Tag Archives: leadership election 2017

Interesting use of language, Vince

Our “almost leader”, Vince Cable is certainly getting himself noticed this week.

He had the right wing press spluttering with outrage with this comparison in a New Statesman interview:

So how did he react to his former cabinet colleague Theresa May condemning “citizens of nowhere” in her Conservative conference speech last year?

“I thought that particular phrase was quite evil. It could’ve been taken out of Mein Kampf,” he replies. “I think that’s where it came from, wasn’t it? ‘Rootless cosmopolitans’? It was out of character for her.”

It’s not Godwin’s Law if it’s true, now, is it?

He’s been talking to Business Insider too. I was particularly interested in this turn of phrase when discussing potential coalitions. He’s holding to the line we fought the election on – no coalitions. But look at this:

“We are not remotely contemplating coalition with the current Labour Party or with the Conservatives,” he told BI.

“We’re in a fundamentally different place on the biggest issues of the day of which Brexit is the most important.  When you’re in fundamental disagreement you can’t meaningfully talk about coalition.”

Note that he said “the current Labour Party” with no such qualification for the Conservatives.

It sounds like it might be different if the Labour Party were to rediscover its sense of internationalism and pro-Europeanism. It seems like he’s slamming the door in the Tories’ faces and throwing away the key but where Labour are concerned, he’s shoving the key at the bottom of his sock drawer just in case we should need it one day.

Those of us for whom the words “centre ground”cause our hearts to sink will also be pleased with this:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 18 Comments

A 250 year old box

Sir Robert Walpole (Whig 1721-1742) was the first prime minister in the modern sense. Ever since major UK parties have always had one leader. But Walpole and his successors, whether prime ministers or opposition leaders, were not subject to the relentless pressure of 24/365 broadcast news until the mid-1990s. Perhaps John Major (1990-97) was the first to suffer. Since Major’s day media outlets have multiplied, coverage has become shallower, more sensationalised, more knee-jerk. Meanwhile social media abounds, analysing what’s been said (and sometimes, what’s not been) syllable by syllable. Today, the media demands on any party leader are immense and even, perhaps, inhumane.

Does this matter to the Liberal Democrats? It does. We’re looking for a new leader. Tim Farron was eviscerated by the media for his personal and religious beliefs, diverting him from electoral themes to the detriment of us all. And it’s not only a matter of inquisitional pressure, it’s time pressure too. Being ready to respond at – almost – any hour of the day or night to the media’s agenda and external events strains family relationships and even health It also deprives a leader of time to manage the party, to think and to recharge.

We are now choosing a new leader who will be under the same pressures. We have to accept that within the parliamentary party we don’t have a superstar capable of resisting these pressures and conveying our appeal to the full-spectrum electorate. We must consider if it is reasonable to subject our choice to such demands. If not, how we can ameliorate the problem while still being well led. We should think outside the box that has existed since Walpole. We should ask whether a single leader is appropriate in today’s environment. We should consider if two heads are better than one. 

Posted in News | 14 Comments

Well that didn’t take long! Vince answers the Brexit, freedom of movement and single market questions

Vince Cable is likely to be the sole nominee for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. It is good to see, though, that he’s behaving like he is in a contest. He’s aware of what’s on the minds of members and activists  and responds accordingly. People had raised concerns about his position on freedom of movement and the single market and he answers them here in a pragmatic and straightforward way. He also explicitly says that Brexit could be avoided if we are willing to consider some changes to the status quo.

What’s also interesting is the acknowledgement that the party decides policy. The leader can put their view forward, but it’s the party members who are in the driving seat. If he carries that philosophy through, he’ll probably be the first to have managed it, so good luck to him.

Anyway, here is his statement in full. I found it reassuring especially because it goes some way to speaking to the Leave voters whose consent we would need to turn this thing around. I hope he will come forward with a liberal vision to address the concerns which drove them to vote for Leave. Poor housing, low pay, stretched public services can all be fixed without leaving the EU. In fact, they can probably only be fixed without leaving the EU.

Anyway, here is Vince’s statement in full.

Since declaring my intention to stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership I have been overwhelmed by messages of support. In the strong liberal tradition I have also received a great many questions about my vision for the country and the party. The first and most immediate issue on all our minds is the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, and I therefore welcome the very direct questions from party members on this subject.

