The Independent View: Making common ground

We’ve lost a battle. But there are many more to come. We must not lose them all.

To win, we will need to fight more smartly than we did in the past. We must understand why we lost. The government – and Stronger In, which was in Downing Street’s pocket – had no vision for how Britain could help lead Europe. It had no vision for how to make Britain fairer either. It just had a boring case for the status quo.

To understand why we lost, we have to reach out to Leave voters. To understand why many feel left behind and left out. To make common ground with them. Because there is much that unites us.

We can make common ground on the need for a fair society. Where the economy works for all, not just the few. Where migration works for all, not just the few. The vast majority of the British people want that. We are a nation that wants unity not division. We want to share the fruits of progress.

We can make common ground on the need for an open society. Where we can trade freely with the world, not pull up the drawbridge. Where we work with our neighbours to solve common problems – tackling global warming, standing up to Vladimir Putin, fighting terrorism and the causes of mass migration – not retreating into a shell. The vast majority of the British people want that. We are a people that rises to challenges, not shirks them.

We can make common ground on the need for fight xenophobia and racism. Because we are not a nation of racists.

And we can make common ground on the need for honest politics. Because nobody likes being lied to by politicians. Nobody likes being told that an extra £350m a week is going to the NHS when it isn’t. Nobody likes being told that Turkey is about to join the EU when it isn’t. Nobody likes being told we are going to have an emergency budget when we’re not. Nobody likes being told that we will cut net migration to the tens of thousands when we’re not.

Nobody, let’s face it, liked being told tuition fees weren’t going up when they were. Nobody liked being told Saddam Hussein was going to nuke us when he wasn’t.

The lies went stratospheric during the referendum campaign. But the dishonesty wasn’t just on the Leave side – although it was a more serious offender. And it started long before the referendum. We can make common ground with Leave voters on that.

And if we can make common ground on all these things, maybe, just maybe, when Theresa May finally figures out what Brexit means, we can make common ground on whether we really want to leave the EU.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

* Hugo Dixon is one of the founders of CommonGround, a new group fighting for a fair and open society - and honest politics. He is also the chairman of InFacts. He will be speaking at fringe meeting organised by the Social Democratic Group in Monday lunchtime, to discuss: “How can the centre-left reach the left behind?”

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  • paul barker 16th Sep '16 - 9:46pm

    I am all in favor of reaching out to the 52% after we have persuaded three-quarters of the 48% to vote Libdem.

  • And, I am afraid, nobody likes to be told that if the kind of society most of us want is to be realised, we will all have to pay more tax (not “a little more”, by the way) even if the way tax is raised is made fairer. And that would not be a lie.

  • @ George Kendall
    “How can we make globalisation and immigration work for many of the poorer people in our country who voted leave?

    … But it’s not impossible to do.”

    I think it is impossible to do as a member of the EU as currently constituted, which is why I think Brexit is an opportunity for us to embrace policies to help the poorest and have full employment (unemployment less than 3%) with its proven reduction of economic inequalities benefits or a partial Citizens Income to give more freedom to workers or both. Pursuing either of these policies would be problematic as a member of the EU as often pointed out when anyone suggested either in the past.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '16 - 8:37am

    George Kendall – ‘How can we make globalisation and immigration work for many of the poorer people in our country who voted leave?’

    The question though is whether or not that can be done in the EU. I’m in no doubt that the EU has done many, many positive things. But really and truly that referendum went for LEAVE because there simply were not enough people that felt they had a sufficient stake in the project. Whether those feeling were justified or not is another question.

    The stark truth however is that the EU does lack for a certain reciprocity. To say as much is not to deny that there can be advantages. It is simply to state what I regard as self-evident – see Whatever the flows of capital, the flows of people are telling. If 2m young UK unemployed could all head to Slovakia/Romania/Latvia tomorrow for housing/jobs/in-work welfare we’d have had a 95% IN vote.

    What will save the EU is not more treaty or more integration, but more technology. The development of real-time translation tech will do more for the EU than any directive. As it is the EU is great if you are in a position to take advantage, not so great if you aren’t. On the balance between those two, the ballot box doesn’t lie.

    What is needed is a stake in the EU beyond not having to queue up at the passport desk. ‘More Europe’ has to mean ‘more Europe for those that don’t have Europe already.’ Too often it has meant, ‘more Europe for those already with a European outlook.’

    Can we get more Europe to mean what we need it to – very frankly if anyone has such a vision I didn’t hear about it in the referendum campaign.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '16 - 8:48am

    ‘The lies went stratospheric during the referendum campaign.’

    Well….This is getting trotted out far too readily. I think that there can’t be any dispute that the referendum campaign was rough-and-ready to say the least. But the voters aren’t dumb – too many writers after the referendum seem to take public stupidity as a starting point, a talking point in and of itself.

    OK – the £350m/NHS claim had small print for sure. But then how many remain campaigners really wanted to say, ‘staying in the EU will likely mean the UK is a large net contributor irrespective of the UK’s fiscal position or austerity.’ If you want truth, that’s it – right?

    Wrapping yourself up in, ‘they told lies,’ is the equivalent of displacement activity. Voters didn’t like the look of the EU contributions, the possibilities on current immigration policies and the scope for future TTIP style compromises. Those are the issues, ‘lies,’ are not.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Sep '16 - 6:10am

    Common Ground looks very similar to Open Britain and More United. We don’t need three different centrist remain lobby groups.

    The centre ground isn’t where many remainers think it is anyway, otherwise so many wouldn’t be sneering at attempts to negotiate a better deal from the EU. Regards

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