Labour Progressive?

I keep hearing siren party voices yet again hankering after a “progressive alliance” against the Conservatives. I firmly agree with John Pardoe’s adage of old that “a hatred of the Conservative party is the beginning of political wisdom”, but I fear that the very idea of the Labour party being “progressive” is, frankly, risible. It is one of the besetting chimeras of Liberals to have a dream that one day the Labour party will change. No-one who has challenged Labour in its industrial fiefs will succumb to such a fanciful concept. Labour believes in hegemony and control, and it has done since its early days. Once Ramsay Macdonald had negotiated the 1903 Pact with the gullible Herbert Gladstone and established a parliamentary foothold of thirty MPs, it then pursued its myopic single party aim without deviation. It prefers to be in opposition and to lose than to share any power. There is no better example than the first Labour government of 1924 which preferred to fall and to go into the electoral wilderness than to have even a minimal co-operation with the Liberals. Even in 2010, there was no possibility of a Lib-Lab coalition once Douglas Alexander had stated that they under no circumstances would they co-operate with the Scottish Nationalists.

Even as a philosophical concept, socialism relies on economic determination and an enforced economic model. It is not pluralistic and is dedicated in practice to the end justifying the means, however politically corrupt. The years of Labour domination of Leeds City Council are an object lesson in the reality of the Labour party’s reactionary beliefs and vicious rule. I have an extensive dossier of how I was treated by Labour, not least the dirty tricks used against me at the 1987 election, quite apart from the despicable treatment of fine Council officers.

We built a radical local Liberal Party in my early days by recruiting a splendid cadre of ex-Labour progressives who had seen the party for what it was, not least after the Labour government had traduced the Kenyan Asians through the 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act.

Labour gets away with it because lots of lovely naïve Liberals based in Surrey or Sussex only know Labour as that nice little group of intellectual socialists over in the corner that they can have a pleasant discussion with. We need to demonstrate day after day by writing, speaking, lecturing and campaigning, that we will never get progressive changes in society until we see Labour for what it is and expose it. It is fine winning parliamentary seats from the Conservatives in posh areas, but in the medium term they are electorally vulnerable as selfishness kicks in under pressure – note 2010. But winning seats from Labour can be retained if the party demonstrates powerfully that it is a far better progressive and more civilised alternative to the Conservatives. It is a long job, and there is no silver bullet, but it can be done incrementally if we show ourselves to be a better and more effective opposition to the Conservatives than Labour. That should not be difficult.

* Michael Meadowcroft has been campaigning for Liberalism for sixty-two years! He has served in just about every capacity in the party and in elected offices, including MP for Leeds West, 1983-87. He then spent twenty years working in new and emerging democracies across the world

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59 Comments

  • Paul Barker 11th Nov '20 - 4:38pm

    This all seems to be still true, as far as I can see but it has no relevance to our strategy in this Parliament. Our current list of Target Seats contains very few Labour held ones & very few of Labours targets are held by us. That opens up the possibility of Labour & us fighting parallel Campaigns both focused on The Tories & The SNP & ignoring each other.

    In the longer run our strategic aim is to drive one of the Two Big Parties into third place & The Tories look a much better possibility than Labour. Not only are Labour ahead of the Tories, “Now”, but the trends are all their way. Look at Wikis Polling graph if you dont believe me.

  • Given you’re a denizen of Leeds, Michael, that’s a bit rough on the poor old ‘gullible’ Herbert Gladstone.

    Without that 1903 pact it’s unlikely there would have been a Liberal Landslide in 1906 or a Liberal Government returned twice in 1910….. with all the progressive legislation achieved by those Governments despite the restricted nature of the then franchise.

    As Home Secretary in 1906–1908, ‘Gullible’ Herbert was responsible for the Workman’s Compensation Act, a Factory and Workshops Act, and in 1908, the eight hour working day underground in the Coal Mines Regulation Act. His treatment of suffragettes was much more questionable.

    The Liberal Party created it’s own mess on Women’s suffrage, followed by the events on 4 August, 1914 and 4 December, 1916 resulting in splits and the loss of radical Liberals via the UDC.

    The record of the three wartime governments can hardly be described as the height of principled Liberalism, and later, you yourself have discussed the chaotic record of the Liberal Whips in 1924 during the Asquith vacuum and the ensuing flight of middle class Liberal voters into the arms of Baldwin. More a case of suicide than murder by Labour.

