This is our time now: a time for assertiveness and for anger

This country deserves better than to be ruled as it is by an Alice–in-Wonderland government, feebly countered by a Humpty-Dumpty official opposition.

I am angry that, as a result, in my neighbouring Copeland constituency our Liberal Democrat candidate Rebecca Hanson was sidelined by the clash of these tottering Titans. Of course she did well to double our share of the vote and beat the hollow UKIP, but not nearly as well as such an excellent standard-bearer deserved.

Instead the representative of this uncaring, and ultimately incompetent government of ours went to Westminster.

The Liberal Democrat campaign in Copeland was focused. ‘Who is fighting hard Brexit?’ demanded one leaflet, which explained how the Liberal Democrats are the only party fighting to protect jobs, jeopardised by the Conservative plan to leave the Single Market. Rebecca’s support for the further investment in the local nuclear industry was there, with back-up details.

Equal prominence in the strategy was given to Rebecca’s NHS campaign to protect the local maternity unit, and her championing of local schools. But neither her expertise, experience and informed commitment, nor her star quality among the candidates, could outweigh the national struggle. Our party task now is surely to tackle this government head-on, to show the contradictions and inadequacies of its rule.

In this week our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson was recorded as saying that the outcome of Brexit would be ‘fantastic’. He was right. The outcome aimed at by the government is a fantasy. May’s spokesman quoted in Wednesday’s Guardian stated that the overriding message of the Cabinet meeting the day before was ‘that we are ambitious about the nature of the free trade agreement we can agree with the European Union. We’re ambitious about the trade deals we’ll be able to strike with other countries once we have left the European Union.’

Yes, we can all be ambitious about eating our cake today and having it still to eat tomorrow. to parody a previous Johnson witticism, but in the situation of Brexit neither hope nor expectation is realistic. In the same Cabinet meeting, Brexit Secretary David Davis is said to have set out the scale and complexity of the work of the negotiations to come with the EU, and pointed out how, in the ‘unlikely scenario’ of leaving without a trade deal, the country would revert to World Trade Organisation rules.

We Liberal Democrats see that possibility as being all too likely. This government’s kaleidoscopic vision allows it simultaneously to value but to quit the EU internal market, to claim still to be the party of industry and of banking while manufacturers and bankers contemplate flight to the Continent, and to represent ordinary people’s needs while letting their standard of living and essential health, care, education and policing services decline catastrophically.

Meanwhile, the sclerotic Labour opposition allows Article 50 be invoked with no provision for a reversal vote being permitted in Parliament, let alone a final chance for the people to have a say as we demand. The irony is that both major parties compound with populism, of the Left or of the Right, incorporating incompatible aims which sooner or later can corrupt them. The May government has shown no alacrity to defend the judges, under attack for doing their constitutional duty, still less for defending parliamentary sovereignty. Its damning tendency has been to align the executive with the outcry of the right-wing media. The Liberal Democrats allow no such cancerous infiltration of populist opinion.

But the witless calls for ‘the will of the people’ (that is, the 52% of Referendum voters) to be carried out will cease, when the reality of ‘Hard Brexit’ begins to be apparent. Our voice of reason must be heard. We must have the confidence of our convictions and accept the leadership role that the country needs from us, to denounce the policies and practices of this feeble yet dangerous government.  The time is now, and we must shout about it.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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  • Andrew Tampion 5th Mar '17 - 9:52am

    Although I personally believe that the Article 50 Bill should be passed unamended and I don’t think that leaving the EU will be an unmitigated disaster I was pretty much in agreement with the thrust of your article until the final paragraph. I’m sure it’s bad phrasing but appearing to call 52% of the electorate “witless” is wrong and bad politics. One other thing, being angry gets you nowhere the right term for me would be passionate.

  • Hi Katharine
    I also agree with the main thrust of your article, but share Andrew’s concern that a couple of articles this week still appear to be still ‘blaming’ the 52%.
    I believe now is the time to start winning hearts and minds, and that includes a third of the Lib Dem’s.
    Finding other uniting policy areas to run alongside the brexit fight would help unite the party (and the country) around less controversial common ground.
    At the same time the article Martin Roche wrote earlier in the week, suggested a simple and consistent communication strategy, attacking May at every opportunity for her “That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.” line.
    You commented it was an excellent idea.

    The comments section of this article contained various “uniting” areas including education, housing and health.
    People are now starting to show signs of getting into the driving seat, which I think needs to happen for us to be proactive and above all present the party as a force for uniting a divided country, whilst at the same time as pointing out the potential dangers of Brexit from both an economic, social and community perspective.

    I am becoming more convinced by the day, that the only hope for remaining in the single market or even the EU is by changing public opinion. That is not going to happen by attacking half the population and getting angry. It can only i think be done I think by a drip drip drip approach revealing the inconsistencies in the ” May” strategy

  • Richard Hall 5th Mar '17 - 11:37am

    I think many of us are angry towards those who told lies in order to confirm prejudices on Brexit, but i think it is important to separate the voices that told these lies from the people that believed them. Personally I feel that “changing peoples minds” is important but is going to be tough in the face of the right-wing press who will continue to blame the effects of Brexit on the EU instead of on the decision to leave it, but this is a battle we need to have.

    Anger can lead to the loss of reason and the promotion of dogma. There are enough angry voices out there, there is even a left wing blogger who uses that as his title. What we need to do is channel our anger, or passion if you will into fighting our corner and expanding it, but we should avoid the temptation to attack other people who chose to vote leave because they believed what Brexit politicians printed on the side of a bus, and criticise those, who in some cases were political opportunists instead.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Mar '17 - 11:57am

    Those who think that the Labour Party’s policy might change should note that, despite the opinion polls displayed on ITV’s Peston-on-Sunday Ed Balls does not intend to stand for parliament in a by-election. Like David Miliband he has not ruled out the possibility entirely, so maybe he thinks that a general election provides his best opportunity. The seat he held up to 2015 is now held by a Tory and boundary changes may also provide opportunities.
    The current UKIP leader was also vague on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.

  • The leave vote is not a solid block, it is more like an onion. If Brexit goes badly ( and there are few signs it won’) the layers will come away. Some layers will swear blind it wasn’t them who voted leave, some layers will drift back into apathy, some layers will blame the chief Brexiteers for not doing it right and some layers will stay faithful to the end. I suspect the faithfully will be lucky to be fifty percent of the orginal.

  • paul holmes 5th Mar '17 - 12:51pm

    In what way is it ‘witless’ rather than democratic to respect a clear democratic decision?

    Towards the end of the Presidential campaign Donald Trump said he would accept the result as long as he won. That sort of approach is appallingly undemocratic. By contrast Hilary Clinton and the Democrats accepted that they lost the Electoral College vote and that their fight is to campaign for future elections not to reject the last one. They don’t doubt for a moment how disastrous they think Trump’s Presidency will be -but he won the election.

    I campaigned and voted for Remain and I think that leaving the EU will have many negative consequences, although it will not in fact be ‘the end of the world as we know it’. However I also think that the clear majority for Leave, in a very simple and straightforward choice between Leave or Remain, was a democratic outcome that should be respected unless we want to declare open season on democracy. Yes we should campaign to highlight everything we disagree with. Yes we should campaign for a vote on the outcome of the negotiations. Yes we ‘could’ campaign to rejoin the EU just as Leavers spent 42 years campaigning for a rerun of the 1975 Referendum. But it is democratic, not witless, to accept the clear democratic vote last June.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 5th Mar '17 - 2:35pm

    Katharine, I’m afraid I really am very unhappy about the way you say, in the last paragraph, that it is “witless” to suggest that a democratic decision should be implemented. You seem to think it is “witless” to respect the result because Leave won by a relatively narrow majority. But if Remain had won with fifty-two percent of the vote, would you have considered it “witless” if the government had insisted that this meant that we must stay in the EU? Surely it is more “witless” to insist that the will of the forty-eight percent must prevail rather than the will of the fifty-two percent? That really would be “Alice in Wonderland”. I’m afraid this statement gives the impression that you consider democracy itself to be “witless”.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Mar '17 - 4:05pm

    Andrew, Catherine and others. Of course I am not saying, Andrew, that the 52% are witless – that would be absurd. I am objecting to the use of ‘the will of the people’. Leave aside the fact that it has been used to abuse the 48%, it does not seem an intelligent phrase to use, as it can only refer to the 52%, not to ‘the people’ as a whole. Moreover we know that there were many reasons for voting to leave, and therefore it is not clear what the 52% willed to happen as a result of the country leaving – they might well, for instance, have a will to stay in the internal market, or to cut immigration numbers, and differ on what they wanted. There is no ‘will’ of the 52% any more than there is a will of the 48%, beyond the one group wanting to leave and the other wanting to stay. Naturally, I respect both groups, but want the destination after leaving to be clearer, and wish for the people to have a final democratic vote on the destination which may be determined by the negotiations to come.

