Radical policies and persuasive, angry voices – the next steps for the Lib Dems

When I joined the Liberal Party in 1967, I did not do it because I wanted a career in politics or a safe seat. Just as well really as I would have been doomed to eternal disappointment. I joined because I wanted to ‘march to the sound of gunfire’ as Jo Grimond wanted us to. I wanted to see radical alternatives to the tired establishment Brylcreemed and three-piece suited men of the Tory and Labour Parties of the time, most of whom defined their view of themselves and society through the prism of the two world wars that shaped the 20th century.

Politics then was quite different than it is now. It was much more genteel and respectful and of course, did not have the 24 hour a day exposure of modern media. But it was far more tribal than it is now. (95% plus voted for the main two Parties. Liberals, if we were lucky got to a whole 3% in the opinion polls, the Green Party didn’t exist and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalist Parties were thought of as a fringe of Celtic extremists.

We started to move upwards then because we dared to be different. I joined the Young Liberals who were often described as the ‘’Red Guard’ and in some ways were more influential than the Party itself. We campaigned then for gay rights, when no-one else did, we campaigned to join the European Economic Community from day one. On these and others issues we began to create a distinctive niche in politics which was not centre ground in terms of lacking a radical edge but it was centre ground in the context of not being on the loony extremes of either the Labour or Tory Parties.

What also made us distinctive was our approach to the business of politics. We started to pound the pavements. We started to make policies discussed in remote Town Halls and the even more remote Parliament in Westminster relevant to the day to day life of people we aspired to represent.

Since the sixties there have been many surges in Liberal and then Liberal Democrat fortunes. In 2015 and 2017 we went down further than in most of my 52-year political lifetime. In 2015 we were within a few thousand votes of losing our Parliamentary Party (with the exception of Alistair Carmichael in Southern Scandinavia!) If that had happened, we would have become an irrelevance. We would, quite simply have died.

I am not going to recount the last 4 years but I simply want to say that it was the thin orange line of Lib Dem Councillors that held the line. Yes Vince and our team did great things in Parliament but it was resolute and bloody stubborn councillors that both held the line and then began slowly to move us forward leading to the great rush in Lib Dem votes and councillors at the beginning of May and what everyone hopes (except our opponents who dread) will be a great advance when the EU votes are declared tonight.

There are three key lessons to me.

  1. Our advances in parliamentary terms are always preceded by an advance in council seats and influence. That is why we will win EU seats; and
  2. We must take our radical policies and be confident enough to shout them out in communities all over the Country. We don’t need new policies. Our policies are good. It’s just that we don’t tell people what they are!
  3. We must be angrier than we have been about the way our Country is. Too much poverty; too much inequality of opportunity, resources and health; too much bureaucracy; a poor education system and a bureaucratic NHS which want to cure illnesses rather than prevent them. No more Mr (or Mrs) nice Liberal.

That’s the challenge I am setting myself and our team in Liverpool. That’s what I believe the Party needs to do nationally; and that is what I hope our Leadership contenders will live up to in their campaigns.

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE is the Leader of the Liverpool Lib Dems and is Lib Dem Spokesperson on Health & Social Care at the LGA.

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  • Yes, yes and yes again. We need anger and passion. But:

    1. We need “new” policies. In some cases reverting to “old” policies to draw a line under the coalition.

    Free uni tuition. New tackling of climate change.

    New “human and green infrastructure fund” paid for by borrowing.

    Tough on poverty AND on the causes of poverty.

    We may have earned now a hearing with the electorate and a younger (under 50) electorate. But only a hearing not fully fledged support.

    2. We need local parties not to go to sleep over the summer.

    Burn the deckchairs! Shred the council passes!

    You don’t need a sun tan! Performance indicator 30 will look after itself!

    Boring speeches are best made when put on a leaflet and shoved through someone’s letterbox than to an audience of the people that will never vote for us.

    Take to the streets with leaflets, action and knocking on doors. People listen to politicians more outside elections.

    This is more important for those that “won” i.e. those that lost or didn’t stand as a councillor. Act as if you did – by taking action.

    Throw stones (hopefully metaphorical) at the council – especially if we run it! Raise your local Lib Dem infrastructure – money, helpers, number of leaflets to levels you only dream of now. They’re coming for us and we’re coming for them!

