Why you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers about the Lib Dems

It’s the annual “Trash the Lib Dems” day in the national press with gloomy analyses in both the Times and the Guardian. When the papers do SWOT analyses of us, they do tend to omit the strengths and opportunities and focus on the weaknesses and threats.  We can quite often do that about ourselves, too, and talk ourselves down. There is no doubt that we face some pretty intense challenges in 2018, but there are signs of a plan coming together to meet them and also that the political environment is changing.

The Guardian tells us that we are facing a “fight for our political future”. People have been writing us off for pretty much the last century and we are still hanging in there. I’ve lost count of the times in my political lifetime that we have been told we are doomed right through from the disastrous election of 1979 to the present day.

Jessica Elgot talked to senior grassroots figures, academics and anonymous party sources about the party’s future. They cite our low poll rating, low staff morale, the departure of senior staff and the enormity of the political task ahead to regain seats as the main challenges facing us.  They didn’t mention some key positives such as Vince being absolutely everywhere. He is doing so many broadcast interviews, and going to places you wouldn’t expect, like Nigel Farage’s show where he did a good job. He is breaking out of the echo chamber and positioning himself where he needs to be when the Brexit thing falls apart.

The Times has an article with similar themes (£) suggesting that Vince has failed to spark the Lib Dems into life.

Sir Vince, 74, has struggled to turn his political experience into increased support for his party, which is polling at about 7 per cent, according to YouGov.

An attempt by Sir Vince to encourage the party’s 11 other MPs and 100 peers to engage with each other to devise fresh policy ideas has yielded lacklustre proposals so far.

The “clusters” initiative, which refers to grouped areas of policy, has been nicknamed the “clusterf***s”. One insider remarked: “Like most things Lib Dem, there’s a lot of talking, but nothing ever comes out of it.”

You have to remember that Vince was elected just before the Summer parliamentary recess. He’s effectively had about 3 months since Conference so it’s very early days. He’s only just got his full team in place but even in that short space of time, he has increased his visibility and profile. He’s doing work on two key areas, Brexit and tackling inequality, both of which are intertwined. You can’t stop Brexit unless you come up with a plan to tackle inequality and give hope to people on low incomes who feel that they are constantly struggling and you can’t tackle inequality unless you stop Brexit. There simply won’t be money around to mend the holes the Tories have ripped in the safety net. It’s also important in getting back those social democrats who have left us for Corbyn, the SNP and Greens.

This year’s election came too soon and our anti-Brexit message was a bit too equivocal to make much of a difference. The lesson from the part of the country where we did the best was about having a short, concise message that you stick to at all times. We are getting there with the “exit from Brexit” riff. Our election campaign was much too equivocal about Brexit but it’s becoming much stronger now.

Neither of the articles mention the sheer quality of our parliamentary party. We have 3 former Cabinet Ministers in Ed Davey, Alistair Carmichael and Vince himself. We have 3 former ministers in Jo, Tom and Norman. While Tom’s role was more behind the scenes as a deputy whip, Jo and Norman carved out distinctive policy area in equality and mental health. Of the new intake, media savvy Christine Jardine is putting in some strong performances. Layla Moran and Wera Hobhouse are both making an impact on the crucial issues of education and housing. Stephen Lloyd is all over the Tories on social security and Tim Farron and Jamie Stone have the huge experience of leadership and 12 years in the Scottish Parliament between them.

The Times piece suggests a rift between Jo Swinson and Vince Cable, citing the fact that they don’t often appear in public together as evidence. I think that a is utter bollocks, to be blunt. They certainly appeared to have had a different perspective on the sexual harassment stuff but in the end of the day, it’s Jo who is representing the party in the cross party talks at Westminster. You don’t send someone you disagree with to do a sensitive job like that. Those two worked incredibly well together at the then Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and have the sort of relationship.  I also detect a very strong intent at the very top of the party to get it right. Ken Macdonald’s new disciplinary processes to be debated at Conference should give the party more confidence in our systems.

The last few months have been about laying some organisational and strategic foundations to advance the party over the course of the Parliament. We remain the only anti-Brexit political movement across the whole of the UK. Unlike the SNP in Scotland, we don’t have another agenda in all of this.

We need to work our socks off to make sure that our unique message is heard and to show that we have the talent, the infrastructure and the ability to mount a serious challenge to Brexit and to present a vision of our more fair, free and open society.

We are in much better shape than the newspapers make out. That’s not to say that the road ahead is a flower strewn path through the sunny uplands. We are up against it but we’re fighting our way out and up. Rumours of our survival  and growth are greatly underestimated.

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

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  • Richard Underhill 27th Dec '17 - 10:30pm

    We had an experience of this kind in Tunbridge Wells. At the count in a borough council election a Tory who had been celebrating too early shouted out loudly “You lot are finished”, which was immediately followed by the announcement that we had won Horsmonden. The Tories had privatised the dustbin service, the contractor they appointed was not up to the job and there was widespread and consequent dissatisfaction. The outgoing borough councillor for Horsmonden was the chairman of the environmental committee.

  • And rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated. Exactly so, Caron. If Michael Heseltine’s prediction in the Guardian is correct, and the country’s disenchantment with Brexit is set to steadily increase, by all that’s logical the Lib Dems should come into their own.

  • Peter Watson 28th Dec '17 - 12:41am

    “two key areas, Brexit and tackling inequality, both of which are intertwined.”
    It is good to see the party making this connection, however belatedly.

  • George Flaxman 28th Dec '17 - 1:35am

    I never pay much attention to press hack’s views on how we are doing as they are almost all enemies.

    I go by new supporters on twitter joining us after a lifetime of voting Lab or Cons. I’ve not seen our latest membership stats, but even if it’s still 106,000 then it’s at least keeping pace with those drifting off. I’m not much of a policy wonk either, whatever we stand for I’ll support it. But amongst those 106,000 there must be some good ideas.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Dec '17 - 2:08am

    Caron writes of this with the expected and valued positive attitude needed.

    The key to articles is read the comments. Not just here, where quite frankly the word anorak comes to mind with trainspotting another expression. This site, as with this party , is navel gazing. That is often though not always.

    These articles reflect what many feel in this party too. I despair at the talk of Liberals rather than money where their mouth is. I saw this on the left of Labour too, years ago, talk talk. Need a friend, where are they?! It was what did it for the party in government, New Labour and Liberal Democrats. Power does not just corrupt, only part of the problem, it causes complacency , with those things in which there is no room for it .

    It is true of those who are members sometimes too. Middle class, doing well, caring about their pet issue, and the people miles away struggling. And the economy. And gender, identity the lot. Oh and land value tax !!!

    Nearby there are people doing something other than talking or delivering leaflets slagging other people off. They are struggling, may become homeless, are trying to do things, and who knows or cares, when you can slag of Labour or someone else, the Tories are all wicked, or homeowners are the bug bear. And really it is all the result of Brexit !!!

