Thursday, 14 April 2011

Why Labour members should switch to the Liberal Democrats

This article on LibDem Voice is worth quoting in full, the couple of references to England-only policy notwithstanding:

If you’re Labour, and want to be an MP in a safe seat, switching to the Lib Dems would be a bad move. Perhaps you like authoritarian policies on law and order, and prefer to avoid difficult decisions on the deficit. If so, the Lib Dems isn’t the party for you.
But maybe you think politics isn’t black and white, that there is good and bad in all the parties, and so working together is a good thing. Perhaps you think that the government should do what will work on law and order, rather than pander to the tabloid press, and that we shouldn’t run a deficit, to live better at our children’s expense.
In 1997, many took a good long look at the Labour party and liked what they saw: the party seemed to be committed to financial prudence, to reforming our outdated constitution and increasing personal liberty.
Today, the picture is very different.
Labour fuelled a consumer debt bubble, ran large deficits in a boom, and failed to regulate the banks properly. Its constitutional reform programme stalled after the first term, and it pandered to the tabloid press with ever more authoritarian measures.
After the last election, with 57 MPs, the Liberal Democrats had a limited hand. But unlike Labour in 1997, 2001 and 2005, they have actually delivered a referendum on AV. Nick Clegg has recently announced progress towards an elected House of Lords. Lib Dem influence has allowed moderate Tories like Ken Clarke to introduce progressive policies** that would have been unthinkable under either the Conservatives or Labour.
Opponents of the Lib Dems constantly refer to Tory policies which we’ve failed to stop, and to the austerity caused by the deficit. But considering the massive deficit, and that the Tories have over five times as many MPs, it’s amazing what has been achieved.
The Lib Dems are attacking the poverty trap, taking many of the low paid out of income tax and giving vital backing to IDS’s Universal Credit. We’ve restored the link between pensions and earnings, and we’re changing the funding of schools to give an incentive to take on pupils from poor backgrounds*.
And that’s just the headline grabbing initiatives. By the end of this parliament, there will be a myriad of low profile policies in place which help the underprivileged, protect our freedoms and enhance our democracy. Behind the scenes, our MPs and peers are battling to limit Tory initiatives which are poorly thought out or which hurt the poor. They don’t win every battle, but they’ve had a lot of success.
Some Labour supporters pretend that the structural deficit can be fixed with cyclic growth. They argue that Labour cuts wouldn’t hurt, despite what we can see happening in local government.
But perhaps there are Labour members reading this article who know better. Maybe you voted for David Miliband, because you wanted a leader who would be more honest about the country’s financial problems. Perhaps you are appalled to see Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor.
Loyalty to friends and colleagues is commendable. But, if you believe both in social justice and financial responsibility, you have an alternative.
Joining the Lib Dems won’t be popular, and working to deal with the most serious peacetime deficit on record will be incredibly difficult. But anyone who joins out of both idealism and realism has a lot to contribute. And that is reward in itself.
* Welsh Liberal Democrats are offering this in their manifesto for the Welsh general election
** Ken Clarke is not totally credible as a liberal. His conversion to alternatives to prison seems to be driven mostly by economic expediency.

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