Welcome to Jo

As everyone will have heard by now, Jo Swinson is our new Party leader. I want to congratulate her and also congratulate Ed Davey for a spirited campaign that he ran. I had several opportunities to watch both of them in hustings and to be honest both were impressive.

In her acceptance speech, the two points that struck home was when she said (I paraphrase) that “She had limitless ambition for the party” and “she would fight the next election to be the Prime Minister”.  I like such ambition as it gives focus.

This got me thinking, what values does the average voter feels the Lib Dems have. We have certainly succeeded in elections over the years: when we championed education – the penny in the pound – that worked well for us; the opposition to the Iraq war and now Brexit. But it also made me consider, are we successful on the back of a single-issue.

Off course, we have numerous policies. But almost none of that matters unless the voters recognise we are more than about Brexit. I was fortunate to hear Chukka the other night at the National Liberal Club (credit to Lib Dem Business for that), and it was interesting that he also raised this point. Chukka suggested that we should continue to fight against Brexit, but that we should also expand our appeal on Green issues and policies based on our values (caring society/equality etc.) – or at least that’s how I remembered it. The point is that we need to broaden our appeal.

For Jo to be a serious contender in the next general elections, we need to be credible on Green policies (on which we did well during the coalition) and on issues like the NHS, support for local government or social care. Currently, we don’t register with voters’ when these areas of policy come up. We did make strides in mental health but as things stand the Lib Dems have lost their attachment on the matter.

As we seem to be a successful single-issue party: would Jo do well to continue her focus on Brexit; a single issue for Green and one relating to our values – why is it that as the 5 richest country in the world we have close to 14 million on the breadline, for example.

The Tories have been foolish enough to elect Boris as their Leader, he is likely to opt if he doesn’t get the deal he wants, for a no-deal Brexit. This I believe will lead to a general election and although a general election may well be good for us. However, if we are to get a breakthrough, that Jo wants, we need to broaden our appeal and this is the time to do it as voters are listening to us (currently, we are at 18 per cent in the polls along with the Brexit party).

I want to thank Vince for all that he has done for the party. He has, in my opinion, been very successful in his tenure as Leader.

As Chair of the English party, I welcome Jo as our Leader, let’s hope her ambition carries.



* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '19 - 6:17pm

    Jo Swinson is on page one of The Times and the Financial Times.
    Justice Secretary David Gauke is quoted as saying that Boris Johnson risks losing millions of Tory voters to the Liberal Democrats.
    The Irish Independent has a photo of golfing hero Shane Lowry on page one.
    Headlines “Varadkar headed for backstop showdown with British PM. Boris Johnson set to become prime minister but already faces revolt from within in his own party.
    ‘The message that the EU will not cave in “needs to be hammered home”. Fianna Fail is backing this position for the moment. “We are all hoping for a deep sense of reality dawning when he takes office as prime minister” (Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers TD). “Could you imagine telling the people of Germany that we plan to rebuild the Berlin Wall?”

  • David Warren 23rd Jul '19 - 7:12pm

    Couldn’t agree more.

    The party needs to highlight its green policies at every opportunity. In the 1960s the great Jo Grimond talked of the Liberal Party being the progressive non socialist alternative to the Conservatives.

    In the 2010s it needs to be the non socialist Liberal/Green alternative because the Green Party of England and Wales are very definitely a socialist party.

  • Chris Leeds 23rd Jul '19 - 9:49pm

    I agree with you David, but on its own that’s not enough.

    If we are really to break through we also need to bring in the millions of disaffected liberal Tory and social democrat Labour voters. Their ears are open to our message, but we have to convince them.

    The answer is far too detailed for a comment. However, in essence I believe it’s to do with convincing liberal Tories that we stand for decency and the rule of law. For social democrat Labour voters, it’s more about belief in the NHS and equality.

    Most Lib Dems believe in those things without having to bend ourselves out of shape to say so. But we have to say so out loud and not keep it to ourselves.

    Brexit though is our biggest draw for now. We can’t stop banging that drum.

  • @ David Warren “Green Party of England and Wales are very definitely a socialist party.”

    Oh dear. And what particular policies do you object to and regard as socialist, David ?

  • David Evershed 24th Jul '19 - 1:04am

    Speaking on BBC News on Tuesday afternoon Jo Swinson was asked if she would support Brexit if Leave won in a second referendum. She said she would still oppose Brexit.

