‘A leftwing Labour leader could raise the Liberal Democrats from the dead’

So runs the headline in the Guardian over a piece today by Mary Dejevsky:

A return to more leftwingery for Labour could create more ideological space for the Liberal Democrats and foster a stronger electoral identity for both parties. But the disaggregation of British politics would not necessarily stop there. Before the election, many Tories openly hankered after olden days. They could well renew their clamour, once the victory glow wears off and the Europe referendum looms. The chief beneficiaries of more vacant centre ground would again be the Liberal Democrats. The only question then would be whether Tim Farron had grown into a leader able to capitalise on liberalism’s new appeal.

You read the full article here.

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50 Comments

  • Alisdair McGregor 29th Jul '15 - 10:56am

    The article is interesting, but it presumes that:

    1) The Authoritarian Blairites would leave the Labour Party and try to join us
    2) We’d want them.

    We don’t really have anything in common with the Blairites. Happy to take their voters, thô

  • I do not think the UK electoral system works in the way the author presumes.

    Overall Corbyn’s election would be bad for Lib Dems. Look at the comments below the article if anyone needs the evidence: the cyberwonk denunciation of Lib Dems as enemy collaborators would only be encouraged. Under Corbyn, Labour would be widely seen as unelectable which would deter voters from voting Lib Dem for fear of a result that could bring Labour back into government.

    A Labour party that is intent on winning would recognise that it needs Lib Dems to take seats off the Conservatives in many parts of England . This would mean abandoning the demonisation of Lib Dems and an acceptance that with Lib Dem influence the coalition did more or less follow Labour’s economic prescriptions as outlined by Alistair Darling.

    It might seem paradoxical, but Liberal Democrats would benefit more from a Labour party that is focussed on winning.

  • Agree with Alisdair.

    Blair and his chums are currently (apart from a certain disappearing peer) the most discredited politicians in Britain.

    It’s important to differentiate between the tabloid demonisation of Corbyn and the actuality of his policies. Radical Liberals can agree with much of what he says – as they can with Caroline Lucas. In Scotland, Nicola succeeded with a poweful critique of austerity and the demise of the old Labour Party. Food for thought there.

    Interesting also to follow the career path of such old SDP characters as Andrew Adonis, Andrew Lansley of NHS fame, Chris Grayling (who banned books for prisoners) , and of course the sole surviving Scottish Tory David Mundell just to mention a few.

    We ought to be careful what we wish for.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jul '15 - 11:31am

    This is a serious article, with some omissions. Commentators need to fill space in newspapers and stimulate debate, but we do not need to take their advice. We have elected a leader, so let him get on with doing his job. We should unify behind him and campaign for Liberal Democracy. It is also undesirable to try to reposition ourselves relative to a moving target, or two (or three).

    This is a matter for the Labour Party. Tories would be wise to keep out of it until they know the results. Labour should check its new members to try to find out whether some are members of a rival party, which is presumably not allowed.

    The Labour leadership elections have focussed too much on the UK level and not enough on the election/s in Scotland for the politically difficult job of leading Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs at the same time in different places with different rules and different electoral systems.

  • People simply looking at (stated) policies get a completely false idea of Corbyns ideology. I come from the same background as Corbyn, brought into politics by 1968 & while I have moved , all the evidence suggests Corbyn hasnt. He wants to refigure Labour into a “mass” revolutionary party. That doesnt mean we cant co-operate on particular policies as long as we remember just how illeberal & anti-liberal the far-left are.
    The good thing is that Labour look like splitting anyway & some of the fragments may come to us. We should welcome them & assume they are genuine “converts” until they prove otherwise.

  • If you read all J. Corbyn’s comments [which could become Labour policies] they overlap with much of social liberal [a section of LibDem] thinking. Except that Labour is doctrinaire and tribal but LibDems are [supposed to be] liberal and supportive of individual freedoms, aspiration and success. Aspiration and success are usually seen by voters as being the sole preserve of conservatism but that is not so – LibDems support the same but not via the same greedy killer instincts [we hope].

