Opinion: Six reasons why Lib Dems need to support the leader

Nick Clegg Q&A 8(Warning. This is not comfortable reading)

The decline in popular support for the Lib Dems since 2010 has been painful, culminating in Sunday’s near-wipeout in the European elections – and being beaten in the popular vote by the Greens.

We are a year away from the general election. The improving economy and Lib Dem policy successes like the Pupil Premium and larger tax allowances have not fed, so far, into electoral success. Can and should anything be done to recover the situation in the coming year ? Is ‘holding one’s nerve’ (or as critics might say, ‘doing nothing different’) a viable option ?

There have been a few calls for the leader to resign.  Uncomfortable though the reasons are, here are six why the leader should stay beyond the general election:

  1. The ‘Ceaușescu problem’. All of the institutions of the party must share the responsibility for electoral problems. The HQ in George St, the FPC, the parliamentary party, the regional structures and so on. ‘Shooting’ the leader is akin to scapegoating. The party is rightly proud of its internal democracy and collegiate approach. Except when things go wrong when it’s ‘all the fault of the leader’ ? Getting rid of Nick Clegg may be a substitute for reform.
  2. The Clegg-Farage debate was a good decision by the leader. It was not a strategic mistake. What was a strategic mistake was failing to develop the party’s programme of EU reform. Lib Dem MEPs were not canvassed properly in order to strengthen the EU reform proposals. The consequence is that the Lib Dems painted themselves into a corner defending everything the EU has ever done. Impossible. The leadership sounded like the PR department of the European Commission, and Nick’s old strong EU reform agenda was buried. Euroskeptic Britain made this approach catastrophic.
  3. The Conservatives in Coalition have been pretty incompetent. Most of the Tory reforms are civil service creations, but Tory-initiated reforms have saved little money but reinforced the nasty party image, like the bedroom tax and reductions in disability benefit. ‘The cuts’ feature in headlines but spending actually went up in 2013, unnecessarily removing the ‘nice people’ reason to vote Lib Dem. Only Nick has the ability to face this problem and turn our position around.
  4. Opinion polls show that UKIP voters want better local control and decentralisation, not just from Brussels. Since some in the Lib Dem leadership are centralisers, Lib Dem fiscal and administrative decentralisation strategy has been diluted out of existence. Nick can rediscover his history of pro-localism and decentralisation, and show leadership to drive through reforms as a response to UKIP’s success.
  5. By now most have forgotten ‘Cleggmania’ from 2010. The UK media went into panic mode against the Lib Dem leader, even accusing him of not being British. Since then, things have become more subtle but just as insidious. Any Lib Dem leader will face the same treatment. For 4 years, on Facebook and in blogs, Nick has been ‘rumour mongered’  by Lib Dems & Tories alike of doing a deal with Cameron whereby he would get a job as European Commissioner. Now he can tackle such rumours and pledge not to take such a job, to strengthen his position.
  6. It is time for Nick Clegg to stamp his authority on the party and make some changes in the leadership team, and propose reforms in the party. A new leader probably will not have the time to make changes in the run up to the general election, and would almost certainly have to run with the current team. We can thus expect more ‘hold our nerve’ mantras, and no new ideas, if there is a new leader.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is a member of the Lib Dem Federal International Relations Committee and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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  • Shaun Nichols 27th May '14 - 12:26pm

    I fail to see how Nick Clegg can stamp his authority on the party with his standing in the party rapidly diminishing, dire personal poll ratings and there only being 11 months to a General Election.

  • Radical Liberal 27th May '14 - 12:26pm

    People who want Clegg to go do not all object to going into coalition, in fact many of them were for it. They object to the way Clegg has behaved when in government. Why should we all have to take responsibilty for the big failures like tuition fees? Most of the backbenches in the Parliamentary party voted against it. Why should we all take responsibility for Clegg’s failure to get any constitutional reform at all? It was HIS OWN brief.

    The truth is he’s just not good at politics. The tories have outsmarted him at every turn. He only got into office because of the maths and Cameron was desperate for power. He even lost us seats in 2010.

