Our message to the nation following the EU Election results

What a great night it was for those who want us to remain in the EU, working for a better Britain, a better Europe and a better world.

The result presents a challenging opportunity for us. Are we up to it?

It will be a challenge to convert the Stop Brexit voters into our true supporters and activists.

It’s a challenge to outdo the Conservatives in taking on the Brexit party’s claim to represent the nation, constantly reminding people that the total vote share for remain (40.4%) was greater than Leave (around 34.9%). We need to repeatedly remind people that the Brexit Party started not from nothing, but from a large UKIP platform, with its discriminatory elements and empty promises based sorely on anger at an unfair system.

It’s a challenge to out-do the Labour party in its claim to represent ordinary workers, whose best deal is within the EU and developing our people’s skills in a less centralised UK.

The opportunity is there to state more clearly the case for remain, for improvements to the EU, for stepping up the use of our power within the EU, for our power and influence in the world for justice and peace, for dealing with inequality and migration in the UK and the world and for dealing with huge world economic entities and the environmental crisis.

We must share the Green’s passion for Green issues, but show this is an issue for good business as well as the environment and that we have a large range of policies which outdo the greens.

It will be an opportunity to show the weakness of the Brexit and Conservative parties on all these.

We must tell people we are no longer a party of the establishment but want to change the way we do politics, like the electoral system, the Lords, the highly centralised government, the need for more challenge by Parliament to Government and especially that we believe in localism as well as internationalism.

We must show people both the Brexit and Conservative parties have no solutions that will benefit everyone equally and we must show that Labour has little clue how to lead in a clear economically sustainable and viable direction that really serves people’s needs. All three of these parties believe in heavily centralised government. The time has come to tell people unequivocally that Labour and Conservatives no longer have what it takes to lead our nation forward and the Brexit party has no clue.

So I am looking to our party’s leadership from today to speak out clearly, simply and challengingly about this in the next few months.

* Nigel Jones is currently secretary of Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats and the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Education Association.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 29th May '19 - 9:12am

    At federal conference Catherine Bearder MEP said that we must not allow the leavers to claim patriotism uniquely. She was wearing a union jack scarf.
    Liberal Democrat leadership candidates should pick up this point because it is about the national interest.
    In particular leaving the EU with no deal would cause unemployment and bankruptcies nationwide.

  • Last Thursday roughly 5.25M people voted for The Brexit Party. Contrast that with over 6M people signing the petition to revoke Article 50. That statistic should be thrown in Nigel Farage’s face every time he speaks.

  • I’m intrigued by this comment:
    “We must tell people we are no longer a party of the establishment but want to change the way we do politics…….”
    Well that sums up in a sentence why I joined the Liberal Party in 1974!

    It is also exactly the pitch that we made after the Liberal Party merged with the Social Democratic Party in 1988, a difficult sell to start with but by 1990 that message was starting to resonate. I’ve just read the articles about Paddy Ashdown in the Journal of Lib Dem History, and one thing that stands out is that he did not lead by playing a “fuddled fiddle in the muddled middle.” As leader he took positions that were not immediately popular, like a tax increase to fund education, support for the Hong Kong Chinese, and in particular Bosnia. Charles Kennedy consolidated the gains as Leader and also took a strong stance against the Iraq War (again not initially a popular stance).

    As a party we need to stop being in denial about what happened after 2005. Some of our then MPs threw away the strongest base we had built for over 100 years and became seduced by the very establishment we should have been fighting.

    We have had a huge success on being clear about an issue that was a Liberal policy since Grimond’s time, and also a key factor in the founding of the SDP. We need to build on that success, but we must clearly show we have returned to our radical, campaigning roots, that we do want to change Britain for good, and can no longer be dismissed as ‘Tory-lite.’

  • David Becket 29th May '19 - 10:11am

    @ Nigel

    “Stop Brexit” and “Out Now” won, the latter had a bit of excitement from Farage.

    I was wrong to criticise the B…. to B…. slogan. This result has shown us that the public wants short, unequivocal messages promising action with some excitement.

    Nigel is right to identify the exciting opportunities open to us, but are we up to it?

    For a start it means out with turgid press releases on every subject under the sun, meaningless strap lines like “demand better” and promoting of esoteric issues.

    It means positive statements,, a few key action messages, e.g.

    • End austerity – remove inequality.
    • Save the Planet
    • End homelessness
    • Education for the 21st century
    • Protect our NHS
    • Fair Taxation
    • Reform our democracy

    Plus in the short term STOP BREXIT

    Under each heading you would find a summary of policies, which could lead you down to the detail. Our web site should be constructed so you can hit on one of the key issues and trickle down

    It is concentrating on key issues that win council seats, why cannot our central party learn.

