Opinion: we lead when we’re brave

UKIP logoLike many others I was a sub-agent for the European Elections. My ‘chosen’ borough was Tameside where we stood precisely zero candidates at the local elections. A bizarre contrast compared to Lib Dem led Stockport just down the road where I live.

It will come as no surprise from the North West results that one of my samples was devoid of any Lib Dem votes at all – a first after 30 years in politics. (Luckily there were samples that were a bit rosier!)

Once proceedings were complete something troubled me: there were Labour, Green and Conservative sub-agents and little old me. What was missing: ah yes, good old UKIP. I wonder if this is a sign of how they’ll be acting in the European Parliament? For a party who came second to absent themselves at a count so as not to represent the democratic process let alone their own voters is baffling and perhaps a little alarming.

A lack of transparency and representation all round. We can all be guilty of that – particularly the people who have originated the ‘Libdems4change’ letter. Again, for people who purport to be clamouring for change I hold little trust if those same people don’t reveal themselves. Their site was registered on 22nd May – most Liberal Democrats had other things on their minds on that day! Perhaps the people behind this movement will reveal what was happening.

To my mind, it’s no good harping on about change that by its very process will require an open debate, if the main originators are hiding in the shadows. Perhaps their aims are the correct ones – this is hardly the way to go about it.

Everyone’s talking about UKIP and we know that part of its coalition of interests are people that have a fear of change. (It touches me a little myself and I’m a Lib Dem so they have my sympathies!). The trouble is the world won’t stop. China won’t stop. Technology won’t stop. Conchita Wurst won’t stop.  Everything won’t stop. That’s also true of ‘younger people’ (than myself!) one of whom, a councillor who increased his majority over Labour, I was delivering leaflets for last Sunday.

It was only at the bus stop to go home that I realised just how much change had happened and how ‘openness’ is the order of the day. There were 7 people around the bus stop of ages 17 to 19 – nothing strange about that.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that the two people hugging each other and looking lovingly into each other’s eyes were two women. And their two gay female friends were doing just the same about a yard away from them. One other woman who I guessed was a lesbian friend of theirs was nonchalantly posing questions about what she should eat that night without gaining much in replies. Alongside a brick wall were two young men diffidently holding hands.

It was startling – I was in the middle of Stockport and they were doing something I wouldn’t have dared to do when I was their age. And they were doing it without a care in the world. Not only was this a total LGBT crowd but this was Stockport – just two generations on from the 50s where such behaviour would have you arrested.

As I was listening to the chart show what song was being played? Conchita Wurst’s ‘Rise like a phoenix’.  However the old dinosaurs in UKIP feel there is no going back or hiding in the shadows.

I just wish that those who are promoting the letter to Nick were equally as authentic, transparent and brave. Perhaps then as a party we could all ‘Rise like a phoenix’.

* John Abrams is a member and activist in Stockport

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39 Comments

  • Bill le Breton 27th May '14 - 10:57am

    John, perhaps they feel that they can’t be transparent, but that is not to say they are not authentic or brave. Perhaps it tells us something about the true nature of the Party machine.

  • To be fair, all the people signing have given their names, which are listed on the page. Presumably it is a email-harvesting exercise, in preparation for next year.

    And the point is, John, this greater openness in society to which you refer has already happened. Of course, it is to be applauded. But it is yesterday’s battle. It is now perfectly possible to be openly gay, or tolerant of gay rights, in other parties, even the Tory party. There is no future for our party as a gay rights, Tory-lite, centre-right party (or a pro-EU one). That experiment has been tried to destruction over the last 7 years of Clegg’s leadership, and it has failed. Cameron is on that ground.

    Where there is a gap in the market is for a competent centre-left party with a personable and credible leader (cf Miliband and Clegg!) which sticks up for the majority of ordinary people (not just being sympathetic to ‘the poor’). We filled that gap for 25 years of my membership, but the last five years we have left it vacant. That seems to me to be why we are suffering at the polls.

