Opinion: Planet Earth to Grayson

Oh Dear, oh dear. I have just read Richard Grayson’s Observer article and to say it is lacking in reflection and analysis is an understatement.

I touched on this on my own blog site yesterday but perhaps I could expand a little.

Ed Milliband was a supporter then a member of a highly illiberal government. Let’s not forget how bad the Labour Government was when it:

  • Entered into an illegal war in Iraq
  • Allowed the banking crisis to fester in spite of warnings
  • Developed expensive bureaucracies to deal with problems
  • Allowed the social housing stock to decrease by 37,500 in their time in government
  • Attacked the civil liberties of our nation
  • Borrowed massive amounts of money which now need paying back.

And I could go on.

Now I could accept that Mr Milliband didn’t like some or all of these things. If he wants me to work with him he needs to say so. He has yet to admit the culpability of Labour which led to the banking crisis and its accompanying personal debt crisis. Crucially he has wimped out of any solutions to the crisis in our public sector finances which flowed from them. Time and again we get the mealy mouthed response from Labour that, “We won’t oppose all cuts”, but they do, and “our cuts would be fairer” well they might be but who knows?

I’m a great believer in cross party government. At the LGA I work the whole time with members of all Parties and of none. At a practical level, however we have two main hurdles:

Firstly, the national problems of policy outlined above;

Secondly the problems of practicality that some of us face every day. In cities up and down the Country we took power from Labour administrations that were incompetent, self serving and failing to provide basic services whilst charging sky high local taxes. They haven’t really changed. The municipal socialists who kept their head down during the New Labour years are back in force. They want the power back to the Town Hall and not redistributed to the people.

So really Mr Grayson as you split hairs in your donnish way as a Professor you need to get out a bit more and a be a bit more real a lot more. For many years I have represented some of the most deprived parts of the community – I still do. So I don’t trust Labour as a whole because I have seen what they have done for so long.

There is still only one place for liberals to be – that’s in the Lib Dems. It’s where I am and it’s where I am staying!

Cllr Richard Kemp is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the LGA and is completing his 29th year as a Liberal (Democrat) councillor in Liverpool

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  • Steve Simmons 14th Dec '10 - 10:30am

    Ah, this must be the new politics. An entire article doing nothing more than slagging off another political party.

  • Steve Simmons 14th Dec '10 - 10:44am

    “to say it is lacking in reflection and analysis is an understatement.”

    I’ve read through both articles now. One of them is actually reflective and thoughtful and the other is an internet rant containing expressions sush as: “Planet Earth to Grayson”, “Labour administrations that were incompetent, self serving and failing to provide basic services whilst charging sky high local taxes.”, “you need to get out a bit more and a be a bit more real a lot more”

    “He has yet to admit the culpability of Labour which led to the banking crisis and its accompanying personal debt crisis.”

    The banking crisis and the personal debt crisis were both caused by libertarian laissez-faire economic policies. They were caused by a lack of government (intervention). As a ‘liberal’, Mr Kemp, why do you think the state is responsible for individuals getting into so much debt? Did they not choose to get into that debt? Wasn’t it their responsibility?

  • What is most annoying is that it is quite obvious that Ed Miliband is not in any way, shape or form a ‘pluralist’ but is exploiting colaition tensions to try and return us to the post-war world dominated by two parties. Any Lib Dems enticed by his words should bear in mind that this is a man who is reported to have said he has ‘a plan to make the Lib Dems an endangered species, and then extinct’. Any Liberal should politely refuse to help him in his quest to return us to a system dominated by two socially authoritarian parties obsessed with either increasing or slashing public spending.

  • Although I agree with your criticism of Labour – they are some of the reasons why I voted for you this time – can you honestly tell me that the party with whom you are now in coalition would have done things differently?

    I didn’t see them speaking out against the war.

    Nor am I entirely convinced that a party run by Clegg would not have found reasons to vote against its principles andd back the invasion had you not had the luxury of opposition.

  • This cant about the war would have a shred of credibility if you hadn’t got into bed with the party who actually supported it wholesale and if you occasionally reminded them of it.

