Basically, Grayson, former Lib Dem director of policy, argues that the Lib Dems should start thinking about a coalition with Labour. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but along the way he makes some fairly startling assertions.
- Grayson suggests that Lib Dems disillusioned over tuition fees could find a home in the Labour party. This is absurd. Labour introduced tuition fees, top-up fees and commissioned the Browne report. Does anybody seriously think if they had won the election they wouldn’t have introduced a similar system – and indeed probably one that was less fair?
- Labour haven’t put any concrete alternative on the table. Their leader and Shadow Chancellor can barely agree on a policy. And the one Ed M proposes was specifically rejected and ruled out by Labour in government.
- ‘Liberal Democrat leadership exceptionally close to the Conservative leadership’ – what a remarkably silly assertion. Does Dr Grayson not understand the concept of coalition government? Our leadership (and of course our membership too at the Birmingham Special Conference) and Tory leadership have agreed the coalition programme and are delivering it. This means they have to work together in a constructive fashion in the best interests of the country – hardly unreasonable. But I suppose after three years of a bloke whose definition of 'working together constructively' involved chucking printers around the office, civil co-operation probably will get mistaken for being 'exceptionally close'. And after 13 years of the Blair-Brown saga the idea of people from the same party working together is pretty novel, let alone people from different parties.
- ‘Liberal Democrat members have more in common with Labour and Green members than we do with our own leadership.’ Really? I certainly don’t have very much at all in common than Labour members - the vast majority of whom supported the Labour whilst it went to war in Iraq, introduced ID cards, tried to introduced 90 days detention without trial, massively increased the use of PFI, flunked the chance to scrap the House of Lords and introduce PR, locked up immigrant kids and dumbed down the education system. And I couldn’t be further from the type of people who ran Labour’s campaign in Oldham at the last General Election and the many (although I accept not all) Labour MPs and members that have defended him. If Dr Grayson feel he has more in common with them than Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg that’s his choice – but I fear that says more about him than it does about our leadership.
- Dr Grayson then goes on to argue that Ed M is a pluralist politician. Again, I think the three years of Gordon Brown have really lowered the bar for what you have to do to be considered pluralist. He must have missed Ed’s expressed desire to make the Liberal Democrats ‘extinct’ and conveniently forgotten that Ed M appointed Phil Woolas to his front bench team – as Immigration Minister no less – despite his appalling campaign against the Liberal Democrats in Oldham. He has consistently attacked the Liberal Democrats at every turn. That is his right, but it is hardly the action of a pluralist politician.
- And Dr Grayson’s main piece of evidence that Ed is indeed a pluralist? The fact that he is supporting AV. OH MY GOD – a Labour politician supporting a policy that was in the manifesto he personally wrote counts as radical pluralism, words fail me.
- For Dr Grayson to attack Nick Clegg for quoting JS Mill too much is rather odd as well. JS Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ is the text passed from President to President of our party for good reason – it is the defining text of Liberalism. Dr Grayson also has a rather alarming lack of understanding of Mill. Mill himself wasn’t a man stuck in ‘1850s liberalism,’ he looks well beyond the traditional liberalism of his day, especially in his later years. He was campaigning for women to have the votes against socialists and trade unionists who wanted to keep women quiet in the home. Not only that, but I can think of no intellectual whose views I would rather have determining policy at the moment. A dose of Millite liberalism is what this country sorely needs after 13 years of social and economic authoritarianism from Labour. I would suggest Dr Grayson might benefit from reading Richard Reeve’s rather excellent biography of the great man.
- There is nothing wrong with us engaging with the Labour party in principle. But we are an independent political party, not merely Labour’s little brother. And if they want to co-operate with us then should start by apologising for all their deeply illiberal measures they took in government - and developing some policies that are a bit more liberal.