Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won’t work yet


9:30 am - June 23rd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Sometimes I’m taken aback by how tone-deaf Labourites can be. There’s tribalism and then there’s just downright silliness.

I suspect a lot of Libdems do actually feel aghast at the budget yesterday, and with good reason too. If the Libdems are ignored on most economic advice other than a few tidbits here and there, sooner or later the party activists will start deserting.

But are they going to listen to Labourite accusations of betrayal right now? I highly doubt it.

Were Labourites listening when Libdems complained about the party trampling all over civil liberties or doing nothing about its over-centralisation tendencies? Or how about over Trident? ID cards perhaps? Point made, I hope.

It’s far too early to throw accusations of ‘betrayal’ at Libdems right now, a process that many in the Labour party and on the left started as soon as the Coalition government was formed. But, as has been pointed out by many Libdems, senior Labour ministers never really wanted an alliance with the Libdems.

Here’s my view. First, Labour has to overcome its older authoritarian instincts and embrace some liberalism. That is the only way many Libdem voters and activists will listen. (I’d say Ed Miliband has gone the furthest in this).

Secondly, don’t assume that Libdem activists are not loyal. The overwhelming majority look just as tribal as Labourites to me. This mean they’re not going to go along with the betrayal charge this early. It might work in a couple of years, once Labour has changed a bit and the Tory right really starts getting angry. And so I think this action by Ed Miliband is counter-productive (though he’s probably just harvesting emails).

Thirdly, there is a left wing of the Libdems – most prominently the Social Liberal Forum. Listen to them; join them; support them if you want to help the left of the Libdems. Their constructive approach is far better than lefties screaming betrayal all the time. All it does is push Libdems further towards the Tories.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


First off, not everyone who voted Lib Dem at the last election is a Lib Dem activist. Second, it is not them but the leadership of their party Labour activists are screaming betrayal at, and on the evidence it seems a fair charge.

Third, often it’s worth saying stuff that is just true. This budget is a nasty, regressive budget, and no remotely left-wing person should consider supporting it.

Lib Dems need to get used to the fact that they are in government now and when they do things that are wrong they will get attacked for it.

To right, I’m no fan of Labour though there is a semblance of hope in MPs having the sense to put Abbott forward for leadership (in at least declaring an intention for a different type of party). I watched some of the speeches after the main two yesterday and they were just disgraceful. Not one of the first few Labour speeches spent any serious time lambasting the Tories for their plans, they were full barrel, hypocritical, smug and patronising assaults on the Lib Dems alone.

After each election I try and take stock of where we’ve gone, see if I need to realign my support, and it’s going to be some time before enough has happened to decisively say (for instance) that the Lib Dems have either done good or bad under the circumstances. Meanwhile Labour’s quite frankly childish manner of opposition doesn’t exactly make me feel like agreeing with anything they’ve got to say.

The view has been yesterday that Lib Dems have been betrayed by their leading MPs, that the Lib Dems have delivered a Tory budget…and it’s all absolute nonsense. While it clearly isn’t a Lib Dem type of budget, it is in parts…and the worst of the Tory plans are lessened. You can look at it either way depending on your particular brand of tribalism, I guess, but to me it only makes sense to think of what we would have had with a Tory majority, and what we’ve got now, and work out just whether a betrayal has happened or whether it’s just been firefighting all along.

“Lib Dems need to get used to the fact that they are in government now and when they do things that are wrong they will get attacked for it.”

Absolutely…but then it’s the pure political opportunism of the Labour party that stinks. The attacks on the Tories were few and far between by comparison, and certainly in relation to how much power the Lib Dems have in the coalition. Attack the Lib Dems for what they “got wrong” (although under coalition it’s extremely hard to quantify that under normal terms), but don’t think voters are going to be blind to the Labour party specifically creating a strategy to attempt to weaken Lib Dem support rather than regain the thousands of voters they lost to the Tories.

Sunny

The tirbal loyalism of Lib Dem support isn’t key. Their activists will largely move with the party as it becomes more and more ideologically wed to the right over the next five years. We can’t stop that happening now. Only a break from the coalition would do so.

The key is the people who voted for them as a left wing party but are not wed to the party more widely. Labour has to make clear to those people that they have been betrayed.

And they have to do it relatively quickly.

Once the Lib Dems start justifying regressive measures as part of the coalition, even with only base justifications like “it might have been worse without us” or “but we can get this and that in return” and the Tory Greek defence, they will get supporters to buy into the coalition mantra and the long term case for their place in a right wing status quo will be established.

Once that happens the nudge principle suggests they will gradually go further. Like the guy who will reluctantly agree to put an anti-smoking sticker on his bumper, two years later agreeing enthusiastically to put a billboard up in his garden, they will for psychological reasons go down a road that Labour can’t turn them back from.

In short – the Lib Dems have started on a path towards become a party of the right. And Labour needs to stop them taking too many people with them.

Shreiking may not work. But highlighting concerns is a start. And it matters, as those Lib Dem voters who feel let down need to know they are not alone. While the MPs of the party they voted for extol virtue after virtue of their actions, and while loyalist Lib Dems justify it in all sorts of ways – those less convinced need to know they are not weak or foolish or out-of-date for seeing the shift to the right as a path not to start down.

5. astateofdenmark

The virtual absence of any prepared attack on the tories was startling and will probably come to be regretted. What was also absent was any counter proposals, beyond a vague nod to CGT changes. The Lib Dems are the easy target, but that doesn’t mean they are the right target: Look at where the Lib Dem votes and seats are concentrated, Labour aren’t going to make a breakthrough there.

How will Labour convince the Lab-Con switchers in Kent, Warwickshire and Yorkshire to switch back on yesterday’s performance?

Lee

The Lib Dems have total power. They could bring down the government is they wanted to. Easilly. They just have to vote against this finance bill.

Don’t forget, they are not yet a junior right wing party akin to the CDU in Germany. They could still decide that regressive government is not for them.

And the voters who elected them as a left-leaning party are key to either Labour, or the coalition, winning the next election.

I’m not sure you’ll like it Sunny, but I entirely agree with you. Hysterical shrieks of betrayal from all and sundry will do more to bind the Lib Dems into the Coalition than anything else.

A ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ tone might have been able to prick sore consciences far better.

8. astateofdenmark

And of course, if exclusively attacking Lib Dems has an effect, it could result in a portion of their vote going tory and further tory gains in SW. Labourites seem to be continuing with the Toynbee illusion that you can just add up the non-tory vote as a monolithic bloc.

#3 Ok, I partly agree with you there. But I don’t think it’s part of a deliberate strategy (it’s not come from the centre, certainly). I think it’s mainly an emotional grassroots response – in part because lots of Labour people have been frustrated by claims that the Lib Dems are more left than Labour over the years and want to use the opportunity to prove that wrong once and for all; also probably a result of the way Lib Dems fight elections on a local basis, which creates more animosity to them than to the Tories even though clearly the Tories are the main enemy. Then amongst members who wanted a coalition with the Liberals and don’t have that animosity, there’s a feeling that “You expect it from the Tories, but not from the Liberals”. Just as when during the expenses scandal the core Labour vote was telling us “we expect it from the Tories but not from you”, that kind of feeling can have very negative results.

Having said that, beyond putting some quick stuff out when the coalition deal was first made, locally we haven’t referred to the Liberals much at all. We’ve focussed all our ire on the Tories, because really it’s their budget, their claims that need demolishing and over time I think the Lib Dems will be damaged anyway just by association; we don’t really need to waste effort attacking them, we just need to put forward strong arguments against the measures they are supporting.

“The Lib Dems have total power. They could bring down the government is they wanted to. Easilly. They just have to vote against this finance bill.”

Welcome to the world of theory versus practicality.

I am sorry, but how is this a ‘regressive, nasty budget’? Labour was going to cut next year as well – how would they have cut 44 billion without going for some of the same options?

And that argument about VAT – we don’t pay VAT on food or clothing. Energy has a low rate of VAT. How is this regressive? And please don’t repeat that argument about the rich paying £1 in 25 and the poor paying £1 in 7 – the poor are being looked after, they still get various benefits, tax breaks, etc. So you cannot just the £7 in direct income.

