So please get rid of your 2010 baggage and let the centre get behind you

Dear Tim,

I think the Libdems are on the cusp of something quite dramatic, with the collapse of Labour and the appalling behaviour of the Conservatives there are huge numbers of voters looking for a different party and thinking that this might be the LibDems.

However, if they are like me then they are finding it difficult to align completely with your party because of the events 2010-2015.

2010 was the first and only time I voted LibDem and it turned out to be one of the most regrettable decisions I have made.  My leanings have always been towards a caring society with a sensible welfare state and in 2010 I felt it was time to vote LibDem as your values were now closer to mine than my heritage of supporting Labour.

I was supremely confident that in the event of a close election the LibDems would either form a coalition with Labour or force another election.  The concept of the LibDems joining the Conservatives given the huge difference in their value sets was not something I thought possible.

I have since heard the rationalisations but I haven’t changed my view that it was the lure of power that took your party into the coalition and huge numbers of people felt hurt and let down by that behaviour.

And then there was the University fees debacle.  I’m sure you are fed up with hearing about it but there is no getting around the fact that again a large part of the electorate felt let-down by the broken promise.

It is pretty obvious that, of the current main stream parties,  the LibDems would be our best chance of sorting out the #Brexit mess, hopefully with a ratification referendum once the country knows the terms and costs of exit.

However I don’t think people will move to the LibDems sufficiently unless you can shake off the baggage of the coalition and school fees. At the moment voters have a Hobson’s choice of supporting the Conservatives with no real values or principles other than the need to stay in power or the Libdems who have a great set of values but a proven record of abandoning their principles given the opportunity to wield the power of high office.

My reason for writing to you is that I have a proposal that I think would address these issues.

  1. Coalitions – In light of the recent behaviour of the Conservatives, merrily abandoning their fiscal targets at the first opportunity, I think it is time to stop trying to justify what happened in 2010 and rather to accept it was a mistake. Given the uncertainty of our electoral system it wouldn’t seem prudent to rule out any further coalitions but you could commit the party to only going into a coalition with a party with similar values to your own. This would remove the worry that voters like myself have that their vote would be “stolen”.
  2. University fees – What is done is done however I think an elegant way to repair the damage would be to commit to a “Student Loan tax relief” system. This could work along the lines of offsetting the Student Loan repayments with tax relief at the same rate or similar to a student’s loan repayments. Obviously this only applies to those in the process of repaying their loan and there could be all sorts of ways to finesse this (e.g. only in force for the 1st 10 years of repaying) which would limit the cost but give relief to hard wording, tax paying young adults when they need it most.  I don’t even think this would cost very much but it would be a vote winner. These young adults will also be your target voters of the future so lock them in!

I hope you don’t think me presumptuous putting forward these ideas, they are meant kindly.

I have not been particularly political until last June stirred me into action. The Referendum and subsequent events have shown me that we cannot just sit back and expect of politicians to “do it for us” so I am now getting far more involved and have a growing following on my site and twitter on @britainstays .  I am horrified by the lurch towards fascism in the UK and the USA and feel we in the centre must organise to stop them bullying us out of our own country.  I am starting to understand how things happened as they did in 1930s Germany.

Wishing you all the best,



Address Supplied

22 replies
  1. Glen
    Glen says:

    But the LibDems acted as a brake on some of the crazier Tory ideas, now they are free of such shackles look what a mess they have got us into – war with Spain?

      • Steve Bolter
        Steve Bolter says:

        How would that have been. Labour were not only unwilling to go into coalition with the Lib Dems, their various factions were not prepared to work with each other.
        The Conservatives would have bribed some of the minor parties to support them, and governed without our influence.
        Labour would not even vote against tuition fees.

      • Chris Burden
        Chris Burden says:

        Look. Please get real about events in 2010.

        Labour had just simply failed after 13 years — the electorate had given them a vote of No Confidence, and Brown and co. were not in the mood to join a coalition, anyway.

        If the Lib Dems had stood on the side lines, operating a Confidence and Supply agreement with a minority Tory government, as Night follows Day after 3 months the Cons would have gone crying and pleading to the electorate for a majority, economy was going down the pan, and they would have got it!

        That’s it.

  2. Neil Oakman
    Neil Oakman says:

    You only have to look at what happened since the coalition to get an indication of how much the LibDems were able to moderate and reign in Tory excesses. The tuition fees was a promise of what a LibDem government would do, this was not a LibDem govenment.

  3. Will
    Will says:

    re: ruling out future coalitions, this has effectively happened. Farron has already ruled out coalition unless the other party or parties back a change to a proportional voting system for elections to the House of Commons (with no referendum required for this change). Any parties that offered this would already have proved themselves to share significant values.

    This should, of course, be strengthened by the requirement that the party will only consider coalition in a government which has the policy position of revoking article 50 notification or returning to the EU (dependent on whether the 2 years have elapsed). Hopefully such a position will be forthcoming (I say this genuinely in hope, and without any specific knowledge). Regardless, activists would be required to vote to approve any coalition agreement at a special conference should the party wish to join a coalition, and I cannot see such an agreement passing conference without such a position.

