We must fight to recapture the political narrative from the real establishment

One of the classic right-wing populist tricks is to convince voters that they are not part of the elite establishment, and that another group is. Conservative MPs, city bankers, editors of right-wing newspapers, offshore billionaires, are not the establishment: it’s ‘the liberal elite’ who are the corrupt and arrogant establishment, against whom Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and their fellows have been defending ‘the people’.

Charles Moore was attacking the establishment in the Spectator the other week. That’s a former editor of the Daily Telegraph (when he was Boris Johnson’s boss), educated at Eton and Cambridge, now appointed to the Lords, but nevertheless claiming to be on the side of ‘the people’ against ‘the elite’. Howard Flight, a director of various city financial companies and a former Conservative MP, launched a bitter attack on the establishment in a speech in the Lords – apparently believing that he is an anti-establishment figure. David Goodhart (son of a wealthy Conservative MP, Etonian) is launching his new book, Head, Hand, Heart: the struggle for dignity and status in the 21st Century at Policy Exchange, the largest and most influential right-wing think tank, generously funded by anonymous British and foreign donors. He argues that the liberal elite’s meritocratic dominance has deprived care workers, bus drivers, factory and supermarket staff of their dignity and status.

Much of this is nonsense. It portrays the BBC as a bunch of arrogant over-educated lefties, with the well-paid staff of the Telegraph, Mail and Murdoch press as anti-establishment insurgents. It dismisses the 48% who voted to stay within the EU as ‘Remoaners’, patronising ordinary people for not understanding the complicated arguments for international cooperation. It’s instinctively anti-intellectual, verging on the anti-rational. But it’s the dominant narrative across the right-wing media, the Conservative Party and beyond, so we have to take it seriously.
Let’s be honest: we are now the party of the liberal elite. Surveys show that our voters, and members, are skewed towards the highly-educated professional classes. They also show that Conservative support is now strongest among the least-educated. We need to get out there, defending liberal values, reasoned politics, open debate, minority rights, international cooperation; Labour under Starmer so far appears nervous about upsetting the anti-intellectual consensus by challenging its false simplifications.

But we also need to recognise that populists succeed by exploiting real grievances. Goodhart is right that the collapse of Britain’s industrial base has left the children of the old working class insecure and demoralised: ‘left behind’ in a world in which financial success and education provide the badges of prestige. Boris Johnson’s promise to ‘level up’ our economy and society is the appropriate response, though cynics may doubt whether he will deliver. Investment in our neglected towns and city fringes, high quality education for every child, with higher taxation to pay for it, must be up front in any platform that hopes to appeal beyond the prosperous professional constituencies where we gained most votes last December. And we must be careful to give no chance for our populist opponents to dismiss us as ‘patronising’ and ‘arrogant’; they’ve succeeded in selling that image to their supporters, to discredit what we say as far as possible.

Then we have to attack the real illiberal establishment: Britain’s financial elite, with its links to the offshore world of tax avoidance and its close connection with the Conservative Party and the right-wing think tanks. Who funds these powerful and influential bodies, which set the agenda for much of the media and the Conservative Party? Why do so many Conservative ministers, from George Osborne to Sajid Javid, come and go from highly paid positions in the City to government? Why have we tolerated the owners of two of our most nationalistic newspapers maintaining non-domiciled status and so avoiding paying their fair share of tax, with the Murdoch Press supporting English nationalism while incorporated in Delaware?

The corruption that infects Britain comes not from the ‘woke’ liberal elite but from the nexus of offshore billionaires, their enablers among London’s accountants, lawyers and bankers, and the financiers, hedge-funders and politicians with whom they interact. They have the money, and most of the media; nevertheless, we must fight to recapture the political narrative.

* Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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53 Comments

  • Christopher Love 15th Sep '20 - 9:26am

    Land of Hope and Glory

    Not any more

  • Peter Martin 15th Sep '20 - 9:48am

    “The corruption that infects Britain comes not from the ‘woke’ liberal elite ….”

    To some extent this is true but at the same time the “woke liberal elite”, even if they choose to be members of the Labour Party, have forgotten about, and even treat with a large measure of disdain, “the children of the old working class (who have been left) insecure and demoralised”. I’m sure you’ll have noticed the condescension barriers arise whenever well educated middle class BBC types hear someone say “we was” instead of “we were” for example. Or let it be known they don’t agree with the UK membership of the EU.

    Their analysis of society is no longer on a class basis. It’s nearly always about the identity politics of race, gender and sexual orientation. That’s not to say these things don’t matter but the working class don’t get much of look in these days. The probably aren’t even called working class any long but social groupings D and E or whatever.

