The Conservatives’ honeymoon period will be short

As Ed Davey has said in a speech reported on this website, “if Brexit has taught us anything, it is that there are many serious divisions to fix. The UK is divided by inequality”.

And he added that those who voted for Brexit did so “because your communities have been let down for decades. Because Governments have ignored you”.

I would suggest that voters are not actually protesting against Europe but rather against the many changes caused by extreme ‘Milton Friedman’ economics over the last 40 years.

To repeat a paragraph from a previous article of mine published on this website:

The financial sector has successfully resisted any attempts to restrict the UK’s takeover system. This has decimated the manufacturing sector while earning huge revenues for London and its financial sector. It is no coincidence that London voted Remain while the former manufacturing regions voted Leave.

Ed Davey went on to say “we have no faith in the Conservatives’ willingness to address your frustrations. Or to deliver that change”.

If, as is very likely, this is correct, then the Conservatives’ honeymoon period is likely to be short. Leaving the EU will not fix our serious divisions. The underlying problems that caused the Brexit vote have not gone away.

Photo above of “Honeymoon feet” is by Jonathan Goforth, Flickr CCL

* John Hann is a party member in Winchester

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29 Comments

  • David Evans 4th Feb '20 - 6:49pm

    Again another article telling us that
    1) ‘The Others’ i.e. the Conservatives – will be in trouble soon,
    2) ‘The Others’ i.e. People who voted for Brexit – didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t really vote for Brexit, they voted against something else completely different,
    3) Ed says “The UK is divided …” and it is because ‘The Others’ fault i.e. British Government’s who have “ignored you.”
    Except
    3) Ed was a Minister in Government for five years and ignored/didn’t notice that ordinary Lib Dems were telling our leaders they were making a mess of things (first vocally and then by leaving the party in droves),
    2) Brexiteers knew what they were voting for and what they were voting against, but senior Lib Dems never made a case for the EU to the British People until it was much, much too late,
    1) The Lib Dems have been in deep trouble for nearly 10 years now and still our leading figures are in denial that this was a key factor in allowing Brexit to happen.

    When will we get an article that stops blaming ‘The Others’ and instead says we have to sort ourselves out, we have to learn the lessons of the past rather than just say we have learned, and it has to start at the top. If we don’t, we will just go on blaming ‘The Others’ and scratching our heads in wonder as to why so few people vote for us in General election, after General election, after General election.

    It is comforting to believe that problems are not of our making and it is somehow ‘The Others’ who are at fault, in trouble and don’t know what they are doing – That their joy in victory will be short lived and their honeymoon will soon be over. Sadly, the longer things go on, we simply make more problems for ourselves, and it is we who are at fault and don’t know what we are doing – other than pretending to ourselves it’s the fault of something we could never do anything about, ‘The Others.’

    Sadly for the Lib Dems and our fair, free and open society, this approach does not lead to a short honeymoon, but instead a painful and long drawn out death through a refusal to ask ourselves – “What is really wrong with us?”

  • Michael Cole 4th Feb '20 - 7:10pm

    “If, as is very likely, this is correct, then the Conservatives’ honeymoon period is likely to be short. Leaving the EU will not fix our serious divisions. The underlying problems that caused the Brexit vote have not gone away.”

    This is very true. But we, as a Party, must realise what we are up against.

    The Conservatives and their supporters have immense financial resources.They control much of the media. With a couple of notable exceptions, the press is utterly biased. The broadcast media slavishly takes its agenda from the press. It suits the Tories to have a pusillanimous opposition; it enables them to avoid meaningful scrutiny and gives the illusion of democratic choice. As we all know, under our outdated voting system they can secure Parliamentary majority and dictatorial power on a minority of votes.

    It is difficult to see how, in the short/medium term, we can alter the media bias or the imbalance of financial power, but we can campaign, at grass roots, for ‘fair votes’. Indeed, we should never have stopped doing so.

