To be the anti-Brexit party, being anti-Brexit isn’t enough

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The Liberal Democrats have a unique opportunity to occupy the centre ground in UK politics. At least, this is the assertive and ambitious pitch set out by new party leader Vince Cable MP.

On the face of it, this is a compelling argument, coming just as the Labour and Conservative parties seem to be in thrall to their fringes and flirting with a hard Brexit.

Moreover, it is now evident that many remainers voted Labour to deny the Conservatives a clear majority for a hard Brexit, and are likely to be less than enamoured by Corbyn’s fairly open support for the same goal.

At the same time, we have to be brutally honest. If this is such a great plan, how come we still seem so far away from a Macron-like rejuvenation of the centre? Even if the strategy is the right one, are the Libdems best placed to deliver it? (To be clear, a weak centre party is a blessing for the two main parties.)

For sure, FPTP is a structural issue that seems here to stay. And with the benefit of hindsight, the enablers of the ‘austerity’ coalition government calling for a second referendum during the election campaign is likely to have been perceived as special pleading amongst some parts of the electorate and will have done little to change our image.

Facing up to this allows us to confront an important question. While many voted to leave the EU to bash the government of the day or exercise a purely nationalist vote, others did so because they believed the lies printed on the side of a bus; namely, that Brexit would help shore up public services. Even if the link with Brexit is spurious, do we not do agree with this underlying concern?

That is, while we would not want to share nativist fears that public services are ‘overcrowded’, it is fairly clear that the social contract in the UK is under heavy strain. The evidence is ample, from the visible gap in wealth between London and the rest of the country, sky-high house prices in the South, the lack of investment in public services across the board, (e.g. transport, health, schools, defence), an HMRC captured by business interests, the perception of a declining quality to our liberal democracy, to name but a few examples.

Putting a positive vision for the country centre stage, unashamedly embracing the fast-changing nature of globalisation but with strong public services and a redistributive element that allow us to flourish as a society, would underpin the case for remaining in the EU but also address head-on the legacy of the coalition. We cannot be credible on Brexit while at the same time that we perceive ourselves as the most progressive party in UK politics we are derided by significant parts of the electorate as ‘Tories on bikes’.

Finally, at this most important juncture in UK politics, only the Libdems are able to present a workable strategic vision for Britain’s future. The Tories are caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to preserve the spirit of 23 June 2016 while avoiding a cliff edge hard Brexit that they fear will obliterate them. Labour are trying to profit from ambiguity but, in a mirror image to some on the right, the current leadership ultimately seems to relish Brexit as an opportunity to radically remake the UK. It has never been clearer that the battle of Brexit is a struggle for control over the narrative on Britain’s future, and one in which Libdems have always believed we have the best weapons. Let’s use them.

* Rory Domm is a member of the Twickenham and Richmond Libdems

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38 Comments

  • What about the wealth gap in London. Hackney is not wealthier than Dorset or Essex. Wealthy London v the poor provinces is a myth, bits of London, bits of the country. Young indebted students and renters are not wealthier than their home owning parents or grandparents. Brexit was driven by culture and by people not wearing rose tinted glasses about the joys of globalism. Politics is fought and organised nationally not internationally. Macron did not win because he had a global vision or was from the mainstream centre he won because he was the last candidate standing in a competition reduced to a choice between him or the very Far Right. His popularity was not that high and is plummeting. He was the least worst choice.

  • David Evershed 9th Aug '17 - 11:19am

    Lib Dems do not have centrist beliefs.

    Our beliefs are surely economic liberalism (more to the right) and social liberalism (more to the left) along with being anti-authoritarian.

