The Brighton Declaration?

There is no leadership from the government, the Labour Party and we are not getting through. We are letting a golden opportunity pass by.

Pointing fingers at the government and repeating,  “Exit from Brexit” is not enough. We need a full programme that offers hope.

I am reminded of the golden memories of he most successful campaign I was involved in, the Newbury by-election. This took place when the Tories were in trouble.

A key to this campaign was the Newbury Declaration. a summary of the then current mess and  an offer of hope.

We need a similar declaration now. I give an example below. I call it the Brighton Declaration, ready for Conference, though maybe this is too late.

This is a draft attempt, it could be better but it is a start.


The government is out of control, divided and arguing in public

The Labour Party is in a world of its own and not offering strong opposition

The country is divided after a referendum that was badly managed, involved a mix of lies and fear and overspending with Russia and right wing elements in the USA interfering

Too many people in the UK are struggling with poor housing, poor services and lack of money.

A small minority are creaming the assets of the country

We have lost our compassion for the underprivileged and those escaping war.

Backed by the right wing press we blame the EU for all of our self-inflicted woes

On the major issue of the day, Brexit, the negotiations are going nowhere


Offer a second Brexit referendum when the outcome of negotiations is known and we can see the way ahead.

Ensure that referendum is conducted fairly, no lies, no excessive funding and no foreign interference.

Identify what changes we want in the EU if we remain

Immediately tackle the housing crisis, and in particular the lack of social housing

Ensure that all vacancies are advertised in the UK and not just overseas

Provide more skill training and retraining

Reform the tax system: in particular replace business rates and council tax, to be replaced by a fairer Land Value Taxation, and tackle tax avoidance

Develop a long term funding solution for the NHS and Social Care

Remove the split between NHS funding and Care funding by councils

Develop an economy that tackles climate change

Allow a public company to bid for rail franchises and exercise more control over all companies providing public services

Devolve central spending to regions

Reform parliament, the House of Lords and the voting system

Develop an effective education system with no more free schools and academies 

* David Becket is a former Lib Dem County Councillor, Unitary Councillor and District Councillor; he has held positions of responsibility at all levels.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Jul '18 - 6:31pm

    ‘Ensure that all vacancies are advertised in the UK and not just overseas.’

    How is this compatible with the Posted Workers Directive?

  • Alan Greenfield 10th Jul '18 - 7:28pm

    Now is the time to have a joint declaration along the lines above – shorter the better with the Green party (if they agree). Brexit is too big & important – allies must be found.

  • paul barker 10th Jul '18 - 8:46pm

    A Joint Statement involving other Parties & MPs from one or both The Major Parties might “cut through” & really give people hope but a Declaration by us on our own would simply be ignored or attract ridicule.
    I dont know how high we were in The Polls when The Newbury Byelection was called but I should think it was substantially higher than the 9% we are averaging now; plus, we dont have a Byelection.
    We have been going up in the Polls, we are probably higher than we have been for 15 Months but we are nowhere near the level where we could be seen as an alternative, yet.

  • “Ensure that all vacancies are advertised in the UK and not just overseas”.

    Typical Corbynism / UKIP. Disgusting.

    “Allow a public company to bid for rail franchises and exercise more control over all companies providing public services”

    Which will be gamed by unions trying to keep dangerous Victorian methods of train operation in place to create jobs for life for hard left militants, when staffless trains and staffless stations are proven safer.

  • Sandra Hammett 10th Jul '18 - 10:41pm

    To broaden the appeal and make a statement; tone the Brexit by 52%, apologise for mistakes made during coalition finally putting it to bed and offer real tangible change; that done I think it has legs… if we got the air time.

  • Excuse me. Advertising jobs in the UK and not just overseas surely means advertising in both. Doing one without the other may be criticised but surely not doing both? Suggest some misreading here.
    Stimpson. The public companies like LNER do a far better job than private train companies. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to bid for franchises. As for your statement about staffless trains and stations being safer, words fail me. This isn’t a strange Victorian practice, it’s common sense to have a human being to sort out problems on trains and stations.
    Suggest you read the spirit level, which in all about inequality. One of the things it shows is how Important Trades Unions were in preventing it and how the Tories destroyed them precisely to allow greater inequality with all its consequences.

  • William Fowler 11th Jul '18 - 6:53am

    Hinting at a reformed EU isn’t good enough, need to list the things you want reformed and how you are going to get it done within current system.

    Phasing out council tax and business rates in favour of a variable turnover tax on companies and rental income would be much more attractive for voters than hitting them with a hefty land tax that would have to be means tested, with all that complexity, to solve the problem of asset rich income poor little old pensioners.

