Some questions for More United

In a blaze on social media. the More United project, supported by Paddy Ashdown, launches this morning.

It’s certainly ambitious: is a new movement setting out to change British politics. We’re going to transform the way politics is funded, giving a voice to the millions of open and tolerant people in Britain who feel the political system no longer works for them.

It has a Facebook page here and you can follow it on Twitter here.

They intend to fund candidates who subscribe to a series of pretty broad principles:

 A fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services

A modern democracy that empowers citizens, rather than politicians

A green economy that protects the environment and works to reverse climate change

An open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms

A United Kingdom that welcomes immigration, international co-operation and a close relationship with the EU

There some example policies to flesh this stuff out.

So, we agree, so shouldn’t we all sign up? Well, actually, it raises more questions than it answers, so it may be wisest to wait and see.

How does this work in a First Past the Post system?

If they are going to fund every candidate who signs up to their principles, surely they could end up funding every candidate in a seat. There are some, if few, moderate Tories who could qualify. However, what if the manifesto of the party a candidate is standing for is in direct conflict with this. Someone might back electoral reform but their party probably wouldn’t and in government wouldn’t legislate for it so they would never get the chance to implement it.

In a First Past the Post system, funding more than one candidate could mean that none of them wins. They might allow their local members to decide which one to back as Paddy said on Marr, but that could be open to manipulation by the parties.

Why is there no mention of liberty and freedom anywhere?

I am irked that there is no mention of liberty and freedom. I’m voting Lib Dem regardless, but if I wasn’t, I’d be darned if I was going to vote for a Labour candidate who might subscribe to the principles of More United but would then go and vote for things like control orders and 90 day detention. The absence of a civil liberties test worries me.

Their example policy of “safeguarding the truth” in politics has the potential to be positively Orwellian. Who defines the truth? How do you enforce such a policy? We all saw the blatant lies told by Leave during the referendum, which no doubt influenced people’s votes but what else other than point out the facts, can you actually do?

What about Scotland and Wales?

We accept the right of the Scottish people to decide their future, but we hope they will want to remain part of the UK

The branding, a union jack in a heart, wouldn’t appeal in Scotland but, like the Stronger In branding, that can be changed. But what if the members backed independence? There is potential for this to be quite a cause of conflict within the movement in Scotland particularly.

Is this just for Westminster? What about councils and Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies?

If you want to really change politics, you need to look at government at all levels.

They will have to do better than THAT on diversity

I am not one of these people that think a mere mention of diversity is enough. You have to show intent with detailed policies but this is it:

  • Promoting and defending diversity, pluralism and tolerance.
  • Strengthening anti-hate laws.

It’s generalised and weak. They could end up backing 100% straight white middle class middle aged men and there is nothing in their founding principles to stop them.

UPDATE: 4:40 pm. Their aims on diversity would be much more credible if they didn’t have two people on their list of supporters who exclude transgender women from feminist spaces.

Having said all of that, there are lots of things that More United say that could strike a chord with Liberal Democrats. This does have potential to grow into something that influences the debate in politics in a good way. If it means that progressive candidates get the funding they need to make an impact, that could be a good thing. They need to be careful that they are not so broad that they dilute their effectiveness and potential to make a difference.

Let’s just see how they develop. I have signed up, but I haven’t and can’t see myself giving them any money because I as a party member will want to support Liberal Democrats. That’s as it should be. If this movement is going to succeed it will need to bring in people who are not involved in politics.

The most useful thing More United can do, in my view, is change the debate, to get people thinking about how they get the Parliament and politicians they ask for and confront the really nasty, narrow, right wing movements who are becoming way too influential. If they can do that, then they will have succeeded.

UPDATE: Austin Rathe (yes, he who used to be our membership and data guru) is heavily involved in this and has written a piece explaining what they want to achieve. He says:

Right now, the forces of extremism are winning every major fight in our politics. Brexit is merely the latest instalment in an ongoing saga. If the solution to the crisis in our democracy was people who already agreed with each other sitting in meetings and talking then we wouldn’t be in this mess.

If we want things to be different, we need to think differently.

We also need to do something that makes sense in the modern world.

Digital organisations are, one at a time, disrupting every part of our society. Companies like Uber and Amazon succeed because they understand that the internet isn’t just a way to do things faster or cheaper, it’s a way to do things that could never be done before.

That same revolution will come to politics. It’s inevitable.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Jul '16 - 10:01am

    If, as he claims, Paddy Ashdown is still a loyal and committed member of the Liberal Democrats, why is he starting this new movement instead of simply urging people with “progressive” views to join the Liberal Democrats ?

  • This is a confusing idea that could draw attention and funding away from the Liberal Democrats at the exact time when the party has been granted a way back to political relevance.

  • simon mcgrath 24th Jul '16 - 10:10am

    Paddy showing the same lack of judgement that caused him such problems dealing with New Labour. Why on earth would he support something which in many cases will fund our opponents standing against us.

  • I too have signed up, and I think this project is a great opportunity to get people thinking beyond the confines of the party they grew up supporting, or the simplistic confines of left vs right. It should get people thinking about how our parliamentary system represents the people, and consensus views, and the big problem of FPTP.

    As a Scot, I’d like to remind Caron that most of us voted FOR the union, and the idea that the Union Flag won’t appeal in Scotland is wrong. Certain minority aspects of the Nationalists hate it, and have tried to make it a symbol of hate, but I would argue that those who go as far as to hate a flag representing a union of nations don’t fit the description of being interested in working together, and finding common values. In fact, I’d go so far as to say those who hate, or love flags that much are part of the hateful problem that this movement is trying to overcome. And I’d say the same for unionists who may hate the Saltire.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Jul '16 - 10:11am

    Paddy Ashdown seems to be saying that in each constituency, More United members will choose one candidate to support and fund. This candidate could be from any party. More United will base their decision on how “progressive” the individual candidate seems, even if the candidate belong to a party in which the majority of members and MPs are far from progressive.
    It is likely that in many constituencies, More United will choose a Labour, Green, or even Conservative candidate, who, with the support and funding of More United, will then compete against the Liberal Democrat candidate.
    Therefore it is hard to see how Liberal Democrat members or supporters can support More United.