    Excitement is difficult; we have had little positive excitement since the days of Paddy and Charles. Possibly through an outgoing president who looks to the public rather than internal party matters. (NOT an MP). A little humour from leaders would help.

    As Nigel identifies the opportunity is there, can we seize it? It would be helpful to have an input from our potential leadership and president candidates.

  • Peter Martin 29th May '19 - 10:20am

    @ pmknowles

    “Last Thursday roughly 5.25M people voted for The Brexit Party…..6M people signing the petition…”

    We can all play around with numbers to suit our purposes. More people voted Leave than turned out to vote for all parties combined for the EU elections for example.

    The low turn out can’t IMO be just put down to apathy. I’ve never voted in the EU Parliament on principle and I don’t intend to start now. I don’t have any problem with European Free Trade and even relative freedom of movement. People have always moved in and out of the UK from Europe and no doubt they always will. But, why do we need an additional tier of government to be able to swap Scotch Whisky or Jet engines or whatever else we make, for French wine and German cars?

    And what happens if the EU Parliament and the UK Parliament disagree? Who has the final say? There’s no way there can be a compromise on that. It has to be one or the other. It’s either EU law or UK law.

  • @Richard and Steve: patriotism is a loaded word, but in so far as Brexiteers use it, I would agree that we must claim to be patriots. Image matters, though using flags depends very much on the context; using the union Jack alone can counter the incorrect image our party has among many groups of people.
    @pmknowles: a good point, plus the march of nearly a million people in London.
    @David Becket: I hope you have not missed my point about the case for Remain; simply calling for Stop will not be enough, we must now say why in a simple summative way. I agree about our party website; I occasionally meet people who say they looked up what we have to say on certain major issues and cannot find it, though nowadays this has to be combined with messages on facebook with links to the website.

  • nigel hunter 29th May '19 - 10:38am

    Only a third of the voters, voted. Is it still ‘a curse on both your houses’?There is a lot to fight for, uniting leavers and remainers. The present chaos in Labour and Tories will be sorted out. The battle will then get harder. Campaign for PR so that the people are better represented more. At the moment centralised Govnt. which is controlled by only one party and therefore its voters has to be changed.

  • @David Becket: your point about excitement reminds me of an article by John Grace in the Guardian yesterday where he says the Liberal Democrats often do not look as though they are keen to win.
    @Peter Martin: statistics often do not prove a point, but there is no harm in correctly using them to support an argument. As to the EU Parliament, surely we want an institution which rules over certain areas of our activities to be democratic; how an institution that brings together 28 countries can exercise that democracy is a matter for debate. It only rules a small part of our activities; Welfare, Transport, Education, Health and Social Care, Tax, Crime and Justice are among so many areas where we make huge amounts of our decisions within the UK and even the EU directives on certain issues leave large areas of detail for us to decide.

  • William Fowler 29th May '19 - 11:02am

    Lot of individuals in Euro countries want to be in the EU because they see it as protecting their rights against their own government,,, this point never seems to arise in the UK, partly down to our history and possibly down to successive governments not being keen on that concept but it does seem worth pursuing whilst the main parties go towards the extreme left and right, threatening the rights of individuals albeit in different ways.

  • “constantly reminding people that the total vote share for remain (40.4%) was greater than Leave (around 34.9%).”

    I think your maths is a little off
    The combined vote share for brexit was 44% (Brexit Party, UKIP & Conservative) unless you are somehow going to argue that the Conservative party is no longer the party of brexit.

    So the combined vote for leave was 4% HIGHER than remain, which coincidentally is the same as what it was in the referendum.

  • David Becket 29th May '19 - 11:44am

    As the Guardian pointed out the leavers have a figurehead in Farage, Remain does not have a figurehead. That has been the problem all along, Remain has no figurehead.

  • Sue Sutherland 29th May '19 - 11:59am

    I think your list is great David Becket but I would add, protect people who are down on their luck. I’ve been thinking about a different slogan which the party used in the Euros: give Farage the bird, with our bird logo displayed.
    So your list could be
    Give austerity the bird
    Give global warming the bird
    Give homelessness the bird
    What do you think?

  • Neil Sandison 29th May '19 - 12:05pm

    good article by Nigel which i think it demonstrates that clear and direct policy that does not sit on the fence is where we should be going .Noted 11 proven failures in not getting a message across have come forward for tory leadership race . Lets hope in our own leadership race clarity and honesty will be our watchwords .

  • @matt: if you are going to include Conservatives in the calculation of remain or leave votes, then you must also include Labour. However, the main point is that including these is guesswork. In the Guardian they have done such a guesstimate and concluded for what it’s worth, the number of votes for remain is still higher than leave.

