Tales from the Federal Executive: The one where we discussed the elections

London December 9 2013 064 Thames Low Tide (4) ParliamentThe Liberal Democrats’ Federal Executive met last night in a Westminster Committee room looking out on a grey and brooding Thames.

The meeting had a bit of a comedy start with a last minute change of venue leaving member scurrying from one end of the Parliamentary Estate to the other.

The major item of business was, of course,  discussion about the recent elections. Several Federal Executive members had consulted widely amongst members to get their views. Only Candy Piercy, though, had been organised enough to compile the main themes of the feedback she had received into a document which she was able to distribute to us and hand directly to the leader. The extent of the unanimity amongst such a wide range of members has been quite surprising. The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest but there are communication, messaging and organisational changes that they want to see.

We passed one resolution which we felt would strengthen the review taking place led by James Gurling, the Chair of the Campaigns and Communications Committee. It will now provide an interim report to the next scheduled meeting of FE on 14 July.  The resolution also widened the terms of reference of the Review beyond the scope of these immediate elections and reads as follows:

The FE directs the Gurling Review to analyse and evaluate the performance of the Lib Dems’ HQ campaigns structure since the 2010 General Election.

The Review Team should present recommendations to the FE on July 14th 2014 detailing changes that should be made to improve the campaigns structure and thus the HQ Campaigns staff’s ability to:

  1. Lead and inspire action from local campaigners and teams

  2. Develop a positive and mutually respectful relationship with activists, local parties and regions.

  3. Improve their internal communications with all levels of the party.

  4. Enable local campaign teams to win at local and national level in the next two years by developing winning campaigns that connect with voters.

James also confirmed that the views of ALDC would be sought.

Nick Clegg came in for half an hour. If the meeting were a diplomatic summit, the discussions we had with him would be described as full, frank and productive. He was very candid with us and we with him. It turned out that he was pretty much on the same page as we were when it came to messaging and his speech yesterday was a step forward n developing that distinct liberal narrative that we all agree is necessary. There was unanimity around the will to see the manifesto contain some radical, liberal measures that would energise activists and resonate with voters.

We also had a brief introduction to the new head of Communications Steve Lotinga and received reports from the 3 state parties.

The skies cleared as the meeting ended.

One of the reasons that the meeting was so productive and focused was because of the considered feedback that party members provided to various FE members. This really helped to inform our discussions so thank you all.  We would strongly recommend that you submit them to the Review by sending them to [email protected]

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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229 Comments

  • “The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest”

    Members of FE, or members of the party? Just for clarity, you understand.

  • Nick’s “speech yesterday was a step forward n developing that distinct liberal narrative that we all agree is necessary. ”

    One might have thought that seven years in to his leadership of the party, he might have made significantly more tangible progress than “a step forward”.

  • Duncan Borrowman 10th Jun '14 - 1:21pm

    What does the Head of Communications do that the Head of Press, or the Head of Internal Communications, or the relevant person in whatever Campaigns is called now doesn’t do?

    Was there a report from Hilary Stephenson?

  • The resolution seems to say that consensus was that the blame lies with the campaigners. Shooting the hardworking messengers, not the message they have had to work with.

  • As someone just said to me via DM: ‘Very odd seeing Tall saying “CLEGG MUST GO!” while Caron’s saying “everyone’s happy with the Great Leader and Focus Productivity has increased 5000%”‘
    Clearly we are living in interesting times…

  • Did you really think people were going to stand up and say “I think Nick Clegg should quit” when he’s sitting in the next room?

  • Sue Doughty 10th Jun '14 - 1:40pm

    Jennie, It wouldn’t be right to give a line by line description of events but it is a fact that now is not the time to have a leadership election. We need to get better on our messages but certainly there was no complacency whatsoever and a very strong recognition of what last months results told us. We want to see the results of the review and get feedback from everyone.

  • paul barker 10th Jun '14 - 1:44pm

    Thanks for a clear report Caron. Clearly when you said ” the vast majority of members dont want to see a leadership contest” you were refering to the feedback collected from the grass roots. I suppose The Noisy Minority will claim that they asked the “Wrong” members, just like the survey of LDV readers. Will the Anti-Cleggites stop their endless bitching ? I am not holding my breath.

  • looking out on a grey and brooding Thames

    Is this a self-conscious allusion to The Heart of Darkness?

  • Caron, its great that you’ve published this and I hope we’ll get more updates in the future. Is there any desire on the FE to do more of this – i.e. actually publish the results of meetings the FE are having? Publishing agendas and results of meetings online would be a great way to get out to the party what’s been decided and for gathering feedback too..

  • Olly fae Orkney 10th Jun '14 - 1:52pm

    The vast majority of members don’t want a leadership contest? Really? What is that based on?

  • Grace Goodlad 10th Jun '14 - 2:01pm

    I also would like clarification re this vast majority of members business. LDV surveys indicate about a 50/50 split and I would say from my local experiences in Bromley about the same proportions again. Certainly not a vast majority and it would be fair to say that Nick’s leadership is controversial and divisive.

    I too would hope that after 7 years he would have developed a compelling narrative. His failure to do so may indicate why there is so much unrest. The expression “too little too late” comes to mind. Tokenistic efforts after losing hundreds of thousands of voters, thousands of members, hundreds of councillors and all but one of our MEPs really doesn’t cut it. If Nick wants to lead a united party he must make clear and to be honest quite dramatic changes. Shilly-shallying because the proles are getting restless is just pathetic and shows yet again the lack of leadership and drive he has as the leader of what should be the most radical party in British politics. Blair was called a traitor for turning the Labour Party into Labour lite. What do we call Clegg for trying to turn us into Tory Lite?

    That said I am very pleased that the remit of the electoral review have been expanded as we have needed a full and frank internal discussion since at least 2010. It does lead into asking (as above) what Hilary Stephenson reported and what she ascribed the terrible results in the locals, euros and Newark to (and Newark is sadly not an anomaly but rather just the latest poor by election result. Eastleigh was just proof that one swallow does not make a summer). After the many emails, calls and text messages I received that assumed I had time and money to spare (rather than being flat out and giving all that I could locally) I would really like to know why the masterplan did not work.

    Perhaps I am wrong and Nick is not to blame for the current results, unpopular and non democratically decided policies and the decline in activist morale. But if it isn’t Nick to blame who is it? (And don’t blame it on coalition, we coped in coalition in councils and regional assemblies and govt without this happening).

    I really do think for the sake of good governance, and if the party is to survive we do need far greater FE scrutiny of the Leadership and of HQ amd for more honesty with the membership. I don’t want spin, I want truth and facts.

  • One of the key concerns of those who want a leadership election is that the problem is both with the message and the messenger. Assuming now that there’s not going to be a leadership election before the next GE, was there any discussion about voters’ perception of Nick (and to a lesser extent others) in how we get across the hurdle of voters not prepared to listen to Nick?

    I also think we have to be wary of the “we’re not making our message clear enough for voters” type of statement. Labour did this a lot during Tony Blair’s last couple of years (especially around the Iraq War) when it was clear that it wasn’t the clarity of the message that was the problem, it was the message itself. I certainly don’t advocate abandoning principles for the sake of a popular policy, but maybe we do have to accept that sometimes we will put across a policy which we think is correct and appropriate but the voters don’t, and no amount of clarification is going to change that.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Jun '14 - 2:08pm

    Jennie, where have I said what you said I said? The vast majority of feedback to the FE members has been that people don’t want to see a leadership election. We can only go on what’s been said directly to us.

    And why is it odd that Stephen and I have different views about things?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Jun '14 - 2:10pm

    Gareth, I’ve done them before – I just didn’t get to the last meeting cos it was in school hols.

  • “The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest but there are communication, messaging and organisational changes that they want to see.”

    After the Local, Euro and Newark elections they still treat members and voters like idiots. Absolutely amazing !

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jun '14 - 2:11pm

    Thank you Caron. In what way will transferring the deadweight of Ryan Cortzee to the Party’s wage bill assist the Party in winning hearts and minds?

    His time in Whitehall has coincided with his strategising succeeding in further alienating our supporters and seeing our opionion poll rating plunge to an all time low.

    As you know I warned you that the Campaigns Department were being scapegoated. How can they possibly function when their own professional advice is pushed aside?

    Or are the FE telling us that it was the Campaigns Department ,against the wishes of the Leadership, who urged a reluctant leader to challenge the populist Farage to a shoot out, that they were the ones who demanded that we fight the election as The Party of In, that the PPB’s were dominated by the leader because they said that was best, that they were urging candidates at all costs not to use images or references to the leader ???

    I will need to be convinced that they failed and it was not the interference of senior political figures and their tax payer paid advisers that produced such a woeful campaign and which directly lost us virtually all our representation.

    And was it the campaigns department or the in-house PR team that mismanaged the Pub press event last week or was that another Whitehall SpAd affair?

    In the old days the elected rather than the paid staff would have taken the blame and resigned. That includes, I am afraid, the Campaigns and Communications Committee which seems to have exerted no influence. If I am wrong and it was, as the constitution lays down, directing the campaign, why is it now reviewing its own failure.

    This is the worst aspect of working for a political party. Our staff should be protected. Given clear instructions, If they carry these out, then, it is their ‘masters’ who are to blame.

    Why is the Chief Executive silent. Either he is to blame for not overseeing his staff properly or he is negligent for not sticking up for them.

    Shocking.

  • Richard Dean 10th Jun '14 - 2:14pm

    I imagine that “productive and focused” is a joke, right? Like the brooding Thames and the clearing skies. What was produced?

  • David Evans 10th Jun '14 - 2:20pm

    “The extent of the unanimity amongst such a wide range of members has been quite surprising. ”

    Long live the Dear Leader.

  • radical, liberal measures that would energise activists and resonate with voters

    If the debates showed anything it’s surely that radical, liberal policies which energise Liberal Democrat activists (like, say, being in the EU) definitely do not resonate with voters?

  • In the real world the party, the leader and what it says is a turn off. It is the voters who count and matter and we are not listening to them. Caron how many is the vast majority? Because I tell you that is not the position on the ground.
    How many of the 44,000 commented?

  • “Our staff should be protected. Given clear instructions, If they carry these out, then, it is their ‘masters’ who are to blame.”

    As a former employee, I really have nothing to add..ahem.

  • Grace, fictional narratives are only written with foresight, factual narratives are written in hindsight.

  • Liberal Neil 10th Jun '14 - 2:38pm

    I read Caron’s post as distinguishing between the ‘campaigns structure’ and the ‘campaign staff’ – in fact the second sentence doesn’t make any sense unless you do so.

    For me, the fact that the European election message seemed to shift from ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’ to ‘the party of IN’ and that no-one now seems to know how this happens, suggests that there is a serious problem in our campaign strategy somewhere. Whether the problem lies at Leader level, Director level of staff level needs to be found out. My expectation is that the structure is too fragmented and opaque from top to bottom at the moment and that the Gurling review will propose something simpler and more effective.

    I don’t blame any individual member of staff for this. I certainly don’t blame the Campaigns Department, as it no longer exists as one department.

  • “4.Enable local campaign teams to win at local and national level in the next two years by developing winning campaigns that connect with voters.”

    “Lets dump Clegg” there’s a campaign that would connect with voters.

  • @Liberal Neil – you’re absolutely right. It’s clear there were huge problems with campaign governance and accountability – and how decisions were (or, equally seriously, weren’t) made – and that is in the scope of the Gurling review.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jun '14 - 2:50pm

    Neil, for how long has the campaigns structure been dysfunctional, in your opinion?

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jun '14 - 2:56pm

    Yes, Martin, which is why I’d like to know why this aspect was singled out for a special motion?

    I am sure it will conveniently conclude that what is needed is a world class director of campaigns (advert already posted).

  • Shaun Nichols 10th Jun '14 - 2:57pm

    Leadership election NOW.

  • Note that the report speaks of members no wanting a leadership contest, but that is not the same as changing the leader.
    My expectation would be that under the present circumstances the parliamentary party would be able to maturely identify the person who would command the most support to lead the party into and at the general election, would there be need in that case to have a contest?. That would make the process so much quicker.
    Having read Caron’s complacent piece I am now witholding my support funding to the national party until we get change.

  • @Bill Because the other areas were already in scope or covered elsewhere in the meeting. I can see how the motion on its own provides an unbalanced view of the meeting – it was, in no way, the only thing we discussed or even the area that necessarily received the most attention.

  • Caron’s cunningly satirical prose, mocking the hubristic Götterdämmerung of the Dear Leader’s final days before his dramatic final fall, remains one of the more amusingly subtle parodies I’ve read in recent years, brilliantly lampooning the ludicrousness and sheer denial which characterise the leadership’s position.

    I particularly enjoyed the gratuitously-inserted punchline “The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest”.

  • As a sidenote, all this hilarious ‘Dear Leader’ riffing that is currently going is just about as interesting as the talk of the EUSSR on the Daily Mail comments forum. There are people who support Nick, there are those who don’t. Patronising fellow party members for their views is not on and hardly tolerant . In fact, the most convincing calls for Nick to resign have come from the more repesctful of contributors – funny that.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jun '14 - 3:16pm

    Thank you again Martin. It looks prejudicial – especially when I was warned at the weekend that there was some scapegoating in the air.

    It does seem strange that a set of intelligent people undertaking the review should need to have their eyes pointed towards ‘the campaigns structure’ by a special ‘instruction’ from FE.

    If the structure was dysfunctional, one images that that dysfunctionality may have arisen by our entering Government, losing Short money and gaining £3,000,000 worth of SpAds. But that happen four years ago. Has it really only now become apparent?

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 3:19pm

    “Only Candy Piercy, though, had been organised enough to compile the main themes of the feedback she had received into a document which she was able to distribute to us and hand directly to the leader. The extent of the unanimity amongst such a wide range of members has been quite surprising. The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest but there are communication, messaging and organisational changes that they want to see.”
    OMG – Caron – is this a scientific piece of opinion research or just the musing of a pro-Clegg enclave. I think that the party should reflect on the Sunday Times Opinion Polls & LDV Survey that show massive rejection of Nick Clegg amongst three key groups : – The Lib Dem Voter Base in 2010 20% voters (74% rejection) , The current rump Vote r Base of 7% (47% rejection) and the survey of LDV Party member activists (40%+) rejection. The conclusion is that Clegg is leading a divided party split 50:50 against him, with the 2010 voters in total rejection of him. Your piece on the Federal Executive shows what a bunch of timid , yes men & women they are. If the leadership and MPs don’t dump Clegg soon, then is it time for True Liberal Democrats to consider forming our own party, just like the SDP left Labour. Perhaps the time for a Council for Liberal Democracy? I hope not . But if the Party must split.

  • The more times I read Caron’s report the more I worry. They only discussed ” recent elections “, but this has been going on for four years. 1800 councillors, local parties either not functioning or ceasing to exist, inability to find candidates and the apparent end of the Liberal Democrats as a national party or force.
    Show this was the Federal executiveiof the Liberal democrats or a management meeting of Fed Ex?

  • Sorry last sentence should be, ” Sure this was the Federal Executive of the Liberal Democrats or a management meeting of Fed EX

  • David Evershed 10th Jun '14 - 3:31pm

    Some weeks before the European elections I was told by our Regional Chair that there was no central campaign team that I could speak with and that local MEP candidates were runnning their own campaigns.

    However, someone in the party with influence decided that the Lib Dem policy was unconditional membership of the EU and our message should be ‘The Party of IN’ with no provisos.

    I can see that the message is clear and distinctive and it has been hammered home relentlessly – but it isn’t Lib Dem policy as far as I’m aware. However, voeters have been led to believe this is our policy and been turned off.

