Opinion: Ed wants to steal our clothes

Oh dear. Ed Miliband makes one speech in which he mentions Beveridge and doesn’t overtly attack us, and everyone thinks he’s making overtures to us and looking to form a Progressive Coalition after the next General Election.

Martin Kettle even wrote a short piece on this in The Guardian.

Wake up everyone. The complete opposite is true. When Ed Miliband said he wanted ‘to eliminate the Liberal Democrats from British Politics’, he meant it. And he’s going about it in an ingenious – and invidious – way.
Partly of course he’s playing the old card of the other two parties – ignoring us. Out of sight, out of mind. Not worth even mentioning them. What third party? We’ve seen it all before.

But he’s doing more than that. He may not have mentioned us by name. But he sure as hell mentioned what we believe in. Suddenly Mr. Miliband is anti Iraq war, pro electoral reform, anti ID cards, and wants to crack on with an elected House of Lords. And, he tells us, ‘we must always remember that British liberties were hard fought and hard won over hundreds of years’.

Now that sounds like the sort of speech the leader of the Liberal Democrats should be making; they are of course all our policies. Add in a reference to his political heroes (Lloyd George, Keynes), and a quick reference to the Sheffield Forgemasters and his strategy is clear.

He’s telling all those people in the country who voted Lib Dem last time that the policies they voted for then are what Labour wants now. And he’s telling plenty of people within the Lib Dem party that their true home is Labour. And let’s face it, there’s a vociferous minority within our ranks who are ripe for the message.

So what to do? Well, we need to ensure that they don’t steal our clothes. That we don’t allow them to lump us in with the Conservatives, blame us for all the bad news while boasting about their own liberal credentials. We need, even as part of the coalition, to stay distinctive, true to our values and continue to innovate in policy making in the way we always have – and retain ownership of those ideas.

Or else someone we don’t really like, we don’t believe in and with none of our beliefs at heart, will be telling the country for 5 years that he’s the true liberal voice of Britain. And suddenly – people will be raising that old canard, ‘what are we really for’.

He’s going to kill us by stealing our message.

Don’t let him

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40 Comments

  • “there’s a vociferous minority within our ranks who are ripe for the message”

    Quite frankly, I wish those threatening to desert us for Labour would do so and STFU. They are getting really tiresome, and they won’t be missed.

  • blanco wrote –
    “Quite frankly, I wish those threatening to desert us for Labour would do so and STFU. They are getting really tiresome, and they won’t be missed”

    Maybe the question should be asked is ‘why are they threatening to desert? Answer that and then the Lib-Dems would be in a position to fight back or at the very least know what their fighting.
    The party has shifted to the right and Labour seems (rightly or wrongly) to be filling the void, it’s very tempting for those on the left of the party and those who disagree with the current leadership to believe it is no longer worth fighting for the party they have supported for many years and simply leave, especially when faced with attitudes such as yours, which in my opinion can only serve to make help Milliband ‘eliminate the Liberal Democrats from British Politics’

  • This is nothing new. Tony Blair tried it, and was quite successful, in that he took a substantial number of members and activists, and many more votes. David Cameron also tried it, but he was less successful. Basically, no-one in their right mind believes that Cameron is any kind of “liberal”, though a lot of people thought that (wrongly) of Tony Blair.

    “So what to do? Well, we need to ensure that they don’t steal our clothes.”

    And how, precisely, are we going to do that when we are propping up a Tory government?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 8th Oct '10 - 12:06pm

    Ed’s got form. Immediately after he was elected we had an “anonymous Blairite former Cabinet minister” saying:

    “With Ed, it was all civil liberties, electoral reform and climate change, the sort of issues that will not win us crucial votes”

    This isn’t out of the blue, it’s just Ed. And it more accurately represents the centre of gravity among Labour members.

    The thing is- what do you want? When Labour talks about the Lib Dems in anything other than sycophantic terms, you take offence- look at this- https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-i-admit-it-i-am-shocked-by-labours-hatred-20197.html#comments

    Not a single scrap of evidence for the assertion that the Labour leadership candidates were subjecting the Lib Dems to “bilious and unbridled hatred”. Apparently any mention of them counts as that. But now Labour also aren’t allowed to *not* mention the Lib Dems?

