The General Election – it’s time to stop looking for someone to blame and take action

In March 2017, I wrote a thought piece for this journal called “Brexit, it’s time to stop looking for someone to blame and take action”. I took my own advice (more on this later on) but it made me think it was important to write a similar article today simply changing a couple of words in the title.

When that exit poll dropped on Thursday night I was distraught.  Unlike in June 2016, I had feared this result would happen  as soon as the Farage/Johnson pact came out and given the way the  campaign had gone, but seeing it actually materialise was a fundamental blow.  Once again that sinking feeling, both for what it meant for the country but also how harsh it was on so many candidates and activists who deserved far better.

Like in June 2016, I fear for what the result will mean for the U.K (and to some extent this party) in the short, medium and long term. And like in June 2016, its easy to spend your time looking for someone to blame:

  • Should it be at all who voted for this General Election to take place?
  • Should it be once again be at Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and their cabal for putting together a campaign full of lies, most notably that ridiculous “GetBrexitDone” which is so far from the truth it is unbelievable.
  • Should it once again be at many sections of the media who failed to properly hold the Tories to account and call out the lies?
  • Should it be at all those that voted Conservative, against their interests, for the first time, for being persuaded by their false arguments?
  • Should it be those within the LibDems for the general strategy in the campaign including sticking with the Revoke Policy (which for balance I voted for at conference having listened carefully to the debate and thought was right when up against no deal) once a Brexit “deal” was agreed?
  • Should it be at Jeremy Corbyn for being so unelectable to so many of the population that those who would be inclined to vote Lib Dem (or Dominic Grieve in my seat) – or even tactically for an anti-brexit Labour MP, decided that they could not take the risk their votes could put him in Downing Street?
  • Should it be at the whole Labour Leadership for being hostile to any sort of anti-tory pact and then actively campaigning in seats they could not win (e.g. Wimbledon & Finchley) costing the Lib Dems the seats?

Like in March 2017, I realise that, although whilst all these points may well be justified, some more than others, just looking to apportion blame is not going to help. Of course you need to reflect and learn from mistakes but simply looking backwards will not help.

Well a few months after March 2017 I took my own advice, I rose up and took action.  Two years ago this weekend (15th December 2017) I started a new non-partisan twitter account building a community of regretful leavers called @RemainerNow!  It soon became a national campaign using various channels and I would like to think it became a key part in the anti-brexit movement (more on @RemainerNow).  We may have failed in our quest to get a Final Say and stop Brexit but I at least know that I (and the others that contributed) tried our hearts out.  But we have only lost the battle, we must win the war for our country’s soul.

So just like I called for in March 2017, its once again time for all those of us who are fearful of the direction our country is heading to do something about it. It’s not just about a hard Brexit and what that will do to the economy, our NHS, our standing in the world. If things continue as they are, we will be stuck with a Conservative party that is moving further and further right for many years. They should not be allowed to pursue a regressive heartless agenda unchecked!

We can still have an influence in the future debate on Brexit (which will drag on for years) but we can also build on a liberal and progressive force that is ready to pounce when the lies on which this election has been won are exposed. And I for one, want to do what I can to fight that.

So in the new year I am firstly going to continue with my cross party RemainerNow campaign to help provide a voice for those who will change their mind once the realities of both Brexit, and now this government become clear. I am going to use it also to hold the government to account over Brexit – as they completely own it now.

But, I will also to get more involved in the party and urge people who want to different future to do the same.  Whether that’s locally building up to May 2020 local elections or whether its joining one of the special interest groups, if you want to make change, do not give up, be a part of it.

* Andrew Davidson is originally from Somerset but now lives in Buckinghamshire and works in outer London.

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17 Comments

  • When Boris tries to do a trade deal with the USA, we see that as part of “Brexit”.

    When the EU tries to do a trade deal with the USA is that part of “Remain”? (or would it have been if we’d stayed)? If so then we could have equally said that “Remain” will go on for ever.

