13 December 2010

Ed is capturing the real spirit of the Lib Dems

A very good press conference today by Ed Miliband, with a clear message to the Lib Dems: if you are pissed off with the extreme right approach of Nick Clegg, we are happy to work with you. As a first step, former Lib Dem policy director Richard Grayson has agreed to submit papers to the forthcoming Labour policy review.

This is good politics from Ed. Nick Clegg is essentially interested in furthering the interests of just one politician: Nick Clegg. He's been completely willing to abandon any principled position just for five years at the Cabinet table and presumably the chicken run to a safe Tory seat at the end of it. The other Lib Dem ministers went along with it like the spineless bunch of collaborators they are, but people like Vince Cable and Steve Webb must know that the game is up. Less than 10% in most of the recent polls... if more than a handful of Lib Dems survive at the next election it'll be a miracle.

But of course some of them could save their asses by either pulling out and forming a new party, or joining Labour. It's going to look like a more and more attractive option as the next election comes closer. And Ed is very well advised to pick up as many defectors and collaborators from the Lib Dems as he can.

Given the disaster that was the later stages of Tony Blair's premiership it's hard to remember that the guy had a few good ideas early on - and one of them was getting closer to the Lib Dems. Electoral reform was another. If we'd had some kind of formal arrangement between Labour and the Lib Dems during the New Labour period, we'd have never had the ToryCrat coalition, and we would have saved the country a whole lot of pain and anger.

But for now, the Lib Dems are going the way of the Liberals in the 1930s... any of you politics historians remember the result of the 1945 election? With the Liberals reduced to about 3 seats? Welcome to 2015. Although there has been a trend towards 3-party politics in the UK (and more, if you include the nationalists) since the 1970s, in England at least I feel we are headed very much back to 2-party politics next time round. With the Lib Dems reduced to (say) 5% or so, that only leaves the question of where those disaffected Lib Dem votes will go. At the moment they seem to be breaking 2 to 1 in favour of Labour, who have gone from 7-point deficit with the Tories in the general election to at least level pegging and probably a small lead. And that's not with Ed and the shadow cabinet firing on all cylinders, by any means. Needless to say, none of this looks good for the David Cameron project.

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