The Independent View: STV for local government in 2015!

STVactionThe Liberal Democrats’ mistake in 2010 was not to insist on STV for electing MPs – but merely to accept a referendum on a miserable little compromise – as a condition of entering into a coalition. This is not recriminatory. I appreciate the problems and pressures of negotiating a coalition and that senior Lib Dems wanted to create stability and help repair the damage to the economy.

I say it was a mistake not just with hindsight. I have believed it for about 50 years.

The senior party in a coalition will tend to take the credit for popular decisions and blame the junior partner for unpopular decisions. STV, as well as being good for the country, would also reduce the electoral penalty of this.

Lib Dems are sometimes reluctant to argue for STV because are embarrassed that they might seem to want it only for their own benefit, so let’s state clearly:

  1. The Labour and Conservative parties argue for FPTP because it benefits them; it gives them an unfair advantage.
  2. STV is the best voting system for voters.
  3. If Lib Dems wanted electoral reform only for the benefit of their own party, they would not argue for STV, but would happily accept AMS, AV+ or some other inferior PR system.

Unfortunately, the result of the AV referendum has delayed reform of the way we elect MPs but STV for local government in England and Wales could be attainable in the next Parliament. (Scotland and Northern Ireland already have it.)

The prize for the country would be more democratic local government with more accountability to real opposition in what are now one-party districts. The prize for Lib Dems would be an upsurge of Councillors and activists in districts that are derelict now. The Labour and Conservative parties would also gain by increasing their Councillors and activists in each other’s heartlands.

Another balanced parliament in May 2015, with the Liberal Democrats holding (or even sharing) the balance, could make local reform real but only if the Liberal Democrats hold out for it and refuse to enter a coalition without it and if their prospective coalition partners are hungry enough for power to concede it.

Note: STV is Liberal Democrat policy, but readers not familiar with the system can visit www.stvAction.org.uk  to find information about it.

* Anthony Tuffin is a former Liberal Party activist, independent of party politics since 1988 to devote his political energy to electoral reform. He is Chair of Make Votes Count In West Sussex, editor of STV Action and publisher of “STV News”

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42 Comments

  • Leekliberal 29th Dec '14 - 5:10pm

    An excellant post Anthony! What upsets me is that just as the country are finally waking up to the need for constitutional change in terms of devolved decision making in England, we in our pre-manifesto don’t even mention it! In Manchester, 95 of 96 councillors are Labour and the other one is independent Labour! Who will scutinise the actions of this administration? I predict poor decision-making and corruption, not because it is run by by Labour, but because this is inevitable where there is no effective opposition as in this great city. We MUST back demands from the Electoral Reform Society for PR in local elections in England and Wales as a RED LINE in any coalition negotiations. Let’s be radical again!

  • Quite right. STV should be introduced for local elections.

  • David Blake 29th Dec '14 - 5:36pm

    This really is important. The Manchester situation is extreme, but not unusual. The present system gives us ridiculous results like 83% of the seats in Sutton on 35.7% of the votes.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 6:03pm

    ‘3.If Lib Dems wanted electoral reform only for the benefit of their own party, they would not argue for STV, but would happily accept AMS, AV+ or some other inferior PR system.’

    That’s a crucial point. I voted no to AV in large part because I suspected it would replicate problems with FPTP and arguably might well have magnified them. But we need STV. FPTP has had its day. It severely advantages the two main parties whilst actively incentivising their concentration on 80-100 marginal seats and a small number of key demographics. That we have a pension triple lock at a time of national austerity speaks volumes about electoral necessity over serious government. I would guess that there are many in the two main parties who find, at least, some aspects of the present electoral system and its effects to be unsatisfactory.

    It is not healthy for the country and democracy as a whole to have an electoral system that distorts politics in the way we have seen. We need a politics where every vote seriously counts and where EVERY voter is confronted with meaningful choices, rather than having large numbers left behind by the electoral system. The number of people who have dropped out or who just have a protest pot-shot available to them is truly alarming.

    STV will not solve all ills (and perhaps some Lib Dems are a bit starry-eyed). I would also add that I’m not sure it would make a huge difference in some areas in local government. Personally I’d like to see a Germany-style threshold, and I’d worry a bit about how the constituencies would look. I’d say no to votes at 16. And certainly I’d like to see a big reduction to about 200-300 MPs. But that’s detail. In for the penny, in for the pound – STV is the right course of action.

