Author Archives: Stephen Barber

If there is a realignment, liberalism must claim its place

A lot of early evaluation of last Thursday’s elections has written the obituary of the Labour party as the ‘Red Wall’ further fell to Johnson’s populist Tories. There is a strong sense that a realignment is taking place in British politics and if so, Liberalism needs to be part of it.

While the death of Labour is, I think, still premature, the implications of the realignment analysis should not be lost on Liberal Democrats preparing for the electoral battles of the decade ahead. Many commentators have confidently concluded that Keir Starmer’s party has lost relevance and cannot recover now that the Tories have been accepted as a credible alternative in places that were solid Labour. That is, Labour is trying to hold together a coalition of younger, metropolitan types with older working class voters and there is a clash of values.

This evaluation is far from conclusive. The elections took place during a national (and international) crisis, 4.2 million furloughs were being paid by the state on polling day, Johnson has taken the credit for a successful vaccine rollout, as Tim Farron pointed out, the electorate has tended to support incumbents in England, Scotland and Wales, plus in analysis of the 1247 key wards there was actually a small swing to Labour. Don’t forget, after the 1992 election, there was similar analysis that Britain now lived in a one-party state. And it really wasn’t that long ago that commentators were wondering if there could ever be a route again to the Conservatives commanding a majority. So let’s take care with apocalyptic predictions.

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Progressive politics needs Starmer to ‘definitely’ be a better Labour leader

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Let’s hope that Ed Miliband’s candid admission is right: that Keir Starmer is ‘definitely’ a better Labour leader than he was.  Miliband’s failed strategic approach, after all, helped put the cause of progressive politics back a decade. And as the Liberal Democrats pick a new leader, it’s essential that those lessons are learned – for both parties.

When ‘Red Ed’ snatched the Labour leadership from his heir apparent brother David in 2010, it was in the aftermath of a crushing election defeat: the lowest share of the vote since 1918 and seat numbers back to 1980s levels.  There was resentment, of course, that the Liberal Democrats did not cobble together a coalition to keep Gordon Brown in Number 10 but any rational assessment would conclude this was never going to happen: the numbers simply did not add up and frankly voters had resoundingly rejected Labour after 13 years in office.

There was talk, in those early days of the coalition, with David Cameron’s Conservatives, of ‘New Politics’. That is a new era of cooperation and consensual discourse.  The sort of politics that would come about in a system where all votes count and which represents the views of all voters. This was, after all, the first government since before the Second World War able to claim it represented more than half of all those who voted.  It was an idea promoted by David Miliband who soon left the Westminster stage.  But for Ed Miliband, it was never on the agenda.

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Recent Comments

  • Christine Headley
    The story has even made the Austrian media. (No mention of the LibDems, though.)...
  • Brad Barrows
    Interesting words from Alex Cole-Hamilton regarding the potential for coalition with the will be interesting to see how this translates into ...
  • Roland
    @Marco - "So it’s fine with you if we join the EEA / single market then?" You know that isn't going to happen, as to a Brexiteer than means giving awa...
  • Roland
    @John - In one respect the electric car analogue is good: there are electric cars on the roads now, yet we don't have a charging infrastructure in place (nor th...
  • Fiona
    @Siv, what do you think the purpose of opposition politicians is if not to hold the government to account? For those of us in Scotland, especially for our elect...