Our party’s not for merging

It has been possible to welcome The Independent Group’s eruption onto the British political stage without thinking of throwing in the towel and leaving the ring to them.

They seem to have helped stir up both the Government and the Shadow ministers to move   from the entrenched positions which had been vainly criticised by so many.  If so they have done some service to the country, even though their voting power in the Commons is as limited as is our own party’s.

Nonetheless, seeing the immediate popularity of this novel group while our own national poll ratings fell below 10% was hard to take. Even though the new group is tiny and not yet a party, some Liberal Democrats then decided that this is not like the other mini centrist parties we have seen briefly rise and as quickly disappear, but a genuine rival to us. The game is up at last, some seem to have sadly concluded, perhaps worn down by the continuing failure of the voters to appreciate us.

 Many other Liberal Democrats look with astonishment at that idea. We are a party of substance, with history and credibility, with 100,000 or so members and maybe 2000 councillors, a party with a credo and policies to match our beliefs, with structures and a programme of well-attended open meetings. What is The Independent Group compared with all that? What could it offer even if it becomes a proper party? Can the founder members even agree on a programme?

Ah yes, but President Macron of France and his party arose from very little in a very short time, despairing members may say. Ah yes, we can retort, but the valiant eleven have no such outstanding charismatic figure to lead them. (Charismatic figures being rather lacking in British politics in general these days.) At least the breakaway Social Democrats of the Eighties had three well-known figures for their rebellion from Labour.

Yet in one way the eleven new rebels of TIG have a greater significance than did the Gang of Four. They may turn out to be more than a stone thrown in the turgid waters of our politics to cause ripples, more like a rock dislodged from a dam which could undermine the whole blocked edifice.

That is because they come from both the two main parties, not just one as the Four did. And they have broken free at a time when both the major parties are cancerous, and each led by an individual unable to remove the cancer. Jeremy Corbyn’s party is afflicted with the plagues of Far-Left Socialism and Anti-Semitism. Theresa May’s party is diseased by Far-Right thinking which upholds unbridled selfish capitalism. Both leaders appear to be under the influence of these destructive minority groups.

That situation suggests opportunity for dozens to follow the brave pioneers and perhaps form a strong new party. Yet that is nothing for us to fear. Ours is a healthy and united party, and already new polls suggest that we and TIG together, with the Greens and some others, have potentially more voting appeal than does the Labour Party today. 

If the new group does become a successful party, there should I believe be no question of a merger between us. To be open to discussions and possible working together, perhaps forming an alliance nationally and pacts locally, would be fine, but not a merger.

That is because the solidity and lasting value of our individual party lies ultimately in one word – Liberalism: the third great political idea that equates with Conservatism and Socialism.  Liberalism is the bedrock of our party, its historic root and its strength, the fortress from which we can sally forth unafraid to continue our fight for the good of our country and the world. We can share our fortress, but must never give it up.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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104 Comments

  • Very well said Katharine. This is exactly how I feel. Of course co-operation, but we should approach that with confidence in ourselves, based on what we bring to the table.

  • John Roffey 2nd Mar '19 - 12:55pm

    Katherine – I do appreciate that yours is an effort to lift the spirits of Party members – who since NC’s leadership have good reason to be downhearted.

    However, unless it is recognised that the root of the problem was NC’s insistence that the Party risked all on trying to reverse the Brexit result – it is unlikely to recover for at least a generation [if then].

    It seems to me that the failure for this policy is that ‘it simply is not cricket’ to try to overturn the result of the referendum [even if you suspect ball tampering!]. NC admitted he did not feel British/English – and therefore would be unlikely to understand the cricket analogy.

    If the Party is to recover and play a significant role in UK politics, once again, it seems to me that VC and any of the other MPs who believe that Brexit is the most important issue of our time should join TIG. Leaving the Party to have a leadership election in preparation for the next GE.

    I would add that Climate Change is rapidly being recognised as the most important issue of our time – thanks to the children’s protest movement – and not least because we have reached a point where only 5% of climate scientists believe that human extinction before the end of the century will be avoided. [Because the banks and global corporations – the Deep State – have taken control of the political process].

    Why it’s time to think about human extinction | Dr David Suzuki
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktnAMTmgOX0

  • Scott Berry 2nd Mar '19 - 1:06pm

    I think this raises two questions; firstly do TIG (or some members within it) share our Liberal views.
    Secondly if we don’t merge we have to be aware that we have always picked up votes that are more centrist, so to what extent if it does develop into a party does this threaten our vote?

  • Paul Holmes 2nd Mar '19 - 1:14pm

    It astonishes me that so much is written about the TIGs, both here and across MSM and Social Media in general, without actually asking about their policies. Or currently their almost total lack of policies. At the moment what unites them is a) They oppose Brexit b)They dislike May/Corbyn c) Most of them were facing deselection at the hands of their Constituency Parties. Not exactly a long lasting Manifesto.

    What are their policies? What are they for as opposed to what are they against? They certainly do not seem to be in favour of cross Party working since so far their response amounts to “everyone else should close down and join their rather vague grouping instead.”

    As for ‘Charisma’ in political leaders I have always found this a very dubious reason to decide your political allegiance on. Partly because as a Historian I studied and taught about far too many charismatic tyrants and far too many charismatic con artists. Partly because of the real life political figures I have observed at first hand during 36 years of political activity including 25 years in elected political office from Parish Council to Parliament. How are charismatic Trudeau and Macron doing currently?

  • Paul Barker 2nd Mar '19 - 1:20pm

    I don’t understand why anyone would even talk about merger, what would be the point ? The Tiggers USP is their Newness, especially the novelty of getting MPs to leave both Major Parties at the same time; Merger with an existing Party would throw that away.
    Very few Libdems seem to be interested, its a dead duck. I imagine The Tiggers are encouraging talk of Merger to give the Media reasons to keep talking about them while they wait for more defections, if any.
    Probably the same goes for that story about “Senior Figures” in TIG rejecting the idea of Electoral Pacts, assuming its not just made up.
    Nothing much is going to happen till there are more defections or it becomes clear that there won’t be any. Only then will TIG become a Party & talk openly about Electoral Pacts.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Mar '19 - 1:26pm

    This is all true.

    So too it is evident if this party fights the Independent group , it and they shall all lose .

    The same old way shall not work.

    Sir Vince must retire soon. We need Layla Moran as the new figure to lead from the front and discuss how we as a party and this new group can work together.

    They are daft to think they can do anything without Liberal democratic support. Electoral reform is important , so too is an awareness without it the seesaw continues and the country is stuck.

    We as a party can only be we, if the we, includes harmony among and between centre ground , liberals, moderates, social democrats, progressives as and when in elections.

    The party is too stuck in the mud, too ultra liberal, too far from the strong robust one of Kennedy and even Campbell.

    It needs to toughen up and gt real. Fast.

  • Making a decision about anything until the hubris of Brexit has settled down – if it ever does – is far too premature.

    What the party should be doing is to take a good hard look at itslf a new what policies are relevant to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change in the event of Brexit taking place – as well as how it organisems itself. It may well be that a leadership change is also likely this summer.

    Paul Holmes, as an experienced politician who has actually been there and done it, instead just saying the first thing that comes into his head, talks a lot of sense.

    In the meantime rushing into an arranged marriage with the latest fancy thing that comes along could be the final nail in the party’s terminal decline. All that temporarily glitters is not gold. Thus far, Katharine is correct.

  • John Marriott 2nd Mar '19 - 2:07pm

    @Paul Holmes
    Surely you’ve been around long enough to know that, when it comes to a new kid on the block or ‘a breath of fresh air’, many of our voters are just suckers. In an effort to be kind to them I might call it ‘clutching at straws’. In any case, there’s no real room under FPTP, at least in England, for more than three main parties and, even then, the third tends to struggle to gain traction.

    Sadly, ‘policies’ don’t seem to count for most people. What do seem to count are ‘personalities’, courtesy of the media charm school. It’s a kind of show biz really, and with a few scandals thrown in as well. So, how do you change the habits of a lifetime?

    Lorenzo Cherin says that “electoral reform is important”. No, Lorenzo, it’s not, it’s ESSENTIAL if any third party, or fourth or fifth for that matter is to make a real and, above all, LASTING impact. You can pass your motions at conference, go on marches and agonise about what constitutes ‘Liberalism’ if you want and rejoice that tge latest ‘campaign’ has gained you the odd council seat or added a few percentage points to your vote. However, unless you have a level playing field electorally you are quite frankly wasting your time.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Mar '19 - 2:25pm

    Agree here, and lots of agreement, between me, Paul Holmes, David Raw, John Marriot.

