Letters: Lib Dems’ path across the wilderness

These letters appear in the 19th May issue of The Independent

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I don’t entirely agree with Julian Astle’s pessimism (“Crushed Lib Dems are mired in an identity crisis”, 16 May) that the Lib Dems have to journey “for a generation” out of the wilderness.

It seems to me that the Lib Dems are in a fortunate position. The party doesn’t now have to take definitive positions on the mind-crushing numbers of the deficit, or the need to balance precariously on the ever-moving “centre ground” of politics. No one is going to take any notice of what the Lib Dems say in Parliament for a while. It is what the party does outside Parliament that will build the new strength.

There will surely be a valuable opportunity for Lib Dems to lead on one issue that is not going to be decided in Parliament anyway – the EU referendum.

The time is right to build a pro-EU movement across the country. Contacts and valuable experience hard-gained in the past five years will put Lib Dems at the core of the movement. Fund-raising for a pro-EU campaign must start with speed and determination, so that the question “What did the EU ever do for us?” is answered loud and clear. It will be possible to build pro-EU alliances with other political parties, and with businesses and independent groups across the UK.

Another issue that has been ignored by the established “mainstream” will be best if fought for beyond the confines of Parliament. Local councils need a strong campaign to establish proportional representation for local authority elections. A local PR campaign would put Lib Dem arguments for fairness in every home in the country.

I do not believe that’s going to take a generation to fix.

Sarah Pennie

Todmorden, West Yorkshire


The Labour Party is asking the wrong question: “How do we get elected again?”

 There’s some obscurantist waffle about values, but after the systematic professionalisation of politics in recent years it is clear that getting re-elected is the real question. 

The hardest lesson arising from the election isn’t what happened to Labour; it is the electorate’s treatment of the Lib Dems. When the British people collectively behave intolerantly, unfairly, and yes, irrationally, as in the treatment handed out to the Lib Dems, it means they are angry, disillusioned and politically dangerous. All the other parties, especially Labour, will ignore this signal to their cost.

Labour needs to decide what, if anything, they are for; what they believe enough to risk electoral failure. Then they might just get the electorate to give them another chance.

If the Lib Dems had based their campaign on the passionately held principles in Nick Clegg’s valedictory speech they would have more than eight MPs.

Keith Farman

St Albans, Hertfordshire


I also think it would be a shame to lose Nick Clegg from public service (letter, 18 May) and it sounds as if he would be most suitable for a position on the negotiating team for reforms to the EU.

But, think about it, if the team succeeds it would be a triumph for George and Dave. If it fails it would be all Nick’s fault.

He has been toasted once; he would be a saint to have another go.

W W Sandys

Chinnor, Oxfordshire


Don’t expect too much of the ‘good’ Tories

I fear Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s husband may be correct, and that “post-election blues have weakened her political resolve” (“Progressive thinking can come from surprising directions”, 18 May). She seems to have forgotten a number of things about the Tories, even about the ones she hopes will somehow reduce the harm done by “the brutish, iniquitous laws” soon to be passed.

Didn’t David Cameron’s post-election “one nation” speech remind her of Thatcher’s first speech as PM, when she also promised “harmony”? David Davis and Dominic Grieve may “fight hard against plans to replace the Human Rights Act”, but neither is in the current, increasingly right-wing, Cabinet, and their efforts are destined to fail.

As your editorial says, it looks, at least in the short term, that it will be up to the unions to assume “the mantle of chief opponent of cuts”. As long as the Tories see wage cuts or freezes as the way to make what they call “efficiency savings”, industrial action will be viewed by employees as their only option.

Inevitably, the right-wing media will see Len McCluskey and his Unite union as an easy target, but when the Royal College of Nursing threatens action, even Blairite leadership candidates need to take note. With Jeremy Hunt unwilling to reveal how funding for NHS reforms will be found, a “season of strikes” looks increasingly on the cards; the Labour leadership could well be decided by the candidates’ reaction to it.

Bernie Evans



So the Tories begin to pay their dues to their supporters. The BBC will be delivered to Rupert Murdoch and the NHS to Lynton Crosby, secured by the TTIP which will make it impossible to reverse.

Thank goodness my taxes won’t increase in order to pay for these services.

Ashley Herbert



Divine call to political action

I think many Christians would be very surprised to read that Tim Farron is “unusual for a left-of-centre politician” in being a Christian (Profile, 16 May).

Most would read the New Testament (and the prophetic books of the Old Testament) as a call for action for social justice, which in most political climates is usually achieved by electing left-of-centre politicians. The Christian agenda is to the left of communism in many cases.

In the same sentence the phrase “god-bothering” is used. As Christians believe in a God who was so bothered about human failings that he came into the world to set an example, the phrase you quote is the mirror image of the truth.

Christians believe that God bothers them, in choosing them to take action to establish human rights for all (for example). Christians may be found in all political parties, but they would all agree on this point, that God bothered them into taking action.

Philip Thornborow

Loughborough, Leicestershire


No foreign stuff at the airport

When travelling through Gatwick, one of our top international airports, I was shocked at the monolingualism of the news outlets in the terminals, all run by the same company. I did not locate a single newspaper or magazine in any language other than English. If you would like Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung or El Pais, tough luck, we don’t stock that foreign stuff! 

Can you imagine travelling through Schiphol or Paris CDG and not finding anything in English? We may or may not be heading for Brexit, but to me this experience typifies British insularity at its worst.

John Whitton


Outbreak of ‘hate crimes’ in Canada

I wonder if the Canadian government will follow its attempt to declare the boycott of Israel a “hate crime” (Robert Fisk, 18 May) with a declaration that support for the Palestinians, and for the creation of a Palestinian state – which is the declared policy of the US and Europe – is similarly a “hate crime”.

Ottawa would then find itself in rather a complex diplomatic position.

Christopher Walker

London SW18


My kind of left-winger

Mark Steel is surely the acceptable face of left-wing opinion. I had to go indoors just now to finish reading today’s article (15 May) because I had been laughing out loud in the garden. Although I vote Tory, I always read his column and take on board many of the points he makes, possibly making me the acceptable face of Conservatism.

But, for editorial balance, The Independent should hire Mark’s right-wing equivalent, if he or she exists.

Mike Park

London SE9


The job MPs are elected to do

It is disingenuous of J H Moffatt (letter, 12 May) to say that people who voted for smaller parties get no representation at all.

Everyone who voted, for whichever party, as well as those who did not vote, is represented by the person who got the most votes in their constituency: their local MP. MPs of all political persuasions are acutely aware of their responsibilities in this respect, but it seems  that some of the electorate are not.

Malcolm Watson

Welford, Berkshire


Triumph followed by recriminations

After doing massively well by getting 4 million votes, Ukip are now destroying themselves with infighting because they only got one MP! I thought anyone with half a brain would realise they should be marching to London with the Lib Dems and Greens to demand PR.

Mike Joslin