Welcome to my day: 27 June 2022 – shuffling into the limelight again?

It’s been another good week to be a Liberal Democrat, I’d suggest. An astonishing victory in Tiverton & Honiton, and polling numbers in the low teens indicates that, whilst the Party is not at the levels we saw prior to 2010, we’re certainly relevant again.

It certainly helps that the Conservative government looks to be in an utter shambles, led by a man they don’t really believe in any more, and apparently without any policies designed to address the critical issue of the day – the cost of living crisis. The inability of ministers to take any medium or long term decisions other than to treat minorities and potential enemies as brutally as possible doesn’t much help either.

And there’s little doubt that most of the nation’s problems require some serious long-term thinking – the NHS is not going to be restored overnight, regardless of how much money is thrown at it, nor are public services to be improved without some serious thought as to what is needed and who will supply it.

Returning to the Liberal Democrats, however, one of the results of electoral success is media attention. At 6%, the problem was that nobody was listening to what the Party’s spokespeople were saying – we simply weren’t relevant. Now, perhaps, we are. As voters become rather more sophisticated in their understanding of how they might get what they want – the end of the Conservatives in power (or, less promisingly for the opposition parties, the end of Johnson in power) – voters are turning back to us where we can demonstrate that we can win.

The media too are talking about us, and listening to our MPs in a way that they might not be entirely used to. Munira Wilson, in addressing the issue of rail strikes, was accused of calling for the Army to break the dispute, something she can hardly have intended to suggest, regardless of how popular that might be with some voters in Twickenham. But there will be those, particularly in the Tory-supporting media, who will be only to happy to seek wedges to insert between their opposition.

That doesn’t mean “say nothing controversial” but it does mean moving from chasing headlines to making them.

I’d also suggest that equivalence is out. Is there really a scenario where the Party might support a minority Conservative administration made up, almost certainly, of the same ghastly people who are running this country into the ground, economically, morally and ethically? As someone who studied statistics, you never say never, but I just can’t see Party members being persuaded.

And it does feel like 1992-97 all over again, with voters making tactical choices in greater numbers, an unpopular and unlikeable Conservative administration making enemies in ever-increasing numbers and with little idea other than to pick more fights. Perhaps the Labour Party isn’t where Tony Blair had it in the mid-1990’s – Jeremy Corbyn is perhaps not distant enough a memory and Keir Starmer lacks a big idea still – but the yearning for a kinder, more socially aware politics is clearly out there.

Meanwhile, for the Conservatives, a summer of discontent beckons…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Steve Trevethan 27th Jun '22 - 8:40am

    Which of Mr Corbyn’s policies and attitudes would have been as bad or worse than those of Mr Johnson?

  • Mark, you say, “Munira Wilson, in addressing the issue of rail strikes, was accused of calling for the Army to break the dispute, something she can hardly have intended to suggest”. I’m afraid it’s difficult to interpret Ms Wilson’s comments reported in the ‘I’ in any other way, Mark. Are you saying the report is inaccurate ? …..

    “Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson suggested the Army could be brought in to replace rail workers. Ms Wilson, MP for Twickenham, had called on the Government to “work with the Army and others to put contingency plans in place if these strikes are going to continue,” suggesting soldiers could “get nurses and doctors and teachers to work, and students to their exams.”

    Essential elements in successful politics are consistency and trust, as well as competence, as Johnson is now finding out. It applies to all political parties.

  • ………………….Munira Wilson, in addressing the issue of rail strikes, was accused of calling for the Army to break the dispute, something she can hardly have intended to suggest, regardless of how popular that might be with some voters in Twickenham………….

    She wasn’t accused of it; she actually suggested it . If she hadn’t meant it why suggest it in the first place .. She used the words ‘army’ and ‘soldiers’ so hardly a ‘slip of the tongue’..

    Starmer and Lammy have made themselves look foolish by trying to be ‘honest brokers’; opposition parties should, if they are asked direct questions, just blame strikes on government (in)action and not further inflame the situation with silly OTT suggestions..

    The old adage about “Remaining silent and being thought a fool, etc….” holds true..