    Charisma is more important than lack of, but it is not the issue. I do not think the French president or Canadian pm, are more charisma abundant than, say, Chuka Umunna or Layla Moran. I prefer both the latter, as personalities and politicians, I would have supported the other two despite reservations, it is their movements, parties that count more. I regard the leaders of TIG, Umunna, Berger, Allen, Soubry, Wollastan as real friends.

    The good look at ourselves must lead to more emphasis on inequality of opportunity or outcome, and to the tax avoidance worldwide, this party with the great history of liberal social market involvement, Rowntree, etc., should lead the debate, as openly against rampant corporatist capitalism, as it is against the tyrannical socialism of the third and second world dictatorships and demagogues.

    Electoral reform is indeed a prioritising of fairness, but this country needs to see it as part of a democratisation that our party is seen as not very consistent on, with regard to a crass, STOP BREXIT stance.

    We need a leader and deputy not associated with coalition.

    I like and rate Jo Swinson, but think Layla, Jamie a better leadership to refresh.

  • John Marriott – another old sweat who knows what he’s talking about.

    Sorry about the predictive text typos in my earlier post.

  • David Evershed 2nd Mar '19 - 2:35pm

    The Independent Group is a coalition of Labour and Conservative MPs.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Peter Martin 2nd Mar '19 - 2:50pm

    ” ….mini centrist parties we have seen briefly rise and as quickly disappear, but a genuine rival to us.”

    You can only think the TiGs are rivals if you’re a centrist party too. I would have thought that you might want the Lib Dems to be more of a radical party?

    Where is the centrism doing reasonably well? France? Nope Canada? Not there either! The EU generally? Well that’s lurching to the right. We know about the USA.

    Centrism tends to be popular when things are ticking along reasonably well. But when they aren’t the tendency is for the parties of the left and right to pick up support. People want some kind of change. This is what has happened in the UK. Naturally the right of the Labour Party and the left of the Tory party aren’t happy and they’re jumping ship.

    But they haven’t really go anywhere to go. It will all fizzle out as most of the 11 lose their seats at the next election. There is unlikely to be a centrist revival unless the neoliberal policies that have brought austerity to the UK and the EU are jettisoned. And it’s not, by definition, in the nature of a centrist party to be sufficiently radical to take that step.

    I’m not sure if its possible, but the only way forward for the Lib Dems is to forget centrism and become a radical party of change.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Mar '19 - 2:58pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    I think that at this stage all talk of merger or even a future electoral pact is academic. The TIG group do not seem to want either.

    Check out what senior members of the group have said on this matter. I don’t think that they intend to share the centrist ground that you have so wished for.

  • John Roffey 2nd Mar '19 - 3:22pm

    Should anyone doubt the power of the banks and global corporations – this video makes sombre viewing.

    Bayer + Monsanto = A Match Made in Hell

  • John Roffey 2nd Mar '19 - 3:24pm

    Sorry missed providing the link.

  • Martin Land 2nd Mar '19 - 3:42pm

    TIG. Eruption? More a Boil than a Volcano.

  • Mick Taylor 2nd Mar '19 - 3:46pm

    Katherine Pindar is absolutely correct. We have no idea what TIG stands for or will become. I have no objections to working with fellow anti Brexiteers to stop a disaster for the UK. Does that mean I want to join their group or merge with it? No, it does not. For once, I also agree with David Raw, that it’s far too soon to see what is required in the way of accommodating this group, who don’t seem willing to accommodate us at all!
    In this case, wait and see is the correct response.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Mar '19 - 3:51pm

    Peter

    It ‘s possible to be radical centre moderate centre left, and have solvable and feasible at the core and fore of policy

    Jayne

    The centre ground can veer left when necessary, as for TIG seeking a monopoly of this terrain, if they carry on that way, they are not the answer, they are business as per usual

  • Interesting debate. My observations:-
    1. TIG is described as having no obvious policies. That is true, but talk to most people “in the street” and they would say the same about the Lib Dems, except for those who are aware that they are against Brexit. So that alienates half the population to start with. In that sense, there is commonality with TIG but like other posters say, we don’t know beyond that
    2. A third party (LD, TIG or a combo) in England will be shafted by FPTP at present, because many older people “have always voted Con/Lab” and will revert to this whatever scandals/questionable policies hit off. However, I get the impression that younger people are less tribal and this Con/Lab set piece may not always be the case. Hence the newness of TIG is attractive. I would like to think that we have reached the moment of political realignment that occurs only about every 80-100 years. It could be an interesting time.
    3. Related to the above, the traditional media will always collude with the two party mantra when it comes to it, as that is easier for them, The future is social media and the Lib Dems need to focus on that to declare their existence, not to mention policies, They will never be heard otherwise.

  • jayne mansfield 2nd Mar '19 - 4:21pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    I fear that whether it be FPTP, or a form of PR, with TIG the new kids on the block, the Liberal Democrat Party will finally receive the answer as the core vote for the Liberal Democrat party.

  • chris moore 2nd Mar '19 - 4:22pm

    At the moment, TIG are naive about the difficulties facing third parties in a FPTP system. One or two good opinión polls may only have added to their unfounded hopefulness.

    As thier novelty wears off and opinión polls normalise, they will come to see the value of co-operation with Lib Dems – I presume. If not, well, they’re not going to get very far.

    ( if the two big parties lose far more MPs, we may have to re-think and adapt to a difficult reality.)

    Once we’ve left the EU, we need to win back the large numbers of voters alienated by our clear stance on Brexit, not to mention our unclear stances during the Coalition. We have a real opportunity to move on issues of equality and climate change.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Mar '19 - 4:46pm

    @ JoeB,

    I’m not sure what problem George Orwell had with “Quakers”, “pacifists” and “feminists”. It’s much too late to ask him, but as you’ve quoted him with some approval maybe I can ask you? I’m sure there’s plenty of “fruit juice” drunk by Lib Dems and you’ve (collectively) even been known to wear “sandals” over your socks!

    Sometimes George Orwell says the right things like:

    ““When I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.”

    I’m not sure the Lib Dems thought quite like that when the miners were in conflict with the police some time ago.

    And, credit where it’s due. He did fight for Socialism with the P.O.U.M. (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) in the Spanish civil war.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Mar '19 - 4:54pm

    Given that the Independents come from the Labour and Conservative parties, Liberal Democrats may not find too much meeting of minds with them. On the other hand, since they themselves have to find a meeting of minds with each other, hopefully they may gravitate towards supporting our policies. That might be superficial, since for them to define the ‘philosophy rooted in universal values’ that Joe Bourke says they will need to survive in the long run will be difficult. But again, as we have all of that, as well as the organisation and structures that are needed, they have reason to gravitate towards us.

    However that may work out, I have understood from the academic researches that there is probably a majority of the population in favour of the centre ground of politics, which of course includes centre-left, broad centre and centre-right. As I think Lorenzo seems to infer, we can be radical within that – and we shall perhaps need to be to appeal to the Independents and their supporters – but there is plenty of the centre ground for us to share. (Thank you all for your welcome contributions to this debate.)

  • Peter Martin 2nd Mar '19 - 4:57pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    “It ‘s possible to be radical centre moderate centre left, and have solvable and feasible at the core and fore of policy”

    Yep. That sounds good.

    Mind you, I’m not quite sure what it means and I doubt anyone else too. Which is why political parties like those kinds of sentences in their manifestos.

  • chris moore 2nd Mar '19 - 5:02pm

    It’s poetry, Peter.

  • Peter Martin. Orwell was right, as he was on most things most of the time. I was in Barnsley for the Miners’ strike (and a Parliamentary candidate). I probably gave more support to the miners than the very right wing Labour MP and wrote a chapter in a book on the strike about the conflict with the Police. The poor bloody infantry (I.e. the miners) were abused by both Scargill AND the police – especially by those bussed in from outside. My Liberalism was unsullied by all this – sometimes we have to be clearer as to whose side we are on.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Mar '19 - 6:20pm

    John Roffey: Nick Clegg is no longer part of the UK political discourse. He has not been for about 2 years now. Lib Dem policy on Brexit is not down to him as he was not part leader when that policy was formulated. So why you bring him in is a complete mystery.
    And how is trying to reverse Brexit policy “not cricket”? In a democracy, any policy can be challenged at any time. EVERY vote “overturns” the previous one. Every policy “overturns” a previous policy. That’s how democracy and politics works. Or perhaps in your book, it’s “not cricket” to oppose the elected government of the day (“overturn” the previous election result), and everyone should uncritically support the government.
    And also I thought that in any sport, if cheating was found to have happened, the game was voided and the cheaters disqualified. Perhaps it’s different in cricket, and the results of games stand even if cheating is discovered?