  • A splendid and well targeted article by William, but with just one very minor word of reservation.

    We both know who Charles Moore’s Dad was, and who sent him to Eton.

  • The phrase over educated is verging on being an oxymoron in my opinion, however I do feel that the Lib Dems have lost touch with a significant part of the electorate and whilst they know they exist they don’t truly understand their lives or what drives and motivates them anymore. The highly educated are no less prone to displaying fear or contempt for what they don’t understand than those who are poorly educated. The truth is there were a great many patronising comments made regarding people who voted to leave, on this site, in the house of Lord’s, by various self appointed spokes people from film, music and theatre and even by some religious leaders who really should have known better Don’t make the mistake of thinking those comments are forgotten or,in many cases forgiven.
    How out of touch some portions of the population were from the real feeling in the country was demonstrated by the real shock and disbelief exhibited following the vote. Anyone who had been willing to genuinely listen to all opinion especially to those with whom they whole heatedly disagreed would have known that the vote would be at least very close and could be lost. The fact that so many within the political establishment were so shocked speaks volumes and suggests a real disconnect from a significant part of the U.K. population which in my opinion continues to this day.
    There is a lot of work to do, hearts and minds are unlikely to be won with academic argument, most decisions we make are nowhere near as rational as we often think.
    I’m not certain that a majority of the ‘liberal elite’ are ready, able or even really want to engage positively with the population who voted leave.

  • Michael Sammon 15th Sep '20 - 10:48am

    I’m not keen on the tone of this article. London’s bankers, accountants and hedge fund managers are not enemies of the people which this seems to imply.

  • While I agree we should call out the hypocrisy of Tory commentators claiming to be “anti-establishment” or on the side of ordinary people, I also agree with Michael Sammon that some of William Wallace’s targets are misplaced.

    In my experience (and I’ll own up to being one of them) people working for “big business” in London or other big cities tend to be some of the most liberal in their attitudes, and post Brexit vote, many have come to be quite Liberal too, as the link has been severed. Sadly Corbyn scared a lot of them into holding their nose and voting Tory but the instinct to vote Tory by default is no longer there.

    On a technical matter, Delaware is very far from being a tax haven: companies incorporated there pay the full rate of Federal tax in the US (currently 21%, more than that in the UK) even if there is no State tax. It’s a popular state within the US in which to incorporate for reasons of company law rather than tax.

    The more relevant point is the tax residence of the individual moguls who control much of the right wing media: that means they are well placed to avoid significant amount of personal (rather than corporate) tax.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Sep '20 - 11:25am

    “London’s hedge fund managers are not enemies of the people”. They are not friends!

    David Raw: you will be amused to learn that George Kiloh attended the funeral of his neighbour and good friend Richard Moore and told me it was a wonderful occasion.

  • “Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take away from them the power to create money and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money” – attributed to Josiah Stamp, director of the Bank of England and Chairman of the LMS Railway and, I think, a Liberal peer.

    That banking, and the FIRE sector in general, is a massive great rent extracting unstoppable state created and supported machine is common to both Keynes and Hayek, left and right wing libertarians. And they reach right into the “Oxfordschnösels” in the heart of government! Labour would never have won even in 1997 without convincing them and their tacit support.

  • Gwyn Williams 15th Sep '20 - 12:47pm

    The Party is the natural home for the liberal elite. It is no longer the home for the broader liberal community. It is easy to be liberal if you are successful, wealthy and well educated. It is much harder if you are not.
    If you see the immigrant as a competitor for your job, simplistic solutions making it harder for the immigrant to enter your country are attractive.

    If you are a liberal you will support women’s rights, LGBT rights and the BAME community. It does not mean that you will agree with everything that women, LGBT or BAME politicians say and when you disagree it does not make you a racist sexist homophobe.

    Being part of a liberal community is hard and sadly the Liberal Democrat Party has shrunk from that wider community.
    In Wales the latest Yougov poll shows the Welsh Liberal Democrats at 2 percent. This is the worst poll in the Party’s history. The part of the UK that kept the Liberal Party alive during the 50s is now on the verge of seeing its successor disappear.

    Sadly another rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic will not cut it.

  • Renata Jackson 15th Sep '20 - 12:48pm

    There is an elite in the UK. It is a narrow group. Within that elite there are differences and divides. An indicator of being part of the elite is having attended independent school, just as Lord Wallace did. Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and Ed Davey all attended independent secondary schools.

    In England at least, the LibDems since the creation of the party have always been a party of the comfortable middle class. As a friend of mine said to me 10 years ago, the profile of an area with LibDem representation is having grammar schools, partially selective schools or just plain good state secondary schools. Richmond, Kingston, Sutton, Watford, Colchester, Cheltenham, Chelmsford, Torbay, etc.

