Thursday, October 01, 2020

The politicking around the Lib Dem conference vote on the EU

On Sunday the Liberal Democrat conference voted to make rejoining the EU a long-term objective of the party.

The objective was hedged about with all sorts of qualifications - "at an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms".

Mark Pack has the text of the motion that conference passed. The bit about rejoining the EU is right at the end.

In order to make even this commitment, conference had to amend the motion put before it by the party's federal policy committee (of which I was a member in an earlier life).

An article in the Independent published the day before the vote suggested that the committee was expecting the conference motion to sound warmer about rejoining, In the event the unamended motion just spoke of all options being on the table.

The Independent quotes FPC memeber Olly Craven:

"We thought we had agreed one thing at the FPC meeting and then it was written up by officers, I suspect with a slight nudge from the leadership, as something much weaker.

"There has been a considerable rebellion over it. About half of the entire committee have signed up to the amendment to restore the original wording we thought we were approving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen members of the committee amending their own motion before.

"It does feel like a stitch-up. There was considerable anger when we saw what had been submitted, and emails have been flying back and forth ever since."

Despite what the leadership loyalists were pretending last weekend, no one in the party was demanding that a rejoin the EU campaign should begin the next day.

But if we want to gain support if the public turns against Brexit after it becomes clear what it means, then we must not be afraid to mention Europe now. A good Twitter thread by Nick Barlow explains why.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a conversation with a Blair/Starmer Labour-ish friend the other day who has voted Lib Dem once or twice in the past for tactical reasons...

I moaned about the leadership's proposed policy of 'options open' and how relieved I was that it had been replaced by the (admittedly not amazing) waffly fudge you've now got, and my misgivings about the brutality of trying to do too-invasive surgery on the pro-European part of the party's insane coalition of disparate factions, this early.

He scoffed, and basically said that ship had flown, and no practical party would try to campaign to rejoin the EU.

As a counter, I asked him to consider the hypothetical model that in 1981, Michael Foot had gone to the Labour party conference and asked it to amend Clause 4, and the consequences that would have had.

There was a very long pause. 'Yes, I see what you mean...'