What do you do when you see a disastrous exit poll? Eat your hat, of course

Paddy Ashdown has been talking to the Guardian about that moment when he first saw the exit poll on Election Night.

rally paddy 01

To be honest I saw the poll at the bottom of the screen about 10 seconds before Andrew Neil turned to me and I thought to myself ‘oh shit’,” he said.

“Then I had an option. I could either say ‘that’s very interesting and wouldn’t it be troublesome for us’, in which case the entire Liberal Democrat night would fall apart from thereon … or I could brave it out and say ‘I’ll eat my hat’.

“I have in fact eaten five hats altogether [since then], including one that was a proper hat, although pretty miniature, the rest made of more edible substances, which people keep presenting me with.

He discussed the impact of the polls and suggested that they had a big impact on the result of the election.

“I have a huge number of people coming up to me now with what you might describe as buyer’s remorse, saying ‘oh my god, we didn’t expect this’,” said Ashdown, who led the Lib Dems from 1988 until 1999.

“There’s a serious question there. If a mistake in the polls did in some way materially affect the outcome of the election, I really think the polls now need to get their house in order very fast.

“[The polling companies have] made mistakes in the past – who doesn’t? – but this is a massive one which I think has given us the government we’ve got, and that’s a big thing.

“They have to tell us bluntly why this happened, and produce a convincing answer for us to know why it happened, for us to understand it and then make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Is he right? Well, certainly the polls allowed the Tories to run away with the Ed Miliband and the SNP stuff. Seriously, remember how we just wondered what dreadful scare story they were going to come up with next. They didn’t quite say that Miliband and Salmond had done a deal with the Loch Ness Monster to crash the stock exchange, but they weren’t far off it. They had the nation believing that Labour would have given in to the SNP over Trident. That was nonsense for many reasons, not least because the last thing the SNP ever wanted was to be in a Westminster government. It would never have happened. If Paddy had staked his hat-eating on that half way through the campaign, maybe we might have turned public opinion. Instead we legitimised a hypothesis that was worthy of ridicule and in doing so turned some heat on ourselves.

What I don’t want is for us to take too much comfort or think that we can blame the polls for our disaster. There was a massive amount wrong with our general election campaign. Actually, one of the things that worked up to a point was the key seats operation that got activity going in places where campaigning wasn’t really done well ahead of time. It’s at least meant that we are still in the game in enough of those seats. If you compare and contrast with what happened to Labour in Scotland, where massive Labour majorities evaporated into massive SNP majorities. However, the messaging was terrible and we don’t necessarily have bragging rights when it comes to polls, given how our expensive internal polling went.

Nick Harvey might have been right in the Journal of Liberal History – we may have been ****ed anyway, just from being in the coalition, but I wouldn’t allow today’s report to shift the focus from facing what may be uncomfortable truths for some. We need to face up to those truths and make the changes necessary to win again.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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115 Comments

  • Sadly Nick Clegg was treated like a punchbag by the hard left and the kippers, and that was the narrative that the public took on board, as though he was a useless deputy and a corporatist, rather than a strong minded Liberal.

    The election campaign was dire as it made the Lib Dems look unprincipled, willing to drop their hat in with either Labour or Tories, who in many cases had opposing policies.

    The Lib Dems should have stood firm and stated they would go in with another coalition with the Tories, to neutralise the nationalist and protectionist wing of the Tory Party, and promote liberal ideas in government.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jan '16 - 9:52pm

    Not sure that would have helped us in Scotland. At least we are in a position where a fightback is easier than it is for Labour.

  • Regarding Scotland, I think it was the sight of Miliband and Clegg standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in the Independece Referendum which ensured the annihilation of Labour and Lib Dems up North.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jan '16 - 10:42pm

    Dan, this is not the place for personal abuse of staff. If there are issues with the performance of any member of staff, then there are processes for that clearly defined in the staff procedures and handbook.

    It is unfair to have personal abuse directed at individuals and if you don’t like that we won’t allow it, tough.

  • But a lot of the polls were well within the margin of error for the Lib Dem vote, it’s just that a lot of people didn’t want to believe it – although admittedly not many (if any) predicted a seat count that low.

    The report also showed no great last minute swing, so it would seem the scare story thing will just be another political myth, designed to make people feel better. UKPR have a summary here http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9589 .

    As an aside, it would seem that a lot of the people who were hard to track down may also be the sort of people most likely to vote for a brexit, so perhaps that is something to think about?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jan '16 - 11:17pm

    Dan, I didn’t say you had, but when we made that original posting in May, people had said some outrageously nasty and personal stuff about members of staff – and what prompted it was horrible stuff on social media about relatively junior employees.

  • The polls got Labour vs Tory badly wrong, and I don’t believe the statistical wizzes have a clue as to why. But put that to one side. They got the Lib Dems at 8% dead right. So, why were we so surprised at 8 seats?

    Well, there was the incumbency comfort-blanket, the dredged-up theory that all those 8% lived in places like Twickenham and Lewes and none of them lived in blackhole seats, so we’d be all right on the night. We duly did quite a lot better in incumbency seats than elsewhere, but not by the huge margin that would have been needed to win most of those seats.

    It was totally predictable, and those who offered us denialism in place of rational prediction should be ashamed of themselves. Denialists don’t deserve to be in government. And we’re not.

  • Nick Clegg was stuck between a rock and a hardplace. In 2010, he naively gave the impression that he thought the Liberal Democrats could win a majority. When the tuition fees debacle occurred, his line of defence was that he wasn’t PM and didn’t win the election so couldn’t implement everything in the manifesto. However, in 2015 the campaign was a lot more pragmatic and realistic, yet the electorate still turned on us.
    Regarding Scotland, what was the party supposed to do during the referendum? They opposed independence so campaigned for Better Together. Is it not a good thing that the 3 parties could actually agree on something?

  • Charles Rothwell 20th Jan '16 - 7:51am

    The point seems very clear to me; if you not have a unique and distinct political party “brand”, people will not feel any particular allegiance towards you and, even though that they might say to your face when you knock on their door to canvass, that they “have not yet made their mind up”, they may well have done so in the majority of cases (and not for the Liberal Democrats). People are very savvy about stating their views openly or being asked to do so (apart from exit polls, when nothing can be changed any more and which proved to be by far the most accurate poll of the lot in 2015 (although even it overestimated (by 2) the number of seats we would retain!) The disastrous “Middle of he road/don’t look right or left” election campaign was virtually a call for people (especially those inclined towards the Tories) to vote for “the real thing” rather than us (especially when the paper mache scary monster of a Labour/SNP government was dreamt up and unleashed by Conservative Central Office!) The only conceivable way forward is in line with Tim’s statement about arms sales to Saudi Arabia, stating loud and clear we are a LEFT of centre party with certain non-negotiable core beliefs (internationalism, civil rights, green energy, equality of opportunity WITH state assistance where this can really make the difference etc., profit sharing, promotion of small business etc.) which makes it clear to everyone how we are different from “the others”. In terms of the forthcoming EU referendum, I think we should basically ignore the polls and just go for it to position ourselves as (as Paddy Ashdown recently put it) as “the polar opposite of UKIP”, firmly in favour of staying in the EU, working towards implementing a JOINT European policy on immigration/refugees, joint European policy to curb the tax-evading policies of multinationals etc. etc. If the UK does vote to pull out, we will have made our position totally clear and distinct and people will remember this (in the ensuing turmoil (which we need to point out clearly in the campaign) which will be unleashed due to uncertainty over investment, consequent rise in unemployment (precisely at a time when the world is heading into an economic storm (China, oil prices etc.)) and the general chaos which will ensure from the UK having to renegotiate thousands of trade deals with what is still its primary export market).

  • I don’t believe the party, nor the majority of posters here, nor those running this site, have fully faced up to what happened as facing up to the reality of the situation is undoubtly very painful.

    Here’s the situation as I see it. The tories believed that in 2010 they should have won a majority but it was those pesky liberal democrats dug in into their local strongholds that prevented them getting their rightful place as a majority conservative government. The tories knew that a coalition government could destroy the lib dems or it could be the making of them if they emerged from it seen as a party that could be trusted with power. The tories then decided they were only going to put up with the lib dems sharing power with them for five years if they could be sure that the long term results would be the former and not the later. In order to ensure that it was the former the tories insisted the lib dems break their most public policy and pledge made to the parties core voters, the lib dems fell into the trap. The only other substantial group of lib dem voters was the anti Tory vote and simply being in coalition would be enough to get rid of them.

    The tories halving the state pension and promising to get tough on the lazy sponging elderly scroungers would be the conservative equivalent of what they had the lib dems do.

    Some activists saw what had happened and warned of the impending doom if the course wasn’t changed but they were drowned out by spin and comfort polling. Many of those activists then left.

    Outside the south west the party is now fighting for survival. That’s the situation as I see it.

  • Ruth Bright 20th Jan '16 - 9:09am

    I can understand Dan’s frustration a bit. The election was only 7 months ago it is reasonable for people to want answers/analysis of the slaughter that took place. The private look at the General Election debris session that took place at conference insulted our intelligence with stuff about rebranding failure and losing as a “learning opportunity”.

  • The fightback is over before its even started isn’t it. The denial of what brought the party to its knees continues and the only strategy seems to be mocking Corbyn. One question. When Scotland Sheffield London Manchester etc is a wasteland in May when the last few years will be made to look like a picnic compared to the fifth place void you are heading as a party when will things become real?