  • “And how, precisely, are we going to do that when we are propping up a Tory government?”

    Good question, answers please on the back of a fag packet….

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th Oct '10 - 12:26pm

    What the Lib Dems aren’t in a position to do – and won’t be for the foreseeable future – is anything that might result in an early election. That makes their negotiating position within the coalition extremely weak.

    All that can really be done is to try to maintain a distinction between Lib Dem policy and coalition policy. But given how hard it has been to make people aware of Lib Dem policy even when the party had complete freedom of action, that’s going to be extremely difficult.

  • Whenever there is an article on this site that proclaims ‘that was my idea’ or ‘we invented that’, usually applied to the welfare state, NHS, civil liberties, democracy, political reform, but also it seems; the hard fought for British liberties won over the centuries and more recently even The Ryder Cup, it just sounds like a cross between a Vic&Bob and a Goodness Gracious Me sketch.
    Now that the Lib Dem leadership are actively engaged in dismantling the welfare state, targeting the undeserving poor and denationalising the NHS whilst introducing incentives to promote private health insurance and the end of the principle of universality, do you think that it will be Ed Miliband saying that the Iraq war was wrong and, like most of his party members, he is not in favour of many of the policies that his predecessors did or didn’t implement on civil liberties, political reform and House of Lords reform, that will be responsible for the elimination of the Lib Dems? Or, do you think that the complicity in the illiberal policies of the coalition government may be slightly more of an issue?

    However if the article was intended as a sarcastic joke that has gone over my head then… hehehechortle, very good.

  • Quick, genuinely curious question: Has Ed Miliband dis-owned Phil Woolas’ leaflets yet? Or removed the whip?

  • They’re not our clothes. They’re just clothes. It may turn out that Ed Miliband looks pretty silly in them (he’s got that Keynes on the wrong way round, for a start), or he may wear them with some terrible accessories. We just need to make sure that they look good on us.

  • And you’ve stolen the Tories’ clothes.

    The point is?

  • Peter Laubach 8th Oct '10 - 1:30pm

    Nige at 12.00pm – the answer to your question is surely something like “they thought we were a surrogate/substitute Labour Party and now they’ve realised we’re not”. I’m with blanco.

  • vince thurnell 8th Oct '10 - 1:34pm

    If you hadn’t taken all your clothes off and left them in a pile for someone else to put on you wouldnt have anything to worry about would you ?.

  • The spectacle of the party trying to rid itself of the wrong sort of voter is a curious one.

  • James from Durham 8th Oct '10 - 1:46pm

    This is a good thing. Famously it is alleged that Margaret Thatcher considered New Labour to be her greatest acheivement. She didn’t grumble because the Labour Party went all Free Markets etc. It was vital to her project that her thinking affected all parties and moved the general consensus her way so that her project would not be derailed by a mere general election result. I don’t like Thatcher or Thatcherism, but I admire her ambition. We also need to “infect” the other parties with our liberal virus!

    Valeriet – I like your fashion analogy. As my daughters would say “New Labour – it’s so last season!”

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Oct '10 - 2:10pm


    The party has shifted to the right and Labour seems (rightly or wrongly) to be filling the void, it’s very tempting for those on the left of the party and those who disagree with the current leadership to believe it is no longer worth fighting for the party they have supported for many years and simply leave, especially when faced with attitudes such as yours, which in my opinion can only serve to make help Milliband ‘eliminate the Liberal Democrats from British Politics’

    Yes, I am getting into a state of increasing desperation about politics in this country. Ed Milliband emerged as marginally the more left wing of the two Milliband brothers. and that just about got him elected due to the votes of those who choose to join the Labour Party through Trade Union affiliates. The reaction of the press, of leading members of our own party, and of supporters of the other Milliband in their party was as if they’d elected someone proposing the policies of the 1980s Militant Tendency. And that has been echoed by hundreds of those silly little dweebs who infest internet political discussion and whose politics is basically what Murdoch through his media outlets tells them what to think.