  • There doesn’t appear to be a complaints procedure on this site for dealing with bullying, harassment and intimidation of our brave and bold LibDems4Change from the pro Clegg brigade on here. This is something the Party must look at because when I signed the petition my name is clear for all to see, do you want my membership as well so that you can conduct a witch-hunt against those of us with an opposing view. What is your rationale in bullying us for daring so speak out against a Pied Piper Leader whose management of the Party has led to the lowest poll ratings ever and the loss of hundreds of hard working councillors and MEPs. The site is also now going into overdrive from the pro Clegg camp, can anyone who is just a mere party member put up a post or is that just left to nepotism and favouritism of who you know as that appears to be how this site is run. Hardly liberal and impartial when you are biased and taking a specific stand as an editor that’s why we desperately need a new site us. Clegg out, he has failed – support http://www.libdems4change.org/

  • I also think it’s a bit rich picking on the Isolationists for not attending an election count when I am aware that Lib Dem candidates haven’t turned up at election counts either. Far better to concentrate on their attendance record as MEPS and expenses claims I would’ve thought.

  • John Abrams 27th May '14 - 1:12pm

    I am getting rather tired of the negativity of the comments pages on LDV. I was trying to explain that if the LibDem4change really wanted to be taken seriously then openness and transparency seem to be the order of the day. I’m not quite sure why people find that so controversial. I note Caron Lindsay’s questions haven’t been fully answered and I can’t for the life of me understand what there is to hold back on.

    As for bullying it does really rather fly in the face of everything that’s gone on. If asking perfectly reasonable questions is `bullying` then I wonder what people are doing in a political party. The point is quite simple – if you think that there’s some stark policy differences than the ones already on the table (and I’m one of those that are open to all ideas) then the simplest way to do that is to tell people why the website was registered on election day and who is behind it. We will then be able to move on with the debate and ideas that are so desperately needed.

    My guess is that someone, in a fit of pique, jumped the gun on some elaborate plan that included undermining the party before the elections with a massive opinion poll. The letter has had the effect of not raising the amount of signatures that was envisaged and the people that want Nick to resign are scratching their heads as to what to do next.

    Without resolving these issues we can’t move on as we don’t know the agenda of the people behind the letter.

    As for the other comments regarding Tameside it was a) to starkly emphasise the difference between places where we work effectively and where we don’t put up candidates. That’s not to disrespect an area of the country that would be very difficult even in the days of Cleggmania.

    The story of the Gay people was to emphasise that yes it’s right that that’s a battle no longer needing to be fought or certainly not so hard – it was to suggest that we need to harness the votes of these new group of people as demographic churn takes hold. It was simply to outline the difference in UKIP rhetoric and the reality on the ground.

    The real question is `if getting rid of Clegg is the answer what’s the question?` – seems that there’s a lack of hard answers when it comes to these issues apart from `be more left wing` or `be bolder`. If there are any new ideas and I have quite a few let’s have them out in the open.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 27th May '14 - 1:13pm

    I find it extraordinary that so few Lib Dems are ever able to give Labour the credit for introducing the legislation which brought about the revolutionary change in attitudes towards LGBT people. But you are quite right: UKIP will take us back to the dark ages.

    Why are the commentators in the media not asking where all those hundreds of thousands of BNP votes have gone? It seems to me that the only beneficiaries of those votes is UKIP. Is UKIP a Trojan Horse for the BNP?

    Personally I believe that the UKIP boil should be lanced as soon as possible and that we should have a referendum immediately on the UK remaining in Europe; certainly before the next general election. When Labour had its referendum on Europe in 1975 the issue was dealt with for a generation.

  • John Abrams 27th May '14 - 1:14pm

    I never thought it was a good thing to have zero box counts – I was just pointing it out as a comparison and as some sort of interesting story to try and put colour to dismal times. Projection seems to be the order of the day as well methinks.

