Why on earth did Stephen Lloyd stand for election?

I was originally going to title this blog post ‘Stephen Lloyd – principled or perverse?’. I changed the titled on quick reflection because there is no two ways about it. He knew what the Lib Dem party stood for and, yet, reneged on his obligation to the party’s primary platform which is to be the anti Brexit party. 

Caron Lindsay has written about Mr Lloyd resigning the whip due to ‘irreconcilable differences’. Blinking heck, how on earth was Mr Lloyd expecting to reconcile an anti-Brexit with a pro-Brexit stance? I think he was taking the concept of ‘Centrism’ a little too far by expecting some sort of middle road to spring up when none exists. 

Quite rightly Caron Lindsay asks why the party allowed him to stand in the first place knowing his views? The cynic in me thinks that both the party and Mr Lloyd were desperate for a win and kicked the problem into the long grass instead of addressing it head on. 

The party has made a big deal of the cohesion that exists within Lib Dem MPs, in contrast to Labour and Tory MPs, and to have an MP renege on that collective position over something so fundamental and long standing does not make sense in the least. 

There is no whitewashing Mr Lloyd’s position and the party should have learnt the negative lessons of doing that from the Coalition years. You can’t place yourself in an untenable position and then call for the application of nuances to get you out of it. 

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8 Comments

  1. David Evans
    December 13, 2018 / 2:00 am

    The problem you have is that despite all you have said, Stephen Lloyd is a damn good Lib Dem and a damn good MP. In 2010 he won his seat with a majority of 3,400 and nearly held it in the Clegg catastrophe election of 2015, only losing by 733. A much better result than most other MPs. In 2016 Eastbourne voted leave by 57% to 43%, and despite this, Stephen won it back in 2017, but only after promising to support the decision of his voters and back Brexit.

    What he has done is the total opposite of the mess Nick Clegg made in coalition. Nick made a promise and broke it almost from day 1. Stephen made a promise and kept it. As a result he is there, doing good Lib Dem stuff in parliament and Eastbourne.

    If he hadn’t made the pledge, he almost certainly would have lost again in 2017, and instead of having a good Lib Dem doing things we all agree on 90% of the time, Eastbourne would have had another identikit Conservative, undoing even more Liberal Democracy, as fast as he/she could.

    You all have to decide whether you accept some diversity and prefer someone you agree with 90% of the time who gets elected or no diversity and get someone you agree with 100% of the time but who loses.

    One thing is certain, you don’t deliver Liberal Democracy for the people of this country if you lose. You can deliver some if you win. I know which I prefer.

    • ambitiousmamas
      Author
      December 17, 2018 / 9:05 pm

      Dear David
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think that the dichotomy which you present as being between accepting diversity and conformity is applicable in a wider sense of the debate about whom we want in politics. With Stephen Lloyd, the debate is a narrower one. While I have no doubt that he is a good MP, the fact remains that he stood for election knowing that the Lib Dems were a remain party. He was standing on a Leave ticket. Breaking ranks with a single strong message that is the mainstay of a political party is not diversity, it’s illogical. When he votes against Remain in Parliament the wider electorate will criticise the Lib Dem party for it because every single MPs vote will count. This, in my opinion, is how Liberal Democracy can be won.
      Would be interested in hearing your counter thoughts.
      Jane

  2. Robert Sayer
    December 13, 2018 / 9:28 am

    The only point I would make is when does Stephen think his committment to Eastbourne voters comes to an end. Does he support no deal or is that the break point

    • ambitiousmamas
      Author
      December 17, 2018 / 9:08 pm

      Dear Robert,
      Thank you for leaving your very astute comment. Did Stephen think through his stance on Brexit and did he realise that it would present more than a binary choice of leave and remain? Leave translates into no deal, leave with a deal, leave with a bad deal and who knows what else.
      Do you think that Stephen thought it through?
      thank you
      Jane

  3. DAVID FENTON
    December 17, 2018 / 5:11 pm

    I nagree completely with David Evans. Are we Really saying we can have no diversity of opinions. I have been an active Liberal / LibDem for 65 years and have discovered that even Liberals can be pretty illiberal and I have been appalled at some of the situations I have witnessed over the years.

  4. ambitiousmamas
    Author
    December 17, 2018 / 9:14 pm

    Dear David,
    Thank you for sharing your experience of 65 years. That is really impressive.
    I think that while a diversity of opinions is really to be welcomed there comes a time when it just falls outside of a main message and comes unstuck. A diversity of opinions on Brexit is what we have in Parliament but the fact stands that the Lib Dems are a Remain party. It’s in our DNA. I have no doubt that Stephen is a good MP. I am not calling that into question. I just don’t understand why one would stand for a party which has a central message that that candidate would then go against?
    What do you think?
    Thank you
    Jane

  5. Dean Crofts
    December 28, 2018 / 2:53 pm

    Your blog post shows an illiberal view of who we should be in the Liberal Democrat party.

    We need to embrace all leavers and remain voters if as a party we want to succeed.

    Stephen is a fantastic MP, is representing his areas views as all MP’s are elected to do and campaigns on welfare issues which would make the Liberal Democrats more popular than Labour if only we as a party stopped talking about just Brexit.

    The next thing, I suppose, is that you will be calling for all members of the Liberal Democrats who have different views on Brexit to leave the party?

    Until we who voted remain, me included, recognise the reasons why people voted to leave the EU, will we continue to remain at 7 – 10% in the polls.

    It is liberal that we listen and understand all views not just Flag ourselves as a one issue – not listening to any other view – party.

    • ambitiousmamas
      Author
      December 29, 2018 / 8:29 pm

      Dear Dean,
      My blog post was solely intended to be a critique of Stephen Lloyd’s position on Brexit and not of the party membership.

      You conflate the two which I don’t for the following reasons:
      1. MPs are front line representatives of a political party. Members aren’t. Some members may play the role of ambassadors for their parties if they choose to canvass or recruit potential members. In this way they are representing the party but they don’t have an official mandate from the party to promise anything or not.

      2. The ones with official mandates are a party’s MPs. An MP is expected to agree with the party’s official lines especially if it’s a central message like the Lib Dem’s pro EU stance. It operates much like the norm of collective responsibility though I don’t think this applies to MPs who are not in Government.

      3. Not all party members will agree at all times with the party’s official lines and, yes, this includes the Lib Dem party who do have ‘Leavers’. Party members do not have the same obligations or carry the same voter expectation as MPs do. If party members disagree they are, of course, free to remain as members to have their views heard. Plurality of opinions is to be welcomed but the point I make is that plurality of opinions among MPs on a central message like Brexit is odd given that Lib Dems are being seen as a single issue party on it.

      4. I have no doubt that Stephen Lloyd is a good MP. I don’t call into question his ability to do the job. I questioned his stance taken in the first instance.

      5. Why on earth would I or anyone in the party call for fellow members to leave over Brexit? At the end of the day our opinions only count as a chorus of voices over our opinions on Brexit. Unless there is a second referendum our voices will count for zilch. However, our MPs voices do count via votes. Imagine if a vote was won by 1 in a debate which the Lib Dem leadership has taken a stance against? Would the public forgive us? Tim and Vince missing the vote is still thrown up all the time.

      I do recognise why people voted to leave and I was against austerity which the Lib Dems in coalition help implement. It caused me angst and disappointment in many ways. Austerity was and is illiberal.

      Thank you for leaving your comment
      Jane

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