    This perspective on life is evident when Lord Wallace writes critically about “London’s accountants, lawyers and bankers, financiers and hedge-funders”. The LibDems have done a poor job of being open to ethnic minorities, to the poor, to those who have made wealth with their own sweat and toil in the private sector rather than through a life in academia or the public sector or through family inheritances. Given this piece, a reader can easily guess into which category Lord Wallace and his family fall.

    What strikes me most about Lord Wallace’s piece is the absence of any vision or new ideas rather than same old paeans to “investment” and “education” that we have been hearing for decades while the quality of life for many if not most people in England has been declining. The UK spends lots of money on education. We have night-shift pickers in supermarkets with 2.1 university degrees from Russell group universities (I give this example because I spent two hours last weekend mentoring one who had been put in touch with me by one of his co-workers who is a friend of mine).

    What we need is decent housing and transport to get people from the housing to where the jobs are. We need to build to achieve that – both building on new land and building more densely on existing land. We need trained builders to start getting experience of doing that work. It’s not possible to keep importing builders (Irish in the 1950s, 70s and 80s; Polish in the 2000s and 10s). And to get that building done we need to minimise the bureaucracy of diversity targets and council planners. The LibDems have, in general, been anti-development which is hardly surprising given the social base of the party.

  • Martin, I’d say lower down the list, but for a great many people never low. A large number of people were annoyed that we didn’t get a vote on the Masstricht Treaty or the subsequent Lisbon Treaty. It may be that the numbers of people concerned with the direction of travel within the the E.U. never clearly registered prior to the referendum but for those that were willing to listen , few and far between in my experience, the signs were there for a long time, it’s just that the leaders of the main parties were not listening, or perhaps didn’t care.

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Sep '20 - 2:26pm

    I agree with William Wallace’s last two paragraphs. He isn’t talking about everyone who’s an accountant or lawyer, he’s talking about the very wealthy, the owners of the press and the leaders in the Tory party who interact and exchange roles. They are not just the new elite, they are the new aristocrats who control the rest of us through their political and financial power and greed.
    They have performed a very neat trick by persuading some of the poorest in our society that the Tories are on their side. It is the ultimate Con trick. Boris may do a few levelling up measures but only in the interest of maintaining power. You can see where his friends are influencing him when you analyse some of the Covid measures that have been introduced. We have been encouraged to go out and spend money but aren’t allowed to have our family in the garden.
    I wish that someone in the party could produce an analysis of this new aristocracy and how they maintain their wealth and power so that we can all publicise it. In the mean time what we can do is listen to Councillors who represent those who are ‘left behind’, support them and target those areas who really need Lib Dem representation at every level.

  • Some pertinent post-election reflections from Tim Farron
    “We paraded our certainty in having a superior and worthier outlook to those on the right, when we would have connected better with our fellow citizens by emphasising the practical and patriotic reasons why staying in the EU would be good for families and the UK.
    “We failed to understand the appeal of the emotional, populist politics of the right, and instead sneered at those who did not hold the ‘correct views’. But our version of identity politics alienated many. It simply made us seem as though we disapproved of most of the country.

    “So, bluntly, we should not expect people to vote for us if it seems that we look down on them. We should not be cross at Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings for taking advantage of this attitude. We gave them an open goal and they simply tapped the ball in.
    “I want us to stop hectoring the country, to love our country warts and all.
    “Let us continue to stand up for what we believe in, and to continue to campaign for it. But let us also learn how to disagree well with others and not berate them for not thinking exactly as we do. We will never earn the right to run the country until we learn to love its people, and seek first to understand”

    From “Unherd” “The Post” 18/12/19

  • ‘They have performed a very neat trick by persuading some of the poorest in our society that the Tories are on their side. It is the ultimate Con trick.’
    There is still the scent, of ‘too stupid to understand’ in the above comment, the fact is that the Lib Dems have had three consecutive poor election results and five leaders in the last five years or so.
    Perhaps it is the party that doesn’t understand that the wide spread perception of it prioritising single issue / identity politics, in conjunction with a very strong pro E.U. stance is not appealing to, or the current priority of the wider electorate.

  • @ Tony Greaves. You don’t surprise me. I always liked George and Richard. Hope George is well – give him my best wishes if you see him. We’re all getting on a bit these days though I’m in denial about what the calendar says.