  • Let’s start with the ‘Ceausescu problem’. Paul, you sound as though you are head of the palace guard in Bucharest. The institutions of the party have, for the last four years, done as they have been told by the leader’s office. After all, he wasn’t just any old leader, he was now ‘Deputy Prime Minister’.

    If you think the Conservatives in Coalition have been incompetent, I would love to know what you think is competent. They have largely stolen our clothes on many policy initiatives, get Danny Alexander to front up any bed news for them and, 12 months out from a General Election, have been polling roughly-equal with Labour after four years of unpopular measures, pain and austerity.

  • He needs to get more other faces out there, there have been too many of the same small group. This may have been fine at first but how the change has to hapen in ernest.

    I would prefer to see less of Cable or Farron (no slight to them) and more of Featherstone and Swinson. There are weaknesses on all fronts but changing leader is pointless.

    We have one year to leave an impression, and peoepl will take more and more notice. Some of athe faces explaining the message need to change.

  • Paul Pettinger 27th May '14 - 12:38pm

    Nick should ask the membership for a vote of confidence.

  • You don’t get it??? Just like Clegg & those close to him……..He’s LOST ALL CREDIBILITY – no one is listening or has been since late 2010. 365 days will not restore that. Perhaps when he leaves politics he may be accepted by the public after a long long time – but not a year. He is Toxic and that is stopping the Lib Dems message, which is quite good on the whole..
    Ming understood this…………..and most people admired his balls (so to speak!)…when he stood down…..Clegg appears to have even messed up his own departure………………….

  • Paul, really a waste of your time and mine, the leader is now a lame duck and will be portrayed that way in the media.
    The general election debates will therefore become an embarressment and all we can hope for is some sympathy! Sorry to be so brutal but that is the reality and it is pointless dressing it up any other way. I like the bloke but he has to go for all our sakes, not least his own.

  • Shaun Cunningham 27th May '14 - 1:16pm

    Nick ….please just face up to the fact you have come to the end of the road. In the last 4 years the party have lost 1100 good hard working Councillors. We now have the lowest local government representation since 1980. We have 1 European member of Parliament.

    In the eyes of the voters Nick Clegg is finished. There is no way back, you have lost the trust of the doorstep. If you stay then next years general Election will be a total disaster. Do the honourable thing, yes it’s hard, but do it. Move over and allow a new face to start rebuilding the party.

    It’s time you and your supporters put the part first.

  • 1. It’s true the mistakes are not Clegg’s alone; however no correction of the mistakes by Clegg can carry any credibility. What matters most here is public perception and in that court, Clegg can carry the can and let a new leader garner fresh air in which to rebuild the Lib Dems. This, by the way, is why Cable would be a really bad choice for the next leader.

    2. How was it a good decision? The debates helped Farage and did nothing to boost the Lib Dems. Clegg was widely seen to have lost, and by concentrating the entire election on “The Party of IN”, the Lib Dems lost the chance to position themselves for the (more important) general election next year.

    3. Yes, the Conservatives have been a disaster. The trouble is that Clegg is covered in the same dirt (as are several other leading Liberals); Clegg cannot convincingly argue against policies such as the Bedroom tax having defended them, and supported them, in government. I have no idea where you pluck the idea behind your last sentence from; Clegg is worse placed than anyone else to do this.

    4. How is this a reason not to bin Clegg? The opposite is true, a new leader can build a brand of localism in the public eye (although, frankly, good luck with that!).

    5. Did you know the only place I’ve heard this rumour is here, on LDV? It’s just not a big enough rumour to have any impact. Clegg denying it would only push the rumour into the public eye and, at best, Clegg would get to return his position to the same kind of state as a new candidate would start from. Hardly a reason to keep him.

    6. Time to stamp his authority? How can a tragically weakened leader like Clegg do that? Ridiculous.

    If these are the best reasons to his supporters can come up with for keeping Nick, I fear what his enemies can say! Talk about damning with faint praise.

