Six thoughts on the results so far (UPDATED)

An update to my earlier post, adding in the YouTube clip and reflecting a couple of other pieces of news, though still pre-London results.

For the overall picture, see my views on BBC Breakfast from the amazing new Salford studios this morning:

Beyond the headlines, six points in particular strike me:

1. It looks as if the party will keep control of all the councils that had Lib Dem majorities before Thursday. Cambridge is a technical loss, but the party will keep control on the Mayor’s casting vote. Each of those Lib Dem council leaders and their teams deserve heavy praise for that impressive verdict on their council and political skills.

2. The results in seats with Liberal Democrat MPs, at least in England, have generally been good, not only in southern England but elsewhere too. In Hallam, for example, we won every seat and our vote was up on last year. That is a major saving grace: the local election base where it really matters for general election results has come out of the last two years in a much better state than elsewhere.

3. Outside MP seats, some areas where the party would hope to gain MPs in future elections, such as in Winchester, showed decent progress on last year and an ability to go head-to-head with the Tories and survive. Some, but by no means all. There is, however, a big enough local government place in the sorts of seats the party could fight seriously for the party to be able to be contesting seriously comfortably more seats than it has won in any previous general election. If the party has to fight on a smaller front that will be because of other political considerations, not because the local base is not there. That is particularly worth stating because some in the media are trying to push as “the party is doomed” line.

4. The smaller parties have generally done badly. UKIP may have piled up some votes, but it is not breaking through in winning seats. The Greens have continued their generally lacklustre performance of the past few years. Winning their first Parliamentary seat in 2010 is the major caveat to that, but even in the 2010 election results elsewhere were frequently poor and their local government base has not made a breakthrough. Thankfully the same too can be said of the BNP, who have been doing even worse – probably ending up losing all their seats up for election.

5. Labour’s progress is decent but not spectacular. Their results this year are (still) worse than other previous oppositions have achieved, even some which have gone on to defeat. Superficially that is bad news for Labour, showing how far their recovery still has to go, but it is also a warning for the government: this may not be Labour’s peak of mid-term popularity.

6. Unless there is a bizarre outbreak of reshuffle panic, any changes should wait until Jeremy Hunt’s fate is clearer, i.e. until after his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry. When a reshuffle does come, the Liberal Democrat changes will see David Laws return. Given the size of the task still facing the party, changes should also be made that reflect the relative media ability of Lib Dem ministers (see this league table). There is no room for those who are content to be low profile. Every minister needs to be making a full contribution to getting over the party’s message.

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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80 Comments

  • Paul McKeown 4th May '12 - 4:33pm

    “Jeremy Hunt’s fate”

    Hunt is a damaging distraction and completely compromised. The argument that “it was my political advisor wot dunnit, innit?” is a total failure. I don’t know anyone I have met in the general (politically un- and dis- interested) public who thinks he should stay. Clegg must find the means to tell Cameron and Osborne this unpalatable truth. Hunt will have to be the Tory’s fall guy: he has to go for the greater good, for now, at least.

  • I drive down Queen Edith’s Way in Cambridge most days. In the run up to the elections I usually see Lib Dem campaign material in the front gardens of at least 10 houses. This year there were none and the seat was lost. So either the local party didn’t campaign as much as normal or this solidly “progressive” city no longer sees the Lib Dems as their natural choice.

  • paul barker 4th May '12 - 5:14pm

    I am beginning to wonder if voting in local elections is icreasingly being treated like a big opinion poll by many voters, a safe place to protest against recession, cuts & coalition while the important question of what to do at the general election is forgotten.
    I still believe that we will get more votes than labour in may 2015 but its quite possible that voters will go on thumping us in the locals next year & the year after & in the polls.
    The real danger for the coalition is that our members or the tories will lose their nerve before the real fight begins.

  • “I still believe that we will get more votes than labour in may 2015”

    Are you more or less confident of that prediction than you were that the LIb Dems would have only 50 net losses yesterday?

  • I don’t see Hunt in the long grass – I see an extended TORY SLEAZE meme building – a constant drip drip of new allegations and revelations, Cameron vacillating, before bowing to the inevitable, leading to more questions about his lack of judgement, just like the appointment of Coulson. Leveson will be retiring at the age of 119 at this point, he will be asked to judge events that occurred after his inquiry even began. Ridicule should be heaped upon Cameron by any Lib Dems MPs who are not (ironically) bound by the ministerial code. May the Murdoch saga run and run, there are still revelations to come. “Tory” and “Sleaze” goes together like “Peaches” and “Cream.”

  • Mark

    To be fair – you may have written this before the London results started coming in. However, these results are particularly bad for us and particularly good for the Greens which rather goes against your point 4. It now appears fairly clear that the Greens will have come third both in the election for Mayor and in the London-wide list and will be a weak fourth. Also, votes do not seem to have held up particularly well in seats held by Lib Dem MPs either.

    It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the coalition has hit us particularly hard in the capital (although that may also reflect a weaker starting point). Strangely, these more proportional voting systems don’t actually seem to be in our favour…..

  • Killer Queen 4th May '12 - 5:55pm

    I have to say that Paul Barker is absolute quality. He really is the ‘Lib Dem Voice’ equivalent of that Iraqi minister during the Iraq War who used to claim that they were repelling the allies … just as the American tanks were rolling in behind him! Does anybody REALLY believe there’s a cat in hell’s chance of the Lib Dems getting more votes than Labour in 2015!? Just some (admittedly not scientific) anecdotal evidence for you – I was pretty shocked when I voted yesterday, for the first time ever, there was no Lib Dem candidate on the ballot paper. Also, of the four people I work with who voted (for the first ever time) Lib Dem at the last election, one of them abstained, the other three voted Labour. This is a Northern town.

  • Tony Dawson 4th May '12 - 6:57pm

    @paul barker :

    “The real danger for the coalition is that our members or the tories will lose their nerve before the real fight begins.”

    The real fight which, in most of the constituencies which matter, will be with each other!

    On the media front, I am rather concerned with Mark’s “never mind the the quality, feel the width,” approach. To maintain the tailoring analogy, some of our ‘ frequent fliers’ on the TV are are shoddy.

  • Foregone Conclusion 4th May '12 - 6:57pm

    “It looks as if the party will keep control of all the councils it ran before Thursday.”

    This completely ignores the NOCs, like Birmingham , Cardiff or Sefton, where we are no longer in control but were significant partners – in the case of Cardiff, leaders – before yesterday. And the reason why we’ve not lost any this time is because most fell last time round.

  • Mark G: Yup, I didn’t really go into London as much of its results were still up in the air at the time. How they pan out is certainly an additional point.

    Tony: Agreed, quality and quantity matter – and in a few cases lack of quantity is a good thing (e.g. Chief Whips are normally only in the news regularly for bad reasons). I’ve gone into that more in the post I linked to. Congratulations on your own result, by the way.

  • Keith Browning 4th May '12 - 7:26pm

    Tony Blair famously held a meeting the day after winning in 1997 to begin the campaign for the next one. The LibDems need to start their campaign next Monday. I’m sure the Tories will.

    Last night was pitiful with the LibDem TV panelists just lying down and being rolled over. No-one briefed them about the successes in Portsmouth and elsewhere. They also seemed reluctant to knock the Tories. A coalition is a business arrangement not a marriage. Overall, it was sad to watch the performance of the public face of the party.

    Perhaps the LibDems need a ‘militant tendency’, who are prepared to be more vocal and ‘in your face’.

  • @Maggy

    The presumption you appear to make is that the lib dems will fight the next election on the basis of continuing to be in a coalition with the Conservatives. One major problem with that, if Labour’s vote at the next election matches its vote in these local elections they will have enough seats for a majority government. Also, the lib dems will not necessarily stay in a coalition with the Conservatives after the next election, and if Labour get a higher percentage of the vote than the Conservatives it would appear strange for the present arrangement to continue.

  • At a time when Tory sleaze is re-emerging, how exactly is it going to be helpful to bring back a minister who was suspended from the House of Commons for six breaches of expenses rules?

  • Paul McKeown 4th May '12 - 7:52pm

    @Keith Browning

    Agree strongly with all you have said.

  • “With that, the combined coalition vote is 47% against Labour’s 38%.”

    But under our electoral system, the “combined coalition vote” is relevant only if there is an electoral pact between the Tories and the Lib Dems – and even then one can’t assume that neither party would lose any support by declaring a pact.