    It should be added that possibly STV might well produce outcomes that might be viewed in some liberal circles as reactionary. My guess is that the EU and green-ism would get a rough ride in particular. So be it. The starting point has to be that everyone’s opinion seriously counts and it would be very difficult to argue that the current system is adequate for the job.

    In the long-term under STV perhaps the Conservative, Labour (and possibly LDP) might break up. We could see a, ‘Corporatist Party,’ a ‘Thatcher Party,’ a, ‘one-nation tory,’ party, a ‘New Labour,’ a, ‘Leftist Party’ and possibly some sort of, ‘Liberal Party’ in there. That split would be very positive for the country to my mind, but it would all flow from STV.

  • Steve Comer 29th Dec '14 - 6:04pm

    Anthony: You start by saying “The Liberal Democrats’ mistake in 2010 was not to insist on STV for electing MPs – but merely to accept a referendum on a miserable little compromise.”
    I have to ask – have you any experience of negotiating? If you did you would understand that to adopt the stance of insisting on what you want and refusing to compromise means the negotiations will just collapse. Getting an accepted compromise and a ‘win-win’ is something of an art, some things on your agenda you will get, others you won’t, and some you’ll get in part.

    Thecold reality is that the Tories would not have accepted STV for Parliamentary elections , they reluctantly agreed to a Referendum on AV. I reckon that was the most we could have got as far as Westminster is concerned. Where I probably agree with you is that the coalition negotiations were too heavily focused on Westminster. I was amazed that electoral reform for local government did not seem to be on anyone’s radar. As other posters have mentioned, FPTP gives you even more perverse results in local elections, especially as multi-seat wards can further exaggerate small swings of votes. I believe we could have achieved some movement on electoral reform in local government in the Coalition agreement, and it could have been part of the Localism Act, but it looks like it was either not on the agenda of Lib Dem negotiators, or not in a high enough position on it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 6:16pm

    Steve Comer – ‘FPTP gives you even more perverse results in local elections, especially as multi-seat wards can further exaggerate small swings of votes.’

    That’s certainly true, though I’m not 100% sure that STV really guards against the problem (and I do hope I’m wrong)! FPTP has given us, ‘no overall control,’ local government for decades in many parts of the country. To be clear, I do strongly think STV is the right system, but I do worry that some get starry-eyed.

  • I’ll never understand why the Lib Dems insisted on an AV referendum in the first place, of all the things to spend your political capital on, why choose that? AV is worse than FPTP, that’s why I voted against it.

    During a General Election we’re not electing 650 independent MPs who will truly represent the views of their constituents, rather the country is collectively choosing the make up of it’s parliament and which party govern us.

    The ‘best’ system (in my opinion) is one that results in a parliament that looks like how the country voted. And the ‘worst’ system is therefore one that results in a parliament that looks nothing like how people voted (AV).

    The two biggest problems with the make up of our parliament that I see are that small parties find it very difficult to get any representation at all meaning millions of people’s views are not or barely represented at all, and that during landslides one party can totally dominate parliament despite getting considerably under 50% of the vote. In both cases AV is way, way worse than FPTP. It would be a lot harder to elect Greens, proper socialists like the SSP, UKIPers and other ‘minority views’ under AV than under FPTP. And even the Jenkins Report said AV would make landslides even larger. If there was another Blair style landside where Labour got a land slide with around 40% of the vote the last thing we would need would be AV to make that super majority even bigger.

    If you want a system that would be easy to sell to the public in a referendum it would be AMS. It is already used in Scotland and Wales, is popular right across Europe in countries as different as Norway and Germany, and all you need to tell voters to explain it is that they still get to vote for an individual to be their MP but we also give them a 2nd vote where they can choose which party they would like to govern regardless which individual they want as their MP and that the results of this 2nd vote would be used to balance the numbers proportionately by adding a few additional members for each region. The only thing in that proposal that I can see people objecting to is if they don’t like their constituency MP and vote them out of office then they don’t want to see them back in parliament anyway on the list – the solution to that would be to say that the rules can simply say that you can’t stand for both a constituency and for a place on the list.

    It was no surprise to me that you lost the referendum on AV, but I think you would have won it if the system proposed was AMS. I think STV would lose in a referendum if put before the voters too.

