamb, Alexander and others ultimately led to the 2015 debacle.

    That is the strategy and tactics which failed – not recognisable mainstream British-style Liberalism.

    I am confident about the future and that we can rebuild the party and its support more quickly than the decades taken since the 1960s/70s. The successful leadership candidate must be one of our very best communicators with a passion for personal, social and economic justice Liberalism.

    Certain contributors here appear to place economic liberalism on a bit of a pedestal. If it isn’t overwhelmingly fair and just, it isn’t Liberalism. If it is fair and just, it is mainstream Liberal Democracy. Simple.

    We have just one chance to bounce back quickly. To do that both the message and the leader need to be right.

  • @Stephen Hesketh “Certain contributors here appear to place economic liberalism on a bit of a pedestal. If it isn’t overwhelmingly fair and just, it isn’t Liberalism. If it is fair and just, it is mainstream Liberal Democracy. Simple.”

    That depends upon your definition of fairness and justice, Stephen. For example, is it fair that someone who is in work and decides that they can afford to only have one child be paying taxes to subsidise someone who is out of work and yet decides to have 5? is it just that someone who’s been waiting for years for a larger social house cannot get one yet someone else can live in social housing that is bigger than their needs?

    These are difficult questions to answer – and unless we are prepared to tackle these difficult questions as well as the ones that play to our party comfort zones, we will continue to struggle.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Jun '15 - 11:01pm

    TCO 4th Jun ’15 – 11:49am

    Thank you for the explanation TCO. Silly me thinking it had more to do with what fellow Liberals, Wiki and various political commentators have said:

    “Edward Stourton from the BBC radio show Analysis argued that the Orange Book movement within the Liberal party was important in the founding of the Coalition government with the Conservatives. Conservative MP David Davis found a number of “areas of overlap” between Conservative policies and the views of the Orange Book authors.[2]

    Historian and Labour politician Tristram Hunt said that the Orange Book debate was a revival of the debates in Liberal circles between the classical liberalism of William Gladstone and politicians like David Lloyd George.[1] Richard Grayson, a member of the Social Liberal Forum, said that such Gladstonian liberalism was replaced in the early 20th century with a commitment to the welfare state because of the work of T.H. Green, L.T. Hobhouse and the economist J.A. Hobson; the Orange Book writers were seeking to overturn nearly a century of Liberal party history.[3]”

    Now that might be more likely to explain some of the antipathy between mainstream preamble Liberal Democrats and those who sought to ‘Reclaim Liberalism’ from them.

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