Paddy Ashdown responds to questions to More United

Yesterday Caron Lindsay posed some questions for the More Reunited project. Here is Paddy Ashdown’s reply.

Caron, these are serious and weighty questions and deserve a proper answer.

Please forgive the long posting.

You ask:

How does this work in a First Past the Post system?

If they are going to fund every candidate who signs up to their principles, surely they could end up funding every candidate in a seat. There are some, if few, moderate Tories who could qualify. However, what if the manifesto of the party a candidate is standing for is in direct conflict with this. Someone might back electoral reform but their party probably wouldn’t and in government wouldn’t legislate for it so they would never get the chance to implement it.

In a First Past the Post system, funding more than one candidate could mean that none of them wins. They might allow their local members to decide which one to back as I said on Marr, but that could be open to manipulation by the parties.

In the case of two Candidates in the same Constituency, the members of MoreUnited.uk (NOT the members of their parent Parties!) in that Constituency will democratically decide which Candidate to back (think of how that would work in our target seats where Lib Dems join the organisation).

This works in an FTP system by electing more MPs committed to getting PR and so getting rid of FTP……

************

I am irked that there is no mention of liberty and freedom. I’m voting Lib Dem regardless, but if I wasn’t, I’d be darned if I was going to vote for a Labour candidate who might subscribe to the principles of More United but would then go and vote for things like control orders and 90 day detention. The absence of a civil liberties test worries me.

There is not a policy here which does not ooze Liberty and empowerment from  every pore.

************

Their example policy of “safeguarding the truth” in politics has the potential to be positively Orwellian. Who defines the truth? How do you enforce such a policy? We all saw the blatant lies told by Leave during the referendum, which no doubt influenced people’s votes but what else other than point out the facts, can you actually do?

These are ILLUSTRATIVE policies. The Policies will be decided by the members once we are established (probably in late October see below). BTW since this is not a political party my own view is that there should NOT be more than 10 or 12 “policies” all of which should be chosen because they are key to the delivery of the principles. But that is up to the members to decide. On the issue of “truth” in campaigning, if you can have an independent Advertising Standards Authority to safe guard us from lies when we buy things, is it REALLY impossible to have a similar means to safeguard us from lies in electing our Governments? I am NOT saying I agree with this necessarily – I am merely asking the question in an illustrative kind of way… :-))

********

The branding, a union jack in a heart, wouldn’t appeal in Scotland but, like the Stronger In branding, that can be changed. But what if the members backed independence? There is potential for this to be quite a cause of conflict within the movement in Scotland particularly.

This has been well answered in you comments. But ultimately this is up to the members to decide.

*********

Is this just for Westminster? What about councils and Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies?

If you want to really change politics, you need to look at government at all levels.

Agree. This is ultimately for the members to decide. My view, however is that is that we should start with Westminster. But as we grow, we progressively expand into first Scotland and Wales and then Main Councils

*********

I am not one of these people that think a mere mention of diversity is enough. You have to show intent with detailed policies but this is it:

  • Promoting and defending diversity, pluralism and tolerance.
  • Strengthening anti-hate laws.

Agree. remember The initial “convenors” who supported the establishment of this movement are drawn from a wide coalition. If you want to make it better join it and make it so!

*******

Perhaps it would be helpful  to explain what happens next.

At the moment we are in Phase I of setting up this movement – finding out what support we have for the ideas put forward on our website www.moreunited.uk. As of writing we have 13k, which is not bad in just over 24 hours.

In mid September we will assess the level of support we have received and if this is sufficient then we will move to Phase II, when we begin to build the organisation. We will of course announce our intention to start building the movement to all who have expressed interest.  Around the end of October we will invite those who have expressed to join by paying a contribution which has no lower or upper limit – (i.e. from 1p to any vast sum you wish).

The organisation will operate as a purely internet based democracy on a one person one vote basis.

As for the political effect of this, as everyone from Marr downwards has noted, these are all Lib Dem values. Love our Party as we all do, we have to recognise that there are many, many  who share our views but do not, in this age of anti-politics, necessarily wish to campaign for these through a political Party (any party). If we as a liberal Party (along with other liberal movements) cannot, at a time when liberalism is under attack, prosper from mobilising the hundreds of thousands of quiet liberals in our country into political action, even outside our Party, then we are not up to much!

For the avoidance of doubt, I am helping others to give this birth, and will then return to my garden, my grandchildren and my books. I have no desire to play a large part in this once launched and I will never, never, never vote or campaign for anyone but a Liberal Democrat – except, of course where a Liberal Democrat is not standing.

That’s it! (lights blue touch paper and retreats to a safe space….) :-)))

* Paddy Ashdown was the first Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988-1999. He is now a Liberal Democrat of the House of Lords

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74 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 25th Jul '16 - 11:09am

    “I have no desire to play a large part in this once launched and I will never, never, never vote or campaign for anyone but a Liberal Democrat – except, of course where a Liberal Democrat is not standing.”

    all great stuff. But entirely inconsistent with setting up a body which will be raising funds for candidates standing against Lib Dems.

  • David Evershed 25th Jul '16 - 11:24am

    Lib Dem members actively supporting a non Lib Dem candidate rival in a parliamentary or local election are required to be expelled from the party by our constitution.

    Paddy Ashdown might be the first to be expelled.

  • Kathleen Nicholson 25th Jul '16 - 11:28am

    Is David Cameron part of this? Because if not, why do I keep seeing his photograph?

  • More United seemed to me a thoroughly dumb idea when first explained, and Paddy Ashdown’s comments on Caron Lindsay have only served to make it seem even dumber.