    Richard Hall, I take your point, but I am angry about what this government is getting away with, its inconsistency of principle, and its uncaring attitudes, towards the poorest people as well as the European citizens who have made their homes here. I am passionate about what we as Liberal Democrats have to offer the country, and, Mike S. (hi, Mike!) I entirely agree about developing the ‘uniting areas’ such as on health, housing and education – I would add environment too. Let’s discuss what we have to offer (I’m aware you want to know more about our health policies) , and not be sidetracked – I am reallly NOT disrespecting the 52%!

  • Sue Sutherland 5th Mar '17 - 4:28pm

    I’m glad that people have been defending the 52% here but like Katharine I hope her serious points about making life better for the poorest and weakest in our society aren’t forgotten. Our party has a clear identity over the EU and it’s right that we should battle for our principles. However, another side of this battle is to offer hope to those who voted Leave because they have believed the lies that it is the EU that has been betraying them and causing their misery. I do not think we can ignore the democratic vote without alleviating their poverty and fear.
    We must be acting urgently to develop policies to reverse the trend of inequality in our society and they must be as radical as our stance on the EU and publicised as joyfully as the EU campaign otherwise we will have betrayed all these people too.

  • ‘The Liberal Democrats allow no such cancerous infiltration of populist opinion.’

    Scrapping tuition fees as proposed in the 2010 manifesto was not ‘populist’ ?

  • Arnold Kiel 5th Mar '17 - 9:59pm

    Witless is the mildest qualification imaginable for anybody who upholds the idea that a majority of Britons understands and wants to experience the consequences of Brexit.

    Voters have many legitimate grievances, none of which have anything to do with EU membership. Brexit will aggravate all of them. We can only hope they are witty enough to realize this in time.

    Portraying Brexit as “the will of the people” is subscribing to and thereby perpetuating the Farage/Johnson/Gove lie.

  • Now now Arnold – not helpful – even if you believe it to be true.
    There’s been enough angry people today venting and spluttering without pouring fuel on the fire.
    I’ll put it down to your dry German humour, I think 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Mar '17 - 10:52pm

    Thank you, Arnold Kiel and Sue Sutherland, for these latest comments. As you say, Sue, we must be acting urgently to develop policies to reverse the trend of inequality. I have just been looking at the Resolution Foundation’s Report on Living Standards 2017, published on January 31st, which expected falling living standards for ‘almost the entire bottom half of the working-age income distribution between 2017 and 2020-1’, causing the biggest rise in inequality since the late 1980s. Let us see if Philip Hammond does anything to inhibit this, in his Budget this week but it does not seem a priority for him.

    Mike, we should add welfare to the list of priorities for Lib Dem policy, as impending benefit changes worsen the lot of the poorest. The policy adopted last autumn is a good start, and offers a significant balance in asking for extra expenditure, by proposing reducing the ‘triple lock’ pension privileges, which I entirely agree with.
    John, the scrapping of tuition fees would certainly have been an idealistic policy, which our leaders found impractical, threatening university finances, and agreed to replace through the Coalition with what amounts to a graduate tax. We do not proceed with uncosted proposals as a rule, and unlike the other parties do not seek to benefit particular classes of people.

  • Hi Kathrine
    Wonder if you’ve seen John Littler’s 3 comments today over on Martin’s thread around the idea of a Co-operative Capitalism model – interesting reading

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Mar '17 - 11:23pm

    Hi, Mike, thanks, and have you seen my comment on the thread? I am keeping up with Martin’s article, comments thereon! If this Co-operative Capitalism is as useful as it sounds, we should surely be debating it and making it party policy.

  • Not much chance of winning back the third of Lib Dems who voted to leave the EU given the unrelenting ‘passion’ if that’s what it truly is about the Brexit decision. It seems to me the Lib Dems will be remembered as ‘the angry party’ determined to overturn the result of the Referrendum.

  • paul holmes 6th Mar '17 - 11:32am

    @Katharine and John. Opposition to Tuition Fees was a long standing Liberal Democrat policy since 1997/8 not just some random badly thought out idea conjured up in 2010. It was not, Katharine, an ‘uncosted proposal’ in 2010. Both Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander stated, when launching the Manifesto, that all of our Manifesto policies were costed to the last penny (as they were and had been at every election from 1997 onwards). On the separate issue of the Pledge, voting against an increase in Fees was of course cost neutral anyway. On the inevitable next point that ‘we had no choice because the Tories outnumbered us in the Coalition’ -George Osborne had in fact assumed that Tuition Fees was one of our ‘Red Lines’ and was willing to leave the subject stand as it was under the Labour Government. He was surprised that our Leadership on the contrary were happy to go with trebling Fees.

    @Arnold. As one Remainer to another can I suggest that insulting the 52% who voted Leave is neither edifying, constructive or democratic. You may well be absolutely convinced that you are right and they are wrong but the fact remains that in a democratic vote the majority voted to Leave. Neither can you seriously suggest that absolutely none of the voters ‘legitimate grievances’ (legitimate being determined by your viewpoint alone presumably?) are anything at all to do with EU membership?

  • David Evans 6th Mar '17 - 2:08pm

    As Paul correctly states, opposition to tuition fees was Lib Dem policy for many years, and was democratically supported by conference. The problem was that after having reached a democratic decision in the party, our leader chose to a) turn it into a major election issue by signing and encouraging all our MPs to sign the pledge, b) to have a party political broadcast on an end to broken promises, and then c) once in government decide that it was part of being in “Grown up government” (as he loved to portray it as our party collapsed around him) to renege on the pledge.

    The time to be assertive and angry was at that time, during the coalition, when we had a leader who was destroying 50 years of hard work by generations of Liberals and Lib Dems before him, – not now, when the consequences of those actions have led to a collapse in voter confidence in Liberal Democracy; loss of so many MPs, MEPs and councillors; a Conservative government with nothing more than its own electoral interests at its heart; and a catastrophic referendum which will lead us out of the EU. Nick ate all our cake while in coalition, and to pretend the problems our country now faces are down to all the rest is myopic to say the least.

    It is so easy to blame the others and point to our own inherent goodness and virtue. It is so much more difficult to face up to our own failings and accept responsibility for our part in this mess. However, if we want to turn things around enough to make us relevant to a substantial proportion of the British population to get them to vote for us again, we have to stop pretending we are simply inherently so much better than all the rest. Instead we really must be willing to face up to our weaknesses and work so much harder to make sure we never allow the same mistakes to be made all over again.

  • Arnold Kiel 6th Mar '17 - 2:56pm

    To be clear: I am not insulting the 52%; they were subjected to very skillful fraudulent propaganda and consequently made a choice against their own interests. That is regrettable but human. Concluding Brexit from their vote means taking them literally but not seriously. That is the real insult and adds injury to it.

    The interesting question now is how to address them: most of you suggest that remainers must embrace the validity and democratic legitimacy of the leave-vote first, and show respect, i.e. carrying out Brexit at any cost as the only permissible default option while waiting for a discernible change in public opinion.

    I disagree and believe we owe them honesty (the opposite is insulting). Like any fraud-victim, people first defend their signature/purchase for a while. It is difficult to accept a mistake, especially if it was made after long deliberation and based on trust in other people. It takes time to realize and admit that one was simply deceived into making a mistake. In the usual context, this realization comes with the invoice or the credit-card statement.

    The leave-decision also comes at a high cost (and without benefits), but not with a specific invoice stating Brexit as a purpose. The phase of denial might therefore last quite a while, and I am advocating against prolonging it by paying homage to this confirmation bias.

    I am afraid that the absolutely necessary reversal of Brexit must go via the painful realization by leavers that they are fraud victims. How else could we reach them with our overwhelming but still ineffective arguments for remain?

  • paul holmes 6th Mar '17 - 4:14pm

    Arnold, who says that the only alternative to voting against Brexit (initiating Article 50) is to support implementing Brexit at any cost?

