+++Wera Hobhouse pulls out of party leadership race

This was tweeted by Wera Hobhouse a few minutes ago:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Ian Patterson 23rd Jun '20 - 3:57pm

    That simplifies things somewhat.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jun '20 - 4:17pm

    Deeply frustrated with this, my feeling had been:
    – Wera offering a return to ‘trad’ Lib Dem values as of the 90s, with her focus on local government and an ideological / strategic alliance with the centre-left; this made her very favourable to me
    – Layla’s desire to perform ‘radicalism’ of an ersatz Corbyn-Green nature not likely to gain traction outside the university towns and cities
    – Wera’s pushing for a structural reform of the party with devolution of decision making outside London absolutely necessary and clearly not palatable to London insiders.

    I won’t vote for equidistance or even a ‘no-comment’ stance towards Labour. We need to explicitly attack the Johnson Conservatives and make it clear they have left the centre ground behind since 2016, even more since 2019. As Starmer moves Labour back towards the centre (albeit slowly) we shouldn’t feed the Tory / tabloid myth Labour is unelectable.

    None of this prevents us picking up a certain kind of traditionalist one-nation Tory voter. You don’t need to go gooey-eyed about free markets and ‘classical liberalism’ to detach such people. The key is localism.

    Just don’t feel either Layla or Ed really compatible with that conception of the party. Layla too obsessed with graduate fads, Ed seems flat unprepared to explicitly say the Tory parody of free-market economics is wrong on a moral level, and the Tory party as a whole should be electorally punished by a centre-left alliance restoring what was lost in 2010-2015 by conceding too much ground to Cameron.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Jun '20 - 4:24pm

    Agree with comments from Matt and especially Martin

    I was of the view, Wera, though I like her, I do not think she would connect with jo and Joe Bloggs on the issues, EU, exactly why she ought to stay in the debate, like my colleagues, think and reckon we need that.

  • Ian Patterson 23rd Jun '20 - 4:31pm

    With 11 MPs, the spectacle of 3 of them competing for leadership, would open us to ridicule. As if we haven’t had that already!

  • No idea what this is about. I am not neutral about who to vote for but I think we need to get the Leadership election done in civilised fashion, recognising that that’s the relatively easy bit. Then we can focus on beginning to sort the party out while working towards next May’s elections.

  • Jeremy Cunnington 23rd Jun '20 - 5:32pm

    Bowing to the inevitable, she was going after the same members as Layla – those on the left of the party and Layla has the higher profile.

    In any case both their policy platforms – trying to push the Lib Dems to the left and in some policy areas try and out flank Labour on the left is nonsensical.

    90%+ of our target seats are in Tory facing areas where (with the exception of Wimbledon and Finchley & Golders Green) the Labour vote has been squeezed as far as it can go. If we are to win those seats (like Winchester, Esher, Guilford etc) we need to persuade moderate Tories who didn’t vote for us in 2019 to vote for us. They are more likely to be put off by Layla’s left-wing (it’s not centre left, centre left is our current status) agenda of basic income etc.

    Finally, as for Wera’s swipe about being too London centric, that’s just cheap and when her seat along with Layla’s has very similar demographics to the suburban London seats we hold. Our bigger problem is that north of St Albans we only have one seat between there and the Scottish border and we are not speaking to /representing at parliamentary level. Neither Layla’s or Wera’s policy platform answers that.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jun '20 - 5:38pm

    John Cunnington, Wera’s proposals for party reform of policy process clearly showed a way back to listening to the North.

    I feel that Wera could have meaningfully appealed to those voters whose hearts are with Labour but have voted around the spectrum in the post-Milliband era.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 23rd Jun '20 - 5:48pm

    I’m disappointed that Wera is not standing, although I would have been unlikely to vote for her. She had plenty of ideas, and it would have been good for these ideas to have been part of the debate.

  • We need to go for the Tory vote THAT is where are 2nd places are. Yes, going back to how we were in the 90s is correct. Wera’s ideas that are NOT in the other 2,s agenda should be discussed. ANYTHING that can attract voters is needed.Along with going for Tory leaning seats the idea for going for Tory votes NORTH of London is a good one. Johnson has talked about Social Conservativeness (whatever that is!) It implies to me social care (widest sense) on the cheap. All viruses have had some sort of change after them. Our new leader should sell Social Liberalism (spending lots and innovating) to the voter to move the country into this Century. Our 90s position is a good start to aim for.

  • Looking at this position I do note that Tories DID have a competition with more than 2 leader hopefuls. Yes you can argue a stitch up cos of the make up of their parties ‘new’ members but they can argue that it was democratic cos it was not a 2 horse race. It therefore could be argued that with ONLY 2 competing it is a stitch up. Wera’s proposals MUST be discussed, possibly also voted on at party conference.

  • n hunter

    ‘We need to go for the Tory vote THAT is where are 2nd places are.’

    Spot on, that’s why the stuff about the coalition is completely irrelevant & also why Moran is completely unsuitable.

  • I have just been reading Wera’s earlier post. She has a lot to say/offer. They MUST be discussed.There is nothing wrong with going ‘Back to the Future’ if those ideas had/have traction with today.

  • jeremy Cunnington 23rd Jun '20 - 7:22pm

    Matt (Bristol)

    We aren’t going to pick up many if any voters from Labour with a plausible leader like Starmer when they are in opposition and a polarising Tory party. If we couldn’t win seats like Sheffield Hallam with Corbyn as leader we’ve little hope next time.

    I think you’ll find that Davey won’t be equidistant about the two parties, at least that’s what he said on a zoom meeting I was on.

  • I Agree with Matt (Bristol) the contest needed a third alternative.

    In my view the “third way” is to position the party as part of an anti-Tory bloc but without shifting to the left on policy issues, instead focusing on broadening the demographic the party appeals to (rather than student style lefty politics).

    However whether that was the platform that Wera Hobhouse was offering is not entirely clear.

    Also people saying that there is no Labour vote to squeeze in the target seats – there are a number of target seats where Labour are in double figures % wise and a couple where they are over 20%.

    Also don’t miss the point that progressive alliance (formal or informal) is to avoid losing votes to Labour if Starmer broadens their appeal.

    There is a need to win votes from the Tories but I don’t get the logic that says being closer to Labour stops us from doing that.

    Can anybody estimate how many seats we would have if we won 50% of Lab + Green vote + modest swing say 3% from Con?

  • Put another way if the next election is framed as a get the Tories out election and they lose votes to Labour we need to divert those votes to the Lib Dem’s in target seats. If we are seen as equidistant we may not pick up those votes and people will switch straight to Labour.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jun '20 - 7:46pm

    The soft Tory vote is going to be much easier for us to win now that Corbyn is no longer Labour leader. It doesn’t matter how “left-wing” our leader is; no potential Lib Dem leader has any truck with Corbyn’s out-dated student revolutionary BS that scared so many soft Tories back at the last election. They are not going to be scared by Keir Starmer!

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jun '20 - 8:15pm

    If we couldn’t win seats like Sheffield Hallam with Corbyn as leader we’ve little hope next time.

    Labour’s Momentum tendency was constantly portraying us as “Tory enablers” and pointing to Jo’s record in coalition. With the Corbynistas sidelined, such attacks are going to be less prominent, and they will gain little traction if we elect a leader unconnected with the Coalition.

    [soft Tories] are more likely to be put off by Layla’s left-wing agenda of basic income etc.

    I’m not sure about this. What put them off voting for us last time was fear of us helping Jeremy Corbyn into No 10. That’s Corbyn with his Marxist, Lexity, knee-jerk anti-Western outlook, none of which bears any relation whatsoever to Layla’s outlook however “left-wing” you may think it is. With Corbyn out of the picture, and the Corbynistas increasingly sidelined, soft Tories are much more likely to vote for us whoever is leading us.

  • Wera Hobhouse, “That means pulling our party firmly to the centre-left, rebuilding our local government base, securing a progressive alliance, and moving effort and resources to our regions. We cannot run as a London-centric party that lets our powerful regional voices go unheard and the Conservatives a free run”.

    Right destination, but no qualified or reliable coach driver.

  • This is sensible. Well done to her for making the difficult decision.

  • Keir Starmer ?…. Highly skilled Formula One driver with good judgement and experience ……. but in a clapped out creaky old omnibus in need of more than a few new tyres …… though a talented promising team of support drivers ready to push it up hill.

    Boris Johnson ?……. Winging it on a wave of entitlement which will end in tears from a lack of application and laziness.