  • @Bill Complete confusion of committee structures, accountability and reporting lines are not primarily driven by resources. And some of the specific campaign management problems that we’ve seen this year (such as those mentioned by Neil above) are of the kind that only become apparent when the system is tested in a national election campaign – and the European campaign was the first one of those since 2010.

  • @theakes … which is why the FE discussed all the issues you mention in depth and extended the scope of the review to all elections since 2010 – as Caron reports.

    @David … which is why the FE explicitly included the campaign decision-making structure and governance in the scope of the review.

  • Reading some of the comments above with their blanket criticisms I can understand a reluctance on behalf of FE to open up the details of these meetings too far or too fast. Engagement is a two-way street.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 3:57pm

    James
    “and so the band played on…” – Lets organise a focus group for deck chairs while our great party sinks. Or we could sack the Captain and climb aboard the Iceberg. All aboard SS Calamity.

  • Richard Dean 10th Jun '14 - 4:11pm

    If the FE can’t stand heat they have no business being the FE.

  • Sadie Smith 10th Jun '14 - 4:23pm

    Thanks, Caron.
    I am relieved that there is a focus on the practicalities of Campaigns. We were so busy in 2010 making sure the Oalition offer was reasonably acceptable that scant ttention was paid to the GE campaign. I am not sure how and why certain decisions were taken. Bit late now, except to avoid a few pitfalls .
    Item 4 on that list can, in quite a few cases be met by supplying detail of information. And by guiding relative newcomers to working out a campaign for themselves from first principles.

  • Liberal Neil 10th Jun '14 - 4:30pm

    Bill – I’ve only been familiar with it since I started working for the party in 1993, and it has been different degrees of dysfunctional all that time.

    As you know, I do a lot of training with local parties. I spent the weekend running training for local parties in south central region, and the starting point was to get each of them to look at the various elections they have coming up in the next few years and to set some realistic objectives for each of them, based on what we know now. The rest of the day looked at various aspects of what they then need to go and do to achieve those objectives, in terms of local campaigning, capacity building etc. and how to prioritise their limited resources (primarily people).

    To the best of my knowledge nothing mirrors this process at federal party level, and, even if it did, the party is so fragmented that it couldn’t deliver on it.

    Over the time I’ve been involved both the professional structure and the democratic structure have got steadily more fragmented to a point where it is difficult to tell who is responsible for what.

  • Shaun Cunningham 10th Jun '14 - 4:31pm

    Yes the band plays on.

    I really do wonder if this party gets it. Does the voters views of us mean anything? Are we listening to what the doorstep is telling us? We seem to have this belief the party has the luxury and time to have a gathering of the clan to be told everything other than what is really needed.

    Please STOP. Would all of those on this committee please promise they will go and speak to real people. All this talk of campaign structures is a mere diversion from the real issues which are , the public have lost trust in us, have lost faith in what we stand for but more importantly have selected the off switch. In case those who are conducting this view have fail to notice, the public left the room months ago. They are not coming back until they see some fundamental changes. For god sake do we have to turn the lights out before the true scale of the problem becomes clear.

  • Stephen Campbell 10th Jun '14 - 4:51pm

    @Shaun Cunningham: “Does the voters views of us mean anything? ”

    Obviously not. Since the whole tuition fees fiasco, the electorate has been patronised by Clegg and those who run this party. We “don’t get it.” We’re “not listening enough”. Or, the old favourite, “our message isn’t getting through”. When will these people learn? We DO get it. We DID listen. And ex-LD voters by and large have decided we don’t like what you’ve done in coalition. We don’t like how many promises you’ve broken. We don’t like seeing Liberal Democrats gleefully voting for Tory policy when we see more Tories rebelling against their own leader than this supposedly “radical” party.

    At 6% in the polls, and the Greens getting more votes than the LDs, the electorate has spoken. And we’re STILL being patronised and told we just aren’t listening. What a sad shell of a once great party this has become. Oh for the days of Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell!

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jun '14 - 4:53pm

    Thanks Neil for sharing your considerable and expert experience.

    It seems convenient for the management committee or their representatives (as opposed to their employees) to have this fuzzy line of responsibility. They can dip in and out, produce some chaos and leave. The huge disparity in power between the employed and employers means that the employed find it hard to ‘complain’ or impose the professional skills for which they are employed. (21 years of compliance is a testimony in itself and I know what service and sacrifice you and your colleagues have given).

    Then suddenly when there is an almighty set of howlers the ‘dabblers’ can retreat into the positions of oversight.

    One might have thought that in this instance someone might have said, ‘ok we take that on board and we shall get back to you as a matter of urgency’, without the suspicion that bacons were being saved.

  • Shaun Cunningham 10th Jun '14 - 5:01pm

    @Martin Tod
    “And some of the specific campaign management problems that we’ve seen this year (such as those mentioned by Neil above) are of the kind that only become apparent when the system is tested in a national election campaign – and the European campaign was the first one of those since 2010”.

    This is just a diversion from the real issues. The campaign management problems may not have helped but they were not the core reason for the dreadful election results in the local and European elections. Anyone who belives differently clearly does not understand the scale of the party problems.

  • Martin Tod.
    But it is too late, this should have been after each year of abject failure. What about the constituency situation,
    collapsing local parties, active membership going off elsewhere, other councilors joining other groups and parties in large numbers as well as the actual losses. The Gurling review is pretty pointless , we all know the problems, it is just a ploy to divert attention. People were not born yesterday. In the meantime a donation I was going to give the party has gone to the starving in Africa instead, a far more worthy cause. Has to be a change of leader to have any hope of getting this ship to stabilize let alone move forward. We have to reconnect with the public by listening to them and not telling them what they need.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 5:12pm

    what’s the difference between Nick Clegg and President Assad of Syria ? – one is a devisive leader whose refusal to leave power dragged his people into Civil War. The other is President Assad.

  • A word or two of friendly advice to Caron —

    1)   When reporting back from federal committees beware including unqualified, unsourced, unmeasurable sweeping comments which happen to accord with your own view.   An example might be —  “The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest ….”.
    Oh really, a majority, so someone has asked thousands of members?   Oh no hang  on a second it was a “Vast” majority — someone has been speaking to the vast majority of members.
    How was this done, knock on all their doors hoping that they are in?   Phone them and hope that the call is not ignored.  E-mail perhaps?  Intuition? Chickens entrails or good old-fashioned tea leaves?     We have just had The Derby down the road from me at Epsom —  I could have done the FE a favour and popped along to see one of the “absolutely genuine” Gypsy FortuneTellers.  They could have told me with complete accuracy the thoughts of the vast majority of Liberal Democrats.  Gypsy Rose Piercy perhaps included their comments in her feedback document.

    2). If the leader of the party does not really engage with the FE it might be better to,not mention him at all rather than include the throw away line –  “Nick Clegg came in for half an hour”.

    3). If you really want to avoid worrying your readers, try not to include “reassuring” conclusions like — 
     “It turned out that he was pretty much on the same page as we were when it came to messaging and his speech yesterday was a step forward …”
    If there was unanimity in the FE that yesterday’s speech was “a step forward” then something is seriously wrong somewhere.   Who is on the FE nowadays?   Was there really unanimity on this point?  It is bad enough knowing that we have the most unpopular political leader since records began who cannot communicate with the voters, but it does not make it any better to be told that every member of the FE thinks that this is OK.

    4). When you ended with “The skies cleared as the meeting ended.”. Did you consider adding — “and Nick walked across the waters of the Thames and into the sunset as members of the FE threw rose petals at his feet and anointed him with oils ” ?    

  • You have no idea how many times I heard on the doorstep, I cannot vote LibDem until you fix the internal party structures. Glad to see this is finally being addressed

  • Duncan Borrowman 10th Jun '14 - 5:32pm

    I have a mail box full of sweeping reviews of elections going back about 20 years – Steve Hitchins of the London Assembly in 2008, James Gurling of the General Election in 2010 to name just two.

    The relevant body discusses them, they all nod. Soemone says how very helpful it is (that will be Nick). It goes on a shelf and is all declared too difficult.

  • Ruth Bright 10th Jun '14 - 5:36pm

    As I was reading this piece my Mum came in (she lost her seat in the recent elections). I told her that she had failed to get the message across and that if she had “communicated the message with robustness and passion”(Martin Horwood, Westminster Hour 8/6/14) as they did in leafy places like Cheltenham she would have retained her seat at the Elephant and Castle in inner-city Southwark.

    Having slaved her guts out for the party for four years my Mum was somewhat underwhelmed by this analysis, but no matter (to continue David Evans’ theme) the presence of our dear leader for 30 minutes brings me strength. I will happily be denouncing Mum in the forthcoming show trials if the regime asks me to.

  • Grace Goodlad 10th Jun '14 - 5:39pm

    You forgot dear. They all nod *and look concerned*.

    Apart from that yeah, And we can all see how effective James Gurling’s last review was in 2010, that’s why he has to review it again. *facepalm*

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

  • Tony Dawson 10th Jun '14 - 5:46pm

    I am intrigued by the idea that the Leader (who is the subject of much criticism for not ‘leading)’ has commissioned a ‘review’ from the the “Chair of the Campaigns and Communications Committee.”

    A very large number of people in this party must be amazed to hear that it even has a ” Campaigns and Communications Committee.” If they had heard of it, they might have expected it to have something to do with sharing the responsibility with the Parliamentary Leadership of the abject failure of the Party to campaign and communicate not just for the past four years but actually during the 2010 General Election Campaign as well, where we lost a number of seats we were meant to be ‘targeting’,despite an improved overall vote share in seats where we stand no chance of winning.

    So, why is anyone who is genuinely concerned for the future of this Party, and what is gong on in it, likely to be vaguely interested in a ‘review’ by people whose own conduct is one of the critical matters which needs reviewing?

  • If the Gurling review reports too close to the next election for there to be enough time to implement it, will there be a review of the review?

  • Tony Dawson 10th Jun '14 - 5:50pm

    @Ruth Bright

    ” I will happily be denouncing Mum in the forthcoming show trials if the regime asks me to.”

    And Ruth, will you knit me a scarf as you sit by the tumbrils afterwards? The scarf must, of course, have the latest Party emblem on it, tinted with the approved official colour scheme as only by wearing this shall we ever improve our vote. 🙁

  • Dave Orbison 10th Jun '14 - 5:50pm

    It’s not fair to shoot the messenger I guess but if this report of the FE is accurate, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, then the LibDem Party is in a worse state than I had thought. It must be obvious that the LibDems are in crisis. Whatever the reason, the electorate have switched off and are seemingly in the mood to punish the party for their role in the coalition.

    But what I really find interesting in the report is what it tells us as to the ‘ bunker mentality’ that exists at the very top of the party. ‘Nick popped in for half an hour’. Really? At this stage on the crisis, that’s not leadership it is avoidance. That this body, the FE, prides itself on being democratic is surely a joke. I can make no claims as to what the real % of LibDems want Clegg out but it must be inarguable that a sizeable proportion do want this. This is evidenced in various polls from various sources. For the FE to adopt a consensus that Clegg should stay on as reflecting the will of party members is delusional.

    The four-step plan outlined is so far off the mark that it simply beggars belief. Many have said it, and yet Parliamentary Party cannot accept it , the reason that they are now at 6% in the polls is because the electorate do not like what the LibDems have become since 2010.

    It adds insult to injury when they blame failures in communication, or the worse, the electorate themselves for not understanding the various nuanced ‘get out clauses’ re the broken promises. Latterly, a new excuse – “we are being unfairly blamed by the electorate re coalition policies”. Patronising and insulting. Yes, shout out this new message – that is sure to win back the trust of the people.

    Alternatively, the LibDem High Command could face up to the fact that what they have done has been judged unfavourably by voters and that is entirely THEIR prerogative. Personally, I would prefer there to be three parties in the UK – though please not UKIP. But at this rate the LibDems contine to respond in this way they will become be nothing more than a sad debating society for a few reminiscing as to how things used to be.

    I live close to Liverpool. The LibDems once had 48 councillors. They now have 3 . It’s time to swallow a lot of pride and apologise, change leader and direction and aspire to what you once where. Forget about 2015 you need to fight for the very survival of the party.

    Reject this by all means, keeping telling yourselves the voters they are wrong but be sure to switch off the lights as you leave the political arena.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Jun '14 - 6:01pm

    @David Evans

    “Long live the Dear Leader.”

    David, given that, over the past few years, the Party has lost an income stream of several million pounds to various elected Lib Dems, quite a lot of which came back to support the Party, surely you should be saying:

    “Long live the VERY dear leader!”? 🙁

  • Several Federal Executive members had consulted widely amongst members to get their views. Only Candy Piercy, though, had been organised enough to compile the main themes of the feedback she had received into a document
    Why? Isn’t this very basic? What is the point of “consultation” if it is not to be recorded and shared?

    Let’s think a little more about “consultation.” While it is, no doubt, important for the FE to stay in touch with the members, a “consultation” is not a poll. In fact, there are a great many ways in which bias can slip in. For example:

    • The “consulter” is not likely to choose a random sample of members, but will rather look to get opinions from those whom he or she knows and feels will provide reliable, helpful advice. That means that a large section of the membership — those deemed to be troublesome or loudmouths or hypercritical or not having the best interests of the Party at heart — will be omitted from the sample to begin with.
    • In the interview or questioning process, the “consulter” is liable — even without explicit intent — to “steer” the discussion, by means of the questions asked or the overall tenour of the conversation, into specific directions. “Under the current conditions, the Party have a great many tasks to accomplish before the general elections in 2015. Do you feel that the Party have time to expend on a possibly divisive Leadership contest in this short span of time?” In effect, the questioner prompts for a given answer.
    • Those who are questioned, besides being pre-selected, are liable to know the views of the questioner or intuit them from the nature of the conversation. There is a tendency for people to try to please and to provide answers that they think the questioner wants to hear, even if they disagree strongly with the opinion of the questioner: “I suppose so.”. Few people are contentious enough to want to fight someone they’re chatting with; and those who are will mostly have been avoided in the selection process.
    • In the process of presenting results, unless great care is taken to preserve neutrality by means of an agreed-on set of terms and characterisations, the tendency is for the “consulters” to play up results that they agree with or want to advocate, and to downplay results that they disagree with. It’s very easy to morph an equality into a plurality, a plurality into a majority, a small majority into a vast majority, simply by a judicious application of adjectives; likewise, negative results can be massaged in such a way that a losing position looks like a winning one (e.g. “only 47% oppose question X” — disregarding the fact that only 42% support it). And very negative results can just be shelved or shredded without being presented at all.

    That’s why one has to be very careful with such results and anecdotes; they may not represent much beyond what the “consulter” wants to be true, being, as it were, the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Jun '14 - 6:08pm

    If someone is considering indicators of the extent to which the Liberal Democrats are in crisis, might I suggest these two:

    (a) that in a time of crisis, the (somewhat censored) contents of a Federal Executive meeting are discussed in despair on a public web site, much-frequented by Party enemies

    (b) there is not a private Party web-site which is known about and/or participated in enough to be useful to discuss these matters.

    Might the responsibility for these matters lie somewhere rather near to…. er….the Federal Executive?

  • Brenda Lana Smith 10th Jun '14 - 6:36pm

    Meanwhile… in the wake of their empty “Equality for all” rhetoric… particularly our LibDems in government inexcusable failure to proactively to raise a legislative finger to relieve the potential legal plight of gender variant folk on British Overseas Territories… the present LibDem hierarchy needn’t bother soliciting any further a trans widow’s mite donation from me…

  • I note that someone else has posted as Michael on this thread so I have modified my name.

    Caron wrote, “The vast majority of members do not want to see a leadership contest but there are communication, messaging and organisational changes that they want to see.”

