Sam Gyimah explains why he joined the Liberal Democrats

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A few hours before his stunning unveiling as the latest Liberal Democrat MP, Sam Gyimah told The Observer why he has joined the Liberal Democrats:

Centrists are being cast out of both main parties. Lots of people are politically homeless. Who can you work with to build a movement?

When I spoke to Jo I thought this is a project that I can be part of. I’m not looking for a harbour in a storm. I’m attracted to a project to defend liberal democracy and make sure our country does not drift into the nationalistic, populist politics that we see in other democracies.

You can read the full interview in today’s Observer.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is currently taking a break from his role as one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Conference and News.


  • A low tax austerity supporting Consevative has joined the Liberal Democrats (see the Andrew Marr Show today). Be still my beating heart.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Sep '19 - 10:00am

    David Raw 15th Sep ’19 – 9:41am
    This is a democratic party. More democratic than any larger other party.
    (Friends with the APNI, working with Greens on environmental policy, such as Heathrow).

  • David Becket 15th Sep '19 - 10:10am

    @David Raw
    “A low tax austerity supporting Conservative has joined the Liberal Democrats” , a party lead by former ministers in the coalition.
    In these desperate times we must look forward not backwards. The crisis we are in will cause many to reconsider their actions of the past.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Sep '19 - 10:50am

    15th Sep ’19 – 9:41am On BBC1 after the Andrew Marr Show the local political news for the south east interviewed Sam Gyimah. He has not yet decided whether he wants to stand again for his current seat (East Surrey)
    He was asked whether he would “stand in Tunbridge Wells? against Greg Clark, unless you think that he would join the Liberal Democrats too”. He replied that he “cannot speak for Greg Clark” but lots of people “are trapped in the Tory Party”.
    [Greg Clark has told the Times of Tunbridge Wells that he ” IS a Conservative and wants to be re-admitted”.]
    Sam Gyimah then referred to the motion at conference in case the BBC journalist has not had time to read it.

  • Is this the same Sam Gyimah who fillibustered in the house of commons to ensure that legislation to automatically pardon living gay people convicted under now abolished sexual offences did not pass?

  • Richard Underhill 15th Sep ’19 – 10:00am…..David Becket 15th Sep ’19 – 10:10am…

    The new recruit does nothing to dispel the belief that being anti-Brexit is the sole rquirement to be welcomed. Marr mentioned Jennie Rigg and the curt dismissal of the question reinforced my first sentence.
    Jo Swinson dodged the question on tax/austerity/public ownership. Post Leave/Remain this party will have to decide it’s priorities; the new intake give an impression of that direction which will be hard to dispel.
    Before someone tells me that policies are decided by conference I’d like to mention 2010-15.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Sep '19 - 1:30pm

    expats: I wanted to support the campaign to Free John McCarthy, took a motion to federal conference where it was passed with overwhelming support. We even had to find a delegate to vote against in order to provide our PPC with an opportunity to speak.
    John McCarthy was a journalist and had NUJ support.
    David Steel had not been supportive. After the conference he was on TV. I guessed that he was doing a job for the leader (Paddy Ashdown) and pressure from the PM (Margaret Thatcher, who had nothing to help a British citizen kidnapped in the Lebanon).
    The Foreign Secretary (Douglas Hurd, a diplomat) decided that they would talk to Iranian diplomats at the UN, which did not involve talking to “terrorists” (or kidnappers) against the PM’s wishes.
    The issue was urgent. I did not have time to go to another conference.

  • Paul Barker 15th Sep '19 - 3:42pm

    We have had 3 Mps each from Labour & The Tories, 4 of those defections in the last 12 Days. Its small beginnings but there does seem to be some acceleration.
    Jo Swinson is more popular than Corbyn, not just among Voters in general but among Labour Voters.
    Are we seeing the start of the long-predicted Realignement of British Politics ? Its too soon to say but if we are then The Libdems will have to become, at least temporarily, a broader church than we have been used to.
    We cannot be a replacement for the Old Conservative or Labour Parties but we can be a temporary home for many of their Voters & some of their members, while British Politics is being reconfigured.