    Poop Poop! – YouTube https://www.youtube.com
    ▶ 1:04
    Toad of Toad Hall.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jun '20 - 9:24pm

    The problem I had with Wera is that she showed a tendency to amplify the attacks on us from the hard left, for instance the assertion that we “shout ourselves in the foot” in Tory-facing target seats by attacking Labour, when actually we were successful in squeezing the Labour vote there, and in any case nobody cared what we thought about Labour, which was already toxic. Layla shows a much more nuanced view of working with Labour, and understands why it was necessary to attack Labour and stand candidates in Con-Lab marginals. This includes the point that in seats where we weren’t seriously campaigning we were mainly picking up votes from disaffected Tories who would have voted Tory if we had stood aside

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Jun '20 - 9:32pm

    The last time we gained a lot of seats from the Tories (in 1997) it was from a campaign position that was to the left of (moderate) Labour.
    Local election results suggest we started losing popular support from about 2007 after Clegg became leader (i.e. before the Coalition). There is no electoral gain from us trying to position ourselves to the right of a moderate Labour Party. Our purpose is not to ‘split the difference’ between the two big parties by having a platform that’s ‘somewhere in between’ them, and the last time we tried that (in 2015) we all know what happened.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jun '20 - 11:29pm

    Totally agree, Alex, but feel Layla pushing a platform that is closer to Greens and appears too exotic and elitist for middle England.

    Wera’s localist agenda, to my mind, offered the way to attract disaffected Tories whilst being honest about our historic centre-left role.

    Those asking us to shift right or hold centre-right to attract Tory voters ignore the fact that Johnson’s Tory party is not a conservative party, it is the party of the radical leap in the dark.

  • James Fowler 24th Jun '20 - 9:10am

    I appreciated Wera Hobhouse’s courage and clarity in saying what she did. Personally, I didn’t agree with her, but that is not important. Clearly she realised that her and Layla Moran were splitting the radical/left leaning vote which she has now coalesced. I think we now have a clear choice – it will be fascinating to see what we do.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Jun '20 - 9:21am

    Matt (Bristol): Not so sure about that; actually Layla’s seat has many attributes of “middle England”. Since 2010 it does not include Oxford city centre or the University (now in Oxford East). It’s mostly well-off Oxford suburbs as well as the fairly boring middle-class town of Abingdon and some surrounding countryside.
    I used to live in the constituency.

  • Daniel Walker 24th Jun '20 - 10:03am

    @James Fowler “Clearly she realised that her and Layla Moran were splitting the radical/left leaning vote

    I do wish people would stop saying this. We use AV for our leadership elections, quite rightly, so no-one was splitting anything; you could quite easily have Wera Hobhouse as your first preference and Layla Moran as your second (formally, Instant-runoff voting satisfies the “Independence of clones” criterion)

  • richard underhill 24th Jun '20 - 11:06am

    Alex Macfie 23rd Jun ’20 – 9:24pm
    The current Labour leader has promised to deal with Labour’s anti-Semitism problem.
    He must do what he promised and be seen to deliver so that voters across the UK know that he has done so. Failing on this Sine Qua Non would be toxic for Labour. We should choose candidates accordingly. All our leadership candidates should commit openly.

  • richard underhill 24th Jun '20 - 11:14am

    Daniel Walker 24th Jun ’20 – 10:03am
    Yes, but say it more briefly,
    Think of Northern Ireland. There are many kinds of Unionist competing with each other.
    They are familiar with the Single Transferable Vote and should use it to elect Members of the House of Commons.

  • Matt (Bristol) 24th Jun '20 - 11:15am

    Daniel Walker — totally agree.

    The only vote that would have been split between Wera and Layla would be nominations from MPs.

    I’m assuming that either they both felt they couldn’t get the required number of nominations without combining their campaigns, or Wera had hard evidence her fellow MPs wouldn’t back her.

    Worrying, if so, that the MP group won’t support a wide-ranging debate on the ideas she has been putting forward.

  • Daniel Walker 24th Jun '20 - 11:57am


    You have a point; if even a member of the party, as James Fowler appears to be, hasn’t clocked this we are obviously not getting the message out! You’re quite right about NI (and the Republic for that matter) using STV widely. I tend to use that as my counter-example to the frankly barmy “It’s too complicated” response!