    Always thought Richard was the best sort of Toff despite his Thorpe connections, and I gather his family helped with the Kinder transport. He could make a good tub thumping speech and was always generous. He came to speak at a Dinner in the winter at Shap Wells Hotel in the pre-Farron days…… wouldn’t take any expenses, and before that I was chuffed when he enabled me to watch the Churchill funeral from the windows of the old Lib International office in Whitehall….. blimey, that’s over fifty five years ago.

    Best to Heather and to you.

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Sep '20 - 3:17pm

    Tynan, all of us can easily be taken in by con men and women.

  • Julian Tisi 15th Sep '20 - 3:37pm

    @Sue Sutherland “I agree with William Wallace’s last two paragraphs”
    I’m the opposite – I agree with the article apart from those last two paragraphs! There is of course a sliver of truth in those paragraphs but it’s a gross over-simplification and I feel undermines the article as a whole, because ultimately the success of the “liberal elite” tag is that it rests on people being convinced that real power resides not with those who appear to hold it – the Government with its big majority, supported by a supplicant or friendly press and bolstered by big money donors – but instead resides in some shadowy “elite” behind the scenes, pulling the strings unseen in ways that are never fully explained. By saying “no it’s not a (shadowy) liberal elite, it’s this other elite of bankers and financiers” just adds to the shadowy elite myth.

  • Sue Sutherland, agreed and some of the most astute people I know, including my 76 year old mother, have been conned in one way or another.
    My point is that there is a perception that a large number of Lib Dems and to some extent people of similar views think, or make statements that could suggest they think, that people who vote other than they do have somehow misunderstood the issue, have been conned or have acted on the most baseof values. This is, I find, particularly the case when Lib Dems refer to people who voted for Brexit or for the Conservatives.
    I have never heard a sustained narrative from the Conservatives, or Labour to be fair, that people who don’t vote for them, or as advised by them, have been conned. It tends be the case that when voted out of power, which will inevitably happen, they blame themselves for loosing the plot, not the electorate for being gullible, stupid, uneducated and so on, which I have to say I have heard a lot from various Lib Dems and people of a similar outlook.
    If this is not the intention of you, or the party, then fine but perhaps reflect on how a sustained narrative which uses that sort of phrasing can look to those people who are being discussed and how they might respond.

  • All very interesting, but the fact is that over my lifetime we have morphed from a party, in pre-Alliance days, that advocated radical change, into the status quo party.

    The only thing our last two GE campaigns have been notable for is advocating that things should stay the same.

    So it’s no surprise that our swathe of seats in areas such as the South West, rural Wales and Scotland, and the non-conformist North have almost all been lost, and we are left with a rump of seats almost all of which are stuffed with the winners from the current iniquitous economic settlement. And our next batch of targets are also wealthy commuter belt seats.x

    What hope that such MPs will lead the calls for the changes so desperately needed to redress the myriad glaring unfairnesses in our society (wealth taxes and the like), to the detriment of our own MPs’ constituents?

  • Peter Martin 15th Sep '20 - 9:00pm

    “Then we have to attack the real illiberal establishment: Britain’s financial elite, with its links to the offshore world of tax avoidance and its close connection with the Conservative Party and the right-wing think tanks. Who funds these powerful and influential bodies, which set the agenda for much of the media and the Conservative Party?”

    What you would call the “hard left” have always done this. I’m sure I can find lots of articles in the Socialist Worker, going back to the 70s, explaining how the ruling class use their power and influence to control the media and set the political agenda. It looks like what LWW admits is the “liberal elite” have finally come around to the same conclusion.

    What’s taken you so long?

  • @ William Wallace Evening Standard Friday 4 October 2019

    “Charles Moore: Being Boris’s boss? It was a nightmare.
    After 22 years and 14,000 footnotes, the last instalment of Mrs Thatcher’s biography is here. Author Charles Moore tells Anne McElvoy about his unique insight into the Iron Lady, and why the current PM is ‘a postmodern figure’.

    That’s one way of putting it.

  • People have agency. The problem liberalism faces isn’t convincing them their grievances lie elsewhere, it’s that a lot of people aren’t all that liberal. The working classes a no more a monolithic entity with a shared view than the middle or upper classes are.
    P.S
    The problem the BBC faces is not Tory attacks. It’s that viewing patterns have changed and it’s just another bill. Less and less people share viewing experiences. Let us be honest. They ended free licences for older viewers because that is increasingly their market. If anything, it looks less like a hive of liberal elites than a government mouthpiece subject to shifts in news coverage depending on who is in power. I think people on both sides are still commenting as if it was it was putting out powerful investigative journalism, social drama and challenging the status quo, when really it’s just a light entertainment provider with a news remit it fills with presenters interviewing journalists about what the papers are saying and endless pie charts.

