We need to be adults when it comes to relations with Labour

December 27, 2011 § 7 Comments

It's time for us to be adult in our dealings with Labour

Recently I suggested on Twitter (@mathewhulbert) that we should be less aggressive when it comes to how we deal with our relations with the Labour Party.

Well, you’d have thought I’d called for the return of the death penalty or something.

Bucket loads of rhetorical slurry were poured over me by some of my fellow Lib Dems, who-in essence-said that we should slam Labour at every opportunity and that there’s no way we could work with them post 2015.

To be frank, I think that kind of analysis is not only wrong, but also very dangerous when it comes to the long-term future of our party.

Let me be clear: Labour did much with which I disagree; to quote our President, Tim Farron from this year’s Spring Conference, “they de-regulated the banks, they out-Thatchered Mrs Thatcher, they idolised the Markets.”

They were also dreadful on civil liberties and much else besides.

The gap between the richest and poorest in our country grew under Labour, between 1997 and 2010.

So, they undoubtedly deserved to lose the last election and we should continue-when fair and true-to point out their failings.

But we also need to be grown-up in our dealings with Labour.

They did much that was, in my view, right. For example, certainly compared to previous Governments, their record on the Gay Rights agenda was excellent.

They made international development a top priority.

When we slam down every single one of their current policies-especially on economic matters-we make it more and more difficult to be able to have meaningful discussions with Labour if and when we have a hung Parliament after 2015.

My concern is that some at the top of our party have decided that they couldn’t work with Labour and are doing all they can to ensure that option just isn’t on the table…meaning (depending on the results, of course) we either continue in Coalition with the Tories, or return to opposition.

The only sensible view, in my opinion, is for us to be flexible. For us to point out the good and bad policies of both of our potential Coalition partners.

The personal preferences of whoever is in leadership of our party should not define what is in the best interests of the party as a whole.

§ 7 Responses to We need to be adults when it comes to relations with Labour

  • Douglas McLellan says:

    It is true that we need to be open to the idea of a coalition with Labour after 2015. It is also true to that we need to remember, with open eyed clarity, their remarkable illiberalism from 1997 to 2010.

    We also need to remember that their response to the coalition deal was to target us for many months regardless of the decisions we were taking to remedy the mess they made and regardless of the fact that they would have made the same choices. Their visceral hatred is and was remarkable.

    Just as many found joining a coalition with economically right wing Tories very hard, others would find a coalition with authoritarian illiberal like the Labour Party just as hard.

    But if we can do was well with Labour as we have done in the current coalition then it would be worthwhile.

  • stuartbonar says:

    Yes, it’s important we remain an independent political party, neither an automatic appendage of either Labour or the Tories. Just as it was crucial in the aftermath of the 2010 election that we did not simply side with Labour, it will be equally crucial that in 2015 – in the event of a hung Parliament – we do not simply side with the Conservatives.

    Of course whilst we are working in coalition with the Tories we are more likely to spark off Labour than the Tories; it’s just important we remember not to let that burrow its way into our political DNA.

  • zadokday says:

    Agreed with Douglas re Labour’s illiberalism. Their behaviour towards us post-coalition has been disgraceful, from the grassroots up, and assuming that continues I can’t see how a 2015 coalition would even work. Of course, if they stick with Ed Miliband then they won’t win enough seats to make a coalition possible anyway, so hopefully the question will never arise. I’m not against working with Labour in principle (their ‘in the black Labour’ group obviously offering more of a sensible future than the Miliballs Tendency) but on current showing, they have a lot of work to do. The onus certainly isn’t on us to change, starting from a 3rd party position – they’ll need us after all, not the other way around.

  • I lived in France when Thatcher was in power here. Some may say this gave me an even more hideous view of what she did and represented. I moved to the UK under Major and joined Blair’s Labour.

    I was delighted in 1997 when not only Blair won but also the Socialists in France managed to win an unexpected win at general elections (the last Socialist victory since for either Presidential or Legislative elections).

