Tag Archives: brexit party

Lord William Wallace writes….Money, money, money

Liberal Democrats achieve remarkable successes on the foundation of determined campaigning, enthusiasm, and passionate promotion of liberal values.  But money also matters.  And shortage of money, compared to Labour and (above all) the Conservatives, is one of the major obstacles to a political breakthrough.

Last year our federal party raised £6.2m, and spent £6.5m.  That meant some painful cuts in staffing, as well as missed opportunities in media projection, campaigning, and organisation.  Those who complain in commenting on Lib Dem Voice postings that our media team are failing to make the most of our rise in the polls do not know how small our media team is at present, and how wonderfully effective they are for their size.  We could do with a larger leader’s office, a larger policy development team, and a much larger team of regional and field organisers to help and support local activists in their campaigns.  But all that requires money.

Press reports on problems within the Labour Party’s headquarters have noted that Labour has over 400 HQ staff.  Lib Dems currently have 60, working flat out to support the party throughout the country, to service our members, and not least to make sure that we fulfil all our legal obligations as a regulated political organisation.  

Labour had significantly expanded its paid staff between 2016 and 2018, and also doubled the size of its leader’s office – partly on the back of the impressive surge in party membership, which (as reported to the Electoral Commission ) brought in £26m in fees in 2017.  This was still, however, less than a third of its total income.  Fundraising and donations, most importantly from trade unions, brought in £25m, public support for its role as a major opposition party (‘Short’ and ‘Cranborne’ money) brought in £8.5m, and conferences and other events contributed most of the rest.  The slump in Labour’s membership in 2018-19, together with a decline in donations, has now left the party with a widening gap between increased spending and declining income.

The Conservatives are more like a centralised campaigning organisation than a membership-based party.  They declared an income from membership subscriptions in 2017 of only £835,000: that’s a little more than £6 per member on their estimated membership.  They received more in legacies than that.  But the bulk of their income comes from major donors: a total of £30m in donations in 2017, much of it in five- or six-figure sums from a few hundred individuals.  J. C. Bamford, the excavator company chaired by Lord Bamford, is one of its largest donors, giving £1.5m in the three months before the 2017 election.  Labour analysis shows that a high proportion of major Conservative donors are hedge fund managers; others include wealthy Russians, and Middle Eastern millionaires, with homes in London.  EC figures show that the Conservatives received £7.5m between October and December 2018 from 230 donors: more than our entire income last year.

The Brexit Party is a limited company controlled by Nigel Farage.  It reports £2.75m in online donations (each below £500, thus not reportable to the EC) through PayPal in the first half of 2019, as well as several larger donations – including £200,000 from Jeremy Hosking, a City financier who finances a number of right-wing causes.  The Financial Times on July 26th reported that Farage  has just launched ‘World4Brexit’ at an event in New York, attended by leading figures on the hard right of US politics (Peter Thiel, the CEO of PayPal, is a supporter).  Farage is already attacking the Electoral Commission for querying his fund-raising methods, claiming ‘an Establishment stitch-up.’

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 25 Comments

The Brexit Party is undemocratic!

Apparently, we Liberal Democrats hate democracy. Or so I’ve been told by those who support an exit from the EU.

Apparently, we don’t respect the result of the 2016 referendum.

I hear it’s now undemocratic to hold any other view. It’s undemocratic to spend nearly three years campaigning for and building a massive consensus for that view, to the point that going into any People’s Vote referendum campaign, there would be every reason for us to be optimistic.

It’s undemocratic, I’m told, for us to rebuild the Liberal Democrat Party as a people’s movement against Brexit and for an open and tolerant Britain.

It’s …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 103 Comments

On standing up to Farage

The growth of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party has been extremely frightening to watch. We may not want to think it, but many in the country are deeply disenfranchised from the Westminster establishment, and want Brexit ‘over and done with’. They voted for for something, therefore they want it delivered. Brexit may well be the gross national soliloquy that has destroyed Britain’s political respectability, but democracy certifies that the government must enact the decision that the country supported. We all want a second referendum, but without one Brexit cannot be discarded. The consequences for trust in democracy in Britain would be very harmful. There is no way around this  disturbing fact, and the Brexit Party is exploiting the fragile nature of Brexit antagonism. 

George Orwell wrote that “If Liberty is anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” This admirable maxim can be voiced to both sides of the Brexit debate, to both the Brexiteers living in John Betjeman’s ‘Eternal Safety Zone’ or to Remainers unable to accept the result of a democratic vote. 

This utterly demoralising situation makes the European elections even more important. Farage’s band of rebels scream their creed of a new Peasants’ Revolt against the ‘liberal elite’ and proclaim that they are able to speak for working people. The familiar faces of Farage and the ultra-reactionary Ann Widdecombe reminded me that this is a very far-fetched idea. The party claims to be a group determined to keep democracy alive, but Farage has been opposed at the ballot box seven times. The idea that democracy is being tarnished is also very evidently nonsensical, Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union and a deal has been agreed with Brussels. The Brexit hardliners are refusing to countenance compromise and in doing so endanger their sacred project. The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is the closest they are going to get to their original aim, but the cry of ‘betrayal’ at every proposal apart from the unicorn no-deal solidifies the case for their permanent residency in cloud-cuckoo land. 

One of the hallmarks of an extremist politician is their connections to shadowy organisations. Jeremy Corbyn has been consistently and rightly called out for his links to terrorist groups; his calls for ‘dialogue’ distinctly in opposition to his rejection of talks with Western powers. Farage is the same, he pretends to be the opposite of Corbyn, yet his tactics are always the same, and exposed by his dubious supporters. Whether he is supporting the dictatorial and conspiracy theorist Viktor Orban as the “future of Europe” or cosying up to Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the  Trump-backing ‘Ted’ Malloch. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 32 Comments
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