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Mar '19 - 7:16pm

    The rise of Macron and his party is mainly a result of the Presidential system and highly personalized politics of France. Parliamentary elections are held shortly after the Presidential election, during the President’s honeymoon period, making it easy for a new President to assemble a Parliamentary majority. Also although French politics has well-defined left-wing and right-wing blocs, the parties within these blocs change frequently. Many parties are principally political vehicles for a particular politician, and therefore they often don’t last very long beyond their founder’s political career. It is unlikely that Macron’s party will outlast him in politics, for instance.
    So there are no real lessons to be learned in the context of UK politics from Macron’s rise to power in France. Different systems, different political cultures; apples and oranges.

  • The British people made their decision to leave the EU nearly three years ago. The Lib Dems decided not to accept that decision and to campaign for another referendum. I warned at the time that to reject a democratic decision was a vote loser. Three years later, there is no evidence to suggest that I was wrong.

    Now we have another party saying more or less the same thing. The picture is more clouded by allegations of Labour Party racism, but I think that the outcome will be as I warned three years ago. I shall make this updated comment in another three years.

    The Lib Dems require votes in order to gain influence and influence in order to make change in our society. The two major parties have never been weaker.

    But the Lib Dems do not want power. It would be a divergence from the real business which is an exercise in vanity politics, virtue signaling and telling each other that they occupy the high ground in politics. They will not squander that virtue to compete in vulgar politics. A policy to reject the largest democratic vote in the history of our nation rather sums up Liberal Democratic aspiration. Never mind our majority, feel the intensity of our self-satisfaction.

    I’m sorry to make myself so unpopular but I do feel strongly that this needs to be said. As a scientist, I cannot keep ignoring reality.

  • Sorry, Geoff and Joe, Orwell’s long dead – oddly enough – buried in the same churchyard as Asquith. It would be interesting to be an eavesdropper on Hallowe’en.

    To be honest Orwell’s description could be applied to plenty of Liberal Democrats of my acquaintance …. maybe even to those who believe land taxation to be the one unique magic stone necessary to human salvation and a Liberal Democrat Government.

    Discovering Dr Taylor agrees with me (for once, it must be said) is quite discomniverating. I’m going to have to have a lie down and but I’ll try to apply translate Lorenzo’s definition of Liberalism as left hand down a bit but not too much.

    Ps as always, Katharine’s right.

  • I see the latest Opinium Poll in the Observer has the Lib Dems back up in third place on 7% +2, , while the TIGGERS are down to 5% -1. Looks like the gloss is coming off fast.

    ]

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Mar '19 - 8:19pm

    Peter: sorry, but how is campaigning for another referendum to “reject a democratic decision”? By that argument, campaigning against the (democratically elected) government of the day is “rejecting a democratic decision”, and if voters thought that democratic decisions could never be challenged, then every successive election would result in increasing majorities for the party in government.

  • The local elections in 2 months time will reveal the impact the formation of TIG has had on the existing parties. Since TIG have no candidates they should not get any publicity from the news channels during the campaign.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Mar '19 - 9:52pm

    Peter

    The British people made their decision to leave the EU nearly three years ago. The Lib Dems decided not to accept that decision and to campaign for another referendum. I warned at the time that to reject a democratic decision was a vote loser.

    So why don’t you argue against people being able to make claims for repayment of PPI? Why not push the line “People made the decision to pay for PPI, so that’s it, it’s what they agreed to”?

    A lot of people voted Leave saying they did so to protest about the way the free market economy had damaged our country. Ok, so do you think Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg and the other leader members of the Leave movement are the leading opponents of free market economics?

    Some people said there was no problem voting Leave, because the UK could remain having a free trade agreement like Norway and Switzerland. Others voted Leave saying the control of us caused by having to meet what is required to have that free trade agreement is what they wanted to end. Given that the first lot would rather stay in the EU if we couldn’t have that free market deal, and the second lot would say it’s not worth leaving the EU if they keep the control that the free market deal gives them because then we are not getting what they voted for, what actually did a majority vote for?

    If someone voted X because they believed X wold lead to Y and they wanted Y, but your own belief was that X would lead to the opposite of Y, what do you think you should do to provide them with what they said they wanted?

  • John Marriott 2nd Mar '19 - 10:20pm

    @Peter
    “The British people made their decision to leave the EU nearly three years ago”. Well, at the last count the population of the U.K. was around 65.5 million. Now, just remind me, how many people actually voted to leave the EU? (I think most of us know the answer, or we should by now).

    Perhaps I’m being overly pedantic; but even if you subtract those too young to vote, that hardly constitutes a majority. You say that you’re a ‘scientist’, so perhaps you know if there’s a theory, which creates a majority out of the largest minority. You see, although I’m not fan of another Referendum and I accept that more people did vote nearly three years ago to leave rather than remain, I just wish that people would stop trundling out the canard that leaving the EU is categorically ‘the will of the people’.

    I could add that I’m not really a great fan of the EU as it’s presently constituted but, as I’ve said several times, I know on which side my bread is buttered. Life will always be better inside the tent when Donald comes to call with his chlorine washed chicken and hormone fed beef, not forgetting his mates in the ‘health industry’ salivating over large potentially profitable chunks of our NHS. Just what chance would we have if we had to negotiate with him alone, and don’t even think about doing a deal with China?

    In the meantime, I just might be willing to let Parliament take back control, agree a deal, ‘persuade’ the Government to ask the EU to extend Article 50 while we sort out what we really want (my money is on something like Common Market 2.0) and just hope the EU agrees. Who knows? Perhaps, deep down, when push comes to shove, this might actually turn out to be ‘the will of the British people’.

  • Humphrey Hawksley 3rd Mar '19 - 8:38am

    Thank you, Katharine. Superbly argued. The TIG founders have no accessible and vivid top line of who they are and what they want to achieve. Given that each has had more than two years to think about it, they have emerged with a jaw-dropping lack of overarching narrative. British voters are looking for leadership about their nation’s future, the future of Europe and much more. All we have heard from the TIG is what they don’t want. They are a product of the toxic Westminster echo chamber.

  • chris moore 3rd Mar '19 - 9:32am

    Only if many more Labour and/or Conservatives leave their current parties to become Tiggers will TIG have an impact.

    The Tiggers are all individually brave, particularly Luciana Berger who has put up with disgusting bullying and harrassment, whilst many Labour colleagues looked the other way. She’s done the ethical thing and left the party.

    However, they don’t seem to me to offer anything that’s going to galvanise the elctorate, nor do they seem first-rank politicians.

    The Lib Dems should remain coolly positive and think about broadening their own appeal.

    We have to win back the many voters who’ve left us becasue of our very clear stance on Brexit.

  • Richard Easter 3rd Mar '19 - 9:40am

    TIG are simply a number of exiles from the big business / pro-war wing of Labour, mixed with 3 pro-EU Thatcherite ex-Tories + Luciana Berger who doesn’t really fit in with either.

    They continue to defend austerity, privatisation, Saudi Arabia and other failures even now in interviews. They are even more out of touch than the current Tories or Labour Party, or for that matter the Lib Dems, as they are simply a status quo party. Angela Smiths’ “tinge” comment, shows they are as consumed by offensive stupidity as the other parties.

    They are already crashing and burning in the polls – and when they get more scrutiny at the time of a general election – and really start defending everything from privatised water to Saudi Arabia – even disillusioned Labour voters are unlikely to touch them.

  • John Marriott 3rd Mar '19 - 10:04am

    Reading all those ‘serious’ contributions on the state of the Lib Dems reminds me, for some reason, of Lesley Gore’s 1960s hit “It’s my party (and I’ll cry if I want to)”. Can anyone else come up with a few appropriate songs? After all, it is the day of rest.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Mar '19 - 10:28am

    @John Marriott “Can anyone else come up with a few appropriate songs?”
    Party Fears Two

  • Peter Martin 3rd Mar '19 - 11:00am

    @ JoeBurke,

    “His experiences in Spain in the 1930s convinced him that this would require a revolution”

    George Orwell could have been, according to this description, the type of person who he himself is complaining about. The working classes aren’t particularly revolutionary in their outlook. If pressed we’ll stand up for the National anthem! Most Labour Party members would be familiar, in Labour Party and TU meetings, with the revolutionary antics of various Trotskyites who want to turn every campaign into re-run of Russia 1917.

    The conditions are nowhere near the same. We’d be happy enough with then kind of compromise we saw in the post war period, with a return to the mixed economy, full employment, a Social Contract etc. We’ve no problem with those wearing beards, or are into vegetarianism, world music, scooters etc providing they don’t keep trying to turn the conversation to that when we’re talking about football in the pub afterwards!