    J. Corbyn seems to have softened his approach recently and retreated from the far-left he usually occupies. Is there an election for something? Whatever our thoughts on that, he will be restrained from returning too far left – as his party will want to be seen as more central and in the same position as the LibDems. We did notice that Labour have been taking up many of our policies – as have the Tories if it suits them for gaining votes. But Tories don’t actually have helpful principles for others, just for themselves.

    What it highlights is that we LibDems have to be very clear about our image, our enduring statements about Liberalism and the Democratic way our party was [supposed to be] run. One person one vote is essential. Open Conference discussions but full membership voting on policy. Open party committees [to all members]. And perhaps most important of all – a really modern way of voting online. Total involvement online and in ‘gatherings’ will grow our membership and our individual and group diligence to advance our party. We need to consolidate under Tim’s leadership to show our ‘best side’ – and stop imitating other parties.

  • FAO Richard Underhill. Sorry, Richard,

    ” the politically difficult job of leading Scottish Labour MPs” – It’s not that difficult to lead one Labour MP.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jul '15 - 12:28pm

    The idea that Labour moderates are a load of authoritarians is nonsense. I am afraid.

    As I have said several times: I don’t see a way back for the party under Farron until after 2020. So on the party goes…

  • Alisdair McGregor 29th Jul '15 - 1:06pm

    You think it’s nonsense to call Yvette Cooper authoritarian? She’s not so much an opposition to Theresa May as a cheerleader.

    Labour don’t actually have many moderates. They have several different shades of authoritarians.

  • In what way is Yvette authoritarian?

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Jul '15 - 1:23pm

    Alisdair McGregor29th Jul ’15 – 10:56am – Says much that needs to be said on this.

    Taking up the point made by David Raw29th Jul ’15 – 11:26am
    “It’s important to differentiate between the tabloid demonisation of Corbyn and the actuality of his policies. Radical Liberals can agree with much of what he says – as they can with Caroline Lucas. ” …

    It would be very interesting if LDV were to conduct on poll on the topic of the Labour leadership – just how would we as Liberal Democrat members vote. For the record I personally agree with David’s point. And from what I have seen and heard only Corbyn and Burnham are willing to consider some form of PR; I am however happy to be corrected on this if incorrect.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jul '15 - 1:24pm

    Hi Alisdair, I’m just a bit confused as to who you think the Lib Dem target market should be. Centre-left?

    That is fine. I wouldn’t call Yvette and others authoritarian, but I am not too fussed if others want to say so.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Jul '15 - 1:36pm

    The word ‘authoritarian’ gets bandied around a lot. Please give examples of Yvette Cooper’s authoritarianism.

    She seems an exceptionally bright, politically committed young woman to me.

  • Daniel Henry 29th Jul '15 - 1:49pm

    I think Alisdair is mistaken to say Yvette was a “cheer leader” for Theresa May – on the transcripts I saw it seemed to be more a case that she was attacking Theresa for not being authoritarian enough!

    For those requesting evidence:
    http://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/jan/24/yvette-cooper-control-orders-security
    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/cooper-terror-suspects-face-being-forced-out-of-capital-if-labour-win-10215096.html
    http://press.labour.org.uk/post/96460327869/the-governments-anti-terror-proposals-are-in

  • Daniel Henry 29th Jul '15 - 1:50pm

    That said, if any Labour MP did wish to defect, so long as they were flexible enough to accept the Lib Dem whip and positions, I see no reason why we should turn them away.

  • @Tony Rowan-Wicks “We did notice that Labour have been taking up many of our policies – as have the Tories if it suits them for gaining votes. But Tories don’t actually have helpful principles for others, just for themselves.”

    I despair of this party sometimes. Another example of the “Labour are cuddly” naivety we really don’t need … 🙄

  • Tony Dawson 29th Jul '15 - 3:21pm

    Daniel, All this talk of ‘whip and positions’ I trust that you are not suggesting we should broaden our appeal to former Labour peers! 😉

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Jul '15 - 3:51pm

    @ Daniel Henry,
    I may be wrong, but I seem to remember that it was the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile QC who said that he saw no alternative to control orders and it was he argued for the return of them. There was a discussion on here about the TPIMS that replaced them.