    More recently, the austerity and outcomes of 2010-15 are not compatible with “We built a radical local Liberal Party in my early days”. The Party has yet to come to terms with this or to sort it out

  • @ Paul Barker I don’t believe you.

  • Peter Martin 11th Nov '20 - 5:36pm

    I think I get the picture. Labour consists of a whole bunch of people who are either unreconstructed Stalinists, Trotskyists, Other Reactionaries of whatever leftist ilk?

    So how is it that it the likes of Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna choose Labour in preference to joining the Lib Dems? Is this solely determined by career reasons? ie They know they don’t have much chance of getting elected as Lib Dems?

    The Labour Party is full of them! So you should be able to build some bridges there. Most have more sense than to defect but that’s the only real difference. They are Lib Dems in all but name. They, and you, would be hard put to find anything substantial to disagree about. Maybe the relative merits of Château Latour Pauillac vs Château Margaux?

  • Labour Progressive?………………..Yes!

    I know it wouldn’t be LDV without the mandatory anti-Labour thread but this one, to use the author’s own word. is ‘risible’

    Just since WW2 I’m surprised how the author missed Labour’s achievements on social security, house building, the NHS, ending of the death penalty, decriminalising homosexuality, banning racial discrimination, the equal pay act, national minimum wage, devolution in Scotland/Wales/N.I., the Good Friday Ageement, civil partnerships, human rights’ act and, oh, the establishment of the Open University….

    Still, “What did the Romans do for us?”

  • The last Labour government introduced Sure Start, the New Deal for youth unemployment, tax credits, the minimum wage, record investment in health and education, the human rights act, the homelessness act, the equalities act, the Northern Ireland peace process, the tripling of foreign aid, devolution, civil partnerships, House of Lords reform and Bank of England independence.

    So yes that is quite progressive.

  • Obviously the fact that Labour have these achievements and the ones that expats mentions doesn’t mean a Liberal party isn’t needed, far from it as we should also remember ID cards, 90 day detention, expansion of DNA testing, thousands of new criminal offences, increase in prison population under Blunkett and co, indeterminate sentences, Iraq war, child immigration detention, centralisation of decision making and the failure to introduce electoral reform or a written constitution.

    So a Lib – Lab govt. would have been a great reforming government, one of the greatest of all time maybe.

  • The Lib Dem’s are also better at coming up with detailed and costed policies than Labour such as the pupil premium. We attract better and brighter thinkers than they do overall. They struggled in 13 years to come up with solutions to affordable housing and the environment. I agreed with much of Blair’s agenda of reforming public services but it was incomplete due to resistance from Brown and Old Labour types (not just the Corbynite left by any means).

    Labours traditional “Blue Labour” right wing are problematic in many ways. They are authoritarian and do try to crush their opponents. I don’t actually agree with suspending Corbyn.

  • Marco 11th Nov ’20 – 8:28pm……….

    Marco, in the years Labour have been in government they have been far from perfect, as your list shows…However, in the few years of coalition, this party lost all credibility in holding to it’s liberal ideals…
    Your, “So a Lib – Lab govt. would have been a great reforming government, one of the greatest of all time maybe” may have been written ‘tongue in cheek’ but, pick out the good bits from both parties and, as they say, ‘many a true word is written in jest’…

  • Michael Meadowcroft,

    if the party demonstrates powerfully that it is a far better progressive and more civilised alternative to the Conservatives”.

    To do this we must drop any idea that we need to balance the budget, we need to ensure that having full employment is a major aim of our economic policy, we need to commit to reversing all the benefit cuts made since 2011 and we need to make ending poverty in the UK our highest priority. The last two will ensure we have policies that appeal to progressives and show that liberalism is about economics and ensuring no one is held back by living in poverty. As the Thornhill report states “we must reconnect with the electorate as a whole. We must give a fresh distinctive vision of a liberal Britain in the 21st century with policies that resonate with – and are relevant to – ordinary people”. To do this we need to have policies which deal with the housing shortage, make the NHS more patient friendly which provides what people want when they want it, deal with the problems of social care provision, and ensures everyone has the education, skills and training they need to fulfil their full potential.

    Paul Barker,

    Looking at our history we cannot be a replacement party for the Conservatives, we oppose conservativism and believe that we have to progress as a country and not defend our traditions as if they were sacred. There is always going to be a conservative party in the UK and we can’t be that party.

