There is scope for soft-peddling on the all-consuming anger

There is much anger – dejection even around today. I found myself in the unusual position of putting a consoling arm round a hard-bitten colleague’s shoulders – he was really quite upset by the referendum result.

I am angry for the young people who voted in droves for remain.

That said, we can’t change this result. It’s a democratic outcome. I respect it and move on. I pledge to roll up my sleeves to work as part of the nation to make us as successful as possible in the new situation.

Posted in Europe Referendum | Tagged | 15 Comments
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The mess we are in

The EU referendum delivers an unmanageable mess. The UK will lose its membership of the EU, and more immediately has lost its elected Prime Minister. Like many Lib Dems, I have never voted Conservative, but I do recognise the dignity and decency of David Cameron. The referendum outcome creates space instead for Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and the reactionary Nigel Farage.

Democracy itself is in an impossible contradiction. The UK norm is representative democracy expressed in Parliamentary sovereignty. The policy of the majority of Members of Parliament is to remain in the EU. But the referendum decides to leave. Paradoxically, those wanting to leave the EU favour Parliamentary sovereignty, but reject this principle on the question of EU membership. This is an irresoluble conflict.

There is therefore a greater decision UK society has to make – whether government is to be by representative democracy or by popular referenda. We cannot have both. This is the first question of principle. The second is the criteria which should apply to either representative democracy or referenda. The last general election showed how unrepresentative first-past-the-post constituency voting is. The referendum highlights the huge problem of maintaining social cohesion when half the population wants exactly the opposite of what the other half wants. Reconciling this is nigh impossible.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

1000 new members join Lib Dems as Farron says “We will keep the vision of an open, optimistic, hopeful Britain alive”

So I still haven’t gone to bed yet. I feel just about alive. There seems little point in sleeping now as I need to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to catch a flight to London for Federal Executive where we have a whole day of constitutional amendments ahead of us. I suspect we may mention the Referendum result as well. Just a bit.

“I’m for the 16 million, the 48%” said Tim Farron in a speech on the referendum result. By 1pm,1000 people had joined the party, reminiscent of the surge last year.

Tim’s speech was heartfelt and hopeful. He was furious about the way the campaign had been fought, so divisive and deceitful. He understood the concerns of those disengaged people who had voted for Leave but he also empathised with young people, who had voted for Remain in huge numbers but “whose future had been taken away by older generations” who had enjoyed the benefits of greater European integration.

He also announced that 1000 new members had joined the Lib Dems today.

You can watch the speech here on the party’s Facebook page. It darned well made me cry. Up until seeing it, I had been shocked. This tugged at the heartstrings. .

I am devastated and I am angry. Today we woke to a deeply divided country.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 23 Comments

What next for the Liberal Democrats post-referendum?

Harriet Harman, as acting leader of the Labour Party, explained her lack of opposition to the government’s Welfare Bill with the words:

We can’t simply say to the public “you were wrong”

Well I can.

Public, you got it wrong.

You got it disastrously wrong. You’ve endangered the future of our entire continent for the sake of a handful of Brexiteers’ Magic Beans. You’ve swallowed the distortions and lies of the Brexit brigade. You’ve gleefully thrown reason, evidence and reflection out of the window. You’ve allowed that Brexit brigade to press your basest, most pre-civilised, gut-reaction buttons. You’ve allowed yourselves to be fooled. The consequences for you and your fellow Britons will be dire.

But it’s no use getting angry at the electorate. We need to act. The action I propose is that we give the electorate an opportunity to correct its error. We should put at the forefront of our campaigning:

Get Back In.

Let us have Get Back In as the first item in our manifesto. Let us have Get Back In on every piece of election literature, on our membership cards, as the strap line under our logo. Let us replace the, frankly vapid, “working for you” and “winning here” with Get Back In. We need to make it clear that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for re-joining Europe. Re-joining Europe fully: no opt-outs, no special conditions, in the Euro on day one. Let us Get Back In, fully.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments

Leaving the EU hampers progress on climate change

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that those of us blessed with the safety and prosperity of life in the developed world have a moral duty to support those who are in need and less fortunate. So, for the past ten years I’ve been determined to do all I can to support the biggest issue facing our planet, to fight with others to find a pragmatic, achievable response to the problems of climate change and environmental protection.

I’ve often been frustrated at how this issue – the habitability of our planet – has been stuffed down the back of the political sofa, removed from public life, and quashed by contemporary discourse. It’s pained me to witness and learn how the severity of this challenge has been continually undermined by conventional economics…the system which perpetrates the false notion of unlimited growth on a finite planet.

Climate change is the primary driver behind my internationalism. Without working in union to find solutions immediately, we can expect global poverty, food shortages, more extreme weather, civil unrest, and gargantuan levels of refugees as a result. These are the very real risks we face in a rapidly globalised world. Quite simply, we cannot solve such an enormous problem with an isolationist, inward looking attitude. We cannot face this issue without cooperation with our friends and neighbours in the European Union. The EU is perhaps the best hope we have got of sending an example to the rest of the world: profiling a model of hope, collaboration, prosperity, peace and progression.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Carmichael: Britain needs to hear liberal internationalist voices like never before

Alistair Carmichael has given his reaction to the referendum result on his Facebook page, reproduced here with his permission.

Facebook asks what is on my mind. This may not be the most coherent answer I can give in my sleep-deprived state but here goes :

1. As a result of the referendum vote we now have massive economic issues to face and deal with – the priority for all parties should be to tackle that.

2. We can not tackle these problems while, as a country, we are split down the middle so this is a time for bringing people together and healing the divisions if we can. I sense a lot of anger amongst my friends and I share the frustration but we can not allow that anger to be self-indulgent. There is too much at stake.

3. The only way in which a break up of the UK can now be avoided is if we go for a properly federal structure and elect it proportionately. Brexit is the consequence of a broken political system.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

What now for the Pro-EU Party?

Traditionally, at this point after a vote, Politicians start to mutter comments about “The will of the people”

I’m not going to.

Manifestly, the result of the EU referendum is not to our taste. However, I do not believe that it is to the taste of the voting public either – or at least, it won’t be once they’ve tasted the actual medicine that the Brexit campaign have prescribed.

The public have, throughout the EU referendum campaign, been systematically lied to, deceived and manipulated by the Brexit campaign. The warnings of the Remain campaign on the impact of leaving the EU were dismissed as “Project Fear” – and are already being proven horribly right, as the value of Sterling tumbles and the bleak reality of the economics of Brexit become apparent.

Posted in News | Tagged | 26 Comments
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