Lib-Lab cooperation: there’s one easy way to find out if Labour are serious

by Stephen Tall on June 6, 2012

Today’s Guardian big-ups a call by Labour’s chief whip in the Lords, Lord Bassam, to his Lib Dem opposite number Lord Newby as a sign that ‘elements of the [Labour] party are preparing the ground for a possible Lib-Lab coalition after the next election.’

I have to say on first reading the tenor of Lord Bassam’s note strikes me more as told-you-so than conciliatory, but maybe I’m being over-sensitive — judge for yourselves from this excerpt:

“The last couple of years have been a bit bruising for your colleagues in this house, and no doubt they will be looking forward to a change of management to see if it brings some light relief … I would keep a weather eye on the general election and thereafter. Your background as a flexible friend of other parties may come in handy. Keeping lines of communication open to the official opposition party might serve you well in the longer term.”

But let’s give Lord Bassam the benefit of the doubt, and take The Guardian’s take at face value. As Lib Dem peer Lord (Matthew) Oakeshott points out, there’s an easy way for Labour to show their good faith for any future Lib-Lab cooperation: “Let’s team up against the dinosaurs to get the Lords elected.”

After all, an elected House of Lords has been both a Lib Dem and Labour manifesto pledge for decades, so even if the Tories ditch their long-standing commitment to Lords reform there’s still a Parliamentary majority in favour of it if Labour can get behind it. The questions is: will they? Or would they prefer to see reform fail for the satisfaction of needling the Lib Dems?

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.