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Errant Knight – a red in yellow clothing?

November 2nd, 2011 Posted in Liberal Democrats by

Further to my earlier post “Bunch of disgruntled Lib Dems resort to Plan B” – I have now received three emails, all effectively asking whether the London Liberal Democrats have declared UDI from the rest of the party? I’m certain they haven’t. The Lib Dems in our capital work hard and quite brilliantly – often in “non benign” circumstances.

But London Lib Dems now have a problem judging from the emails I have received. Cllr Stephen Knight (one of the Guardian letter signees)  appears at least to be using his position as a London assembly candidate to promote the national economic proposals of the campaign group Compass (openly boasting about the fact that “prominent Lib Dems back plan B“) that is aligned to our opponents.

This is a group explicitly hostile to our coalition Government that describes itself as “open primarily to people who are eligible to be Labour members” and “building a bridge to the 200,000 or so people who have left the Labour Party and to many more who have never joined” …

The London Liberal Democrats are a valued and crucial part of the party. I assume they will be talking seriously to Mr. Knight . It is he after all who is promoting himself in the Guardian letter as Leader, Liberal Democrat group, London borough of Richmond, No 2 on Liberal Democrat List for 2012 London assembly elections” .  (Though I note, to date, he has not mentioned the Guardian letter on his website).

Of course we all know that the party contains a broad range  of views  and yes I really do believe in free speech and debate but my complaint (and those who have emailed me) is about Mr Knight’s conduct – specifically that he is using his official candidate status to promote a Labour front group.

In my view he should be suspended immediately as a GLA candidate for the party pending further investigation. This investigation should be serious and deliberative, but also swift. I would like to know if, when he was being selected, his literature made clear his fundamental opposition to the coalition economic policy?  During his selection interview how did he answer any questions about areas of policy he disagreed with?  I can not see any other option than for disciplinary action if there is any doubt that his opposition to the coalition was not made clear at the time.

If the London regional party doesn’t act swiftly, then we can all do so within the constitution of the party. Lib Dem voters should not be asked to vote under a list system for a man who seems to be a Labour candidate under Lib Dem colours.


16 Responses to “Errant Knight – a red in yellow clothing?”

  1. iainbb Says:

    Don’t be so tribal. Even before Grimond this party has sought to re-align the Left. It is perfectly proper to work with others. And whisper it quietly Plan B has elements that many Liberals would endorse

  2. Stuart Says:

    Surely this is all academic as no one in London is going to vote for you lot anyway.

  3. madasafish Says:

    Since when have the LDs been consistent on anything?

  4. Chessnuts Says:

    If he can’t justify his conduct then he needs to be excluded from the party immediately.

  5. Tom Papworth Says:


    This isn’t about being “tribal”. It’s perfectly reasonable to try to work with other parties. That’s what the Chard Group try to do.

    I don’t think that that should be limited to “The Left” (itself a rather meaningless and antediluvian term). n the contrary, I think it should be limited to “The liberal”, by which I mean we should seek out liberals in all parties and eschew parties (even “of the Left”) that are fundamentally illiberal (e.g. Greens; Socialist Workers).

    The difference with Compass is that they pretend to be a cross-party organisation while in fact being a Labour front group that seeks (successfully, in the case of some Lib Dems) to co-opt members of other parties and compromise them.

    The difference with Stephen Knight’s letter to the Guardian is that it attempts to put a distance between the Lib Dem election team for the 2012 elections (in London) and the national party. As Stuart’s rather trolly ‘contribution’ should make clear, we already face a difficult election: it’s not helped by a candidate who, either nievely or opportunistically, seeks to distance himself from the actions of his party leadership while happily accepthing the support of that party in his ambition to become a GLA member.

    As for Plan B, no self-respecting liberal would support it. It is completely and utterly wrong on every level – as explained in my article below:

  6. Robert Eve Says:

    How does anyone in their right mind support Labour or Lib Dems?

  7. Ian Morton Says:

    I think you need to chill!

  8. Dave Says:

    The anger this has generated seems to be a bit ridiculous. To be honest, it almost smacks of persecuting party members who speak out against Coalition policies. There’s nothing wrong with working with other groups or other parties- to the contrary, we should aim to be as pluralist as possible. Certainly, we shouldn’t be afraid of party members or candidates proposing new ideas, like a Tobin Tax, just because it’s not currently party policy. Supporting this package of measures does not amount to an endorsement of Compass or the Labour Party. Also, let’s not forget out manifesto called for a much slower pace of deficit reduction, and a quite different economic agenda from the coalition policy.