  • Peter Martin. No the Labour Party is not choc-a-bloc with unreconstructed Stalinists on the left. If anything it is Labour right wingers who display authoritarian tendencies that Uncle Joe would recognise and approve of. Control is paramount even if, as in Bradford, it means joining with the Conservatives to muzzle the Lib Dems by abusing the constitution.

  • @ Michael Meadowcroft
    “Labour gets away with it because lots of lovely naïve Liberals based in Surrey or Sussex only know Labour as that nice little group of intellectual socialists over in the corner that they can have a pleasant discussion with. ” .Ouch! I fear you may be right and that this phenomenon is true at least as far as the south midlands.

    This is a good piece with lots of food for thought. Perhaps Labour will change when it realizes it’s unlikely ever to win a majority again.

  • @ Lynne Featherston As someone who voted Liberal/Liberal Democrat in every General Election from 1964 up to 2015 (the last, despite huge misgivings, but out of personal loyalty to Michael Moore), and then helped to run a Food Bank for five years – set up as a consequence of the Coalition policies) can Lynne honestly describe the record from 2010-15 as a record of ‘truly liberal values’ not to mention being progressive. There’s one heck of a lot more to progressive radicalism than same sex marriage for which I will give her credit.

    @ John Kelly, “Perhaps Labour will change when it realizes it’s unlikely ever to win a majority again.” John, and you could you apply that epithet to the Liberal Democrats.

    Maybe the party post December, 2019 should reflect on the perceived truth that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. The Lib Dems have dug their own hole.

  • As someone who has voted Lib/LibDem all my life and although having lived in three different constituencies in my lifetime I have never had the pleasure of seeing my vote elect my chosen candidate although I have witnessed some council successes, and going by most posts here I should expect Conservative rule for what’s left of my life. I have to say I am rather sick of politicians at the moment.

  • I love LDV….Labour’s problem is that it is too far to the left whilst at the same time it is their right wing that is at fault…It seems they are a collection ir ‘wishy-washy’ intellectual socialists with Stalinist authoritarian tendencies..That must make a recipe for interesting dinner parties.

    As for Labour having no “truly liberal values” I suppose ending the death penalty, decriminalising homosexuality, banning racial discrimination, the equal pay act, a national minimum wage, etc, don’t actually count as liberal values?

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Nov '20 - 10:40am

    There are truths here, speaking as someone in a Labour safe seat, who grew up in a Tory safe seat (and I mean really safe, neither changing hands since the 20s; both seats for life). In both areas, tribal boss-politics is a permanent fact. Dissent is tolerated within the governing party, behind closed doors, but once the line is settled, it is heresy to challenge it, even if the opposing voices are saying things that people inside the governing party were saying last week. When the leader chooses a direction, the tribe forms a protective ring and shouts down dissent.

    But there are people in Labour, mainly (but not only) on its social democratic wing, and among its voter base, who accept the principles of devolution and multi-option democracy, if not a full-blooded social liberalism.

    And there are other people in and around Labour who might work with or vote for a social liberal party, but absolutely won’t cooperate with a pragmatic centrist or small-government liberal party that could form common ground with the Conservatives.

    And they will easily confuse this with ‘seeks to appeal to ex-Conservative voters’ and treat the Lib Dems as toxic or two-faced. This isn’t entirely a rhetorical stance, annoying as Lib Dems might find it.

    For my part, sadly, until the Lib Dems are able to reliably deliver clear democratic social liberal government in multiple local authorities, and not flirt with other forms of liberalism or managerial centrism, I will have to hope that Labour, free of fear of meaningful opposition on the left, will start to concede democracy and plurality. The Labour campaign for PR is as strong as it ever has been. I very much suspect, perversely, this is because its supporters cannot be accused of giving ground to the Lib Dems.

    That’s as good as social liberals and social democrats can hope for, until the Lib Dems definitively reject the managerial centrism that has destroyed any coherent narrative of party values and identity, and recover from the impact of 2015.

    Until then, don’t over-promise.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Nov '20 - 10:46am

    I think we also need to recognise that in a bloc-vote FPTP system at local level, Lib Dem tribal boss politics is entirely possible, and it might be in some local authorities that it is only electoral weakness that prevents its full manifestation and keeps Lib Dems honest. People like power. They seek to leverage their advantages.

