It must be the right people who fall on their swords

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In October 1805 Napoleon was in what is now the Czech Republic and desperate to engage the armies of Austria and Russia, which had converged, before they became too strong to overcome. The Russian commander-in-chief, Kutuzov, also realised that Napoleon needed to do battle, so he counselled retreat. But the Austrians and Tsar Alexander, buoyed by what they believed was reliable reconnaissance information, overruled Kutuzov, who was demoted. Napoleon, by various stratagems, lured the Austrians into a battle on terrain of his choosing, near Austerlitz.

You can see where this is going.

French reinforcements, of whom the Austrians were unaware, arrived unexpectedly. Napoleon won one of his greatest victories, and an awful lot of people got killed. The Holy Roman Empire effectively came to an end a year later.

This is what happens when the top command makes the wrong decision.

In October 2019 the Tories were desperate for a general election. Boris Johnson had repeatedly tried and failed to get one under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. There was a reason for that.

Why did our party write to Donald Tusk backing the general election the Tories wanted? The explanation I have heard was that we had to do this because otherwise French President Macron would not agree to an extension beyond 31st October of the period under Article 50 before Brexit.

But we didn’t want an election. We wanted a referendum.

It is also said that we couldn’t stop the other parties from voting through the Bill which amended the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and led to the general election. Maybe. Maybe not.

There were three options: first, the status quo with a referendum, second, the status quo without a referendum and third, a general election. There was a risk that the outcome of a general election might be even worse than Brexit on 31st October. And that is the outcome we got.

Has the European Union just begun an unstoppable slide to dissolution? I think it is the United Kingdom that will break up. Either way we are living through a defining moment in European history.

To me, as a founder member of the party, it’s as if we have achieved nothing since 1983 when, after initial high Alliance hopes, Mrs Thatcher achieved a majority of 144. When I stood for the Federal Board back in September, I did not expect to be faced with such a disastrous scene.

We must have a fundamental review of how such decisions in our party are made.

The Federal Board is commissioning, as it must, a review of the 2019 General and European Elections. This must be expanded to ask why we have now had three general election disasters in a row and who was responsible for critical decisions.

It is essential to get this right. If anyone is required to fall on their sword, it must be the right people.

* Jo Hayes is a party activist, Chair of the East of England Regional Party and a member of the party's Federal Board.

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  • David Warren 11th Jan '20 - 10:42am

    The biggest mistake has been positioning the party a radical anti Brexit force effectively ignoring the 52 per cent of the population who voted to leave the European Union and then compounding that by adopting a Revoke policy that alienated large swathes of Remain voters.

    Combine that with pretty timid policies on other key issues like the environment, the NHS and social care then you have a recipe for disaster,

    Sad but true.

  • I know it is easy to be clever in hindsight but as soon as a I heard we were pushing for a General Election I felt it was wrong. When will we learn that anything the Tory party desperately wishes for ultimately turns out bad for the Lib Dems. I hoped that our leadership had better knowledge than I did but it seems they didn’t.

  • Laurence Cox 11th Jan '20 - 11:06am


    Wasn’t it the SNP that made the first move to give Boris Johnson his General Election. Once the SNP were onside, the Tories had a majority in Parliament and could get their election bill through, so both Jo Swinson and Jeremy Corbyn lost whatever bargaining power they had. I agree that Jo Swinson made some bad choices in the election, but I don’t think that this was one of them.

  • Gwyn Williams 11th Jan '20 - 11:34am

    The identity politics obsessives are too well entrenched. In Powys we had the bizarre situation of the biggest livestock producing county in England and Wales having 2 vegetarian Lib Dem candidates who lived in London. The Tories only had to say that Brexit will be disruptive for the next couple of years but with the Lib Dems there is no future.

  • lloyd harris 11th Jan '20 - 11:34am

    I think the bigger question is why did people allow a situation to develop that meant Jo lost her seat in East Dunbartonshire by a few hundred votes.

  • Peter Martin 11th Jan '20 - 12:35pm

    @ Laurence Cox

    “Once the SNP were onside, the Tories had a majority in Parliament and could get their election bill through……”

    But what about the Tory rebels? They had an obvious reason to not want an election. The DUP were wavering too. So, even with the SNP on board, BJ didn’t have quite enough votes for comfort. Add 20 Lib Dem votes and that all changed. It was then game over.