    If membership is to be open to all those who wish to join, without any examination of why they wish to join and with a minimum subscription set at 1p, imagine the situation in an individual constituency where more than one candidate wishes to obtain More United funding, and one of those candidates who is neither the most liberal candidate nor the
    candidate most likely to win the seat rustles up a great regiment of 1p supporters and is consequently chosen as the one to get funding.

    The reason political parties have survived in the era of modern democracy is that they have proper organisational structures which by and large prevent entryism and other abuses of the democratic process.

  • Some of the people involved in bringing this together have behaved in deeply transphobic ways. I don’t see that being addressed here, and it makes a mockery of claims of inclusivity.

  • I find it very sad. He appears to realise he is out of the scene now but struggles to stay, albeit undermining our revival.

  • David Evershed: You are incorrect with regards to the constitution. You may actively support a non-Lib Dem provided that that support does not bring the party into disrepute.
    In fact Article 2 Section 2.6 is quite specific in stating that suspension only applies if you actually stand against a Lib Dem (c) or are actually a member of another party (d). Indeed the constitution even on these grounds only goes as far as saying membership “may be revoked” and that you have full rights to an appeal.

  • “I am irked that there is no mention of liberty and freedom”
    “Strengthening anti-hate laws”

    *sigh* the laws that were introduced by the authoritarian Blair as part of his cat and mouse game with the numpty of Welling and achieved nothing in that regard, yet restrict other peoples free speech. Crimes for what is inside someone’s head, bastions of liberty and freedom.

  • This looks like a project to reinforce the impression of a binary choice in UK politics. I would ask Paddy how helpful it would have been in a post 1974 Yeovil constituency when it probably looked like Labour were the Anti-Tory choice to have support funnelled towards Labour making coming second in ’79 harder which enabled his ’83 win.

    I will probably sign up just to provide one extra liberal vote, but I can’t see this will do anything of much value. As for the funding, if you have larger sums to donate you are likely to put it in to a direct donation to the candidate you prefer and not put it in a pot to allow others to decide how it is directed.

    I really value Paddy’s involvement in campaigning for liberal values but I think he has a bit of a blind spot when it comes to cross party working, and is too optimistic.

  • Tony Greaves 25th Jul '16 - 1:34pm

    This is clearly a proto-political party. “The members will decide the policies”. But not more than ten or twelve – dream on.

    It’s top-down elitist nonsense masquerading as a democratic movement. It risks getting completely out of control and becoming a monster that bites then destroys the people who create it. Frankenstein politics.

    If Paddy wants to spend the rest of his life in his garden (ha ha) I suggest he gets on with it now…

    Tony Greaves

  • On the other hand, British politics is in a mess. Something needs to change. Setting up just another political party doesn’t necessarily achieve enough — especially with the barriers of FTPT and party funding. In seeking to do something different MoreUnited cates the possibility of change. If it is not needed it will fizzle out. Maybe it will morph into a party, born in a 21-st century way and maybe it will be the catalyst for a bigger change: it seems worth supporting whichever of these is true.

  • Cen Phillips 25th Jul '16 - 2:51pm

    “In the case of two Candidates in the same Constituency, the members of MoreUnited.uk (NOT the members of their parent Parties!) in that Constituency will democratically decide which Candidate to back (think of how that would work in our target seats where Lib Dems join the organisation).”

    Think of how it will work in areas where Labour are the largest party, or just a large local party but with limited electoral support, signing up to this and flooding the local MU with their own supporters (one thing both ‘factions’ have is numbers) in order to gain funds and support from the group at the expense if everyone else (including Lib Dems).

    That is the reality. It could cost us seats, and cost us potential support and funding, and that will diminish the vital Liberal voice in UK politics. This hasn’t been thought through, and could virtually destroy us as a party across large areas where it is illiberal and regressive entrenched Labour who we are rightly trying to oppose.

    Talking of which, Wales doesn’t even warrant a single mention by MU, and the mention of Scotland seems worded deliberately to exclude Scottish (and Welsh by implication) secessionist parties who are actually often a lot more ‘progressive’ locally than Labour. It might seem great from a Tory-facing English perspective, but in other places it could be a disaster for genuinely progressive politics.

    I’m all for cross-party and cross-political working and agreements to advance reform and a genuinely progressive agenda, but this is exactly the wrong way to go about it, and is likely to only serve to damage that Liberal voice which is now so critical to the UK’s future.

  • Andrew Martin 25th Jul '16 - 3:24pm

    This sort of thing was going to happen at some point post-Brexit. Better we try to influence the process rather than risk sitting on the sidelines, potentially allowing authoritarians or the far left to control the agenda of such a movement.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jul '16 - 4:16pm

    If, and I stress if, Labour divides following its September leadership contest, it becomes the greatest opportunity for Liberals and Liberal Democrats in 100 years.

    It would mirror exactly the circumstances in which 100 years ago Labour replaced the divided Liberal Parties of Lloyd George and Asquith.

    Why in those circumstances would we want to aid a Labour candidate?

    Try this piece of political arithmetic: Just divide the Labour vote in every constituency in the UK into 2, then, subtract a percentage (a large percentage) for the way people hate parties that fight one another and give 9/10ths of those votes to the Liberal Democrat candidate. Then imagine – it doesn’t need much imagination – UKIP takes advantage of any Tory backsliding on the single market to reduce the Tory vote and boost its own, under a new leader. What do you get? 100+ Lib Dem MPs + 300 more where the Lib Dem is in second place.

    Read again PSI’s question above to Paddy: imagine how this initiative might have prevented Paddy making the huge step of replacing Labour as the 2nd placed candidate in Yeovil preparatory to Paddy winning the Constituency in 1983. And examine the proposed strategy on which Paddy won the Party leadership in 1989 – crafting a party that would replace Labour.