    For her to conclude this I find surprising because when she posted on the members only site she didn’t directly ask for views on a leadership contest. She wrote, “

    “We’ve been through a hell of a few days. We have a tough year ahead of us and we need to make sure that we get our strategy, our messaging right and build up our activists and helpers. As a member of the Federal Executive, I think it would be useful to have a corner in here for party members to tell us what they think we should be doing.”

    I interpreted this to mean that she wanted comments on our strategy and our messaging, which is what I gave. I didn’t offer a view on a leadership contest.

    Posted 18:52

  • Leekliberal 10th Jun '14 - 7:32pm

    The message is ‘WE DON’T WANT A DISTRACTING LEADERSHIP ELECTION’ but any other ideas are welcome.

  • paul barker 10th Jun '14 - 7:42pm

    Anti-Clegg types no doubt look at the comments above & think they are obviously in the majority, thats because us Pro-Cleggists are just so demoralised by your constant moaning, rudeness & dishonesty that they dont put comments up. “Ask the members” you said but when The LDV Team & The FE try to find cheap ways to do that you claim the results are biased. A Ballot of the Membership would cost £50,000 on postage alone & take 3 or 4 weeks to complete; is that a good use of our money & time ?
    A number of Local EGMs are already in the pipeline on The Leadership issue, why not wait till we see the results ? In the meantime we could use this site to talk about the Worls outside the Party.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 7:44pm

    Just to get Clegg off the hook what about a constitutional change to elect a co-leader, it’s daft but better than what we have at the moment.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 7:49pm

    Paul barker
    I’m glad you pro- cleggists are demoralised – it’s a long time coming ! When a leader can’t unite his party he should move aside. The great crisis of the Liberals from 1915 to 1926 was the failure of Asquith to move aside for Lloyd George. If the succession had been managed then LG wouldn’t have had to throw in his hat with the Tories. sounds familiar?

  • Alan marshall 10th Jun '14 - 7:51pm

    Wow! The vast majority of members don’t want a leadership election.?! Quite stunning statement. Amazing.

  • Paul In Wokingham 10th Jun '14 - 7:53pm

    Today’s YouGov poll (Lab 37%, Con 31%, LD 7%) asks about “which party has the best policies on…”. Here are the results for the Liberal Democrats:

    NHS : 5%
    Asylum and Immigration : 6%
    Law and Order : 4%
    Education : 8%
    Taxation : 8%
    Unemployment ; 5%
    The economy in general : 4%
    Europe : 8%
    Welfare and benefits : 6%
    Housing : 5%

    Only in education, taxation and Europe does the party command the support of a majority of its own supporters.

    So since no-one is listening to Mr. Clegg either in the bunker at Westminster or that high-tech bunker at Bloomberg, then how (absenting the possibility of Mr. Clegg departing the scene) do we get people to listen and engage with our agenda?

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 7:54pm

    And yes Paul £50,000 would be a small price to rid the Party of a leader who has led us to the edge of oblivion while selling party’s future.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 7:57pm

    If Nick thinks he had support in this party let him stand for reelection now like John Major – it would shut us up or get rid of him.

  • Paul Barker; No because this is the issue, not pontificating on issues the public are not interested in. They are interested in the leadership, if there is a change..

  • Further to Paul Barker’s most recent comment, I have done a calculation, and of the 65 posts on this thread at the time of composing the present message 43 (from 21 individuals) are either specifically anti-Clegg or are hostile to the party’s present direction/management, 18 (from 12 individuals ) are neutral in content/tone, and just 2 posts (from Paul himself) are explicitly pro-Clegg, although I would judge from the 2 less explicit posts from James that his sympathies too lie with the Clegg camp.

  • But of course the people who write on LDV’s public forum are hardly representative of the Lib Dem membership either — indeed, many of them are not members at all! As for the recent LDV members’ poll, being dependent on self-selection it is not scientifically reliable, as the subset of the membership who participate may not be (indeed almost certainly isn’t) representative: it may differ from the membership as a whole in geography, age, gender, economics, and ideology. The only way to get scientifically valid data about the state of opinion of Lib Dem membership is to do a scientific poll — which would require demographic information about the membership which may be either inaccessible or nonexistent.

    Of course, instead of trying to bang each other on the heads with spurious claims of majority or plurality support, or demanding that others shut up because they so obviously don’t have the rest of the Party with them, we might try convincing each other through reasoned, civil argument.

    Yes, you may say I’m a dreamer. . .

  • I really do hope that this summary of what happened at FE is just Caron Lindsay’s usual rose-tinted specs viewpoint and that the rest of FE took the fact that hardly anyone wants to vote LibDem anymore a bit more seriously than she is suggesting in her article. Otherwise what is the point of Federal Exec?

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 8:50pm

    David 1
    Fair point – I’m a lib dem member despite the logo not being on my id . I stood for election as a local councillor and helped to keep out ukip. I distibuted the anti- Tory anti ukip euro leaflets though was worried about it bring too direct And put a strong and loyal advocacy of the coalition, which I still feel is necessary , of the 24 wards only 12 had candidates and if those only 2 produced an election leaflet and campaigned. One candidate refused to delver the euro leaflet and their bite was the highest. Verdict : the public don’t believe Clegg and the message we have on Europe and our policies. The only solution a change of leader and change of policy.

  • @Jonathan Pile

    Given that Lloyd George become more right-wing as PM and was propped up by Tories makes me think more kindly of the last truly Liberal government under HHA! Heck, Lloyd George was, in effect, in cahoots with the Tories to unseat Asqutih.

    I have a great deal of time for the Goat’s time at No.11 and his battle with the Upper Chamber et al, but if we want to find the Liberal leader with the greatest messiah complex, as some want to cast onto Clegg, and ability to split the party we need to look in his direction. If only CB was still around..,

    This post comes direct from 1922.

    @David-1

    Spot-on.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 10th Jun '14 - 9:38pm

    I am going to be really controversial here.
    thank you Caron for posting. words are being pulled apart and analysed in detail, but it is a report back, nobody else has provided one, and if we are to have a living party such feedback is important.
    I am saddened at the tone of most of the postings. I am not a “pro cleggite” but I do want to move forward, and it seems as though we have to hunt for who or what to blame. look properly at what is not working right, definitely, lood at ways of improving structures, ways of working and all the rest, definitely. particularly look at the accountability chain, decisions appear to come from nowhere.
    I can only speak for the contact with people and feedback I have had but very few people I have spoken to in our region have said that there must be a leadership election. I phoned people in Newark and none mentioned it then. during the election i phoned around 1,000 people. hardly anyone mentioned the leader (not that that is a particularly relevant point) and I think 4 mentioned tuition fees.
    So please Caron, keep on keeping us informed, and everyone else, please please remmeber we are a Liberal party that does respect the views of others even if we disagree.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jun '14 - 9:47pm

    Good post by Suzanne. I may have reservations about the economy, but I still want to move forward in a positive way.

  • Gillian Gloyer 10th Jun '14 - 10:39pm

    I haven’t had time to read through all the comments yet but want to thank you, Caron, for trying to keep us informed. We might not like the message, but at least the messenger is doing her best!

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 10th Jun '14 - 11:24pm

    Dear All,

    For those of you so quick to criticise Caron for expressing her view of what happened at Federal Executive, I don’t see a stampede of Federal Executive members – and there are twenty-eight others, lest we forget – rushing to give their alternative view.

    There seems to be an enthusiasm for ‘shooting the messenger’ which is unlikely to encourage anyone to put their heads above the parapet. So much for tolerance and respect, eh?

    So, if you disagree with Caron, try doing it with at least a modicum of respect for her, even as you argue the case. Because, frankly, I would see no point in engaging further if all that it attracted was abuse.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 11:45pm

    FairPlay on Caron reporting back – there is considerable frustration that the Federal executive is not functioning as a link between the party and the isolated leadership. We are all democrats and wish to be united in a party which has won back the2010 vote.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Jun '14 - 11:47pm

    This cannot happen with a failed and devisive leader

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jun '14 - 12:13am

    @ Jonathan Pile,

    Alright, fair enough, and I’d like to be part of a united party which has won back the 2010 vote too, but how much of an effect would changing the leader have?

    My gut feeling, based on my experience of talking to ordinary voters is that Nick Clegg is only a part of the problem. When pushed on why they don’t like us any more, you hear about the NHS changes, or tuition fees, or the bedroom tax, because when push comes to shove, everyone is in favour of cutting public spending until the cuts turn up at their door.

    And yes, we made a shocking error of judgement on tuition fees, and the bedroom tax was, and remains, foolishly punitive, but I don’t see that the NHS is any less free than it was, that there are hordes of starving, homeless people roaming our towns and cities, or that our society is falling down around us. At least, I see no more of these things than I did before – government has always been prone to error when providing services and supporting the vulnerable even when money has been relatively plentiful.

    But we seem not to take any account of the fact that, in coalition, both sides have to compromise, and, as Matthew Huntbach rightly points out on a frequent basis, there are a hell of a lot more Conservatives in Parliament than Liberal Democrats.

    And, regardless of who is leader, with a still far too high deficit, there will be more unpopular decisions to come over the next year. If you can come up with an alternative, any alternative, figure who can carry out such a programme whilst remaining popular, or a strategy that allows further deficit reduction whilst avoiding unpopularity, than tell me about it – I am genuinely all ears.

    I’m not one of those that believes that dissention should be suppressed regardless of the liberal philosophy of the party, its structures and its members, and it is entirely right that those who feel that an alternate course is necessary have the right to be heard. But I can’t help feeling that unless there is an end game in sight, an ongoing bitter struggle for the soul of the party will only be as death to it next year.

    As I say though, you all have every right to carry on, should you wish.

  • Mark Valladares,

    “There seems to be an enthusiasm for ‘shooting the messenger’”

    Well, you rightly point out that the absence of alternative accounts suggests that yes, the Federal Executive did largely unite in taking a batten-down-the-hatches, backs-to-the-wall, defend-the-leader-to-the-bitter-end stance.

    However, the “messenger” also told us that one individual, Candy Piercy, had successfully completed all consultations with the Party membership, and had proved that we all want Clegg to carry on. The “messenger” told us how wonderful it was that Clegg made a brief appearance, and that a full and frank discussion revealed that everybody was “on the same page”. Finally, and here’s the sub-Wordworthian PR training kicking in, the “messenger” talked about a brooding Thames making way for clearing skies, by the end of the meeting. Well, not just a meeting, obviously, more like a life-changing mystical experience with Maharishi Clegg.

    Do you not realise the position you ultra-loyalists are putting yourselves into?

    Your behaviour is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette. You are behaving like the Duc des Pommes Frites. You have placed your collective heads under the guillotine, confident that you remain in charge, that you have cemented yourselves into the power structure, that your intellectual superiority is unchallenged, and that the plebs from the regions will soon go away in the knowledge that they don’t count.

    I’m afraid your leader will very soon discover that he has had his chips.

  • Mark Valladares 12.13:

    “Nick Clegg is only a part of the problem”

    Yes I agree. I’d also comment that your 12.13 post, where you clearly aimed for balance and wisdom, was a lot better than your 11.24 post, spoken in anger.

    So – Clearly, a change of leader is no panacea. Some of those who want a change of leader may end up dissatisfied. Personally, I would like to elect a leader who will restore our longstanding centre-left position in British politics. However, one of the risks I take is that Jeremy Browne might win, moving us sharply in the opposite direction! Personally, I’ll accept that risk. We are going to hell in a handcart if we don’t take a risk. So, there is really no downside to taking that risk.

    We can’t always solve a big problem in just one big fell swoop. But we can make a start. We need to make that start. So we need a new leader.

  • “My gut feeling, based on my experience of talking to ordinary voters is that Nick Clegg is only a part of the problem.”

    Absolutely. And the majority of the parliamentary party is another large part of it, for having gone along with the NHS “reforms”, the breaking of the pledge over tuition fees, the bedroom tax, balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, secret courts, and so on and so forth.

    There’s certainly no easy way out of the situation the party has landed itself in. But if the response is going to be that there’s no point removing part of the problem because the rest of the problem would still be there, people will start wondering whether the party has succumbed to despair and lost the will to survive.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jun '14 - 12:52am

    @ David Allen,

    Actually, you’re right – I am angry.

    I’m angry about the lack of tolerance, about the suspicion that people openly voice about the motives of others without actually bothering to find out why they might express the views that they do. I’m angry about the way that some people here seem to find it so easy to think the worst of others – loyal members who have often done their fair share of work in the past to support and nurture the Party.

    I never cease to be amazed by the haste with which some people in this Party grab flaming torches and pitchforks when they encounter a situation that they don’t like, even when the facts aren’t known, or are still emerging. And I seldom hear any of them apologising afterwards, even if they are proved, with hindsight, to have been wrong.

    Your assertion that I am some kind of ultra-loyalist because I have the audacity to suggest that abusing Caron for speaking her mind is the antithesis of a liberal, tolerant political party is a fine example of that. Likewise, your total confidence, so easily expressed, that Federal Executive have battened down the hatches is made in an almost total vacuum of information, other than that supplied by Caron. She may be offering a rose-tinted view of events – I don’t know, I wasn’t there. Then again, nor were you. I have no idea what the view of the rest of Federal Executive was, and neither do you.

    Perhaps a touch of honest doubt, based on an acceptance that we don’t have all of the facts, might lead to a more measured response on your part. But if you’re going to assign a particular view to others because it suits your world view to classify them as ‘the enemy’, then you aren’t going to have much luck convincing me.

  • @Mark Further to your earlier point, the Federal Executive decided unanimously that the best way to feed back on what was going on was via one of Caron’s excellent blog posts on Lib Dem Voice. She has the full support of everyone on the FE for doing so.

    I also think some of Caron’s post has been misinterpreted.

    When Caron says that ‘the Federal Executive and Nick were on the same page’ – that refers to the end of the meeting – and not to the start. As she says, the discussions were ‘full, frank and productive’. ‘Full and frank’ refers to the fact that it was very robust, honest and passionate discussion from a room full of people who have dedicated a huge chunk of their lives to the party. Some of whom who had had awful election results – seeing councils lost – or seats lost after more than 40 years. And some of whom had done well. But ALL of whom are absolutely committed to the best for the party – expressed their views with passion and integrity fully taking on board all the arguments that others have made – all of whom recognised the critical importance of this meeting – and put their all into ensuring that everything possible within the FE’s remit is done to turn things round. And the word ‘productive’ refers to the fact that this had an outcome. Nick, to his credit, engaged fully with the discussion – and, although he had already arrived with a strong set of ideas for change, engaged fully in the discussion and took on board other important ideas as to how things can change still further.

    I realise that people are sceptical. But all the people in that room were committed and are committed to changing things for the better. The FE is not done yet. It has put all the issues on the table – all of them. It will be reviewing the Gurling review’s analysis of those issues – and – where appropriate – action plans in response to the questions raised at the next FE meeting – and making decisions on the back of them. And I know from talking to my colleagues that we will not stop until things are improved.

    Has the FE been a brilliant institution recently? No. It hasn’t. It’s quite often been a rather lame rubber stamp. But I’ve seen it at its best before when I was one of the people on FE who helped win the argument at FE for the party to officially back the Iraq War march. And the meeting last night had the same level of passion and total commitment to do the right thing for the party that we had then.

    Finally, Caron and I have been diametrically opposed on some of the issues coming out of this election campaign. There is no-one on this discussion thread who has taken as strong a public line on the need for change that I have. But if we can be respectful and polite to each other – and recognise everyone involved is genuinely seeking to do the best for the party and for the Liberal Democrat cause – then perhaps everyone else can too.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jun '14 - 1:49am

    @ Martin Tod,

    Thanks for that, a most helpful interjection.

  • @Martin Tod:
    “Nick. . . had already arrived with a strong set of ideas for change”

    That’s a rather tantalising remark. Do you have the freedom to elaborate on it in any way? Would you say that these ideas were largely parallel to the FE’s ideas, or, er, rather less so?

