Tag Archives: progressive alliance

Co-operation with the Greens – debunking the arguments against

There’s something strange going in within the Liberal Democrats, and it isn’t helping us, or showing us up in a very favourable light.

Last month we had an astonishing success in the Richmond upon Thames borough elections. In 2014 the Conservatives won 39 of the 54 seats; this time we won 39, reducing the Tories to 11 and the Greens picked up four thanks in large part to an arrangement with us. It was an outstanding achievement for Gareth Roberts and his team.

But in the weeks since then, there seems to be a movement afoot trying to pretend that cooperating with …

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The Progressive Alliance Needs Mothers’ Voices

I am launching a group called ‘Mothers for a Progressive Alliance’ with the backing of Compass on Saturday 18 November in Central London and am inviting Lib Dem members to attend to contribute to the discussion.

The concept of the Progressive Alliance gained prominence during the Richmond Park by-election in 2016 when Sarah Olney won the seat from Zac Goldsmith. Parties, campaigners and voters came together to work for Sarah Olney’s success. It was an example of what can be achieved when political conflict is set aside for something bigger.

The Progressive Alliance is a stepping …

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Liberalism at the crossroads in UK politics

One of the biggest hits the party took during the coalition years was not so much being associated with the Conservatives (though that was toxic enough) but losing so much of our identity. And if we want to have a future as a party, we have to get that identity back.

Our coalition years slogan ‘Stronger economy, fairer society’ was fine up to a point, but it didn’t provide us with much distinctiveness. Associated messaging that framed us as having more head than Labour and more heart than the Conservatives effectively defined us in relation to Labour and the Conservatives. It did not emphasis what we stood for and make clear what a vote for the Lib Dems meant. By the time of the 2015 seven-leaders TV debate, most people could have formulated in a few words what six of the seven parties stood for, but they might well have struggled with us.

In trying to re-establish our identity, there are two things that are essential. Firstly, we need to set out what radical liberalism means in today’s political context. When we’ve done that, we need to frame our policies in a way that both generates a sense of what the Liberal Democrats stand for that the general public can assimilate, and allows scope within that framing for the
formation of shared agendas with parties of similar outlooks.

As a first step towards getting the ball rolling, Paul Pettinger and I have written a paper The Place for Radical Liberalism in the 21st Century. It’s a short paper – just nine pages – because what’s important is to set out the bare bones of what we need to achieve; the flesh can come later.

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A progressive alliance round Land Value Taxation?

The Grenfell Tower fire has focused attention on the extent of the crisis in the UK social housing system.

Reverend Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty comments:

There are rows of empty “investments” in London, and the four big builders have 600,000 unused plots in their land banks.

The Liberal Democrat 2017 Manifesto included genuinely progressive housing proposals

  • a new national Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank,
  • increasing housebuilding to 300,000 homes a year
  • allowing councils to end the right to buy, lifting the borrowing cap and targeting “buy to leave” empty homes with a 200% council tax.
  • penalising land-banking with with a penalty on failure to build after three years of winning planning permission.
  •  a “community right of appeal” in cases where planning decisions go against the approved local plan.
  • a “rent to buy” model, where rental payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, leading to outright ownership after 30 years.

However, the manifesto incorporated only a single sentence with respect to LVT. “We will also consider the implementation of Land Value Taxation.”

Labour’s manifesto went a little further with respect to describing its LVT intentions promising:

 We will initiate a review into reforming council tax and business rates and consider new options such as a land value tax, to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term.

The Greens promised “Action on empty homes to bring them back into use and a trial of a Land Value Tax to encourage the use of vacant land and reduce speculation.

The SNP have previously included LVT proposals in their manifesto and at their spring conference this year adopted a resolution “must include exploring all fiscal options including ways of taxing the value of undeveloped land” in its gradual land reform programme.  Other parties like Plaid and the Alliance Party have incorporated LVT proposals in the past.

