LibLink: Tom Brake: Why the Liberal Democrats won’t stand aside in Copeland

In an article for the New Statesman, Tom Brake explains why the Liberal Democrats will be fighting the Copeland candidate with our excellent candidate, Rebecca Hanson. The brief summary is that you can’t have a “Progressive Alliance” with a party that isn’t very progressive. Labour’s approach to Brexit is something that we could not support.

But ultimately we will not help progressive politics if we stand aside for Corbyn’s Labour, which would merely give the left false hope that someone of the hard left could become Prime Minister. To us, a Eurosceptic statist such as Corbyn is not even progressive. By doing well ourselves, the Lib Dems will strengthen the hand of Labour moderates to seize back control of their party, or else leave it entirely. Only then will re-alignment be back on the agenda.

Brexit changes everything. So, whatever you thought of the Coalition or the Lib Dems, think again: if you are a progressive, you need Europe – and the Lib Dems are the only party fighting for your European future.

He also reminds readers how Jeremy Corbyn refused to share a platform with Tim Farron during the referendum to highlight how the EU protects workers’ rights.

Jeremy Corbyn’s ambivalence about Europe was well established, even before he declared that Britain could be better off after Brexit. He refused to share a platform with the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron during the referendum campaign to make the progressive case for Remain (worker rights, environmental protection, jobs in the single market) – with disastrous consequences.

But, worse, even the pro European Labour MPs are being silent on the single market:

Even many decent, pro-European Labour MPs feel unable to make the case for a soft Brexit – which would leave Britain in the world’s most lucrative market – because they fear this will be incompatible with cutting immigration. Labour is now effectively two parties. One is anti-immigration, rooted in the regions, and fearful of Ukip doing to Labour what the SNP did to them in Scotland. The other is metropolitan, pro-immigration and fearful of a Lib Dem revival in London and other cities (though curiously in the shape of the Labour party leader, also anti-single market until recently).

You can read the whole article here.

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  • The term ‘progressive’ is much like ‘modernisation’ in meaning whatever the user wants it to mean but, I agree, wherever it is that Labour is supposedly progressing is not somewhere that I would want our party to go.

  • So do you mean “progressive” when applied to the Conservatives coalition partners ie Lib Dems who enabled the Theresa May’s GO HOME vans, who kept Ian Duncan Smith sanctioning innocent people as use of food banks escalated during your time in government, or “progressive” like the bedroom tax? Lid Dems need to decide what they are…bounced into coalition by Nick Clegg to allegedly put a brake on the Torres? Its possible that you did BUT at a price of dooming yourselves to electoral oblivion. Now that is over you want to talk progressive alliance? We are in a messy period. Obviously we need to discuss what actually can happen now the Referendum is over. Many progressive voices in the EU are saying the principle of free movement of labour is good but the practice is that it hasn’t helped workers at the lower end of the scale in the richer countries. In fact its harmed the poorer workers while top end professionals have benefited. Is that progressive? I think Vince Cable is on the right track. We need to think again.

  • Peter Martin 14th Jan '17 - 1:56pm

    ” To us, a Eurosceptic statist such as Corbyn is not even progressive ”

    Is the pro-EU side any less statist than the EU-sceptics? I’d say the only real difference is the size of the state in question. Whether the the state should be the 65 million of the UK or 743 million of the EU.

    In other words, do we want a super large state or a medium to small state?

    The problems of the EU are largely caused by it being something in-between this large state and a collection of smaller states running a free trade agreement. Either would work quite well. But, neither one thing nor the other is quite a novelty. Someone perhaps had to try out the experiment sooner or later.

    Is it going to work? Maybe. But it would have to either move forwards to the Super State or take a step back to what it was 20 years ago. But it’s stuck! At least for the moment.

    So, it’s quite unfair to label those of us who might take a pessimistic view of the outcome of this experiment as “not progressive”. We could be wrong. The optimists could yet be right. We’ll have to see.

    There’s arguments either way – whatever our position in the political spectrum.

  • Kay Kirkham 14th Jan '17 - 2:43pm

    Stand aside is never a good idea however ‘progressive’ another party is. It is disrespectful to our potential voters and treats them like a block vote which can be manipulated to behave in a certain way. It is arrogant to assume that they are incapable of making their own decisions. It takes no account of any reciprocal behaviour that might be expected from the elected member after the event which in any case would not be enforceable. So, right decision in Copeland

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jan '17 - 2:47pm

    I like and support Tom Brake in this as often. A good man. Yet for me the substantial emphasis on the EU is all wrong , though I get it.

    There is so much I do not like and is iliberal about Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor , not true of others even on the left.

    When I see those two and their baggage on the Irish, Middle East , Cuban and other issues, and the crypto-Stalinisism in the background of some others, and then see Clive Lewis and his real service to our country , I know what stops me wanting a progressive alliance , and what it is is not Europe !

  • Tony Greaves 14th Jan '17 - 3:28pm

    The real reason why we must stand in each by-election is that our task is to rebuild a progressive radical campaigning Liberal party in this country. Standing in elections is an important part of that (though not the only one). The Liberal Democrats are the only choice on offer.

  • I keep saying this. There is no future in advocating a “progressive Alliance”. To work it needs a large number of people who vote Conservative to support it. They will not support any attempt at “a stitch up”, and would be right to do so. The proponents of this “Alliance” are not in the real world, some of us with years in the game have seen attempts at this before and the failure it produces, the Conservative vote is strengthened.

  • David Evershed 14th Jan '17 - 5:24pm

    Being liberal is not the same as being a socialist.

    Liberals believe in free competition, free trade and individual freedom.

    Lib Dems are not Labour Lite.

