Tag Archives: labour

Unlike Labour, Lib Dem MPs will oppose Budget tax cut for better off

As I said on Monday, the bit that annoyed me most about the Budget was that better off people were getting  a tax cut when the benefit freeze continued and only a third of what was needed was put back into Universal Credit. Add to that the people who have their much-needed disability benefits cut back for the most arbitrary of reasons after deeply flawed assessments and you can maybe see why I am so fuming.

Astonishingly, Labour is backing the Tory plansalthough some may revolt.

So it’s good to see that Vince Cable will lead Liberal Democrats in voting against the tax cuts and asking for the £1.3 billion to be spent on reversing the cuts to social security. The press release actually says welfare, but I really wish they wouldn’t call it that. Social security is important for everyone. There needs to be a safety net to help those in the most difficult situations at any time. It’s what a civilised society does. It should be enabling and freely given, not grudgingly given with unreasonable expectations written into its heart as it is at the moment.

Vince said:

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New Labour ‘Brexit Fudge’ unveiled

To mark Jeremy Corbyn’s wishy-washy policy on Brexit, a new Labour ‘Brexit Fudge’ has been launched.

The Labour ‘Brexit Fudge’, which will be handed to activists at the ‘People’s Vote’ march in London today, is expected to be a bittersweet reminder of Jeremy Corbyn’s party fudging their position on giving the people a final say on Brexit.

Labour ‘Brexit Fudge’ has been described as a soft, dense sweet, handmade by the Labour leadership. The product will be on a limited release, exclusively for voters between now and March 29th 2019.

Tom Brake said:

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership have defied us all with their ‘Brexit fudge’. Inspired by Willy Wonka himself, the Labour’s opposition to Brexit is just ‘pure imagination’.

This ‘Brexit fudge’ will stick in the throat of most Labour voters. Given the damage Brexit will cause, Labour’s failure to oppose this Tory mess will be difficult to stomach.

But for Brexiters, Chef Corbyn’s ‘Brexit fudge’ will have them salivating. It will make their Brexit dreams that much sweeter. Indeed, it will go well with a glass of Raab’s confusing concoction and the Eton mess being served up by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

While we know Corbyn likes a fudge, the number of Labour supporters marching for a People’s Vote should give him something else to chew on.

Liberal Democrats demand better. Only the Liberal Democrats are united in fighting Brexit and giving the people the final say, including the option to remain in the EU.

We’re told that the ingredients for 1kg of ‘Brexit Fudge’ include:

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Corbyn is right about inequality

Corbyn is clearly right to highlight the ‘grotesque inequality’ in our society. Wage growth has stagnated. Continued cuts are hitting the poorest hardest. And this generation is on set to be the first on living memory to be poorer than their parents.

Even if you try and ignore the unfairness, the evidence shows it harms productivity and creates the sort of ‘asset bubbles’ that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

But I have one question. Where are Labour’s answers?

At first glance the most radical is renationalisation. But this is nothing more than a recycled plan from the 1970s. It just tinkers at the edges of inequality, and carries significant risks for our future economic and energy security.

Next comes Labour’s big ticket spending item. Abolishing tuition fees. Our higher education system is far from perfect, but how many better ways could we spend £7.5 billion a year? What amounts to a tax cut for the middle classes does absolutely nothing to tackle inequality.

Most significantly, we have some Labour economic doublespeak –  ‘borrowing to invest’ in public services. While the NHS, for example, clearly does needs to be better funded, ‘invest’ falsely suggests that we get an economic return on borrowing for public services. That it will all be fine.

And this, maybe even more than Brexit, is the big danger of a Labour government. The government is already, as the Prime Minister admitted last week, spending more on paying interest alone than the entire schools’ budget. Labour’s borrowing plan would mean future generations would have to pay higher taxes and spend even less on public services.

We demand better. The Liberal Democrats have a genuine, radical plan to combat inequality.

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Can Lib Dems meet the Labour challenge?

Editor note – this article has been corrected to reflect our opposition to the proposed cut in corporation tax rates…

“Labour is offering a radical plan to rebuild and transform Britain”, Jeremy Corbyn declared at the recent Labour Conference. He said people knew the old way of running things wasn’t working any more, and boldly claimed that Labour had defined “the new common sense”.