    Imagine Tory popularity declining further in 2020-25 Parliament and ask yourself who would win outright in 2025?

    Here we stand at a moment (call it the Liberal Moment) when the old ‘two party’, buggin’s turn UK political system is tottering, and senior people in our party either want to help energize Blairite policies OR actually want to help create a new political party that would give the majority of its Parliamentary Party to those self same Blairites (and I am not accusing Paddy of that) but it is going on, mark my words.

    This initiative is a huge threat to Liberalism and it is political folly to even consider it prior to seeing what happens to Labour post September and the Tory Party if it obfuscates over triggering Article 50 and ignites UKIP.

  • OK, maybe I’m a bit thick, but I don’t get it. More United lists a short list of principles any Liberal Democrat manifesto is likely to include in some form or other. It tries to raise money to support Westminster candidates from any party who sign up to those principles, including possibly funding candidates from other parties standing against Lib Dems. At a time when the Lib Dems are struggling to distinguish ourselves from other parties and be heard, and are making a little bit of progress post-Brexit, it tries to emphasise how much we have in common with certain segments of other parties who could have chosen to be Lib Dems but didn’t.

    Our electoral system assaulted us and left us for dead in May 2015. Now we invite other parties to come and steal our clothes too?

    If this project had an end to FPTP and a commitment to electoral reform at it’s core, I could see the sense in it. As it is, I’m out……….

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jul '16 - 4:21pm

    Andrew Martin you will not beat authoritarians this way – you will aid them. At the moment the authoritarians of the Labour Party are knocking seven bells out of each other. Create a new Party or an Alliance like the one that this initiative will inevitably produce, do it prior to a 2020 General Election, and the authoritarians will outnumber Liberal Democrats by at least 10 to 1. And the last thing you’ll get is a change in the electoral system.

  • paul barker 25th Jul '16 - 4:31pm

    Once again comments seem to assume that there is a Labour Party out there ready to fight a General Election. Once again I can only ask that people who think that go to Labour List & read some of the comment threads, just soak up the bile, the whataboutery & sheer paranoia.
    Three quarters of Labour MPs want to change the membership & three quarters of the members want to change The MPs. Its only a matter of months before both groups get what they want, ie at least two Post-Labour Parties. We have to get with the new reality & give voters the chance to vote for the best Anti-Tory candidate while allowing our loyal core to vote Libdem.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jul '16 - 4:34pm

    Mark Argent says, “Something needs to change”.

    Something is changing: the Labour Party is deeply divided and the chances of there being two Labour Party candidates in most constituencies in 2020 is very high – and will certainly be apparent if it is going to happen in a fairly short time.

    The Tory position is riddle by inconsistency. The divide is apparent: those who want to leave the single market and those who do not.

    This is the one time in history when Liberal Democrats need to do very little. They need a decent policy based on defending the UK’s membership of the single market with the four freedoms. Keep campaigning on that and on other Liberal measures. Back the leader and give him every minute of air time available to Liberal Democrats. Total concentration of effort and resources.

    And let the destructive forces play upon Labour and the Tories.

    You will be pleased to learn that that will be my lot x hours under LDV ‘s terms of participation. Happy to respond after that. Silence ’til then will not mean I’m sulking 😉

  • paul barker 25th Jul '16 - 5:37pm

    Bill Le Beton describes very well what I would love to happen. I would love Labour to collapse in a heap of snarling fragments & Labour voters defect en masse to The Libdems. This may indeed happen though even then, winning a Parliamentary majority with 75,000 members & little money is a big ask.
    However, More United strikes me as a useful back-up plan if Labour voters simply divide between two New Post-Labour Parties, say 18% for the Smithites & 12% for the Corbynites. While we have made a rapid recovery among the minority of voters interested in Politics we havent yet made any impression on the uninterested majority.

    The point of MU is that its not a New Party or a New Alliance, its a vehicle to break down voters fixed loyalties, to lead voters to “think outside the box.” We really dont know whats going to happen & we need to keep our options open.

  • Paddy Ashdown 25th Jul '16 - 5:47pm

    The answer to the question asked by Psi and my old friend Bill Le breton, how would this have helped us beat Labour into third position in 1979 is very simple. It would have hugely helped us break Labour and given us the money and extra supporters to do so. No-one in Labour then (and certainly not its PPC) would have signed up to this – they wouldn’t support PR (most still don’t), or devolving power, or Europe, or Green policies, or immigration – or indeed much else. And even of they had pretended to and joined, by the time the election came we had out-campaigned them on the ground, had more activists and far far more members.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Jul '16 - 6:03pm

    The questions which still spring to my mind are:

    (1) how many Labour (and Conservative or SNP or other) MPs do a majority (or significant minority) of Lib Dem activists who know them feel are worthy of being ever given support – and who are these?

    (2) How many Labour MPs might consider themselves to find value in signing up to these over-arching principles to the point where they might one day hold those principles as being more important than Party loyalty? – who are these?

    (3) what is the likely overlap between (1) and (2)?

    These are quite fundamental questions because, possibly even more so than when the SDP took initial Labour defectors, there is a group of Labour MPs who have rejected Corbyn who also think they have a divine right to rule and whose personal and/or political conduct would not exactly endear them to many (most?) Liberal Democrats. Might some people consider that realignment and/or an alliance for democracy/PR/Europe might override their own Liberal purism?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jul '16 - 6:04pm

    So many comments and thoughts ,as I care deeply about our uniqueness ,and yet realise part of it, is our working better with others, than any other party or organisation, I need to share ideas

    Sarah Brown

    Your mentioning transphobes needs elaborating .I appreciate the sensitivity , not wanting to stir a pot , but for any of us who care about these matters , and I and most on here do ,then we need more info please, as inadvertently you have let it simmer , if avoided having stirred it

    psi

    As often , very good comments and a constructive criticism and moderate tone . I want to support this , I believe in what the intention is, and was and am moved by the terrific Jo Cox, and as the movement being formed takes the name from one of her speeches, feel that all the more.

