Push the Guardian!

The Guardian is much too partial to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. It has no “known” regular Liberal contributor but it has completely partisan Labour columnists, such as Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee. I do what I can by way of letters but more of us need to put pressure on the paper.

Last week the paper carried a completely one-sided diatribe on the Liberal Democrat role in the 2010 Coalition government. I immediately sent a letter in reply. A number of letters were published, some vaguely supportive of Liberal Democrats but there was no full rebuttal.

Liberal Democrat Voice readers should see, and, I hope, feel able to use the material in my unpublished letter, herewith:

Dear Editor

There are some writers who simply cannot resist any opportunity to trot out their catalogue of horrors apparently perpetrated willingly by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government. One such is Frances Ryan, (A party reborn? Many of us will never trust the Lib Dems again, 24 July). I am perfectly happy to debate the Liberal Democrats’ Coalition record with her but it is very difficult when she is totally myopic in ignoring the Liberal Democrats achievements in the Coalition. What is worse, her apparent naivety completely fails to acknowledge completely the economic and political context that led to the Coalition.

The country was a bare two years away from the massive bail out of the major banks with the economy still precarious. The electorate had delivered a hung parliament. A coalition with Labour would have produced 315 seats out of 650, ie not a majority. Politically it was hardly possible to put back into office a Labour party that had just lost the election after thirteen years in office. Leaving the Conservatives to head a minority government would not have produced stability and there would have been a further election within months.

We knew the Coalition would be electorally damaging but it was important at that moment to put country before party – something the electorate was forever saying it wanted, but did not then back! Frances Ryan is the Left’s equivalent of the Conservatives ritually parroting that Labour’s spendthrift government had left the economy in a pitiful state. It was not true and in fairness Liberal Democrats have avoided the political gains of copying the Conservatives. It is high time those on the left, such as Frances Ryan, exercised a similar responsibility.

Yours faithfully

Michael Meadowcroft

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70 Comments

  • Kevin Hawkins 31st Jul '19 - 5:31pm

    The Guardian long ago gave up any pretension to be a Liberal newspaper, which is why I stopped buying it. Buy the i – while not perfect it gives much more balanced reporting of the Lib Dems.

  • Michael Meadowcroft you said Last week the paper carried a completely one-sided diatribe on the Liberal Democrat role in the 2010 Coalition government.

    We also get plenty of that from our own people on here dude! Makes my head spin reading some of that stuff.

  • Editorial : General election 2010: “The liberal moment has come
    “If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically ”

    Nuff said.

  • Tony Hutson 31st Jul '19 - 6:25pm

    David Raw – No. Not ’nuff said.’ The fact the Guardian backed us (sort of) in one election nearly a decade ago does not undermine Michael’s point at all. He is absolutely right. We all need to be flooding the newspaper letters pages (not just the Guardian) when we see lies and bias being spread about us. It’s so easy these days when you can do it quickly online. I must admit I don’t do it nearly enough myself, but thanks to this article I am resolved to start.
    This should be an important part of our campaigning; just like sticking a leaflet through letterboxes or knocking on doors. Letters pages are a gift. We should all take it. To borrow a phrase: Don’t leave it to someone else, they may be leaving it to you.

  • I fully agree.

    In spite of being an allegedly “liberal” newspaper, The Guardian has become an obstacle to liberalism in the UK. It supports the wholly unsupportable Labour Party along with its allegiance to socialism and opposition to proportional representation. It takes a liberal stance at times, but populist emotional positions for others

    Furthermore as long as it gives platforms to vile and odious contributors such as Owen Jones (basically a left wing version of Katie Hopkins), it remains discredited. I switched to the FT and Economist about 5 years ago; both genuinely liberal papers.

    Ditch it

  • Mick Taylor 31st Jul '19 - 7:22pm

    I ditched the Guardian as soon as it started telling lies about the Lib Dem’s and the coalition government. I then took the I until it too started down the same road. So my wife and I take no daily newspaper at all. As an aside BBC News long ago forfeited its claim to fair reporting of news especially when it comes to Brexit. Those of us who have defended the Beeb now need to consider how to create a public news organisation that fulfils the job the BBC has abandoned, leaving the BBC to make plays and TV serials that it does do well.

  • I don’t mind that the Guardian or any other paper has writers that challenge our position, but I do agree that when the likes of Owen Jones seem to make a full-time living from promoting/defending Labour, or lobbying for their policies and point of view.

    A lot of tv news and review programmes have someone known to support Labour and someone known to support the Tories, and when they are professional pundit types, this invariably means that they’ll only mention us to criticise what we’ve said or done, or might say or do. If we say or do something they approve of, they won’t mention it.

    I am hopeful that with Jo as our new leader she will be able to give us and our policies more attention, but what we really need to do is to do our absolute best to get those supportive of our cause on the newspaper reviews, or writing column for newspapers and appearing on tv debate shows. The world of online news in particular is very sensitive to clicks, so if one of our own does a column for a newspaper, or if there’s a vaguely positive, or even neutral story about us, make sure we click on those links and share as widely as possible.

    Well done on getting a letter written. It might seem like a drop in the ocean compared to the regular editorials from and for the big two parties, but anything that nudges us in the right direction is progress.

  • Peter Chapman 31st Jul '19 - 7:49pm

    I ditched the Guardian years ago when it became clear it was nothing more than an in house Labour Party Newsheet. I all honesty its uncritical support of everything Labour is nauseating. Its always amased me that so many Liberals still support it.