  • Michael Meadowcroft’s comments ring true where I live, we have a town dominated by a controlling Labour Party, who detest us far more than the Tories, a mixture of left wing ideologues and right wing control freaks (who post Corbin are now arguing with each other more than anyone else), plus a much larger rural hinterland where the few Labour people are very much of the Surrey/Sussex variety Michael talks about.
    Neither parts of the local Labour Party have much to do with each other, whether because of geographical or philosophical separation.
    Which makes our task of challenging Labour harder, if only because our activists react to Labour so differently depending on where they live.
    Getting back to a Social Liberal model would be a good start to making progress.

  • Matt (Bristol) “in a bloc-vote FPTP system at local level,”.

    Barry Lofty “going by most posts here I should expect Conservative rule for what’s left of my life.”

    We don’t have either of those problems in Scotland, gentlemen, and we even have a possibility of re-joining the EU.

  • David Raw 12th Nov ’20 – 11:43am…………….We don’t have either of those problems in Scotland, gentlemen, and we even have a possibility of re-joining the EU…………

    Not just Scotland, David..

    According to Farage and the Daily Express ( ‘Fear for future of Brexit’ Nigel Farage opens up after Joe Biden election win’) Brexit may not happen.. Strangely enough I don’t recall ‘British Sovereignty’ being peddled with ‘conditional on US approval’ and Unicorns ‘as supplied by the USA’ mentioned..
    Perhaps it was all in the ‘small print’?

  • As an ex MP in a Labour facing seat I agree with Lynne Featherstone about ‘the nature of the beast’ as regards the Labour Party in real life action as opposed to in theory.

    However I also have to agree with much of what David Raw says at 10am and others later on. The Lib Dems really do have to look hard at themselves over the last decade before criticising others as unelectable at a National Level. The results of the last 3 General Elections and our consistently bad Opinion Poll ratings of the last 10 years ought to provide a warning. What is the saying about specks of dust and motes in your own eye?

    As for Michael Meadowcroft’s warnings about ‘progressive alliances’. Yes we should be very cautious -Paddy was too starry eyed abour Blair in 1997 but on the other hand the experience did not all but destroy us as the Coalition with the Conservatives did. In the 2013/14 GE it is hard to imagine a scenario where we would not have more in common with Starmers Labour Party than the Conservatives but Labour remain opponents looking to destroy us just as the Tories did in 2015.

  • Barry Lofty 12th Nov '20 - 1:09pm

    It seems the Lib Dems taking part in the Coalition is the cause of everything that has gone wrong in the country and everything else beside!
    David Raw: Maybe life under Nicola Sturgeons’ SNP is ok but I had serious doubts about her predecessor so I won’t be getting my kilt out yet, but hope the Scots give Johnson a wake up call!

  • Paul Barker 12th Nov '20 - 1:31pm

    I think we have to drop the idea of “Replacing” either Tories or Labour but that doesnt mean we should give up on temporarily driving one of them into third place, for now our Target must be The Tories in England & Wales.

    Since they peaked in The Spring the trend for The Tories has been steadily down & everything suggests that they have a lot farther to fall, we can make gains from them in Local Government & at Westminster in 2024. The Conservative Party cant even begin to recover till it breaks from its ever-rightward movement of the last half-century & that wont happen till after the Next General Election.
    We can make steady gains from The Tories for the next Decade.

  • John Marriott 12th Nov '20 - 2:12pm

    Over the past couple of years I have been finding out about the parties I have supported and been an active member of for the past forty years. Just as I had an orgy of reading English literary classics after my student years reading German and French literature, I have now been reading what historians like Dangerfield, Wilson and Dutton have to say about what has happened to the liberals since the beginning of the 20th century.

    A picture emerges of triumph followed by decline, splits, partial recovery and decline again. I was lucky enough to start my political journey during a period when liberalism, or possibly a recognition that the Tories and Labour had failed, was producing results, particularly in by elections that gave hope that the mould might actually break.

    What I am now recognising is that we may be entering an apolitical period, when politicians of all colours are no longer trusted. 48% for Trump and 52% for Brexit is a sign for me that there is something radically out of kilter in the body politic on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • And Andy Hyde’s comments ring true as well. In my local Labour Party they are really, really excited …as to who their candidate for elected Mayor will be. I wish Starmer well in opening the windows so that his party becomes more outward facing but he has a job on. A warning to the rest of us…?

  • John Marriott 12th Nov '20 - 2:51pm

    It was Lord Healey who once remarked that ‘the Liberals’ existed to provide policies that his party and the Tories could espouse. Cheeky so and so! However he wasn’t far wrong. Pity they couldn’t have taken on PR!