  • @ Charles Rothwell

    ” I think we should basically ignore the polls and just go for it to position ourselves as (as Paddy Ashdown recently put it) as “the polar opposite of UKIP”, firmly in favour of staying in the EU, working towards implementing a JOINT European policy on immigration/refugees, joint European policy to curb the tax-evading policies of multinationals etc. etc. If the UK does vote to pull out, we will have made our position totally clear and distinct and people will remember this (in the ensuing turmoil (which we need to point out clearly in the campaign) which will be unleashed due to uncertainty over investment, consequent rise in unemployment (precisely at a time when the world is heading into an economic storm (China, oil prices etc.)) and the general chaos which will ensure from the UK having to renegotiate thousands of trade deals with what is still its primary export market).”

    And in the event that all the same scaremongering that came to naught over the Euro is realised, what then?
    You surely remember the Euro, the heavens would fall in, and we would all be doomed according to the Lib Dems if we didn’t join. Once again the scaremongering of the Lib Dems further exposes the woeful inability to separate party ideology from reality.

    As for being the polar opposite to UKIP on the issues of migrants, I doubt you have even 8% of the public supporting the idea of more migrants, however much you blathers on to yourselves, the public know that you haven’t a clue what to do.

    Cologne and the other cities are defining moments, exposing the ideology you choose to follow, as a serious threat to our communities, especially women and young girls.

    You wouldn’t think so reading here however, where it seems in the absence of any opportunity to migrate the guilt for Cologne onto the host community in the traditional LibDem way, you seem to have chosen to ignore the problem, and blindly carry on regardless as if nothing had happened. Well good luck with convincing the British public to vote for you on that basis.

  • Actually, if you change the words (as the Rev,. Ian Paisley said), the predictions weren’t that far off…
    Almost all pundits predicted a close run thing with LibDems holding the balance of power…
    What these same pundits (especially those on LDV) seemed to ignore was that the previous 5 years had also indicated a complete LibDem ‘melt-down’…..There was no “LibDem presence to hold this balance of power”…

    Labour lost most of its overall loss of 26 seats to the SNP (who were the big winners)…..

    The crunch was that the Tories gained 27 seats from the LibDems (who were the big losers)…As Stephen Fisher (professor of politics at Oxford) says “The Tory majority is solely due to seats that they gained from the Liberal Democrats”…..

    Without our ‘wipe-out’ (a wipe-out that some of us on here were constantly vilified for predicting) the “Close run thing with LibDems holding the balance of power” would have been pretty accurate…

  • Barry Snelson 20th Jan '16 - 10:18am

    As I have been a member for only 41 days now I feel a little diffidence in commenting but I actually joined out of pure optimism. Corbyn is a lovely warm and principled man who has more chance of replacing Pope Francis than David Cameron.
    Osborne’s “Wirtschaftswunder” is about to explode in his face and no amount of “It’s not me – it’s the rest of the world’s fault” will save him.
    The LibDems have the political opportunity of a lifetime. A yawning gap between Bolshevik nonsense and dog-eat-dog capitalism has opened and the British people are yearning for a sensible, serious, pragmatic, but humane and inclusive, political movement to step in and rescue them.
    But our ‘movers, shakers and leaders’ seem lost and argumentative themselves. The party’s (declared) method of deciding policy is daft. Which army ever won by asking all the soldiers to think up ideas and then solemnly compiling them into a ‘compendium’ in place of a themed, coherent and structured battleplan?
    Above all we need an economic revival strategy which is more compelling than the usual calls for unspecified ‘training’ and ‘invest in green technologies’.
    Is the leadership willing to take up the challenge, or to rely on platitudes and blind hope?

  • Raddiy: No the “traditional Lib Dem way” re the Cologne attacks (as clearly enunciated by Tim Farron) is to blame the INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE. Not the host community, not the immigrant community, but the INDIVIDUALS. The liberal approach is thus the polar opposite of both the right-wing racist approach (blame all immigrants collectively) and the PC trendy-lefty approach (blame the host community). Both these illiberal approaches are similar in so far as they are collectivist (looking at things in terms of monolithic blocs of people), while the liberal approach is founded on individualism.

  • @ Raddity

    If you stick around in lib dems circles you will find that ignoring the polls and consistently sticking to certain principles as you seem to advocate is something that the lib dems as a party will find to be impossible.

    The party is assembled from two competing ideologies. Right now in Scotland the lib dem leader is attacking the SNP for their over use of stop and search, which, while it is a good line of attack based on liberal values, is very different to the one given in 2010 when the party called not only for the use of stop and search to be increased but said it should be “tougher” on those who it was used against.

    Or drugs. Should recreational drug use be legalised or should recreational drug users be forced into treatment? Those views are actually at the polar ends of the ideological spectrum. In a sense forced treatment is more authoritarian than prison.

    Are the party moderate or radical? Moderate radical party is an oxymoron.

    I believe that what you suggest would be good advice if the party were capable of following it. As I think you will come to discover, they are not.

  • Raddiy, “Cologne and the other cities are defining moments, exposing the ideology you choose to follow, as a serious threat to our communities, especially women and young girls.”

    Opposing racism isn’t an “ideology” – it’s racism that is the ideology. Seeking to welcome refugees, as far as that is practicable, also isn’t an ideology.

    Yes, antisocial behaviour isn’t always colour-blind. Football hooliganism was mainly a white problem. Yes, Cologne was mainly an Arab problem. Policing and control policies have dealt largely successfully with our football hooligan problem. That’s how Germany should respond to the Cologne problems. Not with the odious resort to racism which you advocate.

  • David Evans 20th Jan '16 - 1:17pm

    Yet again another set of excuses are being trotted out to excuse the total mess those at the top made of our involvement in coalition. Indeed anything other than “I got it totally wrong” is the message here, and that is why we have totally lost the trust of most British voters. Until people accept that our leaders have sacrificed a position where we were the second choice of most of the country – “those nice people who I would prefer to Labour/Conservative” – for a position where we are regarded by most as at best the third worst – usually only ahead of UKIP and maybe Con, Lab or the Nats – we will continue to decline.

    Paddy’s “If a mistake in the polls did in some way materially affect the outcome of the election,” is one person’s version, the article’s “There was a massive amount wrong with our general election campaign,” and Nick Harvey’s “we may have been ****ed anyway,” are simply other examples of the ‘anything but don’t blame me’ mentality that seems all pervasive in those who did nothing and still don’t want to do anything now. Are we interested in saving the party or is personally saving face the only objective?

  • @Alex Macfie

    “No the “traditional Lib Dem way” re the Cologne attacks (as clearly enunciated by Tim Farron) is to blame the INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE. Not the host community, not the immigrant community, but the INDIVIDUALS.”

    Very well said. Thank you.

  • @Barry Snelson
    “As I have been a member for only 41 days now I feel a little diffidence in commenting but I actually joined out of pure optimism.”

    Same here, but a member of 4 months standing. I do find that reading LDV can be quite depressing a lot of the time – all the arguing, blaming and defeatism is not a pretty sight.

    However, If I was a long standing activist who had devoted countless unpaid hours to campaigning for the party, only to see my efforts all turn to dust last May, I suppose I would be some combination of angry and depressed myself.

    However, I’m new and have started to get involved my local party along with a healthy number of other new members. I’m pleased to say that our local party members and councillors (now minus our MP) are a cracking bunch. They are hugely committed and are refining a clear message in the run up to the local elections this year. They know they face a Tory onslaught, but they are countering this by getting out there and pounding the streets, and the message from the doorstep is sounding pretty positive.

    So, I’m quite optimistic. We’re going to retain control of the borough in this year’s local elections, improve our position on the county council next year, and win back the parlimentary seat in 2020, and do this while the local constituents retain the “muscle memory” of ticking the Lib Dem box on ballot papers.

  • @ Alex Mcfie

    ” the INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE.”

    IF ONLY!

    The following is a link to a piece on this site only 18 months ago contradicting that statement. Have a read through the comments and come back and tell me that LIbDems practice what they preach, have a particular look at the opinions held by senior LIbDems.

    UKIP have collectively, including those that vote for us been tarred with the same brush since the very beginning in the early 90’s, when we were apparently indistinguisable from the BNP. In fact every attempt to undermine UKIP by the establishment parties have been predicated on making a link between every individual comment, and the wider party, and support in the electorate, and the Lib Dems have played their part in the campaign with enthusiasm.

    The individuals responsible, pull the other one its got bells on.

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/label-the-behaviour-not-the-person-why-we-shouldnt-call-ukip-a-racist-party-39971.html

  • I think Rsf7 has got it right about the Tories and unfortunately our Lib Dem team thought that we had the best strategy during the negotiations. We only have to look at the post coalition election results year by year to see that what we did was unpopular right from the start, we didn’t need polling to tell us.
    In addition, when most of the country was suffering the effects of recession, the Lib Dem team thought it was appropriate to campaign on constitutional change and voting reform. This showed a total lack of political nous even though these are deeply held Lib Dem beliefs which I share.
    This was all compounded by forgetting the well known Liberal philosophy that we should mistrust power especially when we wield it ourselves. I think most of our MPs also forgot to consult, keep in touch with grassroots opinion and to look critically at their own actions. This was a massive blinkered mistake and the GE campaign didn’t help but wasn’t the cause of our defeat.

