Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrats’
A new cross-party group will be set up by senior Labour figures tomorrow in an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.
Labour for Democracy will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens. But it will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
Although the launch was planned before last week’s Leveson report on press regulation, it is timely because Ed Miliband and Mr Clegg have backed the inquiry’s call for a new system
For good measure the Greens are added to the ‘progressive’ list.
The background is Labour for Democracy’s analysis of how ‘pluralism’ can further ’progressive goals’.
Support for progressive values and policies is not restricted to a single political party, as shown by our new analysis of polling data. A real desire to see progressive change means working with supporters of other political parties.’
‘Pluralism is simply a commitment to work with others, including members and supporters of other political parties if that increases our chances of achieving progressive change. While Labour values are most strongly supported by Labour voters, many supporters of other parties also share some of our values. No party today speaks exclusively for progressive opinion; none will do so in the fut
“All Labour members will work hard for every Labour vote. But whether we win the outright majority we seek, or end up with a hung Parliament, the change Britain needs will require the support of all who share our key values. Existing structures encourage tribalism, but Labour’s history has often been of working with others for progressive goals – in trades unions, community organisations, solidarity movements and defending the environment. Some of the changes we are proudest to claim – the NHS, the welfare state and devolution – would not have happened without the support of people outside the Labour movement. At a time when old allegiances to political parties are breaking down, yet organisations like 38 degrees are mobilising active and effective support, we need that approach more than ever.’
The launch of Labour for Democracy on 4 December is an attempt to break down tribal sectarianism and promote a pluralist culture within the Labour movement. The focus is not on coalitions or cross-party deals, but on finding ways of delivering what progressive voters want. We’ve already shown that, in the main, past Lib Dem voters hold similar values to Labour’s, and quite different to most Tory voters. It’s also clear that, despite the failures of the coalition, the public still generally want politicians to work together when they can, rather than exaggerate their differences.
The launch of this initiative has met instant hostile reaction.
Labour First have condemned the creation of the new “Labour for Democracy” group within the party, which according to the Independent will “will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens” and “will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.”
The Independent reports that the Group is “an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.”
Speaking to LabourList this morning, Secretary of Labour First, Luke Akehurst, said:
“The creation of this misnamed group, “Labour for Democracy” is a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners who are working flat out to beat all our political opponents, Greens and Lib Dems as well as Tories, UKIP and BNP, as we did comprehensively in the recent by-elections.
It is completely premature and defeatist to start flirting with the Lib Dems when all the opinion polls and by-elections show we have a realistic chance of a majority Labour government.
We need to continue to squeeze the Lib Dem and Green votes in order both to take seats off them and seats off the Tories. Any move which rehabilitates the Lib Dems and lets them off the hook for having put the Tories in power actually increases the chances of another hung parliament. Their behaviour in 2010 indicates their preferred coalition partner is the Tories.
We had naive talk about pluralism in 2010. The people making those noises should have learned their lesson. The Lib Dems are not a progressive party and the Greens are an anti-working class and anti-economic growth party. We should be seeking to defeat them both intellectually and at the ballot box, not pandering to them.”
There is little to add, immediately to this.
Except apart from the fact that everybody on the left and most of the Labour Party in the UK (including Ipswich) loathes the Liberal Democrats, and that ‘progressive’ is too windy to mean much, there is this:
The Labour for Democracy initiative will strongly remind many people of Charter 88 and the (now wound up) Democratic Left (DL) in the early 1990s. These groups advocated tactical voting, support for ‘anti-Conservative’ candiodates, right up to the 2011 election. They were open to Liberal Democrats and Greens who supported ‘proressice values’ above all on Constitutional issues.
Are Labour for Democracy linked to this tradition?
There is, as yet, no direct evidence.
The old Charter 88 and Democratic Left strategy for a ‘progressive alliance’ is not dead.
On the Web site produced by the remnants of Charter 88 and the Democratic Left (Charter 88 transformed itself , through its merger with the New Politics Network (what remained of the Democratic Left) into Unlock Democracy, we find this today:
“Beyond the Progressive Alliance
Charter 88 was very much a political response to Thatcherism and its basic strategy was to bring together the two parties of the centre and centre left around a programme of democratic and constitutional reform. Probably the high point of this strategy was the Cook-Maclennan talks prior to the 97 General Election between the Lib Dem’s and Labour which lead to joint programme of constitutional reform that included devolution, freedom of information and the HRA.
