Why the Lib Dems should extend an olive branch to Change UK

One of the next big questions the Lib Dems need to answer is what to do about Change UK. After a disastrous result in the European elections, the fledging group are facing an existential crisis. A new party needs early success to fuel its momentum. They got the opposite – 3% of the vote.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that Change want to be friends again, with the interim leader Heidi Allen openly stating that she’d like to see Change and the Lib Dems run as one entity from now on. I understand that for some, the natural impulse might be to tell them to F – off. They wanted to be separate, they tried their best to win votes directly from the Lib Dems. Now they come crawling back to us? No sir. Enjoy electoral oblivion.

It’s a tempting way to think, but it’s an urge we all need to fight. A centre-left Remain alliance would be a good thing for our cause, and a good thing for our country. If MPs want to join the Lib Dems let’s bring them into the fold. And I don’t just mean grudgingly accepting them but viewing them with scorn, I mean knocking on doors in the rain for Gavin Shuker, giving a Cabinet position to Heidi Allen, and getting Chuka in to speak to enthusiastic supporters at the next ‘Lib Dem Pint’.

The most common mistake we can make in politics is to be tribal. Being part of a tribe is fun afterall. We like the feeling of being in a team, bonded together, cheering against the other teams. It’s human nature. But it shouldn’t be what team you support that matters, but what you believe in underneath it all. I try to get my tribal urges out of my system at the football, where it’s fun and harmless (up to a point). But not in politics. Politics is too important for that.

Change UK aren’t identical to the Lib Dems, but they are very much our natural friends. They tried to go it alone – and they had every right to do so, but it hasn’t worked. The best way forward now in the fight for a People’s Vote, and for progressive centre-left politics, is probably to work together.

If so, let’s get on with it.

* Jon is a political consultant for the public affairs agency Field Consulting, based in London. He joined the Lib Dems after Brexit and wants a People’s Vote.

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  • I agree with the principle of this article, but not just as a vehicle for “Remain”. Given the leftward drift of the Labour Party (anti-Semitism, rigidity of doctrine) and the (presumably) rightward drift of the Conservative Party under the new leader, we as a nation, desperately need a strong, reasonably broad Church centre/liberal group. Despite the success of the one-issue Brexit party last week, I believe the country would warm to such a new group for all other issues. Maybe an electoral pact with the Greens as well, as happens in other countries? Of course, if we had PR, such a “Party” wouldn’t be necessary, alliances could be formed as needed, but we are where we are, so maybe this is the way to go for now …?

  • Change UK may yet act as a temporary lifeboat for those who for the first time in their life have broken the habit of voting Labour.

  • Fully agree

  • Paul Pettinger 29th May '19 - 1:12pm

    I agree. We must not let the Brexiteers win because the more numerous internationalists are more divided. The Liberal Democrats should look to be the main facilitators of an internationalist alliance and, in so doing, cooperate to varying extents with internationalists in other parties. This will require a lot of care and attention. At the very least cooperation has to include in Parliament to continue to defeat the Government’s Brexit plan, and might in time involve all sorts of other forms of cooperation (a national unity Government, giving groups further confidence to split from their existing party, electoral pacts, encouragement of tactical voting, non-aggression arrangements, or simply helping ensure we campaign well together in the run up to a confirmatory public vote).

  • Daniel Walker 29th May '19 - 1:16pm

    @Rod Wright “Once the alliance was formalised into Liberal Democrats we were treated as sworn enemies even though we had 2 Mp’s – very good MP’s in Rosie Barnes and John Cartwright and lots of councillors

    Rosie Barnes and John Cartwright never joined the Lib Dems; they were members of the post-merger Continuing SDP. Despite this, the Lib Dems didn’t stand against either of them in 1992.

  • Mark Blackburn 29th May '19 - 1:23pm

    I think we need to look at this in a broader context, and in the light of recent electoral success. It’s not just about Change UK, who make no mistake came to bury us and replace us as a new ‘centre’ party. It’s about a party which can genuinely challenge the status quo, where the two parties in the current first-past-the-post both have major schisms and there is a major opportunity to take advantage, one which it’s hard to believe has been presented to us after the Coalition blues. Maybe it’s time for a name change – Liberal Change? – to harness the Bollocks to Brexit energy and irreverence, but no more than a name change. We are the party with history, integrity and values and if Change UK MPs share those values they should join us, otherwise they should go back to their own parties and fight Brexit from within them. The meaningful dialogue needs to take place with the Green Party – we need to work together to fight the right, as we used to say ‘back in the day’.