  • Nom de Plume 14th Jan '17 - 6:19pm

    @ David Evershed

    “Liberals believe in free competition, free trade and individual freedom”

    Liberalism can not be reduced to a slogan.
    “individual freedom” The individual lives as part of a society and it is in this context that this freedom needs to be understood. Taken on its own it can lead to hedonism, machiavellian behaviour or a ‘greed is good’ culture. All of which is damaging to the society.
    “free trade” Trade between nations and occurs within the context of trade agreements. They need to be of mutual benefit or else you get mercantile policies and unwanted social side effects. As in the US, which for better or worse, Trump is trying to address. The UK is different.
    “free competition” As a rule it is true, but a case could be made for government intervention, say like Obama did for the US motor industry. I am not so sure about banks.

    Above all else Liberalism needs careful interpretation. Waving around a book, even one by Hayek, does not display your eruditon, but rather your ignorance.

  • @David Evershed
    “Liberals believe in free competition”

    Practically everybody – whether they call themselves socialists, liberals, or capitalists – believes in a mixed economy.

  • nigel hunter 14th Jan '17 - 7:12pm

    We must stand in all seats to build up our strength for 2020. I do not fancy a Conservative Govnt with a large majority.

  • William hill odds on Stoke Central Lib Dems now 9-2 big rush since the Sunderland result!

  • “To us, a Eurosceptic statist such as Corbyn is not even progressive. ”

    Absolutely, and I suspect that this state of affairs will be the same for many years to come. Even if he goes after 2020, the likelihood is that the less authoritarian Labour MP’s will have left parliament, lost their seat or been deselected. I’m not sure the Greens are much better…

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Jan '17 - 1:02am

    As Tom Brake MP helpfully repeats, we are the only united pro-Europe progressive national party offering credible opposition to the Tory Government. Unlike Labour, our party has recently reasserted its support for the Four Freedoms of the EU, including free movement of EU citizens and free movement of goods. We want continued access to the single market and accept the interchange of British and other EU citizens to live and work in each others’ countries. It is right, therefore, to contest by-elections which have been held by Labour politicians, and strongly to deny any right for UKIP which has achieved its main raison d’etre to masquerade further as a major opposition party.

    @ Eamon Joe, the progression of the poorest and least secure workers is to be sought by the control of unscrupulous bosses and gangmasters and enforcement of minimum wages and workers’ rights, not by preventing reputable employers recruiting the workers they need, whether British or from other EU countries.
    @ Tony Greaves, there is a word missing from your description of ‘our task’, which should surely read, ‘to rebuild a progressive, radical campaigning Liberal Democrat party in this country’. We defend democracy as well as liberty, and refuse to accept that our call for another referendum after negotiations are complete is in any way undemocratic.

  • With the “Deserters” voter’s possibly split between Tories, UKIP and Labour- Lib/Dems could win!

  • As we are the only true “IN” party.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jan '17 - 12:16pm

    Tim Farron was on the Sunday Politics, at the beginning.

  • There is a quite different reason for not standing aside for Labour in Copeland. It’s a Labour seat. We would face a more difficult choice if in addition to us being on less than 15% last time, the seat was Tory-held with Labour 2,000 behind and fielding a candidate who was open to co-operation. However, in those circumstances we might do best appealing mainly to soft Tory Remain voters and the effect could be to help Labour!

    I would like to see anti-Tory (and anti-UKIP) co-operation, but I think it would have to start with discussions on policy. At present, despite Compass, I don’t see a Labour body willing to engage at that level.

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Jan '17 - 12:53pm

    We are right to emphasise our commitment to the EU and give hope to the forgotten 48% but to fight in Stoke we have to have an equal national policy commitment to righting the wrongs that led to the high Brexit vote. The result in Sunderland, as I understand it, was based on fighting the inadequacy of the local Labour Party and promising to stand up for local people and they responded to that. However, I believe the only way back to national unity is to change our economic policy and invest in changes to improve the welfare state and make it fit for purpose in the 21st century and invest in people’s futures.

  • Nigel Jones 15th Jan '17 - 2:53pm

    Alliances can only come about after several practical examples of working together and are wrong if they are simply a reaction to one election. When Jeremy refused to join Tim during the EU referendum, that was surely an indication that the Labour party under his leadership is in the typical socialist tribal mode. They are not interested in working longterm with people who are not of their tribe and even if they cooperated in certain ways, they would seize any opportunity to renege on any agreement and have entirely their own way. Until he goes, we cannot work with Labour.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Jan '17 - 12:47am


    Excellent point , I always put it in capitals, for the reasons you say, as spelling and language and usage are not just trivial.

    Neo-liberalism is , not Liberalism. Neither is the insult , liberal, whether used in the US to denote left wing , or at various stages in various ways , to denote a sort of bleeding heart mush !

    I like what you said about the attitude of the noble lord mentioned, I would love to warm to him despite his left of me stance, as some of my favourite people have been to the left and right of me. Maybe if he put more positive comments on here , as on this thread, we , all, who know of his good work, could enjoy his good imput !

  • Not only are Corbyn and the Labour candidates anti-nuclear credentials a disaster but his anti-NATO pro-Putin sympathies won’t play well with workers in such an important strategic sector. And now you can nail the Tories endangering national security by moving the UK towards a pro-Putin and pro-Brexit Trump camp. Its a bit of hyperbolic but go for it. Brexit = Corbyn, Putin, Trump is a gift. Depsite the Leave vote they are mainly moderate Labour voters in Copeland. And Brexit is now the Tory government and they want to know where their £350m w/k for the NHS has gone. Is Corbyn the man to hold May’s feet to the fire?

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