Browse > Home / Labour, Liberal Democrats, Policy / President Tim rebukes the Miliband Tendency

| Subcribe via RSS

President Tim rebukes the Miliband Tendency

December 13th, 2010 Posted in Labour, Liberal Democrats, Policy by

When writing about the rise of Tim Farron last month, we made the following prediction:

“He will become one of Ed Miliband’s sternest critics whilst agreeing with almost everything he says.”

So we are pleased to see Tim’s reaction to Miliband’s latest attempt to split the party as follows:

‘Labour spent years “sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and George Bush – why would any progressive even give them a second glance?”‘

Meanwhile as if to answer Tim’s question, Richard Grayson, a self-appointed victim of the party’s desire to practice pluralism, is not so much coquettishly glancing, as giving the Labour party a throaty snog under the Mistletoe by joining Liam Byrne in a co-operative policy review.

This is a mistake for both parties.

For Labour it makes it less not more likely that they will get useful input from serious Liberal Democrats. Grayson is something of a monomaniac on the social justice agenda, finds compromise hard, and his solutions gravitate towards the impractical. Others on the social liberal left who might like to work with Labour from time to time through the usual route of think tanks will not necessarily warm to Grayson as their champion or his official channel as as a filter.

Meanwhile much of the ‘Orange Book’ agenda, reaching socially liberal outcomes through market mechanisms, is straight out of the New Labour playbook. The Miliband Tendency might well remember New Labour as the people who won elections, and still have sizable support in the Party. Elevating Grayson may well encourage more Labour moderates like Alan Milburn and Frank Field to work with the Coalition.

For Grayson it will marginalise him in both organisations. Few warm to overt treachery, and there is a world of difference between constructive criticism on serious points of policy disagreement, and openly seeking to undermine your Leader. For those who might agree with Grayson often on policy, like President Tim, it puts them in the disagreeable position of disowning him or looking disloyal.

Within Labour tribal loyalty has an even higher value, defectors and collaborators may be welcomed in public, but are often derided in private. The ‘for-us’ or ‘against-us’ mentality finds it hard to work with others, other than in the Machiavellian sense of using them as means to ends. Labour’s interest in Grayson is purely in the electoral calculus of how much damage he can do the Liberal Democrats, not his ideas.

Grayson in June described the Liberal Democrats as “unideological, under-factionalised and leadership-loyal”. Forming an ideological faction of one to disprove the latter is not his finest moment.

9 Responses to “President Tim rebukes the Miliband Tendency”

  1. Ed Joyce Says:

    I agree with almost everything that Mark Littlewood has posted here. I think Mark should add to the criticism by stating that some on the left do not want to raise tax. Remember Labour ditched the 10% tax rate and the Lib Dems forced thorugh the raising of the tax threshold which Labour would never have done. Grayson does not represent ‘the left’ of the party. Those who are fundamentally georgist can be on the left of the party and still have no time for big state solutions.
    Ed Joyce

  2. JohnM Says:

    After Labour’s pure establishment position on tuition fees – what on earth is Grayson on?

    * no alternative policy effort to tempt Lib Dem MP’s – just 11 letters and a space (the letters: Graduate Tax) – shows a total disregard for democracy and debate.

    * pleased as hell it went thro so the government loses popularity to help bring about their turn!

    * pleased as hell the policy is in place for their turn.

    * their purpose? A turn at the wheel!

    Only by supporting STV might they cause Lib Dem’s to lend them some support at the next election here and there.

    my thoughts:

  3. Richard Grayson Says:

    “finds compromise hard”

    Not sure how you just justify that, and even the piece you link to doesn’t say it exactly. The 2001 manifesto which I co-ordinated and is something I’m usually described as co-author of (with Matthew Taylor) was one massive compromise operation (too often perhaps) in which I spent much of every day for well over a year arranging and agreeing compromises.

  4. Richard Grayson Says:

    Oh, and “his solutions gravitate towards the impractical” is just a matter of opinion and you happen not to like them. I was involved in coming up with many solutions which are party policy, including the pupil premium. I wonder if so many really impractical?

  5. Andy Mayer Says:

    Perhaps it should simply say “compromised”

  6. Jamess Says:

    I would defend Richard’s decision and political bravery; there are many in the Party who are less interested in the political games that have produced the Coalition but more interested in seeing social justice done and that the discussion that needs to take place. In a plural politics we need to keep alternative scenarios open; historically coalition with the tories has never helped the liberal tradition’s cause.

  7. Psi Says:

    @ Jamess

    I would agree it would be brave if it were to be engaging with former front benchers and having discussions on an equal footing that would be an attempt to produce policy ideas that would have a possibility of gaining traction and likely to be implemented. Ideas (good ones that is) from this sort of forum would have the possibility of being taken up by Lib Dems while still in government and supported by Labour and be implemented in a non-partisan way for the benefit of the country.

    Instead it is engaging with Liam Byrne so he is advising a member of an opportunistic Labour front bench who are clearly not interested in producing realistic policies that will benefit the party but just interested in scoring points of the Lib Dems.

    That said I’m not worried the only person who will suffer is Grayson himself, he will lose credibility in the Lib Dems and Labour once they realise that the PR opportunity to use him for a few more “reaching out to Lib Dems” stories has passed they will lose interest in him.

    He has an opportunity to try and persuade members of a government of ideas which could actually happen. His involvement with Labour will produce a few minor policies which they will keep around for a few years to try and tempt some of the protest vote member of the Lib Dems then jettison them before the election so they don’t get tied to them in a manifesto.

    At the end of the day no skin off my nose he is big enough to make his own mistakes.

  8. JohnM Says:

    It just seems that at a time when we should be talking together as a party about the future and indeed showing people that we are a uniquely democratic party – some are going into huddles or talking to ‘strangers’.

    Maybe ginger groups within are a sign that we are a growing party, but let’s not end up with too many fixed positions and too little cross-party debate.

    For me, Labour are still the organisation that made the Iraq War possible (at least for UK involvement). I would question, firstly, what changes are required to make that impossible again. If Labour had a clause 4 conversion: that for any political party with less than 50% of the vote to govern as if a majority is wrong, that we no longer seek that type of governance – now that would be revolutionary on the left.

    That would say we respect pluralism in politics and want to work with other parties. So different from this exercise which will mainly be about trying to Labour electable whilst trying to undermine the Lib Dem vote. Trying find a meaning for this establishment party to carry on – that is run past focus groups and okayed by spin doctors.

  9. Dan Falchikov Says:

    Well said Andy. It’s time Lib Dems started fighting back.