Ed Miliband held out the 'hand of friendship' to Lib Dems "appalled" at the direction "Nick Clegg and his hench-people" had taken the party, reports Shamik Das.
Ed Miliband held out the ‘hand of friendship’ to Lib Dems “appalled” at the direction “Nick Clegg and his hench-people” had taken the party, calling on Labour members to do the same at the Fabian Society Next Left conference in central London today. Answering questions after his keynote speech, the Leader of the Opposition stressed the importance not only of welcoming in disaffected Lib Dems but respecting those who chose to “stay and fight”.
“We can’t say ‘you agree with us, but because you’ve stayed in the party, we’re not interested in working with you’… It is incredibly important to work closely with those who wish to stay and fight… On the EMA vote, for example, we need Lib Dem MPs to vote with us, and we need Lib Dem members to phone their MPs and apply pressure.”
When asked about what Labour’s strategy should be for fighting the cuts, he said:
“Local campaigns that we run against the cuts are incredibly important, standing together with people affected by the cuts is important. The best way to send a signal to the Tory-led government and indeed the Lib Dems is by fighting elections and winning them, as we did in Oldham and also in the elections in Scotland and Wales.
“We’ve got to show what the alternative is, we’ve got to be the people campaigning on the ground where the cuts are being made, it’s important to stress that these are cuts directed from the Conservative-led government in Westminster, not our cuts locally, we’re being forced to implement them.
“It is an ideological decision to make the cuts as far and as fast as they are doing. It is devastating and frustrating we are not in power. We’re seeing it with our own eyes.”
He finished the Q&A on an optimistic note, saying:
“It’s devastating for all of us seeing the damage they’re doing – but I think we’ve got to hang on to our progressive instincts, and actually, a lot of people are just not taken in by the government. Necessary? They’re taking people for fools, saying they didn’t realise how bad the books were.
“2011 is an incredibly important year. You’ve got to do your bit and I’ll do mine; that’s the way we can build a platfrom for what you want, for what I want – to win the next election.”
• Left Foot Forward will have further coverage of the Fabian Society conference throughout the day.