    The answer to this question probably needs a more nuanced response if as a party we are to retain any respect for democracy.

  • Mr Evershed: Belief in democracy does not mean capitulating. Many of the greatest advances in history came on the heels of loss after loss. If losing a fight once, or twice, or three times, meant giving up, we would still be run by a tiny elite of wealthy men elected from rotten boroughs.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jul '19 - 7:49am

    Jo Swinson is well known for her advocacy of women’s issues. Which is of course fair enough. But does she emphasise those issues to the exclusion of more important others?

    Can we excuse the actions of people like Margaret Thatcher purely on the grounds of her gender? If we are going to have a statue of a female politician in Parliament, wouldn’t we be better choosing someone like Barbara Castle? Even though she was never PM, she arguably should have been !


  • Andrew Tampion 24th Jul '19 - 7:58am

    Mr Evershed. I agree that thisd is a worrying comment for the reason you give but also because it fails to address the problem of bringing the two hardline sides of the Brexit debate together and healing the divide also it raises awkward questions such as “So Ms Swinson if you are going to oppose Brexit even if a second referendum confirms that the majority vote to leave again what is the point in holding one?”
    However much depends on what she means by oppose. If she means actively oppose by continuing to use Parliamentary proceedures to prevent or frustrate Brexit after such a vote then I believe that that would be a disaster for our Party and more more importantly the Country. But if she only means passively oppose by continuing to make the case for EU membership then that is different.

  • Dilettante Eye 24th Jul '19 - 8:36am

    Within the Lib Dem constitution, does Jo Swinson actually have the ‘authority’ to make such a bold statement.?

    Surely if she got her Peoples vote’, and it failed to produce the result she wants, she would have to go to Lib Dem conference to get a mandate for a Peoples vote 2, Peoples vote 3,….?

    In my view, the more honourable and democratic direction of travel, would be to go to conference and ask approval from Lib Dem conference members (post Brexit), would be to put forward a Referendum to Re-join as part of your manifesto for 2022.

    If you placed that Referendum to Re-join in your manifesto, and it succeeded at the ballot in 2022, I would walk away, having seen democracy enacted as it should be.

  • Mick Taylor 24th Jul '19 - 9:15am

    Had dilettante eye been bothering to read about our party instead of being constantly critical he might have found that that is exactly what would happen in the event of a further Brexit vote at a third EU referendum. I have no idea where he gets the idea that the party would be so inept as to campaign for continued Peoples’ Votes. I am not a fan of referendums as a method of making decisions. That’s what we elect Parliament for. So rejoining would in my view have to be in our 2022 manifesto, if we actually leave at all. [Actually, an election in 2022 is by no means certain, because a poll in 2019 looks increasingly on the cards and that would mean that the next scheduled election would be 2024]

  • chris moore 24th Jul '19 - 9:26am

    @ Dilettante Eye.

    During the Lib Dem leadership campaign, the question of what would happen if Leave won the People’s Vote was frequently asked. Both contenders made it clear that there would be no third referendum.

    The Lib Dems would continue to be a pro-European party though and would aim for the closest possible relationship with Europe. At a subsequent GE, the manifesto might include a commitment to campaign to go back into the EU.

    As far as I’m aware there has been no change of policy since Monday.

  • chris moore 24th Jul '19 - 9:48am

    @ Dilettante Eye

    PS in my above posting, you can take Europe to mean EU. You infer it from the context.

  • Dilettante Eye 24th Jul '19 - 9:54am

    @ Mick Taylor

    So you make my point clear that conference has not given Jo Swinson a mandate for any further iterations of Peoples vote, so Jo Swinson was speaking out of turn.

    Haven’t most Lib Dem problems in the last decade, occurred because various leaders have simply gone rogue and ‘gone off on one’, totally ignoring the will and mandate of your conference?

    My understanding is that 30% of Lib Dems voted for leave. Does Jo Swinson’s constant refusal to accept a democratic result ‘chime’ with their approval?

    If she cannot tolerate a majority vote in a UK referendum, and she has no intention of seeking a majority in your conference, just who does she believe she is speaking for?

  • @ Dilettante Eye So you make my point clear that conference has not given Jo Swinson a mandate for any further iterations of Peoples vote, so Jo Swinson was speaking out of turn.

    Jo Swinson has not said there will be another People’s Vote, if Leave win.

  • David Warren 24th Jul '19 - 10:38am

    @DavidRaw Can I suggest you go to the Green Party website and read their manifesto.