    Nevertheless, it may well happen. If saving Lib Dem seats were the sole objective, it might well be the best option.

  • Peter Watson 4th May '12 - 8:20pm

    @Moggy
    “the combined coalition vote is 47% against Labour’s 38%. … On these results at this time, Labour isn’t wining the next General Election.”
    If we had some sort of PR or AV system that would be true. But our leadership cocked that up for a generation.

  • Nigel – I agree, give someone else a chance

  • Keith Browning 4th May '12 - 9:43pm

    Just watched the vid – well said Mark, all the things that were lacking last night. Also notice how the Tory dumped the ‘sleaze’ on to the Coalition not the Tory party. That seems to be a good place to start in the differentiation between the two coalition partners. Still a Murdoch free zone……I hope.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '12 - 11:08pm


    The presumption you appear to make is that the lib dems will fight the next election on the basis of continuing to be in a coalition with the Conservatives.

    If we do, it will be the first general election since I joined the party in the 1970s that I will not be actively campaiging for it. As it was, I was so fed up with the incompetency of our national eadership that I decided not to bother doing any work in the London elections this year. Going out campaiging for the party now is, in the words of Geoofrey Howe, like going out to the crease only to find your team captain has broken your bats.

    Any talk from our side about these results being “mid term blues” is an example of this incompetency. This is NOT a Liberal Democrat government, therefore we should not be taking the blame for its unpopularity, and if people are blaming us for it we should be putting them straight. It is a Conservative government with a little LibDem influence, we should be making it absolutely clear that is a very different thing from what a majority LibDem government would be like. The things that people don’t like about this government are Conservative things, if there had been more LibDem MPs and less Tory MPs there wold have been less of them.

  • “The things that people don’t like about this government are Conservative things, if there had been more LibDem MPs and less Tory MPs there wold have been less of them.”

    Unfortunately that’s not entirely true. You’ve agreed to things – the NHS ‘reforms’ probably being the prime example – that weren’t in the coalition agreement and couldn’t have been forced on you within the coalition framework unless you’d voluntarily agreed to them, no matter how many Tory MPs there had been. The ‘web-snooping’ proposals would have been another example – though I hope the Lib Dem leadership has thought better of that particular measure.

  • I will just try to say this again, because when attempts are being made to minimise the significance of the losses, I think it is relevant information.

    The LIb Dems lost almost 44% of the seats they were defending on Thursday.

    After two years in coalition with the Conservatives, the number of Lib Dem councillors is already at an all-time low. That is, after only two bad years of the four-year cycle. Two more years like this would leave the party well below that all-time low.

  • patricia roche 5th May '12 - 8:30am

    Watched the podcast. A few things occurred to me. As a voter I want representation, not more of ‘in the national interest’. As a voter, I am upset by massive changes to the healh service. As a labour party member, I am fed up of being sneered at by a party that sold all their values for power. Neither do I think I am alone. You will, of course, not print this. Tactical voting against Tories is no longer possible, because vote lib dem, get Tory. So I will not do it. Neither do I think I am alone. I cannot see how the lib dems can disentangle now. The nasty and unfair cuts have only just started, (although some cuts to millionaires in tax terms give them more money). I am also, as a taxpayer, upset that in your intended cabinet reshuffle, you are going to put a minister who fiddled expenses, to tell me that we are all in it together. What will you lib dems do about the next hung parliament. Choose the tories again?

  • Mark,
    I listened, with interest, to your assertion that, “It’s better to be the victims of ‘mid-term-blues’ than not to be in government”.
    I don’t know; if the voters’ verdict is, “Never Again”, we may well end up worse off!

  • jenny barnes 5th May '12 - 9:40am

    Having seen David Laws economic recipe – can we have Vince back, please?

  • Peter Watson 5th May '12 - 9:59am

    @Moggy
    It’s also opposition UKIP, opposition Green, opposition SNP, opposition PC, independents, etc.
    Furthermore, this was in an election where local issues might have compensated for perceived betrayal at a national level.
    In London we were a distant 4th in mayoral and assembly elections. Same story in Wales and Scotland.
    Where we did well, holding councils, etc., it was against the conservatives, not where there was a strong anti-coalition opposition (where we could not even beat a penguin). The only silver lining we have is that in a general election in LD-CON marginals we might hold on – unless Labour stands aside for populist independents (e.g. “Save the NHS” candidate).
    Our only consolation was that the conservatives did badly as well. But not as badly as us because LD voters no longer know what the party stands for.

  • So Mark Pack thinks the results were good ‘Where it matters’!!!! ie where the professional party is dug in and is well funded.Well if we exist to preserve the careers of a few middleclass ‘managerial’ politicians…I obviously joined the wrong party 35 years ago!

    This is our point of crisis as a Party as Nick Perry says…..but I am afraid we will just fade out as people walk away sick to death of nob ody being prepared to say its a bloody disaster!…What happened to ths Big Vision that motivated and recruited soo many people….seems a pretty sad end to it all to me.

  • Peter Watson 5th May '12 - 10:17am

    @Peter
    I agree with you entirely.
    I have only recently come to LDV to try and gauge (and engage with) LD opinion since I feel let down by what I see at the top, in order to help me decide whether or not to stick with the party I’ve supported since I was old enough to vote (my 1st GE was 1987).

  • There is no getting away from the fact that the elections were very poor for the LD outside certain areas and the excuse of mid-term blues does have some weight.

    The thing with mid-term blues is that they require the core vote to return at the next election and that is where the problem lies I think.

    The LD have always been renowned for their local strength which is why they have done well in local elections. The problem is that if this is the case here then the 16% overestimates the situation is a national poll (and I think my assertion has more credibility than paul barker’s who insists the party will better Labour at the next election).

    My prognostication for 2015 is that the LD will poll between 12-15% but manage to hold on to a number of seats in the rich south (thanks to Labour tactical votes) and also those in the north with strong MPs. I think you will virtually wiped out in London, Scotland and the northern urban areas making you a Southern and rural dominated party, very dependent on incumbents.

    This would be real shame as I still believe that you have been a force for good in the past and have tried to make a difference with the Coalition.

    The problem though is your leadership, with the indications coming from the Government that we will see more love-ins between the quartet. This is disastrous and will make my predictions more likely come true.

    To change the game the LD need to stop being nice to the Tories, stop voting for things not in the Coalition agreement and change your leader well before 2015. Ideally withdrawal from the Coalition and changing the leader would help but I do not see that happening

    Remember at the last election the LD received 23% of the votes compared to just 36% of the Tories – in this respect you are the minority party but not as much as FPTP shows. The one power you have is that the Tories do not have a majority so why not try to assert yourselves based on the number of people who voted for you – become a brake on the Tories not just lobby fodder

  • Simon Holbrook 5th May '12 - 12:35pm

    I do question the presumption that somehow we can succeed when the coalition is failing. If the coalition fails – we fail. However, if the coalition succeeds, it does not follow that we will succeed. Whilst we have to follow a strategy of differentiating ourselves from the Tories, it can only succeed if the coalition is successfully turning round the economy. It is the appearance of hypocrisy that is so damaging. Undermining Tory policies in the background, (like the NHS) only to vote them through when the crunch comes. We might be able to get away with some of this if we have growth in the economy – but our economic policy is not working. We cannot enter the next general election with essentially the same economic policies as the Tories.

    I do admire the optimism of some of the post-election spin. All well and good for public consumption. But if we start to believe our own propoganda and don’t recognise the depth of the damage that is being done in many parts of the country, we will cease to exist as a major party. Our future competitors will not be Tory and Labour, but the Greens and UKIP.

  • Starting to think we can’t have Laws tainted by association with this govervment. We might need him to pick up the pieces.

  • Richard Dean 5th May '12 - 1:14pm

    @Mark. I thought you did well on the TV. There was a minor issue with your eye-glasses – they showed an unsettling plus sign which may have affected viewers. I suppose the only way to fix this would have been to insists on sitting somehere else. As a performer I have no experience, but as I viewer I do, and I do have a minor suggestion for improvement. While you defended LibDems well and got across the message of achievement, it seemed a bit forgettable. Maybe just my own impression (from viewing the video once only), but the fat lady was a bit more interesting because of seeming vulnerable, and both she and the Mirror man appeared to be more friendly by being open to dialog – indeed they started what might have become an interesting debate at the end. Anyway, that’s maybe something to think about for next time. Your performance looked solid and good, well done!