    Don’t blow if folks!

    Spoiler alert: We’re probably going to. In fact we are almost guaranteed not to do enough on 1. and 2. But it’s in our hands – NOT to!

  • Bill le Breton 26th May '19 - 9:58am

    Good morning Richard!

    ” I wanted to see radical alternatives to the tired establishment ”

    “it was the thin orange line of Lib Dem Councillors that held the line”

    We do best when we hold fast to Richard’s first statement above.

    It seems easier, even, natural for those campaigning in local government to appear to be the radical alternative to a tired establishment. Perhaps we do hold fast to this when we get elected to councils or perhaps it is just that there is less focus on local governance once we are elected or even when we take control of councils.

    Why did we do so badly across all elections between 2010 and 2015? Our Parliamentary Party never for a single moment looked like a radical alternative to a tired establishment. It appeared part of that tired establishment – complicit in the expenses scandal, quick to reverse on our promises, sanctimonious, pleased with ourselves as we wandered in the rose garden or sat in the limos arriving and leaving Downing St.

    You may think this unfair, but that is how it appeared to the 6 million people whose support we lost during that period.

    The result of the EU ref came as a surprise the closer one lived to the capital, the closer one lived in that culture symbolised by David Goodhart as the culture of the ‘anywheres’.

    I am certain that those who make strategic decisions in our Party, those who sit on the committees that run our campaigns still haven’t ‘got this’. The ‘people’ remain appalled by Parliamentarians – us included – even if we do garner a significant amount of support tonight. We must not be sucked in by this.

    In the coming months and years it is Parliamentary democracy that will come under attack. Our awe inspiring challenge is to defend Parliamentary representative democracy without appearing to be doing so for personal advantage.

    I haven’t a clue how we do this, but if we do it wrong we will, as we were between 2010 and 2015 be judged part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    It’s the system, st*pid.

  • I know that old men like me drawing on our history and pointing to the future come with a health warning. But yes Richard, yes Michael, yes Bill. A time for a holding of nerve, tough thinking, a terrifying political landscape and great opportunities.

  • Nonconformistradical 26th May '19 - 10:25am

    @Michael 1
    “Free uni tuition.”

    Tell us how you are going to pay for it. Especially when so many young people who have been to university appear to struggle to find employment commensurate with their qualifications – so they are unlikely to earn enough to pay enough tax to cover a significant amount of the fees.

    And what are you planning to do about vocational education? Because it is in vocational education where we are failing horribly – a big example in poor quality building construction.

    Focussing exclusively on university education does not help more than half of the citizens of the UK to live their lives more effectively – in fact it ignores them altogether.

  • Michael 1 26th May ’19 – 9:34am
    Yes, yes and yes again. We need anger and passion. But:
    1. We need “new” policies. In some cases reverting to “old” policies to draw a line under the coalition.
    Free uni tuition.

    I agree with nearly all of what you say: but this measure privileges the 40% who go to uni over the 60% who do not. It is overall regressive in terms of equality.

    The Lib Dem problem with tuitiion fees arose from promising one thing and doing another. It was the original promise that was wrong.

  • Personal learning pot, to be spent on qualifications, including vocational ones. Yes some will abuse it, but most will use it to gain skills and qualifications.

  • nigel hunter 26th May '19 - 10:43am

    Our future MP’s must NOT be allowed to be comfortable in Limo’s. The right wing media will exploit ANY THING that will put us down
    Yes campaigning MUST go on thru summer,as well as aiming for War chests that will be needed
    Our policies must be constantly looked at and honed to fit the times and the voter AND put on focus leaflets.
    Farage will come top of the poll tonight. I hope we are 2nd but even so we will not get the publicity of coming 2nd in a right wing world and we will be seen as a threat to them.

  • Excellent article. Excellent first three comments. And I believe it captures the mood of the party these days. Bill’s point about how TPTB lost touch with reality in 2010-15 is particularly spot-on. I personally believe the Downing Street Garden Press Conference and similar images lost us more support than any individual policy u-turn, including Tuition Fees. We need to be insurgents again. This is the spirit I will be looking for from the leadership candidates.

