Sunday, 30 September 2012

Guess whose book has just come out in paperback

Peter Hain was at odds with Harriet Harman on Radio Wales this morning by calling for a Labour/LibDem coalition.

As I commented earlier, such calls are either mischievous or wishful thinking, because the electoral arithmetic in 2014 or 2015 is going to be very different from that of today. There are even signs from council by-elections this year that Labour support is already receding from its peak in May.

The pro-coalitionists point to the appointment of Paddy Ashdown as election campaign chief as evidence that the Liberal Democrats are planning for another LibLab pact in 2015. Certainly, Paddy was in favour of merging the two parties when Blair was Labour leader, but then Alex Carlile was another who wanted to join us to Labour in 1997. Lord Carlile now favours merger with the Conservatives. I'm not saying that Paddy is on the same trajectory, but that things change over fifteen years. I sense that, after two years of participating in government, Liberal Democrats in parliament at least have more self-confidence, enabling them to make more objective choices as to who to collaborate with.

What I most objected to this morning was Mr Hain's claim that the coalition was more right-wing than Thatcher. In so far as "far right-wing" means anything, it calls to mind authoritarianism and the suppression of civil liberties. It should be remembered that Labour introduced detention without trial, locking up refugee children, enabling people to be arrested for taking photographs near public buildings and, if the 2010 election had not intervened, would have introduced compulsory ID cards and a central database of personal details of every citizen.

That was all ended in coalition, thanks largely to Liberal Democrats. As well as acknowledging and apologising for its acceptance of Thatcherite economics, Labour should also roll back its illiberal social policies.

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