We fight or we die; contest now


No. We press our advantage. Be mercenary. We have nothing left to lose. 6% by the latest polls. For nothing.

No, literally, it’s a good result, given we have been and represented nothing, since (or but…) defeat, in December. It’s been four months.

Do you want another year and a half?! And a year after Labour crown their leader, set out their stall? This is folly.

I want Jo Swinson back. And I never wanted her at all. Strange times. She would have fought. Not delayed. For fourteen months.

The history of procrastination may have the odd genius discovery, but in strategic terms, it is a damned strategy. We will be an irrelevance in 14 months. Nobody comes back from exile, even self-imposed. Not even Napoleon.

Hence my call on the members’ forum: CONTEST NOW!

Hence my call on Twitter to Sir Ed: Contest now! Win it. And lead.

This grim time is just that. Grim. Moment of silence… Moment over. Crisis demands action, not mourning, management and mitigation, not respectful silence, not until the last person is dead.

Good God, the economy has been suspended across the globe and some of us would still call ourselves “marketeers”!

Some of us market fundamentalists, proudly supporting the Institute of Economic Affairs and their ilk, scrambling to damage control all the hypocrisies of the unfettered, under-regulated market society, collapsing to a bout of pneumonia.

It is ok to be furious. It does not diminish your solidarity. Nor does debating politics – i.e. our future, just as ‘economy’ now means every area of our lives.


We fight or we die. We are wolves who think we are sheep. I want a wolf to lead us. Like I said to Sir Ed, I want a Paddy, not a Vince.

Nor egotistic delays that leave us on the backfoot at crucial moments (as Vince’s long goodbye, so brilliantly captured by Peter Brookes cartoon, did).

Rory Stewart is stealing a march on us, first on his shaky mobile videos (online – so we can, see Dominic Buxton, a fine example), then by visiting houses and now by simply tweeting. (Ostensibly) sincerely. Winning hearts and minds. He knows the Prince can rule on love alone.

We need to be ready. For anything. Leaderless, we will be ready five times over! For we will maybe have five leaders, setting out five stalls, ready for everything and nothing!

All elucidated over a slow burn campaign that Sir Ed can’t even take part in, not truly, not without accusations of using his ‘temporary’ (longer than Swinson’s reign, as Guido already jokes) power to campaign, when his opponent candidates, declared for over a year, constantly, subtly take aim at his inability to act. Because he is Acting Leader. And that is no leadership at all.

Hold the contest now. Or cancel it, ‘coronate Ed’ and reschedule it for 14 months’ time. That sits well with a focus on crisis response and allows us to take a real part in that, not 5 maybe, bit-parts in the response to crisis.

And it makes no odds to the delayed contest. It is delayed, but will happen, lest Ed find that we do not appreciate those not of their word, in these days. And it only improves all of our images, that unity when it is needed, and fierce competition for fresh ideas and leadership when it is possible. But leaderless, effectively, for a year and a half?

By then nobody will see us at all.

We fight or we die.

* Johnny McDermott is a Glasgow University Law graduate who is studying for his Masters with a focus on moral and political philosophy.

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This entry was posted in Leadership Election.


  • I like your style, Mr. McDermott. Our party has no automatic right to exist. It must fight for every inch of contested ground. Some may percieve that a global crisis makes conventional politics inappropriate. In that case lets do unconventional politics, like the afformentioned Rory Stewart, but lets to something, for heavens sake, or the masters students of 2120 may be writing about the strange death of the Liberal Democrat Party and the part played by the pandemic in their demise.

  • James BLESSING 31st Mar '20 - 12:07pm

    What he said – we can run an online election (if we can’t then we really need to look at ourselves as it’s where the world is heading) we can also put a term limit in place so that in two years we automatically have another leadership review.

    Putting it into delay is a major mistake, even though people are going to feel like they are losing face by changing their minds it’s time for people to stand up for what’s the right thing to do.

  • Total agreement. When the story first broke I expressed my strong disappointment and annoyance with the idea of a 14 month delay, leaving us like headless chickens, and concern that Mark Pack was seeking to give Ed an eventual unfair advantage. This is 2020, time to act not delay.