Liberal Democrats had already agreed at our Conference, “The current British economy is simply not working for enough people today.” Passing the motion F27 on Jobs and Business, we had resolved “to work towards creating a new economy that really works for everyone.” This followed the declaration in our 2017 Manifesto that “We need a radical programme of investment to boost growth and develop new infrastructure.”

So how do the two programmes compare? The Labour plan described by McDonnell and Corbyn certainly offers radical transformative measures. They demand nationalisation of water, energy, railways and telecommunications. Companies of more than 250 employees are apparently to be obliged to grant 10% of their shares to their workers, to admit worker representatives on their boards and to allow every employee union rights. These and other overtly Socialist plans predictably have been viewed as a threat to capitalism.

We meantime had resolved, in passing motion F27, “Reforming the labour market to give control and choice back to workers, with additional rights for those in the gig economy, and a powerful new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority to protect those in precarious work.” We want a new Companies Act for the 21st Century to oblige large companies fully to reflect the interests of all stakeholders, serve the common good and be accountable for their actions, and for there to be mandatory reporting of pay ratios with “corrective action plans”. On share ownership, we are to seek a big boost to employee ownership by extending the Liberal Democrat ownership trust scheme. 

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Working through the LabCon trick

We all know that the duopoly of Labour and Conservative parties is awful. We all know that this particular lot are awful. So again, the question arises: why are we, and other parties like the Greens, flat-lining in the polls?

I have a theory about part of the cause and a suggestion for what to do about it. It is that lovely thing, the UK’s dysfunctional electoral system. The system does not just attribute different values to different votes; it also distorts how people cast their votes. Voting for who you most want runs the risk of helping elect whom you least want.  First Past the Post not only accentuates this risk, it is such that the risk is far greater for parties outside the duopoly than for either member of that duopoly.

That puts non-duopoly parties in a fix.

Every time we attack the Conservatives we not only differentiate ourselves from the Conservatives but also Labour from Conservatives, and vice versa. We may offer a benefit to make the risk of voting for us worthwhile, but we also offer the same benefit, against a much lower risk, for voting Conservative/Labour. If we criticise the Conservatives, we bolster the “we must get rid of the Tories” narrative, and the lowest risk way of doing that is to vote Labour. If we attack Corbyn, we feed into the “stop Corbyn” narrative, and the lowest risk way of doing that is to vote Conservative. The duopoly maintains a system so arranged that anytime another party criticises either of the duopoly parties the electorate’s benefit in sticking with that duopoly increases.

It’s a LabCon trick.

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Don’t be fooled by Labour’s posturing on #peoplesvote

In the last few days we’ve had some tantalising hints that Labour may be willing to support a public vote on the Brexit deal. John McDonnell said on Friday that Labour weren’t ruling it out. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said on Marr that if there were sufficient public demand, Labour might think again.

So should we all breathe a sigh of relief and think that this might happen any time soon?

Not a chance.

For a start, Emily Thornberry’s threshold to determine what might be a suitable level of public demand to get them to change their minds was 80-90%. You don’t get 80-90% of people backing anything. Even the Monarchy at the height of the much loved Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations  was only getting 75% support.

So let’s not hold our breath waiting for the Labour leadership to back a vote on the deal. But why are they doing this? It’s all part of their deliberate tactic of making their policy as ambiguous as possible. This is exactly what the Leave campaign did, too. Nobody understood what Brexit would mean because they tried to make sure that the details were as non-existent as possible.

The reason they’re drip-feeding it all now is because there are some important local elections coming up. A lot of them are in Remain voting metropolitan areas in places like London and Manchester. They must be getting some indication that their stance on Brexit is costing them so they are trying to make it sound like they might just go for the vote on the deal.

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Was Corbyn right to sack Owen Smith, after he advocated a referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal?

One answer is horror: there’s a compelling case for asking the British public whether the Brexit that is negotiated is what they actually want — not least because the dishonest and contradictory messages from the Leave campaign mean that many who voted Leave will find a large gap between the deal that is offered and what they thought they had voted for.

