Opinion: The real split in today’s Liberal Democrats – and how to fix it

As this weekend’s events have proved, the real and fundamental split in the Liberal Democrats of 2013 is not between Liberals and Social Democrats, economic liberalism or social liberalism, centrists and radicals.  It is a real and growing divide between the Party’s leadership and its activists; and that has been thrown into sharp relief by both the result of the Eastleigh by-election and events at Conference.  As Dan Falchikov, with whom I’m in frequent agreement on strategic if not economic issues, highlights, it is an issue that could be very serious if unaddressed.

The reasons for this are broadly twofold.

The first was identified, almost by accident, by Conservativehome’s Tim Montgomerie, when he expressed frustration with the way he perceived Liberal Democrats acting in Government To the eyes of Tory Ministers, the approach of Lib Dems in Government at first hand is constructive, but then they find a wave of delayed reaction and opposition, some weeks after a decision has been agreed.  To my eyes, this demonstrates the lack of capacity of the Party to react sufficiently quickly to legislative proposals it doesn’t like.  It is caused partly by the failure of mechanisms of Government, partly by the absence of party antennae at the highest decision-making levels in the Party and partly by excessive secrecy and mistrust.  The lack of initial understanding shown at senior levels over the Data Communications Bill is one example of this malaise. There are examples of more constructive engagement internally within the Party, as Steve Webb highlighted on Saturday in addressing the unforeseen consequences of social security legislation with the help of the Lib Dem Disability Association.

The second was highlighted by the rows at Conference over the blocking from debate of the emergency motion on economics, and in particular by the prelude to the secret courts debate that saw two good members walk away from the party, one from the Conference platform.  One theme combines these two issues and separates them from others where tension within the party has been managed more constructively: the apparent decision taken by the leadership to refuse to engage in debate with the wider party.  This was obvious in the case of the attempts to duck an economic debate that – regardless of viewpoint – everybody knows the party needs to have if we are to be credible in 2015. Though I have not spoken to Jo since the debate, I have spoken to her before, and I know she and her fellow Secret Courts campaigners were angry that the Leader’s office continually ignored requests for a meeting, before granting one, far too late.

At the same time, a flat and forgettable leader’s speech misjudged the post-Eastleigh mood of the Party by trying to claim credit for national issues causing the victory, rather than the exceptional team of local leaders bolstered by the bulk of Conference-goers who had been along the A27 to themselves help out and elect Mike Thornton.

As Dan puts it:

Eastleigh was no victory for Clegg or his strategy (if he has one) in government.  It was a victory for local activism – built up over the years – standing up for local people, doing the right thing by them where possible and explaining why sometimes you can’t….

…And that means Clegg’s future is now out of his hands.  He cannot afford to carry on blithely ignoring the party in pursuit of some soggy centrist governance – like he has over secret courts.  The party is nothing if not liberal and it is demanding concrete liberal gains in government from his leadership.

Until Nick Clegg’s party handlers get this, and learn to treat the party at large with a bit more respect, this problem will only grow.

* Gareth Epps is a member of FPC and FCC, a member of the Fair Deal for your Local campaign coalition committee and is an active member of Britain’s largest consumer campaign, CAMRA. He claims to be marginally better at Aunt Sally than David Cameron, whom he stood against in Witney in 2001.

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42 Comments

  • Regarding the so-called Eastleigh “victory”, and as the huge loss of former Lib Dem votes to UKIP will testify, many local voters have totally lost faith in not just the national Coalition actions/policies since election but, more importantly, the messages from Mike Thornton that Lib Dems are acting for people locally and “protecting green spaces” when the Lib Dem’s own, supposedly long-term Local Plan for housing development contains proof that local Lib Dem councillors are doing the exact opposite. Already, hotel expansion and much housing (mostly “executive” – not affordable) developments on some of our most beautiful countryside are being rail-roaded through by the Lib Dems (eg Boorley Green and Pylands Lane. Bursledon), when the Plan is supposed to last for 16 years and when we have expected Lib Dems to be building on such sites as a last resort nearer 2029, not now!! No sign of planning applications for building houses on any brownfield sites, though they are supposed to make up 50% of the Local Plan! Lib Dems here no longer listen to local people, just their Borough Council Leader, themselves, and what the Government tells them to do!

  • Tony Greaves 11th Mar '13 - 3:50pm

    I am afraid that this posting hits the nail on the head.

