Welcome to my day – 4 March 2024

There’s been a lot of talk about the Rochdale by-election and what it means for our democracy. And much of it has come from Conservatives and been alarmist in tone. My view is that, in a chaotic by-election where the Labour and Green candidates were disowned, and the Conservative absent without trace, those Rochdale voters who bothered to turn up gave the major parties a good kicking. And whilst having George Galloway as their MP solves very few of Rochdale’s real problems, he fought the most effective campaign in the by-election and won accordingly. Opportunistic? Certainly. Likely to change British politics? Not if sensible politicians hold their nerve and demonstrate their principles.

But whilst we’re being told to worry about mob rule, you do wonder about the audacity of Conservative politicians, who’ve pandered to extremists to the extent now that many of them are parroting their line for them, warning us that our democracy is at threat. I’m far more worried about the impact of the likes of Anderson, Braverman and Jenrick, and the gutless prevarication (or worse) of too many Conservative MPs, unable to call out Islamophobia amongst their own and desperately fingerpointing at a Labour Party whose past issues of antisemitism have at least been acknowledged and addressed.

As Liberal Democrats, we should be calling out the failures of individuals rather than making blanket accusations about political parties. All political parties have members whose views are, at the very least, problematic. Our responsibility as political activists is to be as willing to call out our own as we are our opponents. That isn’t easy. The temptation to make allowances for our side as opposed to theirs is great, but if we want a healthier, more decent, body politic, we need to be vigilant and consistent.

The Conservative response appears to be to attempt to scare voters back into their camp solution by “othering” those least likely to vote for them. I lived in London for most of my life, and unless the city has changed fundamentally – and I don’t believe that it has – the influence of Islamist extremists, whatever that means and whoever they are – is limited to say the least. And when Paul Scully, the former Minister for London, suggested that there were no-go areas in our nation’s capital, my first thought was that he’d gone utterly mad. And whilst he has apologised, (“that is not who I am”), I think that his comments were idiotic, playing into the mood of his extremist colleagues, and something more concrete and positive than a mere apology should be forthcoming. A gesture of goodwill towards the people of Tower Hamlets, perhaps, Mr Scully?

But with the Conservatives in chaos, and Reform UK polling at levels which should keep Tory strategists awake at night, the prospect of a crushing defeat looms large and discipline is increasingly hard to come by.

And so to this week’s musical contribution, and given that most of our readers will be hoping for a change of government, here’s something that reflects those hopes, from Aretha Franklin…

So, until next week…

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

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16 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 4th Mar '24 - 8:49am

    Vote for DEMOCRACY! Vote Liberal Democrat!
    Vote for TOLERANCE! Votre Liberal Democrat!
    ?

    Might we also add reform of our tax system so that it is equitable, accessible and transparent?

  • The Tory claim of descent into mob violence rings very hollow. Where were they in 2019 when my then Conservative MP faced death threats (including at a party meeting) as she wasn’t pro Brexit?
    No wonder she joined us!

  • Tony Dawson 4th Mar '24 - 9:15am

    There’s quite a lot of soundness in this analysis.

    But a few loclally-derived factoids might assist consideration.

    1. Ian Donaldson worked tirelessly, aided and abetted by a small core including Paul Rowen.

    2. George Galloway’s literature was pretty awful. His tabloid ‘newspaper’ for the last week was worse than the first such product (printed letterpress!) which I created for the Liberals some forty five years ago.

    3. Rochdale voters largely remembered precisely why Simon Danczuck got deselected.

    Galloway won over very few votes during the course of his ‘campaign’. Given the constituency demograpics, he largely won (with a majority boosted by a SERIOUS targeted postal vote registration effort) JUST BY STANDING and would also have beaten Ali Azhar (albeit by a rather smaller amount) had Starmer not disowned his Labour candidate.

    The voters’ rejection of the “main parties” in Rochdale constituency largely included the Lib Dems. Trust for political parties generally (with Gaza on top) is at an all time low. Lib Dems still have a long way to go in their old ‘heartland’ of central Rochdale. The only local Lib Dem councillors are in Milnrow (part of the old ***& Saddleworth constituency), where one of the three Lib Dem councillors remains the fantastic indefatigable Irene Davidson, for/with whom I wrote FOCUS leaflets back in 2003-5.

    PS while (like many oldies) I love Aretha, the Lib Dems might more actively consider the title (not the content!) of this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B2a6l6wM2k

  • Steve Trevethan 4th Mar '24 - 10:00am

    And lo, here is an attachment with a full and feasible list of tax efficiency savings which would do wonders for our mutilated infrastructures!

    .org.uk/Blog/2024/03/04/the-taxing-wealth-report-2024-a-pre-budget-summary/

  • Nonconformistradical 4th Mar '24 - 11:08am

    How much of a democracy do we have left, bearing in mind
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/03/ministers-consider-ban-mps-engaging-pro-palestine-climate-protesters ?
    “Plans call for ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to groups such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Just Stop Oil”

  • Mary Fulton 4th Mar '24 - 11:17am

    George Galloway won because his message attracted the support of more voters than the messages of all other candidates. That is how democracy is supposed to work.

    The concern for us is that so few voters were motivated by our message. It is easy to blame the voters rather than to reflect on ourselves but I do think that Liberal Democrat activists and politicians should be leading the marches calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and that isn’t happening.

  • Martin Gray 4th Mar '24 - 11:43am

    Exactly Mary…The rest (apart from the local businessman) were uninspiring. Of course the dummy comes out from the mainstream parties .
    It’s odd that those progressive politicians that champion diversity & inclusivity , are calling for police protection – and it’s not from the likes of Tommy Robinson..

