Sorting Out the Political Mess

I am concerned about many of the issues that people have been discussing on Lib Dem Voice and the media over the past few days. The big issues being:

  • The referendum was actually about issues other than the EU and indeed immigration–in particular: gross inequality in our country; how austerity has created winners and losers when it comes to many cities and regions; and the opportunity this represented for people to punish the political elites.
  • The Leave campaign seem to have pedaled out a lot of untruths—especially the inability to be able to stem immigration in the post-Brexit world and our inability to pour £350 million into the NHS each week.

But time to dissect the politics and ponder the political landscape after this momentous decision. Who is fit to run the country both during this period of massive division and after the dust has settled?

First, the Conservatives. I hope most people are seeing now that the referendum was brought about solely because of a Conservative problem. They were and still are deeply divided on the EU and Cameron thought it worth the political gamble to have a referendum to keep part of his party content (and also to keep Ukip at by during the last General Election). We can see that he lost his bet because he felt he had to resign—at a moment when the right thing to do would have been to stay on and try to sort the mess out. This is very poor leadership, to say the least. Osborne disappeared for three days when the markets were in turmoil and prominent Tory Brexiters were left at a loss for meaningful words, apparently because they did not think they would win.

It emerges that there was no plan from the Brexit camp or the administration, despite what Osborne has said since, for the situation we now find ourselves in. It feels like we have just been part of an almost unwitting right-wing coup, with no-one knowing how to pick up the pieces and move forward with purpose at a time when the country is crying out for leadership.

Who will next lead the Conservative party? I am wondering if Boris Johnson, has in fact played this all wrong. How can someone who campaigned so passionately for Brexit lead a country (or indeed a party) so deeply divided on Europe? There is a need to have a moderate leader and someone who can unite the party and country. That is not Boris Johnson or Michael Gove.

Then there is the issue of competence. The Conservatives have long been touted as the responsible and competent party. For how long did they play the old tune that the Labour party had let down the country through being financially incompetent? But now the charge can clearly be leveled at the Tories that they have been politically incompetent and have thereby put the country at risk. But who is going to call them out for this incompetence?

This brings us onto Labour. At a time when the main opposition party should be calling on the Conservatives for leadership and a plan to sort the political mess out, they are engaged in an internecine war over their own leadership. And it seems that this is going to run and run, as Corbyn will not back down.

Also, Labour came to the party late over the referendum, their leader being seemingly lukewarm over membership of the EU and not grasping the nettle early enough. The fact that they were unable to engage their heartlands shows a clear disconnect between the party and what have traditionally been their natural supporters. Labour seems to be in a crisis.

So what now? The Tory and Labour political classes have fallen into themselves at a time when the country needs them. Serious issues of competence and putting the country first over party politics must come into play here. This has been a desperate moment for party politics and has shown it in its worst light.

There has never been a more important moment for liberal ideas and values in our country. I sincerely hope that, as people all across the country have been joining the liberal cause, those MPs who are more liberal in the Labour and Conservative parties, think seriously about whether they can serve their electorates more effectively as part of a liberal party, united behind its leader and its policies.

Seismic shifts are afoot. It is difficult to see how what have been the two main political parties in this country for around a century can return to “business as usual” after this crisis is over.

* Helen Flynn is an Executive Member of the LDEA. She is a former Parliamentary Candidate and Harrogate Borough Councillor and has served on the Federal Policy Committee and Federal Board. She has been a school governor in a variety of settings for 19 years and currently chairs a multi academy trust in the north of England.

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  • paul barker 28th Jun '16 - 2:06pm

    The split between The PLP & the rest of The Labour Party seems to be widening as we watch, its not impossible that by tinight Labour may have two “Leaders”. The Effective division into two or more Parties may only be days away. Certainly we should launch what Marxists call a “Unity Offensive” at Labour, be very nice to them & say how welcome they would be in our ranks.
    Longer term we need to be preparing a New Alliance, including, if possible, an Electoral Pact around a common Program; – with rejoining The EU at the top.

  • I just don’t get articles like this. There is no ‘nutritional value’, to be gained once you’ve read it. We get multiple articles like this that say,,… yes there is a social divide,.. and yes,..this referendum has highlighted that fact. But then we get a [….BLANK….].
    What actual liberal policy solutions (or even blue sky ideas?), do you have to deal with this.? For example, is it worth considering cranking up the Barnet formula to fund Wales and English regions, to match the per/head cash given to Scotland.? And if that idea is a total non starter,.. please throw some of your ideas into the ring,.. but please,.. no more wordy hand-wringing?
    More practical solutions,.. and less sympathetic pixels on a screen please?