  4. Christopher Chenery
    Christopher Chenery says:

    I must agree both with the sentiment and detail of this proposal. Realistic, inclusive and proactive.

  5. John
    John says:

    While I agree with some of your opinions, I think people do not give the Lib-Dems and Nick Clegg enough credit for what they did & what they prevented in the coalition. Eg. If there had been a coalition this government we would not have had a referendum.
    While I am strongly in favour of no tuition fees, having had a free university education myself, I’m not sure that this is affordable with current numbers of students. I was in uni in the 60’s when numbers were much lower.
    I agree that we need large numbers of. Lib Dem MP’s to turn around this brexit debacle but we also need moderates from all parties to have the courage to stand up and save the UK from disaster.

    • BritainStays
      BritainStays says:

      If there had not been a coalition with tories then two options 1 to join with labour and 2 to force another GE. Neither would have put tories in power

      • Will
        Will says:

        There was no parliamentary arithmetic to join with Labour.

        Such a government would not have been stable.

        And any minority Tory government would simply have called another election (there would have been no fixed term parliament act). The Tories would have won an outright majority; the Lib Dems and Labour had no money to fight a fresh election.

        • BritainStays
          BritainStays says:

          If you are off into “lets imagine” land then when Tories rerun the election they would not have promised a referendum (as they only promised it in 215 because the thought the would be in a coalition)

  6. Simon Chater
    Simon Chater says:

    Excellent ideas — and I hope they will be embraced and acted on. For me, one further sin was the bedroom tax; how could the LibDems have let that go through?! But you’re right, it is time to wipe the slate clean and look to the future. Membership is rising fast — but not fast enough. If these proposals are taken up, the LibDems will be turbo-charged! Go for it, Tim and co!

  7. Rumwold Leigh
    Rumwold Leigh says:

    If you want a government to have LibDem values, you vote the LibDems into government. If not, the best you can hope for is a milder version of what the biggest of the other parties want, which is what you got in 2010-15, as is now becoming clearer.

    The LibDems and their predecessor parties always said coalitions were a good thing and could be made to work. They couldn’t refuse to join one unless there was a significant public backlash against the idea, as there was in 1974. I don’t remember a public backlash when the coalition was announced, only later, and the LibDem members agreed the coalition document when they weren’t obliged to.

    There is no intrinsic reason why you can’t have a Con-LibDem coalition. However the party now knows the public perception of it, however vague that has always been, puts it closer to Labour. This is why Labour’s non-policy on Brexit is giving the LibDems more benefit than Tory splits ever did. For decades the Libs wanted a big idea to hang their smaller ones on, to provide an overall context which made more sense than simply “participation”, and Brexit has handed it to them on a plate. Let’s hope they can take advantage of it and gain harder support than they have in previous mid-term waves.

  8. David
    David says:

    I was an active Young Liberal in the seventies and allowed my membership to lapse as life took over. I haven’t been energized to engage in any political activity since. That changed with Brexit. I even felt it worthwhile to go on an anti-Trump state visit demonstration. Next move is to join the Lib Dems and then to badger my spineless Tory MP who was a remain voter.

  9. Edmund
    Edmund says:

    I can’t agree. I’m a new Lib Dem member. I’ve never voted Lib Dem but the fact they were in government and enacted gay marriage, maintained a sensible rebuilding of the post-2008 economy, and were clearly the brains of the government from 2010-2015 is a big sell for me.

    Yes, the eurocentric credentials of the Lib Dems are not in doubt either way, and yes, I joined them substantially because of Brexit. But a party cannot claim to hold liberal democratic values and not seriously consider governing in coalition with the party that won a plurality (of votes as well as seats). 2010 was a clear and justified repudiation of Labour, and I might remind, 15 years of Labour(!) Forcing another election might well have seen a Conservative majority back in 2010. The Lib Dems made a bold and unpopular decision, and it was for the lasting betterment of the country.

    • BritainStays
      BritainStays says:

      I not exactly what has improved since 2010? debt is at record levels, bis swathes of the population worse off and feeling disenfranchised/angry (hence Brexit in many ways). I understand the story Clegg bought but that was all it was. see how quickly Hammond dropped the fiscal targets after June 23rd. Why? Has he reintroduced them? if they were the right policies then they are the right policies now.

  10. Roger Harding
    Roger Harding says:

    Perhaps you are not old enough to remember 1974. We had a similar situation to 2010. Harold Wilson ran a minority government for a few months promoting nothing but popular policies, then called another election and secured a majority. Without a coalition Cameron would have done the same – and there is no way Labour would have won. Labour introduced university fees in the first place. And how could the Libdems go into coalition with the party that promoted the illegal Gulf War that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and whose ramifications are still being felt today?

  11. Dan
    Dan says:

    Surely a coalition with the SNP and Plaid Cymru would give devolved powers to the other countries and would be the best chance of maintaining the union which is then fit for purpose for all not the English dictating to everybody else

  12. Ken
    Ken says:

    If you’re interested enough in the LibDems to write this, you should take a look at their policy surveys (policies are currently being formulated for debate in the autumn). I find the surveys ask some hard and thought-provoking questions.

    Here’s a good place to start:

    Of course, if you’re really concerned about the party’s direction, the best way to influence it is to join it and get active!


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