It’s not Vince you should be texting Ed

Ed Miliband’s text messages to Vince Cable may have got him in trouble with his own political party and even resulted in party officials taking away his mobile phone.

They also have been text messages sent to the wrong person if Ed Miliband’s serious about preparing the ground for future Labour-Liberal Democrat cooperation.

That’s not only because Vince isn’t a simple figure of the centre-left. Yes, many in Labour might like his rhetoric about the banks, but remember his role in tuition fees? And yes, many in Labour might like his enthusiasm for Keynes, but remember his calls in the Orange Book for a cap on public spending as a percentage of GDP? The list goes on (and rather to Vince’s credit in many ways, for if all your views fit neatly in one place on the political spectrum, that always rather suggests that you’ve not really thought them all through; almost everyone who thinks seriously about policies one by one ends up supporting a few that don’t fit).

It’s also because it misses the one area which consistently has been the most fruitful grounds for co-operations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats: political reform. It’s not exactly a 100% success rate as the words “AV referendum” remind us. Yet remember too the Cook-Maclennan agreement ahead of the 1997 general election and the good number of policies as a result subsequently and successfully implemented. Remember too the cooperation in Scotland in creating a Scottish Parliament, elected by a reformed voting system.

It’s certainly one area where the political instincts of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats should and often do fit together on one side of the political battle with Conservatives on the other. Labour and Lib Dems want to change the political power structures; Conservatives want to conserve. There is a clue is in the name after all.

It’s also an area that neatly taps into Liberal Democrat unhappiness with Conservatives and the way they walked away from their commitments to House of Lords reform (see Nick Thornsby’s Six examples of Tory support for an elected House of Lords).

There is plenty of unfinished business on political reform on which Labour and the Liberal Democrats could co-operate.

So really Ed, as and when Labour officials let you at a mobile phone, you should be sending your text messages to the Liberal Democrat in charge in this area. That’s be one Nick Clegg.

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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14 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 30th Sep '12 - 7:47pm

    “Labour and Lib Dems want to change the political power structures”

    Sounds like more sloppy thinking about Labour from a south of England Liberal! Labour just want to take over the power stuctures and always have – remember the phrase “We are the bosses now”? (Yes Robin Cook was an exception but where are the Robin Cooks now?)

    Tony Greaves

  • If you’re talking about leaders of the Labour party don’t forget Attlee went to Haileybury, Gaitskell went to Winchester, Foot was an Old Leightonian, Blair went to Fettes. Even when they didn’t go to fee-paying schools they recieved advantages only available to a minority such as such as fast-tracking, and all have the stamp of establishment on them.

    They may well say they are the bosses now, they’ve always been from the ruling class. They haven’t needed to take over power structures, the front offices in Labour have always been packed by people from privileged backgrounds – the Labour party was infiltrated and taken over back in the beginning.

    Let them say what they want about changing political power structures, the composition of the shadow cabinet shows no progress.

    It all just highlights the incoherence of Labour’s internal contradictions.

  • In May 2010 I remember thinking (and probably stating on here) that it was a mistake to make ditching Brown a pre-requisite of any deal with Labour. It was never a realistic prospect due to the maths anyway, but they should have kept this condition private or better still not made it. I think that now too many key Labour people are convinced that there can be no deal with Clegg at the helm and will actively try to bypass him. It has a feel of tit for tat about it.

    If coalitions become more commonplace, and interestingly Peter Hain seems to think so in an article today, it would be better for negotiations to keep personalities out of negotiations and to never dictate the leadership of the other party.

  • I’m not convinced the majority of the Labour party have any real interest in electoral or constitutional reform. Their own self interest is too closely tied to maintaining the status quo. Miliband could not even secure the party for AV, which was supposedly a policy they favoured. Support for PR is not even on the horizon. As for House of Lords reform, don’t get me started. There might be many things Labour and Lib Dems can agree on but I don’t believe political reform is anywhere near the top of that list.
    As for the phone calls with Vince Cable . After hearing Ed speaking today on Casino banking and separating the high street banks from investment banks, Ed was clearly asking for the transcript of Vince’s conference speech from 2 years ago. 🙂

  • Miliband is not a leader. There will be no clause 4 moment. In this respect he is an order of magnitude less impressive even than Cameron. It doesn’t matter who he texts, he is not a leader, not an opinion former, and there are others in the Labour party who will chart their course.

  • Mark, as a result of living in the north all my life I have fought Labour all my life, although I oppose Tories and their ‘world’ view far more.

    In the Labour heartlands they are parochial, deeply tribalist dinosaurs.From what I witnessed in Parliament for 9 years most are little better at that level and certainly are not interested in ‘changing the political power structure’ just in controlling it for themselves. As for electoral reform Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

    The pre 1997 talks were when they thought they could not win an outright majority and after that they strung Paddy up the garden path just as Cameron did with Nick over AV and the Lords. Then look at how Labour, for pure short term benefit, have just destroyed the chance to achieve an elected second chamber -although they could have course have easily carried out such a reform in 1997-2001 had they been at all serious about it then.

    Those who benefit from the existing power structures will never voluntarily change them and no one negotiating with either Labour or Conservatives, at any level, should ever be starry eyed about their intentions. Sup with a long spoon as they say.

  • paul barker 1st Oct '12 - 12:01am

    Its not often I agree with so many comments but it is a simple matter of sef-interest. Labour will back serious reform when they begin to lose from FPTP, around 15%.
    Even I am not predicting labour will go below 23% in 2015.
    unless they actually split of course, that could make PR suddenly attractive.

  • @Oranjepan – continuing your theme – there is a piece by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph which claims he went to the same primary school as Ed Miliband http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9578145/Im-sorry-to-say-it-but-my-old-school-chum-isnt-PM-material.html

    When politicians tell us about the importance of early years education they are not kidding!

  • Paul Holmes ia absolutely right, which is why we should not be relying on Labour, or Tories, to progress democratic reform. This time we should be setting out our stall to show clearly to the electorate what a LibDem Government would look like and stop describing our position as relative to anyone else. We must be clear that we are the only party who can represent the Britain that we are, and want to become, we need to show up the dark side of our two opponents and also show how each of them is two parties masquerading as one.

  • mark fairclough 1st Oct '12 - 3:38pm

    @ paul holmes i agree , @ mark pack oh wow another idea we can all sign up for joining Labour

  • mark fairclough 1st Oct '12 - 4:28pm

    sorry should have read ‘ another reason we must join up with the wonderful Party Party

  • mark fairclough 3rd Oct '12 - 3:44pm

    another altenative is although they have no MPS they do have councillors & that is approaching the Liberal Party over all the common ground we both share v

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