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th May '12 - 1:19pm

    “Whilst we have to follow a strategy of differentiating ourselves from the Tories…”

    Difficult to do when all coaltion policies are signed off by the Lib Dem leadership.

    I have however noticed one respect in which the Lib Dems are seeking to distance themselves (quite literally) from the Tories. For the first 18 months of the coalition, Lib Dems tended to sit next to their Tory partners on TV programmes such as Question Time and Newsnight. That seems to have changed recently – now the coalition politicians have taken to sitting (somewhat misleadingly) either side of the Labour representative. I think someone at Lib Dem HQ realised that the sight of Lib Dems nodding in agreement with Tories in the same shot was not helping to win back disaffected voters. Perhaps the next step will be for Clegg and Alexander to go and sit next to Miliband and Balls during PMQs?

  • The main lesson you can learn from the results is that the coalition is basically unpopular. If the economy recovers it could look like mid term blues, if not the votes that look fairly solid in the South could go all over the place. Some staying solid, some going to the Greens, some back to the Tories some to Labour. It’s worth looking at what h happened in the wake of a similar coalition in Australia.
    Too many loses and finances starts to become a problem, So getting behind fixed election funding limits could be a priority, but then again that could cause credibility problems,

  • paul barker 5th May '12 - 4:05pm

    I really wish I could offer some short or even medium term hope, but I cant. Whats happened is that local voting, like VI polls have become detached from voting in general elections. The voters have stopped thinking about politics till they have to & they dont have to for another 3 years.
    I sincerly believe that may 2015 will see the breakthrough that we have longed for, but I dont now hold out any hope of our performance improving before then.
    Its going to be a war of nerves, a question of who cracks 1st, us, the tories or labour. Please dont let it be us.

  • Simon Hebditch 5th May '12 - 4:36pm

    Maybe someone can enlighten me or show that I am wrong. I always thought that our overall level of local election results – 16% this year as last – was ahead of what we achieve at a general election. Is that right? If so, can we expect to receive about 10-12% at the GE in 2015?

  • Simon Hebditch 5th May '12 - 4:42pm

    But on a more important point – it is clear to many that the Coalition government is following a fundamentally flawed economic and fiscal policy. This deficit reduction programme is the centrepiece of government strategy and all the social and welfare cuts exist in order to attempt to reduce the deficit. Oddly, the only red line that the Lib Dem leadership is prepared to envisage in the coalition’s plans seems to be this very self-same economic strategy. We should be planning our way out of the Coalition now. The Lib Dems cannot illustrate their “differentiation” from the Tories – the public see us as jointly responsible for all government policies, quite rightly, so we cannot claim to be an independent party at the moment.

  • Peter Chegwyn 5th May '12 - 4:42pm

    If Paul Barker seriously thinks that May 2015 “will see the breakthrough that we have longed for” then I’m afraid that the results from May 2011 and May 2012 suggest he is living in cloud cuckoo land.

    The analysis by Simon Hebditch is far more likely to point the way to 2015.

    So long as we remain in coalition with an increasingly unpopular right-wing Tory Party that is despised by many of our core voters we are in danger of returning to our position of the late 1970s with a handful of MPs and half-a-dozen Lib Dem Councils. 40 years of hard work building-up our local government powerbase and gaining power in great cities like Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull, Edinburgh, Southampton etc. will be lost.

    In short, the Party risks sleep-walking over an electoral precipice and if we think the 2011 and 2012 council results were bad then don’t forget that 2013 could be even worse.

    And before anyone asks, I’m not one of the 800+ councillors who sadly lost their seat on Thursday. We actually gained the 2nd seat in my Ward with a Lib. Dem. majority doubled from 2010 and quadrupled from 2008.

    But when I see people saying the future of our Party is as a right-wing Party I have to say that if you want to go that way then fine but don’t expect people like me to go with you. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting Tory cuts that destroy people’s lives and I deeply dislike being in bed with a Tory Party that I have nothing in common with.

    I haven’t changed. The Party sadly has. After nearly 40 years I’m still a member, a Borough & County Councillor and a hard-working local activist… I will always be a Liberal but the national Party in its present guise is no longer a Party that Liberals like myself feel happy being a member of.

    Rant over! I’m off to the pub!

  • paul barker 5th May '12 - 5:34pm

    Can I just reiterate the point that we cant use VI polls as evidence of what the voters are thinking about politics because the voters arent thinking about politics. Some of the other polling gets deeper, for instance if you give voters 2 ways to “like” parties as Comres do then the evidence suggests that our core vote is much the same as labours, around 15%. Most of the people who claim they are going to vote labour actually prefer the coalitions leadership & economic policies, their “votes” are very soft.
    While we take local politics very seriously we have to accept that most voters dont. They treat them as a glorified opinion polls when they can be bothered to vote at all.
    There is evidence of light at the end of the tunnel, we have to hang on & keep going.

  • I am deeply saddened by Thursday’s results. In Liverpool .our major cities breakthrough started fifty years ago in Church ward . This week in Liverpool that very same ward alone returned a Lib Dem councillor.Years of sacrificial and exhausting campaigning and of Lib Dem leadership was cast aside. It was a similar story in so many places.
    First class teams of councllors lost their seats. Canvassing in my own patch (not a big city !) it was clear that actions and perceptions of the Coalition were largely to blame – in many places Tories are anathema and to be linked to them is asking for rejection.We as a party could see no other way of tackling the present crisis.Only a Tory-Lib Dem coalition would give us the total of M.P.s needed to form a stable government.
    A major mistake was to rush through a Coalition agreement far too hastily.But our betrayal on Tuition Fees was the first crunch. Liberals and lib dems had a

  • …………..a broken pledge shattered people,s perception of us as the party you could trust offerening a” new politics”. Our support was halved and this week’s results confirm that. Can we reclaim people’s confidence ? Have we too often submerged our liberal values and backed policies which would not have seen the light of day if we were in government by ourselves ? Is it Liberal values versus a continuing coalition ?

  • David Evans 5th May '12 - 6:50pm

    I think that the last sentence is incorrect. Instead of “Every minister needs to be making a full contribution to getting over the party’s message,” it sould have said “Every minister needs to be making a full contribution to get their ministry to deliver a Liberal Democratic administration with wide voter appeal.” If we pretend it is just the message, we are behaving just the same as the other two parties when they find they are failing in the opinion polls.

  • I voted LD at every election for years. I did not vote LD on Thursday because the party has betrayed the very principles that made it representative of my opinion.
    That LD’s are supporting a tory government in some of the assaults on the most vulnerable as well as the carving up of the NHS is disgraceful. I don’t think you have ANY idea why voters are rejecting you & I wonder what it will take before you recognise that you have sold us out.

    Peter Chegwyn is the only one who seems to have some idea of what voters think !

    Ask yourselves:
    if you had not gone into government with the tories, would you have supported what they are doing or would you have voted against their plans ?
    Why didn’t you force them into a minority government thus allowing you to vote inaccordance with your own manifesto & mandate offered to you by your voters ?
    Was the taste of power too good to refuse ?
    What will happen in 2015 if Labour are the party with most votes but not with a majority – will LD’s want to form another coalition with a party they have attacked for 5 years ? Wouldn’t this make you hypocritical for all your attacks on Labour in the years between 2010 – 2015 ?

    There are many like me who won’t vote LD again until we can see some evidence that the ones that matter to you is US – the electorate ! As it stands, it seems that the party exists to sit in judgement of previous governments & the pious look on Cleggs face & the verbal attacks on Labour (who should be your natural allies – NOT the tories) are sickening.

  • I think points 2 & 3 are really important. In my area, where there are no Lib Dem MPs, we did very badly; that is no doubt because we don’t have a delivery network that is continually getting the Lib Dem message out. At the last GE we won 15,000-20,000 votes in local seats; next time, all those votes could be lost and the Party wouldn’t be down a single MP. That sounds quite harsh and cold, but it’s just pure political calculation. So long as we can keep it together in our held and target seats we’ll hopefully keep Parliament hung… if we can do that a few times we’ll prove the electoral system is broken and needs changing (whatever the decision on AV last year).

  • Steve Griffiths 5th May '12 - 10:46pm

    “When a reshuffle does come, the Liberal Democrat changes will see David Laws return.”

