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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lib/Labbery - no thanks

One of the more pleasant things about not being a parliamentary candidate or member of Party staff in this election, unlike in the last three, is that I'm more free to say when I think we are making the wrong strategic calls.

In the case of our reaction to the recent boost for the Lib Dems, I don't even have to write anything new as what I wrote in February in reaction to Peter Hain's olive branch to the Lib Dems is still pertinent.

Let's be clear: I am in favour of a fairer voting system that gives the parties seats in proportion to their share of the votes. In the event of a hung parliament I am in favour of trying to find common ground with the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out of power - even though participation in a coalition or pact might not be in Labour's partisan interest (the partisan thing to do in a hung parliament is to be the only major party in opposition, then capitalise on the others' problems in government), the fragility of the economic recovery means we may need to work with the Lib Dems to stop the Tories trashing the economy.

But these are matters for after the election. Before the election we have to maximise the Labour vote and number of Labour seats against all comers, including the Lib Dems.

For now, they are our electoral enemies in a three-cornered fight. We have to present voters with a clear reason to vote not just "anti-Tory" but "pro-Labour".

The Lib Dems know this. They are not trying to reciprocate our overtures. They are trying to permanently destroy us. It's as though confronted by an axe-wielding assassin we react by trying to give them a big hug.

Here's what I wrote back in February:

"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: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/25/be-lib-dem-vote-labour.

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 blog said...

Hear, hear.

A question; do you think it's fair to say that the parliamentary LibDems are more 'orange book' and less SDP than the voluntary party, or is that a mistaken impression on my part?

3:16 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

That's my understanding - that the grassroots LDs are to the left of the current frontbench.

3:32 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Dave said...

'blog' is me, btw - for some reason it didn't want go give my name.

Is it at all likely, then, that if the LDs go with the Tories in some way that any significant number will come over to Labour?

3:41 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I don't think they'll go into coalition with anyone.

If the current polls are correct we will get a minority govt rather than a coalition. Maybe some side deal with the LDs not to bring down govt in exchange for some key policy deals, but no LD ministers.

3:44 pm, April 21, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on Luke, after reading Cleggster used to work for GJW he's someone I'm sure you could do business with....

It was actually refreshing to see a Lib Dem willing to get hands dirty in some real politics.

Vince as chancellor - probably not too bad for the pound either.

Alas, it's a crying shame Labour and Lib Dems can't even get close to understanding eachother - they just think they should beleiev fully in eachothers take on progressivism.

The main problem tho isn't at the top, but the bottom. Local council people are generally insane, but the Lib Dems do tend to take it to a whole new level.

4:28 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I tend to agree with Luke on this one. I have said on this blog before about Vince Cable could be a very capable Chancellor (although before he made his prediction about a market failure he too was singing from the same free market hymmn sheet, Luke for clarification did'nt he contribute to the "Orange Book"?).
Apart from a fraying at the edges Labour party membership card stopping me vote LD, I can't really forgive the parent party of the LDs, the SDP for helping split the Labour party's vote (not that it would have made any difference).
Still there is more of a public support for a Lib/Lab government than there is for a labour one. What would you prefer, a tory government or the unholy alliance?

4:38 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Silent Hunter said...

Let's be clear: I am in favour of a fairer voting system that gives the parties seats in proportion to their share of the votes

Of course you are Luke; that's why you've been so vocal in calling upon Labour to honour their 1997 election manifesto promise. LOL

13 years later and we're STILL waiting.

That's why the LibDems don't need Labour - they can do it for themselves and Gordon Brown won't even be relevant to the argument.

6:56 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Republic of Britain said...

In order to avoid splitting the progressive liberal-left vote, we need to create PR for the house of commons, and then Labour could govern with the liberals as an alliance for social progress.

People want a democratic revolution in general, they're sick to death of seeing Lords on the T.V., the queen being asked for permission to start the election, and a ridiculous fptp electoral system. Particularly in an area of globalization and web 2.0 mass collaboration, seeing autocratic Lords etc on TV, just seems all the more repulsive and unnatural.

7:03 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

I disagree with Luke's lumping in of the Greens with the LDs. Whatever we think of them, the environment issue is one that we simply have to address, and one that does require new types of economic and political thinking. Unfortunately, the New Labour project has given them an opening on other parts of our ground too - workers' rights, equality, that sort of stuff.

But other than that, Luke, I broadly agree (though it's a bit harsh to pin WWI on them). The Lib Dems aren't some sort of "new, breath of fresh air" but a party as capable of indulging in opportunistic, spiteful, unprincipled "same old politics" as anyone else. As they've often demonstrated in local government.

