Friday 17 September 2010

Why the next Labour leader must engage with Lib Dems

Prominent Liberal Democrat Richard Grayson writes in the forthcoming Fabian Review that Labour should resist “knee-jerk opposition” and not adopt a “tribal and hostile approach to all Liberal Democrats on every issue”.

On the eve of the Lib Dem Conference - where Grayson will speak at at a Fabian/Centreforum fringe on Sunday alongside David Lammy, Sunder Katwala and Norman Lamb MP, who is Nick Clegg's PPS - Grayson encourages Labour’s next leader to focus on the common ground between the two parties rather than seeking to exploit the febrile political atmosphere for short-term tactical gain. He argues that, despite the current frayed relations, the two parties are natural allies:

“There is a simple reason why people have talked for so long about the realignment of the centre-left, and seldom of such a regrouping of the centre-right. It is that members of the Liberal Democrats (and their predecessors) have at heart far more in common with Labour members than with Conservatives”

He says that both can learn from each other:

“It is my strong belief that there is much space for a sustained engagement between the new Labour leadership and Liberal Democrats on a wide range of issues to lay the foundations for a future centre-left government. These include areas where Lib Dems have got it right in the past, and from which Labour might learn, such as civil liberties, the environment, democratisation, and redistribution. On these issues the hearts and souls of Liberal Democrat and Labour activists are similarly stirred, something that cannot be said of Conservatives. There are other areas where the Liberal Democrats have probably got it wrong and need to rethink. The scrapping of the Child Trust Fund and the Savings Gateway has torn up the entire agenda of asset-based welfare.”

Read the full article here.

How Labour engages with Lib Dem supporters will be a defining strategic decision for Labour’s new leader in his first year – not just to win over voters at the next election, but to allow the parties to work together in parliament in the future. Both of the Miliband’s are doing this in slightly different ways: Ed being more overt, more aggressive and slightly less humble in his pitch to Liberal Democrats unhappy with the coalition; David in the more subtle way that has attracted the support of Jon Cruddas.

We'll have more from the Fabian Review conference special, which looks at the new Labour leader's tricky year ahead, here on Next Left next week.

1 comment:

T.N.T. said...

Very hard to disagree with anything Richard Grayson says in this article and indeed what's striking is how close it is to what Compass (for example) have been saying for years. I think Richard would make an ideal adviser to Ed Miliband if he wins the Labour leadership. There's got to be scope for mass defections from the Lib Dems to Labour if Labour can articulate a message that left-liberals feel comfortable with.