+++Sarah Teather won’t fight 2015 election

Tomorrow’s Observer carries an interview with Sarah Teather in which she says that she will not defend her Brent Central seat in 2015, citing concerns about immigration policy.

It says:

In a blow to Clegg a week before his party gathers for its annual conference in Glasgow, Teather said his tougher approach to immigration – including a plan for some immigrants to pay a £1,000 deposit when applying for visas – left her feeling so “desolate” and “catastrophically depressed” that she was unable even to confront him over the issue. “It was an absolutely black moment. I couldn’t even move from my seat when I read it. I was so depressed I couldn’t even be angry. I was utterly desolate,” she says.

Announcing her decision to turn her back on frontline politics in an interview with the Observer, she adds that “something broke” in her when the Lib Dems responded to public concern about the cost of welfare by backing a government cap on benefits.

She also added that she had been upset by the way in which the vote on Syria had been handled.

Teather attracted much criticism for voting against same sex marriage earlier this year. On the other hand, she has been a powerful advocate for those caught up in the immigration and asylum system.

She has represented her Brent seat since a spectacular by-election win in the wake of the Iraq war in 2003.

We will update this post if there are any developments this evening.

This is Sarah’s statement which has appeared on her website:

In just over a week’s time, I shall reach the tenth anniversary of my election to Parliament in the Brent East by-election. I took some time off this summer and found myself reflecting a great deal on the last ten years.

It has been an enormous privilege to serve as an MP in Brent. Indeed, for me personally, so much of the last decade has been both rich and surprising. I am not sure that I would ever have expected to be elected so young, and I certainly never expected that I would have had the opportunity to serve in Government.

The greatest privilege of my work both as a constituency MP and as a Minister has been the gift of being able to share in the private joys and struggles of so many people’s lives – many different from one another and very different from my own. I shall always be inspired by the profound courage and dignity I have witnessed in people I have worked with, often in the face of the most extraordinary difficulties.

Of all my parliamentary work, the campaign I remain most proud of is the campaign to get my constituent released from Guantanamo Bay. I shall always count the moment my constituent walked back in through his own front door and picked up his five year-old daughter for the first time in her life as one of the most precious of my life.

In Government, the moment I count as my proudest is the one where I listened to Nick Clegg announce our intention to end the routine detention of children in the immigration system – something I worked hard to deliver, in what, at times, felt an almost insurmountable battle with the Home Office. I feel humbled too to have been able to play my part in delivering the pupil premium to schools and to extend free early education to two year olds, and perhaps the work dearest to my heart, that of reforming the system of support for children with special educational needs.

There have been so many rewards to this work — too many to list here. But having taken the summer to reflect on the future, I feel now that at the General Election, the right time will be right for me to step aside. I wanted to explain why I have decided not to seek re-election in 2015.

I first joined the party almost exactly twenty years ago, during fresher’s week at university. It was then — and still is now – absolutely inconceivable that I could ever join any other political party. As with most party members, there have always been a few issues where I have disagreed with party policy. But over the last three years, what has been difficult is that policy has moved in some of the issues that ground my own personal sense of political vocation – that of working with and serving the most vulnerable members of society. I have disagreed with both Government and official party lines on a whole range of welfare and immigration policies, and those differences have been getting larger rather than smaller. Disagreements with the party on other areas of policy I have always felt could be managed, but these things are just core to my own sense of calling to politics. I have tried hard to balance my own desire to truthfully fight for what I believe on these issues with the very real loyalty and friendship I feel to party colleagues, but that has created intense pressure, and at times left me very tired. I don’t think it is sustainable for me personally to continue to try and do that in the long term.

I want to reassure people in Brent that I shall continue to work very hard to represent them over the next 18 months until the next General Election. My constituency office will remain open five days a week, just as it has always been. I shall be out campaigning for the local elections with my local LibDem team over the forthcoming months and will campaign to get my Liberal Democrat successor elected to Parliament in the General Election. In Parliament I shall continue with my work as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and will carry on making the case for a fair and humane immigration system as Parliament considers a new immigration bill in the coming months.

I hope that I have been able to support and represent the people of Brent well as their MP, but I feel rich beyond measure to have been able to do this work here. I shall always count myself indebted to those who gave me this opportunity to serve – to the thousands of constituents who voted for me and to the many Liberal Democrat supporters and members who campaigned and walked the streets for me over three elections. I hope that, over the last 10 years, I have at least gone some way in repaying the faith that so many have shown in me.

I have had a bit of time to get used to the idea of a Commons without Malcolm Bruce’s wisdom and experience. Losing such a significant voice for the most vulnerable in our society in Sarah is another blow. We are losing too many of our best people.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • ” I was so depressed I couldn’t even be angry” Pretty much felt the same about her equal marriage vote…

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Sep '13 - 10:10pm

    Just read the article. She also cites the benefits cap and the Syria vote. She says she was asked to support Syria partly because of party loyalty, which she disagreed with. I agree with her entirely that loyalty should not have been a factor in the Syria vote, not loyalty to the United States, our government or the party.

    She is also a catholic (I am not religious), but she wrote an interesting article in the Catholic Herald at the time of the gay marriage vote saying how it is difficult to be religious and a member of the Lib Dems. This article connected with me because at the time I was frustrated by the nastiness being shown towards religious objectors to the gay marriage vote.

    I know that people become genuinely angry with those who vote against gay marriage whatever the reasons, but I just think the abuse was unfair because I think having a religious objection to something is an understandable position, even if I disagree with it myself.

    I wish her the best of luck.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Sep '13 - 10:11pm

    @ATF, why are you and others still having a go at her over the equal marriage vote? Can’t you just let it go?

  • Tony Greaves 7th Sep '13 - 10:18pm

    Oh dear, oh dear.

    It is a real blow. Her leadership on the two fundamental Liberal issues of immigration and benefits has been inspirational, though obviously very lonely for her.

    And the two previous postings are a really shocking and disgraceful. There seem to be some people in the party who should not, in my judgement , consider themselves to be Liberals., But Sarah is not one of them.


  • Gutted to hear this. Sarah has been a courageous anddistinctive voice in the parliamentary party, we’ll be weaker without her.

  • “Announcing her decision to turn her back on frontline politics in an interview with the Observer, she adds that “something broke” in her when the Lib Dems responded to public concern about the cost of welfare by backing a government cap on benefits.”

    It’s a bit difficult to understand this, as she remained a minister for well over a year after that, until she was sacked.

  • So what is it going to take before either a) Nick Clegg and his advisors re-connect with liberal values and ensure that the government stops selling them down the river; or b) the Party tells him to go?

  • Andrew Emmerson 7th Sep '13 - 10:33pm

    Firstly amusing that Tony Greaves seems to have redefined liberalism to mean “agrees with Sarah Teather”

    Secondly Eddie Salmon – no not really. She voted to deny me equality under the law – why should we forget that. What rankles is that she’s citing social justice reasons. What social justice is there in voting against SSM. The answer is absolutely none.

    It’s a mass of hypocrisy.

  • Chris Rennard 7th Sep '13 - 10:39pm

    This is a tragedy for the Lib Dems. I disagreed strongly with Sarah on equal marriage. But she has been one of our best advocates over the last ten years. We should thank her for what she has done for the party, hope that things work out well for her in future and that we can all work together for many good causes in future.

  • Tony Greaves 7th Sep '13 - 10:46pm

    I suppose I should have known that any request for tolerance and understanding of what has obviously been a deeply traumatic personal decision, from some of the people who seem to think that the only things that really matter are to do with sex related issues, would result in further intolerance and anger. As for the lack of rational logic in comments such as those by Alex Wilcock. Andrew Emmerson and other (pseudonymous) commentators, I leave other people here to make up their own minds. I just think they should be ashamed of themselves.


  • Eddie Sammon 7th Sep '13 - 10:47pm

    Andrew, I understand people disagreeing with her but I think being nasty about it is unnecessary. However, having said that, I have plenty of times been arguably nasty to people who have made me angry, so I don’t want to be the emotions and communications police.

    I would say though that when someone is leaving the party after a long and dedicated service, I think people should be respectful or say nothing. Highlight the gay marriage vote if you wish, but saying goodbye is not a time for hate.

  • I disagreed with her about equal marriage, but I think Eddie Sammon has got it right (and I hope you’ll reconsider your decision not to renew Eddie) – one deeply held conviction does not necessarily an illiberal make.

  • And its started. Clegg has wrecked this party.

  • Paul In Twickenham 7th Sep '13 - 11:06pm

    @Alex – are you saying that anyone who opposed the equal marriage legislation should be disqualified from membership of the party?

  • I suspect Nick Clegg – while being exasperated by the timing – will have some sympathy for Sarah Teather’s position. He’s dug himself deeper into what most of us (it appears) thought was an uncomfortable but necessary coalition, and he may not manage to dig himself out again. Many of us are now feeling the discomfort more than the necessity, and the leader may sometimes be motivated by the habit of government rather than the essential hauling back of at least some of the worse Conservative instincts – we don’t have the numbers to crush all of it.

    We will always need people of principle, even if some of those principles rankle with some of us, but we will also need people who can get stuck in and do the power stuff. That’s what we’re here for. These few years may well be deemed a failure in the short term, but the job is always to work to put the principle into practice.

  • David Evans 7th Sep '13 - 11:17pm

    Sarah will be much more missed than all of those single issue self styled liberals put together who think abuse and continual carping is the correct behaviour when another liberal disagrees with them on their one issue. The question is are they Liberals because they believe in its values, which includes tolerance, or just because it is a convenient vehicle to promote their own personal agenda.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Sep '13 - 11:31pm

    Thanks tonyhill, yes I will be renewing, I know I’m a bit of a flip flopper but I was also really frustrated with the way the Syria vote was handled and the situation in general. In fact I was so annoyed I almost turned into a communist, which is saying something for me :).

    Anyway I’m going to bow out of this debate, please let us get along!

  • Richard Dean 7th Sep '13 - 11:37pm

    This party is not single-issue party, and people who can’t accept that should simply go away. Sarah struck me as a very genuine person, a valuable rarity in today’s politics. As such she was probably bound to be tormented over something, and the consequent intense reflection can be illuminating and path-finding. Her contributions have been great, and I expect that her future contributions would be great too. Is there still hope that she may change her mind?

  • Alisdair McGregor 7th Sep '13 - 11:43pm

    I think it is disappointing to know that Sarah’s decision increases the chance of a godawful Labourite union statist winning the seat in 2015. I believe that Sarah’s personal vote in Brent could have kept her in, even with activists from wider afield being unwilling to campaign for her because of the equal marriage vote.

    However, it cannot be denied that her stance on equal marriage was illiberal, muddle-headed and intolerant. She should know that a personal religious opinion does not give someone the right to enforce that opinion in law to discriminate against anyone. The same can be said for any of the Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against – your personal religion or morals does not give you the right to enforce them upon others.

    I’m sure she will find a place fighting for the issues on which she is strong in the political circles of the UK. But those throwing around terms like “tolerance” and “single issue” should think about what they really mean before proceeding.

  • My mother and I have argued tenaciously about same-sex marriage. We are both still liberals.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Sep '13 - 11:45pm

    Hmmm. Ok. In 2007 or 2008, a friend of mine was speaking at Glasgow Pride. He was listened to with a mix of hostility & disinterest. Things have changed a lot in a few years. I expect that in 20 years we will consider it a deal breaker for party membership. I have always believed that people who love each other should be able to get married. I think that the way to win everyone over it that position is to talk to them & try to gently persuade them & challenge them. That’s what I do when I see friends of mine thoughtlessly share these awful cartoons about immigrants & benefit claimants on Facebook,.

    I was disappointed with Sarah’s vote on equal marriage but I also give huge credit to her immigration work. Both these issues are of supreme importance to me.

  • Well this is great, isn’t it? And just before conference too.

    Yes, Sarah was great on immigration, but the reason her vote on equal marriage crossed the line for me is the fact that huge numbers of the people she was trying to deny equality to were the very activists who got her elected. Surely even Lord “shut up and deliver leaflets” Greaves can understand why those activists feel betrayed? It’s not about “single issue politics” or any other mealy-mouthed apologism. It’s about a very visceral and personal sense of betrayal; that’s why Sarah gets this in the neck harder than any of the other lib dem MPs who voted against same sex marriage.

    I now await the piles of opprobrium from those reasonable liberals above who think I am using my position of power (I.e. I can type) to oppress a former government minister.

  • paul barker 7th Sep '13 - 11:48pm

    I am very sad about this & wish Sarah the best of luck with her new career, whatever she chooses to do. I beleive she is making a big mistake & leaving just when British Politics is opening up & Our Party will face its greatest opportunities & challenges. Perhaps being in Government she got too close to see the difference between the compromises we have made to keep The Coalition afloat & the way we would have behaved if we were the senior partner.
    The Coalition is not The Libdems & Nick Clegg is not the Libdems, theres room for all of us.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Sep '13 - 11:49pm

    And I should add, just as I said about people refusing to campaign for MPs who had voted for secret courts, be careful about that. Don’t think for a second that a Tory or Labour MP is going to be more civil liberties orientated.

  • John Broggio 7th Sep '13 - 11:49pm

    @ Alasdair McGregor

    I know people here generally are not tribal but unions have a membership several orders of magnitude larger than the LDs, so from a democratic perspective, one would hope they would be well represented in parliament, no?

    And from recent soundings in the media, it’s unlikely the unions would choose “we’re not New” Labour as their vehicle of choice – too right wing by far for the unions.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 7th Sep '13 - 11:55pm

    I would have more respect for Sarah Teather if she stood down now and forced a by-election. I hardly think it advantages the people of Brent to have an MP representing them who has severe doubts about the legitimacy of her own party’s policies.

  • James Brough 8th Sep '13 - 12:05am

    I would agree that Sarah has done extremely valuable work as regards immigration and, having spent 11 years working for UKBA, I fully support her stance in this area.

    On the other hand I would say that anyone who believes that the right for two people to marry should be dependent on their gender is flying in the face of the principles of tolerance that the party is based on.

    As for Tony Greaves’ comment on “people who seem to think that the only things that really matter are to do with sex” – well, contempt is the only response I can muster to that.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 12:07am

    @John Broggio

    Unions might have a membership of that size, but union membership neither votes solidly Labour (or even at all), nor has any democratic effect on union candidate selections.

    Union leaderships on the other hand, have huge power with little or no democratic underpinning and essentially control selections – as we’ve seen with the Falkirk cover-up – and control the purse strings.

    On which note, don’t for a moment think that the Union funding row means they will use less money for political purposes. The unions now will be just giving directly to their chosen candidates rather than to Labour HQ.

    Sadly, yes, Sarah’s departure means it is much more likely that the next MP for Brent will be some godawful Labour stooge who has been bought and paid for by a union. And Labour will probably run their usual faux-working-class cobblers as a campaign. Hopefully Brent local party can hold it together for 5 years and take the seat back in 2020 once local people realise how bad Labour MPs are compared to LibDem ones.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 12:09am


    ” It’s about a very visceral and personal sense of betrayal.”

    Can you explain why a sense of betrayal. Did you canvass with her and she told you she was in favour of gay marriage? Has she written extensively on the evil oppression faced by gays because they couldn’t get married? Or is she just not quite perfect enough for you on your favourite issue?

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 12:10am

    @Helen Tedcastle

    I’m afraid that your line of argument makes matters worse, not better. If someone can’t manage to hold to the general liberal principle of equality when it conflicts with their religion, then there’s no telling what matters they might decide to act illiberally on.

  • John Broggio 8th Sep '13 - 12:18am

    @ Alisdair McGregor

    “Union leaderships on the other hand, have huge power with little or no democratic underpinning” – I don’t think anyone who’s belonged to a union would ever say that. Leaving aside the way that legislation has eviscerated the power that unions once enjoyed, they have to have a vote on virtually changing their underwear, let alone leaders.

    As unions will apparently shove money at their preferred candidates, it sounds like an obvious solution would be to field candidates who would support workers…

  • paul barker 8th Sep '13 - 12:19am

    @ John Broggio
    I think the point is that its not Trades Unions that have (for now) so much power in Labour but the (largely self-appointed) Beurocracy & Leaderships who are usually chose by a very small proportion of The Members. Most of the big Unions are now dominated by Far-Left Groups who have very different aims from most Labour Members let alone Voters.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 12:23am


    If you read the Preamble to the Federal Constitution that is on everyone’s membership card, it says “The Liberal Democrats … seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community …”

    The key word in this case is balance. You have to have balance if you want to be a Lib Dem. We are not a single issue party. And we all know that if you are at one end or the other, and you deny people the right to take any other position, the one thing you will never have is a balance.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Sep '13 - 12:24am

    Sarah did loads on pupil premium & ending child detention for immigration purposes.