    Actually the time after the end of 2020 isn’t called “Brexit” it’s just called “The Future” and it might help bring society back together if people referred to it that way and stopped seeing everything through the lens of Brexit.

    Put “rejoin” in the 2029 manifesto and at least pretend to be keeping an open mind till then. It’s harder to impeach Trump right now because the people who were talking about impeachment before he even took office hardened attitudes on the other side too. None of this never-Brexit stuff does anything to persuade people, it just wins points with people who agree with you anyway.

    I must say I find it interesting that it was actually someone who’d always been remainer who was running the regretful leaver community. Ashcroft’s poll says that there were more than two and a half times as many remainers reconciled to leaving than there were regrexiters. I’d say you did have a big influence on the Brexit campaign: the whole “regrexit” thing pushed by the Evening Standard and on twitter was a big influence on people in the Lib Dems and Labour deciding to set all their political capital on fire chasing ghosts, rather than let the referendum result be implemented, defeat an awful May government in the 2020 election held at the normal time, and make a good faith case for rejoining later in the coming decade.

  • Boris is still on-strategy and on-message. Our strategy and message, in contrast, look to be in ruins. There is no Remain, and ‘Rejoin’ sounds ominously like ‘Renationalize’.

    So I think we need to devise a strategy and message before we restart. The political thinking required is mostly beyond me – I have been trying to catch-up – and I suspect many people like me. So I shall wait until our professional politicians decide what to do.

    There are opportunities – the Cons have borrowed votes from Labour, and can be split there. Climate change is nowhere, and time is running out very quickly. Immigration & political extremism will hit the NHS, which is already in deep trouble. Quoi faire?

  • One thing that keeps coming up in conversations with Leavers is the belief we are calling them stupid, ignorant or racist. I don’t know of anyone (in this party at least) who has actually said that – probably just another Tory lie to smear us (though the “Bollocks to Brexit” campaign may have reinforced that perception). We need to emphasise the opposite – we may have disagreed over Brexit but on the whole, Leave voters are not bad people. Tim Farron has said that and he held his seat in a Leave constituency.

  • Andrew, You seem to have no problem ‘naming names’ in the Labour and Conservative parties; why the reticence about this party?
    I predict that, like in the aftermath of the 2015/17 elections, it’ll be a case of ‘collective responsibility’ to prevent rocking the boat.
    Roll on 2014 (or before) when we can dust off the same record.

  • @Andrew Toye – ermm… as recently as yesterday someone who claims to be a Lib Dem member wrote in another thread here – “Brexit was only ever white racists voting for “throw the foreigners out”. “.

    I don’t think you have to look too hard to find evidence that some Remainers regard Leavers as “stupid, ignorant or racist”.

  • Andrew – Just want to say I think @RemainerNow was a great idea and became one of the most positive things about the whole Brexit saga. Very well done on that. I’m pleased (not particularly surprised) to find out that you are a LibDem!

  • Andrew Davidson, “Should it be at the whole Labour Leadership for being hostile to any sort of anti-tory pact and then actively campaigning in seats they could not win (e.g. Wimbledon & Finchley) costing the Lib Dems the seats?”

    It takes two to tango, Andrew. The Lib Dems were just as tribal at the very top. I also remember Sal Brinton being embarrassed and chillingly refusing to enter into an arrangement in Canterbury with the Remain M.P. Rosie Duffield sitting next to her in the studio. The result spoke for itself – the Lib Dem vote dropped on the ground Rosie got back in.

    General election 2019: Canterbury
    Party Candidate Votes % ±
    Labour Rosie Duffield 29,018 48.3 +3.3
    Conservative Anna Firth 27,182 45.2 +0.5
    Liberal Democrats Claire Malcomson 3,408 5.7 -2.4
    Independent Michael Gould 505 0.8 N/A
    Majority 1,836 3.1 +2.8
    Turnout 60,113 75.0 +2.3 Labour hold Swing +1.4

    I can also point to Scottish seats lost by Labour with a strong Remainer M.P.(and no friend of Mr. Corbyn) where it could be argued the Lib Dem vote let the SNP in.

