Is Compass pushing Labour into oblivion?


4:37 pm - April 25th 2010

by Darrell Goodliffe    


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Sunny Hundal wrote in support of the Compass proposals to encourage tactical voting. Supporters of non-tribal politics seem to be flocking to support the idea which is understandable.

However, I think it is simplistic to see a hung Parliament as automatically leading to a Lib-Lab pact as some do; in fact, I think the likely outcome is that the Liberal Democrats will, in fact, support the Conservatives, not formally but in a ‘supply and confidence’ manner.

Let’s be quite clear that this is not just based upon personal experience or the fact that the Liberal Democrats are in coalition with the Conservatives in many areas.

It is based upon a reading of Nick Clegg’s character and policies especially and although it is totally fair to say that the leader is not the party let’s also be quite clear that were the Lib Dems to gain a vast amount of seats Clegg’s personal capital would carry him and his prospectives a long way.

Indeed, given recent events who honestly feels that the LD’s would really defy their leader?

So, what does Clegg think? Let’s look at The Liberal Moment published just last year. Clegg says of Labour:

“I believe Labour’s basic approach to governance – to social, political, economic and environmental progress is fundamentally flawed”.

He complains that ‘top-down, state-centred’ approachs to social problems are the wrong response; ironic, considering he wants to use the state to break-up the banks amoung other things.

Talking about the ‘suggestion’ that Liberal Democrats ‘fall in line to hold back the rise of the Conservatives’ Clegg says he would ‘never’ contemplate such a move. He talks about the problems with Labour in power like the Iraq War and the curtailment of civil liberties but crucially he says:

“even if none of these things had happened the Liberal Democrats would remain a very different party with a very different ideological core”

Clegg hardly sounds here like somebody spoiling for a ‘progressive Lab-Lib alliance’ does he? Instead, he argues that Labour is undergoing the same fate that befell the old Liberal Party and this is what gives the Liberal Democrats their opportunity.

Selectively he talks about Labour turning on the Lib Dems by entering coalition with the Conservatives to keep them from power. Anybody can tell this is a one-sided and biased account of a situation where Lib Dem’s ‘turning’ on Labour is just as likely.

Clegg feels that the chances of the Liberal Democrats replacing Labour as Britain’s leading progressive party are ‘high and growing’. Given that are people really naive enough to think he would prop Labour up?

If people want an end to tribal politics then casting their vote, even tactically, for Nick Clegg is not the way to achieve it…..before you cast your Compass vote take the time to read what Clegg really thinks.

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About the author
Darrell Goodliffe is regular contributor and writes for several blogs including his own: Moments of Clarity.
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Reader comments


I think there’s a strong argument for abandoning tribal politics, but only if all of the tribes do so at the same time. However, I think there’s a strong argument for understanding modern politics less as an expression of tribal loyalties and more as an ordering of preferences where we fundamentally vote *against* something than for it.

The most interesting bit of polling evidence I’ve seen in this eleciton is this:

http://www.today.yougov.co.uk/commentaries/peter-kellner/could-lib-dems-win-outright

I wouldn’t draw any snap conclusions from it, but if you were to ask me what the outcome could be, it may be that a perceived closeness between Labour and the Lib Dems allied to the likelihood of a hung parliament – may actually get some people who wouldn’t vote Labour to do so on the understanding that it will contribute to the most popular outcome of this election: A hung parliament with a lib-lab coalition.

Now, if Gordon could be persuaded to let it be known that he would regard anything less than an outright Labour victory as a personal defeat and that he wouldn’t seek to lead Labour in the event of a coalition, you could kill the ‘Vote Clegg Get Brown’ fear at a stroke. One bit of self-sacrifice from Gordon could potentially destroy the modern Conservative Party for a generation!

Makes you think, eh?

I agree with Paulie.

And live in an area where the Tory cabinet has been kept in power for years with the support of the Labour group.