  • Nobody “joined the Lib Dems after Brexit.” It has not happened. I assume this means “after the referendum”. Shades of Dimbleby pompously announcing “We’re out”…
    Seriously though, some careful distinctions are vital e.g. the difference between centre left and centrist or between a single time-limited single issue pact and an open-ended alliance.

  • @ROD WRIGHT, If there was animosity between the LibDems and SDP after 1988 I think it’s fair to say that was not all one-way. I was there too and I don’t recall the continuing SDP turning up at LibDem meetings with broad smiles and apple pie! In fact I recall attacks that were toxic and deeply unpleasant.
    And don’t forget, we in the LibDems had taken the difficult decision to merge precisely because we didn’t want to be a pact between two parties any more. To go through all the pain of merger only to enter into an arrangement with SDPtick would have rendered the merger pointless. As for unspoken alliances, I believe in the end we didn’t challenge John Cartwright or Rosie Barnes in their constituencies in 1992.
    Should we be open to working with ChUK now? Yes, I think so. But @Chris is right that we first need to see ChUK define what they actually stand for, as well as their strategy. At the moment both are very unclear. They need to sort themselves out – then we’ll see where we are.

  • @Chris “If they were liberals, they would’ve joined the Liberal Democrats. ”

    It’s a stretch for the Lib Dems to claim a monopoly over liberalism. You can also find liberals, or liberal oriented factions, in the Conservatives (e.g. economic liberalism), Labour (neo-liberalism is still present – third-way if you want to adopt Blair’s language), UKIP (a strong classical liberal viewpoint is to be found in their manifesto) and ChangeUK (neo-liberalism again). There’s so many different ideas and variant liberal ideologies this is just too simplistic. My experience in the party has been a strong social democratic stance, which is a version of socialism, so we’re hardly an ideologically pure party.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th May '19 - 2:09pm

    You , friend, Jo Andrew write as I have thought to on this here, and have online on other forums.

    We are not a tribe, we are not a vengeful sect.

    We are not Conservatives or Socialists with ideology and narrow at that, embedded, we are Liberals, with a philosophy of openmidedness at the core.

    We know they got it very badly wrong. The harm principle reveals they did some harm, but not enough to deserve no second chance.

    I would be delighted to campaign for Heidi, Sarah, Luciana…

  • Paul Holmes 29th May '19 - 2:17pm

    Rod -your memories don’t quite match with mine. I was an active member of the SDP (in Chesterfield) and with an entire coachload of SDP/Liberal activists from Chesterfield went to London to campaign for Rosie Barnes in the Greenwich by election.

    The tribalism I experienced came after that, from 1988 onwards, from the ‘Continuing SDP’ who (like Michael Meadowcroft and some other ‘Continuing Liberals’) rejected the democratic vote of SDP and Liberal Party Conferences alike for merger and fought against us for some years afterwards. But for that we would easily, for example, have won the Richmond (Yorkshire) by election and prevented one William Hague entering Parliament for the Tories.

    As for sharing our campaign resources with the CHUK’s or ‘knocking on doors in the rain for them’ don’t we first need:
    a) To know what their actual policies are (other than being Remainers)?
    b) For them to disown their leaked internal stratagy document which outlined their plans to poach our donors/members/MP’s and Cllrs and replace us?

  • The idea that conservatism and socialism are narrow ideologies is very close-minded. They’ve massively diverse schools of political thought and philosophy; thinking liberalism is above ideology is an inherently biased view of the world.

  • We need to be very careful. We were insufficiently careful when we went into coalition, enabling the Tories to, to a certain extent, “use” the Lib Dems. We were insufficiently careful in 1997 enabling Labour to renege on PR. Change UK wanted to replace us then, after some bad polls, they softened their stance. Then, after a poor electoral performance, they want an alliance/merger. Is this them learning, or is it a case of acting hard when you have the upper hand, soft when you’re on the backfoot only to swing back to hard again when you regain the upper hand?

    The membership form is online and, so, why would Change UK want to “merge” as opposed to “join”? It could be just saving face, but it could be because a merger implies a change of our organisation as well as theirs. I can’t see enough on offer from Change UK to, er, change our party for.

