Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Sweet dreams are made of these.....

. Stephen Tall has rightly won praise for his article on Liberal Democrat Voice speculating on how we can overtake Labour and be the next party of opposition. Any reasonable, cogent analysis of the political scene has to see this as being the next-step of Liberal Democrat advance. Given events of recent weeks it is quite clear that we are going to get a big swing against Labour and that the most likely outcome of this is a Conservative majority. So, the question then becomes one of how do we effectively place ourselves as the next opposition.

In terms of centre-of-political gravity being centre/leftish is naturally the best place to be not least because it maintains the balance of having one centre/right and one centre/left party. Stephen's proposition that the Liberal Democrats can fill this void and eclipse Labour is entirely reasonable in this climate. Looking at his three preconditions in turn they also seem eminently achievable:

Labour must Fracture

This is a tricky one and I see comparisons with 1983 as being completely invalid. Mainly because there was wave after wave of industrial militancy in 83 (and immediately preceding it) which the swing to the left then was actually grounded in. Now, while it maybe true that CLP's are more leftward inclined, there simply isn't that social base. We are in a massive economic depression and the nature of the CLP's is more determined by the remaining activists being die-hards and last ones standing than an actual social movement.

One way we can guarantee that any such split won't benefit us is to go with the foaming-at-the-mouth sectarianism advocated by Charlotte Gore. When people feel attacked they circle the wagons; they don't as a rule rush into the embrace of their attackers. However, the correct approach comes under the next heading.....

The Liberal Democrats must show they are the progressive party

This is about showing those people we want to fracture away from Labour in our direction that we actually share their values but disagree with Labour about how those values are best realised and actually translated into government policy. This is a constructive, subtle engagement/dialogue as opposed to grandstanding about 'Destroying' or 'Killing' the Labour Party.

Here Stephen actually has a reasonable formula regarding us being the 'champions of the underdog' where as Charlotte has a reasonable point about us stopping behaving like a party that is an underdog and has no hope or aspiration to govern. The squeeze message is a classic example of a third party mindset. All of which leads us into point 3....

The Liberal Democrats must show how we would govern

One of the major problems we face is the credibility gap we have; ie, the wasted vote argument. So, our policies need to be fully justified but we also need to show practically where do govern; ie, local councils or where we have a sitting MP where we make the difference that the other parties can't. We need to be advancing those type of arguments to make the transition from being a third party into being an opposition party and then a government-in-waiting...

3 comments:

Charlotte Gore said...

I was actually joking about killing off labour by cutting off their finances.

We shouldn't have to 'destroy' Labour anyway.

Darrell G said...

Charlotte,

I actually agree with you about democratising the TU fund to be totally honest. It's not exactly healthy for either the unions or politics and the way the parties are funded does entrench certain things in our political system.

Your probably right that Labour will destroy itself....however, the substantive point is rather in the second paragraph in that we do have to show to those Labour voters we want that we do embrace their values to a certain degree :)

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