  • David Allen 11th Jun '14 - 2:23am

    Mark, OK, you’re angry. I’m angry too. I’m angry about being fed pap about how Candy Piercy has single-handedly proved so many people wrong, pap about clearing skies, pap about why everybody outside the inner circle should shut up and go away. I haven’t worked as hard for the Party as you have, but I did put in some 27 years of local hard slogging, until Clegg took over and I had the sense to stop. It was 27 years wasted. Everybody outside the “priesthood” can see that. Wake up.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jun '14 - 7:43am

    @ Chris,

    That’s a not unreasonable statement. I suppose that, in my mind, there is a dilemma. Can a new leader somehow put the events of the past four years behind them and establish credibility sufficient to improve our popularity with voters, or would we simply be offering up another scapegoat?

    I’m not convinced that the public would suddenly decide that, with Nick Clegg gone, we are an attractive option once again – especially as most of our senior figures are, in truth, just as responsible for the decisions taken.

    Perhaps, if things are as bad as is asserted, it would be better to seek renewal – proper renewal – after an election, in opposition. We can learn the lessons, make what changes to the Party that might be necessary, develop a truly liberal platform and approach to governance.

    Is that possible in the eleven months before a General Election? I think not, but if others think it is, then they must continue to make the case.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jun '14 - 8:05am

    @ David Allen,

    If you read the original piece more carefully, you will see that Candy Piercey was the only person who had produced a summary of the feedback she had received, and there is nothing to say that she claimed to have proved anything – I might have started a new paragraph at that point, had I been editing the article.

    And, off you go again. I have not claimed that I have done more work than you – I don’t know, but given that I have had some periods of relative inactivity, it’s quite possible that you’ve done rather more. I simply make the point that there are plenty of people, holding a different view to yours, that have worked bloody hard for the Party, and they have the right to some respect too. If you find that concept so difficult, then perhaps you need to reflect a little on what you think such unpleasantness actually achieves, apart from encouraging a bunker mentality.

    And, despite your continued insistence that anyone who doesn’t agree with every dot and comma of your stance is an ultra-loyalist, I remain open to the argument. In other words, I am persuadable. But, clearly, you have no intention of trying to do so in a temperate, reasoned manner, instead sticking to your pattern of abusing anyone who dissents from your position.

    If you do happen to win this argument, I’m hardly encouraged to believe that the resultant Party would be worth the investment of my time. I am, however, grateful to Martin Tod for demonstrating that you can hold different views and still treat each other with courtesy and respect.

  • Tony Dawson 11th Jun '14 - 8:17am

    @Mark Valladares:

    I’m not convinced that the public would suddenly decide that, with Nick Clegg gone, we are an attractive option once again”

    I seriously hope that nobody is saying that the public would do so. It will be a serious ‘slog’ to re-establish ourselves. It will just be a serious ‘slog’ without battling into a headwind with an albatross round our necks led by someone whose decision’making record on most of the big things is pretty abysmal.

    A great deal of the Party have been in abject denial of reality for most of the past three to four years. They do not recognise the seriousness of the situation we are in because the final destruction has not hit home to themselves, personally, at any of the crunch times. They haven’t lost ALL of their councillors like the Lib Dems have in Manchester. They are not personally too concerned about losing ALL of our MEPs outside of London. Everything must still be all right, mustn’t it, because we have MPs and Cabinet Ministers? These people are sleepwalking to destruction and trying to take us all with them because they do not want to face up to unpalatable truths which are not actually new, they have been here for three years.

    This motion from Federal Executive is part of the problem, not part of the solution. It might as well read:

    “As people who are partly responsible for the problem, we instruct other people who have been partly responsible for much of our poor performance over the years to go away and look at ANYTHING except the real problem.”

    “especially as most of our senior figures are, in truth, just as responsible for the decisions taken.”

    I would like to see the evidence for this assertion. It would appear that the Party Committees have all but crumbled and the power of patronage and the ‘Government vote’ has meant that the Parliamentary Party have been fairly paralysed as the massively-funded ever-stretching ‘Leaders Office’ determines everything from ‘strategy'(sic) to who goes on Parliamentary broadcasts to spout a message which has never been agreed with anyone.

  • Tony Dawson 11th Jun '14 - 8:21am

    “I’ve seen it at its best before when I was one of the people on FE who helped win the argument at FE for the party to officially back the Iraq War march. ”

    What you fail to mention, Martin, was the extent to which powerful establishment figures went to, subsequent to that vote, to sabotage our involvement in that event: though they did not succeed, their activity and the delays created led to a major reduction in the number of Lib Dems who attended that event from round the country. Who is to say that such force are not abroad still?

  • David Evans 11th Jun '14 - 8:22am

    Mark,

    But I am convinced that, with Nick Clegg still leader, the public will become even more certain that, we are a party they will not support in any circumstances.

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 8:30am

    Mark
    Thank- you for engaging. The new leader would have to be someone the public would feel was authentic and could credibly show that they were a constructive critic of the coalition either from inside or outside the cabinet. Someone like Vince Cable, tim Farron, Simon Hughes or Charlie Kennedy could do this and start reconnecting with our voters. The approach would be – we were dazzled by Av and made the wrong choice on tuition fees. We will put it right by finding the money to wipe student debt and scrap tuition fees. We will return to the 2010 manifesto and get approval from members for any coalitionist ideas such as Hs2 et al. We will stick by our word to 2015 but start campaigning to win . No more. Talk of coalition just campaign for what is liberal and right.

  • Thanks for your clarification, Martin. I think Dave Orbison, at 5.50pm yesterday, wrote some of the key facts. It has always been my contention that this party, and the Liberals before it, had not spent enough time working on over-arching economic / political / green policy. We have always run into big splits when we have discussed this at conference. I have always been on the losing (“left” if you must describe it) side. For a party which has had such radical ideas on a host of policy areas, and who many of us have followed – dare I say, worked hard for – over many years, that has always seemed baffling.

    I try to square this circle by believing that it is because over the years we have come at politics from a local, community perspective, and have thought that we can effect changes in individual policy areas WITHOUT major change in underlying economics. Our founding fathers, under Grimondism, and the community politics movement which emerged from it, would have tried to point us in a different direction. Cleggism has presented us with this issue, starkly, at high profile national level. I accept that it is made worse by the fact that there has been an international financial crisis, and had there not been, pressure on local resources wouldn’t have been so high. However, Cleggism still accepts the basic post-Thatcher economic consensus, which is something the Alliance and the nascent Lib Dems fought to a standstill.

    Until the FE, and Clegg’s “strong set of ideas for change” accept that what “the Lib Dems have become since 2010” is not popular with the electorate, and that although under the rhetoric on which we fought national elections, was this massive disagreement / lack of proper economic thinking to effect the new politics, the underlying changes we have campaigned in other policy areas for, a major part of our support was an identification with those changes. I have not signed the LibDems4Change letter, not because I think Nick Clegg needs to stay, but because I think the statements made in the letter are too accepting that the economics, and the strategy,in 2010 was right, and further errors could well be made if we accept that.

    I am not at all sanguine that FE, and Parliamentarians are even prepared to entertain that argument, and until we fully engage with that, I don’t think we will get our lost voters back. For all I know, Clegg, with his European experience, and especially his apprenticeship with Leon Brittan, believes that British political culture should look more like some other countries’ eg Germany, where the FDP these days is a highly free market rump of a party. For many years, the Lib Dems have had a very strong element of what would have been Green values, and arguably has prevented the Green Party in UK from taking off as a serious political force. This is one of the key reasons we have developed such a relatively strong voter base. Our national party has failed to realise this, and has failed to translate this from “local” to national thinking. The acceptance of Eric Pickles, into post in the first place as CLG Secretary, and of Pickles thinking, the virtual antithesis of all we have ever fought for, shows in one area the change that has now become apparent in our party.
    Nick Clegg’s (much disputed here) call for those who think like me to get out and seek a new political home needs to be looked at. His belief that new (what EARS might have called Soft Tories) would come voting for us in numbers has clearly been a white elephant.

    I believe the problem lay in how much political distance lay between the type of liberal democracy I describe, and Tory thinking at national level. It was difficult to conceive any programme of government that would have been recognisable as both acceptable to Tories, and to most of our voters. The dominance by our free market wing in negotiations enabled a programme to be cobbled together, crossing fingers that most Lib Dems wouldn’t notice. Clegg’s naivete, and possibly a keenness by some Lib Dems to take part in Government, sealed the deal. It is this mess that now needs unscrambling.

  • Tony Dawson 11th Jun '14 - 8:33am

    @Mark Valladares:

    “I never cease to be amazed by the haste with which some people in this Party grab flaming torches and pitchforks when they encounter a situation that they don’t like,”

    I totally agree with you, Mark, and I think that anyone on here who has attacked you on this matter, rather than criticising your arguments, deserves to go away and stick their head in the fridge. But this point of yours has another edge to it. There are people in positions of power in this Party who have taken many decisions over the years in this hot-headed manner, either to do things or to not do things, in ways where the number of people directly-affected on each time is fairly small and hence not disseminated widely – yet the cumulative damage can be quite large. Also, the major issues which we are talking about here have not actually changed significantly since about June 2011: they may have been accentuated by the odd very poor decision but the damage done by major image issues (which have a far more powerful effect in politics than more cerebral matters) was largely done then and the leaders’ ratings and the Party’s ratings have gone down much more slowly since that time. So, if people have been “picking up flaming torches and pitchforks” over the Leadership damage issue, they have been picking them up far more slowly than did the staff on any of Stalin’s collective farms in the Ukraine – and not using them to any great effect over the past 40 months or so. 🙁

  • Paul In Wokingham 11th Jun '14 - 8:42am

    @Mark – “if things are as bad as asserted”

    But Mark, there is no assertion required. There is copious amounts of evidence – opinion polls, the personal ratings of Mr. Clegg, the results of the Farage debates, and most importantly in real elections. The evidence that the public are not prepared to engage with Nick Clegg is overwhelming.

    Further up on this thread I posted the results of a recent YouGov poll in relation to what percentage of people think we have the best policies in specific areas. I highlighted “The economy in general : 4%”.

    The party’s strategy appears to be to keep banging on about how we played a role in turning around the economy. Well we only get 35% of self-identified Lib Dems to agree that we have the best economic policies, and nobody is prepared to listen to our leader. So how do we turn that around?

    I don’t want to see the parliamentary party reduced to a rump next year. Removing Mr. Clegg is not in itself a guarantee that this won’t happen. But keeping him is an almost certain guarantee that it will.

  • The main problem we have is that our achievements and what we have blocked the Tories doing is not filtering through to the electorate. Speak to anyone on the doorstep and they won’t be able to list a single thing. They think we just sign off Tory policies.

    We need to stop this stupid distraction about the leadership and get on with campaigning. Stop belly aching about Nick clegg and get out there and knock on doors!

    What I’d like to see is, if possible, a mailshot to every household (activists can’t get to every single one in the UK) listing what we have done in government. Then local councillors and activists reinforcing this with surveys and focuses.

    So far the only national ‘campaigns’ I have seen are on jobs and the income tax threshold. And I’m not even sure I’d be aware of them if I wasn’t a party member. What happened to “on message, in volume, over time”? I thought there were going to be a few months campaign on each policy achievement. It all sounded so positive when we were told the strategy.

    Get our achievements, what Tory extremism we have stopped and how useless Labour are down on paper and through people’s doors, then go knocking on doors. The most important thing we can do is talk to people!

    As for Nick Clegg, I’d suggest he visits regions and speaks to people in the streets – obviously with security managed. Come along as Leader of the LIb Dems rather than Deputy Prime Minister and listen to people instead of Westminster advisers.

    I mentioned to Nick a year ago that people were saying they’d vote for us locally but not nationally. He reckoned people would come round. They haven’t, because they don’t have a clue what we’ve done. The party needs to address this now.

    And what is the remit of the new head of Communications Steve Lotinga? Is that communication within the party or external communication with the media etc?

  • “Perhaps, if things are as bad as is asserted, it would be better to seek renewal – proper renewal – after an election, in opposition. We can learn the lessons, make what changes to the Party that might be necessary, develop a truly liberal platform and approach to governance.”

    Whatever your plans for after the election, surely you should try to minimise the amount of further damage the party sustains. I still think people are underestimating the number of seats that could be lost if a general election is fought with Clegg as leader.

  • andrew purches 11th Jun '14 - 9:10am

    Bullet point 4:” to enable local parties to develop winning strategies at local and national levels over the next two years”,
    or some such twaddle: has the party overlooked the fact that we have a general election and countless local elections in just eleven months hence ? Perhaps someone could remind them of the fact?

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 9:40am

    Tracy
    We have been knocking on doors and are reporting back that so long as Mr Clegg stays they don’t want to know. Once goes the fight back can start but so long as they have their fingers in their ears they are not listening.

  • James Sandbach 11th Jun '14 - 9:49am

    @Mark
    However you can hardly expect people not to be angry given what has happened, and that it was entirely predictable. As an LDV editor you will have seen plenty of post-2010 posts warning of the worst outcome which has now come to pass, but often these voices have been dismissed as cranks. Linda was pilloried for her pink handcuffs, but was she wrong. Its hardly a surprise that we should lose all our progressive voters, when the first two years of Coalition involved our Parliamentarians passing a massive and unprecedented juggernaut of regressive legislation and policy and ignoring the siren warnings from Party Conference. I’m glad FE are finally taking stock, and perhaps now LDV can be less ‘our place to talk’ – or rather shout, and more ‘our place to listen’.

  • When the last election left no overall control, we were damned if we did and damned if we didn’t. If we did not join a coalition, we lost all credibility, so then it became which was the least bad option – propping up a discredited Labour government or joining with the Conservatives?

    By most objective views, the coalition government has done quite a good job of running the country. A lot of the electorate pillory us for not being able to do everything in our manifesto – quite overlooking the fact that a manifesto is what you would do if you were in sole charge. A coalition is a compromise. Sadly, compromise is a lost skill for many people – hence the high rate of marriage breakdown and the inability to see the benefits we get from being part of the EU.

    The EU elections had nothing to do with rationality, and a lot to do with a more media savvy and friendly rerun of nationalist campaigns of the past hundred years (blame the immigrants, the gays, the Roma – where have we heard that before?)

    Who the leader is doesn’t really matter, and I don’t think a change will make any significant difference. What we need are good policies, say why we have those policies, and what the alternatives are. So for example, we believe that those out of work through no fault of their own should not starve. Therefore we have a benefits system. After that, it is a matter of simply how the policy should be implemented. We should be prepared to ask the voters on the doorstep if we should leave people to starve. If they say yes, then what about if they lost their job – would they want to be left to starve? We need to make policies from which they don’t necessarily benefit now relate more directly to them.

    I worked in the US for a couple of years. But during that time, the company I worked for was taken over, so the visa under which I worked was no longer valid and I was classed as an economic migrant at the stroke of a pen. We should not forget this sort of thing happens.

    What we have, courtesy of the Daily Mail and others, is a running of the country by exception. 100,000 people here contributing to our economy, but 1 bad guy – then throw the lot of them out.

    If we really want a fair crack at the next election we have to make sure that for any policy we put forward, when the newspapers dig and find a case that makes our policy look bad, we have an answer. We need to do a risk assessment on our policies and thus can plan mitigations for these.

  • Simon McGrath 11th Jun '14 - 10:17am

    @James “Linda was pilloried for her pink handcuffs,” No she wasn’t , she was laughed at.
    It was obvious to anyone with any sense that going into coalition with the tories we would lose support on the left. During the lib lab pact we lost support on the right.
    So if you believe in PR, which means coalition govt you have to accept it will have adverse consequences on our vote.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Jun '14 - 10:19am

    You are right, it is not just the leader. It is the apparatus he has set up.