  • James Young 31st Jul '19 - 8:18pm

    I stopped reading this once Liberal newspaper after reading it for 40 years. One reason I must admit was the cost the other was its shift to the far left. Thank God for the Indy.

  • Tony Greaves 31st Jul '19 - 8:20pm

    Liberal Democrats have been themselves partly at fault for letting the Guardian off the hook. During the Coalition the response of far too many was simply to stop reading it and stop sending in comments. If we had listened more to some of the criticisms we might have done better in the Coalition; if we had kept up the dialogue better some of the people who now think it was always awful might be better informed. (I am as bad – at the last election our sub to the Guardian was due for renewal and after the ridiculous editorial on how to vote I cancelled. That cost me more of course because I was then paying for it every day so I recanted at leisure.) But to say that the Guardian is now a full-blooded supporter of the Labour Party is nonsense. And as for comment it has a wider range of perspectives than any other paper. The mystery is why it excludes the Liberal/Liberal Democrat perspective as a regular feature – it’s almost as if it has to prove that “it is not a Liberal paper” any more. But I would find it difficult to function as a British politician without it.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Jul '19 - 10:09pm

    MarkPaine 31st Jul ’19 – 7:54pm

    “The Guardian … is the paper of choice for smug metropolitans and wannabe metropolitans … Owen Jones, his mini-me Ellie-Mae O’Hagan and all the other cool kids typing away in a hipster cafe in London: it confirms them in their feeling of moral and intellectual superiority.
    Self-awareness, much?

  • The great Liberal Manchester Guardian is long gone. Its down-market Labour -loving successor provides insignificant coverage of my patty while begging me to give them money. They can whistle for it!

  • “it was Rick from the Young Ones in written form” – perfect synopsis. I’d no sooner read the Guardian these days than the Telegraph, both equally obnoxious rags. Thankfully no longer any need to pay for newspapers when you can source a range of news/comment (applying a healthy filter of scepticism) online, for free

  • Trésor Stables 1st Aug '19 - 8:04am

    I refuse to buy or support it until it becomes objective. It is just an unashamed mouthpiece for Labour.

    We need a Liberal Newspaper!

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Aug '19 - 8:44am

    @ MarkPaine,
    ‘ cool kids typing away in hipster cafes in London’.

    If, as in the case of Dr Frances Ryan, said cafes have disabled access and facilities.

  • Colin Paine 1st Aug '19 - 9:24am

    It’s still the best we’ve got and Tim Garton-Ash gives us a fair hearing in his columns.

  • Tony Greaves 31st Jul ’19 – 8:20pm…………….But to say that the Guardian is now a full-blooded supporter of the Labour Party is nonsense. And as for comment it has a wider range of perspectives than any other paper…………….

    Very true. Those quoting Jones and Toynbee ignore Freedland, gaton-Ash, et al. They seem to want a ‘Daily Mail’ for the LibDem party; ‘my party right or wrong’.

    Perhaps, the Guardian ceased being the LibDem version of ‘liberal’ is that, in 2010, so did this party.

  • As expected, an accurate and sound comment from Tony Greaves, who, after sixty years of experience, knows what Liberalism is all about.

    The rest (and I hope I’m wrong on this) appears to be a revealing and informative reflection of the direction of travel of the modern Liberal Democrat Party.

  • John Marriott 1st Aug '19 - 10:03am

    We take The Guardian and The Times from Monday to Saturday and The Observer and The Sunday Times on Sunday. I must say that I find articles in all the papers with which I agree and disagree. I do get a bit fed up with Polly (‘I was SDP once’) Toynbee and Owen (‘Labour til I die’) Jones, as well as Melanie Phillips, Ian (‘It’s got to be Brexit’) Martin and Dominic Lawson; but some, like Jonathon Freedland, Hugo Rifkind and Andrew Rawnsley usually give a balanced view of events, which appeals to me. As for Euan Ferguson, i’m Never quite sure where he’s coming from.

    The problem with all the papers is that, once I’ve read the comment, news and sports sections, that’s about it for me. I’m not really interested in the arty stuff or how rich people are spending their money on homes in the Cotswolds.

    The truth is that, since the demise of the News Chronicle(?), I don’t there has been a truly Liberal newspaper; but I am sure that our resident experts will put me right if I am wrong.

    One anecdote. I was led to believe that, back in 1985 on the Sunday before the General Election, The Observer had intended to publish an editorial supporting the Alliance but was forced to pull it under the threat of a strike from its print unions.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 1st Aug '19 - 10:23am

    very briefly, just waiting for a response from the HQ before returning to phoning for Brecon ( and if you aren’t, why not !).
    No answer at all to say you don’t take it any more, thousands of others do, and we need to be concerned what they read.
    Michael Meadowcroft and Tony Greaves do get letters published in there, as has Geoff Reid. do about twice a year on asylum issues, but they only get published if don’t write as a Lib Dem. People I know, know I am, but it does not push the Lib Dem cause.
    Lib Dems write reams, on LDV, on facebook, for goodness sake people – get writing to such as Guardian – they can’t ignore bulk.

  • Stopped taking a paper 5 years ago when the special offer on the Times was pulled. Actually feel that I am now better informed!

