Rolling the boulder back up the hill again….

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In ancient mythology Sisyphus is condemned to spend eternity in Hades rolling a huge stone up a hill only to see it roll down again and have to repeat the process. Judging by the reaction of many Lib Dems to the 2019 General Election, that seems a good metaphor for the predicament party members and activists feel themselves to be in.

The most common injunction is currently is to go back to basics, build up the local base, immerse ourselves in community politics,set out on the long march again.

Like Sisyphus we may find this necessary even obligatory- even if tinged with reluctance and a sense of sad futility. We can see it as a consequence of living in this vale of tears where FPTP rules and political power inevitably goes to those with most economic clout. Breaking the mould can seem impossible if you don’t control those forces that set the mould in the first place.

And yet there is the nagging doubt that our plight was not and is not inevitable.In the last decade, it can be argued the party has made several, unnecessary critical errors which have turned golden opportunities into dismal defeat.More specifically the leadership of our party has.

The troops ever ready to “march towards the sound of gunfire “ have arguably been poorly led by those whose grasp of strategy was sub-optimal.

The early stages of coalition (tuition fees reversal,NHS re-organisation) is one example, the pledge to revoke is another. Neither of these moves was a necessary corollary of Liberal values which ,popular or not, we just had to take. Both stemmed from a misguided and slightly cynical misunderstanding of where our political advantage lay and both were received by the “troops” with misgiving- largely ignored in favour of “comfort polling”.

There are go course other examples- the handling of the EU Referendum and PR Referendum could equally well be cited.

It is not surprising ,therefore, if many of our troops before resuming the Sisyphean task that confronts us, wonder what future protection exists against the folly of commanders – especially as it is the rank and file activist who creates much of the enduring political capital the party still possesses.

A sobering insight into how bad things can be was provided by the relaxed response from the then party leadership that accompanied the destruction of our urban council base in 2011- a base that in the case of places like Liverpool had taken decades to build.

We cannot be the force for social change and reform we want to be and we ought to be unless we take a hard and critical look at ourselves,how we are run, how the public sees us – rather than blaming circumstance and opposition chicanery.

There is no longer a ’business as usual’ option for the party – unless one sees one’s business as akin to that of poor old Sisyphus.

* John Pugh was Liberal Democrat MP for Southport until 2017 and was elected as a Councillor for the Dukes ward of Sefton Borough Council on 2 November 2017.

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110 Comments

  • I entirely agree with this excellent analysis.
    The question is what should be done by those who agree.
    I have booked to attend the York conference. What would the ideal agenda look like which would give members the chance to really influence the future of our party?

  • David Becket 5th Jan '20 - 10:48am

    I too have booked for York, and I expect to see real movement and change.

    My membership is due for renewal in April, that renewal cannot be taken for granted.

  • nigel hunter 5th Jan '20 - 10:56am

    For one we must rebuild our council base AND NEVER AGAIN ABANDON IT.

  • Mohammed Amin 5th Jan '20 - 10:59am

    I believe that proportional representation is vital, but have concluded that campaigning for the change to happen at Westminster first is a mistake.

    Lib Dems should campaign for the introduction of STV for council elections. The Conservative Party has something to gain from this, since many Conservatives in inner city Labour strongholds have zero councillor representation.

    Getting the British public used to using STV regularly for something will help to acclimatise them for a subsequent move to PR for Westminster.

    Similarly we should campaign for the London Mayoral Election to be full STV and not just a first and second preference. This is a real issue since in May 2020 I would like to have more than just preferences 1 & 2. While it is too late for May 2020, we could seek to get it fixed for 2024.

  • May’s locals are going to be hard. Do not expect much. Once again we are in the political wilderness. Polls could be back to 6-7%. As John says we must be honest with ourselves, something we have consistently not been in the past. We must deal in REALITY as it is not what we may want it to be.

  • A nice essay: I particularly liked this amusing understatement –
    “poorly led by those whose grasp of strategy was sub-optimal.”
    On point of detail as far I understand we have only had three UK wide referendums i.e. two on Europe and one on AV.
    Having just had a GE that has elected a majority government, which intends to take us out of the EU on the basis of a minority vote, whilst the majority voted for candidates of parties whose manifestoes committed them to put the EU deal back to the people in a fourth referendum, this is an auspicious time for a cross party campaign for PR with potential appeal to those that voted tactically last year.

  • I didn’t support the Revoke policy, but I’d like to see evidence that it was the lead balloon with the electorate and a reason significant numbers of voters didn’t vote Liberal Democrat that many talking heads are claiming.

    I’ve seen post election polling that shows “the leadership” was the biggest reason previous Labour voters didn’t vote Labour this time (circa 40%) with “Brexit policy” in the mid teens % wise and “extremism” (presumably Labour’s anti-Semitism and support for terrorists) just 2%. But this data hasn’t stopped the (ideological driven) talking heads emphasining that it was Labour’s Brexit policy and anti-semitism that sunk the Labour campaign. So before the Remain cause is buried, can someone bring some evidence to support the claim the Revoke policy was as toxic as some claim? I tend to think the now familiar squeeze and “Lib Dems can’t win” reasons was what caused contraction in the vote share, followed by “Lib Dem leadership”. But that’s just an opinion

  • Good article but I’m afraid ten years to late. This was the sort of analyse that was required before Clegg burned down the farm. Still looking on the positive side perhaps next time someone turns up and urges to give up hard work, concentrate on the bubble and start searching for unicorn voters we will have the strength not to follow the delusional pied piper.

  • One of my own reflections on the GE is that we gave the impression that there would be chaos in the event of minority government as we wouldn’t cooperate. By November it was clear that our only hope of avoiding catastrophe was to have a minority government that we could negotiate with. Nicola Sturgeon realized that and acted accordingly – sadly we didn’t. Johnson’s huge majority, his clear intention to gerrymander and the question mark over Scotland could possibly mean the Tories in power for ever.

    So I think that Russell is right in suggesting that this may all be a wake-up call for Labour about changing the voting system.

  • Gwyn Williams 5th Jan '20 - 11:58am

    Revoking Article 50 played well at Conference in September but antagonised the media and gave millions a reason, if they were looking for one, not to vote for us. The great strength of the Liberal Party was the independence of its local constituency parties. If this election campaign proved anything it was that this was no longer true. For many years Party HQ has been able to appoint candidates where there was a local problem. The change this time was the mass removal of Designated Nominating Officers certificates regardless of whether the Local Party agreed with the decision or not. This has turned us into a centrally controlled Party. Sal Brinton implemented this. We are waiting for our new President to pronounce on this.

  • I feel like we need a bit of stability. We’ve had too many leadership changes and we haven’t yet dealt with the coalition hangover. Most of our strategy has been short term. We lack a coherent narrative.

    We need a leader who can lead the party for the next decade. Look at the people doing well in politics like Farage, Johnson and Sturgeon – all well known names.

    We need to be known for values and have policies linked into those values.