  • Dilettante Eye 24th Jul '19 - 11:18am

    “Jo Swinson has not said there will be another People’s Vote, if Leave win.”

    She said she wouldn’t accept a Peoples Vote that produced another Leave result, and would ‘campaign for stopping Brexit because it’s what she believed was right’.

    So does she have the authority as Leader to campaign further, if she lost her Peoples Vote, and hasn’t secured a conference mandate to pursue this anti-Brexit stance further?

    Has she not already gone ‘rougue’ in her first 24 hours as leader?

    I’m just trying to identify who Jo Swinson (Leader of Lib Dems), actually speaks for, beyond the 48,000 Lib Dems that voted for her leadership?

    Look at the figures. Both of your Lib Dem leadership candidates were hard remainers. The voter turnout for those two hard remainer candidates was 72%
    So given this limited choice between hard remainer (JS), or hard remainer (ED), 28% of Lib Dems didn’t bother to vote at all.

    So given that 30% of Lib Dems voted for leave in 2016, I simply question if it’s possible to conclude that the 28% of absent Lib Dem voters who didn’t show up to vote for either of the two hard remainers is because they don’t agree with this battering ram approach to thwarting a democratically approved Brexit, when frankly, most of the public now just want us to ‘get on with it’ and Leave.?

  • I think the idea suggested by Tahir that we emphasis three issues – Brexit, the environment and poverty has great merit. It will not happen. I therefore suggest four, with the addition of education because there is lots of support in the party that this has been a good policy area for us in the past. And in the past we had lots of supporters who worked in education, and lots of our supporter are well educated.

    On the environment our two main policies should be to ensure all homes in the UK are insulated to the current standard, and that electric vehicles are cheaper than petrol one (plus the necessary electric vehicle recharging stations). We might want to go further and give large grants to people who own an old car for the car to be scrapped and on condition that they buy an electric replacement. On education restoring the real term per pupil amount to its historic high, providing free training for the unemployed and replacing student loans with a graduate tax. On poverty raising the basic benefit level to the poverty level within six years and increasing the maximum amount people receive in housing benefit above the 30th percentile of local rents.

    I advise Jo not to talk about us only being opposed to nationalism and populism, but make clear we oppose conservativism first.

  • @ David Warren “Can I suggest you go to the Green Party website and read their manifesto.”.

    You’re dodging the question, David, and chucking out generalities.

    Yes I have read it and there’s not much in it that a Social Liberal couldn’t accept. I’m afraid that like many Lib Dems to the right of the political spectrum, you seem to be hung up on the sort of anti-socialist reds under the bed don’t frighten the horses rhetoric I used to read in the Yorkshire Post fifty years ago.

  • David Warren 24th Jul '19 - 1:07pm

    @DavidRaw I used to be a socialist but having seen how those who advocate it actually operate when they are in power I converted to Liberalism.

    If you had similar experiences then you might see my point of you.

    Going forward I want to see the Liberal Democrats replace Labour as the main opposition party to the Tories in Britain. Adopting and promoting radical green policies will assist that process.

    P.S. Being described as being on the right of the spectrum is a real contrast to being called a Trotskyite wrecker!

  • Paul Barker 24th Jul '19 - 2:27pm

    It looks like we have a small Jo boost in the Polls, up to 23% in the 1st post-Leader Poll. We are behind The Tories but well ahead of Labour & Brexit.

  • David Warren,

    I have looked at the Green Party’s Political Programme (which is their alterative to a manifesto) https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/images/national-site/political-programme-web-v1.3.pdf. There were some policies which I think we should have, there is at least one which I don’t support but I know lots of Liberal Democrats do support but isn’t Lib Dem policy, and there are lots of policies I don’t support. However, I didn’t get the impression that the majority of their policies are socialist. The nationalisation of trains and buses could be seen that way, but you don’t have to be a socialist to want them nationalised.

    For them to be a socialist party I would expect lots of their policies could be seen as socialist. There are about 46 polices in their programme, please can you point out which ones are socialist?

  • chris moore 24th Jul '19 - 4:15pm

    @Dilettante Eye. “She said she wouldn’t accept a Peoples Vote that produced another Leave result, and would ‘campaign for stopping Brexit because it’s what she believed was right’”

    You are confusing yourself.

