Why a Lib Dem leadership election doesn’t look likely

lib dem conf votingThere are two formal mechanisms in the Lib Dems for getting rid of the party leader. First, a vote of no confidence by the party’s MPs. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen. The second option is for enough local Lib Dem parties to request a leadership election:

the receipt by the President of a requisition submitted by at least 75 Local Parties (including for this purpose, the Specified Associated Organisation or Organisations representing youth and/or students) following the decision of a quorate general meeting;

This option is currently being pursued by a number of local parties though no one knows the precise number.

We reported on Friday night the result from Cambridge, where a resolution calling for a leadership election was rejected in a secret ballot by 45 votes to 32. This was the first such result we’ve seen reported – however the, erm, vigorous discussion that posting triggered has highlighted other local parties which have apparently held ballots.

Here’s my understanding of the situation based on what I’ve been able to glean. Please feel free to update in the comment threads (I know you will). To be clear, I am including only those local parties which have held votes of quorate general meetings. Many local party executives have already discussed holding such meetings and have decided against doing so (though in those cases a meeting can still be called if enough party members write to request one).

Local parties which have held a quorate general meeting…

Wanting a leadership election
Nottingham
Ribble Valley

Not wanting a leadership election
Cambridge
Southwark
Salisbury

My sense is that there is nowhere near enough momentum for a leadership election to be triggered by this route. I doubt there are even 75 local parties planning to hold a general meeting. And, based on the current split in results, it looks like around 150 would be having to plan to do so in order to get to the magic 75. As it stands, therefore, it seems highly likely Nick Clegg will remain as party leader.

Historical footnote: the Lib Dem conference last year rejected a motion (christened by opponents “The Opik Motion” because of its association with Lembit) which would have made it much easier for a leadership contest to be triggered.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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131 Comments

  • Because of the required notice period, this is about as soon as these meetings could start happening. A sense of momentum could be got tracking the meetings that have been called. So Calderdale and probably a few more.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 15th Jun '14 - 9:37am

    Jennie, the Ribble Valley one couldn’t have been a properly constituted SGM if it were reported 11 days ago. You need a certain notice period. I think the actual SGM took place this weekend.

    Infighting or backbiting is a choice we make and its presence is not all Nick Clegg’s fault. I doubt any new leader would make any difference to that.

    Nick needs to do a lot more than he has done already to engage with the party and be seen to be doing so. The party needs to engage with him constructively, too. We are more likely to get a decent result next year if we work together than if we fight.

  • Jennie, a little confused here. Surely if there is a leadership election we’ll have a lengthy period of infighting and backbiting. If there isn’t – if those calling for one can’t muster enough support to trigger it under the democratic rules of the party – what is there left to infight about?

  • Paul In Wokingham 15th Jun '14 - 9:54am

    Stephen – indeed, I had come to the same conclusion. If half of those parties that hold special meetings call for a leadership election (and that seems optimistic given the broad range of reasons why people might say no) then you would need meetings in 150 local parties. Quite frankly, I don’t think there are 150 functional (in any meaningful sense of the word) local parties.

    So the elephant continues to sit in the room and everyone looks the other way in embarrassment.

  • Stephen, but you did say ” This was the first such result we’ve seen reported …” Perhaps you might have been better advised to phrase it as ” This was the first such result I’ve seen reported …” Caron and Mark do post there reasonably often, and The Voice posts his/her weekly “What’s being debated in our members’ forum this week?” on the public site.

    However, for some reason those threads that are critical of Nick never seem to get a mention. Perhaps the Voice wears Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses to prevent the wearer from seeing anything that might harm or alarm him/her!!

  • Liberal Neil 15th Jun '14 - 10:07am

    @ Jennie – I haven’t seen any particular bias in the way LDV has reported the Leadership issue. The only surprise for me in the coverage is that I now appear to be marginally more of a loyalist than Stephen Tall!

    Nick is clearly now staying until the election, unless something completely unforeseen happens, and that means that the only effect of further public calls for him to stand down will result in more negative coverage for the party to no positive end.

    So while I certainly don’t agree with the ‘shut up and go and deliver some more Focuses’ line, I do hope that public discussion of Nick’s Leadership will now die down so that we can put most of our energy into doing as well as possible next year when we’ve got a lot of seats up for election.

  • Stephen Tall has said that he believes that Clegg is an impediment to success for the Liberal Democrats . This is a much more important statement than whether Stephen thinks there is “enough momentum”.
    Momentum is not what the Constitution of the Party requires.
    All it requires is 75 local parties. 2 local parties have made their decision so the clock can tick slowly and remorselessly until another 73 join them.
    I have no idea how many local parties are holding meetings or how quickly they will arrange them. I guess in theory that there are 600 local parties. In practice, Clegg’s flawed leadership over seven hears has had an appalling impact on membership and local organisation in the party. Can anyone inform us how many properly constituted local parties are still operational?

    But this is not a race, this does not require momentum, it just requires 75 local parties to make the decision to call for a leadership election.
    The fact that some local parties have decided not to only becomes relevant if there are less than 75 local parties left to make the decision. We are a long way off from that point.

    Whilst this goes on, the message from those who were actually present at the Cambridge Party meeting is that they have no enthusiasm for Clegg as leader. What happens when a political party which depends on its members for success has members who have no enthusiasm for the leader. That leader is an impediment to success, as Stephen Tall has recognised.

    Whatever the hunch might be on “momentum” for a leadership election there sure as hell ain’t no momentum in Clegg’s leadership. It is grinding slowly down to inevitable end. Some people seem to want to take the party down with him.

    Those of us who are loyal to the party rather than one passing, not very good leader, are not going away and we are not going to keep quiet whilst a diminishing band of Clegg Coup Conspirators sink the party.

  • @Jennie

    Unless people can come up with alternative candidates to replace Nick Clegg and convincing explanations as to how and why they would be able to better than him, continued agitation along these lines is simply not going to be productive.

    You might not be happy with Nick, but for want of any better concrete alternatives, he is going to be our leader next year.

  • Jonathan Pile 15th Jun '14 - 10:31am

    Stephen Tall
    These Sgm’s will continue to rumble on and Clegg continues in place damaging and further dividing the party. people leave everyday libdem fight back has already kept people from leaving. Clegg needs to go.
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • For this to work, Clegg needed to go quickly to allow the party to move on. That’s clearly not going to happen.

    I think hoping for a regular drip of parties is unhelpful and will get in the way of local parties campaigning with their Cleggless literature.

    I’m resigned to Clegg leading us into the siege that will be the next General Election.

    But not a single day further.

  • Paul Griffiths 15th Jun '14 - 10:44am

    Although constitutionally the number is 75, the actual number is the one past which the media refuse to ask about anything else. How big that number is is anyone’s guess, but it’s lower than 75.

  • Radical Liberal 15th Jun '14 - 11:00am

    Paul Griffiths – good point. There will reach a stage – not sure when, maybe 20, 30 parties calling for a contest – when this becomes the story of the day. When the media decide to just report on this. When that happens it will all come to a head, something I don’t think Stephen has factored into the equation in his post.
    The phrase death by a thousand cuts springs to mind and Clegg has no one to blame but himself. He is strong enough to limp on (for the moment) but not strong enough to lead. Accordingly, his supporters must recognise the game is up and demand he goes; we do, after all, need a leader who can lead not limp on and order us all to deliver leaflets as he talks to himself because no one else cares what he says.

  • Dulwich & West Norwood are having a Meeting tonight.

  • Liberal Neil 15th Jun '14 - 11:13am

    @Jennie – I don’t think the party will ‘tear itself apart’ over this. And, even if that were likely, the alternative way for it to be avoided is for those who want Nick to go now accept that it isn’t going to happen.

    My view for quite a while now has been that he will have to go straight after May 2015 and that the imperative for those of us who are loyal to the party and its values is to make sure there is as big a base as possible to build from at that point (by which I mean seats at national and local level).

  • Sarah Brown made a telling point on t’other thread

    It is accepted that 2015 will be a really difficult election but a hung Parliament is still on the cards and it may be that the LD still have a role to play in the next Government – something I think would damage the party badly but that is another story

    If this is the case then the leader of the party will be at the centre of these negotiations, as will his nominated team of negotiators

    My view is that a number of the problems seen now can be linked back to this time in 2010…poor negotiations and bad body language

    As a part, therefore, you have to ask the question ‘is Clegg the man I want to negotiate the 2015-2020 Coalition with?’

    It seems many people would say no but will have to accept that anyway.

    I am not a member so it is none of my business who you choose as a leader. As a voter though, any chance of me voting LD is completely wiped out if I have to look at Clegg and his cabal being the people who may be involved in putting together the program for the next Government.

    The phrase ‘stone and a hard place’ come to mind.

    I am very much a believer in active rather than passive decision-making. In this case the only active way to approach it is for Clegg to put himself up for reelection now and see whether his party backs him to do that job.

