Compass chair Neal Lawson has a must-read letter to the Lib Dems in this week’s New Statesman. In it, he argues that the centre left bungled a governmental opportunity in 2010 due to unpreparedness. He encourages us to start the ground work now for a potential centre left progressive coalition in 2015, rather than leaving it to the likes of David Laws and Michael Gove to “stitch it up again”.
That’s why we have to build relationships now – through policy, ideas debates and campaigns. We might find we have more in common than we think. Everything good about liberalism is social – it was New Liberalism that founded the welfare state and Beveridge who gave it its post-war form. It was Keynes who helped rebuild the post war economy and it is a Keynes we need today. On Europe, constitutional reform, climate change, civil liberties, a Plan B or Plan C, the best of both parties would provide a half-decent programme for government. Labour needs to be more liberal. The Liberals needs to be more social. So can we start to sketch out the outlines of a new coalition agreement to rebuild Britain? This doesn’t mean either party losing its identity or distinctiveness, it does mean preparing for the best feasible outcome.
With recent events, such as Jeremy Hunt’s elevation to Health and Lord Ashcroft’s appointment as a Privy Councillor, one has to say that the entreaties of Neal Lawson must strike an instinctive chord with many Liberal Democrats, thirsting for involvement in a government closer to our hearts. I am certainly longing for this sort of engagement.
The current coalition is entirely unnatural for many Lib Dems. Dealing with Tories comes as naturally to us as cycling on a fish. One longs for engagement with people who at least share a reasonable portion of basic shared values.
* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Photo Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Liberal Burblings.