Broad range of progressives back the Liberal Democrats

The letters page in today’s Guardian includes this:

This is an extraordinary political moment. An election seemingly destined to produce a narrow Conservative victory has been seized by the voters and turned into a democratic contest – a contest not just between parties, but over the shape of our democracy itself.

The MPs that assemble in Westminster next month could usher in one of the great reforming parliaments in British history, one to rank in the history books alongside 1831-32, 1865-67 or 1911-1914. The next parliament could see cherished progressive liberal aspirations realised: a proportional electoral system; wider and better-defended civil liberties; a new, internationalist approach to foreign affairs and immigration; reform of the tax system to share wealth and curb carbon emissions; and an assault on the vested interests of the financial sector.

The question for progressive liberals is what election result now offers the best chance of achieving these goals…

The Liberal Democrats are today’s change-makers. They have already changed the election; next they could drive fundamental change in our political and economic landscape.

Some of us have already pinned our colours to the Liberal Democrat mast. For others, the decision to back the Liberal Democrats in this election is a difficult one. Long-standing party loyalties, even in a less tribal world, are not easily suspended. But May 2010 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape politics for the better. It must be seized.

Richard Reeves, John Kampfner, Professor Noreena Hertz, Susie Orbach, Shazia Mirza, Camilla Toulmin, Brian Eno, John le Carré, Henry Porter, Alex Layton, Gordon Roddick, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Philip Pullman, David Aukin, Nick Harkaway, Lisa Appignanesi, Francis Wheen, Alan Ryan, Raymond Tallis, Julian Baggini, Jeanette Winterson, Rodric Braithwaite, Richard Dawkins, George Monbiot, Ken Macdonald, Philippe Sands, Misha Glenny, Anthony Barnett, Richard Sennett, David Marquand

“Progressive” has become a much used and abused term in British politics, but however you characterise that range of signatories their interest in reform, civil liberties and, in many cases, previous strong support for Labour illustrates a significant change that is happening in British politics as the Labour Party increasingly risks being reduced to an authoritarian rump. Whether that happens depends a lot on who finishes third in the popular vote next Thursday. We could be on the verge of a major shift in both our political system and our party system.

You can read the full letter here.

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23 Comments

  • Paul McKeown 29th Apr '10 - 9:54am

    Third Reform Act (2010). Way to go!

    It would have been more useful, perhaps, if they had sent the letter to the editor of the Telegraph, though, it is the readership, there, which have to be convinced most.

  • The key question is whether the Graun editorial team will pick up the way the wind is blowing amongst its readership and come out for us.

  • Andrew Suffield 29th Apr '10 - 10:04am

    There’s a certain amount of “who else could a progressive possibly support?” involved there, given the reactionary trench-digging nature of Labour and the Tories.

  • Nick Clegg doesnt need more advice so here is some more advice. Go over the two old Leaders heads & frame this Election as a battle between us & the Tories. Labour will hold a rump of seats however low their vote goes but they cant take the fight to the Conservatives & we can.
    Keep an eye open for todays poll(s) & use them if they go our way.

  • Richard Ormerod 29th Apr '10 - 11:44am

    If it’s good enough for Brian Eno, it’s good enough for me

  • Paul McKeown 29th Apr '10 - 12:51pm

    Paul Barker said:
    >>> Go over the two old Leaders heads & frame this Election as a battle between us & the Tories.

    Couldn’t agree more: the way to go. Gordon Brown is a dead man walking; even he must know that now. I don’t like the entirely natural way David Cameron is smiling these days. Time his face was slapped, hard, and he was put back in his hole. And appeal over Gordon Brown’s head for former and wavering Labour supporters to vote for us. “Vote Brown, get Cameron.”

  • Terry Gilbert 29th Apr '10 - 7:48pm

    How about the Second Great Reform Act. We’re proposing electing the whole of Parliament for the very first time.

  • Paul McKeown 29th Apr '10 - 8:03pm

    @Niklas Smith I think you mean Fourth Reform Act – the Third (1884) was the one that gave us single-member constituencies as we know and love (cough!) them now

    Sorry – you’re right!