    Tony Greaves

  • Can we have a “like” button here please!?!

  • As the chair of the session the Economy needed an hour – as did Secret Courts… Maybe we should have just had one, not two but with the number submitted we felt it best to have two slots! There was no conspiracy – unless I am missing a huge chunk of the FCC meeting!

  • I used to be someone who felt that we could stick with Nick until 2014, then take the temperature of the country. I am not a senior activist. I am simply a standard member of the party. I have no pretensions towards entering politics myself. I try to deliver leaflets, when I have time. The country needs strong liberal voices in parliament, and it is a privilege to help get them there.

    My friends, who felt betrayed by Lib Dems in government, attacked Nick for being a man who would say yes to anything for power. I defended him – I felt that the Lib Dems had made significant policy contributions, had made the government more liberal, and gotten serious wins out of being in government. But recently I have started to question this too. Nick upset the the party with tuition fees. And he did not learn the lesson. Secret Courts are a serious stain on our reputation, and are another vote against everything our party stands for.

    The party has no need to worry that it will lose my vote, and I will continue posting leaflets through people’s letterboxes. I will continue to give money to Lib Dem campaigns. I still feel that our MPs express the idea of British liberalism better than any others. But I am ashamed following the debacle of secret courts. Part of me asks – why? What is the point of us if our MPs are whipped to vote for secret courts?

    So for this reason, I feel Nick must go. And he must go soon. Not for the sake of our party. The party is important, of course – Britain needs a strong liberal voice and the party is the mechanism. But Nick must go for the sake of the country. We need a leader who is actually a liberal, and will hold to liberal values in government.

    What is the point of being a Lib Dem if we treat civil liberties as badly as the last Labour lot when it actually matters (though voice off about their importance in opposition)? I’m sure that’s the question Jo Shaw asked, and whilst I disagree with her solution – we must fight for what we believe in and to me that means getting a new leader- I respect her values so much more than I respect Nick’s.

  • paul barker 11th Mar '13 - 5:26pm

    I agree with the general point of the article but the argument is over-egged.
    On Eastleigh, we dont know why our voters voted for us, some of it will have been national.
    On Conference, debating the Economy in a half-hour slot would have made us look ridiculous.
    This kind of split between activists & Cabinet is absolutely normal, it only seems shocking to us because weve never been in Government before at the UK level, thats partly why weve handled it so badly. We will learn to handle this split better as long as we keep respecting each other.

  • Stephen Donnelly 11th Mar '13 - 6:25pm

    This all seems a little bit like toys out of the pram to me. These attacks against the leadership (or worse still, the mythical ‘yellow bookers’) always seem to be personal, and never about policy.

  • Paul Pettinger 11th Mar '13 - 6:39pm

    We should not forget that in September 2011 an emergency motion on the then Health and Social Care Bill was not included in the emergency ballot supposedly because the NHS had been debated that spring, even though the motion attracted a large number of signatories. A majority of Conference then voted to suspend standing orders so that it could be debated, but the two thirds majority was not achieved, with the payroll vote coming out to help prevent the debate. I am guessing the leadership thought that tactic wouldn’t work with secret courts, either with Conference or/ & the new conference committee. However, it is arguable that the new conference committee’s decision to accept the first and third most popular motions was unconstitutional, and I would like to know which conference committee members supported this decision, and which non-committee members were present at the meeting when this was decided.

  • Given that the party has had to absorb, in addition to its real
    liberal core, the right wing of the 80s Labour party (SDP), the liberal former Tory wets (late thatcher plus john major years) and then much of the anti-blair labour left, you can see that not everyone will be content when we move from protest to Govt – for me the pain comes when liberalism is abandoned.

  • Peter Hayes 11th Mar '13 - 6:50pm

    Will, I agreed with your sentiments until the end. Where is the obvious new leader the country has heard of? Look at the choice we had last time! Vince has the public profile but will be attacked as too old. Farron seems to be trying to hard. Who has a safe seat to be there after 2015? I can only suggest we wait and see who raises their profile by proposing new policies.

  • Funny, when I was in Eastleigh to help with the campaign, there wasn’t anyone there who talked of this supposed divide between the party’s leadership and its activists.

  • Paul Griffiths 11th Mar '13 - 8:47pm

    What Paul Barker said. One way to start doing this better would be to remember that Conference is primarily for deciding party policy, not providing a running commentary on the government or attempting to micro-manage our parliamentarians.