    Surely responsible government ministers must listen to advisors and watchdogs.

  • Jayne Mansfield:

    Do you think Carlile is representative of Liberal Democrats?

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jul '15 - 5:50pm

    David Raw 29th Jul ’15 – 12:27pm I do know about the triumviate of Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs in Scotland. A fuller quote was
    “… the politically difficult job of leading Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs at the same time in different places, … ”
    In Northern Ireland this is called double-jobbing, which is at least part of why the First Minister lost his Westminster seat in 2010. They have put a stop to it.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Jul '15 - 7:29pm

    @ Martin,
    I haven’t a clue, but he was made a Liberal Democrat peer.

    What I do know is that he has, ( or had), greater access to security information than you or I and that his role was supposed to be independent.

  • Yvette Cooper . Is she an authoritarian ? Even if she is not she is most definitely a Westmnster Bubble Careerist. She is half of what in Blairite days was called a “golden couple” inevitably bound for wonderful things in the future and “one of them would one day be leader”. The shine has worn off the other half of this golden couple and now you would presumeably get very long odds on Ed Balls becoming leader of anything. Both of them, started at the top in UK politics and seem to be slipping ever downwards.

    During the Labour leadership campaign I have listened to Yvette Cooper repeat that she wants “A stronger economy and a fairer society”. This makes me wonder if she was awake during the general election or if she noticed the results for the party that campaigned on that slogan. 🙁

    Thank goodness we have Tim Farron elected as our leader. Tim has worked his way up in politics and will be a better leader as a result.

  • John Tilley

    I’m not sure we should hold people’s background against them or that people who have ‘worked their way up’ are necessarily better or worse leaders. It’s quite hard to find electable people in politics nowadays who aren’t part of the Westminster set.

    Margaret Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter but that didn’t end so well.

  • Martin “Do you think Carlile is representative of Liberal Democrats?”

    Interesting to consider who IS representative of the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg? He was after all the democratically elected leader and many people supported him. Tim Farron? He is the leader now but not universally supported. Vince Cable?

    Who do you think is representative of the Party, Martin?

  • Phyllis 30th Jul ’15 – 10:48am

    Phyllis, there is something in what you say.
    However, You have chosen a poor example to illustrate your case. To be the daughter of Alderman Thatcher in the 1930s and go to Univeristy as Margaret Tatcher did at a time when 90% of the population left school at 14 seems to me to indicate that she did did not start bottom and work up.
    It possibly also helped her political career that she married a man with so much wealth from his family’s overseas oil business that she never had to worry about Iiving in the sort of conditions her policies forced on others.
    If she had grown up in anything like a normal environment my guess is that would not have imposed the draconian economic policies which ruined the lives of coal-mining and manufacturing communities throughout the UK.

  • Stephen Hesketh 30th Jul '15 - 1:07pm

    Sara Scarlett30th Jul ’15 – 12:53pm
    “Liberalism =/= centrism. Liberalism is not centrism. Liberalism should not be centrism. Liberalism is something different. Whatever the positioning of Labour, Liberalism has to look/sound/be distinctly liberal.”

    Bl**dy hell, I agree with Sara Scarlet!

  • nvelope2003 30th Jul '15 - 1:08pm

    I do not think we can assume that a Jeremy Corbin Labour Party is unelectable. When Michael Foot was leader in the 1983 election he was well known and visibly aged. Britain had had nearly 40 years of socialism, strikes and nationalised industries and they were not popular with many people. The Conservative leader was very determined and people liked that and compared her to the irresolute leaders they had experienced before.

    Now we have had over 30 years of privatised industries and the promise of welfare cuts and more privatisation. Those who do not remember what the old nationalised industries were like and the endless strikes and closures of inefficient industries with massive lay offs will think that Corbin is the answer to all their problems. Although his plans are ones which have been tried and failed everywhere he seems fresh and new to the many without any knowledge or interest in the past who are possibly the majority. I think those Tories who are voting for him might be bitterly regretting that decision on the day after the next General election. They might get what they voted for. Corbin could be a disaster for Time Farron and the Liberal Democrats as he will seem to most people a much better and more convincing prospect as Prime Minister – which Farron is unlikely to be.