  • Paul Barker 29th May '19 - 3:58pm

    I agree with the article but we need a Triple Alliance with Change & The Greens, we all appeal to different (but partly overlapping) groups of Voters & we all have valuable insights to bring to the table.
    Brexit will dominate the agenda until we finally kill it off but there are plenty of other things we could rapidly agree on, restoring the cuts in benefits, a massive shift of Power to Local & Regional Government, Electoral Reform & probably lots more.
    Just as the old SDP/Liberal Alliance captured the Public imagination, so can we with anew Alliance.

  • John Chandler 29th May '19 - 4:03pm

    @Joseph Bourke

    I was half-expecting the Co-op party members to end their pact, given how many have a strained relationship with Corbyn these days. We can only hope.

    It’s an interesting model, and could work well for other possible partners who share our values, want a close relationship, but want to keep some form of distinct identity.

  • John Chandler 29th May '19 - 4:08pm

    @Paul Barker

    We have a good relationship with our local Greens, and in many ways they would be excellent partners (not sure about their current leadership though, or their views on nationalisation). Heck, we have the Green Liberal Democrats name all ready and waiting – just need it registered with the electoral commission alongside the other variations of Liberal Democrat.

  • Simon Foster 29th May '19 - 4:15pm

    Before we do anything, a clear gesture is needed from Change UK given their recent leaked strategy document.

    That would be full backing for a Lib Dem candidate in any forthcoming by election in Brecon and Radnorshire. This would out pressure on the Greens to do the same.

  • chris moore 29th May '19 - 4:23pm

    Chuck Umuna is now claiming Change UK “endorsed” the Lib Dems and Greens in the local elections. I don’t remember this and have found no trace of such a public statement on line.

    Let’s not be naive. The Lib Dems were Change UK’s principal target. This was made clear by the leaked strategy paper. If they were to get the upper hand at any point, I do not believe we would be hearing any more about the positives of co-operation. It would be back to self-serving garbage about Lib Dems “toxicity”.

    Yes, it did take courage to leave their parties; but they have shown arrogance and duplicity towards the Lib Dems.

    I would be happy to campaign for any of the Change incumbents, IF they are genuine and throw what little weight they have behind the Lib Dems elsewhere.

    The best thing they could do is come across en bloc.

    But as a starter, I’d expect a full endorsement for the Peterborough and Brecon by-elections.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th May '19 - 4:28pm

    Gwyn Williams

    For 6 years after 1981 we Liberals told the country that we were working with the SDP in the national interest. The public then liked the idea of two parties working together. The divorce exposed this false claim

    There was no divorce. The vast majority of active members of both parties joined the new party which was the legal successor of both the Liberal Party and the SDP.

    The problem was that the press did not report it that way. Instead the press continued what they had been doing throughout: greatly exaggerating the role of the SDP in the Liberal/SDP Alliance and dismissing the role of the Liberal Party. So they gave the completely false impression that there had been a massive split, and wrote about they tiny number who tried to start the new SDP as if that was the legal successor of the old SDP and that it was a serious competitor.

    So, it took years of patient work by local activists to prove that the press were wrong, that actually the joining of the two parties into one had gone very smoothly, and what was left calling itself the “SDP” was not significant and would get nowhere.

    The underlying issue is that the first SDP failed early on. It was meant to replace the Labour Party, but within months failed to do that and didn’t manage to bring in significantly more votes. That was obvious when it started demanding to be given “winnable seats” by the Liberals i.e. to have candidates in constituencies where Liberal activists had built up the vote.

    The SDP was much more centralised in the way it was run, and the press exaggerated it because of the establishment figures that had started it and because it had no idea that the real strength of the Liberal Party came from local activity. But also because the Liberal Party was significantly more to the left politically that the SDP.

    The establishment types who ran the SDP were jealous of the way that it was Liberal activists who were the real strength, which is why they refused to accept the vote of both parties to merge.

  • John Marriott 29th May '19 - 4:34pm

    It’s a no brainer. The area we and Change UK seek to occupy is overcrowded already. As several people have said, the experience in 1988 threw up some awkward moments, particularly with Owen, Barnes and Cartwright refusing to play ball. Indeed, had the continuing SDP not fielded such a strong local candidate in the Richmond (Yorks) By Election, it’s quite possible that William Hague would have had to delay his entry into Parliament.