  • Alan Marshall 11th Mar '13 - 8:55pm

    Elizabeth, I don’t suppose they would have talked about it a lot. Many were there to fight against common enemies and there seems to have been a blitz spirit at work. People were fighting for the survival of the party.

    This piece says much of what I have noticed. There is still time for the leadership to turn this around to some degree. Nick seems oblivious to the problem though.

  • Tony Dawson 11th Mar '13 - 9:11pm

    @Paul Griffiths :

    ” remember that Conference is primarily for deciding party policy, not providing a running commentary on the government or attempting to micro-manage our parliamentarians.”

    You appear to be caught in a 1990s time warp. Conference is increasingly a beauty contest/procession of Ministers. Policy is to be determined by ‘Quad plus SpAds’. If Conference cannot attempt to hold renegade Parliamentarians to account, delegates might as well go sit in the sun on the beach.

  • “a flat and forgettable leader’s speech misjudged the post-Eastleigh mood of the Party”

    This is where I think the rub is – this was not a speech for the party, it was a speech for the country and the start of an general election campaign.

    Reading the paper’s today they picked up on on theme of “stronger economcy, fair society” and “Labour bad with economy, Tories bad socially”, Paddy and Nick were spot on when they said we need to ram this message home as it will take years for it to stick with those outside of the party.

    The debate about whether the national or local issues were the key issue in Eastleigh is not something the vast, vast majority of people will give a single second of their time considering, such debates are important but if Nick was to discuss it during a speech that was going to get national coverage then all people would have seen is party is simply talking to itself. The more we do that, the less the public will listen.

  • Well, I have always been a supporter of Nick and accept that he is not where he wants to be, but the lost of Jo is a big one to our party, and then to make things worse, the party’s message seems to now be, well, we tried, but we fail,s but at least ‘bad justice is better than no justice.’ The day a Liberal says that is the day all hope for Liberalism is lost.

    I actually do not know what I believe anymore after reading that.

  • However, I do know that this article has summed up the problems very well. Now, we need a solution.

  • I am very torn on the whole issue of so-called secret courts. As a good Liberal, on the left of our party, I can see virtue in both sides of this debate, even though I voted for the resolution on Sunday.

    Let me present a scenario to you. Suppose a member of the special boat squad, let’s call him Ashdown, was accused of some war crime arising from his service on behalf of the UK Government. How does he appear in open court to defend himself when to do so might put other members of his squad at risk and possibly himself and his family, even though he is innocent?

    This is not a false dilema. Some means has to be found to allow the agrieved person to go to court and for the soldier, CI5 or CI6 operative to defend him/herself. At the moment, the government simply reaches a settlement with the accuser, even if the accusation is false.

    Now, it’s not right that the defence or at least the defence lawyer can’t see the other side’s evidence and that must be changed. But it is surely not unreasonable that under strict judicial control, in very limited circumstances, people accused in this way, get the chance to put their arguments in a way that does not compromise their safety or that of others. Please tell me how that can be any other way than in camera? It cannot be in open court, so unless at least part of the court proceedings are taken in private, then there will be no proceedings at all. That is as much justice denied as some people are suggesting closed proceedings might be.

    The process of this bill is not yet finished. LD Peers are saying that they will seek further changes along the lines conference has indicated.

    I can understand the anguish of many fellow Liberal Democrats about this bill. I share them. However, those who have grand-standed their way out of our party might at least have waited until the bill is finished, because it just might contain the very amendments that they sought.

    What I really object to in this case is the descent into personal abuse and impugning of integrity that members of our party have directed at Nick Clegg, whom I disagree with on a number of issues. Surely in a Liberal Party, we don’t have to agree 100% all the time and we can expect to disagree, passionately and often, but we can keep it civilised and not descend into the kind of name calling we saw in Sunday’s debate.

  • The thing is, the end justifies the means.

    Keep the faith and stick with Nick. Yes, Nick has sold out to the Tories on fairness and society, but don’t worry, he has won his way into Cabinet, where he can fight for classic liberal human rights principles.

    Oh sorry, amendment. Nick has now sold out on liberal human rights principles as well, but don’t worry. He has a long term plan, you know. Three steps back so as to leap four steps forward, or was that two? Yes, he has sold out on liberal human rights, but that was only so as to be better placed at the heart of government , ready to fight and fight again for fairness. Oh, did he slap down Vince when Vince tried to get something done about the economy and get the poor back into jobs? Well, doesn’t that just show how clever his long term plan is? He now has so many debts to call in from the Tories, one day he will really win out big time, you’ll see.

