Should Left-leaning Liberal Democrats back the policies of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party

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In January Sir Keir Starmer, then a candidate for Labour’s leadership, wrote an article in the Guardian about his motivations and values. There was much in what he revealed there likely to appeal to Liberal Democrats of a centre-left persuasion.

He wrote that there were “Two parts to being Labour. First, enabling everyone to get a decent education, the best job they can, better standards of living and a fulfilling life. The free market has failed in this endeavour. We have to fight to put wealth, power and opportunity in the hands of all.”

Secondly, he continued, “Labour should always stand by people. The social security system should be decent, strong and unbreakable, with dignity at its heart. That’s what Labour means.”

Is there anything in this with which Lib Dems would disagree? But Keir Starmer is a Socialist. Where is his Socialist thinking? Maybe it is hinted at in another sentence. ”As we move forward, we must continue to be the party that opposes austerity, supports common ownership and champions investment in our public services.” That is certainly not a ringing endorsement of what has been his party’s Manifesto commitment to public ownership.

Wikipedia defines Socialism as “A political social and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production, and workers’ self-management of enterprises.” Mr Starmer, however, mentions socialism only in moral terms. His article is headed, ‘Labour can still make the moral case for socialism’, and he writes, “We can win again if we make the moral case for socialism, a moral socialism that is relevant to people’s everyday lives and the challenges we face as we move into the 2020s and 2030s.

He continues, “There are three foundations to this: economic justice, social justice and climate justice…the free market leaves too many people behind, and has fuelled gross inequality. We should be arguing for a new economic model that reduces that inequality, supports trade unions, gives people a real voice in their workplace and enables communities to thrive.”

Admirable as this sounds, it does not sound likely to be sufficient for his party which advocated red-blooded socialism under Jeremy Corbyn with his Momentum backers. Despite its resounding defeat in the recent General Election, the party actually won 40% of the vote in the 2017 Election, and its Manifesto commitments are still probably backed by a substantial section of that party’s huge membership.

Can Keir Starmer win them over and achieve his aim of restoring party unity? It is a question of great significance for our party. It seems likely that we can do business with this leader, to press for progressive change and reconstruction after the worst of the health crisis and in facing the worst of Brexit. He advocates many progressive policies in this article which there is not space to repeat here, in his denunciation above all of injustice and inequality. But what if his leadership proves so acceptable to the public that our own party’s voice remains unheard?

His liberal views may not in analysis be fully acceptable to us. There is no mention of freedom and openness or of eliminating poverty and ignorance, some of the principles spelt out in our Preamble. But it seems likely anyway that his party will not sacrifice its more traditional view of Socialism. The power of that party’s backers and special interests may well frustrate Sir Keir’s more liberal intentions. (We ourselves do not believe in entrenched privilege of any kind.)

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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114 Comments

  • Clearly Sir Keir Starmer is more moderate than what went before and there is likely to be sufficient common ground for us to work with him in areas we agree. For example, when Sir Keir says “Labour should always stand by people. The social security system should be decent, strong and unbreakable, with dignity at its heart” we know we could just as easily start that sentence with “Liberal Democrats”, yet in the mind of many Labour supporters, they alone occupy the moral high ground. We have to be clear therefore when we agree with him.

    But there will come points of disagreement on both philosophy and policy and we need to be open about these too, if we’re to make a clear pitch of our own. Much of what he’s said so far is motherhood and apple pie for the progressive person (who can possibly not want “everyone to get a decent education, the best job they can, better standards of living and a fulfilling life”?). But he then blames the free market for the lack of these – this is something I disagree with fundamentally. Open markets have proved far more efficient and effective at alleviating poverty and improving standards of living for all than state-run economies. This to me is a clear distinction between us and his view for Labour.

  • Clearly Keir Starmer has a much more critical attitude towards the free market than a liberal would take. He writes ‘First, enabling everyone to get a decent education, the best job they can, better standards of living and a fulfilling life. The free market has failed in this endeavour’.

    Our preamble is not so rigid or dogmatic: ‘We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce within a competitive environment in which the state allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary’.

    The free market, when operating correctly, relies on the state for various things, such as anti monopoly legislation. And when the free market is not beholden to special interest groups etc it is the best system available for distributing wide property ownership and acting as a bulwark against state tyranny as Jo Grimond argued so well.

  • Paul Barker 14th Apr '20 - 1:48pm

    I am confused as to what this piece is really asking.
    If the question is “in the very unlikely event of Labour offering real co-operation do we agree ?” Then the answer is Yes, obviously.

  • The short answer is no. The Liberal Democrats need to follow a path of radical reform.

  • Nigel Jones 14th Apr '20 - 2:41pm

    I perceive one possible difficulty is Sir Keir’s support for trades unions in your quote, Katherine, from his call for a new economic model. I personally support them and was an active local committee member of one, but the devil is in the detail. Too often trades unions have caused battles between workers and management rather than cooperation and sometimes ended up with leaders using their political weight in ways that do not represent large numbers of their own members. This new economic model should include a different way of running large companies, with worker representation and worker groups that help individual members when problems arise.
    I think his election makes Sir Keir someone worth considering for cooperation from our party, but it remains to be seen exactly what kind of policies he will advocate and to what extend he might be willing to work with us. Our size, compared to Labour, does not give me much hope on the latter point.

  • David Warren 14th Apr '20 - 3:17pm

    Keir Starmer’s leadership signals an end to Corbynism and he will move his party more to the centre. He will be able to do this because the majority of his parliamentary party will support him.

    As far as the unions are concerned two of the big three Unison and GMB will also back him, they want a Labour government and their failure to back Rebecca Long Bailey demonstrates their understanding that power will not come through a purist left wing leader.

    As Liberal Democrats we should seek to work with Labour in opposition and consider a limited electoral pact with the aim of removing the Tories in 2024. Any such pact must include a firm commitment to introduce PR>

  • Manfarang 14th Apr ’20 – 2:01pm…………….The short answer is no. The Liberal Democrats need to follow a path of radical reform……………

    “Oh, look, our Jimmy is the only one in step!”

    Where our values/policies are similar to Labour’s there should be agreement; anything else is difference for its own sake…
    There are almost 5 years of a right wing, Brexit at all costs, Tory government.. Unless this party supports a far more severe, one sided, austerity than it signed up to in 2010 it will have far more in common with Labour than this government..From almost 60 MPs our representation is barely in double figures…Going it alone is not a viable action.

    From previous threads it seems that those who were most in favour of a coalition with a Conservative government are most against even limited cooperation with Labour.

  • @ Katharine, “There is no mention of freedom and openness or of eliminating poverty and ignorance”.

    Sadly, not much talk of that nearer home when the bedroom tax, welfare reform universal credit and student fees were introduced ..(an exception from St Ives).. nor much talk of the Alston Report last year despite your and Michael’s valiant efforts.

    As for Keir Starmer, I recall an interview (The Guardian, 18 December) after the election when he talked of “the moral injustice of poverty, inequality, homelessness” while advocating for internationalism and human rights.

  • Phil Beesley 14th Apr '20 - 4:13pm

    Unless and until Keir Starmer seeks Lib Dem support inside or outside Parliament, there is nothing to talk about. As democrats and pluralists, we should wish him well — but not too well!

    I hope and believe that Starmer’s Labour Party will deliver men and women who can collaborate in opposition.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Apr '20 - 4:18pm

    The Liberal Party split in the 20th century, with those who accepted conventional free market economics forming a party which soon became a party that was only nominally a separate party from the Conservative Party. It remained formally in existence until the 1960s, but it was rather like the Co-Operative Party that still exists today, nominally a separate party, but in reality an aspect of the Labour Party that it is in permanent agreement with.

    So, the Liberal Party that remained as a truly independent party was a party of those who rejected free market economics as being the main issue of freedom. In that way it was different from the Liberal parties in most other countries in Europe, which tended to be parties of right-wing economics.

    Indeed, when the Liberal Party merged with the SDP in the 1980s, it was the right-wing of the Liberal Party who saw little difference between them and the SDP, and the left-wing of the Liberal Party who tended to be most opposed to linking with the SDP. That is, the Liberal Party was a left-wing party in terms of economics.

    As the years have gone by, with one now having to be quite old to be able to remember it, this seems to have been almost lost as the truth, with many thinking that the division between the Liberal Party and the SDP was the Liberal Party supporting right-wing economics and the SDP not. In reality it was almost exactly the other way round.

    So why did those who remained in the Liberal Party not just join Labour? It was the realisation that conventional socialism soon becomes just another version of aristocracy, with those in control of the government as the permanent leaders of society. But so does the conventional free market, with the permanent leaders of society being those in control of the big companies that dominate it. This has become even more of an issue in recent decades.

    The true Liberal Party, therefore, was actively working on considering alternative ways to run things that avoided both of these issue, and so truly did mean real freedom for everyone. One of these was certainly accepting that poverty destroys freedom, and that therefore government action to take money from the rich and give it to the poor was an aspect of true liberalism, not something against it as the word “neoliberalism”, that has been pushed in recent years, suggests.

  • James Fowler 14th Apr '20 - 4:32pm

    @ Stephen Howse. Agree very much with what you say about having our own policies! On the 1997 result, a rising red tide didn’t float many yellow boats but it did drain a Tory swamp to reveal a lot of yellow islands. Mixed metaphors I know, but an important distinction.