  • @Steve Comer: “Anthony: You start by saying “The Liberal Democrats’ mistake in 2010 was not to insist on STV for electing MPs – but merely to accept a referendum on a miserable little compromise.”
    I have to ask – have you any experience of negotiating? If you did you would understand that to adopt the stance of insisting on what you want and refusing to compromise means the negotiations will just collapse. Getting an accepted compromise and a ‘win-win’ is something of an art, some things on your agenda you will get, others you won’t, and some you’ll get in part. ”

    On the contrary, I think that there have to be some things you won’t compromise on or what is the point? If you really have no red lines then what do you actually stand for? It would actually have been better for the Lib Dems if they really had let the negotiations collapse, they would surely be a lot more popular than their are now and their MPs could have kept their personal pledges too. Not only that the Lib Dems would most likely be looking at holding the balance of power again in 2015 had they not gone into the coalition with the Tories rather than worrying about a potential electoral ‘meltdown’.

    But alas, the Lib Dems were so desperate to form a small part of the government that their really was nothing they weren’t prepared to compromise on and the Tories knew it. And the Tories, knowing that the Lib Dems would back down, were never going to agree to PR. If PR really had been a non-negotiable issue then who knows, maybe Labour would now be prepared to give it to you this time rather than spend five years as a minority government having everything the Liberals didn’t like vetoed instead of a coalition. You’ll never get PR as the price of a coalition whilst you are prepared to accept something else, it’s the one thing you can be sure the other two big parties won’t give you unless they really, really have too…

  • While I approve in principle of proportionality, it should be admitted that there is no perfect voting system. STV may be well-designed mathematically, but in practice one can foresee certain flaws:
    • Candidates and parties no longer need to appeal to the centre
    • Candidates and parties become more extreme in their politics and more intransigent in their attitudes
    • Coalitions become necessary, but also more difficult to form, as the elected body can become composed of factions which refuse to cooperate with each other
    • Candidates may become entrenched in their seats, no longer answerable to their parties or to any but a small, ideologically committed set of voters
    • Entrenched candidates become impossible to remove, even when guilty of bad behaviour

    While the status quo is indefensible, STV is not a magic pill to cure all its problems. AV is less proportional, but more likely to encourage candidates to appeal to the centre. Party-list PR at least requires the candidates to retain some loyalty to their parties, and makes the parties responsible for the behaviour of their candidates. In certain ways STV is the worst of both: largely autonomous candidates who are responsible only to an activist minority.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 6:57pm

    Mr Wallace – ‘It would be a lot harder to elect Greens, proper socialists like the SSP, UKIPers and other ‘minority views’ under AV than under FPTP. And even the Jenkins Report said AV would make landslides even larger.’

    PR is not about, ‘restraining,’ landslides or giving minor parties a leg-up. Landslides can happen under STV or any system, if that is how people vote then so be it. You mention the German system, in Germany they set a threshold of 5% that small parties find a very significant hurdle. PR is not an exercise in giving small parties a megaphone.

    The point has to be about giving people a system that doesn’t leave them behind, not trying to manipulate an outcome to prevent landslides/help small parties or any other outcome.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 7:03pm

    David-1 – Wouldn’t all of those points potentially be true of pretty much ANY electoral system? For that matter, is appealing to the centre a good thing per se?

    I absolutely agree that a parliamentary free-for-all with almost minimal whipping wold be a bad thing. And it is an advantage of FPTP that voters can have a direct say on candidates (it should be noted for example that several MPs who had expenses stories about them were in fact re-elected). But the point remains that a system should confront voters with meaningful say with no one left behind.

  • Jackie: STV does have a threshold: if there are four seats in a certain constituency, they need 20% after transfers. Five seats, 16.7%. Six seats, 14.3%. And so on.

    David: I would rather have two firebrand MPs on each side than two middle-of-the-road milquetoast MPs. Centrism as an ideology isn’t; it’s lockstep adherence to the average of two other ideologies. Why would someone vote for such a party? We shouldn’t be a party of the radical centre, we should be a party of the radical liberal.

