Welcome to my day: 29 August 2022 – aren’t politicians people too?

As my colleague noted yesterday, Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland, has been in the news for having the audacity to be (relatively) young, and dance at parties. Alcohol may even have been partaken of!

And I find myself wondering, since when did we start insisting that rather dull people represent us and why? Whilst expecting relatively high moral and ethical standards does seem reasonable, politicians are human and should be able to express themselves and, heaven forbid, let their hair down from time to time.

I thought that Tim Farron who, despite his frankly bizarre fondness for Blackburn Rovers, is as real a person as you could hope to find, put it well when asked for comment by the Guardian;

Social media is a mixed bag. I think it does change things but we have to accept our politicians are human beings – we should expect high standards in terms of integrity, but that doesn’t preclude you from having a couple of beers with your mates and dancing like nobody’s watching. I‘m an Olympic-standard dad dancer and I’m glad there are no pictures of me.

In truth, most of the fuss being made is opportunistic – there’s a decent chunk of the electorate who will happily condemn a politician simply on the basis of party affiliation. And she’s a young woman – would a man in a similar situation attract as much approbation? Tim doesn’t think so;

They like the idea of rubbishing people like that because diversity and equality offends some people, and they like to take an opportunity to show how terrible it is. I’m absolutely certain if she was a 36-year-old bloke he wouldn’t be getting this coverage at all – I’m absolutely clear it’s an age and gender thing.

Well said, Tim!

Are you a Parish Councillor? Has your Council adopted the new Code of Conduct produced by the Local Government Association last year? And if it has, are you taking the Civility and Respect pledge?

Whilst this isn’t a party political issue, I think that it’s something that Liberal Democrats in the sector should support and promote, as it makes for better governance and encourages wider participation.

Today’s anniversary is that of the birth of John Locke in 1632. As a supposed “father” of what is now modern liberalism, I fear that he’d be horrified by some of those claiming to be liberals. I know that I am…

It’s the last week of the Conservative leadership campaign, with Parliament returning from its summer recess next Monday, albeit only for a short period before the Conference recess, and Liz Truss’s apparently inevitable election as leader, and thus Prime Minister on the same day. And with rumours swirling as to who will be senior figures in her cabinet, some of the suggestions do not augur well for the country. John Redwood, for pity’s sake?

Ah well, at least we’ve got a bank holiday to enjoy. Here in Creeting St Peter, it’s the Parochial Church Council’s barbecue fundraiser this afternoon, and I’ll be there, eating a burger or, even better, a decent sausage. So, some sunny weather would be greatly appreciated…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and a Luton Town supporter.

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34 Comments

  • Lovely piece. Talking of leadership contests. I’m sure most people agree that this tory leadership contest has gone on far too long and especially given the colc we’re facing. I’m sure most readers agree that Johnson has been a disaster as a PM but how did he win in 2019? One of the reasons was that he was facing Corbyn. Both Corbyn and Johnson were voted by members who didn’t reflect their party’s voters. The country would be in a better place is MPs chose their leaders as they represent the constituents better. Despite having few MPs we could lead the way by changing the way we chose our leader. Unpopular with members no doubt but the right thing to do!

  • Martin Gray 29th Aug '22 - 8:59am

    You think members that canvass , leaflet , organise & raise funds week in week out , year in year out – should have zero say in who should lead the party ?
    So it’s left to MPs who seem to be university educated – state middle management types , who couldn’t envisage or survive on doing a job & earning a salary that a lot of their constituents exist on ….
    Let’s not forget …Labour lost 60 seats at the 19 GE – 52 were leave seats – obviously the 2nd referendum policy was political suicide ….As was ours .

  • @ Martin
    Yes, that’s clearly what I’m saying. There was a yougov poll that showed all 3 main parties very similar support for members (50-60%) v MPs (20-30%). I didn’t say it was a popular idea, I said it was the right thing to do.
    Re brexit. Problem wasn’t 2nd ref (which clearly should have been in original legislation) but pointless and crazy switching last minute to revoke.

  • The downside of democracy is that it puts decision-making into the hands of people who don’t know what they are doing, resulting in Corbyn, Johnson, Trump, BREXIT, etcetera.