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Liberal Democrats should show leadership, and help shape where the Progressive Alliance goes now

Our national politics is in total turmoil.  The Tories are ‘between the devil and the DUP’.  Labour is utterly unfathomable on Brexit. The Lib Dems are pretty Captainless, as far as the media and the country at large are concerned.

And internally, within the party, there is turmoil too.  Some successes were had on 8th June but there were  huge disappointments. Good MPs were lost.  Many of us are still recovering from bruising contests, even where we had little chance of making a breakthrough.  I expect most Liberal Democrat candidates standing in key Tory-Labour marginals would attest to a level of online abusive from ‘Progressive Labour’s’ supporters that has exceeded anything previously experienced.

Here in Hastings & Rye, as candidate for the third time, I was vilified for having the temerity to stand in an election that unexpectedly (even I would suggest for local Labour), nearly removed the Home Secretary.  The eventual result saw Amber Rudd scrape home by a mere 346 votes with even an independent anti-corruption candidate gaining more votes than the eventual majority.

The criticism hasn’t only come from trolls.  Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats get excoriated by Compass’ James Corré here:

But this analysis is misleading, especially when we had explicitly offered to work with the Labour Party in order to send fewer Tories back to Westminster from East Sussex.  You can read the statement that I made mid-May here:

Corré certainly does not give Labour fair treatment for their obstinacy in this whole process.

So what should be done now?  Locally, and at a national level?

Posted in Op-eds | 31 Comments

Naomi Smith’s speech at the Progressive Alliance launch

Last night, a rally attended by over 900 people launched the Progressive Alliance’s campaign to support single anti-Tory candidates in a number of seats around the country.

The event was addressed by Labour’s Clive Lewis, Greens leader Caroline Lucas, Zoe Williams, Paul Mason and Make Votes matter. The Liberal Democrat speaker was former Social Liberal Forum Chair Naomi Smith. She has sent us her speech. Here it is:

I’m Naomi Smith, former Liberal Democrat PPC for this constituency (Cities of London and Westminster), former chair of the Social Liberal Forum and very proud Remoaner!

I’m not standing this time round, but am campaigning in St Albans where with a 63% remain vote, we’ve got a good chance of taking the seat from the Brexiteer, Anne Main.

Of course, we’d have a much better change if an electoral pact between the progressive parties have been brokered. I’m pleased, of course, that the Lib Dems have stood aside in two seats, but am disappointed it wasn’t more. I commend, as we all should, The Green Party, for having done so in a great number of seats. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

What has happened in South West Surrey, where the Labour Party and my own, failed to step down for the doctor running against Jeremy Hunt, tells us all we need to know about the culture changes needed in our parties.

SW Surrey, could have been the new Tatton, where if you remember in 1997, both Labour and the Lib Dems stood aside for the anti-corruption candidate, Martin Bell. This helped to highlight Tory sleaze and bring it under the spotlight during a general election campaign. How differently our parties behaved then. Had we not done that, Neil Hamilton may be restanding as the MP for Tatton in June. If we’d make like Tatton in SW Surrey this time, we could’ve made Tory under funding of the NHS a greater feature of the 2017 General Election.

To change those cultures in our parties is a longer term project. We need to engage in a process of building and reciprocating goodwill and trust. Milestones along that journey in my opinion, should include Labour moving its position on Brexit quite markedly, and for the Lib Dems to rule out working with the Conservatives.

Given the lack of leadership in our both our parties on this, it is now very much down to us, as progressive activists. But before I get on to what Liberal Democrat local parties can now do, let me just put in to context the vision and leadership shown by some:

On the other side of the debate, the organisation has been ruthless. The Regressive Alliance is real. UKIP are giving the Conservatives a free run in 41% of the seats the Tories are contesting. In 2015, UKIP stood 624 candidates. This time, they’re contesting just 377 seats. By comparison, our parties have managed to stand down for each other in around 40 seats. And while I highly commend those local parties that have managed to strike a deal, I sincerely wish it could have been more.

Let’s not fight fire, with dire.