  • One has to distinguish between centrism as a political philosophy (or political expedient) as Sarah Noble defines it, and a willingness to appeal to voters who don’t necessarily buy into one’s ideology: typically, away from one’s own pole and toward the centre (though an appeal toward the extremes also occurs). The first is actually quite impractical, because political leanings tend to polarize, and centrists deny themselves the ability to appeal to a mass of voters at one pole or another. (In the UK, the political space allotted to a strictly centrist party is probably about 7-8% of the vote.) But the second is necessary to form governments that can represent a majority of the nation. Without that willingness, you can easily end up with intransigent minority parties at the extremes who cannot work with more mainstream parties, cannot work with each other, and yet possess enough seats to block a majority government from forming. In such circumstances you can get shaky coalitions composed of factions that detest each other, and which fall apart within a few years or even months (cf. Israel); or minority governments that have difficulty passing basic legislation and are always on the verge of toppling (cf. Sweden). In such circumstances public confidence in politics wanes and the stage is set for the rise of extremist parties, not just ‘firebrands’ but those whose ideology is strictly anti-democratic. I don’t want to judge different systems as good or bad — all have their flaws and their merits — but in practical terms, systems which eventually undermine the very notion of a democratically elected government might be the most flawed of all.

  • paul barker 29th Dec '14 - 7:45pm

    Quite possibly a post full of good ideas, I will never know because I never got past the silly first paragraph. The chance of any Coalition getting any sort of Electoral Reform through this Parliament without a clear Referendum result to beat them with was always zero. The vast majority of Tory & Labour MPs loathe the idea of any Reform, however minor. Can we please stop looking back & refighting old battles ?

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Dec '14 - 8:21pm

    Dear Anthony, would it not be better to separate the job of a local MP from a national politician entirely and keep FPTP? That way we can treat the UK as a single constituency and reform local elections. I am not a big fan of second preference voting or ranking.

    Regards

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Dec '14 - 9:00pm

    Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.

    Those who repeatedly refuse to acknowledge the mistakes of the past four and a half years condemn us to potentially repeating them in the weeks, months and years to come.

    Rampant optimism is one thing; an irrational dislike of even considering that mistakes may have been made in the past is something different altogether.

    When did a proposal concerning a possible future position become “refighting old battles”?

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Dec '14 - 9:11pm

    Anthony Tuffin | Mon 29th December 2014 – 4:29 pm:
    “This is not recriminatory. I appreciate the problems and pressures of negotiating a coalition and that senior Lib Dems wanted to create stability and help repair the damage to the economy.”

    How dare someone attack us in such a blatant way – it’s an outrage!!!!!

  • Acceptance of a coalition depended heavily on electoral reform. What is clear from the AV referendum is that more radical reform would not in the same circumstances have been passed in a referendum. The reluctant acceptance of AV was misguided, however; AV could only have worked as an agreed policy in coalition with a party that , at least officially, supported AV: i.e. the Labour Party. STV would be identified as a Lib Dem policy and attract united opposition from Labour and Tories.

    Hindsight does suggest that STV for local government might have been possible. A more radical reform of the Lords might have been possible, with re-electable shorter terms (2 or 3 years) if it had been made the centre piece of the reform. The agreement to reduce the number of MPs was also badly flawed as it really only made sense in the event of a more representative electoral system.

    The Party now has to start the electoral reform argument afresh, but predicated on the rejection of AV, which we can now justifiably consider to be firmly off the table. However the Party has to argue its position clearly and take the argument into other parties, since without strong support in at least one of the other parties , whatever we might propose will surely be rejected. There is an alternative, which is what happened in New Zealand; FPTP was first rejected in a referendum and then options for more representative systems were put to the people.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 11:13pm

    David-1 – The illustrations you give of intransigent small parties, weak coalitions etc could happen under ANY electoral system. One simply has to trust the voters to give such parties what they deserve. This is the key point:

    ‘In such circumstances public confidence in politics wanes and the stage is set for the rise of extremist parties, not just ‘firebrands’ but those whose ideology is strictly anti-democratic.’

    It is unfortunate to say the least, but in the UK this is basically where we are. The electoral system has caused such a distortion that large parts of the country are not getting a meaningful choice and it is democracy that suffers. As I said earlier, STV is no panacea. And STV would not stop extremism necessarily. But the point is that all of the people have that meaningfully put in front of them. Democracy is not the same thing as, ‘my preferred outcome,’ such a view is self-indulgence. But at the very least STV would go some way to removing the distortions we now see and make votes more meaningful.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 11:21pm

    Sarah Noble – ‘ STV does have a threshold: if there are four seats in a certain constituency, they need 20% after transfers. Five seats, 16.7%. Six seats, 14.3%. And so on.’

    Sorry, I should have been clearer, and I unhelpfully mentioned Germany where the 5% threshold is something different. I meant a threshold as a proportion of the total voters in a certain constituency. I needn’t be very high – just that there needs to be a lower bound to my mind. I do appreciate that not everyone might agree.