    You want pluralist politics? well, no, you don’t. Grayson’s trying to work with another party, which is what you’re supposed to be doing except by ‘pluralism’ you appear to mean ‘doing what Richard Kemp wants’.

  • vince thurnell 14th Dec '10 - 11:18am

    I take it the new politics that Clegg spoke is finished then ?. I thought he wanted parties to work more closely together on issues. I take it , that now only applies when you’re not in government.

  • The Tories are just as bad!

    1. The Tories voted for the Iraq war – this is just forgotten because it was Blair who took us into Iraq. So you are in coalition with a party who SUPPORTED the war when it was decided.
    2. The global crisis would have happened even if the Tories were in power. They wouldn’t have provided more regulation on the banks – in fact they probably would have had even less. Let’s not forget the “One in, one out” regulation rule the government is currently having
    3. Whilst this government is more liberal than Labour, there are still some things to be accounted for. Will control orders be stopped or renewed in January. It’s looking more likely the government will be forced into keeping them.

    It’s all very well attacking the Labour government, but we need to see what this coalition will do to improve things, and from what I’m getting there’s not much improvement coming! I would actually say Planet Earth to Clegg, Cable et al, because if you look at the polls, many Lib Dem voters are coming to the same conclusion to Grayson!

  • Andy Robinson 14th Dec '10 - 2:01pm

    It’s funny how sometimes the new, pluralist politics look rather the old, tribal politics isn’t it?

    I don’t know whether Ed Milliband’s offer is genuine or not. On the one hand it may just be a cheap party political trick designed to increase tension within the Coalition in general and the Lib Dems in particular. On the hand it might a genuine attempt to move forward, work with the Lib Dems and try to establish a genuine consensus.

    Either way, it seems that the Lib Dems have much more to gain by engaging with Labour than not. If the offer turns to be genuine then it presents an opportunity to shape the political landscape for at least the next general election, and quite possibly much further ahead than that. If it turns out to be cynical trick then you expose the new Labour leader as an opportunistic weasel more interested in cheap stunts than governing in the national interest.

    In either case the Lib Dems win – they’ve shown themselves to be a genuinely pluralistic party that will work with others, of whatever political persuasion, if doing so furthers their policy goals and principles.

    If, on the hand, the Lib Dems ignore the opportunity they lose, either by missing a genuine opportunity to work with the Labour party for the good of everyone, or by exposing them as unchanged and unreconstructed. But, perhaps most importantly, the Lib Dems undermine their credentials as a genuinely pluarlistic party that believes in consensus government rather than tribal party politics, and opens them up to the charge that they’re really only a branch of the Tories as that’s the only party they seem prepared to work with.

    I can see why people are wary, even suspicious, of Milliband’s offer, but turning it down flat is just cutting your nose off to spite your face.

  • Ruth Bright 14th Dec '10 - 2:07pm

    So that’s three articles on Lib Dem Voice rejecting discussions with Labour. It’s a pity you don’t publish any articles putting the counter view.

  • Liberal Neil 14th Dec '10 - 2:19pm

    I fully agree with all your points about how repellent the Labour Government was, and many Labour Councils are.

    However, as others have pointed out, the Conservative Party are hardly the easiest of bedfellows either.

    In my view, and in the circumstances, we were right to decide to go into coalition with the Tories after the election.

    One of the strongest arguments for this was that we have always argued for a pluralist approach to politics.

    If we do, geneuinly, believe in that approach, it therefore seems odd to me that we would reject even talking to people in the Labour Party, however much we might disagree with them on some issues and with their record.

  • Steve Simmons
    “He has yet to admit the culpability of Labour which led to the banking crisis and its accompanying personal debt crisis.”

    The banking crisis and the personal debt crisis were both caused by libertarian laissez-faire economic policies. They were caused by a lack of government (intervention).

    Not quite clear what point you are making there. Are you “slagging off” Labour for their culpability for the banking crisis or not?

  • Ruth Bright 14th Dec '10 - 2:47pm

    Gareth, I have and it has not been used.

    It really is beyond me how talking to Miliband (working with him on some things and telling him to get stuffed on others) would provoke an existential crisis for the Lib Dems but actually being in government with the Tories supposedly creates no such crisis.

