Kramer and Heath walk out of Lib Dem shadow cabinet meeting (UPDATED)

by Stephen Tall on March 5, 2008

According, at any rate, to the Daily Mail’s Ben Brogan:

My colleague Jane Merrick has learned that Susan Kramer walked out of a “shadow cabinet” meeting this morning in a symbolic show of frustration over the leader’s confused position on an EU referendum. She was followed by David Heath. Bizarrely, Ms Kramer will abstain with Mr Clegg tomorrow, while Mr Heath will defy the Whip by voting for a referendum.

As LDV reported yesterday, when a Maastricht Treaty referendum was debated in Parliament in 1993, the party was also split – but on that occasion, a free vote was offered, sparing any political embarrassment. Why not this time?

Update (8.40 am, 5/3/08): Adrian Sanders gives the real reason for the ‘walk-out’, in the comments below. Some uninformed tittle-tattle from Mr Brogan, it seems.

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Vindication is sweet!

by Steve Garner on March 4, 2008 at 9:59 pm. Reply #

Is she trying to mindlessly undermine the leadership? That interview about running for joint leader. Walking out but not voting with the Tories or Labour. Seems a tad silly.

by James Schneider on March 5, 2008 at 2:39 am. Reply #

Nick did a good job explaining our Party’s stance and reasons for abstaining to Paxo on Newsnight last night.

Can’t help feel most of this will wash over the electorate.

We could do with a little more consideration of the impact from MPs who want to take a different line – is their action going to get them anywhere or is it just going to show up a s disunity and reflect badly on all?

by Paul L on March 5, 2008 at 8:12 am. Reply #

I really despair when people blog about something that originates third hand from a Daily Mail attack dog. It then gets copied and commented upon all over the internet before the truth is finally revealed.

She had a meeting to go to and so she left the meeting. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by Adrian Sanders on March 5, 2008 at 8:24 am. Reply #

Adrian – don’t despair – you’ve now had the chance to set the record straight!

Would you have commented on Ben Brogan’s blog? And if you had, how many Lib Dems would have seen it?

Part of the point of LDV is to allow better communication about all sorts of Lib Dem stories – the good and, sometimes, the bad.

by Stephen Tall on March 5, 2008 at 8:36 am. Reply #

Paul L wrote:
“Nick did a good job explaining our Party’s stance and reasons for abstaining to Paxo on Newsnight last night.”

Hmmm. Can anyone explain what he meant when he said that “the Labour party has renegued on its commitment to have a referendum”?

If they have, why haven’t we?

Chris Phillips

by cgp on March 5, 2008 at 9:40 am. Reply #

Quite right. To get Nick’s point, you have to pay attention, and when you do. it unravels. You are not he first to point out the ‘slip of the tongue’. A similiar one happened in Parliament yesterday.
The stance on this issue is damaging our crediblity and that of a new leader.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the extra coverage brought a slight poll bounce but in the long run….it has left us looking at best cynical and at worst, silly [or should that be the other way round!]

by Sal on March 5, 2008 at 10:15 am. Reply #

4 – Yes but what meeting and where?!!!

by Jo on March 5, 2008 at 10:23 am. Reply #

Ask Susan – it’s what the person who blogged this in the first place should have done before posting anything.

by Adrian Sanders on March 5, 2008 at 10:28 am. Reply #

Why do we non-Libbies take the p*ss out of you lot on a regular basis? I thought that this thread- and other discussion points on the site is evidence enough! Keep up the good work!

by simon on March 5, 2008 at 10:30 am. Reply #

*Gulp* I don’t think I should ever ever ever give up my day job to blog….:@P

by Jo on March 5, 2008 at 10:33 am. Reply #

Simon, if Lib Dems were to take note of your comment we wouldn’t be Lib Dems. On the other hand we might be in Government!

by Adrian Sanders on March 5, 2008 at 10:40 am. Reply #

Adrian, you should be in panto along with the rest of your colleagues! Libbies in government? Christ, you lot were bad enough in Scotland; and to let you lot loose in government in the UK?!? Doesn’t bear thinking about! The ONLY positive thing about Libbies having more prominence is that you lot are good for a scandal! Don’t own a dog do you!

by simon on March 5, 2008 at 10:45 am. Reply #

Good for a scandal?!!!! When was the last time we had one? Two years ago?!! And in the week of Lee Jasper no less!


by Jo on March 5, 2008 at 10:51 am. Reply #

cgp: We haven’t reneged because our policy on the referendum is to have an in/out referendum, on the grounds that this is the closest thing now possible to the manifesto commitment to a constitution referendum. Labour are not arguing for any referendum at all, so they have reneged.

by Andy Hinton on March 5, 2008 at 10:54 am. Reply #

Nonsense. This is what Clegg blurted out during his Newsnight interview last night, 27:32 in, here:

“Jeremy, am I supposed to be surprised that the Labour party, that has reneged on its commitment to a referendum, and doesn’t want to have a referendum of any sort … ”

As the Lib Dem commitment was the same as the Labour party commitment, “logically” (to use one of his favourite words) this is an admission that the Lib Dems are also reneging on their commitment – notwithstanding all his sophistry about the Lisbon Treaty being very different to the Constitutional Treaty, not being the treaty mentioned in the Lib Dem manifesto because it didn’t even exist at that time, etc etc.

by Another Denis on March 5, 2008 at 11:00 am. Reply #

Andy Hinton wrote:
“We haven’t reneged because our policy on the referendum is to have an in/out referendum, on the grounds that this is the closest thing now possible to the manifesto commitment to a constitution referendum.”