  • Yes Diane Abbott should get some credit for her campaigning on same sex marriage but this government actually got it onto the statute book. Many, but not all, of the Ukip voters are first time voters so maybe they couldn’t bring themselves to vote BNP and stayed at home.

  • david

    I’m a little confused. Who is bullying you?

    I can see people expressing an oposing view strongly, but I’m not clear what consitutes bullying in this case.

    I’m always happy to criticise anyone one who rolls out the “they should go joint Labout/Tories/Greens/ UKIP/SWP” comments but I haven’t even seen many of those on these discussions.

    I think the sistuation that has been most uncomfortable is the polling activity which will have been expensive and is targeted at destabelising the leadership (whether legitimately or not). For someone to commit significant resources to this when many local campaigns could have used the funds will make people suspisious.

    The funder declairing themselves and making their intentions clear may result in there actions being criticised and their view challenged, but that is what democratic debate is about.

    However if you can point me to specic abuse, rather than disagreement I think most people would be happy to chalenge that activity.

  • Mack

    “I find it extraordinary that so few Lib Dems are ever able to give Labour the credit for introducing the legislation which brought about the revolutionary change in attitudes towards LGBT people”

    Which legislation are you refering too?

    Personbally I think social attitudes are far more influenced by media and personal experiences than a law. I think generally the law laggs social attitudes rather than leads it. We are Brits are not really the sorts to be lead by laws.

  • Mack

    “Personally I believe that the UKIP boil should be lanced as soon as possible and that we should have a referendum immediately on the UK remaining in Europe; certainly before the next general election. When Labour had its referendum on Europe in 1975 the issue was dealt with for a generation.”

    Got to agree with you there. The idea would scare the hell out of me but it has to be done.

    “where all those hundreds of thousands of BNP votes have gone?”

    I don’t think those voters were actually racist like the BNP but angry and looking for an outlet, hence you won’t find them turning UKIP in to a Trojan hourse. It still shows that there are a large number of people who don’t feel their concerns are being addressed.

  • From the excellent blog by Mark Valladares —

    This is my party. I have supported it through my voluntary efforts for nearly thirty years, carrying out a series of almost entirely thankless tasks for a mostly unappreciative organisation because of my belief in the importance of a liberal voice in a vibrant civic society. I do not do it so that others within can demonstrate a lack of tolerance that shames our claim to believe in an open, tolerant society where people work together to make our lives better.

    So, LibDems4Change have an absolute right to act as they do, even if I don’t agree with them. They don’t have to justify their approach, other than to make a case that allows them to win the argument. Those who believe that now is not the time to replace Nick Clegg can likewise argue their position.

  • Psi – I wouldn’t bother asking me questions based on comments which weren’t incidentally aimed at you in any case if you can’t be bothered to answer my query about a complaints procedure in the first place.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 27th May '14 - 2:35pm

    @Psi
    “Which legislation are you refering too?”

    You mean you don’t know? O.K. I’ll enlighten you:

    Repeal of Section 28;
    Civil Partnership Act;
    Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations which made it illegal to discriminate against Gay Men and Bi-Sexuals in the work place;
    Abolition of crimes of buggery and gross indecency;
    The Equality Act which made discrimination against gay men and lesbians in provision of services illegal;
    Recognition of same sex partners for immigration purposes;
    Reduction of age of consent for gays to 16 through Bill of Equal Age of Consent
    Creation of offence of Homophobic Hatred created;
    Ban on gay men and lesbians serving in armed forces lifted.
    Equal rights given to same sex couples applying for adoption
    And much more. None of this would have been achieved without legislation or change of regulation by the 1997-2010 Labour Government.

    If you won’t take my word for it go to http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_home/history_of_lesbian_gay_and_bisexual_equality/default.asp

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 27th May '14 - 2:50pm

    “Personally I think social attitudes are far more influenced by media and personal experiences than a law. I think generally the law lags social attitudes rather than leads it. We Brits are not really the sort to be lead by laws.”