  • I am not insulting the 52%; they were subjected to very skillful fraudulent propaganda and consequently made a choice against their own interests

    You’re saying they fell for a bunch of lies; that they don’t know their own minds, are not responsible for their actions, and were manipulated by others. You’re basically saying they are like children, who were led astray, don’t know any better, and now need to be shown the error of their ways by people who know better than them.

    Whatever way you slice it, that’s pretty insulting. So claiming you’re not insulting them… well you may not be intending to, but you absolutely are insulting them, even if unintentionally.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Mar '17 - 4:59pm

    David Evans. Good heavens, David, the time for navel-gazing is long gone (though, Paul, I never suggested that the idealistic proposal about tuition fees wasn’t costed – I saw that Lib Dem proposals usually were) – I do feel passionate AND angry that our good candidate in Copeland got far too few votes, owing especially to this unprincipled, uncaring, shifty government still riding high in the polls. I do believe that the Coalition leaders tried hard to represent us all, and history will judge them more kindly than you do, but now I also believe that we offer a better deal than the rest, and that sitting around examining our faults is very suitable for church-goers in Lent, but not at all suitable for our fine, hard-working, determined, idealistic but rational party which is trying to gain the power that will enable it to benefit the country, Europe, and the world.

  • Arnold Kiel 6th Mar '17 - 5:22pm

    @ paul holmes: your effectively unchallenged Government
    @ Dav: If the 52% want less jobs, lower incomes, lower pensions, less healthcare, less social care, lower corporate taxes, less home building,… then I am wrong. Otherwise you are.

  • f the 52% want less jobs, lower incomes, lower pensions, less healthcare, less social care, lower corporate taxes, less home building,… then I am wrong. Otherwise you are.

    You do not think it is insulting to claim that someone doesn’t know their own mind, that they are credulous and stupid and have no idea what they really want?

    You wouldn’t be insulted if someone said that about you?

    Well, I guess it takes all sorts, but take it form me, most people, if you basically call them children who don’t know what’s best for them, will be insulted.

  • Arnold Kiel 6th Mar '17 - 6:18pm

    @ Dav: I just tried to involve you in some logical reasoning; is it symptomatic that this invariably fails with leavers?

    The 52% surely know what they want: I believe the opposite of “less jobs, lower incomes, lower pensions, less healthcare, less social care, lower corporate taxes, less home building”. This cannot be reconciled with a Brexit vote.

    Your repeated, disconnected emotional outbursts show me that you are still in the denial phase fraud victims go through before they open up to logical reasoning.

  • paul holmes 6th Mar '17 - 7:00pm

    @Arnold Kiel. I don’t understand what you mean by “your effectively unchallenged Government”?

    The Conservative Government is being heavily challenged on Brexit -by the Liberal Democrats among others, although it is true that the principle (in numerical terms) Party of Opposition is weak at this as it is at everything else currently.

    But the fact remains that the democratically elected Government has a Parliamentary majority. Their manifesto in 2015 said that if elected they would hold a Leave/Remain Referendum which they did. The Referendum booklet they sent to every voter said that they would implement the decision, whatever it was, although they made it clear that the Government at that point preferred a Remain vote. The democratically elected Government is now carrying out its democratic commitment to implement the democratic Referendum decision. Lots of arguments and Parliamentary amendments have been and are being put forward. But the democratically elected Government is, so far, rejecting all of them. That is democracy, those with a majority of votes win.

    Unless you propose abolishing democracy (with you rather than Nigel Farage as sole arbiter presumably?), the violent overthrow of the State or something similar then I don’t understand what more ‘effective challenge’ you would advocate?

  • paul holmes 6th Mar '17 - 7:12pm

    Katharine, you say above (5th March, 10.32pm), in a paragraph about our supposedly “impractical” Tuition Fees policy that “we do not proceed with uncosted proposals as a rule”.
    Given your criticism of our 1997-2015 opposition to Fees and praise for the policy we instead supported in Coalition, I read that to be a reference to the oft made but totally inaccurate suggestion that our Fees policy was rash or not affordable or indeed uncosted. Apologies if I misread you but you can see how it might well read that way?

  • Arnold Kiel 6th Mar '17 - 8:22pm

    @ paul holmes: I was just responding to your question “who says that the only alternative to voting against Brexit (initiating Article 50) is to support implementing Brexit at any cost?” It is the currently governing execute-leave-campaign.

    To answer your follow-up question: I would like to see every MP act in the country’s well understood interest, not as an unreflected populist. The LibDems are thankfully doing it, Tories and Labour don’t. Does asking for that amount to abolishing democracy?

    What we are witnessing now is a “violent overthrow” of prudent stewardship of citizens’ welfare and reckless endangerment of the Union by an extremist gang that has captured Government. Democracy is more than counting votes. History will judge Brexit as a failure of democracy.

  • Arnold
    Ok – in the spirit of Michael Caine (listen to what he says though not necessarily the way in which he says it), lets assume just for a moment that you are right.

    Personally I find, like many others here it difficult to accept how you can be certain, unless you are able to time travel and we are now playing some kind of back to the future game. However, I’ve read enough of your posts now to be fairly convinced by your economic arguments, at least to give you the benefit of the doubt – i.e.; that the main thrust of what you are saying may well play out.

    So, what would you like to see happen now within the limits of what is possible with the knowledge we all have now?
    By that I mean, if you truly believe many very intelligent people have been hoodwinked, how do you plan to win them around – if indeed that is your aim.

    The reason I’m asking is that I believe you have 2 challenges – to challenge leavers head on (especially Lib Dem’s) will get their back up, and cause much digging in of heels, the opposite of what you want.
    To win people over, you have to show them the evidence that the dream they have bought into cannot possibly play out.

    This is really the main obstacle, and is what is really clever (if you are right).
    Because the whole leave proposition is not some “Ed stone” or politicians “12 point plan”, they have being sold a dream, which is very powerful.
    I have a dream says Farage, I have a dream, NOT I have a plan. Remind you of anyone?

    Therefore the ONLY way to depose a dream that people believe will happen for them is to displace it with one they believe could be better.
    This is the enormity of this task.
    People do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it!

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Mar '17 - 10:07pm

    Mike S. Mike, I applaud your reasoning, as so often, and also your calm tone in challenging Arnold. As you say, it is necessary to show leavers the evidence that the dream they have bought into cannot possibly work out. I think that evidence will gradually become apparent.

    Maybe Arnold’s heated tone is, as has been suggested, rather offputting to many (and especially Dav!). But as one who wrote an earlier piece entitled ‘Oppose Brexit – it’s bad for the country’, I am glad of his well-informed arguments and, yes, his passion.
    I was storming round my house earlier, shouting and laughing at the same time at perceived lack of passion in commentators here. Maybe Lib Dems reading this who agree with my anger and passion about our rightness and the Tories’ wrongness would like to form a party ginger group with me? We could meet at the Spring Conference…
    It isn’t only populists who have fire in their bellies, Lib Dems must have it too! (And I think Tim Farron has.)

    Paul Holmes, you provided me with some useful detail about the background to the tuition fees debacle, thank you, but I really don’t want to keep going back to discussing that.

  • paul holmes 6th Mar '17 - 10:30pm

    Katharine, a good point to draw this to a close then. I too don’t want to have to keep going over the reality as opposed to the myth of the Tuition Fees debacle but then I was not one of the two people who first brought the subject up in this thread.

    I agree by the way with everything else you said in your article, other than the witless bit.

  • Your repeated, disconnected emotional outbursts show me that you are still in the denial phase

    So are you now going to claim that telling someone they are having ’emotional outbursts’ and are ‘in denial’ is not insulting?

    Because again, I think most normal people would find it insulting if someone claimed they were in denial.

    I mean, I have no doubt in your sincerity, or that you think it’s true. But that doesn’t stop it being insulting. If anything it makes it more so…

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Mar '17 - 10:18am

    Katharine, the word “populist” seems to being used a lot, and also misused a lot. Surely it isn’t exactly “populist” to say that a democratic decision should be implemented? The result of a referendum that Lib Dem MPs had voted to hold, and which the party had called for for many years. Shouldn’t we be “passionate” about democracy?

  • ‘Populist’ means ‘something that is popular, that I don’t like’.