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Party members question Vince Cable on Brexit, freedom of movement and single market

It now appears that Vince Cable will be unopposed in the upcoming party leadership election, and so party members will not receive the opportunity to quiz him at hustings on his record and policy views>

Many of us within the party are concerned by this. We believe that in a democratic party, it is imperative that the leader receive proper scrutiny. We need to know that the candidate is up to the job. The leader of the party must be able to deal with uncomfortable questions.  As we’ve seen in the recent election campaign, the inability to give a straight answer to a simple question can be fatal to a leader.

The party leader must also be able to speak for the party and to defend party policy, especially when it comes to the most important issues of the day. In particular, many people have expressed concern about Vince’s statements to the New Statesman calling for an end to single market membership and freedom of movement, which appear to go against both party policy and the party’s constitution.

>For that reason, a number of us have put together an open letter to Vince Cable, the full text of which can be found here. This letter has been signed so far by hundreds of party members, including a substantial number of parliamentary candidates, councillors, and local party exec members. These are the people on whose support a new leader will need to rely, and so those people in turn need to know that the new leader is worthy of such support.

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Will it be a hustings or a Meet the New Leader event?

Sal Brinton has explained that:

There will be a series of official Leadership hustings around the country (they are currently being arranged, so watch out for details near you), as well as some online or streamed events. In the last Leadership Election these hustings were very popular, as well as the SAOs who may also have social media Q&As with the candidates.In the event that there is only one nominated candidate we will discuss with them continuing with some of these dates as Meet the New Leader events.

The Social Liberal Forum has been quick off the mark. Our annual conference this year will be held on Saturday 15th July in London.

We had already rearranged the programme to include a slot for a hustings, and this will become a ‘Meet the New Leader’ event if there is only one candidate.  The latter seems the most likely outcome at the moment, but not all MPs have declared whether they are in or out, and someone may yet put their name forward to ensure a contest. We will know for sure by next Wednesday.

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There are worse things than a coronation for Vince

Early this morning, I got an email from Ed Davey. He asked if he could send us a post for publication late afternoon, early evening.

“Of course!” I replied. And then I went into a brief explanation of how we were going to be neutral in the leadership contest, and how we would be very even-handed between the candidates. I concluded, flippantly, that I was just randomly mentioning that for no apparent reason.

I knew that there was a pretty strong expectation that Ed would stand and that some serious work had been done on putting a campaign together.

I was really looking forward to a contest. For once, I was going  into a leadership election with no idea who I was going to support. It looked like it was going to be a contest between two liberal heavyweights. Instinctively, I’d veer towards Vince, but he’d been a bit too accepting of Brexit for my liking last Summer – a line he has significantly softened in recent months, even before the election was a twinkle in Theresa May’s eye.

So when Ed’s article arrived at lunchtime, I sat open-mouthed, reading it over and over to make sure I’d understood it right. And I blubbed a bit, because I’m way too soft, as he talked about his family and wanting to be there for them. I thought some of the ideas he had for the future of the party were bang on:

And to be a winning party of reform, we must start telling the British people who Liberal Democrats are, and what we stand for. And not simply what and who we are against.

We must also be super-ambitious – just like radical centrists in Canada, France and The Netherlands. If they can win from third place – or from “no place” like Macron – why can’t we?

And in answering that question, we need to be self-critical. While we’ve had some success in recent times – not least with the amazing rise in membership – our election defeats have been crushingly bad.

We need to reflect why – and then ensure our party is fit-for-purpose – able to provide the platforms for future winning campaigns.  We owe it to the huge number of amazing campaigners in our party, who have worked their socks off, and not yet seen us win.

So, I’m sad he’s not standing. But, do you know what? I’m bloody thrilled that he’s one of our MPs. We may only have a dozen, but they are a quality bunch. A Golden Dozen, you might say. We have real expertise on the economy, on equalities, on business, on science, on rural affairs, on climate change, on health in our little bit of the Commons. We probably punch above the Labour and Conservative Party’s weight as well as our own. 

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Ed Davey MP writes….My family, my party

Last weekend I went glamping. with Emily and our children, John and Ellie. This luxury form of camping was my birthday present to my super-patient wife, and our first proper time to reflect together after the General Election.

And to cut to the chase, I’ve come back to Westminster more determined than ever to campaign hard for the party Emily and I both love – but not to campaign to lead the party at this moment.

When Tim resigned, I assumed Jo would go for it, and I would have supported her. She gave understandable reasons why she didn’t – so here are my reasons, some similar to Jo’s.

