Social Democrats must work together and forge the future of British politics

Today Keir Starmer was announced as the new leader of the British Labour Party.

Today Labour took its first but fundamentally necessary step to becoming a respectable and electable political party once again after four long and miserable years of the flawed and failed hard-left Corbyn experiment.

Corbyn was the worst opposition leader of my lifetime and, arguably, of all time.

His politics has no place in the mainstream and it and he can now return to the Commons backbenches and to the fringes of British politics…where they belong.

Keir Starmer was on Corbyn’s front-bench until the end, so must take at least some of the blame for what went wrong in those years.

But, demonstrably, he is a very different man and politician to the Member for Islington North.

Starmer is, clearly, a moderate, respectable, decent, serious Social Democrat.

Someone on the Centre-left of British politics.

Someone who, with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, will give people a real alternative to this failed and failing Tory Government; which is so badly led by a blundering buffoon with a mop of blond hair.

But I think he’ll need to work with others to achieve a progressive majority.

In short, he will need the Liberal Democrats.

Some may scoff at that now. My party does only have eleven MPs after all.

But we’ve come back before and we will again.

There’s years before the next likely general election and, with the right leader and focus on the bread and butter issues people care about, the Lib Dems could come out of that election with 20, 25, 30 MPs.

Then we’re in a potentially serious negotiating position.

Who would a Starmer led Labour party prefer to be in a Coalition with, should the need arise?

The independence obsessed Scottish Nationalists, who are fundamentally opposed to the very concept of the United Kingdom, or the Lib Dems who, in the Scottish Parliament they were in government with from 1999 to 2007, in the Welsh Assembly from 2000 to 2003 and from 2016 to the present day (with Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education in the Labour led administration) and in town halls up and down the land.

And, at our best, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have a lot of common ground on which to build.

Both with histories stretching back decades steeped in Social Democracy.

In the belief in an enabling government.

Which properly funds (and reforms) public services. Which redistributes wealth. Which demands that there must be a robust safety net for those going through hard times.

That believes in our National Health Service; an organisation first conceived by that great Liberal William Beveridge in his groundbreaking report of 1942 and introduced by that great Labour government of 1945-51.

In our Welfare State, founded by the outstanding Liberal governments of the early years of the last Century and built upon by the Attlee post-war Labour government.

And in true and proper devolution; not just to the four nations of the UK but also to each region, city, town, village and hamlet.

There is one other issue, though, which desperately needs to be addressed but about which Labour has mostly been luke warm.

Fair votes.

We won’t be a proper, modern, 21st Century liberal democracy until every vote genuinely counts.

It’ll be a test of whether Keir Starmer is to be a genuinely different, radical (in the best sense of the word) and reforming Labour leader.

Will he back PR (proportional representation) for Westminster elections?

If he does and carries his party with him, he will have the respect and support not just of the Liberal Democrats but of many millions of people up and down this land who long for something better and who know that genuine reform of our democracy is the only way to achieve it.

In his 1997 speech to the Labour Party Conference the then shiny New Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said the following to the delegates in the hall and to the millions watching and listening at home, about working at the time with the Lib Dems (on constitutional matters, etc.)

“My heroes aren’t just Ernie Bevin, Nye Bevin and Attlee. They’re also Keynes, Beveridge, Lloyd George.

“Division among radicals, almost one hundred years ago, resulted in a 20th Century dominated by Conservatives.

“I want the 21st Century to be the century of the radicals.”

Twenty years in to this century, there’s still enough years left to make that dream of Blair and, indeed, Ashdown a reality.

Not a merging of our parties. No. We must remain separate and distinct.

But working together, where there’s common ground, to build that radical, progressive, social democratic nation that we both want to see? Yes!

Let’s get to work.




Published by mathewhulbert

I'm a former Broadcast Journalist and Borough Councillor (Lib Dem) and current Parish Councillor, Charity Trustee, School Governor and Policy Maker.

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