  • I agree Caron. I want to know what is happening with this ‘movement’, so have signed up. Interestingly, some 200 other people did so in a ten minute period.
    This will garner names and e mail addresses that could be very useful to the setting up of a new party, or the bringing together of those from various parties who want to see a different way of working.

  • I meant to add that I would hope that in a constituency where we had three or four candidates who support the movement’s ideals, and have demonstrated as such to the local group, including the probable winner and runner-up, that the local group will decide to leave them to it rather than giving any one a big financial benefit – especially if they are from one of the big parties. This would allow any financial support to be passed to a constituency where one of the front-runners goes against the ideals and the chosen candidate needs it more.

    I would also hope that at a national level, there may be some sense of trying to achieve a balanced parliament. Tricky to achieve, but better than the current system.

    I will be very interested to see how this pans out.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Jul '16 - 10:23am

    I feel that Paddy Ashdown needs to be much more open about what his long term aims for this movement are.
    He says if enough people sign up, then the movement will move on to its “next stage”, without making it at all clear what this next stage is.
    I will certainly not be signing up, as this movement seems likely to harm the Liberal Democrats.
    If Paddy Ashdown wishes to fund the candidates of other parties, will he not have to reconsider his position in the Liberal Democrats?

  • @Catherine Jane Crossland

    “It is likely that in many constituencies, More United will choose a Labour, Green, or even Conservative candidate, who, with the support and funding of More United, will then compete against the Liberal Democrat candidate”

    Yes, but frankly if this got more MP’s into Parliament who demand electoral reform I’d be all for it – and I’m the Lib Dem Westminster candidate for Tatton. The idea of ‘pacts’ e.g. not standing Lib Dems in one place in exchange for the same elsewhere is a non starter, this looser cross party approach I really think has legs.

    I’ll certainly be getting involved, I’m all for trying new ideas for getting the liberal message across.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Jul '16 - 11:11am

    @Gareth Wilson
    Well, everyone will have to make up their own mind about this, but I feel it would be much better to “get the liberal message across” by encouraging people with progressive and liberal views to join the Lib Dems

  • Duncan Greenland 24th Jul '16 - 11:24am

    if through this vehicle a strong enough public consensus can be created behind electoral reform to achieve fairer votes for Westminster,then progress on the other fronts that Liberal Democrats hold dear would follow

  • I will be signing up & I will continue to pop up on Labour sites urging Centrists to join The Libdems, I dont see a contradiction. If MU ever decides to become a Party I would leave it but that doesnt seem to be the aim. Its about how Progressives/Liberals in different Parties & none can work together to get a majority for Reform.
    As things stand we are likely to go into the next General Election with one big Right Wing Party & at least two Centre-Left/Liberal Parties, two Left Parties & various others. We need a Soft mechanism to let us work with those closest to us & MU could be it.

  • So this movement is successful and Labour, as a result, get a majority. They would just say ‘thank you very much’ and form a Labour government. A Labour government will never back electoral reform. Just look at their whipped abstention on Caroline Lucas’s electoral reform bill last week.
    Paddy is just wrong on this one as he was wrong to trust Blair to complete the reform package he agreed with the Lib Dems before 1997. Labour also shafted us in 1977/8 over PR for EU elections, having used us to prop up a Labour minority government.
    There is only one way forward and that’s with the Lib Dems.

  • As should be obvious, this is a platform that gets moderate Labour and us standing on the same podiums. Given the current situation in the Labour party, this is a good initiative.

  • Their [MU], websites says :
    “How will we decide which candidates to support?”
    “……………… The final decisions on who we support will always be made by our members.”

    So,..if you pay into their crowd-funding pot, and become a valid member, and encourage a few of your friends, family and supporters to do likewise, will it not incentivise potential applicants to go down the … *pay your £3 (now £25), and get Corbyn [or anyone else you’re willing to pay for], nominated*, route.?

    That said, if I were a male Liberal Democrat prospective MP, who’s a bit miffed by the All Women Shortlist thingumy, I’d be quietly getting my ‘Paddy Power’ pledge application together as soon as possible,.. in order to get both funding and support for my rights to circumvent AWS, and legitimise my LibDem MU candidacy.?

  • “We’ll use the power of crowdfunding to raise money…..making it easier for moderate, progressive MPs to get elected….”
    I know there is a narrative that says that the reason we lost most of our seats at the last election was because the Tories threw huge amounts of money at them, but the idea that it is all about resources is part of the Americanisation of British politics and is a trend that should be resisted. Nor is it true that what holds back the election of “moderate, progressive MPs” is lack of money. For example, the Labour Party in Southampton Itchen spent over £100,000 trying to hold the seat in 2015, and failed. Crowdfunding also has the potential for celebratising politics – something else that should emphatically not be encouraged.

  • I agree with Gareth, we need more MPs in Parliament who will support electoral reform, and the environment, and evidence-based policies.

    If this movement supports 100 Labour MPs who claim to support these things, and then form part of a Government, but go on to vote against electoral reform, they won’t be supported next time round and we make a song and dance about how they lied. If, on the other hand, those 100 MPs support electoral reform and other progressive policies, then we’ve made progress.

    This kind of movement can open up the debate and get people thinking outside of traditional left/right and party political boundaries, which only has to benefit the LibDems. There are so many people who just don’t want to join a political party. They are put off by tribalism, or the idea of being committed to support them on everything, or are annoyed by something that one of their higher profile members did a few years ago. This is great to keep those people engaged and making a positive contribution.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jul '16 - 1:49pm


    I disagree with you on the branding in Scotland ,if any moderate progressive is offended by our Union Jack , and I say, our , precisely due to the inclusive nature of the intended use here, then they are neither moderate or progressive ! I believe any Liberal Democrat staunch for Scottish independence must feel very much a minority in this party and has the potential though of being a more liberal oriented SNP supporter or member.