    Bill le Breton

    Sometimes I agree with you strongly .At others I disagree with you as strongly ! You oftentimes talk sense . Here is one of them . I am cautious on the basis you allude to.

    Lord Greaves

    Your stance is not surprising but the extent of your belittling of our former leader is. I can back any decent view or person , but rarely feel good being scathing about anyone or anything that is not truly dire.I pick my targets carefully . As here , we are dealing with decent members on the whole , from public life ,and , not just Paddy but the superb Maajid Nawaz from our party , perhaps we should give this a moment of reflection rather than rejection.I am not fully convinced, and I loath top down elitism , but you , unlike me , are a passionate supporter of the BBC, seemingly in the present form it takes, which in my view is so top down elitist it makes More United seem like direct , pure, democracy !

  • I agree with Paul. If this works, then it will help to break-down preconceptions about how an individual votes. So many people vote one way all of their life, and if they want to lodge a protest, they go for the other side, and don’t think of the Lib Dems. If we can engage the weary life-time voters, or the confused floating voters, or the frustrated never voters, then a good chunk of them might realise that the Lib Dem approach matches well with their own thinking after all. Some of those will want to go on to become party members, but I think many here are unrealistic in thinking that more people will join the party if given no other option.
    The sort of person who is fed up with politics isn’t going to suddenly decide to join a political party, and sign up to all of the obligations that come with it. There are a lot of those people who can be encouraged to think beyond the Red or Blue teams if given the opportunity.

    I’d say the two biggest dangers of this movement are:
    * It’s hi-jacked by people who don’t really adhere to the values, and want to use it to push single-issue politics, or a party that also doesn’t really adhere to the values.
    * It’s too narrow in the membership, and becomes an echo-chamber of nice liberals talking optimistically about how marvellous things will be, using the language of a sociology essay, and giving each other high-fives for being great.

    It won’t be easy to get it right, but the more ‘normal’ Lib Dem supporters involved, the better. There may need to be some kind of audit system to ensure that the group doesn’t find itself in the situation where the local committee voted in favour of an independent who used to be in the BNP, simply because they claimed to support the cause, and got some of their friends to sign up to be on the local deciding committee. That shouldn’t be too tricky, but will need to be planned.

  • I am astounded that anyone thinks there is any merit in this idea. An organisation that has a spread of members and as has been alluded to, what if momemtum decided to use the idea to support their candidates against anyone, they have already convinced them selves that Corbyn and his supporters are fully in line with the aspirations of this movement.Because they will believe anything when it supports their leader.
    I know for people like Paddy who has worked tirelessly for this party time is running out for a government which represents liberal values,but as one who has dedivated 50 years to this party, I am not lightly going to support anyone, on the basis of them being selected by non liberals to receive financial support,suggesting that they have given a non binding support to a generalised policy frame work which will be decided upon by the new movement.

  • What’s that saying? No-one likes change, until they find themselves obsolete.

    That’s the way mainstream, moderate politics is heading in the UK right now. Something has to give. This doesn’t mean the Lib Dems don’t keep fighting for new members, and the recent increases have been brilliant, but with the current system, it’s not going to prevent many more years of Tory or Labour control, and right now the Tories are going more right-wing, and Labour to the left. For those of us who want to live in a moderate, successful, caring country some time in the next 20 years, something has to give.

  • Yellow Submarine 25th Jul '16 - 6:46pm

    Excellent questions from Caron and excellent answers from Paddy. I’m actually very sceptical about it’s chances of success but it’s well worth debating the pros and cons. Brexit is a systemic shock. New thinking is welcome.

  • Essentially Coupon election mark ll , last week Labour had a chance for vote for fair votes and abstained. Paddy appears to have spent half his political life realigning the Lib Dems out of existence (Blair gave him the runaround), he ran an old style GE campaign that was stuck in the past that did not reflect the reality on the ground(why was he given that job?). Now he has taken it upon himself to set this up without consulting us, I find the whole thing as undigestible as Paddy’s hat.

  • I’ll join when Paddy publicly eats his hat. Until then………………………….

  • Look how well £3 members served democracy in the Labour Party last year – Paddy appears to be supporting 1p members of this organisation. I wonder how that is going to work out in practice.

  • Stevan Rose 25th Jul '16 - 9:29pm

    No, no, a thousand times no. Nick Baird sums up most of my thoughts very well.

  • Wow, I thought I was negative on this idea. I don’t think it will work (but will try to influence the one near me anyway).

    I agree that something needs to change about the way politics functions and this is too top down for that. But if people are going to create this better people try and keep a liberal pressure on it.

    Also perhaps when it does fail, bits of it or things it does do may be saved and incorporated in to something different (more bottom up), which may be more successful. And I’m normally the cynical inflamitory one on here.

  • Paddy – if supporting anti-hate crime legislation is a key test where would that have left Lib Dem MPs like Evan Harris in 2004-5 when they were opposing hate-crime legislation on religion motivated hate crimes.

  • John, do you not think that if this project had been up and running in advance of the vote on electoral reform that a few more MPs might have taken it a bit more seriously?

    Nevertheless, if they aren’t interested in it, and have demonstrated as much, then they are going to struggle to fulfil the criteria.