  • jedibeeftrix 29th Dec '14 - 11:36pm

    @ david-1 – ” .one has to distinguish between centrism as a political philosophy (or political expedient) as Sarah Noble defines it, and a willingness to appeal to voters who don’t necessarily buy into one’s ideology:”

    Indeed, tebbit distinguished between the common ground and the centre groung.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Dec '14 - 11:38pm

    Carl Gardiner – For me the AV referendum was simply the public not buying a bad product (that was badly sold anyway). It was not entirely clear to me that the LDP would have seen much benefit.

    There are indeed arguments for FPTP. Good ones. And I would hope that if there is a campaign for STV it does not become something technocratic. As regrettable as it is FPTP has had the effect (stress, effect) of creating severe distortions and I simply can’t see how they could be resolved under the current system at either local or national levels.

    As I said earlier the way that pensioners have been basically been protected from austerity is just the most ghastly example of the distortions in practice and no one will stick their head above the parapet for fear of the numbers game that we have. Under STV there would still be some element of a numbers game of course, just I sincerely believe it would be much less blatant than we see now.

  • Well done Anthony Tuffin for raising the need for STV.

    A factual point for those who think STV for local elections would favour Liberal Democrats.

    Just look at Scotland ! I think the following figures are accurate but I am sure Caron will put me right if they are not.

    Out of 32 local councils in Scotland, there are 17 with NOT A SINGLE Liberal Democrat councillor.

    Out of 32 local councils in Scotland, there are 27 with only four or fewer Liberal Democrat councillors.

    Of the 32 councils in Scotland, the number with 10 or more elected Liberal Democrat councillors is just 2.

    So if you are outside of Fife or the Highlands you are more likely to see all your Liberal Democrat local councillors riding a tandem together than making a taxi look crowded. In many cases a uni-cycle will do.

    I say this as a great enthusiast for STV and a member of ERS campaigning for STV since 1975.

    The plain fact is that making elections more democratic is nothing to do with making life easy for Liberal Democrats, especially when Liberal Democrats have a toxic leadership in Westminster that can lose you a council election anywhere between Lerwick and Lands End. Which is why any Liberal Democrat councillor or candidate with half a brain avoids mentioning Clegg in any election leaflets or in any electronic media.

    I am also interested in the secondary discussion in the comments about the failures of the May 2010 negotiating team.

    You only have to quickly read “22 Days in May” by one of the biggest fans of coalition with The Tories to realise that there were all sorts of failures regarding negotiation of the coaition which began some months before the 2010 General Election.
    The Orange Book Gang had been preparing the ground for coalescing with The Conservatives since 2004 — they have not made a secret about it.
    They were not in fact interested in any kind of electoral reform because it had nothing to do with their obsessions such as the “free market” , reducing the size of the state, cutting social security support for the poor and cutting income tax.

    STV would not have helped the Orange Bookers reduce the size of the state or help them make the massive changes in the NHS set out in that book. So naturally it never featured in their priorities for working with their natural allies in the Thatcherite wing of The Conservative Party.

  • Stephen Hesketh 30th Dec '14 - 6:06am

    JohnTilley 30th Dec ’14 – 12:20am

    Similar thoughts concerning the negotiating team occurred to me also. Worst of all they continue to have their hands on the party’s the levers of power, the next manifesto and the next negotiating team. The party’s checks and balances have been found wanting.

  • I note that the comment I posted a moment ago in response to Stephen Hesketh has been scooped up by the automatic Software Censor. Perhaps because it made reference to The Emperor’s New Clothes.

  • Denis Mollison 30th Dec '14 - 9:08am

    John Tilley: you’re slightly pessimistic on the numbers of Lib Dem councillors in Scotland: there are 3 councils with 10 or more Lib Dem councillors (you omitted Aberdeenshire); and in the Lib Dem strongholds of Orkney and Shetland all councillors are Independent. [Full details of the 2012 elections can be found here.]
    Across Scotland we had 5.8 % of councillors, on a first preference vote of approximately 6.6 %.

    As to negotiations, Chris Huhne was pretty committed to electoral reform, the other three negotiators may well fit your description of “not interested”. I have read that we could have had a Royal Commission on electoral reform for Westminster. That would not have been ideal, but much better than the referendum on a “miserable compromise” that we got. Not the least depressing aspect of going for AV was the consequence that our MPs went from being the champions of STV for Westminster at the vote in parliament in February 2010 to opponents of proportional representation when it was put forward by Labour and the Greens later the same year as an amendment to the AV referendum bill.