  • Write to him like I did, you never know if more of us write personal letters we might get the change we so badly need for the Party to move forward. Forget the Clegg apologists and accolytes on here, let’s get some momentum going along with LibDems4Change.

    6th June 2014

    Dear Mr Clegg

    I joined the Liberal Democrats when it first formed after the merger of the SDP/Liberal Party and before then was a member of the Liberal Party, have been a member for over 20 years.

    I have watched in despair as support for the Party has dwindled under your leadership. The loss of hundreds of hard working councillors and the loss of all MEPs bar one a few weeks ago and today the Lib Dem candidate finishing in 6th place at the Newark by-election behind the Greens and an Independent candidate with under 3% of the vote.

    There are very clear reasons why the Party is unpopular as it has changed beyond recognition in setting itself against social reform and in favour of libertarian orange booker economics – all under your leadership.

    I now find myself against a whole raft of policies on tuition fees, the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, privatisation of Royal Mail, the imposition of the bedroom tax and to crown it all now in the Queens Speech I am hearing fracking will be allowed under people’s gardens thereby threatening our environment, a form of energy I have always been resolutely against.

    As someone on a low income at the bottom end of the scale, a Council tenant, I am bitterly disappointed with the direction the Party has been taking and would ask you to resign as Leader for the good of the Party at large; the activists and current members since as Leader you are sanctioning many of these illiberal policies and leading the Party towards obliteration at the next General Election, less than a year away.

    Whereas I am positively in favour of our membership of the EU, as Leader, you are giving the impression that the Party supports a Federal Europe and not a reformed one all of which opponents and the Press have criticised the Party on in recent campaigns.

    It should be quite easy for a Leadership election to take place now giving the Party time to re-group and campaign in time to win seats for the next election; however it is quite clear that while you remain as Leader the Lib Dems will only go in one direction – backwards.

    I signed the Libdems4change petition as one of over 400 party members and am proud to have done so. I have no intention of joining another party but am not prepared to let the Liberal Democrats wither and die under your leadership. While you remain as Leader, I am no longer able to support the party with donations, campaigns and canvassing as it is counterproductive. I hope you will now do the right thing for the Liberal Democrats and resign as leader as soon as possible and put the good of the party and our Party’s future whether in coalition or outside, before your own self interest.

    Yours sincerely

  • Jennie – After voting on the motion in Nottingham several members went out canvassing in the local target ward.
    We can do both 😉

  • @david

    “Forget the Clegg apologists and accolytes”

    Or, as they may otherwise be desribed, the majority of the party who either don’t want or don’t think that a leadership election is the right course of action at this time. And no, we aren’t all libertarian Orange Book devotees either – seeing as both wings of the party wrote the thing I still find it a baffling insult to hurl…

  • Shaun Cunningham 15th Jun '14 - 12:30pm
  • It’s a description just in the same way those of us who are against the current leadership are described a certain way so I am glad I’ve sent it and have had very positive feedback to everyone I’ve shown the letter to . Your comments don’t bother me as it’s something those of us who want change and don’t want the Party destroyed under Clegg’s leadership can do, not the pro Clegg at any costs brigade.

  • Shaun Cunningham 15th Jun '14 - 12:50pm

    This party should be resolute and bring change now.
    Time for Nick to put the interest of the party before his. Time for this party to look at reality face on. Time for the party to stop listening to those who just want to sit in their comfort zone and hope a miracle may be down the road.

    To those who wish to be mere spectators while the party moves to the fringes of the political spectrum while we are losing the battle of the electorate because we will not grasp the scale of the problem I say this. Go and knock a few doors, the whole process will l take an hour of your time.

    This party needs to wake up and stop believing words will do when action is required.

  • Jonathan Pile 15th Jun '14 - 12:57pm

    In any other party, a 75% fall in support, a 90% collapse in representatives , a leadership challenge and a divided party would spell doom for a leader – so why not ours?
    We aren’t giving up and the rebellion gathers pace.
    Join us now and save the party from Clegg.
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • David Evans 15th Jun '14 - 1:11pm

    @ david – Support libdemfightback and we will be able to help each other to get this to come to a head sooner rather than leave it to fester.

  • David Allen 15th Jun '14 - 1:12pm

    Paul Walter, mindless abuse is not allowed on this site – I think.

  • @Jonathan Pile
    “In any other party, a 75% fall in support, a 90% collapse in representatives , a leadership challenge and a divided party would spell doom for a leader – so why not ours?”

    Because you’re not offering any convincing or viable alternatives other than “not Clegg”, perhaps?

  • @david

    1) I personally have not described those who want Nick to go in a negative way at all. I am certain they believe it is the right thing to do and many of those who signed the letter are amongst the people I respect most in the party. I just don’t appreciate it at all when those who don’t support a leadership election are said to not care about what happens to the party. When it comes to the crunch, we are all on the same side.

    2) Yes, it is indeed something that those who want change can do – and I agree, it is potentially more effective than other methods.

    3) At some point there has to be an acceptance that the majority of the party – for whatever reason or even through gritted teeth – do not want a leadership election. Fighting ourselves and not the Tories and Labour for however many more months is going to get us nowhere.

    @Shaun Cunningham

    I knock on plenty of doors thanks very much, a party leadership contest is about 10001 on the list of people’s concerns. They want answers and action on jobs, housing. the economy, schools, hospitals and the environment. One sure fire way of pushing us to the political edges is to spend the next six months talking to ourselves.

  • @ Jennie
    “RC: in other words “shut up and deliver leaflets””

    In other words, you haven’t put forward any alternative to the current leader nor is any in sight.

    Unless you want us to go into the next election without a leader, simply agitating to get rid of the current one doesn’t seem very productive, does it?

    After all, Miliband and Balls are both almost as unpopular as Clegg is, yet miraculously Labour is still getting 38% in the polls.

    In my experience on the doorstep, the biggest obstacle is the fact that people have never heard our side of things. If we are clear in what we stand for (and I think this is one of the biggest problems at the moment), then we can convince people to come back to us next year. If not, we are going to fail badly.

  • Allan Heron 15th Jun '14 - 1:58pm

    Frankly, “not Clegg” works for me.

    For better or worse, and whether you agree with his brand of liberalism or not, he’s overloaded with baggage.

    If there is a hung parliament we’re going to be in a weaker position both in terms of the number of MP’s and politically as well. That will only be exacerbated if Clegg is still leader.

  • edna murphy 15th Jun '14 - 2:00pm

    Stephen – thanks for doing this report.

    75 parties can compel the election and I believe we can get there, but I would hope that we wouldn’t have to get all 75 for Clegg to resign. Surely he would prefer to go with dignity?

    One likely outcome of Clegg not going is that, whatever the votes of local parties, the activist base, on whom the party absolutely depends to get out 1,000,000s of leaflets, will not be able to face it while he Clegg is in post. While they doubtless accept the vote of their local party if the vote for the leadership failed, it is quite another thing to put on a yellow rosette and do the work.

  • Jonathan Pile 15th Jun '14 - 2:19pm

    When Clegg goes (and he will – the Tories are trying poach him) the party will find other leaders ready to step forwards but prevented out of loyalty from speaking out now. Do you thing for a minute we would doing this is we didn’t know who they are and that the party had better alternatives(lots of them). With this settled as it surely must because Clegg will not survive this at Conference , firstly Malcolm Bruce will be acting leader. The newly elected leader can bond with a interested electorate and then take Clegg’s place as Dpm but lead the party from the opposition benches to signpost a new phase. A new leader will be given a fairgo and a honeymoon. Depending on how well the party units and hard we fight will determine our vote in 2015. A week is a long time in politics both for our recovery post Clegg and for Clegg to drag the party down.
    [email protected]
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com
    http://www.libdems4change.org

  • @Jonathan Pile

    1) The Tories are trying to poach Clegg from? Where does this come from?

    2) Who are these leaders? Have you had discussions with them?

    3) A DPM who sits on the opposition benches? A title and position in the government, which is in the gift of the PM, would be given to the leader of another party who sits in opposition to the PM and the govenment in which they would be DPM?

    4) So if you get what you want we can unite, but we can’t do so if the majority of members do not want a leadership election get their way?

  • Stephen Hesketh 15th Jun '14 - 2:47pm

    Jennie 15th Jun ’14 – 10:24am
    “Liberal Neil: I think your hopes are unlikely to come to fruition. As I said above, and as John Tilley’s comment (especially “Those of us who are loyal to the party rather than one passing, not very good leader, are not going away and we are not going to keep quiet”) illustrates, this has gone too far for either side to back down.

    I have been saying for weeks there’s only one way to stop the party tearing itself apart over this. It seems the leadership would rather see us tear ourselves apart.”

    Dear all
    I want Clegg to go. However unfairly etc etc he IS perceived by the majority of Lib Dem members and voters as being part of the problem rather than its solution. Coca Cola had to withdraw their new version of the drink or risk lasting damage to their brand. The took the only logical decision. This is a company with marketing resources far outstripping ours, similarly with McDonalds and their use of questionable ingredients … which are now instead UK and Ireland sourced etc. The continuation of our party and philosophy are more important than any leader (perhaps I should have just copy and pasted John’s words!).