  • I couldn’t disagree more…. It doesn’t matter is if Ed is an elected leader he is speaking, and speaking well, in tihis crisis; the last thing this party needs to do now is have an internal election.
    There have even been calls for a government of national unity and you want to show the country that this party’s ‘great and good’ can’t even agree amongst themselves?
    Make no mistake, this election will get media coverage (anything to break up the constant coverage of this pandemic); however, what sort of coverage will it be? I guarantee it will be along the lines of, “LibDems obsessed with internal differences”, etc, etc.
    In the public’s eye it will be the equivalent of arguing about who should re-arrange the seating, in the third class dining room, on the Titanic.

  • John Marriott 31st Mar '20 - 1:47pm

    “We fight or we die”. Too true. We FIGHT the Coronavirus or we DIE”. No more, no less. All the rest is quite frankly self indulgence. Sort out what really IS important. The rest can wait.

  • Peter Roberts 31st Mar '20 - 1:51pm

    I’m currently spending between 5 and 10 hours a day running and developing community based support in mid Wales.

    Now is not the time to be navel gazing it is the time to be out there showing ourselves as community leaders worthy of being or continuing to be councillors.

    When the tissue of lies from our current government is uncovered people will be turning to those of us who showed leadership and protected our communities. Holding a leadership election now would distract us from those responsibilities and leave us open to unfavourable comparisons with Nero. Delaying it allows us to deliver on the ground for the public we serve.

  • Sometimes you read the responses to an article and you feel that we are all saying similar things, but without realising it, as if we are all reading slightly different versions.
    Of course John M is right and fighting the coronovirus is all that matters at the precise moment, but I personally feel that our party can contribute, constructively, to the debate about exactly how best to defeat covid-19, and what exactly represents the national interest. For example, it is not self indulgent to point out that certain groups in society may suffer greater long term economic harm from this pandemic than others, or that civil liberties issues are relevant, or that the response of other government may have merit. The question them becomes, does the present arrangement of joint acting leaders put us in the best position to make those constructive arguments, or do we need to find a hasty resolution ? Have labour been self indulgent in continuing with their leadership election ? Not in my view.

  • Paul Barker 31st Mar '20 - 3:53pm

    Lets have some Facts.
    Its not 6% in the latest PollS, its 6% in the latest Poll, just one Poll out of the 14 Polls since the Election.
    Our Polling divides into two halves – January & February, Pre-Virus
    & March, Post-Virus.
    Of the nine Pre-Virus Polls, seven cluster round 10%.
    The Five Post-Virus Polls are strung out between 6% & 11% with a bias to the bottom end.

    Right now the Tories are getting more than half the Vote & smaller Parties are being squeezed. This is a temporary mood, comparable to the one around The Falklands War, it wont last & we dont know what will happen after.

  • Johnny McDermott 31st Mar '20 - 7:34pm

    Chris Cory – I like that – no party has an automatic right to exist. Maybe we should acknowledge that to people? If folks are laughing at us, laugh along, don’t take our selves too seriously. Ask journalists? Do you care? To either ‘why hold now/ why delay?’ We talk to the people, now. Via soc media, let’s do a reverse Trump, and use it for good.

    I worried – as someone currently backing Ed – that is how it appeared the first time it was delayed. But it can go either way – Ed fans can claim ‘ah Christine just wanted a year and a half to build…’ etc. (As I admit, was my first, angry instinct, quickly rationalised. This helps no one!)

  • Johnny McDermott 31st Mar '20 - 7:35pm

    Who expats, has called for GNU? I remember doing it personally last year, but with a stonking Tory majority, I imagine it’s either opposition fantasy or a joke. Too late for that. When was the last time we agreed amongst ourselves?! Why lie to the public. We’re not really sure what we stand for. Come and help us figure it out. Labour are X, Tories are Z but we are xYz. Daft equations that didn’t work aside, we will have a year and a half more disagreement.

  • Johnny McDermott 31st Mar '20 - 7:44pm

    John Marriott assumes that ‘right to exist’. It does not exist! It’s all very noble, pretending nothing else matters (it does, the deliberate choice to shut down the global economy will have wrought immeasurable harm already, let alone for decades to come. We need a leader, not acting, holding Johnson to account. If we don’t know who the candidate is/ don’t have long enough to? They probably shouldn’t be running for leader.

    Huw is right. I think it’s once again frustrating to have been cut out of the loop, finding out on our Party President’s blog first… actually some random reporter on twitter before my inbox. Can’t keep making unilateral decisions and expecting the same party to exist by the end of it. I think of all the others, Jardine was only one to write, on this board, saying it was the right call.