Everyone is hurting to some extent or the other and it is Labour’s fault for letting things get this bad. The Lib Dems have no reason to be defensive. Remember: NONE of the parties had ruled out VAT rises. And Labour had revealed the LEAST amount of information about their cuts – and they knew how bad the books were.

I am proud to be a Lib Dem supporter.

12. Richard Blogger

I agree, and the “betrayal” narrative seems just as expedient as the Tories claim that the cuts are Labour’s fault (and will seem just as stale in a couple of month’s time).

We also need a more in-depth and intelligent analysis of this budget. On Radio 4 Today two things jumped out at me. The first was that Osborne said that the 25% cuts could be avoided if “further savings can be found in welfare”. This is to soften us up for more welfare cuts, and this time they will be very nasty, but hey, if they reduce the 25% cuts in education to 24% cuts then they will be worth it, right? Labour needs to keep on top of this. Osborne has his plan to cut welfare far further, he just needs the right time to announce it. Labour has to make sure that there is never a “right time”.

The second thing was a strange choice of words. Osborne said that there are “certain functions that the state can no longer perform”. Then he mentioned the Child Trust Fund and said it was “an example of where the state is withdrawing from an area of activity”. The CTF is not a “function” it is a benefit. “Areas of activity” are things like healthcare provision, education provision. What Osborne is talking about is wholesale privatisation. If you privatise NHS services now, then you can change the payment mechanism later. We really are at the point when we will lose the NHS.

“over time I think the Lib Dems will be damaged anyway just by association; we don’t really need to waste effort attacking them, we just need to put forward strong arguments against the measures they are supporting.”

I don’t know if I agree completely with the damage by association part, though purely because I think it’s too early to tell how the Lib Dems will approach PR over their time in government when the time comes, but at least this makes the most sense from a Labour view…yes.

I am ashamed of the labour party having supported them for over 40 years. They are unable to offer any alternate spending cuts to reduce the deficit. They are in absolute denial about their role in leaving the coalition government with such a massive deficit. Their policies over recent years means that many people do not see the need to contribute to society by taking employment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in my area which requires migrant labour to work in the food production industry. Ten years ago local people did such work – now they don’t and their attitude is why should we when we can claim housing and job seekers allowances.

I am very much enjoying the coalition government. I find tribal politics not very persuasive at the moment when the country faces so many difficult decisions. I am shocked to say that I will be voting for AV – never would have done in the past. I can also say that I did not vote for Labour at the last election – a first for me. The way they are behaving now I shall not vote for them again. What sore losers they are. What poor responses to the budget debate yesterday and how pathetic were the questions directed to Nick Clegg.

In my opinion, the coalition government is acting in all our interests. If some lib dems are unhappy so what. It is not possisble to keep everyone in any one party happy. those who are whinging(Bob Russell, Charles Kennedy) should remember that peopel who are disloyal are also punished at elections.

“I am sorry, but how is this a ‘regressive, nasty budget’?”

Labour would have been unlikely to raise VAT this early (though it’s hypocritical of them to make out it never would have under this parliament), probably wouldn’t have cut housing benefit, probably wouldn’t have curbed benefit rises and would have kept some other spending commitments.

The question comes as to how many of these things are truly regressive and how many are just “nasty”, and in both categories how many are justified or not.

Without a doubt the shape of the budget is one that points a finger at the rich (almost just to placate the Lib Dems, I’d imagine) while still trying to claw back money from the poor. Their own analysis shows this, with the middle classes being cushioned more than most. By it’s nature that’s regressive in at least a significant part.

Sunny, outside of London, many LD voters are self employed and run small businesses. The issue of debt has been a concern for many Liberals from before Gladstone. Therefore many traditioal Liberals have been horrified with the massive increasing of debt caused by Brown’s spending.

Labour had the option of forming a coalition with the LDs but chose not to do so.

#11

Your assertion that “the poor are being looked after”, therefore it’s ok to raise VAT says it all really.

But remember that Labour argued for a rise in National Insurance instead of VAT; Darling refused to rule out a rise in VAT but everyone else was against it with those in the Brown camp vehemently so and practically it wouldn’t have happened. (Remember too that Tory governments are the only governments to have raised VAT; Labour has never done it, it’s just not what we do.) Locally we used materials criticising a possible rise in VAT; we were that confident that Labour wouldn’t do it.

Also remember that Labour wouldn’t have given away lots of money by lowering corporation tax, and most Labour leadership candidates have argued that the 50p rate should be permanent rather than getting rid of it this term. What’s more, if you accept the idea that a return to growth would reduce the deficit whereas cutting early could raise it (and I accept many right-wingers don’t, but Lib Dems were agreeing during the election) then again there’d be less deficit to reduce in the 2nd year of a Labour government.

We do pay VAT on chocolate biscuits. On most things that would be given as Christmas presents. On things that pretty much everyone owns, like TVs or fridges. There is no convincing argument that VAT is a progressive tax.

Tim, I agree that VAT is a bad tax, and I dislike that it’s gone up. A lot. I dislike more the reasons for it going up, and accept that it was probably inevitable, Labour was going to do it, that was clear from the way they were talking “no plans” is Govt speak for “hoping to avoid it”, but the financial mess is big enough it was unavoidable.

So I’m unhappy. However, speaking as someone living in an incredibly low income family currently, yes, it’ll put some of our costs up. But not by much, we simply can’t afford luxuries currently. Chocolate biscuits? That’d be nice. Christmas presents, birthday presents? Daughter was 7 Sunday, her present from us was her Mum’s old mobile phone, with a new set of headphones, and some non-VAT clothes.

Seriously, for the lowest incomes, VAT hits less, because we’re only paying for food, bills and essentials, we can’t afford anything else. Increase in personal allowance, increase in tax credits, that’ll help us a lot more than VAT’ll hurt us.

I don’t like this budget, at all. But Sunny’s right, as a lefty Lib Dem, the way Labour’s going about this is simply alienating me completely. I don’t think the party had a choice given the election results, there was no other option.

But Labour is pretty much proving it was the right choice, and that bothers me a lot more. I’ve voted Labour in the past, on current track, doesn’t look like they’re coming back in the direction I could think about doing so again any time soon. Sunny’s right.

19. Richard Blogger

@5. astateofdenmark

“How will Labour convince the Lab-Con switchers in Kent, Warwickshire and Yorkshire to switch back on yesterday’s performance?”

As someone who lives in Warks (but not a switcher) from my experience I can answer your question: No. This budget will not deliver Warks & Leam, or Rugby back to Labour.

What will make people go back to Labour will be the big changes planned by Osborne in public service provision. South Warks is prime Tory territory, but it has one of the highest (if not the highest) elderly demographic. These people may be comfortable, but they are also dependent upon public services like social services and in particular, health. Lansley’s plans are to privatise those services. Initially it will be piecemeal, say cataract service will be taken over by the Circle hospital (“sorry we cannot do it for the NHS rate, but we may be able to if we employ fewer staff. But that will mean that waiting lists will have to be longer…”). Ultimately it will mean that NHS hospitals will be more like shopping centres, where multiple service providers will run different wards and clinics. This will lead to the situation where a service provider will say “that’s not our responsibility” and will walk away, when the clinic for another provider who does have the responsibility is just a few feet way. Do not expect an integrated service. Since the elderly are the biggest users of the NHS, any changes to NHS provision will effect the elderly the most.

I know from talking to the community here that the NHS is held in high regard and that most Tory voters think that it unthinkable that Cameron will privatise NHS services. But that *is* what is going to happen, and this is the one area where we can drive a wedge between the rabid privatisers (the LibDems Orange Bookers are more rabid in this area than the Tories) and the core voters who voted out of duty rather than with their heads.

#15 – your argument does make sense. It is down to personal opinion I guess what each one of us feels is nasty or regressive or both.

#17 – why should NI go up? Why should normal hardworking taxpayers pay even more tax out of their paycheck before they even see it?!?!? Atleast with VAT, I have the choice to spend or not. Just for that reason, I fully support a VAT hike. And just as reducing it from 17.5 to 15% didn’t make a huge difference, raising it to 20% will not make a huge difference either.

I do NOT want a (Labour) government that dreams up more and more ways of getting even more taxes out of my pocket – can you deny that the last govt. did this? Is that ‘progressive’? Why does Labour assume that they know how to best spend my money?