    What is worse, is that some of those dweebs – “blanco” maybe one of them, and isn’t it typical of those people that they don’t have the guts to use their real names? – seem to be getting into the Liberal Democrats, and the more there are the more they attract their own type. Maybe we even have one as the party’s leader … only half joking there … . So it’ll be 1988 all over again, the party self destructs due to poor leadership and too many dweebs newly signed up as members, and the hardworking longstanding activists who are more to the left politically are going to have to pick it up from the bottom all over again. Once again it will be “Oh Mr Murdoch, we did all you told us to do, we followed what you said was the way to be influential vote-winning politicians, why did you let this happen to us?” as Mr Murdoch and the electorate stick the boot into us – as they surely will in the next general election.

    Ed Milliband is marginally to the left of where New Labour was, but since New Labour was to the right of where Mrs Thatcher was, that’s hardly “extreme”. So we have three political parties crowded into what used to be the space occupied by the Conservative Party, and nothing significantly even old-style Christian Democrat (in European terms) Conservatism let alone anything to the left of that. And STILL the dweebs say “move to the right, move to the right, the only way forward politically is to move to the right”.

    Sure, Ed Milliband said that thing about making the Liberal Democrats extinct – not only did I disagree with him on that, I disagreed in public and had the lead letter in the Guardian letters page where I wrote that were I on the verge of leaving the LibDems to sign up to Labour, on hearing that I’d rip up the Labour Party membership card that was in front of me ready to sign. I have a commitment to political pluralism, one of the biggest barriers to joining Labour is that it does not.

    However, I think he has come to regret saying that now, and given that our leader and the Conservative Party leader have also said some silly things they regret when attacking each other, he is hardly unique in that.

    I agreed that the May 2010 situation meant a Conservative-LibDem coalition was the only viable option, but I regret that the trust I and others on the left of the party placed in our leadership then – again in my case very publicly – has been betrayed by the way the leadership have handled this, surrounding themselves with advisers from the far right of the party, giving the impression that what the coalition is doing is exactly what they always wanted to do all along, giving no hope for any alternative arrangement should the party decide the coalition is not working, giving NOTHING of the sort of leadership that is required to keep us an independent force.

    So, whatever we think of Ed Milliband, the possibility is that after the next election a coalition with his party is the only viable option just a coalition with Cameron’s party was the only viable option after the last. We need to be aware of that. If he’s winning votes that used to be ours, we need to ask why and the answer maybe as I wrote above, due to our poor leadership. When Richard Morris writes “Don’t let him”, I agree – but he ought to be saying that to Nick Clegg, because Clegg and his acolytes are the ones who are letting Milliband steal our votes by their uselessness in the current situation.

    Here’s the real issue in UK politics – all the shit that was thrown since 1979 is hitting the fan. The long-term consequence of that shift to the economic right have now hurt all of us in the country except for a tiny extremely wealth elite. What was worse, those policies were carried on by the Labour Party when they got into government. The shit started hitting the fan when Labour was on watch, but because people here still think of politics a Labour v. Tory they thought that as Labour was bad they should put the Tories back in – so they did, and the Tories are giving us more and deeper of what got us into this mess in the first place. And we in the Liberal Democrats have gone along with it, with the dweebs urging us to go even further into it than anyone else.

  • Well, looks like if that was his plan, Ed’s stuffed himself with his ShadCab appointments.

  • @Philip

    Really? Why is that then?

  • Richard Morris 8th Oct '10 - 3:15pm

    Hi – thanks for the comments so far; my point was less that we’ve lurched to the right and stopped believeing all those policies Milliband et al seem to be misapproriating, and more that we seem to have singularly failed to make our own positions clear. In our rush to be seen as ‘the governing party’ we seem to get tarnished with a lot of Tory policies, and get no credit for our own.

    Its great that we are in government – but we also need to make our own positions clear, and take ownership of both our belief system and our policies – or else in 2015 everyone’s going to be saying ‘what are we for’ ; and telling people that takes a 5 year plan, not a 5 week election campaign.