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Jan '16 - 2:53pm

    Nick ” If I was a long standing activist who had devoted countless unpaid hours to campaigning for the party, only to see my efforts all turn to dust last May, I suppose I would be some combination of angry and depressed myself.”

    Some of those long standing activists saw their efforts turn to dust in May2010. The regular policy announcements, often fronted by LD spokespeople, of things that I thought we were against. Why try again?

  • nvelope2003 20th Jan '16 - 3:09pm

    The problem for the Liberal Democrats is that there is not much demand for their policies any more. (This became clear when they were exposed to greater scrutiny during the recent coalition.) That also applies to the Greens, Socialist Workers Party etc but not to the Labour or Conservative parties. The Liberal Democrats have to decide whether they wish to be a broad coalition of the centre left or a small party left over from the glory days before the First World War with a few MPs and local councillors sticking to a rigid set of unpopular but virtuous policies. Would the party still exist if it was not for its historic role in British politics ?

    If the coalition’s policies were so unpopular why was the larger party re-elected with an overall majority and the smaller one almost wiped out ? Could it simply be that more people preferred what the Conservatives would most likely do than what the Liberal Democrats advocated ?

    However, it is not all doom and gloom. There have been some marked increases in support at some local government by-elections with a few gains in seats and there are four more years for the Government to mess up but success will only follow if the electorate see something they like and much less of what they clearly do not like. People who tweet all day do not necessarily represent anyone but themselves.

  • nvelope2003 20th Jan '16 - 3:10pm

    When are we going to get that report mentioned by Channel 4 News earlier this week ?

  • @Sue S. Thanks. If it isn’t obvious to anyone that the destruction of the liberal democrats (one of the tories main obstacles to power) was one of the conservative’s main objectives here they’re either a bit thick or they weren’t paying attention.

    In exchange for their own destruction the tories gave the lib dems nothing of any real substance that they couldn’t undo in five years time. Even AV voting would have changed nothing, if we had AV the GE result would have been more or less the same, with a slightly larger conservative majority.

    What is frustrating though is the level of denial on this site. Posters here have claimed that the party had no choice but to go into coalition and no choice but to accept breaking their pledge etc… The U.K. Wouldn’t have gone the way of Greece had their been a minority conservative government, that is just not true. We had no choice is the biggest shirking of responsibility ever. The reason I’m not optimistic about the future for the liberal democrats is not because they made those mistakes, but because they can’t seem to face up to them.

  • John Roffey 20th Jan '16 - 5:55pm

    Dan Falchikov 19th Jan ’16

    “Sadly LDV has already failed to ‘face up to those truths and make the changes necessary to win again’ by banning any criticism of those responsible for devising and implementing the strategy, those who through design or incompetence wasted hundreds of thousands on push polling and those with executive responsibility for the organisation and direction of the party.

    Sadly many people lost their jobs after May – but those at the top who should have gone remain and remain lucratively paid through ordinary members subs.”

    I have read through the above – but no one seems to have mentioned Michael Crick’s comments on C4 News last night in which he claimed that the L/Ds Federal Executive have received their own analysis of ‘what went wrong’ but the paper was not allowed to remain in circulation – just read and returned by executive members to avoid leaks – because the analysis was so damning and concluded that it was NC leadership that was putting voters off supporting the Party.

    Crick’s comments can be seen here:

    http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/

  • nvelope asks : Would the party still exist if it was not for its historic role in British politics ?
    Let’s ask the bigger question. If the Liberal Democrat Party didn’t exist here and now in 2016, what would be the core political motivation to create it?

  • John Roffey 20th Jan '16 - 6:04pm

    nvelope2003 20th Jan ’16 – 3:10pm
    When are we going to get that report mentioned by Channel 4 News earlier this week ?

    I assumed that you were not referring to Crick’s comments last night – as you wrote ‘earlier this week’ rather than ‘last night’.

  • @ Barry Snelson – well said, especially about the daft way Lib Dems decide policy which has never worked and never will.

    In fact party governance as a whole is dysfunctional but those who might change it are evidently against even thinking about change. Everything is wonderful apparently and the election was just a small bump in the road, best forgotten asap.

    Meanwhile, the powers that be in the party appear not to understand that we face an open goal on the economy and much else besides; they keep themselves busy sweating the small stuff.

  • I just don’t see realism and facing the facts here at all. A poster on this thread wrote that the fight back against the SNP in Scotland will be easier for the lib dems than it will be for labour. I’m just struggling to get my head round that logic, it seems like nothing more than wishful thinking to me.

    All parties that are in power become unpopular eventually and from where I’m sitting it seems that it is all but certain that whatever the results in May labour will still have enough seats at holyrood to be relevant in Scotland, but the same is not anywhere like a near certainty for the liberal democrats, possible yes, but far from certain. How is that ‘easier’? The lib dems have their very survival at sake, labour don’t.

    What substantial fact do those who hold such views believe that I am missing?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 20th Jan '16 - 8:04pm

    I am intrigued by the criticism of how we, as Liberal Democrats, make policy, especially as it appears to be from people who might appear to have little practical experience of the process, as opposed to the myth.

    Of the three traditional UK-wide political parties, the Liberal Democrats are almost certainly the most inclusive in terms of participation and, I suggest, produce better outcomes in terms of policy. The Conservatives appear merely to endorse the ideas that come out of the Policy Unit in HQ, and it is a marker of the success of that process that so many of the ideas that spring from that source require major redrafting and subsequent legislation to make them viable, even as they remain undesirable.

    The notion that any member of the Party, especially those with specialist, or expert, knowledge might influence policy making is credible in the Liberal Democrats, and some of our best policies have come from small groups beyond the Parliamentary Party.

    Now, there may be some cause for debate in terms of how policies are actually implemented but, given the absence of a majority Liberal Democrat administration in my lifetime thus far, that may be a difficult argument to win either way.

    But I invite Barry and Gordon in particular to offer us their ideas for policy-making, with particular reference to how such ideas sit with traditional liberal philosophy. No rush, gentlemen…

  • nvelope2003 20th Jan '16 - 8:58pm

    John Roffey: I was trying to be diplomatic. I do indeed mean the report mentioned by Mr Crick last night and I want to see it.

  • Peter Watson 20th Jan '16 - 9:12pm

    @Rsf7 “the former the tories insisted the lib dems break their most public policy and pledge made to the parties core voters, the lib dems fell into the trap.”
    If you mean tuition fees, I don’t think this was really a trap of the Tories’ making. The Coalition Agreement allowed Lib Dems to abstain on the issue. Strictly speaking that would still be breaking the pledge, but Lib Dem MPs could have weakened the attacks of their opponents by taking the line that the Browne review was set up by Labour (who introduced top-up fees), the Conservatives supported its recommendations, the Lib Dems were not a majority government, etc., ec. Instead the policy that increased tuition fees came from Vince Cable’s department, the Lib Dem leadership and other MPs voted for it, and Lib Dems in parliament and elsewhere defended the new fees and loan system on its own merits. In the public’s mind, Lib Dems owned this new scheme: how many speeches and interviews can we remember Conservative MPs giving on the subject? If it was a trap, Lib Dems dug the pit themselves and eagerly leapt in.

  • nvelope2003 20th Jan ’16 – 8:58pm

    “John Roffey: I was trying to be diplomatic. I do indeed mean the report mentioned by Mr Crick last night and I want to see it.”

    If the analysis is as dire as Crick intimates – perhaps the time for diplomacy is past – if the Party is to survive.

  • @ John Roffey

    If the underlying elements of the Crick Report are true –
    If the attendance record of the Hallam MP is as recorded –
    If he can earn nearly 1,700 times the national minimum wage for two hours work –
    Why don’t we have a symbiotic solution ?

    Have a voluntary by-election, select Jo Swinson or Tessa Munt,…. and…. ergo everyone’s happy.

    Improved gender balance in the parliamentary party with improved visibility….
    A positive well publicised start to the Liberal Democrat fightback with a Lib Dem victory (I’ll canvas !!)
    The former member could have peace, tranquillity and the opportunity to further what he’s obviously well rewarded for … and, of course, an eventual peerage because Dave couldn’t possibly be a curmudgeon on that bit.

    Certainly, the able Jo’s accent would go down a treat with the other Joe, and we know Tessa would be a top rate candidate !!!

    Job done..

  • David Raw 20th Jan ’16 – 11:47pm

    “Why don’t we have a symbiotic solution ?’

    It is difficult to know what the best solution is until the report has been released – so that all of the main culprits have firstly been clearly identified. However, I would have thought that the new leader must be seen to be making a clear break with the past by suspending NC as a party member and removing PA from any Party office at least.

    The trouble with your solution is that if the replacement candidate at Hallam should do very badly – which is quite possible – the start of the LD fightback would be something of a ‘damp squid’. I would have thought that voters would see dealing appropriately with those individuals who failed the Party so badly as, in itself, the beginning of the fightback.

    NC has already acknowledged, I think, that acting as Cameron’s puppy dog rather than the leader of a separate party in coalition [my words not his] was very damaging to the Party after so willingly breaking his pledge on tuition fees [where the rot started].