  • The Lib Dems need to concentrate on bold progressive policies that excite voters and attract the younger generation. The fortunes of the party will be greatly improved by leaving Labour to its own troubles and continuing to distance itself from the cruelty of the dreaded Coalition.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “So why did those who remained in the Liberal Party not just join Labour? ”

    A lot of former Liberals did join the Labour Party. Another group joined the Conservatives – Winston Churchill being one of them of course.

    The National Liberal Party only split away from the Liberal Party in 1931, when it decided to keep the Labour Party of Ramsay McDonald in office. The continuing reason for non realignment was over the question of support for the National government; not one of economic Liberalism.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Apr '20 - 6:01pm

    Thank you for the comments up to 5 pm, folks. This pre-moderation, which I vainly opposed, means I saw no comments in mid afternoon so could not reply earlier. Russell and David Warren, I don’t think myself we have yet heard the last of Corbynism, much as Sir Keir might wish to strike a new path. For one thing, there were some elements of proposed nationalisation which were actually popular or at least quite acceptable to voters.

    Julian Tisi and Daniel. I suppose the idea of free markets being necessary is, besides a Liberal idea, a popular Tory one, although they have closed us off from easy access to the EU markets. Economic policies must be in turmoil now, and it will be up to both our parties to see how far our Manifesto commitments may need adapting after the colossal costs of the current crisis.

    Stephen Howse. I love your idea of a rising red tide floating dozens of little yellow boards in due course, Stephen, as in 1997! Yes, but how to get them launched? Perhaps Ed Davey (or whoever becomes our leader) will be able to strike up a good working relationship with Keir Starmer, as Paddy Ashdown indeed did with Tony Blair.

    Paul Barker.The question I am really grappling with is, though I can see real differences in our party’s principles from those of Keir Starmer, how are we going to be able to present out policies, good as most are, in a winning way to the voters? I think our Social Contract idea may genuinely prove one distinctive way forward.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Apr '20 - 6:46pm

    Nigel Jones. That is an interesting comment on trade unionism, Nigel, thank you. Like you I am a former trade unionist (NUJ), and believe in their value with reservations. You are I am sure aware of our enlightened policy on Good Jobs, etc., passed at Bournemouth, with its call for reform of the Labour market to give control and choice back to workers, with additional rights for those in the gig economy. This policy is, with the expected steep rise in unemployment, likely to be both highly relevant and to provide good means of co-operating with Labour.

    David Raw. Points taken, of course, David, and I know your sympathies, but it is too soon to despair of our party adopting the radical stance that we want. It is distinctly discouraging in warming to Sir Keir’s statements that he does not speak of persuading his party to fight poverty above all else. I think our unknown friend S has a good point.

    Matthew Huntbach. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I must leave to others to pursue the intricacies of the economic debate, but I do agree with you that we have much to do to secure freedom against what I have called ‘entrenched privilege’, whether it is that of rich companies and individuals backing the Tory party, or of the powerful unions who upheld Corbynism. You are so right to defend our views that the state must nonetheless step in to defend the poorest and most disadvantaged, and that poverty denies freedom.

  • expats
    Do you remember the Lib/Lab pact?
    It did bring about some economic stability for a short while but it didn’t prevent years of reactionary Conservative government, largely because Labour weren’t really interested in making a common cause.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Apr '20 - 8:39pm

    TCO

    A lot of former Liberals did join the Labour Party. Another group joined the Conservatives – Winston Churchill being one of them of course.

    I was thinking more of a bit later. E.g. why did I join the Liberal Party rather than the Labour Party in the 1970s?

  • To answer Katherine Pindar’s question – “Should Left-leaning Liberal Democrats back the policies of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party”? – the issue really is this. Are you a Leftist, or are you a Liberal? When you know the answer to that question, you can answer Katherine’s.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Apr '20 - 9:00pm

    S

    The Lib Dems need to concentrate on bold progressive policies that excite voters and attract the younger generation

    But what do you mean by “progressive”?

    Since 1979, our country has become more unequal, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The freedom of most young people has been VASTLY decreased by what has happened to housing. It is now almost impossible to get your own housing unless you are very rich. In the days when if you needed housing you could get council housing, and you didn’t have all your income taken to pay for it, that gave ordinary people MUCH more freedom.

    So why do you use the word “progressive” when moving forward for the past few decades has been building up inequality and reducing freedom like that?

    Many people voted Leave in the EU referendum because they ere told that would “turn the clock back”. Well, if that meant a return to a more equal society, that sounded wonderful to many.

    There was a time when it was felt that society would inevitably become more socialist, so “progressive” meant moving that way. But, err, hasn’t it been a long way since that was the case?

  • If only we had a Leader

  • “we also had a pretty damn good leader ourselves in 1997 – there’s nobody in our [c]urrent crop fit to lace his army boots.”

    Paddy was largely unknown to the wider public when he became Lib Dem leader, and it took a good 2 years for him to establish any sort of profile. I don’t think we can know how any of our possible next leaders (also all unknowns apart from Ed) will measure up until we see them in action.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Apr '20 - 11:59pm

    Something else that Keir Starmer wrote in his January article was this: “A generation of children, including my own, have never known a time without homelessness on our streets. Our public services have been decimated by cuts, leaving schools begging parents for money, and sick patients in hospital corridors. The Tories’ assault on welfare has stripped people of their dignity. The future of our children is too often determined by where they are born, and their class, race and gender. We cannot walk past these inequalities and injustices.” Yes, and the freedom of our young people has also been vastly decreased as Matthew writes, by their inability to get decent affordable housing.

    What is needed is a suite of progressive policies, to lift poverty, ensure guaranteed funding for the NHS and social care, provide good education for all from children’s earliest years and training in required skills, foster provision of jobs with wages adjusted to regional costs, and provide sufficient affordable homes. It is, much more than trying to provide a fail-safe basic income for all, a massive programme of renewal which Michael BG and I propose as the basis of a new social contract which should be agreed and accepted between government and people. We observe in this Labour leader a sense of the right direction required: Liberal Democrats should take the lead in proposing to him and to the country progressive solutions such as these.

    To end on a lighter note, TCO, there is a real live Leftist-leaning Liberal right here, and her name is Katharine not Katherine, please be good enough to observe!

  • Julian Tisi,

    I am not sure we, liberals are supporters of the ‘free market’. We support markets which are well regulated not free for alls. Then the question arises, is Keir Starmer rejecting markets or is he just rejecting free unregulated market?

    TCO,

    Being on the left and being a liberal are not mutually exclusive. Do you accept that the Liberal Party historically has been opposed to the Conservative Party? And before that the Whigs opposed the Tories?

  • Richard Easter 15th Apr '20 - 3:40am

    Starmer simply believes in a mixed economy – which is common sense. There are plenty of things where regulated markets are the best way to deliver goods and services. Equally there are areas where the state is the best way to deliver things.

    The whole situation with this awful virus brings this home more than anything. Airbus, Rolls Royce, G-Tech, Brewdog and even top fashion houses such as Armani and so on have adapted as private companies to the prevailing situation to manufacture medical equipment and supplies. Some resturaunts have adapted to a takeaway model. Companies such as Home Bargains, Tesco and Iceland are really stepping up to the plate. This is the fantastic side of capitalism. I hope when this is over we all regardless of political affiliation, go and support business which has behaved in this way (although I think a Rolls Royce is out of my price range)!

    Equally we have the likes of Tim Martin, Richard Branson, Mike Ashley, Capita and others acting deplorably. Awful outsourcing companies like G4S, Serco and so on supposedly brought in to deal with the “inefficient” public sector aren’t the ones saving the day – it’s the public sector. The NHS are the true heroes here. It’s the honourable police and army who have been brought in – not G4S. Equally the railways have effectively been de-facto nationalised (and should stay that way – the privatised rail system is a sham). And the state has had to step in to pay wages, and there are still major issues for the self employed.

    It’s quite clear that neither free markets, nor full on statism are the way to go. Starmer in my view is in the same school of politics as Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband, and I expect if Charles was still alive, they’d all have much they’d agree on.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Apr '20 - 6:16am

    An electable Labour leader has two advantages for us. (1) It means that soft Tories won’t be so afraid of a Labour government, and therefore more willing to vote for us. There wouldn’t be so much of the effect that we saw in our target seats last December, where people were saying they had to vote Tory to ensure Corbyn didn’t become PM. (2) Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour seemed more interested in attacking us than attacking the Tories. With Starmer clearing out the sectarian Leftists from his shadow ministry and from the Leader’s office, the hard Left will still be around, but at least they won’t have the support of a major party machine. So we won’t have a Labour party determined to undermine us, and not caring if the Tories win as a result. So the OP’s question “But what if his leadership proves so acceptable to the public that our own party’s voice remains unheard?” doesn’t worry me. It’s not what happened in 1997.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Apr '20 - 6:19am

    “If only we had a Leader” some of our best election results happened when we didn’t have a permanent leader. Willie Rennie won the Dunfermline and West Fife Parliamentary by-election during the interregnum caused by the coup against Charles Kennedy. During electoral peacetime voters tend not to know or care much who is the Lib Dem leader.

  • The problem with the idea of public ownership is that we have no idea how to manage the organisations that are publicly owned. Just as we have no idea how to manage the organisations which are owned by the corporate elite. This is clearly illustrated by the events in Russia when the monarchy was overthrown. In fact in spite of lofty ideals things continued with the same top down management as before.
    The real differences between the parties are minimal. Although it would not seem that way to me if I were one of the homeless, or one of those living in poverty because of physical or mental illness.