But an Exit From Brexit means healing the deep divisions that it has exposed, not just a narrow vote the other way in a referendum. That means bringing across many of those who voted Leave, and engaging …

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Remembering the SDP

SDP logoThe events that led to the formation of the SDP were also formative years for me as a very young man becoming fascinated with politics.

I can recall Roy Jenkins giving the Dimbleby Lecture and the Labour party conference of 1980 when the left won every vote on key issues such as Europe and Defence.

Then the elevation of Michael Foot to the post of leader an election in which many had thought the moderate candidate Denis Healey would triumph.

James Callaghan had timed his resignation so that MPs would elect his successor before  a conference arranged to discuss changing the method of election was held at Wembley.

Callaghan knew that the conference would adopt an electoral college system widening the franchise to include trade unions and constituency parties.

This change would give a left wing standard bearer a much better chance of winning.

Healey bungled his chances by alienating key moderates and the dye was cast. It wasn’t long before he would face a strong challenge for the deputy leadership from Tony Benn.

By then Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers had walked out of the party taking a substantial number of MPs with them.

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Willie Rennie: It’s time for pro EU progressives in Labour to speak out

This week, Willie Rennie gave a keynote speech to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh. He said that all pro-Europeans must step up and called on particularly those supporters of the Labour Party who oppose Corbyn’s position to join with us to campaign against Brexit.

I know many in the Labour Party feel very frustrated by Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Europe.

His long standing Bennite antipathy.

His lacklustre participation in the referendum.

His failure to put any real pressure on the Conservative Government.

His oscillating position on our future relationship with our neighbours.

When we look back at this time people will be astonished at the leader of the opposition.

Labour has a big responsibility.

It cannot stand by as we are made poorer, are more divided, and are rejecting our neighbours.

My warning to Labour moderates is this.

The people are running ahead of the people’s party. People want the final say on Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn is not playing a long game on Brexit. He does not have a masterplan to swing into action at the last minute.

You will get to the last minute.

You will check your watch and he won’t be there but Brexit will be.

It is time for pro-EU progressives in the Labour Party to speak out.

To those who are angry and frustrated with their leadership now is the time to speak out.

Vague complaints about Brexit won’t be enough.

You need to show how to escape from it.

Join us to make that case before it is too late.

He also set out very clearly that Brexit is not inevitable:

If I started talking about life after Brexit people might think that even I think it is unstoppable, inevitable, irreversible.

So that is not what I will address this evening.

Especially as in 2018 people are starting to think again.

And we now know Article 50 can be stopped.

It’s remarkable that 20 months on from that vote, the UK Government is still no clearer on what it wants to achieve by Brexit beyond broad wishful thinking and formulaic incantations.

Tonight I am going to look at the new evidence on the costs of Brexit to the UK and Scotland.

I am going to show how the public is taking note of these costs and that minds are changing.

Here is the speech in full:

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What should we do about Labour?

We need to talk about our relations with the Labour Party. Are they essentially still the centralised, top-down, union-led anti-capitalist party of the past, or are they sufficiently on our wavelength now for us to work with them against the baleful effects of austerity? Should we minimise opposition to them in strong Labour constituencies and regard them as likely future Coalition partners?

Perhaps in this country now equality as an ideal should trump freedom, and in practice the need to fight gross inequality and strive for social justice may demand our party working with Labour for similar ends.

Yet if the price is accepting Socialism, Liberal Democrats can’t go there. As well as having a different economic approach, we have a different outlook. We want an open, outward-looking, tolerant society where individuals count, not one focussed on class divisions and workers versus bosses. So Liberal Democrats welcome the EU as a co-operative enterprise while Labour leaders are suspicious of it as a capitalist club. Labour’s approach to Brexit is closer to the Government’s than to ours, so how could we be allies?

However, look at the demands Labour made of the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in the lead up to his autumn Budget. They were:

  1. Pause and fix Universal Credit.
  2. Provide new funding to lift the public sector pay cap.
  3. Spend on infrastructure to boost the economy and create good jobs.
  4. Have properly-funded public services including health, education and local government.
  5. Launch a large-scale public housebuilding programme.