  • Can we please all moderate our language? The comments above are meat and drink to the media, by making the accusations and using inflammatory language you further damage the party and our prospects for the 2015. Yes we need change. But we need changes to the messages, more messengers and to become more effective in making the media woork for us. We are winning the argument on the EU, since he started our campaign as the party of IN more people now support staying IN the EU than beofre. Tuition fees are a success – more deprived kids now go to University than they did before and by accepting tuition fees we funded the pupil premium. Better to subsidise deprived infants than those who already have an education and are going on to college. Let’s get the messages right and get out there on the doorsteps.

  • Rabi Martins 27th May '14 - 1:31pm

    You make some good points Paul I particularly agree with your comment ” 6 -It is time for Nick Clegg to stamp his authority on the party and make some changes in the leadership team” I am not convinced that his advisors have their finger on the pulse so far as the voters are concerned. For example there were those of us who suggested it was a mistake to fight the Euro Election on the back of the “The Party of In” slogan because there was little evidence to suggest that British Public felt being in Europe was all that good a thing. I therefore think Nick needs a change of advisors or to question their advice more than he has done in the past
    Also fully agree with Psi – ” He needs to get more other faces out there, there have been too many of the same small group.” Our public face is simply too white, too male and too right wing

  • Geoffrey Payne 27th May '14 - 1:39pm

    Some of the reasons you give for him staying are actually reasons why he has not shown leadership in the first place. Although hindsight is a wonderful thing of course.
    None of the reasons really stand out to make me change my mind. Nick Clegg is spectacularly unpopular. No doubt there is a lot of scope to improve people’s misconceptions of him, except that most people have stopped listening. What would make me change my mind would be if someone could explain what Nick can do between now and General Election Day to improve things for the Liberal Democrats. In my mind I cannot think of anything at all. And nothing I have read on LDV or anywhere else has come close to suggesting that he can.

  • The 6 reasons we don’t need a leadership debate are:-
    I. It is very divisive at this time in a democratic party like ours.
    2. The whole process is too long winded and wasteful of time and resources.
    3. It is very demotivating for many activists and supporters of the party.
    4. It assumes a greater importance of the leadership than we should give to a Lib Dem leader. He is the Leader of our volunteer army, not the President of a captive population.
    5. It is too late already to give us any benefit in 2015 – we would just be deciding beofre the event who will be the scapegoat.
    6. It distracts us from more important problems with our messaging. We need to be atttracting back those who have left us not repelling them further away.

  • There was an interesting comment from a caller to BBC Radio 5 live on their phone-in this morning. Party grandees and many Liberal Democrat MPs have for some time adopted an attitude of weariness when confronted with the argument over broken promises, so I was reminded how the tripling of tuition fees has had a much larger knock -on effect on not only parents but other relatives of students who will never again be voting for the LibDems while Nick Clegg is leader.

    A legion of lost voters to retrieve from where, I’d like to know?

  • “The Clegg-Farage debate was a good decision by the leader.” Have you really thought that through? Clegg’s hubris resulting from his well-received (though ultimately fruitless, in terms of seats won) performance in the GE debates convinced him that he could do the same this time round. At the time Nick Robinson considered he and Farage were doing it because they could both win. This was probably because Robinson was as taken aback by the challenge as the rest of us and didn’t know how it would play out. Hindsight has proved it to have been an unmitigated disaster, focusing everything on the Euros (never something most people vote positively about) and undermining the local election campaigns. Unless Clegg seriously believes his party would have done worse without his intervention, in which case I hope Catherine Bearder is very grateful to him!

    “Nick has been ‘rumour mongered’ [that] he would get a job as European Commissioner. Now he can tackle such rumours and pledge not to take such a job” There is a simple reason why Clegg won’t do this (and yet another reason why the EU and the political class are so distrusted by the voters) and that is because it is in all likelihood true. And frankly it’s hard for someone like him to not be attracted to it when one only has to look at the likes of Neil Kinnock, twice rejected at the ballot box, but now exercising greater power over the UK than he could have once imagined, courtesy of his unelected position in Brussels.

  • This is a well argued piece.
    But Nick Clegg is vastly unpopular, shows no signs of becoming popular and knocks percentage points off the vote everytime he attempts to break out. The one certainty is that no matter how hard his supporters spin things he is a liability.