It matters, because we know when we work together, we all benefit. The greatest periods of success for progressive over the last 100 years all involved some degree of cross party collaboration (1906, 1945 and 1997). Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. As long as progressive parties are estranged from one another, the Tories will always be able to present themselves as the providers of secure and stable government.

So what can we do now, right now, to help reduce Theresa May’s majority? Well, we have to try and offset the ill effects of the Regressive Alliance. I’m encouraging all Liberal Democrat supporters in marginal Labour/Tory seats to critically engage their candidates on the key issues of Brexit and that most progressive of issues, Equal Votes.

The reality for Lib Dem supporters is that the Conservatives are generally terrible on the things we care most about, from LGBT issues to internationalism and democratic equality. While we still have this horrendous first past the post system, we have to vote tactically and encourage others to do so  as well.

Tactical votes and non-aggression pacts are what we have left between now and 8 June. And it’s so important that we employ them. As the American philosopher Carl Friedrich said, ‘Democratic order is built, not on agreement of the fundamentals, but on the organising of its dissent’. Or in other words, what distinguishes the health of a democracy , is the vitality of its opposition. If Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders won’t yet collaborate, then we must. And it’ll be no coalition of chaos, but a rebel alliance, and I look forward to working with you all – tactical voting is now our key message, as we begin to build our progressive future. Thank you.

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If you want a progressive alliance, you need to vote against Labour this time

The Liberal Democrats have officially ruled out alliances this time, but informal arrangements seem to be popping up all over the place, and it’s certain a vote for Corbyn won’t help any such alliance evolve in the future.

Vince Cable allegedly believes that there are certain Labour candidates in this election whose views ‘exactly match our own.’ If that is the case then it is rather reassuring that the current reactionary riff being performed by Corbyn and Co. is not the tune to which all of the Labour Party march.

But the problem is, that doesn’t matter. Corbyn has already said he would like to stay even if he loses the election, and that he doesn’t want alliances. So every vote for the Labour Party in any seat anywhere will become part of his narrative to suggest that rejection by the people is a mere detail, each vote a cudgel to legitimise their counter-intellectual concerns.

Socialism of the Corbyn kind is predicated on centralising power. It is an ideology of pessimism. Lib Dems like devolution and empowering the individual,  an ideology of optimism. 

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On deals and no deals

Tim Farron was challenged this morning on the radio whether the decision by the local party to stand down in Brighton Pavilion respresented some sort of deal. It isn’t, and nor should it be.

For all my long standing political differences with the Greens, I, like Tim, am relaxed about this decision. We weren’t going to win in Brighton Pavilion, and it is only fair that the Greens have a voice in parliament. Their politics are really quite bad in some ways but it is better they have a voice than are silenced. And tactically, I’d rather see a remainer …

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We need to be smarter in the battles we choose

The frantic and febrile environment of a general election isn’t always conducive to clear-headed thinking, but I fear we Lib Dems are guilty of some serious fuzzy-headedness that even a general election shouldn’t excuse.

This is the background. We tumbled from 57 seats to 8 at the last election. This election is all about limiting Theresa May’s majority, and under a voting system that doesn’t help us. If we’re smart about it, we could boost our seats to the point where we have a healthy bloc that will recapture the oxygen of publicity needed to push liberalism to a wider audience. If we’re not smart, our number of parliamentary seats could actually go down.

Against this background, the Greens have offered to stand down in about a dozen seats if we stand down in one. Sounds like a good offer, eh? Except the local Lib Dem party in the one seat we’re being asked to stand down in has said no.

That seat is the Isle of Wight, and it’s important to stress that the local party there is being very honourable. Its brief is to fight for liberalism, and as we had the MP there until 2001, it’s potentially fertile ground for us. So IoW Lib Dems have quite reasonably said this is an election where we need to rebuild the Lib Dem base, and in principle we should support that.

But given where we’re starting from, given how much is at stake, given that it could make the difference between having a single-digit number of MPs and a number in the 20s, someone should be guiding the Isle of Wight party about the wider implications their decision could have.

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No Progressive Alliance please, we’re Liberals!