    If the F E thinks it can engage with and change the raison d’etre of that apparatus they are wrong. It has different objectives based on different experiences, different values and different beliefs.

    It may roll with the punches but it will not change.

    Those who think it wise not to change the leader need to he confident they can change what else needs to he changed without being able to change that apparatus. I think that confidence is misplaced.

    Even Dr Frankenstein is telling me he can’t control his creation.

    Perhaps we should all be reading Hamlet.

  • James Sandbach 11th Jun '14 - 10:26am

    @Simon – quite, both pilloried and laughed at, but doesn’t mean she was wrong.
    I don’t know any Liberal Democrats who don’t believe in PR and Coalition, but the question is at what price – and are some prices too high.

  • Laurence Cox 11th Jun '14 - 10:29am

    @Tony Dawson 6:08 10th June

    (b) there is not a private Party web-site which is known about and/or participated in enough to be useful to discuss these matters.

    Of course Cix still exists, there are still closed confidential conferences for Lib Dems on it and until the recent redundancies we even had a member of the Membership department to act as gatekeeper. Not since Paddy’s day have we had a leader who was prepared to engage with the Party members through this channel – one reason for its decline. I cannot comment on discussions there, but members of it will know the extent to which the discussions here reflect discussions in that private forum.

    As for the review, I will just quote the first paragraph of my response:

    Yes, we have a problem with trust. People just do not trust what Nick Clegg says any more and that feeds through into support for the Party. Also, I think that he has been badly advised. For example, in the second
    debate with Farage I cringed when he pulled out that Native American flyer and suggested that it represented UKIP’s current views. It was soon revealed that this had been produced by a single UKIP candidate back in
    the 90’s freelancing. Ask yourself how Nick would have reacted had Farage pulled out the infamous “black boxer” leaflet from Tower Hamlets, yet that was an exact parallel. Similarly, Nick failed to make the point
    that the Party had both voted and marched against the Iraq war.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jun '14 - 10:48am

    Tony and Jennie,

    You may well be right about Nick – I am, admittedly, rather out of touch with what is happening beyond my rural corner of the country, and both of you come into contact with many more voters than I do.

    By senior figures, I mean most of the potential leadership figures. Messrs Cable, Davey, Alexander et al have all cast their votes reliably with the Government, as have most of the backbenchers. Indeed, most of the rebellions have come from the Lords, but I don’t think that the Party is ready to return to having a Peer as our Leader. If one is deemed to be tainted, than most of the others must be too – they are individuals with the ability to think for themselves.

    Chris,

    There you go, being reasonable again… You make an entirely fair point about the risk for next year if we carry on as we appear to be doing. I suppose that I am sceptical about whether the long-term prospects for liberalism are served by changing leader now, or whether we risk promoting someone who is then so badly damaged over the next year that they are unable to lead the Party afterwards. But, then again, I’m yet to be convinced that there is anyone out there who is so obviously equipped to lead us that they are worth the risk.

    James,

    There is nothing wrong with anger. It was anger that led to the abolition of slavery, to universal suffrage, to the provision of healthcare for all and welfare for the vulnerable. There is, however, everything wrong with abuse as a means of arguing a case.

  • Gareth Hartwell 11th Jun '14 - 10:51am

    I accept that the majority (whether vast or not) of members do not want a leadership election and we have to move on from this.

    However, the FE still need to address the key question which arises as a result of the decision they and others in the party have taken not to change the leader. How do we campaign effectively in the GE with a leader who is very unpopular?

    Maybe the answer is to focus more on policy than personality and to promote a broader team and to try very hard to avoid putting Nick Clegg in the spotlight (e.g. this would mean vetoing a leadership TV debate). I suppose at the extreme you could even appoint somebody else (Party President?) to be the leading face of the election campaign although I can’t imagine Nick would be terribly happy about this.

    Was any of this discussed?

  • How do we campaign effectively in the GE with a leader who is very unpopular? Maybe the answer is to focus more on policy than personality. . .

    No. This will not work. This is not how people perceive politics these days — and in any case, there is not currently a hugely convincing body of policy to present. For better or worse, if you have Nick Clegg you have to run on Nick Clegg.

    If you accept that the leadership won’t and can’t change, at least before the general elections; if Nick Clegg really is the best possible leader the Lib Dems have at this time; then you accept that there will be huge and irrecoverable losses at the election, that the next year will be a wasted year, that membership morale will plummet as they are asked to give their all for a task they know is worse than hopeless and to support a leader in whom they can have no confidence, and that when rebuilding finally starts, as it must, it will be from a shrunken, dispirited, demoralised, shell-shocked base.

    That is all. It’s a scenario I’m sure many are willing to accept.

  • Organisational change is always proposed as the solution to organisational disaster. But it’s really about people. If the organisation changes but still retains the same people little will change.
    In our case we have a Leader who is a political liability and a campaigner with the most successful campaigning record in the country suspended (cannot be named because he is a non-person)
    The start of a solution is therefore obvious.

  • Nick Clegg is a very nice man, and one (see the first TV debate in 2010) who is able to persuade people with his reasonableness. This will have swayed the media in their endorsement of him during the Leadership campaign and run up, party members and activists in their contacts with him, and voters by what they saw on TV.

    Unfortunately, now we know more about his other qualities, his absolute opposition to radical politics and the corollary, wedded to “centrism”, ie thatcherite economics linked with some liberalism, his inability to publicly argue difficult and unpopular causes (see the 2nd 2010 debate, and his debates with Farage), and his stubbornness, either to fundamentally change course, or to stand aside.

    Now these are seen clearly by all, I am afraid the outcome of next year and for many years to come will be that predicted here by David – 1.

  • “I suppose that I am sceptical about whether the long-term prospects for liberalism are served by changing leader now, or whether we risk promoting someone who is then so badly damaged over the next year that they are unable to lead the Party afterwards. But, then again, I’m yet to be convinced that there is anyone out there who is so obviously equipped to lead us that they are worth the risk.”

    I don’t see the point of worsening the damage to the party as a whole in order to protect a potential leader from damage (especially if there’s no obviously outstanding candidate to protect).

    The other aspect of that is that if your potential leader loses his/her seat because the party as a whole is doing badly, then that will also render him/her unable to lead the party.

  • The FE’s direction to the Gurling Review fails the ‘reversing test’ – would any sane person attempt or ask for the opposite? Would they perhaps look for ways to demotivate local campaigners and teams? Or perhaps to develop mutually disrespectful relationships with activists and so on.

    I fear this is just one small item to add to the mountain of evidence cited above that the official party is out of touch and floundering badly. I’m sure the members of the FE are all fine people but when you put them together in a committee of 28 (?) then the result is impotence and dysfunction so the constitution is a big part of the problem.

  • Peter Chivall 11th Jun '14 - 12:51pm

    After the Euro elections, I basked in our successful defence of our key seats locally and the increased vote for our ‘paperless’ candidates (much of it due to our City-wide high profile Social Media campaigning – see Cllr Darren Fower’s LGA/ALDC national award in March in York). I said I was agnostic about Clegg’s position, but our policy priorities and presentation must be sorted out – particularly giving up our position in the voters’ eyes as ‘the Party of Green’ to the Green Party (see Euro votes).

    However, since the Newark result came out, I now believe nothing less than root-and-branch reform and restructuring at the top will save us from hundreds of lost deposits in 2015 and the loss of over 2/3 of our Parliamentary seats. Newark was not a Barnsley or a Rotherham where they weighed the Labour vote and noone else got much.

    I did not realise there was a Gurling review in 2010. Either it concluded there was nothing worth saying or doing – or it was totally ignored by the Leader. I joined the Party’s predecessor in 1971. The previous year we saw how a detached, ideas-free Leader had succeeded the radical and popular Joe Grimond and how the then Liberal Party was reduced by 2/3 to less than a taxi full of MPs. In 1979, our then former leader was on trial for conspiracy to murder his former lover. The fact that he was acquitted was irrelevant to how the public perceived our association with the alleged plot. Yes, Newark had a big Tory majority and Ukip were the challengers, but to be reduced from around 20% to 2.6% is worse than anything that happened in the wake of the Thorpe trial and the Lib-Lab pact.

    There is an anecdotal story passed to me by someone I trust utterly, who was very much a London-based Party insider until a few years ago. It tells of an MP who was under a cloud because of press attention to his personal life, but otherwise coming up with good ideas until he lost his seat in 2010. He had produced a paper on some aspect of Party policy or presentation. He took it into the Leader’s office to present it for consideration. He was received politely by the person present, who then carried it across the room and dropped it, unopened and unread, into a wastepaper bin. He was then thanked, politely, for his efforts and left.
    Perhaps it is time for all of us, whether we like it or not, to thank Nick politely for his efforts and ask him, if has a shred of loyalty left for the Party and its future, to leave quietly, and please close the door behind him.

  • @GF The ‘reversing test’ sounds like a pretty stupid test. The alternative to most decisions is not to do the opposite, but to do nothing. And that is exactly what the FE is fixing. You may think that our internal communications are good enough but Ruth (for example – see above) would disagree with you.

    @Gareth Hartwell Of course we discussed it – and the options you put forward were amongst the options considered.

    @TonyG You’re right. But that is a question for the Federal Policy Committee and not the Federal Executive. Their role is at least as vital in turning things round – if not more so. The Federal Executive is explicitly excluded from policy questions in the constitution.

    @Tony Dawson This has been said several times, but I’ll say it again. The FE resolution was an EXTENSION of the scope of the review to include a longer view of the problems we face and to consider ALL the organisational issues we have with our campaigns (not limiting scope simply to the operations of the campaigns department and how many leaflets and contacts each seat made). I’d have thought that was something you would agree with.

  • Candy Piercy 11th Jun '14 - 1:17pm

    If the situation facing the Party were not so serious I would be amused as being described as a Clegg loyalist (or words to that effect)! Thanks to Caron for writing a helpful digest of the FE meeting on Monday night. It was a long and passionate debate – of course Caron did not cover everything that was said – and nor should she in an open forum such as this.
    I have spoken to a large number of members and senior activists across the country in the last week. I was very surprised at how consistent the message was that whilst members were unhappy about the Leadership situation, they did not want a leadership contest. The same message came through loud and clear from the majority of members who sent me their detailed thoughts about how the FE could help us to get out of the mess we are in. Other FE members reported the same view being given to them.
    I was sent lots of interesting and helpful ideas about where to start sorting the Party out – and two themes stood out. The need for new, inspiring and Liberal policies that we can fight for. The need to sort out the campaigns structure to help local parties fight for the new policies.
    The level of frustration and fury about the way campaigns works was significant in my opinion. Grassroots campaigner traditionally grumble about HQ. But this was a different order of concern. The Annette Brooke email may have crystallised this for many activists.
    I know we have loads of experienced and gifted campaigners on the Party staff.
    Bill, If you think I would stand by and allow campaigns staff to be scapegoated then I am very disappointed. But the fragmented campaign structure gets in the way of them doing their job properly.
    The FE wants the Review led by James Gurling to look at a wide range of issues. But to report back in a month’s time. So it was clear that it is not possible for the Review team to cover everything that quickly. So we wanted to give direction as to where to start in the short time frame available. If a Leadership contest is rejected by the members then lets get the Review to look at the campaigns structure. The FPC will be looking at the pre-manifesto soon so the search for new, inspiring policies is also underway.
    As the paper I wrote has provoked wide comment re its standing and the basis on which it was drawn up I am copying the opening section here. This might clear up a few questions people have posted.
    Introduction to paper tabled at FE on Monday:-
    I used Facebook and the internet to encourage Lib Dem activists to contact me with their views about what the Party should do to improve its position post the deeply disappointing Euro and Local Election results. Subsequently Caron Lindsay set up a similar thread on the LD forum.
    I made it clear that any comments sent to me would be treated as confidential but I would use them to inform my thinking and the thinking of FE colleagues.
    I received a large number of very detailed messages. I was surprised by the general unanimity of the comments received. Below are a series of bullet point to illustrate the general thrust of the messages. This is not an exhaustive list of every point made to me but a summary of the commonly held views and suggestions. It should of course be noted that my summary, by its very nature, is subjective!

  • Phil Rimmer 11th Jun '14 - 1:40pm

    @ Mark Valladares
    Re: your original comments on changing leader. These I would agree with IF changing leader now was about improving our performance at the next general election. I do not think changing leader will have much of an influence on ballots cast in 2015.

    So, why do I support the removal of Clegg? Well, it appears to me that Clegg has a vision of our future which is a small Economic Liberal party with a mild social conscience which, with between 10 and 40 MPs, manages somehow to keep itself permanently in Coalition government. Huge areas of the country would be black holes for Lib Dems and Social & Radical Liberal Democrats would be a distant memory.

    There is no single element of this which I support and I do not believe Clegg has a snow balls chance in hell of succeeding. The problem is that he will continue down the path of trying to build this nightmare.

  • Candy

    “Below are a series of bullet point to illustrate the general thrust of the messages.”

    ?

  • Candy Piercy 11th Jun '14 - 1:49pm

    Malc
    I have not posted the bullet points as this is not a secure forum. I just [posted the intro to clarify the status of the document

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 1:49pm

    Candy
    I accept that a broad sway of the party do not hunger for a leadership election but are unhappy with the leader. I believe a short and dignified election this summer could do the job but also we could see a situation where an interim ir temporary stand in leader be appointed such as the part president tim Farron while Nick took a well earned sabbatical . Such a solution would avoid a full blown election

  • Candy Piercy 11th Jun '14 - 2:49pm

    Hi Jonathan
    I think a number of people would be sympathetic to that idea – but there are quite a few problems. – in no particular order.

    I doubt it would be taken up by enough members to make it happen.

    However if they did I don’t think we can do that within the constitution – and setting that aside would be as complicated as a full blown leadership contest.

    Having heard what Nick said on Monday at the FE I very much doubt he would stand aside. He is determined to shoulder the responsibility of leading through the GE.

    And you are assuming someone would be prepared to take on the job if offered….

  • “Having heard what Nick said on Monday at the FE I very much doubt he would stand aside. He is determined to shoulder the responsibility of leading through the GE.”

    Are you sure he’s not just determined to remain leader?

  • Candy Piercy
    I am interested that you say —
    ” Having heard what Nick said on Monday at the FE I very much doubt he would stand aside. ”
    The only logical interpretation of that statement is that during the half hour he was in the meeting no suggestion of him standing down was put to him or discussed with him . If you “very much doubt” he would stand down, it is clear he did not say this specifically. I am sure you will correct me, if that interpretation is wrong.

    As elephants in rooms go, that must have been one hell of a big one on Monday night.

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 3:36pm

    Candy
    thank-you for contribution – I think we are moving towards a more constructive dialogue – you may well be right about constitutional problems surrounding a sabbatical arrangement. I remember David Steel took one when leading the Liberals and I’m also thinking of Vince Cable’s brilliant interlude as interim leader -when he made the famous Mr Bean jibes at Gordon Brown. Despite all the anti-Clegg comments – I’m keen for NC to have a future role in the party but he’s in a bad place right now and needs to move over. In the long term l would like to see a female leader, like the Greens have Natalie Bennett and had Caroline Lucas. We need a credible, well-liked leader to take us through the next few years who can make an apology the public believe, change political course and ensure the party survives as a national force. I wouldn’t rule out Charlie Kennedy if he was up to the job – or Tim Farron, Vince Cable , or Annette Brooke. – Ideally one of the Lib Dem MPs who didnt vote for the Tuition Fees rise in 2010. We need a mechanism for a change – even the leader inviting a Lib Dem MP to stand in as temporary leader (but someone who voted against Tuition Fees and can unite the party)

  • Martin Tod – You have misunderstood the point of the ‘reversing test’. It’s not to suggest possible alternatives (including doing nothing); rather it is a test for political content of a slogan. So “Replace Trident” vs. “Don’t replace Trident” are both positions one can imagine being supported – as in fact both are in this case. Hence both versions of the policy have political meaning. Conversely, it’s impossible to imagine anyone campaigning against “More motherhood and apple pie” so, as a political statement, it is meaningless. It may have some value as a ‘feel good’ statement intended to create the right mood music but that should not be mistaken for political.

