Alexander: Labour should see Lib Dems “as the hors d’œuvre not the main course”

Douglas Alexander, in an interview with Progress, warns Labour that the real task is not just to capitalise on the Lib Dems' travails, but to beat the Tories.

Douglas Alexander has cautioned Labour against rejoicing too much in the demise of the Liberal Democrats – warning that the Conservatives will be the biggest beneficiary of a collapse in the Lib Dem vote at the next election, and that Labour must ensure it “has a better story to tell about Britain’s future” than the Tories when that election comes.

In an interview with Progress, the shadow foreign secretary also said Labour’s disastrous performance in Scotland last week was because “large numbers of middle class voters chose the SNP and rejected Labour”.

Alexander told Progress:

“While people may enjoy baiting Liberals, the urgent task is to beat the Conservatives.

“I think Labour activists should see winning support from Liberals as the hors d’œuvre not the main course because the mortal threat to the prospects of a Labour government being elected at the next general election, is not – with respect – Nick Clegg, it is David Cameron and George Osborne.”

Labour’s challenge is not just to win back lost supporters and Liberal Democrat voters, says Alexander, but also former Conservative voters; the party must be:

“…determined to contest and win the centre ground of British politics. It means a Labour party determined to win seats like Worcester, Lincoln, Waveney and Chatham. It means a Labour party that is not content with the spoils of Liberal defeat but focused on Conservative defeat.”

Recovering from Labour’s worst defeat in decades was “never going to be completed in the first year of the parliament”, he adds, calling for:

“…an urgency to reviewing our policy, renewing our party, strengthening our organisation, strengthening our finances and being clear in our critique of what this coalition is getting right and what it is getting wrong.”

He said Labour had only won elections “when it has better understood the future, like in 1945, 1964 and 1997”, and that the SNP’s victory in Scotland was built “not so much upon a record in government as a story about the future”, warning:

“If we limit ourselves to an analysis of the present rather an account of the future, it is not just limiting in terms of policy, it is limiting in terms of electoral and political appeal…

“We need to give people confidence that we get it as surely as we give people confidence that we have a vision of the country’s future. The questions that people were asking on the doorstep were on the detail of policy but as a sense we shared their aspirations for their families, community and country.”

31 Responses to “Alexander: Labour should see Lib Dems “as the hors d’œuvre not the main course””

  1. Thom Culpeper

    RT @leftfootfwd: . @DAlexanderMP: Labour should see Lib Dems "as the hors d'œuvre not the main course": //bit.ly/l5HFOV reports @Sh …

  2. Ed's Talking Balls

    Alexander states that Labour must be ‘clear in [its] critique of what this coalition is getting right and what it is getting wrong’.

    Correct. The problem at the moment for Labour is that it opposes every cut and slates every reform. Opposition for opposition’s sake just won’t cut it with voters, in my opinion.

    And as for winning over Conservative voters, Labour is facing an uphill struggle. Ed Miliband is no Tony Blair. Good thing too, some might say, but in terms of achieving broad support Miliband could learn a thing or too from his former boss.

    I don’t think that relying on the coalition becoming more unpopular will do. People want a credible alternative and positive reasons to vote for a different party. But from those I’ve spoken to, Labour doesn’t yet fit the bill.

  3. mr. Sensible

    it is important to remember that this is a Tory government.

    I think Labour started to make progress in England last week, taking councils in some of the marginals, for example Gedling.

  4. Robert

    In Scotland the SNP are seen as more progressive then Labour, if your sick disabled then without doubt the SNP are seen as a better choice if your a student then of course the SNP are your choice.

    Labour has a job to prove it’s a party of the left of the poor of the sick the disabled and the unemployed.

  5. Tim

    I am afraid Labours lack of enthusiasm for AV was not the way to win the centre… As a centrist voter I won’t forget that.

  6. oldpolitics

    “In Scotland the SNP are seen as more progressive then Labour, if your sick disabled then without doubt the SNP are seen as a better choice” – it’s interesting that Douglas Alexander thinks the opposite – from Progress:

    “Alexander places the blame for the party’s defeat in Scotland squarely at the feet of what he terms ‘traditional Labour’ and believes that this has implications that go beyond Scotland: ‘In the end the Labour campaign presented traditional Labour: nothing for people to object to but too little [to] seize the agenda. It should be a lesson for Labour right across the country that our traditional support and our traditional strategy aren’t enough even in places which people think of as traditionally Labour.’

    While he accepts that the party’s campaign faced a formidable enemy in the SNP – with its high-profile leader, clear strategy, bountiful resources, and the backing of News International – Alexander believes Labour was fatally wounded by its lack of support among the Scottish middle class.”

    Would need better polling data to declare one of you right and one of you wrong, but the difference in perspective is interesting.

  7. Will Straw

    Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  8. Nik Darlington

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  9. Peterward

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  10. Rosie

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  11. Luke Mallett

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  12. Phelim Brady

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  13. Lance Price

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  14. Anon E Mouse

    Mr. Sensible – Will you please read what this article is saying before posting your comments. The Tory vote in England increased last week – they gained more seats despite the unpopular cuts.

    Your comment completely misses the point. There never was a “progressive” political party in the UK. It’s as stupid a term as “The Third Way”, is completely meaningless and serves only to make people who advocate the nonsense it encompasses look weird.