  • Johnny McDermott 31st Mar '20 - 7:44pm

    Good work Peter Roberts! Like Chris in comment below – there is no noble need to take off our campaigning clothes as we do that. The government/ labour and SNP won’t. There’s a lot of integrity in this party, which is obviously a great thing. But too much will get us, well, I’ll avoid the strong metaphors now. It won’t be good for us. Not long term.

    Paul Barker – And I find myself wondering if Chris is right when it comes to me and you making the same point but thinking in different conclusions. Temporary only applies if we assume that we have that right to exist. I’m not sure we do anymore.

  • Alex Macfie 31st Mar '20 - 8:58pm

    As far as our opinion poll standing is concerned, I can only repeat what I wrote in another thread today: “Opinion polls are utterly irrelevant at this time when there aren’t going to be any elections at all for at least a year, and the Johnson government is enjoying a ‘crisis honeymoon’.”

  • Alex Macfie 31st Mar '20 - 9:02pm

    “Have labour been self indulgent in continuing with their leadership election ? Not in my view.” Labour’s leadership election was already well past the point where it could realistically be abandoned when the Coronavirus crisis took hold. One can argue that it took far too long, but the fact is that it was close to the endgame by the time we were even starting to think of postponing our leadership election. Again, there is a valid argument that we should have had ours sooner, but after the crisis we had no reaistic choice but to postpone.

  • “Jardine was only one to write, on this board, saying it was the right call.”

    But what makes you suppose that the contributors to this board are representative of the party as a whole?

  • John Marriott 1st Apr '20 - 7:48am

    @Johnny McDermott
    Of course there are other things in life to worry about – the economy, or what is left of it, the clean environment, or what is left of it, the future of mankind, or what is left of it and, of course, for you and others, the future of the Lib Dems, or what……….

    For me, as the Bee Gees sang, it really is about “Staying alive”, or, at least at my fairly advanced age, for a bit longer. So why not ‘coronate(sic) Ed’, if he wants to be and have done with it? The teacher still in me means I have to tell you that there already exists a perfectly adequate verb for what you do at a coronation, without the need for inventing a new one. It’s ‘to crown’.

  • Rory O'Brien 1st Apr '20 - 2:44pm

    As a new member I quite agree. The party AND THE COUNTRY needs leadership and strong politicians. Putting the party to sleep for a year is an abdication of responsibility.
    We would deserve to be irrelevant at the end of the period.

  • Wilf Forrow 1st Apr '20 - 7:19pm

    We need to show leadership by having an official leader now. Nobody outside the party cares who it is or how they got there. But not having an officially annointed leader looks weak. Coronation or election – I don’t care, but do it. Now.

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 1:08am

    Alex Macfie – I like that ‘opinion polls’ don’t matter view for a year or two, but now? Can we look at one exit poll that didn’t correctly place us? We must not dismiss them, for their occasional inaccuracies. Sir Paddy had to eat his hat for such an arrogance!
    Why did we take so long, if theirs was too long?
    And I like ‘Endgame’… it’s really beginning to feel like that kind of Samuel Beckett Endgame. Utterly pointless. Waiting for our opponents to move then respond and… nothing. We affect nothing. Tell me I’m wrong?
    [Re this message board – I have rather stupidly accused the ominous ‘Them’ of being ‘Swinsonites’ when I felt they were suppressing me. In fact, they just wanted me to stick to a reasonable word count. I think they are a variety, and as any human, will have preferences. But I have learned – they do let us have our say now. There is no questioning that.]

