What I learned on holiday

I’m just back from the first two week holiday I’ve had since 2008. I was fairly determined before I went that I was going to have a proper break. My aim was greatly helped with the discovery that I’d managed to book a holiday cottage that had no wifi. I almost succeeded in keeping away from work for the whole time and I feel much better for it. After fighting two national elections and two referendum campaigns in 2.5 years, I was pretty close to completely knackered. I knew I had to switch off properly for my own wellbeing.  I am very grateful to the team for covering while I’ve been away. They’ve done a great job even though some of them have been dealing with major life events.

I had planned to do what I always do on holiday – read lots of books. That didn’t work out either.  I only got through the new Harry Potter book and the latest edition of Liberator. Instead, I found myself gazing at the views (and who could blame me?), watching the Olympics and walking for miles on Rosemarkie beach with the dog. The weather was so wonderful the second week that it would have been criminal not to have been out and about enjoying it while we had the chance.

Cromarty sunset

This was taken from the sea front in Cromarty last Tuesday night. We noticed that there were far more oil rigs in there than there used to be due to the severe contraction in the oil industry. Each one represents hundreds of lost jobs, hundreds of families thrown into uncertainty.

View from Hillockhead towards Chanonry Point

From our cottage, we had a birds’ eye view of the Moray Firth in general and Chanonry Point in particular. The Firth is home to a colony of around 130 bottlenose dolphins. Every day keen photographers gather at Chanonry Point at the turn of the tide in the hope of seeing them. These dolphins bring around 150,000 people and £10.4 million to the local economy, according to Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council.  Now their habitat and that of other marine wildlife is threatened because of an application to carry out ship to ship oil transfers. Unsurprisingly the local community and wildlife organisations object to the proposal. There’s a strong community campaign against this and as a frequent visitor to the area, I’ll be doing what I can to help.

No time to go wobbly on the EU

Rosemarkie Beach

Rosemarkie Beach is my favourite place on the planet. I have walked on it with everyone I have ever loved. It has incredible beauty, with rich colours, stones, trees, a dramatic rockscape and a restorative tranquility that is good for the soul.  Walking up and down it in a variety of weathers, being sandblasted by gales, soaked by horizontal rain or baking in the heat of an almost mediterranean sun, I was able to deal with the intense emotions and fears of the last few months.  That little bit of space helped me to raise my head and look to the future.

I have come back more determined than ever that this party needs to be leading the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU. No ifs, buts or maybes. At the moment we’re not even close to experiencing the economic trauma that leaving the EU will bring, but when we do, we’ll take a huge hit. Brexit is horrendous for this country and we need to persuade people that our future remains within the EU and that we need to find some way of reversing the decision made on 23rd June. We don’t overturn the will of the people expressed on that date, but we show that the majority for that decision no longer exists.

David Howarth told the Social Liberal Forum Conference last month that by March 2020, even if nobody changes their mind, the slim majority in favour of Brexit will have gone purely on demographic factors as young people, who tend to be vastly in favour of remaining, come on to the electoral register. We have to make sure that they have their say on any final settlement with an option on the ballot paper to stay in.  Anything else would be irresponsible. We cannot afford to let these young people down.

I recognise that some within the party feel very strongly that we can’t be seen to be going against the wishes of a majority of the people. However, this party can’t just give up fighting for what it has always believed in. The Remain minority is probably the biggest minority we’ve ever been a part of. We believe that Britain being at the heart of the EU is good for everyone and so we need to fight for that. No other party will do so with such passion. We saw that during the referendum. We would be daft to give up a unique position within British politics when it’s one that is where our heart is.

As a party we need to step up our campaigning activity on this. We need to be much clearer about what we want and why. Our comments need to be much more specific. Sometimes our press statements can be too much like cheap shots at Boris. Tempting though that is, we need to stick to outlining the very real impact of Brexit on people, particularly those who depend most on public services. We need to be out and about in every community having conversations and changing minds. As we do that, we need to be able to articulate what a liberal society looks like. We need to show that we stand up against abuse of power wherever we find it, whether by government or corporate. We need to show that we stand with the most vulnerable. We challenge the establishment. We do what is right to protect the planet for the future. We use the power of the state to create opportunities for people, to break down barriers and prevent exploitation.  We want people to live their lives in freedom. You can’t be free if something as basic as your own home, owned or rented, is beyond your reach or if you don’t have enough money for even the basics in life.

The future prosperity of our country depends on us winning these hearts and minds and we need to get on with it. We need to provide the glue that helps this very divided country to come back together and solve the problems it faces.

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

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25 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 21st Aug '16 - 1:34pm

    I’m a bit puzzled by your comment on the oil rigs. You oppose fracking – how is it logical to do that and at the same time regret loss of jobs on the oil rigs?