  • James Brough 8th Sep '13 - 12:31am

    @John Evans

    With reference to Jennie’s comment on betrayal, I think you’ll find the explanation as to why it might feel like a betrayal about 5 lines higher up in the same post.

    Just looking to be helpful – no need to thank me.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 12:31am

    @David Evans

    Equal Marriage is an issue where all three are promoted by supporting it.

    Liberty – the freedom of people to Marry whoever they love – Check
    Equality – to be treated equally before the law of the land – Check
    Community – to be a part of the same society as everyone else – Check

    Even if you assume that bigoted communities don’t like the third one, there’s still no excuse for overriding the other two, nor for an MP committed to those principles on the card for voting against it.

    The only solutions to the discrimination against homosexuals & bisexuals in homosexual relationships from getting married were full equalisation of marriage law or the complete removal of marriage as a legal status.

    I’d have preferred the latter as a first stage towards disestablishment of the Church, but the former addresses the immediate problem of discrimination against those in same sex relationships.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 12:33am

    @Helen Tedcastle “We have a representative democracy”

    That’s an argument in favour of those activists who refuse to campaign for her (and any of the other anti-equality MPs), isn’t it?

  • James Brough 8th Sep '13 - 12:53am

    As regards comments about “single issue” people, there are people I know – at least one on this thread – whose lives have been changed by the equal marriage vote. They have been allowed what has always been regarded by opposite sex couples as a basic human right – as set forwar by Article 12 of the ECHR. The preamble of the constitution states that we seek to balance equality, liberty and community. I fail to see how preventing consenting adults from marrying achieves this. While I understand that Sarah held strong religious beliefs, I do not believe that tis gave her the right to attempt to impose these on others.

    As I’ve said, I respect her or the work which she did on immigration, but I find her stance on equal marriage to be illiberal.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 12:57am

    @ David Page

    Thanks for agreeing with me. If you could go on to explain to Alisdair why his post, which focuses solely on equality shows a lack of balance, I’m sure it would help him.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 12:57am

    The irony is that most of those decrying the “single issue” tendency then follow it up with “but Sarah’s been really good on immigration”.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 12:59am

    @David Evans
    Pretty certain you haven’t actually read my last post.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 1:11am

    @ Alisdair

    Pretty certain I have.

  • Richard Dean 8th Sep '13 - 1:42am

    It looks like some of the posters here have all the bitchiness, nastiness, and selfishness that one sees in caricatures.

    This party has always been able to support differing viewpoints, indeed that kind of inclusiveness is one of its strengths and one of its major attractive features. It really has never been a single-issue party, or one that rejects religious beliefs held by individuals and/or large sections of the community, or one that disallows MPs to vote according to their conscience, or one that disallows MPs to represent their constituents rather than their activists. As David Evans may be suggesting, there never was a bargain between MPs and activists about MPs supporting one group of interests above all others. And as Helen suggests, if the party ever gets like that then the only way is down.

    As someone may once have said: this is a political party, not a pressure group – get over it.

  • MP in unwinnable seat decides to retire rather than lose. Hardly a shock.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 1:59am

    Thank you for a more thoughtful post than just the sad “I’m anti Sarah because she disagrees with me” messages we have got in so many posts. However when I see

    “I’d be more impressed by her “principles” if she’d found any before being sacked”
    “Principles? Ho ho ho. Pique and impending humiliation of having to fight her seat on her own …”
    “I wonder if, in Tony Greaves’ highly esteemed judgement, people against mixed-race marriage or in favour of Jim Crow laws should consider themselves to be Liberals?”

    I don’t see any attempt at balance whatsoever.

    I see you say the (only?) bees in your bonnet are electoral reform and internet freedom. However you do also say “I would *definitely* say, though, that no-one who opposes same-sex marriage can really call themselves a Liberal, and they don’t deserve our support in any elections.”

    Have you ever posted that those who disagree with you on electoral reform (say by promoting a referendum on AV rather than STV) can’t call themselves a liberal and don’t deserve our support in elections. After all STV does deliver equality of votes which AV doesn’t. Or is the right to equality through same sex marriage more important to you than the right to equal votes?

    I really do think you need to carefully consider where your posts are taking you.

    I do however think you are getting there when you say “And it’s sad precisely *because* Sarah Teather has done so much good in other areas. She *is* the only Parliamentary voice speaking up loudly enough about immigration — and frankly that’s an issue most of our MPs should be ashamed of themselves about. But that’s not enough to excuse her voting for institutionalised bigotry.”

    We have, according to you, lost our only MP speaking up for immigrants rights, perhaps because so many people posting here regard their personal priority – same sex marriage – so important that the sacrifice of the “only one speaking up for immigrant’s rights” is an acceptable balance. Surely a balanced approach would be to support immigrants as much as any other group, not celebrate the loss of the only one.

  • Sarah Teather has, for years, been promoted as being one of the pillars of the party

    It seems, though, form the posts she was not really a party icon, as I there has been an outpouring of negativity.

    If your party behaves like this now then what is going to happen closer to 2015?

    I love how we manage to get a bit of union bashing as well – makes me shake my head….

  • I, for one, am very glad that Sarah Teather won’t be fighting in 2015. She is the worst, tergiversating kind within our party, soft on issues when it might harm her chances of re-election (benefits, immigration) but tough on issues where her own conscience might face some kind of difficulty (gay marriage).

    Her constituency in Brent is at the epicentre of the kind of problems being dealt with that no-one under Labour bothered to tackle (illegal immigration, massive benefits bills for dependent families). Indeed, Labour didn’t want to tackle them, because it generated huge numbers of votes in inner city constituencies for them. The local council estimated that the £26,000 a year benefits cap meant that 2,000 people would end up losing £50 a week and 84 families would end up losing at least £1,000 a week. That means there are 84 families receiving at least £78,000 a year in benefits, equivalent to £120,000 a year pre-tax per family. If she thinks that that is remotely sustainable or affordable, I’m sorry but she’s not an asset to this party.

    If the entire party were composed of Sarah Teathers, we’d never have a chance of controlling public spending and in particular benefits. I think she typifies the kind of “permanent opposition” politics stream of thought within the Lib Dems. Unfortunately, many of those people are disillusioned with the realities of being in government and have instead turned their noses up at the real world where spending money is limited and scarce and tough choices actually have to be made and chosen to support Labour. It makes me sad that by this stage they have not grown up. Probably they never will.

  • Any sane minded person trawling through these Saturday night rants would think they had stumbled upon the rats stuffed in a sack party….

  • Peebee

    Yes, it does seem a tad excessive

    It is not as if she had crossed the floor, just standing down.

    It seems that noone here can tolerate attacks on the leadership…….she may have been illiberal on same sex marriage but so was Alan Beith and I didn’t see him being treated in the same way


    Dp the posters on here who are so critical of Teather, have the same opinion on these guys? Perhaps they should stand down too

    RC, those ‘hard choices’ so popular with your Tory friends….seem it is only hard for the poor though. Teather may be many things but she worked hard in a constituency with many issues and has done well to hold it against Labour. With her going and other likely losses you are going to be left as a party of the rural shires

  • A lot of attacks on Teather because of the gay marriage vote, sounds like that’s been raked over a lot in the past.

    Surely the issue today is what she has said about Clegg and the way he’s taken the party ?
    So many voters appear to agree. Ignoring it won’t help the party in 2015.

    Personally, I would have preferred she’d spoken up before she was sacked as minister.
    Also, her Brent Central electorate may not have returned her in 2015 anyway, if the swing against the party is a big as looks likely. Jumping before pushed by the voters ?

  • I would also like to add that I admire her courage in this decision – it may be she would have been beaten in 2015 but I hope she was not cynical enough to use this as a way of avoiding that (those of you who know her will be able to judge better than me). I have never seen her has being that cynical, although frequently misguided. I don’t agree with her on many things

    She is someone who has been involved in politics for most of her life and I guess sacrificed things most of the rest of us take for granted. She probably envisaged being an MP for the long-term as well. To give that up is not an easy thing.

    I hope she takes some time to get outside the political bubble, carry on some of her good work and perhaps come back to politics at a later date with a little more experience of life outside Politics

  • Richard Shaw 8th Sep '13 - 8:43am

    This must come as a bit of a shock and blow to Brent Lib Dems. I hope, and I’m sure they will, find an excellent replacement candidate as soon as possible so that they can campaign to retain the seat in earnest.

  • bcrombie: Sarah relied heavily on the pink activist base to get her leaflets delivered. While she didn’t actually PROMISE them anything… That’s why she’s getting this worse than Beith or Pugh (for example). As I believe I said further up thread. Can’t blame you for scrolling past though.

    AFAIK Beith is standing down too.

  • Richard Shaw

    Without her, that seat is lost

    Need to look as a party what you re going to do to enable some urban and northern seats to be held

  • Teather was more effective as a backbencher than as a minister. Its a shame that she will quit, she started very young and I think her experience as a minister would have made her a still more effective backbencher over the longer term.

  • she is right that the LibDems have been moving closer and closer to the Tory party on issues such as immigration and social policy which is absolutely against traditional Liberal views. Tony Greaves is right also over the illiberal intolerance in some of these posts.

    However the move to the right and pandering to the most base instincts of what Party leaders consider public opinion is why many of we former members look increasingly to Parties like the Greens or the Nats (Plaid/SNP) as radical alternatives; parties who (also unlike Labour) remain wedded to social justice and reject the government’s ‘Daily Mail’ populist policies on immigration, benefits, and social justice.

    Only on civil liberties do the LDs in government now chime with my views and even there they seem to be moving to the right in line with their coalition masters. Syria was just another example of where the party leaders are taking the party to the authoritarian right following the American dictat completely the opposite of their attitude over Iraq which they steadfastly opposed; gaining great public respect and support.in so doing.

    The problem really began with the infiltration into the party of a bunch of right wing economic liberals who were determined to move the party into becoming a free market organisation and then began in government when they broke their promise over student fees – the rot just continued apace. Supporting benefit cuts and the attack on our universal welfare state and privatisation of the NHS being major concerns

    I am campaigning for the Greens as the best hope and home of true Liberal values which the LibDems have firmly rejected.

  • Jennie

    Point taken but the result is the end is the same. Significant numbers of your MPs voting against. Why are there so many illiberal people (from your point of view) in the party?

    Including Simon Hughes, who in the area has surely behave more reprehensibly than Teather ever did. I remember the Tatchell by-election!

  • “She was perfectly happy with Coalition policies as long as she was a minister. Something may have “broken” when the Party supported the benefit cap but it didn’t stop her taking the government shilling. Perhaps she does believe that the party is being “populist”, but cynically I suspect that her stance on immigration, social justice and , yes, even same sex marriage were just as populist, aimed at shoring up her vote in an inner city seat with a large religious vote. Unfortunately for her and the Party, the last of these backfired rather spectacularly.”

    Much as my instinct is to support anyone who is criticising Clegg, I feel this comment hits the nail on the head. And her decision not to stand in 2015 may simply reflect a realisation that the attempts to shore up her vote are doomed to failure.

  • I’m one of those who personally would have not campaigned for Sarah because of her equal marriage vote, which is my choice – as was hers to vote against.

    The problem, for me, is the way she chose to go about it – saying gay people getting married would damage the fabric of family life was deeply offensive. I don’t agree with people on matters of religion, but I respect their right to believe. And I respect more those who possess a deep-rooted religion that abstained, citing their knowledge that they should not allow their own personal views to deny rights to others. That is liberalism.

    That said, we will probably be losing an MP who was – is – a strong liberal voice on immigration, who knows how to engage a large BAME community and whose constituents love her.

    I agree with a comment above; say thank you for the good stuff, move on. Life is too short, we are not Labour, we have a lot of campaigning to do.

  • @Alisdair McGregor
    “I think it is disappointing to know that Sarah’s decision increases the chance of a godawful Labourite union statist winning the seat in 2015. I believe that Sarah’s personal vote in Brent could have kept her in, even with activists from wider afield being unwilling to campaign for her because of the equal marriage vote. ” Coming from Banbury, I was going to volunteer to help her … I think her seat was winnable … but not without Sarah!

    “However, it cannot be denied that her stance on equal marriage was illiberal, muddle-headed and intolerant.” That is unfair and illiberal itself. I would have been in favour of extending all the rights of marriage to civil partnerships, not redefining marriage. As I recall there was a free vote on this issue, no one was forcing their views on anyone.

    In short I am extremely sad Sarah is standing down. I wish Clegg would follow suit!

  • ive read this debate with interest and i am somewhat astounded that someone that i always thought was one of your better mps can be rounded on with so much hatred because of the way she voted on one issue. At the same time you can forgive your mps for voting the way they did on welfare cuts, syria, tuition fees, the privatisation of the nhs, the privatisation of royal mail,immigration,the bedroom tax, the cuts to legal aid and the closure of remploy. Surely these things also went against liberal beliefs but you seem to have forgiven these.
    This is not meant to sound rude but probably will but ill say it anyway. There seems to be a lot of people in your party that only have one thing that is close to their heart and it would appear as long as that policy isnt broken (in this case same sex marriage) , everything else doesnt matter. Your party is falling apart in front of your eyes and all some of your members can do is say ‘good riddance , she didnt vote the way i wanted her to on one issue’. If thats the case and you take the same stance with all your mps, youll be shouting , good riddance to all of them at the next election.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Sep '13 - 9:18am

    @davidorr You think the Greens are liberal? For them the environment trumps everything and if they have to trample all over our civil liberties and economic freedom to protect it, they will.

  • Sarah should resign her seat now, forcing a by election.

    That would be a principled stand. Aloow the voters to decide what they want.

    She should stand as an independent Liberal, on her own raft of policies and see how she fares at the hands of her voters.

    Also, am a little surprised at some of the venom poured on her about her gay marriage vote.
    Am a supporter of gay marriage, but she is entitled to vote as her conscience dictates.
    Isn’t it illiberal to not allow someone the freedom to do that without pouring venom on them ?

  • Meral Hussein Ece 8th Sep '13 - 9:21am

    I am rather saddened and surprised to read through the late night comments, and some rants in response to Sarah’s announcement. As pointed out, far more male MPs voted against equal marriage, and for what I thought were illiberal amendments for opt out. I don’t see them being criticised and vilified in quite the same way. I knew Sarah when she first came into politics way before, and although disappointed she is to step down, have to respect her decision. I think this all illustrates just how hard it is for women to not only break through, but to sustain a career in the Commons. You will have to be twice as good as a man, be judged harshly, and have to put up with everyday sexism in a male dominated legislature. That’s once you’ve managed to overcome a male dominated political system, and be expected to subject yourself to loads of “training” and “programmes” that apparently men dont need! As one of the very few women in Parliament from a Muslim background, I voted for equal marriage, but saw very many more, from all sides, voting against or abstaning on religious grounds, the majority being Chrisitan. I do not condemn or wish to vilify them. I wish more members would condemn the abject failure for the Party to get to grips with the pathetically low representation of women – 52% of the population. Whenever we debate positive action or measures (not to be confused with illegal positive discrimination) we hear howls of protest from mainly men, and sadly some women, on how its all ‘illiberal’ Some have been from peole commenting on this thread about gay rights. Am I the only person who sees an enormous hypocrisy in this? Yes the Party generally spearheaded equal marriage, quite rightly, which i support and believe you cant as a liberal and social democrat pick and choose which bit of equality you support for different sections of society. But how about now turning to the great elephant in the room- scarely few women and NO BAME MPs? How is that sustainable or liberal anymore? And how is attacking a young woman who has turned away from party politics going to help attract new women? Funny how so few men decide to stand down, but the turnover rate for women MPs is so much higher….

  • Maximilian Wilkinson 8th Sep '13 - 9:27am

    Why did Sarah Teather need to announce it in an interview with a national newspaper?

  • there is no evidence of the Greens being anti civil liberties – look at Fracking debate for example and also issue of whistleblowers.

    Traditionally the Liberals have been the true upholders of Civil Liberties and free expression etc but I have become more and more suspicious of LibDems in government protecting and guaranteeing human rights in the widest sense (e.g. rights of benefit claimants esp disabled).

    Explain what you mean please – ‘For them the environment trumps everything and if they have to trample all over our civil liberties and economic freedom to protect it, they will.’ Remember someone’s economic freedom is someone else’s and often the environment’s exploitation.

  • vincet

    yes…strange isn’t it

    The party is really becoming a bit of a laughing stock

  • Observer headline is ‘Top Lib Dem standing down, blaming swing to the right’.

    That expresses what many ex Lib Dem voters feel. What’s the party going to do ?
    Keep ignoring it and keep blaming the voters ?

  • @Helen: My conscience tells me I need to strike a balance between what I believe and the beliefs of others – and, so, on this? I could not put my religion or beliefs above the rights of many, especially when what was offered was still not true equality – and the only way in which the result would affect me is I may get more invitations to weddings.

    And I find the “single-issue obsessives” line deeply offensive. People wanting the right to be treated equally is perfectly acceptable and a key tenet of our own constitution.

