...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Day 6899: Now that the Turkeys have Voted for Christmas…


I don’t suppose anyone’s noticed, but there’s a General Election on.


So let’s put it on record that this is a VERY STUPID PLAN.

A General Election is VERY HIGH RISK.

If we get a Lib Dem government, we CAN stop Brexit. But that’s a REALLY big “if”.

If Johnson wins a majority, he can have ANY BREXIT HE LIKES. Maybe his “deal”; maybe the self-styled Spartans of the ERG will blackmail him into No Deal. “Spartans” being an anagram of “AN SS PRAT”.

We should have taken every extra day we could get to look at Johnson's "deal", unpick it, show it for what it is. We should have hung him out to dry in a Parliament that would not let him legislate, show him up as weak, powerless and posturing.

Yet faced with 19 Labour MPs voting for the clown car’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill AND the sight of Jeremy Corbyn slipping into Number 10 for talks with the Government on how a timetable for debating the bill might be agreed… a last roll of dice seemed like the better option.

Remember, every day that we are still in the European Union is another day of winning, is another day closer to proving Brexit is impossible, and ending this nightmare.

So where do we stand:

With the odious Nigel Farrago having finally been swallowed by his own betrayal narrative – accepting a one-sided deal with the Tories to stand down half his company (they’re not a Party) in exchange for bugger all – the Brexit Party (not a Party) are now a spent force, excepting that their subversion of the Tories is now complete.

So in England, these are the THREE Parties and their strategies:
(Wales and Scotland have nationalist parties as well, who have their own agenda, particularly Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Nasty Party, who are out for gaming ANY result to achieve a new independence referendum.)


The Tory strategy is to say only they can finish the mess they’ve made by getting us into the Brexit disaster. Yes, their pitch is they can make a COMPLETE MESS. And the evidence is that they CAN!

It’s a horribly short-termist tactic – within weeks of the election it will be clear that “get it done” means “you’ve been had”, as the country progresses to merely the next round of endless argument and fear of another no deal – but the cynical wiring into the nation’s exhaustion with the debate and division that THEY THEMSELVES caused appear to be working.

In a further divisive calculation, they’ve also decided that since most of the population believe politicians lie all the time, they might as well just lie. So thank you to all right-on comedians and commentators who’ve been fostering this for years and years by lazily telling us so over and over and sneering ‘They’re all the same’ (because that’s easier than actually explaining that most politicians try to tell the truth as they see it); congratulations, you’ve empowered a fascist takeover.

So, so far, what we’ve heard from the Tories has all been about costs of Labour’s manifesto (made up); consequences of a coalition between Labour and SNP (made up); and next to nothing about their own plans.

And it’s working.

With a few honourable exceptions, the media is failing us catastrophically by merely parroting the Tory line, rather than challenging the government who are SUPPOSED TO BE IN POWER over what they are actually doing.


The Labour party strategy is the same as it always is: claim that the NHS is being privatised.

Oh yes, they’ve got a whole Scandi-style socialism smorgasbord of policies: nationalise everything so they can give away everything from free broadband to free tuition fees, and the price tag hardly matters because (a) the Tories are promising to spend money like it’s going out of fashion too (didn’t they used to want to “save the pound”?) so costings are largely fictional, but (b) they aren’t going to win anyway!

Labour’s big weakness (after their Leader) is their incoherence on Brexit.

We know that Labour would much rather Brexit was “done”… well not “done” as such (see above), but we all know too that Johnson and Jeremy can agree that passing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill means “done” because it suits their interests… And Labour want it “done” on a Tory watch, so that the Tories are to BLAME, and so that they can go back to campaigning in their comfort zone of “Vote For Us Or The Puppy Gets It” (where as usual “the puppy” means the NHS).

What Labour are doing very well is attacking the Liberal Democrats.

IF Labour’s real aim is to beat the Conservatories, then this is COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE. Most of the seats where Lib Dems are challenging, across the South-West, the south of Manchester and of course London, are seats that we can win (and have won!) but Labour cannot. To flip the Labour line, taking votes from the Lib Dems really does let the Tories in.

And yet as in 2017 and 2015, Labour are working hard to convince those voters that to choose Liberal is to let in the Tories, even though the reverse is true.

So why are Labour doing this. Firstly because it’s easier. Secondly, because it provokes US to attack them BACK, and that’s a look that works better for them then for us: “look! how shocking! the Lib Dems are attacking Labour! they must be Yellow Tories!” they do say. But thirdly because Labour actually PREFER a Tory government (with them in Opposition) which they can rail against in comfortable impotence. What truly terrifies them is a Liberal Democrat government that might actually change things for the better, suddenly revealing that the entire Labour movement has done NOTHING for decades.

And it’s working.

The “vote for us or you’re helping the Tories” message is playing on fear and shoring up the rather tattered remains of the alliance that voted for Corbyn in 2017, back before Labour decided that it could put up with antisemitism more than being anti-Brexit.


Lib Dem Fight Back
The Liberal Democrat plan in this Election – and any General Election that wasn’t 2015 – is to GET NOTICED. We have to offer HOPE and CHANGE. Change from the stale duopoly that just swaps one authoritarian power for another; hope that we can break out of the past to build a better future.

That’s not going well.

The Tory and Labour leaders have collaborated with ITV and BBC to lock Jo Swinson out of the debate to be Prime Minister. The “excuse” which they won’t say too loud is that “only Johnson or Corbyn can be Prime Minister”. They won’t say that too loud in case someone realises that that means there’s something WRONG with the election.

