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A Labour Party we could work with

December 26th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized by

If there is no outright winner of the next general election, who should the Liberal Democrats form a coalition with in 2015? Is the deal sealed with the Conservatives, or can the hatchet be buried with Labour? That is a question that will trouble strategists of all three parties as the next year, and the two following, develop.

John Kampfner has explained why he thinks that the Lib Dem’s future lies with the Labour Party, while  Labour Leader Ed Miliband has indulged in petty personality politics in refusing to even consider an alliance as long as Nick Clegg remains leader. So could the Lib Dems  really work with Labour?

It’s not as crazy as it might sound. It’s not as if the Tories are a natural fit for a party that likes to see itself as “of the Left”. Admittedly, the Conservatives may be far more sensible than the borrow-and-be-damned Labour Party when it comes to deficit reduction, but the Labour Party are in opposition; in government, we all know Labour would have introduced cuts deeper than those introduced under Margaret Thatcher. In opposition, the Conservatives made many loud and populist noises that they knew they would have to ditch once they were in power.

So, can the Lib Dems work with Labour? It depends very much upon which Labour you are talking about. The tax-and-spend, borrow-and-spend, ignore-falling-productivity-and-spend Labour Party can never be allowed to reign again. They were a menace to the British Public and left the UK in no position to face a global recession.

Neither can we willingly join forces with a Labour Party that is willing to keep interest rates artificially low just to achieve unsustainable short-term growth. But then, we should say the same about the Conservatives, who created the Lawson Boom that turned into the recession of 1990-92 and are again hoping to fuel the UK economy with a bout of cheap credit.

But the Labour Party’s legacy was not all bad. This was the party that stood against prejudice and allowed the hard-working, entrepreneurial people of Eastern Europe to come to our country, “steal” jobs nobody wanted, create lots of jobs they people <i>did</i> want and pay a bucket load of tax in the process. The Tories, by comparison, are poisoning the UK economy with their anti-immigration bias.

This was also the party that, famously, was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” That may seem an unpopular sentiment now, but one should remember the words of the Liberal Prime Minster and leading light of New (now irritatingly re-labelled “social”) Liberalism, Herbert Asquith, who observed that:

“Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests … Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. Socialism assails the pre-eminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks, and shall seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard for the mass…”

There is nothing wrong with extreme wealth. There is something wrong with hopeless poverty. A Labour Party that was more interested in social mobility and wealth creation and less interested in envy and wealth destruction, that was willing to adopt fiscal prudence and spend within its means, that was willing to put petty personality politics aside and work for the good of the country… That is a Labour Party that we could work with.

20 Responses to “A Labour Party we could work with”

  1. Anon Says:

    “Labour Leader Ed Miliband has indulged in petty personality politics in refusing to even consider an alliance as long as Nick Clegg remains leader.”

    Would that be like Nick Clegg who indulged petty personality politics for refusing to even consider an alliance with Labour as long as Gordon Brown remained leader?


  2. Tom Says:

    Of course not, anon. It’s one of those irregular verbs.

    We reflect the beliefs of the electorate.
    You care too much about public perception.
    They indulge in petty personality politics.


  3. Jock Says:

    Just one quick correction – your quote was from Churchill, from a speech given during the 1908 Dundee Byelection and compiled in “Liberalism and the Social Problem” – para 155/156 here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18419/18419-h/18419-h.htm#THE_DUNDEE_ELECTION


  4. Greenfield Says:

    I would advise a look at history. Labour has at every stage since before the 1920′s until the present day tried to destroy us – this hasnt changed yet – they agree with co-operation as long as we agree with them – just look at the way they acted after the 2010 GE. Labours new found ‘friendship’ should not be taken at face value.Why not read some back copies of Liberal History over Christmas!


  5. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Greenfield: I agree, but it’s not as though the Tories haven’t had the same agenda. Look at what happened during the 1920s. We’re going to have to form a coalition with somebody if there is a hung parliament in 2015. The question is, under which circumstances could we work with Labour.

    @Jock: Good point. I’ll make the correction.

    @Anon: Gordon Brown had lost the 2010 election, and it would not be unfair to say that he lost it personally. The electorate rejected his premiership. If there is a hung parliament in 2015, that could be read as a validation of Clegg’s deputy-premiership.


  6. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Jock: But not yet. I can’t log in from the in-laws.


  7. Joshua Says:

    Am I the only one in the world who thinks we may begin to annoy the electorate with the attitude of assuming the right to govern is ours under the situation of a Hung Parliament. If Labour/Tories are close to a majority in 2015 I would not be surprised if either party may do things very different next time around and seek to govern as a minority or even form a coalition with various other parties (Remember the rainbow coalition talks of 2010?)


  8. Ian R Thorpe Says:

    “We’re going to have to form a coalition with somebody if there is a hung parliament in 2015.”
    But who? UKIP?


  9. Mike Indian Says:

    Joshua is exactly right. At the moment it has to imagine the Lib Dems as kingmakers with such a lack of public trust.

    Greenfield is overlooking the Liberal record of fracturing around periods in office. The greatest damage the party has suffered in the last 100 years has been self-inflicted.

    The whole premise of this article is too academic. It would make far more sense to ask how relations within the current coalition will be affected by recent strains. You entered government claiming to put aside party politics for  the sake of the country. It is on this record that you will be judged in 2015.

    To come from any position of strength, the Lib Dems must be a party of the present.


  10. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Joshua @Mike,

    Point taken. I can imagine a situation where the Tories can form a coalition with the Unionists, and both Labour and the Tories could try to run a minority administration. But the odds are unlikely to stack up for any other coalitions.

