5 ideas to unite Lib-Labbery. But I’m not holding my breath, Vince

by Stephen Tall on January 6, 2016

Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling yesterday posed the blunt question: what’s the point of Labour’s right-wing?

“Labour’s right-wing” I think referred to everybody to the right of Jeremy Corbyn, a minority of Labour members but an overwhelming majority of Labour voters.

I liked Chris’s suggestions for ideas to re-invigorate the sensible rump of Labour, what he terms centre-leftism, but which at first sight appears to be a summary of the Lib Dem manifesto:

If I were [the centre-left], I’d be arguing for some of the following:

– “Make work pay”. Shift taxes from labour to land and inheritances, and defend tax credits as a better way of topping up low pay than minimum wages.

– Openness. Leaving the EU, or controlling immigration, are no solutions at all, but simply mean-spirited little Englanderism.

– Empowerment. It’s possible– with careful institutional design – that giving people more choice (pdf) in public services will improve outcomes.

– Public sector investment. As Simon says, you can combine this with “fiscal responsibility” in the sense of wanting governments to run a balance on the current budget.

– Improve productivity. UK productivity lags well behind that of other countries. Policies to tackle this might include investment in early years education and freer migration (pdf).

I’m not at all sure such liberal ideas will actually appeal to Labour’s right, which is usually notable more for its centralising authoritarianism. But if they did, then perhaps there would be space for Vince Cable’s vaunted Lib-Lab cooperation.

But we have, of course, been here many times before. The intellectual appeal of such ideas appears to recede the closer we draw to an election, as tribalism reasserts itself. Much as I’d love to be proven wrong, I don’t see that changing.