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 1:20am

    John Marriott – Fortunately, if nothing else, the environment seems to be coming up a winner in this crisis. I do understand that dread. It is why I write as I do. It’s not just an attention-seeking kick in my fellow members’ apathetic teeth. Mine are too! That’s why I do it. I refuse. I say that a lot, in my anger: I *refuse*. What? “The end”? I’ve been writing on that, fiction, for almost two years now. As I near the end, this quasi-ending happens in ‘real life’. It is disappointing, to say the least. I calculated a complete ‘end’ only with some nuclear (asteroid is not interesting, plot wise… I don’t think! Feel free!) ending. Ending most, but leaving enough to highlight the terrible features of society that exist right now. That would survive, I have no doubt. An amplification of toilet roll stock piling. It’s not contempt. I “stock-piled” (slowly, wisely – I think) for a 31st Oct. No Deal Brexit. So I was ‘ok, Jack’ when this one came. Mum panicked. My daughter in tears tonight, for all of us old ones, and now a teen has died (and I lied, reassuring ‘there must have been an underlying condition’…), perhaps for all of us. Christ, I’m 31 and called myself an ‘old one’! Apologies for tarring you with that brush. I feel weary. If we don’t fight, we die… that’s what I mean. If we don’t start kicking and screaming, we will simply pass out. Give in. It’s dark imagery, and I apologise again, particularly to David. I have seen that fight. I’ve seen what it looks like to give up, or have no choice, just go to the end. I shouldn’t have been so flippant. It was a ‘The Walking Dead’ reference. The main character, Rick, tells another survivor that is the new rule: you fight or you die. Taking *some* of the life and death out, I believe our party must adopt that tooth-and-nail attitude. Or we will just pass out of memory, if not ‘die’. For TWD fans, it’s Season 6… I think mid-season finale. Before he goes a bit crazy and takes his role as new community sheriff a little too brutally. Perhaps I should have noted that. His one rule – fight or die – was a kind of absolute that came before a break down, however temporary.

    I don’t know what that means, personal or party relevant… act now? Or don’t… am I wrong?

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 1:23am

    John Marriot PS:[I clearly rambled on in reply to only half of your comment! I missed a whole world of Beegees – and I’m thinking Moriarty and Sherlock on the roof top! – imagery. Damn. Too late now. Coronate the King. I’m testing my grammar/ spell check, recently turned off for madness at dem’s, no matter how many corrections. I like the odd made up word, but can see now it sounds more like I want Sir Ed curried and mixed with raisins… “let’s be done with it and crown him!”
    My two English teacher parents must not know!]

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 1:25am

    Rory O’Brien – my inefficient reply method is chronological, so if you look at my replies above, I think you might feel the strange sensation I am now. Abdication. ‘Putting to sleep’. We are thinking in the same deathly images.

    Our party cannot be thought of like that. … Any more than we already are.

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 1:27am

    Contradict Wilf (and me), any who disagree.

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 1:32am

    *Correction: it was Morten Morland’s cartoon (@mortenmorland), not Peter Brookes’s (@brookestimes). Which I found to my terrible embarrassment, asking the wrong artist for permission to use (not) their image! (Granted in the end!) On my twitter feed shortly!

  • Thomas Hague 2nd Apr '20 - 11:44am

    I have said it before and I will do so again.
    A delay is necessary in light of the Coronavirus pandemic but 14 months is unacceptable. A delay until the autumn is perfectly reasonable, a delay of 14 months is insane.

  • Johnny McDermott 2nd Apr '20 - 11:32pm

    Thomas Hague: Slightly embarrassed to admit, as always, I hadn’t thought in half measures… perhaps Thomas Hague is onto the right track. Put it off till Autumn, the summer holiday month, anyway, where if we’re lucky there will be less 24/7 crisis response and a little more time to reflect on what the whole thing means for the party. The global economy collapsed. To a virus that is relatively ‘tame’ – and I do not denigrate the virus, only fear a ‘worse’ one… like ebola. I feel there are some wholesale philosophical reforms that could be made and could make sense. I still feel we have a sort of split identity. Not that it needs to be divided up and separated. I think many of us can find multiple areas of common ground and multiple disagreements. I think that’s the reality of modernity for politics. People swing both ways. To the right for security, generally (unless very liberty prone, like us), and left when it comes to crisis like this (as even an alt-right government is proving itself able, to sustain the market society).

    Going to avoid another ramble. Conclusion – Hague is right. It cannot be “CONTEST NOW”. But it shouldn’t be next year. That’s bonkers. We must up our online game anyway. If the next leader is the person that manages that best? Well, maybe they’re the right leader for our times.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Apr '20 - 10:31am

    What an excitable thread! I take two thoughts from it. Can Peter Roberts please tell us more about his community-based efforts in mid-Wales? And can we please crown Ed Davey soon, with or without an election, and also determine actually to have our Brighton Conference in September, even if diminished. Yes, we do need action soon.

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Apr '20 - 1:23pm

    The Federal Board could give Ed’s status more credibility to counter this claim of us being leaderless. Is he leader until an election is held de facto? We need to have some credible policies and promote them. Testing of both types is one. Compensation seems to be the battle ground once the endemic ceases to be headines. Also, once we’re on top of Covid 19, we need to lead on helping developing countries counter it while combating climate change.

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