    There s a crying need for a radical alternative. But in a party that cannot even utilise the word centre with radical without a smart Alec saying thats not possible or is not wanted, nobody is listening to us because the only ones who would are not on the left or far left or right or far right , they are represented.

    But Jo prefers to talk and speak and write mainly about gender and Vince has become the promoter of little but exit from Brexit.

  • The Guardian article about us was alongside one about Labour which said that a third of their current supporters believed Labour was anti-Brexit (they’re not) and two thirds of Remainers would be angry to see Labour back Brexit (which they are doing). The whole tone of this article was about how Labour could lose a lot of Remain voters – who would then be up for grabs by a genuinely anti-Brexit party. So we clearly have work to do to persuade Labour Remainers that their party is lying to them on Brexit and has been really in bed with the Tories. We should all be having this conversation with our Labour-leaning friends every day.

  • It has often been said the Liberals are dead. Remember Thatcher’s speech, the parrot had life enough to win the Eastbourne by-election. There will be support for the Liberals as the two main parties are unacceptable to many people. Plans must be made for the 2018 general election late next year.

  • Yvonne Finlayson 28th Dec '17 - 7:39am

    Your post serves as a much needed injection of optimism Caron. I do however agree largely with Lorenzo’s points.

    None of my family and friends talk about Brexit any more. Not a single one. I only hear it mentioned at work.

    What does concern them is inequality, job security, the tech revolution, poorly performing local authorities, a lack of investment in schools/NHS and animal welfare.

    What are our proposals or points of view on these issues? I’m not just talking a penny on income tax, what do we fundamentally think should happen around UBI, or taxation of “bots”? Maybe we’re being written off (by some) as we’re coming across as a one-trick “Brexit” pony. I’m not saying Brexit isn’t important, but it shouldn’t be the only area where we have something to say.

  • Onward and upward 🙂

  • A happy, prosperous and politically succesful 2018 to us all 🙂

  • David Becket 28th Dec '17 - 9:03am

    On Brexit the Lib Dems are closer to the principles of the Guardian than fence sitting Corbyn. The other policies we are developing are also closer to Guardian philosophy than those of the current Labour Party. The Guardian however ignores us, barely mention on any of the major issues of the day. I do not expect the paper to agree with us, but to airbrush out “liberal” values is shortsighted. That is why after 65 years loyal readership I have cancelled my subscription. If the Guardian changes now I might not be tempted away from the balanced journalism of “I”.

  • At the moment we are heading for another 180 lost deposits. At the moment it looks as if there is nothing we can do about it, particularly if UKIP revive this year because of Brexit stumbling etc and take the protest vote again. I have been with the party since 1962, there have been worse times in the 60’s but there was an outlet, we were the third party, but trying to see a way out now is like a fog. The papers have it right, at this time. The coalition still messes us up. We need a sort of miracle, certainly not a knighthood for an exleader.

  • William Fowler 28th Dec '17 - 9:56am

    You have to accept that any tax rises are political suicide (Labour having already got the benefit class on their side), and come up with policies that grab headlines, however distasteful this is… phasing out council tax would be a good starting point as it affects the (working rather than benefit) poor in rented accommodation to a larger extent than householders. Phasing in a variable turnover tax (higher on nasty co’s) to pay for this (as well as replacing employer NI and business rates with it) on companies would go down well with the electorate, esp if there was an online petition system where they could vote for turnover tax increases on the nastier co’s. You can then merge employee NI into the income tax bands (basing benefits and pensions on length of residence) to have a fairer and much simpler tax system (getting rid of loopholes, rollovers, etc along the way). You might even be able to afford citizen’s income if you play it right and get rid of the whole benefits system.

  • Peter Watson 28th Dec '17 - 10:16am

    @William Fowler “Labour having already got the benefit class on their side”
    Is that really a Lib Dem position: not only the notion that there is something called a “benefit class” but also that it is a lost cause for Lib Dems?
    If so, I despair.

  • As someone who was a party for many long years and has dropped out you may be interested in my perspective.

    The party seems to have got itself into a place that is the worst of all words. It is associated with globalisation, corporate capitalism, centralisation, anti young people, anti state, pro status quo and anti traditional values. Its a toxic combination that makes it unelectable.

    I could write an essay on the reasons why, but the party needs to understand that what it thinks it is is completely irrelevant.

    If it wants the periphery back it must start working on a proper federal scheme that will excite Scots, Welsh, and Cornish people. If it wants the North, it has to excite the northern cities with industrial and commercial vision. If it wants the young back it has to go all out for free university fees. If it believes in corporate hegemony is dangerous then it needs to create a vision for protecting privacy, protecting the internet from being carved up by the big boys and open up competition so that the high street and small businesses have a level plYing field. And it needs to stop banging on about that alienate normal families. Yes, I know its contentious but women are not the only people with no access to top jobs. Repeating the message that middle class women with degrees cant hook the Managing Directors job just winds up those who see their children working at Costa with no prospect of improvement or their male relatives dying early due to health inequalities that hit men rather women.

    In short the party must get a grip, focus on what actually means anything to electors, stop doing what doesnt work and use some of its passion for a fair society.

  • Christopher Curtis 28th Dec '17 - 10:29am

    I wouldn’t worry too much about negative articles in the Guardian, which has tended to be uncritically supportive of Corbyn’s Labour, partly because some of its ex-journalists are central to that project. It’s more worrying that Jessica Elgot could find a number of “senior Lib Dem figures” willing to agree with her thesis, albeit not on the record.
    The current political fog and confusion cannot last. Both the Tories and Labour will soon have to make irrevocable commitments on Brexit and on our future relationship with Europe and both can only do so by bringing out their “real” policies and political creed. We need to clarify our core values and creed: exactly what do we believe economically and politically. Our commitment to European unity can’t just be pragmatic: it’s a core belief for me that we are better together. Similarly, I don’t believe (at all) in command economics and I think socialism is a disaster in theory as well as in practice. Equally, I abhor the Dan Hannan/Liam Fox view of the world since it is based on a complete lie: that everyone has an equal chance in a “free” market.
    Our challenge is to develop and articulate a position that is not defined by what the two main parties happen to be saying or doing right now. The damage the coalition did to us is partly due to a lack of that position: Clegg and Laws were faced with a lot of difficult decisions very quickly, but did not have a sufficiently solid policy foundation, so that things that had been given prominence turned out to be “disposable” and they felt entitled to fall back onto a “liberal” free-market model (e.g. privatisation by default including privatisation of education and health) which motivated themselves but which probably did not reflect the party as a whole.
    I worry that I see much more work going into phoning up voters (nothing wrong in that) than actually hammering out what we’re going to tell them when we talk to them.