  • Arnold Kiel 7th Mar '17 - 4:50pm

    @ Mike S: 80% of the world’s population live in more or less unjust systems. Europe is home to the largest number of the remaining 20%. There are the clear-cut cases like China, Russia, North Korea, etc. On the other end of the extreme are the UK, Germany, France, etc. And some are in transition: most advanced is Turkey before the Filippines, India, Hungary, Poland, the US. Notice their direction of travel?

    Given current trends, the Russian model is winning. One key characteristic of dictatorships in all stages of their development is nationalism and the rejection of codified and enforceable international order. This is why Brexit is such a terrible signal to the entire remaining free world: one of the most advanced societies, a true democracy turns its back on the EU, the guarantor of peace, solidarity, and the rule of law in post-war Europe. This contributes to destroying my dream: that the EU remains a forceful and attractive model resisting, and eventually reversing the current global trend towards Putinism.

    Global competition can only become fiercer as resource- and environmental constraints build up. High value added manual labor in manufacturing will diminish. My dream is therefore modest: A civilized, solidaric, law-based EU that retains its competitiveness and productivity through superior skills and internal scale, and is willing to share this wealth among its citizens, including the ones who can no longer contribute productively to it. This requires a level playing field for and fair burden-sharing among all European civilizations. I have no hope that loosely coordinated European nation states can uphold this vision and this dream of mine.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Mar '17 - 5:25pm

    paul holmes 5th Mar ’17 – 12:51pm Please note what Bill Clinton wrote about the decision of the Supreme Court to award the Presidency of the USA to George W Bush. ” The worst decision they ever made”.
    A directly elected President would be more democratic, but perhaps someone who can encourage a voter registration drive and turn out African-Americans to go to the polls could win under the existing system.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Mar '17 - 6:16pm

    Arnold, your last comment made my heart ache for what as you suggest we are doing to the world in turning our backs on Europe. You wrote, ‘one of the most advanced societies, a true democracy turns its back on the EU, the guarantor of peace, solidarity, and the rule of law in post-war Europe.’ Your dream is my dream and the dream of our party, and we are right to fight passionately for it. May I recommend to everyone also Nick Cohen’s piece in last Sunday’s Observer, entitled ‘No patriot can take pride in these stupid and vile acts’, where he denounces ‘the right-wing dynamic that is driving this country deep into irredeemably folly’, and blames May especially for threatening jobs by tearing us out of the single market, and threatening foreigners by treating them as potential aliens. It is a powerful piece which does not refrain from also suggesting stupidity on the part of some of those misled by the Brexiteers.

    Catherine, of course I care about Liberal Democracy – it is democracy that means we are calling for a second referendum. Friends, we have a real fight on our hands now, and no time to go on debating the meaning of terms which we instinctively understand. Our Lib Dem leaders in both Houses of Parliament are showing the way forward for us, and we followers should not be meek and mild.

  • @ Arnold (and other interested people)
    I agree with most of your analysis.
    I also think, the Lib Dem’s need to get better, much better at their communication (in common with most political parties).
    I see pockets of real talent in this area (Mack Pack, Martin Roche).
    They appear to be few in number.
    The reason this is so important is that people buy a dream first and foremost ( Trump, Farage, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, etc).

    Politician’s generally are rubbish at communicating a dream. The one’s who are not, can be both inspiring and/or dangerous.

    When a talented communicator comes along, they stand out from the crowd immediately, people listen, people dream, people buy into the dream.
    They do it not for the person they are listening to, but for themselves, because THEY believe what the person who has inspired them believes (or they think they do).

    That is why Apple are so successful at communicating.
    There is no reason more politicians can’t do it too, but few appear to have the skills or even the knowledge of why they need to communicate in a certain way to get their message across.

    I wonder if you are familiar with TED talks?
    The 3rd most listened to of all time is called “How great leaders inspire action”
    It is 15mins that will change the whole way most people think about effective communication.
    The “golden circle of Why, How, What and the way most people communicate the ‘wrong way around’ has implications for us all.

    If anyone wants to understand why some forms of communication and persuasion are effective whilst others fall on deaf ears, they need to take a listen to this.

    In my humble opinion, this 15min talk should be compulsory for any politician or political party wanted to make a mark or/and change hearts and minds.

    Everything they do, say and think should start with WHY.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Mar '17 - 6:41pm

    Katharine, Do you absolutely guarantee that you would wholeheartedly support the result of that “second referendum”, even if it was still a vote to leave?

  • Allistair Graham 7th Mar '17 - 7:36pm

    @ Katharine Pindar: “…sitting around examining our faults is very suitable for church-goers in Lent, but not at all suitable for our fine, hard-working, determined, idealistic but rational party which is trying to gain the power that will enable it to benefit the country, Europe, and the world.”

    Well, it would seem that these “church-goers”, whom you seem keen to disparage are rather more rational than a party that thinks it is “not at all suitable” to recognise one’s own faults, even following a complete political meltdown as happened at the last GE. As a member of the party, who is also a Christian, I find it rather sad that you feel the need not only to insult democracy, as in your article, but also many of us who care for the future of this country, but are also painfully – and rationally – aware, that we will make no progress unless we examine our own faults and motives.

    The problem with the Liberal Democrats at the moment is that we give the impression that we are trying to undermine the democratic result of the referendum. We all know – if we are honest – that if the result had gone the other way, even by the smallest of margins, we would never hear the end of the establishment politicians reminding us ad nauseam that “the British people have decisively spoken in favour of membership of the EU”. I suggest that there would have been no concern for the views of the minority – no matter how large that minority (even 49.9%). Those who support the EU have a history of clamouring for “second referendums” to get the ‘right’ result when the vote goes against them. Remember Ireland and the Lisbon treaty? (Yes, the electorate was invited to change their minds following a renegotiation, but we all know that there would NOT have been a second vote “to make sure” if the Irish had voted ‘yes’ the first time round, as the democratic process is clearly dishonestly weighted in favour of supporting the EU.) No wonder many British people are cynical about the motives of those who oppose Brexit. We need to reassure the British people that we are completely committed to democracy – whatever the cost! And so, like church-goers in Lent, we ought to take the time to do the rational thing and examine our own faults and flawed motives…

  • @Arnold
    I believe this:

    needs repackaging by talented communicators much more eloquent than I, for the present world, in a language that follows the principles of the TED above, so that make people say to themselves – ‘this is a real chance to make life for my children better, give them more opportunities and I’ve done everything I can to leave the world better for my family” The ‘dream’ has never been sold to the British in the way it was in Germany, France and even Korea?
    If things start to go pear shaped and people start to question – there may be routes back to the ‘dream’. But it cannot be the same dream as before, it cannot be unaccountable, people will not give up their nation state (see all the Churchill stuff), without believing that the ‘dream’ of a ‘soft’ secure Europe is aligned with their hopes, aspirations and dreams.

    We need to be proactive with a convincing and well thought through narrative which has a clear emotional ‘story’ which is realistic, achievable and that enough people say – that sounds better than the risks we are taking now. Then and only then will public opinion start to move. It will also require a recognition form other European nations that for ANY ‘dream’ to be sold to the British, things generally have to become more accountable, and be seen to be so.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Mar '17 - 10:19pm

    @Allistair Graham. I grant you just one thing, Allistair; I meant, and should have specified, that AT THIS TIME we Lib Dems should not be sitting around examining our faults. We have certainly spent many months analysing the failures of the Coalition, but in my opinion what is needed now is to put our energies into opposing this Government, which, as Arnold Kiel particularly pinpointed, is so harmful in its actions and approaches. I am staggered that you think I insulted democracy in my article, or rather, would be staggered I suppose if I had not read over and over this extraordinary argument that to go on opposing a policy you think is wrong and harmful – as opposing parties do all the time in the Commons – is undemocratic. Anyway, I stand with my party in saying that our policy is in fact democratic. And, Catherine, yes I would accept the verdict of the second referendum, because by that time people would have been given all the facts and had a proper chance to consider them.

    Incidentally, Allistair, I am an active Christian myself and am attending a Lent study group in my church, so I accept the duty for myself of considering my faults. I don’t think though that they include my passionate commitment to the Liberal Democrat cause.

    Mike S. – well, Mike, I think Arnold communicated his dream successfully above, because it caught one’s feelings about the whole sad business of the proposed Brexit.

  • Hi Katharine
    I know he did 🙂

    That’s not my point though, as I’m sure Arnold worked out immediately.

