Where next?

It beggars belief that a party led by the most incompetent, lying and self-serving group in modern times can carry not quite all, but most, before it in an election. What are we to do?

First, thank goodness for those who have held back the Tory tide: Labour in Wales, those glorious patches of the UK where Liberal Democrats and Greens have prevailed and, the Scots who remain unimpressed by Tory falsehoods.

But overall the picture is dismal. How can this well-educated and well-informed electorate vote for a group who almost on a daily basis betray all that is decent and honourable about our country?

There are two options. Either there’s something wrong with the electorate or something wrong with the opposition.

Since we cannot “dissolve “ the electorate and find another, indeed it would be pompous and presumptuous to want to do so, we must look to the opposition, including ourselves.

It’s too early to tally all of the votes cast on this Super Thursday, but it is a fair bet that the total number of votes cast of what might loosely be called “progressive forces” (Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and many nationalists) will exceed the votes cast for the Tories.(In the “Landslide election of 2019 which gave Johnson his 80 seat majority, and ignoring the nationalists and others, it was 43% Tories and 46% “Progressive.”)

Either we allow the Tories to use their money, their control of much of the media, and their shameless disregard for truth to hang on to the reins of power for another couple of decades or we get together to stop them.

Yes, I know, this will provoke groans about “siren voices” from some of our stalwarts who have tried to work with Labour and been rebuffed by their self-righteous assumption that Labour and Labour alone have the recipe for the good society and we should get off their patch and let them get on with it.

But it is time to stop mentioning that and look for the possible foundations for a Progressive Alliance.

I believe it would be possible to form a united front under the broad umbrella of Truth, Fairness and Opportunity.

Those three headings are all capable of wide interpretation and each of the co-operating parties would be able to interpret them in their own way.

Given that much of the Tories’ recent progress has been based on lies and deceit, a promise that we will try to avoid misleading but catchy sound-bites and improbable distortions, and argue on the facts as they are known, the “Truth.” should be welcomed. This might be extended to cover measures to achieve a more balanced press, the financing of misinformation via “dark money,” regulation of social media and support for rather than sniping at the BBC.

Under “Fairness” we would cover in various ways a generous social security safety-net and, whilst rewarding skills , effort and enterprise, curb the obscene rewards that some of the leading rentiers grab.

By “Opportunity” we would mean not “equality of opportunity to become unequal” – that’s the Tory version – but opportunity for each individual to reach his or her potential and, from dukes (if we must have them) to dustmen (whom we must have) be entitled to equal concern and respect.

Liberal Democrats have a unique contribution to make to achieving this vision. So have the Greens and many Nationalists and Regionalists.

The Labour Party, who have been the main carriers of the torch for ”the many not the few” for the past century must be persuaded to recognise that they can no longer win on their own and encouraged to work with us to achieve this vision.

* Peter Wrigley is a former candidate in both Westminster and European elections and is currently president of Batley and Spen liberal Democrats

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85 Comments

  • Barry Lofty 9th May '21 - 1:17pm

    I expect there will many who will disagree with the words of Peter Wrigley but speaking for myself they are such words of wisdom and truth and echo my thoughts entirely, well said Peter.

  • Brad Barrows 9th May '21 - 1:24pm

    The Liberal Democrats need to make an honest assessment of where to focus their resources and then target those areas constantly. For example, is it really a good use of resources to have a candidate stand in the Glasgow Provan constituency and achieve just 1.4% of the vote (421 votes in total)? The lost deposit alone was more than £1 per vote achieved and I assume leaflets were produced for every household.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th May '21 - 1:58pm

    Mr Wrigley, I imagine that your heart is in the right place here but at best this is just motherhood and apple pie stuff. Truth is not some nice and easy perspective-free thing. Would you say, ‘the single currency will bring convergence in the EU,’ was a ‘lie’? What you are describing is the internet, and especially social media, information-driven world. Those who have read my comments on LDV will know that I yield to no one in my loathing of social media but we can’t howl at the moon. Yes, I’d dearly like the disinterested presentation of events in my daily diet but it’s incumbent on me to find it.

    Similarly with fairness, I suspect that you will find a very wide set of thinking about what is and is not fair. Is EU asymmetric migration fair?

    No – an anti Conservative coalition can not be built on motherhood, apple pie and meaningless words. The point that the current opposition parties are not grasping is that we no longer have a neat class based divide in our politics. There no longer is a working/middle/upper class or at least not in any sense of the term that my grandparents would have recognised. In a culture-based polity there is no middle ground. Love him or loathe him Dominic Cummings was just the first person to work out what to do about all this and everyone else privately just wishes they’d had his insight.

    We saw the new culture divide exposed most starkly at the referendum where (in simple terms) we had one side that saw the EU as an opportunity and the other side saw it as a set of headaches. It is, of course, complex. More so than I make it sound here. Indeed as Starmer has just found out a simple mix of gaudy ‘patriotism’ and BLM kneeling doesn’t work.

    My tip to the non-Conservatives is to tear yourselves away from your keyboard and listen to (as distinct from speak at) those who have cleaved to Johnson recently. You might be surprised. But it all runs far deeper that what this article talks about.

    To remember Margaret Thatcher as PM someone now has to be well into their 40s. This is what post-Thatcherism looks like and it is a whole new world. That is the scale of thinking needed now and as I say the only person who has convincingly managed it so far is Cummings.

  • Sky news has developed a projection of Westminster seats based on a replication voting in the local elections https://uk.movies.yahoo.com/election-results-tories-majority-cut-150800719.html
    “The biggest beneficiaries would be the Liberal Democrats – doubling their representation from 11 seats to 22. In the Sky News model, the Lib Dems are taking seats from the Tories.”
    Conservatives 349
    Labour 206
    SNP 50
    Liberal Democrats 22

    Peter Wrigley is right to say we must look to the opposition, including ourselves. One thing we can look at is to put less faith in negative campaigning statements like “the most incompetent, lying and self-serving group” about a conservative party that has been in power for much of the past century. Grassroot campaigns focus on a limited number of policies that can bring real improvement in the lives of the great bulk of ordinary families across the UK. In short, policies that self-evidently improve living standards for all.
    As Andrew Marr commented this morning this election was a thank you to the parties that successfully managed the Covid pandemic. SNP in Scotland, Conservatives in England and Labour in Wales.
    Much of modern politics is about managerial competence and a clear alignment with cultural values. The Liberal Democrats remain, on paper, the party that appears most closely aligned with the social liberal values of modern Britain whether it is on the environment, economic policy, civil rights or foreign policy.
    Combining the politics of individual aspiration with social justice is a tricky balancing act that requires astute judgement of changing political moods.
    As this covid epidemic is brought under control and the furlough scheme tapers off the real test of political sustainability will begin.

  • Graem Peters 9th May '21 - 2:25pm

    There is little value in Lib Dems discussing this subject among ourselves until the Labour Party indicates that it is prepared to not contest seats. Furthermore, it is probably not a good idea to plan future national electoral strategy based on a set of covid restricted election results .

  • Steve Trevethan 9th May '21 - 2:31pm

    Thank you for an interesting and emotionally committed article!
    Is it accurate to describe the electorate as “well-educated and informed”?
    In which ways and to what extents are members of the electorate, and/or their children taught the attitudes and skills of critical thinking?
    In which ways are the electorate well informed?
    Were we well informed when the Main Stream Media backed Mr. Blair’s warnings of the dangers of an alleged Iraqi attack on this country?
    Might it be that the electorate is (deliberately) ill informed and/or deceived by the
    M.S.N. and its associates and the opposition is deficient by accident and/or design?
    Yes! We need to attack the Conservatives’ control of the M.S.N.!
    Might we be not a democracy, but a plutocracy with some democratic attributes?

  • John Marriott 9th May '21 - 3:22pm

    Before the recriminations and white flag waving begin, let’s not forget that elections took place in the midst of a pandemic. Many of us felt that they should have been put on hold, possibly until the Autumn or even to next year. Alternatively, perish the thought, they should have been all postal. Well, they weren’t, they did and so a few brave souls went ahead, claiming that it was “business as usual”. Sorry; but these elections were definitely NOT “business as usual”.