  • I’m inclined to think that drawing *any* conclusions about Starmer is premature – so far he has said what he has needed to say in order to get elected by the current Labour Party membership, and what he does in practice will turn out to be different in ways currently unknown.

    His piece in the Guardian on Jan 20, which I think the article is responding to (no link afaics) is to me entirely motherhood and apple pie, though the term “moral socialism” is interesting.

    I’d say he now has to tackle entryists and casual racists. Perhaps then we can find out what his professed beliefs mean in practical terms.

    For now – I’d say it is either believe in Starmer the man and help him with his repeat of the 5th labour of Hercules, or wait and see.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “I was thinking more of a bit later. E.g. why did I join [my italics] the Liberal Party rather than the Labour Party in the 1970s?”

    That’s a different point to the one you posed – about remaining in the Liberal Party. Though judging by this board, there do seem to be a lot of people who joined the party in the 1970s (or earlier) who are now permanently unhappy with the current party.

    “Since 1979, our country has become more unequal, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. ”

    Except everyone today is far better off than they were 40 years ago. Now the vast majority of people have things unimaginable then. So the poor are better off than they were 40 years ago, not poorer.

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '20 - 9:01am

    @ Katharine,

    “Should Left-leaning Liberal Democrats back the policies of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party? ”

    Yes, but only if you agree with them. If you don’t then should oppose them. That should apply to any leader. I often used to ask those who disliked Jeremy Corbyn just what policies they objected to. I can’t remember anyone ever providing a sensible answer. They’d been conditioned to think no further than the personalities. Policies didn’t come into into it.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 15th Apr '20 - 9:32am

    ” (We ourselves do not believe in entrenched privilege of any kind.)”

    I never realised that this was a republican party!

  • @Katherine Pindar “Julian Tisi and Daniel. I suppose the idea of free markets being necessary is, besides a Liberal idea, a popular Tory one, although they have closed us off from easy access to the EU markets.”

    Agreed. For that reason we can actually pick off moderate Conservatives who have a social conscience but who also believe that open markets generally work, particularly if the economy doesn’t so as well as it should once we’re out of the EU transition period. It’s not just on EU membership that the Conservatives have moved away from free markets, it’s also in their closed door immigration policies. What’s sad is that despite this we as a party appear to be so reticent at embracing an idea that is historically ours, just because the Conservatives have also historically embraced free markets and somehow this taints the whole idea.

    @Michael BG “Julian Tisi, I am not sure we, liberals are supporters of the ‘free market’. We support markets which are well regulated not free for alls. Then the question arises, is Keir Starmer rejecting markets or is he just rejecting free unregulated market?”

    I’m not arguing in favour of a free for all. I agree that the best markets are regulated, at the very least to protect the working of the market itself. Labour used to get this – indeed one of the best pieces of legislation Blair’s Labour government produced IMO was the Competition Act (1998, with later amendments). The gist of this Act was the promotion of competitive markets, with draconian fines (and enforcement via dawn raids) for anyone involved in price collusion. For markets with dominant players there were further rules to assist new entrants and prevent the dominant players from abusing their power. All in all, excellent legislation. But I can’t see the Labour party today promoting such legislation, they’re back to nationalisation and over-regulation. One of the reasons liberals should IMO support the concept of open, free markets (with appropriate but no more than necessary legislation) is that they break down vested interests, open up choice and lower costs for consumers. In doing so they put wealth, power and opportunity in the hands of all.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Apr '20 - 10:52am

    TCO

    Except everyone today is far better off than they were 40 years ago. Now the vast majority of people have things unimaginable then. So the poor are better off than they were 40 years ago, not poorer.

    The idea that because technology improvement means everyone is better off means it doesn’t matter that the rich have got richer and the poor poorer in terms of relative income and wealth is just the sort of thing that is wrecking support for the Liberal Democrats when it is believed we have that attitude.

    The most awful thing is that because of the 2010-15 Coalition, and the way Labour pushes it that we all in our party were keen supporters of everything it did, and what happened with Leave, we are now believed by many to be the true successors of the Conservative Party. People who know what you wrote, TCO, is rubbish, ended up voting Conservative to oppose what the Conservatives Party stands for, because of this. The idea that Leave would “turn the clock back” and so restore us to a more equal society, and “return control” and so take power back from billionaire industry owners and return it to democratic government was very attractive to them – and with the Conservatives being the party of Leave, and us dismissing those who thought that way as “bollocks” (that’s how they considered what we said about Brexit), we lost what used to be our key support: poor people in parts of the country were Labour was weak.

    I was brought up in a poor family in the 1960s and 1970s, my father just working in low paid jobs, and me and my brother and sisters having free school meals because of that. But in these days we were able to get a reasonable house to live in, thanks to council housing. Do you really think we would be much better off when the only way such a house could be obtained now would be to have half a million pounds to buy it?

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '20 - 11:02am

    Richard Easter. That seems a good analysis of the present workings of the mixed economy, Richard, and what seems necessary is to keep tabs on the good and bad aspects of what is happening, and for our party leaders to keep commenting on them.

    Alex Macfie. I agree with your points which conclude, we hopefully won’t have a Labour party determined to undermine us now, Alex. It was a pity to my mind that we helped undermine them ourselves with our attacks on the Corbyn-led party. However, the challenge for us now will be to co-operate but yet keep distinctive.

    On that, Tom Harney, I don’t agree with your suggestion that ‘the real differences between the parties are minimal.’ Even if their party changes under Sir Keir, there is a different outlook. Please look at the definition of Socialism, and read our Preamble again as I did when writing this piece. We should take a lead, because we have coherence, consistency and stability, unlike the Labour party of today.

    Matt W. I don’t agree at all with ‘wait and see’, Matt. This will soon be a time to put cards on the table, to declare what we are as a party and what we demand for the good of the country, as I have just suggested above.

    Michael BG. Good points, Michael, do keep contributing on this one. Your thoughts on the economic outlook and appropriate development of our social contract idea will be particularly welcome.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '20 - 11:20am

    In the stop-start of pre-moderation, some comments appear too late for my current replies. Just a quick reply now for a short one, Graham Martin-Royle. Yes, we do indeed oppose all forms of entrenched privilege. In the fourth paragraph of our wonderful Preamble, the sentence is. ‘Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.’

    The understood point is, privilege which has power. The Royal family don’t have power.

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '20 - 11:24am

    “Wikipedia defines Socialism as ‘A political social and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production, and workers’ self-management of enterprises.'”

    On this strict definition, I suppose you could argue that Labour isn’t socialist! I don’t think Labour has ever said that everything has to be socially owned. The key phrase used to be the “commanding heights” which didn’t necessarily include the local greengrocers or even the local supermarket. The consensus, now, in the Labour Party is that it should only be for industries and utilities where competition isn’t really possible. We want to return to a mixed economy. So a return to ‘social ownership’ of railways, some bus services, electricity, water and gas supply, and the Royal Mail will do for now.

    The Liberals used to be OK with that at one time. So I can’t see why it should be a problem now.

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '20 - 11:32am

    @ TCO,

    “…… everyone today is far better off than they were 40 years ago.”

    What about this guy? Is he “far better off” now than he would have been 40 years ago?

    https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2018/10/08/23/homeless-windsor.jpg?w968h681

  • Katharine Pindar: “It was a pity to my mind that we helped undermine them ourselves with our attacks on the Corbyn-led party” Trust me we did not have that much influence over what people thought of Labour. If we had, then we would have done better ourselves in the last election. Voters had already made up their minds about the Corbyn-led Labour Party, and there was nothing we could have said or done that would have made the slightest bit of difference.

  • Manfarang 14th Apr ’20 – 8:22pm…expats……Do you remember the Lib/Lab pact?
    It did bring about some economic stability for a short while but it didn’t prevent years of reactionary Conservative government, largely because Labour weren’t really interested in making a common cause…………

    Yes I remember it well, to coin a phrase; except I remember it rather differently..

    As I remember it, the years of ‘reactionary Conservative government’ happened because the 13 Liberal MPs (together with 11 SNP members; an unholy alliance) voted down the Callahan goverenment (even though they knew what Thatcher was like).

    As Callahan said in the debate…”We can truly say that once the Leader of the Opposition discovered what the Liberals and the SNP would do, she found the courage of their convictions. So, tonight, the Conservative Party, which wants the Act repealed and opposes even devolution, will march through the Lobby with the SNP, which wants independence for Scotland, and with the Liberals, who want to keep the Act. What a massive display of unsullied principle! The minority parties have walked into a trap. If they win, there will be a general election. I am told that the current joke going around the House is that it is the first time in recorded history that turkeys have been known to vote for an early Christmas.”

    How right he was,,,

  • Denis Loretto 15th Apr '20 - 12:37pm

    The truth is that “progressives”, for want of a better word, are to be found in the Labour, Liberal Democrat and, yes, Conservative parties, not to mention other smaller groupings such as the Greens. Their numbers will vary, particularly sparing in the Conservatives, but the point I am making is that there is no hard line of distinction, particularly between Labour and Lib Dems. The word “socialist” is always a problem. Taken literally it can be viewed as identical to communism and the radical change to Clause 4 pushed through by Tony Blair was intended to move away from that. However we all know that this is still a live argument within Labour exacerbated by the rise of Corbynism/ Momentum etc. The arrival of Starmer does not suddenly change that. Already he is being challenged by the report put together by left-wingers which attempts to blame anti Corbyn forces within Labour for inter alia failure to eradicate antisemitism. We Liberal Democrats who are wedded to the mixed economy and opposed to state hegemony as well as capitalist hegemony, while welcoming the change from Corbyn to Starmer and showing willingness to co-operate where appropriate must robustly defend our own “freedom and fairness” principles.

