Why is our “Core Vote” only middle class metropolitan remainers?

Mark Pack and David Howarth recently wrote the second version of their “core vote” strategy, where they believe we should target those they deem to share our values, usually middle class metropolitan remainers. They believe that we need to tailor our message to these people so they vote for us during the good times and the bad. This report is linked here. Any reference to the report in this article is from this link.

While Mark Pack and David Howarth have the right idea with the plan to build a core vote, they seem to fall into the trap that only those groups that currently vote for us in any significant way share our values. They decide that 38% of the electorate can be defined as “open and tolerant”, based mainly on their answer to the question of how much immigration there should be as well as a range of other questions though these are noted to be less important. I would argue that this narrow way of looking at the question excludes many who would consider voting for the party if we merely appealed to them correctly.

I hesitate to use the term “legitimate concerns” around immigration, as usually they are not concerns based on immigration at all. They are usually concerns about housing, jobs, education and health and the provision of these as the population increases. The lack of provision is not the fault of migrants, it is the fault of a government failing to plan for the future of our vital public services.

However, this is not just a Conservative problem, even back under New Labour, the supposed party of the NHS, there were issues with providing more hospital beds for those areas that needed them. Many voters with concerns about immigration have merely had this scapegoat pressed onto the issue. If we decide to communicate properly with these people, we may find that actually they are more open and tolerant than we think.

The Core Vote document notes that two questions most strongly predict whether someone is very likely to vote for us. These are “Remain or Leave in the EU?” and “What is your level of education?” where answers of “Remain” and “High” mean they are much more likely to vote Lib Dem.

However, these questions almost automatically mean abandoning significant less well-off parts of the country, merely for concerns, legitimate or not, about the EU and for having less of an education than others. Are we deeming these people less able to have power of their lives?

If we articulate a strong and liberal vision that devolves power as close to the people as possible, giving them a strong voice in their own lives including in their jobs, through promoting employee ownership, in their healthcare, through boosting patient input and in their children’s education, by giving both parents and kids much more input into what is learnt, then we will pick up more support from areas we deem “no-go areas” as long as we have good candidates to present it.

 

* Oliver Craven is a party member in Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham Liberal Democrats.

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79 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Feb '18 - 10:25pm

    Oliver

    I agree entirely. You are correct.

    The pamphlet of the two you refer in your article herein to, wrote it two plus years ago.

    Since the referendum we have proof of your suggestion, not a vindication of the alternative. The remain vs Brexit stuff is not working for us . This does not mean the policies on that are incorrect , it does mean the emphasis, I would say too much so, is wrong.

    It is a sorry thing to see a reasonable and moderate Liberal try and justify the reason he talks herein about immigration, but you so it and talk sense.

    This party shall continue to do badly as long as it tries to ape the two main parties in all the things that are not popular, but avoids being like other parties on the issues where they are popular.

    crime, immigration, health, work, play, these are the bread and life blood of concerns.

  • Oliver: your argument appears to me to be: ‘the Lib Dems shouldn’t prioritise anyone; rather we should try to appeal to everyone?’. If so, the obvious repost is that trying to appeal to everyone is to end up appealing to hardly anyone as it ends up being a mix of the bland and the inconsistent (between different areas). So what’s the alternative that you propose?

  • This article seems to be completely missing the point about the “Core Vote” strategy, its about where we start, given our limited resources. Obviously Party Members should campaign where they live & take account of Local issues but even if you live in a former pit village some people will be already closer to our values than others – so begin with them if you can identify them.
    On Immigration all the evidence suggests that its motivated entirely by fear of the “Other”, thats why Anti-Immigrant feeling is highest in those areas with the fewest Immigrants; we fear what we dont know.
    If feeling against outsiders were to do with scarce resources it should be highest in London which has seen a dramatic rise in population over the last 3 Decades, nearly all down to incomers.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Feb '18 - 10:43pm

    Mark

    A bit unfair as to appeal to what many of us think since Brexit, is too narrow, middle class and metropolitan an electorate, is precisely why we are seen as part of an out of touch elite, there are many remain voters who are in financial need and difficulty , there are many leave voters who are doing very well, the stereotype is the reverse , patronising.

    We need to appeal to those who share our values and like our policies.

    That is not everyone as you suggest, but is more than a minority if we are offering good policies from a very good perspective.

  • A provocative read! I fear though that you have confused “core” with “all”. My appreciation of these documents is that they provided a clear pathway back to a better place from the doldrums of post coalition life for the party which sets us on a stabler foundation going forward. In terms of achieving that goal I have not encountered any better arguments.

    If the most clearly articulated and unchallenged pathway for persistence of our movement and values relies on “middle class metropolitan remainers” then I suggest a better question to ask is, “Have attempts to court middle class metropolitan remainers delivered a firmer foundation for the party?”. To my mind our membership numbers and local level wins point to a firm “Yes”.

    I personally hadn’t appreciated the proximity of the brink that the “core votes” strategy is designed to avoid in the future, but that doesn’t mean that middle class metropolitan remainers
    can’t be challenged… I’ll put up a hand as one of those currently engaged in trying to build on the recent diversity challenge laid out for us.

  • Phil Wainewright 13th Feb '18 - 12:03am

    Thank you Oliver for raising this point. Our core vote should be based on people who share our values, not on people who share our marketing segmentation. While it’s evidently true that middle class metropolitan remainers are most likely to share our values (you only have to look around the participants in any LibDem function for evidence of that), we must do more than double down on that demographic.

    In the week that the Alderdice report has been published, perhaps instead of dismissing this call for a more diverse strategy as ‘appealing to everyone’ which it quite clearly isn’t, we should be asking what we can do to prioritise reaching out to people who share our values in other demographics as well as the ones that are already overrepresented in our membership?

  • Ultimately middle class Remainers are generally correct on most issues. Globalist, pro free markets, free trade, free movement, pro business, socially liberal and pro human rights.

    I see nothing wrong with any of this. The party does not exist for Corbynists and trade unions to dictate far left economic positions or vested interests for certain sections of the organised working class. Nor does it exists for Kippers and regional nationalists to push nativism, Brexit, nationalism or social conservatism.