    Oh well anyway, our big strength is localism. If all else fails, what Nick is doing is building up our strength nationally so that we become a force in the land, and then our local councillors will become better empowered to protect local green spaces, as Rosie mentions in the very first post here. That’s how we will turn all these tactical sacrifices into long term victory. What was that you said, Rosie? That your local councillors have no real power, and that central government just dragoons them into building more houses, just the same as if they had been local Tories?

    Well, anyway, when we have sacrificed fairness, and we have sacrificed justice, and we have sacrificed localism, we must really have made a huge step forward that has justified all those sacrifices, mustn’t we?

    Oh yes, I’ve got it. Our leaders are now real national figures. They are running the country! They have limos! They have respect! They are not just third rate third party politicians any more! They are serious people! They are statesmen! They have made it! We have all made it! Even if we get 8% at the next election and our MPs all become a glorious footnote in history.

    The end justifies the means.

  • “the real and fundamental split in the Liberal Democrats of 2013 is… a real and growing divide between the Party’s leadership and its activists”

    Nice argument, bad logic.

    Firstly, as the author admits, LibDems are not a monolithic beast who agree on everything with each other.

    Secondly, this is nothing new.

    Thirdly, our internal divisions are not going away any time soon, nor are there any proposals which make this likely or desirable.

    Finally, respect is a two-way street – which Gareth should know better than most. I fully agree that there is much the party can do better on communications, but this goes for activists and leaders equally.

  • Mickft (and I think I know who you are in reality 🙂 – your conflating in camera proceedings and the “secret courts” proposals. AIUI (I’m not going to dig out the books but I think I’m right from memory) courts have the power to sit “in camera” so that their proceedings cannot be observed by the press and public if required. That is something recognised in the Human Rights Act/Convention. However in such situations then all the evidence is available to both parties so it can be challenged as appropriate.

    What is required is that judgement be given in public so that everyone knows why the decision was reached – though obviously there is some discretion needed as to how that is explained.

    That differs from the proposals in the Justice and Security Bill which were different as evidence could be withheld from a defendant. Your partially correct when you say, “it’s not right that the defence or at least the defence lawyer can’t see the other side’s evidence and that must be changed.” The defendant isn’t able to see that particular evidence – just a Special Advocate – who then can’t discuss it with the defendant.

  • @Peter: If I understand you correctly, your argument says we should wait until a clear new candidate for leader emerges, and the party returns as a phoenix, reborn from the ashes. That there is ultimately, electorally, no point in selecting a new unknown leader now.

    I am suggesting something different. That, under Nick, we are no longer the Liberal Democrats. We are betraying what we stand for piece by piece. If we give up our principles, and do nothing, adopting a wait and see approach, we lose more of who we are. Of course I care about our electoral prospects. But I also care about us having a raison d’etre. Under Nick, that is harder and harder to see. I’d argue that under another leader – be it Farron, Cable or Swinson, we would be better Liberal Democrats. And that is worth something.

  • Whichever side you take, or however you analyse the underlying dynamics, it ought to be clear to all concerned that the Liberal Democrats are on the brink of a crisis — potentially comparable in its effects to the Asquith-Lloyd George split of 1918 or the Samuel-Simon split of the Thirties.
    And yet, thus far, I have seen no awareness by Nick Clegg or anyone else in leadership that this is the case. They perhaps view recent events as a “tempest in a teapot.” I think they should attune their ears to the creaking vertebræ of a camel too heavily laden with straw.

  • Surely everyone, except Nick Clegg, must know that Eastleigh was won despite Nick Clegg and the party notaries who couldn’t resist talking to a hostile press about Chris Rennard. This was a display of both the lack of both loyalty and of judgement.The term ‘Lions led by donkeys’ ran through my mind during the campaign.