    Incidentally I was very impressed with Tim Farron’s knowledge of Blackburn Rovers in Celebrity Mastermind the other night!

    I don’t know anything about ‘Tantric Sex’. (except I’ve just looked it up!) What’s your problem with that? 🙂

  • In the meantime who is standing at Newport West, which party, TIG will be one this week, or ourselves, and who is the candidate? I suggest much more important than our pontification on this and that.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Mar '19 - 12:23pm

    @Theakes
    TIG is not yet a party. According to https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/02/independent-group-mps-brexit
    “MPs from the group will open talks with the Electoral Commission on Tuesday to discuss what moves they must take to register as a party that can put up candidates nationwide if the current political turmoil over Brexit leads to a snap election.”

    Until they have registered as a party they cannot stand under a party label. So they would have to have achieved party status before nominations close for the by-election – that will be late next week I think or at the latest the following Monday. I’m not holding my breath.

    The LibDems are reported as saying they will be standing. I assume the candidate selection process is under way at the moment.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Mar '19 - 12:57pm

    Peter Martin and David Raw

    If, like the excellent Chris Moore, you could relate to the poetry as well as the prose, you might have a greater capacity for the actual substance within style

    Truman, said it , we campaign in poetry, govern in prose.

    Words count, they are not , as in an article here, something only too often about a fit into a word count.

    Radical centre and moderate centre left is realistic as well as enthusiastic. Idealistic is fine but gets us not very far too often as not.

    The reason this party and TIG need to respect the other , and both, is , there is a real cry for the mainstream, this party decries it, thus it fails.

    I admire and support Layla Moran, but discipline in schools and gang culture is the problem, not school uniform variations, as long as the leaders like Sir Ed Davey do not support mandatory sentences , a minimum of jail, for carrying knives or corrosive substances, the liberalism in this party makes Liberalism of little appeal.

    People are happy to be radical, radically in tune with people is better than radically out of touch.

  • Joseph Bourke 3rd Mar '19 - 1:09pm

    Peter Martin,

    Orwell was undoubtedly a bit of a crank himself as well as the most talented political writer of the 20th century.
    I think Orwell would have recognised his critique of labour leaders claiming to represent the interests of the working classes in the anti-semitism row currently engulfing the Labour party.
    I like Chis Williamson as an individual, but when he was speaking at a meeting of Labour supporters backing Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled from the party last year after his confrontation with Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth, he said: ‘Some people might find it difficult showing solidarity with Marc, for fear of being implicated, criticised and demonised.

    ‘Well, I don’t give a s***. Certain dark forces are using their power, using their contacts in the media, in order to take out key allies like Marc and others from the struggle.’

    Wadsworth had accused Smeeth of working ‘hand-in-hand’ with a reporter from the right-wing media to damage the Labour leader at the launch of a report on anti-Semitism in Labour. Speaking at the Justice4Marc event in Manchester, Mr Williamson insisted the anti-Semitism dispute had been ‘weaponised’ by enemies of Mr Corbyn.

    He also claimed there was a witch-hunt of supporters of the Labour leader which echoed ‘George Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry of Truth’ and was similar to the actions of the East German Stasi.”

    This is losing the plot stuff and why the Labour party in its current state is unfit to govern.

  • Michael Meadowcroft is correct.

    The internet is ephemeral – the written word in print has more resonance. The party needs something like the New Orbits group in the early sixties producing substantial well researched essays that can be reflected upon and debated.

  • Clearly @Michael Meadowcroft has been at the forefront of advancement of Liberalism in this country in much great work.

    But…!

    I think it is wrong to see another party/grouping that is not liberal as one that we cannot work with to increase liberalism and the number of liberals in this country.

    It is highly likely that I would not be a member of the Lib Dems without the SDP. If I had been old enough I would have voted Labour in 1979 and it is likely that my political activism would have been in Labour. Indeed while following the 79 election avidly I wasn’t even aware that the Liberal party existed! But I became interested in the Alliance and subsequently joined the merged party. I like to think that since those days I espouse liberalism and would have it as my political “label” whereas my first interest was in the terrible conditions for workers that Labour and the Trade Unionism had historically helped combat.

    Millions of people do not wake up one day and think “I know what I am really a liberal, socialist or conservative.” But events such as the forming of a new political party can jolt them into rethinking their position. And may be sadly but understandably people do stand for Parliament for one of the main two political parties when the may actually be at the right or left of their party and indeed more in tune with other parties.

    At a skim reading of the Andorra Liberal Manifesto I would suggest that there is little if anything that the UK Labour or Conservative parties would object to. Clearly there is a difference in approach and emphasis that is uniquely liberal and in this country Liberal Democrat.

    The just managing mum in a council estate or the small businessperson struggling to keep his company afloat probably do not look up from their daily struggle and say “oh gosh I am a Liberal”. And clearly in recent times, some 93% of them have not said “oh gosh I am a Liberal Democrat”. But I believe they are and indeed only the Lib Dems can bring them together where Labour or Tory seek to divide them.

    But not to reach out to people that wouldn’t define themselves if you asked them as liberal or Liberal Democrat whether they are in Parliament or in the country is to allow liberalism and Liberal Democracy to wither and die.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Mar '19 - 2:58pm

    There have been many valuable contributions to this debate, for which I thank people. I continue to think that we should not dismiss the promise of the Independents, as I dismiss the threat: wherever they come from and whatever they have held to in the past, they are surely open to new thinking, but we must wait and see on that, as many have said.

    I want to take up Michael Meadowcroft a little, though your approval as with that of other distinguished Lib Dem thinkers here is much appreciated, and I thank you for the Liberal International manifesto reference, which is good reading. However, I don’t think myself that the Agenda 2020 exercise was ‘a damp squib’. It seemed to me that the development of Liberal Democrat philosophy was well served. I have looked again at Consultation Paper 121, which duly affirmed our liberalism:
    2.4. It is the love of liberty above any other value that marks the liberal out as a liberal.

    But the paper continued, 2.5. Yet we also recognise that people’s ability to realise their own goals is critically affected by their circumstances. Poverty and ill-health, poor housing and a degraded environment, and a lack of education all limit an individual’s life chances and thereby restrict their capacity to be truly free. Social justice matters to Liberal Democrats: we believe it is the role of the state to create the conditions in which individuals and their communities can flourish.

    So the Liberal Democrat philosophy evolved as I believe it should have done, and I suppose that in your many years of service in Leeds, Michael, you will have been successfully carrying out the practical applications that followed naturally from that philosophy. Is it not so? I suggest that to win over the Independents, Liberal Democrat principles can be offered with pride where such philosophical debates arise – beginning no doubt with our Preamble.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Mar '19 - 3:27pm

    @ JoeB,

    You have to ask yourself what is the motivation behind the latest onslaught with anti-semitic accusations against the Labour Party. It’s not antisemitism per se as older people might remember in pre war days. That’s pretty much gone. One of the problems that Jewish people do discuss, if only amongst themselves, is that there are too many mixed marriages. That’s an indication that the Jewish community is well integrated into British society. No-one really cares any more and consequently there is little no stigma involved.

    https://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_ETHN_134_0591–jewish-trouble-mixed-marriages.htm

    They can’t have it both ways, though. Or can they?

    Zionists don’t want Israeli racism to be compared with South African apartheid. That’s their big worry. That’s the intent behind the IHRA definition of anti-semitism.

    Activists can now be targeted simply for disagreeing that the left is antisemitic, or defending someone who has been accused of antisemitism. Denying anti-semitism is itself consider evidence of anti-semitism! How Orwellian is that?

    The real danger is that the assault will make it harder to criticise the state of Israel and that everyone will go along with this.

    Your John Kelly is just as much in firing line. Leyla Moran’s assertion that its possible to back the Palestinian side of the argument, as he does, and not receive accusations of antisemitism is simply b*ll*cks.

    The headline “Apartheid in Israel?” as JK used on LDV 29/07/18 is antisemitic, according to the IHRA definition. I doubt the question mark would be accepted as an excuse. The Labour party is simply making a rod for its own back by accepting it.

  • Joseph Bourke 3rd Mar '19 - 3:28pm

    Richard Easter,

    “TIG are simply a number of exiles from the big business / pro-war wing of Labour, mixed with 3 pro-EU Thatcherite ex-Tories + Luciana Berger who doesn’t really fit in with either”

    What would you have these former Labour/conservative Mps do? Continue to support a Labour leadership that calls terroist organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas their friends. Abstains in a vote to proscribe Hezbollah, a para-military group that has wreaked havoc in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. Openly supports socialist dictatorships like that of Maduro in Venezuela against a democratic socialist like Juan Guaido.
    For the Conservative MPs, it would mean continuing in a party that is dominated by an ERG group determied to recreate a swash-buckling era of free trade and enterprise that never existed in the first place.
    The world of work has changed dramatically in recent decades as the UK has shifted towards a service based economy. What people need (all people – working class, underclass, middle-class, upper-class or no class at all) is a place to live, a means of earning a living and the freedo that allows their families to prosper in a peaceful and ordered society. That is something that neither conservative or socialist ideology will ever be able to deliver.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Mar '19 - 3:55pm

    @ Katharine,

    ” It is the love of liberty above any other value that marks the liberal out as a liberal.”