7:07 pm, April 21, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No-one gives a toss what you think about the Lib Dems or anything else - its one party states like Hackney that everyone is sick of.
Truth is the Lib Dems are WELL to the left of you, and you are far nearer to the Tories in your beliefs. Islington resident Hillier and Abbott will actually have to do some campaigning this time

8:16 pm, April 21, 2010

Anonymous Reuben said...

So, basically, what you're saying is that:

1. Lib Dems should abandon their objection to illegal and aggressive wars

2. Lib Dems should abandon their commitment to civil liberties in favour of charlatans like Meg Hillier and her ID card scheme

3. Lib Dems should abandon their commitment to electoral reform to allow Gordon Brown to bring in an even less proportional system (ie AV)

just to keep you lot in power.

Ultimately, you'll do anything to hold on to the reins of government - it's become about power, not policy and is exactly what Clegg means when he talks about the "old politics".

Once upon a time the Labour party had a soul and stood up for the man in the street. You abandoned that mantle long ago for champagne socialism. As a Lib Dem activist, I'd be outraged to see a coalition with either Labour or the fatcat backwards-facing Tories - what we need to see is another four points on the latest poll at yougov that would allow us to form a government without your help, for the people, by the people.

8:42 pm, April 21, 2010

Anonymous Richard said...

What are the current polls saying? Who are the lib dems stealing votes from?

The tories seem desperate and are using scare tactics to grab votes. Labour on the other hand seem very tired and your ideas reflect this.

I suspect labour may be pushed into third place and although very unlikely there is a chance the largest party could end up being the lib dems.

This election is wide open but I think people are starting to make up their minds. The next week is going to be very interesting.

9:56 pm, April 21, 2010

Anonymous Hiram Maxim said...

Labour in Hackney

Gun crime in Hackney has increased by 29 per cent over the past year, according to the Metropolitan Police.

There were 182 firearm offences in the borough between March 2009 and 2010, compared to 141 the year before.

Crime is falling Hackney Labour Keep telling us again and again.

Blatant Lies

10:35 pm, April 21, 2010

Blogger Dave said...

It's a bit rich of a supporter of a party representative which was as intensely relaxed about the growth of the financial sector at the expense of manufacturing to wax about the greens anti-manufacturing policies.

As it happens, we're in favour of massive investment in manufacturing, the kind working class communities need in green jobs. Britain should have been a world leader in renewables, but we've sold the pass, and are scrabbling for nuclear to fill the energy gap - that failure will come to be seen as one of the biggest of their many failings.

I'm also intrigued as to how you think we get around the fact that we have to have a low growth or zero growth strategy because their simply aren't enough resources for us to continue otherwise. What are we going to make when the sea has risen and the oil run out? And given your working class commununities are most vulnerable to those problems, why on earth do you wish to ignore them? It's idiotic.

11:42 am, April 22, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

After tonight's debate, it was clear enough that there is precious little between the three parties, at least in terms of their largely centrist leaderships

As the homophobic MP in the constituency I have been moved into has decided to stand again, I can't vote Labour

But the LD's have done nothing to inspire

That leaves the Conservatives, BNP and Ukip. I don't think so.

And the Trade Union and Socialist campaign. Given that I've always opposed the far left, it is ironic that I will probably have to vote for them given that there is no Green candidate.

Only the Grim Reaper's intervention will alter this....

12:24 am, April 23, 2010

Blogger Left Lib said...

At some point Luke you will have to come to terms with the fact that since you support proportional representation you will have to support coalition government. There is no way the Labour party will ever get 51% of the vote.
Greens will have to accept, whether they like it or not, that they are going nowhere until we have PR, and for now only the Lib Dems can deliver on that.
As for the Orange Book, I wonder if you have actually read it? it was written over 5 years ago, and only had 1 controversial chapter that associated it with free markets.
It is worth bearing in mind that your hero Tony Blair was an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and New Labour also supported privatisations of it's own.
Since 2008 Gordan Brown's relish of light-touch regulation has now been discredited, as he himself now admits and apart from within the Tory party, free market fundamentalism is in global decline.
Indeed it was Vince Cable who advocated nationalising Northern Rock before even New Labour got round to it.
So your critique of the Lib Dems doesn't really stack up.
As for these charges of opportunism - well I oppose all that myself. It would be interesting to see if any objective research has been as to which party is the worst offender. We will never get that from you of course.
But this is all rather petty. It is a shame political parties use dirty tactics against each other, and they shouldn't, but in the end what is really important is how we should run the country. That is why we should commend the work of Compass and Liberal Conspiracy as they are more interested in what really matters.

1:33 pm, April 26, 2010


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