    It’s not enough for us to be good, reasonable people and to have comprehensive and well thought out policies. Maybe it’s against our nature, but we must be ruthless in the pursuit of our political objectives.

  • @ Michael Cole “but we can campaign, at grass roots, for ‘fair votes’. Indeed, we should never have stopped doing so”.

    But, Michael, you’ll need a majority Lib Dem Government to get it – under the first past the post voting system.

    That old chameleon Lloyd George could have got it but he missed the trick in 1918 with the Representation of the People Act . He was too busy cosying up to the Tories. There’s something about Liberals and Coalitions. They don’t quite get it.

  • Michael Cole 4th Feb '20 - 7:33pm

    David,

    That is precisely why I believe that it must be a grassroots campaign. I agree that the politicians presently in power and in the main party of opposition will never vote for their own demise.

    My experience of street campaigning has shown me that the issue of ‘fair votes’ is widely supported by the public.

  • Michael Cole 4th Feb ’20 – 7:33pm:
    My experience of street campaigning has shown me that the issue of ‘fair votes’ is widely supported by the public.

    One suspects rather less so after the chaos of the 2017 parliament.

  • If you think the last parliament was chaotic I think you’ll find this one is worse. They will happly vote for fantasy and then react in horror as the unicorns fail to turn up. Still you can always use the magic powers of true believers; they don’t work of cause but it doesn’t stop the true bebelievers trying.

  • David Evans is right, the party and especially the leadership, are in denial. They are incapable of understanding Brexit, the recent election and the likely course of events in the future. Everything is seen through some sort of fantasy prism that makes the inhabitants of LibDemWorld believe that the nasty Conservatives will fail and the millions who voted to Leave the EU will suddenly realise their ghastly mistake.

    If there is anything that disadvantages a political party, it is total ignorance about the motivations of the electorate.

    After a number of elections producing a similar devastating result, one would think that the Party leadership or grass roots may begin to have suspicions that the party core beliefs are flawed in some way. Let’s face it, if the party hasn’t got a clue about why the hapless voters get it so badly wrong, time and time again, there is cause for concern.

    It is fascinating that the EU may share some of the myopia that is characteristic of LibDemWorld (and possibly a similar cause). This could be a serious problem for the EU by the Autumn of this year. It will not affect the party, it will continue to under perform in the manner of a belief group, self satisfied with the solid membership and loyalty of its core supporters.

  • @ Michael Cole, “My experience of street campaigning has shown me that the issue of ‘fair votes’ is widely supported by the public.”

    Aye, well, I’ve worn out shoe leather going back to 1962, Michael. You can campaign until you’re blue in the face, but the general public don’t walk through the lobbies and cast votes at Westminster.

    Why not try arguing for something liberal, like reducing poverty, homelessness and inequality to appeal to people’s sense of idealism and humanity instead of what will be regarded by some as Lib Dem self interest and an obsession with something (the EU) that has now gone probably in my lifetime. The homeless, the exploited and the unfortunate are still with us. Fight for their dignity instead.

  • What David Raw said. I keep saying it too: read the Preamble to the Party’s Constitution, that is what we need to have at the heart of our campaigns (with added green policies). “Fair Votes” is just self-serving: we have to re-establish ourselves as the party of honesty and morality, liberalism and democracy. We have not been any of those things for quite a long time now.

  • David Becket 4th Feb '20 - 10:05pm

    The Lib Dem “leadership” has let this party down since about 2010. It is time for a clear out.

  • Thanks for the comments.

    My personal view is that Bill Clinton’s successful campaign slogan “It’s the economy stupid” has some merit. Voters are considering not only their own well-being, but understand that only a successful economy can provide the wealth to help those less fortunate.

    The problem for Britain is that this is difficult for the electorate to judge. Through the media we have continously been told that our institutions are the “envy of the world”. Voters have blamed the EU without realising that their problems rest within our own system.