  • The easy part of William Wallace’s article to agree with is the charge that the new Right have conned the voters. They have posed as radical anti-establishment reformers despite being bankrolled by the super-rich. They talk about “levelling up”, but everything they do promotes greater inequality.

    The hard part is to understand why the con trick has worked. It’s true that “populists succeed by exploiting real grievances”. But when the Right note that “the collapse of Britain’s industrial base has left the children of the old working class insecure and demoralised: ‘left behind’ in a world in which financial success and education provide the badges of prestige” – Where is the evidence that the Right have any good answers to that grievance? Goodhart can pontificate that care workers deserve higher status. How is the Right (or anyone else) going to give that to them? Whatever has made the new Right con tricksters successful, it isn’t a record of achievement!

    It begins, I think, with the voters’ loss of faith in all the non-Tory alternatives, but most primarily Labour. Despite all the shifts from Blair to Corbyn to Starmer, what Labour now represent is a paternalist socialism, rooted in industrial past history, but morphed to enable the middle class to take over a working-class movement, and to let middle-class intellectuals tell poor workers what’s good for them.

    It’s no good, then, for Labour’s high priests to mansplain (or middleclass-splain) to the voters why well-funded public services are so important. The working class don’t want to be talked at by Labour do-gooders, they don’t want to be called working class, they don’t want to hear about class. They are sick of it all. Labour couldn’t stop the Crash, or austerity, or CoVID. Because Labour – and the Lib Dems – have given them nothing they can believe in any more, the voters are ripe for being conned.

  • Innocent Bystander 16th Sep '20 - 7:51am

    Could I shorten and simplify Lord Wallace’s piece?
    “Ordinary people are stupid and bovine and are incapable of thinking for themselves. They are making the wrong decisions on polling day because they are too dim to realise they are being manipulated.
    It’s definitely not because we have nothing useful to offer them. Oh no. It’s not our fault.”

  • David Allen 16th Sep '20 - 9:48am

    The easy part of William Wallace’s article to agree with is the charge that the new Right have played populist trickes on the voters. They have posed as radical anti-establishment reformers despite being bankrolled by the super-rich. They talk about “levelling up”, but everything they do promotes greater inequality.

    The hard part is to understand why the tricks have worked. It’s true that “populists succeed by exploiting real grievances”. But when the Right note that “the collapse of Britain’s industrial base has left the children of the old working class insecure and demoralised: ‘left behind’ in a world in which financial success and education provide the badges of prestige” – Where is the evidence that the Right have any good answers to that grievance? Goodhart can pontificate that care workers deserve higher status. How is the Right (or anyone else) going to give that to them? Whatever has made the new Right tricksters successful, it isn’t a record of achievement!

    The explanation begins, I suggest, with the voters’ loss of faith in all the non-Tory alternatives, but most primarily Labour. Despite all the shifts from Blair to Corbyn to Starmer, what Labour now represent is a paternalist socialism, rooted in industrial past history, but morphed to enable the middle class to take over a working-class movement, and to let middle-class intellectuals tell poor workers what’s good for them.

    It’s no good, then, for Labour’s high priests to lecture the voters on why well-funded public services are so important. The working class don’t want to be talked at by Labour do-gooders, they don’t want to be called working class, they don’t want to hear about class. They are just sick of it. After all, Labour couldn’t stop the Crash, or austerity, or CoVID. Because Labour – and the Lib Dems – have given them nothing they can believe in any more, the voters are ready to fall for new Right populism.

  • Innocent Bystander 16th Sep '20 - 2:37pm

    @David Allen
    But it’s not voters ” falling for populism”. They are as intelligent as you are.
    Everywhere, the Left is flailing around trying to regain their position of political leadership.
    But the populace know they have no solutions.
    I have repeatedly asked on this blog – “What is the Left’s answer to globalisation?”
    The response is always –
    “Oh! so you think it’s right that Elon Musk has millions while children live in poverty, do you?!!!”
    Impotent indignation is no cure for the troubles of a nation that represents 1% of the world’s population and which is surrounded by fierce economic and industrial competitors..
    Mr and Mrs Average know that.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '20 - 3:07pm

    “….reactionary or retrogressive impulses such as racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia……”

    These always come to the fore when the economy isn’t working for ordinary people. The reactionary right always have a much simpler and more easily comprehensible “solution”. The left can only suggest abolishing capitalism or the advocacy of large scale direct Govt intervention in the economy which can be difficult for many to comprehend.

