Well, ‘fool us once’ and all that.
15 years later the Liberal Democrats remain a broad church. Orange Bookers, social democrats, Coalition supporters, Coalition sceptics, whatever Evan Harris is – there’s room for all of us.
Labour on the other hand are turning in on themselves. A confused party with a weak leader and rampant trade unions holding the purse strings and becoming ever bolder in their demands.
Unite wants to stand candidates and take over the party from the bottom up. The GMB wants to kick members of the centrist campaign group Progress out of the party.
Call it a lurch to the left, call it turning the clocks back, call it retreating to the comforting embrace of easy opposition, call it what you like but if I were a Labour supporter, I’d be worried about what’s happening to my party.
But I’m not, so I’m not. Let them fight among themselves.
Today, Tim Farron invited Progress members to Lib Dem conference. And why not? They’re clearly not welcome at Labour’s.
Tim is often caricatured as a Lib Dem lefty. No doubt he is to the left of the Coalition (aren’t we all? It is a Coalition with the Conservatives after all), but listen to what he has to say for any meaningful amount of time and it is obvious that he is proud of a Liberal Democrat party that is unashamedly modern, progressive and reforming, open to ideas and willing to build bridges. And there’s not a minister on our benches who isn’t proud of the same things.
I imagine members of Progress wish they could describe their party the same way.
So, Progress, let’s talk. We promise not to mention Iraq if you promise not to mention the Tories.
You don’t have to join, that’s not the point. This isn’t one of your Ed Miliband-style ‘I want your voters’ appeals. You want a debate, we’re having one, come and join in. Challenge us, criticise us, agree with some of us and disagree with others.
You may find we have a lot in common and you may even enjoy our company more than you thought you would.
We won’t lead you up the garden path like Blair did to us, but Tim has left the gate open and you’re welcome to have a nose around and smell the roses. If you make it all the way to the door we may even let you in.