    What we probably need initially is the kind of arrangement with CHUK and the Green Party that existed between the old Liberal Party and the emerging Labour Party before WW1. Leicester, for example, used then to return two MPs, one Liberal and one Labour (Ramsay MacDonald) by agreeing both parties agreeing not to stand against each other, thus keeping the Tory out.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th May '19 - 4:57pm


    But also because the Liberal Party was significantly more to the left politically that the SDP.

    This now seems to be completely forgotten, with the attempt to push the word “neoliberal” to mean what we used to call “Thatcherism” being used to suggest that it was the Liberal Party that stood for right-wing economics and the SDP that stood for more centralist economics.

    That is the opposite of the truth. In fact there were some members of the Liberal Party who voted against merger because they sids not like the way David Owen, the leader of the SDP, was pushing it towards being a more free-market economics party.

    It needs to be recalled that whereas liberal parties in the rest of Europe do tend to be right-wing in economics, this was certainly not the case with the surviving UK Liberal Party towards the end of the 20th century. What happened is that in the rest of Europe, parties of the aristocracy had disappeared, leaving the liberal parties as the parties of the economic right as businessmen took over from aristocracy. However, in the UK the party of the aristocracy, the Conservative Party, survived and did well, so it became the party of businessmen. The UK Liberal Party split twice, with a large portion of it eventually joining the Conservatives. So what remained in the Liberal Party in the UK was the most left-wing types of liberals.

    In the 1950s it looked like the UK Liberal Party was just a historical relic, but it started reviving in the 1960s. Its big success was the 1974 general elections, and that is what clearly showed it was not just a historical relic. The 1983 Liberal/SDP vote was not that much more than the 1974 Liberal vote, and that is why the continuing claim that it was the SDP who were the main feature in building up a significant challenge to the two-party system in the 1980s is false.

    The problem with the Liberal/SDP alliance was that a lot of time and effort was wasted in negotiating between the two parties, and trying to get new SDP members to see what was actually needed to be done to win votes.

    Had there been a general election just after the SDP was formed, it was possible the boom in interest just after its formation would have led to it being a major success. Once it had not done that well, it soon fell down, with the tactic of the Liberal Party of slow and steady growth by local activity working better in the long run.

  • Let’s not get caught up about ideological philosophy and the fact that Change UK tried to eliminate the Lib Dem’s. Chukka and co basically thought we were finished (like a lot of voters) and through that lens trying to finish us off and reinvigorate the centre ground was logical. Sure some Change UK MPs may be less liberally minded than most of us, but let’s get this right in the context of the current political climate where we face a government of the hard right or hard left then I think should take a relaxed view and accommodate these MPs in a broad church.

    But we should not back an alliance of any kind. We should ask them to join us and help shape our future. We should even offer to delay leadership elections but let’s not go back to the days when journalists would ask whether David Steel or David Owen would be PM if the Alliance won a general election. Let’s keep it simple.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th May '19 - 6:18pm

    That the Liberal Party was significantly more to the Left politically than the SDP – I am glad you are reasserting that, Matthew. I was just a humble foot-soldier, not that much involved or aware of the machinations, but the one fact I and my close Liberal friends from University days were always aware of was that we were Left-leaning and radical (and that David Owen wasn’t!). I suppose it must be the contagion of the Coalition, and some shift in our membership as a result with Left-leaning people leaving us and some former Conservatives joining, that has allowed the myth that we favour neo-liberal economics now. But I believe that radical Liberalism survives and informs our party now as it ever did and should always do.

  • @Mark Blackburn: “Maybe it’s time for a name change – Liberal Change?”

    Liberal UK. Or UK Liberals. There is a lot to be said for a name that suggests loyalty to the country you aspire to govern. And it gives the party a chance to contend with the Conservative and Unionist Party as the party of unionism in Scotland.

  • @Rod Wright – well lets have some historical accuracy.

    “I was an active member of the SDP in Greenwich. Once the alliance was formalised into Liberal Democrats we were treated as sworn enemies even though we had 2 Mp’s ”

    The Lib Dems didn’t stand against Barnes and Cartwright in 1992.

    “Very good MP’s in Rosie Barnes and John Cartwright and lots of councillors. I remember the same applied in several parts of the country but Greenwich was by far the most successful.

    By lots, the Alliance seems to have peaked at 6 councillors in Greenwich (1986). I’ve not got figures to check but I doubt this was the biggest group of SDP councillors in the country (and the split isn’t record in a lot of places).