  • Peter Martin,

    bad as things are for the rough sleeper today, he is still better off than he was 40 years https://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/18341298.government-orders-councils-house-homeless-weekend/
    “All councils in England have been ordered to find accommodation for their homeless residents by this weekend as the government continued to ramp up measures against the spread of coronavirus.”
    If you want an idea of what it was like for a family to be homeless in the sixties see Ken Loach’s Cathy go home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LedLYkDLYuc. This is a photo record of some of the housing conditions and homelesness in the 1970s https://www.google.com/search?q=homelessness+in+the+uk+1970s&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwji5fqDqOroAhWLZxQKHU6QDpMQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=homelessness+in+the+uk+1970s&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQA1DW1wFYktsBYOHdAWgAcAB4AIABN4gBmQGSAQEzmAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWc&sclient=img&ei=9e2WXqKXPIvPUc6gupgJ&bih=795&biw=1600

    There is still much to do to get to a point where there is adequate secure housing for all who need it including temporary housing for the homeless. But there was nothing rosy about the decades after the war, even though Macmillan famously announced to a skeptical public in 1957 ‘most of our people never had it so good’.

  • Rodney Watts 15th Apr '20 - 1:08pm

    Am I the only one to have picked up on the findings of a leaked 860 page damning internal Labour report regarding exagerated claims of antisemitism, the Labour right and HQ staffers? https://news.sky.com/story/labour-leader-starmer-launches-urgent-investigation-into-leaked-antisemitism-dossier-11972823
    Whilst some Labour lawyers have advised the document should not go to the EHRC, there are others, including UNISON, who believe the opposite. THE CONTENTS ARE IMPORTANT TOO FOR EVERY LIBDEM- ESPECIALLY FORMER AND CURRENT LEADERS.

    I and a number of other Jewish and non-Jewish Lib Dems repeatedly warned our Party and leadership that the claims of those who defected to us were economical with truth. However our leadership assisted in the weaponisation of anti-Semitism, inspite of one LibDem member, Jonathan Coulter, being a co-author of a statistical analysis of antisemitic incidents reported by Jewish organisations. We now know clearly what anti-Corbynism cost both Labour and LibDems.
    Further info can be found: https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/10-takeaways-from-that-report-and-a-bit-of-an-assessment/
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/13/labour-leaked-report-party-unity-keir-starmer-corbyn-faction
    I personally, sadly and angrily resigned my Libdem membership last week before the report was available, but I am not inclined at present to join Labour. LibDems have excellent principles laid out in the preamble to the constitution and an excellent Equality and Human Rights Plan. I await the day that these are again followed.

  • To try to return to the original point, while we may be able to differentiate between our philospophy and that of Labour, if, as many here suggest, we adopt left leaning progressive policies we will become indistinquishable from Labour for the vast majority of the voting public. I am not trying to be offensive, or picking a fight when I say that I genuinely feel that many of us might feel more at home, less compromised, that on the liberal wing of the Labour Party. And I say that as a former labour party member who has absolutely no intention of rejoining them and is sometimes a little alarmed by the desire of some in the party to become “Labour lite”.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Apr '20 - 1:39pm

    Rodney Watts: I see you take as gospel a whitewash report by Corbyn’s supporters designed to exculpate their Dear Leader of all responsibility for Labour’s anti-semitism scandal.
    It’s not anti-Corbynism that cost us dear, it’s Corbynism. As I wrote earlier, we simply did not have enough influence over voters to turn them against Corbyn — they’d already made up their minds.

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Apr '20 - 1:44pm

    Socialism and Conservatism are two sides of the same argument. They are both class based and authoritarian, using the argument about public ownership versus untrammelled capitalism as a way of promoting their own side. Our view of society is not so narrow. We see society as a community which uses nurturing to help individuals and groups to succeed to the benefit of the community as a whole. We do not see life as a battle but as an opportunity for everyone to be the best they possibly can. One person’s or group’s freedom must not damage another’s. Indeed, at present, the majority of people are willingly sacrificing their lesser freedoms to work, shop and socialise in order to preserve the greater freedom, that is to live, of other, more vulnerable people. A great exercise in Liberalism is being undertaken and we should be emphasising this.
    If you believe in a nurturing community, then politics and economics should work for the benefit of that community. This may require some public ownership, for example, of the armed forces and police, to protect the community. If the community requires a highly mobile work force, then the need for reliability and efficiency of transport may be best served by public ownership. To get the best result for the community evidence based policy making is required.
    At the moment I believe that the rich and wealthy also have too much power to protect their interests, so, in the interests of the community as a whole, policies should trim that power to prevent its entrenchment and enable others to develop and grow to their full potential. This is why many Lib Dems at the present time will find some common cause with Labour’s policies which will have the same effect.
    We have an unprecedented opportunity to change society when the policies of lockdown are relaxed or removed. We will need some existing wealth creators but we will also need others to emerge from the least expected groups in society to put our national community and our international community on a better road to improvement which doesn’t destroy our planet. Could this aim be expressed in a new social contract Katharine?

  • @Peter Martin. You have never heard a criticism of Corbyn’s actual policies ? Well here goes. I dislike his anti Americanism, I think his defence policies (NATO etc) are dangerous as are his tendency to cuddle up to dubious regimes. Similarly I believe that his shadow chancellor’s economic policy is incorhent and would do serious damage to our economy. I am not in favour of massive renationalisation and I believe in capitalism (just not crony capitalism) which Corbyn/McDonnall clearly don’t.
    Now you may disagree with every thing I’ve said there, but I can’t believe you’ve never heard those arguments before.

  • David Allen 15th Apr '20 - 1:46pm

    Starmer may turn out to have feet of clay. But right now they are not visible. That’s why anything other than “wait and see” just sounds like premature prejudice, an unconstructive attitude, and keenness to put party political games ahead of the national interest.

    “Wait and see” doesn’t mean shutting up and saying nowt. It can mean coming up with our own constructive ideas and promoting those. If only we had an elected leader…

  • Yep Julian. You can support a lot more social programmes if you have a dynamic business driven economy. And a key part is a good trading relationship with the EU which we are the standard bearers for. We are the party of business and especially manufacturing business.

  • Tahir Maher Tahir Maher 15th Apr '20 - 2:17pm

    well said Sue Sutherland

  • Peter Martin 15th Apr '20 - 3:15pm

    @ Chris Cory,

    I said I’d never heard a sensible answer and I don’t think yours is an exception.

    For a start we’d have to distinguish between anti Americanism per se which is completely unacceptable and opposition to American imperialism. There was a fair bit of the former in evidence from avid Remainers, and on LDV too, when Brexit was the number one issue. The darned Americans would use any opportunity to force feed us their chlorinated chicken!

    No, the Labour Party wasn’t proposing to leave NATO. Neither were we proposing “massive renationalisation.” JMDs economic policy was coherent enough. Having said that I have my own disagreements with it, and I’m always happy to discuss economic policy! The usual nonsense I heard was that JMD had Venezuela in mind as model to copy which is just Daily Express garbage.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '20 - 4:24pm

    “If, as many here suggest, we adopt left-leaning progressive policies we will become indistinguishable from Labour for the vast majority of the voting public…” – excuse me, Chris Cory, but that is unacceptable counsel. Which of our existing left-leaning progressive policies would you have us abandon? Meanwhile Denis Loretto, pointing out that there are ‘progressives’ in every party, finds ‘no hard line of distinction’. particularly between Labour and us. I disagree, Denis. I think you go on to contradict yourself, in fact, by pointing out the continuing influence of Corbynism, and particularly by your reference to our own adherence to a mixed economy as opposed to, as you put it, ‘state hegemony’ as well as ‘capitalist hegemony’. It is the former which helps to distinguish us from the Labour party. I note that Peter Martin (hi, Peter!) while suggesting that Labour’s socialism, not going so far as the Wikipedia definition, does advocate social ownership of utilities and monopoly industries, concludes rather tellingly that that will ‘Do for now.’

    Matthew Huntbach. Thanks, Matthew. I confess that I don’t entirely follow your arguments, but I do agree in deploring the fact that we can tend to be identified with the Conservatives by the voters because of the Coalition, because of opposing Leave, and (I would add) because of our disastrous recent Election campaign. So, Tory-lite rather than Labour-lite in the minds of many. It just shows that we have much to do to promote and develop our own progressive policies in the months and years ahead.

    Sue Sutherland. I endorse Tahir’s praise, Sue: that is an excellent comment, in defining our difference and emphasising community. Community, so important in our local government interactions, is too easily neglected as a national concept. As the Preamble says, ‘we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community’. I will keep a copy of your comment, and think how the concept should be embodied in the idea of a new Social Contract. It is good that community is being shown now in this crisis, as you point out: ironically, a healing process for this nation so bitterly divided in recent years., and one that we should indeed emphasise is Liberalism in action.

  • @Peter Martin

    Corbyn and McDonnell have long track records that speak about what they really wanted, and a litany of leftism behind them.

    For example – Corbyn stated he would never use the nuclear deterrent, yet would continue to have it. Completely stupid.

    I’ve recently read a fine exposition of the Stalinist mindset when it came to anti-Semitism. You can see those echoes down the generations in the way Corbyn and his acolytes instinctively behaved.

