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So, where do the Liberal Democrats go from here?

May 8, 2018 12:02 PM
By John Marriott in Liberal Democrat Voice

John MarriottNow this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

These famous words, spoken by former Liberal, Winston Churchill, in 1942 after the second victorious Battle of El Alamein, could very well sum up where the Liberal Democrats find themselves after what many would see as a very satisfactory comeback after a few difficult years. But, as they say, one swallow doesn't make a summer. There is no guarantee that even moderate success at local elections will translate into success in a General Election. Despite the accusation of being currently a 'one trick pony', as Tim Farron, I believe, said, Lib Dems appear like locusts in their ability to survive a nuclear war - in this case a pincer movement between Tory and Labour. However, ironically, even with our defunct voting system and a poll rating of around 16%, which most Liberal parties around the world would die for, the kind of activity in certain parts of the country could produce some surprising results come the next Westminster election (which, given what passes for the present Brexit 'negotiations', could be sooner rather than later).

You can and should campaign on refuse collections, potholes etc.; but General Elections need a different hymn sheet. So, do you make the Lib Dems different from Tory and Labour? Here are a few ideas that some may like (and some may deride) and a few do's and don't's.

First a few do's:

  • 1. Be brave. If people want services, they need to be paid for. Don't try to claim that all can be achieved by just soaking the rich.

  • 2. Relax a little. Earnestness can only take you so far.

  • 3. Only promise what you can realistically deliver.

  • 4. Give credit to your opponents when they have obviously got something right!

Now some don't's:

  • 1. Don't relate everything to Brexit. It's time to move on. The sun WILL rise, even if we do leave the EU.

  • 2. Don't get bogged down by issues that you might consider important; but which rarely impinge on the lives of the majority of people.

  • 3. Don't keep banging on about 'Liberal Britain'. What most people want is honesty (which would appear to be in short supply amongst politicians these days). As the song goes; "You can't always get what you want… sometimes you get what you need".

And now just a few national issues that might just differentiate the Lib Dems from the Tories and Labour at least (in no particular order of priority):

  • 1. At least one penny on the Basic Rate of Income Tax, ringfenced for the NHS, until a long term solution to the funding crisis can be found.

  • 2. Devolve real power, or at least as much power as currently enjoyed by the other nations of the UK to the English regions.

  • 3. Restructure local government in England by replacing the remaining two tier authorities with Unitaries and offering enhanced powers to Town and Parish Councils.

  • 4. Tackle local government finance, either by a revaluation of property, creating extra Council Tax bands, or by taking a serious look at LVT, LIT or a combination of all three.

  • 5. Work towards a Federal Parliament based at Westminster and replace the House of Lords with a Senate, on the lines of the German Bundesrat, where delegates are nominated by the various British nations/regions, thus avoiding the need for further elections.

  • 6. Have another, but this time, SERIOUS look at Proportional Representation in all national, regional and local elections.

  • 7. Abolish the charitable status of Public Schools. Give vocational education parity of esteem with academic education.

And, finally….

  • 8. Nobody has all the answers. With the nations of the UK are crying out for consensus not idealistic confrontation, it's surely time for all politicians, both local and national, to grow up and earn the respect many have sadly lost. Equally, is it too much to ask the majority of voters actually to cast their ballot now and then instead of just staying at home and moaning? As Edmund Burke famously said; " All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Pie in the sky? Maybe. I could go on; but, hey, it's a Bank Holiday, the sun is shining and the garden beckons!

* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.

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