Sal Brinton – Libby is our phoenix

Sal Brinton Sal @ Crohns & Colitis Rec _2 CROPPED Nov 13Here is Party President Sal Brinton’s video address to members this afternoon:

Here’s the text:

Since midnight last night it has become clear that this election has thrown us the challenge of a lifetime. Despite the enormous amount of effort from members and supporters, our Parliamentary party has been reduced to eight and we have lost more councillors too. In addition of course Nick Clegg has announced he will be resigning as leader.

We all owe an immense debt of gratitude to Nick for his leadership of the party over the last seven years. His presiding over the party’s decision to go into coalition may have been the right thing for the country, but it has cost the party dear. Nothing can ever take away the fact that we, in Government, helped get the nation’s finances back on track whilst also cutting tax for the lowest paid, providing extra funding for the most vulnerable children through the pupil premium in schools, and giving gay and lesbian people equality through the Equal Marriage Act.

The tsunami that overtook us last night also meant that some of the key players in delivering these new laws have gone as well as well as our Councillor championing their local areas.

Every MP, Councillor and candidate who has lost their seat, and all their staff, are in our thoughts at the moment. They remain part of our Lib Dem family, and I know that you will help them over the next few weeks and months.
With Nick’s announcement there will obviously now be a leadership election.

The Federal Executive meets for the first time tomorrow afternoon to consider the timescales for this, and I will be in touch with you again after the meeting.

One of the most impressive parts of this campaign has been the way that you, our members and volunteers, have continued in your determined and positive way to make sure that our values and policies were made as widely known as we could. We now have to pick ourselves up and, as we have done in the past, go back to our grassroots, communicating within our communities.

Theresa May’s announcement today that the Tories want to immediately re-introduce the snoopers charter shows how important it is that the Liberal Democrats exist to defend our most fundamental freedoms. We must be out there campaigning to stop this.

I’ve been a member of the Liberal Democrats for over four decades, and the one thing that I’ve learned is that despite our size, despite the challenges we face, we hold together. We will grow again both in local government and in Parliament.

Our symbol, the bird of liberty, is also our phoenix. Since midnight last night to teatime today more than 650 people have joined the party on our website. The phoenix is already rising from the ashes of last night’s elections.

Together we can rebuild the party that we love. Now more than ever this country needs the Liberal Democrats.

Thank you,

Sal Brinton
President of the Liberal Democrats

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41 Comments

  • I guess many of the 650 are like me, disenchanted who have been waiting for the leadership to change.

  • Bill le Breton 8th May '15 - 5:10pm

    Lord David Steele is right to have said a number of times that a Clegg weakness was his inability to take advice from people who are older than him. He inferred this again today.

    But then these senior members of our party in Westminster and the Lords are complicit in what happened because they felt unable to chanllenge him privately about his appointments, his positioning, his policies and his own toxicity.

    Only five of our 57 MPs felt able to challenge him on issues over the last five years. And almost the entire Party in the Lords which number close to 100 of our senior people.

    Can we expect an apology or an admission of their failure to challenge what was going on?

  • Graham Morgan 8th May '15 - 5:13pm

    @theakes
    Precisely my first thought when I read that. Welcome back to you and everyone else returning to rebuild.
    I have some quibbles with parts of what Sal has written but only one that I will comment on. What happened last night was a calamity for us. To use the term ‘tsunami’ is heedlessly thoughtless to the point of giving offence.

  • John Barrett 8th May '15 - 5:17pm

    If 650 people have just joined the party, it would be good to know how many of them were some of the 20,000 previous members who left the party in recent years and were possibly waiting for a reason to return.

    Our membership dropped from 64,000 to 44,000 over the last 5 years, so there must be many more former members out there who might help rebuild the party.

    Hopefully a new leader will appeal to many of them.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th May '15 - 5:21pm

    I have been involved in several very positive conversations today about the rebuilding of our party but I am sorry, I for one simply do not recognise the sentiment expressed in the sentence: “We all owe an immense debt of gratitude to Nick for his leadership of the party over the last seven years.”

    If we are to speedily move forward and rebuild the party, we need to separate what are simply personal feelings regarding the outgoing leader from positive messages about the future.

  • I agree with Bill. This is already being spun as “the price we paid for going into coalition”. That is only partly true, clearly the Tories havent crashed and burned. Im also mightily sick of the other line that is trotted out that “it was worth it”. The only really significant Liberal change was around gay marriage. Virtually everything else is likely to be swept away as and when the Tories see fit.
    t
    The problem was not the coaliton per say, it was the limit of what we achieved within it balanced againt what got through. We’ve come closer to ending the UK as we know it. We’ve moved closer to Brexit. The disabled are maligned, education and health were once again meddled with.
    I have sympathy for many of those who got swept away. But not for those who had the opportunity but were too cowardly to tell Clegg where he was going wrong, from the negotiations through to the rose garden and everything that followed.

