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Friday 14 May 2010
Letters: Perspectives on Labour after Brown
Save us from the 'centre-left'
Miliband v Miliband would be ideal, because nothing could better encapsulate the takeover of the Labour Party by a subculture defined by its vitriolic hatred of that party, by an almost complete ignorance of it, and by an utter incomprehension of, and pathological distaste for, most of its Fabian and all of its non-Fabian roots: Radical Liberal, Tory populist, trade union, co-operative, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist, and so on.
Even if there is only one Miliband on the ballot paper, there will be no one who stands in any of those traditions, never mind anyone who understands them all, values them all, draws on them all, or has even so much as heard of at least some of them.
Instead, it will all be about "the progressive centre-left", which means something else entirely, and which specifically refers to where the wealthy anti-Labour leftist faction of political apparatchiks and their media retainers has ended up. Will everyone else finally get the message? It is time to start again.
Lanchester, County Durham
Welcome to the new right
The suggestion by Lord Mandelson and Alistair Campbell that Labour is now the only progressive party overlooks the facts of New Labour's performance over the past 13 years and the manifesto promises of the Conservatives and Lib Dems.
Since relinquishing any claim to socialist ideals by abolishing Clause 4, New Labour's swing to the right has resulted in the widening of the poverty gap, the removal of civil liberties, the proposed introduction of ID cards, the approval of the third runway at Heathrow and plans to replace Trident. Progressivism is an ideology that advocates moving forward towards more egalitarian economic policies and liberal social policies, but the reverse has happened under New Labour.
The new alignment of the three main parties now is Lib Dems to the left, the Tories in the centre and Labour to the right, which is why the Tories and Lib Dems are natural bedfellows, whereas Labour and the Lib Dems have little in common.
Let the people choose a leader
The Conservative and Liberal coalition provides stability for the country and enables Labour to reflect on the past 13 years and on the future direction of the party.
With Cameron and Clegg clearly setting out a radical agenda of political reform, Labour needs to re-examine the method by which it selects its leader. The old electoral college now looks tired in the TV debate age. Labour should agree to hold the first primary election in UK political history – it would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase the party's ideals and the visions of its next potential leaders.
Give them a fair chance
I am dismayed at the tone of the letters you chose to publish (12 May) regarding the extraordinary events of the past few days. Whining, moaning, prognosticating the direst consequences from the new coalition government, the writers showed this country at its miserable and mean-spirited worst.
Why not look for the opportunities rather than the threats? We have two young, vigorous, intelligent men who clearly want this country to be successful economically and to be able to hold its head high internationally and at home on issues such as fairness, decency and compassion.
I for one am delighted at the fact that the new cabinet is much stronger and more intellectually able than it would have been under any single party. I believe that the Lib Dem presence will temper the more extreme right-wing agendas of the Conservative old guard (just as I believe it would have tempered the hard-line left of Labour if the deal had gone that way.).
I think it is an excellent opportunity to look for better ways of governing and fairer ways of representing the views of the people, and to provide an example of how any group of people, no matter how disparate they may be philosophically, can put aside ideology to work for the common good.
I wish Cameron and Clegg the very best of good fortune. I hope the people of this country give them the chance they deserve.
The Independent and its political commentators have been astonishingly negative about the prospects for, and now the reality of, a Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
Clegg and Cameron have already shown great statesmanship, and their negotiating teams great skill and generosity, to get to this point. Of course this system is completely untried; there will be internal party tensions on both sides at some point, and there will be huge challenges ahead. But this partnership, even if it only lasts for one parliament, has a much greater potential than any of the alternatives which faced us for reshaping British politics for the better.
The realignment of the left which you seemed so keen on would never have ended the divisive and acrimonious nature of British politics, which many ordinary people have deplored for so many years.
This coalition might just change the political landscape and the tone of political debate in Britain for ever. The most partisan organs of the press will snipe from their usual bunkers, but the Coalition will need a fair wind from a paper like The Independent.