What’s not to like in that, considering how much it fits with our own proposals?

But the Labour General Election manifesto last June had been very different from ours. Its radical demands such as ending student tuition fees and nationalising water and energy companies and the rail services had an instant appeal that brought voters flocking in. Acute analysis indeed showed major flaws. Their package would have meant an economic cut in welfare for the poor, saving funds which would be directed to services for the middle classes. While our own manifesto sought reversal of £9 billion-worth of the 2015 and earlier welfare cuts, Labour allocated only £4 billion to this. We were much more oriented towards the poorest, in a well-costed progressive manifesto. Thoughtful voters may have grasped that; unfortunately it is unlikely to have been widely understood. 

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Labour “betraying members and parliamentary base” by opposing single market membership

Jeremy Corbyn told the Andrew Marr Show this morning that Labour did not favour the UK staying in the single market. Will Labour members, who overwhelmingly want to do so now realise that Corbyn is not going to deliver what they want? A Queen Mary University study showed that 85% of Labour members want to stay in the single market. There is even higher support, 87% for staying in the customs union. 78% want the public to have a final say on the Brexit deal. Corbyn ruled that out too.

Vince Cable had this to say:

As has long been suspected,

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Responding to Labour Remain

Recently a friend and Liberal Democrat activist showed me an email from Labour Remain — formed in the last few weeks and claiming significant support. This comes on the back of a survey showing that 78% of Labour members disagree with Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to a referendum on the terms of Brexit. How should we respond?

Brexit is a profound threat to British values, the economy and the very integrity of the United Kingdom. In that sense it needs us all to pull together.

The country is in a crisis. We have been so intertwined with the rest of Europe, for so long, that the referendum result has had a deeply destructive effect on public life. Parliament seems paralised. Andrew Adonis has written of a Brexit-induced “nervous breakdown” in Whitehall. The Conservatives and Labour seem massively dysfunctional. There are stories of moderate councillors in both parties being de-selected. Most of the pro-Remain majority in the Commons is silent or vanquished. My excitement over the formation of Labour Remain is more than a little tempered by the lurch to the Left in their recent National Executive Committee elections and stories of MPs being threatened with de-selection. Faced with Brexit, this has all the wisdom of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to think differently.

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Jeremy Corbyn empty-chaired at single market summit

This morning a summit took place in Parliament to discuss ways of working together to make sure that the UK stays in the single market on which so many jobs depend.

Our Vince was there

But there was an empty chair:

Which was a real shame because most of the rest of the opposition parties showed up too.

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Vince: Labour should be ashamed

Over the past few days, Liberal Democrats have been challenging Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to back our amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would keep us in the single market which is so important for jobs and prosperity.

We are at this singularly unlucky point in time where we have a reckless and incompetent government leading us towards a potentially terrible Brexit. It doesn’t know what it wants as ministers say different things. You have both Gove and Davis undermining the deal before the ink is dry. It does nothing for the reputation of our country.

You would think …

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Brake: Labour Brexit Bill intervention “Too little, too late”

Today’s pronouncements by Keir Starmer that Labour might, if it feels like it, work with Tories to secure some moderate changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill are hardly earth-shattering.

I can’t find the words “single market” anywhere in his red lines. Perhaps the people’s red lines are, like the Glee Club song, slightly pink. I certainly don’t think that Labour should be expecting gratitude any time soon. They are barely managing the minimum you would expect from an opposition.

Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake is similarly unimpressed:

It’s entertaining to see the  Labour front bench attempting to have a backbone,

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Compassion and compromise – to get things done Labour has to work with the Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party are two parties that historically have had many things in common. The birth of the Liberal Democrats stems from a splinter section of the Labour Party joining with the Liberals. Therefore, whilst the two parties are further apart than they ever have been in their histories they both share a common history of social justice and a willingness to oppose the Conservatives.

Given that we are once again in a Hung Parliament it is more important than ever for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to work together to ensure that Britain gets the best possible deal out of Brexit and that positive legislation is passed to ensure that Britain can continue putting forward radical, innovative and game changing legislation despite having a Conservative government. This may certainly be a difficult task – whilst the Conservative’s majority is practically none existent even with the help of the DUP they still have a majority – but it is not an impossible task. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats alongside the SNP can work together Brexit can still be held accountable.