    You are right about campaigning to stay in the EU though

  • paul barker 21st Aug '16 - 2:21pm

    Ive always thought that Caron works too hard, she should take more holidays.

  • nvelope2003 21st Aug '16 - 3:31pm

    Active support for remain seems to be falling as 69% wish to accept the result and only 22% want another referendum. We have not had an emergency budget yet but of course if things changed there might be a different attitude. There is little sign of this happening yet. Of course if the terms for leaving were unacceptable then things might change but even the BBC and the City seem to have accepted that we will leave the EU.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Aug '16 - 5:33pm

    Good to have you back Caron! Yes the team did well when you were away, but you make it better!

    I don’t have much interesting to say on the EU referendum right now, but there are so many topics that need discussing in British and world politics and the Conservatives could do with a nudge in the right direction, which Lib Dems can achieve!

    Personally I would start with Syria….

  • Stevan Rose 21st Aug '16 - 6:43pm

    “this party can’t just give up fighting for what it has always believed in.”

    But I think we all need to think very carefully about whether the EU of today is what we always believed in in the days of old. I felt very strongly about Remain but the more the abysmal Remain campaign went on the more I began to doubt. Nothing to do with Brexit rubbish and more to do with the apparent difficulty in articulating overwhelmingly convincing pro arguments. This is not the EU of when the Lib Dem constitution was written, nor of Major’s Maastricht. Wealthier members could cope with a small weaker group of Greece, Portugal and Spain. Freedom of movement was not grossly imbalanced. Communities and their housing, health and transport infrastructures were not being overwhelmed. Fast forward to the entry of former Eastern bloc and Yugoslav republics, and you no longer have a balanced organisation. You have economies that are not ready for unfettered free trade and economic convergence. You have a young labour force keen to migrate to the wealthier members, undercutting local wages and putting immense pressure on infrastructure. Strong pull-push in respect of free movement was not the intent when it started. We all know Turkey was never going to be a member anytime soon but Cameron and Clegg giving encouraging nods was a reminder that EU expansion has not been a good thing overall. I don’t think the population voted against the EU we originally believed in; I think they voted against its bloated, unbalanced, expanded current form.

    If we want to change minds and reverse out of Brexit with true democratic support we have to make some compromises like saying no to further expansion where the applicant has a GDP per capita below the current EU average. Like being able to put a brake on free movement where a country needs infrastructure to catch up. Like the benefits package Cameron negotiated. And we also need clear plans to upgrade services to cope with projected inbound migration instead of letting it collapse and then blaming immigrants as UKIP and some Tories like to do.

    Anyway, glad you had a good break Caron. I know I couldn’t survive without WiFi or mobile Internet; I’d end up in McDonalds every day.

  • Andrew McCaig 21st Aug '16 - 7:24pm

    I don’t want another referendum at the moment and I think unless public opinion changes dramatically the result should be accepted…

    This does NOT mean that I have changed my view to Leave however. Beware polls with ambiguous questions!

  • Leave The EU 21st Aug '16 - 7:46pm

    @Steven Rose – with respect: “And we also need clear plans to upgrade services to cope with projected inbound migration instead of letting it collapse and then blaming immigrants as UKIP and some Tories like to do.” – if there were essentially no EU border controls and immigrants “self-select”, how properly could projections be made? All the best and peace.

  • I agree with Stevan except that I was a strong Remainer until Cameron’s embarrassing negotiations for really trivial reforms proved that the EU was incapable even of admitting any mistake, never mind true reform. It brought into stark relief just what a seat at the table really meant! I never actually joined the Brexit camp but I could certainly see the paucity of the Remainer argument.

    Since I took off my EU-tinted glasses I looked closer at the effect of the many silly job-killing bans and pettifogging regulations that are based more on gesture politics than common sense and I can see many, many more are in the pipeline.

    Liberals could have an opportunity here to appeal to both sides if they thought this through rather than pretending that the EU membership is a fundamental principal of Libdems. It isn’t! Rather we support international cooperation by whatever means. We did not support an ever-increasing dictatorship by 2nd-rate bureaucrats.

  • So if the AV referendum had been won a a small margin in 2011 you would have been equally relaxed about ignoring a democratic vote ?

    Great to know that democracy is so well respected.

  • Andrew McCaig says he doesn’t want another referendum at the moment. I don’t want another referendum ever. I was saddened when the Lib Dems flirted with the idea of “offering a Euro-referendum”. I have long believed the referendum device to be a bogus form of democracy and was not surprised when the 2016 UK referendum proved to be profoundly unhelpful in offering a context for serious democratic debate. There are various ways in which democracy can be strengthened in this country, not least by scrapping First Past the Post, but the principle of representative democracy should be sustained. Our liberties depend not on our right to share in opinion polls but in our right to vote – electing people and paying them to debate, think and take decisions, then
    dismissing them when they have ceased to be up to the job.