"It looks more promising than might have been expected; a project that does not deserve to be written off prematurely." – your leading article of 12 May on the Coalition.
Your enthusiasm is overwhelming! Pass the smelling salts; the future starts here and it's looking, well, sort of murky and indifferent really.
Have you ever considered motivation classes?
East Molesey, Surrey
Your front page (13 May) , together with the varied attitudes expressed by your correspondents and columnists, prompts me to point to that moment in the Church of England Marriage Service when, after the couple have declared their intention to make their vows of commitment to each other, the congregation is asked: "Will you, the families and friends of N and N, support and uphold them in their marriage vows now and in the years to come?"
In the national interest, I suggest we could do with an even wider-ranging "We will" to David and Nick's coalition.
The Rev Margaret Mascall
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have shown that they are willing to try to put aside their differences and work together to confront the great difficulties facing this country. Would it be too much to hope for a similarly constructive response from the press, so that they can have some space to put their plans into effect before everyone starts tearing them to pieces?
However much anyone might want to question the reasoning, viability or genuineness of the Con-Lib coalition there is one plain and simple fact that towers over the arrangement. This country has a government which comprises MPs who possess some 60 per cent of the national vote from the election.
I cannot think of the last time such a majority was held and it must surely justify healthy support.
Lib Dems head for oblivion
I fear that by forming a coalition government with the Conservative party the Liberal Democrats will be ruined.
In 1931 when the Liberals joined MacDonald's Conservative-dominated government it was soon apparent that the two parties could not work together and there was soon a split within the Liberal party. The party found itself unable to go along with some aspects of Tory policy, particularly on the introduction of tariffs. Internal party and government splits made the party unelectable for decades.
Nick Clegg will lead this party into the same situation. The base of support for the party in this last election was from those on the left who were disillusioned with the Labour party, and it cannot be ignored that swathes of votes will have been tactically used in Liberal-Tory marginals to keep out the very man who is now, thanks to Clegg, the Prime Minister.
Tony Blair once claimed that "Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile."
If Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats continue to sell out to Cameron in the manner they are currently, then the Liberals will have neither real power nor principles.
Those of us who had blithely assumed some kind of "progressive alliance" could be in the offing, woke to a nightmare scenario, wherein the Orange Bookists (including Clegg, Cable, Laws and Huhne) find common cause with economic liberals within the Tory Party (along with disaffected Blairites?) to construct a centre-right hegemony.
The emphasis on market solutions and voluntarism in the Orange Book sits quite comfortably with Cameron's "small-government, big society" aspirations. That would leave social democratic Lib Dems with only the option of being subsumed into the Labour Party – signalling a return to two-party politics.
A coup in the small print
If I understand what I am hearing, and if my maths is right, the new government is going to pass a law to keep itself in office until May 2015. On top of this, the new percentage of MPs required to force a change of government (55 per cent) will exceed the present number of non-Conservative MPs by 15. So even if the Liberal Democrats were to leave the coalition, an unprecedented number of by-election changes would be needed to topple the Government.
At the very least these are mammoth changes to our constitution – and yet the party that thought a referendum on the Lisbon treaty was essential is quite willing to make these changes through legislation alone. It seems to me that, in the small print of the coalition agreement, we are witnessing what amounts to a constitutional coup.
Cameron, prime minister of spin
Much is being made of David Cameron becoming the youngest British prime minister in 200 years. But it is more than that. He is also the first professional spin doctor to have secured this elevated post.
Let's not be mean: it was more than just massive funding of his party by Ashcroft and other wealthy friends combined with near-total print-media backing that, one way or another, helped him achieve his goal. Cameron's long campaign of unremitting spin and sloganising clearly played a key role in persuading enough of the electorate to back him and give him an edge over his rivals.
