Welcome to my day: 29 May 2023 – accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, but you might have to mess with Mister Inbetween

No sooner have I got back from the ALDE Party Congress in Stockholm than I’m off to the US for some grandparent time. There’s no doubt that the world is a smaller place than it was, but whilst politicians in other countries are at least attempting to deal with the big issues, inflation, climate change, our Government seems determined to cling to its culture war to distract from the fact that they have little idea what to do about things that matter to most of us.

Picking on the vulnerable is not governing, it’s bullying.

Mixing with liberal politicians from across Europe offers a reassurance that politics can be a way of improving things for the better through collaboration and cooperation. And yes, that does involve quite a lot of pragmatism but, if you want to bring people along with you, sometimes you can’t get everything you want. Some is better than none.

It’s been interesting to watch, albeit from the sidelines, the manoeuvring between different parties to form viable administrations in local councils across England. Whilst the Scots and Welsh are perfectly used to it, coalitions being almost baked in due to the use of PR systems in local government, the fall of Conservative administrations across the country has led to some interesting choices, especially where the Greens or independents have a strong presence.

And whilst there’s a certain element of trust in our Council Groups, Labour’s philosophically consistent tendency to interfere from above has demonstrated just how little trust they have in their people. Whilst Greens have come together with Liberal Democrats in places like Oxfordshire and Suffolk, Labour seem to be paranoid about doing deals with them. That seems odd given that the Greens offer more of a potential existential threat to us rather than them – in rural areas they fish for votes in very similar ponds. I’m still convinced that Suffolk is a Petri dish for the impact that the Greens will have on Liberal Democrat electoral prospects going forward.

The monolithic two-party politics of the United States is rather different to Europe, although the sight of one party fighting culture wars from a philosophical and ideological extreme and being driven further away from the mainstream by its activists is painfully familiar.

And without an independent Boundary Commission, it looks unlikely to get any better soon. Allowing politicians to draw boundaries is a recipe for gaming the system in their favour, taking democracy away from the people and handing the power to decide our representatives to a small cabal of Party activists. Our system, which produces too many safe seats, is bad enough, but imagine how much worse it would be if the ruling administration got to draw lines on the map. As a warning of the risks to our democracy from the removal of the handrails that protect it, the United States offers a set of red flags that we should be deeply wary of.

My colleagues will be watching this space for the rest of the day, but enjoy what looks like a half decent sort of day, and I’ll see you on the other side…

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • It could be argued that the internal troubles of the Labour Party, within which heavy control from above is but a part, are none of our business. However there is clearly a nervousness in the leadership, which has to be taken into account when trying to see the bigger picture. In opinion poll responses it is so easy for many people to respond “Labour” as crude code for “Get rid of the Tories.” Meanwhile the movements in vote shares in local by-elections are worth taking seriously.

  • Andrew Toye 30th May '23 - 5:15pm

    “Picking on the vulnerable is not governing, it’s bullying”.

    I totally agree, and have been wondering why power-seeking bullies have a part of the political spectrum allocated to them (the so-called hard/far/extreme right). It’s probably because such movements were temporarily successful in the early-mid 20th century, but they had other policies in their programmes such as economic expansionism.

    There is no reason why bullying movements should be given any political recognition today, and it should be a requirement of public office that all groups in society are treated with respect and dignity, similar to the requirement for MPs to swear allegiance to the King.

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