Friday, 24 September 2010

Countering Labour criticisms

The Labour Party have looked to made a great deal of political capital from Liberal Democrat involvement in government.

Ed Miliband has been particularly keen to put the boot in, portraying the Lib Dems as a party of cuts and broken promises. He has suggested that disaffected Liberal Democrats should find a new home in the Labour Party, although his tone and rhetoric indicate he is more interested in creating headlines than winning people over.

At conference last week, we saw a rather pitiful attempt by the Liverpool Labour Party to lobby delegates - what Tim Farron referred to accurately as "pathetic...fourteen middle class kids yelling at you that you're a Tory". And we had the union-backed rally, which criticised the coalition for numerous, but unspecified, cuts to public services.

Labour has been opportunistic and tribalist in its supposed criticisms. Let's be honest, Labour is not interested in real debate about how to deal with the deficit effectively. It would rather resort to the politics of the lowest common denomoniator, writing off the Liberal Democrats as "sell outs" who have "betrayed" voters for their own narrow interests and are now "delivering cuts on a wide scale". Yawn!!!

For those of us who remember the aftermath of the Scottish elections and coalition talks in 1999, we will be familiar with these tired, pathetic and basically insulting arguments. We were accused of "selling out" then, only to be almost universally recognised now as having achieved - in coalition with some party called Labour - on tuition fees, elderly care, freedom of information, agricultural matters...

So, I decided to take a look at Labour's website. I was curious to know what they are actually saying about us. I found an interesting page, Liberal Democrats Broken Promises...the kind of place you'd expect to read some detailed and critical analysis of Lib Dem involvement in government, and perhaps even some ideas about alternative routes the Lib Dems could take.

I have to confess to being moderately disappointed. The only thing that Labour seem to have against us, in spite of all the talking up of "broken promises", "sell-outs" and "cuts" is the VAT increase announced in Osbourne's budget. Labour say that
"pensioners will be hardest hit by the VAT increase ...and have not been compensated for the extra costs with increases in tax allowances or benefits...No one voted for this unfair VAT increase. In the election, David Cameron said: 'We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT' [and] the Lib-Dems campaigned against a VAT increase...the unfair VAT increase to 20% is a broken promise that will hit the poorest hardest."

So that's it? Is that the best Labour have got? Some concerns about the VAT increase that may as well have been written by Simon Hughes? All the talk, finger-pointing and partisan vitriol from Labour - and the only argument of substance they have to back it up is a 2.5% rise in VAT. Admittedly it's something I found hard to accept as "fair", but to base an entire campaign to discredit the Lib Dem leadership on it seems a bit ambitious - not to mention disingenuous: what Labour don't explain anywhere is how they would have put together a responsible package of investment given the current state of the nation's economy.

What we're seeing from Labour is opportunism, pure and simple. It is a little unfortunate the Labour leadership appear to have short memories - at least in regards the success of the coalition in Scotland and the failure of the SNP, the Tories and sections of the media to discredit the Lib Dems as having sold out. They should know well enough that such short-term and personality focused tactics are counter-productive and tend to lead up dead-ends of tribalism and negativity.

And, if Labour really wish to press the point and paint our party as a bunch of opportunists who are willing to exchange principle for a share of power, can I remind them of the outcome of the 2007 Scottish elections? I vaguely remember Nicol Stephen refusing to enter coalition with the SNP due to a principled objection to Salmond's obsession with an independence referendum. Or don't Labour ever want the facts to get in the way of a good story?


Anonymous said...

So what's Ed Miliband going to do? Keep up the anti-Lib Dem "you've sold out" talk or actually come up with some ideas of his own? Come on, this is politics!

Anonymous said...

of course the lib dems have sold out, its just people like you who cant see it. The VAT increase proves this. Labour knows this and we know this.

Andrew said...

To the first "anonymous" (presumably you're not the same person): please take a look at my post on Ed Miliband. This outlines my own views on what Ed should do next and, yes, it's good politics for him to come up with ideas of his own!