    They are – rightly – upset that some people who they have campaigned for, and with, and had a lot of respect for has told them via a vote that they will damage the notion of family life and therefore should not be allowed to get married.

    These are the same people who spend their weekends on the doorstep, who debate at conference, who donate money to help get LD MPs elected. I disagree with many people, but we all share a common aim in campaigning for this party.

    The vote was only a short time ago, so people’s wounds are still raw – as I said, we should look at the overall picture and not resort to the infighting and mud-slinging of Labour in our discussions on it.

  • I suspect the root of the hatred shown by many on here towards her position on equal state definition of individuals relationships (which is itself completely illiberal – equal marriage is equal illiberalism for all) isn’t the fact that she was opposed to it. As pointed out by others, there were others that voted against that haven’t received anything like the same degree of visceral contempt. No, the real reason for that contempt is her faith. Don’t expect me to ever vote for such intolerance, but I suspect many of the above will be glad I won’t vote for it. Fair enough, but you will no longer be a party of national ambition, just a fringe party representing a radicalism that doesn’t countenance the support of anyone that isn’t as fundamentalist.

  • Stace

    Well Sarah Teather is going, but there are still a good half dozen or so LD MPs who did the same

    Tim Farron (Party President) and Simon Hughes (Deputy Leader – not has a good record here does he?) are two representatives of the party at a national level who voted the same way as Sarah Teather

    Will you now put your energy into campaigning for their deselection, as they will still be standing in 2015?

    The LD only have just over 50 MPs but frquently 20% vote against things we could consider ‘liberal’ – why do you select people like this in winnable seats?

  • @Meral Hussein Ece Hear hear!

  • @bcrombie: They abstained, they did not vote against. As I said earlier, that is a different situation but – in answer to your question – they will not be at the top of my list when it comes to campaigning (generally I help those who have helped us/ask for it, so list may be the wrong term).

    I didn’t want Teather to stand down, so you can re-use that straw man for another comment, I was just pointing out how some people feel about that specific issue. I like that we have healthy, friendly debate in the party – but this thread is not an example of it.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 8th Sep '13 - 9:59am

    I’m afraid that I’m going to have to be terribly reasonable here.

    I had the pleasure of being Secretary of Sarah’s Local Party a few years back, and whilst I didn’t always agree with her, found her to be incredibly hardworking and committed to her constituents. Indeed, I used to gently chide her that an occasional day off doing something fun might not entirely be a bad idea.

    It is, I think, harsh to suggest that her differences with government policy only really surfaced after she lost her ministerial position – it is easy to forget that much of the wrangling over policy takes behind closed doors in the various ministries – and, knowing Brent as I do, it is probably true to say that she was reflecting the views of her constituents.

    On the same sex marriage issue, I disagree with her. But it was a free vote, and she voted according to her conscience. For some amongst us, that decision was personally hurtful, but then, if Sarah is reading this – and I truly hope that she isn’t – some of the comments here hardly demonstrate a sense of tolerance and understanding. I understand the sense of betrayal, but wish that the evaluation of her efforts as a campaigner and an MP could be a touch more balanced.

  • I’m sad to read that Sarah wishes to leave parliament in 2015. I believe she was promoted to positions in the party and government where she used her undoubted strengths to wonderful effect. Like others, I would have hoped she could have given more time to engage with people in LD Voice – the debate and consideration here could have held her in parliament – where we need her.

    I’m also concerned that some politicians vote for their personal principles which cannot be supported by the party’s principles – shouldn’t they abstain on those issues?

  • Bcrombie: “Will you now put your energy into campaigning for their deselection, as they will still be standing in 2015?”

    In fairness, I haven’t seen any comments above saying Sarah should have been deselected. Only that people who had previously helped her by dropping leaflets etc no longer felt they could give her that support, as is their prerogative – and others speculated that because of this withdrawal of support Sarah would have lost her seat anyway seat in 2015 – hence her decision to stand down. That’s a bit different from actively campaigning for someone’s deselection.

  • Stace

    Abstention is cowardice – we know they are against. I would prefer people voted that sat on their hands!

    Also, the anger direct at Sarah Teather on this particular vote (her approach on which I fundamentally oppose) by posters on here surely suggest that people such as Farron and Hughes shouldn’t hold positions in the national party as they are ‘illiberal’

    I also look at the post of vicent above where he sets out some of the contradictions in this focus on one particular policy when so many lines have been crossed

    Well I will just let you all get on with it…..not very edifying and I hope the MP doesn’t read this – she at least hasn’t crossed the floor or forced a by-election which your party would not want to say the least

    There are fundamental issues at the moment – and this thread shows that in all its glory

  • David Lowrence 8th Sep '13 - 10:11am

    Caron Lindsay having requested I moderate my comments and deleted my post – I will reiterate my support for RC’s position above. This woman was very young when elected on a radical ticket. One of her first acts was to lead the unseemly charge to remove Charles Kennedy (rather than take the compassionate route, which would have reinforced both her and the party’s need for a common sense approach). Having been a failure as a minister, and taken a position to satisfy a reactionary Church and Constituency approach to equal rights, she should form no part of the rebuilding of this party (and we should all remember where it came from) In this members view she will not be missed as an MP – lets hope she does not find any back room post of influence.

  • Phyllis

    Yes you are right, deselection went too far but I have changed that to the other point about these two individuals as national representatives of the party

    Abstention is no excuse either – cowardice….

  • Meral Hussein Ece 8th Sep '13 - 10:14am

    @HelenTedcastle Thank you for your comments. Just to be clear, what I am pointing out is amongst those who campaigned for and supported Equal Marraige, are often the same people who have not been that bothered or supported measures or polices that would enable greater representation for women and people from a BAME background. I do not and will not condemn or criticise those who chose to vote against EM, with a free vote. It surprises me that the only high profile woman MP who voted against, is being vilified this way. Haven’t seen the same for Tim Farron, or Simon Hughes.

  • David Lowrence

    RC’s only post doesn’t say any of that – instead it a rant against benefit claimants in her constituency.

    Perhaps her replacement will tell these constituents really what the LD think of them

  • I’m afraid I am not very clued up on what the options are when an (any) MP fundamentally disagrees with their Party leadership. I know they can resign and force a bye-election. But can they declare that they are resigning the Whip and now representing their constituents as an Independent?

  • Helen Dudden 8th Sep '13 - 10:18am

    I will wish her well, a very brave lady. Like her, I do not back down, although, in a more minor way.

    Good luck and best wishes for the future.

  • “I do not and will not condemn or criticise those who chose to vote against EM, with a free vote.”

    That’s up to you, of course. But you shouldn’t imply such criticism on the part of others is wrong.

    After all the discussion I’ve read, I find it just as difficult as I ever did to understand how an MP being influenced by his or her religious beliefs to restrict the right of others who do not share them, can be reconciled with liberalism.

  • nuclear cockroach 8th Sep '13 - 10:29am

    @Alex Willcock

    “Pique and impending humiliation of having to fight her seat on her own after so many disgusted activists no longer wished to go near Brent with a barge pole.”

    That is vile, nasty rubbish. I was looking forward to doing what I could to support her campaign for re-election. I find it very sad that she will not defend her seat.

  • Reading this lot has made me determined to play a more active part in my constituency party.

  • Meral: genuine queston: why the assumption that LGBT people and women/BAME people are distinct groups?

    I, personally, have campaigned hard for equal representation in all three of the areas you mention, and your implication that I’m a nasty sexist just because I have made a decision as to which candidates I will spend my limited time on that differs from yours would be offensive if it weren’t so laugable, especially given my record on gender activism.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 8th Sep '13 - 10:52am

    @Jennie Am not saying you are. Over the last decade or so every time we try to develop some timid measure to address gross lack of women and BAME MPs, we have been blocked by many who while campaigning for LGBT equality, think any measures apart from more “training” are illiberal. Pointing out the hypocrisy here. Can’t see how you draw that conclusion.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 8th Sep '13 - 10:53am

    @Jennie I now there are many people like yourself, who are the exception.

  • Caron Lindsay 8th Sep ’13 – 9:18am
    @davidorr: You think the Greens are liberal? For them the environment trumps everything and if they have to trample all over our civil liberties and economic freedom to protect it, they will.

    Interested to know your reasoning behind this reply of yours Caron

  • Andrew Noblet 8th Sep '13 - 11:06am

    Assuming many of thes comments come from Liberal Democrats. We are a vindictive lot. Conference could add to the destruction of our Party strategy by Clegg and his acolytes.

  • I have read with great disappointment some of the ferocious posts against Sarah Teather.
    I think to judge her so harshly because of the stance she took on the gay marriage bill and to totally ignore all the other good things she has done as an MP is of great shame.
    I am a gay bloke, I have been in a long term same sex relationship for 14 years, me and my partner entered a civil partnership in March this year and I look forward to next year when we can convert our civil partnership into a legally recognised marriage.
    On a personal level, of course same sex marriage was important to me, however, it was and is not my top priority when it comes to the government and the type of society that I want to live in.
    As a gay man, of course I want to be recognised and have equality the same as my fellow men and women. However, I do respect the right of others not to share my beliefs or opinions.
    When it comes to a government policy like the same sex marriage bill and individual MP’s are given a free vote. I am unsure on what we should expect from our MP’s. When we elect our MP’s do we do so solely on the basis that they are there to represent the will of their constituents and therefore must vote accordingly? Or is it right for an MP to be elected to parliament then allow them to vote according to their own conscience? It is a tricky area to say the least. Personally I lean more towards an MP is there to represent the will of their constituency. But of course this is very difficult especially when in it involves controversial policies. It is not practical for an MP to have to go back to the electorate and seek the consensus of their constituents.
    Whilst I disagree with Sarah Teathers stance on gay marriage, I would not allow this to overshadow all the good that she has done and the stances she took on education and welfare.
    I see from some people’s comments that they feel Sarah Teather should resign from Government immediately and not wait until the 2015 election. I find that extremely unfair. At the end of the day it is a job. Just because it is in politics does not mean it should be viewed differently than that of any other employment. There are many people who become disheartened with their job or their employer and they do not agree with the direction that the company is taking. When they do they are free to seek alternative employment in their own time. Why should they be expected to resign and make themselves unemployed immediately? The way I see it, Sarah Teather was elected as an MP by her constituents to represent them during this term of parliament. And as long as that MP does not breech any rules or is guilty of any misconduct, then she should be able to continue to do so for as long as she chooses.
    Personally I think it would be good to have someone like Sarah Teather to remain in the house who is willing to be vocal and speak against the government and hold them to account.
    No matter what, I think Sarah deserves some respect and certainty does not deserve the vitriol coming from some people on these forums.

  • Andrew Noblet 8th Sep '13 - 11:18am

    Apologies. For ‘strategy, insert ‘started by’.

  • Sorry. Anyone who doesn’t have the modern foresight to support Gay Marriage should GO!

  • This reminds me a bit of what happened to Clare Short – who got bullied into voting yes to Iraq, and regretted it so much that although she tried to carry on in the end she felt she had to resign.

    Except that to her credit Sarah has said she is staying in the party and will continue to support her colleagues in the local elections next year and at the general election in 2015.

    I agree with the principle behind the benefit changes – that work should pay – and indeed I believe we should go further and pledge that no worker should have to give up more than 50% of their wages through taxes/NICs or benefit cuts. But that principle required us to maintain not cut benefits and apply them fairly not indiscriminately.

    I would also have voted in favour of equal marriage (and of equal civil partnership), but I do not criticise Sarah for following her religious beliefs and voting against on a free vote. I do not know what happened with her private office over her website, but I imagine that is an example of the pressure she has been under.

    Like Sarah I have been dismayed by some of the things Nick and his colleagues have said and done in Government, especially on tuition fees (and I despair of the vague one line in the Conference motion which seeks endorsement for the current fudge), but like her I have remained a Lib Dem because there is nowhere else for a liberal to go.

    Nick has taken a lot of stick over the last three years and has shown great courage and fortitude, but he is damaged. I had hoped we could wait until after the European elections to sort out the leadership issue and keep the coalition in place until 2015, but perhaps we should address it now, before loyalists start telling us it is too close to the next election.

    Again to her credit Sarah has given the party ample notice of her intentions so that we can find a successor. She has made her decision in sorrow not in anger. She has behaved honourably.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 11:43am

    @John Innes
    ” I would have been in favour of extending all the rights of marriage to civil partnerships, not redefining marriage”

    If it’s defined in law, then it’s not a religious term, it can’t be subject to religious privilege.

    For the record, I would fundamentally prefer to have recognition & definition of the term “marriage” removed from the statute book entirely, as a precursor to disestablishment of the church of england, but that wasn’t on offer. Equality of legislation was, so that’s what I supported.

    You want the freedom to define the term marriage on a purely religious basis? Then get the religious term out of the legal code.

    The law must act with absolute equality, that’s what the same sex marriage bill has moved us towards.

  • @ BCrombie

    “RC’s only post doesn’t say any of that – instead it a rant against benefit claimants in her constituency.”

    Just because I point out certain unpalatable facts does not make it a “rant”. Your characterisation of my comment as a “rant” is just an unsubtle and rather off -beam attempt to delegitimate perfectly valid arguments.

    My criticism is not levelled at the people receiving the benefits. It is aimed at those people in the party who refuse to accept that having more than 80 families in one constituency alone receiving the equivalent £120,000 pre-tax in benefits each is utterly unacceptable and, more to the point, unaffordable. Exactly which bit of that is acceptable to you and other followers of the Teather school of thought?

    @Andrew Noblet

    We have all suffered by having to make difficult choices in government to limit a benefits bill that continues to escalate and to reduce immigration, which is a matter of legitimate democratic concern. Having someone like Teather undermining the party in the way she has is deeply unhelpful. Why should we treat her with magnanimity when her announcement has been made in a way (an interview with a national newspaper read by much of our remaining party membership) calculated to cause the maximum damage?

  • Paul K –

    Decision to enter an illegal war costing hundreds of thousands of lives and tens of billions of pounds
    Decision to limit benefits received to an average family income and to try to avoid misuse of the scarce public housing stock by encouraging those with spare rooms to move to right-sized properties.

    Not sure I can see the parallel there.

    I agree much more could have been done (and should be done) to mitigate the worst effects of benefits changes e.g. making application of the “lack of extra bedroom subsidy” (I refuse to use the term “tax”) conditional on there being suitable alternative properties for people to move to. But overall, despite (sometimes major) errors in application, the changes are moving in the right direction, with the goal in mind of focusing state benefits on those in genuine need while encouraging those who can to work and support their own family. Anyone who refuses to see this is fundamentally out of tune with the realities of a world where government finances are under strain and there is no way of allowing the current rate of increase in our benefits bill to carry on. It just has to stop. Yet Sarah Teather and others don’t think about it this way.

    Like Sarah Teather, “something in my heart breaks” when I realise that people don’t understand that you can’t carry on spending without limits and that protecting the public finances is a necessary requisite for having a governable country.

  • I think the reason why there are so many hostile comments is that a fair few of us getting a little tired of self seeking publicists telling us the lib dems in government are terrible and everything is awful. Some of us are quite proud of what we’ve done in government and actually what to promote what we are doing. If Sarah wanted a little sympathy for her position maybe she could have waited a few weeks until , rather than damaging us in the run up to conference thus stalling any recovery we could have hoped for.
    I disagree with Sarah on the benefits cap which I think is fair and legitimate and I though her stance on equal marriage was atrocious but I accept that there are differences of opinion in every party. What I can’t accept is deliberately shooting the party in the foot.

  • David Pollard 8th Sep '13 - 12:21pm

    People seem to feel strongly about the gay marriage more than anything else. The real world is not like that. I happen to agree with Sarah about gay marriage. The state should sanction civil partnerships for any couple who want one. The rest should be left to conscience. I support Tony Greaves on this. Let us resist intolerance wherever it comes from.

  • David Pollard 8th Sep '13 - 12:25pm

    And I’ll say to Todd Craft I’m not going anywhere. I’ll debate with you any time any place!

  • Thanks to Sarah but it is too late. Clegg and the parliamentary party, in accepting the Tory /Daily mail concept of the “undeserving poor” alienated and lost us thousands of members who might have helped to unseat him. I couldn’t face the Conference particularly the standing ovation for the leader.

  • A lot of the most vituperative comments seem to be coming from Lib Dem members and some of the most supportive from people such as matt and myself who are no longer in the fold

    I find this strangely sad – for all her faults I am sure Sarah would not have been able to win, and then keep such a non-Lib Dem seat as Brent away from Labour if she did not have a sense of her constituents and the things that concern the.

    As I said earlier I disagree with her on a number of subjects (including sum – the one thing that seems to have dominated the thread) – but I fail to see what other party she could have been a MP for based on her general views of the world.

  • sum – autocorrected from ssm – sorry!