    I think you are completely wrong. There is no protection for minorities without laws. Laws create rights and the conditions in which attitudes change. I am delighted and proud that Labour gave the LGBT community the rights and protection of its legislation. Now that really was leading and being brave.

  • @Mack

    Did Labour legislate for a massive change in attitudes, or did a massive change in attitudes, driven by campaigners from across the political spectrum, bring about a change in government policy?

    Regardless, well done Labour for not blocking the progress when it came to Parliament, and remember the role your activists had in bringing about the change in attitudes when you face down the members of your inner circle who believe emulating UKIP will be the answer.

  • I lived through the Thatcher years and the Blair/Brown years and I think under Labour we were a much more tolerant society and also had better hospital and health care and better school buildings etc. I sees return to intolerance and demonisation of the poor/benefit claimants now as I did when Lilley Portillo etc were talking about single mother sect in the early 90s. The only more tolerant thing to happen is equal marriage but most of the work had been done by Labour and Cameron did that to detoxify the Tory Party and court the gay vote. Not much to brag about for Lib Dems.

  • Mack I agree. The ban on smoking has created a much pleasanter environment for instance and it’s becoming unfashionable to smoke.

  • @Phyllis

    Your mention of Tory attitudes to mothers reminded me of the Lib Dem contribution of shared parental leave. The idea aims to develop further progress on gender equality, with the intention that it removes the shabby justification for the pay gap as well as erodes the old notion that the mother will always be the one to do the child raising.

    I admit, its not exactly what we’d want from a Liberal Democrat administration, and might not even live up to the expectations for a one fifth Lib Dem government. But if you want a comparison of the coalition with previous administrations’ records on socially progressive legislation, let’s at least get the full picture. Gay marriage and shared parental leave are two things that wouldn’t have happened under a Tory majority and that for whatever reason didn’t happen under Labour either.

  • I agree with Phyllis.
    Phyllis 27th May ’14 – 3:07pm
    Mack I agree. The ban on smoking has created a much pleasanter environment for instance and it’s becoming unfashionable to smoke.

    And of course the vast majority of Liberal Democrats want plain packaging for cigarettes to further protect children from taking up smoking.
    What a pity that Clegg failed to vote alongside his Liberal Democrat colleagues in parliament on this.
    Just another failure of his leadership I suppose.

  • Mack I entirely agree on smoking, this is something else that needs to be pointed out about the Isolationists as they would being it back in public buildings as well as ripping foxes to shreads with hounds. As someone who suffers with an incurable bowel disease worsened by breathing in cigarette smoke it’s great to go in pubs, public transport etc smoke free and I will forever be grateful to Labour for protecting our health. I used to work for an organisation within the LGBT community and one of the areas which seriously needs to be looked at is homophobic chanting at football matches and getting this dealt with as seriously as racist chanting is. It’s still unacceptable to go to matches and hear homophobic taunts about referees and players. I did disagree with Labour on the Licensing Act though as there have been more incidents of anti social behaviour and criminal activity in communities near to pubs as I know from attending licensing review applications on behalf of residents in my capacity as a community activist. What else do you think the government could be doing on LGBT issues and diversity?

  • Phyllis I remember it was really shocking. As a Council Estate tenant myself on benefits I have never felt so demonised by this coaltion government and policies engineered by Mr IDS which have been ratified by Mr Clegg another reason why he must go.

  • david

    “Psi – I wouldn’t bother asking me questions based on comments which weren’t incidentally aimed at you in any case if you can’t be bothered to answer my query about a complaints procedure in the first place.”

    Well that response certainly says a lot about you.

    You don’t actually don’t direct your “query” at any one in particular, and even if you did people are perfectly entitled to ask you about it.

    If you are going to post on a discussion forum claiming to have been “bullied” expect people to ask you how and by whom.

    If you had a technical question about functionality of a website I would suggest you follow the normal procedure of looking up an admin email address for example in this site if you look under “about us” you will find it says: “For general enquiries, please email [email protected]” it took me seconds to find and I’m no wiz with technology.

    The fact that, rather than addressing this as a technical question, you posted it suggest you intended to use it to claim some kind of ‘victim status.’ If you want to claim to be a victim of something I suggest you get used to people asking for evidence. Particularly when claiming “bullying, harassment and intimidation” on a publicly available website where it is easy to identify what you consider to be the offending material.

  • Psi – as I explained before I wouldn’t bother interrogating me when I am not accountable to you and am not revealing the contents of a personal email either.

    The email address you’ve given is not a complaints procedure and neither is there one on this site. That’s all I asked for nothing else and most sites have complaints procedures and the opportunity to report inappropriate posts or threads belittling others. I see no reason for any further communication with you as you are making assumptions and will not be reading your replies, we need an ignore button on here.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 27th May '14 - 5:33pm

    @T-J
    “Gay marriage and shared parental leave are two things that wouldn’t have happened under a Tory majority ”

    Er . . . I think you’ll find that it was Labour that saved your Gay Marriage Bill. Without Labour’s votes, Cameron’s back benchers and a few Lib Dems would have scuppered it.
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/21/labour-cameron-gay-marriage-bill

  • Which Lib Dem MPs would’ve scuppered it?

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 27th May '14 - 6:37pm

    @david
    “Which Lib Dem MPs would’ve scuppered it?”

    Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley), John Pugh (Southport), Sarah Teather (Brent Central).

    Did not vote: Norman Baker (Lewes), Martin Horwood (Cheltenham), Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye & Lochaber), Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West), John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross), David Ward (Bradford East), Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central).

    Source: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/02/the-tories-who-voted-against-gay-marriage-full-list/

  • Mark,

    Trying to spin the Blair government as LGBT friendly for its own sake is duplicitous and dishonest. Blair did it for the same reason he did anything: for electoral advantage. When it came to Section 28, Civil Partnerships, and reducing the age of consent, we were there long before, and Labour actually had us withdraw PMBs because they wanted the credit for it. Indeed, in 1994, one David Blunkett, Shadow Health Secretary, actually helped kill Edwina Currie’s attempt, along with 16% of the party.

    And that’s not even talking about the cack-handed attempt at trans rights that Labour attempted (which you didn’t mention, I notice). After being forced by Strasbourg to create a procedure for us to change our legal gender, we were given an unholy mess of bureaucracy for the chance to get a chance. And 170 couples were forced to divorce so that process could be fulfilled, because Blair’s Cabinet was fundamentally opposed to same-sex marriage. And six years later, Labour then passed a law that makes it legal for rape shelters to deny us accommodation. So, thanks for your commitment to trans rights.

  • Also, you can’t really think that Jenny Willott opposes gay marriage. On the night of the vote she had bigger priorities: namely, giving birth.

    Likewise, Baker, Thurso, and Ward were abroad, Horwood was on constituency business, and Kennedy was looking after his sick mother. Only Mulholland had the ability to vote but didn’t, and believe me, we people in Leeds got his finger out of his arse for the third reading.

    At no point were Labour votes needed at all to pass the marriage bill, actually. Same-sex marriage can only have been brought by the Lib Dems: the Tories would’ve opposed it without people like Lynne pushing for it at ministerial level; and the Labour Party would’ve taken the Summerskill line of “civil partnerships are enough” if it wasn’t for the massive embarrassment for S’onewall that was the Autumn 2010 conference.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 27th May '14 - 11:28pm

    Sarah Noble
    “At no point were Labour votes needed at all to pass the marriage bill, actually.”
    Really?
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/21/labour-cameron-gay-marriage-bill

  • Without Labour votes, the vote against the amendment would’ve been 185-62 instead of 375-70. You were saying?