  • Rodney Watts 15th Apr '20 - 5:14pm

    @Chris Cory: “To try to return to the original point,” Sorry that you do not seem to see the fundamental point and relevance of my comment. I thought that politics is the art of the possible, meaning that whether within or between Parties there has to be a degree of reconcilliation of ideas to to achieve mutually acceptable policies. It is clear that the Labour Party is going to face massive internal recriminations and possibly legal actions as a result of the report. Thus ‘ wait and see’ would be IMHO the wisest stance regarding the future. In the meantime, as already suggested, this party should concentrate on producing its own policies.

    @Alex Macfie @ Katharine Pindar. Katharine, I totally agree with your statement
    “It was a pity to my mind that we helped undermine them ourselves with our attacks on the Corbyn-led party” On the other hand, Alex, I am unable to support all your understanding. As it happens, as a Jewish Christian, I do take the report as ‘gospel’ as it merely confirms what many of us knew long ago. The false accusations of anti-Semitism, by some of the Labour right, aided and abetted by the conservative Jewish Board of Deputies, (which only represents about 30% of Jewish population), Conservatives, our leadership and others did turn the public against Corbyn and Labour. The latter,as you say had already happened by the time of the GE. However our leadership’s part also contributed in us failing to have a people’s vote before the GE.

    I would also point out, as an activist in a number of Jewish organisations, one side result was anti-Semitic generation of fear in some communities. Quite a number of my Jewish colleagues, whom I have known for years, are also members of Jewish Voice for Labour, and erroneously described by detractors as a fringe group. It is they who both supported Corbyn in the main, but actually complained on occasion that He was not tough enough on countering the false claims. (Not an exculpation as you put)

  • Denis Loretto 15th Apr '20 - 5:35pm

    Sorry Katherine I did not express myself very well. I meant that you cannot draw a definite line between individual members of the parties mentioned. I did not at all mean to imply no difference between the parties overall.

  • Peter Hirst 15th Apr '20 - 6:05pm

    The fact remains that Labour, in whatever form remains a centralising, autocratic party that remains on the fence on too many important issues, to assuage its varied constituents to be a comfortable abode for most Liberal Democrats. They do not understand the principle of empowering and though they have progressive equality policies fail to grasp what motivates ordinary people. To be treated with respect, courtesy and told the truth is what distinguishes us from the other two parties when headline policies only differ on the margins.

  • Denis Loretto 15th Apr '20 - 6:12pm

    @Peter Martin
    As to policy positions struck by Jeremy Corbyn I am influenced very much by my direct experiences during the euphemistically entitled Northern Ireland Troubles. Corbyn did not merely advocate speaking to the IRA leaders and persuading them towards peace but, perhaps because they adopted left wing attitudes, came much closer to support for them at a time when (in parallel with so-called loyalist extremists) they were killing and maiming very many innocent people.

  • David Evans 15th Apr '20 - 7:02pm

    @Peter Martin & Jo Bourke – If you look at the picture properly there are *two* rough sleepers in the photo, not one.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Apr '20 - 7:36pm

    John Hall: I shall answer your final question of 15th Apr ’20 – 5:43pm (as well as anything else related to it) when you tell me whether you have stopped beating your wife yet.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '20 - 8:48pm

    Peter Hirst. Those are good points, Peter, such as the Labour tendency to sit on the fence, which Keir Starmer managed throughout their leadership campaign, and their inability – probably uninterest too – in empowering people. I think we have the capacity to steal the show while Labour gathers its skirts about itself and fails to make a grand entrance in the recovery period.

    To build on Sue’s ideas (which indeed, Sue, I see you floated in a comment on my Social Contract article, so am taking up somewhat belatedly, and thank you for repeating!) perhaps we might say:

    The nation has shown itself to be a community in this health crisis, putting aside the bitter divisions of last year. From this we should build a consensus, that government, as the servant of the people, should now commit itself to caring for and nurturing our whole community, and meeting its most pressing needs. Not, then, to allow the financial costs of the lockdown to fall on the poorest, but instead to ensure that they are helped out of poverty with continuing enhanced welfare payments. Not to ignore the newly unemployed, but work actively to ensure that the mass of the would-be working population is assisted to help create wealth and contribute to renewed economic growth. Enable development of social housing by taxing land values to release land which developers, including local councils, can afford to build on, and ensure that they build wherever possible with solar roofs and local bio-generator plants.

    And so on – to spell out how a new Social Contract can be worked out between government and people. It is indeed a time of opportunity, and I am asking our current acting leader Ed Davey to seize upon it. He has expressed interest in the idea.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Apr '20 - 9:13pm

    Katharine Pindar: I do not see how “opposing Leave” could have caused us to be identified with the Tories, who made a one-sided pact with the Brexit Party, and whose 2019 election campaign slogan was “Get Brexit Done”. I can see how the Coalition might have caused such a perception, especially with a leader who had a role in that government, and whose Coalition-era voting record was picked apart throughout the campaign by the Corbynistas. This is the reason why our next leader should be someone totally unconnected with the Coalition.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Apr '20 - 10:32pm

    Alex Macfie

    I do not see how “opposing Leave” could have caused us to be identified with the Tories, who made a one-sided pact with the Brexit Party, and whose 2019 election campaign slogan was “Get Brexit Done”.

    The Coalition led us to be seen as supporters of what the Conservative Party was about.

    What has happened since then is that the Conservatives switching to support Leave means they are now seen to be standing for something different. Meanwhile, we are seen as standing for what the Conservatives used to stand for i.e. we are now seen by many as the true successors of the Conservative Party.

    We needed urgently to break out of this by explaining as just a small part of a coalition dominated by another party, with no other stable coalition being possible, we were not in a position to get that other party drop everything it stood for and take up what we stand for. Rather, all we really could have was a minor influence in it, perhaps just shifting it a little bit when it was itself fairly evenly divided.

    But we didn’t do this in the 2015 or the 2017 or the 2019 general election. Rather, it seems the national leaders our party are happy for us to be seen as the true successors of the ConservativeParty before it shifted to becoming the real Brexit party. As a consequence, we have lost many of the votes and most if the seats we used to win, because many of the votes we got and support we had were because we were seen as the most effective opponents of the Conservative Party.

    I do feel to would be hypocritical for us to be supportive of a multi-party system, but then not to agree to the only coalition that could be formed. But we needed to make it absolutely clear: it was the disproportional electoral system supported by the Labour Party but opposed by us that made this the only coalition that could be formed, and greatly reduced our number of MPs so we could have only a minor influence on it.

    Of course, the two-party system supported by Labour means in much of the country there is just a one-party system with the dominant party there in permanent rule, and not needing to bother getting into much interaction with local people because it always wins anyway. Plus real power lies with the party, not with a truly representative parliament and local council. I.e. not democracy at all, and that is why I, despite being left-wing in economics, joined the Liberals and not Labour.

  • TCO,

    The opposition of the Whigs to the Tories and the Liberals to the Conservative was not primarily due to the issue of Free Trade. In the 1841 general election free trade was not an issue of difference between the parties. (Are you aware that the 13th Earl of Derby was a Whig, and didn’t become a Conservative member until sometime after 1835 and before 1841, before becoming the leader of the Conservative Party in 1846?) Sometime after 1852 again free trade was not an issue between the parties, not becoming an issue again until c. 1903.

    One of the primary differences between the parties was our commitment to reform and the re-distribution of power and the Conservative support for entrenched privilege and power. We also have a different view of people and how society should be run.

    Liberals favoured free trade because it reduced the power of landowners and benefitted the poorest in society by providing cheap food.

    Julian Tisi,

    A regulated market is not a free market and we should not use the term free market if we mean regulated markets. Free markets put power in the hands of the suppliers and employers, this is why they have to be strongly regulated to try to stop monopolies or oligopolies forming.

    Chris Cory,

    We should not define our policies in relation to what we think Labour’s are or might be. We should set our policies to produce a liberal society where no-one lives in poverty, where everyone has the education and training they need to fulfil their full potential, where everyone receives the health care they need when they need it, where everyone who wants a home of their own has one and where everyone who wants a job has one and we maximise liberty for everyone.

    David Raw,

    Well spotted. I didn’t see the three hands and two pairs of legs when I first looked at the picture.

  • David Brandwood 15th Apr '20 - 10:40pm

    It has long bothered me that prominent people in the public eye (actors, writers, broadcasters, for example) with some social conscience have tended to act as if the only (moral) possibility is to support Labour. Why is their first thought not LD? This suggests a failure (of ours) in informing the public view of the party.

    To some degree society divides into two: those that think the status quo is essentially OK, and should be changed only marginally (conservatives) and those who are are impatient with the status quo and want serious change (radicals). OK, we have to decide what sort of change (some might go for anarchy, or dictatorship, or national socialism), but if we are talking about a more liberal form of change, then we cannot deny that we and Labour are quite close. We should not be shy of agreeing with the parts of Labour’s aims which fit with ours, the difference between the parties is not in aims but in methods and in style – we are more evidence-led than theory based, more cooperative and collaborative than directive, more bottom up than top down, etc. (It would be unfair to suggest Labour is all the second of these, and none of the first; the significant word is ‘more’.) It is clear (to me) that people are not free when oppressed by Beveridge’s Five Giants, which is why we wholeheartedly support the ideas of universal education, healthcare, decent housing etc. In this, I think we have the same aims as Labour – in fact the NHS was implemented by a Labour government following the report by the great Liberal Beveridge. (And I think our history in social welfare needs promoting from time to time – the public think it is all Labour’s ideas.)