I suspect most people would still support higher taxes if the Labour govt. had spent it wisely – but we don’t even see that. So I am afraid anyone who has a job and pays taxes just ends up paying more and more, with very little in return.

BTW, Labour might never have raised VAT, they did extend it to apply to more things? Dennis Healy I think?

Why does unemployment end up higher under every Labour government?

AND Tories have had to raise VAT because Labour makes a mess of the economy and they have the step in and clean up. This time, Lib Dems get tarred with the same brush – but atleast they are helping with the clean up!

#18

I hope you will be able to afford some of those things soon. For the very poorest, bear in mind that VAT is the ONLY tax they pay at all. For most ordinary people on incomes well below the median income but not incredibly low, they do buy most of those items and VAT assumes a much bigger part of their budget than for wealthy people.

22. the a&e charge nurse

[12] “If you privatise NHS services now, then you can change the payment mechanism later. We really are at the point when we will lose the NHS” – yes, there has been a lot of muttering about this for a while now.

First, attribute the need for root and branch change to a climate of austerity – then promote profiteers as the main solution to the problem.
I think the LibDems prefer a mixed environment (state/private) when it comes to health, and it can be taken as read that the tories do.
So yes, the NHS day’s are likely to be numbered under this coalition, a process (it must be said) largely instigated by the Labour party.

Since a LabLib coalition wouldn’t have done anything *meaningfully* different – hello, voters know this – screaming anything won’t help.

And surely it’s far too early for screaming. You will have lost your voices completely by the time of the next election.

Perhaps the LD’s will split. The left can join Labour. (The loonier elements join the Greens.) And the Orange Bookers can join the boy king.

Of course there’s the small matter of what Labour will look like over the next few years….but there’ll be time enough to enjoy that.

With tens of thousands of people being driven closer to the edge yesterday, please don’t tell me this is being framed as a game of ‘he said, she said’ between various and almost indistinguishable strands of lefties.

That’s more like it – I can agree with cjcjc.

Labour are hampered by the fact that people aren’t really listening to them. In that context it probably doesn’t matter too much what they say or do over the next few months – at least until they’ve decided which of their identikit candidates for leader they prefer (or, snort, Diane Abbott).

#20 You seem to be on the right-wing end of the Lib Dems, so I’m clearly not going to convince you. But I will remind you that the Labour rise in NI was going to be to employers contributions, and only affected those earning over £20,000. (So for example retail, where the VAT rise will cost the most jobs, would not have been affected much at all.) I am not claiming it wouldn’t have affected workers at all (though where it did it would likely be in lower pay rises than in job losses) but it would’ve affected workers on a low-ish wage much less than a VAT rise.

The idea that VAT is a voluntary tax is nonsense. Every tax is a voluntary tax in that case – you can avoid income tax just by choosing not to be paid very much.

“your argument does make sense. It is down to personal opinion I guess what each one of us feels is nasty or regressive or both.”

I did say that there is an element of personal opinion, certainly in what is “nasty”, but a regressive nature of economic plans can be measured, it’s not an opinion at all…and VAT rises effect the poor more than they do the rich. Maybe not the *very* poorest, but certainly the poor and below average income people and families. It *is* regressive to raise VAT, that is a fact I’m afraid.

“raising it to 20% will not make a huge difference either.”

Raising it will cost the average housepayer around about £500 a year, which may be offset by about £200 of income tax relief, but is still a hefty chunk of money.

The big story of this election has been the economy, of course, but I voted lib-dem because they’re the party most wedded to /civil/ liberty. The economic scale doesn’t matter as much to me, personally, although it is of course important.

However, labour, lib dems and tories aren’t /that/ far apart when it comes to their economic policies. None of them are /actually/ left-wing, are they? They’re just different shades of right-wing.

So, I’m :'( that VAT has gone up and child benefit is frozen, but I’m 🙂 🙂 🙂 about the civil liberty improvements still to come. I certainly don’t feel betrayed, since I was more or less resigned to a budget of a broadly Tory flavour when the coalition first came to be. The working/lower-middle class income tax bribe is still there, which is nice, and the stupid tax incentives for marriages-with-only-one-working-party isn’t; and mansion and inheritance taxes aren’t being cut. So it’s a lot less tory than it would have been.

What was the alternative, Labour? Broadly similar cuts – perhaps a little less painful for the poorest (who aren’t all /that/ badly done by in this budget, let’s be honest), but we’d still be wedded to an authoritarian state with all the Bad Things that labour supported and brought in over the years. Oh, and still no electoral reform of any kind at all. Really, no thanks.

30. Richard Blogger

22. the a&e charge nurse

“So yes, the NHS day’s are likely to be numbered under this coalition, a process (it must be said) largely instigated by the Labour party.”

Yes, and this was why the NHS was almost completely ignored during the election. The only thing that was an issue was the cancer treatment targets. We now know that they will remain. However, the other waiting list targets will go. So where the last government said that it was acceptable for people to wait 4 1/2 months for treatment, but no more. The current government is saying that waiting lists can be longer. I think it is intolerable for waiting lists to be as long as 4 1/2 months, but in the next few years we will come to regard 18 weeks as prompt service.

The ISTC project was a complete failure. It was costly (costing more than NHS providers) and inefficient (the BMA says that ISTCs on average only fulfil 85% of their contract). Yet this is the template for NHS provision under the Tories. In Lansley’s words “we will invite in new providers”.

#29 The marriage incentives are in the coalition agreement, but Cameron was never going to bring them in straightaway. The Lib Dems will abstein (which means they will go through; if they opposed them they wouldn’t). However I’m hopeful that on something like that, there might be a backbench Liberal rebellion and it might fail.

The Liberal Democrats are a party born of betrayal. Everything they do now is completely in character. Let’s not bother with the Liberal Democrat “left”, and try to woo them over where they’ll sit on the Labour right and make us even more Blairish.

31 – we’ll see how it goes, I guess. That it’s not in the first budget is good enough for me, for now.

I think it’s a stupid measure and it sends the wrong message, but it’s the kind of message the tories are wedded (haha) to. Since it’s merely stupid, rather than actively dangerous, I can put up with it if it does end up going through – any future non-tory government will likely quietly abolish it or make it fairer, after all.

Richard Blogger

You are spot on in your final paragraph. This is the Tory’s once in a life time opportunity to destroy 60 years of building a health service which is at least serviceable and in some cases bloody marvellous. The same with education. We know that they are not perfect – but then which private sector industry can say that is is completely efficient? The privatisation of many state owned areas in the 80s – especially British Rail and it’s infrastructure reveals how it results in worse service, costs more. and yet still manages to pay it’s shareholders.

On the attacking of the LD – it is not the only thing but still has to be done. Those LibDem MPs whose consciences may be pricking them a little need to be made to squirm. The LibDems are painting themselves as the restraining hand – as they did during the election. The Labour party has to pull down that sheeps clothing to reveal the wolf underneath. We know that in the Conservative and Labour parties there is a bredth of political leaning, whereas the LibDems paint a picture of themselves as the left of centre choice, where they all agree on everything. But this government, complete with LibDems is as Thatcherite as the Tories not least because despite all their claims of centralisation and shifting the balance of power, their actions actually return power to the government and away from locally elected bodies. Watch Eric Pickles threats to local councils over how often they empty their bins. Witness the promises to Councils that if they keep their CT down, they can have a little more money, whilst taking it away with the other hand. Witness Michael Gove instructing local planners to wave through applications from parents to set up their so called free schools in disused local factories and shops, and clawing the power over the control of school places to himself, so that these schools can be set up even if there are surplus places in the existing area schools. Huge inefficiency in state spending they cry, whilst promising to lavish funds on their own vanity projects in the name of choice for disgruntled parents and teachers.
The LibDems have had an easy ride really, sat on the fence for the last 40 years between Labour and Conservative governments. Now they have got down off that fence and are showing which side they have fallen on.

