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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Ed Miliband should get his own house in order

I see young Ed's been at it again.

When you're a bit short on ideas, it always helps to have a pop at your opponents. Ed's tactic has been to attempt to undermine the coalition by saying how terrible it is that Lib Dems have been working in government with a party that won the most seats at the election rather than propping up a discredited Labour administration that wasn't too keen on working with anyone else in any case.

For what seems the millionth time since he spoiled his brother's party and surprisingly won his party's leadership, Ed has again - according to the BBC website - "appealed to disaffected Liberal Democrat voters to work with the opposition against the coalition government". And for some reason the media keep thinking that this is news.

Simon Hughes is right to dismiss Ed's overtures as mere posturing. "Liberal Democrats took up the challenge and decided that Liberal Democrats in government would achieve far more towards a liberal Britain by joining and making more progressive the government rather than stepping back and allowing Britain to be run again by the Conservative Party on its own," explained Hughes.

It's an odd tactic from Miliband. Rather than criticising the decision to enter coalition, surely the Labour leader's arguments would have more clout if he focused not on the rights or wrongs of a few days back in May, but on the decisions of the government since. Like many Lib Dems, I was broadly supportive of the decision to enter coalition - although I would have preferred a Lab-Lib Dem arrangement rather than one with the Tories if the electoral arithmetic would have allowed it. However, while I am comfortable that the right decision was taken to partake in government, I am not quite so enthusiastic about many of the actions of the government since.

And it's the government record Ed Miliband should be scrutinising, rather than making irrelevant and ill-judged remarks about a decision made eight months ago which was determined in part by his own party's unwillingness to co-operate.

Not only does Ed Miliband have few ideas about policy, he clearly has few ideas in regards strategy and tactics either. Already the appeals to Lib Dems supporters to return to their "natural" home has become not only laughable but tiresome.

Some advice to Ed Miliband: if you want to win new recruits to your party, get your own house in order first. I for one would not consider leaving the Lib Dems but if I did I doubt I would be attracted to the Labour Party. I don't wish to be in a party whose democratic processes are more than questionable. I don't wish to be in a party whose record on civil liberties is truly dreadful. I don't want to be associated with a party that hypocritically speaks out against tuition fees, when it both implemented them and later increased them in spite of promises to the contrary. I won't join a party which is still committed to a philosophy of centralisation. And I won't so much as lend support to a party in complete denial about its role in creating the recession, let alone one with nothing positive to bring to the table in respect to how to actually clean up the mess.

What I do want is to belong to a party that actually has workable ideas on policy, and is engaged in implementing them. I want to be a member of a party that promotes civil liberties, that believes in decentralisation, that supports electoral reform and has genuinely democratic channels with the party structure. Importantly, I want to be in a party that, while recognising the need to cut responsibly, is committed to getting a renewed grip on the economy and has realistic plans for doing it.

Can you say that about Labour? I don't think so!

Ed - if you want to win over Lib Dems, you need to do more than bang on about how evil the coalition is. Your own party is in desperate need of reform - and a few ideas of its own. Why would any Lib Dem of conviction want to switch allegiance to a party with Labour's record on Higher Education, the economy, human rights, civil liberties, electoral reform, international relations...?

However difficult it is to be a member of a party in coalition making tough, uncomfortable and unpopular decisions, it is infinitely better than throwing in the towel and defecting to Labour. The undemocratic machinery and sub-Marxist pholosophy of sections of the Labour Party mean that Miliband's party can never be a home to any principled liberal, whatever the common ground between our parties.

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