    Appealing to the base desires of the “man in the pub” who mixes the worst type of Daily Express social conservatism and jingoism with Morning Star style economic leftism and corporate bashing is insanity. The party needs to hold its nerve. It will be proven right as it always is when Brexit and Trump prove to be a disaster and Corbyn’s scaremongering over privatisation, police cuts and offshoring jobs prove to be lies.

  • I’m with B on this one.

    Having a core voting base does not mean we do not try and reach out to all memebrs of society.

    Furthermore if we are to chop and change our core values to appeal to a broader range of people, won’t we cease to be liberals in time? Why can’t we promote liberal values and try and win the argument and in return attract people to our party?

  • @Stimpson. Do you think privatising, PFI, outsourcing, police cuts of 20,000 officers and the erosion of local democracy have been a great success, then ?

  • These arguments were made (mostly by the same people) all through the coalition years, as well as in both the 2015 and the last election. The result was not remotely close to a core vote of 38%. Plus all the big parties claim to be open and tolerant! to the point where the language embodies a kind of formless political blancmange.
    I suspect, the actually core liberal vote is probably more geared towards arguments about censorship, freedom of information and such as like.
    P.S
    Re, Immigration virtually every survey strongly indicates that lower levels are favoured by a clear 70 to 78% majority. There are simply not many votes in banging on about how awesome you think immigration is. It’s at best irrelevant to electoral success and in truth mostly a vote loser.

  • The paradox of the ‘core vote’ strategy is that most remainers are young – and that is the very segment of society that was most offended by Lib Dem policy on tuition fees, austerity and the welfare cuts when the Lib Dems were in government. They’re also going to remember it for a very long time.

  • most remainers are young

    No — most of the young are Remainers. That is not, mathematically, the same thing as most Remainers being young.

  • Gordon Lishman 13th Feb '18 - 9:47am

    I agree entirely with Oliver. I am not in favour of retreating into a ghetto of the “educated bourgeoisie” (Keynes’s phrase). Not least because there are only very few places where there are enough of them to win a Parliamentary seat.

    Liberal values include strong opposition to poverty, anger at the way in which the major factor in people’s lives determine how long they live and how ill they become), the gross distortion in the distribution of power and influence, alienation from work, inadequate housing or access to housing, the failure of health and social care to meet peoples needs. Isn’t social justice an important value for UK Liberal Democrat’s?

    We don’t have to agree with everyone about everything; in fact for much of the time, people vote for us despite some of the things we believe rather than because they agree with us about everything. How does anyone think we get elected outside university towns and metropolitan centres?

    We don’t have to assume in 2018 that the only way of winning is by slowly building up a local vote into a cluster of areas, into a few constituencies……… We live in a world of much greater volatility and where people want a lead on big issues that campaigns for change now.

    I agree with David Howarth’s analysis that Labour has actually vacated the territory of people who want effective social justice – that’s a very different potential vote from the educated middle-class.

    Is it really suggested that we should build our vote by taking on the concerns of a group who are already powerful, very much concerned about their own income and well-being and that we should play to them rather the poor, the powerless and the alienated?

    That’s not my liberalism.

  • Gordon Lishman- Amen to that! A welcome blend of passion and reasoned argument.

  • Peter Martin 13th Feb '18 - 11:23am

    @Barnaby,

    “What you are really saying is that you always believe you are right, even when the majority disagree with you..”

    That’s all quite cruel but not without justification. LibDems are now the party of what might be termed “the educated bourgeoisie” but the “educated bourgeoisie” aren’t infallible. As you say, they totally missed the dangers presented to their beloved EU by the introduction of the euro and move to ever closer union. It seemed such a nice idea that we had a european currency.

    Unfortunately the educated bourgeoisie aren’t educated enough. They tend not to understand macroeconomics any better than Stimpson’s “man in the pub who mixes the worst type of Daily Express social conservatism and jingoism with Morning Star style economic leftism and corporate bashing”.

    So, ironically, the ‘man in the pub’ got it right on the euro, although probably for the wrong reasons, but they didn’t. It’s too early to say for sure, but it’s quite likely he’ll be proved right about the EU too.

  • I never really got the “man in the pub” criticism. it’s always struck me as more than a little puritanical A lot of educated middle class people go to pubs!. Honestly, it’s true. As a student. I virtually lived in them and usually bumped into other students, as well as lecturers if I went to certain pubs. Pubs are great places to meet and discuss things.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Feb '18 - 12:06pm

    Please note what the leader said on BBC1 when briefly interviewed by Andrew Marr.

  • Peter Martin: You have accurately described your self. Macroeconomics is just another clever idea that will eventually be found out.

  • Oliver Craven 13th Feb '18 - 12:21pm

    Mark –

    Perhaps I worded it badly, but I’m not saying we shouldn’t target those who share their values. I’m merely questioning how you found those with our values. As I noted in the article, concerns about immigration may not be concerns about immigration at all but concerns about too little investment in public services, which we obviously can appeal to them on. As I also noted, those with less education or who voted leave can still be open to our values, especially in the case of voting leave. Some leave voters undoubtedly saw the EU as an undemocratic elite so it is still possible for them to share our wider values.

  • Sue Sutherland 13th Feb '18 - 1:22pm

    I hadn’t realised building up our core vote and fighting for social justice were incompatible. In fact, I don’t think they are. If our supporters believe in our values then they will respond positively if we address the very real problems that were behind the Leave vote. In addition voters from a different segment of society will support us when we address the issues that affect them. In Bath a Leave campaigner parked his car in an area of social housing during the run up to the referendum and returned to find it covered in Remain stickers. Lib Dem councillors represent that area and another ward which is made up solely of social housing.
    People who live in social housing are not so different from our core voters. Surely the Grenfell Tower disaster taught us that. I found most of the people interviewed very interesting people with varied backgrounds and I would be proud to call any of them my friend. If we are truly wary of these people then we are guilty of the same fear of strangers that caused the Brexit vote.

  • OnceALibDem 13th Feb '18 - 2:17pm

    Why does LDV only publish articles about the Core Vote idea that are critical. I’ve never seen Mark write on here about it – indeed LDV hardly ever mention things he’s written in a round of of LIb Dem commentators type piece.