    As things went on, I was more and more disillusioned by Labour. On a local party point of view, they were controlling. We were told what to think what to concentrate on, what we had to tell voters. Traditional left wing themes were pushed under the carpet. Apparently, not the kind of things people wanted to hear on the door steps. Another thing: we were told there was nothing wrong losing a (local election) seat to the Tories. Losing one to the Liberals on the other hand was completely unacceptable,

    The party was increasingly illiberal. Tough on crime (and liberty) policies such as indeterminate sentences, DNA for life, ID cards for instance. Its policies increasingly attacked by its own left: hospital, school and university changes.

    Then came 9/11 and the wars. The Taliban regime was atrocious and I supported their removal. But have they gone?

    The Iraq war was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I remember the day when in tears, I tore my Labour party membership card. Not only did I not agree with this war, I felt also attacked for the simple reason of my Nationality. Both Labour and Tories in parliament made atrocious attacks on French politicians and the French people.

    I immediately joined the Liberal Democrats and wrote a letter published in election material used for the local election. A Labour candidate saw me at the count and proposed to give me a kick in the bollocks. I kindly declined.

    The hatred I felt for Labour, a party supposed to be on the Left but increasingly right of Centre has not died.

    We are promised new things by Ed Miliband. Things that are yet to materialise. How can I trust new things will happen when most of the people at the head of Labour were already at the head of Labour when Blair and Brown were in power?

    The conduct of most of the Labour party during the (allegedly fake) negotiations between Labour and LibDems that followed the General Election, and also during the AV campaign do not fill me with love for the party I once belonged to.

    We as Liberal Democrats are incongruous. There should be no space in a FPTP system for us. We have been accused by Labour (and also the Tories) of being power hungry maniacs who will accept to destroy all we hold dear (and ourselves) so that a few of us can ride in ministerial cars. Funny accusation. If you are a power hungry maniac, hoping to be in power, would you join a party that has not been in power for 70 years? No, you would join Labour or the Tories. Does not matter if you don’t agree with what the party represents or its history. Many accuse Cameron of not being a real Tory. Blair was never left wing.

    Most Labour supporters want to see us destroyed. Especially those who, in 2010, were so angry at Labour that they voted… for us. Why treat the LibDems differently to how they treated Labour? After all, they were angry with Labour for many reasons. Did they ask then for Labour to be destroyed?

    A number of Tories also despise us and I have unfollowed a few recently for making clear they dream of the day we’ll be gone.

    David Blunkett, the man who jumped for joy when some serial murderer committed suicide in jail, explained it clearly when he took side against AV: the role of elections is to ensure Labour and the Tories succeed themselves in power. As long as during a period of time, say 50 years, they spend about the same time in absolute power, it’s OK. It does not matter for him that this absolute power is based on an ever diminishing proportion of the people and voters.

    Would I have preferred a coalition with Labour? Yes but to me, Labour and the Tories often feel like a rock and a hard place.

  • Steve Cooke says:

    I think there are three important questions that we should ask ourselves before joining forces with anyone:

    1) what are the policies we agree upon?
    2) what are the ideological commitments we agree upon?
    3) can the people in the other party be trusted not to screw us?

    As far as Labour goes I’m sure we have a number of policies we could agree upon, and a thin layer of ideological agreement, but I have almost no confidence they wouldn’t screw us even harder than the Tories would like to.

  • Dave Page says:

    I’d also dispute that Labour’s record on LGBT equality was much cop. Most of what happened with them in Government (overturning ban on military service, Gender Recognition Act etc.) was because the EHCR forced them, and they didn’t go as far as they promised (and as far as the Lib Dem Private Members’ Bill) on civil partnerships.

    Good things happened in that period, but the Labour Party being in Government wasn’t particularly relevant to that.

  • […] them winning and everybody else losing. Cllr Matthew Hulbert, a Lib Dem Councillor, has written a blog on the Lib Dems working with […]

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