  • Graham Morgan 8th May ’15 – 5:13pm
    “…. Welcome back to you and everyone else returning to rebuild.
    ………..To use the term ‘tsunami’ is heedlessly thoughtless to the point of giving offence.”

    I very much agree with both these points from Graham Morgan.

    A ‘tsunami’ is an act of nature, something that takes you by surprise and cannot be prevented. We knew this election was coming five years ago but did not modify what we were doing to avert the worst of the disaster.

    As Bill Le Breton points out, advice was offered over the years by senior members of the party with practical experience but that advice was ignored or perhaps just not understood. This advice could have lessened the disaster. We could see the problem coming, we tried to raise the alarm. For the future we must learn from this.

  • Bill le Breton – Well said, and thanks for those figures about the lack of challenge to the leadership. I suspected as much but didn’t have the data.

    We need a different culture, one that positively encourages rising stars to hone their political instincts of all sorts – choosing advisers, articulating their thoughts, challenging the status quo, building alliances etc. – so that those who can’t quite cut it are winnowed out early and that when the survivors eventually reach high office they are battle hardened. The culture we have now promotes only drab and safe conformity.

    We have just had a master class in how useless the present culture and organisation are. They must change.

  • Re-brandings can be mocked as trite, but we need one now. Please, can we lose the chicken thing as we go forward, and maybe bring back the urks!

  • The party does not owe a debt of gratitude to Nick Clegg, this disaster his down to him and his followers. He was obviously over promoted and wrongly supported by people like Paddy Ashdown who should have known better. Unfortunately this is a long term fix, the Labour party have just lost Milliband, Harman, Balls etc, but have so much talent coming through they will emerge stronger for the next campaign. When I look at the LibDems I just don’t see any one to provide the hope. Perhaps Farron will be a decent leader, but where is the team he will need? I seriously think this is a 20 year fix, the party certainly won’t be at it’s best for 2020.

  • My local lib dem mp is Leeds. I live in Birmingham. John hemming was a great local mp and I will be sad to see him go. It was also sad to see Lorely Burt’s reaction to losing. My question is what now for the unseated Mps?? Vince cable will obviously retire but will the others be back??

  • Bill le Breton makes an important point. I am still a Clegg supporter, but those are very apt comments. Though, it is fair to say Lord Steele praised Nick’s role in government – but felt he let down the party as leader. Even I accept that was the case, the results speak for themselves.

    But, on the matter of Sal’s video, it truly is the time for us to come together. I have said previously that I want a party of Jeremy Browne as well as John Tilley. I still do, I want a robust party happy to debate with itself. But now is the moment we have to work together and support the MPs that remain.

    This is not a time for infighting, this is a time for all of to fight for what has always bound all wings of the party together. which ever way we go, it has my support. This will always be my party and I look forward to standing with all of you to ensure that Liberalism continues. Nick was right, it is now needed more than ever.

  • North of Centre 8th May '15 - 7:09pm

    My wife and I both joined the party today. She is indeed one of the lost 20,000 and refused to rejoin until the ‘cult of Clegg’ ended, that’s her position and I’ll let her defend it.

    On the other hand I’m not a prodigal son, I just got a bit of a wake up call today and decided to stop sitting on the sidelines when I realised how much I preferred the politics of coalition compared to a majority of either colour.

    Cheer up, you could be Scottish Labour…

  • Meral Hussein Ece 8th May '15 - 9:01pm

    Can we stop using the term ‘tsunami’ which does not compare to the natural disaster where thousands of people who lost their lives.

  • David Evans 8th May '15 - 11:09pm

    I’m sorry, but to say ‘We all owe an immense debt of gratitude to Nick for his leadership of the party” is to refuse to face up to the unpleasant lessons we need to learn as a party. Over the last seven years we have repeatedly ignored the messages the electorate have been telling us about Nick’s leadership. We have lost voters as clearly shown in the opinion polls and elections, more than half our councillors and activists, most of our MSPs, a third of our members and last year all but one of our MEPs, and all by most of us refusing to acknowledge what was going on. Even twelve months ago there was a chance to turn from the brink, but instead of standing up for the party and its values, we watched as the “Lib Dem Friends of Cake” was used to humiliate and belittle good, caring Lib Dems.