    Of course it’s possible that Mark has never asked them as he doesn’t want the publicity!

  • @Stimpson. Do you think privatising, PFI, outsourcing, police cuts of 20,000 officers and the erosion of local democracy have been a great success, then ?

    Yes. Privatisation, outsourcing, offshoring and PFI have largely been a success, when compared to state ownership, union control and bureaucracy.

    As for police cuts, even Nick Clegg has stated they have been required, and there are plenty of efficiency savings to be made. The issues are due to deployment and smart working which is not solved by overmanning and throwing money about. There is absolutely no reason why most police work needs to be done by police officers anyway, private firms are doing a sterling job. I’m afraid the Police Federation simply behaves like the Fire Brigade Union or rail unions with it’s luddism, scaremongering and inherent anti corporate and anti globalisation bias.

    As for local democracy – we get into a stupid position where Wallonia can hold up international trade deals. The last thing we need is a few protectionists elected to Plymouth City Council or whoever deciding they don’t like TTIP or similar much and putting the global economy at risk.

    By the way we have been proven correct on the Euro. I suspect Britain will adopt the Euro within the next 20 years. As for the “man in the pub”, we’d have something akin to North Korea if we adopted their views – effectively a Farage / Corbyn coalition of autarky.

  • Stimpson, I’m afraid I don’t take Sir Nicholas Clegg’s view on police cuts as gospel and clearly you’ve never noticed Carillion, Capita, G4s, Atos, the Virgin/Stagecoach fiasco on the East Coast line or the collapsing numbers of private care homes and the rip off water companies. But glad that you’re happy in your hermetically sealed globalised free enterprise world and that you never get old or disabled in the real world.

  • One of our long term weakness is the lack of that core, who will vote for us come hell or high water. For too long we have been the recipients of the protest vote, so, yes, we need to identify those whose might, potentially, become long term adherents.
    What interests me is why so few of the 38% who are liberal with a small L but not inclined to support us now.. It occurs to me that we may have compromised some of our distinctively liberal values in order to fall in line with centre left orthodoxies, that we have become Liberal in the American sense and in doing so may have turned off some centrists (Including leftish Conservatives) while offering little to those with genuinely left wing ideals who have Corbyn to run to. In short, are we distinctively liberal enough ?

  • Stimpson, I’m afraid I don’t take Sir Nicholas Clegg’s view on police cuts as gospel and clearly you’ve never noticed Carillion, Capita, G4s, Atos, the Virgin/Stagecoach fiasco on the East Coast line or the collapsing numbers of private care homes and the rip off water companies. But glad that you’re happy in your hermetically sealed globalised free enterprise world and that you never get old or disabled in the real world.

    G4S and Capita are bullied mercilessly and many of the comments directed at them are nothing short of hate and if they were individuals or religous groups, there would be prosecutions for hate crime.

    As for Virgin, Branson has done far more good for the railway than bad. The voyagers used on Cross Country for example are some of the best trains on the network and surpass everything else for comfort. The East Coast suffers from using legacy British Rail stock which fortunately will soon be scrapped. The railways also suffer more generally from insane levels of overmanning on the front lines, some of the most dangerous unions in the country, the fact that front line staff are unwilling to take responsiblity for their actions, coupled with a sense of entitlement from season ticket holders and the far left using them as a political football – whilst supporting far right xenophobia whenever foreign states win franchises.

  • OnceALibDem 13th Feb '18 - 8:01pm

    “I suspect Britain will adopt the Euro within the next 20 years.”

    Possibly. Though of course this was widely claimed 20 years ago.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Feb '18 - 8:26pm

    I’m not a fan of the “core vote” strategy. We should be aiming for a voter base representative of the population not just prioritising minorities which will what the core vote strategy will end up being.

  • It is an interesting article and series of comments. Thanks!

    Firstly of course we want everyone to vote for us! But clearly Labour and Conservative have also had a “core” vote based on income and Capital versus Labour. And we need to decide how we carve out a niche when some 85% plus in England were happy to vote Tory or Labour in England in 2017. And partly that might be being a “Labour substitute” broadly in Tory seats where we can win.

    Interestingly recently the SNP has obviously carved out a core vote (and an increasingly large one) based on independence.

    In the 90s and the 2000s, there were polls that showed if people thought that we could win in their particular constituency we shot up from under 20% to over 40%. I suspect this is still the case but to a different order of magnitude. The first thing is to begin to grind out local election gains. To show we can win.

    The second thing is to look at the seats where we did better in 2017. Seats such as Bath, Twickenham, Winchester etc. can be broadly categorised as university areas with a large public sector middle class who want to remain. Many remainers didn’t think we had much chance locally or nationally and plumped for Labour has being “good enough” on Brexit. But recent polls have our opinion poll rating shoots up if we are a clear pro-remain party against clearly leave Labour and Conservative parties.

    People’s votes are dominated by the prism of their wallet. What will the economy be like if I vote X? Will I be better or worse off personally? Will the pubic services I and my family use be better or worse?

    That has to be our prism too. The remain argument one has to be framed largely as an economic one.

    Appealing to “Middle Class” Remainers has a clear logic. On remain itself, it is increasingly popular policies among all and is a big “niche” not filled by Labour or the Conservatives.

    Well funded NHS based on 1p on income tax has a clear logic. It is popular – 67% support. It does overlap with Labour but that is not necessarily bad as it wasn’t in 97. And it appeals to middle class “university town” public sector workers – our marginals. But not necessarily to all middle class voters who pay not want to pay extra tax. I also believe to reconnect with our pre-2015 voters we need to signal change from the coalition and that means the abolition of tuition fees.

  • Oliver Craven is correct the “core vote” strategy does target middle class metropolitan remainers. It targets those with higher education qualifications. However, it is the question about remaining in the EU which will become problematic. Once we have left the EU, being in the EU should not be a test for possible membership of the party. It also ignores the fact that in 2016 about 30% of our supporters voted Leave.

    Also I dislike the emphasis on “open” because it implies we don’t want to control immigration into the UK. In fact it means a society which is open to the participation of all people, has the rule of law, respect for human rights, diversity of opinions, no requirement for conformity, a democratically elected government which is kept in check by civil society. The Open Foundation mission and values (https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/about/mission-values) is a very useful definition of what an open society is.