  • Whatever the merits of Munira Wilson’s suggestion she should not be accused of making policy up on the spur of the moment. The Liberal Democrat’s five point plan to deal with the ambulance crisis already includes (as the second of its five points) calling up the armed services to drive ambulances. There seems little practical difference between using army drivers to ferry paramedics to emergencies and using them to ferry doctors from their homes to hospitals as suggested by Munira. This should be seen as an extension of an existing policy rather than a revolutionary new policy. Many, many years ago the Liberals had a guy called Peter Knowlson who as a form of “policy tzar” worked valiantly to ensure that the party had a coherent set of policies. Perhaps the time has come for the back of the Lib Dem sofa to be raided for some lost coins to reinstate such a post and help our spokespeople produce appropriate responses to these issues.

  • 1. Thoughtful common sense from Martin which the Party needs to reflect on.

    2. @ Richard “The Liberal Democrat’s five point plan to deal with the ambulance crisis already includes (as the second of its five points) calling up the armed services to drive ambulances. There seems little practical difference between using army drivers to ferry paramedics to emergencies and using them to ferry doctors from their homes”.

    Sorry, but I’m afraid there is every difference, Richard. Ms Wilson goes much further than the simple principle of urgent medical necessity – and I know very few doctors who can’t afford a car.

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jun '22 - 1:25pm

    Munira Wilson calls for the army be be used to break a strike. I assume this is an attempt to further woo Tory voters and possibly help prepare the ground for the Liberal Democrats to be considered as a potential coalition partner for the Conservatives should the next election result in no party winning an overall majority. If not this, then why does Munira want to give the impression of being a hard-line Tory?

  • Chris Moore 27th Jun '22 - 2:02pm

    Come on Brad, there is no intention by the LDs to go into Coalition with the Tories.

    Stop exaggerating!

  • Joseph Bourke 27th Jun '22 - 2:20pm

    There seems to be some stereotyping in this article around some voters in Twickenham. Not everyone associates Twickenham with idyllic walks by the Thames https://www.ilivehere.co.uk/twickenham-2.html
    Aylesbury is the county town of Buckinghamshire and might be thought of as another idyll where voters spend much of their time enjoying country walks and managing their investment portfolios. However, Ilivehere contributors recently voted the town the No. 1 worst place to live in England (beating Huddersfield into 2nd place) https://www.ilivehere.co.uk/top-10-worst-places-to-live-in-england
    “If you’re a middle to upper class family or individual looking to move to Aylesbury, then ensure you employ 4 full time security guards and a dog and some barbed wire around your house.”

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jun '22 - 2:54pm

    @Chris Moore
    Perhaps at present, but consider the scene: it is Autumn 2024 and the General Election has resulted in a hung Parliament with the Conservatives on 295, Labour on 255, SNP on 50, Lib Dems on 25 and the rest with 25. Kier Starmer sees that a Labour/SNP deal will make him leader of the largest block of MPs but that a Labour/ Lib Dem deal won’t, so he offers to grant a second independence referendum for their support, to which they agree. Starmer then invites the Lib Dems to join his Labour/ SNP deal so that the 3 parties can form a majority but the Lib Dems refuse to accept the offer as they won’t accept a second independence referendum. The Tories then offer the Lib Dems a deal as a way to block Starmer being invited to form a minority government since a Tory/ Lib Dem block would be bigger than the Labour/ SNP block. Are you convinced that in these circumstances the Liberal Democrats would not do a deal? I’m not.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Jun '22 - 3:08pm

    @Brad Barrows. You cannot be serious. If there were coalition negotiations (and Labour say they won’t have any) then they wouldn’t happen in the way you describe. Talks would go on simultaneously with the SNP and the Lib Dems otherwise why bother, because a majority couldn’t be cobbled together. Discussions with some Scottish colleagues have shown me that the party is not as united against independence as the leadership likes us to think. I suspect that in the strange circumstances that Brad envisages our party might be willing to allow another Scottish referendum, but with turnout percentages to be reached and at least , say, 60% voting in favour as happens with many referendums around the world.
    As to another coalition with the Tories? It just ain’t going to happen. It nearly destroyed us in 2015, it would finish us now. The party wouldn’t stand for it.

  • @ Mick Taylor “Discussions with some Scottish colleagues have shown me that the party is not as united against independence as the leadership likes us to think”.


  • @Mick Taylor: “Discussions with some Scottish colleagues have shown me that the party is not as united against independence as the leadership likes us to think.”
    Hi Mick. I’m curious to know how many Scottish colleagues have you had these discussions with?
    And David Raw, If you really believe this is the case, why not bring a pro-indy motion to the next conference? Seriously, let’s test it.

