Iain Dale Reviews WINNING HERE by Chris Rennard

  • March 27, 2018 21:12
  • Iain Dale

It may have taken my 15 years, but I always get my man in the end. Back in 2003 I asked Chris Rennard to write a book about the art of political campaigning. If my memory is correct, he liked the idea but didn’t feel he could do it while still working actively for the LibDems. He’s now written the first volume of his memoirs covering his life up until 2006, and I published the book in January.

To understand the success of the Liberal Democrats in the period 1988-2006 you absolutely have to read this book. Rennard has an encyclopeadic memory for details of each and every by-election and doesn’t hold back in his assessment of all the various personalities involved in the LibDem politics of the period. His insights into the leaderships of Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy shed a lot of new light on the politics of the period. He is especially good on Kennedy, analysing in detail the trials and tribulations the party went through on deciding to oppose the Iraq war, and also the events which led to Kennedy’s fall from power. He also gives fresh insights into how he and the party handled the Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes media scandals.

Some of the best bits of the book concern the concept of LibDem pavement politics. Rennard may not have been the inventor of pavement politics, but he will forever be associated with its developement and implementation. His skill in developing strategies to win both local and national by-elections leaves the reader awestruck. When he was in charge of by-elections the LibDems would invariably win them. Nowadays they rarely do. There’s a reason for that. Rennard isn’t in charge any longer, and people who think they know better than him aren’t fit to lick his electoral boots.

Some LibDems who aren’t fans of Rennard may think he overclaims the successes he contributed to – or overplays his role in them, but they would be mistaken. I know from personal experience his ability to stick his finger into the electoral wind and see which way it is blowing. Back in the summer of 2003 I told him I was thinking of applying to stand against Norman Lamb in the 2005 election. Lamb had a majority of 483 at the time, and I thought I could easily overturn it. Rennard told me I should look elswhere, but I thought I knew better. He said: “Dont go for it, Norman will increase his majority to more than 10,000”. I laughed. I wasn’t laughing on election night when the majority was announced as 10,606. I’ve often wondered how different my life might have been had I taken Chris Rennard’s advice…

But the real beauty of this book is found in the first few chapters detailing Rennard’s childhood in Liverpool. I often skip reading about people’s childhoods in books of this nature, but that would be a great mistake in this case. I won’t give too much detail but suffice to say there wasn’t a lot of money around and following his mother’s untimely death Chris and his younger brother were left to their own devices. His ability to come through that and finish his schooling is something to behold, given the circumstances. Like a lot of people, Chris Rennard then found a new family in the Liberal Party. It embraced him, encouraged him, but it also used him, and then, when he became an inconvenience they spat him out.

Just an accusation of wrongdoing can render you a non person in the political world, whatever the truth turns out to be. A forty year history of sacrificing your personal life and your health counts for little when you become the centre of sexual harassment allegations. Five years on, everyone remembers the allegations, but I wonder how many people remember that both the party inquiry and the police inquiry found there was no evidence and therefore delivered a verdict of ‘no further action’.

I’ve had various people tell me I shouldn’t have published this book, given those allegations. I stand by the age-old principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. What a pity so many people in the so-called ‘liberal’ Democrats find that such a difficult concept. Chris Rennard has a fascinating story to tell, and he has every right to be heard. Those who think the LibDems have nothing to learn from him illustrate why they remain at 7% in the polls, have lost most of their MPs and have their lowest number of councillors for decades.


A response to Owen Jones.

  • March 26, 2018 11:49
  • John Nickson

Reducing inequality requires higher pay as well as higher taxes.

Owen Jones (23 March 2018) is right to say that wealth should be taxed to address inequality but does not go far enough. As a member of the top 1% by income and assets, I believe I should pay more tax but the reality is that everyone will have to pay more tax at Scandinavian levels to sustain the NHS and a social democratic society. That ought to include taxing gifts and inheritance as income and capital gains tax on all property sales including homes.

Higher taxes, however, will not be enough to counter increasing inequality. The wage share and capital share of wealth need to change. I favour capitalism but the current model is regressive. Socially responsible capitalism requires more regulation and policies designed to encourage companies to spend less on dividends and more on pay.

'Our Common Good' by John Nickson



Early Day motion for Behind the Blue Line

  • March 21, 2018 14:03
  • Biteback

Sir Peter Bottomley MP has submitted an Early day motion calling for an inquiry into events covered in Behind the Blue Line: My fight against racism and discrimination in the Police by former Metropolitan Police Sergeant Gurpal Virdi.