    “Of course LibDems won in the end but those MP’s and councillors vanished and have never been regained. Even an unspoken alliance at the time and a little tolerance lasting perhaps for many years might have ensured our survival.”

    The SDP elected 4 councillors (2 wards) in Greenwich in 1990 and 1994. Both wards unopposed by the LIb Dems in 1990 and one of the two wards in 1994. The SDP didn’t contest any seats in 1998.

    The history of those years would largely seem to be that there WAS some sort of understanding.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th May '19 - 1:08am

    George Kendall

    Currently, we are currently a party of liberalism and social democracy. If we explicitly removed our social democrat heritage, aside from the insult to Charles Kennedy, Vince Cable, Shirley Williams and many others, we would be sending a signal to moderate social democrats who have joined us or are thinking of joining us, that they are not welcome

    Please explain what you mean here by “liberalism” and “social democracy”. As I have said, there now seems to be a common belief that “liberalism” means support for right-wing economics, while “social democracy” means more left-wing economics. That is the opposite of the truth of what was actually the case when the Liberal Party and SDP merged.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th May '19 - 2:24am

    Katharine Pindar

    I suppose it must be the contagion of the Coalition, and some shift in our membership as a result with Left-leaning people leaving us and some former Conservatives joining, that has allowed the myth that we favour neo-liberal economics now.

    Labour, and that includes those who have joined Change, have continued to boost the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats and destroy the left-wing by making the completely false claim that all of us members of the party were in complete support of everything the Coalition did.

    This is, of course, nonsense. A Coalition that is five-sixths Conservative and just one-sixth LibDem is hardly going to be the same as what a 100% LibDem government would be like. The idea that Labour are pushing is that the LibDems could somehow persuade the Conservatives to drop all their policies and pick up LibDems ones, so the fact that the Coalition was largely Conservative in policy mean that secretly the LibDems are.

    In realty, the problem was that there were not enough Labour MPs to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable, and Labour weren’t interested in trying it anyway. So that took away any chance the LibDems had to challenge the Conservatives and force them to change their policies by threatening to form an alternative coalition. All the LibDems could really do in the Coalition was to switch the balance on issue where there was a fairly even division in the Conservatives themselves.

    The Coalition was formed because it was felt a stable government was necessary. Also had it not been formed there would have been a minority Conservative government anyway, which would have fiddled things and blamed the LibDems for anything that went wrong saying the problem was not having a majority, and would have used that to win another general election called a few months later.

    In reality it’s Labour that supported the right-wing Coalition by supporting the disproportional representation system that meant it was the only possible government and which greatly reduced the power of the LibDems in it. Labour blame us for agreeing to the Coalition while themselves supporting an electoral system which boosts the Conservatives and leaves non-Conservatives in southern and rural England with hardly any representation. So Labour seem to think it’s fine that the Conservatives can form a majority government with well under half the votes.

  • Nonconformistradical 30th May '19 - 7:43am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “@George Kendall
    ‘Please explain what you mean here by “liberalism” and “social democracy”. ”

    I find George rather obsessed with these terms and with the desire to empahsise the differences between them.

    Why not talk more about “radical”?

    Because the main problem I see with ChUK is that apart from issues over bigotry in one form or another their main desire appears to be ‘more of the same’. I don’t know what they really stand for. I don’t know what they think needs changing, if anything. And until I do I cannot trust them. Especially after their earlier expressed desires to destroy the LibDems. They have a lot of fence-mending to do.

  • Of course exactly the wrong thing to do about Change is to waste time spewing forth too many words about them. We all enjoy doing it as politicos and taking part in the media game – and I guess that I am doing that now!

    But it is wrong. It is almost all a complete and utter waste of time. What we need to do is what – thankfully – we have been doing. We need to build a self-confident, bold, hard-working Liberal and Social Democrat party. We need to get our mojo back. And we are perhaps only half way there. Let Change UK also build their own bold strong political force. If theirs is better than ours we can join it – but it doesn’t look like it is.

    Farage, much though I dislike his policies, shows that you don’t change anything by sitting on your backside sipping lattes in Westminster while plotting. You change things by engaging in an engaging way with the British people. Not by putting four black stripes on a piece of paper and calling it a political party.

    When first elected to my council it was almost exactly evenly split (13,14,15!). We of course worked with other parties in the council. But we also delivered more leaflets than them and attacked them in those leaflets – building a strong Lib Dem election machine. Guess what we won at the ballot box – getting overall control and we got 4 defections from other parties as a result of effective policies and hard work – opening libraries not closing them, building more social housing and greening the city.

