Tag Archives: labour

Remembering the SDP

SDP logoThe events that led to the formation of the SDP were also formative years for me as a very young man becoming fascinated with politics.

I can recall Roy Jenkins giving the Dimbleby Lecture and the Labour party conference of 1980 when the left won every vote on key issues such as Europe and Defence.

Then the elevation of Michael Foot to the post of leader an election in which many had thought the moderate candidate Denis Healey would triumph.

James Callaghan had timed his resignation so that MPs would elect his successor before  a conference arranged to discuss changing the method of election was held at Wembley.

Callaghan knew that the conference would adopt an electoral college system widening the franchise to include trade unions and constituency parties.

This change would give a left wing standard bearer a much better chance of winning.

Healey bungled his chances by alienating key moderates and the dye was cast. It wasn’t long before he would face a strong challenge for the deputy leadership from Tony Benn.

By then Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers had walked out of the party taking a substantial number of MPs with them.

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Willie Rennie: It’s time for pro EU progressives in Labour to speak out

This week, Willie Rennie gave a keynote speech to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh. He said that all pro-Europeans must step up and called on particularly those supporters of the Labour Party who oppose Corbyn’s position to join with us to campaign against Brexit.

I know many in the Labour Party feel very frustrated by Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Europe.

His long standing Bennite antipathy.

His lacklustre participation in the referendum.

His failure to put any real pressure on the Conservative Government.

His oscillating position on our future relationship with our neighbours.

When we look back at this time people will be astonished at the leader of the opposition.

Labour has a big responsibility.

It cannot stand by as we are made poorer, are more divided, and are rejecting our neighbours.

My warning to Labour moderates is this.

The people are running ahead of the people’s party. People want the final say on Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn is not playing a long game on Brexit. He does not have a masterplan to swing into action at the last minute.

You will get to the last minute.

You will check your watch and he won’t be there but Brexit will be.

It is time for pro-EU progressives in the Labour Party to speak out.

To those who are angry and frustrated with their leadership now is the time to speak out.

Vague complaints about Brexit won’t be enough.

You need to show how to escape from it.

Join us to make that case before it is too late.

He also set out very clearly that Brexit is not inevitable:

If I started talking about life after Brexit people might think that even I think it is unstoppable, inevitable, irreversible.

So that is not what I will address this evening.

Especially as in 2018 people are starting to think again.

And we now know Article 50 can be stopped.

It’s remarkable that 20 months on from that vote, the UK Government is still no clearer on what it wants to achieve by Brexit beyond broad wishful thinking and formulaic incantations.

Tonight I am going to look at the new evidence on the costs of Brexit to the UK and Scotland.

I am going to show how the public is taking note of these costs and that minds are changing.

Here is the speech in full:

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What should we do about Labour?

We need to talk about our relations with the Labour Party. Are they essentially still the centralised, top-down, union-led anti-capitalist party of the past, or are they sufficiently on our wavelength now for us to work with them against the baleful effects of austerity? Should we minimise opposition to them in strong Labour constituencies and regard them as likely future Coalition partners?

Perhaps in this country now equality as an ideal should trump freedom, and in practice the need to fight gross inequality and strive for social justice may demand our party working with Labour for similar ends.

Yet if the price is accepting Socialism, Liberal Democrats can’t go there. As well as having a different economic approach, we have a different outlook. We want an open, outward-looking, tolerant society where individuals count, not one focussed on class divisions and workers versus bosses. So Liberal Democrats welcome the EU as a co-operative enterprise while Labour leaders are suspicious of it as a capitalist club. Labour’s approach to Brexit is closer to the Government’s than to ours, so how could we be allies?

However, look at the demands Labour made of the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in the lead up to his autumn Budget. They were:

  1. Pause and fix Universal Credit.
  2. Provide new funding to lift the public sector pay cap.
  3. Spend on infrastructure to boost the economy and create good jobs.
  4. Have properly-funded public services including health, education and local government.
  5. Launch a large-scale public housebuilding programme.

What’s not to like in that, considering how much it fits with our own proposals?

But the Labour General Election manifesto last June had been very different from ours. Its radical demands such as ending student tuition fees and nationalising water and energy companies and the rail services had an instant appeal that brought voters flocking in. Acute analysis indeed showed major flaws. Their package would have meant an economic cut in welfare for the poor, saving funds which would be directed to services for the middle classes. While our own manifesto sought reversal of £9 billion-worth of the 2015 and earlier welfare cuts, Labour allocated only £4 billion to this. We were much more oriented towards the poorest, in a well-costed progressive manifesto. Thoughtful voters may have grasped that; unfortunately it is unlikely to have been widely understood. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 102 Comments

Labour “betraying members and parliamentary base” by opposing single market membership

Jeremy Corbyn told the Andrew Marr Show this morning that Labour did not favour the UK staying in the single market. Will Labour members, who overwhelmingly want to do so now realise that Corbyn is not going to deliver what they want? A Queen Mary University study showed that 85% of Labour members want to stay in the single market. There is even higher support, 87% for staying in the customs union. 78% want the public to have a final say on the Brexit deal. Corbyn ruled that out too.

Vince Cable had this to say:

As has long been suspected,

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Responding to Labour Remain

Recently a friend and Liberal Democrat activist showed me an email from Labour Remain — formed in the last few weeks and claiming significant support. This comes on the back of a survey showing that 78% of Labour members disagree with Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to a referendum on the terms of Brexit. How should we respond?

Brexit is a profound threat to British values, the economy and the very integrity of the United Kingdom. In that sense it needs us all to pull together.

The country is in a crisis. We have been so intertwined with the rest of Europe, for so long, that the referendum result has had a deeply destructive effect on public life. Parliament seems paralised. Andrew Adonis has written of a Brexit-induced “nervous breakdown” in Whitehall. The Conservatives and Labour seem massively dysfunctional. There are stories of moderate councillors in both parties being de-selected. Most of the pro-Remain majority in the Commons is silent or vanquished. My excitement over the formation of Labour Remain is more than a little tempered by the lurch to the Left in their recent National Executive Committee elections and stories of MPs being threatened with de-selection. Faced with Brexit, this has all the wisdom of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to think differently.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 38 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn empty-chaired at single market summit

This morning a summit took place in Parliament to discuss ways of working together to make sure that the UK stays in the single market on which so many jobs depend.

Our Vince was there

But there was an empty chair:

Which was a real shame because most of the rest of the opposition parties showed up too.

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Vince: Labour should be ashamed

Over the past few days, Liberal Democrats have been challenging Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to back our amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would keep us in the single market which is so important for jobs and prosperity.

We are at this singularly unlucky point in time where we have a reckless and incompetent government leading us towards a potentially terrible Brexit. It doesn’t know what it wants as ministers say different things. You have both Gove and Davis undermining the deal before the ink is dry. It does nothing for the reputation of our country.

You would think …

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