  • @Jim
    People see giving members the job as democratic. I’d argue it’s undemocratic and giving the GE voters (via their MP) is more democratic. Let’s face it, the party leader we chose didn’t perform very well in the 2 most recent elections.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Aug '22 - 9:58am

    @Russell: A leadership election among our 14 MPs would be like the one in which Jeremy Thorpe was elected by an electorate of 12. Not only would it be unpopular with party members, but it would look bad to the wider electorate. I don’t think we should be denying party members the choice, and I would not expect the Tories to be. However, whoever wins this Tory leadership election will need to be mindful of the difference between what plays well with the Tory grassroots is not so popular among voters. That said, there is no constitutional requirement for the Prime Minister to be the party leader, and there would be nothing to stop the Tory Parliamentary Party from electing Rishi Sunak as their Parliamentary leader and sending him to see the Queen to form a new government, even while Liz Truss is elected leader of the whole Conservative party. Not that they’re likely to do such a thing — it would also look terrible.

    @Martin Gray: Labour lost because of (Lexiter) Corbyn, not because of the “2nd referendum policy”. And the Lib Dems increased our vote share. In any case, whatever the effect of our Brexit policy on our vote at the last GE, the next one will be fought on different terrain, namely the real-world consequences of Brexit. The Brexit battles of 2019 won’t be relevant.

  • The catch with giving the MPs the choice is that it means Lib-Dem inclined members or constituents in >95% of consitituencies would get no say at all, and they’re the ones you actually need to attract to grow the Parliamentary party.

    I guess you could invite the Labour/Conservative/SNP MPs of those constituencies to *also* vote (though not stand for, of course) the Lib Dem leadership, on behalf of their constituents?

  • @Alex
    I accept that the idea works less well for a party of 14 MPs and works better for Labour/Conservatives. I still maintain that members of all parties are not representative of the public. I don’t see how it would look bad. MPs are accountable, members aren’t. A lot of Corbyn’s votes came from tories thinking Mickey mouse could beat him. The conservatives are about to install a PM who is not the MP’s choice. Didn’t work for Labour. Or the country. If something doesn’t work surely it’s time to at least consider something else?

  • @Martin
    Revisisionist? As disappointed as I was by Brexit what really annoyed me was the process. Or rather, lack of it. It was undemocratic. As there were 17m different versions of Brexit but only 1 actual, fairness/democracy demanded a 2nd ref, Johnson’s (or May’s) deal v remain to see if any actual Brexit had more than 48% support. All we got was a GE (which remain won!)

  • @Jim Dapre…
    Corbyn has never been in power …
    Seeing as he was against the Iraq & Afghanistan interventions – they’d be a lot less grieving mother’s if he was…On the Iraq invasion – who could disagree with his speech in 2003 ..
    “It will set off a spiral of conflict, of hate, of misery, of desperation that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism, the depression and the misery of future generations.”

    @Alex Mcfie …
    Labour lost where it mattered most, in those red wall seats that voted heavily to leave …52/60 seats lost ..
    The real world consequences …People have been struggling with low pay insecure work, fuel poverty , etc, all throughout our tenure as an EU member – not much changed for those at the bottom, EU membership or not ..

  • @Martin Gray: On Corbyn and Iraq: a stopped clock is right twice a day. On Brexit, those issues have got a lot worse since Brexit happened, exacerbated by new border controls, which have also demonstrated that loss of freedom o movement works both ways. So the reality o Brexit will be a factor in a way that it never could ave been last time, and figjhting the last election campain the way you think we should have done will lead to our success at the next one.

    On Sanna Marin, worth noting that she wasn’t leader of her party when she became PM; also the Parliamentary party leader is someone different.

  • @Martin Gray
    re Corbyn: good point. In my mind I look at Labour and Conservatives and broadly score them 1-1 (on BIG mistakes),being Iraq and Brexit. On Iraq, imho, Corbyn was right (but had very little power) but on Brexit he was wrong and he did indeed have a lot of power. Incidentally, one of the reasons I was opposed to the Iraq war was that it would be used against the west and that’s exactly what Putin is doing. Unfortunately his charges of hypocrisy have some validity. Of course, to be clear, you can be hypocritical and right (ie 2 wrongs don’t make a right).

  • @Martin
    But 2nd ref was still possible until 12 December right? What we didn’t want in 2019 was a general election because the remain vote was split.

  • @Russell: The “split” Remain vote wasn’t the problem in 2019GE. What won it for the Tories (and Brexit) was people switching directly from Labour to the Tories. The reason for this swing can be debated; my view is that Red Wall voters were put off mainly by Corbyn rather than any “2nd Referendum” policy, which the party had sought to minimise (and if Labour had won, then PM Corbyn and his poshboy revolutionary advisors would have done their best to ensure that Brexit won). It’s unlikely anyone was impressed by Corbyn’s Janus Man act on Brexit throughout the election campaign.

