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The Lib Dems can work constructively with Labour - if they learn from their mistakes under Corbyn

3 min read

The next Labour leader must be pragmatic, provide clarity on Brexit, and stand resolute in rooting out the anti-Jewish hatred that gained momentum under Corbyn, writes Tim Farron MP. 

In any competition – be it sport or politics – ‘post-match’ analysis is crucial. For a political party, there is nothing to be gained from an election if we don’t stop to learn lessons from the outcome. This will be a crucial first task for the new Labour leader, as much as it will for my own party, the Liberal Democrats.

For Labour this period of reflection will be on top of the hefty task of repairing a fractured party. Corbyn’s neutrality on the most important question of the day, his dogmatic pursuit of unrealistic ideals, his fantasy economics, and his feebleness in tackling prejudice within the party, was a recipe for complete failure.

Corbyn’s message proved toxic across large swathes of the United Kingdom. What’s more, fear of Corbyn had knock on consequences for the Liberal Democrats, driving voters towards Boris Johnson’s Tory party in a bid to ‘keep Corbyn out’. This was made even worse by Labour’s damaging decision to target the Liberal Democrats, even in seats they knew they couldn’t win like Cities of London and Westminster, and Finchley and Golders Green. The result: in a first past the post system, even more Tories were elected into Parliament, despite Liberal Democrats securing a bigger swing towards us than any other party, and winning an extra 1.3 million votes.

Over the next few weeks and months Labour will be choosing a leader who will set the direction of their party through the new Parliament and maybe even beyond. Based on the outcome of the recent General Election, Labour MPs, members and the wider UK population, will know that a radical change of course is urgently needed.

To take the party forward, Labour’s new leader will have to foster a united movement from a shattered party base. To succeed, she or he must be pragmatic, provide clarity on the questions that will continue to be asked on Brexit, and stand resolute in rooting out the anti-Jewish hatred that gained momentum under Corbyn. Only by introducing real change at the very core of the party can the new leader – whoever they may be – hope to lead a party capable of ousting Boris Johnson from Number 10 in a future general election.

They will be taking on a vital leadership role in the face of a Tory government that has been galvanised by a strong election performance. The importance of the opposition parties in providing robust scrutiny of Johnson’s regime cannot be underestimated: as Boris Johnson showed during the election campaign, if there’s an opportunity for scrutiny, he will duck. The new Labour leader, working alongside the Liberal Democrats and other opposition parties, must make certain that this dishonest Prime Minister has nowhere to hide.

Hopefully Labour’s new leader will provide genuine opposition to the Conservatives. As Liberal Democrats, we have seen first-hand the benefits of working pragmatically with other parties during this election with the Unite to Remain project. We showed that - where our values and aims overlap - there is room to share the political space. It would be remarkable - even revolutionary - if the new Labour leader chooses to take the party forward by working constructively with fellow opposition parties in the House of Commons to build a more positive future for our nation, which so many are crying out for.


Tim Farron is a Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale and Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Housing, Communities and Local Government and North of England.

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