The Lib Dems are the voice of those who see a positive future in Europe

While the national emergency grows Labour and the Tory Party are pre-occupied with who is going to bag what job.

The look of wide-eyed, guilty panic in the eyes of Boris Johnston and Michael Gove on Friday morning hinted at what was later confirmed: the Brexiteers who had schemed for this moment all their political lives had absolutely no plan for life after Thursday.

But those of us who argued passionately that Britain should remain in Europe should also concede that there is little consensus among progressives now Britain has voted “out” – either how we will improve the lives of those who felt so left behind that they voted to Leave, or to build a winning coalition to rescue disadvantaged people from the clutches of right-wing escapism.

The Conservative Party has just crashed the economy, left Britain more alone than at any point I can ever remember, and betrayed the hopes of a generation – and while the national emergency grows, our governing party is pre-occupied with who is going to bag what job. Yet progressives must recognise that the reason we could face an early general election is because the Tories still think they can win one, despite putting a bomb under their much-vaunted reputation for economic competence.

And the basis for that frankly sickening Tory confidence is clear. Jeremy Corbyn is a decent man, but he never even enjoyed the confidence of Labour MPs to lose.

I fought a positive campaign, working with others, setting out an optimistic, open vision of Britain. But sometimes Labour seemed keener to give a bloody nose to David Cameron [or Jeremy Corbyn – Ed] than to keep us in Europe, even though membership of the European Union is way more important.

For a Liberal Democrat, this is visceral. I am an internationalist, who believes we must work across borders to face the great challenges such as the world’s largest ever movement of people, climate change, the rising power of multi-nationals and terrorism, along with the arrival in the international labour market of a billion Chinese workers which has depressed wages across the western world. A progressive political settlement needs international co-operation, and it has been the EU that has guaranteed worker rights, consumer protection and environmental safeguards.

But if you are a progressive, pro-European who recognises that you need a successful economy to deliver social justice, I just don’t see a future for you in Labour. Even if Labour MPs achieve their “Jexit”, might not Labour members simply elect someone equally extreme – leaving the path clear for a Tory Party to beat up on the poor?

And this makes me furious. The IPPR has shown that the poorest will be hit twice as hard as the richest by new inflation caused by sterling’s slide. The pound is at its lowest in 30 years. There is now a £900bn hole in the pension funds.

Low-paid workers are worried sick today about their jobs, with Tata Steel now at risk. Some leftists might enjoy seeing trading in banks being temporarily suspended, but the reduction in the value of the state’s share in RBS has already cost taxpayers £7.3bn. And as with the last recession, it will be the poorest who pay.

But there is a rallying point for progressives who refuse to settle for a future of glowering across the White Cliffs of Dover. That rallying point is the Liberal Democrats. Since I announced that we would go into the next election as the only party calling for Britain to remain in the EU, thousands have joined our party, at the rate of one a minute.

By yesterday, almost 7,000 had joined, and the number’s rising.

We must be the voice of those who see a positive future in Europe. Young people – 73 per cent of whom voted to Remain – are determined to keep opportunities to travel, work and study abroad. More than that, these new members want to demonstrate that Britain remains an internationalist, open and optimistic country.

But as a progressive I am just as concerned about the 52 per cent who voted to leave. Many, understandably, feel marginalised, with stagnating wages, insufficient training to gain better jobs, a housing shortage and struggling NHS. Ironically, the vote was less a rejection of Europe as a rejection of a Westminster that seems disinterested in the problems of people it purports to represent.

It is the disadvantaged whose modest living standards face a further assault thanks to “Brex-trick”.

My number one priority has always been to transform education and training, better housing and healthcare to give real life chances. The British are naturally welcoming, and many concerns that have been attributed to immigration are actually about the disgraceful lack of opportunity to move into better jobs, to get a house, or a school space for your child. These are challenges that I am determined to fight for.

Liberalism is about championing the individual against the powerful. That means standing firm for our Human Rights Act, against internet surveillance and illiberal extremism orders. But it’s also about protecting individuals from those giant evils that rob people of their freedom: poverty, poor housing and inequality. This is my pitch – to centrist and centre-left voters.

I believe in four core principles. Freedom – the right of people to live as they see fit; the second is democracy – a state that supports freedom has to be democratic, with power dispersed, which is why we fought to democratise Europe.

Tim Farron – Lib Dem Leader wrote this piece for the Independent on-line newspaper

The Trade Union Movement is dying & needs urgent reform

The trade union movement is, I fear, slowly slipping away and becoming irrelevant to modern day life and I say that as a committed trade unionist. It was taken into a nursing home a few years ago but is now slowly day by day slipping away.

The modern world is all about individual freedoms far more than it is about collectivism. It probably started in the 1980’s and Thatcher probably started it. But the mistake trade unions make is to assume that individual freedoms are always trumped by collectivism – they aren’t and until unions can really grasp this they will continue to be on the slide.

As a Liberal who understands why collective action can be vital for the common good but who also sees why individual freedoms are just if not more vital this is not a concern but a change that has to be addressed by a trade union movement that does not cope with change at all well. Indeed, it is that inability to modernise, until it is too late, that has bedeviled unions for years.

Just cast your mind back to the 1970’s and 80’s, trade unions were headline news day in day out, maybe not always for the right reasons, but they were a force to be reckoned with. Now trade unions are in the news far less often because they are becoming less relevant to the lives of ordinary people.

Trade unions are also in financial difficulty too. Falling membership, feeling that they can’t charge the level of membership fees they would like to/need to and having to merge with other unions are all big issues driven by money worries. My own union, PCS, has even cancelled democracy recently by deferring internal elections to save money.

But why post this piece now? Well it came to mind because of a number of unrelated conversations and newspaper/internet articles that I had read in recent months. They seemed to form a common thread for me and that thread was that UK unions seem to struggle these days to back individual members who are in difficulty. One of those conversations was with my old chum Roy Connell, a committed trade unionist all his working life.

I must have heard and read about half a dozen cases where members with difficulties were not backed by their union and either had to fight their case on their own or were not able fight at all. A common issue seems to be ‘the union will not fund the legal battle’ and this is often down to a risk assessment by union bean counters of how much money a case may cost. Again, the tightness of money means that unions are far more picky these days about which legal cases they will back.

But now it is getting out that unions are effectively backing out of backing their members when they are in trouble can only make folk less inclined to join a union. A vicious circle indeed.

Fighting high profile social justice campaigns is of course bread and butter to trade unions. However, if they are channeling scare resources into this collective/political work whilst leaving their members high and dry when they need legal backing then the wrong balance is surely being struck.

Many of the freedoms that we all take for granted these days (even by those who vote Tory/UKIP) were gained for us by the trade union movement but as society has changed our unions have been slow to react and at times unwilling to react.

It’s no use union executive committees and general secretaries being up for the next internal fight for the Labour Party’s soul whilst their members see them (and the Labour Party) as being out of touch with their world, because I fear that is what’s happening. Collectivism is not now king and maybe it is only on a par with if not behind the individual issues that folks join trade unions for. They want their union to back them when they are in difficulty above all else. Fighting the political battles of the day usually passes them by whether union leaders like it or not.

So the challenge for trade unionists is to reinvent a trade union movement that is very much stuck in a rut and has found the rut a comfortable place to be except for the lack of money flowing into it of course!