The coalition and the leadership contest

The legacy of the coalition seems to be a big part of the debate around our leadership election. Those arguing the most important thing is that we move on from the coalition will tend to favour one of the two candidates not around during the coalition. And visa-versa. I assume contributors to Lib Dem Voice are not allowed to write direct endorsements of their preferred candidate, but they can signal their preferences by proxy in this way.

So, in that vein, here are my thoughts on what factors we should consider when choosing our next leader. You will note that many of the things I think are important are, in fact, out of our hands.

Let’s start with the coalition. I suspect we overplay its importance. To know for sure, we need polling on whether swing voters in key Lib Dem/Tory marginals saw the coalition as a factor in the 2019 GE. But I would say the coalition generates a lot of sound and fury from Labour activists and supporters who were never going to vote for us anyway.

What I do think is important is the signals the Labour leadership sends to its supporters about our party. In 1997 the signals were positive and Labour voters responded. Tactical voting reached record levels and we won twenty-six more seats. Not because our vote share went up but because of greater levels of tactical voting (and better targeting). In this sense, the importance of the coalition in 2024 will depend on whether the Labour leadership want to make it an issue. I don’t think it will be in their electoral interest to do so but we will have to see.

At this point, a brief but related diversion. Some argue against a closer relationship with Labour because Labour are simply too hostile towards us. But this is an oversimplification. The Labour activist base are very hostile, but they don’t matter much. The Labour leadership does matter and their attitude varies by leader. The attitude of the majority of Labour voters, who are not members, matters a lot and they will be responsive to signals from the leadership.

I don’t think we should get too close to Labour – certainly not formal ties. What we want is the positive but informal mood music that enabled lots of tactical voting in 1997. Nothing more.
The other thing that is important is whether the Labour Party is seen as credible and moderate. If that is the case, soft Tory voters and swing voters feel safe supporting us in constituencies were we are in serious contention.

In Lib Dem/Tory marginals where we can put together a coalition of soft Tories, tactical Labour voters and our own small-ism voting base, we can win. That is our path to more seats. It may not be very exciting, but it is the only path available.

What does this mean in terms of who we chose as leader? I think it points to the importance of credibility and breadth of appeal. If the stars align, and we have the right conditions at the next election to win seats (and things are looking promising), we need a leader who will reassure jittering ‘soft Tories’ while also appealing to tactical Labour voters. We need them to not to drop the ball and get themselves into some unnecessary controversy that means we cannot take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself. And we need someone with a clear vision of what we stand for and what our priorities are.

* Chris Pallet is the Chair of Redbridge Liberal Democrats.

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48 Comments

  • Paul Barker 22nd Jun '20 - 3:48pm

    Whoa!
    Who said that contributors on LDV cant endorse a preferred Candidate ?
    If this is LDV policy then I am against it.
    We need open battle to be joined in a respectful & polite way.

  • It’s fairly simple really.

    Pre-coalition – Over 20% of the vote in 2 successive elections. Over 60 seats. A growing core vote (mainly students, graduates, professionals etc but respectable vote share among working class voters). A foothold of at least one seat in every major city or metropolitan area except Tyneside. Also able to attract economically liberal and right of centre voters. Potential rise of the SNP and Green Party kept at bay.

    Post coalition – reduced to single figures in vote share and derisory number of seats. No-one knows what party stands for beyond stopping Brexit. Unable to fully criticise lamentable track record of current Tory government due to being complicit in their policies. In general elections squeezed from both sides and ultimately overlooked by many former or potential voters.

    Could it be any simpler?

  • Paul Barker 22nd Jun '20 - 4:16pm

    Most of the article is sensible, we are facing a massive Economic Crisis on top of Covid & Brexit with Mass Unemployment & probable Deflation, something Britain hasnt seen since The 1930s. Its going to demand a difficult balance of Radicalism & a “Safe Pair of Hands”. Starmer seems to be nailing it & we have to somehow fit in with that without seeming like Labours Hip little Sister.