  • Brenda Lana Smith 27th May '14 - 1:51pm

    Agreed, Shaun… unfortunately, no matter how likeable a person Nick most positively is… it is on his watch that the 2015-05-22/23 disasters occurred… and… accordingly it would behove him to best honourably fall on his sword… needless to say while many of our past leaders have successfully retired to the back benches or that other place… I don’t envy him and my commiserations go to him honourably retiring from the government benches… but Nick standing up at to the despatch box to be ridiculed by our political opponents and the anti-Lib Dem media will do neither our party nor him a favour… my best wishes are with him and his family during this difficult time… meanwhile I would favour recalling our former leader Charles Kennedy as our interim leader and the coalition’s DPM…

  • @Mike Biden — If you read a few posts up and down from your own, you would see that having a leadership debate won’t create any division that isn’t already here. And the longer action is postponed, the longer this division will drag out — if there is a leadership election, you can then say “all voices have been heard, votes have been cast, and now it’s time to get together behind our new leader.” But at the moment there’s absolutely no sign that all voices within the Party have been heard. As long as that continues to be the case, division will continue. Anyone who really wants to stop the divisiveness should back the call for a new leadership election.
    To put it in metaphorical terms, the Clegg Question is a crippling injury for the Party. Treating it won’t immediately cure what ails the party — there will be a long and rocky road to recovery — but letting it go untreated will certainly make things worse. Change flows from the leader down (it shouldn’t, but that’s the fact of how the Party works today); the major systemic changes which the Party needs can only be addressed by a new leader.

  • Alan Budimirovic 27th May '14 - 2:17pm

    I agree Nick Clegg should stay why? Because people remember the lies he told about student fees also the 5% higher rate tax break he gave himself whilst hitting the poorest in society through savage welfare cuts. The top down privatisation of the NHS, the robbing of funds from the primary schools budget to prop up failing free schools, his debating debacle against Farage that cost him 11 MEPs why get rid of him when in 12 months time everyone will have forgot these things. Don’t think so he is the other parties greatest asset. Please please keep him and when your wiped out altogether then get rid. Thankyou very much ALAN.

  • Could Nick Clegg be offered the Commissioner job once Cathy Ashton’s time is up? That would depend on Tories proposing him! People do not get these jobs simply because they want them or even because they fit the requirements.

    For Lib Dems it could be the neatest way of changing Leader and I am sure that Nick Clegg is well suited to the role. Why would the Tories offer such a gift?

    As for claims (Adamsin above) that commissioners have such power: no they do not. They may have influence, but the power is in the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. Unless these two agree with and vote for initiatives and legislation the Commissioners are powerless. Commissioners are, after all, heads of the EU Civil Service departments, the departments draft legislation that that the Ministers of each country have agreed upon (or sometimes from the Parliament); at best they cn merely colour the legislation or speed up its delivery perhaps. Kinnock could only do as he was told to do. If the Ministers did not agree he could do nothing.

  • David 1 – Clegg has lost all credibility and it’s not about personality but his failure as a Leader. A failing football manager would be shown the door and so should Nick Clegg. I’ve lost all confidence in his ability to lead the Party at the next GE as have so many hundreds of us signing up to the petition. Brenda I am100% behind your suggestion to re-appoint Charles Kennedy and never voted against him in the first place, the way he was removed from office was skulduggery of the highest order. If Charles wouldn’t stand then Tim Farron or Nicky Harvey would do nicely. They are both good speakers and relate well to voters and can get across the Party’s social liberal policies which Clegg has failed to do being a major part of the Orange Bookers economic terrorism mantra.

