Left the field
With Brexit extremists undermining their Prime Minister and Labour proving they are unelectable, it seems hardly credible that the forthcoming Liberal Democrat conference is almost irrelevant.
At a time when moderate politicians ought to be offering a new, properly funded, grassroots based alternative, they continue to operate in their tired tribal ways.
The resignation of the Labour whip by Frank Field last week shows the problem. It was a one off from a man who has always ploughed his own furrow at Westminster whilst ensuring a good press by courting lobby journalists. He has also had a poisonous relationship with constituency activists in two spells. In the 1980’s he was rescued from the Militants by the Neil Kinnock inspired purge. Many of the same people have returned because they feel free to resume their bullying tactics at constituency party meetings nowadays. It is not just in Birkenhead either. This summer I have heard what long standing Labour members are having to put up with elsewhere.
Field’s resignation is full of irony because he was one of the fools who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership in 2015 in the belief it would be fair to give this backbencher an opportunity to air his views prior to being defeated by someone like Andy Burnham.
Having landed the Labour Party with the unelectable Corbyn, Field now resigns alone with no vision as to how his, tough on scroungers/compassion to the needy social policy can be implemented. Would he join a new centre party? Probably not and there isn’t really one anyway.
Breaking the cable
There isn’t a centre alternative because the Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has failed in his year in office either to make his party relevant, or tell it the hard truth that it needs to be wound up in favour of a new centre party made up of Labour and Tory moderates, liberals, social democrats and crucially new unaligned people like Gina Miller. Miller forced the government to hold a parliamentary vote on triggering our exit from the European Union. Unfortunately, she is currently in the ranks of the pathetic centrists, saying she won’t enter formal politics, but that could change. In any case, as we saw in France, some inspiring centre leadership could bring a huge response from people who are desperate for a change from the current bitter mess.
Meanwhile the Lib Dems in Brighton are likely to spend their time arguing over Vince Cable’s idea of allowing the possibility of a non-MP becoming leader of the party. It is an odd idea because the parliamentary arena is still very important in terms of the profile of any party leader. It is also pretty insulting to deputy leader Jo Swinson and rising star Layla Moran. Cable is also toying with having registered supporters. This also has its weaknesses, ask the Labour Party. Also, I think people should be members of a party and do the hard work or not at all.
If Cable wants a broad tent to accommodate all moderate opinion, he must work with Labour and Tory moderates.
Shall I jump
Finally, we come to Labour moderate MPs who are understandably unconvinced about joining the Lib Dems. However, for two years now they have been resigning and taking jobs in Corbyn’s shadow administration whilst hinting that something is about to happen.
The nods and winks have got to stop. If they stay they must be reconciled to impotence. The National Executive election results shows that the left will be in charge for years. Forming a rebel Labour group in parliament would be an elitist move that would see them destroyed at the next election.
They need to build a new party quickly based on union (say the GMB) and ethical business funding. They need one other thing, never mentioned by the Westminster press, a major initiative to win over Labour councillors. That would help provide a sound grassroots base and avoid the fate of the SDP in the eighties that lacked a real organisational base.