The party of “I told you so”

There’s a strange mood on Lib Dem Voice, and perhaps in the wider party, and a sense of treading water. There have been a host of explanations for why the fightback hasn’t quite materialised and you only have look through this website to find some of them. I’d like to offer here my own two-penneth and also to gently encourage members not to fall into the traps we’ve readily accused members of other parties of falling into.

Let me give a personal example of this; my mother is a longtime Liberal Democrat voter who voted for Brexit. She even toyed with the idea of joining the party at the last leadership election. I doubt very much, despite my best endeavours, that she will vote for us again. Why? Because clearly we don’t want her vote. Look about Lib Dem Voice and you’ll find people saying that we are the anti-Brexit party and that if only Theresa May hadn’t been so cunning as to call an election now. Conventional wisdom at the beginning of the year was that the Lib Dems would become the party of Remain and Labour would fall between two stools. In fact that is still conventional wisdom, only with the Labour split on the issue pushed into the future. But we should be cautious about how far we push this for four reasons:

The prize for being right isn’t necessarily popularity. I don’t think Brexit will be a success, I think that it will make us poorer or we will end up paying over the odds to keep the things we want. But let’s not fall into the habit of almost wishing Brexit will be bad so as to justify why we thought it was a terrible idea to begin with. If we get to 2022 and things look in a bad shape I’m not sure how much credit we’re going to get of being the party of “I told you so”. Which leads me to:

People don’t like being asked the same question again.  I’ll be honest, when Nicola Sturgeon called for a second referendum I thought the Union was as good as done. But there has been a marked resistance to a second, divisive referendum and I’ve no doubt there would be the same for a Brexit referendum, no matter how passionately we think it to be a good thing.

Norman Lamb is right. Surely we have so many things we can talk about? If we allow ourselves to become the anti-Brexit party then we’ll just become John Redwoods or Norman Tebbits batting for the other side. If you were to ask me what the greatest threats there are to our country at the moment (which you didn’t but I will tell you anyway) I’d be inclined to say Climate Change and the rise of China, neither of relate directly with Brexit.

Related to all this is that we become a sort of perpetual project fear. And we may be right, it may be terrible, but if Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP in the last referendum have proven anything it’s the power of a little optimism.

Perhaps we ought to therefore think about cutting our losses and not either refighting the old battle or going into the next contest with the same weapons we used last time. We all know the Norway option and the EFTA is a worse option than what we have at the moment, where we get all of the rules but none of the say, but perhaps it’s the best of what’s left. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible.

* Noel Davies is a Liberal Democrat member from Lancashire

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62 Comments

  • The majority of op-eds and btl comments on LibDem Voice seem to have an existentialist theme now, and rightly so.
    Instead of the party of Remain taking its vote share to 48% it actually fell from 2015. My perception of the political scene in France, the US and here is of a population desperately looking for someone with answers and willing to take a chance on ever more extremist voices to get them.
    The LibDems should be taking huge advantage but seems split down the middle only too polite to say so. If the two wings of the party can’t find a way then maybe the game is up and the social liberals leave to follow Corby and the economic liberals become Tories.
    To pretend that this fundamental schism doesn’t exist or can be be mended by endlessly repeating platitudes about “fairness” and “liberal values” will just allow the other parties to eat your remaining voters.
    Come together or disappear.

  • Phil Wainewright 27th Jun '17 - 1:00pm

    I must disagree with Palehorse’s comment. The essence of this party is precisely that it transcends both social and economic liberalism. We refuse to define politics as an argument between socialism and capitalism, instead applying, yes, Liberal values to seek pragmatic solutions to alleviate disadvantage and restrict the abuse of power.

    If we have a fault it is that we are too polite (see I agree there) to promote a set of radical policies that would truly advance those aims. Instead we seem to oscillate between positions that the leader’s advisors are constantly testing with imaginary focus groups.

    My personal view is that we should continue to oppose Brexit, not out of project fear, but simply because it gets in the way of all the other important things we want to get on with. If we can give people like Noel’s mother positive reasons to vote for us that go above and beyond Brexit, we can win their support too, even if they disagree with us on that one issue.