    In all three nations the results could be seen as a judgement on how their respective governments and Leaders had handled the COVID crisis and, in the case of the Tories in England, and possibly in Wales, how their national Leader had ‘got Brexit done’.

    If you look at the share of the vote in English local elections, based on an admittedly low turnout, the Lib Dems end up on around 17%. What other European ‘liberal’ party could match that? Talking of Europe, look how the Social Democrat parties are on the retreat and right wing populism is on the rise. It’s just a pity they didn’t end up with 17% of the councillors!

    Messrs Wrigley and Bourke are in danger of over intellectualising a situation which requires plain speaking. While it doesn’t boil down to ‘bread and circuses’ it does mean listening to what people want. If you ask most people, they might well tell you it’s to stop telling them how they ought to run their lives. Most people can’t see why they should be made to feel guilty for historic slavery and why things like LGBT rights, however just, should be more important to the people asking for their vote than providing them with the means to earn a decent living – and, please, please, give UBI a rest!

    Brad Burrows’ citing of that 1.4% in Glasgow is what you get when you answer the call to “give as many people as possible the chance to vote Lib Dem”. A few years ago there was a Lib Dem candidate in a local District Council By Election, who got 9 votes, when he required 10 electors from the Ward to sign his nomination papers!

    It may seem rather cerebral to some; but why not work on a scheme to humanise the presentation of Federalism and real devolution as a proper 21st century framework on which to build local policies for local people, while still offering a broad enough umbrella under which to settle when the storm clouds appear?

  • Paul Barker 9th May '21 - 3:40pm

    I agree but we dont need to wait for Labour, we should be talking to The Greens now.

    On the wider picture, I am very relieved that We are not facing any Net losses; a real achievement in the face of The Governments complete domination of News during Covid.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th May '21 - 3:44pm

    John Marriott. ‘If you ask most people, they might well tell you it’s to stop telling them how they ought to run their lives. Most people can’t see why they should be made to feel guilty for historic slavery and why things like LGBT rights, however just, should be more important to the people asking for their vote than providing them with the means to earn a decent living.’

    I’m going to look for a hat so I can take it off to you.

  • David Allen 9th May '21 - 3:46pm

    “Mr Wrigley, I imagine that your heart is in the right place here but at best this is just motherhood and apple pie stuff. ….I suspect that you will find a very wide set of thinking about what is and is not fair.”

    Yes, the US Democratic Party brings together a wery wide range of thinking. Is that a recipe for their failure? Joe Biden doesn’t seem to think so!

  • James Fowler 9th May '21 - 3:49pm

    A progressive coalition is largely a castle in the air – not enough of Labour want it. As Little Jackie Piper says, honesty, fairness and opportunity are worthy terms, but their meaning lies in the eye of the beholder.

    More seriously, the Conservative’s embrace of nostalgia and the construction of a winning coalition where The Archers meets Coronation Street means that their liberal flank is wide open. Ingesting declining Britain means that they increasingly look and sound like Old Labour. Let’s have a Liberal Party that makes a full-throated shout for making the best of Brexit via a market economy, free movement and civil liberties. These are coherent liberal policies that would make us distinctive and put the other Parties under significant pressure.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th May '21 - 4:16pm

    James Fowler – ‘the Conservative’s embrace of nostalgia and the construction of a winning coalition where The Archers meets Coronation Street means that their liberal flank is wide open.’ I don’t think nostalgia is the right way to look at this.

    In effect for decades now we have seen the pursuit of what might be called an open agenda. Whilst this has been wonderful for some for a great many, eventually a majority, open just did not do them any favours. Effectively the open agenda became capitalism being fantastic for those with capital. Great if you have a bubble-priced BTL empire, not so great if the job are going straight to the Polish agencies. Indeed what is wrong or indeed ‘nostalgic’ about an unease about the social, economic and indeed political dislocations caused by asymmetric migration for example. For sure there were many who were very happy with open but I don’t think it follows from there that there was a reasonable assumption of permanence. The ‘coping classes’ have every right to say at the ballot box that they want something less open.

    Indeed I was struck at the referendum by how many second-generation immigrants were sceptical about the EU or leave voters. These are trends that can not alone be explained away by a misplaced nostalgia. Indeed my Dad when he was alive very much loved his East European daughter-in-law and her family. He just didn’t like open door migration in a structure with minimal input from the voters and little reciprocity. If that stance is seen as outside the bounds of reasonable politics then I weep. It’s not nostalgia, it’s voting as someone on with a view of politics around the open agenda. My Dad was not lied to or deceived – he made a value judgment.

    Economically the pandemic has shown us the very real limits of not having national production and an (over) reliance on global JIT. That I suspect is the debate to come in 2022/23.

    I agree that there is almost certainly a liberal coalition that can be formed, but it won’t be based the mix of woke student radicalism and interest group politics that Labour, seduced by social media, seems to have chased. And Labour still has to work out whether it’s going to chase the REJOIN phantom too.

    Nick Clegg once used the term ‘alarm-clock Britain.’ A clumsy term but one that I think captures what a liberal vote might look like. But as it is it is the Conservatives who have made the most of their head start in the new politics.

  • As Liberal Democrats, we can only control what we do. Our party needs to focus its resources on winnable areas.

    Where other parties are willing to agree territorial limits, we should be willing to do deals with thiem as we did in 2019.

    The big question for the Labour Party is something they need to consider. Does Labour persist with the belief that it can win everywhere, or does it become willing to agree territorial allocations with other parties?

  • Barry Lofty 9th May '21 - 5:36pm

    On another post someone accused me of not being patriotic in not supporting Mr Johnson’s form of patriotism and according to some others on this present theme I should wake up to the new politics of the day. Whether the Conservatives succeeded in winning big in the recent elections because of the Covid effect or not, the fact is they won and to me it was a travesty not least because of the almost criminal way this government has behaved on so many fronts since they came to power and I personally feel it is a disgrace that our country is lead by a person with such a reputation as Boris Johnson. At my age I unfortunately will not see a change on the political front but I will not go without a shout!!!!

  • In South Cambridgeshire Labour did not put up candidates in some seats, this may have helped some Libdem wins and change the county council to NOC.

  • Occasional Lib Dem 9th May '21 - 6:01pm

    I always vote Lib Dem in local elections and prefer to vote Lib Dem in general elections (my Lib Dem MP is popular and longstanding, and works hard for my constituency). However, when the polls have been tight at the national level, I have voted Tory – I have no faith in Labour or a a progressive alliance. I think you’ll find a lot of Lib Dem voters have more affinity with the Conservative Party than the Labour Party.

    The point I’m making is that I think that a Progressive Coalition would be unsuccessful. The Lib Dems would certainly lose my vote.

  • The Tories only got just over 1/3rd of the vote 36% – so it’s not true that people are voting for the Tories .

    We may dislike the Tories but that shouldn’t make us blind to why people are voting for them.

    Labour and the left have always been a coalition of the working class who are conservative with a small c and minorities such as religious minorities (Catholics, non-conformists), women, BAME people and LGBT people.

    The difficulty with this coalition is that people think that if you are for people who look different to me then you are not for me. If you are at the bottom economically it is difficult as to why “foreigners should come over here and take our jobs, council houses and clog up our NHS.” This is not racism per se but batting for oneself – although some of it may be scapegoating. But Brexit was seen wrongly as stemming this tide of foreigners and stopping sending money abroad to the EU.

    Under Blair, Labour in particular took the decision to take the north for granted and go after Southern voters

    It is not surprising that over time Scotland felt Labour were ignoring them and now it seems the North do.

    Labour have pretty moribund organisations in areas were they used to weigh the votes for them and you could put up the proverbial monkey with a red rosette in these seats and they’d win and often they did.

