Thursday, February 21, 2019

Five thoughts on The Independent Group and the Lib Dems

Something had to happen and I am glad that it did. The two main parties have both been captured by groups of extremists that have more in common with each other than they do with the political mainstream.

You only have to see the happy faces of The Independent Group MPs to see what a strain it has been to fight for mainstream values in the Conservative and Labour Parties.

The response from Corbyn loyalists, at least, has shown how broken our political system now is.

I have no idea what will happen next, but I have a feeling it will be more fun than the last few years have been,

Tim Farron rushed to offer us as an army to help the TIGgers to power. But, pleased as I am by the turn events have taken, I believe we Liberal Democrats need to be more wary than that.

No doubt there have been talks between us and the new group, but are we certain that they wish us well? Already Anna Soubry has urged Lib Dems to join her instead.

Remembering the endless hours expended on seat negotiations by the Liberal Party and the SDP, I would be tempted to pursue a selfish strategy if I were in charge of TIG and it had grown into a national party

I would give the Lib Dems a clear run in the seats they hold and in another dozen where they had realistic chances of winning. After that, I would stand a candidate in every seat in the country and let the Lib Dems stand against me if they dared.

So low is the present Lib Dem support across much of the country, I would reason, that if we can’t supplant then we TIGgers have no future as a party anyway.

Another worry about TIG is that it will all be a little vague. How could it be otherwise when they had to begin by attracting both Labour and Conservative MPs?

The question for TIG is whether it can move on from its launch Statement and become the driver of the reforms Britain needs.

Just for starters, we need to rebuild local democracy and our public services, reform our democracy and put the environment at the heart of our politics.

Is this really the group do it?

So what should the Liberal Democrats do next?

Richard Kemp offers some characteristically sensible advice: we must concentrate on the May local elections and gain as many seats as possible and leave grand strategy on the back burner for a while.

The better we do in those elections, the stronger the hand we will have to play in whatever happens next.

If we doubt that TIG has the coherence or intellectual heft to put forward the reforms Britain needs, then we Lib Dems are going to have to do some of the work.

Commentators used to accuse the Liberal Party of living off the intellectual capital of the Grimond years. Sometimes I wonder if the Lib Dems have any intellectual capital at all.

If that sounds harsh, think of how quickly we moved from being a party that wanted better-funded public services to one that supported George Osborne’s austerity.

We need some good internal rows over policy. We need to be a bit less of a family and a bit more of a political party.


Anonymous said...

"We need to be a bit less of a family and a bit more of a political party. "

It seems to me that political parties as they currently exist are not flavour of the month with the voters.

Anonymous said...

Five very good thoughts which I wholeheartedly endorse!

(Though as a professional nitpicker, I would suggest that in (5) "Commentators" should be replaced by "Paddy Ashdown", as I heard him use that exact phrase at least three fringe meetings at Assembly)

Squirrel Nutkin

MikeMCSG said...

Thought Two is wildly unrealistic about how many candidates TIG would be likely to field at the next election. With or without a deal with the Lib Dems I'd be surprised if it topped 50.