  • Barry Lofty 12th Nov '20 - 2:57pm

    John Marriott:I can only say “Hear Hear” to your comments. I am reading Hilary Mantels’ The Mirror and the Light at the moment and it brings home how little politics have changed over the century’s apart from the brutal punishments handed out unwanted advisers???

  • @michael meadowcroft

    “Even in 2010, there was no possibility of a Lib-Lab coalition once Douglas Alexander had stated that they under no circumstances would they co-operate with the Scottish Nationalists.’

    …which for all intents and purposes is now Liberal Democrat policy!

  • @ John Marriott It’s not all doom and gloom, John.

    From my northern eyrie I can admire Nicola’s grasp of detail and stamina, the radical idealism of Patrick Harvie and his Green chums, and the good nature and gentle humour of Willie Rennie – all elected on PR. South of the Border there’s the possible re-incarnation of the young Asquith in Keir Starmer. The rest of the Lib Dems ???

    When you’ve done Dutton try Adelman’s 1995 edition or for more depth, Catriona M.M. Macdonald, ‘The Radical Thread, Political Change in Scotland’, on the demise of the old Squiff.

    For entertainment, there’s a free 39 page PDF article you could download by Jim Tomlinson on the Glasgow University website :

    [PDF] Churchill’s defeat in Dundee, 1922, and the decline of …www.semanticscholar.org › paper › This article uses Churchill’s defeat in Dundee in 1922 to examine the challenges to … 1922, and the decline of liberal political economy}, author={J. Tomlinson}, …

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Nov '20 - 3:57pm

    David, I should have made my understanding of Scotland’s difference on democratic process more overt.

    I do think that, should Wales and Scotland return large regional blocs for the nationalists, some in Labour will realise that the only route back to power at Westminster is to release the power of English voting minorities, via PR.

    But there will be still others in Labour who will argue that PR will further empower those who have been able to – or threaten to – turn minorities into pluralities under FPTP. Which is in no way as logical an argument as they think it is and relies on a territorial red state / blue state thinking every bit as bad as in the USA.

  • @ John Marriott Always enjoyed Denis Healey. He went to the same school.. much before me, as, I know young Greavesy did for a short while..

    PS Agree with Peter Wrigley’s conclusion.

    There are indeed some pre-historic Labour monolithic councils. In one authority a friend of mine went for a Headship interview wearing his Labour Party badge. He got the job.

  • Peter Hirst 12th Nov '20 - 5:09pm

    Thanks for the history lesson, Michael. There is more than a grain of truth in it. Presumably the dinosaurs went extinct because they could not adapt to reality ( or a meteorite). Under our present electoral system we must believe that Labour can change or we might as well pack our electoral bags.

  • A brief addition. Michael Meadowcroft doesn’t mention that the Gladstone-Macdonald Pact didn’t apply to Scotland.

  • ‘Your, “So a Lib – Lab govt. would have been a great reforming government, one of the greatest of all time maybe” may have been written ‘tongue in cheek’

    No I quite generally think if from 1997 onwards you could combined the better parts of the Lib-Lab approaches and manifestos that would have been an ideal government.

    It would not have had the same negative effect electorally as coalition with the Tories. The Lib Dem’s in Scotland increased their share of the vote after one term of coalition with Labour.

  • John Marriott 12th Nov '20 - 8:51pm

    Peter Zentner, the SDP/Liberal Alliance Candidate for Lincoln in 1987, wrote a book five years earlier entitled ‘Social Democracy in Britain: Must Labour lose?’ Peter, whom I got to know well during the campaign, as my house was invariably his first stop each week on his drive up from his home in Muswell Hill, had joined the nascent SDP and was an enthusiastic convert. We still exchange Christmas greetings today, although we haven’t met since that election.

    I remember his saying to me how dismissive his Labour opponents were in his dealings with them. Even so, I remember being invited to a meeting with his Labour opponent, who attempted to use my influence on the local party to do some kind of a deal. So they clearly saw the Alliance as a threat. In the event the Tory vote hardly increased but, although Peter’s result was inferior to the Alliance candidate’s performance in 1983, his intervention clearly helped the Tories retain the seat. The dream was clearly over, sacrificed largely on the altar of FPTP. Was this what Peter Zentner had in mind when he offered the alternative title to the book he wrote at the high point of Social Democracy’s fortunes; “Must Labour lose?”