    I am not sure Labour’s Northern credibility has been helped by a Starmer doing his best impression of a slippery Southern lawyer by shirking “his full responsibility” for the local election results and sacking a northern MP! And the difficult they are in was shown by a vox pop on Channel 4 News who said that Starmer came up here and patronised them and drunk a pint and ate fish and chips – as if rather than really understanding and being of them – they have stereotypical southern view of northerners and occasionally deign to “visit the natives”.

    Probably in contrast they do now need to elect someone like Andy Burnham as leader who has obv. burnished his reputation for standing up for the North as Manchester’s metro-mayor.

    In contrast 20 years ago, it wouldn’t even cross many Northerners’ mind to vote Tory for 1 sec, Boris with his unkempt hair doesn’t look like a “nasty Tory boy” and he is seen as having delivered for the North – Brexit, promises (at least) of funding for projects and “his” Tory mayor for Teeside who got a whopping 73% based on his record for the NE.

  • I had high hopes for this article because it started with clear logic but the idea of a truth and fairness alliance left me (and probably future voters) very unimpressed.

    I was not surprised by the results. Take Hartlepool for example, a strong Brexit supporting town which was not impressed by Labour choosing a Remain politician to stand in the election. Starmer is also disliked, being the man who called endlessly for a second referendum, oblivious of the outrage of those who had already voted in a referendum and were expecting it to be respected.

    Corbyn was considered a disaster, too left wing with a mob of extremists as followers and an extreme portfolio of policies. Today, it is not clear to voters whether Corbyn is gone or in waiting and whether the portfolio is likewise waiting for the return of the extremists. The Tories delivered on Brexit, seem to have performed well on getting us out of the pandemic and compared with Labour appeared more attractive to the voters of Hartlepool.

  • Peter Martin 9th May '21 - 6:34pm

    …….. look for the possible foundations for a Progressive Alliance.

    You should forget this. It’s a non-starter which will never work. Labour may, at one time, have been able to guarantee that the vast majority of its supporters would vote Lib Dem if they were to stand down. This is now far from certain. The Libs and Lib Dems have never been able to make a similar and reciprocal guarantee . If there’s no Lib Dem candidate then we can expect less than half of Lib Dems to vote Labour. So what’s the point? Better to concentrate on maximising the non-Tory vote.

    The very low turn out in most elections doesn’t usually get a mention. For example, in Hartlepool, and given a choice of 16 candidates 57.3% of the electorate couldn’t find a single one they wished to choose on the ballot paper. There are very likely to be many more Labour abstentions than defections to the Tories – but I’d agree that we need to investigate this further.

    There have been 8 elections in the Hartlepool constituency this century. And the one with the highest turn out? Yes, this was in 2017 with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. It wasn’t huge at 59.2%, but it was significantly better than the 42.7% on Thursday which was a record low. Sure, Theresa May didn’t run the best of campaigns but that wouldn’t have encouraged anyone to vote for something with which they weren’t in agreement.

    It is better for democracy if the electorate has a choice of left, centre and right. It is better that the Tories should be the right rather than any of the other even less attractive alternatives. Most Labour members are happy to leave the centre ground to the Lib Dems. We certainly wouldn’t argue that you should encroach on our patch by becoming more left wing! We think you are better at attracting disaffected Tory voters than we are.

    We are much better going after the apathetic non voters. But we have to offer something different to raise the general level of enthusiasm. Jeremy Corbyn was starting to do that in 2017 and the 40% share of the vote should have been the springboard for a future success. However, it wasn’t a success that the Labour right wanted to support and then there was the Brexit problem!

  • Peter Martin 9th May '21 - 6:34pm

    cont/

    The danger is that our politics will be defined for years to come by our stance on Brexit. Just like happened in Ireland on the acceptance of the Independence Treaty or in Northern Ireland by the Union or otherwise with the UK. Concepts of left and right don’t much matter if we all vote along those lines.

  • George Thomas 9th May '21 - 6:44pm

    Tim Shipman has a piece in The Sunday Times today highlighting a few things that makes Boris (and therefore Tories) popular:

    – He is an outsider, rather than an identikit member of the political establishment, their best hope of change
    – Reputation for breaking sh*t to get stuff done
    – Labour was still too concerned with itself. People don’t care, they care about jobs and their kids, bread-and-butter issues
    – Johnson’s chaotic private life also carries its own appeal by resembling the dysfunctionality of many modern families.

    Tories have been in government for vast majority of past century and Boris has been in political circles vast majority of his life, often not getting stuff done, but he’s seen as something completely separate to what he is. Yet if you spend too much time highlighting who he actually is they’ll switch off feeling you’re engaging in politics instead of dealing with the hard reality.

    I wonder if instead of shouting the message you have to just set out to be united and competent and wait for electorate to come to you when Boris’ statements don’t materialise? Or accept that Boris is bulletproof and drive a wedge between him and Tory party?

  • David Blake 9th May '21 - 6:48pm

    The electoral system is partly responsible for making the Tory performance look good. Here in Buckinghamshire they got 47% of the vote but 78% of the seats.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th May '21 - 9:10pm

    Peter Martin

    On the EU at some point those in Labour who want to pursue rejoin are going to have to confront that rejoining will mean selling the single currency. No one in Labour is remotely prepared for that. In fairness it should be noted than none of the LDP, SNP, PC or Greens are exactly confronting voters with their case for the single currency.

    As you say a classic left/right divide no longer really applies now. There’s no centre ground to win.

    I suspect Starmer knows that rejoin is a non-starter for the foreseeable, as Corbyn probably did too. But it won’t go down well in the party or shadow cabinet.

    The Conservative eurosceptic wing of course would love a chance to have a de facto referendum on the single currency. Rejoin plays right into their hands because it would effectively be a ‘hard remain.’ I really don’t think some people have cottoned onto that yet.

    Labour conference could be interesting this year.

  • Agree the party should be concentrating resources for now on reclaiming ‘heartlands’ – mainly I guess in the south/west of England. The electorate broadly support socially liberal and fiscally prudent politics, but are inclined to give the Tories a pass every so often. In Wales the successful Labour defence was quite gentle, actually, not at all red in tooth or claw. Scotland is lost to ‘progressive’ parties who are blind to self determination and so won’t work with the biggest single progressive party up there. Yes the SNP can be faulted here and there but to do that is to lose sight of the fact that independence is a cause, not a policy. The only equivalent in England and Wales is brexit. I think the party needs to talk urgently with anyone in the greens and Labour who are willing to listen at first, but continuing to cut each other’s throats will simply allow the United right to appear that only it can govern. Aided abetted by its cheerleaders in the newspapers and tv channels – and please can we start calling out right wing bias not only on sky but also in the bbc.

  • Alex Macfie 9th May '21 - 10:49pm

    Labour failing to put up a full slate of candidates in South Cambridgeshire was due to incompetence rather than any sort of deal (of which there was none).
    A formal alliance with Labour is a non-starter because a lot of our potential voters in places like that think like “Occasional Lib Dem”. In Richmond Park constituency I lost count of the number of times I got “I’d love to vote for you but I’m voting Tory to keep Jeremy Corbyn out” (in a seat where Labour had no chance of winning) on the doorstep in 2019GE.

    @James Fowler & others: Brexit is the baby of the current Tory government. If it becomes a success, the Tories will get ALL the glory. Therefore, there is absolutely no point in us, as a party that always opposed Brexit, trying to “make the best of it”. The recent election results have shown that for an opposition party to try to imitate the government is a road to nowhere. Given a choice between a Tory government and an opposition that tries to be a slightly different version of it, Tory-leaning voters will go for the Real Deal every time, while opponents won’t be bothered. So the idea that we should “accept that Boris [sic] is bulletproof” is very bad. He isn’t, no-one is. There was a time people were going around saying Trump was bulletproof. Well he wasn’t, Joe Biden proved that. We start treating our opponents as invincible and we might as well give up.

  • Where next? Good question. The clue probably lies with these latest results.