    That’s why the new semi fascist right is doing well in the EU whereas the traditional left is something that people once remember as being a key player. There are exceptions but even when the Left does make a breakthrough, like Syriza in Greece, they don’t have the courage of their convictions to actually implement the policies that gave them their popularity in the first place. Look at where they are now. They are gonners too!

    So the moral of the story for the PTB in Europe should be that if they don’t want their grand plan to fail they do need to make sure that the economy of the EU works for everyone, and in all countries too. It’s not that hard if they read the right books.

  • Peter Watson 16th Sep '20 - 3:07pm

    Sadly, this article and the discussion below it give me the impression that it is not liberalism or illiberalism that defines an “elite establishment” that looks down on the rest of us. The “liberal elite” might be nicer and well-intentioned but they still seem just as distant from the man on the Clapham omnibus. In fact, the “liberal elite” might be even more remote than their illiberal cousins and schoolchums; at least the latter seem to be aware of the grievances that they want to exploit! 🙁

  • David Allen 16th Sep '20 - 5:31pm

    Innocent Bystander: “It’s not voters ” falling for populism”. … Everywhere, the Left is flailing around trying to regain their position of political leadership. But the populace know they have no solutions.”

    The populace have certainly lost trust in the Left and in the Lib Dems. However, the dangerous concept you put forward is that “solutions” are what are needed. Back in the 1930s, conventional German politicians mostly floundered when confronted with hard times and were unable to offer attractive solutions. Along came Hitler, who certainly offered radical “solutions” with popular appeal. Hitler’s “solutions” were a giant leap into disaster, but if your only yardstick is popular appeal, Hitler had it and his opponents didn’t. Whilst Trump and the Brexiteers don’t (of course) have mass murder on their agenda, they have similarly won popularity against greyer opponents by making specious but dramatic radical promises.

    “Impotent indignation is no cure for the troubles of a nation that represents 1% of the world’s population and which is surrounded by fierce economic and industrial competitors” you say. Well, turning your neighbours into enemies sure isn’t a “cure” either. Like Hitlerism, it’s a way to gain power by turning a problem into a disaster. Just like Trump stirring up racial violence in order to pose as Mr Law and Order. It’s the same kind of “cure” as drinking bleach. We don’t want your “cure”!

  • Ian 15th Sep ’20 – 5:31pm
    “So it’s no surprise that our swathe of seats in areas such as the South West, rural Wales and Scotland, and the non-conformist North have almost all been lost”
    I remember back in the 1970s plenty of members of the Liberal Party were Methodists doing ordinary jobs. Not many church goers among the voters today.

  • Innocent Bystander 16th Sep '20 - 6:31pm

    David,
    I concede much of what you say. The Nazis got 2% of the vote in 1928 but 33% in the 1932 elections. In between was the 1929 crash.
    Economic catastrophe has dire consequences but anger won’t help and solutions have to be found. The topic of this thread is the loss of place by the political left.
    My advice was not to jump to the conclusion that Horace and Doris Morris are incapable of thought and are Just Mutdoch’s playthings but to treat them with respect and work towards presenting a plan to create a sound economy that doesn’t depend on eternal borrowing or one of those ‘Emperor’s New Clothes” proposals.

  • The reason some of “the working classes” vote tory or whatever is the same reason some people in the middle classes do. Money, property, crime, and aspiration. What most people want is more money, a nice house, security and a sense of achievement. They don’t want to be told that the things they value are terrible, that they can’t think for themselves, and are downtrodden . That kind of thing has very limited appeal and is associated by a lot of people with failure. To gain votes you have to capture people’s aspirations. The reason the “left” is struggling is because to a lot of voters it is defined by navel gazing, complaining and telling people off. Davy Downer and Moaning Minnie are not vote winners. .

  • David Garlick 16th Sep '20 - 8:50pm

    @Innocent Bystander. Not sure why you get involved with LDV but it is an education to read your ‘thoughts’.
    William Wallace . Spot on and sets the scene for a real transformation of our Party and our Policies. So much needed if we are to rid this country of a failing Boris Johnson and his Conservative colleagues.

  • Innocent Bystander 16th Sep '20 - 9:46pm

    @David,
    I have a soft spot for the LibDems as I dislike the others.
    I was only trying to help as the greatest danger is “Group Think” and Lord Wallace’s piece (and a few others recently) can be paraphrased as.
    “We have lost the trust of the populace and it’s the fault of
    a) the populace
    b) everyone else
    but
    c) definitely not us.”