    So I say to Heidi Allen and Chukka Umunna go and build your strong political force. If you build a better and stronger Liberal and Social Democrat force – excellent. We can all join it and have double the impact. However, while you are doing that I would suggest that the Lib Dem response should be to build ours – just in case, by some remote chance, 4 black stripes don’t work.

    Yes, of course, work with them – invite them to speak, work with them in Parliament. But today our response should be to knock on a door to recruit a LD member, pick up the phone to Peterborough, pick up a bit of litter, get your council to plant trees, to build more social housing etc. etc. We will be doing more for the good of our country than Chris Leslie sipping a latte and taking out his felt-tip pen to draw 4 black lines! Vital work though I am sure this is to build a Liberal Britain!

    (And of course I should practice what I preach!!!!!)

  • Peter Martin 30th May '19 - 8:32am

    @ Katharine @ Matthew Huntbach,

    Matthew says:

    “A Coalition that is five-sixths Conservative and just one-sixth LibDem is hardly going to be the same as what a 100% LibDem government would be like.”

    So the argument is that a 100% Lib Dem government would have been heaps better than a Tory Govt. I’d hope it would have been slightly better, though we’d have to travel to a parallel universe to find out for sure! However, there’s such a lot of neoliberalism in the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, and so written before the need for a coalition was known, that might lead us to wonder.

    The truth is that all parties, to a greater or lesser extent, were hung up on the idea that cutting govt spending and increasing taxation (like VAT to 20%) was the way to ‘balance the budget’ and restore the health of the economy.

    Katharine mentions:
    ” the myth that we favour neo-liberal economics now”

    I would say that everyone has made some significant progress in recent years. Thinking has moved on. Just a few years ago it was hard to get a resolution passed in the Labour Party which condemned austerity economics. There’s no such problem now but the Labour Party still haven’t got it right. They are still hung up on the so-called fiscal rules.

    Fiscal rules that no doubt Lib Dems, like Joseph, would approve of too!

    The important thing, for all parties, is to learn from past mistakes and move on. There’s still quite a way to go.

  • Ian Hurdley 30th May '19 - 8:49am

    Clearly we agree with Change UK in being opposed to Brexit, and that is important. However, despite appearances Brexit will not be with us forever. What else do we or could we agree on? I don’t know; they haven’t fleshed out a policy portfolio for the future. By all means let us meet, let us discuss and look at how we might cooperate with Change UK to our mutual benefit, but to my mind it’s premature to talk of mergers. As the maxim has it; marry in haste and repent at leisure.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th May ’19 – 2:24am…

    Matthew, you use your opinions as if they were facts.

    Having failed to beat the most unpopular government in history Cameron would not have gambled on another go in a few months’ especially as the government was becoming less popular by the week..
    As for blaming his ills on the LibDems not joining a coalition…Most voters do not care about ‘what ifs’; the party in power takes the blame (as Labour’s tenure during the global crisis of 2008 showed).
    Sadly, your belief that the LibDems were powerless passengers in a Tory administration,,is not borne out by the facts; the leadership (Clegg, Alexander, Laws, etc.) actively supported everything from NHS re-organisation, through disability cuts to the bedroom tax. As Business minister, Vince Cable introduced tribunal fees for employees making claims against employers, reducing compensation for unfair dismissal, called for increased deregulation of Health and Safety rules, increased labour market flexibility and scrapping of the Working Time Directive; all of which are right wing Tory type policies.

    In short, it was the actions of this party’s leadership that caused its near demise. The electorate aren’t idiots; they saw that, far from passengers, the LibDem leadership (and by default the party as a whole) was no different that it’s partner.

    As the 2015 election proved;, “Why vote for the monkey when you can have the organ grinder”.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th May '19 - 9:34am

    While Change UK are working out their identity, hopefully very much in tune with ours, let us reassert that our own party is Liberal and Social Democratic as Matthew and George describe, and that the majority of us rejects neo-liberal economics. We are Centre-Left leaning, open and internationalist in outlook, progressive in policies, and well identified in brief by the name Liberal Democrats. I believe we can move forward by working with other parties or parts of other parties which share our values and will further similar policies, but, whatever agreements or alliances that we may come to share, as I wrote earlier in an article on this site, our party is not for merging.