  • As for the other points:
    2. As others have pointed out, this could be handled very neatly and quickly with little or no fuss, providing Clegg chooses to go honourably and quietly. If he chooses to make a fight about it, that of course raises doubts about where he places the good of the party next to his personal ambitions.
    3. A leadership change would hardly be as “demotivating” as the status quo clearly is.
    4. In fact the position of Party Leader has taken on excessive importance under Nick Clegg, and I agree should be cut down to size. But that is not where we are today. The ease with which Clegg can bring his operatives into play, and the timorousness and secrecy in which his opponents have to operate, suggests an altogether unhealthy atmosphere of fear and retaliation. This cannot be good for the Party.
    5. I hardly think there is a “right time” to dump the leader. At any point one could say “too late” or “too early” — I seem to recall that just a week ago it was still “too early.” But the real point is that the Party is hæmorrhaging votes and talent, and there is barely time to keep the patient from flatlining if something is done now. If you truly believe, however, that the patient is already dead, then why engage in this debate at all?
    6. The leadership and the messaging problems are bound up together. Again and again we hear that Nick Clegg is perceived, by both voters and ex-supporters, as one of the prime obstacles to rejuvenation of the Party and its image. As long as Clegg stays in charge the Party’s messaging problems are insuperable. With a leadership change, we could at least say “We’ve heard the complaints, we’ve acted, we will continue to act,” and give would-be supporters hope that the Party will not go further off the rails.

  • John Roffey 27th May '14 - 2:41pm

    This argument has gotten over complicated – the Party’s immediate problem is saving as many MPs as possible from being kicked out at the GE.

    Voters don’t like Clegg [not to mention many of those who are absolutely essential in getting the Party’s message out on the doorstep]- and his continuing as leader will increase the number of MPs lost – a new leader will do no worse on this score and almost certainly a lot better.

    There is a term ‘its a no brainer’ – which seems to fit these circumstances perfectly!

  • It was good to see someone try to set out why Nick Clegg should be supported however I don’t think any of them are justified.

    1 Nick was front and centre of the campaign and like with the NHS reform and bedroom tax he had a veto but didn’t use it. In the end it was because of his leadership that this campaign was fought this way.

    2 Nick has to take responsibility for having no answer to the question – what will the EU look like in 10 years’ time. He should have known it would come up and he should have been ready with the answer of what reforms we wish to make. If the MEPs were not canvassed properly it was his fault. In fact they may well have been detached for some time and this is his fault.

    3 Nick is the one person who can’t reverse or modify the Tory reforms because he has already agreed them and has by his actions made it clear he is not going to change his opinion in line with members’ wishes.

    4 I don’t understand why Paul Reynolds believes there are centralisers within the party. The problem has been allowing the Conservatives to define “localism” which Nick has done nothing to change and he now can’t reserve his own position. Again Nick is the last person who can bring localism and decentralisation into this government.

    5 As Nick has faced 4 or more years of attacks in the media he can’t reserve the public view of him built over this time. Therefore someone new with a clean slate would have a better chance of being seen positively by the public.

    6 A Liberal Democrat should never try to stamp his authority on the party, even to think it means that person shouldn’t be in the party. However a new leader is in the best position to encourage the party to move in a new direction, an old one who doesn’t seem to respect the membership like Nick is the last person to try to do this. The only reforms that the party need to make are to make the leader and the MPs more accountable to conference, to ensure they pursue the policies it agrees and to ensure they never ever break a personal pledge again.

  • Obviously there are a number of different views – 2 main ones – Clegg should go or he should stay. Big problem is that all of these arguments are being aired on a public site – and some comments are rather too vitriolic in nature. Why cant these discussions – however heated – be on the members only site – 1 click away? Or do we have some trotty trolls present seeking to maximise discomfort?

  • Nik Porteous 27th May '14 - 3:20pm

    Put simply, what the party needs is a leader who voters are willing to listen to and who is willing to give Cameron’s lot a tougher ride. That person is not Nick Clegg. Many people who I speak to view him as a figure of fun or a traitor, and openly laugh at the idea of voting Liberal Democrat again. That is what we’re up against in 2015. Its all well and good party loyalists fighting his corner, but the penny needs to drop that thousands of voters have deserted the party with Nick Clegg being symbolic of broken promises and untrustworthy politicians, more than Miliband, more than Cameron.