  • John Marriott 1st Aug '19 - 11:01am

    Actually, Suzanne, I’ve had a few letters published in The Guardian over the years. The last one was not that long ago about working towards a Federal Britain. The secret is to keep them short and not to be overly partisan. I’ve even had a couple published in The Times!

    Talking about what newspapers Joe Public reads, if that is indeed an appropriate verb, reminds me of the time a few years ago, when my wife and I were members of the Caravan Club. Some sites will order newspapers for you and many is the time that I have trudged to the site office in the morning to pick up my Guardian. The view of the papers lined up for collection by members was very revealing. On the left (how appropriate) would be the odd Guardian and, back then, Independent. Heading right the piles would increase in height through the Mirror, Star, Express, Sun etc until, at the far right, would be a pile of Everest dimensions made up, you’ve probably guessed it, of The Mail! Yet another reason to hate caravaners, hey?

  • Indeed Owen is a Corbyn mini me, but and it is a big BUT; if you look at the comments he gets to his coloum he is a rather roasted by the readership. Do not assume that the Guardian don’t notice, I suspect they will slowly change and Owen and Lexit Larry will fade away. Here’s hoping.

  • Most of the contributors on here must read a different ‘Guardian’ than me.

    Far from being a Labour, right or wrong, newspaper almost all it’s collumns are devoted to addressing the injustices that both Labour and LibDems should support; child poverty, homelessness, foodbanks, the twisted priorities of this government, etc.

    It is the only daily that is not exclusively right wing, celebrity obsessed or both.

  • @ Martin “I would expect many journalists to resist increasing the power of the state at the expense of individuals”.

    Now that’s an interesting conundrum, Martin. I always thought Liberals were in favour of a mixed economy. I also thought (after a transplant operation eight years ago) the power of the state via the NHS enhanced my viability and ability to actually exist and make choices as an individual. Of course if we still had proper legal aid (demolished by Lord McNally) then the man in the street could challenge the overwhelming power of over the mighty corporations.

    I’m afraid too many of the contributions above are prickly and over sensitive….. especially as until very recently Lib Dems were going through a trough of unpopularity and failure. Coverage of the Brecon by-election has been fair and even handed in The Guardian….. and the Guardian’s, John Crace is great value for a giggle at the pomposity, inadequacies and delusions of politicians. He deserves credit for inventing the ‘Maybot’ and (I think) ‘Failing Grayling’.

  • Martin writes “By Liberal I mean political Liberalism rather than economic liberalism, that of the lineage of J.S. Mill, Hobhouse, Keynes, Beverage and Grimond.”

    Is this the same Jo Grimond who wrote: “Liberals must stress at all times the virtues of the market, not only for efficiency but to enable the widest possible choice…Much of what Mrs Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph say and do is in the mainstream of liberal philosophy.”
    Jo Grimond, The Future of Liberalism (October, 1980).

  • Suzanne Fletcher 1st Aug '19 - 1:02pm

    @John marriott, sorry I hadn’t remembered. you are right about keeping brief and to the point, which all of mine published ( and rare they are not) are. Also had similar in the Indie. At least they are LD policies being pushed.

  • Laurence Cox 1st Aug '19 - 2:02pm

    I agree with Michael and most of our commenters BTL. Since Katharine Viner took over as editor The Guardian has gone over to the hard left. In fact, I find New Statesman to be more balanced in its reporting than The Guardian. Apart from Timothy Garton-Ash, the only Guardian authors I read regularly (online) are John Harris and Gary Younge. The best thing about the paper IMO is David Squires’ football cartoon strip that is published every Tuesday. For someone who lives in Australia he is remarkably knowlegeable about the Premiership and I have to read the BTL comments to get all his jokes.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '19 - 2:04pm

    If one reads the Guardian these days, one might suppose that the main issue of left-right in politics is that the left is anti-semitic and the right is Islamophobic. There is very little on what used to be, and still should be, the main left-right issue, that is the left concentrating on building a more equal society in terms of wealth and income, and the right supporting power being kept by the wealthy in the grounds they are the best people to be in control and need to be rewarded to keep society running.

    What has happened is that people who are poor and unhappy about the way our society has grown with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer don’t particularly see Labour as the party that is concerned with their issues. What has happened instead is that they have been persuaded to believe that it is the internationalisation of the economy that has caused the problem, and so reversing it by leaving the EU is how to solve it. As a consequence, they are giving support and even voting for the very people whose main policy is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    Perhaps the main point that persuaded people to vote Leave was the person who said “It will turn the clock back”. That is precisely what many people want, feeling that will reverse the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, and so return us to a more equal society. Our country was one of the most equal countries in Europe in the 1970s, now it is one of the most unequal.

    Of course, leaving the EU won’t do anything like what those who voted for it for that reason suppose. But what have we done to persuade them of that? Nothing. Instead, it seems we are happy for these people to continue to vote for the far right, having been tricked into doing it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '19 - 2:55pm

    On the 2010-15 coalition, yes the Guardian continues to publish loads of comments which suggest every member of our party was a firm supporter of everything the coalition did. Labour are happy to keep pushing that line, to destroy us so that our country returns to a cozy two-party system … where they are the sole opposition and we are governed almost permanently by the Conservatives.

    Of course in reality many of us agreed only reluctantly to the coalition. We accepted it would be hypocritical to want a multi-party system, and yet to oppose the only coalition that could be formed to get a stable government. Also, it’s very clear that had the coalition not been formed, there would have been a minority Conservative government, which would have co-operated with Labour to push the line that any problems in the country were due to the lack of a stable government, and the way to resolve that was another general election to get rid of the Liberal Democrat MPs.