    To adapt John Locke: are Lib Dems “fools in that they take care to avoid what Mischiefs can be done by Pole-Cats or Foxes, but are content, nay, think it Safety, to be devoured by Lions”?

  • Mr Milliband need not try to “make LibDems an endangered species”. Their leadership got there first. Mission almost accomplished.

  • Cllr Kemp, here’s a different perspective on your comments.

    I recall that the LibDem were in charge of Liverpool City Council since 1998 until 2010 and that in 2008 the Audit Commission rated Liverpool 1 star and the worst run council in the country. It is no great surprise then that Labour gained control in 2010.

    Whilst I fully respect your right to disagree with Richard Grayson I not think the tone and the vitriol is necessary.

    Also, I do not understand your passionate objection to Ed Milliband. IF LibDems are to support new politics, it seems the more a party like the LibDems seek to find issues in common with other parties the better. Isn’t this what you have claimed to have done with the Tories? And you know how popular they are in Liverpool.

    As for talking about failed Labour administrations I have to give you 10 out of 10 for bravado. But with all due respect, given the performance of the LibDems in Liverpool I would suggest I little more humility would be appropriate.

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Dec '10 - 3:47pm

    Given the Lib Dem collapse in Liverpool prior to the coalition it no surprise that Richard is so worried. The truth is though that your electoral future lies in the hands of your own leadership and not that of the Labour party.

    I would say the voters turning their backs on the Lib Dems are only too aware of New Labours many and varied faults. We really don’t need lectures.in them from a party who has spent decades telling us they were different only to provein six months that they clearly were not.

  • Richard Grayson 14th Dec '10 - 4:01pm

    Mr Kemp – thanks for your comments. The key point I would make is that people in the LDs are busy talking to the Conservatives about an agenda beyond the coalition agreement. Some of that is out in the open, some of it isn’t. Does our understanding of pluralism really only extend to dialogue with them? Or can we not even consider giving a chance to a Labour leader who says he is trying to engage with people beyond his party? Why, if we really are not just old style tribalists, would we not respond positively?

    I was startled by your tone. Others have commented on that. I will merely say that crude stereotyping of people on the basis of their jobs is very silly. And I have a considerably more ordinary and ‘real’ background and life experience than many in politics, which you have no reason to know about. I think you should be wary about making personal attacks on people you barely know, and even then you might not be advised to.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 14th Dec '10 - 5:11pm

    – I think the line: ‘Allowed the social housing stock to decrease by 37,500 in their time in government’
    is an understatement. In 13 years, 800,000 families were added to housing waiting lists, while 500,000 homes were sold off under right to buy. Total net increase in social & affordable housing – a paltry 18,534.

  • Weren’t the Tories who brought in the ‘right to buy’? Seems a bit rough blaming Labour for that.

    Now I don’t agree about the Iraq war, that’s why I left labour, but it seems that the list of issues that Richard listed equally, if not more, applies to the Tories. I do wish Labour would get their act together on civil liberties though far too right wing. It remains to be seen what the Coalition actually does in government. As for dragging people out of wheelchairs and talk of water canon – not looking so good. But in fairness, scrapping the lunatic ID card system was a good move. Though hardly counters the shameful deceit over tuition fees.

  • Mark Inskip 14th Dec '10 - 5:48pm

    @Geoffrey Payne
    “The Coalition believe that even though growth is less than 1% we should start cutting to reduce the deficit.”

    Where on earth do you get your figures from, latest ONS official figures are Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 0.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2010 alone, unrevised from the previous estimate. GDP in the third quarter of 2010 is now 2.8 per cent higher than the third quarter of 2009.

  • Mark Inskip 14th Dec '10 - 5:57pm

    @Richard Grayson
    “I think you should be wary about making personal attacks on people you barely know, and even then you might not be advised to.”
    Oh come on now, get a backbone! If you can’t stand the cut and thrust of political debate then perhaps you’re better off in your ivory tower.