  • David Garlick 12th Nov '20 - 10:00pm

    At last the final nail in the Lib Lab pact nonsense. If once an election is over and we need each other then there may be hope of an agreement for the life of a Parliament. Other wise forget it and defeat them.

  • Paul Barker,

    You should read the report by Tim Bale, Aron Cheung and Alan Wager “Where next for the Liberal Democrats?” (https://ukandeu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Lib-Dems-report-1.pdf). It points out that there are only 29 seats where “the Lib Dems could reasonably claim to be well positioned to win.” 26 are held by the Conservatives, two by Labour and one by the SNP. They state that we are only second in 91 seats, but it seems in 62 of them we have 30% or less of the vote and from the graph it appears that in about 22 of them we have less than 20% of the vote.

    Our aim for the general election after the next one should be to have at least 55 MPs and restore to us our third place in the House of Commons. If the SNP do badly in 2023/24 we could achieve this then but I think this is unlikely.

    It is very possible that the Conservatives will still be the largest party in the House of Commons after the next general election with over 275 seats. So it is unrealistic to think that at the general election after that one (c. 2027-29) we could win more seats than them!

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '20 - 6:26am

    @ Geoff Reid,

    “No the Labour Party is not choc-a-bloc with unreconstructed Stalinists on the left.”

    Agreed.

    ” If anything it is Labour right wingers who display authoritarian tendencies that Uncle Joe would recognise and approve of.”

    True. But at the same time, most of the right wing of the Labour Party, the so-called moderates, only have minor differences with the Lib Dems. The differences they do have can probably be explained by positioning them even further to the right than the Lib Dems.

    Us lefties are remarkably “liberal” in many ways. But we are still the “bad guys” who are blamed for any electoral setback. We can’t say anything about Zionism and Israel without being labelled “antisemitic”!

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '20 - 8:04am

    @ Michael BG,

    “To {be a more civilised alternative to the Tories} we must drop any idea that we need to balance the budget, we need to ensure that having full employment is a major aim of our economic policy, we need to commit to reversing all the benefit cuts made since 2011 and we need to make ending poverty in the UK our highest priority……”

    OK but you aren’t going to cause the Tories any problem by advocating full employment especially if all jobs pay living wages. The Tories know they can have this if they want to. Kalecki explained in the 40s why they don’t:

    “Their class instinct tells them that lasting full employment is unsound from their point of view, and that unemployment is an integral part of the ‘normal’ capitalist system.”

    https://jacobinmag.com/2018/05/political-aspects-of-full-employment-kalecki-job-guarantee

  • James Fowler 13th Nov '20 - 10:31am

    These discussions are fascinating because of what the reveal about the diversity of the Lib Dems. In very broad handfuls I think both the voters and the members are about 1/3 radical (left of Labour) and 2/3 establishment liberals (left of Conservative). The activists are the opposite and the councillors and MPs break about 50/50. The leadership has almost always been establishment.

    This then leaves the eternal of question of ‘which way do we face?’ which is the topic of this article. Happily, FPTP actually allows us to face both ways by campaigning constituency issue (to the fury of the main Parties) while glib aphorisms like ‘The Radical Centre’ skate over the glaring contradictions.

    Previously I’ve argued that we should make a definitive choice and thereby garner a ‘Core Vote’ as Mark Pack has advocated. However, I accept the risks and suspect that playing it safe constituency by constituency is baked into the DNA of the Party. May there be many more ‘northern’ articles like this one hammering Labour and many more others from the ‘south’ hammering the Conservatives! The dilemma of what to do with actual power remains as unresolved as ever.

  • @ James Fowler It’s impossible to have a core vote based on a vacuum, James.

  • Peter,

    I hope you are now fully recovered from your Covid-19 infection and that you don’t have long Covid.

    Indeed, Conservative governments between 1951 and 1974 did provide full employment.

    I note that you agree with Michał Kalecki’s ‘business leaders and their experts’ that “you shall earn your bread in sweat” (i.e. by working).

    However, he does present the case for full employment well pointing out that “higher output and employment benefit not only workers but entrepreneurs as well, because the latter’s profits rise”.

    If ‘business leaders and their experts’ oppose full employment then we need to present the argument for it and convince the majority of people that it is better for the country and everyone living in it. There are some economists that still accept Keynesian economics can work and that the problems of the mid-1970s were not caused by Keynesian economics but other factors. We need to present their arguments and convince people that it is wrong for the government to act like it is a household when it can ‘print its own money’. From your post it seems you are resigned to the idea that no government could now achieve full employment as happened after the Second World War until about 1973 and the Yom Kippur War.