    The only part that might be regarded as centrist is where the two liberalisms conflict and trade offs have to be made.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Aug '17 - 11:33am

    “For sure, FPTP is a structural issue that seems here to stay”. No, only seems. Progress happened with STV for Northern Ireland when MEPs were directly elected. Progress happened in the Scottish constitutional convention, leading to a fair voting system for Scotland and for Wales at devolution. Progress happened when London’s need for a structural authority was restored, with second preference votes for the mayor and list votes for the Assembly members. At the end of the coalition at Holyrood there was still determination from Lib Dems, as Charles Kennedy said, and electoral reform for local government in Scotland by STV was achieved. The Tories allowed second preference votes for elected police bosses in England (outside London where the mayor chairs the police authority). In 2010 our leaders had a powerful hand, but asked for the wrong thing, a nationwide referendum on AV, which had to be fought on the expenses of MPs, a negative factor. We should not include bye-elections for hereditary peers, which David Steel has attempted to abolish and which are contrary to Labour’s 1997 manifesto as their then leader in the Lords admitted: a deal, but a broken promise from Labour.
    The situation now is not that electoral reform is impossible: even the Tories had STV in their previous system for electing their leader, but simply that Brexit is of over-riding importance.

  • ” because they believed the lies printed on the side of a bus”

    A good start at a revival would be to stop telling 17 million citizens that you believe they are stupid dupes. I don’t know if you realise it but they may well not vote for a party that delights in insulting them and which accuses them of “shafting” the young.

    A second step would be plausible policies. “Redistributive element” = big tax rises, “invest in public services” = yet more borrowing and I am unsure what “embracing…globalisation” means but I assume is the magical way that all this is paid for.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Aug '17 - 12:32pm

    “… we still seem so far away from a Macron-like rejuvenation of the centre”

    The Liberal Democrats is not a ‘centre’ or ‘centrist’ party. When a previous leader tried to position us ‘not left, not right but centre’, we were smashed comprehensively.

    Macron is a better prospect than Le Pen, of course, but his model is Tony Blair. And Blair was no Liberal (in the traditional British understanding of the term).

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Aug '17 - 1:00pm

    Palehorse has the only god response to Rory here. A good article well intentionesd with a real belief in the need to understand the country’s concerns is trashed if we are patronising to those who voted for us to leave the EU.

    Sir Vince flopped similarly. His ageist , right on , dude, routine is a non starter, from and elderly man with more gravitas than street cred.

    And could some stop telling us we are not a so called centrist party, we are what the members are and many are in the moderate and radical centre, and centre left.

    As for Blair, he was and is as much a Mill Liberal as any, only the harm principle fueled his more authoritarian elements, his respect agenda, choice agenda, were pure Grimond Liberal sense, actually on public lawlessness Grimond was more authoritarian when harm was a potential effect of disorder.Read his words, A Personal Manifesto , written just before Thatcher became pm, is stuff that would make left libertarian Liberal Democrats wince.

    Many read into things what they like.

    I like to read things as they are.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '17 - 1:06pm

    Well said, Rory, ‘the social contract in the UK is under heavy strain’. and ‘being anti-Brexit isn’t enough’. I wouldn’t fixate myself on us being a centre party, but on all we have to offer to improve the dire state of the country, with its failing services, rising inequality, increasing child poverty, and hardship to young people among other evils.

    Though there is much more to be worked out, the policies of our Election Manifesto, Change Britain’s Future, offer hope that we are on the right tracks. For example, under section 6. ‘Support families and communities’, one of the policies which was agreed at Conference and repeated here is, ‘Take 13000 people out of poverty by letting both parents earn before their Universal Credit is cut and also reverse cuts to the family element.’

    The Manifesto includes many constructive policies, and will be debated further at our September Conference. There are two obvious problems, though. One is that we are not in power nor close to it, at a time when May’s government shows few signs of living up to her initial promise to serve everyone, including the just-about-managing, while rising inflation is hitting the poorest and medical and other services are failing to match needs. The other main problem is still of course Brexit, which is a massive distraction of government resources of every kind besides being a continuing threat to the country’s well-being. We have to continue to fight ‘to protect Britain’s place in Europe’, as the Manifesto says, and I believe we must continue to do that with continued attention and with renewed passion, as the national debate moves on in the next few weeks.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '17 - 1:09pm

    Correction – ‘Take 13000 children out of poverty’, not ‘people’, above, is what the Manifesto says and I meant to write.

  • Many thanks for the comments – all very well received.

    I would like to underline what for me was the central point of the article – the importance of communicating a clear set of policies to complement and underpin our focus on stopping Brexit.

    As a secondary point, these policies are sorely needed to overcome the legacy of the coalition.

    I’m afraid at the moment I don’t think voters have any idea what we stand for except opposing Brexit, and the tarred legacy of the coalition.

    There was a comment piece in the FT yesterday (Janan Ganesh) on setting up a specific anti-Brexit party. For me this is a trap we cannot fall into.

    A single issue party is a movement (which might be useful in its own right), or a faction, but not a party and will lead to electoral oblivion for the Libdems (and also won’t stop Brexit).

  • @palehorse

    “A good start at a revival would be to stop telling 17 million citizens that you believe they are stupid dupes.”

    Hopefully in a free country we can have a discussion about brexit. If not it seems that brexiteers’ vision for the future of Britain is that of North Korea.

    The monetary cost to Britain of leaving the EU is high. The “divorce bill” directly is very very likely to be £40 billion – about 8 years of (net) payments to the EU. The decrease in the pound has meant higher inflation and wages not rising as fast meaning less tax receipts and less money for public services. Growth has been revised down. Less money for public services. Jobs in the financial services are already drifting away meaning a knock on effect of fewer jobs that these support. And less money for public services.

    It is tough to see where the extra money for the NHS is coming from!

    Anyway the good news is we all be soo able to eat chlorine washed chicken from America!

    Someone pointing this out is not calling others dupes but exercising their right to free speech in a free country.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Aug '17 - 1:43pm

    I agree with you Rory. We have to address the issue of deprivation and failing public services as well as campaigning against Brexit. At the moment our country is deeply divided and needs policies that will help us unite and that won’t happen over Brexit. I think we are in a post revolutionary phase at the moment, where extremes are fighting each other, fortunately through the ballot box rather than actual violence, although that seems to be on the increase. It seems to me that we’re the only party willing to offer hope based on rationality and we must offer a different way.

  • paul barker 9th Aug '17 - 2:01pm

    One of the most interesting bits of Polling since The Election was that on attitudes to “Gay Sex”. Two thirds of Remainers thought that it was “Natural” as against only one in five Leavers.
    The Remain/Leave split is a useful short hand for Liberal/Illiberal or to put it another way – Voters who might vote Libdem against those who never will. As a small Party recovering slowly from a “Near-Death Experience” we should be talking to people who could be won over & ignoring the others for now.
    Half the Electorate is still 25 Million people, or 250 for each Libdem – thats enough to be going on with surely ?

  • The question is whether we want to be the centre party of Ashdown and Kennedy when we were at our best and most successful.

    Then we believed in free university education, free social care and more money for health and education paid for by higher taxes. And abolishing unfair taxes such as the council tax and replacing them with fairer taxes such as a local income tax.

    Or we can turn into a neo-thatherite party as some seem to want us to do.

    Public finances are not what Margaret, the grocer’s daughter from Grantham wanted us to believe. To be wealthy in a global economy you also have to be healthy and wise! Educated and free from disease! Lack of skills and people waiting for an NHS operation is costing this country billions. To invest in our human capital by borrowing (moderately) grows the economy and reduces the deficit as a percentage of GDP which is what counts.
    Investing in infrastructure creates jobs directly an indirectly and saves the country billions wasted now as people sit in a traffic jam or crawl into work on a slow train.

    So I don’t know whether there is a magic money tree but sensible public finances can include sensible borrowing to invest in the people of Britain.

  • Michael,
    You are absolutely correct and that in a country where speech is free, one political party is of course at liberty to call the majority of voters unpleasant names.
    My gentle point was simply to ask if that is electorally sound.
    That’s all.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Aug '17 - 2:45pm

    Lorenzo Cherin
    ” As for Blair, he was and is as much a Mill Liberal as any, only the harm principle fueled his more authoritarian elements, his respect agenda, choice agenda, were pure Grimond Liberal sense”

    In what sense can Tony Blair ever be described as a Liberal, when he was authoritarian, favoured restricting civil liberties, set about introducing the private sector into public services in a transactional not a Liberal way, favoured the nuclear deterrent to the point of renewing Trident, entered an illegal war etc..

    As for the comparison with Jo Grimond:

    Grimond did not favour the nuclear deterrent. He believed in the importance of participation and the need for individuals to possess freedom of choice. This resulted in him viewing communities as the key social unit in which individuals could intellectually develop their full potential by sharing in the pursuit of common goals.

    Can you point to any policy where Tony Blair put participation by local communities to develop their own goals into practice? The approach of New Labour was always top down. Certainly some policies ‘did good’ ie: Sure Start, but he was a centralising Prime Minister by instinct and decisions were taken by him with small numbers of advisers. he did nothing to improve the state of local government and public services were micro-managed.

    No, Blair was not a Liberal, in my view.

  • Palehorse and Lorenzo are so right. There appears to be a persistent refusal on the part of LibDems and other diehard Remain voters to acknowledge that any Leave voter might have been motivated by matters more sophisticated than government-bashing, nationalism or bus slogans. Yet I and all the Leave voters I know, middle-class professionals mostly, voted solely on the aims, structure and modus operandi of the EU itself and the unsatisfactory legal framework required for membership. You only have to scan through most threads on the Telegraph to see that this was a mainstream Leaver motivation. Yet the articles on here persist in denying its existence.

    I know LibDems have a different view of the EU and the UK’s relationship with it, and as a genuine liberal I am not interested in bashing you round the head or insulting you ’til you change your view. All we ask is that you stop paying so much attention to the tabloid caricature of Leave voters and their motivations, and acknowledge that there were other reasons. Maybe then we will all start getting somewhere in moving forward as a nation.

  • Peter Martin 9th Aug '17 - 4:00pm

    “……..so far away from a Macron-like rejuvenation of the centre” ???

    But Emmanuel Macron really of the centre?

    Political compass doesn’t think so! If you want “centre” then Hamon had to be your choice!
    They say:
    “Macron, for example, is regularly reported as being economically ‘liberal’ and socially ‘left wing’. In reality, Macron is a classic libertarian in the US sense, with a socially liberal outlook and, crucially, an extreme right wing (ie neoliberal) economic agenda. ”

    https://www.politicalcompass.org/france2017

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Aug '17 - 4:12pm

    Annabel

    “Yet I and all the Leave voters I know, middle-class professionals mostly, voted solely on the aims, structure and modus operandi of the EU itself and the unsatisfactory legal framework required for membership.”

    Surprised that the ‘middle class professional leave voters’ (a small minority according to polls) did not know the reasons for setting up of the ECSC, EEC and latterly, the EU; or at least, are prepared to bypass those reasons as inconvenient.

    They are pretty fundamental.

    The European Communities (the ECSC, EEC and Euratom) were born of the desire for a united Europe, an idea which gradually took shape as a direct response to the events that had shattered the continent. In the wake of the Second World War the strategic industries, in particular the steel industry, needed reorganising.

    Just look at one of main structures of the EU, the Internal Market, a British idea, which has made a significant contribution to European prosperity. It has increased trade within the EU by about 15% per year over 10 years; it has boosted productivity and reduced costs through the abolition of customs formalities, harmonisation or mutual recognition of technical rules and lower prices as a result of competition; it has generated additional growth of 1.8% over the last 10 years; and it has created around 2.5 million more jobs, while reducing the differences in income levels between Member States.

    But let’s forego these main principles and strike out into an unknown future in the hope that France and Germany can keep the peace between them, and that Britain’s lesser influence in Europe’s future can be offset by our total subservience to America. They are bound to throw us some lifelines when the going gets tough eg: cheap, chemical-rich food, cheap pharma, a model of business practice and employment rights to suit the bosses etc…

  • @palehorse

    I have campaigned hard against Tory policies when more people voted (by a wide margin) for them than any other party.

    We campaigned for equality regardless of sexual orientation and equal marriage at a time when a majority of people believed that gay sex was wrong. Were we wrong to oppose section 28 although more people had voted for the party advocating it at the ballot box?

    As Tony Benn said politicians and political parties have a choice between being weather vanes going with the trendy political weather of the day or signposts – indicating a direction of travel. As we have seen political weather is very changeable in this country probably matching the British weather itself!

    Of course this has to be balanced against the quotation “I am your leader, I must follow you.”!

    Of course politics is also about selling a product against your competitors in a tough market to consumers – the voters. And if the consumers don’t like the product then you are screwed!

    That Pepsi said that it tasted better than Coke was not calling Coke drinkers dupes. Nor is pointing out that I believe remaining is a better and more prosperous future for Britain calling brexiteers dupes. I do believe that the line that brexit meant more money for the NHS was false. Just as Pepsi believes that the line that Coke is the better cola is false.

    Of course the political weather on one particular day of the week is different from predicting the future political climate years ahead – although it’s tricky to differentiate between the two. It seems that the political climate is moving towards remain. There has been some movement towards remain in the opinion polls. Younger voters are substantially remainers and they will form more of tomorrow’s electorate. Of course no one would say political forecasting is exactly easy! Who would have forecast the subsequent 30 years in 1987!!!

    I hope that’s enough metaphors for the time being!!!

  • @Helen Tedcastle
    ” Surprised that the ‘middle class professional leave voters’ …….did not know the reasons for setting up of the ECSC, EEC and latterly, the EU…”
    Here we go again, assuming Leave voters know nothing of the origins of the EU. I could equally point to the huge number of Remain supporters I come across who have no clue that within this jurisdiction EU law is supreme over UK law where they conflict, or that some EU laws take effect here without our Parliament having a say.
    I taught constitutional law to undergraduates, and teach commercial EU law to postgraduates, and know perfectly well why the EU was set up and how it works. To know how it was originally set up, and how it currently operates, is not necessarily to agree that it is appropriate for the UK to remain a member.
    We cannot keep re-running the debate. Thr country has decided. Now we need to figure out the best arrangements for afterwards. I had hoped the Lib Dems would take on the vanguard of EFTA as a model for sensible compromise, in which case I would love to start voting for them again. But I cannot do so while they continue to behave in this high-handed, arrogant way, completely disregarding the wishes of the voters.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Aug '17 - 8:26pm

    Sorry , Helen, that is too simplistic and personal a view for me,

    I was a member of the Labour party in the early and peak Blair years.

    He is not to your liking any more than he was to me on key issues.

    I supported him pre Iraq. His civil liberties trouncing was of a piece with Lloyd Geroge in WWtwo, he though we were at war with terror, and so the harm principle justified much of his actions according to a view , his, I do not share but must , as a Liberal , see for what is in my view the actual situation.

    I left Labour fed up with a divided party and a discredited government led me to this party.

    But , to answer your point, Blair did much good too.

    New Deal for communities in one area of Nottingham, Radford, gave them fifty five million of revitalisation.

    Had I stayed with that party once I had moved to Nottingham, I might have had a successful career i the local council.

    Instead I had joined this party , stood for it in Radford, and came last ! Yes I got five hundred votes, but you could put a monkey in a red sticker in the council elections in that area and hey would win for Labour!

    As for Grimond, many remember him from their youth before I was even a baby.

    He was , as am I , centre left on many things.

    He was centre , radical centre on most.

    Read what he said not what people want to think he said.

    He advocated integrating choices involving private providers in most public services.

    And it was Bevan who introduced the private sector into healthcare.

    All gps are private self employed under contract to the NHS.

  • There is an underlying tension between national interests and those of businesses or capitalist market forces, which has been compounded by an inability of international institutions to reconcile these, ultimately leading to the rise of nationalism as seen in movements such as Brexit and the election of US president Donald Trump.

    People are still grappling with how you balance and reconcile these forces. What happened last year politically represents national interest and popular opinion triumphing over the forces of international markets and institutions.

    The financial crisis had the effect of uncovering a number of issues and imbalances that had been allowed to build up unchecked during the boom years of the early 2000s, particularly the issue of stagnating real incomes in a global economy. That credit bubble papered over the cracks because it made it seem like low-to-middle earners could still buy a house and have a reasonable standard of living through borrowing. Many people who lost previously secure jobs have also found it hard to find comparable work, in both the US and UK, creating a swathe of people who feel disenfranchised and let down.

    The current trend towards nationalism and protectionism has its roots in the push towards a more global economy in the 1980s and 1990s, after years of industrial struggle in the 1970s, we had a very strong and complete re-orientation of the national economy to meet the needs of being globally competitive, which meant being an export economy and doing things which were very pro-business.

    But we also had increasingly free movement of capital but not necessarily free movement of labour, which causes greater inequality. This global free trade created a competitive or problematic movement of labour that was very much a symptom of this broader global inequality. This has led many voting for movements offering the prospect of change simply because they want to try something else, rather than because they are necessarily believers in that cause.

    A workable strategic vision for Britain’s future needs to recognise and develop a means of resolving these underlying tensions and conflicting interests that have impacted so many on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • Martin,
    It would be more like the commercial effect of Pepsi running an advertising campaign declaring that everyone who drank Coke were believing a pack of lies and were selfish old people shafting Pepsi drinkers.
    It might backfire.
    I am proud of our democracy and will fight to defend your right to present your point of view to your fellow citizens.
    I was just trying to point out that insulting their intelligence in such an tactless (and obvious) way may not persuade them to agree with you. That’s all, and my advice is present the case but stop the insults.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Aug '17 - 9:08pm

    Meant to say Lloyd George during WWOne !!!

    Annabel

    That is good of you Annabel, and as someone who voted remain, you who voted leave are very appreciated by some of us for adding to this mix of views we enjoy, or, well, again, some of us anyway !

    It bags the argument for the main party when we are too one dimensional in support for remain, and does offend that of me , which is much of me , that is truly liberal and Liberal, and especially liberal and democratic and thus Liberal Democrat !

    Would that most felt so too.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Aug '17 - 10:20pm

    Martin – Macron probably is more like David Cameron than anyone else.

    Like Cameron, Macron has found that Europe in general is not altogether doing his country a lot of favours and wants reform (I don’t think Macron has used the word ‘renegotiation’ yet, but that’s surely what he means). Macron, like Cameron, has a set of proposals that probably will need a referendum.

    Indeed, Macron’s call for full-blown fiscal transfers is not new – he’s been saying it for years.

    Like Cameron, Macron probably knows that Europe can eat away at him from both left and right. The issues might be different, for Cameron it was free movement, for Macron it is the Eurozone operation. But like Cameron, Macron has one priority – re-election.

    Macron probably has about 3 years to get somewhere on the EU. If he can’t he knows where it will end up – Francois Hollande. Hollande ended up with an approval rating in single figures and unable to even get on the ballot, never mind re-elected.

    Cameron was just the start. If Macron’s thinking results in reopening the treaties then we are less than a decade away from widespread referendums.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Aug '17 - 10:48pm

    Rory Domm – ‘it is fairly clear that the social contract in the UK is under heavy strain. The evidence is ample, from the visible gap in wealth between London and the rest of the country, sky-high house prices in the South, the lack of investment in public services across the board, (e.g. transport, health, schools, defence), an HMRC captured by business interests, the perception of a declining quality to our liberal democracy, to name but a few examples.’

    Sure – but all of that happened in some form or another well before the referendum didn’t it? I have made the argument elsewhere, but it seems pertinent here. That referendum result was a vote against the system that has got us to where we are and the EU absolutely is a part of that system. What to do about that is another matter – and a tough one at that.

    It may very well be that many of the problems in the UK today are hardly the EU’s fault directly. However it does not follow from there that people see the EU as somehow above the fray or different, still less better. Whilst I applaud the recognition that the underlying problems that the referendum showed up need to be tackled I’m not sure I really get your prescription.

    ‘unashamedly embracing the fast-changing nature of globalisation but with strong public services and a redistributive element that allow us to flourish as a society, would underpin the case for remaining in the EU’

    OK…and how do you do that in a fiscal consolidation with a large deficit and unlimited inward migration?

  • @palehorse

    I assume directed at me although you say Martin

    Often both sides in a debate will call each other names.