  • Denis Mollison 5th Jan '20 - 12:24pm

    @Mohammed Amin
    I agree that we should campaign for STV for local elections in England, bringing it into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland. But while there may not be an early prospect of getting proportional representation for the UK parliament, wider support for this is developing – with increasing support not surprisingly among Labour supporters! – and we should continue to make the case for it; see lder.org/stv

    @Russell
    MMP/AMS is broadly proportional, and the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments have been vastly better under it than they would have been under FPTP. But it is a ridiculous system from the voter’s point of view, combining the problems of FPTP and list systems. Independent commissions in Scotland and Wales (Arbuthnott, Sutherland, McAllister) have consistently recommended switching to STV.

  • David Becket 5th Jan '20 - 12:27pm

    @Andrew T. Agreed
    Where is that leader going to come from. Our two leading contenders have flaws. Most of the other MPs are very new. We need to consider at the March Conference extending the qualification to become leader. We also need any potential contender to start putting their case before the membership now. At the moment there is nobody I would vote for.

  • Do we have any evidence that revoke was a problem or is this based on speculation?

  • Russell 11.34am
    Yes. With a more progressive Labour leader we may be able to co-operate and build bridges as Paddy did. Before the GE there was much talk by our leaders of being open and welcoming but this was coupled with mindlessly following the extreme right agenda by endlessly attacking Corbyn on anti-Semitism without proper regard to verifying the facts. Obviously, this will have entrenched hostility to us from many within Labour who should be our natural allies who care about human rights and peace in the Middle East.
    If we are to meaningfully engage with Labour we need to understand their internal divisions. I found the film “WitchHunt” linked here quite useful in that respect:
    https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/witchhunt-2019/

  • Going after devolved power would seem to be the only option left, the country full of top quality LibDem mayors, implementing policies that improve the quality of life without resorting to confiscatory tax polices…

  • Denis Mollison 5th Jan '20 - 12:37pm

    On tuition fees, I can’t agree with the apologists. Our MPs had signed a pledge to oppose an increase in fees, and they should have all have voted against. I understand – though I do not agree with – the arguments that what we ended up with was better, but they had made a promise, and breaking it was (a) wrong, and (b) stupid, because it lost us the support of our natural next generation of enthusiasts. As part of the national budget the costs were relatively small, so leaving fees as they were until the next election was quite possible.

    The other key mistakes of the coalition agreement (messing around with the NHS when both LD and Con manifestos had pledged not to, settling for a referendum on AV instead of a properly proportional system, and accepting the Con austerity narrative) were all pretty disastrous, but none so devastating for our reputation as the tuition fees betrayal.

  • Paul Barker 5th Jan '20 - 12:40pm

    We dont have a Tardis.
    We can talk about the past but not do anything about it.
    Any lessons we manage to learn from the Past may not be relevant to the Future because things change.
    I thought we had all pretty much agreed that The Coalition & Tuition fees were big mistakes, we can just file those & commit to never joining a Westminster Coalition again, unless we are the leading Party.
    Something we can be fairly sure about is that The next General Election wont be before May 2024. If the Tories make a mess of things they may hang on till the last moment.
    Thats a minimum of 52 Months, plenty of time for us to make a full Recovery.
    We dont have to speculate about our Opinion Poll ratings, Polls will restart in the next few Weeks & so will Local Byelections, they should both give us an idea of where we stand.
    Lets not talk ourselves into despair.

  • @David Becket

    I don’t think we have anyone obviously suitable though hopefully someone will step up. I don’t think opening up the leadership to the wider party would be a great idea though perhaps if it required the candidate receive strong support from the parliamentary party it would be okay.

  • Denis Mollison 5th Jan '20 - 1:20pm

    @Russell
    For AMS to work properly, there need to be enough List seats that the Constituency results don’t matter. In that case you would be better not to have constituency seats, i.e. just to have list PR.
    But either way, you’re just getting proportionality in party terms. You can tinker with list PR to allow the voter to influence which of a party’s candidates get elected, but you’re still left with wasted votes; fix that problem too, so as to give voters a full say in who gets elected while minimising wasted votes, and you’ve arrived at STV.

    STV is “so popular” because it allows the voter to express their real preferences (which is what really makes voting simple) and to have them used efficiently to choose candidates, in a way which is proportional to what is important to voters (which will primarily, but not entirely, be parties – STV gives independents a fair chance).

  • Russel 12.56pm
    The major defect of the MMP/AMS is that it is Party proportional: Whereas STV enables people to divide their preferences to individual candidates cross party and to independents. The degree of proportionality depends on the how big the constituencies are i.e. the larger the number of representatives to be elected the fewer the number of votes that will be ineffective.
    If STV had been used on 12.12.2019 perhaps the will of the people would have prevailed and we could have remained in the EU.

  • This is the worst possible time to try and stir up a campaign on PR. A precondition for reform is now Labour support for it, and the initiative sits with them, at least for the time being.

    You simply cannot campaign on the slogan “no more broken promises” and then go on to break your biggest promise. The tuition fees debacle really is as simple as that. It was amazing – and disgusted me at the time – that our leadership didn’t see this straight away. Cameron did, as far as his equally ‘unaffordable’ promises to pensioners were concerned.

    Often political analysis makes more complicated what is actually very simple. The mistake we made with ‘Revoke’ falls into this category. It is depressing seeing some of the lengthy and convoluted retrospective justifications that some members have come up with for supporting this.

    We chose the timing of the election, handing Boris a strong and simple message to campaign on, which he did with ruthless focus.

    The people in our party who were responsible for this misjudgement, for ‘revoke’, for promoting Jo as ‘next PM’, for staging a presidential campaign based around someone voters had never heard of, and for spaffing ££££ up the wall mailing patently dishonest squeeze letters into obviously no hope constituencies, need to be kept away from all future election decision making until the end of time.

  • Denis Mollison 5th Jan '20 - 1:45pm

    @Ian
    I agree with most of what you say, but don’t see why this is “the worst possible time to try and stir up a campaign on PR”. Yes, of course it needs to be cross-party, and the Make Votes Matter alliance provides an umbrella for that, which we in LDER wil continue to cooperate with.

  • David Becket 5th Jan '20 - 2:01pm

    @ Ian

    “The people in our party who were responsible for this misjudgement, for ‘revoke’, for promoting Jo as ‘next PM’, for staging a presidential campaign based around someone voters had never heard of, and for spaffing ££££ up the wall mailing patently dishonest squeeze letters into obviously no hope constituencies, need to be kept away from all future election decision making until the end of time.”

    Yes Yes Yes.
    Let us see this implemented by the time we meet at York

  • Russell 5th Jan ’20 – 12:56pm…………..Well I don’t think that Coalition was a mistake……………

    If it wasn’t a mistake how come this party lost hundreds of local councillors, all but one MEP and went from 57 to 8 patliamentary sets?

    ……………………………….Why should people vote for us again if we think the last time in govt was a mistake?………………..

    Perhaps by pointing out that those responsible have long gone and by showing how this party has learned from the mistakes!

    ………Most of the sensible newspapers endorsed the Libdems in 2015……..

    The electorate most definitely did not!