  • I was a Liberal PPC at the time of the SDP … some SDP members ‘liberal’ in outlook, some not. When the SDP voted on merging with the Liberal Party, apx 2/3rds voted merge, 1/3 did not. Many of those that came into the ‘new’ Liberal Democrats are still involved today ie our leader in House of Lords, Dick Newby. I do not see chain uk lasting, maybe until a GE (if that is soon) or couple years at most. IF supporters, officers, MPs can read our preamble and feel happy to join us, good 🙂 many will not. i have read of some supporters already coming over to us. Our name did not cause any issues in recent local and Euro elections, so why change? IF… and i say IF … we looked to change names … Social & Liberal Democrats? also remember, we are getting a steady flow of pro remain ‘one nation’ style conservatives coming to us.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th May '19 - 11:18am

    George Kendall

    Thanks for the question about what these terms mean.

    I wrote an article on exactly that question here:

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with the disagreement between some members of the Liberal Party and the SDP at the time of the merger of the two parties. It was the right-wing of the Liberal Party who saw no difference between what they stood for and what the SDP stood for, and so were most keen on the merger. It was left-wing members of the Liberal Party who were unhappy about some aspects of the SDP and for that reason opposed merger.

    You are just proving my point: there has been a successful attempt to push the idea that the Liberal Party was a right-wing party back in the 1970s and the 1980s, which is the opposite of the real truth. I write this as someone who was active in the Liberal Party in those days, and who voted against the merger for the reason I have given.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th May '19 - 2:14pm

    I think we have to be open to ChangeUK but at the moment they are still influenced by the fact that they came from different parties and I haven’t seen any policies showing that they have now become a united group. At the moment it seems that they want our Indians because they are all chiefs. They still only have Brexit in common with us. If individual MPs want to join us then we would have to see whether they support our existing policies and the Preamble. If they do then of course we should warmly welcome them, just as we are welcoming so many new members at the moment.

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st May '19 - 8:24am


    All I am saying is that the idea that the Liberal Democrats could have got whatever they wanted out of the Coalition, and therefore whatever it did is what a 100% Liberal Democrat government should do, is nonsense. I quite agree that the party was badly led. It had a leader who was right-wing from the start, and who tried to use the Coalition to push the party further towards the way he wanted it to go. He was, by the way, a member of the SDP before the two parties merged. And to some extent it was the more centralised control of the party, which is what the SDP was about, and was forced on the merged party by them, that enabled him to act in this way.

    However, to suggest that all of us in the party agreed 100% with what the leader did in the Coalition is completely wrong. I myself attended the party conference in 2012 where there was a strong attempt to stop the way he had broken the Coalition agreement by accepting the disastrous (everyone agrees that now …) changes to the NHS. We almost succeeded, and I think we would have done if we had more outside support and acknowledgement of us.

    Instead, we were let down by the keenness of the Labour Party to support the right-wing by keep saying the sort of things you say. This enabled the leader to be able to say we had lost left-wing support anyway. In reality the Labour Party wanted and wants to destroy us. It was happy to do so, and so see the Conservatives pushed up again in all those places where we were the main opposition. It is the Labour Partyy who is the real supporter of the Conservatives by the way they support the disproportional electoral system which gives the Conservatives many more MPs than they deserve by number of votes, as it did in 2010 to mean nothing but a Conservative-dominated government was possible.

  • Katharine Pindar 31st May '19 - 8:56am

    All guns will be turned on us now that we have succeeded in elections and risen dramatically in the opinion polls. Last night, for instance, a reviewer of the papers in the 10.40 pm review on BBC News 24 was accusing us of bringing in austerity while in government, expressing surprised disapproval of our rise. We have answers to the expected onslaughts, and I will ask both our leadership candidates to use that particular slur to point out our present and developing robust policies to tackle poverty and deprivation in our country.

    I ask additionally for us to condemn the attitudes that have prevailed under the present government, allowing the callous treatment of struggling members of our community, including the heartless demand that the only route out of poverty is self-help through holding down any job. I hope Jo and Ed will both endorse the devastating report of the UN Rapporteur Philip Alston which exposes these ills.

  • Peter Martin 31st May '19 - 10:23am

    Neither Lib Dems, ChUK, nor the Greens should put all their eggs in the EU basket.

    There could be a real show down brewing between Italy and Germany. Don’t underestimate the problem.

