Oh dear. Ed Miliband makes one speech in which he mentions Beveridge and doesn’t overtly attack us, and everyone thinks he’s making overtures to us and looking to form a Progressive Coalition after the next General Election.
Martin Kettle even wrote a short piece on this in The Guardian.
Wake up everyone. The complete opposite is true. When Ed Miliband said he wanted ‘to eliminate the Liberal Democrats from British Politics’, he meant it. And he’s going about it in an ingenious – and invidious – way.
Partly of course he’s playing the old card of the other two parties – ignoring us. Out of sight, out of mind. Not worth even mentioning them. What third party? We’ve seen it all before.
But he’s doing more than that. He may not have mentioned us by name. But he sure as hell mentioned what we believe in. Suddenly Mr. Miliband is anti Iraq war, pro electoral reform, anti ID cards, and wants to crack on with an elected House of Lords. And, he tells us, ‘we must always remember that British liberties were hard fought and hard won over hundreds of years’.
Now that sounds like the sort of speech the leader of the Liberal Democrats should be making; they are of course all our policies. Add in a reference to his political heroes (Lloyd George, Keynes), and a quick reference to the Sheffield Forgemasters and his strategy is clear.
He’s telling all those people in the country who voted Lib Dem last time that the policies they voted for then are what Labour wants now. And he’s telling plenty of people within the Lib Dem party that their true home is Labour. And let’s face it, there’s a vociferous minority within our ranks who are ripe for the message.
So what to do? Well, we need to ensure that they don’t steal our clothes. That we don’t allow them to lump us in with the Conservatives, blame us for all the bad news while boasting about their own liberal credentials. We need, even as part of the coalition, to stay distinctive, true to our values and continue to innovate in policy making in the way we always have – and retain ownership of those ideas.
Or else someone we don’t really like, we don’t believe in and with none of our beliefs at heart, will be telling the country for 5 years that he’s the true liberal voice of Britain. And suddenly – people will be raising that old canard, ‘what are we really for’.
He’s going to kill us by stealing our message.
Don’t let him