Friday, February 11, 2011

Labour and me....sitting on the bed not clambering into it!

I have already had a little flak on Twitter following the Guardian article this morning. Being unable to explain myself in less than 140 characters..........(why use 1 character when 100 will do??!) I decided to resort to my blog. I have made no secret of my despair about the coalition, despair that has only deepened and widened as each day it seems another Liberal Democrat value is demolished and replaced with a realignment of our values to be more Toryesque. Yesterday being a case in point, the suggestion that the wonderful Matthew Oakeshott had to go because he had spoken against Lib Dem policy - er no - it was COALITION policy he had spoken against not Lib Dem policy and I am deeply concerned that this will happen more and more.

We know that talks are already underway with the Tories about Coalition 2 - and to be honest, when our two parties are working so closely together, it is inevitable. Those whose political instincts sit more comfortably with the Tories and are quite comfortable snuggling up in their bed, of course will want the Coalition to continue beyond the next election...........but it may not...........and some of us hope and pray it won't! The chances are we will be in the reverse situation of last year's election - and even if it isn't, we can't preach the politics of pluralism while choosing only to engage with one party. Thankfully I think Nick Clegg gets this, he is after all a pragmatist. He has been meeting with Ed Milliband and rightly so. If we win the AV referendum and move towards the possibility of PR it becomes even more important.

It seems to me that one of the problems of the current arrangement is that coalition politics sits more comfortably with a proportional electoral system. With more parties across a wider spectrum, coalitions become more comfortable - for example in the Netherlands with VVD more at ease with the right wing parties and D66 with the left. I don't think, with 68% of our party seeing themselves as on the left, it would be unjustified to suggest that as a party we would have been more comfortable with Labour, particularly under Ed Milliband who seems to get the need to liberalise his party. Be that as it may, I honestly believe that it will be political suicide if we are seen to be hitching our wagon to the Tories with no notion that we would ever get "unhitched"! And a "talk to the hand cos the face aint listening" approach to Labour is not only infantile it is stupid.

So my reasons for getting involved in this are clear. Firstly, because I love my party (and all of those of you in it, even if we don't agree on everything!) and I want to preserve it and all it stands for. Secondly because I love my fellow citizens (well most of them!) and the whole reason for me ever getting involved in politics was to change things - particularly for young people. So if I can influence ANYONE who has the potential to change things for the better and improve the life chances of our children and young people I WILL DO SO - end of!!!!! And to demonstrate the truth of that I have been speaking to one of the Tory youth advisers this very morning. I am sure there will still be some of you tut tutting - I guess my reaction has to be *whatever* you continue to do what you believe is right and I will continue to do what I believe is right. Let's never lose sight however, of our ultimate declared objective - namely to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society.......where no one should be enslaved by poverty ignorance or conformity. Yep.......that's exactly what I am seeking to do!


Andy Mayer said...

I think the question you need to review in respect of this project is why it's being done overtly in support of a Labour party process, rather then through the more typical and neutral ground of centre-left think tanks.

What for example are the IPPR and NEF for if not helping social liberals and liberal socialists collaborate to produce ideas they hope will influence all parties, not just Labour?

What the Grayson Gang look like instead is more a part of Labour's attack strategy on the Liberal Democrats. A problem that will deepen when, inevitably, one or more of your team defects, or Liam Byrne uses you as human shields for Labour's attack strategy on the Coalition.

Whatever ideas you then produce, may well be devalued by the politics of the way it is communicated.

Robert said...

Big problem for labour right now is proving it's not just another Thatcherite party. I'm disabled and last week I had to listen to Miliband sound more like Thatcher then Thatcher did.

So I do not know perhaps the Liberals should have said blow it we will stay out of power and try and see a way of gaining, but they did not now you will forever be knows as the Tories parties whigs.

Unknown said...

@Andy Mayer:

"I think the question you need to review in respect of this project is why it's being done overtly in support of a Labour party process, rather then through the more typical and neutral ground of centre-left think tanks. What for example are the IPPR and NEF for if not helping social liberals and liberal socialists collaborate to produce ideas they hope will influence all parties, not just Labour?"

There are two reasons I have agreed to take part overtly in another party's process. In the first place, Labour's tribalism has long a been a barrier to the co-operation across the centre-left which I seek. If there is any way of breaking down that tribalism then I think it needs to happen. What we have from Ed Miliband is an unpredecented offer to open out Labour's process so that it is more open than that of any other party. That's a huge opportunity. Second, Liberal Democrats are already engaged very closely with the Conservatives not only implementing the coalition deal but thinking about what comes after it. Something had to be done to restore some sense of balance to the long-term options for Lib Dems, and simply engaging with think tanks would not have achieved that.

Andy Mayer said...

Thanks Richard, I still feel you've been unwise, these are not great justifications.

The LD/Con Coalition 2.0 discussions are similar to prior Lib/Lab discussion forums between equals a the top of the party such as Cook-Maclennan or the JCC. None are or were designed with the explicit intent of helping only one party. You are engaging unequally, in a process designed to help Labour win the next election. That is the point of internal party policy development.

The 'openness' of the process, a technical and in substance small change to accept input from Liberal Democrats directly rather than say through Centre Forum or Demos, is about politics not policy making. The win for Labour is the headlines around your dissent, not your ideas, which they could have digested in any number of ways that didn't involve and explicit narrative of your dissatisfaction with leadership of Nick Clegg and the Coalition.

Dan Falchikov said...

Well said Andy. I've now had time to think about this and here's my view:

Matthew Harris said...

If, when the Tories were in opposition, they had asked for Liberal Democrats to contribute towards their policy-making, what would have been the Lib Dem reaction? If the Tories had obviously been doing it as a way of bolstering their "Liberal Conservative" brand so as to win over Lib Dem supporters - would Richard Grayson and Linda Jack have taken part? I very much doubt it. Ed Miliband has launched this initiative as a way of making his party look more appealing to Liberal Democrats and as a way of attacking the Lib Dems and the Coalition. It is silly of Lib Dems to help him to do it.

Incidentally, a scenario: Imagine that the Conservatives had won a Commons majority last May. They would then have implemented the Browne Report and increased tuition fees, without any input from us - there would have been no opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to make the package more progressive. We would have been shouting from the sidelines on the third-party opposition backbenches like we always did. Labour, meanwhile, in this scenario, would have supported - yes, supported - the Conservative Government in raising tuition fees, given that they commissioned the Browne Report in the first place.

The only reason that Labour opposed the tuition fee rise was because they saw such opposition as a way in which to embarrass us and win back support from the Liberal Democrats. That's why most of Labour's rhetoric on the fees rise was not about fees at all, it was about how awful they think the Lib Dems are.

Labour's "more in sorrow than in anger" pose of now being the only progressive party and thus wanting to reach out to bereft Liberal Democrats, is just that, a pose - I am surprised that more colleagues cannot see through it and are allowing themselves to be used in this way.