  • Mark Robinson 25th Jul '16 - 11:03pm

    As a relatively new Lib Dem, I have utmost respect to those longstanding members who may feel that MoreUnited may be distraction or even a rival to the party. I think this, however, ignores the reality that the vast majority of people in the UK do not currently see themselves in partisan political colours. They believe in causes, but they want to engage on their own terms.

    As such, this new progressive movement, if it is to work, has to attract the involvement of those who would never normally join a political party. There is, of course, also potential to win over the more traditionally politicised, who would never dream calling themselves liberal, if they initially are attracted to MoreUnited over single issues such as Europe.

    If MoreUnited fails, then their is little damage to the Lib Dems, however if it succeeds it could provide a high speed elevator to a more liberal consensus going mainstream?

  • I think there is a very real danger here. Most Lib Dems will not campaign and assist Labour candidates (who I’m sure can spin a good liberal story to get some extra help) after some kind of liberal candidate primary… you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. You can see the opposition here. So there’s a threat that a well intentioned but daft initiative could split this Party. That’s why parties within parties, even if you call them movements, are not a good idea. Meanwhile Paddy having caused a rift then goes off to read a Michael Dobbs in his garden.

  • Paddy Ashdown 26th Jul '16 - 7:24am

    Just for the record Stevan Rose, I am not referring to reading other people’s books, I am talking about writing my own. Next one will be launched at conference and is called “Game of Spies” – how about that for a sneaky plug? :-))

  • grahame lamb 26th Jul '16 - 7:59am

    A question for Paddy Ashdown.

    A copy of your Diaries (Volume I 1988-1997) is on my bookshelf sitting between Roy Jenkins’s “The Chancellors” and Sherard Cowper-Coles’s “Cables from Kabul”.

    I like biography. I like autobiography. I also like stories about spies.

    “A Game of Spies”. So what’s this all about then?

    All good wishes.

  • @Mark Robinson – “If MoreUnited fails, then their is little damage to the Lib Dems, however if it succeeds it could provide a high speed elevator to a more liberal consensus going mainstream?”

    With all due respect, I disagree.

    If we promote the message to liberal-inclined voters that their aspirations can be satisfied by voting, in some cases, for candidates from other parties, then they might reasonably ask what the point of the Lib Dems is?

    And what of those candidates from other parties? They could have joined the Lib Dems but instead chose to join the Tories or Labour, both of which have a long history of illiberal actions and policies behind them. That means that either their commitment to liberal values is not really that strong, or that they compromised their principles in the pursuit of power.

  • Agree with Nick “Baird” how is it reasonable to support a candidate for a party which does not believe in the aspirations of this movement , on the basis that that candidate has tipped the wink, that they do not wish to support their party manifesto.
    I understand all the points about people feeling disconnected but aqs a party we need to reach out(pardon cliche) and interest them. That means going into Constituencies where no Liberal goes

  • Paddy Ashdown 26th Jul '16 - 8:31am

    Since Grahame Lamb asks, the answer is here http://www.harpercollins.ca/9780008140823/game-of-spies-the-secret-agent-the-traitor-and-the-nazi-bordeaux-1942-1944 Must stop now or LDV will exclude me for misuse of the site

  • Is he simply someone who cannot let go? Does he want Farron to succeed? Is he even a Liberal Democrat? If so he cannot allow Labour, Green candidates to have priority.
    What is his real game?

  • John Barrett 26th Jul '16 - 9:42am

    This sounds like an idea that is truly “bonkers” on a number of levels – many which have been detailed already.

    Bearing in mind that Labour were able to register 180,000 supporters in 48 hours, it would take them, or Momentum, no time at all to take control of More United, if it wished to. Many Labour supporters could have already signed up by now and it could well be that the majority of those who register would actually like to be involved in the demise of the Liberal Democrats.

    Past leaders of the party should either head straight to the garden and retire, or help the party grow – not be involved in giving birth to “projects” which could well make life much more difficult for the dedicated band of individuals who will stand at future elections as Liberal Democrats, regardless of which candidate More United supports.

    The sums of money to be distributed to candidates throughout the country may be very small, especially if people donate under £5 and the numbers registering are under 100,000. Even if larger sums were raised, most of that could well go to candidates fighting Liberal Democrats.

    A large internet based organisation is likely to be influenced by those who have most time to spend clicking on their keyboards while on their own in their own homes (including the sad, mad and bad) and is no substitute for campaigning out in the community. While I appreciate the value of online campaigning, there is much more to representing people than responding to online “chat”.

    There are good Liberal Democrat candidates out there who need all the support they can get.

    This is not the way to help them.

  • Theakes – probably given everything in his personality and make up Paddy finds it hard to let go. It’s very very unfair to suggest that Paddy has a “real game” of undermining the Lib Dems or not wanting Tim to succeed. Absolutely nothing he’s done suggest anything that isn’t a deep commitment to liberalism and the Lib Dems. He is been the party’s strongest voice on the need for political reform over more than two decades.

    It’s worth remembering that the biggest “delivery” of Lib Dem policies on political reform came under Paddy’s watch and were to a large extent down to his approach of engaging with the Labour party and building in some strong commitments. The 97-01 Blair government delivered more long-term changes to politics than was ever the case in the coalition government. And without his leadership in 88-90 the party would probably have ceased to exist.

    Even the post 97 dealings with Blair were driven by the desire to get voting reform onto the statute books – again somethign he got much closer to than Clegg did in 2010-15.

    That’s not to say he hasn’t pursued some courses of action which were ill-advised and really pretty naive. Reading volume 2 of the Ashdown diaries is jaw-dropping in the way his almost love-blind infatuation with Blair led him down a route not of politically robust, shrewd negotiations but blind faith trust (which was every time not delivered on). It’s hard to believe that a former soldier and diplomat could be so taken in – and then be so candid in revealing that to the world.