  • Our attack on NuLab in 1997 (well-justified) was their timidity in overturning low levels of public spending / investment. In general, although, we did not welcome their over interference (“micromanagement”) following 2001, we appreciated their higher spending levels. It comes as pretty hypocritical that some among our number are prepared to attack Labour now for “causing a financial crisis”. This crisis is wholly overblown anyway (insofar as public debt is concerned – levels of private debt are worrying), and as someone has commented above, Tories are at least as culpable on the regulatory side as NuLab – and it is mainly because of the adherence of Blairism to Thatcherite principles that we are where we are. I thought the ‘new politics” was intended to finally throw out that model of capitalism, but we look to being supportive of its extension on life support. This will not do, and if tentative discussions are aimed at a new economic system, then jolly good.

  • Firstly, the endangered species comment was, I believe, in relation to a single election. I think it right to get statements like that in context. Otherwise we stick with the adversorial politics that Plurality is meant to move on from. In fact what a moral victory to be able to say “he wanted us extinct, but now we will work together to find common ground”.

    Secondly, the only sensible option is to call Millibands bluff. Clegg should send a team, headed by the two most senior Lib Dems not in Government, Farron and Hughes. They should work with Labour to identify common ground between the parties and to highlight the differences. They can then report back (to Conference ??) how productive the talks had been and where commonality and differences are to be found. This could be an ongoing affair, also carried out with the Tories allowing members to decide where coalition should first be sought. It would be democratic, it would allow voters to judge the mood music before voting in the next general election.

    If Milliband is not serious – he loses.
    If Milliband does not want to look for common ground – he loses.

    Whatever happens the Lib Dems win and show that AV, which will inevitably lead to more hung parliaments, is not a recipe for just a ConDem continuation. Clegg does not lose because he is shown to “own” the situation. The Government is intact as it is backbench led.

    If the answer is to refuse to listen or work with Labour because of past mistakes then it is hypocritical to want to work with the Conservatives. If the new politics is to work it needs to be new, not just a continuation of old tribalism – even if one suspects the motives of Labour.

    And think about the alternative. You give Labour chance to say they cannot campaign with you on AV as when they offer the chance for talks you insult them. You give Labour chance to decry the “new Politics” and state that clearly a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories as you refuse to talk with any other parties.

    In short failing to respond openly makes the Lib Dems the losers, but respond as a parliamentary party, call their bluff……

  • William Pimm 14th Dec '10 - 7:05pm

    Crude abuse is very off putting and is a certain way of alienating any Labour voter who might like many Lib Dem policies and vote for them in a Lib Dem/Cons marginal.

  • David Allen 14th Dec '10 - 7:10pm

    Certainly Miliband is playing games. He isn’t really interested in our views. What he wants to do is to take away our voters and take away our disillusioned activists.

    However, Kemp’s play is a poorer move in gamesmanship terms than Grayson’s is. Kemp is meeting an apparently reasonable offer with a yah-boo response, which only serves to make Miliband look like the good guy. Grayson, by contrast, is showing a willingness to be open-minded. It’s about time somebody did!

  • Are the Lib Dems now the most tribal party? Or are we just so insecure and uncertain of our orange book route that we have to lash out at any hint of non Tory communication? Week by week LDV has become an increasingly tribal home. Some of the claims for the Coalition are increasingly desperate, anxious to find any shred of justification for our role as human shields protecting one of the most ideologically driven governments for decades.

  • Steve Simmons 14th Dec '10 - 10:45pm

    9.7% of Conservative MPs voted against the Iraq war.
    36.5% of Labour MPs voted against the Iraq war.

  • Steve Simmons 14th Dec '10 - 11:04pm

    (those figures are for the amendment, stating there was no moral justification for war without a new UN resolution)

  • @Andrew Tennant
    “You propose some form of high level cross party policy negotiations to form a programme for government”

    No I don’t, I propose identifying common ground so that the basis of any negotiations after 2015 is known to voters prior to the election. I also proposed the same with the Tories.

    ” – we did this in May and Labour failed to engage and make use of it. Since then they’ve notionally abandoned all their policies and now have a blank page, so have no policies of their own to bring to the discussions.”

