With a parliamentary party consisting of 112 peers and 8 MPs, the Liberal Democrats now have the largest ratio of peers-to-MPs at any time in the history of any major UK political party. The Lords look set to wield a strong influence on the party’s direction over the next parliament, with 14 of the party’s 22 current frontbench spokespersons already drawn from there.
Dr Seth Thévoz has conducted for the Social Liberal Forum a detailed study into the effectiveness of the Interim Peers Panel System for electing Liberal Democrat nominees to the House of Lords.
As Dr Seth Thévoz says:
"Given the extremely low awareness of these peers I felt it might be instructive to look at how the present batch of 112 peers came to be appointed, and how well the appointment process worked."
The full 28 page report can be viewed here
Liberalism has never been more relevant, but also in bigger danger of extinction. It is this essay’s argument that a defined liberal vision on economics is both well overdue and also never been more necessary: the opening up of economic debate post-2008 has given liberals an opportunity to unearth the liberal tradition in economics and assert its relevance, both for economics as a field, and for a voting public starving for a new progressive vision. It’s only by wholeheartedly embracing this vision that British liberalism can hope to survive in the long run. The good news? It was the people who carried on this buried liberal tradition who correctly identified the looming crash and have the most compelling analysis of its aftermath. The Liberal Democrats’ economic message lost its way in a Goldilocks approach of being a little less hot than the Tories and a little cooler than Labour; there has never been a more propitious time politically to solve the Liberal Democrats’ “economics problem”. And the answers are there if only the party is brave enough to look.Read more
Following on from a previous look at Lib Dem runner-up places, we thought it might be revealing to look at what happened to votes cast in the 57 seats the Lib Dems were defending from the 2010 general election. Whilst it is widely recognised that the party lost 49 of those seats – a failure rate of 86% – there is still much denial and delusion as to what happened across those seats, or where those votes went, making such an analysis all the more overdue.
Nationally, the Lib Dem vote crumbled, with 4.4 million fewer votes in 2015 than 2010 – a loss of 64.7% of the party’s previous vote. In 626 out of 631 constituencies contested, the Lib Dem vote fell. This effect was replicated in most of the held seats –particularly Conservative-facing ones, which were supposed to be the ones where the Lib Dem vote was expected to hold, as per Ryan Coetzee’s strategy.
However, the underlying trends can be broken down into four broad groups: seats gained by the Conservatives, seats gained by Labour, seats gained by the SNP, and seats held by Liberal Democrats. Furthermore, such general election results should also be seen in the context of results from the local elections held on the same day.
Elsewhere, attention has focussed on changes in the Lib Dem vote share. We would like to do something slightly different, and to focus on the actual number of votes cast, to identify how the votes changed in the 57 seats previously held by the Lib Dems.Read more
This publication sets out a social liberal approach to the economic challenges faced by the UK. An inadequate response to the unresolved financial crisis of 2007/8 has left the economy stagnant, requiring a radical re-think of both fiscal and monetary policy. We also need an explanation of where tomorrow’s sustainable growth will come from – a challenge for all political parties, who face an electorate anxious for a vision of future prosperity. We aim to bring together the best progressive thinking on economic reform, adding some original insights, to build a narrative that can influence Liberal Democrat policy in government today, in the run-up to 2015, and beyond. Social Liberal Forum members, Liberal Democrats and anyone interested in a fair, sustainable economy are encouraged to contribute original posts on policy or suggest content to us – email PlanC@socialliberal.net or tweet @SLF_PlanC with your ideas.
Liberal Democrat policy-making has always been more careful, robust and democratic than that of other political parties. However, the experience of being in government as a junior coalition partner has made it more difficult to maintain this proud record, for several reasons:
● Senior parliamentarians are now focused on government policy, which is not the same as party policy, because it necessarily involves compromise with a rival political party.
● The party’s policy research capacity has been devastated by the loss of Short money, without being replaced by access to civil service support in most policy areas.
● The need for both speed and behind-the scenes negotiation in government business has led depressingly quickly to the sidelining by ministers of the deliberations of Federal Conference and to a lesser extent the Federal Policy Committee.
● Parliamentary party committees do not yet have the capacity, confidence or unity of purpose to develop and publicise new, forward-looking party policy, in parallel to government.
● The weakening of the party's councillor and activist base, following significant reverses in successive rounds of elections, leaves policy-making in the hands of fewer, increasingly Westminster-based, committees, Parliamentarians and their staff. This has led to severe strains in the party’s capacity to make, refine and advertise new, independent policy, with the consequences that:
● Voters are unclear what Liberal Democrats stand for and do not give credit for successful implementation of popular Liberal Democrat proposals.
● Party members feel excluded from decision-making and unable to influence the government any more than they could when we were in opposition.
● The views of Federal Conference are perceived to be overlooked – wasting one of the Liberal Democrats’ greatest resources and undermining democratic principles.
● It is not clear from what sources an independent Liberal Democrat manifesto for the next General Election will be drawn.
This pamphlet attempts to analyse these difficulties and suggest ways to bolster party policy-making processes, including:
● Willingness by parliamentarians, inside and – especially – outside government, to state Liberal Democrat positions in public that diverge from government policy.
● Wider consultation with policy experts within the party - and elected representatives at all levels - before ministers agree to compromises that conflict with existing party policy.
● Negotiation in future coalition arrangements (if not before) to allow a) full financial support for party research in all areas of policy and b) an “agree to disagree” protocol, enabling Liberal Democrat ministers to state their honest views on policies that emanate from non-Liberal Democrat ministers, instead of being bound by collective responsibility.
● Ensuring best practice is spread more widely in terms of communication between ministers and Parliamentary Party Committees and the Federal Policy Committee about future government agendas, so that Liberal Democrat policy positions can be worked out and declared before a legislative programme has been agreed.
● Better research support for Parliamentary Party Committees and the Federal Policy Committee.
● Proactive communication of Liberal Democrat policy ideas – on both long-term and emerging issues – by Parliamentary Party Committees and the Federal Policy Committee.
● Serious attempts by relevant ministers and/or Parliamentary Party Committees to promote and implement policy motions passed by Federal Conference, with reports back on progress to the succeeding conference.
● Greater use by ministers and FPC of the expertise of elected Liberal Democrats in local, regional and devolved government, and of party organisations, including the Social Liberal Forum.Read more