  • Paul Barker 27th Jun '22 - 5:16pm

    A Number of points
    its very unlikely that The next Election will be any later than this Autumn, it could come at any moment
    we should keep saying that there is No Lib-Lab pact & won’t be
    Labour won’t need a Coalition, how many issues are there where Tories, Libdems & The SNP would vote the same way ? Labour can run a Minority Administration quite easily.

  • The consequences of Scottish independence are against our values and against Labour values too. If members aren’t against those things, then I suggest that either they don’t understand the consequences, or their values are not aligned.

    Of course, most polling shows that most Scots are against Scottish independence, and even more Scots are against another referendum. Even Sturgeon said she’d not push for another referendum until polling consistently showed support for independence to be 60%+ so it’s best to treat these demands as theatre.

    The Tories (along with some SNP) like to push the idea that a minority Labour government would be forced to give the SNP another referendum, in the hope of scaring people into voting Tory (or SNP) but so long as Lab+Lib+Green > Tory+DUP then the SNP has limited bargaining powers. Abstaining would be damaging, but voting with the Tories against a progressive programme of government agreed by Lab/Lib/Greens would be political suicide.

  • @ Fiona “The consequences of Scottish independence are against our values”….

    The Guardian 15 October, 2019…. “Lib Dems in renewed push for second Brexit referendum vote. Public should have final say on any deal PM brings back from EU summit, Lib Dems argue”.

    BBC News The UK leader, 16 April, 2021…. “Sir Ed Davey has also said his party will not support a second Scottish independence referendum. He told the BBC his party would vote against one even if the SNP were to win a majority in this year’s Holyrood election”.

    Sorry, Fiona, but ‘our values’ implies exercising a bit of consistency, and historically, the Liberal Unionist Party merged with the Conservatives way back in 1912.

  • Peter Davies 27th Jun '22 - 8:23pm

    Hospitals and schools are not parties to a rail dispute. If they use outside contractors to get their workers to work, that is no benefit to the rail companies and no skin off the noses of rail workers. It is a bit OTT though to suggest the army needs to do this. There are private companies who do this sort of thing week in week out.

  • Martin, On balance I think I would go with Paul Barker’s assessment of the most likely outcome of when a general election might be called. We all know we have a huge ego-centric narcissist as prime minister, and a Conservative Party that is getting extremely worried that if he remains in power they will lose their jobs.

    We also know Boris Johnson will break any convention, every rule in order to keep himself in power. Whether it is illegally proroguing parliament, or bluffing and blustering to get the EU itself to pretend he had a real deal – the prime minister is a master of cunning.

    The mechanism that the Tories rely on to remove a failing leader is a vote in the 1922 Committee. However, we all know that the vote was called to come before the two by-elections defeats and the prime minister escaped, severely damaged but still in control. Whether the letters to call the vote of confidence came from backbench MPs hoping to save those seats, or the prime minister’s supporters wanting to get the vote out of the way before bad by-election results finally did it for him is a matter for conjecture, but the latter possibility is not beyond the realms of possibility.

    If he thinks calling a snap general election on an “Only I can l stop the union’s strike chaos” ticket is the only thing to prevent another vote of the 1922 committee, I think he would definitely do it.

  • On the matter of Ms Wilson’s comments about “using the army to break the rail strike”, I’ve now seen the video clip (which unfortunately has gone viral) of the discussion when she made her remarks. I’m afraid it is indeed as unfortunate as Mark Valladares has suggested.

    The only examples of using the army in a strike situations that I can recall after the General Strike in 1926 was when Army ‘Green Goddesses’ were used in the 1978 Firefighters dispute, and again in 2005 – though that paradigm of truthfulness Grant Shapps is threatening to do a P. & O by bringing in agency staff in.

    One outcome of last week’s byelection is that Liberal Democrat MP’s will come under increasing scrutiny and cross examination. Sir Ed looked very uncomfortable when asked about re-entering the EU on Sunday, as did Ms Cooper on Politics Live this morning. Sharpening up and clarity are needed if the Party is to survive for long in the Premier League of what passes for politics these days. Andrew Neil, Andrew Marr etc., don’t take prisoners.

  • Martin Gray 29th Jun '22 - 5:36am

    Despite the recent by-election victory – the polls still have the cons on mid thirties, with everything that’s gone on …Come the GE there won’t be any stay at home conservatives as they always get there vote out time & again . There is no 20% labour poll lead – Starmer just doesn’t resonate with significant numbers of voters …
    The return of a conservative govt is the likely outcome of the next GE …Those by-election gains will be very difficult to hold .