    However, the main point of this post is that we, the Liberal Democrats, are not going to tear ourselves apart. We agree on far too much – not least the need, power and simple justice of our philosophy and the policies which flow from it.

    Whichever way constituency votes are going and go in the new future, with very few exceptions, we are also united in the view that NC must go now or immediately after the next GE.

    I have LD colleagues who argue for the latter, others for the former. I fully understand the arguments why he should stay until the GE. The fact that I have a different view does not cause me to lose respect for these colleagues. It is a matter of judgement and strategy. The question will be resolved this summer or in May 2015. Some of those on the centre right (fill in your own names) may decide to leave but on the plus side will be replaced by many more authentic Lib Dems of a more radical persuasion.

    Although it might always seem the case from those of us with a sometimes ‘robust’ writing style, our key argument is with NC’s leadership and the direction he seeks to impose on a radical reforming centre-left Liberal party. I am sure I am not alone in having no issue in continuing to work with and fully support those Liberal Democrats who simply think now is not the right time. I can not believe those colleagues who disagree with the ‘Now’ stance do not feel similarly and that we will work together in the lead up to the next GE and beyond.

    Whenever he goes it is likely to be within the next year. Even if they can not yet bring themselves to depose him themselves, the Parliamentary party and Federal Executive must ensure it is they who are in charge of all post GE discussions with other parties and our red-line policies. At least that is something I’m sure almost all of us can agree on.

  • Peter Chegwyn 15th Jun '14 - 2:47pm

    To move the debate on slightly, can I pose the question:

    “If Clegg stays as Leader, what on earth do you do with him during next year’s General Election campaign?

    Usually you’d stick him on a bus and tour him round most of the seats with MPs and those we have high hopes of winning.

    But as a senior Parliamentarian who I spent Friday afternoon with told me: ‘Most of the MPs don’t want him anywhere near their constituencies next year and neither do most of the new candidates in seats we’re defending or hoping to win’.

    So, what DOES the Party do with a Leader who is persona non grata in most of the places you’d expect to see him?

  • david 15th Jun ’14 – 11:58am

    This is a very good letter David,
    The last few sentences encapsulate the thoughts and feelings of many —
    “. I have no intention of joining another party but am not prepared to let the Liberal Democrats wither and die under your leadership.
    While you remain as Leader, I am no longer able to support the party with donations, campaigns and canvassing as it is counterproductive.
    I hope you will now do the right thing for the Liberal Democrats and resign as leader as soon as possible and put the good of the party and our Party’s future whether in coalition or outside, before your own self interest.”

  • Stephen Hesketh 15th Jun '14 - 2:50pm

    Sorry noticed a few typos but I’m sure you get the drift!

  • Shaun Cunningham 15th Jun '14 - 2:52pm

    AFC
    Your quote
    “I knock on plenty of doors thanks very much, a party leadership contest is about 10001 on the list of people’s concerns. They want answers and action on jobs, housing. the economy, schools, hospitals and the environment. One sure fire way of pushing us to the political edges is to spend the next six months talking to ourselves”

    You are talking utter rubbish. How many doors have you knocked. My ward is not oasis. I have worked months working in the ward and whether you have the strength to admit it or not Nick Clegg is toxic on the door. I defy anyone to tell me differently.

    You may wish to sit in your comfort zone, however I do not. Nick is dead to the electorate. The reason we are talking to ourselves is because people like you fail to grasp the severity the party is in.

  • paul barker 15th Jun '14 - 3:21pm

    Its time for one of my appeals for people to take a deep breath before they post. Are you quite sure you arent pouring petrol on a fire ? Given that a number of S/EGMs have been set in motion why dont we all just wait for a few more results to come in ?

  • Shaun Cunningham 15th Jun '14 - 3:34pm
  • Andrew Turvey 15th Jun '14 - 3:46pm

    Thanks Stephen for the article. Being open about the results so far is positive for everyone. I look forward to seeing how this debate develops.

  • Stephen Hesketh 15th Jun '14 - 3:59pm

    paul barker 15th Jun ’14 – 3:21pm

    Paul, whatever the results from constituencies splitting the anti-NC vote between the ‘Immediately’ and ‘Immediately after the 2015 election’ camps. The memberships message is clearly WHEN not IF.

    As those present at the Cambridge vote have attested, there was no support for a longer-term NC leadership. To portray the ‘Immediately after the 2015 election’ vote as being a positive one for NC is entirely dishonest.

  • Jonathan Pile 15th Jun '14 - 4:25pm

    @ ATF
    Good questions all,
    Firstly I refer you to the telegraph article posted above by Shaun – this would obviously also extend to Nick Clegg. Secondly – as for prospective leaders -they are legion – the LDV has already profiled and polled on the front runners, I hold no brief for any one in particular but they are better than Clegg. Thirdly a Dpm speaking from the opposition benches whilst part of the coalition agreement but be against conventions but is not unconstitutional and would be a clear sign the party had shifted. Third let Clegg unite the party by calling a leadership election even if he runs – let the members have a vote. If he truly loves the party more than power he will move aside, if he is truly a democrat and has the bravery of John major he will seek reelection . It’s not up to you or me it’s up to nick clegg

  • Shaun Cunningham 15th Jun '14 - 5:07pm

    Jonathan

    I couldn’t agree with you more when you say if Nick is so determined to stay and destroy this party he should a least renew his mandate.

    . This would close the debate down
    . Those who vote for him would then have collective responsibility for further calamities.

    This week Nick will be making a major speech on the manifesto and the future policy direction this party will take. The problem of course will anyone out there be listening. I believe the problem with Nick, the public perception of him is so ingrained he could have the loudest megaphone and still not be heard.

    That’s the problem people, it’s sad but then we all know politics is brutal and unforgiving and Nick of all people should understand that.

    Politics is about winning, it’s about having a clear, creative and innovative message and above all else being able to get the message across to the electorate. If the electorate is not listening there’s a fat chance our message will be no more than a echo reverberating between the party walls.

  • Michael Parsons 15th Jun '14 - 5:49pm

    Perhaps in view of the decline in Party membership, and the desertion of the voting public from “his” party, what the rump of the Lib Dem coterie decides is already superseded by events? A party that had at least some chance of standing firm against the widespread contempt of our corrupt, and double-dealing politicians and which had some claim to clear leadership views and a clear stance within the great Liberal tradition has lost both. If Clegg remains leader of the Lib Dem rump it will make little difference to the quality of UK political life; if he goes the battered remnant will still leave the voters looking elsewhere for change in a system that needs a complete overhaul, and is now mire than ever susceptible to the appeal of “benevolent” dictatorship, for all the good the mass of us get now.
    Surely the trend is that Parties have declined to the point of collapse, civic organisations and charities command far more activist support (hence the attempts now made to keep them out of the election circus accordingly) and pending the “bang” it is all fizzling out with a whimper? Faced with government by a minority of voters, even a minority of those who bother to vote, the drive for improvement must be extra-parliamentary: look at the influence
    of ‘seatless’ UKIP for a starters, not to mention the US conglomerates and ‘big business rules ok.’

  • I resist the notion that a democratic party exercising its constitutional options for changing its leader can be warrantably characterised as “infighting and backbiting.” The procedures exist. They are there to be used. The reports from the Cambridge SGM suggest that it was thoughtful and civil. No doubt some in the press with an animus against the Liberal Democrats would report it as “Lib Dems in disarray,” but it is hardly necessary to anticipate them. There is nothing wrong with some calling for leadership elections and presenting their reasons, nor is there anything wrong with some opposing such elections. The procedures exist to determine the Party’s course. (They seem a little onerous to me, but they are what they are.) If the procedures are followed, I think that everyone should be able to live with the outcome, regardless of what it is, without bitterness or reproach, and I see nothing to convince me otherwise.

  • “First, a vote of no confidence by the party’s MPs. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen.”

    I wonder why that is. Presumably most of them think “incumbency” will enable them to defy the polls and retain their seats.

    I can think of two things that might conceivably change their minds about that. One is Lord Ashcroft’s forthcoming poll of LD marginals, due later this month. The other is a poor performance in the (reportedly) forthcoming South Cambridgeshire by-election.

  • @ RC

    When people say others have to come up with an alternative to Nick Clegg and an explanation why such an alternative would be better, maybe what they are saying is there isn’t an MP who could do a better job.

    Those who say Nick Clegg should go are saying any other MP is likely to do a better job. They argue that the public would listen to another leader and they are not listening to Nick Clegg. They say another leader would get over the message of what we have achieved in government better than Nick. They argue that any other leader would be able to say what we would have done if we weren’t stopped by the Conservatives. They argue that any other MP would connect better with those members who are disillusioned with Nick Clegg. They argue that another other leader would motivate these disillusioned members better than Nick Clegg. They might believe we could have another leader who could restore us to liberal values and connect us back to our tradition. That a new leader would lead us in a direction that will enable us to appeal to those members of the public who hold a traditional view of what liberalism is about.

