Labour First attacks creation of Labour for Democracy as “a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners”

4th December, 2012 11:51 am

Labour First have condemned the creation of the new “Labour for Democracy” group within the party, which according to the Independent will “will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens” and “will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.”

The Independent reports that the Group is “an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.”

Speaking to LabourList this morning, Secretary of Labour First, Luke Akehurst, said:

“The creation of this misnamed group, “Labour for Democracy” is a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners who are working flat out to beat all our political opponents, Greens and Lib Dems as well as Tories, UKIP and BNP, as we did comprehensively in the recent by-elections.

It is completely premature and defeatist to start flirting with the Lib Dems when all the opinion polls and by-elections show we have a
realistic chance of a majority Labour government.

We need to continue to squeeze the Lib Dem and Green votes in order both to take seats off them and seats off the Tories. Any move which rehabilitates the Lib Dems and lets them off the hook for having put the Tories in power actually increases the chances of another hung parliament. Their behaviour in 2010 indicates their preferred coalition partner is the Tories.

We had naive talk about pluralism in 2010. The people making those noises should have learned their lesson. The Lib Dems are not a progressive party and the Greens are an anti-working class and anti-economic growth party. We should be seeking to defeat them both intellectually and at the ballot box, not pandering to them.”

  • Matthew S. Dent

    Oh good, an internal party slap-fight. I was just thinking that was what we needed.

  • Michael Carey

    What an an unedifying spectacle. ‘Labour for Democracy’ sounds like a ridiculous front. And is ‘Labour First’ made up of just Luke Akehurst or what? All this factionalism makes me want to jump over and join the Trotskyists, where the petty, pointless sectarianism isn’t quite as bad. No even better, I’m making my own faction.

  • Alan A

    To win, Labour needs to conquer the centre ground, not to form a coalition of fringe parties. The second strategy would be a disaster – it would give the impression that Labour itself was fringe.

    Have a close look at The Greens for example. They narrowly avoided passing a 9/11 Troof motion at their conference a couple of years ago, we’re constantly unmasking candidates as involved in various far Right causes.

  • Thomas Wright

    I suppose we should consider this a preview of the next election. When forming progressive alliances is “a slap in the face” for local activists, we know that party politics has has become more important than our values.

  • NT86

    “The Lib Dems are not a progressive party and the Greens are an
    anti-working class and anti-economic growth party.”

    The irony! I like Ed Miliband a lot and have much time for the Labour movement, but don’t tell me that New Labour/Progress cared about the working class. For Luke Akehurst of all people to criticise the Greens for being anti-working class reeks of hypocrisy and misinformation. I don’t vote Green, but many of their policies like renationalisation of the railways and the living wage (which in fairness the Miliband brothers support) directly appeal to working class voters. I have doubts about their anti-science credentials more than anything.

    Also, the meaning of “progressive” has been diluted so much. Every party on the left, right and centre claim that they are progressive so to attack the Lib Dems with not being progressive is a very weak one. They’re guilty of being complicit to Tory policy, so I’d say backstabbing or traitorous are better descriptions.

  • AlanGiles

    Luke Akehurst, said:

    “the Greens are an anti-working class and anti-economic growth
    party. We should be seeking to defeat them both intellectually and at
    the ballot box, not pandering to them.”

    “Pandering” to those of us who wish to protect the planet, or worrying about the very real problem of global warming?. If you say, so Mr Akehurst.

    Being lectured by him on the working class is as laughable as a lecture from David Blunkett on personal morality, or James Purnell on ethical expenses claims.

    I’d go and have a nice lie down in a dark room Mr A.

  • Robbie Scott

    The Labour party doesn’t have all the answers and i think it’s good to have a framework for collaboration. Calling the greens ‘anti working class and anti economic growth’ is as hyperbolic and ridiculous as calling Labour in light of the past 12 years the party of privatisation and war. It’s just meaningless and doesn’t really get us anywhere.

    I think we ought to be willing or at least prepared to collaborate with greens and liberals, this is really important at the local government level and more so if you factor in Independent Mayors and Police Commissioners. There is nothing stopping you fighting hard at an election, this just allows you to have a cordial relationship concerning policy between them.

    It’s also good to see Neal Lawson and Baroness Ruth Lister from Compass at this launch.

    • Redshift1

      Whether or not he’s right about the Greens, this obsession with Lab-Lib coalition is obviously mindless at the present moment. Pluralism for pluralisms sake.

      Start making overtures to a bunch of people who have betrayed their voter base now, and all those Lib Dem votes that have flocked to us since 2010, will start unravelling.

      Neal Lawson should stop fannying around with think tanks and go and recruit some people to the Labour Party.

  • Ben Cobley

    I do find this attack on the Greens by Luke Akehurst most illuminating – “anti-working class” and anti-economic growth” eh? Leaving the first of those to one side (though it’d be good to have a bit of evidence for it), the anti-economic growth comment is interesting, basically exposing Luke’s complete capitulation to the neo-liberal idea that economic activity in and of itself is a moral good (so, someone buying a service off someone is morally superior to it being provided voluntarily). Overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change doesn’t seem to figure at all.

    In a contest between preventing catastrophic climate change for the sake of our
    children and their children, and driving GDP forward at all costs, I know which side I’d come down upon. This is surely the most fundamental political issue of our age, and it is sad that influential Labour figures regard it just as something inconvenient to their ideology that the party should brush under the carpet. So I’m definitely in the ‘talking rather than tribalism’ camp. These issues go much deeper than party politics.