    On a personal level although Clegg has made mistakes, I feel the public and media treatment of him as been harsh. In an ideal world, voters would understand that a coalition means compromise, sometimes unpleasant compromise and would be more forgiving of the situation. But It isn’t an ideal world – and they aren’t. Clegg isn’t the only politician to appear stage managed and evasive of the big issues – but it seems to stick to him more than others.

    Looking to 2015 he will almost certainly lose his seat if he stands in Sheffield Hallam. Student unions, UKIP and a host of others will make it their mission to ‘bring him down’ – people already talk on online comment pages about the chance to see Clegg out the door.

  • John Roffey 27th May '14 - 3:42pm

    I think it is NC’s, sleep inducing, explanations of his heroic martyrdom that have made him so unpopular with the voters.

  • David -1 If Clegg steps down it does not resolve who takes over, to elect a new leader we have a process and there would be a contest or there will not be unity around the new leader. If our troubles stem more from internal disagreements between the Social democrats and the Orange bookes as it seems they may then a partnership leadership based on a political pact between Nick and Vince is the best way foreward. After the eelction if we are out on ears then we will have plenty of time to select a new leader by due process an dthey will have hreee or four year to prepare for the next election.

  • Rather than make unfounded accusations why don’t you name the people who you claim are’ troll’s otherwise you’re tarring us all with the same brush. I am happy more than happy to add my membership number but will not be marginalised by you. Why not get it all out in the open after all you accuse us of secrecy but here you are and your Orange Bookers being reticent yourselves that’s what you call hypocritical. Clegg Out. I nearly got on Radio 2 so next step LBC, can’t wait.

  • I wonder if in the future the following will be used as a Rorschach test – so, how does this make you feel:


    I also wonder if anyone will ever be able to count how many times Nick blinks during those 2.5 minutes that must have been practised over and over.

  • James Young 27th May '14 - 5:37pm

    Please support Nick, I joined the party in the middle of the Thorpe Affair (probably the only person that did) and it will get better. I’m proud that Nick and the party fought a very Pro Europe campaign unlike Labour, yes we suffered
    but at least we did not pander to UKIP.

    The one thing he must do is get rid of all those people who prepped him for the debate with Farage, dreadful jokes and
    nothing about how the EU does good for the individual citizen. Get some people who are street wise and not overpaid political consultants from overseas

  • Charles Kennedy …………. The Lib Dems need you……….the country needs you. Pro Europe – didn’t vote for Tuition fees (I think??) – experienced media performer – well know…..and yes even liked by the Public……………
    CK – your the only hope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Other David – once again you are incorrect. I didnt accuse anyone of being a troll – just indicated this could happen – and we should be conducting ourselves in the members only forum. I do not know what you mean by an orange booker but you say I am one – if you mean I am on the right of the party – nothing could be further from the truth. I was for many years the elected cllr for one of the most deprived wards in nw england – I just thing Clegg – despite many mistakes – is the best we have – has indeed achieved a great deal – and deserves a united party behind him. I suggest you think clearly before making wild accusations in the future. Get out in the fresh air and deliver a thank-you leaflet

  • “All of the institutions of the party must share the responsibility for electoral problems.”

    Why? The parliamentary leadership are a loose cannon becoming increasingly unaccountable to the membership. The debacle over secret courts was less over the substance (which, obviously, anyone with a membership card should’ve opposed), and more the fact we had to pass two Conference motions against the leadership telling them to stop messing around.

    The entire parliamentary leadership needs a wake-up call. We’re at danger of losing good backbenchers like Julian or Greg because they’re becoming a busted flush.

  • Sarah Noble well said!

  • If Labour had dumped Gordon Brown in the run up to 2010 we would probably be in Opposition to a David Miliband Government. They stuck with Brown and lost. Tories dumped Thatcher and won with Major against all the odds. When a leader loses public trust then whatever the personal loyalties they must go in the interests of the party and precedent suggests that the tactic works. Lib Dems have dumped two leaders in recent years and it did no harm. Of course it depends on the replacement and whether they can undo the perceived betrayals with new radical and appealing policies. No guarantees. Is Paddy doing anything at the moment? At least he can”t lose his own seat.

