How the Liberal Democrats can recover

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The general election was truly horrific for the Liberal Democrats. Despite our huge losses, our party can recover if it follows these five steps.

1. Become a Movement with a Parliamentary Face

It is vital that we become a radical campaigning party again. Whether it’s concerning political reform, civil liberties, the environment or fairness, we must be visibly campaigning on those causes that will make Britain more liberal. Likewise we should be as active in protesting against regressive policies, something that the new Conservative government will give us many opportunities to do.

From the street corner to Westminster, we must make our campaigning voice heard loud and clear. We should become a Liberal Democrat movement with a Parliamentary face. One part grassroots movement, one part Parliamentary party. The grassroots movement for liberty, opportunity, and social justice, spearheaded by Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament.

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The Lib Dems aren’t connecting with BAME voters

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

As if the scale of the Lib Dem defeat wasn’t bad enough closer analysis shows that the party did even worse, if that is possible, in seats with higher black, Asian and minority ethnic populations.

As a general rule, the bigger the BAME population the worse the Lib Dems fared. The national swing against the party was minus 15 percent, but it was minus 30 percent in some heavily multicultural seats.

Predictable maybe, but unless the Lib Dems address their ‘ethnic deficit’ this one-off protest could become the norm.

If the party do not reach out to BAME communities in the next term it will quickly see the brand become toxic, a byword for white middle classes who don’t understand or care for diverse populations.

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Let’s Never Ignore Evidence Again

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Liberal Democrats repeatedly ignored the warning signs that their strategy was not working.


  • We have lost 45% of our councillor base since 2010 (we now have 2,257 compared with 4,088 in May 2010).
  • We lost 71% of our MSPs in 2011.
  • We lost 91% of our MEPs in 2014.


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david howarth: thoughts on the way forward

Saturday, 09 May 2015

Five things we must never do again

We must never again accept coalition with the Tories - Every time the party has entered into a coalition with the Tories it has come out seriously damaged. The one in the 1930s ended in a three way split and national irrelevance. This one might be worse. It is a near-death experience. We must never do this again. Why does this happen? Largely because we are a party built on values, not on protecting interests, and coalition with the Tories obscures the public's view of our values. We end up looking like a party of manoeuvre, caring only about holding office.

We must never again promote coalitionism - Much worse than entering a coalition is adopting the stance that coalitions are good in themselves because they bring 'stability'. If people want stability they vote Conservative. The final week of the 2015 campaign was ludicrous. Getting supporters to wave placards saying 'Stability' and 'Unity' was not only deeply illiberal (it looked like something out of Vichy France) it was also deeply stupid. It played into the Tories' main strength. A party such as ours, a party that wants change, cannot make stability its main goal.

We must never again push centrism - Saying that we are between the other two gets in the way of saying who we are and what we are for. Worse, it leaves us with a very small group of voters who believe that both the other parties are extreme. For all other voters, our argument reinforces the view that voting for us risks putting into power the people they were against.  That is why we lost seats both to Labour and to the Tories.

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now is the time for the politics of hope

Friday, 08 May 2015

The public has finally been able to express its view on the direction that the Liberal Democrats have taken since 2010.

The General Election results were an unmitigated disaster. To claim anything else is to insult both the candidates and the campaigners who worked so tirelessly, and to the voters who responded to a poor and unappealing offer. 

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Government implements SLF policy (again)

Thursday, 09 April 2015

The government has announced the implementation of more SLF policy.  Just a couple of weeks since the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference adopted new SLF policy on trade unions, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has reached an agreement with the Trades Union Congress to begin work towards enabling trades unions to ballot their members electronically.

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Why youth services are so important

Thursday, 09 April 2015

Between the ages of six and nineteen I used to regularly attend two social / sporting clubs a week. Sometimes up to four evenings a week, I was out at one or other of these activities. I came from a not-well-off Working Class family, especially when my parents split up when I was eleven, so this isn’t some tale of a Middle Class family forking out lots of money so their young one could do nice things. No, the fees, such as they were, for joining these groups, was quite low.

But what they taught me was priceless and stays with me to this day. Being part of these organisations enabled me to make friends, to join in activities, to be part of the community, to stay on the straight and narrow, and to see a wider landscape of what I might achieve when I was older.

Of course what happens in school is important in terms of the course our lives take, but the impact and importance of out-of-school Youth Services, whether run by statutory agencies or charities, can and often do play a vital role in the overall well-being of our young people and therefore a determining factor in how they behave and perform when in the classroom itself.

Which is why it’s been so shocking and upsetting to see the near decimation of Youth Services in all too many parts of the Country in recent years and why myself and Linda Jack, among others, are calling for an assessment of where these services need restarting and reinvestment.

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Supporting the next government - Red Lines for Social Liberals

Tuesday, 07 April 2015

In the most uncertain election for decades, only two things can be predicted with much confidence: Barring a major slip-up (or breakthrough) during the campaign by Ed Miliband, there will be no overall majority; and Liberal Democrat representation in the House of Commons will be significantly reduced. However, it is also likely that the party will do better than the public expects, for three reasons. First, public expectation is ill-informed. Plenty of intelligent people think a Lib Dem meltdown would leave them with only a handful of MPs. Similarly, talk of a UKIP (or Green) surge has led people to believe they’ll have 20-30 seats in the next parliament. In reality, the reverse is more likely. Second, low expectations for the Lib Dems have been accentuated by the media’s limited comprehension of polling data – and particularly of the long-standing lack of correlation between uniform swings and Liberal Democrat seat losses (or gains). 

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Why The Lib Dems must hold on to as many seats as possible

Thursday, 02 April 2015

It is no secret that the upcoming election is going to be a major test for the Liberal Democrats and that the outcome will likely see many good, hard-working MPs defeated and their staff on the dole.

For the first time in living memory the Lib Dems are heading into an election with a record which we will have to both defend and justify.

The decision back in 2010 to enter into the first coalition since the war was one that many people in the party, including myself believed was unthinkable.

Personally, I never imagined that it would be possible for the Liberal Democrats to go into Government with the Conservatives, a party I had spent the previous 32 years campaigning to keep out of Government!

My politics aren’t left or right, they are Liberal.  I grew up in the far South West following the likes of David Penhaligon, David Morrish and John Pardoe. I have always seen the Conservative Party as our natural opposition. Labour, on the other hand, have always been our natural competition whom we compete with to keep the Tories out of power.

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cash for peerages

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Rumours of ‘cash for peerages’ have long been rife at Westminster, and today's release by my two colleagues and I is an attempt to begin contributing some greater factual basis to the debate, rather than the usual “He said, she said” that such an important topic is usually reduced to.

By focussing on the ‘big picture’ and the numbers involved, rather than individual cases, our study made some startling discoveries, including the sheer improbability of so many people from the three parties’ small pool of big donors all being nominated to the Lords, which is equivalent to winning the National Lottery five times back-to-back. The relationship between donations and peerage nominations is statistically significant, and it looks spectacularly unlikely that something fishy isn’t going on. While the figures are not in themselves a ‘smoking gun’, and while none of the data should be used to reflect on any individual cases, the broader patterns are quite damning for how politics is done - and funded - in this country today. None of the three main parties comes out of this particularly well.

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