The LibDems cannot appeal to the gut and to self-interest – they can only be decent, cerebral and liberal

In The Times today Danny Finkelstein is rather rude about the LibDems – “There is no point to the Liberal Democrats.

I have a couple of things in common with Lord Finkelstein (maybe more, you never know). One is that with both joined the SDP back in the early 1980s. The other is that neither of us joined the Liberal Democrats, that strange hybrid party that saw Roy Jenkins embrace David Steel. Not in pragmatic electoral alliance but in undissolvable union. I stuck with David Owen for a while in the “Continuing SDP” , until he was very rude the only time I met him. Since then I’ve not been a member of any political party.

For years when I’ve voted it’s been AGAINST Tories not really FOR anything. Blair’s New Labour was the SDP with a new name. Owen wanted nothing of it, nor they him. Shirley stayed with the LibDems, and Roy went off to write fine books and be the great European we loved him for being.

The LibDems did really well for a time and it is churlish not to recognise this. But with New Labour being, really, the New SDP there was no ideological logic to them. Essentially they became the party that middle class people like me, living in leafy constituencies with a social conscience, voted for. Twickenham in my case. Richmond and Kingston down the road. Charles Kennedy briefly created a role to the left of New Labour. He opposed the Iraq War and I greatly admired him for it. But under Clegg they became light Blue and even entered a Public Schoolboys’ Coalition with the Conservatives. Ugh.

When the preposterous Jeremy Corbyn hijacked Labour and surrounded himself with dinosaurs the LibDems weakened by the Coalition could not step in. They had been humiliated by the 2015 General Election and in the Referendum the next year. Ill led, they faded into insignificance. But I’ve kept voting for them because anything that however ineffectually opposes Johnson’s gang has to be done. Twickenham has stayed loyal. The awful Zac Goldsmith was booted out in Richmond. Good.

And now in Chesham and Amersham it seems that the “Blue Wall” has been busted open. Good again. There is perhaps a place for an effective “Woke” party unencumbranced by outdated hard Left ideology to fight the Conservatives on their traditional territory. I wish them well.

Alf Garnett

Frankly the recovery of Labour under Keir Starmer is the only big political game in town. And that’s really tough going. That the Tories are becoming the Party of the patriotic Working Classes is vaguely comical – the ultimate triumph of the Alf Garnetts. But actually it’s not a joke if people vote for politicians who deep down neither understand nor care about them. That’s how Trump came to power and what delivered Johnson his 2019 victory.

The LibDems cannot appeal to the gut and to self-interest – they can only be decent, cerebral and liberal. Not a bad mix you might think. But it won’t lead to a landslide shift however pleasing results like Chesham and Amersham might be. I think that there will be quite a few more, but not enough really to make much difference.

8 thoughts on “The LibDems cannot appeal to the gut and to self-interest – they can only be decent, cerebral and liberal

  1. I have long tried to encourage the Lib Dems to become street fighters. The late Paddy Ashdown understood that need. When faced with aggressive Tory attacks behaving decently always looks weak. Decency is never understood especially among Red Wall voters. The current Lib Dem leadership is filled with worthy caring people not public school bruisers in the Johnson mold. Or Labours Prescott. In a perfect world, reason should be enough. In today’s ugly society it’s lost. The good people of leafy Chesham and Amersham probably identify easily with that quality. In deprived parts of the north, it’s thin on the ground.
    The nasty Alf Garnett caricature is a wake-up call and reminder of what Britain has become. It will only increase as political and social isolation sets in.


  2. Most of what Paddy writes in his blogs is so in line with my own thinking it’s quite astonishing that Paddy Briggs has blocked me. It’s certainly true we don’t agree on everything. I must have said something terrible that he disagreed with. Seems a shame really. This article for instance I am totally on the same page and furthermore I have said as much the same in my tweets. – I don’t think Starmer is the answer though, he is no Blair. Labour are pretty invisible. His stance on Brexit for instance.

    Maybe I got gaslighted by the many corbynistas that we crossed swords. Many of whom are nasty bullies especially with women, but I am no shrinking violet and I will give back as good as I get. If that means being nasty sobeit. I was only aware that Paddy blocked me because I went to follow Paddy Briggs.

    Paddy is right about voting against the Tories. I voted LibDems last time,. All the opposition parties look very ineffectual, apart from SNP. Sturgeon easily outshines the rest. I think Johnson got his 80 seat majority because Tories wanted to keep Corbyn out. Corbyn’s refusal to work with other socialist parties ensured Brexit. That I am very angry about, but it’s too late to change the result now. I played my part and it made no difference. But I will never even give Labour a protest vote now. Untrustworthy.

    If a pro EU minority party, like Volte stands on a re-join ticket in my area then I might vote for them, depending on their policies, otherwise I won’t bother. I live in a very safe Tory seat so makes little difference who I vote for or if I don’t bother. I have never voted Tory.

    UK has Greens, LibDems and Labour and Scotland has SNP. All Left wing parties. The Left is a crowded field that splits their vote so none of them get into power. What we don’t have is a Centre Right Party to take votes off the Tories. There is nowhere for the disgruntled Tory Voter to go. So while the status quo exists the Tories will go on winning. Labour will never support PR voting because the current system keeps out the competition. I would rather have ‘Tory lite’ Centrists than this shambles in government now.

    I also note that both major parties have cleared out all the good moderate MPs and replaced them with the extremists or nodding donkeys. Tories got rid of 20 MPs 2019, Ken Clarke and Nicholas Soames – Churchill’s Grandson amongst them and Remain MPs like Anna Soubry left before then. We now have the ERG UKIP party. A bunch of utter nutcases in my opinion.

    But even before that, Corbyn did the same, He sacked Remain MPs from front bench for trying to put provisos in like SM or CU. And antisemitism against the Jewish MPs & Remain Labour MPs felt the Labour Party had got so hostile they left the party. Chukka Ummuna amongst and many others.

    2019 GE what did the Remain public do. Did they support these MPs that wouldn’t tow the party line? NO. They voted Tory and Labour. Depending on the tribe they were baptised in. So con/lab is the only game in town. Quite honestly the British public are very well represented, they got everything they voted for and deserve what they get! So I have little sympathy for them. I want a better future for my children and grandchildren and that is why I bother to fight for better. The fight is of course futile.


      1. Hi Paddy, On Twitter. Someone posted one of your tweets and I went to follow you and got message you’re blocked, haha. But I got round it by following your Bloggs.


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