    Mark Pack and David Howarth mention our “core vote” should be in to the groups which favour (strongly or somewhat) governments redistributing income, but this is not one of their core questions.

    We should be looking for people who are tolerate, accept nonconformity, and as Glenn sort of implies people who support citizen’s rights against an over protective state which restricts peoples freedom. People who favour strongly or somewhat that governments should redistribute income.

    Can we go further and state our “core voter” supports fewer economic inequalities and much fewer people living in relative poverty (or maybe no one being enslaved by living in relative poverty)?

  • David Raw: Only Carillion has actually collapsed. British Rail collapsed in1955 – 7 years after it was nationalised and cost the British taxpayer about £200 billion at 2017 prices since then – that for a service used by a tiny minority of the population, mostly the better off but paid for by the less well off.

    Virgin Stagecoach has paid what was tendered up until now but cannot be expected to go on paying when Network Rail ( the modern name for British Rail) has failed to carry out its part of the bargain – well it has to get through a few more wasted billions.

    If the EC railway route was in the public sector it would not contribute anything to the Treasury as Lord Adonis admitted when pressed. The police are so wonderful that most people who have property to protect have to pay private security companies to do it. When I had £15,000 of damage done to my property I asked the policeman what could they do about it and he said nothing, closed his car window and drove off at speed. Wonderful service but they could spend £2million on investigatin a long dead politician including a dramatic statement outside his former home. One might have thought they could have shown some respect for the Cathedral Close but I suppose that was too much too expect. That poiceman has now gone to pastures new.

  • Peter Watson 13th Feb '18 - 11:23pm

    “Why is our “Core Vote” only middle class metropolitan remainers?”
    Following a recent LibDemVoice article (https://www.libdemvoice.org/who-we-are-56278.html) and an article at LabourList that referred to the same research (https://labourlist.org/2017/10/tim-bale-inside-labours-massive-membership-base/), I would suggest that the Lib Dem core vote is “only middle-class metropolitan remainers” because Lib Dem members are overwhelmingly middle-class metropolitan remainers and because that is precisely the section of the electorate that the party has reflected, targeted, and represented for a number of years.
    That is not necessarily a weakness, but it raises important issues. There is the risk that the party’s priorities are distorted by middle-class concerns which are not representative of the country as a whole. And within the party, social liberals must ensure that their concern for those less fortunate does not appear patronising or condescending, and economic liberals must be aware that those with fewer resources (economic and social) may be poorly positioned to take advantage of “reforms” which risk them being left behind or losing vital safety nets.

  • @Peter Watson

    As was noted in the Labour List article “demographically-speaking, the members of different parties may have more in common than they might care to admit.”

    And membership of political parties is skewed by those demographic types who are more likely to join (any) political party in the first place.

    I doubt whether the Labour or Conservative parties would suffer much angst over the fact that their core voters are the working class and the better off respectively or the SNP – independence supporters. Clearly a “core vote” does not mean you do not want your voters to encompass more than just your core.

    A problem (and an advantage) that we have is that our vote is spread demographically more evenly than those of other parties.

    In looking at the 2010 and 2017 voting figures. It is clear that in 2010 we did best among what might now be described as “middle class remainers” which we have now lost. Gaining (some of) them back is a first step.

    https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/how-britain-voted-2010
    https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election/

    It does not mean that we should have policies that have a wide appeal. And as I outlined 1p on income tax for a better NHS and remaining in the EU have widespread support (certainly much much greater than our 7% in the polls) – are popular with our “potential core voters” and popular more widely.

    Obviously any political party aims to maximise its appeal but one that tries to please everyone ends up pleasing no-one.

    Corbyn and Thatcher did not set out to please everyone but they were electorally successful. As a third party we have to be distinctive (but not unpopular) to gain coverage and attract people.

  • Labour and the Tories both have people who will vote for them whatever the policies. I suspect the same is true of the Lib Dem’s but to a hugely lower degree.

    The problem any core vote strategy will have is that many who considered themselves core voters felt badly let down once power was achieved. I’m still not sure the lessons have been learnt around the ‘optics’ of the last coalition. Lib Dem Ministers and MP’s roundly cheering atrocious policies such as the bedroom tax and of course the obvious tuition fees will live long in the mind. The Tories played the Lib Dem’s like a fiddle sending out LD Ministers to support policy after policy on the media.

    Just last night I was talking with a friend about Brexit and how damaging we both feel it will be. She voted Labour and the last election, something I challenged given Corbyn’s well known views and his lack of effective campaigning during the referendum. Over far too much wine we dissected the manifesto of each party and she agreed she liked most of the Lib Dem one and felt it was more achievable than Labour’s. Like me she would fit into the middle / high income, highly educated bracket likely to vote Lib Dem. So what was the problem? Trust, she simply pointed to the fact she had voted Lib Dem once before, believed they shared her values, and felt lied to.

    Short of a Tardis to go back top 2010 and start listening to the warnings this site was full of I don’t have an answer. I felt that things would have improved by now but it really does seem like memories are long amongst those who felt betrayed. Maybe a new breed of MP untainted by the failures of the past is needed. Sad for Jo Swinson, but she will possibly not be considered untainted by her past…

  • nvelope2003 14th Feb '18 - 9:49am

    Are there enough middle class Liberal Democrat potential supporters. Many middle class people vote Conservative, even those who work in the public sector, although a lot of traditional working class people who used to vote Labour either do not vote or, having switched to UKIP, have now gone over to the Conservatives. It is amazing how many would prefer to be poorer than stay in the EU because they hate immigrants, although they seem to be unaware that immigration from non EU countries could continue. Do they hate immigrants because employers find them better workers than the barely educated products of comprehensive schools ?

    The Liberal Democrats will never prosper unless they address these issues and stop forcing middle class obsessions on the voters.

  • @nvelope2003

    “Are there enough middle class Liberal Democrat potential supporters.”

    Well according to Ipsos Mori in 2010 we got 29% of “AB”s and 24% of C1s. The top three socio-economic “classes”. ABC1s are over 50% of the total population.