  • I think its time to be realistic, most people want bexit sorted and done. However we should be painting a view of the future. A global, tolerant and open britiain.
    We need an industrial strategy, with backing from small and medium businesses which will be sticking around the UK and the future. A long term industrial investment facility with seeding of industrial and exporting facilities throughout the Uk, with particular emphasis onareas of high unemployment…so a package of help such as training and zero tax for a set period then tax and rates be increased gradually over a period of time.
    A banking strategy to make London a global lynch pin but with ideas based on rebuilding trust and also long term investment, again needs backing from city forms.
    Research and Development funds, with matching funds to businesses when done by universities etc.
    Unemployment, go for an individual basis so eveyone who is long term unemployed goes through a skills assessment to find out where their weaknesses are, then matching courses provided.
    Education….let the child choose the education, split secondary schools into Technical education, (focusing on trade skills alongside academic skills) and normal education skills (grammar schools?) Making sure that the qualifications of both sides are both equally funded and the qualifications from both are the same level, get businesses to bed themselves into the technical education sode…so children go direct from school into work!
    These are only my far fancied ideas but we need something to infuse and excite and take people with us.

  • All I would say, at this point, is that there are many voices in this party whose Transmit/Receive buttons are firmly welded to “Transmit”.
    I accuse no one, of course, but with a party approaching electoral extinction and pinning all its hopes on a “National Brexit Attitude Reversal”, “when it all goes wrong of course, and everyone will humbly admit we were right all along” I would gently suggest a wee bit of listening.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jun '17 - 1:05pm

    We certainly need to focus on being anti ‘hard’ Brexit at the moment, and it is right that we shall be moving an amendment to the Queen’s Speech on Thursday calling for the country to stay in the EU internal market AND the custom’s union. Both major parties oppose that, but we will be leading minority opinion in them both, and helping to show up the equivocation of the leaders in each of them. This is our strength now, right for our party and for the country. We certainly don’t want to sink back into good old woolly liberalism, where nobody knew what we stood for!

  • Dave Orbison 27th Jun '17 - 1:30pm

    Palehorse – totally agree. I have read LDV comments over several years. It is quite clear that there are two wings to the LibDems. They differ on economic policy and even whether the Coalition was good or bad.

    The rest of the UK have moved on having delivered an emphatic answer yet still, the two wings debate the Coalition.

    When was the last time the LibDems or Libs polled so small a number in a GE? The future of the party is at stake as, even given the gift of a defining issue such as Brexit, they are increasingly seen as irrelevant.

  • Joseph Bourke 27th Jun '17 - 1:54pm

    Palehorse,

    “If the two wings of the party can’t find a way then maybe the game is up and the social liberals leave to follow Corby and the economic liberals become Tories.”

    That could be rephrased as:
    If the two wings of the Labour party can’t find a way then maybe the game is up and the social liberals follow Corby and the economic liberals become Libdems.

    Or:
    If the two wings of the Conservative party can’t find a way then maybe the game is up and the social liberals leave to become Libdems and the economic liberals follow Theresa May.

    There is no intrinsic conflict between social and economic Liberalism. It was the platform that Tony Blair won his 1997 landslide on – the mixed economy or third way as it was then dubbed.

    The political mood may swing from decade to decade but Parties need to maintain a consistency of values over a long period of time, so that voters understand what it is they are voting for.

    Social Liberalism and social democracy are indistinguishable to all but political anoraks. That is why the Liberal party and the SDP merged. The SDP itself was a breakaway from an increasingly anti-European Labour party of the early eighties that Corbyn is once again reviving.

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Jun '17 - 1:58pm

    Pale horse, if we are a party facing extinction then I’m not sure we should listen to someone who’s name Death rides upon and Dave Orbison, I think you’d like us to die off so we aren’t a thorn in Corbyn’s side just like the Tories want to eliminate us too.
    I think what we should be doing is standing firm in our opposition to Brexit but developing other policies based on the beliefs and values established in the Your Liberal Britain exercise. If we are wrong about Brexit, then we can be judged on our new policies, if we are right then we have no need to say I told you so, just show the electorate what we haste to offer to improve their lives and bring fairness back into British politics.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Jun '17 - 2:27pm

    Noel, you make some very important points. I am sure that one of the main reasons for our very poor share of the vote, is that we have lost so many voters like your mother. All the “party of the 48 percent” stuff that began immediately after the referendum result, was basically telling 52 percent of the population – many of whom had voted Lib Dem in the past – that the party was not interested in them, and did not want their vote.
    Also, most of the “48 percent” are not at all impressed by a party that has spent the past year talking about very little apart from trying to overturn the result of a democratic referendum – a referendum that the party called for before the Conservatives did, and which the party’s MP’s all voted for.

  • There seem to be three groups of voters in the UK. Those that want Brexit, those that don’t and by far the biggest those that just want it to go away. Problem for the “just go away” group is it isn’t and the only way it can do is if Brexit stops. Now as time goes by while the “just go away” group may very well grow and may even become the “just stop it please” group and if it does who will be making the case for stop it?

