Tag Archives: political realignment

Breaking the stranglehold of the monoliths

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One of the most distinctive statements we have made in recent years has been that we are not afraid of coalition government; indeed we entered into one in 2010. Now the media see serious divisions in the two apparent monoliths who swap power between them, and ask whether the time is ripe for a new ‘party of the centre’. Vince speaks often of a realignment of politics and implies that the Party could benefit significantly from such a seismic shift. Which begs the questions, in what way and with what objective?

It has become clear that neither Labour nor the Tories are actually monolithic; each contains factions hardly on speaking terms with each other. Applying a simple left/right measure there seems to be a hope that both moderate Tories and moderate Labour voters can be persuaded to fall in behind a moderate, centrist banner, carry the day and emerge as the new monolith displacing one or both of the two current ones. But why on earth would we want a new monolith?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 28 Comments

We don’t need a NEW pro EU party

 

Ever since the referendum vote to leave the EU last year there has been feverish speculation about the need to set up a new political party. Yet 9 months have gone by and nothing has so far emerged. I would suggest that they have missed the boat. Thousands have already joined the pro-EU parties, notably the Lib Dems and the new party missed the opportunity to recruit them.

Even if it had been set up 9 months ago, would it have worked? Some see a parallel with the SDP formed in 1981 by the “Gang of 4”; Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers. It is worth recalling that they were all substantial political figures in their day. Had any one of them won the Labour leadership back then they would have mounted a far more serious challenge to the Tory government led by Margaret Thatcher. Instead Labour elected Michael Foot who was doomed to fail and Roy Jenkins led the SDP which brought in 50,000 new members (the Liberals had 100,000+), but in alliance with the Liberal party despite polling 26% of the popular vote they were crushed by the voting system and eventually had to merge with the Liberal party (and hence the Lib Dems of today).

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Reclamation, not realignment

Regular readers of LDV  have recently been reminded of similarities between contemporary populist discontent and the 1930s. There is, however, one other aspect of the ‘30s which might be important to the Liberal Democrats today—and, it should go without saying—to the country as well.

And it’s not just the ‘30s. There are lessons, too, that should be learned from more recent events.

To the ‘30s first: These were deeply unstable times for British political parties and for parliament. These were the years of the National Government, of the splintering of the Liberal Party, of enormous division in the Labour Party that almost paralysed it. In retrospect, the Conservative Party was also much closer to permanent splintering than it perhaps appeared at the time.

Today, of those three parties it is the Liberal Democrats who look most likely to come through the next couple of years in best shape.

The single most important reason for that change is that it is clear, as it was not in the ‘30s, where the party stands on the most pressing issue of the day. And from a clear stance as to that main issue, positions on a variety of subsidiary issues also follow necessarily. However unsure as to the specific details, party members and the public at large can parse a variety of Lib Dem policy positions on immigration, human rights, internationalism and trade, among others, reasonably accurately based on the confident knowledge that the party is staunchly committed to the EU project.

Posted in News | 30 Comments

Realignment of the left – an idea whose time has come?

Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron have both suggested in recent days that those on the progressive side of politics need to work together to oppose the Tories and deliver change.

Of course, a defining part of Paddy’s leadership of the party was his desire to see closer co-operation on the left.

The Tories need to be beaten, now more than ever, even more than in the 1980s. Their destruction of the country then almost pales into insignificance to the damage they have done with their self-indulgent EU related civil war. How do we achieve it, though, while retaining the integrity of individual parties, most particularly this one? The last thing I want to see is the Liberal Democrats being the smile on the face of the right-wing Labour tiger.

It’s vital that we have a party that stands up for civil liberties and individual freedom in a way that neither Conservatives or Labour have managed.

Politics Home reported an interview with Tim Farron with BBC News in which he talked about the need to work together across party lines:

Asked about the prospect of a merger that would mirror the deal between the SDP and Liberal party that formed the Liberal Democrats, Mr Farron suggested the referendum campaign had led to a reconsideration of the party divides.

“Amongst the things that I think we’ve got out of the referendum is that we’ve discovered, lots of us, who have worked across party boundaries, that we’ve enjoyed doing so,” he told BBC News.

“I shared a platform with many people I won’t embarrass by naming, who they discovered and they discovered we had more in common than just our belief that Britain should be in the European Union.”

When pressed on whether he was open to the idea of a new party, he replied: “We shouldn’t put any construct or constraint on what might happen next. People could come to us, they could set up another party, who knows. But there needs to be a realignment – otherwise we’ll be left with a Tory government forever.”

In today’s Sunday Times (£), Paddy Ashdown has floated the idea of a progressive movement, talking about how political parties have failed the public:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 32 Comments
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