Clegg’s objective is to remake British politics by changing the voting system and governance style completely.
Every time a country has changed electoral system, the party system has realigned afterwards.

I, personally, look forward to the day when we’ve got STV, and Paulie and I can be in the same party, more right leaning liberals from LDs and Conservaitve can form their wn party and the NewToryLabour authoritarian cliques can be forced into honest alliance.

I didn’t think I’d be looking at seeing this happen within months though.

Is it possible Clegg would work with the Conservatives? Yes, it’s possible. It’s also possible he’ll work with LAbour. What’s more likely is, if the LDs get the largest share of the vote, he’ll seek to form a national govt calling on talent from all parties.

Which, given the parlous and all over the place nature of the polls would probably best represent the interests of the country while a genuine reform of the system takes place.

if Gordon could be persuaded to let it be known that he would regard anything less than an outright Labour victory as a personal defeat and that he wouldn’t seek to lead Labour in the event of a coalition, you could kill the ‘Vote Clegg Get Brown’ fear at a stroke. One bit of self-sacrifice from Gordon could potentially destroy the modern Conservative Party for a generation!

Absolutely

If people want an end to tribal politics then casting their vote, even tactically, for Nick Clegg is not the way to achieve it.

If people want an end to tribal politics they need to vote for Labour then? Huh?

is this article really written by a LibDem?

Conor, no, Darrel left the LDs to join Labour last year; he lives in one of those places where the LDs are in coalition with the Tories, and politics there is currently rather nasty and a bit sticky.

6. Alisdair Cameron

@ Paul Evans

One bit of self-sacrifice from Gordon…

Aye, and there’s the rub. Not a particularly notable Brown trait (goes along with his never admitting to any fallibility) nor something that’s terribly evident in New Labour as a whole. If you think you’re god’s gift, with a divine right to be in power, as many of the 40somethings in the cabinet give the impression of assuming, then humble self-sacrifice isn’t on the agenda.

Leaving aside the more X-Factor aspects of the ascent of the blessed Clegg, perhaps some of the ill-concealed panic on both the right and left is more to do with the possibility that the existing “broken” system is about to be kicked to death by the electorate?

If Labour ends up in oblivion, they have only themselves to blame. The New Labour wonks for actually falling for the sickening construct in the first place, all the others for tolerating it. People AREN’T voting positively for Clegg, they’re effectively voting “none of the above” by ensuring a hung parliament. They don’t much care about Clegg’s beleifs or policies, they just want him to stop the other two.

Not before time either!

An incredibly simplistic analysis that ignores fundamental differences between Lib Dems and the Tories, and that despite significant differences with Labour the Lib Dems are nevertheless on the progressive side of politics.

Lib Dems may, because of the final outcome of the result, have little choice but to allow the Tories to govern. They certainly aren’t under any obligation to prop up the Labour party. But Clegg, as much as other Lib Dems, is a progressive who has more to gain in terms of policy agreements from Labour than from the Tories.

Aside from that you don’t seem to come to any real conclusion.

As for the headline about pushing Labour into oblivion, a Tory/Lib Dem pact would make Labour the only sizeable opposition party and would therefore give them room to re-establish themselves as a credible force.

9. Martin Ball

who honestly feels that the LD’s would really defy their leader?

This, coming from a member of the Labour party who only recently defected from the Liberal Democrats?

Seriously?

Brown was elected unopposed in 2007. Many plots were launched to dislodge him. Had any of them succeeded, Labour might not be facing oblivion right now. But you Labour members, you defiant Labour members, didn’t have the guts for doing what needed to be done. Even when Brown was at his most weak, pathetic, vulnerable and useless as a leader and PM, you still wouldn’t summon the backbone to just kick the old chancer out.

The Lib Dems have a rigorous internal democratic process to approve any moves towards coalitions or even “confidence and supply” arrangements with any party. This is not the Labour party. The Lib Dem leader will have to go to his parliamentary party, his members, and a special conference. Repeat, this is not the Labour party.