    However its impossible to overstate the Damage that being in A Coalition did us. If we are to join Another Coalition with Labour in 2024 (the only real prospect of one) then we must demand & make sure we get Electoral Reform, nothing less is worth the price we will pay.

    No Conferences/Discussions/Commissions. Absolutely No Referendum ! Just Reform up front.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jun '20 - 4:31pm

    Fact one: Lib Dems generally support voting reform
    Fact two: Any form of PR tends to end up with hung parliaments
    Fact three: Unless you go down the ‘confidence and supply‘ route you will end up with a coalition government.

    So, stop obsessing about coalitions if you still want to see PR introduced any time soon. With a Starmer led Labour Party probably heading for the middle ground, the centre of British politics is going to get pretty crowded in the next few years. Perhaps if Labour is serious about ousting the Tories, then another ‘arrangement’ of the kind that Blair and Ashdown appeared to have pre 1997 may be the way to go, especially as it would seem unlikely that a Blair type landslide would be the outcome in 2024. And the price for any ‘arrangement’? How about a cast iron commitment to introduce PR in the first term of any new government?

  • If it is all about ,eventually, becoming a govnt.Is that not what in the end it is all about? If the last coalition is anything to go by they are a disaster for us. Confidence and supply is the way to go. It indicates we can go to this party on this and that party on that. It can show we can consider the majority, not those who have always voted Lab or Con.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jun '20 - 5:23pm

    Agree with much here,. from the article and responders.

    The idea as Paul Barker says, we cannot plug a candidate sounds wrong, knowing how fair and reasonable the views here, a balance of supporters can be found surely.

    I realise we need change. I favour a move beyond the coalition and brexit.

    We though, have three candidates none of whom are bad at all, none of them too left or right.

    my feeling is to go for change, my thinking is to stay with experience.

    answers, please, anyone?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Obsessing about electoral reform is probably a waste of energy. Voters made it clear at the last election that they wanted a clear and unambiguous result – which they obtained. I accept that circumstances and voting patterns do change from time to time but generally, voters prefer decisive results with parties mandated to deliver change.

    Obsessing about the coalition may be another waste of energy. Power sharing has opportunities and disadvantages and requires clever management to avoid costly mistakes. I very much doubt that coalitions are disasters to be avoided per se. I do accept that the party made serious mistakes in the last one.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jun '20 - 6:58pm

    @Peter
    “A clear and unambiguous result”? With 43% of the votes on a turnout of 67% ? I reckon that’s about 34% of those entitled to vote. What about the rest? Divided, yes, not bothered, yes; but still the majority. Mind you, it has ever been thus, hasn’t it, at least since 1931, when Ramsay MacDonald’s National Government – a coalition after all for extraordinary times – won 67% of the votes and 554 seats out of 615? Even the Blair ‘landslide’ of 1997 did not breach the 50% barrier of votes cast.

    Must we always be governed by the largest minority, just because those of us, who do not consider ourselves to be conservative, either with a large or small ‘c’ just can’t get our act together?

  • richard underhill 22nd Jun '20 - 7:19pm

    22nd Jun ’20 – 4:31pm
    The next leader will be Leader, not Fuhrer.members voting should know that. Press and media should also know.

  • richard underhill 22nd Jun '20 - 7:23pm

    John Marriott 22nd Jun ’20 – 4:31pm
    APNI have experience of a better voting system. STV. Please work with them and their MP/s.

  • @John Marriott. As you are no doubt aware, it is possible to express the results in a number of different ways in order to make different points and draw different conclusions. But we have an electoral system that defines the results in a particular way and that is the only one that matters.

    Changing the system is a whole new ball game and requires the approval of the electorate. I was making the point that the voters understand the current system and play it to their advantage. Presumably that includes depriving this party of power, however unfair that may appear to some.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jun '20 - 9:01pm

    @Richard Underhill
    In my opinion, any system, even AV, is better than FPTP. If you start arguing about which system to support at this stage you will get nowhere.