  • This is pretty poor stuff from Paddy. Firstly no-one really cares or remembers what politicians say in response to an exit poll unless they say something idiotically crass. He could have said something like “that would be disappointing but I think we’ll find as the night goes on that our performance is a lot strong on the ground and in the seats that matter etc etc”

    What is worrying is Paddy blaming “the polls”. He led the General Election campaign, in January 2015 we were on 8%, at the start of the campaign, 8%, on Polling day, 8%. It was the campaign that was a failure. I also doubt that he really understands polling – he spoke at a key seats meeting about 18 months out and told us that the polls were about the same as they were at that point in the 2005-10 Parliament

  • Ashdown, his day has long since gone, can we just stop publishing his articles. He has to my belief never faced responsibility for what happened.
    BUT let us move on, we are now in a different world, full opposition, a mountain to climb, not least to remove the coalition memories of the public, no weekly parliamentary opportunity to get news publicity, a view that we do not count anymore and 6% in the polls, less than at the general. It will therefore take a long time to get going, voters have very long memories. Let us knuckle down, accept we are trying to come up from the bottom, a process that is very difficult but challenging. We need something to turn up, why not a Sheffield West by election, say in late March, we should win. Could be handy for May.

  • It wasn’t just the run up to the election…It was the way those at the top (especially Clegg and Alexander) behaved almost from day one of the coalition…..

    I am sick and tired of being told how much “Good work was done behind the scenes”….That was not what came across to the public; Danny Alexander seemed to spend far more time in the media supporting Treasury policies than did Osborne….

    As for the election result…I seem to remember that party policy was that “The Tories would be the largest party but, even if we fell to 30 seats, we would be ‘King-Makers” and how, “We would surprise people at the election”…Well that last be was certainly true…

    I know this is picking over old wounds but, as others have said, unless the reasons for the 2015 disaster is accepted and openly discussed, we, as a party will not move on….Please don’t tell me that has already happened because when articles entitled “History will judge Clegg well” (or something close) are posted on LDV it is clear that it hasn’t…

  • Hywel: He could just have said we shall have to wait and see – anything more would be a hostage to fortune – well it makes a change from that straw man we keep on hearing about when people cannot think of any better argument.

    David Raw: Holding a gratuitous by election at the moment would be inadvisable. The time may come but it is not now.

  • Our message, based on coalition achievements and a promise of more of the same in the middle ground was fundamentally flawed. I am not saying this with hindsight, but like many others in the party said so at meetings from 2013 onwards; even one or two senior people agreed, but nothing changed. I am repeating this now because it serves to emphasise that after such a disastrous election result, we must move on and away from where we were. This means having new people at the top and taking the party in a new direction. While the media will continue to be interested in what our previous leaders have to say, they must not be seen as leading the party anymore or the disaster will be repeated. It is not a matter of disrespecting them, it is a matter of taking a new direction and showing the public we have put the recent past behind us. I am still waiting for Tim to do that.

  • Barry Snelson 21st Jan '16 - 10:59am

    Mark Valladares,
    Thank you for a constructive response. I realised I would be treading on many toes but I felt it was legitimate, being as the party, with its ‘traditional liberal philosophy’, is on the brink of extinction. I feel, also, that this is the time for an existentialist discussion challenging many fundamental principles to separate out those which are inviolate and those which may need revision in the face of electoral reality.
    The electorate may well finish, in 2020, the the job it started on the LibDems in 2015.
    I am not experienced enough to separate reality from myth but the website is clear. The LibDem policy making process is like a giant ‘suggestion box’ all duly filtered to the point where ‘conference’ approves its inclusion. And that to me, and I realise others will strongly disagree, is why it is worthy and decent but also uninspirational, unexciting and reads like lots of bees collected from many bonnets.
    I actually joined the party to discover what it really was. Is it a serious and ambitious political animal or a kibbutz spending most of its time feeling sorry for itself?
    I am sure I don’t have to spell out how other political movements create their offerings.

  • nvelope2003 21st Jan ’16 – 10:44am

    “David Raw: Holding a gratuitous by election at the moment would be inadvisable. The time may come but it is not now.”

    I would have thought that NC’s suspension from the Party is the best option [if rules allow]. Whilst he remains a L/D MP it will be impossible to make any new start because TF will remain in his shadow.

    I suspect that NC would remain an MP until the next GE – or accept an invitation from Cameron to join the Tories [where he belongs!].

  • One interesting comment from Nick Harvey’s contribution is that twice as many Tory voters wanted to see parties compromise in the national interest as did supporters of all other parties. Nick Clegg must have known that he owed his seat to Conservative voters and it seems they are often willing to vote Liberal Democrat in seats where the party is in contention with Labour which presumably they might not do if it adopted a very left wing stance. Many Conservative voters are very far from being right wing zealots. They are more likely to be cautiously in favour of change but woried about things going too far and the effects of unintended consequences – very much like many Liberal Democrat voters used to be.

    The transformation of the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader ought to help the Liberal Democrats if the experience of 1981 is anything to go by but it might frighten moderate voters into voting Conservative as the only way to stop Labour winnning the next election. The Labour Party itself will be energised by the influx of left wing activists who had previously abandoned it to join the Greens or other left groups. A few of the Labour Blairite right might go over to the Liberal Democrats but most of their voters could vote Conservative because Cameron does not seem very right wing and they will not like abandoning nuclear weapons. Much of the support for the SDP/Liberal Alliance came from dislike or even hatred of Mrs Thatcher but David Cameron is not like her at all. Maybe what we are witnessing over Labour is something like the split in the Liberal party when Liberal Unionists broke away, ostensibly over Home Rule for Ireland but really because they were uncomfortable with Gladstone’s radical policies. The argument over nuclear weapons will be the equivalent of the Liberal Home Rule split. Scottish independence if it happens is unlikely to break up the Labour Party in itself although the loss of 41 seats will make it difficult for them to gain power.

  • Time to move on, we have bigger fish to fry

  • nvelope2003 21st Jan ’16 – 11:48am

    My suggestion that NC belongs in the Tory Party was not just that his earliest political leanings were for the Tories, but perhaps more importantly that both he and his wife come from extremely rich families – those that benefit most from Osborne’s policies. Policies that have been implemented via the largest global corporations in the West and which have resulted in 62 individuals owning as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population [down from 388 in 2010].

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/19/world-economic-forum-davos-2016-eight-key-themes-robotics-migration-markets-climate-change-europe-medicine-inequality-cybercrime

    However, from the Party’s prospective, whilst he remains a L/D MP – it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make a fresh start.

  • Indigo asks why the Lib Dems would be invented as a party today if they did not exist. I would answer freedom. Freedom for the guy (M&F) who doesn’t count, who has no power except for a vote, who has little choice because of moderate means or poverty and who is talked down to by politicians who make decisions for that guy not with that guy.
    Our party must carry on but we are Lib Dems. We have an ex leader who failed us very badly but is our party so vindictive that we should trample him in the dust because of that failure? I would hope not. We do need to fight back so let’s tell people about the good things we did in Coalition, let’s own up about mistakes we made and then move on. Let’s take the lessons we have learnt from being in power and use them to create freedom for the powerless.

  • John Roffey 21st Jan '16 - 4:01pm

    Sue S 21st Jan ’16 – 3:42pm

    I do share your sentiments Sue – but sometimes you have to be ruthless.

    If the secret report identifies the unpopularity of NC as the reason voters would not vote for the Party and without these votes the Party cannot help those you identify [and I agree] need help – an impossible situation arises.

    I suppose it comes down to which is most disturbing 1] removing NC from the Party or 2] not being able to help those who are in desperately need of help?

  • Mark Valladares – Yes, the Lib Dems have an elaborately detailed process for making policy and are proud of it supposed advantages.

    You may consider that it produces “better outcomes in terms of policy” but the public (as judged by real votes in real elections) doesn’t agree and it lacks any coherence so that, as Barry Snelson eloquently says, it “reads like lots of bees collected from many bonnets.” Moreover, the policy consultation paper published last year identified many problems with the policy-making process making it difficult to sustain a rose-tinted view. So which matters more? Process or effectiveness?

    So what should LDHQ do? Change the system to make it work in practice or circle the waggons to defend a well-intentioned but dysfunctional approach?

    FWIW, as part of the consultation exercise launched last year, I wrote a lengthy critique of existing governance and policy-making and suggested how they could be changed for the better based on my experience of business turnarounds where I have been centrally involved. I know business isn’t politics but there is a lot of commonality and LDHQ badly needs some ideas from outside its own walled garden. It’s much too long to include here but if you would like a copy send me your email address via the editor of LDV and I will forward it.

  • For an ex-military man, I was surprised that Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamden, someone missed the significance of David Cameron’s visit to Norton-sub-Hamden (pop. 743) a week before the election. When you’re in charge of the campaign, and fail to recognise the enemy on your doorstep…

    The election report should be released immediately in the interests of transparency. No more cover-ups.

  • Michael Crick’s comments, accurately reported by John Roffey above, were in fact made on Tuesday’s programme this week. To hear them, you must in fact click on the piece about Labour’s election inquest – Crick takes that on to talk about the cover-up of the Lib Dem election inquest.

    http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/

  • Everything this party does bears the hallmarks of its control by unseen puppetmasters. I realise this sounds like conspiracy theory, but I can’t see any alternative. Maybe it’s the grandees, maybe it’s the donors, maybe it’s the hedge funders, maybe it’s all of them. Maybe it’s a tightly knit group, maybe it’s just a loose alliance. We don’t know. But what is simply not credible, in the light of the latest Federal Executive cover-up reported by Michael Crick, is that no such unseen control exists.