Similarly, though the most extreme elements of the Conservative’s manifesto won’t be implemented it is not impossible that they will not try to pass legislation which is ultimately detrimental to the people of Britain. Attempts at the restriction of privacy or the failure to check where British weapons are being sold are not something that either Labour or the Liberal Democrats wants to see or can allow to happen. Therefore, neither party can stand idly by in the Houses of Parliament and let the Conservatives turn Britain into a free for all, allowing any unscrupulous private investor to buy up companies, property or landmarks of British culture without proper investigation and examination of their motives. It is vital that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats come together and force these issues to the forefront of debate in the House of Commons. 

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Why it’s perception that matters

 

There has been plenty of analysis and commentary on the Liberal Democrats at the 2017 election. There were significant positives from some great seat gains.  But it is difficult not to be disappointed by the low vote share nationally.

Much has already been said as to why, which I won’t repeat here. I’d like to instead focus on three specific areas which pose – the third especially – a broader long-term question for the party.  Namely that of how the public perceive us, and what they think we are truly “for”.

The first point concerns increasing polarisation. Of course there is still a centre ground. However, it’s clear that an increasingly large number of people do support the Conservatives’ hard-Brexit, continued austerity and increasingly nationalistic swing to the right. Likewise there’s an increase in those in favour of Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of socialism and high public-service spending, funded by significant tax hikes to higher earners and UK businesses.

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If they say you’re a Red Tory or a Yellow Tory, ask about Corbyn’s welfare cuts

Jeremy Corbyn’s team had promised to reverse child tax credit cuts, but in their 2017 manifesto, they did nothing of the sort as the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows:

Corbyn’s manifesto planned to increase taxes by £46bn per year and to borrow an extra £350bn. With so much extra funding, there was enough to honour their promises on welfare, so voters could be forgiven for assuming that they would.
In his first leadership election, Corbyn said: “Families are suffering enough. We shouldn’t play the government’s political games when the welfare of children is at stake”.  This issue of welfare cuts is why he defeated his Labour rivals for the leadership, because they had previously abstained on a number of votes.
In autumn 2015, John McDonnell, his Shadow Chancellor, didn’t just commit not to implement these cuts, he promised to reverse those that had already happened: “We are calling on Osborne to reverse his decision to cut tax credits. If he doesn’t reverse these cuts, we’re making it clear that we will”.
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Moving towards a progressive alliance

General Election campaigning has got off to a flying start across the country and it is exhilarating to be ‘back in the saddle’. Oxford West and Abingdon was hard fought at the last election and it looks like it will be again. Like many seats, the Tory incumbent increased her majority here in 2015, yet this still feels like a marginal, and we are campaigning to win.

We were knocking on doors yesterday and what struck me was just how different this election feels compared to 2015. The political sands continue to shift beneath our feet but the wind is very definitely no longer against us. This constituency voted strongly to remain, yet the local MP flip-flopped and is now totally behind a Hard Brexit. This, combined with a weak Labour party nationally, has meant that local Labour and Green voters are more open than ever to lending us their vote to beat the Tory this time. And we are going to need them to do it.

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Loyalty and respect

Politics in the UK seems to be in flux following the Brexit vote. With the Tories split between remain and leave and Labour too busy squabbling amongst themselves to be effective it ought to be a time for the Liberal Democrats. Yet, so far, although we have seen many individual members of both the Labour and Conservative parties switch to the Lib Dems, only a handful of councillors and no MPs or MEPs have done so. Why is this?

I want to suggest that in the case of the Labour Party there are two factors; loyalty and respect

We often accuse the Labour Party of being tribal. The reality is that loyalty is ingrained in the psyche of Labour Party supporters and even more so in MPs. The worst thing that you can do is be ‘disloyal’. Crossing the floor is unthinkable for almost all Labour MPs and we need to recognise that this is a real factor in preventing people from joining us. When you couple this with the attitude of Labour people to what they perceive as treachery – for example the Lib Dems joining with the Tories in government – you begin to see how difficult it is to get people to come across, even if they share our values to a much higher degree than the values of the Labour Party.

