Don’t assume Lib Dem supporters will ever back Labour
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There will always be a place for the Liberal Democrats politically, argues a reader.
One of the great lies told by Brexiters about the EU is that it seeks to squash national identity and subsume it all into a European superstate. Readers of this newspaper know that isn't true and that Europe values and celebrates diversity.
So it saddens me to read Alan Helliwell's letter in issue 209 in which he suggested that the 'Lib Dems should disband and join a proper political party'. He is asking Lib Dems, such as myself, to allow our political identity to be merged into a left-leaning 'super party', our distinctiveness abandoned, our own voice taken away.
An electoral alliance is necessary to defeat the Tories and the first-past-the-post system that delivered their majority, but that should be an alliance of diversity, not conformity. We must reflect the Europe we wish to rejoin in our approach to politics.
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Your correspondent Alan Helliwell believes that the Lib Dems should 'call it a day'. Has it not occurred to him that the condescending attitude that he, and other Labour supporters express, is one of the principal reasons that Lib Dems will not vote Labour.
Sir Ed Davey's announcements that a.) he is going to consult people about what the Lib Dems do next and b.) (without consulting anyone) the Lib Dems are no longer going to campaign for membership of the EU are deeply confusing.
It doesn't seem to have dawned on him that there might be people, outside the Lib Dem heartlands of Kingston upon Thames, who have belonged to and campaigned for the Liberal Democrats for decades precisely because the party was in favour of membership of the EU.
I joined the SDP on their formation for that very reason, joined the Lib Dems on the merger with the Liberals, and stuck with them. The mind of Ed Davey appears to be a principle-free space, to be filled with whatever a focus group from the leafier suburbs of London cares to suggest.
No more. I'm off.
Let's be quite clear. Tim Walker was, and is, absolutely right in his analysis of the causes of the Lib Dems' dire predicament following the 2019 election disaster. As an activist in another Kent constituency, I managed to continue campaigning for our strong candidate despite a feeling of demoralisation caused by the leadership's action over Canterburygate and the foolhardy total commitment to Revoke.
It is possible that a more realistic Remain policy could have seen Messrs Raab and Redwood losing their seats to excellent Lib Dem candidates and a better showing generally for the party elsewhere.
So, what are the prospects of the Liberal Democrats rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the 2019 near humiliation? Serious thought has to be given to electoral pacts, whether formal or informal, with the Greens and with Labour, who, despite taking advantage of the Tory government's abysmal performance, will still need all the help they can get to overturn the current Conservative majority. The suggestion of a merger with the former should be explored as the common causes of electoral reform and urgently-needed radical environmental policies should reinforce our appeal not only to the younger voters but also to all who consider climate change to be the overriding issue of the immediate, not the long-term, future.
In other words, a return to 'grown-up' politics, sadly lacking in the last months of 2019, is an essential prerequisite for a recovery of the party's fortunes.
Tim Walker's article has really set the hares running. In my view, Paddy Ashdown was right to have the informal pact that gave both the Liberal Democrats and Labour more seats in 1997, but Tony Blair turned out to be duplicitous and did not keep his side of the bargain. In coalition with Cameron, the Conservative party proved to be similarly duplicitous, and we never got PR in any form.
Hence the Lib Dems' path to oblivion today, which for democracy's sake must be stopped. The proportional representation referendum was a democratic travesty when compared to Ireland's referendum on abortion. There the electorate was well-prepared and the matter debated over a long period of time.
The question of PR really is not the issue: one must ask a different question. That question is about what PR might achieve: we are really looking for improvement in the checks and balances in the constitution on the worst excesses of either far-left (Corbyn and his ilk) or far-right (Johnson and his drivers).
There are other means, such as a third of parliament getting elected every two years, whereby the electorate will not be scared by jolts of direction and reform can take place gradually.
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