Yes they can try and say it was Labour’s fault there was no Lab/Lib pact, try and blame David Milliband. But the very Orange Nick Clegg made his intentions very plain as long ago as 2008, when news stories started to appear about the unthinkable idea that the LibDems would prop up a Conservative minority government. Just about the time that Cameron started to move away from support for the Labour spending plans to support recovery. Nick also made his intention clear during the leadership debates, when he said he would not “prop up” a discredited Labour party. They hot footed it back to London the morning afer the election and how quickly Nick’s people got together with Dave’s people. I rather suspect that the news story 4 days later that they were now also going to speak to Labour was a deliberate PR exercise to keep onside the party elders, who were feeling very uncomfortable with the speed and direction things were moving. When it comes down to it, the effort put in by the LibDems to deliver the so called rainbow coalition, it was merely window dressing to the main event.. “aren’t we clever, we’ve managed to thrash out a joint manifesto for the next 5 years” they said, and “in only 4 days”. I believe that there was never any chance, whatever the numbers were. And I would have been extremely pissed off had the Labour party abandoned selected parts of it’s manifesto, just to keep hold of the trappings of power. Had that happened, it wouldn’t have lasted, and Labour would have then faced a generation in opposition. If the LibDems were honest, there was an alternative, there was opposition with a supply and support agreement, but with the option to vote as they chose on issues which they truly believed in, like student fees and trident. They point to the abolition of ID cards, they could have achieved that by voting with a Tory minority government, they point to an increase in the personal tax allowance, well Thatcher increased personal allowances consistently throughout the 80s, and for the 3 million unemployed it meant nothing. If you’re not at the table you don’t get a share of the cake. Harriet was right – for 20 seats in government they are sacrificing the jobs of 100s of 1000s of voters. And when you are unemployed and want to work, you don’t care whether you work in the public or the private sector. The point at the referendum on AV – ignoring the fact that the Tory warchest is being built to fight the opposite campaign whilst they lose short money, and the fact that by the time the referendum takes place, working and non working voters won’t give a damn about electoral reform, and in fact they will vote against anything that promises them more coalitions of LibDems.
And you are right, there does need to be a further dissection of the budget, and there will be. Yesterday was the opening salvo.

35. astateofdenmark

34 Caroline

The Lib Dems had no choice but to prop up the tories in some way. The alternative was a second election, with the debate novelty factor and Clegg stardust gone and a probable hammering.

On VAT, I look forward to the numerous articles condemning Scandanavia for its regressive tax policies. We can throw in France, Germany, Belgium, Greece as well.

I have to say that as far as I am concerned the Lib Dems can thoroughly go and fuck themselves. Our communities, neighbours and relatives are now under a systematic attack from the Tories and the Lib Dems are quite willing to go along for the ride. Make no mistake here; the Lib Dems are now my enemy as much as the Tories.

If the Lib Dems are supposed to be the velvet glove in all this, then why have we seen the Tories achieve the first part of their long term aim to shift the tax burden from progressive tax to regressive taxation? This is not a ‘tweak’; this designed to enable the rich to be set free financially from the rest of society. Three years from now when the Tories announce a tax cut, it will be income tax that will be cut leaving the poor to shoulder up the burden and any real progressive Government in the future with no room to manoeuvre. This has been a fundamental shift in tax policy started in the nineteen eighties and they have continued where they left off in their first budget. Yet the Lib Dems watched in silence? Progressive? No fucking way.

The thing is, this is being sold to us as ‘taking the poor out of the tax system’ and that idiotic statement goes virtually unchallenged!

Last word on VAT/ Income tax: Occasionally, very occasionally you can be unsure if you are standing in the right camp. Sure, you know your principles, but you are worried that your instincts have let you down, you can be worried that you have missed something, you are forgetting a major consequence of the policy you could be advocating. Well look at the people who support a switch from income tax to VAT and ask yourself what is motivating that.

The Left and the Labour Party (not the same thing) have been attempting to mount a fightback and a counter attack. They have both been trying to devise a strategy regarding regaining the trust and the support of the people. I say there is no time like the present. We have to start now. We want a progressive tax system? No point in waiting three weeks before the next election before announcing it, when everyone has forgotten, we need to nail this now and keep the pressure on. We need to make sure that every cancer patient who is sent for a ‘back to work interview’ is thrown into the face of the Lib Dems, we need everyone thrown into the street because of changes to housing benefit highlighted too. If the Daily Hate can scour the Country for window cleaning claimants, we need to get the other side of the coin into the faces of the Lib Dems too.

Haha!

“in fact they will vote against anything that promises them more coalitions of LibDems.”

How little you understand AV if you believe that it would give people less power to vote out Lib Dems.

@10
That was sort of my point. In practice they support these measures. And the public will see that, and part of their support base won’t like it.

So it is sensible while Labour are leaderless to do the one thing they reasonably can at present. Put pressure on those lib dem voters whoe didn’t support a shift to the right.

What else would Labour do? It isn’t like Labour have come out against a whole host of measures that they previously backed. (They have not become anti-nuclear for example).

I doubt anyone (other than those with fairly comprehensive memory loss during the New Labour period or perhaps the dwindling band of Blairite True Believers?), will take those screaming betrayal from the Labour party too seriously.

Let them get their own house in order first, and perhaps act with a little more contrition for their starring role in getting us in this mess in the first place. There are few things worse than a convert on an evangelising roll. Let’s not pretend that the Labour Party would have be significantly better had it somehow managed to cling to power, or had managed to restrain the knee jerk Nu Labourites from aborting the Lab-Lib coalition.

They seemed happy to wander off into the wilderness after the election to “find themselves” (yes, there is a joke in there somewhere…..) and leave us to the tender mercies of the Con-Dem’s…. so spare us the crocodile tears now!

36. Did you even read Sunny’s piece?

“then why have we seen the Tories achieve the first part of their long term aim to shift the tax burden from progressive tax to regressive taxation? ”

You mean like how they increased CGT, how much basic state pension will rise by, and increasing the personal allowance by essentially taxing those on higher salaries more? By paying more to low income families through child tax credits while removing child tax credits for the more well off?

There *is* progressive stuff in this budget, it’s just offset by a large VAT effect.

“What else would Labour do? It isn’t like Labour have come out against a whole host of measures that they previously backed.”

It’s simple…Labour have lost voters to the Tories by and large…screaming about the Lib Dems around this subject is just (at best) inefficient.

@34

But the very Orange Nick Clegg made his intentions very plain as long ago as 2008, when news stories started to appear about the unthinkable idea that the LibDems would prop up a Conservative minority government.

Indeed, Nick Clegg couldn’t have been clearer – here’s the Man Himself:

“The day before I was elected leader, Mr Cameron suggested we join them. He talked about a “progressive alliance”. This talk of alliances comes up a lot, doesn’t it? Everyone wants to be in our gang. So I want to make something very clear today. Will I ever join a Conservative government? No.”

Oops!

I guess that’s where the “betrayal” claims come from, and they aren’t all coming from Labourites either…

Lee Griffin

It doesn’t matter what I think or believe or how much I understand about the differences in the options for voting reform. It does matter how much the voting public, which did not elect a government because they wanted to change the voting system, understands or cares.

To achieve the LibDem aim, they have to win the firstly the attention and then the hearts and minds of those who will vote. The Tories will vote against it and will run the kind of campaign that they ran in the Scotland and Wales against the devolution bills in the 70s. One where they scare people into thinking that they will be worse off. I know this – I was there. Also the type of campaign they ran in the north east over regional devolution, which killed any idea of giving more power to England (in recognition of the west lothian question) have the same kind of power over it’s own day to day living, albeit on a regional basis, stone dead.

Their most likely allies in achieving this will be the Labour party, and it is likely that they will need to reach out to them if they want to form any kind of viable campaign.

Which does tend to undermine the rationale in supporting a Tory government in coalition, in exchange for a referendum on AV.

@41

I don’t see why it is inneficient. There are plenty of left-leaning Lib Dem voters who can no doubt be swayed as their party moves to the right – and there is no alternative action available to Labour right now as it is impossible to establish a new long term message without a leadership in place. Or more accurately it would be inneficient to do so since a new leader might come in and replace it with something else.

Caroline – those self-same allies in the Labour party who ignored their own review of the commons for 13 years and made a pig’s ear of both lords reform and devolution? You seriously expect any liberal democrat MP to believe a labour leadership on it /again/ ?

Even labour MPs, actually. My own labour MP has been campaigning for reform of the Commons for 20 years – and he got nothing.

