WATCH: Nick Clegg on why a “self destructive” hard brexit is so damaging for our economy and security

Nick Clegg has given a big speech on Brexit this morning. You can watch it here.

The highlights:

  • May and Corbyn’s conspiracy of silence as they pursue the hardest of Brexits – the politics of evasion and fantasy
  • The cost of leaving the single market and customs union
  • How the poorest will be most adversely affected by a hard Brexit while the rich will be relatively insulated
  • May will think she has a mandate if she gets a majority on Thursday but there are still so many unknowns
  • There is a chance to avoid all this – by electing Lib Dem MPs who will fight for our place in the single market and for a final say on the deal.

The full text is below:

The focus of public discussion since the weekend has been, quite rightly, on how we should go about strengthening our resilience against the hateful terrorist death cult which led to the tragic loss of life in Manchester and London.

Today, however, I would like to turn attention back to the issue which Theresa May claimed was the reason for holding the election in the first place: Brexit.

The Prime Minister has insisted that Brexit is “the one, fundamental, defining issue” of the entire campaign. She was right to do so. It touches on every aspect of our lives – from the way our farmers farm and our fishermen fish to the increasingly sophisticated EU measures deployed to apprehend would-be criminals and terrorists across the continent.

The problem is, judging by the campaign so far, you would never have guessed that Brexit was important at all.

For the last six weeks, both the Conservatives and the Labour Party have colluded to evade all meaningful scrutiny of their Brexit plans, if indeed they have any.

All we hear from Theresa May are boasts of her supposed strength and stability and a spurious claim that every vote for her will somehow strengthen her negotiating hand in the Brexit talks.

All we hear from Jeremy Corbyn is a shopping list of giveaways, accompanied by back-of-the-envelope costings. It’s a promise of everything to everyone where no-one is expected to pay for anything.

Both of them are indulging in the politics of evasion and fantasy.

It would all be laughably absurd if it wasn’t now so desperately serious.

Because neither the Conservatives nor Labour are being honest with the voters about the crisis that is coming.

We are no closer today than we were a month ago to knowing what Mrs May or Mr Corbyn really believe Britain will look like after Brexit. Yet, the brutal truth is that both of them have already made fateful choices about Britain’s future while refusing to explain them to the British people.

Strip away the contrast in tone and the differences in language and a striking reality emerges: both the Conservative and Labour positions on Brexit are now more or less identical.

Pull Britain out of the Customs Union and the Single Market. Abruptly bring an end to freedom of movement. Deny the people any chance to decide on the final deal. They are in total agreement.

This identikit approach to Brexit is hardly unexpected. After all, Labour voted with unseemly haste to vote to trigger Article 50 and start the clock counting towards Theresa May’s “hard” Brexit and, like the Conservatives, they also failed to vote to guarantee the rights of EU citizens when they had the chance in Parliament.

So in an election which we were told was about a clear choice, about two deeply contrasting visions, about a contest between Labour and Tory leaders with nothing in common, the truth is that there has been a pact of silence on Brexit between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

It is one of the most cynical acts of political collusion between the two larger parties in a generation, and it has made a mockery of Theresa May’s insistence that this is a general election about Brexit.

Instead, with no attempt to discuss the detail and no effort to explain her approach, Theresa May exhorts the nation to “believe in Brexit”, fabricates an EU plot to punish Britain, and blithely insists that a vote for her will bring about a better deal.

Well, if meaningless sloganeering and faintly paranoid anti-EU outbursts are all it takes to secure a good Brexit deal, then Theresa May would do Britain proud.

But by choosing the hardest of all Brexits, by refusing to prepare the British public for the necessary compromises that lie ahead, and by posturing as Europe’s enemy rather than the friend we so clearly are, Theresa May has set our country on the most damaging course imaginable.

Our country cannot thrive without a strong economy.

Yet it is quite clear that we can’t have a strong economy and an extreme Brexit.

Just look at the evidence, even if Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn refuse to.

Because the evidence that Britain should brace itself for a painful Brexit slump is accumulating by the day.

Voters are already aware that the cost-free Brexit they were promised is off the table.

Remember the £350 million a week for the NHS? The VAT cut? The instant solution to immigration? Theresa May would rather you didn’t.

Instead the grip of a growing Brexit squeeze on people’s income and public services tightens by the day.

Last week we learned the grim news that while the UK was the fastest-growing economy in the G7 in 2016, in the first quarter of 2017 we’re now the joint slowest with Italy.

GDP growth, 0.7% at the end of last year, has slowed to 0.2% in the opening quarter of 2017. The economy is nearing a standstill.

Since June 2015, Sterling has suffered a dramatic 20% fall against the Euro and a 19% fall against the dollar, a direct consequence of the uncertainty in the run-up to the referendum, the result of the vote, and the subsequent failure of this government to commit to staying in the Single Market.

Inflation, which registered at zero at the time of the referendum, today stands at 2.7%, the highest level since September 2013, and is predicted to go higher.

And with average earnings growth failing to keep up with prices, consumers are already beginning to feel the Brexit squeeze.

Price rises have hit energy bills, petrol, and clothes. It’s enough to make anyone need a fortifying glass of wine – but last week it was reported that the average price of a bottle of wine has hit its highest price ever.

And as thousands of families prepare for their summer holidays abroad, the devaluation of the pound will hit them in the pocket too. Everything paid for in euros, everything paid for in dollars, from accommodation to ice cream, will be more expensive.

The economic malaise goes further.

House prices have fallen for the third month in a row – the first time that has happened since the height of the financial crisis in 2009.

And inequality is on the rise as the combination of weak growth and Conservative cuts to working age benefits starts to bite.

The Resolution Foundation forecasts that the wealthiest third of households will be £2,100 a year better off by 2021, that the middle third of households by income will see their money stagnate, and the bottom third will lose 10% of their income, or £1,200 a year.

This, I should add, stands in stark contrast to the distributional record of the Coalition Government where, because of Lib Dem measures on taxation and our veto of gratuitously regressive Conservative welfare measures, inequality remained broadly stable.