  • David Becket 8th Sep '13 - 12:40pm

    Sarah is one of the few MP, to stand up for liberal causes in the house, she will be missed. That our leadership did not move to accommodate her is a disgrace. On one issue she had to choose between her religious conscience and her political conscience. This has produced a rash of nasty vindictive comments on this site. What an unpleasant illiberal party this has become. At this rate 7% in the opinion polls will be a high water mark the party will look back on next year.

  • Philip Rolle 8th Sep '13 - 12:46pm

    I wonder whether this is the beginning of much public soul searching by a number of Lib Dem MPs?

    When this Coalition was entered into, many thought it would be over by now. Certainly that it would not last until 2015. But now there seems the possibility that not only will it last until the General Election, it could even continue after that.

    Lib Dems have been very disciplined so far. But maybe this will change.

    I do not agree with those who criticise Sarah Teather for voting against gay marriage. We can ask for little more than MPs who vote according to their conscience, even when it harms their career. She will be a loss to your party.

  • @Bcrombie

    “some of the most supportive from people such as matt and myself who are no longer in the fold”

    At least you admit to not being a party supporter any more.

    If so, feel free to let us know what your interest is in posting here. Given that you don’t support the party, it clearly can’t be for any positive reason.

  • I disagreed with her over equal marriage. I did not affect me directly and therefore I cannot hold the same strength of feeling as some on here, but I understand their pain and feel they should not be so lightly dismissed as some have.

    I also feel that her comments since leaving Government really point to the fact that she should have resigned when the issues she felt so strongly about were current. That’s why we applaud Robin Cook but not Clare Short over Iraq.

    That said I cannot help but see her logic in that if you care about social justice it will be increasingly hard to support the Lib Dems based upon their actions (and their public support of some Tory led actions) in this coalition. The fact is there is no clear home for those who care about these issues.

    The main thing that strikes me is that it is more than a little ironic that the “Party” expected her to vote for the Syria motion out of loyalty. They showed her none when it suited to get their favourite expenses cheat back in Government. Loyalty is not a one way street, a fact that Clegg and his whips may chose to reflect on.

  • @RC
    Perhaps they feel able to post here due to the comments policy encouraging it:


    “We welcome comments from all our readers, whether you are a Lib Dem or a supporter of other parties, or none at all.”

    There is a members area if you need to keep those pesky differing opinions out….

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Sep '13 - 1:35pm

    @ RC – “At least you admit to not being a party supporter any more. If so, feel free to let us know what your interest is in posting here. Given that you don’t support the party, it clearly can’t be for any positive reason.”

    Why could it not be for a positive reason?

  • Peter Hayes 8th Sep '13 - 1:48pm

    @Gareth posted at 11:58

    Thanks for you blog which expresses my views better than I could. Sarah is a great loss to those of us who could class ourselves as Social Liberal because of what she did on behalf of the very mixed community she represented (I almost said served which seems right).

    The marriage problem has been a long running one for generations. For those of my age it was either church or a registry office painted in civil service colours. The registry office seemed to be mainly for those wanting a second, or in one case I knew third, attempt at finding the right partner. If only we had the French system of a nice civil ceremony followed by an optional religious one (civil partnership followed by religious marriage) all this personal and legal fighting would have been avoided. But what else could we have had when the whole reason for C of E was to allow the head of state to divorce and remarry?

  • “What I can’t accept is deliberately shooting the party in the foot.”

    It is not Teather who is shooting the party in the foot. It is things like secret courts where the leadership decided that they knew best.
    Can that really be healthy for the party, to reject liberal values so blatantly?

  • Nigel Jones 8th Sep '13 - 1:59pm

    I agree with those above who have not allowed strong disagreement with Sarah on gay marriage to cause them to make nasty comments and blind them to the deeper issues which her decision raises. The latter are to do with social justice and Nick Clegg’s continued leadership. Steve Richards recently wrote that the Coalition has been a government rooted in a right wing approach; sure, we all know that our leadership has done good things and bent government thinking to some extent in our direction, but Nick and his team are still not doing enough to distance ourselves from that right wing approach and social justice is one such area.
    I feel that Sarah has made a very disappointing decision to stand down and would have preferred her to speak against Nick Clegg’s leadership while staying in. Nevertheless, I shall go to conference with a slightly less heavy heart ,knowing that someone in a prominent position has at last had the courage to try to do something about the way our party is going.

  • I will not miss someone like her who votes to keeps gays as second class citizens.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 2:11pm

    @Helen Tedcastle “The previous marriage act was written with the Christian/wider religious understanding of marriage in mind”

    That’s precisely what was wrong with it, yes.

  • @RC

    “If so, feel free to let us know what your interest is in posting here. Given that you don’t support the party, it clearly can’t be for any positive reason”

    I dare say that my interest in posting here is the same as yours. We may have a differing opinion on most things. But my interest is in politics, debate, society and a fair society at that 😉 I enjoy the freedom of being able to express my feelings and opinions in a public forum, something that I am unable to do in the outside world. But I do have a voice and I do have a right to be heard. That is a fundamental freedom that should be embraced by all surely.

  • Disillusioned 8th Sep '13 - 2:30pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah and she struck me as someone trying hard to fight for her convictions within the system with an awareness that the system itself was part of the problem.

    It seems she’s finally thrown in the towel. I can’t say that I blame her.

    Yes, she was wrong on the gay marriage issue. It was an unfortunate blind spot in an otherwise exemplary career. It is a sad day for politics.

  • As I posted earlier, I am a supporter of gay marriage.

    But find it very, very hard to understand why some of those so angry with Ms Teather’s voting stance presumably don’t feel as outraged about some of the Tory policies Lib Dem MPs have voted for.

    Is there no compassion for the many people suffering under ramped up ATOS assessments, benefit cuts, many more JSA sanctions imposed under an increasingly Kafkaesque system, just to name a few policies the party has supported.

    Most of the posts here have been slanging matches about her voting record or an appreciation of her work.
    The majority avoid tackling the issues she’s raised about the way the party has moved to the right.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 2:50pm

    @Helen Tedcastle “she has every right to hold it and be informed by it”

    She doesn’t have any right to force it on others.

  • @Helen: “I am surprised that those who campaigned for MPs, did not know their beliefs, religious or otherwise beforehand”

    I was aware of these issues for some MPs, but as someone has mentioned previously, Sarah’s website was full of pro-LGBT content, she also voted for civil partnerships,, etc. But, after her vote, all that info on her website disappeared & she made offensive comments saying gay people somehow can’t be termed a family as they don’t have children (which some do, and there’s adoption, fostering, surrogacy etc).

    Maybe that’s why, although Beith, Birtwistle, Pugh etc are getting abuse, it’s nowhere near the same level. That part does bother me, as it seems Sarah has always been an easy target for some – I don’t want to generalise and say it’s because she’s a woman, or not physically imposing, but it probably is the case for some (unfortunately).

    I have noticed, when a new PPC is announced, questions such as “do you support SSM” or “what do you think of immigration caps” are quite common, which I think relates to what you said; people trying to suss out where a new potential MP slots into our spectrum of beliefs and values.

  • RC

    I continue to post on here because I still believe that the LD are the party who could best represent my views. I, and others have made it clear, that we are not necessarily supporters of the party but are interested in the debate and the way LD thought is progressing. Some of us, like Matt and I, post from the left. Jedi comes from a different perspective.

    The worst thing a party can do is to turn in on itself and forget the people who really matter i.e. the voters

    People like us are more important, in some ways, than the members because we have voted for the party in the past but no longer feel the ability to. We may not necessarily represent all ex-voters but at least we are still here and happy to engage in the debate.

    RC, to be honest your views have led me to believe you were a Tory, and it does surprise me a bit that you consider yourself a LD. Are you a member?

    One thing I will say about this is this thread has done your party no credit. Yes, she could have voted differently on ssm and in my view she should have resigned earlier but the insults and comments thrown at her have been unpleasant to read. I repeat my comment earlier – if she isn’t a Lib Dem, what do you feel her views represent – Labour? Tory?

    As a final comment on SSM, at least she had the courage to consistently vote against. Two of your national party spokesmen abstained on this vote when their feelings are well-known. We do not pay our MPs to abstain! Farron also abstained on Syria when we all know he was against the Government motion. Instead of attacking a person who has said she will stand down as an MP, why not ask what you party national representatives are up to?

  • @Alisdair McGregor ”She doesn’t have any right to force it on others”

    That can be said about any voting in the House though can’t it ?

    For example, why have unmandated changes to the NHS been pushed through against the wishes of many, including the medical preofessional bodies ?

    That’s just one of many issues that has been divisive, but how many Lib Dem MPs & peers have helped the Tories force it upon those of us who didn’t want the so called reforms ?

    Again I repeat that I am in support of gay marriage, but why is it considered so reprehensible to vote against that, yet ok to vote for so many social security benefit cuts whilst also voting for tax cuts for millionaires ?

    Why so much angst for gay marriage, not for those who are living in fear of having their benefits sanctioned or slashed ?

  • Sarah has been an excellent M.P. and Constituency worker. She has been sound on a whole range of Social Liberal issues…. it is unfair to pick on her just because she entered into a debate about one policy, even though I can understand why people feel strongly about that particular issue because we have always supported equal opportunities. I hope that she changes her mind about standing or decides to stand for a Parliamentary seat again in the future. Well done Sarah for all your hard work on issues like education and housing.

  • @John Roffey
    I take it you have some evidence for your assertion about marriage today. I married my wife 8 years before our first child was born and am probably not alone. My brother does not believe in marriage and has had three children. I know several couples who are married and have no intention of having children. I know of two same sex couples who wish to marry, one set are fantastic parents already, the other have no intention of having children.

    It is not for the state to concern itself why two willing adults marry unless it is to circumvent the law.

  • Having read Sarah Teather’s interview with the guardian.

    I think she was highly admirable when she says
    “”I was in the most ridiculous position as a government minister, trying to get a campaign going on the outside in the hope that it would help negotiations happen on the inside.””
    “Each time I went out and said something that was different, against the party, there was an agonising process of reflection before I did it,” she says. Agonising because she felt ties and loyalties to her own side”
    “I was spending hours worrying about how to balance fighting for what I believed in and being true to the stuff that took me into politics, while not being disloyal to my colleagues”

    I think this just goes to show how ridiculously difficult it is for an MP to speak out publicly on matters that are dear to them, especially when those views are in conflict with policies and decisions that are being made by your own party in Government.

    It just goes to show the stupidity of the whips, which in my opinion his highly illiberal.

    I suspect that Sarah felt that she could not be a lone voice within the party, constantly apposing the government and in particular her own party. It would not have been sustainable as an MP and she would have earned herself the same kind of disdain as that of the Tory Naddine Dorries, who was eventually beaten into submission by her party.

    I would not imagine that this is a decision that Sarah has come to lightly. She has after all said, that although she is standing down as an MP, she will remain as a member of the Liberal Democrats. I suspect that she feels that outside the Westminster bubble and outside the constraints of the parliamentary party, she will be better able to champion the causes that she believes in.

    Personally I admire her courage and conviction.

  • Ruth Bright 8th Sep '13 - 4:14pm

    Is the unpleasant tone of all this criticism because she is a woman? I am afraid it is. Lots of male figures took part in disposing of Charles Kennedy – why is Sarah spoken of like some kind of assassin when they are not? Simon Hughes allowed his activists to believe he was sound on same-sex marriage but he is not getting this sort of abuse for voting against. This thread would make a good codicil to the Morrissey Report on how women are viewed in this party.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 4:18pm

    @ Sandra
    @Alisdair McGregor ”She doesn’t have any right to force it on others”

    That can be said about any voting in the House though can’t it ?

    Absolutely. It’s just that Alisdair seems to think that because he feels particularly strongly about SSM he has the right to criticise openly and continuously anyone who disagrees with his view, and chooses to portray it as someone forcing something on him. However it could never be him and other supporters forcing their views on those who disagree.

    Sadly, it isn’t liberalism as I understand it.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 4:33pm

    @David Evans

    Equal Marriage is a straightforward matter of principles. The law must treat everyone equally. As Liberals, this is a cornerstone principle. Supporting a marriage law which discriminates against those who wish to form legal relationships with others of the same sex is not just, liberal or fair.

    You do not get to shove your prejudices upon others and call it Liberalism. It affects your marriage and your religion not one whit that a gay couple can wed.

    You do not have a right to enforce your prejudices upon other people.

  • Peter Greenhill 8th Sep '13 - 4:42pm

    It was likely that Sarah Teather would have lost her seat in 2015 but I’m sorry to see her go. I have to say that her recent appearances on BBC1’s Question Time saw her looking remarkably ill at ease and uncomfortable.

    However, I was concerned to read that she was a key behind the scenes player in forcing Charles Kennedy to stand down. Not a good move. A period of rest and treatment rather than being given the boot would have been the best for all concerned.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 8th Sep '13 - 4:51pm

    “On the whole, Sarah’s excellent campaigning record among BME communities and on immigration and welfare outweighs one wrong vote.”

    Gareth well said.

    Losing someone such as Sarah is not something that the Party should take lightly, for she will not be alone whilst elements within the Party continue to drag it towards the very intolerant Right. We are meant to be the Party of equality and fairness.

  • I am amazed that the resignation of Sarah Teather has resulted in a long correspondence about her vote on gay marriage. I happen to support it but, like Tony Greaves I take a tolerant view of those who don’t. However I cannot understand those who see it as more important than her reason for her stance on the party leadership’s support for the Coalition policies aimed a poor people. Weird priorities!!

  • Simon Banks 8th Sep '13 - 5:04pm


    I think she was wrong about equal marriage. I agree that Liberal principles should lead to supporting it. But I can understand that some religious people see marriage – as opposed to any other form of union and partnership – as a sacrament. I think they’re wrong and are confusing the law of the land with the moral rules of their church. My reasons for supporting it are religious as well as political. But there are some very nasty attacks on her here (beyond what male members voting that way have received) and it’s the tone of some of those attacks that sounds most illiberal to me. I could understand the bile a bit better if the vote had been lost – but it was WON!

  • Simon Bamonte 8th Sep '13 - 5:06pm

    The comments on this thread from some people are very telling indeed: nasty and full of spite. I am a supporter of SSM myself (one of my brothers is gay), but I find the way some people are saying that a Liberal MP is not a Liberal because they voted against or abstained on this issue, which after all was a free vote, rather authoritarian and blind to many of the other anti-equality measures this government has taken. I echo the comments made by @Sandra: where were the “SSM is everything” voices who claim it’s a deal-breaker when disabled people who cannot work are having their only means of support taken away by the unfit-for-purpose WCA? Where where these people when the government voted for the bedroom tax, knowing that in many areas there simply aren’t enough properties to make the policy work, thus putting already-poor people into greater poverty? Where were they when the government pushed through the NHS bill which the majority of the public was against? These commenters seem to be saying that, for them, there is only one issue that matters and everything else the government has done is not a deal breaker? And why is there so much vitriol being directed at Sarah Teather when there were other male MPs who voted the same way? Could it be a case of sexism: launching massive attacks on a female MP who has done other good things because she did not vote the way you wanted on this one issue? Does she not deserve any credit for sticking up for immigrants and the poorest when most other LibDems seem to be fine with attacking these groups? It saddens me that so many people seem to think they have the right to attack her for one flaw, yet these same people are nowhere to be seen when the government is attacking the poorest and those who have no power themselves. Where were these people when reports starting coming in of disabled and mentally ill people who took their own lives due to government cuts? Why is Sarah Teather’s voting against or abstaining from SSM deserving of such nastiness and vitriol when a) other, male MPs voted the same way and b) the majority of LibDem MPs voted for measures which are having a far, far more damaging effect on some peoeples’ lives which, in my opinion, are far more important than anyone, gay or straight, getting married? Equal marriage for all is important, but the ability to feed oneself and one’s family is far more important, yet I do not hear these voices screaming for DWP sanctions which in many cases lead to hunger being scrapped.

    One thing is clear: this party is not only deeply divided, but contains elements just as nasty as those in other parties. And I do think Sarah Teather has become an easy target for some people due to her being a woman. I still have yet to see the same vitriol directed at the likes of Tim Farron, for example. I’ve yet to see anyone saying Farron should be booted out of the party because of *his* view on SSM.

  • Simon Bamonte 8th Sep '13 - 5:25pm

    @BrianD: “However I cannot understand those who see it as more important than her reason for her stance on the party leadership’s support for the Coalition policies aimed a poor people. Weird priorities!!”

    Indeed. Cuts focused on the sick and disabled, for example, have often turned into a life or death issue. Yet, those who say nobody can be a Liberal if they do not support SSM were nowhere to be seen when the government was happily enacting measures which will hurt those very same people. Why SSM is more important to some people than the ability of a disabled person to, well, survive is beyond me. As you said, weird priorities. Or maybe a case of people who don’t really care when it is an issue that does not affect them personally? I do get the feeling a large proportion of the people who post here have no idea “how the other half live” are are quite well-off themselves, so it’s a case of “I’m all right, Jack!”