    The vaccine rollout has been superb – yes this is down to our NHS.. but to give this government some grudging credit – they secured the vaccine supply then got out of the way and let the NHS do what it does best. As a consequence, in England, the Tories did not receive the kicking a governing party would normally receive mid-term.. nor were they likely to. The same applies to Scotland and Wales – the governing parties did well.

    This being said, in England, we held our own as a party. Nothing spectacular but we did not lose ground. We did well in areas where we have a strong local ground game and did nothing where we do not.

    I have read a lot over the past day or two about tuition fees this and revoke that.. honestly – the electorate has largely moved on. Yes, the outrageous tuition fees decision is a stick many continue to beat us with but that is largely because they have no other stick to do so as they pretty much agree with everything we stand for – they chide us because they (we) believe we cannot win – therefore a vote for Lib Dems is a wasted vote.. not true of course.. but it is the perception.. and it is powerful. … (cont)

  • …(cont)

    Brexit was not an issue in this election, at least in England. For the overwhelming majority of people Brexit is done.. it’s over! Again – not true, but the pandemic has obscured some of the problems and in any case people were so fed-up with Brexit they want to ignore it.. so they do. That it is likely to raise it’s ugly head in the near(ish) future is a problem for another day. Our former position re: Revoke is of no consequence today .. at least in the minds of the overwhelming majority of voters.

    So, where next? .. well first, we need to stop beating ourselves up over former policy positions – they were well meant at the time and in any case.. things change! Then we need to replicate what has worked in the places where we have done well across the board.

    Something profound has happened.. I live in a constuency where until now, the Labour party could have put a rosette on a turd and it would have been elected.. but now.. for the first time in my adult life I believe this constituency is up for grabs.. and I am no dreamer. The electorate has changed – they want and demand more from politicians and political parties and old tribal loyalties no longer cut-it… in my opinion – about time too!

    People want a vision. Lib Dems have that vision – we need to sell it better. We can never outspend the blues or the reds and I’m not convinced that would work for us even if we could. Pehaps we’re not photogenic enough! Nor will we ever have the media in our back pockets – let’s face it we wouldn’t really want that.. and if the Lib Dem website is anything to go by – online is .. how can I put this politely .. not our forte.. but we can win – we do win when we do what we do best – a strong ground game lead by local members who local people know, trust and respect.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th May '21 - 11:05pm

    Alec Macfie – Sure. But it still doesn’t get around what to do about any of it. Are you saying full rejoin? Nothing wrong with that of course.

    But suppose Johnson were to somehow fall within the next 12 months, what changes? He has at least two credible successors. You’d still have to make a case for the euro to rejoin. Asymmetric migration would likely still be a factor. The clock isn’t getting turned back.

    It’s not about making the best of it, it’s about a whole new set of circumstances.

    Seriously – not getting at you – sell the single currency to me.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th May '21 - 11:27pm

    Martin – Joining the EU now would mean a treaty obligation to join the Single Currency. True, the Commission has as yet not forced the issue but it certainly could do so in future. It’s an opt-out or a Treaty obligation – there’s no getting around it. Do you think that the Conservatives in a rejoin referendum just wouldn’t mention it?

    Sweden by the way knocked back the euro in a referendum held Treaty notwithstanding. I will be fascinated to see how that plays out.

    Scotland would, I think, need the infrastructure and a currency to be compatible with TFEU. I certainly don’t see how Scotland without a central bank could participate in ESCB. This has been Montenegro’s problem. Indeed those in Scotland who think EU membership is a given should note that Montenegro submitted its application to join in December 2008. Don’t get me wrong – I’m quite sure Scotland could set up a currency and institutions. The ex-Yugo countries all did it. But that’s not what was planned in 2014.

    In any case, if the EU is great, surely that means that it’s flagship project is wonderful and will be easy to sell to the electorate. I just wish someone would set out the case – I looked for years and never convincingly saw it.

  • David Evans 10th May '21 - 1:02am

    I really do worry when Lib Dems, who normally can be relied upon to call out authoritarianism, suddenly drop the term “progressive” into a statement as an expression of fellow feeling for almost anyone who is anti-Tory.

    The Labour party still stretches from masses of old Labour union masters to whom Liberty and Liberal Democracy are things to be despised to the so called progressive Keyboard Warriors who espouse Identity Politics and lionise knocking down statues and renaming buildings to remove references to Liberals who fought against slavery, much more than the fight against poverty.

    Nationalists include the nastiest elements of Scot Nat trolls who did all they could to destroy Charles Kennedy, and are supported and accepted by leaders who think nothing of barging into an office of another party and bullying and intimidating its staff.

    Indeed both the SNP and Labour are parties comprising two huge extremist wings, driven by a philosophy that despises all those who are not like them, and that includes most Lib Dems. Indeed the only things they have in common is an intense hatred of those other electorally successful authoritarians, the Conservatives, closely followed by liberals and social democrats who they regard as traitors to their cause.

    We should not pretend that most of them are anything other than extremely nasty pieces of work.

  • Occasional Lib Dem 10th May '21 - 1:31am

    What next –
    As a less faithful Lib Dem voter than others on this site, I think the party needs to stop apologising for the coalition for starters and more forcefully highlight what the Lib Dems achieved in government.

    I’d like to see three manifestos at the next general election: one for an outright majority, one for if the party enters a coalition with Labour and one for if the party enters a coalition with the Tories.

    Let’s be real. The Libs Dems aren’t going to win a majority any time soon. But having the potential for the Lib Dems to be a kingmaker and temper the more extreme inclinations of Labour or the Tories in a coalition appeals to me.

    The Lib Dem vote didn’t collapse because the party performed poorly in government – it didn’t. The party achieved more than it ever could have outside of government. The Lib Dem vote collapsed because it lost the protest vote. Most people didn’t care about Lib Dem policies – they only cared that the Lib Dems weren’t the Tories or New Labour.

    Do you want to play the waiting game and hope to pick up votes from those disillusioned with the two main parties (when the Greens and Reform UK are arguably more compelling for protest voters), or do you want to show voters that the Lib Dems have more to offer by being there responsible adults in a coalition government?

  • Peter Martin 10th May '21 - 5:15am

    ” Brexit was not an issue in this election, at least in England.”

    I’m not sure about that. We’ve all become a nation of Leavers and Remainers even though those terms do need some adjustment now we have actually left. It has stressed the bonds that used to define party allegiance and voting patterns. Even if only a percentage break, the political situation can change in surprising ways and as we are now seeing.

    “No country is obliged to adopt the Euro in order to join the EU”

    This is what the EU says:

    “All EU member states are in principle obliged to introduce the euro once they fulfil the convergence criteria. The only exception is Denmark, which has an ‘opt-out clause’ in the EU treaties,”

    “To be able to introduce the euro, EU member states are required to fulfil the convergence criteria. These are economic and legal conditions agreed in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and are also known as ‘Maastricht criteria’. ”

    It was the fulfillment of the of these conditions that was such a problem for the UK which is a naturally net importer. The austerity program which is now widely recognised to be a huge blunder by the Coalition government can to a large extent be blamed on the UK trying to fulfill its EU commitment to not run what the EU regards as an “excessive deficit”.

    Furthermore the prescribed policy to “cure” an excessive deficit, ie economic austerity, was the wrong one. It was actually an inflation reduction policy which is fine if we are trying to cure inflation but not if we want to reduce a government deficit. So the EU forces its members to take the wrong medicine! This is the big problem with the euro rather than the use of the currency itself.

    https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/stability-and-growth-pact/corrective-arm-excessive-deficit-procedure_en

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '21 - 8:12am

    Occasional Lib Dem: we should have three manifestos at the next general election for different electoral outcomes? Nice idea in theory but really it wouldn’t work. How much of our manifesto we can implement in coalition depends on our strength in the coalition, and we can’t have a manifesto for every possible outcome. And anyway Rule #1 in any sort of negotiation is Never Real Your Bottom Line. We can put in some red lines, things that we would not under any circumstances concede, into the manifesto. But we should be sensible about it, and not make pledges that leave us hostage to fortune. Tuition fees was a strange hill to die on, TBH. Not that I want to make too much of that — as Rafi Baig points out, our former policy positions weren’t an issue in this set of elections. And to get tuition fees into perspective, remember that today’s university students were in primary school when that fiasco was playing out.
    Publicly expressing that we are open to coalition with either one of the two larget party is likely to alienate a large chunk of our supporters anyway. And for myself, I can’t see any circumstances in which the Lib Dems could go into coalition or even C&S with the presently-constituted Conservative Party and stay true to our principles. We need to be politically clever. We weren’t clever in coalition; our leadership at the time had no clue about the rough and tumble of campaigning politics or about the political ramifications for us of decisions made in government. We lost support all over the place in 2015, for various reasons, but the overarching lesson is that we have to be more politically astute if we ever get into a kingmaker position again.