    “The Liberal Democrats will never prosper unless they address these issues and stop forcing middle class obsessions on the voters.”

    Well we do need to take care but issues such as a better NHS, better schools – addressing the needs of those that get left behind educationally etc. etc. are not “middle class obsessions” I venture.

    Brexit needs to be understood in terms of the perceived economic effects. Exit from Brexit means a better economy for the very people you cite and a better NHS – £300million a week for the NHS.

  • John Barrett 14th Feb '18 - 10:36am

    @Stimpson. “Privatisation, outsourcing, offshoring and PFI have largely been a success, when compared to state ownership, union control and bureaucracy.”

    I doubt that many will agree with the above statement.

    I have just returned from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where I dropped off an elderly friend and then waited to pick them up after a minor procedure. Costing £7, paid to a private company for hospital parking, so I decided to look up the cost of the hospital to public funds.

    It cost £184million to build and we will have paid £1.2billion through the PFI at the end of the contract and will still not own the building.

    Not such a great move, I think. It does not even deliver the health care promised.

    In a British Medical Journal report Allyson Pollock, a professor of international public health policy at Edinburgh University, and Dr Matthew Dunnigan, of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, slammed the arrangement, saying it came at huge cost to the public purse long-term and it affected patient care.

  • @Envelope. When the East Coast main line was in the public sector it contributed over one billion pounds to the exchequer between 2009 and 2014. It was the biggest contributor from the fifteen rail operators – most of whom contributed nothing and had to be subsidised. @ Stimson Virgin/stagecoach have nothing to do with the Cross Country voyagers. Cross country is a subsidiary of Arriva – which happens to be owned by Deutchesbahn the nationalised German railway.

    Still, never mind. Don’t let facts get in the way of right wing knee jerks.

  • Virgin specified the excellent voyagers. They lost the Cross Country franchise in 2007 but the voyagers were their welcome contribution from when they ran it.

    For that matter Arriva are also doing a good job, other than bringing back old British Rail trains onto the routes. It’s not the centre right who have issues though with Arriva – the far left seem to have a problem with foreign states running our network – the xenophobia of the left strikes again. In fact Stella Creasy rightly called out the far left rail unions for racism after adverts were put out criticising foreign state ownership.

    Equally the same far left seem to have a major issue with Chinese government ownership of British national infrastructure. Economic nationalism is pure Trumpism.

  • John Barrett 14th Feb '18 - 11:09am

    @ Gordon Lishman “Is it really suggested that we should build our vote by taking on the concerns of a group who are already powerful, very much concerned about their own income and well-being and that we should play to them rather the poor, the powerless and the alienated? That’s not my liberalism.

    I agree with Gordon and Glenn, when he says –

    ” Immigration – virtually every survey strongly indicates that lower levels are favoured by a clear 70 to 78% majority. There are simply not many votes in banging on about how awesome you think immigration is. It’s at best irrelevant to electoral success and in truth mostly a vote loser.”

    If we are to regain anything like our level of support at recent successful elections, we must be aware of what “the man in the pub” or the person living in the housing scheme is saying and thinking. Unfortunately we are often too comfortable listening to and talking to like minded people in the Lib-Dem bubble, who are neither.

    The problem with “the pool” and now a “core vote strategy” is that both often ignore the same large sector of society that we claim to want to represent, the poor, the powerless and the alienated.

  • @ John Barrett. The Edinburgh Royal PFI is a scandal and the facts you quote are spot on.

    One of the less public bits of that PFI is the catering. Food is prepared in Wiltshire, frozen, transported to Glasgow to be stored, transferred to Edinburgh when required – and tastes and looks appalling. I had a long stay there in 2011 and noticed many of my fellow patients were being fed by their families bringing food in. The medical staff (absolutely top class people) admitted the hospital food did not help recovery – but could only shake their heads.

    A leather omelette and soggy Brussels sprouts will long live in the memory.

  • Jayne mansfield 14th Feb '18 - 11:58am

    @ envelope2003, @ Stimpson,
    Were concerns about the privatisation of forensic services and probation services, scaremongering or have they proved to be prescient?

  • Corbyn calls for a “mixed economy of public and social enterprise… a private sector with a long-term private business commitment”. his actual words, not a Daily Mail version…Still, as everyone knows he’s a hard line Stalinist, those aspirations are rarely acknowledged…
    “Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, cost £184 million to build and we will have paid £1.2billion through the PFI at the end of the contract and will still not own the building”..When governments can borrow at minimal rates, awarding such contracts makes sense only to the board/shareholders…

    Stimpson’s, and to some extent, envelope’s, vision of a world owned and run by corporations remind me of the sci-fi predictions in, for instance, “Jennifer Government”…
    What is worrying is that, so often, what were just ‘flights of fancy’ have become real…

  • Peter Hirst 14th Feb '18 - 1:39pm

    Values are words and will appeal to those who use words as an indication of what they believe in. For others actions are more appealing as long as they are reinforced by words either written or spoken. We could do worse than look at the headlines of our newspapers and see how we can articulate the values they espouse.

  • Peter Hirst 14th Feb '18 - 1:42pm

    or to continue my previous thread, we could look at the emotions underlying the words and actions and see how we can espouse those. Often it is fear and jealousy, feelings that are common and human.

  • William Fowler 14th Feb '18 - 1:50pm

    “It cost £184million to build and we will have paid £1.2billion through the PFI at the end of the contract and will still not own the building. ”

    And people on this site wonder why someone like myself describes increased taxation of the moderately well off as theft. Unfortunately, Labour does have a valid point about the way large companies are ripping people off and the way the Conservatives have done little to stop them – and such anger gives Labour the possibility of winning the election and imposing failed large State projects on the taxpayer with multiples of waste rising from the current five to ten or even more.

    Dare the Liberals steal the Conservatives thunder by offering to roll back the State to the bare minimum whilst dealing with the rip-off companies with a turnover tax whose proceeds could be piled into the NHS (and I love the idea of using the internet so that the public could petition which companies should be taxed and at what rate.) I even quite like the idea of charging landlords business rates (mentioned elsewhere on this site) though it would be better to avoid LDV in favour of a simple turnover tax on all businesses.