  • Steven Whaley 22nd Jun '20 - 9:38pm

    I definitely don’t support pacts with Labour (or anyone else). If people want to cast tactical votes then they are free to do so but we mustn’t ever turn our back on those loyal supporters in (seemingly) hopeless seats who vote for us because they believe in us. So long as we stand everywhere then voters have the choice of whether they vote positively for us or tactically against the worst of the so-called “big two”. Choice is the whole point of voting. It’s for the voters to decide how they should cast their votes and that choice should never be taken away, or narrowed, by politicians cynically trying to trade the voters like games pieces. We stop being a democracy when we move from the voters choosing from the politicians to the politicians choosing from the voters. Of course FPTP is terrible but we have to give credit to the voters that they are intelligent enough to use their votes to achieve what they want. Secondly, the Conservatives will have been in power for 14 by the time of the next election – the the voters decide it’s time to kick them out then we’ll be a natural part of that process and win a decent number of seats without needing to tie ourselves to Labour’s campaign in any way.

  • Why is the coalition still a problem? One reason why a party does well in an election is the activity of the members. We recognise this as a party. We talk about how to target our resources. Our resources are our mainly our members.
    My own views on the coalition were as follows.
    I attended the special conference in Birmingham and voted for the coalition proposal. I went to Birmingham hoping to find out what fresh thinking the party would bring to the table. I was disappointed. There appeared to be none.
    I returned home. As I was a councillor at the time I was out and about. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of hostility in the ward. People were waiting for the new politics. In the opinion of many people we were not delivering. There was increasing hostility from the electorate. There was less enthusiasm from our supporters.
    To me the reason was clear. We accepted the banks’ interpretation of the causes of their spectacular failings. We supported a view of the world which was not supported by those who asked why there was a need for people who were already living in poverty to be forced to go to food banks to survive.
    The party failed to provide the basic ideas needed. We are now in a similar situation as a country. I see the many people who are struggling today.
    What am I looking for in a leader? Someone who can give hope in this time of crisis for so many in our country. Someone who has the ideas to communicate, and the ability to communicate them.
    Someone who shows any idea at all how to deal with the real world we are living in.

  • Richard Easter 23rd Jun '20 - 7:20am

    One thing is true – free markets, globalisation, job offshoring, outsourcing and privatisation are not popular with the electorate at all.

    There is no future for a Clegg / Alexander / Jeremy Browne type Liberal party – who see the likes of TTIP, privatisation of public services and job offshoring as essentially good things.

    Johnson didn’t stand on a free market programme in 2019. Starmer’s economic positions mirror that of the 2017 Labour manifesto. Corbyn for all his faults managed 13 million votes in 2017 and 10 million in 2019 on an anti-free market manifesto. UKIP / BP voters largely reject global free market economics too. And the smaller parties such as the Greens / Plaid and so on are firmly on the left.

    Poll after poll shows that voters largely reject global free markets. An interesting article about Starmer shows the lack of support for them, even amongst right wing voters.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2020/06/labour-2019-election-review-blueprint-starmerism

    The Lib Dems were decimated after their time in the coalition. The West Country is now a sea of blue, with the odd Labour seat in Plymouth and Exeter and a cluster in Bristol. There is one Lib Dem seat in Bath. This whole area was fertile Liberal stomping ground. The party will not win it back with coalition style deference to free markets.

  • Common sense from and realism from Tom Harney and Richard Easter. It remains to be seen whether any of the candidates fits the bill.

  • Is anyone inspired by what we have not achieved since the general election under one of the candidates and the choice before us in this too long and too slow leadership election, have we opened nominations yet? The first person to show urgency and commitment to that word might get my vote. Why is the contest still limited to a Westminster parliamentarian. Interestingly the leader of the Scottish Liberals in Holyrood and the Welsh Liberal Cabinet Member for Education might make a better choice. Who will spark us into life?

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Jun '20 - 9:00am

    Richard,
    “One thing is true – free markets, globalisation, job offshoring, outsourcing and privatisation are not popular with the electorate at all.”

    You are absolutely correct. But. And it’s a big but. No one in the Western democracies, and certainly no political movement, has come up with an anti-dote which the electorate has any faith in.