    Oh great, another Orange Booker in the Lib Dem Coalition team! If Nick Clegg really wanted to unite his party then he should consider a more balanced team in the cabinet, to reflect all wings of the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '12 - 11:41pm

    Kris King

    Why didn’t you force them into a minority government thus allowing you to vote inaccordance with your own manifesto & mandate offered to you by your voters ?

    Had this been done, the Liberal Democrats would have been blamed for anything going wrong in the economy on the grounds “it’s due to the instability caused by having a minority government”. The right-wing press would run the line “The Conservatives won the election, what right have the Liberal Democrats, with just one fifth their number of MPs, to stop them?”. Indeed, now, if you look at the right-wing press, you see a rather different story from the “sold out their principles for power and are now indistinguishable from the Tories” – you see the LibDems painted as loony leftists, stopping the Tories doing what they want to do (and being blamed for the poor economy because of that) and yes you do see the”what right do they have with just one sixth of the coalition’s MPs?” line. Unfortunately, no-one outside actual LibDem members seems to get the line about the LibDems having two-thirds of the votes of the Tories – perahps it’s the dreadful innumeracy that exists in this country, but I’ve found people’s eyes glaze over when you try it, and they think it’s just some sort of sour grapes trickery.

    The idea that we could just sit back and vote down Tory budgets for five years is nuts. The Tories would just call another general election and say “Give us a majority so we can govern properly – get rid of the LibDems”.

    If we had proportional representation, the LibDems could exert a power proportional to their vote. But we don’t. Not only that, when the people of this country were asked they voted two-to-one against even the tiny compromise of the AV system. The victorious “No” campaign made their main argument that the current system distorts representation so the biggest party gets more seats than their share of the vote and third parties get less, so leading mostly to a government of one party. Well, we didn’t quite get that in 2010, but the distortions of the system almost gave it to us, weakening the LibDems and strengthening the Conservatives so giving us a near-Conservative government. By two to one, the people of this contry voted to say that is what they want. Many leading Labour politicians joined the “No” campaign and hence effectively urged for a vote of confidence in the government we have – one which resulted from the twisted electoral system they were urging us to keep.

    So, please, don’t blame the LibDems, blame the people of this country for the way they voted in 2010 and 2011.

  • Richard Dean 5th May '12 - 11:54pm

    Do NOT blame the people of this country. We are supposed to serve them, not the other way round. Any political party that thinks otherwise is bound for oblivion PDQ.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '12 - 12:03am

    Kris King

    There are many like me who won’t vote LD again until we can see some evidence that the ones that matter to you is US – the electorate ! As it stands, it seems that the party exists to sit in judgement of previous governments & the pious look on Cleggs face & the verbal attacks on Labour (who should be your natural allies – NOT the tories) are sickening

    As a LibDem member, I agree with you on Clegg. I wrote again and again in LibDem Voice during the leadership election urging my fellow party members not to vote for him. There are many reasons for that, but you are quite right, he is just giving completely the wrong impression. You describe it as “pious”, ok, I have been trying to describe it as a word that begins with sm and rhymes with rug, but the people who run LibDem Voice won’t let me use that word as they say it’s abusive, and they have accused me of being personally insulting to them when I have criticised their pro-leadership lines trying to say it makes us look so word-beginning-with-sm, and that is losing us so much of our support.

    But, please, please, give some backing to those of us in the LibDems who are trying to pull the party back to where it should be. It’s hard to do this when it seems whatever we do, people like you still attack all of us and pay no attention to what we are doing to stop the Tories doing their worst. It’s also hard when people like you seem unable to see the difficult position we were in following the 2010 general election – I assure you, I despise the Tories, always have, I hate being in this coalition, yet I can see there really was no alternative. I just wish Clegg and those surrounding hinm could put it straight that way instead of playing up and exaggerating our influence in the government which they think will gain us support – they’ve been saying that since the coalition was formed, and when people like me tell them it isn’t so, they accuse me of being abusive – well, it isn’t gaining us support, is it?

    As for Labour – well, if they are our natural allies, WHERE are they when we are fighting the Conservatives in government? Giving us backing? Oh, no, see the last budget – they were joining the right-wing press in attacking us with their made up claims of “granny tax”, “charity tax” etc. Where were they on electoral reform – on backing the one argument that would bring down this government as illegitimate? Well, some were supposedly pro-reform but so quiet about it no-one noticed them. The vocal ones were anti-reform i.e. urging support for the “first past the post” principle of “biggest takes all” i.e. that the Tories being the biggest party have the right to control the governemnt completely even though they had well under half the votes.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '12 - 12:16am

    Richard Dean

    Do NOT blame the people of this country. We are supposed to serve them, not the other way round. Any political party that thinks otherwise is bound for oblivion PDQ.

    Richard, I believe in honesty and I believe in people taking responsibility for their actions.

    So, if the people of this country chose to vote Tory more than any other party in 2010 and then in 2011 chose to vote for an electoral system whose supporters say its main virtue is that it generally hands complete power to the biggest party even if that party had under half the votes, I am honest enough to say “Sorry, it’s what people voted for, so don’t blame me and other LibDems – we didn’t vote for it, but we were in the minority”.

    So, it seems to me the people made clear by their votes in 2010 and 2011 that what they want is a Conservative government. I think they were wrong, but it’s what they voted for and what they have. Surely it is simply serving the people to give them what by their votes they said they want. That’s fine, but you seem to be saying if they moan about it I am not allowed to say “Maybe next time, don’t vote that way”. As a politician and a democrat, my serving the people means I accept the election results, I don’t mount a military coup or whatever to overthrow them because I don’t like them. It doesn’t mean I should be silenced over my opinion that the people got it wrong when they voted – I should be free to be able to say that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '12 - 12:30am

    Mark Pack

    When a reshuffle does come, the Liberal Democrat changes will see David Laws return.

    Why? This is a man who more than any other is associated with the Liberal Democrats moving to the right. He has never voted against the government line, he was written articles which express views which once would have been considered not just Tory but right-wing Tory, I have never seen anything written by him which expresses mainstream Liberal Democrat opinion.

    So, if our party is being damaged by its associations with the Conservatives, why bring in a man who more than anyone else – and I mean that literally – is associated with that position? If Laws is brought back, it will be seen as a slap in the face to all who are unhappy at the way the party is going. You might as well say to all those who voted for us in the past but have droppedout now “Good riddance – don’t come back”.

    Sorry, but regardless of policies, surely on pure pragmatic grounds it would make sense for our party’s leadership to make a sign of standing up to the Tories by bringing in to top positions people who aren’t so “me too” to Tory policy. Right now we are standing in the toilet. Bringing back Laws would be like pulling the flush.

  • “So, please, don’t blame the LibDems, blame the people of this country for the way they voted in 2010 and 2011.”

    Yeah, it’s obviously their fault, how dare they. Dear God…

  • Simon Hebditch 6th May '12 - 10:33am

    The local elections were disasterous – as were last year’s. There is no prospect that they will improve over the next two years. The Lib Dems are part of a coalition government which is fundamentally wrong in relation to its economic and fiscal policies. As such, we are complicit in the far reaching social changes that will happen as a result of the cuts programme. Economic fairness, sustainable growth, social justice have flown out of the window.

    The latest attempt at Lib Dem differentiation has also failed. The public, quite rightly, do not differentiate between the two wings of the coalition. We are jointly responsible for the Coalition’ s successes and failures. Therefore, we have only two options – continue in the Coalition and pray that the public magically come to value us again in 2015 or leave the Coalition on the basis that the economic and fiscal policies are fundamentally wrong and are having a devastating impact on society. Naturally, I favour the latter. Of course, it would not be credible for the current parliamentary leadership to take the step of moving out of the Coalition – so there would have to be a radical change in the leadership pf the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    “Unfortunately, no-one outside actual LibDem members seems to get the line about the LibDems having two-thirds of the votes of the Tories – perahps it’s the dreadful innumeracy that exists in this country, but I’ve found people’s eyes glaze over when you try it, and they think it’s just some sort of sour grapes trickery.”

    Well aren’t you a charmer! If I may be so bold, I suggest that insulting the intelligence of the electorate is never a good idea – you need us more that we need you!
    So according to you, the electorate are to blame for not seeing what you are doing in government. Ok, lets talk about that:

    How many of your MP’s voted against the welfare bill?
    How many members of the Lords voted against it?
    How many of your MP’s voted against the Health & Social Care Bill?
    How many members of the Lords voted against it?
    How many of your MP’s voted against the Legal Aid Bill?
    How many members of the Lords voted against it?