    Tim Farron would hardly be deeply embarassed by the revelation that Clegg was known to be the party’s greatest vote-loser in 2015. It follows that Tim Farron is not truly master in his own house. The cover-up of our election inquest cannot have been undertaken at Farron’s insistence.

    Tim Farron, and our party, need to move on. By covering up our election inquest, shadowy forces are preventing us from moving on.

  • Paddy totally believed right up to the end that things would work out and his favourite son Nicholas would pull the irons out of the fire. Even after May 2014, and the debacle in the Rochester by-election he had no doubt. Sadly an unwillingness to face up to reality seems to be an essential qualification for almost everyone who wants to be a senior figure in our party.

    Lord Oakshott was the only one who had the courage to try to change things, and people decided they would rather ostracise him than own up to their failings. He stood up to be counted and eventually resigned his job as Treasury spokesman when we let the Conservatives let their friends in the banks off the hook in Feb 2011, and he stood up to be counted as a Lib Dem rather than a ‘let’s pretend it will be all OK’ dreamer after May 2014.

    You have to be tough to be in politics, but being tough with your party and supporters while being weak with your Conservative enemies and their friends was a recipe for disaster, and we are learning that the hard way.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '16 - 2:15pm

    An unwillingness to face up to reality seems to be an essential qualification for almost everyone who wants to be a member of the party but anyone who supports a minority party has to be an idealist to some extent. Of course those who seek to lead it may have other motives. A big fish in a little pool perhaps ?

    Could someone please expalin why Nick Clegg attracts such hatred from some but devotion from others, not necessarily our enemies in either case ?

  • Paul Holmes 22nd Jan '16 - 2:21pm

    It was quite appalling that so many who ran the Party knew what the situation was but would not face up to it and deal with it. I particularly recall one Strategic Seat briefing session where the HQ presenter doing the Polling analysis, calmly said “we’ll skip the next few slides because they just show us how unpopular Nick is with the voters.”

    Talk about the Elephant in the Room -this one had all the Emperor’s new clothes on too.

    In 2005 when they feared that Charles was becoming a problem (having just led us to our best result in 80 years) they dumped him. Shortly after that, when they feared that Ming’s image might be a liability they ruthlessly dumped him. Yet despite all the Opinion Polls and all the election results from 2011 onwards Clegg was protected until we suffered our worst election in a century and a half.

    What lessons have we learned from all this? Will the Report into the 2015 election catastrophe be published? What fundamental shake up is taking place?

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '16 - 2:25pm

    David Allen: Small struggling organisations often attract people who are not what they seem but wish to make their mark in the world. If you could not get very far in either of the big parties you could try your luck in a smaller one. There must be a certain social advantage in holding some position even in the BNP or the SWP. Such people are not likely to want to rock the boat or advocate major changes in case they lose their own position. Organisations like the Co-op or British Rail were almost brought to their knees by such people until reform was forced upon them from outside.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '16 - 2:46pm

    Paul Holmes: Opinion poll ratings dropped sharply whilst the admirable Ming Campbell was the leader but the party was not in Government. I guess the leadership thought that any party in Government during the worst financial crisis since 1931 would suffer a backlash from the voters but that there would be a recovery at the General election as had happened so many times on previous occasions. Think of the Conservative poll ratings under Mrs Thatcher and her subsequent victories and that of her successor.

    It was Clegg’s popularity in the 2010 election which enabled the party to retain most of its seats then but the Messiah did not turn out the way the sort of people who voted for him wanted. Such leaders rarely do. Young people are notoriously fickle – votes at 16 anyone ?
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing but would it have been better if the party had taken a battering in 2010, losing about 20 seats, so that the Conservatives could have formed a majority Government and then had no one to blame but themselves in 2015. Would there then have been a Liberal Democrat revival ? It has happened in the past but that was when the party had not been in Government for decades. Has any Liberal revival occurred this early in a Parliament ? There are 4 years to go until the next election.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '16 - 2:51pm

    Mrs Thatcher was hated by many – did that stop her winning ? All successful leaders have aroused strong emotions either for or against – think of Gladstone, Lloyd George, Asquith, Wilson, Churchill, even Harold Macmillan. If someone does not hate you then you are either no good or you are a saint – and even they have their haters.

  • Paul Holmes, actually , a despondent and very aware ,Nick, offered to resign , Tim, along with other decent individuals, suggested to him privately , he should stay ! Can we move on ?!

  • @nvelope2003 the best thing about such a catastrophic defeat is that the failure of the previous 40 years is thrown into stark relief – a strategy of simultaneously being holier than thou and all things to all people was fine out of government, but a recipe for disaster in government.

    We need the likes of Paul Holmes to recognise this before we can start to rebuild. The party needs to find a consistent message and stick to it.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jan '16 - 5:23pm

    Raddiy 20th Jan ’16 – 2:05pm Do you read the letters page in The Times? A founding principle was that members should not take elected positions in the European Parliament. UKIP’s current leadership has done so.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jan '16 - 5:41pm

    Gareth Epps 21st Jan ’16 – 9:28am
    “Indeed, one of the only vague correlations we could see, was simply that the longer a seat had been held – and the more over-dependent it had perhaps become on incumbency – the further it fell come the dark day.”
    The same point was made about the Tory Party in a book by Douglas Hurd, political secretary to Prime Minister Edward Heath.

  • Paul Holmes 22nd Jan '16 - 6:18pm

    Having manged General Election campaigns in 1992 and 1997 and stood in 2001/2005 and 2010 I would say we had a pretty consistent message up to 10pm on election night in 2015. After that ‘we’ trashed it.

    As for ‘moving on’ one of the whole points of a number of comments above is that we cannot move on in any sensible way until the electoral lessons of 2011-2015 are learned -hence the need for an open report on the 2015 election. But lets not just talk about 2015 as 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 were pretty fair indicators of what was happening. 2015 was not a bolt out of the blue and simply shrugging our shoulders and saying that the worst result in a century and half was in some way ‘inevitable’ gets us nowhere.

    And once again do we have to point out that there was no ‘messiah’ effect in 2010 when we took 23% of the vote compared to 22% in 2005 -an increase of just 1%.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '16 - 6:22pm

    TCO – agreed. But comparisons with vote share in the 50s or 70s overlook the fact that there were still many voters alive who had voted for the party when it was still a governing party whose principle policy and raison d’etre was Free Trade. Obviouslt this is no longer the case.

  • Paul Holmes 22nd Jan '16 - 6:38pm

    Or perhaps those 1950’s/70’s voters who could remember the Liberal Party being in Government remember it principally as being characterised by the ‘People’s Budget’, the first Old Age Pension, the introduction of Unemployment Pay, Council Housing etc? And/or Keynes advocacy of beating the 1930’s Depression by something other than austerity cuts -or Beveridge’s advocacy of the NHS and expanding the Welfare State from Cradle to Grave.

    Now that’s a Liberal Party I can enthuse over!

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '16 - 7:43pm

    Paul Holmes: Who could disagree with that ? Except that the 1930s depression was actually beaten by old fashioned austerity and by the late 30s the country was doing well because of the very unpopular (at the time) policies of Philip Snowden. The old industries on which the country’s wealth had been founded were in decline but new ones began to take their place. Vast numbers of houses were being built for the increasingly prosperous population but of course many problems remained to be dealt with and always will.

    As regards the unpopularity of Nick Clegg, is it surprising when he was subject to a daily diet of dengration amounting to a hymn of hate in the Conservative and Labour newspapers. Whenever I see the Daily Mail I shudder at the monstering of our leader and his colleagues in order to draw attention away from the less than sparkling performance of the Conservative ministers, ably assisted by his “friends”on LDV. Ordinary people seeing this every day will inevitably come to believe there must be something in it. It seems to have worked with some members of the party too. He had his faults but he is no longer leader and we have a new one now. Time to move on indeed.

  • David Allen 22nd Jan '16 - 8:09pm

    Labour, for all their many faults, have had no difficulty in discussing Ed Miliband’s contribution to their electoral failure. Why has our party behaved in such a different way? We have seen repeated exhortations to ignore the past, to put it behind us, and to move on (but to where?). Labour have adopted the much more commonsense view that you can’t possibly move on until you understand how you got to where you got to.

    I think the answer is that Ed Miliband didn’t stand for one side of a binary divide in his party. If anything, he stood in the middle between Blairites and Corbynites. So his failings could be openly discussed. Nobody sought to bury him with a stake through his heart, for fear that he might revive and return. That does not apply to our party.

    Tim Farron has been elected. He has quietly made some speeches with very limited publicity which demonstrate an inspiring and radical vision. Very little attempt has yet been made to present that vision to the public. Tim also made a “five tests” speech on Syria which looked like a clear prelude to opposing bombing. Two days later he recanted. It seems that the people who insisted, against all the evidence, that Clegg must stay and fight the 2015 election, are still pulling this party’s strings.

  • David Allen 22nd Jan ’16 – 8:09pm

    “It seems that the people who insisted, against all the evidence, that Clegg must stay and fight the 2015 election, are still pulling this party’s strings.”

    Yes – what intrigues me is exactly who is pulling the strings and why, since it must be obvious even to them, that allowing NC to stay is likely to cause the extinction of the Party as a force in UK mainstream politics – certainly one with no chance of making a fresh start while he remains. Something worthy of a John le Carré novel!