    “This could ultimately debase the euro and blow apart the eurozone. Germany would have to leave.”

    It’s me just saying this! I might add that if the eurozone is “blown apart” then the EU probably won’t survive either. If it does it won’t look anything like it does now.


  • Woooops……. apparently Cherie Blair voted Lib Dem.

    We really must be more careful who we associate with.

  • Peter Hirst 31st May '19 - 3:46pm

    The right questions are where do our values and policies coincide and in these areas what is the best strategy to achieve them? A flexible approach rather than a merger might be the right direction. We can always merge later though it is more challenging to de-merge.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jun '19 - 9:47am

    George, there is a continuum in the Liberals of progressive thinking. from Jo Grimond, whom I heard speak at a Brighton Conference, to the present-day Liberal Democrats. I have never ceased to be a member, have never doubted the values of our party, and am proud to be a Liberal Democrat today. Any sort of dissolution or merger of this party that I have supported for 50 years and which I love is unthinkable to me, though I fully support working with other progressives to facilitate our return to power.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jun '19 - 10:21pm

    I welcomed the arrival of the Social Democrats to our party, George, and felt that it was strengthened in that we became overtly Liberal Democrats, not only Liberals. Sorry I didn’t make it clear that I was responding to your comment of yesterday at 11.44, when you wrote ‘There certainly were pre-merger Liberals who were very leftwing , but my impression was that they were a small minority.’ I was saying that not only was I left-of-centre myself but I was comfortable in Liberal society and believed that fellow Liberals tended to think as I did, so I think your impression was mistaken. This is all subjective, but I do bring the experience of 50 years in the party to my subjectivity.

    It is interesting to explore adjectives such as ‘radical’ and ‘progressive’ with other people in our party who are thinkers, such as yourself. We identify with these notions instinctively, but as open-minded people should be glad to debate about them.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jun '19 - 12:22am

    A nicely balanced comment, George! Though I don’t see why someone with strong views shouldn’t be conciliatory and willing to listen to others, as indeed I suppose people must be to succeed in politics. Perhaps you are correct if the strong views, left or right, belong to people with a rigidity of mind. I suspect that you like me do have strong views, but are capable of listening and learning, and that we could both be described as left of centre in our views, though, as you suggest, such definitions are hard to make.

    I am certainly passionate about social justice, as I think you also are. As to my original mindset, I think as a counsellor that mine was much influenced by the family and society I grew up in, as will be the case for many people. I could never have been a Tory, but I did at first join both the Labour and the Liberal societies at Uni, before rapidly deciding I was a Liberal. Mind you, I remember being much impressed by the Communists there! Their certainty and drive was appealing. 🙂

  • When the SDP merged with the old Liberal Party they had already absorbed exactly the same range of views of Change UK, with 1 Tory MP and a bunch of moderate Labour having gone over.
    Of course the LibDems can accommodate a range of views. Jeremy Brown in the coalition was rather to the right economically but no one suggested he should not be a prominent member or minister.
    When such MP’s join a new party there will be a humble, learning process as they absorb the subtleties and are surrounded by a somewhat different culture, but it should be not like them having to excuse a Corbyn or Johnson as leader.

  • David Allen 2nd Jun '19 - 7:24pm

    It is very important to avoid a destructive conflict between two parties – Change UK and Lib Dems – whose positions will be seen by the vast majority of the voting public as basically identical. The public will not want to hear arguments about whether voting for the Iraq war was worse than voting for the bedroom tax. They want to see a single force which can Stop Brexit, tackle climate change, and combat inequality without bringing back doctrinaire socialism.

    So does that mean we should make a big pitch right now to reach out to Change UK? I would say, just right now let’s go easy on that. CHUK are gradually coming to terms with the fact that they just don’t hold a lot of cards. Let’s not intrude on their grief if we can avoid it. Let’s just say that we’d like to be working with them, on the right terms.

    CHUK are probably still hoping that more mass defections from Labour or the Tories could revitalise them. Unless and until that hope proves false, they will not readily accept a lesser role. So let’s just wait and see if CHUK pick up any more defectors. Things will be easier if they don’t.

    It’s the Greens who are far more important. They have the big issue that will run and run. Being the Kings of Remain is a great role for Lib Dems just now, but sooner or later, whatever happens, the Europe issue will move on. The climate issue will not. If we want to claim that we can tackle climate change, then we simply have to find ways to work with the Greens.

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