  • Richard Dean 8th Sep '13 - 5:32pm

    @Simon Bamonte
    I agree. Some nasty people seem willing to inflict any damage on the party simply to get their one issue addressed.

    Does the party need such people? Are they likely to put voters off voting for the party, rather than attract them to it? Sarah is a fine MP. Those vilifying her on this one issue should be ashamed, as should those who are using this issue as a way of expressing prejudice against religion.

    UKIP officially does not accept membership applications from people who were previously members of the BNP. The LibDems should perhaps start to think about what liberal principles to apply to this problem of intolerant single-issue nasties, and whether it needs to develops ways of repelling such people.

  • Wow. If only Lib Dem members were as passionate about the right to free higher education as they are about the right for gay marriage and I say that as a gay man.

  • Richard Dean 8th Sep '13 - 5:59pm

    Here are some non-SSM issues that need debating, need resolving, and where a variety of views are possible within a LibDem framework:

    – immigration
    – the economy
    – jobs
    – training
    – benefit caps
    – poverty
    – the EU
    – Syria
    – windfarms
    – HS2
    – fracking
    – housing
    – mission statement for the NHS
    – how best to organize the NHS
    – how best to combat FGM
    – education, what to teach, what institutional arrangements are best
    – drugs
    – crime and punishment
    – how to regulate, or otherwise deal with issues relating to, banks
    – badgers and bovine TB
    – GM crops
    – abortion and the right to life
    – the 20mph and 70mph speed limits
    – the meaning of life

    and there are plenty more.

  • @Simon Bamonte
    Jennie laid out her reasons for having bad feelings about Teather. Do your comments apply to her as well?

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 6:08pm

    @John Roffey
    Because Same Sex Marriage is totemic of a commitment to equality for all individuals, regardless of personal qualities, in which everyone shall be treated equally.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 6:13pm

    @Alisdair McGregor

    “You do not have a right to enforce your prejudices upon other people.”

    But apparently you do. How cogent. How progressive. How liberal?

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 6:14pm

    @David Evans

    At no point have I done, or advocated, infringing upon the rights on another individual.

  • Alisdair McGregor

    and Simon Hughes? What did he vote in the same sex marriage vote, and Tim Farron. Have you called for their removal from their party positions?

    At least Sarah votes and didn’t sneak away and hide their true views like certain others…….

  • Steve Griffiths 8th Sep '13 - 6:23pm

    One of the worst threads I have ever read on LDV and I am a supporter of SSM. If the Lib Dems remain a truly liberal party they should not be condemning any party member, MP, Peer, party official or local campaigner for holding some beliefs that are not party mainstream. Most of those above (if party members they be) will hold some views that are not party policy. Sarah is reported in the Observer “that she no longer feels that Nick Clegg’s party fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration”. Well she took her time to get there, but this view is held by many of us who have either left or ‘down-tooled’ until the party once more resembles the one we joined.

    She is quoted as saying “When I joined the party I had this really strong instinct that it was the party of social justice and liberalism”. Well so did I Sarah and there are many of us who share that disappointment. Sarah is another grievous loss and the party looks more centre-right every day.

    As one Lib Dem peer has already said on this website – please can we have our party back?

  • “At no point have I done, or advocated, infringing upon the rights on another individual.”

    Neither did Sarah Teather. Civil partners had exactly the same rights as married couples.

  • Steve Griffiths 8th Sep '13 - 6:33pm

    Oh and Caron ;

    “You think the Greens are liberal? For them the environment trumps everything and if they have to trample all over our civil liberties and economic freedom to protect it, they will”

    I cannot think of any other issue that has the potential to affect the well being of everyone on the planet, than if mankind screws up the environment. Civil liberties and economic freedom (which I have supported and fought for for decades in the Liberals and Lib Dems) will not protect you against rising sea levels or global warming. They are not much used on a burned out planet.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 6:33pm

    I have made it perfectly clear any number of times that I strongly disapprove of all those who voted against or failed to vote on SSM. In Tim’s case I have done so directly to his face.

    The reason Sarah is receiving such opprobrium now is because she has had the temerity to claim she is standing down because the party lacks commitment to social justice, when for many within the party her vote on same sex marriage lacks the same commitment.

    That appears hypocritical to many, and thus she is catching a lot of flak for it.

  • @John Roffey
    The argument is simple, has been done to death on here before, including numerous posts by me. My argument is based upon equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation, yours is based upon the attitude of your children and an article in the Torygraph, which states that couples are not marrying prior to having children – which according to your theory would mean few people actually got married at all.

    The argument that there are other priorities is also weak. There are 650 MP’s, seemingly thousands of Lords and even more Civil Servants in Westminster. It is entirely possible to make laws in low priority areas during the course of a parliament. It is also a matter of personal priority. It may be low priority to you, in the same way as allowing women to vote was low priority to many 100 years ago. But to the affected parties it is very important.

    However, as I said in my initial post on this thread, I understand, but do not share the depth of feelings of some of those who felt let down by Sarah on this issue.

  • Alisdair McGregor

    I am so sorry for your party if that is how you think…..ah well

  • nuclear cockroach 8th Sep '13 - 6:58pm


    Sarah T. had a personal following. Losing her as a sitting candidate will probably make your prediction true, although if she weren’t to resign, one might have doubts about the accuracy of your statement.

  • Moggy

    This is a very particular type of seat – urban and what would normally be Labour. She has done well to hold this and for this she must have been doing something right

    If you write-off this type of seat then okay but be prepared to be a rural-based party – mainly in the south.

    Labour would have had to fight to win this – now it will be a shoo-in. Perhaps they will send some of the activists to Simon Hughes’s seat. Likely they would have won it but she may just have held on

  • All this heat over SSM is also missing the point that her final straw was Lib Dem MP’s being instructed to vote for the Syria motion out of loyalty. Not because of the merits of the case, not because they felt an issue that would potentially lead to our service personnel taking the lives of others was sufficiently well argued but for loyalty…..

    I can respect someone voting either way, or even abstaining, because they were convinced of the case, and that is what she did. I can have no respect for someone who makes a decision that could lead to the deaths of service personnel or civilians out of a sense of loyalty to any party…

  • David Evans 8th Sep '13 - 7:49pm

    @ Alisdair McGregor


    You don’t do self-irony do you?

    So when you choose say “She doesn’t have any right …,” in respect of her right as an elected representative to decide based on her views and then say “At no point have I done, or advocated, infringing upon the rights on ( sic. Presumably you meant of) another individual,” are you are using the word right in a flexible way?

  • nuclear cockroach 8th Sep '13 - 8:14pm

    It used to be the Labour Party that was notorious for infighting.

    The Conservatives caught that disease pretty badly over the last quarter of a century. I was in a Conservative Club a while back (social function) where there were pictures of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill holding pride of place in the bar. There was a picture of Ted Heath in the toilets.

    Do we really want to go down that path as Liberal Democrats?

  • Somehow, she only found her conscience after she was sacked as schools minister…

  • George Kendall 8th Sep '13 - 8:25pm

    This discussion hasn’t been the best advert for Liberal Democracy, but it is the internet and not typical of party members.

    The thread has over 190 comments, but if you count up the number of members who have commented, with a number commenting multiple times, it is a comparatively small number. Most members of the party are polite and good-natured, and they’ll avoid a thread like this. From my experience, it is they who are typical of the average party member.

    If anyone reading this has come to Lib Dem Voice for the first time, don’t be too discouraged. This thread is untypical. At times, discussions on the site can be remarkably unsightful, with contributors seriously and sensitively seeking to understand each others point of view.

  • David Pollard 8th Sep '13 - 8:34pm

    Those people who are so passionate about SSM still have not produced any argument against the proposition that a civil partnership is equal in law to a marriage, so they are just arguing about a word and not about equality at all. If they were arguing for equality, they would argue for heterosexual couples to be allowed civil partnerships.

  • Tony Greaves 8th Sep '13 - 8:53pm

    I’ve read through all this very long thread. I come to the following conclusions (beyond what I wrote before about Sarah’s very sad decision):

    (1) there are a few very arrogant and unpleasant people in this party who think they know everything about everything but seem not to know much about Liberalism insofar as it involves a tolerant approach to other people.

    (2) there is a lack of understanding of the reasons why some active Christians find the concept of gay marriage difficult. It’s not about equality, It’s about the nature of “marriage”, which they believe is a sacrament which involves a man and a woman. That definition may now be out-dated in society as we have it today but it is still a basic religious belief for some people. Hence the proposal for a common system for a state-endorsed contract outside the concept of religious marriage, which personally I think would have been a better way forward. i.e. leave marriage to the religious bodies and have something different for a status approved by the state. Greg Mulholland (himself a Catholic) was proposing something like this but no-one – including the Churches, unfortunately – was interested. If and when we get pressure to extend marriage even further (eg polyamorous partnerships) this may have to be revisited. (Just to be clear, I am not religious and I voted for the Bill).

    (3) If people are not happy that some Liberal Democrats were able to follow their personal consciences on a free vote, they should criticise the party managers who decided to make it a free vote, not individuals who took them at their word. In the Commons and the Lords, it was not a matter of government or party policy.

    (3) Can someone remind all these angry and vindictive people that they won?

    (4) What has happened to the LDV request that “people tell us who they are?” If “RC” wants to attack Sarah for being too leftwing perhaps s/he will have the good manners to use their name?


  • “Hence the proposal for a common system for a state-endorsed contract outside the concept of religious marriage, which personally I think would have been a better way forward. i.e. leave marriage to the religious bodies and have something different for a status approved by the state.”

    You’re really suggesting that people shouldn’t be allowed to marry in register offices (and other non-religious places), but only in places of worship? How amazingly illiberal. Back to pre-Victorian times …

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 9:10pm

    @Tony Greaves “there is a lack of understanding of the reasons why some active Christians find the concept of gay marriage difficult”

    I understand exactly why active christians have a problem with gay marriage. It’s because they view marriage as a property of their religion (or just religion in general) and are determined to enforce their groups definition of it upon everyone else.

    Thankfully we have enough sane people in the house of commons that we bypassed their ridiculous attempt to apply Group Rights over and above the rights of the individual, but it still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth when Sarah claims to be leaving because of a lack of adherence in the party to social justice.

    Let’s be quite clear about this; as long as there is a legal, secular basis (rather than a purely religious one) for marriage, and there are legal benefits to being married (and no, Civil Partnership are not and never were equal to marriage), then Marriage must, in a Liberal society, be made available to all regardless of sexuality.

    You can go the route proposed by Greg Mulholland and remove Marriage from legal definition entirely (which personally I have always said is a good idea anyway as a precursor to disestablishing the Church of England) and that would be fine. But that wasn’t on offer (the Tories oppose it), and equal access to marriage was. So that’s what we have. And thats why I regard Sarah voting against it as illiberal and her claiming to be standing down because of a lack of commitment to social justice hypocritical.

    I also object in the strongest possible terms to you defending the right of parliamentarians to vote as they like, but attacking activists who are unwilling to campaign for someone whose voting record they disagree with.

  • @John Roffey

    “The point is that modern couples see marriage as a means to provide security for their children.”

    John I think you have got things a bit back to front there in my opinion.

    The older generations, those born in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s held those values, because that was the way society was back then. People were expected to conform and anyone who did not was frowned upon and often ostracized, having children out of wedlock was a big taboo.

    Things have mode on considerably since then, People are no longer expected to conform to an idealistic image of a family.

    And besides what on earth is a modern couple meant to mean? It’s not a fashion or trend.

    I do not buy in to your belief either that married people stay together longer than those who don’t. Please can you point us in the direction of written proof of this. I would not take anything that the Telegraph says in article as a matter of fact.

    In my opinion there is absolutely no difference between that of a heterosexual relationship and that of a same sex relationship.that is why marriage should be equal and open to both. Just because a couple in a gay relationship can not procreate “naturally” does not make the relationship any less equal to that of a straight married couple.
    There are many straight married couples where one partner is infertile and therefore can not have children naturally, are you suggesting that this makes their relationship/marriage any less equal?

  • Andrew Colman 8th Sep '13 - 9:20pm

    First they came for the public servants (public sector workers) , But I did nothing, because I was not a public sector worker.
    Then they came for the “benefit claimants” telling us they were lazy scroungers, but I did nothing because I was not a claimant.
    Then they came for the immigrants, but I did not complain because I was not an immigrant

    they came for me Ooops no one left!

    Sarah was a wise politician who will be missed. Good luck to her in the future


  • This is getting surreal!

    Was Srah Teather’s only contribution to the LD this vote or did she do other things as well?

    As I said previously there are two points worth remembering:

    i. For all those criticising her what other party could she have been an MP for if she is too ‘illiberal’ to be a LD or is it that this judgement should not be made on one example? I could not see her either as a Labour or Tory MP to be honest

    ii. If she held on the Brent against Labour in what is clearly not a natural LD seat, she must have been doing something right for her constituents – a pretty deprived one at that. She also won with massive swings to her in both 2005 and 2010

    I have no inclination to support the LD in 2015 at the moment but I am sad to see her go in this way and am sure it was not an easy decision as she may still have bucked a trend to hold on

  • Ross Stalker 8th Sep '13 - 9:32pm

    @ Helen

    Civil partnerships are not equality under the law for those religious groups that want to be able to conduct same sex marriage. Why should the loudest religious groups be allowed to define marriage for everyone else?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Sep '13 - 9:33pm

    What I read here convinces me more than ever that gay marriage was invented as a distraction by the political right to hide they way they’ve stolen liberalism and the Liberal Democrats and made it into something which has the economic values of the Conservative Party but without its old-fashioned commitment to the nation. So these economic right-wingers can pretend they’re still Liberals, not at all Tories oh, no, no, no, because they are such strong supporters of gay marriage, and right-wing Tories are against that sort of thing.

    Well, it’s liberal in a way, but it doesn’t cost a thing, does it? Unlike the welfare system the destruction of which is so upsetting Sarah Teather.

    If you want to know why the Liberal Democrats are disappearing down the plug-hole, you couldn’t do much better than to read the comments here. From what’s written here, the over and shakers in the party aren’t interested in the sort of thing that bothers most people, issues to do with wealth and poverty, and so on. Oh, no, all they care about so striking trendy poses on tokenistic issues which make them look oh so modern – but don’t do a thing to harm the super-rich who are draining the rest of us dry. Go on the streets and find out – it’s just this sort of complete obsession with this sort of issue that so makes people think politicians are out of touch. The way the political left has become so absorbed in such issues and ignored what ought to be the bread-and-butter of the left wing politics in order to be “politically correct” is why the political right is so dominant now, because those the left ought to exist for don’t see the left doing much for them. So now the centre and right want to disappear down the hole of “political correctness” as well.

    There was a time, not that long ago, when the idea of gay marriage would have been condemned by gay people as trying to force them onto a heterosexual norm. Indeed, I see a few old-timers still taking that line. However, I think we can now accept that many gay people want to live in a two-person partnership, and that such partnerships should have all the legal protections of marriage. No-one here is arguing against that. The argument has come down to purely a token one on both sides, on both sides it’s just about the “signals sent out”, not about legal rights.

    The pro side is arguing, and it’s a good and fair point, that it will send a signal about acceptance of gay relationships if you insist that the legal partnership of two same sex people gets called “marriage” and is treated as the same as that word has historically meant. The anti-side is arguing that this sends out a signal which further loses the idea that marriage is not just a partnership between two people who “love each other” but is also about a mutual commitment to bringing up children. I think there’s a fair point here, though to be honest it’s one which has probably already been lost – the argument is not understood because most people don’t see heterosexual marriage in those terms now anyway. As the argument has not been understood, most people on the pro side just dismiss it and assume that anyone who tries to put it is really only motivated by hatred of gay people. This is just what we are seeing here. What concerns me in particular is that I think those few liberals who have come out as on the anti-side are perfectly aware of the pro-side’s arguments, but there has been little in the way of reciprocation. My feelings that there are also left-right issues here are perhaps shown by the surprising number of people on the left of the party economically who have either come out as anti, or at least shown and understanding of the anti case, more so, I think than those on the right economically. Perhaps this too has links with what I wrote about a while back when I noted how what could be a great harshness in liberalism is, in the British form of it, moderated by the nonconformist Christian roots which continental liberalism lacks (although the anti side here has been more of a Catholic thing, linked to the Catholic sacramental view of marriage, not that I suspect any of the anti-religious people here know or care about such differences, that it’s not just “because the Bible says so” which is a Protestant argument).