  • Denis Mollison 30th Dec ’14 – 9:08am
    Thanks for correction. My source was Whitakers 2015 which says we only have 9 councillors on Aberdeenshire council.

    However, I think we agree that STV for locals is no guarantee of success for Liberal Democrat candidates.

    We also agree about the votes in Parliament. Unfortunately most of the present generation of MPs seem to pride themselves in cutting their own throats in terms of political progress. This has been dressed up as “being statesmanlike” or by the ultimately childish expression “being grown-up”. With Clegg as leader a false notion of “collective responsibility” turns into nothing more sophisticated than a “collective death wish”. A death wish soon to be realised.

  • Denis Mollison 30th Dec '14 - 2:01pm

    Ian Sanderson: There’s widespread agreement in the party that STV for local elections in England and Wales should be the current priority. As you say, the fact that so many council wards are already multi-member makes its introduction easier.

    As to Westminster, the boundaries of the STV scheme that our party got voted on in February 2010 are delightfully simple: they respect local authority boundaries, and in many cases correspond to traditional counties. This means that they can be easily updated (in their number of MPs) for each election, in contrast to our present system: a large part of the inequality between (average) Labour and Conservative constituencies in 2010 was because the long-drawn-out boundary revision process meant that they were based on electoral data for 2000.

  • This is not the time to be promoting electoral reform. We had our chance too recently, and we failed – for a mixture of good and bad reasons – to carry any conviction with the voters. They haven’t forgotten. If perchance we ask the PR question again, any time before about 2020, we will only hear the voters say “S*d off, we’ve already told you to s*d off!”

    Meanwhile, devo-max-instant threatens chaos throughout the UK. That’s what we should be worrying about right now!

  • Kevin Chaffey 31st Dec '14 - 5:00pm

    I have been a supporter of STV for decades and a member of the Electoral Reform Society since 1973 and am amused the Liberal Democrats saying they support STV for altruistic reasons. They are allied to Fianna Fail that twice tried to replace STV by first past the post; on top of the founder of Fianna Fail signed the book of condolence when Hitler shot himself and earlier banned the Chaplin classic “The Great Dictator” so as not to offend the same man. Show me your friends and I’ll tell you what you are.

  • Denis Mollison 31st Dec '14 - 5:56pm

    Kevin – I’ve been a member of the SDP then LDs since 1981, a major reason for joining being support of STV.
    In all that time, I’ve never heard of an alliance with Fianna Fail – what are you referring to, and if it exists can you give an example of where it’s affected Lib Dem policy?

  • Kevin Chaffey 31st Dec '14 - 8:13pm

    Dennis Mollison I am surprised since the Liberal Democrats until the last European Election and Liberal Democrat since the last one sat in the European Parliament in the same group. When I queried this with a prominent politician who is a member of the Liberal Democrat Party he said Fianna Fail were a Liberal Party and suitable partner. I did forget to add the Fianna Fail government persecuted Irishmen who fought against fascism.

  • Denis Mollison 31st Dec '14 - 11:09pm

    Sorry, I’d forgotten about the European Parliament. Whether Fianna Fail are judged suitable members of the EP’s liberal group is presumably a matter of group judgement, rather than just that of the UK Lib Dems. I would also presume that it’s based on FF’s current policies, and not those of 70 years ago, when many in Ireland were still bitterly anti-UK because of the violence of the Irish struggle for independence.

    If we’re thinking of today’s politics, both Conservatives and UKIP have made much dodgier choices of EP groups to join.

    [And it’s “Denis” please – the Irish spelling – though my family has no Irish connection beyond that my grandparents seem (as good Liberals?) to have supported Irish Home Rule at the time my father was born.]

  • Kevin Chaffey 1st Jan '15 - 1:16pm

    Denis sorry about the misspelling. A few years ago I rang Liberal Democrat HQ to ask if their MEPs sat with Fianna Fail and the lady to whom I spoke was not aware of that and was horrified at the idea telling me the the Liberal Democrats had nothing in common with them. The anti British sentiment was no just 70 years ago Haughey was leader until 1992 and his hatred of us British was legendary.

  • Kevin, Fianna Fail MEPs sat with ALDE in the European Parliament from 2009. In 2014, their MEP (only one, because despite getting 22%, their strategy to gain multiple seats in the one constituency backfired) decided to sit with ECR and the UK Conservative Party for reasons unknown to me.

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