Emily and I met through the party. I was chairing a Housing Policy Working Group and she was a member, as a social housing lawyer. What could be more romantic?

Our joy this weekend was seeing our two children play together. And when you understand that John (aged 9) is severely disabled, you will appreciate that seeing our 3 year old daughter make him laugh is quite special.

And if it helps explain my decision not to run just a little more, please remember that my father died when I was 4 and my mother when I was 15. Being there for my children over the next few crucial years and to see those special moments is my personal priority.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 79 Comments

Leadership election

The timetable for the election of a new Leader for the Liberal Democrats has been announced. Here are the key dates:

Opening of nominations: 26th June (today)

Deadline for nominations: 20th July

Despatch of ballot papers to members: 16th August

Close of ballot: 11th September

Verification, count and declaration: 13th September

Posted in Leadership Election and News | 16 Comments

Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

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Layla Moran MP writes: Where I stand on the leadership contest

My, it feels a long time ago since June 9th.

My first few days in Parliament have been hectic, exhilarating and at times utterly magical. The first time you sit on the Green Benches and you pinch yourself to check you’re not dreaming. Accidentally on purpose getting lost in the warren of passages and have policemen refer to you as ma’am (being in my early 30s I find this very odd indeed). Your first engagement as the MP in the constituency and random people stopping you with huge smiles to say how happy they are that ‘we did it!’. Having a quick nap and waking up to find the Leader who got us there has decided to step down. Thud.

Like many of you, the changing of this particular guard was not something I remotely expected, nor indeed desired.

I was hoping for a period of stability. Not least for me and my fellow new MPs to have time to settle in and tackle such mundane tasks as: work out how the internet works (very well actually), where the ladies’ loos are (clearly an afterthought in some areas) and where all the post has gone (in the hidden Post Office off Central Lobby, 3 bags worth).

I have a very sage member in my constituency who has a mantra: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”.

This is the approach that got OxWAb to the narrow win we achieved.  It is what will drive us to hold on to it.

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No Normtroopers this time – Norman Lamb won’t stand for leader

Well there’s a surprise. I had honestly thought that Norman Lamb would stand again to be leader.

This afternoon, though, he has ruled himself out in an article for the Guardian:

I have just fought a gruelling campaign to win my North Norfolk seat. Attempting to win a seat for the Liberal Democrats in an area that voted quite heavily to leave the EU was bound to be a challenge. Not only was the party’s position on Brexit toxic to many erstwhile Liberal Democrat voters in North Norfolk, but I found myself sympathising with those who felt that the party was not listening to them and was treating them with some disdain.

I abstained on article 50 because I felt it was wrong in principle to vote against, given that we had all voted to hold the referendum in the first place. For many in the party that abstention was an act of betrayal. I have been accused of supporting a hard Brexit – the last thing I want – while a Lib Dem source told the London Evening Standard this week that the abstention “looks like he can’t make a tough call”. It is actually quite tough to go against your party, and I did it on a matter of principle.

He’s realised that his position on the EU puts him at odds with a large number of members, especially since so many joined after the EU referendum. 

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 64 Comments

We need a new type of hustings for the Leadership Election

In the last leadership election I went to several of the hustings. They were interesting enough events but didn’t really probe much into the candidates.   The format was usually a speech by the candidates followed by questions and then a final summation. The candidates trotted out the same stories and jokes and answered the same questions they had been asked before.

What was missing was any sense of the sort of testing questions which someone would get when they were Party Leader and in particularly the follow up questions. Both Tim and Norman were well prepared for the questions they were likely to be asked – but without further questioning we couldn’t really  probe.

I would suggest that this time at least some of the hustings should feature, as well as a speech from each candidate, an interview by an experienced journalist, who will press them on their areas of weakness.  Why did Vince triple tuition fees?  If Ed and Norman run, how does Ed justify Hinckley Point?   How does Norman think we should proceed on Brexit in light of his abstention on Article 50? 

Posted in News | Also tagged | 20 Comments

Shouldn’t positive campaigning start at home?