    Think back to Norman Lamb & Simon Hughes & their comments on the Health & Social Care Bill – did they vote against it ? I suspect you already know the answer is no, they toadied along with the tories & it is the electorate that will suffer when our local hospitals close because a private conglomerate decides that profits can be made elsewhere. Look at how many hospitals & services have been bought already by Circle, Virgin Care & Serco – LibDem’s are responsible for allowing this to happen.

    3 Bills that will adversely affect vast numbers of the vulnerable & yet your MP’s & Peers stood back & voted with the governement but according to you it’s all the fault of the electorate!

    You mention the budget attacks by Labour.

    HELLO!! Even LibDem’s have been campaigning against it – check out the leaflet by Joseph Swain. Stephen Gilbert has been very vocal about the ‘pasty tax’ going so far as to introduce an amendment to the bill but it was voted down – at least he had the courage of his convictions & it is this that so many of your party have lacked since May 2010.

    Huge admiration goes to the likes of Andrew George & John Pugh for their stance on the Health & Social Care Bill – Andrew George even went to a TUC organised event to speak against the Bill but also to try to find an acceptable way of stopping it by suggesting that we, the electorate & NHS supporters, allow the tories a way out without losing face – sadly that didn’t happen but kudos to George for following through on his convictions & the will of his constituents.

    If you wish to continue blaming & ignoring the electorate then I fear you will be heading for oblivion by 2020 – a figure I have seen touted in the media if local election results continue as they have been in these last 2 local elections.

    So Matthew Huntbach, call us innumerate & ignore us at your peril but remember that ultimately the power lies in our votes & the continued tory-lke behaviour of the LibDems will always be punished. It’s your party that is at risk & I find it sad that so few of you are prepared to fight for it & all for the taste of power.

    I have been voting Liberal / LibDem since 1979 but will not do so again unless they can convince me they remain on the side of the vulnerable & whilst helpful, the minimum earning to £10k before tax is only around £2 per week – a drop in the ocean compared to the benefit gained by the wealthy by dropping the rate from 50% to 45%

    Call me ignorant if you will but if you wish me to vote LiDem in the future you are going the wrong way about securing it. I wish you would prove me wrong but I imagine that my hopes will be dashed – mine & many more like me.

    But yeah, it’s all the fault of the electorate isn’t it – nothing whatsoever to do with your party – I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  • Richard Dean 6th May '12 - 11:53am

    @Matthew Huntbach

    There seem to be several errors in the assertion that the electorate is wrong or to blame, One has be ably described by Kris King – the voting behaviors of LibDem MPs. and the behaviours of activistis or supporters campaigning against various things. Kris also perhaps indicates the second – electortaes don’t vote for politicians who treat them with disrespect. Another reason is perhaps more subtle: Democracy means that the electorate define what is right and what is wrong. By definition, they therefore cannot be wrong, unless of course they decide that themselves.

    Perhaps I can explain? Right, wrong, and this kind of blame are not absolutes, they depend on what the objectives are that people want to achieve. Dancing in the rain is wrong if the objective is to keep dry. Voting against proportional representation is an erro if you want PR. So what are the electroates’ objectives, and how do we know? Well, the objectives are varied, and we find out what they want collectively through elections. It follows logically that the result of an election is an expression of what the people want. This means that the electorate is right by definition. It cannot be wrong. No blame can be attached to it. In normal times anyway.

    I’m sure you’ll agree if you think about it – the rightnees of the electorate is what “Dem” in LibDem means. We accept the verdict of the demos.

  • I feel the statement “The Greens have continued their generally lacklustre performance of the past few years ” is a trifle misleading. Didn’t they beat the much-improved Paddick into 4th place in London? I don’t have a country-wide picture; but where London leads, the rest of the UK may well follow. Green is the sort of vote that a discontented Labour or Tory or even LibDem voter can make without too much idealistic compromise.

    Surely, a stand-out lesson from this election is that LibDems need to re-establish their position as the Greenest of the major parties in voters’ minds, combined with the strength -in-depth to be more than just a single-issue party?

  • …………. or even LibDem voter can make without too much idealistic compromise……….

    I’d forget the ‘or even’ bit. Of the three main parties, I believe disenchanted LDs are the most likely.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '12 - 7:18pm

    Kris King

    Well aren’t you a charmer! If I may be so bold, I suggest that insulting the intelligence of the electorate is never a good idea – you need us more that we need you!
    So according to you, the electorate are to blame for not seeing what you are doing in government

    Why don’t you try looking at some of the other material I have written in Liberal Democrat Voice? You will see I am one of the most vocal critics of the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, so much so that many of my posts fall foul of LDV’s automated censorship system. I have in particular been extremely critical of the “rah-rah, 75% of our manifesto implemented” line of the Clegg-groupies. I believe this to be a line leading to disaster, one which hugely damages our party by making it looks appallingly word-beginning-with-sm-and- rhyming-with-rug (put in this way because I am banned from using that word to describe the leadership).

    I was a delegate, at my own expense which I could not really afford but I did it because I felt so strongly about it, to the Liberal Democrats Spring conference in Gatehead, going there in particular to vote for the party to reject entirely the Health and Social Care Bill. So instead of jumping to conclusions, perhaps you could try and look closer and see what my real arguments are.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '12 - 7:28pm

    Richard Dean

    Another reason is perhaps more subtle: Democracy means that the electorate define what is right and what is wrong. By definition, they therefore cannot be wrong, unless of course they decide that themselves.

    Er, yes, but perhaps you could PLEASE try reading what I wrote instead of jumping to conclusions. Because what I wrote made exactly that point – that we have the current government because it is what the people voted for, in 2010 and in the referendum in 2011. I am pointing out there is a discrepancy in how many people voted (for the idea that it is good for representation to be distorted in favour of the biggest party and against third parties) and in what they are saying – that they don’t like the way the LibDems seem so weak and the Conservatives so strong in the government resulting from the electoral system they voted for by voting “No”.

    So, what am I supposed to do if people say they want one thing and vote for the opposite? Actually, who I really blame is those who led the “Yes” campaign so poorly that people did this. So my REAL point here is another attack on the wrteched incompetent leadership we have in our party right now. But maybe I was too subtle for you.

    I am not really proposing a campaign based on insulting the electorate. I am, however, suggesting one which makes them THINK instead of the usual patronising (word deleted to try and get this message through) the marketing men insist we must have. We can work on the dissonance, instead of being defeatist on electoral refrom.

  • Richard Dean 6th May '12 - 7:51pm

    Hi Matthew Huntbach. I’m a speed reader – so I like short sentences and sometimes miss important things, Sorry! I’m glad we agree that the electorate is right by definition, and that our reaction to being rejected by them should never be to blame them.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th May '12 - 12:00am

    @ Kris King

    You are articulating an anger that I share, but I think that you are being rather harsh on Matthew Huntbach. He like several others on here is fighting for what I was led to believe were Liberal Democrat values and principle in the face of a leadership who seem to me indistinguishable from the tories .

    Sadly, it is now my opinion that the leadership of the party have not supported the dreadful right wing assaults on the social fabric of our society and its most vulnerable members because they not in a position to do otherwise, but because they share the values that have lead to these assaults.

    For all the Liberal Democrat’s holier than thou pronouncements, when push comes to shove and it so suits them, they do not take the moral high ground. The probable return of David Laws is the latest case in point.

    However, my anger is mainly directed at myself, not people like Matthew Huntbach who stays in the party and fights for what he believes the party should stand for. As a Lib Dem voter I allowed myself to be taken in . Any blame for my naivety
    is mine.

    I don’t see myself voting Liberal democrat ever again, so much damage has been done and I do not see how it can be rectified. I do admire those Liberal Democrats on here who are putting up a good fight against seemingly insurmountable odds.

  • I’m sorry, but as an ordinary man in the street, I see no harm in blaming the electorate for making ill informed and contradictory choices.

    They didnt trust Labour enough at the General Election to let them sweep up their own mess, the electorate handed that task to the Coalition, knowing that public spending reductions (though not necessarily service reductions) would follow.

    Up till a few weeks ago, even after the high profile health fiasco, Milliband was broadly believed to be toast, yet now, after a few cockups (aided and abetted by Civil Servants (under threat?)) giving either innaccurate information – Abu Qatada – or incorrect information – Heathrow queues – and then watching Ministers crawling through the minefield they have laid – we have a government derided as incompetent and arrogant – words which are even more ironic dripping from the most arrogant mouth of all, E Balls.

