A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Mr Hain

Peter Hain has said in today's Guardian that "the new development in British politics is the emerging common ground" between Labour and the Lib Dems:


Whilst I applaud his efforts to garner tactical votes from Lib Dem voters in Labour vs Tory seats, he couldn't be more wrong in his analysis of the Lib Dems' positioning.

In fact, the Lib Dems are remarkably close in tone to the Tories, with "Orange Book" free-marketeers very much in the driving seat.

Hain's claim that "we share common ground on the fundamentals of economic strategy" is nonsense given Clegg's stated support for "savage cuts".

Hain is right to say that "Millions see themselves, not as dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporters, but as progressives who may also vote Lib Dem or Green or, in Wales, Plaid Cymru."

But he is wrong to suggest that the way you get those people to vote Labour is to indulge in "me-tooism", making out that all party allegiances on the centre-left are interchangeable and never laying a glove on the parties he names.

In fact, we need to be educating those voters that although superficially progressive, the Lib Dems, Greens and Nats are in fact the opposite. The Lib Dems are the Tories' "mini-me", in coalition with them in twice as many hung councils as they are with Labour, and far more likely to prop up a Cameron government than a Labour one. The Greens are a party that has no connection to working class values or needs whatsoever, and want to destroy the economic growth and revitalised manufacturing that working class communities need. The SNP and Plaid are nationalists whose ideology is the antithesis of progressive internationalism and would see England left to perpetual Tory rule.

We need to be highlighting the perils of letting the Tories in through the back door by voting for the Lib Dems and minor parties, not cosying up to them.

We need to destroy the myth that the Lib Dems are somehow progressive and work to get a situation where Labour is the only rational voting choice for people who consider themselves on the progressive left.

The route to mobilising the "natural anti-Tory majority" Hain talks of doesn't start with giving the Lib Dems a kiss of life with tactical voting, it starts by destroying them as an electoral force so that the division of the anti-Tory majority disappears because the party that caused that division is no longer a viable alternative to Labour.

As Harold Wilson said in his early '60s speech that famously began "the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing", we, Labour, were created for a reason - because the Liberals believed in political and religious freedom but did nothing to campaign for economic freedom.

We should be trying to purge our political system of this relic party from the pre-universal suffrage days of 19th century,which hasn't held power since 1922 and last time it did landed us in World War One.

I have no idea why Hain is trying to resuscitate Lib-Labbery when it is anathema to almost every Labour activist and member. It is particularly damaging in seats where we are trying to build Labour from third place, as it gives the green light for a tactical squeeze on Labour there.

The job of Labour MPs and PPCs everywhere should be to promote Labour voting on its own merits, not as part of a mushy melange of indistinct vaguely or faux progressive parties.


Blogger Communitarian Corporatist said...

A realignment between Labour and the liberals would be good for the long term future of progressive politics in Brtian.

4:41 pm, February 26, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

I tend to agree that the LibDems have shifted towards the Right under Clegg's leadership.

However, the Greens are towards the left, and frankly I couldn't care less about their 'workerist' credentials. They have many good ideas.

The SNP are clearly 'the opposition' to labour in Scotland, but politically, they occupy the progressive nationalism space, rather than conservative nationalism. Although I don't doubt that there are tartan Tories in their midst.

I think this sort of sectarian approach is silly, particularly from someone who also advocates PR. In a proportional system, Labour would have to seek alliances with other parties.

5:56 pm, February 26, 2010

Blogger p a t r i c k said...

I think that the Lib Dems will very much want the AV electoral system. A system of PR would be even better for them of course.

In marginal constituencies where the likely winner is Labour or Conservative then Lib Dems would do well to vote Labour because in a hung parliament a stronger Labour party will mean that Nick Clegg can negotiate electoral reform more easily.

10:30 pm, February 26, 2010

Blogger Andy Davies said...

Surely the last thing we need is another Labour term.

They've been spending more than they've been taxing for nearly a decade and we've come unstuck (ok so the *ankers have made things worse but the fundamentals were unsound regardless of what Brown says).

We have a massive state and it surely needs to be reduced - we as the electorate need to learn that politicians can't solve all our problems and indeed they are the source of many

11:51 pm, February 26, 2010

Anonymous Manzil said...

I agree with Merseymike - the Greens are quite obviously a party of the left, and we shouldn't be engaging in identity politics.

We have all met working-class Tories in life. And there are not a few people in the Labour party who are decidedly privileged. It is who you represent, not who you are, that should matter - and on many issues the Greens, and yes the Lib Dems or nationalists, are I think to the left of this Labour government.

The real issue is tactical, not philosophical: whom should we vote for in order to create as large a progressive, pro-working class representation in parliament. In many places, although people like Luke cannot admit that, this is not the Labour candidate - whether because they cannot win, or because they are essentially so far to the right they fell out of the party.

9:24 pm, February 27, 2010

Anonymous Sensible Ken said...

Andy Davies - Are you mad? The last thing we need is another 5 years of this pain....

12:17 am, February 28, 2010

Anonymous Dorian said...

"The job of Labour MPs and PPCs everywhere should be to promote Labour voting on it's own merits ... "

Luke, I do hope you get someone else to check Hackney's election literature (for possessive pronouns) before it's sent out.

6:02 am, February 28, 2010

Blogger Hughes Views said...