  • @ Steve Trevethan – notable omission from that TaxResearch report is non-dom taxation, from memory that’s potentially another £3bn Pa.

    I’m less certain about the £75k threshold, although given MPs basic pay is £86k, it could be argued it’s a “we are in this together” figure.

    The trouble is the government are in a bind. Due to existing tax measures now bringing more taxes, the tax cut voices are really wanting cuts to reduce total tax revenues rather than finding ways of bringing in measures that result in a more equitable distribution of tax raising measures.

    Personally my money is on an election being called for May 2nd (Rishi has until 26-mar to make his announcement). Giving the opposition little time to actually access Whitehall et al and thus best serve Conservative Party interests (but not national interests).

  • Alex Macfie 4th Mar '24 - 2:31pm

    People who voted for George Galloway over Israel~Palestine are not likely to be swayed by our nuanced position, which condemns the extremists on both sides. GG’s deputy, former Labour MP Chris Williamson, recently refused to condemn the Hamas October 7 attacks. What’s worrying is that many people are prepared to vote for a vile populist because of his one-sided position on a complex conflict and are prepared to embrace racist ideology based on it. We have nothing to offer that constituency.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Mar '24 - 3:03pm

    Alex Macfie, I don’t think that the voters of Rochdale or the people of Britain as a whole have embraced any racist ideology just because they clearly support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, stopping the slaughter of civilians which must occasionally wipe out the odd few Hamas gunmen. Even the US Vice President is now calling for this ceasefire, despite Biden’s shilly-shallying which has been pretty much mirrored by Keir Starmer. I seriously doubt whether 0.001 per cent of the voters have researched those things where Galloway has been horribly right (eg Iraq) and those things where he’s been horribly wrong (“Putin will never invade Ukraine”) over the years. Or his essentially Russian-supporting stance, more pronounced than that of Donald Trump and which I think includes support for Assad’s murderous regime.

    The ridiculous conspiracy theorists who spouted the crazy “Israel let Hamas do this (Oct 7th) deliberately” in no way undermine the fact that major players in the current Netenyahu government are well documented as having been looking for an excuse to do what they set about doing in Gaza from October 8th onwards – since there has not been a single Israeli leader giving any honest support for any genuine two-state solutiion since the previous President Herzog (the current idiot’s dad), a decent man who I met at the Liberal International in Tel Aviv some time in the 1980s.  Sadly, this ideology of loosely-religiously-based racial supremacy has been pretty constant among the successors to the King David Hotel terrorists since well before the Nakba. 

  • Alex Macfie 4th Mar '24 - 4:23pm

    @Tony Dawson: It’s nothing to do with supporting an “immediate ceasefire”, the issue is the Hamas-apologism spouted by Galloway and his acolytes. It’s reasonable to suppose that those who voted for George Galloway know what he stands for, which means they are happy with (for instance) calls for the destruction of the state of Israel (which is antithetical to an “immediate ceasefire”). I’m not answering directly the rest of your comment, as it’s beside the point. Galloway was only right in a stopped-clock sense on the Iraq war (but even then he opposed it for different reasons from us), and his position on Israel~Palestine is nothing to do with wanting peace and everything to do with wanting Hamas to prevail.

  • ‘Liberal Democrat activists and politicians should be leading the marches calling for a ceasefire in Gaza’.
    I’ve always thought the marches well-meant but too many and futile. Does anyone in this country take any notice of them any more? Would anyone even notice now if Lib Dems joined in (assuming they haven’t already been doing so)?

  • Tony Dawson 4th Mar '24 - 8:44pm

    Alex Macfie

    You cannot say of the reason for Galloway’s big win in Rochdale that “It’s nothing to do with supporting an “immediate ceasefire” just because you would wish that not to be the case. I was frequently in Rochdale (a place I know pretty well, having previously served as an NHS chief officer there for a number of years) over the past month and talked to a lot of people there and I can assure you that that was PRECISELY what the Galloway voters wanted and still want. No frills, no reasons. Just like Kamala Harris, apparently.

    It is further not “reasonable to suppose that those who voted for George Galloway know what he stands for”. There has been much research that shows that a large chunk of theose who vote for the major party candidates in Britain do not know what the parties actually stand for. Why should people who’ve had a brief encounter with ‘Gorgeous George’ be better at this, rather than worse?

    You also appear to have some rather peculiar views about what George Galloway actually believes. The simple answer, in my view, is “absolutely nothing at all”. He’s just a highly-competent narcissist, like Boris Johnson and (to a lesser extent) Starmer. They’ve each found a political niche that adequately-provides their narcissitic supply. When their ‘principles’ become inconvenient, they change them. Galloway has no more interest in Hamas than you do. And, unlike Binny Netenyahu, he’s never funded them.

  • The idea that some seem to be advocating, of taking a more visible role in the hamas Israel war protests is wrong. This is not 2003. The nuanced position of an opposition leader to this war will have little to no impact. The current situation is a million miles from the UK’s actual involvement in the war 20 years ago

  • Alex Macfie 7th Mar '24 - 9:58am

    @Russell is right, there is little to be gained for the Lib Dems from getting directly involved in the pro-Palestine marches. The UK is not directly involved in this conflict, and foreign policy rarely decides elections. If Lib Dems were to get involved in them, then we’d have to be careful to distance ourselves from the extremist slogans and groups in them. I’m not sure this would be possible in reality.

    Voting for someone like GG because you want peace in the Middle East is a bit like voting for Nick Griffin because you want racial harmony. Maybe some people sincerely meant that, but if so then it is a really dumb thing to do. This is regardless of whether Gorgeous George actually believes in any of the stuff he spouts about it.

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