  • @Nonconformistradical

    ““Free uni tuition.”

    Tell us how you are going to pay for it.”

    Borrowing! We already borrow for it – we should do it collectively not individually.

    Because it is in vocational education where we are failing horribly …. Focussing exclusively on university education does not help more than half of the citizens of the UK to live their lives more effectively

    Yes, yes & yes again. My proposal is that there is an equal offer to those that don’t go to university as those that do. Everyone has an “adult further education fund” of c. £21k.


    We’re kidding ourselves if we think that there will be many jobs left that don’t require higher level skills. Robots, computers, AI, developing countries will take them. Many higher level “practical” skills can be pursued at “university” level – art, music, engineering, woodworking, craftsmanship etc.

    So equally we need a big improvement in under-16 & 16-21 education. It just won’t be economic viable to have (virtually) anyone without a good GSCE in Maths & English. They’re whole schools where no-one gets a good GSCE in Maths & English.

    And this is not because people are “thick” – google the “Flynn effect” which shows people’s IQ level has been shooting up – although we’re the same (genetically).

    £7 billion for uni fees
    £7 billion for non-uni education
    £7 billion (double the pupil premium, more to schools in disadvantaged areas, more to schools generally) for under-16s.
    £7 billion for green infrastructure

    £28 billion on education on a government budget of £800 billion. Not a lot. Borrowing is virtually free at the moment (zero or negative real interest rates). But borrowing for infrastructure (& this is human infrastructure) if not day to day spending makes sense.

    I know this will might re-ignite the argument on borrowing. But if people don’t like borrowing. Sorry I would spend it first on education rather than benefits. I know this mis-categorises the argument – if I could put up with watching Basil Brush on a small black & white TV & not on a vast colour TV – so can today’s kids – even if they are poor.

    And there is a lot we can do to help poverty – reform local taxation to start with! which would increase JSA by 10% & minimum wage jobs by £1000 a year at no extra cost.

  • Very wise conclusion from Richard. Basic commonsense advise, lets follow it.

  • I agree with Non on vocational education and training. We used to have GNVQs and BTECs, great qualifications in their own right and aimed at more practical areas of work. Why replace things when they can be improved. Many other countries admired our system of NVQs, but they need strengthening; they offer a pathway into vocational careers, construction, health care etc. Also what a about adult training and the welfare to work sector. This needs reforming and improving with an emphasis on quality not quantity. Don’t let labour come up with all the ideas but use the strengths and skills of members to formulate radical policies.

  • Bill le Breton 26th May '19 - 12:01pm

    Remember one thing: Farage wants a referendum. He will not say it, but if you read the Guardian article about what he has learnt fro the Five Star Movement and the way he has shaped his strategy since, he will use the referendum (or revocation) to damn Parliament,, to say that in a modern electronically collected world ‘old politics’ where power is given to a ‘parliamentary elite’ once every five years which then ignores ‘the people’ is no longer necessary or valuable.

    This is his single issue and it must therefore be our single purpose to defeat that thinking.

    A difficult ask for two reasons: first he has a lead on us technically. he is a more effective communicator and has a more sophisticated system of reaching people; second, we remain addicted to the old defense to his argument. Above in this discussion we are immediately looking a bundles of policies and this kind of policy communication is a system of promising which is completely discredited.

    We have to fight a culture war – one on one with him.

    We have to do it alone because any other way dilutes our message, dilutes our campaigning freedom and makes us look like part of the ‘failed political establishment’.

    But then this is exactly what effective campaigners and councillors have always done. They have concentrated – concentrated the message, concentrated resources.

    Farage promises power to the people – we know it will be a fiction. It is easy to give power to the people when the system allows him to manipulate what the people want.

    Our ‘power to the people’ must be a true and genuine freedom (which is why we alone can campaign on that because the other players, Labour, Tories, Greens, and ChangeUK, the SNP want to retain authority, want to direct people because deep down they believe they know best.

  • Nonconformistradical 26th May '19 - 12:11pm

    @Michael 1
    “So equally we need a big improvement in under-16 & 16-21 education. It just won’t be economic viable to have (virtually) anyone without a good GSCE in Maths & English. They’re whole schools where no-one gets a good GSCE in Maths & English.”