    I agree with your other concerns , and those expressed above in response to this article.I would like to sign up , but cannot , as how can we when we may be supporting the funding of others in the same contest.A far better idea would be to

    1. Work to change politics but not back candidates , much as the various campaigns for electoral reform , the environment , civil liberties.

    2.Work with all the main three or four progressive or moderate parties in constituencies where agreement could be reached to back one candidate, and others with little chance of winning but who agree with the chosen candidate on much , could withdraw.This cannot work now , as to back good progressive Tories, say Anna Soubry , or Rory Stewart or Heidi Allen , would not yet make sense , as we have no agreement on PR with their party , and are not likely to get it now , and we have , with none of the parties, no reciprocal arrangement to see our candidates more likely to win !

    There is a massive gap which only our party truly fills.I would like a more measured approach on immigration , and the EU, specifically because I believe this party offers the moderate and progressive sense , that others do not .

    If Tim toned down the Europhilia , and Paddy did the same on the progressiphilia , we might reveal both as the mainstream , terrific politicians we know they are !

    But I want us all to be more united and would like to find a way as above , to back , More United.

  • Adrian Sanders 24th Jul '16 - 1:58pm

    A proportional voting system should have been a non-negotiable deal breaker before the Coalition Programme for Government was agreed. Its absence meant we had no direct reward for those who had voted for us tactically and allowed Liberal Democrats to exercise power in Government. It is one of the major reasons why we lost so many seats.

    More United talks about a modern democracy. That could easily mean a different voting system but not PR. My red line should I ever be in a position of voting on a future coalition will be PR. It’s absence from More United means I cannot endorse its principles as PR is how I would define a modern democracy.

    Both my Labour and Conservative opponents could happily sign up to More United and were they to do so and the Liberal Democrat Candidate could not, who would get the money and endorsement in a formally held seat?

    I’m afraid this strikes me as a most ridiculous idea dreamt up around a metropolitan dinner table by people who still don’t get why we lost the EU referendum.

  • This venture deserves your support, in my view. We have a crisis in the country such as I have never before seen. There are major problems with all our political parties.

    We can’t wait a decade for this to sort itself out, we are in the middle of the most important events and decisions to affect our country since the second world war. This movement Ashdown is fronting may or may not work, but it’s a movement not a party. Anything that encourages the more moderate Labour and Conservative MP’s to speak up, to stand up, to take whatever actions prove to be necessary, has to be worth trying. It costs nothing initially to show support. Over 7000 have done so, it should be 7m.

    I agree there are questions to ask about it and how it will work in practice. You may think if you are Liberal members you don’t need to support it. But you do – this could suck in a lot more people than current Liberal members, it could attract Labour and Conservatives dismayed at how their parties are turning out, it could end up recruiting some of these people to the Liberals, it could attract people currently not members of any party, but in any case it could – if a success – provide support to MP’s and candidates who broadly fit into the areas inhabited by Liberals.

  • If you sign up, you are signing up to the general principles. Only if you contribute will you risk financially supporting a candidate you disagree with, but if you support the criteria for support, then how many candidates will you disapprove of? I think the benefits of supporting the good candidates across the country outweighs the risks of the odd candidate slipping through the system.

    As a Scot, I find that people supported independence and the SNP for a variety of reasons. Some are tribalist nationalists who seek separation for the sake of it, and their ideology does not match that of this movement. However, there are many who supported it because they believe that the Westminster system is broken, and that independence was the best way to fix it for Scots. Many of those would welcome the opportunity to fix the Westminster system so that independence is no longer necessary. There will be some who want both, and they shouldn’t object to it either.

    Unfortunately, there are some nationalists who don’t want the Westminster system fixed, and who would rather fight Labour and the Lib Dems to let the Tories in, simply so they can point out how awful it is, and claim that things would be better in an independent Scotland. I wouldn’t worry about annoying them any more than I’d worry about annoying the climate change deniers.

  • Huw Dawsonnames and 24th Jul '16 - 2:53pm

    There is a few things to consider here regarding platforms and progressivism. Firstly, this does give us a good definition of ‘progressive’.

    Secondly, any MP-to-be who gets funding from this then doesn’t back things like PR is going to be accused of breaking a pledge.

    Thirdly, we’d hope that the Lib Dem candidate in any selection for MU funds would be the most progressive! Our party agrees lock-step with every single pillar of the movement!

    But crucially, this would provide something for MPs that would very much like to jump ship from a party that is moving away from being progressive. They get a defined policy platform, they get funding, they get a big list of names and emails to plumb aid from.

    I wonder what might cause a progressive orphaned MP to need all of those things soon? 🙂

  • Suzanne Miller 24th Jul '16 - 3:12pm

    Would like more detail on “market based”. Though signed up for now, I still entrust my spare change only to the Lib Dems.

  • Adrian Sanders 24th Jul '16 - 3:13pm

    I don’t recall losing it personally Simon Shaw.

  • Martin Land 24th Jul '16 - 3:14pm

    I think when politicians retire, they should retire….

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jul '16 - 3:20pm

    I believe that the Liberal Democrats could win an outright majority in the 2025 General Election.

    There are a number of conditions for this.

    First the present day Labour Party must fight the 2020 and 2025 as two electoral forces – the way the Asquith and Lloyd George Liberal Parties fought each other in the years after World War 1.

    Second, that the Liberal Democrats do nothing to prevent or delay this happening or to ameliorate that contest by strengthening the non-Corbyn (and Co) faction.

    And who in their right mind would want to strengthen the chances of a Conservative candidate winning in a constituency in which a Liberal Democrat was fighting?