    It’s not about communicating his dream to you and me (we only need it fine tuning).

    It’s about how we ALL communicate a ‘repackaged dream’ to a much much wider audience.

    Go on seriously, make yourself a cuppa tea (tomorrow now i dare say) and watch the TED talk, 15 mins seriously,
    I’ll be surprised if, for anyone, it doesn’t focus thoughts – light bulb moments and all that!
    sweet dreams 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Mar '17 - 1:06am

    Mike S. Hi again Mike, and thank you for all this thoughtfulness on how we can communicate our beliefs and ideals so as to convince the outside world. Since my career has been in communications, I am always glad to learn more, and listened to the TED talk with interest, though some perplexity.

    Communicating through beliefs and feelings must be right, and we need to work on it, since we have no great communicators in the party (nor are there in other parties) at present to lead the way. But it can’t work where people are of completely different mind-set, so that we in our openness and widespread sympathies will not be able to convince the section of the populace with closed personalities, caring most for order and stability. That still leaves a large proportion, though not a majority, to whom to appeal – as Nick Clegg did once, as Jeremy Corbyn did more recently. Even then there is in many people a groundedness, an inflexibility, a lack of perception or interest beyond their immediate people and life events, which is perfectly understandable but difficult to be got over by a progressive, generous political party.

    I guess that the motives which will bring many more people to support our party – reaching that ‘tipping-point’ of about 20%? – will be alarm and despondency as the ills of Brexit become apparent, rather than a sense of shared beliefs and values. But that is maybe the best that we can expect, pragmatically.

    ( I don’t know how to get emoticons into my LDV comments, but please imagine a smiley one, as I say goodnight to you here!)

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 8th Mar '17 - 7:24am

    Katharine Pindar, If you would like to add a “smiley face” to your Lib Dem Voice comments, you just write a : immediately followed by a ) . When this appears on Lib Dem Voice, it will automatically appear as a 🙂

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 8th Mar '17 - 7:54am

    Katharine, You say that you would accept the result of a “second referendum because by that time people would have been given all the facts, and had a proper chance to consider them”. In answer to this I would make two points. On the one hand, people did have access to a great deal of information during the referendum campaign, and did have quite a long time to consider. On the other hand, we will only really know the “destination” after Britain has left the EU – The deal may give some indication of the destination, but we will not really know how this will work out in practice, until some years after Britain has left the EU.
    Tim Farron has often said that people “voted for a departure, but didn’t vote for the destination”. But the only way people can decide what they think of the destination, is to give them the departure that they asked for, so they can experience the destination.
    Perhaps the party could have a new policy of a referendum ten years after Britain has left the EU, to ask whether people want to apply to rejoin.

  • Arnold. I always seek out your posts and this one has not disappointed.
    As you know, we see eye to eye on this issue. As a caveat to your dream we cannot ignore the role of ‘Hope’. This was the element that was captured by the Leave side. The referendum was framed as a battle between Hope and Fear, and Hope won. If we are to change minds we need to use your dream to retake the landscape of Hope. The same hope that will unfortunately be dashed when we finally get through this destructive process. I will go on on Hoping that we can find a way to hold on to your dream in anyway that can be achieved given the time and tides. At the same time I think we do need to be honest that to a certain extent your dream has has been failed by the EU itself (Greece, Unemployment, German surplus etc.). I would have liked us to stick with the EU and been a power to steer Europe in right direction. We will see.

  • @Katherine
    “Communicating through beliefs and feelings must be right, and we need to work on it, since we have no great communicators in the party (nor are there in other parties) at present to lead the way.”

    Actually Katharine we do – one. Take a listen to some of Tim Farron’s speeches and look at the construct, the phrases and the lead in’s. I believe, I believe , this is why etc.
    Tim (and his speech writers) are well aware of the power of emotional ‘storytelling’ in order to inspire and motivate action.

    But like any team, you need strength in depth, you need more than one talented communicator to start o make a real difference and pull in more than the 10% that ‘just get it”.
    That is the challenge now.

  • Allistair Graham 8th Mar '17 - 11:27am

    @Katherine Pindar: “I am staggered that you think I insulted democracy in my article…”

    Some of your comments seem to do so by implication.

    “I am angry that … our Liberal Democrat candidate Rebecca Hanson was sidelined by the clash of these tottering Titans. Of course she did well to double our share of the vote…” – So she doubled the Lib Dem share of the vote, therefore she was not ‘sidelined’. What is there to be angry about? She had as much chance as the other candidates to be elected through a fair democratic process, so if there is anger, it must be at the process itself. Or at the voters.

    “But neither her expertise, experience and informed commitment, nor her star quality among the candidates, could outweigh the national struggle.” – The other parties did not rob her, but rather the people of the constituency decided democratically to vote in a certain way. Again, what is there to be angry about? This is how democracy works.

    “But the witless calls for ‘the will of the people’ (that is, the 52% of Referendum voters) to be carried out will cease, when the reality of ‘Hard Brexit’ begins to be apparent.” – Others have already commented on this. It is not ‘witless’ to refer to “the will of the people”. It’s simply being faithful to democracy. Of course we should fight for the interests of the huge minority who voted to remain in the EU. But nevertheless we lost. Again, this is democracy. Either we fully embrace it, or we choose the terrifying alternative.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Mar '17 - 12:37pm

    Hello, everyone, there are so many interesting points being made by commentators here (thanks to you all) that I don’t know quite where to start now, and will next go to listen to what Philip Hammond may be offering, which may well start other responses. But one thing is clear to me now, I am not only asking for us to fight to try to stay in the EU, but also to oppose this increasingly appalling government. In the case of the first aim, the spreading of the dream, as voiced by Arnold, applauded by Mike, and now taken up helpfully by P.J. is indeed vital to the cause. P.J. wants us to reclaim the ‘landscape of hope’, rightly, but as I suggested above, I am afraid it is fear that will move people our way in the first place. And you are right, latest joiner here, to point out the failings of the EU which contributed to the result; all the more reason, I believe, why we should be actively debating (via a study group, via discussion at York?) how we would like to see the EU develop in future. But as Michael Heseltine said in his wise remarks contribution to the Today programme, there are many uncertainties in the next two years. I feel sure our party will rise to the challenges ahead.
    (Mike, I had no sooner written back to you, than I thought as you do – yes we do have one fine contributor, in Tim Farron. Catherine, thanks for this as a start! a:a). ?)

  • Little Jackie Paper 8th Mar '17 - 1:17pm

    Katharine Pindar – ‘I believe, why we should be actively debating (via a study group, via discussion at York?) how we would like to see the EU develop in future.’

    With respect.

    I hear that a lot across the political spectrum at the moment – but does anyone really have a clear answer to that? The fact is that if the referendum showed nothing else it is that the days of starry-eyed pro-EU thinking are largely gone. We can argue about why that is, there are probably plenty of reasons. But isn’t the real issue what to do about that? No one really has given me a compelling idea.

    And it perhaps should be noted that a non-love of the EU is far from unique to the UK.

    There are, of course, some very big questions here. Free movement is an obvious one. I believe that politicians in other countries are at least asking questions.

    I think that there is a general agreement that at a minimum the UK could and should do more WITHIN EU rules that exist already on free movement and on other things. A real study on what could be done might be interesting (albeit the answers might not be popular).

    But even looking within those rules the stark fact is that we have a very asymmetric EU. See for example

    I find it very hard to get past the idea that if 2m+ young UK un/underemployed could all head to the A8/A2 tomorrow and get wages/housing/in-work welfare and send money home then we’d just have had a 95% IN vote. The question is not what ‘we’ as in UK plc get out of this but rather to my mind it is a question of reciprocity. In short how can ‘more Europe’ mean ‘more Europe for those that don’t have much Europe.’ For too many people at the moment ‘Europe’ and the ‘Open Agenda’ it embodies, rightly or wrongly, means nothing more than economic dislocation.