    What I haven’t heard those who don’t want there to be a leadership election is why they believe that Nick Clegg can get the public to listen to him (they say we should have different people speaking on TV for us, which isn’t going to work for the leadership debates). They don’t say why they believe that Nick Clegg can motivate the disillusioned members and get ex-members to re-join. They don’t say how Nick Clegg is going to make us appeal to those members of the public who hold a traditional view of what liberalism is about, when he doesn’t share that view.

  • Clegg is not blocking water cannons and is happy to be photographed holding The Sun.
    He endorsed a poorly-evidenced report into local government waste. He said that he saw Europe remaining much the same.

    This is not the kind of appealing leadership I would want to see, in order to see myself voting Lib Dem.

    Do any Cleggites seem any sign of him changing?

  • Why is Nick not taking personal responsibility for the utterly disastrous Euro campaign?

  • Steve Comer 15th Jun '14 - 8:43pm

    Alistair asks “Why is Nick not taking personal responsibility for the utterly disastrous Euro campaign?”
    You could also ask why he did the disastrous Sun pose, or why he attacked Oxfam, or why he had no idea what the future of Europe should look like – even though he’d triggered a debate on the subject with Nigel Farage. Nick has showed very poor political judgement on numerous occasions, this weeks examples being obvious, last week’s botched ‘photo op’ in a pub being another (though I expect Press staff and SPaDs will gte the blame).

    To my mind there are two fundamental problems problems:
    1) At heart Nick Clegg is an establishment insider, who loves the Westminster bubble in which he is very comfortable. Neither Kennedy or Ashdown were really ‘House of Commons sorts’ they both preferred talking to ordinary people, and they were very good at it. As Nick is so comfortable as an insider, why would he want to give up the trappings of office? Surely the logic is that when he goes, he must drag the whole party down with him? I doubt just being a local MP for west Sheffield holds any more appeal than being MP for Sedgefield did for Blair. The EU Commissioner route out appears closed, and I doubt there are too many offers of non-Executive Directorships just yet!

    2) Clegg was picked out 15 years ago (while still an MEP) as “the boy who must be King” buy many of the party’s grandees. They really believed he would be the party’s Messiah and they can’t bear to accept the reality that their plans and predictions have proved so disastrously wrong. They keep surrounding and protecting him, and presumably telling him must go on and on for the sake of ‘the project,’ and prevent those nasty radical Liberals from taking their party back until its well and truly broken again.

  • Paul In Wokingham 15th Jun '14 - 9:25pm

    Mike Smithson tweeting that Nottingham LD’s vote against Clegg.

  • A quick report back on The Dulwich & West Norwood meeting. Their were only 15 members present, plus me from next door in Camberwell & Peckham. No vote was taken but all the members spoke, 5 in favor of a Leadership Election & 10 against. There were also written submissions from 2 members who couldnt attend, one against an Election & one not coming down clearly on either side.
    I make that 11 against an Election now & 5 for. There was a consensus that the Leadership issue should be looked at again after The General Election. The tone of the meeting was thoughtful & pessimistic.

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Jun '14 - 10:46pm

    Nick Clegg needs to challenge the establishment more. The plan to chuck a few missiles into a war zone and see what happens was a joke, economic policy is a joke and things like carbon trading are a joke too. He needs better advisers and a bit more courage.

  • Why is the threshold for a mandatory leadership election 75 Local Parties, out of 600+?

    Well, I wasn’t involved in drawing up the constitution, but I can understand the logic. To allow one or two Local Parties to trigger an election might make the party too liable to instability caused by a few unrepresentative people or groups. On the other hand, to require half the Local Parties to call for an election would be far too onerous a criterion. By the time it was achieved, an existing leader would blatantly be dead in the water.

    So we have a criterion of 75, which is less than one in eight Local Parties. According to Paul Barker, the “strike rate” so far is 5 out of 16, more than double the percentage that is needed to force an election. It is, of course, still only a large minority of those constituency parties which have taken an early decision.

    However, as many have pointed out, those individuals who have opposed a leadership election have done so for some decidedly mixed reasons, including “Clegg should go but later”, “Clegg should have gone earlier” and most particularly “Clegg should be persuaded to go of his own volition rather than having to be forced out”. With all of these alternative stances on offer, it is telling that so many Parties have nevertheless produced a majority in favour of calling an election now.

    So when John Tilley worries about a long war of attrition all summer, I think he is being too pessimistic. With over 30% of parties to date voting for an election, it should thankfully be settled a lot earlier than that.

    What is crucial is that ALL local parties should get on with the exercise. If 5 out of 16 turned into 30 out of 100, and the nation then learned that the other 500+ Local Parties weren’t even bothering to engage with the exercise, our reputation would take yet another huge knock.

  • Here’s another reason why it is urgent to call a leadership election without delay:

    http://www1.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2014/06/12/survation-finds-that-yes-could-have-an-8-lead-if-scottish-voters-thought-dave-would-win-ge15/

    If Clegg survives, he will bolster the chances of a renewed Tory-led government. If Scotland believes that the Tories will govern again from 2015, then according to the reported opinion poll, the independence referendum will swing to “Yes”.

    If Clegg survives, then the UK may not.

  • Jonathan Pile 15th Jun '14 - 11:23pm

    The Rebellion rumbles on –
    in May 2014 – 3 Lib Dem MPs (John Pugh & Adrian Sanders & John Hemmings) seemed to be identifying Clegg as the problem. Lord Oakeshott and Lord Smith called for Clegg to go. In June – local parties stage a series of EGM’s to debate a leadership contest.
    http://www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/john-pugh-mp-calls-nick-7193108
    http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/ousted_lib_dem_councillor_blames_nick_clegg_for_party_s_poor_results_in_brent_1_3614770
    http://www.mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/270569124-lib-dems-local-election-wipeout-are-down-nick-cleggs-national-nightmare-claims
    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/05/clegg-should-tell-rebels-put-or-shut

    This story has been rumbling now for weeks and shows no sign of ending despite the best efforts of the Party leadership to stamp on dissent. Nick Clegg has many options:
    a) he could take a sabbatical and allow someone else to be acting leader.
    b) he could go to the Lords, still be DPM, remain Party leader there and allow the MPs to elect a leader in the commons
    c) he could stay as Deputy Prime Minister and stand down from the leadership
    d) he could call for a secret ballot of MPs on his leadership
    e) he could call a ballot of members to re-elect him
    All these compromises could help unite the party and disfuse this political timebomb. But he chooses to do nothing .
    That speaks volumes. SACK CLEGG NOW
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • Steve Comer 16th Jun '14 - 1:06am

    If David Allen is saying that Clegg staying means Scotland is more likely to vote YES, then I may have to change my mind about him going!
    (Mind you I think NO will win come whatever happens, but I’d be delighted if it was by a really close margin).

  • Bill Le Breton 16th Jun '14 - 6:38am

    Morning Paul, why is ‘where is Liverpool in all this?’ Important ?

    My understanding is that an Exec there with two dominant voices argued against asking the membership its opinion.

    In all this, that type of decision I find the hardest to comprehend. Why do people fear asking their membership? It is good liberalism to do so, in fact Lord Carlile, interviewed on the Monday post Euro results said it was old fashioned Liberalism to do so, and surely he is right.

    Asking the membership allows ordinary members to to express their feelings in what I believe is called a nuanced way, as seems to have been reported in Cambridge.

    For example in the Ribble Valley the membership was able unanimously to add a separate motion to inform the President that the local party had no confidence in the advisers and communications team of the Leader.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Jun '14 - 7:35am

    “David Allen :

    “Why is the threshold for a mandatory leadership election 75 Local Parties, out of 600+?”

    Who says that there are over 600 Local Parties in the Lib Dems? Quite a few constituencies have merged local parties (eg Liverpool, Nottingham) and there are other areas where there is no Local Party at all. This being the situation under a Leader who promised to expand the mebership, as I recall it.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Jun '14 - 7:42am

    @Paul Walter

    “If someone had asked me a week or so ago for the name of the local party I would expect to be first out of the traps to pass a motion asking for a leadership contest, my answer would have been Liverpool.”

    You are ‘behind the curve’, Paul. A couple of years ago and this might might have been true. So many activists have left Liverpool Lib Dems (which was hardly the healthiest creature after putting all their eggs in the wrong basked in 2010) that it is now a sorry shadow of what it once was. And though this is NOT all Nick Clegg’s fault, he has not helped. Liverpool is far from alone in terms of Local Parties which are now mere shadows of their former selves.

  • Does anyone think that Clegg is an asset to the Party. Can anyone genuinely deny that he is a liability? We have very experienced successful campaigners like Le Breton, Greaves, Chegwyn etc speaking with one voice. We used to win elections listening to people like them.