    Jo Swinson has specifically said there will be no third referendum, if Leave win on a second referendum.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Jul '19 - 4:18pm

    As the Commons said goodbye to Theresa May as PM, in the presence of her husband, Jo Swinson was welcomed as a female party leader. The outgoing PM’s list included Green former leader Caroline Lucas, the SNP leader, an MSP, Plaid (currently male) and, to her obvious embarrassment, the leader of Change UK (ex-Tory). The list does not include the Labour Party.
    Theresa May said that Jeremy Corbyn should also be on the back benches.
    It was not clear why she would want to make Labour more electable.
    There was a minority Labour government in the 1920s which needed to be realistic, despite its manifesto, but Theresa May did not say she wanted that, although the Conservative leader at the time was content with that outcome.
    Theresa May is unlike Margaret Thatcher in that she is not promising to be a back-seat driver, although many MPs wanted her to, nor has she asked for a peerage or a baronetcy for herself or her family.
    The fall of Thatcher led to hope. We celebrated with champagne and smoked salmon.
    Lib Dems survived the 1992 general election. Labour changed their leader, who died, and then became more realistic, a lesson they seem to have forgotten. To ensure Tony Blair’s vote they need to solve their problem with anti-Semitism. He does not want to vote Lib Dem, but neither did Michael Heseltine.

  • chris moore 24th Jul '19 - 4:29pm

    Michael BG “I have looked at the Green Party’s Political Programme (which is their alterative to a manifesto) ”

    I’ve just read through it too.

    It struck me as an extensive wish list of mostly attractive initiatives, which have not been costed at all, or outcomes with no clue given about how we would get there as a society.

    No mention of trade offs to be made or losers. All good fantasy politics. Which I think is fair enough, as they are even further from power than us.

    PS Various posters on here should cut David Warren some slack!

  • Dilettante Eye 24th Jul '19 - 4:31pm

    “You are confusing yourself.

    Jo Swinson has specifically said there will be no third referendum, if Leave win on a second referendum.”

    A link to that statement from Jo Swinson would be handy?

  • chris moore 24th Jul '19 - 4:56pm

    You may find it yourself.

    Both Jo and Ed have been repeatedly asked the question about further referendums in the last six weeks. They have both explicitly ruled out a third referendum.

  • Dilettante Eye 24th Jul '19 - 5:06pm

    @chris moore

    “You may find it yourself.”

    If you are convinced that you saw, heard, or read Jo Swinson making that very statement you suggest, it must surely be available to all of us somehow in video, podcast or document form.?

    Being generous, could it be that you just ‘dreamt it’ chris?

  • Dilettante Eye
    It was in her acceptance speech as leader. She said that if confronted by a choice between Staying in the EU, and Leaving with a particular deal (or “No Deal”) the people would have made a choice which would have to be implemented, BUT that that would not change her mind that the choice to remain would have been the better one for the country. NOT that she intended to press for a further referendum. No doubt, cals to rejoin would be made some time in the future!

    I know there were Lib Dems who voted Leave, but I must say I cannot understand that choice from anyone signed up to our Party constitution (and its preamble). All I can say is that they can’t have read it carefully! In addition to it having been the consistent policy of the Party from its foundation in 1988, and of the Liberal Party before that from 1955. I believe that the (“continuing”) Liberals are now in favour of leaving, and I assume their philosophy is very different to ours.

  • Dilettante Eye 24th Jul '19 - 6:11pm


    Just reflect that 28% of eligible Lib Dem members didn’t bother to vote in their own Lib Dem leadership election.
    So 29,562 members didn’t bother to vote, which means that Lib Dem abstentions were greater in number than Ed Davey’s endorsement of 28,021 votes.

    Are you not even curious to know why they (the 28%), didn’t bother to vote for either of your favoured two hard remainer candidates.?

    If you’re struggling to answer that question now, then maybe defer the question for about 12 weeks and ask it again.

  • Where does it say on the Green Party manifesto that they’re a socialist party? I believe in some nationalisation that’s what a mixed economy, which the Lib Dems embrace, is all about. Nothing socialist about it. Why don’t the OBs and their ilk on here get that? Please don’t let them destroy the party all over again.