    Similarly, “Stronger Economy Fairer Society” has almost no political content as no-one would argue against it which is why the Conservative majority were happy to allow it into the Queen’s Speech as a crumb for the Lib Dems. It may have value in contributing to a certain mood but if it’s not backed up by something altogether stronger and properly political then we really are in a desperate state.

    As for internal communications I don’t for one minute suppose they are good enough. But I do think that if the FE takes it upon itself to intervene in every management failing rather than delegating responsibility (plus the expectation that problems are fixed or else) to those whose job it is, then we will have a log jam at the top and disempowered people lower down.

  • Phil Rimmer 11th Jun '14 - 3:39pm

    @ Candy Piercy
    “And you are assuming someone would be prepared to take on the job if offered….”
    It would be a horrible job, requiring a genuine spirit of self-sacrifice for the party. What is required is an MP who has already given up on Clegg, has effectively cut loose from the national campaign, has no leadership ambitions and has already decided that either they have a good chance of holding their seat or that they are doomed. Half a dozen candidates spring to mind.

  • HERE Is THE KILLER FACT as put to us by Paul In Wokingham 11th Jun ’14 – 8:42am
    “. There is copious … evidence – opinion polls, the personal ratings of Mr. Clegg, the results of the Farage debates, and most importantly .. real elections.
    The evidence that the public are not prepared to engage with Nick Clegg is overwhelming. ”

    I would like to thank those people who were present at the FE who have reported some of what went on and tried to explain themselves.
    It would be fascinating to know how many of the people who were present at the meeting were actually elected members of the FE.
    It would not surprise me at all that those who are effectively appointed to the FE by Nick Clegg would be doing anything other than singing his praises.
    Similarly I would not expect anything different from anyone who had a hand in deciding that it was a good idea to centre on Nick Clegg in person all of the national media attention for both the EP and the local council elections.
    Those guilty partners in crime are unlikely to be making too much criticism of Clegg when that master-stroke of campaigning decision making has just blown up in their faces.

    The FE is never going to be the body to take an objective decision about the leadership based on the facts.
    It would be like expecting the courtiers of King Charles the First to reject the concept of the Divine Right of Kings and go grow vegetables with The Diggers at St George’s Hill.

  • Candy Piercy 11th Jun '14 - 3:46pm

    Hi Jonathan
    I think a number of members would be sympathetic to that idea – but there are quite a few problems.

    In no particular order.

    I doubt it would be supported by enough members to make it happen.

    However if they did I don’t think we can do that within the constitution – and setting that aside would be as complicated as a full blown leadership contest.

    Having heard what Nick said on Monday at the FE I very much doubt he would stand aside. He is determined to shoulder the responsibility of leading through the GE.

    And you are assuming someone would be prepared to take on the job if offered….

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 4:01pm

    The simplest thing would be for Tim Farron or Vince Cable to appointed Deputy Leader, then Nick Clegg stands down and the Deputy to take over as Acting Leader for the 11 months until the election and then be subject to a leadership election after May 2015. Vince Cable did a good job as Acting Leader for 3 months in 2007, and with hindsight should have stayed on. He could do it again as his doubts about the Coalition are well known with the voters are well known, though sadly he didn’t vote against Tuition Fees.

  • @JohnTilley
    Perhaps the FE should be completely elected. This might free them to make critical comments

  • David Allen 11th Jun '14 - 4:41pm

    Mark Valladares,

    At 12.18 a.m., I used the following words, which might reasonably be considered as being on the borderline of “abusive”:

    “ultra-loyalists … behaviour reminiscent of Marie Antoinette. … confident.. that your intellectual superiority is unchallenged, and that the plebs from the regions will soon go away”

    At 12.52, you replied to accuse me of abuse. You used the following words, which might reasonably be considered as being on the borderline of “abusive”:

    “I’m angry about the lack of tolerance …the suspicion that people openly voice about the motives of others without actually bothering to find out why they might express the views that they do … the way that some people here seem to find it so easy to think the worst of others… amazed by the haste with which some people in this Party grab flaming torches and pitchforks …seldom hear any of them apologising afterwards… assertion that I am some kind of ultra-loyalist because I have the audacity to suggest that abusing Caron for speaking her mind is the antithesis of a liberal, tolerant political party … Perhaps a touch of honest doubt..might lead to a more measured response on your part….it suits your world view to classify them as ‘the enemy’.

    (There was more stuff like this at 8.05 a.m., by the way.)

    Perhaps before you look at the mote in my eye, you might look at the beam in your own.

  • I’m highly sceptical at the repeated claim that “Members do not want a leadership election.” Who actually spontaneously says this?

    It sounds like a mantra from Clegg’s entourage, not something Lib Dem members say unprompted. I know only too well the party encompasses a broad range of opinions, with some still maintaining that Nick is the best thing since sliced bread who will lead us to a clear overall majority at the general election in the next 11 months, and some thinking he’s the only cause of all our woes whose removal will ensure that we prosper, and most members (myself included) falling somewhere in between.

    But in the real world, who actually uses the phrase “There is a leadership problem, but now is not the time for a leadership election”? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t sound remotely believable.

  • Candy Piercy 11th Jun '14 - 5:07pm

    Yup, @Seth I have heard those very words – often spoken through gritted teeth. As well as written emails, I have now spoken to a number of people, who personally want Nick to go, who have done a ring round of their members or had a discussion in a regular meeting to decide what to do. To their dismay they were firmly told by the members this was not the time for a Leadership contest.

    If you are right there would be at least 75 parties holding SGMs and voting for a change of leadership. There are some SGMs I hear – but not as many as I thought there would be.

    Let us see what their decision is. If you are right then the situation will be solved without further need for discussion here!

  • From abroad and no longer a member I cannot comment on whether or not most members want a leadership election. As a supporter though I would urge those members who want change to try to get the 75 local parties to call for one this month or don’t do it at all till after the election. Have Chris, Bill, John Tilley etc. called meetings in their own local parties for this purpose and how did those meetings go?

    About the message more generally. You have the same problem that the Republican party has in the US. The AND vs OR problem. In the US, people vote Republican if they are employed AND white AND straight AND christian AND against gun control – all of which are majority groups, but the intersection of those groups is smaller than the Democratic vote, which is people who are unemployed OR non-white OR gay OR non-christian OR pro gun-control so the Democratic candidate has gained a plurality of votes in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. The problem is the Republican party’s extremist, moralising language
    In the UK, the Lib Dem vote is people who are not angry about tuition fees AND pro-further EU integration AND pro-marketisation of public services AND in favour of open-door immigration. It is difficult to change overnight but certainly the other mainstream parties are able to have a pro-EU policy without presenting it using language that suggest anyone who disagrees is held in contempt by the party and should take their vote elsewhere.

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 5:21pm

    Hi candy
    On the sgm issue – I signed the lib dems 4 change open letter but have called for a sgm in my own constituency party because it could be locally devisive and there many people who want a change but don’t want the pain and grief of a party fight. I personally don’t feel that 75 local parties will call an sgm but what kind of leader allows things to get to this level of almost civil war. The change will only come when people in influence like yourself stop acting as buffer for Clegg .

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 11th Jun '14 - 5:49pm

    Caron’s metaphors are wonderful – telling us what she really thinks. Don’t look so much at her words as much the picture language. Brilliantly done. I would say that as far as is diplomatically possible Nick got a wigging for not having or delivering liberal messages which resonate with us. And quite right. Please leave those who are not liberals to make their own pitch but do speak to us – your true voters – which you have not done since you joined up with Cameron, who is clearly not liberal after all his earlier posing.

    The only message which can get through now is an honest liberal one – clearly and consistently spoken in many articulate and differing ways, and which do not repeat the same sound-bite phrase which has bored everyone already.

  • @JohnTilley 11th Jun ’14 – 3:43pm

    “It would be fascinating to know how many of the people who were present at the meeting were actually elected members of the FE.
    It would not surprise me at all that those who are effectively appointed to the FE by Nick Clegg would be doing anything other than singing his praises.
    Similarly I would not expect anything different from anyone who had a hand in deciding that it was a good idea to centre on Nick Clegg in person all of the national media attention for both the EP and the local council elections.
    Those guilty partners in crime are unlikely to be making too much criticism of Clegg when that master-stroke of campaigning decision making has just blown up in their faces.
    The FE is never going to be the body to take an objective decision about the leadership based on the facts.
    It would be like expecting the courtiers of King Charles the First to reject the concept of the Divine Right of Kings and go grow vegetables with The Diggers at St George’s Hill.”

    Fascinating stuff indeed, John. Fascinating. Captivating stuff.

    And then I look at the list of the people on the FedEx and your theory doesn’t seem so convincing:
    http://www.libdems.org.uk/federal_executive#

    It’s worth listing the members and then others can make up their mind as to whether they are likely “partners in crime” who are incapable of making an “objective decision”. (With apologies for any errors of collation by myself – *=I’m assuming these members are directly elected). (And of course this is the list of the committee members, rather than the members who attended this week’s meeting.) I know, in varying degrees, or have heard speak, at least 15 of the members. They don’t seem like pushovers to me. Here’s the list:

    Ali Goldsworthy Welsh Party Rep and Deputy Chair
    Brian Orrell English Party Rep
    Candy Piercy Directly elected
    Craig Harrow Scottish Party Convenor, Vice President
    David Rendel Directly elected
    David Williams Directly elected
    Elaine Bagshaw Directly elected
    Fiona Hall MEP Rep (?)
    Gerald Vernon-Jackson Directly Elected
    Gordon Lishman Directly Elected
    James Gurling Directly Elected
    Lorely Burt MP MP Rep
    Dan Farthing Scottish Party Rep
    Peter Ellis English Party Chair, Vice President
    Chris White Councillor Rep
    Kishwer Falkner Peer Rep
    Nick Clegg MP Leader
    Qassim Afzal Directly Elected
    Ramesh Dewan Directly Elected
    Kath Pinnock Councillor Rep
    Sue Doughty Directly Elected
    Tim Farron MP Party President, Chair
    Martin Tod *Directly elected
    Caron Lindsay *Directly elected
    Keith House *Directly elected
    Jock Gallagher *Directly elected
    Daisy Cooper *Directly elected
    John Last Welsh VP

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 6:06pm

    Let’s review what we have learnt so far. If we were nasty Tories – nick Clegg would been toast on 2011/12. But we’re nice lib dems and although everyone is unhappy with Nick and almost everyone wants him gone and a majority want him gone now – we’re far too nice to ask him to his face and rather not cause an upset . I’ve no problem with asking Nick to go face to face – perhaps someone can facilitate this .

  • Candy Piercy 11th Jun '14 - 6:54pm

    Sorry to hear you think I am acting as a buffer for Nick Clegg Jonathan – I don’t think he would agree with that for a minute!

    With my colleagues on FE, I am trying to look at the reality of a very difficult situation here and how to tackle it. Nick is not going anywhere unless the members and the MPs decide he should go. No sign of either happening. Especially if the much discussed SGMs are not being called – for whatever good reason that may be.
    So I am looking at how we can change and improve in reality and concentrating on that rather than wringing my hands over things I cannot change.

    The very wonderful Vera Head always told me that when you are in a tight spot in politics, think about it from all angles and then get on and do something. There is always an answer – it may not be the one you think you want but you can always find some way of making things just a bit better. So that is what I am trying to do.

  • Paul Walter – Looking at the list you provide, I can imagine quite a few of them being in favour of hanging on to Nick till the election, and aside from the MPs, who are clearly in a different category, pretty well all are from those you say are directly elected. I am certainly not saying they are pushovers – that surely is not the point.

  • @Tony
    “The only message which can get through now is an honest liberal one”

    What is the liberal message from approving the use of water cannons? I do not see much advantage to voting LibDem if you are just going to rubber stamp Tory policy.

  • I’ll say this for Nick Clegg — he may be rubbish at handling David Cameron or Nigel Farage, but he’s very good at scaring, bluffing, and intimidating his own party. If only he showed as much backbone in dealing with the Tories.

  • David Allen 11th Jun '14 - 7:30pm

    Candy Piercy said:

    “I have spoken to a large number of members and senior activists across the country in the last week. I was very surprised at how consistent the message was that whilst members were unhappy about the Leadership situation, they did not want a leadership contest.”

    I think this can be translated, in terms of an AV or STV vote with the priorities numbered in order, into:

    Nick should stay – 3
    There should be a forced leadership election – 2
    Nick should quietly resign with dignity – 1

    At this point, however, the STV analogy breaks down, because it is candidate 1 which has to be eliminated, because Nick will not resign. (And perhaps also, because there is no obvious heir apparent who could step into the leader’s shoes without the need for an election).

    However, what does not follow is that we should proceed to elect candidate 3. Instead we should elect candidate 2.

  • @GF You originally used the ‘reversing test’ in the context of the FE decision to give focus (amongst other things) to the structures and accountability for internal communication. You say the FE should delegate responsibility for the decision – and most of the FE members would agree. But the problem is that no-one is currently responsible for the decisions being made – there is no clarity about who is or should be making the decision – and that is precisely why the FE is asking that this is sorted out.

  • Martin Tod – “But the problem is that no-one is currently responsible for the decisions being made … “

    That tends to happen in a committee-driven structure. As the smoke clears after each disaster it becomes clear – as in fact everyone must have known all along – that no-one was in charge, no-one was responsible. It’s Whitehall in miniature. I strongly suspect that is a big part of what most of the voters want someone to propose new thinking about and the answer suggests itself. On the bright side, you may have just done an important part of the Gurling Review’s work for them.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Jun '14 - 10:06pm

    This is absurd.
    The consensus here is that virtually no one is happy having nick Clegg as leader.
    Virtually no one wants a leadership election unless nick Clegg decides to go voluntarily.
    Therefore you all bow to this.
    Just say, “nick, I for one have no confidence in your leadership now .” Write an email to his new email address now.
    It is up to him if he goes on when you come clean.
    But until you have the strength of character to say ” I have no confidence in you” why should he do the honourable thing.
    And yes, the campaigns department however dysfunctional is being scapegoated or the word performance would not have been used in the performance.
    If they have no leadership is that there fault?
    If they have too many people trying to tell
    them what to do , is that their fault?
    Of course not.
    Of all the possible weaknesses you, the FE allowed them to be singled out because you didn’t have the conviction to say, ‘nick I think you are the problem, not the solution.’

  • Knowing who makes the decisions is laudable, but ultimately futile without a willingness to hold those who make bad decisions accountable. Authority shouldn’t be delegated without a mechanism of responsibility.

    Also, there’s a communications problem if directives intended to improve communications problems also sound like meaningless mush that could mean anything to anybody, or nothing to everybody.

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 11:01pm

    I read that Danny Alexander has claimed that the Lib Dems could be the biggest Party by 2025 ; http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/06/exclusive-danny-alexander-lib-dems-could-be-biggest-party-2025
    “I reveal that Danny Alexander told a recent parliamentary party away day in Wyboston, Bedfordshire, that the Lib Dems could be the largest party in British politics by 2025. “We were all rolling our eyes, even Clegg’s spads,” one of those present told me. “He’d really been drinking the Kool-Aid”. David Steel’s 1981 exhortation to Liberal activists to “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government” looks modest by comparison.” – Is this report true – has Danny completely lost the plot as well. – More evidence of insanity at the Court of King Clegg

  • Paul In Wokingham 11th Jun '14 - 11:05pm

    So it’s impossible to identify who has responsibility for anything, including who is responsible for it being impossible to identify who has responsibility for anything?