  • Alan Stephenson 11th Jan '20 - 12:58pm

    The pressure for an election had been building for a long time,Jo Swinson was not responsible for allowing it and it is wrong to blame her.The country was desperate for a parliament that could get things done,even if we didn’t agree with them.This country does not function well when we have a government at the mercy of the opposition,yes ,they are there to hold the government to account ,but not frustrate the will of the people.

    If the Libdems and Labour had held out much longer they would have written their own death warrants,perhaps they already have.The voters take their revenge when their democracy is seen to be obstructed ,as recently demonstrated on Dec 12th 2019 .The LibDems and Labour may be the opposition,but they are not there to obstruct the will of the people.
    If an election had not have been called for the 12th Dec it would have come very soon ,the media would gone into overdrive calling the LibDems and Labour cowards about not willing to face the voters,and rightly so

  • Blocking democracy is not a policy I could ever support. Furthermore, it enrages the electorate. The voters have their say eventually and punish those who behaved badly.

    It was not good to see our country without effective government, a laughing stock in the world and a dysfunctional parliament unable to decide anything. People here wanted to prolong that indefinitely?

  • @ Alan Stephensen. There was nothing undemocratic about not enabling a general election as the election was caused by brexit. Fptp meant that although Remain “won” the election, Johnson is now able to process a hard Brexit with his 80 seat majority. The democratic thing would have been to hold out for a 2nd Ref. LDs bottled it

  • With Parliament being deadlocked, the EU was not going to keep giving extensions for several months at a time. A general election became inevitable.
    It would have been best for the whole Brexit thing to be cancelled but many people could not see this. Now the UK is facing breakup and economic disruption.

  • Paul Barker 11th Jan '20 - 3:21pm

    Sigh !
    The Tories, Labour & The SNP all favoured an Early Election, we with our 20 MPs (out of 650) were irrelevant.
    On a more general point, it only makes sense devoting time & energy to analysing the decisions of the Past if they occured in situations that are likely to happen Next Time, ie 2024/2025. A Hung Parliament is a likely result Next Time so discussing how we may respond in the Future to calls for another Election is relevant.
    Even more relevant is talking about how we respond to offers of Coalition, in fact we may be deciding both at the same time.
    This is all about looking forward, looking backward & blaming other people is always harmful.

  • David Warren 11th Jan '20 - 3:22pm


    OK, 17.4 million people in the UK voted to leave the EU which is a hell of a lot of people. Making the Lib Dems the anti Brexit party almost certainly alienated the vast majority of them.

    That is a lot of people.

    Now the votes have been counted some in the party have started to come to terms with the that fact particularly if they look at the results in the South West.

    Even from a purely tactical consideration the party was doomed to go down to defeat in most of the country.

    There is no future in being seen as a single issue anti Brexit party just as there is none in being a pro Brexit one.

  • Paul Barker 11th Jan ’20 – 3:21pm…………Sigh ! The Tories, Labour & The SNP all favoured an Early Election, we with our 20 MPs (out of 650) were irrelevant….

    Sigh! Labour were opposed to Johnson’s election. Jo Swinson, for reasons I stil can’t understand, followed the SNP (who did extremely well out of it) leaving Labour completely isolated and forcing Jeremy Corbyn to accept the inevitable.

  • Alan Stephenson 11th Jan '20 - 4:48pm

    Paul and Russell

    Thankyou for your comments

    Paul you may well be correct on both of your points,I won’t argue that,but what was apparent was that the opposition was blocking democracy.OK ,the people just wanted their vote acting on,is’nt that the function of parliament ? Parliament ask the people the question and the people answer.
    As you said, Theresa May could not get her legislation through because of the ERG ,but the opposition didn’t help,constantly obstructing the process,the voters took note of this and vented their anger at GE.The Libdems and Labour only need to look back to this when wondering where they went wrong.

    The causation of the election matters not one jot,what mattered to the people was that a none functioning parliament/government was not able to do it’s job.That’s how the people saw it,MPs of all colours blocking their democratic wish,and the electorate duly punished those parties in the GE.I did not say it was undemocratic to not vote for an election,they could held for longer if they had wished ,but it was only postponing what was inevitable and needed,and incurring the wrath of the people

  • David Evershed 11th Jan '20 - 5:39pm

    We wanted a People’s Vote.

    The people voted.