  • Paul Barker: “commit to never joining a Westminster Coalition again, unless we are the leading Party”

    That’s not a sustainable approach, though. To get to be in a position to be the leading Party, unless something absolutely catastrophic happens to one of Labour or Conservatives in the space of a single election cycle, will involve being in the 25-100 seat range for a few elections first.

    It would be very easy at that point for there to be no stable government possible without the Lib Dems offering at least confidence and supply … and while going into that sort of arrangement might be bad for the Lib Dems, it’s likely that voting down both sides to trigger another general election would be even worse.

    This was one of the big problems I had with the “we won’t work with Corbyn or Johnson” stance this time round … well, what *will* you do if the Lib Dems become relevant to the C&S calculations and a government requires their support or at least abstention? Vote both of them down to guarantee a no-deal Brexit because there’s no time to hold another GE? It was clearly unworkable, and will stay that way in similar situations in future.

    The Lib Dems need to learn a lot of lessons from 2010-2015 but “no more coalitions” is not the right one.

  • Republic of Ireland uses STV for parliamentary elections. The revoke policy came in at a time when it looked like Boris was trying to force through a no deal (Amber Rudd walked out of the Tory party at this time due to this belief). The revoke policy seemed to me at the time to be a reaction to this. However, once Boris got his unexpected deal at end October, this was a game changer in my opinion and should have resulted in opposition parties re-looking at their strategy. I was surprised that the Revoke policy was not modified at the start of the election campaign prior to manifesto launch. The manifesto policy should have been a simple: we now have a deal on the table, if win we will trigger a confirmatory referendum v Remain straight away on this deal.

  • @ “Russell 5th Jan ’20 – 12:56pm… “Well I don’t think that Coalition was a mistake.”

    I agree that it wasn’t necessarily the case that the Coalition was going to be a mistake, Russell….. although historical precedents in 1918-22, and 1931-35 suggests that it would be….. and riding on the back of a Tory crocodile was a perilous pastime..

    It was what the Lib Dems did, and didn’t do, when in that Coalition that amounted to a series of mistakes and misjudgements.

    Now it may be they really believed in what they did……… which is even more culpable and revealing and much more of a mistake for a so called ‘radical’ party. As Nye Bevan once said of Anthony Eden at the time of Suez….. ‘Now it may be that Sir Anthony Eden is sincere………. it may be…………..but if he is,….. then he is too stupid to be Prime Minister’.

    But I suppose that polishing a CBE on the mantle piece during a premature early retirement might give the odd momentary satisfaction.

  • Graham Jeffs 5th Jan '20 - 3:57pm

    This article is spot on and I absolutely agree with the final paragraph of Ian’s post.

    The party consistently fails to recognise the ramifications of decisions taken and assertions made.

    Everyone should always be considering the ramifications of what is being proposed.

    Ramifications, ramifications, ramifications! THINK!

  • I’d start any plans going forward to join a coalition with the thought ” Never trust a Tory and certainly don’t cuddle up to them” you could easily delete Tory and replace with Labour. Much better to tell the electorate we will vote on every issue on its merits and not to get our arses seated on leather seats driven by chauffeurs. To those that say it wasn’t a mistake look at the state of the party and the state of the country and those victories you won, small comfort for the chaos you handmaidened.

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Jan '20 - 4:24pm

    It’s obvious we were squeezed. However, that squeeze was compounded by the extremes of the leaders of the two main parties who were equally disliked by the other side. So people were voting “against” rather than “for” to a great extent. Of course, a lot of people were voting for Brexit, believing that Johnson was the only one who would deliver. The Brexit vote had one option in places where it counted whereas the Remain vote was split. I think it was an attempt to ‘unsplit’ this vote that motivated our leaders to come up with Revoke when, by the time the election was held we could have argued clearly for putting Johnson’s deal to the vote. Unfortunately, once the party has decided on policy it’s difficult to go back and respond to a change in circumstances. I would like our strategists to look at how this could be sorted out.

    So that’s my logical response. However, I have another view of the party, looking at our virtues and our faults. We keep on going. We keep battling, we have tremendous determination. However, in order to do this we have to think we are right, that if only we were in power everything would be different, everything would be better.
    Sadly, Coalition didn’t prove this, it showed that we were like every other political party. If you’re a small party battling against giants you have to show voters you’re different. Unfortunately our besetting sin is hubris. We know we’re right intellectually but that doesn’t mean we are right politically. Indeed we tend to get overexcited when the possibility of winning or of wielding power rears its head. The European results were amazingly wonderful and that tempted us as well as our leaders into folie du grandeur, which I believe is exactly what happened in Coalition. That is when we start to believe the impossible dream and glory in our gloriousness.
    However, the tendency is always with us. Even someone whom I think of as a guardian of Liberalism wants us to give the right titles to members of the House of Lords (see comments on a previous post). It’s good that we have a lot of them at the moment but Liberalism holds all people as equals, it doesn’t require us to kow tow to those in power. Instead it requires us to speak truth to power. We shouldn’t be idolising our leader, our MPs, members of party committees, our councillors, our President – if we idolise anyone it should be our foot soldiers and our party structures should reflect this. We should stop thinking we are cleverer than the next person, or even the Brexiters because that stops us from finding out why their belief in Brexit is so strong.
    So let’s eat humble pie and see what emerges when we truly value our voters and our grass roots.

  • @Denis, for a start, having just spent a couple of months arguing that a majority under our flawed voting system would deliver a mandate for overturning a nationwide referendum, it might be wise to allow a little time to elapse before challenging the legitimacy of the Tory majority from that same system.

    For seconds, no one sympathises with our fate right now, unlike in 1983 when we had obviously just been very hard done by.

  • Andrew Tampion 5th Jan '20 - 4:46pm

    I can’t prove that the revoke strategy was a vote loser but in Bosworth constituency where I live our vote fell for the 3rd succesive election. Bosworth is a Leave voting area. In 2010 we were only 5032 vvotes behind and the seat was made a target constituency: now we are 26960 votes behind and in 3rd place albeit only but 600 votes. Also look at the West Country, once a sea of yellow but a leave voting area, how many seats have we recovered there. None, unless you count Bath. In some West Country seats that we held in 2010 we are now 3rd for example St Austell and Newquay . It might be a concidence but I don’t think so.

  • @ Sue Sutherland Spot on, Sue. Well said.

  • @Sue – yes, when I saw Tony’s post I wondered what the young Greaves would ever have thought had he been told that one day he’d be posting on a threat about election strategy with picky points about nomenclature for the LibDem Lords.

    It’s just a small illustration of the bubble that top of the party is in.

  • Peter Watson 5th Jan '20 - 6:09pm

    @cim “The Lib Dems need to learn a lot of lessons from 2010-2015 but “no more coalitions” is not the right one.”
    Indeed. A large part of this thread is about the need for electoral reform to give a more proportional system which will inevitably involve more coalitions. Campaigning for this while at the same time appearing to contradict it by saying “no more coalitions” means the party will look confused and valuable time will be wasted trying to explain why Coalitions under FPTP and PR might be different (if they are!).
    I believe that one of the party’s (or its leaders’) biggest mistakes before 2010 was assuming that Coalition would involve an influential minor partner with the “balance of power” but the parliamentary arithmetic in 2010 did not deliver that.