    So while I agree with you on the need for a debate I’m far from convinced anyone in any party is even close to framing the question, still less answering it.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 8th Mar '17 - 1:28pm

    Katharine, sorry, I should have made my instructions for adding 🙂 more clear. Just write : then immediately after write ) That sort of makes the shape of a smiley face, turned onto one side, and will automatically appear on Lib Dem Voice as 🙂

  • Arnold Kiel 8th Mar '17 - 6:37pm

    On Europe’s shortcomings in shorthand (maybe I will contribute something more exhaustive on the so-called EU or Euro-problems): Greece has no modern private sector, Spain was on track before it built 800.000 homes a year on credit, Portugal failed to wake up when the new Eastern members retooled (those 3, btw., were military dictatorships until 1974/75), Italy will always be Italy, and Germans like to make things people like to and can buy. One cannot require supremacy of member-state governments and blame the EU for national problems at the same time.

    On hope: I don’t really see much in the leave-case. On one level there are slogans: “taking back control, controlling our borders, sovereignty, independence day”. Are these really that powerful? Quite practically it means uninhibited (increasingly likely long-term) Tory-rule. And the kind of post-coalition Tory-rule is becoming clearer; does that spell hope for the ones left behind, the JAMs?

    And immigration? This element of hope does not survive the most superficial scrutiny. It has to and will stay high (and it is better that way).

    The hope to become a global leader in free trade? Even if there were takers out there, it would mean replacing intra-continental trade with the intercontinental one. What kind of hope lies in this for millions of poorly skilled people already on low wages and long hours?What kind of hope lies in this for SMEs who are trading relatively effortlessly in Europe today?

    I would sum up the leave-hope like that: let’s go back to the 70s in terms of ethnic mix, Western superiority, house prices, hospital density, union strength, pensions, public transport, and let’s take back with us mobile phones, the internet, low-cost airtravel, 50 mpg VWs, and Chinese-made consumer durables.

    These myths cannot be hard to dismantle. If being unkind to such dreams is perceived as being unkind to the dreamers, I am sorry. But it must be done.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Mar '17 - 6:47pm

    @ Arnold – “I don’t really see much in the leave-case. On one level there are slogans: “taking back control, controlling our borders, sovereignty, independence day”. Are these really that powerful? Quite practically it means uninhibited (increasingly likely long-term) Tory-rule.”

    Do we now come to the heart of the matter: “We love EUrope because it will deliver us from an electorate that keeps voting in tory governments.”

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Mar '17 - 7:49pm

    Arnold, I entirely agree with your analysis of how the hopes of the Leave voters seem likely to be in vain. To replace intra-continental trade with intercontinental does indeed seem unlikely to be profitable, and truly one can see little hope for the millions of poorly skilled workers from this, or even the so-called JAMs. The hope we can have is a sad one – that Tory hegemony will not last because so many will find their dream of the sovereign, independent, back-in-control Britain crashing down with the economic dislocation to come. (Incidentally, even the section of the JAMs who run small businesses are now to be caught with higher national insurance payments, contrary to the Tory election manifesto pledge not to increase NI – but one does not expect truthfulness from this shifty and unprincipled lot.)
    On the failings of the EU, I have a personal problem – do we really want to give more power back to the individual states’ governments, when we consider the authoritarian leanings of those of Hungary and Poland? But luckily it is not a subject to be currently considered!

    However, Little Jackie Paper, surely the very fact that there are no easy answers to how we would like to see the EU develop in future is why we should have a study group to consider it? You can’t have the answers before the questions. And actually, I have various questions for you, though thank you for coming in on this and providing a link to a document. I read the Executive Summary from it, and realised it was a useful consideration of how to reduce economic and social disparities in the EU and promote sustainable development. But where are you coming from yourself? Do you work for the IMF? Are you an Englishman living and working on the Continent, perhaps with a non-English wife? You always sound knowledgeable, but your pseudonym puzzles. And to be honest, I with my very limited knowledge, don’t know what CESEE is, nor what A8/A2 means. Please can you explain yourself and the source of all your knowhow a little? I don’t know much about Arnold either, where he lives for example, but at least we have his name, know he is German, and can guess at his industry background.

    I had better stop for the moment, or I shall be told I am writing too often. But Allistair, could I ask you please to spell my first name correctly, as I do yours?

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Mar '17 - 11:45pm

    Briefly to answer some other points raised here. Allistair, here is a quotation: ‘We are the party through which people can express their anger at a Conservative government that is betraying our country’s interests.’ The words of our good communicator, Leader Tim Farron, in his Welcome to York, near the beginning of the agenda for our forthcoming Spring Conference. Of course I am angry! My neighbouring constituency of Copeland has added one more Tory MP to the followers of this unworthy Conservative government.

    Catherine, you disagree with Tim Farron’s view, and with mine. With respect, we must agree to disagree. Thank you for contributing here, though. 🙂 By the way, sisters all, I haven’t ignored International Women’s Day altogether – I went to the Women’s World Day of Prayer and heard about the travails of poor women in the Philippines, having to read aloud one of their testimonies, as did about six other people there. This was in Keswick, in the Copeland constituency, where at least women mostly have a chance of a better life. But I’m still angry that Rebecca wasn’t elected to represent them and everyone else this time.

  • David Allen 9th Mar '17 - 12:29am

    “The witless calls for ‘the will of the people’ (that is, the 52% of Referendum voters) to be carried out will cease, when the reality of ‘Hard Brexit’ begins to be apparent.”

    I’m afraid the controversy over these words goes to show that hyperbole often wins. It is hyperbole to call a 52% to 48% vote “the will of the people”, and yes, the behaviour of unscrupulous politicians who make such gross overclaims can fairly be called witless. Nevertheless, right-wingers with beams in their eyes are expert at identifying or creating motes in the eyes of their opponents. Close reading will show that the OP didn’t actually call Leave voters “witless”, but why bother about the truth in this case, when “clever” misrepresentation can enable people like Dav to make a false claim to the moral high ground?

    Revenge is in the air. That is what Brexit and Trump are all about. It is the revenge of the angry uneducated losers against the successful. The vengeful angry losers in society will applaud gross lies which pander to their prejudices, while pouncing on the slightest mis-step by their more successful, internationalist-minded opponents.

    We cannot entirely complain. Yes, Brexit is a crazy idea which will cause lasting harm. But the revenge of the losers is partly our own fault. We patronised them, laughed at their white vans and their St George’s flags, ignored what they had to say. So they have fought back, with Brexit as their weapon of revenge.

    If we are so damn smart, can we find a way to make peace and reunite our country? Because if we can’t, we are doomed to Hard Brexit.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Mar '17 - 12:37am

    Katharine and Catherine, hot from paying tribute to you both on the Sarah Olney piece , and for international womens day, I do think you confirm my view of you both here , as , inspiring in your reasonableness ! And in many ways other too.

  • David Evans 9th Mar '17 - 2:25am


    I’m afraid your dismissive first comment is extremely disrespectful but I think it probably simply underlines a difficulty in facing up to the reality of the disaster that has happened to the cause of Liberal Democracy. “Good heavens David, the time for navel gazing is long gone,” really is a disparaging comment – especially when you consider the fact that all that has happed post 2015 with regard to the disaster of coalition is a bit of wistful navel gazing. No review has been undertaken, views sought, analysis carried out, or conclusions reached. No one at any senior level even having it pointed out to them that they were around at the time, and did nothing to stop 50 years of hard work being destroyed. Nothing from you on what you did to try to get the party to realise things were going disastrously wrong for the future of Liberal Democracy. Did Copeland and Workington even consider holding a vote on Nick’s leadership post the 2014 Euro Elections meltdown? Nothing on whether you even noticed we were losing seats across the country year after year after year.

    If you believe that coalition leaders tried to represent us all, all I can say is that how do you explain Nick ignoring two votes in conference against Secret Courts, he certainly didn’t represent those with liberal principles then. Do you really think that the reaction to the massive concern expressed at Gateshead Conference on the disastrous NHS reforms, showed our leaders trying to represent us all, when what appeared was a wrecking motion (called in a successful attempt at a dog whistle ‘the Shirley Williams motion’, was an attempt to represent us all. Or was it an attempt to subvert the efforts of those who had the courage to say things were already going badly wrong?

    Finally, as for your comment “sitting around examining our faults is very suitable for church-goers in Lent, but not at all suitable for our fine, hard-working, determined, idealistic but rational party which is trying to gain the power that will enable it to benefit the country, Europe, and the world,” sounds all very worthy, but I ask you one simple question. Would our fine, determined, idealistic but rational party be able to do all those good things to benefit the world better if it had 57 MPs as it had in 2010, or the 9 MPs it had now. I would suggest your response should consider the question “Would there have been a Brexit Referendum if we had retained our 57 seats?”