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '19 - 11:43am

    @ Andrew Toye,

    “One thing that keeps coming up in conversations with Leavers is the belief we are calling them stupid, ignorant or racist”

    I wonder why we might think that?

    The sub-text of Jo Swinson’s recent speech was delivering exactly that message.

    She’s clearly linking what she claims to be a rise in racism and intolerance in the UK with our decision to leave the EU.

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/jo-swinson-speech-following-general-election-62871.html

  • Andrew Toye 18th Dec ’19 – 11:01am:
    One thing that keeps coming up in conversations with Leavers is the belief we are calling them stupid, ignorant or racist. I don’t know of anyone (in this party at least) who has actually said that…

    You may not know them, but it is easy to find examples here on LDV…

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site:libdemvoice.org+leavers+stupid+ignorant+racist

  • Andy Davidson 18th Dec '19 - 1:24pm

    @RichardS if you look at WhatUKthinks website out of the last 125 polls where people were asked something on the lines of “how would you vote in another referendum” only 1 had a leave lead. I am not saying there were not some resigned remainers, there are, but that evidence is clear. But obviously accept that brexit is now happening and, however bad I and others think it will be for the UK, maybe once 23.6.16 happened maybe it always had to be that way. I just hope it’s better than I fear.

  • Andy Davidson 18th Dec '19 - 1:29pm

    @DavidRaw oh there is no doubt Canterbury was handled badly by leadership, but what you will find is local LDs in the ground actually got out there and campaigned for Rosie (along with Greens) as they knew that was the only way to get a moderate MP. Labour activists in Finchley, Wimbledon and other places behaved differently.

  • This article has it completely wrong.

    The 2017 campaign was a fiasco, although it didn’t squander anything like the opportunity that we did last week. Yet despite the party’s review of that campaign failure, many of the key people who were responsible for it retained their positions or were appointed again to preside over the scandalously bad campaign we have just witnessed.

    Not only were we strategically inept with our revoke policy on Brexit and our decision to fight a presidential campaign focused on a leader unknown to the voting public, our campaign made tactical mistakes including the absurd squeeze letters sent at great expense carrying the most ludicrous messages to the most bizarre constituencies, the decision to drop defector MPs into entirely new seats, sending members to help in no-hope campaigns against remainer Labour MPs right up to polling day (despite our public stance claiming to want to stop a Tory majority), replacing the candidate in Canterbury, and the vacuous nature of most of our nationally produced campaign literature.

    The party needs to learn the lessons from this debacle, one of the most obvious being to get rid of those people principally responsible for it.

  • @,David Raw are you advocating a vote for out political enemies,?

    Any Labour MP still in that party is an enabler of Marxism, anti-Semitism and Authoritarianism.

    Why would any Liberal seek their advancement?

  • “Why would any Liberal seek their advancement?”

    How about because they are anti-Tory as a starter?

  • Should I be shocked at the contribution by Ian? I knew nothing about any of this. Maybe I am just naive. As a member of the party since it was formed I have been aware of the increasing tendency to self-destruct. I have seen a story of the self-destruct of the Farage Company in the media. I have not seen the story of the self-destruct in the party.
    The gleam of hope to me is the survey on the election which I received from the party yesterday. Open ended questions, not the sort of questions I have been asked in surveys in the past which give the answers as well as the questions. I will wait to see what the feed back is.
    As far as our relationship with the rest of Europe is concerned, I find very few people who are opposed to the real EU – the one which gives us “frictionless” trade with most other European countries. They are opposed to the fictional one where the U.K. has to do as they are told by a group of bureaucrats in Brussels.
    Is the a party I can join that is prepared to tell the truth about Europe – and is prepared to tell the truth to members about what it is doing?

  • David Garlick 19th Dec '19 - 4:16pm

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