What can the Lib Dems do about the Coalition’s ‘Northern problem’?

Andrew Rawnsley in today’s Observer highlights a key issue for both Coalition partners, in particular — the Tories’ failure to make any kind of advance in the north, and the Lib Dems’ difficulties in retaining our popularity there.

With the exception of William Hague, Eric Pickles and two Lib Dem Scots, the cabinet is a very southern English affair. This may not have been much noticed by the south, but it is very evident if you look through the other end of the telescope. Viewed from Leeds or Manchester or Newcastle, Westminster is more remote than ever. It also seems increasingly hostile. Northern England has a growing – and often legitimate – grievance that it is getting a raw deal compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. There is the historic complaint, sharpened by public spending cuts which will bite hardest in the north, that they are discriminated against by power brokers concentrated in the south. To that is now added a creeping realisation that they are also losing out in money and influence to the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland – particularly the latter. …

The disappearance of the Tories from much of the north turned the Lib Dems into Labour’s main competition. The Lib Dems’ northern councillors were obliterated at the local elections. Nick Clegg has confided to friends that he was slow to realise how much visceral hostility towards the Tories there was in the north, nor had he foreseen how it would be displaced on to his own party through guilt by association. It is reasonable to suppose that this trend is going to continue into the future, splitting the country between a Labour north and a Tory/Lib Dem-supporting south. This is not a happy prospect, this future for England in which it becomes ever more starkly divided into two political nations.

The problem for the Lib Dems was highlighted by the most recent set of local elections, which were especially devastating in the northern metropolitan cities, and in Scotland. But Scotland highlighted the problems for all three major parties: voters did not desert the Lib Dems for Labour, but for the SNP, which it was quite logically felt would best protect the interests of Scotland. Such is the power of devolution in offering voters a more powerful voice (a voice which was stifled by north-eastern voters when they voted down John Prescott’s imperfect regional assembly).

The question remains: is there anything the Lib Dems can do to address our northern problem? Eleven of our 57 MPs are Scottish, with many others representing northern constituncies. What are the practical steps the party can take in the four years of this parliament which remain to demonstrate we’re listening, and shore up our support?

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56 Comments

  • David Parkes 26th Jun '11 - 12:21pm

    I may have a solution, its controversial and requires the help of a mad scientist… CLONE Tim Farron!

  • Nick represents a northern seat. Pickles doesn’t.

    Does the rest of the article get any more accurate as I’m not sure it would be worth reading if not.

  • Nicola Prigg 26th Jun '11 - 12:49pm

    I think the Cabinet is more interesting than that. Yes of those representing northern cities there is Hague, Pickles and 2 LD Scot MPs. You could maybe count Clegg into that as he is representing Sheffield but is of course a southerner.

    If you take in the Scottish Tories who are representing south English constituencies like Michael Gove, IDS and Liam Fox, then the nature of the cabinet looks more interesting. Vince Cable as well was born in the north but now represents a southern constituency.

    I think one of things to worry about is not just the policies that government are making but what the composition of the cabinet says about what people from the north and Scotland have to do in order to succeed in politics and/or any other area in life in that they either have to move to Southern England and/or lose their accent. That’s not something we want to put across in any way especially when we want to promote social mobility.

    As for how to be electable in the north and Scotland is that we can’t just talk about issues that affect the south. We’ve got to show that we can provide policies that are good for the North of England and Scotland and not just the south which is going to be incredibly difficult when the north and Scotland are very much more labour and the south very much more Tory.

  • Simon McGrath 26th Jun '11 - 12:51pm

    Perhaps we could stop making comments like Tim Farron’s comments that Mrs Thatcher’s “organized wickedness” deliberately damaged the north. mrs T did many bad things but the huge changes in heavy industry and low value manufacturing which did so much harm in the 1980s and 90s would have happened anyway (albeit more slowly). The increasing value of the £ as we became a petro currency and the rise of China would have happened anyway although the big increases in interest rates to deal with high inflation certainly exacerbated the problem.
    Farron’s comments just add to the myth that without the Tory Govt from 1979 the North would have retained a lot of it’s industry.
    One of the problems the coalition face is that regional policy has been unsuccessful over the last 70 years in promoting private sector employment in the North. It has been successful in moving public sector jobs, courses of course one of the reasons for the current problems.

    if we want to preserve the jobs we have in the North in chemicals and other energy intensive industries perhaps we should wait until we get international agreement before implementing the target of 30% carbon reduction which, without other countries doing the same , will move this work to other countries.