You and I know that the Lib Dems (& the Greens) collectively aren't really progressive but the Great British Public doesn't (and neither did I until I got actively involved in politics at the grand old age of 46).

Many Lib Dem members are, broadly speaking, progressives and carry on in the party because its great strength is to be all things to all men.

Even more of its supporters could be classed as broadly progressive.

With hindsight it's possible to argue that the great tragedy of British politics was the formation of the Labour party outside the old Liberal Party at the end of C19 - comparable with, but on a much greater scale than, the tragedyette of the breakaway of the SDP in the 1980s.

The Conservatives have had power for so much of the last hundred years only because the opposition is fractured.

I've no idea though how to remedy the situation (which is replicated in many other countries). Compared with those on the right, lefties are either too pure or too stupid (depending on your viewpoint) to put aside their differences for the greater victory...

9:56 am, February 28, 2010

Blogger Hughes Views said...

PS - given that the print and broadcast media which provide our primary route to communicate with the public are not interested in transmitting complex messages and/or are broadly hostile to Labour, how do you suggest that we could go about "educating those voters that although superficially progressive, the Lib Dems, Greens and Nats are in fact the opposite"?

In this wicked old world, Hain's pragmatism provides a better way of preventing another Tory century....

10:09 am, February 28, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Thanks for the grammar correction Dorian. Luckily the Mayor of Hackney is a former national newspaper sub-editor so he proof-reads leaflets I write.

Brian I would hope we could educate voters by other frontbenchers than PH writing op-eds or giving speeches that put the alternative view. Or through leaflets and canvassing.

12:51 pm, February 28, 2010

Blogger Red72 said...

Follows on your usual line you may be firmly on the right of the party, but I don't think anyone could ever accuse you of being anything other than 100% Labour. My commitment is to policies rather than any particular party in the final instance. So even though I am a Labour member I am wholly opposed to their policies on academies for example due to the democratic deficit inherent in the programme.

Many Lib Dems are on the Left (especially in Conservative - Lib Dem areas) and many in Labour could, under different circumstances work well with them. But clearly the Right in the Lib Dems (e.g. Clegg, Laws) is in the ascendancy at the moment.

1:42 pm, February 28, 2010

Blogger Hughes Views said...

Luke, I hope the limited resources of our frontbenchers' speeches and our leaflets and canvassing are, except perhaps in those rare Lib/Lab marginals, firmly focused on our positive messages and/or on the many shortcomings of the Tories.

2:40 pm, February 28, 2010

Blogger Matthew said...

In fairness to Peter Hain, he has long attacked the Orange Book tendency in the Liberal Democrats and has made precisely the same point as you that it has no connection with the interests of working people (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/sep/21/futureforpublicservices.politics). As Welsh Secretary, he has hardly cosied up to the nationalists either.

This article is a pitch for LibDem tactical voters in Labour seats, not for Lib-Labbery in the next Parliament. For that reason, I'm not sure that your criticisms of the piece really stack up.

8:52 am, March 01, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are unbelieveably tribal, bone-headed and deliberately deceitful.
The Lib Dems are to the left of Labour - and the Tories for that matter on:
taxes - the lowest paid shouldn't pay income tax on first 10k;
human rights (unlike you they do not believe in Guatanamo, extraordinary rendition & torture)
Illegal wars - Iraq
There is not a fag paper between Labour and the Tories on many issues.
Who do the public trust: Osbourne/ Darling or Vince Cable? Clue- he was voted the most trusted poltician!
Finally - Hain knows like many other people with half a brain, that Labour needs the Lib Dems to win in key Lib Dem /Tory marginals, in order to win a majority.
Your lack of any coherent idea on strategy, and blind hatred for the Lib Dems locally, renders you incapable of examining a sensible strategy. You 'left wing?' Don't know why you haven't done the decent thing and joined the Tories - you have far more in common with them.

2:25 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous Scott Weston said...

I thought that Mr Hain's 'nod and a wink' on Andrew Marr's programme on Sunday was a very intelligent hint at initiating some tactical voting. With the polls showing lots of evidence that the country is falling out of love with the tories, every little will help to keep the conservative seat count down.

4:33 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous isle of man mansions said...

I think there needs to be a balance of speaking up for labour against rivals, and cooperating with parties that can form alliances, against the ideology of the party.

9:45 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

What a load of tosh. Surely the big issue here is that the main three offer very little choice. All are going to cut spending and none are going to the banks to get our money back.

Was there ever really a plan for the banks to repay their debt to society or was it just spin to make the capitalist bailout sweeter.

British people are going to have to choose between three parties that are all offering the same blind dedication to the free Market. A Market where our currency can be destabilsed by the very people that caused the credit crunch.

I think a lot of people like myself will probably vote labour because they are simply scared of letting a party that is funded by a non Dom tax exile.

The election will be a farse.

7:51 am, March 02, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lib Con backs Hain (with You Gov data)


(Verification: fookedsc! Who's SC?)

2:28 pm, March 03, 2010

OpenID bristolwestpaul said...

The lib dems are not really a political party but an exercise in niche marketing to garner enough votes to win in seats where these niches exist - hence the obsession with tuition fees (a policy they seem to change every two months), it is not a position based on principle but on getting the student vote.

We all know that in the same street when talking to a tory they will be to the left and talking to a Labour voter they transform into a socialist.

9:54 pm, March 04, 2010


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