And as people begin to feel the Brexit squeeze, they will also notice that our public services are another victim of Theresa May’s extreme brexit.

Last November the OBR revealed a Brexit black hole in the public finances. The Chancellor has had to borrow an extra £59bn to plug the gap left by slower growth and lower immigration in the wake of the referendum vote. That’s £15bn a year that could be used to help rescue our ailing NHS, or to pay for more teachers.

Something will have to give, be it further cuts or a rise in taxes to give our public services the funding they desperately need – something which the Conservatives have refused to rule out.

And remember, all this is before Brexit actually happens – we are merely feeling the first shockwaves of what is to come.

So as people up and down the country prepare to vote on Thursday, they should be made aware that just around the corner is a Brexit slump which will affect each and every one of us.

Theresa May’s slavishly loyal foot soldiers will tell you that any warning about what lies ahead is an unpatriotic case of “talking Britain down” by perfidious experts, enemies of the people and assorted saboteurs.

But these aren’t predictions. They aren’t forecasts. They are simply the cold facts of Britain’s economic reality today.

So has the government even attempted to calculate the long-term economic effects of its choices?

In May last year an official Treasury forecast calculated that we would suffer a £36bn annual loss to the public finances after 15 years, even if we managed to strike a post-Brexit bilateral trade deal of the kind which the Conservatives favour. No deal – meaning we would fall back on World Trade Organisation rules – would, according to the Treasury, mean a loss of £45bn a year, thanks to reductions in trade and the impact on growth and tax revenues.

To be clear, I am not making a judgement here about the supposed opportunities created by Brexit and whether they will materialise – those were priced in to the Treasury’s calculations. Even in the best case scenario, a good trade deal still leaves us far, far worse off.

To put this in perspective, £45bn is more money than the entire schools budget for England. To plug a gap like that in the public finances you would either need to raise the basic rate of income tax by 10 pence in the pound, or to make cuts to public services and the salaries of those who work for them on an unimaginable scale.

This is what Theresa May means when she casually threatens to walk away from the negotiating table. No deal isn’t a cuddly alternative to a poor deal. It’s far worse. It’s a disaster for Britain.

The Treasury figures are also an indictment of the central objective of Theresa May’s negotiating strategy – to walk away from Margaret Thatcher’s Single Market. This decision alone carries a long-term price tag of £16bn a year. For that money, you could give every hospital in the UK a £12m cash injection, or provide the average school with an extra half a million pounds.

When I challenged David Davis on the official Treasury numbers on Question Time last week, he refused to disown them. Yet David Davis himself has said the government hasn’t commissioned any fresh analysis of the risks. Either they remain the official government calculations, in which case they are a stark warning as to how much public services will suffer. Or the government no longer believes these figures to be accurate, in which case Theresa May’s failure to undertake her own analysis of the cost of Brexit is the height of irresponsibility.

To her, it seems, the details don’t matter. The compromises of no concern. The damage – the inevitable damage – a mere distraction. All we must do is blindly trust her to negotiate on our behalf.

After a campaign that has been more weak than strong and more clumsy than stable, Theresa May’s brittle performance – notably the embarrassing u-turn on the “dementia tax” and the bizarre accusation of a “plot” in Brussels – has instead left many people questioning whether she is indeed a suitable candidate to lead Britain in the toughest and most complex negotiations it has ever faced.

And across the capitals of Europe, Theresa May’s performance over the last six weeks will not have gone unnoticed.

Negotiating Brexit is going be a tightrope act. It requires subtlety, creativity and the ability to win friends. Above all, it requires sure-footedness to keep on top of dozens of simultaneous interlocking negotiations.

Instead, we are being asked to elect a leader who is unsteady in the limelight, incapable of straight talking, and prone to chaotic u-turns.

As for Jeremy Corbyn, he continues with his mission to fool voters into believing we can live in a world of free stuff even as our economy sinks. And on Brexit? Nothing. Merely the startlingly perceptive observation that no deal would be bad for this country and a vague promise that he would bring a different style to the negotiations.

As the whole country faces up to these incredibly complex challenges, we deserve so much more from the man, and woman, who wish to lead us into the Brexit talks.

Instead, only a few days before polling day, the Brexit unknowns just continue to mount up.

Take the NHS. It relies on thousands of highly-skilled and hard-working nurses and doctors from non-UK countries, all of whom have come here to help all of us. And yet they tell us they no longer feel welcome and are considering returning home. To replace thousands of Portuguese nurses, Spanish doctors and Italian midwifes will cost the NHS millions of pounds. Have we heard a Brexit plan for the NHS from the Conservatives or from Labour? Not one word.

What will immigration look like after Brexit? Still Theresa May clings to her illogical pledge to drive net immigration down to the tens of thousands. But what it will it mean for our economy when the German engineers, Danish architects, Lithuanian fruit pickers and Hungarian truck drives go home? Without a credible plan to replace them, what effect will this have on our economy? Not a clue.

How will Britain be kept safe after Brexit? Theresa May has vowed to pull Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, a decision which means we would no longer have access to vital EU-wide databases of criminal activity. Just last year, a not-so-distant era when Theresa May made perfectly rational arguments against leaving Europe, she warned that being in the UK makes us “more secure from crime and terrorism”.

She herself has now exacerbated that risk by refusing to abide by the rulings of the ECJ. So where are the contingency plans when our police forces find themselves unable to check the databases of 28 EU countries at the touch of a button? If only she would deign to tell us then maybe we could judge.

How about businesses that are reliant on exports to the continent? How is the government preparing them for the moment when their products will – for the first time since the 1970s – have to go through customs checks? When every joint of meat needs an export health certificate and a country of origin form? When every computer chip or car seat has to be accompanied by reams of paperwork proving its compliance with European regulations?

What about the tech firms and entrepreneurs that make this corner of London so vibrant? What reassurance can the government offer to companies whose access to European markets depends on a common system of data protection rules?