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '20 - 6:25pm

    That Sisyphus analogy is one I have used several times on LDV. How frustrating it must seem for all that good work to be undone by poor decision marking at top level.

    As usual the Tuition Fees dilemma raises its ugly head. In his recently published autobiography, Cameron makes it clear that the decision for the Lib Dems to support their raising came from Clegg alone, when the PM was apparently happy for his coalition partners to abstain. In fact, Chancellor, George Osborne actually pleaded with Nick in a meeting to do that very thing.

    Sue Sutherland writes that the Lib Dems are “a small party, battling against giants”. Spot on, Sue; but have you ever considered the story of David and Goliath? David won because he was the smarter of the two. For the Lib Dems they too must be smarter than their rivals. In this battle of ideas, it’s not strength in numbers that counts. After all, I reckon that, deep down, ‘Liberal’ core strength may be around 10% at most. Do you remember “I agree with Nick” from 2010? The Lib Dem’s should have built on that. I call it common sense. A few years ago, we ran our local campaign under the slogan “Sensible policies for sensible people. It perhaps sounds a little dated now. I would prefer simply “It doesn’t have to be like this”.

  • I agree with James Pugh (11:32am) and Andrew T (12:29pm); this obsession that revoke caused us to not gain seats and vote share is mere speculation. What about 40 years of media europhobia, habitual Lib Dem media invisibilty, the framing of the election as Johnson, sorry, Boris versus Corbyn? ‘Revoke’ (ie keeping the status quo as leave will be a disaster) was/is the only option to save the UK from probably the worst crisis in peace time. It’s odd that fighting for the status quo should be seen as failure – anyone would have thought that Jo Swinson was trying to drag the country into the Euro. It’s less than four weeks since the election – so why don’t we wait four months, or more, and see whether ‘revoke if we get a majority’ was such a silly idea?

  • Denis Mollison 5th Jan '20 - 6:54pm

    @Ian
    Electoral reform isn’t just for Liberal Democrats! We need to pursue it in partnership with others, especially Make Votes Matter whose effort is concentrated on getting as broad an alliance as possible.
    And daft as our revoke strategy was (principally because no-one thought we had a cat’s chance in hell of getting an absolute majority, so why mention what we might do in that implausible situation), it’s not going to be at the top of anyone’s mind when we discuss whether PR is needed. The key statistic for that is that Con got 56% of the seats on 43% of the votes.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Jan '20 - 7:16pm

    There is much in what you write, Sue, as ever. Certainly we can see hubris, over-excitement and naivety in both Coalition decision-making and in the Revoke policy and the putting forward of Jo as possible prime minister. We can’t change our elected leaders, but we can ask for a more humble approach, and, surely, some polling of voters who voted Lib Dem in the Euro elections as to why so many did not stick with us.

    Conceivably there could also be a useful poll of voters who voted Remain in 2016 to find out why they in many cases did not vote for Remain candidates in this GE. I suspect that it may be that many were too weary of the unending dispute over Brexit to continue the struggle, and voted for the Johnson government to accept the flawed deal since it seemed that was all we could get.

    In Leave areas like Bosworth (we are told) and West Country seats such as St Ives, our candidates were up against it because we had not persuaded Leave voters that Brexit would be harmful. Then as Sue says, the minority Remain voters were offered too many choices, which included ‘Liberal’ and Green in Cornwall. I think we ought to have stuck to our consistent policy, till September, of being the leading anti-Brexit party and strongest in favour of another referendum.

    Then, though Jo was surely right to say she would not help either Corbyn or Johnson into power, we could have let it be known that Labour under another leader might have allowed us to back their government to the extent of a confidence and supply arrangement, though not coalition. I suppose we are likely to work with such a possible leader of Labour as Keir Starmer.

  • David Evans 5th Jan '20 - 7:24pm

    John, as you know I was one who tried endlessly to get party members to face up to the consequences of Nick Clegg’s disastrous leadership. Years of self-flagellation by a leader transfixed by sticking with coalition for the full five years come what may, led to the whole party being trapped in a never ending Groundhog day of continuous decline and decay.

    The possibility that the Conservatives and David Cameron would return to type and undermine and betray us from the moment the coalition agreement was signed was simply not considered. The prophetic warnings of the one senior figure prepared to speak out in 2010 – David Rendel, Lib Dem MP for 12 years, winner of the seismic Newbury by-election in 1993, an Old Etonian, who knew how those ‘bastards’ (to quote John Major) would behave – were simply ignored, even after they had all come true. Ultimately the political awareness of almost every influential figure in our party was shown to be effectively non-existent, preferring to watch things collapse around them rather than somehow admit that things had totally failed and break some unwritten declaration of unending loyalty to whatever the leadership chose to do.

    Ultimately this was the key reason why nothing changed and why I fear nothing of substance will change this time. The party has a leader, an establishment and a paid bureaucracy. All usually support the leader come what may. Those wanting change need more than a campaign – They need a leader. Sadly, not one senior figure was prepared to actually do something to try to save the party until it was too late to start. Even after things totally collapsed in May 2014 and Nick had lost 50% of all our councillors, a third of the party’s members and all but one of our MEPs, nothing really happened. LibDems4change were trying to get something going, but no one senior even stirred. Hence we all just went on waiting for the cataclysm to happen (while looking at dodgy polling to pretend it wouldn’t).

    All in all, I am not optimistic. You only need to look at the comments here to see so many thoughts on “what we need”, “what people expect”, “feel” and “hope will happen”, but not a single person saying what they will do at conference, what they would support or what they would even like to help to organise. Overall, when it comes to these key party matters, we have become a party of talkers listeners and debaters. Not a party of doers.

  • I am dismayed by the discussion above, concentrating as it does largely on the need for PR to rectify our dismal situation. NO – what we should be doing is discussing our core beliefs; developing clear policies which reflect those beliefs; campaigning on those policies; finding ways of re-connecting with the voters we have lost since 2005 and trying to heal the rift with those we alienated by our (over) emphasis on Remain. We are a Party that stands up for the poor, the disadvantaged, the powerless, and for the Planet. Let’s get back to proclaiming those values and stop talking about things that don’t matter to 95% of the electorate.

  • David Evans these are brave words. I applaud your candid reflections. Perhaps as a non member addressing the philosophical base is the way forward for you? Didn’t Blair turn to Giddens and structuralism for inspiration? Cummings to his Teutonic Germanic inspiration? The latter now informing the current Tory government? Just a thought

  • David Becket 5th Jan '20 - 8:44pm

    @David Evans
    How right you are, as a beneficiary of David Rendel’s success at Newbury, I was elected to the County that night, I remember David’s warnings. I spoke up against the actions of coalition, particularly the NHS reforms, but I did not leave the party as I had been elected as a Lib Dem Councillor, and as Lib Dem Councillor I would remain.
    At 83 I will not be taking a leading role, but I will be at York. I expect to see a clear out of those involved in the recent campaign and I expect to see a platform given to any who are considering entering the leadership contest so they can tell us what they see as the future of the party and answer our questions.
    I do not expect to see the normal staid agenda. Like you I am not optimistic.