  • too early to tell with Mr Ed.
    But so far not encouraging me to think that he is a wunderkind. E.g. 1 He is still talking about the New Generation – but the shadow cabinet are nearly all people who have been ministers before. 2 He backed off the hard choice between Balls and Cooper, and went for that nice bloke who knows nothing about economics instead. 3 He was quick to renounce a lot of things Labour did while in office, most of which he supported at the time – U-turns are not always bad, if you were wrong before, but this one isn’t based on some sort of conversion on suddenly seeing the light, it’s based on political calculation 4 He wrote the last manifesto – which was not full of good things.

  • Richard Morris 8th Oct '10 - 4:32pm

    Andrew Tennant- yes, well, most people didn’t read our manifesto -hardly anyone does. and most people don’t listen to our leadership – i sat in a focus group debrief not so long ago when no one recognised a picture of any member of the Lib Dem front bench team – including the leader. I agree we don’t want to criticise eveything the governement does, that would be ridiculous and totally counterproductive. But as a party we have to make clear what we stand for. There’s already a danger we look like the Tory’s lacky’s. If Labour devote time to ‘owning’ our policies as well, we’ll find ourselves spending the whole of 2015 justifying our existence – when right now we finally have a five year platform for telling people everything we believe.

  • @Andrew Tennant
    Yes the Coalition may be “implementing substantial areas of Lib Dem policy” but lets face it the headline grabbing polices are all seen as right wing Tory and it’s these policies the Party, if still opposition, wouldn’t of supported let alone actively promote.
    Ultimately I’m trying to convey is that you cannot say the Lib Dems have not lurched to the right at the same time as implementing or helping to implement right wing ideology, no matter how many manifesto pledges the Party honour.
    It’s this that the Labour party are and is taking advantage of, they may even be right doing so as there are many disillusioned voters/members out there who feel they no longer have a ‘political home’ and the Lib Dems shouldn’t really be surprised at that

  • @ JBC @actively engaged in dismantling the welfare state, targeting the undeserving poor and denationalising the NHS ‘ – so no change from the last Labour government them.

  • Richard Morris 8th Oct '10 - 6:24pm

    hmm. you see – Olly is like athe childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang saying ‘come to me my lovelies’ and dragging you into a Labour den of inequity. Don’t fall for it. They don’t mean it you know. 18 months time, they’ll be chasing the middle ground again.

  • Chris Baldwin 8th Oct '10 - 6:26pm

    Well, someone needs to stick up for the good aspects of liberalism. You can bet Clegg won’t, so it might as well be Miliband.

  • @Olly
    “I have posted on here before about Murdoch….”

    The trouble being Olly, it’s hard to take a Labour Party member seriously when they make statements like:

    “It is about time that non-Conservatives iin this country made a concerted attempt to control the media”

    You had 13 years to sort out Murdoch, but instead of doing it then you were happy to sup with the devil. Also, how would having Labour (for that is what you seem to suggest in an around about way) control the media help democracy.

  • >Well, someone needs to stick up for the good aspects of liberalism.

    Ed Balls and Alan Johnson?

  • When Clegg said the left leaning LibDem supporters were not wanted I joined Labour. The LibDems are treating their supporters very shoddily if they don’t wholeheartedly agree with everything the leadership is now doing. This arrogance will be their undoing at the next election.

  • @Olly
    “I was a Lib Dem so not sure of your point”
    That was convenient.

    “It might not save Democracy ”
    Which was probably a misread on my part of what you said earlier – it sounded very much like control the media – as in controlling what was on the media, which would probably be Labour heaven.

    However, there would be a far simpler method than messing about with an organisation like 38 degrees – why not just lobby your MP for a reciprocity law – if a country allows foreign ownership of it’s media, then one of its Companies is allowed to own media here.

  • If the right wing clique at the top of the Party don’t wake up and start pushing the policies Liberal Democrats hold dear, like Electoral Reform, House of Lords Reform, Trident, an easing of Student tuition Fees, an unwillingness to engage in future foreign misadventures etc, then the damage done when those policies are quiety squashed or kicked into the long grass by the Conservatives will be far greater than any imagined threat from Ed Miliband.

    If a policy is worth fighting for then to complain that Labour has had a cynical damascan conversion in supporting those policies, while allowing the Conservatives to dilute, delay or dump the same policies is, frankly, the politics of insanity.

