Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The enemy of my enemy...

According to Peter Kelner, Labour seems determined to follow the death road and elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Well, as we know polls may not be as reliable as they seem, so we will need to wait until the final agony is ground out. However if this deluded and dangerous man IS elected leader of the Labour Party, what then?

Well, for a start it may well be that Norman Baker's gloomy view of the UK as a one-party state is actually fulfilled. Certainly an electorate that was pretty reluctant to endorse Ed Miliband is unlikely to give more support to a party led by a leader from the pro-Russian far left.

To my mind it seems pretty clear that a new form of politics is still needed in the UK. Indeed without it there will not be a UK for very much longer. Across the political spectrum, from left to right, there is recognition that a new constitutional settlement is needed. This needs to create a looser and more federal structure for the nations and regions of the UK and also open up the mechanism of government through an elected House of Lords and a voting system that accurately gives the Parliament that we vote for. 

In a sense the election of Corbyn, by systematically destroying the Labour brand could create the conditions where groups of the left and centre can realign. In the short term this must be a realignment focused of a new constitutional convention for Britain, in the long term I would also hope for a new Radical force that can successfully challenge the complacent and privileged Conservatives, not merely by uniting the opposition, but by attracting those who defected away from the Liberal Democrats back to the Radical, Liberal fold.

Just before his death, Alastair Campbell says that Charles Kennedy called him suggesting a new party of the Radical Centre-Left. To my mind there is such an opportunity- and the creation of, for example, a Scottish Reform Party might be a way forward: offering the Scottish people a progressive, Federalist alternative to the Nationalist statism of the SNP.

After the experience of the SDP and then the SDP-Liberal Alliance and then the Social and Liberal Democrats many in the Liberal Democrat camp are wary of the prospect of co-operation, and even more so after the bruising experience of coalition government. However, it seems to me that the Liberal Democrats must start to offer radical political change if we are to make any headway at all. A "bloc for constitutional change" would have only a limited mandate after its election: to sit as a constituent assembly to pass an agreed platform of constitutional measures and then dissolve for elections under the new system. 

Yes this would mean a single bloc candidate in each constituency in order to win under the current system, but with the prospect of immediate elections under a proportional system within a year of the first, then perhaps this may not be an insurmountable obstacle. 

To me the debate in the Liberal Democrats as to the balance between Social and Economic Liberalism is so much hot air if we lack any means of executing any of our ideas. I believe that arid debates about Trident are simply self-indulgent: it is not even rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, it is more the band playing Abide with Me to keep our spirits up as the icy water flows around us.

I still believe that the Conservatives are merely the least disliked political party. As Tony Greaves writes in Liberator this issue, the Radicals must rediscover their campaigning mojo, if it is not to be another 50 years before we see Liberal voices back in government. However I believe there is now really only one campaign to fight: The battle for democratic change in our country. The election of Corbyn might be a catalyst that starts the Radical realignment. 

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