  • Bill Le Breton 16th Jun '14 - 9:07am

    Paul, I can speak as an ordinary member in the Ribble valley who received an invitation to its meeting. It was a good liberal meeting. Brought everyone together and allowed the grassroots to ask questions of the exec, to then express opinions and ultimately to vote. As I said even those who voted against asking the president to call an election wanted to communicate their dismay and unease with the situation. We then went on to discuss campaigning in the community on an interesting issue where an idea arose that would not otherwise have arisen, again thanks to a grass roots member providing an idea.

    I am not sure that an exec would know the feeling of its membership. I think the officers at Ribble valley were able to help the membership, become better informed before make their decision and I think it helped the officers understand the depth of feeling in the Liberal Democrat community.

    The membership were taking part in a leadership election, they were being asked whether they thought there should be an election. Depriving members of that ability in these very difficult times seems the very opposite of a liberal approach. But then patronage is a very illiberal force.

  • peter tyzack 16th Jun '14 - 9:10am

    if members would listen to him instead of believing the bile generated by our opponents in the tabloids; if members would get behind their chosen leader instead of all this ego-centric navel-gazing, then the party would be a lot stronger. Nick is the best person available for the job, he is focussed on the job in hand.. now if only the membership would do the same…

  • Bill Le Breton 16th Jun '14 - 9:12am

    That last para should read, were not taking part in a leadership election.

    Also it is worth saying that the liberal community of the ribble vAlley wanted to communicate in this way to their President. An announcement was also placed on the members section. They were not looking for publicity at home or abroad, or to influence others. I think that showed a political maturity that should be respected.

  • paul barker 16th Jun '14 - 9:21am

    I didnt post the Dulwich “Result” so that people could draw daft conclusions from it. In fact it shows that things are more complex than the “2 For & 3 Against” of Stephens article. I would be surprised if Dulwich was the only Party to decide against a Formal Vote & we know there are other cases where The Local Executive decided against having a meeting. All that suggests a general lack of enthusiasm for having a forced Leadership Election.

  • Gareth Hartwell 16th Jun '14 - 9:33am

    As John says, there may not need to be momentum if there continue to be a local parties continuing to vote over the next weeks and months with at least some voting for a leadership election so the total continues to rise towards (if some way below) 75.

    This leads to the question – is there any cut-off in the constitution as to how long a period the motions can be gathered over and how much flexibility is there on the timing of a leadership election? (If Nick doesn’t stand down, I’m worried we could end up triggering a leadership election very close to the GE if there is no mechanism to prevent this.)

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 16th Jun '14 - 9:54am

    Stephen Hesketh
    ‘Whenever he goes it is likely to be within the next year. Even if they can not yet bring themselves to depose him themselves, the Parliamentary party and Federal Executive must ensure it is they who are in charge of all post GE discussions with other parties and our red-line policies. At least that is something I’m sure almost all of us can agree on.’

    How does the the Parliamentary party and Federal Executive ensure they control the post-GE discussions rather than the leader, if he is still in post? Is this something which should be on Party Conference agenda? Surely they will not be able to achieve it’s inclusion on the agenda. But the party trying to work out any agreement rapidly after the GE is improbable.

  • Malcolm Brown 16th Jun '14 - 10:54am

    It is relevant to this topic to report that St Austell-Newquay Local Party held a specially convened General Meeting of members last week to discuss the national political situation. There was no formal vote about the leadership because we don’t consider it to be a current issue in practical terms. However, everyone who contributed to the debated was fully supportive of Nick Clegg continuing as Leader and we hope the speculation will cease. We also discussed some changes in policies which we think the party should consider and we are working with other Local Parties in Cornwall on a possible resolution for the Glasgow Conference.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jun '14 - 11:17am

    @Paul Walter “There has been considerable shooting of the LDV messenger here and on other post threads.”
    For my own part, I may disagree with the authors of many articles on LDV, but I’ve never felt there was any particular bias. I think the issue came to a head on the parallel thread about the vote in the Cambridge party largely because the article was posted by “The Voice” rather than a named author and some perceived, perhaps unfairly, that through its wording (“Cambridge Liberal Democrats back Nick Clegg”) and selective reporting (ignoring the Ribble Valley vote) it showed bias. I am sure that articles by “The Voice” are intended to be purely informative, but Clegg’s leadership is a very contentious issue at the moment and passions are running high, so we’re probably all a bit more sensitive than usual.

  • I think it’s worth pointing out that Southwark and Salisbury are in a different category to Cambridge.

    Cambridge has actually had an SGM, which came out against calling for a leadership election. That’s a pretty clear and final outcome.

    I may be mistaken, but my understanding of Southwark and Salisbury is that in both cases the exec has refused to call an SGM. That can be overturned at any time by 20 members calling for an SGM.

    So it looks like the score so far is 2 General Meetings which have called for a leadership election, and 1 which didn’t.

  • Richard morris 16th Jun '14 - 11:43am

    Hi there are a couple of reference to 5 local parties voting fir a leadership election and 11 against in the piece above. That’s considerably more than has been reported up to now. Is there a list of these votes anywhere?

  • peter tyzack 16th Jun ’14 – 9:10am…..if members would listen to him instead of believing the bile generated by our opponents in the tabloids; if members would get behind their chosen leader instead of all this ego-centric navel-gazing, then the party would be a lot stronger. Nick is the best person available for the job, he is focussed on the job in hand.. now if only the membership would do the same….

    Hardly fair! To ‘write off the concerns of a major section of members as,”believing the bile generated by our opponents in the tabloids”, is risible….

    What members are believing is the ongoing hemorrhaging of membership, the loss of council seats, the loss of MEPs, the loss of deposits, the lamentable polls,etc…

    I’m minded of Harry Truman’s “The buck stops here”…Where do you think it should stop?

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jun '14 - 12:55pm

    Tony Rowan-Wicks16th Jun ’14 – 9:54am
    “How does the the Parliamentary party and Federal Executive ensure they control the post-GE discussions rather than the leader, if he is still in post? Is this something which should be on Party Conference agenda? Surely they will not be able to achieve it’s inclusion on the agenda. But the party trying to work out any agreement rapidly after the GE is improbable.”

    The point is surely that a leader who is very unlikely to be leading the party after the next GE cannot reasonably expect to continue to exercise the disproportionate influence over the party that a leader might under normal circumstances. NC’s New Lib Dem centre party strategy has not worked for the party and has been comprehensively rejected as reflected in lost votes, supporters, members and councillors. The tragedy is that many good MP’s are likely to follow them into the abyss. The least we can do is attempt to minimise those losses.

    I mentioned those two bodies but it might also be a team led by the President (as representing the Party in the country) or the Whips (representing the Parliamentary party), some body should simply inform him that what he is proposing by way of determining the negotiating team and red-line issues is simply not on. I would be happy with any representative group having ultimate control. Whoever is appropriate under our rules.

    Any out-going leader controlling what happens next is not appropriate for a democratic party let alone one which prides itself on its democratic traditions and bodies.

    Even if no one is prepared to stand against him until after the election, surely someone outside his immediate group can exert some influence – otherwise individual candidates will take individual stances on different topics and distance themselves from NC’s ‘official’ party manifesto. MP’s, candidates and workers promoting the same manifesto and all pulling in the same direction might do something for our credibility and the outcome of the election.

  • @Richard Morris
    Thats unclear references to the Dulwich meeting, there was no vote but I counted the speakers for & against.
    So far only 2 All-member meetings have voted for a forced Election.
    The other figures are disputed but there have been between 3 & 5 other meetings where there was either a vote against or no vote taken. In addition “many” executives have met & decided not to call All-member meetings.
    We need clarification on Southwark & Salisbury.

  • Paul in Wokingham 16th Jun '14 - 1:17pm

    @Stepben Hesketh – continuing your thought, if we go into the campaign with the expectation that the leader will resign shortly after the GE then that surely creates enormous difficulties for the party. Given the quasi-presidential nature of election campaigns our opponents will hammer on about “vote Clegg get x-the-unknown”. I really struggle to see how this works. We cannot go into the election with a leader who is expected to have a political life expectancy measured in hours after the poll closes.

  • David Evans 16th Jun '14 - 1:22pm

    @ Richard Morris – I think that is a misunderstanding. At the moment I think the score is Liberal Democracy 2 (scorers Ribble Valley and Nottingham) – Clegg 1 (Cambridge). However there may be more.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jun '14 - 1:29pm

    @ Paul in Wokingham16th Jun ’14 – 1:17pm

    YES! You can see the press articles and editorials a million miles off can’t you!

  • @Allan Heron: “I’m resigned to Clegg leading us into the siege that will be the next General Election.”

    It’s not going to be a siege; it’s going to be a massacre.

    @Paul and Stephen: Good point. A guaranteed post-election Cleggectomy is going be an ugly concept. Mind you, I won’t be too surprised if Clegg loses his seat anyway.