    An exageration I think. Firstly, a deal with Labour would have been unworkable and just plain wrong. Secondly they are right to look at their policies again but why wait until May 2015 to try to influence the process. There will never be more than 30% – 50% agreement but it shows a mature attitude to plural politics to identify these areas in advance.

    “Debating government policy then? Well there’s a forum for that, it’s called the House of Commons, and it meets every day; the bad news is that Labour aren’t engaging or making good use of that either.”

    When was the last time a minister actually answered a question. The commons is more yaboo now than it was prior to the election. Plus it is not Government policy that should be negotiated it is party policy and where similarities and agreement exists. This is about showing the Lib Dems have not only their own policies, but are willing to discuss other parties policies with them whilst still being part of a coalition. You know, those grown up politics that keep being talked about. Even if Labour aren’t serious the party that stands for plurality needs to be.

    “Labour needs a long period of reflection and to work out what it’s for. We know what our policies are and are trying to enact them.”

    With respect half your policies are being ignored by your own leadership. According to Clegg two parties have one policy on Tuition fees (guess what it’s not the one agreed by the party), Lib Dem peer Lord Macdonald is reconsidering control orders. The deficit was going to be halved over the parliament etc etc. You can influence but not inact. Start work now on forcing both parties to court your attention after the next election.

    “I’m happy to listen to Labour if they want to apologise, if they offer viable alternatives, or if they can stop sniping and throwing tantrums long enough to have something worthwhile to say.”

    I’ve seen a great many tantrums recently, sadly mostly from the party I voted for the Lib Dems. Sniping will cost you the AV vote as Labour activists I have spoken to see every attack as another reason not to campaign for a yes vote. As for apologising, Clegg stated on BBC that whilst he had regrest he would not apologise for breaking his pledge to voters. Poiticians just don’t apologise like us adults have to…….

    “Tim Farron said this quite succinctly.”

    No he decended to lowest common denominator when he should have been looking for the highest common factor. This will be used against the Lib Dems as proof that there is no plural politics just a new centre right grouping. It doesn’t matter if that is true, it just matter what people see and the current view of the Lib Dems is not a favourable one.

    As I tried to get accross earlier, when someone plays games like this, you either play by their rules (cut them off, go for the cheap insult, prove how you’re at one with the Tories) or you change the rules to your own advantage. Call Milliband’s bluff but do it in a way that makes him lose control of the situation.

  • Richard Grayson 15th Dec '10 - 10:20am

    @Richard Kemp

    “There can only be true cross party working when we share an analsysis of where we are, how we got there and where we want to be. With the Labour Party in national denial that is something that will take a lot of time and effort. When they are ready I am happy to talk.”

    That’s great Richard, but in that case, I don’t really see why you object to what I am doing. Ed Miliband made it very clear during his leadership campaign that there are many areas of Labour that he wants to change. Can we really expect them to renounce their entire past before we talk to them about anything? It’s just not real politics, where give and take is needed if there is to be such a dialogue.

  • Richard Grayson 15th Dec '10 - 10:22am

    @ Richard Kemp

    I also meant to add that on your point “There can only be true cross party working when we share an analsysis of where we are, how we got there and where we want to be”, I agree, but do we have to come up with that shared analysis in silos and then come together? Isn’t there a chance we can best reach it together?

  • Richard Grayson 15th Dec '10 - 10:44am

    @ Andrew Tennant

    “What assurances have you been provided by Ed Miliband that the Labour party is intent on changing”

    I think what he has said about the policy review is important here. Assurances? My judgement is that he means to make significant changes. We can’t really expect any useful evidence at the start of a process, but I think it’s a conversation worth engaging in. Don’t underestimate the extent to which it is a real break for a Labour leader to invite LDs to engage in this way, while remaining LDs. There will be much internal Labour discontent about this, and it is a real leap.

    “How will the process operate and how will it be transparent? What efforts will be made to credit Liberal Democrats with contributing ideas and for policies taken forward?”

    This is very much at an early stage, but I believe it will be a very open process.

    “Do you understand the cynicism about the Labour party”.

    Yes, very much so. But I hope people (us in the LDs) are willing to act in line with their stated pluralism.

  • @Richard Kemp
    “Yesterday on local radio in Liverpool I offered to work with Labour on the council’s budget ( for the fourth time publcly and many more times privately.”