  • @Martin
    Surely if parliament voted for 2nd ref they could have found a way to do it, even if revocation was legally required to be part of the process?

  • @Alex
    I suspect that brexit and Corbyn were both reasons for Labour voters switching to tory in red wall seats

  • @Martin
    Thanks for explanation. If libdems thought in November 2019 that a general election was a good idea they needed their heads read. Given what was already set in motion in China I wonder what would have happened if the stalemate continued for a couple of months.

  • Russell 29th Aug ’22 – 1:45pm………I suspect that brexit and Corbyn were both reasons for Labour voters switching to tory in red wall seats……

    I keep reading on LDV how ‘everyone’ knew Corbyn was an ardent ‘Leaver’; if so, why did the ‘red wall’ voters desert his party?
    I lived in a ‘Red Wall’ seat where ‘everyone’ knew that Corbyn gave remaining in the EU a 7/10 approval rating and so, as ‘Leavers’, they voted for the only party (UKip having pulled out) that promised them what they wanted.

  • @expats
    Judging by all his comments up till 2015 you have to assume Corbyn was a leaver. The crazy thing is that Labour members (knowing there was an EU referendum coming very soon) chose a leaver as leader. And parties let members chose leaders why? Given the Labour manifesto you wouldn’t vote Labour in 2019 if you wanted Brexit. When I say “brexit and corbyn” I mean either one of them. They voted tory because of brexit but if brexit wasn’t there they’d have still voted tory because of Corbyn.

  • And to return to the article…….. I share Mark’s regard for former leader Tim Farron. His removal was not our finest, most tolerant moment ? I would be interested to know which aspects of the present Lib Dems would horrify Locke. Perhaps he would feel that we sometimes forsake empiricism where fashionable causes are concerned ?

  • Martin Gray 30th Aug '22 - 1:43pm

    @Richard Denton White …
    Strange argument if you agree with Russell’s position – that’s even less democratic ….!
    As for a new referendum – the country is exhausted with Brexit . It ain’t happening , not now , & not in the near future ….You can carry on with the old battles – it’ll be an action in futility & the pay the price at the ballot box ..
    There’s never been any deep affection for the EU for millions of British – not when we was in it & still isn’t ..

  • @Chris
    Re Tim Farron I totally agree. I assume even he wishes he had a better answer for THAT question. Unfortunate that that issue didn’t come up during his leadership campaign with Norman Lamb as he’d then be better prepared for it. And I assume Mark is being ironic regarding Tim’s love for Blackburn Rovers. Seems reasonable to me.

  • Simon Banks 30th Aug '22 - 6:25pm

    There is nothing wrong with giving party members, as we do, the choice of who leads them. They are capable of making bad choices: so are other groups. The electorate can then decide, sooner or later, if they approve of the choice. The Tories have a particular problem because, as recent by-elections have shown, there is now a big gap between the views of party members and many, perhaps most, people who normally vote Tory.

    On the original point, Finland is a country where moderate social drinking is not a strong tradition and alcoholism is, so in common with the Scandinavian countries, the attitude to drinking is not what it would be in France or Italy, for instance – though it is also very egalitarian on gender, so it could be Tim is right about UK attitudes but the Finns are sniffy about her drinking, not about her being female and drinking.

  • @expats This was a pretty common “have it both ways” at the time, too. Sometimes even in the same sentence 🙂

    If the Lib Dems were campaigning to get Remainer votes, then Labour was a Leave Party, no doubt. If the Lib Dems were trying to use the results of the MEP elections to show a Remain majority, or to claim that some sort of progressive alliance in Parliament either pre- or post-GE could stop Brexit, honest, then Labour was definitely and unquestionably a fully Remain Party.

  • Alex Macfie 31st Aug '22 - 5:00pm

    @Martin Gray: We are living with the real-world consequences of Johnson’s Hard Brexit. Saying Brexit was a bad idea based on people’s present lived realities is not “carry[ing] on with the old battles”.

  • I do so wish this party would speak out clearly and radically about both the impact of Brexit and the impact of corporate greed in the way Senator Bernie Sanders did in the UK tonight. The bland leading the bland is not a good look…… and whatever it is, it’s certainly not going to be heard.

  • Peter Martin 1st Sep '22 - 8:04am

    @ Alex Macfie

    “if Labour had won, then PM Corbyn and his poshboy revolutionary advisors would have done their best to ensure that Brexit won”

    There feeling in Leaver circles, of all party political affiliations, was that any second referendum should be boycotted. Hardly anyone would have voted for whatever Leave alternative deal could be cobbled together.

    So Remain would have won easily.

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