Again, nothing. Instead – by all accounts – business leaders are invited in to Whitehall to meet Ministers who sit there and parrot the Prime Minister’s empty slogans back at them.

I remember that David Cameron, Theresa May’s predecessor and a man I worked with closely for five years, was often dismissed in the media as an essay crisis prime minister, a man who preferred to wing it and leave things to the last minute. Whether that caricature was fair or not, most of the time the essays emerged, in the end. Even a short essay by Theresa May on how she intends to meet the challenges of Brexit would be a massive step forward. Not only has she failed to produce the Government equivalent of an essay – she’s barely produced a coherent paragraph in one whole year.

No wonder David Davis now boasts that over twelve months he’s produced the sum total of 100 pages of “notes” about Brexit. At that rate, the Brexit negotiations – an undertaking which will involve hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of documents – will barely get to first base by the middle of the century.

For those reasons, I issue this stark warning today:

As people up and down the country prepare to vote on Thursday, they should be aware that they will soon be the victims of an act of national self-harm, imposed on us by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, which will affect each and every one of us.

Whatever happens in the relative fortunes of the Conservative and Labour parties this Thursday, the country will be trapped on a path which, if left unchallenged, will remorselessly lead us to a Britain of lower trade, less prosperity, rising prices, a weakened NHS, and undermined security.

It is a bleak prospect and a grim future.

It is the future that Theresa May has chosen for us by setting us on the riskiest possible path to Brexit, a path which Jeremy Corbyn has fully endorsed.

But we can choose a different future.

Because this is not a future that I want for this great country.

It is not a future that I want for my children.

It is not a future that the many young people in this country voted for last June.

So while Britain may stand on the brink of a self-destructive Brexit, we can stop it happening.

There is a way to change course.

There is a way to steer us away from the rocks which can already be seen on the near horizon.

What this country needs are Members of Parliament who are prepared to be open with voters about the risks, and the unavoidable compromises, ahead.

Members of Parliament who are prepared to hold this government to account as it blindly drags us towards this hardest of Brexits.

Members of Parliament who will fight every step of the way to keep Britain in the Single Market and the Customs Union.

And at the end of the process, Members of Parliament who will offer you a chance to vote on the final deal.

I have no intention of giving up, and neither do the Liberal Democrats.

Because only the Liberal Democrats will provide the opposition to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn that this country so desperately needs.

This election really is about Brexit.

Just don’t let it be the Brexit of Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn.

There are three days left to stop the Brexit crisis.

Vote for a brighter future for Britain.

Vote Liberal Democrat on June 8th.

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  • Alan Depauw 6th Jun '17 - 12:34pm

    On the economic consequences, this speech says it all and says it well.

  • Paul Pettinger 6th Jun '17 - 12:52pm

    The only other Party that lets a former leader compete for attention with their successor is UKIP. If we want stay as a Party of the 8% then carry on having Clegg as a senior spokesperson.

  • Graham Jeffs 6th Jun '17 - 12:58pm

    Paul Pettinger – it would be a really good idea if you focused on the content rather than the personality. Hopefully this party is not a one man band. Petty personal prejudices won’t get us anywhere.

  • Sue Sutherland 6th Jun '17 - 1:03pm

    I have taken the opposite message about leadership to Paul. For me it’s a symbol of good leadership that both Nick and Norman still have important roles in the party because of their immense knowledge in the areas they are dealing with. Anyway it would be ridiculous with our small number of MPs, to do anything else.

  • nigel hunter 6th Jun '17 - 1:21pm

    Yes he is correct on the economic consequences of Brexit. However the personality of Nick is what people know and his past is still fresh in peoples minds. Where we end up is in the lap of the Gods

  • Mick Taylor 6th Jun '17 - 1:35pm

    Am I alone in being fed up at people shooting the messenger and ignoring the message?

  • Bill le Breton 6th Jun '17 - 1:42pm

    Mick, Marshall McLuhan said it first back in 1964, “The medium is the message”

    Since then it has been the number one axiom of proficient campaigners.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '17 - 1:42pm

    Yet it is quite clear that we can’t have a strong economy and an extreme Brexit.

    Before June 23rd 2016 Nick Clegg would have missed out “an extreme” in the above sentence. Any kind of Brexit at all would have scuppered the economy in his view.

    The kind of Brexit we’ll get is going to be either a complete break, which will mean we’ll be trading on on WTO terms. We can choose that option ourselves if we wish. Or, we’ll get a reasonable deal which the EU will offer us. There won’t be much, if any, negotiation in the sense that most people understand the term. The real negotiations will come in a few years time after the EU has made its political point.

    If the EU was strong and stable (to coin a phrase) we’d be offered a good deal which would keep trade pretty much as it is. It is probably more in the EU’s immediate interest than it is ours. Germany sells us more than twice as much as it buys from us, for example. But there are other forces at work. We’ll have to be made an example of to dissuade anyone else from having their exit too. So my guess is that we’ll be offered a deal worse than the WTO option.

    The EU won’t seem quite so progressive to many progressives when this is going on. So it is important that we don’t have a defeatist attitude and think that we are totally dependent on the goodwill of the EU for the strength of our economy. A currency issuing government can always ensure full employment in its economy. Full employment may not be a sufficient condition for a strong economy but it is a necessary one. Jobs which are lost due to trade restrictions imposed by the EU can be replaced if the government uses the fiscal powers it has at its disposal.

  • This is an incredibly important speech that could become the defining speech of the election.

    The fact that there are people in this party who are intent on dismissing it simply because the person making it is Nick Clegg I find incredible. Members who exhibit such self-indulgent attitudes are doing this party’s chances incalculable harm.

  • Andrew Melmoth 6th Jun '17 - 2:04pm

    Peter Martin
    There is no deal worse than the WTO one. WTO rules are not a sufficient basis for trade. This brexiter lie must be exposed or else we are in danger of a catastrophic brexit.