    While I don’t dispute the need for students to have good Maths and English – why are you so focussed on purely academic qualifications while appearing to pay so little attention to the wider objectives of education?

    The objectives of a good education system should include enabling as many people as possible (i.e. practically everyone) to be equipped with the skills to run their own lives, minimising dependence on others. That includes managing one’s own personal finances – rather than depending on some internet-based organisation such as Clearscore (which earns commission when someone buys a product they suggest so who’s interests have they really got at heart?) to do it for one (so that one never gains a proper understanding of once’s finances – you learn much by actually doing)

    Encompassing social skills, the ability to work with others, responsible behaviour, keeping to someone else’s timetable. Why should anyone expect even to be interviewed for a job if they can’t be bothered to turn up on time (unless they’ve contacted the interviewer to say they’re stuck on a stationary train or whatever – and are able to back up that excuse)? Why should anyone expect to stay in a job if they are not doing it properly or are found to be slacking off early?

    I think these educational needs also include some management skills – the ability to manage and motivate a small team of people and get them all working in co-operation to achieve a common end instead of working at cross-purposes – which I can assure happens all too often in the building trades.

  • John Marriott 26th May '19 - 12:16pm

    “If you start me up I’ll never stop” sang Mick Jagger a few years ago. Those of you querying the musings of ‘Michael 1’ should be careful want you wish for. I’d love to know how he gets away with so much stuff. When I occasionally get verbally carried away, my iPad comes back with ‘Your message is too long’ so I spend the next ten minutes trying to shorten it!

    I’m glad that his statement about ‘free uni tuition’ is being challenged. By the way, in this dinosaur’s opinion, the very use of the word ‘uni’ rather demeans something that used to be viewed as something worth achieving and has now become in many cases something you just ‘pick up’ on your path through life, rather like a rather seductive ‘take home’ meal at a supermarket. Judging by the plethora of ‘ologies’ on offer I don’t think that I’m that wide of the mark. By all means indulge yourselves, guys and gals; but don’t expect the taxpayer to foot the bill!

    If the state is to fund post school ‘education’ the bulk of tax payers’ money should not go to help the middle classes (whoever they are now) nor to swell the already bulging coffers of many places higher education, much of which goes to pay the salaries of what US radical writer, Saul Alinsky, used to call ‘tenured turds’. It should go to provide proper vocational training/education and effective apprenticeships in areas that will enable students actually to gain employment if we are to survive post Brexit (either with a deal, no Deal or revocation). No disrespect intended, but we must have some of the highest qualified baristas in the world!

    However, IF the state does subsidise the acquisition of university degrees, in areas such as medicine or education, to give two examples, anyone receiving such largesse should commit themselves to spending at least the first four years post graduation working in this country before considering plying their trade abroad – and that includes the EU. If they fail to do that, they should be made to repay the grant/bursary they received.

  • We must have more policies to fight Farage. Well as Bill le Breton inconveniently pointed out that doesn’t work against populasists. The Lib Dems gained traction when they embraced “Bollocks to Brexit”, not by issuing a further set of policy documents. The Lib Dems need a kiss strategy keep it simple stupid and the keep it simple isn’t issuing thick policy docs it is sticking to the likes if Farage as led by donkeys do. Do not fall into we can’t say that it isn’t “nice” fallacy, embrace being “nice” and lose. It isn’t a case of fighting, fire with fire, it is oblitorating the populasists with napalm. If you can’t stomach that, well prepare to lose and accept the consequences that come with that.

  • George,
    Your falling into the fallacy “nice” wins, it doesn’t. People want certainly and a clear message, your also not being true to yourself. What do you mean well “doubtless they fear they will still be called a racist by these idiots”, that just isn’t “nice” George and your calling for ” nice” and to be understanding of others views. Calling people idiots, well George I salute you because you a showing passion and that is what is needed to beat populasists. I feel you have inenvertly discovered your inner street fighter, even if I think your aiming at the wrong targets, refocus at the Pied Pipers of Brexit and perhaps you will achieve something.

  • “I agree with nearly all of what you say: but this measure privileges the 40% who go to uni over the 60% who do not. It is overall regressive in terms of equality.”