  • Leekliberal 11th Jan '20 - 5:47pm

    In a sense this discussion comes too late. Our worst error was in not challenging strongly and remoursely the legitimacy of the 2016 referendum which had a knife-edge result where the Leave campaign lied and lied and Russian money funded this! As the referendum was only advisory its outcome could not be legally challenged, Ever after we have been on the back foot as the ‘ ‘Liberal Undemocrats’ seeking to overturn the wishes of the people!

  • Gosh Matt: No Jo Grimmond, no David Steel, no Charles Kennedy!!!!!!

  • David Evans 11th Jan '20 - 7:01pm

    @ Laurence Cox – Laurence when you say “Wasn’t it the SNP that made the first move to give Boris Johnson his General Election. Once the SNP were onside …” I have seen no evidence that ‘the SNP made the first move’ nor that they ‘were onside’ before Jo gave them the nod it was OK.

    I think that Nicola Sturgeon played Jo Swinson and Jo fell for it. I don’t think Nicola Sturgeon would have gone with the Tories on her own the fallout for the SNP alone being seen to side with the Tories would have very bad for their chances in any general election – she would lose SNP votes to Labour for siding with’ the enemy’ in ex Labour urban areas, lose SNP votes to the Lib Dems in pro Remain rural areas for giving Johnson what he wanted and SNP votes to anyone for siding with the English Tories.

    But with Jo holding her hand, she had ‘plausible deniability’ and she exploited it for her big chance.

    Tory victory,
    UK out of Europe,
    Scotland rebels against English Tory Brexit,
    If IndyRef2 win
    Go to Nirvana,
    rejoin EU
    Retire as National Hero

    If No Indyref2
    Undermine Tories as Anti Scottish
    Blame every problem on English Tory Brexit mania
    Win even more seats
    Go to IndyRef2 within 10 years
    Retire sightly later as National Hero

    Add @Peter Martin’s comments to it and the fallacy is clear.

  • David Evans 11th Jan '20 - 7:11pm

    Paul Walter 11th Jan ’20 – 6:07pm
    ‘We should never consider anyone for future leader who represents a Scottish seat’

    Well that would have ruled out Gladstone for much of his career then…”

    I think the key words in Matt Wilson’s post are the words “future leader”

    Now if you know that William Ewart Gladstone is able to stand again for party leadership, with the intention of becoming PM in 2024, I think you should tell us more!! 🙂 lol

  • “Let the Scottish Lib Dems become a fully separate party with their own leader”
    What if the Scottish LibDems don’t want to Matt? Because we don’t. There has never been any call whatsoever within the Scottish party for that kind of change. Would you enforce it against our will?
    Others have pointed out how this idea would have denied the party the leaderships of Gladstone, Grimond, Steel and Kennedy. Also Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith, Sinclair and Campbell. As well as the talents of Johnston, Bruce, Kirkwood, Wallace, Michie, MacLennan, Moore, Thurso, Carmichael, Jardine and all the others – to say nothing of those of us who are not MPs but who contribute our energy and money to the cause of a federal party.
    Currently Scottish MPs provide 4 of the party’s 11 MPs. You want to nix nearly a third of the parliamentary party because one Scottish leader narrowly lost her seat in one election?
    If your logic is that we mustn’t have leaders who can be defeated, don’t you remember how close Tim Farron came to defeat in 2017? Why do you think it is only Scottish MPs who can lose their seats?
    As you may have guessed, I think this is a proposal whose time hasn’t come.

  • SIMON HORNER 11th Jan '20 - 7:28pm

    Asquith (East Fife), Campbell Bannerman (Stirling Burghs) and Archibald Sinclair (Caithness and Sutherland) all represented Scottish seats as well. In fact, until Jeremy Thorpe became Liberal leader, I can only think of two who sat for non-Scottish seats (Lloyd George and Herbert Samuel). And the Earl of Rosebery, who led from the Lords, started out with a Scottish peerage.

  • @Simon Horner – Clement Davies (Montgomeryshire, 1945-55).

  • Laurence Cox 11th Jan '20 - 10:26pm

    @Peter Martin @David Evans

    You have to remember that although over 20 Tory MPs lost the whip earlier, around half of them had the whip restored later. If you care to check Hansard you will see that in Division 16 (Third Reading) on 29th October 2019 that 19 Independents also voted with the Tories for the election on 12th December as did the 10 DUP. That was enough even with the SNP abstaining to give Boris Johnson his majority. A good legal priniciple is cui bono – who does it benefit, and pretty clearly that was the Tories and SNP.