    This has happened to our party, on our watch and so many of us have chosen to do and even say nothing. We dutifully followed our leader in his fatally flawed journey to the edge of oblivion and waved goodbye to hundreds of good Lib Dems while doing nothing to change it. Until those left at the top, like Sal, realise, acknowledge and act on this fact we will continue to decline and oblivion will only be a short step away. As wiser people than me have said, “Those who refuse to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them”.

  • I’m a 30 year old who had always voted Lib Dem until after the 2010 GE. I have never been a party member but sometimes read Lib Dem Voice and having read some articles today I thought I’d add my comments as a party outsider.

    The problems I see for the Lib Dems are as follows;

    1 – If you position yourself as a party of coalition then you’re done for – how much more potent does the message have to be that the British public by and large do not like the idea of a coalition? In a PR system that would be different but we don’t have it here for national elections. If the best you can offer is being a junior member and minor voice to a bigger master then why on earth would people vote for you?

    2 – The thing that angers me most is that in 2010 the Lib Dems had the best opportunity they’ve ever had, to create a generation of grassroots Lib Dems for life in not raising tuition fees. The subsequent u-turn has meant the Lib Dems are now seen as not only a party of liars but a party that sacrificed a long term goal of solid support (and the resulting Lib Dem influence in parliament) in order to appease the Tories. The students who would have been thankful to the Lib Dems would have gone on to pass down Lib Dem ideas and attitudes to their kids and a Lib Dem core vote would have been born.

    3 – The apparent (apparent to those looking from the outside) willingness of the Lib Dems in government to bend over and take the Tories every time they felt frisky! I couldn’t distinguish between Danny Alexander and a Tory for the past 5 years, he looked so comfortable amongst them I was surprised not to see him at Henley or the Cartier Polo.

    4 – What did the Lib Dems really achieve that is now worth 5 years of a Tory majority until 2020? You might have tempered the Tories every so slightly for 5 years but now Britain has 5 years of the big blue beasts in store. If all you have to show for 5 years of grief, stress and fallout is a rise in the tax threshold then that’s not much to show.

    5 – Nick Clegg’s debate with Farage on Europe was both unnecessary and a gross miscalculation. Anti-Europe feeling is bubbling away, a debate on Europe did nothing to quell it and only served to reinforce the idea that the Lib Dems prefer to talk at people rather than with them. You can get a pro-Europe message out on a local level by engaging with local businesses, to whom the EU is important and get the message out that way, making the link between the EU benefits and the local communities. The debate was a public relations fail.

    I don’t know why, as a former Lib Dem voter I’ve spent so long typing up this post. Maybe I just really believe in the Lib Dem values of pre-2010 but only wish the party seemed to as well.

  • john Whitney 9th May '15 - 7:47am

    Now Clegg has gone we can start to get the party back,and on a true social Democratic path.
    Yes back to the grass roots!

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th May '15 - 8:08am

    john Whitney 9th May ’15 – 7:47am
    “Now Clegg has gone we can start to get the party back,and on a true social Democratic path.
    Yes back to the grass roots!”

    Hi John, I am sure you and I agree on where we need to head today but it many of us also walked the path of radical Liberalism. Members such as you and I must make common cause regarding our shared goal of left of centre Liberal Democracy.

    Back to the grass root values of the Preamble!

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th May '15 - 8:25am

    Meral Hussein Ece 8th May ’15 – 9:01pm
    “Can we stop using the term ‘tsunami’ which does not compare to the natural disaster where thousands of people who lost their lives.
    Paul Walter 9th May ’15 – 6:32am
    By the way, people are saying we have been “decimated”. No. Decimation was when the Roman Army punished its soldiers …”

    Medal, a tsunami is a natural event that has occurred countless times with the vast majority occurring before human beings even evolved. Members using the term have every justification in doing so.

    Paul and Medal, words enter the language and some find common usage that does not strictly match the original meaning. Can we not discuss what people are saying rather than the derivation and subsequent associations of the words they use? We know exactly what people mean – that is surely what communication is about.

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th May '15 - 8:29am

    Stephen Hesketh 9th May ’15 – 8:25am

    Meral – apologies – my i-Pad ‘auto-corrected’ your name … twice!

  • Bill le Breton – his name is Steel, not Steele. Sorry to nitpick, but being married to an Osborn, I know how annoying it can be when people misspell your name! 🙂

  • Sal Brinton’s message was comforting after a night of sorrow.
    The image I’ll hold onto will be of ‘a Pheonix rises out of the ashes’ as the Lib Dems rebuild the party.