    Add to that the self inflicted wounds of the Leveson enquiry (at which in all fairness Hunt should have had counsel to cross examine Murdoch rather than relying solely on Jay) and the rubbishing of the government is complete.

    At this point, rather than reflecting on the Ponzi scheme that was the Labour government, ignoring minor issues like Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Ecclestones largesse etc etc our esteemed electorate have now decided to give the innocent councillors a good kicking.

    These are not rational choices of mature adults,more the action of petulant children.

    Little wonder that so much political positioning is around lowest common denominator policies

  • Whether or not the conservatives are suffering mid term blues, the liberals have been a party of protest throughout my lifetime, and still are. Parties of protest do well at times of ‘mid term blues’, or they die.

    An ideal scenario now might be liberals have resisted conservative attempts to bring in NHS privatisation, tax cuts on the rich, tuition fees, bankers bonuses, email censorship, links with media moguls…and so on. Sadly by now too numerous to remember every case. They would have complained loudly and publicly. Next, Liberals get credit for being the social conscience of the conservative party and hold their own in elections. Conservatives get punished.

    But no, the liberals did not resist these things. They popped up on the telly every time saying they endorse these changes, they agree with them. Do I hear there is to be a new love-in to cement the coalition? So the electorate, rightly, lumps them in with the government.

    If the liberal party really does endorse these policies as it says, then no reason to vote for them. Either vote conservative if you agree, or labour if you dont. If the party does not endorse them, then they are at best hypocrites, at worse useless. No reason to vote for them.

    The two coalition partners ought to be fighting like cats in a sack. Or maybe not. The conservatives have their way in policy, have little fear of losing their right wing support becuase where could it go, and have liberals to blame for being a bit ‘liberal’, which they would have had to do anyway. So whats to complain about?

    The ONLY way for the liberal party to survive this is to make a clear distinction between itself and the conservatives. It is all very well to reluctantly support a minority government if it is in the national interest and in the interest of furthering the parties policies. But it has to be clear why the party departs from its own policies, and where it departs, and that it disagrees with what is happening. Again, if the party endorses conservative policies completely, why should it exist at all as a seperate entity? The party right now has the power to pull the plug on the conservative government and precipitate either a grand electoral coalition of all parties, or a general election. Many people might consider this preferable to continuing conservative government. If the liberals do not do this, they must be able to justify it and have some benefit to show. They dont right now.

    Someone mentioned the economy. Dont look for rescue there. At the time of the election pundits said the outlook was bad. I dont remember talk as there is now, of a modest recovery within five years, but which has now been knocked off course. I recall the talk was choice of bad or worse. That whatever government came to power would have to live with bad results in five years time. And so it has proved. I see no reason for optimism now. The economic analysis I do see is that belatedly western society as a whole has realised it has been living on credit for years, that just at a moment it really needs credit to rescue flagging economies it discovers it has already maxed out that credit in what are now seen to have been good times. So the possibility of a credit led boom is closed off. Not only is it impossible to create a stimulus, but the background level of growth we have become accustomed to must itself be seen as the result of a credit fuelled boom, and can not be expected to return.

    At the time of the election none of the parties discussed how they intended to tackle the economic problems. All must have anticipated government cuts, but none would detail them. Labour officially said a further year of steady as we go was necessary, the conservatives said they needed to examine the books. The liberals pecked away at specific issues, as minority parties tend to. Everyone avoided the obvious issues.

    Now the coalition keeps blaming labour. The recession was not labours fault and it reduces the liberals credibility every time they agree that it was. Worse, if things economic go from bad to worse, as there is every likelihood that they will, then these claims will be widely seen as ridiculous.

    At this minute I’d say the outlook is landslide labour win next election (or even if one were called tomorrow). Conservative rump. Liberal wipeout. Thats a shame since i am a liberal voter and have nothing to show for it over the years.

  • @ redndead.

    I dont understand your point. Labour was seen to have made mistakes, so failed to win the last general election. The conservatives were not seen good enough to replace them, so also failed to win the last election.

    The leveson enquiry is not a self inflicted wound by the government. The behaviour which lays ministers open to criticism and which has been uncovered almost accidentally by Leveson is a self inflicted wound. The economics of the last labour government were no more a ponzi sceheme than those of the current administration, which in the main has adopted the plans already prepared by labour. But I would agree, with a few impressive exceptions the entire western world is running a ponzi scheme. Certainly including the UK and US. We seem to be approaching end game.

  • juliet solomon 7th May '12 - 11:15am

    I agree with Danny that we seem to have (have) stopped being a progressive party or party of progress. We did not need to endorse the health and education bills, and I am one of a large number of people (it could even be a majority within the Party) who are very angry that our leaders did this on our behalf. Actually I try not to think about it, because I don’t think most of the electorate can possibly have any idea of what our values are from what they have seen us doing, since we have made no attempt to convey these. We have not faced up to the fact that losing trust, which is what we have done, is not something which we can get back with a “but look at what we have done!” approach.. Actually, we have not been bold about anything, as far as I, from a relatively lowly position, can see.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '12 - 7:10pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    You are articulating an anger that I share, but I think that you are being rather harsh on Matthew Huntbach. He like several others on here is fighting for what I was led to believe were Liberal Democrat values and principle in the face of a leadership who seem to me indistinguishable from the tories .

    Thanks Jayne, I’m glad you have partly got my point.

    Although I am very much an opponent of the current leadership, which I believe is well to the political right of the membership of the Liberal Democrats, I do think you are being a little harsh in suggesting they are indistinguishable from the Tories. It may be hard to believe, but those of us who follow the situaition closely know that if the current government seems horribly right-wing, it is quite moderate compared to what the Tories want to do if left to their own. Admittedly, I find David Laws hard to distinguish from a Tory, but even Nick Clegg (who I do not like at all) does seem underneath when you hear what he is saying to be doing a few things to stop the worst of Tory extremism.

    The point I am trying to make is that you have to treat these people like little babies. You should reward them if they do a little thing that is good, even if you wish they would do a lot more. That way they learn to do more that is good. If whatever they do, good or bad, you just punish them and say they are bad, bad, bad, they will never learn. It seems to me that is what is happening now – whatever the LibDems do to stop the worst of the Tories, even if people like you and Kris King etc think is not nearly enough, if your reaction is to ignore it and carry on accusing them of being “no different from the Tories, totally sold out their principles”, they will get discouraged. Look in the right-wing press to see the other side – how the Tory right is howling down the LibDems and accusing them of being some sort of loony left block to the policies they want. If there was sign of outside support for the LibDem leadership when they do something to stop the worst of the Tories, they would be encouarged to do more and could point to that support to tell Cameron to back off. If – as is the case – there are no signs of outside support whatever they do, however little it might be – Cameron can tell them “get lost, who cares about you?”.

    From my point of view, all this “you LibDems are all bad people, you are no different from the Tories, you have totally sold out” stuff, which is ALL we hear from anyone outside our party who is not a Tory, is extremely damaging to the work I and many others are trying to do to pull the Liberal Democrats back to their historical policy position. I assure you, we don’t need this sort of abuse to make us work harder at this. Instead all it does is discourage us, making it seem it is pointless to bother, and worst of all it has led to many of the people who would be working to push the party back leftwards dropping out, making it even harder for those left to effectively challenge the leadership. What we need to show is that pulling the party back to the left wins us back support – if it seems that it doesn’t, f whatever we do we are still subject to this “you are all Tories” abuse, the leadership of the party can tell us what we want isn’t winning us votes, and instead comntinue with the disastrous stand it has taken since the coalitin was formed of saying we must exaggerate our influence in it because that will make us seem powerful and people will like that and give us theri support because of it. I am astonished to find this line still being pushed by those close to the leadership – but it is, look at all the article in LibDem Voice from those near the top of the party, those with central campaign oriented posts, still essentially saying that.

  • Mathew,
    I agree . You piled think that the local election results were enough to cause some pause for thought. But instead the fact that Lib Dems did less badly in Tory seats is taken as proof that swing rightwards is a positive. The idea that it could indicate that right wing policies are not very popular doesn’t seem to have occurred to them. For instance what if it isn’t approval, but simply an indication that Labour aren’t forgiven just yet.