  • The time to ditch Clegg was after the tuition fee debacle three and a half years ago but, if you’ll forgive me for intruding on your private, party affairs, the question of whether Clegg should go now or after the election is answered by the fact the question exists. You cannot sell a lame-duck leader to the electorate. How can you ask people to vote for someone that you have no faith in? I suspect that replacing him won’t do much to improve your fortunes, but the alternative is even worse (with the exception that a disaster in May under Clegg would enable a new leader to reject Clegg’s wing of the party more decisively).

  • Do any of the commentators here actually know how many local parties there are? I suspect they don’t and certainly at least one person seems to be relying on the assumption there is one per parliamentary constituency. There isn’t!

    Reflecting on my own experience of constituency and local party organisations over the past 42 years, I doubt the ability of many to organise a constitutionally sound special meeting with all the bells & whistles of membership checks, calling notices, notice periods, postal & proxy voting etc. etc. I suspect the experience of many, were they being honest, will be the same.

    I hope we are now coming to the end of this increasingly boring and futile debate and that those who are willing to now get behind the leader, the party and explain and justify to voters what we have done in government. If we do suffer crushing losses in 2015, which is by no means certain, then that’s the price we have to pay for doing what we did in the circumstances presented to us at the time.

    It would also be the result of being part of a political party that in reality has a very small support base of ‘philosophically sound’ liberal supporters and has relied for years on tactical voters, the ill informed and some who have since realised they should never have been voting Liberal or Liberal Democrat in the first place.

  • @Robert
    “It would also be the result of being part of a political party that in reality has a very small support base of ‘philosophically sound’ liberal supporters and has relied for years on tactical voters, the ill informed and some who have since realised they should never have been voting Liberal or Liberal Democrat in the first place.”

    I think that perfectly sums up the calamitous drop in support for the Lib Dems, but not intentionally.

  • @Robert: It would also be the result of being part of a political party that in reality has a very small support base of ‘philosophically sound’ liberal supporters

    There are quite a lot of people who vote on the basis of principled liberalism. The Liberal Democrats’ current problems are not due to its “small support base” but to the fact that it has alienated that very base. Very few people would count Clegg, Alexander, and Laws as “philosophically sound liberals”; rather, they represent a combination of small-government economics and (to a limited extent) cultural libertarianism — which is a completely different thing. It is that package which has “a very small support base” (or, to be more precise, most of the people who believe in it feel quite comfortable voting Tory); liberalism has a much larger base, but no longer finds its most natural home in the Liberal Democrats, or indeed anywhere.

  • SIMON BANKS 16th Jun '14 - 4:24pm

    RC:

    There are a number of MPs who would be credible leadership candidates. With 60 MPs, it really would be a bit worrying if that weren’t so. To confuse the call for a leadership election with the question of who might win that election is unhelpful. Since this is a democratic party, no call for the present leader to go can be combined with “and of course, X will replace him”.

    Of course, as with any leadership change, those which dumped Ming or Charles for example, uncertainty about how good the replacement might be is a factor to consider.

    Why should any replacement do better? Well, for a start, some possible leaders have the ability to inspire and to show passion. Ever since Nick took over as leader, I’ve suspected he lacked these qualities. There are of course arguments about the direction of the party: many of us cringe whenever Nick trumpets about the centre ground. Also some MPs have more of a background as an activist and probably a better understanding of the party grassroots. Finally, I’m afraid a lot of people out there have stopped listening to Nick Clegg. A new leader would start under a big disadvantage, but just by being new, might gain more attention.

    Despite all that, though, my feeling is this. Nick should have resigned after the elections: a graceful resignation followed by an orderly leadership contest would have done us good rather than harm. He chose to stay and I agree that efforts to force him out will be damaging, creating the impression that the party is in perpetual civil war. Of course the MPs could have acted, but being in government means a lot of them owe something to the leader or hope soon to owe something.

    Unfortunately calls to shut up and pull together no longer work with people fundamentally unhappy with the direction of the party – and that’s as it should be, for we’re in the Liberal Democrats to make the world a better place, not as an end in itself. So the question for such people is, by falling in line, will they help preserve what they value, to prosper when the party changes course, or will they just be used?

  • David-1 16th Jun ’14 – 3:29pm……….There are quite a lot of people who vote on the basis of principled liberalism. The Liberal Democrats’ current problems are not due to its “small support base” but to the fact that it has alienated that very base. …..

    I agree! Apart from 1997 I have always voted Lib(Dem)…Prior to 2010, I (and many like me) felt comfortable with the proposed policies being outlined by Nick Clegg….
    Post coalition everything changed. Clegg’s ‘rose garden’ statement rang warning bells; the NHS/Tuition fee debacles, and almost everything since, has made me aware that my vote was/is enabling the introduction of the most right wing policies in my lifetime…
    After 13 years of’New’ Labour many, who saw them becoming more and more authoritarian, chose to vote LibDem…what was the result? Post 2010, Nick telling them (and me) that our ‘leftie’ ideas had no place in HIS vision of the LibDems…..
    Well, they went back to Labour and many of us on the ‘left’ (how I dislike using the word) of the LibDems are now non/floating voters…
    I, for one, will not vote for a party dominated by Clegg/Laws/Alexander….

  • Simon Banks: Despite telling us that there are 60 MPs, you have not been able to name a single one as a viable replacement this side of an election. You hope that a new leader “might gain more attention”, yet the probability is that a new leader will be ignored as an unknown. Much of the criticism of Clegg outside the party stems from anger because it is hard to ignore him. Any excuse to ignore A.N. Other would be gratefully received.

    I think changing leader now would do enormous damage to prospects of rebuilding the party after May 2015. In fact if you wanted to kill off the party, I think forcing a change of leader would be your best plan.

  • paul barker 16th Jun '14 - 5:05pm

    On the point of what we do after The General Election, we cant know what we will be doing because we dont know the result yet. A lot of us think we do but we really dont. If we have a Leadership Election the obvious timing would be to have The Result co-incide with the Autumn Conference.

    On where we are, it looks like 5 or 7 Parties have had All-Member Meetings of which 2 have voted for a Leadership Election. That doesnt look like a great tide of revolt yet but theres still time. Theres also time to drop the whole thing & start thinking about The General Election campaign that will beging in 8 Months.

  • “We cannot go into the election with a leader who is expected to have a political life expectancy measured in hours after the poll closes.”

    Absolutely. If you don’t want to be accused of destabilizing the government, have him resign as party leader but not DPM. The new leader can keep him in place as DPM while building a the party up.

    Otherwise, if there is another hung parliament, and the other parties want to negotiate, do you say “please wait while we have a leadership election” or do you have Clegg doing the same messaging job as in 2010 and starting off as DPM? Do you then ditch the DPM midway through the next coalition, potentially with Labour?

    Given the expectation is to hold seats purely on the basis of incumbency of existing popular MPs, presumably that also applies with a new leader anyway. At least with a new leader you give yourselves a chance to get more. The only exception that is the architect of tuition fees, Vince Cable. Choosing him would be a clear sign that the party was happy with the events of Autumn 2010 and would provoke more people to actively campaign against you.

    As I have said though. Use the procedures available in the coalition instead of just whinging publicly.

    A Lib Dem Sympathiser.

  • @Martin
    Why do you think that Farron would be a bad leader?

    You talk of rebuilding as if it is something that must start next year. By that time, the damage will have been done and the MPs voted out. You can see the iceberg but you cannot countenance any change of direction.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jun '14 - 5:38pm

    @ paul barker 16th Jun ’14 – 5:05pm “On the point of what we do after The General Election, we cant know what we will be doing because we dont know the result yet. A lot of us think we do but we really dont. If we have a Leadership Election the obvious timing would be to have The Result co-incide with the Autumn Conference.”

    Thankfully Paul it is not up to you. In the unfortunate case of NC leading us into the election, I do hope he proves me wrong as that would mean that we hadn’t lost many good MPs in the same way as we have already lost many good voters, supporters, members, councillors and MEPs. My belief however is that your judgement is completely clouded so I won’t be changing my view and replacing it with yours anytime soon.

    For someone who probably views themselves as a realist and not one of those silly idealists, I rather feel you might be in line for a rude awakening on the morning of 8 May 2015. Sadly I, like most posters here, won’t be able to take much comfort in your heart felt apology on that morning.

  • I don’t really understand those people who think Clegg should go but only after the 2015 election. What makes you think you’ll be able to get rid of him then? The election will be bad for the party, terrible even, but what you really need to worry about is what damage Clegg does after it.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Jun '14 - 5:57pm

    @peter tyzack :

    ” Nick is the best person available for the job, he is focussed on the job in hand.. now if only the membership would do the same…”

    The job in hand is winning election of some MPs out of the jaws of defeat. Some of us who voted for Coalition and who understand how coalitions work have been doing this and are still focused on that job, despite being massively handicapped by the ‘Leadership’ for several years now. You, Peter, seem to be clearly not at all focused on winning. You appear to have no experience or skills of winning. And you appear simply anxious to lose, and to make sure we all lose in your own preferred manner. You will pardon us if we decline this invitation.