  • Bill le Breton 9th Mar '17 - 8:55am

    Well said, David. It is all well and good drawing attention to the fate of the poor and disadvantaged but which party did a 180 degree turn, fighting the 2010 election on a policy of reducing the deficit by half by 2015 and in few hours,literally, pushing the disastrous policy of trying to remove the deficit in five years ie by 2015. Our fingerprints are all over the crime scene that is the misfortune of the most disadvantaged in our communities.

    That foolish ‘market liberal’ policy of accelerating the pace of deficit reduction in the 2010-15 Parliament did more to encourage a Brexit vote than anything.

    There were women and men who tried to highlight the folly of the Clegg and Laws era – I regard them as both right and brave and certainly not navel gazers. Then there were women and men who feted them, apologised for them, sucked up to them, and told us it would all turn out well in the end. These were the dreamers. The fiddlers while Rome burned.

    David and others are right to say there does not seem to be any learning from those days. The same people remain enthralled to those dreams.

    The next fifty years are the most dangerous this country has experienced for centuries. It requires leaders (kept sharp by their Parties) who are not seduced by image but have their feet on the ground. Who put freedom and the rule of law first and are not slaves to idolatry. And there is a good deal of idolatry in our views of the EU.

    It was good to see Nick Clegg telling a German audience yesterday that they should go easy on the UK during negotiations because the 27 and the 1 can benefit from a free trade between us all.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Mar '17 - 9:05am

    David Allen – ‘We patronised them, laughed at their white vans and their St George’s flags, ignored what they had to say.’

    I don’t think it’s really that though. I think what rankled was more the in-built assumption that what they were saying was de facto wrong. Or at the very least that their concerns could be explained away as if they weren’t relevant. As I said earlier, all the euro-good will in the world isn’t really any use when an awful lot of people at best have a minimal stake in the project and at worst are on the rough end of the deal.

    The classic one is free movement. Concerns are raised that are generally explained away by reference to the tax take. But look for example at this European Parliament report – That looks rather more than theoretical to me! Note in particular p27.

    As I said earlier the question to my mind is what to do about all this and so far I can’t see anyone framing a question on this point, still less finding answers. Internationalists have too often skated dangerously close to saying, ‘OK, this open agenda has meant your jobs have all gone East. But now we’ve got a load of French bankers paying taxes, so that funds your welfare. And globalisation means that although the workshops have gone to China you now have poundshops so that welfare stretches further.’ Not exactly a mass-appeal vote-winner.

    Ultimately when it came to the crunch, what was the REMAIN campaign’s actual argument? In summary the best some skilled, highly paid operators could come up with seemed to be, ‘vote for the EU – it’s not all that bad.’

    I dislike the term left-behind, I don’t think it’s quite right. But where I think the EU took a wrong turn was the idea that ‘more Europe’ would mean ‘more Europe for everyone.’ The only way I can see to heal the divide you mention is for Europe to mean something accessible to the poor in UK deindustrialised towns as well as to the bankers of London and the young of Poland. We’re nowhere near that.

  • @ David Evans and Bill le Breton. Great posts by you both. You reflect my feelings exactly.

    Nobody should ever underestimate the feeling of dismay many of us had when we saw Liberal values being abandoned. Lessons should have been learned but it is an open question whether they have been.

  • Katherine history is history yes, but if we dismiss it and do not learn from it then we are going into the future blind. David Evans is right. I supported the coalition but it was an error of huge proportions. With hindsight we should have let the Conservatives operate a minority government in 2010, took the hit in an October election, lost maybe 25 seats, and then with 25 -30 MPS regrouped during the years of an austerity Conservative government. We would not have had 8 MPS at the following elction probably 40. We would even had half a dozen Euro MPs and lots more councillors. As for Scotland well that does not bear mention, 5th behind the Greens.
    BUT that is done, the lesson, DO NOT GO INTO COALITION AGAIN.
    In the meantime let us get on with the job in hand, which after our very limited success at Copeland and Stoke has suddenly been made harder. Perhaps Gorton and the May elections will provide the next limited boost, at least in England. Let us hope so.

  • Peter Watson 9th Mar '17 - 12:08pm

    @David Raw “Lessons should have been learned but it is an open question whether they have been.”
    This is very important for me. I can’t break the LibDemVoice habit, and after several years of visiting this site since the disappointment of the way the party approached coalition, I read many comments by Lib Dems with which I agree but I still cannot tell whether or not they reflect a changed general direction of the party as the leadership seems pretty vague apart from on Brexit.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Mar '17 - 1:15pm

    David Evans and supporters above, I do understand the grief and anger felt by councillors, workers and MPs who lost their jobs and their chance to do more good work because the Coalition proved a disaster for our party. I also appreciate that because I wasn’t active in those years myself due to major life changes, I have more energy, hope and fervour now than perhaps is possible for the defeated. But when I came back to activism in May 2015 I did study what had happened and was happening next, and wrote a leaflet about it which, after being expertly localised and produced by colleagues, was distributed in our areas. It explained briefly what our ministers had tried to do and what had been going wrong since, now that the Tories were ruling alone.
    More to the point, you are wrong to say ‘No review has been undertaken … no analysis carried out.’ The party did exactly that, and the report by the chair of the party’s campaigns committee James Gurling was published; I read it and wrote about it in LDV at the time. We have done the analysis and should surely two years later be moving on, having indeed learnt from the past.
    Our task as a party is urgent, I believe, to try to stop the potential disaster of Brexit, and to fight this appalling government. We have the strength of a clear position, determined leadership, good policies, and the advantage of a weak and divided official opposition. It seems to me evident that we must look forward now and campaign with all our intelligence and energy on these national and international issues.

    Thank you, David Allen, for your perceptive, sympathetic and useful comment, and thank you also Lorenzo. But, Little Jackie, I find it hard to engage in discussion with you when I don’t know where you are coming from or anything about you, much as I want to learn about and debate the future of our EU.

  • @ Peter Watson I know where you’re coming from Peter. You mirror my feelings – but I don’t know the answer to your question.

    My opinion, from the very occasional conversations I’ve had with him, is that Tim does understand the problem – but he has a balancing act to perform to try to keep the party together. The Trident motion illustrates the point whether one agrees with it or not.

    What I do know is that if the party doesn’t flesh out a radical stance going beyond Brexit……. to tackle inequality and social injustice….. then it will soon lose momentum and fall away again (as it did when memories of Iraq faded).

    A wishy-washy bit of this and a bit of that won’t do. That is why the Liberal Party died post 1918 to be replaced by the Labour Party which then had a bit of fire in its belly. Liberal Democrats should speak truth to power.

    On a tactical level, I’m not aware of any deep consideration of the lessons to be learned from the 2010 Coalition (I’m 400 miles from London) – and there are still plenty of apologists around for what happened. A bit more mea culpa from Mr Clegg would help. On a personal level he is quite charming, has courage and can make a good speech – BUT – If he had been a football manager at Sheffield Wednesday he would never have lasted five years. More importantly, I don’t think he, or the people around him, has a profound understanding of what a radical policy to tackle inequality and social injustice means.

    A six month secondment to a Food Bank and a Citizen’s Advice Bureau might help at the lower end, but I still don’t see any recognition of the effects of globalisation and the power of the 1%.

    As to Tim, I’m prepared to give him a chance.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Mar '17 - 1:35pm

    Katharine Pindar – ‘Little Jackie, I find it hard to engage in discussion with you when I don’t know where you are coming from or anything about you’

    What is it you would want to know?

  • David Allen 9th Mar '17 - 6:34pm

    LJP, I too find you pose some difficulties. Let me try to explain. You certainly don’t talk nonsense. Highly pertinent points emerge, fitfully, throughout your postings. So I would like to make sense of them. And yet, often I just can’t get to grips with what you are really driving at. You said, for example: “the question to my mind is what to do about all this and so far I can’t see anyone framing a question on this point, still less finding answers.” It’s not easy to engage with that!

  • David Allen 9th Mar '17 - 7:04pm

    As a vociferous opponent of Coalition alongside David Evans and Bill le Breton, I certainly agree that our disastrous embrace of the Right, and also our uncritical embrace of the EU (viz. Clegg’s “ten more years of the same” comment), were dreadful mistakes. No doubt they contributed to the eventual Brexit rebellion by Britain’s army of angry losers. However, Labour’s failures were surely more important. It was Labour who chose Hampstead over Hartlepool, Westminster over West Bromwich. It was Labour who lost touch with their working class base, and let UKIP and even the Tories sweep them up.