    One of the aspects of liberalism – freeing people from various kinds of restraint – is the eroding or dissolving of boundaries – between men and women, between classes, between races, between countries, etc. (The last, with the added ideas of cooperation and collaboration, accounts for the enthusiasm for the European project of many of us.) However, the (perhaps residual) class basis of Labour is thus another basic difference between our parties.

  • @ Katharine Sorry, Katharine, but I very much regret having to disagree with you. I don’t think Keir Starmer sat on the fence during the leadership election. Having watched some of the debates What I saw was a skilful appeal for unity, and he didn’t dodge the issues of poverty, inequality and anti-Semitism. He’s also now taken a firm grip on the National Executive. Seamus Milne has gone and Jenny Formby looks wobbly.

    Obviously, to use Squiff’s old phrase, we’ll have to wait and see. My guess is he might have Squiff’s brains and tactical nous but none of his shortcomings. Obviously time will tell, but I’m going to keep an open mind.

  • David Brandwood 15th Apr '20 - 11:06pm

    It has long bothered me that prominent people in the public eye (actors, writers, broadcasters, for example) with some social conscience have tended to act as if the only (moral) possibility is to support Labour. Why is their first thought not LD?
    To some degree society divides into two: those that think the status quo is essentially OK, and should be changed only marginally (conservatives) and those who are are impatient with the status quo and want serious change (radicals). OK, we have to decide what sort of change (some might go for anarchy, or dictatorship, or national socialism), but if we are talking about more liberal change, then we cannot deny that we and Labour are quite close.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Apr '20 - 2:31am

    David Brandwood. Thank you for your reflections. I would suggest that, while our ideas for progressive reforms may be somewhat similar to Labour’s, if we present ours as forming the basis of a new social contract, then we offer a framework for these ideas which can be understood. If a future Labour government were then to use the framework as a basis for legislation, that would be a pleasing historical parallel! But I would hope that, while we could be known for seeking this raft of ideas and policies, through pressure from progressives in all parties some of it would be implemented rather sooner than 2025. We should also of course be bargaining for PR. I agree with you that freedom, openness, and community which must indeed involve communication and collaboration are Liberal ideas.

    Alex Macfie. I think Matthew Huntbach has answered you in one of his thoughtful comments. I would only add, that I used the phrase ‘opposing Leave’ because it was continually thrown at us, that we were supposedly undemocratic in refusing to accept the vote of the majority to leave the EU. I think we have to live down the poor decisions we accepted in the Coalition (ably defended by Matthew), and say that we have now for years voted to bring austerity to an end. We should indeed as Matthew suggest be seen as the most effective opponents of the Conservative party, and I would personally be happy for Ed Davey (for whom I voted) to be elected as our leader, strong though the claims of other, less experienced MPs may be.

    Michael BG. Indeed we do want redistribution of power, Michael, while the Conservatives are for the entrenched privilege of power which we have discussed. Thank you for reminding us of the happy history of the Liberals wanting free trade to reduce the power of the landowners and get cheap food to benefit the poorest. How appropriate it will be if through measures like land reform and the taxation of wealth we are able eventually to lift everyone out of poverty and see the abolition of food banks.

    David Raw. I bow to your more extensive study of what Keir Starmer has been saying and writing, David (the quoted article having been on January 18). I was under the impression though that he had avoided committing himself to the extravagances of the Manifesto. Whether or not, this discussion here renews my belief that Liberal Democrats should be persuaded never to vote Labour.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “What has happened since then is that the Conservatives switching to support Leave means they are now seen to be standing for something different. Meanwhile, we are seen as standing for what the Conservatives used to stand for i.e. we are now seen by many as the true successors of the [Cameron] Conservative Party.”

    If that means internationalist, pro-enterprise, pro-market, state-sceptic, socially Liberal, I’d say were that it were true, for that is where the gaping hole in British politics lies at present, and where we as Liberals stand.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Apr ’20 – 2:31am……………… Whether or not, this discussion here renews my belief that Liberal Democrats should be persuaded never to vote Labour………..

    No-one expects a LibDem to vote Labour (unless, perhaps, it’s to keep out a right wing Tory)..
    However, why not vote WITH Labour when our aims coincide? Unless of course you actually mean “never to vote with Labour”…..?

  • Alex: I agree that @under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour seemed more interested in attacking us than attacking the Tories.”
    However I would also say (sadly) that under Swinson’s leadership, Liberal Democrats seemed more interested in attacking Corbyn/Labour than attacking the Tories!

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Apr '20 - 11:13am

    expats, yes of course, I hope we will vote WITH Labour when we are in pursuit of similar aims.
    TCO, I agree with your second paragraph. It would seem that the difference between yourself, apparently a right of centre Liberal Democrat, and the left-leaning members is in approach to economic policy. Could you perhaps tell us in what way you wish to depart from the Keynes-inspired model, or should I say from MMT? What practically needs to be done in confronting the likely recession, to you think?

  • Steve Comer: We were attacking both equally, because both Corbyn and Johnson were dangerous ideologues, the first a Marxist for whom the EU is a capitalist conspiracy, and the second a right-wing Tory with troubling links to the alt-right.
    From an electoral viewpoint, we had no choice but to attack Labour in order to try to distance ourselves from Corbyn in the minds of those LibDem-Tory waverers in our target seats who were saying on the doorstep that they were voting Tory “to keep Corbyn out”.

  • @Katharine Pindar “Could you perhaps tell us in what way you wish to depart from the Keynes-inspired model, or should I say from MMT? What practically needs to be done in confronting the likely recession, to you think?”

    Let me turn this around. It seems that the instinctive reaction of left-leaning Lib Dems to any problem is “The State should …” without thinking whether this is appropriate or not. Socialism is built on the principle of the State dictating what should be done. A market is a group of individuals coming together to cooperate for their mutual benefit; what could be more Liberal than that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Apr '20 - 3:46pm

    TCO

    If that means internationalist, pro-enterprise, pro-market, state-sceptic, socially Liberal, I’d say were that it were true, for that is where the gaping hole in British politics lies at present, and where we as Liberals stand.

    Well, I remember Nick Clegg more or less saying this early on in the Coalition, and others he had put in position to lead how our party was promoted nationally saying the same. So, what you say IS now how our party is viewed by most people. In the 2019 general election it sees our Leader was very keen to continue pushing this, stating that it would win us lots of votes.

    So how have we done? Loads more votes and MPs than we had back in 2010?

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '20 - 4:04pm

    @ Alex Macfie,

    “……the first a Marxist for whom the EU is a capitalist conspiracy”

    The USA is a “capitalist conspiracy” too – if you’re determined to think in those terms. But those of us on the left, who may have been guilty of reading Marx from time to time and at least know he’s of German origin rather than Russian, don’t go around suggesting that the individual states of the USA should leave the Union.

    So maybe you’d like to ponder on that point and explain why that is?

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Apr '20 - 5:40pm

    Thank you, TCO and Matthew Huntbach, but it would be really interesting to read your doubtless differing views of how you think our government should help to deal with the impending recession. Surely, TCO, the state has to give a helping hand, a push start>

  • TCO,

    I note you haven’t responded to my comments to you of 15th April 10.35pm where I point out that free trade was not the primary difference between the Whigs and Tories or between the Liberals and the Conservatives and the primary differences were other more important issues.

    Left-leaning Liberals do not think the state should do everything, but they do see the state having a huge role in modern society. I would argue that only action by the state can ensure no-one is enslaved by being in living in poverty, by having to conform or by being held back because they need more education and/or training.

    “A market is any place where two or more parties can meet to engage in an economic transaction—even those that don’t involve legal tender. A market transaction may involve goods, services, information, currency, or any combination of these that pass from one party to another” (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/market.asp). It has nothing to do with liberalism and the balancing of the “values of liberty, equality and community”.

    Alex Macfie,

    I don’t think the tactic of attacking Corbyn so “those LibDem-Tory waverers in our target seats who were saying on the doorstep that they were voting Tory “to keep Corbyn out” vote for us, worked. I don’t think it can ever work. It just reinforces the view Corbyn has to be stopped and the thought that therefore they have to vote Conservative to do it. A better world for us, is where the LibDem-Tory waverers do not fear a Labour government and do not think they must vote Conservative to stop Labour but are free to vote for us.

  • @Michael BG here’s a little light reading that should be right up your street.

    As to your contention that markets “[have] nothing to do with liberalism and the balancing of the “values of liberty, equality and community”, let me ask you this:

    How does your community survive? Is everyone a subsistence agrarian? If not, how does specialised labour get distributed? Does some authoritarian higher power do it? Or do people self organise in a co-operative way to negotiate an equitable exchange?

  • Alex Macfie 17th Apr '20 - 1:05pm

    Michael BG: I can only repeat what I wrote earlier in this thread, namely that Labour under Corbyn was already toxic to soft Tory voters, and that we did not have sufficient influence in the election debate to change anyone’s minds on Labour one way or the other. It is a rather strange conceit on the part of some in our party that they imagine that we did. If we were the ones who were toxifying Corbyn in the minds of voters, then why would people feel the need to vote Tory to keep him out? The Tory strategy in our target seats was to present us as Corbyn enablers, but why, if voters had been convinced by US that Corbyn was dangerous, would they think we would then help him into No. 10? The idea just defies logic. Voters already feared Corbyn and therefore our only option was to distance our party from him. You could argue that it “didn’t work”, but I don’t think we would have won even the seats we did win in England had we not done so.
    I certainly agree with your statement “A better world for us, is where the LibDem-Tory waverers do not fear a Labour government,” but the way that happens is that Labour has an electable leader. As such, I am optimistic that relations with Labour will be better at the next election.