    On taxation of young people why not give them a boost by saying the first 50k they earn is free from tax and NI, the rich will eat that up in a year whilst the poor will keep more of their money for the first few years, allowing them to save up for a house or just blow it on a smart car.

  • David Evans 14th Feb '18 - 2:06pm

    William – Why would the Lib Dems want to “steal the Conservatives thunder by offering to roll back the State to the bare minimum” when that isn’t a view of anything but a minority of the country support?

  • nvelope2003 14th Feb '18 - 2:09pm

    Michael 1 : Better schools may not be middle class obsessions but comprehensive schools for other people’s children are.
    Your use of ete etc etc rather gives the game away.

  • We had a core vote – all across the west country – people who saw the Lib Dems as the natural opposition to the Conservatives. People that would not consider voted Labour but knew that the Conservatives would never look after them. People that are not well off but wanted a decent NHS, decent education system, decent public services, but did not support socialism.

    Then Nick Clegg came along and the coalition and we told them that we like austerity, don’t like public services, we are really Conservative lite – oh but here is some pupil premium money to prove we are not totally right wing

  • it seems to me that howarth and pack are trying to solve a political/electoral problem and yet doing so in way that doesn’t necessarily achieve that. My concern is that it is a core vote strategy about middle class left of centre voter values and therefore won’t actually create a ‘core ‘ vote as those voters with those values are already voting labour aren’t they ? Don’t get distracted by what corbyn does or doesn’t say about any policy, be it brexit or whatever, look at the voting patterns – so my point is, this might be good idea but is it a core vote strategy – if it isn’t then it suggests that as a strategy it hasn’t been thought through. Which makes it not a strategy. It was a bit worrying that Mark’s response to criticism was to say ” and what is your alternative” rather than to explain how the strategy will achieve its end point – So how does this strategy actually produce ‘core votes’ if those voters are already voting elsewhere. how to become a home ( and for a long time) for voters who are already voting labour ? The strategy doesn’t seem to answer that , and that’s a rather large problem for something purporting to be about core votes isn’t it? Happy to be corrected.

  • nvelope2003 14th Feb '18 - 6:26pm

    Jayne mansfield: I am not in favour of privatising the NHS , forensic services, the probation service or similar public services although the police seem unable to cope and many organisations have to use private security firms. Do you think they should be banned from doing so ?

    David Raw: The East Coast railway line continues to operate and the users have not been affected. The former transport minister Tom Harris has stated that bidders for franchises were encouraged to over bid by the Transport Department and they must take the blame. The current minister seems to have confirmed this by saying the system has to be changed. It would appear that Stagecoach/Virgin were encouraged to offer a higher premium than could be justified by current profits by promises that Network Rail would carry out various improvements which would enable a better service to be provided. Is it Stagecoach’s fault that this work was not completed ? They did a very good job with South West trains in my experience. I cannot remember more than one occasion when my train was significantly delayed. The only loss to the taxpayers is that they will not get the additional premiums which they would not have received in any case if the route continues to be operated in the public sector.

    The failure if any is that of the civil servants in the Transport Department who should have known better.

  • I see absolutely no issue with privatisation / outsourcing of pretty much everything. If individual firms mess up, then this is generally due to governments drawing up bad contracts.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a privatised police force. In fact the state owned police force is suffering from the worst aspects of hard right wing authoritarianism and hard left wing militiancy and shroud waving. The police are institutionally racist, riddled with freemasonry, implicated in plenty of scandals and deaths in custody, and are notorious for closing ranks whenever something goes wrong. Equally the police are notoriously inefficient, suffer from a “job for life mentality”, gold plated pensions, have all the hallmarks associated with organised labour on the left, and The Federation is behaving like the rail unions and scaremongering over cuts / officer paperwork / privatisation / G4S or whatever doesn’t wash.

    A dose of privatisation would only be a good thing. G4S / Serco or whoever cannot afford to alienate the customer.

  • If the West Country really hated austerity, cuts and privatisation or whatever else Clegg is blamed for, it would not have voted almost entirely for the Tories (minus Bath and a few inner city Labour seats in Bristol and Plymouth and the bizarre Labour outliers of Stroud and Exeter).

    What really happened was a small number of West Country voters threw their toys out of the pram at Nick Clegg and instead of voting Lib Dem, split their votes between Labour, UKIP and the Greens, and thus let the Tories in. The bulk of these Clegg hating voters will no doubt all be paid up members of Corbyn’s gang now, and are virtually unreachable, save for Andrew George’s seat, only because he was the Dennis Skinner rebel of the Lib Dems and was not on board with the coalition. We would be far better off concentrating on free market and liberal Tories who hate Brexit and hate nationalism and nativism, than trying to appeal to left wingers for whom “Nick Clegg” is a term of abuse.

  • nvelope2003 14th Feb '18 - 8:31pm

    The problem for the Liberal Democrats is that they avoid answering difficult questions whilst the sort of people who might be inclined to vote for them are looking for those very answers, not the sort of slogans and ill informed comments they can easily find online, in downmarket tabloid newspapers or in the Foreign Secretary’s speeches.

    In 2015 the Labour Party made very little progress in the West Country but UKIP and the Conservatives did. In 2017 Labour made advances in places where they had almost ceased to exist and UKIP collapsed as those voters who like to jump on any popular band wagon moved to support Jeremy Corbyn. In 1974 they supported Jeremy Thorpe. Do any of JC’s supporters have a pet dog ?

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Feb '18 - 11:49pm

    @ Matt. ‘How to become a home … for voters who are already voting Labour?’ Good question, Matt, and it is one that has begun to be addressed in the latest few comments on a currently running thread, What should we do about Labour? The question arose because the considerable similarity between current policy priorities of their party and of ours was made clear in a long list provided by Michael BG. You might like to flip over to that thread to take a look, and perhaps join in. Best wishes anyhow.

  • Stimpson 14th Feb ’18 – 7:51pm………….A dose of privatisation would only be a good thing. G4S / Serco or whoever cannot afford to alienate the customer………

    I can always rely on you for a good laugh!