  • Dave Orbison 6th Jun '17 - 2:08pm

    Graham Jeffs – “Paul Pettinger – it would be a really good idea if you focused on the content rather than the personality. Hopefully this party is not a one man band. Petty personal prejudices won’t get us anywhere.”

    Fair point. Pity that the LibDems and Tim Farron in particular didn’t adopt such a policy with respect to Corbyn. There are many good polices in the Labour manifesto that are popular. Many should surely have been supported by the LibDems. But rather than focus on these polices the LibDem leadership and several here have would rather take potshots at Corbyn and attacking his character. In doing so they really did take their eye of the ball and it surely reflected in the polls. Not such a good strategy in my opinion. Hopefully lessons will be learnt otherwise it is the LibDems who may become a ‘one man band’.

  • Party of the 8%: Latest Survation Poll has us at 6% and falling.

  • A Social Liberal 6th Jun '17 - 2:27pm


    Paul Pettinger is not concentrating on the personality of Clegg, he is commenting on the stupidity of taking away valuble media time and space from our leader and handing it to someone who is not our leader. This is sending mixed messages to the electorate and diminishing our chances.

    Labour understands this, even the Nasty Party understands which is why you never see their leaders who have just left office in the next general election campaign.

  • John Littler 6th Jun '17 - 2:58pm

    This is the best guide I have seen to pro Labour/LibDem tactical voting:

  • I am not an old hand in this party so maybe I do not carry the personal pain that many seem to blame on Nick Clegg. I do however, recognise a class act when I see one. I know people find him a bit right wing. Well this is a democratic party so it’s not as if you can lay the blame on him alone. We cannot afford to lose people of his ability in the party. So cut the guy some slack and applaud a superb speech and off the cuff eloquence all too absent in this campaign.
    @ Peter Martin. I am comforted to know that I will always be able to get a job. OK picking potatoes at 2p an hour might not be living up to my perception of self worth but I can see the economic rational.

  • John Littler 6th Jun '17 - 3:00pm

    The EU already gives us free trade including unusually on most services for the 27, plus free trade agreements with another 53 countries including Canada, Mexico, Turkey, S.Korea, Singapore, Norway and Switzerland etc.

    What are we supposed to find outside?
    USA would foist TTIP on us at best and no one wanted their secret courts, Corporate takeovers of NHS functions, GM foods, pesticide residues in food, bleach washed chicken or hormone grown beef?
    The America first policy will talk to the EU first now anyway and at 14% of UK exports, it is not going to be able to replace the EU, especially since it is growing very slowly now.
    Australia and NZ combined are only 1.9% of UK exports and are difficult to trade with because of the distance and time difference.

    China is also distant and mostly very poor, as well as highly corrupt and indebted. British businesses there often fail due to the competitiveness and investors are routinely burnt. Patents and copyright are not effective there.

    India perhaps? – don’t make me laugh. Luxury goods, arms, Scotch and Jags and that’s about it at 0.9% of UK exports.

  • @ “theakes 6th Jun ’17 – 2:15pm
    Party of the 8%: Latest Survation Poll has us at 6% and falling.”

    I believe I know why. Lack of trust. People believed increasing tuition fees was non-negotiable for the lib dems and look what happened. Similarly people believed the lib dems wanted the people to settle our in/out EU membership in a single yes no referendum. Now they apparently just want to stop it happening in anyway they can. The Lib Dems could be tight about Brexit being an utter disaster, but it’s too late now. Trust is gone.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '17 - 4:14pm

    @ Andrew Melmoth,

    “There is no deal worse than the WTO one”

    Most of our exports, and pretty much all our non-EU trade (there may be some exceptions for the Channel Islands etc) are under WTO rules. Our WTO trade is very close to balanced. Our non-WTO trade, ie our EU trade, is very unbalanced!

    So WTO rules may not be ideal, but they aren’t too bad. Neither are EU rules ideal. The EU is not a good market for our exports. Either the country is highly mercantilistic in its trade pattern or is in deep recession.

    Look, I’m sure you’d have no trouble, if you just gave it few minutes thought, thinking up a deal which is far worse than WTO. Just let me know if you really can’t and I’ll suggest one.

  • Andrew Melmoth 6th Jun '17 - 4:37pm

    Peter Martin
    The vast majority of our trade is either with the EU or under a FTA brokered by the EU. But the main thing you are missing is that WTO rules on their own are not enough because they don’t deal with non-tariff barriers. No country in the world trades solely on the basis of WTO rules. Brexiters have told us that if we leave without a deal we can still just trade with the EU on the same basis as other external countries like the US and China. This is a lie. These countries have dozens of agreements covering trade with the EU . Those agreements fall short of a full-blown FTA but they go much further than just WTO rules. If we exit without a deal we will be the only country in the world trying to trade purely on WTO rules.

  • Theakes

    Cheer up. Opinium (just out) has us up 2.

  • Peter Watson 6th Jun '17 - 5:25pm

    @Barry Long “Cheer up. Opinium (just out) has us up 2.”
    To theakes’ “Party of the 8%”.

  • Theakes, bless him, thrives on negativity.
    Opinium usually give us the lowest ratings, so we shall see. The most important thing is not how many votes we get, but where we get them… my view is that more people are voting tactically than ever before and therefore there could be some surprising outcomes in some constituencies, which no national opinion poll could hope to predict.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Jun '17 - 5:44pm

    Graham, Sue, Mick, Dave,

    Verging on the mean , is the personal baiting of the former leadership, no, leader, though I see it on people like David Laws too.

    I criticise the leader of Labour in a very definite sense he should be in my view.

    I also rather like him as an individual and some of his views and qualities.

    I am not a member of his party anymore and in it when I was , I was not of his political persuasion anymore than I would be now .

    The difference is , the site people are on is a Liberal Democrat one !!!

    We can criticise other party leaders and yet help ours.

    We can refrain from both.

    But to criticise Nick Clegg regularly but never Jeremy Corbyn, shows.