  • daft ha'p'orth 28th May '14 - 1:23am

    @Mike Biden
    “Tuition fees are a success – more deprived kids now go to University than they did before and by accepting tuition fees we funded the pupil premium”
    How nice for the deprived kids. On the other hand, the adults who used to benefit from university-level retraining/education have been completely screwed by the appearance of tuition fees, leading to a massive reduction in involvement of part-time and mature students. Which you should know, if you ever read any threads on here, because this fact has been posted a few times now.

    Oh, how fast we forget that ‘nobody should be enslaved by poverty or ignorance’. Yeah, y’see that adult doesn’t count because he’s an ELQ, so he had his chance, so haha, who cares that he’s stuck up the infamous creek without a paddle. And that one, well… should’ve gone to university aged seventeen like everybody else. What was the third point in that ‘poverty, ignorance’ line? Oh yeah. ‘Conformity’.

    Nobody should be stuck in an unfixable situation because of bad decisions made while they were young, or caring responsibilities they can’t escape, or the limits of their finances, but it happens all the time because of tuition fees and, here’s the thing I find hard to forgive, Lib Dems do not seem to care about this unwanted effect because they are too busy trying to justify themselves for raising the fees to ridiculous levels in the first place to want to open themselves up to the real effects of these changes on real people.

    But, hey. Sure, they’re a success, if that was what you wanted to achieve.

  • “Tuition fees are a success – more deprived kids now go to University than they did before and by accepting tuition fees we funded the pupil premium”

    Even if we accept that, it still doesn’t resolve the trust issue. When voters feel betrayed it doesn’t make them want to vote for you if you tell them ‘ even though we promised to abolish fees and we trebled them instead,this new scheme is so much better’ . No, it just makes them very very angry.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '14 - 6:55am

    Paul Reynolds

    1) The party is rightly proud of its internal democracy and collegiate approach. Except when things go wrong when it’s ‘all the fault of the leader’ ?

    Well, that’s part of the problem. A lot of the stuff coming from party HQ just doesn’t seem to have been developed through the party’s internal democracy, is at odds with the way most members think, and there doesn’t seem to be a way we can get party HQ to listen to us and stop doing this.

    2) The Clegg-Farage debate was a good decision by the leader. It was not a strategic mistake … The leadership sounded like the PR department of the European Commission,

    In other words, the problem was that the Leader himself performed badly, and so wrecked what otherwise could have been a good idea. He should not have let himself be pushed into the position of looking like an uncritical supporter of every aspect of the EU. He was doing the speaking, so he’s the problem if this is how it came across.

    3) The Conservatives in Coalition have been pretty incompetent. Most of the Tory reforms are civil service creations, but Tory-initiated reforms have saved little money but reinforced the nasty party image, like the bedroom tax and reductions in disability benefit.

    Yes, so why have we not been able to disassociate ourselves from them? Why does Clegg so often come across sounding like the PR department of the Conservative Party? When he goes on and on about being so proud of being “in government” it DOES make it seem as if he is proud of these incompetent things from the Tories.

    4) Opinion polls show that UKIP voters want better local control and decentralisation, not just from Brussels. Since some in the Lib Dem leadership are centralisers, Lib Dem fiscal and administrative decentralisation strategy has been diluted out of existence

    Er, who are these “some”? Is this a piece of internal personal squabble? Isn’t that what you are trying to argue against?

    5) By now most have forgotten ‘Cleggmania’ from 2010.

    Actually, I suspect this is part of the problem. Cleggmania focussed too much attention on the person of the leader, and so distracted it from everyone else in the party and what they are doing. We hear about all the good MEPs and councillors we have lost, all the hard work they were doing. So why didn’t we hear more about them before? Why did we let our party get painted as if it was the personal tool of Nick Clegg?