    Boris Johnson could count and knew he was going to win the vote otherwise he would never have called it. To blame Jo Swinson for the election is perverse.

  • The party doesn’t seem to have engaged any brain cells in thinking through why the SNP did what they did.

    The SNP exists for the primary (if not sole) purpose of securing independence from Scotland. Getting people to support that needs a justification and imperative. Having Brexit implemented “against Scotland’s will” provides the justification for another referendum – as the SNP has said countless times – and having Brexit go badly would provide the imperative for Scots to vote for independence.

    It is hard to see any other circumstances in which an independent Scotland could ever be achieved.

    So we might have stopped to consider whether tagging along behind the SNP was such a bright idea. They wanted a Tory government to force Brexit upon them. We didn’t.

  • “Once the SNP were onside, the Tories had a majority in Parliament and could get their election bill through……”
    No. The Bill was not the Tories’ Bill. It was the Lib Dems’ Bill. It was a stratagem tabled by the Lib Dems to get round the Fixed Term Parliaments Act by amending it. The Tories three times tried to get an election under that Act but it required a two thirds majority, which they couldn’t get. The Bill to amend it needed only an ordinary majority, plus cooperation to get it through quickly. Which the Lib Dems gave. Why?
    Stopping Brexit was perhaps a battle we couldn’t win, though I think there was still a chance. But we could win other battles on other days. We could retreat and we were getting stronger. We were stopping the Tories from doing a whole lot of bad things. We could choose our day and terrain.
    But on this day and terrain, suddenly Farage decided not to contest the Tories’ held seats. Were we really counting on him to help us? Was anyone surprised when he didn’t?
    Now the Tories can do what they want. Which includes Brexit. And as Ian says, the SNP get closer to an independent Scotland. They are nationalists. For them, Brexit actually helps achieve their main aim.
    We are so, so much worse off now than with a hung parliament. Much more importantly, so is our country.
    This failure is a calamity.
    But we have little idea who made the decisions leading to this and on whose advice, or what the advice said. Not Jo Swinson alone without advice, clearly.
    Which is why we must have a fundamental review of how the party got here, got to being checkmated. The route was a long one. It took years and years. A review of the election campaign alone would be a review of the last few yards.

  • John Marriott 12th Jan '20 - 9:10am

    A thriving democracy needs a liberal input. It doesn’t necessarily need the Liberal Democrat Party. For this party to gain traction at national level again it needs first to rediscover its local government roots. You don’t necessarily need an ideology to achieve that. You need a lot of hard work, personal sacrifice and a large dose of common sense. As I have said many times before, you need to tell people that “It doesn’t have to be like this”.

    So, can we start by parking Coalition, Tuition Fees and Brexit? Better still, can we consign them to the bonfire of past mistakes and MOVE ON? Believe me, many, probably the majority of people appear already to have done just that.

    By all means have a bit of blood letting at the Spring Conference; but then put a sock in it! Let’s start then by calling for all party support to sort out Adult Social Care. Then we could look at Education and even reform of local government and local government finance, particularly in England. There’s three for starters.

  • No, John, we can’t park opposing Brexit. It is not a mistake. It is a principled stand for what’s right. If you like you can try a constitutional amendment to delete international cooperation from within what’s now the EU from our aims and objects. I estimate your chances of success as approximately nil. You’ll need a two thirds majority of those members present and voting, just as the Tories did for the general election they were desperate for but couldn’t get.

  • “If anyone is required to fall on their sword, it must be the right people.”

    That’s something a lot of people would agree with. It is also a massive platitude to the extent of being meaningless.

    Some things that the FB should be looking at – and members of that should be calling for – are things like:

    Who are the ‘right people’
    Is this – the third poor result in 4 years (and very little in the way of good electoral performances anywhere else (2019 locals and Euros being the only ones) caused by individual failures or ’embedded’ strategic failures
    Why did the party’s planning fail to identify that things were going badly in certainly 2015 and 2019
    Why have previous reviews failed to identify the problems
    What is the implementation strategy for that review.
    What has been the record of implement recommendations of previous reviews – and if that has been poor why is that so.

    Jo is right that this is a pattern not a one off. So debates about whether moving to revoke was right or wrong are symptoms rather than absolute causes. If the FB spend their time discussing that they will not be doing their job.