  • “We can be a temporary home for many of their voters and some of their members”.
    Temporary ? What, and then they drift back to their old political homes ? How, exactly, does that help us.
    If the events of recent weeks is indeed what the realignment looks like then the “Old Liberal Democrats” Andrew mentions will have to make a call. Most, I hope will stay and fight their corner in a new, invigorated but broader party. One or two may drift to the greens, or even a socialist Labour party.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Sep '19 - 8:03pm

    @Andrew Hickey
    “But where will be a home for voters and members of the old Liberal Democrat party?”

    That question suggests your desire for political purity might override the need to do some compromising for the sake of our country……?

  • Richard O'Neill 15th Sep '19 - 9:01pm

    As much as this seems to be a boost in the short-term it may lead to problems later on. So many of the defectors have unwinnable seats that there is real risk the party will repeat the 2010 experience of increasing vote share but losing MPs.

  • Unfortunately under FPTP you need broad churches to enable the pursuit and exercise of power. Now in a more grown up system you don’t, because even as a fairly small minority your voice can still be heard. If PR is finally won I’d suspect all the main parties would split into smaller ones, because if watching politics has taught me anything it is people in the same party tend to hate their fellow members much more than the opposition.

    A newly elected young Tory MP, eagerly taking up a place on the benches and pointing to the benches opposite, said to Churchill, “So that’s the enemy”.
    Churchill supposedly replied, “No son, that’s the opposition”,
    and then pointed to the benches behind and said, “That is the enemy”.

  • The thing is these MPs will almost certainly lose their seats the minute the electorate are given a chance to actually vote on whether or not they agree with their “principled” stance, which is why not one of them has been brave enough to force a by-election.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '19 - 8:04am

    AI: Sam Gyimah blocked a rival Bill that would have given blanket pardons to anyone with historic gross indecency convictions, even over acts that would (rightly) still be considered criminal today, while piloting the Turing Law that was supported by all party leaderships.
    Richard O’Neill: The defectors are not necessarily going to fight the seats they won at the last election. And given our recent improved poll ratings and where that vote seems to be coming from, the 2015 and 2017 GE results are unlikely to be a useful guide to a seat’s winnability in the forthcoming GE. Notional Euro election constituency results seem to be a better guide to our strength in a particular seat.
    Glenn: MPs who defect usually do not resign and force by-elections. In our system we elect individuals, not party ciphers. If we decide votes are just for parties, then why have by-elections at all? If MPs are just party delegates, then we should just automatically replace any MP who resigns mid-term with a nominee from their original party. It also destroys the concept of the constituency link.

  • Alex Macfie
    I get that. It’s the representative democracy argument. IMO it’s weak and unprofessional. In most cases if you hire someone as a representative and they disagree with you they will have the common decency to walk away so that you may hire someone else. So for instance you hire a lawyer to fight a parking ticket. They say “In my expert opinion it’s too risky, but I can get the fine down”. You reply ” I didn’t park there and I’m not paying”. They then say something like, “Well, I can’t represent you under those circumstances and I advice you to take my offer, but should you not choose to do so then you are free to hire some one else”. That is how representation works. Representation is not hiring someone to make decisions for you based on their own personal morality or judgement. That is called being ruler and MPs are not rulers, no matter how much they think they are.
    I also think if MPs were suddenly swapping to join “leave” parties, most of the people arguing that it’s a “representative system” would suddenly be demanding that these MPs be accountable to their voters. I on the other hand would be making exactly the same argument I’m making now. Because I don’t think being a “representative” should give you carte blanche to overrule the people who hired you.