I know, having ingloriously defected from the Lib Dems to Labour at precisely the wrong moment – i.e. when Labour are going down and when the Lib Dems are going up, and could even replace your tired authoritarian party as the leading centre-left party in the UK – you are keen to try and rubbish any suggestion the Lib Dems could do a much better job governing on true progressive values without any of the authoritarianism/racism on issues like terror, immigration and civil liberties.

You must feel like a right tit. In politics, timing is everything!

So there are lots of things on which Lib Dems and Nick Clegg disagree with Labour? Umm, and…? There are also lots of things on which the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg disagree with the Tories. After all, that’s why people who are in the Lib Dems are in the Lib Dems; they’re not at heart Labour or Tories or they’d be in one of those parties.

First, I think there are misconceptions.

he Liberal Democrats are in coalition with the Conservatives in many areas.

There’s a Tory a council that is also in alliance with Green councillors. I fully support it, because it says that on a local level people are willing to work in alliances to push their own agenda further. If the Greens worked with the Tories occasionally at the GLA – providing they got green policies pushed as a result I’d probably be happy with that. This doesn’t necessarily mean a national alliance.

He complains that ‘top-down, state-centred’ approachs to social problems are the wrong response; ironic, considering he wants to use the state to break-up the banks amoung other things.

Granted – that’s a contradiction with the Libdems. But his approach to the financial crisis is more left-wing than right-wing. Furthermore – he also criticises the Tories.

Clegg hardly sounds here like somebody spoiling for a ‘progressive Lab-Lib alliance’ does he?

But today, he does. So I think he’s basically keeping himself in the limelight while staying non-committal.

I think its oxymoronic to say we must avoid being tribal while only being committed to one party that isn’t particularly left-wing on issues.

Today, Ed Balls was rubbishing the prospect of a Libdem alliance too. Are we then to deduce all of them will follow through? I highly doubt it. This is all positioning for now

Was this written at the pub?

Seems a bit silly to me.

The Greens and many of the very small left-of-centre parties think that New Labour’s basic approach to governance is in a sense fundamentally flawed, that they have carried on moving political control to the centre and have exercised too much “top-down” politics. Most lefites aren’t too thrilled with New Labour’s attack on civil liberties and the middle east either.

On that basis you could equally say that a Lib-Lab pact would take Labour to the left again!

But that would also be a bit silly.

You have this round the wrong way.

Labour will become extinct if it does not represent the views of the people who vote for it. If Labour keep giving the people tory lite shit they will vanish.

13 years ago people were sick and pissed off with the tories and wanted change. As a result they would put up with the fact that Blair was not left. What they did not know was Blair was a Christian fundie who was to become unhinged in his neo con agenda.

If Labour does not understand this it should go the way of the dodo. It is getting a bit silly that progressives have got over 50% of the vote for the last 60 years but have not had much power.

14. WhatNext?!

@ 13: “It is getting a bit silly that progressives have got over 50% of the vote for the last 60 years but have not had much power.”

This only applies if you agree that “left” = “progressive”, and clearly it doesn’t. The Labour party was certainly not progressive between the mid-70s and mid-90s, rather it was out-of-date, out-of-touch and living in the past. It took the death of socialism to wake it up.

Actually, their policy on the financial sector is perfectly consistent with their critique of top-downedness. Here is what their manifesto says:

Break up the banks, to ensure taxpayers are never again expected to underwrite high-risk banking. We would establish a clear separation between low-risk retail banking and high-risk investment banking, and encourage the development of local and regional banks.

And:

Support the establishment of Local Enterprise Funds and Regional Stock Exchanges. Local Enterprise Funds will help local investors put money into growing businesses in their own part of the country and support the development of new products from research to production. Regional Stock Exchanges will be a route for businesses to access equity without the heavy regulatory requirements of a London listing.