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jul '16 - 3:38pm

    A question for you all: with two Labour Party candidates in the field ( an Owenite & a Corbynite) and after 5 years of unrestrained Tory rule, which of these Lib Dem held seats in the 2010 Parliament would we NOT win?

    And yes I do know about boundary changes, but please indulge me.

  • paul barker 24th Jul '16 - 3:49pm

    I dont get why some of the comments talk as though Labour were a single Party with a long term future, its not. The actual Split has yet to be formalised because both sides want control of The Labour Brand but they have given up pretending that they dont hate each other. If anyone doesnt beleive me then go to Labour List, their equivalent of LDV. Whatever the article is about the comment threads soon degenerate into insults. Ive been reading LL for a long time & the atmosphere has got steadily worse.
    By the time of the next General Election Labour will be at least 2 Parties & neither will be on more than 20% in the polls. Even for a Party with support concentrated in some areas, once you fall below a 25% share of the vote FPTP is no longer a help. Once the penny drops support for PR will become a matter of self-interest.

  • Adrian Sanders 24th Jul '16 - 3:54pm

    Nice one Bill – a strategy that could end in record numbers of Liberal Democrat MPs and a non-state socialist alternative Government to the Conservative Party.

  • I see one person involved is Dan Snow who, as far as I recall, was the only person to come to Wales to drum up support for a United Kingdom when Scotland was considering independence. I hope this isn’t going to be another outing where Westminster and London is the capital and after you tick off Scotland then no where else really matters.

  • That will probably depend on who joins up DJ. If Welsh people sign up, then it will better reflect their views than if they assume it’s just for Londoners and leave it to them to get on with it. At the moment, it’s just a glorified mailing list for anyone who is interested to learn more. If they realise it’s mainly London media types, then they may use some of the initial funding to target the areas that are under-represented.

    There is often a damned if you do, damned if you don’t response from nationalists. If no-one from London comes, then it’s because we have been ignored. If they do, then it’s an invasion of the metropolitan elite coming to to tell us what to think because they think we’re stupid. English public figures got a lot of abuse for daring to state they hoped Scottish people would chose to remain part of the UK. It was designed to intimidate, and in many cases has worked.

  • Mick Taylor 24th Jul '16 - 4:27pm

    Paul Barker. People have been predicting the split in the Labour Party since I was a lad. After 52 years as a Lib/Lib Dem party member I don’t think it’s any nearer than it ever was. Labour, faced with an imminent election, will -as they always have – put aside internal differences and fight as a united party to win power. As for ever working with them, forget it. They would rather lose than work with us. Poeple in London have absolutely no idea about the sheer viciousness of the big city Labour parties and their visceral hatred of the Liberal Democrats . They cannot be trusted to run a joint whelk stall, never mind deliver constitutional reform. This is not to deny that some individual Labour members are decent people who may be in the wrong party, but it’s pie in the sky to think that Labour have any interest in delivering electoral reform or keeping the UK in the EU. They had almost 13 years to change the voting system and didn’t. Even when they promised to deliver PR for EU elections in 1977, the actually refused to whip their MPs to support it, even though it was part of the deal with the Liberals and only last week whipped their MPs to abstain on a bill to bring in PR.
    Wake up and smell the coffee. This ‘movement’ is a pipe dream.

  • Adrian Sanders 24th Jul '16 - 4:44pm

    Simon Shaw – The leave vote was an anti-establishment vote. the Remain Campaign was led by a Conservative Prime Minister – you don’t get more establishment than a Tory PM. Cameron fought the referendum on the concessions he claimed he had won from foreigners rather than on why we are part of the greatest guarantor of peace, stability and prosperity the world has ever seen.

    Our rationalist arguments were no match for the emotional rhetoric of the leave campaign. The more ‘facts’ we produced the deeper leave supporters dug their heals in. Our reliance on evidence based arguments were trumped by the fact free opinions of people unconnected to politics.

    An establishment figure whether from politics or business was no match for the view of the man down the pub or woman in the bus queue.

    It’s not as if there weren’t warning signs that people were rejecting the status quo. The 2014 debate between one of the most intelligent Party Leaders of our age – an expert on the European Union and its institutions – and Nigel Farage should have ended in a massive win for Clegg. It didn’t and a public school educated, ex-city banker, failed Tory candidate now UKIP politician won the day and the support of an electorate who profess not be great admirers of public schools, the city, Tories or politicians. It was the message that won it not the messenger, an emotional message that we are the victims of unfairness and others are exploiting us.

    The narrative of the tabloids playing on the prejudices of an electorate while not racist, were certainly and genuinely concerned about the changes they have been witnessing in their town centres, on public transport or when waited upon in hotels and restaurants, was winning over the admonishments of Westminster politicians denying a problem in the first place. Our politicians should have been spelling out the benefits of freedom of movement in both directions while pointing to (or ensuring) central government support to help with any pressures on the health, care, education and other public services from immigration.


  • Adrian Sanders 24th Jul '16 - 4:45pm


    There has been no recognition by our Party or Labour or the Conservatives (save for recent words by PM May) that the unfairness many people feel, especially those who live outside the influence of the London economy, is understood and will be acted upon and because the status of politicians is now so low, few believe politicians when they say they do.

    Silly ideas like More United only show the establishment manoeuvring for its own benefit not articulating the bold policy ideas we now need for the post Brexit age. And that’s another thing, We really need to accept we lost the referendum and seize the opportunity to lead the debate over the future relationship we want with the EU. That way we get noticed again and start to rebuild trust with an electorate who no longer know what we stand for and will take time believing what we now have to say.

    Ashdown used to warn “Do not underestimate the scale of the task ahead”. I could add do not underestimate just how much damage the previous leadership of the Party did.

  • Sadie Smith 24th Jul '16 - 4:52pm

    I agree so much with Mick.
    Strikes me as a handy way of collecting data first and then contributions.
    Have any starry eyed people ever read a set of Labour standing orders?
    I thought Paddy, after the GE, would keep quiet for a bit.