Now we must hope that those beneficiaries of Labour's enlightened social policy – including an enhanced NHS and education system, a progressively rising minimum wage, child tax credit, child trust fund, Sure Start centres, free nursery places and winter fuel payment for the over 60s – who voted for the Conservatives will be sufficiently cushioned against the accelerating loss of income that will arise when the impending public spending cuts and likely tax rises begin to take effect.
What did tactical voters expect?
Susie Rushton (Notebook, 13 May) and a number of your correspondents who voted for the Liberal Democrats and are now dismayed by the coalition with the Conservatives show a surprising selfishness and lack of political maturity.
Anyone looking at the opinion polls would have realised a hung parliament was a possibility. Given the numbers, a Lib-Lab pact was unlikely. What was Clegg to do? Refuse to speak to Cameron? Go off in a sulk because Labour didn't have enough seats? Watch the markets collapse while our political leaders fought for six months before another election?
I didn't want a Conservative government, but I applaud the maturity shown by Cameron and Clegg. There is a danger of rifts appearing, and dangers of the Conservatives conning the Lib Dems, but if the will to succeed for the country's sake is there I am confident a new era of co-operation is possible.
Mow Cop, Cheshire
Our local Lib Dem pre-election leaflets repeatedly hammered the message: "Labour can't win here; voting Lib Dem is the only way to keep the Tories out." On a national level we were given to believe this same rule applied to a great extent. I wonder just how many of us will ever again be fooled into thinking we are voting tactically. My future voting motto will be: Be true or betrayed.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
I am surprised to hear Lib Dem supporters claim that they did not vote for an alliance with the Conservatives. Surely the only voters who have got exactly what they voted for are the Liberal Democrats.
They have always wanted a system of proportional representation which would lead to a hung parliament. The inevitable result is that you will never know what you are voting for until it is too late – after the votes are counted and parties negotiate with each other to agree a programme.
My father always told me that there was no difference between a Tory and a Liberal. He wouldn't be pleased that nearly seven million voters who put their crosses next to a Liberal Democrat candidate to elect David Cameron would prove him right. At least as a Labour voter I knew what I was voting for.
At last, an end to the snooping
I suppose it is only to be expected that tribalists and comedians like Mark Steel have wasted no time in putting the boot into the new government (13 May). But with his track record as a protester and defender of civil liberties, would it be churlish to expect him to welcome, even through gritted teeth, the announcement that ID cards and the National Identity register will be scrapped, trial by jury will be defended, the right to non-violent protest will be restored and safeguards will be implemented to prevent the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation?
We are no longer to be monitored and regulated to within an inch of our lives. After the paranoia, repression and authoritarianism of the previous government, it feels as if a great weight has been lifted.
Given the failure of the Labour government to do anything remotely socialist in 13 years, it is hard to see how Mark, or anyone on the left with an open mind, can fail to welcome the new coalition. Even with Tories, it can't be farther right than Labour were.
Now that ID cards and their controlling database are to be abolished, will New Labour – if it still exists – apologise for the utter, utter, waste of time and money caused by their obsession with spying on us?
And may I thank all those who opposed New Labour's ID card fiasco, especially all at NOID, for their sterling efforts. We won!
Maybe had New Labour spent less time minding our business and more time minding their own, they would not be in their current mess.
Next in line
Tom Thomas (letter, 12 May) suggests a suitable epitaph for Gordon Brown would be Tacitus's famous judgement on the emperor Galba (Capax imperii nisi imperasset: "He'd have made a good emperor if he'd never ruled.") But he fails to mention that Galba's successor, Otho, lasted only three months before things got too much for him and he committed suicide.
The Tories have only been in power for 24 hours and already new figures from the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment has risen to its highest in 15 years. How did they manage that? So much for the Cameron-Clegg honeymoon period.
Women make up half the UK population; people who have been to privately funded schools are in a small minority. Looking at the composition of the new Cabinet you would think it was the other way round.
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