This only applies if you agree that “left” = “progressive”, and clearly it doesn’t. The Labour party was certainly not progressive between the mid-70s and mid-90s, rather it was out-of-date, out-of-touch and living in the past. It took the death of socialism to wake it up.

Huh? Up until the “socialism” part, that perfectly describes the Labour party over the last ten years or so.

17. WhatNext?!

@16: Are you serious? 3 straight election victories means that Labour is more in touch than the version that lost 4 straight elections.
If Labour had continued on it’s old course, there would be bugger all left. Socialism could make a come-back, but it’s a touch unlikely don’t you think?

Is Compass pushing Labour into oblivion?

It might be if anyone had heard of it.

That’s the problem with ‘centre’ parties: you’ve no way of knowing which way they’ll ‘swing’ when it comes to forming a coalition, especially when the results aren’t in yet, and the voters don’t know how to engineer the hung parliament. they seem to want.

20. Chris Whitrow

I agree that Clegg is ideologically no closer to Labour than to the Conservatives. He is, if anything, a libertarian; good on civil liberties but he has perhaps a little too much faith in the ability of free markets to deliver social goods. Then again, I can see one very good reason why he might want to pursue a Lib-Lab coalition: If the Lib Dems managed to get more seats than Labour, or even just a bigger popular vote, Clegg would stand a great chance of becoming PM in a Lib-Lab coalition. A Lib-Con coalition would give him no chance of this, as the Tories would be the major partner, and nor would they be likely to deliver electoral reform.

21. WhatNext?!

“Clegg would stand a great chance of becoming PM in a Lib-Lab coalition. A Lib-Con coalition would give him no chance of this, as the Tories would be the major partner, and nor would they be likely to deliver electoral reform”.

1) Would he stand a great chance of becoming PM in a Lib-Lab coalition? Only if the LibDems come second in terms of seats as well as votes: otherwise the Labour party would risk being marginalised and then relegated from the top two.

2) The Labour party won’t deliver electoral reform either, unless they are certain that they can no longer win by FPTP. Brown’s deathbed conversion is to with HIM remaining as PM, and nothing else. (It’s always about him sadly ….)

17
‘Socialism could make a come-back’, when were we ever a socialist country?

23. WhatNext?!

22
Never fortunately, but Socialism was a Labour Party aspiration (Clause 4 and all that) up until fairly recently. The 1983 manifesto is always worth a look (for a laugh if nothing else).
It could theoretically make a come-back in European politics, but not likely given it’s history.

23 Why use the word ‘come-back’ when it’s never been, and although you then acknowledge this you then proceed to use the phrase ‘not likely given it’s history’. You appear to be confused.
You are right about the labour party initially having socialism as their goal, but as it never happened you can’t really suggest that it was either fortunate/unfortunate, perhaps you meant to say “imo”

The Atlee government of 1945 was arguably socialist. And Clause IV still defines Labour as a socialist party.

There are, of course, as many competing definitions of what it would mean to be a socialist country as tehre are definitions of liberal.

There are many that say, not only that Britain was socialist, but that in many respects it still is. I’m not one of them, obviously, and the type of socialism that was attempted here was most certainly not one I identify with.

I think arguing over whether a party or a govt is, or has ever been, socialist, is fairly pointless unless you’re going to define what type of socialism you want, and what your terms of reference are.

Many on the western left argue the USSR was never socialist, but that argument rarely washes with many on the right, etc.

S. Pill, I don’t think Steve, from his comments here, would accept Attlee, especially as the differences between his and Churchill’s coalition manifesto in 45 were quite small.

But, y’know, an irrelevence. Bit like the Labour party, really 😉

Hmmm. I’d still say the Attlee gov were more socialist – in the western, Fabian-influenced, democratic, Beveridge Report tradition – than anything that’s been attempted before or since. NHS, welfare state, social security etc all leftie ideas that are now mainstream (to some extent).
Whether the Labour Party is now anything of the sort is a matter of some dispute.