  • While the questions posed by Caron are sound, this is clearly the beginning of a movement designed to forge a revival of center ground politics. The ideas themselves are liberal to the core and whilst they may need to be pursued in detail, you need to outline a basic idea of what the movement stands for before you then give the members a chance to debate this further. Much of this can be found in existing Liberal Democrat party policy in any event, but we must accept the fact that our party took a kicking at the last election and we need to renew if we are going to mean anything in the near and long term.

    The Labour Party are split but not necessarily evenly so. Owen Smith is far from being simply to the right of the party in the same way Chuka Ummuna and Liz Kendall are. The ideological varieties are drawing up bitter lines of division. However, the Labour Party do not accept compromise too easily and are more susceptible to cries of treachery over the smallest of actions. It is much harder to quit Labour than it is to renew our party. This movement could do much to bring like-minded centrists together, whether Lib-Dem, Labour or Conservative. We should note that not every Tory is of the paternalistic mindset that typifies the cabinet Theresa May has assembled. Some are both social and economic liberals. Our party would do well to unite these elements together, like we have before, to create a strong parliamentary grouping backed by sizeable membership.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Jul '16 - 6:03pm

    I’ve checked out the website and I’m not really a fan. For instance: when net-immigration is at 300,000 per year the best message is not “welcome immigration” because what the public hears is “welcome mass immigration”.

    Of course immigration should be welcomed, but it needs to be more nuanced.

    I can’t find anything on military/defence policy either. I also think the loyalty question matters too. I’m not very loyal at all, but to fund candidates standing against Lib Dems seems quite a big thing to me.

    I’m usually pro media regulation, but I agree with Caron here that the correct solution to misleading campaigns is to point them out rather than ban them. For instance, even though the bus says “let’s fund our NHS instead”, technically it doesn’t say “let’s give the £350 million to the NHS instead”, so I think it should only be direct lies which should be punished.

  • During the coalition years Paul Barker used to irritate me profoundly with his relentless optimism and slavish loyalty to the leadership. However, he does deserve credit – which I don’t think he has claimed – for his frequent forecasts of serious problems for the Labour Party at a time when this was not obviously something that might happen.

  • electoral reform? surely, electoral reform – surely, at least, electoral reform?
    (bangs head)

  • Little Jackie Paper 24th Jul '16 - 9:12pm

    ‘Digital organisations are, one at a time, disrupting every part of our society. Companies like Uber and Amazon succeed because they understand that the internet isn’t just a way to do things faster or cheaper, it’s a way to do things that could never be done before.

    That same revolution will come to politics. It’s inevitable.’

    That might be true, but I’d be very, very cautious about assuming that this so-called disrupted politics would be liberal. I’d be even more cautious about assuming that these disruptive companies are good things.

    My concern with internet politics and talkboards is that they just become shrill echo-chambers. Just people who all agree with each other. If anything that Rathe article sounds suspiciously like the idea that politics is a sort of slacktivism – an arm-chair exercise with no substance or depth.

    Yes – political parties might not wonderful in their current form. But I don’t see that it follows from there that the internet is any the better as (I think) Rathe seems to think.

    Tapping away on a keyboard is not real activity, still less a meaningful and personal civil society. We need politics to move away from the keyboard, and if that’s not buzzy and disruptive then so be it.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jul '16 - 9:53pm

    Having just caught up with Paddy describing the proposed movement to Andrew Marr, I don’t like it. ‘Millions who want to make a difference not necessarily through a political party’ … ‘influence the activities of parties’. This is a cop-out. As Tim said after his election, ‘If you are a liberal, I need you to become a Liberal Democrat. ‘ (Or at least, support us, and vote for us when you can – my follow-up.) Why should people who feel vaguely affronted by present political turmoil be given an easy option of seeming to do something, but actually doing nothing that will advance the country’s political life? Leave the idea of the importance of ‘social movement’ to John McDonnell and his fellow Corbynistas. By the way, elected politicians are citizens who try to serve their fellow citizens, not some strange outlandish tribe. Support Tim and enrol more Liberal Democrats, don’t give way to this.

  • Adrian Sanders,
    I agree with much of what you say, although I think Tim is correct to be offering a home to the many people who feel very upset about the referendum result and would like to reverse it if possible. People have always know where we stood on the EU and it has not stopped us winning seats like Torbay in the past. People actually respect consistency in politics and it was loss of respect that was so damaging to us in 2010.. What we need most of all right now is some new committed younger members and an improvement in the polls to give us some credibility

    However I wanted to return to “what lost the referendum”, and I think it was the largely ineffectual ground campaign by Remain in many places that failed to change any minds that were being made up by slick Leave slogans and tabloid stories, combined with an “everyone is voting Leave” feeling in many disadvantaged areas outside London. The main responsibility for this failure lies with Labour, who were the one united party (outside Scotland) with the resources to do something about it. I live in Kirklees but there was no polling day operation whatsoever here, so I went to Leeds, where the whole thing was run out of one terraced student house. It was very clear that only student and young professional areas had been canvassed, where the vote was overwhelmingly Remain. I was going round with Labour SPADS from Normanton who said they had given up on their own constituency because they got such a poor reception (while spending the day chatting about the imminent coup against Corbyn in the back of my car!)… I think the parties tried to do turnout-based GOTV operation, simply identifying Remain supporters, instead of actually going and trying to persuade anyone. And even that operation was low key and half-hearted.
    For example Kirklees in the May elections was a forest of posters on lamp-posts from all the parties, especially Labour. But in the referendum there were only a handful, and those mainly Leave, and I think all the parties had assumed it was someone else’s responsibility. I helped put up some Lib Dem posters but only a few dozen because that was all we had.. So the message the Labour Party in particular sent was “we care more about local elections than this referendum, vote how you want”

  • Tony Greaves 24th Jul '16 - 11:19pm

    This is silly midsummer froth, a top-down attempt to use social media by people who don’t know how it really works, and (in practice if not in intent) a bid to finally kill off the Liberal Democrats as a functioning political party.