    Protectionism? How does that work for a little island without the ability to feed itself, find enough fuel to stay warm and has long since forgotten how to make anything?

    The dream which is peddled is that, somehow, the British will rescue the planet and themselves, inspiring awe and admiration in the other 99% of the planet, through what Sir Ed calls “The Green Revolution” (cue drum roll and fanfare).
    The British have fallen far behind in every conceivable component of that future and to imagine moving from there to a leadership position is hubris at a level never before seen in human history.
    Who is supposed to inspire and lead this astonishing turn round and transformation?
    The leadership of all our political parties, coming together to work as a team, could not produce the cardboard box the solar panel comes in. They will appoint ‘experts’ who will take all the money and lead them right round in a big circle back to where they started from.
    The way forward is not simplistic miracle solutions but a recognition that the nation is decayed in spirit and substance and a reform agenda is required removing with ruthless energy all trappings of British exceptionalism and starting all over again.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jun '20 - 9:34am

    I see in today’s Guardian that it is once again putting all its eggs in the Labour basket. The problem is that the famous cry “What about the workers?” doesn’t resonate any more. The Labour Party, rather like the Democrat Party over the pond, is now largely the preserve of the educated middle class, buttressed, in the case of Labour, by the funds from the unions, and largely those in the public sector. When you look at the CVs of most, if not all, of the Lib Dem ‘worthies’, whether in parliament or not, a similar picture emerges. You could even argue that most MPs on both sides of the House have a similar background; but only those on the opposition benches appear still to have the vestiges of a social conscience.

    Forget Starmer, it’s Angela Rayner whom I find the most interesting. Mum at 16, largely brought up by her ‘Nan’, no degree, in fact not much of an academic CV at all until she entered her twenties, and a grandma at 37. Now that young lady has packed one hell of a lot into her life so far. And, apparently, she gets on like a house on fire with Churchill’s grandson. If anybody has been through the university of life it would appear to be the current MP for Ashton under Lyne and Labour Deputy Leader. She could be the dark horse, who appeals to a working class trying to survive in a globalised gig economy as well as those who have succeeded in climbing up the greasy pole towards a better standard of living and are still not ashamed of where they have come from. After all, they probably acknowledge that they have been the lucky ones.

    To be honest, the only other opposition politician with a back story similar to Ms Rayner’s and one who continues to face personal challenges would appear to be the acting joint leader of the Lib Dems. They should build on that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jun '20 - 10:31am

    John Marriott

    The Labour Party, rather like the Democrat Party over the pond, is now largely the preserve of the educated middle class

    Yes, and that is why many working class people don’t see Labour as the party of the left. This used to be how it was in places like the south of England outside London where trade unions were weak, but with the collapse of strong trade union industry is more so across the country now. I remember when I grew up in a working class place in the south how common it was that people there voted Conservative because they saw little difference between Conservative and Labour in terms of genuine support for wanting to build a more equal society, and so chose one or the other almost randomly. That is why the Liberals, by coming across as a genuine left-wing party were able to pick up votes in supposedly safe Conservative constituencies. And why coming across as “soft Tory” was not the way to win votes in those places.

    Now the Conservative Party has managed to come across as being seen as the party of the left by supporting Brexit and stating that as “returning control to our country”. So, people saw that as ending the way our economy seemed to be run by and for wealthy international business elite types and returning it to one with more direct democratic control. By dismissing such people in the 2019 general election in a rude way, stating we didn’t want their votes, and doing nothing to help them see that what they thought about the Conservatives and what Brexit would do was incorrect, we ended up being seen as the party of the right.

    What we could and should have said is that the co-operation of the EU is needed to stop the way big international companies who now dominate the economy can play one country against another. And the real reason the Conservatives wanted Brexit was to enable this to be done even more – that is, weakening international co-operation so giving more strength to international billionaires.

  • “Johnson didn’t stand on a free market programme in 2019. Starmer’s economic positions mirror that of the 2017 Labour manifesto.”

    This is correct – it is a bit of a myth that there is a wide open centre ground as the Tories might have shifted to the right on social issues but are more centrist on economic issues and to the left of the coalition.