    Where do we go from here? I find myself midway between the positions expressed by Katharine on the one hand, and by “two Davids, one Bill, and to some extent one Peter” on the other. On the one hand, Katharine is right to tell us not to go on obsessing over the Coalition, and to give primacy to tackling the Brexit disaster, which will drag Britain down for a generation or more if it is not stopped or softened. On the other hand, we do have to ask why our recovery has not been stronger.

    I think it is because our basic positioning is still unclear. We have ditched the Orange Book – I think – but we have put little in its place. Tim’s ferocious assault on Brexit deserves great credit – but room has also to be found for a comparable assault on what the Tories are doing to wreck the NHS, to take education backwards, to hit the working class while mouthing hypocrisies about how much they care. Being all things to all men has not won us votes. Returning to our radical principles can do that.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Mar '17 - 10:41pm

    Little Jackie Paper, thanks for asking. People are entitled to use pseudonyms, but yours is a particularly mysterious one. You are obviously intelligent and knowledgeable about the EU, but the only thing I know about you is that you have a wife! You are perhaps then (though not necessarily!) a man. I guess from your writing that you are English, but that you probably live and work in Europe, probably for an international organisation. Is that right? Perhaps your wife is also English – Jackie? (But why Little and why Paper?) I guess that you are right of centre, not a committed Liberal Democrat, but sympathetic. Perhaps like me you feel that you are a European and believe in the EU (especially if you work for it?) but agree that we should be talking about developments there, desirable or not. I think you worry about the imbalances between the EU nations, but I don’t understand your remark (repeated now on another thread) about the 2m. young un or underemployed, if they had headed for Europe the vote would have been different.

    So, please give me some idea of who you are and where you are coming from – I hope you have enjoyed my guesses! And I still want a working group to discuss ideas – because for one reason I think the immigrant ‘problem’ is solvable without too much of a hassle.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Mar '17 - 11:16pm

    @ Theakes. I think you are possibly right in concluding, of course with hindsight, that entering the Coalition was bad for the party. I would argue that the country benefited from our restraining hand, and I refer you to David Laws’ book on that score. But I must disagree firmly with your conclusion, that we should never again enter a coalition. On the contrary I think it is the only way in the foreseeable future for us to share power, and thus – as we did in the last – get some of our policies enacted.

    I guess there would be no chance of getting anywhere near sharing power if an early General Election were to be held, because the Tories are likely to be elected with a bigger majority for the time being. But in 2020, after the disastrous consequences of Brexit become apparent, perhaps there is a chance of Lib Dem gains. There might even be Labour gains too, if Corbyn bows out. I guess we would have to rely on people’s tactical voting there, because locals will probably reject ‘progressive alliances’.

    You make I think a fair point, that the latest by-election results with their limited success have not contributed as much as we would like for our party’s advance. There was a bit of being swept aside as the two major parties grappled in Copeland, with even – as a colleague of mine suggested – the annoying old myth of a wasted vote reviving. But on the other hand, we did not have a strong local government base to built on there. And we did not make a great deal of play for the Remainers’ votes, which should surely be firmly sought in Gorton. Good luck to them – we will concentrate on building up here, having made a steady start and been energised and shown the way by experts. Nationally, as I have emphasised here, I believe we must be determined and resolute to reclaim what has been lost, and that it can be done.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Mar '17 - 11:56pm

    PS – one small correction, sorry. I see I have written that Theakes might be right, that entering the Coalition was bad for the party. Yes of course it was bad for the party, in the effects generated. I meant to say, maybe you are right that the DECISION TO ENTER the Coalition was a bad one. That will always be argued, however!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Mar '17 - 12:28am

    There is much in this thread that is constructive and beyond the mean I told you so variety.I do believe it is unfortunate that too many judge Liberals in general , and Liberal Democrats specifically, as villains if not of a left wing sort. The mistakes and failures of those who were to blame in the coalition, if blame is wanted yet, are to have gone with , not centre or even centre right Liberalism, but conservative dogma about deficit reduction deluxe ! Those policies we rightly, and no pun intended, disliked, were those that were not even sensible to many bright orange Liberal Democrats or Bright Blue liberal Conservatives ! As someone who is not left wing or right wing , but what was once a liberal minded social democrat in Labour considered too right wing for old Labour and too left wing for New , at times, I do not think that recognising that all parties are broad churches, and forgiveness not just a Christian virtue, and forgetfulness not just a sign of age, is a good yardstick and one we should consider.

    This out of the way, I do agree , that , while good colleagues above should think of that which I advocate, I think of what they say, and conclude , as do they, we need much more than anything re Brexit, which is resembling a one hit wonder for a fine singers or a band , that deserves better, as it has not even proven a hit beyond Richmond !

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Mar '17 - 8:01pm

    Lorenzo, I love your liberalism, broad-mindedness and tolerant, open approach. I am only afraid of us as a party as being seen as too centrist, too middle-of-the-road, as our advertising was in the May ’15 General Election. Fortunately Tim’s leading us to our very firm stance on Brexit, as part of our pro-EU sympathies, gives us some edge now, a clearer definition in public perception. I believe we must also address the country’s problems and attack this uncaring government’s handling of them in a definite social liberal way: as David Raw says above, we need a radical stance to tackle social injustice and inequality, and as Tim himself has written, be rightfully angry.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Mar '17 - 9:53pm

    Thank you , that’s good of you ,I do not feel as much for the EU, but, support the policy and agree wholeheartedly on the need for more radical policies too ! I often say there is much that unites and we need to emphasise that .It can mean avoiding wishy washy completely!

  • Katharine, I’m afraid you are still ploughing the same wrong furrow. It isn’t as you put it ‘the grief and anger felt by councillors, workers and MPs who lost their jobs’ nor ‘their chance to do more good work because the Coalition proved a disaster for our party.’ Lib Dems do not become active to do a job, nor to give themselves a chance to do good work – they do it because their communities need Liberal Democrats: real live, active, hard working Lib Dems, fighting for them. Lib Dems fighting against the entrenched political establishment that run most councils, and run the country, not for the good of the people, but for the good of *their* people.

    Lib Dems with their belief in empowering all people to achieve things for themselves are the antidote to that crony centred politics and an antidote that is needed to be there year after year, decade after decade. Not an antidote that passes a few laws and makes a few ministerial decisions when they have a chance and then wonders why things aren’t working because they are being ignored, bypassed or simply undermined by their coalition partners after they had seen us off.

    Ultimately the thing needing explaining is not ‘what our ministers had tried to do and what had been going wrong since,’ but what our leaders failed to do and how that allowed the Conservatives to weaken us so much that we were no longer there after May 2015 to stop them. Our ministers may have tried and did succeed in winning some skirmishes, but I can’t remember a single battle that we won against Conservative opposition and as for the war, well 2015 speaks for itself.

    Not just for now, but for the future. That is the problem coalition has left us with. What our leaders sacrificed in coalition, the chance for so many people to be represented by Liberal Democrats fighting for them. So many towns and cities with hardly any Lib Dems at all. If we are lucky we will rebuild, but it will take decades to get back to where the hard work of so many had got us to by 2010.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Mar '17 - 11:49pm

    David Evans: ‘communities need real live, active hard-working Lib Dems … fighting against the entrenched political establishment that runs most councils, and runs the country, not for the good of the people, but for the good of ‘their’ people’. Amen to that, David. I have only just seen your latest post, reviewing all the comments before I go to York in the morning, and I thank you for it.

    We start from different positions, because I did not experience the Coalition years as you and others did, and reading David Laws’ book convinced me of some good that was done that you did not see. So I cannot share your anger and antipathy towards those who let us down then, nor have I experienced what it is like to have ‘good work’ (there is surely nothing wrong in that conception) overturned or frustrated by the rise to power of entrenched political establishments in the councils. But if you have seen a few of my previous posts you will know that I feel anger and passion against the national holders of power who misuse it, who have done so all my political life, the Establishment led by the Tories, these sophisticated unprincipled predators.

    We are on the same side, David, we have the same fight, and share the same passion to engage with it: this is our time now to convince the nation that our anger must be theirs, that we must put this government to flight and save our country for the better times that we can help to bring about, both nationally and locally.

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