Three lessons for the Liberal Democrats from today’s news

The creation of The Independent Group by seven former Labour MPs comes, of course, with all sorts of interest for the Liberal Democrats. The reaction has generally been a warm one, and also comes with some lessons for the party.

First, that although many people have joined the party recently, including from both Labour and the Conservatives, there is a real limit to the power of saying ‘well, just join us then’. Plenty of people share, to varying degrees, the party’s values but do not, currently at least, finding the idea of joining the party that attractive.

That’s part of why creating a registered supporter scheme is so important. It is a way of building bridges with and drawing in some of those for whom the answer to ‘well, just join us then’ is ‘no thanks’.

A new party or an umbrella organisation of the like-minded?

Writing for The Independent Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable set out a new model for how the Liberal Democrats, the Independent Group and indeed others might end up working together. more

Second, however things turn out, the stronger the Liberal Democrats are, the more likely they are to turn out the way we would like. That makes May’s local council elections even more important – a point particularly worth bearing in mind in parts of the country with plenty of party members but no local elections themselves in May. (Hello, London!) May is a crucial opportunity to both provide the party with momentum and demonstrate what the party can offer.

Third, there will be plenty of difficult decisions to make about who is welcome, who is to be worked with, who is to be tolerated and who is to be shunned. That is best done in the context of robust but good-natured internal debate. There’s a lesson to remember from the experiences of the Alliance and the amount of damage that can come from failing to do that.


11 responses to “Three lessons for the Liberal Democrats from today’s news”

  1. I’ve been lucky enough (?) to be following the coverage all day of the seven Labour MPs, and interviews with them. I’m not sure the Independent Group have been terribly sensible in terms of their approach to their potential allies in the other opposition parties, ie the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid and the Greens – all of them 100% anti-Brexit and pro Peoples Party. Repeatedly they have referred to NONE of the existing parties being fit for purpose – it’s not just the two main parties they are talking about. They have also repeatedly said they are appealing to MPs from ALL the other parties to join them. I’m not sure that appealing to MPs to defect, from political parties that are their potential partners is sensible politics. Just saying !

    • I agree they seemed to be facing both ways perhaps unintentionally, under stress as many of them seemed to be , at least I hope so. We were singled out as having ” failed / lost the trust of people completely ” by one individual – not a good start !
      Perhaps it’s their intention to attract the floating centre who have either moved across to us already or were temporarily politically ‘ homeless ‘ ? Either way , it is more important than ever that we retain the interest of our own members ( especially the new ones ) and do our best to attract those that might be interested in their proposition to accept that we have a better proposition and infrastructure in place to contes future elections on behalf of the centre ground.s
      Perhaps it might also be worth considering a loose if not formal alliance with the Green Party now that environmental issues are of increasing interest to the general public. It certainly would help in key marginal where a ‘weakened’ Labour vote along with tacit or formal support from the Green Party could make all the difference in returning Liberal Democrat candidates to power. The support of Caroline Lucas alone might be worth the effort…….

  2. they come from the binary mindset of tribal two-party politics, so no surprise that they don’t see joining us or one of the other parties as the way to go. If they are thinking of forming a new party then they will not want to pre-empt any future decision.. the next few days will tell. But then who said that MPs have to be in parties, perhaps that is part of the problem, as many MPs (and councillors), especially Tory and Labour ones, seem to think they represent the party first and their constituents are somewhere else. At least the 7 are sounding positive about the people..

  3. .. and what is ‘the lesson from the experience of the Alliance’..? Didn’t it lead to the formation of the Liberal Democrats, the party that extremists love to hate.?

  4. The crunch will come when fighting bye-elections, even local ones. Will this new group put up candidates? If they do will Lib Dems fight them? It might be sensible to make arrangements so that Liberals don’t fight each other. This will only diminish our votes. But if we can come together we will probably win everything! We went through this sort of thing with the Alliance.

  5. A couple seem very able people who would have been rising fast in a Miliband-or-Cooper-led Labour Party and to have some good ideas. I knew Mike Gapes slightly when he was new and less rotund and he seemed a decent, sensible guy. One I believe is a Blairite. They are, mostly at least, people we could co-operate with on a limited basis.

    Their initial approach seems confused. They say they are not forming a new party. If they do so later, they will have missed the boat in terms of the surge of interest their rebellion has created – though of course they could “change their minds” in a week or two, responding to “a surge of support”. The SDP was quite well-planned and made a fair fist of inventing a tradition and culture. They have no policy and no common philosophy. They say they will not be contesting by-elections and without a party, they’ll struggle to make any impact in the local elections except perhaps in their own constituencies (and that’ll be difficult and risky). How will sympathisers in, say, Yorkshire and the North-east, in the West Midlands and Westcountry, in Scotland and Wales, organise?

    I suspect they haven’t thought through these things or are divided. Our response should be to get on with fighting elections and campaigns, adopt a sensible supporters’ scheme (I mean a sensible scheme for supporters – we should not restrict our supporters to the Sensible) and get a leader in place who, while having judgment, does passion and dynamism. For the local parties in Ilford South, Liverpool Wavertree and the rest, though, there is a different choice. But if they rule out co-operating with us, we must fight them.

  6. Consider Twickenham. If TIG got 13% or more vote there, based on the 2017 result, the Tories would win.

    History has told us that electoral alliances/pacts do not work within first past the post politics (I say this as an SDP member).

    We live in interesting times.

  7. We would be foolish to be ‘pig-headed’ about them, however, some of their early comments about us being a spend- tarnished brand are not promising.
    They need to understand that we are far more than a middle of the road party drawn together by opposition to Labour or Tory views.
    We have some very creative (I’m careful about the word Radical, as its often misconceived) polices.
    As soon as Brexit is resolved we must promote these. Although the May elections are about local councils, it will be a good time to renew our promotion of our national policies.

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