  • I do so agree that the party can’t just give up fighting for what it has always believed in. ‘The Remain minority is probably the biggest minority we’ve ever been a part of’. I will remember that. And bearing in mind there is evidence to show that many people were voting NO for reasons unconnected with the EU, we must state our case clearly and loudly

  • John Peters 22nd Aug '16 - 9:03am

    I applaud the principles of the Lib Dems.

    A grand progressive pro-EU alliance of the Greens, Lib Dems, and Labour under Corbyn (wrong but principled) or Smith (wrong but unprincipled) will “smash” us Tories.

    Going into the next election with a pledge to rejoin the EU (including the Schengen area and the Euro) gives clear blue water between the Tories and the grand alliance.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Aug '16 - 6:26pm

    John Peters: George Osborne MP said in the Commons that Jeremy Corbyn would make a good leader of the Labour Party. JC did not comment. At that stage he did not have enough nominations. It did seem strange that David Cameron was vigorously opposing the Labour leader while needing Labour support for the EU referendum. Ditto SNP. Which is more important – Country or Party?

  • “if there were essentially no EU border controls and immigrants “self-select”, how properly could projections be made?”

    You would need to rely upon past data to forecast future requirements. But note I also suggested the need for a brake where infrastructure needs time to catch up.

    “Going into the next election with a pledge to rejoin the EU (including the Schengen area and the Euro) ” …

    … is highly improbable given you’d be hard-pressed to find a majority even in this party for Schengen and the Euro.

    “bearing in mind there is evidence to show that many people were voting NO for reasons unconnected with the EU”

    Such as?

    What this party has always believed in… if that means the EU of 1988 or the EU up to 2004 then fine but the EU of 2016 is far removed from what the party always believed in. JamesG points out the democratic deficit of something that has grown too big too quickly. There’s a nostalgia and emotional attachment to an institution, a partnership of relative equals, that frankly doesn’t exist anymore. Convergence, political and economic, cannot be achieved with major dilution of the pot. And without the ability to converge that thing we always believed in has no purpose. Greece / Germany more that Brexit shows what happens when you try to force two completely incompatible economies into a single merged economy. Whilst I would never want to be associated with the nasty vile festering minds behind the racist and nationalistic end of Brexit that isn’t a reason to defend the increasingly indefensible. I believe in what the Party always believed in but that’s not on offer now.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '16 - 12:55am

    Caron

    Welcome back , yes indeed , but some in our party are not feeling as welcome and , many of your comments add to that, although you of all people would not intend that with your very positive attitude and good values .

    You advocate for women regularly . You do so above for young people.

    While you were away , I read the resignation letter of a young woman who is a member of our party. She was the author of the only pro Brexit article from the campaign of Liberal leave , posted on LDV during the entire referendum ! Anne Cremin is an eloquent , intelligent campaigner , so much , that , at twenty one and a student at Oxford , she shared a platform with Lord Owen, quite an achievement ! She is aghast at the stance of Tim !Now she has left this party because she feels alienated from it , she has received what one can only call vilification from some , thankfully , and hopefully , not actual members , but who knows today in the sesspit that is the twittersphere or anti – social media ! We cannot afford to lose people , Anne Cremin has been an absolutely staunch supporter of the work of Norman Lamb, especially on mental health issues , which from her personal experience , she cares passionately about . I have never met her and I voted Remain , but her leaving our party , this party , when as a strong campaigner for Brexit , she should be able to help the leaving of the EU from a Liberal perspective , saddens and troubles me.

    We , according to you can have no ifs or buts . Yet the whole landscape requires us to have just that . We cannot know what Brexit means until the process starts, so why put the cart before the horse ?!

    Are you saying that , no ifs or buts means those of us who do not want us to campaign to take us back in if we have left , should leave this party ? Are you saying that to wait and see what happens and advocate for the most internationalist solution is not enough? !

    Are you aware that when this party could be gaining the support of all the people of this nation that yearn for a mainstream party , that we are in danger of not only not gaining many new voters , but many more members leaving ?!

    I would rather we gained ground as a party that is not mired in extreme elements like some others , that is rooted in reform and democracy , in reality !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 23rd Aug '16 - 9:35am

    I agree with all the points Lorenzo makes above.
    It is so very sad that a young woman like Anne Cremin, who had so much to contribute to the party, feels unable to continue to be a member. It is horrifying that she has been a victim of personal abuse on twitter from Remain supporters, some telling her to “F*** off and join Ukip”. This must have been especially hurtful, as she has made it clear that her reasons for voting Leave were completely different from those of Ukip. She hates Ukip’s racism and xenophobia as much as any other liberal does.
    Obviously most Lib Dem members will feel that Anne made the wrong decision in voting Leave, but surely most should be able to accept that she did so for what she considered to be liberal reasons.
    Even many people who voted Remain, are extremely unhappy about the fact that the party seems to be adopting a policy of trying to prevent a democratic decision from being implemented.
    How much better it would be if the party could instead focus on campaigning for a Brexit deal that would allow Britain to continue to have a close relationship with the rest of Europe, including, if possible, freedom of movement and access to the single market.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '16 - 1:53pm

    Catherine Jane

    Your comments are as music to my ears , thank you !