    I do think history will judge Nick Clegg kindly and that the Lib Dems decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives at a time of national crisis was brave and selfless.

  • Cross posted with Stephen, there…

  • In terms of rebranding, a phoenix could be nice.

  • Alan John Jefferies 9th May '15 - 8:54am

    I am one of the members who left the party since 2010. I have spent since 1979 as a Councillor and a Local Party Chairman and a wide range of other positions. I left because I was no longer being heard and the party continued to ignore the obvious and upset of members and supporters over Tuition fees and latterly the bedroom tax. The party at the top and middle have become too dominated by Uni educated lib Dems. The basis of the party is not wide enough and we have treated our supporters and members just as a cash cow and manpower and failed to listen to what they in the party have said. I said in the NEC in Birmingham in 2010 that this action would be death of the party as it was. In 2013 I wrote in my diary what I thought would happen to the party in this election I said we would have 7 seats I was wrong we have 8, but if I could see it why could the rest not see it. We the grass roots all outside the higher echelons could see that getting cosy with the Tories was a really bad move. But after 2years of Coalition I left the party because they (the Party) were not listening any more. If your not listening to members you are certainly not listening to the public and now the party has paid the price. If we work hard as a party and fight for what we stand for by 2045 we will be back to our 2005 status. We are not going to fix this in 5 or 10 years but we can start. Now I will consider rejoining to help rebuild what senior party members have so destroyed. We have 1000’s of ex councillors and other members who left because of the coalition who can start fixing the party and bring us back to power (alone) by 2045. The point is does the top of the party want to our help and advice.

  • Alan John Jefferies 9th May '15 - 8:57am

    I do think its wrong to blame Nick for the coalition he led us there but 3000 members voted for it at the NEC in 2010. I was one of about 35 who voted No. The party was responsible too, not just Nick.

  • After the result I do feel as if I’ve been hit round the head. I’m not an activist but a longstanding supporter and new member. The Liberal Democrats are my political home. It’s just right on many levels. We have to pick ourselves up off the ground and rebuild the party. But a post mortem is essential. I think it’s time to build a cross-party campaign for electoral and constitutional reform. Let’s build an alliance across the political spectrum with others who want reform. The result on Thursday morning was more unjust and offensive than ever. It’s a grotesque situation. Scotland politically resembles North Korea albeit on a 50% share of the vote. Millions of Green and UKIP (yes they have rights too) voters are denied representation. Even on 8% a proportionate system would have given Lib Dems 52 seats. Worse still, the result has the potential for driving extremism and pushing voters out of political participation. Now more than ever, we need to address this situation beyond party interest. It has ramifications for our national stability.

    Labour’s massacre in Scotland, I would argue, is directly attributable to FPTP. It bred complacency, arrogance and neglect. You can see that in other Labour or Tory fiefdoms in England too. What happens is it creates inertia and even corruption. MPs from rock solid seats simply stop representing their communities effectively. But the two largest parties have entered a Faustian pact. Labour voters in strong Tory areas are simply sacrificed in order to rack up votes in its strong demographic areas. This equally applies to the Tories and explains why they have been happy to have only one seat in Scotland, if that. The consequences are now visible today where the Unionist majority will simply not be heard in the next Parliament and a myth create that the whole of Scotland supports the SNP and its divisive nationalism.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 9th May '15 - 9:35am

    Stephen Hesketh- I take your point. But our huge losses were not a force of nature, but man made. We made the mistake of thinking the Tories were somehow on our side, and not the ruthless political machine they’ve shown us they are. As others have sensibly said, we need to learn lessons, and rebuild through our communities and grassroots, not a top down approach. An ex voter said to me ‘I don’t know what the Lib Dems stand for anymore’ I would like to work with others so we are very clear what our values are, what we stand for and to reassert our centre left identity opposed to the Tory government. We will have to rebuild our local government base, & have a clear view on Europe, & electoral reform – An opportunity to work with a progressive alliance across the policy the spectrum. Above all we need to be honest about the task ahead.

  • Alex Macfie 9th May '15 - 9:36am

    Nick Clegg’s debate with Farage on Europe was both unnecessary and a gross miscalculation.

    Indeed, Clegg debating with Farage was like a weedy schoolboy going on his own into the big bully’s den thinking, “I’ll show him,” and then unsurprisingly getting roundly beaten up. By fighting on Farage’s preferred territory, Clegg got beaten to a pulp.