  • As John Pugh says,” The most common injunction is currently is to go back to basics, build up the local base, immerse ourselves in community politics,set out on the long march again. Like Sisyphus we may find this necessary even obligatory- even if tinged with reluctance and a sense of sad futility.

    A gentle observation. The principle birds, Sir Nicholas and Sir Danny and most of their closest chums have flown to rich pastures new. No rock rolling, no steep mountain, for Sisyphustian penance for them. It’s the poor old PBI that are left to climb the mountain.

    Sisyphus Rolling Rock Up to Hill – YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com › watch
    Video for sisyphus▶ 1:01
    6 Dec 2015 – Uploaded by Anwar Nillufary
    Sisyphus Rolling Rock Up to Hill In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra.

  • David Blake 5th Jan '20 - 9:10pm

    I agree with Tony Hill. The party needs to sort out what it stands for and build on that. If it doesn’t, it will forever be seen as the anti-Brexit party and nothing else. PR will not be implemented under a Conservative Government which benefits hugely from the present system.

  • I’m waiting for John Marriott to produce an updated version of Dangerfield….. taking into account the due sensibilities of Comrade Baron Tony of Pendle.

    I’d also set up a new policy working group (the majority of whom must have successfully held onto a local council seat for ten years) to sit down quietly and re-read Green, Hobson, Seebohm Rowntree, Hobhouse, C.F.G. Masterman, and Keynes ….. and the UN Report on Poverty in the UK… and to inflict the same requirements on any aspiring leadership candidates over the next six months.

    Everybody else should go on a sabbatical holiday for six months……. with the possible exception of demonstrating against any UK involvement in a Trump inspired war.

  • David Evans,

    There is a change, OK a slight change Lib Dem voice now allows criticism of the leadership to be made. Now you once asked me “Where were you when the coalition was playing out ” to which I can truthfully say voiceless as getting a comment “Saying turn back you bunch of idiots” was practically impossible as the Praetorian guard rallied round Clegg and Co. Well I don’t see that mindset anymore, I suspect they have worked out they made a mistake and really don’t want to have to defend it. I’m glad about that, we all make mistakes but the worst mistake is doubling down on the original mistake. Accept the coalition was a mistake, admit our leaders had no real understanding of politics and especially Tories. Learn the lessons and move on (and don’t be inviting the old leadership back, especially if they haven’t worked out they failed the last time).

  • David Evans 5th Jan ’20 – 7:24pm…

    Exactly!

  • David Allen 6th Jan '20 - 12:20am

    The many off-topic comments about Brexit, PR and Coalition fail to do justice to John Pugh’s key point:

    “It is not surprising, therefore, if many of our troops before resuming the Sisyphean task that confronts us, wonder what future protection exists against the folly of commanders.”

    We have seen far too many diverse examples of that folly over the last ten years. Coalition – on terms not properly spelt out in the published Coalition Agreement – was a folly for which the commander/s were responsible. The Gay Sex election of 2017 was the tragic folly of one commander alone, a folly which sadly outweighed all the good things that commander had brought to our party. And the “I’m your next Prime Minister!” election of 2019 must surely have been, primarily, the folly of a single commander. Three able people, but each capable of a disastrous self-delusion.

    It’s sobering to realise that all parties put in place multiple executive committees and conferences, yet many end up being run effectively by tiny “kitchen cabinets”. Think of Theresa May, working mainly with two unelected advisers. Think of Boris, with just one. The Lib Dems are not uniquely dysfunctional. But dysfunctional they are.

    I fear that the people who like dysfunctional political parties are – the rich donors. They pay their money to gain influence. That can work, if there is only a small cabal of effective decision makers they need to dictate their requirements to. It would not work if a large independent un-biddable Executive had effective power. Which is why they generally don’t.

  • Andrew Tampion 6th Jan '20 - 7:32am

    At the risk of incurring David Allens further displeasure by going off topic again may I suggest that anyone who has not done so views and reflects on Jonathan Pies Election Aftermath video on YouTube. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0nIhL4v6bY

    Returning to the point one of the drawbacks of any democratic election is the assumption that the skills you need to persuade people to vote for you and get elected are the same skills that you need to actually successfully carry out whatever task that you have been elected to do. There we as electors have a responsibility to consider whether candidates for the Party leadership have the skills and experience to lead the party as well as the advocating policies which we happen to agree with.

    Katharine Pindar asks why Remain voters in 2016 did not necessarily vote for Remain candidates in the recent election. In my case there were two reasons. First I believe that the damage to our country and in particular it’s democracy in failing to honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum far outweigh in possible damage caused by leaving the EU. Second the pro EU campaigners appear to assume that everyone who voted Remain in 2016 is as strongly pro EU as they are. In my case I carefully considered the pros and cons and decided on balance to vote Remain, on another day I might have voted Leave. But my decision was a marginal one and therefore I was and remain happy to accept the result.

  • @David, you are right, and encapsulate why I am beginning to wonder whether I want to legitimatise all of this by remaining a member.

    In theory at least, the existence of your ‘kitchen cabinet’ should make it easier to identify those responsible for the recent fiasco. After all, in your example, Mrs May’s two advisers were very quickly sent packing by their party after 2017.

    But it remains the case that everyone who sat on a party committee and didn’t speak out when presented with proposals for what turned into the most risible and misjudged election campaign strategy of our lifetime is culpable, if not responsible.

  • Doug Chisholm 6th Jan '20 - 8:26am

    100% agree. We are terrible at strategy and messaging. In some ways this seems to be by product of our local campaigning. Just deliver a mountain of leaflets, double drop, blue letter the full 9 yards. Excellent but not enough to win more than a handful of seats. We need to clear, honest and limited in our ambitions. A strong voice in parliament to stand up for liberal values against parties that treat democracy with contempt. Like we did this time in 2019.

    When I popped into a target seat during the campaign I said it was a car crash, the next prime minister and revoke going doing like a cup of cold sick. The response? It is going well here.

    Time change the record. Where we work we usually lose. Let’s change that.

  • Graham Evans 6th Jan '20 - 8:30am

    Is it not ironic that what is likely to be one of the lasting achievements of the Coalition, namely gay marriage, was opposed by a man who now tells us why the Coalition went wrong.

  • Andrew Tampion 6th Jan ’20 – 7:32am…………..At the risk of incurring David Allens further displeasure by going off topic again may I suggest that anyone who has not done so views and reflects on Jonathan Pies Election Aftermath video on YouTube. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0nIhL4v6bY…………………..

    I know it’s comedy but, as Jonathan Pie has spent the last three years calling those who voted ‘Leave’ “Thick, uninformed, etc.”, a little introspection, on his part, might not go amiss.

  • [How does Tom Harney manage to pose his question responding to the lead at 10.30 am yesterday, 5th Jan, when it only got to my laptop this morning, Monday 6th? ]

    Tom Harney’s question is a good one: “What would the ideal agenda look like which would give members the chance to really influence the future of our party?”