  • @Nigel Jones

    Im afraid I disagree, you cannot have it all ways.
    You have argued all along that Labour has sat on the fence, so therefore we can discount whether they stand for leave or remain.
    However, the same cannot be said for the Tories.
    They are the ruling Government, they stood on a manifesto that promised to deliver BREXIT. It is the Government policy to deliver BREXIT.
    The significant portion of remain inclined tories voted Liberal Democrat in these eu elections.
    You cannot discard the Tory % from these calculations when they are a party of brexit.

    It makes the party look silly when it tries to manipulate figures in this way to support its arguments and people can see straight through it.

    Nobody is denying that the Liberal Democrats did well in these elections, but dont over egg the pudding, or it tends to end up splashing up into your face.

    You may have noticed from the Ashcroft poll it also said
    “81 per cent of Remainers who voted last week say they still want to remain, with 15 per cent now saying the best outcome would be to leave. Among all those voting in the European elections, 50 per cent said they had voted to Remain in the referendum and 45 per cent to Leave; now, 50 per cent said they wanted to leave, 46 per cent said they wanted to remain, and 4 per cent didn’t know.””

  • Has anyone done any research/analysis into the views of the people (the majority of the electorate) who didn’t vote last week? Until there is some, can’t say that “Remain” or “Leave” parties won. In rough figures, 20% of the electorate voted for Remain parties, 20% voted for Leave parties and 60% did neither.

  • Peter Martin 29th May '19 - 1:59pm

    @ Nigel Jones,

    “………the EU directives on certain issues leave large areas of detail for us to decide.”

    OK, But these areas are gradually shrinking.

    The latest one to go is being “allowed” to put our clocks forwards or backwards in summer and winter. We’ll have less autonomy than an Australian State. South Australia and the Northern Territory annoys the hell out of the rest of the continent by insisting on having a half hour increment. They might be the only places in the world to do that. And SA moves its clocks back and to for summer and winter but the NT doesn’t.

    These sort of, some would say, minor issues cause a lot of passion in Australia. The Federal Govt wouldn’t dare take the same high handed approach we get from the EU.

  • Roland Postle 29th May '19 - 6:56pm

    @Peter Martin
    Technically we were not “allowed” to put our clocks forwards or backwards. We’ve been directed to on specific dates since something like 1980 with the dates becoming fully harmonised in the mid-90s (UK & Ireland having different dates to the continent until then). So it’s a somewhat abrupt change rather than a shrinkage in sovereignty and there’s a long precedent for single market timezone planning which doesn’t appear to have ignited passions in the past.

    Still, the change is not agreed yet and several governments are pushing back against the justification for it so perhaps we should just appreciate the interplay between national and supranational bodies on an issue where there’s clearly at least some benefits in a decision being made at a higher level.

    No doubt somewhere in Australia this argument is being deployed: “even the Europeans with 31 different states and complex cultural differences manage to coordinate their clocks, why are we unable to?”.

  • David Becket 29th May '19 - 8:02pm

    The actual headlines need to be thought through, yours are a good example. The point is the party needs to develop positive action headlines rather than meaningless strap lines.

  • I know that there is discussion about summer time in the EU. The reality is that the U.K. is part of the EU. Decision making between sovereign countries is between governments. What is the U.K. approach to the discussion. Why can’t we have the democracy in our country that we have in Europe?
    If we are to have different arrangements to the rest of Europe, or if we are not, there should be proper consultation in our country – in good time to influence others.

  • Nigel Jones 30th May '19 - 1:17pm

    The most important aim of my article was for an overall package of action messages, conveying the direction we wish our nation to take. One that is often missing is summed up as ‘We believe in localism as well as internationalism’.

  • Peter Hirst 31st May '19 - 3:53pm

    It’s a fine dividing line being between a protest party and setting ourselves up as an establishment one. It’s one we should straddle as we need to appeal to as broad a range of the electorate as possible. We must be an exciting part prepared to explore new ideas by way of pilots and allowing for instance councils to choose their form of governing and fundraising.

  • Bill le Breton 31st May '19 - 4:13pm

    There is a danger of behaving like a team that decides to go home at 8.30 to change into suits for the count.

    Far better to prepare as if remain/revoke is 5 points behind. Which, given differential turn out and the ability of Brexit Party to campaign very effectively and actually more effectively than remainers, is probably nearer the actuality.

    The only task in Town is halting the movement Farage is building and that can ONLY be stopped by the concentrated campaigning force of a Liberal Movement. One that doesn’t yet exist but which has the potential under the right leadership to grow and grow in strength and momentum.

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