  • John Tilley 30th Jul '15 - 1:13pm

    Joe Otten
    To answer your final point – which was “If being middle class disqualifies you then there would be almost nobody left”.

    – I think you have lost sight of the majority of the population.

    I recognise that the definition of “middle-class” is crucial in such a discussion. It seems odd to me that you describe yourself as utterly middle-class but go on to say you grew up in a council house (actually you said social housing).

    In the USA they seem to use “middle-class” when we in the UK would say “working -class”. Hilary Clinton talks about blue-collar workers being “middle-class” whilst that seems a contradiction in terms to me. Perhaps you are following the US understanding of the term?

    Margaret Thatcher was by any measure from a UK middle-class background ( her father owned his own business, owned his own home and had the spare time and resources to be an Alderman – this was in the 1930s at a time of mass unemployment, when the majority of the UK population did not even dream of owning their own home).

  • nvelope2003

    Speculating on how the Lib Dems will do against Corbyn is pretty pointless at this stage! However I don’t think we will do worse in votes than in 2010, and I think we would retake some seats like Cambridge.

    Corbyn would pick up votes from Greens and UKIP and perhaps some people who did not vote last time… We ought to gain some votes from the SDP wing of Labour….

    Farron is not going to be seen by anyone as a potential Prime Minister in 2020, so that argument is not very relevant… But Corbyn might pick up some anti-Tory votes that we would get with a more centrist Labour leader…

  • richard boyd OBE DL 30th Jul '15 - 8:24pm

    Who cares what the Guardian says? Not the electorate.

  • nvelope2003 30th Jul '15 - 9:06pm

    Andrew: Well speculation is always pretty pointless but it is what this site specialises in. I just feel the Guardian might be barking up the wrong tree – which is not exactly unusual for them. Did you mean worse in votes than 2010 when we got 24% or 2015 when we got 8% ? I would be surprised if we got back up to 24%. Corbyn is the English equivalent of the SNP and could attract similar success in parts of England but I would not predict a Tory wipe out or even a Liberal Democrat one. Young voters probably did see Clegg as a potential PM in 2010 so they might view Farron in the same light. There is very little knowledge of politics or Parliament among many people unlike 60 years ago.

  • nvelope2003,

    I am sensibly measuring success from where we are now, not from where we were in 2010! I would be astonished, astounded and totally floored if we got back up to 24% in 2010 (or even 23%, which is what we got). I might even eat my hat! The playing field has a lot more teams on it now for a start..

    Clegg in 2010 was leading a party of 62 MP’s which had got 22% of the vote in the previous General election. He had credibility which Farron will just not have. The chances of even holding the balance of power will be very slim. The only thing that would change that would be if we really did surge up to 20+ % in the polls. Just try and imagine where those votes would come from! In 2010 Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats got 88% of the vote between them. Do you think UKIP will be back on 3.1%, the SNP back on 1.9%, and the Greens on 0.9%? Either all those things would have to happen or one of the big 2 would have to collapse to a level not seen in virtually a century for us to get back to 23%….

    The reality is that if we can get back up to 12-15% in 2020 we will have done very well. Going into coalition and breaking our pledges did not just damage us for one Parliament… We have to be realistic and admit that we are on a long road, and focussing on local government and a gradual increase in parliamentary seats is the most sensible course for now (but I note that the Tories will be keen to emasculate and remove democracy from local government as much as they can, turning local councils into technocratic wings of central government with elected mayors “business partnerships” and infrequent elections, as in Birmingham)

  • Yes, I see now that I made a typo putting 2010 instead of 2015! Sorry!

  • nvelope2003 31st Jul '15 - 9:37am

    Andrew: 23% was for the UK but 24% was for Britain excluding Northern Ireland where the LDs did not stand. I may have expressed myself badly but the point I was trying to make is that Corbyn is someone few had ever heard of until recently but he appears a complete change from the cautious Labour contenders or past leaders and immature and desperate people like that – that is why Hitler and Mussolini won power. Tim Farron will barely get a look in because of this so I think Corbyn is bad for the LIberal Democrats

    Corbyn’s politics has been tried and look what happened in Greece. Yet despite that his party is still riding high in the polls. The same might happen in Spain. We had this with Harold Wilson who promised the moon but delivered very little but people still liked him. These people seem like the voice of the little man up against the powerful who would rather wreck the system than see others making a success of themselves. This site is full of such people who without any real knowledge demand that unspecified changes are made to our institutions and when it happens occasionally are appalled by the results because they were unable to understand the issues.