“left-leaning Lib Dem voters who can no doubt be swayed as their party moves to the right ”

And what evidence for “the party moving to the right” do you have, other than the fact they’re in a coalition government where they hold only 2/5ths of the power? What evidence do you have that there wouldn’t be cuts and hard hitting changes in a Labour led budget to the degree that the Lib Dem stance as it is currently can be described as less left-wing than what Labour would have offered?

“I don’t see why it is inneficient.”

Then you don’t understand what just happened at our election, do you? I’m saying the need is to focus on the Tories and make THEM uncomfortable. Right now all Labour people attacking the Lib Dems are doing is giving the Tory right a scapegoat knowing that a) they can continue to push their policies more greatly over those of the Lib Dems and b) that they can do so knowing that Labour and “progressives” are going to get in to a cat fight with each other over political capital and any damage is *not going to reflect on the Tory party*.

Maybe I shouldn’t describe it as inefficient, maybe I should just describe it as moronic to the degree of attempting to aid the Tories to greater power.

“I guess that’s where the “betrayal” claims come from, and they aren’t all coming from Labourites either…”

Anyone that fails to see how circumstances change, and the reactions that come with those changes, is an idiot. They’re welcome to join Labour where they’ll find no shortage of such blinkered thinking.

“Which does tend to undermine the rationale in supporting a Tory government in coalition, in exchange for a referendum on AV.”

That wasn’t the reason or condition a coalition was formed, you are very good at simplifying the realities that led to this government coming in to being though.

Nick

you make very good points – not sure I entirely agree on the devolution bit. On the Lords, there were at least attempts to make change, scuppered quite often by the Lords themselves.

Are you suggesting that, because they had a majority Labour should just have forced it through based on their own idea of what constitutional reform would look like, rather than going through the process of cross party consultation and trying to take all parties (political, individuals and the electorate) with them? Real change takes time, and when there are no low hanging fruit, everything has to be gained by long slow and painful negotiation.

However, I don’t understand the logic in the argument that because someone tries and is only partially successfull they are to be believed less than someone who is actually stating that they will oppose the change you are trying to make.

@46

Anyone that fails to see how circumstances change, and the reactions that come with those changes, is an idiot. They’re welcome to join Labour where they’ll find no shortage of such blinkered thinking.

So is that what you’d say to those who voted LD as an anti-Tory (and thus, utterly futile) vote? the LD leadership made a serious miscalculation with this love-in. Any bad policy will be blamed on them; and the Cons can get away with blue murder. LDs will be wiped out at the next election due to a) gerrymandering by the Tories (new constiuencies) and b) any anti-Tory vote now having to go to Lab by default. Don’t kid yourself that the coalition will get through any form of voting reform either. The Tory press are already geared for a referendum campaign against it.

You seem to think the LDs have done nothing wrong whatsoever by cosying up to the bigots, snobs and homophobes of the Tories (and that’s just the front bench). Are the LDs really that power-hungry? I do wonder.

Lee Griffin @ 36

Yes I did read Suuny’s piece, but that does not mean I think we should let the Lib Dems of the hook. I am no fan of Labour and I agree with Sunny they have been hoist by their own petard. It is up to others among the progressive movent to make sure the public are reminded of what these tax rises mean.

I agree that there was elements of progressive taxation in the budget, but I bet that CGT changes will not surive past the next election (assuming it hasn’t been removed before hand). The VAT is never being cut by the Tories, however. A short term sop to win a long term gain, I think.

The tax credit cut is a very clever move in the ‘long game’ because once you cut it for middle earners, then the next cut becomes easier. As people lose access to that benefit they are less inclined to support others getting it; Golden feedback, I think it is called.

Lee

I understand plenty about what happened at the election. But Labour is no strong position to forumlate a strategy for hurting the Tories. To do that they will themselves need to present a sound alternative to the existing government. But without a leader that’s clearly pie in the sky. What they can do however, is focus on the most practical target right now, those people who are squirming at what Lib Dems have signed up to support. It will also be hard to hurt the tories who face most internal criticism from their own right, when the budget gave the right so much of what they want. They are at present in an understandably celebratory mood.

In the long run Labour needs to force the Tories right or at least expose them for being further right than people expected. That will win round centrist voters. But again – that’s not a path they can take without a leader to direct it. And even if it is, pointing out to Lib Dems how regressive and (in effect) right wing their budget is hardly hurts that longer term aim.

and as for Lib Dems moving right.

Read up on the nudge theory so beloeved (apparently) by David Cameron himself in opposition. (if you haven’t heard about it before I’ve given a tiny illustration on these pages already) The Lib Dems have not criticised what is a regressive tax change (VAT rise) or pointed out the social consequences of handing out corporation tax cuts while raising taxes on the poor and cutting education and training budgets.

That is, itself, a shift to the right. It may be a small shift, but it is a shift on their position 9 weeks ago when they were doing more left-leaning things like attacking the suggestions of a rise in VAT that would cripple the poor and the economy. (the Lib Dem poisition, not mine)

52. George W. Potter

Here’s my advice to Labour as a committed LibDem:

Become more like the left of centre, liberal party a lot of you claim to be and you’ll have a good chance of picking up LibDem voters. At the moment if I ever do decide to switch party allegiance it will be to the Greens – they’re not perfect but at least they don’t masquerade as one thing but be the exact opposite in deeds.

george

I predicted at the time of the coalition agreement that it would be a boon for the Greens.

A lot of Lib Dems will drift right with their party and comfortably accept a new role as a centre-right “concience” party.

Others will shift to Labour to “get the tories out” – and it really will only take a year or two of right wing government to make people see how right wing labour wasn’t.

But the big beneficiaries, proportionally, will be the Greens.

A lot of Lib Dem support was people who didn’t like the compromise that power forced on Labour’s principles – and to see the Lib Dems compromise far more than Labour will push them towards a purer-left party.

And the Greens just happen to have a charismatic leader in Parliament just in time to build on that.

@53 margin

“Others will shift to Labour to “get the tories out” – and it really will only take a year or two of right wing government to make people see how right wing labour wasn’t.”

Not so fast…. New Labour may not actually be dead yet, but hopefully it hasn’t got enought energy left to stop the nails being hammered home on the coffin. Either you’ve been asleep for much of the past 13 years, or you’ve been mainlining on Class A New Labour for so long that your hold on reality is shaky.

New Labour’s “progressive” credentials, such as they were, were more than offset in the eyes of many people by its illiberality, spin-obssessed control freakery, and supine acceptance of the crypto Thathcherite model that largely got us into the mess we are in now.

This isn’t the time to praise the New Labour Caeser…most of us are still too busy burying it and dancing on it’s grave.

53 – strongly agree with you RE: the greens. Since they’re actually left wing in word and deed (compared to labour’s professed left wing-ness), that’s surely a good thing for the Left(tm).

Caroline – Labour had a mandate for reforming the commons for three? successive parliaments. They did nothing about it. The Jenkins report remains completely unimplemented. Lords reform and devolution was conducted without any real long-term plan to get to completion, and political will for it fizzled about halfway through new labour’s lifetime.

I mean, sure, they did better than the tories would have done (i.e., nothing at all), but there’s absolutely nothing there to inspire confidence that labour, as a party, actually /wants/ electoral reform. It just seems to be trotted out and promised whenever labour wants to get the lib dems onside. Maybe if 1997 hadn’t been a landslide, we’d now all be using range voting or something and the tories wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Galen

I think you may have just jumped on utterly the wrong high horse there.

Labour in power were New Labour – but they were still Labour in some pretty key ways. We all know the list that runs.. minimum wage, increased pay for nurses and teachers, 100 hospitals built, more support for young families, etc. – and it is likely to stand in quite some contrast to the upcoming five years.

That doesn’t make New Labour great. It doesn’t wash away the sins of the last 13 years. And Labour never even much claimed to be liberal. It has never been a liberal party. It has always been a solidarity party, which is quite different. So Liberals in the Lib Dems won’t budge, indeed the Greens are even less liberal than Labour. The Tories and Lib Dems are the liberal parties.

But just as it took around six months for people to start to want Tony Blair back after Gordon became PM – I expect it will take about two years for the contrast between even New Labour, and an out-and-out right wing government, to make people see those 13 years in a more positive light.

