Friday, April 09, 2010

The Westminster Party

Lord Adonis was just on Sky News talking about his article in the Independent today which is worth reading in full.  The Labour Transport Secretary has attempted to wade into the sticky area of tactical voting and come out to declare that in his eyes Labour and the Liberal Democrats are virtually the same.  In fact he only quotes the Iraq War and the Lib Dem obsession of Proportional Representation Voting as their only differences. A little ironic considering Labour seem to have found a new appreciation for the voting with PR their proposed system for a wholly elected Lords and their step towards PR with their efforts to force a referendum on The AV system for the Commons.

Let's let Lord Adonis do the talking here.

Nick Clegg will spend the next month attempting to cast a "plague on both your houses". The truth is that the Lib Dems, for all their local opportunism, have national policy that is similar to Labour's. The difference is that Labour can implement its programme. The Lib Dems have no realistic chance to implement theirs without a Labour government. In Labour-Tory marginals, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote which helps the Tories against progressive policies. And in Labour-Lib Dem marginals every Labour MP returned is a seat in the Commons more likely to put Labour ahead of the Tories and therefore better placed to form a government.

So what about Conservative-Lib Dem Marginals?  Is the Transport Secretary going to finish the sentence and advocate Labour Supporters then voting Lib Dem?

The Liberals won their last election precisely a century ago. Or rather they were the governing party in a hung parliament which, with strong Labour support, introduced national insurance for the sick and unemployed, abolished the veto of the hereditary House of Lords, raised taxes on the rich, and permitted the trade unions to support political parties financially. In turn the Liberals supported the 1924, 1929 and 1977 minority Labour governments. Until recently the two parties were in coalition in Scotland. Outside wartime, the official Liberal party has never supported a Tory government. Lloyd George's decision to govern with the Tories after 1918 – even with the plea of a post-war national emergency – split his party, destroyed his own political authority, and led directly to Labour replacing the Liberals as the major party of the left within five years.

Never a truer word spoken by a Labour Minister.

Roy Jenkins told me when I was considering joining Labour after Tony Blair became Labour leader: "The only real difference is that Labour is now the larger party of social democrats, the Lib Dems are the smaller; and in our political system, it is generally wise to support the larger party if they are on the same page."

No surprises there then.

The Lib Dems have supported our investment in the public services, radical constitutional reform, equal rights, fair taxation, environmental protection and positive engagement in Europe. As his diaries reveal, Paddy Ashdown ardently sought a coalition with Labour after 1997, which might have happened had the Labour majority not been so large.

Take political reform, which is top of the Liberal agenda. It was this Labour Government that devolved power to a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly, a Northern Ireland Assembly and a directly elected Mayor of London. It was this Labour Government that introduced the Human Rights Act and that finally passed a Freedom of Information Act, giving the public the right to know. It was this Labour Government that removed most of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords – a reform the Liberals failed to implement when they had the chance in 1911. And it was the Tories who this week blocked a referendum on voting reform and our legislation to remove the remaining hereditary peers.

All these policies were supported by the Lib Dems. Yes, in some cases they were Lib Dem policy before Labour embraced them.

Well we all knew that Labour ran out of new ideas around 1998 and have been skulking around nicking other peoples ever since, but it is nice to have a Labour Minister commit to paper that they are nicking the Lib Dem's proposals.

So, it's clear that Lord Adonis has made a national acknowledgement that there is not a cigarette paper between the two parties.... hang on a second... "Not a cigarette paper between the two parties" where do I recognise that phrase from?.... hmmm.... Oh yes, that's right, that is what David Cameron reckons is all that separates HIS Conservative Party and the Lib Dems.
Let's revisit David Cameron's article entitled "A Lib-Dem-Tory Alliance will vanquish Labour" which he wrote for The Observer just last September.

In 1997, Labour cruised into power on a wave of expectation that Britain would become a more progressive country. Twelve years on, the poor have got poorer, social mobility has stalled and quality of life has gone down.

He understands Lib Dem foreplay well, let's recall what follows...

I don't believe in drawing dividing lines where they don't really exist. Politics works best when instead of hiding behind false divisions we seize opportunities to work together to get things done.

What do you mean Sir by "dividing lines where they don't really exist" ?  Surely that's the whole reason why you are in, and lead different political parties!

That's what Nick Clegg and I did with the Gurkha issue. We had different answers as to how best to repay those who had given our country so much, but we agreed the status quo was unacceptable, so we recognised it was best to work together, defeat the government and make them think again.

That same spirit should exist between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in other areas, too. That's because on so many progressive issues, there is strong agreement between our parties.

David Cameron then rolls off numerous examples of how the Conservative and Lib Dem policies are the same and subtly refers to each as "real progressives" so as to collectively group Conservatives and Lib Dems.

His last sentence begins:

There's barely a cigarette paper between us in all these areas. It's clear: the real enemy of progressive politics is not the Conservatives and I would not claim it is the Liberal Democrats.

So if Labour Ministers think that the Lib Dems and Labour supporters are essentially the same and the Conservative Leader thinks there is barely a cigarette paper between his party and the Lib Dems could it just be that is because the Parties are now too close together to warrant even pretending differently?

I find it pretty sad that in our adversarial system of democracy that has worked so well for so long, we now have most decisions and laws get handed down from a totalitarian system based in Brussels.  The areas left in which Parliament and our notional government presides over is monopolised now by what can only be described as "The Westminster Party" the amalgamation of three main existing parties who basically agree on what they will do on most things and on most policies including remaining quietly subservient to our real government in brussels.

To my mind the only way to resolve this is to force a referendum on EU Membership for the UK, whereby if we stay in we can do away with the largely unnecessary and costly Westminster and if we exit we can restore sovereignty and power to Westminster and make the decisions for ourselves with the parties willing and able to offer variety and alternatives.

Until that point, LIB/LAB/CON = Westminster Party.

No comments: