Opinion: Why I joined the Lib Dems 20 years ago – and am still proud to be one

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKNext month marks my 20th anniversary as a Liberal Democrat. Could it really be that I’ve spent two decades – and my entire adult life – as a member of Britain’s (still) third party? And more to the point (as some friends would no doubt ask me), why?

I signed up in the dying days of John Major’s government, shortly before we won our first ever MEPs at the 1994 European elections – as well as the first Eastleigh by-election, held the same day. The Tories had been in power for as long as I could remember and Labour had bungled the 1992 election, to the surprise of the pollsters and Major himself.

The country was left with another two years of the hated Tories to look forward to, with political masterstrokes like ‘back to basics’ and the traffic cones hotline. While I had time for Neil Kinnock, Robin Cook and other Labour reformers, the party had lost so many elections that they were hardly a convincing opposition.

The Lib Dems on the other hand represented everything I was looking for in politics: a radical, progressive, internationalist alternative, with a dynamic leader in Paddy Ashdown. No matter that we held just a handful of seats in parliament. We were successfully running town halls around the country, and in by-election after by-election it was the Lib Dems who were kicking the Tories where it hurt.

Most importantly, the Lib Dems were speaking up for all the issues I cared about most: concern for our environment, proper investment in education, taking responsibility in the world, and reforming our archaic political system.

Fast forward 20 years and the Lib Dems are in a very different place. From perennial opposition – where we were happy for any journalist to notice our existence – we now make the news as a party of government, with the good and bad headlines that come with the job. Conference and the party organisation have been hugely professionalised, although – uniquely – it’s still our members who decide our policies.

Many of the radical causes we have campaigned for have since become mainstream policies, from green energy to fairer taxes and devolution. I’m proud that we’ve been able to put many of these policies into practice in government – even if the Tories would not have been my first choice of coalition partner.

But politics for me has always been about achieving change in the most effective way possible. That’s why I joined a party in the first place, why I chose the Lib Dems, and why I agree with the 81% of members who think we were right to enter government too.

While other parties have drifted or been imprisoned by their extremist wings, we have not compromised on our values. I’m not a factionalist and I try to avoid tribalism too, but as long as my party stands for progressive and reformist values like fairness, radicalism and internationalism, I’ll be proud to call it my political home.

* Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.

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51 Comments

  • A breath of fresh air against a background of “our” blogging site being more and more dominated by enemies of the Lib Dems (not always declared as such) and others who are geniuely Lib Dem members but seemingly alienated from most of what the party is trying to do.

    This year marks my 54th anniversary as a Liberal Democrat, Giles, and I agree with every word you have said, pulled apart as it will be by many of those who will follow me in this thread. Whatever happens to the party now I will be proud to have lived to see us contributing fully to the government of this country – something I had begun to think would never happen in my lifetime.

  • Whoops! I was hoping to be the first in this thread but I see Caracatus has already got in to fulfil my prophecy.

  • Steve Griffiths 30th Apr '14 - 11:16am

    Giles Goodall

    “we have not compromised on our values.”

    But that’s the whole issue, isn’t it? I joined the Young Liberals in the late 1960s and have spent decades campaigning for the Liberal Party and the Lib Dems, being deliverer, candidate, election agent, councillor, spokesman and pouring effort, money and time into the cause. There are many like me that have had to pause and rethink in recent years at the current policy positioning of the party, especially economic policy, (not to mention The Lobbying Bill, Secret Courts, Legal Aid, Bedroom Tax etc.) and it does seem that the party has compromised it’s values, from the organisation we knew.

    Nor I suspect are we “enemies” mentioned by Denis. I have not joined nor am I helping any other political party. I desperately want the Lib Dems to feel ‘home’ for me once more, but the current leadership direction seems to go ever further away from what many of us remember the party once stood for. I comment hear as a critical friend – I am no enemy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '14 - 11:39am

    Giles Goodall

    Fast forward 20 years and the Lib Dems are in a very different place. From perennial opposition – where we were happy for any journalist to notice our existence – we now make the news as a party of government, with the good and bad headlines that come with the job.

    The problem is that most people in this country have not distinguished between the policies of this government and the policies of the Liberal Democrats. By going on and on about us being “a party of government” and so on, you are assisting with this confusion. The current government is a mostly Conservative Party government. If there really is no difference between the policies it is pursuing, and the policies a mostly Liberal Democrat government would pursue, then is it any wonder so many of our supporters have deserted us? In many places – most of the constituencies our MPs represent – we were the main alternatives to the Conservative Party and people voted for us because they did not like the Conservative Party and its policies.

    I have always supported the idea of a multi-party system, and recognise that this means coalition governments, and that coalition government mean coming to an agreement which represents a compromise between the parties in the coalition. However, I believe the parties should be represented proportionally to their votes in Parliament, if this were the case, the ratio of Liberal Democrat MPs to Conservative Party MPs would be very different to what it is now, and so we would have a government which would be far more towards the Liberal Democrat way than the Conservative way than the one we have now. We seem to have completely failed to get that message across, but it is a rather basic one, because what it is saying is that the more people vote Liberal Democrat, the more Liberal Democrat MPs there will be, and so the more Liberal Democrat will be any coalition involving the Liberal Democrats. Or, “if you want Liberal Democrat policies, vote Liberal Democrat”. By going on and on about us being a party “in government” and so on, and not mentioning this basic aspect that we are NOT “in government” as the term is conventionally understood i.e. in control of the government, people like you have lost that basic message. Instead, you have given the impression that we are as responsible for this government as the Conservatives and as keen on its policies as they are. Why do you want that impression to be given when this government is five-sixths Conservative and only one-sixth Liberal Democrat and has policies that reflect that?

    I don’t like what the coalition is doing, but I accept it on the basis it’s what the people voted for, both in May 2010 and in May 2011 when they supported, by two to one, the electoral system which distorted representation and so gave us a government which is five-sixths Conservative and one-sixth Liberal Democrat, rather than three-fifths Conservative and two-fifths Liberal Democrat as a proportional system would have made it. But as a Liberal Democrat, I prefer Liberal Democrat policy to Conservative policy, so I would like to see a government withe more Liberal Democrat influence. So why do people like you use words that destroy that line I would like to use? By going on an on about how proud you re to see us “in government” but not mentioning it’s mainly a government of another party, so far from our ideal, you are making it seem we are very happy with this compromise and don’t want any more than that, or perhaps that secretly we were really much closer to that other party in policy than we let on. Can’t you see why that may be losing us support?

    Yet when I try to point this out, I am accused of being “negative” or “alienated”, or perhaps people like Denis really do believe I am an enemy of the party I have devoted thousands of pounds of my money and thousands of hours of my time in helping build up just because I think our leader is doing a poor job of explaining our position and I am trying to use this forum to explain my thinking on that.

    Our leader and those who surround him are deliberately trying to conflate two different things – acceptance of the reality that meant we had to join the coalition in order to give Britain a stable government, and acceptance of the way that Clegg and Farron and the others in the leadership have chosen to portray this. So they make out that if you accept one of these you must accept the other, if you disagree with one, you must disagree with the other. No, they are two logically separate things. Either those leadership people can see this and so they know their attempt to conflate the two is a dirty trick. Or they can’t, which means they are deeply lacking in intelligence.

  • ‘Instead, you have given the impression that we are as responsible for this government as the Conservatives and as keen on its policies as they are. Why do you want that impression to be given when this government is five-sixths Conservative and only one-sixth Liberal Democrat and has policies that reflect that?’

    Well said. But the leadership seems to be under the delusion of ‘punching above our weight’ in the coalition so they don’t want to point out how inferior they are. If you look at the wikileaks it states after the coalition was formed that Cameron would make a public show of including Mr Clegg but would be taking all the big decisions himself. That sums it up I’m afraid.

    One problem with what Giles Goodall writes.

    ‘Most importantly, the Lib Dems were speaking up for all the issues I cared about most: concern for our environment, proper investment in education, taking responsibility in the world, and reforming our archaic political system.’

    This seems typical of a lot of the privileged people running the Lib Dems. No mention of the economy! Perhaps if you are wealthy enough these things might seem like the biggest priorities. But for most people who feel their living standards squeezed and insecure about their working lives, they aren’t and never have been. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A party that doesn’t have a coherent economic identity will never be more than fringe. It’s the central political issue and always has been. Talking about ‘fairness’ is far too shallow. It’s one of the reasons many of us were so keen to vote for Vince/Lib Dem in 2010 and are now so disillusioned.

  • Denis…like you I have been a member for 50 years, do what i can for the party and am immensely proud of our party.Of course government brings negatives but for those things acheived should be applauded Maybe that electoral results will be dire but you and I come from a time when the party built from nothing,it will happen again once transient parties like UKIP and their racist coalition are confined to the pages of history. For those who a re working to maintain and drive our party . Thank you

  • “… While other parties have drifted or been imprisoned by their extremist wings, we have not compromised on our values.”

    How can you reconcile that claim with – to give just one example – the parliamentary party’s backing for secret courts?

  • Denis, Bob Sayer

    All very good but at the end of the day you need voters. This is the think some activists forget – us voters are what matters and some of the reaction from members on these pages and the performance of your leadership just emphasise that you are not a party I can vote for in 2015

    Most of the posters on this board have some link to the party either as voters, ex-voters or members of varying degrees (we even have a peer as well!). Some are supporters of other parties but in general make no secret of the fact and I do not see any at all being ‘enemies’ of the party. The moderation policy on here prevents too strident criticism – too much in my view.

    Also, some of the most intemperate remarks come from elected representatives of the party to other members/supporters so it is not a one way street as you try to make out

    Coming back to the point though, the LD party is moving to its core vote and there have been a lot of defectors from those of us who have supported from the left (the liberal left as opposed to the more authoritarian left espoused by some in the Labour Party), This has a phenomenon constantly observed since 2010, and is partly responsible for the increase in Labour polling after the disastrous 2010 election.

    Matthew Huntbach explains the reasoning in his post above – it is a fairly simple one to understand and is one I concur with, as do my peers who have taken the same decision as I for 2015

    There are some here who still expect things to be fine in 2015 and we will see then but I don’t have anywhere near the same optimism. Not just based on polls, but also local election results, reduced activism etc

    Post-2015 you really need to define what you are as a party- this all friends to all men has been found out in the Government (mainly due to poor leadership) and will not be possible again for a long time

    More and more I see the party going to the neoliberal path trodden by NuLabour and the Tories as espoused by your leadership and many of the active members on here. The members of the party I agree with are disillusioned and, to my view, questioning their future

    I respect you for staying optimistic but I don’t think your comments will help you win back the people you need, i.e. the ‘lost’ voters. By calling us ‘enemies’ of the party do you think that will encourage us to vote for you? Do you not think that is a bit sinister? Surely, the LD have always been a home to those with a skeptical view on how the party is being led and not being conforming sheep?

    As an (ex) LD voter, but not a committed LD, I look at the sense of direction of the party and how it conforms with my values. I do not agree with all the policies but in 2010 I found the challenge of Cable to the role of the financial sector, the opposition to nuclear weapons and the valuing of education through reduced/abolished tuition fees to be a good direct and allow me to accept certain things I do not agree with

    If you come up with the same policies for 2015 under the same leadership then you will ono longer have any credibility with me. Changing the leadership may help but it would need to be a proper change and I cannot see it happening

    This is a personal view as a voter – I imagine that it will be treated with the same disdain as most other posts are – it seems that you are not so different from the other parties in actually only being interested in the voters every 5 years and the rest of the time

  • Green energy has been decimated by this governments policy. Tax changes have been criticised by the green energy industry time and time again : http://www.ukgbc.org/press-centre/press-releases/green-industry-responds-government-announcement-%E2%80%9Cgreen-levies%E2%80%9D-energy-bi . Then the PM said “cut the green crap”; most government policies in this area are being rendered useless : http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/20/green-deal-plans-energy-efficient
    http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2014/mar/20/george-osborne-budget-kill-renewable-energy-revolution-tax-break

    Caracatus, Steve Griffiths and Matthew Huntbach typify my views on this, I think Lib Dems would benefit from trying to find some middle ground with these voices. Perhaps if you reversed the narrative and asked some of these critics to write articles it would send the message that you’re open-minded liberals that are constantly looking to improve? I think the frustrating thing from this side of the debate is the lack of acknowledgement from the party that there’s anything wrong. Its clear that it’ll take a GE to demonstrate that view erroneous.

    I’d also point out that I don’t see anti-Clegg as being incompatible with the view that we were right to enter into the coalition. I still think that was a good idea, it’s how we played the hand since I’ve been disappointed with.

  • John Roffey 30th Apr '14 - 5:04pm

    @ Denis

    ‘This year marks my 54th anniversary as a Liberal Democrat, Giles, and I agree with every word you have said, pulled apart as it will be by many of those who will follow me in this thread. ‘

    Clearly, from what you say, you were originally a member of the Liberal Party before its amalgamation with the SDP – or else you could not be marking a 54th anniversary.

    Do you think that this is the root of the differing attitudes within Party towards the Coalition? Ex SDP members are likely to be more offended by the Party supporting right wing policies than ex Liberals.

  • Always a sign of a party in despair, not knowing what to do or where to go, when a prominent person is dolled out to explain what he is and why. Utterly irrelevant to the problem nay crisis at hand, we immediately need a new leadership, a new strategy that will give us at least 5 months out of government and some flexibility at the general. Otherwise it’s armegedon..

  • Nick Collins 30th Apr '14 - 8:39pm

    @ John Roffey: “Denis, clearly, from what you say, you were originally a member of the Liberal Party before its amalgamation with the SDP – or else you could not be marking a 54th anniversary.”
    “Do you think that this is the root of the differing attitudes within Party towards the Coalition? Ex SDP members are likely to be more offended by the Party supporting right wing policies than ex Liberals.”

    Hardly. Have you not noticed the number of contributors to this site who mention having been Young Liberals in the 1960s and who repudiate the direction in which the Liberal Democrats are now being led?

  • @ Giles Goodall – “but as long as my party stands for progressive and reformist values like fairness, radicalism and internationalism, I’ll be proud to call it my political home.”

    I would argue that both the Conservative and Labour Parties believe that their party wants to create a fair society, therefore the term fairness needs to be defined to be meaningful.

    I would argue that the Labour Party is reformist and the Conservative Party is often reformist. Again the type of reform needs to defined. I would argue that the Conservatives are reforming welfare, but not for the better.

    It could be argued that the most radical governments Britain has ever had were the Labour one of 1945-50 and the Conservative one of 1979-87.

    However progressive is normally seen as the opposite of conservative and the Labour Party sees itself as a progressive party. It is often seen as a concern with social justice, but the Liberal Democrats in government seems to have forgotten about this aspect of being progressive while accepting the Conservative definition of progressive.

    @ Frank Booth – “A party that doesn’t have a coherent economic identity will never be more than fringe. It’s the central political issue and always has been. Talking about ‘fairness’ is far too shallow.”
    Frank has a point. I think I read somewhere that we haven’t had a policy paper on the economy for over ten years.

    @ Bcrombie – I don’t think your views will treated with disdain by everyone on LDV because there are still lots of people who post here who agree with you – that the party needs to stop is its move towards neo-liberalism and set out liberal policies based on the principles the party has held since its foundation.

    @ Energlyn Churchill – If you and others who have left the party rejoined, those of us who are left would be more likely to win back control of the party.

  • Yes – I’m afraid those who chose to leave rather than fight will only become part of the solution if they return and soon, but since when has waiting in the wings for others to right wrongs been a characteristic of liberals?

  • We need those of our MPs who agree with Caracatus to act. Don’t wait until it is too late.

    Just a reminder of what Caracatus said at the top of this thread —
    ” ……..We used to run Liverpool, we had a presence on the council for years – now we are running only 18 candidates for the 30 seats up for re-election,
    We could well poll 5th place in the Euro elections as we did in the GLA elections and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections.
    To call this the price of being in Government is simply not true – it is the price of bad leadership, poor decisions and failure to do what people said they would. ”

    Until Clegg goes it will remain “More of the same”.

  • “I’m afraid those who chose to leave rather than fight will only become part of the solution if they return and soon, but since when has waiting in the wings for others to right wrongs been a characteristic of liberals?”

    Fight? When the illiberal measures the parliamentary party has connived at have been consistently supported by all but a handful of the MPs? Do you really think you can fight against 90% of the parliamentary party and win? It beggars belief.

  • David Lowrence 1st May '14 - 8:11am

    I have to concur with most of the responses on here, especially Matthew Huntbach. Similarly a member since the early 60’s. I have been deleted by the editors in the past for attacking Clegg and his leadership style, but until there is a recognition that his approach to coalition ( and the way it is portrayed to the public) is in no way complemented by the necessity to be in coalition, and a change in leader and style is effected, we will continue this race to the bottom. we are back where we were in the 70’s I am afraid we will never get back to the support we had under Kennedy (frailties and weaknesses notwithstanding). Ironically shafted by our own chattering classes!

  • Paul in Twickenham 1st May '14 - 9:18am

    @Chris – and the alternative is? You suggest we all shrug our shoulders and write off decades of hard work as a failed experiment?

    I do not exaggerate when I say that we are on the cusp of an existential crisis for the party.

    Jeremy Browne was fairly summarised by that Times headline when he declared that the Liberal Democrats were “pointless” unless they reinvented themselves in the mould he was proposing. I reject his analysis completely. It is precisely because of the all-too-public embrace of the politics of the right that the party finds itself in its current state.

    There is no room in British Politics for another party of neoliberalism.

    Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the party.

  • David Evans 1st May '14 - 9:24am

    @Paul in T – Yes we need them to return. To return in numbers. To return now and to help effect a change before the party sleepwalks into oblivion.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 1st May '14 - 9:24am

    Matthew
    Your comment is not negative – it is correct in every particular and is therefore fact. I support your opinion as it is what should have happened all the time in coalition. Yes I am proud to be a Liberal Democrat but want our party to tell the electorate how it is and why it is this way – as we put forward our own policies clearly and do not let Mr. Cameron steal our best ones as his own.

  • “and the alternative is? You suggest we all shrug our shoulders and write off decades of hard work as a failed experiment?”

    What I’m saying is that the problem is not just Nick Clegg, but 90% of the parliamentary party. I can’t understand what you think you can do about them.

    As for the alternative, there must be a thousand more constructive ways of spending one’s time, rather than fighting political battles that are already lost.

  • Chris
    “….Do you really think you can fight against 90% of the parliamentary party and win? ”

    Chris, yes I do. 🙂

    And it would appear that a growing number of people who post comments in LDV think so too.

    That is a good thing , is it not?

    90% of the parliamentary party (I assume you mean Liberal Democrat MPs in the Commons) will be a very much smaller number in 52 weeks time if Clegg remains as leader.

    If Scotland votes for independence there may be a further reduction in Liberal Democrat MPs in The Westminster Parliament.

    Estimates of number of MPs in late May 2015 seem to have slumped to somewhere below 30. That might concentrate the minds of some MPs who have been less than happy for the last 7 years.

    There might also be some existing MEPs who might want revenge by the end of this month.

    But my guess is that it is possible to stand for what we believe in and win.

    The alternative is as described by David Lawrence.

  • Nick Collins 1st May '14 - 9:56am

    @ David Evans: what problem do you think I and others who share my views would help to solve by rejoining a party which is propping up a government which (to put it at its mildest) we do not support? Perhaps oblivion would now be the best destination for the Liberal Democrats.

  • Steve Griffiths 1st May '14 - 10:35am

    @Paul in Twickenham

    “Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the party.”

    @John Tilley

    “Do you really think you can fight against 90% of the parliamentary party and win? ”
    Chris, yes I do”

    OK folks, so suppose I re-joined: what difference will that make to the Cleggistas? They don’t listen to conference, in fact they only seem to listen to themselves and their advisors. Their advisors only seem to tell them what they want to hear and the Lib Dem parliamentarians (with the odd exception) seem to have affectively had the lid placed on them. Is not Chris right in this respect when he says “Do you really think you can fight against 90% of the parliamentary party and win?

    What is your game plan John? as I have said before to Matthew Huntbach on a different thread a few months back, without party ‘big beasts’ backing you, or being the ‘grey men in suits’ visiting the leader to tell him to go, I cannot see what you can achieve.

  • “Estimates of number of MPs in late May 2015 seem to have slumped to somewhere below 30. That might concentrate the minds of some MPs who have been less than happy for the last 7 years.”

    I can well believe that most Lib Dem MPs would ditch Clegg with as little compunction as they ditched the previous two leaders – IF they thought it would help their chances of re-election.

    But I’m afraid that, in a sense, that would make me trust them even less than I do now. The fundamental problem is that 90% of the parliamentary party have shown so little commitment to what had been presented as the principles of the party. If they turned against Clegg for reasons of self interest now, that would be no real remedy.

  • David Evans 1st May '14 - 10:51am

    Steve – as my old football captain used to say, “There are two sorts of teams. Those who believe they can win and those who don’t. And guess what. They are both right.”

    Liberals have always had to believe they could change things. When they had 5 MPs and the problem was the leaders of the other parties, they believed and for thirty years they worked with like minded people and built and grew. Now it is just the leader of our party who is the problem. He just needs to be sorted out, but that is much easier than sorting out MacMillan, Wilson, Thatcher or Blair.

    The question is, do we have the drive, pride in our values and determination to keep fighting? Paul, John and I still do. The question you have to answer is do you or will you just walk away?

  • “Now it is just the leader of our party who is the problem.”

    If only it were just the leader! The problem is that it’s nearly all the MPs as well.

  • Some way back in this thread Bob Roffey asked me – “Do you think that this is the root of the differing attitudes within Party towards the Coalition? Ex SDP members are likely to be more offended by the Party supporting right wing policies than ex Liberals?.” No, I don’t think that. What I do think is that a substantial section of the Liberal Democrats (not all ex SDP) seem to have regarded themselves as belonging to a party which is a sort of cleaned up version of the Labour Party. No-one calls me “right wing” and gets away with it but I am a Liberal – not a socialist whether coupled with the word “democrat” or otherwise. I have therefore always regarded it as right for us ultimately to go into coalition with either Labour or Conservative if an acceptable deal could be struck. I just didn’t think the electoral arithmetic under FPTP would allow this in my lifetime. Was the deal acceptable? In the context of the desperate economic situation facing us in 2010 – yes. Has the party leadership played its hand perfectly? – no. Has the party leadership played its hand pretty well, given that not one of them had any experience whatsoever of government? – yes. Is the party still worth fighting for, as against any other viable political organisation in the UK ? – resoundingly yes. And by the way, having fought through thick and thin in every campaign since I joined to fight the Orpington by-election in 1962 don’t call me a “pollyanna”.

  • John Roffey 1st May '14 - 12:25pm

    @ David Evans

    ‘ Yes we need them to return. To return in numbers. To return now and to help effect a change before the party sleepwalks into oblivion.’