  • Alex Macfie 29th Jun '22 - 7:15am

    Last time a Prime Minister called a “Who governs Britain?” election, the response from the voters was “Not you matey”. Johnson would be making a big gamble if he were to go down that route, though I wouldn’t put it past him. Current polling suggests a hung Parliament, although we don’t know what would happen in an election campaign. But Johnson would be deluded if he thinks he can reheat the 2019 election campaign. His government will have been in power for nearly 2 years; he is no longer the disruptor he’s the establishment.

  • Just on the Polls – there’s no sign of a shift for Labour or the Tories since the By-elections, not yet anyway. We have definitely risen though – by 0.7% taking the last 10 Polls. That puts us on 12.4%. If we just take the last 5 Polls we are over 13%.

    As Mark Pack has pointed out the Pollsters are split about The Labour lead with the majority going for a lead of 7% to 8% & a minority giving much smaller leads. If the majority have it right, with many “Green” voters going for Labour in an actual Election & the return of Tactical Voting then a small Labour majority is actually quite likely.

    In any case, Labour don’t need either a majority or a Coalition because their Opposition will be permanently divided – The SNP are not going to vote with The Tories & neither are we.

  • I agree Paul. I believe that at this stage of the electoral cycle it’s best to consider the movement in the total vote share of Labour, ourselves and the Greens. A lot of voters who are frustrated with Labour will say they’ll vote Green, but come an election then the odds are they’ll go back to voting Labour so their vote counts. Some of those votes will come to us, and there will be a bit of too and fro’ between Labour and ourselves as people think more carefully about their own constituency.

    Unfortunately that probably means some going back to the Tories to keep out the threat of Labour, especially if they think Labour will be controlled by the SNP.

    We have to work on the assumption that Boris will be gone by the next election, but we can still use this time to ensure that fed-up Tory voters know that their local Tory MP helped to prop him up and hope that motivates them.

  • Peter Watson 29th Jun '22 - 2:18pm

    @Martin Gray “Despite the recent by-election victory – the polls still have the cons on mid thirties, with everything that’s gone on … The return of a conservative govt is the likely outcome of the next GE”
    By my reckoning, totting up the votes for the two by-elections last week (numbers from Wikipedia), we have the Tories with 24634 votes (35%), followed by Lib Dems with 23045 (33%), and Labour with 14728 (21%). Combining that with LDs and Labour each losing a deposit while the Tories come second in two very different constituencies, the story of last week is perhaps not the coup de grâce of Johnson’s Tories that The Guardian and others would have us believe. Though maybe winning the popular vote but no seats might bring the Tories round to supporting PR! 😉

  • Alex Macfie 30th Jun '22 - 7:05am

    @Fiona: The Labour~SNP “Coalition of chaos” argument will be much harder to make now considering the chaos that is the present one-party government, as well as the previous Tory dalliance with the DUP. And as @Martin points out above, Starmer doesn’t frighten the horses the way Corbyn did.
    Whether the Tories benefit from a change of leader before the next election may depend on how long before. Have it too soon afterwards, and the new leader won’t be able to escape Johnson’s shadow (c.f. former Canadian premier Kim Campbell). Their political honeymoon would probably be too fragile and short-lived to survive an campaign. John Major had time to establish a profile for himself separate from his predecessor Margaret Thatcher.

  • I agree Alex that the Tory chaos should counter the SNP-Labour chaos a bit, and it will help a bit in debates, but I’d say the typical Tory swing voter is more scared of SNP-Labour chaos than they are of the Tory stuff. But overall, it will be less effective than it was in 2017&19 when that threat came with added Corbyn.

    However, that threat remains something that will give the Tories an edge in Scotland in the Tory-SNP marginals. We already know that a lot of voters in those seats aren’t voting for the Tories or for the SNP, but against the SNP or against the Tories. People pick whichever poison scares them least, and with FPTP the tactical anti-SNP vote could help the Tories cling onto a few more seats.

    It’s why I think it’s important that we don’t fall into the trap of amplifying a message that benefits the Tories and SNP, and instead remind people not just of the current chaos, but that if Labour and ourselves do fairly well, then we don’t need to rely on any special offers to the SNP, as there should be plenty in a programme of government they can support (hopefully including PR) and they wouldn’t dare vote with the Tories to bring it down.

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