  • nvelope2003 31st Jul '15 - 9:41am

    I suspect that if Corbyn leads Labour the Green vote could fall substantially as he does look a better prospect than Natalie Bennett or Caroline Lucas. Even Tim Farron is more impressive.

  • I’m sorry but Tim Farron is not more impressive than Caroline Lucas. I like Tim, but come on.

  • Natalie Bennett I agree, but Caroline Lucas is very impressive. She is another conviction politician.

    Comparing Corbyn to Hitler and Mussolini is very insulting though. I would never do that… But you are correct that revolutions happen when the gap between rich and poor becomes too great and when the rich become too arrogant and complacent behind their high fences… That is where the current policy direction in this country could lead us if we are not careful.

    You can hardly say that Corbyn’s policies have been tried in Greece BTW! The Socialists have been in power there for only 6 months and contrary to popular right-wing myth Greece went into recession 3 months before they came into power. Rightly or wrongly the Syriza project has been killed by the European banks before it had any chance to be tested. Greek people voted (twice in 6 months) to try it and in my view democracy should have prevailed, but there you are…

    But yes, Corbyn would mop up quite a few Green votes and probably a lot of Green activists. It is obvious from the Green manifesto that a lot of Corbynites took over their policy making between 2010 and 2015…

    I think in terms of charisma and touching people’s consciences Corbyn and Farron are both impressive. They see the same problems of poverty and inequality as central to policy making rather than minor collateral damage on the way to fiscal probity.

    Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK36ps3L-aU

    I could imagine Farron saying many of those words. Building more council houses makes a lot of sense, for example…

  • John Tilley ok fair point. I concede that Margaret Thatcher came from a relatively well-to-do background. It actually reminds me of something I heard about her PPB one year. She was portraying herself as ‘an ordinary housewife’ going shopping and having to balance her housekeeping money. Except that the supermarket was actually Harrods. No idea if this is true or an urban myth but it shows the gap between perception and reality.

    Now Yvette Cooper’s dad was a Maths teacher and she went to her local comprehensive school but was bright enough to get into Oxford on a scholarship. Of course Tim’s dad was a construction worker and he was raised by his single-parent mum so his ‘steer-cred’ is higher than Yvette’s. But I suspect the interesting thing is not where one comes from but the person you end up as. Will power change Tim? Will the demands of ‘realpolitik’?

  • Phyllis

    “Power change Tim?” 🙂

    Chance would be a fine thing!

  • John Tilley 31st Jul '15 - 1:06pm

    Phyllis
    Thanks for that response.
    I would put Maths Teacher fairly high up the social ladder – perhaps that say something about me ? 🙂
    My impression of Yvette may be influenced by the fact that I worked for her briefly about 15 years ago. Or maybe my own prejudices are just showing through.
    The problem for the Labour Party is that if either she or Burnham or Kendall become leader it will mean more of the same from the Labour Party that we have seen over the last 20 years. It will be the Labour Party of Blair, Straw, Blunket and Harman constantly edging towards the Conservatives or in some cases such as policing and ID Cards going even further to the right than the Conservatives.

    BTW — I actually remember the Margaret Thatcher thing on TV in the 190s with her tinned peaches and pretending for the camera to be doing her own decorating. I cannot remember which shop the groceries came from but it was all such an obvious pretence that I cannot imagine that it fooled anyone. Even the most bovine Comservative supporter would not have been fooled.

  • @John Tilley given there are very few manual jobs around these days there must be very few working class as a result. Or if you take the definition that employees are working class and business owners are middle class than that makes my decorator middle class and me working class.

    Or perhaps you define it by attitudes and tastes, which seems to me to be outdated and illiberal.

    What is your definition?