  • Lib Dems need to be more than an anti-Brexit party if it is to climb the polls

  • Laurence Cox 28th Dec '17 - 11:10am


    Only 180 lost deposits, luxury! We lost 350 in 2015 and 375 in 2017. Short of standing down in half of the seats, which would make our vote share even lower, losing only 180 deposits would indicate a significant recovery in the Party’s popularity nationwide.

    The longer that Brexit goes on, the more difficult it becomes for Labour to stay on the fence with Corbyn saying we must accept the will of the people, while Labour councillors write to Keir Starmer calling for a rethink. If we campaign hard in remain-voting Labour areas like London we can start to strip away those who left the Lib Dems to vote Labour in 2015 and 2017 and are now starting to realise that they have been deceived.

  • In many seats the Liberal Democrats polled about 2% of the vote, sometimes less. Standing down would only make a marginal difference to the total vote share but save a lot of money to campaign in more fruitful areas. Labour supporters in the North and other areas now have the Labour Party they have always wanted. Whether the rest of the electorate sees it that way remains to be seen but they did remarkably well in previously hopeless seats in the West of England even if it was a sort of protest vote rather than a real belief that they would elect a Labour MP.

  • We are certainly doing well where we work in local elections. Ours is a message that resonates when people get it and that sometimes takes time. Perhaps we could reframe our Brexit message more positively by for instance saying, “We believe in an inclusive society where we go forward together”, thus emphasising unity, cohesion and collaboration – approaching Brexit from the back door.

  • The party is respected at a local level but nationally, it has lost its way. It has also lost my vote. I, and I suspect, many others, once regarded the party as a safe alternative when dissatisfied with the others. Today, the Tories are fighting themselves and Labour has become dominated by left wing extremists and one would expect the Lib Dems to be riding high in the polls. What went wrong?

    Lorenzo has the answer but is far too polite. LD has become a virtue signalling, gender obsessed pro-EU party. It resides in a self satisfied bubble, convinced that the voters will suddenly realise the value of LD policies. The reality is that the voters are not interested. Many voters who voted to remain in the EU did so to avoid change. They are very unlikely to vote for even more disruption by re-joining an unpopular political entity heading towards federalism.

    If the leadership believes that all BAME shortlists and visas for curry chefs will sweep the party to greater popularity then I do fear that it is has no future.

  • To Peter-
    What exactly is wrong with is wrong with federalism and why does a United States of Europe inspire so much apprehension? The USA does pretty well. You don’t hear Texans complaining that they’ve lost their identity as Texans because they’re Americans. So why are we nervous about calling ourselves Europeans?

  • AndrewC – an excellent post, and I’d love to see an essay by you on why we are now unelectable. I have periodically pointed out on LDV that although Liberals have traditionally supported free trade and been opposed to monopolies, in an era of global oligopoly this is no longer viable as a policy, particularly as we hardly any longer mention our opposition to the concentration of power. I suspect that many people who voted Leave perceived the EU as an active agent in aspects of globalisation which has damaged their lives and the prospects of their children. To a certain extent they could be correct, but the EU is also a bulwark against the worst excesses of state capitalism (China) and unregulated monopoly capitalism (USA). Unfortunately, AndrewC, my experience is that the Liberal Democrats are not really interested in thinking about this problem which seems to me to be fundamental to an understanding of current and future politics.

  • The USA is not a valid comparison because of its history as a (mainly) newly populated continent. In fact, history provides the answer to you question.

    The majority of people voted to take back control of laws, borders, trade, etc and federalism removes more powers from the nation state in favour of centralist government. The EU already has a democratic deficit.

    The UK has a history of democratic government and enjoys autonomy in matters such as defence and foreign policy. Most voters resented the creeping power grab of the EU that stripped away aspects of sovereignty.

    Most of the EU member states were dictatorships until recently and may welcome federalism. Many are small and crave the security of such membership. Even the larger states have their own deep rooted financial or defence concerns that make EU membership look worthwhile.

    Our history gives us a different perspective and we prefer our independence. We also have doubts about the EU and its future direction. We are and always have been European. That should not be confused with the political entity known as the EU, which wishes to erase the concept of nation state in favour of a country of Europe.

  • roger roberts 28th Dec '17 - 1:43pm

    We have an opportunity in the coming months to lead the pro EU campaign. In parliament we can win divisions – but will Mrs May create a whole batch of new Tory peers ? Who will they be ? how quickly can they be introduced and able to vote ? Will the anti-Tory Brexit majority include enough Labour peers ?
    Can Lib Dems keep winning local by-elections and this coming May will we have a strong tally of council gains ? that could be the confidence booster that makes us a party worth voting for. Will there be winnable parliamentary by-elections before we are faced with the next general election ?
    So many “If”s. To a great extent every party is at the mercy of events beyond their control. We’ve been in far more threatening scenarios. Remember 1951 when Orkney and Shetlands was our only win other than in a straight fight. I recall ,as a very longstanding member, that there were times when we could have lost our identity but many of us share Alan Paton belief
    ‘If Liberalism died, then freedom would perish from the earth. Humanity wouldn’t be human any more.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Dec '17 - 1:50pm


    Many thanks, for your response, good to actually connect with someone here, a rarer thing recently, so many unable to see the personal view and wider needs too.


    You and me often agree though we voted on either side in the Brexit debate. If this party continues this way, unable to see the talent in it while giving power and responsibility to the same people, it shall fail. I believe Norman Lamb was the only mp who could have been seen as both a good and warm man, and a caring politician, with gravitas. Sir Vince has the gravitas but does not connect. His Christmas broadcast was good but did not have the immediate warm man in your world feeling needed.

    The Brexit problem, is , as shown now, not as beneficial to any party, but it is the fudger of the issue, Corbyn, who is benefiting the most.

    This party needs to change. It should change the rules to elect a leader from the members not mps.

  • @ Peter Watson

    William Fowler does not reflect Liberal Democrat thinking. He was a Conservative voter and while he has joined the party he has not been converted to looking at people based on Liberal philosophy.

    @ William Fowler

    Council Tax is unfair to those of working age not in work and to those who own less expensive homes. We need to restore the zero rate for those of working age not in work and replace it with a tax based on a fixed percentage of the value of the home, so those with high value homes pay it in the same proportion as those living in less expensive homes.

    Business Rates need to be replaced with a Land Value Tax.

    National Insurance for employees needs to be increased for high earners and extended to all forms of income. However merging it with Income Tax would have a political price (it would be seen as an Income Tax rise of 12%).

    I would be interested in a turnover tax for businesses but I wonder if businesses would just increase prices to pay it.

    @ John King

    Perhaps you should ask the majority of German voters why Europeans are different from Americans. In the USA the people consider themselves as one people, where there is a role for the state to assist the poorer areas. In Germany they don’t want to assist southern Europeans because they see them as generally lazy compared to themselves.