    Indeed. This Corbynite obsession with “free” university education is just a huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Yet it is those who see themselves as the left wing alternative to mainstream economic liberalism who shout loudest for such a regressive position.

  • Here, here to everything Richard says.
    And especially for me personally atm the notion of fighting nhs bureaucracy. I have three members of my family receiving serious health care and the lack of communication – and added bureaucracy which makes their lives more miserable than they should be – is appalling. And it’s not all about money. The NHS needs serious attention.
    But on the wider issues I just sound a note of caution. We’re now in an age of hyperbole, a problem which I don’t think we have really got to grips with yet. It’s not just news and media anymore, it is hyper news and media and it moves people and views by the second (with huge impact on mental health). It is more powerful than any individual. It may need some tempering! ..We mustn’t just become the place for knee jerk reactions to this or that in a desperate bid to get attention. We need to show leadership for our nation but that should come in the form of clearly thought out policies and campaigns which put liberal values at their core. And we need to start asking the questions no one is asking. As well as climate change (which we’ve been banging on about for 40 years) we should be asking tough questions too about tech. how much do we want out of tech? What kind of tech dominated world do our young people of today want to live in when they’re in their 70s and 80s. Does anyone ever ask them? The tech revolution we are in is bigger than anything we’ve experienced before and could seriously change what it means to be a human being. Do we want this? Let’s have the debate about where tech can help us and where we really don’t want or need its intrusion.

  • “Our advances in parliamentary terms are always preceded by an advance in council seats and influence. That is why we will win EU seats; ”

    Fighting the last war.

    The Brexit Party will win the most EP seats with no councillors.

  • “And especially for me personally atm the notion of fighting nhs bureaucracy. I have three members of my family receiving serious health care and the lack of communication – and added bureaucracy which makes their lives more miserable than they should be – is appalling.”

    Indeed. Monolithic centralised State provision has form in this.

    Which is why our progressive European neighbours have insurance-based healthcare.

  • Sue Sutherland 26th May '19 - 2:23pm

    I agree with Bill le Breton that our downfall came when we looked as if we had happily joined the establishment, and for me, that was when we reneged on our policy concerning tuition fees. I realised that we as a party were just like everyone else. I think it’s easily done. At first the SNP challenged the Westminster traditions but now they don’t. We need someone in the party to be looking at Erskine May or whoever and coming up with methods of working fit for the 21st century. The system has failed.
    I agree with Richard Kemp’s three conclusions but, although in some areas it was the thin orange line of councillors who held the line, in other areas it’s members who joined after 2015 who have not only helped to hold the line, but who have increased the number of councillors available to hold it.
    I used to try to practise community politics as a Councillor and it is successful so why on earth don’t we try to do the same in national politics? Our nation is a community too but many of the practices of government are opaque. For example, many of the EU nationals who have been prevented from voting did not know who to contact to complain. The way we operate democracy needs to change and become much clearer. It’s not just about PR. The casual way in which the referendum was conducted has led us to the present mess. It should not have been a simple majority, people should not have been allowed to lie and it should have been clear whether it was advisory or an instruction, not both at the same time. We need a Parliament which is more open to the people and which protects democracy and we have experience gained at local level which could make this happen.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th May '19 - 2:26pm

    Every piece from Richard talks sense , here too, but each has a specific comment to disagree with.

    Emphasis on anger is easy to become anger about things most are not, complacent abut things most are angry about.

    We hear little about individuals who cause harm, though politics can empower people to deal with them, and Liberalism is about power to those who do not have it.

    Criminals cause harm, we should be the party against them, and for the victims. Too often we hear too much against ASBOS, not against criminals.

    We hear too much for the instituitions that are not working, they are run badly , not just the fault of governments but individuals. We should not be the voice of doctors on strike automatically, but patients on lists endlessly.

    We see the Windrush disgrace was caused by Home Office staff , as well as governments. We should not be the voice of tin pot officialdom, but of innocent people put upon.

    We see big business avoid responsibility. We should not be the mouthpiece of all businesses convinced they need to pay low wages to immigrant casual workers. We should be the party of the potential entrepreneur who cannot get a loan or grant for investment.

