Nick Clegg writes… The Labour party are worn out and irrelevant

28% at the last set of local elections. 5% points clear of Labour and our highest ever share of the vote. In 23 out of the 25 county councils we are now the main opposition to the Conservatives. And in many counties there are no Labour county councillors at all. In both the South East and the South West Labour were pushed to fifth in the European elections. In vast swathes of Southern Britain they’re as irrelevant as the Tories are in many Northern cities.

In the battle of ideas as well as increasingly in the electoral battle the Labour party are worn out and irrelevant. It’s our party that has been ahead of the curve on one major issue after another: from warning about the dangers of an overleveraged banking system, to calling for full rights of residence for retired Gurkha soldiers, to championing fundamental reform of our politics.

And many parts of the traditional Labour voting coalition are realising it. In 1997 they – and many others – believed the Labour Government would make Britain fairer and more free. But those hopes have now been dashed. Under Labour inequality has got worse, not better. Life chances are still determined by the circumstances of a person’s birth. Iraq, mass child incarceration, the erosion of our civil liberties – those aren’t small blemishes on the Government’s record. They’re a fundamental betrayal of Labour’s promise that things would only get better.

I want those voters who once believed that promise to now turn to us – the only party offering real change. For our part, we must help this process by reaching out to them and explaining why only a Liberal Democrat government can deliver the progressive politics our country needs.

That’s what I did a few weeks ago, when I posted a blog on Labour List for Pride weekend. I explained that even on gay rights, an area where the Government regularly trumpets its success – they’ve failed to go far enough and it’s still only the Liberal Democrats who are prepared to take the bold steps to make this country truly equal. On the environment, on civil liberties, on reforming the banks and bankers and on Trident renewal, we are the only party in British politics that is willing to take the radical choices that would change Britain for good.

Last week I was interviewed for a joint event with Tweetminster and the Independent; and a few days earlier I did an online ‘Town Hall’ event with Reuters. I’m determined that we as a party engage with voters by every means possible. Young people, betrayed by this government over Iraq, graduate debt, and now on a recession that is leaving them jobless, need to hear about the help – and hope – that we offer.

So, please, over these summer months take every chance, through every format available to us, to spread our message. Tell anyone who supported Labour in 1997: if you believe in fairness; if you want to support, not demonise, young people; if you care about political reform, if you want the environment protected; the Liberal Democrats share your values and are the only chance for something different. We carry the torch of progress now.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • The Lib Dems are the party of change, and do seem to be the only ones suggesting much needed new ideas (if we discount the Tory’s authoritarian plans to dictate how citizens’ families should work).

    So why don’t we see you on the news, Nick? Why is it that, in the run up to the European elections, UKIP and the Tories had free reign to spout garbage about the EU but the Lib Dems were nowhere to be seen.

    Obviously, I support your blogging and your tweeting and your speaking to parliament, but surely you can see that what you say will only reach those who already have a strong political bent. For a true reformist agenda to gain any traction, it needs to be promoted and defended on TV, on the radio, in the papers.

  • Wow,

    A deeply unpopular left of centre government with record low polls,the most unpopular prime minister ever,the Lib Dem economics spokesman on TV almost every night and yet the Lib Dems manage to lose two county councils and make no seat advances in the recent local elections and stuck in the doldrums in the national polls.

    Could it be that the Lib Dems are irrelevant?

  • Well no, its much more likely that the voters themselves are not ambitious enough to vote for real change. Because the last time ‘real change’ was on the table, they got 12 years of Blair’s failed experiment.

  • We still have lots to do to get out our message. Nick is right on subject after subject- we just need to tell people about it!

  • You have to feel sorry for Labour PPC Charlotte MacKenzie, welcoming the Governments decison to reduce the rent increase for council tennants.

    A few pointers Charlotte – No 1: the Government was responsible for the 6% plus rent increase. Labour has been pushing year on year about inflation rent increases despite the fact that most tennents get housing benefit (and therefore can’t pay) and even those that don’t are usually on low incomes. No 2: The Govt left the announcement until after most councils had already had to put the 6% + rent increase through. No 3: The Government ignored all the Housing Associations that now have a majority of so called social housing. No 4 There are thousands of empty shared ownership and key worker properties nobody wants No 5: Council House building fell to around 500 houses a year. That wouldn’t met the needs of Truro, let alone the UK.

    Remind us again how Labour faired in the Euro elections in Cornwall ? Sixth Place wasn’t it, with 5% of the vote.

  • Personally, I’d be happy to see the Lib Dem share of the vote fall by -13% anywhere, it’d be a pretty big swing in our favour!

  • LFAT:

    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

    – Keynes

  • Martin Kinsella 24th Jul '09 - 6:21pm

    Mark Pack – excellent point sir.

    Nick, great post. Great message.

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