  • Rory O'Brien 12th Jan '20 - 12:15pm

    I am a new member of the party. One of the ones the party should want to attract. I joined in despair at the increasing extremism of the other parties and the LibDems is the first party I have belonged to.

    I am now in more despair that the leadership of the party has been invisible since the election. The Liberal ground has tumbleweed blowing across it. Nothing in the press and no leadership contenders on TV.

    Jo Hayes blog post is the first discussion I have heard on “What Next”. It is followed by dozens of passionate comments – all invisible to the public.

    Like the Labour Party, if the Liberal Party wants to win seats then it needs to appeal to a mass of the public. It needs to get its message across … and it is failing utterly to do so this year.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Jan '20 - 2:12pm

    David Warren

    Agreed, as ever or often, you are in harmony with more than the minority as represented by this party. Ironic as mostly people are in the radical or moderate centre, this party likes to appeal to a radical or progressive left, increasingly unpopular as a terrain, especially allied to politicallaly correct postures.

    Jo Hayes

    We as a country, this as a party, should be pro international cooperation, as well as accept Brexit can be that, if we , internationalists are at the forefront of it. Opposing is all this party seems able to do, with Tories in opposition, even though the opposite was so, in government. It is looking delusional to oppose what is now policy as a result of a strong election mandate. A moderate Brexit, is needed, a moderate party too. Moderation is radical when knee jerk radical of left and right is rife.

    This party is not moderate, it is radically obsessed with posturing on issues needing debating.

  • John Marriott 12th Jan '20 - 2:50pm

    @Jo Hayes
    Sorry, wrong pronoun. For ‘ we’ please read ‘they’. You see, I’m not currently a member, rather a critical friend. The problem with the party is that it has too many ‘principled’ stands. It’s that kind of stubbornness that originally attracted me to the old Liberal Party over 40 years ago. However, I now realise that you have to bend on some issues now and again. I also used to admire the Party that had a conference that really decided policy, unlike the beauty contests that the Tories and Labour tend to hold. Now again, I’m not so sure it works all the time.

  • Hywel talks a lot of sense here. Amid the general cry of ‘we need a period of reflection’ it’s good to see someone actually raising specific questions. I hope members of the Federal Board are taking note.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Jan '20 - 3:53pm

    Alan Stephenson:

    “the opposition,yes ,they are there to hold the government to account ,but not frustrate the will of the people.”

    So you prefer (elective) dictatorship to democracy then? The very phrase “will of the people” is one loved by dictators and demagogues, who use it declare any dissent from their agenda “anti-democratic”.

    “The voters take their revenge when their democracy is seen to be obstructed ,as recently demonstrated on Dec 12th 2019 .”

    How so? The Tory share of the vote only rose slightly (1.2pp) from the 2017 election, and the Tory Parliamentary majority was based on winning over Lexiter votes in majority-Leave seats. In majority-Remain seats the Tories did less well. with a lot of Tories switching to the Lib Dems, whose share rose the most among all parties. Unfortunately for us not enough of them, mainly due to fear of Jeremy Corbyn.
    Johnson may have won his majority, but the result is hardly an overwhelming endorsement of his agenda, or of the idea that the “will of the people” based on an advisory referendum from 3½ years ago must be obeyed at all costs.
    Also it means that the Tories now own Brexit. No way should we stop criticising the government of the day just because it has a Parliamentary majority.

  • David Garlick 12th Jan '20 - 5:23pm

    If we have people who have made mistakes then let them join the ‘Mistake Makers Club’ alongside all the rest of us. A quote I often heard when I was growing up (71 and still growing) is that ‘ a man (it was a long time ago) who never made a mistake never made anything’. Whilst this is obviously not true the point is well made. If we want to profit from our mistakes then we need to learn from them and not repeat them. We need people who were involved in this Campaign to stick around and use their salutary experience to do better next time. Bring in new people with new ideas but make them the majority at your peril. A Members ‘parliament selected at random from willing members would go a long way to helping us upwards and onwards with a real and positive vision for the future. It could be repeated periodically with fresh faces to keep us in line with members thinking and, hopefully, avoid this sort of situation happening again, especially when in uncharted waters.