Of course it isn’t.

A referendum on whether we should leave the EU is completely different from the referendum we committed ourselves to in 2005. We all know the policy of supporting an “in-out” referendum was simply an expedient to address divisions within the party over the Lisbon treaty.

It can be argued that the Lisbon treaty is sufficiently different from the constitutional treaty that we’re not reneguing on our commitment. But in that case, neither is the Labour party.

Chris Phillips

by cgp on March 5, 2008 at 11:08 am. Reply #

Could someone please explain to me how we got to a scenario where half a dozen well respected Liberal Democrat MPs may lose their jobs, just because they think, as do most members of the public, that a promise to hold a referendum over a constitution should also bind a treaty which is 90%+ the same ?? Okay, some people would take the view that a referendum is not necessary, but is that enough of a reason to fire people who hold the perfectly reasonable view that the spirit of the manifesto commitment is best served by having a referendum on the Lisbon ‘treaty’ ??

by Alessandra on March 5, 2008 at 11:12 am. Reply #

Just want to say that I didn’t have any grasp of the issues before I started reading about Europe on the blogs and Lib Dem Voice so keep up the great work!

by Too embarrassed to reveal my identity! on March 5, 2008 at 11:18 am. Reply #

If all your knowledge is from blogs then I promise you that you know far less now than you did before.

by Jonny on March 5, 2008 at 12:31 pm. Reply #

I’d love to connect all those against a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty up to a lie detector and ask this one simple question:

Do you think that the EU Contitution has been rebadged as the Lisbon Treaty to avoid a referendum?

by Steve Green on March 5, 2008 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

Sorry that should be Constitution. Bugger.

by Steve Green on March 5, 2008 at 1:59 pm. Reply #

Unfortunately the walk-out story is also in the Scotsman, which says that “several” walked out of the meeting, and quotes a “senior MP” as saying of Clegg:
“He is in really big trouble and needs to learn to pick his fights more carefully.”–

Chris Phillips

by cgp on March 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm. Reply #

Steve, I agree that to an outsider it looks like the most cynical exploitation of the gap between the spirit / letter of the law to amend what was the Constitution by just enough to be able to claim legally, or legalistically, that no referendum is required.

This is the worst sort of ‘read the small print’ mendacity which pi$$es off so many voters when they feel that, despite what can be proven by the ‘letter of the law’, they have been stitched up like a kipper.

The entire Lib Dem front bench, and the Government, should be really ashamed of themselves for this anti-democratic tosh.

by Alessandra on March 5, 2008 at 2:39 pm. Reply #

I would be happy with a free Parliamentary vote on the Lisbon Treaty but it’s a nonsense to say it’s the same as the constitution.

We should have more referendums in this country, but on clear issues of principle, not details of treaties or legislation. That is what Parliament is for.

Instead of debating a dummy referendum on the treaty we should have a vote on the real deal: EU in or out.

As for the coverage, it seems we have to have a row to make headlines. “Lib Dems united in favour of their party policy” is not going to catch attention. Conflict is news; consensus is not.

by Bridget Fox on March 5, 2008 at 3:12 pm. Reply #

“it is being reported by Sky News that Countryside Spokesman Tim Farron, Justice Spokesman David Heath, and Alistair Carmichael, who speaks on Scotland and Northern Ireland, are expected to stand down from the Liberal Democrat front bench following a vote this evening on a Conservative amendment to the EU Treaty, which calls for a referendum.”

by Andy Mayer on March 5, 2008 at 3:22 pm. Reply #,,91211-1308117,00.html

by Andy Mayer on March 5, 2008 at 3:23 pm. Reply #


That is a real shame. Having to step down for representing your constituents can’t be right.


Your leader has already made a fool of himself and the party for pushing out such drivel. It’s split the party and caused good MPs to stand down.

Loyalty is good, but not when it will destroy the party.

by Steve Green on March 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm. Reply #

The Party’s attempted repositioning on this and fig-leaf excuse to do so could never really hold up to scrutiny, and unfortunately it hasn’t done.

It also looks set to create an obvious imminent fallout – the only question is how big.

There were better issues on which to flag a repositioning than this. Those MPs sticking to the spirit of the Manifesto are right to do so, and it is regrettable not just that doing so may cost them their jobs, but that a wish to remain on the front bench will deter many from voting in line with what we broadly promised.

I simply don’t buy the argument that the Treaty is something significantly lesser and that it’s therefore OK to use Lib Dem MPs’ votes to ensure Brown is not defeated. Moreover, members have had no real say in the New party line.

by Martin Pantling on March 5, 2008 at 3:55 pm. Reply #

Apologies. I should have said: I don’t buy that it’s OK to STOP Liberal Democrat MPs using their votes in a way they feel they promised the electorate that they would, just to ensure Brown is not defeated.

The current line exposes the fact that the Party leadership do not believe we can win a referendum, so cannot face bringing one about. The Pro-European stance has outweighed the Democratic stance.

by Martin Pantling on March 5, 2008 at 4:37 pm. Reply #

Carmichael’s just resigned

by Jo on March 5, 2008 at 4:55 pm. Reply #

Re: “Conflict is news; consensus is not.”

Which consensus was this? It was the L-D leadership’s job to forge one. It (ie, he) failed.

An error of judgment by a new leader. No great tragedy. But to have then imposed the whip is ridiculous.

by FH on March 5, 2008 at 5:06 pm. Reply #

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