  • Innocent Bystander: “My advice was not to jump to the conclusion that Horace and Doris Morris are incapable of thought and are just Murdoch’s playthings but to treat them with respect and…”

    I treat them with respect. I just think they’re in a bind. The only attractive political proposition they are currently being offered is a bogus appeal to a fantasy Brexit that won’t work. That option goes head-to-head against a patronising, outdated Labour offer by middle-class politicians lecturing the working classes on what they ought to want. It goes head-to-head against a floundering, vacillating Lib Dem party, which crossed the floor from Left to Right, and half-pretends it is about to cross back again. Horace and Doris don’t have a decent choice they can make (unless they live in Scotland!)

    “…and work towards presenting a plan to create a sound economy…”

    Technocratic competence, without ideals and aspirations, won’t wow the voters either – as Starmer. I fear, will find out. That’s the dilemma for the Tories’ opponents. Oh Jeremy C thought that massive reforms and a shower of freebies would bring home the voters, and nobody trusted him. By contrast, the Lib Dems have offered minor reforms and moderation, and have been dismissed as being far too timid and boring. It’s hard to win.

  • To recapture the political narrative we should put more effect into presenting ourselves as an anti-establishment party, with radical policies that remove power from the establishment. We need to reclaim our historical mission – the control of power. We need to make society more open, i.e. transparent (and start with the party itself). When we talk of an open society we need to emphasis the transparency aspect.

    Fake news is an issue I think we should have a plan to eliminate it. It should not only be eliminated in newspapers and TV programmes but on the internet and political messages. This will mean limiting the freedom to present fake news and false information. People will need to be fined initially and for persistent offender banned from carrying on the activity, with the ban being longer on every offense thereafter.

    To be relevant to the people we should adopt the idea of a new social contract which will deal with social ills of the country, such as poverty, social care, health care issues, education and training, the housing crisis and providing full employment and ensuring jobs are more secure. The Labour government of 1997-2010 did not deal with these issues and failed to reject the economic consensus and run the country and the economy to ensure no one was left behind. The Coalition government was even worse in this respect. No wonder that many voters say you (politicians) are all the same.

    (I didn’t know that Richard Moore’s father was Sir Alan Moore 2nd Bt.)

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 8:30am

    Thanks for the heads up on David Goodheart’s book. “Head, Hand, Heart”

    So what is he saying? We have three aspects to human ability. Head (cognitive), Hand (manual and craft) and Heart (caring, emotional).

    We should recognise the value of all three. I think we can all agree on that. But he’s also saying that more recently intelligence has become too significant. In a nutshell smart people have become too powerful.

    Well I don’t know about that! Supposedly smart people have created the current political and economic system which is giving us all so many problems. Most of the ” smart people” , or at least the ones who think they are, in the Labour and Lib Dem Parties consider the EU to be a successful political and economic project that we should be a part of. They don’t understand the basics of our economic system and think the debt Govts accumulate through the process of deficit spending has to somehow be repaid by our grandchildren.

    Considering that many grew up in the post war period when they did well for themselves in spite of the ‘unpaid’ war debts, you’d think they’d know better!

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Sep '20 - 1:36pm

    Reading all of this, it strikes me how much there is a tendency among liberals to believe in the inevitable march of progress: ie it is inevitable that we will gradually discard opinions that were not illiberal a generation ago, but are considered illiberal now; this also contains in it the assumption that all groups in society should progress along this path at roughly the same speed (or faster, ideally people would like groups that they consider ‘behind’ to catch up, not fall further ‘behind’, and they’re letting the country down if they don’t do so.

    I keep pointing out that there is a tension here with the belief in democracy and devolution; many Lib Dems seem to somehow believe that every voter should be proportionately represented but that the views many voters hold are illegitimate and should be eradicated or suppressed (rather than engaged with in active debate and discussion by people who are prepared to have their own vierws challenged and changed as a process towards achieving compromise).

    It also strikes me that for a tradition of thought that keeps saying there are multiple axes on the political compass, there’s a huge tendency to fall into rhetorical dualism: left vs right, retrograde vs progressive.

    I ask myself what would a grassroots spontaneous totally non-elite liberalism look like, would there in fact be more than one competing manifestation of it, and would the leadership and wise heads of the Lib Dems accept it and further it, or tell its proponents they were doing it wrong?