  • David Warren 4th Feb '20 - 10:59pm

    @DavidBeckett

    The last really good Lib Dem General Election performance was in 2005 which says a lot.

  • John Roffey 5th Feb '20 - 5:18am

    Those who did not see ED on Newsnight last night discussing COP26

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000f1xn/newsnight-04022020

    … might view him in a different light if they had. Not only did he seem extremely knowledgeable on the subject – but also explained how improvements in carbon emissions fell as a result of the L/D measures insisted upon by the Party whilst in the Coalition. These were reversed by each of the Tory PMs since which has caused a reversal in the earlier gains.

    Regardless of whether ED does become leader of the Party later in the year – given the importance of COP26 in setting targets for years ahead – I hope he continues in the role so that he can hold BJ’s feet to the fire until November when COP26 takes place.

    The primary purpose would be to help ensure the agreement of the 192 nations involved to stringent targets on greenhouse gas emissions. However, since this is unlikely to be achieved, given the Tory’s general approach to the issue, it is very likely to bring an end to BJ’s ‘honeymoon’ period as PM. The world’s eyes will be on the outcome and the UK’s global reputation will be at stake.

    Presumably both Cameron and Hague – who have turned down the job of heading the summit – are aware that real success is unlikely and do not want their reputations damaged [apart from relishing the prospect of BJ’s downfall]!

    One must assume that the PM will find a globally recognised statesman to head COP26 – but the UK is rather lacking in such individuals at the present time.

  • Dilettante Eyed 5th Feb '20 - 8:46am

    @Peter

    “They [Lib Dems] are incapable of understanding Brexit, the recent election and the likely course of events in the future.”

    Yes, it is intriguing why a group of otherwise intelligent people cannot understand failure, and the imperative to change. A few clues tell us why this might be.

    For them, it’s the electorate that always doesn’t understand.
    They speak constantly about their principles.
    Their ‘message’ never changes; it just needs to ‘be shouted louder from the rooftops’
    The prism of their policy making is based on improving the behaviour of human interactions.
    Their principles are paramount and superior, and the political objective is to raise everyone else up to their standards.

    When the above comes into focus, it becomes clear that they are more like evangelists than a political party. In their mind they are missionaries, and like all missionaries they are driven to do good, and for them doing good (via politics), means getting their liberal nirvana into our poor unfortunate, uneducated heads.

    They can’t change, because they are the chosen ones; it’s us voters who just don’t get it. But be reassured, they will campaign harder and louder, and knock on doors more often, and shove more newsletters through doors. They are convinced that it is only a matter of time before we ignorant voters see the light of their liberalism.

  • Nigel Jones 5th Feb '20 - 9:39am

    I agree with David Becket about our need for fresh leadership, different from what we have had since 2010. But members must take responsibility too, since so many, especially in senior positions have been unwilling or unable to rock the boat and I see no sign of that happening so far with the new federal committees.
    David Raw makes a good point about having idealism and humanity in our messages, but that must be accompanied by credible economic policies and devolution of resources so that more decisions can be made closer to the people. Jo had courageous idealism, but showed no detailed understanding of economics or local government.

  • Michael Cole 5th Feb '20 - 9:59am

    @ David Raw, “Aye, well, I’ve worn out shoe leather going back to 1962, Michael. ”

    My experience of street campaigning is a little more recent than that. You may have heard of Labour’s MVM; ostensibly an all-Party campaign, but in reality controlled By Labour.

    I guess almost all of us would want to eliminate “poverty, homelessness and inequality “. That’s why we’re LDs.

  • @ Michael Cole : “I guess almost all of us would want to eliminate “poverty, homelessness and inequality “. That’s why we’re LDs.” If only that were true, Michael.