  • Christopher Curtis 12th Jan '20 - 6:48pm

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but often misrepresents the reality at the time.
    The SNP were very likely to help the Tories to have the election they were desperate to have. The SNP were in a good place to win more seats (as they did) and before the Salmond case came to court. There were signs that we might increase our seats and pick up a big increase in our vote share so it was tempting for us too, and there was an urgent an immediate risk that the Tories, having got their second reading once but pulled it because Parliament would not simply roll over, might bring the legislation back and take us into an immediate Brexit with the help of Labour lexiters. There was at least a chance that all the discussion about tactical voting might have led to a very different outcome. It was a fine judgement that turned out to be a disaster but I don’t think people could have known that until the day of the election. I think I realised when I saw our polling station crammed with frail, elderly people after watching Labour tactics and the polls closing down any chance of a remain alliance.

  • The comments are fairly evenly split between those who thought it was a mistake to support the election and those who thought it was undemocratic to try to prevent the election. Parliament had blocked the Brexit process and the country could not remain in a state of paralysis forever. The concept of an opposition cabinet led by Corbyn or by a cabinet of women as proposed by Lucas are just bizarre and there was no guarantee it would achieve anything when parliament had failed.

    As David Evershed points out above, you wanted a people’s vote and the people have spoken. Strangely, that is the elephant in the room throughout all the recent web pages. What do you think the election told us?

    I think the people “wanted to get Brexit done” because that is what they voted for in large numbers. The Tories would have had even more seats if the Brexit Party had not split the vote in a number of seats. Almost all of the Remain (rebel) MPs who tried to block Brexit lost their seats. Clearly, even those who originally voted to Remain felt that a democratic decision had been made and politicians should respect that.

    If people here do not agree with this simple analysis, please tell me what is wrong with it. I know from the comments that many people here don’t want Brexit, want to stop Brexit and don’t care how many votes, referenda or whatever support leaving the EU. These people want to reject Brexit under all circumstances. They claim that is their democratic right.

    Is it? Our democracy provides rights, it provides structures for resolving disagreement and reaching conclusions. Many LD supporters and probably politicians are acting contrary to our democratic system.

    To clarify, the Brexit decision has been made. Democrats should not seek to frustrate or prevent Brexit from being delivered. Any party that believes that Brexit was a mistake is fully entitled to campaign in future elections to rejoin the EU.

    That is how our democracy works. This party has serious decisions to make. Not facing up to what the electorate is saying could be a fatal mistake. Being seen to reject our democratic conventions could be another fatal mistake. These are the responsibilities of leadership and in my opinion, that is where the leadership has failed badly.

  • The problem with trying to hold Federal Conference representatives to account (over the Revoke policy) is – oops – Federal Conference itself. Those who are members, register for it and can afford the costs (an impediment to many) have absolute control of the Party, representing a ‘hard core’ of activists, and are reluctant to give this up. Forcing elections to Conference (that has been reversed in recent years), mandating delegates (seen as “Illiberal”) or having all-member ballots on policy matters (unthinkable/too expensive) would have to be put through – Oh dear – Federal Conference.

  • Alan Stephenson 13th Jan '20 - 1:09pm

    Alex MacFie

    No,I do not prefer any sort of dictatorship,elective or otherwise,but I do prefer a party that choses not to ignore the democratic ”will of the people” when asked to give it. You are perfectly entitled to disagree with the vote of the people,but not to ignore it,”you’ as in the Libdems.This just creates mistrust of political parties and has led to the position we are in.
    I wrote.”The voters take their revenge when their democracy is seen to be obstructed’
    I stick by my words.The Libdems had a bad election and lost a seat and Labour lost 59 seats,it is seats that count at an election and influence what happens in parliament.

    .What sort of democracy would we have if parliament just chooses to ignore the electorate if they vote the ”wrong ” way. Democracy can only work if the electorate are respected,anything else results in chaos

  • William Francis 13th Jan ’20 – 11:04am:
    Most Lib Dem voters in 2015 were remain voters, and most leave voters weren’t going to vote Lib Dem in the first place.

    The Lord Ashcroft Survey (of actual votes cast) showed that 30% of Liberal Democrat 2015 GE voters went on to vote Leave in the EU Referendum [*]. Later Ashcroft Surveys have shown that not all of these voters were lost as a small percentage of Leave voters have remained loyal to either the party of, more likely, their MP. However, subsequent undemocratic moves (not respecting the Referendum result, accepting defecting MPs without a by-election, ‘people’s vote’, revoke policy, etc.) will have lost more 2015 Lib Dem voters. Let’s say that overall 40% of the 2015 GE LD vote had been lost; less in remain voting suburban constituencies such as Richmond Park, but more in leave voting rural constituencies such as North Norfolk and the West Country. Nationally, those lost votes were more than made up for by new remain ‘protest’ votes. However, these new voters were spread across the country and weren’t enough to replace the votes lost in many leave voting constituencies. In essence: the party flattened its vote by adopting ‘Brexit’ policies which effectively jettisoned many of its former target seats.