Recently there has been much talk of abandoning our principles and going in with the Greens and the Labour Party. Now my stance on this doesn’t come from some sort of archetypal hatred of them. In fact many of my friends belong to the Labour and Green movements. I have fond memories of standing side by side in Peterborough handing out leaflets and speaking to people about why we thought it was best to remain. I still keep cordial relations with the Greens and the Labour moderates. We campaign for Open Britain together and there is a lot to be said for cross party cooperation in this sense. Logic dictates when you believe in a common cause you should work as a team to achieve this.

However, the common cause on Europe is not a plan for government. We radically differ on policy with the Greens with regards to economic policy. With Labour, our Social Democratic wing undoubtedly has significant overlaps with the Labour moderate wing. However for every similarity there is a difference. I cannot honestly stand for election on a manifesto I disagree with, this is what would happen with the so called progressive alliance.

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A Lib Dem route to victory: a case for a Progressive Alliance

The recent Richmond Park by-election was a huge victory for Liberal Democrats, further boosting our credibility and standing in the country with voters and the media. But it was also a great success for Progressive Alliance campaigners, who supported Sarah Olney’s excellent campaign.

The decision by the Green Party to stand down and endorse us, along with calls from a group of leading Labour figures for Labour to do the same, helped to recreate the conditions where we could win back the seat by leading a non-conservative bloc of voters to victory. These moves – by Labour figures and the Greens – were made in support of progressives in different parties organising together more generally.

The cross-party pressure group, Compass, is currently publishing a series of essays from members who would like to see a Progressive Alliance from each of the different progressive parties. Written before the announcement of the Election, I’ve set out some of my thoughts from the perspective of a Liberal Democrat about why we need a Progressive Alliance, which are published on the Compass site today. Drawing upon psephology, demography and historical precedent, I believe a Progressive Alliance presents by far our best route to implement electoral reform at Westminster, our best chance to prevent a hard Brexit, and best opportunity for liberals to sustain influence over the long term. I’ve not reproduced many arguments here, and hope you will take some time to have a look, when you take a break from the campaign trail.

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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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Grasping the cross party nettle

Whoops of delight and the whoosh of triumphant fists punching the air were apparently to be heard at Lib Dem HQ on Tuesday when Theresa May announced the 8 June election. For a party hammered so badly two years ago, the chance to regain some lost ground is indeed enticing, but if we’re to make the most of the opportunity some nettles need to be grasped.

Tempting though it is to believe in our invincibility based on recent by-election successes, we are still only around 11% in the polls. That will go up in certain seats, but our final total of MPs will depend on whether we’re willing to be smart, and to set aside the tribalism of past elections.

If you’re sick of terms like ‘progressive alliance’ or ‘cross-party cooperation’, fair enough. But then think of it like this: in an election that is going to defy traditional party allegiances because of the role of Brexit, we cannot adopt the old “my party right or wrong, and all other parties are the enemy” attitude. We have to think of the broader concept of liberalism, as well as openness, tolerance and internationalism.

That means recognising that there are plenty of people in other parties – largely Labour and the Greens – who are philosophically close to us. We may have issues with the Labour leadership, but that doesn’t stop us recognising that there are many good people in Labour. And while we believe we’re big on the environment, it helps to have a specifically environmental party to keep us all honest.

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Maximising the number of pro-European MPs

Not just Liberal Democrats but small “l” liberals in all political parties should welcome the opportunity the June General Election will provide for voters to make clear their priorities by voting for candidates committed to the fight for us to maintain a continued close relationship with Europe.

In this increasingly uncertain world, there is nothing more important than that.

Those candidates will not just be Liberal Democrats.

If we want to maximise the strength of the opposition to May’s “hard Brexit”, the Lib Dems should have the courage to concentrate their limited resources on their candidates in seats that we can win this time ,which means making hard decisions about not squandering time,energy and money in seats that we cannot.

If we want to make a reality of any version of a progressive alliance, the Liberal Democrats cannot expect Labour to stand aside in some seats (or decide to make only a token effort )unless we are also prepared to stand aside (or make only a token effort) in selected seats where a pro-European Labour candidate has a very much better chance.