    Your comment would have more force if senior members of the parliamentary party had shown any interest at all in Professor Alston’s ‘United Nations Report on Poverty and Inequality in the UK’ published last Spring. Download available here :

    http://www.ohchr.org › documents › issues › poverty Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by … – OHCHR PDF 16 Nov 2018 – https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/how-could-brexit-affect-poverty-uk … the Inquiry undertaken by the UN Committee on the Rights

    Repeated efforts were made to draw it to their attention. The present joint Leader had not read it when I presented him with a copy last September, the then parliamentary spokesperson (now rumoured to be a Leadership candidate) failed to turn up for a debate on it in the Commons on 13 June last year, and consistently refused to discuss it at Conference when it was raised with her, a prominent member of the Lords criticised it but admitted he hadn’t read it when I raised it with him face to face last September.

    I’m afraid there’s a vacuum of understanding and commitment at the top. Maybe they can use the next two or three years to get their heads round it – as Paddy Ashdown once tried to do when he took time out to visit and stay with people to discover their true circumstances.

    A statement on the Panorama programme on Universal Credit last night would be a start.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk › 2020/05 › inside-britains-benefit-revolution
    Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State – Media Centre – BBC
    Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State. Ep 1/3. Tuesday 4 February. 9.00pm-10.00pm. BBC TWO. NEW.

  • John Hann Tue 4th February 2020 – 12:35 pm:
    I would suggest that voters are not actually protesting against Europe but rather against the many changes caused by extreme ‘Milton Friedman’ economics over the last 40 years.

    So can you suggest a reason why support for leaving the EU polled at 65% of those expressing an opinion in March 1979, two months before the first Thatcher government was elected?

    ‘European Union membership – trends’:
    https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/european-union-membership-trends

    Q If there were a referendum now on whether Britain should stay in or get out of the European Union, how would you vote?

  • David Becket 5th Feb '20 - 12:39pm

    You are right David Raw. This is one of the more disgraceful non actions of our leadership in recent years. The current acting leader and our former leader appeared to have no interest in this issue.
    There is a desperate need for the membership to get some visibility of any newbie who is considering standing for leadership. Our main hope is that a new broom will come in with an exciting way of presenting some of the excellent policies in our manifesto and clearing out some dead wood.

  • @David Raw. Feb 4th, 9.10.
    “Why not try arguing for something liberal, like reducing poverty, homelessness and inequality”.
    Immediate thoughts : Problem with this is that this is really common ground. Which political party going to stand up and say they favour MORE poverty,homelessness and inequality ?
    Secondly, we already have a party whose traditional focus is on these issues, the Labour Party. If we campaign hard on these issues its a “home game” (in sporting parlance) for Labour.
    Third point. These are important issues, but are they strictly liberal issues ? For example, when we speak of equality, do we mean equality of opportunity or outcome and might equality of outcome require illiberal measures to achieve ?
    I think there are times when we are all a little guilty of using the word “Liberal” to mean “what I happen to believe in – which must be both virtuous and correct”.

  • John Hann Tue 4th February 2020 – 12:35 pm:
    And [Ed Davey] added that those who voted for Brexit did so “because your communities have been let down for decades. Because Governments have ignored you”.

    if that’s what Davey really believes then he’s remarkably uninformed. His opinion is not supported by the considerable research conducted into the motivations of Leave voters…

    ‘All the lies about Leavers’ [January 2020]:
    https://unherd.com/2020/01/all-the-lies-about-leavers/

    …the popular portrayal of Brexit as an irrational backlash against “the system” — as a “protest vote” — never made sense. Researchers have since demonstrated that wanting to register a protest against “the establishment” was at best only a distant concern for most Leavers; voting to exit signalled more a desire to return to a traditional political settlement. The idea of their home being governed by people whose attachments appeared to lie elsewhere — in distant and insufficiently democratic institutions — seemed alien to the very things Leavers associate with the nation.

    Contrary to this myth of incoherent Leavers — which stems from a tradition of ‘elitist’ democratic thought that has long been sceptical of the masses — those who put their cross next to Leave shared a clear and coherent outlook.