    One of our problems is that when we were in government we alienated the groups from which we had large numbers of supporters – students, people with degrees, teachers, and those working in the public services.

    I think if we really wanted to make us a realistic voting possibility for these groups again we need to recognise that increasing tuition fees was wrong, and we didn’t treat civil servants and public servants fairly during the Coalition government. We need to reject student tuition fees and promise to replace them we a true graduate tax and we need to not only reject the cap on public sector pay (done in the 2017 manifesto) but actually state how we would improve working conditions for these workers. (When I was an employer keeping our existing staff happy was a concern we often considered and took action to achieve. We tried our best to be a good employer.)

  • Tony Greaves 28th Dec '17 - 2:34pm

    I have no idea who Jessica Elgot is other than a Grauniad lobby journalist. She seems to be the latest in the Grauniad’s longish list of very clever young journalists who get immersed into the Westminster Bubble and just see life through the distorted and distorting prism of the House of Commons and national party HQs, and are fairly clueless about life outside. I also have an intense dislike of stories based on quotes and opinions from nameless persons. I can imagine who two or three of the “senior party figures” she claims to have spoken to may be, perhaps ghosts from the past might be more relevant in some cases. I am also slightly amused by her claim that the departure from HQ of people who presided over recent disasters is a bad sign for the party. Odd that she does not mention Nick Harvey, who in my view is a ground for optimism for the future. All in all a pretty shoddy piece written around a pre-decided line.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Dec '17 - 2:42pm

    I’m glad Vince is trying to tackle inequality but if this is going to be recognised he needs to shout about it at every opportunity, even if the interviewer has asked a completely different question! I also think he has to be seen to tackle social mobility to give people hope and this is where a change of attitude on tuition fees belongs.
    I could understand our position in Coalition, when we were making cutbacks on spending because of the Recession, but presumably now we would have different economic policies and not be carrying on cutting back like the Tories. Like many people who comment here I was very disappointed that we didn’t keep our promise on tuition fees but realised that if others were suffering students couldn’t be treated as a special case, so I was amazed that no Lib Dem seemed to say that.
    If tuition fees are taken as part of a package to enable people to use their talents, whatever they are, to achieve social mobility, it maybe that those who have academic ability can also achieve special treatment again.

  • @ Tony Greaves “I have no idea who Jessica Elgot is”.

    Oh, come on, Tony, that’s not exactly a ‘how to win friends and influence people’ comment, Tony.

    As a matter of fact Jess is a Yorkshire lass from Leeds (the Girls High School) and worked in a Community Centre. She went to Nottingham and Cardiff Universities – so much for “just seeing life through the distorted and distorting prism of the House of Commons and national party HQs, and fairly clueless about life outside”.

    She won the Wyn Harness Prize for Young Journalists in 2010 and was one of the Drum’s 30 under 30 women in digital media in 2014. She was assistant news editor for Huffington Post and a senior reporter for the Jewish Chronicle, as well as freelancing for the Independent before she joined the Guardian as a national reporter in 2015. She comments on news and politics for the BBC, predominantly Radio 5Live, and LBC – and recently accompanied the PM to Poland.

    If Lib Dems had any sense (which I sometimes doubt) they’d make an effort with her because she’s clearly one on the up.

  • Andrew C
    Peace, Reform, and an Economy that gives work to all.

  • The Guardian article failed to mention that the Lib Dem front bench has many more members with government experience than Labours front bench. Any half decent detailed analysis of the Lib Dem current state of play should of mentioned this!

  • It’s a good ananlysis, Caron and important to recognise the quality of our parliamentary party, with 3 former Cabinet Ministers in Ed Davey, Alistair Carmichael and Vince as well as 3 former ministers in Jo, Tom and Norman.

    The debate on Brexit is not being driven by Libdems, but with the issue front and centre of Westminster politics on a daily basis it is inevitable that much of the publicility achieved is focused on this issue.

    Vince is first and foremost an academic economist, rather than a career politician, and thinks deeply and carefully before embarking on a strategy. This is why, I believe, he is concentrating on moving Libdem policy towards tackling inequality, particuarly in the housing sector.

    He was the only Libdem MP to step forward after the dismal results of the May general election and has been able to use his personal profile to keep the Party visible in the debates of the past several months.

    Things have been and could yet be a lot worse; just as opinion poll can trend up quickly when a policy platform catches the public mood and the zeitgiest of the times. If the last couple of years have taught us anything it should be to jettison the old assumptions about politics (like young people don’t vote or a hard core socialist Labour party can never win an election) and be prepared for the unexpected at any time.

  • paul barker 28th Dec '17 - 5:41pm

    Its not just that Newspapers are biased, they see us through Labour or Tory eyes. They dont “Get” us, they dont really see why anyone would vote for us.
    Nationally our average support bobs aroun d 7.5% but in Local Byelections we are getting more than 3 times that. That will not continue indefinitely, personally I would expect our National Polling to pick up sometime in the first half of 2018.

  • Also in today’s Guardian :

    “The leader of the Scottish National party at Westminster, Ian Blackford, has invited opposition leaders from across the Commons to a new year summit in order to coordinate cross-party efforts to limit the “catastrophic damage” of a hard Brexit.In a letter sent on Thursday to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats, the Green party’s Caroline Lucas, and Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru, Blackford urges his fellow opposition parties to unite in the Commons as the UK government enters the second phase of UK-EU Brexit negotiations with the focus turning to trade”.

    Has Vince responded ?

  • David Raw,

    the Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/28/snp-invites-opposition-leaders-cross-party-summit-fight-hard-brexit quotes Ian Blackford as calling on opposition parties to “work with [the SNP] to keep the UK in the single market and stop a catastrophic Tory Brexit which threatens jobs, the economy and the Good Friday agreement”.

    The SNP did not support the Libdem amendment calling for a referendum on the negoiated Brexit deal. Blackford does not call for a referendum but instead says “It is time for MPs of all parties to put politics aside and work together, in the national interest, to protect our place in the single market and customs union. Short of retaining our EU membership, that is by far the least damaging option, the best compromise, and the only way to protect jobs, incomes, and workers’ rights.

    He added: “As we saw with the successful amendments to the EU withdrawal bill, when opposition parties work together effectively it is possible to secure a parliamentary majority and deliver change in the national interest.”

    If this initiative is taken up — Staying in the single market and customs union –
    The UK could sign up to all the EU’s rules and regulations, staying in the single market – which provides, free movement of goods, services and people – and the customs union, in which EU members agree tariffs on external states. Freedom of movement would continue and the UK would keep paying into the Brussels pot. We would continue to have unfettered access to EU trade, but the pledge to “take back control” of laws, borders and money would not have been fulfilled. This is an outcome that may be possible only by reversing the Brexit decision, after a second referendum or election..