    No access to tax credits, benefits, social housing and perhaps the personal tax allowance unless resident for a minimum of five years would solve the problem of unskilled foreign workers being subsidized by the tax payer at the expense of local workers and would hit at Corbyn’s heartland. Would also solve the freedom of movement issue.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '18 - 7:30am

    BBC2 Newsnight on 10/7/2018 had a long interview with John Cleese. He should be taken seriously as anyone who was present when he spoke to federal conference during Paddy Ashdown’s leadership.
    He referred to a large academic study in the USA which concluded that economic forecasts are not much better than chance.
    The economic forecasts of the leave campaigns were heavily dependent on agreeing trade deals (presented as “free” trade deals although they do not yet exist and therefore cannot be defined as “free” trade deals)
    Trade with the EU27 is factual and measurable.
    There is therefore a comparison to be made with existing trade and jobs which are at risk) and hoped for new trade and new jobs which re speculative.
    Future trade with the USA is particularly speculative because of President Trump’s
    “America First” policy.

  • William Fowler 11th Jul '18 - 7:43am

    German MEP on the TV last night, said that Brexit was going to be very bad for EU countries and UK should be offered a new deal at the same time as they consider May’s latest exit plan. Farage and co have probably seriously annoyed most MEPs over the past half decade but possibly if enough get their minds around the real consequences of Brexit for their voters, they might be able of get something going. MEPs are the nearest the EU gets to democracy so it would be interesting to see how the powers-that-be react to such an idea.

  • Chris Lewcock 11th Jul '18 - 10:02am

    Agree the need for a positive declaration going well beyond Exit from Brexit (which “everybody” will see as a cloak for “You Got It Wrong!”).

    Needs to be crisp but steer a course between shopping lists and platitudes. Wouldn’t like to be Vince’s speech writer.

    Need especially to say what sort of reformed Europe we want to see, taking account of the massive changes in Europe itself in the last couple of years. To go back in we will be negotiating about some very tough issues. What do we have to say about current debates on migration policy, assertively nationalistic and/or proto-authoritarian regimes, economic imbalances between north and south, reform of the ECB etc etc.? Would we, for instance, actively support a reformed Euro and/or a more flexible Schengen regime? Or will we want to carry on in our traditional semi-detached role – the ambivalence about which is probably what got us here in the first place. Need to be bold?

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Jul '18 - 10:42am

    Much in here I agree with as a now non-aligned voter but there is one aspect I very much resent.
    I was surprised that you were hoodwinked into voting Leave by lies, fear and foreign interference.
    Oh, what’s that? You weren’t hoodwinked! Then what do you think is wrong with the others?
    Stupid eh? Not as clever as you eh?

  • David has put forward an excellent idea. The detail needs much attention, but I would say there are three key elements. One is to say why we believe it is in everybody’s interests to stay in the EU and how the EU needs to change; the second is to say how we should tackle the economy, health&care system, welfare and education, in each of which we have power to make changes even if we stay in the EU; the third is to say how we need to improve our own democracy, again having the power to do even if we stay in the EU.

  • @Innocent Bystander. Leave voters were hoodwinked, but that doesn’t make them stupid, nor those of us who saw the problems particularly clever.
    Here’s an example. Through the 1970s and 80s Britain lived through the horror of the troubles in N. Ireland. Almost daily violence which claimed an estimated 3,500 thousand lives and included atrocities on the mainland, at Guldford, Warrington, Brimingham and elsewhere. When peace came through the good Friday Agreement a vital element of that was doing away with the border between the Republic and the North. Both Ireland and Britain were members of the EU, so why would we need a border anyway ?
    It was obvious to anyone who had lived through those years and who had any knowledge of Ireland and its politics that the Irish border issue was going to be a virtually insurmountable block in the Brexit road. The only options would be staying in the customs union/single market (not acceptable to leavers) or a united Ireland (not acceptable to Unionists in Ireland). The Brexiteers are right when they say it’s like Hotel California (we can check out but never leave) because we have made solemn promises to the people of Ireland, north and south.
    So why did no one on the leave side tell the people this ? Rees- Mogg was 5 when 21 people were killed in the Birmingham pub bombings. Boris Johnson was 10. Maybe they were too young for it to make an impression ? Maybe Ireland is just an inconvenient truth when it comes to Brexiteers ?
    Either way, I don’t blame the ordinary person in the street for not being experts in Irish politics and history. Perhaps they are not like you and me, they don’t spend their lives mulling over the issues of the day. I do blame those who kept the truth from them. And to try to shut down debate with the “oh, you think you’re better than the voters” argument, is weak.