  • You could come up with policies that benefit the North and Scotland, rather than the South.

    Revoking Osborne’s devastating tax on the energy industry, which is partly responsible for the continued Lib Dem collapse in Scotland, would be a start. Other measures could include protecting public sector jobs, at least until the private sector recovers in these parts, rethinking tuition fees – which will be devastating for local economies in small cities where HE is a major employer if student numbers decline or students live at home. You could also rethink the immigration cap, Scotland desperately needs immigrants to work there, something the SNP administration are openly calling on the Coalition to consider. Likewise the freeze on council tax should be revoked so councils can raise sufficient money for local investment without having to rely on the nakedly partisan largesse of Eric Pickles…

  • g

    The word “nakedly” really shouldn’t be used in the same sentence as “Eric Pickles” …

  • Slightly embarrassing that Nick represents a northern city but doesn’t know that Tories are more than disliked in the urban North. I know it’s not the case in his constituency specifically, but anyone who has lived and been politically active in a city like Sheffield (or Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, etc.) would surely not be surprised that Liberals are now tainted by association to many who would have considered them in the past?

    The answer isn’t simple or quick. People in the North are still broadly unconvinced by Conservative attempts to woo them twenty years after Thatcher left office. Students who were either barely or not yet born under Thatcher still talk of her in the same way. Of course, it doesn’t help them that the Conservative party offers very little in the way of policy to the north.

    The answer lies in much door-knocking, rebuilding trust over time, and more than anything, policy which appeals to people in a lower income bracket, and which ensures that the rest of the country is not viewed as a government-dependent organ on life support from the productive South-East. It will take a lot of effort and many years, which is not something that many of us like to hear, but it is the truth.

  • Nicola, in regard to “representing Northern cities”, none of those mentioned (Hague, Pickles, who is an Essex MP, Michael Moore, and Danny Alexander) are really in that category – the 3 who actually represent parts of Northern England and Scotland are all town and country MPs, not large urban MPs. I think Clegg is the only elected rep from a Northern City, although Sayeeda Warsi, with her roots in Yorks and Lancs, I think, also qualifies.

    In truth, this is not just a North / South issue, as Rawnsley and others in the SE based media have simplistically claimed, it is a poor neighbourhood / rich neighbourhood issue. Anyone with a background in Cornish politics, for example, will tell you that there is a lot in common with how the north is treated by London. And before London cries out in wounded righteousness, I do understand that many of these issues affect considerable swathes of the capital, which have led to major complaints against changes to housing benefit.

    Rawnsley hits the nail right on the head however, with his comments at the end about Clegg being “slow to realise how much hostility there is to Tories in the north”. Speaking from the SW, he was being told that (for instance) at a social event in Exeter well before his election as LD leader, and he would not believe any ill of Tories. Those listening could hardly credit what they were hearing. His early years with Leon Brittan clearly prevented his political antennae from developing at an early stage. Perhaps had he been more involved in student politics he would have ended with a firmer, more certain ideology. Perhaps an early political career in the European Parliament, where many Liberals would almost certainly be rightish Tories if they were in Britain, didn’t help. And the LDs under his leadership would not be suffering the political consequences of resulting mistakes.

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th Jun '11 - 3:47pm

    “Is there anything the Lib. Dems. can do to address our Northern problem?”

    Yes! Distance ourselves from the Tories!

  • Tony Greaves 26th Jun '11 - 4:01pm

    Andy Mayer is wrong as usual. But he is in the wrong party isn’t he, along with the others in the tiny group of right wing free-market-obsessed head bangers who got themselves into positions of power in the Liberal Democrats and who have done us so much harm.

    But the first thing to realise in this discussion is that the north of England and Scotland are not the same place. Hard as it may be for some of the south-of Watford brigade to understand.

    Tony Greaves

  • Why do certain people in our party wish to consistently push against others? I count myself among free-market thinking, right-of-centre liberals, but it would never occur to me to say that a social liberal, or even a liberal social democrat did not belong in the party.

    It’s just rude, Tony.

  • Oh, and this

    But Scotland highlighted the problems for all three major parties: voters did not desert the Lib Dems for Labour, but for the SNP, which it was quite logically felt would best protect the interests of Scotland.

    is wrong. The major parties in Scotland are Labour and the SNP, with the Lib Dems a minor third in terms of Westminster, and it’s basically a shootout between Labour and SNP in the Scottish parliament. Lib Dems, in the latter context, are a minor fourth party.