    The idea that keeps being pushed, that a party which forms just a small proportion of a coalition with a larger party can get whatever it wants, is nonsense. The balance of the two parties was such that we could only push things a little our way if there was a fairly even division within the Conservative party. If we had proportional representation, we would have had many more MPs, so a much bigger say in what the coalition did, and a coalition with Labour would have been viable, so threatening to break the coalition and form the alternative would have been a strategy to give us more say.

    So why has our party not said this? In the end, politics has to be about coming to a compromise, and if you are a smallish minority, that may be quite a long way from what you really want. Why can’t we make that clear? The 2010-15 government was essentially a Conservative government where we had only a small say, and certainly could not change what was the main policy of the Conservatives in the way it governs. We can now point out that Brexit has not happened because extremists refused to compromise with those who wanted a soft Brexit. The claim that it those of us who never wanted Brexit stopping it from happening is nonsense. The compromise form reached by the Theresa May government would have taken us out of the EU by now if all those who say they support Leave had accepted to it.

  • John Marriott 1st Aug '19 - 3:11pm

    Having said all that, I just wonder how much your average voter is influenced by the printed media anymore. I gather that there is a whole world out there of social media, of which I, as a non participant, know virtually nothing. Was it Cameron, who once opined that “Twitter is for twats” or am I maligning him? Judging by the odd comments that escape though to our local electronic ‘newspaper’, many are a particularly and rigidly opinionated lot, usually with a very idiosyncratic take on spelling, grammar and syntax, enough, surely to give Jacob Rees Mogg Esq a heart attack!

  • Matthew Huntbach
    I don think that is it at all. I think a lot British people are simply more nationalistic than is assumed in liberal circles. Virtually no one in Britain was asking for a European Parliament and not even all remain voters really think the political integration aspects of the EU is that desirable. If there had been a vote on Maastricht or Lisbon treaties it’s highly doubtful they would have gone forward. The reason pro EU people are digging in so hard is because once Britain leaves (and it will) there will not be much support for re-joining. The British have never embraced the single currency, are not keen on free-movement and have always been iffy about the idea of a shared European culture and destiny. The British attitude to European films is that they’re art house things with subtitles and not much of an audience, even Korean and Japanese films crossover better. The popular shared culture is mostly American derived, Hip Hop, Netflix, Superheroes, Rock. In short the British especially the English are just not very European and demonstrated it when given a chance to vote on it. It’s much more about national identity than Left or Right economics.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '19 - 3:20pm

    Martin

    Does the Guardian have journalists whose outlook is from a political modern Liberal perspective? By Liberal I mean political Liberalism rather than economic liberalism

    We have made it clear what we stand for in the pre-amble to our constitution:

    “No one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”

    That doesn’t say anything about an economy run by big businessmen. Indeed, it makes it clear that there is a need for an active state to make sure these aspects of freedom are kept in place, because they certainly won’t be in a country where the state is just there to have laws that protect the freedom of big businessmen to keep their ownership and control of what runs society.

    So why have we allowed terms like “economic liberalism” and “neoliberalism” to come into existence and be used in a way that many now suppose that’s what we must be all about?

    It was actually those of us in the Liberal Party who insisted that those words be put in the merged party constitution, and they were in our Liberal Party constitution. But now fake history has been created, with many people, perhaps most of those too young to know the reality of what is now 30 years ago, supposing that we in the Liberal Party stood for right-wing economics, and it was the SDP who opposed it. Some of us in the Liberal Party, myself an example, voted against merger because it was more like the other way round.

    Well, what does “neoliberalism” mean? Properly, given what “neo” means, it should mean modern liberalism. So why do we just seem to have accepted it being used to mean what we used to call “Thatcherism” and we were firmly opposed to?

    The development of the Liberal Party in the 20th century was all about the need for some form of state activity to prevent all power being in the hands of the rich. Today’s big businessmen are the equivalent of the 19th century aristocrats, and the Liberal Party developed as the party that opposed rule by aristocrats. So the word “neoliberalism”, if it were used properly, ought to mean that i.e. the opposite of what it is now used to mean, with the Guardian being happy to push that meaning.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '19 - 3:57pm

    Glenn

    I don think that is it at all. I think a lot British people are simply more nationalistic than is assumed in liberal circles.

    And what do you mean by “nationalistic”? Do you really think that the likes of Boris Johnson are about more state control?

    Just maybe a more insular socialist society could be created by being outside the EU, well back in the 1970s maybe, but the economy has changed so much since then that it won’t happen now.

    What concerned me most was reading what right-wing Conservatives in communication with each other said they wanted leaving the EU to lead to, and seeing that it was the exact opposite of what most people who voted Leave thought it would lead to. So why couldn’t our party make that clear? We have we instead just dismissed all those who voted Leave and said we aren’t even interested in their votes, instead of listening properly to their explanation for voting Leave, and explaining why it won’t give then what they think it would.

    To what extent is the EU stopping Germany from being German, France from being French, Italy from being Italian etc? From what you are saying, you seem to think that is what it is all about, so explain how that is so.

    If the EU wasn’t mainly about trade agreements, why didn’t extreme Brexiteers just accept soft Brexit? We’d be out if the EU now if they had. Instead they said that it would be just like staying in the EU but having no say in it. I don’t see any extent to what you are suggesting, that being in the EU means forcing us to watch European films and stopping us from watching USA films.