    Tonight’s YouGov poll gives the Lib Dems 6%. The lowest score ever recorded for the Lib Dems by that polling organization and only one point above the Greens.

  • @David-1 Currently we have the structures to do neither. That’s why the FE has made it clear that this needs to be fixed.

    @Bill …
    “if they have no leadership, is that their fault”. Er. No. It’s the fault of the structure and failed system of accountability.
    “If they have too many people trying to tell them what to do , is that their fault?”. Er. No. It’s the fault of the structure and the failed system of accountability. (Spotting the common factor here yet?)
    This is exactly why the FE _extended_ the review to include campaigning structure (and hence decision-making and leadership) in its scope. The memo explicitly contrasts the campaigning structure and HQ staff – and makes it explicitly clear that the focus is on the former. As has been repeatedly explained, ‘campaigning structure’ includes ALL (as in ALL) the ways that campaigning is decided – and, since the people on FE are not idiots, that therefore includes governance above and beyond what happens in HQ alone.

    Just to check I’m looking for the words ‘campaigns department’ in the memo that was issued (since the FE is, apparently, scapegoating them) and – hang on a minute – this can’t be true – the words ‘campaigns department’ are not even there! The FE is, apparently, scapegoating an institution that isn’t even referred to in the resolution. Indeed, if you search for the words ‘campaigns department’ on this page, the first time they appear anywhere is where you unilaterally decided the FE was scapegoating them. Isn’t it possible that if the FE was scapegoating the Campaigns Department (which it isn’t), we might have used the words ‘Campaigns Department’ somewhere in Caron’s note or in the resolution passed by the committee? If we are scapegoating the staff, why did we write that we want to address the structure in order to support the staff (because we think they are held back by the disastrous structures and accountability)?

  • @Paul .. So… your preferred option to the FE plan to put accountability and structure in the scope of the Gurling Review so that we start by properly understanding the current situation and then putting in place the necessary changes to sort out accountability is what?

    There’s obviously a better plan that we’re missing here. I’d really love to hear it.

  • It’s now possible to look back on our 10% days with nostalgia.

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Jun '14 - 11:43pm

    @ Martin Tod
    “If we are scapegoating the staff, why did we write that we want to address the structure in order to support the staff (because we think they are held back by the disastrous structures and accountability)?”
    We Lib Dems are too good at splitting hairs – when everyone knows what we mean when we announce an investigation into the campaign, we are saying blame the messenger not the message (or Leader).
    An example of complicated Lib Dem positioning which impresses no one (especially the public) comes from the Farage Debate . CLEGG (and I precis) : ” We were in favour of a referendum on europe in the past, we are in favour of a referendum on europe in the future but we don’t want a referendum now” – TOO Complicated, TOO Contradictory. The public don’t want this kind of twisted logic, and the same goes with the justications of the FE for inaction – when the party is fatally divided and sliding into a death spiral.

  • @Jonathan The idea that we didn’t discuss the message is just crap. No-one has written that anywhere. No-one has said it. Because it’s simply not true.

    As I have said before in this thread, there was considerable very robust discussion at the FE about the message – both with James Gurling (who already had it within the scope of his review) and with Nick.

    As has been said about twenty times, the resolution was about EXTENDING the scope of the review. It did not and does not define the full scope of our discussions or of the action that will be taken.

    And blame has nothing to do with it. The focus of the FE – and the job of the FE – is turning things round as fast as we can – not wallowing in negativity.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 12:54am

    @ Martin Tod
    “The idea we didn’t discuss the message is just crap”.
    So what bit of the message did you discuss ? – how the party is not trusted because voters don’t believe Nick Clegg even in a head to head with an obvious snake oil salesman like Farage? Do tell. Pardon me for “wallowing in negativity ” – sanity I would say. I run a business, if the lib dems were company they would bankrupt by now. In business if the customers aren’t buying you do something about and quick.

  • Paul Walter
    You are entitled to your view that –” They don’t seem like pushovers to me. ”
    But that does not undermine the serious point I was making, does it?

    I was not suggesting that any of these people were “pushovers”, was I ?
    What I said was —
    “The FE is never going to be the body to take an objective decision about the leadership based on the facts”.

    I said that because –
    1). A significant number of the FE are not elected
    2). Of those that are elected it is natural to assume that some will take the establishment line
    3). Anyone who was in on the decisions that resulted in the electoral disaster are less likely to be objective when having to face up to the facts of the disaster and the disastrous leadership.

    Your helpful list illustrates my point about the number of members of the FE who are not elected.
    According to your list thirteen members of the FE are not directly elected as flollows —
    Ali Goldsworthy Welsh Party Rep and Deputy Chair
    Brian Orrell English Party Rep
    Craig Harrow Scottish Party Convenor, Vice President
    Fiona Hall MEP Rep (?)
    Lorely Burt MP MP Rep
    Dan Farthing Scottish Party Rep
    Peter Ellis English Party Chair, Vice President
    Chris White Councillor Rep
    Kishwer Falkner Peer Rep
    Nick Clegg MP Leader
    Kath Pinnock Councillor Rep
    Tim Farron MP Party President, Chair
    John Last Welsh VP

    Your health warnings for your list seem fair enough — and as you say —
    “this is the list of the committee members, rather than the members who attended this week’s meeting.”

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jun '14 - 4:12am

    There is no future in being unconditional unionists. A different leader with the same message would sink fast.

  • Just for information. At my local party Executive with 16 attendees, the vote was 14-2 against replacing the leader. I am aware that at least half had consulted with local members in their areas.

  • John Tilley, your statement that those members of FE are unelected is inaccurate and misleading. All are elected representatives of their parts of the party. The party Leader and President are directly elected (though attendance of FE is not their primary function) and others are indirectly elected.

    It’s worth saying that those indirectly elected to represent groups (such as ALDC members, peers or federal components) would be unhappy that their views on the future of the party should be subsumed into the collected view of the wider membership since they are likely to differ significantly on the perspective they can offer on a number of issues.

  • Paul In Wokingham 12th Jun '14 - 6:47am

    @Martin – of course the causes of this dysfunction need to be investigated and resolved. What is a truly extraordinary revelation (at least to me and clearly to many others) is that it is now perfectly plain that the answer to the question “where does the buck stop?” is “nobody knows”. Kafka would have a field day with the Liberal Democrats.

    There can be no kicking this into the long grass as happened with the review in 2010. A good and concrete starting point would be to clearly identify how we ended up with the “Daily Mail” local elections material.

  • James
    As you do not give your full name or where your local party is I can only go on what youhave told us, which is that 14 members of the executive of your local party decided to deny the wider membership of your local party the chance to attend an EGM to discuss and vote on the need for a leadership election.
    Is that not correct?

    In your second posting you talk about unelected members of the Federal Executive. You accuse me of saying something that’s inaccurate. Perhaps you could be specific, what have I said that was not accurate?

    Other than that there is nothing objectionable in what you wrote and it would appear you see nothing wrong with the status quo. You and I can differ on that. I think the worst possible election results in generations, and the most unpopular leader since polling began is not good news. I think the present position of the party in the polls and in election results requires urgent and radical change at the top. You seem to be happy with the situation. So we differ.

    You do not express a view on whether or not the FE is the best body in the party to make an objective assessment of the recent election disasters or the patently obvious failings of the leader. But by implication you seem to regard the FE as a model of effective and democratic decision making.

    I would be interested to know if you think that the FE and the leader are going to get us out of this mess in the slightly more than 8 months before the start of the next general election.
    Or do you expect another appalling result next May?

  • Can I ask – and this is a genuine question, as I really don’t know the answer – was this lack of understanding about responsibilities emanating from the very hurried reorganisation, including redundancies at various levels, following 2010 and the loss of Short money? If, in fact it was, then again, does this show another reason why the decisions taken following the GE were flawed?

    It is, obviously, down to FE, as the ultimate decision making group for our Federal HQ, its functions, and roles of staff to have ensured that key core tasks of the Party were properly allocated, at the time, or immediately following any substantial reorganisation, as that was.

  • And, as a PS to my last post, presumably the CEO, as the main employed adviser to the FE, suggested that FE clarify roles where they were muddled / things had not been covered in initial thinking. And, presumably, James Gurling, in his role of coordinator of the last, rather poorly publicised review of the 2010 GE, drew attention to staffing implications of a review, and data required for an effective review? Anyone who has done any management will realise you can’t do an effective review without objectives, or some idea of what a good result looks like, plus data to understand what was done, by whom, and what the outcomes were.

  • Paul Murray 12th Jun '14 - 8:27am

    @Tim13 – re objectives. I agree. The first thing you do when starting a project is ask “What are the objectives? Who owns the process? Who are the decision-makers?”. I see repeated use of the word “scapegoat” above. The use of that word alarms me but not for reasons intended. Defensive language like “scapegoating” shows a lack of clarity around ownership and probably around objectives. What is the purpose of FE? Has it fulfilled its function?

  • Bill Le Breton 12th Jun '14 - 8:40am

    The greatest test of ones liberalism is how one exercises ones own power.

    Martin, on the face of it it looks reasonable to have the review team look at the structure. On the face of it.

    Paul in Wokingham, on the face of it it looks like no one knows where the buck stops and it is therefore the fault of a dysfunctional structure …

    All that’s missing is people.

    We know that decisions were taken, that things happened. Small, relatively insignificant things may have been done wrongly or were lost in the hurly burly. But the big things happened. There were key messages, there was a major campaign theme, there were PPBs, there were launches, there were debates.

    What we can see behind the face of things is that these major decisions were taken through back channels by people with no formal authority, when those with formal authority felt unable to impose their constitutionally derived power and so those charged with carrying out these decisions had no power to resist.

    Surely Candy, in the following we can agree, We are looking at a grand abuse of power by some, a dereliction of responsibility by others to resist that domination and the diminution of the power of fairly junior and therefore vulnerable staff. It makes a mockery of claims that we stand for ‘enabling people to get on in life’ when the way we ‘do leadership’ in our own party actually disables people because of the way the leadership exploits it’s enormous power.

    Ok, Neil says that this has always been the case. But previously it worked. Perhaps because those with the opportunity to exploit their power did not do so. Perhaps because previously in the likes of lords Steel, Maclennan, Ashdown, Sir Ming and Mr Cable we had instinctive Liberals as leaders.

    I write this because in the way that matters are actually presently conducted we have the leader abusing his constitutional power in the party. For instance by deciding without reference to the constitutionally responsible body, to name the chair and the personnel of a review into a structure that has allowed him and his unconstitutionally selected lieutenants to exercise unconstitutional power, and to chose as the chair a person who it would seem has had considerable constitutional power to oversee campaigning and communication activity in the party.

    That abuse of power is most starkly drawn in his challenge to the party, ‘sack me or back me, I am not going voluntarily and I know you won’t push me”

    Last week the MPs, this week the FE and above many of those who comment here know in their hearts that we’d be better without him, but he has succeeded in using his authority to remove that power from us.

    That should speak volumes to Liberals.

  • ” For instance by deciding without reference to the constitutionally responsible body, to name the chair and the personnel of a review into a structure that has allowed him and his unconstitutionally selected lieutenants to exercise unconstitutional power, and to chose as the chair a person who it would seem has had considerable constitutional power to oversee campaigning and communication activity in the party”
    No answers to Bill le Breton on this key point yet?
    No answers to the very mportant points from Tim13 and from Paul Murray.
    No answers to Paul in Wokingham.

    Those members of the FE who have been providing comments and answers here are to be thanked.
    It is obvious from the very long list of FE members provided by Paul Wallter that most FE members (elected and un-elected) do not bother with such things. Which is odd when at Mondays meeting they were apparently keen to say they were jolly fastidious in keeping in touch with the “vast majority” of members.

    I hope Caron, Candy and Martin do not feel under attack.
    I hope that they do not feel they are taking the flak for the less conscientious and less “involved” FE mandarins.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 10:44am

    I’m afraid I’m finally coming to the conclusion after days of conversations and postings that it is perhaps I and the many people like me that my well be in denial about the realities of the party and the prospect of changing the leader this summer to enable a change of course before the coming election test. It now seems apparent that that Nick Clegg has no intention of putting party before his own position, doesn’t care what division this causes as he has already bidden goodbye to the millions who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and goodbye to people like me on the centre and centre left who are massively hacked off. The organs of the party are in his hands and the FE as a representative body doesn’t work. The truth is that the remaining active membership don’t want him but are too loyal to demand a change now. I believe that after 2015, we may well have only one Lib Dem MP in Parliament who will be the party of one which is Nick Clegg, all his opponents and all his detractors will be history. In hindsight what happened in 2007 was a right wing coup in the party, (democratic I cannot deny) in which 50% of the party dragged the party to the right and in 2010 the coalition sealed the party’s fate as a party of the centre left. Did Tory Leon Brittain plan this all these years ago to send a Tory Cuckoo into the Lib Dem Nest? I feel that for a Democratic Party – to see such division, such lack of representation, such a lack of respect for a broad church approach, a happiness to see past supporters depart in the name of the holy grail of the pursuit of power is truly depressing . Perhaps it is time we woke up and smelt the (something) and maybe our Great Leader is where he truly belongs at the head of a Zombie Party on a suicide mission.

  • The truly sad thing here is that the Clegguinistas do not seem to realise that they are only kicking the can farther down the road. If we do not resolve the leadership crisis now, eleven months from now we will be right back here again, only with 11 MPs, and with members even angrier than before. If there is no change now, there will have to be change then, although — assuming there still is such a thing as a Lib Dem MP from Sheffield Hallam at that point — there is no sign that he will be any more willing to take the hint. But none of the arguments will have changed, only the facts; and yet the facts are just as obvious and persuasive now as they will be in a year’s time.

    The real question is: what does the Party gain by putting this issue off for another year? What, on the contrary, does it stand to lose through another year lost to indifference and inertia?

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 11:47am

    David 1
    I quite agree – I firmly believe that “something will come along” to save Clegg and Save the Party. Perhaps the public will forgive, perhaps Clegg’s magic will win the TV debate (assuming 6% is enough to get into a debate) , perhaps Scotland will leave the UK and english politics will be changed forever, perhaps the Tories will agree to an electoral pact to save the Cleggunista MPs (the 26 who voted for Tuiton fees) , perhaps there will be a War or some disaster he can exploit to electoral advantage. Not a chance – the public made up their minds about John Major in 1993 and held that view until election day in 1997 despite of all the changes he personally made, (economic recovery etc) – the same will happen in May 2015.

  • Just a slight correction, Jonathan – the tabloids (including the Mail) decided in 1993, and were confirmed in their belief by Tony Blair’s nuLab. There is absolutely no sign that the tabloids will come on board for Nick for next year, which must have been his hope. If it was, by the way, the Party of IN was just the way to turn them away!! The 12 – 15% of the voting public who are mainly to the left of NC, and who aren’t necessarily in thrall to The Sun, the Mail, the Express etc, will need hard evidence that the Party has reverted to something like its former self before just possibly voting Lib Dem in 2015.

  • @ James and John Tilley

    On Friday my Local Party Executive agreed unanimously (I am not a member) to not call a SGM to discuss if the Local Party wished to call for a leadership election. I hope I put the argument that the liberal thing to do would be to have the meeting even if one’s personal view is that no leadership election should be called for. I am not sure this position was understood.

  • @Jonathan Pile
    I take your point, and I am fully persuaded. Indeed, in this critical juncture, only the Leadership of Nick! Clegg! can save the Party from the terrible fate of not being led by Nick Clegg.