    OK but you can be a liberal of the right (libertarian) or of the left. I’m not sure what the latter is called but that’s me! You can’t measure a political affiliation on a simple left-right axis. You need at least one other axis too.

    https://www.politicalcompass.org/test

    My point on the chart is, as far as I can remember, the last time I too the test, close to (-0.9, -0.9) You probably aren’t too much different.

  • Richard Easter 3rd Mar '19 - 4:23pm

    “What would you have these former Labour/conservative Mps do? Continue to support a Labour leadership that calls terroist organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas their friends. Abstains in a vote to proscribe Hezbollah, a para-military group that has wreaked havoc in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.”

    I’d be more inclined to take this seriously if they didn’t continually defend and even defer to Saudi Arabia. I’m afraid rather than being principled, they are just in bed with different devils.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Mar '19 - 4:30pm

    @ Katharine,

    PS I thought I’d try to bring my score up to date:

    Economic Left/Right: -9.58
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.33

    That out of 10!

    I’d previously thought it was between -1 and +1

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Mar '19 - 4:41pm

    Peter Martin

    The b word can apply to any who struggle with the IHRA way of seeing antisemitism.

    So often you respond with the same old argument. Wrong on each posting on this even if correct on many or some other subjects.

    There exists on the farther shores of left thinking and unthinking, an antisemitism that is , of course about Israel, but more than that. It shares with Hezbollah and Hamas, hatred of Jews, indeed it includes within the modern Labour party, many extremist Muslim members. You should listen to our fellow member of this party, Maajid Nawaz, often, and then you might get it.

    As well, there exists an anti capitalism which is against the Jews, as it sees them all as rich, bankers, merchants, exploiters.

    These old and new left wing antisemitic attitudes are as big a problem as they ever existed on the right, perhaps worse now.

    John Kelly , like Jimmy Carter, is staunch in criticism of Israel, and strays into the offensive in language as did the former us leader. He does not share the antisemitism, none of the anticapitalist anti Jewish, offensiveness that is wretched and must be stopped and to be luke warm over is what is boll…..s in approach!

  • Peter Martin 3rd Mar ’19 – 3:27pm……..

    Following on,,,

    Leyla claimed that to compare Israel to a South Africa under apartheid was anti-semitic. Apparently one has to distinguish between the state and persons; so to avoid being antisemitic one can only compare Netanyahu to apartheid South Africa.

    I thought the distinction rather narrow. After all, it seems it’s perfectly OK, as she did, to refer to ‘Labour’ as being “institutionally anti-semitic” even though 99.9% of the party aren’t.

    Economic Left/Right: -7.63
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.41

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Mar '19 - 5:32pm

    We should welcome another entry to the centre ground of British politics. Anything that strengthens the middle ground is a good sign. We should work closely together and allow the future to look after itself.

  • Richard Easter,
    most, if not all, Liberal Democrats would condemn the conduct of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen and its human rights record, but they would not call for the destruction of Saudi Arabia (even though its foundation was as controversial as that of Israel’s). The same goes for all those countries committing heinous crimes across the globe, but whose existence is never questioned. So why should that be the case with Israel?
    These Labour activists, by getting in bed with Hezbollah and Hamas are supporting organisations that seek to impose, by force, a theocracy based on sharia law on all Muslims (whether they agree or not). They have as their key ambition the destruction of the state of Israel and the murder and subjugation of Jews (or Christians or insufficiently devout Muslims) living there. That should be unacceptable to any British MP, nevermind the leadership of the Labour party. For a Labour MP of Jewish heritage, staying within a party that has a leadership defending these fanatical Islamist organisations should be out of the question, as it clearly is for these TIG MPs.
    The problem with Israel is voters there keep on putting in the wrong sort of government. Much the same as the problem with the UK.

  • @AlexMacFie – Thank you for your reply.

    At the time of the referendum, the government pledged that there would be only one referendum. It would not be followed by others (as happened in the much ridiculed French and Irish EU referenda.) The Labour party pledged that there would be just one vote. Parliament pledged just one vote. I have no idea what the Lib Dems said.

    It was always known that it would take at least two years from the triggering of A50 before the referendum could be acted upon.

    Agreeing to a second referendum reneges on all of these pledges and destroys trust, democracy and insults the British people.

  • Richard Easter 3rd Mar '19 - 7:04pm

    The point is though, obscene as some of Labour’s people are over Israel and their siding with some pretty nasty people, the same goes for TIG and the siding and support for Saudi Arabia and support for the Iraq war They aren’t principled people either. Hezbollah and Hamas are quite simply nasty. Same however for the House of Saud.

    TIG and the Tories are simply dancing with different devils.

    The left’s willingness to overlook the worst of say Palestine or Iran is no different to the Blairite or right’s willingness to overlook the worst of Saudi Arabia. Same with the Sinn Fein / IRA or DUP / UVF / UDA or Castro and Pinochet.

    The Lib Dems at least aren’t in bed with any of these people and full credit to them.

  • @John Marriott – Thank you for your reply. I have not commented on the rules of the Electoral Commission because they are what they are and there is not much either of us can do about them.

    You support the EU because we are already in it , seems to be the thrust of your argument and outside of it we would be subjected to US practices we do not want.

    Strangely, I think that we are in total agreement but you have no faith in our nation and I am maybe over confident. I see the EU as a failing experiment that is beginning to restrict our nation’s potential and drag us down financially. Also, we are a misfit in the EU for many other reasons.

    I totally agree that any trade deal with the US must respect our wishes and red lines. With respect to chlorinated chickens, I do not know the facts so I cannot comment. I suspect those who are voluble are not averse to swimming in heavily chlorinated swimming pools. Any trade deal must not lower our food standards, but I am not opposed to them being raised. I do not know how we currently treat contaminated chicken, do you? My wife tells me that we must not touch it before we subject it to heat. That suggests we do not treat it at all.

  • Andrew McCaig 3rd Mar '19 - 7:20pm

    Peter Martin,
    I just reconfirmed my position on the political compass as coincident with Ghandi. I am quite happy with that! (you are are rather too extreme to be Ghandi, BTW)

    On this topic, I agree, no merger with the TIGs at the moment, but under FPTP an electoral pact would be a good idea..

    On Europe, we need to stick to our guns. In local elections we already get just as many Leavers as Remainers (I have 1500 surveys to show it). At national level strong Labour Remainers are the main group likely to switch to us, and we need to keep that door open by being more Remain than Labour

  • @Matthew Huntbach – Thank you for your reply. You raise many complications which were not included in the simple “remain or leave” question in the referendum ballot.

    You make the excellent point that many people on both sides of the argument have made extravagant and incorrect claims about all sorts of things. I agree, but I am no expert on these because I ignored them all.

    I make my own research on such matters and do not feel the need to participate in any form of social media where endless advice, misinformation and propaganda is available.

  • Another interesting debate on this recurring subject! I believe that we should be open to both the opportunities and the challenges that TIG could pose for the Lib Dems – and also look to the wider political objectives which we *may* be able to achieve together. However, a cautious welcome is probably the most appropriate response for the time being. As Ian Hurdley aptly remarked, in his comment at 1.12pm yesterday: “One of the besetting sins of 21st century politics is the rush to judgement without seeing evidence”.

    Of course, Lib Dems need to promote our own distinctive values and to defend our proud philosophical heritage – but should do so whilst also reaching out to TIG and others with whom we share certain policy priorities in common … to encourage them to join with us in forming a new coalition of liberal and progressive ideas. From this, some form of institutional relationsihip or electoral arrangement *may* develop over time. However, any such talk would be totally pointless and premature without a clear commitment by TIG to support fundamental electoral and constitutional reform – and until they clarify what else they actually stand for (rather than against) and what they hope to achieve.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Mar '19 - 8:07pm

    Liberals to the right of us, liberals to the left of us, we should surely talk to them all. Peter Hirst says we should welcome any strengthening of the centre ground, and we will hope that the Independents will come to support the principles of liberalism.