    For myself, I think the compromise of using the term “civil partnership” for what is similar to marriage works, and needed to be pushed so that in all practical terms the two were equivalent. That is, no-one’s actual rights are being affected, if the two forms of partnership confer equal rights. The Catholic Church in particular, having initially opposed civil partnerships had come round to accepting them, with many prominent Church leaders stating they saw it as a sensible legal arrangement. As I have written above, I rather feel that the insistence that this the acceptable compromise just a few years ago is no longer acceptable, and the whipping up of emotions over it, witness some of what is written above, has a political reason: it’s a thing that economic right-wingers can use to pretend that they are oh so modern and liberal and moderate and not all like the old Thatcherites – while pushing economic policies which are way to the right of Mrs Thatcher’s.

    However, never mind all that. I came to this thread supposing it would be a discussion on concerns about the drift to the economic right of the Liberal Democrats, and the way this is pushing out people who were once keen members, even people who weren’t particularly associated with the left of the party. The fact that it is not, and that there are many here who don’t seem concerned about this much bigger issue, and instead go on and on about that other token issue I’ve written about above, indicates to me the party is lost. Bye-bye Liberal Democrats, if what is written here is typical of what the party us like now, you deserve to be destroyed at the next election and you will be.

  • “Civil partnerships are not equality under the law for those religious groups that want to be able to conduct same sex marriage. Why should the loudest religious groups be allowed to define marriage for everyone else?”

    Surely the proposal must be that each religious group can decide for itself whom it wants to marry? Or must the Catholics have a veto on whom the Quakers can marry?

  • @George Kendall: “The thread has over 190 comments, but if you count up the number of members who have commented, with a number commenting multiple times, it is a comparatively small number. ”

    A fact check:

    At the time I am writing, the thread has precisely 200 comments. The number of commenters is 78, which comes to an average of 2.56 comments per person. Of those 78 commenters, 41 made only a single comment and 12 made only 2; 25 made 3 or more comments. 63 comments were made by just 5 commenters: bcrombie 16, Alisdair McGregor 15, Helen Tedcastle 13, John Roffey 10, and David Evans 9. All others made 5 or fewer comments.

    So yes, it is true that a large number of comments are being made by a very few people; on the other hand, a majority of comments were made by people making 4 or fewer comments, and this thread has in fact attracted a large number of commenters.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Sep '13 - 10:11pm


    Things have moved on considerably since then, People are no longer expected to conform to an idealistic image of a family.

    What you are saying in your message is contradictory. If you don’t want to conform to what the term “marriage” historically meant, why the insistence that only this term, with all its historical baggage, can be used for new forms of partnership? The absurd situation seems to have been reached where in the pursuit of being trendy, Liberal Democrats go on and on about how marriage is unimportant and should confer no special privileges, except when it comes to gay people, when suddenly it becomes enormously significant and important again.

  • “I see the idea of gay couples marrying as slightly ridiculous”


  • Of additional interest: of the 78 commenters mentioned above, 58 present themselves as male (either through a likely male forename or an avatar depicting a male), 9 as female, and the remaining 11 present ambiguously (though I believe the majority of them are male). So we have a body of commenters dominated by 74%-88% males (or male-presenting persons) passing judgment on a female MP. I draw no conclusions, but present it as an interesting fact.

  • @John Roffey

    Thank you for your response.

    Initially I was not going to get drawn into the whole SSM debate that has overrun this thread unfortunately. As I stated in my first post at https://www.libdemvoice.org/sarah-teather-wont-fight-2015-election-36065.html#comment-262694 Although I am obviously all for SSM and I disagree with Sarah Teathers position on the matter, I was pretty horrified to see the level of vilification of her from some forum posters. I think Sarah Teather has done a lot of good for the party and I can not for the life of me understand why so many people are so keen judge based on one issue that they do not agree with.
    I totally agree with you when you say
    “My main concern is that there has been suggestions on this thread that anyone who does not believe in gay marriage does not belong in the Party and that the issue should be held up as a totem of liberal values”

    I do however take some issue with your comment
    “probably like the majority, I would guess – I see the idea of gay couples marrying as slightly ridiculous.” I do respect your freedom to express your opinion, but it is quite difficult to not take it personally. I do not see my wanting my current civil partnership with partner, converted into a marriage as being ridiculous. I do not believe that the majority of the people as you suggest agree’s with you either, polling has shown consistently that more people are in favor of SSM than against.

    When you say at the beginning of your post “I knew that married couples stayed together longer – because I have seen the figures from a number of sources – not just from the right.” I would be interested to know what sources you have seen this from, I would imagine concrete proof from the census would give a more accurate account for this, but you have not said that this is one of your sources, apart from what you have read in the media.

    I think it is a well known fact that divorce records are at their highest levels, there are also record numbers of single parent families, so I don’t think your assumption of married people stay together longer is supported by the facts and statistics..

    In my opinion, religious organisations should not be able to dictate the laws of our country, Religion is freedom of choice for the Individual , Religion has no right in the 21st century to claim exclusivity on marriage or to impose its will on the country as a whole.
    I know there are a lot of devote Christians and Catholics who believe that we should still live by the rule of the Bible, but we also know that there are a lot of things in the Bible that are determined as being illegal today in modern day society
    take what the Bible says on slavery for instance

    Leviticus 25:44-46 “As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever.”
    Exodus 21:20-21 ““When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”
    Ephesians 6:5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ”

    Now that is not acceptable in modern day society and we have made laws against them, were we wrong to go against the Bible’s teachings?
    Former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd gace an inspiring speech on gay Marriage recently. http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/australias-pm-kevin-rudd-gives-answer-century-gay-marriage020913
    A devout Christian he was formerly against the idea of SSM, however, after a long period of reflection and researching. He has changed his position and is now in support of SSM. I urge you to watch the short clip where I think he stated his position and now beliefs eloquently.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Sep '13 - 11:01pm

    Alisdair McGregor

    I understand exactly why active christians have a problem with gay marriage. It’s because they view marriage as a property of their religion (or just religion in general) and are determined to enforce their groups definition of it upon everyone else.

    There are many different sorts of Christians, so many different arguments made from people calling themselves “Christian”. Some may have argued along the lines you suggest, but the dominant argument coming from mainstream Christian did not take that form. Rather, it argued that they considered marriage as they understood it, which is as it has historically been understood, was beneficial to society as a whole, regardless of beliefs about supernatural issues. Their argument was that historically marriage was understood as being about bringing up children and not just two people being “in love”. The argument followed that insisting that a legally recognised gay partnership be termed “marriage” supported the modern notion that marriage was JUST about two people being “in love”, and that as a knock-on effect therefore contributed to people caring less about the child-rearing aspect, and therefore being too ready to abandon that aspect due to “not being in love any more”.

    So, underneath this is an argument about the message that is “sent out” by this proposed reform, just as those in favour of the reform argue also that changing the historical understanding of marriage causes a message to be “sent out” about acceptance of those who form gay partnerships.

    You may think the “religious” argument as I have put it is a poor one. However, as a liberal I think you ought to accept that there are some who genuinely do think this way. Just as you think your way, and think that if society and its laws were oriented your way it would be better for everyone, so you campaign for it to be so. You don’t, however, seem willing to accept that other people think differently than you do, that other people may have different ideas about how society should be run than yours, and that people who think differently from you should be free to put their point of view. Instead it seems you want to condemn anyone who disagrees with you as being a bad person who cannot have any concern for social justice, and you do so on the basis of ignoring what they are actually saying and making up something else yourself. I don’t think that’s very liberal.

  • David Allen 8th Sep '13 - 11:06pm

    Sarah Teather has abandoned a lifetime’s ambition on questions of principle. This Party has met the challenge to respond – with a storm of vilification and obfuscation, based on a side issue, gay marriage, which has no relevance to the resignation. The way in which most respondents have evaded the challenge speaks volumes.

    Well, I have engaged in Liberal Democrat politics for 32 years now – longer than Sarah, but at a much less intense level. I was a councillor, agent, secretary, organiser, and chairman in a local party. But it wasn’t my day job, thank heavens. So I don’t face quite the same life crisis that Sarah faces.

    For 27 of those years, the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors were a force for good. For the last five – and we have to face this, as Sarah has done – the Liberal Democrats have become a force for harm. They did not set out to be. Different members had different rationales for believing that in Coalition, they would not be. That they would moderate the Right; that they would achieve enough good to outweigh the bad: that the end would justify the means. It has not worked out that way.

    Some say that Sarah should be ignored, because she did not resign earlier. Others say that she should be ignored, because she did not do as I am doing, and stay to fight. It is all self-serving denialism. Anybody who genuinely supported the party in the Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell years, and agreed with most of what it then stood for, cannot honestly support what Clegg has done. And they know it.

    Matthew Huntbach coined a useful phrase – that Liberal Democrats who refuse to work for the party until it restores its traditional principles are “On strike”. I have also been on strike for the last five years. I have been on strike amongst many legions of activists and supporters who have left, have joined other parties, or have lost all belief in democratic politics. Now we have our first MP on strike. It is growing. It will grow further. The reckoning will come for a leadership which comprehensively betrayed our principles.

    I appeal to all Lib Dem members, ex members, and supporters to join in declaring that they are “Lib Dems on strike”.

    That can mean withdrawing from active involvement as I have done, and Sarah intends to do. It can also mean continuing in a critical role, as others are doing. But above all, it means recognising that the main priority is not to beat Labour, or indeed to beat the Tories. It is to change ourselves.

    And why is that so important? Why don’t we just pack it in, and let the party melt down to a shadow of its former self? Because the Lib Dems hold the ring, that’s why. Even on 7% support, the party is still pivotal, as the Clegg coupists knew well. They planned to capture our party in order to maintain permanent right wing hegemony. We can stop them. We must.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Sep '13 - 11:08pm


    I know there are a lot of devote Christians and Catholics who believe that we should still live by the rule of the Bible,

    No, there are some Protestants who think this way, but the Catholic position is that the Bible cannot be interpreted as a simple rule book, because it is full of contradictions. Indeed, much of the New Testament is about an explicit rejection of the idea of the Bible as a book of rules by which one must live.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Sep '13 - 11:13pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I will certainly concede your point that there are many Christians who do not hold to the unreasonable view.

    Regarding the rest of your argument, I must stress again that my concern is for equality before the law. It is neither about love nor children, but about the fact (legal, demonstrable, fact) that couples in a marriage have legal right granted to them that give them an advantage over unmarried couples.

    These advantages are only available to hetrosexual couples, and apply regardless of the desire or even ability of the couple in question to conceive a child.

    That, quite simply, is discrimination. It is a system which confers a legal advantage upon a couple based on their sexuality.

    You have two choices at that point. You can extend marriage to all, or you can erase the status of marriage from the legal code entirely. I would prefer, as one committed to the separation of church and state, the latter. But that was not available, Same Sex Marriage was.

    Voting to retain marriage as an exclusively hetrosexual arrangement was voting to continue a discriminatiory practice in law. There’s really no way around that fact.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    ” but the Catholic position is that the Bible cannot be interpreted as a simple rule book, because it is full of contradictions.”

    So the religious organisations accept that the bible is full of contradictions, however, they get to decide which pieces of literature they will adhere too and accept as gods law.
    And so they hold the belief that scripture that they embrace as being gods law, should be enforced into the law s of our lands, even against the will of those who have no religious beliefs at all?

    That makes no sense to me at all. That’s my personal opinion.

    But I really do not want to get into the do’s and don’t, for’s and against of religious scriptures and their interpretations. My Brother is a Jehovah Witness and I have spent far to many years arguing over religion.

    I did not come to this thread to argue for or against the bible, or to argue about same sex marriages, In fact I am extremely disappointed that this article has descended into what it has.
    I am sticking by my original post and my intentions, which was to express my sadness at the level of vilification aimed at Sarah Teather’s in her decision to step down as an MP, I think it is extremely narrow minded for people to judge her so harshly on a single issue that they themselves do not agree with. I think she has done a tremendous amount for the Liberal Democrats, she has raised the profile on many issues to do with civil liberties and it is of great shame to see so many people willing to turn on her.
    I believe she deserved a lot more respect than that and I sincerely hope that once she is free of the confines of government and the parliamentary party, she can find new ways to champion the causes she believes in and be a force for good.
    That’s all I really have to say on that matter 🙂

  • Richard Dean 9th Sep '13 - 12:27am

    Much of the feeling of “inequality” that seems to have fuelled the SSM campaign was puzzling to many people, and may turn out to have been mostly an illusion.

    Much of this “inequality” may have been an unintended consequence of society’s worthy attempt to distinguish between (a) people bringing up children and (b) others. This is worthy because it recognizes that group (a) shoulder extra burdens, and therefore deserve assistance to offset those burdens. It has nothing at all to do with sexuality. But law and benefit rules are blunt instruments, and “being married” used to be a simple way of making the important distinction with a reasonable degree of targeting accuracy.

    If this interpretation is correct, it has some interesting implications. Now that we have SSM, politicians may look for ways to re-make the distinction between (a) and (b) while avoiding “inequality”. For example by changing the tax, benefits, employment, pension, and other systems to further favour people bringing up children. Or by putting more resources into making environments more child-friendly, which is certainly something we should be doing anyway.

    I’ve no doubt that such changes will take quite a while, and that a majority of the electorate will support them. It will result in better ways of targeting help and support to those who need it most.

    But it will also mean that part of the apparent advantage that gay people believe they have gained will be eroded over time to nothing. All that will remain is perhaps an improvement in the standing of gay couples. This is no doubt a good thing, but changing attitudes takes a lot longer than changing laws. It also requires rational and persuasive argument in a democracy, rather than force. The nastiness that has been directed at Sarah over this issue is precisely the kind of thing that will prevent that improvement from happening. Single-issue politics also seems likely to be counter-productive, because most people are affected by many issues, not just one.

  • George Kendall 9th Sep '13 - 1:03am

    Just to clarify. Sarah has decided not to re-stand in 2015.

    – She has not resigned as an MP
    – She has not left the party
    – She has not given up fighting for her values within the party
    – She is not on strike
    – She will be campaigning for Liberal Democrats between now and 2015

    (Some of the comments have implied differently to the above)


    Sorry if, by talking more generally about the thread, I came across as criticising one side or the other. I was trying to avoid adding fuel to the fire of the argument over SSM.

    I was responding to people who have said how dismayed they are by the heated nature of this thread. My point was that, even if though there are scores of people who have made comments in this thread, the heated nature of this debate has been driven by a small, and in my opinion unrepresentative, minority of the party.

    For the record, I think Sarah is an enormously impressive person. I have campaigned for her, and I am deeply saddened by her decision not to re-stand.

  • I seem to have been the most frquent poster on this thread, apologies for this and me a self-declared lapsed supporter as well! This is the final one

    I have tried not to be too heated (I too frequently end up on the ‘naughty step’) but I felt bound to respound to some of the criticisms of Sarah Teather which seemed to be unfair due to her undoubted work at constituency level which goes further than one subject.

    I also, try to point out that she at least shows courage in voting for what she believes instead of using the far too frequently seen get-out of an abstention.

    I wish her well for the future and hope to see her back in representative politics some day. I think she will come back wiser and stronger

  • Robert Wootton 9th Sep '13 - 8:05am

    Why aren’t the Liberal Democrats the Natural Party of Government? Because they (the party bigwigs) do not understand that the structure of government was created by the powerful, for the powerful in order to keep power.
    From the perspective of someone in the poverty trap, the economy is improving ( on the turn is the phrase used in the press; I would interpret the phrase as “more rotten”) because the rich are getting richer and the poor are being penalised for being poor.

    We live in a socio-economic system. The purpose of a system is POSIWID. Purpose of System Is What It Does. The British system produces Poverty, Obesity, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, benefit dependency, Banksters, the Rip Off culture.

    It, the system produces as its output two cultures that are alienated from mainstream society. A sub-culture of poverty, obesity, ill health, alcoholism and other related social problems. And a super culure of extreme wealth who are completely isolated from the problems of ordinary, everyday life of the rest of society. Producing the problems of non affordable housing, penalising benefit claimants etc.

  • Robert Wootton 9th Sep '13 - 8:08am

    The Liberal Democrats are propping up an unfair system, This is a reason/explanation for not standing as a Liberal Democrat. We need people who are willing to change the system.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Sep '13 - 8:20am

    @ John R –

    “An objective visitor from Mars, viewing the prevailing political dynamics in the UK, is likely to ask – why doesn’t the Liberal Democrats create a policy platform to meet the wishes of the centre ground – as they do not have the constrains of the two main parties?”

    Interesting article, but I believe you have already answered your own question:

    “He understood that the views of the majority of voters fell within a reasonably well defined grouping of opinion – one that could be determined through an analysis of the many opinion polls produced.”

    Too often the party sinks into ‘sensible’ minority opinions because they deem them sensible in the value system they hold to, regardless of whether the broad electorate, across the political spectrum and physical geography, hold these values too.