    I believe the answer has two parts:

    Part 1: The way to influence the future of our party is to have a small number of radical proposals for influencing the future of our country.

    Part 2: First among those should be the asserted intention of bringing us all into an economy, and a way of life, based on UBI.

    I know there is much groaning opposition to the idea at the moment. That is why the Labour Party in its recent manifesto chickened out of adopting it, despite having commissioned and got a very convincing report on the idea. Their lack of nerve is our opportunity. I shall try to develop this idea in the next few days.

    Labour’s silence contrasts with the courage of the Greens, who did include UBI in their manifesto. We must either compete with them, to lead our four nations in that direction, or collaborate with them.

    We probably have four years to get this going effectively as a manifesto commitment. That may sound like a long time, after the last few frantic years: it is not. We must start now, if we are not to be overtaken and left struggling in the wake of other parties; Labour will come round to it. The competition then, between three parties, will in the end not be “UBI?”, but “Which UBI, and Why?” I believe it is a policy which exactly matches the values and the character of the Lib Dems, humane, fair, and sensible.

  • John Peters 6th Jan '20 - 9:41am

    There was a clean Remain majority in the Commons. That was the problem, MPs asked the question and then spent years prevaricating because they did not like the answer.

    You do not negate the result of a referendum by a general election. Too many Lib Dems have no understanding of what democracy means.

    Perhaps then Lib Dems should ditch diversity training and spend the money on democracy training instead.

  • Just a reminder that it was members who voted for the policy of Revoking Article 50!

    Appreciate this may have been covered in other comments but there are just too many to read them all.

  • Nigel Jones 6th Jan '20 - 10:33am

    David, I am sure most of us are “unclear where my party is headed and how it intends to get there”. This is what we must now work out and it will take a little time. First, we must not rush into electing a new leader; we must not even start that process until after the May elections.
    Second, it would be good if we had opportunity to start the debate about our values, how they translate into policy in the current circumstances, how we build locally and how we challenge government (within and outside Parliament). I fear it is too late for York conference; that would require FCC to radically change its normal format and for individuals to lead discussions of a different nature; I fear that filling conference time with the usual debates on single issues will not be the best way forward.

  • Peter Hirst 6th Jan '20 - 10:37am

    Some of our challenges I think stem from our perception that we need to be distinctive and so invent or prioritise policies that make us stand out. The electorate is not naive. They know we exist. In some ways we at a national level try too hard to justify our existence. Better to allow it to come to us; those who might support us don’t need easily denounced front line polices and we might get a fairer coverage in the media.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jan '20 - 10:39am

    @ Paul Walter,

    ” …..but by far the bulk of the “noes” were MPs in favour of leaving the EU.” ???

    What about all the opposition MPs who voted against it too?

    I’m not quite sure what your point is. But, regardless of its merits and flaws, the fact remains that Mrs May’s withdrawal strategy was defeated by both Remainers and Leavers, who, for their own different reasons, didn’t much like what she was proposing.

    Whichever way individuals voted in the referendum and various elections, and whichever way MPs voted in Parliamentary divisions, they were all exercising their democratic rights.

    Do you have a problem with that?

  • David Garlick 6th Jan '20 - 11:16am

    Excellent and spot on.
    Maybe York could bring forward a ‘Members Parliament’ style group to work on what is really needed and inform the leadership accordingly?

  • John Probert 6th Jan '20 - 11:55am

    In my view Jo Swinson’s leadership in the GE was inspirational. I trust that she will stay and play a key part in our future campaigning. Stand up for Jo.

  • Rodney Watts 6th Jan '20 - 12:26pm

    @ John Probertb 6th Jan 20 -11.55am
    Regret I cannot agree in any way

  • Peter Watson 6th Jan '20 - 12:50pm

    @Nigel Jones “First, we must not rush into electing a new leader; we must not even start that process until after the May elections.”
    I’m not a member so it’s not my call, but given the small number of MPs I think the party will look pretty rudderless is if takes too long to choose one as a new leader. Also, I believe that it will lead to speculation that the party is waiting for a by-election to deliver a suitable leader, undermining the credibility of all of the current potential candidates (particularly Ed Davey).

  • Peter Watson 6th Jan '20 - 1:37pm

    @Russell “The problem with Revoke was not that it wasn’t defendable but that it had to be defended.”
    I think that sums up the problem brilliantly!

  • David Allen 6th Jan '20 - 1:40pm

    Strangely, all three parties are twisting in the wind right now. Labour, as usual, are taking the lead in hanging out all the dirty washing in public. It looks awful, but might have the merit of driving out some of the cant and the wishful thinking. The Lib Dems are practicing their hindsight skills and mostly keeping quiet. Even the victors seem unsure of themselves. According to John Harris, they are even trying to take their own “one nation Conservative” propaganda seriously – though that probably won’t last, it generally doesn’t!

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/06/tories-dilemma-change-lose-voters-brexit-working-class

    One moderately good reason for all this drift is that nobody can be sure what the real issues will be at the next election. Mass migration from Australia? A new Iraq War? And what about Brexit? Starmer thinks it’s last year’s news. I would suggest, not on your nelly. When we said it would be a national distaster, we meant it. It will be. It will be a running sore. If that turns out to be the case, Johnson will need to be harried remorselessly, and Britain will need an opposition that is ready to do that.

    But a bad reason for drift is that it helps potential leaders who seek to evade issues. Starmer showed strengths when he was Shadow Brexit Secretary, but now he is showing weaknesses – a reliance on creative ambiguity to pull together and take charge of Labour’s “big tent”. It shouldn’t just be left to Jess Phillips to challenge the evasions.

  • Nigel Hardy 6th Jan '20 - 1:56pm

    @ Russell

    This election has to be Labour’s wake up call, but won’t be unless the party’s ready to confront the truth. In turn our leadership has to stop attacking theirs. The stark truth under our FPTP, with the hard right now on the rampage on its 80 seat majority is that unpleasant election gerrymandering is on the agenda. Unless all opposition parties are willing to group together as progressive alliance, to oppose the govt as one the Tories will be laughing at us for decades.

    In a few years the electorate will loathe the Tories far more than just 55% of the voters on 12 December, but Labour and the LibDem’s will have to have a strong joint message which puts PR (and a positive message for) front and centre to capture that Brexit resentment when it resurfaces. With that message should be constitutional reform both local and national democratic reforms that listens to people’s concerns.

    If Labour elect Kier Starmer I’d hope for some pragmatism in re-shaping the future given that 76% of Labour members approve of PR. If its Corbyn in drag there will no change of governemnt for at least fifteen while labour shrivels making way for a new political force to take its place.

    In short the LibDems to well when the (centre) left does well. It does badly when the hard left rises.

  • Peter Watson 6th Jan '20 - 2:29pm

    Nigel Hardy “Corbyn in drag”
    Tut, tut. Probably not the sort of phrase that should be bandied around.

  • Jane Reed: it was those (very few) members who come to Conference who saddled us with Revoke. Just as they saddled us with Woke and Toke; those two other mainstays of our ‘campaign’. OMOV is fine if all members can vote, but moving away from representative numbers of delegates from local Parties has left Conference open to hi-jack by any and every minority and interest group whose unemployed and unemployable members can spare the time and the cost of a cheap B&B. Who do they represent other than themselves? Straight out of the Ed Miliband £3 membership playbook and with a not dis-similar result. We need to change this.