    Brexiteers call remainers remoaners and heep vitriol on them for daring to express their views as unpatriotic and enemies of the state. By your argument this does not help the case for brexit.

    There seems to be a real attempt by many to say that simply by putting the case against brexit we are calling brexiteers dupes to try and shut down debate.

    As I outline above I believe that the case that brexit meant more money for the NHS was false.

    Indeed James Chapman, former chief of staff to David Davis has today said that Boris Johnson should go to jail for the claims made by the brexit campaign! I wouldn’t go that far!

    Does pointing out that someone believes or believed in something that you don’t mean that you don’t mean you think they are dupes – no just that you think they are wrong.

    As it happens I think both Pepsi and coke drinkers are wrong and go for tesco’s everyday value cola at 17p for 2 litres and spend the money on something else rather than contributing to their profits and that of advertising agencies!

    Throughout history people have called other groups names.

    Those campaigning for women’s equality were man-hating militant feminists, those opposing them were misogynist oppressors.

    But then of course women do get a bit over emotional! (An ironic joke aimed at the sexist attitudes of men before anyone complains – although of course you could now complain about me being sexist against men!)

  • @annabel

    I think any democrat has problems with the EU – a far from perfect institution.

    I am concerned by the democratic deficit and the centralising of some power when I believe that power should be devolved as far as possible.

    I also believe that the UK government is far from perfect along much the same lines!

    I did a cost/benefit analysis and came to a different conclusion to you.

    We are members of many organisations and signatories to treaties that change UK law. The UN charter on the rights of the child gave mothers more rights to immigrate to this country without a vote in parliament. As is notorious we are members of the Council of Europe (separate and different from the EU) and through it abide by decisions made by the European court on human rights which changes UK law.

    We will all take a view on whether giving up some sovereignity is worth it in these case, the EU and many others.

    For me it is worth it to be part of the biggest single economy in the world and for the prosperity of Britain. And many issues have to be tackled on a Europe wide basis. National sovereignty is something of an illusion in some areas. To tackle multinational companies such as the googles of this world. And to address climate change. As just two examples.

    EFTA essentially the Norway model has some attractions but they pay in and abide by decisions of the European court of justice but have no say.

    For me no referendum decision or general election result is going to stop me from arguing for, campaigning for and fighting for what I believe is right. I am sorry if that is wrong. But Britain would be very different and much the worse if our ancestors both in this party and others had put up with the status quo.

  • Joe Bourke
    I think it’s much simpler than that. Elections are fought nationally. People live in nation states. No one ever voted for globalism. Much is made of the Trump win, but the reality is that American’s rarely vote a political party in for more than two terms. Over hype and over confidence and I would suggest wishful thinking made Clinton look more certain to win than she actually ever was. This is not a new shocking form of nationalism. Americans have only ever voted in America for what they believe is in America’s interest. What the world thinks has never been remotely important to Americans. They voted Bush JNR in twice, Reagan in twice (he was certainly not seen as a safe global leader at the time), booted the great Carter out after one term and so on. I would argue that in Britain the EU has little traction which is why there was no referendum in 1992. The point to me is that Globalism is not a coherent political force because votes are national and local affairs. When people go to the polling booth they for the most part do not think how will this effect relations with say India or France. They are more likely to vote for a local candidate promising to keep a hospital open than for someone focused on big international issues.
    IMO the progressive parties fell hook line and sinker for the rhetoric of the end of history after the collapse of the USSR. It kind of played into the idea that the human story goes in one direction upwards to a golden future. But like charts that show evolution as a linear path it is simply wrong. Globalism makes sales easier. It doesn’t stop theocracies or national self interest or anything very much. In fact it has not even stopped Russia from being, well. Russian. Globalism is like that old advert for a carbonated sugary drink that thought it could unite the world through tooth decay and type two diabetes. A sort of corporate version of the Red flag. There is no new nationalism, because there is no global order and the old nationalism did not go away in the first place. Ned Beatty in Network was wrong.