    We need to be the voice of those who have none and deserve one, not the mouthpiece of those who are not deserving, not innocent, not in need, at all.

  • Dilettante Eye 26th May '19 - 2:42pm

    @ John Marriott

    “However, IF the state does subsidise the acquisition of university degrees, in areas such as medicine or education, to give two examples, anyone receiving such largesse should commit themselves to spending at least the first four years post graduation working in this country before considering plying their trade abroad”

    Don’t want to upset your ‘chakras’, but that was almost word for word Ukip policy in their 2015 manifesto.

    Good to see you’re catching up at last.

  • @ Bill le Breton

    I think you make some incredibly valid points.

    1. We shouldn’t sit on LDV all day (like me!) debating the merits of STV, AMS, D’hondt and FPTP voting systems. Fascinating though it is!

    2. We shouldn’t ignore the fact that Brexit will remain the most important issue in British politics for the next 10+ years. (And yes to campaigning hard on it)

    3. We shouldn’t not embrace modern campaigning techniques.

    When I was starting out people told me it was wrong to use the phone as a campaign tool.


    1. We should paint broad brush messages on issues (other may be than voting systems) that concern people.

    In case you hadn’t noticed the kids are revolting in the streets on climate change. Ms Holmes in Chesterfield is concerned about no school on Fridays for her children.

    2. We should note that it Labour adopt the policy of a referendum, our vote plummets back to below 7%.

    We have a hearing with the people. But we need to grab the money off Remainers for our campaigns. Stuff leaflets in their hands to deliver. Tell the kids and Ms Holmes what we are doing on climate change and education. The window of opportunity is short.

    Look up the videos of Lynton Crosby. He said in 2010 what was on the mind of voters in the polling station in Yeovil was David Laws as a good constituency MP. In 2015 the Tories’ “long term economic plan”. Hopefully last Thursday it was for a sizeable chunk “bollocks to Brexit.” And Crosby’s techniques worked again in Australia last week. But what will be on the minds of the kids and the mums (and dads) next time? Not just Brexit, I venture.

    3. We should meld the best of old techniques with the best of the new.

    I have no idea how to reach my neighbour on the internet. But I can if I shove a bit of paper through their letterbox. And if I get them to sign a petition on online as a result that’s cheap and quick for me and them and I get their email address. (And actually Farage is not doing anything that we, Lab or Cons aren’t doing!)

  • If you look at UKIP’s 2015 manifesto it was all things to all men with a special nod towards bigots.


    highlights are

    Scrap fees for students taking degrees in science, technology, maths or engineering on condition they pay UK tax and work in the discipline for five years upon completing studying
    Repeal the Climate Change Act 2008
    Protect the Green Belt
    End so-called “green taxes” to cut fuel bills
    Prioritise support for organic farms
    Ukip will take Britain out of the EU and save at least £8billion a year in net contributions.
    Ukip would review all legislation and regulations from the EU – 3,600 new laws since 2010 – and remove those which hamper British prosperity and competitiveness.
    Ukip would negotiate a bespoke trade agreement with the EU to enable our businesses to continue trading to mutual advantage.
    The Department of Energy and Climate Change and green subsidies will be abolished.
    The Department for Culture Media and Sport will be abolished.
    The smoking ban in pubs and clubs will be amended to give them “the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas”.
    The new ‘plain paper packaging’ requirement for tobacco products will be reversed.

    UKIP basically offered massive tax cuts coupled with increases in popular government programs. They nodded to the old reactionaries like Dilettante Eye by proposing scrapping Green taxes but nodded to the Greens by stating we will support Organic Farms and Protect the Greenbelt. It is a dogs dinner of a manifesto and yet it would appeal as long as you just concentrated on the one policy you liked and disregarded the other policies that totally contradicted it. Now the Brexit Party (again supported by Dilettante) has gone one better, it doesn’t have policies, so he is able to fantasy what they may be and happily sends them money, of cause if they ever gained power the policies they enacted are not likely to be his fantasies.

  • John Marriott 26th May '19 - 6:37pm

    @Dilettante Eye
    Same as UKIP? Really? Wow, I must be doing something right, then!