  • I agree with everything you’ve said. Our election campaign was far too negative and spread far too much fear. The Lib Dem manifesto was great, but we rarely told our vision to the public – except Brexit, legalising cannabis and the penny on income tax for the NHS.

    I think that we need not drop our proposal for a referendum on the final deal, but we should certainly try to frame ourselves around more than just that.

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Jun ’17 – 1:58pm…

    Pale Horse and Dave Orbison are bringing what this party needs most…A touch of realism.

    If I had a pound for every LDV poster who has based our recovery on ‘more of the same’ and a ‘Labour/Corbyn meltdown’ my wife and I could have a nice holiday.
    As a party we keep repeating the same wish-list and learning nothing from the last seven years… ‘

  • And how exactly is the rise of China a threat to Britain?

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '17 - 6:30pm

    Joseph Bourke

    There is no intrinsic conflict between social and economic Liberalism.

    Yes there is. “Economic liberalism” as the term is now used: the idea of minimising the state and passing control of everything to private business, inevitably results in an increase in inequality, with the wealthy being able to use their wealth to gain more and more control of everything and eventually forcing the poor into wage slavery.

    That was well understood by the Liberal Party, indeed was its principal position. That was why it defined liberalism as “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity” as it recognised that enslavement like this was just what “economic liberalism” would lead to. So it fully recognised that it needed to be balanced by democracy and state involvement to maintain full liberalism.

    When I was first active in the Liberal Party what is now called “economic liberalism” was called “Thatcherism” and I, like many others, was active in the party because we saw it as the best opposition to that sort of politics. This is not to say that we thought the free market was wrong, of course it is the best way to provide many services and products. But it is to recognise that there needs to be a balance, and that an over-emphasis on “economic liberalism” which ignores the way that uncontrolled it causes inequality to increase is very much not true liberalism.

    Those who try to pretend otherwise and make out that the prime aspect of the old Liberal Party was unrestricted support of “economic liberalism” are modern infiltrators of our party. They only started pushing this line after the Liberal-SDP merger was far enough away in time for people to have forgotten what the parties really stood for back then: the Liberal Party was actually more to the left of the SDP, not to the right as these infiltrators claim

  • Joseph Bourke 27th Jun '17 - 7:10pm

    Matthew,

    I am not sure there are many who would argue that there should not be a balance, albeit there are different views on where the balance should be.

    Mark Pack communicates the concepts well enough here https://www.markpack.org.uk/libdem-beliefs/ when he notes balancing social liberalism and economic liberalism is at the heart of the party’s approach.

    I though ‘infiltrators’ were the Labour party entryists. I didn’t think we had such things in the Liberal Democrats.

  • I know it sounds stupid, but you need to accept Brexit, while pledging to oppose any other separation from the single market or the customs union, and pledging to maximise integration with Europe. You can even support rejoining the EU, you just have to accept the median voter wants to go through with the bloody stupid act of leaving it!

  • Nick Collins 27th Jun '17 - 7:48pm

    “the Liberal Party was actually more to the left of the SDP, not to the right …”

    Exactly so. Was not that why some Liberals derided the SDP as “Soggy Democrats” or “Sogs” for short?

  • I joined the LibDems last year but left after two weeks due to many of the comments I read on here and Facebook groups. It seemed I hadn’t joined a party that was trying to promote Liberalism. The LibDem mission states they exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. However, from the members I engaged with it seemed I had joined a single issue anti-brexit party who were obsessed with representing the 48% rather than developing Liberal ideas and policies to solve the issues facing the 100%. As an economic and social liberal I have nowhere else to turn.

  • Noel, this is an interesting, thoughtful article and I have a lot of time for the idea that we need to be careful how we express ourselves to pro-Brexit voters. But I’m afraid I can’t agree with you on dropping the ‘end of the process referendum’ policy. First of all, there’s the small matter that the policy was passed at conference. Secondly, the EU is a point of principle for us, and voters seriously dislike it when you U-turn on an issue that you have previously made a point of principle (ahem). Thirdly, I believe that attitudes are changing on this, and as the shape of the Tory deal becomes clear, our referendum idea will win favour – there’s already some polling evidence to support this. Fourthly, and most importantly, I happen to think it’s the right thing to do.
    As for your mother, it can’t have escaped her notice during her years of voting LD that we were always somewhat in favour of the EU. I wonder if she would not be persuadable to stay with us on the basis that we stick to our principles – even if she disagrees with this one? But, as I said earlier, this is where you are right that using the right tone and language comes in.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '17 - 9:56pm

    Many politicians in the Labour and Conservative parties supported and campaigned for remaining in the EU, and are quiet at the moment.
    If Lib Dems are correct and Brexit goes bad, both of those parties will be at least as capable of grabbing resurgent Remain voters as Lib Dems. And as now, they’ll present it as pragmatically doing what the people want or what is in the country’s best interests. Just like targeting the 48%, simply waiting for Brexit disappointment to push voters towards the Lib Dems looks doomed to fail.