    Which now gives you the upper hand. You have offered, if they do not take you up on he offer they are showing an unwillingness to work together in the common good. They don’t have to accept your ideas but to not hear them put’s you in the driving seat of the argument / debate.

    This is exactly why the Lib Dems should call Labour’s bluff. When they demonise the party regarding the coalition with the Tories, the fact that they did not accept an offer of joint examination of policy areas will show that they are not serious about working plurally (is that a word???) therefore the high ground is maintained. If the party is to preach plural politics it must ensure that it can show that it means it at every opportunity.

    Labour do have a long way to go, but helping them get there should be an aspiration. It will also assure MP’s from the left of the Party that the Tories won’t always be the only game in town.

  • Richard made clear in his article (and comments) that he is willing to work with Labour.

    However, Ed Milliband can hardly claim to be pluralist. Puralist means supporting proportional representation, not AV. A real desire for reform woul mean getting the Labour party to campaign for AV, not allowing the Shadow Cabinet etc to campaign against.

    And didn’t Blair used to mention Beveridge, Keynes and Heseltine Lloyd George ? without in anyway being Liberal Democrats.

    Actually – the real problem is the Grayson, for all his education, doesn’t actually get Liberalism – there isn’t a neat divide into free market liberals and big state social liberals.

    The intelligent Liberal is looking for what is appropriate in the circumstances – to harness markets for the good of individuals and societies and to harness government in the same way.

    So yes, one can recognise the flaws of free markets without reaching for nationalisation.

  • Richard Grayson 15th Dec '10 - 12:44pm

    @ Mouse

    “doesn’t actually get Liberalism – there isn’t a neat divide into free market liberals and big state social liberals.”

    I partly agree. I’d say there is not ALWAYS a neat divide. Have a look at my Compass e-pamphlet at: http://clients.squareeye.com/uploads/compass/documents/Compass%20LD%20Journey%20WEB.pdf

    There is a section in there which talks about how I use centre-left and centre-right as short hand. I greatly regret that in a newspaper article there is not always space to develop it. In the e-pamphlet I say of ‘Reinventing the State’ which I co-edited:

    “Media attention may also have been limited because a central part of the book was an argument that divisions in the party had been overstated. In his chapter, David Howarth argued that all Liberal Democrats are social liberals. His contribution to the debate tackled the idea that the Liberal Democrats were divided between ‘social’ liberals and ‘economic’ liberals. David Howarth argued that all in the party were tied together by a belief in redistribution and democracy as weapons in the fight for greater individual freedom. Where there was a division, he said, was between ‘maximalist’ and ‘minimalist’ social liberals, which was a debate over how far the state should go on redistribution and economic equality. One way of characterising this difference in a way that those who are not
    political theorists can grapple with easily is to talk of centre-left and centre-right social liberals, although these labels are mine and not used by David Howarth.”

    David is generally held to be someone who ‘gets’ liberalism, as is Duncan Brack, and the overall approach of ‘Reinventing the State’ was our shared view. I have simply used some shorthand to try to put these ideas out there.

    I went on to say:

    “One other point needs to be made about the supposed social-economic liberal divide is that for the vast bulk of the party, the issues concerned in the debate are not pressing. In a thoughtful blog, party activist and thinker Iain Sharpe said of a speech I gave in Newcastle in February 2009, ‘I wince a little when I read Richard Grayson’s
    reference to “two approaches” to Lib Dem policy, “Orange Book” and “social liberal”.’ Iain went on to say, ‘This makes me feel more uncomfortable as I, and no doubt many other Lib Dems, don’t fall neatly into either camp, and don’t find them mutually exclusive.’ On that basis, I think Iain was right to criticise what I said. I am certainly
    clear that such a divide does not exist for most members. As I shall argue below, the party is relatively under-factionalised. Indeed, ‘Orange Bookers’ are a very small section of the party, probably a much smaller section of the party than New Labourites were in their party – and they were never large in number. However, as labels
    for the directions from which much policy initiative has come, I defend the terms. While the party’s policy and principles have been broadly social liberal, a clear policy drive has come from the direction of The Orange Book.”