  • grahame lamb 26th Jul '16 - 10:28am

    for Paddy Ashdown

    Many thanks.

  • This movement is like Roy Jenkins’ “experimental aeroplane”, the Council for Social Democracy, which Jenkins admitted might well crash on take-off. It did a lot better than that, of course. But even if it hadn’t, it would have been worth a shot, given the alternatives around in the early 1980s.

    Things are equally dire now. Many people have used words like “bonkers” in this thread, but surely the most completely self-deluded are those who “know” that a massive Lib Dem revival is imminent and inevitable. Stop listening to our own propaganda, pick up a newspaper or check the opinion polls. We are damn near invisible. Never mind the fact that we have a good leader and a big issue to camapign on, because that doesn’t matter if nobody reports anything that you do.

    And stop pinning all this to Ashdown. That’s just a way of saying “he’s old, naive, deluded and ignorable” and thereby enabling yourself to scamp thinking about political realignment.

    Let’s face it, if we are ever to get anywhere, we shall have to add another 300 MPs on to the existing 8, and they will have to come from somewhere. We may just have to accept that either we talk to people who prefer the wrong kind of electoral system, or worship a god we don’t like, or talk in funny accents, etcetera, or else we just end up talking to ourselves in the dead-end saloon on a wet Monday afternoon!

  • Neil Sandison 26th Jul '16 - 11:39am

    Paddy would it not be better that your group plays a more constructive role by giving its support to more than one candidate in each constituency who could demonstrate that they shared the same values as those you are promoting .At the end of the day it is the electorates choice as to their preferred candidate in a pluralist electoral system not which candidate is being bankrolled by a pressure group.

  • First to say that my comments are made entirely in a personal capacity.

    I really wanted to like this idea. Its broad principles appear to be ones I share and I am as keen as anyone to see progressive politics get it act together and create an electable alternative to the Tories. But it doesnt take too much contemplation to see the real weaknesses in it.

    In terms of the proto policy prospectus, it seems designed to create a ‘Facebook Party’, policies that appeal to a very small set of potential members who can commit to it with an online ‘like’ rather than appealing to the broader electorate. You might argue that doesnt matter if it is not actually a political party but if that is the case surely something closer to the Scottish Constitutional Convention would be a better idea – explicitly working to change existing party platforms on a very specific area of policy. Left as it is, I suspect it will mainly attract people who live close to the Westminster Bubble and, to borrow a phrase, want to just bang on about Europe.

    My second concern is, if it is not a political party, how on earth you ensure that the subscribing candidates deliver their ‘manifesto’? Let’s suppose for a moment it is successful. The most likely outcome is a Labour majority in Parliament (no matter how far fetched that may seem right now) or a Lab-Lib coalition. In either scenario, Labour MPs would be whipped to elect a Labour PM and who is then to guarantee that these lovely liberal principles would survive beyond that PM’s drive back from the Palace?

  • RIGHT THEN! Prepare for a swimming against the tide comment!

    It appears I’m the only person on LDV who thinks this is a fantastic idea. Let me tell you a story..

    I’m the Lib Dem candidate for Tatton, George Osborne’s constituency. Last year I spent weeks with the other candidates on the election trail (George barely turned up) and I was completely blown away by how decent, kind, caring and principled the Green candidate Tina Rothery (she’d be banged up for fracking protests) and the Labour candidate David Pinto-Duschinsky were. We agreed on *SO* much. At the count we all sat together, glaring at the gleeful Tories at the other side of Macclesfield sports hall :-\

    If the local MoreUnited group chose to support one of these candidates over me in Tatton I would be delighted, I’d happily have either of those people as my MP over George Osborne. We all wanted electoral reform, we all wanted the environment at the centre of politics, we all wanted to reduce inequality and support strong public services. However – I’m not into the idea of ‘pacts’ where some candidates stand down at the expense of others – and I don’t think the electorate will be either. People should always be able to vote Lib Dem or Labour or Green in their constituency otherwise it feels like a seedy stitch up. This idea of a progressive movement who supports a particular candidate could be a good alternative, the would engage people who don’t normally engage in politics – the quiet liberal majority that Paddy talks about. To be honest its no different to the the Political Action Committees they have in the states the fund candidates that support the views of the PAC.

    So that’s why I’m strongly supporting this thing. I think its got legs – and ‘non-political’ but liberal minded people I’ve spoke to almost to a man/woman think it has too. They’ve signed up to MoreUnited but would never join the Lib Dems, no matter how much I nag them 🙂

  • Richard Cooper 26th Jul '16 - 12:47pm

    “The organisation will operate as a purely internet based democracy on a one person one vote basis”.

    So what is there to prevent it being hijacked by the Trotskyites who were allowed to hijack the Labour Party, wherever they may deem it expedient to do so?

  • I’m with David Allan that we risk finding ourselves in a cul-de-sac of our own making. I was checking the politics page on the Guardian website the other day for any evidence of this story. There wasn’t, but nor were there any articles with any kind of link or mention of the Lib Dems. Each and every story at that point in time was about Labour and their leadership crisis, or about the Tories and what they are up to now. Just one bonus story about Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise realisation that she was still in favour of Scottish Independence, and that was it. I’ve just check again now, and the topics are much more diverse – there are now two SNP stories, and a UKIP one to go along with the Labour, Tory and non-party specific ones. Wanting to focus our energies on getting the Lib Dem message out there is a legitimate aspiration, but it needs a concerted effort, and this movement is not the stumbling block.

    If you are worried this project will threaten the amount of attention we get, consider this motivation to make sure there is a plan to get some attention in the first place.