    I am interested in the concept of radicalism too. These people say, I believe, they want radical changes in British political life. I think they will still find they need the concept of competing parties in our democracy, and we should press on them the desirability of electoral reform. If radical policies are wanted, we have some to put forward, such as our willingness to tax wealth as a means of tackling inequality.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Mar '19 - 8:42pm

    Peter: We live in a representative democracy. Government pledges have no significance at all. They are certainly not binding on any future governments, nor on anyone not in government. Governments go back on promises all the time, and while it may not be desirable, it does not in any way threaten democracy. The Thatcher government was elected in 1987 on a manifesto which included the Poll Tax as a flagship pledge. During its term, they abolished the Poll Tax. Did this threaten democracy at all? Of course not.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Mar '19 - 8:58pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    You’re saying that its OK to link Apartheid with Israel providing there is no suggestion of anti-capitalism? Presumably you feel John Kelly is sufficiently politically distant from the anti-capitalist left to be immune? That’s an interesting and novel angle but it’s not what its says in the IHRA document.

    This is the section that causes the problem. I don’t see anything much to object to about the rest of it.

    “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”

    This is then interpreted to mean that any use of the word ‘apartheid’ indicates a “racist endeavour”.

    Ergo, JK is being anti-semitic according to the IHRA. Which he clearly isn’t in my view. And neither is anyone to the left of him who might express a similar opinion.

    @ Andrew,

    I’m not sure why I’m considered so far to the left by political compass. I don’t want to use the former East Germany as a model for the UK! I don’t want to nationalise the local sweetshops and cafes! I would take the utilities and railways back into public ownership but there weren’t any questions on that at all.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Mar '19 - 11:43pm

    It’s a credit to the tolerance and magnanimity of the Liberal Democrats, John Roffey, that you are allowed to write patronising nonsense about us on this site. ‘Vanity politics’, is it, ‘virtue signalling’ and ‘self-satisfaction’? So you will allow that some grass-roots do some good work? Thus you make false distinctions between thousands of Lib Dem councillors, would-be councillors and their fellow activists, and our MPs, peers and HQ staff, all working hard for long hours against the odds with ever-stretched resources.

    You don’t become a Liberal Democrat activist for an easy life, still less for a well-paid job. It’s belief, man, dedication, passion for a good cause, striving for people we share this planet with to live lives of peace and security in a protected environment, to own resources including power in their communities, and to have a chance of personal fulfilment. Don’t look for some mythical party to arise, to come galloping over the horizon like the unicorns of the Brexiteers. The party that is needed is here, is here to stay, and is fully worthwhile.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Mar '19 - 1:32am

    Peter Martin

    I did not even suggest what you said, I said JK is offensive, he is not an antisemite, anyway, I do not agree with him nor do I like his use of language.

    It is racist to say the existence of a Jewish state is racism, otherwise why is it ok to have dozens of Christian, Muslim states, but not one Jewish.

    IHRA is fine unless you are an antisemite or anti Israeli fanatic.

    Layla agrees. I agree with her. She ought to know, and does, and knows better than you or I. You are out of touch with what is taking place against Jews.

  • Peter Martin 4th Mar '19 - 8:59am

    @ Lorenzo,

    It’s good we agree that John Kelly isn’t being antisemitic by using the words Israel and Apartheid in the same sentence. The problem arises, as I explained in my comment of 3rd Mar ’19 – 8:58pm, that if we use the IHRA definition, he clearly is.

    Understandably, because he’s a fellow Lib Dem you are keen to offer him a dispensation which you aren’t willing to extend to members of a different party. This you have explained is nothing to do with any perceived anti-capitalism even though you introduced that concept in an earlier comment. I still haven’t quite figured out just what it is to do with. Is it just a subjective judgement? Or there’s one rule for Lib Dems and another for Labour Party members?

    There are an estimated 4000+ religions in the world. There probably isn’t room to offer every one a ‘religious homeland’. Zoroastrians aren’t having a good time of it at the moment. Where are we going to set up their state? And what are we going to do with the people already living there? Are they going to be accepted as equal citizens, with the same rights and obligations, to the incomers?

    Maybe Layla ought to know better than the rest of us. But does she? What about all the people living much closer to the conflict? Maybe they know better than even Layla Moran?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Mar ’19 – 1:32am………….It is racist to say the existence of a Jewish state is racism, otherwise why is it ok to have dozens of Christian, Muslim states, but not one Jewish……………

    A lovely strawman argument!

    No one, as far as I’m concerned, has criticised the existence of Israel. However, is it anti-semitic to call Israel an apartheid state, NO!
    What else would you call a state that passes a law that denies the right to ‘national self-determination’ to 20% of it’s population and declares it “A pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel.”?
    The law removes Arabic as an official language of Israel and declares that Jerusalem “complete and united” is the country’s capital.

    Muslims make up a mere 5% of the UK’s population; what would you call a UK that passed a law that did the sme to them?

  • John Marriott 4th Mar '19 - 9:31am

    As usual, when cerebral matters come to the fore, you can guarantee a good and response. This has been an interesting, revealing and, at times, meandering thread. Katharine obviously knows what excites a lot of people and how, by timely interventions, to keep those plates spinning for a few days longer than most.

    As someone, who was always in my politically active days more interested in actions rather than words (although I used plenty of the latter in the hundreds of FOCUS and election leaflets I produced over more than 35 years – and delivered a good few as well) it never ceases to amaze me how some people can argue the toss over such things as whether so and so is or was a liberal/socialist/antisemite/the new Messiah. Come on, folks, you should get out more and, looking at the times some of you get round to responding to the latest assertion, go to bed earlier!

    Just one thing struck me on this latest philosophical interchange, namely when Katharine’s normal sang froid was nearly punctured by Mr Roffey. Actually, Katharine, what John said about Lib Dems not wanting power has more than a grain of truth in it.

    Having ‘experienced power’ at the end of my political career, albeit as part of a Tory dominated coalition on Lincolnshire County Council, I know that there are many times when you have to compromise and make tough decisions to keep the show on the road and, boy, that’s not been easy in local government in recent years. Similarly, instead of knocking the Tiggers, just consider how they have had the courage to leave their comfort zone to face an uncertain future outside. Perhaps a few Lib Dems should consider a similar move philosophically speaking and stop trying to be so perfect.

  • Yeovil Yokel 4th Mar '19 - 11:04am

    “go to bed earlier!” Anyone would think, John Marriott, that you must once have been a school teacher……..

  • chris moore 4th Mar '19 - 11:16am

    Returning to the original subject of the thread.

    There has been one You Gov opinión poll in particular that has excited TIGgers, and , in my view, given unrealistic expectations of the challenge that faces them to even dominate the centre ground, let alone make an impact on wider politics.

    This had headline figures of Tories 41%, Labour 30% Lib Dems 10%

    When TIG was included the figures were. Tories 36% Labour 23% Lib Dems 6%, TIG 18%.

    Unfortunately, pollees were prompted in the following way: “Imagine the Independent Group put up candidates at the next general election. The Conservative party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and other parties also stand. How would you then vote?”

    I can’t help thinking that framing the question like this will swell TIG’s score considerably.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Mar '19 - 2:09pm

    Peter expats

    Same applies to any party, antisemitism is obvious if it states Israel as a state for the Jewish people who want to settle there, is a racist concept and endeavour.

    There is an anti Jewish hate based on left ideological detestation of capitalism. That does not apply to most Liberals, they are not consumed with hate for any group, nor for capitalism , merely desire a social humane market not a laissez faire one.

    There is antisemitism on the far left and right.

    There is little in the centre, left , or right.

    There is a huge increase on the left of Labour, not point anything per cent, those are the official statistics. Try a read of Labour against antisemitism, twitter, and online facebook pages, the increase is there and in meetings. Tom Watson, all honest, members in the party, know it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Mar ’19 – 2:09pm……..Peter expats…….Same applies to any party, antisemitism is obvious if it states Israel as a state for the Jewish people who want to settle there, is a racist concept and endeavour………….

    So how would you describe a nation that turns 20% of it’s population into 2nd class citizens, downgrades their language, etc. and describes that action as quote, “A pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel.”?

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Mar '19 - 3:51pm

    Thanks, Chris Moore, for returning to the original subject! – our response to the rise of TIG. Being new and fresh and attractive in many ways, it was no wonder indeed that the prospect of them becoming a party excited many people, and as you say the response to the pollsters’ question was likely to be good for them. As Mark Pack reports, the polling between us and them has tended to level out since.

    Yes, I and I think many of us welcome their initiative and admire their bravery, and eagerly want the discussions with them that I am sure our parliamentarians will be pursuing. I hope in particular that our party spokespeople will seek meetings with the individuals on their allocated portfolios. We want them generally to know more about our values and our policies, in the hope that they with their fresh thinking will find themselves ready to be liberals! No doubt we can also learn from them to refresh our own ideas and plans. I hope the discussions will continue at Conference, to which they should all be invited, to talk to us informally and perhaps address fringe meetings.