    Meanwhile Starmer leant to the left to win the Labour leadership and wont be moving back to the centre ground.

    Therefore it won’t be possible or desirable to outflank Labour with a Corbyn lite position except on issues like welfare and redistribution where the Liberal party has traditionally been the most left wing.

    The position needs to be nuanced and not be based on a position on a left right spectrum but more on whose side we are on ie the service user not the bureaucracy.

    I still think that aligning the party as one of the anti-Tory parties is the best approach.

    The worst of all worlds would be to shift well to the left on policy but still be formally equidistant. That would be the road to oblivion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jun '20 - 10:42am

    Paul Barker

    If we are to join Another Coalition with Labour in 2024 (the only real prospect of one) then we must demand & make sure we get Electoral Reform, nothing less is worth the price we will pay.

    We needed to state clearly that the disproportional representation system led to the how the Coalition was in 2010. That is, we were only a small part of it, and we were weakened more by the way the disproportional system meant that the alternative coalition with Labour was not really possible as it would not have had a majority.

    Those running our party in the time of the Coalition did the exact opposite. They joined with Labour to give the impression that we had a strong say in the Coalition. We needed to make clear that all we could do in the Coalition was shift things very slightly, so what it did was far from our ideal. Our leaders let the claim made by Labour to be believed – that we were all strong supporters of everything the Coalition did. That is why many ordinary people now see us as the party of the right, in terms of supporting an economy which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    If we had proportional representation in 2010, the Conservatives would have had just half as many more MPs than us, rather than five times as many. That would have resulted in a very different sort of coalition. Why on earth is it that none of our leaders have ever made a big point about this?

  • Russell Simpson 23rd Jun '20 - 10:54am

    Doesn’t the current crisis give clues about which system is best? Is it not possible to assert that FPTP has produced populist leaders in the UK and USA (which have struggled to contain the crisis) whereas PR (specifically the additional member system) has produced (in Germany and NZ) leaders whose responses have produced better results. Discuss

  • Russell Simpson 23rd Jun '20 - 11:07am

    To win an outright majority in the 2024 general election Labour has to increase its number of seats by more than 60%. That has never been achieved before. Unless circumstances change in Scotland it is very difficult to see. Labour then has a choice: do they want to wait for as long as it takes to get an outright win or do they make do (while the earth burns) with sharing power. I’d suggest the latter. Do they opt for the Libdems with 10-15% of votes or the SNP with 4%. I suggest the former. It is events and reality that will force Starmer’s hand. I predict that we will have PR in the UK within the next 6 years as its Labour’s best (and virtually only) route to No. 10

  • There probably will not be a coalition. The 2024 election will be fought against a backdrop of mass unemployment, destroyed businesses and sinking living standards. I suspect by then the pandemic will be revaluated in the light of evidence coming from countries like Japan, Iceland, Taiwan and so on. Very few governments will survive the fallout.

  • Innocent Bystander, you said it all, that is why I am so disillusioned with the statements from all the present contenders for the leadership, oh for another Paddy Ashdown.

  • @ Russell Simpson, “Do they opt for the Libdems with 10-15% of votes or the SNP with 4%.”

    It doesn’t work with percentages in a first past the post system. Currently in Scotland, the SNP have 48 Westminster seats – compared to 4 Lib Dems and just 1 Labour. You’ll get a better idea if the 2021 Holyrood elections go ahead – when I suspect the SNP will sweep the board, possibly with the Scottish GreensLabour has to increase its number of seats by more than 60%.

    “Labour has to increase its number of seats by more than 60%. ” ?????? I suggest you have a look at the 1918, 1922 and 1923 elections, painful as that may be.