  • BTW, I think most of the questions and comments on here are great. Whatever happens, this is a healthy debate and a great opportunity to raise our aspirations and expectations as to how the Lib Dems may work with other parties and campaigners in the future with all of the advantage and disadvantages that come with it.

  • David Allen, does Ashdown support Farron? I have the most serious of reservations. We are a political party in competition with the others. In many areas we are fighting the Greens, Labour, SNP where there are few if any Conservatives. There is no left of centre alignment there just competition. I questioned him back in the late nineties how a Labour/Lib Dem arrangement would be seen in the Liverpools, Rochdales and Manchesters, where the contest was Labour v Lib Dem, I said we would be laughed at, he said I do not know much about those places!!!!! He resigned a week later.

    Has anyone thought how this will be used by the Conservatives where it is us against the Conservatives, Lib Dems in the pocket of Labour etc will be the cry, we could then be down to the 2 seats the Tories reckon they can reduce us too.

    The whole idea is naive and totally detrimental to any advance we can, are and with the coalition slipping back in peoples minds will be making. I submit strongly that It is not in the interests of this party to give it any credence whatsoever..

  • “To be honest its no different to the the Political Action Committees they have in the states the fund candidates that support the views of the PAC.”

    Yep. Because that’s the model we want to import into the UK……

  • paul barker 26th Jul '16 - 8:07pm

    More United seems like a brilliant idea to me & very obviously designed not to be a Proto-Party or a new version of The SDP/Liberal Alliance. I am not predicting that it will work, its way too soon to say.
    The big change over the next few months will be the Labour Split, that opens our politics in a way we havent seen for a Century. We are going to see two Post-Labour Parties standing candidates, one with lots of MPs but few members & one with lots of members but few MPs. We dont know if either will be able to get funding, if either will be allowed to use a variant of The Labour name or how much they will be tied up in legal wrangling.
    This is a fantastic opportunity for us but so far we are still invisible to most voters, we are flatlining in the polls & we only have 75,000 members. I hope we can sweep the fragments of Labour aside & become the natural Party of Government again but it looks more likely that we will end up in Coalition with parts of Labour & maybe others. I loathe the whole Labour tradition but we may have no real choice but to work with Ex-Labour MPs. Personally I think we will be able to run rings round them, we have the ideas & the energy & they dont.
    Lets give More United every chance to work & avoid cynicism like the plague.

  • I’m very impressed Paddy has taken the time to read and reply to comments here. It would help enormously if other senior Party leaders of his stature did likewise from time to time. I might even succumb to the book plug once it’s on Kindle. However it’s still a daft idea fraught with all the risks and dangers highlighted in this discussion. At best it splits opinion and that’s the biggest risk to a small party that needs unity on the big stuff like liberal principles even if we squabble a bit on details.

    We do have a choice to not work with non-Corbynista socialists and opportunists, and I would vote anyone but my incumbent. As a party we’re too naïve and too nice and trusting to be playing with that nest of vipers. Look how the Tories stitched us up. As the SNP prove if you have the right charismatic leader and the right inspirational messages it is possible for a small party to go from zero to hero quite rapidly. That is not to say there aren’t genuinely liberal Labour MPs who could apply for Lib Dem membership and be welcomed in. But that’s the only way to do it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jul '16 - 1:13am

    I really commend Fiona , Paul , Richard , for their positive attitude while also recognising the difficult situation our party faces .

    I am not keen on the, at times ,patronising comments from some older and not wiser, sometimes , more left wing Liberals , who hate ageism, correctly , and then , seemingly oblivious to the irony, employ it against the noble Lord Ashdown. Even on an off, very off day , even when I so disagree , though thankfully that is rarely ,there is more to commend that man than many in our public life! To farm him out to reading Michael Dobbs !No !

    I do think the answer to the concerns is in my suggestion , that More United does not back candidates , one instead of another , but makes it clear that candidates have its endorsement as proponents of its principles. Thus , back more than one in any constituency , not with money , but with hustings and media that is shared.
    Two excellent candidates ,Liberal Democrat and ,say ,Labour . So , it could be thus , “We at More United ,commend to the constituency of Somewhere in the Walds , the excellent ,Joe Bloggs and Jane Doe , both have the endorsement of More United and we offer a chance for the voters to hear them discuss issues , on , this date.”

    We must honour the wonderful Jo Cox by being more united somehow.

  • Lorenzo, I too think that there will be constituencies where picking just one candidate for support may not be appropriate, and in many cases giving anyone who meets the criteria (following proper consideration) gets the stamp of approval. This may be particularly relevant if the marginal winner is very unlikely to win. Another possibility would be that each candidate gets a report card, and they are scored on how well they do against certain criteria, making it a bit easier for the voter to decide. It would have to be very careful not to simply give ticks to candidates who offer the moon on a stick, which is the problem I have with some of the online algorithms for deciding who to vote for.

    Jonathon Porritt has blogged his views of the alliance, and he raises a few different suggestions, which as much as anything else, highlights that it’s early days with much to be agreed.

    http://www.jonathonporritt.com/blog/progressive-alliance-laying-foundations

    He raises the possibility of, amongst other things, vote swapping. I have reservations about this as a widespread policy, but I think it could work in selected cases, with or without this project.

    Why don’t the Lib Dems and the Greens make a statement regarding our shared commitment to voting reform by acknowledging that our parties are punished by FPTP and we should be represented at Parliament. It looks like many Brighton based Lib Dems are already tactically voting for Caroline Lucas, so why not turn this into something that works for us? The Greens deserve representation in Parliament, and she’s the best bet, so why don’t we actively support her election by not standing anyone against her. We could persuade the Greens to do the same in a suitable constituency. Caroline arguably doesn’t need our help to get re-elected, but it’s about more than that. It brings attention to a cause we both believe in, and will save both parties some money that can be better spent elsewhere. It will also generate some goodwill that may come in handy in other constituencies.