    Not only that, it was the wrong debate. It was in the run-up to a European Parliamentary election. But whether you are pro or anti EU is a domestic issue, not a European issue. For me the unforgiveable error in that campaign was that we failed to capitalise on the fact that the European Parliament was a “Coalition-free Zone”, that Lib Dem and Tory MEPs groups belonged to separate groups and often voted along very different lines. Where was the publicity from us about the Tories’ raving-right allies? Or about what our MEPs had done AS LIBERALS to make the EU work better for the people, particularly the people of the regions they represented? Generic pro-EU stuff is no good in a European election, it’s like fighting a UK election on how great the UK institutions are and on what great things being in the UK has done for us. I hope that we shall fight future European election campaigns on a platform not just for the EU, but for our specifically LIBERAL vision of the EU. And if the Tories are still in bed with their far-right allies, we should draw attention to that as well.

  • @Paul Walter: Just for you, I am coining the word “novendecimation,” from novem decimæ “nine-tenths,” to signify the loss of 90% of something.

  • Cleggimated

  • @ Pat
    “I do think history will judge Nick Clegg kindly and that the Lib Dems decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives at a time of national crisis was brave and selfless.”

    I don’t think history judges Ramsay MacDonald kindly for being brave and selfless in 1931, so why would history be kind to Nick Clegg when the situation was not as bad?

  • Michael BG: If you listen and read you will notice the re-evaluation process is already beginning. It depends in part on what happens over the next five years, of course.

    Also, if he hangs around and does not wander off, he will be an important touchstone of inside experience for criticism of the new government.

  • Jane Ann Liston 9th May '15 - 11:59pm

    @Alan Gee ‘The students who would have been thankful to the Lib Dems would have gone on to pass down Lib Dem ideas and attitudes to their kids and a Lib Dem core vote would have been born.’

    I wonder? Labour introduced tuition fees in the first place, after saying they would not, but everybody, including students, seem to have forgotten, or even forgiven, that broken promise. Also, children are notorious for not following their parents’ ideology, at least until they are middle-aged. For example, the erstwhile North East Fife Tory candidate is the son of a LibDem councillor, but her ideas and attitudes do not seem to have been taken up by him.

    I agree, though, that we need a core vote. For too long we relied upon a protest vote, but being in Government changed that, and those wising to protest went either to the SNP or UKIP, depending upon which side of the Border they were voting.

  • @Jane Ann Liston

    I think there is no comparison to be made between Labour and the Lib Dems in that regard. That may seem like a double standard but double standards do exist, that’s life. Labour has a core vote that is very difficult to shake, the same with the Tories, people grow up in Tory households and in Labour households – they may not always share those same views but there is an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of those views.

    2010 was the chance for the Lib Dems to claim their core vote by ‘protecting’ students from tuition fees. Instead of students telling their families… ‘well the Lib Dems did right for us back in 2010’ the narrative will probably be ‘the Lib Dems screwed us over in 2010, you can’t trust them’. I wasn’t born for the first half of Thatchers’ term but I talk about it and reference it because it had a profound effect on the people close to me and my community – and that’s the reason I will never vote Tory, even if it’s in my own personal interest to do so.

    Old sins cast long shadows, the Lib Dems need to toughen up and get real or they’ll be wiped out completely.

  • @Jane Ann Liston

    Just to add… there is something more manageable about £3000 a year fees than there is about £9000. Debt on a young person will always be a burden but I don’t think education should be free. It’s finding the balance between something worth paying and feeling like you’re being taken for a mug. Does £27000 respresent good value as a young graduate these days? I’d hazard a guess and say not, unless you went to Oxbridge.

  • David Evans 10th May '15 - 1:00am

    There are still too many who choose to believe we relied on the protest vote. Our vote had many facets, but a core element was those who were sick of politicians lying to them. Nick promised “an end to broken promises” and almost the first thing he did was break the biggest one he made. They didn’t go to SNP or UKIP as a protest. They went everywhere in disgust. If we don’t toughen up enough to tell ourselves the truth rather than keep reiterating lies to ourselves to keep up pretence we will be doomed to oblivion very soon.

  • tony dawson 10th May '15 - 6:18pm

    People should please stop talking about things of which they know nothing. In Southport, where every MP elected since 1987 is now a Lib Dem, our ‘core’ vote is around 22 per cent of those who vote, which is one person in seven in the community. John Pugh was elected with the votes of roughly one person in five in the community,

    While there will always be protest votes kicking around, the difference between our ‘core’ vote and our total vote in each election is largely whether or not we have persuaded these extra people that to vote for us is in their best interests. This year, we did that with about 9 per cent of the voters which is about 6 per cent of the electorate. In past electons, we have fot this up to about three times that amount. Our job now is to engage with our communities about both local and national issues and to get that figure back up there.

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