  • I think we need “keep calm and carry on” but not completely!
    The results were bad, but outside Scotland they weren’t apocolyptic.
    For those who just want out or backtrack on the cuts – forget it – we would get decimated if we went to country with the job half done. More importantly Labour opened up a defecit that is unsustainable (something Labour accepts!) Too fast, too far is spurious the actual truth is that were going as slow as the markets will let us get away with. Don’t forget were still borrowing a fifth of what we spend (what do you think is going to happen if we just stop the cuts – we would just lose the loans (or they would become more expensive) that allow us to borrow the fifth of government spending we currently have – ergo we woud then have to make the cuts (or go bankrupt!).
    However, we need to implement the coalition agreement and nothing more – the NHS bill was not in said agreement and the sensible political decision would have been to have killed the bill. We need to learn from the surveilance irritates our people, say not in the coalition agreement – bad luck.
    We also need to improve our communications which have been dire (and that goes for the coalition Government as a whole). For example, One little lesson – improve what we call our policies . Labour called their things properly which made it harder when we axed them e.g. the future jobs allowence, surestart etc. We call ours the pupil premium – no one has a clue what it is – we should have called it “no child left behind premium”.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th May '12 - 8:36pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,
    Thank you for taking the trouble to give such an exhaustive reply.

    I wish that I could offer your party positive reinforcement for small achievements but what your party considers small achievements are not particularly appreciated by outsiders like myself.

    For example, the Health and Social Care Bill which I know that you personally opposed. I put my faith in Shirley Williams but even she seemed to think that a bit of tinkering round the edges was a substitute for saying to the Conservatives, we don’t support this bill, we do not have to support this bill,there is nothing in the agreement that we have to support the bill. I rather suspect that if your leadership had done so, Cameron would have been grateful to have been let off a very big hook of his and Lansley’s own making.

    It is a pity that the Conservatives and the Labour Party do not have a website like this so that outsiders like myself can gain an insight to the tensions that exist within as well as between those parties. It is very enlightening and does lead to a better understanding of the way that political parties operate, and an appreciation of the effort some individuals put into fighting their corner, even if at the moment voters such as myself are too angry to give any sort of grudging support or encouragement.

  • @matthew Huntbach
    You make an interesting argument about the need to encourage politicians, but I dont see that the real world works like that. You might convince me that lib dems are trying hard, but I’m favourably inclined to start with. I take it as a given that any politician I might vote for must be honestly doing his best. If he isnt, then he has no chance of getting my vote. Such a politician seeking my vote must be doing rather better than actually doing his best, he must be publicly standing up for what he is supposed to be doing and showing me that he is doing it. It may be a ridiculous standard I have, but I expect openness and honesty from my politicians. I will say the conservatives are fast descending into derision from voters because of what look increasingly like purely self interest actions and mysterious behind the scenes deals.. The lib dems look exactly like they are going the same way. If any of them hope to get some encouragement from voters they must state clearly what they are doing and why. Every time they publicly stand up for something they ought not to believe in, they had better have a damned good explanation, and they dont.

    Most voters absolutely are not going to work hard at understaning their politicians. If politicians stand up and defend what they stood to oppose, the conclusion is simple and obvious.

    The biggest issue of our day is the economy and what to do about it. The best i can say myself is that i do not know what the correct course is to take. Some courses are plainly wrong, such as bankrupting the country or sacking every civil servant, but where the best line is between these extremes is hard to judge. No party has convinced me it knows the solution. However, the real problem the lib dems have is not this central issue, which supposedly was the central reason for the coalition, but the side issues. Matters not of national survival but of political dogma, whether people should pay for university education or not, whether health care should be provided by the state, free at the point of use, or should be paid for privately, whether taxation should fall most heavily on the rich or poor. Whether we should have a centrally controlling state, whether controls should be relaxed on private industry and tightened on the individual or the reverse.

    For what its worth, it doesnt surprise me that libs are putting up a better showing against conservatives than against labour. This is just a choice between right and further right. Liberals have demonstrated that they are right by entering into coalition. They are never going to get far right votes and have everything to gain by demonstrating loudly they are centre.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '12 - 10:49am

    I’m always loathe to criticise people for doing a job “badly” when I’m not myself doing that job or don’t even really know what doing that job involves. That is why I’m not so hardline on criticising Nick Clegg as others – I just don’t know how easy it is to wring concessions from the Conservatives in his situation. I do know, from having been involved in politics for many years, that underneath it is about trying to find a compromise that both sides can accept – and the extent to which the compromise is balanced to one or the other does depend on their respective strengths. There are so many times in my life when I’ve found myself in a minority position, have had to work so hard to get at least something small through that I want to see in place, and find the efforts I’ve made are not appreciated by those outside who seem to assume I could just somehow get everything I wanted, so if I did not it’s because I’m a bad person who does not mean what he says.

    It is also for this reason that I really do think the unremitting “all LibDems are bad people who have totally abandoned their principles and become no different from the Tories” criticism of us is so damaging unless what the people making that criticism really WANT to see is the LibDems weaken and disappear and the Tories in government becoming even more right wing. I’m looking at this in a purely practical way – we’re in a difficult situation, we can’t get much from it, but for goodness sake if you want us to get something from it at least give us some thanks and support when we do.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '12 - 11:25am

    danny

    The biggest issue of our day is the economy and what to do about it. The best i can say myself is that i do not know what the correct course is to take.

    Well, my opinion is that we should reverse what is behind the mess in the economy, which is the way money has been sucked into pumping up house prices, with this whole idea of a “housing ladder” a trick whereby people investment at the bottom borrow more than they can really afford in order to spew out unearned profits to those at the top. The result is an economy based on the idea that real wealth is made by buying and selling houses, which it is not, all that has happened is to build a mountain of debt and turn away investment from real industry.

    Are you with me so far? Right, so let’s proceed – what this requires is a big shift in taxation away from income and onto the profits made from owning housing – that is, things like much higher inheritance tax, tax on land values, tax on capital gains made from selling houses at a price higher than was paid for them. Still with me? Ah, you’re a hero if you are, but I find most people are not. When I talk about these sort of things, I find people accuse me of being a “Marxist”, or of being some evil opponent of home ownership, or similar. That is, people are with you when you talk about the easy side, but not when you talk about the hard side. The polices I’ve outlined would do so much good, make family life so much better due to lowering house prices, make industry so much better due to investment flowing that way rather than into pumping up land values. It would benefit in particular the young who have been squeezed out of home ownership. But it would mean the huge dollops of untaxed cash which come from inheritance would be reduced – and the screams of anguish that would cause would drown out any thanks from those who would benefit.

    That’s politics for you – not an easy game. People want politicians who say the nice things and the easy things but not the necessary counterbalancing nasty things and hard things. So when they say the nice and easy things, but when in power find the nasty and hard things must be put in place to make them work, they are accused of being liars or bad people for not telling the truth about those nasty and hard things. Yet if they had, people would not have voted for them. I assure you, you say you want “openness and honesty from politicians”, well, I know I have so often lost my chances in politics when I have been open and honest and my opponents have not. What hurts me most is when people say they want one thing, vote for the opposite, and then blame anyone but themselves for the consequences – the 2011 AV referendum is such a good example of this.

    You put things as black and white, but it isn’t like that. Politics where if it isn’t 100% one thing it is assumed to be 100% the other are poor politics. Take the Health and Social Care Bill – I opposed in throughout, yet this idea about that it is a sudden and complete break from what went in before is wrong. It has good elements and bad elements, LibDem work on it has taken out some of the bad put in more good (in my opinion). I still think overall, however, that it’s a step in the wrong direction. Most of the LibDem peers who worked hard on amending it, Shirley Williams for example, thought on balance they’d put in enough to make it an improvement on how the NHS is now (where there is already plenty of privatisation e.g. PFI hospitals). See, it isn’t black and white, and debate on these things isn’t helped if it is put as purely black and white. Similarly with payment for university degrees. However made, £9000 is about what they cost. If that is not paid in loans, the same amount must be paid in taxation – so if you don’t want the loans you mush have the higher taxation instead. I’d pay for it out of much higher inheritance tax. Who is with me there? The LibDems managed to get the loan repayment system such that in effect it works as a sort of tax, only paid if you have enough income to pay it, and in fact resulting in net lower payment than the schemes for graduate taxation. I still don’t agree with it, but can you see it isn’t black and white? The LibDems were not in a position to implement what they wanted, but they worked on a compromise to push it some way in that direction. Were they bad and evil people to do this? Bear in mind, they did not have a majority in parliament, it was not possible for them to get it all their own way. That is what politics is about – reaching a compromise. Thanks to the elecotral system we have, that compromise is biased in favour of the biggest party (currently the Tories and biased against third parties (the LibDems). But when the people were asked if they wanted to change that system just last year they voted, by two-to-one, “No”. That after a “No” campaign run by Labour and Conservative politicians who said that bias was the best thing about the current electoral system. The LibDems did not support “No”, so isn’t it daft to blame the LibDems for the consequences of something they opposed but the people voted for?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '12 - 7:46pm

    Glenn

    You piled think that the local election results were enough to cause some pause for thought. But instead the fact that Lib Dems did less badly in Tory seats is taken as proof that swing rightwards is a positive. The idea that it could indicate that right wing policies are not very popular doesn’t seem to have occurred to them

    Sorry, but this is just NOT the case.