  • Peter,
    Half right Labour can but not the Tories far too involved, the Brexit party is what they will be remembered for. Their cross to bear for good or ill.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '17 - 10:32pm

    @frankie “Labour can but not the Tories far too involved”
    So the Lib Dems can chase the centre-right vote by pitching themselves as “Tories for the EU”. How depressing. And, I fear, no less doomed to fail. 🙁

  • Peter Watson,

    Which votes the Lib Dems chase doesn’t come into it. You stated the Tories could pivot to being pro EU, I merely pointed out they’d nailed their colours to the mast and that was no longer an option for them. It still is an option for the Labour party, I doubt they will take it but I may be wrong.

  • Joseph,
    Subsequent posters have demonstrated the split better than I.
    As to the Labour split. It isn’t. They had a Gunfight at the OK Corral and one side emphatically bit the dust and has been carted off to Boot Hill. The battle between the heartless wing of the Tory party and the kinder ones has never taken place. For a good reason.
    The schism in the LibDems has to be solved. It can’t face two ways. One faction needs to won and on that clarity cogent and explainable policy can be built.

  • Palehourse,

    All parties comprise different groups, Labour are no different, neither are the Tories. To think that either party doesn’t have splits is naive in the extreme, the only party that wouldn’t have splits is a party of one.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '17 - 11:52pm

    @frankie “I merely pointed out they’d nailed their colours to the mast”
    Only the Lib Dems have nailed their colours to a mast by portraying themselves as unanimous in opposition to Brexit, leaving themselves nowhere to go if Brexit is not a disaster.

    If Brexit does go badly there are significant parts of both the Labour and Conservative parties which can claim they never wanted it. Neither party needs to pivot to be pro-EU, they can simply present a different face to the electorate and portray themselves as broad churches. After all, for years, Lib Dems have been criticising those parties for being divided over Europe. Labour will be able to blame the Tories for messing it up, and Tories will make noble claims that they acted in the national interest rather than their own in order to deliver the will of the people. If a general election changes the government then simply swap the party names in that sentence. Worst case for those parties is that a few key figures are scapegoated and shuffle off to into retirement, the back-benches, or well-paid jobs elsewhere. They will fight to retain voters disillusioned with Brexit and voters who do not regret supporting Brexit will not have anywhere else to go (I can’t imagine UKIP rising from the ashes if Brexit is going pear-shaped).

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jun '17 - 12:56am

    Peter, why are you busy finding excuses for Tory and Labour equivocation and bending with the winds of fortune while you dismiss us as blinkered one-track ponies? It’s ridiculous to say that since we are unanimous in opposing Brexit, we have nowhere to go if Brexit is not a disaster. We, the party which has thought most about what we need and seek in our relations with the EU, continue to work for the best outcomes possible, contributing with like-minded members of the other parties but now in a position to lead the debate. GMan, you also are being simplistic: Tim Farron has led us from the start in respecting the 52% as well as the 48%, sticking to the fundamental principle that our country needs the close relationship with the EU, but listening to and engaging with the Brexiteers in every aspect of their different and varied thinking.

  • Palehorse
    The Conservative party is still very divided over Brexit. Business knows the potential damage it entails. As reported in the news; Mr. Hammond mocked Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s claim that the UK could “have our cake and eat it” after Brexit.

  • Dear Manfarang and Frankie,
    I grind no axe. Britain is facing a colossal economic shock, inside or outside the EU.
    Am I the only one left who can read a graph? There are red warning signs wherever you look. We are in desperate need of a serious and ambitious political movement which can provide an antidote to Marxist madness or capitalism in its most desperate manifestation.
    The LibDems have the capacity to answer that call but they break my heart by over intellectualising and using their talents to try and out smart the British public.
    Decide on the balance point between social and economic and simplify the message.
    But first accept that the polls are showing that something is wrong and develop a proper strategy before the country follows some goon who makes Garage, left Pen and Trump look like moderates.