  • Helen Dudden 10th May '21 - 8:14am

    I live in a Sheltered Bungalow, recently I’ve noticed how increases in the cost of the fire alarm system have doubled. One because the fire alarm system is separate from the personal alarm.
    It’s sad factors that this government has a habit of just springing things into existence.
    I am part of a disability group that is world-wide, we believe strongly in respect.
    I also had in the past written on International Law and the Brussels 11a.
    I’m saddened by lack of respect and greed.
    As someone has just stated the figures don’t add up.
    How can a fairer system be implemented, an extra £20 a month is not much to anyone not living on a fixed income, but to other’s, it is.

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '21 - 8:22am

    Martin: Lembit Öpik seems to have gone over to the Tories, and recently gave a talk at a Tory local party meeting on how to beat us. He knows that better than anyone, having lost us one of our safest seats to the Tories, perhaps forever.
    https://nation.cymru/news/lib-dems-hit-back-at-former-leader-for-advising-tories-on-how-to-beat-the-party/

    Rafi Baig: “Perhaps we’re not photogenic enough!” well yes, Ed does look rather like a state-comp business studies teacher! But we had a very photogenic candidate for London Mayor in Luisa Porritt, and it doesn’t seem to have helped her. You are absolutely right about our digital campaigning and online presence. It’s rubbish, and that’s part of why we are losing ground to the Greens in some areas. I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Lib Dems were the “most wired political party”. But that was at a time when the Internet was still mainly a niche plaything for geeks, with most home users accessing it via dial-up connections. sometimes it feels like the party’s digital presence hasn’t moved on since then.

  • Helen, I have duly run round the kitchen as I said I would, six times, have a photo, obviously not for general distribution.

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '21 - 9:07am

    theakes: You should have done what Stephen Tall did, when he (eventually) made good on his pledge to run down Whitehall (almost) naked if we won fewer than 20 seats in 2015, and made it a charity fundraiser.

  • John Marriott 10th May '21 - 9:09am

    What ‘Occasional Lib Dem’ wrote I could have written myself. In fact I reckon I have some time in the past. As I wrote the other day, 17% support is something that would make most ‘Liberal’ parties in Europe think they had died and gone to heaven. Mind you, over there, 17% of the votes would give you 17% of the councillors/MPs.

    What Alex MacFie and other purists seem to fail to grasp is that, if you ever get a fairer voting system you will probably have to live with coalitions. Is that REALLY so bad? The voters aren’t stupid. And then? As for alienating ‘our supporters’, having a membership of nearly half a million didn’t do Labour much good in the last General Election. You need a realist, pragmatic approach, which should apply also to the party’s future stance on Europe. As for going into coalition with “the presently constituted Conservative Party” I would argue that you should never say never. It’s great to have ‘principles’ but you have to ask yourself why so many people don’t appear to share then. Well, if you are content to grumble from the sidelines, then so be it.

  • Nonconformistradical 10th May '21 - 9:17am

    @Alex Macfie
    “But we had a very photogenic candidate for London Mayor in Luisa Porritt, and it doesn’t seem to have helped her.”

    Perhaps worth remembering that she only became the candidate during 2020 following a protected selection process after Siobhan Benita’s withdrawal..

  • Andrew Tampion 10th May '21 - 9:33am

    ”Brexit was not an issue in this election, at least in England.”
    The Labour Party in it’s 2017 Manifesto undertook to respect the outcome of the EU referendum and implement Brexit. Shortly afterwards many Labour MPs choose to renege on that undertaking and promoted a Peoples Vote AKA 2nd Referendum. I am sure that many voters in Labour’s Brexit supporting constituencies regarded that as a betrayal and it is that, rather than Brexit itself, which is a major reason for Labour’s loss of votes in Brexit voting constituencies.
    Interesting counter-factual question. What would have happened if Owen Smith had become Labour Leader in 2016 and in the 2017 GE had campaigned strongly for Remain? My guest is Theresa May elected with a 100 seat majority.

  • Joe Bourke. Peter Wrigley is talking about the present bunch in charge of the Conservative Party which is certainly a long way from the Tory Party he and I we were opposing over half a century ago. I have no problem in seeing the present lot as confidence tricksters and the Prime Minister as one who manages to be a competent election winner and an incompetent Prime Minister. He is lazy, a serial liar (well documented) and has no shame about using a human disaster to line the pockets of his friends and Tory Party donors. The Brexit political disaster itself was an enormous confidence trick but apparently we are not allowed to say that the electorate were duped.
    While I sympathise with much of what Peter writes I can see little virtue in proactively seeking conversation with Labour. We need a one off limited alliance to change the voting system for Westminster elections. When Labour want to talk to us then we should talk to them. They are not there yet.

  • “theakes: Helen, I have duly run round the kitchen as I said I would, six times, have a photo, obviously not for general distribution.”

    I was about to challenge you on this!!! For those who haven’t been following this conversation under https://www.libdemvoice.org/local-elections-and-the-festival-of-local-democracy-67614.html ….

    theakes: Being realistic and checking probable performance against 2016/17 I expect overall losses, but live in hope. Will run round my kitchen naked if I am wrong.
    Mary Reid: @theakes. Stephen Tall, former editor of LDV, once famously made a similar promise/threat and then found himself running down Whitehall virtually naked on national TV. We will hold you to it …
    theakes: I would expect nothing less, not much room in the kitchen though, not to be attempted when the oven is on!!!!!

  • John Marriott: You completely misrepresent my position. I’m not one of those “purists” you talk about. Nowhere have I said we should not go into coalition again. My point in this thread is that we need to be more politically astute about it when we do get into that position. The mistake in 2010 wasn’t going into coalition, it was how we conducted ourselves in coalition. The optics were wrong right from the start, with that Rose Garden press conference that made it look more like a merger than a coalition. In the end even voters who did like the Coalition didn’t vote for us — they mainly voted Tory because they thought that that would mean a continuation of the Coalition. We failed to give them a reason to vote for us instead of the Tories, as we had not differentiated ourselves sufficiently from them while in government. We should have taken ownership of what we did, and made the Tories own their ideas. Instead we got ownership of the mistakes (like Tuition Fees) and the Tories got the credit for the good bits including those that came from us (like raising the 0% tax threshold).
    The Irish Greens in 2011 suffered a similar fate for similar reasons, except that they were wiped out completely. They have come back now and are back in coalition again, hopefully having learnt the lessons from the previous time.

  • A credible progressive coalition grouping at least in England would quickly start taking support from the Conservatives making the present arithmetic out of date.

  • Peter Watson 10th May '21 - 10:54am

    @Alex Macfie “we got ownership of the mistakes (like Tuition Fees)”
    But does the party think it was a mistake? The party has regularly defended the current system and opposed a reduction of tuition fees. However, Lib Dems have also failed to call for the same approach in Scotland, so maybe Scottish Lib Dems think it’s a mistake and English Lib Dems think it’s great? What exactly is current party policy?

  • Occasional Lib Dem 10th May '21 - 11:17am

    “But does the party think it was a mistake?”

    I’ve never really understood the left’s opposition to the current tuition fee model. The less well off will pay less than they would have under the previous model, while the better off will pay more. That seems fair to me.

    It’s the free market model that has reflected poorly. The universities should never have been given free reign to set their own pricing.