  • Paul Griffiths 12th Mar '13 - 9:56am

    Conference is adapting to the realities of government, but not in a good way. Increasingly, Conference wants to “hold renegade parliamentarians to account” as Tony Dawson puts it. I say increasingly, because now we are in coalition our MPs and peers no longer have the unfettered discretion to vote for proposals of which they approve and against those of which they disapprove. Whatever one may think of the merits of criticising their judgements in particular cases, Conference was not designed for this purpose and consequently the Emergency Motion procedure (and to a lesser extent the Amendment procedure) is being bent completely out of shape to accommodate it. As a representative, I have to read between the lines of each motion to determine what is “really” being called for and which faction will claim “victory” if it is passed or defeated. Not only is this tedious, it is not what my LP sends me to Conference for. Perhaps we need to change standing orders so that renegade parliamentarians can be pilloried (literally) but my preference would be for Conference to return to its primary function and leave the lobbying and/or chastisement of MPs to groups such as the SLF.

  • The standard of the post and the following comments is outstanding and demonstrates Liberal Democrat principles are not only alive but that the majority in the party is willing to fight for recognition and renewed application of those principles. I imagine that the parliamentary party members are of similar mind but their position in government is extremely difficult – facing, as they do, an unscrupulous right wing of the “nasty party” and a PM fighting for his own survival. Our parliamentarians are therefore working in a difficult position between LDs and those whose principles we abhor.

    Which brings me to my second point: that politicians need the right balance between principles and pragmatism. It is obvious that most politicians have some principles, and we, as LDs, should firstly maintain principles which cannot be changed or voted against. But all politicians have to be pragmatic too – agreeing to issues which are practical as long as they do not run against principle. To that end, our party should always promote “the right principle” as agreed by the party and not the vague “right thing” statement which is circulating as if it’s universally understood and agreed.

    Being pragmatic to a fault is where party members and parliamentarians are bound to fall out. Sorry to tell you guys who are following the Coalition Agreement, made after the general election, but it was limited in scope and has been left behind in history. Now, more than ever, principles are needed. As an aside, how can the population be asked to vote for parliamentarians who are avowed pragmatists? What do they stand for? How can we trust them in a crisis? I think we know a few in government. I heard someone say yesterday that swapping driving points was a small issue. As swapping is a lie, no principle there then.

    So the leadership needs to sit up, I would say “clean up” the thinking about being a LD. The “red lines” are principles and should never be crossed – unless they are brought to Conference and agreed that we have to change them AS PRINCIPLES.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Mar '13 - 6:24pm

    It seems to me that a lot of the argument on the “secret courts” issue is on the basis of the old (at least 150 years old) split between utilitarian Liberalism and moral Liberalism. Between getting the best you can, or the least worst in a pragmatic way; and standing out for a principle. Most of politics, particularly coalition politics, is about the former and rightly so, so long as the moves are in the right direction. (After all it’s a Liberal view that usually means shape ends, rather than ends justifying illiberal means). But some issues are thought by some people to be such important principles that they prefer to fight (and if necessary die) in a ditch for them. This is obviously such an issue.

    The fault seems to be the failure of the leadership and parliamentarians generally to understand which issues will be regarded as “ditch” issues by substantial elements of the party, and treat them differently from the often depressingly humdrum compromises and trade-offs of coalition politics.

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '13 - 6:44pm

    A political party exists to represent the people to government, so that the people share in gvernment, it does not exist to represent itself in government. And it’s there to represent ALL the people, not just the LibDem voters and not just the activists. Do most ordinary people care so critically about this “redline” issue? I suspect not. I suspect people care about

    > jobs
    > health
    > education
    > welfare
    > security

    in some order. So the only valid redlines are those that the ordinary people say are redlines. To get into government, a party has to represent itself to the people. If it isn’t prepared to focus its energies on what the people are focussed on, then it’s a pressure group not a political party, and it won’t get elected. Simples.

  • Simon Banks 12th Mar '13 - 8:34pm

    This is an excellent article. That ministers and activists disagree is normal, yes, but that ministers do not anticipate that disagreement and do not understand the activists is toxic. Part of the problem is that there is now a body of MPs who have never really been grassroots activists, advised by advisors who have rarely even met activists.
    There will indeed have been a variety of reasons why people voted for us in Eastleigh, just as there was a variety of reasons why basically Lib Dem, Tory and Labour voters voted UKIP. But without a mass of clued-up activist from all over the country and local to Eastleigh, we’d have lost. I’m not sure Nick Clegg and his court understand that.