    I have heard talk that where the Central Committee decide to approve more than one candidate in a constituency, a choice will be made by Joint Open Selection (older people here will rock their bellies at this point). But who will be able to vote is not clear…

    It’s the new Coupon, folks! Sensible Liberals will ignore this nonsense and let its
    proposers enjoy their summer bubble of media froth.

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jul '16 - 12:03am

    It is a front organisation. Its members will want to influence it and make choices, so its shape will change. Gradually it will become more specific and smaller.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jul '16 - 8:40am

    Mike Butcher, what do you actually mean by ‘have joined us’ ?

  • grahame lamb 25th Jul '16 - 8:48am

    After Francis Pym was sacked by Margaret Thatcher in 1983 for being too “Wet” he launched a movement called Conservative Centre Forward whose aim was to espouse “One Nation” policies. Mr Pym was never heard of again. Neither was Conservative Centre Forward.

    What did you say this new movement was called?

  • Paddy Ashdown 25th Jul '16 - 8:51am

    I have done a LOOOOOONG email to Karen responding to some of her very legitimate questions which I have asked her to put on the site

  • Randomly,

    This organisation is presumably going to be pulled in the direction of the majority of its members, given that they will be the source of the funding, and according to the blurb get to decide the policies and which candidate best meets them. The latter will apparently be decided by interview, which implies it will need sort of officer structure at local level before too long. So it will depend on where it pulls the most people in from?

    On Brexit the New Statesmen article “English Revolt” by a Cambridge academic is worth a read, to put recent events in some sort of historical perspective.

    On immigration, the policy of welcoming migrants doesn’t appear to have gone very well for Mrs Merkel. It won’t take much for us to be facing the same problem.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jul '16 - 9:15am

    Ian: One of the attractions of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, etcetera is safety. The current depressing news is broadcast worldwide.

  • Hope I’m wrong, but it sounds a bit like some sort of Chattering Classes cappuccino served inside the posher bits of the Metropolitan M25 ring with a dash of C list celebrities thrown on top for flavouring. I’ll never forget what a hash the travelling circus of the SDP made of the Darlington by-election back in 1983.

    Has Paddy finally lost it ?

    Off into the garden now – a much more productive activity.

  • Yes the phrase ‘welcome immigration’ should be more nuanced – or would we welcome 70 million immigrants who dont speak english and dont agree with our liberal democracy?

    Yes, why is PR missing

    But we have a situation where the Conservative machine is clever and rich and unscrupulous and wins a Westminster majority with 37% of the vote, we dont have to play everything by their rules, – if we do with so many progressive parties splitting we could doom Britain to decades of Tory misrule, and that will hurt the poor and under-educated more than it will hurt me

  • i heard a rumour from a PPC that if say we have a green candidate in north hereford and libdem in south, if i go out locally in north hereford and support the greeen then I’m breaking the constitution and can be expelled .. true or false or its complicated?

  • Paddy – fantastic that you have replied to Karen’s comments, I do often fear that the great and the good post articles here but never read the comments…

  • Alasdair Brooks 25th Jul '16 - 10:34am

    I was going to post in here to add my voice to those expressing serious concerns over whether a senior party figure and respected former leader was supporting an initiative that – inadvertently or otherwise – might actively undermine the LibDems just at a point when local election results and post-referendum membership growth were suggesting that the party had passed its lowest post-2015 ebb. Then I saw this morning’s comment from Paddy Ashdown; so now I’ll hold fire in the hope that his e-mail is indeed posted to the site. I look forward to reading his response.

  • Simon McGrath 25th Jul '16 - 10:54am

    @George -if you support a green candidate who is opposing a LD you would probably be expelled

  • Simon McGrath – with a progressive alliance, formal or informal, we could knock out the sitting Conservatives in North and South Hereford, but if Green / Libs and Labour are fighting each other the tories would win – Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin !

  • Nicole Haydock 25th Jul '16 - 1:27pm

    Moreunited against”extremism” says Paddy? Like what exactly ? The majority of people in the UK who -rightly or wrongly – voted to leave the EU, UKIP, the Greens, Labour Party supporters of Corbyn ?

    The only way to mend our broken democracy is to make every vote count at all levels, from Local Council elections to General Elections.

    All we need is a commitment from all political parties to commit NOW to end first-past-the post and push for legislation NOW for Proportional Representation. The last thing we need is yet another centrist coalition which will inevitably disenfranchised and alienate even more of our citizens.

  • Simon Banks 25th Jul '16 - 2:16pm

    I’m quite depressed by some of the arguments against this. Yes, wonderful if people who think like us join us and some are doing just that, but we’re in cloud cuckoo land if we think most of them will before the next general election. It was very, very obvious during the referendum campaign that there was a lot in common between many people in at least the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and minorities in Labour and the SNP, plus some Northern Ireland parties. If we fight one another, the Tories benefit. I’m certainly against abandoning thinking long, but any effective manager, leader, general or whatever thinks both long and short. I’m nearly 70 and I hate what the Tories are doing to this country. Do I have to be nearly 80 before there’s a chance of seeing it reversed?

    If we are secure in our political identity – which for me is Liberal – we have nothing to fear from limited co-operation with other parties, provided we stick to our principles and don’t sell them short. Within such a broad movement, we will be the group most obviously at ease, and this may lead to gaining more members.

    Caron raises a number of important points, especially about liberty, and there is also the question about electability. Would, for example, a Green who was exactly in line with More United and who is trying to improve on 4% of the vote last time get funded in preference to a Liberal Democrat or Labour candidate who’s almost as good for More United and who is starting 5% behind the defending Tory? That could work very much in the interests of the Tory.