    This is one of those things that I think the Lib Dems should be defending instead of acting as though it’s something to be ashamed of.

  • Andrew Tampion 10th May '21 - 11:20am

    Geoff Reid “…apparently we are not allowed to say that the electorate were duped”
    You can say that if you want but consider the following before you do:
    First, Brexit has not been proven to be a confidence trick. It will be several years before anyone can confidently say whether we are better or worse off outside the EU. Further if someones main objection to the EU was freedom of movement then who are you to say that they are wrong to think that, still less that they have been duped?
    Second, you need to be very careful to say it in a way that can’t be taken as implyimg that people who voted leave are stupid.
    Third, George Osbourne stated that if we voted to leave the EU there would have to be an emergency budget (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36534192). We have not only voted to leave but actually left with no emergency budget and no sign that one is needed because of Brexit. What is your answer to anyone who voted Remain because of this and feels that they were duped?
    Finally some Leavers wouls argue that Theresa May and her negotiating team capitulated to the EU, for example by accepting that a trade deal could not have be negotiated until the separation agreement was agreed.

  • Occasional Lib Dem: I thought I had made it clear — that the mistake was in having our candidates sign that lobbyist-driven pledge, which left us hostage to fortune. Had we not done that, it could far more easily have been just one of many messy compromises that had to be made; instead it became the big thing that defined our role in coalition. I do hope we’ve learnt the lesson that we should NEVER EVER sign pledges from lobby groups in election time.

    Peter Watson: Scotland and England are in different positions. It isn’t one size fits all.

  • Theres been a lot of smug comments about Starmers “botched” Reshuffle but the basic problem is much deeper – Labours Membership could not make up their minds, they elected a split Team – a Centrist/Social Democrat leader & a Corbynite Deputy. It was a formula for permanent division.
    Oddly, that could actually improve the chances of a “Progressive Alliance” of a very loose sort with Labour finally admitting that they are a Coalition themselves.

  • It is dispiriting that so many Lib Dems are opposed to working with Labour in some way.

    It is obvious that

    1) the two parties are increasingly appealing to a similar voter demographic

    2) the two parties have the same problem ie they have given the appearance of being less interested in working people and have focused on niche and identity/cultural issues

    3) whilst the Conservatives are losing popularity in some of their own traditional heartlands, in order to take advantage of this their needs to be some coordination between anti-Tory parties

    4) the reality of FPTP and multi party politics means that there won’t be 3 distinctive positions on every issue. There will be a policy overlap between the Lib Dem’s and Labour in the next GE so why not embrace this and agree on common areas?

  • I don’t see much point in us raking over the tuition fees debacle. Not in public anyway, rather we have to file it under lessons to be learned. The university students it affected have long since graduated; if anyone still holds a grudge against us over it it’s them. Current university students are far more concerned about getting value for money for the fees they do pay (this being a settled matter for the time being), and their biggest gripe is against the present Tory-only government for failing to deliver due to the mess resulting from Covid restrictions (confined to halls, online-only classes even for courses with practical work etc).

  • Peter Watson and Occasional Lib Dem – You both ask “But does the party think it was a mistake?” It is an interesting question, but, quite simply, it is completely the wrong question for us to be asking ourselves.

    The right question is “Does the electorate think it was a mistake?” And the answer to that is that to most voters it was worse than a mistake. It was a totemic example of a complete betrayal by our leaders of what they had told our voters the Lib Dems stood for. As such it was the biggest disaster ever for the Lib Dems and the biggest gift anyone could ever have given to the Conservative party.

    The one party capable of beating the Conservatives in their English heartlands was almost totally destroyed.

    Now it may be that many in the party will never admit it was a disaster. But they are the ones who think it is better to be 100% absolutely perfect and lose, than it is to be 75% right and win.

    I know which one of these has allowed the Conservatives to destroy us, take our country out of the EU and elect a PM called Boris Johnson with all the implications for honesty and integrity in politics and marriage that come with the man.

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th May '21 - 1:00pm

    David Evans

    Given that LDP trauma on fees essentially stems from signed personal pledges I would gently posit that this is not the conversation best-suited to casting aspersions about the honesty and integrity of others.

    My own then-LDP candidate (not elected) signed that pledge surrounded by sixth formers whilst being pictured for the local newspaper.

  • Peter Watson 10th May '21 - 1:04pm

    @David Evans “It was a totemic example of a complete betrayal by our leaders of what they had told our voters the Lib Dems stood for.”
    Totally agree. Nick Clegg’s “apology” never made it clear whether he was sorry for making a promise or breaking it, and Alex Macfie indicates that signing the pledge was the mistake even though it was entirely consistent with party policy and the warnings by Lib Dems of what Labour or the Conservatives would do after the election.
    The party put itself in the position of either appearing both untrustworthy by breaking a promise and incompetent by deciding that the policy its internal democratic processes had come up with was no good.

  • “@Alex Macfie
    Occasional Lib Dem: I thought I had made it clear — that the mistake was in having our candidates sign that lobbyist-driven pledge, which left us hostage to fortune”

    Completely untrue on both counts!

    A pledge to abolish tuition fees was in our manifesto.

    It was perfectly deliverable – indeed to a large degree it has been delivered in that the current system is only a smidgen away from the graduate tax that the National Union of Students wanted.

    The difficulty was that Clegg had not one ounce of political nous in him. Good in Government – lousy in politics. Apparently Osborne told him that he was screwed when he agreed it. And so it proved.

    The way forward? To offer everyone the equivalent of 3 years tuition fees to pay for developing their adult education – advanced practical skill, business management, foreign language training – whatever. Paid for by borrowing – we borrow for it at the moment – we should borrow collectively rather than individually. Borrowing is paid for by increased GDP – just as we borrow for physical infrastructure – we should borrow for “human infrastructure” as it is what will increase our GDP.

    PS – the majority of our MPs actually carried out our manifesto and voted against tuition fees – it was carried on the Tory vote and the “payroll” Lib Dem vote of Lib Dem ministers.

  • Peter Watson 10th May '21 - 1:22pm

    @Alex Macfie “Scotland and England are in different positions. It isn’t one size fits all.”
    In what way exactly does the situation differ between the two countries that makes Lib Dem policy different?
    After all, Lib Dems have made the case for the benefits of the current system and criticised Labour’s promises to reduce tuition fees for being regressive, so why would Scottish Lib Dems want to deprive Scottish students of the same benefits and support such a similarly regressive approach?
    And for a Scottish student and an English student studying the same course in the same Scottish institution, why is it fair (and apparent Lib Dem policy?) for one to be paying tuition fees and incurring a larger student debt than the other whose fees are paid for them, while at the same time in an English university it is fair for those two students to be paying the same fees?

  • Barry Lofty 10th May '21 - 1:41pm

    For goodness sake why are we still arguing about tuition fees and the coalition, Mr Johnson would have swept the issue under the carpet without a second breath?

  • Occasional Lib Dems 10th May '21 - 2:20pm

    “For goodness sake why are we still arguing about tuition fees and the coalition”

    The party’s response to both is off-putting to many potential Lib Dem voters who have been convinced to vote Tory since 2015.

    As others have said, the electorate think it was a betrayal of Lib Dem values. Instead of begging for forgiveness, tell them loudly why they’re wrong. Own it.

    If the political landscape since 2015 has taught us anything, it’s that a sizable number of voters will believe anything if you repeat it enough times. For the last 6 years, the public has continuously heard “Sorry, we were wrong”. No wonder the party hasn’t recovered.

  • Barry Lofty 10th May '21 - 3:08pm

    I suppose my response means I am not a good Liberal and it could be true, but I feel the constant raking over past events means the Lib Dems are never going to move on, and I do believe in the future of coalitions

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '21 - 3:29pm

    Michael 1:

    “A pledge to abolish tuition fees was in our manifesto. “

    So were a shedload of other things. However, none of them were accompanied by the signing by our candidates of a lobbyist-driven pledge in a blaze of publicity. It is the signing of the pledge, not the manifesto commitment per se, that caused tuition fees to be so totemic and contribute to the electoral disaster that David Evans describes in his inimitable style.