  • I hate auto correct.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jun '17 - 8:04am

    @Katharine Pindar “why are you busy finding excuses for Tory and Labour equivocation and bending with the winds of fortune while you dismiss us as blinkered one-track ponies?”
    I’m not excusing their equivocation. I’m simply explaining why, even if Brexit goes badly, Lib Dems should not assume voters will return automatically to the party just because it has consistently opposed Brexit. If the wheels come off Brexit, pro-EU parts of Labour and the Conservatives can still outgun the Lib Dems on the single issue with which Lib Dems have allowed themselves to be defined.

  • @Palehorse
    Their may well be a need but I’m afraid until the electorate go through the school of experience there may not be an opening for such a party. The good news is school is open and seems to progressing at some pace.

  • @Peter Watson
    And the question that can be put to them is “If you knew it was wrong why didn’t you do something about it”. The voters on the whole wouldn’t think we’ll of the answer they would try to give.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jun '17 - 8:37am

    Martin

    Who are these people? When did they “infiltrate”? How did they “infiltrate”?

    I joined the Liberal Party in the 1970s, and this constant division and argument between “social liberals” and “economic liberals” just did not exist then. Nor did it exist for decades afterwards. Nor am I aware that there was ever a democratic vote in our party to agree to it moving towards more right-wing economic policies. When I was active in the Liberal Party in the 1980s what is now called “economic liberalism” was called “Thatcherism” and the party opposed it. Indeed, one of the reasons I was active in the Liberal Party was that it was the main opposition to the Conservative Party and its Thatcherite policies across southern England where I lived.

    The claim that this division derives from the merger of the Liberal Party as a party of “economic liberalism” and the SDP as a party of social democracy is completely false. In fact at the time of the merger, the Liberal Party was to the left of the SDP, not to the right. One of the reasons some of us in the Liberal Party opposed the merger was because the leadership of the SDP seemed to be trying to push the party to a more Thatcherite position. After the merger, people who continued to describe themselves as “Liberals” were treated with supposition that they were too left-wing, closer to what we might now call “Corbynite” or Green Party in policy. There was a move by right-wingers in the party to get it called just “Democrats” to try and lose that.

    The infiltrators were very well funded think tanks and pressure groups, such as Centre Forum, who were able to use their influence to subvert party democracy. Nick Clegg took the opportunity of the Coalition to try and push the party permanently to the economic right, and was outrageously biased in his appointments. I remember his speeches after the Coalition was formed, hinting that this move to the right would pick up many new supporters, and those members of the party who didn’t like it should leave. This was echoing a common theme in commentary articles about the party published in the right-wing press, making the claim that if we became a firm “economic liberal” party, we would attract much more support.

    Well, we did, or were believed by the public to have done so, and the publication of the “Orange Book” was taken as the mark of that. Only it definitely did not gain us a huge amount of new support, did it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jun '17 - 9:04am

    Catherine Jane Crosland

    Noel, you make some very important points. I am sure that one of the main reasons for our very poor share of the vote, is that we have lost so many voters like your mother.

    We should not have done so. Most people who voted Leave did so because they were unhappy about the long-term way our country is going, and blamed membership of the EU for it. What they were really unhappy about, however, is the long-term effects of Thatcherite economics. The Leave campaign was run and funded by extreme Thatcherites, and a key aspect of what they were doing was to divert attention from the real cause of people’s misery in this country and make out it was due to this other thing. People voted “Leave” because they were told that would bring back the ability for them to control our country, but the Leave campaign hid the fact that the biggest reason for the loss of control is the mass privatisation and constant cuts to public services.

    So the EU campaign was in effect between moderate economic right-wingers on the Remain side trying to persuade extreme economic right-wingers on the Leave side that remaining in the EU was consistent with right-wing economics. And this led to much of the general public assuming that voting for Remain was voting to support right-wing economics, so they voted Leave supposing it was a vote against it.

    So, far from giving the impression that we were not interested in the votes of people like Noel’s mother, we should have shown that we very much understand their concerns and want to do something about them, but that leaving the EU was not the way to deal with those concerns: indeed it could make them worse, not better.

    Regrettably, the economic right-wing infiltration of our party meant that those at the top who organise our publicity wouldn’t do that. So, by pushing ourselves as the “party of the 48%”, we allowed it to continue to be seen as if we were the prime party of the business economic elite. And the proportion of votes we got in the election reflects what that leads to.