  • David Evans 16th Jun '14 - 6:09pm

    Martin,

    Any one of our MPs could be leader. The party decides. If Nick fell under a bus they would have to. Until people get that, they won’t be part of the solution.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jun '14 - 7:51pm

    @ David Evans 16th Jun ’14 – 6:09pm

    David, this is simply incorrect!

    Bad as NC is, I must speak up in his defence. Browne, Laws, Alexander or Davey would be far worse!

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jun '14 - 8:35pm

    @peter tyzack 16th Jun ’14 – 9:10am
    ” … if members would get behind their chosen leader … Nick is the best person available for the job …”

    Got it! The membership elected him but they can’t change their mind and ‘unelect’ him. Peter, I think you have hit on an idea with this – but have I heard of it before? Trouble is it doesn’t seem to happen in democracies!

    Yes, I agree. Nick is the best person for the job in that he is the only candidate. Is a common theme beginning to develop here? Be that as it may, we all know that several MP’s will have considered challenging him and then asked themselves if they really want to inherit the mess NC has presided over. I agree, it’s not ALL his fault, but the calculation amongst MPs must by implication be that things can only get … worse – and that they don’t want to be left holding the can for NC and his failed New Liberal Democrat project.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Jun '14 - 8:39pm

    @paul barker :

    “Theres also time to drop the whole thing & start thinking about The General Election campaign that will beging in 8 Months.”

    Anyone STARTING to think about this election now is wasting their time. And that includes certain MPs. Some of us have been fighting the coming general election consistently for the past three years. For, without holding our end up then, we would stand no chance now.

  • Voter: The importance for the long term is seeing through a term of coalition government. Opponents are keen to be able to claim that coalition has been seen not to work and is fundamentally unworkable in the UK. This is not the coalition of our choosing, but it is the one that we have been dealt. The idea that changing leader whilst continuing the coalition would improve our outlook is risible. Discontinuing the coalition with a sharp change of policy directions would fool few and be tantamount to shooting ourselves in the other foot.

    Incidentally I am not that keen of Tim Farron, he is too much of an evangelist for my liking. I would like to see a leader who has a good track record on evidence based policy (prayer does not do it for me). I suppose he could act as a sacrificial lamb for 2015, however this would be seen as a failure of the radical wing of the Party and provide the centrists to reclaim ascendency. But none of this would matter if the received opinion became that coalitions are unworkable.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Jun '14 - 12:21am

    People keep asking those liberal democrats like myself who are demanding a new leader -how can a leadership election 11 months away from a general election help the party?
    Some Recent Lib Dem leadership changes (approval ratings IPOS-MORI)
    Old Leader New Leader
    David Steel -17% Paddy Ashdown -4%
    Paddy Ashdown -+39% Charles Kennedy +11%
    Charles Kennedy +22 Ming Campbell +5%
    Ming Campbell -11% Nick Clegg -3%
    Nick Clegg -43%
    As you can see Clegg is well past his sell by date and was never very popular!
    Other Leadership changes are instructive –
    Thatcher -Major Nov-Dec 1990 -46% to +15%
    Blair – Brown 2007 -27% to +16%
    Brown – Miliband 2010 -24% to +19%
    Food for thought for the scaredycats out there – seize the day or reap the whirlwind.
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • @Martin
    You are taking the Clegg line on coalitions needing to be seen as working. What evidence is there that voters are keen on supporting Lib Dems in that quest? The elections have produced only movement away from the Lib Dems, most recently in the European elections. Are people really talking about the virtue of establishing coalitions or are they talking about the importance of the NHS?

    If something does not work, then it does not work. It seems to me that the priority should be on retaining MPs, not taking away a talking point from opponents.

    Clegg is trying to make the Lib Dems into a right-wing party, with some minor liberal elements but those who are right-wingers can choose Ukip or the Tories.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Jun '14 - 12:42am

    Who could convince the voters on Tuition Fees?
    A new leader elected this summer will face the vital job of reconnecting with 2010 Lib Dem voters over the thorny but key issue of Tuition Fees . Perhaps one of the 21 MPs who voted against Tuition Fees who be the authentic voice of rebellion.
    21 Lib Dem MPs voted against:

    Annette Brooke (Dorset Mid & Poole North) Annette gives her reasons here.
    Sir Menzies Campbell (Fife North East)
    Michael Crockart (Edinburgh West)
    Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale)
    Andrew George (St Ives) See Andrew’s Tuition Fees Statement.
    Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South)
    Julian Huppert (Cambridge) See Julian’s website.
    Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye & Lochaber)
    John Leech (Manchester Withington) John’s tuition fees speech in full.
    Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) Stephen spoke exclusively to the Eastbourne Herald.
    Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) See Greg’s article in the Daily Mirror.
    John Pugh (Southport) John spoke to the Liverpool Echo.
    Alan Reid (Argyll & Bute)
    Dan Rogerson (Cornwall North)
    Bob Russell (Colchester)
    Adrian Sanders (Torbay)
    Ian Swales (Redcar)
    Mark Williams (Ceredigion) Mark spoke of his disappointment that the vote was lost.
    Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)
    Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central) Jenny outlined her position on her website ahead of the vote.
    Simon Wright (Norwich South)
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/tuition-fees-how-liberal-democrat-mps-voted-22346.html

    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • Dave G Fawcett 17th Jun '14 - 1:11am

    From up here in the North East the future looks very bleak, and I speak as a member (and party chair) from a town (Gateshead) where we managed to hold every seat we were defending, and came within 78 votes of taking a seat from Labour. Following the election I took soundings amongst my party officials about discussing the letter calling for Nick’s replacement as leader, and suggested including the item for discussion in an informal strategy meeting last week. Nothing happened.

    I get the feeling that locally, we are too concerned with local politics and local issues and that my colleagues are, rightly, more concerned with local issues and are determined to put national issues – AND NICK – on the back burner while we fight to defend what we hold – and until this year we had lost half of our councillors to Labour since 2010

    From my perspective as a candidate in a solid Labour ward, Nick, sadly, is poison to MY electorate. As a former Labour party member,(but one who first joined the Liberal party in 1962 – when I followed Jo Gimond towards the sound of gunfire – my own view is that Nick has moved my party to the right (or at least the centre ground that everyone seems to want to occupy).

    Speaking on a personal basis only, Nick must either stand down or be replaced as soon as possible. A new leader may not make much difference before the general election , but a change of leader now will give us an earlier start in the process of rebuilding the party post-2015

  • I dunno. I’m just a voter. I like the Lib dems but find Clegg very tough to support and find other potential voters sort of recoil at the mention of his name. Unfair or not. That’s what I find.
    I think the lib Dems are trying to avoid the obvious.

  • @ Stephen Hesketh – “Whenever he goes it is likely to be within the next year. Even if they can not yet bring themselves to depose him themselves, the Parliamentary party and Federal Executive must ensure it is they who are in charge of all post GE discussions with other parties and our red-line policies. At least that is something I’m sure almost all of us can agree on.”

    @ Paul in Wokingham – “continuing your thought, if we go into the campaign with the expectation that the leader will resign shortly after the GE then that surely creates enormous difficulties for the party. Given the quasi-presidential nature of election campaigns our opponents will hammer on about “vote Clegg get x-the-unknown”. I really struggle to see how this works. We cannot go into the election with a leader who is expected to have a political life expectancy measured in hours after the poll closes.”

    The question then arises is Stephen Hesketh correct? Even when a local party or Executive don’t support a leadership election do a majority of them want Nick Clegg to resign after the General Election if there is another coalition government with us in it? I am not sure they do. If we lose lots of MPs and are not part of a coalition government then I expect those who don’t want a leadership election now will want one after the General Election and the constitution states if we are not in government there will be one within a year or two.

    Article 15.2 (a) could be deleted and (b) renumbered (a) and a new (b) created giving the nine person reference group the job of appointing the negotiating team.

    Perhaps Stephen Hesketh should ask his Local Party to submit a constitutional amendment to do this because at present the Federal Executive and Parliamentary party do not have the power to ensure who is in charge of any post General Election discussions with other parties.

    Do people know that a leadership election could to be completed in 8 weeks according to the rules?