It will go against the grain – but it must be done!

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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:

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Is a Progressive Alliance the way forward?

Since the last general election – and even more so since the EU Referendum and the election of Donald Trump in the United States – there has been talk of a need for a “Progressive Alliance” between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens, in an effort to beat the Tories.

Much of this talk has come from Green Party members, with Caroline Lucas being a prominent voice in favour, but there are those in Labour and the Lib Dems for whom this would seem to be a beguiling idea. Indeed, former leader Lord Ashdown has long hankered for a realignment of the left.

Personally I’m a sceptic; for all sorts of reasons.

First, just how do you define “progressive”? To me it’s one of those political phrases that gets thrown around a lot, but means so many things to so many different people it has lost any real meaning. There are, for example, many in Labour who are perfectly happy with its authoritarian tendencies (evident in its internal organisation as well as in many of the policies it pursued in office) who would describe themselves as progressive, whereas I would not.

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Richmond Park is an important milestone – but it’s only the start

Well, we’re winning parliamentary by-elections again. Who’d have thought it possible on that awful night almost 19 months ago?

Liberal Democrats everywhere are grinning this morning. We’ve seen the brilliant local government results over the past few months. We saw the amazing Liz Leffman surge forward in the Tory heartland of Witney in October. Now, we have actually won another MP.

We shouldn’t under-estimate how massive a task winning Richmond Park was. It’s only been 37 days since Zac resigned. We had just over 5 weeks to change the agenda from Heathrow to Brexit and win the argument. A combination of clever literature, a fantastic candidate and an army of activists prepared to drop everything did it. Way back in the 90s when we were winning by-elections all the time, we had at least 3 times as long to make our case.

We also shouldn’t under-estimate how important it was that we won this. It was a seat we used to hold with a whacking great Remain vote. If we hadn’t, even if we had had a Witney type surge, people would have doubted our ability to change the political weather.

Sarah Olney’s victory has shown that we have still got what it takes to win the big moments. That is incredibly important for the outside world to see. Theresa May will be hoping that her MPs in similar seats to Richmond, where there is Liberal Democrat history, don’t cause any further by-elections.

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Can we build in an extra question, please?

Maybe it’s just my own predisposition, but I seem to be seeing the phrase ‘more candidates’ all the time in Lib Dem literature. Mark Pack’s excellent pamphlet ‘How to Rebuild the Liberal Democrats’ talks about ‘more candiates’, Tim Farron has used the phrase, and my regional chair has just asked me to contribute to a by-election fund so we can stand ‘more candidates’.

All of which is good stuff, especially if more candidates lead to better quality candidates and increased diversity of candidates because more candidates are applying to fly the Lib Dem flag. But I’d also like to encourage the idea of ‘smarter candidates’, which requires asking the question: is this the right election for the Lib Dems to stand a candidate at all?

Cynics may point out that my current hobby horse is cross-party cooperation, and it is. But I’m still a Liberal Democrat who wants to see liberalism – especially social liberalism – enacted in this country. And for that to happen, we need the cooperation of other like-minded people who aren’t necessarily Lib Dems, people who Caroline Lucas, Lisa Nandy and I called ‘progressives’ in our recent book ‘The Alternative’.

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Please understand what The Alternative is about

The AlternativeJudging by the reaction to Andrew George’s post last week  there seems to be a lot of unnecessary fretting among Liberal Democrats caused by ‘The Alternative’, the book I have co-edited with the Labour and Green MPs Lisa Nandy and Caroline Lucas. Allow me to explain why I think some people are getting the wrong end of the stick.

I fully understand the views of those who say Labour is not a progressive party, and that we sometimes have more in common with the liberal wing of the Conservatives than we do with Labour or the nationalist parties. Those views can be defended, but they don’t alter the practical reality of what we face.

Everyone is talking about how we were hammered at the 2015 election, which we were in relative terms, but the 8% of the vote we polled would have given us around 55 seats if we’d had a proportional election system, which was roughly what we had in the last parliament.