Ah, the Beveridge Report. So socialist, it was written by a committed Liberal 😉

And not even I would claim Beveridge as a liberal socailist, and I’ve been known to clutch at straws on that one (JS Mill certainly was, others perhaps not so much)

29. Nick Cohen is a Tory

The Labour party was never a socialist party in the European sense but a mixture of Robert Owen cooperatism, trades unionism, methodism and remnants of Chartism.
It has never been an intellectual party compared to European socialist parties.
In fact the Tories are not that much of an intellectual party either.
I agree with whats next that it is not a progressive party but conservative with a small c.
Thank god.
Progressives are usually Utopians (Trots and Thatcherites (like What’s next)). They don’t care who they hurt.

I didn’t say Beveridge himself was a socialist! But his report was definitely in keeping with the left-wing mindset (and welcomed by all quarters of the press, left & right).
Liberals and socialists/left-wingers have thus worked well together in the past. Bodes well for the future..? 😉

Socialism is an economic system which is not capitalist.
@25 Clause 4 was a statement that the goal of the Larbour Party was to move towards socialism, but it never did.
@26 The USSR was never a socialist country, the centrally planned economy was termed ‘war communism’ by Lenin to denote its’ temporary state. Agree that the Labour Party is an irrelevance
@29 The welfare state does not denote socialism, it is an attempt, within a capitalist economy, to redistribute wealth/social goods, and it doesn’t do it very well.

The original Clause IV [from 1918] didn’t mention socialism:

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

The newer one brought in under Blair reads:

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

TBH the former was overrated IMO; all it was saying was we should nationalise everything. The latter is wishy-washy affirmations/pop-pysch-speak so it rather suits the current Labour lot 😉

But @steveb yes, under the strictest of definitions “socialism” is an alternative economic system ergo no government of Britain can be said to have been “socialist” by those rules. But I still reckon stuff like free healthcare, decent education for all, social security, pensions etc are decent leftish aspirations for a party.

32
Common ownership of the means of production is socialism and I agree that free health-care, education and decent pensions may be leftish aspirations but. a socialist would seek those social goods within a socialist economy. Fabian socialism is really a bit of a misnomer in that it describes a period of transition rather than being an alternative type of socialism.
I think that most people confuse social liberalism with socialism and to that extent I often find debates on LC confusing as it is unclear exactly what is being proposed.

34. WhatNext?!

@Steve B / 24
No I’m not confused. I was talking about Socialism generally, not Socialism in the UK.

No the UK has never been Socialist, and I haven’t claimed otherwise. Socialism (common ownership of the means of production) has existed elsewhere however, including in Europe. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was Socialist.

34 That’s not what you inferred @17 and perhaps you could advise me where socialism has ever existed, because I don’t know of any country that has had a socialist economy and no state.
Both Fabianism and the central economic planning in the USSR were stages which represented a step towards socialism. You cannot judge socialism by these two examples anymore than you can judge a house by looking at it’s foundations

36. Chris Whitrow

@WhatNext?!

1) The reason I think Clegg has a good chance of being PM in Lib-Lab coalition is that I can’t see any alternative in that scenario. No one wants Brown to stay on if he loses. Even most of the Labour party will want to get rid of him, especially if they slip to 3rd in the popular vote. Would a new Labour leader immediately be installed as PM? That would look like a coup. No one could justify that. Clegg is really the only option, even if his party had fewer seats than Labour.

2) Surprisingly enough, the Labour manifesto includes a commitment to a referendum on electoral reform within the next parliament. Their policies on electoral reform are now amazingly close to those of the Lib Dems; virtually identical in fact.

The only alternative to a Lib-Lab coalition would be a Cameron minority Tory government, biding its time until it can call a new election. In that case, the Lib Dems might have missed their chance.


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