  • Clive Sneddon 23rd Jun '20 - 12:47pm

    If we are to get voter support we must show we are on the voter’s side. This requires two things. First, the wholehearted adoption of our A Fairer Share for All Policy, which was approved in Autumn 2019 but was not properly used in December (which is my personal view as a member of the working party). It wants Basic Services, a right to food and water and properly heated housing, as well as nationwide broadband and access to the internet. It also showed how to fix Universal Credit (no sanctions, cheques within five days of application) so that people had the income they need to live reasonably while looking for work. With those policies. Jo’s ‘we have your back’ makes a lot more sense. Second, a prominent role for Tim Farron who can say things simply and straight (now that his book says he has overcome his fear of the media), who can absorb new ideas immediately, and who has a game plan set out in his book to overcome the economic failures of liberalism. I am not expecting him to stand for the leadership, though our complicated procedures mean I don’t know that yet, nor is this comment designed to encourage him to stand. And once the Thornhill Report has been addressed, the parliamentarians, HQ staff and party membership should all be working together to get our values across to the general public through our policies and leadership.

  • Russell Simpson 23rd Jun '20 - 1:11pm

    @ David Raw
    1. The way it would work is for Labour to stand no candidates in the 50/60 seats that Libdems (or Greens) stood a better chance of winning. With identical PR policy in all 3 manifestos (and PC/SNP also supporting PR) there would be no need for a referendum. As I said, it depends whether/how Labour wants to get in to No. 10 (while the earth burns).
    2. So I should have said ” in the last 95 years!”

  • A number of people have made the point that few leading politicians today have come from working class backgrounds. In my humble opinion, it is a shame that the other Johnson, Alan, never made it to Number 10. Having said that, he was always the most pragmatic of politicians. So many insist that our future lies in being “progressive” and “radical”. Perhaps what the nation is really crying out for is some working class pragmatism. Not sure that we have anyone of the A.J. type lurking in the upper echelons of our party, mores the pity.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 23rd Jun '20 - 1:44pm

    Lorenzo, in answer to your question yesterday, I feel that opting for change for the sake of change could lead us to make a serious mistake. Although naturally we should not choose experience merely for its own sake either.
    I would usually say that we should make a choice based on policies, not personalities. I think this contest may be a case in which we need to make an exception to this rule.
    There is an issue regarding one of the candidates which we cannot discuss here, but which we must not ignore. We must ensure we do not choose a candidate whose election would send a signal contrary to some of our core values.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 23rd Jun '20 - 2:06pm

    Chris, I think contributors to Lib Dem Voice can endorse a candidate – its just the editorial team that remains officially “neutral”. I made my last comment cryptic only because there is one specific issue which we have been told we cannot discuss. The media will certainly not ignore it though

  • Russell Simpson 23rd Jun '20 - 2:46pm

    Catherine JC
    ??

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Jun '20 - 2:50pm

    Can’t we relegate the coalition to the history books and choose our next leader based on competence, experience, vision, likeability and credibility? I certainly don’t know where I’ll put my tick. They all seemed equally good on the gld online conference webinar. We also need someone who is practical and pragmatic rather than tied to a particular ideology.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Jun '20 - 2:54pm

    Catherine as usual, tact, reason, in a combination with honest, fair, very rare, which is why I miss you on here!

    I am aware that everyone not terrible, deserves a second chance, if no real harm was caused. i know of what you refer, but think, if we can listen to someone who has made a mistake in their private life, we can understand they might not, in their public.

    It worries me we cannot discuss it, the individual concerned should, it might be the further humanising of politics if that candidate did.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 23rd Jun '20 - 4:26pm

    Lorenzo, I do believe in second chances, but a second chance does sometimes require remorse and apology, neither of which…
    Russell, sorry, I thought everyone would know what I was referring to, but I don’t think my comment would be here for long if I explained.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jun '20 - 4:31pm

    @ Russell,

    “The way it would work is for Labour to stand no candidates in the 50/60 seats that Libdems …. stood a better chance of winning.”

    And in return?

    Presumably Lib Dems would stand down in 50/60 seats where Labour had the better chance. Which would be fine if Lib Dems didn’t split 50:50 for Tory/Labour.