  • Sue Sutherland 6th Jan '20 - 2:54pm

    At the moment the authoritarian view of the world is dominating politics both domestically and increasingly across the world. George Lakoff sees this as rooted in how people view family and argues it is based on the strict family model. If you see the EU as an authoritarian monster, of course you want to leave it in preference for a domestic authoritarian party over whom you may have more control. What we have failed to do is promote our view of the world based on the nurturing parent family. This envisages a nurturing community based on cooperation which requires honesty, openness and trust. I think if you compare our policies on knife crime with those of the Tories, the difference is striking.
    We have managed to apply this view of the world towards local communities, but we’ve failed to do so in national politics, so we’re a bit like a headless chicken, rushing around locally without much of an idea of what to do at the top, except work towards the policies we espouse on an ad hoc basis.
    Socialism is an authoritarian way of viewing the world and obviously so is Toryism. We have to make our world view clearer. We think of the UK as interconnecting and interdependent, a community. We must apply this to national politics as well as local. Early Liberalism, linked to Non Conformism, had the example of St Paul’s view of the church to explain this concept, when he compares it to a body which has very different parts which are all needed for the body to function. Most people do not have that model in their heads these days so we must show them how we are different by applying community politics to the nation and beyond.
    I believe this is the way to break through the present battle between the giants and that we will attract members from other parties and none of the above, who wish to stop the hatred that Brexit has brought.

  • Graham Evans 6th Jan '20 - 4:27pm

    While we can argue till the cows come home whether a particular policy or tactic adopted by the Liberal Democrats was right or appropriate to achieve electoral success, the fundamental issue is that centre left poltical parties throughout the western world have failed to come up with a new vision in response to globalisation, anaemic growth, and a distribution of wealth which favours those with specialist high level skills or existing capital. This contrasts with populist parties, mainly of the right but also in some cases of the left, which offer apparently simple solutions to complex problems. There really isn’t anything unique about the challenges facing the Liberal Democrats (or indeed the Labour party). Whether it be in Scandinavia, Germany, the US, or many other western democracies liberal democracy is in retreat. Looking to the past for solutions to today’s problems is of questionable value.

  • David Evans 6th Jan '20 - 4:28pm

    PRoberts 5th Jan ’20 – 7:53pm – an interesting if rather misguided thought.

    I have been a member of the party, particularly supporting its values as expressed in the preamble, and its predecessor for far too long to give up on it and leave. Some of the discontented have to remain to ensure that those not comfortable in anything less than intellectually perfect failure have some from the other side of the party around (the “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard …” wing, as opposed to the “The Liberal Democrats exist to enable me to endlessly pontificate on what this country needs, but never how I personally need to change to actually build or safeguard any of it” wing) to remind new members of how we did succeed before Generation Clegg took over.

  • David Allen:

    Not that I’d trust my ability to predict four years ahead, but I think most likely is that at the next election:
    1) Things are a mess
    2) Brexit is obviously quite a large part of the cause
    3) “Anti-Brexit” campaigning is nevertheless not a vote-winner

    The reason I think is that most seriously anti-Brexit voters already voted LD or Labour (or SNP where available) this time round. Rejoining the EU will not be a quick or straightforward process after four years of legislative divergence even for a party with a solid majority, and won’t answer the immediate questions of “what will you do right now to fix this crisis? or this one?”.

    Meanwhile, pro-Brexit voters might still be unable to accept that Brexit is the cause of the problems … but might be more sympathetic to blaming the Tories. After all, Brexit was supposed to fix our problems, so the *new* problems must be the government’s fault.

  • David Evans 6th Jan '20 - 4:33pm

    Graham Evans 6th Jan ’20 – 4:27pm – Your point is well made, but it has to be better to seek to learn from the mistakes of the past and improve rather than keep following those unreconstructed failures who made the mistakes of the past.

  • David Allen 6th Jan '20 - 7:12pm

    cim,

    Yes, it’s sadly possible that Brexit will go terribly, and yet that a campaign to reverse Brexit might turn out to be tactically unwise, for whatever reason. So – I wouldn’t suggest that we take the dogmatic stance that we will definitiely want to rejoin the EU in five years time. It may be enough to call out Brexit as a catastrophic mistake, and point out the culpability of Johnson’s (mis)government, as repeatedly and forcefully as we can.

    Then, as time passes and events happen, we should decide what policies are actually needed to tackle whatever crises arise. It might be to campaign for a renegotiation of the disastrous “border down the Irish Sea” which is wrecking the Northern Ireland economy and building up a head of steam for a united Ireland. It might be to campaign against a sell-out to US domination of UK trade. It might be to argue that resumption of free movement with the EU would be preferable to accepting India’s demand that we accept Indian immigration on a massive scale as part of a trade deal. It might be lots of things, Brexit related or otherwise.

    If, after five years of Brexit, public opinion has turned, then let’s lead the turn. If that has not happened, then let’s find the appropriate alternative counterplay.

  • Nigel Hardy 6th Jan '20 - 8:36pm

    @ cim “Not that I’d trust my ability to predict four years ahead”

    I think we can be sure things will be a mess. Brexit is not going to bring the sunlit uplands once promised to the leavers. They will not want to admit that that’s the cause of a deepeng recession, but the Tories might find themselves becoming quite unpopular among the leave community for not fixing their problems. Campaigning to Rejoin might at that stage be a tad premature, that we won’t know for sometime yet.

    We will have to have a strong message of hope to offer the Brexit voters, as well as the Remain camp, but they must not be labelled as such. Bring different sections of the electorate together and build on our vote and seats. A progressive alliance oppsition will be necessary from now on the fight elections, and our leader, along with the other small parties will have to work on Labour to bring this about.

  • David Evans
    The very best of luck to you all. I recall when David Steele was the most popular Liberal prime minister this country never had. Unfortunately though this time Lib Dems have been virtually obliterated and now face a fight for survival. I hope you achieve this and find some centre ground to re establish an influential mandate. Good luck.

  • @ PRoberts “I recall when David Steele was the most popular Liberal prime minister this country never had.” Shurely shome mishtake, PRobertsh.

    Don’t you mean silver haired bespectacled David Steele of Northamptonshire & England, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1975, and scorer of a century against the West Indians (CurtlyAmbrose & Co), in 1976 ?

    It was some other fella that was negotiating a Lib Lab pact.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jan '20 - 10:25pm

    PRoberts That was not the question. Please refer to the precise details.