  • Nigel Quinton 27th Jul '16 - 10:16am

    See also https://stephenwilliamsmp.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/the-common-ground-how-a-progressive-alliance-could-transform-our-politics/ which was published a week before the launch of More United. I have no idea if Stephen backs More United or not, but would hope that he would.

    Call me a naive optimist if you will but I really see more to be encouraged about than to be worried by in the launch of More United. Those who worry about dilution of support for the Libdems need to recognise just how difficult it is for LibDems to be heard at all in many parts of the country, and in any case, surely the point of More United is to reach across traditional political boundaries to focus on what unites us, as Jo Cox so rightly said in her maiden speech.

    There are clearly going to be things that need to be addressed in the way More United makes policy and makes decisions, and I prefer the idea that Fiona suggests of backing any and all candidates who support its principles rather than choosing one. However, to those that worry about backing a Labour or Green over a LibDem, I would endorse Gareth Wilson’s comment above. And if we are lagging behind a progressive alternative the way to change this is by our traditional method of building up support through local government elections year in year out to the point where the LibDem parliamentary candidate deserves the dominant role.

    I’m in, at least to try to give this initiative a chance to make a positive difference.

  • East Hants Council result last night. Lib Dem vote up 43.6%, just missed by a hairs breath winning. These results are becoming a pattern. This is the sort of basis needed in the Tory areas for OUR party to regain what it has lost. We do not need More United, we do not need others, they will come anyone as this drift to us gains more momentum. All our past history shows that when down in single figures the uplift starts with Tory Council seats and then lifts off when the right parliamentary by election arises, which it will. I urge everyone to keep the faith and not be diverted or mesmerised by this nonsense from Mr Ashdown, which is frankly totally defeatist and against the best interests of this party..

  • @ Theakes

    Yes, on the face of it an excellent result, and well done to those who campaigned for it.

    – BUT – only a 27% turnout, so in fact we got 8.4% of the electorate to vote Lib Dem… in other words 91.6% of the people in that ward were not about to man the barricades on our behalf.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jul '16 - 2:19pm

    Fiona
    I agree , and in he great scheme of things if I have to consider a project of this sort , as well as our own party stalwarts like Paddy Ashdown or Maajid Nawaz, involved , the Jonathon Porritt influences can only do good.I have for a while thought it would be good to have some local agreements , especially with moderate Green of Labour candidates committed to PR, Graham Allen in the city I am based in , Nottingham , is a good example , and there are several , like Caroline Lucas.

  • Yes, there probably are a few scenarios where this could work, but I’d be wary of extending it too far, or it could start to look defeatist and we are abandoning certain areas, or that we are trying to pull a fast-one and ‘cheating’ the system. This should not simply be a case of punishing an unpopular politician, which has dangerous consequences, except for very special cases, such as Martin Bell standing against Neil Hamilton.

    I think so long as the decision was clearly announced as a statement of our belief in better representation in parliament, it will generate a positive buzz for the party and the policy.

    You could do some sums and say that based on opinion polls, or the last election, the Greens (and ourselves) would be entitled to X candidates, and for that reason we are going to repeat the process up to X times, but I think the plan would fast suffer from diminishing returns, and it would be a lot of work to ensure that we had picked the right candidates in the right constituencies, and it is bound to get up someone’s nose. I’d argue that picking Brighton is an easy one for us to offer the Greens, but how do we decide which of our candidates deserves the reciprocal treatment?

  • David Raw: you can analyse most results in this pedantic way and come up with your findings. Anyone can find fault with anything BUT an excellent result is an excellent result and it is indicative of a trend, pattern emerging. Lets be cheerful and optimistic about it, after all it is optimism based on a very good result following similar recent strong showings. Lets hope it is the same today and tomorrow. We should cheer. After all it is about time we had something to cheer about.

  • Paul Revell 27th Jul '16 - 8:45pm

    I don’t see this as being a threat to liberalism or a distraction for the floating voters who might be inclined to give us a cross in a box (as few as they might be). However, it might be a means to quickly mobilise support for a sympathetic, or single-issue independent standing in an area where the LD candidate cannot gain traction. It could be another decade before the LDs are consistently polling nationally in double digits again so this might be the only kind of way to bring liberal ideas to the mainstream media.

    This loose affiliate model might appeal to the kind of political neutral who wouldn’t normally consider signing up to a party membership, but wants to engage with the process and the discussion. If they are genuinely convinced by the Liberal voices they hear, they will be drawn to join us. Maybe this isn’t for those of us already here but could be a gateway to liberalism for those looking on from the sidelines.

  • Paul Reynolds 30th Jul '16 - 10:58am

    I enjoyed reading the 70 comments. It seems people think the More United idea is a proposal for the Titanic to cooperate more with the iceberg.

  • paul barker 30th Jul '16 - 3:00pm

    I enjoyed reading those comments that engaged withe actual MU proposals, for or against. Not so much those that attacked some other version they had made up.
    The whole point of MU is to get away from Parties doing Pre-Election deals, to hand that question over to others while we get on with fighting for our ideas. It may well not work of course, its far too soon to say.
    I dont see a contradiction between backing the idea of MU & being madly optimistic about Libdem prospects. It seems unlikely that Labour can completely destroy themselves or make their “Brand” utterly toxic, however hard they try; so we will still need to compete with other Centre-Left/Progressive Parties & MU offers a possible way to reduce wasted efforts.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '16 - 10:33am

    Martha Lane Fox writes in the New European 24/7-4/8/2016, pages 1 & 15.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Lane_Fox

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