Though this strategy delivered much it was always a limited one. The reality was then and is now that if democratic change is going to happen it needs to appeal beyond a sterile left right divide. Democratic reform is not a left right issue but one that divides people along a libertarian authoritarian axis and there are people on the left and the right who recognise that our society needs more democracy not less.”
Nothing, it seems, feeds hope like failure.
The challenge over the next few years is not to recreate the alliance between people on the centre left of politics that was at the heart of Charter’s strategy, but to build new alliances that include all those who want to transform politics. Many of these alliances will be issue specific and like the one we created to deliver the Sustainable
Model of the ‘Big Society’.
Plans to devolve a large chunk of public services to ‘voluntary groups’ and charities are in a shambles. There is whingeing even from its supporters. Efforts to replace representative democracy with “radical decentralisation” (giving power to local unaccountable ’voluntary’ groups and private business ) have suffered the effects of cuts (more Here , Here and Here).
Unions and voluntary groups have joined forces to campaign against the Government’s spending cuts, arguing that they make a “mockery” of the Government’s Big Society.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber accused ministers of driving through “savage” cuts which he said will impact hardest on the poorest, most vulnerable communities.
The union organisation said the voluntary sector was set to lose around £4.5 billion because of the Government’s austerity measures.
Mr Barber said: “This unnecessary and economically damaging austerity will make Britain a meaner, nastier, more unequal place to live, so we’re bringing together unions and voluntary sector organisations to defend our civil society from attack and campaign against these cuts to vital support services.
“The TUC is keen to build the widest possible coalition against the cuts, involving unions, charities, community groups and faith organisations.”
There is a brilliant dissection of the Big Society concept by Posterous here.
Point 5 is “It enshrines a Victorian model of philanthropy which will enable those with time and money to decide which causes are ‘deserving’.”
I question, then, Brother Barber’s unqualified support for the role of charities and voluntary groups. They have an important place in civil society, but they are no replacement for public services.
We should look at the roots of the problem.
In the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914) Robert Tressell painted a picture of early Edwardian town, Mugsville (Hastings). An important theme in this socialist classic is unemployment. This is met, Tressell lightly satirised, by the town’s worthies setting up an “Organised Benevolence Society”. It is headed by Sir Graball D’Enclsoed Land, Lady Slum rents, and the Rev. Mr Bosher. All help for the out-of-work is given over the ‘Big society’. Without rights the unemployed are obliged to seek charity.
Oscar Wilde in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) described what this help meant for the poor.
It could be seen as a,
“ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives.”
Many familiar with modern Charities would be the first to say that this attitude no longer exists. They would be wrong. Many religiously based charities have very strong ideas about influencing the morality and behaviour of the poor.
They are resented as such.
In this respect it is wrong that charitable institutions should replace equal public provision with services that are funded indirectly by the state and delivered by organisations which are not under democratic control.
Wilde further noted that,
“It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.”
To put it simply, the people who were the agents of the economic crisis are allowed to shove responsibility for dealing with its results - unemployment and poverty - wish to divest state responsibility for dealing with its effects. Charitable and voluntary bodies are, if often useful, unable to deal with the enormous task: this needs universal public provision carried out by publicly accountable services.
The state’s attempt to use the unemployed to step in (unpaid) where public spending cuts have created a gap is described on the Ipswich Unemployed Action Blog.
The Big Society is an attempt to bring back the Universal Benevolence Society, run by Sir Graball d’Bankbonus, Lady Jerrybuilt Property, and Rev. Mr Nosyparker.
Andrew Cann, Liberal Democrat and Ipswich Cultural Czar.
A Liberal-Tory Coalition that runs our town bears its fruits.
Last night a comrade put this ‘survey’ through Tendance HQ’s front door.
We could describe it as gibberish, but that would be to insult the speakers of that noble tongue.
It starts low,
|Do you agree that culture should continue to be a priority for Ipswich, boosting the economy, increasing tourism and improving the quality of life for all?|
Gems such as,
“Make our flagship parks: Christchurch, Holywells and Chantry, hubs for the efficient support of the rest of our open spaces.”
“Establish Christchurch Mansion as the regional centre to view the works and understand the life of John Constable.”