  • James Fowler 13th Nov '20 - 2:12pm

    @ David Raw – not sure what you mean here, but if you’re saying we should be bold and make some choices then I agree.

  • Agree with James Fowler, the Lib Dem’s need a core vote of liberal minded people rather than be an all things to all people party which has an illusion of being popular but with a vote that could collapse in all directions.

    As I said in another thread I do believe that there is now an increasing core vote and potential core vote which is disproportionately in Tory held seats in Southern England which is encouraging.

    At the same time I recognise that there is a dilemma that there are two promising constituencies of voters to appeal one being centre to right of centre mainly Tory leaning or ex Tory leaning and in addition a growing Lib-Lab identity that is more left of centre. The balancing act is that we need tactical voters from Labour and to win over soft Tory votes at the same time.

  • John Littler 13th Nov '20 - 7:49pm

    Having seen the ruthless Labour power games inside Trade Union organisations, I think it is worth separating that way of working, from their policy, most of which is progressive. However, as the power and influence of the unions fades, even a lot of Labour left people have taken on quite fundamental liberal and green view points. What separates them from ourselves is their dogmatic use of the state when the LibDems often are open to either state, private or third sector provision as appropriate.

    But in terms of power play, Labour are still authoritarian and gave a good impression of a cult to Corbyn. I saw the labour conf. debate on the brexit position and my jaw dropped as multiple stitch ups and rule breaking ensued to ensure the great leader’s sceptical views prevailing against that of the obvious majority there. There was delegate after delegate imploring people to trust the great man merely because he must know what he’s doing, the rush in of unaccredited observers at the last moment before the vote, a show of hands without card vote ( different numbers of votes per branch rep). Then the Chair called it for the pro EU side of the motion. There was then a whisper in her ear and the result was reversed to Corbyn’s position, as she looked sheepish and embarrassed. Next the delegates called for a card vote as was their right under the rules, but it was ignored. Pure Stalinism!

    Nonetheless, we have to work the real world as it is and not how we would like it to be and at present, LibDems are 7-9% in polls. The tories are now beyond the pale in so many ways and there has to be a change after the coming disaster in january

  • Peter Martin 14th Nov '20 - 2:33am

    @ Michael BG,

    Fully recovered. Thanks! Part of me now thinks why so much fuss about a mild illness but I know rationally that others won’t be so lucky.

    “….you are resigned to the idea that no government could now achieve full employment as happened after the Second World War until about 1973 and the Yom Kippur War.”

    No, but we have to look at what went wrong at the time. On the one hand we can’t stimulate the economy to such an extent that everyone is going to be offered a living wage job due to changed market conditions. There will inevitably be an inflation problem long before we get there. On the other we can’t incentivise everyone to take living wage jobs if they don’t exist. What we’ve done is to pressure workers into taking substandard jobs in the Gig economy. What we might term ZHC jobs and the Germans would term mini-jobs.

    So there has to be another way. This is where the MMT JG jobs guarantee comes in. Instead of having a buffer stock of unemployed we have a buffer stock of workers on a JG. This doesn’t mean that 60 year old workers would have to dig potatoes if they lost their job. Benefits would still be paid out on insurance based basis as envisaged by Beveridge.

    But, especially for young workers, who won’t have paid in, the expectation is that they should do something as their part of what you might term a ‘social contract’. A Job Guarantee won’t be like a normal job. The expectation will be that young workers acquire a job record, learn new skills and move back into the conventional economy.

  • Peter Martin 14th Nov '20 - 2:34am

    @ John Littler,

    “The tories are now beyond the pale in so many ways…..”

    I’ve always thought that. The problem is that they do tend to attract 40% or so of the vote.

    So why is this? Partially its down to the media being owned by the ruling class who are largely Tory but there has to be more to it than that. There is a growing disconnect between the working class and the political left. This has always been apparent in the USA but the same thing is happening in the UK and EU now.

    We now have a “new left” intelligentsia which largely despises the working class for not going along with its vision on the creation of a Pan European entity. The left despises the nationalism of the working class and portrays this as being racist.

    It’s no way to win elections as we’ve seen right throughout Europe. The left is just a shadow of its former self. If the left wants this to change it has to change too. But I can’t see this happening any time soon.

  • Peter,

    I am glad you are fully recovered and the illness was mild for you.