    I am PASSIONATELY concerned with moving the LibDems back towards the left, away from the rightward drift that seems to have taken place in recent years. Please don’t insult me – and you do when you write in a way that suggests all LibDems think as you put it – that suggests I don’t care about this and can’t even see how the LibDems have been damaged by perceived policy shifts.

    I am concerned that there is a stream in the party which has appeared only in the last few years which puts too much emphasis on the idea of what is sometimes called “economic freedom”, and which seems blind to how policy shifts in that direction from government of both the Conservative and Labour since 1979 have not delivered the increase in general freedom that is claimed. I hold to the old Liberal slogan, kept by the Liberal Democrats, that we are about “Freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity” – nothing in there about this daft idea that has become fashionable in recent years that taxation is the main barrier to freedom. I have argued very strongly in LibDem Voice against people who hold those ideas and are trying to push them in the Liberal Democrats, but I am not the only one to have done so by any means.

    I am concerned about the extent to which Nick Clegg is favourable to these ideas – this was one of the reasons why I argued so strongly against him when our party was choosing its leader. I am concerned that the whipped-up “Cleggmania” made him over-confident, thinking that he alone is responsible or his party’s success, and therefore he has relentlessly promoted people of his own opinion in the party and ignored those of differing opinions. I am concerned that the existence of the coalition has additionally led people of this way of thinking to try and dominate the party arguing that somehow the coalition means we have to stick to this way of thinking as it fits in with the party we are in coalition with. But I am not the only party member, by any means, to have these concerns, to express them, and to do what I can within the party to reverse that sort of thinking.

    So yes, I fully agree that the shift and perceived shift of the Liberal Democrats to the right has damaged the party. Perhaps instead of insulting people like me by claiming no-one in the party can see this, you could give us some support by acknowledging our existence and wishing us well. I am very sorry when good party members who think like I do get attacked and if they are councillors thrown out of their positions, because people don’t bother to look at what their local LibDems are like and just vote against them in local elections to “punish them” on the lazy assumption that all members of the party are unthinking supporters of its leader.

    I write about “perceived shift” to the right because though I think there has been some of this, with what has become known as the “Orange Book” tendency, the existence of the coalition has made it look much more than is really the case. I have tried to argue above about the compromises that are being made internally, that this IS what practical politics is like, unless you are in complete control you cannot have 100% what you like. That is why I really want to push the message that criticism of every member of the party in a simplistic “you have all abandoned your principles an become indistinguishable from the Conservatives and you can’t even see this is losing you votes” is so damaging, and very, very UNHELPFUL to those of us who want to push the party away from this rightward drift. As I have said, if people get no thanks and acknowledgement for what they are doing it tends to discourage them and make them give up. Sadly, I see this in the Liberal Democrats where too many people who think as I do are leaving the party instead of working within it it to bring it back to where we want it to be, because the relentless negative criticism which denies what we are doing is completely demoralising. If we within the party who are trying to push it back to the left are to succeed we HAVE to be able to point to success when we are doing so, to be able to say to our leaders “look, it wins us votes”. If we are still attacked by people on the grounds of what they think our leaders are doing and no acknowledgment is made of our local work, we can’t do that. Also, if the attacks we are getting are unrealistic, don’t recognise the necessary compromises that have to be made in practical politics, are on the lines that unless the LibDems in Parliament can get through 100% of their own policies and block everything else they are bad people, they will be dismissed as just from people who have no idea what they are talking about. Political argument has to be realistic, recognising where the people you are trying to persuade are and moving them from that position. It does not work to try and win people over if you start off by accusing them of holding to a position that in fact they don’t and ignore the aspects of their position which are close to yours. Practical politics which is about winning hearts and minds has to take the opposite approach – you look for what is closest to your position in those you are arguing with and work on that basis with encouragement to bring them even closer to you. So relentless negative criticism of people just does not work to change them, and that is what seems to be happening to the Liberal Democrats – the relentless negative and exaggerated criticism we are getting from the left is just not helping bring about the shift that it is supposedly intended to bring about. On the other hand, if its REAL aim is to destroy the Liberal Democrats and so to bring about another period of pure Labour government, it is doing fine. I remember what that pure Labour government was like – I found Tony Blair appallingly right-wing, furthering the economic agenda started by Margaret Thatcher which I have opposed all my adult life, with an additional nasty anti-democrat streak of his own (in particular what his government did to local government by pushing through the end of the committee system and replacing it by leader-oriented governance shows this).

  • Matthew

    whew. Lot of heavy stuff there. i cant help my own position, it is what it is. Some voters will think as i do and some will not. Every time a politician opens his mouth and says something which defies credibility, he loses some respect from me. I want politicians who always tell the truth. The likely outcome is that if I cannot find any such politicians then I will join the majority of the population and not vote.

    Just at the moment, the conservatives are dangerously close to freefall respectwise. New issue, yet more defensive doublespeak. I am disappointed about this because conservatives are not necessarily bad people. they have some views i agree with and some I dont. But any politician who seeks to further a private aim by claiming something different publicly is not someone i want anywhere near power. For a contrary example, I am pro EU, but Farage of UKIP has said some very pithy and true things about the EU, and his opponents in debate tend to answer by trying to ridicule the man. If I was picking the MPs myself, i would give him a place.

    Liberals in power will be judged by me according to what they are reported as doing and saying. Maybe they do something else in private but I have no way to know about that. What I see time after time is a liberal popping up to claim some new policy which contradicts there manifesto proposition is fantastic. This happens so often that I suspect the conservatives are deliberately putting up liberals to front conservative policies and make the liberals look fools, but the liberals seem to be playing along quite happily.

    I have seen one or two references to collective responsibility, and so forth. I am highly dubious of the concept that all ministers must automatically follow an agreed line in public even when only one party is concerned. In the case of a coalition, it strikes me as disastrous. Libs must get up and say what they think. This is just another layer of secrecy in government which I oppose at all opportunities (which as a mere voter, arent many). We have televised parliament, which was introduced against kicking and screaming MPs. Maybe we should have televised cabinet sessions. I think if we did have televised cabinet (with exceptions for terrorism, etc) we would also have better government. While on the subject, all contracts and negotiations between government and the private sector should automatically be made public. I am serious about open government. I thought liberals were quite keen on this, but apparently not.

    As to housing I am more than happy to agree with you that the Uk housing situation is a disaster. There is an enormous shortage of housing in this country such that it is impossible to leave matters to the market. Not least because in a market, the market would adjust by making more of something which was in short supply. In the Uk we are forbidden to make new houses even where we have the means. Although this has contributed to the current debt crisis, it is still largely a disaster waiting to happen. If we refuse to build enough houses to satisfy the market then government must accept the logic of rationing the limited supply one way or another. This might take the form of limits on ownership of multiple properties, limits on property being used as holiday homes, limits on the amount banks can lend against property, abolishing the concept of a mortgage so that banks cannot turf people out of their home if they stop payments or restricting the proportion of proceeds they can sieze, limits on rents, taxes on property sales. I am sure I could think of some more, but we arent doing any. instead, by and large, succesive governments have stoked up the property market encouraging more and more to be spend on property. I agree, we would all be much better off if our housing costs halved, which is perfectly possible.

    However… housing isnt really what I meant about solving the curent crisis. Introducing heavy controls designed to lower property prices at a time they are falling naturally could precipitate a market collapse, which would not help. measures to control housing costs need to be introduced as the situation stabilises to prevent prices taking off again, and maybe then encouraging slow settling. The issue of the day is cut government spending to save the country, or increase government spending to save the country. To this we have no answer.

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