    But yes, John Marriott,, we do want a share of power, to be able to carry out our policies. I see what you mean and bow to your excellent record in local government, but we want a place again in national government, and hope and trust we shall attain it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Mar '19 - 7:27pm

    John Roffey

    A policy to reject the largest democratic vote in the history of our nation rather sums up Liberal Democratic aspiration.

    As I have already said, what should one do when people say they voted X because they want Y and X leads to Y, whereas you know that X leads to the opposite of Y? Should you support X anyway, knowing it won’t give people what they really want?

    Isn’t this how fraudsters work? They get people to pay for something that won’t really do what they want, then they won’t let them change their mind when they find out what it really means. “They agreed to pay for it, so they must have it” is what the fraudsters love to say. E.g. PPI, people agreed to pay for it, but then it never gave them what they needed. So should we have just said “You paid for it, it’s what you wanted” and refused compensation for it?

    In my experience, most people voted Leave because they were told “It will turn the clock back” – that’s what they wanted. People are unhappy with the way economics since 1979 have changed the way the country works, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and life and careers more stressful. They don’t want the simplistic “free market” economy started by Thatcher, and they think the EU is all about that.

    Except that the those leading the Leave movement are the likes of Johnson and Rees-Mogg: extremist free marketeers who actually want to leave the EU to push things even further that way.

    Why couldn’t our leadership point that out, instead of in reality supporting Leave by saying “it will turn the clock back”? Why do we have a choice in politics between fraudsters and useless types? Why is it that most people at the top seem to think that going on about anti-semitism and islamophobia is so much more important than what used to be the basic element of politics: left-wing meaning helping people who are poor get more equal income and chance?

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Mar '19 - 11:56pm

    Matthew, it’s really good to see you with your clear, logical thinking commenting again in an LDV thread. I share with you a strong desire to have our leaders concentrate on means of helping the poor get a fairer share – and so, for instance, coming back to this theme, that our welfare spokesperson Christine Jardine will rapidly get together with the Independent Heidi Allen to plan how best to fight the iniquities of the present welfare provision in our country, But just as you utter a cri-de-coeur here about what leftist thinkers like us should be focusing on, so I suppose it is emotion that is driving other people to focus on subjects that you and I would rather they would not allow to predominate. In other words, I suppose we can never deny the influence of emotion in political thought and decision-taking, and must allow for its universal partnership with rationality.

  • nvelope2003 5th Mar '19 - 2:49pm

    It is not just the coalition that has brought the party down. Putting forward as candidates people who have been bankrupt for millions of pounds when they might be responsible for the budget of either a local council or the nation is not wise. Who decides these things ?
    Altering the arrangements for disabled parking outside a shop the council own which will force them to make a long walk is unhelpful especially as the disabled parking was not creating a significant problem. There seems to be too much day dreaming and not enough practical action.

  • Peter Martin 5th Mar '19 - 8:56pm

    @ Matthew,

    “They don’t want the simplistic “free market” economy started by Thatcher, and they think the EU is all about that.”

    “They”, if that’s indeed what they think, are quite right.

    The europhile progressive left, both in the UK and in the wider EU generally, are loath to face up to that the so-called ‘four freedoms’ underpinning the European Single Market, which are at the core of the EU, are basic neoliberal constructs.

    It’s puzzling why are elements of europhile centre-left, who in the UK otherwise tend to a-smaller-and-more-local-is better approach , are so insistent on the need to subjugate national autonomy to a pan European supra-national authority and then take the view that this supra-national authority is the only vehicle to be able to deliver progressive outcomes.

    It’s true, in the UK case, that various governments starting with the Callaghan Labour government in the 1970s through to the modern Tory/Coalition disasters have often been outwardly more neoliberal than the other EU Member States. Nevertheless, all Governments are acutely aware of the democratic process. If the choice is between losing elections and allowing a level of expansionary deficit spending we know which way they’ll go.

    The European Treaties, particularly in respect to the euro, are cleverly designed to remove this democratic option. They outlaw expansionary Keynesian economics as we see in Italy right now. Of course, when anyone presents this argument we’ll always get a “ah but we don’t use the euro” counter-argument. As if the fall out from the EZ stops at EZ borders!

    Of course it doesn’t. If the EZ is depressed or consists of mercantilistic economies it isn’t a good market for UK exports. The resultant trade imbalance has to be financed by borrowing and that leads to deficits and debt. This would possibly be OK if we weren’t governed by our own neoliberals who don’t want the Govt to take its fair share of the debt burden and instead push as much as possible on to the private sector.

    Then we have the additional problem that if UK unemployment rates are much lower than EU unemployment rates, we’re going to have a relatively large inward net migration. Whatever our own personal opinions on the desirability of this, we have to acknowledge that it was probably more than a small factor in the 2016 vote.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Mar '19 - 10:04pm

    Cheerful testimony yesterday from our former leader, Tim Farron MP. He wrote, “We (Lib Dem MPs) are speaking with The Independent Group of MPs and hope very much that we will be developing closer relationships and co-operation. Liberal Democrat MPs are very positive about engaging with the new group. We see this as a great step forward in the right direction towards a more open and non-dogmatic approach to politics which puts people before party loyalties. It is, however, early days and we have some way to go before we make big statements about what happens next.”

    Today is the day The Independent Group consulted the Electoral Commission with a view to becoming a political party, so it is good to know of such a positive attitude being shown towards them by our MPs.

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Mar '19 - 7:20am

    “Today is the day The Independent Group consulted the Electoral Commission with a view to becoming a political party”
    There are instructions on the Electoral Commission website –
    https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/political-parties-campaigning-and-donations/political-party-registration

    Are these TIG people so out of touch and accustomed to having everything done for them that they couldn’t between them have found out what to do without having to arrange a meeting?

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Mar '19 - 8:14pm

    ‘Renaissance and reformation” are words that will resonate with everyone familiar with European cultural history, and I recall a history book with that very title. Now I read that President Macron is seeking a new European renaissance, based on ‘freedom, protection and progress’, which would protect Europe’s values as well as its borders. He wants to see off the populists and strengthen the centrists in the EU elections, and proposes there should be a ‘conference for Europe’. bringing together citizens, academics, and business, union and religious leaders. Naturally he deplores ‘the dead-end of Brexit’, so contrary to his (and our) vision of Europe.

    Wouldn’t it be great if , after seeing off Brexit, Liberal Democrats and TIG could join in furthering such a renaissance for Europe, and simultaneously promote a moral reformation in Britain to insist in caring for our most disadvantaged, poorest and most left-behind citizens?

  • Peter Martin 6th Mar '19 - 9:29pm

    @Katharine,

    “Seeking a new European Renaissance” eh? I would have thought he’d have slightly more prosaic matters to attend to first. Emmanuel Macron seems rather arrogant, grandiose, and out of touch with the French population. My Aussie friends would the use the blunter language of “up himself”.

    Anyway, what makes you think he wants to strengthen Europe’s centrists? He’s very right wing.

    https://www.politicalcompass.org/france2017

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Mar '19 - 11:52pm

    Not obvious how you find President Macron to be ‘very right wing’ from the political compass report there, Peter: he’s allowed to be ‘socially liberal’ anyway, and didn’t he serve in a former French Socialist government? At first sight there is nothing to object to in his proposals to strengthen Europe’s mutual defence by establishing a European Security Council, and to fight against attempts to falsify elections through cyber attacks and false news by establishing a European Agency for the Protection of Democracy. Isn’t this a time for fresh thinking, and for reassessment of who may possibly turn out to be allies among those who used to be opponents? (Such as the Independents in TIG, for example!)

  • Katharine, a person can be socially liberal and a Conservative – David Cameron springs to mind.

    As liberals we should believe things should be done at the lowest level possible. I am a strong believer that the UK should not be in the Euro ever and that being in the Euro restricts the freedom of movement of national governments to improve their economies. I am all for co-operation with other countries on fighting cyber attacks and sharing best practice on election law. However, I am not sure if the EU should make laws regarding what people can do on the internet, or have an EU wide asylum policy. We don’t need a European asylum office. We don’t need the EU telling member countries how much they will spend on their police and border controls or other internal security measures or on their armed forces. I have never been convinced that the EU should have one foreign policy or defence policy. Do we really need the EU being involved in the setting of minimum wages across the whole of the EU? The last thing the EU needs is another EU bank.

    Emmanuel Macron’s vision for the EU is more control from the centre, less diversity and taking power from national countries to give it to new EU institutions. I don’t think it is a liberal vision.

