The seeds of a Lib/Lab pact have already been sown

Labour needs to be prepared for a coalition even if it doesn't want one.

Labour needs to be prepared for a coalition even if it doesn’t want one

Speaking at Ipsos Mori’s ‘Beyond the Bubble’ event at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, the Guardian’s senior political correspondent Andrew Sparrow argued that the most important person within the Labour Party at the moment is whoever has channels open to the Liberal Democrats.

He was right.

Amidst tight polling and a general sense of malaise within Labour, all signs now point to a coalition after next May’s election. As Lord Prescott  noted, Ed Miliband’s speech was such that he may as well have finished it, “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for coalition”.

While Lib Dem ministers have notionally argued that Labour would be fiscally irresponsible, these are merely words they feel they have to say. When it comes to the Tories, Lib Dems feel every bit of the venom they now have trained on Cameron and Osborne et al.

Coupled with a poll of Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates carried out by ComRes for the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show, showing more support for a coalition with Labour rather than the Tories, it is clear that for all sides this is now the preferred option for many in the party if a Labour government is not possible next May. And the policy seeds of such a coalition have already been sown.

Constitution

In the wake of the referendum in Scotland, the Tories went on the attack, calling Labour’s bluff by calling for a twin-track approach that would provide for English Votes for English Laws.

In response, Ed Miliband was mocked for preferring instead to kick the issue into the long grass with calls for a mass participation constitutional convention. The Lib Dem minister David Law’s  praise for such a stance in the Guardian last week is just one of many indicators that on the constitution Labour and the Lib Dems are now very much on the same page.

This was further reinforced by Ed Miliband’s conference speech in which he called for a reformed House of Lords to become a new Senate of the regions and nations as well as calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16.

Mansion Tax

Labour’s call for a mansion tax now dovetails nicely with the Lib Dem’s following Nick Clegg’s confirmation on the Andrew Marr programme yesterday that his party would introduce a mansion style tax though the introduction of new council tax bands.

Europe

Lib Dem policy to go for a referendum on EU membership, but only where there is a likely loss of sovereignty, matches Labour’s call for a vote only when there is a new treaty change, when and if that happens.

Teachers

Labour’s campaign to end the absurdity of unqualified teachers being able to teach in free schools and academies has been at the core of its policies for schools. With the proportion of such teachers in classrooms having increased by 16 per cent over the past year, the Lib Dems have now pledged that the party’s election manifesto will include also proposals for a new ‘parental guarantee’ that all children will be taught a core curriculum and by qualified teachers.

Winter Fuel Payments

Addressing the party faithful in Glasgow yesterday, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander recommitted the Lib Dems to scrapping the payment of the winter fuel payment to wealthy pensioners, a policy that Ed Balls has been calling for.

Green Agenda

In contrast to the Conservative’s abandoning the green agenda altogether, shadow ministers have made clear that Labour will pledge next May to decarbonise the UK electricity supply by 2030, a policy which enjoys the  support of the Lib Dems.

Human Rights Act

The Tories’ commitment to scrapping the Human Rights Act has acted only as another opportunity to highlight the chasm that now exists between the two sides of the coalition, with Labour and the Lib Dems the only two main UK-wide parties committed to maintaining it.

 

For all the talk of seeking an outright majority, Labour’s prospects of achieving this now hangs by a thin thread, not least given John Curtice’s assessment of the party’s position in Scotland.

The best hope of a progressive agenda for government looks increasingly like a Lib/Lab pact of some description. Labour needs to be prepared for this in a way it singularly failed to prepare for the 2010 coalition discussions.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

15 Responses to “The seeds of a Lib/Lab pact have already been sown”

  1. Peter Martin

    Ed,

    You’ve given us a list of policies where there is general agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems, but no list of any differences.

    Is that because there aren’t any?

  2. Leon Wolfeson

    Or Labour could stop moving right and appeal to the large number of people who have nobody to vote for since they are left wing.

    But you’d rather ally with the LibDems (very arguably for less votes), which would permanently alienate a significant number of voters. And keep a lot of right-wing policies on i.e. economics.