    Also Lib Dem voters not deserting to Labour is unsurprising, the Lib Dems in Scotland were a left wing alternative to those who were that way inclined but could not tolerate a vote for Labour (for various reasons). Now the left wing alternative to Labour is the SNP, which will be interesting come the next Westminster election where unionists will not favour the SNP.

    You’ve got to admit though, it’s tremendous strategic thinking on the part of the Tories to ensure that the Lib Dems take the brunt of anger against the government from areas traditionally opposed to the Tories.

  • Simon McGrath 26th Jun '11 - 5:07pm

    @Tony greaves

    Could you give us a bit more anlysysis on why Andy Mayer is wrong, and which bits you think would not work?

  • Actually post election academic analysis showed that large numbers of Lib Dems did indeed desert to Labour in Scotland however it was masked by a large chunk of Labour voters switching to the SNP. I really don’t know what the Scottish Lib Dems can do. They are no longer a significant political force in Scotland and I honestly can’t see how that can be changed. I don’t even think leaving the coalition would do any good. The damage Clegg has done to the party outside Tory England is more or less irreparable.

  • themanwithsalthair 26th Jun '11 - 6:26pm

    g – “You could also rethink the immigration cap, Scotland desperately needs immigrants to work there, something the SNP administration are openly calling on the Coalition to consider. ”

    Extraordinary. Buy bikes for people from Middlesbrough.

  • David Allen 26th Jun '11 - 7:46pm

    “Farron’s comments just add to the myth that without the Tory Govt from 1979 the North would have retained a lot of its industry.”

    True, Mrs Thatcher didn’t invent Chinese competition, but that’s not the point. If you want somebody’s vote, the first thing you have to do is show that you care about them and are at least trying to help them. Mrs T treated miners and the northern working class as her enemies and resolutely refused to do anything to help them. Labour’s expansion of public services may have been a mixture of valid and wasteful spending, but at least they showed a bit of feeling for their voters.

    Our resident libcons talk about “bleeding heart empathy”, the failure of regional policy to bring private sector employment to the North, and confusingly at the same time, the importance of promoting private sector growth while simultaneously putting our greatest efforts into “us(ing) every example of maladministration and waste you can find in Labour’s fiefdoms to break the one-party state narrative”. The anger is clear. The policies are not.

    If all we have to offer the North is vilification and abuse, perhaps northerners might just not trust our “regional policy”. Perhaps they might think that a proposal such as “Use the opportunity of enterprise zones and partnerships with northern universities to promote growth opportunities” is just a form of code for “Give our big business cronies another chance to screw those northerners”!

  • Ruth Bright 26th Jun '11 - 8:15pm

    Andy – before the coalition our Lib Dem friends in the north were doing a grand job pointing out Labour waste and challenging the “one-party state narrative” as you put it.. In a Newcastle by-election a few days ago we went from 1st to 4th. Harnessing your wealth of campaigning experience how would you sell the coalition to northern voters?

  • Simon McGrath 26th Jun '11 - 9:25pm

    @David Allen
    “If all we have to offer the North is vilification and abuse”
    I have read no vilificatyion or abuse (apart of course for the labour party)

  • Simon – because you are coming from the same “wing” as Andy, you clearly don’t recognise the terms “bleeding heart empathy” cited by David Allen, and “handout plan” as vilification and abuse. To be honest that sort of thing sounds like a Daily Mail writer on a bad day (sorry this could be regarded as vilification and abuse, too!!) I do think that just 20 years ago, it would have been unlikely that you would have found such attitudes in the newly named Liberal Democrats, and almost impossible 30 years ago in the Liberal Party. The claim that such “neoliberals” would have been found in the 19th Century Liberals, say of 1876, is a bit tenuous, too.

  • @Simon:
    I have read no vilificatyion or abuse

    Apart from the whole issue of your candidate for the Barnsley by-election calling the locals all sorts of names in the Daily Mail.

    Yes, I did see the irony in a LibDem writing for the Daily Mail and playing to their prejudices of Northerners. “How very Tory”, I thought..

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '11 - 12:05am

    Tim13

    In truth, this is not just a North / South issue, as Rawnsley and others in the SE based media have simplistically claimed, it is a poor neighbourhood / rich neighbourhood issue. Anyone with a background in Cornish politics, for example, will tell you that there is a lot in common with how the north is treated by London. And before London cries out in wounded righteousness, I do understand that many of these issues affect considerable swathes of the capital, which have led to major complaints against changes to housing benefit.