  • Another practical idea that you’re welcome to shoot down in flames if you wish? Is it worth funding the construction HS3 (Northwest) and HS4(Southwest), before HS2.?
    Are there any other practical ideas, that we can consider to assist this UK social and financial gulf, between London and pretty much everyone else?

  • Article on Liberal Democrat website asks who can best run the country, comes to shocking conclusion that it’s the Liberal Democrats.

    Choir nods as they digest sermon.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun '16 - 6:53pm

    Yes a mess and indeed a solution , us !

    The government has caused a crisis by opening a Pandoras box.

    The Labour party has created a crisis by choosing the wrong man to lead them and not knowing how to deal with it but for digging their own ….

    Now is the time for thinking outside the box .We must be the party of in, but for real and radical reform, if in .

    We must advocate a new kind of European project , for all Europeans to loosely but staunchly rally round .

    We must be the party to save the UK by showing we can advance a manifesto that has keeping the UK together, at its heart.We must get the support of Scottish pro UK voters , that even the Tories cannot, because they have caused this mess and the nationalists are seeking an immediate referendum to dissolve their being in our UK.

    We must be the rallying point for all in the radical centre and on the moderate centre left , who seek unity and competence but real and exciting answers to the dissconected and divided series of nations we are becoming.

    We can do it . Starting now. But our party needs to realise there are millions of potential Labour and Tory voters out there in need of a sane alternative , we are it !

  • Steffan Aquarone 28th Jun '16 - 6:54pm

    “The referendum was actually about issues other than the EU and indeed immigration–in particular: gross inequality in our country; how austerity has created winners and losers when it comes to many cities and regions; and the opportunity this represented for people to punish the political elites.”

    Amen to this, Helen

  • David Cooper 28th Jun '16 - 8:20pm

    @Is it worth funding the construction HS3 (Northwest) and HS4(Southwest), before HS2.?
    Of course. The idea of spending money on HS2, which primarily benefits London , is crazy. With HS2, huge amounts of taxpayer funds will be wasted compensating landowners along the route for decreased property value. Since property prices in the south are astronomical, we should recognize that the only sensible option is to build infrastructure where property costs are cheaper, i.e. the North. With luck, over many years the situation may self-correct as more infrastructure is built in the north, and property prices should even out.

  • @Is it worth funding the construction HS3 (Northwest) and HS4(Southwest), before HS2.?

    Well in the context of Brexit, the downgrading of the UK’s credit rating, the likely shrinkage of London’s financial services sector, HS2 is looking increasingly unviable (as is Hinkley Point C). Whilst I appreciate the idea’s behind HS3 and HS4. perhaps we should be a little more forward looking and ensure we have good links to between the ‘northern’ English cities (broadly Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Grimsby/Immingham) and Scotland…

  • Roland
    “…perhaps we should be a little more forward looking and ensure we have good links to between the ‘northern’ English cities (broadly Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Grimsby/Immingham) and Scotland…”
    Excellent idea.
    David Cooper
    I’m glad someone else has recognised the real reason for the push for HS2.? HS2 never was about shaving a half hour off a Northern journey to London. The purpose of HS2 is a solution to the spiralling housing costs of London. By high speeding a commute from London through a Warwick corridor to Birmingham, you can make a whole swath of housing,.. London daily commutable.? So,..Londoners, looking after the interests of Londoners.. who would have believed it.?

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jun '16 - 10:32pm

    There is no real need for HS2 to have all these straight lines. The need was for capacity, not speed.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Jun '16 - 10:33pm

    I think it’s wrong to assume the gulf is between London and the rest of the country. That is much too simple an analysis of the results. The North East has suffered much more than the North West from the decline of traditional industry so it would seem sensible to first introduce the fast rail link between Manchester and Leeds which has been put on hold. Manchester voted to remain as did Liverpool. It seemed to me as the results came in that seaside towns, areas of relatively recent deprivation, had voted leave and also country areas.
    We must take on board that this was a vote for change, for people’s control over their own lives. It’s an example of the alienated being exploited by wealthy right wing leaders for their own purposes but they have been alienated by being the losers in the economy for more than thirty years. We have to change this urgently.
    It is also important for us to take the problems of immigration seriously because services may well have been stretched to breaking point by a large influx of migrants. Of course this promotes racism but the situation is more complicated than that. Some people who probably came to live here in the sixties also complain when services suffer. We can no longer dismiss these concerns as bigotry as Gordon Brown did.