    It also appears to me that issues of national independence should be left out of this entirely. After all, I haven’t yet heard what Scottish Liberal Democrats will do if offered a referendum choice between Scotland in the UK outside the EU and Scotland in the EU outside the UK.

  • rita giannini 25th Jul '16 - 3:02pm

    I thought her name was Caron, not Karen…..

  • Tony Hill, it’s fine to crowdfund, just another way to inspire givers, and campaigns really do need cash. Having said that, Austin Rathe please don’t get carried away. Digital is just the same as print, telly, the town crier and the garden fence – another way of us old-fashioned humans communicating. If Amazon and Uber are doing things ‘that could never be done before’ – like delivering goods and providing transport, maybe it really is time for Paddy to eat his headgear.

  • Frank Bowles 25th Jul '16 - 3:30pm

    @Simon, at the moment there isn’t a choice on the table for Scottish Liberal Democrats to make a choice between the two Unions. It’s one most of us desperately hope we don’t have to make and Willie is working closely with the First Minister to see if there are other models which could possibly work which keep Scotland in or closer to the EU. If it comes to the agonising choice between the two then I hope that the party recognises that individual Liberals will have different personal priorities and not prescribe one way or the other.

    As far as the wider context of the discussion is concerned in Scotland, I struggle to see how such a movement would apply; we have one party which considers itself centrist and liberal in power in Edinburgh and with 90% of the Westminster seats. Scottish Liberal Democrats wouldn’t see the SNP in these terms but More United might — the Nats would have no problem on paper signing up to their principles. So nice idea, and there is something in creating a new politics beyond party politics but I doubt this is it. People want to challenge the Establishment, this feels like something created by its leftish flank.

  • nvelope2003 25th Jul '16 - 4:02pm

    Does anyone really believe that either the Labour or the Conservative party will agree to Proportional Representation ?

  • “Their aims on diversity would be much more credible if they didn’t have two people on their list of supporters who exclude transgender women from feminist spaces.”

    Oh no! Fetch me a fan.

  • Philip Latham 25th Jul '16 - 6:50pm

    There are times when I wonder why ordinary members like myself bother when one of our leaders who has eaten hats is allowed to get anywhere near a journalist. The evidence for the direction the Lib Dems should take is to be found in the EU referendum vote. Turning our backs on PR when the electorate has quite clearly rejected the games politicians have played in order to exclude voters like them is folly. We can’t deny that we played the same negative games as the other parties to get a foothold on power. Currently that section of the electorate won’t engage with with us unless we can convince them we do care about their exclusion from power. We must use the current situation to show that we do believe our rhetoric and are not just in it this game for our own self interest. When I look at some sections of the party I understand why the dispossessed feel so cynical

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jul '16 - 6:56pm

    Charles Kennedy was right, the UK needs to finish the job on devolution. George Osborne is on the backbenches, Greg Clark has been reshuffled and Theresa May might be in favour. Greater London wants influence on railways and airports outside its boundaries, again, but England outside London needs effective devolution. Different electoral systems can exist for new bodies and new roles, such as Police and Crime Commissioners without undermining the incumbency of MPs.

  • Yellow Submarine 25th Jul '16 - 7:01pm

    Oh Dear God. For good or ill the proposal is obvious so let me spell it out. More United is a ‘ coupon ‘. If it works candidates will be able to compete for it’s small l liberal coupon in each constituency. Either the Liberal Democrat candidate will win the coupon or the best placed and most liberal/least illiberal alternative candidate will. This moves the line of compromise in a liberal direction. If Lib Dems don’t like who wins the coupons they can either aggressively join to influence selections or alternatively boycott it. Folk can whine ” but why don’t they join the Lib Dems ” but some folk won’t but will join this. So why make the good the enemy of the best ? Tribalism seems to be the answer !

  • Yellow Submarine 25th Jul '16 - 7:09pm

    And too many folk are in denial about the crisis non Conservative politics is now in. If we were starting from scratch we’d have a single ‘ Democratic ‘ Party for Westminster elections with a slimmed down manifesto and agreed PM candidate. Who fought each seat as the Democratic candidate and who was the PM candidate would be decided by primaries of all left of centre party members affiliated to the Democratic Westminster operation. All sub Westminster elections could be fought by the existing parties who’d retain independence. Clearly we aren’t starting from scratch but More United is fresh thinking and seems to acknowledge the scale of the crisis in non Conservative politics.

  • Yes Yellow Submarine. Further:

    If MU were to let (say) a Labour candidate win the coupon in 95% of the seats, then MU would have self-identified as a Labour front organisation and its coupon would get laughed into meaninglessness. The same if the coupon went overwhelmingly to Lib Dems or (indeed) overwhelmingly to Tories. The coupon will only make sense and get noticed if it gets awarded to a mix of party candidates. That won’t hurt the Lib Dems.

    For people to describe it as “a bid to kill off the Lib Dems” is risible. Frankly it just isn’t about the Lib Dems, who will simply be innocent beneficiaries. It’s about Labour, of course. It is an attempt to avoid the current trajectory, which is: Corbyn wins leadership again, Labour does not split, Corbyn leads Labour into 2020, result Tory 400 Labour 150 LD 8, finally Labour do split, Tory hegemony reigns.

    Worth a try.

  • nvelope2003 26th Jul '16 - 2:53pm

    Edward Heath was regarded as unlikely to win the general election in 1970 because he was allegedly unpopular with the voters but contrary to every expectation and some polls he did win and the Liberals lost half their seats ( from 12 down to 6) so it is by no means certain that Corbyn will be an electoral disaster. There is little sign of it in local or national by elections and opinion polls are now rather discredited after several failures. One example is that despite being at 6 % in a recent opinion poll the Liberal Democrats have won a number of local council by- elections from the Conservatives and improved their vote share in others.

