Lib-Lab pact; the future of progressive politics?
This argument is always bound to generate alot of heat and that is to a degree understandable because people’s party loyalties are tribal in character. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes that is a bad thing; generally, when it gets in the way of advancing common causes or agendas it’s a bad thing. However, with the prospect of a hung-parliament advancing over the horizon if not with a dread certainty then at least with the air of expectant possibility it is certainly an issue that needs discussing.
David Osler on Liberal Conspiracy doesn’t like the idea that much. He is totally right to argue;
The historic significance of Labourism rests in its partial expression of a clear desire for an independent working class voice in electoral politics in the opening decades of the twentieth century.
Something that I have time and time again we simply culturally havent got a clue about nor do we, as a party, appreciate the significance of this. We simply don’t culturally ‘get’ the Labour Party (or indeed to a large degree the working class either) so, it is unsurprising that we are characterised as opportunists often because it often speaks to a truth. Dave rightly also sees that the ‘centre-right’ drift of the Labour Party means the Liberal Democrats would not act as a ‘radical break’ on Labour; indeed, in some areas there is much to commend our radicalism and in initiatives like the ones over tax we bring important and worthy ideas to the mix.
Furthermore, there is a generalised crisis of representation which doesn’t just apply to the working class and a feeling that ‘us’ against ‘them’ actually means the rest of us versus the ‘political class’ as Jim Jepps rightly points out. So, a radical progressive party has more than one crisis of representation to solve and all this is taking place in an ideological ferment where liberalism’s time has passed and it’s relevance is marginal in a world where the freedom of trade is no longer a burning issue and the heady days of the Enlightenment are long-gone. However, so is Social Democracy which is having its own crisis in a world which is showing signs of discontent with how things are but shows no great desire for a radically different form of society. In fact, there is a strong renewal of the belief in the capacities of reformism and that if things were just done a little better, then capitalism might well be ok. In other words, both sides have precious little, if anything to lose. Incidentally, this applies to the wider picture; Labour is in definite need of an injection of new ideals and zeal and we are never going to supplant the Labour Party or get close to ruling this country as the majority party accept as the adjunct of one of the ‘big two’.
Both would benefit from the ideological ferment that such a merger would create and something that is more than the sum of its parts would emerge. Something that could meet the challenges of a Conservatism that is trying to reinvent itself to fill the progressive void. Both parties would pay a price for a coalition but ultimately it would be one worth paying. Labour would almost certainly have to change their leader, something they will naturally do in any case, and support at least electoral reform in the form of AV+ but this is something they should have done long ago. No doubt Liberal Democrats who love the free market will take flight at such a creation but this would be no bad thing as it would stop the blunting of our narrative which occurs as the leadership scrambles to appease both wings and keep them happy in the ‘Big Tent’.
No doubt such an arrangement would present massive challenges but it would also present a unique opportunity to, in opposing the Conservatives, finding a way to breath new life into progressive politics….
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