They say history never repeats itself, but when the Labour party is involved, you can be at least sure that it’ll rhyme. And once again, the far left of the party is indulging itself in an ideological battle. The target this time is the Blairite thinktank Progress, the GMB union having submitted a rule amendment to outlaw it as a part of the Labour party.
This represents a real chance for Lib Dems to realign the centre, a process which has already began with the Coalition, and liberal-leaning Cameronite Conservatives becoming closer to we Liberal Democrats than the right-wing fringes of his party. Blair and Ashdown’s historic aim was to gather the left together in a progressive alignment that would keep the right out of power — yet circumstances have made that an impossibility. Instead, we should be looking to further Clegg’s message of centrism and inclusion, ‘not left, not right – just liberal’ being a clarion call to liberals of both centre-left and right to join us in the middle.
After all, as Lib Dems we have much to offer. The era of the big state is over, the current economic crisis and debt mountain ignored for too long in favour of realpolitik arguments that see centrists in each party fighting against each other, when we should be united against the extremes.
Our message to Progress, and indeed to other people who have left the Labour party, disgusted by its kowtowing to the leftmost fringes, should be to welcome them to a liberal, centrist party that mixes economic responsibility with a social conscience, that wants to reform the EU, not withdraw from it, that wants a stronger, wealthier, more successful country.
The alternative is stepping back in fear of our own shadow, and allowing Blairites and moderates with liberal values to be snatched up by a Conservative party keen to seize the centre ground of politics. The argument for a third, independent political party in this country is weak enough at the moment without allowing the Conservatives to steal our thunder, the very ground that we should naturally be occupying.
For if we are ever to see a Liberal Democrat majority government, it will not be done by focusing solely on ourselves, and our own issues, but by reaching out to others and making it plain that they are part of our vision of a liberal Britain, a vision that needs urgent attention if it is ever to take place.
* Zadok Day is a Lib Dem activist based in Bury, and is co-Chair of Liberal Reform.