  • I have to confess that it is beyond my comprehension how some politicians believe that we can leave the EU but retain membership of the internal market and customs union. In what way does that satisfy the instruction from the referendum?

    When fantasy replaces serious politics there is something badly wrong.

  • I dislike the notion of attacking people on benefits. The government really does very little to help people into work and the welfare to work programme does not take into account people’s individual circumstances; the DWP does all it can to make life difficult without offering any help. Careers Advisers have been massively cut back and there is no commitment from this government to an all age guidance service, let alone major cuts to local government with council tax increases set next year, at least some of that will go towards funding badly underresourced police services but why isn’t central government paying its share. These are all areas where the Lib Dems should be campaigning more nationally even though the EU is still the dominant issue and it’s right for the party to articulate the remain argument. As an ex member, I haven’t yet been tempted back but there must be many people who are not keen on Corbyn but find themselves politically homeless and would love to see the Lib Dems get their act together now that the Clegg orange booker days are hopefully in the past. However I don’t see it happening yet. Perhaps a more prominent role for the new intake of MPs is now badly needed also I thought Ed Davey came across rather well on Any Questions recently.

  • OnceALibDem 28th Dec '17 - 8:31pm

    “@ Peter Watson

    William Fowler does not reflect Liberal Democrat thinking. He was a Conservative voter and while he has joined the party he has not been converted to looking at people based on Liberal philosophy.”

    So why is he a member? If the Lib Dems want to return to being a Liberal party they need to get rid of people like him.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Dec '17 - 10:38pm

    While we wait to see the government EU negotiators lose themselves in the thickets of incompatible demands come the spring, let us concentrate on what should be done for the most disadvantaged of our society. They include working people with short-term or part-time jobs on the minimum wage, who see prices rising and council tax increases about to happen; people made homeless by the freeze on housing benefits taking rent increases beyond their means; people with disabilities having to struggle for fair re-assessment or mobility help; young people who can’t afford to rent let alone buy a home and are saddled already with debt; old people who can’t get sufficient care at home for their needs and remain stuck in hospital; single mothers with children who have to rely on food-bank help; and many more of the Just Managing who see no prospect of things getting better. Our Manifesto was apparently more compassionate and more economically literate than Labour’s. Let us keep working out what can be done, sort out more of it at our Spring Conference, campaign everywhere for it, and tell people then that we are here for them.

  • Peter Watson 28th Dec '17 - 11:16pm

    @Michael BG “…does not reflect Liberal Democrat thinking. He was a Conservative voter and while he has joined the party he has not been converted to looking at people based on Liberal philosophy.”
    @OnceALibDem “So why is he a member?”
    But what exactly is this “Liberal Democrat thinking” that would require a Conservative voter to be “converted”?
    A lot of people have joined the Lib Dems during a period when the party’s overwhelming message has been opposition to Brexit following a period when when the party’s identity looked very confused. Other than Remain tendencies, whatever else these new members have in common is likely to define the direction of the party, and if I were a young Tory Remainer (Cameronite or Osbornite), then the last several years would give me the impression that the Lib Dems would be a suitable home. There might be a good argument for positioning the Lib Dems as “Tories for the EU”. If that is not the case then Lib Demmery needs to demonstrate clearly that it is more than just “exit from Brexit”, and vitally, what that “more” is.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Dec '17 - 11:19pm

    Patrick B

    Terrific comment, the whole DWP is a disgrace, regardless of government, worse now though admittedly.

    Whether universal income or other interesting policies, we need to remove the level of input advisers not working with or for unemployed people, have.

    When I was an adviser, seminar leader for unemployed people , I was contracted to a private company who treated people well, under a government scheme which did too. Things have changed, I would you believe was able to specialise in helping those in creative fields, now this would be unheard of.

    We need to get practical, which means , radical, and sensible too.

  • I am with Peter. If the party travels further down the road toward positive discrimination and the quota mentality, my resignation will be in the post. That is not my vision of the liberal society that I had thought the party existed to promote and achieve.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Dec '17 - 12:55am

    I am interested in specific ideas suggested here, such as Patrick B’s wish for an all-age careers guidance service. Michael BG also makes suggestions that seem worth pursuing. You propose restoring zero-rate council tax for those of working age not in work, and replacing it with a tax based on a fixed percentage of the value of the home. Do you mean such a tax replacing council tax for everyone? I thought we were going to progress to valuing the land rather than the buildings, eventually? You already propose LVT replacing business rates. I agree with your suggestion of higher national insurance for high earners, though not yet understanding extension to ‘all forms of income’. And I should like to learn more of what you mean about improving working conditions for public sector workers, as well as our present policy of rejecting the cap on their pay.

  • @ OnceALibDem

    If you were once a member of the Liberal Democrats you should understand there is a difference between someone having a view of the world and people based on the Liberal philosophy and a new member by joining implying that they agree with the Party’s fundamental values and objectives. We do not test new members to ensure that they do in fact agree with everything in the preamble. A new member is only likely to be rejected if they are known to the Local Party to hold views which are against our fundamental values. Existing members are only expelled from the party where their conduct shows that they disagree with the Party’s fundamental values and objectives.

    A Liberal view of people, sees them as basically good, rational and of equal worth. From posts made by William Fowler I don’t believe he believes this. He seems to hold in contempt people who receive welfare benefits and he doesn’t seem to think they should have the same level of freedom as the wealthy.

    @ Peter Watson

    I expect lots of our new members have joined assuming we are the anti-Brexit party and have never read the preamble of our constitution.

    It is possible that some of our ex-MPs joined the party not really understanding the party, but for various reasons rejected joining the Conservatives. David Laws perhaps rejecting the Conservatives because of section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Maybe even Nick Clegg because when he was thinking about a political career c 1995 the Conservatives were clearly becoming Eurosceptic.

  • Tim: sorry I meant 180k in lost deposits. I am at a loss what we should do

  • OnceALibDem 29th Dec '17 - 9:42am

    @Peter Watson

    Broadly that is a pretty good summary. Post 2015 the Lib Dems were devoid of a direction, vision, message and strategy. They still are with the exception that Brexit has now so dominated things that being, by default, anti-Brexit is now the ‘vision’.

    That isn’t a strategy – just a “event dear boy”

    Things like civil liberties seem to have been dropped completely. Eg Ed Davey being silent on issues like facial recognition and Vince leaving civil liberty issues completely out of his leadership manifesto. So the party then attracts people who either think it is a centrist pro-EU group and don’t share the other values – or think they can now shape the party in their own views.