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Jul '18 - 12:32pm

    You seem to have proved, at some length, that you really do think Leave voters are uninformed and ignorant and made their choice only because cleverer people than them hadn’t told them of the consequences properly. Well no wonder they voted Leave!
    As to their thoughts on Northern Ireland they may well have pondered the matter and come to a different conclusion to you.
    What you have argued is that while Eire chooses to remain in EU the UK has to remain as well and can never leave without the IRA’s permission.
    I don’t know why people voted the way they did. I only know why I voted Remain and that was principally because of the downside economic risk.
    But I respect those who voted differently and have never dismissed them as anyone’s dupes and ignorant of history.

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Jul '18 - 12:51pm

    This is definitely what we need to do but it has to be backed up by detailed policy. I have always thought that we must address the problems that led so many people to vote Leave at the same time as we try to stop Brexit. I have no idea whether the policy making bodies in the party are trying to do that too but hope that they are because then we can do exactly what you suggest David.

  • I think David has done an excellent job here in provoking thought. Some of the comments criticise the shopping list approach, and I think there is some force in that. I like Nigel’s idea of grouping them under themes. He proposes the EU; the economy and services; and democracy as three key themes.

    I would like to add a fourth. Regional policy. Not just one that devolves the odd budget from Westminster to local authorities, but a pro-regional policy that actively seeks to move power and profits out of London and the south east and into every other region.

  • paul barker 11th Jul '18 - 2:28pm

    We are obsessed with Brexit for 2 very good reasons, because its a direct attack on our core values & because it has the potential to leave shops short of food & Hospitals short of Medicines. Very little of that has yet got through to most Voters but it will, probably at the last minute.
    Right now we are avering 9% in The Polls; thats our highest support for 15 Months but not enough for us to seem like a Real Alternative. That may change as The Crisis unfolds, we will have to wait & see. There is no magic bullet, we just have to keep plugging away.

  • I have never heard of the Newbury Declaration. I helped in the 1993 by-election and I wasn’t told about it when I went canvassing there. I don’t remember it being mentioned in the News or any suggestions on how to use it in our leaflets. Therefore it was not a factor in our making our break-through in 1997.

    The benefit of a list of one or two lines is that it is understandable and not lost in waffle.

    The important one is missing – ensuring the economy is run for everyone and that no one feels left behind. I would change the training one by adding providing free training for those who are unemployed. I would add providing a job for everyone who wants one and needs one following retraining or long term unemployment. I would also add replacing the National Living Wage with (enforceable) regional living wages set at 70% of average regional wages by 2025.

    I note you haven’t suggested what changes we should be calling for the EU. I have suggested some – which hopefully could make the basis for these reforms.

  • Stimpson 10th Jul ’18 – 9:14pm……………..Which will be gamed by unions trying to keep dangerous Victorian methods of train operation in place to create jobs for life for hard left militants, when staffless trains and staffless stations are proven safer………..

    Just as well there were station staff on duty during the 2005 London Underground bombing. They were able to use their knowledge to make the rails safe, to guide medics, etc. rescuers through a bombed station in complete darkness and use their knowledge to evacuate the distressed passengers and walking wounded to safety.

  • William Fowler 11th Jul '18 - 5:28pm

    “I would like to add a fourth. Regional policy. Not just one that devolves the odd budget from Westminster to local authorities, but a pro-regional policy that actively seeks to move power and profits out of London and the south east and into every other region.”

    The last thing we need is councilors with more power over individual lives but if you really want the regions to boom then cut the income tax rates whilst increasing it for those living/working in London and the SE… surely radical enough!

  • David Becket 11th Jul '18 - 5:56pm

    Thank you to all who commented. Yes this is only the start of an idea, and it needs to be thought through.
    Some of the proposals are Lib Dem policy, in other areas they will need working on.
    It would be far better to come out of Brighton Conference with a unified declaration of this nature rather than the disjointed series of good liberal ideas, of very little interest to the man on the Clapham Omnibus.

    As a (successful) County Candidate on the day of the by election I was an integral part of the core team, well aware of the Declaration, a copy of which is in my Scrap Book.

    Before the by election our poll ratings ranged between 14% and 18%, after the election 24% to 26%.

    We have got to make a bold move such as this, as our current approach is getting nowhere. I hope FCC and FPC members read this site and consider a more structured radical message coming from Conference.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Eric P
    Interesting the pro-Russian propaganda / talking points do not have any sources. I suspect it is because there aren't any reputable sources....
  • Chris Moore
    Gordon is back with his pro_Russian propaganda....
  • Roland
    @Roger - The principle is good sound bite, but the reality is your second statement: No representation without taxation. So all those overseas “residents�...
  • Roger Billins
    The principle should surely be no taxation without representation. If I pay tax in a country, I should have the right to have a say as to how my taxes are spent...
  • Simon R
    In NATO's on words, "NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means." (