    The technique used with L/D’s ‘Top Secret’ report is the same as that used with the TTIP agreement and the US Senators. They were each allowed, separately and alone, to read the proposed agreement, for a limited length of time and then the document was taken from them.

  • I did not say we should ignore the past. That would be insane. We have to learn the lessons from it but the problem is that different people are learning different lessons.
    Clegg got it wrong and he has resigned. We have a new leader and he does not get much air time but he gets some.

  • nvelope2003 23rd Jan ’16 – 10:50am

    Are you saying that – given how disliked NC was throughout virtually the whole time he was leader during the coalition – that having him as spokesperson on any issue does not simply remind the voters of their dislike for him – which then directly effects their view of the Party as a whole?

    Since the ‘Top Secret’ report apparently confirms the negative effect he had on the Party’s popularity – I am not sure what lesson you think should be learned – apart from that he should be removed from the Party – if it is to have a future!

  • John Roffey 23rd Jan ’16 – 10:29am
    “Yes – what intrigues me is exactly who is pulling the strings and why, since it must be obvious even to them, that allowing NC to stay is likely to cause the extinction of the Party as a force in UK mainstream politics”

    I don’t think this is too dissimilar from Labour’s situation. It’s only when a relatively radical leadership is voted in by the membership, that one begins to see those previously running the show in the background having to break cover in an attempt to try and ensure that things continue running on the same track as before. Whether one agrees with Corbyn or not (and regardless of degree), his election is making the party far more transparent. Ed Miliband really was a leader designed to give the membership a sense that a post-Blairite change was coming, while the Blairites carried on quietly running the party.

    I’d hoped that Farron would have been a radical leader like Corbyn – not a socialist, obviously, but radical in his reconnection with the party’s base, and empowering of those ideals. What he’s become is a more Miliband-like figure – everything’s changing but, actually, the same people are running the show, in pretty much the same direction – nothing to look at here, move along, move along. The gender/identity issues pretty much are symbolic for me: lots of talk of we need more women MPs, but no actual concrete change. The same fellows in charge, talking the same ideology, telling you it’s simply common sense to follow their direction. Anything that clear shines light on the failures of this cadre, this ideology, isn’t going to get out into the light of day.

  • velope2003 22nd Jan ’16 – 7:43pm……………….As regards the unpopularity of Nick Clegg, is it surprising when he was subject to a daily diet of dengration amounting to a hymn of hate in the Conservative and Labour newspapers. Whenever I see the Daily Mail I shudder at the monstering of our leader and his colleagues in order to draw attention away from the less than sparkling performance of the Conservative ministers, ably assisted by his “friends”on LDV……………….

    Oh dear, Here we go again….Compared to Milliband, Clegg was given an easy ride…I don’t remember headlines of Nick’s father being called “The Man who Hated Britain” or a “Killer of Kittens” or “who stabbed his brother in the back” or a “Womaniser”….

    I do remember a few anti-Clegg stories in the run up to 2010 but nothing like the concerted hysteria that was aimed at Milliband from 2010 onwards…

    As for anyone being ‘assisted’ by comments on LDV…..Do you really believe that a few ‘interested’ comments are read by anyone outside a small circle of contributors?

  • Bolano (23 Jan @ 11:15 am) – “I’d hoped that Farron would have been a radical leader like Corbyn – not a socialist, obviously, but radical in his reconnection with the party’s base, and empowering of those ideals.

    Exactly what I had also hoped. The lack of movement so far raises several questions.

    1. Is the party really run by a shadowy ‘deep party’ establishment with its own agenda (perhaps determined to hang on as “big fish in a little pool” as ‘nvelope2003’ put it above) or does it just look like that for some other reason?
    2. Does Tim Farron he have the political ‘smarts’ necessary as leader, is he held hostage in some way, does he lack sensible advisors around him or is he simply out of his depth?

    However you answer those questions they lead to a disturbing conclusion, namely that for all the party’s frequent claims to be ‘participative’ and ‘democratic’ (for example Mark Valladares’ comment of 20th @ 8:04 pm) the supporting evidence for that is extremely weak. Leaders can apparently remain impervious to the membership’s clearly expressed preferences and, while members can theoretically be involved in policy-making, it is mostly (with honourable exceptions) an astonishingly top-down activity. Most of the resulting output has little appeal to the voters (or indeed to this particular Lib Dem!) and is firmly stuck in a rut of its own creation.

    Several decades ago community politics empowered the membership, transforming the party’s fortunes and establishing it firmly in local government. That proved to be its ceiling and it’s never achieved anything comparable at Westminster. That needs to change and that can only happen by empowering the membership with respect to national politics – which in turn means a root and branch reform of how the party works.

    In effect the party has to decide whether it wants to continue emulating the Co-op (and we know how that worked out!) or John Lewis, an altogether more functional sort of partnership. I wrote a paper on this for the governance and policy-making consultations of late last year which I will gladly forward to anyone who sends me their email address via the LDV editors.

  • TCO It just seems a very odd conclusion to draw that it was the previous 40 (or even 50) years, during which time we grew as a party carefully but significantly, holding power at various levels in various parts of the country, which were at fault for our catastrophic losses between 2010 and 2015 (and before, in the case of local government – less so at Westminster, only suffering a 5 seat loss). It just seems altogether more likely that it had more to do with what we did with a share of national power, and especially our about-turn towards Tory views and actions. As the Party moved to the right over the years at least since 2005, if not before, so it was evident that we were losing vote share. This is the longer term reality, and it was only when the same pattern gripped Westminster seats that the media button was really pushed of the Party’s catastrophic fall from grace.

    Had the Liberal Party not taken daring steps forward with Jo Grimond’s leadership into the sound of gunfire, backed by the community politics emanating originally from many of us who were Young Libs at the time of the late 60s / early 70s, we would never have been anywhere near the opportunity of the 2010 election, and we would probably have drifted on to become steadily more irrelevant with more splits on the way. People vote for Parties because of a feel for their direction and their sympathies – when these do a 180 degree turn, it is not surprising that people abandon them in droves. Tim Farron has a very difficult job, but he should be being more bold in turning round the legacy of the last 10 or more years.

  • Tim13 23rd Jan ’16 – 5:55pm

    “Tim Farron has a very difficult job, but he should be being more bold in turning round the legacy of the last 10 or more years.”

    Tim – I think you might have underestimated the problem TF has. I applied to rejoin the Party in early December and as I had not received the joining pack nor had any money had been taken from my bank account – I assumed that my application had been rejected.

    Collecting my post this morning I found my membership pack with my membership card dated 16.12.2015 with NC’s photo [who resigned as leader in May 2015] with a semi smile on his face looking at me! 🙂

  • Incredible, John!

  • @Gordon 23rd Jan ’16 – 4:45pm
    “1. Is the party really run by a shadowy ‘deep party’ establishment with its own agenda (perhaps determined to hang on as “big fish in a little pool” as ‘nvelope2003’ put it above) or does it just look like that for some other reason?”

    I think rather it’s a bunch of middle-aged, prosperous, white men with the same interests, same political persuasions, who spend most of their time with each other. You could look at an equivalent group of middle-aged, prosperous, white male computer gamers. In one group they’re going to have excited conversations about Grand Theft Auto; in the other, TTIP. Neither are going to spend a lot of time in excited conversations about the lack of representation of women in either endeavour, though in conversations outside the group, they’ll acknowledge its importance.

  • Tim13 24th Jan ’16 – 11:18am

    Yes – NC’s smile seemed to be saying – if you think you are going to get rid of me as de facto leader – you’re wasting your time!

  • Bolano 24th Jan ’16 – 12:03pm

    “I think rather it’s a bunch of middle-aged, prosperous, white men with the same interests, same political persuasions, who spend most of their time with each other.”

    It seems far more sinister than that to me. 8 votes to a PM who has only an 11 seat majority at a time when so many things are in a state of flux which are of huge significance to the nation an its people could make the difference between one direction and another.

  • David Evans 24th Jan '16 - 1:34pm

    Tim13 – Sadly there are still some people out there who don’t like the idea that they have cheered while 50 years of hard work and progress were destroyed, and so pretend what was destroyed was not worth having. To them I simply say, ‘Ask the voters which they preferred: Fifty years of Lib Dems working hard to improve things or the five years of us looking just like Cameron in the coalition?’ Of course to some being a Lib Dem is about the satisfaction of personal perfection, thankfully for many it remains doing the best for their community.

  • David Allen 24th Jan '16 - 4:16pm

    Bolano 11.15am 21st January,

    Very interesting comments. It may be a slight exaggeration to describe Ed Miliband as “a leader designed to give the membership a sense that a post-Blairite change was coming, while the Blairites carried on quietly running the party”, and to suggest that Farron is adopting a similar role for the Lib Dems. I’m inclined to believe that Miliband truly thought he could achieve at least a measure of real change, but was frustrated by various factors, including his own inability to develop a clear, consistent reform policy which connected with the voters. As you say, the Blairites kept quiet, and made remarkably little effort to rescue Labour from its failing leadership. I think this was partly because they thought they could boss around a Prime Minister Miliband, and partly because they weren’t really terribly unhappy at the thought of another Cameron victory.