    The other point i’d make is to stop using the phrase ‘centre ground’, for it stunts political thought on how to reach that broad swathe of the electorate. Tebbit’s “common ground” is a far more useful term in this respect.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 9:30am


    “there is a ruling elite who seem determined that the nation is not governed for the benefit of the people”

    Without wanting to end up discussing Space Lizards and the Illuminati, the way elites rule in democracies is by controlling access to information, i.e. the media. You tell the voters what they need to know, and, the hope is, they will vote accordingly.

    “Too often the party sinks into ‘sensible’ minority opinions because they deem them sensible in the value system they hold to, regardless of whether the broad electorate, across the political spectrum and physical geography, hold these values too.”

    Projection of your wishes on the Liberal Democrats, there. The electorate has a wide range of views: there is no majority for any given political platform. The best that any party can do is to appeal to the broadest minority of opinion, and hope that the press carry that appeal. Your pleas to turn the Lib Dems into a Second Class Tory Party is pointless – all you will end with is a First Class Tory Party and a First Class Labour Party, without Second Class anything. Better for the Lib Dems to stand firm, recognisably and distinctively in the British liberal tradition, rather than to ape another party. they will achieve more that way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '13 - 10:53am


    But I really do not want to get into the do’s and don’t, for’s and against of religious scriptures and their interpretations.

    No, neither do I. However, it was you who raised an argument on the basis of the assumption – completely wrong – that all Christians have a simplistic sola scriptura approach. If something I know to be completely wrong is stated as if it is a fact, which was what you did, I do feel I have a duty to point out it is wrong. You also wrote “Catholics and Christians” which is deeply insulting to Catholics as it suggests you do not believe them to be Christians. So your assumptions about religion seem to be based on an extreme Protestant basis. If that’s where you’re coming from, fine, but don’t pretend to be neutral. If you didn’t realise the biased assumptions you argument was based on, well, there are plenty of places you can go and read about all this to get better informed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '13 - 10:58am


    And so they hold the belief that scripture that they embrace as being gods law, should be enforced into the law s of our lands, even against the will of those who have no religious beliefs at all?

    No. I don’t want to get drawn into long arguments about religion. All I can say is that you are basing your arguments on assumptions which are based on an extreme Protestant interpretation of Christianity.

  • First… best wishes Sarah Teather I hope you see brighter horizons.

    Second… this thread amongst others has shown why the party no longer has much support from those you need most, voters.
    Tribalism is well within the party, what shocked me most is just how many tribes are hiding here…

    Since 2010 the party has learned well, too much has rubbed off onto the party, I think the party has failed to hold firm in the beliefs that pushed the party forwards, this thread shows anyone looking through the window just how nasty the party has become not to other parties, but to one of your own…

    Et tu, Brute?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 9th Sep '13 - 11:10am

    Dear All,

    The subject at hand is Sarah Teather’s decision to stand down at the next election. I think that, whilst the focus on same sex marriage is a bit narrow, it is perfectly legitimate as part of an evaluation of her ‘legacy’.

    However, our comments policy is clear that sticking to the topic is a ‘good thing’, and I have removed all comments relating to the EU and migration between 9.46 and 10.48, with apologies to John Roffey, Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, Nuclear Cockroach and Dave Page.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    I don’t mean to be rude and I will take your opinion on board.
    I do not feel it appropriate to discuss this matter on this thread any longer . If an article appears on LDV which would be more suited to this debate, I will gladly engage you with it.

    I hold my hands up and admit, that I myself got drawn into a discussion on SSM and Religious beliefs. But I can assure you, that was never my intention.
    I am disappointed that this article has descended in to these highly charged opinions and has failed miserably to keep on topic.
    I believe this article should have celebrated the achievements Sarah Teather achieved as a Minister and as an MP and what she will continue to do once outside the confines of government and the politics party. I believe that . No matter what peoples opinions are on one aspect of policy where they did not agree with Sarah, she deserves the respect and to be acknowledged for all the good that she has done and continues to do.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 11:34am

    Thank you, Mark. Meanwhile, back on topic…

    errr, sort of.

    Could I ask Matthew Huntbach to refrain from using the word “extreme” when discussing the basis of some Protestant beliefs. To say they are “extreme” is pejorative, without adding to the discussion. And, naturally enough, other strands of belief have different foundations, for example, the belief in justification by faith. As for homosexuality, orthodox Catholicism damns not the orientation, but the deed, as being “inherently disordered,” which isn’t really much of an advancement on condemnation based on Leviticus. It all rests on authority rather than reason.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 11:37am


    You have said with eloquence all that needs to said about this disgraceful thread.

  • David Allen 9th Sep '13 - 11:38am

    George Kendall said,

    “Sarah …. is not on strike… (Some of the comments have implied differently to the above).”

    You are trying to redefine my terms for me, in an attempt to kybosh me.

    A Lib Dem on strike is somebody who is either withdrawing their labour (like me and Matthew Huntbach), or (let’s call it) “working to rule”. Someone who is “working to rule” is someone who already occupies a position of responsibility, and who chooses to fight for fundamental change within the Party while retaining that position, rather than immediately resigning.

    The Observer main article includes “(Teather) says she no longer feels able to operate within the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party while disagreeing with its approach on fundamental issues” and that she feels “utterly desolate”. This is a forthright decision to condemn the new position that Party has adopted, to detach herself from the parliamentary party forthwith, and to withdraw at the next election in consequence.

    I call that going on strike. Now if Sarah wishes to write in, and say that that is not how she would see it, she is of course entitled to do so. However George, you are not.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 9th Sep '13 - 11:46am

    It’s quite extraordinary that Sarah’s decision to stand down at the next election- a choice she is perfectly free to make, has turned into a extremely long dialogue about mainly EM and religion. That vote was won FGS., and is now law. Perhaps we can now move on to other areas of inequality, which i cited in my original contribution.
    And we wonder why only 9 women have contributed….

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 11:58am

    @Meral Hussain Ece

    Her constituents held Sarah Teather in high regard. It’s a shame that a vocal few from the ranks of her own party can’t do the same. The whole thread has been a miserable display of Lib Dem intolerance of a fellow Lib Dem, some of it using the most hateful language imaginable.

  • OP “Teather said his tougher approach to immigration – including a plan for some immigrants to pay a £1,000 deposit when applying for visas – left her feeling so “desolate” and “catastrophically depressed” that she was unable even to confront him over the issue. ”

    If she is unable to confront and debate with people she has a different opinion to then she is totally unsuited to politics as a career. Actually the same applies to board-level management, which is undoubtedly where she is now going despite having no private sector experience.

  • David Allen 9th Sep '13 - 12:17pm

    Richard S,

    Well, you neatly illustrate Nuclear Cockroach’s comment directly above your own de-haut-en-bas outpouring.

    Many blokes (and some women), clearly you included, don’t have the emotional intelligence to admit to feelings such as Teather’s. However, anybody who is placed in an impossible situation is likely to have such feelings. In fact, the feeling of emotional paralysis generally results from a rational calculation that there is nothing that can be done which will not simply make things worse. So the best thing to do is to do nothing, to go away and reflect, and then finally to do something once you can think of something sensible to do. Many blokes (and some women) would instead feel compelled to sound off, to display strength, to mess things up rather than keep quiet or hide away. More fool them.

  • Julian Tisi 9th Sep '13 - 1:38pm

    What a thoroughly depressing list of contributions. I’m particularly disappointed with the intollerance by some of the anti-religious contributions particularly those with the arrogance to then claim that they understand religious belief. For my part I’m Catholic and understand those within my religion – like Sarah Teather – who did not share my views on equal marriage. I disagreed with her, but respect her nevertheless. Isn’t that how it’s meant to be? We try to convince others, respect our opponents, hope we win the argument and move on.

    On the main reason for Sarah’s resignation – which had nothing to do with religion – I disagree with her, but I respect her decision. Personally, I’m sad she’s resigned. Now let’s move on.

  • @David Allen Many blokes (and some women), clearly you included, don’t have the emotional intelligence to admit to feelings such as Teather’s

    Actually there is also the second possibility, that I recognise such feelings but am able to work around them, which includes recognising that to the extent that they would close me down from operating they are incompatible with seeking a career in parliament, which necessarily includes people of different views and would do so to an even greater extent if PR was ever introduced. Other ways to work around this (in other areas of work) include stating my position and reasons at the outset (it gets harder the longer you leave it), but delaying more detailed discussion to a later time; often people come around in the meantime.

    By the way, the opposite problem you mention (talks before he thinking) is also a handicap in politics and jobs, but particularly in politics where it seems to be against the rules of the game to take back something once you have said it.

    I am not sure why you bring gender into it. If you think women are less able than men to deal with people disagreeing with them then you obviously know different women (and men) from the ones I know.

  • David Allen 9th Sep '13 - 2:13pm


    You took a pop shot at Sarah Teather by twisting her frankness over a specific issue into a supposed declaration of personal incapability to deal with people of strong opposing views. In other words, weakness. It just so happened it was a woman you were accusing of being weak. For all we know, you might have said the same thing about a man. So we can’t definitively pin a charge of sexism on you, you are in the clear, sort of. It just so happens that the accusation of weakness is far more often flung at women than at men. Oh and by the way, it is hardly gutless behaviour to go to a newspaper with such a devastating indictment of what the Lib Dems have now become, is it? That’s why I talked about gender.

  • This article shows me why your party is heading for a calamity at the next election. You have too many people in your ranks that have no idea whats going on in the real world. Whilst you spend your time arguing over ssm’s and what way your mps voted on it. There are people out in the real world that are trying to keep a roof over their heads and put a meal on the table. This is the best example ive seen of how the political parties really have lost any real idea as to what its like to be someone in this country that is struggling to make ends meet.

  • Peter Greenhill 9th Sep '13 - 2:36pm

    Lib Dems probably will hold more seats than some expect though the overall share of the vote is likely to be dismal and possibly less than UKIP. Brent Central has gone for sure.

    Doesn’t really matter though does it. The only thing that matters is that neither Conservative or Labour get an overall majority

  • @David Allen,

    No, Sarah Teather took a pop-shot at Nick Clegg for having a different opinion to her and thereby causing her to feel bad and close down rather than debating the differences of opinion.

    It isn’t gutless to go to the papers (gutless would be to keep quiet and do nothing at all), but in going to the Observer she is still with people who agree with her so it is not about the specific problem she is talking about.

    By the way, my wife would need a visa to visit some countries, such as the US. If making a returnable financial deposit was more likely to show good faith and streamline the process and increase the chances of actually getting one then I wouldn’t be adverse so I am not sure what the problem with this particular policy actually is.

  • Peter Chivall 9th Sep '13 - 2:46pm

    I was shocked when I heard that Sarah Teather was intending not to stand again in 2015. I remember her work as Minister for Early years where she prevented Gove & co. from continuing New Labour’s attempts to turn Nursery Education for the majority into a version of the Dickension Dotherboy’s Hall (by comparison the well-to-do could insist that the fee-paying schools their children attended adopted the progressive, child-centred Montessori method). Likewise, her work introducing the Pupil Premium and opposing the Tories’ attempts to abandon Special Needs Education across local authorities, rather than leaving it to each Academy to decide a child’s future support. These to me were issues of equality of substance, not just of terminology.
    I support Same Sex Marriage. I resented some of the statements from Catholic Bishops and Evangelical Pastors alike that seemed not to have moved on from the 4th Century BC. But I had no idea that Sarah Teather had voted against SSM, or that her vote had created such a mass of anger bordering on hatred until I read the first few posts of this thread.
    I believe, as a Liberal for over 40 years, that Sarah had a right of conscience to vote as she did, just as a Liberal, I believe people should be free to practice their religion as long as this does not impinge on the rights of others. The Same Sex Marriage act did not force any Church to conduct ceremonies they did not believe in, and the State preserved the rights of individuals by guaranteeing their access to SSM in registry offices. I believe Sarah was wrong in voting with those who would allow Registrar’s to opt out of that duty to all citizens.
    The apparent one-dimension ‘Liberalism’ of some of your most vociferous posters has me worried. Their persistent and unequivocal condemnation of Sarah over a single vote, which in any case, they ‘won’ and Sarah ‘lost’ leads me to believe, from their remarks, that this is the only issue they care about. The only name I recognise from amongst those who criticised Sarah is Gareth Epps, who I know has wider concerns over Party policy and is active in many other areas.
    I used to see the Party as a colourful tapestry with threads interwoven from many directions, some that I agreed with, and some not, but that in each individual there were threads of many colours that I could recognise and work with. The danger of some of the attitudes shown above is that we become a rainbow banner, colourful from afar, but close up seen to be parallel, set alongside each other but clearly separate. Above all, not communicating and liable to rip apart when subject to strong tension.

  • Graham Evans 9th Sep '13 - 3:22pm

    I cannot claim to have been an activist in recent years , though earlier in my life almost all of my spare time was devoted to working for the Liberals, the Alliance, and more recently the Liberal Democrats. When I was actively involved in the Party it was an essential tenet of post-election activity that you sent a message of thanks to everyone who had worked in the campaign. However, having travelled across with my partner to Brent on several occasions to help Sarah campaign in 2010, my disillusionment with her set in just a few weeks later with the failure to hear anything from her or from her campaign team by way of thanks. As a life-long Liberal I just shrugged this of, but I know that my partner, who does not have the same level of commitment to the Party as I, found this failure shocking. His response then, which was strengthened by her vote against SSM, was to let Sarah go hang in 2015. I suspect that there would have been many people like him, prepared to help out in the 2015 GE, who will have felt the same way.

    For myself, my criticism of Sarah is less her vote against SSM, but the way she has set out to cause maximum damage to the Party by her Observer interview. It is not unusual for MPs to become disillusioned with their parties, but those whom I respect, such as James Purnell and Alan Milburn, simply indicate that they wish to pursue a career outside Westminster politics. Others, like Frank Field, stay on and continue to espouse in the House their political views and perspectives in the belief that there is a real possibility of changing the terms of the political debate. By acting in the way she has done, Sarah has only herself to blame if others feel deeply betrayed by her behaviour.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '13 - 4:51pm

    nuclear cockroach

    Could I ask Matthew Huntbach to refrain from using the word “extreme” when discussing the basis of some Protestant beliefs. To say they are “extreme” is pejorative, without adding to the discussion.

    Well, ok, could you suggest an alternative that you would not regard as pejorative? If I’m talking about politics, I can think in terms of a left-right spectrum, and use the word “extreme” when I mean someone who is very firmly at one end of it. Christian denominations can be put on a spectrum that has Vatican I type Catholics at one end, sola scriptura Protestants at the other, and mainstream Anglicans in the middle. Whatever, I’m just trying to get across the point that the caricature of religion and religious beliefs that is being put out by some here shows a lack of knowledge of even very basic issues. For those of us who do know a bit about these things, there’s a big dilemma, because it then goes either:

    1) We try and correct the misassumptions, and are immediately hit back by more of the same, so filling up what should be a discussion on something else with an attempt to summarise the issues akin to having to a whole course on basic science to someone who knows nothing about it, but who thinks all scientists are bad people, and is vociferously arguing on this basis using some pop science he’s picked up from some uninformed source.

    2) We keep quiet to try and avoid all this, with the result that our silence gets treated as consent to the views of these people.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 5:05pm


    You could just refer to something like “certain strands in Protestant belief which assert the primacy of Biblical inspiration before all other sources of wisdom”. Or some formulation like that, perhaps less long-winded! 😉 Using the word “extreme” doesn’t actually make the distinction that you wish to make, and some might find it irksome.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '13 - 5:05pm

    Graham Evans

    For myself, my criticism of Sarah is less her vote against SSM, but the way she has set out to cause maximum damage to the Party by her Observer interview. It is not unusual for MPs to become disillusioned with their parties, but those whom I respect, such as James Purnell and Alan Milburn, simply indicate that they wish to pursue a career outside Westminster politics.

    Now this is actually the more important issue, and what this thread OUGHT to have centred on. However, it has some parallels with my previous message. Those of us who are unhappy with the party’s direction are in a dilemma. Do we

    1) Voice our concerns, and get attacked for it?

    2) Stay silent, and get assumed to be in agreement with what we disagree, because our silence is interpreted as consent?

  • David Allen 9th Sep '13 - 5:08pm

    “My criticism of Sarah is …the way she has set out to cause maximum damage to the Party by her Observer interview.”

    Maximum damage has actually been caused to the Party by Panglossian loyalists who have insisted that everything is going fine, that Clegg’s wholesale adoption of Tory policies is the right thing to do, and that there is no alternative. Sarah Teather clearly still has a great emotional attachment to the Party, and has no intention whatsoever of causing damage.

    That said, if you have been a critical member for five years as I have, you do go through an evolution of views. You begin -as I did – by thinking of yourself as a complete loyalist, just one who feels the need to warn against a false step before getting back to producing the next Focus.