    They wanted to regain their national independence and reassert their national sovereignty against supranational institutions that looked neither transparent nor particularly responsive. They wanted to be able to control the pace and scale of demographic change. And they felt that, on balance, the EU threatened not just the stability of Britain’s economy but, more fundamentally, its national identity, culture and security.

  • Jeff, To answer your earlier comment:

    At the time of the 1975 referendum we were being told that the “European Community (the Common Market)” was, as the name suggested, just a free-trade area.

    As I remember it back in 1979 there were not any particularly strong feelings regarding the EEC. I would imagine that opinion polls would have very much depended on the News at the time, which may have been suggesting that we had been lied to.

  • Yes, Conservatives will disappoint, but who wouldn’t at this point? When people can’t find the answers they want to hear in mainstream politics, they turn elsewhere – hence in part why the far right and socialism have become more popular in recent years and why Brexit is happening. Ed Davey and the leadership he associates with must reflect on that.

    It’s not just the Tories who have made people feel ignored, LD and Labour have also been in power in recent decades. Party memberships are mostly biased toward the middle classes in the major parties. Lib Dem MPs (in England) mostly represent university towns or affluent metropolitan areas – a select group. Labour have also become associated with champagne socialism more than the broad coalition and directly communitarian politics they were built upon.

    If things just continue as they are, I suspect the union will fall apart, and the regional inequalities in England will strike an even bolder contrast. The bubble that both Westminster and political parties are insulated within needs to be burst, but it’s much easier said than done.

  • Yousuf Farah 5th Feb '20 - 6:34pm

    The UK’s divisions go way beyond inequalities, the fault lines are as numerous as they are deep.

  • James Fowler 5th Feb '20 - 9:09pm

    I’m not sure that the honeymoon will be short unfortunately. There have been four and half years without a significant domestic agenda and I think Boris will get the benefit of the doubt for a while yet – some parallels with Blair after the drift and confusion of the Major years perhaps. However, the good news is that when the tide eventually does go out on Boris I think he really will be pilloried. We’re just going to have to be patient.

  • Paul Barker 5th Feb '20 - 9:52pm

    The main reason why the Honeymoon is likely to be short is that the Tories have made a seies of incompatable promises on Brexit. They will either have to accept a much longer Transition Period or stay within EU guidelines (BINO) or accept massive disruption.
    Its unclear yet which of the various paths they will take but the Decision has to be made by June at the latest.
    2020 could be like 1992 with a newly Victorious Tory Government becoming very unpopular very quickly.

  • Peter of the People,
    The Tories will indeed fail, making a country poorer is not the stragy for long term sucess. It will however take time and a large dose of reality. Sadly many of those that voted to be poorer will not survive being poorer, but those that do may eventually repent their mistake. It is also not unlikely they may just rush after the next populists and get even poorer or in many cases exit to the sunlit uplands. As you are here have you been able to rationalise the fate of Gibralter and Northern Ireland ( your friends in the DUP are not very happy, in fact they feel pretty betrayed).
    O Mage if Wrexham I live and work aming many leave voter’s, they voted for nothing you have stated; in the main they voted to send the furrins home, not a view you want to gain currency but tis the truth.

  • Peter Martin 6th Feb '20 - 2:51am

    It’s not just Boris’s honeymoon which should be of interest. What about the state of our erstwhile partners’ marriage across the channel?

    The contradictions of the eurozone haven’t gone away. The financial engineering of the common currency is as faulty as it ever was. If it was subject to the same rules as even a tumbler drier it would have been recalled for urgent modifications years ago.

    Many marriages break up over money disputes. Until the German government appreciates just what it needs to do to keep its partners happy the danger is their relationships will end up on the rocks. It won’t be good for them and it won’t be good for us .

  • There us another reason it will be shorter than people think. Many of their leaders are not up to it; already they are calling Preti Patel, Preti Vacant.

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