  • nvelope2003 15th Feb '18 - 8:55am

    expats: I think Stimpson was right about the Conservative success in the West Country. How would you explain it if you disagree. I would like to see your answer. A bit of competition normally creates a more efficient service and those who fail to provide it normally go out of business. Only state monopolies like the police, Network Rail etc can go on giving a poor service and still survive because they receive tax payers money. How would you solve that ?

  • John Marriott 15th Feb '18 - 9:27am

    So called core voters tend to be people who will always vote a certain way in national elections, come hell or high water. This doesn’t always apply in local elections or in so called marginal parliamentary seats. Because FPTP tends to offer a choice between blue and red in the majority of constituencies I’m not surprised that the core vote for Tories and Labour is higher than for a party like the Lib Dems. Your typical Tory voter tends not to want change and is usually doing alright, thank you. Your typical Labour voter is today harder to define. Some base their choice on history, and often family history at that, while some base it on ideology. Yes, your typical Lib Dem voter tends to be well educated and has an ability often to see the bigger picture. For him or her, being ‘a liberal’ Is a way of life. That, and recent history, is why the ‘core vote’ for the Lib Dems is that much smaller.

    How do you increase the Lib Dem core vote? Create a more level playing field by changing the voting system. Is it going to happen in the near future? Unlikely. So, keep pushing that stone up hill, you activists!

  • Jayne mansfield 15th Feb '18 - 9:39am

    @ expats,
    Try reading the a report by the Work and Pensions Committee.

    ‘PIP and ESA claimants’ stories set out in report’ .

    Amongst the ‘laugh a minute’ gems. the apparent ignorance of assessors, for example asking Down’s Syndrome people how long they had had the condition, or when they had caught it?

    I would have laughed until I cried, but inexplicably missed out on the former emotion.

    @nvelope,
    I was in favour of a mixed economy, but given the level of misery and incompetence caused by outsourcing to some private companies, I can see why others might think otherwise.

  • Ruth Bright 15th Feb '18 - 9:49am

    Oliver – thank you! Why not lead opinion instead of just following? Where we just follow like baa lambs we go the way of the 2004 European elections where we were told not to mention Europe because it put people off.

    Had we looked for the core voters in the inner-city ward my colleagues and I won from Labour we would have had about three people to talk to.

  • Jayne mansfield: As I previously stated I am not in favour of privatising social services, the NHS, prisons etc. Outsourcing could be a good way of getting value for money but unfortunately those who let the contracts either have no idea what they are doing or cannot be bothered to monitor the way the contract is being carried out. If they are incapable of doing anything so basic as that how can they be expected to provide efficient and reliable services ?
    We need to sort out the way the country is governed and the type of people who are doing the governing or things will simply get worse and worse. It is hopeless.

  • nvelope2003 15th Feb ’18 – 8:55am…………………..expats: I think Stimpson was right about the Conservative success in the West Country. How would you explain it if you disagree. I would like to see your answer………………………………….A bit of competition normally creates a more efficient service and those who fail to provide it normally go out of business. Only state monopolies like the police, Network Rail etc can go on giving a poor service and still survive because they receive tax payers money. How would you solve that ?……….

    Stimpson’s view was a ‘curate’s egg’. He was right about voters turning away from Clegg: why not pick the Tory organ grinder if the alternative is the same policies?
    As far as dissatisfied LibDems go; How can they have split their vote umpteen ways and still be paid up members of of Corbyn’s fan club?…

    Regarding competition; these are not corner shops….You mention rail. Where is the competition in franchises? After the tender is accepted they have a monopoly and, if like the East coast line, they fail to make a profit they walk away leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab…In addition they are not prevented from tendering for another franchise…
    Staying with on the East coast, when the line was taken back into public ownership it was the second highest contributor to the treasury but, like you, the current government believe ‘Private Good/Public Bad’ so it was re-privatised, only to fail.yet again….

    BTW…I’m sure, 12 months ago, Carillion would be on your list of successes…I won’t cite Einstein’s definition of ‘insanity’ but, if after the recent list of ‘corporate’ problems, you still believe ‘private is always best, Hmmmmm

  • Jayne mansfield 15th Feb ’18 – 9:39am…………[email protected] expats,Try reading the a report by the Work and Pensions Committee..‘PIP and ESA claimants’ stories set out in report’
    Amongst the ‘laugh a minute’ gems. the apparent ignorance of assessors, for example asking Down’s Syndrome people how long they had had the condition, or when they had caught it?I would have laughed until I cried, but inexplicably missed out on the former emotion…………

    JM, As the father of a disabled daughter my laughs are purely ironic…A heart condition and leukemia were assessed by an ex-midwife who had retired a decade earlier; no note was taken of detailed reports from specialists and apparently not enough ‘boxes’ were ticked..She has been assessed/failed/appeals upheld, etc..
    For the ‘hale and hearty’ such treatment would be unacceptable; for those already ill/stressed it is criminal…

  • “What really happened was a small number of West Country voters threw their toys out of the pram at Nick Clegg and instead of voting Lib Dem, split their votes between Labour, UKIP and the Greens, and thus let the Tories in.”

    Alternatively, if you are perceived to have betrayed people who voted for you, especially those who voted tactically against the Conservatives in such areas, don’t blame them when you don’t get their votes next time. Especially if one of your betrayals was squandering the opportunity to introduce proportional representation that would mean that in future such people could vote for their preferred party and feel that their vote would genuinely count. The contempt I see in from some comments on this page for voters they are supposedly thinking about how to convince to join them is really startling.

  • Neil Sandison 16th Feb '18 - 11:31am

    What is the USP of the Liberal Democrats ? Could i suggest Liberty ,social justice and community .Both Labour and the Conservatives are social conservatives .The state can do no wrong in Corbyn land despite horrendous examples of poor management ,bad fiscal control and poor customer care frequently swept under the carpet .The Tories want the minimum state intervention yet poor regulation ,terrible contracts fleecing the public purse and too many links to the building industry is starving of much needed affordable housing as it is rationed out for profit. Its high time someone put the citizen back into control ,enabled communities to make there own decisions and recognised Liberty and self determination is so much more attractive than we know whats best for you we so frequently see espoused by both of the establishment parties.