    What I find baffling with political parties (not just the Lib Dems) is that they aspire to make wise decisions for the country, but seem incapable of applying any wisdom in running their own affairs.

    * ’How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why’

    A majority of those who backed the Conservative in 2015 voted to leave the EU (58%), as did more than 19 out of 20 UKIP supporters. Nearly two thirds of Labour and SNP voters (63% and 64%), seven in ten Liberal Democrats and three quarters of Greens, voted to remain.

  • @S Taylor – “Here in the UK legitimacy comes from below not above as on the Continent.”

    You seem to be quite confused there. Here in the U.K., Parliament is sovereign. In other European countries, it is the People that are sovereign. Hence, legitimacy comes from the bottom up in those countries, and the top down here.

  • Paul Pettinger 14th Jan '20 - 1:36am

    Some have been trying to avoid terrible Election outcomes for some time. Welcome to the fight!

  • Alex Macfie 14th Jan '20 - 9:31pm

    Alan Stephenson: Of course it’s seats that count, and on that basis the Lib Dems had a poor election night. But finding out WHY that happened involves deeper analysis, which is one reason why the party is having a review of the campaign and why we did so badly. There’d be no need for a review if there were one overarching reason for the poor result, such as a specific policy platform.
    My experience on the doorstep is that while some voters did cite the Revoke policy as a reason why they wouldn’t vote Lib Dem, in most cases their arguments seemed scripted, suggesting that they were never planning to vote Lib Dem in the first place. Those who were genuinely concerned were (I found) easily persuadable, usually with the end result of a Lib Dem window sticker or stakeboard on their property. For sure, on a national level we didn’t sell the policy very well (like we didn’t sell the rest of our offering very well), but the idea of swathes of Remain voters being put off us by this policy doesn’t fit with my experience. It also doesn’t fit with logic, and anyone who votes for a Tory party led by the most profoundly amoral individual ever to lead this country

    A far greater number of voters cited “Keeping Jeremy Corbyn out” as a reason to vote Tory rather than Lib Dem. (My answer to that was that JC wasn’t going to be PM as Labour had no chance of winning outright, and Lib Dems weren’t going to prop him up). Other factors included hostile media (including the most vicious trolling of our leader on social media) and our failure to hit back effectively at it; targeting failures and Labour deliberately acting as spoilers in our target seats.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Jan '20 - 6:20am

    …and anyone who voted for a Tory party led by the most profoundly amoral individual ever to lead this country because they found OUR Brexit policy unethical seriously needs to recalibrate their moral compass.

  • “My experience on the doorstep….”

    Is quite a bad criteria to use for a general election review.

    Remember mid-campaign we were being confidentally assured that the feel on the doorsteps was very different from what the polls were saying.

  • We lost votes to Labour by the lorry load in the first week of the campaign. Some may forget that there were in-seat polls showing us winning Cambridge and Portsmouth South right at the very start of the campaign. What happened in those seats and about everywhere else where we faced Labour? Why could that sudden and fatal collapse in support not have been prevented? Were the attacks on Labour overdone? Was the shift away from the multi-party “People’s Vote” line a grave mistake?

    The haemorrhage of votes to the Tories happened later and was a slower process. The often quite extreme Tory bias of the newspapers and the BBC was very hard to counteract. My suspicion is that more than half the votes we lost went to Labour, and that we failed to win more Tory facing seats because there was an undercurrent of white working-class Labour voters in non-metropolitan areas moving to the Tories, plus some of our working-class voters behaving in the same way. How else does one fight against a party that is both English nationalist and promises to throw non-existent money around? Our leaders were left stumbling on both those points.

    And how do we deal with Johnson? The more disreputable he is shown to be the more people seem to love him. Not all people, but enough people. The same with Trump and Berlusconi. Why do we trust people we would never employ or allow anywhere near our wives and daughters to run the country?

  • Alex, the constitution (Article 6.4) requires that the Federal Board “shall commission a report on the Party’s work in” each European election and Westminster election. So it must do that. What I propose is a much, much more fundamental review than that.

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