  • @Alex McFie – Corbyn was toxic to everyone, not just soft Tories

    Anyone from the centre rightwards was put off by his Socialism
    Anyone concerned about minority rights was put off by his anti-Semitism
    Anyone with an internationlist outlook was put off by his Euroscepticism
    Anyone who believes in secure defence was put off by his anti-NATO stance
    Anyone looking for competence was put off by his lack of intellect

    Anyone in the Lib Dems who thought we would have done better at the last election by soft pedalling or embracing Corbyn is naive at best.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Apr '20 - 8:03pm

    Not quite everyone found Jeremy Corbyn toxic, TCO. There was a time, remember, when his name was sung by an ecstatic following, and those followers dominated the party which won 40% of the vote in the 2017 election. I suppose the new row in the Labour central circle, which I don’t attempt to understand, does suggest fierce loyalty to him as well as fierce opposition – good luck with that, Mr Starmer. I think myself we should have kept equi-distant from both major parties in the GE, and targetted seats where we had built up a viable machine.

    I gather you are not inclined to discuss how to solve the impending economic crisis from your particular viewpoint. No matter, I have just begun to read a book about Keynes, and find this sentence, ” The centrepiece of Keynes’s theory is the existence of inescapable uncertainty about the future.” Well, that’s all right then, we can all remain uncertain for some time yet! And certainly nobody predicted this pandemic.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Apr '20 - 9:13pm

    Katharine Pindar: We WERE equidistant from both major parties at the last election.

  • ” Or do people self organise in a co-operative way to negotiate an equitable exchange?”

    Isn’t that what trades unions and cooperatives do ?

    Could it be there’s a hidden Trot hiding under our beds pretending to be some sort of pre-Gladstonian Liberal ?

  • @David Raw “” Or do people self organise in a co-operative way to negotiate an equitable exchange?”

    Isn’t that what trades unions and cooperatives do ?”

    You have a very rosy view of Trades Unions, David. A significant part of their raison d’etre is (or certainly was) to ensure clear distinctions between different classes of trades, thereby maintaining strict hierarchies of pay differentials.

    “Could it be there’s a hidden Trot hiding under our beds pretending to be some sort of pre-Gladstonian Liberal ?”

    I hadn’t seen Leon Bronstein as the sort to head off down the local co-op brandishing his divi (dividend – a return on investment) book. But it takes all sorts.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '20 - 11:44am

    @Alex Macfie “We WERE equidistant from both major parties at the last election.”
    That is not how it looked.
    The party appeared to position itself as a home for Tory Remainers, emphasising its opposition to two villains: Corbyn and Brexiters. It had the support of a few anti-Corbyn anti-Brexit Labour MP defectors who would probably always have been more comfortable as Lib Dems if that career choice had offered the same prospects of a safe seat and personal advancement.

  • Peter: “emphasising its opposition to two villains: Corbyn and Brexiters” Yes, exactly, it was equidistant. And anyway, Corbyn himself is, at heart, a Brexiter. Our equidistance between the two major parties was wilfully misinterpreted as being mainly anti-Corbyn by people who at bottom think we shouldn’t be attacking Labur at all.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '20 - 2:24pm

    @Alex Macfie “Yes, exactly, it was equidistant”
    But opposition to Corbyn and to Brexit is not “equidistance between the two major parties”. Corbyn was attacked for every policy he was perceived as representing (including Brexit and also some that potential Lib Dem supporters might sympathise with), Johnson only for wanting to “get Brexit done”. Lib Dems have presented themselves as strongly anti-Labour (so appearing pro-Tory by default) Remainers, perhaps a reflection of the party’s best target seats.
    Before 2010 Lib Dems successfully opposed Labour without being aligned with the Conservatives but since then it has not looked like that. Even in 2015 the tactic of “we will bring a heart to a Conservative Government and a brain to a Labour one” seemed to hammer home a message that Lib Dems were Tories with a social conscience.
    Politically, that might not be a bad place to be, and in his posts, TCO makes a strong case for the party being economically to the right while delivering socially liberal policies. But it’s certainly not equidistant, though it’s more honest than being “all things to all people” and Coalition demonstrated that inevitably disappoints and alienates a lot of supporters when the party has to implement decisions rather than just oppose them.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Apr '20 - 4:05pm

    Peter is in the right of it in your discussion, Alex, but for one remark – that it might not be a bad thing for us to be regarded as Tories with a social conscience. Perish the thought, Peter! We looked too much like that in the Coalition, and I hope our centre-rightists will never dominate our party. That said, I don’t know what these economically right ideas may be, as TCO hasn’t revealed, and I am always learning in economics. But philosophically or practically, we cannot be equidistant between Tories and Labour now, with Boris Johnson’s government in power, waiting to show its claws.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 18th Apr '20 - 6:27pm

    Because I don’t receive any notification of replies to any posts that I’ve made I am always late to the party when it comes to any replies I may wish to make.

    @Katherine pinder, you wrote
    “Yes, we do indeed oppose all forms of entrenched privilege. In the fourth paragraph of our wonderful Preamble, the sentence is. ‘Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.’

    The understood point is, privilege which has power. The Royal family don’t have power.”

    The sentence you have highlighted at no point mentions privilege that has power. You may understand it to mean that but there is nothing there that commits the party to that position.

    As for your last sentence, if you truly believe that I have a bridge for sale that I think you may be interested in buying.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '20 - 7:09pm

    @Katharine Pindar “Perish the thought, Peter!”
    I was trying very hard to be neutral about the pros and cons of any apparent direction or positioning of the Lib Dems. But I do agree with you! 🙂

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '20 - 7:19pm

    @Graham Martin-Royle “I don’t receive any notification of replies to any posts that I’ve made”
    Some sort of functionality like that would be top of my wishlist for Lib Dem Voice.
    A close second would be fewer parallel articles and threads when there is a particularly hot topic.
    Often I find myself with several tabs open, regularly refreshing pages and looking at the short “Recent comments” list at the top in order to keep track of what is happening. I’ll usually keep doing this until an interesting thread has no new posts for 48 hours before giving up on it (and occasionally discovering later that an apparently moribund thread was resuscitated!).

  • @Peter Watson – I do understand. WordPress is essentially a blogging platform rather than social media, so doesn’t offer notifications to commenters nor thread management. Sometimes we do get posts in on the same subject which confuses things. We don’t publish them though unless they add something new to the debate.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Apr '20 - 9:16pm

    Peter, I should guess that the editors may consider you an ideal reader, with your patient pursuit of aspects of discussion you want to follow up! I’m always looking too, glad to be able to reach one or another readily because the article is in the Most Read or, more often, because someone’s recent comment leads me to it. My own wish would be that every piece is given a bit longer for us all to digest, not quite so many in a day, but perhaps the editors feel pressed by so many being offered. Anyway, glad you agreed with my point above!

    Graham Martin-Royle, you have achieved something others rarely have. You have managed to spell BOTH my names wrongly. Could you please take note, as I do in spelling your hyphenated name? As to the comment you make, I think the authors of the Preamble, excellent people whose names I don’t unfortunately know, by combining the words ‘entrenched’ and ‘privilege’ were indeed intending to be understood as objecting to the phrase in relation to power. So, thinking of the hold over the Tories of wealthy capitalists, or of the biggest unions over Labour, and not of the Royal family. Actually I don’t think of the Queen and at least her son and grandson ARE privileged, because they have no freedom. But, by the way, as far as my article is concerned, you are very welcome to ‘join the party’ as you pleasantly put it, so thank you for doing so.

  • TCO,

    You have not said how a market balances the values of liberty, equality and community. As you have stated a community can exist without a market. I have not said markets are not useful.

    Alex Macfie,

    I am not convinced that our messaging would have no effect on “those LibDem-Tory waverers in our target seats”. If our messaging reinforces the Tory messaging I think that would reinforce the idea that these voters have to vote Tory to stop Labour, but if it didn’t reinforce Tory messaging then it is possible without that reinforcement we could persuade these voters to vote for us.

    Perhaps the 1992 general election was the one where the Conservative’s said Labour‘s leader was unsuitable to be PM, but we didn’t and we were not as badly affected by these attacks as in 2019. In 1987 the Alliance won 22 seats. Of these 19 were Lib Dem in 1992 and three were held by SDP MPs. Therefore winning 20 seats in 1992 can be seen as us having had a successful campaign.

    David Raw,

    It is good to see that TCO believes that people ‘self organise in a co-operative way to negotiate an equitable exchange’ for their skills and labour.

    Peter Watson,

    I don’t have an issue with having to keep looking at the threads I am interested in and at the “Recent comments”. However, I agree with you that having more than one thread on the same subject being ‘live’ makes following the debates and remembering what was said in each thread much more difficult.

  • Katharine Pindar: The left-wing faction of Labour that Corbyn and his supporters represent has always treated us as “yellow Tories”. It’s not a label that originated with the Coalition, although this did make it easier for them to do so. So Lib Dems were caught between a rock and a hard place where Labour was concerned. Attacking them led to the “yellow Tories” accusation, but going easy on Labour would have driven many of our supporters to the Tories. Now that Labour has an electable leader, this will be much less of an issue going forward. So it’s unhelpful when the likes of TCO write as if the change at the top of Labour doesn’t make a difference. Gone are the posh-boy revolutionaries, the Lexiters, and all the rest of the Loony Left that made up Corbyn’s coterie. It’s a very different face of the Labour party now, and one that Lib Dems has a lot more in common with.

