Ed Miliband tried to widen the divide inside the Liberal Democrats yesterday by inviting disaffected members to play an important role in Labour's root-and-branch review of its policies. The Labour leader sought to exploit the tensions inside Nick Clegg's party after the Government's decision to raise university tuition fees, saying that Liberal Democrats could work closely with Labour without leaving their own party.
Mr Miliband made clear that he wanted Labour to build close links with disenchanted Liberal Democrats to revive hopes of a progressive alliance between the two parties. He also made clear that he would demand Mr Clegg's resignation as the price of any deal between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in a future hung parliament. "I would find it very difficult to work with Nick Clegg," he said. At his first monthly press conference, Mr Miliband announced that Richard Grayson, the Liberal Democrats' former director of policy, would work with Liam Byrne, the Shadow Cabinet minister who is heading Labour's two-year policy review, on how the process could be influenced by Liberal Democrats.
"I think there's real disquiet on the left and indeed centre of the [Liberal Democrat] Party about the way the party is going," Mr Miliband said.
"There are many people who are deeply frustrated and even ashamed at the way their progressive tradition has been hijacked by the Coalition. To those who are reluctant to abandon ship but are concerned about the direction of their party, I invite them to work with us on issues of common interest."
Mr Miliband said there was common ground between Labour and Liberal Democrats on social mobility, the economy, electoral reform, civil liberties, the environment and fairness. He accused Mr Clegg of being used by a Prime Minister whose "real purpose was to justify an economic agenda of the right".
SeniorLiberal Democrats said there was little prospect of any official co-operation until the Labour leader dropped his demand for Mr Clegg to stand down. Insiders criticised Mr Grayson for "colluding" with Labour.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president, said: "Labour has just spent 13 years sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and George Bush – why would any sane progressive even give it a second glance? As part of the Coalition Government, Liberal Democrats have started fixing Labour's economic mess."