    I find the idea of “a coalition with various other parties” to be implausible – I do “Remember the rainbow coalition talks of 2010″ and it is for all the reasons cited then that such a coalition is unworkable. Can you imagine any party trying to win seats in England making disproportionate concessions to the ScotNats? Can you imagine how irritating it would be watching the Green threaten to flounce out twice a week? It’s just not realistic.

    Anyway, Mike, I hardly think that a poll rating of 15 per cent counts as an extraordinary “lack of public trust”. It’s about typical for the Lib Dems mid-term, even in the easy days of opposition.

    As for “it [making] far more sense to ask how relations within the current coalition will be affected by recent strains”, that’s a completely different article. I don’t think the validity of one obviates the need for the other.


  11. Stephen W Says:

    Interesting stuff. And while we’re comparing quotes from old-time heroes of the days when Liberals won parliamentary majorities even *gasp* under FPTP. How about this from Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, last Liberal Prime Minister to win a majority in the House of Commons. Talking about an early attempt to build a European customs union on sugar.

    “”It means that we abandon our fiscal independence, together with our free-trade ways; that we subside into the tenth part of a Vehmgericht which is to direct us what sugar is to be countervailed, at what rate per cent. we are to countervail it, how much is to be put on for the bounty, and how much for the tariff being in excess of the convention tariff; and this being the established order of things, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer in his robes obeys the orders that he receives from this foreign convention, in which the Britisher is only one out of ten, and the House of Commons humbly submits to the whole transaction. (“Shame.”) Sir, of all the insane schemes ever offered to a free country as a boon this is surely the maddest.”"

    Sound like any organisation that you know of today?


  12. Greenfield Says:

    Some good comments here. My warning is that Labour will promise the earth (read the Ashdown Diary/s)not in the spirt of co-operation/good of the country – but what is best for the Labour Party. That is the main problem for us – they say alot of things that appear Liberal and have more in common with Liberals than we have with the Tories ( I must point out I’m a Liberal first & anti Tory second in my political views- so please take that into account in my posts!). At least with the Tories I know where I stand with them & what drives most of them ie protect their power & wealth from the rest of us!!!


  13. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Stephen W: Puts me in mind of another quote, about history repeating itself first as tragedy and then as farce.

    @Greenfield: I agree with everything you say about Labour. I just doubt that the Tories are any better. In fact, I’m not even sure if the Labour Party “say alot [more] things that appear Liberal”; they make more liberal noises on social matters but the Conservatives make more liberal noises on economic matters, and neither deliver liberal values in practice.

    To fall back on yet another quote, I suggest that when we sit down to dinner with either party, we make sure to sup with a long spoon.


  14. Stephen W Says:

    @Greenfield

    That kind of language about the Conservatives is a bit silly. There are 200,000 Conservative members, most of them very ordinary middle and working class people. There are 10.7 million Conservative voters, the vast majority of them working and ordinary middle class. Thatcherism got 14 million votes in its prime.

    You can’t seriously believe that all (or even more than a tiny minority) of those people are based in a cynical attempt to ‘protect their own power and wealth’? Maybe they genuinely believe right-wing policies would be what is best for everybody? Maybe they really think low taxes, and support for families are genuinely better ways to support society than the perceived statist alternative?]

    By all means disagree with Conservative policies and ideas, but there is no need to take a conspiracy theorist approach that assumes ones opponents are motivated by cynical greed rather than genuinely believe in this stuff. To do otherwise just closes your mind to why 14 million people have at one point or another voted Conservative. And why Cameron still leads in leadership ratings and is level-pegging Labour in the polls despite all the bad economics news.

    And the same applies to Labour to be honest.


  15. Lotus 51 Says:

    As an economic and social liberal who votes Conservative but would like to vote for a truly liberal party, this post illustrates to me why voting Conservative is the only option available to me.

    Labour is an inherently corporatist and statist party. They are not even vaguely liberal in its truest sense of the word. Their idea of liberty is giving you the freedom to do what the state allows you.

    @Greenfield. “I am Liberal first & anti Tory second in my political views” .. well I am a liberal (note the lower case) who doesn’t recognise a scintilla of liberalism in the Labour party and despite the rhetoric finds it increasingly hard to find it in the Lib Dems.

    @Tom “Labour Party that was more interested in social mobility and wealth creation and less interested in envy and wealth destruction, that was willing to adopt fiscal prudence and spend within its means, that was willing to put petty personality politics aside and work for the good of the country… That is a Labour Party that we could work with.” The Cons have their faults like all political parties but do you really believe that Labour are more likely than the Conservatives to deliver on fiscal prudence, wealth creation and social mobility? Wow!


  16. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Lotus51: Where do you read that I “believe that Labour are more likely than the Conservatives to deliver on fiscal prudence, wealth creation and social mobility”? I merely say that they would need to meet those criteria to be a party we should be willing to do business with.

    And to imply that the Conservative Party is not “an inherently corporatist and statist party” is eye-wateringly funny.


  17. Greenfield Says:

    Unfortunately I generalised about the Tories – but that is how I find them – just look at how they are acting now & what the Lib Dems are curbing!!!!

    BTW I’m a Liberal not a libdem member or member of any party now.


  18. Martin Kinsella Says:

    I am no fan of the Dark Lord or Labour but let’s get his quote in context. He said he was relaxed about people getting filthy rich AS LONG AS THEY PAID THEIR TAXES.

    Mandy did not advocate a free for all.


  19. Tom Papworth Says:

    @Martin: Exactly. I think we could work with a Labour Party that was relaxed about people getting rich as long as they paid their taxes.

    I would hope that they did not seek to tax people so hard that there was no incentive to get rich, or to create wealth for others in the process, however.


  20. Robert the cripple Says:

    Hung governments interesting that the Liberals see it again, I doubt it, we will see maybe a small majority but hung again I very much doubt it…


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