    Thank goodness someone else has said this. Just as northerners accuse southerners of having stereotypical views of the north, so do they so often have stereotypical views of the south. So often there is this image that all southerners are people living in big houses with high powered City finance or top civil servant jobs or the like. What about the rest of the south? It often seems to me that the REAL south, the south I was brought up in, is invisible to northerners. I mean by this people doing manual jobs, low-level admin jobs, unemployed, carers etc – 95% of the population.

    Part of the problem is that media commentary on this often comes from northerners who have moved south and got well paid jobs in the media etc, and actually only mix with people like themselves. So they really do think the whole of the south is like that. Another part of the problem is the electoral system which distorts the differences – just because the Tories get 90% or whatever of the MPs in the south outside London does NOT mean 90% of the people in the south outside London are Tory voters. Our rotten corrupt electoral system means all those non-Tory voters in the south go with hardly any MPs in their name, and that does so much to render them invisible.

    A lot of what I see reported as “northern” attitudes I can tell you are also found amongst working class people in the south. The manner and attitude of the “typical” MP is as alien to working class people in the south as it is to northerners. I am sorry to pick on her, but comments like Nicola Prigg’s:

    I think one of things to worry about is not just the policies that government are making but what the composition of the cabinet says about what people from the north and Scotland have to do in order to succeed in politics and/or any other area in life in that they either have to move to Southern England and/or lose their accent.

    really annoy me, because how many MPs have a REAL southern accent? Approximately NONE. What I mean by this is the way of speech of ordinary people living in the south – in the south-east sometimes called “Cockney”, although this is just one variant, “Estuary English” has become another term used, there are also the real south-west accents (Rawnsely wrote about “class” rhyming with “arse” in the south – well not in those places which still pronounce their r’s). “Received Pronunciation” to use the correct technical term for the form of English used by those at the top of society, most cabinet members etc, is as far removed from the speech of ordinary southerners as it is from most northern accents.

    Part of the issue is that the distortions of the electoral system also meant most Labour MPs came from the north, so in the south Labour came to be seen as a northern party. The consequence is that people in the south from the sort of class background that in the north would have meant association with Labour are less likely to associate themselves with Labour, as Labour seems a bit alien to them – but that does not mean they associate any more with the Tories. Rather, they see both parties as equally alien, so they pragmatically divide more evenly for one or the other, which gives the effect of the Tories always coming ahead, because you then have to add those in the south who DO associate with the Tories for class reasons.

    This was always something which Liberal Democrats and Liberals before that were able to exploit. The bedrock of support for our party in many places in the south was people who a generation or two before were southern Labour voters. The distortions caused by the electoral system widened in the 1970s, when Labour came to be seen very much as associated with northern heavy industry. Southern working class voters shifting to the Liberals were a big part of the rise of the Liberal Party in the 1974 elections. I do not think, however, that our party has repaid these people very well by doing a good job of speaking up for them. But neither has Labour nor the Tories.

    One thing no-one can see is that the way to appeal to southern working clas people is NOT to become more like the Tories. I feel there is just as great a sense of injustice at the division of our society into rich and poor in the south as in the north, it’s just that in the south peopple are less likely to see Labour as on the side of the poor and more likely to see them as just another bunch of aliens.

  • I cannot believe Clegg did not see the hostility to the Tories in either large swathes of the North of England or most of Scotland.

    I caught the end of one of my favorite films last night “Brassed Off”. Perhaps a quick look at that or “Billy Elliot” might be a starting point. After that he could progress to some real life perhaps news footage of the 80’s and how Thatcher viewed and treated certain areas of this country.

    As for Scotland ask the avergae Scot (old enough to haved lived through the Thatcher years) what they thought of being the test bed for the Poll Tax.

    Sarcasm aside, it’s not rocket science, Labour win by default in most of the North and Labour / SNP now do the same in Scotland. The Tories have never de-toxified and probably will not be expending resources trying to in many of these areas.

    Prior to the coalition the Lib Dems made real in roads, I suspect that recovery will not occur any time soon. It’s not totally logical but then one of the problems I see with a number of threads on here is that posters keep assuming that logic will win the day with voters over emotions.

  • The division runs much deeper than the representation of various sectors of society in different regions. The fact that Clegg can win a seat in Sheffield Hallam, the 11th most affluent seat in the Country – the most affluent outside the SE and more affluent than the vast majority of the SE – shows how much the Tories are despised in Northern metropolitan areas. Hallam is historically a natural Tory seat (and there are many others outside of the SE) but many of the wealthy voters in metropolitan Northern areas cannot bring themselves to vote for a party that views everyone outside of their SE bubble as bottom-feeders. (Ironically, it is the Tory voters of Hallam that will prevent Clegg from losing his seat as a number of them will switch tactically to Lib Dem, as happened in Oldham East & Saddlworth and Leicester South).

    @Simon McGrath & Andy Mayer
    I’m not being facetious when I ask this, but can you please tell me why you are both in the Lib Dems rather than the Tories?

  • @g – you have an excellent point about the oil tax policy. Frankly, this was ripped into by Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire councillors at a Scottish party meeting a couple of weeks ago, where Danny Alexander was roundly put in his place by them, I’m also pretty sure it’s had an effect in us losing two by-elections in Aberdeen in the last few weeks – we went from 1st to 4th in Airyhall last Thursday, an area of Aberdeen where you’d really expect us to do well.

  • @Steve Way…I see with a number of threads on here is that posters keep assuming that logic will win the day with voters over emotions

    Spot on…. the same thing happened with tuition fees, the same thing happened with the NHS proposals, the same thing happened with AV…. this sort of arrogance that if only the electorate could see the light of logic everything will be alright…. you see it in the sort of comments that <aren't we good as we have 75% of our electorale commitments being fulfilled…. well I’m afraid that for a lot of the electorate thats’s pretty irrelevant Westminster stuff – faced with unemployment, rising utility bills, NHS under threat the Lib Dems=Tories and they dont want like it.

    Oh, and by the way @Mike I’m sure you do mean but it would never occur to me to say that a social liberal, or even a liberal social democrat did not belong in the party.….it’s just such a pity that the leader has made it clear he doesn’t agree with you!

  • The best thing (possibly the only thing) that the Lib Dems in Scotland could do to regain support would be to split completely from the federal party. You can’t take on the SNP when you’re seen as wholly subordinate to a Westminster centre of gravity. It just puts your candidates (and leader) at too much of a disadvantage. The same principle holds for Labour too actually, but they’ll almost certainly bounce back at the next GE on an anti-Tory ticket, so it’s not so acute for them.

  • What many people posting here have forgotten, or chosen to ignore, is the fact that the Lib Dems were in COALITION GOVERNMENT in the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament. During the first term our successful coalition with Labour achieved the majority of our pledges for the four years, something which would not have been achieved without the Lib Dems – Labour needed the Lib Dems as partners because they did not have a majority after the election.

    In the second term Lib Dems worked in partnership with the SNP – the SNP had gained 47 seats (as opposed to Labour’s 46 seats) & formed a minority Government but they needed the support of the 16 Lib Dem MSPs or the Green’s 2 members on certain issues to get them through Parliament.

    The rest of the UK needs to be mindful of what the Scottish Lib Dems have achieved in our Parliament before dismissing us as an irrelevance!

  • @KL I once lived in Nicol, now Lord, Stephen’s constituency and voted for him – not that I think he’s material for the House of Lords, but I understand the Lib Dems willingness to abuse the system to stack the Lord’s with their cronies (thus making a mockery of Clegg’s proposed reforms, but never mind).

    Anyway, you might as well right the Lib Dems off in that part of the world. The vote has more or less gone forever. There’s no way back under the current situation. Once Ming retires and Kennedy succumbs permanently to his problems there will be no charismatic, high profile, Scottish Lib Dems. You’ll be an English party (something I’ve been saying will happen on here since the formation of the Coalition), like the Tories, and there will be one national party in UK politics – the Labour party.

    @Rebekah

    The rest of the UK needs to be mindful of what the Scottish Lib Dems have achieved in our Parliament before dismissing us as an irrelevance!

    You achieved this as a centre-left party. The Scottish voter no longer recognises the Lib Dems as such, nor for that matter does Nick “The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.” Clegg. The Scottish Lib Dems were always a left-wing unionist alternative to Labour…

  • In the second term Lib Dems worked in partnership with the SNP

    I’m sorry, what?

    That the Lib Dems were very marginally less blindly obstructive than Labour to everything the SNP tried to do hardly equates to “worked in partnership”.