  • nvelope2003 1st Aug '15 - 9:43pm

    Andrew: I was not comparing Hitler etc to Corbyn, just saying more charismatic leaders are better at pulling in followers.
    Farrron is impressive but he has not got Corbyn’s high profile and the Liberal Democrats have a lot of problems because of their support for the coalition which might take time to be forgotten. Although there have been some good local by election results in England and Wales, those in Scotland have been worse than before.

    The Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) ruled Greece for much of the last 40 years. It is generally considered that particularly under Andras Papandreou it was responsible for much that is wrong with the Greek economy although the centre right did little to stop the corruption and creation of non jobs in the public sector, probably for the same reason that Conservatives failed to do much in the UK – fear of electoral defeat.

    Caroline Lucas is an impressive person but her policies are not and her party was torn to shreds when they were exposed to scrutiny. I hope that Tim Farron will not lead the party along that road.

    Syriza has not had time to implement its policies but it was trying to do so by re employing redundant public servants and stopping the privatisation of ports etc. The fact that it was unable to do much shows that whatever they say in opposition left wing policies of that sort cannot be implemented unless the Government is prepared to face political, financial and economic chaos as has occurred in for example Venezuela ( see the recent Channel 4 News reports). Maybe even AlexisTsipras is not willing to go that far but some of his followers are according to tonight’s Hardtalk interview with one of them.

  • nvelope2003 1st Aug '15 - 10:17pm

    Re the above – I should have said 1950s Conservatives failed to do much – sorry

  • nvelope2003,
    The Scottish by-elections have not been much worse actually… ALDC have a rather unconventional way of reporting STV elections and we were up in one, down in the other in my book. But the reality is that we have not shown much improvement anywhere where we have no credibility – those London seats had just had an avalanche of Liberal Democrat leaflets I suspect.. There are signs that people are prepared to vote for us at local level in larger numbers than before however.

    Since 1974 PASOK have been in charge for 21 out of 41 years actually (there was a period of NOC for a couple of years in there as well). You can’t blame them for everything! I blame the Americans for making them build a pointless baseball stadium! (well, I think there were quite a lot of grandiose projects that helped send Greece into debt and the Olympics was one of them… But so were over generous pensions and some reluctance to pay tax, even if the figures show that is often overstated). You are correct that trying to bring in socialist policies within a capitalist system is rather like injecting someone with the wrong blood group – the host rejects it… Of course there is not necessarily anything intrinsically wrong with the blood…. After all it is the host that is ill… The form of capitalism we have currently in the world can hardly be said to have been a success in recent years! I would not try and cure it with socialism myself but you can’t blame people for trying it!

    The Greens more than tripled their vote, which was not bad for them in FPTP… Caroline Lucas would never have stumbled over policy like Natalie Bennett did… Hopefully Tim will learn the same…

  • nvelope2003 1st Aug '15 - 10:33pm

    Andrew: Well it is the job of the Liberal Democrats to put forward a form of capitalism which would be of benefit to ordinary people as the present one is discrediting the system !

    Maybe the Olympic authorities are getting more realistic as the Japanese have cancelled that very expensive stadium and Beijing is to have more Olympics to make use of the existing facilities.

  • Nvelope2003,

    yes… I was just reading what John Stuart Mill thought actually… Inheritance tax more than income tax (to keep the playing field level). Worker’s co-operatives, STV. “Utilitarian principle” which would tax undesirable things like cigarettes..

    At least we got rid of baseball for London… Pity we got golf instead of 20-20 cricket though! (or squash – how is that not in the Olympics??) Apparently baseball could still come back in 2020

  • nvelope2003 2nd Aug '15 - 9:36pm

    Andrew: The Greens did have a lot more candidates than in 2010 and seemed to have gained quite a few votes from Liberal Democrats discontented or disgusted with the coalition. The result in Bristol West is particularly instructive. I doubt if we will be in coalition between now and 2020. Most people have relatively short memories but unfortunately we have lost most of the second places we had built up since 1964/74 so it will be harder to get the tactical votes from Labour supporters. We need to put forward a positive message not bang on about balanced Parliaments and coalitions which just puts off the voters.

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