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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Taking social liberalism in to general election campaigns

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Two SLF Council members are fighting hard to win seats that were until recently, held by Liberal Democrat MPs.

Helen Flynn, PPC for Harrogate and Knaresborough and Kelly-Marie Blundell, PPC for Guildford, share how they've been taking social liberal values to the heart of their election campaigns.

We wish them all the very best of luck. Please do help to get them elected. Details about their campaign headquarters and action days will be advertised in the next SLF weekly newsletter.  

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4 Key Questions about the process of negotiations for government

Monday, 16 March 2015

I’ve come back from the Party’s Spring Conference in Liverpool worried. My concern is about Party unity in the face of another unclear General Election result. The Party’s processes can be arcane but they really matter: Here’s why.

Article 15 of the Party’s constitution, sets out who needs to be consulted during negotiations to support a government. It is not clear whether or not this applies equally to confidence and supply arrangements as it does to coalitions or even to a one-off vote or abstention on government formation (I think it should).

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What's the bottom line, Nick?

Monday, 09 March 2015

Liberal Democrats enter the impending general election campaign with a sense of foreboding. Battered and bruised from our experiences in coalition with the Tories, we can expect to face the wrath of those left leaning progressive voters who, with some justification, feel that we gave too much in exchange for too little.

The value of Liberal Democrat ‘currency’ is probably the lowest it has ever been in my lifetime. I’ve spoken to many people who bought into the Lib Dem vision in 2010 who feel they have been short-changed. The U-turn on tuition fees has almost become a cliché for what our target voters perceive to be broken promises, unpalatable compromises and illiberal decisions in government. There is little political capital to be made from the good things that we have done because they simply aren’t listening to that message.

Against this backdrop, we are preparing for the worst in May 2015. Another hung Parliament looms, our opinion poll ratings are dire and Nick Clegg is the most unpopular party leader of modern times. Party strategists are basing our general election campaign on the premise that voting Liberal Democrat will keep the worst excesses of either the Tories or Labour in check, arrogantly assuming that the party will be involved in another coalition.

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