    @Terry Gilbert How about the Second Great Reform Act. We’re proposing electing the whole of Parliament for the very first time.

    I would go with that.

    What is important is that it should be placed in the historical context of extending the franchise. I get a vote at the moment, but with a Labour candidate with a majority of 11,000, my vote is effectively wasted, except as a signal that the system is wrong (and I’m a Lib Dem). In the UK I have voted in General Elections since 1987; never once have I voted for my MP. That is a crime against democracy.

  • Paul McKeown 29th Apr '10 - 8:15pm

    >>>>“Progressive” has become a much used and abused term in British politics…
    Indeed! Has anyone come up with a definition for it? I would really like to know what people think it means.

    As far as I can see it is just a tired old excuse drummed up by old Guardian hacks to convince Lib Dems, nats, etc. I am not a socialist, I do not believe in rigid plans issued by decret from Whitehall/Westminster, I do not sing L’Internationale. I am not a Labour supporter, I have never supported Labour. As far as I can see Labour is not progressive at all. Don’t even get me started.

    I am a Liberal Democrat. I believe in personal liberty in a free society, with neither Big Brother, nor Nanny Brown, peering over my shoulder. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about people around me, but I believe that they should be free to organise themselves locally. Why should Whitehall decide what people would be more than happy to organise for themselves, if local government were empowered and properly funded? Greater democracy, greater access to democracy, greater flexibility, greater accountability, greater efficiency, greater effectiveness. Lower, and fairer taxes to pay for better services, locally delivered.

    It irks me enormously whenever some Labour type tries to tell me that, “We are all Progressives, you shouldn’t split the anti-reactionary vote.” Nonsense, red, blue, just different sorts of undemocratic and reactionary forces.

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Apr '10 - 10:38pm

    Paul McK said:

    I don’t like the entirely natural way David Cameron is smiling these days. Time his face was slapped, hard…

    Well, go on, then!

  • Paul McKeown – what a great post.

    Shame the Economist bottled it…

  • Paul McKeown 30th Apr '10 - 11:45am

    Malcolm Todd said:

    >>>Well, go on, then!

    That was intensely therapeutic. If only I could put Blair in that line up…

  • Paul McKeown 30th Apr '10 - 11:46am

    Harry D said:

    >>>Paul McKeown – what a great post.

    Thanks! Had to get it off my chest.

  • Paul McKeown 30th Apr '10 - 3:39pm

    @Niklas Smith “It’s about time people took liberalism seriously again.”

    They will. It has been a long, long struggle, since the SDP/Liberal Alliance from 1982, but it is very clear, to anyone not blinkered by Blue/Red spectacles, that the Lib Dems have made huge strides forward. Councilor after councilor, ward after ward, the foundation for Lib Dem success has and is being laid, entirely in accord with our principles of local responsibility. Each success at ward level provides the firm foundation for eventually knocking over another domino at Westminster. And we hold our seats at Westminster.

    I believe that we will see a Liberal government again, we just have to keep building our base as we have been doing for the last 30 years. [Funnily enough, the absurdity of FPTP actually means that we are as likely eventually to wind the clock back to 1906 as we are to 1923.]

    But actually, all we actually need are sufficient seats at Westminster to credibly demand electoral reform. That is probably 100+ and a balanced parliament. Our cry is not unheard by the general elector, only by the red/blue cartel. We might fall narrowly short of the required mark this time, but we will be very, very well placed for the general election after this one.

    We should bear in mind, too, that we are carrying this argument to Parliament, not only for ourselves, but for all the smaller parties with legitimate and democratic messages that wish to heard too: SNP, PC, UKIP, Greens, etc. We may not agree with them, but we do support their right to be heard. Of course we do have allies in the Conservatives and Labour, too, on this issue; they should be helped to raise the issue within their parties, too.

  • Paul McKeown 30th Apr '10 - 3:40pm

    Sorry – 1981 not 1982.

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