    David I rejoined the Party last year – after resigning because of what was being agreed to under the Coalition agreement. I expected to see the first signs of major reforms, given the significant drop in poll ratings from the time of the GE – but resigned when there did not seem to be the remotest chance of this happening.

    During my brief return I argued that a Party which is, theoretically – the main centrist party – should be the natural party of government and needed to see itself as the ‘People’s Party ‘ if it were to realize its potential. I still hold this view, but like Chris – I do not believe that many of the Party’s MPs [who are in control] are interested in much beyond their own careers. They will agree to changes if they believe their own seats are under threat – but only at the margins.

    To think that, UKIP, a right wing party , is now considered the ‘People’s Party’ – gives some idea of the root and branch reforms that are needed if the Party is to realize a fraction of its potential.

    Clegg is without doubt a huge problem, but if such reforms are to take place there needs to be a mass exodus – for if the majority stay loyal as you suggest, the parliamentary party will simply continue with their ‘self interested’ approach to Party matters.

    Thoroughly discussing policies with all members before they were adopted, to ensure majority support, and sticking by them would help – so that this type of humorous, but true, accusation could not be directed at the Party.

    Cledge: a promise that is not meant to be fulfilled:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100262125/cledge-a-promise-that-is-not-meant-to-be-fulfilled/

  • @ Chris, Steve Griffiths, John Roffey
    I think it is extremely unlikely anything will change before the general election (some people are more optimistic). However after the General Election assuming we are not in a Coalition Government there will be a need to have a new leader (I think there is a minimum length of membership needed to vote in a leadership election so if people wish to have a vote they will need to have joined before the general election), to look again at all our policies and maybe look at our rules to stop the leadership ever ignoring the membership again.

  • John Roffey 1st May '14 - 2:41pm

    @ Amalric

    I made my comment here and put my views on the members forum [when I was a member] – because I believe the nation and its people are in desperate need of a People’s Party and that this is not as right wing as UKIP [left of center is probably nearer the mark]. However, having put forward my views on the members forum I was astonished to find so few members entering the [or any] discussions.

    It was as if the Party had died at its very heart – I shall not be returning until I see some signs of life returning!

    I am not very optimistic.

  • Steve Griffiths 1st May '14 - 4:29pm

    David

    “they believed and for thirty years they worked with like minded people and built and grew. Now it is just the leader of our party who is the problem.”

    Indeed, I was one of them and we never lost the belief that things would come our way in the end – and the rest is history. You use a football team analogy, fair enough; a team has to believe it can succeed, but a team also needs a game plan through which their goals can be achieved. I ask again, what is that plan; who will write it and who are the key players?

  • I think the “plan,” if one can call it that, is to lose, and to keep losing, until the membership (or what’s left of it) finally decide they’ve had enough and sack the so-called leadership. Of course, if that fails, then the Liberal Democrats will continue as a tiny niche party of wealthy libertarians who, for one reason or another, don’t wish to be identified with the Conservatives.

  • David Evans 1st May '14 - 4:48pm

    Steve – What is that plan – replace Nick before he destroys what is left of the party; who will write it – each player will write and play their own part; and who are the key players – everyone who is prepared to join in.

    Ultimately, don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. Just do it. I’m sure you can think of a lot of things that would contribute 🙂

  • Richard Dean 1st May '14 - 5:02pm

    Oh no! The plan is definitely not to replace Nick. The plan is to continue having this dispute within the party about replacing him. A party in internal dispute is unattractive to an electorate, and is hamstrung in developing coherent policies that can be realistic alternatives to those offered by others.

  • @ John Roffey “I made my comment here and put my views on the members forum [when I was a member] – because I believe the nation and its people are in desperate need of a People’s Party and that this is not as right wing as UKIP [left of center is probably nearer the mark]. However, having put forward my views on the members forum I was astonished to find so few members entering the [or any] discussions.”

    I couldn’t see your comment in the member’s forum about the need for a People’s Party.

    “During my brief return I argued that a Party which is, theoretically – the main centrist party – should be the natural party of government and needed to see itself as the ‘People’s Party ‘ if it were to realize its potential.”

    Maybe the reasons no one engaged in debate with you are that you are using a term which is used by right wing parties (and in Britain Neo-Nazi ones), you have not been clear in defining what you mean and your point was in a long post where its impact was lost.

    Personal a party called the People’s Party does not appeal to me. I am interested in a party that has policies based on Liberalism. If you have suggestions on how to make liberal policies popular then I would be interested in reading them.

  • John Roffey 2nd May '14 - 7:27am

    A People’s Party, would be one that served the needs of the majority. It would be liberal – in that it would respect individuals rights and freedoms and it would be democratic – in that it would seek to introduce laws that were supported by the majority and repeal those that were not.