  • I don’t think it’s meaningful to talk about a distinction between a party “representing the people” and “representing itself,” as Richard does. All parties conceive of themselves as “representing the people.” They differ in their ideas as to how the people should best be represented and served. A political party is an alliance of people who share similar ideas on how best to represent and serve the people. If people within a single party fail to agree on certain critical ideas, then that party is on the verge of splintering. Obviously, a great many Liberal Democrats do not believe that the people are well served by denying them the right to hold their government to account in the courts. This is not a tangential issue; it is one that goes to the heart of the relationship between the government and the people.

    Nor would the supposed popular apathy over the issue, if it were real, be an argument for ignoring it. There are a great many issues which, at some point in their history, fail to grip the popular mind. For instance, it was popularly believed in the mid-30s that German expansionism posed no threat to the UK and that the best thing for Britain was to stay out of continental politics altogether. The Tory governments of the day preferred to follow what they believed to be popular sentiment instead of leading on the issue. The results were, of course, disastrous, and the mood of the people soon changed. The moral of the story is that a transient public mood is not an infallible guide to the interests of the people.

  • Richard Dean 13th Mar '13 - 6:30am

    I recognize the view that you express, David. I think it’s called a “benevolent” dictatorship. Maybe political scientists have other names.

    It says that the political party knows better than the people what’s good for the people. I recognize it in Stalin’s Russia, in Apartheid South Africa, in states that do not separate religion from government, and in what the Syrian Free Army are fighting against. I remember it from Orwell’s 1984 and Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Its problem is that it always ends up as favouring those who think they are better than the general public. It’s about as far away as you can get from democracy.

    A radical democrat might say that, if the general public felt that way, then it was correct to follow the popular view of German expansionism in the 1930’s. It was also correct for politicians like Churchill to sound dire warnings. The subsequent war was a very, very hard learning experience for the populations involved – they learned more about how to assess regimes people like Hitler. Something that some in the UK have forgotten today.

    Democracy is a process by which the general public learn, as well as one by which they vote! Indeed, they learn largely from the mistakes they make when voting the wrong people in. As liberal democrats, we should not prevent learning at all. We should assist, find ways of making it less costly, and always remember that we are learning too.

  • Richard Dean 13th Mar '13 - 6:42am

    Oligarchy, maybe? Power-elitism? Not as un-democratic as a tyranny, but getting there.

  • Richard, there is no political party, anywhere in the world, which makes up its manifesto entirely on the basis of the latest poll soundings. How you get from that to “dictatorship” beggars the imagination. Far be it from me to suggest that you’re not invested in an honest discussion, but it seem unlikely that it has escaped you that the UK boasts a multiparty system, and that a democratic consensus is (ideally, at least) obtained by the parties representing different shades of opinion found in the body politic — not by trying to flatten themselves into perfect mirrors of some abstract, average “public opinion.” If parties could only represent majority points of view, then all minorities would be left out in the cold.

    Your accusation that, by stating what political parties actually do and what they are for, I am supporting dictatorship, is simultaneously illogical, untrue, and insulting. In fact, considering that you’ve suggested that Liberal Democrats should shut up and follow the majority of MPs on the secret courts issue (though you didn’t feel the same way when it came to equal marriage) it would seem that there are times when you’re quite happy with parties “dictating” to their members.

  • Richard Dean 13th Mar '13 - 8:59pm

    It is sad that so many party members seem to only understand the word Democrat when it suits their Liberal agenda. And it is sad when a party reduces itself to a market trader, saying that only they know what’s best, selling inflexible pay-with-your-vote packages with no adaptation to customer needs and no after-sale customer service.

    But I am cheerful, because democracy always wins. I see the voters in Eastleigh deserting the LibDems, held back only by the quality of Mike Thornton. Perhaps they see that the LibDems have been taken over by extremist Libs, and therefore that voting for some other party is preferable.

    Perhaps I should go that way too.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Mar '13 - 2:15am

    Richard, keep the faith! People like us with more everyday concerns need to stay in the party! I certainly wouldn’t be happier at the Conservatives who have a history of pulverising the poor, UKIP who want to get rid of inheritance tax and nurture the next generation of Downtown Abbey families or Labour who want to tax people to the hilt and suffocate businesses with regulation.

  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '13 - 4:12am

    Yes, we should stay, Eddie. The ordinary people matter.
    I wonder what the party should do with its extremists?

  • Brian Hicks 14th Mar '13 - 4:55pm

    To paraphrase Edmund Burke, MPs are representatives -not delegates Does not the same apply to Party leaders ?

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