Sorting out the mess

The country already had big issues to deal with before last Friday: price increases that are severely reducing the standard of living for many, a health service which is struggling to cope, climate change which is becoming more visible, and a  war in the Ukraine.

To this the government has added a completely unnecessary financial crisis. Another major unforced error following on from Brexit.

The best thing we can do to help sort out the mess is to get elected and to contribute in some form or other to a sensible and effective government. In this respect at least, the last week has moved us forward.

First, the Tories are making it easier for us to evict them (if more difficult to deal with the chaos once they have gone). They are backing policies that are both wrong and unpopular. Tax cuts for the rich. Incompetent economic management. Refusing to implement a windfall tax. Fracking. (Winchester, Wells, Lewes, Guildford and Esher are all interesting seats with fracking licences within the constituency or its hinterland)

Second, Labour is adopting reasonable political positions and has not yet messed up.  It would be naïve to assume that the Tories will lose (or that we will make significant progress) in the absence of a decent showing from Labour.  So it is therefore to be welcomed that hey had a largely successful conference this week on an electoral platform with many similarities to ours. There are obviously areas where policy is different, but there is a very large core we agree on. Look at the ‘pre manifesto’ prepared for our conference (Policy paper 149)  and Labour’s conference road map to a ‘Fairer, Greener, Future” and ask how much difference a neutral observer would see.  Conversely consider the clear water between what both parties are now saying compared to the Tories.  We know where we all stand.  (Labour members even voted in favour of PR – though it seems unlikely that this will be adopted by Starmer any time soon.)

Third, electoral outcomes in which we have real relevance have become more likely. The most probable scenario in which we have a meaningful impact on government is an election that gives Labour enough seats to govern without the Scottish Nationalists, but insufficient to achieve an overall majority without support in some form from us.  Say we achieve 30 seats in the next election; then the best outcome for us (in a parliament of 650 seats) is for Labour to have something between 295 and 325. It is a mug’s game guessing exactly how many seats either we or Labour will have after the next General Election, but this type of outcome is now plausible.

It would be rash to assume that there will not be more significant changes in the political weather.  The geopolitical and UK economic situations are both volatile. The new prime minister’s partisan selection of a cabinet, and her chancellor’s evident incompetence have created enough anger among Tory MP’s to make it quite possible that she is out by the summer.

But come what may the period heading up to a vital spring conference will be more than usually important in terms of development of the party’s position electorally and politically.  Kwarteng’s ill-thought out gamble with the British economy makes the work we will put in as party members over the coming months more critical, and makes it more likely that it will eventually make a difference to how the country is governed.

* Kevin has been a party member since June 2017, from Kingston

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10 Comments

  • Martin, Indeed. While eEd is getting some time on mainstream media, and making some good points, he isn’t finding the knock out blows we need him to deliver. All in all, it seems clear that he is not getting a clear brief setting out how totally incompetent Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss are, nor on the best attack lines to make.

    There are Lib Dems with this level of knowledge, but without conference they won’t get heard.

    We need to stop prevaricating and call a Special Conference now. The excuses that it is all too difficult just don’t stack up. Our country is in crisis and March is far too far away.

  • Starmer has marched Labour back to the centre much more quickly than anyone would have anticipated. They have a good chance of winning the next election.

    This presents the Lib Dems with an unexpected opportunity to outflank Labour as Britain’s “radical party”. Time to call for radical liberal policies such as rejoin the single market, electoral reform, UBI? Drug decriminalisation? Immigration amnesty? Etc

  • Brian Blewett 28th Sep '22 - 8:14pm

    We need to show that not only are the Tories no longer fit for government but that they are not fit to be His Majesty’s Opposition either. The sort of opposition they would provide after a General Election would be destructive and therefore would not add value to the governance of the country. We need support to establish us as a constructive opposition based on the UK as a whole. This would be a breath of fresh air and lead us from His Majesty’s Opposition to be trusted to form a future government perhaps in coalition with the Greens.

  • @Marco – Time to call for radical liberal policies such as rejoin the single market, electoral reform, UBI? Drug decriminalisation? Immigration amnesty? Etc

    No, the next general election will be about the economy, food and energy security and the resource crisis – don’t expect the Russian’s to be out of Ukraine before the next general election and we are a long way from normalising post-Brexit relationships with China, EU, USA etc. Whilst these may be manifest policies, to put them forward as your main platform will only serve to further marginalise the LibDems.

    The question is really whether the LibDems should move to the left of Labour (an interesting concept) or move slightly to the right and present themselves as the real home of all those Conservative voters who have finally realised the Conservative party don’t and never did represent them.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Sep '22 - 7:52am

    It’s about what is needed by he voting public. If the Labour Party had not drifted off with comments that were not positive, things would have been different at the last election.
    Housing is a key issue as the thought of the property problems at the last property crash comes to mind.
    Things are happening at present because they can. The bad debts brought about by those who took money from the Public purse for the PPE and had little chance of fulfilling any provision, should repay.
    I feel that any joined up effort to make a positive government should be embraced.
    There needs to be urgent change, more transparency.
    It should be an exciting chance to make positive things happen, after years of situations that can only harm mental health for so many.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Sep '22 - 8:55am

    The Lib Dems were able to take votes from the Tories in the Charles Kennedy era while positioning the party as more radical than Labour. Radicalism doesn’t mean embracing Labour’s ideological left and all the baggage that goes with it.

  • Roland – I would argue that those policies are all relevant to the economy for example more immigration helps tackle labour shortages, a legal and taxable drug market increases tax revenue and UBI (which I’m not entirely sold on) would help with the cost of living. The economic benefits of the single market are very clear.

    And as Alex says it is a false choice as to whether to appeal to left leaning vs soft Tory voters.

  • Chris Platts 29th Sep '22 - 4:43pm

    We need to show that we are a progressive party prepared to look at alternatives that will assist people and eliminate poverty. Being partners with the greens and other similar parties is a positive step. Labour are doing well under Starmer, we should echo their ideas but take them forward,the idea of UBI, making immigration a positive idea not a threat. Joining the single market is worth promoting,but also keep in mind re joining the EU. We should also promote a review of the constitution and perhaps introduce citizens assemblies.

  • James Fowler 29th Sep '22 - 8:12pm

    The Charles Kennedy period might as well be a different geological era. Yes, for a while we were able to run off with Labour’s conscience, for which they paid us back with interest over the Coalition. Simultaneously the Tories fielded IDS and Howard. Chances of a repeat: nil.

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