  • Richard Easter 10th Aug '17 - 8:16am

    Globalism – why would the electorate vote for jobs to be offshored, foreign state owned enterprises to take over our infrastructure and public services, an endless supply of cheap labour, big multinationals buying up domestic firms and wrecking them, foreign domiciled oligarchs to buy up our property, and attempts to launder unelectable policies in so called trade deals?

    The more people find out what globalism is, the more they hate it. It is in many cases just unrestrained corporatism.

  • Whatever else we do, we must first show that we understand and are able to respond to the legitimate concerns of those who voted for Brexit. Only then can we start to move them on to our territory as a centrist, progressive and outward looking Party. There are many ways in which we can link our europhile values with the electorate such as foreign holidays, cheap and reliable products and the many cultural events that unite us.

  • jayne Mansfield 10th Aug '17 - 11:13am

    @ Peter Hirst.
    Indeed. There are two concerns that crop up time and again and politicians have had a tim ear.

    One could start with following EU immigration rules and ensure that people who are not working or actively seeking employment leave the country.

    We could also look at whether we should have a contributory benefit system.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '17 - 12:40pm

    Little Jackie Paper

    Macron probably is more like David Cameron than anyone else.

    The person Macron most closely resembles is his predecessor who came to power in 1799. Someone who sets up a hand-picked political party whose sole purpose is to support him as Leader of the country is doing the opposite of what should be the liberal approach to politics.

  • >‘unashamedly embracing the fast-changing nature of globalisation but with strong public >services and a redistributive element that allow us to flourish as a society, would >underpin the case for remaining in the EU’

    > OK…and how do you do that in a fiscal consolidation with a large deficit and unlimited
    > inward migration?

    the main point of this article is to stress that simply being known as the anti-brexit party will not lead to major success for the libdems.

    Axiomatic is that brexit is a for many a symptom of something wrong at a deeper level with our social compact.

    How exactly the libdems should position themselves, centre-left, centre, centre-right, however you want to describe it, is a important, related, but ultimately different question.

    to my mind though, as I suggest but do not develop fully in the article, with the two main parties heavily in hock with their fringes, it’s blindingly obvious we need to be firmly in the centre of UK politics.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    “The person Macron most closely resembles is his predecessor who came to power in 1799.”

    He did shake things up for a while back then bringing an end to the ancien regime and giving Europe the Napoleonic code.

    The French media have taken to calling Macron ‘Jupiter’ based on an interview in October 2016, when he was a candidate, he compared himself to Jupiter, the king of Roman gods, declaring that “France needs a ‘Jupiterian’ head of state.” He was comparing his mandate to that of Francois Hollande, who chose to play the “President Normal” card.

    In an earlier interview in July 2015, when he was “only” Hollande’s minister, Macron shared a royalist opinion on French democracy. The lack of a King figure after the French revolution, he said, has left an “emotional, imaginary, collective void” and the democracy that followed had tried to “plough back” into this void. “What [the French] expected from the president of the Republic is that he would take up this seat,” he said, quoting Napoléon and Charles de Gaulle as examples. “Everything else built up on this misunderstanding.”

    Let’s hope he doesn’t aspire to following in the footsteps of his infamous predecessor by crowning himself Emperor.

  • The irony is many brave Brexiteers cry forget Brexit we have other issues to deal with, but the government and the nation can’t. We stand staring into the abyss unable to do anything as Brexit consumes all. The government must clear it legislative time table for years to come to make room for Brexit. Companies cannot plan because of Brexit, austerity must stay because we may need the money to cover Brexit. Brexit consumes all and saying forget it doesn’t work.

  • Andrew Fitton 11th Aug '17 - 6:35am

    I’ve always thought being a modern Liberal is almost a state of mind. I always think of labour’s mission statement is social justice and alleviation of the poor – at its worst that of course can be controlling and domineering rewarding nothing and prone to make big mistakes because of the extent of central control. The Conservatives values seem to link to personal responsibility and the freedom to exercise that – at its worst that can be read across to being selfish and beggar thy neighbour. I’ve always felt the key Liberal trait is treat others as you would be treated yourself. However, for a country that is tied up in polarised ideology of me first at the moment I find it difficult to turn my simple take on Liberalism into an ideology to combat me first.

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