    Actually, to me it sees that the dominance of the USA in cultural aspects like film, and also what is on the internet means that if you are a true British nationalist, you’ll put effort into stopping us becoming more American. I find we have become much more American in our culture since when I was young.

  • Matthew Huntbach writes “So why have we allowed terms like “economic liberalism” and “neoliberalism” to come into existence and be used in a way that many now suppose that’s what we must be all about? … Well, what does “neoliberalism” mean? Properly, given what “neo” means, it should mean modern liberalism. So why do we just seem to have accepted it being used to mean what we used to call “Thatcherism” and we were firmly opposed to?”

    I can only suppose he hasn’t read my comment above, quoting Jo Grimmond, who firmly believed that markets (and economic liberalism) were in “the mainstream of Liberal philosophy”.

  • Innocent Bystander 1st Aug '19 - 4:33pm

    The Guardian can not be accused of populism as its circulation is insignificant compared to the others. Political thinkers must realise that taking their opinions from the Guardian must isolate them the mass of the voting public. I wouldn’t have a copy in the house, myself, as It is the house journal of champagne socialists who see no incongruity in writing on inequality from their Tuscan villa. I take the i and, occasionally, the Morning Star.

  • What I mean is they (an I) don’t want to be part of the European “family, and reject the very idea of the EU. What you’re doing is denying that the EU is fundamentally about political and social integration. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t need a notion of citizenship, a parliament, or a single currency and a European court. None of these things are required by trade agreements. In terms of trade a formal political union with European countries makes no more sense than having a formal political union with japan. It is not about economics or trade it’s about the idea of Europe as distinct cultural ideal. You like the idea and I don’t.
    Whether the French still feel French of the Germans still feel German is up to them. I don’t care because I’m not French or German.

  • Peter Martin 1st Aug '19 - 5:47pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    “If the EU wasn’t mainly about trade agreements, why didn’t extreme Brexiteers just accept soft Brexit? ”

    Because the Extreme remainers aligned themselves with extreme Brexiteers to vote down all suggested compromises.

    Guy Verhofsadt has recently made it quite clear that full membership of the EU should involve accepting the euro and Schengen. No more “a la carte EU” as he puts it. So, if he and other Federalists get their way, the choice will be soon between that, some undefined “Associate membership” and no membership at all.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    You are right to say we have become much more American than we used to be, even people who would boast of their patriotism calling it ‘paytriotism’ — sad irony!

    But much more importantly, you draw valuable attention to the wretched confusion there seems to be in our party about the recently invented (or re-invented) term neoliberal, rightly pointing out that, Economically thinking, it means Thatcherism. I read Economics as one third of my BA, (the other two thirds were neither P nor P) way back when everyone was a Keynesian; and when more recently I became involved with politics it took me a while to realise I had to tread carefully and try to fathom what was the economic creed of fellow Lib Dems. I got some nasty surprises.

    But I’m not sure about the your quotation from the preamble. Might not conservatives claim that’s them to a T? ‘No matter how poor your background, don’t conform to the idle ignorance of your neighbourhood, step out and step up like a true Brit!’

    As for the Guardian (earlier in the thread), on 6th May it published an article by Anna Coote under the headline “Universal Basic Income does not work. Let’s boost the public realm instead.” That headline blatantly misrepresented the writer’s drift in two ways: 1. It has not been tried, and 2. Nothing she said implied it.

    The day after that article in the Grauniad a Report was published by a leading authority (Prof Guy Standing)on the idea of UBI, written for the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, entitled “Basic Income as Common Dividends: Piloting a Transformative Policy” . It is very well written — a Good Read, in fact — and sounds thoroughly Liberal, including Lib Dem, in its round humanity. I hope every Lib Dem will read it, and urge its adoption as a major part of our future, and perhaps imminent, manifestos. Google Guy Standing UBI.

  • Peter,
    Still desperately trying to justify your pig in a poke Brexit. Pray what did you think you’d get, you only had to look at your leadership and who was paying for it, to know its direction of travel. I know you’ll never admit even to yourself you’ve been gulled, but gulled you have been and now all you can do is skwark is “tis not fair” like a seagull; bless and bless again.

  • David Evershed 1st Aug '19 - 10:21pm

    I have been a Guardian reader for over 50 years and continue as a daily subscriber.

    I originally chose it because I thought it was objective although it may subconsciously have been its liberal outlook.

    Since the days of Thatcher (and her liberal economics) Guardian writers have been Labour party tribalists and many are Corbynistas.

    Nowadays I still buy it to see what is the latest Labour party line – and the crossword (I was a prize winner in 1968).

  • Right wing daily papers dominate the British news to a ridiculous degree, with headlines attacking EU blazing out from newstands and assailing you from every direction. I sometimes think it is a marvel that there are any remainers left, we should all have been brainwashed by now, but I suppose some people are resistant.

    The Guardian and Independent are beacons of light in this sea of vitriol, the Guardian especially has some first class writers, many of whom have been scathing about Corbyn’s labour – including Toynbee. Yes I agree with Michael that some pieces have been unfair to the Lib Dems, and this is annoying, but others have been positive.

    Whilst taking Micheal’s point I think you have to remember that the Guardian and similar responsible publications are infintitely more truthful than the Brexit press and even, dare I say it, the BBC. So don’t be too hard on it.