    Let’s see on policy too…

    * Expensive and intrusive means testing for pensioners rather than reclaiming the benefit via the normal tax system. Moreover, non-Universal benefits are far easier to terminate.

    * A commitment to an inflexible curriculum, still not listening to educators. In Finland, the national curriculum is advisory. The exams remain the same, but there’s far more scope for teaching to adapt to the needs of the students.

    Etc.

  3. Dakiro

    somehow I believe lib lab is much better than tor-lib or pure tor 🙂 It could be Tor-ukip, though.

  4. Kristina

    If they do this be prepared for some serious anger from voters – even hinting at this might lose them a majority / largest party status – the lib dems really are hated.

  5. sarntcrip

    PERHAPS OUR AMERICAN ELECTIO UBERFUHRER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE UK IS NOT THE US ED SHOULD IMMEDIATELY REPLACE BALLS WITH DARLING AND COMMITT TO UNDOING TE WRONGS DONE TO THE VULNERABLE BY THE TORIES AND LIB DEMS WHO LET’S NOT FORGET HAVE BACKED EVERY NASTY VINDICTIVE DECEITFUL,BULLING POLICY THE TORIES HAVE IMPLEMENTED HOPEFULLY THE TORY LED WILL DISIPATE AS MEMORIES OF THE PRTY CONFERENCES DO THOUGH TEY’VE DOUBTLESS TO REANNOUNCE THEIR BRIBES WITH THE AUTUMN STATEMENT

  6. sarntcrip

    UKIPP IF YOU WANT THE REST OF US ARE AWAKE AND ALIVE TO THEIR AGENDA OF DIVISION AND THINLY VEILED RACISM HOPEFULLY THE POLLS WILL COME BACK WHEN PEOPLE REALISE THEY’VE BEEN BRIBED

  7. Norfolk29

    It all depends on how many seats the LibDems manage to get in May 2015. They could fail to get any at all. Similarly, the SNP could double their number of seats and be a natural coalition party, while they remained in the UK. I accept that the LibDems went into the coalition with false hopes but they still failed to learn quickly that the Tories have always gobbled up any coalition parties that joined them. Ed Miliband had better start getting his act together or we are all damned to another five years of Cameron and Osborne.

  8. robertcp

    A problem is that many Labour supporters appear to have an irrational dislike of the Lib Dems. They would probably prefer another Conservative-led government to a Lab-Lib coalition.

  9. robertcp

    I suspect that the few differences are rhetorical and tribal rather than genuine differences of policy.

  10. robertcp

    It could be argued that the Tories biggest mistake since 2015 is that they have not gobbled up at least some of the Lib Dems. This suggests that they do not understand the history of their own party!

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    “somehow I believe lib lab is much better than tor-lib or pure tor”

    Not sure I’d see much of a difference. Even this list is…pretty much complete.

  12. Peter Martin

    I have had another think and I still can’t think of any at all! Can anyone help me out here? Can anyone think of any differences between Labour and the Lib Dems? Even rhetorical?

    If there aren’t any it must mean that there’s really no point having the present day Labour Party.

    So shouldn’t we do democracy a favour? All those who don’t have any disagreements with the Lib Dems should clear off out of the Labour Party, and those of us who can think of plenty of disagreements we should have , but don’t, should stay to revitalise the party and give the voters an additional choice.

  13. Peter Martin

    Not quite so irrational ! Think about it!

  14. Norfolk29

    I assume you meant since 2010. The LibDems have always been the party that supported our involvement with Europe so any gobbling would have increased the Europhile element in the Tory Party. Ken Clarke did not become Tory leader because he believes in Europe and the need to maintain membership of the EU. I still believe the LibDems will return to their former 6 MP’s after the 2015 General Election and any talk of coalition with them should await the outcome of the election.

  15. robertcp

    I did mean 2010. The Tories’ position on Europe is ridiculous. They took Britain into what is now the EU in the early 1970s and changed their mind about twenty years later! I have never been enthusiastic about the EU but after 40 years we should try to work constructively with the rest of Europe.

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