    Either the person doing this is so far to the left of our party they would be happier in Labour now.

    Are maybe vindictive or bitter.

    I also think to have more spokespeople is a good thing.

    The party should make more of Norman , for instance.

    Tim should understand that as he and others disagree with Nick on things but put him forward, we should with other figures too, who I think we make a fraction of within our party.

    Start with the national treasure Floella , and liberal titan , Maajid !!!

  • Paul Murray 6th Jun '17 - 6:15pm

    @Gary – I’m afraid that “how many votes we get” is absolutely critical. If the Liberal Democrats are reduced to a few MPs elected in randomly scattered pockets of traditional strength, separated by vast swathes of desolation, then this is no longer a national party.

    We are where we are and must cut our cloth accordingly but the disappointing local election results, the fact that we are now polling lower than at the outset of the campaign and the fact that polls now consistently show C+L>80% should allow no complacency. The campaign has been a disaster.

    But this is frankly a discussion for another day. We are now 36 hours from the opening of polls and the goal has to be to maximise the size of the parliamentary party by getting everyone who can help to go and help in a seat that is winnable.

  • Paul Pettinger 6th Jun '17 - 7:32pm

    We need to do more than have a change of high profile personnel. We need to properly account for the tuition fees disaster and our enthusiasm for propping up the Conservatives. This isn’t going to happen with people closely associated with these events as major public figures for the Party. Wanting a successful liberal party, in a more liberal society, isn’t petty.

  • Bill le Breton 6th Jun '17 - 8:01pm

    Sesenco writes, “The fact that there are people in this party who are intent on dismissing (the speech) simply because the person making it is Nick Clegg I find incredible.”

    But that is not what is happening. That is not the point people are making. They are saying that Nick Clegg is the wrong person to deliver it, just as he has been the wrong person to front Lib Dem policy since the summer of 2010.

    The public have been telling us this in every opinion poll and in every election since the summer of 2010.

    The facts do speak for themselves. Only 28% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 voted Lib Dem in 2015.

    OK, how are those 72% of the 2010 Lib Dem vote that we lost in 2015 going to vote this time? Data from YouGov and published in the FT.

    27% are going to vote Conservstive. 47% are going to vote Labour. 3% UKIP and 9% other.

    How many have we won back in thr last two years? Just 15%.

    Why have we won back so few?

    38% of those who voted for us in 2010 but are still not going to vote for us in 2017 say this is because of broken promises – yes those broken promises again.

    The author of our broken reputation for breaking promises is Nick Clegg. There is no way round this. You cant film yourself walking down the Embankment with scores of papers representing broken promises and then break promises yourself with impunity.

    The iron law of politics is that when you lose the trust of people it takes years to win that back, not months, decades. Every time Nick Clegg represents the Lib Dems, no matter how fine his content, he reawakens that sense of mistrust.

    It is a law of physics and those of us who believe in those laws can’t see why this is not blatantly obvious to all of you.

    Sad fact. If Nick Clegg had wanted to get the content of his speech across he should have given it to someone else to deliver. If we had wanted to win back those voters we should have kept him out of sight. It is quite tragic isn’t it? But not immediately repairable.

  • Paul Pettinger wrote:

    “We need to do more than have a change of high profile personnel. We need to properly account for the tuition fees disaster and our enthusiasm for propping up the Conservatives. ”

    So what is the leadership expected to do? Flog themselves in the middle of Trafalgar Square?

    Nick Clegg made a brilliant speech. He told the truth, a very important truth that speaks directly to this country’s future and which our opponents are desperate to suppress. It was prophetic. However we do on Thursday, we can look back on that speech with pride in two years’ time when our economy is on the rocks and the right-wing media are searching around for people to blame. Those who listened through the questions would have observed Mr Clegg being polite and good-humoured, even when challenged, behaviour that one would rarely get from May and Corbyn.

    By the way, when Theresa was running through the wheat was she faking crop circles?

  • @ Sesenco “polite and good-humoured, even when challenged, behaviour that one would rarely get from May and Corbyn”.

    That is fair comment so far as May is concerned……………. (a very wooden and humourless individuia)……l but in all honesty it is not true of Mr Corbyn. One of the revelations of the last few weeks, and why he has climbed in the polls, has been that Mr Corbyn has been increasingly seen as polite and good humoured in the face of very personal attacks from the Tory Party – and it has to be said from some Lib Dems.

  • Paul Pettinger 6th Jun '17 - 9:05pm

    I can only refer you to Bill Le Breton’s last post Sesenco. Please reread it.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jun '17 - 9:08pm

    @ Andrew Milmoth,

    It’s not going to be conducive to have an in depth discussion of how WTO rules work but I’d just quote:

    “Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Grant someone a special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products) and you have to do the same for all other WTO members.”

    “But by the 1980s, the negotiations had expanded to cover non-tariff barriers on goods, and to the new areas such as services and intellectual property.”


    “I am comforted to know that I will always be able to get a job. OK picking potatoes at 2p an hour might not be living up to my perception of self worth”

    I should point out that a correct understanding of economics has to include the principle that the workers have to be able to afford to buy up the produce of their own labour. So the standard of living in the UK, both before and after Brexit, will be determined by what we can grow and manufacture. We can produce most things apart from bananas, olives and decent wine! We don’t have to buy cars or wine from the EU but I’m sure we will just as we do now.

  • Bill Le Breton wrote:

    “They are saying that Nick Clegg is the wrong person to deliver it, just as he has been the wrong person to front Lib Dem policy since the summer of 2010.”

    Can you answer me this? I was opposed to the coalition from the beginning and right the way through. Yet I do not hate Nick Clegg. How is it that people who actually supported the coalition (though they are loathe to admit it now) hate Nick Clegg with an intensity that it way out of proportion to anything that he actually did? (There are plenty of politicians whom I actually do hate, by the way, most of them Tories.) I have to say that I find the continuing scapegoating of Nick Clegg bordering on the irrational.

    Also, I am suspicious of any opinions that you express on these matters because I know that unlike most of our members you are a Brexiteer.