    Regarding the coalition, the problem here is that it gets parroted out by people who are not interested in the complex issues here but just want to hit out at an easy target. It has become a knee jerk cue for attacking the Lib Dems, like Blair and iraq. Again, people conveniently forget all the good stuff, focusing on the one narrow point

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    The idea that keeps being pushed, that a party which forms just a small proportion of a coalition with a larger party can get whatever it wants, is nonsense. The balance of the two parties was such that we could only push things a little our way if there was a fairly even division within the Conservative party”.

    This is nonsense. There were only 306 Conservative MPs after the 2010 general election; excluding us, the Speaker and Sinn Fein there were 281 non-Conservative MPs; and there were 57 Liberal Democrat MPs. Therefore for any Tory policy to get passed by Parliament our MPs would either have to vote for it or abstain. The actual numbers didn’t matter. Our MPs could have stopped any Tory policy they wanted, just like some Tory MPs stopped House of Lords reform.

    The fault was in the way in which the Coalition Agreement was negotiated. It should have included all policies where both parties agreed such as scrapping ID cards and the pupil premium. Then compromises reached on other areas such as economic policy or deals done on a one to one basis.

    We could have stopped the welfare cuts of 2012, the NHS top-down reforms, the introduction of fees for workers going to an employment tribunal and the cuts to legal aid.

  • David Evershed 1st Aug '19 - 11:56pm

    The problem with the Michael BG idea to oppose all Conservative policies with which we disagreed in 2010-2015 is that the Conservatives would then not have supported any specific LibDem policies.

    A coalition involves give and take.

    By forming a coalition at a time of national crisis the Lib Dems and Conservatives acted in the national interest.

    Unfortunately political parties do not necessarily get rewarded for what they have done in the past but for what they offer in the future. Hence Churchill won the war but not the following election – not an argument for Churchill stepping back from leading the war effort.

  • David Evershed,

    I did not write that we should have opposed every Conservative policy. I wrote that we should have agreed the policies we both had, we should have formed new compromise policies some of the time and we should have agreed one Conservative policy in exchange for them agreeing one of ours.

    What did we get for supporting the welfare cuts of 2012, the NHS top-down reforms, the introduction of fees for workers going to an employment tribunal and the cuts to legal aid?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '19 - 8:31am

    Michael BG

    I wrote that what is nonsense is the idea that a party which forms just a small proportion of a coalition can get whatever it wants, and you wrote that what I wrote was nonsense.

    What you are saying is that somehow the small party can force the large party to vote for whatever the small party wants, even if that the small party wants is something the large party opposes, but the large party can’t do the same, it is always the large party that must give in to the small party and never vice versa, and that is so even if there is no alternative coalition that can be formed so the small party can threaten to form the alternative coalition if it does not get what is wanted.

    Well, from the way the 2010-15 coalition is reported and commented on, it does seem most people see it your way. So that is why the Liberal Democrats are attacked, because it is suggested that everything the coalition did is what the Liberal Democrats must really want. That continues to be said again and again and again, for example somewhere every few days in the Guardian, as a reason for not voting Liberal Democrat. Or at least not doing so unless you are a supporter of extreme right-wing economics which now gets called “neoliberalism”. It really does seem to me that word has come into common use because it is what the 2010-15 coalition stood for, and that coalition, so it is supposed, was essentially a Liberal Democrat government.

    Well, you and most others may think I am wrong, but I do not believe that a party that forms just one-sixth of a coalition can get whatever it wants. The problem then is, as I said, illustrated by Brexit, that if there is no compromise because everyone votes against everything unless it is exactly what they want, what ends up may be what only a small minority really want.

    But I don’t blame others for how we have been damaged by this. Our party needed to make this very clear, if it felt it couldn’t while in the coalition, most certainly straight afterwards, and it didn’t.

  • David Allen 2nd Aug '19 - 1:00pm

    Anybody who thinks the Guardian should not publish criticism of the Coalition does not want a decent newspaper. They want a Lib Dem version of Pravda.

    Yes, Frances Ryan’s piece about Coalition, in which she kept using the word “stained” in an obvious attempt to make sure the Lib Dems go on getting punished for their mistakes until kingdom come, was over the top. As many below-the-line respondents pointed out.

    Yes, Toynbee can be pretty annoying. What no doubt persuades the Guardian to keep her on is that she does have a lot of good inside knowledge on a lot of important topics. It would be good if the Lib Dems could find a columnist with a similar ability to inform and educate the reader.

    Yes, Owen is very annoying and these days, appallingly tribalist. I’m sure he loses Labour lots of votes, because he is a walking advertisement for all their most blinkered policies! He represents a substantial strand of left-of-centre political opinion, sadly. The Guardian are right to give that opinion a voice.

    What the Guardian don’t have is anyone quite as devotedly committed to the Lib Dems. On the whole, I think that is because the Lib Dems have not really developed the consistent appeal and policy base which is needed to attract committed supporters from outside the actual professional party itself. Over to Jo!

  • Happy to agree with Paul Walter. I would add George Monbiot and John Crace to the list.

    As for Polly Toynbee, I actually shared a taxi with her in the Darlington by-election in her SDP days and she was perfectly pleasant and very well informed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '19 - 5:01pm

    Michael BG

    Our MPs could have stopped any Tory policy they wanted, just like some Tory MPs stopped House of Lords reform.