    While the Tories and Labour put party before country we can work on policies to meet these concerns. I’m glad we’re not in the limelight because we have much work to do. We must put forward an alternative to austerity, we must talk about control in the EU and in the world as a whole where global companies rule. We must challenge the way free movement of people operates and propose controls. We must give the poorest and weakest in our country hope because, if we don’t, this democratic revolution, this destruction of the status quo by peaceful means, could be the forerunner of something much worse.

  • Working in a room full of both leave and remain voters i had as a remain to ask why they voted the way they did. Yes i dared ask, which seems more than some did.

    A certain age range voted leave as they voted for the EEC an economical block not a political block, they have become alarmed over the creeping movement of the goalposts.

    Anyone else getting similar feedback.

  • Thank you D.Hewitt. I had a lot of feedback. I live in Wirral, in the ward where I was one of three Lib Dem Councillors, seats still held by us thanks to the non stop work of our group leader on the council Phil Gilchrist. As I walked around giving out Focus over recent months many people spoke to me about the referendum. Mainly about immigration and why that decided their vote. Too many immigrants in an area where there are very few. Those who are here tend to have higher incomes in any case. Hospital doctors, professional people, business owners. The people I spoke to were mainly owner occupiers.

    I think we have to remember the power of the media which was very well organised, especially the social media. But we must also remember that the comfortable owner occupiers have families. They are worried that the children, or grand children cannot get on the housing ladder, have often jobs without real security. Or have to move far away to work. This may not have been the majority issue, immigration, but it was the large majority of those who stopped me in the street.

    The case I put forward was simply dismissed as my not understanding. I was told that a local supermarket was full of papers in foreign languages. I said I had not seen them. I was told to have my sight checked. I checked – one Polish paper – other foreign papers were American and Irish – but I don’t think people believe they are foreign.

  • Bill le Breton 29th Jun '16 - 8:22am

    This was interesting from Helen, “Who will next lead the Conservative party? I am wondering if Boris Johnson, has in fact played this all wrong. How can someone who campaigned so passionately for Brexit lead a country (or indeed a party) so deeply divided on Europe? There is a need to have a moderate leader and someone who can unite the party and country. That is not Boris Johnson or Michael Gove.”

    Some thoughts on the Conservatives:
    1.Always they put power and its retention first.
    2. Throughout the Ref campaign Tory Leavers and Tory Remainers we always less than frank about their positions – Cameron had a history of Euro scepticism and Johnson has one of Europhilia.

    So, what are we seeing overnight and this morning. Cameron has told his fellow EU leaders that there has to be some movement on freedom of movement. Now Javid and Crabb are saying the decision of the UK people must go ahead AND the EU must give on freedom of movement.

    Talk about triangulations of positions between parties, we are seeing triangulaion about positions within a party. It’s the coming together of the Conservative Party around a new position.Can we expect Johnson to diverge? No. Theresa May? Well at the start of the campaign no one knew which way she would actually side.

    Looks like an ‘EEA +’ solution. The “+” being greater control over movement across Europe.

    Conclusion. The mountain has shifted towards Boris (just when Boris was himself moving and not moving, writing his Telegraph article and then getting someone tyo say he was tired when he wrote it).

    This is the Tory party doing what it does instinctively. See point 1 above.

  • At long last there seem to be serious voices in the Labour undergrowth calling for Proportional Representation. If this contributes to a non-Tory consensus, fine, but PR won’t come in a hurry. That gives somebody somewhere within the Lib Dems plenty of time to give some thought to training for winning PR elections – which we are rather hopeless at!

  • As a long-standing Lib Dem voter, but never a party member, I am encouraged by what Helen has said, and the comments below. I believe the Lib Dems suffered catastrophically as a result of the coalition government and have been reeling since the last election. However, time has passed, the country has changed, and now is an outstanding opportunity to make significant gains. With a purposeful, unifying and positive campaign, I strongly believe the party can offer a real alternative to voters on both sides of the referendum. I am saddened and angry about the Leave result, and by the mess of the two main parties in the House of Commons, but almost a week on, it is time to move forward. As Helen says, by identifying with the reasons why people voted us out of the EU, and offering practical policies which will help those who feel abandoned by the political system, we can make a difference to all our futures.

  • Tsar Nicholas 29th Jun '16 - 10:13am

    I would be interested to hear comments – epescially from Bill le Breton – about the suggestion in the article I link to below, that British invocation of Article 50 may be subject to Qualified Majority Voting from April 2017.

  • David Blake 29th Jun '16 - 1:26pm

    You may like to see the latest report on media coverage of the referendum from Loughborough University.

  • David Blake 29th Jun '16 - 1:26pm

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