The Saturday Debate: Can a progressive alliance between the Lib Dems and Labour work?

by Stephen Tall on April 23, 2011

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

‘Can a progressive alliance between the Lib Dems and Labour work?’ That is the question asked in this month’s issues of Total Politics magazine, debated by Neal Lawson of the left-leaning Compass pressure group (who argues Yes) and Labour MP Michael Dugher (who says No).

Neal’s is a thoughtful piece, which recognises the ebbs and flows of history — but does not view them as inevitable. After al, it was only 13 years prior to the Coalition being formed that Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair were all set to unleash their joint Project on their largely unsuspecting parties. Who knows what the political situation might look like in, say, 5-10 years’ time?

Naturally Neal’s article is coloured by his anti-Coalition view, but there’s plenty of thought-provoking material, including his provocative wish-list of what the Lib Dems should do next. This excerpt offers the gist of his argument:

A cursory glance at British politics would suggest that such a realignment is further away than ever. But take a closer look. As with Labour, so the Liberal Democrats have been the victims of a takeover by a small, rather neo-liberal elite. There will be a reaction to this – and there already is; witness their conference vote on rejecting NHS reforms. And emember, too, that, unlike Labour, they are still a democratic party. …

Over in the Lib Dem camp I hope one of three things happens; either the social liberals should take back control of their party, or they should split between the small groups of Orange Bookers and the rest. Alternatively, a large block could leave and join Labour or the Greens, who are, by necessity, the other part of any progressive alliance. What they can’t do is stay indefinitely in a coalition with George Osborne.

Agree or disagree? Let us know what you think below…