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So this is how Jeremy Corbyn will be holding May to account on Brexit….

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, any half decent opposition leader would have lined up his most ferocious MPs to go to town on the PM over Brexit. We’ll gloss over the fact that any decent Leader of the Opposition wouldn’t have let the Article 50 Bill pass unamended in the first place.

But we don’t have a decent Leader of the Opposition. We have Jeremy Corbyn. You just get the feeling that if PMQs had been extended by a couple of hours, he wouldn’t have got round to asking a question on Brexit. No doubt he’d have asked about the weather and who the PM thought had done in Ken Barlow on Corrie.  He should have taken May apart on Brexit. He should have had half a dozen MPs lined up with killer questions.  But Labour MPs asked about anything but – until Tulip Siddiq came along. The MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, a passionate and effective opponent of Brexit, asked about the £350 million a week for the NHS.

Later, in his reply to the Prime Minister’s statement, rather than deliver a feisty riposte, he sounded like he was discussing the relative merits of different kinds of broad bean. There was no passion, no fire. “If she meets our tests, we’ll back her,” he said. Labour’s tests are meaningless anyway as they have failed them themselves. They had every opportunity to ensure that the Government’s strategy was changed to include membership of the single market, to stand up for the rights of EU nationals, and to give Parliament a meaningful vote on the deal. 

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Nick Clegg cheered by students

Six years ago, Nick Clegg was not the most popular politician amongst students. Now, things have changed as many young people find that he speaks for them as the Government hurtles towards a hard Brexit which will blight their future and opportunities. The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour watched him speak to a crowd of students last night:

In his Standard column this week, Nick described another student debate, in his Sheffield constituency, where he had a few words to say to the Labour MP on the panel:

I was on a platform with other politicians taking questions from a student audience. A local Labour MP was having the normal go at me about tuition fees. Fair enough — though I noticed he omitted to mention Labour’s own role in introducing tuition fees, and then trebling them on its own watch.

No, the moment Labour’s malaise really struck me was when this MP started speaking about the vote last week in the Commons on Article 50. He displayed none of the intelligence or humility of Keir Starmer, the shadow secretary for exiting the EU, who disarmingly confessed to the gathered MPs how difficult the issue is for Labour. Instead, in Sheffield this MP started to deliver a sanctimonious lecture to the Ukip and Conservative panellists, berating them for placing immigration above the economy in the Brexit talks.

I couldn’t contain myself. Irascibly, I interrupted his pro-European sermon to remind him that he’d just got off a train from London having voted with Douglas Carswell, Michael Gove, John Redwood and other zealous Brexiteers. How could he claim he was representing the interests of the youngsters in the audience having given his support to Theresa May’s uncompromisingly hard Brexit, yanking the UK out of the single market altogether?

I don’t believe that it would have been a betrayal of democracy if MPs had voted against the Government last week. All that would have happened, once the splenetic outrage of the Brexit-supporting press had passed, is that the Government would have been forced to come back to MPs with a more moderate, workable approach to Brexit which would then have received their support. MPs would not have blocked Brexit but they would have blocked hard Brexit. So it is pretty rich for Labour MPs to deliver pious homilies to other parties about the dangers of hard Brexit.

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Labour lashes out at Lib Dems

Remember how, last week, Jeremy Corbyn’s relaunch was such a runaway success. Not even Tony Blair in the early years could gather such positive headlines.

Ok, so maybe that’s not quite how it happened. At least we’re now clear on their policy on freedom of movement. They love immigration and they hate it, depending on who they are talking to.

Labour has stepped up its attacks on the Lib Dems in the last couple of days, presumably because they have to fight two by-elections on 23rd February where the Leave vote will be split 3 ways and we are the only party offering any sort of opposition to the Tories.

But they couldn’t quite manage it competently. The International Business Times was none too chuffed to find its video being used by Jeremy Corbyn, uncredited, to attack Tim Farron.