    6) It is time for Nick Clegg to stamp his authority on the party and make some changes in the leadership team, and propose reforms in the party

    Oh, I see – more internal squabbles. Just WHO is this aimed at, Paul? Who is it that you are slagging off here? Who is it that YOU are trying to get chucked out here? As for “stamping his authority”, well, that doesn’t sound very liberal to me, but anyway – isn’t his authority already thoroughly stamped on the party, isn’t it already seen by most voters as the “Nick Clegg Fan Club” and isn’t this a big part of the problem? Seems to me what you are saying here is that we should dig further and deeper the hole we are in.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 28th May '14 - 10:06am

    Everyone accepts that the party has two major strands – left and right. All parties have such coalitions. Reading the party’s constitution, one would imagine the party’s focus to be on the left [T Blair, yesterday, positioned the LDs to the left of his Labour]. But recent party conferences are clearly organised by the right and are autocratic [in my opinion to an extreme degree, more like Tory]. This thread begins the discussion with some apologetics from a leader’s viewpoint but also contains in point 2 the catastrophic outcome of supporting a failed institution in Europe, and proposing a debate and losing it – by not using the ‘ammo’ which the leader himself developed. I don’t like the Europe Project because it needs REFORM and I have said so for years, so I squirmed whenever I viewed that horrible ‘Election Broadcast’ – the only one I saw [were there others?].

    I will continue to call for the leader to call a special conference with activists, to attend it with humility, and throw away the attitudes promoted by Party HQ. Re-set the principles which we hold at that conference and do not allow the Tories to manipulate us again. It will be a start. Our party needs to come together – both sides forging it together – because there is too much damage being done in public.

  • As a current paid up member despite my probable lack of logo…
    It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee people and has been for some time. The whole front line needs to go. And whilst this may be down to a push or putsch it does not change the fact that Nick is unelectable and so is Danny. A more lame response to Martin Tod on the Beeb I have never seen. We are dying out here – dying.
    Vince where were you on Pfizer??
    I suspect there will be much covering of arses and running around at HQ, in POLD and over the road by some, whilst others continue to slog away – much as it was in my time there (3 general elections to 2006 for the record).
    I have been proud to be a Lib Dem for almost 20 years but as a current member am considering resigning.
    I’m gutted, really gutted, for those of you who are still out there still working, staff and vols, party chairs, agents councillors.
    As a paid up member, ex- Cowley St, ex FE, ex FFAC, local organiser and ex-councillor I turned down the chance to stand in a bye election when asked because of the current leadership and lack of radical direction. Nick is decent enough but we need a new face. And we need to apologise for tuition fees and start to push the narrative of why we went into coalition again and again. Only when they are complaining about the number of our leaflets has maybe – maybe one message got through – Penny on Tax for Education? has given way to :
    Vote Lib Dem get Tories and tuition fees. Great point Tony Rowan Wicks makes and I concur.

  • PS the Farage debate was a terrible terrible mistake. Half the traffic on social media has been about UKIP why give him the oxygen!

    Am moving to member forum

  • Steve R : “If Labour had dumped Gordon Brown in the run up to 2010 we would probably be in Opposition to a David Miliband Government.”

    Well said. Labour just looked weak by holding on to a leader that was universally unpopular…not as unpopular as Clegg, obviously! Paul Reynolds gives us 6 reasons to ignore the electorate and continue on our road to electoral oblivion. I can only assume he’s looking to minimise the amount of Lib Dem representation over the next decade.

    @Doug Janke
    Don’t resign now! I quit years back, I never liked Clegg or what I perceived as the rightward lurch; the more people like us that resign now the more likely the outcomes of a leadership election will favour right leaning candidates. If I could rejoin to vote in the leadership election I would, but I think you’ve got to of been a member for some time to vote (probably a good policy!). Since folks like us opted out of the party its been left to people that are willing to accept the unacceptable. The LDV poll shows 39% of remaining members want Clegg gone, but nearer 100% of recently departed members want him gone. We’ve not gone anywhere, we’re just waiting to see if the party can be repaired, or if we have to start again. Members like you are the best shot at repair – after the election we will of factionalised further and hope of reconciliation will fade. There comes a point where the people that loathe this situation won’t want the likes of Paul Reynolds in a party they’re a member of, because we know they’re counter-intuitive as regards political progress – they don’t listen when the electorate speaks.

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