    Do you have the inflation figures from 1946? The rates went up and down like a yo-yo. For example inflation was 9% in 1951, 3% in 1952 and 2% in 1953. It was 10.3% in 1959, and 3.5% in 1960. It was 16% in 1973, 24.2% in 1974 and 18% in 1979. I am surprised to see it was 9.4% in 1989. I wonder why it was so high in 1959 and 1989?

    As Stephanie Kelton said the price of oil was the cause of the high inflation in 1973 and 1974.

    It seems that history shows that we can have full employment and have low inflation. Michał Kalecki states it will be so, in the article you provided the link for. However, I accept that with full employment wage inflation could occur.

    In MMT job guarantees are not permanent. They are only advocated when the economy is in a slow down or recession. Again you hint that for some a job guarantee will be compulsory, which all liberals should reject.

    As you know I like the idea of a voluntary job guarantee scheme and a voluntary training guarantee scheme. However, I don’t see the job guarantee scheme as permanent while the training one might be needed all the time to ensure people can change careers and obtain the necessary free training to do so.

    We need to ensure there is full employment in each region of the UK and even down to each local area. This will mean the government providing support via local government to every area which has a high unemployment rate. Then job guarantees will only be needed until the government support kicks in and jobs return for these people to do.

  • Peter Martin 14th Nov '20 - 1:57pm

    @ Michael BG,

    This is a graph of UK inflation historically. It doesn’t show inflation as being particularly high in 1959. The 1989 peak was caused by the Lawson credit boom. The thinking at the time was that inflation was caused by too much Govt spending. Nigel lawson showed quite nicely that any kind of excess spending could produce inflation.

    The MMT JG is a permanent scheme. The idea is that we have a buffer stock of employed workers rather than a buffer stock of unemployed workers. But naturally the numbers on the scheme will vary. JG jobs are no more compulsory than any other job. I’m sure the employees at Lib Dem HQ will only get paid if they show up regularly for work. This is just the way things work in the real world!

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=11941

  • Paul Barker 14th Nov '20 - 5:39pm

    Short of a real “Political Earthquake” the best we can hope for from Labour is an unaknowledged Non-agression Pact where we stay out of each others Target Seats.
    The likelyest result of The 2024 Election is a Labour Landslide & for us a “Breakthrough” to a couple of dozen MPs. We would not be needed as Coalition partners – Thank God as we are stupid enough to go for another Coalition without PR if one was offered.

    The Tories have lost 10% on their average Polling over the last 8 Months & we havent hit The “Black Wednesday” moment yet though we can see it coming. Labour already have a clear lead & its 6 Months to the first real Electoral Test & at least another 3 Years after that before The General Election. Its a Marathon not a Sprint.

  • @ Ruth Bright You’re correct to say, “We weren’t exactly perfect ourselves were we ?”.

    I well remember going down to the Bermondsey By-election in 1983, two years after the Libs and the SDP formed the Alliance. I came away very unhappy about a Liberal run personal campaign against Tatchell. Astonishingly the Agent responsible for that campaign was awarded an OBE in 1984.

    You’re also right to say, “How about moving on from all that baggage and addressing the looming problem of a fifth Tory General Election win, or a sixth or maybe a seventh?”

    Scotland may well be going it’s own way which makes it even more imperative to sort something out now about getting rid of permanent Tory Government in England, especially given the desperate state of the Liberal Democrat Party in vast swathes of the North of England.

  • It does seem that Starmer is moving Labour back to the centre more rapidly than expected and reconnecting with “red wall” voters so will Labour be neutral on Europe going forward.

    Meanwhile Cummings has gone, and there are suggestions that the Tories will take a less aggressive stance towards Brexit and promote environmentalism. These two factors would mean they could reconnect with some of their professional remain leaning voters.

    In this scenario the vacant ground would be more left-liberal which I would have to acknowledge is different to where I would have expected and people who have said this all along may well be right.

    It is something of a surprise how quickly Starmer has been able to jettison the Corbyn era when he was elected by what still seemed to be a left leaning electorate. I do think that some of the policies such as public ownership seemed to be popular with the public so Starmer may well keep to that agenda.

  • Paul Barker 15th Nov '20 - 3:56pm

    I have been very impressed by Starmer so far, not because I agree with him on everything but as Labour Leader he hasnt put a foot wrong. Labours position on Europe is not set yet; right now there are two big Anti-European Campaigns in Labour, from The Right & Left. After January they may well look pretty silly.

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