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LibLink: Tom Brake: Why the Liberal Democrats won’t stand aside in Copeland

In an article for the New Statesman, Tom Brake explains why the Liberal Democrats will be fighting the Copeland candidate with our excellent candidate, Rebecca Hanson. The brief summary is that you can’t have a “Progressive Alliance” with a party that isn’t very progressive. Labour’s approach to Brexit is something that we could not support.

But ultimately we will not help progressive politics if we stand aside for Corbyn’s Labour, which would merely give the left false hope that someone of the hard left could become Prime Minister. To us, a Eurosceptic statist such as Corbyn is not even progressive. By doing well ourselves, the Lib Dems will strengthen the hand of Labour moderates to seize back control of their party, or else leave it entirely. Only then will re-alignment be back on the agenda.

Brexit changes everything. So, whatever you thought of the Coalition or the Lib Dems, think again: if you are a progressive, you need Europe – and the Lib Dems are the only party fighting for your European future.

He also reminds readers how Jeremy Corbyn refused to share a platform with Tim Farron during the referendum to highlight how the EU protects workers’ rights.

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Trying (too hard) to curb EU free movement: A symptom of the EU-wide social democracy meltdown

Just as I was reading Nick Tyrone’s blog about Corbyn betraying the EU freedom of movement but wanting to have the EU cake nonetheless, another recently-elected Labour leader came on Dutch public radio. Note the date: Tuesday, January 10th, 2017.

I’m talking about former Amsterdam alderman and present Dutch minister of Social Affairs, the ambitious lawyer Lodewijk Asscher of the “Partij van de Arbeid”/PvdA, literally: “Labour Party”.

In the 1980s, when Labour under Michael Foot was going through its “Militant Tendency” phase, the then PvdA leaders, ex-prime minister (1973-’77) Den Uyl and coming prime minister (1994-2002) Wim Kok deplored that leftist populism and leftist political correctness gone wild. So both criticised it: British Labour, come to your senses.

Not today.

In the Dutch campaign that just got started for the General Election on 15th March, Mr. Asscher, who just two weeks ago won a party leadership contest, just said that he counted on “European Leftist support” (PvdA jargon: from fellow Labour and social democratic parties) to pursue his top-profile policy: curbing free movement of labour through the EU. When the radio presenter quoted a phrase Gordon Brown grew to regret: “Jobs for our labourers first”, Mr. Asscher readily agreed. And who does he expect to get support from?

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Farron: Corbyn’s relaunch shows that Lib Dems are the real voice of opposition

I have to say I do feel for my friends in the Labour Party – those people whose views on many of the issues of the day are not wildly dissimilar to mine. They stuck with Labour through Iraq and the erosion of civil liberties despite feeling uncomfortable with both of these things. And now they are faced with a leadership delivering them at the feet of Theresa May and her Brexiteers.

When you have devoted a huge amount of your life to working for a political party, you have a huge amount of your social and emotional ties wrapped up in it too. It’s not easy to walk away from.

I understand those ties because I feel them for this party, an organisation to which I have devoted more than two thirds of my life.

I wouldn’t ask or expect my friends to leave Labour – although I think most of them could be quite happy in the Liberal Democrats – because that has to be a personal decision for them. I’d welcome them if they did decide to join us and I will certainly find ways to work with them on the issues where we agree, most notably in opposing the Tory/Labour hegemony on Brexit.

This is the biggest thing that this country has done in my lifetime. The shock waves will be felt for generations. The vote was knife-edge close, so the government should have to prove itself at every step of the way by being scrutinised within an inch of its life – ultimately by the people of this country being asked to ratify the Brexit deal or not. Yet the Labour Party under Corbyn has capitulated and given the Tories free rein.

So I won’t be asking my friends in Labour directly to join us. They can make their own minds up about where their future lies. But I do extend an invitation to all those people out there who vote Labour, or who maybe have never been involved in party politics before but who are deeply uneasy about what they see unfolding before them.

Tim Farron this afternoon recorded a short video in which he outlined the two reasons why Corbyn’s relaunch is bad news. Firstly, the obvious Brexit one, but secondly and as importantly, having a Trump on the left is not a good thing. Populism is bad news wherever it comes from.

