Not campaigning in a seat would be a betrayal of our voters
Following calls from Labour MPs to not put up a candidate in Richmond Park, John Spellar rejects the proposal and argues his party should not form a progressive alliance with the Liberal Democrats.
Like the change in the seasons, the idea of a “progressive alliance” regularly gets floated and every so often supporters of this pipe dream need to be brought back down to reality.
After the 2010 General Election – where David Cameron failed to gain an outright majority required to form a government – the Liberal Democrats had the opportunity to support a Labour minority administration, or form some kind of block with smaller parties to prevent the Tories from forming a government.
This idea was quashed by Nick Clegg’s decision to be tied at the hip with the Tories – a choice no-one forced the Lib Dems to make.
They had a generation-defining opportunity to keep out the Conservatives and to actually form an anti-Tory alliance – they rejected this in a cynical pursuit of power. They ended up endorsing a cruel, pro-austerity Tory government which has inflicted misery on our communities and failed to fix our nation’s economic problems.
This should be sufficient evidence that the Liberal Democrats cannot be trusted when it comes to any form of “progressive alliance”. That they are not “progressive” and that Labour should steer well clear of any alliance with them.
Entering government with the Tories was a betrayal of people who voted for them – after they promised their voters a whole range of undeliverable pledges and falsely positioned themselves to the left of Labour. (I must confess I find it somewhat amusing to watch Nick Clegg on the TV lamenting false promises made during the EU referendum campaign, but that is perhaps a matter for another column.)
Those who voted to scrap tuition fees were duped and ended up voting for a government which trebled them.
Across the country, we still see Liberal Democrats propping up Conservative-run local authorities such as York, despite Tim Farron’s attempt to rebrand the Lib Dems following their embarrassing spell in government and subsequent wipe-out.
Unfortunately, some of my parliamentary colleagues seem to have forgotten the miseries which the Liberal Democrats decided – and it was an entirely avoidable decision – to inflict on the most vulnerable in society – people who need Labour to be in a position to form a government.
In 2010, Bermondsey and Old Southwark parliamentary constituency had a Lib Dem majority of nearly 9,000. Presumably, if we were in some form of alliance with the Liberal Democrats, as touted currently, supporters of this “progressive alliance” would rather Labour members did not campaign in such seats?
Simon Hughes, the then Lib Dem MP voted with the Tories in support of the Bedroom Tax eight times. He did so despite the fact that there are more people hit by the bedroom tax in Bermondsey and Old Southwark than anywhere else in the country.
Not campaigning in such a seat would have been a betrayal of our voters and of the hardworking Southwark Labour Party – who managed to overturn Hughes’s majority into a 4,489 Labour majority – and put Neil Coyle MP in Parliament.
It is to the credit of the Southwark Labour group’s tenacity and unrelenting campaigns which led to a Labour gain.
The efforts of Southwark Labour – out on the doorstep across the borough pretty much every weekend, and in touch with local residents – should be replicated across the country in order to reach out and gain support to eventually win.
Implicit in the “progressive alliance” is the idea that Labour will not ever be able to form a majority government on its own.
This is not something we should willingly accept and it is all too reminiscent of the defeatist arguments in the eighties which were comprehensively demolished by our overwhelming victory in 1997.