Tom Watson and the Liberal Democrats

If you’re a newer member of the Liberal Democrats, you may well not know the history of some of the campaigns against the party which Tom Watson has run or been closely involved with.

They included some of the most aggressive, illiberal and personalised smears I’ve seen in politics until the last few years. He and the Liberal Democrats have frequently been very much at odds, including over Parliamentary reform.

He may have changed, he may have mellowed, and he may have become more liberal. Certainly, there have been some good causes he’s worked cross-party on and I even did a tiny bit of that with him a few years back (so tiny, he’s probably forgotten!). And I’m usually first in the queue to say that people can have changed rather than have their past held against them forever.

I mention this in case you wonder why some longer-standing party members, especially those on the receiving ends of such campaigns, react frostily to postings from newer members saying how great it’d be if he joined.

I think it’s very unlikely he’ll ever leave Labour, let alone want to join the Lib Dems but if he does, we should definitely learn from recent previous controversies, remember how many personal scars people have from the past, and to act sensitively and accordingly.

(And yes, it’s a really weird political world where I’ve ended up writing a post about this topic!)

14 responses to “Tom Watson and the Liberal Democrats”

  1. Act sensitively. Our North Devon PPC (ex) more than likely spoke the truth about the situation their. Unfortunately the media jump on mistakes (as they see it) which backfires on us. Is it possible that our PPCs can be shown a way to tell the truth diplomatically to our advantage?
    I hope that her talents in the area will be well used to allow our next PPC to succeed.

  2. The test, as always, when people want to join the Lib Dems, is whether they can sign up to our constitution. I personally doubt that Tom Watson could do so. So I think it is unlikely that this will be a problem for the party in the near future. Of course, few people in the early AD years in the Middle East would have expected Saul of Tarsus to change from persecution of Christians to become Paul, one of their leading theorists and organisers.
    It is always possible that individuals experience their own ‘Road to Damascus’, but it may be a much longer road for some than others.

  3. Also, could people commenting on this site learn the difference between there (as in over there), their (as in belonging to them)and they’re (Shortened form of they are). It would keep us pedants happy.
    I think what Nigel meant was ‘spoke the truth about there’ as there was no possessiveness about the sentence.

  4. It is baffling to say the least that the pro-European flank of Labour MP’s still hang around when the party no longer wants to be a broad church. A party has deep problem when the leadership is so at odds with the deputy that it resorts to totalitarian ways of deposing the very person who who can see the bigger picture, because democratic methods have failed. Thatcher also had a reputation of calously sweeping aside something she didn’t like.

    Tom Watson must surely now see the game is up for him as a Labour MP. It will be interesting to see if he defects and who he takes with him, given that he has pretty much set up a party within a party. What’s necessary right nowis for the moderates of both parties to defect, and join us or form their own allegiances as progressives that will work with us not to split the vote at a General Election.

  5. Tom Watson won’t defect. Nor will other moderate die hard labour MP’s like Jess Phillips. And I get why they won’t. It’s a HUGE shift in identity. It’s such a shame our party system means its almost de rigeur to attack and condemn an opposing party. IMO The party system is as much a cause of our current mess as the referendum! I am an ex lib dem , who currently feels homeless in the ideology driven party system we have now. Whatever happened to good old fashioned pragmatism!!

    • Ouch!

      The party system and first past the post are the problems. It is so easy to attack and denigrate but building loyalty needs a flag to follow and integrity. The greater the number of supporters the larger the number of opinions and the need for broader policy. We will face this as our draw for disaffected centre left and centre right voters succeeds. This means collaboration, negotiation internally, compromise, deal making and giving position to newcomers.

      I see awful representation from sitting tenants in every party. Many fired up new members bring novelty that is needed as society is moving forward. The down-trodden used to be the province of the Labour Party but minimum wage has embedded itself as the best you’ll get, with conditions hiding costs lowering that threshold, for as many jobs as possible, usually when the incumbent of the post changes, to lower costs. It’s particularly difficult for women to stop for children and step back from ludicrous hours to do so, give a decent start to their new family and step back in again.

      These are our equality and respect policies that will make happiness front and centre of a capitalist economy. They mean reflecting a workforce as the creators of shareholder value and nobody, nobody needs to be worked into the ground to achieve that. Neither other large party understands the importance of the 80% of us grafting carefully to deliver a world leading economy. It’s not necessary to drive too fast as a delivery driver nor live without sleep to run a corporation. Nor is it sustainable for our planet to be busy fossil fools.

  6. You can never say never in politics. Times change, people change. A year ago I would not have thought 6 MPs from both Labour and Conservative have crossed the floor to join us. More will follow. The trick is to have a robust system for making sure they are Lib Dems. No-one from the two big parties will join us as a career move! Some of them will be where they are because their former party asked them first or because when they joined they thought it chimed with them.
    I doubt very much if Tom Watson or Jess Phillips are closet Lib Dems, but others in the Labour Party may be. Similarly there may be other Conservatives who really are Lib Dems but until now felt they could be at home with the Tories. The whip system does a lot to distort what people believe in its drive to get business through parliament.

  7. If Mr Watson were to defect anywhere it could be to the Greens. I am surprised that they have not yet mopped up any pro EU Labour MPs.

  8. Sally Haynes-Preece: As a newish member to the LibDem’s I’m at a loss to understamd the in what way we are ideologically driven in these fevered times? Ideology in my understanding is the Tories ethos of flogging off anything moves and undermining the state and democracy versus Labour’s dark socialism vision that is inward looking, which does not redistribute wealth around to benefit the less fortunate. We are the party of pragmatic mind which was proven in the coalition years.

  9. Mick Taylor: We have many supporters and indeed new MPs who are Pro- Zionist, (Zionists may include Christians as well as Jews). We are talking of the modern, settler-colonial, Palestinian- human-rights-abusing form of Zionism as practised in Israel. Shouldn’t these people be asking themselves whether they belong in a Party with our beliefs including those in the Preamble to the constitution re the rule of International law and human rights for all humankind

  10. We are the real opposition to this Government and it is our time to reclaim the status and responsibility of a party that can govern in the national interest. Tom and the Labour crowd have had plenty of time to bring order to their cause. We are not “nice Labour” we are liberals, progressives, social democrats and reformers …

  11. Mick Taylor makes the salient point: the Liberal Democrats have a constitution, which potential defectors must read and agree to sign up to (It is assumed that all current members have done this). We often quote the preamble, but how many have read the rest of it..?
    If any members are not happy with any part of the constitution then they have two options, propose an amendment to Federal Conference(and then abide by the outcome) or leave the party. Anyone who can agree with the constitution should be encouraged to join, anyone who can’t should be shown the door.
    The Party Constitutions embodies the principles upon which ALL our policy is based. Our leadership does not decide policy for us according to the weather, as other parties seem to.
    As a matter of principle we should remove the role of ‘whip'(at all levels of governance) and, where undue pressure is being used to influence decisions, then the vote should be secret. The very idea of going into the lobbies to be counted is antique.. secret electronic voting might produce a more honest(and more democratic) outcome.

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