  • While I agree that generally people who were previously in the SDP are to the right of those who were previously in the Liberals I didn’t see the party divided in the early 1990’s. However there were people whose natural home was in the Conservatives who instead joined us. I think David Laws is a good example. I think it is likely that he didn’t like the Conservatives attitude to gay people. While Nick Clegg didn’t like their attitude to the EU. Nick has what I see as the 1970s Conservative concern about having equality of opportunities and not caring much about the inequalities in society which education will never fix and therefore have to be addressed by the state. They disagreed with the political attitude of the majority of activists and misunderstood nineteenth century liberalism thinking it was about unregulated free markets and a smaller state. Perhaps our successes at the local level helped them move the party from radicalism to being the party which is “series about power” as councillors have to be aware of what is possible and the need to make small changes.

  • John Probert 28th Jun '17 - 9:56am

    Why do many commentators on this site go round-and-round like a giddy dog chasing its tail?
    Brexit (like it or not) is the major issue for this Parliament. Our clear message is “Remain”. Let’s put our case strongly and positively and then hopefully we’ll persuade a majority of voters to agree on a final ballot when the outcome of negotiations is known. That cannot do us harm.
    Of course, unless we also address the current social and economic issues at the same time we seriously risk being seen as a one-trick pony.
    That is the real challenge for our next Liberal Democrat leader, in whose support we must unite.

  • Sing hosanna. There’s nothing fundamentally illiberal about favouring Brexit and we should stop making opposition to Brexit our defining characteristic. It’s not working and I don’t think it’s even the right thing to do.

  • John Probert. I voted Remain but now that A50 has been triggered, it’s not possible for us to decide unilaterally that we don’t want to Brexit after all. The other 27 countries have to agree and they will not do so without us agreeing to Schengen and abolishing our rebate. The voters are never going to vote for that deal. So, how on earth can we Remain??

  • David Allen 28th Jun '17 - 1:55pm

    Peter Watson,

    “Only the Lib Dems have nailed their colours to a mast by portraying themselves as unanimous in opposition to Brexit, leaving themselves nowhere to go if Brexit is not a disaster. …. If Brexit does go badly there are significant parts of both the Labour and Conservative parties which can …. simply present a different face to the electorate and portray themselves as broad churches. …. Labour will be able to blame the Tories for messing it up, and Tories will make noble claims that they acted …. to deliver the will of the people. ”

    So to sum up your argument:

    Facing both ways is always the ideal political position, because you can swivel around indefinitely, say what you think the voters currently want to hear, claim you got it right, and dodge the blame for any disasters.

    Having the courage of your convictions is a terrible idea, because you’ll get clobbered if it turns out you were wrong.

    Churchill really ought to have kept a hotline to Hitler open, and talked nicely to him, because hey, we might have lost the war! And, if that had happened, well, Churchill would have looked SO much better in political terms, if he had been able to say that Hitler was his friend, and welcome his tanks as they marched into London, wouldn’t he?

  • Yeah, I want the party to shift to the left, and the first thing to do is to make the UK average tax rate exceed the OECD average of 34%, with income tax hikes on all bands, a top income tax rate of 50% and short-term capital gain tax of 39%. This is even to the left of Corbyn (but more realistic) and will be the foundation for any further social programs and other plans like automation investment (much needed for a post Brexit scenario) or abolishing tuition fees.

  • Michael BG – the problem is that nineteenth century liberalism thinking (especially before John Stuart Mills) was about unregulated free markets and a smaller state. The way the Whigs under Russell handled the Irish Famine was a typical 19th century liberal approach. Also, the Victorian era was famous for the workhouses.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jun '17 - 4:15pm

    @David Allen “So to sum up your argument: Facing both ways is always the ideal political position”
    I’m not advocating that position.
    I’m simply trying to point out that continuing to act like a single-issue pressure group that opposes Brexit may never deliver electoral benefits to the Lib Dems since its two (three? four?) main competitors are perfectly capable of seizing that territory if necessary.
    Your party needs to occupy other territory as well.

  • Dave Orbison 28th Jun '17 - 4:30pm

    David Allen in response to Peter Watson you make a somewhat ludicrous analogy between Churchill and Hitler. I was once told anyone who relies on Hitler in a debate loses by default. I now see why.

    I think Peter’s point is perfectly valid. The whole Brexit fiasco is a perfect example of how not to run a campaign.

    Both sides refusing to accept concerns of each other, both side making alarmist claims and counterclaims and both sides demonising people based simply on their views as defined by voting intention re Brexit alone.

    Perfect example – Corbyn. He had the temerity to give an honest answer when asked what he thought of the EU. 7/10

    Immediately seized upon by MPs in Labour and LibDems as a means of attacking Corbyn rather than the issue he was highlighting.