  • Tahir asks “why is it that as the 5 richest country in the world we have close to 14 million on the breadline, for example.” The answer lies with the same reasons that there are over 40 million people in the USA reportedly living in poverty https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2018/06/22/UN-report-With-40M-in-poverty-US-most-unequal-developed-nation/8671529664548/ – an economy based on a dysfunctional distribution of wealth and income that exacerbates inequality,
    Wherever land costs are at their highest, there too is to be found the greatest concentration of homelessness – whether it is New York, San Francisco or London.
    The Green party may not get everything or even most things right; but on this problem of poverty and gross inequality they are looking in the right direction in advocating tax reform based on land value https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/council-tax-land-value-tax-3029051

  • Michael BG, Joe Bourke – I believe we can also look at “A Call to Economic Arms” by Senator Paul Tsongas for new policy ideas. He got nearly everything right about what eventually happen in America. I am sure that his economic platform is far more comprehensive than every single Libdem manifesto over the past two decades, and his ideas will be very useful for preparing Britain for Industrial Revolution 4.0.

  • chris moore 25th Jul '19 - 8:56am

    @Dilettante Eye

    Dilettante, Jo and Ed have repeatedly ruled out a third referendum under questioning.

    You spend a lot of time hanging out with Lib Dems. This suggests you are attracted to the party, but are clearly put off by its stance on Europe (ie EU).

    Could I suggest you join the party and campaign for a more Euro-sceptical position from within? (Perhaps 10% of members were Leavers.)

    All the best

  • Mick Taylor 25th Jul '19 - 9:31am

    @dilettante Eye.
    I did not mention conference in my response to you, so please stop putting words into my mouth.
    Many other posters have pointed out that Jo has not even suggested that there might be a further people’s vote in the result of the third EU referendum (there have been 2 already) went Brexit. As I understand it if people voted for Brexit on the terms (or similar) to May’s deal in a people’s vote then the party’s position is that parliament would have to implement it.
    I would hope that the party would then commit itself to campaigning to rejoin. I would however point out that rejoining would be without the many opt outs we currently enjoy and that we would lose if we do leave. Far better in my view to stay.

  • The legislation for any fresh EU referendum (“People’s Vote”) should be legislated so that it would be implemented automatically, like the AV referendum would have been, so there would be no question of whether any politician in power would “implement” or seek to “thwart” the referendum result. That is, a Leave vote should automatically mean leaving on whatever deal, and a Remain vote should mean automatic revocation of Art 50. This could be done by statutory instrument, as specified in the relevant legislation. No more advisory referendums on this issue. It needs to be that the referendum result is automatically implemented without the need for any further intervention by elected politicians.

  • Dilettante Eye 25th Jul '19 - 5:57pm

    Mick Taylor

    “I would hope that the party would then commit itself to campaigning to rejoin.”

    That would be an honourable position to take in a post Brexit situation, and if Lib Dems ‘sold’ that to the UK voters and won an election on that basis, I would concede defeat over our re-joining an EU membership and walk away having seen democracy enacted properly and fairly, as it should be.

    Good Luck

  • John Littler 27th Jul '19 - 5:57pm

    The LibDems need to find a way of articulating that they can make the UK economic pie bigger and making people wealthier, with more tax funding for public services.

    It could start by reminding people that the UK under the Tories has fallen behind comparable countries in GDP per head, where we are behind all countries in Northern Europe except Finland, including behind Ireland, but also behind IoM, C.I’s, Iceland, Canada and Australia.
    The UK is no longer 5th in the world on total GDP, but was knocked into 6th behind France and now 7th behind fast growing India. Below 7th the UK would fall outside of the G7, the world’s top economic table.

    The engines of future growth and wages rises have also collapsed, in terms of investment and productivity. Brexit would make this far worse.

    The balance of payments deficit with the rest of the world is near record and has worsened recently, especially outside of the EU, because we do not make or export enough stuff. To tackle this Britain needs an active Industrial strategy to drive forward UK enterprises and offer a level playing field with the continent.

    This would include adult training, modern apprenticeships, support for exporters such as on trade show costs, protection against dumping by China, increased support for the regions, R&D, technology transfer including the building of hubs and on Science. Also, in growing the Green industries of the future and decarbonising the UK by the 2040’s, plus returning the Green Bank and British Business Bank to the public sector. Much of this work was started by Vince Cable and Ed Davey during the coalition but has been reversed, or starved of funds by the Tories since.

    Many of these types of hands on measures have taken Northern Europe prosperity levels to above those of the UK, which cannot be replicated by tax cutting while the UK’s present economy is faltering as consumer credit is again maxed out at record levels as in 2007 and because of the threat of brexit.

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