    On that latter point, see David Laws’ book which admits the Orange Book agenda and impact on policy quite clearly.

    If you want to really judge whether or not I ‘get’ liberalism, you might want to look at some other things I have written and reach a more measured conclusion, such as:

    Liberals, International Relations and Appeasement: The Liberal Party, 1919-39, (London: Frank Cass, 2001).

    Social liberalism’, in Kevin Hickson, ed., The Political Thought of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats since 1945, (Manchester University Press, 2009), pp. 48-64.

    ‘Social Democracy or Social Liberalism? Ideological Sources of Liberal Democrat Policy’, The Political Quarterly, 78, 1 (2007), pp. 32-39.

  • @Mouse
    “However, Ed Milliband can hardly claim to be pluralist. Puralist means supporting proportional representation, not AV. A real desire for reform woul mean getting the Labour party to campaign for AV, not allowing the Shadow Cabinet etc to campaign against.”

    It doesn’t matter if Milliband is a pluralist, if the Lib Dems are they need to prove it to the voters. Being a Pluralist does not mean you have to support AV. There are numerous people who do not support it as it is not going to give true proportional representation of UK votes. As for insisting on a whipped approach to the AV vote. This is just plain silly, you are in Government with a party that for the most part will campaign against, but you will not talk with a party that is at worst split 50:50…

    And this attitude is going to make any wavering within Labour move swiftly to the no camp. From their perspective, why support something that appears to give the Tories a permanent minor partner?

    Surely you understand that for Plural politics to ever work you need to work with those against it and those ambivalent to it in order to either change their attitudes or to display to the electorate that they are the problem.

    To ignore Labour just demonstrates to voters that the Lib Dems are only interested in semi-plural politics.

  • Steve Simmons 15th Dec '10 - 7:13pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “Not quite clear what point you are making there. Are you “slagging off” Labour for their culpability for the banking crisis or not?”

    I missed your comment earlier. I was simply pointing out the absurdity of someone claiming to be a liberal whilst also claiming that a political party was responsible for the personal debt crisis. I can’t see how either a classical liberal or a modern liberal could argue that people’s (voluntary) debts are the responsibilty of government. I can’t recall Labour forcing people to borrow recklessly large mortgages (85% of personal debt in the UK being mortgages). Without the reckless borrowing there would have been no financial crisis and it took two parties to create that unsustainable debt; It wasn’t just the banks.

    I can see how a modern liberal might argue in favour of regulating the banks, whereas a classical liberal might argue that banks should be allowed to fail. However, I cannot understand how any liberal can argue that personal debt is caused by government when it is clearly caused by individuals. Is Richard Kemp proposing that individuals are regulated?

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 16th Dec '10 - 9:59pm

    An Interesting article,though I am not sure why some contributors get so hot under the collar about non-issues ?!
    I lived in Manchester for many years and fought Labour. I now live in true blue North Oxfordshire and fight the Tories.
    I like neither of those paries which is why I am a Libdem (despite VERY REAL concerns about some of what is going on with the Leadership of MY party) !!
    I am however also a Pluralist, I have an equal dislike for Labour and the Tories, BUT we as a country Must stop this ridiculous Punch and Judy, Left and Right, Blue Corner and Red Corner Politics, where has it got us ?? No where I would suggest.
    YES we should talk to any party or group of politicians who are serious about making this a better,fairer, more just etc,etc, place to live and in my case to bring up a family – anyone who can subscribe to the blurb on my Lib Dem Membership card is worth speaking to.
    I am fed up with the Tribalist nonsense that has gone on over the years, and that is at least ONE thing I can agree with MY Party leadership on !! Not Student Tuition Fees though !!!! Here’s to A Better 2011 for the party AND UK PLC !!!

  • I found the tone of this article to be boorish and unpleasant – I think it comes pretty close to being personal abuse of Richard Grayson.

    The substance is more worrying – the suggestion is that talking to the Labour party is wrong, while going into government with the Conservatives is fine. The logic of this position is that we would only ever form a coalition with the Tories.

    In which case, why not merge with them and have done with it?

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