    No Liberal Democrat should be bullied out of the Party by those on the right who still do not understand that being a Liberal Democrat is not a value free cost benefit analysis about what gets some MPs a Cabinet seat.
    No Liberal Democrat should feel unwelcome in their own Party because they might still hold centre left ideas like fighting for justice to help the poorest and most vulnerable in society instead of merely keeping the well heeled and the middle classes happy.

    I hope no Liberal Democrat abandons the Party to join Labours ranks but it is getting more and more difficult to persuade our voters to stay when the disconnect between the top of the Party and the grassroots grows by the day.

    The Cameroonian mania that has infected Nick is all too clear in this mornings events involving Chris Huhne.
    Chris is stating the obvious in saying cutting without regard to what the actual economy is doing would be fiscal madness. Indeed, the cuts must also be predicated upon levels of future growth so that they can be adjusted should growth prove to be more than expected in years to come. But instead we will hear nothing on the airwaves but talk of splits because Nick has been so blinkered in his approach to squashing all dissent since May.
    That Liberal Democrats have differing views to the Conservatives should have been accepted long before now and demonstrated with our MPs appearing on the TV and airwaves stating their support for Liberal Democrat policies clearly and repeatedly.
    Instead Nick has chosen to keep the Liberal Democrats silent partners where threre are policy differences between the Conservatives, while applauding loudly almost everything the coalition does regardless of merit. He may be doing this because he considers coalition cohesion more important than everything else but the approach is not working on the ground and worse still it is going to hit a brick wall when the AV vote and next years elections are being fought.

    Now is the time to start to decouple and differentiate not at the 11th hour when the elections are already lost.
    Fighting for Liberal Democrat Policies does not mean an end to the coalition it means a more grown up approach to two different Parties in power that recognises we do not want to and will never be Conservatives. And it is long past time the top of the Party got the massage and stopped pretending we are.

  • I woke up this morning to find a think tank Demos says the disabled will face 9bn in cuts, even if this is wildly over estimated and say 4.5bn is more to the mark it’s still a shameful day for the Liberal Democrats, as I’ve said previously in this thread its these headlines that grab the attention and any Lib Dem manifesto pledges that are honoured will be overshadowed and while we are on the subject of pledges ……

    LVD Bob wrote
    “If the right wing clique at the top of the Party don’t wake up and start pushing the policies Liberal Democrats hold dear, like Electoral Reform, House of Lords Reform, Trident, an easing of Student tuition Fees”

    I’m sorry buts it’s beginning to look like (to me at least) that it will be a case of ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’ the future of these policies that the Liberal Democrats hold dear have already been decided or at least the direction of the coalition as far as these concerned are concerned (with the exception of electoral reform) and frankly I’m wondering if it’s worth the cost to the Lib Dems of propping up a Tory Government and everything that means to the most vulnerable in society just to have a minuscule voice at the top table and perhaps a chance of tinkering around the edges of right wing ideology.

  • Sorry for the Typo’s above …. had a late night

  • Richard Morris 9th Oct '10 - 3:30pm

    @LDV Bob – yes, quite right, I am advocating that we spend rather more time reminding people of our policies and beliefs. In the ‘new ‘ poltics we absolutely should be able to say when we agree or disagree with our coalition partners, without risking the whole thing crumbling. Governement by party unity only applies when the governement is made up of – one party. I’m in the middle of a piece to that end already…

    @Chris Squire – well, yes, I was talking about intellectual ownership of ideas, not literal/physical ownership. and you can definitely ‘own’ ideas in that sense -and take them away from others

  • “So what to do? Well, we need to ensure that they don’t steal our clothes. “

    No-one can steal your clothes very easily while you’re wearing them – but when you cast them off with abandon, you shouldn’t be upset if you happen to see that someone else is wearing them. More importantly – I don’t think Miliband has any intention of making the same mistake – he’ll be wearing them for a very long time to come – but may improve them with a few enhancements of his own.

  • John Fraser 11th Oct '10 - 8:27pm

    @blanco
    Are you a party member ? How long have you been a member ? What have you done for the party in that time ? Why do you hide behind a psudonym ? Do you really think that in a democratic party people should STFU ?

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