    No, it doesn’t work like that, and that’s the problem. It’s not just stopping something happening, that’s easy enough, it’s getting an alternative with a majority to support it that’s the issue.

    Brexit illustrates that neatly. Sure, MPs can vote against anything they don’t like, and so they did. So, a majority vote against Remain. A majority vote against Soft Brexit i.e. leaving but keeping the trade agreement. A majority vote against Hard Brexit i.e. leaving without an agreement. A majority vote against a worked out compromise somewhere between those two.

    Ok, but a majority never voted actually for something.

    Government can’t work like that. Government does have to do things.

    The issue is that it is not just voting against Conservative plans to make cuts in spending. What would also be required is a majority vote in favour of what can be done to raise more money so those cuts don’t have to take place.

    The danger is that if every option gets voted against, the default ends up to be something worse than any of the options that were proposed.

    Many people don’t seem to get this point, and so seem to think that government spending and taxation are two separate unrelated things. So it was supposed that the 2010-15 coalition could combine Conservative policies on keeping tax low and Liberal Democrat policies on providing services. Er, no, that couldn’t happen.

    A danger was, for example, that if the Liberal Democrats voted against allowing universities to ask for higher fees, and the Conservatives voted against keeping taxes up to pay for universities to run, the default would be all universities having to close down as they would have no money to be able to run.

    We needed to make this clear, we didn’t, and we still haven’t.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '19 - 5:25pm

    Michael BG

    We could have stopped the welfare cuts of 2012, the NHS top-down reforms

    But I agree that we could and SHOULD have stopped the NHS top-down reforms of 2012. This was not a cost issue, so the tax problem I mentioned previously did not apply. Also, this was what was in the Coalition agreement:

    We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care.

    The top-down reforms were in direct contradiction to that. So, if the Conservatives insisted on them, we should have made it clear: they were breaking the Coalition agreement, and if they wouldn’t back down in it, we would break out of the Coalition.

    I was at the party conference in 2012, where it was clear a majority of party members there opposed the top-down reforms and tried to get the leader to stop them. The leader ignored party democracy, and managed to win only by persuading some that you have to support the leader regardless of your own feelings. That was the last time I was actively involved in the party, I have been unable to return to the sort of activity and support I used to give it because of what happened then. It was against the fundamentals of what true Liberal politics should be about.

    Those of us who opposed the top-down reforms then have been proved right. Almost everyone can now see the reforms were a disaster. This idea that financial competition always saves money has been proved false. Instead it involves in more time and cost and administration to organise it.

    So, I think our new leader of the party needs to admit that, apologise truly for the party leadership having broken the coalition agreement then, and give firm and sincere thanks to those of us party members who tried to stop it, and DEEP apology for the leadership ignoring us.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '19 - 5:58pm

    As I said, there was big opposition to the party leader in the conference which discussed the coalition’s top-down reform of the NHS. I think if we had more outside recognition and support we would have won.

    Instead it seems to me that there was another coalition trying to destroy us: the right-wing infiltrators who had undemocratically been given top positions in the party, and the Labour Party who were happy to support them in order to return to being the sole opposition to the Conservatives.

    So, those of us who were unhappy about the way the Coalition was going were ignored, or made out to be just a small portion of the party. That continues to this day with this constant false suggestion, continuously coming up in the Guardian, that all of us in the Liberal Democrats were keen supporters of everything the Coalition did.

    My concern now is that since the party leadership after the Coalition never did anything to stop that, and after the referendum just jumped on pushing the idea that the main thing our party was about was opposing Brexit, that we have indeed moved permanently to the right. If the sort of people we are recruiting now are the sort of people who up till a few years ago would have supported the Conservatives, but join us because they oppose Brexit, then we are not the party I joined. We are, instead, the party I joined the Liberal Party to oppose.

    And this just at the time it is becoming clear that the central idea of what the Conservative Party stood for is just not working. Endorsing what we used to call “Thatcherism” and calling it “liberalism” is mad. It is the equivalent of jumping in and giving unconditional support to old-fashioned Communism in the 1970s when it was becoming clear it wasn’t working.

    Just as back then it was important to stand up and say why old-fashioned Communism wasn’t giving the more fair and equal society it was supposed to be all about, so now we should be standing up and saying why conventional free-market economics which now gets called “neoliberalism” just doesn’t lead to a more fair and happy and freedom-filled society.

    Because we are not doing that, many people unhappy with how our country has developed have been tricked into thinking it’s all down to being in the EU, and so have voted Leave and ended up supporting Boris Johnson, as if he is the country’s main opponent to Thatcherism.

    Er, is he? Is it really that difficult to suggest that actually he is not?

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    It is nonsense that the smallest party cannot get some of what it wants. However, it was your second sentence which was the main target for my, “it is nonsense”; with 15.7% of the MPs we could have ensured that the majority of policies were ours and a majority were Conservative, while a minority were only ours and a minority only Conservative with another minority being compromises.

    My point was that if either coalition party opposed the other’s policy that policy would not be passed. And either party could get what it wanted if a deal could be done, one policy in exchange for one policy.

    I never said that the larger party always has to give in to the smallest.

    It was not necessary to increase taxes to pay for existing spending, it would have been possible to finance the existing deficit from borrowing as in the previous year.

    I agree if the government wanted to reduce the deficit by changing its spending and revenue then these would need to be agreed. For every Conservative cut there should have been a Liberal Democrat tax increase.