If Labour can thus find the strength to challenge the worst of the damaging post-thatcher concensus as well – then frankly that’s a winning formula.

Nick

I love the irony of trotting out electoral reform to get the Lib Dems on side, given that the Tories have used the same lie even more effectively.

And I don’t agree there was no left wing aspect to the last 13 years. There was lots. What there wasn’t was a willingness to challenge a concensus on economic and social policy other than at the margins. And that was a missed opportunity resulting from Labour’s weakness.

Wise up. Labour are trying to sell the idea that the Lib Dems have betrayed the public in order to destroy them electorally. We will see more and more of this, a two-party contest is much easier to fight. For Labour this is all about the next election.

Labour have done a fair few left-wing things in power, yes. But they’re not economically left-wing – they’re the least economically right-wing of the three main parties, but that’s not really so impressive – and they’re nothing like it on civil liberties.

http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010 is a fairly interesting view on it – on that kind of measure, I actually end up right where the greens are at the moment.

The tories haven’t reneged on electoral reform (yet?) once – unlike labour. If progress on the commons and lords isn’t made in this government, then I won’t be supporting it next time around – but it’s cynical in the extreme to say that the tories definitely will renege on the deal.

@56 margin

“Galen – I think you may have just jumped on utterly the wrong high horse there.”

Maybe so, but I feel more comfortable on my horse than I do feel confident that Labour can come up with a winning formula, or in accepting that even the current coalition isn’t more progressive in some ways than New Labour ever were.

The good things achieved don’t outweigh the bad. However much I loathe the Tories, and distrust the coalition, they’ve often come across as more progressive than New Labour since the election. It may be more apparent than real… bit it’s still a telling impression.

You are obviously more sanguine than I am about the ability of “New” New Labour to present a viable progressive alternative. It’s difficult not to see the last election as a huge disappointment. I try to be hopeful, but in all honesty..given the potential for the Labour party to muck it up, and of the LibDems to implode under the weight of the ideological game of Twister that is the coalition, I’m none to confident about the prospects for the future!

Sunny, sorry to say it mate, but a lot of this post is really sloppy.

“Were Labourites listening when Libdems complained about the party trampling all over civil liberties or doing nothing about its over-centralisation tendencies? Or how about over Trident? ID cards perhaps? Point made, I hope.”

Not sufficiently. A lot of Labour activists support these measures in principle. The same isn’t true of a vastly bigger part of the Lib Dem party.

Secondly, these things were in Labour’s manifestos. The Lib Dems are part of a Government that is doing things in direct opposition to what they promised the public only weeks before.

Thirdly, Lib Dems persistently market themselves as being on the centre-left, especially to young people. They have done for years. New Labour has never pretended to be anything other than New Labour. In fact, it has presented its warts with great enthusiasm.

“It’s far too early to throw accusations of ‘betrayal’ at Libdems right now, a process that many in the Labour party and on the left started as soon as the Coalition government was formed. But, as has been pointed out by many Libdems, senior Labour ministers never really wanted an alliance with the Libdems.”

The Lib Dems I know just repeat this argument over and over again, as some sort of justification for taking part in a Government more Thatcherite then Thatcher by some distance.

The idea that because Labour would not take the Tory line the Lib Dems had to is an outrageous non-sequitur, and a gross abrogation of political responsibility. They had a manifesto too, and could have joined the opposition instead of the Government.

The first Party the Tories should have consulted should have actually been the Labour Party, as in the second to last German elections. Labour had a vastly bigger mandate to see some of its policies implemented than the Lib Dems.

Instead, they went into opposition, ass was the only half-principled thing to do.

In the long run Labour needs to force the Tories right…

Can’t be done from opposition kiddies. Labour don’t make the political weather any more, they have to react to it. If Labour propose centrist policies, then the Tories will do just what Labour did in power – steal it, put their own gloss on it and sell it as pragmatic sensible politics from a pragmatic sensible Government.

Opposition sucks, and this is one of the big reasons why.

Nick

“Labour have done a fair few left-wing things in power, yes. But they’re not economically left-wing – they’re the least economically right-wing of the three main parties, but that’s not really so impressive – and they’re nothing like it on civil liberties.”

Agree wholeheartedly.

I disagree with what you say later about the Tories reneging on electoral reform. The coalition agreement is so weak on it, and even what it offers is a possible move maybe to a system even less proportional than we have now.

I guess maybe that’s not the Tories reneging. Maybe it is the Lib Dems reneging. Either way, it ain’t want many of us want.

What they’re offering in the commons is a referendum on the alternative vote. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll have considered the Tories to have reneged. I can’t see the coalition staying together if it /doesn’t/ happen.

Getting it to pass is really the job of the lib dems, grassroots organisations (like the take back parliament people), and hopefully labour can be convinced to pitch in and lend a hand too. I know my MP is all in favour.

AV isn’t the end of the road – but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully. If the entire referendum fails, then the whole subject might as well go crawl in a hole and die for another generation.

65. Charlie 2

Labour has never shown much interest in the self employed and those running small businesses which by numbers forms the largest type of employment. Many LD voters are self -employed and run small businesses. The increase in the number and comlexity of regulations has impacted on the self -employed and those running small businesses the most. The total remuneration packages of many government employees in the regions is in excess of that offered by many small businesses.

Many of those disgruntled with state education are those who end their children to the local schools and employ those from them. Major reasons for employing people from East Europe are that they are far better educated and willing to work than many coming out of British schools.

As Sutherland of the Observer stated “Browns economic policy was to take money from southern england and increase state sector employment in the regions. Very little of the increase in the number in jobs went to British people working in the private sector since 1997. Many LD voters have little time for the white collar clerical sector employment boom of the last 12 years.

Galen

Reading the budget document, I am firmly of the opinion that it is more perception than real so far. Though I’ll grant you it is early days and the best and worst won’t be known until departments start making their cuts. A lot of it fits the patern of Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine though. ie jumping on crisis as an opportunity to push through radical right-wing agendas.

And I am sanguine only in so far as until Labour has a leadership and establishes what its priorities are, there is little point being anything else.

But I genuinely think the Lib Dems are lost top the left now. Your comment is part of why.

“or in accepting that even the current coalition isn’t more progressive in some ways than New Labour ever were.”

The new coalition has done nothing progressive yet, and its first budget is deeply regressive (big tax cuts for companies, welfare cuts and tax rises that disproportionately hurt the relatively poor more than the relatively wealthy)

But the ability of some to start arguing what you do in that comment, fits with the nudge principle that once the first small step on an agenda is taken, the reluctant will grow less so and will build enthusiasm for that (in this case right wing) agenda.

So Labour needs to be an alternative. And although the Parliamentary Party has been devoid of invention and well focused ambition for a long time, its local councils are still at times impressively progressive, and the leadership campaign is focusing on local policy lessons.

So there is hope.

Nick

They don’t have to renege for four years yet. And even then, with such a weak offering why bother reneging?

It’ll probably be voted down in the commons as the Tories won’t even deliver their 307 votes in favour, and the Lib Dems know AV is not proportional anyway. (As it goes I have no problem with AV itself, as it provides for greater voter choice – but it isn’t the PR that Lib Dems protested for during coalition talks, and it in fact less proportional than FPTP in its present form. (The antipodean experience demonstrates how)

That’s why Nick Clegg is trying to keep that bit quiet and focus on other concessions like higher capital gains tax. He know’s its a fig leaf bit of the deal that doesn’t mean much.

Charlie

Sutherland is of course wrong about jobs in the private sector going to foreigners, or at least misleading to play to a xenophic slant.

Some did got to foreigners, though that was balanced almost man for man by foreign jobs going to Brits moving abroad. (Which increased in number too)

69. Chris Baldwin

“But, as has been pointed out by many Libdems, senior Labour ministers never really wanted an alliance with the Libdems.”

Oh, “pointed out”, eh? I guess if the Lib Dems say it, it must be true. Just like how they totally agree with raising VAT…

What the budget showed yesterday was that it has only taken 1 month for Prime Minister and deputy prime Minister to be show up as liars, and con merchants.

The Lib dems should be re named Steinway because the tories are playing them like a grand piano. Make no mistake that was a tory budget, not a progressive one.