  • I’ve always liked Nick Clegg
    I happen to think he’s a thoroughly decent guy who made an unfortunate mistake which with hindsight proved devastating.
    This is hard to say, very hard, but Bill le Breton is absolutely correct.
    Nick is a talented individual who has a huge amount to give to the party in terms of insight, knowledge and strategy especially regarding the EU.
    Unfortunately, this can never be seen to be delivered by himself in the foreseeable future. It is sad, very sad.
    The Lib Dem’s are simply never going to be able to move forward whilst still looking backwards.
    Time to pour the resources in developing the skills of the next generation of Tim’s Shirley’s, Charles’s, Paddy’s and David’s etc.
    It’s hard for people to accept but the only way forward is to move on and break for the immediate past.

  • Bill
    No fan of Cleggs breaking the tuition pledge was beyond stupid but and it is a big but as time goes by and bad things happen he will start to be rehabilitated, probably as the man who will take hard decisions for the greater good. Sad thing is in a couple of years this speech would probably be raved about, now however it will be ignored. File it under told you so and to be ignored until it comes true.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Jun '17 - 10:18pm

    Brilliant speech from Nick, just what is needed in these final stages – I should like to bottle it – can we have it as a pamphlet or video to keep, folks? It will be useful in our months of surveillance to come. I also like the useful informative comments above from such as John Littler, and several positive contributions from Sesenco and others.

    But certain other comments I must admit infuriate me! This harking back to the past suggests a fixed and illiberal outlook from some contributors, even when posting as Lib Dems. The Coalition Government wasn’t a ‘disaster’, and as to questions of ‘trust’, what about all the Conservative broken promises?

    I don’t believe for a moment that our present election campaign has been a disaster, either; it has been as good as the focus in our first-past-the-post system between the two inferior but larger parties and especially their leaders has allowed, and been much better than the 2015 campaign because of our stance on Brexit. As to our own leadership, I am happy to have the present triumvirate, with Tim at the head and Nick and Norman as his able allies. Long may it continue! I don’t believe that we shall be down to three MPs, but these three I do trust we can retain.

  • YellowSubmarine 6th Jun '17 - 11:03pm

    I guess this will be the last time we are reminded of project fear. The problem for Nick is that he has set the expectation bar so very low for any deal that something just a bit better will look, to ordinary folk on the street, like a win.
    So not only will he go down as the chap who reneged on tuition fees but also completely misjudged the effects of brexit.
    One miscalculation could be seen as unfortunate but two….

  • @Peter Martin – Currently all of the UK’s trade is via EU brokered trade agreements, remember the UK on joining the EU, outsourced the negotiating of trade deals and to the EU.

    Yes we could “have an in depth discussion of how WTO rules work”, however that would totally miss the point Andrew Melmoth made and has also been made by various experts; from my experience, those glibbly say “we’ll be trading on on WTO terms” , have zero experience of real-world international trade. Remember if WTO rules on their own were so wonderful, there would be no need for bilateral agreements such as TIPP…

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '17 - 8:02am

    @ Roland,

    There’s a lot of criticism of deals like the TTIP (not TIPP BTW). I’m not saying that such deals shouldn’t be made but the devil is invariably in the detail. There’s also a similar one coming into being called the Trans Pacific Partnership which is attracting some criticism in countries like Australia. The argument is that US – Australian trade is already in a healthy state, so why change things? The fine print in the deal could mean that US corporations have the power to take the Australian government to court. For example the WTO has recently ruled in favour of the Australian government over its cigarette packaging laws but that could be challenged again if the Australians sign up to a new trade agreement. Similarly the Australian Govt’s ability to negotiate favourable prices from US pharmaceutical companies.

    The argument you are making about the EU, the UK, and the WTO is that the UK can never leave the EU because we’ve delegated our de facto WTO membership to them. Of course, this wasn’t how it was explained when we first joined. Then the argument was that if EEC membership didn’t work out we could leave at any time. That wasn’t right then. We know there’s going to be disruptions. But there has to be a better long term reason for staying with the EU to avoid disruption to trade, which is likely only to be short term, and possible reprisals from the EU.

    I know it’s difficult for many progressives who have fallen in love with the EU, but I’d just ask you to consider the possibility that the EU is not quite as progressive as you might believe. The recession inducing ordo-liberal economic rules imposed on all countries with the exception of the UK are evidence enough of that.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '17 - 8:26am

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    Possibly you might mean me wrt to “infuriating comments”. I’ve voted Lib Dem in the past and might do again in future. I would like, though, to see the Lib Dems returning to the economics of Keynes though! Liberalism isn’t the same as neoliberalism or ordoliberalism. The former is the economics of the Tory Party. The latter the economics of the EU.

    They have both spread to more progressive parties like the Lib Dems and the Labour Party. We do need a progressive alliance against the Tories, and the more reactionary of the political movenments in the EU, (and I don’t just mean the far right!) and that is only going to be possible if we get away from recession inducing economic policies.

    Having our hearts in the right place just isn’t enough.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jun '17 - 8:59am

    Thoughtful discussion about trade deals seems sensible to me, so no, Peter Martin, I wasn’t referring to you. It’s more the people who write off Nick Clegg and our party’s future with him that I object to, but I’ve to go and deliver final leaflets for Rebecca Hanson in Copeland this morning, so I will stop now. Oh, yes, though, also furious with John Humphreys on Today earlier, constantly interrupting Keir Starmer who was making a good defence of the Human Rights Act, and have complained to the BBC about that. Bye for now.

  • @Bill Le Breton Yes sadly you are right about Clegg’s toxicity but it would not have hurt for our campaign to include a reminder that Labour introduced Tuition fees and subsequently increased them to £3k when there was no financial crisis.
    My problem is that Our Tim could not deliver that speech convincingly enough for the general public to swallow. Really sad because we all think the world of him.