    What a bizarre assertion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '11 - 11:15am

    Tim13

    Simon – because you are coming from the same “wing” as Andy, you clearly don’t recognise the terms “bleeding heart empathy” cited by David Allen, and “handout plan” as vilification and abuse.

    Again, thanks for saying this.

    To my mind those pushing extreme free market economics have been very aggressive and dominating, particularly in on-line circles surrounding the party, so I have no sympathy at all with them if they play the “poor little me” game. To Simon McGrath effectively saying “Who are you to question what is liberalism?” to Tony Greaves, I’d say “Tony is not just A but perhaps THE key figure in giving us the party we have today”. There is a rather sinister attempt by extreme free market people to try and steal the word “liberal” to mean just them, and that even involves things such as rewriting history – claiming that Liberal Party members in the past were all in favour of extreme free market policies. It is weird to find people who are too young to remember writing things about the Liberal-SDP merger and its influence on the party as if the Liberals then were all mad keen free market extremists – which, from my position of having been there in 1988, is just about as far from the truth as you can get (many Liberal anti-merger people tended to be anti-merger because they thought the SDP was getting a bit too keen on free market economics). I also find when I read a little bit of history, not hard to fiund, that REAL 19th century Liberals had a much moire pragmatic attitude to the market then those who today like to claim the mantle of being “19th century liberals”.

    I also find there seems to be a great deal of money available to push extreme free market ideas in the party, through various “think tanks” and “forums” which claim to be “liberal” but are not part of the official party structure, whereas those of us more sceptical of these ideas have no such resources to use to push things our way. It is not a fair competition, is it?

  • @Rebekah

    You are quite right to point to the coalition with Labour in scotland as a good model. It never decsended into the love in that the first year of this coalition did. Both parties kept a specific and seperate identity and agenda and were not afraid to disagree in public. Not being a Scot I could not say the effect it had on the subsequent election but I am certain it was not the total meltdown just witnessed.

    In my view Tony Greaves is also spot on that the move to the right (and we can argue whether this is real or percieved) is a major factor. To many move to the right = move towards the politics of Thatcher, not the most popular person in Northern parts.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '11 - 11:24am

    Steve Way

    I cannot believe Clegg did not see the hostility to the Tories in either large swathes of the North of England or most of Scotland.

    Indeed, his reported comments on this are YET ANOTHER example of him just getting things wrong, of showing basic political incompetence. The opprobrium we would face from knee-jerk anti-Tory people for going into coalition with them ought to have been obviously a big factor to take into consideration. As I keep saying, I do accept that the electoral balance following the 2010 election left us with little alternative, so it’s not the decision to do that which I reject, it’s the way it has been handled since. We have had so many wrong lines from those at the top which have played into the hands of our enemies. I mean not just our enemies on the Labour side, but also enemies on the Tory side, who have been false friends, happy to promote us in a way that looks sympathetic but actually leads us to disaster, I mean by this those who were keen to promote the coalition as some sort of ideological coming together.

    We need someone politically astute heading our party, and Nick Clegg just is NOT. The label “Calamity Clegg” was just so accurate.

  • @SteveWay
    “:I caught the end of one of my favorite films last night “Brassed Off”. Perhaps a quick look at that or “Billy Elliot” might be a starting point.”

    If I suggested that a starting point for understanding British Sikh’s was Bend it Like Beckham then I think I would be treated with a fair amount of ridicule

  • Mike Barnes 27th Jun '11 - 1:52pm

    What can the coalition do about it’s problem’s in the north? Get rid of Clegg, Alexander, and the other neo-cons posing in orange ties? Withdraw from the coalition? It’s quite easy. You can bang on about the 75% of policies being enacted stat, but the overall headline is still you lied to students, and you are enabling a tory war on the public sector.

    You have alienated Scotland, the north east, the great northern cities, the public sector, the students. Just who exactly do you think will be voting Lib Dem in 2015?

  • @Mike Barnes

    You have alienated Scotland, the north east, the great northern cities, the public sector, the students. Just who exactly do you think will be voting Lib Dem in 2015?

    It’s this I don’t understand. It’s almost as if the leadership want to drive the social democrats into the arms of Labour while they become an adjunct to the Tory party.

    Political parties are ultimately derive their legitimacy from their voting constituency. I think it must be unheard of, certainly in my lifetime, for a party, once it is in power, to turn on massive parts of its own base. New Labour, for all their faults, never shied away from making their case to the disillusioned parts of their support.