VAT, the Tories favourite Tax is put up to 20% which will hurt the bottom 40% of the population. Many rich people don’t ever pay VAT because they claim against their business. 77% of the budget will come from spending cuts and it is once again the bottom 40 % that uses those services.

The Lib Dems did not even get their 40% capital gains tax rate. This is a sell out to the rich and big business, look at the banks celebrating today. Well done Lib Dems you have allowed a bunch of right wingers to take over your party and fuck you over.

71. Charlieman

@56 margin4error: “Labour in power were New Labour – but they were still Labour in some pretty key ways. We all know the list that runs.. minimum wage, increased pay for nurses and teachers, 100 hospitals built, more support for young families, etc. – and it is likely to stand in quite some contrast to the upcoming five years.”

You have just identified why we are in the current pickle. New Labour spent money that could not be afforded by what the government raised, at the time or in the immediate future. In Year One it is a structural deficit and in Year Two it is a structural debt.

Alistair Darling proposed a cut of £X in funding to public services (with ring fencing for pork barrel and politically expedient services). That was in the last Labour manifesto. The coalition proposes a cut of £1.25X (with similar ring fencing for pork barrel and politically expedient services).

Ring fencing departments and services is wrong. If Dept Y can save money without reducing quality of service, it should make the saving and return the money to the Treasury. There is a market argument that a government department should retain internal efficiency savings; there is a different argument that government should sack the managers and ministers for not saving the money years ago.

#56. margin4error

“But just as it took around six months for people to start to want Tony Blair back after Gordon became PM – I expect it will take about two years for the contrast between even New Labour, and an out-and-out right wing government, to make people see those 13 years in a more positive light.”

Sadly, I agree with you. Sadly because this government will do so much damage in those two years. On the bright side, unlike the Thatcher terms when she simply could not be shifted mid-term, this government has a self-destruct mechanism that Cameron desperately wants to disable with the 55% dissolution agreement.

It will not be public sector cuts or privatisations that will fracture the LibDem parliamentary party because they are LibDem policies anyway (pre-election, it was the *timing* they disagreed with the Tories, not the policy). The breaking point will be more cuts to the welfare state. And interestingly, Osborne hinted that this is what he has in mind. I think he is suggesting that now because he wants to get those cuts in early while the LibDems are still in the frame of mind that they will do *anything* to stay in power.

My gut feeling is that the problems are going to start in a year’s time. I don’t want to make light of this nasty budget, but the real nastiness will come in the autumn when the spending review is made public. The Libdems will enthusiastically wield the axe becasue they are small-statists too. But next summer the public sector cuts will start to bite and a combination of high unemployment and pared-down benefits will cause large-scale protests. There will also be mass public sector strikes. The private sector will be sickly too, since austerity Europe will not be importing, and austerity Britain will not have a public sector to buy services from the private sector. All these problems will drag on into the autumn, and the LibDems in parliament will get twitchy.

When will the referendum be on AV? May 2012? A strong Labour showing in the Scottish parliament elections and friction with Tories during the AV referendum will make their relationship difficult. Then with more unemployment, more strikes and a declining economy the Tories will have to cut welfare more to slow the growth of the deficit and that will be the final straw. Election: July 2012.

Tom M:
A lot of Labour activists support these measures in principle. The same isn’t true of a vastly bigger part of the Lib Dem party.

How do you know Libdem activists are happy with all this? And keep in mind, happy is different to ‘loyal’. Besides, the principle doesn’t really matter when the Party was able to push these measures through without serious opposition from the ranks.

The Lib Dems are part of a Government that is doing things in direct opposition to what they promised the public only weeks before.

They can argue that it’s a different situation. Besides, Labour also reneged on many manifesto promises. And Libdems are inching towards some (reducing taxes on lowest paid, increasing CGT)

Instead, they went into opposition, ass was the only half-principled thing to do.

I think this argument is rather silly and redundant. There are plenty of clues that Labour didn’t want to deal with the Libdems for a coalition. They chose going into opposition. You can’t now blame the Libdems for choosing power. Three times the Labour party ditched a lot of its principles to pursue power.

The point now is – will Libdems listen to you guys screaming betrayal? And will they be convinced enough to join Labour? None of your points address that.

Sunny, you appear to be operating under the assumption that the primary electoral job of the Labour Party in opposition is to make Lib Dem activists feel comfortable. It’s not. It’s to beat you (and the Tories) in elections.

That might mean taking away lots of Lib Dem VOTERS, who are not tribal and who don’t hold particular long-term loyalty to the Lib Dems. A large proportion of the Lib Dem vote is a protest vote against something, and there’s a lot of churn from election to election on what that churn actually is. Part of the process of peeling off such voters is to point out the gap between Lib Dem rhetoric and reality. That’s tried and tested political strategy as old as time itself, and to complain about it is just to look fantastically naive about big league politics.

This approach is entirely consistent, incidentally, with a more progressive policy on ID cards, Trident etc- but again not because it will appeal to Lib Dem activists, but because it’s a sensible way to respond to criticism about the deficit and to show we’ve taken on board criticism from the left in the wake of the election defeat. But in all these strategic decisions, Labour must do what’s best for Labour- not what makes it easiest for ashamed lib dems to live with themselves.

Don’t suppose anyone fancies starting the Green Social Liberal Democrat Realist Party with me?

76. margin4error

Richard

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say bering the last bit.

Sadly following the IFS chart showing how utterly regressive this budget was, my enthusiasm has been sapped. I genuinely don’t see it falling appart even over the joke of a referendum that may not happen for a long long time in reality.

I fear we have five years of this. I just hope by the time that’s up we have a somewhat more ambitious and inventive Labour alternative.

77. margin4error

Nick

Could we all not, as a collective moment, join Labour and reform it? Or join the Greens and reform them.

A mass of about 10,000 astute and aware left-wingers could have a real impact.

Some of the questions I ask here.

Why shouldn’t Lib Dem politicians be harshly criticised or exposed when their political errors are so obviously blatant and their votes crucial for Tory policies to be implemented?

Is the Left (and the Labour Party)’s job that of opposing measures that we deem unfair and harmful for the least well-off, or do we simply have to find ways of not disagreeing too much with the Coalition governments lest “we push the LibDems further towards the Tories”, whatever that means?

At which point does the game of triangulations end and principles can be asserted to the point that we can call a crap policy or an obvious betrayal by their name – that is, a crap policy and an obvious betrayal?

A large proportion of the Lib Dem vote is a protest vote against something, and there’s a lot of churn from election to election on what that churn actually is.

Really? Well, it’s bizarre that polling doesn’t seem to support your point (see latest YouGov).

This is the problem with how Labour approach Libdems: they think that because Libdems don’t stand for anything, as soon as they start saying a few vague progressive things, then suddenly all these people will fall over themselves to come over.

I’m not convinced that’s the case at all.

I don’t deny it’s Labour’s duty to focus on increasing its share. But where are you going to get these extra voters from, if Libdems aren’t listening? (do you have evidence they’re convinced by Labour?)

77 – I’d suggest the Greens need less reforming (and would be more amenable to reform) than Labour, in that respect. I’ll join if you and 9.998 other will. Our first act can be to put forward a motion to change the name – it soundex-acronyms quite well as Grizzly, as it turns out.

All vote for the Grizzly Party!

81. Margin4eror

Either way sounds fine by me. The trade off was that whille the Greens would be easier to shape, Labour would be easier to have a big big impact in if we managed it.

But I’m game if you are. Grizly Party is the party for me.

82. George Kendall

Sunny,

One of my favourite quotes is Junius: “There is a holy mistaken zeal in politics as well as in religion. By persuading others, we convince ourselves.”

When Labour supporters launch personal and exaggerated attacks on the LibDems, this immediately brings to mind everything we disliked about Labour. Instinctively, we aggressively argue back. As we do, we become more entrenched in our position.

The opposite is also true. As the Labour supporters use exaggerated rhetoric, they start to believe their own rhetoric. This is a very bad thing if Labour is to come to terms with the mistakes it made over the last six or seven years. If they are to regroup, and provide a coherent alternative to the Coalition in five years time, they need to reflect on what went wrong.

For the future health of our democracy, Labour needs to provide a coherent alternative. And it would be bad for the health of the Liberal Democrat party if we became too entrenched in our support of the coalition.