    We are a party of idealists , pragmatists , realists. As with our belief in liberty , equality , community , it is a question of balance , answered with a common sense approach.

    There is a need , more than a want , for a genuine new politics , based on traditional respect. The online hate alluded to , wherever it is found ,which all of us as Liberals and Democrats abhor , is most dangerous when it touches on areas where it is least expected. One of my biggest criticisms of the left , is they , not the right , preach all that brotherly love and sisterly togetherness, and , at their farther fringe , exude hatred!

    You allude to a small minority being for Brexit in our party. LGBT members are a minority in our or any party . BAME members in our country are in a minority . But they count as the majority in being not only of equal worth , but having a unique and valuable , indeed , essential contribution to make . It is not a direct comparison , but it speaks to our true Liberalism and leads us , surely to keep us all together as members with respect and for an array of views.

  • Stevan Rose 23rd Aug '16 - 9:43pm

    Hear hear Lorenzo and Catherine Jane. Although I understand that a third of members voted Leave, which is more than a small minority. There are plenty more of us who voted Remain but now want to salvage what we can in a decent Brexit deal, and given the absence of economic collapse are beginning to doubt our convictions.

  • Many of those that lost the 1975 Referendum never gave up opposing membership. Those of us who believe that leaving the EU will not be in Britain’s best interest must continue to make the case for reversing Brexit. The Balance of Competences Review concluded it was over-whelmingly in the national interest to stay in. That is still the case. Our campaign should be for a second vote on the terms of Brexit.

    Only another referendum producing a large majority in support of one side or another can heal the division within the country. Adversarial politics is brutal and divisive which is why most of us would prefer a more consensual system based on PR.

    Our choice is roll-over and let the disaster unfold or fight on? Fortunately our situation is not as extreme, but the dilemma is the same the Germans faced in 1933. I am for continuing the fight.

  • Steven, “absence of economic collapse”? The economic effects are two-fold. First a sharp shock to the system through currency devaluation. The pound is down 20% since the Leave campaign got under way. We are all already 20% poorer than we were a year ago in real terms. Painless so far but these things take a while to work through the system. I am old enough to remember £1=$2.80. I have never seen a devaluation that worked for the country or made me better off.
    Secondly, lower foreign direct investment will reduce our growth rate by about 1% per year lower than otherwise. Doesn’t sound much but after 40 years? Membership of the EU has been seen to make huge differences – Poland vs Ukraine is an extreme example.
    We face years of gradual impoverishment compared to our continental neighbours. Hopefully we will not face a full blown sterling crisis in a few years time but the risk of one has hugely increased.
    The propaganda of the Brexit campaign and their newspaper cheerleaders continues at full blast. Do not be taken in.

  • I am old enough to remember £1=$2.80. I have never seen a devaluation that worked for the country or made me better off.

    I’m pretty sure we’re all better off than in the sixties, actually.

    Secondly, lower foreign direct investment will reduce our growth rate by about 1% per year lower than otherwise. Doesn’t sound much but after 40 years? Membership of the EU has been seen to make huge differences – Poland vs Ukraine is an extreme example.

    Why do you think there will be lower direct foreign investment? This is Britain we’re talking about, not Poland or Ukraine. We’re the fifth-largest economy in the world, and a world power to boot. We don’t need the EU to attract foreign investment like an otherwise-insignificant country like Poland does.

    We face years of gradual impoverishment compared to our continental neighbours

    Time will tell. If in ten years our economy has grown 20% from its 2016 value while the EU’s is still mired in high unemployment, low or even negative growth, and continual currency crises, will you admit you were wrong?

  • Stevan Rose 24th Aug '16 - 6:01pm

    The pound is back to 2008 to 2013 values against the Euro when at one point it went to €1.02. A competitive currency encourages exports and domestic consumption and works against imports. It’s why Germany loves the moderating effect of Euro basket case economies on the Euro. Unemployment is down. Stock markets are up. There’s an obsession with “growth” which you only need to cover the cost of increasing population. But it’s not all a good thing. No crisis, no collapse.

  • Theresa May has been very successful in calming things down. That can only be temporary. If Brexit is to satisfy the Farages of this world it means being outside the single market and stopping free movement of people. If that happens, the economy will go into meltdown and then people will start to feel real consequences of the decision.

    I think that this party owes it to future generations to do all we can to make sure that the British people have the chance to think again and stop Brexit by delivering another mandate once we know what it means.

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