As a liberal, I’d happily accept whatever our core vote is – probably something between 8% and 20% – under PR. We’d probably never be a party leading a government, but we’d have real influence, and could pursue liberal-democratic policies in association with whichever other parties were receptive to our ideas.

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Andrew George writes…Can progressives unite to defeat the Tories?

The AlternativeFailure to fully fathom the ‘shy Tory’ at the 2015 general election didn’t just leave egg on the faces of opinion pollsters. It produced shock waves across the political spectrum; from a delirious Conservative party to Paddy Ashdown’s exasperated milliner.

Of course psephologists weren’t really suggesting that a significant proportion of Tory voters are bashful by nature but were perhaps politely implying there may be a sense of ‘shame’.

Politics in its most basic form is polarised between, on the one hand, those who feel ‘shy’ about their self-absorption and (when the mask slips) their distaste for those they consider are ‘low achievers’, and on the other, ‘progressives’ who seek to appeal to our better instincts (for others, a wider community, the common good, future generations, the climate etc). Less bashful ‘progressives’ may believe they are in a majority when in fact the country may be evenly divided.

Indeed, there’s an assumption amongst many ‘progressives’ that the 2015 general election represented a high water mark for the Tories; that the pendulum will inevitably swing back at the next election, and that scores of Tory marginals will be comfortably won back. A reality check is needed.

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Realignment of the left – an idea whose time has come?

Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron have both suggested in recent days that those on the progressive side of politics need to work together to oppose the Tories and deliver change.

Of course, a defining part of Paddy’s leadership of the party was his desire to see closer co-operation on the left.

The Tories need to be beaten, now more than ever, even more than in the 1980s. Their destruction of the country then almost pales into insignificance to the damage they have done with their self-indulgent EU related civil war. How do we achieve it, though, while retaining the integrity of individual parties, most particularly this one? The last thing I want to see is the Liberal Democrats being the smile on the face of the right-wing Labour tiger.

It’s vital that we have a party that stands up for civil liberties and individual freedom in a way that neither Conservatives or Labour have managed.

Politics Home reported an interview with Tim Farron with BBC News in which he talked about the need to work together across party lines:

Asked about the prospect of a merger that would mirror the deal between the SDP and Liberal party that formed the Liberal Democrats, Mr Farron suggested the referendum campaign had led to a reconsideration of the party divides.

“Amongst the things that I think we’ve got out of the referendum is that we’ve discovered, lots of us, who have worked across party boundaries, that we’ve enjoyed doing so,” he told BBC News.

“I shared a platform with many people I won’t embarrass by naming, who they discovered and they discovered we had more in common than just our belief that Britain should be in the European Union.”

When pressed on whether he was open to the idea of a new party, he replied: “We shouldn’t put any construct or constraint on what might happen next. People could come to us, they could set up another party, who knows. But there needs to be a realignment – otherwise we’ll be left with a Tory government forever.”

In today’s Sunday Times (£), Paddy Ashdown has floated the idea of a progressive movement, talking about how political parties have failed the public:

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Andrew George writes…After Coalition with the Conservative…participation in ‘Progressive Alliance’?

Should we be ‘once bitten twice shy’? After suffering the disastrous electoral consequences of Coalition with the Conservatives, should the Liberal Democrats avoid the risks of participation in any form of ‘Progressive Alliance’ with parties of the centre/left?

This year’s General Election was a triumph of strategy for the Conservatives. With accusations sticking, Labour was unable to throw off the encumbrance of perceived incompetence, crucially of economic incompetence.

Arguably bedazzled by high office, the Liberal Democrats were perceived to be naïve; not so much falling for the logic of Coalition Government, but appearing to compromise too much in what appeared to the electorate like an ultimately deadly embrace with the Tories.

All the Tories had to do was to identify and then mercilessly target a few hundred thousand ‘swing’ voters in ‘marginal’ seats with their unmatchable wealth and superior arsenal.

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