Monday, June 24, 2024

Should the Lib Dems be more relaxed about members backing other parties' candidates?

Zoe Crowther has been to North Norfolk for Politics Home and found that some of the people out canvassing for the Liberal Democrat candidate Steffan Aquarone are Labour supporters:

"I would describe myself as left-wing Labour,” local resident Christine told PoliticsHome. Christine, like most of the people gathered here, has been canvassing for the Lib Dems over the last few weeks.

She said people in North Norfolk needed to vote tactically to defeat the Conservatives, as “Labour won’t win here, they’re really in the background”. In 2019, the Conservatives’ Duncan Baker won with 29,792 votes – followed in second by the Lib Dems with 15,397, and then Labour in third with only 3,895.

Describing herself as “more anti-Tory than pro-Lib Dem”, Christine explained that she had begun canvassing for the first time during this election, initially for tactical reasons – although as the campaign has gone on, she has found herself less convinced by Labour anyway. 

And she has nice things to say about both Steffan and Ed Davey.

It seems to me that such blurring of party boundaries is inevitable in an election where the country rouses itself to shake off a discredited government and is rather to be welcomed.

But not everyone agrees.

Over the border in Suffolk, Cllr David Beavan, deputy leader of East Suffolk Council, has been expelled from the Liberal Democrats for supporting Adrian Ramsay, the Green candidate who appears to have a good chance of winning the Waveney Valley constituency.

David, who has been a member of the Liberal Party and Liberal Democrats for 55 years, told Suffolk News:

It was with much surprise and sadness that I learnt second hand from a local member of this bizarre decision by head office, whilst I was busy canvassing for the party in North Norfolk last week – they have shot themselves in the foot.

“If I wanted to be dictated to by party officials, I would have joined the Communist Party – I will at least now still be free to say and think what I believe is right for Southwold and East Suffolk.” 

This seems to me an unfortunate decision by Lib Dem HQ, particularly when many party members are talking themselves into casting a tactical vote for Labour next week, and some of us find ourselves being asked to travel a hundred miles to reach the nearest target seat.

And the Lib Dems have been making moves towards relaxing the rigid boundaries of political parties.

Under Vince Cable we brought in the idea of being a registered 'Liberal Democrat Supporter' while Jo Swinson won the party leadership talking about creating a "Liberal Movement", which she presumably saw as being different from a traditional political party.

It's quite possible that East Anglia will find itself represented by MPs from five different parties. Should we Liberal Democrats be prepared to move with the times a little?


Anonymous said...

The chap who came to erect my Lib Dem poster board cheerfully told me that he voted Labour for tactical reasons. Fortunately, he's not in my constituency.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely correct. The party does of course need to guard against entryists and other trouble-makers, but it should be possible to do this without castigating long-standing members who make thoughtful choices on the basis of local knowledge. On a similar note, although different specifics, the national party could have been much more relaxed about the anti-Tory alliance in South Devon.

Anonymous said...

It sometimes feels like our Party is going down the same route as the Tories and Labour. In the past, before the Liberal-SDP merger we were in separate parties but often stood a combination of Liberal and SDP candidates in multi-member ward elections and supported each others' candidates in Parliamentary elections. Even in 2019, we had a deal with the English and Welsh Greens and Plaid Cymru not to stand against each other. Expelling members for even saying that electors should vote tactically for the candidate best placed to beat the Tories is only one step away from denying those not campaigning in target seats access to canvassing software as both the Tories and Labour have done.

Anonymous said...

The David Beavon case looks really heavy handed. Liberal Democrats are on the one hand promoting tactical voting by other party's supporters against sittng Conservative ("only the Lib Dems can beat the Tories around here"), on the other hand the party expels a long serving member who is merely advocating the same policy in one of the Green Party's target seats!

I alway mistrusted the increasing reliance on centralised IT, and when Connect came in I insisted we printed off lists of 'defs' and 'probs' from previous canvassing. Never thought i'd see a return to paper canvassing sheets, and Shuttleworths on NCR paper, but maybe their time has come back.....

Anonymous said...

Cllr David Beavan should immediately be re-admitted to the Lib Dems, if he wants us back. Farcical decision by Party HQ. Especially as at the time of the news of his expulsion, he was trying to persuade Labour & Greens to vote for us in another constituency. What did Lib Dems do in Caroline Lucas' seat at the last GE?