    @ Jonathan Pile
    I looked at that list last year and said I thought my first vote would go to Jenny Willott. Having seen a recent comment here by Adrian Sanders he might be my second choice.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Jun '14 - 7:49am

    @Martin

    “The importance for the long term is seeing through a term of coalition government. Opponents are keen to be able to claim that coalition has been seen not to work and is fundamentally unworkable in the UK. ”

    The issue which you are focusing on, Martin, is about as important to the voters of the UK as is my choice of flavour of cat food for my cat’s supper tonight. Opponents of ours are NOT ‘keen to be able’ to say this or that or ANYTHING about coalition: it is simply not an issue which even vaguely intereests 99 percent of the voters and most sensible politicians know that. Process issues do not make a ripple on the waters of any election. It is outputs which matter – and being able to link you percieved outputs, good or bad, to particular politicians.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Jun '14 - 8:34am

    @ Michael vg
    Yes I looked at Jenny’s tuition fees statement and was impressed – certainly a contender for my Borgen minded vote come the summer leadership ballot. But we have got to meanest it happen . I have requested a sgm in my own party Wakefield. This is not supported by the party officers and will depend on getting 20% local party members to support the call to discuss this . A Democratic Party refusing to discuss a leadership election . It sums up the problems we are facing as a party.
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • I have requested a sgm in my own party Wakefield. This is not supported by the party officers and will depend on getting 20% local party members to support the call to discuss this .

    Out of curiosity, did they give any reason why ordinary members shouldn’t have a say about the dire situation the party finds itself in?

    Is it just the time-honoured political principle of paying lip service to democracy, but making sure all the important decisions are kept firmly in your own hands?

  • Voter and Tony Dawson: If it becomes received opinion that coalitions are bad, this would give strong support for anything that further enshrines and strengthens the two party system. Personally I cannot accept this. My support for Lib Dems rests Lib Dem support for electoral reform, pluralist politics, internationalism and positive engagement with the EU: Not the other way round.

    So for myself, failure of coalition politics would be a disaster.

    Tony Dawson’s claim that voters are not interested in these issues is wrong. I think he fails to appreciate the terms in which the issue would be portrayed. Does he really think that voters are not too bothered whether governments are stable or not?

  • Voter: re “Clegg is trying to make the Lib Dems into a right-wing party, with some minor liberal elements”. This is rather histrionic. Clegg is, however, wedded to an idea of centralism, but in my view this rests on an electorally dangerous fallacy, risks a significant loss of identity and lacks political appeal. I think he is wrong. However, it is difficult to see what he wants because he is in government. Governments always do appear to be right wing. This is probably soething to do with financial limitations. Look at Labour in office; although it is not much of a claim it is difficult to make a case that a continuing Labour government would have been overall any less right wing than the coalition.

  • @Martin: failure of coalition politics would be a disaster

    The fact that the AV referendum failed, and the reasons for which it failed, suggests that “coalition politics” — at least in the coalition’s current iteration — have already been perceived by the public as a disaster.

    If you want to persuade people that coalition government is palatable, you shouldn’t hold up the worst example of a coalition (one in which one party is consistently stitched up by the other) as the model for what coalition government should be.

  • This thread started on Sunday morning but by Monday evening Stephen Tall had published this in Conservative Home
    http://www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2014/06/stephen-tall.html

    A well argued piece on why Clegg should stand down going further than Stephen’s earlier statements on the subject.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Jun '14 - 6:31pm

    @ Chris
    No good reasons given except a solid defence of the current leadership by the local chairman and wakefield parliamentary candidate. I am invited to make contact with other party members to obtain the necessary votes but given no means of contacting them . Hardly democratic. Not surprised and I suspect this is undemocratic practice being mirrored over the country. No wonder Nick Clegg wants to change the party name back to liberal from liberal democrat. He clearly doesn’t believe I’m democracy any more . And democracy doesn’t believe in him.

  • paul barker 17th Jun '14 - 7:14pm

    So far 24 Local Parties have met. 8 have had All-Member meetings. 2 have voted for a Leadership Election.
    To me that suggests that the latest Anti-Clegg revolt has failed, like all the others. The only real result is to damage our Party, again.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Jun '14 - 7:33pm

    @Martin :

    “for myself, failure of coalition politics would be a disaster.”

    Martin, how do you differentiate between failures of a particular coalition government and ‘failure of coalition government’? I support coalition government: I voted at conference for this one, but I also realise that there are ways to address coalition, particularly from a minority position, and the Lib Dem Leadership never had any experience of this and have largely ‘bombed’ at it.

    Thankfully for you, I can assure you that a great chunk of the electorate either don’t know we have a coalition government or don’t know what it means. They also largely don’t care one way or another. Their voting decisions are determined far more by what they are ‘against’ than what they are ‘for’ – and which Party leaders personify these priorities the most.

    The good news is that in those constituencies where there is any real possibility of a Liberal Democrat MP winning next May the decisions of the voters who count will not be altered much one way or another by anything to do with ‘coalition’or anything in a Lib Dem manifesto, unlike the scores of demographically-similar seats where our Lib Dem candidates will not get a ‘look in’.

  • There seems to be a fundamental failure by paul barker to understand what is a rather simple constitutional provision.

    It does not matter how many local parties’ executives deny their members a meeting to vote on the issue. Because there is still provision for ordinary members to require a meeting to be held. An executive committee can delay such a meeting perhaps.
    It does not matter how many local parties who have had a meeting have voted against — that is not a factor in the constitutional provision — unless of course the Number reaches the point of being one more than the total minus 75. We are not anywhere near that point.

    As with his often erroneous opinion poll interpretation (which have become rather infamous in LDV) paul barker seems to work back from the answer he wants and then scratchbaround to find justification for the number he first thought of.

    Not really a very scientific approach.

    It is really quite easy paul barker — either a total of 75 local parties reach such a decision at a general meeting, or they do not.

    It is not a race, it is not a simple majority of local parties. You need to get clear in your mind that your desired outcome is one thing , the facts are something else. Please try not to confuse them.

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Jun '14 - 10:25pm

    @Michael BG 17th Jun ’14 – 5:04am
    Quoting myself and Paul in Wokingham …
    @ Stephen Hesketh – “Whenever he goes it is likely to be within the next year. Even if they can not yet bring themselves to depose him themselves, the Parliamentary party and Federal Executive must ensure it is they who are in charge of all post GE discussions with other parties and our red-line policies. At least that is something I’m sure almost all of us can agree on.”

    @ Paul in Wokingham – “continuing your thought, if we go into the campaign with the expectation that the leader will resign shortly after the GE then that surely creates enormous difficulties for the party. Given the quasi-presidential nature of election campaigns our opponents will hammer on about “vote Clegg get x-the-unknown”. I really struggle to see how this works. We cannot go into the election with a leader who is expected to have a political life expectancy measured in hours after the poll closes.”
    The question then arises is Stephen Hesketh correct? Even when a local party or Executive don’t support a leadership election do a majority of them want Nick Clegg to resign after the General Election {{even}} if there is another coalition government with us in it?

    Michael BG, I’m only going off my own discussions and the evidence from meetings such as Cambridge. I appreciate the constitutional tip but while the GE looms and NC sails on regardless, I doubt if with have the time for an ordinary member like myself to go through all the proper channels.

    But I should like to ask just how constitutional is NC being in moving our party to the soggy centre without the formal agreement of the wider party. The Liberal Democrats, what we stand for and our long term success are much more important than the ambition of a transient leader and a pet New Lib Dem project.
    So for these reasons, and pending the outcome of the constituency level leadership process and other developments, I believe the Parliamentary party need to have some very frank discussions with NC and reign in his ambitions and the rigging of the future path of the party.

    Can you imagine NC and the centre-right delivering us up into another coalition with the Tories having decided their own red line issues. It just doesn’t bear thinking about. The party would simply implode.

    This is why it is vital we fight the next election on a properly constitutionally-agreed manifesto and Clegg understands exactly where he stands.

    Placing David Laws in charge of the drafting sounds ‘Right’ but far from right, proper and representative. Clegg et al are showing their contempt for so much we have hitherto stood for and for party members and workers in moves such as this.

    I could take the unpopularity if we were being true to our principles but what we have is a leader, massively unpopular with the electorate and the membership, who is leading the party away from its traditional ideals, members, supporters AND our voters.

    I wouldn’t agree with any leader and inner circle holding so many of the party levers. Bearing in mind our, and crucially his, position in the polls, it is madness.

  • @ Stephen Hesketh
    I am sorry you can’t find the time to attempt to get a constitutional amendment agreed by your Local Party (or Executive) or if that failed to find 10 conference representatives to support it by 16th July to ensure that the Leader isn’t the person to appoint the negotiating team. I could draft it for you, but I am not a conference rep. I did read on this site somewhere that constitutional amendments have to be included on the Conference Agenda unless a similar one has been considered in the last year.

    I don’t believe your aim of removing power from Nick Clegg over any possible coalition negotiations by relying on the Parliamentary party or Federal Executive will happen. The only way Nick Clegg will know where he stands is if Federal Conference removes the power from him.

    I do agree with you that the Leader shouldn’t appoint the chair of the manifesto working group. I am not sure that power is given to him in the constitution and it is just the weakness of the Federal Policy Committee that allows him to do it. I suppose you can submit a constitutional amendment to ensure that the chair of the manifesto working group is a member of Federal Policy Committee and elected by the working group.

    I don’t recall who chaired previous general election manifesto working groups but I don’t recall any of them being contentious like David Laws.

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