    • Alan Ji

      ” a contest between preventing catastrophic climate change for the sake of our
      children and their children, and driving GDP forward at all costs”
      There is no such contest.
      Spend £200 to £300 improving the insuaotion in the roof of your house and get your money back in reduced bills in 2 years.
      For owner-occupiers, that;s about the best investment on offer. For Councils, well lots of Labour Councils have already done it for their tenants, what have the Green Party done?

  • brianbarder

    We need a reasonably healthy LibDem party as an ally in hard times (such as a hung parliament, of which there’ll surely be more) and also to keep the Tories out of marginals where the fight is between the LibDem and the Tory. There’s also sometimes a role for the LibDems in keeping Labour honest, e.g. on a number of civil liberties issues on which New Labour’s record was dismal and One Nation Labour has so far been no better. There are always going to be progressive and liberal-minded people who won’t join or vote Labour for one reason or another (snobbery, worries about the trade unions, dislike or mistrust of specific Labour MPs or candidates or front-benchers; people who are committed never to vote Labour again by shame and anger at Blair and Straw over Iraq , etc.) and we need the LibDems to keep such people on the left-of-centre side of politics rather than giving up on them too and either losing interest and not voting at all, or being seduced into supporting some rabble like Respect or even UKIP.

    On policies and values the LibDems have more in common with Labour than with any other party (however badly they may sometimes behave in local government and, of course, in the coalition); we should never treat them as an enemy. Of course we should go all out for a Labour overall majority at the next general election, but with the current widespread disillusionment with politics across the spectrum being expressed in increased support for single-issue and barmy or sinister minor parties, it’s very much on the cards that none of the bigger parties will win an outright majority in the Commons in the foreseeable future. The total demise of the LibDems — a real possibility at the moment — would not be in Labour’s interests. Labour’s policy-makers and long-term thinkers, if any, should certainly be discussing quietly with the progressive wing of the LibDems the areas of common interest and policy on which the two parties could and should promise each other support before the next election — not necessarily or even probably in a formal coalition, and whether or not the result is another hung parliament. (Labour should be keeping discreetly in touch with the Green[s], too.)

  • tcgriffin

    Are we sure that the Independent’s headline is a fair reflection of the groups aims? There”s no doubt that the time for Compass-style coalition building has passed, but I’m not sure that’s what’s being advocated here.

    it seems that there’s nothing in the actual reported comments that is different from what Tony Blair did in 1997, i.e. ensuring opposition support that allowed a majority Labour government to isolate the Tories and implement its agenda on the basis of a broad consensus.

  • Kayleigh Anne

    It’s from Luke Akehurst? Okay, that explains a lot. Besides, we were due another petty internal party whine-off some time soon. It just isn’t Labour without it. *waves red flag*

  • Karl Hungus

    It’s ‘completely premature and defeatist’ to talk about the next election. Well how about the last one? The combined vote forprogressive parties (I’d include Plaid Cymru and the SNP alongside the Lib Dems and the Greens) was well in excess of the Tories. But the fractured nature of the left means that we now have a Government who don’t acknowledge the importance of tackling climate change or wealth inequality, or really care about the people who depend on properly funded public services

    Can we stop this happening again in future? It won’t work for Labour to just shout the other parties out of existence. The Greens have a different niche, with their environmental identity and economic position to the left of Labour. The Celtic parties are equally distinct. The Lib Dems less so, but they are a more entrenched part of our politics, and are also rooted in an entirely different tradition. In addition, Labour needs to acknowledge that the trade-off made by Tony Blair, alienating ardent supporters
    in order to win over a greater number of floating voters, wasn’t all upside.

    So these parties aren’t going to go away (nor should anyone necessarily want them to, looking at the two-party system in the USA). The question is how to resolve the paradox of left-leaning parties helping, in some ways, the right to get elected. It’s
    funny that it’s compass types who are encouraging dialogue and practical
    solutions, while arch-pragmatist Luke Akehurst refuses to engage with reality,
    or to accept that people outside the Labour Party might have anything of value
    to contribute to the left

  • Gavin Juniper

    UKIP will love this. The LibDems are a dead party now. There’s room within the party for every conversation to be heard. That’s what sets us apart. Bad idea.

  • Pingback: ‘Labour against Sin’ launched today | Left Futures()

  • NT86

    I wouldn’t call the Lib Dems a fringe party, despite their dwindling support. As it stands they have 57 MPs, so a fringe they ain’t.

    Labour conquered the centre ground 3 elections running. They didn’t exactly lose it because the Tories didn’t get a majority and many Labour voters probably stayed home in 2010. Now the dynamics have shifted considerably, because it is UKIP that’s splitting right wing votes with the Tories.

    So Luke Akehurst’s tribalist nonsense was completely unnecessary.

    • Alan A

      Naah, UKIP will undermine but not split the Tory vote.

      Greens are the fringe lot. The Lib Dems are just silly and unfocused.

  • Redshift1

    It is a rare moment but I 100% agree with Labour First on this one.

    • Redshift1

      Absolutely bizarre to have coalition with the Lib Dems even remotely on the radar at the moment.

      Not to mention the fact they have betrayed every left-of-centre voter that ever gave them a cross; another hung parliament is unlikely and given that that they are facing the prospect of a massive cull of their MPs – it is even more unlikely that they will hold the balance of power.

      This will be the work of Neal Lawson and his kind. The truth is a party is a political vehicle. What I don’t understand is why people like him want to try and drive more than one at once.


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