He also sent an email to Lib Dem members entitled “We’ve got to talk about Jeremy” saying:

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: Will Labour moderates seize the moment?

In an article for the Telegraph (which the sub-editors did not headline in a particularly helpful way), Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael called on Labour moderates to work with others who share the aim of securing the UK’s place in the single market and who want to see a successful economy which gives more money to invest in public services.

First of all, he states that the party really is over for Labour:

First, as this summer’s leadership election made clear, they do not even have a Neil Kinnock, let alone a Tony Blair. The Corbyn grip on Labour is stronger than ever, and so the party will continue to look inwards not outwards to voters.

Secondly, Labour then could look to Scotland and the North for both raw numbers and talent. No longer.

So as they view their prospects for 2017, Labour MPs face some unpalatable but necessary decisions. The Fabian estimate of Labour reduced to 150 seats may turn out to be optimistic. Its leader is more interested in ideological purity than winning elections, and, challenged by identity politics in its heartlands, Labour is as far from power as it was under Michael Foot. This time, however, there is no way back. Our first past the post electoral system – long supported by Labour – now threatens to consume them.

Labour, he says, is a “road block” to progress.

He calls on those in the Labour Party who don’t agree with its current direction to work with us:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

Predictions for 2017: How the Lib Dems can stay one move ahead

Anyone who watched politics, the Premier League or Strictly in 2016 will know that making predictions can seem like a fool’s game. As much as you might think you’ve got the future mapped out, sometimes bizarre things happen and those who thought they were in the know end up with egg on their faces. This is part of life and part of politics. However, the unpredictable nature of 2016 should not mean that we refrain from thinking ahead to what might happen in 2017. If a chess player decided that he or she had no idea what the next ten moves would bring so didn’t bother planning ahead, they would find themselves checkmated pretty quickly. With that in mind, here are my top three political predictions for 2017 and how I think the Liberal Democrats can capitalise on them.

Jeremy Corbyn will still be Labour leader come 2018

There has been plenty of speculation lately, as has been the case since day one of his tenure, about the future of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Fabian Society and Unite leader Len McCluskey are the latest to come out with less-than-helpful comments about him. But whatever seeming pressure there is on Corbyn, he has won two leadership elections now, surviving  the most extraordinary internal coup with a bolstered mandate from members. Forcing him out will be a near impossible job for Labour and I can’t see him resigning himself. If he was going to take the humble way out why didn’t he do it when 80% of his MPs turned on him in the no confidence vote? This means that the Liberal Democratss will likely have another year of being the only major UK wide Party united against Brexit. Banging the drum for the 48% who voted Remain, and holding the Government to account over its handling of its EU negotiations should remain our raison d’etre for now. Even if some start to see us as a single issue Party, it doesn’t matter in my view. Growing a small Party into a big one is often done by focusing on a single issue and then expanding from there. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

Farron: Labour make a divided and divisive government look half competent

So, President Obama and his former campaign adviser David Axelrod were chewing the fat about the Labour Party and whether the Democrats could go the same way. Of course, Axelrod knows Labour well, as he was hired to try to get us to love Ed Miliband at the 2015 General Election. That didn’t work out so well.

Axelrod was talking about Labour disintegrating after the defeat, and Obama responded that he didn’t see the Democrats going the same way as Labour after losing the presidency to Donald Trump.

Tim Farron took advantage of the President’s comments to hammer home that it is the Liberal Democrats, not Labour, who provide the competent opposition to the Government. 

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 108 Comments

Lib Dems surge as Corbyn’s Labour falters behind Tories

Since May 2016, the Liberal Democrats have been the clear winners when it comes to taking seats in local by-elections.  Many campaigners will have seen the following graph:
bar-chart
With 21 seats gained, and only 1 lost, the net result of +20, with our vote share averaging up 9% is a good recovery which the party should be proud of.   We need to continue to work hard, but at the same time, steady progress.

Conventional thinking would have us believe that when a party is in Government, they do badly in elections.  Conversely, opposition parties should be doing well.  Therefore, if Labour were to be on a serious road to power, it should be thrashing the Conservatives by achieving net gains from them.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 9 Comments
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