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '20 - 4:26pm

    Renata Jackson In England at least, the LibDems since the creation of the party have always been a party of the comfortable middle class. As a friend of mine said to me 10 years ago, the profile of an area with LibDem representation is having grammar schools, partially selective schools or just plain good state secondary schools.”
    Mike Jay / Tim Farron “We paraded our certainty in having a superior and worthier outlook to those on the right, when we would have connected better with our fellow citizens by emphasising the practical and patriotic reasons why staying in the EU would be good for families and the UK. … It simply made us seem as though we disapproved of most of the country.”
    Tynan “I have never heard a sustained narrative from the Conservatives, or Labour to be fair, that people who don’t vote for them, or as advised by them, have been conned.”
    Matt (Bristol) “many Lib Dems seem to somehow believe that every voter should be proportionately represented but that the views many voters hold are illegitimate and should be eradicated or suppressed (rather than engaged with in active debate and discussion by people who are prepared to have their own views challenged and changed as a process towards achieving compromise)”

    I just want to thank the contributors who I have quoted above. This whole thread has been enlightening but these points in particular have crystallised for me things about the Lib Dems which have made me feel uncomfortable for a long time without quite being able to pin down why. Plenty for me to think about.

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Sep '20 - 6:51pm

    Peter – on my part, I half want to say ‘thank you’ and half ‘oh dear’.

    I’ve been struggling with my Lib-Demminess for some time and cut the cord recently. But I want to see the party do well in some ways as I cannot believe in the rightness of a two-party system. But I’ve come to see myself as more of a radical democratic communitarian than a liberal, particularly as strands of both left-liberalism and right-liberalism are pushing towards valuing the maintenance of liberal views over democratic intergrity. I have also realised that I myself have had (and probably still have) a desire to shout down and block out those whom I disagree with, particularly those who are outside the liberal consensus, and I probably am part of the problem myself.

  • Interesting article and responses. There is a real issue post-truth about how the reactionary right is tackled. You don’t do it by going along with them (as the LDs do in Scotland, where the only policy they’re known for now is to defy the popular will for a referendum – this from the party of ‘we want a second EU referendum). In Wales the party has nothing to say at all – why would it be on more than. 2% in the opinion polls? The party tripped in behind Corbyn to allow Johnson ‘his’ election which he was then allowed to frame as people (him – as if’) v the liberal elite parliament (which his own party has run since 2010!!). The EU referendum was framed as is v uncontrolled immigration, but there is no modern liberal stance on that issue. Of course many of the young and able in the third world would like to move here, but how many is actually too many before we lose our home? If that seems uncomfortable, sorry, but it’s an issue that preoccupies ordinary people and on which the party says – again – nothing.

    You can’t keep being out in the wrong side of arguments and expect to win. And if you can’t win, you can’t break the sleazy right’s grip on the media.

    You could start by accepting that Westminster is broken and unfit. You need to tackle ingrained privilege, which includes the Monarchy and the Church, and yes electoral reform is part of it. I fear though now that in my lifetime only Scotland has an escape route. Ironically one offered by a centrist party in our tradition really, but with an actual commitment to democracy!

  • Michael Bukola 18th Sep '20 - 9:15pm

    What does all this mean for the poor who works for a hedge fund, albeit in a diminished capacity I wonder! You see the politically illiterate make no distinction between liberal or illiberal elite, the political debate between left vs right is purely arbitrary to them. The game has changed and we must change with it or die.

  • Peter Martin 19th Sep '20 - 1:49am

    On the one hand Lib Dems will emphasise their democratic credentials and say they trust the people, saying that power needs to be devolved etc etc, but on the other they tend to be highly critical of what might be termed the popular will which they dismiss as “populism”.

    This does seem to be a contradiction. Fundamental Marxists do grapple with the same issue. They have labelled it as “false consciousness”.

    From a scientific and rational perspective, there is no reason to suppose that the majority is always right. We all might think we have the correct understanding and position, but there’s always the possibility that we don’t have it quite right too and we should acknowledge that.

    So, I may turn out to be all wrong about the EU. Incidentally, I’d say this is what the ‘liberal elites’, at least in the UK, are most upset about and the underlying motivation for this article. Its ultra neoliberalism, or ordoliberalism, and ‘liberal elite’ led technocratic approach, may well turn out to be the success story of the 21st century. I still don’t think so, but we’ll have to see.

  • Richard Easter 19th Sep '20 - 4:54am

    To use a very crude stereotype:

    Labour member: Renationalise the railways / mail / water, ban ZHCs, scrap outsourcing, stand with BLM, build more council houses, Living Wage for all, punish the bankers.

    Tory member: Support the troops, strong controls on immigration, long prison terms for criminals, end politicial correctness and identity politics, lower taxes.

    SNP member: Free Scotland from central control by Westminster!

    UKIP / BXP member: Free Britain from the EU!

    Lib Dem member: Our weltanschauung is to foster a diverse open society where the freedom of individuals and communities to (and so on)….

    And there is the problem…

  • Quite so, Richard Easter.
    Liberals can’t recapture the narrative that they lost a century ago after Lloyd George. Prior to that Liberals were very much part of the real Establishment.

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