Labour show their true colours

It has not been a great  week for those who think Liberal Democrats will find it easy to work with a minority Labour Government  or that Labour are our natural partners.

First we had Keir Starmer’s very odd comments on  people working in the NHS – where he said 

What I would like to see is the numbers go down in some areas. I think we’re recruiting too many people from overseas into, for example, the health service.


I have recently  spent time visiting someone in hospital and was struck by what a high % of the nursing and auxiliary staff were from overseas : what a message to send to them !  

Of course Starmer knows perfectly we need people from overseas to staff the NHS – this is pure dog whistle stuff designed to get a headline. 

Then we have that old  Labour favourite, identity cards. Labour’s last, fabulously expensive plan, for these was  rightly scuppered as one of the first  (and widely acclaimed ) actions of the Coalition but now  revived by Stephen Kinnock who says Labour is thinking : 

very, very carefully indeed at an identity card scheme to reassure the public that “we have control of our borders

It is perhaps worth considering  how ID cards might help control of the borders: the only way I can see is if there were regular checks of  people to see if they have a card.  God help you if  you look like you weren’t born here and have left your card at home.   People should be allowed to go about their business and as long as they follow the law should not have to prove to the State who they are. This is Civil Liberties 1-0-1 and it is depressing to think we may need to fight this battle all over again. 

If we do we can be inspired by the example of  lifelong Liberal, Harry Willcock who in 1950 was stopped by the Police and asked to produce his card ( which of course Liberals supported in WW2) and who refused with the immortal words :

I am a Liberal, and I am against this sort of thing


We need to remember that Labour have a very different way of looking at the world than we do. That doesn’t mean there are not areas we agree on – but it does mean that we always need to bear in mind that we are not the same – and  be wary of the instinctive illiberalism many  Labour MPs  will default to.


* Simon McGrath is a councillor in Wimbledon and a member of the board of Liberal Reform.

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  • The is nothing progressive about a major developed country pillaging and looting a developing country for their health-care staff.

    We should be training and developing own own rather than depriving poorer countries of their health-care.

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Nov '22 - 3:30pm

    “We should be training and developing own own rather than depriving poorer countries of their health-care.”


  • Trouble is the USA and Oz recruit thousands from us and you can’t blame those going.

  • Paul Barker 12th Nov '22 - 4:18pm

    The Labour ID cards ” Policy” lasted 2 hours before it was slapped down vigorously by Yvette Cooper. It was a daft comment by a nobody. Does Simon McGrath actually follow the News ?
    Starmers comments were badly phrased but were they actually a “Dog Whistle” ?

    There are some real differences We have with Labour – there’s no need to exaggerate.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Nov '22 - 4:26pm

    Slamdac and nonconformistradcical are perhaps forgetting the very important role the NHS has in training doctors from other countries and allowing them to gain skills which they can then take home. The problem comes when medical staff from developing countries DON’T return home. As Liberals we should be encouraging this NHS role and reminding those taking part that it’s a deal and not a way of enriching themselves at the expense of their home countries. There is also a role for trainee doctors and nurses to spend time in developing countries as part of their training, as my sister did in the late seventies and we should be encouraging this as well.
    And of course we should be training more home-grown medical personnel and the Tories have proved woefully inadequate on that front and look to be about to make matters worse.

  • Martin Gray 12th Nov '22 - 4:43pm

    Labour lost 60 seats in the 19 GE – 52 of them voted to leave …It needs to win those back before it starts making inroads into the Tory majority.
    It needs to appeal to voters – not some echo chamber for the membership.
    Outside of metropolitan areas most voters are socially conservative , as we’ve to learnt to our cost time & again with with repeated conservative rule …

  • @Mick Taylor – Slamdac and nonconformistradcical aren’t forgetting; it is those calling for special concessions to enable more workers to be imported wherever there seems to be a ‘shortage’ of willing workers who are forgetting.

    >And of course we should be training more home-grown medical personnel and the Tories have proved woefully inadequate on that front and look to be about to make matters worse.
    And the LibDems have proved to be woefully inadequate in making this case, seemingly preferring to beat the drum for the Conservatives for more immigration, when given the opportunity to call for greater investment in UK workers.

  • Trevor Andrews 13th Nov '22 - 7:47am

    I am a liberal member and generally agree with most things we promote but I struggle with the Identity Card issue.

    Even going to the bank, they often want a passport to complete a transaction. We have credit cards that monitor all our spending. You need to use your Social Security number for various pay processes.

    In Spain they have a card based on your social security number. Nobody seems worried about it and it helps the police and business and health services.

    So why do we make such a fuss and make so much harder for our public services?

  • I think Starmer has no core values other than getting himself elected. Hence he can one minute go full “racist nan” and the next “business friendly” even if this means saying immigration is wrong for one sector but fine for another. This is the same as how he could work under Corbyn for years and then kick him out of Labour at the first opportunity

  • On identity cards – we need to look at the needs of minorities in our country. There are many times that I have been asked to show proof of identity recently. They asked for something which was issued by public bodies and had my photo. For me that was passport, bus pass or driving licence. We need to consider those who have no driving licence or passport and are too young for a free bus pass. I am in favour of saying what we are for before what we are against.

  • On foreign workers – I believe that the birth rate in our country is such as we would have a falling population without immigration. So we need more young people. I accept that we do not have enough people being trained even taking this into account. But the large correlation between poverty and educational performance. At the time of lock downs the actual experiences of families with low incomes was often a topic in the media.
    My conclusion is that if we end poverty we will go a long way towards dealing with shortages in many fields.

  • David Warren 13th Nov '22 - 10:49am

    After 30 years in the Labour and trade union movement I know more than most about the authoritarian instincts of those who inhabit that world.