  9. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Robert Eve: Why are you even here if you are that closed minded towards the Lib Dems?

    @Dave: “Supporting this package of measures does not amount to an endorsement of Compass”

    Er… They explicitly supported Compass’s Plan B. So yes, it does.

    As for there being “nothing wrong with working with other groups or other parties- to the contrary, we should aim to be as pluralist as possible”, I refer you to my comments, above.

  10. Dan Falchikov Says:

    Dave – of course party members can speak out against party or coalition policies they disagree with – but with elected office comes responsibility – responsibility not to embarrass the party or to publicly support another party’s policies. It’s especially important on the budget which is considered an issue of confidence. I’m sure as leader of a Lib Dem group Stephen Knight would take action agaist one of his backbenchers who trashed his budget proposals for Richmond council.

  11. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Dave – thanks for the comment – I enjoyed the irony enormously.

    LV (well, me actually) criticises the conduct on an official Lib Dem candidate who I beleive misused his official candidate status and it is suddenly “..smacks of persecution..”..

    Forgive me but that is priceless. (new readers refer back to early rants about why LV should be “eradicated” etc)

    Still it is really brilliant news that the party has got pluralism. Fantastic. We welcome the debate.

  12. Angela Harbutt Says:

    I have had a couple of questions asking where to address letters of complaint to concerning Stephen Knights conduct within the London Lib Dems.. I think your best bet is Jonathan fryer as chair of the London region:


    The Lib Dems will get what you deserve for selling off our NHS.

  14. Dave Says:

    Angela- genuinely confused about your comment. I’ve never posted here before, and I definitely don’t want LV closed down. Why would I? Has someone else has posted here before with the same name and that’s caused of the confusion?

    My point is that I think its ok to agree with the policies of another party- I agree with some of Labour, Tory and Green policies- without actually endorsing the party. I don’t agree with the Compass Plan B but where Coalition policy disagrees with party policy as decided at Conference (eg free schools) or our previous Manifesto (eg speed of cuts, tuition fees), I don’t think it’s unreasonable to speak out against the Coalition line.

  15. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Dave: “manifesto called for a much slower pace of deficit reduction, and a quite different economic agenda from the coalition policy.”

    Actually, if I recall correctly, Nick and Vince (and the manifesto) made clear that it was wrong to set the pace of change in advance of the budget; that we should cut our cloth to fit the economic times, as it were. We criticised both Labour and the Tories, not for the extent of their cuts, but for pre-announcing, for electoral reasons, the scale of the cuts when they had no idea what would be called for when it came to decision time.

    “Angela- genuinely confused about your comment. I’ve never posted here before, and I definitely don’t want LV closed down”

    I think that Anglea’s comment has created some confusion. The “earlier rants” to which she refers were from people other than you (I presume). However, I can see how her comment, in the context of a reply to you, was misleading. I also think that her response to you “persecuting party members” comment may have been over the top – though I do think that the suggestion itself is also a bit hyperbolic.

    “I think its ok to agree with the policies of another party- I agree with some of Labour, Tory and Green policies- without actually endorsing the party”

    I think that’s totally right and fair, and I agree as well that it is not unreasonable to speak out against the coalition line. If it was, there wouldn’t be a Liberal Vision; or a Social Liberal Forum, for that matter.

    However, there is a distinction to be made with candidates seeking office. In the case of those seeking parliamentary office, that is a pretty clear one – you either accept the manifesto or you don’t take the ticket (though I think one could probably be permitted some wiggle room on minor policies – i.e. not the budget).

    To be fair to Stephen, it’s a bit less rigid when one is seeking a different office – as a Councillor, neither he nor I are obliged to back everything that the coalition does. For me, the question is the effect that this will have on the Lib Dem slate in 2012.

    I think that it is likely to make the Lib Dems look factionalised, undisciplined, incoherent and opportunistic. That’s fine for Stephen, because as No.2 on the list he’s pretty-much assured a seat. For Shas Sheehan and Bridget Fox, who are in the marginal positions, however, this letter damages their chances of victory. Unless this letter was squared with the GLA Campaigns team, that’s a pretty selfish thing to do.

  16. Ted Says:

    I have no problem with this article whatsoever. When the old Social Democratic Party was formed by “the gang of four”, it’s primary objective was to offer a credible alternative to what was then, a crazy Labour Party. To be fair, and to some extent, they were successful. Their amalgamation with the old Liberal Party was inevitable.

    Time moves and we find ourselves dealing with a very different set of circumstances and for that reason I have no problem with the old ‘democrat’ side of the Party taking a different view to that of the ‘liberals’ Indeed, healthy and welcome to some extent.