A safe haven for Labour migrants

If politics is a numbers game then evidence is gathering which shows how misguided the Labour party’s attempts to straddle the electoral fence truly are.

A Labour party intent on waving Brexit bills through parliament in a misguided attempt to preserve the notional ‘will of the people’ at the expense of principled opposition is now leaking members. The dramatic surge of Corbynista enthusiasm which saw party membership top 500,000 last year is now looking more like a freak high water mark than a prolonged shift in progressive politics as has been claimed.

A report in the Guardian details how Labour party membership is on the decline as record numbers of members fall into arrears whilst others simple don’t renew when the time comes.

For the Liberal Democrats, these internal fluctuations of a rival’s fortunes matter enormously. Those people who are leaving Labour in disillusionment are the people who will help us continue our fightback. These former Labour members either are, or were, politically engaged and likely to hold views that can be broadly defined as progressive. While accepting that these are wide generalisations, the trends of the last 2 years which saw the surge in Labour party membership would seem to support them. You have to be engaged to sign up to any political party and the Corbyn revolution was publicised as a progressive one, no matter what one’s views on the validity of such statements. 

These people, maybe as many as 80,000 of them, represent an opportunity for the Lib Dems. Engage them and a new core of engaged members are available to help us win votes at the next general election. And bear in mind that may not be too far away.

The Lib Dems can offer genuine leadership on the biggest topic of our generation. Our position on Brexit is clear and our experience of coalition government has shown what a difference a liberal party in power can make. As Theresa May lurches further right in her bid to appease Dacre and her restive Brexit-loving backbenchers, the clear benefits of the liberal softening of Tory policies becomes ever clearer.

So, it is up to us, existing party members, to capture this moment. As support ebbs away from Labour we must be ready to reach out to these people and offer them a home. We can offer them  a place where decency, common sense and genuinely progressive views are valued. We can give them a space where talk of holding the government to account is not dismissed blithely with the catch all ‘will of the people’ nonsense, but recognised as the duty and right of every person in this country who values our future prosperity.

It’s time for us to reach out clearly and confidently. The best place to fight for a decent future is here.

* Dan Hunt is a member of the Liberal Democrats

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20 Comments

  • David Evershed 25th Mar '17 - 11:47am

    The Liberal Democrats should not become Labour Lite.

    Lib Dems have fundamental differences with Labour.

    Lib Dems are pro free markets and competition whereas Labour tends to want to intervene.

    Lib Dems are pro individual freedom whereas Labour tends to ID cards and imprisonment without trial.

    Lib Dems are pro self help whereas Labour tends to want only state controlled help.

    Lib Dems are pro a diversity of school types whereas Labour tend to want only prescribed state schools.

    Lib Dems are naturally anti-authoritarian whereas Labour are naturally authoritarian.

    We should be careful about being swamped with socialists.

  • I totally agree with you David, I have no wish to see us swamped with socialists. However I would argue that there are plenty of unhappy Labour party members who would almost certainly never describe themselves as socialist and would find much common ground with us. My point is that we should be aware of the opportunity that currently exists and seek to reach out to those we have plenty of shared values with. It wouldn’t work with all dissatisfied Labour members but it may work with some.

  • On the figures, Labours paid-up membership has fallen by around 110,000 in 8 Months, around 20% of the peak figure. It works out at around 450 a day. This is a big shift in the political balance & is undiluted good news.
    However, its unusual for people to migrate straight from one Party to another, if we recruit even 10,000 of those 110,000 we will be doing well.
    I take David Eversheds point but we need to have more faith in our own ideas, we can win Labour types over to Liberal ideas.

  • David,

    “Lib Dems are pro free markets and competition whereas Labour tends to want to intervene.”

    are we? I think you might be but a lot of Lib Dems are Keynesian and he wasn’t

    “British economist John Maynard Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking that overturned the then-prevailing idea that free markets would automatically provide full employment—that is, that everyone who wanted a job would have one as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands (see box). The main plank of Keynes’s theory, which has come to bear his name, is the assertion that aggregate demand—measured as the sum of spending by households, businesses, and the government—is the most important driving force in an economy. Keynes further asserted that free markets have no self-balancing mechanisms that lead to full employment. Keynesian economists justify government intervention through public policies that aim to achieve full employment and price stability.”

    http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2014/09/basics.htm

  • Red Liberal: where do you get this apparent anti feeling from us. News to me and I have been around the party a hell of a long time. Welcome, Welcome, Welcome.

  • Red Liberal; certainly hope you didn’t pick up any negative vibe for my piece. The more the merrier as far as i’m concerned and we should have the courage of our convictions to be able to welcome new members with open arms and constructive conversations… preferably over a nice drink!

  • Red Liberal,
    All parties have factions, that isn’t an issue as long as we can agree to disagree. The problem is when one faction insists only their way is the true way and all others must bow to that or leave. The Tories have their Brexiteers and Labour momentum both believe only their views matter, hopefully the Lib Dems will not follow them down the same path. We need to be a broad church not a narrow sect, so welcome ( I suspect we have many of the same views, but even if we don’t welcome).

  • Laurence Cox 25th Mar '17 - 5:22pm

    @Red Liberal
    There are many of us who would welcome people with your views. Check out the Social Liberal Forum http://www.socialliberal.net/ for like-minded people.

  • Peter Martin 25th Mar '17 - 5:32pm

    @ Frankie,

    I think you might have meant to suggest that Keynes was a Liberal and still recognised that governments had an important role to play. Yes they do, but does this mean that markets can never be “free”? It all depends on what we mean by “free” of course. They can be “free” – up to a point. The question is what point!