On election night, I was knocking up voters in a very posh bit of the Edinburgh West constituency.  It was going well with most folk indicating that they had already voted for Christine Jardine.  I got to one house where a very angry man told me he wasn’t voting for us and wasn’t sure who he would vote for as, in his view, everyone had run a negative campaign focusing on what was wrong with the other candidates.
I’d not concede that Christine’s campaign was wholly negative – although the voters did need to know where we stood on the SNP’s second independence referendum and the Tories’ hard Brexit – but it’s certainly true that voters often feel that the parties appear more focused on tearing each other down rather than casting a vision of what we should do as a nation.
The political climate has become particularly toxic in Scotland since the independence referendum (for example, a SNP supporter followed Tory canvassers in one seat screaming abuse through a megaphone).
What can we do to change this?
Two weeks or so ago we were all overjoyed to see twelve lovely Lib Dem MPs elected to Westminster.  Each one of those victories was something to celebrate.  We are overjoyed that the voters in those constituencies hold those MPs in as high esteem as we do.
Some of those twelve will be candidates in the forthcoming leadership context and we will have to choose between them.  That will require us all to scrutinise what they have to offer.
Posted in Op-eds | 14 Comments

The country needs a new liberalism – the Liberal Democrats must provide it

Liberalism’s ideas, implemented either by Liberal Democrats or by others, have been wholly vindicated. This has been so on free trade and market economics; on the nature of social injustice and the need for a compassionate, intelligent state; on civil liberties and on foreign intervention. Whilst not always heard – and, let’s face it, often unpopular – our party has stood for the best of its traditions in the best interests of our country. With a leadership election almost underway, what is the political landscape in which we find ourselves, and what will our next leader (and the party) have to do to make an impact at the next election and beyond?

It is often stated that the politics of the 21st century will be centred around the merits of an open society versus those of one that is closed. This carries weight; indeed, any lessons to be learned from Emmanuel Macron’s recent victories in France should not ignore that it was on this basis that much of the presidential campaign was fought. The Brexit debate entailed similar arguments, with no prominent defence of liberal immigration, whilst the recent general election offered a choice only between Labour’s state socialism and protectionist, patrician Conservatism. It should, however, be noted that these visions for Britain, combined, won 82.4% of the vote.

A new liberalism, fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century, is required; one which recognises that Corbyn’s Labour Party and Conservative Brexiteers may have accurately diagnosed the UK’s disquiet, but knows their solutions have been found wanting time and time again. One which precisely because of its belief in the European ideal – rather than in spite of it – fights for as close a relationship as possible with the European Union instead of seeking to reverse, at this point, the decision made by last year’s referendum. Most importantly, this new liberalism cannot seek to face the problems of the 21st century with solutions from the 20th – fruitless ideological battles between left and right.

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BREAKING NEWS: Vince Cable announces his candidacy for Leader

A statement from Vince Cable MP:

Today I am announcing that I will be a candidate in the forthcoming Liberal Democrat leadership election. I wanted to do so on Lib Dem Voice, the leading forum for discussion amongst our membership.

With 20 years on the national political stage I am passionate as ever about our liberal values. I am ready to commit my energy, enthusiasm and experience to the task of leading the Liberal Democrats through what will be a period of chronic uncertainty. With the prospect of another election looming large, we must be ready for the fight.

Brexit negotiations have begun. The government is split and weakened; Labour is equivocal about Europe. The Liberal Democrats alone have a consistent and principled, outward looking, and approach to the issue. We must fight for the British public to have a final say on the government’s deal with a chance to stay in the EU if the deal is not good enough. To achieve this, we will need to work with like-minded people in other parties.

As Shadow Chancellor I secured a hard-won hearing for the party on the economy, warning of the 2008 financial crisis which has been a source of economic weakness, great inequality and political anger ever since. In government for five years as Secretary of State for Business I created a distinctive Lib Dem vision for the economy with a long-term industrial strategy, promotion of science and innovation, banking reform, investment in young people via apprenticeships and the promotion of socially responsible capitalism. With the economy approaching the Brexit iceberg, Liberal Democrats need more than ever to warn of the dangers ahead and the need for a new course.

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged and | 200 Comments

Some questions to potential candidates

With the news that Jo Swinson is running for Deputy Leader, not Leader, my enthusiasm has hit a low point. We’ve been through some hard times as a party, and in areas, particularly Wales, we are still facing them, and the road ahead is not easy. At the moment I see no potential candidate that can spark my enthusiasm and take us forward.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We need someone that can win people over, winning over party members is one thing, but winning over the general public when we are seen as toxic or an irrelevance is a lot harder.

I’m sure all possible candidates are a) qualified enough and b) will bring something different to the table but is that enough? We must not go easy on them. Ask the difficult questions and don’t back down.

To the candidates: some preliminary questions worth thinking about …

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