    The party should have the confidence to turn some of those people (like William Fowler and Rachel Johnson) away. If not then if it does recover in the light of sentiment turning against Brexit (by no means guaranteed) it may not be recovering as a Liberal party in the way it was pre-2010/15

  • John Marriott 29th Dec '17 - 10:33am

    Liberals tend to be small in numbers. Support for Liberal leaning parties in Europe tends to hover between 5 and 10%. Why should it be any different over here? While I was active (I’ve just retired after 30 years as a Councillor at all three levels of local government, never having lost an election), the Lib Dems managed to carve a substantial niche for themselves in both local and national politics with sheer persistent hard work at grassroots level, together with the charismatic leadership of people like Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy (and let’s not forget the groundwork put in by the likes of Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe and David Steel).

    However, let us also not forget that many floating voters, following the traumas of the 1970s, were seriously looking for something different and were prepared to “break the mound” – for a while. However, when the Lib Dems became coalition partners in 2010 they became just like the rest, which is ironic when you consider that coalitions are the name of the game across the Channel.

    The EU referendum offered a binary choice and it would appear that, a year later, a binary choice between blue and red was what the majority of voters in England at least wanted. Where that leaves parties like the Lib Dems and Greens, heaven only knows. Clearly without PR they need to run just to stand still. However, in local elections, where many voters can be less swayed by national issues, there is still plenty of scope for success, as is witnessed by recent by election results.

  • John Marriott 29th Dec '17 - 12:05pm

    For “mound” read “mould”. Sorry about that!

  • OnceALibDem 29th Dec '17 - 3:28pm

    “a new member by joining implying that they agree with the Party’s fundamental values and objectives”

    A member joining online will have to tick the box saying they agree with the terms of membership, the first sentence of which says “Membership of the Party is open to all persons who agree with its fundamental values and objectives ”

    So yes by joining I do think that a new member is implying they agree with the party’s fundamental values and objectives.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Dec '17 - 5:39pm

    John Marriott, congratulations on your splendid record of dedicated work as a councillor. However, I would have thought your question, ‘Why should it be any different over here?’, accepting a national vote share of 5-10% as on the Continent, would be easily answered. We have often had a greater vote share in the past, as our record-keepers tell us, and many of us identify far more with Social Liberals such as the German SDP than with the German Free Democrats, or liberals, who have found themselves unable to join a new coalition which Mrs Merkel hoped would also include
    the Greens. Similarly, if Lib Dems became ‘just like the rest’ in joining the 2010 Coalition, you may have noticed a strong reaction in the party since to the way that worked out, to the acceptance then of Conservative thinking, whether you call it neo-liberal or centre-right or Orange-Bookery. I would say that our party is now a distinctive and progressive party of the centre and centre-left, and as such has much to offer the country. It will be increasingly recognised, I believe, that our anti-Brexit stance is in keeping with our overall values and our consistent but steadily evolving strategy and policies, which can rescue our people both from the dead fingers of this lamentable Government, and the dangerous tentacles of Socialism.

  • nvelope2003 29th Dec '17 - 9:03pm

    Katherine Pindar: I think the problem might be that the voters cannot see much difference between the Liberal Democrats and what Labour is offering and if they want to get rid of the Conservatives they will vote Labour as it has a better chance of doing so. Things were rather different when we were the main challenger to the Conservatives in many more seats.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Dec '17 - 11:58pm

    Michael BG, you have not yet replied to my request of 12.55 am that you would kindly explain your thinking further on reform of council tax, which is so burdensome to those of limited income and due to rise substantially in the spring, as well as the other reforms you propose. Your precise and detailed suggestions in many areas, if they become part of party policy, will contribute to the differences – many in my view – which nvelope 2003 suggests are not yet perceived as differentiating us from Labour. You wish, for instance, to improve the working conditions of public-sector workers, and I wonder what you are referring to, and how that is different from Labour’s emphasis on retaining workers’ rights that have been secured by EU regulations.

    As I know you also care about full employment, if necessary (if I have understood you) provided by the Government, it would be interesting to know your thoughts about the kind of employment that might be provided, in view of the IPPR forecast, just reported, that new technology will probably wipe out a third of existing jobs in this country. Is this an area where new and radical Liberal Democrat thinking is required?

  • The eternal optimism of the Lib Dem.I remember it from my own time as a member. You can look to the fact that you have cabinet experience in your front bench – shame it was part of a Tory coalition and in a minor role. Some do not forget or forgive.
    You can point to a new leader – shame he to is tainted by his actions in government.
    Local polling is great and I do congratulate you on that as I have known some dedicated and effective local Lib Dem councillors.
    Don’t think you can look too much to support from pro EU labour MP’s. Those who are not facing deselection by momentum will be aware of the stats for their voters. Those with large majorities for leave will have to consider how their electorate will view their voting record on the issue – I’m sure those campaigning against them will be happy to remind the voters at the next election.
    I’m sure those polling stats will leap up in the new year.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Dec '17 - 1:07pm

    Sean, time you rejoined us and helped in the struggle. We don’t fear for our backs like the Labour MPs, we don’t hate any of those we have to work with like Tory ministers (what’s left of them), we can actually enjoy our progressive activism in the coming year.

  • Sean Hyland 30th Dec '17 - 3:54pm

    Sorry Katharine but my local party already been clear they don’t want me so that’s it for now. Maybe if the party had a class of membership that didn’t involve local party contact!!

    Honestly do wish you well for 2018 even if we hold different views on the EU.

  • Peter Martin 30th Dec '17 - 4:38pm

    @ John King @Peter

    “What exactly is wrong with is wrong with federalism and why does a United States of Europe inspire so much apprehension? ”

    I think Peter answers this question well enough. There’s many more problems of culture, language and nationality than there is in the USA. So a Federal structure isn’t likely any time soon. Can you imagine the German of French government putting themselves into a subservient position to the European Federal Govt?

    On the other hand, though, the EU having made the fateful decision to implement a common currency, a Federal structure is exactly what has to happen for economic reasons. If it doesn’t then the EU will tear itself apart as the stresses and strains of 19 different economies sharing a single currency become ever greater.

  • david thorpe 30th Dec '17 - 5:50pm

    Im relatively happy with the job vinvce is doing, though at times it seems he is promoting himself more than the party.

    Some of the newspaper articles contain snippets of information that could only have come from within the party, and the lib dems current media policy, given that it is anti-journalist and pro-murdoch means any snippet from within the [party will be seized upon b journalists.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    I have not forgotten that I haven’t responded to your comment of 12.55am Thursday. (Well done for posting late on the same day to remind me. However there would have been time then for me to reply before going to bed, but I decided not to post on LDV during my Thursday.) I haven’t found the time to compose my answer yet.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    Our policy should be to restore the National Council Tax Benefit scheme and fund it 100% from central government as in 2012 and restore giving 100% Council Tax Benefit to those who receive Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance and receiving the same amounts in Universal Credit and at least restore the 2012 taper (20%). This will benefit 2.3 million families in England.