    It’s quite possible for anyone, of any political inclination, to be Keynesian. Keynes’ interpretation of economics is just a description of the way the economy actually works rather than a prescription of what Governments should do politically. We can have as much nationalisation or privatisation as we like, but economies still work in pretty much the same way regardless.

  • Red Liberal 25th Mar '17 - 7:33pm

    Sorry for the ramble, but I’ll explain what appealed to me about the LDs even as a Labour member: 1.) the LDs were/are less authoritarian than either Old or New Labour 2.) the LDs more explicitly embrace cultural liberalism and personal freedoms 3.) the LDs were more willing to preserve some elements of the postwar welfare state than New Labour, e.g. affordable higher education 4.) the LDs reject laissez-faire economics and supports equality of opportunity, unlike most European liberal parties 5.) the party doesn’t have a eurosceptic faction like Labour’s Hard-leftists 6.) the LDs have always supported electoral reform, an issue I feel very strongly about.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Mar '17 - 11:07pm

    Red Liberal

    I was once in Labour, or twice ! Too social democrat for old Labour.Too liberal for New Labour ! I became what I am, a Liberal Democrat !

    In this party I am well to the right of some on some issues, a little to the left of others on other issues !

    This is a party in which you are welcome !

  • Antony Watts 26th Mar '17 - 9:27am

    We need all local endeavours to be organised not by bottom up local issues, but as devolved issues from the top down.

    If the main message is to be “against Brexit”, then local issues have to be defined as a result of this not the cause of it.

    Reading most of the local LibDem candidate web sites, they seem to have everything the wrong way round. They need to reverse their emphasis and start from the top down.

  • @Martin most European liberal parties are on the centre-right on economics. I’d actually struggle to find another party in ALDE that is locatable on the centre-left and committed to social liberalism as the LibDems. It’s actually an odd one out.

    Anyway, as long as the LibDems doesn’t sell out and become another eurosceptic party, I’m keen to be on board.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Mar '17 - 1:11pm

    Red Liberal

    I have to say that Martin was correct and you are mistaken to a degree on our sister parties.

    Some are too the right of us. Most are much the same on many issues even if a little to the right of us on some.

    D66 in Holland is but one example . Social liberalism and economic liberalism sit side by side in most of those parties.

    All continents have varying parties in the various alliances. Our party shares much with the Canadian Liberal Party , has done for decades, South African Democratic Alliance , again for years, several in the far Eastern countries. Look at the list of Liberal International parties about two thirds are parties if in those countries, I would chose , if any were to be our choice for membership.

  • Red Liberal, You ARE very welcome, when you joined the Lib Dems you would have read the parties beliefs and been happy to subscribe. I think some existing Lib Dem members just have a worry that some may come to join while NOT holding those values. I have helped at recent by-elections and many, many former labour party members/activists have been involved. Do nor angst …. get involved, fight for what you believe in …. AND have fun 🙂

  • Simon Banks 31st Mar '17 - 9:36am

    Many Labour supporters value civil liberties and support devolution. Liberals support free markets and competition, yes, but see that there are areas where these do more harm than good, at least without government intervention, for example to fund advocacy for vulnerable people making choices. Gladstone as Chancellor bailed out depositors in a collapsed bank (but refused to bail out the shareholders).

    Yes, there are many things about Labour that set us in opposition, but they’re in the DNA of the party – the tendency to see everything as Labour versus enemies, to subvert and bully non-party campaigns and organisations into “Labour campaigns”, to argue endlessly over the one true grail, to see issues of liberty, diversity and equality of power as a diversion from the economic struggle. These things do not apply to all Labour members, and remember, on local councils, we often manage to co-operate with Labour.

    There is no need to worry about any danger of us being “Labour-lite”. There is some cause for worry about pitching our appeal so heavily on Europe that we become a home for every pro-European however illiberal. Europe is the number one issue now, but not the only one. Climate change, the state of the NHS, the de-democratisation of local decision-making – all these matter too.

  • This thread seems to me to be a covert debate about ideological purism versus being a big tent. Well I’d say the the Lib Dem party can only afford to be the latter – and it can never be stressed enough that the party itself is a confluence of both liberal and social democratic traditions in British politics, and thus a bit of a hybrid.

    What the party *does* have is its* Constitution *which should be the lodestone of everything we do and say. I recommend that those thinking of joining us should, if they are literate enough, scrutinise this constitution with a fine tooth comb. Should you find yourdelf nodding to…let’s say…75% of it then you’re one of us. This is what I did – and I think it’s a crackingly worded constitution and something of which we should be proud (I believe I am right in saying that it was drafted by a former S.D.P member…?)

    So…a very broad church overlooked by a single guiding star.

    For myself I was very far left in my younger days and, somewhat later had a flirtation with the contnuity Liberal Party (from whom I learnt the limitations of ideological purism!) These days I would think of myself as a Liberal Social Democrat, and to that extent, defiantly centre-left…not unlike Red Liberal’s description of himself.

    Hoewever, I don’t find myself to be particularly worried about the Corbynistas. The problem with them is that they are ineffectual , not dangerous: they have grasped the right problem but are offering the wrong solution. Their brand of steam train socialism is every bit as discredited as its free market economics counterpart.

    Mr Farron gave a great speech recently where he said that the `tectonic plates` were shifting back in favour of the Liberals being the main opposition after having been ousted from this role by state socialists in the early Twentieth Century. I really want that to be true – and, let’s face it, if it is true then it’s not going to happen without us winning back a whole lot of current Labour supporters.

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