  • Peter Martin 27th May '19 - 6:59am

    @ Richard Kemp,

    “We must take our radical policies and be confident enough to shout them out in communities all over the Country”

    OK but how are you going to pay for it? 🙂

    That’s always the killer question! See “Deadly Innocent Fraud #1” for a much better answer than “put a penny on income tax”.


  • Dr James Shearer 27th May '19 - 8:10am

    I describe my politics to friends and colleagues as fiercely liberal and the stop brexit campaign is an example of taking a clear unequivocal position which wins respect from both sides of the argument.

  • Peter Martin 27th May '19 - 8:29am

    The word “populist” get bandied about a lot. It’s cropped up quite a few times on this thread. Usually it’s regarded as a bad thing. But, just what does the word actually mean?

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary:

    “Populism: A political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.”

    That doesn’t sound too bad to me. If we go back in our history it would be a very good description of the early 19th century campaign for Universal Suffrage. A defining moment took place in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, on 16 August 1819, when a crowd of 60,000–80,000 ordinary people gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. The elite weren’t happy about that. They ordered the cavalry to charge killing 19 people and wounding hundreds more.

    So we need to be asking if the “ordinary people” are justified in expressing discontent. Are their concerns being ignored by the elite?

  • On university.

    (I call it uni as I’m at my length limit!). I also want an equal deal for those not going to uni & a diversity of post-18 education.

    Do some thought experiments.

    If we were in the 1800s. We’d be arguing about increasing education to 11.

    The 1900s to 14. Post war to 16 etc. Free uni education is no more a middle class “subsidy” now than A-levels. And yes, schools should teach more things that are of use & fewer that are not.

    Let’s look at the same kids (genetically) in those different time periods. 1800s – in a big class of mixed ages. Some basics knocked in to them. And sent out into dangerous factories, down the mines, up chimneys, into domestic service. 1900s – some of those jobs were going. Better education – may be now into the typing pool or as an office clerk. By the ‘90s, the word-processor is replacing the typing pool, the spreadsheet clerks. They now need higher level skills even at an entry level job. Same kids, achieving more.

    Take the same children. Stick them in a big class & may be they lose their way & leave school with no education.

    Give them (even the least “bright”), 1-1 education with a range of the best, most inspiring teachers & they get an Oxbridge 1st. Of course people have different talents & skills. But all that is needed for many is enough attention when they don’t understand. Much of education is learning facts & mastering tips, tricks & techniques. I’ve recently learnt how easy the 17 times table is!

    Education is massively expensive & you’re not economically productive & a “waste” if skills acquired are not needed in the economy.

    In the 1800s we could barely afford a primary education & didn’t need more. So most languished with a poor education. In the 2100s (& as we get there), there’ll be increasingly no jobs that don’t need “university” level skills. They’ll be gone – to robots, computers, AI, developing countries. A third of our GDP is already “intellectual property”. The fields to be in are the ones where the first copy costs millions, the second nothing. Films, TV, medicines, websites, computer programming.

    With all being educated to 21, (& increasingly more to 21+), there’s no reason not to pay for it collectively. & more for under-16 education, so all can get there. When previously we may be couldn’t afford to, today we can’t afford not to.

  • David Franks 27th May '19 - 6:11pm

    Yes, I am with Richard Kemp. Go back to employee share ownership schemes, workers on the board, much more regulation of the private landlord industry, free local government to build council houses. Become again the radical party I joined in 1974.

  • Peter Chambers 27th May '19 - 6:58pm


    “Tell us how you are going to pay for it?”

    Look at this webpage https://ourworldindata.org/economic-growth

    and point to the bit where we run out of (PPP) wealth in the near future, please.

    Remember (r > g). The people who own that future growth might decide that we cannot afford to educate everyone in the way an advanced economy requires.

    Some of us beg to disagree.

  • Peter Hirst 28th May '19 - 1:49pm

    We need to remember that our consistent message played a large part in our success in the euros. In an era of fast moving headlines we should rise above that and repeat the correct message. It is okay to be angry about the many injustices in our society but our overlying message must be one of hope. Simple to understand messages of the solutions to society’s challenges should be key. We will only continue to flourish if we achieve an exit from Brexit, preferably with another referendum.

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