  • @JohnTilley As Caron reports, the Gurling Review is now reporting to the FE under a scope defined by the FE. The FE was happy with its membership and didn’t feel any need to change it. To be honest, the surprise to me was that a review after each election wasn’t something that happened automatically!

  • @JohnTilley 12th Jun ’14 – 2:02am

    John

    I still don’t think that the people I see, who I know, on the FedEx membership list are likely to be “partners in crime” who are incapable of making an “objective decision”. For me, that does undermine the point you are making. I see people there who have spent lifetimes’ working for the LibDems and the Liberal party/SDP before it. I see people who do stand up to Nick Clegg and have done in the past. I see people of great principle, huge experience in politics at all levels, who are well able to argue their case and are passionate about what they believe in. I am delighted to read your continuing points, but your sniping attitude is certainly not shared by me, and, indeed, I am yet to meet anyone in my local party who shares such a stance with you.

    Best wishes
    Paul Walter

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 2:31pm

    If you are as disgusted as I am about the dismal election results and are determined to fight and fight again to Dave our great party then please email me so we can organise to win back the party and win back our 2010 voters by getting rid of Clegg and his regime.
    [email protected]

  • “The truly sad thing here is that the Clegguinistas do not seem to realise that they are only kicking the can farther down the road. If we do not resolve the leadership crisis now, eleven months from now we will be right back here again, only with 11 MPs, and with members even angrier than before. If there is no change now, there will have to be change then, although — assuming there still is such a thing as a Lib Dem MP from Sheffield Hallam at that point — there is no sign that he will be any more willing to take the hint.”

    Something tells me he’ll be quite happy to move on to bigger and better things after the next election – he just doesn’t want to depart before the election. That would involve an acknowledgment that he has failed.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 2:34pm

    If you are as disgusted as I am about the dismal election results and are determined to fight and fight again to SAVE our great party then please email me so we can organise to win back the party and win back our 2010 voters by getting rid of Clegg and his regime.
    [email protected]

  • I oreferred “Dave”

  • It seems certain that Nick will lead the party into the 2015 elections…(there is no ‘organised’ movement to remove him and he won’t resign)…
    There have been 4 years of disastrous results (1700 locals and all but one MEP)….So Clegg carries on but post 2015, if LibDems have polled around 6% of the electorate, what happens?

    a)Will there be an organised movement to remove him?
    b)Will he resign?
    c)Will he stay on as leader?

    If the answer to a) or b) is ‘Yes’, might I ask what will be the difference between then and now?
    If the answer is c) then those believing that he is “the greatest LibDem leader ever”will be the only ones left…

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 3:43pm

    # I agree with Dave

  • It’s too late to Dave it – it’s already been Nicked.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 4:05pm

    LOL (too bloody funny) and tragic!

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Jun '14 - 4:28pm

    Since the locals, Europe Election and Newark By-elections I have not commented much on LDV, waiting to see what would happen at Lib Dem Towers following the shattering results. I am a former member of several decades up until 2010, but stopped political activity for the Lib Dems, as many other with my views. It was clear that following the disastrous series of results, a recognition seemed finally to hit home amongst most of those commenting (from all sides of the party) that change was necessary and quickly.

    Well Nick decided he wasn’t going anywhere, so that big change didn’t happen. The only other big change would have been a change of direction/policy/approach, and I don’t see much happening in that respect either. You formed a review committee, chatted to Nick for half an hour, but what are you going to DO and what CHANGES will you be making in the next 11 months to avoid oblivion??

    As I have said before on other LDV threads, I have not gone to another party and would return to help in my moribund constituency if I felt someone there had got the message and had a PLAN to change something. I suspect that there are many like me. So far I do not see change other than some suggesting that the Lib Dems try to communicate the same message in a different way.

    The clock has not stopped running; you need to change something quickly.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 4:31pm

    The Fightback starts now
    http://libdemfightback.yolasite.com/

  • David Allen 12th Jun '14 - 5:32pm

    This thread has reviewed in great detail the actions of the members of a Party committee. Many of the members have been able to show that within accepted constraints, they have acted honourably, worked within the bounds of what would appear to be practical, and done what they could to make some headway in very difficult circumstances.

    Essentially, it seems to me, this is because the Federal Executive believe that they know their place. Theirs is not the role of the “men in grey suits” who act swiftly and brutally to eject failing Tory leaders such as Duncan-Smith. Theirs is a lesser role, subordinate to some other Party group somewhere who exercise the real power, perhaps that’s the MPs or something?

    Before anybody jumps in at this point to define precisely what FE are and are not supposed to be responsible for, let me just say that I don’t much care. It is what they actually do that matters. Rightly or wrongly, they clearly don’t feel that they could hand over the loaded revolver and the glass of whisky, in any circumstances. They just don’t think that is their role.

    Well, my question is: The Tories clearly have an effective mechanism for eliminating bad leaders, and thereby replacing them with better ones. (Whatever one thinks of Cameron, he has made a better fist of leadership than Hague, IDS, or Howard). Why don’t we? What are our excuses? Are they good excuses?

    The Tories are, of course, helped by having a unifying and overarching philosophy, which is that they exist to help each other get rich and stay rich. Bad leaders threaten that objective, so must be ditched unceremoniously. For our party, it’s different. Crucially, it’s also about defining the political direction. In that respect, electoral disaster has changed the map.

    For a generation, our party has been led by the centre-left. Centre-right economic liberals have played a role, indeed sometimes a useful role, but as a minority. The Owenite interlude, like the National Liberals before them, did show that the potential for periodic short term shifts in the political climate has always been there. However, the Right went away chastened after the Owenite debacle and kept pretty quiet during the Ashdown and Kennedy years. But then came the hedge funds, the Orange Book, the stealth Clegg Coup, and the Tory Coalition.

    So for the last five years, the leadership has suddently and temporarily switched acrosss to the centre-right. But now the climate is switching back to normal. Electoral disaster has shown the Cleggites, as it showed the Owenites, that they have no real constituency. Suddenly, they are no longer gleefully dismantling social fairness arm-in-arm with the Tories: they are merely clinging on for dear life.

    That is why Clegg cannot resign. He owes it to the entire centre-right faction to cling on. He cannot possibly make a quiet hand-over to Alexander or Laws. No, his personal standing and his policies are totally discredited, and paradoxically, that is why he must not leave.

    We don’t have men in grey suits, because grey is not our colour. The people who could do the necessary job which the Tory grey-suits do are disparate. In our party, some of them are coloured deep Orange, while others are tinged with pink. Some are MPs, some Lords, some on committees, and none of them “know” that theirs should be the power to wield the knife. And unlike the Tory grey-suits, they put a premium on being nice and civilised – though one has to say that they do not necessarily achieve those aims. A prolonged mean-spirited struggle isn’t truly nicer than a short brutal act.

    Should we accept these excuses, that we just can’t achieve the competence level of the Tories, and there is nothing to be done about that? I don’t think so. The senior figures in our party – ex-leaders in particular, but also local council leaders whose positions are threatened by disaster at national level – bear a great responsibility. They should exercise it now.

    The alternative is the Fightback launched above.

  • Well, my question is: The Tories clearly have an effective mechanism for eliminating bad leaders, and thereby replacing them with better ones. (Whatever one thinks of Cameron, he has made a better fist of leadership than Hague, IDS, or Howard). Why don’t we?

    Unfortunately, to all appearances you have a mechanism for eliminating good leaders and replacing them with worse ones.

  • paul barker 12th Jun '14 - 5:56pm

    @Jonathon Pile Am I right in thinking that members of, say The BNP or The SWP can join your Libdem Fightback group, as long as they claim that they might join The Libdems in some vague, unspecified future ?

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 6:03pm

    Paul barker
    Lib dems are naturally anti- fascist and I hardly think extreme left entrysts would bother with us but it’s a fair point – extremists would not be welcome. If people. Have genuinely changed their views perhaps an open mind. We are interested in ex- lib dems , future lib dems and current lib dems.

  • @Steve Griffiths There is a long list of things we are going to do – but it is not something that is sensibly agreed cold at an FE meeting – and not things where every last detail will be posted in this forum. As Caron’s note says the review (as well as some other parts of the wider organisation) will be reporting back to the FE on the 14th. The FE is adding extra meetings as needed to ensure that things happen at the pace we need. The changes to direction and approach are already starting (as Bill le Breton has pointed out elsewhere) – and there is more to come. (Although the changes in policy focus are not an FE responsibility and will mainly come from FPC).

    The conversation with Nick was not a ‘chat’. It was a frank and committed discussion about the state of the party and approach that Nick will be taking from this point onwards.

    I’m glad some people believe we should start challenging the rightward shift of the party. Some of us have been doing that via the Social Liberal Forum since 2009. Welcome to the club.

  • @Martin
    “we should start challenging the rightward shift of the party”

    Since 2009? The shift has continued with policy after policy. I would hardly call that a challenge at all.

    Perhaps the shift has been discussed since 2009 but a talking shop is hardly an achievement.

    Which rightwing policies will be reversed by Clegg? Will he be blocking water cannons? I have seen nothing concrete to suggest any significant change and so what is the point of voting LibDem?

  • Steve Griffiths 12th Jun '14 - 7:06pm

    @Martin Tod

    I believe I was one of the first to become an associate member of the SLF, who was not at the same time a Lib Dem member.

    The rightward shift was what drove out many activists like me; did Nick acknowledge that? Has he ever done so?

  • @Steve Griffiths — Yes. Clegg addressed this four years ago:

    There were some people, particularly around the height of the Iraq war, who gave up on the Labour Party and turned to the Liberal Democrats as a sort of left-wing conscience of the Labour Party. I totally understand that some of these people are not happy with what the Lib Dems are doing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nick-clegg-there-is-no-future-for-us-as-leftwing-rivals-to-labour-2082689.html

    This was widely praised as the sort of forward-thinking, adult, centrist repositioning which would cement the Liberal Democrats as the arbiters of power for the next several generations.

    Except among the members who were fleeing in droves, of course. This is one reason why Clegg remains toxic to that 20% vote share the Lib Dems used to have.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 8:36pm

    Thank-you for the many Lib Dem Activists who have contacted me to endorse the approach Lib Dem FightBack is taking in being formed today and calling for Nick Clegg to resign and a return to Lib Dem policies.
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com
    [email protected]
    We are coordinating with similar groups calling for reform and a change of leader and I urge people to continue as Lib Dem members to fight for the party we always wanted. Until the FE and the Party hierarchy which sustains Nick Clegg in office understand that the party is not be listened to because of our leader and the drift to the right, we will continue to languish in the polls.

  • @Jonathan Pile
    As the leader of LFB, will you be appearing on television to comment about the status of your group?

    Are you open to the idea of a leadership election where Clegg is a candidate?

  • How many SGMs have been called so far? 14 was the last itemised count I saw. Not all those meetings will vote to trigger a leadership election.

  • @Paul Walter
    Where did you see that ? I think it would be helpful if LDV reported on the results. As far as I know only one of those EGMs has actually happened, do you know any more ?

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 10:31pm

    @ Voter
    As regards publicity we want a maximum number of past lib dem voters, current lib dem voters and current party members to know about our message of change and that lib dems want rid of Clegg and his works. So yes media interviews and statements are part of that. John major called a leadership election and got reelection if Nick wants to try this fair play to him . But it really is time for a new leader either a stand in like when Vince Cable did the job or a n ongoing candidate.

  • @Jonathan Pile
    What you really need is polling information showing that the party would do better under Vince Cable.

    @Paul Barker

    It was from a variety of private sources. But don’t let me stop anyone from sharing lists here. Caron wrote of 15 on 1st June:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/carons-sunday-selection-must-read-articles-from-the-sunday-papers-40538.html

  • Vince Cable = tuition fees. Making him leader would be provocative enough that former voters would start to actively campaign against you.

  • “What you really need is polling information showing that the party would do better under Vince Cable.”

    Why does he? Given that Nick Clegg is the most unpopular British political leader since records began, it’s a fair assumption that almost anyone else would be an improvement. If you’re claiming otherwise, I think you’re the one who needs to produce some evidence.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th Jun '14 - 11:18pm

    We all have our own preferences for the choice of next leader – the LDV polls show which MPs are liked the party and who the front runners are. A leadership election can enthuse and unite a party and act as showcase for values and policies and passionate politicians who can connect with voters.

  • @Richard
    I think any leader, including Cable, would have to make it clear that increasing tuition fees was a mistake and that he would take pledges seriously. Someone made a suggestion that the rules could be changed so that a breaking of a pledge would result in the expulsion of an MP from the party. Of course, this all depends on whether the leadership is prepared for a radical change.

    I doubt that a purely symbolic change from Clegg to Cable would be enough to bring the party back to life.

    Speaking personally, I would like to see various policy changes such as banking reform, libel reform, science regulation reform, GCHQ reform, marine energy, restoration of the right to silence, other civil liberties changes, the end of the badger cull. Hopefully a new leader would be able to move some of these things forward.

  • I daresay the only thing worse than Clegg staying as leader through 2015 without a leadership election would be Clegg running again for leader and winning. The only thing attracting some of the lost sheep back to the fold is the hope that the Party is, at base, not a Cleggist party, that it’s been hijacked and could, freed of its burden, reinvent and reform itself. Take away that hope (or delusion, as it might be) and you can bid farewell to those votes forever.

  • I think Clegg knows perfectly well that if he stood, he’d lose.

    It’s the same situation as faced Thatcher, when she topped the poll in the 1990 Tory leadership election, but narrowly failed to win outright. If Thatcher had then been a new and untried leadership candidate, her vote would have conveyed momentum and carried her to success. But instead, she was a longstanding leader who considered herself unbeatable, as Clegg does now. Then came the shock. All those dyed-in-the-wool Thatcher loyalists, who had publicly sung her praises, did not translate into an outright majority in a secret ballot. The unbeatable suddenly became unelectable. The mystique had vanished.

    Clegg maintains command only through dogged loyalism. Once people actually have to decide they prefer him against viable challengers in a properly held leadership election, they will in droves decide otherwise.

    And that’s why he’ll cling like a limpet to avoid an election.

  • @Chris
    it was a joke

  • Jonathan Pile 13th Jun '14 - 8:08am

    @ David Allen
    I quite agree. Like on question time last night all over the Party people are discussing Clegg’s future and are worried that the party is on the edge of extinction so long as he leads us.

    www. libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • @Voter – yes, but Vince Cable, as the architect of tuition fees, would have no credibility at all in trying to distance himself from them now. Whatever polling data there is now on him, it would worsen when people learn more about him and his role. The other problem is he is an ivory tower academic, and when his theories about performance-related rewards had to collide with reality in the post office privatisation it led to a huge financial loss for the country.

    I am not a fan of Tim Farron’s bringing religion into politics, and I believe in economic freedom too, but he may be the best bet to save 3-party politics as at least he voted against tuition fees and has been outside the cabinet.

  • “it was a joke”

    Sorry, but it what sense was it a joke? Do you mean you accept the party would do better under another leader? If so, why are you supporting Clegg? Because you want the party to do badly?

    I know humour is a very personal thing, but sometimes it can be very difficult to understand.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 14th Jun '14 - 12:13pm

    @ Chris,

    It struck me that Paul was referring to Lord Oakeshott’s polling…

  • @Chris

    Thanks Mark.

    Chris, is there really any point in me explaining what I thought was a light hearted comment several days ago?

    It struck me that there was an element of deja vue around the setting up of a website….

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '15 - 11:03pm

    Reading some of this in July 2015 it is sad to see that so much of it was about one personality.
    Maybe it should have been about an issue such as “When do you want to end the coalition?”
    This is not new. David Steel had the same issue with Callaghan.

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