  • @ Peter Martin
    ‘We can produce most things apart from bananas, olives and decent wine! We don’t have to buy cars or wine from the EU but I’m sure we will just as we do now.’ Splendid Isolationism.
    The UK produces less than 50% of the food we consume. You also missed Oil, LPG, Natural Gas, machine tools and most mineral ores off your list.
    We are not going to see eye to eye on this and I don’t want to turn this exchange into a sniping match so I guess we will wait and see.

  • @Peter Martin “The argument you are making about the EU, the UK, and the WTO is that the UK can never leave the EU because we’ve delegated our de facto WTO membership to them. Of course, this wasn’t how it was explained when we first joined. Then the argument was that if EEC membership didn’t work out we could leave at any time. That wasn’t right then. We know there’s going to be disruptions.”

    I was picking on the point that T.May et al are making no plans to mitigate the disruptions that will be caused by a Brexit that results in the UK having to trade wholly on WTO rules. However, yes once you outsource something, bringing it back in-house can be traumatic and expensive…

    The long-term reasons to remain in a trading club, which is not frightened of pulling punches is that in an increasingly globalised economy, you really do have some say in what happens and can have an effect.

    Remember it is because of the EU and our membership of the EU that as from the 15-June we will benefit from the EU’s “roam-like-at-home” regulation of the mobile market. Likewise, the EU has designated the EU as a single geographic region for the purposes of media. So no longer can Hollywood et al decide to treat the UK say as a different region as France in such matters as DVD region locking and release of movies, music etc.

  • Bill le Breton 7th Jun '17 - 11:19am

    BrianD, my sentiments entirely.

    This is an incredibly serious moment in our history. At the start of the campaign I sensed that the public were not entirely convinced that May was up to the task despite the ‘strong and stable’ stuff – you know you just have a sense – and I wrote a strategy paper for the powers that be (and a version sent to LDV) based on how to develop that concern. It required a couple of heavy weights working closely with Tim ( but to keep Clegg away from the foreground for the reasons confirmed by those polls above).

    As the weakness, which I always thought the great British public sensed before the media, became manifest in May we would have been in a better position. It was ‘doubt’ that we needed to communicate at the start of the campaign not ‘opposition’. At that stage opposition sounded strident at a crucial time in history – again which the British public sensed. They didn’t want opposition to May or to Brexit, they wanted an alternative process built around some solid people.

    As it was, the success of the Labour manifesto and the character of Corbyn (which was not ‘ya-bo’ and not oppositional) meant that he inherited the confidence that the public desperately wanted to have in someone.

    Imagine the Lib Dems getting the shift in the polls that went instead to the surely more unlikely home of Labour.

    But as a Hampshire lad yourself you will know that those who send their time in London don’t have an ear for the great British public. I am sure Tim heard it, but for some reason listened to others.

    A friend had a similar experience to mine when trying to get stuff through to the powers that be – he approached Tim – Tim said yes, “I’ll try and get them to accept that” !!!

    There’s the rub, a Leader two weeks into the campaign of his life can’t get his way with …. with whom exactly??? I don’t think we’ll ever know, but we should.

  • Absolutely right, Bill.

  • Peter Watson 7th Jun '17 - 12:20pm

    @Bill le Breton “a Leader two weeks into the campaign of his life can’t get his way with …. with whom exactly???”
    I’m often struck by the way that Tim Farron can talk with great sincerity about friends, family and acquaintances who support Brexit and even describe himself with no hint of irony as a “bit of a eurosceptic”, and then make a jarring step to the party line of opposing Brexit and Brexiters. The possibility that he would prefer a more nuanced position but can’t “get them to accept that” might account for that.

  • @ Katharine
    Can I just say, I have the utmost respect for you. Your dedication, energy and loyalty are a joy to see and an inspiration I am sure to very many younger Lib Dem’s

    I am also on record as saying that it is very important that the public know and respect enough Lib Dem’s and their policies to get their attention (and that goes for the media too).

    Therefore I agree that rolling out the heavyweights especially at election time is very important.
    However, they need to be the ones the public respect and therefore will listen too.
    What we may think (harsh as it sounds) is secondary.

  • Bill le Breton 7th Jun '17 - 1:56pm

    Thank you Peter. For that friend the suggestion was more about the detail of messaging. I wouldn’t want to put that interpretation forward. But yes it is interesting to be reminded that Tim did talk of understanding the feelings of those in his family and close circle. Maybe we did need to come across as ‘a bit of a eurosceptic’ and to explore in the campaign how that common idea could be used to flesh out a solution … from a disadvantageous Brexit to an advantageous one.

    I always think that the job of the political adviser is to find what it is that the politician really feels and to help them articulate this and then to help them win support for those ideas by finding the best forms in which to communicate them. It is too easy to say, let’s have ‘him’ do a morning session with the press making bacon sandwiches, when it is actually the very last thing he should be communicating.

    We needed Tim to be the doctor for our country in stark contrast to the rather nightmarish nurse that May appeared to be at the start of the campaign. That really good and reliable GP.

    I am not at all sure those who have been devising the campaign themes think like this.

  • Austerity has strangled Britain. Only Labour will consign it to history

    Yep — If Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM, Britain will be consigned to history, all right.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jun '17 - 3:13pm

    Katharine , as ever positive , I share her dislike of the more than dislike of our colleagues such as our former leader, as with my admiration for her enthusiasm, it is one of the sorts of things keeps me at it , being positive .

    I think Bill makes some good points but infantsises Tim by saying his ongoing all too obsessed with Brexit, was all down to advisers.

    His completely emotional and thus forgivable , but actually overblown and impressive speech the day after Brexit , referrendum resulted in leave winning, showed where his heart and stance are on this issue.

    I think it is Nick , who , though as strong in his view, is measured in comparison.

    The only thing that bothers me , is when Nick led us to dreadful results it was , from the naysayers , all his fault , when Tim does , or if , Tim does, it is , from the same , all his advisers fault , proof , if ever needed, that the wing of the party that just dislikes that which is not consistently as they want , is utterly biased !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jun '17 - 3:18pm


    I meant , infantilises, as in treating Tim like a child, not , infantises, as in killing him off !!!