  • david thorpe 27th Jun '11 - 2:19pm

    andeew stunnell is a northern lib demMP in the cabinet

    nickclegg is a northern lib dem MP in the cabinet
    HE IS NOT A native of the north but northern people have ele ted him as their representative

    and there are no lib dems who push extreme free market economics,
    ]

  • Andrew Waller 27th Jun '11 - 2:38pm

    The key is to demonstrate the difference that we are making to Govenment, and to put the brakes on policies that are clearly not thought through, and simply do not have a sound business plan which demonstrates that it should be implemented for the common good. Better links between those parts of the party which is developing policy to those who have experience (and yes, do ask the awkward questions because they have the background knowledge). In the1980’s we believed that the public supported PR because it would mean the centre party moderating the extremes of the other two in government, but this was thrown away in the last 12 months.

  • @Andrew: Mark, can we have an IP check on the comments in this post?

    How sad. You don’t like what people have to say so you want them to be “checked up on”, eh?

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: some LDs here are actually very authoritarian and suspicious of everyone. It’s almost as if you still believe nobody could ever disagree with you and everyone who does is just wrong or a Labour Troll. Are you still going to be using this defense in 2015 when your party is wiped out?

    It is not Liberal to automatically assume someone who disagrees with you needs to have their IP checked.

  • Just a couple of points: most Liberal Party activists I knew in the early 80s referred to the SDP as ‘the SOGs’: it is a disparaging reference to what we thought of their policies in case that isn’t clear at this distance. Secondly, although I’m a southerner and have always lived in the south, I have campaigned in the north and I cannot believe that Nick Clegg could have been unaware of the (old) reputation of Liberals as being ‘Tories without their kicking boots on’.

  • Ruth Bright 27th Jun '11 - 6:37pm

    Andy – not sure “crowding out” theory will get you very far in the north or on the estates of Southwark but there you go.

  • @Liberal Eye: Brilliant, brilliant post. You’ve hit the nail on its head.

    I work for a charity that helps sick/disabled people. I bang on about this all the time, but it is because it is important. The weakest people in our society: sick/disabled people are facing the largest cuts of any one group. Of all people it is the weakest who played NO PART in crashing the banks and the economy. Yet the Tories, with LibDems as backup human shields, are endangering the lives of sick/disabled people with their cuts. Every day I help genuinely ill people, several of them terminal, with the DWP appeals. The usually win but the very fact that some people with less than 6 months to live are being found “fit for work” is a scandal. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are now finding their benefits being cut as well. There have already been suicides from people who have had their benefits cut and are too ill to even think about working. We told you your policies would eventually lead to some deaths, and now they have. Where is your compassion? Have the Tories taken that from you, as well?

    This is one reason why up here in the North you are now about as liked as the Tories themselves. We’re paying a very heavy price for the failure of the banks, the too lightly regulated “free” market and Labour’s mistakes. Any Liberal should be disgusted that the poorest people are facing the biggest cuts in a crisis they didn’t make. Your party is supposed to fight against the oppression of poverty, as your constitution says, yet you’re deliberately putting MORE people into poverty.

    And yet, and yet most of your party still seems to support this and call people like me a troll when I point out the reality on the ground outside of your cozy Westminster bubble. There is real, palpable anger out there. And you’ll see it this Thursday when another group of people who didn’t cause the crisis, teachers, strike not for more perks and pay, but to keep what they already have.

    If this government was serious about us being “all in it together”, you’d make those at the top and those who caused the crisis to bear the brunt of the pain. But you’re not. You’re doing it the opposite way.

    And this is another appeal to emotion, I guess, which @Andrew above seems to not pprove of. Well, plenty of regimes throughout history ruled purely on logic and it often lead to horrible things.. Of course I am not suggesting Tories or LDs are the same as the Nazis or Stalinists , but logic is not the be all and end all. It may be “logical” in your minds to cut the most from sick/disabled people, teachers, children and students but a good-hearted human being would be (and many are) disgusted that this is happening.

    And emotions and caring for the weak are qualities most animals don’t have but we humans have been blessed with. Why does this government seem to have no emotion or humanity towards their weakest countrymen? I’m bloody disgusted and worried for the future.