    If in a future hung parliament our Lib Dem MPs hold the balance of power I want them to be a lot tougher than Clegg was with Cameron. Proposals for things like ID cards should be firmly rejected and an insistence on political reform a deal breaker in any negotiations.

    Us footsoldiers will do the work to get the party into a position of influence then it’s up to the parliamentarians not to blow it!

  • Sadly, it seems that we may need to have the talk about ID Cards again, we need to re-imagine how such Cards would be used by Racist Police Officers or Malign Governments.

    I spent a Decade in Labour so I have an idea what they can be like But – there was No Labour Policy for ID Cards. The Shadow Minister for Immigration suggested them as a possible idea & was very firmly put in his place a few Hours later. The idea never got anywhere near being Labour Policy.

  • headline ……..Labour show their true colours…….

    There seems to have been a dearth of ‘Labour Bashing’ in recent months but it’s never far away. However, as ‘slamdac’ and ‘Paul Barker’ have already stated neither of your rants are actual Labour policies.
    As for Starmer’s remarks he clarified them as a call for more training places for medical staff and, if I remember, actually referred to the 2017 abolishion of nursing bursaries which resulted in a drop of almost a quarter of applicants..
    BTW Labour’s record on the NHS is in absolute contrast by that shown post 2010..

    For a party struggling on 9% picking a fight on two fronts seems unwise to say the least..

  • Peter Watson 14th Nov '22 - 4:56pm

    @Ian Shires “are we pink Tories? pink Labour?”
    “The general public don’t have a clue what liberals are all about. … we need to show people what a real social democracy looks like. The problem we have is that our leadership is not promoting that vision.”
    I agree entirely with the points you raise, but would say that more specifically, the general public don’t have a clue what Lib Dems are all about (though I often also think that there are as many opinions about what “liberal” means as there are people asked! 🙂 ).
    I think that the leadership has prioritised a very small-c conservative message, and the party has presented itself as reactive and oppositionist in response to any change proposed by UKIP, the SNP, the Tories, Corbyn’s Labour, etc., rather than risk dividing its membership or scaring supporters by putting forward radical alternatives to the status quo. Even when the party’s conference has taken interesting positions on things like academic selection, faith schools and UBI/GBI, the party doesn’t seem to want to tell anyone!

  • Two more polls show us falling yet again to 6pc. What will it take for Davey Pack etc to wake up and put us back to where we were after the Tiverton result.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Nov '22 - 7:53am

    Ian Shires: I attended a session at the London Lib Dem conference last weekend on winning over Tory switchers. One of the speakers (can’t remember who) gave an anecfote from the T&H by-election, about canvassing a voter who was unsure about the Lib Dems becasue because we wanted to take the UK back into the UK. The speaker responded that that wasn’t on the cards and it wasn’t what the election was about, but did not deny that rejoining was our aspiration. The speaker ended by opining that the voter would most likely vote Tory.

    The main take-away from the session was that winning over soft Tories is about tone and language (e.g. don’t say “Tory”) not policy. And yes, it’s also about emphasising issues that the voters care most about (often local issues) but it certainly isn’t about hiding what we actually believe. We say on the doorstep that the Tories have moved away from the voters, not that the voters shouldn’t be voting Tory because Tories are bad (since when did lecturing voters work?).

    Echoing Daily Mail and Sun talking points is certainly not a way for us to win votes in the Blue Wall. As you rightly say, people given the choice between real and fake Tories will choose the real deal. But then, we aren’t doing that. That approach might work in the Red Wall, among the S*n-reading demographic, but unlike Labour we’re not fishing in that pond.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Nov '22 - 7:54am

    s/take the UK back into the UK/take the UK back into the EU/ obviously

  • Peter Watson 15th Nov '22 - 9:12am

    @Alex Macfie “it’s also about emphasising issues that the voters care most about (often local issues) but it certainly isn’t about hiding what we actually believe”
    After “Boris out”, it looked like the highest profile part of the Lib Dem strategy in Chesham & Amersham was opposition to HS2 which is something the party supports! It’s one thing for the previous Tory MP to have had that position, given that she was the MP before HS2 was a thing and hadn’t changed her mind, but mimicking that with a Lib Dem candidate just looks like cynical opportunism and the inconsistency adds to the confusion about what the Lib Dems actually are.

  • In 1950 Harry Willlcock was “asked to produce his card (which of course Liberals supported in WW2)…”
    [added emphasis]

    There was indeed an immense change between war and peace, appropriately reflected in changing Liberal policy at the time.

    Since then?

    In the 1950s travel was horrendously difficult and expensive. I spent part of my early childhood in Sierra Leone and until about 1955 travel to and fro was by ship which I was too young to remember. The first journey I slightly remember was on a Dakota – three days with overnight stops! Later a Viscount cut that to only two days! Now it’s a few hours – and vastly cheaper.

    So, the World has become vastly smaller which I welcome but that brings new challenges. One is that the numbers wanting to move here are both unacceptable to most and environmentally unsustainable. Also, job competition is intensified at the lower end but government has punted on organising proper training.

    With seaworthy inflatable boats, the UK can no longer rely on its island status to secure its borders.

    We need a plan and identity cards could have a place. It doesn’t help promote a grown-up debate to imply that any sort of identity card would necessarily be semi-Stalinist.

    For example, they could be mandatory for immigrants but optional for anyone else and police could be instructed to ask to see proof of identity ONLY if the person has a foreign accent.

  • Any suggestion of ID cards has the risk of turning into another high tech database, rights destroying monster as under New Labour’s £30bn iD database, or be associated with continental wartime demands in film: “show me your papers”, or just “Papers?”

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