  • Re: Nick Clegg IMO
    Does my memory deceive me or wasn’t the main reason the LibDems did so well in the 2010 because of Cleggmania. It was his performance in the election debate that convinced so many people that we were a serious alternative. Student fees and coalition were the unmaking of the man. Apart from not adequately defending the criticism leveled at him I think there are two things you can do with dirty washing. You can try to hide it behind the cushion but that tends to leaves a odor. You can chuck it in the bin but if it’s your best suit it’s awfully wasteful. Or, you can launder it and wear it again. The party has a potential vote winner like no other, in Nick Clegg. It was the party’s duty to help him, clean him up and redeem him, not try to hide him behind the cushion. Tuition fees should have been back in the manifesto along with never going into coalition with any party again. We made a mistake, it will not happen again, move on.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Jun '17 - 3:42pm

    PJ: No, Cleggmania had a detrimental effect on our performance in 2010, because it led to a loss of focus on targeting while our opponents kept theirs. While we started chasing votes in seats were were unlikely realistically to win, our opponents took our soft votes in some of our defending and target seats. Cleggmania also led to us being attacked in the right-wing media when before they were ignoring us. It would have been better to have stayed under their radar, quietly working our target seats.
    Jezmania will turn out similarly for Labour tomorrow.

  • Richard Butler 7th Jun '17 - 3:43pm

    My kids will see whether I was part of a backwards looking, change fearing puddle of Remainers, or part of the many helping make Brexit a success. A very small part of our total economic activity relates to EU exports, the hysteria around this is unbecoming. Holland is BUT 1 EXAMPLE of a nation that is heavily reliant on it’s UK sales. 9% of Dutch exports come to the UK. THERE IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST CHANCE THE 750,000 DUTCH PEOPLE ENGAGED IN UK SALES WILL ALLOW A BRUSELLS ELITE TO PUT THIER LIVELYHOODS AT RISK.

  • Ethicsgradient 7th Jun '17 - 3:45pm


    I’ve kept off all party political sites during the election period as I am not a member of any party and during an election you need to be unified and a collective voice.

    the discussion about Nick Clegg himself though seems to be far enough away from the election enough to be able to make a comment

    In reply to P.J. above. Unfortunately not matter how much you may wish it so, Nick Clegg will never again be trusted by the electorate. To use your own analogy it i impossible to ‘launder and use your best suit again’ the ‘stains are too deep and the suit is torn’. The 2010 Clegg popularity was built on “I’m different to these others, you can trust me”. Then the first thing he did was to break that trust. for the rest of his days he will never be trusted or given a 2nd go by the wider electorate. That is just how it is.

  • Richard Butler 7th Jun '17 - 3:45pm

    Remainder of on e of Nick’s key arguments throughout the Referendum campaign; “A Norway style option is the worst of all worlds, fax democracy, no say on the rules but having to abide by them all” (which was not an accurate statement incidentally)..

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Jun '17 - 4:00pm

    Your memory deceives you. Cleggmania swelled and burst and the Lib Dems got a marginally higher share of the vote and a few seats fewer than in 2005. It was downhill from then on.

    I rather like Nick Clegg and I thought he had a good campaign for the most part. But he’s pretty much toxic to voters now, largely for good reason. He really should be kept in the background; and if he loses his seat the Lib Dems probably should not mourn.

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Jun '17 - 4:02pm

    Richard Butler

    Remarkable that the Friends of Brexit are convinced that the UK was powerless to affect EU decisions, and yet little Holland can apparently impose its will on the other 26.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Jun '17 - 10:52pm

    Lorenzo, I think your comment above is measured and fair, thank you for entering in this debate so constructively. I feel sad and astonished that so many comments above are denigrating either Tim or Nick, at a time when we should all be pulling together and denouncing the arrogance and wrong-headedness of Theresa May.

    Tim has, I believe, good judgement and follows it consistently, and his post-Referendum position was fully approved by Conference. It is not realistic to suggest that he could have made much more impact in this election, at a time when the Media are focused on the drama of the two leading contenders with their utterly different offerings to the public. He plays to his strengths, and has the wisdom to leave the major speech on Brexit (which incidentally I begged him to make) to Nick Clegg, who has the depth of knowledge and the eloquence to make it. Our position on Brexit is backed by many, including the Greens and the Scots Nats, but it could not be heard loudly whoever spoke it while May refused to enter into detail of her disastrous policy.

    Finally, I do not believe Nick is regarded as so toxic by the wider public as is maintained by hurt Lib Dems; young people, as has been stated here sometimes, have moved on, and older people sad to say don’t expect total honesty from politicians.

    Jayne and Mike S., thank you for your kind words. My thoughts and hopes are for all our candidates now, because (despite the above phrase!) , you don’t become a Lib Dem candidate to advance your career, and so I admire you all and wish you success.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '17 - 9:45am

    @ Jayne Mansfield,

    “‘Austerity has strangled Britain. Only Labour will consign it to history.”

    Of course Stiglitz is quite right in the first sentence of this quote. His economics are essentially post-Keynesian. Not to be confused with Neo-Keynesian BTW. I’d suggest mentally editing the ‘Neo’ to ‘Not’ when seeing this term.

    Post Keynesian thought updates the original work of Keynes to take fully into account the nature of the modern economy. Currencies are now all fiat and most of them are fully floating. There’s no link to gold any longer. Modern banking works by creating money when it issues loans. Most transactions are electronic using IOUs supported by the commercial banks.

    But there’s no need for Stiglitz to be correct in his second sentence. If Lib Dems can read, follow simple logic, apply a bit of lateral thinking, and have reasonable arithmetical skills they can read and understand Stiglitz and others – like Steve Keen too. I’d avoid Paul Krugman though. He’s more Not Keynesian! Though he seems to have shifted his thinking in the right direction since the GFC.

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