  • @Neil Sandison
    I think you are on the right lines here although words like ‘liberty’ ‘freedom’ just don’t cut through as an Identity.
    Ask people what the Labour stands for and they will have a pretty good idea (I wont repeat them).
    Ask people what the Tories stand for and they will have a pretty good idea.
    Ask them what the Libdems stand for and you will get nothing. In fact, after a bit of a puzzled look they will probable come out with something about coalition and student fees. They might say we are the nice people who put leaflets through their door and stay in touch on a regular basis. We are the alternative when voters do not want to vote Tory or Labour.
    What this party needs to do is establish a space in the mindset of voters.
    I think you are right in focusing on individual empowerment and social justice but it needs to be hung on a simple, real world issue.
    Labour; the party of the unions and the working man.
    Tories; the party of money and business and people who are doing alright.
    LibDems; the party of the dis-empowered (maybe).
    This was one aspect of the tragedy of the tuition fee betrayal. Individual empowerment comes from education and yet we were the party that betrayed the them.

  • David Evans 17th Feb '18 - 1:47pm

    Gillian is right, but prior to 2010 we had a significant non-metropolitan, non-middle class campaigning strength as well. Sadly coalition undermined them so much that many gave up in dismay at what we were doing. We have to reconnect with those roots and accept that Liberalism is fundamentally based on economic fairness to enable all to enjoy life to the full than specific liberties that tend to appeal to the more comfortably well off.

  • nvelope2003 17th Feb '18 - 5:02pm

    Expats: On a previous post I have explained that I think the EC line should have been left in the public sector, however the taxpayers will have only lost the higher premiums that Virgin were promising not the money the line was actually making.

    I am always suspicious of over large firms like Carillion but in the real world some firms go bankrupt. That does not mean everything should be nationalised. If that was the case why are the Cubans reprivatising their businesses ? Because nationalisation did not bring the improvements it was supposed to bring.

    If railway franchises were such a goldmine why is it only about 2 or 3 firms now submit tenders ? If any were banned as you wish there would be no competition at all which would be bad. The EC line is the only one that has failed in the way you suggest. There are others which have been very successful such as Stagecoach South West Trains.
    The present Government seems to have abandoned competition on the railways but until recently Stagecoach competed very effectively with the GWR on the route to Exeter and Chiltern competes with Virgin on the route to Birmingham. There are also trains competing with the EC route from the North East to London so your public sector railway did have competition and was the better for it and why it could have been left in the public sector as long as it remained profitable.
    The problem with railways is that they cost so much to run that only the better off could afford to use them even under British Rail, but the less well off had to pay BR for the losses.

  • Sean Hyland 17th Feb '18 - 5:11pm

    Perhaps it is important to remember that the metropolitan middle class are not necessarily the elite anymore. The are facing the same issues as those seen as the lesser educated, left behind, lacking in resources and opportunities. The MMC face the same feelings of job insecurity, access to services, and housing difficulties for example. Being a ” professional ” is not always a guarantee of a long term secure well paid job with a healthy pension at the end. In other words they increasingly face the same world as the working class and have the same concerns for their children.

    We face a world that has increasing inequality with a new wealthy elite and the control/influence they can use. The rest of us face uncertain futures without the support we once counted on and the added loss of community cohesion and support.

    Sounds a little like the world that lead to the New Liberalism of Hobhouse etc. That also lead, apparantly , to an increase in support amongst the working class and the gain of seats in what were working class areas. We can’t go back but maybe we can reinvent a modern take in terms of policies that address peoples concerns across a wider voted base. Would go well with a Beveridge Mk2.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Feb '18 - 5:54pm

    @ Expats,
    I understood the irony.

    I hate what this country has become, the political decisions taken to punish the sick, the poor, the most vulnerable.

    I am so, so sorry for the experiences that you, Mrs expats and your daughter have endured.

    I use my hated childhood nickname for good reason, but I would love the opportunity to welcome your family and those of some other contributors to my home, if there was some way of giving my name an address directly to you.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Feb '18 - 8:27pm

    Can I put in a plea for the middle-class Remainers of the north of England to be given more attention? It is reported that the thinktank IPPR North reckons the north will be hit twice as hard as the south of the country if Brexit happens, because of being far more dependent on EU trade. Moreover, rural areas such as my Cumbria need more hospitality and NHS staff, and later more skilled workers for our ‘Energy Coast’ expansion, while the Metropolitan Mayors, three of the six being in the north, are said to be anxious to keep control of EU structural and investment funds to boost their economies. With our Spring Conference being in Southport, it would be good if there were some focus there on northern needs, and on our plans for regional growth, and the necessity of east-west rail improvement.

  • Peter Martin 17th Feb '18 - 9:22pm

    “middle-class Remainers of the north of England to be given more attention?”

    Why only middle class remainers? I live in the North too and, from my experience, I’d say the Northern working class, like the rest of the country, is split on the issue. There is a majority in favour of Brexit but it isn’t huge. I haven’t done any detailed analysis of various social groupings but I’d guess at something like 60:40 .

    The answer will, of course, depend on just how you define ‘the North’ and ‘working class’.

    I can’t speculate on just how the Upper classes are split. I don’t move in those circles!

  • Neil Sandison 18th Feb '18 - 2:56pm

    Perhaps thats part of our message we wont assume everyone in the North is still running around with clogs on chasing whippets .Or every one in the South is a spitting image Harry Enfield “loads of money spiv from the 1980s. That everyone one has the right to liberty and freedom to be who they want to be and not slotted into neat little class sterio types .We dare to be different ,not to conform to the narrow vision of Britain they seek promote .

  • Peter Martin 18th Feb '18 - 6:36pm

    @ Neil,

    Whippets are pretty quick and we don’t have much chance of catching them if it comes to a chase. Especially if we are wearing our clogs and we aren’t in good shape because we’ve smoked too many Woodbine cigarettes ! 🙂

  • Peter Watson 18th Feb '18 - 9:01pm

    @Michael 1 “to reconnect with our pre-2015 voters we need to signal change from the coalition and that means the abolition of tuition fees”
    Ironically, news headlines suggest that Lib Dems might soon find themselves the only party representing the current status quo on tuition fees, with that position underlined by having a leader who oversaw its introduction.

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