    However, it doesn’t appear to have been a factor in the latest round of elections. Of course, it contributed a lot to our unenviable starting point, but that’s a whole separate issue. It’s likely that most of the electorate have moved on, and rather than picking the bones of what happened back then (when today’s university students were in primary school and not very aware of it), we should be talking about what we stand for in the future. However, I fear that the same suspects will be arguing the t*ss about it in 10 years’ time, when the new crop undergraduate students will consist of people who weren’t even born when it happened.

  • Laurence Cox 10th May '21 - 4:01pm

    @Alex Macfie

    The power of social media is demonstrated by Niko Omilana, a YouTube ‘influencer’ with 3.6 million followers (worldwide, I assume), receiving almost half as many votes (49,628) as the Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt (111,716) and coming 5th overall on first preferences.

    If he can do this well with no political party behind him, it illustrates how much better we could do if the Party took its social media presence seriously.

  • David Evans 10th May '21 - 4:01pm

    Little Jackie Piper – As usual you are absolutely right. However, I’m sure you also remember that over the 30 or so years up to 2010, we had steadily built up a reputation for being competent, trustworthy with a moderately left of centre outlook.
    We had proved all of those things to an ever increasing proportion of the electorate through our councillor base, which had grown steadily over many years. Our main problems were never having been of any real influence in parliament and the fact that winning a council often took twenty years of hard graft.

    However over the years, this had given hope to increasing numbers of those who were sick of being lied to by politicians, social democrats (both Labour and Lib Dem voting), and those who just longed for competent government. And we were on the cusp of a breakthrough.

    We emphasised this through the “End to Broken Promises” PPB in 2010, and many people generally believed they could trust us. Then Nick, who we now find had never really agreed with the party policy on tuition fees, simply gave it away in the negotiations and then imposed it on the MPs and Cabinet Ministers through Collective responsibility and his drive to ‘prove coalition works!’

    For the party that was political suicide, but not of course for Nick.

    Even so, I think that leaving your wife while she was having treatment for cancer and shacking up with your latest bit of stuff before the treatment was over is way lower than what Nick did. But that’s a personal opinion.

  • Phil Beesley 10th May '21 - 4:22pm

    Barry Lofty: ‘For goodness sake why are we still arguing about tuition fees and the coalition…’
    1. Inept negotiation and management of the coalition wiped out years of campaigning in many areas.
    2. Inept etc delivered insufficient positive outcomes in government.
    3. Brexit fallout and the last general election campaign give the impression externally and internally that Lib Dems are still the party which ineptly managed coalition.

    There’s a cause and effect phenomenon.

  • David Evans 10th May '21 - 4:25pm

    As for all the other comments on this, I broadly agree with you all. Since our final collapse in 2015, most voters have moved on from betrayal but their behaviour has become embedded and now they simply ignore us as a tiny party too small to bother about.

    Our problem is that our leading lights haven’t moved on. They still want to behave like they did when we were a big party, but it doesn’t work, simply because we get no publicity whatsoever.

    Earnest but dull Policy Documents about motherhood and apple pie – ignored.
    One Question to the PM every three weeks or so – Who is that guy?
    Racial imbalance in the party
    Insufficient numbers of women councillors
    Not quite perfect attitudes on sex and sexuality in the party – Produce lots of reports; Set up lots of committees and policies and use up lots of very scarce resources.

    Party going to heck in a handcart – Who cares?

    Remain was the only issue where we had a position that was different from both Labour and the Conservatives. And it worked – to an extent, for a while, but then it was totally squandered. But our president’s core vote strategy “Let’s be more Liberal” goes on. Even though it is just a continuation of Nick’s desire to build a new core vote that when it came to a general election simply wasn’t there.

    We remain in a bad place of slow decline, offset by a few bright spots but on balance we are still drifting downwards. Our leaders need to change, but I don’t think they ever will.

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th May '21 - 4:30pm

    David Evans/Alex Macfie

    It is worth pointing out that the fees pledge and 2010 manifesto were not entirely consistent. The manifesto p39 talked about phasing fees out over 6 years (note that is longer than the the term of Parliament), immediately ending fees for final year students and, ‘scraping unfair tuition fees for all students taking their first degree.’

    The pledge was, ‘I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next Parliament and pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.’ I believe that pledge was an NUS pledge not an LDP specific thing. I can’t see those words or anything about fee increases in the 2010 manifesto.

  • David Evans 10th May '21 - 5:17pm

    LJP. Indeed, you are right, but I’m not at all sure what your point is. They are not exactly the same, but they both point in the same direction. Indeed the pledge was easier one to comply with – Vote one way on one issue and press that nasty George Osborn to not be quite so nasty.

    If we had done that, it would have been a win, win, win for us.

    Tories – Nasty
    LIb Dems – Nnice
    Labour – Get off the fence.

    The crass incompetence of our leaders at the time was mind boggling.

  • Peter Watson 10th May '21 - 6:10pm

    @Phil Beesley “the impression externally and internally that Lib Dems are still the party which ineptly managed coalition”
    That is one of my many big disappointments from that time.
    Electoral reform has been a mainstay of Lib Dem / SLD / SDP / Liberal politics for as long as I can remember, and when it came to being part of a Coalition (not the first, considering the party’s experience in Wales, Scotland and in local government, but probably the most important) the party seemed woefully unprepared and subsumed its identity in an overwhelmingly Conservative government. There appeared to have been a naive assumption that the only possible scenario was a small third party wielding great influence with the “balance of power” and no strategy for when this was not the case. Combined with a disastrous campaign for the “miserable little compromise” of AV, it was as if the party – or its leadership – was determined to ensure electoral reform would be off the political agenda for a generation!

  • John Marriott 10th May '21 - 6:12pm

    @Michael 1
    You say that a pledge to abolish tuition fees was “deliverable”. But was it “desirable”? Indeed, is the continued heart searching still necessary. Quite frankly, we send too many students to traditional universities already. If some want to study for degrees with little surrender value, let them pay for them. In any case, most will never have to pay back the money given to them, unless they earn a shedload of money. I’d rather have my taxes used to finance bursaries to get more young people on to largely vocational courses. There should, however, be some conditions attached. After qualification, people such as doctors and nurses should commit themselves to working in this country for a specific period and in the NHS before considering working abroad. Otherwise, they too should pay the money back.

  • Nonconformistradical 10th May '21 - 6:16pm

    “Quite frankly, we send too many students to traditional universities already.”

    And nowhere near enough student studying for good quality vocational qualifications – maybe continuing to study part-time to enhance their qualifications while working.

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '21 - 7:27pm

    @Andrew Tampion: “…if Owen Smith had become Labour Leader in 2016 and in the 2017 GE had campaigned strongly for Remain? My gues[s] is Theresa May elected with a 100 seat majority.”
    I doubt it very much. Remember that Theresa May’s Tories started the election campaign with a massive lead, which they squandered over the course of the campaign due to unforced errors that had nothing to do with Brexit — e.g. the Dementia Tax, and May’s total lack of charisma. Corbyn’s unexpected popularity in that election mainly gave Labour additional votes in seats that were safe for it anyway, rather than flipping any marginal seats to Labour. Owen Smith represented a South Wales former mining constituency, and would have been far better able to connect with the “working class” than the poshboy reactionary^Wrevolutionary Jeremy Corbyn ever could have done. A more decisive Labour position on Brexit might even have persuaded enough “Red Wall” voters of the case for a 2nd referendum, whereas no-one was impressed by Corbyn’s triangulation, the product of a clash between party activists’ preference for Remain and his own Lexity sympathies.

  • Phil Beesley 10th May '21 - 8:25pm

    John Marriott: “Quite frankly, we send too many students to traditional universities already.”

    I write as a non-academic ex-staffer. Yes, the system is rubbish.