  • Andrew Hickey 15th Sep ’19 – 6:37pm…………….But where will be a home for voters and members of the old Liberal Democrat party?……………

    That was my dilemma in 2012 when the aspirations of this party were shown clearly not to be those I could support.
    As to the party moving on? After listening to Sal Brinton, on Woman’s Hour, repeating the old. “Mess left by Labour” and defending the tuition fee debacle, I see this party, under Jo Swinson, repeating the Clegg years.
    If the support of minority spokespersons like Jennie Rigg can be sacrificed to welcome the ‘arrival’ of those whose views are anything but those of , as you say, “the old Liberal Democrat party”.
    These high profile recruits will have to be found ‘winnable seats’: what about those who have worked and slaved for long standing aspiring LibDem candidates? How will Sam Gyimah campaign on a LibDem manifesto which, on most matters (see his voting record), is contrary to what he has always supported?

    In short,, where are the left of centre supposed to go?

  • Expats,
    As to where will the centre left go, well Depeffle didn’t find the magic money forest because people wanted more cuts. The pendulum is swinging to a “show me the money” type society, more money for everything. Now Jo and Co might go on about how the coaltion needed to cut, but they’d have to be pretty dammed stupid not to get on board the “we need to spend more bandwagon”. I accept they will never say they fecked up ( but they did), the question going forward is “Will you spend more on social care, the NHS and making life fairier”, they’d be dammed stupid to say no to that question. As to Jennie and Co I hope they come back, the lose of their voice is a blow to the party.

  • @ expats Interview on Woman’s hour.

    Yes, I heard the interview too. I’m afraid it was a very easy ride. The interviewer let her off the hook more than once when she was on very shaky ground. If it had been Andrew Neil or even Andrew Marr it would have been a car crash like poor Tim Farron suffered in 2017 for different reasons. I also fear for Ms Swinson when the time comes.

    It’s not enough to be enthusiastic, the interviewee needs to be well informed and convincing… and wasn’t on the issues you mention. By the same token the speech to Conference doesn’t read well in the cold light of day. Too many reminders of pep talks by Akela when I was a Wolf Cub in 1950.

    Can’t answer your final question at the moment, expats, although we have other alternatives in Scotland.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '19 - 1:12pm

    “Jo Swinson is more popular than Corbyn, not just among Voters in general but among Labour Voters.”

    Well I don’t know about that!

    She’s good on women’s issues but Labour voters, on the whole, don’t particularly care that some overpaid female BBC TV presenter ‘only’ gets £250k pa whereas her male counterpart might get £350k.

    They don’t, at least where I live in the North, share her total enthusiasm for the EU. They might decide that it’s perhaps better, on balance, to stay in the EU. But they’ll be giving the EU more like 6 or 7 out of 10 rather than Jo Swinson’s 10 out of 10.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Sep '19 - 1:38pm

    Jo Swinson is more popular than Corbyn
    Pollster: Survation
    Numbers: 19 – 17.

  • By the way, in the Gym yesterday and overhead conversation about Brexit. “Aye, it is getting like the 1640’s, Johnson needs to be careful, I would put him in the Tower”, the other person, “The Tower, I would send him to Tower Hill!!!”……
    Oh what days we live in.

  • David Raw 16th Sep ’19 – 12:58pm
    @ expats …..Can’t answer your final question at the moment, expats, although we have other alternatives in Scotland….

    Sadly, in my area it’s Tory or Brexit, so my vote will be just a ‘protest’. However, this time, my ‘protest’ will be either Green or Labour.

  • Paul Barker 16th Sep '19 - 5:28pm

    I see the old “Why don’t they call a By-election ?” meme is still being trotted out.
    I can think of 2 obvious reasons :
    1. They can’t. Parliament isn’t sitting. Aim your complaints at Mr B Johnson.
    2. Everyone seems to be expecting an Early Election. Would their constituents be grateful for having to go through 2 Election campaigns a few Weeks apart ? We love Elections, Voters generally dont.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '19 - 5:29pm

    Glenn: You completely misunderstand what “representative” means in the context of representative democracy. The relationship between an MP and a constituent is not equivalent to the relationship between a lawyer and a paying client — indeed people talk about “client politics” as a bad thing. Contrary to what you claim, elected representatives ARE supposed to make decisions based on their own judgement, not be an “advocate” for any individual or interest group.