  • @Sarah Noble – I remembered all the reporting at the time of the gay marriage bill was that it was in danger of not getting through; however, I’ve now re-read the article given by @Mack. Perhaps you can explain why Cameron was so worried by his own internal polling that seemed to indicate that the govt was going to lose, that he sent his chief whip to plead with Labour to save their bacon, as outlined below:

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/21/labour-cameron-gay-marriage-bill

    “The government’s gay marriage bill was saved after David Cameron was forced to rely on Ed Miliband to defeat an attempt by his own MPs to derail the measure by trying to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

    An 11th-hour plea to the Labour leadership by the Tory chief whip Sir George Young, who warned that the government was in danger of losing the vote, prompted a change of heart by Miliband, who had been planning to abstain on the amendment.”

  • It doesn’t bode well for the argument that Labour are friendly to LGBT interests for their own sake, though. If they were, Cameron wouldn’t have needed to send George Young in the first place.

  • Sarah Noble – “It doesn’t bode well for the argument that Labour are friendly to LGBT interests for their own sake, though. If they were, Cameron wouldn’t have needed to send George Young in the first place.”

    Seems to me that Labour had to head off last minute Tory amendments designed to scupper the bill and without them it would’ve been de-railed and kicked into the long grass. How does your position that it was “brought by the Lib Dems” stand-up?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '14 - 7:01am

    John Abrams

    I just wish that those who are promoting the letter to Nick were equally as authentic, transparent and brave. Perhaps then as a party we could all ‘Rise like a phoenix’.

    Oh dear, dear, dear. Please read the last paragraph of my reply to the insults thrown by Ben Nicholls here, and just replace “Ben Nicholls” by yourself, John Abrams.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 28th May '14 - 8:51am

    @ Sarah Noble

    “At no point were Labour votes needed at all to pass the marriage bill, actually.”

    Labour had a perfect opportunity to humiliate Cameron and the Coalition by voting with the rebel Tories, rebel Liberal Democrats and others at the second and third readings of the Gay Marriage Bill. But that would have killed the Gay Marriage Bill stone dead. Given Labour’s excellent legislative record on LGBT rights that would have been unthinkable. That Labour did not do so on a free vote is hugely to their credit and shows that they were indeed not going to play for party advantage on such a serious LGBT issue and were friendly to LGBT interests for their own sake. Indeed, as the article states: Ed Miliband’s overriding priority was to ensure that the bill reached the statute book.

    The headline of the Guardian article I linked to was “Labour Saves David Cameron’s Gay Marriage Bill” The Guardian is not a Labour supporting newspaper: it is a supporter of the Liberal Democrats. Why then would it assert in its headline that Labour had saved the bill if it hadn’t.?

    “Trying to spin the Blair government as LGBT friendly for its own sake is duplicitous and dishonest. Blair did it for the same reason he did anything: for electoral advantage.”

    You seem to be saying that you would have preferred to have had no advances in LGBT rights under Labour if that prevented Blair having an electoral advantage. A curious position. But, as you well know, everything in politics involves consideration of electoral advantage. For example, the Liberal Democrats did not scruple to go in to coalition with the party that introduced Clause 28. I am proud that Labour repealed that Clause and of all its other legislative advances in the field of LGBT rights. You are simply re-affirming the point I made earlier on this thread that the Liberal Democrats will not give Labour credit for its marvellous advances in the cause of LGBT rights.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 28th May '14 - 9:59am

    @ Sarah Noble

    I thought the distinction between the rebels and those who did not vote was quite clear. No offence intended.

  • But Labour were perfectly fine for wrecking amendments to pass into the bill, hence why George Young had to go speak to Miliband. A party that supported LGBT rights for its own sake would not have even needed to be asked. I’ve even heard that some Labour voices were calling for the bill to be spiked for the simple reason that it wasn’t theirs.

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