    If the government had not increased tuition fees, it could have kept university income the same and funded this from borrowing as it did in fact do with the increase in tuition fees. The amount of income universities received would only be reduced if the Liberal Democrats supported those cuts. I am suggesting they didn’t need to do so.

  • @Joseph Bourke “However, it is important to recognize that this social liberalism has been founded on a synthesis of Liberalism’s diverse economic traditions. Only if this point is recognized can the recurring tensions between so-called economic liberalism and social liberalism, including support for accelerated deficit reduction in the recent coalition government, be adequately understood.”

    What a rare treat it is to read such a considered and thoughtful piece, seeking to reconcile all four strands of Liberalism, rather than seek to demonise and isolate the oldest. It is clear that you have a deep understanding and sympathy for all strands of thought within the party.

    If only some of the other posters on this thread were so equipped.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '19 - 11:00pm

    I have the Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, published in 1977. Here is its definition of “economic liberalism”:


    The application to economics of the doctrines of classical liberalism, expressed as a preference for competitive markets and for the use of the price mechanism over more direct forms of intervention. An economic liberal is not a believer in laissez faire, because he accepts the need for government intervention (if possible through the price mechanism) to deal with externalities and also to supply ‘public goods’ (e.g. defence or urban parks) that cannot be charged for in the market place. Many, but not all, economic liberals favour redistribution of income, preferably in the form of taxes and cash grants rather than through provision in kind or wage- or price-fixing. Where direct intervention is unavoidable, economic liberals set great store on impersonal rules and are against discretionary decisions by politicians and officials on the supposed ‘merits of the case’. They need not be committed to any particular form of property ownership; and a few even believe in market socialism, where the market is made up of state-owned enterprises or cooperatives.

    Somewhat different from what “economic liberalism” is used to mean now, and what it is claimed to have always meant. The word “neoliberalism” does not occur in that dictionary at all. So indicating that the claim that this is a long-established word meaning what it is used t mean now is false.

    So that shows the point I have been making – there has been a deliberate attempt in recent decades to change language and create fake history by claiming that liberalism in the past meant just a belief in everything run by businessmen and a minimisation of the state.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '19 - 11:17pm

    TCO

    What a rare treat it is to read such a considered and thoughtful piece, seeking to reconcile all four strands of Liberalism, rather than seek to demonise and isolate the oldest.

    What actually do you mean by this? What is that “oldest strand of liberalism” you claim is being demonised and isolated? Who is it that is doing this demonisation and isolation? How are they doing it?

  • Joseph Bourke,

    I have never been convinced there was ever a “classical Liberal economic tradition” in the way it is generally seen. If we consider the Whig hegemony period 1832-59 we don’t see a government which believed it should not intervene. The Poor Law Amendment Act continued poor relief on the rates, while attempting to abolish outdoor relief which continued in the north. The Factory Acts intervened in the employment of people restricting it for women and children and indirectly for men. The Postage Act 1839 set the rates for postage stamps. The Public Health Act 1848 set up local health boards to deal with sewers, water supply, burials, street cleaning and to regulate slaughterhouses. In 1858 the local boards were given responsibility for fire-fighting and prevention, public bathing houses and the regulation of hackney carriages.

    Gladstone is often seen as against intervention, but he was responsible for the Railway Act 1844, which set minimum standards for rail passengers such as the provision of seats and covered carriages and set the price for third class travel of 1 penny per mile. He intervened in land tenure with the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act 1870 and the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1881.

    It was Robert Peel’s second government which started to remove and reduce tariffs and repealed the Corn Laws in 1846. By 1852 even the Conservatives supported the reduction of tariffs.

    Liberals did believe in reducing government expenditure but this was seen as a way of removing patronage and so removing power from the landed-interest. Both Peel and Gladstone wanted to reduce the deficit. Under the Conservatives there were budget surplus (for example 1886-92).

  • Michael BG:

    “Classical Liberalism” is a thoroughly hypothetical creature, who can be pulled out to bolster any argument over spending policy or the rôle of government in general, but who does not actually exist in any well-defined historical space. It’s not *actually* supposed to represent the real-world policies of Liberal governments anymore than the notional “Westphalian System” actually reflects the content of the Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück. (There are probably a great many more such fictitious beasts out there, but that’s the one I thought of right away.)

  • Peter Martin 3rd Aug '19 - 7:44am

    @ Michael BG,

    “What did we get for supporting the welfare cuts of 2012, the NHS top-down reforms, the introduction of fees for workers going to an employment tribunal and the cuts to legal aid?”

    Didn’t you manage to get a 5p levy on plastic bag sales? So credit where credit is due on that! 🙂

  • Peter Martin 3rd Aug '19 - 7:53am

    @ JosephB

    “Both Peel and Gladstone wanted to reduce the deficit.”

    Oh, well, that’s all right then isn’t it! Why do we think we know better than them?

    Mind you, at the same time doctors would prescribe Arsenic as a potential cure for just about anything! Surgeons would argue that infections arose from smells in the air rather that their dirty hands used in surgery. Maybe we should go back to all that?

  • Are the sensitive souls who rant against The Guardian satisfied with today’s front page lead story which has a huge photograph of Jane Dodds and assorted banner waving Lib Dems and a large spread about Brecon & Radnor ?

    My guess is that if Lib Dems do anything or say anything interesting (or Liberal) they will get coverage in The Guardian. They will also deserve to get stick if they don’t.

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