    Things within Labour are different now! “Transparent”, you say. I guess Andrew Rawnsley might prefer “chaotic”, or indeed “open warfare”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/24/corbynistas-labour-alibis-for-defeat

    The ferocity of Tory and Blairite reaction against Corbyn is terrible to behold, but so are the disastrous mistakes on Corbyn’s side which Rawnsley (no great Blair fan!) points out. Perhaps it’s fear of a parallel civil war within the Lib Dems which is (wrongly, I’d say) persuading Farron to take a quieter line.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jan '16 - 5:07pm

    It seems unlikely that there is a shadowy conspiracy behind the top of the Lib Dems.
    I suspect that Tim Farron’s apparent timidity is because of a fear of splitting an already much diminished party. Nick Clegg and the version of Lib-Demmery that he represented to the voters may well have been incredibly unpopular, but while the party has no clearly defined direction I can appreciate why none of his friends and colleagues would want to risk humiliating him and discrediting the approach taken by the party over the last several years.
    Sadly, this means that Lib Dems still seem to be in a sort of political limbo and look to be drifting towards an ill-defined centre-ground from which they can oppose Labour/SNP on everything and the Tories on a few human rights issues while hoping for the return of the tactical voter.

  • David Evans 24th Jan '16 - 5:25pm

    Peter, we are drifting continually downwards. No candidate in Angus and Bute for a council by-election – a seat where we had an MP only eight months ago! Barely making any gains at all in council by-elections since May, just wait for the losses next May to register, and no change in the vote in Oldham East, despite making a campaign of it this time.

    If Tim doesn’t do something dramatic pretty soon, we definitely will be on the Road to Nowhere, lots of nice members talking about nice things and speeches that inspired them or made them cry, but no-one at all doing any nice things because they can’t get elected.

  • @David Allen 24th Jan ’16 – 4:16pm

    Interesting points. Frankly, I tend to pay little attention to Guardian columnists these days – the paper regards Corbyn’s election as such a betrayal that one tends to find more balanced reportage elsewhere (even from Peter Hitchens). Labour’s parliamentary party is adrift of its membership, and the moment one gets a leader who cleaves to the membership, of course many MPs will erupt – you can call it chaos if you like. In essence it’s a number of right-leaning Labour MPs, tending to be the same characters in rotation, throwing their toys out of the pram because the party is threatening to assert views which are not their own. Now either the membership is going to change its views or leave, or the MPs change their views or leave. Whether Corbyn lasts, I think Labour has changed, is re-engaging with its roots, and that sooner or later the Danczuks and Hunts will be off. Whether anyone will take them is a different matter.

  • @David Allen 24th Jan ’16 – 4:16pm
    With regard to Tim, I would say that Farron is looking like being a Miliband for the party. He’s a sticking plaster for the tensions between the Cleggists and their opponents. Whether he becomes more than that is not just about what he does, but whether the party regains sufficient seats going forward. The Orange Bookers have a legacy to protect, their opponents a tradition to return to – while momentum is regained and seats with it both sides will remain in line, both seeing their dream still possibly fulfilled. Frankly, I don’t see the party moving forward in terms of votes, precisely because it’s not going to confront the problems of the past, which are still there today, not far below the surface. There’s ‘chaos’ ahead regardless. The question is whether to sort the problems now while rock bottom has been hit, and then a fresh start; or whether to struggle for a compromised, slight recovery, and then collapse again (which will probably be more damaging in the long run).

  • @David Allen 24th Jan ’16 – 4:16pm

    It’s akin to the problem with women MPs. It’s very clear what the solution is at this point – all-women shortlists. A few on the right of the party will have tantrums. Fine. Get it over with, in place, move forward. Let them put up, shut up, or leave. A short time ahead and everyone will have forgotten about it being such a problem – and the party will be much the stronger for it. Clegg’s legacy, like that of an all-male parliamentary party, are things that you either deal with, or run from, or whinge a bit about but not too much unless it upsets the boys at the top.

  • David Allen 24th Jan '16 - 7:04pm

    Bolano,

    Just because a heap of lies and vitriol is being chucked all over Corbyn should not blind you to the fact that he has serious and real faults, which will make him unelectable. The latest being to propose an expensive make-work scheme – Nuclear subs with no missiles – because the unions would like the make-work. Put a peg on your nose and read Rawnsley, he may be biased but he has information you shouldn’t ignore. And I say that as someone who’d have voted Corbyn ahead of the deadbeats he competed against…

  • David Allen 24th Jan '16 - 7:14pm

    Bolano 6.13 – Sadly a much better post than your previous one I think! Well, I’m sure Farron is delighted to have won the leadership by looking radical to the radicals and looking not too radical to the Cleggites. He should now pause for breath, and reflect that winning leadership is no triumph if you can’t actually lead your tribe out of the wilderness. And for sure, that won’t happen if you have no sense of direction.

    As you say, everybody is hoping for a slight uptick, but in many ways, it is a slight uptick which will be disastrous, just like Miliband’s 35% theory. It’s “Do just enough, don’t rock the boat, it’ll be all right in the end. And it won’t be, because nobody votes for someone whose issue-dodging is chiselled into an Edstone, or whose proudest boast is to keep all the irreconcilables on board the same leaky boat to nowhere.

    So before you get that disastrous uptick to 8% or 10% which has the Cleggies deliriously claiming that the millenium has arrived – Tim, be your own man! If you don’t do it soon, you won’t do it ever!

  • Paul In Wokingham 24th Jan '16 - 7:40pm

    @David Evans – You make a good point about the elections in May. We are now polling no better than we did last May (possibly worse) and the national profile of the party is zero.

    We last fought these seats in 2012, at which time the party was already routinely polling at single-digit levels. If the party falls below even that low point, then I suspect it will be spun as due to a “UKIP collapse” benefiting the Tories, but it will more likely indicate the loss of grassroots activists who are prepared to go out and do the leg work that has been historically essential to the growth and success of the party. And that would indeed mean that the Liberal Democrats are defunct.

  • Bolano
    Not sure whether this is off thread or not, but I feel I should comment on your remarks on all-women shortlists (I do so as a former Party assessor and Parliamentary candidate). I have never felt that opposition came from the right of the party, but from people trying to protect a Liberal approach, looking for the best candidates.

    Now that we are such a small Parl Party, there is no longer the very big problem of increasing percentages by very small gains relative to the number of sitting MPs. If we gained two women now, and lost none, say, we would increase our female numbers to 20% at one go. All women shortlists address the issue where selectorates persistently select male candidates over women. That is certainly not normally the case in Lib Dem selections these days, and in 2010, for instance we had as many, if not more, women candidates in MP replacement or winnable target seats. The fact was that for whatever reason (s), male candidates were disproportionately winning when it came to the ballot box. So I feel we need to look elsewhere for answers to that conundrum, rather than rush in a panicky way for a controversial solution which will have little if any impact, in the process upsetting a fair number of our (pretty small total) supporters!

  • @David Allen 24th Jan ’16 – 7:04pm

    I’ve read the Rawnsley. And I’m not blind to Corbyn’s faults. I voted for Corbyn because he was the candidate closest to my position; and I’m a firm believer in the Overton Window. Likewise, had I voted in the Lib Dem election, I would have voted for Farron – and would not have been blind to his faults. One of the insidious devices the media use is to suggest that a vote against Corbyn can be a vote for anything and non-restrictive, while a vote for Corbyn can only be entirely committed to Corbyn’s positions. I think we can’t afford to be a nuclear power; I want the railways nationalised; and so on.

  • @David Allen 24th Jan ’16 – 7:14pm

    “As you say, everybody is hoping for a slight uptick, but in many ways, it is a slight uptick which will be disastrous”

    – says an anti-Cleggie! The Cleggies have the status quo, and are holding out for no change at any cost, and a hopeful increase, and if it’s small, they can live with it. The degree of increase and at which point it becomes acceptable is very much the challenge for the anti-Cleggies.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th Jan '16 - 1:24pm

    Like previous contributors, I also wonder if Tim is being held back by his desire for party unity and by his being determined not to follow Clegg in upsetting a section of the party – in this case the career politicos and Think Tank consensus-accepting Centrists – whereas Clegg had no issue in upsetting the bulk of the party in pursuit of his own personal agenda. This, as others have noted, has left us looking distinctly non-radical.

    Tim is thus ensuring, on the surface at least, maximum party unity.

    My fear though is that, in doing so, he severely risks compromising our vision of a radically different Liberal Democrat Britain.

    A decent liberal approach to refugees, mental health, housing, flood victims, Saudi Arabia etc is a key part of this but what about our commitment to personal, social, economic, environmental and intergenerational justice for the British people. It appears to me that we are not engaging enough on the latter issues because therein lies our own divisions. Having listened to Tim several times, I do not believe that he does not share mainstream social Liberal concerns in these areas.

    Conference defences of the previous leadership such as “I don’t so I won’t” are fine but the promised new start is absolutely vital if we are not to be finished off in 2020.

  • John Roffey 25th Jan '16 - 1:38pm

    Stephen Hesketh 25th Jan ’16 – 1:24pm

    “My fear though is that, in doing so, he severely risks compromising our vision of a radically different Liberal Democrat Britain.

    A decent liberal approach to refugees, mental health, housing, flood victims, Saudi Arabia etc is a key part of this but what about our commitment to personal, social, economic, environmental and intergenerational justice for the British people. It appears to me that we are not engaging enough on the latter issues because therein lies our own divisions. Having listened to Tim several times, I do not believe that he does not share mainstream social Liberal concerns in these areas.”

    Well said Stephen!