    Given that university teaching is mostly about degrees, students who are not suited deserve a decent exit route. Promoters of higher ed should help those who have had their expectations raised too high. And a decent entry route in continuing education, a progressive route to a degree for some, more modest qualifications for others. Just keep on learning.

    Elite academia is important. Every university employs experts; every TV and radio station owns a handbook of experts issued by the closest university. Students want to meet them.

    It’s great if one of your teachers is a big name, but most teachers are Dr Can’tRecall. If there are 50 people on your course, it will seem that there is nobody like you; there will be three posh boys in the corner who connect. That’s why students make friends with others in sports clubs, trad jazz appreciation or Balkan cuisine, mistaking it for Baltic.

  • Peter Martin 11th May '21 - 5:31am

    “……….why are we still arguing about tuition fees and the coalition?”

    Good question. Possibly, because before the coalition the Lib Dems seemed to have everything going for them, but now you’ve gone over that cliff that everyone else was supposed to have gone over post Brexit. Brexit itself probably wouldn’t have happened but for the wrong headed policies of the Coalition government.

    The BIG mistake was to apply a counter inflation fiscal policy, of which cuts on student support could possibly have been a justifiable component, when what was needed was an anti-recession more expansionary fiscal policy. The economic situation should have been the ideal opportunity to increase student support.

    Some countries sort-of-got it right, The Australian Federal govt, at the time, was handing out $1000 stimulus checks to just about everyone. But then, the complaint was that many weren’t spending the money but instead were putting it into their savings accounts.

    The coalition government wouldn’t have that problem with students!

  • Peter Martin 11th May '21 - 6:03am

    “Corbyn’s unexpected popularity in that election (2017) mainly gave Labour additional votes in seats that were safe for it anyway, rather than flipping any marginal seats to Labour.”

    This is nonsense. JC fought an amazingly good campaign in 2017 and ended up depriving of Theresa May of her majority. Labour won many seats they weren’t supposed to. If they hadn’t, TM would still have had her majority.

    The tactics of the Labour right at the time were mainly to stand aside and do nothing in the expectation that JC would come a cropper. They mistakenly thought that if they gave him enough rope he’d hang himself. It wasn’t a mistake they repeated in 2019. Rather than pledge to respect the 2016 vote they wanted to do just the opposite. The difference in electoral outcomes is plain to see. Just look up the figure on Wiki. 40% of the poll in 2017. 32% in 2019.

  • John Marriott 11th May '21 - 8:07am

    @Peter Martin
    Up early again, I see. Did tge dog want to go ‘walkies’?

    Seriously though, rather than Labour just doing well in 2017, the Tories did appallingly badly! May believed her propaganda and blew a perfectly workable majority that she had inherited from Cameron. By 2019 the electorate had seen through Corbyn and his crew, and, for that matter had had enough of the opposition parties at Westminster in general. They wanted “Brexit done”. Whether it is “done” is another matter.

  • Andrew Tampion 12th May '21 - 6:46am

    Alex Macfie “A more decisive Labour position on Brexit might even have persuaded enough “Red Wall” voters of the case for a 2nd referendum….”
    Maybe: but that didn’t seem to happen in 2019 when a 2nd referendum was Labour policy did it?
    Perhaps all the Red Wall would have voted UKIP in 2017 we would have seen 50 UKIP MPs instead.

  • Andrew Tampion: A policy that their leader didn’t truly believe in, being a Bennite for whom the EU was a capitalist plot (if he’d wanted the UK in any cross-national economic bloc, it would have been COMECON). Corbyn and his cronies did their best to downplay the 2nd referendum policy when campaigning in the Red Wall, and it’s unlikely anyone was impressed by his Janus Man act on the issue. Many Remainers still voted for Labour mainly as a tactical vote.

  • @Alex Macfie

    “So were a shedload of other things. However, none of them were accompanied by the signing by our candidates of a lobbyist-driven pledge in a blaze of publicity. It is the signing of the pledge, not the manifesto commitment per se, that caused tuition fees to be so totemic and contribute to the electoral disaster that David Evans describes in his inimitable style.”

    I worked for a Lib Dem MP during the 2010 (and 2005) general election. And we were sending out target leaflets and letters to our university student population – so we were happy for it to get as much publicity as possible. And it was nothing to do with signing a pledge – we said that we would abolish tuition fees and people – especially younger people – thought we might keep our *manifesto* promise. And if memory serves me right I seem to remember a party political in the 2010 general election from Clegg saying how important that was and how he would!

    And yes my MP kept their promise to vote against tuition fees as did a *majority* of Lib Dem MPs

    It is not surprising that come the 2015 election those university students were not voting lib dem and we didn’t win university seat after university seat that we’d won in 2010.

    Any political idiot could have told you or Clegg that – indeed one did – George Osborne!

    It was deliverable because we delivered on another more expensive pledge – increasing overseas aid. It was very noble of this party to sacrifice itself for the poorest of the world. But – as much as I support aid and want to see the lives of those in poorer countries improve – I would also like this party to still be a significant parliamentary political force – and indeed I believe that would be better for the poorer – especially as while we and all countries should meet the goal of 0.7% GDP in aid – only five do and actually the increase is a very, very small amount of the total aid budget from *all* countries – even if it might (although prob. not) encourage other countries to increase their aid giving.

  • @Alex Macfie

    “However, it doesn’t appear to have been a factor in the latest round of elections….”

    Well may be or may be not. We do though have mislaid a chunk of the electorate – some 10% – as we used to get in the mid to high 20s in local elections and we are now down to the mid to high teens in local elections.

    Theoretically these elections were not about Brexit but there is no question that Labour suffered in its Red Wall seats.

    The chunk we are missing I would suggest are those younger voters that voted Green last Thursday and they would be voting for us if we had abolished tuition fees. Now there is a debate as to what we should do now. But I’d suggest “one more heave” of vigorous local campaigning is not enough.

    It normally takes 10-15 years for a party to rectify its problems after a dodgy period in Government. And I’d suggest that one way is to draw a line under the coalition and say we are in favour of free tuition fees – partly because as you say it is totemic and partly because we need to get back that younger voters – not just students but the 20-40 year-olds and their parents in the “concerned middle class”

    It was what Cameron did with the Tories (Gay Marriage instead of Section 28, Hug a hoodie, go green go blue, fund the NHS well) and Blair with new Labour…

    But hey I may be wrong and people here may have better ideas…. It’s just clear that madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result – so let’s at least try something different.

  • Peter Martin 13th May '21 - 8:36am

    @ Alex,

    “….being a Bennite for whom the EU was a capitalist plot”

    I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to Tony Benn but his main criticism concerns the lack of democracy in the EU. His argument was that any system, whether that be socialist or capitalist, couldn’t function successfully without a high level of democracy. Democracy was more important than socialism.

    If it is a “capitalist plot” it’s not a very good one. The PTB in the EU could have consulted economists like Milton Friedman. I don’t often quote him but he certainly would have advised against a one-size-fits-all euro currency. This is the EU’s biggest, and likely fatal, blunder.

  • Peter Martin 13th May ’21 – 8:36am:
    I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to Tony Benn but his main criticism concerns the lack of democracy in the EU.

    Indeed, Tony Benn was a passionate opponent of our membership of the EU primarily because it is undemocratic.

    Here is a transcript of his famous speech, during a debate on the Maastricht Treaty, in which he explains why it was wrong for parliament to give away our democratic rights…

    ’Tony Benn on democracy and the EU – 20th November 1991’:
    https://whitewednesday.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/tony-benn-on-democracy-and-the-eu-20th-november-1991/

    In that speech he asked this rhetorical question…

    We must ask what will happen when people realise what we have done.

    On the 23rd of June 2016 we at last got the answer.

  • Peter Martin 14th May '21 - 5:23am

    @ Michael1,

    ” I would suggest are those younger voters that voted Green last Thursday and they would be voting for us if we had abolished tuition fees.”

    Yep. In a way, the Greens are a bigger obstacle to Lib Dem ambitions than either the Tories or Labour. So why not think about a merger or a new Alliance? You’ve managed that before.

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