    Then you find out just how far your party has come from the old days of songbooks, camaraderie and innocence, as the new Right shower you with insults. Gradually you come to recognise that you are in a fight, albeit your aims are to win back the Party to its traditional principles, not to do the Party damage.

    The Party responds – as it has in this thread, with a few honourable exceptions – by throwing more excrement over you. You discover that the more obvious it becomes that right-wing politics has failed, the more determinedly do the right-wing “Clegg coupists” stick to their guns. While many people join you in helping to evolve a critique and an alternative, far too many potential allies simply melt away in disgust.

    The Cleggies dig in. They bend when the wind blows, they make apologies to turn away wrath, they listen and then politely say they were right all the time, and then they fight with ferocity when it matters. It’s always tomorrow when it would be a great time to change the leadership or move away from the Tory coalition, just like it’s “free beer tomorrow” in the pub.

    Sarah knows Clegg personally and thinks he’s a “decent bloke”. I don’t have that handicap.

    Eventually, you have to forget about the fact that you’ve spent half a life helping to build up the Party. You have to drop the emotional response and face hard facts.

    This party is no longer a force for good. It is a force for harm. If it cannot be rescued, then it should be buried.

    Oh, and the great British public got there long before I did. It’s just as well we don’t have negative voting in this country, the ability to vote down the party you like least. Once upon a time the Lib Dems would have scored very few negative votes. I’m sure they would get a negative landslide now.

  • Peter chivall – “The only name I recognise from amongst those who criticised Sarah is Gareth Epps” – Afraid I don’t recognise that description of what Gareth has written, either above or on his blog, which while making it clear he regarded Sarah’s SSM vote as wrong, otherwise went out of his way to assess her record and showers quite a bit of praise on her.

    Also, it’s disappointing to see people here trying to pretend that Tim Farron and Simon Hughes voted against SSM, when they voted in favour. https://www.libdemvoice.org/equal-marriage-who-voted-which-way-33076.html

  • paul barker 9th Sep '13 - 6:52pm

    This thread has not shown us in a good light. The general tone has been bad-tempered & most of the comments just repeats others. Reading a bunch at once is like listening to a crowd of people all shouting at once.
    I am sad Sarah has stood down, she has done some great things in Government. If she does beleive that The Party has shifted to The Right I have to disagree.
    Perhaps, collectively we ought to leave this one till we have calmed down & got things in perspective ?

  • Robert Wootton 9th Sep '13 - 7:01pm

    @john Roffey. Yes, the problem can be resolved. In terms of systemic viability. Which the curent social economy is not (viable).

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '13 - 7:08pm

    nuclear cockroach

    You could just refer to something like “certain strands in Protestant belief which assert the primacy of Biblical inspiration before all other sources of wisdom”.

    But that’s “moderate Protestantism”. The word “primacy” suggests one might at least pay some attention to other sources of authority, and the word “inspiration” suggests using it as a vague guideline rather than taking a literal interpretation of it, and taking that literal interpretation as a literal instruction. The words “certain strands” suggests there are other forms of Protestantism which don’t even go as far as asserting the primacy of Biblical inspiration before all other sources of wisdom. There aren’t. The words you are suggesting don’t enable me at all to establish the distinction I wanted to establish with the words “extreme”. In fact, the sort of people I meant by that word would probably regard what you say is a definition of them as the definition of a wishy-washy Protestant, if not a downright heretical one.

  • I wasn’t going to comment again but would like to respond to Terry G.

    You have provided a link to the 2nd reading, please have a look at the 3rd reading which is where it is passed into law – I think you will find that they both abstained

    Apology accepted in advance…..

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '13 - 7:18pm

    My main criticism of Sarah Teather would be that like so many others she just remained silent about her concerns until it was too light. If people like her had made more of a stand earlier on, perhaps it would not be as bad as it has become. What seems instead to have been happening is that there are a small band of people like me, who have always been vocal critics of Clegg, and then there’s a whole load of people who instead of saying “OK, now I see what you meant, I’ll join you in the fight to turn things round” are just jumping out over our heads and leaving us as isolated as we always were.

    Clegg may be a “decent bloke”. That does not mean he is a good leader. It does not mean he has good policy ideas. It does not mean he has the background and personal knowledge which would enable him to identify with the sort of concerns most people in this country have and formulate policies which address those concerns. He may be a clever strategist who is doing what he is doing deliberately to destroy the party. He may be just someone who is easily led, and actually I think this more likely and fits in with the “decent bloke” line. Whatever, either way his leadership is destroying the party. Those who think it is wrong to say this are demonstrating an attitude to party politics which is more Leninist than liberal.

  • I have all of these intelligent, apt, and devastatingly witty things to say about conscience, religion, history, and the SSM bill. The problem is that none of them is remotely related either to Sarah Teather’s situation or to the current political predicament of the Liberal Democrats. I might just as well spend my time discussing the Reform Bill, the Slavery Abolition Act, or the 1918 Representation of the People Act. Or perhaps Magna Carta and de Montfort’s parliament.

  • I voted SDP since the formation of that party, subsequently voting and helping the Lib Dems before becoming a member about 8 years ago. After resigning following the disgraceful decision re the NHS reforms, I wondered where I could go politically. However, I felt that the LDs would probably still get my vote if they moved back to the position held under previous leaders to Clegg.

    However after reading some of the contributions above (I couldn’t be bothered to read them all), I now realise that as I hold similar views to Sarah Tether re SSM, I am not wanted by the LD party. It seems that Liberal Democrats have become a single issue party. Many contributors have referred to Liberal without any mention of Democrat. I would suggest that the party is rapidly becoming like the old Liberal party and like them will become totally irrelevant in parliament. Oh for the formation of another SDP and then I would have a home.

  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '13 - 7:45am

    @Peter Bell “It seems that Liberal Democrats have become a single issue party”
    I am not so sure. I wonder if the Liberal Democrats have become / are becoming a party for those who would comfortably be conservatives if it weren’t for the apparently instinctive homophobia of that party, and that might explain the way some here appear not to value Teather’s work for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

  • Paul in Twickenham 10th Sep '13 - 8:05am

    @Peter Watson – on a thread about economics on this site a year or two ago I flippantly characterized the Liberal Democrats as “Thatcherites in favour of gay marriage”. Based on the above I find myself thinking that this characterization of priorities may have been more true than I realized. I am a strong proponent of equal marriage (as a gay man in a civil partnership that is not surprising) but I am frankly staggered by the degree to which many of my erstwhile colleagues appear to regard support for this one specific piece of equality legislation as the sine qua non of Liberalism.

  • “… I am frankly staggered by the degree to which many of my erstwhile colleagues appear to regard support for this one specific piece of equality legislation as the sine qua non of Liberalism.”

    Surely it’s not so much that the particular issue is a sine qua non, as that – as a matter of general principle – it’s inconceivable that a liberal would want to impose his or her personal religious beliefs on the population at large. In the same way that we should have no hesitation in condemning as illiberal a Jewish MP who tried to make it illegal for Gentiles to eat pork.

  • Simon Hebditch 10th Sep '13 - 9:53am

    And I thought it was the Tories who were the “nasty” party!

  • I think it’s very sad Sarah Teather will not be standing again for the reasons she has outlined. The policies the government is espousing are not in keeping with what was a radical progressive left of centre party which is becoming increasingly right wing and moving that way day by day. The opinion polls now put the party firmly fourth behind UKIP and much of the blame for this is the party leadership and jettisoning of liberal democrat policies and principles eg watering away workers rights, the bedroom tax, welfare reform based on spite rather than fairness etc etc. Unless Nick Clegg is changed as a leader (he is not really a leader but a manager now) then I too think I will cancel my party membership come the next general election.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Sep '13 - 1:06pm

    @Simon Hebditch

    Indeed! Hence my earlier comment in this thread, 8th Sep ’13 – 8:14pm.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Sep '13 - 1:11pm

    @John Roffey

    The continuing SDP are essentially Europhobic socialists, but without the trades unions links that TUSC has. They have 2 council seats in the whole of the country, so are an even greater failure than the continuity “Liberal” party. If you wrapped up those and the other splinter groups of left wing xenophobes you might get five thousand votes.

  • Helen Tedcastle “Simon was vilified disgracefully on LDV for abstaining on third reading on conscience grounds:”

    I missed the thread you link to the first time round so just read it – I’m struggling to find any vilification of Simon at all. Most if not all contributors are expressing their disappointment in very polite terms having first thanked Simon for his explanation. Simon is hardly mentioned for most of the latter part of a very long thread. (There is some vilification of you though which I think is really unnecessary and pretty bad form). In stark contrast, Sarah really has been ‘ vilified’ in this thread. Double standards for men and women?

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Sep '13 - 2:09pm

    I still read Liberal Democrat Voice because of the excellent contributions of Matthew Huntbach and others but I despair of your party.

    Is it illiberal to oppose same sex marriage or is it more illiberal to oppose a matter of conscience? Do people care about these arguments, when the poor, the disabled and ‘immigrants’ , which in some minds seems to be anyone brown who might well be the children or grandchildren of immigrants, are having to bear the blame and the brunt for a financial crisis that they did not cause?

    Shame on you and shame on Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws. I shall just keep on working as a volunteer to help to alleviate in some small way the suffering that has been heaped on some members of these groups. I shall not vote at the next election, but well done Sarah. Better late than never.

  • “Is it illiberal to oppose same sex marriage or is it more illiberal to oppose a matter of conscience?”

    If someone is simply imposing their own personal religious beliefs on those who do not share them, then that is clearly illiberal, and I would have hoped that all liberals would be clear in opposing it.

    If on the other hand someone is arguing against same-sex marriage because they genuinely believe it would be harmful to society – and not simply because it is contrary to their personal religious beliefs – then that is a different matter. But in that case there can be no special pleading about “matters of conscience”. It becomes a political issue like any other, and politicians must be responsible for their actions, with no special dispensations for their religious scruples.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Sep '13 - 3:16pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    I still read Liberal Democrat Voice because of the excellent contributions of Matthew Huntbach and others but I despair of your party.

    Thanks for that. I was trying to write something last night about how I understand how Sarah Teather feels, since I too am reaching the point where I’m left feeling so “desolate” and “catastrophically depressed” that I wonder why I keep on bothering trying to defend the values that I stand for within this party against the now dominant trend in it which seems all against them. Eventually I gave up and didn’t post, but to be honest I feel the end is near, the nastiness and illiberalism shown in this thread has further persuaded me this party is not one I wish to have any association with in the future. Under these circumstances, it’s nice when someone says they do value what I write.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Sep '13 - 3:59pm


    If on the other hand someone is arguing against same-sex marriage because they genuinely believe it would be harmful to society – and not simply because it is contrary to their personal religious beliefs – then that is a different matter.

    I’m sorry to keep harping on this point, but the arguments made against same-sex marriage by many of its opponents were on the lines that they genuinely believed it would be harmful to society. This is at the heart of the point I’ve been trying to make here – I’m not saying you or anyone else should agree with those arguments, but I am suggesting that if you are liberals you should accept they have a right to be made and accept the arguments put for them by those putting them. Instead, the line seems to be to say “You’re religious, therefore you have no right to express an opinion, and I won’t even bother listening to you, I’ll just assume what it is from what I think religious people are like, and condemn you on that basis”. The point I was trying to make that maybe just came across as religious sectarianism was that, at least for my version of Christianity, our beliefs on morality don’t come on the basis “it’s what it says in the Bible”, and it is rather tiresome to have to deal constantly with attackers who assume we have this sort of simplistic plodding literalist approach, that cannot work anyway not least because the very basis of Christianity is the rejection of the rule-based approach to religion of the Old Testament.

    We all get our political beliefs from a variety of sources. Some people are inspired by the writings of Karl Marx, others by John Stuart Mill, other by Ayn Rand, and so on. Some people have some of their political inspiration coming from their religious background. Indeed, that plays a large part in our party’s history, given its roots in nonconformist Christianity. Why is it that if someone admits that they have some inspiration from a religious source, there are people like those we have seen here who start saying that makes those views invalid. The Marxist genuinely believes that the writings of Karl Marx contain good ideas that are beneficial to humanity and should therefore be implemented. Should people who are Marxists be told they have no right to attempt to put their beliefs into political practice on the grounds that that’s an attempt to impose personal views on others?

    In the case of Sarah Teather, I would imagine that her views on welfare and immigrants are just as much influenced by her Catholic background as her views on marriage. Would you therefore say she has no right to voice and vote for her views on welfare and immigration and so on, because these views too are influenced by her religion, and that makes them invalid? The arguments used by some here seem to be moving in that direction. In the past it was “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” and if the answer was “yes”, it was taken that you no longer had liberal rights to express and campaign for your views. Now it will perhaps be “Are you or have you ever been a Christian?”, and if the answer is “Yes”, you must absent yourself from politics, as it will be assumed anything you might do politically is invalid because of this religious influence.

  • Helen

    If you read the comment I was responding to, you’ll see that it contained a suggestion that it was illiberal “to oppose a matter of conscience”. That is what my comment related to.

    Of course MPs should vote according to their consciences. But that is the case whatever the issue. Same-sex marriage is no more a “matter of conscience” than anything else. And that being the case, it is obviously not illiberal to criticise someone’s stance on the issue of same-sex marriage.

    The point is that – as I said – there is no special dispensation for people’s private religious scruples when the issue is one affecting the public at large.

  • “I’m not saying you or anyone else should agree with those arguments, but I am suggesting that if you are liberals you should accept they have a right to be made and accept the arguments put for them by those putting them.”

    Of course liberals don’t have to accept arguments they disagree with!

    As for the rest of it, yet again you resort to putting words into the mouths of those on the other side. Without wasting too much time, people are not saying “You’re religious, therefore you have no right to express an opinion …” What they are saying is “If you are a liberal you have no right to impose your personal religious views on society at large.”

    Surely the point is not difficult to understand?

  • Paul in Twickenham 10th Sep '13 - 5:48pm

    @Chris – apologies for the delay in replying but work got in the way. My point is that if someone says “I don’t support equal marriage because my God says you’re inferior to me and you’re going to hell in a hand basket” then I would use choice language to reply. However if someone says that they think changing the definition of marriage will create social problems then even if their view is informed by religious conviction there is an opportunity to engage in a debate and at least treat the other person with respect. In fact I am completely convinced that the fears are quite unjustified and in 10 years time we will wonder what all the fuss was about, but I am amazed at the abuse meted out here and it does present an unsavoury Image of the Lib Dems as a bunch of monomaniacs.

  • “It seems there there is a clear division in your reasoning between a conscience issue which does not refer to religious beliefs ie: something is harmful (will have unpleasant consequences) to society and a religious motivation ie: something is harmful to society because it goes against the values, priorities and good outcomes taught across time by influential religious communities, the rejection of which will have negative effects in the long run.”

    No – the distinction in my mind is between something which is harmful to society in some tangible practical sense and something which you have a religious objection to purely because you believe your deity would be offended by it. It’s the latter objection which I say it is illiberal for someone to impose on those who do not share their faith.

    For definiteness, take the example I gave earlier. There is nothing intrinsically harmful about eating pork. The objection is a purely religious one, not a practical one.

    Frankly I feel that the objection to same-sex marriage – where it is not based on pure prejudice – falls into the same category. I find the non-religious arguments that have been put forward against it to be feeble and illogical in the extreme, and it’s no wonder that they failed to convince people.

  • “… I am amazed at the abuse meted out here …”

    Perhaps you could give an example of the ‘abuse’ you’re referring to. Obviously there’s a difference between abuse and people expressing strong disagreement on an issue which they feel is important.

  • jayne mansfield 10th Sep '13 - 7:37pm

    Matthew Huntbach,
    The problem I have is that by declaring myself politically homeless with no party to vote for , am I and others like me, are leaving a clear field for the likes of UKIP, just as those who stayed at home rather than voting for the established parties after the expenses scandal let in two BNP MEPs?

    Tories, Labour or UKIP, what a choice for the electorate?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Sep '13 - 7:56pm

    Ok, I am calling time on this thread. It has gone on long enough and has not shown us off at our best.

  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '13 - 8:01pm

    @Caron “has not shown us off at our best”
    Perhaps not, but you have to admire the tenacity demonstrated by a thread that can grow this long 😉


Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    @ Steve, "Might it help.if our party were to assertively oppose Neoliberal socio-economics...." Of course it would. It's unlikely any establishm...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Graham Jeffs - I don't know where you live but people in our target seats, and some others, will have a very clear idea of what we stand for by now. At constit...
  • Graham Jeffs
    If only the public knew what we stand for other than a list of policy promises! We still lack definition. Not being the Conservatives isn't enough. We need to b...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might it help.if our party were to assertively oppose Neoliberal socio-economics, which is a root cause of the problems outlined above, and commit to taxation r...
  • Mary Fulton
    I have been involved in working with families which suffer from poverty and other issues for most of my professional lives and what I find most concerning is th...