    The Mirrlees Review (https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/mirrleesreview/design/ch16.pdf ) suggests replacing Council Tax with what it calls a “Housing Service Tax” – “a flat percentage of the rental value of each property, whether it is rented or owner-occupied”. However it goes off from there but may be suggesting a 12% rate on rental values. It also talks of average house prices of £200,000 and average Council Tax bills of £1,175 in 2009 giving a basic 0.6% tax on property values making it revenue neutral. Therefore we could reform Council Tax making it 0.6% of the value of the home and keep the single person discount of 25% for the first year in areas which have retained the discount, reducing over 25 years by 1% a year. There will have to be some pooling of this money. I suggest this lasts 5 years and is reduced by sixths every year leaving one sixth to continue forever. The implemental process should include a fixed percentage increase in revenue for all council above inflation, with any shortfall be funded by central government.

    National Insurance is only paid on earnings not income from shares and rents etc. Extending it to these forms of income and others is what I meant by “extended to all forms of income”.

  • David Laws managed to include in our 2010 manifesto reducing the terms of conditions of public sector workers by reducing their pension schemes. Civil Servants and the NHS workers had new worse scheme imposed in April 2015. I have not checked other sectors. It was always accepted that public sector workers would be paid less than those working in the private sector because they had better pension provision and other conditions of employment. I expect it is not possible to restore the pensions they once had, but we as a party need to come up with ways of improving the working conditions of public sector workers and I hope we have people working in the public services who can come up these reforms. These reforms must include ways of reducing the stress of working in these sectors as well as restoring the real value of wages in these sectors.

    This is not the place to discuss the IPPR report Future Proof. However, I do agree that the challenges ahead will need “rethinking notions of work, value and how they connect to identity”. Perhaps I will deal with the issues it raises in a future article.

  • nvelope2003 1st Jan '18 - 10:59am

    Michael BG: Are yiu suggesting that there is less stress for those working in the private sector ? It was not my experience.

  • @ nvelope2003

    If those in the public sector are paid less than those in the private sector there should be other compensations for this lower wage. In the past this was better pensions and conditions of employment which should reduce stress. It has been reported that the reason some teachers and nurses give up the careers they have trained for is the increased stress levels. I am saying we need to address this as it is cheaper to retain staff than continually having to recruit new people.

    @ Simon Shaw

    When I was a civil servant I was paid a lot less than I could have earned in the private sector but I had really good terms of employment. I remember that when the minimum wage was introduced those on the lowest salaries had large pay rises to take them above the new minimum wage. There has been a push to re-create private sector working conditions in the public sector which has increased stress, reduced staffing levels, and increased contributions to pensions with a reduced pension and the setting salaries in line with the private sector for local government for middle and higher management roles. Recently working conditions have got worse and pay has decline in real-terms with a two-year pay freeze followed by the Pay Cap both introduced when we were in government.

    I don’t understand why you think final salary pensions are unfair. I think they are great and look forward to when I can receive mine. For most people their career average would be less than their final salary I would not object to the highest of either calculation. Would you support such a change?

    David Laws and others who thought the same wanted to reduce the political support we gave to those working in the public sector. I assume because they did not understand that these groups voted for us in higher portions than other groups. My point is we need to get back our previous levels of support from these groups.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jan '18 - 5:41pm

    This interesting discussion of the respective merits of the changing provision of pensions for public sector workers reminds me of the context, the country’s debt burden which led to cutbacks seen as necessary by both sides of the Coalition Government. I am concerned to know whether our party has developing policies now to increase national productivity and GDP growth, as well as discussing fairer shares of the diminished national cake.

  • @ Simon Shaw

    The IFS’s analysis that you quote is flawed. What they are really saying is that their mythical “high flyers” lose out more than the average worker. If you expect to get pay rises every year at least in line with inflation you will end up with a higher pension under a final salary scheme than if you average out all your salaries from the 20 or 30 or 40 years you have worked there. The longer a person has worked there the less will be the value of the salary which they receive a percentage of as a pension. It is just simple maths Simon. It has nothing to do with class.

    The IFS state, “Those who were more than 10 years from their NPA on 1 April 2012 and who joined the pension schemes after Labour’s reforms will, on average, only be a little worse off.” Not only will the value of the salary on which their pension is based be lower, but each year of work adds less to the pension than under the old scheme.

    The IFS go on to state, “One of the other changes to public service pensions … (is) an increase in employee contributions”.

    Also instead of increases in pension being based on RPI they will be based on the lower CPI.

    The IFS conclude, “Taken together these reforms dramatically reduce the overall generosity of public service pensions; previous estimates suggest that without any of these reforms average accrual would be twice as large”. That sounds like a huge reduction in a workers future pension to me.

    Remember the purpose of the reform was to reduce the costs of pensions to the government (employer), so under the new scheme the worker has to pay more to receive less. It seems that in Coalition we forgot to control the powerful – the employer (the government) and protect the interests of the public sector workers (our voters). No surprise that we betrayed our principles by not controlling the powerful and let down our voters and so lost their support. We need to accept we did this so we can move forward or we will never recover our base support that we had before going into government.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jan '18 - 9:15am

    @paul barker “Nationally our average support bobs aroun d 7.5% but in Local Byelections we are getting more than 3 times that.”
    This article (http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2017/12/30/local-by-election-review-2017-how-the-parties-have-performed/) indicates that before the General Election Lib Dems were averaging 19% in local byelections, since the general election the party has averaged 15%, and over the year this is 16%.
    This is less than the 21%+ that you are suggesting and the outcome of the general election might have slowed down any improvement (which was from a higher level than national polling and elections).
    It is important for Lib Dems to interpret the data dispassionately rather than seek out what they want to hear or they risk making very poor decisions.
    Does the party fare usually better in byelections (at all levels) when it can import and target more resources to fight the seat? Historically, how have local byelection results compared to subsequent local election results and how has that compared to national election results?
    And most importantly, opinion polling on voting intention has been pretty consistent with Lib Dem electoral performance in 2015 and 2017 (and before that), and if anything has overestimated Lib Dem vote share, so it should not be ignored as a measure of how well the party is performing.

  • @ Simon Shaw

    You seem to fail to recognise that even according to the IFS all workers (and remember the IFS report is only considering teachers and those working in the NHS) will have to pay more and receive less pension than before the “reform”.

    If increases of wages were only in accordance with the revaluation then there would be no difference between the final salary and the CARE salary. However, as there is a difference and the CARE salary is lower the workers are worse off.

    I don’t understand how anyone who considers themselves a liberal can support a “reform” which makes the teachers and those working in the NHS worse off.

  • @ Simon Shaw

    You really like attacking the person rather than engaging in a rational discussion! I do wish you would not attack my understanding. I do understand CARE but I think you need to consider the maths.

    I think a pension is worse if the person receives less in pension for the year than before the “reform”. The length of their life after retirement is not a consideration. To raise life expectancy is a red herring.