  • Martin Veart 7th Jan '20 - 3:15am

    There is nothing wrong with focusing on local campaigning. When it comes to the bigger picture however, there seems to be a rush of blood to the head and, accordingly a lack of credibility with the electorate.
    Tuition fees: to go directly against an election promise was not “grown up politics” as I was told by a senior party member at the time but hubris for which we paid heavily in 2015. There seemed to be a similar lack of modesty in 2019. Since when did you become “Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats” on the verge of government? I voted for Jo on the basis she displayed the right balance of contrition for our mistakes during the coalition years, balanced with optimism for the future. Again, with the revoke policy, deliverable in the case of the Lib Dem majority government, undid our credibility with the electorate. Vince Cable worked effectively to restore our party’s fortune and left us on an upwards trend. Yes we were squeezed, especially by Labour, but it was our unrealistic public face that undermined us yet again.

    If there is one lesson that come out of it for me, it is this: claims made have to be serious, achievable and deliverable. Only then will we stop having to roll that damn rock up the hill and instead can use it as a keystone to real and lasting success.

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Jan '20 - 9:06am

    Martin Veart 7th Jan ’20 – 3:15am

    “claims made have to be serious, achievable and deliverable”

    I dunno. It sounds reasonable, but looking at who actually won last month’s election and how, can you really draw that conclusion?

  • Martin Veart 7th Jan '20 - 10:41am

    @Malcolm Todd. Unfortunately Malcolm, despite what fantasies the Conservatives come up with, they are regarded as a credible party of government by the electorate at this time. Therefore they, and a lesser extent so can Labour, indulge themselves in cloud-cuckoo politics. It is not a luxury that Liberal Democrats can afford. Nor should we ever go down that path.

  • Paul Murray 7th Jan '20 - 12:12pm

    There is an understandable trend at the moment for people to juxtapose a photo of themselves from 10 years ago with a photo from today. Let’s try that with the Liberal Democrats.

    10 years ago, the party had 63 MPs and was averaging 18% in the polls with a clear prospect of coalition government after the next election. It had a manifesto commitment to a referendum on EU membership. It demanded (and got) a commitment to a referendum on the voting system as part of the price of coalition. There was a strategy to shift the party’s electoral base to plant itself firmly in “the centre” to capture the socially progressive Conservative vote and the fiscally conservative Labour vote.

    And in 2020 the party has 11 MPs, is polling about 10%, we still have FPTP, we have left the EU and (as the Ashcroft polling data shows) younger voters still do not trust it following the tuition fee u-turn. If the Liberal Democrats had started the 2010’s with the specific intention of inflicting maximum damage to themselves and their core ideas it’s hard to see how they could have done better.

    Whatever the party chooses to do now in an effort to revive its fortunes, it would seem sensible not to involve those who made the decisions during the last decade.

  • John Barrett 7th Jan '20 - 12:58pm

    Paul Murray is correct and points out the fact that our party supported a call for an in/out referendum. Those with a selective memory constantly ignore this.

    If we are to move forward, we have to accept that Generation Clegg not only destroyed our Westminster Parliamentary numbers, they also did the same to our MEPs, MSPs and Councillors. We should also accept and understand the many failings of the most recent election campaign.

    Much of the above happened on the watch of people who are still in place and still in denial. They should not be allowed to continue to drag our party backwards.

    Hopefully in the future, there will be people in the party who are brave enough to say so and to support a change in direction away from sycophancy to whoever is the leader of the day.

  • David Raw Richard Underhill
    Apologies, love stirring it up! Lol.

  • Neil Sandison 7th Jan '20 - 8:46pm

    Good article by John Pugh but agree wth Mohammed Amin secure a form of PR in local government first where we can secure support certainly from Green and Labour MPs and the nationalist in Scotand and Wales .Push to reform business rates so that local taxes stay local to generate investment in small businesses and grow local employment Look at what the transition town movement are trying to promote .We should be champions of the circular economy .There is no such thing as waste just resources in the wrong place . renewable energy isnt just about turbines and solar arrays but community power and A improved energy grid to move energy to where its needed as we move ever more efficiently away from fossil fuels. Liberal Democrats need to refresh our agenda if we are to have a political future.

  • John Roffey 8th Jan '20 - 6:02am

    Neil Sandison 7th Jan ’20 – 8:46pm

    I certainly agree that the Party has to refresh its agenda if it is to have a political future and responding to the warnings of the climate scientists is without doubt central to that future.

    It is good to see that Wera Hothouse has been given the Climate Change brief and this has not been compromised by having to cover other issues as a result of having so few MPs. The Party’s manifesto commitments are thorough and apposite and should stand the Party in good stead should the weather extremes forecast by the climate scientists materialise over the course of the next decade. Should this be the case the Party can expect a significant increase in support by the time of the next GE.

    Having said this, there is a glaring omission from the Party’s manifesto commitments – namely the containment of consumerism. Good quality products are required that can easily be repaired and have a long lifespan. Products that will be passed on to others when the owner no longer wants them. This has become a popular approach within the fashion world with charity shops providing the facilities for items to be exchanged.

    The containment of consumerism is a difficult issue for politicians generally who have grown accustomed to promising voters increased prosperity as a reward for their support – rather than their survival or the survival of their children or grandchildren. Nevertheless, unless consumerism is contained within the next decade there is every chance that a tipping point will be reached by the end of the century that will threaten the survival of humankind along with many other species

    Containing consumerism would be a prelude to a completely different economic model that would cause many of today’s key political issues to disappear almost overnight.

  • Well said, indeed, John Roffey, today at 6.02. I’ve not seen this point made before (I can’t keep up), but it’s a good one, and worth developing because the principle (“waste not, want not!”) applies at all levels, from T-shirts to rain forests.

  • “Paul Murray is correct and points out the fact that our party supported a call for an in/out referendum. Those with a selective memory constantly ignore this.”

    The party’s MPs (except Nick Clegg) – including the OP – also supported the EU referendum bill and voted for it at second reading.

  • John Roffey 8th Jan '20 - 12:44pm

    Roger Lake 8th Jan ’20 – 10:14am

    Thanks Roger – it might be worth those who will decide how the Party is to progress considering this point.

    Brexit and the difficulties the referendum has brought to the Party would mostly be washed away if consumerism was severely curtailed. Local economies would be of paramount importance and local jobs should flourish with many required to repair/maintain products.

    It would also probably lead to a federal UK because local economies would become so important – this should help to reduce some of the problems resulting from the division of the nation into four.

  • Neil Sandison 8th Jan '20 - 9:54pm

    john Roffey cou;ldnt agree more John the repairable and reuseable are all part of the circular economy we need to develop better recovery methods as natural raw resources become harder to find and more expensive to recover . We need to enpower and reward reuse where possible through community endevour .Look how we undervalue composting for example yet thats creating food from waste food and non digestable left overs .
    Recovering steel and tin from former products rather than digging up more base metals and ores . When we now have micro plastics in our rainfall takling and taxing heavy polluters or outlawing their products will help change their business models .

  • John Roffey 9th Jan '20 - 10:36am

    Neil: Interesting article from ScienceDirect highlighting the CO2 impact of producing steel:

    Abstract
    The steel industry is the world’s largest industrial source of CO2 emissions. Recent UK economic policies have led to reduced domestic steel production giving an apparent reduction in national emissions. However, demand for goods made from steel has not reduced. Emissions have thus been transferred not reduced and implementation of UK climate policies may in future expand this ‘carbon leakage.’ [continued]

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344916300015

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