    Regarding whether defecting MPs should resign and call by-elections, I would say exactly the same thing if MPs were defecting to, say, UKIP or the Brexit Party. When Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell defected from the Tories to UKIP in 2014, they resigned and won the consequent by-elections (providing UKIP with its first ever elected MPs). But their action was not out of any principle, it was because they knew they were very likely to win their extremely Brexity constituencies, and so it would be good publicity for them and their adopted parties.

  • Alex Macfie.
    I do understand it. I just don’t think it is principled or defensible. Anyway, I’m not going backwards and forwards on this, because frankly I think it’s just a waste of time.

  • Richard O'Neill 16th Sep '19 - 7:10pm

    @Alex Macfie

    Whether the current MPs stand in the same seat is beside the point. They will go down as losses from the tally because LDs are not going to win Bracknell, Streatham, Liverpool Wavertree or East Surrey. There are only so many safe liberal seats and while there are likely certainties for gains such as Richmond Park, there are others such as N.Norfolk, Edinburgh.W and Brecon & R which are potentially vulnerable.

    Another 9-10 defectors in unholdable seats could see the party dropping back 2-3 MPs on Election Day as gains are overtaken by the loss of these ‘paper’ seats.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Sep '19 - 7:34am

    Glenn: If you don’t get the principle that MPs are representatives (in the Burkean sense), rather than delegates, at least try to understand why it’s a bad idea in practice to expect defecting MPs to resign and call by-elections, which is that it would give disproportionate power to party machines. It would be an easy way to get rid of rebels. A backbench MP who displeases the party leadership could just have the whip withdrawn from them, and be thus expected to fight a by-election which (in most circumstances) they would lose.

    Richard O’Neill: You have a point in theory, but I still think you are relying too much on 2017 election results to define winnability. Bracknell is probably a lost cause, but the other 3 are possibilities. We performed well in Streatham in 2010, and would have built on that performance had it not been for Clegg trashing the party. Liverpool Wavertree includes parts of David Alton’s old seat, and we have in the past been strong in local government in Liverpool. East Surrey is a historic 2nd place seat for us. I would suggest that the 2015 and 2017 election results are an aberration as far as our performance is concerned, and we need to look at previous strength, as well as this year’s election results, to determine what seats we might win now.

  • Alex MacFie
    I do get it. I just don’t think it’s good. And as I said I’m not going backward and forwards on this. It’s utterly pointless.

  • Alex Macfie
    Actually, I will come back to because like a lot of people making an argument for that particular version of “representative democracy” you cite the Conservative philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke. Burke was not a democrat in any meaningful sense. He believed in the notion of the sublime church and nobility, arguing that to elect a head of state or question the right of royal succession was destructive. As Tomas Paine said “Immortal power is not a human right, and therefore cannot be a right of parliament”.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Sep '19 - 7:29am

    Glenn: I don’t see how that’s relevant. There are many (constitutional) Monarchists in the Lib Dems. There’s a reason why party policy on the Monarchy is not to have a policy. And Burke was a product of his time. Practically all historical figures would be considered rather unenlightened if judged by the political and moral standards of today. Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, C S Lewis, Enid Blyton and Winston Churchill have all been condemned as racist by people looking through the prism of modern standards.

  • Alex Macfie
    Burke did not just believe in the monarchy. He argued for the right of nobility to rule. The point being that you can’t divorce his views on the role of MPs from his belief in the ludicrous idea that the ruling classes had inherited gifts of impartiality and that everyone else should be subordinate to them. His famous speech in Bristol was virtually his only act as its MP. He never stood there again. Instead accepting Malton from Rockingham.
    More obviously, if Burke was a product of his time why cite him at all? It’s cherry picking to use his argument for the role of an MP without looking at his belief in the inherited god given right of Toffs to govern. I can see the appeal of his argument for MPs, but there is no reason voters should take him or them that seriously.

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