  • Simon McGrath 27th Jun '11 - 9:17pm

    @Steve “@Simon McGrath & Andy Mayer
    I’m not being facetious when I ask this, but can you please tell me why you are both in the Lib Dems rather than the Tories?”
    I can’t speak for andy but I am in the lib dems because i believe in the pre-amble to the party Vonstitution (below in case you havent seen it).
    Nothing there about repeating the policies of the last 13 years in the hope that for some reason they might work this time

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which noone shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

  • @Hywel
    “If I suggested that a starting point for understanding British Sikh’s was Bend it Like Beckham then I think I would be treated with a fair amount of ridicule”

    Nice piece of selected quoting, you would of course have had a point if it were not for the “sarcasm aside”…. and the suggestion he could progress to news coverage…

    The point was, and is, that you do not need to get into focus groups and deep research to know a problem exists with the Tory brand in certain parts of the Country. Anyone who lived through the Thatcher years and was remotely politically aware should know the depth of feeling that existed.

  • @Andrew Tennant
    “Surely the best way to make a rational decision is to look at the logic and not the emotion? I’m far more interested in a government that makes the right logical decision than one which is swayed by emotion and populism into making illogical ones.”

    I wouldn’t disagree with a word of that, my point was that some on here believe that voters will always vote logically. Governments should act logically, those planning (or projecting) future elections should remember voters may not.

    My logic for suggesting logic is not always followed…

    Blair for three terms ?
    Thatcher post Falklands ?
    Overseas, how about Bush ?

    Within closed elections how about IDS ?

  • Old Codger Chris 28th Jun '11 - 1:30am

    @Liberal Eye
    “if any party had the wit to reform itself even at this late stage it would win big and would certainly have my vote”.

    Isn’t this what Ed Miliband aims to do? Perhaps he will turn out to be a winner after all.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jun '11 - 12:21pm

    Simon McGrath

    Please give us some examples of these think tanks and forums. None of them as far as i can see has the resources of the SLF.

    You mean SLF has more resources available than CentreForum to name one? Oh, come on.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jun '11 - 12:38pm

    Simon McGrath

    “The opprobrium we would face from knee-jerk anti-Tory people for going into coalition with them ought to have been obviously a big factor to take into consideration”
    If we had gone into Coalition with Labour we would have been just as unpopular in the South and no doubt you would be saying that Clegg should have forseen that. We believe in PR, which means coalition governments, which means we will piss off the supporters of the other party.

    Yes, and I did not write that we should not have formed a coalition with the Tories. In fact I have defended the formation of that coalition many times in this forum in the past year and a bit. When I wrote “the opprobrium we would face from knee-jerk anti-Tory people for going into coalition with them ought to have been obviously a big factor to take into consideration” I meant it more in terms of how we presented the coalition, not in terms of arguing we should not have entered it. I have explained this a great many times in Liberal Democrat Voice, please try looking up some of what I have written – I don’t think you will ever find me arguing we should not have gone into this coalition. What I meant by “foreseen” is not to have given the impression at the start that the Conservatives were always our natural allies and this was an ideological partnership. A little more distance back a year ago would, I think, have meant we would not be facing such a disastrous opinion poll position today.

    I quite agree that had we formed a coalition with Labour, we would have been attacked mercilessly for “supporting the losers”. As it happened, the balance in Parliament meant such a coalition was not viable anyway, but I would argue that the first choice of coalition partner should be the larger party even if a coalition the other way were viable. Quite obviously, had the situation been that a coalition with Labour was the only viable option, we should on entering it have been well aware of the way it would be perceived and attacked by those hostile to us, and taken precautionary measures to counter the attacks. This is what I mean by “political astuteness” – the opposite of a year later saying “Oh, I didn’t realise it would be seen like that”.

    I don’t like the way you have written “in the south”, by the way. Amongst some in the south yes, but please take my points written earlier about the way the electoral system misleadingly gives the impression almost the whole population of the south is Tory, which is far from the truth.

  • cheryl stevenson 4th Jul '11 - 7:06am

    In Hull the Lib Dems took control of the council in 2005 and lost it in 2011 when Labour regained its stranglehold. There are so many reasons why and so many lessons to be learned from this.
    Unfortunately, party politicians seem to have an inability to learn from their mistakes and continue making the same ones over and over again.
    “The way it is isn’t the way it has to be” and it is time for some of that “real change that works for me that I was promised when I voted Lib Dem in the 2010 election.
    Change is necessary, the government has to repay it’s debt.
    The question is How?
    So far no political party has found the right answer, the level of opposition to the current ‘slash and burn’ Conservative style of politics would be telling them that….IF they were listening.
    🙁 Xxxxx

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