    @Matt (Bristol) “The only vote that would have been split between Wera and Layla would be nominations from MPs.

    They need “10% of the other MPs” (i.e. currently 2) nominations per candidate; AIUI by convention former leaders and the Chief Whip don’t nominate (Tim Farron, Alistair Carmichael), leaving nine, with three candidates it only takes one other MP to not want to nominate and someone has to drop out, so I don’t think there’s any need to posit a conspiracy.

  • Laurence Cox 24th Jun '20 - 12:09pm

    Like others here, I was saddened when I heard this morning that Wera was dropping out of the leadership race. She offered a genuinely distinctive position to the other two candidates in advocating an end to our London-centric approach. We have spent far too much on our party HQ, because of an obsession with being within walking distance of Parliament. Having worked as a volunteer in both Cowley St (itself inherited from the SDP) and Great George Street, it always seemed to me that in the latter the Party was showing delusions of grandeur.

    We needed the debate that Wera would have provided on what sort of Party we want to be and in particular her emphasis on localism. Sometimes you win, not by getting more votes than anyone else, but by converting the other candidates to your way of thinking – taking a US analogy, would Joe Biden have committed to picking a woman as his vice-Presidential candidate if it had not been for the number of women Democrats in the Presidential race who made significant contributions to the way that the race unfolded.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Jun '20 - 12:10pm
  • Matt (Bristol) 24th Jun '20 - 12:45pm

    Daniel Walker — I didn’t think I was positing a conspiracy, but with those numbers, it seems to actually need MPs to conspire together to get more than 2 people on the ballot!!!

    I’m even more depressed than I was, now.

  • James Fowler 24th Jun '20 - 4:16pm

    A poor choice of words on my part 😉 However, I merely posit that (1) Just two candidates turns this into a simple FPTP-like choice. (2) Three candidates introduced complexities/uncertainties about a win on first choices or more likely redistribution patterns which were perhaps felt to be undesirable for the two left-of-centre candidates? (3) There is clearly a feeling that coalescing the radical/centre left campaign offers advantage, otherwise why the endorsement?

  • Its not much of a choice, is it? Bit like life for average voter looking at the Lib Dems!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Jun '20 - 5:01pm

    Daniel Walker, they only need one nomination per candidate. There are eleven MPs. So “ten percent of the other MPs” (ie *other* – not including the candidate), is one (ten percent of ten).
    It is rather sad if not a single MP was prepared to nominate Wera so that she could have a chance to be in the contest.

  • Daniel Walker 24th Jun '20 - 5:17pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland

    oops, you’re quite right – I assumed 10% of 11 rounding up to 2. That is a bit sad.

  • Ross McLean 24th Jun '20 - 5:41pm

    There’s a lot of assumptions and second-guessing going on here. I don’t think there’s any evidence at all that Wera couldn’t get another MP to nominate her. She may have just held her finger to the wind and concluded (correctly in my view) that she had no chance of winning, and so decided not to put herself through the gruelling election process. A perfectly rational decision – particularly when there is another candidate who she feels represents her views.

  • marcstevens 24th Jun '20 - 7:26pm

    I think Wera had every chance of winning, she like Layla would have made an outstanding party leader. I think there are other factors in play but will not go into them on here. I am really disappointed she has pulled out and hope someone will make her change her mind and stand again. I will write to her immediately on this.

  • richard underhill 25th Jun '20 - 9:11am

    Laurence Cox 24th Jun ’20 – 12:09pm
    I sincerely hope that Jo Biden is elected as US President this November, but his campaign will realise that he needs the support of Roman Catholics in a country where the religion you prefer matters more than in the UK.
    Donald Trump has no obvious religion, except from self-interest.
    Even Richard Nixon declared himself as a “fighting Quaker” during the Vietnam war.
    How many fighting Quakers do we have in the UK?

  • richard underhill 25th Jun '20 - 9:40am

    25th Jun ’20 – 9:11am
    Having hoped that Senator Warren would be elected US President I now hope that she can be elected as Vice President. The gains that the US Democrats made in the elections for the House of Representatives were mainly down to choosing pro-choice candidates. A ‘Special election’ in her part of the world should be winnable, and should not be neglected as happened when Senator Kennedy died.

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