  • Peter Watson 19th Apr '20 - 2:24pm

    Mary Reid “WordPress is essentially a blogging platform rather than social media, so doesn’t offer notifications to commenters nor thread management.”
    Sometimes this is a blessing!
    If I’ve entered the fray by contributing to a particularly contentious debate, then I get incredibly anxious worrying about any responses and I can’t bear to look at the thread for a little while. On those occasions, I certainly wouldn’t welcome an email reminding me about it!

  • Graham Martin-Royle 19th Apr '20 - 3:57pm

    @Katharine Pindar; My most humble apologies for spelling your names wrong. I habitually check to make certain that I have got the spelling correct but for some reason I got it wrong on both of them. I hate doing that.

    As for your point about what the authors of that sentence may have intended, it doesn’t actually say that so my point stands. Now, about that bridge……..

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Apr '20 - 4:06pm

    Some Labourites will always hate us, Alex, and also it will be inadvisable to trust any of them too much, or liberal-minded Tories either, because each party is actually needing to persuade voters to come to or stick with them and not the others. We do have to show ourselves distinctive, and since we are, the challenge is obviously to convince the voters.

    I do believe that we also have to press for PR again, even though it is in neither of the largest parties’ interest – but both being uneasy coalitions in themselves, it isn’t an impossible goal. I hope our leaders and our local councillors alike are keeping in close contact with the rebels who left the main parties, whether they joined us in the end or not, as they could be significant allies now. And I suppose the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish have significant things to say as well.

  • Alex Macfie 19th Apr '20 - 5:11pm

    Michael BG: Neil Kinnock was soft left, and had dedicated his leadership to expelling from Labour the same sort of people who would later be running it under Corbyn. What made him not very Prime Ministerial was not so much his politics as lack of gravitas.
    Lib Dems may not have been making such a big deal about Labour in 1992 as in 2019, but we weren’t particularly friendly to it, and we were attacking Labour from the right. Our poll ratings, which were previously rising during the campaign, fell back somewhat in the last week when Paddy appeared to be cosying up to Labour.
    Tory messaging about Corbyn did not need “reinforcement”, the Tories had much more media clout than us, and whatever we said was not going to affect it one way or the other. Besides, the Lib Dems did not have the same issue with Corbyn as the Tories did. The Tories would have agreed with what Corbyn, a lifelong Europhobe, thought in his heart about Brexit.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Apr '20 - 8:20pm

    Thank you for that, Graham. I hope you have had a most beautiful spring day as I have, wherever you live: we here have been granted perfect blue sky and unbroken sunshine. But as for a bridge, you have lost me! Could it be a bridge over troubled waters you are thinking of?
    Best wishes!

  • TCO: Your 1930s history is mistaken.

    The Liberal Party in 1931 was divided between the Samuelites (the mainstream group) and the Simonites (a right-wing group). They did not support “the Labour Government of Ramsay McDonald,” because in 1931 there was no such thing; in fact the Simonite split was over Liberal coöperation with Labour. They (initially) supported a National government headed by former Labour leader Ramsay McDonald, which was in fact composed largely of Conservatives. When the Liberals supported it, McDonald had already been thrown out of the Labour Party, the vast majority of whose MPs (and supporters) were in opposition to the National Government.

    The Simonites effectively merged with the Conservatives, though they remained independent in name for some time. The Samuelite Liberals left the National Government in 1932. Labour remained in opposition to a series of “National Governments” (which were de facto Tory Governments) until the Second World War.

    This is, incidentally, only one of many, many occasions on which a smiling and apparently complaisant Conservative Party welcomed a smaller party into coalition, only to digest part of it and spit the rest out. As this is part of the history of our party, Nick Clegg should have been familiar with it; but he either was not or disregarded it. The rest is (repetitive) history.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Apr '20 - 10:10am

    Great comment, thank you, David 1. Our media department really ought to produce an on-line permanent graphic, a kind of Aesop’s Fable of today in cartoon form. Something like a lion playing amicably with a little creature (rabbit perhaps?) it intends to eat soon!

  • Richard Underhill 20th Apr '20 - 10:52am

    Katharine Pindar 18th Apr ’20 – 9:16pm
    After some of the negotiators walked out of the discussions, Russell Johnston’s experience and leadership became obvious. I have a first edition (1987) of his speeches, ‘Just Russell’, signed ‘with best wishes’.
    I have checked the spelling of his name, on which he always insisted.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Apr '20 - 11:05am

    There was a coalition between New Labour and Liberal Democrats in Scotland, which managed to persuade Labour to install the SINGLE Transferable Vote. This was democracy in action and a litmus test for Labour now. Are they going to continue to be collectivist? or would they tolerate individualism? When Keir Hardie was an MP he was an individual. This is a key factor on why we should not compromise in negotiation.
    Enid Lakeman OBE was an influential member of this constituency.Sir Russell Johnston came to her funeral, she was only 91

  • @Katharine Pindar “Great comment, thank you, David 1. Our media department really ought to produce an on-line permanent graphic, a kind of Aesop’s Fable of today in cartoon form. Something like a lion playing amicably with a little creature (rabbit perhaps?) it intends to eat soon!”

    A more useful graphic would be one showing what happens to Liberals who believe Labour promises on electoral reform. That’s a lesson that never seems to be learned.

  • Rodney Watts 20th Apr '20 - 1:11pm

    @TCO
    “A more useful graphic would be one showing what happens to Liberals who believe Labour promises on electoral reform. That’s a lesson that never seems to be learned.”

    What would that graphic look like? At least there is an established Labour group:
    https://www.labourcampaignforelectoralreform.org.uk/ and the last GE gives them more impetus. Without PR I do not realistically see Lib Dems exercising much power.

  • neil sandison 20th Apr '20 - 2:27pm

    Going back to the main thread of this article I am supportive of the comments of Stephen Howes and Sue Sutherland .We should not look for solutions in another parties leader or doctrinal leanings but come forward with our own radical brand of social liberalism where many of our former leaders have trodden ,We should recognise the value of a circular and well regulated economy that is sustainable on our crowded planet . harking back to the nationalisation of the forties and seventies is no more a solution than rabid monetarism and the get rich quick culture of the eighties and nineties .Our recent former leader may have been closer to the mark than we appreciate .

  • Alex Macfie,

    In 1992 while we were officially equidistant from both major parties, we concentrated our attacks on the government, as we should do no matter which party is in government (I don’t think we did this in 2019). I don’t recall Paddy appearing to cosy up to Labour, but in the last week there was a lot of talk of a hung Parliament and I can’t remember what our answer was about going into government with either party was.

  • John Littler 20th Apr '20 - 7:54pm

    The Lib Dems need to concentrate on bold progressive policies that excite voters and attract the younger generation. The fortunes of the party will be greatly improved by:

    A broad Progressive Alliance, with pre-election pacts and candidates standing down in winnable seats. Parties agreeing a simple progressive programme of reforms, while keeping their own separate identities and detailed policies in the rear.

    Meantime the LibDems have lost their way. They focussed on 1 issue, allowing voters no information as to anything else they stand for. In Polls voters show they do not understand what the LibDems want anymore.

    Even before the communitarian reactions and policies appearing now, polls showed the public going more to the left even if they vote mainly Tory in reaction to Corbyn or brexit or Labour anti semitism. The Tories own the extreme markets position even while they subsidise firms with the other hand. There is no public space left for going “me too” on free market atlanticisms and people still want the hand outs now.

    It is time for the LibDems to re-define themselves as Social Liberals and to figure out and own the future as D66 aim.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Apr '20 - 1:47am

    John Littler. I wouldn’t say that our party has ‘lost its way’, John, only that we strayed from it temporarily last autumn. We had had a consistent and intelligible policy that we should stay in the European Union, that it would be harmful for the country to leave, and that another referendum should be held to see if the voters, now better informed of the facts about leaving, would give a majority verdict to stay in. Unfortunately last autumn we deviated from that idea temporarily, with the Revoke policy and the impossible claim of possibly winning the General Election. But we are still the same party which adheres to the gracious ideas of our Preamble, and has already developed many policies which would be good for the country. We also hold a different approach to our citizens, as described by Sue Sutherland memorably as a nurturing culture.

    I hope you are right, John, that the public is more inclined now to be ‘going more to the left’. I haven’t seen those polls, but I think disillusionment with this government is rapidly going to settle in. It should not be difficult for us to form ‘a broad progressive alliance’ to oppose them, but yet I trust our own ‘bold progressive policies’ will stand out.

    Neil Sandison. Thank you, Neil. I don’t think we should wait too long for Stephen Howes’s idea of the red tide sweeping the little yellow boats forward, however. I want to see a fine Lib Dem galleon set sail, with its flags flying for the ‘radical brand of social liberalism’ which I agree we should now work on defining and aim to see delivered – the treasure which the galleon carries and can unload for our people.

  • Christopher Haigh 20th May '20 - 11:22pm

    The Labour party and the Libdems have similar problems. Each party consists of a coalition. The Labour party that of democratic socialists and that of social democrats. The Libdems that of Liberals and Social Democrats. Sir Kiier Starmer represents a move towards social democrat control of the Labour party, so there is obviously a common factor between the two parties now.

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