Tendance Notes, East Bergholt, Flatford Mill, a short drive from Ipswich, is the regional centre for John Constable, since he painted there: Ipswich has only very tenuous connections with the man. The Hay Wain is in the National Gallery, conveniently situated close to the many a protest rally. I have seen it many times there. Next to Gainsbough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews . Gainsborough, unlike Constable, did have a very strong Ipswich link, since he lived here. Only a few streets away from chez Coatesy. Why did Coco not think of that? Perhaps because Sudbury already has a centre devoted to Gainsborough?
“Promote Ipswich as a ‘cultural experience’ where there are new, creative and imaginative events and festivals through an established Ipswich Festival season.”
You are bleeding joking.
Ipswich has many good points: it can be fun, there’s very good pubs, the parks are truly glorious (though how long they’ll stay that way as ‘hubs’ under the yoke of the Liberal-Tory Junta that runs this place is anyone’s guess).
But it is no ‘cultural experience’.
Or rather there are cultural experiences of a kind.
I suggest a visit on Saturday to the Corn Hill at around ten p.m.
“Explore management options for allotment gardens.”
This sounds like they are planning to flog off our allotments.
More cack Here.
22 Days in May. The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition. David Laws. Biteback 2010.
“It was the child of Progress, which is not only an illusion but an athletic illusion, and which insists it is better to bowl oneself backwards than to stand still.” The Strange Death of Liberal England. George Dangerfield. 1938.
The Liberal Democrats are a progressive party. They favour reform; they move forward. David Laws, closely involved in negotiating the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, and briefly Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has written more than an instant history of these talks. 22 Days in May is a vindication of the Liberal Democrats as part of the advance guard. The premise of 22 Days in May is also its conclusion, “This is a coalition formed in the tough times of fiscal retrenchment, one which has the potential to be a partnership for the good times too and to deliver the reform and renewal that Britain needs.”(Page 283) ‘Reform’ and ‘renewal’, once watchwords of Tony Blair, are now, Laws and colleagues, on the side of the ‘radical’ government that “believes in capitalism and freedom.”(Page 279)
Have liberal progressives gone backwards by embracing the Conservative Party? The Coalition “Programme for Government” offers, Laws asserts, “a real possibility of a government which will be liberal politically, economically, socially, and in its attitude to personal matters.” (Page 277) It will “take many years” to fulfil its ambitions. In the meantime hefty reductions in public spending are unrolling. He offers an explanation – or at least sometimes rises near to one – of how the government’s combination of “tough actions” to reduce the deficit and sort out public finances (cuts), might be seen in progressive terms. Or have they become a “serious party” grappling with political reality. Supporting this view in the Independent Mary Ann Sieghart judges that they have “succeeded in casting quite a liberal complexion over the Government” (13.12.10). The issue turns upon what ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ mean. Following Will Hutton, Laws promotes “fairness”, meritocracy within markets. Nick Clegg considers David Cameron’s Big Society, in which plans to transfer much collective social provision to private companies, charitable oligarchies and local cliques emerge ever more clearly, to be pure liberalism. It strengthens civil society over the central state. The Coalition, as a result, helps individuals by improving social conditions. It is both liberal and progressive.
Negotiations for Not-Nobodies.
22 Days is, to many reviewers, an insider’s book for political ‘wonks’. This expression has the happy effect of translating the wish of professional political animals to exclude others from their doings. In fact Laws is usually far from wonkish. His prose is plain and his narrative smooth. It is infused with the confidence born from the rapid transition from the political wilderness, and the frazzled reality of the grass-roots Liberal Democrat party, into Cabinet. Some are heartless enough to demand more financial detail behind Laws’s resignation “for falling below the standards” constituents could expect of him. (Pages 258 – 261). But we won’t further detract from his evident pleasure in recounting his late-coming halcyon days. The portraits of the failed attempt to create a ‘traffic light’ coalition with Labour and other parties are not blurred with the need to please more than (as many have noted) those who might consider employing him in the future. Talk of Brown’s glowering presence, of ‘tribalism’ on the Labour side, and Peter Mandelson’s plea on behalf of the wealthy, are less interesting than the way in which the Labour tem “treated us to policy lectures”(Page 150). Not only Liberals but also left-wing opponents of Blair and Brown can recognise the ill grace. By contrast the Conservatives negotiated with them “on equal footing”, as well they might – given some of the implicit Liberal-Conservative synergy we have mentioned already. Read the rest of this entry »