The Labservative framing of the Election is pushing people into the old choice of “who do you fear more?” Vote Labour to stop the Tories getting in; Vote Tory to keep Corbyn out. Don’t vote Lib Dem or you’ll let the others in!

We should be doing so much better than this.

When we campaigned in the Euro Elections on our VALUES, we WON.

It’s been a JOY to support Siobhan Benita’s campaign to be Mayor of London, because she’s been talking to people about our VALUES – and making speeches saying: “immigration is good” and “end the war on drugs”. Liberal solutions to crime, housing, clean air that liberal London needs.

And I have been BEGGING to stand for Parliament on a Liberal Values ticket, to say we can be radical and different. We NEED Liberal Voices to be there, so that the case for Liberalism is made. LOUDLY and OFTEN.

Instead we’ve positioned ourselves as safe and sensible. The moderate centrists rather than the extremist wingnuts of right and left. There are GOOD things in our manifesto. But also too much “don’t scare the horses”.

Well Liberal Democrats SHOULD scare the horses.

If the plan is to get noticed, then RADICAL GETS NOTICED. Soggy centrist mush does not.

Look at the alternatives:

Corbyn cannot make his mind up (or cannot ADMIT to making his mind up) on the biggest issue since the end of World War Part II. And cannot bring himself to clean house even in the face of overwhelming evidence of antisemitism riddling his Party.

But somehow WE’RE the bad guys for not standing down for any pro-Europe Labour MPs who – no matter how pro-Europe – will still trot happily behind putting an antisemitic Lexiter into Downing Street.

Johnson, by his own admission, should be looking out ditches to go lie in. His hope to bounce parliament and country into his “deal” without scrutiny has failed.

But the message that he’s a failure has been allowed to slip away, by letting him have the pre-Christmas election he was gagging for, making him look again like the master of the agenda, rather than the servant of chaos.

Why are we not cutting through against two appalling LOSERS?

Because we are campaigning in GREY when we should be campaigning in GOLD.


We are letting the Tories get away with setting the agenda, THEIR agenda, defining Brexit as nearly done, rather than about to get a whole lot worse, and all the empty promises they can make from a dividend they will never deliver. We are letting Labour’s attacks pull us onto THEIR territory (you’re with us or you’re Tories). We’re NOT playing to our RADICAL strengths.

So we need to be LEADING THE FIGHT against the Tories more.

And we need to start LOVE BOMBING the Labour lot more.

In her leadership campaign, and in her victory speech, Jo talked about building a LIBERAL MOVEMENT, drawing on people from all traditions, Liberal, Green, Tory AND Labour.

We’ve gone all in to win over Tory remain voters – but at the risk of alienating the social democratic voters who we need too.

Labour voters think Labour are the GOODIES (they’re wrong, but you can’t tell ‘em that – it’s an emotional thing). To win them over, we need to be showing we are GOOD too (and BETTER!).

They GET the problem with Corbyn. Many of them SHARE it.

But seeming to attack Jeremy more than Johnson risks that. Yes, we say “no deals with Johnson or Corbyn”, but they HEAR “no deal with mwah mwah mwah Corbyn”. Well actually they HEAR “we hate Magic Grandpa!”

We have clear lines of attack on Labour: antisemitism, irresponsible spending, arrogant, out-of-touch leader and above all the dithering indecision over Brexit because Jeremy decided the EU was a bad thing when Tony Benn told him so in 1975 and he hasn’t changed his mind about a single thing since.

But beyond “Stop Brexit” what are our clear attack lines on the Tories? We have a route map to Zero Carbon Britain; they would rather back fracking. We would build a better economy based on a new green deal; they scrapped it. We would tackle the root causes of crime; they just want to lock more people up. Why aren’t we saying these things more. And loudly.

Sure, we should say Labour are WRONG: we think they have the wrong answers or no answers.

And with Labour attacking us, we are RIGHT to point out their hypocrisy.

They say austerity is a failed Tory ideology. Our plans to invest in education and health are BETTER than Labour’s.
They say there is a climate crisis. Our plans to achieve Zero Carbon Britain are BETTER than Labour’s.
They say crime is a blight on lives. Our plans to tackle knife crime, end the war on drugs, and work for and with young people are BETTER than Labour’s.

But we still need to be beating the Tories over the head with their Brexitopocalypse MORE.

Tories CHOSE the austerity, and kept it going way past the point it might have been working.

Tories abandoned all the GOOD GREEN investments that Lib Dems began in the Coalition, throwing green businesses under the bus.

Tories cut the police and knife crime got worse under Boris Johnson as Mayor of London. He HID from the riots and cannot face a crisis.

And Brexit makes austerity worse, makes it harder to tackle the climate crisis working alone not with Europe, has triggered an eruption of hate attacks that have pushed fear of crime way up.

With all of the defections – and in spite of the wonderful Luciana Berger and fantastic Chuka Umunna being ex-Labour (but Blairites so – to the Corbyn Cult – “Tories” anyway) – making us look more like a Tory Lifeboat for the soft liberal wing of the Conservatories, or worse the Continuity Cameron/Clegg Party, we need to be DISTINCTIVELY LIBERAL. Not “I’m Tory Plan B”.

The Tories have RUINED this Country. Liberalism WOULD DO BETTER.
Labour have LET the Tories RUIN this Country. Liberalism WOULD DO BETTER.

I love Jo. And I think she IS distinctive. Her interview on ITV was positive and upbeat, especially after the slapstick debacle of Johnson and Jeremy going at each other, but not listening to anyone for an hour. But we need more.

If we are going to Stop Brexit and Build a Better Future… we are going to need to Build a Better Liberal Democrats.

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