    7/10 – means support but there is room for significant improvement. Had the Remain campaign (the one I supported) adopted this by saying they would seek to Remain but campaign for various reforms, I maintain it would have won some over.

    But no, they went for scare stories combined with an irresistible urge to attack Corbyn. Ludicrously, simultaneously accusing him of being weak and yet blaming him for the result as if a weak leader has any influence.

    Corbyn’s position more accurately reflected the nation’s view. Hence he was on the ball by showing the need to look both ways.

    No doubt many here will disagree which only leaves me to point out that the ‘right thinking LibDems’ demise is not reflected in election results.

  • Had the Remain campaign (the one I supported) adopted this by saying they would seek to Remain but campaign for various reforms, I maintain it would have won some over.

    Well, that was the original intent of the Remain campaign, wasn’t it: Cameron was going to renegotiate the terms of the deal, come back, trumpet whatever tiny crumbs Brussels had offered as a huge British success and the beginning of a reformation of the EU, and romp home.

    Problem is that what he got from the renegotiation was so much less than even he had anticipated, and so obviously meaningless, that it couldn’t be presented to the public with a straight face as any kind of change or reform. So it was quietly ditched and the campaign was fought on ‘project fear’ instead.

    So if you want someone to blame fo rthe failure of the Remain campaign, I suggest you blame the EU, for making it clear that it is not interested in any reforms (at least, not of the kind that appeal to the British people, ie, loosening of integration, repatriation of powers, etc, it seems to be all up for reforms that involve greater centralisation of powers, expansion of Brussels such as a shared finance ministry and countries submitting their budgets to Brussels for approval, etc — stuff the UK would never stand for).

  • John Probert 28th Jun '17 - 5:21pm

    Phyllis: “I voted Remain but now that A50 has been triggered, it’s not possible for us to decide unilaterally that we don’t want to Brexit after all. The other 27 countries have to agree and they will not do so without us agreeing to Schengen and abolishing our rebate.”

    The other 27 countries do want us to remain, so we’re pushing at an open door.
    If they put insurmountable obstacles in our way wouldn’t that be self-defeating?

  • If they put insurmountable obstacles in our way wouldn’t that be self-defeating?

    Depends on whether they think we’ll be so desperate to back down that we’ll take whatever they offer. If they think that they can, in return for allowing us to rescind the leave notification, they can get us to make concessions on, for example, the rebate, then they’d be mad not to push for as much as they can get, wouldn’t they?

    Of course they may push too far, but that’s always the difficulty with negotiations: ask for too much and you might end up with nothing. It just depends on how willing you think the other party is to walk away.

  • Arthur Trussel 28th Jun '17 - 5:38pm

    It’s simple, Tebbits and Redwoods, Farage & Co are wrong- we are right. We cannot turn into brexiteers just because it may get votes. Also, it is NOT a second referendum- it is a common sense referendum on “The Deal” many people agree with this. Once that is over most people will go along with it-even I will accept it- then the party can adjust accordingly and move on.

  • David Evans 28th Jun '17 - 6:33pm

    Katharine Pindar – Trying to understand your recent posts really have me totally confused. You say “We certainly don’t want to sink back into good old woolly liberalism, where nobody knew what we stood for!” but not long ago you said “As a lifelong Liberal member …” Do you really mean you were a member but didn’t know what we stood for?

    I have been a lifelong liberal and never had any doubt.

    The “woolly Liberal” jibe has always been in the press, especially to belittle us when we were doing well, but I have only seen it used regularly in Lib Dem circles in the period since the since Nick became leader, as a code for and means of demeaning those who didn’t agree with his leadership of our party. Well we all know where he has led us to, so can i ask that we stop using such terms to describe the party pre 2008.

    I would suggest the term “Successful Liberal Democrats” (abbreviation SLD) would be much more accurate.

  • Noel Davies 28th Jun '17 - 8:54pm

    I should begin by thanking people for the largely positive reception this first attempt at writing something for LibDem Voice has received. I felt minded to write it not only because I have first-hand experience of the sort of LibDem voter we are at risk of and have actually alienated but because I didn’t join the anti-Brexit party (I’ve been a member for much longer than that but you understand the point). Yes; I wanted Remain to win and yes, I wish it wasn’t happening, but we’re more than a single-issue party and we can’t let that get drowned out. And we shouldn’t do the mistake that many in the Labour Party are making which is confusing the membership for the electorate.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jun '17 - 9:31pm

    @David Allen “Facing both ways is always the ideal political position”
    Ironically, I think this encapsulates too much of the Lib Dem approach.