Early day motion 1093


Session: 2017-19

Date tabled: 20.03.2018

Primary sponsor: Bottomley, Peter


Total number of signatures: 1

Bottomley, Peter


That this House calls for an inquiry into the investigations and prosecution decisions that preceded the acquittal of retired Metropolitan Police Sergeant Councillor Gurpal Virdi, to establish how there could be a trial without evidence from PC Markwick and PC Mady, how PC Makins could be a prosecution witness when his statement contradicted specific claims by the complainant, how the Crown Prosecution Service could have believed the false allegation of indecent assault with a collapsible baton a decade before they were introduced, and to establish why the Independent Police Complaints Commission referred Mr Virdi's complaint to the Metropolitan Police Department of Professional Standards whose peculiar original investigation led to the false statements about Mr Virdi and to the unjustified prosecution.


Confessions of a Recovering MP

  • March 12, 2018 12:41
  • Nick de Bois

Confessions of a Recovering MP by Nick de Bois

You are not an executive who can make and enforce decisions. You are a legislator who votes on making laws.

You are not a counsellor, a housing officer, benefits clerk, bank or trading standards officer, but you are often expected to provide a new home, sort out benefits, provide a loan or settle a dispute about a computer game bought for little Jimmy that doesn't work.

You are, in fact, a 21st century Member of Parliament representing about 125,000 good folk from your constituency by taking your seat in probably the finest parliament in the world (despite what you may read or hear in the media).

You are elected by a simple majority from roughly 50,000 people who mark their ‘X’ by your name at a general election, hoping that you will be able to make a difference somehow.

Then, when as a new MP, you walk through the Members Lobby filled with a vision of how you will leave your mark on this place and this nation, what you are almost certainly unaware of is that your constituents, your government, the press and the very institution of the Palace of Westminster have other plans for you.

So it was for Nick de Bois in May 2010 when, with an unimpressive and insecure majority of 1,682, he began the journey of a life time, meeting head-on the bizarre, the inexplicable, the touching, the shocking, the vitally important and, thank god, lots of utter nonsense as well.

Click here to watch: https://streamable.com/k2hm4

Twitter: @nickdebois

TO READ MORE: http://bit.ly/2Cyy16H


The Lib Dem Spring Conference is upon us

  • March 09, 2018 13:00
  • Biteback Publishing

The Lib Dem Spring Conference kicks off in Southport this weekend.

Whether you want an insider's look at the world of political campaigning, an account of the realities of life in coalition, or a look at the achievements of British Liberal leaders through history, here are our recommendations for some supplementary reading for anyone at #LDConf ...


Winning Here

By Chris Rennard

By his 20s Chris Rennard was the most successful election campaigner his party has ever known.

He helped the Liberal Party win power in Liverpool in the 1970s  and campaigned for Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins in famous by-elections which helped the Liberal SDP Alliance to compete for power before its acrimonious collapse in the late 80’s. He was then responsible for a series of spectacular by-election victories that rescued his party’s fortunes and he oversaw a huge increase in the party’s number of MPs and elected representatives. Liberal leaders Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy, Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg would all rely on him as the party grew to the peak of its success.

There will never be a better inside account of a political party, or contemporary history of the Liberal Democrats. Winning Here is a record that shows how election campaigns are really fought and won and how party leaders change and parties develop. Similarly, there will never be a commentator better placed to tell this story.

Buy now.




Coalition Diaries, 2012–2015

By David Laws

Acclaimed as one of the sharpest political minds of his generation, David Laws saw his ministerial career nosedive before it had properly begun when, after only seventeen days as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he was forced to resign over unintended breaches of the rules on parliamentary expenses.

But you can’t keep a good man down, and Laws returned to government, where he was responsible for implementing the coalition agreement and planning the Lib Dems’ strategy in the run-up to the 2015 election. He began writing a diary in March 2012 and continued with it throughout his ministerial career, capturing his private reflections and immediate, detailed recollections of key events.

Frank, acerbic, sometimes shocking and often funny, Coalition Diaries chronicles the historic Liberal Democrat–Conservative coalition government through the eyes of someone at the heart of the action. It offers extraordinary pen portraits of all the personalities involved, and candid insider insight into one of the most fascinating periods of recent British political history.

More here.




British Liberal Leaders

By Duncan BrackTony Little, and Robert Ingham

As the governing party of peace and reform, and then as the third party striving to keep the flame of freedom alive, the Liberal Party, the SDP and the Liberal Democrats have played an undoubtedly crucial role in the shaping of contemporary British society. And yet, the leaders who have stood at its helm – from Earl Grey to Nick Clegg, via William Gladstone, David Lloyd George and Paddy Ashdown – have steered the Liberal vessel with enormously varying degrees of success.

This comprehensive and enlightening book considers the attributes and achievements of each leader in the context of their respective time and political landscape, offering a compelling analytical framework by which they may be judged, detailed personal biographies from some of the leading academics and experts on Liberal history, and exclusive interviews with former leaders themselves.

An indispensable contribution to the study of party leadership, British Liberal Leaders is the essential guide to understanding British political history and governance through the prism of those who created it. More here.


For more Lib Dem books and ideas, click here!