    The main problem with Corbyn is that he will take the votes of the idealistic and lose the votes of the more conservative traditional Labour voters who will move to the Conservative Party. This will be a disaster for the Liberal Democrats and for any prospect of a centre left regrouping.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jul '16 - 4:13pm

    Adrian Sanders

    It’s not as if there weren’t warning signs that people were rejecting the status quo. The 2014 debate between one of the most intelligent Party Leaders of our age – an expert on the European Union and its institutions – and Nigel Farage should have ended in a massive win for Clegg.

    Clegg made the serious mistake of arguing that Nigel Farage wanted a return to the past.

    If you were to ask many, perhaps most, people in this country “Do you want to return to the past?”, I think they would answer “YES!”.

    To some extent there is a golden age nostalgia aspect here. However, there are good reason why many would think that way. We have seen a continuous growth in inequality since 1979. We have seen life for most people become much less certain, in the past many people had what they thought was a job for life, and the security that offered meant they had more freedom. Now we have an economy which is meant to be all about competition, and that in practice means people lead lives dominated by fear and stress. Back before 1979 there was the security offered by council housing being readily available for those in need. The destruction of the council housing system has taken away so much security and hence so much freedom from ordinary people, and ha led to people being stressed out and enslaved by having to work desperately to pay high private rents or mortgages.

    The elite intelligentsia just do not get this point, because they live comfortable protected lives, where they have their own wealth and contacts to fall back on.

    Of course the reality is that Brexit most definitely is not going to return us to a 1960s golden age. The changes that have taken place since then have little to do with EU membership, so leaving the EU won’t reverse them. Indeed, the leading figures of the Brexit campaign are just the people who were pushing hardest for the policies that have changed things, and want those sort of policies pushed still more, and in fact want to leave the EU because they think they can be pushed harder still outside the EU.

    That is how Clegg SHOULD have responded to Farage.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jul '16 - 4:21pm


    The main problem with Corbyn is that he will take the votes of the idealistic and lose the votes of the more conservative traditional Labour voters who will move to the Conservative Party.

    I am concerned that the attitude of most vocal Liberal Democrats to that sort these days (I paraphrase) is “Pah, we don’t like that sort, nasty oiks, we don’t want them, good riddance”.

    Why do we seem to be so happy with a situation where the Conservative Party wins both ways – pushing extreme free market policies that have destroyed certainty and so are the opposite of small-c conservatism, and then gaining the votes of people who have a small-c conservative attitude because the rest of the political parties despise that sort and make no secret of it?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jul '16 - 11:44am

    What excellent comments from Mathew Huntbach .

    We do indeed suffer for the lack of what he describes ,and he mentions a kind of golden age of a sort of socially liberal and Social Liberal society, with a sense of security that must have made people feel ,more united .

    And , interestingly ,he and I recently disagreed on here ,when I was not keen on his , what I thought was, derision ,of creative industries and arts “types “, but we eventually seemed to completely agree , and here it comes to those issues again , my view is nearly everyone I know in that field, of the arts and creative industries , suffers for the lack of security that Mathew so well describes.

    Once , the generations above mine , had repertory theatre in the regions of this country and most major cities, from Birmingham Rep , to Citizens , Glasgow ,or Nottingham Playhouse. A basic wage , yes , but solid work in a company , for a year at a time .Not productions one at a time , all new and often small ,casts , a couple of months work , as now,and with no full ,permanent or lasting ,actors companies.

    A studio contract , to work in film, perhaps with a company that would nurture you , as a leading man or leading lady of the cinema ,or with bit parts , possibilities as a supporting or character actor ,but regular work. Gainsborough , Rank , Ealing, the names are now only on the credits of old films.

    A television ,national broadcaster, and a commercial channel ,that invested in new , not well connected ,writers , who got to write new plays , with low budgets , in the tradition of the theatre , but with exposure that could match film.

    Bands , swing , jazz or skiffle, not big names only or always , but Big Bands , touring the nation and the clubs!

    Clubs , and theatres , in London and beyond ,that employed singers , entertainers and musicians , in cabaret , or revue , nightly ,yes for one offs , but also for weeks , months and , sometimes even years , oh , the Talk of the Town indeed !

    Yes there was a golden age once .Before I was born, much of it !

    Liberals , mostly ,are , though ,optimists yet !!! Hence why some of us are at least open to us being sympathetic to new ideas too , as well as the revival of the best of the old !

  • Look, the importance of this idea is less about party politics, and more about politics in general. There is a distinctly worrying trend in UK politics, and democratic systems around the world, towards the right. It’s often born out of the frustrations of the working class over the collapse of manufacturing, increasing globalisation, fears about multiculturalism and terrorism etc.

    The terrifying thing about this lurch to the right, and the current counter-wave of hard left activists opposing it in a mostly ineffective way, is that it is mostly going unopposed by politicians fearful for their own vote share. The Tory Party, UKIP and even Labour in the past have routinely stoked the fires of this hate and division because they were scared of doing anything else. Nick Clegg refused to be drawn in to this, argued against UKIP firmly and publicly, and saw his party wiped out in 2015 because the message simply isn’t being spread by enough people. He couldn’t do it on his own, and nor can the Lib Dems.

    The idea behind More United is to feed the “moderate rebellion” taking shape in the wake of the disgust of Jo Cox’s murder, and hopefully build it in to a wider consensus and stronger voice in UK politics. We can’t rely on one single party to speak the case against the right. We need to have influences in every party making the same case, not just the Lib Dems, because we can’t fight a battle as big as this alone.

    We’re finding ourselves standing against oblivion, and louder voices than us are being heard more often. We must ensure that more voices can spread the moderate, rational message across the spectrum

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '16 - 1:05pm

    Early Paddy said “be more pro-active”.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Aug '16 - 9:24am

    Martha Lane Fox is on pages 1 and 15 of the New European 29/7-4/8/2016.
    “Crowdfunding: a new style of democracy”.

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