  • @Tim13 24th Jan ’16 – 7:44pm

    “If we gained two women now, and lost none, say, we would increase our female numbers to 20% at one go.”

    But you haven’t, Tim. It’s 2016. You haven’t got any women. You’ve got no BAME MPs. You’ve got a lot of talk, a lot of unwillingness to rock the boat, and a lot of white, middle-class, middle-aged men. The party needs to be representing the society we live in now – because it needs to broadcast that being a woman, being a member of a minority, isn’t a barrier to success in the Lib Dems; it’s tomorrow’s talent that’s being lost today.

  • Bolano
    Are you saying that by using all women shortlists for 2020 GE (NOT 2016, by the way) that you will have more women elected than you would otherwise have? If the proportions of female candidates in winnable and MP replacement seats are similar in 2020 to 2015 then presumably you would have a similar proportion elected? Only if you intend to go for all all women shortlists (at least in your top 50 / 100 winnable seats) are you likely to get a greater proportion elected. Even the Labour Party never tried to go that far!!! We face a rather different problem from Labour or he Tories, in that we have no such thing as a safe seat, so we can’t guarantee election for anyone. And the figures, both in 2010 and 2015, seem to show that it is less likely that we elect women than men. I don’t know why that is – you could speculate on the sexist nature of electorates – but that has been our problem, NOT a failure to SELECT enough women in the right seats. Looking at our councillors we have a lot of white middle to old aged men AND women. Not enough young, not enough “ordinary” people, and certainly not enough from other ethnic and national heritage backgrounds. Of course, we need to encourage them to stand, an support thm well when they do!

  • @Tim13 25th Jan ’16 – 11:50pm

    The main point I’m trying to make, Tim, is that there are specific actions – like all women shortlists – that the party could follow to increase the representation of minorities and women within the parliamentary party. And action needs to take place not just because the Lib Dems are the worst parliamentary party in this regard, but that the issue of equality is so to the forefront of the party’s beliefs – inviting a huge charge of hypocrisy.

    “Only if you intend to go for all all women shortlists (at least in your top 50 / 100 winnable seats) are you likely to get a greater proportion elected.” Then what’s the problem? Is there something intrinsically worse about this than having an all-male parliamentary party? It’s a remarkably terrible situation that the party is in on this issue and it requires desperate measures to resolve. As far as I can see the party splits two ways on this issue: those that believe that something has to be done that conclusively achieves the result, and those that believe that anything done to conclusively resolve the issue is somehow worse than the problem that is being solved. This is fairly consistent with any prospective change to bring about equality historically: there always have been a large number of people, mostly of the advantaged grouping, saying, hold on a second, let’s not go crazy here…

  • nvelope2003 26th Jan '16 - 1:12pm

    Anyone with any interest in politics knows that Clegg is no longer the leader of the Liberal Democrats though it was a mistake to use old membership cards with his face on them. It seems that having rightly got rid of him those who did not like him expected an improvement in the party’s fortunes but since that has not happened with the sort of leader they wanted they are desperately looking for someone to blame.

    Before the 2010 election the party was averaging about 16 – 19% in the polls but during the leadership debates support rose to 28 – 30%, sometimes even with the party leading which was assumed to be because of Clegg’s performance in the debates. The actual result was 23% (up 1%) and the loss of 13 seats to the Conservatives because of their improved showing and a gain of 8 seats from Labour because of their decline.

    Before that the Liberal Democrats had not been doing well in local elections or the opinion polls. During the period of the coalition it was Clegg’s support for the party’s more radical ;policies which seemed to have upset many voters, egged on by the press.

    It has to be asked – is there enough support for radical policies to enable the party to grow ? Jeremy Corbyn has a lot of support for his stance among Labour Party members but is there any evidence that the voters like him and his policies ? Are more women MPs an important issue for the electors, for example ? What percentage of the voters are attracted by its policy on immigration ?

    Maybe the voters just do not like Liberal Democrat policies ? It seems a bettter question to ask than keeping on about a leader who resigned as leader on election night almost 9 months ago and has kept a fairly low profile.

  • Peter Watson 26th Jan '16 - 2:56pm

    @nvelope2003 “During the period of the coalition it was Clegg’s support for the party’s more radical ;policies which seemed to have upset many voters, egged on by the press.”
    What examples of this do you have in mind?
    I would suggest that it was Clegg’s lack of support for the party’s policies (tuition fees, NHS reforms, rate of deficit reduction, …) that upset many voters.

  • Peter Watson 26th Jan '16 - 3:04pm

    @nvelope2003 “since that has not happened with the sort of leader they wanted they are desperately looking for someone to blame.”
    I think that raises an interesting point: has Tim Farron actually turned out to be the “sort of leader they wanted” (or their opponents feared)? From the outside Farron looks like much more of a continuity leader than I expected, and surprisingly it was Norman Lamb who voted against bombing in Syria.

  • David Allen 26th Jan '16 - 5:50pm

    Bolano, Tim13,

    I think you’re both half right about gender issues. Bolano that we need to do something effective. Tim13 that that doesn’t have to be the gerrymander that AWS entails. The Tory A-list approach, which promoted high-flyers and especially women, worked in increasing the number of women MPs. An idea of mine would be to have a “primary” for male candidates to reduce their number to one, followed by a final selection with one male plus several female candidates. That should also work.

    Equality campaigners are shooting themselves in the foot by ignoring such options and just dismissing all those who disagree as reactionaries. Not all of them are. Some of them genuinely don’t like gerrymandering.

  • nvelope2003 26th Jan '16 - 6:07pm

    Well the problem for the Liberal Democrats and Social Democracy all over Europe is that the voters do not trust them to act in their interests so they have stopped voting for them and moved generally to right wing parties like UKIP, France’s National Front, Germany’s AfD, Sweden’s Democrats and similar parties in the Netherlands etc

    Many voters see a massive increase in the work force as having brought down wages and created a housing shortage with sky high prices and a financial crisis while the left demand money should be spent on little used public libraries and bus services for example while the NHS and buses that people actually use are seen to be short of money.

  • nvelope2003 26th Jan '16 - 6:13pm

    Peter Watson: One policy which Clegg was derided for was the free meals for school children whether parents could afford to pay or not. I am not saying it was wrong but it was not very popular. Of course the betrayal of the promise on tuition fees will take years to live down but even my Socialist friends and apparently the NUS admit that the new repayment policy which was introduced is much better than what went before.

  • @David Allen 26th Jan ’16 – 5:50pm

    “Some of them genuinely don’t like gerrymandering.”

    That’s true. It would be fair to say that there are rather a lot who don’t like inequality but don’t dislike it sufficiently more than they dislike gerrymandering to allow gerrymandering, and they would mostly – almost entirely, in my experience – be white men. I don’t think it radical to suggest that were many of them the subject of said inequality, they might find gerrymandering less burdensome.

  • Peter Watson 26th Jan '16 - 9:50pm

    @nvelope2003 “One policy which Clegg was derided for was the free meals for school children whether parents could afford to pay or not”
    Which had not been a Lib Dem policy and came as a surprise to the party. Indeed, the trials of this were commissioned by Labour and previously opposed by Lib Dems (including Simon Hughes) in those areas. The evidence was that it was not the most effective way to spend £500 million on education. The quid pro quo for Clegg being able to “own” this bung to middle class voters was allowing the Tories a married couple’s tax allowance. Clegg was rightly derided for the way he handled this.

  • Peter Watson 26th Jan '16 - 10:01pm

    “the new repayment policy which was introduced is much better than what went before”
    The only aspect of the repayment policy that was an improvement was the higher salary threshold for repayment. The loan is bigger, the repayment period is longer, the interest rate is higher and is applied to the loan earlier. A long term legacy of this is that the future repayment default rate might mean the new scheme costs the tax payer as much as the old one. In the shorter term, part-time student numbers have fallen and having lauded the new scheme it is difficult for Lib Dems to oppose the Tories using it to replace bursaries for student nurses and grants to students from poorer families.
    On the other hand, it makes a refreshing change on Lib Dem Voice to see a Lib Dem respecting the views of Socialist friends 😉

  • Bolano,

    You’re missing my point. It’s possible to do something efective about gender inequality without gerrymandering. Indeed, it’s more likely that something effective will be done that way, since that will defuse opposition from non-sexist people who don’t like gerrymandering.

  • nvelope2003 27th Jan '16 - 2:23pm

    Peter Watson: Most of my friends are either Socialists or former Socialists. My grandfather (and also several uncles) was a staunch trade unionist and I have a certificate given on his retirement to prove it. We shopped at the Co-op etc. I still do.

    Maybe the fall in part time students has been compensated by the increase in full timers.

    No policy should be maintained indefinitely if experience shows it to have been a mistake, though no doubt fear of losing face will delay any necessary change. Many of the problems being experienced in Western economies are exacerbated by attempts to prop up outmoded policies which require vast amounts of money which could be used for something more useful. When something has had its day we must learn to say goodbye, however sad that is and welcome carefully considered change.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jan '16 - 3:52pm

    @nvelope2003 “Maybe the fall in part time students has been compensated by the increase in full timers.”
    Figures quoted here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35312229) show “Overall, the number of part-time first years has fallen by 38% in five years – from more than 428,000 in 2010-11 to below 266,000 last year [2014-15].” I don’t want to divert this thread, but I do think that it is important for Lib Dems to consider how best to address the dramatic decrease in part-time students which impacts upon issues like social mobility and participation in education.

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