    I agree it would be worth a trial in a bye election but the doubt must be that Lib Dem supporters can be relied upon to vote Labour in sufficient numbers.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 23rd Jun '20 - 5:01pm

    Lorenzo, continuing my reply to you just now, it is true that seriously flawed people can sometimes do much good. But we do need to think of the message it would send, if the party endorses someone who has admitted to certain behaviour. We need to show that we are on the side of victims.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Jun '20 - 5:10pm

    Catherine I understand and only ask that we should open up about this, that a candidate could, even if sense of privacy must be retained, it is something a lot of sarcasm happens re on sites other than this one.

  • David Allen 23rd Jun '20 - 5:13pm

    “I do believe in second chances, but a second chance does sometimes require remorse and apology…”

    Well, if that wasn’t about the great unmentionable issue in British politics, it ought to have been!

    Johnson locked down far too late, because he didn’t want to court unpopularity. Tens of thousands have died. No apology, no remorse. Now Johnson is duly screwing up his second chance by lifting lockdown far too early, because he wants to court easy popularity. When that leads to the second wave, and we go back into lockdown over winter, Johnson will blame somebody else.

    Come the winter, lots of people will get symptoms. Many of those symptoms will just be seasonal colds and flu, but they’ll all have to isolate. Lockdown number 2 will be far worse than lockdown number 1.

    Summer is our chance to do what New Zealand has done, and rid ourselves of the virus. An opportunity squandered.

    Starmer knows the facts. He is ignoring them because he sees no votes in telling the hard truth. Only Sturgeon and Drakeford have dared to do the right thing instead of the instant-popularity thing.

    Starmer is riding high. He has a lot to lose if he risks opposing a premature lift of lockdown. To a party which needs to climb out of the doldrums, it makes more sense to take a big risk on lockdown policy, and dare to tell the truth. Where are you, Liberal Democrats?

  • Dilettante Eye 23rd Jun '20 - 6:29pm

    Exactly !

  • “ Johnson locked down far too late, because he didn’t want to court unpopularity”

    Not really more because he was panicked by overblown predictions and gave into public/social media opinion. Up to that point he had been following the scientific advice (unusually for him).

  • richard underhill 23rd Jun '20 - 7:59pm

    David Allen 23rd Jun ’20 – 5:13pm
    Today’s announcement of the partial ending of lockdown was supported by the Labour leader in the Commons. Doubts were expressed by cynics in the press-media. Reservations were expressed by the Chief Medical Officer for England and the
    Chief Scientific Adviser. Boris Al Johnson admitted that Ministers make the policy decisions, a statement of the obvious which the electorate is likely to accept. This is the most important policy area at the moment and the government is taking a huge political risk, irrespective of one MP’s question about cricket. The West Indies are visiting, we must mind our manners. Sikhs in Reading are saying things that we can agree. We should try to recruit them as members and not deny them a fair chance of being MPs.

  • richard underhill 23rd Jun '20 - 8:41pm

    Chris Pallet | Mon 22nd June 2020 – 2:35 pm
    The best system is the Single Transferable Vote. It works in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. We should not be afraid to say so.
    At 2 federal conferences in Glasgow there were fringe meetings about Northern Ireland, outside the secure area, with Sinn Fein present. I like the policies of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and said so.
    I am impressed with the APNI leader Naomi Long, former MP, former MEP and hope we can elect a leader of her calibre. Hopefully other Liberal Democrats will agree.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jun '20 - 10:26am

    @ Russell,

    I should have added ‘abstain’ as a possible option if Lib Dems don’t stand. That might well be the most popular option. I do understand Lib Dems can’t be herded like sheep. It would be more like trying to herd cats in that respect. This is the big problem.

    Do we have any polling on what Lib Dems would do under such circumstances?

    There’d be the same problem the other way too. Many Labour supporters would abstain rather than vote Lib Dem. Some may well even prefer to vote Tory. The Northern working class does, rightly or wrongly, have an inclination to side with the Tories on the question of national identity.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Jun '20 - 8:53am

    If we want to “relegate the coalition to the history books” then the best way of doing so is to elect a leader who wasn’t involved in it.

    “There is an issue regarding one of the candidates which we cannot discuss here, but which we must not ignore.”

    Rubbish, Ed’s role in the Coalition has been discussed ad nauseam.

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