    Even you must accept that the purpose of the “reforms” was “”to ensure that they are sustainable and affordable for the long term”, which must mean the total cost to the government is reduced.

    You quote me where I state that if salaries were increased in line with revaluation there would be no difference between CARE and final salary pensions. Do you actually believe this is not true?

    The only cases I think where someone would be better off under CARE would be if their employer cut their income in real-terms each year or their final salary was reduced in the final year. Please can you provide mathematical examples where someone would be better off under CARE than final salary assuming their salary increased at least in line with current industry standards (please refer to current pay scales in your examples). It is my understanding that both teachers and nurses receive both inflation and service pay awards which ensures that for long periods of time their salary rises above the increases in inflation. Please can you let me know how many people work as a teacher or a nurse without some career progression?

    The IFS stated as I have already quoted, “Taken together these reforms dramatically reduce the overall generosity of public service pensions; previous estimates suggest that without any of these reforms average accrual would be twice as large”. Do you reject this conclusion of the IFS?

  • @ Simon Shaw

    I note you have not answered any of my questions, including the implied question asking how someone who thinks they are a liberal can support a ‘reform’ which makes the teachers and those working in the NHS worse off than before the “reform”. I note you have failed to provide an example where a teacher or nurse would receive more pension each year using CARE than using final salary.

    You seem to want to pick which parts of the IFS report to accept. Perhaps when you write, “life expectancy (is) the biggest factor in the increasing cost of public sector pensions” you are accepting that the pension a person receives is less per year than in the previous system. And I should not expect you to explicitly state you accept some else’s position when it is true.

  • @ Simon Shaw

    I am sorry you don’t understand my questions. Perhaps you should state this much earlier. If each year a person’s salary was increased by the rate set out in CARE (note these are different for each group of workers we are discussing) when they retire each year of their CARE based pension will be equal to the final years entitlement and their pension would equal that based on their final salary. Perhaps your mathematics is not up to the task of understanding this. If you still fail to understand I can try some mathematical examples if you wish?

    Do you really not understand my question “Do you reject this conclusion (as quoted by me) of the IFS?

    Please remember my main point is that as the IFS state the pension a person receives each year is less than before the “reforms” and they have to contribute more to it. Using CARE does not change this fact.

    CARE does not have to be fairer always. However as I have already stated there are occasions, one of which is if the revaluation rates are higher than the increases to salaries, where a person could benefit from having their pension based on CARE rather than final salary. If you read carefully what I have written you will see other examples where this might be true. I don’t recall anyone stating in the 1980’s or 90’s that final salary pensions were unfair. Everyone gets a pension based on the same measure. This is as fair as CARE. You argue that CARE if fairer because if you are promoted near the end of your career you don’t get as much pension as you would have got under a final salary scheme. It is possible to argue that both are unfair because not everyone gets the same pension, which is one way of looking at fairness.

    However, my point was never that CARE in itself was always unfair. My point was that the “reforms” reduced the amount of pension every teacher and person working in the NHS would receive compared to what they would have received under the old system and each worker would have to contribute more. It would be nice if you could accept this fact as stated by the IFS and which was the purpose of the “reform” as you had earlier pointed out and I had quoted – the purpose of the “reforms” were “”to ensure that they (the pensions) are sustainable and affordable for the long term” (were you not quoting our 2010 manifesto?), which must mean the total cost to the government is reduced or there would be no need to “reform” them.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jan '18 - 8:43am

    “will Mrs May create a whole batch of new Tory peers ?” Not so far, but she would need to decide first about David Cameron and George Osborne.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jan '18 - 9:18am

    David Steel had a short letter in the Times, 5/1/2018, page 32, column 1
    Sir, Your suggestion that retired peers are gobbling taxpayer-subsidised food in our dining rooms is ludicrous (“Retired peers awarded a meal ticket for life”, News Jan 2). Allowing them occasional access to the building was simply a way of encouraging members to leave. I promoted the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 that allowed peers for the first time to retire. Since then I have spotted only three of them in the building — none of them dining.
    Lord Steel of Aikwood
    House of Lords.
    He did need to compromise. Abolishing the bye-elections for the replacement of hereditary peers has not yet been achieved, but it is really Labour’s fault. Tony Blair MP compromised on their manifesto commitment of 1997, their then Leader in the Lords repeatedly said that they would finish the job, but she was unable to keep her promise.
    During the coalition of 2010-2015 Sadiq Khan (then MP) led Labour’s opposition to reform in the Commons.

  • nvelope2003 6th Jan '18 - 10:04am

    I thought that the deal with the hereditary peers to get them to vote for their removal from the House of Lords was that they would retain 92 seats by election amongst themselves until a longer term agreement was reached on the composition of the Upper House. This would mean some by elections to replace hereditary peers who had died.
    As no agreement has yet been made it might be considered a breach of trust to reduce their numbers until it happens.

  • I was OK with keeping some of the existing hereditary peers when their numbers were reduced on the grounds that some of them worked hard and knew what they were doing, and it helped to get the changes agreed, but I was shocked to realise that they are being replaced by the sort of hereditary peer who isn’t ashamed to put themselves forward for a role they are not qualified for, with the vast majority being men.

    I might have been able to stomach that, in the name of compromise, and on the grounds that there are bigger fish to fry, but when I watched the documentary on the House of Lords and realised how space was at a premium and deserving and hard-working peers were struggling to find office space, and had to rush from out-buildings whenever a vote was called. The fact that the Palace of Westminster needs a lot of renovation, then the financial and opportunity costs of housing these spare peers is just too much.

    I’m not sure how it should be done, but a programme to reduce the remaining hereditary peers is required, and IMO would go down well with the public and a lot of the other peers.

  • Neil Sandison 6th Jan '18 - 1:05pm

    If we do not want to be trashed by the usual commentators who would hate a revival in social liberalism then we have to set ,not follow the agenda .Our planet is choking to death on plastic which is more likely to lead to extinction for some species rather than global warming.40% of our residual waste is recyclable or recoverable .Residual waste can also be turned into low carbon fuels to assist manufacturers New building materials and construction methods could provide large amounts of genuinely affordable housing .The penny on the rate of income tax to provide a viable NHS/Social Care Service is a popular policy .

  • nvelope2003 8th Jan '18 - 2:47pm

    Fiona: There are 92 hereditary peers out of a total of about 850. Many of the life peers do not attend or if they do it is to obtain their allowance. If all the hereditary peers were removed that would still leave almost 800 so where are you going to put them ? This absurd over provision must be dealt with by limiting the numbers entitled to membership to at most 200 – the US Senate has 100. Removing a few hereditary peers would mean the absurdity would continue, keeping them there is a constant reminder of the urgent need for root and branch reform and no significant changes should happen until that is done. Surely that was why the hereditary peers were allowed to stay.

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