So I think you’re right to suggest Labour cool down their attacks. Unfortunately, we political people are an emotional lot, so I doubt it’ll happen.

George Kendall @ 82

Hold on a minute though. Are you suggesting that the progressive movement should sit back in silence while highly regressive taxes and public sector cuts are piled onto the most vulnerable in our society? We should bite our tongues whilst the ConDems punish the poor whilst simultaneously shift the tax burden onto their backs?

The Right took their agenda to the public and forced it down their throats, day in and day out. They have quite successfully painted various people as hate figures. The asylum seeker, the immigrant, the benefit scrounger, the ‘not really sick’, the public servant, the health and safety officer, the climate change zealot, the alleged rape ‘victim’. They have managed quite successfully to remove the blame of the worldwide recession from the banking sector and onto the Labour Party.

The won all these battles and now we find it hard to defend these people when they need our help. The general public are unwilling to listen to us defend genuine asylum claims of people for example, because the Daily hate painted ALL asylum claimants as swan eating, drunk driving child trafficking rapist drug dealers.

We need to keep our momentum up on things we see wrong and attack WHOEVER is putting forward nasty proposals.

I believe (and it appears that I am in a minority of one) that the long term Tory agenda is to lower progressive taxation at the expense of regressive taxation. They are attempting to further shift the balance of taxation. When the Tories cut income tax the public will have forgotten the VAT rise and the regressive nature of that rise unless we keep the pressure on. Kelvin Mackenzie and Ken Clarke were both on radio last night attempting to dismiss the regressive nature of a VAT rise. We need to make sure that the message is constantly hit home that the poorest people suffer a VAT rise.

We need to be seen to be on the side of the people we would want to support us. There will be no point in sitting for 208 weeks of silence then the fortnight of the election, chap doors and say,

“Sorry about you losing your Disability claim, despite having a chronic degenerative disease, but we couldn’t really say anything because it would have upset Simon Hughes”

If we try that, we are going to get doors slammed in our faces and quite rightly too. We need to have a high profile now and build a momentum in the Country, NOW. We need to be seen campaigning for our people now, no matter who is proposing cuts to services, be it Labour, Tory and yes even the Lib Dems. Once you win the hearts and minds of the general public, the activists will follow.

If we don’t stand up for the arthritic grandmother, then who the fuck is? I don’t see David Laws doing it, so what does that mean? We let her suffer? If so, what is the point of the progressive movement and the Labour Party?

84. George Kendall

Jim @ 83
“Hold on a minute though. Are you suggesting that the progressive movement should sit back in silence while highly regressive taxes and public sector cuts are piled onto the most vulnerable in our society”

No. I don’t think you should stop debating. But I do think you should try as hard as you can to avoid personal and exaggerated attacks on LibDems, and, above all, avoid sarcasm.

That’s extremely difficult. Especially, if people who are close to you are going to be affected. But, if you react in anger, the natural human reaction of many LibDems will be to reciprocate, and say, “That’s ridiculous, what about…”. As a result, you’ll entrench their position, achieving exactly the opposite of what you intend.

Labour have huge problems in attacking the budget.

They are perceived to have caused the problem by running significant deficits in the boom running up to the economic collapse, and by throwing money too fast at public services, reducing public service productivity.

Labour have also acquired a reputation for political cynicism, so criticisms of the budget often sound like insincere tribal attacks.

It’s not just the arguments that are deployed, it’s the tone. If it comes over as angry and confrontational, it sounds tribalist and as if in denial. If it’s sarcastic, it sounds cynical.

It would be impressive to hear a Labour supporter take on the criticisms of their government issue by issue, acknowledge where mistakes were made, and rebute the criticisms that were weak. That’d reassure me that a Labour government might avoid these mistakes in future. When it comes to the coalition, it would sound honest if identified the things in the budget that they like, and that some measures, while painful, were necessary, and if they’d acknowledge those areas which were a judgement call.

The reaction I have seen is: I don’t like any of it, none of it is necessary, none of it is a judgement call, it’s all awful. If that is what Labour supporters currently think, but they want to convince the LibDems of their arguments, they’d do well to step back from the debate and think much harder before engaging in further debate. Otherwise, what Sunny is saying will apply.

George Kendall @ 84

Perhaps I have not made myself entirely clear. I am not looking at this from a ‘Labour’ standpoint, but from a broader Centre/Left position. We all need to expose policies that are causing hardship, no matter who is advocating it. There are plenty of policies that the Labour Party has initiated that should have been put under more scrutiny by the left. The attack on Incapacity Benefit being one obvious example. The fact that this policy has been given an easy ride, by the ‘left’ pre-election does not justify that continuing now.

We have been told that the Lib Dems are supposed to be progressive end of the coalition, the foil to the Tories hard edge. Yet, there is scant evidence for that. A hike in regressive tax is always going to hit the poorest hardest, yet this appeared to get through the net. You can argue that it would be worse without the Lib Dems being a formal part of the coalition, but I cannot see how you can measure a terrible policy against a more terrible policy that could have been introduced.

If the LD are supposed to be the reforming Party in the coalition, then we need to take our criticisms (from wherever on the political spectrum they come from) and confront them. If the Lib Dems cannot handle sarcasm, then they really need to get of real politics.

86. George Kendall

Hi Jim,

“If the LD are supposed to be the reforming Party in the coalition, then we need to take our criticisms (from wherever on the political spectrum they come from) and confront them. If the Lib Dems cannot handle sarcasm, then they really need to get of real politics.”

I’ve said what I think critics should do if they want to influence the opinions of LibDems.

How the LibDems should respond is a different question, a little off-topic. In brief, to effectively communicate our position, we too should avoid the zeal that Junius refers to.

Where we can, avoid rushing to judgement. Use moderate language. Concentrate on responding to well-thought through criticisms. Work hard to understand what someone really means, so we don’t misrepresent their argument.

Easy to say. Like everyone, I find it hard to do.

The big question: Who are those well-off folk who ought to pay more tax to lessen the pressures on the poor and ease the need to cut public spending?

“This week’s emergency budget turned 700,000 more people into higher-rate taxpayers. Miles Brignall, who is one of those affected, asks if a family income of £42,000 really puts you in the ranks of the well-off”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/jun/26/budget-average-family-hit

Fuck Miles Brignall. He should try living on my estate, except that tenants here rarely get the chance to write articles in national newspapers about how hard their lives are.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Dawn

    This article is absolutely spot on RT @libcon Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won’t work yet http://bit.ly/aTyY62

  2. Jonathan Lintern

    RT @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  3. Thomas Oliver

    RT @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  4. Niall Millar

    RT: @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  5. James Graham

    RT @mushkush: RT: @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  6. Liberal Conspiracy

    Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  7. Nicole Healing

    RT @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  8. Alex Ross

    Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won’t work yet http://bit.ly/bGR2ZE

  9. Derek Bryant

    RT @libcon Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4 < important points here

  10. Matthew Lloyd

    Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet | Liberal … http://bit.ly/beJFUw

  11. K Knight

    Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet | Liberal …: It might work in a couple of years, once L… http://bit.ly/a23NoT

  12. sunny hundal

    Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  13. Barbara Jorge

    RT @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  14. amol rajan

    there's wisdom in this – RT @sunny_hundal Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  15. lorelei

    RT @libcon Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won’t work yet http://bit.ly/aTyY62

  16. Graeme Stirling

    RT @sunny_hundal: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  17. Chelim Yrneh

    RT @libcon: Labourites: Screaming betrayal at Libdems won't work yet http://bit.ly/962fN4

  18. Why shouldn’t we call out LibDems for their ‘betrayal’? | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] says “screaming betrayal at the LibDems won’t work” and that’s this is not only a sign of “tribalism” but also […]

  19. Ed letter day « Though Cowards Flinch

    […]  However, your focus on the economic consequences of the coalition budget rather than LibDem treachery (real though that is) and defence of the public sector per se has scored you more ‘points’ with me on this area than other candidates.  On this matter I tend to agree with Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy. […]

  20. sunny hundal

    @dandelion101 really? then how about this? http://bit.ly/cDHW1O or this? http://bit.ly/962fN4

  21. sunny hundal

    @BevaniteEllie Hey – I sait it first regarding Libdems! http://bit.ly/aTyY62 😉





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