    Even on Brexit, where the party’s position should be crystal clear and unequivocal, Tim Farron could not give a straight answer on how the party would campaign in a second referendum. The obvious answer is that the party would and should campaign to remain in the EU, but this would then appear to contradict the party’s other official line that it respects the result of the 2016 referendum.

    Much of the 2017 election campaign was conservative and revolved around opposition to changes proposed by other parties, whether that be Brexit, Scottish independence, social care funding, grammar schools, etc. A penny for the NHS was a prominent and inoffensive policy but looked to be simply about ensuring funding to maintain the status quo. Where the party could offer radical policies, it bottled it. The legalisation of cannabis made it into the manifesto but always appeared to be presented with embarrassment. In education, commitments from party conferences to “abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools” and to “ensure that selection in admissions on the basis of religion or belief to state-funded schools is phased out” did not even make it into the manifesto. (As an aside, does that mean they need to be debated again, or do they still stand as party policies?)

    It looked very much like the party wanted to face many different ways in order to avoid scaring voters away from its core anti-Brexit position, but this seemed to deprive the party of a sufficiently clear identity.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jun '17 - 8:03am

    John Probert

    Brexit (like it or not) is the major issue for this Parliament.

    For most ordinary people it’s not the most important issue. The most important issues as ever are whether they will have enough money to lead a good life, reasonable housing, security so they are not constantly worrying about losing their jobs, and so on. That’s why the impression given that the only thing the Liberal Democrats cared about was membership of the EU was disastrous. People just didn’t think it’s so important an issue that they would decide how to vote on that basis alone.

    Our clear message is “Remain”. Let’s put our case strongly and positively and then hopefully we’ll persuade a majority of voters to agree on a final ballot when the outcome of negotiations is known

    Somehow our call for a second referendum became interpreted as us ignoring what the people voted for in the first, and so being enemies of democracy. So we should have said that it is precisely because we do respect democracy that we accept Brexit can only be halted if there is a referendum that agrees to it. We should also have said that we would only have a second referendum if there was clear evidence that the people of the country had changed their minds, having seen what Brexit really means. People resented the idea of us forcing a second referendum on them just because we didn’t like the result of the first.

    I am surprised that Tim Farron didn’t get this across, because he did give the impression of being reasonably in touch with how people feel. I do wonder to what extent the party’s image is still being controlled by the sort of person Nick Clegg put at the top of running things.

  • John Probert 29th Jun '17 - 10:24am

    Matthew Huntbach: “We should also have said that we would only have a second referendum if there was clear evidence that the people of the country had changed their minds, having seen what Brexit really means.”

    Well – we campaigned strongly to remain in the EU. Did anyone ask what the Liberal Democrat policy would be if the vote favoured brexit? I think it was David Cameron who painted himself into a corner over this.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Jun '17 - 10:55pm

    David Evans – Hello, David – no, I am indeed a lifelong Liberal, like you, and not in the least woolly, even though I live in sheep country! Have always been radical, and drunk ‘Confusion to the Tories’ with my lifelong Liberal friends (unfortunately we didn’t know you to share a glass). I was simply reflecting on the idea, so often raised in LDV comments, that it isn’t any longer useful for us to float a great number of creditable little policies, but must focus on and develop our strong ones, such as why and how we should remain in the EU internal market and customs union. I gather that a Labour man moved that amendment today, and not our Tim, but we certainly need that inter-party co-operation. The amendment raised 101 votes, a start – what we need now is for public opinion to rouse itself, as Frankie keeps saying with her usual enjoyable bright comments.
    David Allen, I loved your witty reply to Peter at 1.55 pm, thank you for the laugh! And there are plenty of other interesting comments here, a good debate I think.

  • Katherine,

    Hate to disappoint you but I’d make a very bad woman, many people say i don’t do much of a man 😉

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Jun '17 - 12:09am

    Well, Frankie, that is a surprise! It was all those comments about Faeries dying (keep going, Tinkerbell!), which just shows one’s unconscious gender bias! Sure you’re up to them all 🙂

  • Simon Banks 1st Aug '17 - 2:37pm

    We cannot become a one-issue party or we are no longer a Liberal party (or a Social Democratic one either).

    Brexit remains a huge live issue until the terms of the UK leaving the EU are finalised.

    There are plenty of reasons why gut Liberals were tempted to vote for Brexit and our appeal needs to address these: for example, if you thought Brexit would return power nearer to the people, has that actually happened?

    If we take clear stands on big issues, though, we will offend some people. If we don’t take clear stands on big issues, we’re pointless.

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