  • The renaissance happened because the central power of Europe , the Church, was being challenged. What Macron is talking about is closer to the pre-reformation pre-renaissance Europe of edicts issued from Rome.

  • Peter Martin 7th Mar '19 - 7:59am

    Having criticised Emmanuel Macron not being not very likeable and being much too far to the right politically, I might just qualify those remarks by adding that it doesn’t mean he’s wrong in his plans for the governance of the EU. He wants for a much greater role for the EU centrally than it has. I can’t see how that has anything to do with the Reformation or the Renaissance, but it has to do with making the EU much more like the USA in the way it is governed. It doesn’t mean that it has to be politically aligned, but it does mean that there will be a Federal Government just like there is a in the USA.

    And that’s what has to happen to make the euro work. In any currency union, like the eurozone or the dollarzone, the euros and the dollars will gravitate together in the prosperous arreas. There needs to be a strong central government to push them back out again to the less prosperous regions, often against the wishes of the people in the these areas who don’t understand the need for that to happen.

    The alternative is to wind back to what ‘Europe’ was in EEC days and have separate currencies, separate governments and forget the notion of ‘ever closer union’.That’s not, IMO, what the EU ‘elite’ will ever allow to happen. So it’s Macron’s plans or bust for the EU. If that’s what EU-ophiles want they should support him 100%.

  • Peter
    What it has to do with the renaissances the idea of a European Golden age and the idea of unified reinvigorated Europe. Ironically it’s sometimes suggested that the EU rather than resembling the USA is actually closer to Holy Roman Empire.
    Macron doesn’t really want a united States of Europe. Virtually non of the national leaders do and the concept has virtually no electoral clout. The EU is an idea that got too big and too expensive for governments to back away from, which is why there is a vague very flexible notion of ever closer union. Its actual power is so soft it can’t do much about member states ignoring the rules it sets.

  • Peter Martin 7th Mar '19 - 9:32am

    @ Glenn,

    I don’t know much about the Holy Roman Empire but, whatever its merits at the time, I’d say it can’t be a realistic model for a 21st century economy.

    The USA, on the other hand can. If the EU follows their model it doesn’t have to be an exact replica. Europe can still have a more ‘socialist’ system. The important thing is that there needs to be a single government in charge of the euro with all the powers of the US government. It and the EU itself won’t work otherwise.

    You’re right that this has “virtually no electoral clout” but I would say the National leaders understand the problem as well as anyone. But what they say in public doesn’t indicate what they think in private. Politicians being politicians, they’ll always say and do what is needed to maintain their electoral base.

    I really don’t think Macron, or anyone else, will succeed with the EU. There’s far too little popular support for what needs to happen. There’s no way I can see it ending in other than a break -up with lots of recriminations. That’s why I want to leave. ASAP.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Mar '19 - 10:44am

    This has turned into an interesting debate about the way Europe is now and may develop, thank you, commenters. I suppose the thousand-year Holy Roman Empire, with its hegemony led by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, but with the interplay of aristocratic family alliances meaning strong French as well as Spanish involvement, did as Glenn mentions bear some resemblance to the EU. As he also suggests, however, there is small chance of the EU leaders agreeing on a Federal States of Europe. Britain has nothing to fear from that, nor of any edict obliging us to join the Euro.

    There are probably stronger divisive forces in the EU than unifying ones. It will surely be in Britain’s interest, if we remain in the EU, to uphold President Macron’s aims as they relate to European security issues, and support his stance against the power of right-wing populism. We will not, as you say, Michael BG, want too much further development of EU controls which might limit the powers of the national governments, but we should respect the need of the Continental states to rethink the Schengen area and border controls, since they have much more pressing problems of migration than does Britain.

  • Back on topic, the salient points from this debate are:

    – we need to face up to the extent that Clegg, now far away cashing in from his new job in California, has irretrievably trashed our brand;

    – we need to recognise that TIG succeeding is the best and only (in our lifetime) chance of finally ‘breaking the mould’ of the UK’s political system;

    – just as the Brexit obsessives are mad to oppose the government’s deal, so anyone who wants to see political reform in this country would be mad to oppose TIG in its efforts to bring this about;

    – the best outcome for us is a deal that gives us a free run in the fifty or so seats where we have a realistic chance; the alternative scenario where both TIG and us fight every seat will be a disaster for anyone who wants to champion the cause of reform.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Mar '19 - 3:08pm

    Back on topic, Ian, I believe the ‘best and only chance of finally breaking the mould of the British political system’ is for the parties to agree to support Proportional Representation,so as to give every small party a fair chance of being represented. I don’t agree that ‘Clegg trashed our brand’. As for wishing TIG success, absolutely we should, so long as they realise we are the long-established and worthwhile centrist party with which they should work. I agree, as does our leader, that we should not be opposing them or they us in national elections once they become a party, and hopefully this can be worked out between us.

  • @Michael BG

    There are quite a few issues in your post. The first is that Europe is not one size fits all but a lot of different bits of co-operation with different countries involved in differing bits – the Eurozone, Schengen, outside of the EU – Benelux, the Nordic council, the Baltic council etc. the UK/Ireland Common Travel Area, the Anglo-Irish agreement, the Council of Europe on human rights etc.

    And of course there are many other areas were we co-operate and share “sovereignty” with other supra-national bodies – the UN, the Commonwealth, NATO (which to some degree shapes our foreign and defence policy) and many others.

    We are unique in the UK in thinking that all power as to reside at the national state level. Take health – we have a UK wide NHS but you now get differing treatments in the four nations within the UK and sometimes locally (e.g. IVF) and public health is devolved to local councils while EU countries now agree to treat each other’s nationals within their widely differing publically funded health systems.

    We are in favour of devolving things to the lowest level but probably also against a postcode lottery! In all areas there are different things to do at different levels. It makes sense to have minimum standards on labour laws across a European single market so no nation massively undercuts another but also allow differing approaches.

    On the internet things like GDPR make sense at a European level and probably only an entity representing a large economic market can effectively take on the likes of Google on anti-trust and monopoly issues.

    Yes – our approach to the EU should be one of limited competencies and maximum devolution. But the debate will always rage on the right level for differing roles supra-national versus national versus regional versus local – and all have a role to play.

  • Peter Watson 7th Mar '19 - 5:26pm

    @Katharine Pindar “I don’t agree that ‘Clegg trashed our brand’.”
    Which begs the question, what did trash the brand?
    I would suggest that the AV referendum campaign in 2011 and the way that Nick Clegg was the poster boy for his opponents is very strong evidence that Clegg personally bears a lot of responsibility for what happened to the Lib Dems’ reputation. However, I would agree that it would be very unfair for Lib Dems to ignore their share of the blame by trying to pin it all on Clegg, who after all is just one person.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Mar '19 - 11:46pm

    The Independents could obviously make much more of an impact by daring to declare themselves a new group and possible new party than by simply joining the Lib Dems. I think that has more to do with them keeping separate from us, Peter Watson, than any notion that we are hopelessly unpopular because we joined the Tories in Coalition and supported austerity measures. The merits and demerits of the Coalition Government have been endlessly discussed on LDV, an obsession which I doubt if very much of the country shares, and which I am certainly not going to enter into. I think we were making great progress afterwards under Tim Farron’s leadership, but the polarisation of politics under the present leaders of the two big parties set us back at the 2017 election, and we haven’t attracted sufficient media attention since to make us seem a winning prospect for the Independents to sacrifice their independence to join. Not yet anyhow. The future’s open.

    Michael 1, I think you give an excellent description there of the value of the principle of subsidiarity in Europe, with different tasks being undertaken at appropriate levels, and I feel sure your conclusion is correct.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Mar '19 - 10:35am

    A final thought for this thread, having looked at TIG website. They say that ‘we believe that none of today’s political parties are fit to provide the leadership and direction needed by our country’. However, they will have to work through the political party system, as they have realised in beginning moves to become a party themselves. They cannot ‘pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective of the 21st century in the national interest’, or any policies at all without working in the accepted system.

    Liberal Democrats can agree with their beliefs. It follows that they can agree with our beliefs. The only way forward then to achieve the good aims that follow from these beliefs is surely to work together. I am so pleased that Tim Farron MP wrote in an email to me on March 4 that the Lib Dem MPs are speaking with the Independent MPs, and they ‘hope very much that we will be developing closer relationships and co-operation. ‘ (See more of what he wrote via my comment of March 5, 10.04 pm.) It is a hopeful outlook. But first task of co-operation between the two groups of MPs is clearly to work towards the defeat of Brexit via a People’s Vote, and we must wish them Godspeed with that in the next fraught week of Parliamentary moves.

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