    Even if there was a “progressive” majority in this country they would have won the AV Referendum last week rather than being resoundingly thrashed. If the Labour Party continues along this clearly unpopular line they are doomed.

    At least Douglas Alexander understands this and how badly Labour did at the General Election (and clearly their whacking last week) which is a step forwards I suppose considering the numbers of “useful idiots” posting their fairy tales about Labour on this fine blog.

    Remember the Lib Dem’s vote went down at the last election and the sooner Labour activists start being honest the sooner they may start to look electable again. All the evidence in the polls show they most certainly are not as it stands and Ivan Lewis and Douglas Alexander understand that are just being honest.

    A refreshing change for Labour MP’s I would argue…

  15. Richard

    The downfall of Labour in Scotland was that it ran a UK general election campaign, not a Scottish assembly campaign.

  16. Hilary Burkitt

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  17. Johanna Baxter

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  18. Nick Forbes

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  19. Anon E Mouse

    Robert – Yet again Labour supporters look for excuses instead of facing up to the facts.

    No one cares why they lost (and you have no way of knowing if you are correct or if the Scottish electorate has just had enough of Labour and their lies and spin) a majority of voters in this country, most clearly illustrated in Scotland, are just glad they did.

    Labour lost. Move on and look positivity towards the future instead of griping about the past. Next you’ll be claiming the financial mess this country is in is all down to the bankers…

  20. Jo Cox

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  21. David H. Dickson

    RT @wdjstraw: Great line from @DAlexanderMP – "Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d'œuvre not the main course" //bit.ly/l5HFOV

  22. Cahal

    Ahhhh, stop framing issues as markets vs state!

    This motivated me to make a post: //www.tmmblog.co.uk/?p=1966

  23. Mark Gallagher

    Oh how I wish we could go back out on the doorsteps and tell them that their aspirations for a 3rd car, villa in Spain and a new kitchen were top of Labour’s priorites as opposed to decent bus services, an affordable council house and food on the table. Maybe then all those dissafected Tory voters could have found a comfy home with New labour. Strange then that the most left wing Labour MSP Elaine Smith was re-elected with 52% of the vote.

  24. Anon E Mouse

    Mark Gallagher – The jocks have always had a left wing agenda so they can suck money from England and your comparison between New Labour and Labour is just an excuse because some leftwing MP’s vote went up despite Labour being crushed in their previous heartlands.

    Are you seriously asking people on this fine blog to believe that people in the United Kingdom are interested in any type of Socialist politics when that flawed system has been rejected in almost every country in the world and the one’s it hasn’t been are only a matter of time.

    Ed Miliband is useless and socialism is dead and if Labour attempt to adopt more left wing policies instead of reaching out to the electorate they can prepare for opposition for a long time. There is no evidence that the people in this country want socialism any more than those in North Korea…

  25. Mark Gallagher

    nice to see a bit of racism rearing its head along with reactionary conservatism

  26. Anon E Mouse

    Mark Gallagher – I’m assuming you’re not aiming that remark at my last post surely?

    Is the left so twisted that it cannot respond to a remark without the smearing attitude so prevalent in New Labour.

    Seems to me the least popular Prime Minister in history, Gordon Brown’s influence is alive and well.

    Oh and by the way the jocks are not a race – just a bunch of money sucking hypocrites who are allowed to vote on laws that don’t affect their own country. To suggest calling someone a jock is racist is frankly pathetic.

    Why no comment on my remark about the collapse of socialism worldwide?

  27. Mark Gallagher

    sorry not racism, xenophobia then

  28. Anon E Mouse

    Anyone Listening – And now the control freaks are in action at Labour again

    //www.politicshome.com/uk/article/27774/ivan_lewis_tells_it_how_it_is.html.

    Ivan Lewis, David Miliband and clearly Douglas Alexander all agree with the position I have been forwarding for over 12 months – mainly because it’s true – and now the party machine are censoring Lewis for his truthful comment:

    “A party which overspent without delivering sufficient value for money. A party which talks a lot about rights but not enough about responsibility.”

    We all know this comment is true. We all know that Shamik’s report here regarding Douglas Alexander is true. What on earth is wrong with Labour activists who keep denying the truth?

    When are you Labour supporters going to realise that spinning and telling lies will not get you elected again?

  29. Mark Gallagher

    if you’re so anti-Labour why do you care?

  30. Anon E Mouse

    Mark Gallagher – xenophobia?

    Don’t think so – I have hatred of no man on this planet. As I previously stated I do not like the way the jocks suck our money – it is an inequitable system and isn’t fair. Unlike the Tories and Labour I don’t care about the union I’m afraid.

    Anyway you continue to smear me without answering the question posed about your socialist dinosaur support and as someone claiming to support a left wing state why aren’t you annoyed things between the jocks and English aren’t fair?

    We are not all equal it seems yet you do show rank hypocrisy Mark Gallagher by your position….

  31. Anon E Mouse

    Mark Gallagher – As a lifelong Labour voter who stopped voting when Blair’s Full Third Term wasn’t and that awful unelected control freak Gordon Brown was forced on the country I gave up.

    Tell you what though I’d rather we had an opposition that was electable and this one clearly isn’t – not just because of the hapless Ed Miliband but because they are not being honest – or weren’t until today.

    The opposition in this country should not be newspapers like the Daily Mail and The Sun but until Labour actually get a grip that is the situation that remains I’m afraid…

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