    It most certainly would hold a referendum on our membership of the EU – if that was what the majority wanted!

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '14 - 8:52am

    John Roffey

    Do you think that this is the root of the differing attitudes within Party towards the Coalition? Ex SDP members are likely to be more offended by the Party supporting right wing policies than ex Liberals.

    I have been writing at length about this in another thread, see for example my comment here.

    If you, John Roffey, believe that Liberals at the time of the merger with the SDP were more right-wing that SDP members, you are completely wrong. You are a victim of a nasty propaganda exercise by the free market inflitrators trying to steal the word “liberal” by rewriting history.

  • John Roffey 2nd May '14 - 10:27am

    @ Jedibeeftrix

    ‘An important distinction from what the lib-dems are today; whereby it deliberately colonises minority opinions becuase they are not already occupied by the major parties.’

    Yes – that is my point. The Party has been opportunistic for some time – that is why it makes so many ‘Cledges’ [see above]. This was not so apparent to the wider audience when it had no role in government, but since it has been in the Coalition and under much greater scrutiny – it has become very obvious.

    The further it strays from its roots – the more likely it is to poll support of 6, 7 or 8%. If it remains true to its roots – its support should remain solid and steadily grow into the People’s Party – and I would argue – the natural party of government.

  • John Roffey 2nd May '14 - 10:38am

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    Ex SDP members more left wing than ex Liberal members?

    It was a genuine question – I did not believe it to be the case – I did not know. I had been satisfied by Nick Collins response – which I thought sound.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '14 - 11:49am

    John Roffey

    Ex SDP members more left wing than ex Liberal members?

    It was a genuine question – I did not believe it to be the case –

    So why did you ask the question?

    The thing is I am finding this coming up time and time and time again – this assumption that discord in the Liberal Democrats today between those who advocate economic policies similar to those of the Conservatives and those who are opposed to that sort of economics reflects the way the party came into being as a merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP. with the assumption that the Conservative economics people stem from the Liberal side and their opponents stem from the SDP side. I am finding that many people who are not old enough to remember how politics was in the 1980s just take this for granted, they write as if it is an acknowledged truth.

    Yet not only is NOT true, the truth was actually the OPPOSITE of this – although there was a lot of overlap, Liberal Party members at the time tended to be more LEFT wing than SDP members on economic issues, not more right wing. I write this as someone who was an active member of the Liberal Party in the 1980s and voted against merger – one of the reasons being that I found the SDP too right-wing.

    So common is this assumption that is the opposite of the truth, so often does it get made here in Liberal Democrat Voice, that sometimes I have to go back to look at some of my old pamphlets and articles from the time to convince myself that I am not going mad, that it really is as I remember it. One of the most obvious things on historical record which shows the truth is the opposite of what many assume is the “Dead Parrot” document which almost wrecked the merger on its first day. This came about because the leaders of the two parties were asked to produce a statement on policy at the time of the merger – and the SDP produced one full of right-wing economic ideas that appalled many Liberal Party members.

    Even if you did not believe what you wrote to be the case, the very fact that you wrote it, and in a way that made it seem like it might be just a rhetorical question stating what people knew to be true, or something you believed to be likely but wanted confirmation of helps spread this belief in the opposite of the truth. Someone who read what you wrote but did not wait to see the reply would have been helped to believe this opposite of the truth by reading it.

    If so many people have been led to believe the opposite of the truth, that is surely a very worrying thing. It seems to me that it is the result of a determined effort of a group of people who are small in number but well-paid by those who have an interest in paying them to spread this idea, who have been trying to capture the word “liberal” and get it to mean “supporter of extreme right-wing economics”. I find the underhand way this has been done appalling, it’s the sort of deliberate rewriting of history that has been the mark of some of the most illiberal people and regimes this world has suffered. I therefore believe that anyone who helps them with this re-writing, even inadvertently as in your case, needs to be admonished for it.

  • @ John Roffey
    “A People’s Party, would be one that served the needs of the majority. It would be liberal – in that it would respect individuals rights and freedoms and it would be democratic – in that it would seek to introduce laws that were supported by the majority and repeal those that were not.”
    And
    “The further it strays from its roots – the more likely it is to poll support of 6, 7 or 8%. If it remains true to its roots – its support should remain solid and steadily grow into the People’s Party – and I would argue – the natural party of government.”

    The Constitution of the Liberal Democrats is democratic. The problem is that it doesn’t hold to account those elected to public office very well.

    In the nineteenth century when the Liberal Party was the natural party of government it appealed to particular sections of society – the non-conformists, industrial businesses and social reformers. However a party that just wants to do what the majority wants is likely to not remain true to its principles and maybe Liberal Imperialism is a nineteenth century example.

    I am not sure that “respecting individual rights and freedoms” is an exclusive liberal principle. Liberalism is not about respecting, it is more proactive, it about protecting. Part of this is protecting minorities from the majority. Once the idea becomes established that the majority can dictate to the minority you have the breakdown of a liberal democracy (this might have been the problem in Egypt).

    Benefit cuts might be an example of a popular policy that is illiberal because a liberal policy would protect the sick, disabled and unemployed from an over powerful state that is determined to reduce their liberty, freedom and in some cases their general well-being.

  • Nick Collins 2nd May '14 - 12:05pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach. Hear, hear.

  • John Roffey 2nd May '14 - 1:31pm

    @Amalric
    ‘I am not sure that “respecting individual rights and freedoms” is an exclusive liberal principle. Liberalism is not about respecting, it is more proactive, it about protecting. Part of this is protecting minorities from the majority. Once the idea becomes established that the majority can dictate to the minority you have the breakdown of a liberal democracy (this might have been the problem in Egypt).’

    I had hoped you would raise this approach of, what appears to be, many Party members. This may be the conflict between ex Liberal Party and ex SDP members. Protecting [minority] individuals rights against democracy – the will of the people.

    The case of benefit cuts is a good example because this did become a popular policy – I would argue, but only after a vicious propaganda exercise by, in particular, the Tory press. Had an opinion poll been conducted before a range of extreme examples of benefit abuse had been regularly featured in this press – I would have been surprised to see the majority for these cuts, or if so by the barest of margins.

    That said, however, at least the attempt was made to win majority support for the Coalition’s intended action – this I would argue is significantly better than actually passing a law to protect a minority unless the majority have been won over first. Introducing such legislation, in my view, is tantamount to dictatorship or perhaps simply lazy. The hard work of convincing the majority of the rightness of the proposed law must be done first. In this way the Party will maintain a solid level of support.

    It is true that the electorate is quite fickle and can be won over to support even the darkest of legislation, but this is mostly due to the fact that perhaps only 20% take a real interest in politics and the remainder are not in a position to be able to recognize extreme propaganda. This in turn has been caused by the mainstream political parties disconnecting with the people – which has caused them to lose interest in politics and distrust politicians.

    This is why I support the introduction of a limited form of direct democracy. If the electorate saw they could restrict or change the proposed actions of government between general elections – their interest would soon return.

  • John Roffey 2nd May '14 - 1:42pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    ‘Ex SDP members more left wing than ex Liberal members?

    It was a genuine question – I did not believe it to be the case –

    So why did you ask the question?’

    Kindly quote me in full – particularly when this avoids you in having to post a long winded response which is not needed.

    My reply was: It was a genuine question – I did not believe it to be the case – I did not know. I had been satisfied by Nick Collins response – which I thought sound.

    This is what I asked of David Evans when I first raised the issue:

    Do you think that this is the root of the differing attitudes within Party towards the Coalition? Ex SDP members are likely to be more offended by the Party supporting right wing policies than ex Liberals.

  • Nick Collins 2nd May '14 - 2:43pm

    By the way, when I joined the Liberal Democrats in 1994 (having lapsed my membership of the Liberal Party in 1983) the views of former members of the Liberal Party, former SDP members and Liberal Democrats who had joined the party post-merger seemed to overlap so completely that an individual’s pre-merger allegiance was not obvious unless they chose to declare it.

  • @ John Roffey
    “Protecting [minority] individuals rights against democracy – the will of the people.”
    Protecting minority rights is liberalism.

    “I would argue is significantly better than actually passing a law to protect a minority unless the majority have been won over first.”
    It was liberalism that supported Catholic Emancipation in 1829 even when it was unpopular in England, Scotland and Wales.

    “The hard work of convincing the majority of the rightness of the proposed law must be done first.” I agree that work does need to be done on convincing the majority of the “rightness” of Liberal Democrat policies. I expect when there were liberal newspapers this was easier than it is now. It is particularly difficult now and many Focus’ editors do not try to do this.

    Direct democracy is a difficult thing. It has a certain appeal. I once played a political game online and I advocated direct democracy for the particular “grouping” I was in. I argued that because everyone playing had an interest in politics then everyone should decide on what “legislation” was passed. I argued that in a small community where most people were committed to being involved in the debate then direct democracy is a good thing. The alternative argument is that where those making the decision don’t have the time to take part in the debate and be informed on the issues then they should elect representatives who will have the time to be informed. A blog that was recommended here recently http://andrewhickey.info/2014/04/24/brief-thought-on-ukip/ contains a post by Andrew Hickey that argues the case well for a representative democracy.

    Maybe a better solution would be annual general elections as the Chartists called for.

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